Tuesday, September 28, 2004

A Ride in the Dark

This morning I woke up early and headed out to one of my favorite trails. I got there around 6:20-ish, and it was still dark. Pitch-dark. My only light source was my Cabeza Logic (reviewed here) set at low beam (6 W). (I wanted to conserve battery in case the sun didn't come up--I try to be prepared.) There was a slight drizzle... it was cold.

To further paint the picture, a few weeks ago someone showed me a picture taken of a cougar walking right behind a deer--unbeknownst to the deer. That kind of thing creeps me out when I'm riding alone up in the mountains in the dark.

Anyway, all was still, and it looked like the sun, in fact, would rise, so I knew I could count on at least being able to see what would be eating me in a few minutes time. Other than getting a wet face (see my previous post: "CamelBak and Wet Faces."), I felt pretty good.

I continued up the trail without any mishaps, and I was beginning to get my confidence. "There aren't any ferocious animals out this time of the morning," I told myself. "Besides, I'm feeling pretty good, I could outrun it--on the downhill anyway."

Right about the time when it was almost light enough that I could get away with turning off my light (but I left it on just in case--and because if there were drunk hunters out on the mountains (apologies to those hunters who don't get drunk and wander around shooting things), they might not believe I'm a deer with a flashlight and spare me), I decided to turn around.

On this particular trail, the trees are fairly dense (for Utah, anyway), and there isn't much view on the uphill part. Once turned around, you get to view the valley from which you rode. It was a beautiful view, also. The leaves are changing, and the sun was just starting to light up the sky. Breathtaking, really.

Here's something else that is breathtaking: As I turned around and gazed out at the wonder of it all, I heard a sound. Not just any normal sound like the rustling of leaves, or a bird in the trees. No, this sounded like a combination of wings flapping and a low growl. Yes, a growl.

Instantly in my mind, I pictured a bird flying away from a growling 300 lb mountain lion. Not trusting my ears, I turned around and searched through the low-light of the dawn for a crouching cougar. After not seeing one, I realized that I probably wouldn't see it so it was high time to get out of there.

I almost wish I had more of the story to tell. I don't. It would have made a great blog to tell my death-defying battle between me and my bike and a cougar. That didn't happen.

Fortunately for me, because it didn't happen, I can calmly set my alarm again for 5:10 AM.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

CamelBak and Wet Faces.

I honestly feel bad for every Hydration Pack manufacturer in the world--everyone except CamelBak, that is. In truth, it isn't even the packs. I think CamelBak makes fine packs, but certainly no better (and many times worse) than the competition. I have used many Hydration Packs in my day, and most of them I've liked better than CamelBak. No, the real advantage CamelBak has is in their bite valve--the tiny rubber piece at the end of the reservoir tube that controls the flow.

It's so simple. It's rubber. It has a tiny slit in it. Yet somehow, they managed to come up with the idea first and patent it. Henceforth and forever, every other manufacturer will have to come up with their own 2nd-rate design. And, folks like me that can't stand other manufacturer's valves, will shell out about $10 for a tiny CamelBak valve. Ten dollars! That's about half the cost of an entirely new reservoir (with bite valve, I might add).

Despite all this, CamelBak just smugly sits back and doesn't license their bite valve.

I was recently reminded of this fact again while reviewing/testing a pack/reservoir made by another manufacturer. At first glance, I thought the valve looked promising (the pack is well-constructed and quite nice). As I rode my bike that chilly morning around 6:30, I actually got water squirted in my face by that same valve. That's right, you read correctly. Wet face, cold morning. Besides a somewhat more chilly face at that point, I was left to this thought the rest of the ride: "I wish this bite valve was a CamelBak bite valve."

(Look for my review of this particular pack on GearReview.com in upcoming months.)