Sunday, September 29, 2013

I'm Off To Rendezvous At Lester River!

It's been a busy summer. Trapping, skinning, and preparing pelts for trade. That's how I make my living in these times, 1670.  The Hudson Bay Co. has just been established, but it's too far north. The settlement of Duluth is but a dream, not to be realized for much more than 100 years.

For those of use living in the wilderness of what will become Northern Minnesota, it's a long hard journey to the annual gathering called the Lester River Rendezvous.

Many days paddling a birch bark canoe, following the shores of Gitche Gumee from Canada south.

Some come from across the big lake, others travel by horseback or even by foot.  Winters are long and deadly cold this far north, the fall rendezvous is the last chance to obtain supplies necessary to survive until spring.  Not to mention the socializing that's been anticipated for months. Cabin fever will have you pretty squirrelly without human contact every so often.

As I paddle south, passing smaller rivers I watch for the landmark that indicates the end of my trip by water.  The Lester River Bridge marks the entrance.Festivities aren't far away when I pass under this stone structure.

Smoke from campfires, the aroma of food, the din of many people sharing good cheer. All drift down the river giving fair warning of what lay just around the first bend.

I'll come ashore here.  Likely the return trip will be by dogsled. Winter and hard travel are sure to come by the time I'm ready to head back north to lay out my trap lines.

Standing guard over the proceedings, cannons are aimed toward the lake. Threat of invasion is unlikely, but combined with a few uniformed troops, keeping order with such an exuberant crowd will keep the constables busy.

Myself, I need to locate the Black Smith, among the various tents and shelters.  A few months back I got careless and lost my most valued knife. Something that doing without will make not only life, but survival very hard once winter comes. I need to order a replacement.

The importance of the Black Smith can't be over stated. Hardware stores are for those back East, here in the wilderness it must be made, and made well.

His skills will be in high demand for the coming weeks, I must be patient as I'm not the only one with needs that can greatly affect my ability to ply my trade.  He will still be here, trading with the furriers when they make the trek to buy furs. I need his services now, so the barter system is how we exchange our skins for supplies.

Others are here as well, that's the purpose of Rendezvous. It's not just a big party, we need their crafts and skills, they need our furs and pelts.

An economy developed for places where money is of little value. Here it's an "I can do this for you, what can you do for me" way of doing business.

Here I can trade for candles. Not only for light, they can help start campfires when conditions make it hard to do so.

I might not need that many, but here again trading to others might bring me supplies that are vital.

Trinkets to trade with native tribes, or maybe it's just a slice of good home made apple pie.  Everyone has a useful skill that can be made profitable.

It's a very subdued morning. Restful, relaxing.  Small fires, only large enough to simmer a kettle, burn at every tent. Walking in and out between the different vendors has me enjoying this time in these early years long before the wilderness will become an organized town.

When the business of the day has passed, we sit and pass the time singing folk songs. Quiet, soft melodies providing a relaxing setting meant to draw you into the group.

No matter you can't carry a tune, so you miss a note as you play. It's the fact that you are sharing with others that's appreciated.

Later in the day a trip to the nearest settlement is proposed. With only the train for transportation, people gather at the loading platform.

Once aboard, everyone finds a seat.  Youngsters piped up in gleeful anticipation of the ride coming. Most have never been on such a mechanical contrivance, and I must confess it's been over 50 years since I've had a ride on one myself.

We weaved along, swaying to and fro. Probably traveling at no more than 20 miles per hour. It did at times seem recklessly fast, causing me some concern as we rattled over a trestle that crossed a river.

Crossing a number of streams and trails, we stopped twice to load more passengers as we rolled south toward what will someday be known as Duluth,

Traveling alone, I had the good fortune to share my space with two charming young ladies and their caretaker. Grandmother, I assume, as the girl's parents were in the seats directly behind them.

It was their first ride on a train, and their enjoyment of the experience was made quite obvious. Thank you ladies for making my voyage even more interesting as well.

On we rattled, off to the settlement. It may take weeks to finish up what needs to be done. Before long the snows will come, and trails will ice over.

Only then will I collect my sled dog team and prepare to head back into the woods.  Winter will be long, but hopefully profitable.

Come this time next year I will once again make the voyage down lake to the gathering.  We all come together at The Lester River Rendezvous.

