Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Homer's Travels Look Back At 2014

I'm not sure how to describe 2014.  It wasn't a terrific year.  It wasn't the worst year either.  The year just had a fuzzy, nebulous feeling to me.

The high point of the year was our trip to Morocco, Kenya, Tanzania, and Zanzibar.  Zanzibar has become one of our favorite places in the world.  After returning I sunk into ... not a depression really ... but a severe lack of motivation.

Not long afterward there arose a family issue that I have not posted about at the request of the Wife.  I will say that it made the last third of 2014 more challenging.

I avoided political news as best I could.  The non-political news, news I did follow, was never very uplifting.  All the changes in the world around us are still ongoing and unresolved.  This made 2014 feel like an in between year.  A transition from what was to ... I'm not really sure what.

Let's look back at 2014, shall we:
  • January:  This month I continued to document my second Camino de Santiago, steeping myself in the memories.  I got a new pair of glasses - bifocals - which I'm still not sure I like as of this post.  I sold four pictures to a magazine - very proud of that.
  • February:  This month I finished my walk down memory lane and completed the documenting of my second Camino de Santiago.  I watched a couple of the rare sporting events that I actually pay attention to (the Olympics turned out better than I expected).  I sadly missed an opportunity to sell more pictures.  I went to see the Oscar nominated short films.
  • March:  The month started with a nice, relaxed week - a good way to start any month.  I wrapped up the Camino coverage with a summary and a couple of gear lessons I learned along the way.  I experienced a shift in mood with the reduction of news.  I grew a beard and promptly shaved it off again.  The Wife's student wins the state Poetry Out Loud competition.  I celebrated π day.  We went curling this month ... an activity that I am loosing interest in.
  • April:  An article about public pianos reminded me of one I saw.  I shared a couple more gear lessons I learned on the Camino.  I ranted about TurboTax tech support.  I noted a similarity between the Appalachian Trail logo and a childhood memory.  I started to get ready for my first camping trip ever.
  • May:  This month started out a bit quiet.  I put together a camping cooking system.  I went for my first camp up at Hitchcock - a success.  After a successful first camp I rethought my hydration system.  After a minor hiccup our African trip plans were finalized.
  • June:  During this month we traveled to Morocco, Kenya, and Tanzania (including Zanzibar).  It was an amazing trip.  (The trip is documented in July and August posts.)
  • July:  This month I started going through pictures and documenting our African Adventure.  I went for my second camp at Indian Cave and tested a way to pitch the tent without tent stakes.  I celebrated my birthday with ice cream cake and an apology.
  • August:  I finished documenting our African Adventure.  I finally managed to go to a Jenny Lewis concert after having failed five times before.  I went for my third camp in Preparation Canyon, had my first bad meal, and successfully tested a fire starting method.  I purged some of my eighty-seven t-shirts.  I realized that I live in a backcountry camping desert.
  • September:  I struggled with a First World Problem.  I returned to the location of my first camp for my fourth.  I ended the month quiet, unmotivated, and a bit heavier than I was before.
  • October:  I mourned the death of the Saturday morning cartoon block.  I voted early in a rather lackluster election.  I began experimenting with wearing toe socks on my long walks and ... so far ... they are working magnificently - no hot spots or blisters on my toes or anywhere else on my feet.  I wish I'd had these on my last Camino!  My last camp of the year was at another repeat location, under the starry skies of Preparation Canyon.  I padded this month with a couple picture posts.  Overall the month was pretty good with me increasing my exercising and shedding a few pounds along the way.
  • November:  The changing weather scuttled a bike ride.  By mid month the temperature would plummet and we would have our first snow.  My sixth camp that I'd hoped to fit in was not to be.  The bike moved from the garage to the basement where I put it on the trainer stand.  The Wife and I went to see a movie together ... more of a rarity these days with Netflix and our slightly different tastes in movies.  Thanksgiving arrived, the cactus bloomed, and the holiday season began.  The month went by in a flash but I reached several of my goals and was quite pleased with myself.
  • December:  I finished my reading goals early.  The favorite post of this month apparently was a reflection of reflections, a photographic post.  After arranging, rearranging, and reversing campsites, I came up with a preliminary plan for my five day camp in Rocky Mountain National Park Next summer.  The big balls went up in the oak tree once again.  I missed out on a white Christmas but I did get some good gifts as a consolation prize.
  • After a record year of walking in 2013, I cut back quite a bit during the first half of the year.  The distances did begin to pick up near the end of the year as I regained some of my walking enthusiasm. I ended up walking 352.87 miles (567.89 km). That's not too shabby.
  • Biking was a mixed bag.  On the one hand I biked 635.77 miles (1,023.17 km) , the most I've ever ridden in a year.  On the other this was not as much as I'd hoped I would ride.  I ended up skipping a lot of rides due to wind, rain, and plain lack of will.  I did do pretty well on my trainer.  I rode 1,375.4 miles (2,213.5 km) in two chunks - one in the first half of the year and the other in the later half.  I rode more in the first half but did shorter distances.  The later half had fewer rides but were longer.
  • I read twenty-four books this year as I mentioned in this post.  This was more books in one year than any since ...probably ... college.  I don't know for sure since I've only kept count since 2009.  Still, it was a good year for reading.  I'm hoping to bump that up to twenty-six next year.
  • I went to two concerts this year.  The first was Jenny Lewis With Apache Relay.  I'd wanted to see Jenny Lewis for years and finally did - enjoyed her concert very much.  The second was The New Pornographers With The Pain Of Being Pure At Heart.  This was another enjoyable concert.  Both of these concerts were at the Slowdown, an excellent small venue.
  • I posted 122 times this year.  A little better than last year but well below the two hundred plus from the first three full years of Homer's Travels.
I have a good feeling about 2015.  Several things are planned for at least the first half of the year.  In January we're going to a Fleetwood Mac concert.  In February I attempt to best my Trek Up The Tower record.  In June we are planning a vacation in New England.  In July I ride RAGBRAI.  In August I do a five day camp in Rocky Mountain National Park.  There will be other awesome things along the way.

So, let's join the solar Pope and wave goodbye to 2014 and hello to the new year, 2015.


Here's to a Happy and Prosperous New Year for all.
May all your dreams come true in 2015.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Was Santa Good To You?

With the in-Law's Christmas get together yesterday the Homer's Travels' Christmas celebrations are at an end.  It always feels good to get together with family and enjoy food, stories, and fun in general.  With the Christmas holiday there is also the added benefit of gifts.

