Saturday, July 27, 2013

Black Death Boondocking

Photo Credit: The Life of Jamie

So, you say you like squirrels? They’re warm and cuddley, fuzzy little phreakers who merely like to eat nuts and chase each other over bole and stem, limb to limb?  Well, hold onto your peanuts and avoid camping in Southern California anytime soon … Read this:

From Reuters

Health officials said that as a precaution, visitors were ordered to leave three campgrounds and a recreation area of the Angeles National Forest, which encompasses some 655,000 acres in the San Gabriel Mountains just north of metropolitan Los Angeles. Plague, known as the "Black Death" when it was blamed for killing some 25 million Europeans during the Middle Ages (emphasis mine), is a bacterial infection that can be transmitted to humans through the bites of infected fleas. A health department spokesman said no people were believed to have been infected. "It is important for the public to know that there have only been four cases of human plague in Los Angeles County residents since 1984, none of which were fatal," the health department chief, Dr. Jonathan Fielding, said in a statement.

Maybe not fatal, but tell that to this gentleman:

Photo Credit: Mama Bird Diaries

Possibly a camper from the Angeles National Forest?

And for those who remember Monty Python:

“I’m not dead, yet…”

Credit to Boing, Boing, where I first saw this story.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

A Wild Night

(No, not that kind of wild night – I’m well past the point of any wenches giving me a side-long glance, except to check out my prodigious belly.)
Last night I put the slide-outs in three times as line storms roared through with high winds, lots of sky-2-ground lightning and deafening thunder claps. The final instance was at 11:00 PM and was just in the nick of time -- as I was bringing in the third slide-out the winds tried to rip the slide off the trailer. It was the scariest storm yet, as the warning I read online said it was approaching at sixty miles an hour!

Image Credit:

Usually, SWMBO and I watch the lightning out the window in the bedroom with the light off to get the full effect, but on that last one, she left the lights on and pretended to read as it was a particularly violent storm, flattening the waves in one moment and then thrashing them into three foot combers the next. Mind you, we’re parked 10’ from the water’s edge. A wild night, for sure.
A walk-about with Iggy as he performed his constitutional this morning only showed a handful of small, dead limbs down. My wife had left a house dress on the back of a folding chair when she scrubbed down to get the day’s toil and grime off in the afternoon (our shallow bottomed lake is neither cool nor hot, so no point heating water at great expense to bathe) and it was where she’d left it, sodden but no worse for the wear, despite 60+ MPH winds.
To end an already too long entry, we survived, none the worse for wear, except the button pushing finger on yours truly sustained a devastating strain.
And So It Goes.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Let’s hear it for Air Conditioning…

desert images
Photo credit: Taken from a movie review of "Desert Flower" on

When I was a little boy in Pennsylvania and Maine, summers were spent in old, sweltering houses. You just lived with the heat, y’know? Shopping for my mother was a treat, as it meant a trip into the big town ten miles away where all the stores had air conditioning. Heck, even my mother’s dress shop had A/C. And my Maine grandmother was one of those poor souls who consider it freezing below 86 degrees F. But she had a window unit in her kitchen in her later years and bugger the expense, she’d cook in relative comfort! For us kids, though, it was always hot. Just the way of things, and don’t slam the screen door on your way out.

SWMBO, despite being born and living in Louisiana for most of her life, can no longer tolerate extremes in heat or cold. Whether this is by result of the prescriptions by her doctors or oncoming decrepitude, who knows (I’m going to pay for that one … big time). Cooling is a must for her. So is heating, but that’s a discussion for January.

Not that the need for coolness is all on my wife. I take both diuretics and alpha blockers that specifically warn against direct sunlight exposure, and given how redneck it is around here, wearing a kaftan isn’t an option, less I want to play target practice … with me as the target.

SO, yesterday was the hottest day of the year, thus far. A grand total of 92 degrees at the airport, the site of all things official, weather-wise. Out here at the lake, the breeze was out of the southwest, which means it was a land breeze for all intents and purposes and about as cooling as a blast furnace in Pittsburgh in July. Back when such things existed, of course.

