Monday, December 31, 2012

That Whole Gun Thing

I'm sure that law-abiding and not insane Americans owning assault-type weapons would not be a threat to our society or our children.

(Though it's not clear to me why a non-insane person would feel the need to stockpile such weaponry. You don't need it for hunting. And no one needs a 30-round clip to protect their home, because even when the imminent zombie apocalypse happens, only a shotgun can stop them. Everyone knows that.)

It's the alienated and batshit-crazy who feel compelled to get their hands on enough deadly force to wipe out dozens and dozens of people.

Our culture is steeped in guns: guns as signs of masculinity, guns for control, guns as solutions. This is a big part of the dysfunction here.

So there's one rule I always apply: when picking a movie to watch, if the poster shows bristling guns, if the gun is the foreground object, I don't watch it.

Once you become aware of how prominent guns are in movie posters, you can't unnotice it.

Two More Sports Bars Considered

Sidelines is my favorite sports bar for a couple reasons: they have plenty of screens, the staff is friendly, the crowd is always enthusiastic and colorful, and since it's downtown, it's close to home. But it's not to everyone's liking. Mrs Elliott, for example, likes a more comfortable atmosphere; and others don't care for the noisy scene there.

I have been scouting around the other sports bars, checking out their offerings. The Phoenix, on the east side near 27th and Greenwood, is not really a sports bar. When a few of us went there to watch a game last month, we were pretty much the only ones who were giving it any attention. It's a longer haul for me than I like so I don't see a good reason to go there again.

Now that we are leading up to the Fiesta Bowl (Go Ducks!) I checked out a couple more places. On Monday I visited Cheerleaders Grill & Pub on north business 97. It's a small place with only a couple old-school pre-digital 27'' color TVs hung up high. Didn't impress me.

Two friends have recommended Boston's on south business 97 as a perfectly cromulent sports bar so I met one of them there yesterday afternoon to watch the 49ers and the Seahawks games. There are five big screens right above the bar they had those two games plus the Vikings/Packers game and maybe one other, I forget.

It's a good place to watch games, for sure, at least from the bar, not so much from the booths (I like having the screen in front of me, not to the side). The bartender was friendly, the place is well-lit, the patrons were enjoying the games in a low-key way, somewhere between Sidelines-raucous and Phoenix-disinterested. 

As far as food goes, Boston's makes some perfectly fine chicken wings. Their bacon-wrapped steak chunks are good but the blue cheese dressing that accompanies them had no discernible blue cheese taste, so I griped and they brought some salad dressing that tasted more of chemicals than anything I'd put on a salad. However, their grilled mushrooms in Alfredo sauce was really good -- Michael and I both liked that one.

There was a clown at the bar, emboldened by drink who decided he was far cleverer and charming than he really was and tried to chum up and talk our ears off. He was quite a nuisance. Fortunately (for me) my friend Michael was seated between me and the fellow, so Michael had to take the brunt of the guy's endless chitchat, bon mots, and sports trivia challenge questions. But this isn't a fault of the venue -- such fellows can be found anywhere. 

In Jack's opinion, Boston's is a good place, one well-suited to the man who just wants to watch a game without much distraction, while folk who enjoy a more party atmosphere might like the joie de vivre at Sidelines.

So because today's the eighth anniversary of our wedding, I'll get to Sidelines early on Thursday to grab a nice seat on the cushy sofa so Mrs Elliott can watch the Fiesta Bowl in comfort.

 It's just the kind of guy I am.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

It's That Time of the Year Again

As we approach the new year, the Webbernets seem to fill with "looking back at the year that was" articles. Such things are boring, Jack feels. Jack already lived through all of 2012 and doesn't need a recap of the year any more than he needs a summary of a film at the end of the film.

But what I would enjoy would be outtakes from the year.

IN OTHER NEWS, Bend won't have H. Bruce Miller to kick around anymore. At least not until May of 2013. He and his lovely wife and two dogs are migrating to one of the southwest's Stucco and Sand states for the winter.

They left this morning in their vintage '83 Wagon Queen Family Truckster (shown below).

Like new.

Friday, December 28, 2012

BendTel: GFCS (an endorsement)

Mrs Elliott's business is essentially that of a call center. Calls from across the country come to her office, and she represents dozens and dozens of 501(c)(3) nonprofit charitable organizations. Her phone needs are fairly complex, and if she misses a call from a donor, the charity will know about it and, even more importantly, a missed call from a donor may mean that the charity doesn't receive a donation.

The phone system is an arrangement comprised of several office-style desktop phones scattered around the home office, a bunch of fancy PBX equipment nailed to a board in the garage, and a whole bunch of wires stapled to the outside of the house which connect the phones to the garage equipment.

Mrs Elliott's business owns all the hardware on our property, but BendTel, here in Bend, is the service provider; they sold us the equipment and provide all that magic that brings dozens and dozens of 1-800 numbers to the phones in the house.

And I'm here to tell you that their service is exemplary. Here are two examples, both from within the past two weeks:

1. The office is moving to another space downstairs. This because I closed my business earlier this year, and the space I was formerly taking up is now available. Moving Mrs Elliott's staff and furniture into the vacated space will free up two rooms downstairs which we can reclaim for "home space" -- mainly, a man cave where I can put up pictures of dogs playing poker and invite my friends over for alcohol, cigars, and high jinks. But my point is that BendTel sent out a crew to bring the wires to the new office phone jacks (stringing even more wires around the house*), tested their work, and showed me how to bridge the new jacks to the old on the PBX board when the phones are actually moved.

2. This afternoon, one of Mrs Elliott's client charities called to say that she could not send a fax to us. We dialed the fax number and it went to voice mail. That's no good. I called Justin at BendTel and within 1/2 hour, their wizard guy (the Brad) determined that (a), for some reason, the fax line was set up to go to voice mail if unanswered, and (2), we may have turned off the "auto-answer" function on the fax machine. Um, it is with some embarrassment that I must confess that the "auto-answer" lamp was indeed dark on the machine, and it took one (1) touch of a button to turn it back on.**

But my point is that BendTel does good work. They provide GFCS -- Great F*#king Customer Service.

Jack recommends them.

* This house is wrapped with so many cables that if someone were to set off a bomb inside it, the house would merely expand for a moment.

** We have posted a note on the machine directing us to make sure that the "auto answer" light is on.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

An Overlooked Hell?

Mrs Elliott and I just re-financed our house. We got a new loan at 3.125%, which is pretty darn good. 

We signed the documents this afternoon. I can't count how many times I've found myself in a title company office, signing my name over and over. It's a tedious and fussy affair, one that seems to go on forever. 

This time, it occurred to me that Messrs. Kafka and Dante completely missed a (respectively) subject for a short story about soul-crushing bureaucracy or a typically gruesome circle of hell for Christian sinners: The loan docs signing hell.

An eternity of sitting at a desk across from a loan officer who takes from a stack of papers a document to be signed and dated here here and here; she describes its intent and function with great attention to accuracy and detail. It is never, ever interesting.

You sign and initial it here here and here, she inspects it for errors then places it atop a stack of previously signed documents. No matter how many uncountable thousands and millions of papers you sign, the stack they are placed on never grows any taller.

The next document to be signed in taken from the top of another stack which never grows smaller and slid to you to be signed and initialed here here and here. 

