Monday, August 31, 2015

K+10 K-Day plus 1, aka The Drowned City

Isn’t that the title of a Lovecraft story? Sounds like it. We’re in the wilderness (Dinosaur National Monument) with no wifi so I can’t check.

The horrors of Katrina were frequently counterbalanced by the generosity and kindness of people with no motivation other than the goodness of their own hearts. Altruism, pure and simple. Fuck you, Ayn Rand! You and yours are the antithesis of “humanity.”

There are many stories and examples of generosity in the wake of Katrina, extravagant, promiscuous generosity, and they are humbling. But no instance of generosity should be dismissed. Small or large, all instances of generosity spring from the same place in the human heart. A locale where we should all spend more of our time.

We were sitting in upscale comfort in Chuck’s Houston-ish home, glued to the news, fairly certain that our beloved (and newly refurbished, damnit!) Zombie Princess had been destroyed along with most of the other watercraft in the New Orleans area. In the midst of that maelstrom of emotion, Kelly Lovejoy contacted Ronnie and offer to give us a scholarship to attend the Live and Learn Unschooling Conference, happening soon in Saint Louis, free of charge. If we had no boat to adventure on, we could refresh our emotional reserves with a long weekend with fellow unschoolers before moving ahead - somewhere – with our lives. A timely and generous offer. Thank you, Kelly. We will always treasure it. A few years later, we did make it to the last-ever Live and Learn Unschooling Conference in Asheville, North Carolina. Unschoolers are wonderful; but I digress.

That is merely a pleasant vignette, peripheral to the headline news of this day: Levees fail. New Orleans drowns.

Ain’t dat some pure fuckin’ shit? The city may have dodged a bullet but then it got hit by an RPG. Or more like a tactical nuke. With all the nastiness dredged up by a flood in that area, it was actually pretty much like a biological weapon. When I was a kid, that’s what the wags and wonks called it: ABC warfare – Atomic, Biological, Chemical. Did you learn your ABCs in school? Yessir, I sure did. Hide under my plywood desk near the huge bank of non-safety-glass windows. After I survive the multiple nuclear strikes on New Orleans by doing that, I can survive the radiation because I am pure of heart and a by-gawd American. Biological and/or chemical attacks? Well, then I guess we were just fucked.

The flood water itself was, of course, immensely destructive. Add to that the fact that it was a medium carrying every sort of tropical disease bred in those primeval swamps. Then add in the effluvium from failed petrochemical plants and aluminum smelters and you have a hellish brew capable of producing mutagenic effects even Hollywood horror movies of the 50s never thought of. Biological AND chemical? Check and Check. The city was just fucked.

Storm surge. Not an especially evocative phrase on its own. Could refer to the tide rolling casually up the beach a couple more feet than usual. Or it could refer to…

New Orleans has always been a port city. For a long time it was the busiest port in the US. Even in the years leading up to Katrina it was still one of the busiest, serving the entire middle of the US. Post-Katrina it still is and does. When people ask, “Why should we rebuild a city which is below sea level?”, the simple answer is: It is a VITAL port city for much of the US. If for no other reason, it is necessary to support and maintain New Orleans because of that.

Shipping comes up the Mississippi River from the Gulf of Mexico. The delta is, like most deltas, a confusing maze of channels and serpentine, changing routes. Business logic said that having a consistent, direct, dredged route would be a godsend. Introducing Mister Go, aka Mr. Go, aka MRGO – the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, a wonderful straight shot from the Gulf to the heart of New Orleans.

Is there an adumbration in that sentence for you? Do you feel the potential of what underlies that sentence? A straight shot from the Gulf to the heart of New Orleans. What could possibly go wrong?

FYI, in the years since those halcyon days of profitable yore, Mr. Go is no more. Mister Go is Mister Gone.

But for Katrina, Mr. Go was a freeway for a tidal bore, more precisely, a storm bore, the gun barrel of an oceanic sniper rifle zeroed in on the fibrillating heart of the Crescent City, the City that Care Forgot, the Big Easy, the Paris of America, the Northernmost Caribbean Island, etc. The sniper motto is “One Shot, One Kill” even from great distances, even from a cold barrel. Sniper Katrina was unemotionally professional. No fancy head shot. No precision medulla hit causing an instant cessation of life. Katrina went for the sure shot – center mass – not necessarily instant death but certain death.

New Orleans is an old city (in American terms). Her arteries and veins had been repaired and rebuilt many times by various doctors. Specialists had been trying to get her to do a major rebuild of her main arteries for years but the cost was high and her insurance company didn’t like the price tag. Her current doctors were doing what they could but they were neither the best nor the brightest and they were defensive about the quality of their previous work. They argued that it was good enough.

Katrina’s shot from the barrel of Mr. Go injected a sudden bolus of immense volume, unimaginable volume, into New Orleans’ old and tired arteries, throwing her instantly into hypervolemic shock. Inadequate stitches in arterial walls began to give. Death was not instant but it was certain.

Stitches tore. Arterial walls failed. New Orleans began to experience fatal internal bleeding.

K+10 K-Day

K-Day! August 29, 2005, a Monday, a watershed day in American History.

It’s Saturday, 8/29/2015, as I write, sitting in our comfortable tent-trailer in Dinosaur National Monument on a beautiful day. Hot sun but cool breezes under the shady trees. Split Mountain providing an impressive backdrop to our setting with the Green River mere steps away from our campsite. Lovely. Idyllic.

Monday, 8/29/2005, ten years ago was different in so many ways. Physically, we were pleasantly settled in Chuck’s lovely suburban home with all the comforts, including a delightful pool and requisite BBQ. I was with my own family, in addition to my dad and both my sisters plus Judy’s hubby, Gary. It was wonderfully social and upbeat.


Emotionally, we feared the worst for our homes in New Orleans, actual homes for my siblings and the ZP as our little nuclear family’s travelling home-away-from-home. We were all glued to the news and had been since we’d arrived. We also feared for the safety of our other family and friends who had maybe evacuated elsewhere or maybe stayed. It was a concern. A significant concern as the news progressed through the day, although the initial reports that morning were all in the vein of “We dodged a bullet.” Damage from Katrina herself seemed, not objectively reasonable, but reasonable considering the fact that she was a huge motherfucker who had contained within her, the potential for infinite death and destruction. A false dawn of hope.

