Last Letter 99c, 21 May; This Letter 99d
Friday, July 16, 1999, Prepping The Bare Buns Fun Run
Two-hundred-sixty-four burgers baked in the oven. That's enough to turn a most ardent carnivor to vegetables to be sure. Other folks have been clearing brush from campsites unused since this time last year, setting up marquees and cookers and crowd control fences, grooming the road and hanging out banners. This is the 15th running of this Bare Buns Fun Run, maybe it will even make the nightly news.
Tuesday, July 20, 1999, One Small Step...
Thirty years ago I was on the Mall at Washington DC with the old yellow Chevy van with Willshedoit hand-painted on the front doors and how many (?) Scouts in the first few days of one of those summer long cross-country tours. We had managed a parking spot pretty close in front of the Smithsonian Castle and during the day had wandered among the TV crowds all waiting expectantly for the Eagle to land and the first Man on the Moon. Who all was on that trip? Lester, Ollie, Jacky, David, Bob, Bill, Baggie, Steve... should be one or two more. I remember only that Lester was missing but I didn't know that then; everyone was scattered about and we would not gather at the van until after midnight.
Thursday, July 22, 1999, Unwanted Guests in the Dungeon
I suppose I should tell you more about the rat or whatever it was that moved into the belly box last night. Bad enough that I had the audacity to have a cup of coffee shortly before I went to bed, this animal scampering across the roof was not helping any while I rolled over and under and got up to pee more than once. Finally I took my electric torch and climbed the ladder up to the roof to see if there was some poor squirrel nestling fallen out of an over hanging tree.
Nope. The roof was clear, the stars were really beautiful, and now the scampering noise was somewhere below. So I went down the ladder and wandered around the bus, looking under here and under there but of course there was no noise whilst I looked for it. So I went back to bed.
No sooner comfy, with a glass of warm milk to maybe counteract the o-d of coffee (despite having had a liberal dose of Baileys therein), and the noise commenced again. This time I listened more carefully before getting up and it sounded more under the bus than on top. So out again with the torch, looking and banging, and suddenly there it were, she were no doubt as it turned out later--a big fat grey, mousy looking but much huger, animal, with a long skinny tail and black beady eyes, scampering around on the ground between the dual rear wheels and the propane tank whilst I looked across under the bus from the other side. I threw a stick and she ran round the tank but then she came right back, looked at me and then disappeared as I ran around to the other side.
I went down to the kitchen to get some of the extra traps that are piled on the water heater there--I've caught three mice in a trap under the big range, they had no tails and no eyes--and set them about the rear wheels on both sides and went back to bed. Again.
This morning two of the traps had been triggered but there was nothing in them. I went looking for a nest. I'm still not sure what sort of animal this is, it looked like a plain and simple rat, it was certainly way bigger than a mouse, but then I was half asleep and there are not supposed to be any rats here. Flying squirrel maybe, or pack rat, but I'm told the latter smell like a skunk. Just what I need in the bus. In the aft belly box on the kerb side, the box variously known as the dungeon, or the auxilliary battery compartment, or the ladder locker, I found a nice little round nest, made of moss and twigs and leaves, on the rug, next to the battery bank. Warm and dry, cozy place to raise a family.
I swept it all out on the ground. Ms Rat will have to take her designs elsewhere and if not then I will be obliged to set a trap to break her pretty neck. We'll see if she takes the hint.
She didn't. Nor did trapping her solve the problem. First I covered every opening into the belly box with a grid of wire. I also secured the area between the frame rails that opens onto the space above the belly box; but the next morning it was apparent by the debris and scat that the rat had squeezed between the bars so the trap was the only short term alternative. After the carcass of the first animal was identified as a pack rat it also became apparent there was another. This one was nesting on top of the pair of air tanks just forward of the rear axel. There was no way I could enclose that area. To the heavy wire bars in the belly box I added screens of hardware cloth and all round the under carriage I sprayed some stuff that is supposed to be a squirrel repellent.
Friday, August 6, 1999, Port Townsend's Great Fish Fry Fiasco
This is a little excursion away from camp to visit friends and see if the tide still works at the ocean. Besides being a guest I also have one with me. Ian is spending a month of his school holiday at Kaniksu and is travelling with me for this little adventure in the lifeboat truck of The Cat Drag'd Inn. We have bikes and tent and all that stuff; it is a long while since I have been camping--the last time my Primus boiled water was more than twelve years ago. This past "weekend"--mine is from monday thru thursday--we went to Port Townsend for a visit to Fort Worden--one of the coastal defence forts from WWi and WWii--and Seattle for lunch at the Space Needle. Along the way to get there we camped one night near Scenic Hot Spring in the Cascade Mountains.
