The Volcano – and My Inner Hippie Update

Patience is a virtue, so they say. And I now know who are the all-time Patience Supremes. Hippies. I mean, here we are almost 60 years after the Age of Aquarius, and what do we have? When pot is legal and haircuts aren’t, the Hippies have won. I have nothing against hippies, just like I never had anything against J. Edgar Hoover. But I don’t cross-dress, and I don’t like my hair long. So there.

Okay, now that I have that out of my system, on to better things. It looks like we were way ahead of the curve when we got our newest travel trailer. There is a huge rush on the market for RV’s and boats right now. Folks that might have once jumped on a plane to take their family somewhere nice for a vacation are now thinking better of it. They are buying up motorhomes, travel trailers, pop-up campers, and boats like there is no tomorrow. Many places are so low on inventory they simply can’t stay open until the factories catch up. They are now calling RV’s “Covid Campers”.

We lugged our Covid Camper up to Mt. St. Helens for the Memorial Day weekend. We have talked for years about going there, and I guess we finally got the talking part completely done. Of course, all the State Campgrounds were closed, as were all the State and National park offices and Visitor Centers, but we found a nice private RV park right on the shores of Silver Lake with the volcano in sight farther up the Toutle River Valley. Silver Lake RV Resort has a little marina, and a small hotel that hangs out over the lake. They advertise that you can fish “right off your balcony”, and we saw people doing just that.

The Panoramic view from the dock in the Silver Lake RV Resort marina on Sunday morning.

We arrived Saturday afternoon, and there was rain forecast for the weekend, but Sunday would have none of that. A bright and early breakfast, and we headed out toward the north side of the large blast zone, intent on making our way up to the Johnson Observatory. We were very keen to get a first-hand look at the destruction done on May 18, 1980, when the mountain finally blew after several small eruptions, and lots of shaking. Jean Sherrard, a photographer and journalist, photographed the mountain in 1979 from the far side of Spirit Lake, and had recently trekked back to almost the same spot to take an “after” picture of the mountain. I superimposed his “before” (the ghosted image) onto his latest picture to give you an idea of how much of this mountain went kablooey. It lost 1300 feet off the top, gone in the large explosion and blown into smaller sized debris. But much more material was lost in the 3 near simultaneous landslides that took most of the northern face. They call each slide a “Block”: Block 1 was the topsoil and surface “crust”, and it broke free when the explosion happened, then slid down the mountain at 180 mph, and twisting sideways on its path. Block 2 was the underlying rock shell of the mountain, and it broke loose 2 seconds later. Because it had much more density, it soon overtook Block 1, splitting it in half and shoving the two halves up the walls of the canyon through which the Toutle River was flowing. Block 3 was the old volcanic core of the mountain, and it broke loose seconds later and shoved Block 2 farther on, filling in the gaping hole the first 2 blocks left behind. The whole mess of debris stretched 14 miles down the Toutle River Valley when it was all over. Of course, there was a tremendous volume of ash and volcanic pumice that was also released.

The ghosted old dome of the volcano is superimposed over today’s image.

We drove as far as the road would take us, and when we got to the closed gates for Johnson Observatory, we discovered a hike through the debris field called The Hummocks Trail, a 2.5 mile hike into the debris field of the landslides. Scientists discovered something interesting while studying the changing landscape in the wake of the eruption; these “hummock” debris fields are pretty common around explosive volcanoes. They never knew before how common they are, because they never had such a good “before” and “after” picture of a massive volcanic explosion.

The trail leads to many overlook points where a spectacular view can be had of the gaping hole left in the mountain.

Everything you see, except the Mountain and old farts, is new in the last 40 years

We happily trekked onto the trail, through the trees, past the small ponds, until we got to a sign that informed us that, on May 17, 1980, we would have been standing 300 feet in the air at the spot of the sign. Everything around us was new landscape. Called the “hummocks” because it is literally piles of debris that has eroded down somewhat due to nature, and has been covered with the usual blanket: trees, bushes, moss, grass, flowers, all the stuff we usually took for granted on our hike. We saw it all now with a whole new appreciation.