Wash, rinse, repeat. Forever. 

We lowered our monthly payment by $300. Which is not chicken feed.

Friday, December 21, 2012

But I'm a Guy!

So Mrs Elliott is out and about Bend, doing all her last-minute shopping. I'm home, discussing how we're going to rewire the new office space downstairs with Joe Hawkins, the electrician, and Justin of BendTel, the office's phone service provider. I get a call from Mrs Elliott--she wants me to take a look at an oil painting of her parents that she commissioned from local artist Vicki Shuck.

She's at the framing store and needs me to look at the painting and tell her what color matte to get for it.

So I go into the kitchen and take a look at the picture and it sure has a whole lot of colors on it.

"Beige?" she asks.

The picture looks like it would look good with beige, so I say sure.

"Or how about tan," she says.

"Honey, I'm a guy! Beige and tan are the same color!"


"How about taupe?"

"Taupe," she says. "Okay."

"Wait--I was joking. I don't know the difference between taupe, beige and tan!"

The following courtesy of

Monday, December 17, 2012

We're #4!

A friend sends me this link from the Wall Street Journal's, showing Bend in the #4 position of Ten U.S. Cities Where Crime is Soaring. They write, "Based on data from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, 24/7 Wall St. identified the metropolitan areas with the highest increase in violent crime between 2006 and 2011. These are the 10 metropolitan areas where violent crime is soaring."

About Bend, they say that
There were 528 violent crimes in the Bend area in 2011, up from 313 in 2006. Experts often cite economic distress as a reason for increased crime, and Bend’s population was certainly hit hard by the recession. The unemployment rate in Bend was 14.1% in 2010 and 12.4% in 2011, both significantly above national figures of 9.6% and 8.9%, for the respective years. But the metro’s property crime rate between 2006 and 2011 actually decreased by more than 13%, including a 26% decrease in the burglary rate and a more than 58% decrease in the motor vehicle theft rate. Officials in 2010 told The Oregonian newspaper that much of the property crime decline could be attributed to a crackdown on methamphetamine.
So why did violent crime go up? Anyone from the Bend PD care to comment?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Cleopatra's Pushpin

Over on the corner of NW Portland Ave and NW 4th Street, quite close to the house of Mountain Bike Hall of Famer Bob Woodward, is a small concrete obelisk, resembling nothing quite so much as a miniature Cleopatra's Needle.

Here's one of the three so-called Cleopatra's Needle, this one in London:

And here's the one on Portland Avenue:
It's considerably younger than the 3,500 year-old Ancient Egyptian monuments, and lacks about 87 feet of height to fully compete with the real deals. It's also not covered with hieroglyphics and is made of ferroconcrete, not red granite.

But it's otherwise quite the spitting image.

I don't have any idea about its history or age. The concrete is eroded in places on the backside, exposing the rebar skeleton. 

The vintage "Officer's Quarters" apartments are across the street--maybe this little guy was tossed up at the same time. 

Anyone know anything about it? Are there any more like it in the neighborhood?

Friday, November 30, 2012

Two Things (neither of which is worth notice)

Geek Stuff: Because I let things go too long without attending to them, I had to back up everything on my hard drive to an external drive, and replace the operating system on my computer from Ubuntu Linux 10.10 with Lubuntu Linux 12.04. Getting all my files and setting restored has take a couple days now, but everything seems to be stable.

Kids, Don't Do This, Dept.: Never, ever, de-seed a bunch of Poblano chilies* then take a pee without washing your hands. IT BURNS! IT BURNS!

My poor pee-pee.

* I'm making "Tangy Tomatillo Shrimp" for the lovely Mrs Elliott tonight.

Had To Change the Commenting Permissions

I've had to shut off anonymous comments on this blog. I've recently been getting about three spammy comments a day that I have to moderate (mark as spam) and it's become annoying. Here's an example:

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Yeah, I'm a Simpleton": 
Hello are using Wordpress for your blog platform?
I'm new to the blog world but I'm trying to get started
and create my own. Do you need any html coding knowledge to make your own
blog? Any help would be greatly appreciated!
Feel free to visit my webpage ; Male Enhancement Products 

Dealing with this crap is a waste of my time. Anyone wanting to comment on a blog post will need an online i.d., and there may be a capcha involved.

[EDIT: There will be no capcha - that feature is turned off.]

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Damn Fine Beef Stew

It was exactly one year ago that Jack decided to compare two versions of Beef Bourguignon. I took it upon my self to cook both recipes. It was a cage fight: Tony Bourdain v. Julia Child. No one said it would be easy, but I didn't cry, and for someone who likes like cook, it was fun.

The results are here.

So anyway, yesterday around lunch time, I decided to just toss some stuff into our Crock Pot-brand crock pot and see how it came out.

So I did that: I tossed some stuff into the crock pot and then went over to O'Kane's at McMenamin's to lose Yet Another Goddamn Game Of Chess against chess hustler and Bend Treasure H. Bruce Miller.*

And it was after dark when I returned home, and when I I walked in in, the house was redolent with the most amazingly rich aroma of beef stew.

This isn't a bourguignon because it doesn't use any wine, Burgandignian or otherwise, and it's so simple that Jack should feel ashamed to make it. But my-oh-my is it amazingly good.

Uncle Jack's Damn Fine Beef StewServes 2 
Set the crock pot to "high" and drizzle in about 1 Tbs of olive oil. Let it heat for about 30 minutes.
While it is heating, cube up about 3/4lb of cubed beef. I used grass-fed ribeye steak from Trader Joes.
Sprinkle a little salt on the beef.
After the pot is hot, pitch in the beef.
Chop up a shallot, and toss said chopped shallot atop the beef.
Let the meat and shallot heat up, stir occasionally for about an hour until there isn't much pink showing on the beef and the shallot is soft and translucent.
Dash in a handful or two of chopped mushrooms.
Empty a can of El Pato Tomato Sauce with Jalapeño (the red can - Safeway has it, Albertson's, too, I think) into the pot.
Add 1/2 tsp. of Red Boat Fish sauce (best stuff evah!).
Set cooker on "low" and wander off for a couple hours (See: "Went to O'Kane's at McMenamin's to lose Yet Another Goddamn Game Of Chess against chess hustler and Bend Treasure H. Bruce Miller," above).
That's it.

* But I did manage to mooch another $2 cigar off him.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

It Was a Quiet Day Today

After getting together at Sidelines sports bar yesterday in downtown Bend with some friends - New Guy Michael Mineni, H. Bruce and Sharon Miller, and the lovely Mrs Elliott - to watch Oregon play SoCal (neither team brought their defense to the game, we won), I decided that I would like a quiet day at home today.

But first some shopping.

We went to Whole Foods for basic needs, and I bought the ingredients for tonight's meal: Manhattan-style clam soup, done Paleo; I dropped by the new Growler Guys* shop at the Shell gas station on 27th and Greenwood for some apricot cider; went to Cash and Carry on Third for ScotchBrite pads (the season for holiday cooking and, thus, pot scrubbing fast approacheth); and to the O'Reilly auto parts store for five quarts of Mobil 1 0W-40 engine oil for Mellow Yellow's winter driving. (Mellow Yellow, for those who aren't following my blog very closely, is our 1984 VW poptop camper van.)

