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.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Thermolite Sleeping Bag Liner

An open site across from us on the bank of the lake.

Day 3:  The storms were to pester us all week.  The good thing was that they usually came in late afternoon to evening, and left the days sunny and clear.  It was 9p.m. when I zipped the tent shut, and there was an immediate terrible, and much too close, simultaneous blinding flash and terrible crash of thunder.  That was the opening rangefinder shot, and once my position was bracketed, the fire and rain and wind continued unabated until 4a.m.  The storm’s method of the attack was something I hadn’t seen before.  The wind came in waves as steady and regular as waves hitting a beach.  The wind came in a rushing squall from behind me.  It rolled over the trees on top of the hill, over me and across the adjoining field, down the hill and into the trees to the south of us.  Just then another wave of wind could be heard approaching from the north, through the trees and over the hill, across the field, and so on.  It was a regular march that continued for an hour or more.

The wind also had the tent kind of breathing as it passed me.  It would first come from the west and mash the tent in.  Immediately after that the tent seemed to exhale as it puffed outward as though it had suddenly been fully inflated.  I know this routine will sound familiar to those of you accustomed to living in tornado country, but the tent and I stayed on the hill.

Obviously, since I was lying there noticing all of this, I wasn’t getting any sleep.  I was very pleased and thankful that the tent was staying dry in spite of the constant downpour.  The other thing keeping me awake was the forecast for golf ball-sized hail.  With the car, truck, and RV sitting there, I certainly didn’t relish waking in the morning to find them all sporting a new hammered metal look.  Every new wave of intensity had me laying there cringing in dread.  Of course as soon as you have one thought fixed in your mind, everything changes.  Even though I had resealed all the tent’s seams, a couple stitches began to weep and drip ice water on my left shoulder.  The next drip joined forces with its predecessor so they could then roll down my chest and onto the sleeping bag.  I reached into the pack and pulled out my Cabela’s Guide foulweather jacket and draped it over my upper body to shed the continuing drip, drip, drip.  My thought was then that trying to sleep under a raincoat would be too hot and stuffy to make sleep possible.

With that thought, the wind picked up more and the temperature suddenly dropped.  That seemed to herald the approach of the ice storm, but solved the problem of being too hot.  I waited in anticipation of the hail, but it thankfully didn’t materialize.  With the colder air, I pulled the sleeping bag liner over my legs, checked the time on my phone and saw that it was 4a.m., fluffed my pillow, and dozed off until the birds started singing at 7a.m. in earnest and right over my head.

The packing sack laying on the liner itself.

A word is needed about the Sea-to-Summit Thermolite Reactor Extreme sleeping bag liner.  That’s a long name for something that only measures 3 X 5 inches in its little stuff sack.  I found it at a national sporting goods store on my way to Old Forge, NY, last spring or winter (unable to distinguish between the two).  I about choked on the $70 price tag for the little thing, but Jean insisted I get it, or it would have stayed on the rack.  Made of their insulating, Thermolite, hollow-core moister-wicking polyester fiber, it opens up to a large 36 X 84 inch sack that is supposed to add 25-degrees F (14-deg. C) to the warmth of a sleeping bag.  It is made in a mummy shape, but is so stretchy, that it will envelope you no matter what size or style of sleeping bag you are in.  Besides adding warmth, it can be used instead of the sleeping bag in those intervening temperatures between being in a bag or not.  It also helps to keep the sleeping bag clean.  I did things backwards with this purchase, and read the reviews on it when I returned home.  Yes, it has received great acclaim because of its comfort and warmth, but is pricey.  Since it works well, and can almost disappear in your pack, it’s a nice piece of gear to add, especially if you can find it on sale.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Another Day of Storms

The rig at Big Bend.