Nason is a Forest Service campground along a creek of the same name and adjacent to Lake Wenatchee State Park. The lake water temperature is barely above the melting point of ice and the hot showers at the camp store rake in a near continuous supply of quarters at the rate of twenty-five cents for six minutes of hypothermia treatment. The up side of it is that Nason Creek was a good place to store our milk and orange juice. The central attraction, besides the lake, is the secret dead picnic table graveyard.
Picnic tables come from campgrounds all over the Cascade Mountains to cast themselves on the pyre of their kith and kin, there to leave the lag bolts of their construction to rust and the carven initials of their tormentors to fade into the duff of the forest. It is a sacred place, so awesome and spellbinding that even I, inured traveller as I am, neglected to photograph or even count the carcasses piled one atop the other. Some with their legs in the air, others with seats and mesas broken, all evoked visions of wonderous meals and splintered nates.
Scenic Hot Spring is east of the town of Skykomish and a couple of miles up the side of the western ramparts of Steven's Pass. A powerline access road forms part of the trail up which one hikes under the high tension cables traversing the steep wall of the pass. At times you are walking along past the bases of one row of towers, the cables over head buzzing and snapping with hundreds of thousands of volts of potential looking for a way to earth, while the cables of the other row of towers are at eye level seemingly only a few yards away. (We were just fresh from a tour at Grand Coulee Dam and knew the whole storey about electricity.) There are four pools perched on the side of the slope below the 110f springs, built and maintained by Friends of Scenic Hot Springs. Lobster Pot is the hottest while the coolest is just below body temperature and big enough to actually swim a stroke or two.
Mike and Karen, who's names have been switched around to obfuscate the facts of the matter are an OAE couple with whom I lived through a Palmer Winter. They are now living in Port Townsend and spoke of the the enjoyment they derive from the virtual traveling they do through my letters. Mike builds ships in bottles and Karen builds gardens out of lawn. Mike had gone off to the Chip Shop to pick up an order he'd phoned in while Ian and me were trying to call from the road to tell them we were almost there. When we did arrive Karen suggested we head him off at the carpark and eat on the dock instead of waiting for him to return--fish and chips are so much better when hot from the fryer--so we quickly locked the lifeboat truck and all piled into her sedan. We caught Mike just as he was stacking three sacks of the order under one arm and picking up the fourth. Haste was set aside for a moment while we exchanged handshakes, hugs, and introductions, and then ideas of where to eat. There was some complication regarding the price and nature of the order that we could not just dump it all on one of the few small tables in the chip shop, the intended beverages were back at the house, and really, the view was better out on the dock despite the chill wind and recent rain that made all the seats wet. Finally it was settled that Mike and Ian would dash back to the house for drinks--their home was closer than a market--whilst Karen and me would head for the Town Dock and commence to wrest a table from the seagulls. With the drivers driving it fell to I and Ian to carry the sacks.
Mine was nice and hot on my lap as I sat in Karen's car for the short hop to the dock and after a while it was nice and warm to carry around as she filled me in on current events, town politics, and local art. It seems that a long time resident recently died and left a hundred thousand dollars to "the town" to do some thing artsy and educational with or else do some thing else. The some things were specified but of little consequence to the storey. The town ended up with a tidal clock that looks only to be an egotistical monument to an out of town artist. The circular concrete enclosure--large enough to be a two car garage--has every appearance of a settling tank, or the foundation of a long defunct lighthouse, and does little more than collect driftwood and letters to the editor: "...you have a very quaint town there but why did you ever put your sewer outfall right in the middle of the park?"
By this time Karen was concerned that Mike may be waiting for us to have followed him to the house, or had misconstrued the Town Dock with the Other Dock, and my hands were warmer than the food in the greasy sack. Now, she said, If I were Mike which way would I go to get between here and there? Unbeknownst to us Mike was musing the same and so we both went the other way round as he went to the dock and we went to the house. Karen and I discussed whether we should eat some share of the supper before it got much worse and elected to hold out a little longer. Besides, upon close inspection the sack disclosed we had the chips and garlic bread--"they" had the fish and slaw and napkins. Unbeknownst to us Mike and Ian were having the same discussion and had come to the opposite conclusion; viz. ...having the napkins and the slaw they may as well eat the fish while it was still hot; they never missed the chips.
By the time we got back to the City Dock, and then went to the "other dock" where we found them just leaving to look for us, the fish had been reduced to a pair of soggy fritters and the fries were colder than ketchup. Oh Well. It's a good thing the seagulls are not such discerning diners.
The next night we went out for pizza--all in one car.
That day me 'n Ian bicycled to Fort Worden where we road the trails of the state park and haunted the catacombs of the concrete bunkers. This fort is one of nearly fifty coastal defense forts constructed a hundred years ago. Today the grounds and buildings comprise a museum and conference center, two campgrounds and lots of trails for walking and riding on a point of land projecting northwest from Port Townsend. It was refreshing to see that nine year-olds, for all their precocious sophistication these days, are still fascinated by the sea shore.
