Tag Archives: Humor

Try your hand at Adventure Racing

If you aren’t familiar with the concept, Adventure Racing (AR) is a variation on the sport of human-powered racing.  Aside from the “standard” skills of swimming, bicycling, running or hiking, an adventure race might also involve orienteering, rappelling, rock-climbing or even scuba diving.  Basically, race organizers draw a line through the roughest terrain possible and turn the participants loose.

The sport is also set aside from other types of racing by running for long periods, frequently 24 hours and sometimes even over several days.  In some cases, the participants must carry a full backpack of gear to deal with the challenges.

We have never participated in such a race but have been intrigued about the possibilities.  We are seriously considering entering what seems like a great way to figuratively and literally get our feet wet in AR: the 18-hour MISSION Lite race May 7 in scenic (and rugged) Brown County.  The race is sponsored by DINO (Doing Indiana Off-Road)

According to DINO:

The MISSION Lite offers beginner adventure racers a chance to see what it’s all about. A shorter, 4-hour cutoff; less complex navigation; and reduced gear list allow an introductory taste of AR.

Participants travel by foot, bicycle, and canoe in teams (or in the Solo division), using map and compass to find checkpoints. Each team must stay together the entire race. Along the way, they will encounter various natural and manmade challenges that test physical and mental ability and creativity.

For those up to the challenge, a solo division is offered.

The course is designed to keep most participants going all 18 hours, creating a dramatic finish line setting where family and friends can cheer for their team as they emerge from the darkness.

Sounds like our cup of tea…or hemlock.

For more information visit:

DINO Indiana: Mountain Bike, Trail Run, Off-road Triathlon, and Adventure Racing.

 

photo: Microsoft

Bait Dealer

 

 

Last night I was bored and went to my library, searching for something that would satiate my idle mind.  Stuck between Hemingway and an old tome on saltwater fly tying, I came upon a slim paperback I had picked up in some unknown store years ago, entitled “How to make part-time cash in the outdoors.”

Of the various chapters devoted to things like outdoor writing (“Put a noun, a verb and an outrageous string of lies together, then stir in a word processor.  Serves one major or two minor outdoor magazines”), there was a chapter on raising bait for sale.  The book had several good ideas on how to become a bait dealer in your spare time, promising the reader wads and wads of spare cash as anxious fisherman beat a path to your door.

The book raised some good points but unfortunately, it didn’t mention the smell.  For those of you who have not attempted to become a minnow magnate, I will illustrate the problem in a moment.

In my case the effort to become a bait tycoon began in the summer of my eighth grade year, a time when a boy needs money to buy cabin cruisers and African safaris but the paycheck from lawn mowing barely covers the cost of fishing lures.

Messing around one day with some scrap window screen we had found at a construction site, I fashioned a crude crayfish trap.  That evening, we took it to the trap to the nearby golf course pond and waited.

Using all the patience a 13-year-old could muster, I waited an interminable five minutes and pulled up the trap.  Much to my chagrin and joy, it actually contained a few crayfish along with a side order of minnows.  I emptied the critters into a bucket and took home my booty.

Lying in bed that night, I had dreams of a massive building that housed a huge collection of holding tanks for various types of bait.  A steady stream of large stainless steel trucks pulled in and out of the complex day and night, hauling bait to every city across North America.  Meanwhile, I was on safari in Africa, taking time out from hunting only to sign large bank deposit slips.

The next morning, I set out to build my empire.  In our garage was an empty 30-gallon aquarium, unused after my marine biologist-in-training phase had ended.  I partially filled it with water, rigged up an elaborate makeshift filter system and was ready for business.

Even at that tender age, I realized that I should specialize in one thing before expanding the product line.  Therefore, it was decided that crayfish would be the first offering from the Wheat Wholesale Bait Company.

During the next few days, I began trapping crayfish like a man possessed and became quite successful.  Realizing that I would probably sell hundreds of the small crustaceans per day once things were rolling, I even purchased stock from the other neighborhood kids who raided every mud puddle within biking distance to earn the huge sum of one penny per crawdad.

I remember standing one evening in our garage, happy and satisfied as I looked over my stockpile that now filled two aquariums.  At least 300 hundred of the fighting, clattering brown crayfish stood shoulder-deep in the tanks.

In the frenzy of starting my fledgling corporation, I had forgotten our family vacation the following week.  However, I decided that a little cornmeal dumped into the tanks would keep the animals fed and happy until we returned, provided the pump didn’t fail.

So, with the joyful heart of a 13-year-old, I went on vacation unconcerned about the well-being of my herd.

The first sign of pending trouble started within moments of our arrival back home.  My father stepped out of our car in the driveway and immediately made a sour face.

“Whew!  Something is dead around here!” he said while hitting the electric garage door opener.

From my best recollection, the fumes slid out under the partially opened garage door with a sickly hiss and immediately killed a passing crow before removing the paint from the front fenders of our station wagon.

Eventually regaining consciousness, my father and I managed to investigate the source of the odor by holding a wet towel across our faces and running inside the garage for a few seconds.  Through the gagging waves of visible stench fumes, we learned that the filter pump on the tanks had died, along with my dreams of becoming independently wealthy.

