once i built a railroad

I did a post a couple of weeks ago called “…down by the river“.

It was about living out of a van….YouTube video of a guy who was down on his luck and living out of his van…pontificating about all the bad that had happened to him.

Like most of the ways I try to view the world, it was kind of a “tongue-in-cheek” blog post.

I was thinking about that post this morning, and I was hoping that I didn’t come off as kind of cavalier…sort of flippant about his situation.

Maybe I just want to know that the silver lining has some humor floating around with it. It’s easy from the vantage point of “things seem to be OK here” to find humor in some of the world’s situations.

The hard part is maintaining your sense of humor when things are really hitting the fan in your own life.

Here’s another video about van living…this one is from a completely different perspective.

It would be great to figure out why things roll so differently for the people in this world.

I’m not that insightful…I don’t have a clue why some people seem to rise and others fall….in spite of all the “success” books I’ve read.  It seems kind of random sometimes.

Some people are happy to save money building their own “sportsmobile”.

Others are bitter about what twists their life has taken them through.

Living out of a van is the farthest point they can fall to.  It’s their own prison.

Maybe the common denominator with some of the “fallen” ones is the bitterness?

Maybe they were bitter to begin with….and the bitterness just compounds the hardship when they start sliding?

There’s a book called “The Science of Getting Rich” by Wallace Wattles that’s kind of interesting.  It’s not a big book….I think it’s about 70 or 80 pages…and has been around long enough that it’s in the public domain and free to read or download…but it’s worth checking out.

Most of the modern practitioners of the Law of Attraction mention it as being one of the main sources of that philosophy.

The main point of the philosophy is that our thoughts have a bearing on what happens to us.

I don’t know that I completely believe that our thoughts can be used to completely control our environment.  That seems kind of insulting to the people going through hardship.

But I do believe that our thoughts shape our perspective…and our perspective is the only real power we have in this life.

Our developed ability to seek a positive viewpoint is the only power we have.

Now, I don’t know what the guy in the original blog posts philosophy is.  Listening to him, I’d venture to say that he doesn’t have a really positive worldview.  I might make the point that he’s arrived at the point he was aimed at all along…like water seeking its own level or something.

But I don’t know him…I don’t know his situation…so it wouldn’t be fair to think or say any of that.

I want a good life.  I want a good life for my family.

That is what I expect.

That is my perception of my world.






It’s been raining hard here off and on for a couple of weeks.

Our driveway is gravel. Our road was gravel when we first moved here.  Most of the driveways in our area are gravel.

All this rain gives me a new appreciation for stability.

There is a lot of gravel in the road that shouldn’t be there.  There is a lot of gravel that’s washed down from everyone’s driveways.

Gravel is pretty heavy.  When you’re shoveling it you know that you’re moving something substantial.  It is hard to shovel gravel.

The kind of gravel we use on the roads and on our driveways is called “crusher run”.  It has a lot of fine gravel that compresses when you drive on it…forms a solid bed that way.

Crusher run is really hard to shovel.

But the water moves it all, little by little, until you wake up and you see that canyons have appeared where it once was smooth.

The water moves what it wants to move…and when it’s raining hard it wants to move our driveways down into the road.

I replaced the sway bar bushings on our minivan for maybe the 4th time since we’ve owned it the other day.  It’s not that I’m buying cheap bushings or doing the job wrong….it’s more a matter of it being a weird design that eats bushings like crazy.

I’m getting a lot better at doing a job that was kind of an “apprehension builder” the first time I did it.

Now it’s just an “irritation builder”.  It’s kind of a pain to do this job.

When I say pain, I mean literally a pain.

There is something horrible about trying to hold a 1/2 torque wrench about 6″ from your face while you back up the nut that can’t turn with a box end wrench…all the while, the gravel that I mentioned previously is digging into your back and skull even though you’re trying to stay on the square of used linoleum you lay down to protect yourself from the discomfort of laying on a bunch of sharp gravel. When you finish loosening that bolt….you have about 12 more just like it.

That’s just to take off the part that lets you do the rest of the job “easily”.  It’s hard to get to easy.

