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Thursday, January 5, 2017

December 2016

December brought us a real, if thin, snowfall, and a genuine cold snap.  Below zero temperatures froze things up well enough for me to go ice fishing.  After several false starts, I found the honey hole over in Lowell's lake and brought home 8 decent bluegills.  The end of the academic semester finally came.  We had our insect folk song sing-along for the last lab in Entomology, and there was the annual Christmas carol sing-along/play-along.  These are always fun musical events, and give me an excuse to pull out the old charango.

Since final exams I've spent most of my time organizing my workshop and the other sheds.  I've built shelves and moved things around to places that make the most sense at the moment.  Stacey and I spent an afternoon recently packing things in plastic (presumably mouse-proof) tubs for long-term storage.  This event was essentially our final act of moving.

My friend Bob gave me a wood lathe, which I've always considered to be a highly specialized tool.  I've made some preliminary efforts with it, just with pieces of wood I had lying about.  I've turned some square pieces into round ones, and made two yo-yos and a top.  Lowell gave me his old fuel tank, so we spent an afternoon moving it over.  It needs refinishing and some other work, which makes for the perfect winter project.  It had sat so long that a tree had grown through its base and surrounded some of the angle iron.  It was an effort with chainsaw, splitting wedges and sledge hammer just to get that off.  We decided a welder would be useful, so we split the cost of a cheap one.  It will increase the range of projects we can attempt.

The dogs are about the same, and we still have Marshall.  We've had him about 4 months already.  Miss Kitty, now fully recovered from her surgery, is more spunky than ever.  She lost about 5 pounds, which probably helps.

Stacey and I went to the Therapy Dog Christmas party.  Sadly, dogs were not invited.  However, the hostess prepared a tremendous spread of diverse delectables.  It was fun to talk to people about dogs all night and some productive things came out of the meeting too.

We hosted the camera club Christmas party this year, which was a first.  We put all the dogs in crates in the (heated) workshop, which worked really well.  It was fun.  We have seldom entertained in recent years, but that may change now.  For Christmas day, we had Lowell, Savannah and her boyfriend over.  This was the first time we met the new beau.  He's gainfully employed, relatively normal, and a very nice guy.

I've been working as an expert witness for about 3 years on a wasp-related case.  It was finally about to go to trial and I had even booked a flight to Florida for next week.  Fortunately, the case settled out of court and I don't have to go.  I would have made a nice sum of money, but I would have had to drive back from St. Louis in the wee hours of the morning and be ready for my 8:30 class.  Both Stacey and I are quite relieved.

This may be my last blog for awhile.  I've been writing them monthly in recent years, but now even that seems a stretch.  Hard to believe I used to write them weekly.  They'll probably be restricted to special events or travel.  In the meantime, you can follow me on Facebook.

Click here for December photos.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

November 2016

I took Isabel her first agility trial.  We had been training for over a year, so it was time.  She really did well in Jumpers With Weaves, making first place both times, and a perfect 100 on the second run.  On the standard course, however, she refused to go on the contact obstacles, and we did not qualify. It was fun to compete and I look forward to our next trial.

Kitty had surgery on a mammary cyst that she's had for some time.  It was quite a time getting her over it, with three return trips to the vet, and wearing a cone for 3 weeks.  She beat the heck out of the cone, as it grew to be her personal weapon.  On the day we were planning to take it off, she went outside and rubbed it in dog poo, which precipitated an early removal.

My dog class has gone really well, as I've had lots of dogs visiting and culminated in a trip to the kennel club to see dogs run the agility course.  We got some good PR out of it when QU did this little story.

