1998 Green Cross Country Wagon

The New Car


New to me – a 1998 Volvo Cross Country station wagon with viscous-coupling all-wheel-drive with, sadly, an automatic transmission.  The car is a fine example of that year, make, and model with one dim exception, the headlights.  Here is an excerpt from a forum post I made requesting advice as to the best replacement headlamps –

The headlamps, however, and the left in particular, produce light for driving that is about as effective and safe as having two small elves sitting, one on the left side of the front bumper and the other on the right side, throwing fairy-dust or glitter in front of the car as it moves forward through the inky darkness of suburban Stepford (where I live) or, really, any other place without streetlights. Therefore, since the holiday season has ended and the elves must return to Sweden for the coming year, I need to purchase replacements.
Greatly appreciated will be your advice about the best replacement headlamps for this vehicle.

The other thing the car is lacking is the factory cargo cover – here’s how we covered our luggage and during our recent trip – our pre-market cargo cover – a blanket we got in Europe when I was a child. I remember we had it in Spain, but may have got it somewhere else.


I do plan to find an OEM cargo cover for the luggage area as I have no desire to obtain tinting for the car’s windows.  To the good, the plaid, wool blanket folds up and is easily stowed under the floor panels back there.

By far, my 1997 Volvo 850 5-speed is the superior car in terms of handling, smooth-running, fit and finish, durability, and so forth.  If it had about another inch of clearance and all-wheel-drive, I would never have purchased the Cross Country; but I think those two features will be of real use in my current employment. 

The Cross Country is my first daily driver since 1997 that has not had a salvage title.  Bodywise, the car is pretty straight, although it was rear-ended in 2010, according to Carfax, and has a slight indentation on the hatch and a rough spot near the brake-light above the bumper.  Nevertheless, the wagon is water tight at the hatch and the hatch unlocks, opens, and closes fast without problem.  Since 2005, I’ve been driving a manual transmission 5-speed, so changing over to an automatic transmission car feels like I’m driving a large go-kart and also feels like I have much less control of the car when cornering or coming to a stop.  I’ll probably get used to this, but I don’t want to.


Comparing the ‘98 to my wife’s ‘04 Cross Country, the ‘98 feels less top-heavy and corners flatter, that is to say, with very little body roll.  Certainly, the 2004 Cross Country is a taller car with greater ground clearance than the ‘98.  I think fuel economy is better with the ‘04, which seems odd considering it ‘feels’ like a heavier car.  On the other hand, it may have a more sophisticated engine management system.  The ‘98 seems to struggle during acceleration and I think that may be rectifiable with an aftermarket downpipe.  That may also improve fuel efficiency and slightly increase horsepower, but I’m not sure.  I plan to upgrade the new car’s chip to increase horsepower, to install a trailer hitch for the bicycle rack, and obtain a stock cargo area cover, all in addition to replacing those useless headlights.


December 2012 Post


I’ve been busy since the disastrous national election, and, really, even before then.  Like most Americans who believe the U.S. Constitution remains in force and provides, along with the Bill of Rights, the only valid model of governance for the United States of America, I will continue to work to ensure that the U.S. remains a free republic, those holding high elected and politically appointed office who wish to transform this nation into something that’s a cross between Zimbabwe and socialist European kleptocracies notwithstanding.

Job Change

Back in the fall of this year I changed jobs.  The hapless, incompetent, and mercurial flunky who’d been placed in supervisory role at former place of work, after more than a year in that position, failed to develop any competence of her own or any understanding of the work done by those whose work she was supposedly hired to supervise.  I was no longer willing for my good work to lend credibility to that fool’s failed tenure as a manager.  Every other person employed in the facility, by virtue of their competence, willingness to work, ability to function as a team member, was and is that supervisor’s superior.  I interviewed for and obtained a job closer to the house (that’ll save about $1,000/year in unreimbursable gasoline expenditure) that registered as a promotion and resulted in a raise in pay.  The fact that the agency for which I now work seems to foster a positive orientation to reality, value competence, and manifest a little common good will was, in sum, the real reason I took the job, but the savings and raise comprise an additional happy providence.

Christov’s Three Criteria

Over the past couple of years, I’ve developed three simple criteria for quickly evaluating other people in the workplace.  The core concepts are not original with me and I owe much to the reading I’ve done over the past few years on human development and various approaches to mental health counseling.  They are as follows, and are assessed in the order presented because those that follow are dependent upon those that precede them:

  1. Is the person oriented to reality?
  2. Does the person exhibit competence to perform whatever he or she purports to be about?
  3. Does the person exhibit basic good will toward others?

The second and third, competence and good will, do not always follow the first, orientation to reality, but I don’t think they can exist without it.  Furthermore, competence is something that one develops over time, frequently after the person has taken more than one wrong turn – for instance attempting to study a subject for which he or she has no real aptitude and in the face of resultant failure in that endeavor, choosing a more suitable field of study.  Here, it is the orientation to reality that overbalances sentiment and allows the person to discern the proper path by apprising him or her that the present course will lead to no good end.  The man, woman, or child who is oriented to reality (in children, this is something developed over time intellectually and experientially by means of observation, consequence, and [ideally] good parenting) and who is developing or has developed a variety of competencies is capable of recognizing reality-orientation and competence in others and, having gained so much thereby himself, also wishes (or becomes hypothetically capable of wishing and aiding) others well and may assist them in that pursuit.

As an experiment, use these criteria to assess the people in your workplace and social environment.  Self interest (which includes the well-being of your children) may dictate that you distance yourself from those who do not meet this simple standard.

