Life Since June

As my June 2019 post indicated, I’ve been focused much more on living life than photographing or writing about it.

Did I mention it here?  In June, for my wife’s birthday, I got it into my head to bake her a cake.  She requested a cherry chip cake made from scratch.  I ended up more assisting her than making it myself, but she was pleased.  It was good enough to eat.


Frosting also from scratch


Turned out the cake was edible

In July, my family and I motored north to my wife’s family farm in Indiana (I always hate writing ‘in Indiana’ but this time will not find another way to present that data) where my wife was briefly reabsorbed by her family, I spent a lot of time bicycling, and our son hung out with and bonded with his cousins.  I crashed or fell off my bike twice in the same day injuring a different shoulder each time and am still feeling the residual effects of one of the injuries.  Both falls were stupid and each was my own fault – while annoying, that truth actually does help me accept the ongoing pain.   Rode to Muncie, Prairie Creek Reservoir, small municipalities thereabouts.  I saw what looked like a heroes’-gate shrine of some sort.  No hero this writer, I didn’t walk through the gate although I found it open.


Indiana chip and seal road


Nazarene church parking lot where I crashed the first time.  Don’t ask.


Muncie Chic-Fil-A.  I eat there every year.


Only one graffiti snapshot.  Grassroots Christianity is an interesting phenomenon.


Patriotic display in a poor community.  I really liked it.


Heroes’ gate

Sometime during the intervening months, my car hit 222,222 miles, but I snapped the odometer photo at 222,223 – missed it by that much.


Missed it by that much…

Last month, my son and I finally painted the mailbox’s weathered, white wooden post.  My mother has averted her eyes in shame the past 5 – 6 years when she’s come over to the house to visit due to the deficient pride in ownership that neglect has evidenced.  The month before, I finally finished sanding out the damage perpetrated by our yard’s squirrels upon three of my 2005 Pouch RZ96’s cockpit ribs.  I’d left the kayak assembled outdoors and neglected it during a dark period in my life when I worked in an agency maybe best described as the unfortunate-kid-from-the-dysfunctional-family-down-the-street of law enforcement.  About three weeks ago, I re-varnished the squirrel damaged ribs.


I’ve been writing out my thoughts and ideas – working on a conceptualization of a variety of human interaction I refer to as “Shit Room Theory.”  It’s not ready for publication yet and I’m trying to figure out how to manage a lecture on the subject for my YouTube channel.  That said, in its embryonic form, the theory’s been of help to two or three individuals facing a variety of unpleasantness.

After having been in my “new” office since March of this year, I finally last month admitted to myself I was unable to make sense of the room’s shape, its space, for the purposes of hanging my stack of artwork and arranging my furniture.  Once I’d done that, I asked a family friend if she could help me out with the office and within the space of about 4.5 hours, she’d corrected and made sense of my office’s decor – I simply followed instructions and moved things, sorted clutter.  The woman’s a genius.  If it wasn’t a breach of my company’s rules, I’d post a couple of photos to prove it.

Within a couple of days of that, a family very dear to us relocated to Helena, Montana.  Theodore Zachariades has taken a position preaching at a Reformed Baptist congregation not far from that capitol as well as working with a Christian polemics website, Pulpit & Pen.  Although I haven’t had much contact with the Theodore and his family in the past year and a half, my world feels emptier with them hundreds of miles distant.  Not gone, as the Expanded Universe Mandos have it, just marching far away.

Yesterday morning, I assembled the RZ96 and with my son’s help loaded it onto my Volvo’s roof-racks and drove to a nearby slough with a put-in at a rural city park.  I gave the boy the good water shoes and wore a many year’s old pair from Wal-Mart that tore up while we were lining the boat through shallows.  This was his first time in a kayak, and he’d been nervous because he supposed the behemoth unstable.  By day’s end, however, he was comfortable enough to stand while underway to better view the scenery.  I hope you have all been well and that you enjoy the photos.



My son saw what he referred to as a “bees’ nest.” We steered well clear of this hazard.