About 11 years ago, Lowell dug up some snake eggs while getting some soil with his tractor.  He gave the eggs to me and I hatched out three of them: Little Ron, Little Joe and Little Lowell.  I eventually released the first two, but have kept the third happy and healthy for years, often using it for demonstrations in my class.  I was completely surprised to find 4 eggs in her cage last week.  I think because I overfed her last spring, she had nothing better to do with the nutrients than make eggs.  I have rechristened her "Lolita".  For those keeping track, I'm 0 for 2 on guessing the gender of my pet snakes, as I thought my Burmese Python a female for years, but it turned out to be a male.

We took the sisters and Gretchen to a barn hunt practice.  They all shoed a little interest, but were not exceptional at all.  I was surprised, given how they like to chase squirrels at home.  I certainly thought Gretchen, who has killed mice, would attack the rat.  We consoled them with a trip to Pet Supplies Plus, where they got many treats and toys.

The next day I took Indigo to the Therapy Dogs International (TDI) test.  I knew the test was coming and she needed to work on some skills, but I just didn't have enough time with all the late nights and special events.  Miraculously, she passed.  Now she's a certified therapy dog.

Because we are insane we took on another foster.  Lilith is a pepper and salt mini.  She has lots of energy and attitude.  She is learning to socialize with the other dogs, and playing with one of the sisters at a time seems to work best.  We only had her a week before handing her off.  She sure was cute.

Leaves are one of the drawbacks of living in a heavily wooded area.  I had to buy a leaf blower.  I found one that attaches to my string trimmer, so I didn't add another motor to my maintenance load.  After blowing the leaves away from the house, I roll them into a big tarp, creating a giant burrito to slide down the hill and dump in the valley.

Deer season came and went.  I hung a stand on a tree in the back yard, but soon found that I had faced it in the opposite direction of that from which most deer come.  I saw about 7 deer on opening morning, including one legal buck, but I passed on them. I moved the stand to another tree with a better view.  On the second morning I saw 11, which was very entertaining.  I still didn't shoot, as most were on the adjoining property.  On the last day of the season I saw none.  It was much colder and fairly unpleasant.  I didn't even hunt that evening, much to my chagrin, as the dogs spotted a nice buck in the back yard that sauntered down the fence line after hearing their barking.

We had a nice, quiet Thanksgiving, with Savannah and Lowell coming over.  I had a long break from work, which enabled me to catch  up on raking leaves and other tasks. I did spend most of one day at an auction.  Guy I knew died earlier this year and they sold most of his stuff.  I didn't buy anything too fancy, just some inexpensive things, like a bike carrier and some plastic barrels.  I did get a little, black, cast iron schnauzer though, now adorning our fireplace.

Click to see November's photos and videos.

Monday, October 31, 2016

September-October 2016

Either I've gotten very lazy or my live is so boring, that I didn't bother to write a blog for September.  Time to catch up.  Perhaps the biggest event has been our fostering another giant schnauzer.  Marshall is a leggy, 80-lb black giant.  He has been a lot of fun to have around.  Since he is young, he likes to play a lot.  He even wears out the sisters.

I went to the International Congress of Entomology in Orlando.  I was so sick of flying that I drove.  I learned a lot, presented my talk, and reconnected with some old friends.  I did not go to Disney or any of the other tourist traps.

My dog class has been going great. We have had dogs ranging from Newfoundlands to Yorkshire terriers.  I'm sure the students are enjoying it.  Indigo earned the Canine Good Citizen title, and we're working on the skills for a Therapy Dog.  Isabel is making progress in agility.  She did really well in our demonstrations at Responsible Dog Ownership Day at Quincy Mall.

I fixed up an old Hiawatha bike that my brother Mike brought out from California.  It originally came from my Grandpa's estate, then hung in our milk barn for years. I put new tires and tube on it.  It is rusty but ridable.  Savannah rode it in the Monster Bike Bash in Columbia and won a costume contest with it.

I got another vintage bike, a Raleigh, that also needs tires and tubes.  It's a 3-speed with a steel mixte frame.  It does have some sweet fenders on it though.

