Monday, February 16, 2015

Penninsulated



I did not come seeking the beach but stumbled into it by accident. Even as a child my heart rate quickened when I came upon the sea, topping that last rise and confronting the ocean, extending to touch the sky, then arching endlessly into a chartless and unknowable oblivion. ‘Neath it lie mysteries; the rusted hulls of battleships, pods of harried beluga whale, sunken Spanish Galleons, undersea cities, and the dispersed and digested remains of Amelia Earhart, Blackbeard and Osama Bin Laden.
I’m on a little spit of land jutting out from the "Forgotten Coast." It’s damn cold, 28 degrees last night and a high of 51 today, so I won’t be body surfing, sunbathing naked or parasailing.
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Not that I ever intended to.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Forest Queen




Sputnik has resumed her rightful place as the undisputed Queen of the Florida State Park system. She looks out over her realm with the quiet confidence of a benevolent ruler, lording over squirrels, common campground mongrels and endangered woodpeckers. The panthers and gators genuflect as they pass by. An awe-inspiring picture of aristocratic nobility. The locals tell me of a large and increasing black bear population in this area. I’ll never see them. Bears tremble in fear at the sound of Sputnik’s name.
My primary southern headquarters is an obscure little outpost located in the pine flatwoods of the vast Apalachicola National Forest. I find the pine flatwoods aesthetically pleasing due to their unique quality of being both open and wooded. The lack of thick canopy allows a pleasant view and the tall columns of Longleaf Pines add a sense of dimension, while low growing wiregrass and palmettos flourish underneath. The old adage, “you can’t see the forest for the trees” doesn’t apply here.
I finally found a grocery store within twenty-five miles. North Florida ain’t Miami, and that’s why I like it. The parking lot is filled with lifted pickups and ATV’s. Tank tops and camouflage are in fashion and the children respect their elders while they stab each other with scissors. The checkout clerk has a distant, half-witted look on her face, wipes her nose on her sleeve constantly and communicates with a series of simple, monosyllabic grunts. But they have semi-fresh bread products and kick-ass Cajun sausage.

Monday, February 2, 2015

R-pod Vagrant


Finally crossed over Alabama’s southern border and am nestled comfortably in one of Florida’s Fine State Parks. When crossing the border I notice the ground underfoot changes abruptly from Alabama’s sticky yellow clay to Florida’s soft white sand. The temperature rises as well, or so it seems.

It always takes me few days to shake off the self-imposed restraints of everyday life. The deadlines, phone calls, harsh weather and bills slowly fade away and are replaced with sublime contentment.

 I can simply exist, serene and tranquil, like a drunken Buddhist in an all-night laundry-mat.

Of course, all this existing gets boring after five or six days, so I pull up stakes and move on.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Road Less Traveled


Alabama is a long state north to south. I jumped off the superslab around Greenville and drove county roads the rest of the way. Woods and hills in the north give way to empty fields where cotton once grew, then further south to lumber plantations thinly dotted with corrugated shacks and decaying automobiles, the side ditches empty save the carcasses of sharp-boned roadkill dried and blackened on the rough pavement, eyes wide open, but seeing nothing.

Had to stop for a band of grim-faced men in rusted pickups probing the underbrush with sharpened sticks, and bloodlust. Their truck beds bore packs of caged hounds, red-eyed and ravenous, their slatted ribs showing through thin and scarred hides, eager for the hunt. I drove on.

Around dusk we pulled off into a nondescript hobo jungle. I entered a building marked “Campground Office” ringing one of those little bells on a coiled spring that hung over the doorframe. A man was seated behind the counter watching a fishing show on an old-school television. He was an older man, big-bellied with a mottled complexion, and greasy hair the color of tossed bathwater. He wore thick-lensed glasses with frames made from antelope bones.

 He barely glanced as I entered, but continued to watch his fishing show. A small poodle at his feet, with a coat of dirty lamb’s wool, stared at me with pink and runny eyes. I cleared my throat and asked if he had a site available for the night. He peered out over his glasses at me with a look of vile contempt and turned back to the TV. After a long, awkward pause he finally said, “Twenty-fi’ dollah’s cash.”

