Thursday, September 13, 2007

Arizona Trail journal December 24, 2006



I am sitting in a dry creek bed a mile south of Interstate 10. I took a road walk route not listed in the Dave Hicks' GPS coordinate route or described in the guidebook. Nonetheless, on a dirt ranch road heading north, I saw, off road, nowhere near a trail, a carsonite AZT post with an arrow pointing west.

Highlights since leaving Kentucky Camp:

Right when I left I walked through a snowstorm -- wet, heavy, Illinoisan flakes. It accumulated about two inches. Got some great snowy pics of the Santa Ritas draped in snow and low clouds. Adversity has its rewards.

Then 12 hours under my tarp, dripping snow from the tree above, a steady, gentle, but always surprising background noise.

Sunny and cool yesterday. Took a long break to dry tarp, shoes, socks, sleeping bag, on a grassy saddle with great views -- south to the ever-present Mt. Wrightson, west to the foothills of the Santa Ritas, east to the Empire mountains, and north to my next sky island, the Rincons. Nearby all rolling golden fields of long grasses. Reminded me of my beloved Harlem Hills Prairie back home. [postscript: the rolling grassy fields also reminded me of a popular background image of a green grass hill and blue sky used on Microsoft desktops. Nerdy note.]

I got off the trail with a bushwack up Oak Tree Canyon to a fenceline. I jumped fence and continued north along a fence line road. Great! No thorns and plenty of great views.
Followed washes and bushwacked over a hill to FR 231. Then, around dusk I veered to Hwy. 83 for a sunset road walk. I felt like an Eagles song:

"On a dark desert highway

Cool wind in my hair

Warm smell of Calitas

Rising up through the air"

Whenever I hear that song I think of Around the Bend, who asked, "What the hell is Calitas?" at Rusty's Hard Time Hollow on the Appalachian Trail. That was the same night we all gave each other foot rubs with olive oil. It was one of my favorite experiences of the entire AT thru-hike.

The Empire Mts. at sunset,. The Rincons pink and imposing off to the north. Thw white stripe of the highway my nighttime guide. Step off to the brush for the occasional car. Lights go on in hillside houses. Someone way up high has a huge lit wreath. But out here the stars shine brighter. The moon, a mere sliver, appears briefly early evening.

Twin Tanks. Water. A fire ring. A flat spot. Half a mile off the highway. Nothing but sand, prickly pear and thorny scrub. Coyote howl in the distance. Nearby a dog answers its wilder cousin.
This morning another mile on Hwy. 83, then about three miles on the Old Sonoita Hwy., then a right onto a dirt track to a dry creek bed. Present. Here. I got phone reception for the first time and called my folks, Esther, and Dave (to thank him profusely for the GPS unit and entered coordinates, which have saved my ass countless times). I've got about a mile to the interstate, then another mile or two, hopefully, to a trailhead.

Here's my routine out here. I get up around 7 a.m., take care of bidness, then re-start, re-kindle a fire for coffee. I read and get warm, take my time. I don't get started until about 10 a.m. I hike until 1 or 2, then take another 1-2 hour break to dry gear, write, cook oatmeal (too heavy, as it turns out, for me to eat for breakfast. I usually eat a candy bar or two instead.)

I then hike until dark or the next water spot, pick a flat spot to lay down my bivy and bag, gather firewood, cook dinner, meditate by fire, escape to warmth of sleeping bag. It's too cold at night to do many tactile tasks like write or read.

"[P]eople who consider themselves to be wise are often indecisive when command is called for and rebellious when they are called upon to obey. They are ashamed to give orders and consider it dishonorable to receive them. Don't ever be that way." Paulo Coelho, "The Pilgrimage" (218)

Sad to say. This describes me.

"If I lay here

If I just lay here

Would you lie with me

And just forget the world?
Forget what we're told

Before we get too old

Show me a garden

that's bursting into life"--Snow Patrol, "Chasing Cars"

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Arizona Trail journal, December 22, 2006


Greetings from Kentucky Camp. I am sitting on a futon in one of the side rooms in the main ranch house. Wind whips down the central hallway through a transom above the door. In other rooms are interpretive signs and artifacts from the failed gold mining venture here.

