Tag Archives: Off Topic

AOPA Open House

WARNING:  This is an off-topic post.  If you are only interested in backpacking-themed posts, then ignore this one.

AOPA Open House

One of my loves – albeit unappeased – is aviation.  Anything aviation.  Books.  Movies.  Posters.  Little toy models.  Airports.  And of course, actual airplanes.  I am the guy that doesn’t fly very often but when I do, I get there three hours early, find a window with a big plane nearby, and sit down and stare, photograph and dream.  And I am usually not alone when doing so.

Luckily for me, the national organization for pilots, the Airplane Owners and Pilots Association, calls my city home.  Recently, they had an airport open house and fly in, so of course I went!  And yes, I am a little excited… with the long hours I have been working lately, finding ANY time to enjoy something was wonderful!

I figured I would share a few pics from the Open House and spread my love of aviation.

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The view of the field from the AOPA Offices.

The view of the field from the AOPA Offices.

The Wall of Covers.

The Wall of Covers.

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Yes, this is a privately owned fighter jet.  Guns not included.

Yes, this is a privately owned fighter jet. Guns not included.

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One of the reasons I REALLY wanted to go to the Open House was because there was a World War II B-17 Bomber there.  Aluminum Overcast was on-site, allowing walk-through tours, and if you were wealthy enough, actual flights.  She was quieter than I thought she would be, with those four big radial engines, but what a beauty to watch glide in for a landing.

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High Rock

Lest you think I don’t get outside anymore, I also did a little (key word, LITTLE) hiking the same day as the airshow.  A friend took me to a local viewpoint near the A.T. called High Rock and while we can drive right to the overlook, we walked down the blue blaze trail for a while (mostly to get out of the cold wind) before we ran out of time and had to turn around.  I was hoping we would make it to the A.T. so I could see my first white blaze, but it wasn’t to be on this day.

I love trees like this.

I love trees like this.

A surprisingly clear day for this area.

A surprisingly clear day for this area.

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I am hitting a lull in my topic box, so if there is anything you would like me to write about, hit me up.  All comments, advice, or topic suggestions can be sent using the comment box below or the Contact Me page up top.

Until next time, remember to “Spin the Compass.”


One Year Later

While this will not post for a few days, I am writing this on the first anniversary of my motorcycle accident.

My return to the beach...

My return to the beach…

This weekend, I returned to the scene of the accident, and while my gut did its own little twist and roll dance as I drove past, I was able to finally put this chapter of the accident behind me.  I had a great weekend with a few of the club members, and left feeling much better about where I am.

I have spent the majority of today reflecting on the past year, and all that has changed in my life.  I have gone from a healthy, strong young man, to a cranky old man with all the creaks and groans that come with the title.  I have found and lost love.  I have discovered who my real friends are and who just pretends to care.  And I have redefined my goals in life and am undergoing some extreme changes to my lifestyle, such as this thru hike.  And through it all, I am constantly reminded how lucky I am and how far I have come.  I know I have a lot more work ahead of me, and a lot more changes to go through, but I am renewed with confidence in myself and am ready to take those challenges on.  Thank you to all who have supported me during this process, and who will continue to support me through my expedition.  I will always be thankful for you, your kindness, and your efforts.

Special thanks to my family for putting up with me; to Nancy and Jenn for helping me with rehabbing my knee so quickly; to Helene for being true to herself, even if it means saying goodbye to me; to Val and Angela and Emily for each of your individual support systems; to Ron and the rest of the motorcycle club for not letting me park the bike permanently; to Rose for getting me off the couch all summer and making me be more active; to Becki for your unending knowledge and support.  You have all made a huge impact.  Thank you.

Here’s to a lot more adventures and fun.  Thank you for following along.  Until next time, remember to “Spin the Compass”.


Sylvan Sport Go

WARNING:  This is an off-topic post.  Sort of.  It is not specifically backpacking related, but more of a general outdoor sports topic.  You have been warned, do not complain to me.

DISCLAIMER:  I was not given a Sylvan Sport GO trailer to review for this.  I used my own motorcycle and my own gas money to traipse across three states in order to see them.  So do not go about thinking I am only praising the company because of some gift they gave me.  (Note to Sylvan Sport – I would GLADLY accept a donated trailer if you had one you needed to get rid of.  Or a t-shirt.  Just sayin’…)

What is it?

