Wednesday, October 31, 2012

on the golden road

last may i woke up one morning on a campsite in the seboeis parcel near millincoket and i thought that it would be a good day to do two things: to drive up the golden road maybe over to canada, and to take a side trip and settle a question i had about whether or not it is possible to travel overland to kineo.

while i was at it, i decided to to a little geocaching, because that's how i travel when i am on the road. if you are interested in this story as it is told through geocache logs, you can see the beginning of this day here.

maybe you know a lot about the maine north woods, and maybe you don't. it is a wild place where anything can happen, if by "anything" you don't mean pizza delivery, wifi connections, or anything in general that can be associated with paved roads and populated areas.

while not a serious student of it, i know a little about logging history because i've been paying attention to it. one time when my college friends and i were playing a favorite collegiate game, i checked out a thick book on the cultural history of the tupper lake region lumber camps.

in college you maybe played quarters or beer pong, but one of the games my friends an i used to like was one in which we'd all meet at the library and then everybody had fifteen minutes in the stacks to find the weirdest books we could find and then we'd check out a pile of them and return to the dorms and read parts of them aloud.

we called it budget entertainment.

anyway, i started to have an awareness for the history of lumbering, and adirondack lumbering has some things in common with lumbering everywhere else.

so when i started to travel in maine and saw historical notes about the old river drives i had an idea of what i was looking at. up in northern maine they had the last river drives in the early 1970's, when transport by road became more practical.

the golden road was built then, finished in 1975. you can travel it if you want from millinocket to the canadian border out in a township whose designation is "T5 R20 WELS". the state of maine has some documents that describe it if you want to take the trouble to download them, but there's probably little point in it.

the road was built by and is owned and maintained by pelletier brothers and in season (mid-may to late november) it's a toll road once you get to the station just north of the greenville road intersection.

logging trucks have right of way. always. you are a visitor in their place of business.

but the thing has an epic, romantic, rugged feel about it, riding the golden road, and it maybe even still feels that way when you're a few hours into the trip.

you are on the golden road.

not really related to this narrative are some links to blogs of other people that i found while googling the golden road.

i went and looked it up in google maps so you can see it. it's embedded here, but it's really cool if you follow this link and look on the left for the button that says "3D" and you can see it played in google earth.

View Larger Map

i got off the golden road at the greenville road to go over to the east shore of moosehead lake, and then there was some business involving some very sad wandering around trying to get back on the golden road by simply going north toward it and after a number of hours i managed to catch up with it by the seboomook dam.

then there was a lot of driving and some more driving and then i got stuck behind a logging truck which is a thing that will happen out here and although the scenery is fantastic it's a lot less fantastic if you are behind a logging truck, because those things kick up a LOT of dust and even if you're amused at first by traveling through this new "golden light" it sort of wears on you.

so i turned left to go down a road that looked like it might take me roughly southwest, because i had decided to spend the night in a campsite in jackman that i knew about.

i did not head down this road willy-nilly, but with the help of an actual GPS-enabled map but one thing you should probably keep in mind is that the roads out here are logging roads. real logging roads are dynamic things. the tote roads and roads that go to camps pretty much stay in place, but other roads spring up and decline as they're used or not, so getting off the main road can be a little bit of a crapshoot.

it's the kind of driving where you have to think about what your plans are for if you get stranded out here. just so you know: my assessment of my plans and my decision to try the side roads includes the fact that i am carrying enough food, gear, and other supplies that i could live out here for a week if i had to.

and after a long time driving on some sketch looking roads, i came out on a road that had a sign that identified it as part of old kelly dam road, which is not really where i had been thinking i'd end up, but i found myself saying "HEY! i know where the f^@% i am!!", so that was good.

and i went to go look for the campsite and discovered the gate to be closed, so i decided to return to stratton for the night. my GPS says the trip will take about an hour which puts me in stratton in reasonable time, but the problem with the directions on my GPS is that it begins with "get on the holeb road".

i've been on the holeb road and i know all too well that while it does point in that general direction, there's a little thing about a big swamp, a river, and some mountains and there are some very good reasons why no roads actually go from here to there, and it's going to be a long ride almost to skowhegan before i can get onto a road that goes there.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

day after landfall

there's no doubt about it if you look at the maps: sandy is a HUGE storm.  usually what happens when a hurricane makes landfall on the eastern seaboard it goes inland and eventually trails along and gets to us later as a tropical depression.

this storm is so big that when it came ashore, we did not need to wait for it to trail around. we actually got the outer edges of the thing which this far north meant a lot of wind and some rain.

later on as the storm tracks its way around where it's going we'll get the center of it after its downgrade, which means that later on there will be a great deal of rain.

my roof is damaged, but it's nothing like the monster as it hit new york.  did you guys SEE the video of the power transformer exploding?

so out here by my house it wasn't any more than a lot of wind and some rain, and i spent the day tracking the storm and monitoring wind speeds as compared to power outages in vermont. the winds we had were were sustained winds in the mid 20 MPH range and gusts over 30 MPH. down at the airport in burlington, it was less.

to put that into perspective for you, the places near the storm center experienced sustained winds in the mid 30 MPH range.

because i am a map nerd and love progression over time, i have taken the liberty of making a little video of two maps i was watching all day and here you have a time lapse of the roughly 13 most active hours of the storm here where i live.

