Thursday, September 10, 2009
I am drenched in sweat and happy to be sitting down. I've just completed a dry run of packing for the Midwest Birding Symposium, coming up September 17-20. That is NEXT WEEK. With the Leigh Yawkey show in Wisconsin between. Yiiiikes. Still haven't packed for Wisconsin, but by the time you read this I'll be there. So it's gotta happen some time in the next 24 hours.
I've been prepping for this for several weeks, selecting art and prints and making labels and signs, setting up my ProPanel booth, deciding what goes where, and ordering copies of my books to sign and sell. It's a big deal, a lot of work, but Mighty Mouse is up to it.
Thanks to Facebook friend Eric Fitch for the link. Mighty Mouse was my absolute favorite cartoon when I was about six. I'm way past caring if I date myself by admitting that. Thinking back on it, as the youngest of five, I could identify with a mouse who opened his shirt and became a superhero.
So today I did a dry run of packing my car for the Symposium. Downsizing to a fuel-efficient Subaru means giving up some serious cargo room. It means retrofitting my new little car to accept great big things. Job One was installing a 2" heavy duty trailer hitch, and on that hitch went a metal cargo box. I had never heard of such a thing until I bellyached to my farmer neighbor Rusty about having so little cargo room in the new car. "What you need is a cargo box," Rusty said. Oh. So I got one, from the nice folks at Steve's Vans. I could definitely become a habitue at that place. Figure out how to carry my canoe, get a rocket box for the top...oh yeah.
I could instantly see the point. It's like having a little removeable trailer rigidly affixed to your car. No wheels or brake lights to worry about, and you can even open the hatch with it on, before you load it up. It's heavy--70 pounds--so I need help to get it on the hitch. But I was determined to figure out how to load and secure the cargo myself, so that's what I did this morning.
Geoff Heeter, proprietor of Opossum Creek Resort in West Virginia, turned us on to ratchet straps a few years back. And ratchet straps ROCK. Take it from someone who graduated from ropes (always loose, high stretchability and low tieability) to bungees (you'll poke your eye out!) and is now the biggest ratchet strap fan on the planet. With a couple of turns of a handle and some satisfying clicks, you can get those suckers on so tight they sing. Ain't nothin' goin' nowhere with that bad boy tying it down.
I did need to figure out how to keep everything dry, because you know the minute I strap everything down on that trailer, the skies will open. You know they will. It'll be cloudless and blue and I'll look up and there will be a little black cloud centered right over my car and a bolt of lightning will come down and it will dump two inches of rain on my show panels. That's just how Mr. Murphy works.
So first I strapped everything down and tried to wrap the tarp around it. Can I get a DUH from y'all? Ain't no way to do that.
So I unstrapped it all and put the tarp under the cargo and wrapped it all up like a big Christmas present and THEN strapped it down and that was the way to go. Here it is, ready for the red ratchet straps. I figure there's gonna be some duct tape deployed in there when I do the real deal, any way you cut it. Probably a whole lot of duct tape.
Let it rain. If I'm ready for rain, then it won't rain. That's the idea. But I felt like Mighty Mouse when I was all done, because I'd figured out how to get an oversized load clear across the diagonal width of Ohio in (or on) my new little car. And only put one tiny ding in the paint, right under the license plate. The first ding is the deepest.
I can already see that this demi-trailer is going to have major applications for hauling cockroach-ridden recycling to town, too; hauling trash, bales of straw... Anything that's too big or dirty or nasty to put in the car is going in that cargo box. Hear that, kids?
Speaking of superheroes, I want to acknowledge the work put in by the Bird Watcher's Digest staff, headed up by none other than Bill of the Birds, to make the Midwest Birding Symposium happen. It's a Herculean effort to pull it off, but nobody does it better than BWD. Anyone who attended the MBS at Lakeside in 1997 and 1999 will heartily agree. We are going to have an amazing event. There's nothing like hanging out and yakking with other naturalists, birders, artists, vendors and all-around great people, in a cozy Victorian village on the shore of Lake Erie in September. Lakeside is a mini-Chautauqua, right here in Ohio. If by any chance you've been toying with the idea of attending, but are afraid it's too late, it's not! There's still room for more and time to register.
Go here to find out more. I haven't attended a birding event with a finer roster of speakers. And the relaxed atmosphere means you can actually hang out and talk with them, not just sit obediently in your chair and clap when the lights come up. You can learn what digiscoping's all about, hear about birding in Guatemala and Uganda, ride a boat, find out how and why to start your own blog, chase fall warblers and shorebirds, get books signed by your favorite ornithological demigoddess or -god (I ain't namin' names, just check the speakers' roster), buy art, gear and optics, and pretend you're attending a fabulous college on a beautiful campus that's dedicated to birdwatching and nature appreciation. Come on! I'd love to meet you! Just remember to blurt "BLOG!" when you see me, and I'll know that you know probably just a wee bit too much about practically everything.
We have nearly 800 people attending, with room for a couple hundred more. You get a full pass Sept 17-20 and meals for under $100. Think about it.
This post is for my Mighty Mouse.