Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Comedy = Tragedy + Time

So, I'm $350 poorer and can't have beer for another four days.

Friggin cat.

Day5.jpg
Five days after the war.

Pretty, isn't it? And that's after several days of antibiotics. I had heard that cat bites are exceptionally nasty. Turns out 40% of cat bites end up requiring medical attention.

So, let me show you my week...

Day1.jpg
Time zero.

This is about an hour after the bite. Shine pierced my finger in a number of places but the worst were his upper incisor penetrated to the bone on the side of my finger (small bloody spot) and a lower incisor punctured the middle pad of the same finger also down to the bone (not shown). The second puncture was significantly more painfull as it went straight through muscle.

Turns out Misseswether had secretly prepared hydrogen peroxide, antibiotic cream and bandages before I ever started the cats' bath water. After prying the cat off my finger we immediately washed the bites with the hydrogen peroxide, then soap and water. After finishing up with the cats we rewashed the wounds with the hydrogen peroxide, soap/water, then smeared it with triple-antibiotic cream and bandaged everything up. The finger was a little swollen and already very tender.

The next morning it was very swollen and VERY tender. Misseswether wanted me to go to the doctor but, well, I'm a guy...I didn't go when I dislocated my shoulder (don't ask), why would I go for a measely cat bite?

The next day (less than 48 hours since the bite) I begged my doctor to see me. Imagine a finger twice it's normal size, purple, and feeling like it was filled with fire ants. For those of you who don't know what what fire ant bites feel like, imagine a finger soaking in acid. Yeah, it's like that. The areas around the punctures had turned a lovely shade of black.

My doc gave me a shot of penicillin in the @ss (actually, his really cute nurse did!) and wrote me a 10-day prescription for Augmentin (a penicillin derivative). He also warned if it got worse to come back immediately.

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Day 4, 6am in the morning.

I'd been on the anitbiotics for a day and a half. No reduction in swelling. No change in the finger's size, color or pain. Friggin cat.

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Day 4, 6pm in the evening.

During the day the finger got progessively worse. Remember the fire ants? Now they were giant, mutated radioactive ants armed with lemons and broken glass.

And I couldn't have beer!

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Day 5. Ugly!

Yep, this is where you came in. It's such a good photo I had to show it twice! I spent Saturday morning in the emergency room waiting for my name to be called. The doctor had a wonderfully sadistic time lancing the wound and squeezing the pus out. According to him, the pressure of the pus pocket sealed off the capillaries supplying blood to my finger.

This is a bad thing.

After releasing the pressure(!) the blood could flow again, bringing the oral antibiotic to the site of infection. Gee, who would have thought squeezing a swollen, purple member of a man's body until white liquid squirts out was an reccomended medical treatment?

Keen observers will notice this is my LEFT index finger. Yep, you guessed it, I'm left handed. Want to try something fun ("fun" being used in the sense of "fun for other people")? Change a baby's explosively poopy diaper with the index finger of your main hand stuck straight out and covered with wounds.

Stupid friggin' cat.

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Day 6. The antibiotic is finally working. The swelling started to go down and the pain dropped back to non-mutant ant levels.

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Day 7, with continous drainage.

Note: Shine in the background, still alive.

So anyway, that was my week. Assorted punctures, fluids, doctors, and ample use of the credit card.

And no beer.

Adventure! Excitement! Hot blond nurse rubbing my @ss!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

War!

Lather the cat well for four or five minutes then rinse.
-Directions on the bottle of flea shampoo.

Note to manufacturers of flea shampoo: please include a heavy sedative in your products! Lather cat for five minutes and then rinse? Oh yeah, that works.

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Me after the war.

Currently, my left index finger is swollen to twice its normal size and a rather nasty shade of purple. I'm going to try and get into the doctor's office tomorrow.

*sigh*

So, somehow our two inside-only cats ended up infested with fleas.

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Sweet looking, aren't they?

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The Enemy!

My first attempt at removing the fleas involved a vacuum cleaner. The less said about that the better.

Plan B involved little tubes of toxic goo squeezed onto the cats' shoulder blades. Damn lying flea-killer marketers and their false advertising. No dead fleas, just gooey, toxic cats. Little black dots would pop up, waggle their tongues at me, then disappear back into the fur. Okay, it was time for war.

