Monday, June 30, 2008

Black Velvet Apricots

No, it's not some new dirge-pop band from Denmark. It's a summer stone fruit that I've become enamored with recently. Plum sized with the rich, nectar-like juice of an apricot, but with a deep tropical creaminess like a mango or papaya added.

Get 'em before they go away.

Friday, June 27, 2008

You have got to be kidding me

A new Amendment presented by the moralists:

110th CONGRESS 2d Session

Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to marriage.


Mr. WICKER (for himself, Mr. VITTER, Mr. CRAIG, Mr. ROBERTS, Mr. INHOFE, Mr. BROWNBACK, Mr. ALLARD, Mr. THUNE, and Mr. SHELBY) introduced the following joint resolution; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary


Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to marriage.

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein), That the following article is proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years after the date of its submission by the Congress:


Section 1. This article may be cited as the Marriage Protection Amendment.

Section 2. Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman.

Sen Wicker, Roger F. [MS] (introduced 6/25/2008)

The full list of co-sponsors:
Sen Allard, Wayne [CO] - 6/25/2008
Sen Brownback, Sam [KS] - 6/25/2008
Sen Craig, Larry E. [Wide Stance] - 6/25/2008
Sen Enzi, Michael B. [WY] - 6/26/2008
Sen Inhofe, James M. [OK] - 6/25/2008
Sen Roberts, Pat [KS] - 6/25/2008
Sen Shelby, Richard C. [AL] - 6/25/2008
Sen Thune, John [SD] - 6/25/2008
Sen Vitter, David [Pampers] - 6/25/2008

A bathroom-trolling closet case and a whore-chasing, diaper fetishist are telling me about how marriage should be. Words fail me...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Bug factory

While the HC crew rode alleys and others rode epic border crossings, me darlin' Mrs and I went North and West for to hike and 'splore areas of our great state. This past weekend we found us on the border of the prairie and forests where the last of the glacial lakes lie: Glendalough, Maplewood, Buffalo River and Big Stone Lake.

We took a half day from work and headed up towards Glendalough, which is about 25 miles east of Fergus Falls. This is another surprisingly gorgeous park with forest and prairie and utterly clear, sand bottom lakes. There are no drive in camping sites so there isn't the accompanying noise and commotion that comes with huge trailers and lots of car traffic. We set up camp in a grove of oak trees. A pleasant breeze ran through the park and everyone there was enjoying themselves -- kids racing around on bikes (but no screaming!), couples walked past hand in hand, and families coming back from an afternoon of fishing, smiling and showing off their catch. It was idyllic except for a hidden menace that lie lurking just below the surface of this peaceful scene.

Apparently, this is where the hidden tick factory for Western Minnesota creates its creepy spawn.


These transition areas are where deer like to live -- not too far into the woods to hide and not too far into the prairies to eat. With the deer here, deer ticks can't be too far behind. Or ahead, or to the left or the right. I have never seen so many ticks in my entire life. We must have pulled 50 ticks off of each other over the course of the weekend and Mrs. Yam is still a bit jumpy at the slightest tickle be it a breeze from vent or a pant leg barely grazing exposed skin.

Glendalough is a former retreat for the big Minnesota newspaper families and has been preserved quite nicely. It is on a couple of small, very clean lakes and the DNR has started bringing back some of the native prairie to the areas that aren't forested. The hike was around Annie Battle lake that was really quite striking with the beautiful evening, light breeze and clear skies.

Saturday found us on our way to Maplewood State Park. It wasn't far from Glendalough, you just had to wander your way through all of the lakes that dot that area of the state. It was nice to see lakes with the old style cabins, you know, little ones with a maybe three rooms and that great screen door held shut with the long spring that went "goyng goyng goyng" as you walked through and then would slam shut with a satisfying crash. Not like the 48 room "cabins" you see on lakes around Brainerd. Fishing boats and resorts from the 50s still abound -- it all looks like an ad for Schmidt's Beer...

