…I’ve been writing for real. As part of my job(s). I’ll be back soon.
In the meantime…
Google maps can be very informative, and also entertaining.
A few nights ago I was getting directions from Canoelover Base to a hotel in downtown Chicago. I used the little yellow street-view flying dude (see lower right) to see what the entrance to the hotel looked like. It worked. The Sax Hotel is across the street from the House of Blues. Good enough.
Then I hit a button or something and the screen zoomed to North America. Little flying dude was confused.
I dragged him to a random place in Texas and dropped him. Not sure why. I guess I was just curious.
What I suspected in the middle of northern Tejas. Dry and brownish.
I thought about Arizona. Boom. Done.
Sorta what I expected. Dry and tannish. What about Utah? I predict dry and reddish.
Huzzah! Dry and reddish — but also gorgeous. Random hoodoo!
I wondered what would happen if I did that in the Northwest Territories. Cool.
Cool. Near Yellowknife somewhere. What I expected. Green.
So now the good stuff. What about my homeland, Wisconsin?
First, the random sample of up nort, eh?
Now a random sample of down south.
Of course, a milk truck. Welcome to America’s Dairyland. Wisconsin vs. California? That’s like comparing apples and oranges. Or more appropriately, milk and a white, strip-mined drinkable lactated product.
Then I decided to zero in on some favorite spots.
The Wisconsin River, looking upstream from the Hwy 23 bridge.
The Bois Brule, looking upstream from Cty Hwy FF.
The Platte from Highway 65/31.
And one of my favorites, the Grant, near Blackjack Road.
Is there any wonder I love this state?
Actually, there is wonder. I never thought a place could be so consistently beautiful. It’s a different beauty, of course. No majestic grandeur of the Tetons or the view of the Pacific from Bellingham. No rain forests or Na Pali coast from Kauai. But it is, all in all, more consistently beautiful in its infinite variation. Make a matrix of landscapes, seasons and weather conditions and you get a pretty wide variety of states of gorgeous. Think Clue–you know–Colonel Mustard in the Pantry with a Bratwurst.
- Driftless Coulees in the Spring during a thunderstorm.
- Cornfields in the Summer when fireflies are mating.
- Northern Forests in the Fall when the leaves change.
- Vast lakes in the Winter, frozen over and covered with a rainbow of ice fishing shanties.
I may be exaggerating. Then again, maybe I’m not. Don’t risk it.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the state of education. Not the state of the educational system, which has a myriad of problems, mostly caused by people who are dumb not placing value on education. Because they’re dumb. I see a pattern here.
No, I’m thinking about education. From the Latin (yes, here we go again) educare, which means “to lead or draw out something that is latent.”
In other words, an educator is someone who draws out the talents that are already innate. From the Latin innatus.
If you don’t like Latin, hey, osores odierint.
Son 1.3 and I just returned from a wonderful experience at North House Folk School in Grand Marais, Minnesota. There we took a three-day course called Hookers and Spooners: Working in Horn, Bone, Antler. It was not my first choice but Son 1.3 got to pick, and pick he did.
Harley, a retired professor from Luther College, was a delight. I can only imagine what an effective teacher he was there. He normally teaches Scandinavian wood carving but added this a few years ago as he enjoys working with the materials, in addition to the history of how people have used these materials as nature’s plastic before there was plastic, especially horn.
The class was a collection of all sorts of people. The thing they all had in common was a desire to learn something new. There was a wide variety of skill levels in the class — from an art professor (sculptor) to a counselor who does little with his hands but a lot with his brain. He caught on quickly. No one was there to prove how much they knew…they were there to learn. No ego, no boasting, just quiet learning. Praise for others’ work was frequent and sincere. It was a great few days.
What came out of this was a desire to keep doing these things. I’m pretty sure I won’t be making anything really amazing out of bison horn, but at least I can. Skills are all valuable, and skills such as these may lay dormant for years and surface as a need when you least expect it.
In the end, even if the items made are less than useful, easily purchased or less than perfect, the process is the goal, not the stuff. I spent a few hours making a crochet hook which I could by at the drug store for a few bucks. But I made it, and I enjoyed making it. I also broke three or four really nice pieces during the carving process. ’Sokay. Would it be nice for them to have remained intact? Sure. Am I disappointed? Nope. Because I know how to make them. I’ll make one again someday.
So aut disce aut discede? Simple translation – Either learn something or get the hell off this rock. I have no patience for people who claim boredom. Boredom is the sure sign of a spectacularly non-creative and undisciplined mind.
Please learn something today.
A school without football is in danger of deteriorating into a medieval study hall.