I was thinking this morning about people who get piercings or other “body augmentation”.  What a waste of money.

I carry divots all over my body for a week after I do some driveway mechanic-ing.  It’s not very artistic or cool…but I can definitely tell where I’ve been after I do a job on the cars.

It’s weird that something so substantial…something so heavy to move around if you’re shoveling or raking it…could act like it’s just sliding away when the heavy rains come.

It’s strange that something so solid could act like it’s just another part of liquid when the water gets ahold of it.

I don’t really understand a lot of spiritual things.  I guess that faith is what fills in the holes in my understanding.

I wonder if we aren’t kind of like a gravel driveway, though…moved by forces good and bad that we don’t understand or expect….moved little by little until we look behind us and see the ditches we never anticipated?

I know that I am moved…more and more… if I slow down long enough to stand in the “rain”.


logging my brain


There’s a Christian band that I love who were active in the 70’s and 80’s called the 2nd Chapter of Acts. It was one of those “wore out the grooves” situations…back in the day when that statement made sense.

Now we have bits…little 1’s and 0’s that a laser and computer read and turn back into music.

We used to “groove” when the needle of the turntable rode over the “grooves”.

If you listened to an album a lot, you could say that you “wore out the grooves”…you wore out the record.

Anyway, they had this one song where Annie Herring sang something like “I fall in love so easy..with everything that I see…”  ( “I fall in love/changes” from the footnotes in the volume of the book album)

I was thinking about that song this morning.

She wasn’t singing about scattered attention spans and willy-nilly affections.  She was singing about something more solid than that.

I tend to get obsessed with a subject…willing to follow the distracting “butterfly” for miles. I don’t know why that is.

I got a catalog from an outfit called Madsens the other day.  They supply logging equipment to timber workers in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.

Suddenly, I’m on a logging kick.

I haven’t put on a new chain and started cutting down all the trees on our land yet….nothing as dramatic as that…but I’m really getting a kick out of looking at this catalog and the items they have for sale.

The “environmentalist” in me is kind of horrified when I see a large tree come down.  There’s something sad about something live that gets cut down to suit our lumber needs…that gets cut down to make some money.

But it’s hypocritical to pound a nail into a 2×4 and then rail against the loggers…kind of like talking about how bad hunting is while I pick out some shrink wrapped meat at Wal-Mart.

Here’s an even older film from the 1930’s…

Maybe it’s just the working outside all the time…being out in the woods….that’s appealing.

I’m outside…in the woods everyday…but it’s always driving the mail jeep around.  I’m not walking around in the timber toting a chainsaw.

Nothing that dangerous.

Except for some distracted driver forcing me into the ditch, I don’t have a lot of hazards on my job.

This is a new obsession…this logging thing.

I’ll probably attach myself to something new in a while…maybe raising goats or parasailing. Who knows?

YouTube is a pretty amazing thing, too.  Who would have thought when we were carefully placing an album on a turntable that someday we could watch movies like these whenever we wanted to.

That’s pretty darn amazing.

Remember “filmstrips”?  Remember the “audio-visual club” and the self-important little guy who ran the projector so officiously when we were in grade school?  Remember the slates we wrote on and when we first discovered that thing we named “fire”?

Those were the days.

You know…thinking some more about all this, it may be that I just like to “accessorize”.

You should see me in my snowmobile suit…pretty hip.

Now all I need is a snowmobile and some snow.

Check out that Madsens site…lots of interesting stuff.



I spent the last 4 1/2 years of my college life at a school in downtown Atlanta.

“Four and a half years?  What?! ‘Last part’ he says….how long did it take him to finish college? ” you may be thinking.

It’s a long story that I’ll skip for now.

It felt like a long story when I was living it.

This was a school that, like any school in the heart of a city, was mainly concrete…concrete….concrete…steel and glass.  It was urban.  It was urbane.

It was far from being the wilderness I had floating around inside my head.

I spent my summers working at a summer camp in North Carolina.  It was “out in the woods”.

