Old Diary, Travel

South Padre Island Birding Center

Saturday we needed to get away from the coach for a few hours so we took a drive to South Padre Island.  In particular we went to the SPI Birding Center to buy our annual membership and passes.  For $45.00 apiece we can come and go as often as we choose during our stay here and

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our passes for the next year!

I’m sure we’ll get our money’s worth.

The Birding Center is one of 9 World Birding Centers in S. Texas.  They are privately run and volunteer staffed.  I’ve enjoyed visiting this one for the last 8 or 9 years.  With 3300 linear feet of boardwalk and 5 bird blinds there’s plenty of space to wander around at ease while checking out the birds in the swampy land.  Birds are joined by alligators, turtles, crabs and fish of a Gulf Coast variety.  Today wasn’t a great day for shooting photos — in fact I’d left my camera and phone at home so I’m using some file photos to make my points.south-padre-island-birding

Today with a nice breeze there were 20 or 30 wind surfers offshore having a ball.  Had I had my camera with me I’d have taken a few shots but they were North of the Expo Center and too far away to be anything more than a speck on an iPhone photo anyway.

Today was also the date of the SPI 1/2 Marathon.  We arrived just as the cops were taking away the traffic cones at the end of the event.  Looks like they had a decent turnout though — always good to see.

I love being 1/2 an hour away from SPI!

Thanks for stopping, and I’ll be here again tomorrow.  Stop by and say Hi!

 

 

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Old Diary, Travel

Travel Recommendations

What do you do when someone asks you where to go in a place they are planning to visit?  I, for one, am always flumoxed by the choices.

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some requests make you wince with pain

Our grand-daughter is getting married next year and they are planning a grand honeymoon to Iceland & France.  They put out an appeal to their Facebook friends for suggestions where to go.  And I winced.

What can you really tell anyone about what to go see in a new place?

I’ve been to France 4 or 5 times and a total of several months worth of living on the ground.  I have a good idea of what can be found there but what on earth do I tell someone 40 years younger than myself about what they should see?  Heck — even if they were my own age, what would I tell them.paris-4

As anRV’er we repeat this experience over and over again.  RV’ers and non-RV’ers alike ask us “what should we see” and each time I cringe uncomfortably.

For one thing we all know that Peg & I have eclectic taste — we don’t really fall into the norm when it comes to what we see and do when visiting — often because we’ve been there before and have already seen and done what tourists do years ago.  And also because we avoid crowds, and we avoid anything that’s being aggressively advertised — if it’s that bad that they need to advertise a lot I don’t care about it!

But more importantly I think the traveler owes it to themselves to do their own research. Asking someone else where to go is like asking someone else if you like ice cream?  How do they know?  It’s YOUR tastebuds we’re talking about — not theirs.

paris-3My Granddaugher loves to walk.  And that’s great.  Paris is a great city to walk!  I’ve spent weeks there, on foot, just walking the touristy and non-touristy parts to get a feel for what the place is all about.  But if you’re going to be there for 3 or 4 days you face an immense challenge deciding what few joys to seek, out of a myriad of options.  I’ve probably spent 3 or 4 days seeing any one of the choices they might make.  How do you whittle them down when you don’t intimately know the other person’s personality.paris-2

In most cases — whether we’re talking about Paris or Atlanta or Quartzite Arizona there are more options than the novice traveler could guess — a perfect reason to do your research.  LEARN what’s there.  Then, if you want to ask questions about what might be the better  option the person you ask stands some slim chance of giving you a meaningful answer.

But the biggest reason — that I can see — to do your own research is that you get to learn.  The process of research will improve you — broadening your base of knowledge.  The process of research will tickle your imagination about the things to be done — you’ll get more excited about the pending trip. The process of research will prepare you — filling in blanks about the place you’re going to visit so that you’ll know and understand more about your surroundings — even more about how to get around from place to place — just because you’ve been exposed to a map, or a suggested route, or having seen photos of the place — you’ll recognize things when you arrive and recognition is good both for how much you enjoy your visit as well as for what you get out of it at the end.

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Please — when you want to go someplace — don’t cheat yourself. Do your own research!  Don’t take the “easy route” and ask someone else what you should see; figure it out yourself.

If you aren’t accustomed to doing research, so what?  The first time you try you’ll do a lousy job, but you’ll learn about sources and resources.  The second time you do it you’ll already know about those sources and you’ll find some more along the way.  You’re improving your skills and you’re better prepared for the next time around.

That is what life is all about:  learning, adjusting, compensating for your own mistakes, and making better choices in the future.

