Saturday, June 30, 2007


The top photo is a view of my pond with the camera’s zoom lens set at
its widest angle of view; 18 mm. Note the brown soil in the middle of the picture. The bright speck at water level surrounded by the brown area is the pond’s spill pipe.

The middle photo was shot at the lens’ full telephoto setting of 200 mm. Note how much closer the spill pipe appears.

These focal lengths must be multiplied by 1.6 in order to know
the 35 mm camera equivalency. This is because the CCD device which captures the image in a digital camera is smaller than a 35 mm film negative. Thus, the second image above, for example, is the approximate equivalent of a 320 mm lens on a 35 mm camera.

In the bottom image, I replaced the zoom lens with my Meade ETX 90 telescope; attaching it to the Canon Digital Rebel XTi camera with adapters. The telescope has a focal length of 1,200 mm and was used without an eyepiece for this image.
The camera was in the same location for all three pictures.

With inexpensive, digital cameras your composition usually is limited to the range of the zoom lens built into the camera. The digital, single lens reflex, camera offers a nearly unlimited range of lens choices.

The extremes at the upper end, however, extract a toll in the form of price as well as size and weight, the latter of which become limiting factors in their portability.

Yet, as you can see, today’s technology offers the serious amateur photographer a wide range of optical tools.

Friday, June 29, 2007


For the past few weeks I have been looking for a more powerful vehicle to pull my camper.

Naturally, that exposed me to the used car lots.

I felt like I should have gotten an inoculation against having to deal with intellectually bankrupt creatures with a remarkable similarity to the human race.

Here’s a specific instance: I sent an email inquiry to Rocket Chevrolet in Shelby asking them to be prepared to convince me one of their used pick-ups was equipped to tow my camper.

When I got there, their, ah, juvenile salesperson proudly showed me a print-out which announced the vehicle I was interested in had a gross vehicle weight of 6,400 pounds. He embellished that with his most convincing demeanor.

With some exasperation I pointed out the truck’s gross weight was entirely different from its maximum trailer towing weight.

He called for his mentor.

I was then mentored by the mentor who immediately saw a geriatric customer ripe for his blathering harvest.

After his patronizing dissertation I inquired, “Why then, if this is the finest truck in the entire universe for my purposes—at a very rock-bottom price, of course—does it not have an electrical hook-up for my camper’s lights and brakes?"

He was still sputtering his way through some irrelevant owner’s manual when I made my exit.

Similar story across the street at the Dodge sales joint.

Similar story at the Chevrolet joint in Fredericktown.

Lots of similar stories in my aging recollections from a lifetime of such encounters.

There were two notable exceptions, however. One was with Mike Flynn, a quiet and competent sales person with the Bellville Ford dealership. The other was the entire sales staff of Weekley Chrysler-Jeep in Butler.

Neither of them, unfortunately, had a vehicle that met my current needs.

Both will get the first cracks at any of my future business.

They are comparatively like a breath of fresh air.

Thursday, June 28, 2007


The Richland County bike trail is a nicely meandering, gently level ride of 18.3 miles on the old railroad bed between Mansfield’s North Lake Park and Butler.

My usual starting point is at the reconstructed train station in Bellville: pictured with a rider rolling by its handsome, period clock.

Heading north you cross the Clear Fork branch of the Mohican River and are immediately immersed in a cool, tree-lined tunnel with sandy, rock outcroppings, then, the trail is adjacent to SR 97 until it crosses that highway near I-71 and returns to rural solitude all the way to Lexington.

It was there, on a recent ride, I was passed, by a lady, who hasn’t missed too many meals in her lifetime. Son Brian once described such a physique as looking like she had a couple of teddy bears wrestling in her shorts.
I was passed? Oh well, such is life.

As you approach the interstate you are accosted by a constant rumble of traffic high overhead; but, that soon passes.
Then, it is the muted swish of your own tires rolling on the smooth asphalt surface while you look down and watch your working silhouette chase the whizzing shadow of your front tire.

I heard, and then smiled a greeting to a more than middle aged couple who wobbled by on a tandem bike southbound. They appeared to be challenging the laws of balance.

You will see folks on rollerblades and hikers and moms with babes in strollers.
You will see cows grazing in nearby pastures. And, wildlife.

I’m still inclined to chuckle at the chipmunk headed in the opposite direction that passed between my bike and the pavement edge—and never looked up.

Then a couple came by towing a sulky with two kids. The youngest did her royal wave as she peered at me through her delightfully gaudy, pink glasses.

Up near Millsboro Rd, I met a fellow on an unusual design of a bike. My inquiry led to a pleasant conversation and we rode side-by-side—as it turned out—up to and around the large pond in North Lake Park.

His name is Bill Radler and he suffers from muscular dystrophy as well as a debilitating nerve disorder. The bike was a gift from his son and is the only style he can comfortably ride. Bill’s wife is suffering with cancer.

