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In the early 70’s, I was an avid bicyclist though less than 10 years old. I’d hang out near the bike repair when REI was still on Pine Street. A more fanatical person also frequented the department, and I recognized him from participating in the various races in the greater Seattle area. He would enthusiastically show anyone who would listen his then crazy idea of a brake system that I assumed he invented. I acknowledged the novelty and potential, but had my eyes on the Campagnolo Nuovo Record Guppo — so I didn’t think too much about it. Cantilever brakes went to great success, and the “crazy” man served on the REI board — Angel Rodriguez.
It was a life lesson at REI from Angel — be passionate, embrace what you love, the out of doors is the playground for your happiness.
I’ve never told anyone this story until today.
My REI story starts about 45 years ago... yikes! When I was a kid REI was the place to go when you got tired of making your own Holubar and Frostline kits LOL. I also went to an alternative school in the mountains in Colorado, we were taught and did a ton of camping and backpacking (both with the school and a lot of us on our own). Other than tie-dye, REI gear (mountaineering boots, big down jackets etc...)was pretty much the school uniform with so many outdoor activities the focus. In later years I moved to Seattle and worked at REI for a while so I could amass as much gear as possible with pro deals and discounts. Yaaaay!! This is where I met some amazing lifelong friends and also when I developed my rather bad obsession with tents haha! All my gear from there has enabled countless years of my backpacking, climbing, skiing, snowshoeing, kayaking and travel addictions. It has allowed me to be adventurous, given me courage to go farther, Inspired me to do incredible things... and a few times even saved my life! Now in my old age I’m back in Colorado living off grid and taking care of a bunch of rescue wolfdogs in some brutal climates and still using new and old gear to save my a**. I am grateful for the life I’ve led. I get to live my passion, my best life and the gear is often the reason I can succeed in the cool things I have done 💕
Back in 2003, I purchased a Primus dual fuel stove for the sole purpose of having a "brew with the Brits" in Iraq. I had no problem with the two bottles of white gas I had in my check in luggage, but they did confiscate one disposable lighter. Eagle eyed TSA for the win. The stove served its purpose, boiling water for my daily routine of coffee, shaving, washing my face, all out of a canteen cup. But after a short while, the stove took a life of its own. We did not have a communal source of hot water, so every morning, there would be a line of soldiers waiting their turn to heat up some water for personal hygiene or some instant coffee. Needless to say, the white gas ran out quickly so we switched to diesel fuel. That poor stove ran black and sooty, but it ran faithfully. The stove became like the water cooler. People would just hang out where the stove was, sharing stories or just plain wasting time. Finally, a couple of weeks into the invasion, a convoy of British troops arrived at my location. I ran like a child to offer them some tea I had for the occasion. It wasn't good tea, but I did get my chance to drink it with the British soldiers like I planned. Later on, the stove met an espresso maker, a match made in heaven. But that's a story for another time (^_^).
I saved my money over the past few years so I could quit my job and travel to our great National Parks, Forests, and Monuments.
I purchased most of my gear at REI to help me along the way... kayak, bike gear, backpacks, rain gear, outdoor kitchen, sleeping pads, hats, gloves, socks and even underwear and sandals, etc.
I've visited 10 National Parks since July and have 15+ planned for 2020.
My dog - Aesop - and I have been having an absolute blast. Hiking beaches, mountains, forests and deserts.
When I was in my 20's, and 30's I thought the idea of backpacking was really cool. I never did anything with that, I just thought it sounded like a cool activity and maybe someday I would get to trying it. After 20 years of being an outdoors enthusiast but not an actual practitioner I got a part time job working for REI. The job only lasted 3 months as I ended up moving several states away, but in that time REI taught me (any the other new employees that started with me) about REI's values and appreciation of the outdoors and the value of the "A life spent outdoors is a life well lived" mentality. In March 2017 I took my first yay day to drive out to the AT (about an hour away at the time) and do a day hike out to Annapolis Rocks, just off the AT in Central Maryland. As hikes go there were things I did right, and there were things I did wrong but overall I had an amazingly positive experience.
For days after that hike I kept thinking back to how much fun it was, how cool it was to read the trail log at the shelter I passed, and how amazing the view was from the top of Annapolis Rocks. In the span of 1 hike, and 3 months of working with some amazing people who all loved the outdoors, far more than I did at the time, I was so thoroughly taken with all of REI's values that I began what has become an obsession with hiking and backpacking. I have scheduled my first 2 sections hikes of the AT, one in May scheduled to arrive in Damascus in time for Trail Days and one in August, and a hike of the Art Loeb Trail in Western NC. In 2022 I should be able to transition into a job that will allow me the flexibility to travel around the US hitting as many great trails as I can and at some point in the next 3-5 years I plan on doing a Thru hike of the PCT. Those 3 months working at REI were a wonderful catalyst for a new hobby that I have gravitated to more than any other hobby I've tried in my life. Thank you to REI for putting me on this trail (see what I did there 😉 and for being such a great work environment.