I ended up buying myself my first gift.  On Black Friday weekend I purchased an Osprey Aether 60 Backpack.  I got a really good price.  This will be the pack for my Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) camp as well as my Appalachian trail hike.  It will go on other hikes in between too I hope.  I will provide my first take on the backpack in a future post.

On Christmas Eve the Wife and I celebrated Christmas at my Mom's house.  There I received my traditional bag of Pull-n-Peal Twizzlers (they were all gone withing twenty-four hours), a plant moisture meter (it has already told me that I'm over watering one of my plants), and some spending money that will go towards other camping/hiking gear.  I gave Mom a wooden carving I bought in Zanzibar and a gift card at one of her favorite restaurants.

After the celebration at Mom's, the Wife and I exchanged gifts which consisted mainly in gift cards to our favorite places (I got a card to Backwoods which will get me even more camping/hiking gear).  I bought the Wife a solar pope she was asking for (he gives a pageant wave when in the sun - a video may have to follow) and she gave me some lottery scratchers.

I received another gift on Christmas Day: A sunny, blue sky day which felt awesome!  Can't remember the last time we had a sunny day here - been awhile.

Yesterday we finished the festivities at the In-Laws.  We had pork loin and every form of potato you can think of - this is also a family tradition of sorts.  Before and after dinner I consumed enough sugary goodies to kill a herd of elephants.

After dinner we exchanged gifts.  The In-Laws passed out envelopes of money for Christmas and everyone's upcoming birthdays and anniversaries.  My share will go towards my RAGBRAI registration fee, more camping/hiking gear, and hotel rooms in Estes Park, CO (where I'll stay before and after my RMNP camp).

The Wife and I, along with my Brother-in Law and his Wife, gave the In-Laws a year of Netflix and two Roku boxes to allow them to stream movies.  I set up the Roku boxes at home so that all I needed to do is connect them up to their TVs and power and change the network setting to the In-Law's network and they would be ready to go.  Simply ... NOT.  Sure enough I could not get the Roku boxes to connect up to their network.  It took two simultaneous tech support phone calls to straighten it out.  I have to admit I didn't handle it well.  The stress of it not working right away, the waiting while listening to crappy repetitive music loops while on hold, and the high frequency buzz I had going from all the sugar did not go for a smooth tech support experience.  The tech support people were great - I was not.  In the end the Roku support guy walked me through a procedure (using a "secret screen") to get things up and running.  Turns out the In-Law's cable service has their wireless router security locked down pretty hard.

As soon as everything was up and running I said my goodbyes and drove home (The Wife is staying with her parents for a week to help them with the medical issues they are going through).  After a three hour drive I realized I was still buzzing at a few gigahertz and the adrenalin was still do-si-doing with the sugar in my bloodstream so I went to the basement and road my trainer for a couple hours.  While I road I watched "Particle Fever" ... a very interesting documentary about the discovery, by the Large Hadron Collider, of the Higgs Boson.  A good movie.

I finished my ride, rinsed off  the sweat, and went to bed a few minutes before midnight.  The biking worked and I fell asleep quickly.  Staying up til midnight also served as a successful dry run for New Years Eve coming up in a few days.

Hope everyone else had a good Christmas too!  Now onward to the next year.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas To All My Family And Friends ... Wherever You Are!

Merry Christmas to all my family and friends!

Feliz Navidad a toda mi familia y amigos!

Joyeux Noël à toute ma famille et les amis!

Frohe Weihnachten an alle meine Familie und Freunde!

Vrolijke Kerstmis aan al mijn familie en vrienden!

Nollaig Shona do gach mo theaghlach agus lena chairde!

Feliz Natal para toda a minha família e amigos!

Buon Natale a tutti la mia famiglia e gli amici!

私の家族や友人へのすべてのメリークリスマス!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

I Was Looking Forward To Shoveling Snow ...

I was really looking forward to shoveling snow this morning.  They were forecasting one to two inches which is enough to make things festive but not enough to make shoveling a real chore.

I woke up this morning and looked out to see the same drizzly, cold rain that we've have for the past couple days.  I am really getting tired of the weather.  this is not proper winter weather.  No snow.  Rain. Temperatures ten to fifteen degrees warmer than normal.  Dreary overcast skies.  Low lying, sun blocking, color sapping, mood crushing, fog.

I want to take some cool winter pictures so I have been waiting for snow.  I'm waiting for snow to lift my spirits and really put me in the Christmas mood.  I'm waiting to go snowshoeing.  I'm waiting to hear the crunch of snow underfoot.

I'm still waiting.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Decorated Once Again

I didn't do it last year but this year the big ornaments went back up into the front yard oak tree.  Once again our front yard looks festive.  Once again you can hardly pass our house without smiling.  Everything is right with the world.

Happy little balls in our happy little oak tree.
If you want to see ballsy trees from Christmases past, follow these links:

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Cuba Libre

In 1994 I was working for the U.S. Navy.  I was aboard a ship off the coast of Florida.  One night I was in the Combat Information Center looking at the radar displays when one display caught my eye.  It was a large display that showed surface vessels.  The expanse of ocean between the tip of Florida and the island of Cuba was filled with hundreds of symbols.  Each symbol represented a small boat, raft, or makeshift, often barely seaworthy, vessel holding the lives of Cubans seeking freedom.  You could not see the shear numbers and not be moved.

Twenty years later I watched the President announce the first steps toward normalization of relations with Cuba.  It's about time!  When the embargo is finally rescinded, the Wife and I will be there.  We will celebrate the freedom of the Cuban people and explore their culture and history.  It will be a wonderful day.

Twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, arguably the beginning of the end of the Cold War with the Soviet Union, the last vestige of the Cold War is finally coming to an end.  Let's hope the people fixated on the past do not interfere with progress and the bones of the Cold War are finally allowed to rest in peace.


"The longer you live in the past, the less future you have to enjoy."  - Unknown

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

RMNP Planning: A Start

Last month I started planning my camping trip to Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP).  This will, more than likely, be my first multi-day camping trip as I have few options near home.  I am planning a five day - four night camp.  I will me hiking to a different campsite each night and covering a large chunk of the park.

I started with a good National Geographic topological map of the park with the trails and campsites marked.  After a preliminary look over the map I came up with a plan to start at the Moraine Park Visitor Center and hike five days ending at the Bear Lake Trailhead.  Both the start and end are on the free park shuttle routes which will make it easy to get to the start and back from the end.