In the years since Katrina, I’ve read various authors who wrote about her. Some factual vignettes, like “4 Dead in Attic”, some fictional works, like James Lee Burke’s novel, which incorporated Katrina in their narrative. For me, none of them adequately conveyed the emotional horror of those days. Even James Lee Buke who is a brilliant author I respect completely, familiar with both the area and the maze-like convolutions of the human psyche, was unsuccessful (for me) in describing the intensity of horror in all four of its dimensions. (Or 12. Or however many there actually are.) I think it would have taken someone like H. P. Lovecraft to do justice to it. Cthulhu visits the Crescent City. Maybe Dante. Vergil says, “Follow me (into Hell… or New Orleans).”

Perhaps no one is capable of sharing a Bergsonian intuition of those times with those of us who had our own individual experiences. It’s too subjective. Too personal. Those authors who’ve written about it are simply sharing their trip through a modern “Inferno” or a visit from something older, vaster, and more deeply horrific than cuddly Cthulhu, because it was not inimical, something we can understand. We know Cthulhu hates us and *desires* greatly to devour us. It simply was being itself, with no regard, for good or ill, for the Earth virus which is humanity.

That really messes with our overweening egos.

So I know that whatever I write is merely my personal crap. One evacuee’s time spent in the extravagance of suburban Houston, with extended family, a private pool, BBQ steaks, shopping malls, and a nearby waterpark, while his hometown drowned.

But not quite yet. That is a movie titled The Horror Yet to Come. This day was horrible, terrible, not-very good news but tinged with, as I said earlier, A False Dawn of Hope.

K+10 August 26-28

Friday, August 26. We’ve been hearing all week about Katrina. The ZP was close enough to ready that, if Katrina had been smaller, I’d’ve been tempted to run. But watching the weather reports and radar, she was enormous, practically filling the Gulf. There was no direction or angle that would be safe to try to use to run. We began stripping the ZP of valuables and prepping her for a BFH – Big Fucking Hurricane.

Side note. Many people have many opinions about the politicians involved in the lead-up to Katrina. All I can say is that we heard Mayor Nagin on the radio as early as Monday telling people to leave if they possibly could. As we got closer to today (Friday), he demurred that he had no authority to demand an evacuation but he strongly recommended it. I have no comments about him other than that.

Anyway, it definitely looked like a big one was gonna hit New Orleans and probably head on. We spent the day prepping the boat and discussing what to do.

Saturday, the 27th, the news just sounded worse and worse. We decided to tie up the ZP as best we could and go to my sister Chrissy’s house. Chrissy lived (still does) in River Ridge, which is high ground near the river (all the high ground is near the river). I figured we’d hunker down at Chrissy’s and ride out the storm there. I’d been through Betsy in 65 and Camille in 69 and we never evacuated. Actually, my dad was an Electrical Engineer for the public utility (NOPSI) and, despite the fact that his job was designing substations, he got called up after Betsy to go out with repair crews. I drove him into a meeting place every morning for many days after Betsy, returning home for the day, then back to retrieve him at the end of the day. Late. Those guys worked their asses off in that heat and humidity.

I was not interested in evacuating. We’d be good at Chrissy’s, I thought, at least as good as we’d been for Betsy. Not wonderful, but safe and just biding our time until the power came back and we could have airconditioning again.

We have a fun dinner and evening, then I went to bed.

Sunday, the 28th, Ronnie woke me. She and Chrissy had been watching reports all night and they declared it time to evacuate. I didn’t argue. We loaded ourselves in our Odyssey and Chrissy got my dad in her car and we headed out the I-10. In bumper-to-bumper traffic. With no destination decided. As we rolled, somebody talked to brother Chuck, who lives in Spring, just outside Houston. He and his family were in Chicago but he said a neighbor had a key and we were welcome to crash there. So that became our plan. Stay on the I-10 to Houston and invade Chuck’s life.

Normally about a 6ish-hour drive, we were instead bumper-to-bumper all the way from N.O. to Houston. Like many others, we occasionally left the line of traffic to get in line for a gas station bathroom, then crept back in to continue our pilgrimage. In the mid-teens of hours, we finally arrived at Maier Manor – Spring, TX. Phew! What a welcome relief.

We made ourselves at home as best we could without a host and hostess to guide us. The four of us, plus Chrissy and my dad but we were expecting sister Judy and Gary at some later hour. A mini family reunion at my brother’s house, without my brother. Ironic.

We settled in, watching the weather channel into the wee hours before crashing from exhaustion. There was a storm coming.

Roadtrip Day 053

Roadtrip Day 053

8/30 Sunday

Travel day.

Casual camp breakdown in occasional sprinkle. Bye, Dinosaur. You were lovely.

Cruising West on U.S. 40 toward the I-15. Mixed sun and rain. Airco in the sun, ambient in the overcast or rain. MacDonalds for lunch. C’mon! It’s easy and cheap. Drive thru and keep on rolling. Stopped for the night at Lodgepole Campground right at a pass at around 8K feet.

We did a simple, quick setup cuz we have an appointment at a branch of our bank in Provo tomorrow, 8/31; so in the morning, we’ll break camp efficiently and cruise into Provo to TCB. Maybe do some laundry, etc. while we’re there. Anyway, then, we’ll head down the I-15 toward Vegas and the meetup with Ronnie’s mom on Tuesday, 9/1. Probably camp somewhere near Vegas Monday night before cruising in Tuesday. Stay tuned for the actuality.

Expecting a chilly night at this altitude. Oh, and BTW, we’re back in bear country at this campground. But it’s just black bears. Shit! Dey ain’t nuthin’. Minimal prep. I told Ronnie in my best Caribbean accent, “No prob-lem, Mon! I kick dat bear’s ass, ya know!” She just shook her head at me. She loves me very, VERY much. (grin)

Roadtrip Day 052

Roadtrip Day 052

8/29 Saturday

Wakeup after 9. Desultory breakfast of tea and cream-cheese breakfast rolls. Nearly 10 now and we’re gonna flip a coin to decided what to do. Stay tuned.

Coin flip decides it – we move. However, we both reacted with an “Aw shit!” to that, so we’re gonna stay one more day. We’ll definitely move tomorrow, despite our laziness. Really.

