Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Wait! "Thirty Four Pounds", shrieked the bird

I decided to weigh several of the things I carried on the hike last night to get a better idea of what contributed what to my load.

Tent4.5 lbs
Fleece Sleeping Bag2.5 lbs
Water Filter1 lb
Hatchet1 lb
Trowel0.5 lbs
Self Inflating Mat3.25 lbs
.22+holster2 lbs
Backpack7 lbs
Tripod Stool2 lbs

My daypack only ways 2.5 lbs, but carries a lot less. The most interesting thing is that my 7x7 tent is only .25 lbs heavier than the 6x5 one I carried!

Of course, I carried several other things like food, 4 lbs of water, hunting knife, batteries, cook kit, fuel, extra clothes, mini maglite...

I learned first hand on this hike excactly what all the lightweight backpackers keep saying -- if you're not comfortable, you won't enjoy the hike, you'll only look forward to the end of it.

Cat problems (again)

Bart has recently gone on a spree of ... shall we say, thinking outside the litterbox.

I tried the carpet cleaner on it a week or so ago, and it ultimately seemed to kick up yet more stink. Put Simple Solution on it... it didnt' seem to help much. I finally tried putting mothballs around the area to keep him from lingering there, but they smelled nearly as bad as the pee -- actually seemed to enhance the smell through some sort of odor-synergy, making it worse.

We started locking Bart in the bathroom with his food and water and the litterbox access behind the toilet (a hole to get to the furnace area under the stairs). Oddly, he didn't seem to mind as much as we thought -- he'd voluntarily go in there at various times of day to sit in the laundry basket with the blanket in it we'd set up for him.

I got on the web and found this stuff -- chemical, not enzyme -- called "odorcide" that professionals use to clean up "dead man" smell and other organic odors. The concentrate is something like $90 a gallon (but you can make 16 gallons with that). I found some at Red Hot Carpet Cleaners that came in a 16 oz package -- enough to make 2 gallons. I hung my hopes on that.

In the mean time, night before last when I got home, I heard a hissing sound coming from under the kitchen sink. It was wet. I felt around for where the leak was coming from -- apparently our water filter cracked. I had no idea how long it had been leaking, but the kitchen rug was wet. So after I got the water to the filter shut off, I went downstairs and found water in the room underneath the kitchen in the basement. Some in the ceiling, a lot in the rug in front of the closet and running over toward the furnace room. And a strong cat pee odor. Apparently he'd been doing it in there, too, and the moisture kicked it up. I spent most of the evening sucking about 5 gallons of water out of the carpet down there with the carpet cleaner.

The Odorcide came yesterday. Well, now I know why nursing homes smell like they do. I'm guessing they use this stuff. It's supposed to be some sort of spice smell, I can tell, with some gingery smell. I wish they'd just left the fragrance out of it. Unless that fragrance actually has something to do with how the fats and salts get broken down. And that's what it's supposed to do -- break down the oils and salts that other products don't.

I must say I'm not terribly pleased with the smell. I've used about half of it, and I'm wating for it to dry. We have fans and the dehumidifier going.

I got a brighter light for the litterbox area -- we're letting him roam free again and I'm hoping the week he spent in the laundry room has re-trained him that the litterbox is the place to go. It needs to be as inviting as possible, and the "preferred" places outside of the litterbox need to be made as un-inviting as possible. The CatScrams seem to work for the most part, but frankly I probably need a couple more of them.

Part of the problem is he needs to go through the area we're trying to protect to get to the litterbox. And no, we're not moving the litterbox. It's pretty much in the only place we're willing to put one. And he even used to pee right next to it -- so it's not that he didn't like going in there at all.

If this doesn't work -- I'm afraid Bart is going to have to make a premature exit from the world. I hate to do it, but I don't want to live in a cat pee home.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Big Walkabout

Well, the big walkabout happened this past weekend, in which Ryan and I hiked from Pine Ridge near Ashland up to Rutherford Bridge ... near Englewood. All in all around an 8 mile hike through Mark Twain National Forest on the Cedar Creek Trail System. I'll warn you in advance that I did not take a ton of pictures on this trip due to some of the difficulties we encountered. Next time we try this it will be a lot more relaxed.