Hope to see you there next fall!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Coast Guard Aviation...My Military Experience

Continuing on with a bit of nostalgia, I can't help but think of the age old question every kid asks their Dad. "Dad, what did you do during the war"? As for my father and his participation in WWII, he failed the physical with flat feet and a heart murmur.  Those years were spent working in shipyards on the west coast.

Myself, with no children of my own, will answer the same question for the benefit of my reading audience. Aren't you the lucky ones?

The year was 1968, I graduated from high school and spent the summer working on an ore carrier sailing the Great Lakes.  Knowing the draft would probably suck me into the Vietnam conflict if I did nothing, I decided a proactive approach to my military requirements was probably a more suitable choice.

I signed on for a 4 year hitch with the Coast Guard. Expecting to spend my days tending some lighthouse or small boat station, somewhere along a coast.  Whether east, west, or inland sea, didn't matter much, as long as there was no dodging bullets involved.

With unbelievable good luck, right from Boot Camp, I went on to Aviation Electrician School in Jacksonville FL. Six months of classes while living in WWII wooden barracks, without the benefit of air conditioning. Hottest summer I can remember.

My first duty assignment out of school was overseas. Imagine my surprise on that one, hardly a lighthouse or small boat station. Off to the island of Guam I went for the next 18 months. No phone calls home, no leave to go visit those important to me, I was isolated in the South Pacific.

I became a Loadmaster on a post WWII aircraft, the C-123B.  During Vietnam the Air Force used the same planes to defoliate the jungles.  Hence all the agent orange cancer problems for many soldiers.  I was much luckier, we hauled beer and ice cream to small Coast Guard radar stations on Saipan, and Palau. Oh we hauled other supplies as well, but the beer and ice cream were the most appreciated.

After my 1-1/2 years of isolation in paradise, a fact I didn't realize until years later, I returned stateside.  My next duty station was the Aircraft Repair and Supply Center located in Elizabeth City NC.

Those two Quonset type buildings are actually huge blimp hangers leftover from WWII.  I worked in the electrical component rebuild shop on the right side of the hanger closest to the top of the page.

An interesting but sad note, the year after I left military life a Navy P3 sub chaser crashed off the end of the runway in the picture.  It careened into the buildings at the bottom of the picture killing a number of people.

During my time at Elizabeth City I was lucky enough to fly as a crewman on a number of other aircraft.

The HU16E, a flying boat could land on a runway or on the water. I made one water landing, what a rush.

The HH52A helicopter was the backbone of rescue operations.  You want a good view, fly along the beaches of Virginia and North Carolina at about 200' with the side door wide open. I rode a number of times with only a gunner's belt holding me inside.
I also flew in the larger H3 helicopter which just happens to be a variation of the same basic helicopter used as Marine One to transport the president.

I made one flight in a C-130.  What started as a 2 hour training flight turned into a 10 hour search mission. For a good part of the flight I was strapped in, sitting on the lowered ramp with a marker flare in hand.

Instructed to toss the flare if I even thought I saw something, as survivors floating in the ocean are hardly a speck from 1,000 ft. up.

Yep, my days in the service were pretty hard. At my first duty station we snorkeled in an unbelievably beautiful fish bowl on our days off.  Enjoying tropical mild temperatures for the most part everyday.

Exploring the south end of the island on dirt bikes, riding on mountain trails, visiting abandoned WWII battle sites where the rusting hulks of tanks from both sides still lay where they failed.

Then on to North Carolina.  Hauling our dirt bikes on trailers to the Smoky Mountains on weekends.

It was a wonderful time of my life.  Endless adventures that I relive in my mind almost daily. Did it change the direction my life would have taken?

Absolutely.  Time doesn't stand still.  Friends back home moved on, 4 years of seniority on a job never happened.  I would spend a number of years catching up with the world I left behind.

Was it a good trade off?  Yes, I'd have to say so. My sense of adventure, willingness to just head off into the unknown with little concern, or preparation for that matter, all habits that started the day I graduated high school.  At 17 years of age I was on my own, making my own choices.  I wouldn't change a thing!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Music, Meditation, And Memories

Taking a little break on the shore of Lake Superior, I broke out my Indian Flute. Mostly to amuse myself while the water heated for a cup of coco.

This time of year, though it's plenty sunny, there's a definite chill in the air.  The leaves are just beginning to turn so I didn't waste time taking pictures.  That will come in a few weeks.
I did enjoy a quiet ride up the shore a ways, revisiting spots that hold many memories from my past.

