Monday, February 22, 2016

Travel suspended

I have struggled with how to explain that our trip is over and decided to take a line from the politicians who are now getting out of the presidential race. They don't say they quit. They don't say they give up. They say that after discussions with family and supporters they have decided to "suspend" their campaigns. There is a lack of finality in making such a statement and I have no idea what this means to a politician. What it means for this blog is that I am back home and the blog will now go dormant until I take my next trip.

I thought I should add one final picture. I know this looks like the picture I started with, but the car and trailer are pointed in the opposite direction. The driveway at the lake is a little tight for positioning a trailer so I decided I will wait until the drifts melt and I can drive on the grass to position the trailer for departure.

I appreciate your attention to this blog. To tell you the truth, I was surprised so many folks would take an interest. I promise to write more on my next trip.

I have been actively blogging since 2002 and in that time have written thousands of posts. I mostly focus my effort on education. My specific interest is in the role technology can play in education, but as you can probably tell from this blog I end up writing about a lot of things. Access to my content can be found at

Thanks again for sharing the ride.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Modern Rest Area

We are in our last day of motoring through Iowa. We do not move quickly because we are pulling a trailer that limits our speed. By this time we are tired of driving and have been taking two-hour shifts.

At one point I see a sign indicating that a "Modern Rest Area" was some 30 miles away. Of course rest area signs are common along interstate highways, but the "modern" was unusual. We are from Iowa. We spent eight years at Iowa State University near the location of the rest area getting our degrees and we began considering just what amenities might be available at a modern rest area that were unique. Flush toilets would be nice, but these have become quite common. Many rest areas have converted from paper towels to those air hand dryers. Most do not work very well. Perhaps modern technology has improved the hand dryer and Iowa has been allowed to be first to roll them out.

Eventually, we arrive and what we found was unique. The rest stop might be described as the Iowa State rest stop along I-35. The rest stop had a decorating theme based on digital computing. The walls had a pattern reminiscent of punch cards. Technology words - memory, digital - were embedded in the walls. The rest stop recognized the role of ISU and John Anatasoff as creators of the first digital computer (labeled as the Anatasoff-Berry computer). I have read many books on the history of digital computing and understand that creator is a unique label that many might contest. Still, as an ISU alum, I am glad I visited the modern rest area.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Tolls and Hawks in Kansas

Why should I have to pay tolls to take Interstate 35 through Kansas. It can't possibly be that I was granted the opportunity to view spectacular scenery. I paid approximately $20 to drive through the state plus the tax money I was charged for food and gas. I lived in North Dakota and then moved to Minnesota and Wisconsin. No tolls in these states. Clearly, Minneapolis is a major metropolitan area with complex highways and congested traffics, but makes no such requirements. The no toll states also have great open spaces that may not have local taxes that would support an expensive transportation project. 

I am thinking Kansans are just cheap and want to take advantage of those needing to get through the state. Perhaps they are irritated few stop. Those of us needing to make the trip should receive special compensation for having the view all of the Rock, chalk, Jayhawks signs. I know from general knowledge that these signs have something to do with basketball, but what about the signs would offer such information. To an outsider, it might seem that signs were touting some staple of the local economy or perhaps advertising the local zoo. It seems that the state bird is some kind of hawk and the local economy may depend on gravel sales. I did see hawks perched on dead trees and hay bales along the interstate. I am interested in raptors, but these "jay" hawks were hardly worth the price of admission.

Friday, February 19, 2016


We are waiting at an RV dealer to have the rPod winterized. This process kind of signals the beginning of the end for this trip. We are on the outskirts of San Antonio, but a day's drive north and we will be back in freezing territory again. We are still several days from home, but the next few days will mostly be driving. Winterization amounts to blowing our the water lines and adding antifreeze. Some folks do this themselves. Some folks change their own oil, too. Neither of these tasks is part of my skill set.