Monday, October 29, 2012

eerily calm

yeah, i know this is going to publish later but right now it's sunday afternoon and the sky is blue with thin cloud cover coming in and there's not so much as a breeze but we know that tomorrow afternoon starting at about two o'clock it's going to be extremely windy as that monster storm passes its outer edges over us.

the  weatherman has suggested that we take screens off of our windows so i'll do that tomorrow morning. the thing about living here, right where i live and not two miles away is that i live right where the fot of the green mountains (bolton mountain in particular) meets the upper edge of the champlain valley and even when it's calm a few miles down the road it is WINDY here. this is where weather gets scraped off before it goes over the mountain.

when the wind comes here it sounds like a freight train coming up the valley and often in a storm you hear the noise of a gust several minutes before it gets here.

i've laid in gallons of water for when the power goes out. i have food and toilet paper. i have batteries and lights and firewood i can burn if i need. i have a single burner stove. it's going to be a day and a half of watching bits of people's houses blow by, but nothing like the worst of it.

modern weather forecasts are so accurate in terms of seeing storm possibilities days before they arrive. it's supposed to be a massive storm and it has huge potential to be disruptive, but the winds here won't be worse than we see in this neighborhood a few times a year. when our power goes down it probably won't be because our lines out here are down, but because other lines elsewhere are down.

often i watch this website because the power goes down here, but usually it goes back up pretty soon even though elsewhere it goes out and stays out.

i'll let you know how it goes.

some of you, i know, are right in the path of the thing when it makes landfall tomorrow afternoon.

good luck.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

catch my drift?

all righty.

today i'm working on my geocaching logs from last may's visit to maine, which includes some very interesting earthcaches, which in the best form are lovely little self-guided geology lessons.

there's one about the jim pond formation's basltic lava pillows and right now i'm working on writing up my interpretation of a little jobber about the west brach formation and its ordovician era volcanism.

yep, there's a vent.
i guess a lot of people go to those earthcaches and just kind of look at the thing and say, yep, that's where a vent was.

but no. i can't do that. instead i have to go to the site and take dozens of pictures of the rocks and then come home and later look up maps and articles which are mostly written by geologists for geologists so then i have to look up a lot of terms and i usually end up reading until my brain goes all hurty and then i sleep on it and wake up in the morning and start reading again and it all sort of makes sense.

i found a really AWESOME map of this particular formation that you can see here that explains what was going on here in the early paleozoic eras, which sets you up for having a clue about the devonian eruption of the katahdin pluton.

and if you are going "huh?" i'm only just learning too because before i started reading all this stuff i had a pretty firm grasp of the concept of ordovician shales and devonian shales being separated by silurian limestones, but no real concept of how that fit into any larger scheme.

here's the link to the wikipedia article on geological eras, and there's a handy diagram a little bit down the page.

last week i spent a day over at the paleontological research institute's museum of the earth and later on i will tell you about that.

meantime, i'm just going to tell you that in both the  ordovician eras and the devonian eras the conditions on the planet yielded a lot of dark basaltic rocks in which are preserved a lot of fossils. during the silurian era a lot of critters with shells died off and their bodies formed a limestone layer that typically sits between the ordovician and devonian basalts, but sometimes the only way geologists and paleontologists can know which era the basalt belongs to is to date it by the fossil record, which is what  they're trying to do with the older rock at the bottom of the west branch formation.

these days mount katahdin is what's left of the katahdin pluton, which apparently is what happened when a large granitic flow pushed upward under the surface of a receding plate.

but here's the really mind blowing thing: we don't get a good grasp of it because we are tiny little creatures moving at hyperspeeds over land that appears to us to be standing still. we look at these formations and talk of eruptions here and plate crashings there but we have, i think, most of us, little appreciation for the fact that the ground where we are standing to look at this stuff ISN'T WHERE IT WAS WHEN IT HAPPENED.

all this stuff didn't happen in maine; what later became maine was then somewhere just north of the equator and moving at a rate of about a centimeter a year toward its present location. it is still moving. later on it is going to crash back into europe again, but we won't be here to see it.

Saturday, October 27, 2012


ok, by now you may have deduced that i am home. i came home on tuesday 23 october, but i am still writing out a little ahead of my publish date but will be mostly writing about the recent past, but neither of you cares anyway, because you don't read me for current news.

anyway, there are a lot of things you learn about how people feel about a lot of things in an area when you drive around their neighborhoods just before elections, because you can read the signs.

i was driving for three weeks around towns in the adirondacks and then the finger lakes and i was able to make some general observations about political climate and the way people use those signs.

for starters, i notice that the more heavily a sign or collection of signs is printed exclusively in red, white and blue, the more likely the candidates supported are conservative republicans. i do not know why this is, but i think that base of voters expects it and considers anything else to be unamerican. it is kind of a code.

and also kind of a code is any sign that says "another family for" or "our family is voting" because even though liberals have families, these "family" signs are nearly universally code that indicates support for a candidate who believes wives should do as they're told. and you KNOW those candidates are out there.

image from shinagawa campaign
if signs are any indication, people across new york state are almost entirely apathetic about the presidential race, but they do care quite a lot about local races. these are pretty regular in the adirondacks, but they have some bigger issues on their plate in the finger lakes, and i want to talk about those.

reapportionment meant that some of new york's districts got redrawn, and the contest to fill the new seat in an oddly stretched out district that spans a bunch of counties is one people care about. i am purposely writing this post without looking up any of the facts just so i can tell you about my impressions based on just the signs.
image from sisters of charity new york

so judging by the placement and color of signs, nate shinagawa is either a moderate or a liberal running for that seat, and his supporters are densest in traditionally liberal towns, like ithaca and trumansburg and geneva but the farther out of town you get, the fewer of his signs dot lawns.