Back at home I had some lawn winterizing to do: rake the leaves, mow the lawn short and trim its edges, apply winterizing fertilizer, then water.

That all having been taken care of, I am watching the afternoon drift toward evening, pint glass of cider in hand, soup in the slow cooker. Mrs Elliott is playing Spider Solitaire on her computer.

It was a beautiful day.

'Bout time to call the irrigation dude to blow out the sprinklers. Gotta get the gutters cleaned, too.

* I'm not much of a beer drinker, and don't find Bend's current boom in breweries to be personally important. That said, the east side is sorely in need of some classing up and giving eastsiders something besides Bud Light, PBR, or meth is a step in the right direction. I urge my reader to give this shop their patronage - Ed.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

So -- How Concerned Should a Bend Resident be about Disasters?

Frankenstorm Sandy is making life tough for many on the east coast as I write this.

I stumbled across this article, titled "Scouts are right: Be prepared! Get ready for an emergency before it happens," on Daily Kos.

It starts like this:
If Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan were to have their way, you'd be on your own in a disaster. Oh, they might send you some cans of tuna and Jello mix, but forget about federal aid. Except, or course, for sending in the National Guard to keep the looters away from any gated neighborhoods. 
But even with a full budget, neither the Federal Emergency Management Agency—which that deplorable duo of candidates would like to eviscerate or abolish (depending on which version of their spew you believe)—nor the Red Cross or local emergency teams can be of immediate help to everyone when a major disaster strikes. It can be days before official help, or any kind, arrives at your door, or where your door used to be. 
Which makes it a good idea to prepare in advance. That means more than queuing up for a few bottles of water, cereal and flashlight batteries a couple of days ahead of time when radar detects a megastorm headed your way.
In five parts, the piece describes the minimal preparations that should help assure saving one's life (and "that of their loved ones.")

My reader knows that I am no stranger to surviving in the outdoors. I am a backpacker, a camper; and I am not a terribly bright one: I've headed into the backcountry when a smarter man would have held back, so I've been pinned down by blizzards and torrential rainstorms...and I did fine. I found that I have (so far) brought along exactly what I needed to survive (usually not a bit more) and what I didn't bring, I McGuyvered - I'm good at that.

But here at home, I don't feel compelled to give a lot of attention to emergency preparedness. I have a couple-a good first-aid kits, a kerosene heater and lanterns in case of power outages in winter, the necessary picture of Dita von Teese, about four cord of firewood, a sweet wife, and the other essentials a man might need.

Yet the Daily Kos article has me wondering: Am I underprepared? Setting aside apocalyptic scenarios like zombies*, pandemics, riled white people with firearms, or asteroid strikes, that leaves meteorologic, geologic, or hydrologic disasters, and Bend doesn't seem very exposed to those.

Climate is changing,though.

So I ask you, reader: are there any natural disasters which might befall the city of Bend?

* Zombies are a big deal. Today's Public Policy Poll asked people how long they expect to live after the start of the zombie apocalypse, and 27 % of respondents said that they expected to live less than a week. 32% said they’d survive more than a year, but I think they are optimistic.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The VW Camper gets an Upgrade

Mrs Elliott and I do a lot of "dry" camping, that is, we camp for days at a time in remote locations far from electricity, water, and people. Along rivers and lakes, atop a butte, or out in the desert. To provide power for the VW Vanagon camper van's refrigerator and LED lighting the van used to have a large 130 amp-hour battery, but I killed that battery last winter by letting it discharge in the van while it was hibernating.

So I needed to replace it, and I wanted to replace it with more capacity and a better charging method. Several people (notably David Beierl and Dennis Haynes) on a mailing list devoted to Vanagons provided some great ideas and insight into the limitations of the Vanagon's stock battery-charging wiring and ideas on how to properly charge bigger batteries.

I worked up a wiring diagram and ordered parts when I could not find them locally. Specialty Auto Electric here in Bend had the needed wire and terminals. Here's what I I did:

A hefty dedicated 1/0 gauge wire (red) from the alternator to the charging circuit. 

Main charging circuit bits under the rear bench seat. The big wire from the alternator comes in at the lower left and connects to a Stancor contactor (relay). The relay connects the battery to the alternator for charging when the engine has started. The brass thingy above the contactor is a current shunt used a the battery monitor gauge. Over on the right is a new panel with control switches on it. 

The new control panel has a switch at the top to select between two different charging methods: direct from alternator for "bulk" (fast) charging, and lower-current but higher voltage "absorption" and "float" charging from an onboard smart charger (below). The lower knob is a battery cutoff switch. Not disconnecting the battery while the van was in storage was the reason why I killed the other battery -- the battery monitor draws 0.2A 24/7 and there are a couple other light loads, so this switch will entirely disconnect everything.

This smart charger (Powerstream PST-BC1212-15) takes the voltage from the alternator and increases it for the lower-current but higher voltage "absorption" and "float" charging stages. I'll switch over to this charger once the alternator has put all the amps into the batteries it can. I reckon I can pick up an additional 10 to 20 amp-hours using this as a "finishing" charger.

The new battery bank inside a new battery box.  I'm using a pair of 6-volt GC2 golf cart batteries from Costco. The two of these cost less than the single battery I killed last winter, and have greater capacity. I measured 175 amp-hours off them (at a 5-amp load) when I got them, and I'm told they will get better. I never measured the old battery with this test so I can't comment on how it compared. The yellow caps are "Water Miser" vent caps intended to reduce and ease maintenance (it says here). When the lid goes on the box, two strong nylon straps help hold the box in place. The closed box is nearly too tall to let the bench seat close, but it does. 
I'm not accustomed to working with such fat cables and burly terminal, so I had to develop some techniques. It was a lot of work and it all had to go in this weekend because I'm taking the van out for a four-night camping trip on BLM land near Pine Mountain starting on Wednesday morning. One or both of our sons will be joining me for the weekend.

If anyone wants a scan of the hand-drawn wiring diagram, please send your email address in a comment (below). Your comment won't be published unless you request. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Okay, a Few Withdrawals

Couple-a months ago, Mrs Elliott and I cut the cord on our cable TV, discontinuing all TV service and exchanging the buggy* Alpha cable box for one of Bend Broadband's simple cable modems. Our technical problems went away, and our cable bill went down faster than a six-pack of Mirror Pond.

Through our Roku box, we're watching the shows we care about (Boss, Louie, Breaking Bad, Episodes, and so forth) -- maybe not as soon as you who are enjoying paying your cable service $100 or so a month, but we got them in glorious high-def.

So while that's pretty satisfactory, there are two areas where I feel a lack:

HBO programming, shows, like Game of Thrones, Real Time with Bill Maher, and Lena Dunham's Girls (shows we like), are simply not available streaming without an HBO subscription, and the only way to get that is by signing up for cable so what's the point?; and football: the NCAA and the NFL don't make live streams of the games available no where, no how.

Jack can't afford to go to a sports bar every time there's a game on. A couple appies, maybe a burger, add in a few glasses of wine, then a nice tip for the nice waitress, and I'm out half a C-note.

So I'm already resigned to missing some games because I'll be camping, backpacking, or in Canada where football is just weird. I'll also miss those I would ordinarily have been able to easily watch in the old cable days from the comfort of our sagging and macassar-smudged sofa**.

