C’mon. In for four, hold for four, out for four. In for four, hold for four, out for four.

I’m having to do this every damned day since the Tweeting Tyrannical Toddler with Tiny Hands was sworn in. Not that my anxiety hasn’t already been running at a record high but, yeah. The past few days have been crippling.

Those with abusive family members might recall the feeling–that waiting for the other shoe to drop, never knowing what will set them off, what the right answer is supposed to be. Just waiting for the eventual conniption fit that results in pain and humility.

I haven’t written anything for this blog in many moons. Mostly because I didn’t have much to say. Life, work, moves, the usual suspects, overtook everything like kudzu on a Mississippi hillside.

Now, I have to write.

Welcome to what I’ve taken to calling #Trumptopia.

I’m not writing this to offer up any great or insightful ideas. I don’t currently have any words of wisdom for dealing with the Orwellian or Rod Serling-esque world we suddenly find ourselves inhabiting. What I am doing is searching for my own way of dealing with the abject terror I find myself battling every day. Fear for myself and my wife, for our friends, for people of color, for immigrants, for the underinsured, for our veterans, our public lands, our wild spaces, our freedoms.

The first five days of #Trumptopia have done nothing to alleviate my worst fears. Quite the contrary. So, for myself, for my sanity, I will write whatever I damned well please. I will celebrate our 1st Amendment Rights by using them.

I will speak.

Image by Hayley Gilmore

The Woolen Unicorn

Last Saturday, we arrived home late from a lovely visit with Ms. Treva and her handmade trees and a necessary trip through the Axis of Evil (aka Walmart). After hiking through a snow-covered pasture and along a creek bed earlier, it was necessary to remove my woods-tromping britches and boots and pull on some appropriate about-the-house loungewear.

As I shed said layers, The Diane turned ’round and espied my awesome purple base-layer paired with my most favorite wool sweater and immediately began giggling.

“What?” I asked.

“Hahaha, that looks like some sort of superhero outfit! Hahahaha!” she replied.

The ensuing twenty minutes resulted in over a dozen blurry images; due to Diane’s uncontrollable fits of giggling. At long last, and at the expense of my dignity, I present to you all… The Woolen Unicorn: Champion of the Underdog, Enemy of Corporate Greed and Political Ineptitude. Capable of sparking cooking fires with a single match, dressing out a deer without powertools, and scootering over any obstacle!

A new superhero for our times: the Woolen Unicorn!

A new superhero for our times: the Woolen Unicorn!

9° of stupidity

The New Year has passed and, unfortunately, I was unable to spend New Year’s Eve as I really wanted–out on the trail. Monday brought 3 or so inches of snow and, not wanting to lose track of a trail I’m unfamiliar with, I chose to postpone the trip. Then I realized, frak, my friend Nixapotamos was headed here from the East Coast and would be here on Saturday. And the Neighbor is headed out of town on the 11th and I’ll be critter watching. Hmmm, my window of opportunity was shrinking. Quickly.

Instead of pondering this wee conundrum further, I opted for an impromptu overnighter at the Natural Bridge in Kaintuck Hollow. And when I say impromptu I mean I decided at 2:45 p.m. and was out the door by 3:30. This would work out well and be more of gear-test trip than anything. In recent weeks I’d accrued a new pack, larger cooking pot, a solid fuel stove, and a new sleeping pad. Might as well make certain everything was up to snuff, right?

I texted the Neighbor to let her know my plans and ask her to mind the critters for the evening and the following a.m. ‘Lo and behold, she was in the mood for a little light hike in the snow that evening. She decided to go with and so plans morphed from there. She would drive us (yay for AWD Hondas!) and pick me up the following morning. Perfect.

Since I’d already been prepping for several days on the trail, all I had to do was gather all the necessary things into the pack, check critter food and water, and head out the door. Sweet. Trail time!