While we were walking out of the dealer's office and heading for some food, a couple of ladies stopped us in the parking area and asked if that was our rPod. We said yes. They then asked how we liked it and they added that it was "cute". This seems to be the word people apply to our camper - cute. Over and over - the rPod is unusual and people tell us it is cute. We said that we like it a lot, but feel small when parked next to the other RVs in camping areas. The ladies said that theirs was one of these giants and we thanked them for the shade.

I guess I would rather be called cute than a lot of other things. Cindy thinks they actually mean "hip". Being a hipster is kind of a current thing so I am not sure if she means hip as in hipster or hip as in cool or some similar term from the '60s. Hipster is this kind of studied look that is purposefully created and requires knowledge of what hipsters wear and do. I think our son is on the edge of being a hipster, but he does video and produces for a living so this is probably the thing to be. Hipsters like to think of themselves as "creatives". In contrast, I think of hip as casual, but confident. Hip is being willing to be a little different and not under the influence of the mobs that follow trends. 

That is me all over - confident and a little different. Cute is just fine with me. 

Time to drive again.

[San Antonio]

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Am I getting rich?

Am I getting rich from my online content? No

I thought this topic may interest some. It is a little geeky, but may address what you wonder about the ads that appear on the web content you view.

The material I generate does contain ads. The system I use (Blogger) is free and ad revenue is one reason Google provides this resource for free. I also include ads on my content because I am interested in the topic of ad-supported publishing and have the same questions as many others about how much money one can generate by offering free online content.

There are two general types of ad systems - one is based on views and one is based on clicks. The system based on views should be familiar to anyone who sees ads on television or in a newspaper. The individual who purchases an ad in one of these outlets pays a price based on the viewership or readership of the content. The idea, in this case, is that the provider (the newspaper or television station) puts the ad in front of a certain number of people - the more people, the higher price for placing the ad.

The Internet offers a different opportunity. The viewership for a newspaper is only generally known and there is no way to know how many people even read page 7. Internet providers know how many times a given page has been accessed.

Views only pay off when someone has a patron. Someone must agree to pay for views. In contrast, clicks only pay when a viewer clicks to access content. The advertiser knows that someone has looked closely at the ad. Google offers this type of agreement brokering deals with advertisers and this is the system I use.

Our trip blog has been up for about a month so I am providing the data from all my blog content for the past month (see the image appearing below - click to enlarge). My content generated 1476 ad impressions and 7 clicks. I made $2.10. So this total addresses the question of whether or not I am getting rich. All but 8 cents came from our travel blog.

For the most part, the other content I generate (not the travel blog) is fairly serious. I generate content for educators. I understand that my travel comments are likely more entertaining, but I think less useful in the long run. I attribute much of the interest in our travel comments to Facebook. I have included a few links to the travel content from Facebook and this generates a significant amount of interest and more clicks. I have no idea why this is the case.

Texas Gulf Shrimping

We spent several hours today at the Brownsville, TX, based Texas Gulf Trawling company.

A big part of the message concerned the business side of shrimping. U.S. shrimpers must compete with foreign growers who raise shrimp in shallow ponds. To allow shrimp to grow to a large size as the shrimp become crowded antibiotics are used. The residue of the multiple antibiotics used is the problem in imported pond reared shrimp. U.S. growers also pond rear shrimp, but antibiotics are not used. Importation of shrimp reared with the use of antibiotics is not allowed but inspection is rare and most get into the country. Sellers should provide information regarding country of origin, but most are unaware when making purchases. Major sea food restaurant chains (Red Lobster, Bubba Gump) use less expensive imported shrimp according to the Gulf Trawling host. The summary message - buy "live caught" to avoid unwanted antibiotics.

The shrimping industry is down drastically in the past 10 years, but doing better at present because of low prices for diesel. Fuel to move these slow moving boats to the areas in which shrimp are harvested is the largest expense.

Three to five men go out on a boat for weeks at a time. All are private contractors. The boat captains work for the company and the captain hires and pays the crew. The larger crew is put on when the expected harvest is greater for a given trip. From one to three of the men work as "headers". This company pops the heads off before freezing the shrimp. The amount of manual labor in harvesting tons of shrimp is mind boggling and the workers may go for days with only a couple hours of sleep a day.

