Defining Manliness in a Meat-Eating World

Yesterday, I was fortunate to hear a great piece on veganism and Masculinity (I highly encourage you all to check it out).  Of interest, was a quote by Triathlete Dominic Thompson,

“Compassion is the new cool.”

And while there is a bit of Ghandism and cliche in that statement, personally I feel it really defines my interest and core of being vegan.  Not the cool part, (I could care less about being cool) but the fact that being compassionate is in the open.  It’s OK to care for something insignificant.  It’s the new closet us men can come out of.

I remember way back (in my meat eating days) when a fly was drowning in a day old cup of coffee on my desk at work.  I asked a co-worker to quickly grab a fork, while I tried to rescue it with a pen.  My coworker ridiculed me for weeks, for “saving a stupid fly,” calling me “Fly Guy.”

Image courtesy djltaga on DeviantArt
Image courtesy djltaga on DeviantArt

At the time, it was a source of embarrassment and I found myself questioning my actions.  Maybe my friend was right.  Why was I worried about this “stupid fly?”

Initially, my defense was based on karma.  Maybe some day I’ll be drowning and I’ll wish for someone to take a moment of their day and pluck me from the proverbial cup of coffee.  But over time, I realized that saving that fly was good for my soul.  It made me feel good to help something else without placing a value on it first.

I moved on in my compassion journey from insect saving to a fully vegan lifestyle.  Knowing that my diet causes no animals any suffering or death is more nourishing for my sanity than my waist line.

So how exactly can we as a society fall on such polarized ends of this issue?  While mainstream marketing screams at real men to eat beef (It is, after all what’s for dinner) and meats, the other side eats soy and smoked tempeh strips.

A recent google image search for "Man food"
A recent google image search for “Man food”

Some of my friends actually refuse – flat out refuse – to even try a vegan meal.  I am not sure if this is out of concern I am attempting to “convert them” or out of a fear they might actually like it and would have to think about a lifestyle change.  Ignorance is a precious resource in this world and even harder to get back once lost.

Personally, I feel they worry about their man card.  That someone they know might see them biting into a Veggie Grill Buffalo Bomber and sound the man alarm, agents streaming in, taking them away only to waterboard them with A1 steak sauce and chicken stock while watching all the Rambo movies.

So how do we turn that corner?  How do we show to men on the larger scale that it is OK to be compassionate, healthy, AND actually enjoy good food?

The NPR piece mentioned a new blog that I think is really making headway in this space.  It is called The Discerning Brute and it is a high-end men’s vegan blog.

The home page of TDB.
The home page of TDB.

Another great point of the article was that confidence has always been “manly” in our society.  Ex butcher and now vegan chef Dan Strong stated,

“There’s an illusion that manhood is this confidence that is exuded at all time,” Strong said. “Veganism is that kind of confidence. It really is. It’s a choice that we make that guides us on our lives. I can’t think of anything more manly than that.”

I’d also add that as vegans we must have thick skin.  We need to deal with ridicule and ribbings.  And I think that even makes us more resilient.

And perhaps a little more manly.



Trail Review: Golden Spike

Golden Spike trail is part of the trifecta of trails in Moab which consists of Gold Bar Rim, Golden Spike, and most of Poison Spider.

On our recent mantrip to Moab, Andy and I actually ran all three of these trails (alone) and (almost)without incident.  There were many cases where we took the easier option as we had no other rigs with us.

The trail officially “begins” on the Poison Spider side, but we ran it in reverse from Gold Bar Rim. The area is very well signed.  I am actually glad we traversed it in this order, as some of the descents we made off ledges seemed pretty difficult if we were climbing them.  The “point of no return factor, however was a bit daunting.

Some trail guides have this trail ending at the view point, while others include it as the end of Gold Bar Rim.  That being, said this review will begin at the “diving board.”

The “diving board.” A great place for photos, but be sure you are good with the clutch.

Shortly after the required photos at the diving board, we began the trail.

The first well known obstacle is the “Golden Stairs” which would have been more challenging to drive up, than down.  We chose a clean, simple line along the left (down hill).

Frank, at the top of Golden Stairs.

The trail continues to meander along a mix of slick rock and scattered dirt, with a few “gotcha” spots, but nothing that isn’t manageable.

Next was the infamous Golden Crack.

The Golden Crack has a few primary lines, but it is very clear which route most people take.  I was pretty excited to take this obstacle on, however being the only rig in our group and only a handful of Razrs at the crack, I sadly opted to take the bypass.  This is the exchange you make when wheeling alone.

You can clearly see the preferred line of attack.

We stopped at the crack for some sandwiches and a drink, then moved along.

I feel like every Jeeper has a story where the simplest obstacle almost claimed their rig. Such was the case at the spot below.  I let my friend Andy drive for a bit, and I chose a challenging line for him, but not the best line.