Hummocks, and Wendy. This landscape still shifts and slides pretty regularly.

The trail winds over small hills and ravines, with lots of rocks and gravel everywhere. I can only imagine what it would have looked like 40 years ago, with all this stuff either roaring down the canyon at hundreds of miles per hour, or raining from the skies. But we did take it in with great appreciation for the power of nature, and the speed at which Mom Nature operates.

There are many small ponds along the trail, way too numerous to count. Signs informed us that these ponds, and the water that feeds them, are the real culprits for the changing landscape. As rain percolates from above, and the natural snow-melt-fed water table slithers from below, all of these ponds grow and collapse, creating new ravines, and new ponds, and new cliffs, and new micro slides that just keep the whole mess changing until it probably becomes a valley floor once again thousands of years from now. We saw ample evidence of pond breakouts and small slides.

Spirit Lake, at the foot of the mountain, was at first emptied of water, then filled with debris from the blast, mostly trees and rocks. The blast itself pushed the water of the lake into an 800 foot tall “tsunami” that washed up the face of the east cliff, scouring all of the trees and vegetation off of it, which then washed back into the lake. Then ash filled that up. But you can’t stop Mom Nature. Over a comparatively short time, the lake appeared again, and has returned today to become again the headwaters of the Toutle River. And water is a mighty force. The river has, like the Grand Canyon, carved out a channel in all the debris and ash, and flows down the old canyon toward the ocean once again. It’s crazy how fast this stuff happens.

We will go back to see much more, especially when all of the attractions are open again. But you can take this with you for the time being: when you next hike down a trail something like this, appreciate that it could have been here for eons, or just a few decades. You will definitely see your surroundings in a new light!

Somewhere between 39 and 1 year old, just like Jack Benny!

Tippy always gets the last word.

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My Inner Hippie

I have always (mostly) been a “high and tight” kind of haircut guy. I was once accused of channeling Oliver North, that Vietnam-era ultra conservative guy who never had a hair longer than 3/8” long anywhere on his head. My hair, however, has little to do with politics and much more to do with just personal preference, and ease of care.

Looking in the mirror this morning, I swore I could hear the lyrics to “Almost Cut My Hair”, thank you Crosby Stills Nash & Young. It was playing in my head as I closely examined the growth that was taking over my ears, real estate it rarely, if ever, gets to.

Maybe not to you, but to me – Serious Encroachment

Go ahead, laugh. I’ve been laughed at for way worse. But it’s been 32 days since my last haircut (yes, I keep track, there’s an app for that). I’m imaging what it will be like in another 4 weeks. I think I’m beginning to experience My Inner Hippie.

It’s ironic that Wendy, who used to suffer way more anxiety about her hair, is just riding out The Incarceration. She let her hair go natural years ago, and it really doesn’t matter to her what her hair length is. Except that when it’s long, she wants it short, and vice versa. Me: short all the time.

Getting a haircut, which seems so far off into the future at this moment, is a true pleasure for me. Now, when I’m thinking about it, I start to silently chant tunes from the 60’s. Richie Havens mostly. Sweetwater, Arlo Guthrie, Grateful Dead, anything from Woodstock. Of course, anyone born in the 60’s is much too young to remember them, and anyone old enough to have lived them can’t remember them either. It was a Phantom Decade. Full of really good music.

Freedom, Baby!

If The Incarceration goes on for more than another month, I’m pledging to go back to my early 70’ college years and start sporting a little ponytail. That might be wishing for a lot, I don’t see the back of my head, so my hair is only long enough for that in my imagination. But, hey, I’m a hippie now, so it ain’t about how it looks, Man. It’s about how it feels.

And now, a word or two from Tippy the Hippie.

