Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Central Florida

Bailed out of the panhandle with threats of freezng drizzle and headed south, passng through towns with names like "Winter Haven" and "Frostproof." I'm now sequestered in a crowded State Park campground where the couple next door is cooking some foul smelling dish that, may or may not contain Spaghettios, as a main ingredient and argue non-stop, eight feet from my window. Windows I refuse to close because it would require turning on the AC which I refuse to do strictly on philosophical grounds. It's hot now, Sputnik's tongue is lolling and I'm sweating. Not used to this heat, reaffirming what I've always believed; that the human condition is one of constant dissatisfaction.
But the beer's cold and it's great entertainment watching these old farts trying to back their ridiculously gargantuan motor homes into these small campsites.
I've got people around Port Charlotte and I'll head ther in the morning.

Gotta' get my laptop fixed, my thumbs are getting cramps.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

"May They Rust in Peace"

Laptop's broke so I'm forced to thumb this out on the smartphone.
Passed this on my way here, but took some pics when I went back into town for supplies.

Florida, it seems, is the place to retire and die for trucks as well as rich Easterners and polite, wealthy Canadians.
This group sat in the quiet semi-circle of a shaded glen watching traffic pass by on the Costal Highway like dignified gentlemen in a State of Oxidizing Grace.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Home Sweet Home?

Think I'm far enough south to stay a while. Florida panhandle, not real warm, (down in the teens tonight) but no crowds and only eighteen bucks a night. Long leaf pines and palmetto. The beer stays cold in the cooler without ice!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Sputnik is My Co-pilot

Sputnik rarely complains and performs her duties as Navigator and Chief Security Officer with aplomb. She does however, look at me during the endless hours spent driving, as if to say, “What the f@#k are we doing, and why?” But hers is not to question why, hers is to take up space and bark at the gas station dogs as we leave The Natchez Trace to cut across the seedy underbelly of rural Alabama.
Pulp plants and paper mills, rundown shacks, satellite dishes and a bass boat in front of every trailer. Far-flung small towns and flooded, kiddie pool catfish farms.

Little sleep the night prior, and exhausted as I pressed on, ever-southward. Was propositioned by a big-boned, freckle-faced mulatto hooker in a Dothan, Alabama MacDonald's parking lot. I politely declined, but later wondered if I should have negotiated a loving embrace for a happy meal and a vanilla shake.

Memo to Garmin:

You produce a fine product, but for the love of God, please install a “Keep me the Hell out of the Hood” mode on your GPS device. “Fastest time” mode is ok, but a nigga’ could get killed in the places it takes you.

Yours Truly,


Wednesday, January 22, 2014


Last time I'd been on the Natchez Trace Parkway was on my first bike, a KZ750 twin, on my first two-wheeled roadtrip. It was in late March and I got drenched and cold, and had to hole up in a motel for a day due to an incessant deluge. I ended up 24 hours AWOL reporting to Ft. Polk Louisiana to finish out my tour, but a kindly Duty Sargent let me slide when I signed in. Different situation now, just meandering south and west with no schedule nipping at my heels.
The Trace is an awesome drive or ride. Beautiful, smooth road with gentle, wooded curves, ranging from hardwoods to open prairie grass to a canopy of conifers. The sun finally showed itself from behind Winter's dreary clouds, and my spirits soared after some shitty conditions. I hope not to wait thirty-five years to revisit this stretch. Kind of freaky to see nothing but a natural setting, no houses, businesses or billboards, and was surprised to see so many feral dogs patrolling the sides of the road. The pickings must be pretty good on The Trace, the dogs were dirty, but looked well-fed. I stopped once to check one out, Sputnik let out a low growl and the hair stood up on her back as her wilder relative stared back with furtive hateful eyes, before bolting back into the woods.

Came upon a portion of The Trace that looked like the Argonne Forest after a WWI artillery battle. Found out later it was the aftermath of a tornado in 2006. Must have been a mean one because this stretch went on for several miles.

