Monday, November 20, 2017

Great Lakes--Broken Lines

If you haven’t seen the roughly 25-minute film called “Great Lakes—Broken Lines,” you may wish to take a look at it.  It is not only a beautiful and enjoyable film, but it carries a critically important message.  While the group ‘For The Love of Water’ biked, climbed, paddled, and sailed part of the Great Lakes country by land and sea, the message was told about how this world’s largest accumulation of clear, pristine, fresh water could be destroyed for decades, perhaps generations, by the failure of a sixty-year-old oil pipeline that carries 230-million gallons of oil a day through this fragile environment.  The owners of Line 5, Enbridge Energy Partners, built the line with a life expectancy of 50 years.  The line has exceeded its service life by a decade, and still Enbridge makes it plain they have no intention or plans for replacing it.  The film hopes to bring attention to the importance of protecting the area from the risk of an oil line failure, while also calling for people to force Enbridge and the State of Michigan to adhere to the safety standards that are in place, but are being ignored and violated.  Here’s the link to Vimeo:

Friday, November 17, 2017

My Other Ride

My favorite three rides are the green Mohawk Odyssey 14 Royalex for
the occasional bumpy, rough river ride, the yellow Superior Expedition decked
canoe for long trips,...
and the 14-ft. Hornbeck Adirondack Kevlar pack canoe.  Their
weights respectively are 57, 78, and 25 pounds.

But, when time and weather don't allow me to get away for
some paddling, I enjoy my other ride.

I have the Specialized Expedition, and Jean has an Electra Townie.  When
we got the bike rack, the people we purchased it from wanted to
send them a picture once we had it installed.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Back to School

Buffalo Gal and Ibi on the Canton ramp ready to go.

We were forecast to have a severe storm hit us at 3a.m., so between that and the temperature rising along with the humidity, I had given up the tent finally in favor of a night in the air conditioning.  During the night, we had lightning, moderate rain, and wind, but much of the storm must have either fizzled out or passed us by.

James and Maggie in the Micmac.  This was the common English
spelling of the Indigenous tribe from Northeast Maine until the 1980's.
They have since preferred Mi'kmaq.  Anyhow, the canoe is still
going strong after 39 years.

The morning was beautiful, though the temps were to rise well into the 90’s.  (This post obviously has lingered since mid-August.)  The lake was calm.  Our son was to come down and join his daughters for our second day of paddling.  James was bringing the Micmac stripper canoe I built back in the summer of 1974.  He and Maggie would tandem the 17-ft. Micmac, Lucie would take her second day in the 15-ft. Mohawk Odyssey, and I would paddle my 17-ft 9-in Superior Expedition “Ibi.”  It was a day paddle, but we took plenty of water and a cooler of sandwiches.  The lake remained calm as we paddled to the headwaters.  We were going to continue around the north end of Canton Lake, but we rafted in some reeds to have lunch together.  While we ate, the breeze filled from the south, so I told James that we may want to be cautious about how far we went, as all the way back would be against the wind and waves.  After we emptied the cooler, James concurred that maybe we’d better work our way back up wind.

Maggie enjoys a sandwich after we had run into the reeds to raft for lunch.

It was only Lucie’s second day in the Mohawk with a double-blade paddle.  Since she was paddling solo, she was the one we were most concerned about, though we needn’t have bothered.  While she complained a couple times about her arms getting tired, she was resolute and plodded on.  I recommended she use more waist rather than arm muscles, put her paddle behind her neck to stretch the tired muscles, and to paddle closer to the shore and reeds to escape some of the wind and waves.  I was very proud of how she carried through, and told her so when we got back.  Once back at the campsite, Jean cooled us down with iced tea, then iced fruit smoothies, and James and I capped it off with an ice-cold beer apiece.

All rafted together in a stand of reeds.

James shortly had to leave---the never-ending fast-paced life of a writer.  Jean went on to do Thai chicken over charcoal.  The chicken was seasoned with peanut butter, soy sauce, and garlic.  That was fantastic, and was kept company by beans and rice and a tossed salad.  Jean likes to tell the story about a particular tailgate party while James was a midshipman at the Naval Academy.  Jean did this Thai chicken as shish kibobs and we had a never-ending line of midshipmen scarfing them down as fast as they could be cooked.  I jokingly always add that middies will eat anything that doesn’t outrun them.