Weight Gain

Since September, I’ve put on about five pounds of belly and buttock flab.  My goal for the month of December was to lose five pounds by Christmas, but I only managed to shed about half that.  I’d been bicycling less frequently than during the lead-up to that 50-miler my friend Adrian and I rode in early September.  I’ve had a wretched cold for about the past two or three weeks (off and on, but worst during the past few days) that has kept me off the bike.  Cold winter Tennessee air makes the snot run like water out of my nose when I ride, anyway, and since I’ve added a pound of snot in my sinus cavities during this illness to my five pounds of body fat, the prospect of all that running out my nose and down my face and cycling togs during moderately intense exercise activity is not a happy one.

Probably my one New Year’s resolution is to exercise more and return to Weight Watchers eating habits.

Root Beer Barrel Candy

Weight Watchers allows one point for one ounce of hard candy.  I did bestir myself sufficiently during our family Christmas visit to the Midwest to drive with my brother-in-law to Farmland, Indiana, where I bought three pounds of root beer barrel candy to keep at the office.  While at the Farmland General Store, I sampled horehound candy, which I found not entirely unlike root beer candy, but had a slightly bitter aftertaste.  I would have bought some, but I was already emotionally, if that is the right word, committed to buying the candy for which I’d come in search.  The only other place I’ve found root beer candy in bulk is Gatlinburg, Tennessee, but I’d rather drive to Farmland, Indiana, than Gatlinburg, Tennessee, any day.

The Old Year

The new year, 2013, is upon us.  Who really believed space aliens would come and fetch away their devotees, or that the stone age Mayans would accurately predict when the great creation’s winding would come undone and release cataclysmic geological, climatological, and spiritual forces rending the fabric of all we know?  Honestly, that’s just silly.

So here we are.  Today, our congregation will hold its last worship services for the year.   We don’t have what 19th Century literature seems to indicate was called a Watch Night Service, where the congregation meets around midnight on New Year’s Eve to confess and repent of sins of the old year and to pray for guidance and good providence for the new.  Sounds like a good idea, though.

A New Old Car

In November I found and in December I bought a new used car – an early model Volvo all-wheel drive Cross Country station wagon with only 106,000 original miles on the drive-train.  My justification is that AWD will be useful to me in my new employment, the purchase price was well within my budget, and I like a station wagon.  After much debate with myself, I’ve decided I cannot justify holding on to Thursday, my 1997 Volvo 850 five-speed sedan, for the next 12 years in order to give it my son when he will be learning to drive.  I’ve offered the car for sale to one of my brothers for his oldest boy, who will be heading to college next fall, but my brother reckons the sedan’s mileage, a mere 205,000, is too high.  So, if you know someone interested in an extremely reliable manual transmission Volvo sedan, get in touch with me.  I have all service records for the car since 2005 and the timing belt and other service is all current.

Hillsboro Pollen Ride


I’d been scheduled to attend an activity at Nashville yesterday that would’ve brought me into contact with a number of state legislators, but I called-up early yesterday to cancel my participation.  My hotel stay, parking, and two meals would’ve been paid for and my mileage reimbursed, but those staying overnight had to have roommates.  Mine would have suffocated me to put an end to the noise of my labored respiration, snorting, hawking, coughing, spitting.  Furthermore, I reckoned the elected officials didn’t deserve to have to shake hands with a guy who’s been wiping allergy snot on his suit-sleeve.  Since I already had the leave approved, I stayed home to take my car in for service.

My wife got to work on time, and I got our son ready for his day, then we walked over to the sitter’s house.  We jogged part of the way because it was pretty cool this morning and the movement helped warm him up.  Then, I went back to the house and called my independent Volvo garage to see if they could work Thursday in for service.

The tech gave me a time, and I decided I’d ride around Hillsboro instead of waiting around the yard while they worked on the car, which is what I normally do.  Let me explain my decision –

  1. It was a foregone conclusion that whatever I did yesterday, I was going to feel as if I had poison ivy inside my head and on my eyes
  2. Riding a bicycle in public is as close to invisibility as anyone gets because nobody really looks at a cyclist – they just notice the odd clothes he’s wearing, maybe whether he’s got a helmet on, and whether he’s slowing them down
  3. Or maybe they rate his appearance by thinking a) the guy’s wearing technical garb and riding a bike with curly handlebars – he’s probably a bicycle racer or something, or b) the guy’s dressed a little like a hobo – maybe he’s a dumb peckerwood who got his license revoked for DUI and has to ride a bike to his two-hour a day job picking up nails at a construction site
  4. Nobody will look at your face because nobody wants to make eye-contact with a drunk hobo who’s probably got a bag of nails he can huck at your car if he’s really not right in the head
  5. Thus, my eyes could leak streams of water in their attempt to flush out pollen, and likewise my nose snot, and nobody would be the wiser
  6. And, that was going to happen at home yesterday, anyway
  7. Or it would happen at the garage where I’d wind up sickening the guys who, like the politicians at Nashville, deserve a better quality of interaction and, unlike (a number of) the pols, have useful skills and do meaningful work that helps people
  8. So why not lean into the pollen-storm a bit and dare it to cusswording smite me

I made a snack, got a couple of water bottles and filled one with a five or six years old Gatorade powder mixed with water, the other with water, ate a banana, ate a sandwich, put snack and an Epi-Pen (in case the pollen-storm were to strike me down) in a small rack bag, put the bag, my helmet and gloves in the car, mounted my bike on a trunk-rack, and drove to the garage.    Jim Long Imports has an impressive collection of wrecked Volvo parts cars, and usually when I wait for the car, I’ll spend the time wandering around the property looking at stuff.

Today, after exchanging speech and reminiscences with another customer who is from the same city where I was born, I walked my bike out to the street and turned right on Howell Rd.  That took me to Winchester Hwy., where I turned left and proceeded to Calls Rd., where I turned right.  Calls Road must run parallel to a slough on Woods Reservoir, because I observed a house to my left that had to have been a house I have seen from the water two or three times before.  The wind was in my face on Calls Road.  At the four-way stop where it intersects with Wimble Road, I turned right, thinking that would get me back to Winchester Hwy.  On Wimbles Road, what is obviously a former schoolhouse now painted grey with green trim sits near the crossroads.  The well-kept building has double doors on either end and double doors in front; it is obviously somebody’s residence, now.  Further down the road, at a slight uphill curve, and aged beagle ran out barking and chased me, faster than I expected.


