Saturday August 4, 2018 – Red River Gorge, Daniel Boone National Forest KY

Relaxing in the shade by a river that I presume is the Red. It’s small for a river. And very low. More like an over-sized creek. It’s hot and humid. Around 90 degrees or thereabouts so I am sweating even sitting in the shade. Mandela and I got in a couple of decent hikes this morning then I had a sandwich at a campground picnic area—Dela had carrots and water. Now we are back to relax, read, write and maybe have a short nap. We have some nice camp neighbors—two young couples from Indianapolis. We chatted a bit last night and again this morning. They are young and easily impressed; their goals for their own lives are largely things I have done. Mainly to travel and explore the world. One of the girls just returned from an Au Pair gig in Sydney and we chatted a bit about living in Australia. They were also off hiking this morning but are now back and also relaxing in the shade.

The drive down was nice. Interesting. All back roads straight out of Perry County to the gateway to the south. I must have passed 500 Dollar Stores; at least 100 baptist churches and a million yard sales. Many homes had the look of a yard sale not as an occasional event to clear out junk, but more like a long-term vocation. There’s a lot of poverty. These are counties with lots of meth labs and opioid addictions. A land that has largely been left behind in time. 100 years ago there were coal mines and logging and textile plants and other manufacturing. Those industries are all gone now and have not been replaced. There is a lot of natural beauty here to be sure, but no other real reason to hang around I think. Some people are more drawn to their hometowns than I have ever been. Now that Ed and Rita are gone from Miamisburg I can’t imagine a reason I would ever go back. Maybe the occasional funeral I suppose. I’ve long been intrigued by the Trump supporters from these parts. People fighting for the right to go a mile below the surface to dig coal and die a premature death of black lung or a mine accident of some kind. All for a wage barely above the poverty line. Why not move 200 miles up the road to a place that has jobs instead of staying here and bitching about being left behind. Hoping some narcissist lying momma’s boy billionaire from Manhattan is going to save you is not much of a strategy. These are people who rail incessantly about the size of government but pay little taxes and could benefit the most from structured programs. Many already do benefit greatly from Medicaid and other social support programs but routinely vote against their own self interest. Is it harsh to suggest they are just damn stupid? Anyway, they helped give us Trump so I feel little sympathy. I suppose I should. Ignorance, at least as I see it, is partly willful in that some people simply do not make an effort to educate themselves. They make no effort to separate reality from fiction or differentiate between obvious lies and propaganda and actual facts. They make little effort to be truly thoughtful about matters that affect themselves and those around them. But in other cases, many people simply have fewer brain cells banging together. Or their neural synapses are using outdating mapping software and important signals are disappearing into a desert of dead brain cells rather than an expectant receptor. And these people truly deserve our sympathy. I of course realize the arrogance of that sentiment but I have always tried to be very honest about my own abilities and limitations. I consider my intellect very mid-range. Maybe slightly on the positive side of the mean, but certainly not by much. I’ve had my share of luck and benefited from a lovely childhood, an inquiring nature and the hard work ethic that seems to exist in midwestern people raised in lower middle class. Whatever successes I’ve had have been a combination of these factors, but I’ve also never been one to sit and wait for opportunity to come to me—and it seems that many in this part of the country are in that category. For instance, take a youngish man going on TV to lament the loss of coal mining jobs and expressing his sincere desire to reopen the mines and hence his response to Trump’s claim to making that happen. Why wouldn’t that young man just get one of a hundred jobs from a different industry that have sprung up. Write code, pack bins in an Amazon warehouse, drive a UPS truck, work for the Forest Service, bake coal-fired pizza’s; anything besides sit around and complain about the coal mine being closed. I suppose quite a few join the military and that’s all right. We seem committed to keeping a military that dwarfs everyone else in the world to fight off all those foreign solders storming the beaches of Florida. Funny that we are perpetually fighting wars 8,000 miles away to protect our homeland. Military is it’s own form of welfare; get a steady paycheck, a little travel and some job training. The unfortunate side effect is occasionally getting shot at or blown up doing the lord’s work far far from your home.

It’s very nice sitting here next to the lazy creek-like river in the shade. Smoking a cigar and sipping a cold IPA. Dela asleep beside my chair. Listening to old country classics. Haggard, Willie, Waylon, Townes van Zandt, Don Williams, Kris Kristofferson. I sometimes forget how many great songs Waylon had and what a good guitar player he was.