I don't know who Jeff Busby was, but he was definitely a good old boy, because The Jeff Busby Park in central Mississippi is beautiful and you can camp there free for up to fourteen days! Sputnik and I  had the whole place to ourselves as we were the only residents this night. It caused me to contemplate a life spent camping in Wal-Mart parking lots and places like this, only having to come up with fuel and food money.
 The only drawback was no electricity and it was cold as hell that night. I shivered with little sleep, finally relented and turned on the camper's heater. Next morning both truck and camper's batteries were dead. I was screwed until an old southern boy showed up to swamp out the restroom. I approached him in his old truck and saw an old cracked and corroded set of jumper cables in the bed. I asked him if he'd kindly give me a jump me, and he said he would after he finished his duties. We hooked up and after a while the old microtruck fired up. I thanked him profusely, handed him a ten, and was back on the road. Lesson learned: Next time unhook the trailer plug and run down the camper's only. Or, get a generator.

Sputnik was psyched to be out of the infernal passenger seat and able to run off leash, chasing squirrels and racing me down the hills on my badass, outlaw non-motorbike.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Easy Ridin'

 I tire quickly of The Interstate Highway System's mad rush. Concieved and built by Eisenhower to allow citizens to dodge the Soviet's atomic missiles, but I find myself instead dodging big-bellied transport junkies hopped up on white cross and greasy coffee, piloting diesel-belching juggernauts, hell bent for leather, taking perverse pleasure in pitching the little single axle tin can into a shimmying near-death wobble. They pass at seventy-five mph on a noxious, heavy metal hamster wheel, and I’m briefly sucked into the vortex for a few moments then spewed from its terrible, turbulent slipstream like the unwanted detritus of post-modern material hunger.
 Oh, woe is me, for I am but a simple traveler seeking only peace and the ice-free road less travelled. I jumped off of I-65, battered but not beaten, and headed southwest out of Nashville.

Found sanctuary this day, temperatures finally cracked the freezing mark and smooth sailing on dry pavement. Off the Superslab and on to The Historic Natchez Trace Parkway. Got on at the northern terminus. No commercial vehicles, no strip malls, no billboards hawking firecrackers, truckstop trinkets and Interstate XXX Adult Bookstores.
 Just 444 miles of rolling hills with panoramic vistas. The traffic in January is near nil, just me, with Sputnik as my chief navigator, always ever-vigilant for the occasional cyclist, or the few occasional like-minded soul seeking solitude. Small bands of crows, dark and raucous, flit across the sky scanning the road’s edge for fresh carrion and stale French fries. The salt-encrusted microtruck’s radio plays some forgotten song, Jimmy Morison riding on the storm.

Icicles hang from the rock walls like the beards of a hundred granite-faced sorcerers, peering down with a billion years of compressed sediment and infinite wisdom, passing judgment on the passing motorists, condemning them to a journey fraught with bloated bladders, jostling mini-vans and truck stops filled with aging lot lizards.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Rough Sledding

Was hove to at The Compound all day Thursday due to another little snowstorm, but took off this morning with threats of more light snow. The state road out of Jerkwater was snowy, as expected, with two black ruts showing through some packed snow. Took it slow in 4wd and nursed my way down to the interstate. I-65 was better with a few harmless whiffs of dry snow blowing across the road. Fairly smooth sailing.

Being a soft Yank, I HATE pulling a trailer on anything but dry pavement, but I had to get the hell out of Dodge because there was another storm and cold ass weather forecast for Saturday. The road was ok in places but damned if it didn't start getting shitty, in southern Indiana, within about ten miles of where my Suzuki's windshield iced up last March! This area has become, for me, Indiana's Devil's Triangle.

White patches and what looked like black ice. All the traffic, including the maniac semi drivers, were moving along about 60, but I slowed down to 50 scanning for icy spots when I felt the dreaded sensation of hovering over the pavement, no longer in control but just taking the ride, as my truck drifted sideways over the left lane with me steering sharp into the skid with the trailer coming around on my left. I crossed the emergency lane as the seconds seemed like hours while I was thinking; am I gonna' die? will my truck be trashed? will the trailer flip? Fortuitously I hit the median where there was about eight inches of snow which probably saved my ass. The front tires bit into the hard pack and the trailer straightened out behind me as I began to slow, trying to keep somewhat parallel to the highway. I still had some momentum, so my thoughts shifted to: can I really get this thing back up on the road without having to be hauled out with a wrecker? I punched in the 4wd and slowly eased back on to the highway, the traffic giving me a wide berth.