At Winchester Hwy. (where a sign seemed to indicate I’d been on Dean Shop Rd., as opposed to Wimble Rd.) I turned right and road past Howell Rd., past Calls Rd., on to Miller’s Crossing, where I turned right intending to pedal as far as Prairie Plains Rd., then turn back around.  Not too far down Miller’s Crossing, I was chased by an earnest mastiff-German-shepherd mix that I almost didn’t outrun.  When I finally did outrun him, I gave a whoop and complimented him on his speed.  It occurred to me that I’d have to come back past him on my way to get the car.

When I came to a bridge over an unknown stream that doubtless flows into the Elk and thence into Woods Reservoir, I stopped and took some pictures from both sides of the bridge and of the United States Geological Survey’s stream gauging station mounted on the bridge’s parapet, if parapet is the word I want.  I took a picture of my bike and when I looked at later, thought the bike appeared to’ve been lollygagging.  I misspelled “lollygagging” when I titled the image.  Here are those pictures – click on them to view larger versions:

Unknown-Stream Lolligagging Waterweeds USGS-Gauging-Station-1 USGS-Gauging-Station-2
Miller’s Crossing runs through scenic farmland.  If you turn right at the end, Prairie Plains Rd. will take you to a bridge over the Elk River under which is a rutted dirt parking area and dirt-ramp put-in I’ve used many times.


On my way back, I was prepared for the mastiff-shepherd mix – prayed up, geared down and pedaling fast up the hill where I’d encountered the dog earlier, but he didn’t appear.  On Miller’s Crossing past the intersection with Winchester Hwy., I noticed at my left the ruin of what must have been an imposing house set up on a gentle, grassy hill.


The property wasn’t posted, so I rode up the hill a ways and then got off and pushed the bike until I reached the porch.  I spent a few minutes walking around the exterior walls and through the exposed basement of the house.

Front-Porch Machu-Pichu
Back-Porch Side-of-House
Full-Basement Shed

Another Saturday on Dry Land

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been helping family members move things, carry things as they’ve gone through the belongings of the oldest surviving family member.  He has realized that he will not be living independently again, and has given the go-ahead to clear out the home he had built in about 1973 and had lived in up until a few months ago.  In his right mind, this 96 year-old man now resides in an assisted living facility and, although he complains a little about the quality of food served there, has expressed in my hearing no other complaint

I drove over to the house early Saturday morning after staying up until nearly the stroke of midnight to meet a deadline.  Unshaved and unwashed I drove through Stepford at a time when most of the town’s residents are still in their pajamas or thinking about eating fattening convenience foods they can microwave.  Hot as heck already by 7:20 or so a.m.  Workman were resurfacing one of the main routes across town, and I had a longer than usual stop until a flagman waved me past after the asphalt truck had gone by.

I drove past three big mainline denominational houses of worship.  One of these is the First Big Southern Denomination meeting house.  As I drove by, I wondered whether, if I showed up there one Sunday morning, I’d recognize anything that happened under the building’s roof as particularly Christian.  Not.  Probably not.  But I may be too critical of the religious practices of others who, like me, claim to be Christian.

After spending a couple of hours helping my mom move some stuff out into the garage for the auction people to haul off, I drove out to the Pot County seat Administrative Plaza to visit a friend who works over there on Saturday mornings, then drove back to Stepford (which, oddly enough, is not the county seat) to put gas in the XC before returning to the house.

At home, I found my son and wife had already eaten breakfast.  My wife went to the store, and I made a bowl of oatmeal.  While it cooled, I watched the last part of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang with Seventy-Six.  He didn’t want to watch the part where Caractacus, Truly, and Benny Hill visit with the kids in the watery cavern under the castle, and asked me to fast-forward to part where Gert Frobe and Anna Quail sing a comically lethal duet, which never fails to amuse the child.  I shared my bowl of oatmeal with my now 3 1/2 year-old son while we sat in bargain faux-wicker furniture in our somewhat dilapidated sunroom.  Second breakfast for him.  The boy is exceedingly tall for his age (95th percentile height, 75th percentile weight), and when he jumps (cannon-ball, knees-first) on my back if I’m lying on the carpet reading a book, the impact is no joke.

After my wife came home from the store with the week’s groceries, I got my shower and changed.  We ate lunch as a family – BLT sandwiches, while good tomatoes are in season and available.  My little boy only wanted grilled cheese, but was willing to eat a piece of low-fat bacon.

Shortly after lunch, I called my friend, neighbor, and relative by marriage, John T., to ask whether I could borrow his small pickup truck to carry off some things from the house across town.  He said, sure, come on over.  I walked over to his house and as I approached observed him pulling the truck out and parking it in the shade of a tree in the driveway.  We exchanged greetings and he asked whether I could use any help.  Any time a super-intelligent 88 year-old World War II veteran with a realistic sense of humor, and whom you’ve known all your life asks whether you’d like his help, the right answer is “Yes.”

“You drive,” he said.

We made a couple of trips.  Hot all day, the small truck has no air-conditioner, so we drove with all the windows open, including the wind-wings.  Cars now don’t have them, but they permit one to direct a flow of wind toward the car’s interior as it is driven.  I sometimes wish my 850 had them.


I’ve been reading Ernie Pyle’s Here is Your War, only the copy I’m reading came out of a rural Indiana farmhouse and was published in 1943 or 1944.  The cover is present, but not worth mentioning as it is ragged, the insides of the hardbound cover at front and back have yellowed newspaper clippings pasted into them in the style of old fashioned scrapbooks.  About a dozen to 20 other clippings are stuffed into the middle of the book, and notes handwritten in pencil on a folded seed-company mailer postmarked dating from 1944.  I’m using the seed-company mailer as a book mark.  I’ll read the clippings after I’ve read the book.