Daughter 1.2 is about the leave the nest for 18 months. The nest still has a few feathers and bird poop in it, but she’s doing her best to leave her corner of the nest so that another bird can borrow it now and again.
We’re used to her going off to University for five years…but since she graduated she’s been here, temping a little, babysitting a little, and reading a lot. Get it while you can, Chica. Your reading list is about to be limited significantly. In a few days, you’ll be sitting in a classroom much like the one I was in, maybe even the same one, cramming your head with Italian verb tenses and vocabulary. It will make your brain pop, but save the pieces and everything goes back to normal the next day.
Ten weeks after that, you’ll land in Malpensa airport and begin a new life as a missionary. As Dante said, Incipit vita nova.
I firmly believe our society would be better off if its youth were required to do a year of public service. Whether it’s the Peace Corp, the Military or missionary work, youth benefit greatly from having to do something that a) pays little to nothing and b) is not about them. Performing acts as part of the greater good transforms a person.
30 years ago this month I departed for Palermo. I thought I had been taught Italian. Turns out I had, but it was spoken precious little in Sicily, so there was some adjustment. I suppose if you learned English at Oxford and you were dropped in the middle of Alabama, you’d have a similar experience.
The next 18 months were some of the hardest of my life. Struggling to learn a language, adjusting to a radically different culture, and dealing with rejection and sometimes active hostility all don’t do well for someone’s morale. But that time was also some of the best of my life.
So here’s some advice (unsolicited but a father’s right).
1) Absorb just how old the world is. Not in the sort of prehistoric way, but in that the oldest buildings in the United States are barely old enough to register in Sicily. It’s not about the buildings…it’s the culture that is ancient. People have a different perspective when they walk past a cathedral that was built starting in 1193. It makes you more patient.
Sure, Anasazi culture flourished over 1000 years ago, but this temple in Selinunte has it beat by over a millennium. And that’s just the Greeks. Add a few centuries on and you see Phoenician settlements. Then you get old. When a building in the US from 1912 is on the National List of Historic Places, it sorta makes you think if Americans know anything about what historic means.
2) Enjoy the people. Milano is different, but then again, people are people. If you are humble and open to being vulnerable. You gotta hang it out there with Sicilians. At the time I was there, Sicilians were a pretty closed society. Strangers caused some anxiety, and given the history of Sicily there’s no surprise. The only country that didn’t invade, rape, colonize, exploit and leave was Lichtenstein.
The Milanesi won’t be that different (other than the justifiable paranoia). They won’t let you into their circle easily, but once in…oh boy. I love Sicilians more than any other culture I have encountered. Once you are in, you are in, but it’s on their terms. You prove you can be trusted and you’re accepted into the family in a very real way.
When Ian and I visited a few years ago, we stayed in a room a little B&B…wonderful folks. After a few days I asked if I could buy them dinner…pizza. They were a little surprised but agreed. Rather than go out, Elvira invited us into their section of their home, something that had never happened before.
So, Sorella, go native. Ditch your clothes as they wear out and go for the good stuff.
3) Have a sense of humor. Behave in a human way, and people respond likewise. This couple was walking down a narrow street in Sciacca, a small town on the southern coast of Sicily. I was taking a picture up the street, and they walked into it, then jumped back, as if they knew they were ruining my shot. I said (in Italian), “no, no…come on, I was just shooting up the street…”
They smiled and started walking down toward us. As they passed, I said “…but you two have such beautiful faces…” I went as wide as the lens would go and held down the shutter. We all were laughing. It was a beautiful moment.
Italians taught me to be spontaneous. Grazie mille, Italiani.
4) The small things make a big difference. Pay attention to the little things. Walk into an open door at a normally-closed church, and chances are the parish priest will give you a tour and show you a fresco from an artist you’ve never heard of unless you studied Art History, and even then, maybe not.
You will stumble into amazing things. Stop and absorb your novelty. I realized long after I took this picture that it was Piazza Pretoria, where Garibaldi marshaled his troops (the Mille, or Thousand) to ride up the peninsula and mop up for unification.
Ask the lady behind the counter at a small deli in the middle of nowhere if they have figs. She’ll say sorry, they’re done for the season. If you say “Dang, I keep missing them as I head south…” She’ll smile, disappear out the back door and come in with a dozen dark, purply-green figs, shrug and say, “Well, I guess there were a few more.” If you stick around and share them with the little old guys who follow you into the deli because you’re obviously not Sicilian. They’ll gesture, smile and say, Che brava ragazza…
Buy a little bag of ciliegie di mozzarella di bufala. Nibble a hole in the corner while the proprietress watches and squirt the milk into a potted plant outside the shop. When she looks startled, tell her it’s more nutrients for the plant. Then eat the little balls of perfection like popcorn. She will stare at you, but the 12 year-old kid in the shop will laugh and probably tease you a little. But it’s another human interaction.
