Friday, April 29, 2022

Needle Chisel Repairs Part I of II


Repairing a model tackmaking tool is a great chance to see how it was made as well as the more obvious 'how to make it better.'  I busted two of my needle chisels back in January working on the TwentyMule.  Documenting how I fixed them will be the subject of two posts.  Each tool is different in its construction and repair.  These are largely pictorial journies; the photos speak for themselves.

The needle chisel is a miniature chisel.  I make them from a needle and a paintbrush handle.  I use them for everything from slits to cleaning, from braiding to inserting to manipulating.  I have 5 needle chisels at this point in time [2022], ranging from extremely small to fairly large.  For the record, the broken ones were my smallest and my middle-medium, this last being my oldest and most useful, called the Red & Black in my tackmaking notebooks.  The name refers to the braided handle covering.  Its repair will be the subject of Part II.  Sometimes they don't have covers, as the lower, smaller shows.  We'll look at that one first : "Smallest."

Here's its problem.  The blade, part of a needle which has been sharpened into a tiny chisel, was soldered into the tip of the ferrule.  But that join wasn't strong or secure enough to withstand repeated force and sidewise thrusting -- or whatever caused it to break.  I break my tools multiple times, until I build them strong enough.  I really manhandle tools!  But in both these cases the chisels had been with me for years.  I think the TwentyMule really pushed me to mass-produce in a few places.

I suspect the ferrule was aluminum.  Aluminum won't solder, which would contribute to the original weakness.  I should have used a steel ferrule, but those are hard to find.

First step: Decide that, after all, an aluminum ferrule is not what I want.  (Also realize the handle is long enough to stand losing a little.)  I broke the ferrule off --- possibly it broke by itself -- and discarded it.  I got out some brass tubing and started opening up one end, for a ferrule replacement.  This is accomplished by haggling with the nippers, X-Acto and files.

This is where I have filed down the handle to a tapering point.

Here the magic is starting to happen.  I'm making a ferrule of my own.  Fitting it closely to the wood handle is taking a lot of filing and plier-work, squeezing, bending and rolling.

This very revealing picture shows something no one has seen yet:  my soldering station.  The yellow sponge is moistened and used to clean off the soldering tip.  The dark-amber, waxlike substance is flux, used in soldering.  The shallow plastic lid holds little snippets of solder, which I have prepared myself, by hammering and cutting.  The brass tubing can be seen in the upper left.
What the picture does not show is my vise, which holds the subject in place during the procedure.   (Watch yer spelling!  A vice is not a vise... well, not usually!)

More magic:  an inner, smaller sleeve (or shim) piece of brass tubing will hold the needle tip.  When the smaller tip is affixed to the needle chisel, I slip it into the outer tube and keep soldering.

The pictures don't show the intermediate step of the smaller tube.  But it's in there.  The whole end of the outer tube is filled with solder.  That baby is IN there!!
A closer look (it's cool now):

When things are cool, next comes a LOT of filing of the end.  I prefer a pointed, tapered tip, for reasons of handle-ability and grace as well as beauty.  The pointing makes the needle stronger since there is less sidewise stress on its base.

Here I've filed it even smoother and pointy-er.  So smooth, in fact, you can't detect the difference between solder and brass.  Symmetry is important in this step.  If the needle is not straight (and it isn't), this asymmetry is balanced by a bulge in the taper.

Done!  Smallest Needle Chisel, which has never had any braiding of its own before, gets a beautiful 'holding' button.  Oh, sure, in the course of time, that bare brass will corrode the leather.  But right now I'm not worrying about that.

When I do get around to worrying about corrosion, a piece of silver tape between leather and metal should solve it.