The sun was well up when Mother Nature’s alarm clock (birds in the cedars behind me) woke me up.  Neither Jean, in the RV, or myself had gotten much sleep through the storms.  We took turns taking a nap.  I was then awakened by the sound of a large mower, and then the sound of gravel and sticks hitting the side of the RV.  The operator was running the mover both with the guard or deflector up, and with the discharge directed at the trailers and vehicles.  It was almost like it was deliberate as he would make circles around and around each unit, but always blowing debris toward the campers and trucks.  Thinking of the tent up on the hill, I got up.  Jean said, “If you are concerned about the tent, he has already been up there.”   As I got dressed, I looked out and saw him with a weed whacker.  Considering how careless he’d been already with the mower, I was not about to let him around the tent with a weed whacker.  He continued down the park, but I walked up the hill.  I was not happy with what I found.
Ibi sitting on her PaddleCart.  The Falcon Sail is furled and laying
on the left side of the cockpit coaming, which shows how compact
the furled rig is.

With the deflector up and the mower deck flat on the ground, he had run around and around the tent blowing toward the tent.  He had covered it in a thick blanket of grass, dirt, and debris.  All of that was also blown under the fly and against the mesh of the tent.  Without bothering to look, I knew what the inside and all of my bedding would look like.  I called the Corps of Engineers, and they sent out the manager of contractual services, who in turn called the work crew supervisor to the scene of the crime.  I think this was the first time I’ve ever filed a complaint that could affect someone’s job, but I allow little tolerance for stupidity, incompetence, or wilfull destruction.  They offered to help in any way they could, but the damage had been done.  I mainly wanted someone to see how careless the mower operator had been, and did shortly see him mowing with the deflector down and blowing debris away from the vehicles.  Our neighbor was out also looking around his camper.  It had been struck hard enough by a stone that he feared finding a hole.  All I could do was knock the tent down, drag all my gear and bedding out onto the ground to shake the dirt out, and then set it all up again.

The rig is set up dry before going out just to make sure everything
is run properly and thus avoid any issues on the water.  The owner
can select his own colors from Falcon Sails.  I went with hot pink and
chartreuse for maximum visibility.

The afternoon had heated substantially, so I had left the fly off until the clouds began to tower high and turn dark around 3 o’clock.  By four, another large squall and thunderstorm began to blow through.  I put the fly back on and anchored everything.  The storm blew through quickly, and after a half-hour, the sun was out again.
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Sunday, October 8, 2017

Big Bend Storms

North Face 2-man tent on the hill.

When I got zipped into the tent and laid back on the sleeping pad and turned off the lamp, I could see the tent being illuminated slightly by the distant flashes of lightning.  Then I could hear the faint but constant clashes of thunder that rolled on and on.  It was still warm enough that I was pouring sweat.  The tent flaps were open, so as the storm approached, the advancing front’s wind caused the temperature to drop and I began to cool off.  Within a half to three-quarters of an hour, the tent began getting pelted with huge, pregnant drops of rain that sounded almost like small hail.  The flaps were zipped closed.  Within minutes, the full fury of the storm was on me.  The wind was about 40 mph and the rain torrential.  My North Face 2-man tent has been very reliable, but I guess if enough water is applied with the force of a fire hose, something will get through.  I wasn’t really getting wet, as much as just harassed by a driving mist presumably blowing under the fly and through the tent’s mesh. 

The storms were inspiring and lasted a good part of the night.  Each wave of storms lasted about an hour.  There would be a pause, and then the next band would be on me.  Only the initial squall penetrated the tent.  The remaining rains stayed outside where they belonged. 

Later in the night when my bladder woke me, the storms had passed, and the near-full moon illuminated the tent to make any artificial light unnecessary.  It was now cool enough that I had to pull my tee-shirt back on.  It was still too warm for even my summer sleeping bag, but I pulled my sleeping bag liner out of the pack.  With my legs just tucked into it, it was perfect, and I dropped back off to sleep.  (More on the sleeping bag liner later.)

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Big Bend Camping

Big Bend Campground, Canton Lake, OK

We had reserved a space at Big Bend Campground, on Canton Lake, OK, for a week to give the granddaughters one last hoorah before starting back to school.  The RV had not been out of the shed all summer between of the extreme heat and Jean being sick much of the time.  Now was our time for a little rest and relaxation. 

