Thursday, July 28, 2016

Kill Your Television

 Study suggests sitting-to-exercise ratio.
"Researchers also ran the same analysis for time spent on an activity and mortality for TV watching and found that people who watched television three or more hours per day (presumably while sitting rather than being on, say, a treadmill) had a higher risk of mortality for nearly every amount of physical activity except for those in the highest quartile. But even these super active people could tolerate only so much TV time. Those watching television five hours a day or more still appeared to have a significantly increased risk of death as compared to those watching little TV regardless of the amount of physical activity. This implies that watching TV while sitting may somehow be worse for your health than doing a different type of task while sitting and it's something that has researchers find perplexing..."


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Another Week. Another Convention

Last week I paid some attention to the Republican convention, mostly in print and on radio.  My attention was limited by the fact that I cannot hear ugly, bilious rhetoric for long periods of time, especially when interspersed with the perverse simplicity of current Republican ideology.  Still I made an effort to keep up with the convention.  For better or worse (and these days it's only worse), the Republican Party is one of the only two parties capable of nominating and electing a president.  As citizen I believe I have a responsibility to stay informed, even when the task is distasteful.  I got a few chuckles at the various gaffes and Donald outperforming Rudy Guliani in delivering an apocalyptic, spittle-filled speech.  The chuckles were fleeting when I rememberd that I was hearing a possible President of the United States.

This week has been more pleasant.  For all of its shortcomings the Democratic Party is the one of the two major parties in this country that speaks to my values and beliefs.  Much of what the Democrats say is rhetoric but, unlike last week, the rhetoric is not hateful and aspires to an America where all share in our national prosperity.  What I have not heard is anything to suggest that America will be less militaristic and seek diplomatic solutions to conflict among nations.  Hillary Clinton's history does not suggest that she would be any different from her immediate predecessor or even the hapless George W. 

That said, Clinton has full-throated support from Bernie Sanders and she has been pushed to run on a very progressive platform.  Donald Trump is a guaratee of strong-man, idiosyncratic, reactionay policy, both foreign and domestic.  In all, the Democratic convention and Hillary Clinton address America's challenges in a way that leaves me more confidence than anything that Trump can do.  I hope very much that Clinton will prevail in November.

That said, I am most likely to vote for Jill Stein for president.  I can do that with confidence since Washington is a reliably Democratic state.  The last time Washington went Republican in a presidential election was 1984.  If I still lived in Virginia or any other swing state, I would vote for Clinton but I don't and will use the opportunity to cast a vote for an even more progressive platform.  I did that four years ago and barring any change from recent history will do so again.

Donald Trump must not be elected.  Period.


Sunday, July 24, 2016

Heading West

I wrote about all of the experiences and friends I encountered on my trip to Virginia but did not include any account of my travels out and back. Here's that story.

My trip east began around 11:30 am on Tuesday, April 26. I left Olympia following familiar routes: I-5 to WA 18 to I-90. As always, I-90 was busy and the descent east from Snoqualmie Pass is still under construction. I was glad to reach the exit for WA 26 which put me on a low traffic two lane highway that would take me across The Palouse, Washington's rolling green agricultural southeast. The late afternoon light accentuated the dramatic topography as I made my way to US 195 and south to Lewiston, Idaho. From there I followed US 12 along the Clearwater River to my cousins Andy and Phil Foster's place in Kamiah, Idaho. The sun was already below the ridge as I drove up river, the soft light easing me through the last miles of a 400 mile day.

Next morning I took my time getting on the road, pulling out around 10:00 am after joining Andy and Phil in feeding their horses. Leaving town I spotted a bald eagle flying off with a catch from a nearby stream. Minutes later a large bird (a grouse, maybe) popped out of the tree line on a curve and glanced off my windshield, taking my driver's side wiper blade with it. When I turned around and returned to the spot I found the shattered remains of my wiper blade but no bird. I replaced the blade in Kamiah and set out again.

Destination this second day was Hagerman, Idaho. Sky was overcast with occasional showers. Not far south of Kamiah, I stopped at Nez Perce National Historic Site which commemorates one of the battles in the tribe's resistance to white settlement. The site offers a dramatic view of of a broad valley tucked among rolling foothills. Farther south, US 95 snakes alongside the Salmon River and the Little Salmon River. By late afternoon I was on I-84 at Fruitland and blasted the final 100 miles or so to Hagerman, arriving around 7:30. By this time I was in the Mountain time zone and had lost an hour due to the change, something I would encounter two more times as I headed east.

View from Nez Perce

Hagerman is about 90 miles east of Boise and is where cousin Tom Angel parks his travel trailer when not working or exploring elsewhere. After two long driving days, I was ready for a day off. I slept in the Red Truck parked by the trailer. We spent time talking and catching up. Tom took me out to see some fossil hoof prints in the Malad River gorge and later to Hagermen Fossil Beds National Monument where we had a commanding view of a wide bend in the reservoir behind one of the Snake River dams.