(Note to those who are television-savvy: we can't get direct tv broadcasts because there is this great big heap of lava, Awbrey Butte, between our house and the transmission towers, even the ones on top of the butte. We are in a shadow area.)

I was talking to a friend about this yesterday, laying out my woes.

"You complain about this. This is nothing," he said, stabbing at me with his cigarette.

"First world problems. White man problems," he said. "You are very lucky. In Algeria, 'Parks and Recreation' is not available. To see Ron Swanson's mustache is costing over 1600 dinar."

Point taken. It could be worse here.


* The Alpha cable box has issues with port forwarding, a technical term that means that outside services, such as BendTel, who operate Mrs Elliott's office phone system from their office, could not access the equipment in the house through the box, nor could Mrs Elliott or I contact our home computers when out of the house using common services like Remote Desktop or VPN. BB's tier 1 tech staff said that the manufacturer of the box knew they had a problem with Port Forwarding but could not provide a fix. This after I banged at the problem for hours then asked the very capable Paul "The Computer Guy" Spencer for help hammer on this stupid problem. "Broken Port Forwarding" is all he had to say after a couple hours of trying workarounds.

** Or "chesterfield" as I am told some in Canada call it -- further proving how weird it is in Canada.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

What Are These Blue Skies???

After far too many days breathing air that smelt like the inside of a chimney, under skies looking like coastal SoCal-grade white-outs, today we saw brilliant blue skies with charming puffy white clouds. Rain early this morning washed the air, washed the streets, and washed our house clean.

It is understandable that my readers in Sisters who live downwind of the Pole Creek fire,  may find my whining about the impact of the current fires here in Bend laughable, and they are right: y'all are dealing with hellish conditions.

But even here it's uncomfortable.

Watching the Ducks shutter Arizona last night at Sidelines, H. Bruce Miller and his lovely wife Sharon said that this has been the worst air quality they've seen since they moved here in 1965.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

This Pleases Us

Out of the cold war atom bomb tests era comes this gratifying news: Beer is totally fine even after being nuked. Read it here.

Those were my parents' tax dollars at work and I am going on record here to say that however much my old man and every other working person in the US paid in 1955 dollars to investigate whether you can safely drink beer which has been blasted by an A-bomb, it was worth it.

Out of the Gym Laundry Basket

I read that tomorrow is expected to be "much cooler" than today.

Couldn't have happened soon enough for me.

I know, I know, there are plenty out there that conflate "warm" and "nice," and I'm real sorry for y'all. But for the past week I've felt like I have been stuck under a pile of dirty laundry in a stifling closet. Close, stuffy, stale and airless.

The gym sock of weather.

Reminds me of when Mrs Elliott and I went to Hawaii a couple years ago. The "balmy" air felt tired and stale to me. Maybe that's why most of the Euro-Americans I saw there also looked tired and stale. Sticky, too.

The smoke hasn't helped, of course. The Pole Creek fire is said to be 40% contained as of today. A bit of rain would help. A lot of rain would help a lot. Wash off some of the ash that's fallen hereabouts, clean the skies, give me back some crispness and energy.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Doin' the Garden Gnome

My friend and fellow blogger H. Bruce Miller, a "Bend Treasure" and Bend's pro tem Goodwill Ambassador, has pointed out to me that some of our local older gentlemen have adopted a look which he describes as "garden gnome":

A rotund figure and full white beard is pretty much all that is needed.

It's a good observation. And now I see it everywhere. 

I reckon that it's time to take some pictures of the better examples and create a gallery of Bend's Better Garden Gnomes, along the lines of Men Who Look Like Kenny Rogers.

Better hope you don't find yourself in it. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Cord Is Cut

Six weeks ago, Mrs Elliott and I discontinued our cable TV service. We cut the cord.

Our cable bill was absurdly high for the amount of entertainment received. "Not a good value," was the reason I gave the nice lady at Bend Broadband when she asked for a reason.

We kept the Internet, though. And got ourselves a Roku. 1080p output, HDMI.  We have already have a Netflix account, and we signed up for Amazon, and Hulu Plus. For cheap, compared with cable, like $8 a month for these services.

Pros: Cable bill went from around $150 to around $50; no more DVR filling up with crap that we somehow felt compelled to watch. Deep catalog of movies and TV shows.

Cons: No HBO shows,* no NFL,** no local TV news. I'd watch KTVZ [Edit: for local news] but we got this butte between us and the transmitter, tried that back in 2008: been there, done that. I think that $100 a month savings is worth this.

Our current watchlist is: Boss, Louie, Breaking Bad, Alphas, Children's Hospital, Parks and Rec, 30 Rock, Copper, and Episodes. With some Frasier and Cheers thrown in. Mrs Elliott probably has some ladyshows she watches when I'm not around,  I'll let her comment about that.

All in all, I feel less stupid because we're saving money, watch less TV, and what we do watch is IMO better quality.

* HBO produces some damn good shows. But not $100/month damn good.

** I'll be forced to sponge off friends or hang out at Sidelines--my favorite sports bar in Bend--to watch the games. Boo hoo.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Smoky Out There

Fire season, whatcha gonna do?

What I'd like to know is whether the air is considered safe or risky for folk, like Mrs Elliott, who have respiratory difficulties. Down in the SoCal basins of crappy air, the AQMD issues advisories about air quality.* I can't seem to find anything like that for Central Oregon.

*  Generally along the lines of "people should stay indoors."

Monday, August 6, 2012

Summer Brings a (quelle surprise!) Camping Trip

With a large son watching the house, Mrs Elliott and I are taking off for a camping trip in a couple of days.

This will be a longer camping trip than we've taken before.

We plan to head in an easterly direction, bearing toward Redfish Lake in Idaho, and though we don't care whether we make the destination or just find a sweet spot along a river or lake or meadow and decide to just park there, I know that we need to be prepared for (a) very hot weather and (2) mosquitoes.

I drove to Home Depot this morning (they open at 7 a.m. -- "man stores" open early), then Target, Big R (Redmond), and then the Columbia Sportswear Outlet. I was hunting campin' necessities and tackle.

Back home, I treated our outerwear with permethrin, a mosquito and tick repellent that, when applied to clothing and allowed to dry, stops mozzies in their tracks.

(Funny story: two weekends ago I was hiking in the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness area and I encountered fewer than a dozen mosquitoes; I wasn't bitten once. In the evenings, when the mozzies were feeding, I wore permethrin-treated clothes: a hat, a bandana, a long-sleeved shirt, and long pants; and a little DEET on the neck and wrists and face. So last week, on First Friday Art Walk downtown we ran into someone who told us that they knew two people who, as it turns out, were in the same area on exactly the same days I was, and that they were "eaten alive" by mozzies. So I know that permethrin works and it works big time.)

Wet, the stuff is nasty: it's an insecticide, and is toxic to mammals, including us primates, but dry it looks to be harmless [at least when compared with West Nile disease -- Ed.]. 

If you buy permethrin spray in the camping department of your basic Walmart or REI, it's expensive: one can with enough of the stuff to do one outfit costs $7.