Anticipating the need to plow snow this winter, and given the need to move stuff around and work on projects here, I thought a UTV would be the ideal solution.  After considerable research, I got the Honda Pioneer.  Although I had to send it back for a new fuel pump after a week, it has performed well ever since.

I found a couple of vines of wild hops at North Campus and I harvested as much as I could.  They were so prolific that even after several one-hour picking sessions, there were still many cones left on the vine.  I dried them and stored them in my basement.  I brewed up a batch of beer with it and bottled it.  I will be drinking it soon.

I taught the bug and bird parts of a Master Naturalist class.  They seemed like people who were really into it, though we didn't see as many species as I had hoped.

After nearly 3 years of waiting, I finally gave the deposition for the expert witness case I've been working on.  I'm not used to having my authority questioned as part of my regular job, but the opposing attorney in this case had no problem questioning it, and every assumption I made.  It was a bit unnerving, but I think I made my points and even got him back on a few.

I helped set up and take down the equipment for the Responsible Dog Ownership Day that the Quincy Kennel Club held at the Quincy Mall.  It was a fun event.  Isabel got to demonstrate agility twice and appear in the breed parade.  We hung out and chatted with our kennel club friends, mall visitors and vendors.  Dairy Queen had the pumpkin pie blizzard, which I could not resist.  I got to see and visit with a lot of dogs too.

The last day of the month was, of course, Halloween.  One of my students surprised me by dressing up  He had the hat, jeans, khaki shirt, tennies, fake beard and moustache, and even the earring.

September photos

October photos

Thursday, September 1, 2016

August 2016

I finally finished moving all our stuff and fixing up our old house.  It's for sale here:

It's been a hot, dry summer, but we finally got some rains, nearly 3 inches one night.  So I had to mow the grass at the new place.  The previous owner probably mowed 3 acres of surface area.  I sure wasn't going to do that! A lot of the tree-filled area will go back to natural woods, with a little help.  I started with a zero-turning-radius mower that I had gotten from Lowell.  It's a Bad Boy brand, and he's had a lot of trouble with it.  It was working well for me until I nearly put it in the pond.  It doesn't like to turn uphill.  I stopped it, then pulled it back up the hill with my truck.  Then I was mowing the dam and it stopped responding to the controls.  The belt had broken.  So I switched to pulling a Swisher finishing mower with Lowell's little ATV.  That was working even better until I looked back and saw it smoking (and not mowing).  I had burned up another belt.  Fortunately, I was able to borrow Lowell's riding mower and finish the job.  It was still 4 hours, including string trimming.

While we have become accustomed to the presence of deer in the back yard, the appearance of a big buck was quite a pleasant surprise.  I'm not normally a very patient photographer, but I stood at the tripod (which I keep in the sun room at all times) for quite a long time waiting for him to come out from behind a tree.  It was raining and the light was so dim I had to use a very high ISO.  Consequently, the images were not the best ever, but at least I got the shot.

My brother Mike and his son Racin drove out from California.  He brought me an old bike I had been storing in one of our barns.  We aired up the tires and I rode it for a minute before they blew out.  It's a restoration project.  He helped me fix up the old mowers and organize my workshop.  We hiked the property and swam in the pond.  We went to Palmyra one afternoon and I bought a vintage bar to go in the family room.  We squished up all the blackberries and started a batch of wine.  We went up to Hamilton, IL, and dug geodes for one morning, which was kind of fun.  There was an auction down the road and we went to that.  I got a few good deals, but was outbid on some others.  On his last day here, we moved Racin into the dorms at QU.

While they were here, we received a bid on our old house.  It seemed reasonable, though they wanted the old mower with the house, and we accepted.  We'll be happy to not be paying two mortgages for long.

The fall semester approached with the usual series of meetings, followed by the onset of classes.  i have two new preps this semester.  One is the Biology of Dogs, which was my own idea.  The other is QUC, which used to be FYE.  It's been years since I've taught it, and it no longer resembles what it once was.  Classes are now in full swing, and I am enjoying taking the Entomology class out.  They are very motivated and seem to appreciate the skills they are learning.