While riding together we passed a northbound cyclist—with no legs. I’ve seen this fellow before. He rides a low slung vehicle like a tricycle going backwards and propels himself with his well developed arms and shoulders.

I don’t know why life hurt him so badly but I am strengthened each time I see him slapping his infirmity into submission.

Bill and I looped the pond at North Lake and rode back to his car at Home Rd. He is a friendly and gentle soul. I hope we ride together again.

I'd also like to ride some day with the fellow with no legs.
But, I doubt if I could keep up.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


A ding-a-ling sued a Washington DC neighborhood, dry cleaner for $54 million bucks because the cleaner lost a pair of the ding-a-ling’s pants.

Yup, $54 million smackers. For a pair of pants!

And that figure had been reduced from the claim’s original $67 million bucks.

The case, originally filed in 2005 was finally rejected in a DC Superior Court which ordered the claimant to pay court costs of about $1,000 to the defendants.

“A motion to recover the defendant’s ‘tens of thousands of dollars’ in attorney’s fees will be considered later” according to news reports.

And, get this; the ding-a-ling claimant is himself a judge in the DC area.

Regarding the settlement, a local law professor spewed, “This case was giving American justice a black eye around the world and it was all the more upsetting because it was a judge and lawyer who was bringing the suit.”

He concluded, Monday’s ruling “restores one’s confidence in the legal system”.

Yeah, right!

My confidence will be restored in this instance when 1) the ding-a-ling claimant is removed from the bench and disbarred, 2) he is prosecuted and jailed for filing a frivolous law suit, and 3) he is ordered to personally pay actual and punitive damages to the owners of this mom and pop cleaning business.

Jeeeze! Next thing you know someone will be suing some fast food joint because their hot coffee was too hot.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


I left my outside lights on one recent evening and came home to the usual summertime blizzard of bugs swirling on my front patio.

It was one of those close-your-eyes, hold-your-breath challenges to get in the door without being accompanied by a zillion flying and biting creatures.

Then, I began to ponder—the amazing world of insects!

Did you know there are over a million described species of these rascals; more than all other animal groups combined. In that statistic I was aghast to learn there are more than 120,000 species of flies alone.

Many insects are considered pests by humans. Those commonly regarded as pests include ones that are parasitic, (mosquitoes, lice, bedbugs) transmit diseases, (mosquitoes, flies) damage structures, (termites) or destroy agricultural goods (locusts, and weevils).

Although pest insects attract the most attention, many insects are beneficial. Some (wasps, bees, butterflies and ants) pollinate flowering plants, a task crucial to the growth of many fruits and vegetables.

Insects also produce useful substances such as honey, wax, lacquer and silk.

Many insects, especially beetles, are scavengers feeding on dead animals and fallen trees thus recycling the biological materials into forms found useful by other organisms, and, insects are responsible for much of the process by which topsoil is created.

Finally, the most useful of all insects are insectivores; those that feed on other insects. Most folks cheer at the very thought of that process.

Egad; all of this just because I was bugged by a bunch of bugs.
The photo shows a squadron of bugs around my front light during an exposure of about 30 seconds.

Monday, June 25, 2007


Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka was known as Ceylon and is an island nation of some 25 thousand square miles (about ½ the size of Alabama) located 18 miles off the southern coast of India. It has an estimated population of 20 million people.

Ceylon became part of the British Empire in 1815 and won its independence peacefully in 1948. In 1972 its name was changed to Sri Lanka and today is known as the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.

A minority group, largely identified by their common language known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (or Tamil Tigers), has been fighting a bloody civil way for a separate nation there since 1983.

By early 2000, 18 years of war had claimed the lives of more than 64,000, mostly civilians. Fighting between the rebels and government troops continued into 2007. After weeks of deadly battles, the military took control of rebel-held regions of eastern Sri Lanka in March, leaving tens of thousands more civilians displaced.

Since 1997 the US has designated the Tamil rebels as a terrorist organization.

If you insist on visiting that country the US Embassy web page indicates emergency services are available Monday thru Friday, 8 to 5:30 and Saturdays, 8 to noon.

While a 24 hour emergency phone number is provided, it evidently would be more convenient if you would schedule your emergency during regular business hours.


Strike Force by Dale Brown

An action packed tale involving futuristic, space-based weaponry in a skirmish between the US and Iran. Not only does Brown spin a quick read, this book utilizes the nifty publishing protocol of listing a cast of characters, making it easy for the reader to keep track of the players.

Brain candy; but, good entertainment.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

My neighbor lady Betty Thornton-Tucker is shown with me after our hike to Lyon’s Falls in the Mohican State Park recently. Betty’s property adjoins mine along our township road to the North.


A few weeks ago I was rolling by Betty’s place on the bike when I noticed her laboring over burning a large brush pile in her back yard. I stopped to lend a hand and we’ve been getting-better-acquainted neighbors ever since.

Betty has lived in her place for about 40 years and has buried two husbands in the process. Together our ages add up to 140 years.

