This is probably one of the best articles on land navigation I have read on this topic in years.
Handy stuff to know when the GPS battery drops dead…
Be safe out there!
This is probably one of the best articles on land navigation I have read on this topic in years.
Handy stuff to know when the GPS battery drops dead…
Be safe out there!
*To the Tune of Over the Rainbow.
I think West Texas has been pulling our lariats.
Ever since God create the Jackalope, a sign advertising the “Czech Stop” has stood along I-35 outside the town of West, Texas.
Yes, the town is really named “West”, and in the 1850’s the I-35 corridor would have been on the border of Comancheria (Home of the Comanche Empire), so that was about as far inland as European settlements encroached until the Parker family tragically set up shop a bit too far west, but I digress.
The claim to fame for West is a “Czech” bakery that promotes their Czech ancestry, and does a land office business in a delightful form of yeast bread filled with fruit jam, cream cheese, or sausage called a kolache (“ko-LACH-ee” in the local dialect). More on this later.
This year the Lost Traveler ventured to the homeland of the infamous kolache, the Czech Republic and its capital city Praha (aka Prague).
In all honesty, I was expecting another slog through the open sewer that most of Europe has become due to unchecked migration, social unrest, and general institutional decay. (For reference, see this post on the expedition to Greece.) I realize I could have stayed in the US, and seen exactly the same things in Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore, L.A., San Francisco, on and on Ad Nausea, so don’t bother flaming me. You go somewhere new to get a break from the crap you live with every day. In this case, it worked.
Prague was a surrealistic shock. If Walt Disney had designed a prototypical western European city, this was it. I felt like I was suddenly back in 1983 when my best buddy and I spent two months on a drinking being’s tour of Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and The Netherlands.
Crossing Charles’ Bridge in Prague
The city was like a “Euroland” theme park full of spring breakers. Most tourists were friendly and well behaved. Just folks having a good time without public drunkenness and hooliganism associated with spring breakers.
Old Town Square
Astronomical Clock in Old Town Square
According to our guides, about 80% of the Czech economy is tourism, and based on the crowds, they are making some serious cash. The oddest thing we found was the inability to use credit cards except in hotels and some restaurants. Cash is definitely king, so plan accordingly.
Be wary of currency exchange offices that offer a 0% commission. By law, a currency exchange must provide a client with a receipt detailing the exchange rate and all fees related to the transaction. The client is supposed to sign the receipt at the time of the transaction, and the client has the right to return to the exchange within 3 hours and get their money back. The crooked places don’t follow these rules, and some of them will attempt to pass the client old Bulgarian currency in place of Czech, so make sure you know whose picture is supposed to be on the bank notes.
This four-day life experience began with the usual “Hop-on- Hop-off” bus ride around the city. These bus tours are great. Plug in your ear buds and listen to a recorded audio track that talks about sights along the way. The main benefit of this type of tour is to orient yourself within the city as much as to help you find things/places you might want to visit. If something catches your attention, get off the bus, go see and do, then catch the next bus that comes along. Usually, there are multiple companies offering this service, so shop for the best deal. The company we chose included a 1-hour river tour that was more than worth the time.
Prague Castle holds several Guinness records for the largest occupied castle, and the longest seat of government among others.
Cathedral at Prague Castle
Entry to the castle grounds is free. Some of the art exhibits and other buildings cost money. The Hop-on company offered a “free” guided tour provided by a great guy named Vaclav (That’s pronounced Vass-lav.) who was very well prepared, and like most Czechs, spoke excellent English. Many Czechs also gladly speak Russian, German, and other languages, so finding someone to ask directions from is not a problem.
We took in some small local curiosities at the insistence of the Amazon that lives at my house.
Prague floods every 6-8 years. One of our tour guides suggested skipping Prague in 2024 unless you have fins. As a result of these recurring floods, the street levels of the city have been raised several times. Instead of bringing in tons of fill, the new streets were built on top of the old streets and buildings resulting in catacombs that tourists can visit. The Prague “Underground” takes you though some of the old medieval homes and streets left over from previous centuries. During the second World War, the Czech resistance used these chambers to spy on the Nazis and a number of Jews survived the occupation living beneath the very feet of the SS soldiers. Warning: Some of the tunnels and stairs are very rough. This is not a tour for folks with mobility issues.
The Alchemy Museum provides a look into an actual alchemist’s workshop. More steep stairs and uneven surfaces on this tour, but a bit easier than the Underground tour.
If Fifty Shades of Grey was your thing, then the Museum of Torture Instruments should be on your list. This museum shows what criminal justice really should be. The descriptions of use are fairly clinical, but no less frightening for their sterility. Be prepared to climb some stairs.
