My Porch Buddy

Our dog Ellie sleeps on the concrete beside her dog bed on our porch at our house in Scottsdale, Arizona in April 2019

We developed a ritual, the pup and I, during our year in Arizona. I’d go hiking in the morning on my days off and when I got back I’d heat up a breakfast sandwich, grab my laptop bag, and we’d go out onto the porch for a little rest & relaxation as I wrote in my hiking journal about my experiences that morning. Ellie would eagerly watch me eat as I always gave her a little bit of cheese and egg and bacon/sausage at the end. Only a sliver as her kidneys couldn’t take too much protein but she always appreciated the gesture. After she died it became hard to continue the ritual, I forced myself out onto the porch at first but it took longer before I could eat a breakfast sandwich, even now it is a little difficult sometimes. Because she was deaf in her senior years I could sometimes sneak past her when I got home from the hike so I could wake her when my hands were free and I could help her up, for I knew as soon as I started heating the sandwich she’d wake as nothing got past that nose.

Also, as you can see from this picture and the previous one, though we got her these shoes to help her get up and move about the house, the pup was pretty good about getting out of them so you’d find them scattered about the house once she woke up.

Semi-Retired

A close-up of our dog Ellie sleeping beside my Tom Bihn ID laptop bag on our porch at our new house in March 2019

I took this picture a week after we moved to the new house with the intention of it being a light-hearted post about how, like many in Arizona, my laptop bag was living a semi-retired life. I drive to work now and don’t need my laptop there so I no longer sling the bag over my shoulder each day as I used to in Portland when I walked to the train. Instead it keeps my stuff organized beside my couch during the week and on the weekends joined Ellie and I as we went out on the porch after my morning hike. The bag holds my 15″ MacBook Pro, my iPad, my hiking journal, my pens, my headphones, and some field guides as I learn about Arizona’s plants & animals. I held off on posting it, partially because I was so busy and partially because Ellie’s health was declining. Now though it’s a nice reminder of our good times together even as her time was running out.

Goodbye Portland, I Love You

The Tom Bihn ID messenger bag on a MAX train in Portland, Oregon

Leaving Portland means leaving a way of life. In our old neighborhood of Irvington I can walk to shops and restaurants. For most of our years here I’ve slung my Tom Bihn laptop bag over my shoulder and walked to the light rail station to take the train to work. I only drive about 1000 to 3000 miles a year, depending on how many long hiking trips I take, so I’ll drive as many miles on our way to Arizona as I might do in a year. It was obvious on my interview trip that life in Arizona will be centered around the car, so I’m going to have to get used to driving to work again. One of the things I’ll figure out during the year we’re renting is how long of a commute I can tolerate, which will dictate what neighborhoods we will consider when it is time to buy.

There is more about Portland I’ve loved, from its progressive ideals (if not always progressive policies) to its eccentricities, such as the day I met someone walking a pig at the dog park. Not a little pot-belled pig, a full-grown pig. People practicing Shakespeare in the park, even our little Irving park. The old neighborhoods. The light rail. The downtown. The city parks. The duck ponds with not just mallards and Canada geese but wood ducks, bufflehead, wigeon, scaup. On and on.

The ever-worsening traffic I won’t miss but we are heading to a much larger city so perhaps we will trade one type of traffic for another. Neither will I miss the ice storms, we’ll see if the misery of desert summers are a fair trade for wonder of desert winters.

It was the lure of Portland that led me to interview with the company where I worked for two decades, the loss of that job is forcing me to leave. I will always treasure our time in Portland, it’s been a wonderful place to call home. Goodbye, I love you.

The Aubergine Duo Ride Again

A side-by-side view of the Tom Bihn ID laptop bag and Tom Bihn Aeronaut 45 travel bag, both in aubergine

A quick shot of my travel bags after I got back from my trip to Arizona. I meant to photograph them together while on either my trip to California or Arizona but I kept forgetting, they were stressful trips as both travels were for job interviews. The bags worked a charm, as they always have, and were both easy to carry around the airport and easy to live out of during my stay. For the photo I didn’t take out all of the little accessory bags that kept me organized. On the left is the Tom Bihn ID laptop bag that I used as my personal item, carrying my MacBook Pro and iPad, and on the right is the Tom Bihn Aeronaut 45 which I used as my carry-on. I love not only that it has backpack straps that can pull out to make carrying the bag easy, and be put away when you don’t need them, but that the whole process can be done so quickly and easily. Both of these bags were clearly designed and manufactured with a lot of care, which is why I love my Tom Bihn bags.

Also, love that aubergine!

