Tag Archives: outdoorsy

New grill

In preparation for Labor Day, I tried to get the grill working. Since the grill has probably not been fired up in about 3 years, it’s not in the best shape. As I started cleaning out the old lava rocks, the burners crumbled into rust and dust. 🙁
So, the decision whether to get a new grill, or try to fix the one that’s there. I went to Walmart and looked around, finally finding that I could get replacement burners to stick in there. Looks like I can also get a replacement grill surface. So I can essentially have a new grill for about $35, rather than the $150 or $200 it would cost to actually replace the whole thing.
So I got a new burner, and spent the last hour assmbling it and coaxing it into the grill. And, voila, I have a new grill, sort of, and should be able to grill something tomorrow. I’m very pleased with myself.
Of course, the grill surface itself is in pretty poor shape, and I also spent about a half hour scrubbing it until it looks like I could actually cook on it and not die as a result. And I’ve replaced the icky nasty 10-year-old lava rocks with nice new ceramic briquettes.
So, perhaps tomorrow I’ll see if I actually remember how to grill something. 🙂

Location awareness

Bergie has posted more stuff about location awareness, and it’s very cool stuff. Plazes.com has a desktop app that lets you register locations where you usually hang out, and then it knows where you are based on what address(es) you are connecting from.

There are still some problems with it, such as, predictably, that our proxy/firewall at work seems to block it, and I don’t know what port(s) it wants open. It does cool stuff like, no only “where am I”, but also “where have I been” which is a flash application that draws a time/position map of where you’ve been. It would have been very cool to have had this running since January, since I’ve been more places this year than any year ever.

The grunt work involved is that I have to register all the “plazes” that I am likely to visit. But, presumably, if there’s critical mass achieved, we’d end up with any place I visit (open wireless locations, for example) already being registered, and it would Just Work.

Now, I need to go read more of the documentation.

But the very coolest thing I’ve discovered so far is exactly what we were talking about that night in Moscow – the ability to integrate Plazes with Flickr, so that photos are tagged with a location, and you can search for photos of a particular place, by coordinates. Obviously, this is still very basic, but I hope that as the data set grows, you’ll be able to search for “photos near Lexington” and the like. It’s a pretty exciting new piece of metadata for us geo-geeks.

Spare Tire

Shortly after I bought my Jeep, I had all new tires put on it. On discovering that the spare wasn’t the same size as any of my other tires, I arranged to have that one replaced, too. When I went to pick it up, I was told that they couldn’t get it off, and so had not replaced it. I asked about this the next time I was at the Jeep dealer, and they tried, and also were unable to get it off.

When turning the nuts, they would simply free-wheel in their sockets, as though the other end wasn’t attached to anything.

I ignored this little problem for several years.

This morning, however, I had a flat tire, and this caused me to give it a little more thought. I mentioned it to Annie this morning, and she told me to come over so that Bob could look at it, before I went and spent a lot of money getting someone to tell me that they couldn’t do anything about it.

So, I went over to Bob and Annie’s house, and we worked on it for about 4 hours. By which, of course, I mean that Bob worked on it, and I peered at him and tried to appear useful. Finally, we got it off of the Jeep, and got the bolts cut off, so that we could remove the tire from the bracket to which it was bolted. We then re-mounted everything, and attached it with bolts that can actually come off if the occasion arrises.

So, if any of you jeep-driving readers in the state need a P225/75R15 tire, never used, Goodyear Wrangler, just let me know. I imagine we can work out an arrangement. The tires that I’m actually driving on are 235s, and so, although I could use this as a spare in a pinch, I’d really rather have one that’s the same size. Hopefully I’ll get that taken care of as soon as I return from Washington.


Every year in Wilmore, the Ichthus music festival brings 15-20,000 kids to town. This has been going on since 1970. I’ve been in town since 1989, and have never been to one.

One year, I rode my bike through the campgrounds, using my wrist band from a recent hospital visit as a pass. But it was just while they were setting up, and hardly anybody was there yet, so that doesn’t really count.

Lisa gave me a pass to the festival, so that I could go out there to talk with Jason about getting the photos up on the website.