Day Four was Friday and time for my dash to Yellowstone National Park. Madison Campground was opening for the season and I wanted to be sure to snag a campsite. I didn't think a 278 site would fill up on what was an overcast day with rain and possible snow in the forecast. Even so, I always like getting in earlier rather than later. Left Hagerman around 10:00 and motored east on I-84 and I-86 until turning northeast on I-15 at Pocatello before exiting on US 20 to West Yellowstone, Montana. Expecting that the evening might be inclement in camp, I figured I'd find a local restaurant for dinner so I wouldn't have to fix food in the rain. Much of US 20 was limited access and once it became less restricted food choices were few. I grabbed a something resembling a Philly cheese-steak in Ashton.

Approaching the Montana border I could see snow on the mountain tops and drove through the occasional light rain shower. At the park I found Madison campground wonderfully less than full. Snow began falling just as I got in so I set up in mixed rain and snow. I got the truck leveled and gear stowed for the night without getting too wet. During a lull in the precipitation I made tea to go with my evening snack.

Saturday dawned cold with a dusting of snow on much of the landscape and the Red Truck. After breakfast I headed south through Lower, Middle and Upper Geyser Basins, an otherworldly excursion. The landforms around the geysers, mud pots, fumeroles and other ways that hot water and steam erupt from the earth differ dramatically from the adjacent lands. Much of the park is granite mountains and open meadows coursed by strong running streams. And then—Bam!--in the middle of this very traditional western landscape steam is rising everywhere, water is spurting and mineral deposits create bizarre patterns. My route took me to Old Faithful and the visitor center there. I joined the crowd for the 12:48 pm eruption which came off pretty much right on time. The road farther south is still closed for the season, as are most other roads and many of the facilities at Old Faithful. Tourists, though, were not in short supply. Parking lots were less than half full but plenty of people, including many foreign tourists, were taking advantage of what is open. Bison were out,mostly in the distant meadows.

 Wierdness in Yellowstone

My last day in Yellowstone took me up the road to Mammoth Hot Springs. On this day the bison were up close and in the road. I slowly followed the cars ahead of me and maneuvered my truck through the herd. At one point I could look out my window and see a bison eyeball more or less at eye-level. I could not see it but I sensed that the bison's massive hump was as tall as my truck. Mammoth Hot Springs are indeed mammoth. The steps in front of the post office are flanked by stone bears. I drove out the Lamar Valley Road a few miles and took in the more expansive views there.

By now it was 1:00 and time to get moving. I exited the park at Gardner, Montana, fueled up in Livingston, followed I-90 through Billings and ended up in Ranchester, Wyoming where I found the Ranchester Western Motel, an older L-shaped motel that advertised a continental breakfast and wi-fi. I'd hoped to make Rawlings was tired. Turned out to be a bargain at $55. Food in Ranchester was no bargain and limited. Still, I was hungry and got food that didn't make me ill. Options would have been better in Billings but I wasn't hungry then. I think I got a burger and fries. I was the only lodger at the Ranchester Western that night

Getting back into Wyoming on Sunday after Yellowstone put me in good position to reach Devil's tower on Monday. The continental breakfast was mostly cereal, toast, fruit and Fox news but it got me started until I found a good breakfast about 50 miles down the road. Traffic was light and Wyoming Public Radio came in reasonably well. I enjoyed hearing their very contemporary singer-songwriter music programming on a Monday morning as I cruised along the freeway to the exit for Devils Tower National Monument at Moorcroft. I reached the monument around 1:30 which allowed time to explore.

The campground is located along the Belle Fourche River was open for the second day of the season (one loop, that is) and largely empty when I arrived. It never filled even half full. Cottonwoods along the river and in the campground were just starting to put out new leaves but still mostly bare. The basalt formation that is Devils Tower was clearly visible from everywhere in the campground. A trail to the base of the Tower took me through a prairie dog town whose inhabitants stood at the top of their burrows, watched me pass by and make sounds which I assume mean something to them. The clear, moonless night gave me my first complete look at the still-early spring sky. 

Devils Tower

The following morning I drove up to the visitor center and hiked the trail around the base of the Tower. Devils Tower is the the first National Monument established by the United States (Theodore Roosevelt, 1906). Cool morning air and shade made for a pleasant walk before another long day of driving. On this day I would begin shamelessly bagging states I had never visited before. South Dakota was the first. I followed I-90 to breakfast in Whitewood, then on to Badlands National Park, passing through on the scenic drive. I stopped at the pull outs and gawked but it was a quick drive-through on a hot day that did not encourage much rambling. After a late afternoon dinner in Murdo, I turned south on US 83 heading for Valentine, Nebraska. I'd never been to Nebraska or Iowa and wasn't about to miss this opportunity to bag these two states.