A couple of things I learned:

Shrimp is frozen and this is a good thing. Fresh shrimp you may purchase at the supermarket has been thawed. The problem with thawed shrimp is dehydration. Shrimp are frozen in water to prevent dehydration and can be refrozen without a problem.

Shrimp live in the mud and shrimping is done at night when the shrimp come closer to the surface of the mud. A net is pulled along the bottom with a chain (called a tickler) that vibrates and brings the shrimp out of their holes.

Shrimping nets are constructed to exclude turtles and fish.

You cannot spot shrimp using sonar or some other electronic device. Shrimpers use a smaller net (see photo) to sample. This test net is used when searching for shrimp and while harvesting so the captain knows when to use the larger nets. The sample net is put down for 1/2 hour and the larger nets for up to four hours.

It is relatively easy to devein and peel a shrimp. A plastic tool (shown below) is pushed down the back and then used to separate the meat from the rest of the animal. Works great and we bought several.

Devein tool

Sampling net

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Suggestions for surviving at an outlet mall

I have some unique skills that have allowed me to survive and sometimes flourish in this complex world in which we live. As I age, I am sensing this responsibility to pass on my knowledge to future generations. There are plenty of elders willing to mentor others in business or academics. Sports teams often hire older players past their prime because such players provide positive role models in the locker room or on the bench. It is in this spirit that I am willing to pass on some of my unique wisdom - how to survive if you find yourself stranded at an outlet mall.

So, there you are stuck at an outlet mall far from home and access to the sports or news channels on television. You probably ended up here in good faith. You were foolish enough to believe the claim - let’s just stop in for a second so I can find some bargains for the grandkids. It is hard to argue that you are unwilling to sacrifice a few seconds for the grandkids. The problem with the request is that the definition of “a few seconds” is never made clear. I have time to write this post because a few seconds ago I was dropped off at a mall Starbucks (by mutual consent). Stretching a few minutes into several hours is possibly explainable by Einstein’s theory of relativity which I admit I do not understand. Something about space can stretch time. However, I know my wife is not an expert on advanced models of the universe so I am guessing “a few seconds” is simply a euphemism women use so men do not complain ahead of time. 

Anyway, back to my suggestions.

First, if you are new to the outlet mall experience, it is important to establish low expectations for your capabilities. I long ago made it clear that walking on concrete for long periods of time, stopping and starting to look in store windows or merchandise displays, resulted in foot pain. Foot pain causes me to move slower and slower and to become more vocal with sighs and groans. This becomes annoying to anyone expecting you to participate actively in shopping. With expectations managed, you should be allowed to sit somewhere comfortable for the duration.

Come prepared. Bring a book. Better yet, bring an iPad or computer and a phone that can serve as a mobile hotspot. Remember that being on the Internet for several hours places a great strain on your batteries so make certain your device has been charged or bring a cord. If you forget your cord, a depleted battery may also shorten the time you must stay. Make sure your phone is charged so that you can announce that your laptop has no more power and you can find nothing more to do.

Second, search for a food court. Many outlet malls have one. If you can find a food court you are golden and can survive for hours. There may be other mall husbands hanging out as well. Sit toward the outside away from the food stores. DO NOT make the cardinal mistake of immediately ordering a meal. Remember, you are here to pass the time and SAMPLE. If you feel conspicuous you can immediately purchase a soda to sip while you work on other things and carefully survey your options. Once you are familiar with your surroundings, work slowly. Perhaps a hamburger first. Wait a bit and then perhaps a chocolate dipped, ice cream cone. Some malls have a Starbucks next to the food court. Usually, the Starbucks will be in a separate room. You can pass an entire afternoon in such a setup. Visit the Starbucks to have a latte and use the wifi. Move into the food court for a little Chinese (the three selection option and not the four) and station yourself at a table near the Starbucks so you can make use of the wifi. Remember, slow and steady.

Finally, when your significant other returns with her treasures never comment on the quantity or ask about price. This will likely result in an invitation to participate more accurately and will not matter anyway. Offer to help carry the bags to the car.