It was me and Misseswether versus dozens of fleas with two cats of unknown loyalty caught in the middle. We were vastly outnumbered, but I had superior firepower. Would it be enough? Taking notes from Sun Tzu, I carefully picked my battlefield: the tub in our girls' bathroom. It seemed the perfect spot to attack.

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The battle begins!

We went with Oz first. Normally he's the grumpy, aggressive one of the two cats. You can pet him but picking him up is a good way to get shredded. I figured he'd be the tough one. Suprisingly, other than some pretty horrendous sounds he submitted to the wash without a struggle. I guess he knew we were trying to free him of his misery. Dozens of dead fleas fell from him as I rinsed him off. Sweet!

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Battle #1 goes to the Homo Sapiens!

Flush with victory, we brought Shine into the bathroom. Shine is our incredibly mellow, surfer-dude sort of cat. You can pretty much do anything you want to him and he'll just go with the flow. Dress him up as a princess, use him as a pillow, Whatever, it's all good. Washing him should be a peice of cake.

Anyone familier with pyscho killers can see where we made our mistake...

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Did you know a cat when properly motivated can crawl up a tile wall by clawing into the grout?

The battle started out badly. As soon as the water hit him he started thrashing and hissing. He's a lot more wirey and flexible than Oz and there's less of him for me to hold on to. He got free twice before I was able to bring the flea shampoo into play.

Oh boy, if I thought he didn't like water it was nothing compared to the shampoo! Suddenly I was holding a chainsaw by the wrong ended!

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Starting to go bad.

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Bad!

Shine twisted his head around and managed to sink his fangs into my finger deep enough for two of them to hit bone! His front paws tore at that same wrist while his back paws shredded my right forearm! I couldn't get him loose! He continued to chew on my finger while Misseswether sprayed him in the face with water hoping it make him to let go. He just pulled his rear claws out of my right arm and dangled from my left hand by his teech and front claws! I yelled at Missewther to stop spraying Shine, hoping he'd stop trying to tear me apart. Apparently I yelled loudly and used a certian word that, unfortunately, Miniwether heard and used the following day...oops.

Once the water was no longer spraying him he released his hold and dropped to the floor in a soapy, pissed off ball of wet fur and homicidal intent. Meanwhile Misseswether already had a cup of hydrogen peroxide ready to bath my wounds. I washed them with the peroxide, then soap and water, then hand sanitizer. Judging from the shape and color of the finger, none of that worked and it's currently raging with infection. Hopefully I'll be able to get in to my doctor tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Shine still needed to be rinsed off. There was no friggin way in hell I'd hold him in the tub again. I caught him in a towel and took him to the shower in our master bathroom. I held the shower door shut with one foot while I stood on a chair and sprayed him with water.

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Don't let the sad eyes fool you, he's a vicious monster!

Eventually all the shampoo and many dead fleas were washed down the drain. I released Shine from the shower, he stepped out, looked at me, then peed on the carpet.

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I suspect he's plotting even more of a revenge...

So, today I decide to search through the cats' fur to see if we were successful. Almost immediately I spotted little black dots scurrying around deep in their hair.

Sure, someday bards may sign of our epic war, but right now there's nothing but blood, pain, and ruin. Alas, it was all for naught...

Adventure! Excitement! Antibiotics!

UPDATE: The damage was worse than I thought.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Joy of Making

Readers of this blog may have noticed I enjoy making things. There's a certain thrill a person gets when they look at some finely handcrafted object that sprang out of their mind, through their hands, and into reality.

Or in my case that feeling of , "Eh, good enough." as I stare at some mad conglomeration of tin cans, duct tape and JB Weld...

Making runs in my family. I don't think my dad has ever owned something without modifying the heck out of it. He takes great pride in his ability to turn one thing into another. We grew up watching him do it, and in light of family finances back then we all picked up the skill to varying degrees.

Of my brothers and I, Articwether (who calls Alaska home) definately is the best maker. He's the only person I know who can design a project on paper, go to Home Depot, walk out with a bunch of wood, steel & bolts, and assemble some amazing contraption without ever having to go back to Home Depot (or the emergency room for chlorine gas inhalation).