The lesson of this cautionary tale to potential bait dealers, especially the younger readers, is that there are tremendous unseen costs associated with starting a bait business.

The biggest of these hidden costs starts when you see the chief financial officer out cutting a switch in the back yard.

Only in California

In response to off-road enthusiasts who are turning popular desert wild lands into dens of iniquity rivaling Bourbon Street on a Fat Tuesday, the Bureau of Land Management has enacted strict new rules in California.

Aside from our usual disgust at the few party pigs who think the outdoors is simply a giant hotel room in which to throw up and leave beer cans, we found another part of the story that tickled our fancy.

According to the new rules, “The ban covers mobile strip shows, naked motorcycling and women flashing their breasts…”    Showing a bare  bosom can now bring up to a $1000 dollar fine and a year in jail.

The part that caught our attention was the “mobile strip shows.”  I mean, we have seen some stunning and outrageous things in the outdoors during our decades afield, but…c’mon…a mobile strip show?!!???

I suppose stumbling on a mobile strip show would would tend to put a spring in your step on those days when you’ve been backpacking for a week and your feet hurt and you’re filthy and tired and just want to go home.

We can only imagine the mobile strip club DJ: “Alright, give it up for Diamonelle on the stage next to the big rock.  Diamonelle, everybody.  On deck is Destini….”

Only in California.

Story link: California nudie ban

Keep a swamp handy

Aside from the time spent developing creative excuses to turn down ice fishing invitations, this time of year is when I usually thrown myself into cookery.  As my bulging waistline will attest, I’m actually pretty talented in both the preparation and consumption events.  Most of my friends and family agree.

I recently invited a friend over for dinner.  Sometime later over empty plates and in regards to my minor culinary feats, the theory was put forth that it is fairly unusual for standard-issue guys to be good cooks.  I mildly disagreed, stating that most of my buddies knew their way around the kitchen pretty well.  That’s when I realized a previously unheralded truth: men as a group are indeed fairly inept in the cooking department but outdoor guys are the proverbial exception to the rule.

Thinking of my male buddies in general, most of them are indeed hard-pressed to boil pasta without burning the water.  However, my hunting and fishing pals can not only cook up a storm but they typically have a particular recipe for which they are noted.  And no, we’re not talking about Lunchmeat Surprise or Fillet of Toast.

Thinking of my own retinue of friends and acquaintances, there are those who are noted for broiled dove breast, deep-fried salmon fillets, bear stew, fried mushrooms, elk chops, venison barbeque, roast quail and a myriad of other dishes.  I’ve even got an acquaintance in Louisiana who is widely regarded for his delicious fried alligator, some of which was even legally taken.  Personally speaking, my venison dinners draw no complaints and I’ve established a minor reputation as a jerky maker.

It’s pretty simple, really because so much outdoor adventure is driven by eating as an underlying, if not primary, goal.  Virtually every hunter, fisherman, mushroom hunter or sassafras digger ultimately wants to sample the gifts they have wrought from nature by their own hand.  Whether the harvest happens to be a sackfull of nice blackberries or a 1000-pound elk, the logical conclusion to a great day afield is to satisfy body and soul with a great wild food dinner.

That’s why my buddies and I have learned to cook.

Of course there are exceptions.  I remember one infamous trip to the remotest regions of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Northern Minnesota where it rained almost continuously.  By the fifth day we were surly and had grown tired of eating cold gruel washed down with lukewarm lake water lemonade spiced with mosquito larvae.

Mother Nature had tired herself out trying to kill us via hypothermia, so while she rested up for another attempt there was an inadvertent afternoon free of rain.  Towards dinnertime we built our first roaring campfire and I, designated camp cook, began preparations for the evening feast as other members of the party cleaned a nice mess of fish.  Shortly before I began preparing the fish, one of the campers announced that he had nominated himself chef du jour. This didn’t bode well.

Watching the proceedings from a discreet distance, I grew more and more concerned as the preparation progressed.   As things grew increasingly disordered, I repeatedly offered to help.  My assistance was continuously rebuffed in spite of growing chorus of canoeists who implored for me to take charge.  Meanwhile, one member of our party who had assisted the hapless cook in cleaning our fish took me aside and whispered ominously, “watch out for bones.”

The scene was grim: cold, starving men, eight hours travel from the nearest dirt road, watching their cook make a shambles of a perfectly good batch of fish.

An hour later dinner was served.  I sat down on a log to confront the half-cooked lump of gray flesh sitting forlornly in my bowl, spiced as it was with ashes, forest duff, mosquitoes and half- raw breading.  At this point, I reached an important mental crossroads.

Using a calm, rational voice, I said very matter-of-factly, “Jim, if there are bones in this fish, I will be forced to kill you and everyone you’ve ever met.”

The whole camp watched in silence as I lifted the first bite of walleye into my mouth.

It wasn’t bad; especially if you enjoy chomping a paste-covered pincushion that tastes like week-old sushi.