This was the longest hike of the weekend with a length of 10 kilometers over surprisingly hilly terrain. This is also the last of the great Eastern Hardwood forest before the prairie takes over and where the glaciers stopped, with the moraines and the lakes evidence of their passing. Sheila, our dog is about 10 years old and is beginning to slow down and the hills and heat were just a bit more than she was able to do. We stopped a couple of times to look at the maps and the poor thing would climb in the tall grass and collapse, panting. So, for her sake, we cut short our walk and headed back to the car. Since Maplewood is a large park, we didn't really shorten our walk all that much, we just hiked on the road, but that seemed to make all the difference for her and she seemed to improve. When we arrived at the parking lot, she crawled under the car and went right to sleep.

The next stop was Buffalo River which is east of Moorhead on highway 10. This is a small park, but it is magnificent in that you get to see the prairie. We saw a thunderstorm roll past us to the north and caught a few drops during our hike. The route first takes you past the pool and into the woods that run along the river and this was the most mosquito infested place I'd ever been in. They were so plentiful, that at times it felt that you were covered in them. Glance down at your leg and you would see 10 at a time. We basically started to run to leave the riverside and get to the prairie where we would rather take our chances with the ticks. Hell, even the visitor's guide to the park says that the place is best viewed in the Spring or Fall since it's so buggy.

We completed the short walk and headed back to the camp. On the way, we stopped in town and had dinner since we were really hungry and didn't want to wait for a fire and food prep. Bought some beers (Brau Brothers Pale Ale) and the Mrs. was delighted to find that the liquor store carried Shakers Rose -- a vodka that is flavored with the flower and is a lovely pink. I believe Shakers stopped making it, so she was happy to score a bottle. Back to the tent, built a fire and stared at it until, one by one, we were the last campfire burning. Then, we too extinguished ours and hit the bags.

I awoke early on Sunday and began breaking camp as the Mrs and Sheila slept. I was about halfway done when she arose and we proceeded to pack the car and leave for the last park -- Big Stone Lake. This park lies on the border between Minnesota and South Dakota in that bulge on the western edge of the state. It wasn't necessarily close to us, but it is the last park in the southern half that we haven't visited yet and this was as good an opportunity as any. We drove through the flat farmlands and then became amazed as the terrain changed from billiard table farmland to rolling pastures. The lake seems like it's really like Lake Pepin in that it's a wide part of a river more than a standalone body of water.

After descending the bluff to the park, we found we were the only ones there. A beautiful sunny Sunday, hot and bright and no one at the park or on the lake in a boat seemed a bit odd, but we were happy to have the solitude. This walk is in an oak forest along the lake and is a short there and back. Quite lovely, I was afraid it would be like hikes some of the other southern parks where a small river is dammed up and a park is set around the lake. These are usually dull, short and crowded with campers, if you can really call dragging 40 feet of hotel room behind a pickup and setting your TV on a stand by the fire "camping." No campgrounds, a couple of boat landings and that's about it.

Four parks in 2 and a half days, 12 miles of walking and 50 ticks later, we headed east on highway 7 back to home. We pulled ticks out of our toes, our sandals, the dog and even when we were 100 miles from the last park, ticks were still crawling around the car. Ew. Smoky, sunburnt, tired (we don't sleep well in a tent) and content. Another good weekend.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

For Sale

2003 Honda Civic LX. 4 door, 5 speed manual transmission. A/C AM/FM/CD. Dark blue with some cosmetic scratches and dings. Runs well. New tires.

I'll update the miles when I look at the odometer (right now, my guess is ~50,000)

No, there's nothing wrong with it, I just don't drive it and I don't want to pay the upkeep on something that is taking up room on my driveway. I'm gonna buy a Big Dummy and live with one car, two is stupid here in town.