Now, this new-to-us home has air conditioners. Plural. Two of those suckers up on the roof. And I do mean suckers. In order to have A/C you need power. Lots of power. We’re camped out on someone else's property (Thanks Katie and Dave, you’re wonderful). There is no AC power here. Except what you make for yourself, of course. Which is exactly what we have been doing. Making power with our paralleled Honda e2000i generator sets. In this instance, ‘paralleled’ refers to combining the outputs of the two generators in parallel such that instead of a nominal 2KW (actually, 13 amps) we can output a combined total of 26 amps of electricity, at a price. And what a price it is. We keep all the blinds closed to minimize insolation gain (heat from the sun streaming through the windows will heat us up to oven-like in no time at all). We can only run one air conditioner at a time (start-up in the neighborhood of 22 amps), so seal off the bedroom/bathroom section during the day and only cool that area at night. And still we’re consuming about 9 gallons of gasoline in 24 hours, ten on a bad day. Have you checked out gas prices this week? $3.75 a gallon and headed up, my friends. So, for the mere pleasure of not melting away, we are eating through savings at upwards of $45/day, counting the fuel to drive to town to buy more fuel!

I’m just glad it’s not the Airstream. Beer cans with no insulation are even hotter, despite air conditioning.  Even the walls are hot to the touch.

Sure hope this heat wave breaks soon. And it’s a good thing the heat has sapped appetites … there’s a savings to be had. Still and all, I’m thankful for the coolth of the A/C.

Here’s hoping you’re staying cool where you are, too.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Broken Heart

So I went to do a miniscule chore during the heat of the day this afternoon.  Angina hit me, big time. A two nitro spell (on top of the extended release nitro I take daily). Damn, I hate getting old!
This chest pain business is a relatively new development. Sure, I had chest pain and tachycardia (rapid heartbeat) as I recuperated from open heart surgery ten years ago, but haven’t had any occasion to use the Nitro in the refrigerator until this spring. They said the triple bypass would last a decade or so … guess the cardiologist knew what he was talking about, eh?
So, of course I haven’t any insurance. Visits to doctors and hospitals are strictly pay-as-I-go. There’s nothing in the kitty for medical expenses. And there’s no possibility of any Medicaid assistance as the Governor vetoed any expansion of Medicaid for seniors. Guess I’ll just have to get used to the tangy burn of Nitro again.

Friday, July 12, 2013

All that is not repairable...

An hour shot to hell. Damned piece of Chinese junk. They got the motor such that you have to throw away the whole thing when the brushes wear out. Utterly ridiculous. Hoover should be ashamed of themselves.

Bah Humbug!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Lessons Learned

I may be getting older but there’s no sign I’m getting any smarter. Cases in point:

The new-to-us fifth wheel trailer is considerably larger than the Airstream. Large enough that it can’t get close enough to the septic tank for periodic pump-offs. Therefore, I went out and acquired a “blue boy” – one of those blue plastic tanks on wheels to transport sewage from an RV to a dump site. So, last night it became evident that it was time to deploy said “blue boy”.

First lesson learned – if I want to avoid crawling around on my hands and knees while being eaten alive by the jaws with wings we call black flies and mosquitoes, I’d better put the kitchen slide-out back in BEFORE attempting to attach to the discharge pipe.

Second, my brand new ‘blue boy” is wondrously airtight. This became evident when I opened the sewage valve, the hose filled and then a small amount of effluent entered the tank. Hardly the slug of wastewater I expected, however. Then, in the light of my flashlight, I observed the tank growing bigger and bigger. Alarmingly so. With visions of the sewage scene from that movie with Robin Williams and Kristin Chenoweth, I reached down with grave trepidation  and unscrewed the little cap the level indicator sticks up out of, and WHOOSH! the sewage gods commenced to bestow their bounty upon the interior of the tank. Meanwhile, I was passed out from an overdose of methane and even SWMBO was getting a case of the vapors when the fumes rushed in the open window beside her chair where she was watching Masterchef... Oh, and the little cap with the indicator landed twenty feet away in the grass. Lesson learned – vent the “blue boy” before opening the dump valve on the trailer.