I hope my granddaughter and her future husband have a grand time.  I know — because I know the kid — that she’ll do her own research in time.  And I’ll be proud of her.  I trust that their honeymoon will be a blast — how can a honeymoon NOT be perfect even if you don’t go anywhere at all.

Peg and I had a much less grand honeymoon but we loved it.  We had barely a week to spend; we were expecting weekend company the following weekend so we didn’t have a lot of time.  It was snowing the afternoon and evening of our wedding and by the time we drove from the Northern Suburbs of Chicago to South Bend Indiana we were in a full-on snowstorm.  Our first night was in a Holiday Inn where (naive as we were) we couldn’t figure out how to get the heater working right, and the snow plows made their rounds of the parking lot all night long.

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Peg and I with her parents at the wedding

We stopped the next day in Toledo on our way to NYC, we had breakfast with Peg’s parents who had driven the entire trip in the wee hours of the morning.  We had Christmas dinner in Smithville NJ — a little town I’d learned about one summer that I spent on the East Coast working for our church.  We knew little about life, we knew little about each other, but we had a blast and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Neither of us had any idea the course life would take us on — and it didn’t matter, we were in it for the long run and that was all that matters.  The first couple years while I was doing my alternate service for Uncle Sam what little bank balance we had kept going down, and down and down.  I didn’t make two nickels to rub together — but we laughed and had a house full of friends and enough visitors to our tiny apartment that we felt life was full; and it was.

My only hope is that our granddaughter has as great a time on her honeymoon as we did.  I’m sure they know each other better than we did at that point.  You may remember that I proposed to Peggy before we ever went on a date.  She was the one and I knew it.  She thought I was crazy, and perhaps I was but she said yes and not much more than 3 months later we were married. Still are 48 years later.   Still happy too.  If Melanie can find the same abiding joy we’ll all be doing just fine.

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Old Diary, Travel

On the Cusp of ‘16

It surely can’t be the end of ’15 and the beginning of ’16 yet, can it? This year has flown by with exceptional speed.  Even in the middle of our extended stay in Milwaukee I kept thinking how can the year be passing so quickly.

The year of Waiting

For us ’15 was undoubtedly the year of waiting.

In a colder than usual S. Texas winter we waited for the warm weather.  Then we waited to get out of there when I was feeling poorly and the heat and humidity finally spiked.  Then we arrived in Oregon and ended up waiting a month on RV repairs.  When we headed East we got as far as Idaho, slipped and fell, then waited for my ankle to heal sufficiently to move on.  We arrived in Minneapolis and waited on family to show up.  Most of the summer passed without undue waiting, but then we waited all the way through Sept, Oct, and November for the release to travel.  It surely has been the year of waiting.

Has all that waiting changed how we feel about RV’ing?  Not really. Much of the waiting could easily have occurred if we were living in sticks & bricks.  I used to wait for the seasons to pass every year— having always hated winter and not gotten much Spring in Wisconsin either.

Biggest Changes

The biggest changes this year were two fold.

  1. While we continued to ‘camp’ pretty much as we usually do, we did have two long stays in RV parks.  One of those was by choice, the other was because there weren’t good options.  But the rest of the year we did our thing at smaller and federal/state properties.
  2. We made physical changes to the coach.
    1. In the spring we changed out the old toilet and replaced it with a newer one.
    2. This fall we swapped out the NeverCold absorption fridge for the residential Whirlpool unit.
    3. And also in the Spring we changed out our old narrow sofa for a recliner chair and small table.

Moving forward into ‘16

Our plans for ’16 are pretty simple.

  • check out Florida for three months — or as long as we can tolerate the humidity.  We aren’t sure if that is something we’ll enjoy or not but the only way to find out is to try it.
  • We head towards Wisconsin in April, making a stop in Milwaukee for a quick (we hope) 24 hours on the heart monitor.
  • Then the Summer spent camp hosting in Spring Valley for the Corps of Engineers.
  • Late September we run back through Milwaukee for what we hope will be a much shorter annual physical and meds-re-up before heading — most likely — to the SW to see if we like that any better than we like S. Texas or Florida.

It’s possible we may end up ’16 with fewer stops than this year — we’ll see.  And the mileage could possibly be lower as well.  But never say never and take each day as it comes.

’15 stats

We spent the entire year in our coach with the exception of the +/-2 weeks it took us to drive to and from Milwaukee last March for Peggy’s back surgery.  We love our coach and it’s comfy; just right for us.

We drove 6921 miles in the coach.  That works out to about 19 miles a day worth of driving.  I did way more than that in Milwaukee before going mobile — though not in a diesel pusher.

