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Showing posts from September, 2022

Can Germany Respond to the Challenge?

Perhaps someday somebody will prove that Washington DC is not responsible for the destruction of the gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea.  Let's assume that Germany will be most affected by this act of sabotage. Isn't this an opportunity for Germany to rise to the challenge by acting heroically?  It would be foolish to expect this, but I need to look for mere possibilities during this meltdown.  It is too grim and depressing, otherwise. There have been times when societies faced an existential threat and they responded heroically.  The classic example is the Greek response to the invasion of the Persians.  Or the response of a rather small number of American colonials at Concord bridge and Independence Hall in Philadelphia. I think that the people of eastern Ukraine (Donbass) responded heroically as they voted for secession from the Kiev regime, as explosive shells came in on their heads. There are probably more examples of this kind than we think, perhaps because we only honor an

Authentic Experience on the Oregon Trail

A couple years ago I got interested in the topography and history of the old Oregon Trail, mostly in southwestern Wyoming.   This seems a little strange since I never visit 'Pioneer museums' across the West.  The Oregon Trail sounds like a chapter in a 5th-grader's history book, so why would it appeal to a hip urban sophisticate like me? (eyes-rolling emoji) It might have been the book, "The Oregon Trail" by Rinker Buck, that got me going on this. (Rinker  did much of the Oregon Trail in a wagon pulled by mules, about 10 years ago.) Yesterday I was cutting a diagonal southeast in southwestern Wyoming.  So why not do (in reverse) the road that Rinker Buck said was the most difficult part of the Oregon Trail?  (I am pulling a light trailer with a rear-wheel-drive van.) WARNING: don't forget to turn off your traction-control system when you are doing steep climbs! It certainly helps to pull off at wide spots on the road and walk to the next wide spot.  When you

Uncertainty When Traveling

I was returning to camp after a ride on BLM roads that was only half-interesting.  Maybe that is why I gave the benefit of the doubt to one last possibility.  The scenery didn't appear interesting.  And this last road might have a puddle or two. At least the road had a nice uphill slope and a hard pack surface.  The road went between two parallel ridges about 500 feet high.  Except the east side was more like a series of small volcanos.  The road kept up with this uniform climb.  I thought that the vegetation was becoming taller each mile, but perhaps I was just imagining that. Would there soon be an isolated copse of aspen trees?  There is something wonderful about frail aspens just barely surviving in the midst of all that sagebrush.  They huddle together, holding on to life by their fingernails. There were no up-and-downs the entire way.  Only a uniform, second-gear uphill.  In all my years of dirt road mountain biking,  I have never had this happen before! Now I could put my cu

Worshiping One of the Older Gods

People like to complain about the weather.  They should try living without it. That's right, no weather.  In the inland Northwest, I haven't had any weather since the dry season started in late June.  In other words, one day has been like the next for 3 months.  But I am not complaining.  By camping above 5000 feet of altitude, mid-day temperatures never got over 90 F, and the horrid smoke and fire season held off to the first of September. And recently, this happened: Just imagine the feeling of relief, the sheer bounteousness of walking outdoors without a wide-brim sombrero! And then it did the unthinkable: it rained hard that night.  (But not so hard as to produce puddles on the ground, of course.) Meanwhile, people who stayed in the Southwest, had a glorious monsoon season. People like to gush over tourist scenery, that is, the freakish, the vertical, and the red.  It doesn't matter to tourists that those features are utterly useless. I think clouds of the right type s

Biking With a Dog, Part 2

Her royal cuteness climbed 1600 feet yesterday on a bike ride.  I unsnapped her from the leash and off she went, wondering why I was so slow! There are pretty good products you can buy online to take your dog along on a bike ride.  But will they fit your bike?  Think of all the variations in bike geometries out there! But there is a trick: strapping on a small board to a straight section of your rear triangle.   Look at the rear triangle of my mountain bike: Attaching to my bike is not straightforward.  The rear axle proper is not available because of the special parts that go along with the Old Man Mountain rear rack. Notice the weird bend in the chainstay, the tube that  connects the rear axle to the crank area ("bottom bracket") of the bike.   But it doesn't matter because at least the seatstay is a straight tube.  (The seatstay is the tube that slants up from the rear axle towards the seat/saddle.) With a straight tube you can strap on a straight piece of wood. [1]  W

How to Bike with a Dog

If you are one of those people who love having a dog along on your outdoor activities, this post may be useful to you, especially if you bike on dirt/gravel/two-track roads.  Most of this would also apply to riding on residential streets or off-street recreational trails. You could consider one of the products available these days. Do a search using words like "dog running with bicycle" on You Tube.  But it is hard to make such products fit a modern mountain bike, with a seat-dropper-post and through-axles. Hence this post. Dogs do become trained over time to run alongside a bike without getting into trouble.  This post is meant for a younger dog who still needs to get used to the idea. Always attach the dog on the right side (starboard) of the bike.  Keep the leash short -- which is a bit counter-intuitive.  Always attach the leash to a halter on the dog, not to a collar. If the dog was used to the idea, you could put a carabiner on the end of a standard 5' or 6' do

A Eulogy for Europe

These are significant times.  It appears that a 500-year era of European ascendancy is coming to an end.  Perhaps this should not shock anyone.  Many other civilizations and cultures have had their time in the sun, and then fizzled out. When historians are writing about the European era, will they do as bad a job as they have with the decline of other civilizations?   Maybe it is not the historians' fault. After all, they work from documents, and maybe documents don't really contain the essence (zeitgeist, mindset, soul) of a civilization.  Therefore how can you explain 'what went wrong' with that civilization? But back to the 'Rise and Fall' of the European Age.  Imagine you lived in 1453 A.D. in Constantinople, and you witnessed the final end of the Roman Empire after a millennium of ups-and-downs -- mostly downs. Imagine a group of sages from around the world sitting down at a Turkish coffee shop to discuss the big picture.  At your table are a Chinese schola

Should the Russkies Take Their Gloves Off?

