So, how was your weekend?

Ever have one of those cool weekends where everything sort of comes together well for you and makes for a fun and interesting experience? I just had one of those, with a few really great moments, and I thought I’d share.rei4

My weekend actually started a bit early, kicking into gear on Thursday night. After making this post on the new REI store in Round Rock, TX on Wednesday, I managed to score an invite to the closed door ceremony, the night before official grand opening on Friday. Of course, I was excited to get the opportunity to check out this cool new store before the general public, and see what all the excitement as all about. The new outlet is REI’s second “prototype” store, designed from the ground up to meet the highest standards for energy efficiency and reducing the overall impact on the planet. The building uses solar panels on the roof to supply 13% of the overall energy used by the building, and there are numerous portals in the ceiling that let an ample amount of light into the building, reducing the need for lighting through much of the day. On top of that, much of the store is built with recycled materials and during the construction process, 75% of the waste was recycled or reused in some capacity. Furthermore, REI encourages staff to run, walk, or ride their bikes to work, and offers showers and lockers for their use. The company has always been on the forefront of being ecologically aware, but these new store designs are taking it even further.
All of this was highlighted on Thursday night by REI CEO Sally Jewel, who was on hand to kick off the weekend’s activities and meet and greet with a variety of local outdoor association


s. She discussed the challenges of creating an environmentally conscious retail outlet as well as REI’s commitment to being good stewards on the environment. Listening to her talk, you got the impression that the companies leadership are outdoor
 adventurers themselves and that helps govern their choices about how the company is ru
n. Sally also noted that they don’t see the other great gear stores as their competition, but instead see the couch, and the sedentary lifestyle, as their real competition. In that spirit, there were several people from other local gear stores on hand to check out the new digs too.

sallyjewelAfter Sally’s presentation, we were introduced to the store manager and some of the staff, who talked a bit about how challenging it was to get the store open on time, but that everything came together quite nicely in the end. After that, we were set free again to wander the store, and drool over all the cool products. The new Round Rock store is one of the biggest in the country, so there was a lot to look at and it’s two level design is laid out very well. Unlike other REI stores however, the “Community Center” is not relegated to some back room. In this store, it’s a center piece, suspended halfway between the two floors. This meeting space/learning center has a number of seats for the audience arranged in front of a large screen with a podium, mic, and a projector. This makes for a great multimedia environment for the guest speakers, training sessions, and outdoor group meetings. I left that night very impressed, and happy to have the new store literally just minutes away from my home.

Friday I had to go to my day job of course, but much of my free time during the week was spent preparing for a major announcement with my part-time gig with a little adventure race called Primal Quest. Although the cat was left out of the bag a bit early, at 4 PM Mountain Tim
e, a press conference was held, and a press release sent out, announcing that Primal Quest Badlands would be taking place in South Dakota next August. The race will be 600 miles in length and will run across the diverse terrain of the Black Hills and Badlands. The initial response has been very positive, with the teams already weighing in on the location and course.

peteathansI didn’t stay away for long however, as I returned on Friday night to attend a presentation by “Mr. Everest” himself, Pete Athans. At one point, Pete held the record for the most summits on Everest by a non-Sherpa at 7, and his wealth of climbing experience and knowledge have made him a legend in the mountaineering community. Pete talked about how he first became interested in the mountains, and Everest specifically, as a child, reading about far off places and the adventures that mountaineers went on. Later he would have the opportunity to go to Everest and make his own mark on the mountain, but it took him three attempts before he finally made it up the

 mountain. He even went into the disaster of 1996, touching very briefly on his own role in the rescue attempts.

As the presentation went on, the discussion moved away from mountaineering and more into his philanthropic endeavors in the Himalaya. He helped to launch The Magic Yeti libraries and worked closely with doctors conducting clinics to repair damaged eyes for the Sherpa people who suffered from cataracts and other vision problems.

rei5 Finally, Pete showed us a sneak preview of an archeological expedition that he was a 

part of that journey to the Mustang region of the Nepal/Tibet border. The area has been off limits to outsiders for years, but has recently begun opening up to a limited number of visitors. Pete and a team went to a remote area of this region to explore cave systems where the Mustang people use to live, and they discovered some amazing things. Inside the caves, which were fashioned into a community living center with meeting rooms, kitchens, temples and more. They also found amazing paintings on the wall and an astonishing number of documents dating back to the 12th century. Efforts are now being made to preserve the area and the findings there, and a documentary of the expedition will be released in 2009.

After the presentation I got to shake hands with Pete and say hello as well as get an autograph. He was a very cordial and pleasant guy, with a zen like calm about himself that is a result, I’d guess, of spending a lot of time in Nepal and Tibet. It was a great experience, and I feel lucky to have now met Pete, Ed Viesturs and Conrad Anker, three of the greatest American mountaineers around.