Fortunately, my threat was only a bluff.  Instead I merely grabbed a large flaming stick from the fire and chased Jim for a few miles into a leech-infested swamp until darkness fell.  He escaped not because he was faster but only because twice I was compelled to stop and pick bone shards out of the roof of my mouth.

This incident, now being told in public for the first time, thus provides a perfect cautionary tale of why men should learn to be good cooks.

You can’t always count on having a swamp handy.

Anvil shooting: our new favorite tradition

You just never know what you’re going to find on the internet.

While researching other ways to burn the hair off our forearms during the upcoming July 4th festivities, we found the recipe for the ultimate fireworks: anvil shooting.

According to the North Platte, Neb., Telegraph, a common stunt during Independence Day celebrations in the early 1800’s was for settlers to stack two anvils on top of each other, fill the rounded base with black powder, light the thing with a fuse and stand back.

As soon as the cannon fuse reached the powder, there would be a huge “BOOM!” along with a satisfying cloud of black smoke and: Voila!  Flying Anvil.

We’ve got black powder, now we just need two anvils.  Now, perhaps this year I won’t be buying a tube of burn ointment on July 5.  On the other hand, my head might be significantly flatter….

Story Link: North Platte Telegraph

The heartbreak of garage sale

I couldn’t help it.  My life had grown so chaotic that I committed the ultimate act of despair.

I had a garage sale.

Actually, as these words are being written, the sale is ongoing.  Unfortunately for both regular readers, it will have been long closed by the time you read these words with your morning coffee or evening libations.

I say unfortunately because I am the world’s worst salesman.  That, coupled with the fact that my garage was filled to bursting with cool outdoor stuff priced dirt cheap, makes for a major lost opportunity for those of you who weren’t fortunate enough to stop by our little estate on the prairie this morning.

Like most American males, I hate garage sales with a passion.  In fact, I would choose to voluntarily have a rusty fishhook impaled into my left eyeball rather than submit to a morning of “garage sailing” with my spouse or mother.  However, when the barn clutter reached the point where I was forced to tunnel like a coal miner just to reach the duck decoys, it was time to do something.

I initially thought I could become an internet auction baron, using the services of that hugely popular website that sounds like it was named in pig Latin.  However, once all the accumulated items had been piled in my garage for cataloging, I realized that selling all everything in this fashion would likely require a full-time staff of seven people.

Therefore, I heaved a few dozen giant sighs, steeled my resolve and set about preparing for the day when complete strangers would come into my home and take many of my closely held possessions.

To my great surprise the first shoppers arrived nearly two hours before the scheduled opening, far later that I had anticipated.  Armed with stupid enthusiasm and fifty dollars in change, I opened the garage door and prepared for the onslaught.

I immediately noticed something I found humorous: most women hated my sale.  I found myself laughing at the obvious disgust ladies displayed upon first seeing the bushels of duck decoys and backpacks.  Their men folk, meanwhile, were simpering about, clapping gleefully like toddlers and furtively counting pocket change.

We did have a few token purses for sale courtesy of my wife.  These were snatched up in a heartbeat as the women ran back to their cars, ordering their mates to follow within five minutes under threat of a serious cold shoulder penalty.  Staying true to “the guy code,” none of the men followed within a reasonable time frame, loosely defined as “sometime during the morning hours.”

In fact, the garage sale turned into a giant bull session as the gathering crowd cussed and discussed the various uses of the accumulated gear.  This would then lead from one story to the next, like a bird dog nosing through cover.

One man would pick up a fishing lure from the dollar table and the discussion would finally end with another man standing on a chair, pantomiming an impossible physical position while explaining, “there I was, hanging by my fingernails 10,000 feet over the Rogue River…”

I would have probably heard more of the stories if it weren’t for the chorus of honking horns in the driveway.

The sale made more money than I anticipated but more importantly, I gained valuable space in my barn and attic.  This was the goal, I kept reminding myself, since it was obvious in sales parlance I had been “severely beaten about the head and neck.”

I am a terrible sales person.

I started the morning vowing not to be taken in by any sharp customers.  Unfortunately, there is a sizeable segment of the population who, when not busy negotiating hostage releases in the Middle East, practice their skills on unsuspecting U.S. garage sale proprietors.  Several of these folks stopped by my house.  By mid-afternoon, the following conversation took place-

Customer: “How much would you take for this crossbow?”

Me: “It’s marked $200 firm.”

Customer: “I’ll give you two dollars, three rusty washers and some pocket lint.”

Me: “I’ll take it and throw in the arrows for free.”

Obviously you don’t want to hire me to work at your automobile dealership.

Anyway, the end of the sale is approaching and I should feel good about the world.  By investing slightly over 10,000 hours of my time, I have dramatically uncluttered my home, made a little money, spent an entire day meeting new people and made several local outdoors enthusiasts entirely too happy.

I suppose that is enough good work for one day.  In conclusion, I am indeed tired, very slightly richer, less cluttered and yes, happy.

Have you yet guessed on what I plan on doing with all the money raised via our one-day amateur excursion into capitalism?

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One hint: there’s plenty of space in the barn.