When I was at Trail Days, I had a brief encounter with an alien trailer.  It reminded me of a spaceship, or something stolen from a NASA warehouse.  It was not like any trailer I had ever seen before.  At its core, it was a flatbed utility trailer, but the sides were made of thick aluminum “bars” that arced through space, looking like something that landed on the moon.  Then I watched it being “deployed”.  All of a sudden, this utility trailer transformed into a large and comfortable pop-up camper trailer.  I was amazed.

The person setting it up told me the trailer was the GO model by Sylvan Sports.  Unfortunately, the magical transformer trailer was actually being used by a vendor, and was not a demo trailer.  The look on my face must have shown the disappointment, as the gentleman setting up camp stopped what he was doing and found a brochure for the trailer in his duffle, suggesting to me that I should check out their website and YouTube videos.  Apparently, every trailer comes with a supply of brochures to hand out.

The brochure actually amazed me even more, showing me that the GO trailer is a multi-functional platform.  It can be a utility trailer, a toy hauler, an anything hauler, or a deluxe tent-on-wheels.  The platform can tilt down, negating a need for a ramp if you wanted to carry an ATV or motorcycle. The large aluminum bars will support any of the popular rack systems, whether for bikes, canoes, kayaks, or whatnot.  The website shows the trailer being used to haul firewood and construction materials.  In camper mode, the trailer is a moderately sized sleeper trailer, with an adjustable layout to fit your needs.

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Sylvan Sport was founded in 2004 in the heart of eastern outdoor country – Brevard, North Carolina.  The Go trailer was conceptualized when founder Tom Dempsey realized that camper trailers had to be modified to be a true backwoods tool, and even then, were often not right for the job.  He set about to design and eventually manufacture a trailer designed around that outdoor lifestyle, making sure each trailer is built solid and right here in the good ol’ U.S.A.  This is one of those products that truly is “built by outdoorsmen for outdoorsmen.”


Though the website, I learned that Sylvan Sport does not have any dealers.  They make direct sales to customers, and rely on a network of owner-demonstrators, where owners of the GO trailer agree to demonstrate it to those in their area who are interested.  As it happened, there were two owners somewhat nearby, so I emailed them both.

I first meet with Karen M., from Lebanon, Pennsylvania.  She gave me a quick walk-around of the trailer, answering all of my questions, and showing me how the trailer sets up and stows away, right in her front yard.  Yes, the neighbors were watching.  She even allowed me to assist with the setup and take down.  It crossed my mind that maybe if I broke something, I would get to buy it from her, but alas, she was on to me and kept a close watch.  I was so excited to see the trailer up-close that I completely forgot that my camera was in my saddle bag!

Thankfully, the next day I was able to meet with Keith B., from Herndon, Virginia.  Keith and his wife are co-owners of their GO trailer with Mary R., of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, sharing the trailer and passing it back and forth as needed.  Like Karen, Keith was great – he answered a few more of my questions, allowed me to completely set it up and take it down (yes, with his guidance and supervision…).  And this time, I remembered my camera!  (Too bad the sun was in a bad spot for some of the pics…)  Seeing and using the trailer for a second day was really nice, as I had a basic knowledge of how it worked and could focus on some of the details I had missed the first day.  All in all, definitely worth the drive through rush hour traffic.

The GO in compact travel mode.

The GO in compact travel mode.

Unfolding the GO.  The “walls” of the trailer fold down to become the platforms of the bed.

Unfolding the GO. The “walls” of the trailer fold down to become the platforms of the bed.

Raisin’ the roof.

Raisin’ the roof.

The massive awning adds some shade in front of the door.

The massive awning adds some shade in front of the door.


Ultimately, I want one.  Now.  I have visions of week-long trips into the mountains, kayaks or canoes atop the trailer, with my mountain bike, camping gear and a grill stashed in the trailer.  Road trips through the western mountain ranges, varying the daily activities and using the Go as a base camp.  But I know that the responsible thing to do is to wait until after my thru-hike, when I have more stability in life.  Then again, when have I ever been responsible?

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An informative walk-thru of the GO.

GO Testimony by Gareth Tate.

Special thanks to Bonnie Chiles at Sylvan Sport for going back and forth with me to find local trailers to view, and to Karen, Mary and Keith for working with my crazy schedule and allowing me to drool all over their Go trailers!

I would love to hear about any experiences you have had with the Sylvan Sport Go trailer.  If you have any comments, advice, or topic suggestions, please use the comment box below or use the Contact Me page up top.

