Month: August 2015

the roof top tent: james baroud horizon

Camping, Gear, lifestyle, Outdoors, parenting, travel August 31, 2015

After much anticipation, we finally got to try out the new tent this weekend.  First of all, the boys loved it.  What three year old doesn’t love ladders and forts?  It is essentially a treehouse that we take with us. Indeed, my son would climb ceaselessly up and down the ladder if we did not put it away.  Being a source of excitement to the children aside, (but not to be underestimated in terms of importance) the tent has many things we  enjoy:

  1.  Easy set up and take down.   This is one of the chief conveniences and reason for our purchase of this tent. J has it down to 7 minutes to break down, and far less than that for set up.  Our bedding is in it, park the car and we are haflway there.  This tent is supposed to facilitate easy road tripping and quick weekend trips. I am confident that it will serve these purposes nicely. 
  2. It is comfortable.  We are using full size pillows, plus camp pillows, a sheet set, and a comforter.  It is every bit as comfortable as the shikibutons we sleep on at home.  Perhaps more so.  There are many windows and the tent feels quite spacious for one adult plus one child (with one more of each inside the van). 
  3. The novelty and aesthetics for us adults is not to be underestimated either.  It is fun to lounge around up high.  We parked by the stream and amongst the trees and it was all really lovely. The interior is airy with many windows, and the silver color is pleasing compared to the often garish oranges or cave- like greens and browns that often grace similar tents. 
  4. Amazingly, it hasn’t touched our gas mileage. This tent is somewhere around 100lbs, and it’s light weight is one of the chief reasons we chose it. The Yakima roof rack itself bumped us down a couple miles per gallon, but not the tent itself.
  5. More room in the car! So much so that we are now fantasizing about trading in the minivan for a less thirsty, more off-road capable Subaru Outback or 4 door Toyota Tacoma once the boys are out of their gargantuan car seats.  (Though I have to say, the awd minivan gets us down some fairly ugly forest service roads to some beautiful and private spots)
  6. The fold over design creates a small ‘porch’ outside the door to our van. Next time, I’m going to rig up a sheet or shower curtain to enclose it, giving us a small changing room. 


Now for the short list of cons:

  1. We don’t have a dedicated camping/ travel vehicle, which means it sits on top of my daily driver.  We like to do quick weekend trips on a whim, so it must stay there to minimize the work needed to satisfy these whims. However since our gas mileage isn’t really touched, this is  more of a cosmetic issue as well as perhaps likely to shorten the life of the cover.  
  2. We sleep two in the van and two in the roof top tent. This led to some serious jostling throughout the night. This wasn’t really an issue for anyone but me, the super light sleeper that I am. 

After some thought both of these issues will be solved with a trailer, like these from Dinoot.  When it comes time to trade in the minivan, we will buy a lightweight, off-road capable trailer to install the tent on. Then we will leave that packed full of our gear and toys in the carport. Our sleeping platform will be unencumbered by gear and jostling in the back of the Outback/Tacoma, and the effort needed to get outside and get set up will be decreased even more.  This is all in the 5 year plan. Le sigh. 

All in all, the whole family is thrilled with the tent, and our next weekend getaway is already in the works as is a long trip to the coast for some fall beach camping.  Both Craig  Davidson at  James Baroud USA, and our local distributor, owner Walt WagnerTAV Expedition Outfitters were awesome and communicative. And we got free shipping.   

    destination: carson national forest

    Camping, Outdoors, travel August 16, 2015

    We just returned from a pleasant camping trip in the Carson National Forest with some dear friends. This was just another reminder about how truly wonderful it is to be in good company and beautiful surroundings. The smiles on childrens’ faces, the stars, the river, the one too many glasses of wine, the quiet campfire conversation. Thank you and more please.  Putting up a temporary shelter makes partners appreciate each other. Working as a group allows people to be considerate of one another, to be generous of spirit and time.  The tasks are simple. Provide food and shelter. Enjoy the company and surroundings

    This site was particularly lovely. Just 2.5 miles down a forest service road (pretty rough), and 30 minutes from town.  The sites were generous, very widely spaced, and all riverside. Free and primitive, most were occupied by large groups of hunters with ATVs and hound dogs. We didn’t hear a human sound at all during our stay. Just the river running and the dog rustling through the bushes.  I can’t wait to return to ‘the land of many uses’. 

    ‘As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.’ -Thoreau

    move it or lose it: how to get moving in the office and how to make your office move 

    lifestyle, Small business, travel August 11, 2015

    **** update: I have been using the laptop stand and mini elliptical described below for a couple of weeks now. The set up is perfect for me. The movement helps me stay focused and my legs are sore after I put in some billable hours.   I highly recommend this as a relatively inexpensive way to get out of that office chair. Here’s my set up:  


    I am building a small law practice and want to keep the overhead low. My area of law requires few client meetings trips to court, so I can keep it home based or road based, allowing me to have a mobile office if I so desire. 

    Additionally, sometime a few years back, studies began to emerge showing extended periods of sitting to be extremely harmful to your health. The market, ever quick to react, responded with standing desks, treadmill desks, bicycle desks etc.  This active office equipment can run into the thousands, but there are more economical ways to keep moving at the office. 
    Here is what I am working with:  As you can see, I have been using the shelf as a standing desk. I actually used to work on the countertops at my old home because I do find writing in particular is good on your feet!  