As our last night, it was nice and quiet.  I took down the tent and dried it out, and we listened to the bird serenades: orioles, yellow finches, mockingbirds, herons, egrets, and several roadrunners.  The menagerie was complimented with several large rabbits running around, and raccoons.  

Day 7:
We were awakened this morning by the sound of rolling thunder.  At least it was cool, a true blessing of 73-degrees for the middle of August.  It was time for us to break camp again, and time for the girls to head home to get ready for the opening of school tomorrow.


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Canton Day 5: Pancake Day

Lucie, swinging a double-blade Bending Branches Slice Solo Canoe Paddle
There were no storms last night, and I got my first full night’s sleep in a comfortable 72-degrees.  I started the morning slowly.  I was awakened first by the sun at 7a.m.  There were then a couple large, loud, raucous, screaming birds directly over my tent to make sure the day had begun.  Once they had guaranteed I wasn’t going to roll over and doze off again, they took off and went about their business.  In their place, I could hear a swarm of humming, buzzing insects that must have numbered ah---well, you know, a swarm.  Soon they also drifted off.  I was then left with the sweetest chittering and twittering of small birds in the cedars behind the tent.  Opening the tent to identify them would likely scare them off, so I just laid back and enjoyed the concert. 
With the rear windows of the trailer open, I could also hear Jean moving about in the galley.  It was 8a.m. when I rolled out of the tent.  With all the commotion coming from the galley, I had anticipation of at least coffee being ready.  She saw me walking down the hill and came out to meet me.  Ah!  Maybe that means breakfast is ready.  Instead she said, “Did you sleep well?”  Without a pause for a response, she continued, “The holding tanks are full and need to be emptied.”  No coffee, no breakfast, just holding tanks full of sh--- , and I haven’t even been using the facilities in the RV, and we haven’t used the on-board shower. 
After breaking everything down and hauling the camper to the dump station, I found a kindred spirit in a neighbor when I returned.  Alvin, our next door camper, walked out to the driveway with a wry smile on his face.  I stopped to say good morning, but he greeted me instead with, “Ah, been off to empty the tanks, huh?”  To his chuckle he added, “I emptied ours yesterday, and then the kids came by last night.  Now I have to go dump them again.  Kids have absolutely no concept of water, what it is, or how to manage it.”  They were apparently lavishing themselves with long, drawn-out showers.  It can always be worse, I guess is the message to myself. 
Once I was done with setting everything back up again, Jean was back from her two hour trip home to take care of her birds and cats.  Then, finally, we got to think about breakfast, or brunch.  With pancakes, blueberries, bacon, and at long last, coffee, it was a breakfast, or brunch, worth waiting for. 
Going from parent to grandparent doesn’t change anything except the stress is greater, the patience is shorter, and the frustration is that much stronger.  God doesn’t have children being born to young parents for any reason other than they are physically and emotionally more flexible and adaptable.  If the wisdom that comes with experience was critical in the equation, we wouldn’t be having kids until we reach age 60, but obviously the flexibility of youth trumps wisdom hands down.  I have had mixed results with trying to get the granddaughters interested in paddling---some great times, but also some catastrophes.  After the last foray out with the girls, I threw my hands in the air and swore, “That’s it.  I’m never taking them in the canoes again.  I just can’t handle the stress, the yelling, the fights.”  Finally I cooled enough to reason that I could stick with only taking one out at a time—personal time, me and her, and thus end the sibling battles.  Today was Lucie’s day.  She had the 15-ft. Mohawk Odyssey and single-blade paddle.   After a failed attempt to teach her proper paddle strokes, I traded her single-blade for my double-blade, and she did much better.  If she learned to enjoy paddling, she would then have the motivation to learn more technical paddle strokes.  Until then, she could just have a good time and enjoy herself.  With no sister along to stir the sibling rivalry pot, we both just enjoyed ourselves. 
The lake is surrounded with riprap.  So even though the air was calm and the water flat, I had to keep reminding her that the shore is not her friend.  It would grind both her and the canoe up and spit them out in pieces.  She needed to paddle well away from the shore in open water.  Once she could handle the boat comfortably, she could then close with the shore and enjoy paddling through the reeds and constricted channels.  With a few pointers, she continued to improve, and after a couple more hours, was managing tracking and maneuvering with great confidence.  In the end, she said she enjoyed the boat and had a great time.  Any way you cut it, that’s a win.