It was what got me through the school year…thinking about getting out of the concrete and congestion, the hectic pace…and back to the mountains.

(We live down the road from the camp now…and after the highway department paved the road and I got more familiar with the area, it feels like a “suburb” of the nearest small town.  I guess that anything feels less remote when it becomes your home.)

This video is kind of funny.

It reminds me of some of the “totems” I had when I was waiting to get back up here….little things I could look at and remember friends and places I was anxious to see again.

People say “bloom where you’re planted”…and I guess we all do our best to deal with the task at hand.  Sometimes, though, the memory of someplace important to us is hard to forget.

It’s funny how small things like a campfire on your office desk can help you cope.


video star

If I’m posting a YouTube video, there’s a good chance that I overslept.

When I promised myself that I’d do a post every morning, I think that I was operating on the premise that I’d give myself enough time before work to actually do a post every morning.

So when I oversleep, it’s a good stop-gap to post a YouTube video.

This video is by a guy who calls himself Wranglerstar for all his video postings.  As of this morning, he’s posted about 358 videos of advice about homesteading and country life.

This video is about swap meet tools…but he covers a lot of ground in the other 357 postings he’s made.

It’s pretty amazing to me that he can sustain any level of quality over the high volume of postings that he’s done…but the ones I’ve watched have all been pretty good.

There is such a broad range of paranoia on YouTube….search “survivalist” or “survivalism” to open that can of worms…but this guy’s videos are pretty practical and I think he does a good job with them.



I’m almost down to the last of the bag of coffee beans I usually buy.

I have a new bag…a fresh bag…waiting in the cupboard for me so it’s not even some weird minor “emergency” that I’ve almost finished with this bag.  I’m covered on the coffee angle.

I’ve got this coffee thing under control.

The thing that’s going to be different for me this time is that I chose a different kind of coffee when I picked out the new bag.

This coffee was on sale.

This bag is an “espresso roast”, whatever that means.  I’ve had an espresso before…I think I remember liking it…but there was a big price difference between  the new coffee and what I usually buy and like…so I ended up buying the cheaper coffee.

At the time, I inwardly gloated about saving the money. I didn’t tell anyone else…but it made me feel like a “good hunter” to figure out which coffee would save me the most money.

Why and how did I get so cheap?

And what exactly is an “espresso roast”?  A really dark roast?

What have I done?

I think about what it means to live a “big life” all the time.

A life of surprise and adventure would have to be a good thing…it’s a good thing to shoot for.

But they say that God is in the details…some people do say that….and when I’m looking at a big bag of unfamiliar coffee beans, I have to wonder if sometimes it isn’t better to just suck it up and pay the price for the thing I really want.

Maybe I’m just selling myself short with all these bargains?

I know that there is a certain fatalistic amusement factor to driving a car with a lot of quirks.

You can “buy quirks” when you’re cheap enough with yourself.  There’s usually a reason things become a bargain.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with just spending the money on something decent to begin with, though. Maybe that’s part of getting older and wiser.  Maybe it’s a part of getting older and more tired.

The thrill of some self-prescribed cheap excitement is pretty much gone.

I think I read somewhere that adventure comes from making bad decisions.  I’m paraphrasing what I read…I can’t remember the exact quote…but I think it was something along those lines.

I’ve had a lot of adventures in the “cheap cars” I’ve owned over the years… and I’ve learned a little about fixing cars out of necessity.  I also have a swirling catalog up in my head of all the things that can possibly break or go wrong when you’re operating a motor vehicle.

Maybe wisdom does come from experience…but I think that fear does, too. I fear the unknown…and I fear what I expect to happen based on past (bad) decisions.  I fear repeating the “possible” that I set in motion with my cheapness.

Wisdom… and fear.

My “bargains” have bought me both.

I am wise beyond my years in the matter of the repercussions of being cheap.  I know repercussions like the palm of my hand.

Getting back to the coffee…I don’t know what lies in store for me when I brew the first french press.

“Brew the first french press?! You don’t brew a french press!! ”  Somebody who knows is possibly having a problem with that thought.  What’s correct?  “Cook” a french press? Boil it?  “Make a french press of coffee”… I’ll go with that.

