Wednesday, April 30, 2008

2008 First tirp to the Current River

If you're into the outdoors and "floating" in Missouri, (by canoe, raft, or tube) you've probably been to or at least heard of the Current River (info) in southern Missouri. The Current River is a spring fed river with headwaters starting at Montauk State Park (info) and moving south towards Arkansas. This area is part of the Ozark National Senic Riverways. There are a lot of small rivers to float in south Missouri, but the Current is my favorite of all the ones I've floated over the past 20 years or so. Clear cold water, excellent landscape scenery, and lots of trout to fish. At the headwaters at Montauk there's a fish hatchery run by the state where they raise trout. It's amazing seeing these trout in the tanks. They're separated by size and eventually released into the Current River to go where they please. When it's feeding time you can't even see any water between the fish because they feed so aggressively. I read somewhere that trout were first introduced to the Current by railroad workers coming from the west. From what I understand, most trout in the Current are from the hatchery and not "wild", but that some decendents from the original stock may still be reproducing outside the hatchery.
One of my best friends of more than half my life, Morgan, and I headed down two Fridays ago for the earliest float/camping trip I've ever done in Missouri. The weather can be very volitile this time of year and a strong storm can change things for the worse very quickly when you're around a river. Flash floods are a real concern- it rains heavily upstream, you're downstream where it may not be raining at all. The runoff water from the rain upstream builds and a wall of water heads downstream while you sit on the bank considering your next trip to the cooler for another "coldun" (cold one) with your fishing line in the water. Next thing you know the river seems to be getting strangly bigger and you move back a bit to keep your feet dry. Suddenly you realize what's going on as the river rapidly rises and you grab your cooler to head for safety. You make it to higher gound as the rest of your belonging are swept downstream along with trees, brush, cattle,and the occassional human.

Well, none of that stuff happened on this trip- although we were very aware of the possibility. In normal conditions the Current runs about 2' to 2.25' above Akers Ferry (One of the landmarks of the upper Current). 4' is considered "flood stage". On April 10th the Current was at 12' at Akers Ferry. That's a lot of water. Luckily, the water was pretty much back to normal when we got down there. We camped right near the river at a federal campground that is not widely known. I hope it stays that way because it's much better than most of the outfitter campgrounds which consist of a big field that's been overused. At those places you tend to be surrounded by people, loud music, yelling and cigarette smoke. This federal spot is pretty much hidden, quiet, senic, and non-comercialized. No one even works there. You just put $5.00 in a box and choose your spot.
We arrived about noon and set up camp. Morgan likes to really get things set up quickly when we camp. He says it bothers him until it's all done. I think that must be some primative instinct. We knew the possibility of heavy storms was in the forecast. Luckily, Morgan brought his weather radio. After setting up we headed to the river and started fishing- no luck- the water was still too high in this spot and fast with no cover for the fish to hide behind. Morgan tried to start a fire by rubbing sticks together for about 10 minutes. Then I got out the firestarter block and got the fire going. We were visited by our neighbors from about three camp spots over. They were a couple of guys from Kentucky visiting for turkey hunting. I only have two things to say about their visit. One: First impressions make a difference and the size of one of the guy's shirtless beerbelly was enough to worry me a great deal- it was awful. Two: When I say, "Well, we better get dinner started." that's your cue to bug out instead of poaching another coldun. Anyhoo, Thunder began to rumble in the distance and drew closer. We cooked dinner, (chicken with tomatoes and black beans) and just as we sat down to eat- it began to rain. Luckily Morgan has set up a lean-to with an extra wall blocking the direction the wind was blowing from so the rain couldn't blow in on us. It turned out to be a full on storm as we sat under our lean-to staying dry. As we listened to the computerized voice on the weather radio warning of the severe weather headed our way we came up with an emergency plan that consisted of Morgan running for higher ground and leaving me to grab what gear I could since it was pretty much all mine- bastard. Luckily, the storm came and went in about 20 minutes. After the storm, Morgan thought we better put a water mark stick down by the river so we could see if it started coming up. He notched it for reference and we felt slightly more secure. Turned out to be a nice evening and the sky even cleared. It got calm. But still I wondered if the river would come up and get me in my sleep.
The night was filled with me waking up thinking I could hear the river roaring as it rose to drown me. It turned out to be the wind blowing through the trees that surrouned us. It got fairly windy since a cold front was coming though. And as it does when a cold front comes through- it got cold. Down to about 40 degrees. I got up once to check the stick and see if the water on our marker was coming up. As I peered down the beam of light from the mag lite onto the stick I could see I was worrying for nothing and slept better the rest of the night- until our neighbors rolled in from a nearby bar at about 4:00am. They kind of hinted at us joining them on a trip to the bar, but I didn't bring my banjo and this wasn't Deliverance.

