Monday, October 31, 2005

Location: Indianapolis - Another Version

A short stay in Indianapolis allows a visit with old friend, Larry. Larry is one individual who expresses an inventive and resourceful nature. I have watched him run dual engined go karts fearlessly in unlimited class competition. A Harley rider for many years , he is taking on a new project this winter . Construction is under way on his Vanguard V-twin Cushman scooter. An 18 horsepower engine connected to a torque converter, taken from a mini dragster, will turn an ultralite aircraft wheel and tire . Larry plans to ride this machine to both Daytona and Sturgis. If his calculations are correct he will do it at speeds nearing 79 mi. an hour. We will preview his route to Sturgis hoping to find smooth roads and interesting places. I will monitor Larry's progress.

I received an e-mail with the attached photograph of this terrific boat. It would be great to have a place that I can get a way to do no more than take a nap without interruption. I don't know a lot about boats but this one has a little bit for everybody. It has a nice upper deck cabin that Leelee might enjoy . It also has a rooftop air conditioner to keep Tater off the streets. The lower deck has plenty of storage for sporting gear. I figured before I bought the thing, I better take it out for a spin. After a few phone calls I had Charlie, Wyatt, and Dirtbugger collected for a run to Eagle Creek reservoir, just west of Indianapolis, to see if this boat was too good to be true. We also thought we would get in a little late season Crappie fishing.

Like I said before, I don't know a lot about boats. I don't even swim. So, after rounding up the experts I found a flotation device, a pith helmet and I was ready to go. Wyatt knows all about boats... He has owned a few and sold a few marine toilets in his day. Charlie can be pretty handy with the wrench when it comes to tinkering on boat motors. Dirtbugger, a pretty decent angler, should sniff out the Crappie and have our live wells full in no time. The only glitch would be that Eagle Creek allows only 10 horsepower motors on its watercraft. As shown in the picture, this baby had two, 20 horsepower thunderbolts. Charlie did the math for an easy fix. If we throttled up only one fourth of the way between that turtle and the rabbit, we would only be using 10 horsepower of the available 40. Load up the monkey and the beverage coolers. We are off on a pleasant shake down.

Charlie got behind the steering wheel... err uhm the helm, and launched the boat. In short order we were away from the docks into the open seas of Indiana. In about 400 yds both good and bad points about boating became evident. Charlie, twirling a wrench in his hand, declared that two outboard engines were an asset. The debate of the better two stroke verses for stroke engine was no problem here... we had the best of both worlds. Wyatt enthusiastically pointed out that the amount of oil being puked by the 2 stroke would leave a slick where ever we go. "If we get lost , set it on fire and it will light us all the way to home port. " Tater played with the bait while Dirtbugger stood on the bow like Ahab looking for that White Ghost, the elusive albino Crappie took his finger... explaining a wooden prosthesis and long torment of insplintered nasal passages.

The engines piped along while Dirtbugger baited hooks and Wyatt explained the nuances of a pok-a-dot Hula Popper. Charlie sang the song about ladies of Spain, the one Robert Shaw sang in Jaws. All was right. I was happily enjoying the boat I would buy when BANG! That "Time Dilation" crap started again. The bow lunged into the surf scooping up 8 inches of water. I looked to Charlie as he scrambled to stop the now airborne propellers. Wyatt dove for is tackle box while Tater climbed the rigging to the air conditioner, one last Titanic amorous adventure. I tumbled the length of the boat holding my pith helmet. Brother Dirtbugger grabbed me by the collar just before I flew over the railing to my watery grave. Saving my life, he must have figured that since I had not signed off on the boat that it was not yet part of my estate. I let out a scream... Not one of those manly " I'm the captain, now hear this " screams but a high-pitched, little girly, " look a spider " screams. I'm not proud... Friggen boats!

Monday, October 24, 2005

Deadly Catch

We reminisce this tale and debate the accuracy of our memory. - So much so, that we challenge each other to describe our own version on our blogs. Josh, who pens the “My Mule” blog, and I have known each other since the early ‘70s. Josh’s older brother Charles Chadwick, my twin brother Joe, and older brother Big John witnessed the event. The players’ identities remain mysteries. Now, nearly thirty years later, they refute the truth.