For the entire year we stopped overnight in a TOTAL of 33 different campgrounds/places. Of those stops, 11 stops kept us in one place more than 7 nights.  That averages out to 11 nights per stop (even if some of those stops were overnighters and others lasted several months). And that includes the 7 nights spent with Uncle Wally (after adding in the lasts two unexpected nights this week).

Our towing miles are now up to about 23,000 miles on our CR-V over our 4 years as full-time RV’ers.  All of those coach miles were accompanied by tow miles on the car.  Old Betsy is starting to show her age (she’s a 2004 with almost 130,000 on the odometer) but she’s still a faithful companion.

I did not track $ / night this year. This would probably be our most expensive camping year thus far.  We spent 3 1/2 months at Palmdale paying commercial monthly rates, and then 3 1/2 months in Milwaukee paying commercial monthly rates. Most of the remaining nights were at state park and Corps of Engineer rates.  Still, it was a more expensive year for us.

We’re holding pretty close to our self-imposed budget, which is good.  We continue to go where we choose.  We travel as much (sometimes more) than we really want to.  So far RV’ing has been as good and better than we expected.

I have to admit that because of the medical issues we faced this year we have discussed (without taking any action or making any decisions) how long we want to do this. When we first started full-timing the subject of coming off the road was related to long-distant-health-eventualities of which we were having none, zero, bupkiss.  This year that changed and it’s prudent for us to at least get the topic out on the table so that if something changes dramatically (or suddenly) that we’ll have a game plan in mind to put into motion.  But, we have no intention of getting off the road and we have actually had at least one or two pending discussions about ’17 already.  We aren’t making firm plans but we have a sort of objective.

RV’ing is still too good to be true.  We are enjoying ourselves (often) so much that we (almost) feel guilty.  Certainly, retirement is turning out better than we ever guessed it might.

Is everything perfect.  Obviously not.  The events of this week speak to that directly.  You can make plans, but plans don’t have to make reality!  And so far we’re still happy enough to have our plans change and to be able to flow with the changing tides of circumstance.

I hope you have a great year.  I have never been one to make resolutions, or such, and holidays come and go often before I know it.  So, remembering to wish people Happy New Year isn’t something I always remember to do.  But Happy New Year.

Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll talk with you tomorrow.

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Old Diary, Travel

Travel day times two

Let’s lump two more travel days together into one post!

On Sunday we drove from Grenada MS to Silas AL — a trip of about 220 miles.  A little 4 lane, a little 2 lane — some narrow Mississippi country lanes and we arrive at another Corps of Engineer campground.

Service Campground

December 20 The Service Campground is located between Silas AL and Coffeeville AL.  Considering that we had just left Coffeeville MS — just outside of Grenada — even a caffeine addict like me ca get confused with all the coffee’s they have around here. The drive was quite nice — mostly on Mississippi state highways, narrow two lanes with rather steep  drop offs on either side — but the roads were quite smooth and certainly comfortable at 55 mph.

We had reserved a 97 foot back-in site on the edge of the water. (site #19)  But upon arriving and checking in with the hosts we were offered an alternative — seeing as I had inquired about the direction of South for our Satellite reception.  Having inquired we were offered site #9 which has a much better sight line and is right on the edge of the waterway.

Fog on the Tombigbee

Fog on the Tombigbee — it’s amazing how peaceful fog can be.  The older I get the more I love it (specially when I’m not driving in it)

I should comment on the header photo.  A couple hours after arriving we heard our first boat on the river — the river being part of the Timbigbee / Black Warrior Waterway operated by the Corps of Engineers.  I guess the owner of that fancy speedboat that you see on the water about 1/3 of the way from the left edge of the photo was out to burn out the flues of his speedboat.  He made about a mile and a half circuit up the and down the river way — 10 times — and then he left.  Go figure.  I’m not sure whether he and his co-pilot had much fun but they made a lot of noise and burned up a whale of a lot of fuel at breakneck speed.

The campground is one of the smaller Corps locations we’ve been to.  It’s nicely cared for.  And — Peggy says to include — there’s a small laundry facility available to the campers right in the campground!  The two nearest towns are nothing more than a blink of the eye — really.  There’s nothing there.

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AT the Choctaw National Wildlife Refuge (BTW, “Choctaw” supposedly comes from a word meaning coffin maker.)

Nearby the campground is the Choctaw National Wildlife Refuge.  This is not one of those wide open to the public refuges with a beautiful visitors center and lots of programs.  There really isn’t a visitors center at all and there aren’t any ‘real’ auto routes to drive through the refuge.  Yet there are a lot of critters here and you might be quite happen to while away some time enjoying them like we did.