John is a veteran of World War II.  A year or two ago, he told me about his Honor Flight tour of Washington, D.C.  It sounded interesting, but I found myself wishing someone had provided such a tour for him and other veterans when they were all younger and more independently mobile.  John said he enjoyed the whirlwind visit to the memorials and monuments honoring the men and women who fought and served in that defining conflict of the mid-Twentieth Century.

I don’t know how, but we got onto the subject of cellular telephones and John said he and Irma, his wife, had been at a movie and the cell-phone of the woman seated next to him rang three or four different times during the film’s showing.  Although annoyed, John didn’t say anything to the woman because, “You never know if it’s someone who’s going to try to shoot you.”  We started talking about the debased state of even semi-rural society here in Southern Middle Tennessee, about how it seems at least 75% of the population is using psychoactive medication with or without medical advice, and another 10% probably ought to be prescribed something.

I asked John, “Is this (motioning with my hand to indicate a mix of current circumstances of place and the things we’ve been talking about) what you guys were fighting for?”

“No,” he said, “it’s not.  We went to war to defeat Hitler and Stalin.  And the Japanese.”  When asked, he denied with a shake of the head any regard for the manner in which the victory of his generation had been spent to build a medicated welfare state.

It’s Friday again as I return to complete this post – the last Friday in July.  After the preceding paragraph, I’d started to write a bit about the following Sunday, but just now returning to it, I’ve completely forgotten what it was I’d wanted to say about last Sunday.  I recall that my family and I skipped worship service and performed all manner of ox-freeing work on the small ‘c’ cultural ‘c’hristian Sabbath for which the Almighty will doubtless not condemn us, the Sabbath being made for Man and not Man for the Sabbath.  And anyway, Sunday’s just the first day of the ancient world’s working week, and Christianity was at first a working man and woman’s religion.  Do not make the mistake of reading any kind of Marxist cant into my remarks thereby missing entirely their various points.

Yesterday, or the day before, an idea occurred to me as I was reading or thinking about Pyle’s book that I’ve mentioned above.  And that idea is this – wouldn’t it be interesting to find some accessible and clear way to contrast the United States of 2011 with the United States Pyle wrote about in 1943.  My copy of Pyle’s book bears the publication date “December, 1943.”

One of the things Pyle did was to report the names and street addresses of some of the military personnel about whom he’d written .  That struck me as odd and an obvious security breach.  How on earth could even a half-sentient military censor allow something like that to pass into print?  I can think of one or two possible “conscious” answers to the question.

But that idea I had is this – Wouldn’t it be interesting to Google Street-View those 1943 addresses in 2011?  The visuals might indicate whether or to what observable degree the United States of America has improved since winning World War Two.

Here’s one I jotted down today (I wish I’d thought of this when I started reading and had kept a list):

Page 119

Lt. Victor Coreno

11002 Woodland Ave.
Cleveland, Ohio

It’s a parking lot on the corner in a run-down neighborhood near public housing projects.  Maybe it’d been a storefront with apartments above, or a two-storey frame house, or just an apartment building like the brick buildings beside or behind it.

Here is another one:

Page 130

Navigator Lt. Davey Williams

3305 Williams St.

Fort Worth, Texas

I wasn’t able to find a Williams Street in Fort Worth using Google Maps.  The address at Williams Avenue is a run-down strip mall in what looks like it is now a run-down commercial-industrial area.

I was able to find a Williams Street, and re-linked the address above.  What I’m finding with Google Maps and Street View is that addresses are so approximate in many instances that the online “service” or whatever it is a lot of the time plants its little orange markers in the middle of intersections.  Still, the entire length of Williams Street is pretty badly run-down.  You’ll note a family group reclining on living-room furniture out by a dumpster behind an apartment building nearby.


Today I came home early from work because my head felt like it’s bones were splintering like one of those cinematic werewolf transformations.  Explains why I’ve been cranky last two or three days – coming down with an intractable head-cold that only rest will cure.  Once home, I watched the third and apparently final episode of the BBC Masterpiece Theater “Sherlock” – an updated adaptation of the Arthur Conan Doyle characters and stories from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  I thought I’d hate it completely, but found that I very much enjoyed the short series.  What bothers me, or that irks at the back of my mind, is that an updated Sherlock Holmes posits a hundred and twenty or so years of history without Doyle’s character embedded, so to speak, in the culture.  Can you imagine a world that’d never heard of or been influenced by those stories and that one particular character?

Elk River Upstream: Dabbs Ford Bridge to Rutledge (not Patterson) Ford Bridge

NOTE:  If you are offended by religious reflection, quit reading after you get the word “pretty” a few paragraphs down.  I offer no apology.  Not any thing that I can think of to write about is all about one thing and nothing else.  I’ve also included a little political commentary.  It would be a mistake to think of this space as primarily a paddling blog.

(4/25/11) Also, this is the second of these “NOTEs” in as many blog posts, which strikes me as annoying. 

Finally, after looking at a satellite image of Patterson Ford Bridge, I realized it could not have been the bridge up to which I paddled on Friday because the bridge at Patterson Ford is really two bridges for four-lanes of traffic, and the bridge I recall seeing was only a narrow concrete two-lane.  A closer look at Tennessee Landforms showed me a couple of things:  a) I paddled as far as Rutledge Falls Ford Bridge, only about 4.5 miles upstream from my put-in; b) I never did make it as far as Bluebell Island and so my two previous blog posts about paddling this section of the Elk River above Woods Reservoir contain mistakes of fact that I’ll have to get around to correcting.  Until I can get around to making those corrections (lack of time), this extended editorial note will have to do. 