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InCARcerated Date Night

A nearly unforgiveable play on words, but it’s my blog, so it is what it is.

Two weeks into the Covid Incarceration, we innovated a Date Night by ordering out at the Olive Garden in Kirkland and making the round trip in the Midget. A little fresh air blowing through the hair, a little sunshine, some sports car noise, and food.

Breath in the air, life is truly a sports car

It’s not called a Midget for no reason. With the 2 of us in, there was just enough room behind the bucket seats to put the bag of food. We got some enthusiastic “that’s cool” nods from folks, including the delivery carhop, or whatever the converted staff is called. I thought it very clever of Olive Garden to quickly morph a whole strip of parking into the “ToGo Carside Pickup” zone.

I gotta believe it’s even nicer to be outside than in.
The booze adverts were everywhere! Seems a bit odd for a drive up…

They even smartly jumped on the upsell wagon by offering beer, wine, and White Claw at the curbside, with a cool window display to match. It looks a little like Amsterdam for booze.

I get the beer and wine, but White Claw?

We combined the idea with the Olive Garden gift card I received for my birthday from the boss, and the total amount allowed us to order a staggering amount of food and still leave a 50% tip for the carhop staff.

This will make 3 meals for us, and set us back $33, plus a $17 tip!

When I first started putting the Midget (his name is Eddie by the way) back together during the restoration, I opted to have a Harley muffler put on. I owe this to the theory that “if they can’t see you, they should at least HEAR you”. The strategy works well for motorcycles, and I figured we’re not much bigger, and not even as tall, so I went all in on noise. For the most part, it also helped to turn a lot of heads to get me those hard-earned nods and waves of “that’s so cool” that every sports car owner really craves. But, I’ve been noticing lately that it’s getting harder and harder to gratify my ego, what with everybody walking along a street nose-down into a smart phone. I don’t think they make a louder muffler; I may have to resort to a train horn.

I did figure out a way to get a little attention, however. Well, I didn’t so much figure it out as it happened to me. One of the little gadgets I installed recently was an electronic battery saver, to keep the battery from draining to nothing during months of winter inactivity. It has a function that automatically disconnects the battery when the voltage drops a little too low, the theory being that you can still salvage enough charge to start the motor when you finally do want to drive. I was bragging about this little gem of technology to Wendy, idling at a red light in the large intersection just a block from home, when the little switch-thingie in it decided to disconnect the battery, and old Eddie died. Oops. I immediately jumped out, just as the light turned green, and started pushing furiously through the intersection. I jumped out so fast that Wendy couldn’t get out to help, but luckily a few passers-by jumped to the ready and helped us get the old boy pushed into the Rite Aid parking lot. We definitely got a lot of stares, they just weren’t the kind I’m looking for. Oh well, it’s a Little British Car. I suspect the new battery saver gadget just heard me bragging, and wanted to show me who’s boss, just like the rest of the phukacta car. Yes, I intentionally misspelled that.

One minute in the parking lot, the hood went up, and I heard the little switchy-gadget re-engage, and bingo, Eddie fired up and 2 minutes later we pulled into the garage, with our Date Night Dinner in hand, and a great story to tell!

Tippy might have to eat the rest of that food.

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A Tail We Couldn’t Shake

We escaped from our socially-distant isolation yesterday the same way we have been doing most days, by taking a walk through parts of our neighborhood we haven’t seen on foot before. A road you have driven often looks quite different afoot.

During our walk we realized that little silver linings from the Covid Incarceration are all around us. Seeing this required us to put on our “Good News Goggles”, taking a much-needed break from the harsh and frenzied headlines blaring out from the incessant “Updates” and Breaking News spewing out from every media outlet. All except John Krasinski’s new YouTube show, Some Good News, which was a real treat to watch. Here’s a link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5pgG1M_h_U

John Krasinski’s Great New YouTube Channel: Some Good News

Thank you John K! He’s a hero, not so much the other talking heads.