Over the last month I have mulled the path over in my head and decided it would be better if I reversed the course of the original path.  I figured it might be better to put the toughest day on the first day (instead of the second day).  I would be fresh and well fed.  I hoped this would help compensate somewhat for the large change in altitude I would experience on that first day (an over 3,000 ft climb).

Last weekend I revisited my plan in detail including using Google Maps to measure the distances between camps (Google Maps have all the trails marked) and, using the terrain functions of Google Maps and Google Earth, looked at the altitude changes I would experience.  The hikes would be challenging.   The first day would have around 3,100 ft up and 3,000 ft down (944 m up and 914 m down) and it would be accomplished at altitude.

Further study and a bit of lucky wandering around the RMNP website led me to a list of campsites with lots of information.  This information included the fact that one of the campsites I was counting on to make day two easier was closed.   Day two will be a doosy stretching between ten and eleven miles.  Most of the elevation change would be down though and I figure (hope) that going down will use less energy so the extra distance I'll have to hike will be reasonable.

The big wildcard here is the altitude.  Omaha is sitting around 1,000 ft (304 m).  My hike will start over 9,000 ft (2743 m).  The peak of my hike which I reach the first day will be over 12,300 ft (3,749 m).  I will have to learn to pace myself - especially on that first day.

Next up will be filling out the reservation request and getting it in the mail.  I contacted the RMNP Backcountry office and found out there is no reason to mail anything before 15 February.  On March 1st they take all the applications, put them in a pile, and pick them out at random to enter into their scheduling computer so getting you letter there early doesn't increase your chances of getting the campsites your want.  That explains why for each day you have to request a primary and an alternate campsite.

I'll provide updates to my planning in future posts.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Photographic Reflections

"Dead Tree Explosion - Reflections"
by Bruce H.
A couple pictures I took last week during my walk around Walnut Creek Lake.  It was a foggy day and the air was still - ideal for reflections.  The foggy background, reflections, and naked branches just begged to be displayed in black and white ... so I did.

"Trees and Reflection"
by Bruce H.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Goodreads Reading Challenge 2014

The number of books I've read each year has been declining the past few years.  Back in 2009 when I started keeping track I read eighteen books.  The next year fifteen.  Then eight.  Eight again the next year.  Last year ... one.  At the end of last year I decided I needed to get back into reading and started looking around for things to read.  During my search I noticed the Goodreads Reading Challenge.

I decided, against my better judgement - I often miss goals that I publicize - to participate this year and I decided to go all in.  I looked at my record.  I looked at the number of pages I thought I could read in an hour or so a day.  I looked at the average length of books I tended to read.  I crunched the numbers and picked twenty-four as my goal.  I wasn't sure if I could reach that goal but it would give me an ambitious (for me) target to aim for.

To my surprise I met my goal by the end of November.  I ended up reading twenty-four books in ten months (I didn't read during our African vacation - the month of June).  I did much better than I ever expected.

So what are the stats?  I read 2.4 books per month.  The average book length was 344.33 pages.  The longest book was "The Ride and Fall of Ancient Egypt" at 514 pages and the shortest was "A Slow Regard of Silent Things" at 176.  Total number of pages: 8,264.  All of the books I read, except one, were eBooks checked out from the library.  The one "real" book was a loaner from a friend of the Wife's: "Just Passin' Thru".  This also happens to be my favorite book of the year (The only book I gave five stars to on goodreads this year).  Of the other twenty-three, I gave twelve four stars, ten three stars, and one two stars.  So the average book came it at around 3.54 stars - I'm good with this number.

Here is a shortcut to Homer's Travels' book review posts.

Why am I stopping at the end of November?  First, I'd reached my goal.  Second, while achieving said goal, I'd neglected the stack of magazines on my night stand and the fifty-something articles I'd saved to Pocket. So, you see, I'm still reading and if I manage to get through the magazines and internet articles, who knows, I may go for book number twenty-five.

P.S. Autumn: since you've already congratulated me for completing my challenge already, you don't have to congratulate me again. :-)

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Book: Arthur C. Clarke's "The Fountains Of Paradise"

My last book of 2014 ... probably ... was a piece of classic science fiction.  Originally published in 1979, Arthur C. Clarke's "The Fountains of Paradise" tells the story of the building of the first space elevator two hundred years in the future.  An interesting concept locked inside a rather dull book.

The conflict in the book centers around finding someone to fund the construction, finding a place to build it (which happened to be smack dab on top of a Buddhist temple), and several lives at risk during a construction accident.  Do these conflicts sound a bit mundane?  If you said yes then you would be right.

This was a huge concept looking for a story to showcase its magnificence and in the end the story does not rise up to the challenge.  I have read other books by Clarke and have found them interesting and often well written.  This one did not live up to his other works in my opinion.

Clarke is known for being prescient and bringing a realistic portrayal of the world of the future. Here he came up short again.  I can't really fault him here as few authors of the 50's, 60's, and 70's foretold the connected, computerized world of just a few decades in the future.  There is one scene where the main character runs down to the hotel lobby to use the general purpose terminal to look up information.  In another, characters exchange cards that are plugged into their phones to input their contact information.  Clarke apparently did not see wireless internet and tablet computers in the future.  The lack of foresight - remember the book is set in the twenty-second century - is a little jarring at times.

When I choose books to read I usually try to read current works.  This book reminded me why I do this - I'm not a fan of books whose 'future' has been surpassed by our present.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Where Is The Time Going? ... Or The Year Is Almost Over!

Another month is nearly behind us.  The past few months, months that, for me, have been uneventful and somewhat empty, have zoomed by leaving Homer's Travels somewhat empty and a bit scrawny.  I posted a little bit more in November but most of the posts were book reviews or short blurbs highlighting a photograph.  My posts have been ... decaffeinated blog-lite.

This post should have been a post about the Holiday Lights Festival (I mentioned it last post) I went to ... if I'd gone.  The idea of driving around looking for parking and braving the anticipated crowd of ten thousand didn't sound appealing.  I will go downtown sometime in December to photograph the lights ... and I will post them after I do.

