wordless Wednesday

September 2nd, 2015


prickly pear persists

September 1st, 2015

prickly pear

You may recall that only this year Libby and I discovered a robust stand of prickly pear growing beside the north spillway. It must have been there for years, yet we had never noticed before.

Then the big water event washed out the spillway, and though the prickly pear was out of harm’s way then, I feared that when the dozer man got in there with his big machinery, it would be crushed or scraped away.

And so on my next visit to Roundrock, I made sure to visit the spot, and what you see above is what I found. It survived, but only by inches.

The ground disturbed before it is where the dozer blade had cut. This is about as close a call as I’ve ever seen. In fact, there was a second stand of prickly pear nearby that didn’t survive the dozer blade. Still, I’m glad for what I have. Maybe some year I’ll even get to see it in bloom.

spillway repair

August 31st, 2015

north spillway top 2

Of course you remember this horrific picture. This is the north spillway, and I took this photo shortly after it was mostly washed out by the big water event.

Here it is now, from about the same angle:

north spillway top

All of the holes are filled and what looks like actual soil rests on top. With luck I can get some grass growing on it this fall, before it is all eroded away (again).

And here is the north spillway as seen from below:

north spillway

Notice that something like a small berm rises on the left. Presumably, this will keep any water coming down the spillway from dropping into the pecan plantation too close to the dam, possibly eroding it.

And here is the south spillway after the big water event:

south spillway b4

All of the green on the right is actual dam, and the spillway was washed out right up to it, which ain’t good.

And here it is after the repair work:

south spillway

Do you see what’s missing? Any kind of diversionary berm on the right. Thus any water that does come down this spillway will flow straight into the pecans, cutting across the base of the dam while doing so.

I don’t know why the dozer man did it this way. (I’ll ask him next time I talk to him.) In the meantime, I think I’ll do what I can with a shovel and brute force to build something like a berm, at least near the top.

Roundrock is my hobby.

comb over

August 27th, 2015

comb over

Does this round rock remind you of anyone in the news lately?

well dam!

August 25th, 2015

dam fix 1

Rather than “ill dam” I mean.

As reported, the dozer man did get out to Roundrock last week and did the repair work to the dam and spillways. Libby and I were able to make it out there over the weekend to inspect the work and marvel at the many ways we’ve found to spend our hard-earned money.

Actually, I am pleased with how it’s turned out. I fully expected the dam to be repaired with gravel and large rocks, that being, to my eye, the only material available in the area. I’m glad I was wrong. As you can see, a good deal of rich dirt was scraped up (from the pecan plantation — not a single tree was harmed) and pushed onto the dam to fill the gouges resulting from the big water event that sent water over the top of the dam, eroding it. What you see above is most of the north end of the dam. Here is a view of the south end repairs:

dam fix 2

Those two posts mark the barrel where the drain valve is. The green bit on the right is where the big black pipe from the overflow drain emerges. (It’s all a complicated bit of plumbing, and it works for the most part except in big water events that come every ten years or so.)

I don’t recall that all of this real estate needed repair, but getting a big machine pushing a lot of dirt to do anything results in some side effects. I don’t mind. I’m glad a heavy machine was working on the face of the dam, packing the dirt a little harder in the process (even if it hadn’t eroded).

My next big expenditure will be on fescue seed. In September, presumably when the summer heat will have abated, I’ll need to seed all of this bare earth with the hope that I can get grass growing on it before winter dormancy comes.

Here is a picture showing some of the pecan plantation but also showing the two parts of the dam that got the repair work done:

dam leak

Apparently there was a lot of dirt to be had since there is so much still left.

Alas, what you also see here is the ongoing leak beneath the dam. All of that water came from the other side of the dam and is trickling away, collecting among the pecans and keeping them alive even in the summer drought. It’s always been this way, but with the scraping away of the scrub and grass that grew here, it is more evident how much is being lost, constantly.

(More) Bentonite in the lake might fix that leak once and for all, but a wise man must make choices about his expenditures. Rain falls from the sky. Money doesn’t.

beleaguered buckeye

August 24th, 2015


This was the status of one of the buckeyes flanking the cabin at Roundrock at our last visit. The summer heat and relative drought take their toll on the buckeyes. Their leaves turn brown and fall off, and the poor things look hopeless and lost. But then they bounce back with full vigor in the spring, so I’ll cross my fingers for that.

