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Showing posts from May, 2024

Gravel-Grinding and Belly-Dumpers

 Many people probably like camping because it helps them appreciate things they take for granted.  At the top of my list are things like window screens, refrigerated foods, a breeze in summer, and a non-breeze in winter. Another top contender is the gravel road.  You have to experience a bit of rain on an unimproved dirt road before you learn how frustrating it can be.  In the 1800s our ancestors probably experienced several months of muddy roads that were impassable to wheeled vehicles (wagons).  They probably thought mid-winter was a relief because at least the roads were passable. Recently I have witnessed a truly impressive amount of road improvement.   There is more to improving a gravel road than just smacking down some new gravel.  You need drainage ditches on both sides of the road a few feet lower than the road surface; every creek or swale needs a culvert, that is, a drainage pipe underneath the roadway; the surface needs to crowned or banked; the gravel should have sharp cor

"Unboxing a New Laptop..."

"Unboxing" this or that is a standard title for a You Tube video these days.  I am not really sure how this managed to become a standard meme on the internet.  But don't worry -- I won't jump on that bandwagon.  Still, it brought a smile to my face when I was surprised by a flower that is rare around here, right now, and I thought of a video entitled, "Unboxing a White Flower..."   Oregon Trail country in eastern Oregon is not flower country, right now at least.  But I appreciate flowers when they are rare: Goodbye to the old trail, for awhile: And hello to my new laptop.  I was amazed at how easy it was to set it up, but then jinxed myself by exulting over it in a message to a friend.  Then I hit a brick wall: it would not let me switch out of Windows 11 Home "S mode."  (This step had been easy for past computers.) You can imagine the futility of trying to get some "Support" from a company like Microsoft.  I even started looking at Chrom

Sculpting in Grass and Sand

I have been thinking about doing more videos for this blog.  There are only so many things that are actually fun to watch: a raptor dive-bombing a prairie dog, a herd of horses blasting across a grassy field, a dog running in slow-motion as in a dog food commercial, or a sexy lady walking down a sidewalk in high heels.   And yet there are certainly a lot of videos out there.  Many of them use a standard trick of the movie industry: they make the camera move to hide the fact that nothing interesting is actually happening.  Or they just give up and stick a talking head in front of the camera. That is why I appreciated a windy day recently near the Oregon Trail: the grass was only a foot or so high, but it was fine in texture, so the wave motion was lovely.  My little dog and I were revisiting her favorite sand dune.  When I saw this I had to smile: I smiled because of something Thoreau had once written, in "Walden."  Normally his mind worked like a still-photographer instead of

Ripples of Time

 More practice at posting via phone, because my laptop is dead: Another photo close to the Oregon Trail.  It pleases me that this part of history actually has an effect on me.  And perhaps that makes sense for a dispersed camper and mountain biker. But other parts of history also seemed interesting to me, but perhaps unimpressive to other people? For instance, the little dog and I were mountain biking on a rather straight dirt road, and found this old wooden bridge:  It was quite a bridge in its day, say, two generations later than the Oregon Trail itself.  Perhaps it shouldn't have surprised me so much;  after all, the name of the dirt road was 'Old Post Road.' The area had one more pleasant surprise for me, one more manifestation of the 'old historic road' idea: I ended up camping near a mile of 'old highway', shown below. I was surprised by the yellow paint.  This old highway lapsed into non-use after World War II perhaps. How can we explain the appeal of

When a Laptop Crashes in a Small Town

 Am I really going to type a post on my phone, now that my laptop died in a town where it will be hard to ship a new one in? Maybe I should just turn this into a photo blog.  After all, most of my photos are taken by the phone. Trees DO lean when lava comes to the surface, and ponderosa pine roots do not develop normally.  I was careful where I camped. Let's see if I can publish this post.