Rutledge Ford Bridge

I’ll try to get a topo-map image of the bridge at Rutledge Ford (satellite image, instead, above).  In the mean time disregard the image of Patterson Ford Bridge below. 

I hadn’t paddled since November 2010 when a friend and I put in at Normandy Lake.  This year my free time has been occupied in parenting, yardwork, and school work.  I’ve spent weekends plug-aerating, liming, fertilizing, hoeing, seeding, mowing, as well as playing outside with my son.  I have been strength training again, mostly pushups, chin-ups, pull-ups, dips using an Iron Gym I got  for Christmas, as well as dumbbells for biceps (shoulder’s still a bit weak for overhead shoulder and triceps work), and medicine ball for abs.  Also a lot of walking.

Thursday evening I sorted out my paddling gear and got it ready for Friday morning.  I wasn’t able to find my blue hat or my small yellow drybag with spare car-key, but everything else I got ready.  I even had a lunch handy because Thursday afternoon I’d had lunch with a friend from work, so I was able to repurpose my sandwich and generic fig-newton cookies.  Friday morning I got up early and dressed for paddling, sprayed down with Deep Woods Off, loaded the gear bag in the trunk, Campsis Radicans on Thursday’s roof, and forgetting my camera and wallet, took off.  My put in was the bridge where Prairie Plains Road crosses the Elk River above or upstream the confusing maze of islands that end of Woods Reservoir – Dabbs Ford Bridge, according to the topo map easily accessed at the Tennessee Landforms website (name not shown below, but near top-left of that image).

Starting Point

The road is roughly paved leading down to the put-in, but I was able to keep the 850 from bottoming-out carefully avoiding some ruts and potholes.  A gold 1990s model Nissan Sentra sedan was already parked below, but no other vehicles.  I nodded and waved at the thin-faced man who was smoking a cigarette behind the car’s wheel, pulled up to the packed-dirt ramp and unloaded boat and gear.  As I backed my car out of the way and parked it, the man in the Sentra drove off.  I figured he’d been up to no good.

It took me a couple of minutes to get the rudder rigged because I’d forgotten how I’d left things back in November.  Inflated bow and stern floatation, put my keys and cell-phone in my larger emergency drybag (stuff in there like towel, light anorak, extra gatorade-type drinks, etc.) in the stern, sealed the stern, arranged junk on the decks making the boat look like something paddled by a hobo, and got into the water.  Cold, surprisingly cold with a perceptible current right away there below the bridge.  Usually don’t encounter a current until much further upstream.  We’ve had a lot of rain lately, but I don’t think we get snow melt – our so-called mountains around here are hardly Alpine. 

I was happy about the current but annoyed because I’d forgotten my camera.  The current made me happy because I knew it would make for a good workout, and I thought with that much water flowing, the water level would be higher and I might get farther upstream without having having to get out and tow the kayak through shallows.  A couple of years ago, I paddled this stretch and had to drag the kayak over deadfallen trees blocking the river.  I had no real idea what to expect this time.

While paddling, I thought about fitness, and that one of the best reasons for maintaining fitness is so that I can do things few other people do and have experiences few other people have.  I thought about the President of the United States of America and that he is incapable of doing the things that I can do, although I could probably manage the work of presiding over this nation’s executive branch tolerably well.  I thought about that film, Chariots of Fire, and thought that my Creator may be indifferent to my aquatic activities.  But as I had that thought I heard the wind moving through a hundred treetops like the voice of God declaring that not even the thought of a man on a boat in a largely unknown river in Middle Tennessee goes unnoticed by him even though he doubtless has other interests.

As it happened, the river was clear as far as I was able to paddle.  The current was constant and swift enough in places that I was happy I’d read books by canoe guys explaining hydraulics (I think is the word) and why it’s better to paddle upstream in zig-zag patter and how to use eddies to make better progress and to rest.  A lot of people think of longer kayaks with no rocker as useless for paddling rivers, but I think they are mistaken.  My Pouch E-68 is 16.5’ in length and did just fine.  I wouldn’t have made much progress at all in a stubby rec-boat or the average, short wooden-shoe-looking kayak designed for river or creek paddling.  In places the current was not too strong at all, and in others I had great difficulty making headway.  By the time I reached Patterson Ford Bridge, I was tired.  The river there was narrow and water moving very quickly downstream had a gnarled, ropey-looking uneven surface.  Possibly what is meant by ‘swiftwater.’


I wished I’d had a laundry marking pen or a can of spray-paint to make my mark upon one of the generally unseen concrete pylons that support the bridge as a means of proving that I’d reached that point in my journey.  This because I’d forgotten the camera.  I settled instead for picking a sprig of purplish wildflowers growing on a muddy bank near where I’d dragged Campsis Radicans out of the water.  They were a bit wilted by the time I gave them to my wife, but still pretty.

Paddling back downstream was easy until God sent pollen from those hundred trees and a thousand others to humble me.  Still, I was grateful for a hyperactive immune system and the fact that germs, pollen, and sundry bits of crud don’t stand a chance against the biology with which God endowed me.  Clearly, I have failed to learn the lessons of humility.  Paddling a wood-framed kayak with wooden paddle at cross-ways is the most Christlike I will ever be, but in my pride and the pleasure I took and generally take in the roughly cruciform activity, I fall far short in Good Friday remembrance. 

Michael Willis on Facebook today (Saturday) wrote that today we commemorate probably the most frightening and disorienting day in history – the day after the Christ suffered unparalleled humiliation and total failure achieve this-worldly aim of restoring the nation of Israel to rule by YHWH through judges and to change the governance of the inhabited world by instituting the governance of God in Israel and through Israel the nations.  Sunday will be here before you know it; the life, death, and resurrection of the Christ changed the world and instituted the governance of God in ways that continue to defy the expectations of his elect.


