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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Food Baskets

My lovely wife's church has a food drive for the Thanksgiving holiday. Most people go through their pantry and put together non-perishable goods for the donation. We looked over our food stocks and really didn't have the proper food to donate.

Most of our non-perishable foods are bought in bulk and require preparation. Nobody want's a 50 pound bag of whole wheat berries, 20 pounds of pinto beans, or a 20 pound bag of rice. What are they going to do with a #10 can of dehydrated green peppers? We have only a couple cans of veggies. The bulk of our stored veggies are either frozen or dehydrated.

Instead of donating food this holiday we donated time and a little cash.

It's these little things bring home the fact that we don't quite shop or eat like “normal” people.


Monday, November 20, 2017

Freezing rain and church dinners

Saturday night we got hit with freezing rain. I hate freezing rain. I noticed the power went out when my c-pap stopped working at 2:30 a. m.. The woodstove was going so there was no worry about the house freezing. I plugged my new 12 volt power cord for the c-pap into a car jumper battery pack. Then I went back to sleep. The grid was back up later in the morning.

Sunday morning the freezing rain had turned to just rain. By early afternoon it was windy with bursts of big heavy mashed potato snowflakes. If the snow amounts to much it would not surprise me if the power goes down again. Such is life in the country at the end of the power line.

My lovely wife's church put on a free Thanksgiving dinner Saturday evening. This year I noticed a couple of things. There seemed to be more people in actual need. The young man sitting next to me ate three plates full, three pieces of pie and took another full dinner and two pies home. I happened to overhear his mother say they don't have any food in the house right now.

Another thing that caught my attention is the number of people struggling with mental health issues. People are suffering. I can only guess at the reasons.

I live in the state of New Hampshire, which is doing better economically than most of the country. My county is no longer the poorest in the state. It's slowly crawling back from the loss of good mill jobs. So it got me thinking, if all these people are struggling in a fairly prosperous area, how bad is the rest of the country doing? Also, how many people have mental health problems?

If things are bad for these people now, how bad will it get when the economy takes another downturn? The business cycle is real and nothing goes up forever. Of course, it doesn't help that this last “recovery” did a lot more for the people who were well off to begin with.

Hang in there folks.


Sunday, November 19, 2017

Travel Freedom

We have gotten used to freedom of movement. There aren't a lot of places in the world were people can't go. Even if you never travel far, isn't it good to know that you can?

Most citizens of the United States do not have passports. That sounds terrible until you consider how far one can travel in the US. Driving across the US is like driving across Europe. Of course, European citizens have pretty open travel now between European Union members.

All passports are not equal. For example, travel with a US passport is a lot easier than travel with a passport from Iran. Right now I believe the German passport allows access to the most countries without a visa.

We may have reached the peak level for freedom of moment. There are signs that travel is getting more restricted all over the world.

When I was younger going from the US to Canada was no big deal. I barely had to stop the car when crossing the border. Back then a driver's license and copy of my birth certificate were enough documentation and they rarely asked to see them. Now passports are required.

Since the refugee crisis and Brexit, European governments are looking into making border crossings more difficult.

As more countries face difficulties, travel bans will increase. There are plenty of reasons to restrict travel. For example, right now Madagascar is suffering a particularly virulent outbreak of plague. That's a pretty valid reason to tighten restrictions. Borders have been closed to keep out various refugees, everything from those fleeing political upheaval, to economic conditions to climate refugees.

Recently I read a scary Science Fiction story where internal borders were set up in the United States. Regions were completely cut off from each other. Various excuses were given, but the idea was to reduce the population of the country. Picture something like the hurricanes that recently struck the US. Now imagine if the only aid available is what could be mobilized locally. Heavily populated areas with limited agricultural land were starving. Places with disease outbreaks received no aid from outside and descended into anarchy.

Reading that book caused me to look at border restrictions around the world with a more critical eye. Are the reasons, valid or is something sinister going on? Restricting travel out of plague area makes sense. Restriction of aid going into an area would be pretty sinister.


Saturday, November 18, 2017

Moving along

Good news about the van. While it wasn't cheap to fix, it is fixed. The starter has a lot more snap to it. The old one must have been weak for a long time. When something like that slowly loses strength over time, it's easy to not notice how bad it is.

The mechanic had some good news for me. He thought my rear brakes might need to be replaced before we headed south. However, we put a lot fewer miles on it than he thought we would. The brakes are fine. That's one less expense I'll have to do before leaving. All it needs now is some minor body work.

After getting the van back my first stop was at the hardware store to get spare keys made. I feel a lot better having backups.

Over the next few weeks I can move more stuff into the van. I'm going to load it up with a lot of waste veggie oil jugs. No sense burning diesel when I've got a good supply in the basement and the vehicle is modified to run on it.

The sailboat is covered with a huge tarp that's well secured. Good thing as now it's snowing pretty hard. I'm glad I won't have a cockpit full of snow this year. We are still unsure if we'll take the boat or not. With that in mind we removed some items from the boat, snorkel gear, life jackets, and other odds and ends. Since we are definitely taking the sea eagle inflatable kayak, we'll want all that stuff in the van.

Things are moving along.


