Travels With Oso con Migo

Sojourn In America

OAE On The Road Again, Summertime Along the Way

Greetings Cohort:

From Summer Solstice to Autumnal Equinox is a lot of storeys and about 42 hundred miles, and that is a magic number. Have you read A Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy ? How about Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance?

9-Jul-01 ABQ

An idea I read someplace has given me to think that I like to believe I have seen through the myth of status, possessions, and unlimited consumption as the path to happiness. Now I have all kinds of freedom and time and I don't know what to do with it. So I wonder and worry and berate others to take advantage of my time and end up still just as unhappy.

Oh Well. Time I get going from here. The road beckons. "Alone again, Naturally."

15-Jul-01 Leg -1 Deming

The road is full of adventures, no doubt about it. And the good news is that the fuel prices have gone down somewhat.

The microwave decided on Saturday morning to throw its plug in the ring of delays. I took the opportunity whilst it was apart to give it a good cleaning. That, and a few more last minute letters which should have been written last week, and by evening I was finally ready to roll. No-- wait. There is one lamp out in the instrument cluster. I can't see the air pressure gauge in the dark.

By Sunday morning I was at Bosque Del Apache bright and early for a walk along the Canyon Trail. Been here before, nice place; it is becoming one of my favourite walking places. Animal track and spoor to follow, plants to name, rocks to climb over or lie upon. I had a nice visit with Mr. Tortoise. A good omen and some good thoughts.

South on i-25 to the Hatch Cutoff was smooth sailing. I've been on this section of road at least twice going the other way between Deming and Albuquerque. There is a long climb up out of Hatch and at the top I noticed that the air gauge was low. Looks like another leak. Along the hill going up there was spoor of onion delivery truck coming down. Big fat juicy ones, rolled and tumbled from striking the pavement as the fell out of the overfull truck. Just before the crest of the hill was the place where the onions were brought in from the fields and loaded by conveyor into open dump trucks. It was on the crest of this hill, with fine views ahead and behind, that I pulled off in a wide spot.

I went straight to the most likely place, the same as where it was leaking last time, where one of those nylon tubes had burst from the heat on the exhaust side of the turbo. I could hear the air escaping from the system somewhere but the suspect nylon section was not it. A side issue was a blast of oil on the intake manifold. Where did that come from?

Eventually I found the leak and the source of the oil to be the same. It was not one of the nylon lines bursting in the heat this time but the lower copper control line between the compressor's governor and the air dryer. The flare had broken off the end of the tubing within the flare nut. Looks like a fatigue failure. Now, where is my flare tool?... In the end I had to use a pair of long-nose pliers and carefully sculpt a flare on the broken end of the copper tube. In the meantime, a mile ahead of me a hay barn at a cattle farm on the other side of the road burst into flame. Wham! just like that. Must have been one of those spontaneous combustion things. About fifteen minutes later two police cars went screaming past shortly followed by the entire Hatch fire department and a large tank truck from the next town beyond.

An hour later I had the leak sealed and everything put back together. The fire was still raging when I went past.

The rest of the drive into Deming was uneventful and the laundry and showers were both very welcome activities at the Dream Catcher camp on the east end of town.

17-Jul-01 Leg - 2-3 El Paso to Pine Spring

Late departure from Deming of course. The flare repair held up ok getting there but then I had to redo it twice after I had the proper tools. Then in the process of cleaning up from that task I found the commode about to fall over. One of the four bolts that holds it to the floor had broken and two others were loose.

Back to town to find more parts. The broken bolt was made of solid brass. The replacements are thinly plated brass. Cheap steel. Not even stainless. They will rust in short order.

Why is it that with every iteration of repair and replacement the quality of life is then lessened?

The road east was flat and The Cat Drag'd right along. Next stop was El Paso for fuel and shower. I thought I might make Pine Spring Camp in the Guadalupe National Park by dark but then a dust storm loomed on the horizon and I stopped to watch.