Update: the mileage reading is 51,473 miles. I bought the car with 35,000 on it in February of 2005 and we put 4,000 the next month on a trip to the East Coast. So in three and a half years, I've put 12,000 miles on it.

Oh yeah, gotta have that second car...

Friday, June 20, 2008

Philadelphia's mayor speaks, you listen...

Philadelphia Mayor on planning a city:

For many, it was enough that Nutter unambiguously endorsed a major plan for the Delaware River waterfront and the creation of a Design Review Committee.

No doubt many in the audience pinched themselves when Nutter described Philadelphia as if it were a progressive West Coast city rather than a Rust Belt survivor:

"We are a walkable city, increasingly home to bicycles," Nutter declared. "We want to preserve our urban form. We do not want the automobile and its design requirements to dominate the landscape."

Platitudes, maybe. But what stirring ones.

Good for you, Philly.

Thursday, June 19, 2008



WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Americans drove 1.4 billion fewer highway miles in April than they did in April 2007, the Department of Transportation said Wednesday.

That marks the sixth consecutive monthly drop and coincides with record gas prices and an increase in transit ridership, Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said.

April's drop is more than three times larger than the drop from March 2007 to March of this year, which was 400 million fewer highway miles.

Peters said vehicle miles traveled on all public roads for April fell 1.8 percent from April 2007.

That's like 18 trips from the Earth to the Sun and back.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Sing it: "I'm proud to be an American..."

It was largely the work of five White House, Pentagon and Justice Department lawyers who, following the orders of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, reinterpreted or tossed out the U.S. and international laws that govern the treatment of prisoners in wartime, according to former U.S. defense and Bush administration officials. The Supreme Court now has struck down many of their legal interpretations.

The lawyers drafted legal opinions that circumvented the military's code of justice, the federal court system and America's international treaties in order to prevent anyone — from soldiers on the ground to the president — from being held accountable for activities that at other times have been considered war crimes.

I hope that Obama gets elected and then purges the bureaucracy of these un-American creeps, from the Secretaries to the unpaid minions because if he doesn't, these nasty little virii will pop up and pollute our nation's vital bodily fluids.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Heavy Weather

There are times when a tailwind isn't the blessing bikers think it is; a sultry day in July that causes you to bike in your own sweat or that frozen morning in January when the wind eats at the bit of neck that is between the jacket and the hat. I've now experience a third -- getting caught on the front edge of a thunderstorm.

I biked to Town Hall for Pint Club and on the way spoke with my mother. My brother was coming into town for Father's Day (his daughter lives here, he in New London) and that he was grilling. Since Me Darlin' Mrs. was working at the Cedar, I decided to bike to Golden Valley and join them. I fought a headwind as I rode straight west down 55, but it was such a beautiful day and the ride so lovely, I hardly noticed it. It must have been more substantial than I thought, as I realized that I had voracious appetite that not only made itself known to me, but my niece heard my stomach roaring. Two cheeseburgers, baked beans, salad and a couple of Mike's Hard Lemonades later, it seemed to have calmed down.

My other brother called during dinner and notified us that there was tornadic activity in New London -- this precipitated the Minnesota ritual of turning on the TV and watching the breathless coverage of the weather. I generally don't concern myself as this is mostly the local weather news staff working themselves into a fine lather and justifying their expensive toys. But when they said that the storm was moving at 55mph (!) and would be in Plymouth in fifteen minutes, I decided that I should get my sorry hinder home. Over the protestations of my family "You're not gonna ride in this?" "We'll give you a ride." "Are you nuts?" I got on my Bleriot and headed home. The air was absolutely still -- a bad sign.

I had just crossed 100 on Glenwood when the wind picked up again -- with me, luckily -- along with a light sprinkle. I actually appreciated the rain as I was getting hot with the pace I had set. By the time I reached Cedar Lake, the rain was beginning to come down in earnest and the wind had picked up some more. Down Dean Parkway and across Lake and now the wind had changed from blessing to curse. It was still out of the northwest, but should I deviate from the direction of the wind, my front wheel would act like a sail and between the wind and slick streets the riding got treacherous. I couldn't see through my rain-spattered glasses and the branches that had blown off onto the parkway would reach up and grab a toe through my sandals. The power was out around Calhoun and I have scratches up and down my shins from riding through the debris.