One of the country’s largest city parks, Eagle Creek Reservoir is found on the Indianapolis northwest side Designed for flood control and nature habitat, the reservoir serves as a recreational area and city water supply, The reservoir headwaters at 79th street and runs south 4.5 miles to the dam near 34th street. The 56th street causeway bisects the vessel. The dam, completed 1968, retains 1350 surface acres. The primary forage fish is gizzard shad and it supports Walleye, Bass, Bluegill, and more. Boats are limited to a 10 hp maximum.

Josh’s dad was a phenomenon at buying boats. In fact, this pontoon was the first of many future boat purchases. He bought it and a small speedboat in the same summer. Undoubtedly, he acquired them in a brilliant barter. This was a typical 1970s aluminum pontoon boat - green, 16’ deck, aluminum railing, green Astro-Turf carpet, and 10hp motor. I have no recollection of seats, benches, storage, or canopy. With anchors front and back and a “helm”, it was no frills, pure boat. Josh’s dad called it ‘Annie’s Pride”. We called it the USS Wet Dream.

Charlie and Big John were in the same grade and shared an equal obsession for moto-cross motorcycles. Josh, Joe and I share adventures of backyard minibike racing, camping and fishing. We relied on our older brothers to drive. Big John drove a custom (homebuilt 76 Dodge) van. It sported lakester side pipes and rally wheels outside. Hideous brown shag carpet squares and wood paneling adorned the interior with a black velvet-like upholstered couch, CB radio, and huge-ass quadraphonic 8-track stereo (8 speakers, 4 brands). Aerosmith and Blue Oyster Cult. . . Awesome in quad!

I shudder at the following memory. Even thinking about it makes me feel like I’m swallowing a tennis ball. For on that day, we knew not what horror await.

On a crisp autumn afternoon, we boarded. An inventory of gear included fishing poles and a compliment of tackle like spinners, jigs, worms, hula-poppers, and other brightly colored shiny things. We stowed coolers for soda and sandwiches and one to bring home our harvest. We carried fishing licenses, seating and gasoline. I sported a life vest and pith helmet, a prophetic preparation. This day we preyed on Pomoxis annularis, the elusive White Crappie.

Farewell and adieu to you fair Spanish ladies,
Farewell and adieu you ladies of Spain.
For we’ve received orders for to sail back to Boston,
And till nevermore shall we see you again.

Josh and Joe sat on the fore deck, their lawn chairs in front of the railing. Between them was Josh’s disproportionately large tackle box. (You see, Josh was a small kid. He, weighing less than 100 pounds when on his freshmen wrestling team, owned a 30 lb tackle box.) While dual figureheads surveyed the horizon, all eyes strained for evidence of our tasty prize, Charlie captained from the ship’s helm in one of the chairs we swiped from his mom’s card table set. John and I made passage mid-ship.

We cast lines at the 56th street bridge, our little boat bobbed happily in the gentile swell. Time passed fruitlessly and we agreed by majority to try our luck near the dam. Josh weighed the bow anchor and Charlie the stern. We struck out for the inlet at the southwest corner. I felt uneasy as the engine roared at flank speed for I knew, cruel mistresses are luck and the sea.

Entering the inlet, a throng of bank-side anglers greeted us. We found the hot spot but we were late.

WHAM!!! The bow pitched down and rolled to starboard, hell-bent for murky depths unknown. Tearing metal raped the pristine tranquility of the park, the sound Godzilla screams as he tromps through Tokyo.

A white water explosion engulfed the craft, luckily sending Joe and the huge bait box tumbling over the railing and into the boat. Tilting forward, the now exposed screw sang wildly. Charlie scrambled to silence the banshee and a wide-eyed John grasped helplessly at a hoagie. Josh! . . . poor Josh went overboard to embrace certain doom. He thrashed fighting death with every stroke.