Canoeing for a smile.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Day 4 and a Test

Okay, so we finally got out of town for a few days, got the canoe wet, enjoyed some nature and wildlife, and that brings me back to this eternal question that way too many people seem to be incapable of figuring out.  I know you folks who share the love of nature get this, so I'm preaching to the choir, but how the heck to we get people to understand the importance of protecting the beauty and careful balance of nature?  So which is natural, was put there by nature and belongs there, and which doesn't occur there naturally and was discarded by some mindless, careless, slob that couldn't dispose of his own trash properly?  Gee, I wonder.

Back to our story, after I left the tent about 7a.m., I got the trash out of the RV and carried it up to the dumpsters.  When I opened the lid to drop the bag in, there sat a raccoon gazing back at me.  I made my deposit and then closed the lid.  I left him inside to keep the bin from filling with rain water.  With a couple layers of trash bags on the floor of the dumpster, he was dry and should have plenty to eat.  If the rain stopped later, I’d go back and check on him and let him out.  (I did return, and he was gone.)

Jean and the girls were still sleeping in the RV, while I was on the hill behind our campsite in the tent.  The storm hit at 2:45a.m.  It raged for a couple hours, but then settled into a heavy rain that continued all night.  I had sealed the tent seams, but a couple stitches still wept, so I guess I have to do them again.  At any rate, this time the weeping ran down the inside of the fly, so I still stayed dry. 

We have a covered picnic table, which would have been real nice had we not failed to notice that the concrete pad is a couple inches below ground level.  This gives us a cold-water pool immediately off the RV steps, so we have to tip-toe down the exposed edge of the asphalt driveway.  There was never a time when we were confined to the trailer all day, so we still got out for a few walks, and did plenty of reading.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Death with Dignity