As quickly as it arrived, it departed and soon I was back in a slight drizzle and calm winds. Travelling the parkway by bicycle was the fastest way as there were some very large trees that had either lost a major branch or had blown over completely blocking the road. Cars needed to detour, but I just walked around it and continued.

It was a pretty violent storm, but at no time was I concerned or felt I needed to find shelter. I don't know if that is confidence or stupidity, but I was determined to get home. Soaked and panting, I managed to pull into the drive only to notice that my car's windows were down and the storms were open in the house. The critters were pretty terrified and when I walked in, I was immediately surrounded by cats and dog that needed a comforting scratch or tummy rub. I dried off and we all curled up on the bed and fell asleep in a big pile comforted by nearness of the others.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Stable changes

There are dealings afoot in the Yam garage. I am potentially losing two of the Specialized to some friends who are in the market for some bikes.

An aside: oddly, when people see you riding a lot, hear you talking about biking and see more than one bike a piece they tend to think that you know something about bikes and bicycling in general. I help when I can and I'm a vocal proponent of whatever I believe in and I'm sure me darlin' Mrs can back me on that. Actually, she'd call me a F*(%in' Know-it-all. But enough about me...

I've said to people that a good used bike is money better spent than buying some new cruddy piece of pig iron from MegaMaxiMart. They asked if I had any bikes I would sell. Since I try not to invest too much emotional capital into any one bike (unlike others, *cough* Pete *cough* Mark *cough* Ken *cough*), I would happily part with the Expedition Elite and the Sirrus. One for him and one for her -- $400 bucks for the pair, plus cheap tune-ups.

That makes room for bigger and better things: a brand spankin' new Surly Long Haul Trucker for the darlin' Mrs. A week and a half ago, we were talking about our summer vacation plans and the ride that we're planning would be really painful, slow and silent if she was going to ride distance on her Crossroads. As a commuting bike, it's marvelous, but the upright position and the aluminum frame would tire her out. I knew that she would be miserable, and she finally relented to my demands that we look at a better bike for long distance. So off to see that tasty piece of ass, Jim at HCHQ. Using all of his masculine charm (hell, even I felt a tingle), he convinced Mrs. Yam to test ride the LHT. When she returned, there was a smile on her face that said "This is the bike for me." The deal was consumated (ahem) and now she's got a good bike.

One thing the general populace doesn't realize is that there is a difference between bikes. The difference between a $200 bike and $500 bike is noticeable and the difference between a $500 bike and one that costs $1000 is even more substantial. I would like to think that in a future where gasoline costs more than $5/gal, people would take biking seriously and quality bikes are no longer thought of as weekend toys but as viable transportation options and are treated with the same care and reverence that we now treat our automobiles.

Of course monkeys could fly out of my ass and bring me beer too. Actually, this seems more likely. If folks would just realize that they don't ride their crappy bikes because they're crappy bikes and there is no joy pushing a crappy bike around and rode something that didn't suck, and rode something that we (the people of the biking community) take for granted, I imagine that there would be more riders. [If I had an editor, I would probably be caned for that last sentence]

Anyway, we're equipped now for our road trip, we just need to get some miles under our saddles in preparation for our journey. We're going to Grand Rapids, MN to a cabin on a lake for a couple of days in the beginning of July. Hopefully no more than two, as I'm not a waterskier, fisherperson and I don't really like Michelob Golden Draft Light and fried fish. We'll make our way east to Duluth and then south either by MN Hwy 23 or through Wisconsin. Don't know yet and we'll probably figure it out the day we start home.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Monster Gramma (or, Holy Cow, Camels!)

