A Day At Winter’s Edge

by SteveHulse on November 16, 2018 · 1 comment

A Late Autumn Cruise On the RSV Aimless

Out on the North Sound on a cloudy, chilly, rainy day… a day that will most
likely become the standard day for the next 5-6 months. This will be my
last trip out here until next May… I no longer do well in the wet chill of the
great Northwest – especially out on Puget Sound by myself, waiting for a
breeze to blow me slowly back to shore.

Then why am i here now? Oh, I love it out here, of course… and in the deep
of Autumn there’s never anyone here except me… which could unnerve me
except that I can always paddle. The solitude is almost deafening, the
peacefulness almost overwhelming, and the power of it all sets my mind in
strange and unpredictable directions that never seem to happen on land.

Today, for instance, I’m inside the tent, fire crackling nicely in the little stove,
a fresh cup of hot coffee at my side, the sound of a soft rain on the tent. My
god, how lucky am I… how incredibly lucky! For years and years I’ve wanted
to be at peace with the world, with mankind in general, and for a span of my
middle years I was… in tune with crowds, cities, foreign outposts. Then, at
some point unbeknownst to me, it began slowly slipping away until now, when
the feeling of content, peace and personal safety visit me only in very small
doses. Except when I’m out here on the Aimless.

B and I just returned from a lovely trip to Albuquerque and San Antonio…
Albuquerque for a hot air balloon ride for B’s 80th birthday, and San Antonio
to visit my lifelong friend Rick and his wife, Joanie, for several exceptional days.
Sitting here this morning, still in the glow of that wonderful week, the hassles
of travel – the busy airports, the crowds in the cities, the general rush of
humanity that runs madly to make a deadline that is unreachable… all that
is falling away out here on the North Sound and what remains is the sweet
memories of special times with loved ones. It’s almost like magic, how the
water, the wind and the solitude wash away the built-up crap of toxic residue
our current culture has dumped on so many of us. I’m feeling refreshed, alive
again and not tethered by the dark forboding of our current political crisis.
Here, right now, none of it seems to matter.

It does matter, of course. There are so many signs we are killing our planet
with our rampant greed and stupidity. I wonder what would happen if I were
able to bring all of our politicians out here, one at a time, and re-introduce
them to nature’s reality. Would they finally see what they’re blindingly affecting
on a daily basis? Would they finally get it?? Oh god, it would never work.
I can see it now…

Politician/lawyer/liar – “Okay, so we’re out here. What now? What do we do?
What do YOU do? And where’s my cell phone?”

Me – “Sit down here by the fire with me. Here, have a cup of coffee. And calm
down, your cell’s back in the truck.”

P – “Damn it, I need to check in!”

Me – “Careful, that coffee’s hot. Here, sit here. Take a deep breath, man, you’re
back in what I consider to be the real world. So what do you think?”

P – “I still don’t know why I’m here. What are we doing? Where are we going?
And why is it so goddamn quiet?”

Me – “First off, we’re not going anywhere… we’re already here, one of the
best places in the world to be right now. Don’t you get that? Smell the air…
it’s sweet, right? Listen to the water against the raft, and look, up there…
there’s an eagle! See it?”

P – “I hate to tell you this, Mr. Hulse, but so far this is the most boring,
meaningless thing I’ve ever done in my life!”

Me – “Well, we could fish. This is great salmon water! Want to do a little fishing?”

P – “I hate fishing! What a waste of time.”

Me – “But I’ll bet you golf…”

P – “Sure, doesn’t everybody?”

Me – “Um, how’s your coffee?”

P – “It’s weak. Wish I had a latte right now. And my cell phone. Don’t you have
a bathroom on this thing?”

Me – “Maybe if we…”

P – “Look, this is ridiculous! Paddle me back to your truck, I don’t know what
kind of bullshit you’re trying to pull on me out here, but it’s not working! I’ve
wasted half a goddamn day already, and for what?? I need to get back to the
office and make a few calls, at least try to get something done…”

Me – “I think you ought to at least give it a little time. There’s so much to…”

P – “No! Take me back now! This is NOT the real world at all, I don’t know
kind of rabbit hole you’re trying to take me down, but it’s not going to work!
Smell the air – see that eagle… christ! Get me the hell out of here!!”

Yup. That’s probably very close to what would happen in most cases. Money
is a non-factor on the Sound, greed is meaningless and the need for power
is almost funny. Life on the Aimless gets very simple and definable in a hurry.
And that would simply not do for an urban politician. My god, I’m so very, very
glad I’m not a politician, or a lawyer, or a liar.

So, the politician doesn’t want to fish with me. Fine. Maybe I’ll send him a
subpoena, that’s something I bet he understands. Only thing I understand
right now is that fresh salmon would taste great for dinner! Think I’ll finish
this coffee and go try my luck. Now where did I put that fishing pole?