What progress have I shown since my last month end post?  Let's see ...
  • After two bike rides, the early chill at the beginning of the month forced my biking into the basement.  I put my bike on the stand and managed to do eight trainer rides this month (it would have been nine but I took Thanksgivings off).  I have to admit it is easier to get myself up on my trainer than on the bike in the real world.  I think it helps that I've been watching Netflix movies and TED talks while I ride.  Unfortunately riding the trainer is not the same as riding in the real world.  I know this because I have routinely done trainer rides of thirty-plus miles which nearly kill me in the real world.  In December I will have to increase the resistance.
  • The trainer rides have helped in one thing.  I reached my goal and brought my weight back down to 160 lb.  Now comes the challenge of maintaining the weight while occasionally indulging in some ice cream.
  • Last month I gave myself the task of planning out my Rocky Mountain National Park camp.  I have put together a plan that seems doable.  I have a few details to work out and then I'll post about the plans sometime in December.
  • The cold snap that forced the bike in the basement canceled any camping plans I had.  Next camp will probably be in the spring.
I put up the Christmas lights yesterday - it was 71°F (21°C)!!! -  and the Christmas tree will probably go up on Wednesday.  I am even considering putting the big balls in the front yard oak tree again - I skipped it last year.  We'll see.

Have a great December everyone!

.



Thursday, November 27, 2014

Tis The Start Of The Holiday Season

Today is Thanksgivings (in the United States anyway).  To me it is the official start of the holiday season.  The is probably one of my favorite times of the year.  There is always something in the air ... cheery ... hopeful ... heart warming.  I also have a liking for Christmas music.  Earlier this week our Christmas cactus decided to announce the holiday season a few days early.  I guess this makes it official.

This is the first year in seventeen that The Wife and I have spent Thanksgiving apart.  She is at her parents making Thanksgiving dinner.  She will be staying with her parents a few days helping out.  I will be having Thanksgiving dinner at my Mom's and keeping his silliness (Iago) company.  I may even go to see the Holiday Lights Festival tonight.  I've been meaning to do it for a while but I've never had the chance before.



I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Book: Henry Kissinger's "World Order"

It was time for me to get serious so my next book was Henry Kissinger's "World Order".  Kissinger discusses the concept of world order throughout history, exploring how different cultures have different takes on it, and how it has changed through the years (centuries ...millennia actually).  I ended up learning a lot about history - a good thing - but I was a bit disappointed at the author's attempt at predicting how world order will change in the future.

Kissinger points out three different models of world order: The Western (first European then an Americanized version) westphalian model, the Chinese-centric model, and the Islamic model.   He describes the Western and the Islamic is some detail but glosses over the Chinese (strange since it was Kissinger that open up China to America in the 70s).  The book follows the historic narrative showing how the Western model has changed overtime including the major change that occurred when America started putting in its two cents worth.  The Chinese and the Islamic models really haven't changed much over the centuries.  The Chinese is very leader-centric i.e. the Emperor controls the order of all under the heavens and that's that.  The Islamic model flows from Mohammed and the Koran and thus has remained constant since the creation of the Koran.

In the latter chapters Kissinger looks at technology - computers, the internet, and atomic weapons - and explores how these things may change the world order in the future.  Here he gets vague.  He mentions the irreconcilable differences between Western and Islamic models but does not speculate as to how, if ever, the differences will be handled.  In a way the last few chapters just showed that we don't know what to do and the future is a mystery ... even to those in the know.

I liked the writing style of the book.  It flowed well and didn't feel muddled or stuffy like many history books can.  The book, which came out in September of this year, is surprisingly up to date.  Current events like ISIS and Ukraine are mentioned and overall feels contemporary.  I'm sure history will make sure that doesn't last too long.

One little aside.  If I have heard an author's voice, I sometimes catch myself reading their books in their voice.  For this book, reading the book in Kissinger's low, slow, heavily accented speaking voice slowed me down enough that I had to finally break that weird habit I've had for so many years.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Photograph: Bearded Builders

"Bearded Builders"
by Bruce H.
I don't know about you guys but I'm kinda getting tired of the beard craze.  It might be because my beard, when I let it grow out, makes me look old.  Having said this I found this van parked in downtown Omaha and I have to admit it's funny!  (Click on the picture to enlarge it.)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Movie: "Interstellar"

After a great night of music, the Wife took a day off so we could recover from the late night before we headed out for an early movie.  Since we've gotten Netflix we rarely go to movies.  I prefer to watch in the comfort of my own home with a clean bathroom, food in the fridge, and a pause button when I need to use either.  There are, though, some movies that need a large screen to experience fully.  When I do go to the movie theater I usually go in the middle of the week and I see the earliest showing I can.  This usually means a near empty movie theater with few distractions, ringing cell phones, noisy kids, or talkative people.

"Interstellar" is one of those movies that needs a big screen.  In this case an IMAX theater.  The Wife and I sat in the center of the theater and became immersed in this epic space adventure.  I have to say that I was impressed.

"Interstellar" tries very hard to stay within the scientifically plausible. You can tell that the technical adviser (in this movie's case Kip Thorne) was listened to and he did a great job with the science ... until the last half hour.  I won't spoil the ending.  I will say that a very important principle of science is violated near the end.  I do not mean that some science was stretched into the realm of speculation.  I have no disagreement with a little artistic license and science stretching.  The principle that is violated though is too important.

The ending rubbed me the wrong way and, frankly, the engineer in me prevented me from enjoying the movie as much as I wanted to.  The Wife, on the other hand, really enjoyed it ... definitely more than I did.  I will say that the visuals are amazing and I liked the characters.  The political overtones at the beginning felt a little heavy handed at times but I can live with that.  It definitely was a nice part two to our mid-week break from things.

So, If you are planning to see "Interstellar", check your engineering and physics degrees at the door and just enjoy it.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Music: The New Pornographers With The Pain Of Being Pure At Heart At The Slowdown

We've both been a little distracted and busy the past couple of months and we needed to get out of the house and take our minds off things.  This week we packed a couple days of entertainment into twenty-four hours.  The first half of our entertainment was on Tuesday night and involved music.

An encouragement for the band ... and to everyone at the Slowdown.
After going out to eat in the old Market, the Wife and I braved the cold "Arctic Chill" and went to the Slowdown for a concert.  I like the Slowdown.  It's a small, intimate venue that lets you get up close with the performers and there isn't a bad seat in the house.  We arrived after the doors had opened so the tables to one side of stage - our favorite spot - were full.  We moved up to the balcony (we'd never been up there before) and found a nice table next to the railing with a nice view of the stage below.  I have to say that the balcony may be my new favorite spot in the Slowdown.  We chatted up one of the friendly security guys while we waited for the show.