Never seen this phenomena before. Fascinating! A great greenish yellow brown monster racing along the ground; coming across the Rio Grande from Mexico. A curved wave front arcing up and away on both sides, a darkness of tumult and abrasion, coming straight at where I had turned off the road. Ahead of the front all was calm. No wind. People walked across the carpark of the mall I'd pulled into--unconcerned, not even glancing over their shoulders at this dun monster about to engulf them. I took refuge in a cinema (ever think about how cin-ema and en-ema are related?) and watched from the portal as the businesses across the park disappeared into the cloud of dust and premature darkness.

You could see the front approach. It was moving fast. Well defined, not something you could outrun. In a trice drifting and blowing sand everywhere. Kids cavorted in the wind driven dust. It stung the skin and made eyes tear. You could feel it in your teeth. Taste it. Smell it. Visibility was nil: 100-300 feet.

A man said that dust storms happen all the time in El Paso and then it would rain and wash the dust away. --Where are you from?, he asked. We get as much rain in a month as you do in a day in New Hampshire, he said finally.

I asked if it was necessary to plow the dust/sand off the road; if it scores windscreens or paint. --Only if the wind blows very hard. Mostly no. Just makes everything dirty. Inside and out.

The movie was "A.I.", a sort of modern Pinocchio. Typical of a Stanley Kubric film is left one wondering what message the author was trying to impart. If you wait long enough you always get your wish? Perhaps.

Arrived Pine Spring Camp after a long nap in one rest area and a short breky in another. And not before finding yet another air leak. And this one was in one of the nylon tubes. The nylon itself is ok stuff and the fittings are great--it's a matter of heat that's the problem. When I replace it I'll add another section of heat shield.

Along the way to that task I found one of the three bolts that hold the air compressor onto the engine block has broken off.

And the compressor drive belt was loose.

And the radiator cooling spray has two clogged spray heads.

Worst of all was finding the forward bookshelf pulling away from the port bulkhead. There must be water behind the panel sometimes. The screw threads were rusted away.

First tho, whilst the morning is still and cool, I had to have a walk. I've been twice almost to Devil's Hall. It's only four miles round trip. This time I made it. The horse/hiking trail follows a traverse along the slopes of the north side of Guadalupe Peak--the highest peak in TeXas--in part along the rim of Pine Spring Canyon, overlooking the dry river's bed. Where the horse trail switches back for another traverse up the side of Guadalupe the hiking trail leaves the cactus and mesquite rim and turns down into the cobbled and sandy river. The skeletal remains of a deer guarded the boundary of the Wilderness Area and I was reminded to take a long pull on my water bottle. The trail continues in the river bed on a long sweeping curve from west around to the northeast and then an abrupt right angle back to northwest. Just there one can look up and see the knife edge ridge of the Tejas Trail climbing to Hunter Peak. Bushwhacking up to that ridge would make for a good longcut back to camp. The Devil's Hall Trail turns left here and climbs giant steps of basalt up into the canyon where it ends. One can only imagine what sort of geologic meat cleaver split the ridge eons ago and the rush of water that rolls and polishes the boulders and basalt. Awesome place! Great steps. Narrow canyon. Straight up walls. Excellent walkabout.

Now all the chores and tasks are done. Maybe another walk tomorrow before departure.

22-Jul-01 Leg - 3 Pine Spring to Austin to Livingston

Lot of driving, little else. I did have another fine walk the morning I left Pine Spring but I missed the bats at Carlsbad. Forgot about them entirely the evening before until I was reminded in the morning by some neighbors from Vermont. Oh Well. Now I'll just have to come back here again some day.

Pine Spring south by the scenic route included driving right through a thunderstorm on the way to i-10. And just before I got to the beginning of the rain--you could see it hanging like a curtain across the road ahead, lightning crashing down all round, brilliant white billowing cloud boiling up from a dark grey-black base--there were three men by the side of the road with "butterfly nets". I just had to stop.

He would scoop the net across the top of a mesquite bush and examine the collection, pull the net through its hoop, inside out, to dump the bugs and then scoop it again. --I'm an entomologist, as one gentleman identified himself when I asked what they were doing, looking for giant flies. I didn't write down the proper name of the insect he was hunting but he showed me one. Looked just like a giant housefly. I mean really giant; about as big as your thumb--bigger than a bumble bee.

