Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

Cranes, and Stuff

Awww, look at that little guy!

Yesterday began nicely, even though it once again was destined to become hot and humid. I had spotted the crane family you see above days before as they wandered around both the campsites and the shallower water areas. This shot as taken just as I was leaving for an appointment in a nearby town. As photos go, it’s a miserable one to be sure, but who knows when I’d get another chance?

There are snapping turtles in the area too – one lady recently found one that had been run over by a car, put it in her trunk, and hauled it back up to the entrance shack, where she was encouraged to take it to the maintenance shed where a biologist is purported to lurk. Being tainted of mind by ignorance and a mindset lacking in Nature’s wondrous diversity, I’d have been tempted to run over the thing too, as they make short work of birds such as the youngest one above, which I do like. I recall my dad and uncle trapping and dragging a big one out of a pond on my uncle’s farm, specifically to dispatch it, though I was too young at the time to perceive what made the project worth the effort. I know, I know, they’re considered to be “important aquatic scavengers” by those who deal in such things, but drowning and eating waterfowl lacks glamor in my book, so while I wouldn’t hit a snapping turtle in the road in a wildlife area such as this – or anywhere else – at least I’m not yet required to find them adorable.

The entrance shack people recently posted a sign on the building that says, “Watch out for turtles!” because a painted turtle had just been spotted while out and about, and he told me that they had long been thought to have died out in this area. Nothing objectionable about painted turtles! I read that they can surpass 55 years of age.

But on to yesterday’s errands. Due to my elderly Garmin GPS presenting a string of navigational errors as well as incorrect speed limits, I decided to press my iPhone 4 into service, at least while I’m here. It’s a mix of good and bad, or course. To the good, its competency and clarity in navigation instructions is superior, lacking the occasional bizarre side trips. It announces street names to look for, and accurately shows the distance to the next turn, updating itself much more frequently in close quarters than the Garmin. On the questionable side, there is no display of either road speed or speed limits and, as is common these days, the name of the next turn is shown in impossibly small type, making me almost entirely dependent on The Voice coming out of it. That’s been the trend for awhile, with interface designers prioritizing a clean appearance over readability. They assume that everyone can see the small stuff as well as they can, which is a nonsensical assumption. Perhaps the “minimum type size” concept is taught only in Industrial Design classes? Then too, iMaps most often shows its map in “3D”, a form of perspective. I find a straight overhead view to be much clearer, but have not found a way to force that presentation. Still, it’s handier to be able to verbally tell Siri to find a place and then guide me there. There are many holes in the Garmin’s data bank, and at times, it’s a problem.

The one saving grace for me in using a smartphone on cellular is that the iPhone by default sticks with iMap as its app for navigation, and iMap – or Maps, as it’s now called – uses much less cellular data than most other apps, like Google Maps, to get you there, as long as you stay away from satellite view. All ’round, Google Maps is “better”, but its additional information comes at a high price when you’re already pushing your data limits. iMaps supposedly caches its downloaded information for those times when you drift out of cellular range, but we’ll see how that actually works out once I push the envelope in my remote travels. The one limitation is that my iPhone is so ancient that it supposedly cannot keep updating progress or making corrections when a phone call comes in. That shouldn’t be a problem for me.

But this little experiment to avoid wild goose chases has come with a price. First, the phone becomes a nuisance to use as a navigator if it’s just placed on top of whatever surface is available. Either you can’t see the screen, or it slides off whatever it’s resting on. The solution to that was a Macally holder that suction cups the phone to the windshield. It’s a very well thought out piece of kit, since it not only maintains a death grip on the glass, but makes locking in or extricating the phone a snap. In my experience, each of Macally’s products have been both unusually competent and reasonably priced, so when the choice is there, I’m sticking with that brand.

In practice, Siri’s announcements are often obscured by wind and road noise, its speaker being aimed toward the floor, so a solution was needed. At first, I figured I’d need to add an amplified speaker, but then it dawned on me that my bluetooth earpiece for hands-free driving should do the job just as well. It did, right up until actual driving instructions began. Everything else sounded fine, but the driving instructions simply weren’t there. I figured it was probably the earpiece I was using, and thanks to a sales guy at Best Buy, I found out that assumption was correct. He said that I needed to stick with headset types that could play music too, as that’s the channel that GPS broadcasts on. That little fact saved me from the disappointment of buying a cheaper earpiece, only to find that it wouldn’t work either. So I picked up a Plantronics unit, and my navigational life is now good.

I counted myself fortunate that I was able to break camp in dry weather, as rain was predicted. That potential reared its ugly head in mid-afternoon, when a front of nasty-looking thunderclouds suddenly appeared. That kind of thing makes you kinda move faster, and the big drops began coming down just after I finished fueling up the Mighty Furd. I haven’t seen a really good thunderstorm in quite awhile, and this was a doozy. Groceries were next on my list, and there was little point in putting it off until tomorrow, since giving up and going home would mean setting up camp in the same weather. The wind picked up to at least 40 MPH, which could be observed by the horizontal speed of the deluge blowing past. It was a real gully washer, I can tell ya. And the Mighty Furd jostled abruptly as the young trees in the grocery store parking lot bent like reeds. It was inspirational, in a way. Plus, I was counting on it to scrub off some of the smashed bugs on the leading edges of the Intrepid. The Inspirational and the Practical don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

The downpour continued after the wind had played itself out, and a few hardy souls, desperate to keep their frozen foods from defrosting, emerged form the store to load their cars and take advantage of Nature’s free shower. That was very impressive, too. I probably waited 20 minutes, watching a full inch of water run rapidly over the tarmac and clash at a grate right beside me. After the downpour finally settled into a modest rain, I donned my careworn Stetson fedora and made my way into the store. Yeah, I probably looked ridiculous in a polo shirt, cargo shorts, gym shoes and a fedora, but I suspect you reach a point in life where appearance is secondary to keeping rain off your head. Besides, if nobody there knows you, what difference does it make? That’s the thing about being raised in an era when people dressed for the weather. You were thought to be a dolt if you went out completely unprotected. Today, a fashionable appearance is paramount. Your choice.

The rain resumed while I was wandering about the huge store, then it stopped briefly, an accommodation I appreciated when I took my foodstuffs out to the camper to load them into the back door, putting some items into the fridge and freezer. It can take awhile to unlock the cargo box and swing it out of the way, so the less rain, the better. It stopped again when I arrived back at camp, and only began again after I set up and was closing the door after me. Does it get any better?

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