The Vector is Dead

Tragedy struck this week.

Whilst I was getting my stair climbing session in at my office building, I looked to my trusty Suunto Vector watch to see how much time I had left and all I could see was some crazy pixelated dots. It’s acted crazy before and a new battery would always resolve the problem. Today though, a new battery couldn’t revive it. So after more than 18 years of reliable service, it was officially dead.

This Suunto watch was probably cutting-edge back around the early 2000s when I got it, but by today’s measure, it’s a dinosaur. The only functions I wanted back then were the current time, waterproof, shockproof, altimeter, barometric pressure and compass. It also has, or I think it has, stop watch functionality, lap counter (?) and probably a few other things I never once used or cared about. Being from the pre-tech crazy era it was, it scandalously had no Bluetooth connectivity or any way to download any of the information to my computer or iPhone. It was a basic watch that gave me the basic functions I wanted without many extra bells and whistles. Simple but functional.

My plan from there was to just get another Vector. Uh, no. They hadn’t made those in years.

When I started looking through the Suunto lineup of watches for something similar, it took about three minutes until I was dizzy from trying to sift through the minutia of technological iterations each model offered. Geez, I just wanted something simple and “Vector-ish”.  It seemed however, the closest model was one with options to measure the pace of your fingernail growth, which was of course downloadable to your smart device AND had the ability to simultaneously re-arrange your music playlist, post updates to your social media accounts, check your email and order your skinny-organic-free range latte and hail an Uber to go pick it up. WTF? No.

After I whittled down the options to a couple of models I thought might work, the next wave of bad news came in the way of lots of reviews saying the buttons are prone to sticking. My old Vector’s buttons would occasionally get stuck, but I knew that was from sweat/salt/grime build up over the years and it was easily fixable around a campfire with some water and a pointy object to clean it out. But these reviews seemed to suggest it was common even for people wearing the watches for casual use.

I loathe over-technologisized things (I know that’s not a word), so the thought of having something I wanted to keep super simple as a baseline measure becoming even more fussy than necessary reluctantly led me to look outside the Suunto family.


Why is the simple act of buying a simple adventure/outdoor watch…not? It seemed I could either pay $700 for an “adventure” watch that had 1,000 irrelevant functions (to me) that I would be terrified of destroying if I actually took it outside, or, get one that was more of an email/text/Facebook/step-counter checker than a watch.

To make a long story short, I finally decided on the Garmin Instinct. The reviews were good (4.6 stars overall) and there was no mention of buttons sticking after a month of use. It also wasn’t exorbitantly expensive, especially since I found it on sale. It wasn’t as over-technologisized as the Garmin Fenix model and wasn’t a delicate looking state of the art social influencer “adventure” watch either. Although the Instinct model has about 50% more functions than I would ever use, it was truly about as close to my old dead Vector as I could find in these techno heavy days.

I just wanted a simple, but tough, dirtbag adventure watch that will last me another 17-20 years of backcountry skiing, mountain biking, travel and daily life. Dear Suunto and Garmin, this isn’t hard stuff.

What time is it? At what altitude am I sitting? Which direction am I going? Does my barometer indicate a weather change? Maybe I’m what Jimmy Buffet refers to when he sings about being a Cheeseburger in Paradise, but I’m okay with that. More adventure, less connectivity.

Pedal far. Climb High. Ski Fast. Live simply.





Catastrophe or Catharsis?


Let me just say straight away that I am 100% at fault. I heard what people said and dismissed it. I heard the horror stories of people who didn’t heed the advice of “professionals” and discounted them. I’d harboured a mistrust of those handling that mysterious “cloud” data so didn’t investigate it. All that complacency and mistrust of “The Man” did was lead me into losing thousands upon thousands of photos I’d taken since around 2005 when I got my first digital camera.


To make a long story short, last week I plugged an external terabyte storage device into my laptop, the device with all my photos on it, and it failed to connect. That was the exact moment panic swept across my entire being. To make matters even more unsettling, we were leaving for a weekend trip so I’d have to wait until we got back to figure it out. I tried all weekend not to think about the “worst case scenario”, but it was hard not to.

Once we got home, I took it to some experts to see what the problem was and see if the data could be retrieved. The ugly verdict was the drive was fatally corrupted and there was less than a 5% chance they could extract any of the that data, even a little bit…at a cost between $500 and $1,500…with no guarantee. Ouch.

As I drove home from the data recovery place, it felt as though someone had kicked me right in the crotch with one of those fancy pointy-toed cowboy boots. The thing that made it doubly worse is I knew it was my own fault. I owned this one 100%, period.

But before I was home, I sort of came to terms with the loss. There was no more wondering if I could get those photos back because I couldn’t. I’m not saying it didn’t sting, but there was nothing I could do and the pain from that initial gut punch subsided. The unknown was now known, as ugly as it was.

I knew I had to let it go, and I did.

As I thought about everything on that drive, the photos I was most devastated about were my travel photos, especially from my sabbatical in Nepal, India and Bangladesh. My extended travel there was one of those times in my life where I can point directly at it and say the experiences literally changed my DNA. Honestly, I could’ve easily pulled over and cried for a day or two over losing those photos alone, but at the same time I felt sort of at peace. I knew in my soul I hadn’t lost the experiences, only lost the material representations of those experiences. In fact, the experiences there are what allowed me to accept losing the photos.

Over this past week, losing the photos has obviously still been on my mind, but it’s not consuming me. I can’t say I’m laughing about it just yet, but at least I’m not nauseous anymore.  I’ve purchased a couple more multi-terabyte storage drives and some cloud space to store things going forward with hopes this will never happen again. You could say I’m now working under the title of the “Department of Redundancy Department”.

I lived, I learned.

On a positive note, my buddy Jason who I traveled to Nepal/India/Bangladesh with still had some of the photo CDs I’d burned for him so I’m gratefully getting those back. A few other friends have sent me photos I’d taken of them in the past, so there’s that. I’d made prints of my favourite or more meaningful images from all of my travels so I still have those. I know I’ll never be able to get everything back, but at least there is something.

I’ve also decided to keep the corrupt external drive for a while with hopes that technology may advance to the point where something can be harvested from it. Not overly optimistic, but you never know.

I’m now looking at this miscue as a catharsis of sorts. Yes I lost the photos, but it also makes me appreciate all the associated experiences that much more. I’ve thought about all the travels and life experiences more this week than I have in years, which has been absolutely wonderful. Who knows, maybe this will even put me on a new path to becoming a better photographer, one who appreciates and treasures every single image I produce even more…and one who backs up their work in more than one place.

Climb high. Ski fast. Live simply.