Well, you're just the kind of person I want to talk to then. Or listen to would be more correct. Yesterday when I was walking around in the hills above Pine Spring camp at Guadalupe I saw an insect that behaved like a hummingbird. At first I thought it was a hummer but it had no tail feathers. It had an abdomen like an insect, colourful wings and antennae. It was the size of a hummingbird, had a proboscis, and was feeding on thistle blossoms just like a humming bird would, hovering, with its proboscis into the flower and then moving to another spot and hovering again.

The entomologist put the kill-jar with his giant fly back in his pocket and told me what I had seen was most likely a giant hummingbird moth.

I went on my way wondering what other giant things are hidden in those hills.

The thunderstorm was pouring down buckets of rain and the road was awash in some of the low spots over the next ten miles. The temperature dropped thirty degrees in the first few miles. But out the other side the ground was dry and the temperature rose steadily again.

Along the way, down the road, talk radio, fuel and shower, next stop Padre Island National Seashore Park. A new furthest south point for The Cat Drag'd Inn, at least in TeXas anyhow, and a new place for my "come back to" list. In the winter perhaps. Looks like there could be some good kite flying here, and there is a campground right on the beach.

Then to Fulton to dinner with Leon and Bess, ham radio/RV club friends I've been chatting with nearly every day whilst I've been in Albuquerque. They've got two full hookups in their back yard for visitors like me and it was in their back yard before we ate that I found another broken bolt on the air compressor. Leon makes a very good batter of cornmeal, flour, and beer, for his shrimp. Yum! but I'll not stay over. I think I should get on to Austin so I have maximum time to explore options and effect repairs.

In Austin to visit Keith and Erin by the next morning. What is it now, Saturday? I've missed PHC and Car Talk so I'm not sure.

The compressor problem turned out to be a lot less damaging than first sight. The stumps of the broken bolts were loose in their holes and they turned right out without having to be drilled and extracted. New bolts of the correct hardness were easily obtained on Sunday even and so I replaced all four. Also did some study and modification of the compressor air filter assembly to try and fix the oil leak there.

Keith is someone I worked with at McMurdo during my first year there so we have a lot to talk about. Reminisce, I think, is the word. See for some speculation on current events there. Shower, laundry, shower, shopping, shower... It is sooo hot outside. Hard to play in the woods except very early in the morning and then the temperature is still near 80f. The inside of the bus has been up to 105f every afternoon.

Shakti, a Sanskrit word meaning "life force", wife of Shiva, a.k.a. Katharine, came by with a basket of assorted peppers and tomatoes from her garden.

There is a lot for me to see and do in Austin. The city has parks and bike trails that beg to be explored. But this week it is too hot. Spring would be better, or Autumn.

And then on the road north. And east. Northeast in a word. To ARkansas.

25-Jul-01 Leg 4 - Livingston TeXas to ... the home base of the Escapees Residence Vehicle Club. One of the features of this club is the assisted living campground at Livingston. When a member is too far over the hill to drive anymore then you just pull in here and park. It is just like any other assisted living place except you don't have to move to a strange room or apartment.

On the way here I stopped for a nice walk in the hill country west of Austin and had plenty of time to cogitate upon the meaning of life.

When big, long trucks pass in the opposite direction on narrow TeXas highways they sound like two cars going by close together.

A couple of days ago I rescued a guy who was on the shoulder of the highway with a blown left front. Perhaps I already mentioned that, I remember writing about it in one letter or another, but I'll tell it again--storeys always get better with the retelling.

I had a left front blow out on my trip from Spokane to New Hampster in '98. Scary experience, the happening, and I spent ten hours by the side of the road waiting on help. When I pulled in behind this guy he was struggling to get his spare off the rear mount. The first thing to do was set out my handy new warning triangles. First use! since I bought them last year.