I hope these recommendations are helpful. These are only general guidelines and you will have to make adjustments based on your surroundings and personal needs. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Relatives in Minnesota

For some portion of our last two winter trips, we have travelled with relatives from Minnesota. We get along well which is important when sharing a motel room or a camper. No worrying about splitting the bill when we eat. No complaints about my penchant for hanging out in coffee shops rather than shopping. No discussions of political issues. We get along well and this makes for a more relaxing time for all.

Well, there is one thing. I write a lot and this has long been the case. Back in 1997, I was working on my second book which focused on the potential of the Internet in K-12 education. I often use examples from classroom teachers we know or from our own experiences to illustrate key ideas in our writing. The Internet was fairly new to many people in 1997 and I was explaining how many different ways we had used the Internet when the entire community of Grand Forks, ND, was flooded in 1997. Many people have experienced devastating floods, but few people have been through a flood that required an entire city to evacuate. Anyway, we offered examples both leading up to the evacuation and afterwards of how we communicated and shared experiences. The big problem resulted from one simple sentence from this multi-page description. Instead of naming names, I simply said that we evacuated from Grand Forks to stay with some relatives in Northeast Minnesota and we continued to work with our North Dakota colleagues from there. Naming names was evidently what was expected and "some relatives" did not provide enough information.

Okay, Scott and Denise - here is my effort to make up for my oversight. I am guessing that 20 or so people will read this and this will be far short (I think) of the number of people who read the book, but I hope a specific mention here will somewhat compensate for my unintended oversight all of those years ago. Let it go!

What brought this issue to mind occurred in a fairly random way. Obviously, many topics I write about are fairly random. Cindy and I (Cindy is my wife and writing partner so I want to make sure no one else is slighted by vague personal references I might accidently use). We realized that while we were in Texas we had yet to have any of the barbecue Texans promote so loudly. We asked around and using the recommendations we received made our way to Rudy's in Brownsville. The recommendations were quite accurate. I have eaten at the "Salt Lick" outside of Austin several times and know this place is supposed to be among the best. Rudy's could easily compete.

So what does our meal at Rudy's have to do with SCOTT and DENISE. Well, while we do not argue about paying for meals we have together, we do have to make concessions to the sensitivity of the relatives from Minnesota (previously named). I remember one of the first times we took them to a "Mexican" restuarant. Remembering is not a problem - I am reminded often. The food was claimed to be "spiced up" to the point of being uneatable. I don't have my wife's taste for what I consider spicy foods, but at least I enjoy salsa and the hint of a pepper in BBQ sauces or rubs. If you don't want to eat curries with Cindy, at least try some salsa on your scrambled eggs or macaroni and cheese.

So, Scott and Denise, I think Rudy has the solution for your sensitivity. Each table comes with large bottles of BBQ sauce. There is a traditional sauce - sweet and just a little spicy. And then there is a second bottle just for those Minnesotans who like it bland.

Monday, February 15, 2016


I have taken and captured wildlife pictures for years, but I have never attached the label “birder” to myself. However, I backed many of my pictures from the last dozen years or so up to Google Photos and you can search these images by entering a search term. Entering “bird” generates quite a collection of images.

For me, calling someone a birder generates an imagery of a guy wearing a strange hat with binoculars and a bird identification book in his back pocket. I have personal friends who are birders and have even gone “birding” with them. I was pretty much lost. I could never see what they were looking at and when I happened to see a bird I had no clue what it was. It is my opinion that there are far too many sparrows. These birders kept “life lists” and might travel at great personal expense to add a few new entries. I, in contrast, used to shoot birds (with a gun) and mostly can recognize game birds. I also like to attract birds to my lake cabin deck and keep a list in my head of the species that show up to munch on black sunflower seeds, niger seed, and my home-made lard, peanut butter and various grains suet. Grape jelly and oranges are also productive attractants.