That's what old men do. They sit, and ponder of times long ago when they were young. Places they frequented, people they knew. Moments in time, never forgotten.  I've got lots of those moments forever stored in my mind, I'm sure you do as well.

Lake Superior is a wonderful place of many memories for me.  As a teenager, with an assortment of friends, I went smelting every spring.

For those unknowing on the subject, smelt are a small silver fish between 3" and 6" in length. Smelting consists of taking a dip net, and scooping them out of the water in quantities you couldn't imagine if hook and line is your usual method of fishing.

In the 60's these small fish were in such masses, that you could fill a garbage can in 30 minutes, during peak time in the annual spawning run.  Every small river running into the big lake would be overrun with humanity. Bonfires dotted the shore. This was shortly after the ice cleared from the lake, meaning hypothermia was a serious risk.

Sadly smelting has pretty much disappeared. Gone are the days of excess.  No more spending hours cleaning way more fish than you ever expected to catch.  Gone are the nights of carousing around the campfire with more than enough lubrication to forget in the morning what it was you did the night before.

Now places like the Talmadge River, French River, and Knife River live on only as links to the people that were there in my youth.

Then there were the trips to the Boundary Waters.  Long before it was a national park, long before you had to make reservations months in advance just to camp.  Invited a number of times by my best friends family, we usually stopped at Kendall's Smokehouse to pick up some smoked Cisco's.

Russ Kendall died a number of years ago, but luckily the tradition of supplying fish to travelers has lived on well past his lifetime.

Do I still eat smelt and smoked fish?  Yes, I smoke my own fish occasionally. For smelt I rely on frozen, already cleaned, fish available at our local Walmart.  Dredged in flour and pan fried, in 10 minutes I can have a plate full of crispy delights to be eaten bones and all.

On my way back to town I drove through some of the other places I used to hang out.  This is Cobb School, where I spent many a winter evening.  It was a three mile hike from home, but they had the best ice rink around.  I was a country boy, with little ability to get downtown. If I wanted to skate, this was the place. It didn't hurt that a favored young lady often frequented this rink on Friday nights as well.

A final stop for the morning was the Skyline Parkway above Duluth.  What with construction and repairs going on all over the city, courtesy of last summer's destructive floods, most of the Skyline Parkway is inaccessible these days.

The chill of fall was definitely blowing.  I passed through Wendy's on the way for a bite of lunch.  The cool brisk breeze, that warns of winter coming much sooner than we like, told me a cup of hot chili would take the bite from the air.

I don't know why Wendy's chili came to mind, maybe I saw a post recently on the internet that mentioned it.

Then again, maybe it was just a trigger, to thoughts from long ago.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

An Ill Wind Blows...Bad Omens Of Days Ahead!

The Canadian Geese are here! This time of year it can only mean one thing, they're headed south.  Off to warmer climates, to bask in the sun.

Though their winter range covers much of the U.S., rest assured they won't be staying here.  Not unlike the northern reaches of Canada, it's too damn cold in northern Minnesota for man nor beast.

Not surprisingly, come late autumn, other sure signs of what Mother Nature has planned for us start popping up.

Dead leaves start accumulating in the gutters, as trees shed their summer finery.

Every day, as the winds start to increase, the quantity of brittle bits of brown vegetation fall at an ever increasing rate.

Sure most look forward to the changing of the colors. Maples take on a bright crimson hue, aspen a glowing yellow.  The vista's are beautiful, but ever so short lived.

Before you can say Jack Frost, the pumpkins come out, and the trees become a naked, bleak collection of twigs.

The landscape turns a sickening gray and the nights become darker, longer, and colder...So much colder!

These omens, they are a stark warning. PREPARE!! NOW!! The end is near, summer is gone! Your options are limited.

Like those wise people known as "Snowbirds", you can migrate south, along with the Canadian Geese.

Leave before sightings of cruel torture equipment start becoming an everyday occurrence.

Remember that sore back last year? You can thank your snow shovel for those days of self inflicted pain.

Every year it's the same.  Shovel the deck, stairs, and sidewalk, only to have them all reburied the next night.

Struggle with the snow blower to clear the driveway, only to have the plow come by within the hour and load it all right back where you cleared it from.

Leaving it sitting in the back corner of the shed isn't going to make that first heavy snowfall easier.  Now is the time to drag it out, top off the gas and oil, and give it the old test run.

At least this year I'm assured transportation that should make life doable.  Like all Minnesotan's, I have the mandatory 4x4 vehicle parked in the driveway.