Credit: Google Images
This will be a slight break in our camping/paddling story to handle a bit of current events.  We just came home from having to have a cat put down.  If there is any indication of anger in this post, I’ll confess up front that I’m filled with anger and rage.  I’m pissed. 
When Jean did her wildlife rehab work, not every story had a happy ending.  In fact, most didn’t, since many times by the time we got them, the animals had suffered for prolonged periods from pain, stress, starvation, debilitating to lethal physical injury, dehydration, or any combination of the above.  One owl hung upside-down in an ice storm, and was literally frozen to the barbed wire fence it got tangled in causing a wing injury.  It hung there for two days before a farmer, assuming it was already dead, went to investigate.  In spite of its poor start, this turned out to be one of Jean’s greatest success stories.  Part of her success also belonged to our local vet, who helped at his own expense.  But what happens if no effort or expense can produce a positive outcome?  Such was the case with this kitten.  The reality that nothing more could be done finally made it obvious that a gentle, humane death was needed to avoid further and increasing suffering.  So, we took the kitten to the vet to have her put down by lethal injection. 
I watched the cat as it quietly and comfortably went to sleep.  The only thing it would know of its demise was a small injection under the skin that it would barely feel.  It would slowly drop off into a relaxed sleep.  Not unlike anyone undergoing surgery, it would not know or feel what followed.  It was only after it was incapable of knowing anything about what was happening, while it was asleep, that the fatal injection that would stop its heart was administered.  
What pissed me off was not that this was needed for the cat, and that the cat was entitled to a humane and quiet end to its suffering, but that humans are denied the same peaceful and dignified end.  The policy of euthanasia, or right to die, has become known as ‘death with dignity’ in political circles.  The move to get this personal right legalized has been fiercely fought by conservative Republicans and evangelical Christians on the premise of sanctity of life.  This is the most distorted and hypocritical position possible.  The politicians, especially, deny pre-natal care to the mother and fetus.  Once the child is born, they deny funding for most health care, food for the starving, child care, education, housing and more.  The sanctity of life extends only while the infant is in the womb.  Before or after, for the rest of its life, it is on its own.  But what if it is incurably sick or infirm?  There is no provision for ending its suffering except to put it into a coma and keep it there. 
If you want death with dignity, you have to qualify for it, and in many states where the Republicans and evangelicals hold sway, you also have to fight for it through the courts for months, or maybe years.  To join those who qualify for a humane and dignified death you have to be a mass murderer, serial sociopath of some other type, perhaps someone like Jeffrey Dahmer, who kidnapped and sexually attacked neighborhood young people, then murdered them, cut them up, cooked and ate them for dinner.  Such people, who have caused no end of suffering to their victims, their families, and society at large, are granted the most gentle and humane death granted by the state: lethal injection, the same method used on the kitten. 
A neighbor of ours did not qualify for death with dignity.  He was a responsible worker, husband, father, and not a mass murderer, so he did not qualify for humane consideration.  His only option was to be starved to death.  Liquid was administered to prevent dehydration, but no food or nutrition was permitted.  He lay like that for over three weeks as his body got weaker and weaker, and then his organs slowly failed one by one as they died individually from lack of sustenance until finally his heart joined the list.  Meanwhile, the exorbitant hospital bills sapped the ability of his survivors to provide for their own existence as they sat and daily watched him weaken and fade away as he starved to death.  We have been shown that the brain continues to function through unconsciousness, coma, and even after death for a while, so while the ‘patient’ may not be exhibiting signs of his or her pain and suffering, they are nevertheless experiencing it themselves.  A mass murderer is treated with humane care, while a responsible husband and father is starved to death while his family watches.  There is no sanctity there, and I refuse to believe any God would wish to cause such suffering.  Such a God could be no God at all unless his aim was to sanctify pain and suffering.  We need to stop rewarding the guilty and persecuting the innocent. 

Monday, October 16, 2017

Red, Red, Everywhere

L-R: Maggie, me, Lucie, at Big Bend
We had a pair of bright orange and black orioles plucking bugs off the hill behind our campsite; (hopefully spiders), a couple rabbits, and a very diligent hummingbird.  The hummer first came to check out the red crossbeams of my canoe rack.  Then Jean strung a red, white, and blue star-studded bunting under the picnic table canopy, and the hummer returned and seemed to check every red star in its 10-ft. length.  She then ran two strings of red, white, and blue lighted stars, and the third day the poor frustrated bird returned to check out each red star.  Unfortunately for its poor body and soul, in all that clutter of red, not a single blossom or hummingbird feeder.
It was too windy for a campfire, but I got charcoals burning in the grill so the girls could do s’mores after dinner.
I was able to be of service during the day today.  The couple in the site next to us found themselves in a bad way.  John is 84, and they still have a huge fifth-wheel camper that is a bit more than they can handle.  He made a bad turn and either pulled a muscle in his back, or as he surmised from the noise he heard, perhaps injured a rib.  The one thing he knew for certain was he was in a lot of pain and having trouble walking or moving.  They were supposed to be at the campground another five days, but decided they needed to get home.  I got his trailer on his truck and put away the chocks, hoses, power cord, and accessories.  I offered, and came as close as I could, to insisting on driving them and the rig home, since they live only an hour and a half away.  He wouldn’t hear of it, and assistance is only of value as long as it’s accepted.  He said the truck was comfortable enough, and that as soon as he got behind the wheel, he’d be fine.  His wife’s concern was getting him home in time to get him to a doctor.  Once he was all loaded, off they went out the drive.
I thought the horrid weather forecast for the weekend would keep people away.  I’m sure it did to a degree, but here they came nonetheless with screaming kids and loud stereo systems.  Whatever happened to the idea of getting away from everything?  Now they just come and bring everything with them.  The sound of slamming doors was continuous.  Quiet time supposedly starts at l0p.m.  Most of the din was contained by eleven, which is better than some I’ve encountered.  I guess I finally drifted off to the sound of the wind in the cottonwoods at about midnight.