Drive to a little town no one cares about. I visited one called Piana degli Albanesi, and it was decimated by emigration just before World War II. A lot of them moved to Madison, so the names on the headstones here match the ones there. There’s not much, just a lot of signs in both Italian and Albanian, but there was a nice little spring where people gathered for drinking water (to be fair, it was Sunday afternoon and no one was outside except us). My bet is that a lot of the ancestors of my Italian friends drank from that same fountain.
The water was delicious. Find your own fountains.
So, Sorella…this is stuff you already know and practice regularly. Just add to it the love your father sends right behind you.
I love you so much,
On the way back from a recent canoe trip I was zipping along at 71.3 mph without a care in the world. Until I looked down at my mileage indicator… 16.3.
That’s sick. Yeah, I had a big fat canoe on the top of the car, but really? 16.3?
That’s when I thought of doing a little experiment. I reset the mileage indicator, put the cruise control at 70 and measured for five miles. Then at 65, 60, 55 and for just for yucks, 50. The results were surprising.
GAL/M is gallons per mile, CPG is cost per gallon, CPM is cost per mile.
If you’re a more visual person:
Scary cool takeaways:
1. It costs me 21 cents a mile in fuel only if I drive 70. If I slow down to a moderate 60, I save 4 cents a mile. No big deal, but at 15,000 miles a year…it’s about 600 bucks a year. If I drive 55…that savings goes to $750.
2. If I get 16.3 mpg and drive 15,000 miles a year, I am burning 920 gallons of gas a year. That’s a lot of gas. If I get 19.8 mpg, I burn 757 gallons.
3. If everyone did this…the results would be dramatic.
Instead of whining about gas prices, how about we all just slow down? President Obama could re-institute the Carter era 55 mph national speed limit, done at that time to save fuel and to help us achieve independence from OPEC. It was a political act as well as an environmental act.
Granted, some of the Tea Party people would scream that speed limits aren’t listed in the Constitution, and that the Founding Fathers did not want to restrict the freedom of people to go really fast. They also didn’t specify that anyone without a reasonable understanding of history should get a lobotomy. Maybe they should have thought of that.
When Reagan was elected one of his first acts was to eliminate the speed limits. ”We shouldn’t be in the business of telling states how fast their citizens can drive,” or something like that. Okay, sure. Oil companies loved this. It was an adolescent “you’re not the boss of me” statement, and just about as mature.
The immediate effect would be staggering. Gas prices would fall within weeks. We would produce less greenhouse gas. And best of all, we’d all slow down a little. We’d see things on the side of the road, take roads less traveled and relax a little.
Coming back from delivering a boat to Milwaukee last night, I took the interstate there. 18.2 mpg. Coming home — Highway 18, winding through picturesque towns and along beautiful little lakes. I had to slow down to 35 five or six times as I passed through a hamlet. It was no hardship.
Gas mileage coming home: 22.8. Extra time taken (measured by the GPS): 13 minutes. That’s 13 extra minutes I got to spend holding hands with my wife.
Think about it, America. Slow is patriotic. And it’s better for your brain. And you get to see more scenery like this.
Instead of this.
If it weren’t true, it wouldn’t be funny.
Our recent staff retreat gave me the opportunity to demo a few paddles that are (now) in the product mix for 2012. It was a perfect opportunity for side-by-side comparisons. Interestingly, these two paddles couldn’t be more different, but I really liked them both. Here’s a synopsis.
Badger Paddles is a newcomer to the US. A Canadian company, until now they only sold in the US via their website. Since Jodie closed up shop at Turtle Paddles years ago, I’ve been searching for a manufacturer to take his place. Yankee companies haven’t quite nailed the solid wood traditional paddle. There are approximations that are okay, but for the most part, Americans have the same understanding of one-piece trads as they do of poutine. They scratch their heads at it and wonder “why the hell…”
Your mileage may vary, but there are three things I care about in a trad paddle in order of importance: flex pattern, blade shape, grip, and weight. I don’t put aesthetics in that mix because if it ain’t pretty, I ain’t pickin’ it up to begin with. Mike and Fiona make pretty paddles, so we can skip that step. Or not. Aesthetics: 9.5/10
The flex pattern is predictable. No hinging, just a nice continuous flex along the bottom of the shaft and a nice curve of the blade. I like a flexible paddle, it’s easier on the shoulders and has some other properties that make it more efficient in the water, but no one wants to paddle with a spaghetti noodle. I’d prefer a teeny more flex, but I’ll give it a 9/10. Darn good.