Not suprisingly he's an engineer. It really helps if those guys are precise in their work. I don't think he even owns a roll of duct tape.

So, anyway, I'm constantly jealous of his creations: furniture he's made, greenhouses he's built, clothing he's sewn...

And now I find out he built a flying saucer!!

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Houston, all your base are belong to us!!

Apparently the firm he works for was going to get rid of some old, 10-ft diameter satellite dishes. He grabbed them and brought them home. His neighbor welded up the landing gear while Articwether built the interior floor and added portholes. Then they bolted everything together and sent their kids off into space. Lately I've been wanting to do that, too. But I digress.

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Roswell, he we come!

A few years ago I discovered an abandoned satellite uplink station out in the Borderlands.
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After seeing Arcticwether's saucer I figured I could do the same with these dishes. Unfortunately someone else has scavenged them. I guess that mean's only the Alaskan branch of our clan will have interplanetary flight capabilities. That's probably for the best...

Adventure! Excitement! Boldly going where No-wether has gone before!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Wisdom: 33

If "Plan A" involves holding the cat on your lap while trying to vacuum off it's fleas...
just move on to "Plan B".

Adventure! Excitemet! Experience!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Crow River, Part 5: A Very Lost Boy

Part 1 Here
Part 2 Here
Part 3 Here
Part 4 Here

but to find your way back you'll need a guide.
Bring the boy who died.

-last line of the letter.

There's a belief that all roadside attractions were once spots of great power. Locations of shrines and temples now stand covered by giant concrete dinosaurs, houses with notorious pasts or shacks shaped like food selling postcards and tiny spoons. I don't know if this is really true but even now when I pass one I feel something. Its like the itch in the palm a man feels after his hand had been cut off. Something I no longer have feels something that isn't there.

When I was six a flaw was discovered in my heart. A pretty big flaw, but one that could be fixed. The doctor who did it was a large man, almost giant. Sitting in his office with my parents all I could do was stare at his hands. How could hands that big fit inside my chest?

That doesn't matter though, it's only a small part of the big story. It hardly even matters that during the surgery something went wrong and I died. My parents tell me my heart stopped beating for five minutes, thirty-eight seconds.

What matters is what happened during this time.

I was on a path of some sort, surrounded by trees and bushes. I could see it leading down to an large, open glade in the woods. The path was wide and there were lots of people walking towards the glade. Some were running towards it, other stepped slowly. I was the only one I could see standing still. The woods around us looked very deep and unsettlingly dark, unlit by the light that warmed the glade ahead. Everywhere beneath the trees grew an unbroken wall of thorny scrub...except for maybe one small, small opening leading off to...somewhere back in the woods.

Behind me the path disappeared over a tall hill. That way looked too hard and everyone else was heading down to the glade. I started walking that way too. It was farther away than it looked and bigger than I thought. Getting there, it reminded me of grampa's fields. There was even a small brook running through the center like the creek on grandpa's farm. When I entered it I saw many openings to my left and right where men, women and children flowed in. Way across the glen, across the stream I could see a lone opening that led into the forest again.

I stood there kicking the dirt for bit, unsure what I should do, then entered the glade.

Lots of people wandered around in the field. Some seemed like they had been there a long time. They sat and talked among tall trees that grew in clumps through this pasture. Some people just ran through the glen, crossed the small brook at it's center and plunged into an opening on the other side. Actually, it seemed a lot headed to that opening. I could understand why. Even from a distance I smelled pizza and could hear my favorite Saturday morning cartoon show playing on a tv down that path. I saw an man break into a smile as he approached the opening and call out someone's name. I wondered if the person he had saw owned the tv and if they'd let me watch it...

I also saw others that would move away from the opening and force their way into the thorny shrubs that surrounded the glen. I could hear them cursing and yelling deep in the woods. Eventually they'd pop out near where they went in then turn around and force their way back through the thorns. They might be standing right next to the opening with the pizza and the tv, but they'd ignore it. That seemed pretty silly to me, even as young as I was. If they didn't want to be here why didn't they just go back the way they came rather than tatter themselves through the thorns?

