Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Night in Canton Canyon

It used to be Canton Lake, but with no water, it’s just a big, wide hole. Nevertheless, it seemed like a place to get away from the recliner and TV for a day and get some use out of the camping gear. After a few chores, it was afternoon before arriving at the Canadian Campground along the North Canadian River.. Camping is free during the winter, as there are no amenities. The water is off, and all the buildings are locked. It’s the irony of primitive camping in an established Corps of Engineers park.

After the tornado, this is all that's left of a healthy forest.
The primary thing to be found in the park now is construction. This is the park that was destroyed a couple years ago by a massive tornado. While area B is open, all of area A, which was destroyed, is closed off as new restroom facilities and campsites are being built. Other than there being no trees in the new area, it does look like it is going to be great, and the new restrooms are of the new tornado-proof type. One old cinderblock bathhouse was where all the campers huddled together when hell broke loose. There wasn’t anything left but a portion of a wall and a couple toilet stalls, but everyone in there survived.

A number of mobile homes, campers, and cottages were swept into
oblivion.  Walking along the lake shore we found pieces of broken
knick-knacks and, here, a pice of kitchen vinyl flooring still attached
to a section of sub-flooring.
At the other end of the park, a huge reconstruction project is underway on the dam and spillway area, along with a new bridge and road project. I discounted the importance of this work area, but was to pay for my mistake. On the plus side, I had the entire camping area to myself. On the other hand, generators and other machinery ran all night. I didn’t mind the floodlights so much, but there was an incredible level of racket. I was just about accustomed to this when about 2:30 a.m., a high-speed pile driver commenced from another area with obvious intentions to continue the rest of the night. Of a more expected nature, however, other sounds that filled most of the night involved two packs of coyotes, one hunting along the stream at the lake bottom, and the other working through the park area. I had just dozed off when a branch came out of a nearby tree and crashed on the ground. I looked at my watch to find it was 6:30. One of our family traditions is having pancakes on Sunday morning, so I climbed out, threw all the gear in the back of the truck, and headed home. It was time to make the pancakes.  
With the lake water gone, the only thing the dam holds
up now are road pavement and guardrails.  This was dawn
as seen from the top of Canton dam.
The night was a rare 40-deg F. By the next night the polar front would be back in place with frigid temps and 40-mph winds.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Branson Belle Show

The Showboat Branson Belle
Now we come to the last aspect of the Branson Belle we'll bring you, the show itself. It wasn’t just a performance, but it was indeed about showmanship. By this I mean that those on stage were not just great musicians, but had to combine a great degree of showmanship with their music. For example, Dean Church, the fiddler, not only made great music, but did so while playing the violin between his legs, on his back, behind his back, and while riding a unicycle.

Our view of the stage during dinner.

Mike Bliss opened the show as master of ceremonies. For the other water-rats in the audience besides me, Mike opened the show by featuring the Branson Belle herself. A sight and sound presentation was done on her construction, powering, launching, and operation.

The ShowBelles and the Castaways.
Behind him was the stage set, and it took some time to realize the band was behind the set, in round “sound holes” that were covered with screen, so you couldn’t even tell the performers were there until a spotlight hit them just right. The piano was in the middle, with the other four musicians in the other corners of the set. Each musician, not content to play one instrument, was surrounded by an assortment of instruments that they would pick up as a the music required. To keep with the nautical theme, the musicians were the Castaways Band.

Dean Church
Then The ShowBelles, four singing dancers high-stepped their way across the stage, making several appearances.
Julie McClarey, pianist, was extremely talented, and, keeping with the theme, not only made great music, but contorted herself around to play from every posture possible. The picture here is of her kneeling with her back to the piano, her arms wrapped around her neck, as she played backwards, performing, incredibly, Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumblebee.

The Salute to America and the Troops
Our time aboard was fast-paced, and the time was jammed with activity and entertainment. Anyone that has spent any time in the service industry would have been fascinated by how 700 people were served each course of dinner almost simultaneously. In short, there was no aspect of the afternoon that wasn’t choreographed with the greatest detail and efficiency.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Table Rock Lake

Table Rock Lake, in Southwest Missouri, is the magnate that attracts all the points of interests, shows, and commerce of Branson.  It would be a great paddling destination.  The lake has a 745-mile long shoreline at normal levels, covers 43,100 acres of surface, and a depth of 200-feet.  Even in a brutal year like this one, I'm told that there is so much water that it doesn't freeze unless you venture up into one of the fine fingers.  It takes such a lake to support the use of a vessel like the Paddle-wheel Showboat Branson Belle.