As if Murphy wasn’t yet satisfied with tormenting me, this morning I was in the middle of chores when I pulled a boneheaded mistake that almost cost my best friend his life. I speak of my dog, Iggy. Without thinking clearly, I brought him outside with me off-lead. A squirrel took it upon himself to sound the alarm. Like a shot from a cannon, the furry little phugger was off into the woods chasing the rodent and that was the last we saw of him for over eight hours. Thunderstorm, torrential rains, mosquitoes as big as eagles, eagles the size of pteradactyls, and dump trucks on the camp road, in addition to multiple neighbors in motorized vehicles.

I spent most of the day looking for my missing companion but no luck. Some kids on dirt bikes and four wheelers saw him, but they were in terrorist mode at the time, so the pooch lit out into the woods as the bikes bore down upon him breathing fire and brimstone.

So imagine my surprise when I returned from a McDonald’s run (searching is hungry work, plus I needed a Dunkin Donuts De-Caff Iced Coffee) to find the errant canine firmly ensconced in his crate in the living room, looking contrite and remorseful. I’d just trolled the subdivisions within two miles of here and accosted a woman at the head of our road walking her dogs in vain hope of obtaining a sighting of the fuzzbutt. So the lesson reinforced once again, the Schipperke Escape Artist stays on-lead at all times, regardless of how inconvenient it is to me.

I do hope your day wasn’t quite so educational.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Lac-Megantic Tragedy: Intentional?

Rick wrote this morning about the horrendous tragedy that occurred in the southern Quebec resort town of Lac-Megantic when an idling freight train mysteriously released all brakes and rolled down upon the center of the unsuspecting town. Neither the engineer nor the conductor were on the train, as it is common practice to hand the controls over to the operators of the west-bound train and then ride home to Montreal as the other crew does the same by going back to the east.

The downtown core lays in ruins as fire fighters continue to water smoldering rubble Sunday, July 7, 2013, in Lac Megantic, Quebec, after a train derailed ignited tanker cars carrying crude oil.   The runaway train derailed, causing explosions and fires that destroyed the downtown district. Photo: THE CANADIAN PRESS,Ryan Remiorz

Photo:  BENJAMIN SHINGLER, Associated Press, By BENJAMIN SHINGLER and ROB GILLIES, Associated Press Updated 12:16 am, Tuesday, July 9, 2013 via

It has been big news here since Saturday morning. About 60 Maine firefighters in some 20 vehicles responded upwards of 100 miles to aid in the battle against the inferno. While the news has been calling it “crude oil,” the fact is it was residual crude recovered by “fracking”, which means it was mixed with water, kerosene and other highly volatile petroleum distillates, heated to the boiling point of water and contained within a pressurized vessel, not at normal atmospheric temperature and pressure as is common practice with crude. So what rolled down  the tracks in the wee small hours of Friday night were essentially very large IED’s, highly effective ones at that. And that’s how you simply vaporize an entire club full of people. Merde!

The transport of fracked oil and drilling fluids from the oil fields in Nebraska and the Dakotas to refineries in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia has resulted in the usual brouhaha of Earth First!, Sierra Club, and other militant “protectors of the environment” in this bastion of fruits and nuts. Unspoken in the media, but in the forefront of cynical old farts like me, is the very real possibility this was an intentional strike by one of these lug nut groups with too little grasp upon reality. Similar activities have occurred out West and in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan. I will be terribly saddened if these folks have had their lives stolen to make some dubious ‘point’ in  the seemingly never-ending crusade to put trees and chipmunks needs ahead of those of hard working North Americans.

New Home & Change of Venue

We have a “new” home. New to us, that is. It’s a 2003 Mobile Suites fifth wheel trailer, a 36’ with three slideouts. Impossible to fathom doubling our living space in one fell swoop, but it is true. Photos to come, but friends borrowed (and never returned) our camera and the iphone is suffering from a moribund battery.


Here’s a public Google+ album ( with all of my photos of our new home. There’ll be more in the future, but this will have to do for now.

SWMBO is now a much happier camper. My serenity is gaining, too, with a move to the lake for the summer. A little hectic this first week, what with the Fourth of July holiday and all, but worth it.

Map picture