We met another senior couple in the next campsite.  It’s always nice when other people are more senior than ourselves.  It makes us feel so much younger.  They were not enjoying a great start to their getaway.  They had arrived at their reserved site before the previous occupants had checked out, so decided to pull into a space on the other side of the drive to wait.  As so often happens, Plan B turned out to be more dangerous than Plan A.  Plan A gets all the preparation and thought, and Plan B, a little shorter on thought and preparation, exposes all the shoals.  He got the trailer into a tree limb that tore a large hole in his rolled awning, doing hundreds of dollars of damage.  

The girls like to sleep late, and I like to get up early, so Jean invariably takes on the role of juggling sleeping arrangements to accommodate the grandkids.  I tend to get frustrated by these continual reinventions of the wheel, so I finally said, “You girls just keep the trailer for yourselves, and I’ll pitch my tent and use it.  That way you can handle sleeping times and locations to suit yourselves.”  I selected the grassy knoll behind and above our campsite.  I was set to sleep, rest, or snore to suit myself. 

Rather than the introduction to hell that we had been experiencing the last couple months, the last few days had turned idyllic.  This evening was a cool mid-seventies with a refreshing breeze.  For Oklahoma, it was surprisingly comfortable as I sat there looking out over Canton Lake.  By the time I had the RV work done and the tent set up, I was thoroughly fagged.  I was waiting for Jean to return.  She had gone back home to care for all of her critters, including a new-born bunny that she was feeding twice a day from a syringe.  Once she returned and we all had dinner together, I anticipated a shortened evening and a stroll up the hill to my tent. 

As I walked up the hill to my tent, I saw something shining and sparkling on the ground.  They were the color of blue ice, or like shimmering diamonds.  As I looked around, there were more and more.  Jean had to see this, especially when I looked closer and realized that the twinkling lights were the eyes of large, hairy brown spiders about the size of a fifty-cent piece, and later determined to be wolf spiders.  They can grow to be 4-inches including their legs, but I didn’t see any reaching that size.  Jean looked and looked, but couldn’t see them, even when I indicated precisely where they were.  Finally, I gave her my headlamp, and she could see them all, but now I couldn’t.  A short experiment indicated their ice-blue eyes were the reflection of my headlamp. To be visible, the viewer had to be directly behind the beam of light.  Wolf spiders have the third-best eyesight of all spiders, and have eight eyes.  The two largest ones were the ones creating the reflection.  The spiders are very fast, mostly nocturnal, and while they usually sit near the burrow and wait for a passing victim to pounce on, they will chase a prey a ways, and are even called the ‘never give up’ spider by some populations.

The wolf spider.  Credit Google images

Walking up the hill, I saw them all over the place staring back at me with their beady little eyes.  There were hundreds and hundreds of them.  Many that I looked at more closely were sitting across the burrow they had dug in the ground.  As soon as I crawled into the tent, I zipped it up tight to make sure there were no gaps between the zippers.  In spite of my precautions, at some point I apparently carried a spider into the tent on my clothing or shoes.  When I sat or rolled on it during the night, I got a bad bite on my right rump that continued to bother me for two weeks regardless of what I tried to do to treat it.  It created a sizeable, hard lump that burned until I messed with it, and then itched a lot.  They can jump well, and are aggressive about going after what they want.  In preparation for this post, I decided to do a bit of research, and was put off by one site’s statement that “the wolf spider is considered to be one of the most dangerous spiders in the world.”  I don’t know about that, but can say they can be a pain in the butt, literally.  A couple weeks after this trip, we decided to take a picnic lunch and our books and chairs, and just go down to the lake for lunch and relaxation.  I felt something bothering the back of my neck while I read.  Thinking it was a fly, I swatted at it, and danged if I didn’t get a half-dozen more bites across my neck that drove me crazy for another two weeks.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Out of Touch

Knowledge, experience, and the right tools---Priceless.
If you’ve been wondering why I’ve been mute for so long, there are a few reasons, but losing internet connection was certainly one of the most important.  We had a great experience with our Suddenlink repairman this time.  He was very professional, found the problem in no time (water intrusion into the cables that had not been properly weatherproofed by a previous worker), and did trouble-shooting on the entire system.  Then he went above and beyond.  I mentioned that I was concerned about the tree limbs laying on the wire, and asked, since he was already in the cherry-picker, if he had any way to remove some of the branches.  He happened to have a chainsaw in the bed of the truck still left there from his emergency hurricane repair trip to Texas, so he dropped a half-dozen branches out of the tree.  He then wanted to cut-up the limbs for easy removal, but not wanting to take advantage of his generosity, I assured him that I would take care of them.  Suddenlink’s stock went up substantially that day with me, and internet access has been flawless since.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Checking the Drysuit