The landing is recreated from a hundred years ago, and McAdoo Boatworks sets the stage for you to step aboard a paddle-wheeler just as Mark Twain would have done.

McAdoo's Boatworks and Landing

We were lucky to catch the last of the autumn foliage.

An island in mid-lake.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Paddle-Wheeler Branson Belle

The Showboat Branson Belle as seen from her wharf.
If you’re looking for a good use for that tax return that you won’t regret, I’d like to offer a visit to Branson, Mo, and the Showboat Branson Belle. This, of course, assumes you’re one of the lucky ones that gets a return. The ladies will love the fancy dining and show, but being a life-long water rat, I loved the steamboat. I tried to be sociable, but since Jean had her brother and sister-in-law to socialize with, I found myself occasionally venturing off to explore the ship. Here, I can now share what I learned on my trips around the decks.

The Belle's stern and paddle-wheels through some fall foliage.
The Branson Belle is the largest showboat operated on the nation’s inland waters. She is 278-feet long, 78-feet of beam, 112-feet high to the top of the stacks, draws 7.5-feet, and weighs in at 1,250-tons. The Belle was built right on the shore of Table Rock Lake, at what they locally call White River Landing. Launched on August 12, 1995, the vessel was then christened and put in service April 13, 1995. One of the more interesting aspects of her introduction surrounds her launch. Normally the launching slipways that slide a ship into the water are greased. Originally tallow or whale oil were used, but then petroleum greases were employed. Not wanting to pollute a pristine inland lake, they ordered many cases of biodegradable bananas to mash and spread over the slipways. The banana lubricant provided a 9-second slide that reached 14-mph, a speed greater than she would attain under her own power.

Branson Belle's wheelhouse, bridge wing, and stacks.
Seeing the archival pictures below will show clearly
why steamboat stacks were always so tall.
The showboat is propelled by twin paddle wheels that are 16-feet wide and an impressive 24-feet in diameter. A really nice feature is that they can be operated independently, one forward, and one in reverse, to help maneuver on and off the wharf or augment the rudders.

While the Branson Belle was able to fly at 14mph on the slipways, its normal cruising speed is 6-mph. Full speed is 11-mph, but during trials they wanted to see what she was capable of, and called for full-ahead, or flank speed. They were doing over 12-mph, but the paddle wheels were creating such a rooster-tail, that water was being flung up so high it was drenching the top deck.

A steady flow of white water left by the paddle-wheels.
The ship’s helm is of solid maple, and 10-feet 2-inches in diameter. Before the age of hydraulics, ships’ wheels had to be huge to generate enough torque to control the ship through adverse winds and currents. Because of their size, wheels were normally set in a well in the deck of the wheelhouse, or even through the deck. The Branson Belle’s wheel is a real trophy that was recovered from the Steamboat C. C. Slider and restored. The Slider was an interesting vessel in its own right.

Capt. Bobby Clifton at the helm of Branson Belle.  Blogger
is having a tantrum and not allowing me to enlarge the pictures,
but you can do the same by clicking the image.
The C.C. Slider was built in 1928 by the Midland Barge Company, of Midland, PA. It is unique in that it was a paddle-wheel push-boat. It was built for E. T. Slider, Inc., of Louisville, KY, for operation primarily on the Ohio River. and named for Chester C. Slider, E.T.’s son. She was obviously a much revered vessel, for the original master, Captain Ed Hauser, of Jeffersonville, was on her from her launch in 1928 until his death in 1941, and she had only one other master according to the record. She was eventually broken up in 1952.

The wheel on the bridge of the C.C. Slider
Credit: New Albany-Floyd Co. Public Library
I’m much indebted to Ms Nancy Strictland, of the Stuart B. Wrege Indiana History Room of the New Albany-Floyd County Public Library. They hold the archival copyrights to the C.C. Slider pictures, and she granted me permission to use the Slider wheel photo. I didn’t wish to inconvenience her further, but if you access or cut and paste the link below, you can see a number of pictures of the Slider in its glory. Click any of the photos to enlarge. The C.C. Slider is unique, and a vital part of history, and seeing her work huge rafts of loaded coal barges is more than impressive.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Paddle/Camping Photo

Buddy, my 14-ft. ultra-lite Hornbeck, on the shore
of Lake Watonga, Roman Nose State Park.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Glass Mountains Revisited

We had family visiting from the East Coast, and we served as tour guides for a few local sights.  Perhaps you will also enjoy some of the vistas.  If nothing else, they will help you understand why I have to travel so bloody far to go paddling.