I understand people have personal passions and I suppose I have a few myself. If I somehow have taken to seeing birders as peculiar, the view was strongly shaped during a whale watching excursion we took while in Alaska. A group of birders decided to take the same trip (see previous comment related to life lists). This group kind of bolted from one area of the deck to the next when one of the birders called out a spot. After a while, it got annoying. I wanted to see puffins in the wild and even though I looked when I heard puffin mentioned, I had no luck.

We walked the elevated walkways of the South Padre Island Birding Center with a volunteer guide. This guy was cool and it turned out there was a lot to see. Among my collection of my bird pictures, I now have a photo of a Green Heron. I have a close up of two giant (this a description of their size and not part of their common name) pileated woodpeckers attacking suet on my deck. These same birds keep punching holes in my house. I have pictures of hummingbirds suspended in air taken with a fast enough setting that their wings show very little blur. I also think my photo of a baby loon riding the back of mom (I think) being fed a small fish by dad is more interesting. None of these make me a birder - maybe a photographer. Now, the green heron, on the other hand, is a good get.

I think a life list should be made up of photos you have personally taken and that are clear enough to be identified by other birders. However, I am new to this game and I guess the rules have existed far before digital gamers and telephoto lenses.  

Big Blue Heron

Green Heron

Least Bittern

Black-necked Stilt

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Hangin with our KOA homies

One of the surprises on this trip is that camping is popular and it is nearly impossible to get into a national or state park unless you book a year in advance. Weekends are especially challenging because you then have both travellers (not be confused with snow birds) and locals enjoying their days off. 

For the first time, we have resorted to a KOA. This is a whole different experience and a whole different crowd. I included a picture to help explain some of the differences. I seldom embellish my pictures, but I added an arrow to this one so that our rig would be noticed.

By now I have become fairly proficient at maneuvering in reverse and I was able to slide into our spot without damaging our neighbors. Hit one of those vehicles and I would have to ask for donations. I hate backing under supervision. They have this guy whose job is to take you to your spot in his golf cart. He then hangs around until you are positioned correctly. Between him and the neighbor sitting in his lawn chair reading on his ipad, I had an audience. No problem.

The lack of space at a KOA is more than made up for by the price - $65. However, given our present data plan challenges, this has turned out to be a decent deal. At $15 a gig, I figure we are saving $30 a day by having access to KOA wifi. It comes right to your "camping" spot and you don't have to walk down to headquarters and sit on the bench to use free wifi. We also have cable television. More than 50 channels. We did have to find a Walmart to purchase a coaxial cable so we could connect. Add this cost in the negative column.

I added a couple of beach pictures so it would not seem like we spent all of our time lounging at the KOA. 

[South Padre Island, TX]

Friday, February 12, 2016

Life in perspective

Yes, this is a picture of a common southern beer (Lone Star) and an oyster po-boy. The beer is what triggered the memory generating this post (the po-boy was good - oyster season just started).

I order a Lone Star once during any road trip when I notice it on the beer list. I like to quote song lyrics and noticing a Lone Star beer triggers the opportunity. Usually, Cindy has to listen when I break into song and then explain the significance of the lyrics. A blog post is probably better suited to my talents. The lyrics are from “Lightning Bar Blues” and I associate the song with a midwest bar band hero - Johnny Holm (the link above should take you to a version recorded in Ellendale, ND, in 2008). I last heard the band at a street festival in Alexandria, MN

The band starts the song acapella (use the link and at least listen to the first 30 seconds):

I don’t need no diamond ring
I don’t need no Cadillac car
I just want to drink my Lone Star beer
Down in the Lightning bar

Some versions of the song substitute Ripple wine for Lone Star beer, but I suppose the message is the same. The Ellendale version uses the reference to Lone Star and this is how I remember the song.

What a great comment on the “big picture” (not to be confused with the Big Tree).

I guess this is a drinking song. Please limit yourself to two.

[A bonus track from the band]

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Cool by proclamation?

Texans seem to have a thing about their image and evidently are not humble by nature. We folks from the midwest tend to be more reserved.