I'm pumped because I finally got a rock station on my radio, 92.9 "The Mountain," out of Tucson. Its been almost a week since I started and I'm about 85 miles along. Not bad for a first week with a monster pack on.
I didn't write yesterday because I was so tired after I set up camp. I felt dragged out all day. I didn't sleep well for two nights in a row and the toll of backpacking exertion wore me out. In lieu of a zero day, I took it easy up and over a saddle on the flanks of Mt. Wrightson. Afternoon was down a side canyon with dramatic cliffs and views looking east and south -- rolling yellow desert, waves of earth, a maze of boulders and shallow channels to drain the mountain's precipitation.
I set up camp in a rise above Tunnel Springs and put my bed facing east to the Whetstone and Mustang Mountains. I'd picked the spot for good sunrise potential. The looming knob of Wrightson would be sure to catch the first rays. I wasn't disappointed. Sunrise was pink clouds and cool breezes.
Last night, the winter solstice, the longest night of the year, I stayed warm with a cedar fire. Awesome smells. I picked one big log and worked on it blazing small sticks underneath it.
[POSTSCRIPT: The following is entirely made up. I was in a weird mood when I wrote this entry.]

I hope winter will transit me gently into spring. May it be prosperous and healthy for my loved ones and I. To guarantee this I did a little pagan bloodletting ritual. I cut the tip of my left earlobe off and chewed on it 12 times -- once for each month -- and another 90 times for each day of the season. By this time, the earlobe was a stringy mess, so I threw it to the fire with a chant:
What? What?
Bring it on Winter
Death and cold
Who? Who?
The weak and old
I then applied a bandage to my ear and whooped, whooped, whooped to the stars.
[I read this portion of the entry at an open mic reading in May and I could see the audience craning to examine my ears. Four or five people sat back in their seats when I told them this was made up.]
Today is cold and overcast. I had my best night's sleep ever last night. I wore my fleece long johns, turtleneck and panda hooded sweatshirt. I've also tinkered with the size of my pillow (a stuff sack with extra clothes and tarp)and think I've got the rigfht size. I awoke refreshed and pumped out about 9 miles to get here by 2 p.m. The radio says a weather system should blow through and it should be sunny through Christmas with highs in the 60s and lows in the 20s and 30s.
I'm running out of trail. After Hwy. 83 I've got an approximately 30 mile Sonoran desert hike to Colossal Cave and the next sky island range, the Rincons. I'm debating whether or not to do a road walk and avoid the scratches. I may also follow the tentative route outlined in the guidebook.
"Into the great wide open,
Under them skies of blue
Into the great wide open,
A rebel without a clue." -- Tom Petty
Two nights ago I camped on a small saddle off the road to the Walker Basin Trailhead. I didn't sleep well, but at nearly 7,000 feet elevation the stars were out in abundance. I saw countless shooting stars (meteor showers) [postscipt: Geminids], including a couple that left dramatic trails of fairy dust.
Awoke to hoarfrost all over my sleeping bag -- neat designs, geometric, fractal tendrils.
Well, my time here at Kentucky Camp is done. The camp host is getting nervous. Off into the gray, scrub, and scuttling clouds.

Arizona Trail journal, December 20, 2006



I stayed up late last night, reading, listening to the radio (Tucson callers reported -- oh my -- frost on their windshields this morning), and watching TV, so used up most of my allotted time at the hotel sleeping in. I checked out of the Stage Stop Inn at 11:30 a.m. My pack weighs a TON.


I can tell I'm too used to being alone. Last night in a restaurant I caught myself talking aloud -- to myself! -- and had to force myself to stop -- twice! I find I talk aloud when I'm setting up and taking down camp, and at various times in the day for no reason at all. I'm lucky, I guess, to have a strong internal dialogue.


But it scares me sometimes. I know this trail obsession classifies me as a freak of sorts -- a member of a nerdy little club. I know others who are like this, who spend much time alone. All sorts of odd personal mannerisms, unchecked by company, emerge. How is this manifesting itself in me? Talking in public? Chewing on my shirt? Wringing my hands or rubbing them on the back of my head? Saying "mmmm-mmmm" all the time?


I've come to enjoy solitude. This past year has been one of the loneliest in my life. But I'll be the first to admit it's been tough at times. I AM a social person. There was about a 3-4 week period last semester (in October and November), when I didn't do anything but teach, study, read, and see my son. I didn't go out. I didn't socialize. This is part of the reason I had such a successful semester. The lack of company allowed me to focus.


But it was hard. I got depressed, lonely. The finality of the end of relationships left me feeling empty, unwanted, blank, and... Alone. I'm learning to come to grips with this reality, but by no means has it been easy. Being out here alone is easier for some reason.


