At some point in the last six months, I went full granola.
This morning, at six AM, I was seen preparing for a mountain bike ride in the rain. This involved making a hearty vegan breakfast, donning clothing made by Patagonia and Cotopaxi purchased at REI, and filling a Camelbak backpack with filtered water and packing it with a banana, a Kind bar, and a first aid kit. I drove to the trail in a Subaru with a hitch-mounted bike rack, and I measured my progress with a smart watch and a phone app. I took a lot of selfies of me in my bike helmet, because I don’t recognize myself.
How did this happen?
About a year ago, I made a choice between two consumer products, and that has made all the difference. I bought a Subaru Outback instead of a Jeep Gladiator.
That was my choice for a Pine Barrens explorer. Most people use a pickup truck, but I’d be on the highway often, so I wanted better mileage. I’ve never owned a truck, still think of them as work vehicles. Exploring the Pines, I found that some trails were too eroded for any motor vehicle outside of a dirt bike or quad ATV, and I didn’t want one of those. I didn’t have the space for it, and they are illegal. So I looked at fat tire bikes, which are good on the sand that’s common here. That led to a bike rack and the endless gear that goes with a bicycle: helmet, gloves, jackets, a more comfortable seat and handlebar grips. Then I got tired of digging out my phone to follow maps, so I bought a Garmin smart watch. Which started telling me to exercise more.
Eventually, I did. I started hiking at the local dog park in the morning, at Timber Creek; the trails there have some elevation, and sometimes you can see hawks, beavers, foxes, and songbirds around the creek or the parade grounds. So I bought a pair of binoculars at REI. I like their co-op, and getting a few bucks back at the end of the year. Besides, the Bass Pro Shop is an hour away in Atlantic City. And I haven’t gone fishing in years. I get the urge now and then, but it’s too passive an activity. If I’m going to sit there and watch the water, I don’t need to wait to yank something out by its mouth. I can just sit there.
I am considering a kayak. But I’m drawing the line at paddle boarding or skiing.
A few years ago I was powerlifting, and a hardcore carnivore. I had a side hustle writing restaurant reviews, and I was known for finding gastropubs and burger joints. After a personal record deadlift of 555 pounds for 5 reps, I ate a ten-patty cheeseburger to get a tee-shirt.
Now, most of the time I’ll go for the veggie burger, if they make one in-house. I had a decent burger the other day, but most of the time they underwhelm me. It’s like steak. The times I get the urge, I can usually do it better myself. (That can apply to a lot of things.) I’m not a vegan, but I know that we’ll have to change our diets, or at least our methods of harvesting, to sustain our unsustainable lifestyles. I had a fried cauliflower sandwich at a joint called LesbiVeggies that was better than the last fancy burger I tried. And how can you not eat at a place called LesbiVeggies? Their birria tacos are damn good, too.
So how did I go from powerlifting carnivore to mountain biking flexitarian?Well, it’s because I review items thoroughly before purchase, and the Jeep Gladiator—which is half Jeep and half pickup truck—isn’t particular good at being either of them. Its elongated wheelbase nullifies one of the Jeep Wrangler’s biggest advantages in off-roading, which is a short wheelbase that can go over steep rises without dragging its undercarriage, and can turn and wiggle around. But the only Jeep Wrangler for sale in my area was not only pink—technically “Tuscadero,” named after Pinky Tuscadero, Fonzi’s love interest in “Happy Days,” played by rocker Suzi Quatro, which made me want to drive a pink Jeep—but the MSRP was sixty thousand dollars, for the plug-in hybrid powertrain which boasted 21 mpg and a whole 25 miles on electric.
I give Jeep kudos for trying, and I was ready to pull the trigger. But Jeep dealers were gouging ten thousand dollars per vehicle because of an inventory shortage.
And I said fuck that, and walked next door to the Subaru dealer.
They had an Outback Wilderness on the lot in disgusting ‘70s kitchen green with garish gold accents, and I fell in love with it. I went for a test drive, then went home to think about it, without leaving a deposit. The manager thought I was crazy. Three days later it was still there, and I won’t say I got a deal, but I didn’t get gouged. Which was a deal at the time. And I still love driving this car.
I liked the first Outbacks, but never drove one. I learned to drive stick on my cousin’s blue ‘92 Subaru Impreza wagon, and thought it was all right. I liked that it was capable, convenient, sturdy, and comfortable. But when I needed a car in Minnesota, I bought a Mustang convertible and put Blizzak ice tires on it in the winters, and never got stuck. After the Mustang, I got a Mini Cooper turbo, and loved that little lemon. My experience with it led me to never buy another BMW product. I’ll rent them, but I’d sell the damn thing before the 4-year maintenance, when they expect you to pay through the nose or trade it in. After that I bought an Acura sedan, which I highly recommend, if you can get one used. They are Hondas, so very reliable, but upscaled so they are very comfy on long highway drives. But they can’t off-road very well.
Sarah’s Honda CR-V did fine in the sugar sand of the Pine Barrens, but she didn’t like it getting dirty, and I didn’t want to worry about getting her car stuck out there. I liked the idea of the Jeep Gladiator, because it had a bed for hauling. But it’s a tiny one, mostly for looks. The Wranglers and Gladiators are toys, and that’s why they can charge sixty grand for one, and try to tack on another ten to see if you’ll squeal. They are more than capable, but a sixty grand truck that leaks in a car wash and can’t safely tow a trailer according to Car & Driver isn’t something I’ll buy, even if I have fuck-you money.
So, Subaru. I’m not hear to sell a car or sing its praises. But they have a following, and it’s easy to see why. They make wagons that are capable in the snow and on light trails, have tons of room, drive like a car, are comfortable and convenient, and reliable enough. The cars are ubiquitous in the Pacific Northwest and New England, places where you can get snowed in, where roads can be mere suggestions of a paved trail, and the granola is mined from the Earth by hirsute, flannel-clad hippies. They are beloved by the kind of lesbians who keep jumper cables in the trunk. Which is a sponsorship that money can’t buy. And they earn the love; the story of how they embraced the LGBTQ community makes for an interesting read.
Subaru needs to walk the walk a bit more in the green and sustainability department, but they’ve given $250 million to the Make-a-Wish foundation, and organize volunteer events for environmental clean-up, food bank donations, and more. That’s not nothing. And this electric Solterra did well on a Pine Barrens trail ride through washouts with us. When they make a hybrid or electric Outback, I’m in.
And if you haven’t seen my silly Subaru spoof video about granola dispensers, I will inflict it upon you again:
That’s not someone addicted to flexing, it means you eat vegetarian or vegan sometimes. This would normally be called an omnivore, but the American diet is so crammed with cheap meat dishes, as I’ve learned when trying to not eat animal products for one or two meals a day, that you need a need word.
Even in the time I’ve been reading/following you, I’ve noticed the change. Honestly the 6 am bike ride still strikes me as overdoing this happiness thing a little -- I’m still stuck on a slightly grungier/grumpier 8-9 am out-the-door time -- but it’s awesome that it works for you. 😁
After driving a new rental for four days, getting back behind the wheel of my '99 hooptie makes me a little wistful for a new ride. But that is years away for me, I think, if ever. A friend of mine has a Subaru Crosstek or whatever they're called and I like it.