This is a long post that has been rattling around my hard drive and Blogger since we returned Memorial day.

Me darlin' Mrs and I left for a long weekend of hiking and camping in 5 Southwestern Minnesota State Parks: Myre/Big Island, Lake Louise, Forrestville/Mystery Cave, Beaver Creek Valley and Great River Bluffs.

We both took a half day on Friday and after the customary panicked rush to find, pack, lose, forget, find, pack and forget the necessary gear, we managed to load most/all/too much stuff, the dog and ourselves into the car for the trip to Myre for the first night and our first six miles of the planned twenty miles of hiking. Gasoline has become something that we don't buy often, so we decided to see if we could stretch our mileage in the Forester by not pushing it -- we basically kept it to around 60 mph -- on the freeway. Once you get past the idea of getting passed, you can start to calm down even in traffic. We probably had our share of curses hurled our way, but we didn't care. Overall, we managed to add 2-3 mpg by not driving fast -- saving us about two gallons per tank.


We arrived at the park and set up camp. We have done this enough that we can have a reasonable campsite up in about 30-45 minutes depending on the conditions. From there we had had a snack an decided to hit the trail -- a trail that is not that well marked, as we would regret later. We walked the island loop and admired the spring flowers; wood anemone, prairie phlox and the occasional strawberry. The trail then leads you on the road that connects the island to the rest of the park and we saw a rather large fish jump as we passed. Impressive. You then take a roundabout way to the Blazing Star State Trail. Had I the sense to listen to Mrs Yam, we would have been finished the walk in under four hours, but I didn't. I insisted that there is no connecting sign and that we should go back and walk through the campground. We did. Then we walked through the other campground, and then south to the lake, and after about a half hour, we finally found a Hiking Club sign, but we were going the opposite way. So, there isn't a right or wrong way to hike 'em, so we pushed on.

We walked through the hills and sloughs just east of I-35 and saw a whole pile of critters; turtles, a raccoon, herons, ducks and all manner of other birds. The air was filled with the songs of Wrens, Red-winged Blackbirds, Meadowlarks, Bluebirds, Orioles and Cardinals. It was gorgeous -- I'd never heard anything like that in my life. Go and experience it for yourself, it's really quite amazing. We finally reached the word sign and we found that we were closer to I-35 than we were to our camp. I was starting to bonk since in the panic of preparing to leave, we didn't eat lunch and our snack was long gone. But there was little we could do but soldier on and hike the two plus miles back to the tent as the sun was starting to fall behind the trees. A quick meal of shrimp and peppers and then bedtime.

We got up early Saturday morning and broke camp quickly since we wanted to get to Beaver Creek Valley as soon as possible in hopes that we may still get one of the non-reserved campsites. All of the state parks were full and so we hoped we could get one before the hordes from the Cities descended and took the remaining campsites. If we had any luck, we'd set up camp for the next two nights and go back and hike Lake Louise and Forestville in the afternoon. We set out on I-90 and headed east. We're really not Interstate people, I'm not in any hurry and I hate the rushing and the lack of scenery. With that in mind, I got us off as soon as it made sense and that was when we hit State Highway 16.

Highway 16 is also known as the Historic Bluff Country Scenic Byway. Neat farms greet you as you leave the freeway and also the first of many surprises on this road -- camels! What appeared to be young Bactrian camels were lounging in the meadow near a farmhouse. This was just outside of the town of Grand Meadow, MN, a little town that looks like most of the other towns in this area; Scandinavian-named stores and restaurants, houses with neat yards and the implement and Co-ops you'd expect for an agricultural area. But this one has a high school you really have to see to believe. Just past town was a field of power generating windmills. Camels, Dome schools, windmills -- this road has everything and we're only about ten miles in...

