Sunday, July 31, 2011

NRA Class Day

So even with summer heat I open my windows and turn on the ceiling fan at night - I like the fresh air and the summer night sounds.  But occasionally those night sounds are a bit startling - at about 5:15 yesterday  morning  this sound brought me right up in bed and set off every dog in the neighborhood.

Granted, even though it  was Saturday my alarm was set early because I needed to be in Gore, VA, at 7:30 am to meet Jeff and Gretchen Burch of Take Aim LLC for my NRA basic pistol class.  We were actually training and shooting in Hampshire County, WV, but after the first couple turns I realized why they met us up on Rt 50 rather than try to give us directions to the training site.  Also realized that if they didn't agree to lead me out after class I'd never get home again - talk about a guarantee of payment plan!  There was a moment when it appeared the day might be unpleasantly truncated - a mud covered pickup was sitting in a very "*&$! I'm gonna end up in the crick" location - but a quick check of the cab found no nasty surprises, so on we went to the property where Take Aim holds its classes - 300 spectacular mountain acres in the Potomac Highlands of West Virginia.

Class itself is held in what I suppose could be called the hunting cabin.  Yeah, well.  Roughing it it's not and we were quite comfortable.  Jeff and Gretchen are great.  It's obvious they love shooting and know guns.  Class was jam-packed with information, with plenty of room for questions, and I felt very comfortable in asking.  There was also lots of good humor and fun.  I had been afraid it would be a grind.  The day, although hot, was dry, and to me it was the perfect summer day to be outside playing.  If I hadn't been learning, having fun, and enjoying the company I would have resented being inside.

It happened to be an all girls class with various levels of gun experience, and Jeff and Gretchen were generous with their own guns, letting us handle them, disassembling them to show us how things worked, offering to help with choosing personal firearms in the future.  Always, of course, with an eye on safety.

Gotta say - the instant I saw and handled a Walther P22 and found out you can get the same gun in 9 mm my thoughts about buying a polymer gun were revised.  Like my Browning, it felt great in my hands the instant I picked it up:

I  can't afford it this year, but a Walther P99 may be in my future.  Drooling was involved.

My one gripe about the course is the same gripe Jeff and Gretchen themselves have - the NRA course materials that they have to teach from do not follow the materials provided by the NRA for students.  They have now cross referenced everything themselves, but the NRA needs to redo the instructor's PowerPoint to match the student's book. However, I learned a lot and a lot of separate bits of information that I had floating around were tied together during the class.  Plus they fed us.  There were potato chips. Things balanced out.

And then there was range time - yay!   LOTS of range there.  This is definitely a gun lovers place.

Yes, those are targets.  But we were using something a tad closer and more mundane.

I got to play with the P22 - with a silencer no less.

And then Jeff put sub-sonic cartridges in the P22 and simply plinked one of those cars waaaaay up there.  I want to be able to do that sort of distance and accuracy with a pistol with so much seeming ease.  That was so cool! And, oh yeah, the fact that the bullet hitting the car made more noise than the actual firing did was very cool, too.

I killed the bad guy dead with my little S&W .38 AirLite Ti, the Walther P22, and a Glock 9 mm.  The Glock made me laugh - every single discharged shell pinged me on my right temple.  Every single one!

The shots that are lower and to the left are the first ones from the .38.  It's as if I need to get used to the gun again and then I stabilize.  I noticed that my aim is stable through about half the trigger pull on that gun.  Then as trigger tension increases I start moving a lot.  Right at the end I have to really bear down and focus.  Then BANG!, the gun kicks up, and it's time to do it all over again.

It was a really good day - I highly recommend these folks.  They are working to get certified to teach the home defense course, and I intend to take it when they offer it.

And as an end note to a great day - I also highly recommend Thai II in Winchester, VA.  With a Beerlao on the side.  Yeah boy!