Those are Jean's fingers at the shoulders holding up
the drysuit she has disappeared behind.
The days are getting shorter, the nights cooler, and summer is gone.  The good news is that seasonal cycles bring us back to fall, one of the shoulder seasons, and for most people, the best one.  It also means that squirrels and monarch butterflies will soon be facing harder times, and they remind us that we will as well.  With the coming winter, we will again bet our survivals on our drysuits or wetsuits.  If they are five years old, it’s best to check the gaskets and zippers.  If one gasket is dry rotted or torn, we know the others will follow in quick order.  If one needs replacing, replace them all.  Before we need to rely on them, and before the repair facilities get buried in suits needing work, now is the time to get them packaged and on their way. 
My drysuit is a Stohlquist.  I called them to discuss the work I needed, and they gave me the contact information for their authorized repair facility, and a shipping authorization.  The one part of their coverage that has always distressed me, however, is the assurance that they can handle punctures from snake bites.  I would rather not have to utilize that service, but thanks anyhow.  I did have both sleeve gaskets and the neck gasket replaced.  Not only was the work beautifully done, but they also cleaned the suit so it came back looking brand new.  As long as the water doesn’t turn hard, I and my Stohlquist are ready.  Thank you, Stohlquist.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Waves of Grass

The prairie is like the ocean in many ways.  It just is what it is.  It cares about nature, about rain, and summer, and winter, but doesn’t give one instant of thought about man.  Not caring about whether the pioneer lived or died, or whether he was Scot or Irish, slave or freeman, white, or Native American, or any other color, it just waited patiently for us to keep moving and being about our business.  If the prairie could laugh, we could hear it in utter hysterics about all of our childish uproar about racial supremacy, borders, walls, flags, religion, gold-colored buildings, and any of the other minutia we silly beings inflate our feelings of self-importance with.  After a bit of fleeting time, we little beings will be under the prairie, and without a thought about us, the prairie will just continue to be what it is.  We, on the other hand, with all our issues, and prejudices, and opinions, and demands, we will be not.  Maybe we just need to chill and enjoy life while we can.

Monday, September 4, 2017

3-P-100 Update

That’s one hundred miles a month, whether peddling, plodding, or paddling.  I haven’t posted my miles the last few months, so here they are:
June: 106.2
July: 98.4---Too many 100 to 105 degree days.  I just couldn’t bring myself to get out there in that heat.
August: 106.8
How does that translate to weight loss?  It does’t.  I’m a bit of a food addict, and have resolved myself to amputation as being the only way that I will ever lose weight. 

Friday, September 1, 2017

"Ghost Towns"

An Oklahoma ghost town with nothing to show its existence but
an old town sign and a single skeleton of a building.
On another road trip with the granddaughters, we decided to research some ghost towns and visit a couple within reasonable driving distance.  That led us to Cestos.  In his book, “Ghost Towns of Oklahoma,” John W. Morris gives us a look into the life of Cestos that a passerby could never comprehend based on what time has left behind.

The general store with apartment behind and old gas pump pads
in front.
Cestos was an agricultural service center and community that sat near the northern boundary of the Cheyenne-Arapaho reservation when the area was opened for settlement in 1892.  It reached its maximum population of about 500 between 1905 and 1910.  The community was laid out along several streets with homes, 15 various stores, a bank, hotel, and a local newspaper.  The community had its own telephone exchange to service the town and surrounding area.  They had the services of a medical doctor and veterinarian.  Its greatest pride was the Cestos Milling Company.  Its Sno Flake and Olympic brands of flour were distributed throughout the Oklahoma Territory and the Texas Panhandle.  With poor roads and slow transportation, the wheat grown in the surrounding area anchored the commercial operation here, but slowly the area began to change.  Wheat fields were turned over to cattle grazing.  Between 1915 and 1920, the roads and the automobile improved, cattle and wheat alike began to move to railheads to the north and west, like Woodward, and Cestos was left behind. 

