Monday, August 30, 2010

"Take me back to Middle Caicos....

....where it all began..."
(lyrics from "Dry Conch and Grits", by The Island Boys)

We've just returned from another trip back to Middle Caicos. We spent a wonderful day Saturday far from the madding crowds of the teeming metropolis of Providenciales. This trip started as many of these trips seem to start, with a phone call from our friend Preacher . He had already invited us to go along on a trip to Bambarra Beach for Middle Caicos Day a few weeks ago. We don't miss Middle Caicos trips if we can help it. With a year round population of something around 300 people and miles of deserted beaches it's one of our favorite islands here. And we hadn't been to 'Middle' since the Valentine's Day Regatta. We were more than ready for a peaceful day at Bambarra Beach surrounded by good people.

Despite tropical storms and hurricanes passing north and south of us lately, the weather this weekend was near perfect. Here is one of La Gringa's recent photos of the Marine Police boat returning at dawn after a night at sea patrolling the Caicos Bank:

We met Preacher down at the Leeward fuel dock on Saturday morning. He had "Cay Lime" all fueled up and ready to go. I swear, that boat seems to be floating higher every time I see it.

Preacher treated us to one of his typically exhilarating boat rides crossing over everything but dry sand at a really good clip. We were tied up in a slip at Sandy Point on North Caicos before you could scream "We're all gonna die"!!!

I didn't notice the people unloading from the boat across the marina when I took the photo, but I think that was another boat of celebrants headed down to Middle Caicos. I think that hull design would be called a 'stretched conch boat'.

And I meant to take another "Preacher-at-the-wheel" video. It would have been a good day for it. But I guess I somehow got absorbed in the pure joy of watching rocks, coral, and sand zip by at 50 mph just under our feet. Maybe 'distracted' would be a better word than 'absorbed'. Perhaps I should have said I got distracted at not being absorbed by the rocks etc. In any case, I seem to have forgotten to let go of the seat railing long enough to operate the camera.
Glendy had her own ride coming to pick her up for the trip to Bambarra, She was actually working one of the concession stands for the day. I suspect that's why she lugged a bottle of propane along on the trip with us. I had been eyeing that tank as possible flotation, should such a thing be needed.

Our long time friend JR was waiting for us in his Chevy pickup truck.

Hammer, Dooley the Drooler and I loaded up in the back while JR, Preacher and La Gringa rode up front in the comfy seats. We have found life is just better on this trip if we put Dooley in the back so he can do his spinning head routine trying to inhale every new odor on a different island. Me, I just like to ride in the back of pickup trucks. Something about the way it makes my ears and lips flap in the wind I guess. I know Dooley the Demented and I were both grinning like idiots. That's something he and I are real good at. Naturals, in fact.

We passed a group of people over for a day's cycling excursion.

You might wonder how in the heck we could just look at a group of people and instantly know that they not only are not from North Caicos, but to also know that they are visitors from a far off land. I won't go into it here, but trust me. It's obvious. Anyhow, they picked a good day for a nice bike ride. There are some really scenic stretches of road along the beaches between here and the far end of Middle Caicos. I hope they got a good map and know that the best roads for this are not the paved ones.

So for the next hour JR flew us from Sandy Point to Kew to Whitby to Bottle Creek to the causeway to Conch Bar to Bambarra to the beach. I could accept it if someone told me that he kept at least one wheel in contact with the planet at all times. Two? Well, maybe.

Here's a brief clip from the back of the truck as we passed through Bottle Creek, North Caicos:

(If you turn the sound on during that video you can hear a little bit of "Dry Conch and Grits" from a CD by a local band, and here's a link to the rest of that song by ' The Island Boys' .)

