Sunday, October 28, 2007

Blue Jeans in the Sky with Diamonds

I guess the first cool, crisp fall days in south Louisiana will do it to you. This week, the need to do something with at least a small dash of adventure was running high. I had recently written a list of things I like doing - one of which was watching the sun rise. One thing led to another and I somehow came up with the idea of riding my bike out to Lake Martin to see the sun come up.

The night before, I pumped up my tires, got out a water bottle, found my bike shoes and helmet and set the alarm clock. In the morning, I stumbled downstairs, ate a little breakfast, and headed out. As I rolled down Pinhook in the dark (I do have a flashing tail light and headlight), I realized how chilly it was. The air bit into my windshirt and froze my fingertips.

It took 30 minutes of riding before I started enjoying what was going on around me and quit indulging myself in the worry that was wallowing around in my head. I started to notice how white the light was that was coming from the stars set onto the nearly-black indigo sky made them look like clear white diamonds. The trees that line the road were black, with the texture of their shape morphing to a smooth line in the distance. As I rode, the orange to indigo fade on the horizon warmed to a hue of tangerine fading into the color of some well-faded jeans. About the time I started thinking that maybe I missed the turnoff to the lake, the bright green "Lake Martin - Bird Sanctuary" sign came into view.

I rode the gravel down to my favorite spot along the lake, threw the bike down and laid on the grass for a few minutes. Twenty minutes till sunrise. The birds were already busy - with everything from the "T-T-T-T" of the little birds to the squawking of the bigger birds. I thought (as I do on every trip) that I REALLY need to study and learn the sounds of birds. The cypress emerged from the black to take on their colors of green brown and grey. The sky had become a kaliedoscope of turquoise to orange to tinted blue to the steel blue of the old jeans.

I noticed that even in this serene setting, that I could hear the noise of Lafayette in the distance as we all participated in taking part in our American duty of creating "progress". I wondered how long it would be before this jewel was overtaken by the city.

Small sparrow-like birds flew overhead (I really DO need to learn my birds) in huge bunches. They swooped inches over the water collecting their insect breakfasts with their aerial maneuvers. As the sun began to finally make its entrance, I realized that the magic of it all was already gone. The transition to daylight had long since taken place when the sun came over the horizon like a shining silver platter.

As I got back on my bike for the long trek home, I tried to sort out my feelings from the morning. I had seen an amazing show of the world coming to life for the day. I felt glad for what I had witnessed. It connected me again with the feeling of wilderness and adventure - all within 15 miles of my house.

At the same time, I felt strangely disconnected - almost as if I were a spectator instead of a participant in it all. Maybe that's what city living does to you over time. Maybe this feeling is telling me that the months of re-construction at the shop has cost me that frequency it takes to feel "connected" when I am in the outdoors. At the same time, I felt so grateful that it's all out there, just waiting for me. I am so looking forward to fall and winter - my favorite time of year here in the south, and getting my frequency in the outdoors where I want it to be.....

Keep the faith folks. I'll see you out there!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Wow - What a Night!

In case you missed it, our opening night in the new room was fantastic. In this blog, I am going to let the pictures speak for the evening. I will narrate as I show you some shots of the building:

This is a photo of how the room looks in daylight with some random slides of trips we've taken, the construction process and some group shots of Pack & Paddle trips from this year. This was during the open house and folks were able to mill around and check out the new space.

These are some pictures of Becky and I with Matt and Amy. We had a wonderful time with family, staff and tons of friends that showed up to give our new space a great send off.

Around 7, I spoke about the things we've been through as a staff and a family in the construction of this new space. I talked about the shared journey that we have taken together and how it relates to the outdoor experience.

Here's a picture that is real special to me (right). It shows me speaking to the crowd with my parents (founders of Pack & Paddle) in the background.

Around 7:15, it was time for Nate to make his entrance. The crowd was very fired up and amazingly loud. It felt almost like a rock concert. This picture shows Nate walking out of the back room towards the stage. I can say that for me, this was a really exciting moment. We had visualized the idea of this venue months ago, and watching it come together in that moment was very satisfying.

This photo (right) shows a view of the room with some of the crowd. You can see Nate reflected in the windows. Everyone commented on the feeling and "vibe" of the room. In retrospect, after months of work, I can say that the feeling of the love that we put into the design and building of this space comes through.

The photo on the left is a great shot of Nate performing. He showed slides of his historic walk of the West Coast while inspiring us with his music on the guitar and banjo.

One of the things I loved about the night is how comfortable the room felt in terms of beauty and grace. Everything just fits together perfectly to create an intimate and cool feeling for an event like this.

Here's a picture of how everything looked from outside the shop. We love our window wall!!!

Well, the opening night has come and gone. It was more exciting and satisfying than I could have imagined. To see a dream become reality is a fantastic feeling. To be able to share it with friends, family and most importantly, all of our wonderful customers that have meant so much to us over the years. This venue has always felt like it would be a gift to our community. The special evening we had Saturday was only the first of many wonderful evenings to come. We so much enjoyed sharing our venue with you and look forward to many more great nights together in the future!

Special Thanks To:

The nearly 200 outdoor folks that came to experience our initial event. It was a blast!!!

All of our staff, friends and family that worked on this project with us. Your help was critical and appreciated.

Our lead carpenter - Pops a.k.a. Gerald Istre.

Catherine Schoeffler - for glazing all of our old windows.

Great Harvest Bakery for all the great breads and sweets.

Mountain Khakis, Patagonia and Chaco for their generous donations of product for us to give away.

Ed Boustany and his scout troop for coming out to help us with the parking.

I would like to say thanks to our friend Jason Cohen who took all these photos. He's a talented professional photographer. He does incredible work on weddings and other photography jobs. You can link to his site at