Two Vacations, Three Pizzas


I started out to write about the Three Pizzas and my injured thumbnail, both of these being pandemic emergence stories.  I got bogged down transcribing Notebook entries from our Outer Banks, NC (OBX) Christmas trip (December 18 - 30, 2021) [this is where the cat appears], and then I added some from our Spring Break trip (GA, FL), March 3 - 13, 2022.   Later still, I took out the longest Spring Break part -- Guana Lake -- and gave it its own post.  Paddling Lake Guana   Then I decided not to show my thumbnail after all.  You'll have to take my word that it is healing.  :)

The Three Pizzas then evolved an addendum or Chapter Two, somewhat more illustrated, which refused to settle down.  Forever went by before I realized this chapter was attempting to decide nothing less than whether I was going to BreyerFest.  Since this was a extremely major decision (family fights!) which really can't be settled until the last week before departure, I decided to try and publish anyway, while things were on a (relatively) positive note.  Other posts are waiting!!      

Sorry about the lack of pictures;  I'm very bad about taking vacation pictures; most of these were taken by George.  My Notebooks are, after all, completely hand-written.  Somehow photography requires a different mindset.

Since Blogger does not allow single line breaks but only doubles,... and since I use a LOT of single line breaks (new paragraphs) in my handwriting,.... I am using spaces      to represent the single line breaks in what I'm transcribing.  Imagine that!  Brackets [ ] contain editorial explanations.  A vertical line  |   indicates a change in mood without a new paragraph, a space-saving device.


[written 2112.23]

"This trip       [OBX, NC, Dec 18 thru 30, 2021]     is a success, if success be evading & avoiding every human being.  Our longest conversation was with a man walking his dog:  "Have a Merry Christmas you two!"  O.K. I did talk about birds to one young birder who appeared out of nowhere on one of the obs plats [observation platforms].  And Geo talked a lot with the Chinese Sandtrapped.*  But we were masked (KN95) for all of these, except the Merry Christmas.        No TV, no radio.  No Internet:  this feed is now only every other day, & today is not that day.       Oddly, Dry The Sea & Barbahamia  [my Breyers, Icabad and Dundee]  stay in their boxes.  They haven't come out at all.  Only Snickers, the carry in foal [a CollectA] has any out time at all.  No horses!!  No,... nor thought of them.  I'm living a very pure life.  Burning through IMAJICA VOL ONE  as a great clip & wishing I'd brought Vol 2, but I didn't.  :(  Tonight I'm not even doing letters.  We have retreated, or evolved, to a very pure mode:  Trip-taking and birding as of old, Sans people.  Sans restaurants, sans shopping.  Such things are pared down to the minimum.         Food becomes an important pleasure."

[Written 2112.25  OBX:]

"Today we hiked Nag's Head Woods Nature Conservancy trail 1, 2, 3 & 6 the ADA trail / boardwalk.  This ADA [Americans with Disabilities] trail was expertly laid & beautifully finished.  We had a warbler flock & got Black-&-White, Brown Creeper, Sapsucker, Downy & Geo saw an Orange Crowned and we got both Kinglets.  Really nice!  even tho our parking was a block away + so was the bathrooms.        The Woods trail was amazing.  I had not known such trees, & such hills, existed on the Outer Banks.  Mostly the ground was covered in pine needles & in places there was no underbrush.  Pines, hollies, oaks, junipers, gums & bays.  Few birds outside of the warbler flocks --only gulls overhead.  Those dunes!!  What a change from the flattish swamps, fields and beaches.  It was 5 miles all the way around & we were over-stimulated, & thus very tired, by the end.  |   Almost no people until 12:30 when, it seemed, the floodgates opened; & we had to mask a few times getting back.