Now, I’m gonna finish my blogpost about K-Day (the day Katrina hit) for my “K+10 *something*” series. I started it yesterday and had to stop for a while. The memories well up too strongly and are almost overwhelming. I have to write about it in small sips from the well of memory to avoid drowning. I am not a strong swimmer in the Emotion Ocean. I need emotional SCUBA gear. Diazepam, maybe?

Ha! Amusing parenthetical anecdote. Ronnie just saw that cousins Tom and Deb were taking my uncle Morrie (Tom’s dad) to a WWII reunion with his shipmates in Salt Lake City. Unfortunately, it was last weekend. Otherwise, we might have jumped in the car to see them. About a 3-hour drive from here to Salt Lake. Timing is everything. Woulda been nice to see them.

We spent the afternoon at Placid Point, signpost #8 on the main road. A short walk from a small parking place to a wide beach across from a bluff and canyon. We headed down with food, drink, beach chairs, towels, kindles, and our sunshade. Set up the sunshade at the edge of the water and sat with our feet in it. Ronnie, of course, got all the way in. Swam across and explored the far shore. Walked way upstream and floated back down. I enjoyed having my feet in the water and read my kindle in the lovely breeze under the sunshade.

Actually, there were a coupla time the lovely breeze took the sunshade and turned it into a kite. Eventually, we got the proper angle to the wind and sufficient stakes to keep that sucker in place. Amusing in retrospect.

Headed back to our campsite at 5ish only to be radared by the traffic rangers who gave me a stern talking to for doing 65 in a 45; but no ticket, so, PHEW!

Running the genny, charging things, and updating this now. Then some dinner and another lovely evening here at Dinosaur. Our last. *sigh*

We built a fire and roasted marshmallows. Yum! Sat by the fire and watched the moon rise. Then bedtime. Goodnight, Moon.

Roadtrip Day 051

Roadtrip Day 051

8/28 Friday

Slept in. Three Rs. Just sat in the shade, reading and enjoying the view of Split Mountain. Deciding whether to move tomorrow or Sunday. It’s beautiful and idyllic here. Self-indulgence tempts us to simply settle in here. I haven’t seen any lotus plants growing in the vicinity but we seem to have become like the lotophagi in this lovely place full of wonderful memories. Why *do* when it’s so nice to simply *be*?

Roadtrip Day 050

Roadtrip Day 050

8/27 Thursday

Some rain last night. Kept things cool. Sunny and hot today. We made some plans about what to do next, then did some Three R time under the shade of the trees. We decided that we’ll break camp tomorrow and move on down the road a bit to somewhere new.

Still looking ahead to September 1 in Las Vegas for a few days, September 14 in San Diego for a week or so, and the beginning of October for the Free To Be Unschooling Conference in Phoenix.

A very rigid schedule for people who’ve been wandering for 50+ days.

Ha! Writing this now on Friday morning.

Last night sometime after 7 as the evening was burgeoning, we talked about dinner and stochastically decided to drive into Vernal to try the Quarry Steakhouse, which a ranger had recommended as the best place to eat – in Vernal. An important distinction. We arrived for an 8pm seating (They close at 9.) and, given their steakhouse cachet, I tried a ribeye. It wasn’t a Metropolitan Grill wagyu piece of beef but it was very tasty and only about 1/4 the price of a similar steak from the Metropolitan Grill. Ronnie had a coupla specialty beers and I had a glass of decent Merlot and we even got dessert, finishing up as they were closing. Drove back to camp in the brilliant moonlight, shining off the river, highlighting the mountains. A delightful evening.

Roadtrip Day 049

Roadtrip Day 049

8/26 Wednesday

Ronnie woke early and did the trial we’d done as a night hike a couple of days ago. I stayed home and enjoyed the cool, grey morning skies. Threats of rain today. Got a coupla spits but nothing significant. Ronnie got back from her hike safely and had a little sunshower action to get her ready for lunch.

Still cloudy and spitty as we push into the afternoon. I’ve taken to adding a teaspoon of pink lemonade powdered mix into a Shasta Twist (lemon-lime carbonated beverage). Very refreshing .

The campground is mostly empty and it’s nice to have a quiet afternoon of Camping R’s. Let’s see what those legionaries are up to while I get some charge on my laptop from Mister Generator.

Roadtrip Day 048

Roadtrip Day 048

8/25 Tuesday 

Hmmmm, refrigerator was warm this morning. Messing with the propane feed, I’m suspecting that the thermocouple is bad. Gonna hafta watch that and find a shop sometime to get it repaired. Don’t think I wanna tackle that myself. Meanwhile, we can use 12-volt to power it and/or use the ice chest. The fridge can work on propane, 12V DC, or 120AC. Unless we’re plugged in somewhere, we rarely use AC to power it. Propane is easiest and cheapest, rather than worrying about the deep-cycle batteries and charging them, except if it’s not working consistently…. Well, then, that’s a different story. Anyway, that’s our real-life PITA issue for today.

Headed into town today to hit the library for wifi and grocery for food. Food called to us from the depths of our souls and we sopped first a a little café. Breakfast for lunch. Yum! And a generous farmer-style breakfast, it was. Fortified, we hit the library and logged on. Our only consideration was getting back to the ranger station for 5:00pm for a talk by a long-time paleontologist at Dinosaur.

I got done with my online stuff and prompted Ronnie to go, even though it was early. I said we could shop the grocery slowly. However, when we got in the car, we realized we’d been keeping time by our computers which were still set to Pacific Time. Shit! We had to hurry to get back to the Visitor Center in time for the talk.

Made it just a few minutes late. Fascinating stuff. I wish I’d recorded it. He talked about one proto-dinosaur I *must* find out about. Of course, I forgot its name promptly and will have to research it. It sounded amazing.


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Roadtrip Day 047

Roadtrip Day 047

8/24 Monday

Today is our 25th (wedding) anniversary! What will today bring?

Well, it’s starting with a lazy, late wakeup and a casual, slow breakfast. It’s also the day where we have hardpoints in our future schedule, rather than our usual, indeterminate gallivanting. (Apologies to Katie Pybus for stealing her identifier. *wink*) We’ve just scheduled ourselves to meet Ronnie’s mom, Mary, in Lost Wages, New Vader (aka Las Vegas, Nevada) for a coupla days, starting on September 1. We also now have a plan to meet Chloe and her friend Casey in San Diego on the 14th for a week. It feels so *rigid*. (grin)

Today, during and after breakfast, I composed the next post in my series of “Katrina plus 10” posts (series titles: K+10 *something*), a post about our anniversary then, just days before Katrina. Memories.