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We both love watching the workboats moving up and down the river. Mostly 2 x 2 barges and smaller tugs than on the Mississippi

If you love workboats and barges this is a great place to spend some time.  The campground is right ON the waterway.  We woke at 4:30 (due to no fault of the boats) to see the first tow of the day going by (very quietly) and we watched a few more as the day proceeded.  It’s a lovely little respite from the world.

Fort Pickens Campground

December 23We wanted to spend both Christmas and New Years days on the Gulf so we left Service Campground (after only three nights) on the 23rd for a leisurely 130 mile drive to Gulf Islands National Seashore — the Fort Pickens Campground.  I’ve heard a number of RV’ers talk at great length about this campground and I wanted to check it out.  So we’re here for a little under 2 weeks.

2015122309071402 2015122309110004The short 160 mile trip is easy enough, in spite of first running into a downpour and then into contrary winds.  But we’re used to weather and it didn’t bother us.  We found a Murphy Oil (Walmart) on US-98 with diesel below $2.00 / gallon; so a fill-up was obvious.  And in a little over three hours we were on site.

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The site we were supposed to occupy.

We reserved a site for a 43 foot RV, but upon arrival we found that our site was flooded.  (They’ve already had almost a week of rain — and one of the couples down the row from us had water 18” deep outside their entry way a day ago.  so we don’t have quite the room we did at Service but it’s plenty for our coach — but we have to park the car in the overflowed parking area — not really our thing, but for a week we can do anything.

Our resting spot in Circle E

Our resting spot in Circle E

Prior to our arrival I saw the cautionary note on Recreation dot gov advising that the road to the campground can be flooded.  Considering that all we have in the forecast for the next 8 days is rain, rain, and more rain I was a bit concerned with that.  It turns out that there were spots with water & sand on the pavement to a depth of about 6” but we went through with caution and were none the worse for wear.

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views around the campground

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views around the campground

The biggest drawback is that every time we tow in the rain the car needs a car wash — so I need to find a place to get that done.

Usually we take time the first afternoon in a new campground to do some reconnoitering but we didn’t get far today.  On the positive side, it IS warm.  Mid 70’s now and mid 60’s overnight.  Should be about that way most of our stay.  The one thing we will have to get used to is the high humidity again.

So — we’re settled in at Gulf Islands National Seashore.  We have one more longish day’s drive to Ocala. We’ve driven 4 days and been stationary for 7 days (counting our trip to Pensacola but not the stationary days we’ll be enjoying.  Never count them before you’ve enjoyed them — the couple down the road had to leave for two days because of flooding the week before — so no matter what we might plan the reality has first to be experienced.)

We’re still on Central Standard Time.  No change until we head East from here.

Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll talk with  you tomorrow.

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Old Diary, Travel

Two Travel Days

December 12Hitting the road again is always an exciting time. For ME. I’ve been this way since youth and I love it.  I’m a wandering soul — no denying it.  Saturday dawned DRY and a little less windy than it had been of late — a good day to head South!  With meds in hand we raised jacks, retracted slides, stowed our satellite antenna and hot footed it for warmer climes.

We have until January 3 to cover about 1400 miles so it’s not like we’re in any hurry.  That said, we never do long trips at this time of year — the reduced daylight hours are a challenge for the first couple days out of Milwaukee.  The thing is, I have done so many trips covering the first 500-600 miles from Milwaukee that I usually just try to get through it and I’m not much for stopping off and seeing things.  How many times do I want to see the same places? But there is the idea of fewer driving hours…  forcing me to think short.  So Saturday our destination is Effingham, IL — about 330 miles from Milwaukee.

………………..

The only problem with that theory — and what you  just read was a theory when I wrote it in the wee hours of Saturday morning.  But 7 hours later, half way to Effingham I changed my mind. I love being retired and being ABLE to change my mind. We changed our route and ended up about 100 miles beyond Effingham.

You see…. it’s like this….

The more I thought about how many miles in the next three days were going to be two lane the less I wanted to do them.  I have a real love/hate relationship with two lanes. When relaxed I love to drive back roads — but if I get it in my head that I’m ‘pushed’ — even if there’s no good reason for feeling that way — then a two lane road is the last thing I want to see.  Saturday mid-day I just wasn’t buying ‘relaxed.’

