Saturday, October 31, 2009

Carolina Beach State Park

After yesterday's clear moon-lit drive, Morty sloshed through miserable cold, showers and fog all the way from Weythville's 7 AM departure until we were just outside of Wilmington around 2 PM. Another 300 mile day, but then the skies cleared and it warmed up into the 80s. Almost too good to be true.

The campground is only about 10% filled, and this on Halloween. I guess we'll have no goblin parades here tonight, unlike some Michigan campgrounds. We are on the intracoastal side of the island, but it is just a short bike ride to the ocean side. Seniors get $5 off the $18 nightly camping fee, but you have to make your own electricity. Only five of the North Carolina's campgrounds provide elcectricity, and only one of those is in the coastal region -- something to think about for summer camping. We are nestled in amongst 100 foot tall pines, and tomorrow the park rangers will be teaching us about snakes.

Lynne and I biked the park grounds, and found the hiking path for the Venus Fly-Catcher plant. Afterwords, I biked across the island to check out the boardwalk and beach along with the beach town garishness of the off-season.

Tomorrow Morty will be back on his 99 mile schedule with a trip to Myrtle Beach State Park. We are hoping this good weather holds despite the forecast of rain. The South Carolina state parks seem to have electricity and ocean-front living -- a couple of things that are increasingly important.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Back on the Road Again

After five weeks of tending to the administrivia at home, Morty headed southeast for some sun and surf. He was a little balky about getting loaded again, consequently it was three PM before the big wheels were a turnin'.

A small giltch was also encountered that could have added to the delay -- the electric step was stuck in the closed position. Upon inspection though, it was determined that a yellow birch leaf was interfering with the magnetic sensor. This little gizmo can tell when the door opens and sends the step out to meet our feet. It's just a little difficult to envision just how sensitive it must be if a freshly fallen leaf can trick it into missing the comings and goings of the door.

We took the route to the North Carolina shore that we used to travel twice a year, but this time due to the late start we made it to only the half-way point -- Wyethville, VA. We will spend the night in the Flying J parking lot and get an early start in the morning. As usually reckoned, this was a 333 mile day -- something that is necessary when there is a window of only three weeks or so for tripping. We are aiming for our first destination of Wilmington, NC -- the next big city south of our old haunts at Atlantic Beach.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Orionid Meteor Shower

Yet another small disappointment. Tried to capture some photos of the supposedly abundant meteors streaming through the sky tonight.

Box score: saw three, captured none on over sixty 30 second exposures. I've done considerably better without trying.

It does make a good retirement hobby though.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Pickerington Ponds Metro Park

Last night was the first frost of the season. We seem to be seeing the effects of it in a big way today. We made it to the Pickerington Ponds, but saw scant wildlife compared to the summertime. There were just a few ducks and a pair of cardinals. As we drove from one pond to another, a great blue heron jumped into the air from a stream, but it was behind us before we saw it.

The tree top nests of the heron seemed to be quite empty. A strange duck type bird did fly near us as it was squawking up a ruckus but it landed in the long grass before we could identify it. Lynne spotted a (spotted?) hawk as it flitted above a pheasant in some short grass. Evidently the pheasant was the wrong size for the next meal, and was allowed to fly away to some taller grass as the hawk left to seek some more fitting prey. Also spotted pairs of ducks and deer, which were captured on silicon.

We made a return trip to the Slate Run Farm to see how the autumn chores were progressing. The turkeys were quite a bit more vocal than last week, undoubtedly they are getting more anxious with each passing week. We got some good pictures of the meat in the smokehouse, and the preserves in the cellar.

On the way to dinner, the sun was blasting through some red and yellow leaves that provide some seasonal picture opportunities.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


This is the coldest October I can remember. Can someone please ask Al Gore what is going on with our global warming? The new sandals are still working for me. This evening's forecast is for below freezing temperatures. We are still about a week away from heading out on our next trip -- which will be to warmer weather. So this meant that it was time to inject the anti-freeze in Morty's plumbing.

I got the water drained with no problem, setting the master control valves to the tank-fill position. Then I placed the anti-freeze bottle into position and turned on the pump. It promptly sucked in my entire supply of two and a half gallons. Holy Smokes, there isn't that much piping in there! Then it occurred to me that not setting the valves to the winterize position meant that the pink stuff was going into the water tank. So I headed out to the store to get a couple of gallons more. On the way back, it further occurred to me that all I had to do was pump the water tank through the kitchen faucet back into the empty bottles, and all would be not-too-bad.

So now Morty is ready for the cold, and my supply of pink anti-freeze is up to the three and half gallon mark. It will be so nice to be following the Sun soon.

Early Results from Google Voice

We called several family members using Google Voice in the last couple of days.

Two calls to New England were flawless. Great sound quality for the entire duration of each call. One call to rural northeast Ohio was sub-par in sound quality -- with a slight tinny echo in the background-- but that might have been an effect of the destination hardware.