Industrial Park Lake

Probably not an actual lake – maybe a very large pond.  For the past month or so I’ve worked at a location requiring me to drive past this intriguing body of water, and the other day I turned off and found the entrance to a dirt and gravel road that runs about halfway around it.  I noted three wooden picnic tables in good repair along the road.  Looks like a good place for primitive camping, and I found a stone fire-ring at near the table furthest from the main road.  Camping is probably prohibited here, but I saw no signs making any such declaration.  Next time I am in the neighborhood, I may have to paddle the large pond on my way back.  Here are a few of the photos I took:

Brief Respite

Poster from Spiders:  The Golden Sea

I have been enjoying lurid entertainments

My brief respite from deadline related activity comes to an end Monday, and all I’ve done with the spare time is watch silent films on Netflix (currently Fritz Lang’s 1919 adventure serial Spiders) and had Thursday in for a 70,000 mile service that involved timing and serpentine belts, water pump, a hydraulic tensioner, and a problem with the circuit-board that controls the operation of the overhead interior lights.  That’s the most money we’ve spent on the 850 car since we got it in ’05 or ’06.

Cossentino's Figure 1 - Montessorian path to normalization. Cadged from COSSENTINO, J. (2006). Big Work: Goodness, Vocation, and Engagement in the Montessori Method. Curriculum Inquiry, 36(1), 63-92. doi:10.1111/j.1467-873X.2006.00346.x.

That’s not completely true – the other thing I’ve done during this deadline hiatus has been to spend every spare minute after work playing outside with Seventy-Six, or playing inside with him and his new tipi, as well as counting, singing, jumping, and reading books.  Outside activities include running around trees in the yard yelling “Oogah-Boogah,” blowing and chasing soap-bubbles, shooting baskets, playing catch, playing a game involving chasing the ball that is either kicked or thrown, running for the shear pleasure of running in the yard, drawing with chalk on the driveway, experimenting with very basic Montessorian activities like walking around a large chalk circle or on a long chalk line, various small child-powered vehicles, counting, and singing.

The mosquitoes are biting.

Thus, most of the time was well spent and may be considered redeemed to the extent that such can be said of ordinary human activity.

My mechanic has a 2000 Volvo Cross Country on his yard that a customer dropped off to sell.  We were interested in the car for Caution-Lady, but the owners are, according to Mr. Jim, insistent upon or “stuck at” their beyond Edmunds valuation asking price of $7,000.00.  I’d say the car’s worth closer to $5,500.00, so we’ll just keep the ’93 940T for a while longer.  We’ve had the 940 since 2002, and it has been a great car and a sold daily-driver.  It’s due for an oil service and needs sunroof adjusted, new driver-side carpet, and front brakes, but all that will come in at considerably less than $7k.

At work, two of my coworkers – one in my own office and one in another part of the state – have lost their spouses suddenly and unexpectedly.  It has been a sad time.  Last week, I returned to Cannon County on official business after an absence of about five years, on a hot day driving a car with no useful air-conditioner.  At Murfreesboro, I met the new hire who is replacing an old friend who tendered resignation last month.

In the electronic world, I’ve discovered that extreme privacy settings on Facebook are preventing people I actually like from “friending” me.  I’m going to have to monkey with that to see if the thing can be corrected.

Paddling Injured

Ready to launch - dirt boat ramp at Estill Springs City Park

Ready to launch - dirt boat ramp at Estill Springs City Park


Yesterday, for the first time since November, 2008, I paddled my kayak. My shoulder diagnosis was something like “partial thickness tear supraspinatus,” and “spurring on the acromium,” as well as tendonitis. I had a cortisone injection. I took a drug called Soma for 30 days, followed by two months of physical therapy. Star Physical Therapy at Stepford was fantastic. Had some almost out of body experiences while napping in traction. Overall pain reduction and regained most of my pre-injury range of motion. I’m still working on regaining full strength in that one shoulder. Same side trapezius is still occasionally very painful, but much improved. Hurt my back again two or so weeks ago and couldn’t walk for the better part of a day, but my genius chiropractor fixed me up.

Take It Easy

My physical therapist, my chiropractor, and my wife all recommended I take it easy, maybe a couple of hours or about a quarter of my normal distance. So, with no real goal in mind, I drove to Estill Springs City Park. The city permits campers there, and the sites are what I’d call primitive. About five or six families were camped out in tents and RVs when I pulled up at about 8:00 am. Late for me, but I was trying to do this without any goal in mind beyond getting home in time to mow.

Campsis Radicans, the plant after which I named my red Pouch E68 folding kayak

Campsis Radicans, the plant after which I named my red Pouch E68 folding kayak

Going through the routine of assembling my gear, securing the boat to my car’s roof racks, putting on my paddling clothes reassured me at home that I might still know how to do this stuff. Same at the put in, going through the motions in reverse, except I left my boating clothes on. And once in the boat, I felt about the same as I always have in the cockpit. Low-angle stroke powered by torso-rotation and leg movement produced no discernible stress on my injury, no pain.

A Goal

Because I’m obsessive, goal driven freak, I was unable to make having no goal my goal for the day. When I observed the water level in the Tims Ford impoundment of the Elk River higher than I’ve seen it before, I took the opportunity to poke around in the slough. I paddled over ground that’s normally dry, got just about stuck in a shallow place with grass gone to spiky seed. I’d gone in over a small log, but my rudder caught against it paddling backwards out again. Necessitated an 18 or 20 point turn in a 16.5′ kayak. Still, it was better than getting out and wading half sunk in the mud to turn the boat by hand. I felt hungry, but ignored it.

Shoreline across the water from the put-in

Shoreline across the water from the put-in

More water made this place accessible

More water made this place accessible

Straight ahead's where I almost got stuck in weedy mud

Straight ahead's where I almost got stuck in weedy mud

My best guess is that man has carefully explored shoreline out of the desire to find a non-muddy, easy landing place to get out of the boat for urination.