Except for our marital status we don’t have too much in common--but being alone. And, a zest for life.

Betty’s a cancer survivor. Twice. And, she is grateful to her strong faith for those gifts. She was born in the hills just north of Charleston, West, by-God, Virginia--a place called Poca.

She chuckles while she readily admits her hillbilly status.

Actually, her residual dialect prevents any denial of that fact. Charmingly.

So, on the way to the forest we stopped by for a peek at the North shore of Pleasant Hill Lake then rounded the lake’s headwaters for a visit to the Mohican Lodge—her first. Then, it was down the backroads which sneak up on the lake’s fairly spectacular dam. Her first visit there too.

From there you can see down the gorge we were soon to walk for awhile back upstream on the way to the Lyon’s falls.

Then, it was a relaxing—mostly back roads ride—to Bellville for a mid-afternoon lunch.

This certainly would not qualify as exciting in many datebooks.

But, some geriatric folks would view the successful completion of an event like this as cause for jubilation.

Saturday, June 23, 2007


Sunday, May 20th; finally some Tadpoles. They are the tiny black variety and are thick along the shore north of the island. Maybe the water is just now getting warm enough. I checked the temperature today and it is 62. By Monday tadpole activity was noticeable along the north shore as well.

Wednesday evening while enjoying beverages around the campfire, son Craig, who is here for a week’s visit, heard then found a Flying Squirrel visiting the thistle-stocked bird feeder.

During the family reunion over Memorial Day a Snapping Turtle’s visit was a highlight of the event. June 2nd, another female Wood Duck showed up with a new family of seven chicks.

I’ve been noticing small patches of disturbed soil on the pond side of the dam, then, on June 3rd I saw the Snapping Turtle being very busy with her hind legs laying and covering her eggs. While she would occasionally disappear, this process went on for over an hour.

June 6th, momma Hooded Merganser reappeared for the first time since her chicks hatched and swam nonchalantly across the pond with six chicks in tow—nearly ½ grown by now. Makes me wonder if it is actually my nesting merganser, and, if so, where she has been these many weeks. Moreover, how did she manage to protect those chicks from predation?

Periodically this month I flush momma Wood Duck and her brood of seven chicks. They zoom across the pond in a “wing flapping” fury, their pre-flying version of their escape from predation. Both momma woody and momma merganser have done a marvelous job of protecting their broods. I’ve seen seasons with zero chick survival.

By the way, pond temperature in mid June is now 83 F and the water level is about 10” below normal pool due to the dry weather.

Friday, June 22, 2007


Last Sunday, son Brian and daughter-in-law Kate treated me and her pop to Father’s Day breakfast at the Mansfield Restaurant; always a nice place to eat.

Kate’s dad, Ron Rabel, and his first wife Joyce, were my late-wife’s and my best man and matron of honor at our wedding. Imagine that.

I was reminded earlier that morning by a local news item about the Mansfield Memorial Museum so I headed there after breakfast. I think the last time I visited that place was in the early 1950s.

While waiting for them to open I plopped on a park bench in Mansfield’s square and listened to the amplified sermon by a preacher over closer to North Park St. His congregation was rather small.

At the museum I met a very enthusiastic Scott Schaut, its curator and director. He came to Mansfield in the 1990s and has found his life’s calling. He told me about the museum being founded by a Civil War Veteran in the late 1800s.

While enjoying his story, well known columnist, recently retired and once co-worker of mine, Ron Simon stopped by, so, Ron and I promptly interrupted Scott’s tale with some tales of our own; just briefly, of course.

The current building was opened in 1889 and was built as a permanent meeting hall for the Grand Army of the Republic (Union veterans of the Civil War). It also housed the Mansfield/Richland County library from 1889 to 1908, and the museum—way up on the third floor.

Today, the modern library is one block North and the museum will soon have displays in the entire building.

It is the oldest Memorial Building in Ohio and still has its original woodwork. Even the original meeting room chairs remain in use today.In fact, Scott and I sat in two of those chairs as he treated me with this delicious story.

The photo above shows the memorial building when it was flanked by the Madison Theater which was demolished many years ago. The photo is from their web site which is here:

Thursday, June 21, 2007


Last Saturday, my friend Bob Patterson called to remind me the Bellville Presbyterian Church has a free, community dinner the 3rd Saturday of each month. I went—and had a delightful time. I sat across from Bob and had the pleasure of three very lively, white haired table-mate ladies to my right.

One of them knew quite a bit about my past; even mentioning my being in jail in the 1970s. She chuckled about her little fib when I gave her a questioning over-the-glasses look. I think those three might be fun to hang around with a bit.

To their right sat the Fultons, he proudly displaying his new walking stick adorned with a carved and nicely painted Bald Eagle.

My neighbors and friends up the road, Norrie and Jan Tangeman were there. They were part of the kitchen detail. Norrie stopped by to chat about my recent camping adventures. He and Jan just got their own camper and already are planning on a kayaking/camping outing in the upper peninsula of Michigan in October.