Saturday, July 30, 2011


So there is much made of compromise, of considering all sides.  Of course, in today’s media-speak and liberal culture that’s just code for “YOU give up your beliefs, I’ll keep mine.”  So I have a suggestion:  In base 10 (the numeric base we do regular math in), 2 + 2 = 5.  Would you consider that?  Why not?  Ah.  Because it’s WRONG!  Exactly.  Some things are just wrong, and when they are it's a compromise that is just not acceptable.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Data Disagrees

In addition to the polar bear guy being in trouble for what may have been a wee bit of a misrepresentation, NASA says its satellite data isn't matching that used by hyperventilating enthusiasts of global warming to foment their "the sky is falling" philosophy:
NASA satellite data from the years 2000 through 2011 show the Earth's atmosphere is allowing far more heat to be released into space than alarmist computer models have predicted, reports a new study in the peer-reviewed science journal Remote Sensing. The study indicates far less future global warming will occur than United Nations computer models have predicted, and supports prior studies indicating increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide trap far less heat than alarmists have claimed.
Study co-author Dr. Roy Spencer, a principal research scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and U.S. Science Team Leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer flying on NASA's Aqua satellite, reports that real-world data from NASA's Terra satellite contradict multiple assumptions fed into alarmist computer models.
"The satellite observations suggest there is much more energy lost to space during and after warming than the climate models show," Spencer said in a July 26 University of Alabama press release. "There is a huge discrepancy between the data and the forecasts that is especially big over the oceans."
.... clip .....
The new NASA Terra satellite data are consistent with long-term NOAA and NASA data indicating atmospheric humidity and cirrus clouds are not increasing in the manner predicted by alarmist computer models. The Terra satellite data also support data collected by NASA's ERBS satellite showing far more longwave radiation (and thus, heat) escaped into space between 1985 and 1999 than alarmist computer models had predicted. Together, the NASA ERBS and Terra satellite data show that for 25 years and counting, carbon dioxide emissions have directly and indirectly trapped far less heat than alarmist computer models have predicted.
In short, the central premise of alarmist global warming theory is that carbon dioxide emissions should be directly and indirectly trapping a certain amount of heat in the earth's atmosphere and preventing it from escaping into space. Real-world measurements, however, show far less heat is being trapped in the earth's atmosphere than the alarmist computer models predict, and far more heat is escaping into space than the alarmist computer models predict.
 .... clip .....

The whole article can be read here.

What I can't figure out is how anybody can think Al Gore is a more appealing source of information than real data is.  Even in college I never drank that much. 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Morning Giggle

Yes, yes, everything you do IS wrong!
The California Milk Processor Board behind the famous "Got milk?" ad campaign is apologizing after it launched a controversial site promoting milk as a cure for menstrual problems.
The site, called "Everything I Do Is Wrong," was launched in early July, along with billboards and spots on National Public Radio.
The organization has issued an apology and has scrapped the ads just two weeks after the campaign's launch, according to the Orange County Business Journal. The campaign was supposed to run through August.
The campaign came under fire by critics who said the latest ad was sexist and fed into the tired stereotype of the irrational female.
The site, which appeared to poke fun at the symptoms of PMS, included a feature that tracked the "global PMS level" and another that allowed men to create apology using the "Puppy Dog-Eye-Zer."

Now, I gotta say, being quite aware of my own temperament at times, that I really don't see anything offensive about this ad. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Survey

I find this picture so evocative:

Well, OK, I just felt that was the artsy thing to say.  But this photo is a favorite of mine.  Taken in south-central Alaska in 1923, it’s a photo of a survey party’s light keeper’s camp after a snow storm.  I don’t know quite what it is that appeals to me so much:  the sepia tint, the solitude, the way it’s framed up, the lone dark figure.  I imagine all of that goes into it, but I also think the picture is one of the best representations of the old Coast and Geodetic Survey I’ve ever seen.

A long time ago in a galaxy far away, when men were men and women let them think they were running things, America was expanding rapidly and President Thomas Jefferson created the Survey of the Coast. It was 1807 and the major method of shipping and transportation was water, but our coasts and waterways were largely unmapped and dangerous.  Shoals, rocks, wrecks – all had the potential for having a negative impact on our economy.  So the mapping began, hiccupped along, began again.  And as America grew the need for geodetic surveying also grew.  It was the Coast and Geodetic Survey’s job to create a surveying framework of the highest accuracy so that any project requiring surveying of any level – state, county, city, private - could hang off of it.