Just like when my tyre blew out and I was unable to change it. This guy was going to sit there a long time without some help. The circumstances were a little different tho. He had a spare but was not able to effect the change. The lug nuts had been tightened with an impact tool and the wrench he had was one of those nearly useless single socket things where the handle extends at an angle that compromises the torque one can apply with it. Completely useless. Do you know the kind I mean? I used my jack as a fulcrum and he was able to stand on the handle of his wrench to lever the nuts loose.

Plus his jack was too tall to get under the axle. Such fools are the manufacturers of vehicles.

My jack would never lift the bus, it is a little one left over from when I had the old yellow van. I keep it around cos its useful for odd jobs. Like being a fulcrum.

Well, to make an interesting long storey take up less space suffice it to say at this point that between the two of us we got the wheel changed. Then he couldn't get his engine restarted. This was caused by a wiring screwup. The chassis battery was new he said. And so were the two house batteries. But the chassis battery was connected with the same sort of wing nuts that were in use on the house batteries--the kind one would use in a marine application, for an outboard motor. I wonder if the battery was a deep cycle model. That would explain other aspects of the problem. Anyhow, the cranking current had overheated the positive wing nut stud and melted it out of the top of the battery. The battery also had the proper big round studs so we used his visegrips to effect a connexion and then jumpered to the house battery to get him going.

Right about then the road service truck he'd called nearly two hours past showed up. And not much help they would have been. A rattletrap pickup piloted by a mechanic wannabe and his gorilla friend.

And something from the radio: Mark Twain said --Whenever you find you're on the side of the majority it's time to pause and reflect.

Crowley's Ridge State Park is a nice place to go for a walk. Near Walcott ARkansas, north of Jonesboro, the fine trails almost make up for the atrocious roads. Every time I drive through ARkansas I tell my Self it is the last time but then I always seem to have to come back and see if the roads are still as bad. Without fail, they are. Second only to Louisiana. No doubt. Instead of Nodoz, the truckers recommend you take Dramamine.

This time through I tried some of the secondary roads. Slower but better. Some of the tertiary roads are better still, as long as you don't meet another big vehicle coming the other way; the width of the entire paved surface is about the same as one and a half highway lanes and there are usually no shoulders between the edge and the poison ivy jungle. At least the pavement is smooth.

It seems like the entire interstate system in ARkansas is an experiment in how to construct a highway out of recycled building material. They like to use the concrete pad method. Each pad is laid down independent of any connexion with the others, floating on sand or marsh, they tip fore and aft as you drive over them. CA!thump-CA!thump... CA!thump-CA!thump... CA!thump-CA!thump... CA!thump-CA!thump... The bus rocks too and fro, or bounces up and down. Most annoying.

So that was how I found Crowley's Ridge--getting off the primary roads. Pioneer Benjamin Crowley once lived here. The CCC and the YCC built the trails and campsites.

Land Between The Lakes

Next were a couple of days and nights at Land Between The Lakes. I wanted some time off, to go for a walk unhurried by driving requirements, to bake a banana bread, to spend a little time with old correspondence. The pile of letters is deep enough to slide over on every turn.

Land Between The Lakes straddles the state line between Tennessee and Kentucky. Two rivers, the Tennessee and the Cumberland, dammed by the TVA, created a virtual island about six miles wide and thirty-six miles long. The National Recreation Area is administrated by the U.S. Forest Service. Camping and hiking, hunting and fishing, a working 19th century farm and the Golden Pond Planetarium & Observatory are all included along with the wildlife that call the place home and the ghosts of the natives and the Civil War soldiers who are buried in the hills. A country band was setting up at the pavilion and kids were parading past on rented bicycles or walking to and from the beach.

My first evening there I rode around on my bike and explored the various campgrounds and trails. The camp is surrounded more or less on three sides by a critter fence--to keep out deer and bears among other things--and the rest of it by lake. The fence also pretty well serves to keep the little kids in I'm sure. Where the bike path crosses the fence there are elaborate stiles.

The next morning was cool and damp, most excellent conditions for making giant bubbles. Later that morning I went out to clean up the bubble mess and to take another bike ride around the campground. The green Forest Service SUV was across the road from my site. I hadn't seen where he came from; too bad cos then I'd know who complained and I could put a hex on them.