Don Palm, the ageless dean of Bellville photographers, stopped by the table to tell me about his challenges with his new digital camera. It’s exactly like my new one. I’m tickled he has made the plunge into that awesome technology.

I also shared a handshake and a nod with my old flying friend Col. Gene Yarger, a WWII bomber pilot who was active with the local air national guard unit when I was in the newspaper business years ago.

We always have a chat on such encounters but he was hurrying to catch his departing bride.

I had parked in a shady spot down by the library on this very warm evening and while walking back to the car heard music coming from the village green. So, with a short detour I was soon leaning in the shade of that large maple tree by the bandstand and enjoying the bluegrass tunes of the Slack Family.

I don’t know where they are from but there were a bunch of local folks sitting in their lawn chairs and enjoying the show.

I did too.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Majesty of the

Hocking Hills.

Thanks God

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Majesty of the Hocking Hills

4 of 5

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Majesty of the Hocking Hills,

3 of 5

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Majesty of the Hocking Hills, cont.

Saturday, June 16, 2007


The majesty of the

Hocking Hills

Friday, June 15, 2007


It is fitting to use a photo of the horns aboard the Marietta excursion boat to visually sound my appreciation. It was, indeed, a marvelous camping journey.

We (my toys and I) arrived home safely and unscathed—except for a broken mirror on the bicycle which happened when the bike took a spill on some gravel at my first camping stop. While I managed to keep my balance, the bike didn’t.

The Jeep did a fine job but it had to work hard at it. I think it would be wise to consider a more robust tow vehicle. It did achieve a respectable 11.8 miles per gallon on fuel consumption, however.

A highlight of the trip was establishing a friendship with Jim and Bonnie from Tavares, FL which is located quite close to a town down there I’ve had my eyes on for a future winter destination. Thanks Bonnie and Jim for being delightful neighbors at The Landings campground in Marietta. I hope to see both of you again some day.

And, here’s another toot of the horn for the Hocking Hills. When Mother Nature got finished with that creation she must have been very proud. Of course, in an inexorable way it continues to evolve in tribute to the grandeur of rock, flora and water. Here here!

Now the Jeep needs to rest a bit while I enjoy pondering what is yet to come.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Captain Brad in the pilot house

Tuesday, July 17th camped at East Harbor State Park: The day started with an early morning bike ride around the park. Very early. And, I was promptly rewarded for enjoying the solitude with a critter encounter.

Momma skunk and a fairly recent offspring wandered out in front of me down near the beach. I did a quick stop, hoping to convince her I was not a belligerent sort of person.

I think it was a her. I certainly did not get close enough for any kind of anatomical confirmation and they simply disappeared into the marsh grass leaving no evidence of their passing. Thankfully.

The day’s forecast called for a high likelihood of rain so cousin Brad Crownover (a local resident) and I decided to tour a couple of nautical museums and give the local walleye population another day of rest.

The Maritime Museum of Sandusky is located on the near east side of town. They describe their mission as “…interpreting the maritime history of the area, including boat building, recreational boating, passenger boats…shipwrecks…and, the boats of Sandusky’s Underground Railroad.”

Their displays are not as expansive as their mission statement, although they are located in a modern facility. If you are really curious check here:

Next we ventured about 20 miles east to the delightful town of Vermilion, OH and visited the Inland Seas Maritime Museum operated by the Great Lakes Historical Society.

Their facility is as attractive as the town and the enlarged building was even better than I remembered it from a long-ago visit.

One of the highlights of their display is being able to walk down a passageway into the actual pilothouse of an historic great lakes vessel, the ore carrier Canopus that was built in 1905 and added to the museum in 1992.

More information for this award winning facility is here:

Turns out the weather forecast was correct.

We were tinkled on most of the rest of the day.

THAT IS YOURS TRULY enjoying the majesty of Ash Cave’s rock formations in the Hocking Hills State Park just south of Logan, OH.


Thursday, June 14, Camped in the Hocking Hills

The sky got angry last night. I noticed the boiling clouds just in time to secure the awning. The wind howled through the woods and miniature tornadoes of swirling dust raced across the campground roads. I pondered my limited options, then, fixed a beverage and listened to the Indian’s game.

This morning the sun was just kissing the trees across the top of the ridge as I started down the path to nearby Ash Cave. About 50 feet into the wooded park it felt like someone closed the cooler door behind me. The luscious flora was dripping with dew and the primeval forest was a symphony of visual delight. The Ash Cave Gorge trail meanders for a ¼ mile into an enchanted land then ends in a recess cave, undercut by eons of rock erosion and features a 90-foot waterfall.

Just a few miles up the road is Cedar Falls. Its ½ mile entry trail is a sharp descent into another fairy-tale woods leading to a steep-walled gorge and a tinkling waterfall, subdued in the season’s dryness.