There are a lot of buckeyes in the understory along the trails I run around Kansas City. They have white flowers rather than the red ones I’ve planted at my cabin, but they are still nice to see from the corner of my winced-shut, sweat-filled eyes as I trudge past. The local buckeyes are beginning to show their stress as well, though they are not far along as the ones at my cabin. Being 100 miles to the north and in the protective shade and high humidity of the large streams the trail follows likely help them.

Fall is my favorite season, and I’m looking forward to the milder weather to come. And not just for running.

reports from the interior

August 20th, 2015


I received a phone call from my dozer man saying the repair work on the dam and spillways is now done and would I please send him an amount of money that can be written with a comma. (I asked for a written invoice.) Likely the Prolechariot will be taking me to Roundrock this Saturday. I hope the comparatively milder weather holds for that long. I think it is still warm enuf to swim, but it would be nice not to be sweating just by sitting still. (Also likely that I will have already sweated that day having not been standing still but running in the pre-dawn hours — yes, through the “interesting” park.)

If you remember this post, what you see in the photo above is what that fallen tree has been reduced to. And, I must add, reduced with a hand saw. (I really need to get the chainsaw in working order again. So much I could do with it.)

Also, Kenneth is crawling now.

running in the dark: an update

August 19th, 2015

If you read my faux-harrowing post of last week, running in the dark, you know that I rise at an insane hour and go running to beat the summer heat. You’ll also know that I was not accosted, molested, bested, or arrested from that “incident.”

But the frisson lingered, and I have done a little “research” since then.

Two days later, I ran much of that same route, passing through the same park and stopping at the shelter for water and a few minutes of rest. This second time through was in the late afternoon, with plenty of light and people all around. There was no hulking, humanish mass at the picnic table this time, but the bathrooms were closed and locked. In the winter they are locked because, I imagine, the water is shut off due to the freezing cold. But in the summer this park is used by runners and cyclists on the trail, families with young children who use the playground, and dozens and dozens of tennis players who pack the many courts laid out there. All of them might have use for the bathrooms on a Monday afternoon. Yet they were locked tight.

Had an incident occurred there two days before perhaps? Had that hulking, humanish mass caused some kind of trouble? I don’t know, and perhaps I don’t want to know.

But I ran the same route again last Saturday morning, coming to the shelter in the pre-dawn dark just as I had the week before. This time, however, I scanned the picnic tables as well as I could in the twilight for any masses that didn’t belong there. (Technically, I didn’t belong there either since the park officially opens at dawn.) I saw no one and was able not only to get a drink and take a few moments of rest but to use the bathroom that was unlocked and open again.

It was when I was leaving the shelter to finish the latter part of my run (another 3.5 miles or so) that I saw something else unnerving. On the sidewalk outside the shelter was a fresh, wet pool of liquid that in the pale light looked blood red. Yikes! Part of me wanted to take off running, and not on the trail but on the lighted, street-side sidewalk. But another part of me wanted to know what that blood-red liquid was. (And if it turned out to be blood, to call the police, of course.)

My phone happens to have a powerful light in it, and while I didn’t want to draw attention to myself with a bright light if I was in a freshly minted crime scene (there was a dark van parked in the lot nearby), I told myself I was being silly and that it surely wasn’t blood.

So I figured out how to use the light on my phone, and I bent over the liquid to see if I could make out what it was. And I could.

It was pasta sauce.

What pasta sauce was doing looking so freshly spilled on that bit of sidewalk at that unholy hour of the morning, I couldn’t say. It was quite liquid, and it hadn’t been discovered by the local fauna yet (no lap marks, no red paw prints nearby). But it wasn’t blood.

As the weather cools, I won’t have to start my morning runs so early. That means I probably won’t be running most of my miles in the dark and certainly, by the time I reach this park on the trail, I won’t be coming in without being able to see everything clearly.

They say runners find the bodies. I hope that never happens to me.


August 17th, 2015


During my recent ramblings at Roundrock I came across the object you see above. This round rock is a bit smaller than a basketball, which makes it a large one, but as you can see, it’s been fractured in an odd way. We don’t tend to see the round rocks fractured in this way (except when the bulldozer has been at work and they get crushed under its heavy tracks). Most are eroded until their core shale piece is exposed, which then erodes even more quickly, leaving them hollow. We do sometimes find fragments of the round rocks, slivers I guess you’d call them, and that suggests the fracturing you see above is not that uncommon.

This one was found deep in the woods where no machinery had been, so I wonder what it was that caused this kind of damage. I have tried drilling into these with a carbide-tipped electric drill and barely made a scratch, yet some powerful force busted this one like an eggshell.