As I commenced to get ready to leave--the SUV moved into my space and the ranger alighted to ask for my ID. I asked what the problem was and he said he was investigating a complaint; he would tell me what it was when his other officer arrived momentarily. Asked me if I'd ever been arrested; did I have any firearms; how long was I staying; was I travelling alone... I showed him my license and he asked if I knew my SSN. Yes I know it but I don't think I have to give it to you, I replied.

Presently the backup arrived in his SUV and they huddled in the first one to run my ID. In the meanwhile I continued cleaning up the bubble machine and preparing my bike for a little rideabout. Somewhere in here I went back in the bus and donned a tee-shirt--I had an inkling of the problem I guess, not that I'd been "exposing" my Self or anything, but I remembered that some guy in the showers got in the stall with his underwear on so it must be a conservative neighborhood I'm camped in.

Finally they came together to tell me the problem. "Scantily clad" was the phrase they used. Some nearby parent complained that I was walking to and from the showers wrapped only in a towel. So much for cosmopolitan clothing back here where the style is bib overalls and boxers.

They said I should wear shorts. At least.

So then I lifted my shirt to show them I was properly attired.

30-Jul-01 Mammoth Cave Camp--What Goes Around Comes Around

Then there are days like a couple ago when I blew out a glycol hose and didn't notice for a while.

Usually I am pretty good about keeping an eye on all the dials and gauges in this old bus. I didn't see this until the engine was over heating and there was no wide spot on the narrow tertiary road until I found a front yard not blocked by a drainage ditch. And of course I have no spare hose and it is Sunday afternoon.

All over the rear of the bus was green with dripping hot glycol. My little lifeboat truck was awash with it, bonnet and windscreen slimy and smelly. So much glycol had been lost that I could not tell where the break was so I added a gallon of water and then another. Suddenly, steam began boil out from the ruptured hose, right up front, an easy one to change; the only glitch being of course it was Sunday afternoon in the middle of nowhereland and this just happened to be the hose I had no spare for.

A quick call for help on the local ham radio repeater was responded to by kt4fq and kb4poa. When I asked Jim where I could find an open auto parts shop near Allensville KentuckY he offered to bring me a hose and a few gallons of glycol. Jerome stood by with advice and tools. Two good humans they are who epitomise the fraternity of amateur radio operators.

31 July Lodi and Medina Ohio

Yesterday, driving along interstate 71 between Columbus and Akron, bound for Green Valley, the bus was behaving like she was running out of fuel. The tanks were newly full tho. But the filters were about due to be changed so I thought maybe one was clogged and since the problem was the same no matter which tank was running I stopped by the side of the road and changed the secondary. I have read several horror stories about others being stranded for want of a filter and then being taken to the cleaners by some amoral road service operator so I carry a full set of filters.

Changing the filter helped. For about five miles, if that. Then it was starving again. (and I'm getting thirsty with all this storey telling...)

There... better...

So I stopped again and changed both primary filters. That helped too, for a little while, but I was failing to take note of a couple of important clews, overlooking an obvious symptom. At least this time I got off the highway, into a truckstop, near Lodi Ohio. This time I changed the secondary filter again and added some injector cleaner. Headed towards town to find a parts store and get more filters and she died again, first in front of the parts store and then in front of a GMC dealership with a wide sidewalk in front of their show lot. There was no kerb so I pulled up on the walk and parked under their sign. This time it was a fairly comfortable place so I commenced to look and look and look. But still stubbornly overlooking the obvious. A boy named Randy had followed me on his bicycle down from the parts store and was asking all sorts of questions. I sent him off to get some ice so we could chill some of Ian's root beer and for a couple of hours we chatted whilst troubleshooting the fuel system until between Randy's questions and the obvious becoming painfully so it led me back to the pumps. Ah-HA! Both of them were not running. Suddenly the fuel problem becomes an electrical problem. Thanks Randy!