Granted I'd rather be packing my bags and loading the van for a trip to Tucson, lived there one winter some 19 years ago, loved it!  Maybe this year will be my time to hit Quartzsite AZ.

After all the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous  is scheduled for Jan 7 - 21, this might be the year to attend.

It's not looking good around here.  The Farmer's Almanac indicates warmer temps, but more than average precipitation. That means more back aches, and strained muscles.  The time to get out is NOW! Go, save yourself! The first snow is only 2-3 weeks away !

Monday, September 23, 2013

First Revision for Stealth Van 2

We all know van dwellings are an evolving way of life.  It took a number of tries before I got the old Chevy Express functional, and even to this day ideas pop into my head for things I should have done differently. Why should it be any different now that I've down-sized to a mini-van?

With two cross country trips under my belt this year in the new van, totaling some 8,000 plus miles, I was basically happy with the initial layout.  I did find some real issues that needed to be addressed, so read on and I'll show you my first revision that should make life a whole lot more comfortable for the next trip.

My first version gave me a storage area under the mattress that was about 4" deep.  My theory was good but the reality was tipping the mattress with the sheet of plywood under it was just more hassle than it was worth.  I toted a fair amount of weight along that served no purpose.  I found ways to do without the stuff stored rather than dig it out.

My fix for this problem was to remove the storage space that I had built into the bed frame.  This lowered the mattress down to floor level. Next I installed good strong legs to the bed frame, raising it 8-1/2" off the floor.  I had measured carefully to find a 6" rise still allowed me to sit full upright in bed.  Going to 8-1/2" means I can sit comfortable on the edge of the bed with my feet where they belong to put my shoes on.  I have to hunch over a bit to lay down, but once horizontal it's as comfy as can be.

I sacrificed that 2-1/2" of headroom to accommodate the next part of my upgrade. I installed 2 deep cycle batteries in plastic battery boxes, and a 1750 watt inverter.  All items I had from previous installations.  Isolated from the car's electrical system by means of a continuous duty solenoid, the "House"  electrical system charges from the car but cannot drain the car's battery.

Next, because there's all sorts of room under the bed, I plugged in a 700 watt microwave oven.  Now I can zip into a wayside rest, open a can of soup, nuke for 3 minutes, and lunch is served.  Much easier to control my diabetes when I stay out of the drive through's.

My first two trips confirmed for me that maintaining an assortment of canned goods is the easiest way to have a varied diet on hand.  No refrigeration needed, one can is usually just the right amount for one meal.

Next I added legs to the chuck wagon cook box. Now the work surface is at the right height for cooking and there is easy storage underneath for longer items like my folding table and lawn chair.

If I want to bring my folding cooking grill and cast iron dutch oven, I can make up a big batch of beef stew to keep the whole camp satisfied.  Better pack away a cast iron frying pan for a batch of corn bread to go with it.

Am I done now?  Nope, but I need to save up some money for the next step.  I'm planning on mounting at least one 100 watt solar panel on a set of roof racks.  Then possibly a 12 volt quality refrigerator.  Keeping cold drinking water and some fresh produce would make life on the road down right civilized.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

It's All About Bob!

Seems like a fitting title, after all his is the story the TV people seemed most interested in.  That's Bob and his dog Homer in the foreground.

Sadly I can't say we had any great conversations. Exploring the mobile life style in depth over our favorite beverages? Nope, never happened.

Everything I saw indicated Bob is a loner.  Kind of the persona often seen of one considered to be a guru. You know the type, a monk sitting silently on a ledge of a barren mountain. Loyal followers climbing to be in his presence and ask their questions.

OK, that's not fair. I just wasn't able to connect with him.  Of course, he was preoccupied.  Knowing the film crew was coming, and this was his chance for fame and fortune, he busied himself that first day of my stay with going through his rig tiding up.

How he can find anything in his heavily loaded van and cargo trailer amazes me.  If it's broken, he's got the tools to fix it.  That's his calling in life, to help those who can't.  That covers anything from installing solar panel systems to fixing mechanical breakdowns.

All I saw of the man was a hermit who spends much of his day in his cargo trailer home. Apparently on the internet, maintaining his blogs and keeping up correspondence with those in his inner circle.  His inner circle is more or less a universe as mine is a neighborhood.

Did Bob dress to impress?  Nope, the TV camera saw Bob, just as he is day to day.  Long hair, long beard, a bit disheveled.  Yep, that's Bob.