The Pain of Being Pure at Heart.
The warm up band was The Pain of Being Pure at Heart.  I'd never heard of them before which, I have found, is usually the case for small venue warm up bands.  They had some good stuff but it was not very memorable and I felt that the vocals were a little weak.  They were meh.

The New Pornographers.
The main act was The New Pornographers.  I was introduced to their music by the GodSon.  I wasn't sure about it at first but it grew on me.  Most music is like that for me: first I don't like it and then it grows on me.  By the time we went to this concert I was very familiar with a lot of their songs (thank you Spotify) and I really enjoyed their music including the two encores - it's been a while since I saw a double encore at a concert.  They played every one of my favorite New Pornographer songs.  I would call that a success.

We both really enjoyed our evening of food and music.  It was a nice distraction from real life.  The distraction would continue the next day ... which I'll share in another post this weekend.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Wow ... What A Difference A Day Makes.

Today it topped out around 60°F (15.5°C).  It is now dropping below freezing and will remain below freezing until at least the weekend.  I guess winter is here a tad early this year.

The camping trip I was hoping to squeeze in this month is now off.  I don't think wearing all my layers would have kept me warm when the temperature drops into the teens.  I doubt I'll go camping again until spring.

Bike riding on the trails is also shut down for the season.  This morning I took my bike down to the basement and put it up on the trainer frame.  For the next few months I will be riding in my basement while watching Netflix and TED talks.  Now I can't use the temperature, wind, or rain as an excuse not to ride my bike.

We haven't had any snow yet but I'm sure it's just around the corner.  Hopefully it will not be a dry winter so I can get out and snowshoe.  If there isn't any snow I'll still get out and walk.  It takes a lot to stop me from walking.

All of you out there experiencing this arctic blast, stay warm!

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Book: Patrick Rothfuss' "The Slow Regard Of Silent Things"

I rate my books on Goodreads.  I have only given the five star best rating to three books.  Two of those three were books by Patrick Rothfuss.  When I saw his new book, "The Slow Regard of Silent Things", came out I was hoping it would be the third in the Kingkiller Chronicles.  I want to read the next chapter in the story of Kvothe.  This book is not a Kingkiller book.  This book follows a week in the life of a character from Rothfuss' other two book, Auri.

Auri is an odd character.  A young girl living in the tunnels under the university ("the underthing").  She communes with the things around her and lives a free spirited life alone in the shadows.  She interacts with her world, and it is her world, in an almost poetic way.

As I was reading about Auri I got the impression that this young girl was suffering from OCD.  She lived a life of simple rituals where everything has a place and there is a place for everything.  When things were out of place her world turned dark until things were set right.

Rothfuss has a very easy reading style.  The words flow off the pages easily.  This book adds an almost poetic style on top of the easy flowing words.  It made it a joy to read even if the story is not what you expected.  The book, a short 170 pages (much shorter than the other two books which averaged over 850 pages each), left me wanting more.

Hopefully, now that we've seen how she lives, we will see more of Auri in future Rothfuss books.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Book: Ryan Boudinot's :"Blueprints Of The Afterlife"

I'm not sure how I should describe Ryan Boudinot's "Blueprints of the Afterlife".  It is a mixture of serious science fiction, dystopian story telling, and awkward surrealism.  The mix intersested me and confused me at the same time.

The story follows people in a dystopian future recovering from the "age of f***ed up s**t" (FUS).  The few threads that describe the FUS period are vague and somewhat mysterious.  You never really find out what really happened.  The characters of the book are odd and don't always seem to fit the world around them.  You start questioning the sanity of the people and the world they live in.

The narrative grabbed my interest but when it shifted into the surreal I was often confused as to how I should react.  Some sections would have fit right into Douglas Adams' "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" but then things abruptly turn serious in the next paragraph.  Very befuddling to say the least.

Not sure what else to say about this book.  It was sort of good but I'm not sure why I liked it.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Don't Let Your Candidate Be Like This Guy - Please VOTE!

"Don't Let Your Candidate Be Like This Guy"
by Bruce H.
On one of my recent walks along the streets of Omaha I came across this sad looking bumper sticker attached to a light pole.  It was a twenty-six year old Mike Dukakis for President sticker (not sure if this is a condemnation of Omaha's cleanliness or an endorsement of the glue manufacturer).  If you don't want the candidates you support to end up like this forgotten presidential campaign sticker, you need to do one thing:

VOTE!

Sunday, November 02, 2014

A Long Ride Blown Away

I went for a bike ride this morning.  I was aiming for around thirty miles like I'd done last Wednesday.

When I got up after the extra daylight savings hour of sleep, I noticed the wind was whipping the trees across the street.  I was committed to riding today so I decided that maybe twenty miles would be more appropriate for a windy day like the one I woke up to.

I loaded the bike on the car and drove to the trailhead.  I got out of the car and felt the stiff wind blowing me in the face.  It was probably a thirteen miles per hour wind with gusts up to twenty.  My average speed tends to be around thirteen miles per hour.  A ten mile bike ride would do the trick on a blustery day like today.

I started peddling.  As I went I dropped gears until I was going so slow that I probably could have walked faster.  Even in the lower gear I was struggling.  I usually stop for my first rest at a bench about seven and a quarter miles from the car.   Today I stopped at two and a half miles.  I stood there in the whistling wind and thought "enough is enough."  I turned around and returned to the car.

Five miles.  Five miles in about 26 minutes.  Not what I'd planned.  I'll try to make it up by adding an extra ride sometime this week.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Well ... That's A Little Bit Better

October felt like it went by in a flash.  At the end of September I lamented my lack of motivation in a post.  In October I did a bit better I think.  I posted a more ... just.  A few of the posts were just photograph posts.  I still fell short in finding things to write about.

Last month I said I would ride bike more.  I didn't manage the twelve rides I'd hoped for but I did manage to do seven rides (one hundred and ninety-two miles) which is a bit better than the three rides I did in September.  I think seven or eight rides a month are my limit.

I'd also hoped to drop some weight and I did manage to drop three or four pounds in October.  I'm finding it harder to lose weight than it used to be for me.  Another age related change I imagine.  The bike rides and the long walks I squeeze in of Fridays seem to be helping.

Besides biking and dropping pounds ounces, what else have I been up to?  While the Wife has been very busy with school and visiting her parents, I have not been that busy.  The lack of motivation I had this summer is still lingering a bit.  We did visit with the Maid of Honor and the Best Man last weekend.  We learned all about their vacation to Greece and Turkey.  Their account of Istanbul has the Wife and I reconsidering the destination of our next international vacation.  More on that in some future post.