in central new york they are also heating up a battle over fracking and an LPG facility. i will want to talk with you later about those things, but it is actually these issues, from the look of the signs, that are splitting neighborhoods and making people the most angry. i would have stopped to take pictures for you, but it just didn't seem right to stop in front of people's houses to tourist snap signs of people's pain.

image from energy citizens
and then, out on the fringes, are the signs not FOR anybody, but against somebody. mostly those signs are against obama, like the one that reads "OBAMA vs. AMERICA" which i think is a little overblown, inaccurate, and represents a siege mentality. of course it was only one of many signs at the end of that particular driveway. i did not slow down too much to read all of them, because two of the others read "I'M THE NRA and I VOTE" and "YOU ARE BEING WATCHED ON SURVEILLANCE CAMERA". all the signs that guy had are much larger than the usual standard lawn sign and looked like they are mostly part of a year-round display so while i think that guy wishes to communicate something, i did not stay around to read all of his communications simply because i was afraid to stay there long enough to read the signs.

that amount of hostility is difficult to engage with and probably counterproductive to spreading his ideas, unless his ideas stop past the point of "i have guns and i do not like you". i'm going to take a flyer here and guess that this gentleman feels marginalized and unheard. i am goign to suggest that his method of communication is maybe contributing to his problem.

later on i will talk with you about gun rights (i'm in favor) and fracking (mostly opposed) and energy in general (flummoxed) and i will try to catch you up on pictures and parts of my trip and maybe even go back and catch you up on parts of trips i took earlier for which you STILL haven't seen some of the good bits.

ok, before i close this post i am now going to look up some things in it just to see if i can grab some images to illustrate it.

Friday, October 26, 2012


race, nationality, culture.

i got to think about it today because the nice young doctor who saw me at the hospital was very probably arabic. i am not making hasty assumptions about this; he was very semitic looking, had a thick accent, and his name (which i am actually going to tell you because i want to talk about his name specifically) is mohammed-ali babi. so given his appearance AND his accent AND his name, my best guess is that he is arabic, and at least culturally muslim.

i am used to being seen by "foreigners". "foreigner"is a term i usually apply to anyone living outside my local telephone calling area, or more liberally, someone not from vermont but also it can be applied to anyone from farther away than that, like from other countries.

we have a lot of foreign nationals living in northern vermont because this is a major refugee relocation center, but even before that we got all kinds of people from away mostly because of the university. the local hospital is a large teaching hospital, so you get medical students a lot of the time and they are often from somewhere else.

when i heard the name of this guy i was seeing, they didn't tell me his first name(s), and i was sort of expecting an indian guy.

hint of bias.

i am going to excuse myself a little by saying that when i noticed this guy's different-ness, i thought "how nice", so it is maybe benign.

but also i noticed that the lady at reception was kind of dismissive of him as if he'd only started working there last week, but i had to wonder if it was because he's arabic or because he's only still a resident. and i wondered what it's like for him, because i know that not everybody who notices his appearance and name thinks "how nice". i know it's probably hard for him to get on a plane in this country.

i want to understand more of what it is like for him in this place at this time, but it would not be polite to ask. i want to know how sick he is of jokes about his name by people who are trying to be friendly.

i am trying to unpack my feeling of "how nice" a little. i think (i would like to think) that i feel it is nice to run into people not like me because it is a wide world and people are interesting.

come to think of it, last week a white guy who needed a shave came riding up to me on an atv with a cracked shotgun in his lap and i thought "how nice", so maybe it's my general pleasure in meeting different people at work here but it's probably just as well for me to think about whether i am practicing a cultural arrogance or not.

it's maybe a good thing to think about on general principle. it's a big world out there and the more we run into people not like us the more we're either going to have to fight or get along. i know which i prefer.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

try it if you want.


now glitch (that game i play and sometimes talk about) has a thing where you can come in and try it if you want.

so come in and look around if you want.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

in traffic

i often ride a bike in traffic. people who ride bikes in traffic know what the vulnerabilities of cyclists on the road are.

so a few days ago i was on route 13 in ithaca behind these two guys on bikes and i wasn't going anywhere fast on account of all the traffic lights so i rode guard on these two guys which let them move over to the left lane hassle free.

when you're driving you can ride guard on cyclists or any other vulnerable users of the road by simply blocking other traffic from passing them too close. you can give them the room to take the whole lane if they need it. it's mostly about paying attention.

you wouldn't ride guard on them like that if they were slower than traffic, but with the lights set the way they were and the traffic the way it was, i wasn't getting anywhere fast anyway.

and when the guys pulled into the lane next to me, they were able to look over and see who'd been riding guard on them. they saw my bike racked on the car and gave me a thumbs up.

"nice bike." the guy nearest me said.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


when last we looked in on my story, it was friday morning and i was on my way to ithaca to see a guy in the esasytech department at staples because ostensibly he was going to be able to diagnose and maybe solve my problem.

to recap: i have purchased and returned one power inverter for my car. i have purchased one universal power cord for my computer, which is causing an error message that has to be dismissed to pop up on my screen every ten seconds.

so i get to the store and the guy is honest-to-goodness dressed like the green lantern. his name is mike, but when they page him in store, they page green lantern. it's some kind of costume spirit thing.

mike pulls out a different model (same brand) of universal power cord for my computer and it works just fine. and then we turn to the problem of the power inverter. he sets me up with one and THEN HE LETS ME TAKE IT OUT OF THE STORE TO TEST IF THE SETUP WILL WORK IN MY CAR.

it sort of does, but then there's a problem with it and because of the chain of things, i think the problem is the inverter. mike comes out to my car and checks it out, too. seriously. he actually comes out to test and figure out what's going on so he can set me up properly.

we think maybe the inverter is defective but they don't have another unit so i drive out to hoseheads coz the staples there has two units and i'm not doing anything besides driving around looking at stuff anyway.

the new inverter does not work with my setup. the nice young man from the horseheads store (devin) comes out to my car and looks at all the equipment, both working and defunct and makes some recommendations.

in the end i decide to go to the radio shack at the arnot mall and try to get the same inverter i just wore out and try that, since it worked just fine for a year and a half before it died. the young woman there is surly and unhelpful. but i get the inverter and i thing everything's going to be all awesome and then i stick it in my outlet and...