I pulled out my wallet and laid my money on the counter like Doc Holliday and waited for him to raise or call. After another pause, and with great effort, he lifted himself from his chair and approached the counter. He quickly folded the cash into his dirty shirt pocket and pulled out a crude printed map of the campground and said, “Site eighteen, checkout at eleven.”

 I quietly thanked him, and as I turned to leave, looked down at the dog who was sniffing my pant leg. He looked up and growled a soft disapproval, but allowed me to pass.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Pullin' South



Sputnik knows long before I do that a journey is imminent with that unearthly canine intuition we mere mortals can never comprehend. Days before our departure she’d leap into the truck’s open door and stubbornly refuse to exit. She must be coerced and cajoled with veiled threats of violence and promises of dog biscuits and cheddar cheese. Hooked up and loaded the Gypsy Pod and was ready for takeoff Saturday morning. The weather was moderate, unlike the poor conditions during last year’s southern migration.
Trailing the Pod on my tiny pickup and traveling at interstate speed is similar to towing an obstinate, tethered parachute like the one used to stop the space shuttle during landing. Doesn’t do well up hills or into a headwind. Maybe a truck cap would help streamline its overall aerodynamic properties, but right now ten mpg is as good as I can get.
The landscape in Kentucky was frosted with a fresh coat of benign snow, but the roads were fine, and we made our way to a cold little campground of I-65 just north of Nashville. They placed me in the back row with the rear of the camper about one-hundred feet from the interstate. I fell asleep to the sound of the nightime highway, which is among the loneliest sounds on earth, and also a favorite of mine.
The siren song of the highway is the sound of restless movement, commerce and flight. Bleary-eyed, high-ballin’ truckers with doctored logbooks trying to avoid the twenty second nap that will end their run, or worse. Desperate families, their meager possessions piled high in the back seat of ancient Chevys, hoping the next town will bring them employment. Undocumented migrants and drug runners crowded into mini-vans and non-descript Buicks flying under the radar and hoping their secrets go unjudged before they make their destination.
After a decent night’s sleep I batten down the hatches, pull up the landing gear and power up the on-ramp as I join the others on Amërïkä’s endless, infrastructural, asphalt bloodstream as I move ever Southward.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Crowded House

Been slacking on the blog of late and gripped in another Midwest winter. The hibernating bikes are crowded into the shop so my tired, old diesel skid loader can benefit from the heated motorcycle garage if called upon, with just a short blast of ether, to perform snow removal duty.
The chopper project sits shrouded in rags and ninety-five percent complete waiting on funding and motivation.
This winter has been rather pleasant compared to last, with many days above freezing but Sputnik and I have been planning a mobile hovel run south nevertheless.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Sawed-off Shotguns


When the weather turns foul a young man's fancy turns to tinkering, so work finally resumed on the justanotherevosporty project. I mounted the poorly painted fender and tanks and cut down some shotgun pipes in preparation for some exhaust tips which are on the way.
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Felt good to get back in the shop. This thing may actually come off the lift sometime soon.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Redneck Retail



The Dollar General Store, (not to be confused with General Dollar, The Dollar Store, Dollar Tree or Family Dollar) is at the very epicenter of commerce in Jerkwater, USA. The product line ranges from food and over-the-counter medicines to clothing and furniture. With its plethora of substandard merchandise and sidewalk bargains no self-respecting hillbilly need visit Kroeger, Walgreens or The Gap.
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Step inside and you're hit with the smell of poverty, EBT cards and artificial cleanliness. I once purchased a can of “Fish Steaks” for fifty cents. It was horrible, and the fact that the type of “fish” isn’t labeled makes one suspect. I have to wonder how they can catch, can and ship a product from the ocean, (I assume) all the way to Jerkwater for fifty cents when a bottle of freakin’ water is a buck and a half.
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Then, I figured it out. I'm eating bait.
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Could be worse though……

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Apparitions

 
 