So at Big R I picked up some concentrate, the stuff sold for livestock use. It's a 10% concentration (the spray sold to campers is 0.5%) so I diluted the stuff to 0.7% and dunked our "evening wear"in it.

It's smelly (essence of Raid) and one needs to wear rubber gloves when handling the wet solution. But when dry it is odor-free. It says here.

Hung the clothing on a line in the backyard, let it all dry out (cotton takes ages to dry), and we now have seriously anti-mozzie toggery.

I bought a spray bottle we can use to keep cool with by spraying each other with water while driving. The van does not have air conditioning, and we learned from last year's trip down to East Park Reservoir (a camping trip with elder stepson and his redneck friends at one of their favorite "loud engine" rowdy places, it's south of Redding--a hellishly-hot part of the world) that simply spritzing each other with water while driving was perfectly sufficient for keeping cool. I expect the drive to Idaho to be hot hot hot, so this should help help help.

From Target I snagged some C9 underdrawers (on sale) that are far more comfortable than cotton in hot and damp climate.

For the van (1984 VW "Westfalia" poptop camper) I'm a gonna bring some additional spare mechanical parts: When I was driving back from a summer trip two years ago (H. Bruce Miller and I rented a cabin at Flathead Lake in Montana for fishin' and kayakin') I encountered hot hot weather and drove some nasty long long steep desert passes and the engine in the van cut out every couple minutes, for several seconds (causing High Anxiety) repeatedly (but dependably). I was unable to determine the cause, but high temps and long climbs both seem to be required to make this happen.

So this time I am bringing a spare engine Electronic Control Unit, a spare ignition coil, and hoping to get my hands on a spare Hall-effect sensor for the distributor, as all three of these are apparently susceptible to "heat soak," i.e., failure under high temperature.

I'll keep those on hand and if the hot-weather behavior reoccurs, I'll start changing out parts.

Mrs Elliott-specific gear which needed to be added: a banana lounger for lounging on the ground, an inflatable air mattress for lounging on the water, and a hammock for lounging between trees. Get the picture of what camping with Mrs Elliott is like?

Me, I like tinkering with camping gear, reading, looking at maps, and cooking. Maybe catch a trout. Cook 'em if I got 'em.

Her? She likes napping when we camp. 

Which is fine, I do like her company, and Happy Wife, Happy Life!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Secrets I Cannot Reveal

I've mentioned that Big Troy (Troy Fox), a barbecue expert, before (here and here), and had the good fortune to run into him downtown last Friday evening during the First Friday Art Walk in downtown Bend while he was setting up his barbecue trailer in the alley between Minnesota and Oregon between Bond and Wall Streets. 

"Troy," I said, "I've made some pretty good ribs," (see: here , and here), "but I have never been able to cook ribs that fall off the bones."

Troy set down a 14-lb sack of mesquite charcoal and asked how are you doing it. 

I described my method of slow-cooking the ribs over a cool fire or in a cool oven for hours, mopping (glazing) them every 30 minutes then finishing on a hot fire.

He listened, nodding in all the right places, then laid it out for me. Step-by-step. Big Troy, with discursage into barbecue arcanea, explained how to get ribs that fall off the bone and invite another bite. 

Trade secrets, he told me, insider tricks learned from other barbecue chefs (carbonated soft drinks are involved), learned from chefs at some of Bend's restaurants, things that only barbecue geeks talk about.

What I learned, I cannot pass on. My limps are sealt. 

But everything I had been doing was wrong. 

Today I applied what I learned and I made the most delicious lip-smackin' chewy and soft ribs I've ever made. The texture I've been looking for, with a depth of flavor that I've never achieved before. My seasoning was off: too many hours brining led to an overly-salted taste, but I can adjust. 

A-and, doing ribs this way is much easier than I had been doing before. 

Knocking About

Mrs Elliott and I went to the Deschutes County Fair on Saturday night. Never been there before. It ain't San Diego's Del Mar Fair, but it's a perfectly adequate and satisfactory fair. I got no gripes, and found access to be far easier than dealing with the horrific traffic we used to have to wade through on the I-5 in Del Mar.

We got some indifferent barbecue, we got to the rodeo too late to get a seat in the bleachers, we watched a dog competition of some sort (I was kind of baked so it seemed more interesting than it probably really was, but I loved the childlike energy of the dogs), and we almost paid $40 ("This normally sells for $60! But the `fair price' is only $40!") for a decent-seeming floor mat that can be found on the Webbernetz for $15.

I didn't find a ride I wanted to go on. Our tradition, since we first started dating, is to take a ride on the Ferris wheel at sunset, and smooch at the top.

There was no Ferris wheel.

I had a sad.

But since I was baked--did I already mention that?--I had a lovely time anyway.

Anyway, moving into the much-anticipated photo event.

 We visited a photo booth:
Automated Photo Booth
Mr and Mrs Elliott
Mrs Elliott looked pretty cute so I snapped a shot:

Jack Elliott
The Swell Mrs Elliott
Rack courtesy of setting sun's tasteful side lighting

And my entry into the "Photos of the Fair" category is here:

Jack Elliott
Deschutes County Fair, 2012

When we left, we took the wrong exit from the expo and found ourselves wandering about the parking lot, convinced that nefarious personages--evildoers!--had stolen the car. But we found it, and laughed at our mistake.

On the way back to Bend we stopped by Maverick's, a country bar and grill on Bend's NE side. Why? Because our goofy 26 year-old son, Brian, has taken up some kind of cowboy line-dancing or Texas one-and-a-half-step dance activity there and we hoped to see him and act all old parents-y with him--but he had other plans. So we went to the Brickhouse restaurant at the Old Mill instead.

I ordered a glass of Pinot Grigio, which was terrible, and requested the Prosecco to replace it. It was barely any better. But the cheese and fruit platter was quite satisfactory. Call it a "mixed review."

Back home for an hour of reruns, then to bed.

We rode our bikes this morning. Used our sweet little Specialized road bikes. Up Shevlin Park to Mt. Washington Drive, west until we ran into the road closure, then back home via the same route. I let Mrs Elliott set the pace and route because she was torn between going to Zumba class or going on a bike ride. I knew she wanted to feel like she'd burned off last night's fair food, so I wanted her to feel like she got all the riding she wanted. 

This afternoon, after I put some ribs into the oven, we (Mrs Elliott, son Brian, and I) loaded up our new kayak hauler, hooked it to Mrs Elliott's (Bend-mandated) Subaru Outback, and hauled those kayaks up to a spot above Healy Bridge on Alderwood Circle and launched them from the Deschutes River Trail. There's a brief--far too brief--chunk of Class I or II river (I don't know the designations well) right above the bridge before it flattens out and becomes the classic Bend river float. 

Must. Find. More. Interesting. Chunks. Of. River. To. Paddle.

I could a used about two hours of river just like that short bit above the bridge. Anyone knows of a place like that around here, pls 2 advise.  

 BUT, the kayak hauler worked just fine! It towed like a dream. 

"Too bad," sighed Mrs Elliott,"that the hauler could also carry two bicycles on it."

Brilliant, that women. Glad I married her. 

I'll start working on it right away. 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Our New Kayak Hauler

As I mentioned a few days ago, Mrs Elliott and I needed a way to easily bring our two kayaks on next week's camping trip. Mrs Elliott found a trailer listed on craigslist that looked interesting.