Second lunch stop.  Dunno whether these were piers from bygone footbridge or part of an equally past-tense dam of some sort.


In the shallows.  That’s a Klepper paddle probably my age.  We did some umbrella sailing early on.  My son didn’t think it would work and was amazed when it did.


This is how I look when I’m smiling.  Obligatory selfie.

Thinking About Another Kayak Part 3

Although in anything but a hurry, I’ve spoken with the owner of another Seavivor for sale.  This kayak’s in need of a repair and I have not yet seen photos.  I was able to get some longerons made for the Pionier I owned a few years back, and successfully dealt with tears on my Pouch solo’s deck closure arrangement.

Umbrella Sailing Woods Reservoir

Three Saturdays ago, my youngest nephew and I set out for Woods Reservoir with The Great Blue Heron atop Thursday, my longsuffering Volvo 850 sedan.  We drove out to the boat ramp near the hunter’s check-in station off Old Brick Church Road.  One other vehicle was parked nearby.  We unloaded the kayak, piled our stuff aboard, rigged the rudder, and set off.  We first explored down to the left of the boat-ramp, passing a duck-blind along the shore at our left.  We poked around a bit in the shallows, as far in to the overhanging branches as we could manage, then backed out again.  Paddling back out toward the brick pumping station near base housing, we turned right and explored down another branch, crossed to a courtesy dock intended for the use of DOD personnel where we pulled the boat ashore and sat on the dock to eat our lunch.  My mom, with whom my nephew had been staying, made us sandwiches and I can’t remember what else.  Because we didn’t want the sandwiches to turn, we ate our lunch around 10:00 am.  After lunch, we paddled into the shallows of that branch, too, then back toward the main body of the lake.  As we paddled out, the wind was at our back, so we deployed the golf umbrella and sailed a bit.  The wind was much stronger the further we went, and we sailed out to Little Elder Island, a rookery for every kind of local waterfowl.  Usually the island is covered with thick foliage, but it appeared this year’s drought conditions significantly diminished its growth.  We saw herons, egrets, duck-like birds.  The island didn’t stink as badly as it usually does, but we still probably risked acquiring histoplasmosis paddling as close to it as we did.  Paddling back to the put-in against that strong breeze required real effort.  We ate our generic fig-newton cookies and drank water in a sheltered inlet before paddling back to the boat ramp.  Here are some pictures:






Sunday 27 June Estill Springs Slough

I am still trying to figure out how to get multiple photos to appear in some kind of sensible order.  Probably the solution involves inserting a table and inserting the photos into the cells, then adding captions.  I’ll try that next time.

Gongle (or Gongol) my 1962 Pionier 450 S kayak up a shallow creek that empties in to the Elk River upstream from the ruined footbridge above Beth Page Rd.
Starboard (right?) rear three-quarter view showing waterline, rudder, steering yoke.
State of the art comfort seating of 1962. My butt didn’t hurt until about the third hour on the water. The curved seat provided adequate thigh support, and seatback supported my lower back to a much greater degree than either of the modern Pouch folding kayaks I own.
Heading back downstream toward the bridge above Beth Page Rd. Don’t usually manage to make this far upstream on the Elk; helped by recent rains.
Eric paddling Campsis Radicans, my Pouch E68, at Beth Page Rd. bridge. Note the high water.
A blanket of green water plants (dunno what they’re called) near that second bridge.
That’s me looking a little Spock-like under the hat and smirking while at rest in the cockpit of 450 S.
Eric paddling upstream toward that second bridge. Note the waterline. I liked the reflection, which is why I took the picture.
Eric & Campsis Radicans up that shallow creek.
A snapshot of the E68 underway. Eric was using a Werner Skagit paddle he’d purchased a couple of weeks ago to use with the plastic rec-boat he bought. At 230 cm, the paddle is too long for the E68.
Eric snapped about six shots of me getting out of and back in to the 450 S hoping to capture something similar to his concrete-roll portrait the day before at Boat Day in Murfreesboro. Here I’m getting in to the boat. The paddle’s about 223 cm. Dunno what that is in inches.
A not terribly secure lock on our lunchtime mooring in the shade of the bridge at Beth Page Rd. The Pionier came without any deck rigging or perimeter line; I improvised.
A couple sight-seeing in their 20′ pontoon boat
We rafted up for lunch and ate the remains of a large chicken alfredo pizza.
I love this stretch of the Elk River above the ruined bridge. Even in extreme heat, this section is cool from the cold river water, and the smell of spring-water seeping and flowering leafy plants at the rock overhang is pleasant. As a bonus, bird sounds and the sound of wind in the trees makes this place worth the price of admission.
The shallow creek maze where we rested a couple of minutes before proceeding to the next bridge upstream. Usually passage upstream from here necessitates wading and pulling the boat behind not much past this place on the map. The river is to the photographer’s back.
Winchester has a number of these stony piers that don’t seem to have much to do with anything currently visible either here or behind the city’s housing projects.
Some of the stone facing is missing this year. Previously I’d always thought these were Civil War old, but the concrete underneath makes me wonder if they were’nt part of some WPA flood control project before the river was ever dammed.
Strange marker at that second bridge. The map shows a gauging station here.
Swallow nests under that second bridge.
Thursday awaits us at the take-out, an “unimproved” dirt ramp at Estill Springs City Park in Franklin County, Tennessee.
Trumpet creeper, or campsis radicans, in bloom.
Just paddling – note improvised deck rigging.

