Doogit

Just Doogit

Wall Pipe Shelf Project

DSC08837-1

Pow. Finished pipe shelf. Now to figure out what to put on them…

Total cost of materials: ~$150
Total time spent: ~8 hours of work, not counting the time it takes for the stain and polyurethane to dry

In another installment in the “Doogie builds stuff and so can you” series, I’ll show you how to make a pipe shelf in the same ‘contemporary industrial’ design as my last project – a dining room table (see this post). The same goes for this guide as the last one – I’ll walk you through my thought processes so that you can adapt this plan to fit your own project.

As a disclaimer – I am not an expert and my design did not turn out exactly as planned. I did my best to point out areas where I could have done this or that better. I think that’s part of the fun. Feel free to make suggestions in the comments if anything is unclear.

Here’s an overview of the project:

  1. Create the design for your pipe shelf
  2. Supplies run
  3. Assemble the pipe shelf frame and paint
  4. Cut, sand, stain and finish the shelves
  5. Mount the shelf

1. Pipe Shelf Design

Make a rough draft – Once again, I am a very visual person, so I used masking tape to create an outline of the shelves on the wall. Feel free to do the same if it helps. Think about your different constraints. Are there any shelves that need to be a certain height? In my case, I wanted a place for a small fish tank at the bottom, so that shelf needed to be at least 12” tall. Do you want a crazy design, or would a symmetrical one look better in that space? Put some masking tape on the wall and play around with different designs until you wind up with one that you like.

Masking tape can help to visualize the final design.

Masking tape can help to visualize the final design.

Adjust for the supports – Once you settle on a geometric masterpiece, grab your stud finder and mark where the studs are on your wall. This will help you place the pipe flanges that are strongest when mounted into a stud. You can either write on the masking tape to mark where the pipe flanges will go, or sketch out the wall and take some measurements. Either way, you will need a pen and paper to record the dimensions of your shelf frame. Remember to start and end with a pipe flange that is anchored into the wall. I would suggest at least three to four mounts depending upon the size of your shelf. Better to be safe than end up with a beautiful pipe shelf torn out of the wall.

I enjoy symmetry in my design, so I went with two larger shelves on top and bottom, then three shelves that are the same height in the middle.

Sketch out the design on paper for the pipe lengths.

Sketch out the design on paper for the pipe lengths.

Take measurements – Using the outline on the wall, measure the lengths of the masking tape from the start of one one end to where that piece meets with the next pipe. If you end up using 1/2” pipe (which I recommend since anything larger is substantially heavier and counterproductive to mount on the wall), account for the connecting pieces by adjusting the length of that pipe section by 1” for each pipe flange or pipe tees. I found that right angle pieces don’t really change the dimensions too much since the threaded part of the pipe screws pretty far into the angle piece at both openings.

For example, the first length of tape was 20.5” from the start of the tape (also lined up with a stud to anchor with a pipe flange) to the beginning of the next pipe. Since this section will have a pipe flange, subtract out 1” for the connecting piece. This section has an 90* angle connector, but the adjustment is negligible (1/4” if you want to get really detailed, but I found that added another layer of complexity). Repeat the same process for the next pipe sections.

Develop a rough estimate for shelf lengths. Total those so you know how many board feet of lumber to grab.

Note to readers – you may notice that my final design differs a bit from my masking tape design… that was an error on my part. Two things caused the difference, #1. I though the pipe tees would add 2.5” when they really added 1”. #2. I consolidated my pipe lengths to make it easier for the person cutting the pipe at Home Depot.  As a result, I decided to align the shelf with the light switch, and that caused the bottom part to be a bit ‘off’. I haven’t decided if it’s off enough to fix it – so I’ll leave it like that for now. :)

2. Time for Supplies

Use the measurements you wrote down and create a list of the different pipe lengths needed. On the design, mark where connecting pieces will and add those to the list as well. Here is a general list of what you will need from the hardware store:

Shopping list y'all

Shopping list y’all. I consolidated my pipe to make it easier for the folks at Home Depot.. which is why my final design is a bit different.

If you shop at Home Depot, most of the time you can find someone helpful in the plumbing department who will cut the pipes to length. If there are a ton of pipe sections to cut, they may have you leave your order and come back in a few hours.

Here was my cost breakdown for the pipe shelves:

20′ of 1/2” galvanized pipe – $29
Four pipe flanges – $27.36
1”x 8” x 10ft pine board – $13.64
Golden Mahogany Stain & Glossy Poly – $19.25
Other parts (connecting pieces, screws, tube clamps, pipe straps) – ~$40

Grand Total – $130-150

Most of the materials in one place.