"Morning found us calmly unaware

Noon burn gold into our hair

At night, we swim the laughing seas

When summer's gone

where will we be?"-- The Doors, from "Summer's Almost Gone"


So, that's what's on my mind by this mesquite fire in the shadow of Mt. Wrightson. Took a nice road walk to get here. Many great vistas and of distant mountains and nearby down-canyon views.

I mailed extra food ahead to Roosevelt Lake and a gourd to Jon and Esther. The Post Office has a trail register dating back to 2003. I was the first to sign it since April 27, 2005. As I left town, a class of 8th graders in a "life skills" class, walking back from the store with their teacher, joined me. They asked the usual questions. I told them about the trail and how hard it is to follow because of the illegal trails. One kid spoke up. "There's a canyon out behind my house they used to camp in. I've seen 'em."

We departed at their school sign, where I took a left down FR 72 and back into the silence -- and solitude -- of the backcountry. En route in golden afternoon sunshine I saw ponies grazing in a rolling field, and later, near dusk, checked out the shaft and remains of an old mine. I'm now camped at about 7,000 feet. Whew! It's chilly. A comfy down bag awaits.

Arizona Trail Journal, December 19, 2006



It was a good night. Quiet. My sleep pattern is very light. I am a restless sleeper. Before coming out here, I got into the habit of going to bed early, like 8-9 p.m., sleeping 3-4 hours, getting up at 2-3 a.m. and reading, playing guitar, listening to music, etc., for 2-3 hours, sleep a few more and then get on with my day.

I've also been a restless sleeper out here because, although I've hiked alone and not met another person for four days, I can see the evidence of a wave of human traffic. I worry about my camp being discovered in the middle of the night by illegal aliens. Their detritus makes the trail look like a back alley. I've seen hundreds of discarded backpacks, clothes, thousands of cans of Jumex and Red Bull, gallon milk jugs and Enfamil baby electrolyte water (the preferred beverage of drug mules).

When I got lost in the Huachucas, it was because of social trails. [For the record, I was never really lost. I made a mistake and took the wrong trail, but the GPS told me where I was in relation to the AZT. I wandered on purpose partly because water freak me wanted to check out some washes and canyons. Also, it would have been horribly difficult to backtrack up the mountain. My 'schwackin' tale was told with a bit of drama about the being lost part.]

Woke up today to light snow showers, little, airy pellets cleared with a breath.

The trail in the a.m. followed a road through rolling cow pastures. The Santa Ritas and Mt. Wrightson are visible from the high points, but otherwise I hiked through an interior world of red canyon cliffs, washes, a drainage system of great, gravelly complexity. Throw in the social trails and it makes for difficult navigation on the AZT. Trail organizers have done a good job putting up posts and cairns, but many of these have multiple trails splitting off from them. Which one to take?

Early on I saw people WAY off in the distance near a water reservoir. They disappeared when I hove into view.

I had a bad dream that I was sleeping on the bones of a dead woman. I woke with a start and lay there thinking about it. What if a woman died here? It's entirely possible. It could have happened hundreds of years ago... or recently. I eventually fell asleep again, and when I awoke the sense of death was gone.

I saw more cows today than I ever have in a day of hiking. I tried to make my water last so I didn't have to drink cattle water.

Cool spots of the day included Red Canyon Tank, where I walked through a cow pen (yup, that's where the AZT is routed), scattering a herd of cows.

* Walking through a snowstorm as the trail wound in and out of washes. Very roller coaster. The snow fell so thick at one point that it accumulated in the crook of my arm, stationary as I walked because my hand was in my pocket.

* I got sidetracked twice, once because of misleading signage. The AZT/road comes to one of those cattle gates you've got to shimmy like a Z to get through. A post has an arrow pointing past the gates with a hiker symbol on it and an arrow to the right of the gate with bike and horse symbols. I take the hiker route through the Cott Enclosure. It's beautiful, but for the illegal trash, the trail along a creek bed through rolling, golden grass prairie with masthead rock promontories where channels come together. But the trail dead-ends at a barb-wire fence. I check the GPS and it shows I'm almost a mile off my planned trail route, and going further in the wrong direction. Yearghh! Time to backtrack.

Late in the afternoon I get town fever and decide to try and make it to Patagonia before the Post Office closes. I race down the trail. As I come over a rise through a gate [yes, countless cattle gates in Passage 3], I saw Harshaw Road and the impressive, purple to dark red-hued mantle of, uh, surprise, Red Mountain. I got a hitch in less than a minute from a quail hunter. It was one of my fastest hitches ever. I don't think I walked 20 paces. I made it to the P.O. five minutes before closing time.