I do find the self promotion to be a bit annoying. Everything is not necessarily bigger and better in Texas. Take a look at the image below. This is officially "The big tree". It is a coastal live oak and is thought to be 1000 years old. Texans may not travel much because most folks on the west coast would immediately question whether this tree is, in fact, large. If you have visited Muir Woods or several similar areas along the west coast, you have likely had the opportunity to view far larger trees. The "Big Tree" is large only in contrast to the other trees in Texas and to other live oaks. The sign might be corrected to indicate that this is a "Big Live Oak". I make no disparaging comment regarding the age of the "Big Tree". A thousand years is definitely a long time whether a given tree is the record holder or not.

I kind of place the Texans who warn us all "not to mess with Texas" (home of the Pretty Big Tree) in the same category as the college football players who have learned to use the article "the" to emphasize something - e.g., THE Ohio State in contrast to the Ohio State. Athletes should be proud of their institutions and I guess it is true that Ohio State University is the only Ohio State University, but this is hardly unique as many states have one state university. If more than this is implied, the athletes from Ohio share the same lack of experience as the big tree fans from Texas.

[Rockport, TX]

Smell of the sea

How things and places are named can be a mystery? This is especially true when you are in a new area and unfamiliar with the history and culture.

We encountered this sign when driving along the beach. It struck me as funny. Hence, I took a picture.

I wondered why such an unpleasant name would be assigned to a beach. I was standing there and I noticed nothing unusual about the odor. Perhaps, I thought, the locals decided that "Stinky Beach" would be more successful than "Private Beach" in keeping tourists away. Who would lather on the sun screen and settle into a lawn chair on a stinky beach?

We must have been there on a good day. Winds and surf push sea grass up on the beach at this location and this mat of vegetation begins to rot. Evidently, the locals were not saving the location for themselves, but felt the need to post a second sign to explain. I also learned that a pile of rotting sea weed is called a "wrack". And this folks is what I learned today.

[near the Stinky Beach, Rockport, TX]

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Emergency - we are out of data

We have a 30 gigabyte phone data plan. There is also a roll over feature (limited to the unused data from one month) raising the total we had available until the 17th to 43 gigs. This has to cover our two phones and our mifi (a mobile hotspot we can turn on an access simultaneously from multiple devices). Our normal monthly utilization is about 10 gigs, but we purchase the larger plan because a couple times a year (like now) we travel and need more capacity.

I looked last night and we had used 26 gigs which should have allowed 17 gigs to get us to the 17th. Somehow after going to sleep last night we used everything we had left. Exactly how this happened is unclear. Possibly, we were watching our sling box before going to bed (a device that streams our television from our Minnesota residence) and turning off the television did not stop the feed. First world problem.

Cindy is on her phone and she trying to get a plan B in place. She had an acceptable deal, but then the line went dead and the next representative was unable to accept the original plan. This seems to happen frequently. I am guessing ATT has an "I screwed up button" the reps use when talking with customers.

I may have to go to McDonalds to continue posting. McDonalds does have decent coffee and now offers egg McMuffins all day long. Could be worse.

It turns out that ATT has no reasonable plan B. There is an unlimited plan (throttled) for the phones, but then you are not allowed to use your phone as a hot spot. Not acceptable. Looks like we will be paying $15 a gig for the next week.

This post cost 30 cents.

[Rockport, TX]

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Texas - Day One

It took two days to make the trip from Lafayette, LA, to southern Texas. The drive was slow and stressful because it was windy and the rPod is a "high profile" vehicle. On several occasions, we drove over these bridges that were steep and very tall. We assumed this unusual shape was to allow the passage of ships. Whatever the reason, the height and the gusting winds made the trailer feel unstable.

It was still windy today, but not as gusty so we were able to drive a little faster. We were getting "red flag" warnings to the navigation system in the car. The combination of heat, wind, and very low humidity increased the risk of fires and we did see several smoke plumes.

Our first Texas campsite is located at Goose Island State Park in Rockport, TX. We tried our television and we could receive 6 channels - 2 in English and 4 in Spanish. I guess that means we are deep in the heart of Texas.

The park supposedly has some great birding with nesting whooping cranes. I will have to find my telephoto and maybe I will be able to capture some interesting images.

