October 16, 2015

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If you love water sports like I do, get in that SUV now and get ready to find some great places. Most people I know love anything from snorkeling and diving to kayaking, and more. The spots that draw aficionados are far apart as they take place in different seasons and parts of the country. No matter, you know you can get there in your van, loaded to the gills with just the right gear. Road trip anyone?

The SUV is in heaven when it is headed in the direction of some water recreation—especially during the summer months. You have your choice of a lake, river, or ocean as a rule. What you do most often no doubt depends on where you live and how far you are willing to drive for a short jaunt or a longer vacation. Taking the family has to be routine for you married guys. Isn’t that why you bought the vehicle in the first place?

In case you are a newbie, I have created a little lexicon for first timers.


Canada anyone? The Discovery Islands are a great spot for kayaking, and you might even get to do it amid whales. Most of the time it is an adventure with mountain views, amazing wildlife encounters, plentiful tidal pools, and emerald lagoons. It is a top choice for the sport as it mixes both the peace of nature and high-blown adventure. It’s the best of British Columbia on the water. Otherwise, load up some fishing kayaks on the roof of your SUV and find your local fishing spot.


I like to fuel my surfing dreams in California. It is a big sport there along the Pacific coast. Even if you don’t have sun-bleached hair, you will fit in if you just have a board. The scenery is glorious: just gaze west over endless seas as you wait for the next set. Anyone who loves to put their feet in the sand will choose stand up paddle boarding as their first choice of water sport as a beginner because it’s really easy to pick up. I like San Diego. The area brings out the dudes in wetsuits and the gals in bikinis.


There are many top snorkeling locations around the world, but you can’t drive to most of them such as Fiji or Hawaii. So what’s left? Plenty of options. I have been known to be seen in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, but off season when the college kids are gone. Florida’s ocean waters are rich in aquatic life. You will be amazed at the underwater world near the coral reefs, just off the shore. Grab the snorkel gear and let’s go! Whether your preference is a glass bottom boat or your own close range viewing, your experience will be colorful for sure.

Water sports include boating and sailing for many people and just about any local lake will do. If you are more ambitious either the east or west coast will get you out on the high seas. Otherwise, up a lazy river might be just the right amount of fun. If the ocean calls, a paddle board or Jet Ski might be your idea of heaven. A speed boat is an exciting alternative. Then there is water skiing and diving off the pier for those wanting some adventure.

But I have really digressed. I was touting my SUV as the best mode of travel to water sport destinations, even if one is only a mile or two away. This dependable vehicle takes me from a work day to a play day with minimal transition. If you are a fellow traveler, I don’t have to try too hard to convince you. As for the rest of you, well I invite you to jump on board.

Off-roading on my day off is my kind of fun. Roaring through sand, gravel, a riverbed, or mud and rocks is easy when you have the right vehicle. I do. You can call it a kind of extreme driving with a nod at “extreme” sports. It’s all in the same mental and physical vein. You need the right tires and a vehicle with a sound body and superior suspension. I vote for the Xterra.

When I get back from a day on rough terrain, the car looks a bit worse for wear. Sometimes the mud is literally caked on and the paint is hidden beneath a layer of grime. It’s a patina that bespeaks of a great time out there in no man’s land. I wouldn’t have it any other way. But I don’t wait too long to address the need to clean it all up. I get to the pressure washer within hours of my return to restore my SUV’s sparkle and shine.

My advice to you if you are in the same boat is to get a great pressure washer. They don’t cost a bundle relative to what they can do for your van. Tidying up is their specialty. But only a sturdy device can handle a gritty job. You have your choice of many models. Here are just a few I like.

A mid-range option in the $300 range is the Karcher K 5.540 if you want electric. It is known as “best in class” by reviewers for cleaning performance. The water-cooled motor gets high praise from experts because it lasts so much longer. The Vario power wand lets you switch from detergent to high pressure spray with ease.

By contrast, the Campbell Hausfeld is your budget model at under $150. The PW182501AV is also electric and features a swivel hose adaptor. It has a 20-foot hose with onboard storage. It is convenient and handy.

For a little more than the Karcher you can select the Simpson Megashot 3100 with a gas-driven Honda engine. This is premium stuff for home use. It boasts of a pro-style steel spray wand with five nozzle tips and a soap applicator to boot. This may well be the Cadillac of pressure washer and a great machine to own. The hose won’t cause you any problems being kink resistant and snarl free. You’ll love the easy twist-on connectors.

I say read the reviews if in doubt and compare prices. You want something definitely user friendly where you don’t even need to read the manual. By the way, you can always shave off a few dollars and get a better deal. There are plenty of these washers on the market so the competition makes for bargains. The point is to get one and start using it for so many chores around your home after the SUV is done. Take care of dirty driveways and sidewalks as well as oily garage floors. Get that grimy garage door while you are at it. Then attack your shed and the back patio.