Home. Home sounded good, even better than pizza and The Smurfs. Looking around I saw dozens of places were people streamed into the field. I couldn't remember which trail I had come in on! I ran from path to path but they all looked the same! I started to become afraid. I was lost! My dad had always taught me that if I got lost in the woods I was supposed to hug a tree and blow the whistle he had given me until people found me. We had never gone anywhere with lots of strangers so I didn't know what to do in this case. I wanted to leave the field and go home to my toys and mom's cookies and my cat...

So I ended up doing what any lost, six year old boy would do. I cried. I cried because I was lost and I wanted my parents to find me and I cried because I was ashamed of my crying and I cried anyway...and then I felt a hand on my shoulder.

Turning, I saw an old man beside me. He had more hair in his ears and nose than on his head and his face was lined with with deep wrinkles. The sun had weathered his skin the shade of dark copper and even though he was staring right at me I couldn't figure out what colors his eyes were. He smiled and pointed at my left foot. It was caked in dirt from when..from when I had kicked the ground! I needed to find the opening with the skuffed up patch of dirt!

The old man laughed and held out his palm. It took me a minute to realize he was expecting a tip. I knew I didn't have any money on me and I guess he saw my lip start to quiver. With a wink he reached over and pulled out two gold-colored coins from behind my ear. Then he walked away, flipping the coins into the air and catching it over and over again.

I turned and ran back to the paths leading into the glen. Looking carefully I found a small patch of torn grass and immediately plunged back along the path behind it. Going up the hill seemed to take lot of energy but I pressed on, higher and higher. The crowds of people thined out and the path got smaller and steeper. Looking back I could see the field far below me, which was odd because from down there the surroundings were just flat woods. There were no mountains but somehow I was on one now.

I couldn't get any higher. My legs were like rubber and my breathes were coming in deep gasps. I couldn't see how this path could lead home. I began crying again. Somehow I knew hugging a tree here wasn't the right thing to do. I hadn't seen anyone else on the path in a long time. Nobody would come looking for me.

I just wanted to go home! Maybe the old guy would help me again... I started back down the path.

I don't know how long I walked but at least it was easier going down than coming up. After a while I noticed others around me again, but none were the old man and anyway they all were ignoring me. I was still on my own. Head down, still sniffling I trudged on.

And found one of the gold coins! It had been trampled into the dirt and I would have missed it if I hadn't been staring down at the ground as I walked. I bent down to pick it up...and saw the small opening through the thorn bushes I had seen at the beginning of this whole thing! Forgetting the coin I walked over to what looked like a game trail heading off into the woods. It couldn't be a coincidence. Without a second thought I crawled off the well-trodden path and into the forest, following this strange little way.

Thorns tore at me as I crawled. One peirced deeply into my wrist, several stabbed me in the chest, somehow one tore into my crotch. The pain grew as I struggled forward...

And woke up in AGONY. Tubes ran from my nose, arms, chest and groin. My lips were cracked and my mouth was bone dry. It all hurt so friggen badly!

The pain went on for days then weeks. Nurses, the doctor and family came by. The doctor was okay because he ignored me and just read the charts hanging from my bed. Family visits were loud and confusing. Why did mon and dad look so miserable? I was the one in pain.

The nurses were the worst. They were the ones that made me cough. Every two hours, day and night for weeks they'd show up at my bedside and make me cough. It was supposed to help clear out my lungs, but there was a glee in their eyes as they hit me on the back or pinched my mouth and nose shut until I ragged coughs burst from me. The ribs the doctor had split to get his big hands into my chest ribboned me with agony. They would pound and hit me as I coughed, as things tore loose in my chest. Then they would leave and I would lay there in a haze of blood, sputem and pain.

And worse, knowing they would come back. Watching the clock tick down to these monsters' return...

But then one day I got wheeled out of the hospital and dad laid me down in the back of the car. This was before child seats or even seat belt laws. I was still in pain. Every breath stretched my broken ribs, my torn guts. As dad shut the car door I heard the the nurse remind him to make me cough several times a day. Then she laughed and walked back into the hospital.

It took a year for the pain to go away. But in it's place a new sensation grew. I could somehow feel the thin places of the world. The places where maybe close by there were thorns and then a path down to a field...