An almost serious spot.

Essentially, I had him place his DS front up higher on the ridge (to the left in the image) while his rear PS slipped off that little ledge in the bottom right of the pic. This made him get very tippy, with the Jeep literally teetering with the touch of a finger.

We placed some safety straps through the rock rails (and the pine tree to the  left) and ended up winching hard to driver from a small tree (out of frame).  We packed up the recovery gear and hit the trail.

The trail continued with small ledges, loose rock and the occasional climb.

A post “my Jeep almost rolled over” happy pic.

The scenery of this area is some of my favorite in all of Moab – with sweeping views of the Colorado River, Arches, and many other amazing vistas.

Beautiful terrain.

Next up was the daunting “Zuki Hill” but again, the descent was easier than attempting it uphill.  Although in retrospect it was mostly slickrock with the occasional small ledge so I think this obstacle looks a lot meaner than it really is.

The formidable Zuki Hill.

After Zuki was a nice little tight canyon that offered a short but sweet break from the sun.

This small ravine was pretty cool.

We soon arrived at Skyline Drive, a long, high fin that offers some steep slickrock driving as well as great views.

This is a common view as you ascend Skyline Drive – steep ascents!

Route finding became a little challenging shortly after Skyline, so be sure to keep track of the trail markers.  Black tire marks are also hard to find.

Some slickrock on the way to Launch Pad.

We soon arrived at the final “obstacle” along this trail – the Launch Pad.  This is a steep, short drop and a VERY steep (almost unwalkable) climb.  Unfortunately due to the long day (we still had the majority of Poison Spider to finish) and being the only rig, we also opted to bypass this.

Soon the intersection with Poison Spider appeared, and we were that much closer to a cold beer.

Near the intersection with Poison Spider.
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Product Install: Anzo USA LED Tail lights for JK

My Jeep has been visited by a really annoying gremlin – the failed right rear blinker.  It is a pretty common problem across the forums, yet there doesn’t seem to be a single fix.

Essentially, the blinker will work once the Jeep is started, then about 5-10 seconds later it fails, going to a rapid flash and throwing an error in the EVIC.

The bulb filament is fine, and the bulb actually works in the driver side tail light.  So it was something else.

Rather than mess around with bulbs and electrical stuff, I opted to just replace the tail lights with an LED option.  Based on what Northridge 4×4 had to offer, I chose the Anzo USA Black tail lights.

They arrived in a non descript box, after an extended drop ship time.  The box included two lights and nothing else.

The packaging wa odd, but everything arrived just fine.

Installation was straight forward and easy.  But since there were no instructions, I figured I’d do a little write up.

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Trail Report: Weekend at Manastash Ridge

Last Saturday, our small convoy of Jeeps left a Starbucks in Vancouver, for the 4 hour drive to Manastash. Leaving at 7:00AM, we made great time on the way North.

We decided to fill up on last minute supplies and top off the tanks at Whistlin’ Jack’s in Cliffdell.

Stop for fuel and firewood.

We took the second right after Kaner Flats campground (off FS 19), airing down just off the road before Kaner Flats trailhead (trail 676).

The following images are a collection from that trail.

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Product Review: ARB 50QT. Fridge/Freezer (aka ‘The Vegan Savior’)

There are many cases today that the adage “you get what you pay for” really applies.  However, it seems the only time that logic applies is when you are contemplating a pretty expensive purchase.  Hence this review of the ARB 50 quart Fridge Freezer.

As a Jeeper, I must say that having an actual refrigerator (or freezer) has been “offroad life changing.”  I am no longer running out to get extra ice, or dealing with soggy food, or having water sloshing in the back of the Jeep.

As a vegan, however, my actual life has in fact been really changed by this amazing fridge.

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Trail Recipe: BBQ Beyond Meat Chicken Sammies!

When campin’ or Jeepin,’ there isn’t anything better than a nice warm, hearty meal – especially one that is super yummy and easy to make.

One of my favorite camping sandwiches is this BBQ Chicken sandwich courtesy of Beyond Meat!

You’ll need a whole pack of Beyond Meat chicken strips and whatever else you like on a sandwich (avocado, lettuce, toms, Veganaise, etc). Grab your favorite BBQ sauce too.

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Fixing the “Dashboard Christmas Tree” in Jeeps

The forums are ablaze with questions around concerned Jeep drivers, that their gauge cluster will suddenly light up, chime, and do some weird things – but only for a second or two.

I found myself dealing with this exact same problem in both my 2012 and 2013 Rubicons (the videos above are mine).  Taking the 2013 in under warranty, the dealer was just as perplexed as I was.  Eventually they changed the electronic sway bar disconnect motor (claiming it was not sealed for water and thus causing the short).