Ronnie started her day after breakfast with some time under the sunshower. Its water was a bit chilly for me right now. I’ll wait until the sun’s been heating that sucker a while longer before I have my “anniversary shower”.

We’re planning a night hike tonight. Should be interesting and beautiful. Clouds and wind threatened rain but it never materialized. I took my shower in the heat of the afternoon and it was good. Genny and electronics time now, then dinner, and finally night hike.

Yep, we did the night hike. It was beautiful in the moonlight or twilight moonlight when the clouds covered Luna from our sight. 11:00pm now. Very tired. Goodnight.

Roadtrip Day 046

Roadtrip Day 046

8/23 Sunday

Woke, fortified with oatmeal, and headed over to Colorado and out to the Harper’s Corner hike. We were early enough that it was not hot and there were few people on the trail. Lovely hike along the ridge out to the point where you look down at the confluence of two rivers in tight, windy canyons almost a mile below. Amazing geology and scenery.

Back to the Visitors’ Center there, which is a *very* secondary one. Had a nice chat with the ranger on duty, looked around, then headed back to camp. Three Rs for the afternoon, then some genny time, dinner, and blog updates. Fresh asparagus were tasty.

Met some homeschoolers who are in a campsite near us. The teenager had a small telescope. It’s too bad they didn’t arrive a day earlier; he could have attended the star party of last night where there were a coupla BIG scopes. Oh well…

We’re both tired, so I’m gonna call this bedtime.

Roadtrip Day 045

Roadtrip Day 045

8/22 Saturday

After a comfortable, long night’s sleep, I woke with a delicious glass of cold Ovaltine. We’re writing a bit (gotta keep those legionaries moving!), then we’re thinking we’ll drive around to the North side to Jones’ Hole, which is supposed to be beautiful, then into town to hit the museum there and score some groceries.

Skipped Jones Hole and hit the museum. It was pretty nice. Some of their models and art were outdated but some were very current. From there, we sat in the county library for a good while doing wifi: blogs, email, facebook, new library books, etc. Then a grocery trip and back to camp.

Only to find that we were less than an hour from a ranger talk by the granddaughter of the guy who did all the original digging here. So we did a quick New York steak on the BBQ and sautéed some mushrooms in butter on the stove, wolfed it down, and made it to the ranger talk in time.

Fascinating talk. Maybe I’ll hit some highlights tomorrow. Right now, it’s late because at the talk we heard that there would be a star talk and telescope event starting at 9:15 at the boatlaunch campground not too far away. So, we went to that. That was very fun. Some big, expensive telescopes were there. Had a great viewing of Saturn. Watched the ISS fly by. Had a fun talk about the constellations from various mythologies.

We also found out there’d be a talk at the Visitors’ Center at 5 pm on Tuesday by a paleontologist who’s been working here since the 70s and who discovered two new species while working here. Gotta schedule attendance at that.

A glass of cold Ovaltine to bookend my day while I type this little bit, then bedtime. Been a long day.

K+10 August 24 Anniversary

I’m composing this post on August 24, 2015 (our 25th anniversary) at Dinosaur National Monument, exactly 10 years after the title of the post. We’re travelling now, on land, as we were preparing to do then, on water. It feels quite symmetrical and appropriate.

For our anniversary, we had good reason to celebrate. First, of course, was that it was our anniversary. We were also celebrating that the ZP and her crew were essentially ready to go cruising. Any boat always need tweaks, but all our major systems were done; we had a lovely, new dink; we were provisioned up; and we were excited for the future. I still had some engine gremlins but that wasn’t unexpected in an engine that old and I felt they were addressable in the next coupla days. Or in the Florida Keys, once we reached there.

The four of us went to a nice restaurant (the Louisiana Grill) on the North shore of Lake Pontchartrain, opposite New Orleans herself. We gorged on delicious Creole food and generally had a delightful time. Cruising was just around the corner.

K+10 August The Grave Tender

From the moment I arrived in New Orleans in June, I’d been looking for a used dinghy. I could have bought any number of worthless, crapped-out dinks but I wanted a good one and those weren’t being sold. Ultimately, we decided to buy new.

Paying full, new price was painful but that way we were getting what we wanted. Bought a RIB and a 4-stroke 9.9HP motor. Uninflated, the dink fit into an easy-to-carry flat-ish case. I installed a motor mount on the stern pulpit to hold the motor and we created a space on the foredeck to stow the dink in its uninflated form in its protective carrycase. With a power inflator, it fattened up quickly and we could drop it over the side, walk it back to the stern, and hand down and attach the motor. Poof! Ready to go!

Names are always the big trick. Because we were the Zombie Princess, we needed an appropriate name for our dinghy. Since an ancillary craft is variously called a dinghy, dink, tender, et al., we settled on calling the new dink the Grave Tender. Perfect.

B y this time, we were moving into the fourth week of August; and, with the addition of the dink, we were pretty much prepped to go. The best-laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley. Katrina had other plans for us.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

K+10 August Arrival

I had spent all of July on my own, working on the ZP. In the beginning of August, Ronnie and he girls arrived, accompanied by Grandma Mary who helped with the driving. It was the first time Ronnie and Chloe (and Mary) had actually seen the boat. I’d been working on “systems” all during July and hadn’t spent any effort on overall condition in the interior. The gang soon disabused me of my slovenly ways. They began cleaning and organizing the ZP.

With the arrival of the family, we moved me out of Judy’s and moved aboard the ZP as a family. We put Mary on a plane back to civilization. Bye! and Thanks!

With the boat clean and ready for occupancy, we started moving stuff from the minivan onto the ZP. Our original plan (modified by Katrina, as was everything) was that Bob would crew with me down to the Keys while Ronnie and the girls drove down there. Then Bob would drive the car back and park it on his property while we cruised. The Gulf of Mexico can be terrible and we wanted to spare the girls (and prone-to-seasickness Ronnie) that experience.