Thursday we enjoyed Lunch at The Space Needle and viewed Into the Deep in Imax 3D before starting the long drive back to camp.
The best part had to be the technology. After exploring the relativity of which part was moving we had lunch in the revolving restaurant. Which floor was moving seemed to be depending upon which side of the crack one stood--it was always the other side that moved. While the Blue Angels blew smoke around the outside my kid companion sucked spaghetti from a plate he rotated oppositely around the inside. Then we boarded the glass elevator which drops through a hole in the floor--leaving spaghetti and strawberry smoothie on the floor above--to descend five hundred feet to the Science Center and our appointment with the latest thing in cinema: The 3D Imax.
My first experience with 3D movies was some long ago dimly remembered SF thriller viewed through cardboard eyeglasses with red and blue lenses. Lately the National Geographic magazine, formerly Journal of the National Geographic Society, has included such cardboard eye glasses amongst its advert pages to view sunken ships and treasures. But this was different.
Imax uses polarised glass filters instead of red and blue cellophane and projects two full colour images on the big screen. The effect is nothing short of mind boggling. The row of theater-goers in front of you appear to be in the projected image--under the waves washing over them in one scene--and it does not take much of a moment of relaxation before reality suspends and one becomes a part of the scene one's Self. You cannot avoid reaching out to grasp at objects floating before your eyes, or ducking when something comes racing out over your head.
Now, as I return to The Cat Drag'd Inn and my waiting mail, I am reading the travel notes of other correspondents with the same fondness Mike and Karen have for my letters. Interesting how quickly I have switched from traveler to sedentaryer with this chef position; but I can feel the hitch-itch on the bottoms of my feet.
This "weekend" was a great adventure and especially good for me to get away from camp and the kitchen for a few days. Now it is back to making soup for everyone else's weekend.
The road beckons. I will be here, wearing out my skin, until a few days after Labour Day and then follow the robins south to Palo Duro for October. Perhaps that will relieve the itch for a while.
Saturday, August 7, 1999, Junk Mail Lists & Customer Privacy
> I was looking for a backrest for my chair at work and found > one at "Camping World". One problem though, the bastards sold > my name and address to every RV place in the US and I'm buried > by unwanted junk mail. I called and bitched them out, but they > didn't care. If you would please place a note on the bulletin > board of every campsite you visit saying: "Camping World > violates their customers privacy and sells personal information > to junk mailers." It would be a little vengeance from me.
Been there--Done that. Companies never care about customer privacy. I have had the same problem with a number of them. I've tried a variety of solutions--even all the actions where you are supposed to be able to have them remove your name from their list. (Sometimes that seems to result in even more junk mail.) So far the one that works best is to always tell them one address "for this shipment only" and another address for home-permanent-billing... Then I have my "home" address mail forwarded to me wherever I am or to my sister when I move too fast for the post office to keep up with and the forwarding filters out all that junk mail. The worst of it is that some people enjoy receiving junk mail, perhaps it is the only mail they receive beyond the credit card bills resulting from their purchases, and the companies turn around and write the costs off as adverts so we all end up paying to receive junk mail that only some people want. The stupidity of it all is fascinating but what does it say for the human race?
Thursday, September 2, 1999, As Tony would say: There's a nip in the air.
The weather has turned autumnal here, near record lows and snow in the hills, and the locals on the Ham radio have been talking about how fast it changed--as if there were to be no going back to the fine warm days of the past month, as if they expect to skip right over raking leaves and polish up their snow shovels. Time for me to follow the robins. Two days ago there was 0.72 inches of rain overnight at The Cat Drag'd Inn, the roads are muddy and slippery.
Tuesday, September 7, 1999, On You're Marc, Get Set, --Go!
Lester finally turned up after we realised we were short one kid for the seat belts; he'd spent part of the evening at the metro police station watching the proceedings of the moon landing on the telly there. I spent that same time watching on the telly in the van whilst most of the boys were in and about The Castle. Only three years later someone was building the furnace that has been heating The Cat Drag'd Inn.
The last days of summer are here. All the robins and humming birds have left the forest, the endangered spotted dowel has hibernated, I've not seen a squirrel nor a pack rat for more than a week. Maybe the squirrel repellent worked, maybe I'll find out when I drop the bus off her blocks and move out in a few hours. The furnace is all put back together and may last another six months or a year; that should be time enough for me to find proper parts or maybe even rustle up a new one.
Its been a fun summer cooking with gas, washing dishes for a living, playing at the camp counselor game. Fascinating. Enlightening. For me, now, the Bare Buns Fun Run is down to the finish line. One last email session on the wire line, one last laundry, one last shower.
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Copyright (c) 1999 A.J.Oxton <email@example.com>