Dabbs Ford to Bluebell Island, and Back Again

After paddling as far upstream on the Elk as I had the patience to paddle, I turned downstream, and below Dabbs Ford Bridge picked up this rider

After paddling as far upstream on the Elk as I had the patience to paddle, I turned downstream, and below Dabbs Ford Bridge picked up this rider

This morning, I was on the water by 7:20. I wasted some time poking around the shoreline just upstream from Prairie Plains Road Bridge, or, as I think it is more properly known, Dabbs Ford Bridge. Paddling backwards out of one narrow place, the rudder banged against a submerged log or stump, and would not straighten out. I flipped it up, still turned ninety degrees right. I paddled back to the put in, got out of the boat, got the rudder unjammed, then headed upstream again.

My ambitious goal was to reach I-24. Tommy Rogers, at the TSRA forum, said he didn’t think I’d make it even as far as the Tyson plant at Highway 50/64. Too many fallen trees blocking passage, too many shallow rocky places. He said he tried it last year, became frustrated, and turned back.

Tommy was right. I made it upstream to a point where I could hear, or thought I could hear, traffic from the highway. Getting that far, however, involved getting out of the boat in three or four places pulling it behind me like a child’s wagon, and in one place dragging it over fallen trees. I made less than 10 miles today, but it took about five hours, round trip. My photos are here.

On my way back downstream - working hard, not smart.

On my way back downstream - working hard, not smart.

A couple of times conditions had me wishing for an aluminum canoe, a can of gas, and a chainsaw.  I think I would’ve been more likely thus equipped to persist in my exploration.  Not too far from Dabbs Ford, I met a couple of guys with a cooler and fishing poles paddling toward me.  First time I’ve met other paddlers on the water anywhere on or around Woods Reservoir/Elk River making purposeful use of a boat.

I waded a lot, this trip, and was mindful of foot placement around driftwood and submerged logs afraid of losing a toe to a snapping turtle. The E68’s tough PVC hull did fine, and the keelstrips appeared no worse for the abuse at day’s end. When I returned to the put in, I checked my car’s clock (I’ve lost my watch), and it said 12:00.

Too early. I got back in the kayak and paddled downstream to the lake. On the way, I picked up a butterfly that rode with me until I took the boat from the water for the drive home. Car-clock said 1:00 as I drove back toward Miller’s Crossing on Prairie Plains Rd.