Most of the materials in one place. Time to put this puppy together!

3. Pipe Shelf Assembly

Just like the old days playing with a K’nex set, put together the pipes and connectors until it looks like the design in your head. Use the extra pipe as leverage to really tighten the threaded pieces together. You want a frame that will stay in the same shape, so the tighter the better.

After your shelves are nice and secure, spray the pipes down with a de-greaser to remove the oil and then rinse the pipes with water. Let that dry, and if necessary, use an 80 grit sandpaper to remove any rough spots or imperfections. Dust off the metal shavings and you should now have a paint-ready surface.

Move to a well-ventilated area and apply several layers of metal-grade paint to the pipe and any pieces that will show. While you wait for the first layer of paint to dry, might as well start on the shelves.

Paint that pipe shelf brah

Paint that pipe shelf brah.

4a. Cut Shelves to Length and Prep the Wood

Working with wood has taught me that some things are 90% preparation. This is one of those things. You might think – “Hey, I’ll cut these boards to length and slap some stain on them – it shouldn’t take longer than 20-30 minutes.” however, if you want to end up with a final product you can be proud of, take some time to prep the boards that will become your shelves. This means a lot of sanding – first with a belt sander (or planer if you have one), then with an orbital sander. Start with a coarse grit sandpaper (80 grit is good), then progress toward 220 or 300. The better sanding job, the more consistent the stain will absorb into the wood and create a nice natural color.

When the boards are sanded to your satisfaction, it should look something like this:

DSC08815-1

Sand it down all nice and smooth-like.

4b. Stain and Poly

Once you have your wood prepped, run a damp rag over the boards to remove any sawdust or debris and let it dry for a few minutes. The wood should look clean enough to eat off of at this point. Apply the stain according to the manufacturer’s instructions and leave it in a cool, well-ventilated place – preferably with a fan on it to speed up the drying time. Depending upon the look desired, several coats of stain may be necessary. I went with only one coat and did a small amount of sanding to lighten up the darker spots.

Stain the shelves to your color of choice

Stain the shelves ’til you’re a happy camper.

It may take several hours to dry, and if pipes need to be painted, then jump back to that task so that you’re not stuck playing the waiting game.

Apply the polyurethane in a similar manner – this time using a synthetic brush – and let each coat dry for the recommended time. Some finishes have you sand between coats, others don’t, just check the label for guidelines.

5. Finishing Up – Mount the frame and shelves

Now we’re in the home stretch. All there is left to do is to attach this monstrosity to the wall and secure the shelves to the frame.

Find someone to help you by holding the pipe frame on the wall in its final resting place. A tip from experience: this thing is heavy – set a small box or hard object underneath the shelf so that it sits at its final position. Leveling the shelves also takes some work. The 90* pipe connectors often make the shelves unlevel under the weight of the frame. Get as close as possible to level, and then mark through the holes in the pipe flanges for your screws. There will likely be spots where the stud doesn’t line up – use a drywall anchor that is rated for 20-30+ pounds (each hole) and drill those into the wall before you attach the pipe frame. Start with the top pipe flange and work your way down, so that the rest of the pipes can be supported with one or two pipe flanges screwed in.

Lastly, attach the shelves to the pipes using a mixture of pipe clamps and pipe straps. If the pipe wants to swivel, either find a way to increase the friction on the pipe straps (electrical tape underneath works in a pinch, or get creative), or add more pipe clamps.

When I finished with this part, my shelves were still not perfectly level. My solution was to add washers between the pipe straps / clamps and the shelf. As long as your pipes are close to level, you can use this method. Otherwise you may have to re-drill holes for your flanges (like I did in one spot) and use plaster to hide the old holes.

Once you’re finished and the shelf is attached to the wall, it should be nice sturdy. I haven’t tested it other than pulling down hard on each shelf, but with 30 pound anchors, this should be rated for at least 480 pounds. The pipes would likely start to bend before you got to that point, but it’s nice to know that the unit isn’t going to tear out of the wall unless a very large person decides to climb it.

DSC08837-1

Still some finishing touches to do – mainly repaint the areas I had to putty and add some pipe clamps before I load the shelves.

Side view of the thing to show the width of the shelves and the distance of the supports from the wall.

Side view of the thing to show the width of the shelves and the distance of the supports from the wall. Whoops – just noticed some poly on the side of the board that I still need to sand.

Close up of the shelf.

Close up of the shelf.