We are always struck by how lush Middle Caicos is compared to Providenciales. The Trade Winds blow across the Atlantic and the first land they encounter in this part of the world includes the island of Middle Caicos. The suddenly uplifted and adiabatically-cooled wind forms an almost constant line of clouds over these islands. And since cooler air cannot carry as much moisture, it rains much more frequently here than on the other islands. And the plant life benefits. All along the roads you can see people growing crops in their yards. We saw a lot of corn, and papaya trees growing all over the place:

Most houses seem to have lush gardens growing all kinds of healthy plants. The only thing holding this island back from being a real farming community is the topsoil. There just isn't much. This land is crying for organics. Something besides salt and calcium carbonate.

Every time we have made this trip with JR over the years we've stopped for a break at this same spot on the southern end of North Caicos. This trip was no exception.

Back before the causeway was built connecting the islands of North and Middle, this was as far as one could drive on this island. There was a ferry that would take passengers from this point across Crossing Place Channel to the north end of Middle Caicos. It's a great place to stretch one's legs, no matter how many legs one might have to stretch. Dooley the Devious was checking out possible lizard hiding spots.

Watching to see what the dog was getting into we noticed that really nice looking plant growing next to the plastic pipe. It seemed to be doing very well in a shoreside, high salt environment, and we have been on the lookout for some native foliage to plant at the house. JR told us this plant is called Sea Sage and that it grows up to six feet high. It obviously can handle a bit of salt and adversity. It doesn't seem to require an expensive drip irritation system with pumps and miles of plastic plant ICU tubing to keep it alive...our kinda foliage.

We were lollygagging in the cool shade. I was enjoying a break from trying to keep my posterior in contact with an unforgiving concrete block bouncing in the back of a pickup truck, when another group passed by us headed for Bambarra. They caught a ride in the local electric company truck. Now that's a proper pickup truck load:

And while they might have gotten over the causeway before we did, we are all going to end up at the same place. These are islands, after all. These roads have a beginning and an end. And this is the only way off the island. We KNOW where they are going. Police chases must be fun on a small island. I am not sure if a crook would even bother to run. Not if he was smart. He would just be wasting gasoline.

After everyone was rested, we loaded back into JR's truck and away we went. And as bumpy as the first half of the road might seem in places, the second half of the trip includes the storm damaged causeway. It's enough to rattle your teeth.

Even though it has now been exactly two years since hurricanes Hanna and Ike gave us the one-two punch that did this damage, not much has been done in the way of repairs. I think another storm right about now could be a serious thing for what's left of this lifeline for the people of Middle Caicos.

But then they coped just fine using boats for all of their travels before this road was built. And I am sure they could do it again. It would just be a shame. There are no big harbors or places to bring large boats to Middle Caicos. This road really does connect them to the rest of the world.

We finally bumped and grounded our way down to Bambarra Beach. People were just starting to arrive to set up for the afternoon festivities, but it was still peaceful and quiet when we arrived early on this beautiful little protected beach:

Some of the members of our party were happy to see that the event organizers had their priorities straight. The first concession that was set up and rolling was the bar. Those coolers are full of ice cold beer and soft drinks. And there were more on the way.

Those palm covered shacks in the background are used as shelters for vendors selling t-shirts, food, beverages, whatever someone wants to sell. They are also a place to duck out of the rain when a shower blows over. And squalls are pretty common here. I think the shacks add a nice tropical touch to what is already a beautiful local scene:

La Gringa brought her camera along on the trip this time, and she was wandering around snapping photos even before the 'crowd' thickened. She took a half dozen different photos of the palm shacks, but I won't post them all here.

We have just had hurricane Danielle pass by us a few days ago and hurricane Earl is approaching us from the southeast and as I write this, is due to come by here in two days. This means the ocean offshore on this side of the islands is getting pretty rough. It's not easy to gauge the waves breaking on the reef from that photo. The reef is actually a little over a mile off the beach at this point, and looking out at the ocean we are facing north. But the seas are already a good 8-10 feet high out there, and the forecast is for 17 ft. seas tomorrow afternoon! I wish we were staying at the Blue Horizon out at Mudjin Harbor for some spectacular photos when those babies hit the rocks at Dragon Cay.