All things are not equal, however, in the world of pressure washers. You will want top-grade construction for durability and longevity, something ergonomic that won’t break your arm or back, an easy-start motor with consistent high performance, reasonably light weight, and even good solid little tires. In the long run, with most any model, you will love getting things done yourself. But high on my list is the van. It always comes first.

I was out in the SUV. It needed to be taken for a drive (or I did in any case). I decided to go camping and loaded the van with gear. I pack pretty well having done this a dozen times. It is like second nature. I get to my destination, ready to breathe some fresh air and cast my weary eyes on some memorable scenery. I am accommodated most of the time. I know where to go and it is like clockwork. What isn’t is finding surprise critters when I unpack.

There was a mouse in the house. Eek! Yes, a mouse in my stuff. I want to get rid of this mouse instantly. I suppose he was sleeping soundly during the voyage and woke up just in time to greet me upon parking in the campsite lot. He probably stirred because he was hungry and didn’t have the skills to open my tightly-packed vittles. He looked at me beseechingly.

Nope. I wasn’t going to let this creature survive. But pest control in the wilderness seems barbaric and inhumane. You feel like everything out there is a natural habitat and should be protected. But he was different. He was hiding in my cargo, a stowaway of the worst kind. Mice are unsanitary in case this has not occurred to you. They are not cute little furry pets to coddle and feed. They don’t need a long life to serve any purpose to mankind. Well, I suppose they do eat insects, but that’s another story…

Back to pest control. I thought I would create a kind of makeshift version of a trap and snatch his little body from my presence. I looked in my backpack for a morsel of cheese. Not there. This is not something I readily carry around. I looked for a substitute and found a bit of deli meat. That would have to do. I placed it in a hiking boot. I figured the shoe would be long enough to capture him and keep him inside if I folded over the top. I got everything ready. I was alert.

The mouse sensed something amiss and started to scurry about the back storage area looking for an exit. I quickly slammed the hatch shut. He was my prey and he was a goner. He scurried some more and finally found a crevasse in which to crawl. I couldn’t reach him. I was fighting the mouse and he was winning for sure.

This little game of hide and seek went on for some time before I got really exasperated. He was out of my gear and more or less in the open, so he was less of a threat overall. Yes, he had tarnished almost every inch of the car with his existence, and it was going to be time to fumigate when I got home, lest he had deposited any little telltale droppings.

A frustrated half hour later, I got an idea. It was not a brainstorm, mind you, but a final act of aggression. I opened the door to the van in the hopes that the intruder would hop out and be gone. Forget pest control. Let’s just have pest departure. I waited. He waited. It was a Mexican standoff. Finally, I took a stick and touched him on the back, gently of course. I don’t want to offend any of you environmentalists. He reacted and soon was trotting about on the ground outside the vehicle.

I was thrilled. It had been an exhausting interplay and I was ready to move on to the campgrounds and get set up for the night. I did so at my leisure. When I returned to the SUV for a final load of food to grill over a nice open fire, there he was—waiting for me in all his brown-textured glory. I tossed him the deli meat from the boot and I swear I could see him smile.

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, like a hot shower and a steam after some vigorous sports activity. Most of the time I work out at the gym and I always look forward to a post exercise dousing of intense water. It soothes the muscles and relieves the ache. In other words, it hits the spot. In point of fact, it doesn’t even allow any discomfort to come on. You go home invigorated and ready to hop in the SUV for a night of adventure. Let your mood be your guide.

A shower is the best athletic recovery tip I have other than bandaging a swollen knee. I am usually asked about other subjects, but this one I will offer as free advice. You don’t want to encounter a situation, however, where hot water is in short supply. It either requires a major tank, or even better, one of the best tankless water heater units. I am probably the only person I know who would check this all out before joining a gym. So now you also know. It should be tops on your checklist after the monthly fee, the locker room amenities, and of course the equipment.

My motto at the gym is “hit the showers!” Public or private, this kind of indulgence may be daily, but it is special every time. You can’t say that about a lot of things you do this often. I am so adamant about having enough hot water at home, that I have a backup system generator. You can see that I am not kidding about this necessity of life. Drinking water isn’t not even as important.

Let that barrage of heat pour over you and massage your back. Let your feet trail in the pools below. Rinse your every part in welcome warmth. Has anyone ever written an ode to a shower? Well, there is always a first time. Just looking at things from a practical perspective, you will get squeaky clean while you relax and unwind.

I vote for putting a great shower head in your bathroom at home—the best money can buy. It has to be flexible and adjustable to your mood and whim. It should never corrode and lie down on the job. This is my athletic recovery tip number two. A good one is worth its weight in gold in superior performance and longevity. If you want to add a soft water cartridge, so be it. The shower experience should be rich and full.

Okay, enough rhapsodizing. You say a shower is a shower is a shower. While I beg to differ, I won’t overdo the paean. I will say, however, that if you don’t know what I am talking about in this blog, you have been missing quite a nice experience. If you are willing to accept tepid water, unreliable shower head spray, and even a rough towel after the fact, you are compromising way too much. Try paying a little more attention to the experience, and you will find ways of making it better.