K+10 July Generator

The other side of the lazarette from the propane locker was destined to become the home of our generator. After doing all the fiberglass work (Ack!) to seal that space up, except for input vents in the stern and an exhaust port, also in the stern, plus the electrical connections needed to feed the ZPs electrical system, I bought a (relatively) cheap 5.5kW generator from Home Depot. I stripped off all the framework and ancillary crap until I had just the generator itself. It fit through the laz lid (barely) with some help from my friend Bob. Heavy sunnavabitch to maneuver into such a small space; but it did fit. I drilled holes to secure the feet from below to keep it in place and juryrigged a setup to feed it from an external fuel tank which was attached to the stern pulpit with a pivot to flip it down out of the way most of the time or up when feeding the genny.

I wrapped and secured the exhaust to try to keep it as quiet as possible but those cheap gennys are just loud. Happily, we weren't gonna use it a lot, just occasionally to top off our deep-cycle house batteries, although, if we were willing to spend the money for gas, it could power our airconditioner, if needed or desired.

It was heavy, painful work but infinitely cheaper than paying for a marine-approved genny, installed by a boatyard. And it worked like a champ.

K+10 July Head

Who doesn’t love working on 20+ years worth of other peoples shit?

The head setup on the ZP when we bought her was illegal. And old and tired. I wanted to refurbish it to modern, legal standards. So I started taking apart old boat plumbing.

The good thing about that was that it was an inside-the-boat task, which meant that I was working in the airconditioning instead of outside in the 95-degrees-plus-99-percent-humidity on the deck. Everything else about it was, as you’d expect, nasty. It took me three days. At the end of each day, I’d return to Judy’s house, my headquarters (grin), and have her pour betadine all over my hands and forearms. Then, I’d take a long, hot shower.

I needed a decent toilet (new) and all the complex plumbing to send the output of the toilet to the holding tank or directly overboard. Holding tank use was required in most U.S. waters. The boat had a holding tank but the previous owner had the boat plumbed so that it only and always went to direct overboard discharge.

To change (fix) that, I needed a bunch of new plumbing hoses and valves. Buying things in the airconditioned store was by far the best part of that job. Removing the old plumbing and installing the new stuff in the cramped conditions of the boat head was significantly unpleasant. Many people just rely on using a pumpout station at a marina to empty their holding tank. We didn’t plan to spend a lot of time at marinas, so I also installed a hand pump in the system which would let us pump out the holding tank ourselves when we were offshore.

Eventually, I got it done. Nice, new plumbing, all legal and functional. Offshore, we could do direct dump. Inshore, we could use the holding tank. Neat, clean, and legal.

Roadtrip Day 044

Roadtrip Day 044

8/21 Friday

Slept in, lazed around, then headed to the Visitors’ Center and the quarry. I am always amazed at the sight of all those fossilized bones in one place. And to walk up and touch fossilized bone in situ is very exciting. Nowadays, all cars are required to stay at the Visitors’ Center and take an open sided cart up to the quarry. There’s a hike down from the quarry to the Visitors’ Center called “Fossil Discovery” which sounded fun. So after we enjoyed the quarry, we took the cart back down, got our hiking boots and a camelback, took the cart back up, and hiked the trail. Hot, hot, hot. But we saw fossil bones in bas relief in the rock and some petroglyphs left by peoples of the past, including “Tommy” from the 20th century and a few other assholes.

I got a little heat exhaustion doing that. We got in the car, cranked the airco, and drove out East a way to a homesteader cabin which was inhabited into the 1960s. Several petroglyphs out that road. They’re fascinating.

Eventually back to the campground where Ronnie babied me with cool cloths, water (Ugh!), and spray-downs, while I recuperated. As evening came on, we sat outside under the cottonwoods and read a bit. A ranger came around, reminding us of her talk that evening, so we went to that. After the ranger talk, it was getting on toward full dark; so we had some dinner and crashed.

Roadtrip Day 043

Roadtrip Day 043

8/20 Thursday

Travel day.

We spent a lotta hours trying to decide how/when/where to go from Gros Ventre and the beautiful Tetons. Ronnie mapped out several possibilities with bunches of campgrounds marked. We finally decided to start South, generally toward Dinosaur National Monument and make choices at each decision point as we came to it. South it is. We folded our tent (trailer) casually and eased on down the road.

The Tetons elected to give us a fabulous sendoff by lining the road from the campground with a large bison herd. Lotsa cute babies; we even saw one actively nursing just a few feet from the road. Stop and go traffic as they occasionally crossed the road with no thought to vehicular traffic. Delightful and impressive.

As we rolled, we decided to head down the efficient path toward Dinosaur. Scenery changed from mountains to plains-ish as we progressed but the damned haze continued. Rangers said it was from all the fires West of here but, DAMN!, that’s a lotta haze over a whole lotta territory. After a lazy breakdown and departure, we weren’t sure we wanted to go all the way to Dinosaur in one day; but as we got closer, we decided to just go for it and try to get a site at the campground in the park.

Scenery was lovely the whole way. First, leaving the beautiful mountains, then the vast vistas across open or bluffy territory, then the mountainous, layered terrain and the amazing views of Flaming Gorge as we closed in on the park. We arrived about 7pm and asked the ranger at the gate if the Green River campground had openings. (Oh please!)

Yes! Hooray!

We drove around the whole campground and chose a spot in the shade of a coupla cottonwoods, with the Green River to the East, a bluff to the West, and a fabulous view of the amazing geology of Split Mountain to the North.

And it was warm!

By this time of day all through Washington, Montana, and Wyoming, we’d be in our Winter clothes with the trailer completely closed up. Here in the Green River campground, we set up in our shorts. It was wonderful. Also, we are now out of bear country. We can leave food, dishes, toiletries, garbage, etc. in the tent trailer. Much easier living than the constant back and forth between the trailer and the car to stow things in the approved bear-safe manner.

We sat outside in our shorts and played some guitar as we watched the night fill in. A curious rabbit sat very close and watched us for a while. He finally departed, casually, at “Rockin’ in the Free World”. Guess my voice on that one was too intense. (grin) A quick dinner, then bedtime at a park with many fond memories of previous trips.

Sweet dreams.

Roadtrip Day 042

Roadtrip Day 042

8/19 Wednesday

Got started early to beat the crowds and went to hike at String Lake and Leigh Lake. We started the day in warm clothes but stripped down to shorts and short shirts to hike. However, it stayed chilly. Thanks goodness we kept warmer shirts in the daypack.

Got passed by a family on horseback as we progressed along the String Lake trail. Big difference between privately-owned and well-maintained horses vs. commercial trail horses. Beautiful animals. Striking vistas as we walked along the trail. On the way back, some folks told us of a bear sighted “up the trail” but we didn’t see her.