The Coast Survey went through name changes and expanded with U.S. territory, population and commerce, often ahead of it, into new territories.  It was a heck of a job – the survey party had to move itself, its camp gear, and a lot of very delicate and very heavy equipment.

Not always easy, but "You can't get there from here" was not an option.

Getting there was just the beginning - there were marks to set and surveying to be done.

It took weeks to do the work that GPS now does in hours, and camp didn't offer much in the way of room service.  Flour and other basics had to be supplemented with fresher fare.  No mints on the pillow or turn down service, either.

Not to mention that Banana Republic and Gap didn’t have many outlets for the crew to re-outfit in.

But field parties were led by tough, adventure-loving men like Bill Scaife, whose “Git’er done!” philosophy pre-dated Larry the Cable Guy by a couple generations:

That was the life of a Coast Surveyor, whether light keeper, observer, or note taker, surveying mountains and plains, coasts and rivers.  And it was service to be proud of

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


I'm in a "why?" mood today:

Why do I have to balance my personal budget but the entity that has fiducial responsibility for a goodly chunk of my money doesn't?

Why did it take longer for police than for the press to get to Utoeya Island ?

Why is it always my side that has to compromise?

Why do they keep neglecting to mention the Islamic connections of attackers but label a flaming nut case a conservative Christian right-winger?  Aren't labels supposed to be a a no-no?

Why is what I say divisive but what the politically correct say just an opinion?

Why are guns dangerous but not being able to protect oneself not?

Why do people keep invoking the Crusades as an example of aggressive Christianity when it was in reality an attempt to block the spread of a branch of Islam that was bent on conquering Europe -  and nearly did.

Why are women supposed to support other women but the instant a strong woman like Sarah Palin or Michelle Bachman stick their heads up it's open season on them?

Why is the national media not required to actually do any research? (see Murphy's Law post concerning Contessa Brewer, who is a perfect example)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Childhood Redux

So have you ever had a bug whose main symptom was that every time you got up your body said "I think I'll have a little lie down now."  That was Friday.  Spent it staring at episodes of "Hoarders".  I shouldn't do that - I can watch stuff like "Bones" and "CSI" with all their icky stuff and not be bothered, but if I watch too much of "Hoarders" I have nightmares.  Go figure.

And with this bowl of heat and humidity over us it seemed like maybe yard work was not the best idea on Saturday so I slid on over to Frederick, MD, to run my errands and catch a movie - "Captain America".  Great, great fun.  Don't pay the extra for 3D - I hope the enthusiasm for that passes soon.  A good movie just needs to be a good movie, and this one entertains quite well.

When I went off to college, I left behind a stack of Marvel comics that I had been buying for years.  They cost 10 cents a piece at the time I started buying them and were a mix of X-Men, Fantastic Four, Avengers and the like and would probably be worth a fortune now.  Unfortunately, Mom took the opportunity to toss the whole collection out while I was away.  That and my teddy bear.  I don't know which upset me more - the loss of the comics or the loss of my teddy bear.

The loss of my G.I. Joe was my own doggone fault, though.  He cost a lot - $6 - and he was a considerably more substantial doll than those they make these days.  I left him buried up to his neck on the edge of a cow pond on Uncle Walter's farm and forgot about him.  Poor fellow.  Of course, being G.I. Joe, maybe he escaped into the woods, where his survival skills have allowed him to live and fight on.  Sort of like those Japanese soldiers that turned up on a few islands in the Pacific in the 70s, still fighting WWII, unaware of how the world had passed them by.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Old Favorite

Sometimes when I see recent movies I reflect on how much has been lost to the passion for special effects, including 3D.  This is still one of my all time favorite movies. "Swashbuckler" was released while I was at WVU and at a time when you could "buck" the shows - sit through multiple showings if you wanted.  Which I did. The critics didn't much like it, I think, but it does exactly what a movie should do - it entertains the heck out of me.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Range day!