The change took us to Marion IL.  We had planned on staying with Uncle Wally.  But as we went past the Walmart in Effingham and Peggy commented on how many cars were parked in the lot at 2 p.m. I finally thought about the one thing that completely eluded me.  Do you think that there might be a lot of cars parked in the Walmart lot in Walmart the second last Saturday before Christmas?  Duh….

Talk about freaking out!   I never even thought about Christmas shoppers! After a couple hours of nerves we pulled into Marion and found that the lot wast as full as Effingham had been, and we located ourselves at the South end of the parking lot — near the Goodwill store as noted in our AllStays Walmart parking app.  It was a nice quiet night.  We left Milwaukee at 7:30 and pulled into Marion about 5 p.m.  A full day.

Walmart parking is something I haven’t spoken much about.  We haven’t spent a night in a Walmart lot since May.  On our return trip from Oregon on I-94 we spent 4 nights with Uncle Wally — So, we will have camped at Wally World a total of 5 nights in 2015.  This isn’t something we’re big on.  I’d much rather stay at a park and there are usually options to choose from;  but sometimes the spirit moves us…

There is a bit of protocol when using Walmart.  Many of their locations are OK with RV’ers parking overnight (meaning a SINGLE overnight) as long as you buy a little something at the store, as long as you don’t drop your jacks or extend your slides.  The best resource is from Allstays.com.  There are also locations that do not allow overnight stays — sometimes as a store policy and sometimes as a city or municipal regulation. We are careful about not  pushing the ‘concept’ of overnight.  Making yourself at home — leveling, extending, barbecuing in the parking lot, etc. are — simply put — just being rude and poor guests.  We have seen RV’ers do all of the no-no’s — leaving indents in the asphalt from their jacks, extending slides into traffic lanes — you name it.  In terms of ruining things for other RV’ers I think it’s just polite to have as little impact upon a commercial lot as possible.  We are there by their kindness.  They don’t have to allow us to overnight there — nor do they have to allow semi’s — and some Walmarts host truckers overnight too.  Being a good guest ought to be common sense, but common sense isn’t so common it would seem.  It’s private property.  Behave there as you would want guest to your own home to behave.

In the end, we put on about 450 miles Saturday.  More than I like.  But sometimes I do things like that.  Arriving at a Walmart early in the day feels dump to me.  And what’s the sense of staying lo-key when you cold be doing something — like getting in a few extra miles.  If we are in a park / RV resort there are things to do and we take advantage of the resources.  We like parks.  We aren’t huge about RV resorts but we visit them too from time to time.  And when Uncle Wally has his welcome mat out we pull in late (for us), grab a quick bite of dinner, watch a little TV or do a little blogging, and then hit the sack.  Our bed is usable with both slides retracted.  I can put up the DISH antenna if I want without jacks or slides.  Or we can use the air channels — as we did Saturday night — we ended up watching Mary Poppins and I forgot how much animation there was in that movie — it was a nice refresher.

December 13From Marion we headed out at 7:30.  We had time for coffee muffins (bought the day before in Milwaukee in anticipation of a quick-bite-breakfast).  We made it through Memphis before the church crowd were turned loose on the city and I pumped 73 gallons of diesel at $1.95 — for the first sub $2.00/gallon fill up in years. I had been planning on another night with Uncle Wally, then three nights at Pickensville AL COE and 3 nights at Service AL COE before pulling into Fort Pickens N.P. at Gulf Shores FL.  But the more I thought about it, and having gotten that extra 100 miles under our belt we decided to return to Grenada Lake where we spent a month last year, then to hit Service AL, and Fort Pickens.  That took out an extra stop (set up and take down and movement), we get to spend more time in fewer places and it just felt better.

Also, when I went online to check on availability at Fort Pickens I discovered that whereas 2-3 weeks ago there were oodles and oodles of open sites (50+) as of last night they were down to 4 long enough for us.  I hadn’t been planning on reservations but decided that safer is better than sorry.

We’d had so much nice weather in Milwaukee that we needed a little fog to just to even us out.  Most of Saturday was spent in the fog — literally and figuratively.  Sunday was overcast and windy — much of it a headwind.  But when I get it in my head to get something done…

It’s funny how you forget little things; parts of your routine when you do them regularly, embarrassing or startling moments when you forget them.  For example, there is the matter of our over-the-door awning.  It’s a Carefree of Colorado unit and for whatever reason when the wind is right the vertical arms vibrate harmonically with the windspeed.  The noise they make can be quite frightening if you don’t know what it is.  We have encountered this before and simply wrapping a piece of velcro around both the upright and the bracket on the outer-wall of the coach stops the vibration completely.  But only when you remember to do it.  If you extend the awning and forget to wrap it — zowey!  What a noise!