A close shot and then from a distance to show off the beauty of
the old case.  Like myself, some of you may remember being in
a store with refrigerated cases like this.

All that remains now is the old general store.  It sat facing Main Street, or what is now Rt. 60 leading west from Seiling.  The pads for old gasoline pumps can still be seen in front.  When the building couldn’t survive as the area’s store, it became a church, and then a home.  Now, of the entire community, this town sign and solitary building are all that remain to show where hundreds worked, raised their children, and lived. 
This Burroughs adding machine would just hint at the future of
business machines.
There are several things here the kids today find incomprehensible.  The idea that a business like this would be operated with a cigar box serving as the cash register.  Instead of a computer inventory system, or electronic sales and receipt computer, long hours would be spent at the adding machine crunching out long lists of numbers and then pulling the handle on the right side to make the machine produce a sum.  The American Arithmometer Company was founded in St. Louis in 1886.  It later became the Burroughs Adding Machine Co., and moved to Detroit.  Other Burroughs production plants sprang up in Scotland, England, and France.

These are the Woodward grain elevators that took Cestos' wheat
and shipped their future out of the area from the train depot and
station.  Here is the ticket office and waiting room, and where
the platform used to be where people boarded.  Light freight would
usually be loaded onto the raised platform and carted into the store
room.  Another larger door is on the other side of the depot.  A door
at the end of the building would be used for pickups where the freight
would be loaded into wagons and vehicles.
There were stacks and stack of National Geographics that were still in their wrappers from the printers that dated in the 1950’s.  The large meat locker is not only a beautiful piece of woodwork, but still shows off its sealing doors with heavy hinges, tapered door edges and double insulating glass faces to show off the meats and dishes inside and keep them cold. 
Now, instead of hearing people talking and kids playing with the backdrop of the mill’s sound, all you hear is the high-pitched sound of an occasional car or truck speeding past and the Oklahoma wind.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

One-Room Prairie Schools

An oil well pumps away where a school once stood.  If you know
Oklahoma politics, this is also a good illustration of how big oil
has supplanted education.

A good job has been done of marking the location of old one-room schools that dotted the landscape since the land runs.  Since they needed to be within a distance kids could walk or ride a horse, schools could be found every couple dozen miles or wherever clusters of families settled.  This one, the Dane School, operated from 1896 until 1957.  Many schools have since collapsed, but a few still stand in varying degrees of disrepair.  The Dane School is on private property, so we went searching for the owner to get permission to pass through the fence to get better pictures.  The owner was initially very suspicious of us, but she warmed greatly when she learned our genuine interest.  She told us about going to the school herself, as well as her adult daughter, and how she had aspirations of fixing it up as a historical site.  Much of what we saw was familiar.  I went to a one-room school as a kid, and Jean was a teacher in an Amish one-room school for a number of years in Delaware.  The granddaughters were fascinated by the outhouse, coal shed, and the 48-star American flag still hanging by the blackboard.

The Dane School was well-built of red block, and hands on.

One-room schools were seriously devoted to serving the needs of local students.  Somehow, the wheels have come off the wagon.  The headline here would be “Oklahoma Leads the Nation---In Failure.”  It has led the nation in public education failures for years, and remains the state with the greatest number of funding cuts to education in the country.  Our legislature has cut public education per student funding by 26.9% since 2008, almost twice as much as the next worst state, Alabama.  Many teachers have left for work in other states, and Oklahoma now has a teacher shortage of well over 500, programs are being cut, and class sizes continue to grow.

Support for higher education has suffered as well.  State funds for higher education have been cut by 17.8%, again making it the worst in the nation.  And again, the cuts for colleges are much worse than the next worst state, Louisiana.  Gene Perry, director of Oklahoma Policy Institute, states, “We are one of only seven states that didn’t increase funding over this period, and one of only three states that cut funding by more than 10 percent.”  Education funding has been cut seven out of the last 10 years.

The school backs to the road.  The hidden side is actually
its front, showing coal shed, door, and windows.  Note the
beautiful accents incorporated in its construction over a hundred
years ago.