On my first check on the blackberry wine, it smelled bad, like vinegar.  I was quite worried.  After I racked it, I found that the liquor was developing into a nice wine, the smell attributable to the cap of decaying skins and seeds.  The fermentation was going strong, and I have reasonable certainty that it will be an excellent vintage.

I had a spare moment and got the old Honda CT-70 running again.  I had switched out the carburetor and added fuel filters last spring, so I just added gas and it fired up without much trouble.  Naturally, I rode it all over the new place, and even used it to go over to Lowell's to pick pears.  Stacey and I have been chipping away at the unpacking.  We got all the artwork hung on the walls and have emptied many boxes.  The house is almost in the shape that we ultimately want it to be.

Savannah got a new job as office staff at a Quincy manufacturer.  It's part time, but at least it has normal hours.

Indigo and Gretchen have been taking Canine Good Citizen classes.  Both are very close to being able to pass the test.  Isabel has been still taking agility classes for about a year.  She's still a novice, but very accomplished.  She may be competing this November.

Picasa has gone extinct, so I can no longer embed slide shows in this blog.  At the moment, it seems the best I can do is provide the following link, which you can click through to see the photos.

Photo album

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

July 2016

Moving, moving, moving.  Rather than pack all our stuff, rent a big truck and move all at once, we elected to use a more do-it-yourself strategy.  For the last week in June, I hauled a lot of nonessential things to our new place.  On July 1 we planned to haul essentials: bedroom, kitchen, bathroom. I had arranged through a friend to hire a couple of big guys to help us.  Unfortunately, they didn't show up.  We were able to pull in some late recruits and get the job done.  From then on, we have lived at the new place.  We bought a king-sized bed, in various parts from various places, and use our old bed for the guest room.  The new (used) frame was actually cobbled together from various parts of a couple of beds.  Turns out it's larger than King sized, and we had a big gap at the front of the mattress.  I ended up buying a regular rail frame and attaching the big wooden headboard to it.  No more gap.

Savannah lives in a basement room.  We have continued moving over the remaining noncritical stuff until the old house is emptied.  Stacey has done much of the unpacking and organizing the new house.  Meanwhile, we have hired a friend to peel wallpaper and repaint a few rooms.  We got our satellite TV hookup right away, but the internet, which was supposed to be hooked up on July 1, consistently failed to work.  After Stacey harassed them several times, CenturyLink finally admitted that they could not provide us with internet service.  That was after a week.  I still don't know why they couldn't tell us that in the first 5 minutes.  We got to hook us up eventually.  We have a very fast connection now.  Of course, CenturyLink still billed us for services they could not provide.

We also changed our cell phones from AT&T back to US Cellular.  We had poor reception at our house and essentially no data.  AT&T kept billing us too.  One big hitch we waited on was to get new carpet in the downstairs family room.  In the interim, all the extra furniture was stacked up in the front room.

Aside from the chaos of moving, we are loving the place.  It teems with wildlife.  We have tons of hummingbirds visiting our feeders, house wrens nesting on the front porch and eastern phoebes nesting under the eaves of each building.  Red-headed woodpeckers are here all the time.  We have a couple of mineral licks that the deer visit nearly each day.  Every evening after dinner Stacey and I feed the catfish in the pond and sit in the swinging bench and watch them come up to eat.  It's very relaxing.  I caught a bass on my first cast on my first attempt to fish the pond.  We'll be stocking more catfish in due time.  Right now, the bluegills have their circular beds constructed all around the edges of the pond.  The water is remarkably clear, perhaps because it receives no agricultural runoff, the grass carp keep down the vegetation, and the previous owner may have dosed it with copper sulfate.  I enjoy swimming in it, and I finally got Savannah to try it, though she's freaked out by the fish.  There is a floating dock on it already, and Savannah donated a pool ladder.