Interestingly, the first day we arrived the atmosphere was crystal clear and the mountains were as sharply in focus as anything. But every day since then, we’ve had significant haze. From the highway, they’re almost obscured. Very different from our views on arrival day.

Reasonably clear from the lake(s), however, and we spent a pleasant time with String and then Leigh lake. After our hike, we headed North a bit to the campground/center area for SHOWERS! ($4.25 – no time limit) That was the highlight of the day for me.

We cruised back to our camp and decided to have an early dinner. Some chicken thighs on the BBQ and rice and broccoli on the stove. Now it’s 5:30ish and we’re running the genny and digesting while I type this. Thinking about leaving tomorrow.

More news on that as we decided.

Roadtrip Day 041

Roadtrip Day 041

8/18 Tuesday

We intended to hike but it turned into a lazy day. Finally, towards evening, we went into town for wifi so we could dump the last several days’ worth of blogs onto our blogs and catch up on email, etc. I also returned and checked out books from our local library. The internet is a swell thing. I have 10 new books to read for free, courtesy of Starbucks wifi (Ok, it cost us a coupla bucks to buy lemonade-tea to have an excuse to sit there.) and my tax dollars at work in my local library.

Chilly nights make for cozy sleeping. Ah, Summer camping. (at over 6K feet *grin*)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Roadtrip Day 040

Roadtrip Day 040

8/17 Monday

Day 40. Wow! Tempus fugit so we’re gonna carpe diem today. Breakfast, sunshine, and we’re hitting the road to explore this beautiful area.

Drove out to the Rockefeller Center and hiked the loop trail to the lake. There had been a bear on the trail earlier but they were reopening it as we got there. Very pretty hike and the view of the mountains behind the lake was lovely.

When we got back to the center, we visited it. Great architecture and interesting video and audio exhibits. Ronnie said she’d like to visit the audio chamber every morning for zen meditation time. Leaving there, we headed toward Wilson where Nora’s restaurant had been recommended but we were too late for lunch and too earl for dinner; so we cruised back through Jackson and stopped at the Merry Piggies (Mexican) restaurant, another recommended stop, for margaritas. I mean, for a late lunch – early dinner. Wandered the upscale, tourist-trappy town center to let the alcohol wear off. Finished with ice cream in the park then headed back to camp.

A little generator time, a little blogging, and I think it’s early to bed for me.

Roadtrip Day 039

Roadtrip Day 039

8/16 Sunday

I confess I slept badly and was slow and grumpy on waking. Ronnie had tea and blueberry muffins waiting for me and I sat zombie-like working my way through that when Lebron walked up and asked if we were awake and ready to see a moose.

Ok, that perked me up a bit, enough to stand and walk out toward the river with Ronnie, following Lebron to Jinger, who was keeping track of mister moose. And it was Mister Moose. His rack was about 4 feet across and still mostly in velvet with just a few points rubbed down to shiny white. He was sitting in brush, eating his way through the easy-to-reach morsels.

We watched him sit there for a while from about 25 yards away until he stood up and moved deeper into the brush toward the river. We walked downriver a way and came to a spot right by the water where we could see him, standing now, snacking for energy for the upcoming rut. We watched quietly, enjoying seeing him and very much enjoying seeing him with just the four of us. No one else in camp noticed or came out to join us. That was very nice.

We finally left him in peace and returned to camp. Jinger and Lebron had to checkout/leave by 11 so we kibitzed while they broke camp. Jinger left us with a list of cool things to do in this area; she’s a long-time expert visitor and knows all the tips and tricks.

Bye, friends, it was a delightful visit.

Some lunch now for energy, then we’re gonna reorganize the car which has become archaeological in its layered lack of organization. Ronnie has already begun, I’m eating early lunch to recover from my slow, low-energy start this morning. I’ll join her soon.

We started the trip with the car organized in a certain way. As we progressed into bear country, we started piling stuff on top of stuff randomly, things that needed to be in the fully-hard-sided car instead of the popup tent trailer. That’s why I said it was kind of archaeological; it was just layers of stuff from different eras of our travels. We just finished emptying the car and reorganizing from scratch to allow for putting all the food-related things that would ordinarily live in the trailer into the car in an accessible way. Seems much better now.

When we move out of bear country, we’ll move stuff back into the trailer. It’ll make food-related activities easier and there’ll be less stuff to dig through in the car. The pragmatics of bear-country camping in a less-than-fully-hard-sided camper are kind of a PITA. But it’s just a little extra time and we have that in abundance. And, after all, who wants to get eaten by a bear? Pas moi, merci! So, we adhere to bear safety regulations.

The moose was fucking awesome.

As for my legionaries, they have 50K words under their/my belt and are moving into Chapter 13 where they hope to move to a new, better, safer, less odorous site. After all, their current cavern is above a field of approximately 300 corpses which are now several days old. Peeee-yew! Dead skunk in the middle of the road ain’t got nothing; on that.

We closed out the day with a sunset drive to the Gros Ventre slide. (We’re in the Gros Ventre Campground, in case I haven’t mentioned that.) The entire drive out that way East we could look back West and watch the sunset behind the Tetons. Fabulous sunset color palette behind the imposing silhouette of an incredible mountain range. Then returning, of course, we were looking right at it as the sun disappeared and the backlit mountains amazed us until we got back to camp at almost full dark.

Roadtrip Day 038

Roadtrip Day 038

8/15 Saturday

After breakfast, we sat with the Burtons and chatted. And chatted. Suddenly, it was lunchtime, and we pooled some snacky foodstuffs, including shrimp and sushi. It was not a minimalist snacky lunch.

After lunch… well, we chatted. And chatted some more. A lovely, hot sunny day but being in the shade was perfect. Again suddenly, it was dinnertime. Jinger made a big pot of shrimp-linguine-something “spicy linguine” and it was delicious. Some sips of Don Julio tequila got us in the mood for dinner and afterwards Lebron made a lovely fire where we roasted marshmallows, ate chocolate eclairs, and chatted some more as the night cooled and the stars shone down on the righteous and the evil-doers alike. Not completely sure which category we fall into but we enjoyed the stars nevertheless. Eventually, we were all tired and we let the fire go down rather than feed it and finally wandered off to bed, where I snuggled deep into my sleepingbag against the chill.


Roadtrip Day 037

Roadtrip Day 037

8/14 Friday

Weather report threatened 90 as the high today but there is a HUGE stormfront moving in over the Tetons. It’s cloudy and grey over us now (11:30) and thunder is cracking  in the near distance. I suspect we’ll be closing up for storm conditions soon.

Here it is. We’re sitting comfortably in our tent trailer with the windward side closed up but the leeward side wide open and letting in the beautiful smell of the fresh rain, as I sit here typing in my Seahawks jersey on Blue Friday, plus (preseason) game day. Go, ‘hawks!

Coming down hard now. Smacking off our hard roof and thumping off the tent ends. A unique and wonderful aesthetic.

After the rain passed, the sun came back and it probably did hit 90. I felt like I was in the sci-fi novel “The Long Afternoon of Earth.”  Then as evening came on, the thunder and lightning came up over the horizon again. When the Burtons arrived, they were setting up in the edges of it. But they did arrive and get set up and we repaired to our tent trailer for them to have some dinner. We all shared some wine and chatted into the night.

More tomorrow.

Roadtrip Day 036

Roadtrip Day 036

8/13 Thursday

Travel day!

We’re scheduled to meet the Burtons near the Tetons at the Gros Ventre campground on Friday, so we’re breaking camp and travelling today in order to get set up and have a rest day after all our Yellowstone activity.

After breakfast we broke camp in a leisurely fashion because we allowed ourselves today for travel and had no need to rush. We were still done by 10:30, half an hour ahead of checkout time. Started on down the road to say goodbye to many of the sites we enjoyed. Passed Norris and all the lovely geysers. Bye! Passed the paintpot site. Bye! Passed Old Faithful. Bye! Crossed the Continental Divide three times in the course of half an hour. Phew! And then it was the fairly straight shot down to the South entrance. Bye, Yellowstone! You were pretty fucking awesome.

Pretty much right out of Yellowstone we were into the Tetons area. Cruising down the John D. Rockerfeller Parkway we soon came to the views which make the Tetons so special. Magnificent rugged vistas. We left the main road and took the little loopish road closer to the mountains. Very impressive and majestic.

Found our way to the Gros Ventre campground and got a site. Set up in the broiling afternoon heat and decided we needed an airconditioned ride into Jackson to get groceries. Yes, honestly, mostly to cool off.

Guess it was rush hour plus tourist hour. Fuck Jackson! Ack! Trying to find the Albertsons, we passed Carolyn Winkler’s old stomping grounds (the Library). That was amusing. We eventually found the Albertsons and stocked up on important food items – you know, Coke, Hostess fruit pies, cookies, etc.

Traffic was much improved returning to the campground. Thank the gods of the high places for that. Settled down with an Albertsons rotisserie chicken and some potato salad in the coolth of our screenroom extension off the trailer. The setting of the sun brought lovely coolness and we read for a while before settling in for an early night.

Thus endeth travel day.

Roadtrip Day 035

Roadtrip Day 035

8/12 Wednesday

What a day! Hold on to your hats.

Lemme start by bookending this day. In the morning, we hiked the loop trail at Porcelain Basin (Norris) in Gore-Tex conditions. That kept most people off the trail so it was very private, if significantly wet. The variety of geysers, pools, steam vents, etc. was beautiful and, I suspect, extra steamy in the cool of the rain. An imposing vista of an entire basin steaming, erupting, and bubbling as the rain pelted down from a black sky.

Now, lemme jump ahead to the end of our trip. Dinnetimeish in the Tower area, driving along the road through meadows, heading home, in a massive thunderstorm, we saw herds of bison, some right next to the road. Then, amusingly, as we climbed up a curvy mountain road, traffic became bumper-to-bumper at walking speed to pass around a bison walking right down the centerline of the road! I was afraid for the motorcyclists in front of us. They passed right by him and a toss of the huge head could have been fatal. I shot video as we passed him. He was undisturbed by the traffic and simply kept on rambling down the middle of the road.

So, between those two rainstorms, we had sun. Significant sunshine and heat. After our rainy walk around the Porcelain Basin, we headed South to an artist’s palette area. Lots of bubbling mudpots in varying colors. Loop hike far point was a high overlook of the area. Delightful.

From there we decided to conserve our energy and skipped several “minor” sites cuz we were going to do the big loop of roads from the North, all the way around Old Faithful and back up the East side to our starting point in the far North. So, we headed straight for Old Faithful.

Ah, yes. Huge, crowded parking lot. We found a spot and walked over to the viewing area. The next eruption wasn’t due for an hour or so, therefore we headed up the boardwalk East of the area to see several smaller, geysers and pools. Anemone was fun. Pretty, interesting, and a short eruption cycle. We saw several individual features. There was a bench at a turn in the boardwalk which looked back at Old Faithful. Because it was getting near the potential eruption time, we settled in there to watch. Soon enough, it happened. The eruption lasted several minutes and it was quite impressive.

When it was over, we continued up the walk to see several more sites. The sun was merciless, so instead of going all the way to the end of the trail, we took an intermediate cutoff and headed back. We sat in the shade near Old Faithful for a while and thought about catching the next eruption but then decided to get going. After a brief stop at the store for ice cream and cold lemonades.

Around to the East and a long drive North along the lake. It was large and impressive. Eventually we got to the canyon area and the mountain pass which looks back at the general caldera of the supervolcano. From there, it was on to the Tower area and the beginning of the rain and the bison sightings. We saw many individuals and several herds, many with youngsters.

Finally, the one I mentioned at the beginning, who was walking along the middle of the road. Back to camp late and very tired. Quick-and-dirty (easy) dinner of cup-o-noodles, then we gave in to Hypnos and Morpheus.

Roadtrip Day 034

Roadtrip Day 034

8/11 Tuesday

Note from yesterday: I forgot to mention that we saw two bison on the drive to the falls. That was excellent. Ok, moving on to today…

Got up and got moving early to hike the Lower Terraces before crowding and heat. Perfect. Lots of photos and videos of spectacular formations. Truly otherworldly.

Then, some time at the Visitor Center to do wifi stuff. Loaded days 30-33 on the blog, returned and checked out several library e-books, checked e-mail, and a brief check-in on Facebook. Slow connection makes all that more cumbersome than it needs to be but it’s still magical future stuff. Consider, I returned books to and checked out books from my local library while I’m at Yellowstone NP. I’m living the sci-fi novels of my youth here in the sci-fi scenery of extremophiles and boiling waterfalls which spew steam clouds above noxious pools of sulfur-smelling water. Cool!