I sit in front of the Doppler radar sometimes for hours, the green and yellow high-def images burn through my retina and cast shadows on the back of my mind like the burnt and grisly phantoms of Bikini Atoll. I see visions at these times. Once I saw a demon sitting astride matched Land Cruisers puffing loose cigars……The smoke and sulphur curled lazily upward, like the ethereal drift of Dick Cheney’s shotgun muzzle, and breathing heavily but fresh, like pre-wrapped salad.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Wild Thing




After repeated duck egg theft I endeavored to put an end to the robbery. The ducks themselves were picked off one by one, and the sole survivor had been mangled fairly severely, but recovered. I had lost a few chickens as well, and suspecting ‘coons I set the live catch trap and baited it with cheap Dollar Store cat food. After several nights with no luck I had all but given up when I caught a red fox. Foxes are usually hard to trap, particularly in a live catch, but this was a spring born pup and he paid the price for his inexperience.

Trapped animals will often thrash wildly, throwing themselves against the wire and steel enclosure, bloody snouts and skin rubbed raw of hide. This pup was different. He was scared, but not panicked, coolly looking at me through the wire with aloof detachment. I couldn’t bring myself to shoot the thief, and if I were to relocate him it would have to be thirty or more miles away. A fox can cover a lot of ground making his way back to familiar territory.

There is a certain, inborn arrogance among we humans. The need to tame and conquer lies deep within our psyche. As I stood there weighing my options, I determined to put him in a pen for a while and see if I could chasten his wild nature to some small degree. To own him, subdue him, forcibly befriend him. I knew it was wrong.

Donning my thickest pair of welding gloves I carefully transferred him to a small chicken enclosure I had built to house aggressive roosters. He bolted into the pen, and after quickly searching for a way out, retreated to the farthest corner. I pulled up a bench in front of his prison and observed him with fascination. A beautiful specimen in the prime of health. Large erect ears and tiny needle teeth. The fox, in turn, coiled up in the corner staring furtively at me with his cat-eyes, burning with hatred. Boring twin holes into my soul.

I checked on him often, talking softly and feeding him through the wires. At first he wouldn’t eat when I was in his presence. I’d drop some food in front of him, he’d sniff, lick his lips but kept his eyes on me. I’d walk out of his sight for a few seconds, and the food was gone when I returned. He would eventually eat, reluctantly, if I’d back away from the pen, but it was becoming clear that he would never trust me. By night, he’d piss in his water bowl and chew on his cage. By day, he’d sulk in his corner. I liked the little bastard too much to shoot him, so I started formulating a plan to get him in a cage without getting bit, for a long journey of relocation.

Turns out I needn’t concern myself with a mission of mercy. One night he somehow managed to tear up enough of the galvanized hardware cloth to slip away into the night, savvier, and a lot wiser in the ways of Man.

I admire his pluck and determination. I weigh 190 pounds and can’t separate that wire with my bare hands, but at fifteen pounds he shredded it enough to escape. I probably haven’t seen the last of him. I managed to educate him, and the long cold winter is coming and he knows exactly where several plump, tasty hens sleep.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Where has all the Teflon Gone?




Pictured are two nearly identical Teflon pans. The one on the right is about twelve years old, on the left, a brand new one. One might ask regarding the pan on the right, where did all the Teflon go? Sadly, the answer becomes quite clear when simple physics and basic logic are applied. There's only one place it could be. All that Teflon was ingested by me over the course of years, subtly seasoning my fried eggs, and sausage with its deadly contaminant.
Fragments of this insidious material are lodged within my body, doing incremental damage to internal organs every day. Or possibly, a legion of tiny, synthetic fluoropolymer (had to Google that) particles wait in the deep recesses of the digestive tract preparing to enter my bloodstream, and mount a full frontal assault on my central nervous system.

Maybe it already has, which might explain the tremors, drooling and some other things.

Oh Teflon, with your flowery promises of non-stick cooking and easy clean-up, you are a wicked deceiver!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Hog Wild

Why doesn't anyone call Harleys "Hogs" anymore?





Always had an affinity for hogs, both two-wheeled and four-legged. When I was a young, too poor to afford the two-wheeled variety, man raising a family on a meager income I always raised and butchered a few hogs for the freezer.