Off we went. Kaintuck Hollow is just a few miles down the road and part of our local section of the Mark Twain National Forest. There are several trails within Kaintuck, but most online maps and information show the Acorn section located in the SE corner. The Natural Bridge is in the upper, N area about .5 miles from a small parking area. Like so much of the Ozarks, there are pine forests interspersed among predominant hardwoods. The approach to Natural Bridge is almost all pine changing to hardwoods as the trail continues on, up, and over the cave opening.

We hiked back to the Natural Bridge, but the lower area in front of it is a bit open and, at this time, was covered in snow. I wanted an easy overnight, so we hiked about halfway back down the trail to a pre-existing fire ring in amongst the pines. Nice. You could feel the temp differential between here and the front of the cave and, overall, it would be much warmer (relatively speaking) than out in the open.

Daylight was waning as the Neighbor and I agreed upon the next day’s meet-up time. I unshouldered my pack as she headed off and started in on fire making. When we’d left my place it had been about 27°F. Down in the hollow of Kaintuck the temp was probably around 24° and dropping as the sun set. We had a cold front headed in, with lows forecasted in the mid-teens. Perfect temps for testing cold-weather gear. Thankfully, in winter, there are rarely any fire bans in our area. There are some trails in the Ozarks which prohibit burning (if I recall correctly, the Ozark Trail section through Johnson’s Shut-ins is one), but for the most part you’re welcome to have a cheery fire at your campsite, even off-trail. Just don’t be stupid about it.

Problem was, it was bloody cold. Had been bloody cold, and wet, too, for several days. Mind, I’m not an amateur at fire starting and I knew I’d have a bitch of a time getting a decent blaze. But, I figured, meh, just get the frozen twigs and stuff thawed a bit and they’d burn just fine, right?


Everything was frozen.

I started off with lint soaked in hand-sanitizer and twigs. The twigs would burn for a bit, I’d add some slightly larger wood, then it’d all burn out. Damn. Next I tried dry fat wood with magnesium shavings. No dice. Finally, I tried Esbit tabs (solid fuel) and still nothing. Well, frak. Oh, well, hell with it, I had fuel for cooking, I’d just double up on hot nomz and go to bed earlier. And I turned to pitching my little solo tent before I completely lost light.

My Kelty Crestone 1 isn’t free-standing, so a bit of forethought is required when pitching it. Also, it’s small and can be a bit cramped for even my not-very-large 5’5.5″ frame–I can’t sit upright without my head rubbing the top of the tent. And it requires a number of stakes to get both the tent and the fly taut. But, I’ve had it for years, took it on The Flamin’ Texas Roadtrip of ’08, in fact, so pitching it is pretty old hat.

And I was excited, I would finally give the Big Agnes sleeping bag and pad a test-run in truly cold temps! A 15° bag, plus an insulated air core pad, and my trusty, cut-down blue foam pad.The R value of the two of them together is greater than 5! Dear Lord, I’d be sleeping in divine comfort on the trail, excellent.

So, I turned to my pack to grab the…oh.


Guess what I forgot?

Lovely. I am an idiot. Oh, freakin’ really? REALLY?! I’d have called the Neighbor but guess what? NO. CELL. SIGNAL. So I didn’t bring the phone. I brought the SPOT locator in order to let the Better Half know that I’m ok–but it only sends pre-designated messages. Ergo, nothing doing but staying put.

Ok, it was going to be stupid cold in a few hours. The ground was already cold. I couldn’t get anything to burn, but I had plenty of stove fuel and plenty of water and plenty of things to put in hot water to consume. In addition to the base layer and wool sweater I was wearing I had a polypro layer in my pack and–miracle of miracles–I’d grabbed both a package of hand warmers and a package of toe warmers. Also, extra wool socks. And a down jacket. And a wool beanie and puffy gloves. And a TurtleFur neck gaiter. I was stacked for cold weather. Except for getting up off of the ground.

Wait a minute. Ha! Garbage bag!