 

Kitchen Pipe Table Project- How To DIY

Kitchen Table - Finished Product

Kitchen Table – Finished Product

Close up of the tabletop

Close up of the tabletop

Pipe Table Weekend Project

Total cost of materials: <$200
Total time spent: 1 weekend, or ~10 hours of work, not counting the time it takes for the stain and polyurethane to dry

Last weekend I started and finished a project which turned out easier than I expected. I want to make this as easy to follow for someone else, so I’ll try to explain my thought processes and planning along the way. All of the guides I’ve found so far are for very specific sized tables, so I will do my best to explain how I designed it and that way you can do the same.

It all began with a suggestion from my girlfriend (we’ll call her my ‘client’ so that I can apply some real-world examples) to build a table that our dining room has needed for awhile. It’s important to establish expectations with your client, so I pulled up a number of photos on Pinterest to make sure we agreed upon a direction for the design.  This included things like:

  • How thick of a table top? -At least 2 inches
  • Color of stain? -Golden / light brown
  • Finish? -Glossy
  • Pipe color? -Match the theme of the house (stainless steel or nickel)
  • Any other requests? -Keep the supports away from knees, skinnier pipe diameter than several of the examples on Pinterest.

Our dining room is quite small, which was the main constraint I had to work around. Instead of eye-balling it, I taped out a spot for the table on the floor with masking tape, and then arranged chairs as if the tape outline was an actual table. From there, we adjusted the dimensions of the table before designing the dimensions of the frame. The size that felt ‘right’ was roughly 60”L x 30”W. Another way to do it is to map out the room’s dimensions and plot out the size of the table to see what looks good.

Condo layout with table

 

DSC08788-1

Design the Table Top

From the client’s specs, a thicker table would need to be made up of a few planks, and a 30” wide table would require either three 2”x10” boards or four 2”x8” boards. After doing the math, 2” x 8” x 10 foot boards would accomplish this with the least amount of waste, so that is what I went with. For your design, calculate the number of board feet (length x number of slats that equate to your table width) and find the configuration that works best.

Design the Table Frame

Risers – The standard table height is 29-31”, and I knew the other constraints already (60”L and 30”W). As you can see from my sketches, the pipe frame is made up of four ‘risers’ which connect the middle support and feet to the table top. To determine the length of those risers, start with the total height of the table and work your way backwards. Take the height of the table (30”), subtract the thickness of the board (a 2”x8” board actually has a depth of roughly 1 1/2”), less the pipe flange height (1/2”), less the height of the pipe tee (2”), less the height of the pipe nipple (1.5”) and cap (1”) for a final total of 23 1/2”. You’ll want to adjust this if your table design is different or uses a non-standard height, but the same concepts can be applied. I found the dimensions of each part I was using on a major home improvement site, so it’s possible to incorporate other pieces for a more complex design.

Arms – To find the length for the ‘arms’ that connect the risers to the middle support bar, start with the width of the table (30”), subtract the width of both pipe tees on the risers (2” each * two tees), and the width of the center pipe tee (4” since it is oriented differently) to end up with 22” total or 11” per arm. The same technique used on the risers can be used to to modify the design and come up with the appropriate length of arms.

Support Bar – Lastly, the length of the support bar (or foot rest in this case) can be found in a similar way to the risers and arms. Begin with the length of the table (60”), less the amount of overhang between the support and the end of the table (1.5” for each side), enough room for the flat part of the pipe flange (this is the part that attaches the pipe to the table top, 1.5” each side) and the pipe tees on each end (2” each x two tees) for a final length of 50”.

Build the Pipe Table Top

Here is my materials list in one place so that it is easy to get started. If you plan to paint your pipes, add on degreaser spray (to remove the oil on galvanized pipe) and metal spray paint. Also wood filler that can be painted or stained.

If this is your first project, double check my list of materials and add any small items you may not have already (drill, screws, polyurthane, etc.)

If you are new to DIY projects, double check my list of materials and add any small items you may not have already (drill, screws, polyurethane, etc.)

To make this accessible for everyone, I’ll explain the way I did it (more complex but also the ‘prettiest’ method since it doesn’t require extra supports) and then explain other ways to accomplish the task.

Method #1 – Wood Glue + Kreg Cabinetry Jig

If you don’t have a kreg jig, I highly recommend buying one. This specially made clamp and drill bit allows you to drill consistent diagonal holes for cabinetry and a ton of other woodworking applications. For this project, it acts as a clamp between the planks and strengthens the bond with the wood glue. It was ~$100 and I’ve already used it on half a dozen projects. Worth it!

20151213_220341-1

Cut the boards to length (60” in this case) and get the majority of sanding out of the way while the table top is still in pieces. I used a belt sander with 120 grit sandpaper, then moved on to 220 grit with an orbital sander.

