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Got a little time? If you'd like to see what I can do with more space, I've assembled a few of my favorites here.

Originally written for the Orvis Lookbook



Drive just a few miles in any direction from the downtown bustle of Burlington, Vermont, and you’ll be in the figurative middle of nowhere. The landscape opens up to rolling pasture, lazy two-lanes unfurl along cornfields, farms come into view, and silos sprout up like spring dandelions. One farm in particular appears, at first glance, to be no different from the rest. It sports the requisite rambling red barn, a comfortably settled farmhouse, crooked fencing, and crushed gravel roads crisscrossing the property. But zoom in a little closer and you’ll notice faces of a strange sort peering out from among the various weathered outbuildings and run-in sheds. Connoisseurs of a particular automotive marque will recognize the distinctive countenance of the classic Land Rover Series I and II. Distinguished by their close-set headlights, flat-front fenders, and straight aluminum bodies, these legends of off-road sit patiently as they wait their turn to be transformed by the seemingly magical hands of one man, Lanny Clark.


Unassuming and soft-spoken, Clark—a visual cross between singer James Taylor and the character Doc Brown from "Back to the Future"—is a walking encyclopedia of mechanical knowledge. And it’s easy to see why. Growing up on a farm taught him how to fix things. Being a mechanic in the Army taught him how to fix things better. And working for North America’s sole Land Rover parts supplier for 15 years, in addition to co-creating the first Land Rover driving school in America, has taught him everything he ever needed (or wanted) to know about Land Rovers. But Lanny isn’t here to sell to you or to convince you that you need to own, or even drive, a vintage Rover. If you’ve found Lanny Clark, it’s because you went looking for him. For the last fifteen years, Clark has made it his life’s work to rescue, restore, and rebuild the British legends that have firmly set and consistently raised the bar for adventure with their uncanny ability to get into and out of places no normal vehicle should ever be.


Despite the fact that Land Rovers have historically come equipped with high price tags, the early (pre-1980s models) are surprisingly simple vehicles. They had to be. Primarily relied upon as basic transportation in challenging regions by doctors, farmers, and the military, they have, over the decades, been altered into ambulances, transformed into tow vehicles and search-and-rescue trucks, and were even used in lieu of tractors; early models included a PTO shaft to power farm implements. Entrusted with transporting everything from troops to tourists through countries where often the closest town was hundreds of miles away, these trusty trucks were developed and constructed so that they could easily be stripped down and repaired in the field using nothing more than basic hand tools and common sense.


The US has historically not been privy to the barebones Land Rovers in their myriad configurations still sold the world over. Available domestically in the 1950s through the early 1970s, the Land Rover Series II and III was replaced in the US by the more upscale Range Rover series in the 1980s, a marque which continues to be popular today. The current Land Rover Defender, a modern interpretation of the Series III, enjoyed just a brief stint of successful American sales in the mid 1990s before being discontinued here. As a result of the diminishing number of the “true” Land Rovers in North America, older models are being snapped up by collectors and are thus becoming increasingly difficult to find. A quick glance around Clark’s farm reveals no fewer than 40 vintage vehicles in various stages of repair and disrepair. Some are tucked into sheds; others are lined up in neat rows. A few sit up to their windshields in tall grass; another has slowly sunk into the ground, the earth reaching up to its rims. About half of them are Lanny’s, while the others belong to customers. Some are in for routine maintenance, some are in need of minor repairs, and still others are awaiting complete restorations. But most of them, as Lanny attests, are merely a fresh tank of fuel, a new battery, and an ignition-key-twist away from firing up.


Lanny Clark will tackle just about any project vehicle as long as it’s eligible to become a project. The Rovers that are too far-gone, too rusted, or just too worn out, are scavenged for parts. For Clark, the end goal isn’t simply to make his Land Rovers look pretty but rather to bring the vehicle back to factory-spec condition. Land Rovers for daily use; it’s long been Clark’s motto and it’s a tall order—and one that begins with a complete and total disassembly of the vehicle—right down to the frame.


It’s called a frame-off restoration because everything comes off, leaving nothing but the frame. First, the interior is gutted and the body is unbolted and removed. Then, every last nut, bolt, screw, clip, bracket, and housing is systematically removed, labeled, cataloged, and either discarded or set aside for cleaning and restoration. Starting with a perfectly clean (and straight) frame is the first step to returning any Land Rover to its former glory. But glory may be too strong a word for a truck that can easily spend its days buried in mud up to its wheel wells. Then again, glory may be exactly the term that’s required.


After the vehicle’s been stripped down, parts that are no longer serviceable are recycled and new replacements are ordered, or in many cases, sourced from Lanny’s seemingly infinite collection of parts. Every other bit is stripped, cleaned, and repainted if necessary. The engine and running gear are removed and rebuilt if required. The wiring harness is replaced, the upholstery redone. While Lanny primarily works alone in his small yet well-appointed one-bay shop, he does employ some help and outsources certain jobs, such as complete engine rebuilds, to specialists. 


Lanny uses only genuine Land Rover parts in his restorations wherever he can. The reason? Safety and quality. The end game here is to create a vehicle that’s as capable as it was the day it rolled off the assembly line in Solihull, UK. Not surprisingly, almost every part can still be acquired new, including the frame. The Land Rover Series I, introduced in 1948, has trudged on relatively unchanged for more than half a century. While modern technology has upgraded the essentials, if you were to place a 1948 Series I next to a 2015 Defender, there’d be no doubt you were staring at siblings. 


You might think that a restoration process as meticulous as Clark’s would provide the perfect opportunity for upgrades. You’d be mistaken. As Lanny sees it, these vehicles rolled out of the factory with everything they needed. And aside from installing the occasional winch, a set of jerry cans, or in a rare case, modern air conditioning, these vehicles simply don’t require technical suspensions or sophisticated engine upgrades. They weren’t designed or built for speed but rather for rugged utility, ease of use, and most importantly, longevity. Simply put, if it isn’t needed, it isn’t there. As testament, even today, vintage Land Rovers have been known to handily tackle terrain that has left modern, heavily modified vehicles struggling.


Rebuilding an entire vehicle, even one as basic as a vintage Land Rover, is by no means a speedy process. An average restoration can take anywhere from 6 months to a year. Once completed, every vehicle is thoroughly shaken down right on the farm, as well as taken out on long drives, often being utilized as Lanny’s errand vehicle—there’s no better way to work out the bugs than employing real-life driving scenarios. While many customers will trailer their Land Rovers in to Lanny’s shop, when they arrive to pick them up, they simply turn the key and drive off.  And that’s exactly the way Clark wants it. He doesn’t build his Rovers to be babied or trailered to car shows. In fact, he has had customers drive their completed vehicles from his shop in Vermont straight to western New York, Washington DC, and even Atlanta, Georgia. A recent job was headed to Africa. No doubt the owner would have driven it there if she could have.


Driving a vintage Land Rover is not, to put it bluntly, for everyone. It isn’t luxurious. It’s by no means plush, and it’s the farthest thing from fast. But, as Lanny and his customers can undeniably attest, it’s an acquired taste, and one that gets increasingly better with every mile you put behind you. Clark recollected a cross-country journey in a Land Rover taken years ago, “You get out West and you start heading toward the Rockies and you see the mountains off in the distance—and the next day you see the same mountains and it looks like the same distance.” 


So, if getting there is half the fun, getting there in a vintage Land Rover is all the fun, takes twice as long, and doesn’t necessarily require roads. If that isn’t true adventure, we don’t know what is.

Originally written for the Orvis blog

taking perfect dog photos is as hard as it looks


It's been said that the two most difficult things to control during a photography or film shoot are children and animals. I know this is true because I read it on the Internet. I’ve also experienced it firsthand. But with all of the success we’ve enjoyed with our Cover Dog photo contest, I figured it was time to review some of the basics of dog photography in order to help you (if you haven’t yet picked up that camera) get started. And being a part-time, semi-amateur photographer, I figure I’m just as qualified to tell you how to take pictures of your dog as my three-year-old son, who just received his very first camera.

I’ll begin by stating the obvious: Taking a picture of your dog is easy. Taking a good picture of your dog is darn near impossible.

The best way to get started is to set up a tripod and turn on some music. Then call your dog over and explain to him what’s about to happen. Just tell him that all you’re going to do is take a few pictures, and that he should simply “act natural.” At this point, start clicking away. Then remove the lens cap and continue clicking. Do not utilize the tripod—it is only there to add an element of professionalism to your set.

After reviewing your first 200 or so shots, you will begin to notice an underlying theme of extreme awfulness. This is due in large part to the fact that you’ve been shooting towards a sunlit window in an otherwise darkened living room while following your dog as he sniffs around the base of the couch searching for remnants of last night’s evening snack.

At this point you should announce to your dog that you’re relocating the shoot outdoors in the hopes of finding a more “dog-like” environment. Let your dog outside and immediately begin stalking him as if you were the Paparazzi. Although it will be tempting to catch your dog in the act of “doing his business,” please refrain; the Internet quota for “dog taking a poop” was met (and quickly exceeded) in 2001.

Once your dog is ready for his close-up, find a nice patch of grass, a front step, chaise lounge, or pickup-truck bed and sit yourself down. Photography can be a strenuous activity, and a nap will certainly help clear the head and recharge the mind. After a brief two-hour siesta in the sun, you should be ready for that cover-worthy shot. Unfortunately, your dog will now be nowhere in sight.

A brief walk around your house will eventually lead you to your subject, asleep in the sun-dappled late-afternoon shade, snoozing away. Watch as a gentle breeze rustles his fur, while a butterfly hovers just above his moist nose—this is the shot you have been waiting for all day. It is at very moment that you will realize you left your camera back on the chaise lounge. Quietly slink away, taking care not to disturb your slumbering friend, grab your camera, and rush back. If you did this correctly, your stretching, tail- wagging friend should now be walking up to greet you. Please refrain from throwing your camera as far as you can.

And there you have it, a quick-start guide to almost getting that perfect shot of your dog. But don’t give up. Your dog will most certainly fall asleep again. And next time, you’ll be ready. Or will you?

Originally written for State 14®


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The only indication that there may be something interesting going on at the end of the driveway at 448 Canal Street in downtown Brattleboro is the presence of a pair of old motorcycles parked curbside. One sports a “for sale” sign, the other—an ancient, rusted, engine-less cycle, its bald front tire mere inches from passing traffic—wears a worn “Vintage Steele” sign. Understated signage for sure, yet a virtual magnet for curiosity seekers.

Venture down the driveway and you’ll roll up on an unassuming barn-like building outfitted with two large garage doors. It could be any old repair shop, but it isn’t. This is Vintage Steele. It’s the brainchild of self-taught motorcycle mechanic and builder Josh Steele, and it’s fast becoming a mecca for motorcycle enthusiasts hailing from Vermont and miles beyond.

At first glance, Vintage Steele really has no business being in Brattleboro—a small town in a small state where the motorcycle-riding season is six months at best. But Vintage Steele isn’t your average neighborhood repair shop; they’re a full-fledged fabrication shop, crafting custom motorcycles from the ground up, building jaw-dropping designs that are the definition of “one-of-a-kind.” It’s those designs, combined with a solid business acumen, that has allowed Steele, along with co-owners, mechanic Chris John, 26, and childhood buddy Caleb Matthiesen, 33, to not only get found despite their out-of-the-way location, but to build a solid name for themselves since opening Vintage Steele in 2015.

The fact that there is now another option for reliable service in the southern end of the Green Mountains is promising news for motorcyclists in Vermont. Because, while motorcycling in Vermont is perhaps as good as it gets—think Routes 7, 4, 9, 30, 100 … I could go on all day—being a motorcycle owner in Vermont can often prove frustrating because repair shops are few and far between. For that reason, Vintage Steele operates as a general motorcycle repair shop throughout the riding season. They’ll service any make, model, or year, and if the work is beyond their level of expertise, they’ll refer customers to other local businesses where the work can get done.

But once the leaves, and the mercury, begin their downward spirals, the big bay doors are rolled down, the heat is turned up, and the real work begins. The winter months at Vintage Steele are devoted to the fabrication of custom motorcycles. And we’re not talking about chromed-out choppers and heavily modified rides here. Steele is quick to point out that the last thing they want to be known for is for building a specific style, be it bobber, chopper, scrambler, or café racer. The motorcycles that roll out of Vintage Steele maintain a distinctive, uniquely identifiable personality. The designs, while clean and deceivingly simple, clearly pay homage to the original manufacturer. If an engine block is stamped with Yamaha or Honda, it remains as such. Iconic styling cues, such as the legendary BMW boxer engine, are prominently in full view. The bikes retain just enough of their originality yet roll out of the shop remarkably different, transformed, exquisitely simplified.


Vintage Steele will tackle virtually any project from ground-up restorations to frame-up custom builds. In November, on the day I visited, there were four bikes crammed into the tiny shop, four patients crammed into a crowded operating room, each awaiting its turn beneath the capable hands of mechanic Chris John. On the left side of the shop, a ’70s-era Triumph Scrambler was undergoing a full restoration, a job commissioned by the owner’s son as a Christmas present for his dad, who wasn’t able to finish the job on his own. To its right, a ’70s Yamaha xs650 was strapped to a lift. This was a complete custom job. Steele tells me the bike’s owner, a young woman, had asked for a custom build before the shop’s impending popularity would put it beyond her financial reach.


Next up was a 1983 Moto Guzzi, a bike rescued from a basement in Keene, New Hampshire, where it had sat for more than a decade after being submerged in five feet of filthy floodwater. And on the far right, a build in its very early stages: no more than a frame, two wheels, a front fork, and a gleaming “toaster” tank indicative of a ’70s-era BMW R60 being built for a client from Brattleboro, the shop’s first local build.


Building a custom motorcycle is a delicate balance of art and science. There are no blueprints, no schematics, no rules. Rather, it all starts with a dream, a budget, and a conversation between client and fabricator. What are the rider’s likes, dislikes? Have they ever ridden? How do they ride? Where will they ride? What do they want it to look like? What don’t they want it to look like?


The development and construction that follows is tedious, technical, and time consuming. An average build takes anywhere from six months to a year. And while each step is carefully thought out, there are always hiccups, redos, and bursts of inspiration along the way. Honesty and attention to detail are the hallmarks of Vintage Steele. Tell them what you need and they’ll tell you like it is.


Prospective owners of vintage motorcycles shouldn’t expect perfection from a 40-year-old power plant. But therein lies the allure of owning a classic. Getting to know and understand the innate personality of the beast you’re riding is without a doubt one of the most gratifying aspects of owning a unique piece of modern history. Yes, there will be issues. Problems will inevitably arise. There will be days when, try as you might, that bike just won’t kick over, won’t idle, or won’t blink its turn signals. Worry not. Vintage Steele has your back.


Even though they’re lining the walls of their shop with images of each build, the real end product here is the community they’re building and the following they’ve amassed.”Because while riding a motorcycle is, in and of itself, a solo pursuit, motorcyclists as a whole are a communal bunch. It’s for that reason Vintage Steele remains a true work in progress, and aspires to be more than simply a repair and fabrication shop. Their goal is to become a destination, a mecca for motorcyclists no matter where they roll in from. Steele muses about the future where Vintage Steele features a larger shop area, a retail space, and a café. I believe that time isn’t too far off.

Running a small business is far from easy. Running one in Vermont, even farther from easy. So why would these guys stick around? There are warmer climates, bigger cities, customers with deeper pockets. The truth is surprisingly simple. It boils down to friendship, a desire to build something amazing together, a common bond. A common goal. Steele talks about the challenges that not just his business, but all small businesses in the Green Mountain State and recalls something his mother once told him when he was younger: “You make the best with what you have.” Cliché? Sure. But Vintage Steele is successfully turning this old adage onto its side or, more aptly, balancing it upright, breathing new life into it, and tear-assing down the road on it. What they have is an uncommon blend of passion, drive, and commitment. What they’re making are some of the finest custom motorcycles I’ve ever seen.

Originally written for the Orvis blog



Saturday morning. Mid-January. Southern Vermont. Couldn’t have been much past 6am. I was lying in bed in that half-asleep/half awake mode, blissfully comfortable, warm, and cozy. My eyelids were heavy; hinting that another round of deep, R.E.M. sleep was in store. You really can’t beat Saturdays. Just as my lids began to lower, I heard the sound. If you’re a dog owner, you know the sound I’m referring to. It’s the unmistakable sound of the dog, somewhere in the house, retching.

I was never in the fire department or the armed forces. I am not accustomed to leaping out of a warm bed ready to face disaster. I like to take it slow in the morning. Having said that, I would think that any drill sergeant would have been quite impressed with the agility I displayed as I launched my body out from under a particularly heavy duvet, blindly swung my legs around, and leapt to the floor below, landing cat-like on a doormat-sized rug that miraculously held its ground on the hardwood as I fought to gain traction with my bare feet. The rug held. I stayed upright. The chase was on.

In took me less than a second to bolt from bedside to hallway. Now, the question was, where was Logan? I heard him. But I didn’t see him. My heart raced, blood pounded in my ears. I quickly scanned the living room. Then I saw him: under the dining room table, on the rug. Of course, the official location of vomiting dogs everywhere. There he was, poised, head down, ready to release the entire contents of his stomach onto the carpet.


I quickly calculated that he was about as far away from the front door as he could get. Somehow, I think he knew that. I sprinted towards him. “Logan!” I yelled as I hurdled over a tower of Legos and a tricycle. “No!” Everything seemed to happen in slow motion. He looked up at me just as I reached him and began to retch again. So far, nothing had landed on the floor, but I knew it was just a matter of milliseconds until all hell was about to break loose. I grabbed for his collar, which, of course, wasn’t there. Being a light sleeper, I remove his collar at night to avoid hearing the jingling of his tags whenever he moves. I grabbed a fistful of his yellow coat, behind his ears, in front of his shoulder blades, and pulled.

Now, Logan isn’t a heavy dog; by Labrador standards he’s just about perfect. But dragging any collarless, heaving, 70-lb. dog through an obstacle course of children’s toys, dog toys, furniture, and throw rugs, in low, early morning light while barefoot is, to put it mildly, difficult. I yanked; he resisted at first, and then (perhaps realizing I was trying to save my rug) reluctantly came along. We plowed through Legoland®, narrowly avoided a heavy oak rocking chair, charged down the hall, hooked a hard right into the mudroom, and headed for the door.


As I swung the door open I watched it clear his wet, black nose by millimeters. A final shove and he was out on the porch. At last, he was outside. My job was over. Mission accomplished. Disaster avoided. I took a breath, exhaled, and looked out the window to see him staring back at me, tongue hanging out. “Do what you have to do, buddy,” I said through the glass. “You’ll feel better.” I turned to head back to bed, hopefully bring my heart rate back to a healthy level, and perhaps get a few more minutes of sleep. I backed away from the door and promptly stepped into a cold, wet puddle of vomit, which must have been deposited earlier that night.


Lesson learned: they don’t always throw up under the dining room table.

military spec for the masses

Originally written for

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“Military spec.” It’s a term we often come across in descriptions of items that are in some way affiliated with the armed forces, but in the case of Randolph Engineering, military spec means exactly that.


Based in Randolph, Massachusetts, this small, family-owned company has devoted more than four decades to turning out precision eyewear that has become standard issue in all branches of the United States military and even NASA. That’s a giant leap for a company that was founded by two Polish immigrants in 1972. Entrepeneurs Jan Waszkiewicz and Stanley Zaleski had originally met 10 years earlier when they were both employed at a small tool-and-die shop in South Boston. Armed with only their combined knowledge and spurred by the lure of the American dream, the two started their own business in Randolph, manufacturing tools, dies, and machinery for the optical industry, and quickly became one of the leading optical tool-and-die companies in the country.


It didn’t take the US military long to notice this northesastern upstart, and in the late 1970s, Randolph Engineering was awarded a subcontract by the United States Air Force; they produced in excess of 200,000 pairs of aviators sunglasses annually and were subsequently chosen as the prime contractor for the United States Air Force in 1982. Not long after, the civilian set picked up on the quality, reliability, and style of Randolph Engineering eyewear. And by the late 1980s, RE had moved into production of military-spec eyewear for the masses.


Over the years, RE’s commitment to providing our fighting forces with the very best eyewear hasn’t waned. They have consistently gone above and beyond to meet the stringent requirements and fast turnaround times mandated by their military customers. In 1990, Randolph suspended their commercial operation and ramped up production to 24 hours per day/7 days a week in order to supply the troops of Operation Desert Storm with custom inserts for the M17 chemical-biological mask. In 2000, RE was awarded their first Frame-of-Choice (FOC) contract, allowing them to supply soldiers and personnel in the United States Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, and NASA, with an alternative to standard military-issue spectacles. And 2012 marked the third five-year term of RE supplying the famed HGU-4/P Aviator to the United States Army, Air Force, Navy, and allied air forces worldwide. 


Family owned and operated to this day by three generations of the Waszkiewicz and Zaleski families, Randolph Engineering remains committed to producing only the finest quality, military-spec frames, sourcing items that are made in America whenever possible, and sustaining American jobs.

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