"After this we drove down to Pea Island and parked in Coquina Beach.  A beach sit was called for.  Chose a place upwind of all & by ourselves.  Poncho down & both napped.  This was when the locomotive of a piled barge was towed past on the horizon.  This was also where the huge flock of Cormos, Gulls, Gannets & Pelicans congregated around the (invisible to us) fish school.  What a sight!!  Dozens of diving Gannets plunging into the sea all next to each other   in a sea of Cormorants all diving (there must've been a hundred)   w/ Gulls wheeling by.  Quite the crowd.  Only now does it occur to me to be jealous of their natural unthinking association.   It was during this nap I came out crying      thinking how I might never see my Mom again.  And if she died how I might not be able even to attend a funeral.  And how Dad might never forgive me, ...   What good does it do to wait, something wrong will always come along anyway!!!!  What can we hope for again....  Oh, that was so sad.  Geo flat on his back snoring & me with tears leaking out all over,...

But we go on.         The tug went on.        The surf went on.

The birds kept flying, kept fishing.  We can only keep on, doing our best, waiting, giving them time for another miracle, like the vaccine so fast, so incredibly advanced.        Our very last adventure of the day was to drive down to Oregon Inlet & park & look for birds.  No luck but we did see a very beautiful orange tabby cat w/ 4 white feet and golden eyes."

[Written 2112.26:]

"Today was Mattamuskeet.  A well-chosen place.  We hiked 3  1/4-mi trails:  Outflow, New Holland & Salyer's at Rose Canal.    This third was by far the best, being a 150-year-old forest (cleared in 1870s) & sporting the tallest biggest Loblolly Pines I've ever seen in my life.  Other trees there were as tall & big, (gums, cypress) but somehow the Loblollies were absolute kings.  And this trail was not mentioned on THREE maps they gave us!!!  We did Outflow & New Holland first, gradually learning & collating our map info.  After these pleasant strolls we drove to the end of the Central Canal mile (marked G on the map) & found a scope spot.  For an unknown time I examined every Widgeon, out of what seemed thousands but was probably only hundreds, for the rare elusive Eurasian Widgeon.  Never found one.  Had tons of fun all the same.  We added Canvasbacks to our total, bringing the trip's total to 98, & then a Forster's Tern made it 99.  Previous birds today -- Wild Turkey, Swamp Sparrow & Tree Swallow -- had taken us from 94 to 97.  Today was the day of the 100th bird, and halfway down the triangular Wildlife Drive (4 miles) we found him:  Killdeer  :)   long missing but now well supplied.

Sue on the Salyer trail, in front of giant Pine

"Mattamuskeet is a huge lake.  [...]   I never saw a more confusing set of maps:  Each had something new to add in;  none had it all.  These were free maps at the Visitor Center.  We wound up driving all the way around the lake, some 30 or 40 miles.  Such a view of a slice of life in the South.  The fields were cotton or corn.  The trees were Cypress or Pecan.  A vine grew wild over every abandoned building (& there were many).  It looked like black rusty fur.       Geo has a particular reason not to want to go back:  the risk of catching if Penn State forces him to teach in person again.  Oh if only we could've retired at Christmas this year!  Failing that, Oh if only we could teach remotely this last semester!  As with cancer, the worst is the not knowing  [...] ."

Loblolly Pine on the Salyer nature trail

On December 27th, on the Outer Banks, we ordered a pizza from a little greasy spoon called Yellow Submarine.  We parked in a strip mall, of which the Outer Banks is richly supplied  :)  and I walked in there, masked, ordered, turned around and walked back out.    The clerk was not masked, but quite cheerful.  They brought it out to our car, and we ate it there.   "Cold pizza for breakfast!"  Yellow Submarine was significant because it was the first commercial pizza we'd enjoyed since June of 2021.  Car picnics are de rigueur these days, happening more and more and with more kinds of fancy food.  The OBX trip was also noteworthy for its utilization of Rancho Nuevo in Front Royal VA;  if we had to lose Jalisco's [a favorite Mexican restaurant] (is there nothing Covid hasn't killed!?!) at least we found this very nice Mexican restaurant equivalent, very quick to fill take-out orders.

image from PensacolaBeachBall

[Written 2112.29:]