Of course, these round rocks have been around for hundreds of millions of years, and in that time, plenty of external forces could have been brought to bear on them, and perhaps it’s more amazing that I should find any that are still whole rather than these less common fractured kind.

layeredThis is a photo of one of the “slivers” we often find. I think it illustrates well how the rocks “grew” into their shape by layering as they were in the breccia matrix. My mind can’t help but wonder what changes there were in the environment over the millennia that caused the different coloring in the layers. I don’t suppose I’ll ever know, but I also don’t suppose I’ll ever stop wondering.


running in the dark

August 10th, 2015

Portland photo

Two times in my life I was certain I was about to die.

The first time was in Nairobi, when I was making a desperate dash from the hinterlands, trying to get to the airport to change my flight so I could get home to Libby, who had just had emergency heart surgery. I had taken an all-day ride in a matatu and was the last passenger left. The driver asked if I would mind if he gave a lift to some of his friends. I didn’t feel that I could object, and so in poured a half dozen young men who joked and laughed about I-don’t-know-what since they weren’t speaking English. It might have been about me. As we drove into the night, presumably toward the airport, I realized how easy it would be for the driver to stop, the men to overpower me, and for them to help themselves to my luggage (which wasn’t much since the airline had lost my other bag and hadn’t found it yet) and the money in my wallet (which was substantial), leaving my corpse in a ditch outside of the city. None of that happened, and I was dropped off at the airport without incident (where I did feel I was being robbed as I helplessly paid the rapacious fee to change my flight).

The second time was this past Saturday morning when I was out on my morning run.

I do my weekend runs early in the morning mostly to beat the heat this time of year. But this last Saturday, a monstrous storm was massing to the west of Kansas City, and it looked as though I had an hour or so of running time before it hit. I took off a little earlier than I might otherwise to get my miles in before the worst part of the storm hit.

It’s easy to get dehydrated on a run this time of year, but I really hate carrying a water bottle, even the one I have that straps to my hand and becomes part of my body. I don’t like that I have one more thing to manage on my run (along with the screaming in my head to STOP THIS NONSENSE RIGHT NOW!). So I picked a route along the paved Indian Creek Trail that I knew had a water fountain at a small park I would pass through.

I saw no one on the trail in the pre-dawn (in the darkest parts, I didn’t even see the trail itself and had to trust to foot memory), and I reached the small park without incident. This was about two miles from home, and I was still on my outward stretch. The water fountain is under a large shelter there, which includes bathrooms (with flushing toilets), a fire pit, and a dozen picnic tables.

But as I trotted in under the roof of the shelter, I saw a human-shaped figure slumped at one of the tables. Remember it was still dark, and all I had was the light of the faraway street lamps to help me see. The shape didn’t quite look human in the darkness, and I thought that maybe it was a mannequin placed there as a joke or such. I did say “hello” but the figure did not move. This was eerie, and if my skin hadn’t been dripping with sweat, I might have felt my hairs raise in alarm.

I quickly made my way to the water fountain on the other side of the shelter. A little distance between me and whatever it was meant I would at least get a running start if it rose and came for me. I took my sips at the fountain, turning back repeatedly to look at the human-like shape in the darkness.

Normally at this point in my Saturday run I allow myself a few minutes of rest, but I was uncomfortable enuf with the creepy situation that I decided to push on despite my fatigue and find a break a little farther down the trail, preferably within view of the public road (though no cars were passing at that unholy hour).

As I passed through the shelter again, the figure raised its head and said “Howya doin’, my man?”


And alive.

And aware of my presence.

I grunted some response and took off, into the darkness that seemed a much safer shelter than the shelter.

I didn’t set a personal speed record as I left, but I did go at least a half mile before I allowed myself to stop again.

In retrospect, I doubt I was in any real danger. I suspect the poor man had spent the night slumped at that picnic table and was probably more rightfully alarmed by a stinking, panting shape approaching him than I needed to be by his inert presence. And in truth, I was actually in more danger a couple of miles later when I was atop a bridge over the interstate highway, lightning and thunder crashing all around me.

I completed my run without further incident (eluding the lightning and even most of the rain) and devoured my customary bagels at the shop that is my regular Saturday morning destination.


The photo above is of me approaching the finish line at the Portland Marathon last fall. I may look together in the photo, but I was in about as much pain as I have ever been in my life, both knees stabbing me with little knives, and my right thigh cramping up tight. I don’t look like that any longer, having shaved off the beard and mustache that had adorned my wretched face for twenty-five years.