Well, eventually I found it. The big auxiliary solenoid behind the switch panel next to the driver's seat that I have "fixed" before. One of those things I should replace or at least remember to associate with certain other symptoms when they happen--like this time. So I "fixed" it again and spent another hour cleaning up after and adding an annunciator light to at least tell me when it fails next. Providing I can remember to look at the light...

1 August ... Green Valley and Myers Bus Parts...

...are places I have visited before. Last time at Green Valley was during their Labour Day End of Season party and their delightful membership made me feel welcome. That visit was during the leg across the northern states following my AlasKa tour in 1998. See those letters for more of a description. Today the camp is near empty of that crowd. Some folks live here all summer and commute to work but most only come out on the weekends. The forest trails and meadows are somewhat overgrown, the streams are down, and the interstate just beyond the fence behind where I am parked is being paved so it is not only noisy but noisome as well. However, being here is still a pleasant interlude for a few days and I am enjoying the chance to write and walk and play.

Myers Bus Parts use to be a large jumble of old buses of every shape and size. Tucked into the north end of about the third row back was a rusted Superior coach of the same vintage as The Cat Drag'd Inn. More than one part of that old wreck has been salvaged and lives on in this bus. Now however, the place has a new look. The field of yellow and white and blue hulks has been moved further out back and replaced by neat rows of refurbished models waiting for sale; the old Superior is no where to be seen. I asked about it and was directed to a section "down along this road to the corner right by the woods".

The "road" was a muddy track in the rain of that morning; a thick clayey kind of mud that clung to my sandals and threatened to encase my feet and turn me into a statue, forever waiting on the corner for a bus.

The buses, mostly yellow, occasionally blue, or white, are packed so close together that it was often easier to hop from roof to roof, or to go in through the front door and out to the next by the emergency exit. On and on further into the corner by the woods I went but never saw my favourite old Superior. Oh Well. The guy at the office said that they haven't crushed any of the old buses yet so maybe there is hope for another visit but the weeds briars are growing fast back there and it won't be long before the place is impassable.

5-Aug-01 Traversing Pennsylvania

PennDOT has signs that remind if you have suggestions for roads that need repair: "Call 1-800-FIX-ROAD". But how come the signs are only on the roads that are in excellent condition?

And speaking of roads... Over the past few days I have been driving. The road goes along, winding, between the hills, cresting ridges connecting hills, the horizon is always changing. At each curve, at each new horizon, towers rise above the trees, standing or three legs, tripods. Suddenly there is a flash of insight, of remembrance, and the tripods take on new meaning. Each new tripod after that looks at me with a malevolence from a past and a future together.

The three books of the Tripods series, written by John Christopher in the late 1960's, tell of an Earth conquered by three-legged beings which according one then current theory were once machines made by men. Another theory tells of an Earth conquered by three-legged beings from an aquatic world. By imposing a kind of skull cap on all humans, the Tripods reduce mankind to a state of servitude. "In 2086 Earth looks as it was four hundred years previous. Most people live in cozy towns where, once they're old enough, they are taken by the tripods and fitted with a cap that ensures their obedience. Few live in the ruins of large cities, and only those whose caps don't work right retain a desire to travel--they become this future's mentally ill". (paraphrased from <>)

Consider the molten sea of silicon from which transistors grow.

Have you seen any humans with a "thing" in their ear complacently receiving instructions through the ether-- deedle-deedle-deedle... and don't forget to pick up a loaf of bread after you get the kids from daycare ... be sure that report is on my desk by morning or ... your call is very important to us, please stay on the line and ... the subscriber you have called is not in service ...

Consider how you are made to feel when you don't have a cellphone or a pager--out of touch, not with it, backward... Or, when yours does not work, aimless, disconnected, a vague unease that things are happening without you.

Have you seen any tripods on the horizon lately?

The tripods don't need to wage a physical war on humankind to enslave us, the psychology of advertising is taking care of that. As each person is "capped" with a cellphone or a pager--some jobs require them and some people just want one--the pressure on those remaining becomes all the greater. Kids just have to have one cos their friends do. Is there no escape from this onerous burden?