Next came Old Man’s Cave, adjacent to the Hocking Hills State Park Office and campground. This trail winds more than a mile down a winding gorge of massive rock formations. Named after a Civil War hermit, it too features a waterfall spilling into a swirling pool.

Then it was Conkle’s Hollow with its mile-long trail along “…sandstone cliffs towering 200 feet over a serene, shaded valley floor”; another stunning, natural tapestry.

And yet another natural attraction called The Rock House. It’s trail was just ½ mile but it cut sharply back and forth in a steep descent to the only “true cave” in the park; a tunnel located midway up a 150 foot cliff accessible by a narrow and steep stairway chiseled into the face of the rock. I enjoyed this attraction from the stream bottom—saving my dwindling energy for the climb back out.

In visiting each of these features of the Hocking Hills State Park it was easy to imagine this place looking exactly like it did when it was first populated by the Adena Indians more than 7,000 years ago.

On tomorrow’s agenda: home. The camper, the Jeep and I all need a bit of a rest—while we plan the next camping adventure.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

THE EXCURSION VESSEL Valley Gem is approaching its Muskingham River dock about ½ mile upstream from the Ohio River in Marietta, OH. I treated myself to one of its tours Tuesday.


Tuesday, June 12, Marietta

A Revolutionary War general and a small band of pioneers founded Marietta in 1788. It gained its early fame by being the first permanent settlement in the Northwest Territory. Remember, Lewis and Clark didn’t even begin their trek through this Louisiana Purchase area until the1800s.

In fact, to this day, the state of West Virginia claims ownership of the entire Ohio River along its border with Ohio. This is from a relic of colonial law dating to the time when West Virginia only existed in the form of Virginia; one of the original 13 colonies, and the Ohio River was the then Western boundary of the country.

One of the highlights of today’s visit to this historic city was an hour and a half ride on the Valley Gem. I regarded the boat ride as a well-deserved rest after spending most of the day touring the city on the bicycle.

I met a friendly gal on the boat ride from New Castle who was touring with her Red Hat Ladies group, and, because she learned I had been a photographer, I was drafted to do a group picture of her contingent molesting the captain of the vessel; all in good fun, of course. He and I had gotten acquainted earlier after he stowed my bike aboard.

The evening concluded once again around the campfire with the Hastings where I learned Jim is a highly talented wood carver to say the least. He shared several of his specialty with me; delicately carved walking sticks made from Alaskan Willow. Outstanding!

I look forward to one day continuing our conversations. In the wintertime. Far South of here.

Wednesday, June 13, Marietta to Nelsonville

After an easy 50 mile or so drive I am now squatting for a couple of days at the Happy Hills Campground about 8 miles south of town, high in the Hocking Hills. The office was not open when I arrived so I dropped the camper, powered up the refrigerator and headed for town.

The plan called for a ride on the Hocking Valley Railway, but, they only operate on weekends, so, plan “B” took me to their marvelous bicycle trail; a 17 mile, heavily forested dandy that runs between Nelsonville and Athens.

While drifting along and savoring the green canopy that offered occasional peeks at the meandering river, the tranquility was bruised by the noise of highly revving engines. Just after my pause to watch a woodchuck lumber through the solitude of the trail I was assaulted by the raucous noise of a very active moto-cross track just across the river.

Fortunately, the trees soon deadened the noise and the relative silence of wind tickling the ears and tires humming gently on the blacktop returned. Over there I saw a catbird and a bit later a wild turkey zoomed across the trail in hot pursuit of what looked like a black, domestic rooster.

I stopped short of Athens because a couple of gals I met from Wooster told me the last few miles were in open field under a blistering sun. That’s where I did a 180-degree turn and headed back to town to see if I could find the Dairy Queen I noticed when I drove into town. Time for another pineapple sundae.

The campground folks were very welcoming and said my camper was fine where I had plopped it. And, I have Wi-Fi service right on my dinette table!

This feels like the kind of evening for doing nothing.

Maybe I will wander down to the pond later and torment the bass population.

Maybe not.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A STERNWHEEL-POWERED excursion boat chases its bow wave downstream on the Ohio River; the west shoreline of “The Landings” my campground in Reno, OH just south of Marietta. The river, flowing downstream to the right is actually headed north in this view. Ahhh, never mind, just enjoy the picture.


Just after posting the blog Monday I said hello to my neighbors here at the Marietta campground, Jim Hastings and his delightful lady Bonnie. Jim grew up here but is retired and now lives in Tavares, Florida. So, on this chance acquaintance I now have a fishing buddy whenever I happen to be in that neighborhood. Imagine that!

Then, my string of Marietta good luck ran out. While visiting their historic downtown the Jeep failed to start. You know the feeling. So, I wandered into a nearby insurance agency and the ladies recommend a local garage. Shortly the car doctor arrived, diagnosed the problem as a deceased starter and they towed the car to their garage. About ½ hour later and a bill of $130 for a new starter I was good to go.