Valentine advertised on its website camping at the city park which made it a good stopping place after a long day. Directions to the park were not obvious on the drive into town but the first person I asked told me how to get there. The park is down a short hill by a stream. It did not have designated campsites. I backed into a level spot by a picnic table like another camper, filled out a registration envelope, paid my five dollars and was in for the night. The sound of flowing water lulled me to sleep.

Morning was chilly. The still-bare trees and weak early sun looked like winter. I was up and out early, following US 20 across green and rolling farmland. This early in spring, many of the fields were being prepared for planting. Several of the small towns I passed through offered camping in their city parks. Got a ticket after a state trooper clocked me at 73 passing a semi truck in a 60 zone. The actual citation was for improper passing (I did not signal) and a warning for speeding. He noted my Veterans For Peace bumper sticker and thanked me for my service. Not long after the citation I crossed into Iowa. My planned destination was Fort Dodge but I decided to push farther on and ended up in a Howard Johnson's in Waterloo.

Now it's Thursday, my 10th day on the road. I am all cleaned up and civilized-looking for my arrival in Winnetka, Illinois for a zero day at the home of Tony Hodson and his wife Karen Jones. I served with Tony in Vietnam and have kept in touch ever since. Before Winnetka I have another 90 miles of Iowa and northern Illinois. I cross the Mississippi at Dubuque and follow US 20 to Galena, hometown of Ulysses Grant where I stopp to pay my respects. The local visitor center is all-things US Grant—lots of memorabilia and history. Across the river and up the hill is the house that grateful hometown citizens built for him that he never really lived in.

Somewhere after Valentine I must have crossed into spring because Illinois looks like a well-advanced eastern spring to me. Trees are leafed out, not fully, but enough to demonstrate new growth. Certainly more evident than two days ago in Valentine. Temperatures are warmer. Rural Illinois is a pleasant drive. Beginning in Rockford, though, I'm back on I-90—the Jane Addams Parkway—heading toward Chicago in heavy traffic, paying tolls along the way. I make my way on to the Tri-State Tollway and into Winnetka.

My zero day turns into two zero days. The company is good, the accommodations pleasant and an extra day of not driving appeals to me very much. The extra day also means that I will be looking for a campsite on a Sunday evening rather than Saturday when more people might be doing the same. We filled the time with conversation, food, the occasional walk and watching the Cubs on TV. Over the course of two days Tony and I compare memories of our year in Vietnam. We remembered many of the same events and people. Some of those events and people we remember differently. Some things only one of us remember.

Early on a Sunday morning I roll out of Winnetka, through downtown Chicago and into Indiana and Ohio. It's a day of mostly interstate driving under overcast skies and occasional showers. Traffic's not bad but it's steady. I miss the wide-open freeways in Wyoming and South Dakota. I cross into the eastern time zone, losing another hour in the process. In Chillicothe I find Great Seal State Park which is about five miles northeast of town in a rural neighborhood. The park is largely empty. A group of adults and children are picnicking under a ramada but the park is otherwise empty—no one else is camping. I set up and wait out a rain shower before preparing dinner. The ramada group departs leaving the park entirely to me. Sweet.

Camp at Great Seal

The last day of the outbound trip starts out rainy and wet. I pack up quickly and find breakfast in town under a roof before setting out on US 35 though southeast Ohio and into West Virginia. In Nitro, West Virginia I pick up I-64, my final route into Virginia. Along the way, I stop at the New River Gorge National Scenic River in West Virginia for a long lunch break before the final push. 

 New River Gorge

Traffic is very heavy with big trucks in both lanes when I-64 joins up with I-81 in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. After about 30 miles I'm able to get onto US 340 to Waynesboro and US 250 which  take me into Nelson County. I arrive a Peyton and Carol's place around 5:30 pm.

Setting my brake and looking at a place I've visited many times before, I can't believe that I actually drove from Olympia, Washington to the middle of Nelson County, Virginia. It seems like an enormous undertaking yet here I just did exactly that. By myself. And had fun. I've been mostly on my own the past two weeks I am looking forward to company. I can decompress now.  I don't have to drive anymore.


The three of us went out to dinner shortly after I arrived. Sitting on the seat of Carol's car I felt a bump on the back of my thigh and thought “engorged tick” and thought it odd that I had not noticed it before. At the men's room of the restaurant, I confirmed that it was a fat tick. I pulled it out along with a chunk of skin but it left an ugly wound. Next morning I went to a local medical clinic and ended up with a 10 day supply of antibiotics.

Welcome to Virginia.

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