Now, here’s the part that will shock you beyond any bounds.  Gov. Fallin says she is having trouble convincing businesses to come to Oklahoma.  Imagine that!  When they can’t find skilled employees, where educational standards are continually dropping, where their own children will be unable to get either a proper public or higher education, they don’t want to come to Oklahoma.  She just can’t understand that.

Why is there no money for education, or for that matter for roads, bridges, human services, corrections, public safety, and so on?  Oklahoma law makers have continually submitted to lobbying pressure from the oil and gas industry, giving them the sweetest of sweetheart deals in the country.  In one year alone, 2015, the state gave away $470 million to big oil and gas while at the same time having production tax rates of as low as 1 percent, while in North Dakota, another big oil producer, the tax rate is 11.5 percent.  Between 2012 and 2015, the tax giveaways to Oklahoma big oil topped $1 billion.  So, while per student funding in Oklahoma has dropped 26.9 percent, funding for students in North Dakota has gone up by 26 percent.  Also, while big oil is swimming in money at the cost of education, they run ads claiming that oil and gas production funds education in the state.  At Continental Resources’ headquarters, a poster in their lobby showed a smiling boy with the caption, “Oklahoma Oil and Gas produces my education.”  Ironically, the statement only becomes true if read backwards.  “My education produces Oklahoma oil and gas” would be far more accurate.  In the last oil boom of 2008 to 2014, oil rich states like North Dakota and Texas took advantage of the opportunity to set aside a chunk of oil tax revenue for education.  At the same time, Oklahoma not only didn’t save, but allowed oil revenue to slide 32 percent.

Not many would have lingered in the 'rest room' during the winter.
The ice storm this past winter left broken tree limbs all around.

The argument for the huge giveaways to big oil and gas offered by Republican legislators is that oil and gas bring jobs to Oklahoma.  That’s a shallow argument at best, and only then if you are seeking part time/short term employment.  A family’s breadwinner needs to count on secure employment with a consistent income.  It needs to be the kind of income that insures the mortgage will get paid, the lights will stay on, and a savings plan will provide for their retirement and insure the kids can go to college.  The oil business is a boom or bust cyclical enterprise.  When the boom is going strong, yes, oil jobs provide salaries 84% above the national average.  But, when the bust comes, as it must, men are let go without notice in the hundreds and thousands.  In a 12-month period between June, 2015, and June, 2016, 10,000 jobs were lost in Oklahoma alone.  Many workers who lost their jobs in the last bust moved into wind and solar renewable energy.  At least the wind and sun don’t operate on a boom/bust schedule.

The other argument is that incentives draw oil drillers to Oklahoma.  Wow!  Are we to assume that oil companies not getting handouts will, out of spite, stop drilling in Oklahoma so they can move and drill where there is no oil?  Fishermen can pretty much be counted on to spread their nets where there are fish, and oil men can just as reliably be counted on to drill where there is oil.  Having given hundreds of millions of dollars of Oklahoma tax revenue to the oil companies, legislators try to fill the void with really stupid schemes, like higher cigarette taxes, or requiring Oklahoman’s to buy new license plates, or suck blood from agencies that have experienced year-after-year cuts in operating revenue and manpower, or increase income tax or add another ‘temporary’ additional penny tax, all to come out of the pockets of the working middle-class.  After failing to create a proper and balanced budget, and passing fund-raising legislation that was illegal, the legislature then needs to be called back in special session to do the job they have already failed to do, and at the cost to the taxpayer of an additional $30,000 per day.  While this continues, the state is still shelling out money for low-producing and non-producing oil wells to supplement the incomes of farmers and ranchers who have wells that just suck air and water.

While the glass has been broken out, peeking through the window
guards, one can see the 48-star flag still hanging near the blackboard.