Much of the place is heavily mowed, so that it looks like a park, with lots of mature oak and hickory trees.  However, one day I took a hike and explored most nooks and crannies.  We have a couple of huge gullies from the outflow from Lowell's Lake.  I found a lot of native plants and not too many bad non-natives (autumn olives, your days are numbered).  I've seen lots of insects.  We have toads hanging around the front yard, and even 5-lined skinks that occasionally appear.  We have a woodchuck who, unfortunately, made a burrow under the big shed.  His days are numbered too.  Grey squirrels are all over, and we feed them a bit of field corn.

The smaller dogs like to sit in the bay window and watch the wildlife, especially the squirrels, in the back yard.  The dogs can see out from many of the rooms.  They are adjusting to the new invisible fence.  It was perfect for this situation, as we are set back far from the road.  They have lots of room to run, and I have little fear of their escaping.  I try not to leave any of the smaller ones out alone though.  I know the coyotes are out there.  The dogs are learning to swim in the pond, but some enjoy it more than others.

Our 13-acre hayfield was baled by our neighbors, a nice young couple.  He already has the hay sold and will split the (modest) funds with us.  I love being a hay farmer again after a hiatus of several decades, but I also would like to convert the hayfield to prairie eventually.  The bales were a lovely decoration for our field, and I naturally used them as props. I put Gretchen up on one for a still photo, and got Isabel to jump and climb them for a video. Eventually, our hay bales were taken away.  Other long term plans include planting native shrubs and woodland wildflowers.  I sure won't be mowing as much, though I plan to have some trails.  The previous owner had the most unique mailbox: a John Deere lawn tractor with a space in the grill hollowed out for the mail box.  I think they make fine tractors, but I don't want to advertise for them.  I unbolted it and pushed it off the post.  It's actually an old Husqvarna painted to look like a JD.  I put up a regular mail box with a schnauzer silhouette on top. I've made other improvements as time has allowed, usually when I'm stuck at home.
Video of Isabel should be embedded here:
Our proximity to Lowell (directly across the road) has been a great convenience, as was our intention.  We have him over for dinner, and I can help him on projects that he is working on.  We have been fishing a couple of times, and blackberry picking season has been exceptional this year.

As the old house emptied, I've been working on it.  I touched up the paint and woodwork.  I've made dozens of minor repairs.  We had the carpets cleaned.  I had a garage sale to get rid of all the stuff we didn't want to move.  It was a rainy morning, so hardly anyone came.  I did sell a few things, anyway.  We gave the rest to the thrift store or recycled it.  Our cleaning lady has been working on every square inch of surface.  We hear the real estate market is hot right now, so we're tried to get it for sale as soon as possible.  We had a couple of showings on the first day.

My friend Jan has cicada killers in her back yard, and invited me over to photograph them.  It had been awhile since I'd seen a nesting aggregation, as I couldn't find them in Canton anymore.  It was nice to get some photos with my latest equipment.  More interesting, perhaps, were Jan's big flower beds, mostly zinnias, that are very attractive to butterflies.

This months photos should appear in a slide show below (requires flash):

Saturday, July 16, 2016

June 2016

In the early part of the month I spent a lot of time working on the house and taking training rides.  I put the final touches on the bikes, installing full fenders on mine using some redneck engineering.  I did take the time to do some photography, mostly documenting insects that use our milkweeds.

I can't give a blow-by-blow account of Big BAM.  I wasn't able to keep a journal along the way, but I can mention some highlights.  The music was very good.  My favorite band was on the first night, the Kris Lager band, good rock music.  Second would be Final Mix, essentially a funk cover band.  I also enjoyed David Wax Museum and Bones, Jugs & Harmony.

