Checking the calendar I see that we’ve been off the road for two weeks now. It feels good, the right move coming at the right time. And it’s clear, at least to us, that even though we’re not rolling we’re still on a journey — changes in our American Life continue even as we sit still.
We’ll make other changes, too, over the next several months. More about that another time.
We figure that this blog and our social-media accounts chronicle only about five percent of our experience. It’s impossible for us to capture every moment and share every photo — that’s the nature of a journal, no matter the medium.
Occasionally I feel the need to catch up on things I didn’t include at the time. This is such an occasion.
Take, for example, today’s header image. It’s a screen-grab from dashcam video recorded as we crossed the Continental Divide on September 1st. It was a significant moment, mentioned before but not illustrated ’til now.
On Sunday we saw our first “vaccination sign,” posted on the river outfitter’s front door (pictured). We were surprised to see Karen make an appearance in this part of the country, but it could have something to do with the business being a permitted NPS concession. Deb and I ignored the meaningless sign, of course.
As you can imagine, we’ve had thousands of fascinating conversations and intriguing encounters over the last six months. Like the owner of a liquor store we patronized on Monday, a longtime resident who volunteered his opinions about the best places to visit, eat, do business and live in the area. An hour after that, while waiting for the BBQ joint to prepare our order, our guests were surprised that every person who walked by us, all strangers, said hello.
Later, “up on the mountain,” the kids went exploring. Not far from the cabin, Calvin (the dog belonging to our younger boy and and his fiancée) stepped on a small timber rattler. The snake buzzed a warning but didn’t strike. (It was dispatched by Deb’s cousin, by the way. Too close.)
A few times now I’ve referred to the “large SUV” we rented while our Ohio guests were here. The local Enterprise agent, a guy we worked with back in May, cut us a helluva deal on a Ford Expedition Limited, which we made good use of on Saturday and Sunday.
Loaded with options, it came to us with 51,000 miles on the clock. Deb did most of the driving in the 48 hours we had it, but I got enough seat time to form an impression.
The ride was smooth, as expected. Road manners were solid and not terribly sloppy, although on twisty Ozarks roads (or any roads, for that matter) I would’ve preferred a stiffer suspension.
The Ford’s ten-speed automatic was controlled by means of a dial on the center console. Luddite that I am, I found the knob cumbersome, especially in combination with a pair of buttons allowing the transmission to be shifted manually. With apologies to Patrick Henry, give me a damned shift lever or give me death.
I did engage the only 4WD mode we had available, labeled “4A,” on dirt roads down by the Buffalo, but I didn’t really give it a workout. The rig probably would go as far as its street tires would take it.
Would I drive the Expedition Limited again? Absolutely. But is it worth the estimated sticker price of $75,000? Not if it’s my money.
The stretch of the Buffalo River we canoed on Sunday, between Tyler Bend and Gilbert, passed through an area that almost became the site of a massive dam. Plans for the Gilbert Dam, proposed in the 1960s, eventually were abandoned and in 1972 the Buffalo was designated America’s first National River.
Smart management of water resources supports the progress of man, and it protects life and property. Hydroelectric power and flood control have become essential to commerce and modern culture.
The nearby White River is a prime example. Once a flood-prone monster, it’s been tamed by dams creating Lake Taneycomo (1913), Bull Shoals Lake (1930s) and Table Rock Lake (1950s). Farther north, the Osage River was dammed to produce Truman Reservoir and Lake of The Ozarks.
All of those lakes offer unlimited opportunities for recreation, and each improves American Life as we know it. It’s worth remembering, however, that the moment their waters began to rise they inundated great swaths of the landscape and erased irreplaceable culture.
It’s a balance, of course. We can’t have everything.
The Buffalo is different, it seems to me. The fight 50 years ago to protect this unimpounded river was a righteous one. It preserved a wild and scenic jewel for us and for generations unborn. Every time I see the Buffalo River, whether sitting on a gravel shoal or gliding downstream in a canoe, I’m grateful for that.
I feel the same way about another river, 1,400 miles to the northwest, waters I last laid eyes on six weeks ago. Widely regarded to be the wildest river in the continental U.S., the North Fork of the Flathead was named a National River four years after the Buffalo.
It remains my favorite. I’m sure it always will be.
But for the record, I’m not crazy about the fact that so much of the land in this country is under government control. Nor do I believe that the State should impose its will to save every newt and nuthatch. I don’t subscribe to that kind of institutional eco-extremism.
Still, I can’t deny that I’ve benefited from others’ passion for preservation, whether public or private. I’m richer for their efforts.
It’s rained here all day, cold and miserable. We’ve been staying inside the bus, watching the trees wave in the wind and listening to rain drum on the roof. All that’s missing is a pot of soup simmering on the stove.
We settled for pizza.
The electrical pedestal here features a cable TV feed, so we’ve had the news on in the background. And today, like yesterday, I heard things.
I heard more evidence that POTUS #45 continues to live rent-free in Democrats’ heads. Daffy McHairsniffer gave a speech yesterday supporting the Democrat running for governor of Virginia, and in 17 minutes he invoked “Trump” 24 times.
And I listened to Cavuto launch a new crusade. Returning this week after a bout with WuFlu, he’s taken to harping about getting vaccinated — monologue after monologue, guest after guest.
Cavuto is smart and he’s clever. He’s also a sick man, and he has been for almost 40 years. Cancer. MS. Obesity. Heart disease. He’s a big ol’ basket of “comorbidities.”
Now he’s urging “people of all sorts” to get vaccinated for the sake of their “vulnerable neighbors.” His point, presumably, is that by being vaccinated we protect not only ourselves but those around us.
That’s a strange argument for Cavuto to make, considering that he was fully vaccinated, still contracted WuFlu and transmitted it to his wife.
He’s trying to walk a line between the freedom to make one’s own medical decisions and (what he believes is) an individual’s obligation to society. A random doctor he interviewed today said, “It’s all well and good to assert rights, but with rights come responsibilities.”
Let me be clear here — the sole “responsibility” accompanying our Liberty is the duty to defend the Liberty of others. Period.
I’ll close today with John Galt’s oath:
“I swear by my Life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for the sake of mine.”
Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.