From the advert:
As purchased: this trailer had been modified with padding, a longer tongue and a crossbar.
Originally set up for a 14 or 15 foot Hobie angling kayak, it was going to need some work to carry two 10' recreational kayaks. But I saw that with some modifications and cleanup, it would work. So I bought it and towed it home for rebuilding.

First off, it was too long, and the tongue was not very strong. I wanted to build a new one which was stronger and shorter by 4 feet--a more reasonable length.

I disassembled the entire tongue assembly (and threw out my lower back in the process, ow), which consisted of two 2x3s set end-to-end and encased in thin-gauge metal rain gutter downspout stock with Erector set-style angle irons added for strength.

The new tongue needed a 10 foot 2x3, but what I found in town were only 8' lengths. So I had to buy a 10' 2x4 and break out my cheap-o Harbor Freight table saw (which had been gathering dust in the garage since we moved here in 2008); ripped the 2x4 down to a narrower 2x3, cut the downspout stock to the new, shorter, length, and braced the whole assembly with heavy 1-1/2 x 1-1/2 1/8'' heavy steel angle stock.

Then I gave the new tongue a coat of fire engine red paint. It looks spiffy.

Trailer with shorter tongue and new paint.

Second, because the turn, brake, and running lights didn't work I needed to clean up the wiring.
The wire harness itself wasn't a total mess, but the grounding was a disaster. I found that the plug that connects the trailer to the vehicle had its ground pin missing, and the chassis didn't provide good grounding for any of the lights. This due to the frame having been assembled using Nylok nuts, which are insulating, and heavy paint which prevented good grounding by insulating the frame members from each other. I could have replaced the nuts with plain steel noninsulating types and used toothed (star) lock-washers to cut through the paint, but it was easier to just add dedicated ground wiring. For the rest, I reused the existing wires, replaced some wire nuts with crimped-on butt splices, soldered some other connections, then secured it all with cable ties. 

Whoops -- looks like I published this post before it was finished! I have some more steps to describe.

Update: Once the mechanical and electrical bits were completed, I set a Rubbermaid* tub atop the frame; the tub will hold kayaking essentials like life vests, dry bags, and other stuff.
The tub holds all our kayaking gear and is strapped to the frame with nylon lashing straps. 
With the kayaks strapped in place:
The tub provides center support for the two kayaks.
This setup is not complete because I plan to re-attach the crossarm and mount two sets of "J cradles" to hold the kayaks more securely and make loading and unloading easier. Though the J cradles have been ordered from a vendor on eBay, they won't be here in time for the trip. Even so, with this setup the rig is quite stable and secure, and will suffice for our camping trip.

While I was at it, I bought a couple of bike hanger kits from Harbor Freight and rigged them up in the garage. Got the damn kayaks up and out of the way!
Update the second: Here's the kayak hauler on Mrs Elliott's Subaru:

Here, the kayaks are held down with three lash straps; a simpler rigging both easier and as secure as my first try. I I added a trailer hitch and your basic 1-7/8ths-inch ball to Mrs Elliott's car. (Parts courtesy Jerry's RV on SE 3rd.) 

* "Rubbermaid" is a word that both arouses me and fills me with terror. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Makes Owning a Camera Worthwhile!

One of my favorite people in Bend is local artist, Katherine Taylor. She's a painter in oils, and a heck of a good one, too. Her art hangs in the Lahaina Gallery in the Old Mill.

When I'm camping I keep her in mind whenever I see a great sky. Central Oregon has wonderful skies, wonderful cloud formations, great lighting; and if I see something striking, I take a picture of it and send it to her, thinking that she might perhaps find some inspiration for her work in what I see.

This morning I got a nice surprise in an email from Katherine in which she wrote,
"I did this painting recently and I got the image idea from a bunch of photos you so graciously shared with me early last year when you returned from camping. [...] It's a beautiful sunset - you really captured something spectacular here."
Katherine Taylor
Cascade Lake Sky 
(Used with permission)
Wow. Just wow.

She writes, "And look at this other spectacular sunset photo you took in this batch; beautiful! Might be the subject of my next painting (I'm really digging the sunset scenes right now) [...]"

Wickiup Reservoir (Jack Elliott, 2011)

Her painting of the sunset is too wet to hang at Lahaina Gallery right now though it should be there in a couple of weeks.

But here's something new by her that will be up in time for First Friday:

Katherine Taylor
Wrapped in Green
(Used with permission)
It's really quite an honor to contribute to someone of Taylor's caliber. More of her art can be seen here.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Plenty To Do!

1. Now that I've shut down my audio amplifier repair business, Mrs Elliott will be moving her company into my former shop's space. This will free up the downstairs den area which her business is presently occupying. I can install a decent stereo and do man-cave decorating. But there's a lot of stuff to throw away and sell on

2. I've got a camping trip to prep for: with our hulking ex-military son watching the place, Mrs Elliott and I will be heading east toward Idaho (or wherever fancy and impulse take us) next week. Redfish Lake, Ida., is said to be nice. Right now I'm trying to figure out a way to easily carry two kayaks without spending an arm and a leg at Rack 'N' Roll downtown.
My options are:
A) Mount some "J cradles" atop our 1984 VW poptop camper. The upside is that we don't need to bring a trailer for the kayaks. The downside is that neither of us is tall enough to wrestle kayaks up and down from the poptop, and that with the kayaks up there, it will take more strength than I possess to pop the top. 
B) Mount some J cradles on my little camping utility trailer. Not a bad idea, but the tongue of the trailer is short, so the kayaks interfere with opening and closing the van's rear hatch; we would have to either unship the kayaks off the trailer or unhitch it and move it away from the van. 
C) Get a dedicated trailer with a long tongue, set up to handle two kayaks. This is the most expensive solution, and I'd need to find a place on our tiny property to stash the trailer when not in use, but we're looking at some offerings on craigslist. 
There are also a bazillion other details to attend to.

3. Then a backpacking trip: right after we get back from the camping trip, I'm-a headin' out on a solo hike for five, six nights somewhere in the Three Sisters Wilderness. The hike I took in the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness a few days ago was a good shakedown, and I reckon I've got pretty much everything sorted, gear-wise. It's just a matter of packing more food and fuel for my alcohol stove, and deciding what shelter and clothing to bring in response to the weather forecast. Which, as anyone who lives hereabouts will tell you, is only a Serving Suggestion.

[Edit: oh yeah, I also need to clean out the damn garden shed. This thing was loaded up with stuff when we moved here in 2008 and sorting the shed out was near the bottom of my stack of Things I Gotta Do so I put it off. In 2009 I got ankle surgery, so I put it off. In 2010 I, uh, just put it off. Same for 2011: I had so many fun summer activities scheduled that, once again, I put it off. I cannot put it off any more: there are garden chemicals leaked all over the place, rusty paint cans, gardening implements of destruction (e.g., rakes and shovels) scattered hither and yon, and other random crap in helter-skelter, desultory, thoughtless heaps. Something Must Be Done. Where are the servants when you need them?]

Playing Cowpoke at Miz Elliott's Birthday Party

When I was a kid, growing up in Santa Barbara in the '50s, my brothers and I played "cowboys and Indians" a lot. We put on cowboy hats and shot at each other with chrome cap guns.  As an adult the only times I've worn Western garb was on dude ranches.