I’m sure we all have our regular routines — and sometimes we forget this or that portion of the routine.  We used to go through a checklist — now I think we lost the checklist.  Such is life.  That awning straps were the only thing we know we forgot.  I wonder what we’ll discover tomorrow?

Ok — that’s enough for two days.  Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll talk with you tomorrow.

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Old Diary, Travel

Aldo Leopold and the Foundation

2015101611544637To say enough good about Aldo Leopold would take a lot more time than I’m going to devote to this blog but I have to at least mention him or they will revoke my Wisconsin citizenship.  On Friday we took a little (300 miles) drive in search of fall foliage.  Truth be told the Fall Color Report lied because the best color we saw was near Holy Hill (right in our own backyard) and most of what we saw were bare trees that went from green to dead weeks ago, and green Oaks and Maples that haven’t turned yet.  Still, it was a pleasant day’s drive.

2015101611404933Our objective,  if we had one, was a visit to the Aldo Leopold Foundation building in Baraboo Wisconsin.  This amazing Green structure in rural Wisconsin is reason enough to make the visit.  It’s said to be the ‘greenest’ building in the U.S. having scored a whopping 61 out of 69 points on the LEED scale of renewable and sustainable construction.  The building uses earth tubes for heating and cooling, is energy positive through a variety of tactics including active and passive solar — it’s a really kewl place.  2015101611374324If I was ever to think about building a home I would come here just to do research on the little tricks they came up with to increase the building’s efficiency.

leopoldOne simple example is their solution for snow covered boots in winter.  The visitors center has an enclosed passive solar collection corridor on the South side of the building  — so you have a 6’ sort of hallway around one side and part of a second side.  Upon entering the building from the outside you find yourself in this corridor — standing on a concrete poured floor with a hole in the middle — right in front of the inner door.  And over the hole are wooden planks/slats with spaces between so that you can stamp off the snow on your boots before entering the inner part of the building.  (or even take OFF your boots and leave the snow outside. Simple, elegant in it’s simplicity, and effective.

Aldo Leopold

If you haven’t heard of Aldo Leopold you really should take a little time to investigate this amazing guy.  Even though he lived before most of what we think of as the ecologically minded pioneers he was just that.  (1887 – 1948)

Leopold was an American author, scientist, ecologist, forester, conservationist, and environmentalist. He was a professor at the University of Wisconsin and is best known for his book A Sand County Almanac(1949), which has sold more than two million copies.

Leopold was influential in the development of modern environmental ethics and in the movement for wilderness conservation. His ethics of nature and wildlife preservation had a profound impact on the environmental movement, with his ecocentric or holistic ethics regarding land.[1] He emphasized biodiversity and ecology and was a founder of the science of wildlife management.[2] — Wikipedia

This country would be even further behind in it’s attempts to live in harmony with nature were it not for Leopold, and as much as I love the wild space I have to admit that I am way less ardent about my beliefs than he was but his work and his willingness to grow and change over a lifetime are an inspiration to many of us.

I mention particularly the idea of change and growth because he started out life in the Forest Service where he was extremely active in encouraging the extermination of varmints — including coyote and wolves — early in his career.  As he grew and learned more about the important role of predation in nature he completely flip-flopped his view and became as strong an opponent of attempting to regulate nature to suit man as he had been in favor.  I wish politicians could learn a few lessons from his willingness to see the truth as different from their own views and have the courage to change.

Not only are there interesting interpretive displays, there are also about 1 1/2 miles of easy trails on the Foundation property as well as a separate Aldo Leopold Nature Center found in Madison WI for public education.

Please, if you care at all about this planet — go visit.  Let this man’s spirit infuse you and perhaps you’ll live a little bit differently than you would if you never heard of him.

Cheers, thanks for stopping and I’ll talk with you tomorrow.

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Old Diary, Travel

Memory isn’t all it’s touted to be

When you remember a thing, it’s not the thing you are remembering, but rather the last time you remembered the thing.  So it is said are the workings of memory.  Memory is not as accurate as you’d like to believe and with each remembering there is greater chance for error and change.

I’ve been looking at routes and travel ideas and I wonder, sometimes, whether other people have the same experience I have.  Things keep changing on you!  In the world, assuredly.  In my memories… well, let’s look at that.  Perception is everything.

“Like all great travellers,
I have seen more than I remember,
and remember more than I have seen.”
– Benjamin Disraeli

Memory truly is a miracle.  How we are able to dial back into our stored experience and pull out details from days and years and even decades ago is something to marvel at.  But as our justice system is coming to realize witnesses don’t all remember the same details, or even the correct details, and suggestion has the power to change what we ‘remember.’   I think Disraeli was right.