This is red dirt country, parched, cracked, and unforgiving.
You have to have respect for those able to survive here.
Here is what has to be one of the best justifications for good penmanship, the Glass Mountains. Located about six miles west of Orienta, on Hwy. 412, (NW Oklahoma) they’re really not mountains at all, but mesas or buttes that rise 150 to 200 feet above the prairie floor. This is arid country where hawks glide overhead during the day, and coyotes prowl at night. Almost anytime, the rattle or scurry in the brush is a rattlesnake. Except for the small state park next to the highway, the deep arroyos are devoid of humanity even today except for an occasional cattleman or gas and oil field worker. The solitude of the mesas made them ideal hideouts for outlaws that stole horses and hijacked travelers and wagons.

Vegetation that struggles through the drought.
Gen. Phil Sheridan established a semi-permanent camp here during the Indian conflicts of 1870, which became known as Sheridan’s Roost. Nathan Boone, Daniel Boone’s son, worked as an explorer and surveyor of the new Louisiana Purchase for the federal government and described the buttes. In 1873, T.H. Barrett was working with a survey party camped near the hills. He stepped from his tent to view the rising sun sparkling off the selenite crystals in the mesas and wrote in his journal that they looked like glass mountains, and so they were named in the resulting maps. Two years later a new map came out of the federal land office with them labeled Gloss Mountains because the draftsman thought the ‘a’ looked more like an ‘o’. So, you can drive down the road and see a sign for the Glass Mountains, followed by a sign for the Gloss Mountains. You’ll pick up a tourist brochure for the Glass Mountains, or maybe the Gloss Mountains. Poor penmanship has led to a disagreement of what to call these hills for nearly 140 years.
Looking out across the prairie from atop a butte.
As I mentioned above, this has always been a great hideout for outlaws, and that hasn't changed.  Two prisoners had escaped from the Ft. Supply prison, and had been working their way across the prairie for a week.  Both were captured on the day of our visit.  We had seen helicopters flying around, and we had stopped near a thicket to take some pictures.  From the description given of where the apprehension was made, one was captured right where we had stopped.  It's certainly not a place you'd expect to find someone watching you from the brush.

Here you can see the harder white gypsum plate on the top of the butte.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Paddle Cart Tire Liners

This story starts on a bike rather than in a canoe, since that’s how I learned this little trick. I’ve always ridden bikes---a lot. One time while we were kids, my brother and I both got a beating after riding about 25 miles up into Pennsylvania to get a sundae at Pennsupreme Dairy. Having been AWOL all day, when we finally got home in time for dinner, Mom greeted us with a warmer reception than anticipated. My brother, of course, even after I had paid for his sundae, reported that the whole trip was my idea, for which I was justly rewarded.

We spent all our time on our bikes, and yet, in my first 60 years of riding, I think I only had one flat tire. When we moved to Oklahoma, Jean and I had three flats in our first month here---two on my bike and one on hers. The culprit here is sand burrs, carpet upon carpet of them, everywhere. I went to The Bike Shop in Enid, the best supplier of biking gear in the Northwest part of the state. Micah, the shop owner, recommended using tire liners along with the new tubes. We’ve used them ever since, going on eight years, and have not had another problem.

One of the most valuable pieces of paddling gear, especially for expedition paddling, is a good boat cart. I got my PaddleCart from They are made for kayaks or canoes, and come with either single or dual wheels (4-wheels). The cart is of little value, however, if you can’t avoid flats, and having a flat on a long portage with a 70-pound canoe and 150-pounds of gear and provisions can put you in a real jam. Since many of the areas where we launch and retrieve are likely spots for finding burrs, briars, broken glass, nails, tacks, and other debris, tire liners in the paddle cart tires are just as important.

I’ve used two brands, Mr. Tuffy and Stop Flats2. Other than the brand name, I can’t tell them apart. They consist of two layers of tough rubber that you put inside the tire between the tire and tube. They should last forever, and indeed come with a lifetime guarantee.

The tire liners come in an assortment of sizes to match different tires. For my paddlecart, I just used the same size I use on my mountain bike, and they seem to be working perfectly. The ends of the liner should overlap a good bit, so while my liners are for 26” bike tires, I cut them in half, and they still overlap nicely, and do two of my 12 ½” cart tires.

