Summer Plans

Last year Bridgit and I talked about canoeing a good chunk of the Huron River this summer. The kids are a bit older now so they will be able to handle longer periods afloat. So this summer we hope to paddle most of the Huron in chunks, (not all at once like some people have) preferable in order. I’m thinking we should start at Proud lake and go to Ypsi. I also would like to do more before Brighton. I have only done a bit above Kent Lake. Past Ypsi it is all dammed lakes and not very good access.

It should be easier this summer because I am going to be laid off at the end of June. That way we can paddle some of the better stretches during the week when there is less livery and motorboat traffic.

If anyone wants to join in for part/all of the trip or wants to help shuttle let me know.

I have been putting together a map of places I have been with some info on conditions and access. I hope to get some updates into it as it has been a while since I have paddled much of it.



View Paddling the Huron River in a larger map

Penobscot, now with yoke action.

I apparently wrote this last winter (08/09) and forgot to post it. I thought it might be interesting so I am posting it now. We used it all last season and a few times this year too. It has worked out great and spending the extra cash on an awesome yoke was well worth it.

In the fall I put a canoe downstairs so I could do some work on it over the winter. We bought an Old Town Penobscot last summer for about $500 to use as our everyday (or everyweekend as it sometimes is) canoe to limit the wear and tear on our more expensive tripping boat. It was in good shape. There was some fixing up and changes I wanted to make to it. The wood seats and thwarts were a bit neglected but a sanding and refinish was all they needed.

The only change I wanted to make on it was to remove the center seat and put a yoke in. Some people would do the opposite, but we have solo canoes. A yoke allows the canoe to be carried comfortably by one person. Comfortable is relative. Portaging is never comfortable, but can be made less miserable. Flat yokes are a thwart that has a place for your neck. They are better then a regular thwart, but for long carries your shoulders start hurting fast.

There are different schools of thought on this and I have tried most of them. In the BWCA foam blocks that sit on the shoulders are popular. They are ugly, get dirty soggy with use. They work best when used with a flat yoke so there is more room for your neck. I am a believer in the Canadian school as far as yokes go. Take a big hunk of wood and sculpt it to fit nicely on the shoulders. They look beautiful. On our Swift Kipawa the best looking wood is the yoke. So after looking around for the perfect yoke I decided on a shadow yoke from SlipStream.

Ypsi Cycle Rocks

We've been buying random bike stuff at Ypsi Cycle for a while. We got lights for my bike there a while back (which is good for the trip home from night class). We also got Eli's AWESOME duck helmet there, plus my fenders, some bike locks and other stuff. They've always had GREAT service and have been very helpful and informative. But my experience on Monday took the cake. I had bike to rehearsal over the weekend and my brakes gave out for a moment. I didn't think much of it. Then, I was pulling the kids in the trailer to the library and the brakes gave out again. Much scarier while puling kids. Our neighbor agreed to watch my kids at storytime while I went to have my breaks checked. In about 10 min they had fixed my breaks, done a basic tune-up and sent me on my way. Gratis. If you need a reason to buy local, this is it. Sure, we could have bought the fender, helmet and other stuff online. But no one on the internet would have come to help me out on Monday. Thanks Ypsi Cycle. As for the rest of you: find a way to buy local this week!

McMaster-Carr

For those times when you need something that nobody seems to have you should check McMaster-Carr.

Years ago I was doing a canoe project and looking for some specific bolts that are longer and smaller in diameter than anyone around Ann Arbor had. I Went to Grainger, Fastenal, and Stadium Hardware (everyone said try there) among others. I spent a half day trying to find the stupid things and had nothing to show for it. I was complaining to my Dad that I couldn't find them anywhere. He asked if I tried McMaster-Carr. They had a great wizard thing to select the specs of the bolt and in a few minutes they were ordered. Shipping is fast too. My last order was submitted at 3pm and with the standard ground shipping it was dropped off at my door at noon the next day. Less than 24 hours for $4.50

PG: Parental Guidance Suggested

Like most kids, Eli likes Dora the Explorer. There is an episode where they go blueberry picking and encounter a bear. When they see the bear they run away and then row across the “icy cold river” until the bear gives up because he is too cold.