Thinking quickly I collected Joe and all of Josh’s lures except one hula-popper, tripped the engine kill switch and put mustard on John’s sandwich. I stripped my safari style chapeau and threw it to my floundering friend, knowing its buoyancy would support his picayune body. He grabbed his life raft and paddled toward shore.

By the time the pontoon resurfaced the deck held six inches of liquid. Within minutes the game warden arrived in the water cop boat leading an aquatic cavalry of emergency equipment. His assessment determined that an improperly stowed anchor had fallen from the bow, snagging a submerged stump and nearly capsizing the boat. “Roscoe, your cool headed action saved everyone on board”, he said to the applause of the embanked anglers. Later, we went for pizza.

Kind ladies and gentleman, I’m no braggart. This is but a humble fishing story. Undeniably, had James Cameron learned of this legend he would have wasted no time on that other boat movie.

You might ask, “What happened to Josh?” . . . Josh swam to shore like Harrison Ford did in “The Fugitive”.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Location: Napannee (Undercover)

Northern Indiana provides a wealth of opportunity for us in our discovery of new places and through a chaotic introduction, new friends. When the dust settled, we found ourselves without a home, transportation, or any idea of what to do in the near future. In a uniquely diplomatic gesture Tater befriended our one-time adversaries by reaching out and swiping one of their hats. Seeing Tater wearing a black wide brimmed Amish hat amused the group, providing relief to a near tragic event. While waiting for the tow truck, we pulled the buggy from the ditch and calmed their horse. Our new friends will remain nameless... It is for their protection as well as our own.

They invited us into their homes. For the next two weeks we where the beneficiaries of a unique culture steeped in tradition and good will. They recognized our dilemma and opened their hearts and their private lives to us until we were on our feet. It took a couple of days to salvage the camper. Most of our belongings were retrieved, inventoried, and thoroughly cleaned. The slide through the muddy ditch was bad enough and compounded by Tater's digestive snafu. A lead provided by the tow truck operator located our new means of transportation. A derelict plumbers van seemed rough at first, but showed some potential. Our friends cannot drive but were not opposed to modifying the truck to serve as our new home. Their expert craftsmanship outfitted the unit with appropriate cabinetry and other home comforts that will make the longest trip pleasurable.

It would be only two days before we would leave. As the men smoked their evening pipes on the porch and reflected upon the day's work, "Johan" motioned me to a more private conversation. At his request, I would meet them at midnight and transport their group to parts unknown. . . The designated time arrived when I entered the barn to find a lantern light surrounded by eight phantoms. Wide brimmed hats and black shrouded faces hid their identities. Black woolen coats carried tools of the farm, except one. This specter stood a head taller, dressed in a sleeveless linen shirt and black vest. He carried a sledgehammer in each hand. On one mammoth bicep, I could see it. The skeleton driving a wagon and team of horses from the fires of hell, above which an angel observed. Underneath was scribed "Born to Buggy ". They joined hands and whispered "Bot boys, vat vill you do as we come for you." I said a silent prayer for my trusted monkey and myself for we found ourselves in the middle of the Amish who Shun Worldly Attitudes & Technologies.

Tater, "Johan" and I climbed into the cab of the van while the remaining crew found places in back for our trip. A few minutes down the back roads we happened upon a barn. From it we could hear fiddle music. We rushed the door and found inside the most unique artistic dance club I had ever seen. It was absolutely plain. No brass, no laser lights, no smoke machines, nothing but extraordinarily fine, handcrafted woodwork. A dancer shrieked and ran to the back room. She had no dollar bills, just apron pockets stuffed full of small jars of jam and sugar candies. Through the open door I saw it, a light, an electric light. A crewman exclaimed, " Here is the beast "! The vigils stood the offenders against the wall at which time their leader shook the Good Book overhead and began a sermon. He spoke for some time and yelled for even more. When the sermon finished, a nod to the giant and like John Henry, he attacked. Blow upon blow showered sparks as metal rang sending the Jeff Gordon vending machine straight to the belly of hell. With the deed done, all were told to go home, work hard, and pray for forgiveness.