A Cute Couple

My Tom Bihn ID messenger bag and Tom Bihn Aeronaut 45 travel bag

In early August I started an 11-day trip, the longest I’ve ever taken, that included three cross-country flights (thankfully all non-stop) and a two-day drive. I started off flying to Baltimore to visit my brother’s family and help sort through my dad’s papers, then flew to Texas to help my mom finish packing for her move to Georgia where she’ll be near my sister, drove with my mom from Austin to Atlanta, then flew back home from Atlanta to Portland. I was going to constantly be on the move and didn’t want to risk lost luggage, and I also didn’t want to take up much room in the car, and I was going to be walking home from the train at the end of the trip, so I took just two bags, my Tom Bihn ID messenger bag that went under the plane seat, and my Tom Bihn Aeronaut 45 travel bag that went in the overhead bin.

Inside the two bags were an array of smaller bags that kept me organized, most also from Tom Bihn. The big bags have o-rings inside for attaching key straps so my keys, a small flashlight, and a USB drive were easily found. I used one of my mesh organizer bags in the ID for cables, medicine, and food that I wanted on the flight, while the other in the Aeronaut held cables and other items I wouldn’t need until I landed. Travel stuff sacks held a raincoat (which didn’t get used) and my camera and lens (which did). My daily pills went in a clear organizer and smaller items went into the flat organizer pouches. The organizers worked well in the side pockets of the Aeronaut, making it easy to get to my 3-1-1 bag at the airport, and also provide easy access to food or medicine or cables without having to open the main compartment.

The Aeronaut I’ve used before, both while flying and driving, but it really shone on this trip. I used the backpack straps while moving through the airport, then neatly tucked them away for the plane rides and at my destination, but they were most handy when walking home from the train station. Rolling bags have their uses, but since the Aeronaut wasn’t heavy it was much nicer to just slip it onto my back. I’ve been surprised at how using the mesh packing cubes for clothes and the organizer bags for other items makes living out of a suitcase so much more enjoyable, everything stays organized and it was always easy to find what I wanted. Despite staying somewhere new about every other night, by the end of the trip everything was still in its place, which is not normal for me but will be from now on. The Aeronaut is well-built and I could have checked it if I needed to, but it was easy to carry and so easily fit in the overhead bins that it was never an issue.

The trip didn’t get off to the best start as I had a miserable headache the first morning, one of the worst in recent memory, but by evening medicine was keeping it at bay and it was never that severe again. It was a tiring but productive trip and I enjoyed getting to see most of my family, even a cousin and his son I hadn’t seen in years. Coming home I even got a cheap upgrade to first class, a welcome treat as I despise flying. While I’m never going to enjoy flying I am thankful that all the flights went off without issue, as did our drive, and I’m thankful for the little company that designs and makes the bags that I love so much (all a bit to my north in Seattle).

My Tom Bihn ID messenger bag and Tom Bihn Aeronaut 45 travel bag along with all the other smaller Tom Bihn bags that went inside them

Commuting Gear

Commuting Gear

Continuing on the yellow theme, I recently had to shift my beloved orange New Balance running shoes to dog park status as the fabric was starting to tear. I like having bright shoes to make me more visible as I walk to and from the train so I replaced them straightaway with a pair of bright yellow sneakers, as this seems to be their current bright color of choice. Sitting between my feet is my Tom Bihn ID messenger bag with its lovely aubergine front, keeping my MacBook and iPad safe and secure as I ride the MAX to work.

The ID is Retired. Long Live the ID!

My Tom Bihn ID messenger bag in Aubergine

I bought my beloved Tom Bihn ID messenger bag (which I reviewed first after eleven years and updated at twelve years) over thirteen years ago and finally decided to retire it as the strap pad was getting worn and the zipper compartment was coming apart in one section. It was my daily companion nearly every day during those thirteen years and one of the best products I’ve ever owned, in any category.

I knew it wouldn’t be easy to replace (Tom Bihn no longer makes the ID) but I couldn’t find anything I liked quite as much until I saw this lovely ID in aubergine on eBay. I had never used eBay before but it all went smoothly and I’m thrilled with my new bag, new but also familiar. This ID is a newer revision than mine, it has a different strap (which I’m already familiar with since I use the same type on my Aeronaut travel bag and my tripod bag) and different pockets, but the overall design is still very similar to mine.

I used the old bag for a week after the new one arrived, partially because I hadn’t unclipped the laptop bag that fits inside and moved it to the new one, and partially because it was nice to spend one last week with the old one. But it didn’t take long to move everything to the new bag and I put it to work to get me to work last week, and I put it to work at home on Friday as I moved from my office to the guest bedroom while I kept our cat Boo company as he recuperated from getting teeth pulled.

The ID at Work at Home

The ID is a great fit for my 15″ laptop and can be expanded to carry bulkier items but can be cinched down into a flat profile while lightly loaded (my normal configuration), which I greatly appreciated while standing on crowded trains during the week. I’ve thought about getting a backpack to use at times, and might yet, but there’s no question that a thin over-the-shoulder bag is more convenient on crowded trains. I almost bought a briefcase style bag for times when I don’t need to carry bulkier items, typically the winter and summer, and if I move to a smaller laptop I’d probably also move to a smaller bag, but for now I’m all set. And happy. Thanks Tom Bihn!

Aubergine & Black