People started arriving at Bambarra shortly after we got there. Kids were playing in the ocean, and picking out their picnic spots in the shade under the tall, cool Casuarinas trees that line almost all the beaches here.

Dooley the Dog is quite popular at these events. And Saturday was no exception. He got his photo taken a few times and I suspect his noble visage has already appeared on a Facebook wall or two as a result of this trip. The kids seem drawn to him. I think it's because he is a different breed of dog than they are accustomed to. The local island dogs, the Potcakes, are much more laid back and mellow than any Jack Russell we have ever seen. Dooley has a snap to his step and a constant curiosity that sets his type apart. For those who don't know terriers, they seem an inquisitive friendly little breed of dogs. For those of us who have raised them, well we realize that they are just searching constantly for something to chase. Possibly to mangle.

In Dooley the Delinquent's case, the fact that he loves the ocean really works in our favor. We can always turn him into Dooley the Distracted by taking him for a swim.

The water here continues at about knee deep for most of the way out to that small cay. It's the light colored water in the photo. This is why this is such a perfect place for the model sloop races. As we have found out on Provo, chasing down model sailboats in water much deeper than you can lift your feet out of is pretty exhausting.

When the band started setting up we knew the peaceful, quiet part of the day was about to get ratcheted up a notch or two. But hey, that was one of the reasons we went to all the trouble to make the trip over. Live local music.

Here's a good photo La Gringa took of JR. She has known him for about 20 years, as he works as a captain and fishing guide over on Pine Cay. He lives in Bottle Creek, and it works out well for us that he has a pickup truck big enough to haul us all around on these jaunts. I first met JR about seven years ago, the very first time I came to the TCI on a vacation. He took us fishing. Caught a mutton snapper, as I recall. He'll be happy to take you fishing, too. Next February when the snow is knee deep and it's dark when you leave work, just think of how much fun you could have on a break down here in Bambarra drinking rum and watching the sloop races. Just call up Bev at the Meridian Club and make a reservation... hey, email us here at the blog if you need info.

Now, this is not JR's truck. This one belongs to Dolphus, whom some of you may remember from an earlier post when we were over here about a year ago. Dolphus is one of the better known bonefishing guides on Middle Caicos. Dooley the Destructive tried to kill a fish in his boat last year, but he doesn't seem to harbor any grudges. In addition to being a fishing guide, Dolphus is also known for being extremely competitive in the model sloop racing end of things. He brought one of his boats to the party today and this is why we were gathered around the back of his truck:

Dolphus brought an absolutely beautiful model sloop. It is gaff rigged, and the workmanship and finish on this boat is as good or better than any we have seen here yet. And we have seen the quality of the boats slowly improving over the years as a result of the regular competition. And it's getting bigger every year. It's a good thing.

Of course JR and I were examining the way it's rigged, the height of the mast, length of the boom, mentally evaluating what is likely to be one of our major competitors at the upcoming sloop races in early February. I was interested in the way Dolphus used stainless fishing swivels for rigging his halyards. You know how batty I become when I see the gleam of stainless steel these days. It's better than gold for some things. Don't get me started.

Dolphus isn't the only boat we will have to beat to take the Bambarra trophy, though. Daniel Forbes reportedly has a boat so fast he has to keep it locked in a closet so that it doesn't get away from him. At least that's the only reason I can come up with that nobody has actually seen this mysterious superboat in person lately. Danny assures us it's real, that it will beat our boats's socks off and that we should just save our time and effort and stay home next year. Forfeit the trophy. Ha! We don't even have socks!!

Now here's another of La Gringa's photos, showing at least four of the competitors for the next major sloop races this coming Valentine's Day weekend. Preacher, Hammer, Dolphus, and yours truly:

Now, those three were getting into some sloop racing trash talk that I just won't repeat here. Me? I was just listening, taking it all in. (I'm the one in the funny looking hat, with his mouth closed.... in case you were wondering.) I was hearing some pretty outrageous claims. And Danny Forbes wasn't even here.