[Rockport, TX]

Monday, February 8, 2016


I have reached the point in my life when I have the funds to invest in favorite things. Travelling is one of my favorite, favorite things and the low cost of gas makes travel by car quite attractive. I have always thought that spending time exploring with our young family was a valuable thing to do and I still believe you learn so much by seeing new things.

I believe that climate change is happening and that our energy policies bear some responsibility. We must include me. Driving about and pulling a trailer that reduces my mileage does cause me some concern. There seem to be some emerging alternative energy sources, but mobile energy seems a ways away.

What to do?

[Lafayette, LA]

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Mardi Gras

I know something about Mardi Gras. I have visited New Orleans many times and watched both seasons of Treme. I listen to Trombone Shorty and even watched Dr. John perform at a jazz festival. I have marched in a pretend parade complete with a band with a tuba player. I have maintained my dignity throughout showing nothing that is not normally visible.

I learned more about Mardi Gras on this trip. I had assumed that the parades and the event were a New Orleans thing. Not so. It appears every little town along the southern coast has an event and a parade. We attended such a parade yesterday and accidentally got in line behind a parade last night. Evidently, it is the thing to run a parade down a major highway. If your parade is a little short you soon have a couple miles of cars bringing up the rear. They are not honking because they are celebrating.

I still am mystified by the bead thing. They are cheap, but even the old ladies fight to get them. Do not get in the way or do what I was doing - trying to take photos. Beads would bounce off me as I searched for interesting shots through the view finder. The moon pie thing was new, but the moon pie is not a favorite. Why not throw Snickers bars? You can get bags of the minis cheap after Halloween and keep them in the freezer.

I wonder what happens to the bags of beads some carry away. Cindy says they might sell them on eBay. I think they throw them in the back seat and then throw them out when they eventually clean. The moon pies may even taste better when they dry out.

We attended the parade of the Mullet Magic Krewe.

The Queen

Bands played on floats. Doesn't this guy look like the perfect southern rocker. He was good.

[Gulf Shories, Alabama]

Friday, February 5, 2016

Red Neck Foodie

We eat way too much stuff. I know that obesity is a serious problem in the south and I am about to fall into the same predicament. The food is really good and too often fried.

This is our second prolonged southern trip and we have identified some favorites. Today we made a second visit to the Biscuit King. I cannot remember how we first visited this location. You drive out into the country some distance from Gulf Shores. The establishment is located in this strange style of building that reminds me of a quonset hut. This year it appears to have received a new paint job.

I am a fan of the breakfast options. The Biscuit King is known for biscuits. If  you have tried the McDonalds breakfast biscuit, think tastier, larger, and about the same cost. I had a smoked sausage, egg, and cheese and a cinnamon/apple for desert. Far more than I should have taken on. However, in order to write about food, you must consume food. Five stars, two thumbs up, and a blue ribbon from this food expert.

On the way out, I noticed this sign and decided I had to comment. I in no way endorse some of the political views that are common in the south. I guess free speech gives people the right to create such signs. However, I have a similar right to disagree and to say why.  Certain decisions in life are personal and the actions based on the beliefs guiding these decisions represent no threat to others. 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

I am a fan of straight lines

For whatever cognitive gifts I might possess, I do have to contend with some significant challenges. One of the more debilitating is my lack of direction. I never really know where I am at or where I have been. I would not have lasted long in pioneer times. I would wander off and that would have been the end of me.

I have developed some compensating strategies over the years. I have apps on my phone that allow me to be s little more adventurous when I am walking or driving the Ranger in the woods. There is always that potential risk that my battery may run out and I will be unable to retrace my steps. That little element of danger does make my life interesting, but I do keep an eye on the battery meter.

My go to strategy for all conditions is to move in straight lines. The beauty of this strategy is that it does not rely on a sophisticated mental map. I am incapable of generating such a map even when familiar with an area for many years. What I can do is to remember turns as long as the list does not become too long. As I acquire a lot of experience, I can modify this strategy to get to new places by remembering the turns to get to an old place that is close to the new place and then taking a straight line to the new place.