By choosing to go to town, and get out of the snow and cold, like the wimp I am, I also get a hotel room, something I resolved not to do when I came out here, dammit. My will is not strong enough to resist the lure of a warm bed, shower, and television. I've also got a warm place to sort out 10 days of food.

Monday, September 10, 2007

New Arizona Trail journal entry


I've been a royal lazy ass about transcribing my Arizona Trail journals to the Internet. Finally getting around to it after spending the last couple days reading friend's journals on http://www.trailjournals.com/.


Here's my barely-edited entry from December 17, 2006


Last night I finally took the time to get to know my GPS. We were a little leery of each other at first, but once I read the manual and figured out how to push her buttons we've been getting along just fine.


I figured out how to measure the distance and direction from my location to a selected waypoint. Before this trip, I printed out the GPS waypoint coordinates from http://www.aztrail.org/ and gave them to Dave when we met the Monday after Thanksgiving. Dave then took time out of his busy life to download maps and enter more than 250 waypoints into the GPS unit before he mailed it back to me. I got it the day before I flew out and now, finally, think I know how to use it.

My goal was the Copper Glance Trail junction because it was the waypoint closest to my camp location. Off I set under cloudy skies, 'schwackin' across golden fields dotted with junipers until I came to a forest road. The road joined a maze of other trails and roads. I read somewhere that there are more miles of forest roads than all city streets and roads combined. Believe it. It's true! But GPS got me through the maze. GPS also led me to a steep mountainside and told me, hey, your waypoint's on the other side of this bad boy!

I ascended up a gully, hand over hand most of the time, which is no small feat with a 50-pound external frame pack on. Up into and through the low, scuttling clouds. My pack caught on a branch and I flailed to regain my balance, clinging to roots and scree for dear life.
I found a small ledge and turned around to survey the landscape: mountain, steep slopes, exposed, green moss covered rock shelves, scrub and cacti abounding. Off in the distance a rolling desert and patches of sunlight, the sea surrounding this sky island. Was it worth nearly dying to see? You bet.

Up top I found a nearly-toppled over tin shack surrounded by trash. I swear, if I see another Jumex can...

GPS told me I was .1 mile from my waypoint, then 300 feet. It was like a game of hot and cold. I turn left. Cold. Then back. I see a sign. 50 feet. 30 feet. I'm there, but GPS, ever approximate, said I still had 23 feet to go. What does she know? Her head's in the clouds. I'm thankful for her guidance.

The rest of the day was easy trail, mostly downhill through a wooded valley. I made it to an overlook onto Parker Canyon Lake in the late afternoon/ early evening sun glow and got a beautiful introduction to the Canelo Hills. When 5 p.m. quittin' time rolled around I lucked upon another creekside camp spot with a fire ring and abundant cedar deadfall.

Other notes:
* No blisters. I still have calluses on my heels and balls of my big toes from the 2004 PCT hike. Also, regular running until November toughened my feet. I'm blessed that way.
* I haven't seen or heard another person in over 2 1/2 days.
* Today was cooler. I had to wear my jacket and hat on breaks. And I write this sitting close to the fire. I pivot from time to time warm all sides equally. The fire ring is right next to the trail.

Spoon River Anthology

As I noted in an earlier post, I paddled a 15 mile stretch of the Spoon River in west central Illinois on Labor Day.

The impetus for this trip was twofold. The river is close to the Peoria area, where my brother Bob lives. But it is also a "literary" river, the title river of Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters, which bears a thematic and stylistic resemblance to Whitman's Leaves of Grass. The book features 243 epitaph-like poems that frame a portrait of small town life from the past dead residents' points of view. Masters grew up along the Spoon River in Lewistown and Petersburg, IL, and many of the people he portrayed in Spoon River Anthology are based on real events and residents.

"Charles E. Burgess on the Particular, the Current, and the Local in Spoon River Anthology"