I went out around lunchtime just to look around, and then a little later to take Jason the detailed instructions for getting the photos up there when the festival is over. I’m reasonably sure I was the only person on the campground wearing a tie.

Towards the end of the work day, I went back out to see how things were going, and to look around a little more. This time I changed so that I wasn’t so conspicuous, and got some interesting pictures.

I went to hear some strange band on the third stage, whose music consisted primarily of the lead “singer” screaming at the top of his lungs. When he took a break in the middle of the song to play the trumpet, it turned out that he was rather talented. Unfortunately, then he went back to screaming.

As evening wore on, I listened to a band called “Kids in the way”, and they made up my mind to call it a day and go home. They had a lot of energy, but very little talent. This would have been a mistake, because I would have missed the real experience. As I was about to leave, I saw Paul, who was taking pictures with his fancy camera. He offered to meet me by the backstage entrance and show me around. Woah!

So I stuck around a little bit, and a little later, we went backstage, and then went across in front of the stage, close enough to feel the sweat, to listen to Relient K. They were really good. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. And, despite the earplugs, they were really really loud. Paul’s pictures are better than mine, because he has a real camera, but I had a lot of fun.

At the end of their set, the MC announced that there was a tornado coming in, and that we should take shelter. After a few minutes, he came back on and said, I really mean it. Take shelter. Now.

Then the wind started. People started taking it seriously. We went backstage. A bunch of people were under the stage. I was a little more out in the open, but still behind a lot of concrete. It rained for about an hour, harder than I’ve seen rain here for some time. The lightning was very impressive. Ichthus is known for being muddy – we used to call it Mudthus, in college. And the rain made up for the two sunny days.

So, I’ve experienced Ichthus, at least a little bit. Sarah wants ot go out there today, but I don’t know for sure if we’ll actually get to go. We’ll have to see. We’re doing the “Reforest the Bluegrass” project today, if I can find where they are doing it.

Huskey Grove Branch

This morning I attended the Huskey Grove Branch United Methodist Church.

I did this because I wonder what would cause someone to live in a place like that, and what kind of people they are. Why would someone live in a place where 4-wheel-drive is a requirement to get to your front door? I suppose I also wonder why people would live in Pigeon Forge, or towns like that (Las Vegas, for example), but I suppose that most of these people lived in Pigeon Forge long before it became the 24×7 flashing lights tourist trap that it is now.

The church was a very beautiful building way out on Huskey Grove Branch road, which is off of the road into the Smokey Mountains National Park, a little ways in, if you go in from the Pigeon Forge entrance.

There were 13 people in attendance, if you count me. One family has 3 boys, and so comprised close to half of those in attendance. After the service, they had a congregational meeting, because they had a majority of the members present. One of the topics, unsurprisingly, was that, due to falling membership, finances are becoming a serious problem, and they’re not sure how they will remain open very much longer.

The people were very pleased to have a visitor. Apparently that never happens, which is hardly much of a surprise. It’s not the sort of place you’d stumble upon by mistake. But I had seen the sign several times a year, driving past it to the mountains, for more than a decade now. So it seemed worth a visit.

Although I had intended to stay in the mountains for two nights, after having such a hard time finding a place to stay, and then the episode in the Elkmont woods, I decided to come home tonight. I’m worn out.

A candidate for sainthood

I’d like to nominate for sainthood the bloke who thought it would be a good idea to throw some tincans up in the air and have them tell us where we are. The Global Positioning System is one of the top hundred inventions of the last 100 years. I think I’d put it right up there with the Internet.

Of course, if it wasn’t for the Internet and the GPS, I would not be lost deep in the woods …

The image displayed here shows me walking in (I believed) a straight line, between about 12:15pm and 1:55pm today. The point at which I decided I was lost is left as an exercise for your imagination. This is the backtrack from my GPSr, intermittently losing contact with the satelites, so you can assume that my actual path was even more circuitous. (Note: I changed the image a few times, because I wasn’t sure I had the right part of the track. I’m certain I have the right bits now.)

If you read the book “The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon”, and didn’t understand why it was scary, here’s a few friendly tips for you.

When you’re lost in the woods, everything looks like a trail. Right up to that “Dear God I’m going to die in here and they’ll find my bones next spring” moment. Then nothing looks like a trail, even if it has a yellow center line. So don’t leave the trail, because you won’t find it again.