Dramatic bow of Campsis Radicans

Dramatic bow of Campsis Radicans

A New Skin

Together for the first time, oldskin and newskin. The replacement skin I bought from Ralph Hoehn’s, shipped Monday, arrived today. Ralph told me I could expect it after the weekend, so I was surprised to see UPS pull in the driveway this afternoon. Were it not for the fine grains of sand inside the hull, and some slight wear on either side of the split rear deck just aft of the cockpit, I’d say the hull was brand new – not even a scuff mark on the keelstrips. I figured Boat Day would be faded skin’s Last Hurrah, but it looks like my Owl Creek exploration last Sunday marked the honorable end to a long career first as Pouchboats’ demo-boat, and as my own faithful Rocinante’s hardy covering.

I was at home for the blessed event because I got sick at lunch – either the cold coffee I consumed this morning in Lincoln County (who knows, maybe it was older than 24 hours and had grown something to which my intestinal tract and immune system objected), or that sandwich I had in my lunch. Anyway, suffice it to say I’ve felt worse today than I’ve felt in well over a year.

I had to open the box right away to see just how red the deck.

Then, because I felt a little better after crashing until two, I decided to remove the old, faded skin, and replace it with the new. Spattering rain fell as I took the box outside and removed the new hullskin, all bright and smelling of supple PVC, laying it on the grass beside where I’d set Campsis Radicans.

The new skin didn’t come with deck bungees, but that deck-hatch should prove better than equally useful, and I’ve still got the bungee from the old deck. Some other differences I noticed immediately:

  • Red deck has Pouch logo in two places, fore and aft, as well as upon the hatch cover

  • Tuck-in ‘tab’ all around the cockpit opening is separated from the deck by a sewn piece of deck material

  • The aft deck closure has been changed from the sewn-in plastic tube-strip (which I’ve had to repeatedly sew up again) to a more tightly integrated plastic tube strip sheathed in white fabric

  • The hull structures used to center and keep centered the frame in the skin are velcro rings glued in place at the factory, as opposed to the strips with snaps that’d been added by Ralph to the original skin. This skin came with the standard toggle plugs for the air hoses used to inflate the sponsons – the old skin came with a T-fitting to inflate both sponsons at once, thus evenly.

  • The sponson sleeves are no longer “free,” they are sewn to a PVC tab, and stuck down forward of the cockpit opening – dunno why. And the straps hanging from the sponson tubes with PVC loops through which to run the lines from the rudder pedals to the rudder cables are not to be found in the new skin, which kind of sucks, because I liked that feature – kept them out of the way of my knees. EDIT: Later, looking at this photo, I realized it is upside-down, and that my statement above is wanting. Of course the sponson sleeves are attached, sewn in, all along the tops of the sleeves where the hull meets the deck fabric. Earlier iterations, that is, in the old skin that came with my kayak, had sponson sleeves that were loose all along their bottoms. Perhaps the change noted above is intended to aid in centering and keeping centered the frame in the skin, keeping the sponsons even in relation to gunwales?

  • The new skin came with a set of rudder cables enclosed in long tubes that will, undoubtedly, prevent wear a their points of entry into the hull, as well as preventing wear and possible fouling where they would otherwise have come into contact with flotation bladders and whatever drybagged gear is carried beneath the deck aft of the cockpit.

  • New skin’s rudder bracket (probably there’s a real, nautical term for it that I don’t know) is held in place by nuts and posts, whereas the original skin’s rudder bracket is held in place by rivets

I overexerted myself this afternoon, and failed to properly center the skin in the frame. By the time I went back into the house, my clothes were soaked in the stinking sweat of sickness, and I’d been unsteady on my feet as I picked the reskinned boat up and set it on its sawhorses. Perhaps the 303 I ordered will arrive tomorrow, and I can treat the deck to prevent rapid fading tomorrow after work. If I’m feeling well enough, I’ll also try to recenter the frame in the skin.

Here’s hoping I’m feeling well enough to participate in Boat Day on Saturday.

Paddling Owl Hollow

I ate so much yesterday evening at John’s house that my gut physically hurt. He offered to send a covered plate full of that same amazingly good food home with me, but I could not at that time regard or contemplate another morsel. And that is why I am eating a bowl full of leftover spaghetti as I ponder what to write next.