My impression of the man is a quiet, unassuming basically gentle person. Possibly shy, but mostly kept to himself.  Does anyone else but me see a conflict between this person and those seen on popular reality series?

I think he'll find some personal conflict with his chosen way of life if thrown into the fray of publicity and on screen demands.  I look at the current series "Tickle".  Last year it was a band of different moonshiners that made the series.  On season two the only remaining character is the drunken bum with the most off the wall personality and over the top screen presence.

Bob presents himself as a definite character by appearance.  A dramatic difference came forth once the TV people arrived.  His personality switched on. After all this was "All about Bob".  Will TV give any respectability to the mobile life style?  That's yet to be seen.

One thing for sure though, if it does succeed, life for Bob will never be the same.  I hope he realizes that.

Teresa, She's My Hero! With Others Of The Tribe

I came into camp, the stranger.  I had emailed Bob that I was coming.  Did he mention it to anyone else, I don't know.  After picking a spot to park my van, and making an effort to introduce myself to Bob, I was pretty much left standing alone.  Bob was in the middle of setting up his tarp for shade and seemed to have little time for pleasantry's.

Sitting alone, chasing a shady spot as the heat of afternoon was setting in, was Teresa.  She immediately invited me to pull up my lawn chair and join her.  We spent the first few hours chatting away, getting to know each other.

She too was new to the group,  having left Santa Barbara on a whim to see what all the fuss was about, concerning the TV filming.  New to the idea of Van Dwelling, Teresa is currently living in her car. Clearly a victim of the poor economic situation, compounded by the invisible age discrimination plague that affects anyone over the age of 50, Teresa is getting by as best she can while she explores and learns about the mobile lifestyle.

I like her spirit.  As is common these days. When life throws you a curve, you go to work trying to figure out your next move.  Not a negative thought in her mind, it's merely moving from plan A to plan B.  Been there, done that myself...A number of times.

Did her situation prevent her from reaching out to welcome me? Hardly! While the rest of the troupe were self involved, she extended her hand in friendship.  That fact won't be soon forgotten my friend.

There were three other members to the group who managed to avoid my camera lens.  Actually I chose to politely respect their privacy unless invited into their space.

Dan was another friendly, unassuming chap whom I enjoyed talking with.  He invited me inside his trailer, though I didn't have my camera in hand at the time.  An older, simple RV, that he had modified to suit his needs.  Solar panels on the roof, 12 volt chest refrigerator replacing the original propane model.

As I have done, the first thing removed was the original dinette.  Nothing but a space taker, when you're living in small quarters every inch counts.  The work he had done to date was well executed though not flashy.  His was a functional dwelling, most impressing me because it was spotlessly well organized.

Mike was in camp when I got there. And without notice, gone the next morning.  Another friendly sort, we talked around the campfire that first evening.  His travels supported by earnings from the stock market, he had all the latest electronics implemented in a standard white cargo van.  His disappearance being of no concern to the others, as this is his established pattern.

Judy also lives in a standard cargo van.  More of a private, kept to herself person, I didn't really get to know much about this lady.

Colvin arrived the second day of my stay.  He travels the country in a Chevy mini-van he picked up for $300.  Dan took great pride in telling me about him, because he had emailed Colvin about me and my van and invited him to join us.  Dan told how the inexpensive van was originally some gaudy color of purple, if I remember correctly. Colvin, wanting to blend into the forest more appropriately, repainted it with shaker cans a military olive drab.  He should add some black and browns to complete the camouflage treatment, making him practically invisible. What drew me to Colvin is he hails from Hayward WI, we're practically next door neighbors!

The Poet Among Us

Every group wouldn't be complete without their "Old Codger".  You know the type, he's been around the bend more times than you can count.  Knows all the in's and out's having traveled all over the country for decades rather than years.  Randy was another tribe member who will remain in my memory for a good while.

This is he, checking out the status of the bonfire, with his trailer and pickup in the background.  Randy's been on the road a long time.  Most of his life by what he tells.

Randy and I had some good conversation.  He really liked my rig, commenting on the comfort and orderliness of how it was laid out.  He, as was I, was most impressed by the 30 mpg, give or take, I had managed through most of my trip thus far.  His blog, Mobile Kodgers makes note of this with a picture of me and my van too.

The campfire gatherings would not have been as lively without Randy's ability to keep a party going.  His efforts to keep the stories flowing by asking such questions as "OK everyone, where is the farthest place you've been from this spot" kept everyone engaged and entertained?  I won that round having been stationed on the island of Guam when in the military.