There’s that old saying, “Stupid is as stupid does,” so in spite of their greed, all the blame can’t be put on oil and gas.  They have a sweet deal going, and they know it.  They can buy, sell, and trade legislators like stock, tear up roads with their heavy equipment with no responsibility for repairing them, enjoy the total eminent domain the legislature has given them so they can drill or lay pipeline anywhere, anytime, at their whim, suck natural resources from the ground with no concern for conservation, cause thousands of fracking earthquakes and just shrug and walk away, sell the oil anywhere, in the state, across the country, or to China, wherever they see the most profit, all with no responsibility or concern for the state they are victimizing in the process.  Why not?  If they are dealing with lawmakers dumb enough to cater to tycoons that just get richer and richer at the expense of the state’s own citizens and their children, then where is the fault?  Is it with the greed of the oil industry that gets everything it wants, or with the voters, legislators, and a governor dumb enough to allow them to get away with it?  Voters reap only what they sow!

Sources: Enid News & Eagle, Reuters (

Friday, August 25, 2017

Road Trip

An abandoned road grader.

Okay, so we aren’t unlike any other grandparents, and when the grandkids come to visit it’s sometimes a challenge to keep them interested and learning new experiences.  On this day, we took a road trip through the country here in NW Oklahoma, and just stopped for pictures at those things we found interesting.
In the days before hydraulics and push-button controls, the operator
had to rely on the power of gear-ratio to crank in the settings he wanted.

The first stop was a road grader.  While progress has made these machines more efficient, they are still the backbone of the transportation system in Oklahoma.  About 75% of all roads in Oklahoma are unpaved.  Of the two-lane roads that are paved, about 80% of them have no shoulders.  Many also have no guardrails, and the edge of the roads often drop off into deep ditches, gullies, and ravines.  The Department of Transportation is really behind the 8-ball.  Constant budget cuts leave DOT with fewer personnel and fewer resources for maintaining, let alone upgrading, the state’s roads, so road grading is still a vital job.  Here, the grader required two men---one on the tractor to pull the unit, and one on the grader to operate its controls.

All steel ride, when it was felt the farmer already had God-given
cushioning for a comfy ride.  Take a good look at the wheels.

A short distance past the abandoned grader, we came to Burrell Implement Company, where they still have a large collection of antique farming implements.  While the old engines are interesting enough, we were fascinated by what passed for tractor wheels before the advent of rubber tires.  The huge tractor wheels were steel, and depending on the amount of traction needed, multiple rims could be bolted onto the wheels, and teeth, which are called spades, could be bolted on in almost unlimited numbers until the needed pulling power was achieved.


Here you can see the spades through-bolted on the wheel rim.
And finally, a selection of as many rims and spades as any
farmer could want.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017


Alone, by Admiral Richard E. Byrd, pub. 1938 by Kodansha America, NY,NY, 309pp with afterward by David G. Campbell. 
This is a must read.  If you base your reading on whether the matter is paddling-related or not, this is and it isn’t.  If your interest is day-paddling or whitewater, there may not be much relevance here, but if your interest is paddle-camping or expedition paddling, this is a must.  Also, if you just enjoy a great adventure spotlighting the power of nature and the will of the human spirit, it’s still a must read.  As most people that expedition paddle will attest, the trip is as much about the mind as any other aspect of the trip.  Admiral Byrd’s trip was about meteorological testing, experimentation, and observation; about stretching the understanding of the polar regions; about overcoming adversity, but he also planned to spend six months alone under the polar ice in total darkness “to taste peace and quiet long enough to know how good they really are.”  He was about to overdose on peace and quiet when he realized he needed to explore and overcome the deep reaches of his own mind in order to survive both physically and mentally. 
He was already a famed polar explorer in 1934 when he set off on this trip, so he had some understanding of what he faced.  A 9 by 13-foot insulated hut was taken first to Little America, a base camp on the Ross Ice Shelf, an Antarctic area so inaccessible that it was also called the Barrier.  From there the camp was taken further south to his Advance Base.  A hole was dug large enough to bury the entire hut a few feet below the surface of the ice and snow.  By going up a ladder and opening a hatch that was prone to freezing shut, he could access the surface.  The hut was to be equipped with a coal stove, but at the last minute it was decided that moving that much coal across the polar ice cap before winter set in would be too difficult, so it was fitted with an oil burner instead.  That never produced enough heat to either keep the interior of the hut from icing, or to provide proper combustion, or keep ice from forming in the stove pipe or the fresh-air return vent.  Temperatures dropped to 60-70 degrees below zero.  He began to suffer from monoxide poisoning, frostbite while inside his sleeping bag, couldn’t get fresh air, injured his shoulder, couldn’t keep food down, eventually had trouble keeping water or milk down, but the risk of another team trying to reach him for rescue was too hazardous to attempt in the polar winter, so his standing orders were that no one from Little America was to make a rescue attempt.  
If meeting nature on her terms, being tested to overcome any and all challenges by your own wits, and sharing “one of the most intense and moving dramas of our own or any time” interests you, this will appeal to you.   This is a compelling ride you won’t want to miss.  The book has been republished a number of times, so there is a range of book covers that may not match the one illustrated here.  Also, it can be accessed from a multitude of sources with a multitude of prices.  You should be able to get it through inter-library loan if it isn’t already in your local library, but it is also available on line, from Kindle, and used books for prices of $1.99 to $30 or more, so look around, but don’t miss the chance to enjoy it.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Looking Into Nature