Back on the highway, Leelee was mad. She had been bored out of her skull making quilts. In that snippy way she asked "Where were you and that monkey last night? Why does Tater thump that Good Book when you pass on the double yellow? If you think you are going to get away with this, guess again." . . Uh, Tater and I raided an artistic dance club with an Amish SWAT team. We lined up the perpetrators, gave them a scolding, send them home and destroyed their pop machine. . . "Yeah, Right! Your a lying son of a . . "

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Location: Napannee, Indiana

When a chimpanzee eats four bananas, a coconut cream pie, and chases it with 64 paraffin crayons you can imagine the results. Or maybe, you can't. In fact, I dare you to try. Lorileelee and I protected ourselves in our bright yellow rain gear, goggles, and some drugstore surgical masks. We poured about a quart of pepto into the beast but it just wouldn't take hold. At best 30 mi. an hour was top speed. Too many bumps in the road upset Tater even more. Besides it was all I could do to hold the camper steady while Lorileelee squeegeed the inside of the windshield.

Suddenly, between squeeges, an Orange triangle appeared. Sometimes it is called "Time Dilation" - In one micro moment that seems to take forever, a BANG shook our conestoga as a black shadow crossed the windshield. We fought it hard but the old reliable tilted hard to port. I looked around to see all of our belongings fly about the house, chimp included. It laid on its side and slid to a stop. An eerie silence followed, broken only by the moans of my fellow passengers. Still for a moment, I made sure all appendages were in line. The impact knocked off my shoes and glasses. Tater wrapped himself in a curtain and plugged his ears with his fingers. Called to Lorileelee " are you OK? " and she replied " you dumbass ". She was okay.

We could see movement through the now translucent windows and hear pounding on the roof. We mustard ourselves and climbed out to meet an awe struck group. Their vehicle in the other ditch, wheels spinning. They stood there amazed at the sight of our home made, yellow decontamination suits. We were dung covered aliens exiting a UFO near an artistic dance club. Finally, one broke from his trance, hauled back and punched me in the side of the neck screaming " its go time you heathen ! " Black wide-bremmed hats and yellow rain slickers flew like gloves at a hockey game. Those guys were some pissed-off Mennonites.

To make a long story short... The cavalry of emergency equipment had our name on it. When the dust settled, the police made us all shake hands and ask each other for forgiveness. Tater latched on to one of the guys, a new buddy (the guys were Amish, not Mennonite. Minnonites drive, Amish buggy.). We inspected each other's property damage to find the camocamper lost and the buggy repairable. Things could be worse. However it is the first time I've ever seen the terms "Amish assailant ", " road rage " and " explosive diarrhea " all mentioned in one police report. I'm not sure how the insurance company is going to except this.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Location: Ohio

Disappointed that we missed the Crayola factory in Pennsylvania, we stopped by an X-mart store and bought Tater the big 64 box. As we crossed into Ohio I grew almost giddy with excitement. I heard legends of the grandest type. Screw the baskets, we were looking for Big Muskie. Last seen in Cumberland, Big Muskie weighed over 13,000 tons and was longer than a football field. The world's largest earth moving machine was unfortunately scrapped in 1999. Undaunted , we continued to Lima to see "The Museum of Things Swallowed by Mental Patients". We arrived to find that we had been duped. Lima is the home of Dr. Yingling , who has a personal collection of abnormal things normal people swallow. Lima at one time was also home to a hospital for the criminally insane. The confusion was understandable. The Allen County Museum does however have a fine collection of stuffed albino animals.

We trekked North and West stopping at other tourist highlights, visited a few flea markets where I purchased a fish locator for $4. Nearing the Indiana border we spied Raymond's Pot luck drive-in movie theater. It was almost dark so we decided to pull in where $8 a carload made it inviting. Raymond stopped us at a little shack where we paid him and he handed us a grocery sack. Since we had the camper he asked us to park in the back. We drove up the lane behind the house to find his back yard had room for about seven cars. We, being the only patrons, parked behind the clothes line as instructed and could see a large screen TV perched atop 55 gallon drums at the other end of the yard. We opened the sack to find two bags of post-microwaved popcorn, a 2 liter bottle of soda, and a note saying that the movie was free, we paid for refreshments. It also had a map to his and hers port-o-let's as well as a two dollar off coupon for their Thursday night sardine extravaganza.

