But it CAN buy cameras and bicycles! Not that buying THINGS should be an innate source of pleasure, though. The experience and the memories that are generated are far more important than the physical THINGS themselves.

Two weekends ago (Saturday, November 11th), I traveled six hours down to Stuart to attend the 2017 FHSAA 3A State Championship Swim Meet. Prelims of the meet were pretty fantastic swimming conditions: fluffy clouds, warm weather and a pretty persistent, gusty breeze. Finals were a slightly different story though.

About halfway through the evening session, after the shadows had lengthened and the sun set, the sky opened up and sent everyone not in a swim suit scampering for cover. I own a rain cover for my camera; in fact, it was a pretty expensive one that my mother bought for me a year or two ago. I neglected to bring it to the meet, however.

People often ask me, why I’m so “careless” with my expensive camera equipment. I’m not. I often forgo straps, because they frequently inhibit or limit my access to the camera, or my mobility in crowded environments. People also ask my if I’m scared of getting my camera wet, when I shoot around the pool, or in the rain. Not really. I have a pro-level camera body that’s supposed to be FULLY weather sealed (not submersible, but essentially rain-proof), and a prosumer body that is reasonably weather sealed.

And the fact of the matter is, that in the end, the camera is a tool. Like a hammer. I use it for what it was designed: I don’t abuse it beyond that. I don’t sit on it, or smash nails into wood with it. I put it through its paces and take photos with it. And inclement weather offers the potential for some fantastic and uniquely memorable photos.

So when the rain came the other weekend, I didn’t hide my camera during the races, I stayed there at the edge of the pool and photographed as best I could. Unfortunately, over two years of wear and tear on my more expensive camera, saw it perform not-so-flawlessly that evening: it had apparently become NOT completely weather sealed and rain-proof. Buttons ceased to work, the backlights in the buttons and secondary LCD screens quit on me, and the primary LCD screen where I review images and make menu modifications banded and crapped the bed entirely. But to Nikon’s credit (and reinforcing the fact that I won’t be moving to the more compact mirrorless, DSLR alternatives any time soon), the core functionality of the camera remained intact. It never missed a beat, or a photo, even after the bottom LCD fogged and filled with water, the back buttons died, or the screen failed.

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Saige on a backstroke underwater, during the 200 IM: look at the water drops all the way across the frame from the pouring rain.
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Another shot of Saige in the 200 IM, with rain across the frame
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I love the way the rain drops hitting the water make cool, ovular out of focus, bokeh spots in the edges of the frame.
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Cole, framed by umbrellas between events, in the rain.
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John getting ready: the rain makes epic shots.
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John receiving the 1st-place medal from his father after winning the 50 fr. In the rain.
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John receiving the 1st-place medal from his father after winning the 50 fr. In the rain.
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Kyndall starts in the 100 fly — tongue + rain = keeper image

And I’d certainly say the images, and the memories, were worth it. The bill from Nikon’s service department was memorable and unenviable, but cheaper than a new camera, and worth the price of some of the photos. Would I do it again? Yes — I’d shoot in the pouring rain, although I’m going to make a concerted effort in the future to remain vigilant and prepared by bringing my rain gear with me. (For more photos from the meet, see my Facebook album, HERE).

On a somewhat similar train of thought, I’ve been on the search for a mountain bike since late June or early July. I’ve been struggling with motivation to exercise amidst the tedium of school and working two or three jobs. Worse yet, is that attempting to ride, run, or swim remained ever so de-motivating when you realize just how far from your previous prime performance(s) you really are.

After doing a good bit of research, I came to the conclusion that I wanted a “plus” or “mid-fat” bike: a bike with plus-sized tires, but that were skinnier than a true fat bike. During my research, I discovered the Trek Stache: a hardtail at a killer price point, with 29+ wheels and tires.

But when I found it, they were out of stock across the country. I was offered a reasonable deal on a carbon hardtail, but it just didn’t seem to be the right bike at the time.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, I’m perusing the Trek website, and I see that the brand new, 2018 models of all the bikes are out, and I all but made up my mind to buy a Stache.

And last week, I pulled the trigger. Without ever having ridden one, I ordered it.

I know that I likely won’t ever be the fastest in a XC race or Xterra tri on this beaut. But in the words of one online review, I’d love to partake in the “heaps of hooliganism” that it’s renowned for. Because truth be told, I just want a little motivation to get me going: something that’s familiar, but different. Something that I can wheelie on in the parking lot, and ride till I can’t pedal anymore on the weekends. I want to love another bike the way I love my tri bikes, because of the memories they helped create at national and world championship races, and the training in between. I want to ride trails that I rode on the skinny-tired cyclocross bike, and BOMB SMASH CRUSH them at speed, versus poking my way along at slower than walking pace.

I just want to have fun. And you don’t have to spend money to have fun, but when you parse out of your own pocket, you’re more likely to want to use the damn purchase.

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Astride the Stache
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Comparison of tire widths: Left — 29×3.0″ tires on the new bike; Centre — “Standard” 29×2.1″ tires on my fathers relatively new mountain bike; Right — my custom-built single speed cyclocross bike with 700x35c tires.

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And so, I’ve had the bike or less than a day, and am starting out strong: photos and fun, and more to come tomorrow and Friday.

Stay frosty,
Colin

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