Two day-long bus tours took us to a pair of popular destinations outside of Prague.
If you are a fan of Bauhaus, you will love the “Bone Church” of Sedlec.
This active Catholic church houses an ossuary containing the bones of thousands of people dating back to the Black Death. A tour of a beautiful cathedral dedicated to St. Barbara followed the ossuary.
Karlovy Vary otherwise known as Charles’ Baths is the town located atop 30+ hot springs. If you want the ultimate cleanse, check into one of the numerous spas for 90 days to get those impurities out of your system.
This water is coming out at 74 degrees Centigrade. That’s 165 degrees Fahrenheit!
Another attraction in this city is the Moser glass factory.
The factory floor was closed on the weekend, but we got to see the museum. Moser is all handcrafted glass and crystal artifacts. if you even think about looking at the price tag, you can’t afford it.
Speaking of the finer things, we come to the topic of “traditional Czech food” which seems to consist mostly of pork, sausage, root vegetables, dumplings, bread, cabbage, and beer.
Goulash is a meat and vegetable stew most commonly associated with Hungary, but the Czechs make a fine version of their own.
My personal fave was the “pig knuckle”. It was like a ham shank turned on a spit until the skin is deliciously crispy. Prepare to have grease behind your ears by the time you get done with this dish.
I cannot say I am a fan of Czech dumplings. They are like a slice of heavy potato bread smothered in gravy. Tasty enough, but nothing to write home about.
Beer is mission critical to any pub crawl, and there are many ways to enjoy said elixir vitae including driving, or at least peddling while someone else drives.
Texas boast a number of regions settled predominantly by immigrants from specific countries. The Hill Country just north of Austin was primarily Germans hence the existence of the Schlitterbahn, one of our more famous water parks. Shiner, Texas boasts of their Czech heritage, and the Shiner brewery makes a fine dark beer of Czech roots that tastes like most of the dark beer I drank on this excursion through the Czech Republic.
What I failed to locate in the environs of Prague was a single solitary example of the kolache in its natural habitat. I studied the windows of every bakery and bread shop we passed as we toured the city. Zero, Zippo, Nada.
I asked the staff of the hotel where we stayed. I can get my face slapped in about five languages, but nobody would admit to knowing anything about a thing called a kolache regardless of how I asked the question, nor were any available on the pastry table of the breakfast buffet. After the hotel in Edinburgh had haggis and black pudding on the breakfast menu, was it unreasonable to expect something as universally beloved as a simple kolache to be excluded from the buffet in Prague? Apparently so.
Now that Texas dirt is back under my boots, I’ll just have to drive down to West and demand some answers.
Big News Fellow Scots!
The Texas Scottish Festival and Highland Games is moving to Decatur.
From the REAL NEWS page:
The 32nd Annual Texas Scottish Festival & Highland Games at Wise County Fairgrounds in Decatur, TX! SAVE THE DATE – May 11 – 13th, 2018!
Image courtesy of Texas Scottish Festival & Highland Games
I have to say the lady in charge of the Winkel Ranch operation has a well-oiled machine moving hunters through her office. Unfortunately, that was the best part of the experience.
I can’t make any claims to being Billy Dixon or Jim Bridger. I do know about scent control, noise discipline, and how to be still for hours. All of these things have allowed me success on hunts in other places like Moseley hunting Camp just down the road in Castell, TX.
Check-in at the Winkel Ranch Office was at 11:00AM on Friday (12/1/17). Dad and I were the only 2-man team around that day, so we got the smallest section of the 4,000+ acres Winkel leases. That becomes important later in the story.
The rules were laid out as:
1 Buck each – Spike or 8+ Points only (Wow! That narrows down the opportunities.)
1 Doe for the two of us. (Meh, no big deal. I hunt meat, and don’t care about trophies.)
2 Feral hogs each (Now we’re talkin’! But most places don’t limit your hog take. Hmmmm.)
1 Turkey each (OK. I can live with that.)
All of the coyotes we could eat – Llano County was offering a $70 bounty on coyotes, so we had a chance to earn back some of our expenses, or we thought we did.
Now the catch: No night hunting, and no lights.
For those who don’t know, feral hogs and coyotes are mostly nocturnal…Bummer.
Well, you pays your money and takes your beatings.
The section we were assigned to was rough and I do mean rough.
The “road” has probably not been graded in 5 years making 4-wheel drive mandatory.
The only water was an algae covered pond. No moving water on the section.
Only 1 feeder on 200 acres, but it was throwing corn.