Finally!  Hotter’n billy blue blazes but range day nonetheless.  Murphy’s Law once again allowed me to tag along to the local Izaak Walton League range.  This time the S&W AirLite Ti went for testing and the Browning .32 went for play.  The Browning had been useful earlier in the week in demonstrating budget matters:  since the ammo I ordered on-line isn’t here yet I stopped at a gun shop to pick up a box.  Ow!  Twice as much as the on-line cost! Ow! (An aside about the gun shop:  $1500 - $2000 for a BB gun?  Really?!)

I don’t know where my head was for a while, but those first few rounds with both guns wandered all over the place. 

I sure wasn’t focused, and I know I’m a new shooter but it was bad enough that I was embarrassed.  I messed up the target so bad that I finally gave up on center of mass shots, thought about it, took a couple deep breaths, made myself settle, and started on the head so I could see where the shots were going again.  Much better – if the bad guy doesn’t duck he’s in deep doo doo:

 Definitely need to do a mental check before shooting next time.  Focus!

Once I settled down the little S&W shot just fine (or, rather, the shooter shot the little S&W just fine).  Its light weight means it does jar the hand – the force has to go somewhere – but not enough to bother me.  If I shot it for hours and hours day after day I think my right thumb and index finger joints would get sore, but I’d take something more substantial to any intensive training anyway, so that’s not really a problem.  It’s a keeper – simple, light, good for concealed carry.  Need to get a couple five-shot reloaders for it.

Then we moved to the rifle range.  Um.  Yeah.  Or, no.  First time I’ve tried anything at 100 yards.  Forty rounds with the Ruger 10/22.  Five rounds actually in the target itself.  Couldn’t seem to keep a good sight picture in my head for nothing, and couldn’t seem to get the rifle snugged up right no matter what way I wiggled.  Bleah.  Gotta work on that.  I’d really like to try a gun with a cut down or junior stock on it.  My arms are short and no matter what I did I felt like something was getting pushed too far back to be right.

Then of course, one has to eat and rehydrate, then home to finish the office part of the day before cleaning.  The Browning is still a challenge to take apart and reassemble, but I’ve got most of the theory of how the parts fit together in my head now.  I know that at certain points you just have to work at things for a minute and then they’ll go into place.  All clean, reassembled, clip back in, dry fire to test.  Um.  It should dry fire with the clip in it.  Nuttin’.   Strip and inspect.  Everything looks OK.  All parts present.  Reassemble.  Nuttin’.  Repeat.   Grrrr….  I keep telling myself that it’s good practice.  And telling the gun to “Fire, blast it!”  No good.  I was just getting aggravated enough to decide to set it aside for a while when Murphy’s Law and Murphy appear at my door with more .38 ammo for the S&W.  Thank-you!  And did you somehow know I was sitting here cussing the .32?  So Murphy’s Law, whose knowledge of guns is way out there, strips the Browning.  Fiddles with it, reassembles it.  No dry fire.  Does it again.  This time the firing pin drops out and has to be reinserted.  And that may have been the key, because suddenly cranky gun is fine.  Only thing we can figure is that the pin wasn’t seated just right and when it had to be reinserted it fixed whatever was off.

So Murphy’s Law has pronounced me safe to myself and unlikely to cause  fellow shooters at a range to duck and cover.  It’s more fun to go with someone, of course – fun to ping and tease someone else about their shots.  And I like Murphy’s Law keeping an eye on what I’m doing so that things get corrected before they can become bad habits – “Get that second finger off the trigger!”  But I’m thinking I’ll join the Izaak Walton League myself now and feel safe in going alone.  And the next step is my concealed carry permit.   

Friday, July 15, 2011


After a quick comment at Murphy’s Law, I chewed on political correctness some more, and I thought I’d write a bit about Perry.  Both of them.