Ok, so many of you know I’m a survival skills nut. I’ve written before about Mors Kochanski, Les Stroud, and Cody Lundin–thing is, you don’t learn just from reading their books or watching their films. You have to get outside and practice the skills they discuss, using the items they recommend having with you, when you don’t need them. The which of the why, despite trying to be as lightweight as possible, I still carry an axe and multiple fire tools. And then other things–a mylar blanket, an emergency candle, and a 55 gallon trash bag.

I spent the next 20 minutes crawling around stuffing a 55 gallon garbage bag full of leaves and pine needles. It wouldn’t be as cozy as an insulated sleeping pad, but it would insulate me from the ground and provide some cushioning.

Now, Big Agnes bags do not have  fill in the bottom, logic being that you’re going to be laying on it and crushing the loft of the fill material. No loft equals nothing to hold in heat, therefore you’re lugging around unnecessary weight. Of course, this makes it extra important to remember your goram sleeping pad, but we’ve covered my idiocy already.

Mylar blankets can save your hide, but they don’t breathe. Meaning moisture that you perspire and respire gets trapped. Over a shockingly short period of time you’ll find a remarkable amount of water dripping onto you from the mylar. So, to combat cold transference and puddling, I put the mylar blanket in the bag, but under me.

The last trick involved the hand and toe warmers. Key to staying warm is keeping your core and extremities warm. I layered the toe warmers between two pairs of wools socks. Holy cow that worked incredibly well! Toasty toes, oh yes. The hand warmers went between the baselayer and the polypro layer at my kidneys. Throughout the night, before I really fell into good sleep, I moved them back and forth between my kidneys and spine.

I crawled out of a very icy tent around 8 the next morning, the sun just then peaking over the ridge to the east and shedding some sunshine onto my campsite. It’s amazing how much moisture the human body sheds and I discovered, very quickly, that my little tent did not vent very well. Of course, it most likely would have helped had I openend the vent tunnel, but the dewfall had been heavy, even with the sub-freezing temps. Needless to say, there was a wedding cake crust of ice crystals all over the rainfly.

The Neighbor showed up about 9:30 looking amused at my camping hair; then stunned when I mentioned that I had managed to forget the sleeping pad. Apparently, the temp had dropped into the high single-digits and while I can’t say it was the most comfortable overnight I’ve ever spent in a tent, it certainly wasn’t the worst. That’s another story for another time.

So, to recap, I am, in fact, a dumbass who managed to leave the house without a sleeping pad for an overnight that got down to 9°F. Because of survival skills and survival gear, I was able to make the best out of a potentially dangerous situation and stay warm, if not comfortable.

Now, may the snarky comments and heckling commence.

The Rufus Method: Part 1


Wednesday afternoon was spent gathering up and inspecting various pieces of gear, doing laundry, making and re-checking lists as I packed the bike. Packing the bike really isn’t very difficult after a few years of practice, but it does take some careful attention to weight distribution. I stayed up late Wednesday night charging up electronic items (phone, camera, video camera, netbook) and creating some one-pot meals for camp cooking.

Part of me wants to go into in-depth detail about what I pack, why, etc., but that might bore you all to tears…LOL. But there are definite reasons for each item I carry. But I’ll leave all that for another blog, this is the story of the Rufus Method; not a HiTech Scooter Journey Gear How-To.

I slept in a bit Thursday morning and got up around 10:00. At this point I still wasn’t sure where I wanted to go. Getting to Rufus’ place on the creek was the definite destination, but my email to him was pretty vague. I’d either arrive on Friday evening or Saturday evening. I made sure when I packed my DeLorme Atlas of Missouri that it was in an easily accessible place. It sucks to stop on the side of the road (and road shoulders in Mo are few and far between) and unpack the bike just to get to your map. Yeah, I have a GPS, but I really only use it as a compass and a trip computer. And, yeah, I have tried to read through all the online info to learn how to use the damned thing. So far I have a big, fat FAIL in that department. It’s one of those things that I’ll have to learn by watching someone else. But I digress.