The stands/blinds were a real puzzle. Normal practice is to set them up to cover an attractant (food, salt lick, water) or one of the game trails between one of the attractant locations. Of the 4 stations on the section NONE of them were anywhere close to one of the aforementioned attractants or trails. None, zero, zip, nada. When we checked out after our weekend, we were told the stands had been in the same spots for “a long time”.
Obviously, this plot is just a way to bleed off a hunter’s hard-earned cash.
Hunting from the blinds on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning allowed us to listen to turkey hens clucking in the brush. Nothing else was moving, so we abandoned the blinds and sat on the water hole.
Saturday afternoon was not looking promising either until a lone coyote came along. Once Mr. Coyote was safely in the bag, we tried a distressed rabbit call to see if any other coyotes wanted to stop by, but we had no takers.
Sunday morning we still hunted most of that property and found some scat that was at least a week old (dark black pellets), some chewed prickly pear fruit (dried out), and nothing bigger than a cotton tail rabbit, so back to the water hole. We finished out the hunt with just the 1 coyote.
The most telling thing over the course of the entire weekend was the lack of gunfire from adjacent parcels. When we were chcking in, we were told a party of 10 hunters was going to be on the adjacent section of Winkel land, but it was pretty obvious they did not see any deer either.
As we were checking out on Sunday, one of the Winkel hands came around to do the bounty paperwork on the coyote, and he told us that nobody had taken anything out of our section or the adjacent section in two weeks.
Thoughts on Conservation
I’m not beating up the Winkel Ranch people because I had a bad hunt. I’m holding them up as an example of what I consider poor business management. Back in July, I had a similar experience hunting hogs near Bridgeport, TX. Two nights in the blind and not one hog as far as the night vision could see.
Llano TX makes a ton of its money from Whitetail deer hunting every year, and I have to wonder if they have been too aggressive in their marketing efforts to the detriment of the deer population. Over-leasing the ranches is going to kill the local economy because hunters will take their money elsewhere.
I encourage hunters to be more selective in their choices of hunt packages by demanding to know how many animals have been harvested on a given plot before they put their money down. If the claims are not back up by photo evidence, then call another outfitter. Personally, I think I’m going to switch to hunting exotics and feral hogs, and take my money along with me. The best part of exotics and pigs is they are non-game species, so no off-seasons giving me more hunts per year.
If the land owners start losing revenue, then improvements will be made, but as long as hunters keep passing over the cash and taking whatever we get, we won’t be getting much.
Local Wild Life
Since we could not hunt after dark, we go the chance to enjoy some of Llano’s local restaurants.
By far the best food we have had in several trips to Llano was Rosita’s Mexican Restaurant (101 E. Grayson St. llano Tx 78643). They recently expanded from a hole in the wall to a very nicely decorated and airy venue. The restaurant is family owned and operated, and they serve generous helpings of quality Tex-Mex at fair prices. If you go through Llano, Rosita’s is worth your time.
We tried the Hungry Hunter for the first time. It had all of the “country” and none of the “goodness”. Consider yourself warned.
Llano Feed & Supply is where we buy our corn and alfalfa pellets for bait. They are a bit off the beaten path (3 blocks south of Highway 29), but they are good folks to deal with. Make sure to say hello to Thomas, and tell him you read about him on the Internet. He’ll appreciate that.
Reasons for Everything
Dad and I had a great time together. We talked. told stories, and debated the world crises. Mostly we enjoyed each other’s company, and that’s what these trips are really about.
…just add water?
I saw the video on towel pellets, and it looks like a potential lifesaver for people who like the outdoors, have kids, & etc.
They may seem a bit pricey, but the space/weight savings over traditional handi-wipes and toilet paper make them seem very attractive.
As a martialist, I have been watching the evolution of terrorist tactics and weapons with some intensity considering my love of going walkabout.
One of the greatest challenges for the law abiding citizen of our little green planet is having an effective means to defend oneself and companions close to hand at all times. This one thing alone, and above all others, is why I still live in the U.S. Frankly speaking, I take more grief from troglodytes of “The Swamp” than I have ever taken from any other government, or government official, on the planet. If the dark time should come to pass where my shootin’ irons are outlawed, it will no longer matter where I hang my hat.
Since most places outside of the U.S. have some pretty severe restrictions on firearm ownership, and outright ban the carry of handguns for visitors, the “best” option in personal protection is off the table. Now that the Brits, and other EUnuchs, have legislated knives out of common use, (Except for the muzzy terrorists of course. We must be tolerant ol’ boy!), we are now back to humankind’s first tool, THE STICK!