"... On the beach we saw the Currituck Flyer.  At first I thought he was a drone launcher.  No, the blades, when finally seen, were a yard long.  House fan?  Next I knew, a para-sail was lifting the guy into the sky, his propeller whizzing merrily behind his back.  He sat in a chair & controlled both motor and risers/shrouds (sheets) with his wrists.  You could see his fuel tank behind his chair, but it was opaque. He must have stayed up for 15 minutes.      Lots of walkers came by after about 2:30 but the beach was wide enough.  We left and settled for a room meal.  The next eat-out would be in Front Royal."

image from AOPO


Fast forward to March of 2022.  Spring Break canoeing and birding trip to southeast GA (Kingsland) and northeast FL.

[Written 2203.03 in Petersburg, VA:]

"Our first real post-Covid trip, whether we believe it or not.  Left home 8:08... [...] Using the smartphone (Galaxy A01) is still very new to us.  This is the 1st time we used it for nav outside PA -- & only the 2nd time for nav at all!!  ...[...]  We were on 95 for mere moments only, right after 288 ended; but even in that small interval between 1 exit & another we experienced very heavy slow traffic.  I can't explain it.  Thursday aft?!!  No snow,... there must have been a lot of crashes; & the pandemic has fostered lousy drivers, that's for sure.  :(           

 "On the way past Tyrone & Altoona the east face of the Allegheny Plateau was decoratively-dusted with what must have been a hell of a sleet storm.  Pure white over everything except the very top layer of trees.                I have spent the day being a perfect road companion / traveller,...  & thinking about covid.  This, THIS is the long-awaited 1st drive in freedom,... yet we're so blase'.    Still wearing masks, avoiding crowds, dodging people altho that's perfunctory.  At Mad Italian [favorite Italian restaurant] we ordered take out IN PERSON.  I stayed INDOORS to wait for it.  It was fast -- praise to them -- yet that interval, sitting in that beloved restaurant just looking around,... remembering,... made me wish I could feel everything more deeply.  For this is our homecoming.  This is our trip as of old:  But I am so polished, policed, perfected & practiced & pre-warned my god!!!  that there is precious little spirit left.

"I don't know where it went, that shimmer of eager awareness.  I didn't even bring in a horse (to the hotel room).  The 1st night, nothing much will happen.  The electronix didn't make it in.  Almost I understand Grandma Ellis's search-a-words."

 The paddle trip on Lake Guana happened on March 9th.

"Driving back North via palmetto parkway & 1 & 9B, we experienced the most awful storm.  Somehow we were not blown over.  Moxie [the car] rocked!!  It was torrential.  We wound up in John Muir boardwalk outside Yulee.  A nap & read before Whataburger was much appreciated."

So you see, drive-throughs had become standard by this time.

[Written 2203.10, Kingsland GA:]

"3:30 am.  Gnat/chigger/mosq  bites under my chin, at crook of left knee, left wrist, sides of neck.  Sunburn...  [...]  While truly we are having the time of our lives, the best, most triumphant trip so far.  A giant step towards the After Covid.  It may not be really so -- no data, no numbers are we seeing;  no eating in restaurants, no theatres, no shopping, no entering crowds of any sort -- but it FEELS so much more like the Before Times, that it's a shock every time I see a mask on somebody.... "


[Written 2203.11, Cupcake Day #2, Kingsland, GA]  [Cupcake Day is how my family is annually celebrating the start of the Covid pandemic.]