...the outlet is dead.
i am a long way from home

so i stick it in the other outlet.

also dead.

what? it's a problem with my car? one of these dying appliances has blown a fuse, maybe?

so there i am in the parking lot of the arnot mall, which is a long, long way from home and not even close to trumansburg or ithaca which are at least friendly and i open up my fuse panel and start checking those fuses and sure enough the two fuses for those outlets are blown.

no problem; i have a box of spare fuses in the car. experimentally, i replace a couple, but when i stick that brand new inverter in the outlet, the fuse blows.

i am now down to my last fuse, but i am next to a sears and they have an automotive department, so i go in there.

i wander around for a while, and then have to ask: where can i buy a box of fuses?

they don't sell them. and they don't do electrical work.

because at this point i am afraid that one of my dying appliances has caused a short in my electrical harness and i do not feel qualified to form an opinion about whether or not this represents a risk of fire and i don't want to screw with it.

from the sears they send me to a nearby subaru dealership, where i am told that if i hang out for three or four hours they MIGHT be able to get me in to tell me if it's a thing they can fix or not and i decide to go back to ithaca.

at the ithaca subaru dealership (maguire subarau) i tell them my sad, sad story and they don't have any time to look, but jason, the manager of service, decides to coem out to my car and have a look. so i show him all the bits and pieces and he does a little test with a 30 amp fuse and the new inverter and he says he wouldn't bet the farm, but the problem appears to be the new inverter and that it is shorting to ground, because it has now blown its own fuse.

so i go up to the radio shack in ithaca armed with this information and i make a simple exchange for another inverter of the same kind and i get everything all plugged in and... works!!!

everything is now fine. but it took some hard thinking and some time on the part of those three guys and at least i bought some stuff from staples and am likely to buy things at staples, so that's customer goodwill, but jason at the subaru dealership didn't make any money off of it and let's face it, i'm from away and unlikely to be bringing my car there for service and unlikely to make a purchase there but he did what he did because, well, i don't know why except that he was good and decent when i needed the help and i hope in the long run that will pay off for him.

Monday, October 22, 2012


tuesday my power inverter died.

this isn't particularly noteworthy. a good  one only lasts be about 18 months under the hard use i give them. i bought a new one up at triphammer mall at the closest store that i could get to.

wednesday the power cord to my computer died. i bought a new one. not the specific dell power cord, but a universal power cord. you know, because i can't get a "real" dell cord before i go home.

things with the new power inverter are not going well. i try to buy a better one but they don't have one, so i end up just returning it and using my backup, which is also inadequate.

thursday it becomes apparent to me that these items are just not going to work and i end up calling a different store to ask if they can help. they young lady i talk to is very lovely, but cannot help me. she tells me that in the morning their tech specialist will be in and that i should come in first thing and see what they can do.

so i do.

but it's after sunset now and i need to go get me some dinner and go out to my campsite, so tomorrow i will write and tell you what happened next.

and i tell you, i'm going to name NAMES.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

come home america

friday night i was standing under starry skies in the finger lakes national forest and on the radio was democracy now.

they were talking of george mcgovern, lying in hospice with not very much time left on his meter.

they were playing the documentary one bright shining moment, and i heard excerpts from mcgovern's stunning come home america speech.

i'll tell you a thing: my family voted for nixon, of course they did. and my third grade class voted for nixon, and since we lived in maryland, we knew all about watergate and just sort of shrugged because it was politics as usual and no point acting all surprised about it now.

but with this country mired down in its longest, most expensive, most pointless war ever, his words and the feeling of that time rings truer now than ever.

in 1968 we had hope. in 1972 we had hope that we could change, that we could stop bringing our young men home in body bags, that we could use all that money to feed and clothe people but we are more jaded, more hopeless now, more willing to bring destructon to other nations and we have no real idea why except we have to bring them "freedom" and "democracy" except it's hard to bring a thing like that by force to other nations especially when you are taking it bit by bit from your own citizens.

here's a fun exercise: google "erosion of civil rights".

i'll wait.

do you notice that most everything you find is all about how bad things were for freedom under the bush administrations?

things have only gotten worse under obama. don't get get me wrong; i think things would be worser under a republican administration, but the democrats ain't no darlings. partisan liberals won't tell you that, though. they won't tell you that your choices are essentially between minor degrees of bad and worse and while large corporations and huge power structures performs sleight of hand to direct your attention away from what's actually good for you or important to you they will whip up your fear and a great deal of media hype and try to get you to vote against your own interests.

they're good at it, too.

george mcgovern, in your dying days, i salute you. things might have been different.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

uncommitted voters

i'm pretty sick of presidential politics. this is not a new condition for me. i am really, really sick of political theater mounted by rich bastards in the one dollar = one vote former republic and i do not know which thing outrages me more: the progressive erosion of constitutional rights and protections, the increasing rate of income equality, or the binding memorandum by the aforementioned rich bastards in the pockets of the corporations who agree among themselves that no voices beside theirs will be heard.

i am also outraged by the media coverage of the presidential debate and all this attention on undecided voters. this is perhaps the most polarized election of recent memory and there are still undecided voters?