Camp grounds are a bad environment for me to navigate. Things are normally laid out as connected loops rather than straight lines. I guess I would be fine within a loop - within a loop the strategy is similar to the strategy for following a straight line. Follow the path and do not take an exit. However, moving from loop to look gets very tricky. I hate it when there are few lights at night and I have to try to get to the bath house and back. I take my phone in case I have to call someone to come and get me. 

I am lucky at this state park. I am located on a great straight road so I can get some exercise without experiencing stress.

I still take my phone for security. You can see what I mean by a straight line.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Chickened out

We abandoned our camper and head for a motel last night. We were in a tornado watch area and the friends that had stayed with us already had a room. It was an easy decision.

We decided to take down our attached screen porch. The structure did not seem strong enough to stand through a wind storm. The middle of the night was not the first time to do this and not with the winds coming up. We ended up creating a large rip in the fabric. Good plan, poor execution.

No tornadoes in our area. We are still receiving heavy rain this morning. Not much more I can say about the nylon porch. One day and it is gone. I guess experiences such as this just offer material for one more blog post.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Team building

Teachers often begin their year with workshops and the workshops often begin with team building activities. The teachers may be divided up into groups and then asked to complete an unexpected, competitive activity such as making something out of marshmallows and pipe cleaners or toothpicks. They must complete these tasks without benefit of a beer or other drink that might loosen folks up a bit and encourage the timid or reserved to get into the marshmallow task. Somehow these tasks are to prepare you for the challenges ahead. You really never know when a tooth pick construction project will be required.

We had out own team building task today. We are in Gulf Shores, Alabama, staying at the state park and we have guests (Cindy's brother Scott and wife Denise). We have grown to really like the rPod, but it is a little small for four people. It turns out it comes with this screen porch kind of thing that pretty much doubles your space. No offense to the Chinese, but they cannot write an instruction manual. It also seems that they have tried to save a little work and they combined the instructions for three or four porches in the same manual. Some go on the end of the rPod, some go on the side, some work with a different rPod. It struck me as similar to folks who have several different puzzles and for some strange reason throw everything in the same box. That and discarding a few random pieces is the reason I refuse to work on puzzles with the rest of the family. Pardon my use of these strange analogies that only occur to me. 

Anyway, we did get the porch assembled. Some creativity and problem solving were required. I heard only a few offensive words expressed and I maintained my normal, calm demeanor. Once we figured out which was the inside and which the outside, things went much better.

I am going to sleep on the porch tonight just because it sounds like fun and because I go to bed earlier than my traveling companions. I am a little concerned about wind. This nylon structure is pretty large and sitting on a blacktop slab so it cannot be staked down. I watched one of those wind surfers today and was impressed by the speed they could reach with their little kites. I am hoping I am not launched in the same way.  

I also wonder about raccoons. They are common camp ground visitors and I would not want a couple to begin nosing about in my new sleeping quarters.

[Gulf Shores, Alabama]

Monday, February 1, 2016

Fishin' from the pier

I was taking pictures of the sand dunes when I noticed the two guys in the kayaks. I decided to walk to the end to get some photos of these guys against the sun. When I reached the end I found something more interesting.

Here was a young guy with half a dozen heavy fishing rods. He was lowering a bait fish about the size of a northern (a game fish we catch in the north) down toward the water. This is where the guys in the kayak come in. One of these guys maneuvered his boat so that the bait fish dropped into his boat and he started paddling toward open water. Even though the pier was long it was evidently useful to get the bait much further out than a fisherperson could cast. 

These guys were after shark. With 1000 yards of 130 point test line, they had worked out a system for going after Dusky or bull sharks. Mako sharks were also moving through and were supposed to be a thrill to catch because they are the fastest shark. Imagine a 6-foot beast.

Unless you like to kayak, the guy on the pier seemed to get the best of the deal. It turned out that they usually take turns, but getting through the surf into deeper water was quite tiring at this location so the kayak guys got to the end of the pier they just stayed there.

No, we did not see a shark being caught. It takes patience to fish or to watch fishermen (or fisherwomen) fish,