Fortunately I still have my black felt stetson (from a father-daughter dude ranch vacation of about 12 years ago when my daughter was only eight) because Mrs Elliott tossed a party last weekend out on the Back 40 for her 60th birthday and everyone was invited to come in cowboy drag.

So I took that hat down from the top shelf of the closet and dusted it off. And Buckaroo Jack was back.
Buckaroo Jack (durr).

Buckarette Miz Elliott. Much cuter than Buckaroo Jack. 
Buckaroo Jack sings "Happy Birthday" to Buckarette Miz Elliott.

H. Bruce Miller bellies up to the martini bar for a gen-u-wine Western-style Strawberry Margarita.

Cowboy Woody Bob shows how it's done.

Cowgirl Sharon Miller gonna rope herself a heifer for dinner.

The weather was perfect. Food was ribs, chicken and tri-tips, catered by Big Troy's BBQ of Bend (Troy Fox, cell: 209 649-4150); music by the Rockhounds.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Backpacking the High Strawberry Lakes

Jack just got back from a very enjoyable three-night backpacking trip in the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness area in the Malheur National Forest, just south of Prairie City, Ore. The area has about 125 miles of hiking trails and encompasses almost 70,000 acres of forested lands. There are lakes and streams and meadows, mountain peaks and, this time of year, wildflowers, butterflies, mountain goats (saw a flock of 19), and elk (saw their hoofprints, anyway).

My plan was to enter the Wilderness at the Strawberry Lake trailhead, hike to Strawberry Lake, spend the night there, then embark on the "grand 15.6-mile circuit of the high Strawberries" as described on page 62, Hike #23 in 100 Hikes / Travel Guide Eastern Oregon by William Sullivan (second edition). The route encompass Strawberry Lake, Little Strawberry Lake, High Lake, and Slide Lake. 

I got a late start on the trip because I went with Mrs Elliott to the Redmond airport to greet a small flock of Mrs Elliott's lifelong girlfriends who flew up from SoCal to help Mrs Elliott celebrate her birthday. Once the greetery was done it was nearly noon and I boarded Mellow Yellow, my 1984 VW poptop camper van and drove east on highway 26 through Prineville, Mitchell, Dayville, John Day, then stopped at the US Forestry station in Prairie City to check on trail conditions because the day before I struck out, the forestry service's website said that the southern part of the Wilderness was closed due to fire restrictions, so I figured I might have to change my plans.

The nice lady there told me that the trail restrictions had just been lifted--good news, I could do the hike I wanted to do. I filled my tank with gas, drove to the trailhead, changed into my hikin' clothes, and wandered the one mile or so (and 600' elevation gain) to Strawberry Lake. There was a nice spot between two creeks on the far shore of the lake, close to the trail I was going to take the following morning, so I set up camp. 

The day was overcast and windy, a bit cool. A fisherman camping on the shore of the lake had told me that the fish were biting, so once I dropped pack, I unpacked my fly and bubble rig, and looking through my gear, discovered that I could not find the line nipper. "No matter," I thought: I can use my teeth.

After tying a dry fly onto the leader, I found that this little 2lb monofilament is tougher than it looks. It took a bit of gnawing to nip off the tag end of the knot. 

But that was just the start of the fun. 

Once on the shoreline, I made a practice cast and the fly immediately snagged a chunk of waterlogged wood about 40 feet from shore and nothing I could do would budge it. I had to tug the line until it snapped, losing the fly and leaving only about 18'' of leader. 

That's when I discovered that I didn't bring any extra leader.

"Oh bother," I said, eyeing the rod with dislike. "Stupid fishing is a distraction from hikin' and campin' anyway!" so I set the rod aside and set up camp.

I brought minimal gear: no tent, because I hoped to be able to sleep under the stars and the weather report promised nothing more than a 40% chance of thunderstorms the first day, then clear weather the next two, so I just brought a coated nylon tarp (Kifaru Paratarp) that can be used as a ground cloth or, with trekking poles and tent stakes, as a roof over my head.

The wind was stiffening, getting gusty, and there were little spatters of rain, so I decided I'd best set the tarp up as a shelter. Once it was up with my little air mattress and sleeping bag tucked under it, I sat outside, snacked on dinner, watched the sky darken, and thought about my options. It went like this:

Option 1. Focus on Fishing: I came to hike and camp and fish. I'd made a mess of the fishing today, but I didn't want to give up. The fishing at Strawberry Lake was described as good, so I could stay here and make do with the tackle I had.  
Option 2. Cop Out: I could hike the short distance up to Little Strawberry Lake and set up camp there, maybe fish a little, and do a day hike from the lake, at 6,900 feet elevation, to the top of Strawberry Mountain (9,045 ft), and back.  
Option 3. Stick to the Plan: Keep the focus on the hikin' and campin, do the loop as planned, fish if the opportunity comes. 
#1 sounded too lazy and boring, #2 wasn't interesting, but #3 had that essential quality of challenge. And I would not feel proud unless I did the loop This trip was meant to be a trial run for a scheduled longer hike for about six nights in the Cascades later this summer. If I didn't do this hike, I would not know whether I could do the other.

I studied the topo map and re-read Sullivan's description of the route and saw that it was not going to be easy: tomorrow's hike to High Lake would be nearly eight miles, and I had to climb up from Strawberry Lake, at an elevation of 6,200' to a trail junction at 8,350' on a shoulder of Strawberry Mountain before dropping down to the High Lake basin, where I was planning to camp the following night.  I hoped I could do it. 

Those of you who walk up Pilot Butte--a trip of one mile in length with an elevation gain of 500' feet--will appreciate considering a hike eight times the length and four times the height.

It was a noisy night, the wind battered the tarp, but mere noise does not get between Jack and slumber. I slept warm and I slept comfortable. I awoke early, as I do, and found calm air but still overcast skies. By 7:45 after a cup of hot tea then one of coffee (Starbucks' Via is the best thing for lightweight backpacking in the past ten years) I was on the trail. 

I passed 60' tall Strawberry Falls on the way up. (Click on picture for a larger version.)

I walked through several meadows filled with wildflowers and butterflies. 

A green meadow, Strawberry Mountain looming in the background.

Getting close to the ridge which leads to the trail junction, this is the trail looking back the way I came from Strawberry Lake basin. 

Finally, the high spot. I could turn right here, and climb up another 700 feet and a mile or so to the top of Strawberry Mountain, or turn left and start working my way down to High Lake. Though the clouds were blowing away, it was cold and gusty, and I didn't bring a windbreaker or rain jacket, so I turned left. 

It was a fairly easy hike to High Lake, and I arrived at 12:45, but I was nevertheless fatigued. Lots of climbing, and at a high elevation. This is pretty thin air. 

I dropped my pack on the trail and explored the lake to see where the good campsite might be, and found a nice one on the southwest side. 

After soaking my tired feet in the lake's outlet stream, I noticed that there were plenty of trout rising near the shore of the lake, napping down bugs; so I took another look at the fishing tackle and decided that it was worth a try, even with almost no leader. 