As we headed east, the terrain started to become more and more hilly. A bit of geography here; this is part of the "driftless area" of Minnesota. The glaciers that carved so much of our current geography never reached this far south. That is not to say that their presence wasn't felt -- quite the contrary -- this area is filled with valleys that were carved by the massive melt water runoff from the glaciers. You look south from I90 and you see a relatively flat plain with small, gently rolling hills. If you look carefully though, you'll see the tops of trees where bushes should be. The valleys are somewhere between 200-300 deep and you'll see maples and ash trees on the Mississippi side of the area where the great Eastern Hardwood forests end or oaks in the west where the prairie and oak savannas begin.

By the time that we picket up US52 just outside of Preston, the valleys were well defined and the views were truly magnificent. Tree-covered sides and a valley that are dotted with farms and horse and cattle ranges. We followed US52 south through Harmony and the heart of Minnesota Amish country. And yes, we did see famous horse-drawn buggies. You can tell the Amish farms from the surrounding "English" ones because the lack of powerlines, trucks, combines, etc. and the tell-tale red barns. You could also see the wear and tear on the shoulder of the roads. I wonder what it would be like to bike through this country. If the wind didn't get ya, the hills would, but the traffic would be accustomed to slow moving vehicles on the side of the road. Be careful of the horse exhaust and I guess it would be fun to try.

The views continued to be spectacular all the way to Caledonia where the Beaver Creek Valley park is. We pulled into the park and managed to get one of the three remaining sites. Whew, Mrs Yam is nobody's dummy. Good call, hon. As you can probably gather from the name, the park lies at the bottom of a valley and this makes for a unique park in that you don't have the typical loops with campsites, but the sites run along the valley along the road. This is nice in that you don't have a lot of neighbors and if you're lucky (and we were), you'll get a spot along the creek. We had the pleasure of our own babbling brook to sing us to sleep for the next couple of nights.

The car was emptied again and the tent went up. Mrs Yam inflated the mattress (a new and very welcom addition to the gear) and promptly decided to have a nap. I fire up the stove (another new addition) and cooked a breakfast of oatmeal and coffee. Trouble is -- we had no coffee cups. After pouting a moment or two, I looked in the car and decided I could fashion a mug out of some of the pop cans that were in there. I used one to make the base and handle and I cut the top off of a second and rolled the top over so as not to rip my lips on the jagged edges. That worked pretty well and would be my mug for the weekend.

Me Mrs awoke, we ate and headed out back Lake Louise. We swung way south to avoid the way we came in and saw more farms, but there was less up and down and more simple rolling hills. We made it to Le Roy, Minnesota where Lake Louise State Park is, but it took us a while to find the entrance as my GPS didn't show it accurately (it is really a collections of areas along a creek that are barely connected and not the big area that is displayed on a GPS or Google maps. After finally finding the parking lot, we started out on the Hiking Club trail and we weren't a half mile in when Sheila decided she didn't like the smell of the flea/tick collar and rolled in a pile of fresh horse shit. Great, but this would portend our entire hike here, much to our dismay. It's a small park that has a lot horse trails (we'd already noted that) and there isn't much in the line of scenery: there's no hills, no prairie, just this area that looked like reclaimed farmland with some small stands of trees and none of the birds or wildlife of Myre-Big Island. In fact, this turned out to be a park similar to Split Rock Creek in Western Minnesota: a dammed up creek with a little lake with campgrounds around it. Bleah.

After getting closer and closer to the end of the hike without finding the word sign (the only redeeming thing I could imagine from this dumpy park), I started getting really crabby. Between the stinking dog, the dull walk and the fact that I was convinced that there was no word sign, I worked myself into quite a grump. We made it back to the car and I washed off the dog in the bathroom and decided to get us the hell out. I didn't want to have to come back to this place just for the freakin' word.

I think that I'm starting to take the Hiking Club a bit too seriously.

