By Dave Schwab
Normal Heights travel store offers speaker series
Uptown business owners Blake and Jenna Robertson are hosting a new program with a spin — starting with a discussion on bikes.
The Robertsons own Rove at 3275 Adams Ave., Suite A. Launched in 2016, Rove is a small retail and community space offering a curated selection of outdoor and travel gear, accessories, and home goods.
Though the couple lived in Normal Heights for three and a half years, they have recently moved to La Mesa; their store still remains at the Uptown location.
On Feb. 21, the first installment of their series — coined ‘Rove Abouts’ — featured a slideshow and presentation on bike touring.
“We’re cultivating a sense of community at our brick-and-mortar store to encourage our neighbors to explore San Diego, and beyond, in new ways,” Blake Robertson said. “As a place to find inspiration beyond social media, Rove Abouts will bring people together in a physical space to share stories and encourage new adventures every month.”
A few years back, the Robertsons sold what they could and set off on a seven-month trip of 19 countries. After returning to San Diego and settling in Normal Heights, the couple opted to create a welcoming community space to inspire others to pursue their own adventures. Rove is the result.
“We’ve always wanted to add more of a community component to the retail experience, bringing travelers with different experiences together to share different ideas related to outdoor travel that would be educational and inspirational,” Blake said about Rove’s travelogue series.
Rove’s monthly series — held every first Wednesday — kicked off with guest speaker Jamie Hampton, head of Mixte Communications. A well-known bicycle commuter, Hampton and her staff often travel on two wheels.
“My purpose is to talk about bike touring 101,” Jamie Hampton said before her group presentation. Hampton noted that she wandered into Rove one day “and fell in love with their shop.”
When asked if she was drafted to become the Robertsons’ first speaker, Hampton said, “I think I was volunteered.”
“We realized what a great idea this [speaker series] could be, and we started planning out different topics,” Blake said.
Hampton’s travelogue covered several bike tours — and years — traversing the West Coast, Europe and Morocco in North Africa. She told stories and offered common sense, best practice tips.
During her presentation, Hampton offered a handful of helpful hints.
“The first step is to start small,” Hampton said, adding everything doesn’t need to be new starting out. “If you have a backpack — start with your backpack. Most of my backpacking gear is what my bike-touring gear is.”
Hampton exhorted bike tourers to create a tour plan, carry water (or have access to it) and above all else — always bring enough to eat.
“Carry stuff like rice and beans that can be easily made,” she said, warning about “bonking,” which she described as running out of energy because you haven’t eaten enough.
“When you’re bike touring, you’re moving all day, so you have to eat the entire time, because you’re moving the entire time,” she continued.
Hampton told a story about her boyfriend, Karim Bouris, who was bonking near the end of a bike tour they rode together; she tempted Bouris with a Fig Newton bar from her pack, which he refused.
“His muscles cramped on the way up a hill,” Hampton said. “He should have had my Fig Newton.”
Other bicycling tips Hampton offered included learning how to change a tire and taking advantage of hiker-biker sites costing $3 to $15, which are available along the way.
“My overall message is to have fun with your bike tour and just make it happen,” she said. “Because, when you do, you will never look backward, and your bike tours will get bigger, better and more epic.”
Keeping with the biking theme, the March 7 event featured a panel discussion by travelers who’ve hiked the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), stretching 2,659 miles between Canada and Mexico along the West Coast.
Chas and Chelsea White, a married couple who set out on the PCT in 2014, discussed their preparation, the basics of the trail and details about different sections of the route. They also shared pictures and stories of their experience.
“Before starting the trail, I hadn’t even done an overnight backpacking trip,” Chelsea said. However, she noted that they had done a lot of hiking, biking, and other conditioning prior to the excursion.
Chas noted that the couple over packed for the trip and learned what essentials were necessary along the way.
“We ended up sending a lot of stuff home,” Chas said. “There are things you think you need before starting, but just never use.”
In the future, Blake said there will be more speeches on biking, clarifying that they will “not just [focus on] going out on long-distance rides, but on making biking a part of everyday life.
“We want to have broad and different topics,” he added.
Readers are welcome at the next installment on April 4, which will cover public lands stewardship. The event will feature Erick Sauer, the sales manager at the Parks Project, which is a brand Rove carries in its store.
Rove has topics sketched out throughout the rest of the year, and the series will run indefinitely. For more information about the store and Rove Abouts, visit bit.ly/2tVLUIr.
— Dave Schwab can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.