Well, for a few moments I was giddy with the euphoria of having cheated Death, or at least a trashed, brand new camper, and truck. Then it was white knuckles, slow lane, flashers and 40 mph 'til I
got to an exit to survey the damage.

The only thing I found was the lever that releases my poop tank was bent and open, but otherwise everything in one piece. I spent the next 75 miles being the white-bearded old guy in the slow lane who everyone cusses at and passes until I reached southern Kentucky and dry roads with only a trace of snow on the grass.

Which is where I am now, in a pleasant campground, still freakin' cold (about 24), but with a kettle of tea on the boil and Sputnik resting comfortably.

F@#kin" peanut butter is frozen. I'm getting too old for this shit.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Outa' Here

Winter would be OK if it ended promptly after Christmas and the temperatures would climb to 72 by New Years. But it don't work that way. My plan-like so many other Midwesterners-is to migrate southward until I find a better climate. I leave this morning on what will be the maiden voyage for the aluminum and vinyl escape module.

The manly, adventurous, part of me feels as if I'm somehow cheating and whishes I were traveling on two wheels. The other part of me, the part that doesn't like to shiver for hours at a time, wake up in a cold tent, pee in plastic bottles and wonder if the next icy overpass will be the one that sends me skidding across the pavement, is just fine with it.

How could I ever leave this winter wonderland and snow-covered heat source? Easily!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Laundry Day

I always hated having to go to the Laundromat. As I prepare to go on the road, I've resigned myself to the fact that I'll have to revisit some of these establishments.

Maybe it won't be so bad.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Digestive Problems and Young Love in Small Town Amërïkä

I often have a difficult time evacuating my bowels in mid-January. I say this not in an effort to gain sympathy, but as a matter of stark, digestive reality. I don’t attribute this condition to a lack of dietary fiber. I suspect it is due, in part, to my lifelong affinity for contemporary Latvian Folk Music and government cheese.

Some years back I was involved in a brief, consensual, relationship with an orphaned Holstein calf who we shall call, in the interest of discretion, Rene. Sometimes, even now, my thoughts return to those romantic, Summer nights Rene and I spent together, both of us very young, and very much in love. Drinking fortified wine under the light of a Harvest Moon, the sound of country music carried across the fields from a distant farmhouse radio, and the odor of moist, fermented oats as the contents of her bowels tumbled to the Barn floor with a satisfying thump.

I am down to two beers, so I won’t bore you with further details, but I will render this one small piece of advice:
If you find true love, seize it, without fear, and never let it go.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Hangin' Around

The river-drenched engine hangs listlessly from the ceiling of the frigid and neglected Sanctuary. The frame is in limbo as well. My good friend is still in the process of moving the metal-coating facility he runs to a new building, and is still not operational, so no powder coat for a while. Everything else is ready for paint and assembly but all is on hold for now.

My attentions have shifted to getting the hell out of The Land of White Death, and am preparing the escape pod for its maiden voyage. Was hoping to bring the rice-burner with me but don’t think the overloaded micro-truck can handle another 450 lbs. Tried to trade my Sportie for a little KLX 250, which would be a cool little ride to trip around on, but the dealer said he wanted nothing to do with a funky, modified Harley in his shop in January. So, my only 2-wheel conveyance will be my trusted mountain bike. I expect Sputnik to ride shotgun.

As I look out my window, it’s snowing again.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Ankle Biter

I have no idea what the hell is going on here.

The hanging oven mitts will never tell. An oven mitt never reveals its secrets.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Numb, Dumb and Housebound on the Tundra

-21 F this morning, which sucks, but the thirty mph winds are the real killer. Looking out across the fields, the drifting snow appears as waves breaking upon a white and frigid ocean. I'll be stuck inside the hovel 'til at least tomorrow, when the temps are suppose to rise above zero. But, I'm actually digging it. Plenty of firewood, beans, rice and Triscuits. And, of course, and ample supply of Nyquil.

Even with the wood stove at full blast it's hard getting the house above fifty. The biggest problem however, is letting the dogs out to crap. Little Sputnik, (fully recovered) has zero body fat and the nearly-hairless hide of a whippet. Within thirty seconds her legs start to seize up, but so far has managed to squeeze out an instantly frozen poop-sicle before she shivers herself back inside and makes a beeline to the warmth of the wood stove.