You would think after going to the new REI store two days in a row, I’d have had my fill, but you’d be wrong. On Saturday night I returned one more time to attend another presentation, this time by National Geographic explorer Jon Bowermaster. Jon’s presentation was focused on his Ocean’s 8 project which has been the focus of his exploration over the past ten years. Jon and his team recently completed the project with a kayaking expedition to Antarctica, where they measured the health of the ice there and the impact of global climate change there.

The early part of the presentation gave us an introduction to the project and some of the past expeditions that have been a part of the Ocean’s 8. Jon and his crew have explored the planet by kayak in such far flung locations as Tasmania, Croatia, and even the altiplano of South America, one of the driest places on Earth. But Antarctica was the culmination of the project, and the photos and video he had to share were stunning. He also talked about the difficulties of navigating in the Antarctic region, with ice that can tear a ship apart, referencing the sinking of the Explorer last November as an example. Jon was aboard the ship that was fist on the scene to help in the rescue efforts.

As you would probably expect, Jon’s presentation was another fascinating one. He touched on a variety of topics from expedition logistics, adventure tourism, global climate change, and much more. To wrap up his presentation, Jon showed us a preview of the film that will be releasing soon documenting the Antarctic expedition. Shot entirely in HD, the preview had a number of amazing shots, including the collapse of an ice arch right before or eyes. The short teaser helped to underscore the message that climate change is having a direct impact on parts of Antarctica and at an alarming rate.

rei1After the presentation concluded, a few of us approached Jon to ask a few questions and get our books signed. I brought a copy of his new book Descending The Dragon, which recounts Jon’s experiences paddling through Vietnam. When I handed the book over to get is signed, I was surprised to find that Jon not only knew who I was, but also about this blog. He asked me a bit about it, and had some kind words to say. It was a bit of a surreal moment for me, as I’ve written about Jon and his expeditions on a number of occasions, but I had no expectations that he would have a clue who I was. Like Pete Athans the night before, Jon was very approachable and easy to chat with, and as youd expect, an incredibly interesting guy.

rei3So, that’s what I did with my weekend. Hung out with a couple of legends while enjoying a new REI store, and helping to make a major announcement about the next Primal Quest. Just another couple of days in the life of an adventure blogger. 🙂 I also managed to mix in a couple of runs and a very nice long bike ride this morning as well, so the weekend wasn’t completely spent indoors. All in all, a rather busy and fun weekend.

But enough about me, what did you do?

Kraig Becker

11 thoughts on “So, how was your weekend?”

  1. Kraig-

    Nice post. It sounds like you had a blast. I think you gave us enough information to have written ten posts about your weekend.

    All in all, it sounds like you had a very cool weekend. Did that offer come through to be the ‘official’ REI blogger? Perhaps they should take a second look at this post. It is nice to have a place like that nearby.

    As far as my weekend..

    I am finally getting finished up with my big move. Hopefully I can get things back to a regular schedule–it looks like I have been missing out on some fun.

  2. No offers yet from REI. I knew I should have worn my “Will Blog For Gear” T-shirt. 😉

    Glad to hear things are coming together for you so you can get back to the routine soon. I’ve missed your regular posts! Hope all is well with you!

  3. Very cool Kraig! I dropped a fair amount of change at my local REI today too. But reading about their progressive ways makes me feel a bit better!

  4. It’s easy to spend a lot of money very quickly in their stores, but at least you know the gear is good quality stuff.

    And yeah, it does help knowing they’re committed to protecting the environment. Makes me feel a bit less guilty. The gear companies have come a long way in this regard as well.

  5. Now that’s what you call a good weekend! Much the best thing to do if you can’t be outdoors.
    I went climbing on Sunday and will do again tomorrow!

  6. Jo, That sounds like a great way to spend the weekend too, and you get to do it on Tuesday as well!

    As I mentioned in my post, I still got some outside time as well. I have a new pair of running shoes to break in, so a couple of nice long runs and a very nice bike ride yesterday made sure I got my daily recommended allowances of fresh air and sunshine too.

  7. REI is a great company with an improving attitude towards the environment and listening to the concerns of its customers. Some local rec stores in my area that compete with REI are trying to operate in an more environmentally friendly manner and I appreciate REI’s leadership in the area.

  8. I agree Outdoorsman, their leadership has had an impact on the entire industry, and while they’ve always had a “green” approach, it’s now become a bigger part of their plan. I appreciate that they are doing this with their new stores and that they are leading the way in this area.

  9. Wow Kraig!
    Now that was an adventurous weekend! 🙂
    Isn’t it great to connect with others like this… Keeps our enthusiasms fired up…
    Myself… a quiet solo climb, that went a few days longer than expected…

  10. Sounds like a nice extended weekend too DSD! 🙂 It’s nice when a short adventure turns into a slightly longer one, as long as there is no dram involved.

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