Once I was in my altogether, and had some coffee to kick-start my old frontal lobe, I figured to head due South, for the most part. Unfortunately, a couple of things I needed were over at the Farm and there was some paperwork I needed to drop off in Owens-blow. Due South would have to wait for an hour.

19 S into Owens-blow, then Hwy Y over to Hwy A, then Hwy D out to the Farm. Hwy D to US 89 into Belle, some Hwy 28 W over to Hwy C, then south on Hwy B into St. James.

St. James is a rather quaint little town, but north of downtown is Ruby’s Ice Cream. Homemade, fresh every day, and waffle cones. NOMZ. I stopped in for my favorite: A single scoop of Chocolate and Almonds in a waffle cone. Ahhhh…. Heavenly! I was also having issues with how I’d mounted my video camera. Roads here are fairly bumpy, add in the vibration of running semi-knobbies on the scoot and a not very stable mount (just a Gorilla Pod) for a cheap Aiptek cam and you’ve a recipe for nothing but shaky footage.

Improved mounting for video camera.

Once I’d gassed up, a southerly route was next on the agenda. The Ozark National Scenic Riverway and Montauk State Park are only a couple of hours from the HiTechRanch but I’d never really taken the time to explore them. All I was interested in was a place to park my butt in the water at the end of the day. Problem was, I wasn’t sure exactly where in the parks I wanted to go. I supposed I’d just have to figure it out by the time I rode down to Salem, straight down Hwy 68 south of St. James.

I rode into Salem expecting to just cruise through when I noticed a sign on my left:

A little help for the uncertain wanderer.

Ahhh-ha! I whipped into the parking lot, got off the scoot and walked into cool a/c and tons of info about local rivers, parks, and activities. I picked up a couple of brochures, thanked the kind gentleman running the place, and headed back out to the bike. Using the brochures and the Missouri Atlas, I plotted a course down to Aker’s Ferry, across the Current River and then north, through the Scenic Riverway, to Montauk S.P.

And off I rolled.

Hwy 19 S to Hwy K to Aker’s Ferry.

Looked like a cool place to check out but, alas, they were closed.


The ferry was temporarily out of service. Great. Back to the maps. I’d have to go right back up the road I came down (Hwy K), but that didn’t break my heart at all. Wow, such a great road. Lots of nice long sweeps and hills. In fact, just a couple of miles north of the Scenic Riverway was an awesome scenic view with room to pull off the road. Hmmm…yup. Photo op!

Not the best panoramic shot... **Click the pic to see a larger version**

Why I prefer teeny, tiny, twisty lines on a map.

#5 in his favorite element--out in the wilds.

A very happy HiTechRedneck.

It was a truly gorgeous day. Hot, but not ridiculously miserable. Lots of pure white, fluffy clouds and great visibility. I snapped a few pics and climbed up on the wide rock ledge to get a few more pics from an elevated perspective. Really, I could’ve sat up on those rocks for the rest of the day and night. Yet the road called and I wanted to pitch camp before dark. So onward and northward and then westward and southward went I.

Hwy K north to south and west on Hwy E and into Montauk S.P.

Now, Montauk S.P. is all about trout fishing. It’s a fairly large park with rental cabins and a lodge and a restaurant. And on a Thursday evening in July, it was packed. I mean, chock full of RV’s and all the cabins were full. Which didn’t really bother me, per se, because I prefer what is commonly referred to as “primitive camping”. Which, when you get right down to it, is really just camping. The giant RV’s and pull-behinds and all that, well, can you really call running water, satellite TV and air conditioning camping? I think not.

But I came around the curve in the road to the “primitive” camping area and, lo and behold, there was a scooter parked on one of the pads. I’ll be damned! I think I’ll park it right next to him! And I did.

Meet Rick. He was on his way up to Hermann, MO for a wine weekend (wine is really big in Hermann, MO). But, rather than ride in a car full o’ females, he opted to roll his scoot and meet up with them there. Probably a wise decision. Anyhow, he was rolling a fine Burgman 400 and was quite the character to chat with. We shared some beer and a shot or two of whiskey over dinner and then retired to our respective camping spots.