Workout buffs love the gym and go with regular frequency – some every day of the week. I am no exception. But there are times when it is closed and the mood moves you to get a little nighttime exercise. What do you do? You either forego or start thinking about acquiring equipment for a home gym system. It would be the ultimate in personal luxury.

You need space first and foremost to spread it all out. There is nothing worse than having a cycle in the living room squeezed between the sofa and an overstuffed chair. You need a place in the basement, attic, garage, shed, or spare room. If you have any of these, you are well on your way to an anytime gym that is custom designed for you alone. Don’t forget storage. You need a place to stow gear that is unused, towels, straps, and balls.

There are a million options, I know, when buying equipment. So apart from space, you have to establish a budget. This can be difficult as it should be dictated by what you need in the way of basics. Consider working every part of the body. What will you use for abs, pecs, lats, and hamstrings? Are you one to stretch with control?

So point three is to have a workout plan that addresses your body type, age, and physical condition. What are your goals? To lose weight, maintain tone, build muscle, achieve flexibility, or more? I vote for a rack of weights to start. This is a necessity of any program. Get a variety to use for curls, biceps, triceps and the like. They have to be heavy enough to count or you will end up doing a thousand more reps.

You then need cardio equipment. A stair stepper, elliptical, or treadmill device of the small home gym type. If space is at a premium, you might go for one of the versatile Bowflex trainer multi-purpose machines. You can lower body fat percentages, tone up, and feel good all around. People say they are efficient, but as for me, I don’t mind the time I spend in the gym. It is my refuge from work, not the other way around.

When buying equipment, you may want to get some help from a reputable consultant. You will no doubt talk about strength, endurance, weight loss, and tone. How do you get this in a home gym without breaking the bank or taking over the house? In case there is more than one person in the household, you want versatility and ease of use. There are just too many variables to go it alone.

Things like a rower can be added, but again, it is a matter of priorities and square footage. Few people have a power rack or a bench. Any equipment that can be combined in one unit may be the perfect answer for the average user. Some are a medley of an Olympic bar, weight stacks, a pulley system, pull up bar, leg extension and curl attachments, and more—all calibrated for a low ceiling height. Yes, that too is an issue to consider. You may want an abdominal crunch station and/or a press arm. You can see that I can’t dictate exactly what is best without knowing your workout style.

A well-designed SUV has plenty of room for everything from a 6-speaker radio and CD player combo to steering wheel-mounted controls. Each year, the interior gets better and better. The newer models have the same great features as the older ones, but many have been updated. Worth mentioning is the rear cargo-management system, adjustable lumbar (for the happy driver), NissanConnect with mobile apps (now standard equipment), and a fabulous sound system. Some models have heated seats and a navigation/infotainment system complete with Bluetooth connectivity.

But enough bragging about how great this SUV is whether it is an S, an X, or a Pro-4X model. The accessories are out of sight. Did you know you can get a pet divider to carry your pet while on your rugged road adventures? Did you know that it has an Utili-trac cargo channel system? There is nothing in this category of 4-wheel drive that is quite as fine. A vehicle is all about performance, especially in tough terrain. That is where I like to take mine. I can subject it to rocks and boulders, small rivers or anything Mother Nature throws at me and still get a pretty smooth ride. I have to give thanks to amazing suspension. If you try to tell me your Jeep Wrangler is superior, I am not going to listen.

I am getting ready as I speak to take another trip. I have my really cool backpack in tow, as tough as the van, loaded with what little is not already embedded within. I don’t need an iPod, that’s for sure. I do need a heavy duty number, however, as I plan to do a little camping. I am going off-roading to test those big beefy tires. I don’t expect to be leaning too much in corners and I know the steering is super reliable. Plus, with the V6, I will have plenty of power and torque.

A friend gave me the backpack for a gift and it has been my constant companion. I lug it here and there, full of short-term necessities of life. It goes inside the van and outside as needed. He must know me well. The thing is double thick denim with heavy stitching and adorned with rivets. These metal babies will never let a seam divide. It has compartments inside to separate one item from another so you never have to fumble for keys or a pen. Your smart phone has its own little zippered home.

A backpack is a travelling companion and sometimes the only one you have long for the ride. It can be mistreated if you forget its contents, as when you toss it about like a sack of potatoes. But it is resilient and can take the beating in stride. I keep in half packed most of the time in a strategic closet at home. It has batteries, a flashlight, eating utensils, a collapsible drinking cup, thin gloves, and a cap, among other miscellaneous things like a toothbrush, toothpaste, and soap. It often gets an extra change of clothes, underwear, socks, and a rain parka. It has no limitations to speak of.

It is odd, you may think, to speak of a cool SUV and a backpack in the same breadth, but they do have a lot in common. They both have great compatible exteriors and interiors that are the result of some innovative mad genius who has virtually thought of everything. They are roomy and can handle a lot of gear. They come through in a pinch and perm their duties and functions appropriately. No matter that one takes people as cargo. Both have body shapes that maximize interior space and both can carry their own required amount of equipment. The good news is that you can have them both side by side.