Perry was about 8 weeks old when he arrived November before last.  In a moment of temporary insanity – I already had two older adult cats – I took him in.  He was a tiny coal black fuzzball with big round amber eyes, so frantic that he couldn’t stop mewing even when trying to eat and drink.  He refused to be separated from me; if I put him down he climbed right back up my leg to crawl back into the crook of my arm.  Ten hours after he arrived I found myself racing to the emergency vet with an obviously critically ill kitten who was unconscious, breathing shallow and rapid, and had a raging fever.  They told me that if I hadn’t brought him in he would not have survived the night.  His fever was so high that it was causing neurological problems; his little body was twisting and contorting from the effects of it.  They gave me very little hope that he would live.   But I have a firm belief that animals, particularly companion animals, are a gift from God.  I had invited this little guy into my life and in doing so accepted responsibility for him, so to their surprise I said “Do whatever needs to be done” and handed them my credit card.  They never did figure out what, beyond pneumonia, was wrong.   It was two days before they would guardedly tell me that they thought he would live.  On the third day they told me he could go home; the kitten that had been so desperately ill was literally climbing the walls of his cage, IV still hanging out of his leg.

A name was needed for his records, of course, and so I thought a bit and said “Perry, because he’s black and right now he looks like a million dollars to me.”

That went right by the staff, of course.  Most people wouldn’t recognize the name Lincoln Perry.  But older folks and movie buffs would probably recognize this fellow:

His screen name was Stepin Fetchit.  Born in Florida in 1902, he grew up in a country in which Jim Crow was well established, and began his show business career as the popularity of the Ku Klux Klan was soaring.  He was 12 years old and working as a boot black when he ran away and joined a carnival, and from there he steadily developed a career as a singer and dancer.  By age 20 he was a vaudeville artiste and the manager of a traveling carnival show.  His Hollywood break came in 1927 when he created “The Laziest Man in the World” character in order to stand out from other actors auditioning for a role in In Old Kentucky.   Arriving for the audition, he acted confused and as if he didn’t know where he was, and it won him the role.   The character Stepin Fetchit made Perry the first black millionaire and the first black man to receive a credit in a film.  He appeared in 54 films, has a star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame, received an NAACP Image Award, and was inducted into the Black Filmmaker’s Hall of Fame. 

History is what it is.  Closing our eyes, sticking our fingers in our ears, and singing “La la la!” loudly will neither change what has happened in the past or prevent it from happening again.  Art, whether paintings, plays, movies, or radio programs reflects its time and culture.  Stepin Fetchit may seem a negative stereotype to some today, but Lincoln Perry was functioning within a particular time and place.  He parlayed the culture of his time into an opportunity to do things no other black person had done before.  He pulled himself up in an environment where a black man being a boot black for all of his life was more likely than a black man being a film star.  An intelligent, erudite man who also had a regular newspaper column, Perry was a pioneer and a leader, and without him and others like him, there would be no Sidney Poitier, no Laurence Fishburne, no Will Smith – he paved the way for black film stars.  To ban the image he created would be to denigrate his accomplishments.  And it won't erase Jim Crow or the KKK from our history.

Instead of erasing history we should be looking at it closely.  We should look at cultural representations of the past and think about them, reflect on them, take warnings from them, learn from them, build on them.  Ms. Liang doesn’t like what she believes to be a negative Asian stereotype?  Perhaps her energy would be better spent opposing the negative stereotypes so popular today.  I’d be curious to know if Ms. Liang and those who signed her petition would have been so actively engaged if, instead of  “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” with its Mr. Yunioshi, the film was “The DaVinci Code”, with its evil monk? 

Or if it had been any other Hollywood product of the last few decades that stereotype people of faith as evil and/or ignorant?  Or perhaps this latest publicly funded “art” exhibit:

During budget debates few months ago, Jesse Jackson, Jr., beating the drum of “The Republicans want to kill old people and starve children”, stated that one of the reasons he opposed defunding Planned Parenthood was that it would prevent his constituents from having access to abortions.  This, to me, was a jaw dropper.  If that isn’t a negative stereotype I don’t know what is – a largely black constituency dependent on Federal money not for food or shelter or medication but for an end to one more black life in a community already decimated by abortion.   Anybody closely watching Stepin Fetchit’s sly shambling and mumblings realizes that Stepin rarely actually Fetchits.  He usually wins, frustrating his “opponent” into doing it themselves.  He outsmarts the white “master” time and time again.   I can’t for the life of me understand how Mr. Jackson’s constituents win by acting out his stereotype:

I suppose I'm a racist:  I laugh at the antics of both Perrys, understanding the whole time that they are masters of manipulation who are actually running the show.  That Lincoln Perry found it necessary to build a specific type of character in order to become successful in a white world can be reflected on as a cautionary tale about forcing people into specific molds before we accept them.  And the furry Perry who lives in my house still looks like a million dollars to me.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


I love summer.  I love the long daylight and the heat.  I love the steamy days with their green smell pressing all around me as I bike and walk and I love the sharpness of a fierce sun on my shoulders when I come out from under the tree canopy.   I love my black eyed susans booming out by the road and around the butterfly bushes that sometimes are covered with tiger swallowtail butterflies.    I love the scorch of the deck wood on my bare feet and I love the hum of a curious bee around me as I sit with feet propped on the railing, glass of wine in hand.  I love the rasp of cicadas in the heat of the day and I love the call of a wood thrush as the evening breeze moves through the woods.   I love the sharp heat of the rocks along the rivers as I clamber over them looking for a pool to dunk my feet in and I love the heavy green grass that fills in the low areas in the rivers as the dog days bring water levels down.  I love summer.

I live outside on my deck or porches, basking in the heat like a lizard or watching the lightening bugs drift up through the trees.  My squirrels, Fatty and Fatty, are joined this year by their children, Larry, Moe, Curly Joe, and Shemp, and they scramble around me, raiding the bird feeders and slurping from the bird bath, so accustomed to me that they have tried to climb up over me where I sat.  A skink with a blue tail slides its quiet way across the porch floor in the morning, as unperturbed by my presence as the squirrels.   Hummingbirds work the bee balm and feeder and occasionally spar with a bee over flower territory.  Chickadees, wrens, tufted titmice flutter around the porch and feeders, and my cardinals chirp at me indignantly for neglecting to refill their seed.  I don’t care about bug bites, heat rashes, poison ivy. I don’t care that I’m blinded by sweat, stink from it, risk heat stroke.  It’s my season.  I love summer.

Love this Guy!

Sheriff Joe just makes me smile sometimes.  Saw this yesterday:  I'm not a pink person but I may have to order a pair to sleep in.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Just a Choice

All Casey Anthony did was make a choice.  Nobody should be surprised.  If Caylee Anthony did not have an absolute, infinite value while in Casey's womb, she did not have it once she had left it.  That she made for cute and cuddly pictures is irrelevant. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Our Society is SOOOO Much Better!

A quick scan of the news:

“Mayhem in Mobile:  300+ fight on street corner, man shot in face…” – 7/5/2011
“2 shot during Massive brawl outside Atlantic City casino…” – 7/5/2011
“Dozens of teens loot store, then attack passersby…” – 7/5/2011
“Mob of 100 rob restaurant customers in Philly…” - 6/29/2011
“Massive brawl at DC’s Caribbean Festial…” - 6/27/2011
“Woman’s leg broken, others hurt in Philly mob attack…” - 6/27/2011
“Flash mob of 40 rips off Philly SEARS…” 6/26/2011
“Pandemonium in Peoria:  Mob yells ‘Kill all the white people…”- 6/26/2011
“Teen brutally beaten by mob: cops mull ‘lynching’ charge…” - 6/24/2011
“Teen mob of 50 hits Chicago Walgreens…” - 6/24/2011
“Teen flash mob robberies on rise…” - 6/18/2011
“15-year-old targeted in latest Chicago mob attack…” - 6/16/2011
“Brutal NYC subway brawl capture on video…” – 6/13/2011
“Hospital Mob: 11 arrested for Rioting, Trying to get into ER…” - 6/13/2011
“’War Zone’; 100 people brawl in McDonald’s lot, 2 stabbed…” - 6/10/2011
“Five teens arrested in Chicago mob attacks…” - 6/06/2011
“Flash mob turns ugly at High School; Senior prank gone bad…” - 6/02/2011
“Mob swarms Vegas store, steals $600 worth of merchandise in just 3 minutes…” - 5/05/2011
“Teen mob robs store…” - 4/28/2011
“’Flash mob’ on CA boardwalk ends in shooting…” - 4/18/2011
“Bikini brawl in Burger King; near riot…” - 3/24/2011
“Subway brawl erupts over spaghetti eating passenger…” - 3/18/2011