Rick, and the bike he wouldn't buy again.

Did I mention the park was noisy? Oh yeah, I awoke at 2 am to pay rent on the beer I’d consumed and the kids across the lane were still up and raising hell. I didn’t think I was ever going to get back to sleep. God knows how late those kids stayed up. However, paybacks are hell and at 6 am sharp Daddy was up and dragging zombies out of tents, “by God, we came down here to fish, dammit, and that’s exactly what we’re gonna do!” I get the feeling he didn’t give them any opportunity for naps that afternoon, either.

#5 taking a well deserved break from the road.

Very cold river water.

A few yards up the river from my campsite.

Well, in the course of the previous evening’s discussion, Rick mentioned a micro-brewery up in the hills above Cabool, MO. Since my itinerary was wide open I figured, what the heck? I’d swing by there and check it out later in the afternoon.

But first, I had a cave I wanted to locate.

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The Rufus Method: Preface

A few weeks ago, July 4th weekend in fact, I met up with some of my scootering buddies down on the Gasconade River. We’d have a few days to camp, float, practice our outdoor cooking skills and, of course, imbibe adult libations. As happens when you get a handful of 2-wheeled nutcases together, talk eventually turns from conversation about the bikes to conversations about traveling on the bikes.

The inimitable Rufus Swan was in attendance and brought up the question, “How many miles do you rack up in a day when you’re traveling?”

The three of us, Stimpy433, Matty_X, and myself, sat there for a moment thinking on Rufus’ question. Stimpy rides a 150cc swapped Ruckus, Matty a Burgman 400 (in addition to a parade of geared scoots he’s restored over the years), I, of course, tour on my 250cc Big Ruckus and Rufus currently rolls a 1971 BMW R75/5 (and owns a Bajaj Chetak and a Honda CL200). Matty and I stated that 300-400 miles in a day were what we aim for and Chad, not being a touring oriented rider, suggested 100-200 miles per ride.

Photo courtesy of Chad Hartz

Rufus' BMW R75, Matty's Burg 400, my wee 49cc Vino

Rufus’ declared that 300-400 was far too much for a single day. “You don’t get to see anything when you ride like that!”

Well, that comment set me to contemplating a few things.

Two years ago Julian and I embarked on a epic scooter ride to Texas and back in late July. Yeah, July in Texas…hence the trip’s title, “The Flamin’ Texas Road Trip of 2008”. Needless to say, I’m no stranger to lengthy two-wheeled treks. Rufus’ comment, however, led me to realize that, as much fun as I have plotting and planning the day-to-day aspects of a long ride, I tend to forget why I love to ride while I’m on a trip. It becomes an exercise in “getting there”. I began to understand  that I’d been putting the “get there” before the “I am here”.

In the midst of all this brooding and navel-gazing I finally got around to watching Long Way Round. While watching Ewan and Charley trek across Mongolia something in my head clicked. 12 mile days in Mongolia were the norm. Marshes, detours, mechanical difficulties, crashes, meeting indigenous peoples–just incredible experiences. It took two weeks to cross Mongolia.

I sat in front of my monitor, stunned. THAT WAS IT. Now I get it! It’s not how far you go, and sure as hell not how fast, but the experiences along the way. The people, the random conversations, the amusing road signs, the out-of-the-way places that you’d never find on your own.

Rufus was right. I hadn’t really been seeing anything on my trips.

Wednesday of last week I’d finally had enough of thinking about a scooter trip. It was time to ride. It was time to try The Rufus Method.

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Time to RIDE

Every time I say “Time to ride!” my brain immediately goes to Roy Batty’s final line in Bladerunner: “Time to die…” he exhales as a white dove flutters from his hand.