I tried a couple new foods/drinks this week.  By this I mean new for me.  Last weekend I tried my first ginger beer.  Ginger beer is brewed using ginger and is non-alcoholic.  My impressions ... it was like drinking something I would clean my kitchen sink with.  Not that I've ever tasted what I clean the kitchen sink with but I'd like to think it would taste like ginger beer.  The second new item was a Hostess Twinkie.  Yes ... it took my fifty-one years before I had my first twinkie.  I tried it on my long walk yesterday.  It was okay.  Not really impressed.  I walked off the added sugar.

So what's on the agenda for November?  I may squeeze in a camp if it unexpectedly warms up.  We will be going to a charity auction at the GodSon's school.  That should be fun.  We have a concert after that.  The one task I really need to finish this month is planning my five day camp in Rocky Mountain National Park.  Campsites have to be reserved and first and second choices for each night have to be submitted by snail mail (Snail Mail!).  I have a detailed park map with trails - I just need to sit down and knock out a realistic route.

That's it for me.  Hope to post more often this month.  We shall see, won't we?

Friday, October 31, 2014

Photograph: Halloweenie - Happy Halloween !!!

Happy Halloween Everyone!!!

"Halloweenie"
by Bruce H
(A photograph of graffiti - artist unknown)

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Camp #5: Starry Skies Over Preparation Canyon

While I was planning to do my next camp in north-eastern Iowa, I decided to stay close to home and returned to Preparation Canyon where I camped in August instead.  I did chose a different campsite, one on a ridge that would potentially have views of the fall leaves.

The view from the campsite.
As you can see in the panorama above, there wasn't much left of the fall colors.  There were only a few bright yellow trees among the bare brown trees.  I think a week or two earlier would have had a better display of fall colors but I have noticed that the colors have been a bit more fleeting than years before.  I added a few pictures to my 2014-2016 Camping in Iowa and Nebraska Google Photos album.

I arrived at the camp and put up my tent and checked out the scenery as I collected firewood.  As the sun dropped lower I made dinner.

Last camp I'd skipped the hot meal.  This time I re-hydrated a Mountain House chicken and mashed potatoes meal.  Those keeping track of my camping experiences may remember my less than satisfying mashed potato experience (See my post for Camp #3).  I think this is why I'd skipped a hot meal on camp #4 - I dreaded eating the mashed potatoes.  This meal was a three step process (versus the usual two step - add boiling water and wait).  You added boiling water to the chicken, remove the chicken, and then add the mashed potatoes.  After about five or six minutes you had two "pucks" of chicken breast and rib meat and herb and chive seasoned mash potatoes.  To my surprise the potatoes tasted like potatoes and the texture was a lot less powdery than the Backpacker's Pantry meal I'd eaten last time.  It was pretty good actually.  The chicken was decent as well.  I think I will stick with Mountain House meals ... at least for meals involving mashed potatoes.

After dinner I lit a fire.  The wood around the area was dry and a bit dry rotted so it burned up quickly.  I ended up gathering more wood two or three times during the next few hours.  The condition of the wood did make it easier to light.  I may have to look into lightweight cutting tools so that I can collect larger pieces of firewood.  So far, if I can't break branches by hand it doesn't get used.

Sunlight, tree, and some fall color peaking through.
It got dark really fast being late October and all.  I laid down on the picnic table bench and watched as the stars came out in full force.  The sky was clear and moonless - something I haven't had on my other four camps.  It was spectacular.  The milky way was easily visible arching overhead.  As I watched the stars, coyotes called back and forth to each other.  In the distance I heard what sounded like laughter.  There had been another car in the parking lot when I'd arrived so there were other campers in the area.  There was also a farm over the ridge that could also have been a source of the merriment.

I spent the rest of the night reading, watching the stars, and tending the fire.  A very relaxing evening.  I went to bed early, reading a bit before turning of the tablet and drifting off to sleep.  It was cold that night with temperatures just a few degrees above 40°F (4.4°C) but I was quite comfortable in my sleeping bag, sleeping bag liner, and long underwear.  Only my face was cold.

I am watching the weather and temperatures closely as I was hoping for one more camp sometime in November.  If the more fall like temperatures we're having this week persist than I may be done for the year.  If it warms up a bit ... well, we'll see.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Photograph: We All Need A Little ... Clown Love!

"We all need a little ... Clown Love!"
by Bruce H.
Admit it ... we all need some ... Clown Love!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Book: Ian McDonald's "The Dervish House"

My last two works of fiction have been interesting reads.  What has made them interesting is the settings.  In most of the science fiction and fantasy books I have read the action takes place in cultures with similarities to North American and/or European cultures.  "The Golem and the Jinni" and my latest, Ian McDonald's "The Dervish House", both take place in different cultures.  "The Golem and the Jinni" involves Jewish and Syrian Christian cultures (though it was in early twentieth century New York).  "The Dervish House" takes place in a near future Istanbul.

"The Dervish House" takes place around 2027.  The book weaves the lives of a group of people living in an old Dervish house.  The people range from an old Greek economist to a child with a heart condition.  A religious interpreter of the Koran to an antiquities merchant.  The book takes these disparate lives of  half dozen people and the people they interact with and watches how their lives tangle during a five day period after a terrorist bombing on a city tram.  In the end you have a story about cultures, religions, finances, and nanotechnology.

I consider the different culture of eh book as a plus but I have to admit it was hard at first to keep the different Turkish and Greek names straight in my head.  This led to a slow first third or so but I eventually got everything straight and I started to care for the characters and where they are going.

I only have a few little things that bugged me.  First the nanotechnology in the book - a central figure in the book -  seems a bit too sophisticated for 2027 (I could be wrong about this ... time will tell).  The second is a lot happens in those five days.  Too many things.  A month would have been more realistic to me.  Lastly, the author has a bad habit of abruptly shifting from the present to flashbacks.  Some of the transitions were so unexpected that I became confused and had to reread parts to figure out where and when I was.

Despite these issues, I enjoyed reading about the inhabitants of the Dervish House.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Five Little Piggies ...

I know I've talked about this before but blisters are the bane of the hiker's existence.  I usually get them on the heals, ball of the foot, or on the toes. When I was walking my second Camino we would say, when counting blisters, toe blisters didn't count.  Yes they would hurt but they wouldn't stop you from walking.  They could take some of the joy out of the hike though.  I decided to try out a possible solution.