It has been known since the publication in 1915 of Spoon River Anthology that Edgar Lee Masters drew much of its substance from the names, personalities, activities, and events of the central Illinois region where he grew to manhood. Both contemporary and current residents of the area have recognized that the book, in many senses, draws on community history. Scholars have agreed that matter was vital source material of the landmark in modern American poetry. Less well realized has been the role of communities of Masters's youth in the artistic and psychological stimulating of his expression. Such stimuli did exist, strong enough to impel him to use the region, a quarter of a century after he had left it, as the base of his most memorable work. That interval gave him the widened experience and the intellectual perspective necessary to impart to Spoon River Anthology senses of universality of subject, place, and time. Yet the broadening into a recognizable picture of many societies of many times did not diminish the functional importance of the book's particulars. In the use of the specific sources lies Spoon River Anthology's verisimilitude. The particulars were so strongly etched in Masters's mind and were brought forth with such sincere exactness in his writing that they were quite recognizable to people acquainted with the same communities--although seen from other lights, usually, by these persons.
In a larger sense, Masters--by 1915 an attorney of substantial reputation--was dealing in justice in creating Spoon River Anthology. He wanted to see that due praise was given to the sturdier spirits who had wrested the region from the wilderness of physical nature or who had, in later times, stood as bulwarks against the consequences of corrupt or weak human nature.

from Charles E. Burgess, "Masters and Some Mentors" p. 105.


I've read through most of the epitaphs. Here is my favorite, so far:



243. Elijah Browning

I WAS among multitudes of children
Dancing at the foot of a mountain.
A breeze blew out of the east and swept them as leaves,
Driving some up the slopes.... All was changed.
Here were flying lights, and mystic moons, and dream-music. 5
A cloud fell upon us. When it lifted all was changed.
I was now amid multitudes who were wrangling.
Then a figure in shimmering gold, and one with a trumpet,
And one with a sceptre stood before me.
They mocked me and danced a rigadoon and vanished.... 10
All was changed again. Out of a bower of poppies
A woman bared her breasts and lifted her open mouth to mine.
I kissed her. The taste of her lips was like salt.
She left blood on my lips. I fell exhausted.
I arose and ascended higher, but a mist as from an iceberg 15
Clouded my steps. I was cold and in pain.
Then the sun streamed on me again,
And I saw the mists below me hiding all below them.
And I, bent over my staff, knew myself
Silhouetted against the snow. And above me 20
Was the soundless air, pierced by a cone of ice,
Over which hung a solitary star!
A shudder of ecstasy, a shudder of fear
Ran through me. But I could not return to the slopes—
Nay, I wished not to return. 25
For the spent waves of the symphony of freedom
Lapped the ethereal cliffs about me.
Therefore I climbed to the pinnacle.
I flung away my staff.
I touched that star 30
With my outstretched hand.
I vanished utterly.
For the mountain delivers to Infinite Truth
Whosoever touches the star!

Latest Jonny video

I'd like to compile video clips of Jonny every month to track this ever-evolving timein his life. These clips may not be too interesting to anyone but family, but I know I'll treasure them when he's grown up and borrowing the car keys...

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Sunday morning ramblings

The crickets are chirping. It's sunny, but cool. My apartment is actually clean, though I have to bug the landlord to replace the mildewed carpet padding.

Yesterday was a tough trip down memory lane. My parents still attend the church Esther and I were married in. We drove to Loves Park to visit and Mom and Dad invited us to the annual church picnic. Esther and I debated and agreed to deal with the awkwardness so grandparents could show off their grandson. It wasn't as awkward as I supposed, but it was a tough reminder of time's passage, of different situations in life, and the linguistic difficulty of defining relationships post-divorce. Of course Jonny was oblivious and cute as ever. He knows how to work a crowd with lots of smiling and hugs.

I read a book about the Continental Divide Trail this week, Along the Continental Divide, by Michael Robbins, and, of course, am full of trail visions. This was also kicked off by an e-mail I received from a town along the trail by German Tourist, who hiked many miles of the Pacific Crest Trail with Esther and I in 2004. She said hello from Lint, also hiking the CDT, who we've done trail work with on the Ice Age Trail. More evidence of the smallness of the long-distance hiking community.

But no real planning is in the works... I may take a two-week trip along the Arizona Trail again this winter, despite long nights and desert snow. It would be an even cheaper trip because I can hitch/hike to the trail right out of Tucson on Redington Road and take a bus back to Tucson from one of the towns along the way. Last year, I had to pay over $100 for a shuttle from Tucson to the border.

Next summer, funds willing, I may hike for a month somewhere. Talking about going back on the AT and doing a poverty hike, hitting the trail for a month with only $100 in my pocket and credit cards left at home. There's lots of hiker boxes at post offices and it's possible to eat reasonably well for $25 a week. My food budget is normally only $100 a month. Gotta love Aldi's.

Student teaching is going well. I had my first review and got kudos for my delivery and rapport with students, criticism for how I handled a grammar question. No stage fright here. And no fear of criticism. Here I am. Rock you like a hurricane.