Hammer was in that fine form he reaches when he gets his rum balance tuned just right and he was messing with people's heads and flirting with the ladies. This gentleman was explaining how way back in the day he was the young man who first cleared the bushes and trees on this beach to make this beautiful park.

After an hour or so of live reggae, we decided to travel down the beach a bit. This is the closest thing to a harbor that exists in this part of the island. That little cay on the left is the same one in the earlier photos from the park. This is only a few hundred yards down the beach.

I have posted previous photos of this area, I know. I like to look back and compare new images with those from previous years sometimes. How many places in the world can you go and find a beautiful place that hasn't changed since the last time you saw it? Not many, I bet. (And like us, you probably keep the best ones to yourself. )

But Middle Caicos is still one of those places that doesn't change much from year to year, yet. It's not that well-known and, more importantly, it takes a real effort to get here. This spot is just about 30 miles from our front door. And yet it took us over two hours to get here, using a Land Rover, Preacher's boat and JR's pickup truck. This relative remoteness is part of what keeps this little island the way it is. For now.

This photo (above) basically shows you the little natural harbor formed by the spit of land you can just see in the distance. The Trade Winds blow against the other side of that spit of land. Which makes the water on this side of that spit of land a nice protected place to anchor a boat. Those five boats are all facing more or less into the wind, to give you a better orientation on why it's sheltered.

Of course, the wind does come around from time to time. Anything with a more northerly component would make things ugly in this area unless you moved your boat behind one of the little cays. I didn't see a boat ramp here, but the beach is fine sand and obviously these boats are all small enough to be hauled out of the water with a truck and a rope.

In additon to the power boats sitting on their hooks in the water, there are a number of classic Caicos sloops pulled up onto the beach at Bambarra. Until the mid 60's saw the island's first outboard motor arrive, these little handmade sloops were the way people travelled between islands here. They visited, fed their families, went to markets and even travelled to other countries like the Bahamas, Cuba and Hispaniola in these boats.

You might have noticed that everyone in the crowds we hang with are boat people of some kind or other. It surprised us when we first came here to find out that not everybody in the islands spent a lot of time on boats. We were even more surprised at the number of island people who don't know how to swim. But then they are probably surprised to see someone like me exists, who can't get the skin off a conch foot in anything less than six minutes of ominous muttering and vague imprecations. I guess it's all how you were brought up.

Anyhow, as I said, we are of the group that pays a lot of attention to boats. And we were noticing the types of boats the local guys use here in their home waters. That's a panga, two conch boats, and a skiff. Nothing that draws over a foot of water. And all with flatish bottoms that can be hauled up a beach on a couple of rolling logs. (We're slow. But we are learning to pay attention as we spend more time here.)

Oh, in that photo , if you look in the foreground you can see more of the Sea Sage that we have decided we like the looks of. La Gringa got some really good photos of them, as well as some other local plants. Here is a nice one:

While wandering the beach, just enjoying the day and talking about island life, fishing, and boats, we noticed that a lot of lobster carcasses had been dropped on the sand by fishermen here. And some of these suckers were pretty respectable sized crayfish. I stuck my foot next to this one to give you an idea of scale:

yep, just the carapace shell alone was WAY bigger than a size 11 double-E.

Hammer picked one up so La Gringa could get a better photo. I guess I am just not used to seeing lobster tails about the size of my calf. One of these would feed a family of four. Or more...(if a lot of them were vegetarians)

Here's another cool looking plant growing wild on the beach here. We don't know what it's called. We just know we liked it and that it doesn't need much watering and that it basks and revels and grows abundantly in a high salt environment.

We even noticed some sloops back behind the Casuarinas trees. I don't think this particular boat has been in the water for a while, although all the pieces such as the mast, boom, and rudder were all still here where the owner left them some years ago. And they ain't even chained or locked!!