The riding was challenging, with the heat and the hills.  The first day was hardest, covering 65 hilly miles. The fifth was easiest, 40 flat miles.  The towns had really prepared for us.  They all had a nice park or fairgrounds for us to camp in.  Chillicothe was probably best, having a large park with mature trees and their own water park, which we were able use for free.

One of the strangest things happened right as we were leaving St. Joe.  We were pedaling through a nice neighborhood, and there was a live bullfrog in the middle of the road.  The abundance and diversity of roadkills provided constant challenges to my taxonomic training.

We didn't bring our speakers for this trip, but our theme song was "Feelin' stronger every day" by Chicago.  It was appropriate because each day we became more fit, though we still had aches from the days before. So it was pain by day and misery by night, as we camped in a tent in the heat and humidity.  We adjusted fairly quickly to sleeping in pools of our own sweat.

We did take the opportunity to dip our wheels in the Missouri River at the beginning and the Mississippi River at the end.  It never rained, so I carried the weight of those fenders 300 miles for nothing.

We were interviewed by the Quincy Herald-Whig, resulting in an article.  I had a hard time articulating why we did it and what it meant.  I will say it was a rare opportunity to spend a week with my daughter, almost 24/7.  It was an adventure and an accomplishment.  I should also say that bicycling is intrinsically pleasing.

Upon our return I began preparing for the big move.  I went to the seller's auction and bought a few things, notably the firewood, which was already cut, split and stacked.  I loaded up my truck and trailer, the RV and the Lil Egg with some of our stuff.  After final details of insurance and banking, we went to the closing.  The sellers gave us the keys and we hauled out to our new abode.  Our address is now the following:

20697 250th St.
Lewistown, MO  63452

We have some acreage in the countryside, a pond, a few outbuildings, and a lovely home.  Now we just have to get all of our stuff out there.  I expect this will occupy me for weeks to come, as will sprucing up our old house.  One of the great points about this house was that it has a huge carport that we could use to park our motorhome out of the weather.  The first big disappointment was to find the the RV doesn't actually fit!  It's too tall by just a few inches.  Not sure how we're going to deal with that yet.

Photos should appear below.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

May 2016

Another semester and academic year came to a close.  It's always bittersweet.  My plant field biology class was really just starting to bond.  After final exam week and commencement, I've begun working on the house.  I started with some little things, then progressed to some exterior painting.

Savannah and I had been planning to go on some big bike rides this summer.  We had already committed to the Pedalers Jamboree.  We also wanted to bike the week-long Big BAM this year, but we would need road bikes for that.  One day Savannah found a used racing bike at the local bike shop, and it was just her size.  She got a good deal on it (Felt ZW95). Then I had to intensify my search for a road bike.  After following several dead ends, I found a really nice on on Craigslist for a good price.  I never owned a Fuji before, but this one was a high tech machine.  I didn't even know how to shift it at first. Bikes have changed a lot over the years.

We've been taking regular training rides to try to get into shape.  On one of our first ones, she rode into a cloud of gnats.  I think she got a mouthful.  I managed to dodge them.  After we both got our road bikes we set out on a 22-mile paved route, but we hadn't gone a mile before she got a flat tire.  Fortunately, I had prepared in advance by mounting a pump on my bike and carrying a patch kit.  We had the flat nearly fixed when Savannah turned the pump a bit too far and broke the valve stem.  Game over.  I rode home, brought back a vehicle, and carried her and the bike home.  While we were wheeling them back into the basement, I said, "Watch out for that dog turd."  We decided to switch to our mountain bikes.  While we were wheeling those out, Savannah ran over the dog turd with her front tire, which was also flat.  Clearly, it was not her day.  She hosed off the tire, we fixed the flat and were on our way.