L. to R.: Shaw and Tenney Guide , Badgertail, Nashwaak, Whippoorwhill.
Blade shape: I prefer a thin, narrow blade. Maybe a thicker blade is more durable, but the way a paddle should be used, durability isn’t a strong consideration. That’s because I use different paddles for deep water than I use in shallow rivers. They’re not pry bars; they’re paddles. If a paddle is used properly in the proper setting, it’ll last forever.
Badger makes two different lines of paddles; an elite line that is light and stiff, and a beefier line that can take more punishment. I see no reason to go to the more durable paddle unless you’ll be loaning them out. Even then, you’re better off loaning out one of these. You’ll be happier, even if your friend isn’t.
There are several blade sizes from which to choose, but I’d say choose the Badgertail. It’s a great compromise that really isn’t. Smaller people might like the Sliver or the slightly larger Tripper. Blade size array: 9/10.
L. to R.: Shaw and Tenney Guide, Badger, Turtle Whippoorwhill, Nashwaak and a Canoelover custom grip.
I’m picky about my grips, and the grip is very nice if not a little generic. I like a slightly smaller grip as in Canadian style one doesn’t maintain a vice-like grip, but rather pushes against the flatter part under the top grip. It does provide a little flat area so it’s comfortable against the palm, but I’ll probably take a patternmaker’s rasp to it and take a little bit out of the grip so it’s more like the one I made. Score: 8.5/10.
The weight was a surprise. An ash paddle is supposed to be heavy; mine’s not. Yes, wood varies from board to board, and I have cherry paddles that are 20% heavier or lighter than their peers, and I have a quilted maple paddle that should require a shoulder brace that weighs half of what it should. Lucky, I guess. The cherry paddles from Badger are, overall, lighter, but the ash was a pleasant surprise. Weight gets a 9/10 for cherry, 8/10 for ash.
They come in three lengths; 57, 60, and 63. I was a little surprised but everyone who tried them seemed to like the size the chose. No problems fitting anyone. Good. The demo they sent was 63″ and carved from ash. I also tried the 60″ cherry Sliver, but interestingly found the 63″ more to my liking. In these paddles, go one size larger unless you paddle a very shallow boat.
Overall: Badger Paddles makes a winner. I’ll have them in the shop come early Spring. Prices are very reasonable,especially for a hand-made, hand-finished paddle — $114 for ash, $129 for cherry, and all the paddles come with a sock that’ll protect it from dings and scratches in your paddle bag. Including the paddle sock is brilliant, as everyone should have one but few buy them.
P.S. Rutabaga will be the only retailer in the US.
On the other side of the coin…is the yang.
The Bending Branches Black Pearl seems like just another ultra-light bent shaft paddle, but it assuredly is not. Carbon bent shafts have always been the choice of racers and fast touring canoe paddlers, and this certainly was a bold departure design-wise.
You see, carbon paddle makers have been making ultralight canoe and outrigger paddles for decades. The only thing is that they are not lower cadence, touring paddles, but are meant for a high turnover that is more athletic than some people want. You know who you area.
I’ll start off by saying I really like this paddle. I have paddled with bents quite a bit, and have several that I like in various circumstances. This is a different animal. The blade is much narrower and longer, which gives it a very different characteristic than a racing or outrigger blade.
Because of the length, I add two inches to the overall paddle length. If you normally paddle a 52, then go up to a 54. Big difference for me.
The shape of the blade of this Wener Compulsion Outrigger racing paddle is markedly different. Blade area is centered lower and the shoulders are much narrower. As a result the Black Pearl can be very quiet. That’s can be, as it really up to us who make a blade quiet or not. You can see it’s very similar to a paddle built for me by Peter Puddicombe a few years back. Blade shape: 9.5/10.
I also really like the grip. A lot of paddles put the seam where the grip is glued on to the shaft, so there’s a little joint under your palm when you push on the paddle grip. It cost a little more to make the grip longer and move the shaft down a bit, but it does make a huge difference.
The outrigger T-grip is perfect for outrigger racing, but you can see that an open-palm grip is going to be less effective. The torque placed on an outrigger paddle is considerable, so it makes sense. Grip: 10/10.
The Black Pearl is quite light. The Compulsion is lighter by a few grams, but my Compulsion is a prototype with a tapered shaft which drops the weight considerably. For production paddles, it’s comparable. The grip changed to ABS on the Compulsion, which brought the weight up a titch.