Steve Hulse

{ 1 comment }

Roxanne Part II

by SteveHulse on October 1, 2018 · 4 comments

 

 

 

 

 

 

I should probably explain why it is I talk to cars and trucks. Actually, a lot of
guys talk to their vehicles. It probably comes from the idea that working on
them brings a familiarity after a time, and (at least in my mind) they become
more than simply a bucket of bolts. Think about it… when we work on a car
or truck, most of us end up talking to it at some point, usually starting out by
swearing at it, then softening a bit, something like, “There, you bastard, that
oughta hold you for awhile…” all the while slowly humanizing the thing in
our minds. When a bolt is stuck, we take it personally. “Come off there, you
rotten…” and when an installation is easy, it’s more like, “There now, that
wasn’t so bad, was it? See how easy it can be when you cooperate with me…”

Once, several years ago, I was working on a ’72 Ford pickup, replacing a
fuel pump. One of the bolts holding the pump to the block was close to
impossible to get to. I remember saying, “Henry Ford, if this was your idea
of where to put the fuel pump (which, of course it wasn’t…) then I hope
you rot in hell!” That truck, and perhaps old Henry himself never forgave me
for that comment, and a week later, as I was driving it home after dark,
the lights suddenly went out for no reason, and I was nearly off in the ditch
by the time I got stopped. As I opened the hood to look for the problem, they
came back on again. If it was a short in the electrical system, it was a weird
one, because I’d just come off a fairly rough dirt road, and the lights had
never even flickered. I got the truck home that night, poured myself a drink
and thought about what had happened. “You know, I think I need to sell that
truck before it kills me…” and I did, two days later. Never cared much for
Fords anyway.

But back to Roxanne. We left off last time where I had just let Iron Jack go
and Roxanne was treating me quite a bit better. As I was in Montana, cleaning
out my cabin last July, in preparation for selling it, I had the occasion to take
several large loads of trash and crap to the dump, and Roxanne became my
working truck for those two weeks. After unloading, I’d usually pat her on
the fender and say, “Good job, Roxy.” I sensed that she absolutely loved it.
She was slowly but surely becoming my truck.

On July 13th the movers rolled in, loaded all my belongings into their big truck
and headed off for the Washington coast. I celebrated the moment by opening
a cold beer, then walked out to the garage to chat with my inanimate bucket
of bolts..
“Well, old girl, I have news. I’m moving to Washington, and I’m taking you
with me. But it costs too much to tow you, so I’m going to drive you. It’s not
going to be easy… it’s hotter than hell over there right now. But you’re going
to like it there, I know. You’ll be right at sea level, lots more air for your carb
and the island speed limit is 55, which you can do in your sleep. Really, Roxy,
you’re gonna love it. But first we’ve got to get you there. I hope you’re ready!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

She sat quietly, processing this new development. The next day I took her
down to Sheridan one last time for an oil change, grease job and final check
over before our big trip. She felt ready, sounded ready. And two days later we
left for Washington State, and Whidbey Island, with Betty following us in the
Subaru.

I had a cold case with water and snacks on the floorboard, two bottles of
oil under the seat and a big carton of water, in case the radiator overheated
along the way. With all the windows down, shades on and cellphone at the
ready, we hit the open road.

The first day Roxanne was flawless. 52 miles into the trip we hit the I-90
interstate, and it was smooth sailing that day. I kept her at 65 for the first part
of the day, but she felt and sounded so good I bumped her up to 70. We
stopped for gas in Missoula, but it was more of a topping-off. We ate, then
headed for Idaho.

During that first day we crossed two major mountain passes – the
Continental Divide just East of Butte; and Lookout pass, (or Mullan Pass)
which is right at the Idaho border. Roxie took them both with ease… no
heating up, no difficulty whatsoever. And when we rolled into Wallace, Idaho
at 3:30 that afternoon and refueled, I was feeling pretty confident that
Roxanne was indeed up to this challenge. The fuel mileage was surprisingly
good, a little over 20 miles per gallon with Roxy’s small block 283 with a
four-barrel carb. The overdrive and a steady foot on the gas pedal probably
helped a bit.

We stayed over night in Wallace and got an early start the next morning,
trying to beat a little bit of the midday heat that would surely be cooking
all of eastern and central Washington. We refueled in Spokane then headed
west into the heat of the day. Sure enough, it was hotter than blazes all
across Washington, between 92 and 94 degrees, clear up to the top of
Snoqualmie Pass, which is only about 60 miles east of Seattle. But trouble
was brewing by the time we started up the eastern slope of the pass.

It was a clear day, bright sun bearing down, and it heated up the driver’s
side door to the point where I burned the back of my arm, trying to rest
it on the inside door handle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’d been watching the temp gauge all day, which had stayed comfortably
between 180 and 190 degrees. But now, just West of Ellensburg, the temp
needle began to rise slowly… first up to 200, then up to 210. Traffic was
fairly light so I slowed to 60, then 55, but still the needle climbed, rolling
past 220 up to 230 as we neared the top of Snoqualmie Pass. I found a
good wide spot and pulled over, shut her off to let her cool down. I popped
the hood and checked the radiator, it was hot, a little steam coming out
of the overflow, but not severely boiling. We let it cool down for about
20 minutes and when I started her up, her temp was down to 190 again.