It makes me feel good that there are still places like this in the world.

Now, Dooley the Disgusting.... if you look in that photo, above, you will see that he is investigating any and every thing he can find on the ground to investigate. I think he was kicking over conch shells at that particular moment. But a short time later, he found a part of some expired marine critter that had passed to that great aquarium in the sky. Let's just say that whatever he found was well past its useful shelf life. The bar code was long gone. The "Sell By" tag was a historical document. And being Dooley, he took great delight in rolling in whatever it was that he discovered. He KNOWS he is going to get into trouble for it. He's weighed the costs, and the benefits, and made the decision that he wants to momentarily smell like dead, rotting fish. No matter what the costs. That's just the way he rolls.

And this time it fell to me to lure him into the water on the pretense of a group swim. (He should have realized I would never swim in that hat!)

If you could see his eyes in this photo, you would see that moment when he realized that it was a setup and that I now had him pinned between me and the open ocean. He couldn't get around me and make his escape into the trees. Nobody can catch him in the trees. But this time... No escape. I outsmarted him again. (And THAT's why I get to wear the funny hats, Dooley...)

Coral and limestone sand makes a nice natural scrubbing agent. No sharp edges to the grains, like with quartz sand. This stuff leaves your coat nice and soft and smelling natural. Nah, Dooley didn't buy it either.

Tough tamales. That dog stunk.

After knocking the loose organics off the dog, we turned our attention to a nice sloop that has obviously been in recent use. It's sitting on blocks and rollers just above the high-croc mark..

Preacher was suggesting that we could probably find a similar sloop for sale, fix it up and be sailing a lot sooner than we will be sailing at our present rate of progress in that direction. I think it would be a great idea if we lived on Middle Caicos.

In a previous post I had shown a photo of this catamaran hull. I think this was about a year and a half ago. At the time, this was rigged as a Hobie Catamaran. Well, not any more. The owner has replaced the trampoline and rigging with a plywood deck, and now uses a long single oar to scull the boat in the shallows for bonefish. Middle Caicos raises McGyvers.

By this time the afternoon was moving on, and we still had a two hour trip to get home. We stopped back by the beach park to listen to some more music for a while, resting up in the shade and just enjoying the day.

I would guess that there were maybe 250 to 300 people at the beach festival. Maybe a third of the crowd that showed up for the last sloop races. That's not too bad a turnout for an island of 300 people in total. Probably 50-100 of us came from off-island for this.

We picked a spot down the beach just barely within reach of the drum solo, and rested up for the ride home. Ahhhhhhh.

On the ride back to Sandy Point we stopped by a local friend of Preacher's home for some of these fruits. Whatever they are.

Preacher called them some kind of nuts. I forgot to ask but I bet someone reading this knows what they are. These were growing about 8 ft. off the ground in a tree, and are about the size of a ping-pong or table tennis ball. They have an outer skin about the consistency of a smooth avocado's skin. It splits easily and most of the inside is taken up by a hard round seed. But similar in construction to a mango, there is a soft, juicy and delicious layer between the skin and the seed. You pop the whole thing in your mouth, split and spit the skin, and then wallow in the sensory overload of a tart fruity taste that reminded me of something like a lemonade or citrus flavored jelly. But not lemon, or lime, or really anything else I can think of. Preacher picked a five gallon bucket of them to take home with him. We raided that bucket all the way back to Provo.

As we headed back up the highway in JR's truck with about 90 degrees air temperature, Preacher slowed us down long enough for me to get a photo of a new local business venture. The way I understand it, a lady who runs a Haitian art store over on Provo is in the process of building a roadside stand here on the road. It's meant to be a stop for travellers to buy a souvenir or a cold drink. General consensus seems to be that it's a great idea. I bet those bikers we saw earlier in the day would smile with delight to come over the hill and find a nice shady place to sit and have an ice cold Coke.