Round-trip maybe 10 miles - not much straight-line paddling, and in no real hurry

Round-trip maybe 10 miles - not much straight-line paddling, and in no real hurry. Click on the image, then in the browser url address line on the linked page change width to some number greater than 300.

When I returned to the main channel of impounded Elk River after exploring hitherto unseen backwaters, and after having found a convenient place to, um, stretch my legs, I continued paddling up toward the bridge at the place Spring Church Road becomes Payne’s Church Road. There’re a couple of farmhouses on your left as you paddle toward the bridge. Past that bridge, which Saturday morning had people fishing under it and off it, the river water has noticeable current, and is much cooler felt through the boat’s skin.

I thought I’d paddle past the first bridge to a ruined bridge maybe a mile further upstream, and then turn around and come back. But at the ruined bridge, I was annoyed to find loud campers, talking like people talk who have been drinking already in the morning after having had too much to drink the night before. Unwilling to have my turnaround place spoiled by the presence philistines, I paddled on, up to where the river takes a left turn (as you are paddling upstream) in broad, steep-banked, tree shaded place. I’ve only ever seen one other boater that far, and saw no one on Saturday.

Because the water was clearly deeper than at any other time I’d been on this part of the river, I thought, “why not see if I can make it to the next bridge?” So I did, even though I knew I should probably call it quits for the day and return to the put-in. I made it to bridge at Morris Ferry Bridge Road (I’m pretty sure that bridge was not Morris Ferry Bridge). Not long after that, I had to get out and wade for a bit, pulling the kayak behind me. I shot some video at this point with the Pentax, pulling the boat by a length of yellow poly-pro line in my left hand, and the camera in my right while trying to step carefully over slippery shin-deep rocky bottom. The water was cold, and felt good rushing past and around my legs that’ve been too long out of sun and kayak and water.

 Reduntantly, the bridge Morris Ferry Bridge Road

Redundantly, the bridge Morris Ferry Bridge Road

Big block mid-stream

Big block mid-stream

Back in the boat, paddle a bit. Out of the boat, wade and pull a bit. My injured shoulder ached a little bit deep in the muscle. I paddled farther despite misgivings. I passed a huge concrete block with rebar around it set squarely in mid-stream. Finally, I came to a place where I had to get out of the boat again near a bank littered with small shells. Undoubtedly some raccoon’s shellfish buffet. There I turned around and headed back downstream.

Small carnivore's shellfish feeding place

Small carnivore's shellfish feeding place

Heading back to the second bridge

Heading back to the second bridge

Plant submerged tenaciously clings to rock in current

Plant submerged tenaciously clings to rock in current

A pretty place

A pretty place

I needed to get back to the car with enough energy remaining to lift the 70 plus pound boat up onto the Volvo’s roofracks, then, once home, to edge and mow the lawn. Going downstream, I think I only had to get out of the boat once at a shallow place. Easier going with the current. I saw a large bird of prey with a white head and whit e tail feathers – a bald eagle?

I ate my "lunch" as I drifted past this place

I ate my "lunch" as I drifted past this place

Last night my shoulder hurt pretty badly a couple of times – woke me up – aspirin helped. This afternoon, I did my prescribed physical therapy exercises. We’ll see whether I can sleep tonight.

This is what a fish sees when it looks at me

This is what a fish sees when it looks at me

Cold Morning Sans Camera

15 degrees Fahrenheit when I checked the weather online yesterday morning. Frost on the red boat’s deck. I debated whether to skip church, and paddle today, instead, but ultimately solved the problem by getting a later start. By the time I got to the put in at Hurricane Creek Branch on Tims Ford Lake, the temperature’d risen to about 31.5 degrees by the 850’s in-dash digital thermometer. Only one other vehicle at the boat ramp. Maybe on the water by 10:00 am. NOAA predicted a gentle breeze from the south at 5 mph, but I felt no wind as I pulled on my Bombergear Radiator drysuit for the first time since March or April. A couple of months ago, I finally sent it off to the good folks at Amigo’s for professional repair, although that Kirch’s Kwik Patch was still holding up pretty well.

Water didn’t seem too cold as I waded to get into my boat. No camera because the beloved Caution-Lady required it last week to photograph a classroom project, and she’d left the Pentax at school. Paddled in a southerly direction with significant left-shoulder pain, and adjusted the stroke as I went to minimize same. I’d forgotten the inflatable blue Klepper seatback I normally use as lumbar support, so had to take responsibility for keeping my own spine straight for proper torso-rotation. I did okay with that, too. Not much back pain by the end of the day. Had some left leg numbness and pain that resolved with position changes and exaggerated leg use while underway.

I turned left into Turkey Creek Branch, realizing as I did so that the features I was expecting to find there are located in the vicinity of Lost Creek Branch. I paddled as far back into Turkey Creek Branch as the winter pool water level permitted. I came to a place where the water was so clear and lightly blue-tinted it appeared much shallower than it really was. The kayak’s keel passed over four or five tires, miscellaneous junk, fishing lures, hundreds of little two-inch fish swimming together in swirling patterns like those made by water-weeds in current, until I came to place where the sandy soft bottom barred further progress. Ahead and to my right I could hear the stream’s gurgling as it flowed around and over dry sticks of the water plants that flourish in the summer months when the water’s level is higher, and the water itself warmer.