Showtime, Raymond's wife Maud came out of the house wearing her house coat and slippers. Balancing a cigarette and beer in one hand, a TV-guide and flashlight in the other, she informed everyone that the evening's performance would be " Ready to Rumble " starring David Arquette. At that point she turned the television on and tuned in HBO. well, all I can say is Tom Hanks step aside, David Arquette has Oscar winner written all over him. After the movie we turned on the toon channel to watch Magilla Gorilla and Tater entered seventh monkey heaven playing on the swing set, eating his crayons. Raymond commented "Your KTM jackets tell me that you are bike riders. Let me show you something." at that point he motioned us to the garage where he uncovered an old BSA flat tracker. We spent the rest of the night reminiscing of races past.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Location: Pennsylvania

The glories of Pennsylvania make the mind boggle. We pilgrim the state and marvel at its splendor. Our first goal was to find " Amos " the 15 ft. tall Amish man of Denver. . .No joy, the restaurant Amos advertised was sold and the behemoth relocated. Next was Linesville. "The spillway at Pymatuning Reservoir, near Linesville, PA, is famous for a freakish spectacle. It’s known as the place where the ducks walk on the fish. Carp collect at the base of the spillway at such a density that ducks can cross from one side to the other and barely touch the water. -" Oxford is the home of one of the world's largest Edsel collections. Hugh Lesley owns 172 of the magnificent machines.

Suddenly the enchantment ended. It was the wrench in the works, the gum on the shoe, the giant (keeping it PG-13) t-rd in the pipe . . .Lorileelee proclaimed "we are going to the shopping mall!" Maybe it wouldn't be so bad. Maybe, she knew what she is looking for. Maybe, we could go in , get what we need, and leave. Maybe, there is a God that could strike me with dysentery.

I sit in the middle of the mall with all the old men, too old to fight . Old warriors left to tend the fire while women forage and young scouts do brave things far away . We have no fire. We have but a water fixture gurgling like our last breath. Tater wears a yellow vest, a camouflage like those helper dogs wear - The ones that wheelchair kids sneak into all kinds of places. He stares at me with that look. The look that says, "If I had opposable thumbs, I'd beat your eyes black and steal your truck." I look at the packages surrounding my feet, pastels waft flowery scents. I raise my head and see an old man eyeballing me. "What you in for kid?" I replied, "potpourri and a baby shower gift. " He nodded knowingly and I look down at my feet ashamed.

Others in my new tribe have scavenged things to eat. One has a big pretzel with cheese stuff. Another is eating the ice-cream pellets, which look more like cottage cheese. One big guy gnaws on a sausage stick bought at the hickory barn . My mind wanders to a happier place - A place where bark busters shred sapling trees and where dirt has more flavor than a cini-mun-bun. I am alone enclosed in my helmet. I control my destiny. On my dirt bike I am the only one who can disappoint myself. There's a reason why my bike has one set of foot pegs.

I snap back to reality as she taps me on the shoulder. After all, this is the girl that I told myself I would spend my money on stupid stuff if she wanted. Besides, the guys are checking her out as we walk past the storefronts. Either that or they are watching me drag this monkey through the mall. "It's time for my prize, sweetheart. I've been waiting patiently for you, now it's time I get to grab that 36-volt cordless impact... Hey, did you hear me? Let's go to Sears... What do you mean we have to go? You can burn four hours looking for potpourri and I can't have 20 minutes at the tool shed? This is unbelievable. You're going to that coed baby shower on your own, I'll sit in the garage if I need to. Tater, we have to salvage this some how. Go fling a dump at the cell phone stand and I'll pull the fire alarm. We'll affect an inconspicuous departure amid a cavalry of ..."