In addition to putting a "Call me Free" gadget on my blog pages, I also put a little blurb into my email signature that does the same thing. This works by opening a little window that asks for your name and phone number. It then calls you, and then immediately begins ringing my Google Voice phones. How cool!

So on balance, we are very happy with the performance of the system, and delighted with the free cost structure.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Phone Number Change -- Google Voice

On our last trip, I wanted to switch off the desktop computers for economy and safety. That inadvertently also switched off the phone answering machine. As a result, our home voice mail reverted to an older phone that was having fits, and called my cell several times a day. We also probably missed many legitimate phone messages. In looking for a better system, I found Google Voice which requires a new phone number, but is free.

I was lucky to be able to get a new number, 614-859-9365, which is only 1 digit different from our old one which had the 855 in the middle.

There are some game-changing features that come with Google Voice:

Free long-distance calling in North America

Incoming calls ring on multiple different phones that you set up

Voice mail is transcribed and sent as text to your Internet page

You can initiate calls from your computer

You can read about all the features here: Google Voice

The drawback, is that you have to request an invitation, and that can take some time. In my case it was only a couple of weeks. Anyhow, we will see how well it works -- stay tuned.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Slate Run Farm Metro Park

Slate Run Farm Metro Park provided a nice splash of fall color with a little atmosphere from 19th century farming. I was actually looking for the Pickerington Ponds park, but went the wrong way on Gender Rd. (The Prius has many of the metro parks in her five-year-old nav system, but not the Ponds.)

This made for a very enjoyable afternoon. The farm had authentic canning and smoking facilities with a staff of very dedicated re-enactors tending to the chores and animals. Realistic too -- I almost made it passed the slopping of the hogs, without gagging. There were even freshly laundered clothes drying on the line. How bizarre is it to get all worked up about travelling to some distant place to see these things when so many folks have them in their own back yards?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Benjamin Franklin

I had to get my iPod Touch replaced last week because of a broken home key. In getting the replacement set up, I rediscovered the free Kindle app, and that led to finding some free books on Amazon. One of the first alphabetically was the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. Here is the link, but the price is up to $0.99: Amazon So, I selected that while on the elliptical machine at the Y, and "boom" there it was. I started reading it and was "hooked" immediately.

From what I've read so far, his main focus is on his early years from about age 16 to 23 and how he purposefully developed his skills and character through some enormous hardships. Every time it seemed like he was about to get a break, the rug was yanked out from under him. Life lessons galore -- should be required reading for every teenager who wants to amount to anything. There are some gaps like during the course of the Revolution. The examples he set, both then and for now are remarkable. Life experiences in the early cities of Boston, New York, and Philadelphia is vividly portrayed, including the scheming and politicking of the more prominent.

There are huge advantages to reading on the Kindle on the Touch: large easy to see type, quick turning pages, one-hand manipulation, and background music. The feature that I don't much care for though  is that you never know where you are in the book physically -- there are no page numbers, or whether it is about to end. When electronic books add such a feature -- "here's how much you've read and how much is left" -- they will become much more popular.

The autobiography is something I highly recommend. So much, that I've added a Benjamin Franklin quote gizmo to this blog's right column.

Friday, October 09, 2009

I Can Haz Money 4 Cheezburger???

Imagine my surprise when a Google postcard arrives in the mail telling me that cash is accruing in my account.
From Family & Pets

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Sandals -- not just for summer anymore

The sandals that served me for the summer have come apart with the coming of the autumnal equinox. This was my first experience with sandals since toddler days. I was surprised at how healthy and fit they made my feet, and was a little distressed to see them fail so soon. Actually, the fact that they cost less than $10 should have been warning enough  -- or maybe I should not have assumed that they would be fine for hiking through the surf.

So I was interested to get an email announcing lifetime free shipping from , the internet shoe retailer. I took a look at their offerings, and found a good looking replacement in the $45 price range. In a color combination that defies description, "Mud/Squash" Columbia Sandals. Certainly a lot more expensive, but still reasonable if they are a relatively more durable.

They arrived in two days, and I am amazed at how supportive and comfortable they are compared to my old ones. The fit is noticeably improved, and I am more confident that I won't trip because they might get snagged on some protrusion.  Even though the temperature and weather here has plunged into the 40s and rainies, I haven't worn anything else, except for my work-outs. And I think the health benefits are actually superior to  the cheapies. Now I begin to wonder about how cold will it get before I give in and give them a rest.

Monday, October 05, 2009


Visited a small, nearby metro park this afternoon. Took a few cloudy autumm day pictures. Combined them with a few from springtime.

Saturday, October 03, 2009


Still in between trips... Went to dinner with an old friend who mentioned a local shop Aquarium Adventure on Sawmill Rd. So we drove over to have a look. My small camera was in my pocket, so we grabbed a few fish pics.