Survival in a Rural Area (Repairing a Van Door's Hinge)

Every year I become more interested in how animals 'make a living' in a land that is nothing but rock, aridity, bark, and pine needles.  There are lots of rodents to eat -- maybe that keeps the food chain going. If a city-slicker lands in a small town, and sees none of the big box retailers they are used to, they probably think they can't survive.  But then they discover there are more possibilities than they thought, initially.  Besides, these days all you need is a post office and you can buy so many things online. One thing that rural areas are good at is welding/repair shops.  Recall from a couple posts ago, how my van had a hinge/door bond fail.   Without too much trouble I found a welder.  He thought that hinge was glued to the door; was he being facetious?  Although I strengthened the bond by screwing through the hinge into a wooden block installed inside the door, something more permanent seemed desirable. Here is the welded door hinge.  Not too pretty.  If it is st

A Fresh New World-Events Channel

It is pretty easy to get tired of hearing talking heads on You Tube discussing world events, even if you respect and appreciate the talking heads.  I wish I could pull a video clip into this blog from the old TV western, "The Virginian."  A chatty cowboy tells his friend that talking is one of the great pleasures in life.  The friend jumps back with, "Yea well, listening ain't."   Maybe that is why a new channel needs to be found every now and then.  Recently I have done so.  "Useful Idiots" is a great channel, with Katie Halper and Aaron  Maté. They don't discuss world events so much as the mainstream media's spin/propaganda.  Caitlin Johnstone repeats often 'that propaganda is only effective if you don't know it is happening.'  And that is why Useful Idiots is important.  They show clips from mainstream media broadcasts and then break the words down that contain the deception. The most common giveaway of propaganda is the use of

You Can Still Get a Flat Fixed for Free?

I get tires from Walmart, not just for the low price, but because a traveler likes to get tires rotated and flats fixed for free, so the tire store needs the geographical reach of your travel habits.  But of course it takes some luck to have a Walmart tire department close to your flat tire.  How far are you going to drive to save $10 on getting a flat fixed? $10?  Who am I kidding?   Actually I expected $25 as the new price.   There was a Les Schwab in this eastern Oregon agricultural community, but didn't they stop fixing flat tires for free, several years ago? I sprayed soapy water on the tire valve and saw bubbles, and told the tire guy about it.   They did fix my leaking tire valve for free, even though it was "somebody else's" tire.  I was shocked.   Outside the grocery store, at an Oregon Trail visitor kiosk, a fellow was panhandling.  But he understood his customer: it was a rural town after all.  So his sign said, "Need Work."  I gave him the money

A Small Dog on a Big Land

What a luxury it is to look at wide open spaces, covered by green grass or herbaceous plants!   Locally there aren't too many woody-stemmed plants such as sagebrush.   My little dog can run wild and free, without impaling herself on a cactus or cholla.  If only there was a herd of wild horses rampaging across this rolling landscape!  It's too bad that cameras are unimpressed by gently rolling land. Here is a video of my little monster playing on some sand dunes along the Oregon Trail: Not so many miles away, the Oregon Trail cuts away from the Snake River.  A few miles later, it rejoins the Snake.  And then it says "farewell" forever to the Snake. Of course the pioneers went through this area in late summer when it was parched and barren.  And they described it as such, in their diaries.  How many times do I have to say it?  Get to the northwest by the first of May!

Is Writing Obsolete?

In the early days of the internet, blogs were the modern equivalent of the morning newspaper.  But ever since You Tube got big, the internet has become the television set.   The smartphone can convert your voice to text.  Presumably this capability will improve over time. Audiobooks are starting to replace paper books for me.  I have no idea how general this trend is. Taken together, these trends almost imply that writing and reading are becoming obsolete.  I have mixed feelings about that.  Do any of us have the same loyalty to the written word that we have to our spoken language? It might be true that the development of writing was one of the big steps in civilization.  (It's odd that I have never read a history book dedicated to the single topic of writing.)   Writing had advantages: it added permanence to our thoughts and communications, and it eliminated the need for face-to-face communication. There are other ways to provide these advantages.  Even before the age of modern el