Alas, JR tells us that the lady fell through the roof while finishing it up and the opening date has been delayed. He says she's gonna be okay.

And speaking of being okay... we were totally amenable to climbing out of JR's truck and into Cay Lime, and leaving that dusty road behind. We were glad to see the ocean and the fresh breeze.

I wish I had taken more photos on the ride back. By way of explanation on that last comment about being glad to be off the road. But La Gringa's camera was out of memory and mine was almost out of battery. I was saving what I had left in case we ran into something truly moumental. (Can you imagine seeing an alien spacecraft towing a wake boarding Bruce Willis just there off the beach from his house on Parrot Cay and finding out your camera battery was dead?? Well. Whew. THAT didn't happen. Woulda ruined the day, too.) We now had a total of seven people and a dog in JR's truck. JR driving, and Preacher and La Gringa up in the cab. Now we had Hammer, Me, Dooley the Dehydrated, JR's neice who's name I didn't get, Jimmy who is Brodie the policeman's brother, and a bottle of Bushmill's, and a Dominican Republic guy who never spoke even when Hammer chewed him out for littering. He got out at Conch Bar. The Dominican Litterbug, not Hammer. Where was I... Oh... And a box of land crabs. And a five gallon bucket of tasty ping pong balls. For an hour. Over the causeway, and the potholes, and the dust. In the sun. And unlike the trip down, now we were running late and didn't make any rest stops. So, yeah, we were glad to see the boat.

Now go back and look at that picture again. See? Makes sense now, doesn't it. Even the dog is grinning. Now all we had to deal with was keeping our hats on and the dog stuck to the boat while Preacher flew us back to Leeward.

Anyhow that was our Saturday. I am writing this on Monday, and we have just returned from a pre-storm jaunt around town. Paid some bills, bought some groceries. Hurricane Earl is forecast to pass within a couple hundred miles of us tomorrow night. If Earl follows the script, that will be okay. It's a tropical storm situation. Those can be pretty exciting but seldom real dangerous. But if Earl decides to do something hinky and skates off to the south a few miles it could get slightly beyond interesting here again.

Now, for anyone with the slightest bit of interest in the nuts and bolts aspect of living full time in the tropics, I have a little DIY thing I just did and took some photos of. There have actually been a steady string of DIY things since the last post. There is never a time when there is not a list of DIY TBD here. And by far and away most of it is due to the use of metals. Improper use, I guess I should say. I know I have already written posts about the screens, the vehicles, the doors, the light fixtures... so I won't whine about all that again. Aluminum works for a while if it doesn't touch any other metal, including a different alloy of aluminum. Stainless is good, if it's 316. That's because 304 stainless will rust. So a refrigerator with an expensive stainless steel door that you paid extra for will still rust. Can't you imagine how much fun it is finding that out.

Some nights I dream that China will decide to flood the world with inexpensive titanium replacement parts for everything ever made. So far all I have seen was a knee and it wasn't inexpensive.

In the meantime, we are learning to accept the downside of rapid oxidation. I don't know that I can think of an upside to it. Rapid elimination of evidence, I suppose. But it's a real booger in day to day life.

By way of illustration, this is a photo of a stake made out of steel rebar. I pulled it off a video we took on a recent trip to the USA, so the quality is not the best, but you can see the basic condition of the steel reinforcement rod:

That piece of untreated steel was driven into the ground around 1994 during a survey in Colorado. For something like fifteen years, that piece of rebar has been exposed to the sun, rain, snow, bitter cold and summer heat of Colorado.

Now, THESE two pieces of steel rebar, on the other hand, were cut by me back in 2008, in the spring. I used them to wind up the springs on the overhead garage doors.

When I was done with that project (so I naively thought at the time) I put the pieces of rebar on the floor, alongside the wall, a couple feet from the door. Notice the condition of these pieces of steel rebar that have spent three years inside a concrete garage, out of the direct weather, under a roof, in a corner of a garage. I only located them and knocked all the loose rust scale off of them in order to once again work on the garage door. That was about two posts ago, I think.