PRO TIP #1: Apply duck tape to the back of your sandpaper to make it last longer. I found that tiny holes / tears in the sandpaper sheets were causing the paper to shred completely. The duck tape on the back stops most small tears.

For the kreg jig method, drill holes every 12” on the inside bottom edges of the planks.

20151213_220329-1

PRO TIP #2: Wood has a huge amount of variation in grain and color, even in the same batch. Play around with different configurations to find one that matches your design. After you start drilling holes, it makes it tougher to move the boards around.

After you have your holes drilled, lay out your planks on the ground or large flat surface and apply a liberal amount of wood glue to both inside edges that you will attach. Press the boards together and quickly screw them in place using 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 wood screws. Wipe away any excess glue and repeat the process for the next planks.

20151213_222332-1

When you have a table top that is to your desired specifications, it may be off kilter a bit since wood is never 100% straight. When I was at this point in the project, my table top would not sit flat. I remedied this by piling just about every heavy thing I owned on top of the table and leaving it overnight. This flattened out the boards pretty noticeably.

Fill in any gaps you see between the planks with wood filler that can be painted or stained. While that’s happening, move on to building the frame.

Method #2 – The ‘Other’ Way

If you don’t have a Kreg jig, and don’t care to buy one, no worries – you can use 1/2” – 3/4” thick support slats that are cut to the same width of the tabletop (in this case, that would have required 30” slats). On the floor, lay out the tabletop in the desired configuration and space out the slats on the bottom side of the tabletop. It will help to apply wood glue before the support slats are secured for added strength. Lastly, attach the support slats using a combination of wood glue and 1 1/2” screws.

The same advice applies as method #1 – wood filler (that can be stained or painted) always helps to create a more finished and smooth look.

Build the Pipe Table Frame

Take your pipe measurements and run down to your local home improvement store. Use that handy dandy list of materials and pick up the pieces you need. I went with 1” diameter galvanized pipe and parts since the client wanted a slimmer looking frame. Most Home Depots will cut and thread plumbing piping while you’re there in the store. Pretty fantastic. You will also need a handful of parts in that same section of the store: pipe flanges, pipe tees, and pipe caps.

While you’re there, grab screws, stain, and whatever else you may need from the list.

Run home like a kid who can’t wait to open Christmas presents and screw together the table frame by hand. Once the pieces are together, the extra leverage from the other pieces helps to crank the pipe onto the thread. After you finish, it should look something like this:

20151214_093853-1-2

Clean the galvanized pipe with a de-greaser, then paint your heart out

Paint the Pipe Table Frame

Prep the surface of the galvanized pipe frame by cleaning it with a degreaser to remove the oil, then spray it down with water and wipe it off with a dry towel. I had an idea to use sandpaper to give the steel a ‘brushed’ look and it turned out pretty well. After you wipe down the pipe to remove any shavings from sanding, apply several coats of paint.

For emotional encouragement, you can put your table top on the frame. Viola! You’re on the way there.

20151214_125106-1

Lookin’ pretty good!

It’s All About Preparation… Time for More Sanding

After your wood filler has dried, go to town on the table surface to smooth out any imperfections. Use 120 grit sandpaper and 220 grit sandpaper until it’s up to snuff. At this point, you’ll want to buff out the sharp edges that you may bump into at dinner time. When you’re finished with your sanding adventure, sweep off the surface to remove sawdust and then wipe it down with a damp rag. Boom, roasted.

20151214_125124-1

As you can see from my sanding job, the spots around the wood filler don’t have to be perfect.

Stain the Table Top

At this point, you should have a surface which is clean enough to eat off of – clear of dust, debris, and any oil or glue. For the color you see in this guide, I used a color called ‘golden oak’. I prefer a synthetic stain applicator pad, but you can always use old rags that you don’t mind mucking up. Apply the stain according to the directions. After the first stain coat is finished, there may be imperfections and light spots that stand out. These can be minimized by applying stain it specific areas, letting it sit, and then using a very smooth grit sandpaper (300-400 grit) or sanding sponge on the dark spots. At this point, it helps to play around with the stain color until you wind up with something you’re happy with. That may require several rounds of sanding and re-staining.

Keep the humidity to a minimum with a fan nearby.

Keep the humidity to a minimum with a fan nearby.

Apply the Finishing Touches

Once you land on a final color stain (or maybe you left it al natural), a polyurethane finish is recommended, since the surface will have to withstand some abuse and possible spillage. The client specified a glossy finish, so that’s what I went with on this project. Once again, apply the poly according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and let it dry. Apply at least three coats for maximum awesomeness.