Somewhere out there is the compound driveway, about a quarter mile long with five foot drifts in places. I'll have to attempt digging it out with an ice cold, unheated open-cockpit skid steer loader. No hurry though, it's hard telling when the county will clear the road. Where the fuck is Al Gore?

Monday, January 6, 2014

Outdoor Music Festival: The Zappa Years

Many years and countless brain cells ago.

Fill the tank with a suction-cup siphon hose
Larceny is The Mother of Invention
Load the cooler and check the oil
Canned beer and stale sandwiches
Swimming in a sea of dirty ice

Roll down the windows
Roll down the highway
Sixty-eight Chevy, three on the tree
Chuggin’ orange juice and Dark Eyes from a plastic milk jug
Jack Daniels and blotter acid

Hippy redneck microbus
Dashboard hula girl and half-a-pack of smokes
Zippo spewing fire and brimstone
Love beads swinging from the rear view mirror
Loaded revolver ‘neath the seat

Shut it down in the parking lot
Radiator steaming disapproval
Bottlecap-scarred bare feet
Crossing black-hot pavement
Tortured souls on scorched soles

Festival seating
On the banks of the retention pond
White trash mermaids sing their siren song
Strumming mandolins

Reefer smoke hangs in stagnant air
Butt cheeks and Daisy Dukes
Lewd indiscretion in the tall grass
Love in the afternoon
Tube tops leaking lizard milk
Jazz isn’t dead, it just smells funny

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Misadventures of Sputnik

Sputnik in her natural habitat
Lakia, the intrepid pioneer of the Soviet Space Program
The contents of Sputnik's stomach
(she vomited at least this much prior)
I've gutted deer with smaller incisions

Sputnik is a twenty-four pound Whippet / Jack Russell hybrid, (mongrel) I obtained from the Jerkwater County Humane Society and Livestock Auction about a month ago. She was summarily stripped of her reproductive organs and implanted with tiny microchips so she could be tracked and monitored, via satellite, by The NSA and various other Government agencies. I believe she is a direct descendant of Lakia the little dog the commies launched into space in the sixties, becoming the first Earthling to ever slip the surly bonds of the green planet to briefly float among the heavens. The little, unwitting space dog orbited the planet several times before plummeting back to earth in a fiery semi-controlled crash landing, into some Godforsaken Russian swamp.

When I’m away collecting aluminum cans and scrap copper, the dogs are housed in the garage. Sputnik and Mudflap spend their days licking themselves and discussing the merits of various brands of dog foods, current events and international politics. In the interest of her comfort, I supplied Sputnik with an old sleeping bag to lie on which, unbeknownst to me, she promptly ate.

Last week while I sat reading the latest edition of Ladies Home Journal, Sputnik stood, arched her back, and vomited a large pile of polyester and nylon on the living room floor. I thought, ‘this can’t be good,’ and continued my reading. The next morning she puked once again, this time along with the polyester and nylon, a small offensive glob of semi-digested dog food was also deposited. That evening Sputnik followed up with a puddle of vile liquid with traces of synthetic fabric and a Belgian waffle. As I cleaned up this latest nauseating mess, contemplating a hefty vet bill, I wondered why the hell I ever acquired this little pain in the ass mutt. Mudflap and I were doing just fine without her. Nevertheless, I made an appointment and took her to the vet.

Housed in a dilapidated block building on the outskirts of town, the Jerkwater Animal Clinic looks like a bombed-out Afghani school house, and once inside smells of cat piss, Lysol and death. I related Sputnik’s symptoms to the kindly horse doctor and he took her back for X-rays. When he returned he put the results of her stomach X-ray on the screen. It seems Sputnik was especially fond of fasteners, because about eighteen inches of zipper and a several snaps were clearly visible, along with a large wad of undigested sleeping bag stuffing.

After all said and done, many stitches and six-hundred dollars later, the little shit is recovering nicely. Seems that despite her suspected ties to the Soviet Space Industry, Sputnik is no rocket scientist. Her outlook for a full recovery is promising and she should do fine if I can just keep her from ingesting camping equipment.