When you hear the name of Albert Einstein, what do you think of?  Advanced mathematician, quantum theory, theory of relativity, photon theory of light, his annus mirabilis (miracle year), or the publication of four ground-breaking papers within a single year, the Nobel Prize, his mass-energy equivalence formula (E=mc2), the study of molecular motion, particle theory, all jointly leading inexorably to the birth of atomic energy, but did you know he was a philosopher?
Perhaps it was in this latter pursuit that his brilliant mind finally led him to what most paddlers have discovered long ago, but need to constantly remind ourselves:  “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”  Yes, that is brilliant.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Crowder Lake - Part 2

Sneezeweed in full bloom.
The huge bloom of a Prickly Poppy.  The shorter orange flowers
are Indian Blankets.
I’m glad I have this trip to write about, because there certainly isn’t anything going on right now.  The temperature is 104-deg. with a 108-deg. heat index in the shade.  The shade is rather pointless, because the wind of 15 mph and more blows the heat right under any shade tree to carry all the heat with it.  It has been this way for the last week, and is expected to continue without any foreseeable break. 

There is another short creek running to the north, but west of Cobb
Creek, that runs into a wooded area.
A Great Blue Heron fishing along the bank.
We (my companion being my 14-ft. Kevlar Hornbeck Adirondack pack canoe, ’Buddy’) reached Crowder by going south on Rt. 54 from Weatherford for 6.9 miles after passing under I-40.  At Cty. Rd. E1100, turn left (east) for 2 miles to the first stop sign at Cty. Rt. N2410.  There is a small sign for the lake at this turn.  This will take you across the headwaters of Cobb Creek in a deep ravine that one sign identifies as Cedar Canyon.  At 2410, turn right (south) for one mile, and at the dead end, turn right again into the drive to Crowder Lake.  The gate is closed from 10PM to 6AM. The lake belongs to the Southwest Campus of Oklahoma State University.  There are five paved RV sites available on a first-come, first served bases at $20/night.  Tent camping is $12.  Seniors receive a $2 discount.  There is a very nice paved parking lot at the concrete ramp at L35.39743N Lo98.70259W.  There is also a 1-mile paved nature trail that emphasizes tree species identification.

This beaver lodge in the delta of Cobb Creek is the second largest
I've seen.

Like most Western and Plains states, any open public lands are open
to cattlemen for grazing at the rate of $1.87 a head/month.  Anywhere
you step ashore, you have cattle to deal with, and there appears to be
no responsibility for maintaining them.
The lake is great for paddlers.  Power boats are permitted, but idle-speed, no wake operation is enforced with a $290 fine as an incentive for compliance.  I have no doubt that the lake can get busy during the summer, but I had the lake to myself except for one fishing pontoon boat and a couple bank fishermen in the park.  When I prepared to leave, a university photography class arrived to take out a half-dozen large aluminum canoes, so my timing was perfect.  

Large, red sandstone cliffs hang out over the stream. 

The bridge across Cobb Creek spans what they call Cedar Canyon.
Not far beyond, the stream grows much shallower, but compensates
with a nice, firm, gravel bottom.

When we bottomed out on the gravel bar, I climbed up the steep
bank to have lunch in a grove of trees.  Nearby lay the skeleton
of a cow that had obvious laid there for a considerable span of time.