Goggle-Up and take another look at the world around you!

News-silenced, and Good News Goggled, we struck off. Our first observation: how nice and quiet it is to take a walk without the crush of rush hour traffic! We heard the normal background noises of our neighborhood that get drowned out by the twice-daily commute surge. It’s surprising how much more you perceive of the landscape surrounding you when you can hear it instead of just seeing it.

We happened upon a neighbor lady bringing groceries and supplies to another neighbor. We had no idea what the circumstances were, a shut-in or elderly person, just some friendly “gang shopping”, or whatever. It was just nice to see people cheerfully helping their neighbors, if for no reason at all. Shades of long-lost Mayberry.

We saw families through their big plate glass front windows. It was unusual to see anyone through those windows before. But here were parents and siblings, sitting around the living room doing something they likely hadn’t done in a long time, just spending time together.

We took a side trip through a church parking lot, and although it was like a ghost town, we discovered an outpost with a cabinet attached that was labeled “Community Pantry” and had a sign “Take what you need, leave what you don’t”. It had spaghetti, olive oil, a bag of flour, some cookies, a few jars of spices, and a whole bunch of other stuff. It was packed. I wonder how full it is in normal times? Visible generosity, and caring for your neighbors, is soothing and stress-relieving.

We got to include ourselves in the good-deed-doers list. Along the walk we picked up a Tail We Couldn’t Shake. A neighborhood cat who began stalking us early on, sneaking along behind us, then quickly darting ahead of us, anticipating where we might be headed. But always pacing us.

The sticky tail we couldn’t shake

It kept this up for many many blocks, and we began to wonder if it was planning on coming home with us. When we got to a busy road, which we intended to cross, we were worried that it might follow us across, then decide after that to turn around and go back from whence it came. We didn’t want to gamble that it would make it back across the busy road alone, so we did an about-face and headed back the way we had come. Our shadow followed right along, as we had hoped, until we got back to the part of the neighborhood where we picked it up. There was a little girl there, and she cheerfully pointed to a house just down the street when we asked if she knew where the kitty belonged. We trolled our little charge down there, and a knock on the door later we met some very nice folks, all pajama-clad, who happily took the little bugger inside. Mission accomplished.

Americans are known the planet over as winners in adversity. I think it is basic human nature to want to win, and to help others along. There are plenty of exceptions, of course, but if you point yourself in the direction of looking for the good ones, they are there for the “goggling”. Think of it as cheap therapy, with fresh air and sunshine included at no extra charge.

Tippy, too, is wearing his Good News Goggles today.

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Have I got a Corona Virus for YOU!

Since getting my rosy “Not Detected” test results, I’ve put on hold calling these times the Hostage Crisis, and instead I’m going full stir-crazy, just like doing 10-to-life for a crime you never committed.

Can anyone guess my big accomplishment today? Not 1, but 2 complete one-piece Cutie peels! Jeez.

Can you guess where I’m going with this? For my next trick….

Also, you should know about me, I’m a news junkie. But not just straight consumption, no that’s too easy. I’m a corroborator, a fact-checker, a BS-detector, a genuine disbeliever in almost every story I’ve only seen once. I take in a variety of sources, starting with my Seattle Times first thing in the morning, then moving on to whatever form of Internet News finds itself under my fingers on the keyboard, to the evening news. I’ve been known to look for the same story in the paper, then on CBS, then on NBC, then pop over to MSNBC, thence to CNN, etc. You get the picture. It’s absolutely mind numbing how the same basic news event can get spun so differently based on the source.

