Made in the USA

USMC Bumper Sticker

A little intra-family rivalry

Recently my fridge went on the fritz.  I called in the repair guy who came out, ordered a bunch of parts, came back out to put the new parts on only to have the new parts not function.  So we had to go back and reorder parts to get the fridge fixed.  All in all it was $379.10 in parts and labor, and three partial days off of work.  All because the parts made in (fill in large country here) failed on a 5 year old fridge.  How does this apply to an outdoor blog?  I promise you, it related, just keep reading…

My grandfathers served in WW2 and Korea.  Another one of my grandfathers was a naval architect during WW2 who changed his last name because it was “too German” to get a job.  I was in the Navy, two brothers who are Marines, and a brother in the Army.   Every day I get up to go to work in a historic building that was the site of a terrorist attack.  My desk is located on the ring, on the side, on the corridor of the side of the building that got hit.  You could say that I am a little proud of this great nation of ours.

How does this tie back to my Grand Adventure?  Can someone explain to me why “Made in the USA” is so difficult to come by in outdoor products?  Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know the economics behind it.  I know the politics behind it.  I know there is a sudden resurgence of “Made in the USA” products.  Heck, I even saw an advertisement that Wal-Mart is looking to go that direction.

Yet, I find it odd that for all of the big named outdoor companies that are based out of the US the number of companies that manufacture their gear in the US is rather small.  Coleman has some.  Therm-a-Rest also has a few, but where is everyone else who claims that they are ecologically and socially focused?

For example, Big Agnes.  One of my favorite companies.  Based out of Colorado.  Their gear routinely makes the top of Backpacker magazine’s “favorite gear” lists.  That said, are they made in the US?  No.  Dagnabit!  I could go down the list, LL Bean, REI, EMS, Yeti, GoalZero, the list goes on and on.  Great companies.  Companies who are proud of their products, but who stopped making them in the US (if they ever made them in the US, ever.)

Why does this matter?  Should this matter?  I say DAMN SKIPPY it matters.  How can a company be so “socially responsible” or “eco-friendly” and have their products made overseas? Let’s not go down the rabbit hole of ecological impact here and lets stay closer to home.  I want a product that was conceptualized, designed, and made in the US.  Sure, test it wherever on the planet you want, but at the end of the day I want to know that when I zip my tent up, crawl into my bag, and lay my head down at night on property that not only my family, but millions of families have stood up to protect that the products I am utilizing were put together by other hardworking American.  Because at the end of the day I will tell you no hardworking American wants to sleep in a leaky tent, with a cold bag, on hard ground.  That’s just unAmerican!


Packing it in

Springer at beachSpring is desperately trying to poke its lovely little head out regardless of what that wicked Mother Nature has to say about it.  Although, she’s about ready to smack us down with snow (again.)

Around here the bad news about Spring coming is that Perry and I loose our relative free reign of the various State Parks.  Seems like the weather goes above a certain temperature and all of a sudden everyone comes out of the woodwork.  We take advantage of this “in between” time.  It’s warm enough for him to enjoy a dip (albeit a cold one) on the beaches and yet cold enough to keep the people (and the bugs) at bay.

Today we went to one of the local parks that we hadn’t visited yet; meeting up with a girl friend of mine and her two dogs.  We had the entire park practically to ourselves.  The dogs swam, played in the sand, chased the ball, and hiked through the woods.  Everyone had a grand time.

That said, one of my biggest pet peeves about the various park systems is trash, Trashspecifically plastic.  Hiking in Zion I saw more plastic water bottles than I did any form of wild life.  I couldn’t even carry them all out.  When I was hiking in Kenya I picked up the trash along the trail which endeared me to my Masai guide.  When living in San Diego I always brought home at least one bag of trash a day.  I HATE trash in our parks and on our beaches.  Maybe it’s having seen the impact of plastic bags on sea life.  Maybe it’s the fact that my Dad would have given me a good walloping if I tried to leave trash out in the woods. He was a leave no trace guy way before there was such a campaign.

As per usual, I packed a couple of extra bags and picked up the various trash I found along the beach.  I don’t understand why people find it so difficult to bring out their garbage. In full disclosure, I also mutter under my breath out I can’t have my DOG in may of these places, but people can do THIS to the park system.     It’s simple people, pack out your trash.  Yes, even the soda straws.  If it came in with you it should leave with you.  You should leave your park system cleaner than when you went into it.  It’s your park system, have some pride.

Dogs beach

Hey! That’s MY ball.


Perry and the 6 foot leash

P&B Biscayne“All dogs must be on a 6 foot leash”.  So reads every park “before you come” section.  Now, Perry has never been a “6 foot” kind of guy.  When he was an 11 week old puppy I took him and Ben (my previous Springer) to Biscayne National Park. This was Perry’s very first National Park experience. Ben was exceptionally respectful on his leash and Perry was so little that just getting him to walk ON the leash (as opposed to sitting down in defiance) was a major feat.  However, Perry is a big boy now and must adhere to all of the park rules.  Given that we are going to (hopefully) cover some major ground this summer it is critical that I have two hands to balance with as I am not the most graceful of land creatures.