"Celebrated with, (you guessed it), 2 Cupcakes!!!        & 2 pcs of pizza.  OPS Pizza Kitchen [in Kingsland, GA]  was a good idea, provided you overlook the 38 minute wait, and the fact it was a Friday night.  I spent 38 mins in a public restaurant, surrounded by more and more and more people without masks on.  The only mask I saw in there was on another take-out customer like me;... [a] black [woman].  I thought I saw a glint of sympathy in her eyes.  One learns to read eyes over the mask.   I am proud of my sweeping-silver-spots KN95!!!       I sat there bemused.  Intoxicated, even, to be in a place where Covid apparently did not exist.  No sign acknowledged it.  I begin to see the great appeal of Republicanism Youth and Youngsters; to be as they were, free, without care!!!  To have the music blasting & the dozen giant (full 1-story high) TV screens going --- not one of THEM showing masks either.  Oh this is what all us cautious & serious & Democrat oldster types have been dreaming of in our secret hearts for all these 2 years, yearning for, not daring to allow ourselves to dream of  for it meant death ------

"------ and lo, here, in a reality I could not go against (preaching unthinkable), such a dream is live & well & doing fine      thank you very much.         No thanks to me.        I am here because I'm finally brave enough, convinced enough, assured enough, (almost even desperate enough) to believe the numbers and trust my mask for one pizza-length of time.  We did this in Mad Italian (tho there the staff was masked).  We did this in Yellow Submarine Pizza on the OBX (tho there we waited outside & they brought it out to us).  Plotted in a line, these 3 pizzas chart a course towards my normality, the 2-years-long desired return to The Before Times.  To the by-now-mythic  "safe" enough to "go back to normal,"  a wish I have despaired so often over that I never thought I'd see it inside 5 years sometimes.  Or ever.     And here it is in full roaring life, obviously has been for a long time.   It takes me by painful surprise.

"... [...] ...I understand so much better why they [people who ignore Covid] 've done what they've done.  Because THIS was part of their reward."

"Today 11th was Okefenokee hike day.  Adventures, drive the Wildlife Drive v-e-r-y  s-l-o-w-l-y and pick up Brn Hded Nuthatches, Sandhill Cranes and Marsh Harrier, Yellow-Throated Warbler and Yellowthroat.  Parked at Chesser Island and mended my binocular strap, which had suddenly parted.  Geo walked the top loop of the Drive.  Then back to [the headquarters] Adventures, surprisingly popular, & walked the old paved fisherman's bank trail to the Shelter-in-the-Marsh.  All old friends.  It was a peaceful day."

 *  This refers to a Chinese couple in a rental car which got bogged down in the sand at one of the birdwatching parking lots we visited.  They were rescued by Triple A but in the meantime enjoyed a conversation with George.



 I entered this pandemic reasonably young, still in my 50s.  (Technically true:  I was 59 in March of 2020 and didn't turn 60 until the end of April.)  I'm emerging, yes that is the word, old, so much older, like I was 80 years old.  Like Sophie in Studio Ghibli's Howl's Moving Castle, I feel like (and sound like) a 90-year-old woman.  !!  Two-feels-like-twenty is my new way of describing these past two years.  My body is in the 60s, remarkably healthy; but my spirit,... my very soul,... has been so pushed down that sometimes isostatic rebound (the lifting of land after the glacier on it melts) is a very natural comparison.

My heart is masked, even if my face isn't.  I have low white blood cell counts, ever since 2010.   This body takes a long time to heal.  When you see a mask, how do you know they're not undergoing chemotherapy or some such?

I feel crushed.  It occurs to me that the lion's share of the crushing is from our own, George's and mine, choices:  our own struggles to continue to take the disease seriously.  Two years and more have gone by, and his efforts have kept us safe.  ("Kept us sane" is my contribution.)  Yet one by one, the data sources we use to chart that course are dropping off.  "No data" is becoming more common.  Just today, he reports CDC is no longer showing PCR tests.   How can we navigate if the data itself is denied?  

Vaccines once eradicated diseases, as recently as our teenage years; but this time they have not.  If only CDC had had the courage to tell us that in the beginning-- !!   The inflexibility and narrow-minded conservatism of bureaucracies has triggered George's retirement decision ("This is really a resignation in disgust that just happens to coincide with retirement age," he says) and now is causing our faith in CDC to tarnish. 

