Sunday, August 26, 2012

Defender - Marine Outfitter

Aqua Signal Series 40 port navigation light from
While I was in Savannah last April working on Whispering Jesse, I made several trips to the local West Marine store. The people there were very helpful with helping me find what I needed and ordering what they didn't have in stock. But on my last trip to the store, they were unable to help me. I had thought of West Marine as having absolutely everything I could ever need for our boat, but it turns out that they don't. I had walked in with a damaged port navigation light and a somewhat melted--it's a long story--plastic scupper fitting to see about replacements. The young lady at the check-out counter pulled out her catalogs and searched in vain. She took my contact information and said she would do some further research and call me with the results. I never heard from her.

Plastic elbow fitting from for scupper drain repair
Back home, I received an unsolicited marine catalog in the mail from an outfit called Defender. The slim catalog's newsprint pages were densely packed with listings of every imaginable boat part. I didn't find my parts in the catalog, but fortunately, Defender also has a densely packed website (, so I went there on the off chance that they would have what I needed. And they did. I had nothing to compare their prices against, but they seemed reasonable. The last time Nan and I were in Denver, we checked out a Honda Marine 5 HP outboard motor for our inflatable dinghy and were quoted a price of $2000. Defender carries Honda outboards, so I did a quick comparison check: $1556! That savings offsets the freight with a few hundred dollars leftover. If the savings on the parts are anything like the savings on the outboard, then there's no need to search any further. This November, a few weeks before I head out to Savannah again, I'll be placing an order for both the parts and the outboard with Defender.

CORRECTION 9/24/12: I went back and read the fine print in Defender's listing for their Honda outboards. It turns out that they can only sell them either as a "boat package" that includes a small fishing boat or inflatable dinghy and requires delivery to a commercial loading dock, or by themselves if you go to Waterford, Connecticut to pick them up. Those are not good options. We already have a Zodiac dinghy, and Waterford is a little out of the way. It looks like we'll be looking for an authorized dealer a little closer to home. But I'll still order the other parts, and anything else the boat needs, from Defender. You can't beat their prices.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Life in Grand Junction: A Close Encounter

On Saturday night, Nan and I went to our local Red Robin for an inexpensive dinner out. It was a nice evening, cooler than it has been, so we opted for a table outside on the patio. We chatted about our upcoming vacation, sipped our wine, ate our burgers, and watched the sun slowly sink behind the Chick-fil-A across the street. Just a typical dining experience. But then it got weird.

The eleven- or twelve-year-old girl sitting with her mother at a table near ours stood up suddenly, went to the table across from us, where a family of five were seated, and yelled at the mother, "Stop staring at me!" Everyone on the patio stopped eating. It got very quiet. The girl returned to her table and sat looking at her mother. Neither said anything.

People looked around at one another with expressions of "What was that all about?!" on their faces. We made eye contact with the man of the family, who said, "She wasn't staring. She was just talking to her son and that girl was behind him." The mother looked shaken and close to tears.

The girl and her mother paid their bill quickly and stood up to leave. The man stood up and intercepted them. He asked why the mother would let her daughter speak to an adult with such disrespect. The mother said, "I don't f--king care." The man stared in disbelief as the girl and her mother walked quickly away.

As he returned to his table, the man announced to everyone within earshot that if he had ever spoken to someone in that way, his father would have whipped his ass right there in the restaurant. There were murmurs of agreement all around. Seated again, the man said, "Did you smell that woman's perfume? It was enough to make me gag! I had to go out and smoke a cigarette just to get away from it. If they thought we were staring at them, then that's why!" He took off his camouflage baseball cap, brushed his hair back with his hand, replaced the cap, and sat back in his chair with a deep sigh.

The man and his family paid their bill and stood to leave. At the exit, he turned and said loudly enough for all to hear, "Y'know, I don't vote Republican!" He paused. "I may be a redneck, but I'm not stupid!" He paused again. "I'm a union member!" He threw up his hands for dramatic effect and then turned to go. Nan and I cheered and clapped, joined by several others.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Storm King Mountain Memorial Trail

Scout, me and Nan with Jenny and John Shepherd on Storm King Mountain Memorial Trail
Our friends, the Shepherds, were in Colorado last weekend for their annual summer visit. They have a timeshare in Avon that they use twice a year, a week in the winter for skiing and another in the summer for hiking and biking. On Sunday morning, Nan, Scout and I met them at the Dairy Queen in West Glenwood, which is a fair distance compromise between Avon and Grand Junction. From there, we proceeded west on I-70 to Canyon Creek exit 109 and then doubled back on the north-side frontage road to where it dead-ends at the parking lot for the Storm King Mountain Memorial Trail's trailhead.

Adam and Allie at the observation point below Storm King Mountain
On July 6, 1994, fourteen firefighters died while battling the South Canyon Fire when high winds caused the flames to blow up suddenly, trapping them on an isolated slope. The memorial trail was created by friends and family wishing to visit the place where their loved ones lost their lives. It has since been improved by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service, but it retains its original characteristics as a steep, rugged climb of a thousand vertical feet in a mile and a half. Hikers can't help but think of the brave young men and women who labored up this same slope, carrying heavy firefighting equipment, for the purpose of controlling a fire which threatened the nearby community of Canyon Creek.

Scout seeking shade at the observation point across from the deadly slope
The temperature was at least 93 degrees when we arrived at the trailhead in the early afternoon. We each carried CamelBaks full of ice and water, which we generously shared with Scout, who hurried quickly between shady spots while dancing over the hot dust of the well-worn trail. We stopped frequently to rest in the shade and to read the many informational signs along the way, which pointed out the sights and explained how forest fires are fought. The trail eventually leveled out and followed a hot, treeless ridge line to an observation point across from the deadly slope.

Nan and John returning to the trailhead of the Storm King Mountain Memorial Trail
In my mind, I had imagined this place many times in the eighteen years since the fire, but it was nothing like I thought it would be. Instead of a canopy of evergreen trees, the steep slopes were covered in chest-high brush and junipers, and I pictured it engulfed in wind-driven flames, racing directly at the firefighters. There would have been nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. Twelve of the firefighters died just below the opposite ridge and two others in a wash a few hundred yards away, directly below the peak of Storm King Mountain. If it had not been so hot, we would have continued our hike to those locations, where memorials have been erected, to pay our respects. We will need to return sometime soon to do so. You should too.