Now that I think about it that turned out to be very good luck after all. It could have happened when I was out in the boonies going down the road with the camper in tow. Here’s a tip of my hat to the fine folks at John’s Auto Repair up on Muskingham Dr.

The actual drive down here, while pleasant, was somewhat disappointing. The highway follows the river but trees nearly always obscure views of the waterway. Once in a while a tantalizing look at a tug and its burden of barges would sluice into view, but then—more trees! So, after continuing our interrupted visit of Marietta’s attractions, the plan is now to leave the river and head for the Hocking Hills tomorrow--whatever day that happens to be.

Meanwhile, last evening I enjoyed just sitting along the river’s edge and savoring the sun as it tucked itself in for the night behind the West Virginia woods. Then it was off on a short run to the local custard stand for a wickedly huge pineapple sundae.

When I got back Jim and Bonnie invited me to share their campfire with beverages, a plate of tasty treats and stimulating conversation while Venus followed the sun into the woods across the river.

Monday, June 11, 2007


To add to the ambiance last night I lit a little oil lantern and sat it on the shelf above the stereo while I concocted another beverage. Before the ice rattled in my glass the *%##&&* smoke alarm went off.

Yup! There it is right above the lantern. While it was deciding to behave I went out and sat at the picnic table, and promptly met a nice fellow who is a permanent camper at Austin Lake.

We swapped tales for a while, then, as he was leaving, we decided on introductions. Terry shook hands with Terry; his last name was Mitchell and he was retired out of the steel works up river in Weirton, W. VA. I hope I run into him again some day.

Today the bus is parked about 80 miles downriver, just outside Marietta, at a spiffy campground called The Landings. My spot is one of those “with a river view”. No complaints, it’s exactly where I hoped to be and I had no reservations—didn’t even know it was here until I saw the entrance.

I inquired about Internet service but no such luck. But, before I had the rig assembled on the lot, the nice lady from the office came by with the directions to the Marietta library, their hours, their phone number and news they have Wi-Fi service I can use. I may spend a second night here.

Egad, just as I was about to leave for the library I made a wireless connection right here where I am sitting. So, regarding that as another good omen I am going to post this to the blog and spend the rest of the day—and probably tomorrow—visiting Marietta.

Sorta like making hay while the sun shines.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

TOWN FORK CREEK lazes through the Austin Lake Campground near Toronto,OH on the Ohio River North of Steubenville. The vast majority of the facility’s 200 camping sites border the stream or one of many lakes and ponds that lace the area.


Today I drove through Paris. Not that one, silly. This one was small-town Americana up there on State Route 172 a bit East of Canton.

Rockwell’s vision of rural USA drifted by the windows of the Jeep. Lots of farms nested in those valleys far below, then again over there on the hills and even the modest home out here was looking polished with a hefty dose of owner pride.

The morning sky sparkled as I headed toward East Liverpool and my appointment with Old Man River—the Ohio one. Even before the camper came to live with me last fall this trip was a dream; to take some time and meander as the river goes. Today is the day.

At East Liverpool the road bends back West in compliance with the river’s course and State Route 7 becomes my paved trail toward Marietta. But, I am in no hurry so the first overnight stop is a very hilly eight miles inland; Austin Lake Park and Campground.

Picture me muscling the Jeep and its wheeled burden around the steeply descending curves while I am symbolically dragging my foot in an imaginary effort to keep us under control. With every foot down the hilly curves I am more convinced we will need a tow to get back up to the highway.

Finally, there’s Bill Cable, one of the owners, by the gate waving me a smiling greeting and, after lots of old pilot talk—and a little business—I am plopped in my shady digs for the night.

Mark, my neighbor camper from Wheeling, and a fellow pilot, tells me Bill’s dad started this 1,500-acre Nirvana of a facility. It’s long and skinny in a sharply cut stream valley with spacious, shady lots.

I was amused when I punched the scan button on my FM receiver and it went around the dial and stopped once. I learned to appreciate the frequency 89.9; a public radio frequency from somewhere over in West Virginia.

So, tomorrow it’s off to Marietta. But, for now, let the vacation begin.

Vacation? I’m always on vacation!

I think it’s time for a beverage.

Later this morning I will be leaving with the camper and intend to join the Ohio River near East Liverpool then meander along downstream for awhile. My first stop is tentatively slated for a commercial campground just north of Steubenville.

Monday I should roll past Wheeling and encounter places like Dilles Bottom and Fly, Ohio on the way to Marietta where I expect to spend a couple of days sampling their abundant list of historical attractions.

From there I should continue downstream through Constitution and Antiquity and on to Pomeroy where I plan to leave the river and head for the Hocking Hills. That area is well known for its forested hills and multitude of state parks including Ash and Old Man’s Cave.

There also is a 16.5 mile bike trail between Nelsonville and Athens which follows the Hocking River and canal, originally constructed in the 1830s. That round-trip ride is firmly on the agenda.