Not that taking off on a short scooter trip is anywhere near so dramatic; but the thought of things going awry does enter your mind. And so you pack gear that you’ve learned may assist you in getting through any sort of situation: Rain gear (for you and for the scooter), tools, a spare drive belt (sooooo learned that lesson the hard way), first aid kit (another hard-learned lesson), spark plug (a new one and an old one), one of those hydration packs, sunblock, multi-tool (because Les Stroud is right, you should NEVER go anywhere without one), ibuprofen, hand sanitizer, earplugs, spare riding gloves, cleaner for the helmet shield and the windshield.

Not to mention the camping gear: Tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, camp chair, camp kitchen, and grub.

Add in some spare clothes, the riding gear on your back, electronics (netbook, camera, video camera, phone) and by now your wee machine closely resembles the Beverly Hillbilly’s truck.

I’ve been doing this for a few years now. I’ve made some pretty stupid decisions at times and, so far, it seems I’ve learned from my mistakes. But we’ll know in the next few days whether or not I’ve got the scooter-journey thing down or not. Hopefully I’ll be able to get some good vids of fine, twisty roads and scenic vistas.

Well, ’til then, rubber side down and shiny side up!

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Slow goings

Goings on around and about the HiTechRanch have been rather slow of late.

I managed to have a small crash at the MadToto Tornado R’Alley VI the other week and wrenched my ankle. The road rash is healing up rather nicely, in fact is almost completely healed. However, my ankle oft reminds me of what I can and cannot do right now. Someone was kinda enough to post my mishap on YouTube for the world to see.

The rally was, as always, an absolute blast. Scooter hooligans zipping about Kansas City in the dead of night or buzzing along, en masse, to some intriguing local dive. On Saturday night we had an “All Decades Prom” where folks danced the Time Warp and cat walked their way to a mighty fine time.

Since then, however, to allow my ankle some time to heal, I’ve been forced to take it easy. And cancel my scoot trip to North Carolina. Here we are almost a month later and the ankle is finally getting back to normal. I’ve been able to knock out a few things on The List and get some more prep work done for the big move.

The first project we knocked out was the portable potable water system. Yeah, it’s a bit of a mouthful. The idea is to be able to deliver water wherever it’s needed on the farm (i.e. the garden). There are several wells on-site, in addition to the river and several wet-weather creeks, but there’s nothing but rain to water the orchard and the garden. Hence our bright idea.

550 gallon potable water tank
Old truck bed trailer
Some plumbing skills
DC water pump
Solar panel and battery

Put all of these together and you have a pretty nifty system ready to be towed around via tractor or pick up.

The portable potable water project is almost completed. We just need to glue all the PVC connections together and mount the pump and battery. Diane has decided to build the solar panel from scratch; she found an online source for the cells and DIY instructions. Just kinda waiting on her to slap the panel together and then we’ll drag the whole shebang over to the Farm.

It’s also been a month of turning wrenches. The Big Ol’ Ford pickup we found on the cheap has been in dire need of some love. The usual suspects, oil & filter, fuel filter, and belts have all been replaced, leaving a moody clutch pedal and no brake lights to resolve before the truck is road worthy. The 5th wheel hitch has been installed, moving us that much closer to Phase 2 moving day.

I’m trying to aim for the second week of July for the big “move the RV” trip. We’ve settled upon a likely spot close to power and a well…I’ve just got to get the parking area set up. Keeping in mind that heavy things like to settle, soft things like to become brittle, and sunlight can be your enemy is a constant challenge. We’re not going to go so far as to pour a concrete pad, but creating a solid foundation for tires on axles and landing gear is a bit of a challenge. Not to mention the roof and porch we plan to add on to increase usable living space and to draw the outside in…

So the summer has thus far been crammed with challenges and projects. The more I look at what remains to be done the less likely it seems that I’ll have time for any sort of scooter trip. Which would really, really suck. I need my alone and on 2 wheels time. I like to refer to it as my John Muir time. Pick a destination, plot a round-about course, and camp along the route. I’ve a rather nice ride somewhat plotted, but more on that later.

In the meantime, happy projecting and travel safely.

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