Randy also has entertainer blood running through his veins.  He's a poet who has performed his art on a number of stages.  For the TV crew he performed one of his favorites,"The Dance of Testosterone".

Note the Hawaiian shirt.  Not unlike myself, he is a fan of this more casual attire.  I was impressed that both he and Laurie made the effort to put on their best bib and tucker for the TV filming.  He wore recently purchased (still blue) jeans and a similar shirt for his rendition of this poem at the bonfire for the camera.

Here's hoping our paths cross again sometime in the future my wandering troubadour friend.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Laurie, A Bird Of A Different Feather

My voyage to the Grand Canyon was one of exploration, of making new friends, of learning.  One of the more interesting people I met in this group of travelers was a lady named Laurie.  No, we didn't sit and talk at length. In fact my contact with her was relatively brief, but rather unforgettable.

As she prepared her nest for filming I was given a quick tour by one of the other members of the group.  I refer to her small Burro travel trailer as her nest for a number of reasons.  Her personality is one of a bird. Somewhat flitting about, always with a song on her heart.  She is an entertainer, heart and soul, she must perform for an audience.

I just found some of her videos she has uploaded to You Tube.  Because they are available for public viewing, I assume it gives me freedom to write about our encounter to some extent.  I truly hope she doesn't mind.

First I will show you her home that she refers to as the Casbah.  It will become immediately evident her favorite color is red.  Laurie's space is decorated to the point of excess, but then that's the beauty of being on a solo journey.  Each is able to express themself in their own way.  What's important to Laurie is how it should be.  

This next video is of her playing the song she wrote and performed at the bonfire the night of filming.  Of course I wasn't able to film it then, but I assure you the performance was moving and very enjoyable.

The story the song tells explains why life on the road is chosen, and gives perspective to a kind of freedom that is lost to civilization but is being found to the few who chose to follow a different path.

Laurie, you told me to pinch you at the parts of the song I enjoyed that night.  My Canadian heritage prevents me from being ever so forward.  Just know, the song was heart felt and meaningful.  You are a free spirit, flying with the wind.  I'm glad I met you.

Why I Write...As Examined At 3:00 A.M.

I laid in bed this morning thinking about how different writers have different styles about what they lay down on a page.  You would have thought I'd be more interested in sleeping at 3 AM, but no, sometimes you just give it up and go to the computer.

Recently I've started following the blogs of two other gentlemen who live full time on the road.  The first writes most often about his philosophy of different matters concerning living in a van.  His monologue has been referred to as a sermon, and in fact, by his own admission, he at one time was being schooled in theology for just that purpose.

The second gentleman is a collector of facts and stories from his past.  When he writes of a town, the history of the area and the colorful characters he's interacted with come front and center on the page.

That's the interesting thing about writing, no two people will put what they want to say down in identical manners.  Mary reads mystery books, maintaining lists of authors she's particularly fond of. Not unlike blog readers, she faithfully follows along as the authors churn out one novel after another.

Myself I notice the old fashioned diary, or journal, best describes what seems significant enough to warrant my recording.  My Father documented a good portion of his life during the Great Depression, as he and his Mother traveled throughout the west.  Lack of opportunities, and poor health, required them to move on often in the old Model T inherited when my Grandfather passed on.  Being dirt poor can provide much in the way of interesting stories as you find imaginative ways of just living day to day.

My maternal Grandfather was a history writer.  Researching and documenting St. John's Cathedral in Winnipeg Manitoba. His efforts recorded it's history as the first church of the Church of England in Western Canada.  Currently existing in it's third reincarnation, I've visited this interesting old church and walked through the cemetery where he and a number of my ancestors lay.  He wrote a number of books and was also a regular contributor to the Winnipeg Free Press with articles about the history of street names in the city.

I write about my everyday life.  What I'm doing or planning in the moment seems to best suit my need to clutter up a page with words.  Is there a Pulitzer prize in my future? I seriously doubt it.  Just the satisfaction that a few people have found what I say interesting enough to sign on as followers.

The director of the film crew I interacted with at the Grand Canyon made an interesting comment that struck me as probably accurate.  They like working with Americans because generally they're more open and spontaneous than the Canadians.  Our friends north of the border are more reserved, or proper, and hold back when placed in front of a camera.  The Brits are considered "stuffy", another version of the same issue.