Look Ma new glasses -- the old ones were 25+

 No matter how much time I give it, the conflict remains:  my bitter frustration at anti-vaxxers,...  how could they refuse?!?...  versus the equally bitter realization that vaccination is no silver bullet; ---  nothing can provide 100% proof against, not even 4 shots such as I have now.   There is no guarantee.

And yet hope persists.  New treatments continue to surface.  New trends appear.  Geo reports a periodicity that plots a low in infections right around the time of BreyerFest.  As of this writing I am planning to go.  One reason is that I cannot bear to lose my hotel reservation!  Logical?  No!  But I am trying harder and harder, and maybe coming closer, to imagine a BreyerFest where I can meet and mingle in safe places, largely outside.  Swords-edge-walking a specialty.  Oh yeah, I'll bling your mask for you on the spot!

Maybe the numbers will go down.  Maybe they will reach my family's impossible goal, the bad-flu-year:  Ten new cases per hundred thousand per week.  Forty-eight Covid deaths per week in all PA (twelve million).  The two-feels-like-twenty years have supplied this at least, one definition of victory conditions.   Yet real victory lies in the individual's acceptance and behaviour.

Until then, ---Til We Have Faces, --- we shall cling to sanity with long family trips, seeking the outer Wild, free in the woods and outdoors.  Maybe I do have the imagination to come up with safe BreyerFest behaviour.  Maybe I can come up with ways to visit, sell and gossip and swap, outside, maybe in my car?  in a place and time that does not expose me to crowds.  Maybe the smartphone & Chromebook can take up the slack.   Maybe I can sell some horses and tack, by posted list on the door or something.  Maybe it's time I created my own versions,...  possibly going back to what my beloved hobby was before 1993, when all was local and mail order;  25 years of roots, those days.

Taken at Aitch canoe launch, Lake Raystown

And maybe, just maybe, a healing can take place,... something we all need so very desperately.  Given enough time, healing does happen, even to one such as me.  My thumbnail is healing.  My heart attitude seems to slowly rebound as spring gains and as the brain keeps striving to reach out.  This thing I have, that I'll keep trying.  Steady, that's what they remember me for.  One great lesson from cancer:  Your fears are always worse than the reality.

Sophie healed.  She went back to her proper age.  She kept her white hair though.  I like that.

Image from PeakPx online

Now I need to find out whether Howl's hair changed color over the course of the movie too.  Oh!  It did!

Saturday, April 9, 2022

Incosante in Tack

 I received my Incosante from Sarah Minkeiwicz yesterday and opened him today.  I had not expected the stickers!  Almost instantly I was prepping him -- without thinking, an unknown time went by whilst I happily scraped and filed, sitting at the tack bench and admiring all the details close-up.  He is perfect.  There is not one error.  This is a horse I have wanted since he was sculpted before our eyes, because I knew he would be perfect for Spanish and Mexican tack.  What I also hadn't expected was quite how excited I was to try him out with pieces long hidden.

Here we are getting white dust all over the pants.  How can I say this is not scolding his amount of flashing, but rather totally enjoying the chance to make him even more mine?  The casting was very very good.

At first I put him into the bridle for TSII #413, the piece I am currently working on.  It's braidwork, it's what I had in mind.  Fair enough.  His head is compelling.  It's an advantage for a tackmaker's horse to remain unfinished.
The character!!  His working his jaws so clearly tells the story of what he thinks of that bit!  Unbelievably, Sarah had even given him gums (along with the teeth and tongue).
I was so eager I hadn't even put him on his base yet.

Following my heart, I pulled out the Emma Harrison braided-bridle collection I had so painfully acquired back in 2016 or so.  Emma is no longer with us.  I felt that the detail and character of this horse was, finally, absolutely perfect for the calibre of tack I had gotten from Emma.

