Autumn Chores

Because of all the very very busy activities in my life the past couple months, many of my Summer Chores are now transmogrifying into Autumn Chores. Unfortunately, my ACs are now at the front of the queue…

So this weekend, The Mrs & I lowered the mast on the “Miss Mollie” (The Mrs serving as the Winch Wench and yers trooly as the Mast Muscler), removed mast/boom, and then with the assistance of my Mother-In-Law, putted over to the sailboat ramp and removed the boat from the water.

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View of CWLP Power Plant as we left the dock, and the historic Last Boat Ride of the year.

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MIL enjoying the ride…

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The Mrs & MIL waiting for me to back the boat trailer into water to conclude the Boat Removal Ceremony… No one fell in, no one got wet, and we got the boat on the trailer with minimal hassle!!! WooHoo.

The last task involving the Autumn boat chore was to Power Wash all the lake schmutz that accumulated on the hull throughout the summer. I accomplished this yesterday…

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Not sure what Chores are awaiting me today, but I am certain it will be fun, fun, fun….  oh yeah?

Driving My Life Away…

The Chart-Topping song, “Driving My Life Away” by Eddie Rabbitt (Nov. 27, 1944 – May 7, 1998) popped into my head this past Friday morning as I drove through Nashville, Tennessee headed home – for 2 good reasons. First, Eddie died in Nashville of lung cancer after a successful music career as a songwriter and singer reaching the top of the charts in both country and pop genres. Second, for the second week in a row, I was driving home after being away for a few days, and my homeward bound drive was another daylong event…

This trip was to attend an Advanced Maintenance Class (AMC) at the Civilian Marksmanship Program Custom Shop in Anniston, Alabama. A good overview of the origins of the CMP is found here.  The CMP started offering the AMC three years ago. The focus of the class is to instruct and guide participants in the successful building of a functional M1 Garand rifle from component parts. The majority of the parts are surplussed parts from unserviceable rifles.I left for this class last Monday morning, one day after finally getting over my cold from my previous trip to Virginia the week before!

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As an historian, I have included advances in technology in my studying/writing of historical events or periods, and the M1 Garand was a truly significant advancement! When the United States finally entered World War II, most of the US military services were employing the M1 as the standard battle rifle.

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A couple significant qualities of the M1 that made it superior to other battle rifles of the era were:

+ It was semi-automatic, while most of the Axis troops were armed with bolt action rifles;

+8-round capacity (en bloc clip fed), vs. 5-round stripper clip fed rifles (Mauser, Mosin-Nagant, Arisaka) or 6-round en bloc (Carcano).

Let me just say, it is one thing to be able to load, fire, and field strip/clean an M1 (I have a lot of respect and admiration for the system of this firearm), but another thing altogether to assemble one of these from scratch and see and understand how it all functions! WOW! Below is the pictorial progress of my M1…

Final stage of the process was taking it to the NEW STATE OF THE ART CMP Talladega Marksmanship Park! WooHoo!

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Day 2 of Backpacking Ramsey Lake

I was planning to finish this posting about our Ramsey Lake trip yesterday, but it was a crazy busy day…. in the morning I ended up weeding the garden, plucking hornworms off the tomato plants, and moving the perimeter fence surrounding the garden a bit further away from the garden beds to stop the deer from leaning over the fence and eating the tomato plants. There was a moderate breeze blowing across the lake and I really wanted to sail, even if only for half an hour, but just no time! My free time was only available until about noon, at which time I had to get ready for an appointment with my ophthalmologist. The visit went GREAT! Eyes healing well, and vision in right eye is now 20/25… considering that it was 20/BLIND just a couple years ago, I would say it is miraculous! Downside to the visit is the dilation drops… We got home, I lowered all the blinds in the living room and wore my sunglasses to try to get comfortable. Eventually I went to bed and napped a couple hours, but my eyes did not return to normal until late evening, much too late to start blogging… End of excuse.

Sunday morning, Garrick & I broke camp (in record time, especially considering we were drinking coffee and swinging in our hammocks) and stepped carefully out of our bramble patch and headed to the fire road which then lead us to the horse path which would lead us back to the parking lot next to the horse campsite. On Saturday, we had counted 8 horse trailers at the horse campgrounds, and saw maybe 5 riders total throughout the day. We did not anticipate any horse traffic this morning since the path we were headed on was a minor trail.