This morning I slept in until about six. I got up, made coffee, boiled water in the kettle for oatmeal, looked at email, read the news, ate breakfast, read from another novel. I pulled my synthetic water clothes from where I’d left them hanging over the shower to dry, and more importantly, to air out overnight. Most of yesterday’s lunch I’d left uneaten while on Woods, so it served as the basis of the lunch I took with me paddling today.

By Thursday I’d made up my mind to skip church and go paddling this morning. I wanted to put in at Devil’s Step boat ramp on the south shore of Tims Ford Lake, and paddle west to explore Owl Hollow, which runs almost south to north.

Driving 41-A through Estill Springs and Winchester feels like it takes forever because the geniuses who run both municipalities have limited the four-lane highway’s speed to 40 – 45 miles per hour for unreasonably long stretches. It’s a speedtrap.

The boat ramp was busy with pontoon boats, daycruisers, speedboats, and jet-skiis. I quickly unloaded Campsis Radicans, moved the car, rigged the boat, and got underway. NOAA weather report predicted eventual winds from the south, southwest at five miles per hour, so I hoped I’d have a gentle breeze at my back on the return leg.

First, I paddled over to Devil’s Step campground, part of Tims Ford State Park, to have a look at the spot my wife and I camped in May of 2007. Water’s up pretty high, now. I saw a red, A-frame tent in the place we pitched our green A-frame tent. Most of the other spots were filled up with camper-trailers or motor-homes. A number of campers had pontoon boats and jet-skiis tied up near their campsites. Back past the courtesy dock at the boat ramp I paddled – last time I paddled near it, the water was low and the dock was high above it, as if on stilts. Today it was at water-level.

Around the other side of the boat ramp picnic area the shoreline cuts in and I paddled as far into it as I could. Saw what looked like a broken beehive cairn, maybe housed a spring spigot a hundred years ago. I continued on my way, and my journey was uneventful. I observed hundreds of small fish with bluish tails silhouetted under the water against shallow rock shelves. I stopped to stretch, and to don my sprayskirt. I saw a box turtle swimming away from my kayak. I enjoyed paddling the waters confused by powerboat wakes.

At Owl Hollow, two or three speedboats towed their tethered skiers. I paddled to the top of the branch where there were no other boats, and paddled further, up the creek I’d guess is called Owl Hollow Creek, but is not identified on my map.

Insects buzzed. The creek looked impassible. I found a narrow space between a fallen log and a bank overhung with a thorny vine’s branches. I made it through and paddled further, passing under a log fallen across the creek from bank to bank. about a 50 feet past the log bridge, another fallen tree completely blocked all passage, and the creek was too narrow for turning. I backed my kayak out, remembering to lay flat forward face to foredeck as I had on the way in.

I found the narrow space more difficult to negotiate on my way out. As I was managing the thing, I saw something that looked like a big, black tractor pedal. It looked like it had a length of black cable attached to it, and it was about six inches from my kayak’s waist, up against the bank. I prodded it with my paddle and it scooted forward. A snapping turtle, with a tail like a ray or a skate. I took its picture, camera battery about dead, and got quickly past the tiny Gamera spawn.

Finally, I found a place to eat part of my lunch, in my kayak, watching as a family group tried to teach one of their children to water-ski. I never eat all of the food I bring paddling at one sitting. It’s better, I think, to have something in reserve if delayed or without energy toward the end of a trip. Usually, I wind up not eating part of the lunch, and take it home.

I’ve got a bag of unsalted peanuts with salted almonds on the kitchen counter now. What I did eat was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with four generic Fig Newton cookie bars. I found the jelly in the cabinet yesterday beside the peanut butter. Apple Cinnamon Something. My wife often buys a variety of food items without mentioning them to me, and from time to time, I find them.

Not much else to say. It was hot today, but not hot as hell. I used my sprayskirt because the Greenlandish paddle I habitually use has no drip rings, and because I thought that if some drunk in a speedboat gets too close to me, I have a better chance of righting the boat if I don’t ship much water. An older couple watched me paddle up to the boat ramp. The man was interested in the folding kayak, and we talked about the boat for awhile.