These are museum pieces.  These are some of the most exquisite, unbelievable examples of the miniature braiders' art I have ever come across; they're the best I own.  They cannot be worn but by exceptional horses. 

Some of these I have never photographed on any horse before.  The Red Hackamore is like pure gold.  When the photo below was snapped I was astounded at his classic beauty.  No processing of the shot was needed, except for resizing.

I'm overlooking that Inco's forehead is really too large for these pieces (browband too short), and that the cheek pieces are a bit too long.  Doesn't it seem like he's trying to grab that tassel -- ??

This next bridle is the most incredible Harrison piece in my collection.  It's the most astounding miniature hitched-horsehair bridle I've ever seen.  Inco's on his base now -- I've managed to catch my breath.

I last photo'd this piece on a carousel horse; before that, never.

Such classic proportions!  His mane is full of fenestrations, as you would expect for one flying in the wind.

All right, she forgot a curb strap.  But look at that detail.  This tack is not painted, but actually woven from rayon and polyester thread.

I adjusted the too-long cheeks by looping them up over the browband conchos.  Yes, the whole thing is adjustable. 

I honestly feel that the incredible detail of the horse is equaled by such pieces as these.  He inspires me.  My tack collection, or tack museum, has been too quiet and tucked away for too long.

Incosante, whom I'm temporarily calling Inconstante (inconstant), might also be named Encanto, for enchanting.  Surely this horse was sent to remind me of my capabilities with my favorite type of tack, braidwork, Spanish, Californian and Mexican.  Thank you Sarah; no words can find praise enough for your eye for detail and exquisite capture of the very soul of this animal.

This might be the start of a lovely relationship.

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Paddling Lake Guana


I started out writing about pizza, injured thumbnails and pandemic exit stories.  In the process, transcribing our two latest trips, one in December and one in March, took over.  After yet more changes of direction, I finally wound up here, at Lake Guana, part of Guana State Park on the northeast Florida coast, south of Jax.  This is a lovely if challenging place to canoe, one which we've previously visited twice -- the last time in 2014.  We paddled here during this year's Spring Break, March 3rd - 13th.  The day just happened to be one I fully wrote up in my Notebook.  Parts were heavenly fun.  I decided to pull it out and give it its own post, aided and abetted with photos taken back in 2014.  Ahoy, Mateys, all aboard!!

[Written 2203.10, Kingsland GA:]

"3:30 am.  Gnat/chigger/mosq bites under my chin, at crook of left knee, left wrist, sides of neck.  Sunburn both sides of neck, lower lip.  [...]  Sore elbow / Tendonitis on rt returns at night, its original attack time:  why would it not hurt while canoeing harder than ever I have this whole trip, but shows up in the wee hours & in the morning??  It must be a cooling-off / cold thing... [...]

Shore of Guana Dam, Wood Stork on beach

"While truly we are having the time of our lives, the best, most triumphant trip so far.  A giant step towards the After Covid.  It may not be really so -- no data, no numbers are we seeing;  no eating in restaurants, no theatres, no shopping, no entering crowds of any sort -- but it FEELS so much more like the Before Times, that it's a shock every time I see a mask on somebody.... 

"Yesterday, the 9th, was GUANA RIVER day.  A big success, if you don't count the sunburn and insect bites!  :)  We had 9:45 to 12:45 three hours of classic Guana Lakeshore, lower water & higher wind, but still much sun.  The 1st hour was the best w/ me in the stern and "sack o rice" Harrison-Ford-like cruizin' in the front.  We hugged the west shore so's to be out of the wind.  Great swathes of sun rippled down along across the forest over us like water reflections.  Surely that is one of my favorite shore paddles....  

"Distinctive w/ its windcurved profile, thick oaks and bays & Spanish moss (?lichen?) interspersed with sabal & palmetto and GIANT pines.  That King pine!!   Even dead they are the most strikingly beautiful tree.  I am a horrible photographer, I let that Osprey get away.  But I took stills & movies and 2 of Geo relaxing w/ bare feet, an iconic shot if ever there was one.  We floated downwind like Opus on his barge.       