We made it to Forestville and I talked to the Ranger there and told him that there wasn't a sign at Lake Looser. He told me that it's still getting made and they'll have it installed in a week or two. I wasn't keen on returning and showed him the tracks from the GPS. He agreed that I did walk it and told me the word. Success! He then assured me that the word sign was indeed installed and we should have no trouble getting to it along the trail. I took a map and headed out. Oh goody, another horse camp. We were beginning to tire of walking in horse shit. Fer cryin' out loud, could you get hiking trails away from the horse trails? Is that too much to ask? At least we were back in the valleys and the scenery was back. Hilly, wooded terrain and a short walk restored our spirits and we got our word and headed back east to Caledonia.

We headed back the way that we came, but with the sun running down and the differing colors and shadows showed us a completely different drive that we had eight hours earlier. Lighting really is everything in landscapes, isn't it? We made it to Spring Grove and it was close to eight PM. We decided to stop and get some cold beer since we weren't sure when the liquor stores closed. Good thing we stopped -- it is eight. We walked into the bar/liquor store and I saw the nightmare of every beer geek six coolers and nothing that is worth it. Four coolers full of Bud/Bud Light in various containers, Miller Lite, a small collection other Miller products and that's about it. EEEK! I settled on a twelve of PBR (tolerable) and Mrs picked up a small bottle of vodka. This is where it gets interesting: Spring Grove makes their own soda. We saw that there was a six pack of Lemon Sour, but the lady at the counter told us that it's really only there for bar to use as a mixer and that we could get it for half of what they charged at the local convenience store. Thanks, lady.

We got a six of the lemon sour and headed to our campsite. Started a fire and made a simple dinner of sausages and bbq beans. That lemon sour and vodka was just what we needed to rinse the Lake Looser debacle from our minds and we went to bed exhausted and content.

Sunday found us with a burning desire to not drive anywhere. Beaver Creek Valley has a six mile hike and that was enough for the day. Lounging around the site, splashing in the creek and eating breakfast was what we really wanted to do. We had eggs and leftover beans and sausages for breakfast, served up with another utensil constructed from pop cans. I've gotta work on our camping gear collection. On a return trip from the bathroom, me Mrs. ran into some of the kids in the park running around. One of them looked up and yelled, "It's Monster Gramma and she's coming to get us!" My darling has a new nickname! Monster Gramma, I like that.

We walked the trail which basically runs the length of the park. On the southern end, you go up the hill and back down, walk along the park road to the north end and then up the valley wall from the Park office. This is one of the most beautiful walks we've done in any of the parks we've walked. The slope is a gentle uphill and as you climb, you can see wildflowers, butterflies and birds everywhere. The heady mix of warm sunshine, flowers and, well, life, was overwhelming. There are times I wish I could have seen Minnesota 200 years ago, to see the prairies before farms, the forests before the loggers and rivers and lakes before cabins and lake homes. To see such unspoiled vistas makes me sad. Sad that I didn't do this before now. Sad that less and less people go to parks. Sad that a generation of kids don't have someone nagging them to go outside and play. Mom's working and they're in the basement with their screen time and virtual friends. Sad that if someone manages to drag them to this, that they are unable to appreciate it. There is something to quiet, to nature, to peace that I fear that may be completely lost soon.

Where Lake Louise is a sad and dull park, Beaver Creek Valley is quite the opposite. The walk down from the side of the valley leads you along the creek with more birds and flowers. Sheila is an older dog (about 10 years) and she had been gamely walking along with us, but she's a lot slower than she once was. She still is determined to smell everything, but it was getting humid and hot and this stretch in the woods with the creek was just what she needed; the path was entwined by the creek with many crossings and each ford was met with enthusiastic splashing and several gulps of water.

The path then hit a meadow. This sun-drenched acre was buzzing with more of everything that we had seen. It went up to eleven. We stopped and just stared -- the hazy sunshine gave this field an aura, an otherworldly shimmer. I lack the ability to describe it. I'm sorry.