    However, ergonomics are important, a standing desk should be at or just below your shoulders in order to allow you to stand up straight, counteracting the slumped shoulders that are the bane of office life. Since I obviously have only traditional desks, I have opted for a highly adjustable Laptop stand  to place on top of the desks. I tend to spread out and like to move from one surface to another as I switch from researching to writing to administrative tasks. This way I can move between either of my desks and the bookshelf.  Or even elsewhere in the house and beyond.  Perhaps one of the captains chairs in my van?

    Standing all day isn’t great either. Varicose veins and swollen feet can result as well as any number of other aches and pains. When I sit, I have long been a proponent of a yoga ball or stability ball. I bounced through my first pregnancy in the office, easing the back pain of pregnancy and keeping my core active. You can buy a yoga ball chair, but these are significantly more expensive than the ball itself. 

    Another standing option to help balance and core strength that also helps strengthen ankles is a wobble board. These run around $20-$30 and are apparently fun and challenging, though I have yet to try one. A new company has created The Level, a beautiful but expensive device in a similar vein. 

    Great, but what about the cardiovascular system? I am ever a fan of efficient use of time, so the treadmill desk is quite intriguing. But beside being expensive, it is huge and unnatractive. If you have a bike already, there are a number of desks available to dock your bike so you can pedal while working like this beautiful but expensive option, the Pit In.  

    Sadly, I sold my road bike when I moved to narrow dirt roads and pot holes, so moving on.  There is the  Fit Desk, which is relatively compact, but at $300 still more than I can spend right now.  I settled on a mini- elliptical machine, The Stamina InMotion Compact Strider. This can be used either sitting at a traditional desk or a standing desk. It is small, quiet, and at $100 was more within my budget. I will update on how productive I am with this machine as I begin to use it. 
    These are my picks for an active office.

    Movement helps blood flow and oxygen move throughout your body, and blood to the brain has to be a good thing when you’re engaged in intense concentration.  Burning a few extra calories and gently building muscles are perks few of us can complain about and the benefits to overall mental and physical health are backed up by numerous studies that I leave for you to google on your own. 

    I would like to add a few items that can help your office itself become mobile. My husband and I have tried to craft a life that lets us be outdoors as much as possible. His landscaping business requires no standing desks or extra efforts to get outside, but as a lawyer I am somewhat stuck.  However, my plan is to take my office with me when needed or wanted on road trips and vacations. As a lawyer on the cusp of generation x and the millennials, I am comfortable with digital office management. My case files will be cloud based and accessible by my iPhone or laptop. I need a couple of important items of equipment to make that possible.

     A scanner is all important. This one is both compact and has a document feeder. Both crucial to my needs.  It also scans to either Pdf or word files. Very convenient for working off old pleadings. 

    This printer is wireless, compact, and cloud compatible. I don’t need fancy color or photo options, just need to print s document, sign it, scan it, and file it. 

     I will be using a MacBook Air. These are tiny and lightweight and have a solid state drive so are durable.   Also, for simple web browsing and word processing, plenty powerful with long battery life. Finally, a refurbished 11″ MacBook Air runs around $750. This is relatively affordable for an apple.  

    Digital storage seems to ever be an issue. The MacBook Air isn’t huge (but I’m doing cloudbased office management anyway). However, I’d like to combine some photo and music storage with my office set up.  Two terabytes are easy to come by these days, and this mobile drive is wifi enabled with an SD card for photos. 

    Eventually, we will be installing an awning on the van. There I will sit, working happily away in the great out of doors while my husband takes the boys on a hike.   

    So that’s it. My recipe for a mobile office. I’ve tried to keep the costs down, and if you compare it to renting an office space, buying furniture and equipment, paying utilities, paying for staff, and hospital bills for health conditions resulting from sitting in an ugly office all day, this is a steal. Of course I’m not going to get rich. But I don’t want to spend all my time sitting hunched over inside and miss out on good times outdoors with my family. 

    destination: heron lake, nm

    Camping, travel August 4, 2015

    The plans were finalized and the great reunion of 2015 was underway.  10 adults and 7 children were to relive memories from the 80s and 90s by descending on Heron Lake en masse and with a new generation in tow. We reserved two campsites ahead of time (each allowing for two vehicles according to the website), and made plans to meet up. 

    When we went way back when, there were no online reservations of course, no reservations at all. We had a go-to spot and met up there for good old fashioned primitive camping sans outhouses, picnic tables, and trash cans. Alas times have changed and so have the preferences of our group. My protests were overruled and we elected to remain at our civilized reserved sites instead of the wild shoreline I had sniffed out at the far end of the lake. (Pictured above)

    (For those whose tastes align with mine:  follow the road until you cross the river, wind back around to the lake and take the last park marked right. This will take you on a pretty rough road through some nice tree’d camping spots in the hills above the lake and finally down to a wide open shoreline with plenty of room for primitive camping.  Be forewarned that the receding water line has given way to scratchy weeds that have taken root where the water used to be.)

    For those who prefer modern amenities such as tables, grills, and outhouses, the reserved spots of ‘brushy point’ and ‘island view’offer all that plus tidy parking spaces and some potential views.   The sites are in the piñon trees, offer some privacy, and are about a ten minute walk to the shore.  


    The lake is low. So much lower than before thanks to drought and a thirsty Albuquerque.  However, the area is as beautiful as ever and the drive is stunning.  A ways after  the reserved spots, there are some easily accessible primitive shore spots that we may try next time. There will always be a next time for Heron Lake.