Brendan Leonard - Semi Rad
Posted On: Thursday, January 30, 2014 - Chaconians
Interview by Kelley @ Chaco
Brendan Leonard is a writer and climber who bounces around the West in a Chevy Astrovan, finding new terrain and new stories to write for Adventure Journal, Climbing, Backpacker, The Dirtbag Diaries, and other publications. In 2011, he created the web site Semi-Rad.com, where he writes weekly about adventure and the outdoors. In Fall of 2013 Brendan joined the Chaco team, and like us, we thought you might be interested in learning a little more about him.
Hey Brendan, where did the name Semi-Rad come from?
"When I was trying to think of a website name that was short, original and memorable, I remembered the cover of the book "Semi-Tough," a novel published in 1972 that I never read, but used to see in bookstores when I was a kid. I thought, Hey, I'm not exactly rad, but maybe kind of. How about Semi-Rad? And the Twitter handle was not taken, nor was the url. So I bought it."
If you could build your dream trip for 2014, where would you go? What would you do?
"I would cross the country climbing historic routes from New Hampshire to Yosemite and telling the stories of the first ascents, and how tough those early climbers were compared to us. I have the list all ready."
Can you tell us a little bit about your first pair of Chacos?
"I bought my first pair of Chacos, Z-2s, as an REI employee in 2005, black on black. I realized you could do just about anything besides climb ice in them, and that was pretty much the end of closed-toed footwear for me. I later transitioned to Z-1s, and have never strayed."
You visit a lot of diners - what makes the perfect diner?
"The name "Milt's Stop & Eat" means it's perfect. If it is not named Milt's Stop & Eat, I like it when it has counter seats, decent coffee, breakfast all day, and milkshakes. Preferably the interior design is a little throwback as well."
Are you tired of folks calling things epic?
"Well, there are other words that aren't as much of an exaggeration. I prefer the term "long day" to describe a suprisingly adventurous day in which no one was injured, instead of "epic." But you can say whatever you want, I suppose."
If you only had 24 hours and $20 how would you go about finding an adventure?
"Depending on where I was, I would probably use the $20 to buy a map and then find something interesting on it. Or I would use the $20 to buy coffee, burritos, and Peanut M&Ms and go find a multi-pitch climb."
What do you look for in a climbing partner?
"Safe belaying and ability to talk smack and stay positive."
"I was actually writing it as it was bouncing around in my head, if that makes sense. I started off on a five-week road trip that didn't exactly end, and had a first draft of the book finished five months into it. I later changed the ending, but most of what was written was stuff I put down on scraps of paper while driving or typed into my phone while hiking."
I imagine a lot of folks would love to do what you've done, what kind of advice do you give folks looking to make that first step?
"I don't know if everyone needs to quit their job and hit the road, but I think a good road trip is good for almost everyone. Buy an atlas and look at it instead of watching TV, then figure out how much time you can take off work without getting fired (and inquire about the idea of unpaid time off—a lot of managers are surprisingly open to an extra few days or week of unpaid vacation). And then go, without planning too much."
Last question, favorite memory from the last 3 months?
"I spent a month on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, and I will probably never forget jumping into my sleeping bag every night and looking up to see a narrow line of stars hemmed in by giant black canyon walls on either side."