Now here in the dark, sitting in grampa's car as the sound of drums drifted down from Bear Butte...I could feel the thorns were very near.

I rubbed my hand across the scar on my chest.

Very near indeed.

To be continued...

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Well, now I know.

Storm.jpg
Wish you were here.

Conventional wisdom states Spring Creek is only paddlable when the flow rate is between 150 cfs and 400 cfs.

Readers of this blog should already know "wisdom" and "Merriwether the Adventurer" are not exactly on speaking terms with one another. In fact, we are often actively fighting. (Current score: Wisdom 31 / Merriwether 4, well maybe 3. Okay, 2)

Having already proven Spring Creek could be paddled at 600 cfs (though truth be told Clark and I did almost die), it was time to try the other end of the spectrum: could Spring Creek be paddled at 50 cfs?

Of course, that wasn't the original plan. All the week before the weatherman had been promising heavy rain. I planned my whole Labor Day weekend around spending Sunday slipping downstream in Seeker's Fate, letting the river take my stress away.

Note to the weatherman: YOU SUCK!!

No rain. No rain. No rain. Little rain! No rain. No rain. Little rain! No rain...
And each day the creek's level fell. Sunday morning I was up at 5:30am checking the flow rate. It was at 68 cfs, but flipping on the tv once again the weatherman (WHO SUCKS!) promised heavy rains. I decided I'd give him one more chance and maybe going to church would help me out with the rain...

The south side of Houston suffered flooding. We stayed dry. Note to weatherman: YOU REALL REALLY SUCK!!

Monday morning the flow rate was 51 cfs. Screw it, I decided I'd give it a shot. Maybe I'd only have to drag Seeker's Fate a little bit.

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Ready to go!

I didn't actually drive with the canoe hanging off the back like in the above picture. The original plan was to launch under I-45 and take out at Hwy. 59 in Humble about 7 hours later. Considering I knew there were a lot of sandbars just past I-45 I decided to move an hour (paddle time) down to the new launch at Riley-Fuzzle. On the downside, I think the stretch between I-45 and Riley-Fuzzel is some of the prettiest along the creek.

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Launching at Riley-Fuzzel.

Like the canoe cart? I made it out of an old golf club cart I picked up for $10 at a local junk shop. I replaced it's wheels with some big, knobby ones and added longer straps. I thought it would work fine. More on that later... For a good run Spring Creek would should have all that sand covered. Notice there's lots of sand. A few fishermen asked if I knew what I was doing seeing how low the river was. I just responded, "Where's the fun in that?!" and headed off down Spring Creek.

SeekersFate.jpg
And made it about 75 yards before hitting my first drag-spot.

Being an optimistic chap, I didn't let this worry me. A bit of rearranging and I was once again afloat. I found I had to sit in the middle of the canoe to have the shallowest draft. Then I could float through as little as eight inches of water!

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Smooth sailing.

Of course, sitting in the center of Seeker's Fate would have been much easier if she had a center seat. Unfortunately my years of sitting Indian-style on the floor of a canoe for seven hours are long past. After about a hour I had lost most of the feeling in my legs and had to switch back to the seat. This meant I was back to slogging through the shallows. I tried to stay in the deeper water found along the outside of the curves (look for the darker, faster moving water). But to get to the deeper water I had to cross the shallow stuff.

Sidenote: standing in a canoe pushing it with a pole gondola-style...not a good idea.

Still, there was plenty to look at. The thick woods along the banks always thrill me, especially when I catch glimpse of a game trail leading off into its deeps. Pigs, deer, cows, birds of many different types all could be seen. Plus other things such as:

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Burned truck.

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Burned car.

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A Plesiosaurus!

About four hours into the trip I was feeling a bit down. It had been a real struggle to get this far. The trip hadn't been much fun due to all the dragging (YOU SUCK, WEATHERMAN!). I was missing Clark. My shoulders, back and arms ached. I had to go back to work the next day and explain to a vice-president why his Great Outside-the-Box Idea would probably waste $5 milion dollars. I was having only minimal levels of fun. I mean really, what could...oh, farging swell!!