I don’t know what “espresso roast” really means.  I don’t know what is going to happen.

It’s just another small adventure in the misguided pursuit of a “big life”.

Emphasize the small.

grown up female stranger

first girl I loved

The Internet is beautiful.

The Internet is terrifying.

I had this song on an old cassette that I bought used that I’ve since packed away somewhere.  It’s Jackson Browne’s version of an old Incredible String Band song called “First Girl I Loved”.  This version was on an Elektra Records tribute album that came out in 1990 called Rubaiyat.


When I say that the Internet is beautiful, I mean it’s pretty darn nice that I can look up this song and actually find it.

It’s amazing that I can locate things on the Internet that I couldn’t find in that box I packed away in the corner of “somewhere I forgot”.

There is some kind of beauty in all that stuff out there being available if I can just press the right keys.  It’s there for me if I can just remember how to ask correctly.

I guess that it’s kind of terrifying when you think that you can find just about anything you want…and then some. Just look up all the information about Edward Snowden you can find right now.  It boggles the imagination.

Speaking of Edward Snowden for a moment…just to digress for a moment…didn’t we used to celebrate people who were brave enough to stand up for a cause they believed was right?  I learned about all sorts of people in school who were heroes for doing that…but this guy’s a traitor for pointing out something he feels is wrong.  It’s hard to figure out sometimes.

I don’t want to “make the list” because I mentioned “Edward Snowden” in a blog…but it is hard to figure out…except for the extreme embarrassment to the US of verifying something that we already suspected…why this guy can’t even find a country willing to let him take his shoes off in.

It makes me wonder if it’s safe to pose an opinion about anything….just let it all be what it is might be safer.

Keep your nose clean and your head down, don’t ask questions…and don’t give up any big secrets.

What’s the point of having a passport if you can’t enjoy it?

Back to the song…in light of the Edward Snowden situation…how long is it going to be before we have to stop singing great lines like “you turned into a grown up female stranger”?

We may not know each other…but maybe there won’t be any strangers in the future?  Somebody’s going to know everything about Everybody at some point…whether we’re aware of it or not.

All the information but none of the connection…that can’t be healthy now, can it?

This post was about a great song.  Art will always be with us…there is a need to express and feel…there is a need to make connection and be part of something universal and bigger than just “ourselves”…there is a need to experience “spirit”. We need to be able to share that experience with each other.

We have needs that no amount of technology can completely change or take away.

I think that people will seek out a way to express those needs no matter what is going on in the world.  Artists will always seek a way to let what they need to express out where it can be shared with other people.

I hope it doesn’t get harder to share that connection as the years go by…in our “brave new world”.


moving, moving, moving….can’t slow down

Here’s another long video about movement and nomadic living.

I must be on some kind of traveling kick right now…living vicariously through all these traveling guys.

This video is produced by the BBC…so any comments about our country being fertile ground for “anthropological observation” that I made earlier do hold true in this case.

There’s some bad language and rough characters in this video…but I think it’s kind of an interesting film so I’m going to include it in the blog.

One of the things that I kind of picked up from this video is that there always seems to be some collateral damage when people choose a free wheeling lifestyle.  It seems like a lot of these people have stories of families left behind or parents they don’t communicate with or other relationship issues.

Maybe they travel because they have issues with the people around them? Maybe they have issues because they travel?

It’s probably hard to say.

I love to be on the road.  I love to share the road with my family.

That’s the combination that I want to move towards.

keep riding

Here’s two videos from the brothers at americarecycled.org

I made some fun of the folks up in Asheville in yesterday’s post…but this is pretty amazing what these brothers are doing traveling around America and filming what they see.

I’ve talked about what a big world it is…how we need to be able to expand our horizons…and then I make fun of the “commune kids” up in Asheville.

What a hypocrite.

I guess that I just want things to be on solid footings for my family.  It’s a different perspective when I feel like I should provide for them.

I really respect what these brothers are doing…some great and interesting filmmaking.

Happy 4th of July!  Independence Day!