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On the trail again….

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That is just the coolest spider web!

Once out of the woods, and on the trail, we rounded a bend. We were talking and laughing, just making noise in general. Coming towards us we saw three horses and riders – a woman on the lead horse, a child, maybe 4 or 5 years old on the middle horse, and a man on the 3rd horse. We drifted to the right side of the trail in a single file, but continued to chat. One of us scuffed a foot as the lead horse stepped from bright sunshine into the shade. The horse wheeled around clockwise and the woman rider landed on the ground. She held onto her reins though! The horse with the child, and then the horse with the man both wheeled around dumping both the child and man on the ground. The man kept his reins and the woman grabbed the reins of the child’s horse. And then the little girl started to cry, although she was not hurt…. just scared/startled. I told Garrick to just stand still until the riders (now grounders??) got themselves and their horses back in order so we wouldn’t startle any of them again. After a couple minutes they called us to go ahead and pass. We asked about the child, and offered an apology, and the man and woman were friendly and said the lead horse was just startled, not expecting to see walkers it seems… The remainder of our walk was uneventful after that!

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This is Garrick back at the horse camp parking lot. Note that his rucksack does not extend either above his head nor past his sides. My ruck is exactly the same. I point this out because one of Garrick’s co-workers told him that the reason the horses were startled is because they did not recognize us as people because the packs towered over our heads and around our sides. Nice theory, I guess… reality doesn’t support it though. I think the lead horse went from very bright sunshine to deep shade and heard a noise ahead of it but could not see clearly because its pupils were still constricted.

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TSV still there, ready to hit the road…

We stopped at the Ranger Station to check out and got to chatting with Ranger on duty. He mentioned that they never get backpackers at the Park, just horse folks, or people with campers or tents who roll up in their vehicles. He then told us that the only other backpackers any of the Rangers remembered were there a few years ago, and it was two guys in homemade buckskins carrying old flintlock rifles. Garrick got a twinkle in his eye, smiled broadly, and told the Ranger, “That was me and another friend of mine…” Funny how the Rangers still talked about those two crazies, and now they have another story about crazy backpackers to talk about!!

We drove north from Ramsey Lake on US 51 to Pana, IL.  This is a little town of just over 5600 people. As we drove into town we saw a good sized park… with a CANNON! Garrick asked if we could stop, I said, “hell, yes!”

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Kitchell Park, Pana, IL

Japanese captured artillery piece

Kitchell Park (40 acres in size) was given to the town of Pana by Civil War Veteran, Captain John W. Kitchell and his wife, Mary, in 1908. It was listed on the United States National Register of Historic Places in 1992. What a glorious park!

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We drove from the park and stopped nearby for a cup of coffee and to use the FLUSH toilets! Back in civilization!

Finally, a word about the 2016 Olympics…

19 year old Competitive Shooter.
She won the FIRST gold medal of the 2016 Olympics.
She won the FIRST gold medal for Team USA.
She is the youngest female to ever win the first medal in Olympic competition (ever).
She set a NEW WORLD RECORD with her winning score.
Congratulations to Ginny!
In 2007, I trained at the US Olympic Training Center to be a Foil Fencing Coach. The training was fantastic, the other coaches and athletes I met were great, the Center was awesome! Since then, I have taken great pride in the dedication of our Olympic athletes…

Birthdays, Backpacking, & Olympics…

I wonder if I can adequately cover the three topics introduced above in a relatively concise posting…. sure hope so, otherwise I will bore myself!

Last Thursday, August 4th, Billy Bob Thornton, my buddy Garrick, and I all celebrated our birthdays. Billy Bob couldn’t make the party here in Springfield, so Garrick & I had to party on without him! My celebrations lasted for a couple days, which is funny because I really am happy not spending too much energy getting excited about another birthday. Nevertheless, I got a fair pile of loot, including Dr. Who stuff, Deadpool stuff, Archer stuff, socks, boat stuff, camping stuff, and…. a WOOBIE !!! Here are two links that pretty much cover everything there is to know about a Woobie:  Military Perspective   Civilian Perspective  .