If you believe, as I once did, that carrying a GPSr ensures that you cannot ever get lost, make sure you take your cell phone with you. You’ll find that you get the best signal if you climb to higher ground.

When you’re deep in the woods, the GPS starts lying to you. For a time, it will tell you that the destination is 300 feet ahead of you. Then it will say that it’s 2 miles behind you. Then it will stubbornly refuse to tell you anything at all. Then, suddenly, you’ll crest a hill, and it will tell you that you just fought your way 500 feet through thorns in the wrong direction.

When you’re lost in the woods, all spiders are poisonous, and even pinecones can transform themselves into rattle snakes. Don’t ask me about the mechanics of this. I think it’s covered in “Tom Gordon.”

0.15 miles is approximately 750 feet. This may take you about 3 minutes to walk on flat uninterrupted ground. When you are lost, this may take more than an hour, because you are incapable of maintaining a straight line for any distance, and although you are certain that you are correcting back to the straight path after going around an obstacle, you’re wrong.

And, if you missed the other tips, here’s the important one. Never leave the trail. Never leave the trail. Never leave the trail.

Ok, that was a *REALLY* scary hour. Or was it just 20 minutes? I’m really not sure.

Then, suddenly, you emerge back onto the 4-foot-wide pave trail, with startled pleasure-walker tourists and their kids in strollers, looking with mild curiousity at your wild eyes and soaked-to-the-waist jeans, and it all seems vaguely silly and not worth talking about. “Oh, don’t mind me. I just spent the last 2 hours – or was it 15 minutes – in terror and certain that I’d be eating leaves and grass by sundown.”


Oh, and just so there’s no confusion, I *did* find the cache, and logged it. So there. Nyeah.


I’m enjoying a spot of tea (frightfully civilized, wot?) by my campsite. I’m still not quite sure of my plans for the day. Yesterday was very frustrating. And, at this price, I really don’t want to stay here, as nice as it is.

I had thought of going to the little church just inside the National park. I have been curious, for about 15 years now, what it is like. I think I can still make it on time, but my tent is still rather wet.

I guess I’ll try. I wonder what traffic will be like this morning.

No vacancy

Well, apparently, you can’t just drive to Pigeon Forge and expect to find a place to put up a tent.


I got to the north end of Pigeon Forge at 7pm, emerged from the south end a mere 45 minutes later (about 3 miles), and drove to the camp site I had chosen. Only to find that it was full. So I went to the next place that I had chosen, which turned out to be about 15 miles further than I thought it was. The surly attendant wanted a $30 deposit, and could not tell me for sure what it would cost for a night. So I didn’t stay there.

Around 9:30 I had just about decided to just go home. But I stuck it out. With the help of my GPS, I located several other campgrounds that were full. I finally ended up at the KOA on the north side of Sevierville. 35d59.416,-83d36.144 The drive down here was about 150 miles, and I’ve driven about another 70 or 80 looking for a camp site.

So, at about 11:00, I got my tent set up, and got my dinner. Chicken noodle soup never tasted so good.

It’s nice here. I think. I couldn’t actually see anything when I drove in, so for all I know I might be on the edge of a oozing swamp.

So much for my plans of writing a chapter this evening. Good night.

Caching Barefoot

(With apologies to Wil …)

Last night I attended the Geocky Summer Blast at 37d58.917,-084d37.944 (On a related note, I’m working on a WordPress plugin that will automatically convert coordinates, in reasonable formats, to a series of links, to a GPX file, a LOC file, and a map of the location. Stay tuned.)

There were perhaps 25 geocachers in attendance. Good food, a great time with friends, and 5 on-site event-only geocaches which were actually pretty challenging. One of them even attacked me. I am not making this up.

A zillion thanks to “Maxine & Me” and to Debbie, of course. And to the General, too, I suppose, grudgingly. 😉

I haven’t done much geocaching in about a month, and I think that, maybe, if I get certain “must do” projects done today, I’ll go caching this afternoon. And maybe I’ll actually get out to Wilmore to do some much needed maintenance on Burning Bush, stage two of which is reported either missing or washed away or damaged in some way.