No horrible bad seeds amongst the 109 students. They get a little tittery at times, but respond well to my countdowns. "You're going to be attentive and listen in 5..4..3..2..1 and a half... 1." I also got praise from my NIU assessor for saying "please" and "thank you" a lot. One of my stock phrases: "Respect is a two-way street."

The students DO NOT like my Green Bay Packers tie. Most like my Cubs tie. White Sox fans are appropriately quiet these days.

Allergies were horrible bad earlier this week. The sneezing is gone and fountain of snot reduced to a trickle. Jonny inherited my intolerance for pollen and suffered as well. Expectoration continues indefinitely.

Labor Day weekend was chock full of activity. A week ago Friday I helped my friend Shawn move from his downtown Rockford apartment to a bigger place a couple blocks away. This would have been an easy move, but for On The Waterfront, a huge festival. Shawn's friend Dan's wife, Mari, had to hang out in front of the building to preserve our parking spot, and I had to dodge waves of human traffic to get from one place to the next.

Saturday Todd visited and we did all the usual things a Rex Lex (Todd's self-proclaimed monicker) visit entails: disc golf, many grueling sets of tennis, evening cookout, no talent, but fun Tallheaded Woody jam, and, something different this time, we went out to the newly-smoke-free Annex for a pitcher of beer. Sunday another two sets of tennis, Todd left for home, and I relaxed most of the day recovering and visited Esther and Jonny in the afternoon/evening, even though it wasn't "my" weekend. I stopped over at her place to borrow a kayak from her landlord, Earl.

Monday I awoke early and drove with my canoe and Earl's kayak to the small town of Dahinda, on the banks of the Spoon River, to rendezvous with my brother Bob and his son-in-law, Dave Fox.

There I was -- small town America again -- Dahinda nothing more than a post office and collection of houses -- barking dogs, chickens, southern accents. As I waited, an old man backed his truck up to a former storefront building next to the post office. Another old man rode up on a Schwinn bicycle, streamers off the ends of the handlebar handles. A younger, camouflage t-shirted man pulled into the gravel lot in a rusted red pickup. They stood there chewing and spitting, and since they were so close I felt obliged to say hello.

I was surprised they all had drawls. This is, after all, only west central Illinois. The pace of conversation also had a southern slowness. "Whatcha been doing out here at the shop?" (one minute pause) "Drinking beer, mostly." (spit, move hunk of chaw from one cheek to another) "Why? Erma don't letcha drink at home?" (spit again, crickets chirp) "Nope."

The river trip took us from Dahinda to a one-lane bridge landing near another one-horse town, Maquon. It was nice and wild. No houses. A few bridges, including a covered one. Narrow, winding river, shallow, a few riffles, none of the floodwater we've got up north, tall sandstone cliffs, herons, startled deer, a bass jumped out of the water to eat a dragonfly.

It was good to hang out with Bob. I don't see him that often. His wife Beth has never liked our family and I hardly know his two daughters, Candy, and the soon-to-be-mother newly-married Cathy. His son-in-law Dave seems like a nice guy. Eagle Scout. Marine Corps vet. Gainfully employed. I asked how he met my niece. "We originally met on Myspace. But then I saw her in a bar [Egads, my niece in a drinking establishment!] and worked up the courage to go talk to her. After that, I hung out at the Steak and Shake [where Cathy works] for the next week." They sealed their love with matching tattoos.

Yup. Bob and his people are townies, yokels, etc. But that's okay. I am too, I guess. Sure, I have a good vocabulary and am on the cusp of completing my master's degree, but I feel comfortable with folkways. Still, I don't think I could live the country life. I've been spoiled living in the intellectually fertile environs of a university town. Townies would label and deride me for the egghead I am. I'm accepting of them. They're not so accommodating.

I plan to get out on the water a few more times before the canoe goes in storage at my parent's. Maybe another stretch of the Pecatonica or Sugar River in Winnebago County. I still have to finish my Rock River trip from Prophetstown to the Mississippi River. Power boat traffic should be greatly diminished.

It's hard to believe I've been at my current address more than a year. I haven't lived in one place for more than a year since 2003. I don't plan to move any time soon (my lease is at least until next August). It would be nice to get a teaching job either in DeKalb or somewhere along the Metra West line for an easy commute. Esther is taking a class this fall and planning to take a full-time load this spring. I have no incentive to relocate. In spite of flooding and its tiny size, this has been one of the best living arrangements I've enjoyed. Nice lawn. Quiet. Chew. Chew. Spit. Yup. I'm staying put.