This while Judeo-Christian concepts and symbols of God are banned, in fact actively driven, from the public square.   This while those whose (self-perceived) superiority allows them to live either without God or with a vague concept of a god who wouldn’t dream of imposing rules of behavior on them rejoice in His banishment from American society.

Yeah.  It’s made this country SO much better.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Saturday Butt Hurt

Cue crazy old lady on bike:

Add my determination to finish the C&O Canal towpath this year.  And a strong desire to play rather than do anything that might resemble chores or responsible activities and off I go to the towpath again, this time picking up at the west end of the Western MD Rail Trail at Sidling Hill, which is where I left off the last trip.  Gotta say, this is the nicest section of the towpath that I've ridden.  Much smoother than the sections around Harper's Ferry.  My bike is a hybrid, which means that although it's got kevlar protected tires and trail bike style handlebars, the tires are high-pressure and the frame more ridged than a mountain bike, so I feel those roots and rocks.  Sometimes makes my eyes jiggle until I think they are going to fall out...

Beautiful, very beautiful, from the starting point at mp 136.5 on.

Some of the sections of canal are wide and have varying levels of water in them, reminding me of swamps in the deep south - I kept expecting to see an alligator basking.

Because of the water, there's a lot of wildlife to be seen, some of it a bit of a surprise, like this mute swan.  They are not indigenous to the U.S., having been brought from Europe as ornaments for lakes and ponds, and they've become a nuisance ins some areas, but they are still pretty to see.

It was hanging out with a lot of small wild ducks that I've tentatively identified as blue-winged teals.  The more common mallards are so noisy and loud - I love the peeping of the smaller wild ducks.

Of course, there were the ubiquitous turtles sunning everywhere:

His neighbors were plopping into the water all around him with startled eeps!, but this bullfrog just completely ignored me.

Some of the locals wouldn't hold still long enough for me to photograph, so I stole their pictures off the web to share.  Zebra swallowtail butterflies and indigo buntings were abundant in places.

This section of the towpath pulls away from the river in quite a few places so that you have fields on one side and canal on the other.  At one point I noticed that the locks were getting close together, which told me that I was probably on a slight up-grade and nearing the day's destination, Paw Paw Tunnel.

The 3100 foot long tunnel was finished in 1850 and allowed the canal to bypass about 7 miles of tightly twisting river. A flashlight is recommended - the towpath surface can be uneven and occasionally you splash into a pot hole full of cold water. 

It's a bit disorienting as to distance, but eventually the light at the end of the tunnel starts getting closer. 

And then you are out and a jog a little further takes you to the Paw Paw campground at mp 156.  Lunch and a little rest, and it's time to start back.

The cool water outside the tunnel is full of minnows and frogs, and dragonflies are abundant, so these northern water snakes probably live very well there as long as people leave them alone.

So now to pedal back.  That whole slight uphill coming makes for a long stretch of "Wheeeee!!!" heading back.

 And there's still a lot to stop and enjoy.

There's only 30 more miles to the end for me.  Next time I plan to stow an inner tube, towel, and change of clothes in the SUV for after-ride fun.  These folks were making me jealous.  It was HOT!

I had a little bit of time still, so I stopped at another old fossil picking site.  This one was a bit disappointing.  It's a couple of abandoned quarries side by side, one for limestone and one for glass sand.  The trees have grown up so much and the cliff face eroded so badly that a quick look didn't show much.  And I wasn't going to do any serious climbing or picking around in the brush without having boots and jeans on.

So home again, satisfied with doing nearly 40 miles.  About half way home my butt stopped feeling like it was on fire. And since it's summer the application of deck and beer constitutes emergency first aid after a busy day.