The other racing paddles I weighed were right around those numbers or slightly heavier. So there ya go. Weight: 10/10.
Both paddles performed admirably and have earned a space in my quiver. My quiver is considerable, and that’s only about 75% of it. I think my twenty-something years paddling twenty-something paddles gives me a modicum of credibility in the testing process (he says, polishing his fingernails on his lapel).
At $229, the BP is right between the Compulsion ($260) and most racing paddles (about $200). If you’re a paddler who loves light but wants a paddle designed for touring. here ya go.
Black Pearls will be here soon. Stoked.
The 12th Annual Convention of the Order of Wisconsin River Lovers (OWLs) is on the books.
The good news:
- No casualties of any sort.
- No swimmers.
- Great food (Pete’s grits and Jim’s Sausage were both amazing)
- Lovely campsite.
- Gorgeous sunrise (see above)
- Beautiful almost-full-moon evening.
- No shuttle.
- Paddling upstream is slower, even if the wind is at your back.
We’re so ashamed of how much fun we had, we hid our faces.
The early Voyageurs who plied the waters of the southern part of Lake Superior were a religious crew, hence the name of the Apostle Islands. Except they couldn’t count, since there are twenty two of them. There is the possibility that they were counting the Apostles, and gave each of them permission to bring a guest. Judas, obviously, dropped out.
Yeah, that’s it.
The group was wonderful. A few experienced folks. A few semi-experienced folks. A few newbies. All of them very, very nice people.
One of the best things about the outdoor industry is that it is populated with great folks. Sales rep, customer service rep, CEO, Vice President of Whatever…they’re a different type of person. Almost to a one, they could probably make more money in another industry, and many of them have. They like their work. They like the people they work with. They like making people happy making cool stuff.
There is, however, a divide. Some of the industry folks use the stuff they make on a regular basis. Others come in from outside the industry, and find themselves a little intimidated by those folks who have been users since they were teenagers. I don’t blame them. If you’re an ex-SVP from Frito Lay, chances are you’re pretty smart. Scary smart. Suddenly you step into an outdoor corporation and despite your Ivy League MBA, you look at the guy flashing routes and surfing waves and you’re intimidated. If they walked into your industry, they’d freak out too.
I’m always impressed when a newbie to the industry puts it out there. They run the risk of looking ridiculous. Since they’re not afraid of looking ridiculous, they grow and succeed. Others stay safe and that’s that. Growth factor zero.
In this case, a few of the group had no experience on big, cold water. Because we took every safety precaution and everyone was comfortable with the risk involved, there was little stress. On the water, the newbies deferred to our experience. On land, every0ne participated and some of the newbies took the lead. Awesome.
By the end of the trip (including a day layover because of a small craft warning), it was fantastic. The folks who were worried at the beginning of the trip were totally comfortable, smiling and I hope, proud.
Then we had the end-of-trip garage sale. Garage sale isn’t literal. It’s a dirtbag kayaker thing. Gear spread out to dry has caused people to slow down in front of the house and take a peek to see if anything has a price tag on it.
I loved this trip.
P.S. We explored some wrecks. Superior is pretty strewn with wrecks. Superior demands some respect.
Obviously MapMyRun.com can be used for mapping runs.
Apparently, the developers of MMR are true believers that one can run on water. I only know one person who has done that before, but that doesn’t stop MapMyRun.com from accommodating its users.
We’re down to the wire. Weather looks good…
The gear is mostly sorted. I don’t want to embarrass myself with a picture of it. It’s not pretty.
I know it says Canoelover, but I really love kayaking on the Big Lake. The water is crystal clear and has a cold, almost antiseptic pinch when you touch it, which I find invigorating. No so invigorating that I jump into the water…there’s shrinkage, and there’s Ratatinment Superieur.
Anyway…boats are prepped, ready to go. I had to replace a cam cleat on my Cetus for a hard-mounted tow rig. I guess sailors hate consistency, as the one I replaced had holes about 3 mm closer together than the Harken I used to replace it, and I had to buy stainless machine screws that were 1/2″ longer because the ones from the old cleat were about 2 mm too short. And my marine caulk had hardened up like a dried apricot that rolled under the seat of the car. It had been several years, so it really didn’t owe me anything. 15 minute estimate, meet 90 minute project.
On top of all this, I’m changing bandages on Dog 3.0. More surgery…the ER doc botched it. Too mad to talk about it right now. Dog 3.o does have the nicest bandage of all time … gauze with a Smartwool wool sock over it. It needs to breathe, so what better way? I needed a few new pair anyway, and these were starting to look a little bare. What’s cute is the heel cup fits right over her hock.
In three days, we’ll be looking at this.