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My new Woobie!!! It is presented tastefully in USMC Woodland Marpat and  Coyote pattern. And below is my other loot haul!!

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Not bad considering all I asked for was a Back-hoe, preferably one with metal tracks… And just for the sake of disclosure, this stuff was all given to a 59 year old guy!

Let’s talk about backpacking for a moment now. I haven’t backpacked seriously since I was in my twenties, the last time probably being when I spent 10 days in the Colorado  Weminuche Wilderness backpacking. I have camped and hiked and traveled a lot since then, but that was the last time I packed everything on my back and took off on foot. Until this weekend. My buddy (and adoptive brother cuz we adopted each other) Garrick & I decided to go backpacking at Ramsey Lake State Park, which is about midway between Pana and Vandalia, Illinois off US Rte 51. We had been preparing for a few weeks, getting gear bought, or found, and organized. Coordinating food and water supplies. And we both decided to try Hammock Camping, which meant we didn’t need a tent, just a couple trees each. And a camping hammock. Garrick bought a hammock and a separate mosquito netting add-on, while I bought a hammock with an attached netting… We did a trial set up in the back yard a week or so ago, which motivated us to change the hanging system to a strap system because it would be less stress on the tree bark. Here we are in our hammocks at Ramsey Lake…

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Ramsey Lake !  Saturday morning I drove over to Garrick’s just after 8 am in the TSV (Tactical Scooby Van), we sat and had a cup of coffee. Well 2 or 3, and chatted merrily away and then hit the road at the crack of, hmmmm 10-ish or so… I had already programmed the GPS for Ramsey Lake so we drove merrily along doing whatever the GPS told us to do until we got to Taylorville and stopped for coffee and a quick potty stop. All seemed to be going well until the GPS started taking us on very small and mostly unused little two-lane paths… The ranger at the park later told us that for some reason GPS devices are notorious for adding 6 miles to the trip from Taylorville area to the Park. We finally got to the Ranger station at the park about noon.

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We checked in at the Ranger Station, paid for my overnight camping fee (Garrick gets to camp free cuz he is an Army Vet), used the flush toilet, then headed out to park the TSV at the Horse Campground area. In no time at all we had our packs on, and Garrick started to try to figure out the Garmin eTrex GPS. He does like his toys! The Ranger had given us a route suggestion that kept us off the most used horse paths, and would guide us into some quiet wooded areas, so we took his suggestion and between the eTrex, our maps, and my compass … we were golden!

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Consulting the eTrex, Garrick is…

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Minnows in a small, clear creek in case we run out of food…

004We did encounter a fair bit of mud on the trail from recent rains, but fortunately, very very few mosquitoes!

A couple miles in and we got off the horse path and onto a walking path. We stopped to enjoy the butterflies fluttering among the wildflowers. We walked another 30 minutes and stopped at the top of a hill, in the shade, for a light lunch. We both brought tuna salad snack-boxes (a 3 ounce can of tuna and 6 crackers – 23 grams of carbs) and I brought a couple packages of fig newtons and pureed fruit/veggie pouches. A perfect light and nutritious trail lunch!

According to the GPS, we hiked a bit over 3 1/2 miles, although it was pretty hilly, so we didn’t break any land speed records. We found a nice wooded area a little distance from a fire road and walked into the brambles looking for some trees sturdy enough and spaced just right to hang our hammocks.

So we spent a little time clearing the brambles from under our hammock areas, hung the hammocks, then settled down for a quick cup of coffee.  I could have easily fallen asleep and taken a long nap! But we needed to do some more training with the eTrex. So, leaving everything but water and some snacks, we headed back out onto the trail. We logged a couple more miles on our “training hike”, and found some brackish water along the trail, and some potable water to refill our canteens.