We often comment on the roadkills.  There are the usual raccoons, opossums, and odoriferous skunks.  There are quite a few cats these days, and the occasional snake.  Usually, we play music on a bluetooth speaker driven by my phone.  I have a playlist of bicycle-related songs to give us motivation.  After those ran out, I was playing my list of dog related songs when we were, ironically, chased by a couple of dogs.  A big yellow lab joined me on the road.  He was kind of heavy, so I thought I could outrun him, but he kept pace pretty well.  He had some aggressive growls and barks going, but I yelled at him and he whimpered and broke off pursuit.  But his buddy was a much faster white dog on the other side of the ditch, and I was sure I couldn't outrun her.  I yelled some more, and I guess the owners were yelling too, and she gave up.  All the while, "Dog Eat Dog" (the Adam and the Ants version) was playing.  More irony.  After that, my legs were kind of toasted, but we had mostly tailwinds after we got to La Grange.  I got a gatorade at the Casey's, since I had left my freshly filled water bottle in the kitchen.

I spent one day out at Lowell's.  We tried and failed to repair two lawn mowers.  So we went fishing.  The bite was pretty good, and I was catching a lot of small bass.  At the end though, and good 18-inch lunker bit my lure and made my day.

Rainy weather was forecast for the Pedalers Jamboree.  I wanted to outfit our bikes with fenders, but new ones are costly, and I didn't have time to make nice wooden ones.  Like a timely miracle, a member of the Quincy Bike Club had a stack of them to give away.  She let me pick through them and get enough to outfit all our bikes.  I picked up some mounting hardware from the local bike shop and was able to get a complete set of fenders installed on Savannah's mountain bike before we left.  It required some modification, fabrication and exasperation.  On a test ride, she didn't like the way they rattled and asked me to take them off.  I convinced her to try them for a day at least.  Sheesh.  My mountain bike has 29-inch wheels, so none of the regular fenders would fit.  There was a chromed steel stubby thing that I was able to mount on the front fork.  I knew it wouldn't block much, but it was better than nothing.

We headed down to Boonville with the motorhome pulling the Lil Egg.  We parked in the lot of the Isle of Capri Casino, which is only a few blocks from Kemper Park.  There are no hook-ups, but we stayed for free.  We wandered the town and had a beer. Savannah cooked dinner in the RV. Without shore power, we could not use aire conditioning, but it was cool enough at night.  On Saturday morning we had a light breakfast and loaded all that we would need into the Lil Egg. I had realized early that I had forgotten to bring any biking shorts with me, in spite of having 4 or 5 pairs.  Fortunately, Savannah had an extra pair that were too big for her anyway.  They fit me a little funny, but did the job.  I guess I was cross-dressing all weekend.  The bikes were already on the roof rack.  We drove to Columbia, unloaded the bikes and parked the car.  We began at the official start, where I ran into Mike Dennehy, the tour organizer.  The beginning of the ride is always the best, as it is cool, shaded, and the path is paved.  We got off to a much earlier start this year than last.  I also have a bluetooth speaker, which we used to blast our specially curated playlist of biking songs.  The first act we saw was a one-man band called Dance Monkey Dance in Huntsdale.  He was pretty good, even with a trombone.  On to Rocheport!  On the way, we stopped to see the champion burr oak again.  In Rocheport we saw a band I like a lot.  Currently called Hounds, they were Clock Work when I saw them last year for Big BAM.  They rocked.  We had lunch there and moved on.  At one point, we stopped and I helped a guy fix a flat on his bike.  He had a pump and I had a patch kit.  Having just fixed one recently, I was in good practice.  I found the hole in the tube and completed the repair.  We saw them later and the tire was still holding air.

We arrived at New Franklin so early that the band wasn't playing yet and the beer tent wasn't set up.  It gave us a long rest.  Two ladies came rolling in with custom bikes.  One was decked out in a wine theme, with corks glued to everything and an actual small cask on the rack.  Her costume was complete with a Carmen Miranda-style hat full of fruit.  She actually dispensed free wine to people.  The other was a mermaid theme, with the front end of a manikin on the handlebars and a whale tail on the rear.  Finally, we heard the Royal Furs, who were a pretty good rock band.  The lead singer was a tiny thing, and she played the theramin, which you don't see every day.