I say the “first tool” because sticks and plant stalks are commonly used by the great apes as tools.
Jane Goodall observed chimpanzees “fishing” for termites using sticks.
Modern observation by Josep Call and colleagues from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Germany, indicates chimpanzees in the Republic of Congo using a specialized toolkit intended for termite fishing. The apes used one type of strong stick to penetrate above ground termite mounds, and a different type of stick for opening underground nests. These chimps also developed a more efficient fishing pole by chewing one end of the stick to separate the wood fibers creating a “paintbrush” on the end of the stick. This spray of finer fibers allows the termites to get a better grip, so more insects are captured each time the fishing stick goes down the hole.
Other researchers have noted Congolese chimpanzees show a strong preference for specific types of plants to make their fishing kit. They choose specific types of wood and carry it to the termite mound instead of picking stems from plants near the mounds.
Professor William McGrew of the Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies, University of Cambridge, UK, studied chimps living in the Nimba Mountains of Guinea, Africa. He observed a band using stone and wood tools against natural stone outcroppings to smash hard fruits into manageable pieces.
Over the centuries, the stick has remained a primary tool and weapon for people across the planet.
With increased restrictions on the law abiding, and the increased viciousness of those trying to harm those same law abiding people, the stick is coming back as a viable option for self-defense.
The Asian martial arts are well known as sources for training in the use of the staff and cane in combat. Probably the best known are the Philippine arts Kali/Escrima/Arnis (They are really the same art. The names reflect regional differences.) They have a heavy focus on stick fighting that translates well to the walking stick or cane.
Lesser known are the European arts:
“In the 103 cases of murder and manslaughter presented to the coroners of Nottinhamshire between 1485 and 1558 the staff figured in 53, usually as the sole fatal weapon. The sword, in contrast, accounted for only 9 victims and 1 accidental death.” 1
Organizations like HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts) are resurrecting the classic treatises and practical application of the Western masters.
Even Sherlock Holmes got in on the act through the practice of Bartitsu. This was Britain’s modern mixed martial art created by E. W. Barton-Wright. Bartitsu combined techniques from Jiujitsu, Pugilism, Savate, and stick fighting into a comprehensive self-defense system.
The walking stick, cane, and umbrella are common items that attract very little official attention that would prevent a traveler from being armed almost anywhere in the world. Due to the ravages of age and infirmity, it is almost impossible of legislate these items out of existence.
A person with a bit of training and real-life practice can really turn the tables on an assailant armed with a knife or club. Best of all a cane leaves no “fingerprints” to bring trouble to a person who exercises self-defense in places (UK) where forcibly disagreeing with the plans of one’s murderer has negative legal repercussions. Recall the battle cry raised during the London bridge attack: “Run Hide, Tell!”
I’ll bet them muzzy wankers were quaking in their sandals.
For those without easy access to a martial arts school or HEMA chapter, a number of books on cane and stick fighting are available. Make sure to get at least one partner to practice with, and “All Weapon” fencing masks are a MUST!
A martialist, regardless of discipline, should also take in the Principles of Personal Defense by Jeff Cooper. It frames the issues of self-defense very clearly.
Stay safe out there!
Dallas and Fort Worth have a number of well-publicized cultural events the first weekend of May, but my favorite, hands down, is the Texas Scottish Festival & Highland Games held the first weekend of May on the campus of the University of Texas in Arlington.
When they say “Highland Games”, they are serious. We arrived in time for the Heavy Hammer Throw, Sheaf Over Bar, and Cabers.
The music of Seamus Stout was blasting, and the Belhaven Stout was flowing.
Please sample some of the artists from this year and years past
For the more discerning patrons, Mead and Whisky tasting was available.
The usual collection of “fair food” was on hand, but we enjoyed a selection of pies from Heritage Meat Pies, easily one of the best food vendors at this event. I highly recommend the Curried Lamb pie. Top that off with Zemer’s Homemade Rootbeer. Zemer’s is one my family’s faves. They sell you a cup with your choice of cold rootbeer, vanilla ice cream float, or a new rootbeer slushie. Make sure you save your cup because refills are only $1.00. (Even the floats are only a buck.)
Vendors of traditional and modern Scottish apparel and knickknacks abound. We have seen an increasing number of Steampunk garments and Cosplay accessories in the last couple of years.
A Clan Village allows attendees to meet and greet members of their extended, sometimes VERY extended, families and compare genealogical notes, or take in dance competitions while melodies from the pipers fill the air. Our guest this year discovered her Scottish heritage leads to Clan Gordon by way of Aberdeenshire County.