Anyway, after that, we drove South to Norris where there are lots of geysers, including “Steamboat” whose claim to fame is “tallest” when having a major eruption. We hiked the Steamboat loop and watched Steamboat spew quite a lot of water but no major spew. The last was September ’14, then next is unknown. The loop contains many fascinating discrete formations and the whole area is a bizarre landscape covering a while lotta ground. Our mutual favorite was Vixen. Not a monster like Steamboat but a friendly, human-scale hole which erupts reliably every 5-10 minutes.

When we finished the loop, we thought about the other loop there, to Porcelain Basin but we were ired and decided to put it on the agenda for tomorrow.

From Norris, we turned East and followed the “Norther loop” of Yellowstone roads, the first section of which took us to 8900 feet and spectacular views (to the South) of the approximate caldera of the supervolvano which underlies Yellowstone.  Magnificent vistas of meadows, forests, valley, and mountains.

The second section took us past scenery which was animal-friendly but we saw nothing on this day. Maybe tomorrow.

A beautiful and tiring day.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Roadtrip Day 033

Roadtrip Day 033
8/9 Monday
Well today was a lot more eventful than some of the lazy days I’ve blogged. Grab a delicious adult beverage and take a ride with me.
We were up early (for me) and on the road from Aspen Campground in the Bridger Mountains by 8. Stopped in Bozeman for ice for the ice chest, propane for the propane tanks, and chocolate milk for me. One of my favorite road foods. Done with our Bozeman chores, we grabbed the I-90 back to US. 89 South. Bye, Bozeman. We enjoyed you very much.
And bye, Montana, we enjoyed you very much. We were now transitioning to Wyoming as we entered Yellowstone. It’s an awfully popular park and we were in a pretty long line to get in. However, coming in from the North on 89, the first campground we came to is Mammoth (Hot Springs) and they had sites available.
Stop the presses! I’m writing this about 7pm after dinner. Ronnie calls me from outside to “come see.” There are four elk within 20 yards of our campsite – two females and two males. We watched them forage for 15 minutes or so as they worked their way uphill from us. Ronnie took several photos and we finally retired to the trailer and left them in peace. Very elegant creatures. Very beautiful.
So, anyway, there were campsites available at Mammoth so we got in line for one. The guy in front of us was sooooo slow and decision-making impaired that the ranger saw that Ronnie had our forms all filled out and she said, “Take 24.” I think the ranger was especially happy with us because the guy was all-but blocking traffic with his huge 5th wheel and we had politely gotten around him and parked where we were supposed to in order to check in.
Campsite 24 is a very nice one, well situated, convenient to services (bathrooms and water), and as isolated as campsites get in crowded park campgrounds. Very, very nice. Thanks, Ranger!
After setting up, we popped over to the Mammoth Visitor Center. A full-service area, with gas, groceries, restaurant, hotel, oh yes, and a visitors’ center. We toured the Center, mailed some postcards at the post office, then walked to the area with all the other services. We’ll probably be getting some groceries there in the near future.
After walking around, we got in the car and drove to the loop road around the Upper Terraces. There are walking trails around the Lower Terraces but it was midafternoon and hot, so we did the driving loop today. We can walk the lowers tomorrow early when it’s still cool. The views and vistas were amazing. Steaming hot pools and waterfalls, creating humped, brightly colored sheets of “flow”, similar to what you see in caves. But with steam boiling off the pools and waterfalls. Impressive and amazing.
After that, we took the road out to Tower Falls. Impressive scenery, bizarre rock formations of various kinds, and beautiful falls. It was a worthwhile drive. After that, we returned to our campsite for dinner and blogging and that’s when we had the BREAKING NEWS above.
Now, it’s about an hour until the evening ranger talk in the campground amphitheater, so I’m gonna close this out for today and do some chores and evening prep, then hit the amphitheater. I love ranger talks.
Later, ‘gators.

Roadtrip Day 032

Roadtrip Day 032

8/9 Sunday

Ah, much better. Woke to sunshine and blue skies after a chilly, but at least no longer rainy, night.

After breakfast, we walked up a dirt track past the campground to a very lovely scenic overlook. We could see the peaks of the Bridger Mountains to the West and down into the valley to the North with the forested heights behind us in the East. We discussed relocating our campsite there but the track was pretty awful and would have been questionable for the car and trailer plus we were pretty firm about packing up tomorrow and heading toward Yellowstone; so it seemed like it’d be excessive effort for little reward when we can simply hike back up there this evening and watch the sunset from that viewpoint then walk back to the trailer for a settled evening. That should be beautiful.

We’re still in bear-proofing country and Ronnie told me that when we were at the grocery on the Blackfeet Reservation, she chatted with a man who had two dogs in the bed of his pickup. He apologized that one of them was usually very friendly but was currently a bit excitable because they had just returned from their job – bear chasing. Apparently, when a bear is spotted in a campground, they call this guy and he and his dogs come scare the bear away.

Ok, then. I’d like to know what he puts on his tax forms under “occupation”. Bear scarer? I wonder what his insurance agent tells the actuaries and then I wonder how they calculate their rates for his job. Fascinating.

Anyway, it’s very nice to be back to sunny and beautiful after yesterday’s rain and cold. 

Roadtrip Day 031

Roadtrip Day 031

8/8 Saturday

The rain started last night and was significant all morning until after lunch. Still having random showers and drizzles now at dinnertime. We’ve run the heater off and on all day. Obviously, it was a Camping Three Rs day (readin’, writin’, restin’), interspersed with snacking. Not much else to report today.

I made some progress on the flashback sex scene I’m up to with my centurion (the second such sex scene) but it’s slow going and it feels very awkward to write. I suspect it will be a lot worse than some I’ve read but it can’t be much worse than some others I’ve read, even in best-sellers. Maybe I can have a special editor for the sex scenes to help them along. Simultaneously, I’m on the third night battle scene against the maybe-vampires and that’s fun but I’m really excited to get to the point a couple of chapters in the future when the legionaries attack the creatures’ nest in the daytime. That’s a scene I’m looking forward to working on.

Looking forward to a return of sunshine, too.