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Thursday, November 23, 2017

Favorite Holiday



Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I hear a lot of horror stories about people who hate having to spend time with some of their less favorite relatives. Fortunately, my family gets along. It's a pleasure to be with all of them.

For me, it's all good company and good food. What's not to like? Most important, it's good to take a few moments and give thanks for the wonderful things in our lives.

Hope everyone has a safe holiday. If you have to drive, allow extra time and take it easy.

Happy Thanksgiving!

-Sixbears

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Life Without a Garage



I envy those who have large heated garages. Tuesday I had a brief weather window to work on the van. It needed a little bodywork to pass state inspection.

The day started in the teens and only got into the 40s after lunch. It's not exactly the best conditions for doing body work. I mixed in extra hardener to speed up the reaction in the body filler. After it set a couple hours, I sanded and slapped some paint on it. Is it a great job? No, but it's a good enough job to pass inspection. Next summer I can do a pretty job if it bothers me.

Right now my kitchen has been taken over by our 14 foot inflatable kayak. With freezing rain and snow in the forecast, we couldn't clean it outside. The main body of the kayak snakes around the kitchen like the corpse of a blue anaconda. The removable floor is hanging from clotheslines strung across the kitchen. When the kayak's dry it's going to be fun to fold it up and stuff it in the van.

It could have been worse. Not only did my lovely wife not complain about the mess in the kitchen, she did most of the kayak cleaning. Yep, she's a keeper.

-Sixbears

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.

-Sixbears

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.

-Sixbears

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.

-Sixbears


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.

-Sixbears

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.

-Sixbears