Home Stretch – Attach the Tabletop to the Frame

Don’t get too excited – wait for the poly to dry overnight before you drag that thing inside. Lay the tabletop on the frame and align the pipe flanges so that you have equal distances between the ends of the table and sides of the table. Finally, grab a level to line up the risers to the underside of the table and then use 1 1/2” #10 screws to secure the pipe flanges to the tabletop.

20151216_151527-1

And now you’ve got yourself a table, baby!

If the final product is off-balance for some reason, luckily those end caps at the end of each leg can be used to balance out the table.

That should conclude this tutorial on how to build a pipe table. I learned something, and I hope you did as well. If anything is confusing, or needs more visuals, give me a shout and I would be glad to help.

Cheers! :)

Kitchen Table - Finished Product

Kitchen Table – Finished Product

Ransomware Explained – Definition and Removal

Daemon Cover

Post has been moved to my blog dedicated to cyber security – ModernizedSecurity.com. You should check it out there!

 

Whiteboard Desk-Under-the-Stairs DIY Project

So I’ve been doing a lot of designing, woodworking and building things lately. My recent project has been a whiteboard desk for the area under the stairs.

The project took A LOT longer than I anticipated, but I worked on it in fits and starts between work trips and vacation. I like that this type of activity turns on a part of my brain that wasn’t otherwise active. One that shows me it’s OK to start with a blank page and an idea and end up with a finished product. It’s a lot of hard work though. Such is life.

You should totally check out the full album I posted on Imgur here.

Desk Project Main Photo

New Condo and Renovations

12/21 Update: Posted some before / after photos of the living room. Definitely did not knock this out in a month, but we are very happy with the results.

 

Hey Guys,

Doogie checking in. Big news–I bought my first place and have started the fun part of the renovations which is ripping things apart. I will post some updates on the projects that we will tackle–most of them ourselves. The major renovations underway are:
1. Open up the kitchen by removing several walls
2. Move door frame by 6” to allow room for the fridge, install pocket door
3. Remove popcorn ceilings
4. Rip out 10′ interior concrete wall, install drywall over it
5. Sand down cabinets, replace cabinet doors with updated maple doors
6. Install new counter-tops in kitchen and bathroom
7. Various electrical work
8. Remove mirrors, repair drywall
9. Complete master bathroom remodel
10. Paint
11. Remove carpet, prep sub-floors and install hardwoods throughout
12. Update light fixtures and hardware

We have a contractor coming in to help with the difficult stuff–mainly drywall, framing, ceiling texture, and electrical work. We really lucked out and found some reliable helpers who will start next week.

See below for ‘before’ photos. Our budget for the entire remodel is $15k, which will keep the place within the limits of the market. Not looking to flip the condo, but will live in it for awhile and then keep it as a rental property.

Lastly, we set a goal of having all of this done by the end of the month. Let’s see if we can do it!

 

 

11667410_10103261084108197_6260539561629081790_n 11709635_10103261084113187_3762832021326571575_n 10631232_10103261099407537_5489045763683202353_o11143696_10103261099417517_5665602501134053998_o

PSA: Kids, stay indoors.

UPDATE: The final total for the three hour visit which included a makeshift cast and two pain pills rang in at over $1,900. Insurance covered the bulk of the bill (80%), so overall I’m OK with how it turned out.

I’m writing this with eight working fingers. My claw-like hand pecks away at the keyboard while my more normal hand looks at it with sympathy.

It all went down this Labor Day weekend:

~10:30 am – i injure my hand at Tulsa’s Turkey Mountain downhill course. With the adrenaline going, I think it’s still possible to ride it off, but I can feel some moving parts in my hand where there usually aren’t any. So I limp my way back the mile or so to the car and carefully make my way to the nearest clinic.

10:50am – The nurse at the clinic has some doubts as to whether or not they will be able to treat me, so instead of wasting my time, I head to the nearest hospital.

11:15am – I arrive at the hospital and check in at the front desk. The receptionist gives me a funny look when I tell her it’s broken but I’m not in much pain. At this point I’m not even sure that I am in the right place. Where are you supposed to go for this kind of thing? Was I supposed to read a book to be prepared for these life events? Considering the alternative is, “tough it out” and wait for it to heal, I check myself into the hospital queue.

11:25am – Great response time. A nurse brings me into a private area and asks me some interesting questions. “Do you feel like your life has no purpose?” and “Do you feel safe at home?” seemed a bit out of place since I came in to see about my broken hand.

11:33am – An young ER doctor stops by the room for about a minute to take a look at  my hand, and wouldn’t you know it, broken. The doc leaves and I’m distracted the hospital monitoring system on a screen by my bed. It’s like a McDonalds up in here – I show up as a blinking purple square with a timer next to my number.

11:38am – I’m moved to another room and my blinking square follows me, only now I have a count-down next to my name. Assassination? I remain vigilant but it’s probably just my ETA for the next round of musical chairs. The nurse comes back in with a vial of meds and says the doc recommended a pretty heavy narcotic. Even though the opportunity to get legally high is tempting, I ask for less drastic measures.

11:55am – The nurse comes back in and hands me two very expensive Loritab. These are $75 a piece, when a refill at the pharmacy is $5. Capitalism at its finest.

12:40am – Two radiology techs find my room and wheel up a portable x-ray machine. We partake in an impromptu hand-modeling session.

1:20pm – More waiting. Then a radiologist comes by the room with the results of the x-rays… on his iPhone. So much for patient confidentiality. In an attempt at a Jedi mind trick he says  ‘this was not on my iPhone’ and leaves the room.

1:35pm – A nurse comes in and proceeds to clusterfuck a makeshift splint.  Actually I’m pretty sure they led in a stranger instead of a nurse.

“We’re putting a splint on your broken fingers?” … “Your broken wrist?” … “Oh, your hand is broken, I’ll cast the entire thing!”

With no direction from the doc, I have to convince her to only immobilize my bottom two fingers. Sure enough, she likes that idea and checks with the doc this time. I now look like the Michelin man.

1:55pm –More paperwork then I am free to go. I find the billing department on the way out and they give me a final total of $860.

So what does $860 (wait… turns out closer to $2,000) get you in this medical theater?

  • Entrance fee to the show
  • Luxurious waiting rooms that feel like the inside of a refrigerator
  • Two pain pills priced at a rate only reasonable during the apocalypse
  • One minute with an ER doctor who stores your x-ray on his phone to show a group of friends later
  • Five minutes with some radiology techs who are still figuring out the machine
  • Comfort from an older lady who reminds you of that one aunt who isn’t really an aunt but calls you “darling child” anyhow

 

One thing I’ve learned from this experience… unless you’re dying – tough it out until a specialist will see you.

Just another lesson I learn in this beautiful thing we call life.

Supplements visualized

Supplements visualized

Supplements visualized

reposted from informationisbeautiful

September Birchbox – An exercise in brand development

Summary:

Is it possible to be under-whelmed? Yeah, I’d say that’s what I am feeling right now. Amidst all of the hype, I was ready to be fully impressed this month as I anxiously waited for the post-man. But like Calvin waiting for his copter-beanie, I was painfully reminded that hyping up a product too much can have negative consequences. All in all, it’s not a bad deal for $20 ($15 if you buy it annually), but there are a lot of filler items which will go unused. Hey, you can’t win them all, and I do have 11 more chances after this one.

Initial impressions and un-boxing:

The box was a bit smaller than I was expecting, measuring around 10” x 5” x 4” (check it out in the first picture, next to my newest toy, the GoPro Hero 3), but was professionally packaged and was a nice surprise on my doorstep. I opened up the birchbox outer packaging to reveal… yet another branded box, this one with a pull out drawer with its contents neatly packaged in tissue paper. This month’s theme? At least for my box, it’s “ADVENTURE READY” (#ADVENTUREREADY for all you tweeters out there, get your thumbs ready). The biggest prize, I guess, is the 10-issue free subscription to Men’s Health magazine. One that I used to frequently buy at airports, but found that the internet works just as well for no money at all. At least it’s a solid magazine, and one I am interested in. Inside another mini-burrito sized package is also:

  • Hanz de Fuko – Quicksand (hair product?) – Sample size
  • Vitaman Grooming Cleanser (face wash) – 1.7 oz (50ml)
  • Ernest Supplies – Cooling shave cream – 0.3 oz (8ml)

Alongside the other goodies, is a Los Angelas ‘LUXE City Guide’, and a since this is an ‘adventure’ themed Birchbox, a passport carrier made by a company called ‘Men in Cities’. At least I think it’s a passport wallet, my passport refuses to slide fully into the right pocket.

Overall, I think the passport wallet and the Hanz de Fuko hair product show some promise. The rest I am going to need to grow into.

What I like about it:
Great packaging and consistent branding throughout. I am always fascinated by companies which are able to shape their products with a unique style. I am very impressed by how well the packaging and color palette were put together, and that everything arrived neatly despite traveling some 1,500 miles to get to my house. The samples definitely cause me to branch out into areas which I would not have bought products. Usually I am very routine oriented, so maybe this will help me break out of that and try something new.