People are talking about the Russkies taking their gloves off.  They could hit Ukrainian power grids, energy infrastructure, and railroad bridges.  I don't understand why they don't try harder to intercept NATO weapons.  Russian leaders certainly have a tough decision to make.  The counter-argument is that it is still a few months until mid-winter, when the energy shortages in Europe will bite hardest.  So why not just let "General Winter" do their fighting for them? There will be giant protest marches in Europe, people say. (There already have been.) So what?  You could argue that protests work in the favor of the intransigent political leaders of Europe, since they let the peasants blow off steam.  They make it look like Europe governments are listening to Rousseau's "General Will".  They legitimize the notion that the masses have a say in these 'model' democracies of Europe.  After the protests, nothing will change. Does 'democracy' m

The Glory Season

There is no excuse for 'watching a pot, waiting for it to boil,' but here I am, doing it again, waiting for the last of the summer heat to wind down. Most people probably like autumn.  So many things work.  The truly remarkable thing is how good autumn is over a vast section of North America.  People in the hurricane belt would disagree. Lower temperatures will probably slow down fires and smoke, which means faster containment of the fires by the firefighters.  We really need rain but September is unlikely to give much.  Ah well, let me just be happy about all the things that are good at this time of year: 1.  Driving down wider roads on BLM land, instead of struggling with narrow roads in steep national forests. 2.  More than ample shadows.  They are generous and positively useful. 3.  Better sleeping weather. 4.  Fewer summer tourists and weekend warriors. 5.  Fewer insects. 6.  Enormous geographical freedom.  

Changing My Method of Autumn Migration

What am I overlooking?  There has to be a better way to manage my autumn migration.  If I moved 50 miles south of here I would probably escape the smoke, according to  But I resist going into Nevada.  Besides, where will the smoke-blob be tomorrow?  The westerly direction of the wind on most days is all that we can rely on. I am probably not the only seasonal migrationalist who resists retreating back north for short periods.  It is like a military general refusing to retreat!    In practical terms, retreats do increase your transportation costs.  But perhaps this can be overestimated. Instead of my usual pattern of pushing relentlessly southward -- despite local eccentricities in altitude, smoke, and latitude -- perhaps I should do tactical switchbacks to the east or west, while still maintaining a strategic southwardness?

Keeping Camping Fun

Recently I camped with a couple aspen trees outside my door, for the first time this summer.  It was hard to believe that such a little thing could make the camping experience so cheerful. Why?  Is it because the white bark and twittering leaves of aspens are such a contrast to the dark bark and uninteresting needles of spruce/fir trees?  That makes it sound like I don't appreciate spruce/fir trees.  But I do.   In Idaho they are so grand and noble, and stay big in diameter a hundred feet up.   _____________________ The summer heat has finally broken.  It is time to appreciate once again how nice it is to sleep in cooler weather.  And my little dog runs like a maniac in cooler weather. _______________ What is surprising about these humble examples is how intense they were.  Normally when we praise the simple pleasures of life, it sounds like a cliche'.  It reminds you of a Hallmark card or a Campbell's soup commercial of yesteryear. 'Simple pleasures' sounds like in

Solving One Problem at a Time

I have no complaint about (greater) Idaho this summer.  The fire and smoke held off until September.  But now it is time to get the hell outta' here.  I went south, focusing on solving the smoke problem before going on to the next problem. The bank sign said it was 102 F in a little town.  Well, it was clear what the next problem would be.  Strangely though, I walked around town without being bothered too much.  And no, it wasn't because "it's only a dry heat."  Humid heat or dry heat don't bother me too much.  What bothers me is bright heat, that is, relentless, oppressive sunlight. And there just happened to be a miraculous cloud blocking the sun right then.  Still, I needed to find some shade.  On BLM land?! Luxurious shaded camping on BLM land? Well at least the roads are wider than in the forest. And there is a better breeze.  And I did find a flat spot at 5500 feet, with ATT coverage. I wanted to visit an old mining town that I hadn't seen in years.

Escaping the Smoke and Fire Season

So far I have not delivered on my promise, made in early summer, to leave the inland Northwest in late summer, typically its season of heat, fire, and smoke.  Why suffer needlessly? I avoided this decision because May and June were so wet that the fire and smoke season was postponed -- until the first of September.  In fact I have only started this week to use a cooled 8-liter water bladder as a pillow for sleeping. Gotten to by doing internet search for ""   This screenshot pretty much sums up the problem: late summer in the inland Northwest is about as awful as the Southwest in early summer. So what can be done? Go to the Southwest? After all, it has had a good monsoon season this summer. I'd rather not.  Remember that North America becomes drastically smaller in the winter, for campers.  Thus the camping-areas in the Southwest become well known and over-used.  So, unless you like camping around noisy neighbors, it is best to minimize your stay in the Southwes

A New Category of Terrorism

I have read a lot of history books in my life, and several times I have threatened not to read any in my 'next life.'  The reason for this is clearer right now than ever. For instance, when you read about diplomacy in 1914, just before World War I, or 1939, just before World War II, you see the historian trying to come up with rational explanations for the decisions of the political class.  That is a mistake. What does reason have to do with it?  Look at the decisions of NATO today.  It's as if insanity were a virus infecting one national leader after another. When are we going to start calling these leaders what they really are: economic terrorists?, and then treat them as we treat other kinds of terrorists. This would be more useful than calling people 'domestic terrorists' just because they disagree with you.