In the act of all this news-hounding, I’ve noticed that each outlet has it’s own Corona Virus Mascot, if you will. There are so many different pictures out there of “THE Corona Virus”, some scary, some Shrek-like, some downright beautiful, that I’m becoming convinced that nobody really knows what it looks like, just that it needs to be blasted on the screen to get somebody’s attention. Here’s a small sampling:

Similar, sure, in that they all look like they could sink a ship

I have reasonably convinced myself that the general structure of the virus, regardless of how it looks, has been adopted by most authorities as “a spherical protein, encased in a lipid membrane, with protruding attachments, all housing a strand of DNA that, by itself, can do no harm until it finds, attaches to, and invades a cell that lines our respiratory system, and uses that cell’s inner machinery to replicate”. The trick, I understand, to defeating the virus before it defeats you, is that lipid membrane.

Lipids are fats, basically a grease. This thin shell on the virus acts as a food for the receptor cell that ingests the casing and thus the inner DNA strand, which starts the infection cycle. If you want to stop the virus in it’s tracks before it has a chance to get inside you, the key is to disrupt the lipid membrane. Really, anything that cuts grease will do the job. Soap, the foamy type, works great. It zaps the lipid membrane and dissolves it, and the inside goodies just deteriorate without their protection. Alcohol, in relatively high concentration (65%+) will do the same. (Sorry, but Vodka won’t). Heat melts the membrane, just like it does the grease on the engine block in my 1968 MG Midget. Any industrial grade de-greaser, like we use mixed with a little Lysol (mostly for the nice fruity fragrance) to disinfect our office and loading bays, will easily do the job. Dry air also works pretty good, as do the UV rays from the sun. That wimpy little lipid/DNA bundle hates UV.

So, fear not, you have many weapons around you to battle whichever of the above demons you wish. Me, I’m just going to sit back and enjoy the view. Just me ‘n Tippy.

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Corona Virus Hostage Tips #2 3/4

Well the results are in! The SCAN lab just released a batch of test results for those tested on the first day, and I’m negative! Technically speaking, “Not Detected”, since this is a research study, self-collected specimen, without any chain-of-custody for the sample, and no official CDC lab certifications. But, you know what? I’ll take good ‘ol Mr. Gates generosity without reservation.

I’m not sure if being told I’m negative is better than not knowing, actually. Except that my stepson (and by extension daughter-in-law and grandkids) also tested negative. So that means, technically, that we could get together for a visit without too much concern. Not that we’re planning that, but Grandma is gettin’ kinda itchy for a grandkid fix.

It’s been reported that of all the tests done (I’m assuming that means the certified tests), about 7% are returning positive. I don’t have anything to relate this too. The “parent” of this SCAN survey is another survey, funded by the Gates Foundation, done annually for penetration of the flu virus du jour into the community; the SCAN survey was re-purposed from that. I’ve never seen any of the results from that survey. If that result came back much higher than 7%, which I suspect might be the case, that means one thing. If it routinely comes back lower, that means something else. Never the less, I guess overall I’m a bit relieved, even if only because I know this will make the rest of my family and friends feel better.

We are ordering out tonight, and yes, we’ll take all the recommended precautions that so many folks have forwarded from Johns Hopkins, the Mayo Clinic, the Cleveland Clinic, Cedars Sinai, and a plethora of others. But you can’t dodge every single bullet in a hailstorm. We’ll do our best to lower the odds, and be fine with that.

Tippy, as always, is our inspiration.

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Corona Virus Hostage Tips #2 1/2

I’ve received messages from Followers (thank you for following!) about any results I might have received from my SCAN testing (see the last post).

SCAN is the Seattle Coronavirus Assessment Network, funded by the Gates Foundation, for surveying penetration of the virus into our community populations. It is voluntary, you must apply and be accepted, is all done at extreme hands-off distance with the kit couriered to your house, and USPS Priority Mailed back.

I applied for the program on Monday March 23 at 8:30AM. The kit was delivered just before noon the same day. I swabbed, packaged, and dropped it at the post office that afternoon by 1:30PM, and they received it the next day.

I received my first notification this morning, March 26, with the results “Pending”. Tick tock….. They seemed extremely expedient to get the swab, maybe not so much on getting the results.

That’s OK, I wasn’t going anywhere anyway.

Tippy will help me out.

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