The hillbillies running this place have adapted. They have themselves a little spot of land by the river and are renting canoes and kayaks and camping spaces by the night. They are super nice folks; very helpful and kind and I use the term hillbilly as an endearment. From the latin mountainus homosapienus but the billy part I suppose must come as a reference to the billy goat? Again a positive endearment meant to convey the dexterity of a goat on a mountainside. Hence the ‘hillbilly’. I’m no linguist but I’m going with that. Noam Chomsky be damned. Besides, being a hillbilly myself I I feel I can use the term.

Now moved on to Van Morrison; the man is amazing and has so many great songs I may linger here the rest of the night. It’s almost 5:00 now and I must soon drag myself from this chair and wander down to visit the hillbillies for a couple of over-priced bundles of wood for my fire. And then I must tidy up the dishes from last night’s dinner and this morning’s breakfast which lie unwashed in the trailer. And then I will have a gin and tonic and start dinner. Tonight is baked chicken thighs in the dutch oven and grilled squash and zucchini that mom put on me as I was passing through. I was at their house for approximately 17 minutes to get the trailer and mom somehow knew the items I was missing from my meal preparations was eggs for breakfast and veggies for a side dish. And she has those a’plenty as if waiting for her wayward son to drop in and claim them. How is it that mom’s can do this.? What mysterious force influences their thinking that 55 years after laboring me into this existence she still knows what I need almost before I do. So tonight her veggies and tomorrow morning her farm fresh eggs. Dad helped me get the camper hooked up and at 82 still has a little heft in him. I could not lift the tongue to get it on the ball, but when he joined we just got it on.

I have exactly zero bars on the phone so no temptation of texting or talking. These words will lie dormant until I re-emerge and plant them into the fertile soil of the internet.

The trails here are all in Daniel Boone National Forest. It’s a beautiful area. Huge hardwood forest; very dense and green. But again, very hot and humid so the hiking was tough. Mandela was tired and took a lot of long breaks in the river. We hiked out to the rock bridge today and will get up to the Natural Bridge tomorrow morning before heading north and home.

The camper continues to prove practical and easy to use. I am designing the next version in my head. I am anxious to get started now. Still no idea if it has commercial viability but I do get lots of compliments, especially on this new, sleeker, lighter, design. So my current daydream is to build a new one and take a year long sabbatical and live in it and travel around the country. Maybe finish my damn book along the way.

It’s a decent campground for a private operation. No showers and bathrooms are porta potties, so not a long stay sort of place. But just fine for two days.I got in around 6:30 last night and will leave tomorrow morning some time. They also have canoe and kayak rentals but the water is low and it doesn’t seem too exciting so I’ll pass on the water sports. Tomorrow when I get back to Somerset, Larry and I are going to set the camper up at his place and he can stay in it for a few weeks if he wants. Some more dedicated testing and feedback.

Absolutely no dogs allowed on the Natural Bridge

Occasionally a young coon-hound wanders through camp. Very nice and sweet hound just looking for a hand out or a few crumbs someone dropped. Mandela of course resents the intrusion into our space and barks and growls and generally tries to use 25 lbs to intimidate 75lbs. The dog is so nice that it is confused by Dela’s violence. When I tell Dela to simmer down, she gives me a look like I am some kind of traitor for also not being angry about this intruder. She takes her job far more seriously than I do.

Moved on now to Tom Waits. Another guy I could listen to for a very long time. ‘Long Way Home’ is top 10 for me. That song resonates deep with me. Dishes are done and fire is burning down to make some good coals; I will put the grate from my big cooker over the fire and cook the chicken in the dutch over over the fire and then roast the veggies over the fire on my open-holed frying dish. Having a nice G&T now. Red wine with dinner and whiskey and chocolate for dessert.

Update on the hillbilly situation. I went for wood and wound up in a 30-minute conversation with the manager. Cool guy. Runs a great crew. I bought two bundles of wood and one of his young guys had it in the car immediately. This guy, Roger, came back from 4 years in the Marines as a ‘straight-on grunt’; his words not mine. He got this job 13 years ago but it is seasonal and there were no other jobs so he went to Morehead State and learned how to fly helicopters and did that in the tourism industry for a while but then got his airline pilot’s license and that is now his winter job; flying local deliveries around the state. Building hours and will eventually move full time to flying but he did say he loves running this summer camp. Interesting guy. Very nice and runs a cracker-jack crew.

I’ve had 3 people stop to talk about the camper. They love it. Almost everyone who goes by stares. They like the concept. Would they buy it? I don’t know the answer to that. Perhaps.

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