We got up the next morning and got the fire going again, ate a pound of bacon, and broke camp. We saw one of our neighbors staggering to the outhouse about 8:30 and I was thinking he didn't make it up for the morning hunt. Morgan also discovered he had a tick on him in a real bad spot. I'll let you use your imagination on that one. We drove to Akers Ferry, about 9 miles away, and got picked up for the float by the outfitter. We were the first customers of the year. We put in about 9:30 and started our float by going right by the place we had camped before. Luckily, the river never came up whatsoever. It actually dropped a little. So much for the lost sleep over worry of a flash flood.
Something to keep in mind when going on a float. There are two kinds: Kind one: Float, drink, swim, and be rediculous. Kind two: Float and fish, have a couple but keep your wits about you for when you snag your line in a tree while getting turned around in a riffle. The main thing to keep in mind is that it's either a fishing float or not. Don't try to mix a couple of people wanting to fish with others who don't. It just doesn't work- sort of like socks on a rooster.
Turned out to be a great day for a float- sunny and 70 degrees. The trout were very active too. I think between the two of us we caught close to 10 fish. It took us a while to find out what they were hitting on, (rooster tail) but once we did it got pretty fun.

So to make a long story a little longer, it was a good first tirp of the year. I'm planning on heading down at the end of this month to do it again. It's good for your mind. Kind of clears your head. Here's a shot of Morgan reeling in a trout. Next trip- more pics.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Gardening at Night

We've been very busy in the yard between cold spells, planting, trimming, and mowing. It kind of becomes a part time job this time of year. That's alright though, it really beats winter.

Leslie just had to get the pots done on Thursday evening. Then it became Thursday night. We needed light and it made for a couple of interesting shots.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

People who should stop telling others how to live- the short list

I just read an interesting article about this guy. Here. If all the facts in this article are true, I'd be looking for advice elsewhere. I'm not reallly surprised by what I read. I just find it irritating.

And here's his buddy who is apparently disin' him now that his rep is sliding.
She spends a lot of time talking about marriage. Funny, she's never actually been married herself. Tell Stedman I said hi.

Most of you don't know this guy. Try to keep it that way. He's a self proclaimed "slave" for Jesus. He always reminded me more of Mr. French from "Family Affair"

Oh wait, this one's dead. He can't do much harm in that state. HaHa.
Let's end on a positive note. This guy is worth listening to. Ohh yeah!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Elements of my life

I'm kind of a vehicle guy. I've had seven vehicles since I started driving: 1 Volkswagon, 1 Ford, 2 Toyotas, and 3 Hondas. Big whoop, I know. This post is just about one (or three) of them- the Elelment. If you've never ridden in an Element or at least taken a close look- you should. You might even be among the majority that think it's ugly. Well, all I can say to that is that you're ugly if you don't love my Element.

Here's the family album of my "E" family.
This is the E I got in 2005 after riding in a friend's and loving it. Four speed automatic. At the time, this was the best E you could get- the EX. It had all wheel drive, waterproof seats, big stereo for a stock stereo- even had a subwoofer. I loved this E. Hauled everything in it- deer, wood, concrete, bricks, bikes (one time I had four bikes and three people in it), and anything else I needed. The E has over 75 cubic feet of cargo space. As a comparison, a Honda Accord Sedan has 12. So you really can put a bunch of stuff in it. I did a lot of bike race trips in this E. One of my favorite things about all Elements is that they have NO carpet. So it doesn't matter if you have muddy boots on or a dirty wet dog after a trip to the dog park. But I digress. On with the family album.

Another shot of my first Element.

Oh, #2... kind of a redheaded stepchild. This one was an '08. In 2007 Honda made some nice changes (upgrades) to the Element. More horsepower, five speed transmission, standard painted quarter panels, traction control, airbag front to rear, and some other cool trim stuff like blue back lit gauges instead of standard green. I was able to sell my first one for a profit and pick up this one for a basic flip. It was like getting a brand new car for less than what I still owed on the first one. It was a good deal. I didn't go with the black this time because I wanted something that would look cleaner longer- black is really hard to keep clean. It was kind of a boring color- but it was different. Then, after a few short weeks of driving, I started noticing a strange noise. To make a long story short, Honda's change to the transmission made this one "drone" loudly when at cruising speed. The exact speed I travel 250 miles a week for work. It got really annoying. So it went to the shop three times. Finally, it was discovered that ALL the new ones with the automatic 5 speed tranny do this. My solution- get rid of it. I only had this brown cow for about three months. Kind of a skeleton in the family closet.