Then I secured the kayak to the car’s roof racks and drove home.

Good Monday on Estill Springs Slough

After a brief rest and stretch, back into the stream of things

I’ve taken some family leave to spend time with my lovely wife and squally infant son this week. It’s also allowing me to make up some time paddling.

Most mornings, I arise about 5:15 – 5:30 a.m. I make a pot of coffee. For the past several weeks, I’ve been eating oatmeal (I ran out of yogurt one morning, and thought, “what the hell? I’ll try oatmeal”), so I put the kettle on to boil. Enter to win a boat at Check email. Look at the Internet news.

Babies grunt in their sleep, make odd, unhealthy sounding noises breathing; they smile in their sleep, open and roll their eyes, fuss and then quiet themselves. This morning, my wife brought the baby out for me to feed so she could sleep another hour. Fed him, then held him until he slept, and put him in his bassinet. I love being a father.

Later, once the little guy was sleeping soundly, I got dressed for paddling then remembered I’ve been wanting to order some flotation bags for the E-68. I telephoned Folbot and ordered the oversized Cooper bags. I apologized to Wanda for associating her name with the bags in this thread. The Swift Canoe bags I bought in 2005 from NRS were never entirely satisfactory, and now lose most of their air, one of them after an hour, and the other after two or three hours. For Christmas I got a bag that also provides dry storage, but still doesn’t fill up all the space in the E-68’s stern section.

Estill Springs City Park - a good place to put-in

Saturday afternoon I tried car-topping the E-68 to make sure it was a workable kayak transport solution. This morning I set out for Estill Springs City Park, or, if the water level was too low for that dirt ramp, the parking lot at Estill Springs Church of the Nazarene.

Volvo Meets Poucher-Boote

I haven’t paddled that part Tims Ford/Elk River since last June, with my wife in the RZ 96. At that time, the water was so low we were able to paddle only as far upstream as the farm houses on your left before you reach the bridge at Spring Creek Road.

All that was left of the house that is gone

Today, the water was up to its customary level for this time of year. I was able to paddle past Spring Creek Road, past the ruined footbridge, around the bend, and almost to within sight of the last bridge before the dam at Woods Reservoir. On my way upstream, I passed by the place where there’d been a tumbledown house inhabited by poor white people the last two or three times I’d been past, but this morning I heard the sound of a bulldozer where the house had stood. All I saw of it was a rusty piece of lawn furniture set upon the high bank.

The river’s current became discernible above Spring Creek Road Bridge, and was certainly in evidence at the footbridge piers. Before I got to within sight of the final bridge, however, I found the current too swift, and the rocky bottom too near the kayak’s keel. Turning the rockerless 16.5′ Campsis Radicans in midstream felt like one of those flying loops performed by an antique biplane looks.

A place to stretch where stream once flowed

I paddled back to where a very small creek flows in to the Elk, got out, stretched. To my right a spring gushed forth a small waterfall, and to my left the place where a small stream no longer flows.

On my way back downstream, I explored the sloughs now flooded, which were completely dry last June. I’d paddled them before, but now they are full of the weeds that grew up when the waters receded. I ate my lunch at the “steps” across from Estill Springs City Park. Dunno, but I think the structure is part of the foundation of a former railroad bridge. The Union army probably blew it up during the War Between the States. I can’t find it on any maps. Rain fell, and of course the wind blew against me, as I paddled across the bowl-like portion of river/lake toward the rail and auto bridges that cross the water at the Nazarene church.

The Best Farmhouse

Then I paddled into Tims Ford Lake proper, past the Nazarene church, Taylor Creek branch, and Rock Creek Branch. Found a shiny “Happy Birthday” balloon, popped it, and stashed it with my lunch trash to take home and throw out. On my way back passed the best farmhouse I’ve ever seen – just a plain 1950s brick house beautifully situated. Passed a shack that’s only a year or two old that’s probably worth more than the house I live in.

I’ve uploaded a gallery of photos from today’s paddle. They are in chronological order, and can be found here.  Contrast Good Monday with Rotten Friday