The first campground has wireless Internet service. So I expect to make a blog posting this evening regarding this first day’s travel. Subsequent posts chronicling the adventure will be entirely dependent on the Internet service I manage to find at day’s end.

If any.

Please stay tuned.

Saturday, June 9, 2007


This is a necessary and noisy function. The photo required a challenging shooting position. As usual, it was taken on my Rule Road property. It was only gently enhanced by Photoshop software.

Well, of course—it is a close-up view of the water flowing out of the pond’s spill pipe. The water is back lit by the early morning sun and the black, diagonal streaks are shadows of trees along the creek bank.

The blur in the flow is the result of using a slow shutter speed and the composition is further enhanced by the simple expedient of getting up close—hence the earlier comment about a “challenging shooting position”.

Splashing water and steep creek banks are problematic to expensive cameras and geriatric photographers.

Friday, June 8, 2007


This Luna Moth spent most of a recent morning resting on the lower edge of my front door. It did not move at all, even while I replaced the bottom metal weather strip. Perhaps it had just undergone pupation and was drying its wings. Later, when the sun reached the front door I noticed it had moved on.

They are described as common in the Eastern US but rarely seen due to their very brief (1 week) adult life. As with all critters of this family, they do not eat or even have a mouth. They will emerge from the cocoon with the only function in their short life being to mate.

Curious? More here:

Savage Kingdom by Benjamin Woolley

On the cover the book bills itself as “The true story of Jamestown, 1607 and the settlement of America”. I managed to struggle through 160 pages before giving up. The London based author is advertised as “ award winning writer and broadcaster.” I hope he has a reliable day job.

Thursday, June 7, 2007


A Louisiana congressman refuses to step down in spite of his being indicted this week on 16 federal charges that could lead to his imprisonment for up to 235 years.

Worse yet, Fox News said yesterday, “House rules do not require Jefferson to step down from his post at this point...”

Even an obscure high school coach is immediately put on a paid leave when faced with far less serious allegations than this congress critter.

One congressman has this sorted out. Steve Kagen, D-Wis. said, "While Mr. Jefferson is entitled to the legal presumption of innocence to which all citizens are entitled, all members of Congress must be held to a higher standard. Congressman Jefferson should consider resigning for the good of the Congress and for the good of the nation."

Exactly! His office should continue to function on behalf of his constituents, but, he, personally, needs to be put out to pasture until this matter is resolved.

And, the House rules need fixed. Period.

Keep in mind this character was allegedly enriching himself from his position of public trust all the while many Louisiana folks continue to struggle with the aftereffects of hurricane Katrina.

Further, for the Republicans to attempt to gain some political advantage from this is pathetic. It was their own ethical lapses that helped cause them to recently lose control of Congress after more than 12 years in power.

From my point of view, there is one good thing in this quagmire.

The prevailing wind here blows from West to East.

Consequently, I cannot usually smell these regular eruptions from the Washington cesspool.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Publisher's Note: In an editorial in today's Montpelier VT Times Argus newspaper entitled "In or Out" they take a fairly modest position on the proposal of secession mentioned in today's blog. They are here:

This from an AP story running Tuesday:
Rep. Jefferson Indicted in Bribery Probe

WASHINGTON (AP) - Louisiana congressman William Jefferson received more than $500,000 in bribes and sought millions more in nearly a dozen separate schemes to enrich himself by using his office to broker business deals in Africa, according to a federal indictment Monday.

The charges came almost two years after investigators raided Jefferson's home in Washington and found $90,000 in cash stuffed in his freezer...

The indictment contains 16 counts and could lead to imprisonment for up to 235 years if he is convicted. The $90 thousand in cash mentioned above was from marked bills he allegedly accepted from an FBI informant.

Nevertheless, our system requires he be considered innocent until proven guilty. Yup, I’d consider this bozo innocent—as I slammed his cell door and tossed the key to await the formality of his trial, conviction and sentencing.

Periodically during this investigation the major news angle on the story involved the congress critters wringing their hands and bemoaning the investigation as a breech of congressional privilege. “How dare the FBI raid the offices of a congressman?” they wailed.

Equally as pathetic, this clown was reelected to his seat while this investigation was being actively and publicly pursued.

Which brings up a companion topic; we in the US like to slam-dunk the congress which, is often so richly deserved, but, we absolutely love “our” congressman. After all, he or she is the one who builds us a new post office or brings all manner of pork-barrel goodies back to his home district—the very thing we find so offensive when it happens in someone else’s congressional district.

So, in summary, we have 1) Yet another alleged abuse of political power, 2) A constituency which ignores the allegations and reelects their favorite miscreant, and 3) A congress which routinely feels it is above the very laws they create for the rest of us to obey.

In another story today, a bunch of folks in Vermont, “disillusioned by what they call ‘an empire about to fall’...” has started the process to secede from the Union.