 

 

 

 

 

Where I like it to be…

So we rolled over the pass and down the western slope toward Seattle.
But Roxy was overheating again, all the way back up to 220, then
230, no matter how slow I went. We managed to coast into North Bend,
just 30 miles East of Seattle. We pulled into a nearby gas station, where
I shut her down and refueled. When Roxy had cooled down we pulled
her into the shade beneath a big tree next to a McDonald’s and called
for a tow company to tow her on to the island. I lifted the hood to see if the
radiator was still okay, and it was then that I noticed it… the generator
was lying down on the exhaust manifold, and the belt had come loose
and was no longer turning the fan. No wonder Roxy was overheating
so badly!

There was no way to tell exactly when the fan belt had come loose, but I
suspect it happened while coming up the East slope of Snoqualmie Pass,
when she first began really overheating. But there was no “clunk’ or strange
sound of any kind that might have indicated when it happened. As i
stood there looking at the generator, still connected to the broken mount,
I realized that Roxanne had brought me the last 60-80 difficult miles on
an extremely hot day, without a fan, and still didn’t miss a beat! She got
me safely down to North Bend and didn’t complain once… didn’t cough,
choke, stutter, hesitate or boil completely over! I felt at that moment that
Roxanne had decided she was going to get me to Seattle, and to our
island, even if it killed her! I patted her fender and whispered, “Thank you,
Roxy. Thank you for this.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Later that evening the tow truck dropped her off at our house on the
island and I drove her up into the driveway. She looked great, sitting there
in the evening light, checking out her new surroundings, surely being
proud of herself for delivering me safely through the scorching heat of
Central Washington in mid-July, back to our island!

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m aware that any thinking outside the logic box of reality vs. perception
can raise eyebrows and lower respectability. But as long as we each get to
choose what is real and what is imagined we will hold a certain creative
freedom for how we get through our days. And our nights. And while much
of our creative freedom might be frowned upon to one degree or another,
it shouldn’t matter if our “unusual” perceptions of life fly in the face of conformity,
as long as no one is hurt or offended in the process. If you haven’t yet had a
chat with your truck or car, you might try it sometime. I urge you to not miss
a chance at a meaningful relationship with an inanimate object, and, perhaps,
with yourself.

Steve Hulse

{ 4 comments }

The Saga Of Roxanne

by SteveHulse September 21, 2018

With apologies, I must warn you that this post and the following one are for truck lovers only. I have always had a weakness for people who show patience, strength, endurance, loyalty, consistency and reliability. I have instant respect (and perhaps a touch of jealousy) when I see those qualities in someone. I have tried […]

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The End Of An Era

by SteveHulse July 11, 2018

B and I are in Montana this week, moving my lifelong possessions from my cabin in Virginia City to Whidbey Island, Washington. I contracted Ray Taylor to build this cabin for me back in 1979. He did a fantastic job on it and it was my home base, and my heart, for 38 years. Much […]

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Big Memories Of Small Times

by SteveHulse July 8, 2018

Being back in Montana for the 4th of July week has brought back some delicious memories of my childhood here. I’m sure you all have these, and I hope mine can stir a few of yours. It’s the 2nd of July, 2018, and we just got to my cabin this afternoon. Betty Ann unpacked us […]

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An Empty Bucket

by SteveHulse June 28, 2018

We’ve all got a bucket list, right? Maybe not written down, maybe not in order of importance… but if someone asked you, at a cocktail party, what’s on your bucket list, you’d quickly be able to think of a few things. Don’t think I’ve ever heard someone say, “Oh, I don’t have a bucket list, […]

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A Forced Perspective

by SteveHulse June 19, 2018

Last year my B and I built a small model railroad together. it was a great winter’s project that turned out well, and we had a ball doing it. In the process I discovered that B built and painted small ( HO scale) buildings very well. Her crowning achievement was a sliver mine with an […]

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Way Back When In The Here And Now

by SteveHulse June 4, 2018

Try as I might to pretend life is still as good as it was in the 60’s and ’70’s, it simply isn’t, and won’t be. The comparable simplicity of that time, the almost naive sincerity of that time faded into oblivion somewhere in the mid-’80’s. Funny that it took me twenty years to notice it […]

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Sweet Inspirations

by SteveHulse April 24, 2018

Jazz Appreciation Month is inspiring me to get out all my pent-up thoughts and feelings about jazz while it’s semi-legal to do so. These days my memory continues to serve up some of the jazz piano giants that I struggled all my life to emulate. Oh, I finally settled in and played “who I was” […]

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Requiem For A Genre

by SteveHulse April 17, 2018

April is Jazz Appreciation month. A month for Jazz Appreciation? Really?? Sigh. I guess I should be miffed about the designation of a single month for a style of music that has defined most of my life. But the truth is, Jazz is fairly lucky to get its month at all, considering it is far […]

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