I’m sure most couples go through this;  this see more than you remember and remember more than you see situation.  Who hasn’t talked with a spouse about an event they both attended and suddenly found themselves asking with whom your spouse had attended that event because they sure weren’t remembering anything that YOU recall!  Peg and I do it frequently.  In fact we have known we do it for so long that taking advantage of the different things we each remember has become a PLUS for many situations.

The fact, for example, that she remembers the names of men better than I, and I remember the names of women better than she has enabled us to actually get the names of couples correct on many an occasion. Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your partner is a good thing.  Even though my generalized memory may be better than Peggy’s — there are still many times that I’d be lost without her unique memories of things I quickly forget (including, sometimes, things I, personally, have said….)

A few years ago I had the mileages across most states on different Interstates memorized.  I did that much driving! Today, I’m lucky if I can get it right within 50 or a 100 miles.  I am still pretty good with names; but I find that I don’t always put them in the right context — so that Aurora IL and Aurora CO begin to look more similar than they should.  I still tend to remember places by … get this … the things I ate there.  But if I stay too long in a place that memory tool doesn’t work.  And staying too long in places is the nature of being an RV’er.  One or two meals are memorable — 15 or 20, not so much.

In trip planning I find my greatest memory frustrations. For example, this up coming trip South…

I have sort of been wanting to run through KS and OK to check them off our list of States West of the Mississippi that we have RV’d in.  Those two and AZ are the only blanks on our map.  However, earlier in life I have had very little contact with Kansas and I draw a blank knowing what I want to DO while we were in Kansas.  I suppose I could honestly say that I don’t really want to DO anything — I just want to pass through it.  I have a hard time admitting that though….  I guess that in spite of my friends Paul and Mildred Archer from Ottawa and Pat Johnson who lives near Manhattan and a trip in the truck to Wichita Falls I don’t have any memories of Kansas at all and I’m not itching to make any — at least not this time of year.

Southbound Autumn '15Our delayed departure has put wrinkles in our plans that aren’t being helped by my memory quirks.  Not only have many campgrounds turned off their water in advance of freezing temperatures; many of them have closed for the season altogether. In Iowa all the Corps parks closed at the end of September. We aren’t opposed to spending the odd night with Uncle Wally when needed but don’t like to make it a habit.  It’s not all that much fun.

I can visualize pretty much all of the route from Milwaukee to the Kansas border, and pretty much all of the route from Santa Rosa NM to Bosque NM — I KNOW those roads.  More precisely, I used to know those roads and that’s the kicker.  Things change.  Both one’s memories of what used to be, as well as the reality of what is there now.

I never trusted remembering places by street names.  Every little town in America has a Washington street!  Instead I learned to remember places by landmarks — often buildings.  But you know, that doesn’t work too well in a country that hates old things, and tears down buildings,  and remakes itself every few years.  I’m finding that the things I remember have been torn down and replaced by something that not only doesn’t LOOK the same, but the things that DO look the same have often appeared to have moved because roads have been re-routed and moved to make room for roundabouts and added lanes.  And the more populous an area, the more changes.stone church

I’m still hoping to head Southwest in a couple weeks and run through Kansas on our way to Bosque.  That’s still the idea — lets not even call it a plan.  As we’re are traveling, I wonder what will pop into my brain and pass itself off as a memory?

Like many of my contemporaries, I grew up in an environment that thought very differently about longevity.  As we travel around the country — or just take a day trip as we did on Friday — I see a lot of new-ish churches.

metal building church

They look rather like office buildings, these new metal-building churches and they present a huge change in society.  “In my day” people still thought about building things to last.  It wasn’t the medieval view of building for forever where it took centuries to complete a stone masonry built church — but they were brick and mortar and built to last a couple hundred years, if not 1,000 years.  And, because they did last I could reliably use them for landmarks — as churches.  But today a lot of those old churches are no longer churches — they have been repurposed.  Thank God.  At least they haven’t been torn down!

I have been thinking about how technology growth has already changed us as a society and how it is continuing to change us.  NO ONE is thinking about building anything to last 1,000 years anymore.   I’m not sure very many people are thinking about the next 100 years — even though as a nation that is the kind of duration we ought to be thinking about. Our 2 year election cycle and our 4 year presidential cycle pretty much force us to remake the world we live in every 2-8 years.  And that is a longterm view.  The life cycle on a smart phone is much shorter!