We rode into Boonville a little tired, but in much better condition than we had last year. We were so early that we took a nap, though a fairly sweaty one.  We had leftovers from the night before, and headed over to the park.  The first band, the Mighty Pines, was already playing.  We had a couple of beers and some pie and ice cream.  The second artist was a woman named Flint Eastwood.  She was a great singer with a lot of passion.  She liked to get the crowd involved.  Then came Shrub, a reggae band from Ohio. They had actually parked their RV next to ours at the Casino.  We didn't have much appreciation for their sound though.  Next came a fire artist, who was good and funny, but we couldn't see much of him because of everyone standing up front.  Finally, Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band came on.  They're a funk band with maybe 6 or 8 people on stage, including a horn section.  Unfortunately, by then the night had turned quite cold and clammy.  We heard a few of their songs, then walked back to the RV to crash.  We could still hear their bass parts through the windows.

We slept well and got up in plenty of time to make the pancake breakfast at the park.  When we got back to the RV, the drummer from Shrub was wandering around looking for their RV.  When he found it wasn't there anymore (we had seen them leaving the park at breakfast), he called somebody and didn't sound happy.  We saddled up and headed out again on the Katy Trail.  I felt pretty good but probably pushed it too hard.  By the time we got to Rocheport, my butt was hurting and my knees were complaining.  The Missouri River had come up even more overnight and flooded the grounds, the stage was sitting in two feet of water. They ultimately pulled it out with a tractor. They set up the sound equipment on dry ground, and the band played on.  Two guys named Steve.  One was a really good acoustic guitar player, the other a singer.  They were quite good, and we saw their whole show.  That gave me a good rest, and I felt pretty good for the next 10 miles.

The rising Missouri had flooded parts of the trail.  Savannah kept perfectly dry with her fenders, while I got splashed.  We saw lots of aquatic turtles in the adjacent wetlands, and even a box turtle on the trail.  Some parts of the trail were lined with thick stands of spiderwort, as well as some white beardtongue.  I also found that when covered with sunscreen and sweat, swarms of tiny gnats that you encounter will just stick to you. I am a giant sticky trap.  When we got to Katfish Katy's at Huntsdale, we were disappointed to learn that they had no food tent.  We got bananas and snacks to tide us over.  They also had some great lemon shandy.  The band, Jenny Teator and the Fevers, was really good.  Too bad we were roasting in the sun.  When their set was done, we took off again.  As we approached Columbia, the battery on my bluetooth speaker finally died,  only 5 or 6 songs short of the complete playlist and a few miles short of the end.  Tragic.

We arrived triumphantly in Columbia, and looked around in a bike shop before we loaded up the car.  We stopped at a Taco Bell for a lunch of about the quality one expects from Taco Bell, and highballed it back to Boonville.  It didn't take long to hook the Lil Egg back up to the RV and get out of town. I started getting sleepy around Moberly and Savannah took over driving.  We arrived home smelly, but no worse for wear.

The next day, Memorial Day, the Quincy Bicycle Club was having a bike ride in support of cancer patients.  Stacey hauled me down to Hannibal so I could ride while she ran errands.  There were a lot of people there to take the ride, including my camera club friend Terry.  We joined the middle distance group for a planned 32 miles.  For the first 10 miles my legs felt pretty tight.  Then we had a rest stop.  I felt really good for the next 10, including a stop at the cemetery to pay respects at the grave of the woman for whom the ride was in memory.  The last 10 or so were very hilly.  The downhills were some of the fastest I've done in quite a while, but the uphills were the slow grind in first gear type.  Stacey picked me up, we got lunch and went home.

Savannah and I have done some training rides since.  We're still battling her flats, even after we got a new set of belted tires.

Next month: the Big BAM and the Big Move.

This month's photos: flowers, dogs and birds: