van graphic Is 3 Years Old Today. Thanks For Reading.

Three years ago, on Thursday, Feb. 3, 2011, I clicked “publish” on a blog post on this web site, and then put a link to the post on Twitter, to let my 25 or so Twitter followers know I was publishing some writing. A couple people retweeted it, and the post got a couple “likes” on Facebook (like literally a couple—2). I thought that was pretty OK, so I wrote a post for the next Thursday. And the next one. At the end of the month, my new blog had gotten 646 page views. 646!

As of today, this blog is three years old, and I haven’t missed a Thursday morning yet. I may not be very smart, but I show up. Basically this thing turns three today because I’m too stubborn to not let it turn three. Lots of things have happened because of that, and mostly they are interesting only to me and maybe my mother, who is very proud of me, but of course would be very proud of me even if I never accomplished anything.

Mostly I just click “publish” every Thursday, not really sure what for, besides maybe I hope a few people will read what I’ve written and maybe laugh, maybe relate to something in the words, maybe get a lump in their throat, or maybe get inspired to do something. I watch the social media stats to try to figure out if people liked what I wrote, and then try to figure out why or why not for the next week.

A year into it, my friends Syd and Debi surprised me and stuck two giant “” magnets to the side of my van, and I was kind of embarrassed, but more OK with it than embarrassed, and I kept driving around the West with them on there, figuring it couldn’t hurt, plus I wasn’t that cool anyway, so I really didn’t mind. Then this incredible thing started happening, beginning at the Jiffy Lube in Salem, Oregon, when this guy behind me in line heard me spell my name to the attendant and said “Are you Brendan Leonard?” And then he introduced himself as Spencer, who lived in Salem, and we talked about mountain biking for a while.

It happened a few more times over the course of the year, and I started to realize that through my persistence with this web site and some lucky branding, I got to meet some awesome people who just happened to see the URL on my van and came up to chat. And that’s a privilege.

I usually wrestle quite a bit about writing about my own life, always trying to write about “us,” not “me,” because if it’s just me telling the world about myself, who the hell cares? But if I can write some stories about all of us, that could be a good thing. And maybe the best thing about this blog is all the people I’ve gotten to talk to in person, via e-mail, or social media, who I’d never met if I’d just written for other people’s magazines or web sites.

Just after dusk in the Oak Creek parking lot at Red Rocks, my girlfriend and I shared a box of Girl Scout cookies with Elaina, a climbing guide visiting from West Virginia, after she recognized the web site on the van. A guy came up to me in the Target parking lot in Denver to introduce himself, and I showed him what I was setting up in the parking lot: a Rubbermaid bin with a dish drying rack at the bottom, to let my wet crampons and boots drain without soaking the bed in the van. Scott Bennett came up to introduce himself at the Castleton Tower bivy, saying “I think you know my friend Forest …” Later that day, my friend and I helped rescue a guy named Peter off Castleton after he decked on a ledge next to us. Fourteen months later, my van was parked at the Bozeman Ice Festival, and I found a note on the windshield from one of Peter’s friends, recognizing the web site name and saying he’d like to buy me a beer for helping his friend on Castleton.

Last Saturday, I finished a phone call outside Deep Creek Coffee in Springdale, Utah, and walked back into the shop to my laptop, and this blonde guy sitting at the next table said, “Are you Brendan?” And I said Yep, and he said I saw your van outside and thought you might be. I follow your blog. Right on, I said, and then we started to talk about their trip—Trent and his friend Paul were visiting from Florida and Texas, respectively, and it was Paul’s first visit to Zion. I grabbed my climbing guidebook out of the van and let Trent flip through it for some bouldering beta. And it was great in that way it always is when you meet people with whom you have that one small big thing in common: isn’t this canyon/mountain range/climbing area/trail amazing?

I’d love to say Happy Birthday to this website, but I think it’s more appropriate to say it’s been nice getting to know all of you. Maybe we can do this again next Thursday. Thanks for reading.



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Category: essaysinspiration



  1. This is just the beginning, my friend. The people we meet and the places we see because of this community of internet vagrants never stops blowing my mind. Keep sharing and keep up the good work.
    See you in the desert soon!

  2. Happy Birthday!

    You’ve built/are building something very special for the outdoor community. I always look forward to hearing your authentic tales of adventure told through your voice. Hopefully I’ll see your van sometime too!

  3. Congrats on the 3 year anniversary!! I always look forward to Thursdays to see what you have to share. I get a lot of laughs and inspiration from your writing! Thanks!

  4. This blog is the fuel that makes our super stoke burn so bright!!! We love everything that you have got going on here! So from Rex and I, here’s to three more years!

    YOU are our EVERYMAN hero! SEMI- RAD FOR LIFE!!!

    Party Time USA Forever!
    Brock ” Freedom Ain’t Free” Steel

  5. Brendan, Thanks for writing. I’ve been a big fan since I found your blog last April. I don’t climb and definitely don’t get out onto the trails nearly as often as I’d like, but I’m aspirational about my adventuring and, in a way, reading your blog keeps me in touch with that dream. You speak of dirtbags, climbers, mountain bikers and other people committed to the art of the outdoors, and I think about the walls of my city apartment and cubicle. It is then I know that as humans, we are never as close to whatever God is than when we get out of these man-made habitations and into the elements to hear what is being said and see what is being shown. It is when I make that small effort to leave the concrete behind that I truly feel fully human. Thanks for your writing. Thanks for inspiring.

  6. Thank you Brendan. Congrats! I look forward every week to reading your posts and have forwarded many. Great book also! Gave a copy as a Christmas gift and read mine twice so far. Loved it! Keep up the inspiring work! -WB

  7. Happy Birthday to the RADDEST blog I know (writer is pretty rad too!) – we should all thank you for not only inspiring us all to do more, but bringing us all together to share great friendships and great experiences. You have changed many lives my dear friend. May your day be filled with excellent free coffee, giant burritos, and a dozen yogurt store with a broken scale. Happy happy Birthday Vera!

  8. This is really great. Thanks for your stubborn persistence, it motivates others to be stubborn and persistent. Keep this thing going!

  9. Happy 3 years! I discovered your blog only about a year ago, but consequently spent the next few days reading back through all the archived posts. I was totally hooked.
    Semi-Rad is equal parts inspiring, hilarious and contemplative. PLEASE, keep on doing what you’re doing! (which, in my opinion is more like Totally-Rad). Cheers.

  10. Happy 3 rd birthday. Don’t remember when I discovered your website but been following for a while. Never realized till today that you posted every Thursday. Now I can look forward to Thursdays. Just started your book it’s a great read so far. Thanks for bringing us along.

  11. Yeah! Big time congrats! I look forward to reading about two blogs with any real commitment – Adventure Journal and Semi-Rad (and yes, I get that they overlap). I very much enjoy my time with your writing and have fun imagining what it will be like when I finally meet you in person – we have a number of friends who form this big Sinjin and Brendan Venn Diagram – in fact, I was sitting with Uber-Guide Mark Allen last week talking about you and your book (yes, that is why your ears were burning) and his association with you – all good stuff.

    Well, whenever you trek through Durango next, I have a parking spot for the van. And maybe a burrito.

  12. Wow, congrats Mr. Consistency! I’ve really been enjoying your musings and now I know they come out on Thursdays. This has the side benefit of being a great service to errant dirtbags who don’t know what day of the week it is. Ha!

    My first reaction was: “Only three years?!!” I guess that gives some weight to the impact of your presence. Thanks for providing a the “rest of us” perspective and looking forward to the next three years.

  13. Brendan,

    Thanks for writing! I don’t remember exactly where I first saw a link to your site but once I started reading I became hooked. I’m currently in the middle of your book and fully enjoying it! Keep up the awesome work.

    Best wishes for many more years!
    Big Shorty

  14. I know Elaina from WV! I’ve climbed with her many times.
    As someone who’s been struggling with climbing and finding the love for climbing recently I’ve found your posts helpful in keeping the mindset of climbing what’s fun and because it’s more fun to be outside with friends than chasing the hardest 5.something. As my friend Elaina says “it’s”.
    Thanks for your insights Brendan, looking forward to posts to come!

  15. One dirty, hungry afternoon after Craig and I had done a quick run of canyoneering down Behunin Canyon, we were scavenging for anything that looked edible, yet cheap at Sol Foods when we came across a red van across the street in front of Deep Creek Coffee with ‘SEMI-RAD.COM’ across the window.

    ‘Dude… that sounds like us! Rad, but not really’ We logged on with a computer an employee at Sol Foods shared with us and laughed, cried, and got lumps in our throats for a while.

    ‘Dude… we need to leave this guy a note, ask him if he wants to drop a canyon with us tomorrow!’

    But alas, the van had moved on…
    (Canyoneering invite is still open, though).

    Thanks man, love this art you make.

  16. I’m a teacher in Colorado and I’ve been following your blog for the last 2 + years or so…
    I read quite a few of your posts to my students before I start class. They love listening to your writing. Keep up the good work, once I get a spare minute to sit still (after ski season : ) I’m gonna read your book.

  17. Congratulations! You’re a real inspiration – in your attitude to life, the words you write every week, and in showing that you can follow your dreams and succeed. Here’s to the next 3 years!

  18. Happy Birthday Semi Rad! great reading from someone who just loves getting out there. Your book arrived a couple of days ago so looking for getting into that. Keep it up man

  19. i always look forward to thursday mornings so that i can check out the newest from semi-rad and crush a delicious cup of coffee. thank you for being someone i can relate to in so many ways – you are an inspiration. from san francisco, here’s to many more years to enjoyment, coffee, burritos, bears, adventures and stories!

  20. We write about what we know and care about and that should be enough. It is all the better that the rest of us care about many of the same things and can relate. Keep writing — I look forward to new musings.

  21. Happy birthday Semi-Rad!

    I saw your van about a year ago in Snow Canyon, I wish I would have come up and talked to you. Next time though…

  22. Next to meeting you at Jiffy Lube, this is the coolest thing to happen to me. Congrats on the anniversary and on the book. I’ve already gifted it to two of my favorite people. Keep being amazing!

  23. Man – congrats and I’m glad you’re too stubborn to not let it turn 3. But I must say, reading the book and the blog – you’re gonna cost me more gas! Keep up the Inspiration

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