Having camped in bear country with the kids, we have discussed how to behave and some do's and don'ts. One of the things to keep in mind is that when encountering a bear you don't run. Running will only elicit a chase and bears are fast; way faster than a little kid and a monkey wearing boots.

I know that most kids will never encounter a bear or even be in a situation where they could, but Eli keeps asking me why Dora ran away from the bear since he knows you're not supposed to. He will randomly look at me and ask “Papa, why did Dora run from the bear?” Usually the ensuing conversation is followed by Eli affirming that he likes blueberries and asking if I like blueberries.

When we were talking about back-country stuff before our trip, trying to explain a bear bag was pretty tough. Eli kept asking questions like “So we put our food in the bag and give it to the bears?” and “We pick berries and feed them to bears?” Once he saw the bear bag in action he got it though. I am glad that he is able to know that the TV show is wrong, and that it isn't reinforcing a bad behavior.

It is amazing on what kids pick up, piece together, and remember.

On a side note, the same advice is true for encountering humans. When encountering a human, a bear should not run for fear that the human might make chase. My father once chased down a bear that was dragging off his backpack. He still has that pack, teeth holes and all; it came in handy for scaring young Boy Scouts.

Random Auto Musings

Living in SE Michigan the Auto Industry is everywhere. I pass by a few plants each day. One of those is scheduled to close. Lately things appear to be a mixed bag.

Bob Lutz left GM and then came back as the head of Marketing. I thought this was a bad idea. Lutz appears as pompous and crazy. On the Colbert Report he said he didn't believe in man made global warming. Recently he boasted that he could beat any production sedan in a CTS-V. The awesome auto blog Jalopnik took him up on it and it turned into a pretty good publicity stunt. Lutz lost to a kid in a BMW M3, but a few GM ringers beat the BMW. But hey no press is bad press. I heard an interview with Lutz on NPR about it.

Ford announced today that they are actually making a profit. I wonder when GM or Chrysler/Fiat will be able to do that. Though Ford was also hit with the unions voting down concessions today.

Ford has a great lineup. I never though I would even consider buying a car with a blue oval on it, but they now have a few models I really like and would consider. The Flex, Fusion, Fiesta, and new Taurus are all great cars. If they brought the Euro spec Focus over that would be awesome too.

He Faught the Wall and the Wall Won

On Thursday I got a call from daycare that Eli had hit his head on a wall and might need some stitches. He was fine until it was time for the sutures to go in. He was really freaked out (and brave) because he was restrained and could see everything close to his eye. This afternoon I took them out he was very well behaved.

Diapers

Early on in our diapering experience we read a study that seemed to show that, with the exception of trash, the environmental impacts of cloth and disposable diapering seemed about equal. In this study they considered the processes necessary to produce both the disposable and cloth diapers as well as the laundering impacts. They also assumed some averages. The “average” cloth-diapering parent washes diapers with bleach (not a fun chemical to produce or remove from your water), 2xs per laundering, with hot water in each cycle. It also assumed that the diapers are dried in the dryer and then ironed. That's right, ironed. I know very few people who regularly iron their clothing, let alone their kid's diapers, and most folks I know who wash diapers do a cold rinse followed by a hot wash. In our house, we try to avoid the dryer as it takes a lot of energy and is not very friendly to the diapers. The study also did not consider the fact that cloth diapering may encourage earlier toilet training. While there's no way to prove it, it seems entirely possible that it is so. When Eli was about 22 months we got a parenting email suggesting we start having our child help flush his poop so he'd start to get the idea where it goes. We laughed. Eli had been doing that for a few months because we always flushed his poop: it was not just a learning tool. A month later he no longer wore diapers during the day. I also remember that this study assumed the cloth diapers were only used for one child, which is rarely true. If you check out e-bay or craigslist for diapers you'll find quite a selection. Considering all this, I'd be interested in a new study that considers “averages” that are a little more well researched.