They come wound in a tight roll, and especially in cold weather, are like working with spring steel. To make them much more user-friendly, roll them up in the opposite direction and put a rubberband around the roll. Let them set awhile in the warmth of the house, or in the sun, and they will straighten out considerably. Remove the tube stem valve to deflate the tube, and remove the tube and tire from the rim. If you’ve had a flat, especially if it’s something hard to find, like burrs, turn the tire partly inside-out and lightly rub the inside of the tire with soft cotton cloth, cotton balls, or even dryer lint, which will catch on the projections inside the tire and make them easier to find. Using finger tips will help find only the larger ones, but requires a bit more antiseptic.

Roll the liner into the tire. Put a little light oil on the stem valve, which Micah also suggested will make them seat better and prevent stem leaks. Put the tire back on one-half of the wheel rim. Reinstall the tube valves and put just a couple pounds of air in the tube to give it shape. Stuff it inside the tire, making sure the liner stays in positioin against the tire. Start with the stem first, as getting it in place keeps the tube aligned with the rim and prevents wrinkles in the tube, which will lead to tube failures. I know most of this is old hat for people accustomed to changing bike tires, but when putting the tire the rest of the way on the rim, whether using an iron or two wide-blade screwdrivers, be certain not to pinch the tube against the rim, as this will likely cut the tube. Put a few more pounds of air in, and bounce the wheel a number of times on the workbench or floor, helping to work out any remaining partial twists or wrinkles in the tube. Then, inflate the tire to its recommended pressure. With the job done, you should fear little in the way of flats on your paddlecart, making for much happier paddling.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Red Sky In Mourning

Jacket Illus. Credit:
“Red Sky in Mourning: A True Story of Love, Loss and Survival at Sea” by Tami Oldham Ascraft with Susea McGearhart (pub. 2002 by Hyperion, 240pp. Including glossary)

It’s a play on words, but I guess most of you know that “red sky in the morning,” is a sailor’s memory tickler or adage that goes back over 2,000 years to help him remember clues for weather forecasting. The whole verse is: Red sky at morning, sailor take warning; red sky at night, sailor’s delight. There’s also a version that pre-dates Christ where you simply replace sailor with shepherd. The play on words here (replacing morning with mourning) just tells you in advance that a storm is coming that will take a life.

The library lending program suspends the mailing of books during the holidays. I suppose it may be to avoid overloading an already taxed postal system, but more than likely stems from the obvious increase in the likelihood of books getting lost in the Christmas postal rush. Our librarians took pity on me, knowing that my paddling book flow was about to be turned off, and pulled a couple ocean sailing books to tide my over. “Red Sky in Mourning” was one of those.

The book tells the author’s story of how she was introduced to sailing, met the dashing young man of her dreams, Richard, and cruised the Pacific islands with him to Tahiti. There they are offered a lucrative yacht delivery job back to San Diego during the tropical storm season. They gambled and lost, encountering Typhoon Raymond. The reader is taken through their efforts to avoid the storm, but they are overtaken. Tami is locked below decks, and Richard is tethered on deck when the yacht is rolled. Richard’s harness fails, and he is swept away and lost. The main part of the book is about Tami’s trials for survival, her struggle to come to terms with his loss, and her rescue and introduction back into the world where she must deal with Richard’s family and the yacht’s owners, and also how to pick up her life where she left off. For anyone who goes to sea, or on the water period, the book is a fast read that deals with some of the “what-if” scenarios that we are wise to grapple with in advance.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Paddling in Circles

Thanks to Sean Morley, I’ve come on a great discovery this morning. It is his on-line book about his 4,500-mile, 183 day paddle around Great Britain. It is called “Paddling in Circles: UK and Ireland Circumnavigation.” I’ve just taken a peek at it so far, but very much look forward to reading it through, and thought you may enjoy it as well. Here’s the link.

Also, I seem to be coming on well with getting all our paddling friends moved to the new Facebook page.  I appreciate your patience in helping with that.  Best wisihes for a great day, and enjoy the reading.  Cheers, jim

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Jean's Blog

One of the reasons for getting Jean set up with a new Facebook page was to also help her get started with her own blog.  It's called Mud-N-Feathers, and deals mainly with her years growing up in New Jersey, how she grew to love water, beginning with the Delaware River, life on the farm, our years sailing, and much more.  The link follows, and it will also appear in 'Favorite Blogs' section in the right margin for easy access.