Then one day, this one showed up from Chicago on special order.
Pretty. My favorite of the three. 2008 EX AWD 5 speed Manual. Like the one before it, this one is an '08 but since it's a manual transmission it's geared differently and doesn't make that noise that I couldn't stop listening to. It's much more fun to drive and the black is black. I also got splash guards and side steps with this one- nice touches. Since I've had it I also added a hood deflector (great for all the highway driving with semi traffic throwing crap up all the time) and a custom grill guard. At some point I'm going to get a short ram intake, torque dampener, and fog lights and bull bar. I plan on keeping this one for quite some time.

Where are they now: The 2005 lives in St. Louis and belongs to a nice family that does a lot of triathlons. The brown bag '08 also lives in STL and belongs to a guy who works in film. I made sure he knew about the sound- but it didn't seem to bother him. He was very excited about getting an almost new Element for a great deal.

Other Element facts: two power outlets (front and rear), front and rear seats fold down to make a bed (yes, I've used it), rear seats fold up into the sides of the vehicle or can be taken out completely to leave you with the practical equivalent of a 5 foot truck bed.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Mr. Fix-it

"We know what to do when it rains." That's a quote applicable to this situation. A few weeks ago my wife and I noticed the dryer wasn't doing it's job- drying the clothes. It was running, just not drying. We thought it might be time for a new dryer- so I started researching and didn't like what I saw- high prices. We have a big dryer, and I couldn't see downsizing. So I start "experimenting". I thought it had to be something simple. I took apart the dryer until it didn't look like a dryer anymore, I check electrical connections, I put it back together, I turned it on, it ran- but it didn't get hot. Luckily, in my autopsy of what I thought was a dead dryer, I found a folded up piece of paper located behind the "control panel". It turned out to be an assembly drawing of the dryer with all the parts numbered and labeled. I looked over it briefly and set it aside thinking it wasn't worth trying to fix this dryer anymore- it is about 10 years old and it came with the house when we bought it.

A few days went by and we shopped for dryers. I really didn't want to buy one. I looked over the assembly drawing again and came up with one possible solution- heating element. The dryer ran, just didn't get hot. So I called up Sears and ordered the part. It came, I installed it, it worked! I was really excited since it had only cost $60.00 instead of hundreds for a new dryer. The dryer actually worked much better than ever before now. Upon examining the old element I could see it had actually caught on fire at one point from all the lint built up in the floor of the dryer over the years. Now here's some advice- clean your dryer out occasionally. On ours there's a panel on the front that you can take off and expose the inside of the "box" I vacuumed three or four loads of lint from the inside of the dryer. Taking apart the dryer also let me clean out the parts individually. I found money and a gym ID card from the previous owner of the house in the compartment that holds the lint screen. It really helps the efficiency of the dryer to have it all cleaned out too.
So all was good again...for about three weeks. Suddenly, while drying a load the dryer just quit. This was bad. Could be anything I thought. I again took the dryer apart and started tinkering. I thought I must have knocked something loose while working on it before and the vibration of the dryer released some connection completely. No luck- must be time for a new dryer I thought again. I went back to the assembly drawing. There were two fuses listed: a thermal cut-off, and a thermal fuse. Apparently, these are safety parts that shut the dryer down if it's getting too hot. You can't tell if the fuses are blown by looking at them- they don't even look like fuses. I ordered the parts again hoping I wasn't wasting my time. When they came in I installed them and immediately the dryer worked. I was really happy. I was still only up to $100.00 total investment for the new parts. The satisfaction of repairing something I previously knew nothing about was very cool.
I'm not certain, but my theory about the fuses blowing is that the new element wasn't a good match with the old fuses. The fuses/thermal cut-off were worn out and the extra heat of the new element just pushed them over the edge.
It was a great learning experience that I hope to not have again for a long time.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

29 days to go

Time moves slowly when you are bored and detached from what you're doing. That's pretty much the feeling I've had for a while now at work. I am cooked for the year. Next week is the second part of the MAP test (math portion), and after that I think I'll feel even more done since that test is the pressure cooker of the schools today. Somehow, someone along the way decided that the MAP is a good way to judge the quality of job teachers are doing. As if student performance is a direct reflection of the job I do. Yeah right, and every kid who wants to be a pro football player will be as long as his coach is good enough. I'm just ready for this year to end. I wouldn't recommend getting into education to anyone. Sure, you get the summer off. But I assure you, you'll do 12 months worth of work in the 9 months school's in. You are tied down for the school year. I've been doing this for eight years now and I'm very efficient at what I do. I don't take work home and I don't come in extra early to get caught up. It all happens between 7:20 and 3:20. At the end of the day though you're lucky if you have the energy to use the few hours you have free before going to bed at 9:00.
Yes, this is a rant- which I rarely do on this blog because I just don't want this blog to have that vibe. I don't like to read constant complaining on other blogs, so I try not to do it here. Since this blog is mine though, I'll choose this time to leave it as a rant session.