I've already mentioned a few things I do to prevent blisters like lubing up your feet and wearing two pairs of socks.  Lubing up is just what it sounds like - using some type of lubricate like Body Glide or Vaseline to reduce friction against the skin.    Wearing two pairs of socks consist of wearing a thin, moisture wicking inner sock (or liner sock) with a thicker sock (often a merino wool sock like OmniWool, SmartWool or Wigwam) over it.  The idea being to transfer any friction off of the skin and onto the liner sock.  These two fixes are more effective against the heal and ball of foot blisters than toe blisters.

.My potential solution to toe blisters has to do with the liner sock.  I decided to try changing the type of liner sock I'm using.  Namely, I'm trying funky looking toesocks.  I hope, since each toe is totally encapsulated in cloth that there will be minimal friction between the toes thus preventing blister formation.
Injini Liner Toesocks

I'd heard of these socks from a Camino forum comment.  Someone posted that they loved them.  I thought what the heck and bought a couple pair to try out.  The Injinji Liner Toesocks are thin and moister wicking like proper liner socks.  They are made with coolmax which is known to anyone who has bought athletic clothing.

I tried them out yesterday on a thirteen mile walk around downtown Omaha and through the Dundee and Benson neighborhoods.  When I first put them on they felt odd but the sensation quickly went away.  They fit tightly over you feet and hug your toes.  I wore a pair of thick Omniwool Merino wool blend socks over the liners.  The liners felt good over the four hour walk.  They didn't slip or bunch up anywhere and were comfortable.

Obviously one hike does not a test make.  I rarely get toe blisters after a single long walk - it will take a multi-day hike to really test them out properly.   I should, though, have some results later this year as I lengthen my hikes.  I have a soft corn on the side of one of my toes that often starts hurting during longer hikes.  It doesn't need consecutive days of hiking to irritate it.  It just needs a few long hikes.  Hopefully I will post a follow up later in the year.

I will say that so far I like them.  The only short coming is the price which, at $9.00 per pair, is a little steep.  If these turn out to prevent toe blisters they will be worth every cent.

If anyone has any experience with toesocks and blisters, feel free to share your stories in the comments.  I'd love read them.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

I Did It ... Now It's Your Turn


Early voting started on Monday in Nebraska so I did my civic duty and voted.  The sad thing is I ended up leaving a lot of the ballot blank.  I have a rule: I do not vote for anyone who is running unopposed.  Sadly there are quite a few positions on the county ballot with only one candidate.  Doesn't feel right.

Now that I've voted they'll stop showing all those political ads, right?  Right???  RIGHT???  Damn.

P.S. One thing struck me as I arrived at my polling office.  The office was located behind a Keno parlor.  With the quality of political candidates we are forced to choose from, it often feels like a gamble ... and one with bad odds too.

Monday, October 06, 2014

The End Of A Saturday Morning Tradition.

I remember when I was young, living at the Lake of the Ozarks, every Saturday morning I would get up really early, sometimes before the parents were out of bed, and I would plop down in front of the television and watch Saturday morning cartoons.

I would switch from one channel to another trying to absorb the best mix of cartoons I could.  It wasn't that hard back then since there were only three channels to choose from.  I would watch the roadrunner escape, Tom get humiliated by Jerry, have no fear because Underdog was there, and I would wonder what mystery those meddling kids would solve this week.  It would last until Johnny Quest saved the day and my brother would kick me off the TV because American Bandstand was coming on.

I continued the tradition in college.  I didn't always get up early on Saturday mornings but when I did it was often to sit in bed and watch cartoons.  I stopped watching them once I got a job.  I still watched cartoons but they were late afternoon or evening shows, not Saturday morning ones.

Over the last twenty-something years the Saturday morning cartoon block has slowly died.  I didn't realize it.  NBC stopped doing it in 1992.  The last of the big three to have a cartoon block was ABC who ended it in 2004.  Just a week ago, the last broadcaster (the CW) ended their block of Saturday morning cartoons.  This last weekend was the first time in over fifty years ... the first time since I was born ... that there weren't any Saturday morning cartoons. (Read more about it here on Gizmodo.)

Cartoons are still there.  You find them on the Cartoon Network, Disney, Nickelodeon, and even Comedy Central.  Cable is what killed the Saturday morning cartoon.  That and the FCC mandating more educational television.  The cartoons have been replaced with live action educational shows.

When I heard about all this I was a bit sad.  No other children will be able to experience those lazy Saturday mornings watching animation anymore.  The fact you can watch it all day on cable just cheapens the experience I think.  That's the thing about abundance.  When things are scarce, they become valuable but when things are abundant and easy to find they loose their value and loose their importance in our lives.  The only thing left over is nostalgia and a sense of loss and that ... is sad.


Friday, October 03, 2014

Book: Gretchen Rubin's "The Happiness Project"

Who doesn't want to be happy.  The question is, how does one go about increasing their happiness?  That is sort of what Gretchen Rubin's "The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun" attempts to answer.

The book is a personal account of how she created a resolutions chart and filled it with resolutions that would, based on her research, increase her happiness.  Each month she tackles another aspect of her life - marriage, having fun, work, etc. - adding four or five resolutions to her chart.  By the end of the year she has accumulated over forty resolutions.

At the end of the year while she considers herself happier, her husband didn't totally agree with her.  Having said this, I think she sounded happier and I suspect her husband was just not perceptive enough to notice the change.

There are a lot of ideas in this book that you can use.  The book is not a how-to kind of manual though.  It is a memoir.  The book is full of  I-I-I.  I tried this.  I did that.  I changed my attitude. I-I-I.  At times this was annoying but it is what it is.  Having said this she writes about many ways to improve her happiness and some of her stories resonated with me.

Will I start my own happiness project?  Probably not.  It felt like a lot of work.  I will think about many of the ideas listed in the book and, who knows, I may find a way to add a little more happiness in my life because who among us couldn't use a little more happiness in their lives

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Quiet ....

I've been really quiet lately.  I've been a bit sedentary and have been reading a lot.  I've only posted six times this month and that's including the one you are reading right now.

So ... what have I been doing?  I've been trying to ride my bike more but I have not been very successful.  I planned to ride three times a week, or twelve times for the month, but I managed only three bike rides.  I have been very successful at coming up with excuses.  Not very encouraging.  These rides are meant to be preparation for riding RAGBRAI next year.  Strange how the idea of riding RAGBRAI really appeals to me but I am not very enthusiastic about actually preparing for it.