Wallace Nutting on the Canoe

A Wallace Nutting Painting
Credit: google images
Wallace Nutting is one of Jean’s favorite artists. She was reading his “Maine Beautiful: A Pictorial Record Covering All The Counties of Maine,” (Pub. 1924 by Bonanza Books, New York, 296pp), when she came upon several pages of Nutting stressing his love and admiration of the canoe. Here are the highlights.

“It is natural to suppose that Maine, a state of waters, would develop the finest form of the canoe.--- The shape of this canoe is closely modeled on the lines of the Indian canoe of bark, with a round bottom rather flattened, and with the ends coming together in a quick, sharp, graceful curve. The shape is the embodiment of an Indian dream. We may think that the horns of the moon and the curves of the graceful birch tree, and the crescent beaches of the Maine lakes gave the suggestion. The result at least is perfection. The canoe combines more than any other human creation the practical and the ideal, reminding us of ‘the perfect woman, nobly planned.’ For lightness, for grace, for mobility, for its perfect adaptation to its purpose, no device of man has ever equaled the canoe. It is the home of the woodsman for the greater part of the year. Even at night he draws it on shore and, upturning it, has a roof above him. It is his home and companion. More than any other inanimate thing, it is lovable and beloved. We stroke its curves as we pet a fine horse. It is not without good reason that the canoe has appealed, in picture, song, and story, to the minds of those who discovered it full-grown and beautiful, in the hands of the adept Indian, who evolved it. To be at once a thing of perfect beauty and perfect adabtability to use, is true of few human creations.”

It is highly significant that the old guide gains an affection for his canoe, and thinks it, despite all the battering it has received, better than a new one. Never mind. After a few deft repairs---, the voyageur launches forth again, happier than before, because his own feeling and skill have entered into the craft that bears him. It is a monument to his ability as a boatman, and every scar is a kind of notch-stick history of his experiences in the rapids, from season to season. Like a child, none too perfect, it is the best for him because it is his. In winter he renews it, and the other three seasons he paddles it. It is at once his living and his life. It combines poetry and practicality, so that---his life is nevertheless an idyll.”

“The seat in the bottom of a canoe is a post of observation, more joyous and more profitable than the throne of a king. The world passes in review before one. The fish leap about one. The birds tweitter as one passes. The marks on the stones show the range between high and low water. The mosses on the trees and the direction of the brancches indicate the prevailing winds. The keen and experienced guide reads a long history and indulges in sure prophecy, as the canoe glides along. It is a story not read in history, but none the less worthwhile and delightful.”

“Contrary to the supposition of the unknowing, the canoe is a safe craft. One may, indeed, overset it, but the finest forms and implements used by man require delicacy of control, and when so controlled they are safer than more clumsy implements. It takes little practice to gain as great assurance of safety in a canoe as upon the land. One is far more likely to catch his foot in a root than to catch his keel on a rock. The use of a canoe encourages a certain litheness, combined with a daintiness of touch, which reacts upon the mind of the person who acquires these faculties, and gives a sense of power. One feels almost the assurance of a bird in the sky.”

Paddle/Camping shot of the day: Rick Eisele's trip to Alaska.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Surprised! And yet again!

Well, okay. As I said, I wasn’t expecting much, but was pleasantly surprised, and got good news as well. That has taken a load of our minds.

I saw the orthopedic surgeon this afternoon. I was in and out of the exam room in about ten minutes, and when I saw Jean in the waiting room, gave her two thumbs up. There was good news and bad news, but the bottom line was that my spine has done naturally what he would have had to do artificially with surgery. The tingling and numbness has cleared up, and unless there are other problems recurring, I have a clean bill of health with no limitations. If another problem arises, an MRI is the next step. I had to ask if that would take another three months to get that done. He said he knows I’ve waited a good while, but now that I’m his patient, if it’s needed, it could be approved and done in a matter of days.

I’m ready to go paddling, babeee! All I need is to find some water softener to transform the water around here back to a liquid.