Being half Canadian, and thinking on the matter, I realized he had hit the nail on the head.  Cutting loose, so to speak just doesn't come natural to me.  I'm way more inclined to hold back for fear of loosing the respect of those around me.  An often stated quote, "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt", strikes me as very appropriate in most situations.

For today, this is my journal entry.  I could have written about taking my Dodge van back to the dealership to have parts installed that were ordered last week.  Borrrring!  Or maybe about the turning weather that is likely to ruin the tomatoes still clinging to the vine at the cabin.  Neither very enticing subjects, but that's about all that's going on in my life at this moment.

Instead I chose to look inward, examining where the words come from, what their purpose is.  My little piece of philosophy if you will.  So be honest, did you find it interesting enough to make it to the bottom of the page?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Grand Canyon...The Movie!

OK, I'm no professional film editor.  In fact, beyond short clips, this is my first attempt at creating a short film.  Fortunately I have an excellent subject matter to work with.  The Grand Canyon is the most awe inspiring location I've visited in many years.

The one thing everyone who's visited the Grand Canyon will agree on.  Pictures just don't do it justice.

I took all kinds of shots, stopped at every overlook.  Sure the pictures look decent, but nowhere close to what the experience was like in real time.

I'm afraid I have no magic to take you there in person.  The best I can do is take my collection of short clips and compile them into a 10 minute video.  There is no need for narration, the view speaks for itself.

All I need to say is kick back, put this on full screen view, and hit the play button.


What To Do With Left Over Ham? Homemade Ham Spread!

A few months back I bought a cheap ham because I'm the only one in the house that eats pork.  Not being one to eat high on the hog...pardon the pun, the low price was the determining factor in this dinner for one.

I was a bit disappointed upon cutting the first slice to find this was a ham loaf. Made up of bits and pieces, it had little resemblance to any pig I've ever seen. The one meal was enough for me, so the remainder went into the freezer to become yet another mausoleum of mystery meat.

Back a few years ago I splurged and bought myself a high power Kitchen Aid stand mixer. Included in the sale was my choice of one of three possible attachments to expand the usefulness of my most expensive kitchen utensil. I chose the meat grinder, which has since sat unopened in the back of the cupboard.

Brilliant ray of sunshine... This weekend an idea came to me, why not make some ham spread!

It took a good hour to locate the meat grinder. Hidden behind an organizer containing cleaning supplies, I didn't see it until getting right down on hands and knees looking for the third time.

The actual execution of my plan was very simple.  Cut the ham loaf into strips, and feed it into the machine. Once a quantity amounting to about 2 cups was deposited into the bowl under the grinder I added a good squirt of pickle relish, and small amount of diced onion, and a good sized dollop of Miracle Whip.

As you can tell by my description the portions can be adjusted to your own taste.

As the picture indicates I could hardly wait to chow down.  Add a couple garden fresh tomatoes, sprinkled with a liberal amount of salt, and lunch was ready.  This is a great way to make use of any meat leftovers.  I remember as a kid being served ground up left over pot roast with gravy over mashed potatoes.  I think that meat grinder is going to be useful after all.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Used Can Mean A Work In Progress!

Recently I bought a 9 yr old Jeep to tow my travel trailer.  Yes it was a solid used car, but no it wasn't perfect.  I'm not a perfectionist, but I do like my rides to look as good as possible.  Back about 15  years ago I bought a very low mileage 1987 Pontiac Fiero that was in near perfect condition.  The only flaw was the little red plastic Pontiac emblem on the drivers side post.  It was discolored and cracked like an old oil painting.

With the car being more than 10 years old, finding a replacement meant visiting a number of auto scrap yards, wandering through 100's of other makes and models, and hoping upon finding the rare emblem that I could remove it without damaging it.

The flaws that bothered me with this new to me Jeep included a half dozen lugnuts that were missing their chrome covers, a missing cup holder insert, and one vacant wheel center hub insert.  Just enough to bug me to no end.

The final flaw was a good sprinkling of bright yellow center line road marking paint splattered from front to back on both sides.  Luckily this damage was only on the lower plastic panels, saving the painted finish from my less than talented assault.

The internet came to my rescue for the assorted missing or damaged incidentals.  With very little searching Ebay had all the parts headed to my mailbox for less than $50 total.  No walking through muddy junk yards these days, my mouse finger did the walking for me.

A paint scraper, and vibrating sander took the paint speckles off the plastic and a coat of plastic restorer picked up at Kmart brought back the shine.