The last hike that Perry and I went on I hooked his flexileash onto my Osprey pack at the chest strap.  While this is effective the pull is so high up on my center of balance every single time he pulled it knocked me off balance.  You can’t blame a guy for pulling because, well, squirrels are Gods tennis balls.

OllyDog leashEnter the OllyDog leash. I purchased it the last time I was at REI in hopes that not only would it keep us in regulations, but it would keep me from going ass over teakettle on the trail.  I know that Perry dislikes being on a short leash almost as much as he hates being on leash in general, but I was hopeful that this may bring some peace to our negotiations.

All in all we both seemed happy with the leash.  While, yes, he spent the first two miles pulling like a freight train; because the pull was so low on my center of gravity it didn’t affect my hiking ability.  In his defense it was our first hike out since I had been sick and he did have a bit of pent up energy in him.  I would have liked to have a bit of padding on the waist strap rather than just the nylon (as it cut into my skin a bit) but with some adjustments I managed to get it over my clothes to add to the padding.  That said, Perry is definitely going to need a harness to get him to stop choking himself. He can’t help himself he loves being a trail dog.

Perry swimAt approximately the half way point we stopped and I let him off leash to bound into the creek and go swimming.  He seemed happy, well adjusted, and not disinclined to go back on leash when his play time was up.  I will call that a success to say the least.

Perry’s new ride

Springer Spaniel in CarAfter returning from London my beloved “Pica” a 2009 Jetta TDI decided that she wanted to pitch a fit and not start.  This is after I just put a nice chunk of change into her for a new battery a new piece called a “runner” (or something like that) into the engine.  I told Pica that she was to get her shit together or she was going to get traded in for a new model.  Several days later I was sitting at a stop light and the car started to shimmy and shake.  That was it, the last straw.  I had a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach that something major was about to happen to Pica and I was either going to be there and suffer through it, or hit the eject button and say thanks but no thanks.  Now, I’ve been stranded on the side of the road more times than I care to count and I was not about to be stranded in the middle of the United States.  I’ve also NOT listened to the voice in my belly and paid for it, dearly.  Enter, Glenda.  

Glenda is a 2014 Subaru Outback. I hadn’t intended on purchasing a new car, but Pica forced my hand.  I figured I might as well get the car that I know is going to be able to better handle the rutted roads, camping gear, and mud that I had been putting poor Pica through. 

Now, my only complaint about Glenda is that I couldn’t get a standard and leather.  Anyone who has animals (or kids, same difference) knows that the minute that you get hair, mud, goose poop (true story), or sand on cloth seats you are DONE.  Leather is so much easier to wipe down with a little Murphy’s Oil Soap and it’s good as new.  Heck, you go to a tack store and get saddle soap and oil and you could really make those suckers shine.  But I digress….So a CVT (automatic) and leather it was.  I was a bit disappointed, but I will live.

My Dad, bless his heart, said to me when we were initially having the discussion of me getting a new car, “Have you thought about getting navigation?  It’s not like you can teach Perry to read a map and you certainly aren’t going to have consistent cellular signal.”  He had a good point.  I learned to read a map being my Dad’s navigator.  I remember being around 7 or 8 years old in his 1970-something pickup truck and he was showing me how (and the importance) of reading a map.  Unfortunately, he was also right in the fact that as much as I love Perry he is not quite talented enough to read a map for me.  Added navigation, check.  Trust me, I’m still going to have LOTS of maps in the car.  I don’t trust that pushy “Samantha” broad to give me 100% accurate directions, but she is a good safety net.

So here she is Glenda (the good witch).  She’s going to get broken in a couple of weeks from now when my brother comes to visit and we go camping out in Delaware.  Her first 10k miles are going to be great ones.  As you can see, Perry has already settled in nicely.  Now, to keep him from finding the heated seat button….

Subaru Outback



How the Brits get it right

I just spent a week over in England for work with a couple of days tacked on for site seeing. What I was most impressed by was their complete openness and acceptance of dogs; in their pubs, in their national parks, on leash and off.


National Maritime Museum and Observatory

This got me thinking about the Grand Adventure. I fully accept that dogs must be well behaved and on leash. What I’m having a difficult time with is accepting how limited I’m going to be within the Park system. I can count on less than one hand the number of trails in each park I will be able to take Perry on. As a single woman traveling Perry is not only my companion but my warning bell for all things that are amiss. Why are we, lovers of the outdoors, punished?

I’ve heard the arguments about people wanting to not have to deal with dog poop on the trails. Let me tell you, humans leave way more trash behind (water bottles, candy wrappers, etc) than any damage a dog could do. Most hikers and outdoor lovers that I know find amusement and comfort in seeing mans best friend on the trail. True, given the limited staffing of the DOI I could risk taking him on the trails and hope I didn’t get caught, but not only is that risky but it’s disrespectful of the institution that I love.

I wish there was a way that we could convince the Park Service to give out a limited number of “Dog Passes” like they do backcountry passes as a trial to demonstrate that we could open up the trails to our 4 legged family members. If you screw up (dog off leash, not picking up after yourself, harassing animals) then you loose your pass forever.

I just don’t understand why we as a nation can’t seem to be like the Brits. Maybe John Muir was a dog hater….