We'd planned on doing this for some time, and waited for the first break in the hot weather combined with a weekend we were both free. That happened last weekend. Before that, we experimented with various soda can alcohol stove designs and our lightweight mess kits.

I had borrowed an external frame backpack from Mark (actually, technically it is an internal frame pack, but the frame elements are, in fact, on the outside of the pack) that appears to be U.S. Army issue, or at least was at one time as verified by Brian -- who knows about military product codes (having been in Supply Administration for the U.S. Marines). The pack itself isn't all that light. I didn't weigh it by itself (I should do that tonight) but I imagine it weighs 7 lbs or so. I put my 3 lb, 2 oz tent and my fleece sleeping bag (about the same weight?) in it, and strapped my ... ~5 lb self-inflating mattress pad to it. That gets us up to ~18.5 lbs. Add 4 lbs of water, a 1 lb water filter, 0.5 lb cook kit, 1 lb of fuel.... 21 lbs. 2 lbs of food. another 4 lbs of clothes.... you see where this is headed. I weighed it the night before we went. 29 lbs. That's about the upper limit of "lightweight" for this kind of trip.

Before I left we added a few more things. Little did I know I was carrying about 39 lbs.

The backpack frame is ultimately too small for my torso. I can't get it to transfer the weight to my hips. It wants to tug on my shoulders too much. Finally, I cinched it down on my hip bones so tight that they hurt slightly, and I could get most of it to transfer. It isn't a wide-belt one like my Mountainsmith Daypack. I started to feel for our soldiers.

We dropped Ryan's car off at Rutherford Bridge, and Vicki took us to Pine Ridge. We went to the parking area supposedly by the trailhead, and spent the next hour ... trying to find the trailhead. It turns out that parking place really isn't for the trailhead. Frankly, I'm not sure what it's for. We used the GPS to head toward where we were sure the trail should be. Ended up crossing a road... turns out the first part of the trail was along this road. We'd gone too far, so we had to backtrack to see where the trail split off of it. We found it, and headed out on our way.

That first hour we spent in a field with tall grass. I had made a mixture of sulfur and baby powder to keep chiggers at bay, and we'd put it on our socks and legs. Next time, we'll have to be more liberal with it.

We hiked through a pretty field further down the trail, and wound our way to the Nevins Homestead -- a cabin and a barn, both falling apart, where a black family had lived years ago from 1905-1982. The original cabin may have been built as early as 1856. There was a little history written up on a sign next to the house. Columbus Nevins was active in the Civil Rights movement.

From there we crossed CR363 and into the next section of trail.

We stopped for lunch around 1:30 ... about 2 and a half hours into the hike. We had used half our water. There wasn't any water in any of the dry branches of the creek system to be had. At that point I knew we pretty much needed to camp by Cedar Creek, which meant going all the way to "the hotdog spot". And we weren't even halfway there. We had passed a group of ladies walking the trail, and I figured they must be staying around a campsite we knew we should be coming upon any time. They came back and passed us while we were eating lunch and resting, so I asked one of them if that's where they came from, if it was close, and if there was any water. Thankfully, they said it was about 3 minutes ahead and yes, it had water.

So we tanked the rest of our water and struck out for the campsite. Filled our hydration bladders and an empty water bottle I had brought along just in case.

The next leg of the journey was around a mile along a gravel county road, and we picked up the pace. Caught a few minutes of the MU football game on a little radio Ryan had brought. We were ahead 20-7 with something like 9 minutes left. But we lost reception. That did, however, help pass the time on this not-so-interesting part of the journey.

Eventually we hit another trailhead where the trail went off the road and up toward the trail loop that leads, in part, to "the hotdog spot" (so named because that's an established camp site with a fire ring Ryan and Daryl ... and I ... have often stopped and cooked a lunch of hotdogs over a fire.

All in all, it's a generally hilly hike, but nothing too steep. We went through one large field early on, and a smaller one on this leg. At one point a trail ride of about 30 horses came down the trail, and we stopped and let them pass with appropriate "howdy"'s and small talk with the riders as they passed. And before we knew it, we were at the junction with the other trail.

This whole time I had been constantly adjusting my backpack, trying to keep my shoulders from cramping up without cutting off the circulation to my legs. I'd finally found a pretty good compromise, though.