The storm clouds had snuck up while I had been scanning the creek for the deepest path. Lightening suddenly striking nearby has a wonderful way of shifting one's attention. The wind quickly picked up and buckets of rain fell from the sky. And LOTS of lightening!

So, the next hour was spent huddling on the shore soaked to the bone hoping going to church the day before will protect me. Yet, perhaps not suprisingly that was one of the best parts of the trip. Sitting along a river in the middle of nowhere caught in a storm is a great way to get back in touch with nature. I needed that.

I also decided my wilderness survival kit needed some reorganizing. I had changed it since that post to where the rope was now wrapped around the case. Bad idea. That makes actually getting into the kit a real pain in the @55. So, instead of pulling it out a making a fire I just sat in the rain. Even though the temperature had started out in the high 80's the wind and rain made me cold to the point of starting to shiver! I never would have guessed hypothermia could be a danger in the Texas summer. I guess all it takes is a long, cool storm and suddenly one's core temp drops into the danger zone. Probably a good thing to know.

Anyway, the lightening finally stopped but the rain continued to fall. Back into Seeker's Fate. Back to heading downstream. The creek had risen some but there's a 2-3 hour lag between rain and rise of Spring Creek. I pushed on (often quite literally).

The approach of Spring Creek to the junction with Cypress Creek is fairly long and straight. On the far bank here is a giant, white sycamore tree that stands out like a beacon. Truely a welcome sight. Eventually the bank beneath it will wash away and this tree will fall into the river(s). That'll make me sad.

Once Spring Creek hits Cypress Creek the water becomes much deeper and I no longer had any problems paddling. From there it was a little less than two hours to my planned take out at the south point where Spring Creek flows under Hwy. 59. I had checked this place early in the summer and it looked perfect. There was a little boat landing there and everything. Misseswether could drive right up to the creek without any problems.

Once I reached this point I got out and called Misseswether to let her know I was ready to be picked up. I had been over seven hours on the water and it was not the best of adventures. It was suppertime when I called so Misseswether had to feed the Wethergirls (no relation the SUCKY WEATHERMAN!) before getting me. ETA was about 90 minutes. We hung up and I started prepping the canoe. That didn't take long so I decided to walk up the road to see what all the neat construction equipment was about.

Oh crap, the road was closed! Misseswether wouldn't be able to get closer than maybe half a mile to where Seeker's Fate lay. The big "No Tresspassing" sign also caused me some concern...

I had a small spot where I could peek out at the road yet remain hidden from all the cops patrolling hwy 59 for Labor Day drunks. From this spot I watched Misseswether whiz by having been confused by the big "Road Closed" sign.

Thank God for cell phones.

She eventually found me and I grabbed my canoe cart (remember that thing?) from the back of the Honda Pilot and headed back down to the river...

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Miniwether, now able to read, was somewhat concerned about me breaking the law.

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Mambowether? Well, as usual she was just in her own little, magical world.

Anyway, like I said I went back and loaded the canoe onto the cart. Then I figured it'd just be an easy run through forbidden territory to get loaded up.

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So of course a wheel fell off.

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Plan "B".

Misseswether, bless her heart, knew at this point that she should offer encouragement not criticism. Eventually I got the canoe up to the open portion of the road, loaded it onto the Pilot, and we all drove home arriving eleven hours after I first left.

So, what did I learn?
1. 50 cfs is too low to enjoy paddling Spring Creek unless you are naturally a very cheerful person who isn't discouraged by slogging through water dragging your canoe behind you.
2. Always bring lots of drinking water. I went through more than four liters and still ended up a little dehydrated.
3. Make sure your emergency kit is packed in a way that allows it to be useful.
4. A canoe may or may not be considered an "Unauthorized Vehicle" when it comes to lawful use of a road.
5. If a road is involved in your plan, make sure someone hasn't decided to dig a four foot deep trench across it.
6. The worst day on the water is still better than the best day at work.
7. The weatherman here SUCKS.

Adventure! Excitment! Adaptability!

Monday, September 03, 2007

Being stupid so you don't have to.

It seemed like a good plan at the time.
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Details to follow in a few days.

Adventure! Excitement! Unforseen Obstacles!