My motivation has been struggling since our return from Africa.  I just can't get things started.  The couch ... and the television it faces ... has gotten a work out this summer.  When I'm not watching TV I'm on Facebook or Twitter.  In other words ... not being very productive at all.  The result is I'm not preparing for next summer and I've even gained a little weight.  Not that much actually but I am approaching the weight I was when I had bad blood test numbers.  I got my numbers down last time by losing ten to fifteen pounds.  I wouldn't want to have my blood tested right now.   I try to tell myself that the gain is because muscle weighs more than fat but my lack of activity lately doesn't jive with that rationalization.

That is just about it really.  Sleep, eat, do chores, surf the social web, watch TV, ... rinse and repeat.  Not the healthiest of lifestyles.

So I'm trying to regain some motivation.  I'm trying to get out more.  I've  started to walk once a week again.  On Saturday I went on a Backwood's led hike this last weekend at a park I'd never been to before (Neale Woods) - it was nice but buggy, a victim of the time of the year (it was a year ago I got all bit up at Waubonsie on another Backwood's led hike).

Sunday the Wife, her Sister-in-Law, her niece, and I went to the Brownville Flea Market and enjoyed a nice sunny day browsing rusty treasure.  (The ice cream I had there didn't help my weight situation much but it was oh so good.)

I will get on my bike and I will kill two birds with one stone - prepare for RAGBRAI and loose some weight.  Heck, I'll kill three - I would also be preparing for next year's Trek up the Tower.  October will be a more productive month.  I promise.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Book: Helene Wecker's "The Golem And The Jinni"

My latest read on my way to meet my goal of reading twenty-four books this year was a nice piece of fantasy fiction by Helene Wecker: "The Golem and the Jinni".

The book started out slow as Wecker first spun the fibers of several characters into more substantial threads in the first half of the book.  If I'd written the review at this point I would not say that I liked it.  It seemed slow and meandering.

This changed in the second half of the book when Wecker weaves the threads into an unexpected tapestry.  Everything that didn't quite make sense, now fell into place.  In the end I really enjoyed the story of the golem and the jinni.

The book is Wecker's first and the originality of the main characters - two very different creatures that, in most fantasy novels, would probably be the bad guys - and taking place in early 20th century New York was a refreshing change from the usual sword, sorcery, and mystical land fantasy I have read in the past.

I will have to keep my eye out for more of Helene Wecker's works in the future.

On to the next book.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Camp #4: Back To Hitchcock

For my fourth camp I returned last week to the location of my first camp (My First Camping Experience - Part One).  Hitchcock Nature Center has five backcountry campsites.  To change it up a bit from my first camp I chose another campsite on the other side of the park at the end of Fox Run Ridge trail.

The campsite is not far from the Nature Center lodge and the parking area.  After a very easy three quarter mile hike I reached the campsite.  The site was similar to the one on Westridge where I'd camped before.  There was a gravel pit for pitching your tent and a metal fire ring nearby.

I looked around the site checking out where I could collect firewood and put up my tent.  Last time I had issues with wind and problems getting my tent stakes to stay in the gravel.  This time I had no problems at all.  The wind was gentle.  The new stakes that I purchased after that first camp - longer than the ones that came with my tent and tri-lobed - gripped the ground tenaciously.  The tent was up in a couple minutes (at most ... didn't time myself).  I seem to be getting faster at putting it up.
MSR Groundhog tent stakes.

After getting the tent up I walked to the overlook located at the end of Fox Run Ridge trail and about 950 ft (290 m) from the campsite.  Along the way I noticed Monarch butterflies and lots of late summer flowers. A few years ago I'd noticed (Hiking Iowa: Hitchcock Nature Center 2011 Revisit) that the Monarchs came through here in August and September.

A Monarch butterfly along the trail.
The view from the overlook took in the farm fields and the start of the great plains.  At the bottom of the ridge a train track headed north and south.

A panorama taken from the Fox Run Ridge overlook.
I went back to the campsite and pulled out my tablet and read a little.  It was a bit buggy.  I decided not to eat a hot meal this camp.  I'd packed chicken and mashed potatoes but decided to not cook it and instead had a cold dinner of cereal, homemade trail mix, and a protein bar.

As I was at the campsite three people hiked passed heading to the overlook.  I heard planes fly overhead as they came in for a landing at Epply airfield.  I heard a train go by.  The train must have crossed a road nearby as it blew its whistle.  This campsite did not have the peace and tranquility I'd experienced on my last couple of camps.

I went back to the overlook to see if I could get a picture of a passing train but I was not patient enough I think.  All I got were empty tracks.

Train tracks about a thousand feet from my campsite.
As I waited I took pictures of flowers. There were tiny little clusters of white flowers everywhere.

Tiny little flowers a third of an inch across.
I gave up on getting a picture of the train and headed back to the campsite and started building a fire.  I managed to make a good fire but it took three cotton balls soaked in Vaseline to get it started.  I think this was my fault.  I think I was piling on too much wood on top of the burning cotton balls.  Next time I need to be a bit slower to add wood onto the flame so I don't smother it.  I have to learn fire starting patience.

You can tell Fall is getting here.  It is getting darker sooner.  The sun had set after 8:00PM on my first few camps.  This time the sun was down by 7:30PM.  It got dark a lot sooner.  I was hoping for a starry night - the sky had been clear when I got there - but the clouds rolled in just as the sun was going down.  I spent the rest of the evening tending the fire and reading.  That's one advantage of reading books on a tablet - you can read in the dark.

I didn't sleep that well that night.  I'd expected a colder night than I had and I was a bit too warm early on.  I don't sleep well when I'm warm.  It did chill down sometime after 4:00AM.  It's also hard to sleep when a train whistle blows every thirty to sixty minutes.  I did manage to sleep but I woke up a lot.  I may have to pack ear plugs next time.  It's kind of sad.  I love the relaxing sound of trains clickitty-clacking on the tracks but the whistles were just too loud.

I woke up around 7:00AM after a restless sleep.  This was later than I usually wake up while camping but sunrise is later now which probably explains it.  I packed up and headed home.

Not exactly sure where my next camp will be.  I am investigating a park in north-eastern Iowa near the Mississippi river - The Yellow River Sate Forest which has four backcountry campsites.  It is also over six hour away by car.  I'll make a decision over the next few weeks.

Pictures of the camp have been added to my 2014-2016 Camping in Iowa and Nebraska and my 2008-2017 Hitchcock Nature Reserve Google Photos albums.