We followed the trail around the edge of the meadow and back to our campsite, making sure to stop and splash in the creek as demanded by the dog. When we returned camp side, we decided that the makeshift tools were just not cutting it, so a trip into town was in order. We found a store that carried what we needed and then drove around Caledonia. On the way back to the park, we could feel the humidity rising and see the clouds in the west and guessed that a storm was brewing. For our last evening's dinner, we started pot roast. As we were preparing dinner, the Park Ranger drove by letting us know that there was a Severe Thunderstorm Warning for the area. If we're camping, we're gonna get rained on, it happens every time so we don't make a big deal about it any more.

As we cooked, the cars leaving the park went from a trickle to an almost roaring torrent. Nobody seemed to break camp, they just got in their vehicles and left. Weird. First, we felt the drops then the thunder. No lighting, so no worries. The rain started coming down a little heavier and it shows who has the sense in the family when the dog gets up and goes into the tent while we continued to prepare dinner. We just put more pans over the grate to protect the fire. An occasional person would walk by and we'd exchange greetings and an snort of disgust at the cowards. It's just rain, right?

We weren't concerned because the sky never took on the color of a Severe Thunderstorm -- this was just plain ol' rain and I guessed that we'd have sun in less than an hour. We just got rained on, and after three days of hiking in the sun and no showers, frankly it felt really, really good. The fire kept going, so we did too. Ten minutes of heavy rain and the thunder and lightning died down and the rain soon followed. The sun then chased the clouds away and those folks that left were treated to a foggy return. One returning family rolled down the window claimed that we were "really hardcore." Yeah, perhaps we are. Or dumb. My bet is on dumb.

We ate and then drank beers and vodka sours around the fire and dried out. Reeking of smoke, we headed into bed and after wrestling the dog out of here spot, we finally went to sleep.

We broke camp Monday, packed up and headed up the road to Great River Bluffs State park for the last of the hikes, which was nice as we were getting tired and the look the dog gave us as we got out for the trail said pretty much everything we were already thinking. The day was sunny and hot and Sheila wasn't happy, but she went anyway with even slower gait than the day before. This is a pleasant enough hike and the hillside prairie is pretty neat and you stay up on the top of the bluff until you get to the end of the trail. There you get a marvelous view of the river valley. After finishing, we headed to Winona and then changed our plans. We decided to go up the Wisconsin side of the river instead of US61. This was a nice drive except for the freakin' Harleys. God, I hate those motorcycles and the assholes that ride them. Hours of listening to masses of asses and their fuckin' straight pipes. I would impale the lot of 'em on their mufflers if I could. Get a real bike, dummy.

We made it to Prescott and crossed the St. Croix and avoided the bridge out in Hastings. On our travels north, the clouds moved in and the temperature dropped by like 20 degrees, but that felt good. We shattered our good feelings by traveling on high speed roads, but it was good to get out of the car and take a shower. A Thai pizza at Galactic Pizza and then back home to bed. All in all, a marvelous weekend.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Book tag...

Okay, Scott tagged me to post whatever book is closest and copy sentences 6-8 on page 123. I'll play...

Well, hang on. The nearest book to me right now is Building Internet Firewalls and I don't think that is really worth boring y'all about it. So in the spirit of the rule (not the law), I'll grab what's on my bedstand at the moment: The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michal Pollan.

We think of grass as soft and hospitable stuff, but once it's been dried in the sun and shredded by machines -- once it's become hay - grass is sharp enough to draw blood and dusty enough to thicken lungs. I was covered in chaff, my forearms tattooed red with its pinpricks.
The others -- Joel Salatin, whose farm this was; his grown son, Daniel; and two helpers -- had gone off to the barn for something, leaving me with a welcome moment in the pasture to gather myself before we cranked up the baler again.

Certainly more interesting than:

A screening router is an appropriate firewall for a situation where:
- The network being protected already has a high level of host security.
- The number of protocols being used is limited, and the protocols themselves are straightforward.
- You require maximum performance and redundancy.

Tag time: