Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Review: KÜHL Renegade Cargo Convertible Pants

I don't typically do reviews of gifted items, but when the folks from KÜHL contacted me the items on their website were too enticing to pass up. I'm always looking for clothes that fit the near-impossible standard of being both highly functional and fashionable and it looked like KÜHL was down with that challenge. More to the point, Shira looked at their website and agreed that their clothes had way more potential than most of my wardrobe.

So I told them I was in. I asked them to send me a pair of Renegade Cargo Convertible and Resistor Light Chino pants. Here's my take on the former, I'll share my thoughts on the latter in a separate post.

Let's Talk Pants

I just explained my never-ending search for functional and fashionable clothes, yet I chose these pants for strictly the first quality. Like other convertible pants, they have a set of zippers that turns them into shorts. You can't get more practical than that.

When hiking, camping, fishing or doing some other outdoor activity and I can't decide if the day calls for pants or shorts, convertible pants let me get the best of both worlds. I generally consider convertible pants a no-go for most non-outdoorsy activities, but that may just be my limited sense of fashion adventure.

As convertible pants go, there's no doubt that the Renegade Cargo's are the nicest I've ever owned. The workmanship and material is top notch. I'm usually a 34x34 in pants, but found these to run long and ended up fitting into a 32 inch inseam instead.

KÜHL seems to be all about well thought out details. I like that both cargo pockets have inner pockets to provide additional organization. One fits my Galaxy S10+ phone, the other is zippered for additional security. The back pockets are secured with Velcro which also provides a nice bit of security. The front pockets are mesh, which helps with breathability.

I like that the pant cuffs have a vertical zip that makes taking the pants off over shoes that much easier.

Overall, these are excellent pants. When functionality obviously trumps fashion, these are the pair I'm grabbing.

The only negative point I can offer is the choice of marketing language on the website. They describe the zip-off feature as a "STEALTH zip-off design." I don't see anything subtle about the convertible nature of these pants. By wearing these you aren't fooling anyone into thinking you're wearing a pair of khaki dress pants. Language aside, these pants do live up to the claim of being a quality bit of functional kit.

Here's some action shots of me wearing them on our last camping trip. It ended up being too hot for pants so I was psyched I could switch them into shorts mode.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Florida Adventure, Day 3

I made it! Hike day! Today was my day to show the rest of the crew that Mother-Nature can compete with the likes of rollercoasters and NASA. To that end, I wanted a signficant hike with a very Florida Feel to it, all while keeping in mind that we needed to be at the airport later in the day. In short, I wanted to over do it without actually overdoing it.

Using alltrails, shira and I settled on Black Bear Wilderness Area. On paper, it checked a lot of boxes: it was a not-insigificant 7 miles, was a loop and the comments suggested we'd see wildlife. As we drove to the hike I actually experienced a small wave of anxiety as I considered what we were stepping into (one commentor remarked: Extremely difficult today. Mentally and physically. I'm dead!). That was an excellent sign!

I'm pleased to report that the trail delivered in terms of terrain, flora and fuana. The trail winds through palms, palmettos and cypress trees along a series of dykes. For most of the hike pools of black or bright-green covered water are visible. The environment made for a totally foriegn feeling hike, which is very much what I was hoping for. From a more practical level, this also meant that most of the hike was in shade, which made it far more bearable on such a hot and sunny day.

And then there were the Swamp Mallow Roses. There seemed to be acres and acres of these blooming, satellite dish style hibiscus flowers. They were magnificent and I only wish I'd had the time and gear to properly capture their beauty. It's rare to see flowers blooming on that kind of scale.

From a fauna perspective we saw alligators, wild pigs, a couple blue herons and a number of massive golden orb spiders. As we finished the hike I noted aloud that I had to watch for gators on our right, pigs on our left, roots below and spiders above. It was so cool.

Near the end of the hike we came across some run-down infrastucture that appeared to be used to manage water levels in the dykes. I didn't have any luck finding a detailed explanation for their purpose or a sense of how old they were, but it was still cool coming across this mystery.

We absolutely recommend this hike. I wouldn't call it difficult, especially considering it has a whopping 29 feet of elevation gain. Though we were on the trail after several dry days; had the trail been a slog through the mud I might reconsider the difficulty level. This trip report is an excellent one if you want to learn more.

After the hike we made our way to a delish Indian Restaurant and then it was on to the airport. As we approached the airport, we noticed a few drops of rain on the windshield. Look at that, I remarked, we went a whole trip and the rain didn't impact us one bit. Ahh yes, inviting the evil eye.

Initially, the lines at the airport looked long and chaotic, but in no time we were all through security and at our gate. We hit the time for boarding and there was no call for us to line up. Eventually, one of the gate agents made an announcement: there had been lightning within a 10 mile radius of the airport, so the 'ramp' was closed. We'd have to sit and wait for the required amount of time to pass before the airport could resume operations. Mind you, outside it's sunny with only a few puffy white clouds in the sky.

This delay actually gave me the perfect opportunity to ask B. for some help. I explained I was in a bit of pickle: the the pants I was wearing weren't randomly selected. I was actually on a mission: I was field testing them for a review I was planning to post later on the blog. I knew what I wanted to say about the pants but didn't have any photos of me wearing them to post along with the text. Could she snap a few pics of me to highlight the pants?

She sprung into action and conducted an impromptu fashion photo shoot in a very busy Orlando airport. What a treat it was to work with a pro. I consider myself a pretty knowledgeable photographer, but I came away from this experience realizing I know nothing about fashion photography. The ideas she had for highlighting the features of the pants, all while making me look good were impressive. This was all done with a heap of constraints, including lack of time, access to just a few busy parts of the airport and that I was having her shoot with my cell phone versus her own equipment. I couldn't have been more pleased with the results or impressed by her ability.

Eventually the storm came through and we boarded the plane. There was yet one more lightning strike in the area that shut down the ramp, leaving the strange scene of a full luggage cart outside our window getting pelted with rain. Thanks to a break in the weather, we finshed the loading process and got on our way. The flight home was delightfully uneventful.

We had three exhausting and amazing days in Florida. As for next year, maybe the gang will want to go back to something more relaxing, like a rugged backpacking trip.

Florida Adventure, Day 2

[Composed 7/17/2021]

While yesterday at Universal Studios I was out of my element, today I was squarely in it.

We started the day with breakfast at @ the Diner where I had a slew of healthy options to pick from. I ignored them all and got Boston Cream pancakes with whipped cream. #noregrets. From there, we made our way to Kennedy Space Center (KSC) where we spent a good portion of the day learning about the US Space Program.

This is Shira and My third visit to KSC and I still found the exhibits to be absolutely awe inspiring. The fact that the US went from bumbling through rocket launches to putting a man on the moon is nothing short of miraculous. A third trip to KSC let me see past some of the more in-your-face aspects of the space program (holy smokes, a Saturn V rocket is huge!) to some of the more intricate details (like appreciating the chutzpah of Gemini IV, the first spacewalk the US ever conducted).

When we made our plans for KSC we were dissapointed that, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the additional bus tours and the Meet an Astronaut program weren't running. Would the exhibits made available through a regular ticket be enough to keep M., P., and B. interested?

My gosh, what were we thinking. The standard ticket gives you access to way more than any one person can take in on a first visit. It would have been fool hearty to try to cram in more information after all that we saw today. The kids enjoyed the exhibits and came away with much of the same awe that we did.

Somewhat recently we saw the Challenger disaster documentary running on NetFlix. Shira and I are of the generation that watched as Challenger launched and exploded in front of our young eyes, so there's no doubt we have a special connection to the event. I found the documentary to be fascinating and it framed the accident not as a random catastrophic failure that I thought of it, and more a predictable outcome shaped by politics and ego. Armed with this new perspective, I was keenly aware that the 'why and how' of the Challenger disaster were noticeably absent from any exhibit I saw. There was a touching exhibit to honor the astronauts that were lost, but to fail to recognize the roots of the disaster seems like a massive oversight.

From KSC we made our way over to Cocoa Beach for a couple of hours of fun in the sand and sun.

The beach, on paper, is always a good idea. But how enjoyable the exprience is can often vary. Is the water warm or frigid? Is the beach smooth or rocky? Are the waves enjoyable or treacherous? Today, the stars aligned and the beach was perfect.

We plopped our stuff down on a towel and I carefully made my way into the ocean. The terrain was soft, the waves present, yet not threatening, and most importantly the water temperture was perfect! This was the perfect activity after a day of having our heads creammed full of facts and figures.

After a very full day we made our way back to our hotel where we are preparing for one more big day of activity. Tomorrow is 'hike day', the day where I truly get to be in my element.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Florida Adventure, Day 1

[Composed 7/16/2021]

We just finished up a very full day at Universal Studios, and boy am I exhausted.

Typically, a visit to an amusement park involves a sort of mental tug of war. On one hand, I don't like rides or the pre-canned adventure they offer. On the other, I feel like I should embrace the moment and appreciate the parks for the spectacle that they are.

Today, we were a group of 10, so I didn't have time for such a dialog. Instead, I spent the day counting and re-counting heads to make sure we didn't lose anyone. I'm proud to report, we left the park with the same number of kids we arrived with. And in between, everyone (even me!) had a blast.

While amusement parks may involve philisophical debates for me, for everyone else, they were treated to a thrilling day of top notch enterintainment. M. wanted to ride the biggest, baddest coasters Universal offered. To set the tone, we started our day on 'Hulk,' a twisting, turning roller coaster that I couldn't begin to fathom riding. He, and the rest of the older crew, loved it.

We met my Sister-in-Law and our four nieces and nephew at the park. My Sister-in-Law in particular knows the ins and outs of the park well, and it was a real treat to have an expert guide us through the day.

My highlights included getting early admission and walking through the entrance and leaving hundreds of people behind us in line, and the discovery of Parent Swap Waiting Rooms. Parent Swap is a feature Universal offers where parents and kids get in line, and right before the ride begins all those not riding duck off to a little waiting room. When the riders return, the parent who waited can opt to rejoin the line right at the point of boarding.

I didn't take advantage of the riding ability, but I loved watching the kids in an air conditioned space where we could sit in relative comfort.

After every ride I'd ask M., P. and B. how they ranked the ride on a scale of 1 to 10. Here's how the rides stacked up:

  • Hulk: 8/10. Adrenaline. Awesome.
  • Spiderman: 7/10. Fun!
  • Kong: 5.5/10. Too short.
  • Jurassic Part: 7/10. Nice drops. Slow inbetween.
  • Hagrid's Motorbike Adventure: 9/10. Amazing. (Shira takes points off for it malfunctioning and being stuck in the hot sun while waiting to offload.)
  • Forbidden Journey: 8.5/10. Wow. Best Simulation.
  • Rip Ride Rocketc: 8.9/10. Fear. Repetitious.
  • Gringots: 7.7/10. Good. Too short.

As our day closed out, I encouraged us to all watch the Bourne Identity Stunt Show. It was a masterful display of techonology and choreography. However, after a very long day of cooking in the Florida Sunshine, it was hard to get too excited about anything.

The food at the park was OK. Our veggie kebab at Doc Sugrue's Desert Kebab House was tasty enough, as was our milkshake at Mel's Drive-In Diner. Still, if I had to it do again, I'd probably opt to bring sandwiches rather than wait in line for a meal. On the other hand, water re-fill stations were relatively plentiful, so I'd probably bring less water and expect to get it at the park rather than carrying it my backpack.

About the only let down of the day were the wait times for the coasters. In many cases we were lucky enough to use my Sister-in-Law's express pass. But for the cases where this wasn't possible, we'd have to wait well over an hour to get access to the rides. I know this is a thorny problem, but c'mon Universal, there has to be a better solution than expecting people to just wait.

Overall, the day was terrific. All the kids were entertained and it was a true pleasure to watch them revel in the adventure.