The Tripods are coming.

About the only thing not on the mark about Christopher's storey of the subjugation of humanity, besides his setting in the year 2086 that is, is the age of a child at the "capping ceremony". Kids today know how to get connected with a cellphone by the time they are four to six years old. He would be closer to the mark if we count the age at which some kids have their own cell-"cap".

The Tripods are here.

Vestal New York, Wal-Mart, and a drive by shooting.

I suppose Wal-Mart is becoming my next choice after Albertson's as a place to grocery shop. The main feature is No Cards.

Stopped along the way here to visit OAE Mike Patterson in Oval Pennsylvania. Mike is an artist but far from starving. He sculpts stainless steel and paints his work with a welder's torch. Weather vanes and leaping trout are his most exquisite pieces. Send him your favourite catch and he will render it in stainless steel with the rainbow every bit as splendiferous as it was when it rose to your fly.

Further along, at Endicot New York, another Mike lives. Mike W1UOX is one of several ham radio operators I've been chatting with mornings during this drive across the Bible Belt. He met me at the Vestal Wal-Mart and we shared the customary "eyeball QSO" hams are so fond of.

Shortly after Mike returned across the river to Endicot I was preparing my supper when "ka-thump!", "ka-thump!", . . . "ka-thump!"

I could almost feel the impact through the bulkhead above the galley sink but looking outside revealed nothing untoward among the streets and alleys painted on the tarmac of the carpark. Later, after supper and dishes I went out for a bit of a walkabout and discovered The Cat Drag'd Inn's latest graffiti. Orange against the white of the roof-line, the still wet paint dribbled over the drip rail and fragments of paint-ball were laying about on the ground.

Waves of conflicting emotion washed across me. The novelty of it all butted heads with my consternation. The audacity of these punks attacking such a cultural icon. Perhaps it was an invitation to come out and play? Maybe I should invest in a paintball arsenal instead of new tyres.

7-Aug-01 Naturist Festival, Moravia New York

After all this travelling around I am still not sure of my favourite state. I use to think, after completing my first visitation to all the lower 48 states that I still liked New England best. Not so any more. AridZona has nice deserts, New Mexico and Idaho have hot springs (I could spend a long while doing a seasonal migration between those two) New Hampshire has relatives and cool green mountains... And there are just as many places to avoid: OHio is about the worst for First Amendment rights, in ARkansas one is not even allowed to talk about skinnydipping not to mention they have by far the worst roads. Florida is worst for boondock camping places. So I don't know anymore. Maine has nice beaches. Cape Cod use to but like Florida you canna hardly get to them anymore. (The best beach in a long while was a bike ride north of Christchurch in New Zealand.)

Where is TeXas in all that? Big! So much so that some of the parts I might otherwise choose to live in still have no NPR.

Such was the gist of one of many conversations with other travelers at this festival of Naturists. See "N" magazine #'s 20.2pp30 and 20.4pp37 for articles and photos. This is my third such festival and the length and breadth of humanity gathered affords new insight to the community encompassed by the naturist movement.

Did you know for instance that there is a cultural and legal difference between the terms "topless" and "topfree"? Did you know that in New York state a woman may be topfree anywhere a man may be bare-chested?

12-Aug-01 Driving Road Hazards

Just cresting a hill. No verge or lane to the right, a drop into ditch and field. I was crowding the center line against oncoming traffic and as I topped the hill saw some fairly large rocks in my lane. There was no where to go but over them. My wheels kicked them up and I could hear the clatter and thud from the undercarriage. Looking in the mirror then I could see smoke as I went down the next hill. No where to pull over for nearly two miles.

The tranny was hemorrhaging fluid, the fuel filter on the engine was pissing diesel onto the hot muffler. I quickly found a bucket to catch the fluid, and some sorbant to contain what was already puddling on the ground. The fuel had stopped flowing when I shut down the engine but the tranny continued to drain hot oil for most of two hours. During that time I changed the fuel filter and found more transmission fluid in a nearby convenience store cum gas station.