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This is NOT the potable water, believe it or not…

By the time we returned to our campsite, we were hungry and tired. Fortunately, supper consisted of a package of dehydrated camping food…. Mexican Style Chicken & Rice. Just needed to add boiling water, which was easy because I brought along my “SoloStove“, a great little stainless steel wood burning base unit with a 60 ounce water pot on top. It is amazing how fast we were able to boil water using just twigs and small sticks for fuel! (This is a wonderful present The Mrs gave me last year, thinking we could take it on our Wales hiking trip. We opted to only take folding Esbit stoves for that trip, because all we needed to heat was water for our trail-side afternoon tea… and 60 ounces was a bit of overkill…)

{UPDATE: 8/13/2016 – Garrick was so impressed with my SoloStove that he just bought a smaller version of mine and is on his back deck right now boiling water for coffee for his bride and himself with it!}

We finished eating and cleaning up by 6:00, and I think I fell asleep around 7. I think it was 7:30 when I awoke enough to zip my mosquito netting closed, tuck my woobie under my head for a pillow, and started snoring. By about 1:30 am it was getting quite cool, so I got up, found my sleeping bag, and crawled back into my hammock cocoon, wrapped warmly up in the SB and my woobie. I lay there listening to the incredible cacophony of the various insects and owls owning the nighttime with their sounds. I slept soundly until about 6:30 am or so.

Sunday morning… quiet, cool, the woods gently brightening with the sunrise. I got out of my hammock, set the billy to boil, made coffee, and we sat in our hammocks just chillin’.

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We had a simple breakfast of golden oat biscuits and clover honey sticks, followed by a couple handfuls of trail mix (the kind with cashews, raisins, and chocolate! YUM!) We were in no hurry, so we drank coffee and told stories for a while, then we both decided it was time to break camp. Taking down and packing the hammocks & sleeping bags took all of about 6 minutes…

We eventually got our packs closed up… Oh, the packs! I forgot to mention that we had each weighed our packs before we started this adventure. Garrick’s with water in his camelback and side pocket bottle tipped the scale at just under 30 pounds. When The Mrs & I were walking the Wales Coast Path, my day pack was about 25 pounds, with water. Well, my medium ruck, with water, scaled out around 48 pounds! When we were sitting around in our campsite, I was comparing our respective equipment to see where I carried so much more weight… Food, first aid gear, and diabetic supplies. Don’t want to run out of food on the trail so have lots of quick carb snacks & glucose tablets. And carry two extras of everything for the insulin pump and blood glucose meter. And I want enough emergency first aid stuff to handle anything that we might encounter on the trail… I don’t pack my EMT gear, but I come close to my First Responder kit… I took pictures of my gear for comparison based on used and not used on this trip.  I will discuss that in my next posting.

So I’ll wrap up with a photo of the little path we came to as we walked out of our bramble patch to head back to the horse trail and then back to the TSV… more tomorrow! Olympics get to wait too…

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Thursday Door, and 3 in a week…

I mentioned in a previous posting that every Thursday I get notification that the Irish writer & blogger, Jean Reinhardt, has posted a new blog entry entitled, “Thursday Doors.” I also mentioned that I am continually planning to go out and take photos of cool/interesting doors around the Springfield area and post them here under my own Thursday Doors heading… and never quite got it done.  Until this week! I refinished the door/hatch/board/whatever that leads into the cabin of our little O’Day22 sailboat and took photos, and so here is my very own Thursday Doors entry!

Before:

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After:

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AND… here is the really cool thing. I just got my Thursday email notification that Jean has posted, and her doors this week are on boats in County Cavan, Ireland! She also posted a picture of her boat, which is quite unique and looks pretty darned cool I have to say.  So checkout Jean’s blog and then go to the source of this madness, and check out the original Thursday Doors at Norm’s blog.

So, 3 times this past week I have sweated off a Constant Glucose Monitor Sensor, which is a companion to my Medtronic insulin pump. The CGM gives me a moderately accurate reading of my blood glucose levels. Moderately because it reads the glucose levels of the interstitial fluid of the insertion site as opposed to the blood glucose levels from a finger stick. The IGL lag the BGL by about 20 minutes or so… So, the sensor is adhered to the skin surface by an adhesive base pad, then a special tape strip, and in the summer I add a second special tape strip, and the past couple weeks I then cover the whole thing with waterproof first aid tape.  And still I sweated 3 of the danged things off (they are normally left in place for 6 days). It has been so incredibly humid the past couple weeks, and then I have been running, and outside working on the boat, and outside playing, I mean, working to get gear ready for a backpacking trip with my buddy Garrick… and it seems all I do is sweat, sweat, sweat… Viola! off slides the sensor! Yesterday morning after the 3rd one detached uninvitedly, I figured I would leave it off while I went running. By the time I got home, the insulin pump reservoir had run out.  I walked around to the lake side to cool down and stretch down by the dock and saw The Mrs swimming in the lake, so I trotted down the hill detaching and unplugging the pump, then yelled, “I’ll save you, dear”, and jumped in the lake!  It is such a hassle to secure the pump and sensor to prepare for water immersion, I rarely swim these days… so yesterday was a real treat!!

Finally, this morning’s sunrise, followed very shortly after by the clouds rolling by southeasterly carrying rain to Indiana…

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Camera…

I am filing this under a new Category ~ Equipment….

I took a bicycle trip in Ireland in 2004 from the Cliffs of Moher north along the coast to Galway Bay. In preparation for the bike trip, I began a search for a small, waterproof/resistant, digital camera. I got into 35mm SLR photography in the ’70s, including building my own darkroom in the basement of my parents’ home (I suppose they tolerated the chemical smells coming from the basement because my Dad was a pharmacist and educated as a chemist…).  I had considered taking my Minolta SLR on the bike for about 30 seconds, but between the size of the camera, the extra lenses, AND the film I decided I wanted to get into this “NEW” digital photography craze. And I hoped it would be a better bet than some of my previous investments in technology – Video Disks (Visc) (a sylus readable video system predating laser disks or dvd or blue ray…); Beta tapes; 8-track tapes; Linear under-seat steering recumbent bike, a Mazda RX4 Wankel powered sedan…

I settled on an Olympus Stylus 410 Digital. Olympus describes this camera as “all-weather, splash-proof”.  It is  4.0 mega-pixel with a 3x optical zoom and 12x digital zoom. The lens is protected by a sliding cover when the camera is off. Opening the cover turns the camera on. The battery/memory card/cable plugin compartment door has a rubber gasket to make it water-resistant. The battery compartment is similarly gasket protected. It has an optical view finder as well as a small 1″x2.5″ video display screen. There are 10 “selectable shooting modes”.  Image transfer is either via USB or by unplugging the xD card and plugging it into the computer. In the 11 years I have owned and used this camera I have bought one extra Lithium Ion battery (last year since the 2 original 10 year old batteries were starting to lose capacity) and two extra 128 mb xD cards. I have had this camera with me on a bike trip in Ireland, a bike trip on Mackinac Island, a bike trip in Germany and Austria, a bike trip in Scotland, and numerous hiking, camping, kayaking, and boating excursions.  It has worked flawlessly and was easy to carry and use while on the go.

So, when The Mrs and I began planning for a walking holiday in Wales and Ireland, we started our list of “required items” My list included my Olympus Stylus. The Mrs felt the Oly lacked sufficient mega-pix to do justice to the scenery we are anticipating (she compared photos from the Oly with photos taken with her PHONE! Not fair, I say…. that’s 10 years of technological progress there!) She gently suggested I consider buying a NEW camera… I dutifully dug-in my Troglodyte heels and said, “My Olympus works just fine, is water proof…. errrrrr, splash proof, and the pictures seem good enough for me.”  Shortly thereafter, The Mrs presented me with an early “going on holidays” gift.  A FujiFilm FinePix  XP70. In what I like to call Neon Dreamsicle Orange.

The XP70 is slightly larger than the 410, but thinner. 16 megapix. It has no optical view finder. The video screen is a 2.7″ lcd. It is water-PROOF down to 10 meters, and can be used for taking pictures underwater!  It is claimed to be drop-proof from 5 feet. I hope not to test this claim. 5x optical zoom. It has what they call Intelligent Digital mode, but not sure what power it is… There are 22 shooting modes available. Image transfer is via USB, WiFi, or unplugging the SD card and plugging it into the computer.  I have been taking this camera on our hikes as of late, and so far it has worked perfectly, and the image quality is great.  The pictures below are from this morning, the one on the left is the Olympus 410 and the one on the right is the Fuji XP70.

Fuji XP70 Beach mode
Fuji XP70 Beach mode
Olympus 410 Beach Mode
Olympus 410 Beach Mode