On my way back out toward Hurrican Creek Branch, I came to a backwater on my left in which I saw more of the straw-colored plant stalks like a field of dry grass. On these Tennessee lakes I have frequently seen in the warmer months something like soap-foam that gets pushed by the wind up against anything relatively stationary in the water, or along the shoreline. Looked like a lot of foam up against those water twigs. I paddled in for a closer look at the gray hulk of a wrecked speedboat. I’d seen it before the last time I was up this branch, only at that time, the water was much lower, and I couldn’t get near it. As I approached I became aware as my bow broke through it a layer of clear, thin ice in place of the water’s usual liquid surface. It cracked, and I was able to paddle through, close to and past the wreck. Somebody’d removed the steering wheel, the outboard motor, the seats, but had left the boat’s in-dash AM radio. All covered in gray mud, I didn’t imagine the radio could be made to work again, but wondered why the fiberglass hull had been left. Maybe holed-through? Dunno. Didn’t get out to check. Water over the wide transom in the hull was completely iced over, too. Up close, what had looked like foam was ice all around where the dry sticks poked up from the water. Before paddling backwards out again, I gave the ice ahead of me sound whack with the paddle, and it reluctantly broke, but no point in going any farther that direction.

I paddled on out to the main branch. A little farther down on my left is a boat ramp I’ve never been able to find from the road, and a little beyond that I stopped and ate all of my lunch. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten everything in my lunch bag at one sitting while paddling. I have always left something over for the paddle back. I guess I was thinking I could get something at Holiday Landing restaurant if I needed it.

Around Awalt Bridge I paddled, then back into the branch where Holiday Landing is located. Some very large, rectangular houseboats in there. Bigger than buses they appeared from the cockpit of my kayak. The restaurant was closed, all its outside seating stacked up on tables. I paddled around the floating docks, looking at the boats in their slips, then back out again to the main channel.

By this time I was tired, and stopped to empty a bottle of something called Vitamin Water (I got a case of the stuff pretty cheaply back in the Spring, and it tastes like melted popsicles), took a swig of Gatorade, and paddled ploddingly back to the boat ramp. Maybe the slope of the ramp, but I had a hard time lifting the boat up to get it on the racks. I’ve worked out a sort of time-and-motion routine to efficiently lash secure the boat on the racks, then to release the straps and tie-downs to get it off the racks again.

Using the distance tool at Dunigan’s Tennessee Landforms site later on, I found that I’d only made about 12.5 miles, roundtrip.

On the way home, I stopped at my mom’s house and observed the work the city is doing to prevent further erosion along the creek bed that bounds the backyard at her house. Very workmanlike.

Mom last week knit Seventy-Six a winter cap with ear-flaps and toggle-fastener, and yesterday she had finished his matching mittens. Funny mittens for infants have no thumbs, like socks for tiny hands.

Then home, a much-needed hot shower, and the joys of family life that far surpass (edited) those of the life aquatic.

Roof Better Now & Island Paddling

Island maze is visible at far right - click for larger image

Island maze is visible at far right - click for larger image

I got out and cleaned the rain gutters yesterday morning. After the roof shingles dried, around 11:00, Don came over and fixed the roof. I was going to act as his helper, but got preoccupied degreasing Thursday’s motor, then trying to figure out why it quit running as I’d left it in neutral, hood-open to dry out the engine-compartment. By the time I climbed up the ladder, Don had pretty much got the chimney work done. Then I got hung up trying to figure out whether to pay off this house, list it, sell it, before buying another, or do those things without first paying off the mortgage. Trying to think through emergency funds, investments, Seventy-Six college funding. By that time, Don had completed the work and I wrote him a check. I felt bad leaving him to do that work alone when his goal had probably been, in part, to teach me how to do some of that stuff. Somehow, when I’m trying to manage things, I often manage to disappoint myself and others. Maybe just myself.

Car started again, probably some moisture in the distributor cap that dried off after awhile, because the plug sockets were bone-dry when I checked them, earlier.

Around three o’clock, I loaded the car with gear, and roof-racked Campsis Radicans, took a check out to my Hillsboro mechanic to pay for that replacement radio I got a month or two ago from a smashed 850 Turbo in his field of parts cars. Brian and I talked about parenting, Tommy educated me on the finer points of engine-compartment beautification, I looked at an ’01 Cross-Country and ’89 745 that still had both corner lights and something I’ve never before seen on any 700 series car – the towing-eye cover. Yes, I wanted to buy both cars. Heck, we need a wagon. My dream car has always been a Volvo wagon. Caution-Lady would love a wagon. We could trade or sell Whitecar (’93 940T)…

A fellow named Denny paddling upstream from Dabbs Ford to fish

A fellow named Denny paddling upstream from Dabbs Ford to fish

Yeah, so about an hour later I made it to the put-in below Prairie Plains Road Bridge at Dabbs Ford, and saw something I’ve never before seen on Woods Reservoir – another seakayaker. Guy in a truck with a 17′ Wilderness Systems Unknown-To-Me model kayak on the roof racks. We talked about paddles, the unlikelyhood of meeting another long-boater at Woods. He paddled upstream to fish, and I paddled downstream to challenge myself with the maze of islands down at that end of the lake.

Entering the maze of islands where the Elk flows into Woods Reservoir

Entering the maze of islands where the Elk flows into Woods Reservoir

I didn't know turtles were such good climbers

I didn't know turtles were such good climbers

Because I don’t often get on the water this late, I didn’t have any clear idea how much daylight remained to me. I paddled down the Elk, past the small refrigerator that serves as a channel-marker, its door open and empty. Keeping left, I paddled to a shallow place, got out, and inflated the hip pads I’d forgotten to inflate when I launched. Climbed back in and continued. I saw three bird-boxes on posts in backwater channels and along the shore. I saw a fist-sized turtle clinging to the branch of a fallen tree. I saw duck blinds. Heard two sonic booms occurred one quickly after the other; these sounded, if possible higher because their shockwaves were not very intense. I saw herons and three or four ducks.

These red leaves attracted my attention

These red leaves attracted my attention

On the water only an hour and forty-five minutes or so, I didn’t feel like I’d had much of a workout. I drove out Prairie Plains Road to Miller’s Crossing with the low mountains of Grundy County ahead and to my right.