Best of all, in my first aid kit I found a twenty year-old fuel tank patch that I hoped would work on the tranny pan. Well, to make another long storey short it did, tho it took another three hours to prepare the surface, apply the patch, and clean up after. But all that was better than being towed at late o'clock on a Sunday evening.

Just as I was brushing on the last of the patch epoxy a car drove into the lot and stopped beside me. A distinctly Australian voice called out to see if I needed any help. Rob Pearson lived down the street in Little York and explained that he could weld the pan if I could remove it. By that time my patch was dry but I followed him home since it was along my way and being there would be better than being by the side of the road if it didn't work. In front of his house in the dark I found more damage.

A rock had crushed the umbilical cord to the little truck against the tow frame. There were no lights back there but for the left turn directional signal. More patching, with butt splices and tape this time, and a cup of tea later, we had time to get acquainted. Time had gone from late o'clock to Oh-dark-thirty before I was on the road again.

I've replaced the patch in my first aid kit and next week I will have the oil pan repaired or replaced.

And lest I forget "Padilla's"... If you want a really great meal of Mexican food head on out to ABQ and look up "Padilla's Mexican Kitchen" on 1510 Girard N.E. Absolutely the best as far as I am concerned. So far, anyhow.

21 August, 2001, Center Conway

Conscripted a guest for last night. A heavily laden bicycle with a "coast to coast" banner wrapped around his panniers making "no wake" headway through the rain in Conway last night whilst I returned from the library. I stopped in his way, at first just on a whim, to chat with him, then in a second invited him to stay for the night when he said he was bound for a campground only beyond Fryeburg.
David Mattson, cross country biker.

David Mattson is riding for himself but at the same time raising money for Habitat for Humanity.

He left Seattle back in May and has ridden mostly on U.S.2 since then. Now he is looking forward to meeting friends at the end of his road in Bar Harbour by Friday. A book he is carrying along might be of interest to you. _Hurt City_ (ISBN 0-963-967-30-4) is about a man who spent a lot of years riding through the states on a bike.

David's bike weighs a little under a hundred pounds, he said, when it's dry. He's broken a few spokes and had to replace his rear wheel. This morning, as he prepared to leave, his odometer had recorded 4442 miles from Seattle.

Jim writes from San Diego:

> group showed up with a friend on a surfing trip. They crashed here.
> It's so odd to see them grown-up. But not me.
Isn't that interesting. I feel the same way in many respects. Many of my friends and peers are growing-up. Some are growing older as well. But not me. There are days when I feel older but certainly not "-up" as it were. I go play in the river or climb a tree or ride a swing for a while--until I feel dizzy enough to fall off--and all is right with the world again. The worst part is that good climbable trees are getting harder and harder to find. All those around me who are growing-up are cutting off the lower limbs to protect their children. Go figure...

Sunday, 26 August, 2001

Found a good used fridge I just couldn't pass up. Took two days of surgery in the intensive care unit to remodel the cubby. The new unit is an inch wider and several inches taller.

In the course of installing the new fridge I found lots of evidence of mouse but it all looked old, none of it looked like anyone was living there now. Then that night, while there was no fridge at all and I was part way through rebuilding the cubby for the new one, there was a lot of clatter and chittering and in the morning I found someone had made off with a handful of pistachio nuts and left some mouse scat in exchange. The next night, Saturday, set a trap and caught a fat mouse with green eyes. Must have been all those pistachios. Tonight I have three traps set.

And on top of that I had another visit from the local constabulary. Seems that someone, whether a driver going by or the new Indian proprietors of the convenience store across the street--there is nobody else around this garage--complained that I was running around outside with nothing on but a tee-shirt. When the cop arrived to tell me that I didn't even have on the shirt, only my shorts. --But I can see you have shorts on, she said as she finished her storey. I pointed at my shirt, hanging on the towbar of the little truck, and said something about "long shirt" while with my hand motioning how far down my thigh it comes. --Ya, I know about long shirts, she said smiling. And I really had been wearing my shorts. Nosey neighbors...

Gardyloo, ajo

I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me. --Sir Isaac Newton

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