We sat on our little tripod folding seats we packed along -- and decided they were worth their two pounds of weight. The hotdog spot shouldn't be more than 25 minutes away to the West.

We struck out for it after about 15 minutes. We considered camping on Gilligan's Island (our name for it) where our winter/spring walkabouts usually ended up since we more likely wouldn't have company there, but that would be another 30 minutes of hiking, plus 30 more in the morning. We sat down.

When we stood up, we both realized how beat we were. I was dizzy. Low blood sugar. It was about 4:00 when we got there. We set our tents up. I thought a nap sounded really good. But I probably wouldn't have gotten up. I laid down on my self-inflating mattress for a few minutes and forced myself to get up.

We cooked dinner -- Dried instant rice/bean meals to which I added texturized vegetable protein (tastes like chic-ken ... well, sort of). Started to get a second wind. We played around with the three survival kits Ryan had brought to test out. Started a fire with a flint & some oil soaked cotton balls that were in one. Sat on our chairs. Drank Turkey out of our flasks. Enjoyed a pipe, the fire, and the sounds of the Mid-Missouri forest. We even got a whipoorwill right around dark. And then we crashed.

Got up at about 6:30 the next morning. Filtered some water from the creek to cook our oatmeal breakfasts, then broke camp and hiked out. I got phone reception from the top of a bluff and called Vicki to let her know we were on our way out.

We're still pretty sore, and Ryan got downright infested with chiggers. I got a few down by my ankles and a couple under my watch.

We'll do it again sometime, with a different backpack, less weight, cooler weather and after the chiggers get killed off by frost -- or we'll go nuts with the sulfur powder. The only place Ryan didn't get chigger bites on his legs was where he'd spilled a bunch of it on his leg.

And that's the name of that story.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Well, Crikey!

So sad to hear of Steve Erwin's shocking and untimely passing. We watched him so much the first couple of years he was on we felt like we almost knew him. He was a lot of fun, and it looks like he lived life full throttle.

I'll add my condolences to the enormous pile of condolences to Terri, Bindi, and Robert -- unfortunately, all the condolences in the world won't bring him back -- but know that a huge chunk of the world grieves with you.

We're glad we knew ya, mate!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Irish Fest

I decided to make a quick solo trip to Kansas City to go to Irish Fest -- for which Cami is in charge of graphic design -- and pretty much works her little Cami tail off getting it all together and working the fest itself. I think she actually got to enjoy some of it this year.

Vicki decided to sit it out -- she thought Mark and I could use some no-girls visit time. Since Cami lives at the fest on fest weekend, that's what it would be.

Mark wasn't feeling well -- he got into some poison ivy a week or so ago on his new property. He was slathered in calamine and doped up on anti-histamines. But he was kind enough to take me and Cami gave us the royal treatment. Well, hey, we're family, right?

Irish fest is mostly about the music. There are a lot of vendors if you're in to that, and a kids' tent, and a kind of "Celtic Family History" area ... and a whole lotta redheads.

When we got there a band called Seven Nations was playing. They were Celtic Rock, with an emphasis on the rock but a firm foot in the Celtic as well. The lead singer (Kirk McLeod) reminded me of a young Stephen Stills (the #15 shirt didn't hurt that perception any). I adopted him as my Rock Persona Alter Ego.

Luka Bloom couldn't make it due to strep throat or something -- I am disappointed, Luka. I was really looking forward to seeing you. And while I don't have anything in particular against the Hot House Flowers, they aren't you. Take care of yourself and come next year, dammit!

Gaelic Storm did not disappoint. We saw them at Jesse Auditorium last year and they are an extremely talented group of musicians and they have a real entertainer for a frontman. Not to mention the lovely and talented Ellery Klein on the fiddle. Where was she when I was in College? Eh. She was probably 10. (if she were in college when I was, I wouldn't have stood a chance anyway) I wondered aloud to Cami and Mark why music like that isn't mainstream? It's freakin' awesome! Beats the heck out of Snoop-shizz-nizzle and Paris flippin' Hilton. (Why is she famous, again?) Anyway, I got to go right up to the stage and take pictures. That was cool. Immersed in a crowd of several hundred people most of whom probably felt the same way I did.