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Trail Review: Kane Creek Canyon

Kane Creek Canyon is a trail that was highly recommended to us by a neighbor when staying at Canyonlands Campground in Moab.

The only hard part is the climb out of the canyon, and that isn’t too bad” were the only words of hesitation.

So with reckless abandon, I hit the trail with friends Andy, Matt and Joe.

The trail follows Kane Creek Canyon road out of Moab, heading West.  The road quickly turns to dirt and descends through a really nice canyon.  The road was pretty dusty, so Matt in his JK had to drop back a bit.

Kane Creek starts out a little on the boring side. At least the scenery is amazing.

Eventually the trail appeared on the Left, across from the Kane Creek/Chicken Corners pull off.

The trail starts out as a pretty tame dirt road with just enough random boulders to keep you in 4L and not 4HI.  Which is irritating, as you are basically bumping around on a pretty boring trail.  On the day we headed out, there were literally hundreds of side-by-sides (I call them golf carts) coming in our direction.  With all the pulling over, dust, and a relatively boring road, we contemplated turning around.

Boy am I glad we didn’t.

The boring little trail warms you up with a series of bad washouts to climb into and out of.  As the canyon walls close in tighter, you also gain some elevation making the prospect of tipping off the trail more of a hazardous concept.

The washouts can get pretty tippy.

Our first obstacle was squeezing between two perfectly placed boulders.  The passenger rock wants to rip off your rear passenger fender, while the driver rock wants to make you get all tippy and freaked out.  With some creative lines and a little road building, we successfully navigated through – with all fenders and the shiny side up.

Matt navigates the first obstacle with Andy’s expert spotting.

You soon drop into the actual creek itself which runs the length of the canyon. This creek is part waterway and part trail, with countless water crossings and even some tricky wayfinding.  Be prepared for the tamarisk to leave some healthy scratches on your body, as some of these trails get pretty tight and overgrown.

The first bit of water. Notice how the trail changes as the creek floods and moves.

There are also long stretches of trail in the base of the canyon that is composed primarily of river sand and rock.

A long sandy stretch in the canyon bottom.

We soon came across a Mitsubishi Montero that had certainly seen better days.

This vehicle is being prepared for removal from the canyon.

The trail soon begins to climb as the end of the canyon gets closer.

The initial rise of the trail begins at this giant rock.

Once the trail begins to rise, a trail marker rated as “More Difficult” (Blue) identifies the first challenging set of ledges.  There is a large parking area on the bend.  And, while the trail uphill looks daunting, with careful tire placement and good spotting, it is easily navigable.

Looking down on this challenging set of ledges.

The trail soon ascends a narrow shelf road with some precarious tire placement right on the edge of the 500 foot drop.

The drop from the driver’s side of the Jeep.

The shelf road soon drops down into a rocky creek crossing and another trail marker, this time classifying the obstacles as a black diamond “Most Difficult.”

A group of Jeeps and Toyotas had apparently been hung up on this section for quite some time, but they cleared out just as we arrived.  Again, with excellent spotting and driving, we all navigated this final set of obstacles without issue.

This group broke something here, but we climbed it easy. Must be a Jeep thing.
Matt aligning at the base of the last series of major climbs.

There are a few final creek crossings (including one stretch where the creek actually  is the trail).

The creek becomes the trail for a final stretch.

After one final ledge obstacle (a single ledge), the trail ends at a pipeline marker.  From here to highway 191, the road is easily run in 2WD.

The final run to the highway.

There is a air up area right where the road meets the highway for the 30 minute drive back to Moab.

Estimated trail time: 4 hours.


Trail Review: Gold Bar Rim

It has been a while since I have been Jeeping in Moab, so I didn’t miss a beat when selecting trails for today.  By the end of the day, Andy and I will have run three of Moab’s most iconic trails: Gold Bar Rim, Golden Spike, and (most of) Poison Spider.  This review covers the first trail: Gold Bar Rim.

The day started with a brisk temp and a stiff wind which kept temperatures pretty mild even though the sun was beating down on us all day.

Gemini Bridges road leading up out of Moab. Click to enlarge.

Heading ten miles North out of Moab, we turned onto the road for Gemini Bridges.  This shelf road quickly climbs for some sweet views below.  Eventually it levels off in a pretty wide canyon with some nice campsites peppered throughout.

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MANTRIP: Oregon to Moab (Days 1 & 2)

Last year my best friend Andy and I decided to take a trip somewhere.  Something kinda like the old days of riding our squeaky bikes down to the lake, but with the resources of middle-aged men.

We chose a Jeeping and camping week in Moab, and the MANTRIP was born.

Eastern Oregon.

We left home a bit late, around 1:00PM.  This is the first full distance road trip for my M416 expedition trailer, so I wasn’t sure what to expect on the highway.

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