"The second hour was beating back upwind, still along the shore & thus very shallow, making up all the distance back.  Geo paddled.  We saw a group of kayakers launch from the sand beach, & come towards us.  |  At the corner Geo had us go along the dam end just enough for him to look back & read the sky.        All along, the day was to've been a race against a storm.  But that morning gave us a bonus.  What he saw convinced him we had more time than we thought.  The sky to the West was still blue between clouds all the way to the horizon.       

"He surprised me by proposing a dash down the center of the lake.  The wind and I mean a strong breeze, sailworthy wind  was on our port quarter.  That was a hard dash.  I strained and struggled to keep her true.  The pressure seemed to veer her either left or right.  He was trying to teach me the value of a bowman in keeping trim.  I had him pulling (pointing) her right & it still wasn't enough.       What I learned was I could barely keep up by ruddering & wide-stroking on starbd & was quickly exhausted.  !!   I had to wide on port.  Even that was tough.  We got down to mid-lake, past our 1st hr turnaround, in 15 minutes!  He angled in toward shore & we turned & began beating back,  not in the sailing sense of tacking, but in a canoeing sense of slow continuous shallow-sweep paddling against a headwind,  right through eight kayakers in 4 huge double kayaks.

"Nothing is funnier that hearing somebody else yell "No! No!" when you know they are landlubbers experiencing a stiff wind; and you are professionally & experienced-fully safely in control, going up the least-windiest shore.  Most sheltered, most in control, we watched them plow past us all the way to the marl point, midway on the western shore. [...]  

"At the end of the 3rd hr & the second keen glance to the western sky, Geo made the decision to quit.  The sky was still largely blue-&-white but the W horizon was one vast smear of white.  It had tight cumulus heads embedded in it.  While we were taking out, on the beach, a cloud tower over our heads obscured the sun.  We had a leisurely, careful haul-out in unusual conditions because of the very shallow, very hard sand/shell/marl bottom.  Barefoot wade!!  This was one of the very few times we got to wade her in:  Take off shoes & sox, roll up pants, step over the side & lead her to the beach.  |   Geo got out first (he grounded first, hah!) & I got to ride.  Of course I grounded in a couple of lengths.  So then I knelt forward & rode on my hands & knees, straddling the thwart, so as to center my weight.  Got a few more lengths.  Geo drew her 3/4 out & I sat there in the stern & re-shod myself.  When I was finally out, he merely went back in, sat on the stern, rinsed his feet & reshod too.  And stepped out.  It was, he said later, our most elegant take out yet.

"Driving back North via palmetto parkway & 1 & 9B, we experienced the most awful storm.  Somehow we were not blown over.  Moxie rocked!!  It was torrential.  We wound up in John Muir boardwalk outside Yulee.  A nap & read before Whataburger was much appreciated."

So you see, drive-throughs had become standard by this time.

Laughing Gull on depth post at Guana dam

One more nugget on Lake Guana:  a movie taken in December 2014.  It is about 41 seconds long and reveals the entire western shore line as the canoe gradually swings to the right.  You can hear us talking.  It's a good glimpse of the forest and the water's edge, as well as a sense of the timing of our canoe rides.

Where have I been for 4 weeks?  One went to Spring Break  :),  at least one went to taxes.  The others, well, I have been deeply conflicted about pandemic and I suspect the accumulated stress all just became too much.  I am still struggling with how to do BreyerFest.  Is my imagination good enough to envision (and manage!) outdoor and/or safe visits with those I wish to see?  Can I invent my BreyerFest without indoor jamming, without crowds, yet with those elements I love?  I can risk my own life but not his.  Like I said:  it all became too much.  As ever, we'll just have to wait and see.  The numbers might keep going down.  Hope is painful.  But Spring is coming.