*Gasp* Running a democracy is certainly a challenge.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007


Here is another in my series of tips to improve your photography.

Change your angle of view!

Every amateur photographer, it seems, stands on his hind feet and shoots away with his camera at eye level. Consequently, pictures tend to have a boring sameness about them.

In the top picture I used an angle of view above my fisherman son Craig. That adds interest to the picture
and changes the background to all water. The middle picture was simply taken from a low angle of view and the last picture, also from a very low angle of view was shot directly into the sun.

Three pictures—each with the identical subject, but quite different simply because of a change in the camera angle.

Stay tuned for the next installment of Fix Your Pix.

Monday, June 4, 2007


Today’s standard of excellence is mediocrity.

(Note: In recent years I have observed a decline in the quality of many products, services, and performance in general. Postings under this title from time to time will explore this hypothesis.)

Recently I was opening a new half-gallon jug of milk. Under the plastic cap was one of those additional seals to keep scofflaws from tampering with the contents.

It had a little tab the consumer simply had to pull to remove the barrier. Yeah, right! I couldn’t budge it.

No biggie, I have a pair of kitchen pliers for such events. I grabbed the little tab and gave a tug.

Yup, the tab came off--leaving the barrier firmly intact; an experience that was not the first for this product.

Finally, surgery with a sharp knife removed the obstinate barricade.

Putting this kind of thing on the market doesn’t even rise to the level of mediocrity.

Sunday, June 3, 2007


Chelydra serpentina (Common Snapping Turtle)

This assertive, recent visitor was just cresting the brow of the dam and headed toward its sanctuary of the pond’s open water. Snappers are noted for their pugnacious dispositions. They have powerful, beak-like jaws and a highly mobile head and neck—hence the name “serpentina” meaning “snake-like”.

They can reach 1/2 to 2/3 of the length of their shells, making handling dangerous. Their snapping jaws and sharp claws are capable of inflicting serious injury up to and including amputation of digits.

While we did not measure this turtle, I estimate its carapace to be 14” long. They will commonly weight from 10 to 35 pounds.

They spend most of their time beneath the surface of any body of water. They often hide in the mud of the shallows with only their head exposed, stretching their long necks to the surface for an occasional breath. They are omnivores; eating both plants and animal matter.

Prime egg laying season is June and July and the female will travel considerable distance to find sandy soil for laying her eggs which can number from 25 to 80. Incubation is by the warm sand and can take from to 9 to 18 weeks depending on the soil temperature.

A common misconception is they can be safely handled by picking them up by the tail. This can damage the animal’s tail and vertebral column, and, they can damage the handler with the amazing speed and power of their jaws.

Curious? More information here:

Saturday, June 2, 2007


From: “Life’s Little Mysteries”

If you’ve ever been drunk (or even tipsy), or seen someone who is, you know there’s definitely some cognitive impairment going on. Reaction time, coordination and speech are slowed. Judgment and decision-making abilities get a lot worse, sometimes wrongly convincing us we are more attractive to the opposite sex—or we can safely drive our car.

But is the impairment permanent or temporary? Some people believe the consequences of drinking alcohol are far worse than a nasty hangover; it can actually lead to brain damage because alcohol kills brain cells. During Prohibition, teetotaling temperance activists asserted this belief, citing it among the dangers of drink.

It is not the brain cells themselves but the nerve connections between them (called dendrites) which are most affected by alcohol. The communication signals are inhibited, thus slowing down mental processing and the central nervous system. But the brain cells themselves bounce back with no damage for the most part.

Long-term alcohol use, however, is another story. There’s plenty of research showing sustained alcohol consumption can--and does--cause irreversible neurological disorders.


Spare Parts by Buzz Williams

A US Marine reservist’s journey from campus to combat in 38 days; it is a penetrating view of the struggle to transform from citizens to soldiers and back again. One decorated veteran said the story “...brings honor and respect to our nation’s part-time warriors...”

I agree; it’s a good read.

Friday, June 1, 2007


During recent weeks there has been an eruption of Eastern White Pine tree pollen. Clouds of yellow have drifted from the woods with each passing breeze, leaving a colorful film over—everything!

In the photo above, pollen is produced in the angiosperm flower or male cone of this coniferous tree. While most pollen grains are round, the grains of pines, firs and spruces are wing-shaped.

In general terms, each grain of pollen powder contains the male gametes (sperm cells). The grains of pollen have a hard coat which protects those cells during the process of their movement in the tree’s reproductive cycle.

In the event you are now inspired to engage in the lifetime study of this fascinating subject, you will be known as a palynologist.

Finally, allergy to pollen is called “hay fever”. In the US folks often mistakenly blame the widespread goldenrod wildflower for allergies. That’s not likely true. Goldenrod pollen is not air-borne. It is heavy, sticky, and dispersed by animals and insects.

The only way to get its pollen into the nasal passages would be to stick the flower up one’s nose.

I think I am going to sneeze!
A tip of the hat to one of my usual references;