In early spring of 2007 I decided to quit my job, sell my house along with nearly everything else that I owned, and to live out of my car while traveling the country. These are my stories (and pictures) of life on the road.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Shoddy Shoe Shoppin'

I don't know about this place sometimes; it can be a frustrating area to live in. Both in terms of weather and pleasure.

We've had some bitterly cold weather over the past week but it broke just in time for last weekend with sunny skies and temps just below freezing; Monday was freakishly warm and got to nearly 40 degrees.

Then we woke up the next morning with temperatures a little below zero and that's where they stayed for the entire day....with 30+ mph winds out of the north. Last night dropped to under 10 below zero but thankfully we're supposed to warm into the single digits above zero today. But hey, it's northern Iowa so what can you expect?

To add to my frustration I'm on the hunt for the perfect pair of light hiking boots. Something lightweight, waterproof, breathable, and mid-heigth for general hiking and wearing about town. I'm done looking for bargains and clearance shoes for my hiking needs and I'm not going to settle for anything less then a perfect fit. No more of this “I bet it won't hurt once I get them broke in” garbage anymore. Sore feet and blisters are no fun at all when the end of the hike is still 7 miles away.

I've searched every local shoe store (local around here is a 45 mile radius) and found nothing even close. The selection of such boots is very limited and every store carries the same brands. Either that or they have the display shoe but nothing in stock. I can imagine that there's very little call for that sort of thing around here though.

So yesterday I decided I'd brave the cold and wind to drive to Sioux Falls where I'd be sure to find something. Sioux Falls is 2 hours away from Estherville and with a population of 125,000 people it's the largest town (by far) within 3 hours of us. I went to about 6 or 7 different stores ranging from general shoe stores to specialty hiking/camping stores. Nearly everyone carried the same brands; Merrell, Columbia, and Keen with the odd pair of Ecco and Lowa boots tossed in for good measure. Not many choices in mid-height boots like I want but lots of trail running shoes.

Although I have a pair of Merrell boots that I really like a lot I wasn't able to find anything in their current line that both fit my needs and fit my foot well. Keen and Columbia were rejected out of hand. I haven't had very good luck with either of them holding up to even light duty work. I bought a pair of Keen's that fit me pretty well late this spring and by the end of summer they were completely trashed. The company replaced them for free under warranty and I was never able to wear the replacement pair comfortably. Even though they were the identical boot they were quite painful if I tried to wear them for more then a full day. I got rid of them and ruled out Keen for any future boot purchases. That left my choices for the day with either Ecco or Lowa.

Only one place had a pair of Ecco's that were the style that I was looking for. Thankfully I was wearing different socks on each foot because they felt fantastic on my right foot (which had a heavier weight sock) but they were a bit loose on my left foot (lightweight socks I wear in summer) and I could tell they'd be pretty sloppy and painful on my heal. I tried a couple different inserts but nothing got them to fit quite right.

I was down to one store left, the small, locally owned, dedicated outdoor store and they're the ones that had the Lowa boots. Unfortunately they only had them in size 12 (I need 11 1/2). I tried them on and while they felt like they might be a great boot they were just too big at that size.

I'd tried my hardest to spend my money but no matter how hard I tried I just couldn't get it done! Before leaving town I stopped at Midtown Automotive to ask Kevin if there were any stores in town that I might be overlooking. He told me that when he wants a good pair of hiking boots he goes to Minneapolis to get them. Ugh! I guess I should have talked to him before going to Sioux Falls since Minneapolis was the firs thing that came to my mind.

But hey, I guess things could be worse. Sarah has moved back to Northfield now (a little south of Minneapolis) so one of these days I'll head up there, pick her up, and we can go shoe shopping all around town. Between Midwest Mountaineering and REI we should be able to find something.

And the trip to Sioux Falls wasn't a total bust. Lunch at the Mongolian Grill was pretty good and I found some cheap picture frames/albums. Plus I got to stop and see my grandparents and the way back to Estherville.

I'll be sure to let everyone know when I find the perfect pair of boots. I hope the wait isn't too long though.


Chloe said...

Alan, you should call Weaver's leather store in Buffalo Center, IA and see if they carry hiking boots. Their number is 641-562-2992.


bjbuell said...

From your Aunt Barb - :P

You've reached the end of the page but that's not the end of the stories. If you want to read more (and who wouldn't!?) then click on the archive links to the right hand side of the page. They're listed by month; the adventure starts in May.

The February archives aren't actually from this trip but are previous adventures I've had, which are worth reading as well.