Until next time, remember to “Spin the Compass.”




WARNING:  This is an off-topic post.  If you are only interested in backpacking-themed posts, then ignore this one.  This post is also out-of-order when compared to other posts, but the other posts were more time-sensitive.


For those that do not know, which is probably all of you, I have many hobbies that I enjoy.  One of them is cigars, both the collecting and the smoking of.  To me, cigars are a relaxing experience, forcing me to sit still for upwards of an hour or two, often allowing me to pair a cigar with some nice bourbon or craft beer.  Cigars are very similar to wines, in that each one has its own distinct flavors and nuances, which change with time, and are delicately sensitive to storage temperatures, humidity, and light conditions.


CigarFest 2014

I was lucky enough to obtain tickets to the always sold-out CigarFest event held by Cigars International at the Split Rock Resort in the Poconos.  The ticket got me into one of two days of the actual festival event, but there were also numerous “open to the public” events at the resort including concerts, a special pipe smoking seminar, and giveaways all over the place!  Simultaneously, all of the CI stores had events going on throughout the weekend, with some major cigar makers on site for meet and greets, along with some great deals and lots of swag.  And boy, did I collect a lot!


Source:  www.cigarfest.com

Source: www.cigarfest.com


Source:  www.cigarsinternational.com/hamburg

Source: www.cigarsinternational.com/hamburg

The day before my “ticket entry”, I stopped at one of the main stores for Cigars International, a place I have come to know quite well.  The staff is always very friendly and extremely knowledgeable there, and I always feel at home when I visit.  One of the best things about this store is that the lounge has TWO fully stocked bars on site, with a couple big televisions at each, giving that portion of the shop a sports bar feel.  And the shop has agreements with the restaurants nearby that you can call in a carry out order, and the restaurant staff will bring it to the cigar shop for you.  I have spent many lazy weekend afternoons there, drinking craft beers and smoking cigars while watching whatever sports are being broadcast.  This day, I was there for the Drew Estate Cigars event they were hosting.  For those that do not know, Drew Estate is one of my favorite makers.  Now you know – I suggest writing it down, as my birthday is coming soon.


Owner Jonathan Drew, handing out major prizes.  Not to me… Source:  www.cigarfest.com

Owner Jonathan Drew, handing out major prizes. Not to me… Source: www.cigarfest.com

Back on topic, I spent a good few hours there, people watching, eating lunch, enjoying a few adult beverages in child size cups, and just relaxing.  Then I headed up to the resort to check into my hotel room.

That evening, I attended a concert sponsored by Alec Bradley cigars.  I am not a huge fan of A.B. cigars, but a few are ok.  The concert, though, was outstanding.  The band played inside the circus tent-turned food tent for a good long time, and was even doing some requests from the crowd.  Throughout the concert, the staff of CI was giving away Alec Bradley swag, and numerous boxes of cigars.  Did I win?  Nope.  Never do.  Good thing the music was good, though.  And the tent made the chilly night air tolerable, so we could be outside and enjoy a cigar without having to be bundled up to the nines.

My ticket included a breakfast feast prior to the main event opening, so off to wait in line I went.  Thankfully, I am normally an early riser and was able to beat the majority of the crowd.  Once suitably stuffed, we all transitioned to the line to get into the main arena.  There were over 50 vendors there, mostly cigar makers but also a few accessory manufacturers.  As you entered, you were given a nice duffle bag with the event logo on it, and a humidor and ash tray already inside.  I would find out later that there were over 40 cigars inside the humidor.  As you enter the main hall, you are given a “coupon book” with numbered pages.  As you go to a booth, there is a booth number displayed, to which you trade the corresponding numbered coupon for a cigar.  At the end of the main event, prior to me purchasing anything, I had well over 100 cigars.  And there were great deals on samplers going on, for which you could collect even more free cigars by showing your receipt to the vendor.  Pretty sure I do not have to buy any cigars for at least a year!

They even raffled off a customized Jeep.  With every sampler purchased, you were entered into a drawing for lots of free cigars, accessories, gift certificates, “Man Cave” setups, and such.  The grand prize was a new Jeep.  Obviously, I did not win.