who are these addlepated idiots? why is the media courting them? why do they have anything at all to say in the conversation?

long gone are the days when we might get intelligent questions from random voters about what candidates stand for, but instead what we have is one long parade of carefully cherrypicked nonquestions about nonissues while we all don't talk about things that might actually be important.

for instance, are you hearing a lot of crap about which candidate will get tough on china, because china owns too much US debt?

i heard an actual explanation about the real economics behind that and i'm all, like, what? why is this even a thing? this is just more camouflage and misdirection.

hellooooooo! poverty is on the rise. cost of living increases for medicare are tied to consumer prices on goods purchased by young people and do not include prescription drugs. corporations have huge bonuses written into tax code. police forces are being given increasing latitude to imprison citizens. the war is sending home veterans of whom 50% will have some kind of disability and their health care ALONE is going to cost 30 TRILLION dollars.

at this point in the race there should simply not be any undecided voters. everybody has had a lot of time to think about which candidate might possibly do the least damage to us while we're waiting for a real alternative or a revolution or armageddon or something.

if at this late date you have no opinion about all that you are an idiot and the media outlets need to stop talking to you.


i am now going to return to my previous position, which i like rather a lot.

Friday, October 19, 2012

sick day

you know, i used to have an immune system that was sufficiently ironclad that i could eat off the floor in a public school. i maybe got a decent cold every two or three years, and any cold bad enough to cause me to notice knocked me flat back for days on end.

what i'm saying is i was disease resistant organism.

but these days i don't have a lot of contact with people and what contact i do have is mostly outdoors and lightly social, so it is maybe not a surprise that i spent two intensive days indoors closely packed with two hundred and fifty people who are all singing and crying and kissing and hugging and two days later i am knocked back on my ass so hard i can't get up.

but i'm CAMPING, see? and i'm eight hours from home.

this is how my day went:

wake up in the national forest.
roll over and sleep more.
drive into the nearest town,  and check email.
drive ten more miles to the nearest shopping mall to replace an important piece of equipment.
take a half hour nap.
find a geocache in the parking lot.
buy the thing.
have another nap.
go to a grocery store and buy lunch.
drive ten miles.
stop to check email.
eat lunch.
drive another five miles.
three hour nap.
go back into town for cold medicine. stop to check email on the way.
return to camp and sleep. (this last one is not yet accomplished)

why, you may ask, am i still camping? why do i not just go home?

for starters, i am eight hours' drive and i'm not the perkiest, most attentive driver. on top of that, yesterday i took my laundry in to be done and it won't be done until late tomorrow, too late to go home, which would have been awesome if i was simply going to keep camping until early next week.

maybe if i sleep enough i will feel better and want to stay and have the choice on thursday.

this afternoon it was temperate and sunny and foliage is beautiful and i slept through the whole thing, which i resent just a little. i am not enjoying my stay in the finger lakes national forest.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

from the dingle starry

maybe you know the poem fern hill. maybe you even know the piece by john corigliano.

i looked up last night in my campsite and saw this:

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

shindagin hollow

it was a fun-filled day.

i woke up in the morning and took my sweet time packing up all my gear to move from the great indoors back to the forest.

i took my laundry to be done because i do not have  enough of certain kinds of clothing to last another week, plus my laundry bag is so full there's nowhere to put laundry. i'll pick it up wednesday (two days from now down your leg of the pants of time).

then i went out to the slaterville spring to fill my water bottles, which was on the way almost to shindagin hollow state forest, which is really where i was heading today to do some mountain biking.

i have to check my notes to tell you exactly where i rode if you care, but i rode a lot of the yellow trails down to the office chair trail and then down to an unmarked trail that brought me out near the brearly road parking and i rode all the way down the number six blue where i was feeling cocky about going over some obstacles and then suddenly didn't go over one and got covered with mud.

did you notice my use of the word "down" with regard to the trails? let's just say it was very climb-y on the way out and i actually rode the little thing called the bitch ditch and then found my way back to the car where i had to use nearly a gallon of water to wash the mud off and while i was at it i shaved.

you know, because if you're out in the woods, the first thing you do is wash up really well and get a good, clean shave.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

the great

so there we all were, two hundred some odd of us plus the almost fifty kids from the current crop and assorted members of the voice faculty and the great man himself.

i do not know what the official count was, but we were there from nearly every graduating class going back forty years; new and starting out, middle aged and greying, old and out of shape. some of us were not where we expected to have been. some of us were greater than our youthful expectations, some less. we were still married, or never married, or no longer married. we came alone or with wives and husbands and children. some of us were couples with children who belong to the choir in their own right. some of us had teachers in the choir, others students.

and larry,  kept telling us that we are the choir, all of us, present and not present.

all of us.

not any one year, not now and before, but all of us that ever stood to sing in that choir present and forever interwoven, inextricable, one foundation, all of us living in what larry is calling universal time.

it is an exclusive membership, limited in the entry of each of us, one by one, according to how the auditions came out and what voices were needed that year. we had to earn our place each year. some dropped in as freshmen, some had to wait and work and watch.

but once we had come in, we were of the choir and could call it home no matter how much time had passed or how far away we had moved. we never forgot how to sing deep river, and we never forgot why.

so there we all were, too many for the risers, too many for the curtain to close on the stage and we came from our separate, divergent lives and nervously crowded together but all of a sudden we were all that one choir and we were all nineteen again and golden and perfect but time had not simply reversed or stood still because while each of us was suddenly transported back to the time when we first stood in that choir, we were each of us in our own present and looking out along the crowd we caught our breath and we said to each other "they are so beautiful" and we reminded each other "they are us."

i say we did these things because i know i did them, and i saw and heard the same conversations repeated all around the room.

"do you think the new kids fully understand this?" we asked the other kids from about our time. we decided they probably understood that it was a significant thing, an important thing, but they could not possibly understand the full depth of it.

"how could they?" we said. "we didn't. we were too young." and i'm sure kids older than us overheard and nodded sagely, knowing what we can't yet know because we're too young.

Monday, October 15, 2012

i know you know.

do you remember when you were twenty years old and full of talent and promise and anything seemed possible?

do you ever sit back and wonder what you've done with your life that measures up to any of that?

in a few minutes i won't be able to put off any longer heading up to my college reunion. i am not here for the reunion. i am here to honor the retiring choir director and sing one last time in a massed alumni choir.

i have come in from the woods for this and while am enjoying staying in a room, i am nervous about people and mourning my losses very keenly.

but while i was finding the parking lot they want us to park in (the campus is much larger than it ever was in my day), i noticed there was a geocache RIGHT THERE so i went ahead and found it.

had to.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

day at the museum

i woke up in my campsite at stillwater in filthy cold rain and getting rainier by the minute and thought maybe i didn't feel much like taking hikes or long bike rides and i'd had a lot of those and sort of needed a rest and if the weather had been nice, i maybe would'a' felt like doing a ton of roadside caches up in watertown, the flashtrashcache capital of the north country. that can be fun sometimes when you don't feel much like anything else.

but then i decided that it would be a good day to go to the adirondack museum. i have never been there before, since to do it, you really have to clear a couple days on your calendar and i've alwasy been doing something else.

if you;re following my story even a little bit, you know that i spend a fair amount of time in the adirondacks. what you maybe don;t know is that between the fabulous geological history and the social history of the lumber camps and the gilded age and the great camps, i'm a big fan.

so yesterday i went. and today when they open up, i'm going back. it;s a little exhausting, because i can;t just go and look at stuff; oh, no. i have to go and look at stuff and read ALL the accompanying material and take notes about things i want to look up later and i think museum going is more exhausting than a day of hiking an biking.

and the whole time i;m there i feel like i'm going to cry, because i have spent so many hours out here riding the back roads and looking at the places that used to be the old camps, that used to be full of life and are now moss covered ruins and i know them only by name, but here at the museum are the photos and relics of those days when they took those names that come down to me as echoes on my wilderness lansdscape.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

fern hill

right now (last tuesday night by your count) i am sitting in my car practicing choir music. it is an hour after sunset and i have a recording of the piece and of course the sheet music.
you know, because you can't just show up at alumni weekend. they send you the music and ask you to come prepared. 

it's kind of awesome, but showing up prepared for rehearsal on friday is a much easier thing to do if you are living indoors. i received my music last wednesday as i was heading out of town.

living in your car + practicing choir music = awesome.

Friday, October 12, 2012

improbably polite

vinny's pizza in croghan does not open until six o'clock. SIX! i am HUNGRY. i hiked and rode today and it was COLD and i need to eat. now. or soon.

second they open up, i am THERE.

nope, they're not open tonight.

so i got a pizza and a few things at the corner gas station, one of a chain. but it was supremely weird. i've been in a lot of convenience stores. and sometimes at convenience stores people are surly and sometimes they're polite.

but THESE people were really, really polite. unusually helpful and friendly. weirdly, happily polite.

i used the restroom and i was initially unimpressed with filthy appearance of the sink, until i noticed the small sign asking people to please excuse the appearance of the sink; it was the original sink belonging to the miller house that stood on that corner for over a hundred years.

so i gave it a second look. no amount of cleaning will make that sink LOOK clean, but knowing what it was made it beautiful.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

i love this sign

this sign is posted on one of the buildings out here at the stillwater lot. it informs us that this parking lot is intended ONLY for use by people boating on the reservoir OR legally using the surrounding state lands.

i find it hard to believe that anyone would just come up here and leave a car since it's about eighteen hard miles from anywhere. granted, some people have camps out here, but really. those people have their own driveways, roads, and sometimes parking lots.

maybe it;s just a piggyback thing. maybe if they catch you doing illegal things on the surrounding state lands the tack this one on to your charges. it's nothing like a commuter lot, that's for sure.

well. it's sunny and thirty-eight degrees which meas it's time to go out and legally use the surrounding state lands.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

get lost.

here's a thing you maybe hadn't considered about travel: it isn't all that important to know where you are. neither is it that important to know where you're going.

the important thing is to have the skills to get yourself back to a place where you'll know where you are and in the meantime, you will have had an adventure.

i am not advocating heading off willy-nilly into the wilderness. you should start small. in an urban setting, go down a few streets that you don;t know where they go, just to see. don't stray too far. then get yourself back to either where you left known territory or some landmark you know.


in the woods, also start small. of off the trail a little way, and then get yourself back to the trail or some other destination with which you are familiar.

in both settings, make sure you have proper equipment for the setting in case it takes you a while to get back.  be aware of the position of the sun with relation to your direction of travel and time of day. notice landmarks. are you between the highway and the park? between the forest road and the lake? those will be handy bits of information to have later on.

now go on, scoot. out with you. go out and get lost.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012


out here the public toilet is an evaporating vault toilet, which is environmentally friendly. it's clean and smells better than most public restrooms and they keep it stocked with toilet paper, even though the rolls are locked to a steel bar so you can only use them in situ.

the thing that's hard to get used to, and especially when you first arrive in darkness, is the general quiet hum of the building and the breeze beneath you as you sit. i am not familiar with all of the particulars of the system,   but it does involve a very gentle breeze.

it is so gentle a breeze that at first you wonder that it's there at all. but yes, it's a little breezy. it takes a littel getting used to.

Monday, October 08, 2012


today i left speculator.

i didn't so much mean to leave speculator, but it was raining filthy cold rain and i thought: i will just poke around a bit and next thing i knew i was on my way to indian lake and then the next thing i knew i was at a potential campsite at lake durant and then all of a sudden i was on the road over to big moose and then at stillwater.

i am lodged for the evening near there, although i think probably not at one basket factory road, just because there's a site that's big and grassy just a little bit farther on.

a long time ago i wrote this to a friend:

hello, my friend.

i have come for the night out to stillwater reservoir. it is a strange and generous landscape.

to get here you can come from big moose or from number four (yes, that's the name of an alleged town), but from either direction you drive a long way from civilization and then you turn off of the paved road and drive even longer on rough roads. it is so remote that in the winter you can't get near here except by snowmobile. this is the end of the line; mail does not go any farther than here.

after miles and miles of dirt road you come to the end of the road where all of a sudden there is pavement and streetlights. there's a general store/mechanic, hotel/bar/restaurant, a ranger station, and a public toilet. these four buildings are the whole of it out here, except for the picnic table and ferry dock. the ferry will take you and your car out to even more remote places where there are no roads. i hear tell of a very expensive resort somewhere out there, but i've seen no evidence.

one thing that makes this place very handy for me is that the amenities here include a high-speed wireless network.

my address for the time being is 1 basket factory road, a remote campsite off of an obscure singletrack road. 

i love it out here.

leaving trumansburg, my home of the last week, it was pleasing to know that i was coming here.

they were very kind to me in tburg; when i arrived this morning i was met at the curb with the request: will you sing for today's offertory?

well, i said, i haven't brought a guitar. i am not prepared.

a guitar was produced for me to play, and so i did it.

i was taken to brunch afterward (eggs benedict) and i was sent away with blessings and with gifts. yesterday i was feeling disjointed and disconnected but the reception i got this morning showed me firmly that i am not disconnected. they were grateful to have me visit with them, but the gratitude properly placed would be mine.

and i made my way up here. on the number four road (once again, not a fourth road, but the road that goes to number four)- on the number four road there's a library of sorts. it's a small shed, of the sort that might contain a utility panel. it's kind of a shallow closet with a roof. people leave books there and they take books from there; you may keep them if you wish and you need not sign them out.

further up the road there's a similar shed labeled "watering hole". it's a faucet that draws on a well. the landowner makes this water supply available to all comers, and for free. when i got there tonight i was third in line. the man filling jugs ahead of me stopped to talk for a while. he asked how i came to be here, and we talked of the weather, life on the road, and all the things (family, pets, livestock) that prevent him from being able to wander the way i do.

almost invariably when i tell people (they ask more often than i'd expect) how and why i am on the road, they have a lot of questions. 

to a lot of people the world is a dangerous and threatening place.

i wish to make my world one of surprise and delight. people are kind and generous if you give them the chance. to travel the way i do requires me to trust entirely that i will be brought to places that are interesting and worthwhile, and that i will meet the people i'm supposed to meet.

it matters to me little if i can be of service to them or they to me; it always seems to cut both ways. the web we all make as we connect with others is complex and beautiful; the strands woven around me are bright and taught.

it's time for me to make my way to my campsite.

happily because last night was saturday i had to wash up very thoroughly and today i didn't exert myself, a cursory washing-up will do just fine, which suits me because it's dark, windy, and about 37 degrees out. tonight will be the first hard freeze of the season. 

i've traveled 1300 miles since i left home, and i'm tired. i wonder if perhaps it's time to come home, but i feel that there's somewhere i'm supposed to be come sunday.

for now it will be sufficient just to crawl into bed.

good night, good friend; 
sleep soundly and well,
wake refreshed.

yours, as ever.

Sunday, October 07, 2012


this morning i woke up in brilliant sunlight in a campsite just outside speculator NY. on the news i heard about the NHL lockout.

really? you guys are having difficulty figuring out how to share 3.3 BILLION dollars? somehow i fail to feel any concern at all for you. you're idiots.

yesterday afternoon i was at a very fine geocache and i liked it especially because it's an old style cache, the kind where we go somewhere maybe a long way out of our way and don;t know what we'll see when we get there and we don't count on finding the thing, not even if the coordinates are good.

there's been a  trend in the sport in recent years to find as many caches as possible and as quickly, too, which means there's a rash of cheap caches in highway pullouts.

so i was on my way up this great trail yesterday to go look at some awesome ancient pine trees and i liked the location so much that i remember thinking maybe i wouldn't bother with the cache but then i couldn't find the cache so it was kind of sand in my craw.

and then i found the cheap throwdown.

another goofy practice that has developed is that often when people look for a few minutes and don;t find a cache, they either assume it's gone and toss down a cheap container and a few pages of post it notes and call it the cache and call it found.

alternately, they toss down the cheap container and then call it a new cache.

and i found just such a thing. it was clearly labeled as a geocache placed on october 4 2012 (you will remember that i am on a writing delay) and i thought: hey. that's today!

i redoubled my efforts to find the original container. i assumed it was hard to find and looked for it under that assumption. and i found it right where it should'a' been.


Saturday, October 06, 2012

away games

i have done this thing again in which i pack up my bags and i leave my home and i begin blogging somewhere in the future.

at the time of writing i am in downtown speculator, NY. i am waiting for an excellent pizza from a place i've been to before, so i know it's going to be good pizza. my campsite is not pretty, but it is a commanding location on a hilltop and it has good cell reception and it's five miles from town and an internet connection and nearby there's a spring with sweet good water and the campsite itself is both legal and free.

by the time you read this, i will no longer me in speculator, but somewhere else out in the adirondacks, but i do not yet know where.

i'll let you know just after, ok?

Friday, October 05, 2012

a delicious thing

i know i've mentioned to you that i made this awesome baked egg thing.

here it is:

what you need:

an onion, diced
black beans. canned are awesome, or soak you own.
tomates. fresh is lovely. canned diced work just great.
garlic. either a lot or a little. fresh is lovely but jar garlic works great.
spices: cayenne, cumin, chili, paprika, whatever you like.
olive oil.



cheese. you can use any kind you want; i like american.


preheat your oven to 350.

hot up the oil in a pot large enough to simmer the rest of the stuff. when it's hot, toss in the onion and cook it at least until they're a little transparent. you may wish to cook them until they're golden or even until they start to brown a little.

then toss the spices in there and stir it a few minutes until they smell nice and fragrant and then add the garlic and cook just a few more seconds, until you sell garlic in the mix.

then add the tomatoes and beans with juices and simmer that for about forty minutes, until it's a nice thick stew kinda thing.

meanwhile, put fritos in the bottom of an oven safe dish. i make a single serving, so mine's pretty small. you should use as much as you need.

when the bean thing is cooked, take it off the heat and pour some over the top of the fritos (according to serving size, see?) pat down a little nest in the center and try to make the bottom so it's not leaky. this will be important later when you go to wash the dish.

break an egg into the little nest and then put some ore bean stuff around the edges of the egg.

stick that puppy in the oven until the white of the egg sets (8 to 10 minutes) and then cover the top with a slice of cheese and bake until the cheese is soft and bubbly.

if you get it right (and it will depend on your oven and your egg and how runny you like your yolk, you get this incredible creamy baked egg frito pie and just about the only thing that makes it better than it is is to eat it with a wholemess of sriracha.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

flood fill

here's a little flash game i've been playing and like:

it's the kind of thing you shouldn't try out if you need to be on time anywhere. *coughcough*

beware autoplay noises.


and while i was looking up the link for this game, i found another.

i haven't tried it yet, but i will soon.

flood it

Wednesday, October 03, 2012


i'm working on a stereogram poster for the niece of a friend as a confirmation gift.

on the off chance that you are not a maker of stereograms, you may not know that there are some very nice and cheap pieces of software that will do this for you, and even a pretty good online tool.

the process if fun, though. you have to make your image into a black and white depthmap on whch the darker regions are father back in the stereo image and the light regions appear closer-up.

this is the depthmap for the design i'm working on. later on i will maybe have the color version to show you, and you can sort out the image for yourself.

it's a work in progress.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

seasonal change

if you read me in RSS, you won't even notice that this has happened, but since it is now autumn, i have switched to autumn colors.

it's a thing i like to do.

Monday, October 01, 2012

marconi and cheezles

at some point in my life i used to call it that among friends. i don't remember when or where or who.

but i mention it here because someone came to this blog last week looking for macaroni and cheese. the only reason i can think of is that i was in a public discussion forum talking about a macaroni and cheese that i was making and next thing i knew someone had gotten to this blog by way of the search terms "flask macaroni and cheese", so i am assuming that at least one person was interested.

so here's my recipe for macaroni and cheese. it is very good macaroni and cheese. the recipe is very nonspecific.

things you need:

a box of macaroni. i like shells or farfalle. use anything you like.

3 cups of milk, whole or skim.
3 tablespoons butter (you may use olive oil in a pinch)
a couple o' tablespoons o' flour
spices: at least a tablespoon of dry mustard. use cayenne, paprika, cumin, whatever.
garlic. fresh or from a jar is just fine. a little bit or a whole bunch. it's up to you.

cheese. somewhere between 8 and 14 ounces of whatever cheese you have in the house. cheddar, american, fontina, swiss, brie, kasseri, fontinella, peccorino romano, whatever. i usually like to use up to half american cheese. cut it into chucks that you'll be able to stir in the pot.

tomato, onion, whatever.

maybe some breadcrumbs.


at some point in the process you will have cooked and drained the macaroni. you can use the same pot for boiling the pasta as for making the sauce, but not at the same time.

preheat the oven to 350 degrees. fahrenheit, dude.

melt the butter or hot up your oil.

if you're using onions and you wish them to be mellower, toss them in now and cook until transparent or golden or even a little caramelized. you are under no obligation to use any onions at all.

when you onions are ready or when your butter or oil is hotted up, toss in the flour and the spices. stir it around until the flour has that cooked smell and the spice are fragrant. then toss in your garlic and cook it up until it smells garlicky, and then add some of the milk.

stir it until it's pasty and add more milk. you may want to use a whisk. you're making a roux here. alternately add milk and stir to uniform consistency. at some point it'll be more liquidy than pasty. just be sure to get out any lumps.

if you didn't cook down your onions first, add them now.

the the sauce simmer a little while, maybe eight minutes or so to give the flavorings some time to set in and let it thicken a little. if one of your spices was a bay leaf, take that out now.

turn the heat down under the pot if you haven't already and stir in the cheese until it's all melty. if you are using tomatoes or some other thing, toss that in now.

remove it from the heat and fold in the cooked pasta.

but the whole bunch of it in a 9x13 baking dish (or whatever), top with optional grated hard cheese and optional breadcrumbs and toss it in the oven for about 40 minutes.

when it's brown and bubbly take it out and let it stand a few minutes to catch its breath and then you're good to go.


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