We stayed later than we'd planned -- got home around 10:00. Mark and I sang and played until about 1:00 am, bless the poor guy. I'm sure he was beat. Poison ivy and antihistamines are no fun.

Cassie mostly played with friends. I raced cars with Nathanial for a while. Of course, he always got the blue car that stays on the track much better. He set a record by going around the track 20 times without flying off! Next time I'll bring some epoxy putty and modify the gold car to be heavier. Then I'll beat him! Yeah. Always cool to beat a 6 year old. Got my game on, dude!

I left around 1:00 in the afternoon. Stopped by Cummins tools to see what they had. Found a couple of collapsable cups and a couple of stainless Sierra style cups. Headed home.

Today I fixed (hopefully) the leak in Vicki's windshield. She was being awfully patient about it. I didn't want to pay someone to do it, and I didn't want to do it when it was hot. Or raining. Or after work. Well, those three stars lined up perfectly today.

Went to work on another alcohol stove. It still won't boil 2 cups of water on a tablespoon (my elusive goal) but it'll do it on 4 teaspoons like my pressurized model and -- it'll simmer. It is more efficient, I believe, than the pressurized one. Slower, but more efficient. And more flexible.

And while we're waltzing down memory lane

Here's the guy who taught me how to juggle back in 1985 or so. His name was David Stemmerman. Real nice guy. He truly wanted to make it juggling -- that is, be able to make a living doing it. His life was juggling. When I knew him, he lived in a closet in a basement on east campus -- he was renting it for $30 a month. His bed (a matress set on a box spring, probably a twin bed) fit tightly between the walls to the back of the "room". He had a trunk and a lamp, and I think a phone -- although I think it only worked when he could afford it. He shared a kitchen with several other people there, and a bathroom as well. Talk about your starving artist.

Wonder what ever happened to Dave?

Well, Dave, if you're out there, I never got past three objects, but three has been satisfying. Thank you, Dave.

Speaking of Shorts...

When I first got to college ... um... over 20 years ago, was when this bermuda shorts thing became popular. I thought it was a sad day in the history of shorts when they became popular. It's still hard to find a pair of shorts in the store that doesn't go down to your knees.

Thankfully, in the last several years, people haven't been afraid to wear shorts that are at least several inches off the knee... a big improvement.

(yours truly, above, showing what shorts are SUPPOSED to look like ;-) )

I am often reminded of a cartoon in the Maneater eleventy jillion years ago there was a cartoon that pretty much captured how I felt about it. I mean, 24 years later, they've grown on me some (meaning I don't just hate them anymore) ... but ... as I was digging through old memory boxes to find that drawing of Johanna, I came across the cartoon -- and since it still appears somewhat timely... (click on it if you want to actually be able to read it)

No idea who Dr. Donald was ... but thanks, Doc.

A Happy Fashion Trend

Nothing's more "American Summer" than a pair of cut-off blue jeans.

I've also always had a thing for denim skirts. In college, a girl in a denim skirt, white blouse, and red shoes would grab my involuntary attention in a heartbeat.

Recently, a new trend which combines these two favorites of mine has really gotten popular, and I must say, I approve. It adds a little edge to a classic look, and a little class to an edgy look. During rush this year there was a whole sorrority full of girls in t-shirts and cut-off jean skirts. That's when I knew it had arrived. I can't say I'm disappointed.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Donavon Frankenreiter

I mentioned going to see "Snakes on a Plane".

About the most memorable thing about it was the opening song while the credits were running -- a song called "Lovely Day" by Donavon Frankenreiter.

I'd never heard of him, but I looked up the song on the soundtrack and listened to the rest of his stuff that's available on Rhapsody. It's really good stuff.

Despite the fact that Rhapsody lists him in the "Adult Alternative" category (alternative to what?) -- he has, in my opinion, strong Jesse Colin Young & Johnathan Edwards influences -- both good things in my book. Not that anything by Jesse Colin Young they have on Rhapsody is even a shadow of the classic Song for Juli album I'm mostly thinking of.

Donavon's music is very... "Phil". Reccomended.

update: Turns out this dude is a surfer-turned-musician. Cool.