I suppose that people in the future won’t look to landmarks when going from place to place.  Even though I have my GPS I still find myself trying to remember where I have been and how to get there.  There really aren’t many places I haven’t been — except of course for Kansas.  We have become dependent upon our technology go get along; to live; to function.  I can’t help but wonder how safe a course that is in the long term — but there I go again, thinking in archaic terms.  Long Term.  Is there even such a thing anymore.

I’m looking forward to the trip South.  I’m sure we’ll find some RV parks to camp at so we can avoid Uncle Wally.  And maybe I’ll really remember something from one of those few trips I’ve made into Kansas.  I’m positive that we won’t be spending our usual amount of time making the trip.  Kansas would be a lot more appealing in the Spring or earlier in the Fall.  But we always have fun with our travels and we will this trip too!

Thanks for stopping, and I’ll talk with you tomorrow.

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Images, Travel

Pre-disposed

“Of all possible subjects,
travel is the most difficult
for an artist,
as it is the easiest
for a journalist.”
– W. H. Auden

The way you think… it can get you into a lot of trouble. Or save you from it.  Your way of thinking affects everything about the way you see the entire world.07072244-3695

W. H. Auden makes an interesting and subtle point.  Do you ever ask yourself why some people enjoy RV’ing and why others do not; why is travel ‘easy’ for some and a pain in the butt for others. There are other comparisons that could have been used,  that apply equally to travel, but the contrast between the artist and journalist is one that resonates with me.

0818711017A journalist is concerned with reporting the facts. I see/read a lot of journalist blogs about RV’ing. An artist is less concerned with facts and more concerned with impressions and with bringing new insight to the commonplace.

Before we retired I created images every day.  I don’t mean I used my camera.  I mean I went out into the world with camera, lenses and tripod and I worked hard at seeing around me things someone else might not notice.  Since retiring I’ve been lazy — I’ve gone out a few days and shot with serious intent but most of the time I have been quite content with simply recording places.

The House On the Hill101590809Let me use an example about what I mean. We visited Mackinac Island the year before we retired and had a wonderful day’s ‘wander’ around the island.  There are always wonderful sites to be seen.  On that one day I looked this particular house and noticed it in a way I’d never paid attention to before.  I took some time to capture the scene — but just capturing the scene wasn’t what I wanted from this image.  There was a feeling I was looking for and I thought about the scene quite a while before I started working on the image.  That home has been on that rock promontory for a great many years. When it was built not only were there materials brought there by horse and wagon (instead of truck), the process of building was very different — using different tools and techniques than what we have today.  Eventually I got to what I wanted to ‘say’ about that home.

MACK10e10455On that same trip I walked through ‘downtown’ and saw a door — 1/2 in the glaring sunlight and 1/2 in the shade.  I thought about how common doors and address numbers were and I wanted to say something about the door other than it’s color and glare. What I came up with was a high contrast black and white.

My point behind all of this is simply that a journalist and an artist approach much if not all of life with two very different motivations and the motivations have their impact on every little decision from there to go to what to do while there. With a myriad of other opposing frames of mind it’s easy to see why there’s no right way to RV.  We each approach our time on the road in our own unique way and for our own unique reasons.

On my first visit to the Chiropractor last week he commented that he and his wife have been talking about buying an RV when they retire and it’s something they want to do.  He’s a twice married guy who doesn’t travel.  For him, ‘seeing the country’ has a very different meaning than it might for a guy who criss-crosses the country by air for business over 30 years.  Some of us travel a lot during our lifetime but never outgrow our interest in seeing more of the country than we have — or different aspects of the same parts of the country that we have seen before.  That’s kind of where Peggy and I are now.   I did a fair bit of flying between 1970 and 1989…. not very much since.  When I hear stories about air travel today I ask why would anyone want to go through that — I’m not very keen on air travel now at all.  Even to the point of not being nearly as interested in returning to Europe which I once wanted to make a big emphasis during retirement.  Now I look at being treated like cattle at the airport and onboard and say, “I can do with out another visit to …..” if I have to travel that way.  Maybe I should look at a cruise ship re-positioning trip to Europe…

You get the point.  We bring different objectives to our travels.  I’m less interested in a blow by blow account — those of you who are regular readers likely have figured that out by now.

 

Selective Autumn

Selective Autumn

Selective Autumn was made near Hayward Wisconsin.  What I ‘saw’ when I looked out across the field was orange.  All the other colors seemed irrelevant.  So that’s what I wanted you to feel in the image.  The orange of autumn in Northern Wisconsin.

Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll talk with you tomorrow.

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