What could be improved:

There were no descriptions in the box. OK, sure, this looks a like tiny-sized version of the hair product I currently use, but it could also be lip-balm (manly lip-balm?). Even if it had a piece of paper that said ‘go to birchbox.com/adventure2013 to find out more about your box, that would have been helpful.

There was also a lack of relevancy. Are there really travelers out there who carry their passports without a wallet? I get that the Men’s Health subscription is supposed to tie into the adventure theme, but the rest of the items I am not sold on.

Overall, I like the variety, but I am not sure if I would recommend this to a friend at this point.

Costa Rica

 

Dear Diary,

Alright so here’s the low down. Down low? Whatever the kids are saying nowadays. For shizzle. The flight in was pretty uneventful except for a guy with some serious aggro issues. I first spotted him in the Atlanta terminal wearing a tweed blazer from 1985 and a visor with a gator emblem. He had his wife and kids in tow who looked pretty upset to be vacationing in Costa Rica. Rough life. I usually fly standby so that I can avoid planning anything ever, which means that I board last and have to scrap for a  place to store my carry on baggage. My very brief interaction with Sgt. Time Traveler Douche goes something like this:

I get up from my seat and look toward the back of the plane as everyone is shuffling their belongings and getting ready to deplane. I stare into the eyes of my new best friend whom I will call Chaz.

Kevin: Hey, my bag is somewhere a few rows back.
Chaz: That’s a real bummer man.
Kevin: “Is there any way I can squeeze past you to grab it?” He takes this as some sort of challenge.
Chaz: “I dunno, can you?”

Cue the awkward moment when I have to gauge whether or not he’s joking. Turns out he’s not and now this situation is about as strange as this forty-something year old man with a popped collar and a damaged self-esteem. I step right, he does too. In an effort to diffuse the situation, I pat him on the shoulder, move him to the left and wedge myself between him and the seat.

It’s a classic nail-biter, but I make it through with most of my dignity intact. Chaz looks around confused as if I’ve just performed a magic trick and he’s still trying to work out how that happened.

The heat is stifling as we exit the airport terminal. The humidity feels like someone covered me in a wet blanket and takes some getting used to. While walking out of the San Juan terminal, I also learn that since I am a foreigner, I am famous. Locals shout and paw at us as like paparazzi on the red carpet: “TAXI?” “TOUR GUIDE??”  Even the Dollar Car Rental employees are attempting to sell me a car by shouting at me.  I ask the most reassuring looking Costa Rican man to help us locate an ATM. The conversion requires some mental acrobatics. I decide that the easiest way to convert to USD is to drop three digits and double it.

Looking to score more points, we opt for local transportation. A brightly colored waiting area in an open steel building brimming with locals. We stick it out for an hour for our bus to Quepos before we see a direct route next to it. “Is it expensive” we ask the clerk. “Yes it is” the man says. “How much more?” we inquire. “It’s 500 colognes.” A dollar for an hour saved and less of a headache since we will be arriving in Manuel Antonio, our destination, instead of Quepos. I guess expensive is relative.

San Juan - Coca Cola Autobus Terminal

San Juan – Coca Cola Autobus Terminal

The bus ride itself has been gorgeous. Sweeping landscapes full of dense forests with massive elevation changes. Some how the three hours fly by without much of a hitch. As I say that, we now have company. An sweet looking girl with Down Syndrome sits across the aisle from us and I thought it would be a good idea to smile at her. Turns out that was not a good idea. We are now best friends. She moves to the seat in front of me and turns around to face me directly. She wears a huge smile on her face, and sits happily smacking her chewing gum while staring in our general direction. Not at us, but just kind of… near us. It’s endearing for the first five minutes, then it becomes obvious that this is not going to stop any time soon. There are no words. Literally. That’s not a saying I am using. Angie and I have have not spoken except for the occasional glance to acknowledge the awkwardness of the situation. I consider GoPro’ing the interaction since no one will believe us, but decide against it since it may come off mean. In the end, I realize that the girl’s mom has the patience of a saint and wave off the situation as nothing more than dealing with the locals on public transportation.

 

We arrive in Manuel Antonio no worse for wear and stop to watch the end of a soccer match between the two neighboring towns (Quepos and Manuel Antonio). At this point, we are still wary of people pestering us and I almost wave off a kind man who helps us find the correct bus to our hotel. I stop to pick up a few very necessary beers at the local convenience store and we go on our merry way. Onward to the bus stop, and to a very hazardous walk to Hotel de Gaia, since pedestrians do not have the right of way in Costa Rica.

