Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Rest of the Holidays

After the insane camping escapade, of course, I got back to a problem car. Vicki's car had been towed to University Garage. We suspected the transmission, as I've known of two 1990's ford Taurus' having transmissions that conked out around 70-80,000 miles, plus I've read on the net that it is not uncommon for those transmissions to do that. Ours is a 2003. I was kind of hoping whatever issue that was had been addressed. But I don't know.

At any rate, went to the Garage the next morning and they said the car started up just fine and ran like a champ. They drove it on some service calls. No problems. There was an error code in the computer about an occasional misfire. They looked at the spark plugs, and that one had a crack in the ceramic part. They were probably the original spark plugs, too, and the thing has about 85K miles on it. So I said replace 'em all.

The only other thing he could think of was an intermittent fuel pump problem (unlikely) or ... water in the gas line. Well it had been rather cold. The high that day had been 9, and a piece of ice or water that got in the gas line could easily freeze and cut off fuel to the engine. So I dumped a bottle of Heet (I guess I actually used Prestone's product) and it's been fine ever since. Did the 1,000 mile trip taking mom back. No problem.

Kevin came into town for Christmas. Angela decided she wanted to move on before Thanksgiving, but hadn't moved out yet. So Kevin was flying solo sporting a new car. Well new to him. A Subaru, I think. Nice car. Got a new head unit in that would accept his MP3 player. Anyway he came in Christmas Eve after dinner. Brian, Kristin, and Trenton came over for that (and of course my mother-in-law was there, too) We had the traditional oyster stew and cinnamon pears. Vicki made crepes for Christmas morning.

For my part, it was a Les Stroud Christmas. I got a quick-dry fishing shirt (I like them for camping/hiking) from Brian and Kristin, and from Vicki I got Les Stroud's book "Survive", his self-titled CD (he started out as a musician), a fob watch with a built-in magnifying glass, compass, thermometer, and LED light, and a new Garmin eTrex Vista HCx (I really wasn't expecting that. She's off the hook for my birthday, anniversary, & Valentine's day). My old Vista's screen has been going out for quite some time, and this new generation has higher sensitivity antennas so I can go into the woods without losing my signal in the summertime. This one also has better navigational capabilites, and I think it handles battery life better.

Jim & Carol came in for a couple of days right before New Years. They have friends in Illinois they usually spend New Years with and the last couple of years they've taken a side trip to see us. We always have a good time with them and mom likes seeing them and they her.

New Years Eve Ryan and Kristie came over and we had appetizers and talked and drank a little. Ryan and I did cigars, and we broke it up at 12:05 am. Took mom back to Fort Wayne Jan 1 & 2, to my parents for the Leith Christmas on the 3rd... huff... puff .... huff ... puff...

Got the decorations down this last weekend. And you're about up to date.

We did get to see quite a bit of Trenton over the holidays, which was wonderful. Ken got him a train set. I've always wanted a train set, and it prompted me to go get one (with a 40% off coupon from Hobby Lobby). So now I have a Bachmann n-scale train set to entertain Trenton with. I had one of those dollar store battery operated ones under the tree and he loved it. Yeah. I did it for him. Uh-huh! That's my story and I'm stickin' to it!

Oh, to add insult to injury for Kevin, he got laid off last week. He was technically "the new guy", and they go by seniority. So now he's got a full rent payment and a new car and no job. He's pounding the pavement in St. Louis now for an IT or techie installer job.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Winter Walkabout, 2008

Kinda musty in here [sneeze!]. Let's see if we can dust off the cobwebs.

The holidays are always busy for us, but that is a good thing. It means we have family and friends to be busy with.

Vicki went up solo and got her mother from Fort Wayne the weekend of the 21st. This was mostly because Ryan and Scott wanted to do the Winter Walkabout on the 21st, the shortest day of the year. It had been planned for a long time, but the week before I watched the forecast take shape. High of 9, low of 0, and windy Sunday afternoon. I sent the forecast to Ryan and Scott to see if they'd call it off. They didn't. Didn't really surprise me. Part of the fun is the challenge.

The ice storm in Fort Wayne that week knocked power out to 100,000 people, including mother's, and since it was cold and dark in her house when Vicki got there, they packed in the dark and headed out in the late afternoon instead of the next morning. There were no hotel rooms to be had in Fort Wayne or Terre Haute, so Vicki booked a place in Effingham, IL, about 3.5 hours from here. Meaning she did about 12.5 hours of driving on Saturday. It also meant she got back in to town around noon on Sunday. We were leaving for the walkabout at 1:00. And I got a call at 12:30pm from Vicki, on the side of the road. Car conked out. 9 degrees outside. But fortunately, IN Columbia. Mom's AAA card got the car towed to University Garage, and I went to pick them up and bring them home. I got home, and Ryan and Scott were chomping at the bit to go.

In the truck on the way down, I mentioned that the intent of my email was to test the waters and their will to endure the cold. "Well the only reason I'm going is because you guys are going." .... "Well the only reason *I'M* going is because YOU guys are going." And so on.

We got there, loaded our packs onto our backs, and headed into the icy woods. Stopped at "the waterfall" to take a few pictures, and went the rest of the way to #17, a spot well protected by cedars (junipers, technically) down in the Cedar Creek bottom. We picked the spot a few years ago by using a GPS to position ourselves away from the trail, and away from the creek -- to simulate a "lost" situation while playing our version of "Survivorman".

We pitched tents, gathered deadwood, made a fire, and sat and talked while we made up some venison chili in Scott's new lightweight cooking set. We mostly stand around and talk, keep the fire going, have the occasional sip of whiskey or perhaps hot chocolate, get more wood as needed and talk about how nuts we are.

Thermometer was right around the zero mark at 4:00pm. And that thermometer only goes down to zero. The stew was good, and we turned in around 10:00pm. I'd heard that a single candle in a tent can keep it a few degrees warmer, so I hung my Uco candle lantern inside my tent and got inside my zero degree down bag. With my ECWS underwear, a fleece jacket, stocking cap, and John-e handwarmer. And covered THAT sleeping bag with a fleece sleeping bag. All this on top of my 4-season thermarest self-inflating pad. And that was on top of one of those heat-reflecting emergency blankets.

It worked. I was warm. Although when the candle went out at around 2:00 am, I noticed the temperature drop on my face within about 5 minutes. So it DOES help. I put a fleece chin and nose mask on, and kept trying to sleep. Which is difficult for me when I'm in an enclosed bag trying to keep from tipping my canteen which was in there with me to keep it from freezing and trying not to end up on top of the John-e handwarmer (because the fumes from the fuel actually cause chemical burns).... so I didn't sleep well at all.

I'm pretty sure it got down below zero in the hollow we were in. And it was significantly colder outside my tent than it was inside. I guess it was kind of like a warm air balloon, relatively speaking. We broke it all down, packed it up, and hiked back out, stopping to take a few more pictures, and I got home. And napped a lot.