The second surprise came when I tried to set up a Facebook account for Jean. Her page and mine became irreparably entwined, friends mixed up, posts mixed up. I worked on it a couple days, and finally the only solution seemed to be signing my account over to her, having already come so far, and then try to set up a separate one for myself. The problem is that all the paddling friends are still on Jean’s page. I hate to bother you with this, but I’ll have to send new requests to all of you to get us back together. If for some reason you don’t get one, and wish to stay on board, send me a request. If you want to help save me some time searching each of you out, feel free to take the initiative and send me a request now. Thanks, and sorry for the confusion. James Neal.  My name doesn't show on the blog, so if you read the blog and aren't on Facebook with me, please send a request. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Tony Romo Medicine

Tony Romo, as I doubt I need to tell anyone, is of course the quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. He sustained a back injury during a football game on 22 December with the Washington Redskins. He has a six-year contract for $18-million a year, making him the fourth highest paid quarterback in the NFL, putting him slightly behind Joe Flacco, Drew Brees, and Peyton Manning. You may wonder what that has to do with his injury. Well, apparently everything.

By Monday afternoon, he had been examined by a doctor, most likely a team of doctors, had had an MRI performed, had the MRI analyzed by the team of doctors, which had conferred on the logical course of surgery and treatment that would be most successful, undoubtedly with the Cowboys’ owners and management involved, and had the surgery scheduled, and held a press conference to announce the results, all within 24-hours. Surgery was performed on the morning of 27 December. The whole procedure took five days from injury to solution.

Medical service, if I’m not being too cynical, is performed not in order of need, nor on priority, nor importance, but on the ability of the patient to pay. The more he can pay, the greater the need for treatment. I don’t begrudge Romo the ability to receive treatment, but having his entire diagnostic process completed within 24-hours, while I’ve been a bit over three months waiting for a meeting with an orthopedic doctor to discuss my mother’s diabetes and how well I pee, and what my psychological state is after sitting on my gluteus maximum for three months, can‘t help but leave me a little p-ssed. The first hurdle was finding a doctor that would accept Medicare. Since Medicare doesn’t operate on the same free-will capitalism that controls Wall Street, an ever increasing number of doctors refuse treatment to patients that don’t help them keep up with the Bernie Madoff’s of the world. No, I’m not being imaginative. I was told that by someone I was complaining to at the hospital. Some apparently feel slighted because they’re not in line to get a piece of that $91-billion package set aside for end-of-year bonuses to Wall Street executives. The worst part of my physical ailment is that it’s apparently not worth $18-million.

Well, I just completed my 13-page questionnaire in preparation for my interview with the doctor tomorrow, as I got angrier with each page. They even asked what I expect to accomplish with my visit. Hello!! Like if my life may resume, or if I’m to spend much of the rest of it in traction, or if I need surgery, and all of that leading to whether or not I can get back to paddling and living an active lifestyle. The sad part is what I expect to accomplish. After cancelling a trip, waiting three months, doing the paperwork, calling ahead for pre-approval of insurance, and driving 200 miles, I honestly EXPECT that I will accomplish nothing. I’m totally open to surprises, but disappointment won’t be one of them. Come on! Surprise me!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

B-r-r-r-r !

Unless you’re limiting yourself to a gym, exercising this time of year takes a bit of toughness. Yesterday, I just wasn’t up for it. The day before I walked 3.07 miles. New Year’s Day I decided that if the marchers in the Rose Bowl Parade could walk 5.5 miles, so could I. I wasn’t giving proper consideration to the difference between them walking in Pasadena and me trying the same thing in the wind-swept plains of NW Oklahoma. It was 25-deg. and gusting to 35mph when I stepped out the back door. I had wrapped myself up with muffs, wool hat, scarf and all the rest of the armor suited for such an undertaking, but I was still surprised when I stepped onto the patio. I told Jean I was going for a walk and would be back in a bit. I walked out the back door and a gust of frigid wind blew through the breezeway and just about spun me around on my heels. It could in no way be called a breeze. I bounded back up the steps and through the door, announcing to Jean that the walk hadn’t taken as long as I thought it would. I could hear her in the other room chuckling.

I decided to look up the wind chill, and was surprised to find that the National Weather Service had changed the wind chill index in 2001. Originally, the wind chill would have been minus 12 degrees yesterday, but with the new tables, it was plus 7. That’s a big difference.

Anyhow, the weather is changeable enough here that today the temperature was back to 39 deg. with a 15mph wind, so I managed to get on the bike for seven miles.    My cheeks were still as rosy as Santa's when I returned, so it was nice to sit down to a steaming bowl of Jean's turkey vegetable soup, the last of our Christmas turkey. I don’t want to feel too sorry for myself, as Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday are to be brutal. Chicago? Man, I feel for them. Monday is to bring them a HIGH of ten below zero.