The hotel is nothing short of spectacular. From the moment we step on the property, all of our needs have been methodically anticipated and taken care of. A man named Fabio takes our names and whisks us to the top of the hill in a golf cart, where we are greeted with fresh fruit juice and our bags are taken to our room while we fill out the paperwork. A quick tour of the hotel includes a stop at the Spa, where we learn that a 20 minute massage is included with the stay. The restaurant offers a breathtaking view of the lush rolling hills which only stop at the Pacific Ocean. There’s  no doubt about it, this is a beautiful country. We watch what remains of the sunset and head to our room. The room is what you would expect of a hotel of this caliber, but includes a view which is anything but ordinary.

SONY DSC

Hotel Sunset

Angie and I awake the next morning just after 5am to catch the sunrise on the panoramic top story of the hotel. The top floor seems like a missed opportunity, but maybe we don’t have the full story. The only things on the roof are a few sticks and the occasional bird which joins us for a minute. The sunrise is almost as gorgeous as the sunset the night before, and after we retire to our rooms to prepare for the zipline tour.

Free breakfast is never a bad thing, and in this case, it is awesome for even paid breakfast. I devour a plate of huevos racheros, while Angie nibbles on a traditional Costa Rican breakfast of rice, beans, and friend plaintains. More fruit, senor? Of course! More fresh pineapple juice? Why not. By the way, here’s the bill for this amazing breakfast. It’s zero dollars and zero cents. I leave a hefty tip of 5,000 colognes. Sounds like a lot, but in reality it’s only $10 and will do well to support the four or so staff waiting on us for breakfast.

At around 8am, a shuttle arrives at the bottom of the hotel property to take us to today’s tour. The guide makes short work of the trip by offering up his knowledge of the area, throwing a vast assortment of historical and biological anecdotes at our ears. Our group is really what makes the trip. In this case, we have two married couples who have just turned 60 and a spanish-speaking asian man from California with his two sons. The Asian man is stereotypically attached to his camera phone (like I am attached to my camera like a Asian man), and you can tell he just wants to capture this exciting adventure with his sons. I am really bad at being able to tell when Asian people are happy. I think it has something to do with their lack of wanting to publicly display emotions. But I catch a smile or two from them during this very epic journey though the rain forest via high-speed pulley system. The two married couples are very unique. One of the wives admitted that the trip to Costa Rica was somewhat of an existential crisis, after realizing that they needed to reclaim some excitement in their lives. They were very interested in the camera equipment I brought, so I offered to email them a link to the videos when they are ready. Even Angie was a character to observe. She conquered her fear of heights like a champ, which of course furthered my belief that there is nothing she cannot do. The  canopy tour itself was exhilarating and gave us a number of vantage points which would otherwise not have been available. Plus there’s the fact that you are rocketing down a cable at 50 mph while staring into a section of dense forest which can only be found in a few places on this earth. The guides were enjoyable to be around and made the trip even more unforgettable. Paulo carried a DSLR camera and snapped some shots that even I, an amateur yet prideful photographer, could not have capture.

We rappelled down the last platform just in time to miss the daily afternoon shower, or in today’s case, the afternoon monsoon. Our delicious lunch was prepared by two CR women who looked like they knew their way around a pot of black beans and rice. We buy a photo CD, make the drive back to Manuel Antonio, and bid farewell to our brief but close new friends.

Zippin' around

Zippin’ around

As I sit writing this I am surrounded by greenery. I had no idea that as a colorblind person I could see so many shades of green. Different trees, bushes, grass, and leafs cover an expanse of hills that would make Southern California jealous. Anything that is not green is either blue or white, which paints a colorful picture that I will save in my mental scrapbook. All the while a torrential downpour threatens my stronghold under a pop-up umbrella on the edge of the exposed hanging deck. It takes quite a bit of dripping before I realize that maybe it’s not the best idea to be writing part of my story on an electronic device in the middle of what may be the hardest rain I have experienced. What I lack in intelligence I make up for in… I dont know… determination? Certainly not height or wit. The rain continues for the rest of the day while I camp out and meditate on the sights, sounds and smells of the scenery.

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

items to remember for future travelers:
Take a taxi with a meter to the Estacion autobuses, terminal CocaCola
Use the direct route Manuel Antonio (its only a dollar more and saves an hour)
The bus can drop you by your hotel, if it’s on the way, so either plan ahead, or beon the lookout
MidWorld tours has an agreement with some hotels and will pick you up right from where you stay
It will most likely rain every afternoon during wet season. Either plan your activities before noon, or plan on getting wet

© 2016 Doogit

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