This is not trick photography. These were new when the house was built. 2007-2008.

Anyhow, the latest victim was La Gringa's bicycle. We brought this with us from the USA and she rides it a lot. We have now found out what happens if you ride a multispeed bicycle like this, splash through a few puddles and then leave it alone for two weeks. The front derailleur can freeze up so solid with mud and corrosion that there is absolutely no way to shift it with the controls. I wish I had thought to take a photo before I got it apart. It was not easy. There was a lot of hammering and driving of pins. I had to secure her bike in it's high tech bicycle holder:

And the derailleur, after I had finally gotten it apart and cleaned it up with oil and compressed air and rags, looked like this:

See those (now) shiny posts sticking out? Those are steel. Steel is one of oxidations favorite victims here, if it's travelling alone. Steel by itself in this climate? Doesn't stand a chance. Lucky if it sees the dawn. But put it in a crowd that includes aluminum and suddenly all the bad oxidation crowd rushes over to the aluminum. Turns it into something that looks like battery acid, only not useful for anything. So putting cast aluminum bushings on steel posts and soaking them in seawater, and letting them sit idle for awhile is really hard on them.

I took 800 grit wet dry sand paper and polished the steel shiny again.

And then I rolled up some sandpaper and polished the corrosion out of the inside of the aluminum piece. Can you see how corroded that has become? The black anodizing is flaking off of it.

So by cleaning up all six pivot points and two springs I got it working free and easy again. It's not pretty, but it works just fine.

I don't expect it to last much longer, no matter how much care we take with it. Just like everything else here made of metals.. it's time among us is brief. Maybe a slogan for deciding what to import here is that if a magnet is attracted to it, then you shouldn't be.

While I had the drive train all apart I cleaned up the rear derailleur, too. Can you believe that long piece at the bottom was shiny chrome two years ago?

Here's one last characteristic of a simple thing like this for you to consider if you think you want to live on a tropical island. On the internet, I could buy a complete new replacement derailleur for $40. Next time this one freezes up this is what I will probably have to do. The aluminum will begin to crumble before too long. BUT, to that $40 part available at any decent bike shop in North America, add about $75 (an experienced guess) to ship it down here Fed Ex or UPS. Mail would actually get it here if the person addressing it knew what they were doing but it would still cost about $40 and take three weeks. So it's gonna be probably UPS. Get it here in two days, which is faster than Fed Ex. Then, I pay a duty on the value of it. I am not sure what the present duty is but a month ago it was 33%. And UPS has a $ 25 handling fee. So, the total cost for me to just replace that $40 part would have been around $153. This time, I was able to revive it.

Hey, know what I have been thinking of for this particular issue? Ever heard of a chainless bicycle? I did some research and came up with several. One of the best ones seems to be made in Taiwan out of aluminum and looks like this:

It's got a totally enclosed drive system. No sprockets, exposed derailleurs, shifting mechanisms, or chains. It uses a driveshaft that is in a housing. This is driving an 18 speed Shimano internal hub. Maintenance on the drive shaft is a shot from a grease gun every six months. I suspect that this setup must have a little more inherent drag than a well setup sprocket and chain mechanism. From an engineering standpoint it just about HAS to. But remember that's in comparison to a clean, well functioning sprocket and chain setup. I bet a rusted up chain really adds to the friction. I almost think we could live with a little more resistance, I mean it's usually a matter of gearing, isn't it. And the thought of all those little metal parts being sheltered safe and sound in a cave of packed grease sounds real good to me. Do any of you guys have any experience with these bikes?

Well that's it for this post. With two storms headed to the neighborhood over the next week, there's a good chance we can get some storm photos in the next few days. And I take back everything I ever said about being bored taking kayak photos. I guess it's a case of being very careful what you ask for, just in case someone with a cosmic sense of humor is actually listening.