Source:  www.cigarfest.com

Source: www.cigarfest.com

There was another concert that night, but my knee was aching from being on my feet most of the day, so I skipped out on it.  As the day progressed, I found the slow “shuffling” walk to be bothersome to my knee, although walking around the lodge at my normal gate did not irritate my leg at all.  In hindsight, I should have broken the day into sections a bit more and did a little less random wandering around the event.  Live and learn.  The resort’s pool and hot tub made for a nice end to the day, especially since I was the only one there.  Solitude is such a nice thing.

One thing that I did not like to a degree was that the event organizers were treating the festivities as if it were a rock concert, always screaming into the microphone trying to get the crowd “pumped and excited”.  I understand they want to increase sales, and excited people buy lots, but for me, cigars are supposed to be a relaxing, enjoyable experience.  I suppose the focus of the event was more on the acquisition of cigars rather than the enjoyment of cigars, and that is well and fine, it just was not what I expected.

If I go next year, I will do it differently, too.  There were people who planned ahead and brought pop-up tents and grills, and were tailgating in the parking lot.  We were able to go in and out of the festival all we wanted, and because I had gotten there so early for breakfast, my truck was pretty close to the main entrance.  It would have been more enjoyable if I was with a small group of friends and we were grilling out, sitting around in chairs, smoking and talking.  Instead, I was walking around solo, talking to vendors and some random people, but mostly doing my own thing.  Next time I will do it better.

All of my loot from the weekend.

All of my loot from the weekend.

All in all, I cannot complain about the weekend, though.  I had a good time people watching, I walked away with a lot of good swag and cigars, many of which I have never tried before.  I was even able to get a short walk around a pond to exercise the leg a bit.  With the exception of the distance I had to drive to get there, there is not much I would complain about.  Now I just need to find some time to sit on the balcony and enjoy all of these new smokes… and figure a way to protect them in my backpack, so I can take some with me!

I promise you that I have more backpacking-related posts coming.  I am working on a few different posts, but they are taking longer than I had expected.  Go eat some Oreos and be patient.  If you have any comments, advice, or topic suggestions, please use the comment box below or use the Contact Me page up top.

Until next time, remember to “Spin the Compass.”



Urban Adventures

(NOTE:  This post is out-of-order when compared to other posts, but the other posts were more time-sensitive… )

On a recent weekend, I was not able to get into the woods.  Instead, I visited my sister and her family in New York City.  As much of a “country boy” as I feel, I completely love the NYC.  There is such an energy there, with something to see or do pretty much 24-7.  I know the city is not for everyone, and I am not saying I want to live there permanently, but there is a huge part of me that likes being there from time to time, and could even see myself living there for a few years.  But not yet…

To those that scoff that I traded a weekend in the woods for a weekend in the city, I tell you this.  First and foremost – family comes first.  And chasing a two year old niece is the absolute best way to spend your weekend!  Secondly, if you think I did not “get my workout” for the weekend, you had better BITE YOUR TONGUE!  Chasing said niece for 36 hours was more energy-depriving than ANY hike I have ever done.  Believe me, I got my workout in.

I enjoy walking through the city, too.  Camera in hand, I know I look like a tourist (which I am…) but I do not care.  The beautiful skyscrapers set against a cloudless sky; Architectural details screaming to be viewed and admired; masses of people streaming up and down the streets; the fire trucks and ambulances making their presence known.  No matter where you go or what you are interested in, there is always something worth seeing, worth photographing.  I think that is why I enjoy the city so much – every time I go, there is something new to see.


Our Plugged-In Lives

Ever look around when you are out in public?  It is sad to see how many people are glued to their cell phones, tablets and laptops.  Walking through a beautiful park this weekend, with flowers blooming, the birds chirping, and kids playing in the sun, there were benches of parents with their heads down, thumbs typing away.  When did we decide the online world was more important than what adventures our children were having right in front of our noses?  I was happy to put my smartphone in my pocket and keep chasing the niece around.  And I know that she was happy that I did – her smile and the laughter pouring out of her was way better than any text or email I might have been reading.  Take my advice, put the electronics down and live in the present.

I have a few more posts “in the works” and hope to get them finished up soon, so keep an eye out.  I am also working on setting up my social media sites to better broadcast new posts and such.  Correction:  They are set up; they just need to be refined.  If you care to look, I have Facebook and Twitter accounts set up – use the Follow Me links up top.  If you have any comments, advice, or topic suggestions, please use the comment box below or use the Contact Me page up top.

Until next time, remember to “Spin the Compass.”