Of course it's not a new car by any means.  It's just a clean, used 4x4 that should serve me well.  Now it just looks complete and appreciated too.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Grow Your Own Basil And Celery

Picture this, your cruising the aisles at the supermarket.  Homemade margarita pizza sounds like a good plan for supper.  Fresh Basil is the key ingredient most home pantry's just don't have.  Without it your pizza isn't going to amount to much.  OK, it's a bit pricey, $2.99 for a small handful of leafs but without it, no pizza.

Naturally an hour later your spouse calls, "Lets go out for Chinese".  Before you know it the pizza's forgotten, the fresh herbs get lost in the back of the fridge, and by the end of the week you find those fresh leafs all dried and shriveled and headed for the garbage.

Basil is just about the easiest thing to grow, smells delicious as a house plant, and when left growing in the windowsill will always be there ready for your next culinary experiment.  Not too long ago I made my first batch of pesto and we had pesto pasta with shrimp.  Mmmm good!

This bowl full of basil was planted a few months back.  I've harvested twice for the pizza and pasta, but it just keeps growing.  I think it actually grows faster when you use it.

Now onto that Chinese takeout.  Chow mien is one of our favorite homemade dishes.  The main ingredient is celery, both tasty and healthy for you.  Nothing like getting your fiber and home grown means no insecticides too.  Celery fluctuates in price throughout the year and according to growing conditions in far off places.  For sure it seems to get more expensive every time I look for it.

The next time you buy a stalk of celery cut and save the stump.  Place it in a bowl of water and just watch it regrow!  No special effort, I made some cuts across the base to promote water to the roots.

Once it gets larger I plan on potting it and growing it in the windowsill as well.  So far the color of the new growth is a darker, lusher green.  I expect the regrowth celery will also improve the flavor under these ideal conditions.

Once the stalks grow to normal size you can harvest only what you need for a meal and let the rest continue growing.  Beats having half the stalk wilt away in the vegetable drawer of your fridge because you already ate chow mien once this week.  Just a couple hints to improve the quality of the food you eat.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Collections From Your Travels

Back years ago when I was driving truck cross country for a living, whenever I passed through a new state I made a point of picking up a souvenir spoon for the Mrs. back home.  After a couple years she had this wicker basket full of little plastic cases that just took up room in the closet.  Sure it was a nice thought, but realistically it was a waste of money buying trinkets of no real value or meaning.

Years ago I was a driver for a retirement community.  There was a gentleman living there who collected photos of county courthouses.  Texas is a big state with diverse architecture ranging from classic stone to modern contemporary.  Whenever he got wind of a new courthouse going up he was off and running to document the occasion.

I liked his reasoning.  It was a good excuse to travel now and then, but didn't leave him with a ton of worthless junk hiding in the closet. I've taken up a collection that follows his simple guidelines.

I collect water towers.  Municipal necessities that dot the landscape pretty much where ever you  go.  The idea came to me last summer on a trip to Minneapolis by way of hwy 35 going south through Wisconsin. Passing in and out of a long list of small towns, a water tower shaped like a tea kettle caught my eye.

Traffic caused me to hesitate pulling over, so I just told myself we would stop on the return trip.  Naturally we didn't return by the same route, so it was a photo opt missed.   Now the camera sits at the ready on the front seat.  Often I can snap a quick picture while I continue to drive by.  No real effort on my part and I have the start of some interesting efforts to make what is a needed public utility more of a landmark worthy of remembering.

The first picture on this page is taken at York Nebraska.  Looking much like a hot air balloon, their water tower is located at the exit ramp leading into town.

The Old Time water tower in the next shot is actually neither old or intended to supply water to a town.  The vertical arrow advertises a casino located next door.  Both the casino and the water tower were built in the styles of days gone buy.  Looking like a barn yard setting fits well into the surrounding corn fields.  Something Iowa has plenty of.

A more common site is the standard smiley face with the name of the town running vertical down the stem.  One wayside rest at the edge of a town used the long blade of a windmill from the local wind farm as a marker of sorts with the name of the town also running vertical down the blade.  I wondered if it was spare parts storage for the wind farm, as there were hundreds of windmills slowly churning away across the horizon.

We're heading out again  next month following the Mississippi.  I'm planning on getting a shot of the tea pot tower on that voyage.  For sure, I'll pull over whenever I see a tower that makes a statement from here on out.