I tied on an ant-like dry fly and cast it several times. No takers, though one trout apparently thought that the bubble looked like pizza and made a trial run at it. I switched to a pale-colored dry (I am a fly newbie and can't name the things), and while there were several strikes, I was either too soon or too late at setting the hook, so I merely managed to get the fly back, soaked and sunk. 

Dried it off, applied more floatant, and tried again. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Dozen or more casts later I hooked a nice little 6'' Brook trout. Yes, a small fish, but the first I've ever caught hiking, so I was rather pleased. 

I was planning to cook it on the campfire (see great YouTube how-to video here, love how the guy says everything VERY LOUDLY), but after cleaning the fish, I realized that I had brought no trout-cookin' supplies. Yes, I could have laid it directly on the coals, but when I cleaned it, I removed the head, giving me no handy gill openings to snag the fish out of the fire with using a stick. Trout's too slippery to pick up with two sticks, chopsticks-style, and I'd left my protective asbestos gloves home with my welder's goggles. 

And, after thinking about it for a bit, I realized that all I had was a small knife, a French Opinel No.8 pearwood handle folding knife with carbon steel blade, which did a bangup job of gutting the fish but might be a bit dicey as an eating implement, especially given that I had freshly honed it before the trip and had brought no fork. In addition, I had nothing to eat fish off of. No plate, no pot lid, not even any aluminum foil. Eating trout off the ground or even a flat rock did not sound very appetizing, so I regretfully buried the fish.

Camp at High Lake, dusk.

During the afternoon, the wind abated and I thought I might be able to sleep under the stars. But trusting not the Oregon weather, I staked out the tarp as a tent, then collapsed it by pulling out the hiking staffs/tent poles so the tarp would lay flat for use as a groundsheet under my bed, but could be set up quickly as a shelter if the weather changed. 

And by bedtime it had: the wind returned full force. Even better, the open end of the shelter was facing right into the wind, so the tarp was inflating like a blowfish and was clearly going to pull its stakes loose and blow into the trees. 

So I had to take it all apart and re-assemble it: mylar "space blanket" groundsheet, air mattress, down sleeping bag, inflatable pillow, and featherweight paratarp, all items so light that the slightest gust could carry them away, in the darkness, in the wind. 

But Jack is a mighty and skilled camper, with sinews like leathern straps, and hair over every square inch of his body save the top of his head where Mother Nature and genetics joined into an unholy alliance and played a cruel cruel trick. . . but anyway, Jack has been caught out in far worse conditions than this, and has set up camp in rainstorms and in blizzards with hypothermia breathing its chilling halitosis breath down his neck.

Again it gusted and rattled and roared through the night. But when I opened my eyes at first light, it was calm, calm, calm, and the sky was clear. 

The hike to my next destination, Slide Lake, was comparatively easy: only about three miles, over a pass at 8,150 feet. The trail down to the basin was interesting: it traversed a huge rockfall: 

Click on the picture to see a larger version. Find the three little snowfields just to the right and above the center of the picture. Now look just below those snowfields and you can see the trail running horizontally from left to right across the rocks.

Here, the trail crosses an ice field which has not yet been cleared. One misstep and I would have slid down 40 feet onto the rocks below. Ow.

I got to Slide Lake at about 10 o' clock and hiked around it, looking for the good campsite. At the outlet side there was a large party of rowdy young men: the sounds of chopping wood, a couple gunshots, and general whooping and hollering. I didn't want to camp near them. But I didn't find any place to camp at the far end of the lake. There was one site but it was taken by two fisherman with float tubes they'd packed in. The one in camp said that the only other nice spot was right across from the outlet where the noisy party was. The party where one member was at that moment hooting and screeching and generally being obnoxious. 

Floating out in the lake was the other fisherman, and he waited for a lull in the noise then shouted "SHUT UP! JACKASS!!"

The noise stopped immediately. 

I hiked on, and came to the mentioned campsite and it was nice, but it was only 100 yards from where the youths, now very quiet, were camped. I did not want to have to hear those goobers making noise all night so I dropped my pack and went over to their camp to address them. 

"I hiked all around this lake and I could hear you the whole time. This is a wilderness area. People come to wilderness areas to have a wilderness experience. This means quiet, and solitude, a chance to see wildlife and be at peace with nature. It means showing respect to others. It does not mean shouting and being rowdy and obnoxious. If that's what you want, then go to Shasta."

That's what I was going to say. But when I got there, they were gone. Packed up and blown outta there. 


So I had the end of the lake to myself except for the two quiet fisherman who were almost at the other end of the lake. Later on a party of six young people (three straight couples) and three well-behaved and trailwise dogs came to the lake and set up camp on the far shore across the lake. Never heard a peep out of any of them. It promised to be a nice day. 

I gave thought to catching some more fish and figured that I could always poach one or two in my little titanium cooking pot over a fire, but my ankle was getting tender. 

So far, my ankle, which had been fused in 2009 (after about 30 years of slow degenerative breakdown due to traumatic arthritis) had not been bothering me. I was expecting it to give me some trouble because it did so after last year's two trial backpacking trips and an earlier one I did this year with my son to Alder Springs, with inflamed and very tender tendons. 

On this trip I was using a sturdy ankle brace, a new item, but once in camp at Slide Lake, my tendons started to ache and walking was painful. Fishing was out of the question. 

I babied my ankle all day, and worried about the trip out: on the next day I had to walk five miles back down to the trailhead, with a 1,900 foot elevation drop. Downhills are tough on feet, ankles, and knees. 

I worried about this a lot. I feared I might get crippled up midway down and have to be dragged the rest of the way by a helpful hiker. But as the sun was going down, I had a thought: I had been thinking about my ankle as if it still had arthritis, which it doesn't. In fact, there is no longer an ankle joint for arthritis to attack: it's fused. What's hurting are the tendons. And while an arthritic joint will never get stronger, tendons will. 

Treat it, then, I thought, with Ibuprofen and cold water to reduce the inflammation, rest it, and use it and it will get stronger. 

That was the plan, the hope. I left that worry aside and enjoyed the rest of the evening. 

It had been calm, warm, and sunny all day, and there was no sign of any of the winds that had driven me into the shelter the previous two nights, so I again set my bed atop the flattened but staked paratarp and, when full dark came, I climbed into my snug little bed, read a couple pages more of Moby-Dick (a rollicking good tale) on my Kindle, and fell asleep under the stars. 

The hike out was uneventful, the trail pretty. My ankle was fine, has been fin since. My theory about it just needing to get stronger holds. 

This was probably one of the prettiest and most fun backpacking trips I've taken. The scenery was diverse and interesting, the weather dramatic enough to be interesting but never a threat, the campsites comfortable, plenty of clean drinking water, good coffee, good whisky, good tea, good food; and I packed exactly what I needed to bring, with hardly one item extra*: Those who backpack know that if you take more stuff than you need, you're gonna have a bad time; and if you leave behind some essential item, you're gonna have a bad time. 

Bringing exactly what you need, no more and no less, is the trick. 
Greetings, indoor-people, from Slide Lake, July 2012. 

* I did bring a little extra food, returning with 1-1/2 lbs uneaten (mostly summer sausage and two foil packets of tuna), and an unneeded mosquito headnet. That's not bad at all. 
------------ Facebook update page widget added 3/2012 --------------
------------ ends facebook update page widget -------------