Friday, November 17, 2017

Expensive Hiking Gear

There's a recent article in Adventure Journal about the high price of hiking gear. The author brings up some very good points. It's worth reading. Even accounting for inflation, basic hiking gear has gotten pricey. Apparently we can't look like bums out in the woods anymore.

Personally, I thought a lot of gear was expensive and unnecessary 40 years ago. Then again, I never had much extra money to waste. When everyone was going to expensive lightweight down jackets, I had a heavy wool coat. However, my wool coat was still warm when wet while a wet down jacket was pretty much useless. New synthetics are better in wet weather these days, but there are good enough versions and way too expensive ones.

One place I tended to spend a little more money was on my sleeping bag. A good night's sleep makes all the difference in the world. Even there, you can save a lot of money if aren't trying to shave every ounce off your pack weight.

That's another thing that bother's me. There's such an emphasis on light weight that other qualities are sacrificed. Durability is one of them. Ultralight gear that falls apart in the middle of the woods is no bargain. I'm also more inclined to add things that truly improve comfort and safety.

Don't get me started on trekking poles. These days people use freaking trekking poles to cross the street. They pay serious money for them too. I like a good walking stick and mine was free for the taking. If you really feel the need for treking poles, go to a garage sale and get some old ski poles then take the baskets off.

One of the things that makes ultralight weight hiking possible is the availability of resupply points. For example, the Appalachian Trail has many places along the way that cater to hikers. You don't need to carry much food if you can resupply often. Also, if your light weight gear falls apart, you can replace it in a day or two.

I've been thinking about hiking lately as my leg has been getting better. Thanks to being more active I've been losing a few pounds. By the time we get back from our winter travels, I'll be in better condition. While I have little desire to be an Appalachian Trail Georgia to Maine through hiker, I do want to wander off into the woods more. A lot of the places I'd love to see again don't even have trails so old style tough gear will be the way to go.


Thursday, November 16, 2017

Lost Key

I stopped in on my mechanic today to see if he had a chance to check out the van. It was going in the garage in a couple hours. He had planned on pulling it in on Monday, but the key was missing. He didn't remember the tow truck driver dropping the key off, but he and his office person looked everywhere for it. The tow truck guy could not remember what happened to it either.

As it turned out the tow truck guy set the key down on the flatbed and forgot about it. The key spent the whole day riding around, just sitting on the bed. Luckily it never fell off. That happens to be my only key for the van. I was just thinking that I needed to get some spares cut. My old keys are sitting somewhere on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico as they went down with the ship.

When I get the van back, my next stop will be at the hardware store to get spares made.

Normally I have spare keys hidden somewhere on my vehicles. Forget about those magnetic key hiders. Cars are half plastic now anyway. I'm not going to tell you exactly where I hide my keys, but I'll give you a hint. I hide them behind or inside a part of the car that you need tools to get to. You might need a screwdriver or maybe a good set of pliers. Usually I carry a multi-tool on me so with a little work the hidden key can be recovered. That's a lot more secure than a magnetic box under the fender.


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Boat ideas for next year

I'm always thinking about boat stuff. I suppose there are worse hobbies -like thinking about other women.

Last summer we were just a little late finding out about a free for the taking 30 foot sailboat. Someone who lived closer got to it before us. Such is life.

There are free sailboats available all the time. The thing that made that 30 footer stick out was that it was in sail away condition. Usually free boats require some work before you can splash them. However, I have no regrets as that doesn't accomplish anything.

Since then my lovely wife and I have refined our boat requirements a bit more. We'd really like a boat that can be loaded on a trailer and hauled away. This past hurricane season showed us the value of being able to move out of harm's way at 60 mph. It was a wake up call to see how many so called “safe” places suffered extensive damage.

Another thing we really like in a boat is shallow draft. Most boats that can be towed have keels that can be raised for ease of loading. When sailing, being able to lift your keel and get through shallow areas is a handy trick.

Next spring would be a good time to search out free boats. They almost always need some kind of work. I'm pretty handy with just about all the jobs necessary to bring a boat back to life. What I don't know, I can find out. When looking at a “free” boat it's good to be able to get a ballpark estimate at what it takes to repair it. There's a saying that there is nothing more expensive than a free boat. There is truth to that. Often, however, the problems are more cosmetic than structural.

Often one of the big reasons people can't unload a free trailer sailor is that trailer is gone. You have to show up with your own trailer and be able to move it. Even if you have a trailer, being able to load a boat without a crane can be intimidating.

My existing boat trailer could probably, with some minor modifications, haul a boat up to four feet longer than mine. That puts nice little boats like the Oday 23 within reach. For anything bigger, I've a friend with a huge trailer he uses to haul heavy equipment. He'd probably want to help me load it and has the equipment to make it happen.

If we picked up a boat in the spring, we'd have months to get it seaworthy. One of the tricks to restoring old boats is knowing when to stop. The difference between serviceable and showroom is vast. For example, I could patch a hole and make an attempt to sorta match the rest of the boat's finish. A perfectionist ends up sanding everything down to the base and redoing the whole boat. The pretty boat will be no stronger than my patch job.

A free boat is only a bargain if you can get it sailing without going broke doing repairs.