Scots are big on kith and kin, and the Texas Scottish Festival is a very family friendly event. Kids can take advantage of a special area and activities just for them.
Be sure to catch the North Texas Caledonian Pipes & Drums
and the Fort Worth Scottish Pipes & Drums.
Both groups participate in the opening parades and wander the festival grounds keeping toes tapping. Feel free to break into a reel when the spirit moves you. They are also available to entertain at private events like weddings and parties.
The 1st Weekend in May is the date to remember.
Just because you wear a kilt don’t mean you can’t cowboy up.
During WWII propaganda posters like this appeared all over the UK and America encouraging people to limit their personal travel to free up resources for the war effort.
Lately, several new reason have appeared that encourage folks to address the question “Is my trip really necessary?”
The puppet theatre known as the TSA failed to detect mock weapons and explosives 95% of the time in 2016, so the answer is obvious. Fire the director, and introduce “enhanced” patdown procedures for the agents.
Is this “enhancement” likely to make any difference to passenger safety? No, because it is all baloney.
I especially loved the quote from the LATimes.com article:
““The UPD [universal pat-down] lessens the cognitive burden for our officers…”
Translation: We would not want the people charged with maintaining security to actually have to THINK about how they do their jobs.
And there was some question about why they failed to detect bombs and weapons 95% of the time? Are these fine upstanding agents of the almighty State smart enough to read, much less reason based on objective evidence?
The only truly effective airport security is practiced by the Israeli airline, El Al. Of course we absolutely CAN’T employ their methods in the US because they intentionally PROFILE people, and select people those that meet certain criteria known to be related to terrorism for an additional chat.
In Western Europe and Turkey, the bad actors just moved their violence to the unsecured part of the airports. Maybe not quite as dramatic as crashing a plane, but just as many potential victims close by.
Then we get to the main beneficiaries of this sham, the airlines, and they are just as arrogant and abusive as the STASI guarding the doors.
A gent by the name of Dr. Dao has been all over the news lately after United Airlines had him dragged from their aircraft.
Now, we have an American flight attendant who was not having the best day according to the flight attendants’ union, violently acting on his arbitrary decision to move a stroller from an overhead bin to be checked with the regular luggage. In the process of his little attitude spasm, he “accidentally” hits the woman who owns the stroller in the head while she is holding two infants. When another passenger calls him on his poor behavior, the flight attendant puffs out his chest and challenges the passenger to a fight. As much as this asswipe deserved a vigorous slap across the windpipe, the only person who would be punished was the passenger who stood up for the lady.
I’ll give American Airlines credit. They stepped up to address the incident, and apologize immediately, but this should never have happened. United fiddle-farted around for a week, initially blaming the passenger, then realizing this was a PR nuke, they caved and admitted to being violent jerks.
Airlines and their supporting structures have lost sight of the fact that the American public are customers. We have rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, and we have choices where we spend our money, so I suggest we starve the beast. If the airlines go down, so does the TSA, and many of the other useless intrusions into our lives.
Business can be conducted 24/7 from anywhere on the planet. Why are we still sending anyone anywhere? Other than pleasure travel, I just do not see the need that justifies the expense. If I want to travel for pleasure and to relive stress, air travel just flat doesn’t make the cut.
America has plenty of National Parks, State Parks, and other places to go on vacation. Sure, it may require a road trip to get there, but is a road trip any more burdensome than losing an entire day to:
Then you get to look forward to going through this crap-cycle again on the way home.
If I drive, I can stop and stretch when I need to. Eat food I actually want to eat, instead of something mysterious from a box. Make a detour because I happen to be passing the largest ball of twine in the world. Best of all, once I factor in the cost of airport parking, taxis, and time lost sitting in airports, driving is actually cheaper.
Airlines whine that they can’t make money with all of the union salary packages. The pilots and flight attendants make the same noise.
Screw ‘em! Let them starve until they understand that WE THE PEOPLE are paying their salaries, and they remember what it means to behave like reasonable, responsible, adults.
Let’s ask ourselves the reasonable question: “Is this trip really necessary?” If the answer is “yes”, then let’s get there without flying, and take back a bit of our dignity and freedom.
Road trips have been a part of my life since I was a kid. Once I was mature enough to get over the “Are we there yet?” phase, I really started to enjoy them. One of the downsides to this mode of travel is the cleanup after the trip is over.
I recently took “Alice” to the local automated wash to get shined up, and the attendant asked me if I had been driving through fresh asphalt. Thinking about it, I had to answer “yes” because my route to work goes through a lot of stretches undergoing road repair. He said, “I don’t think a lot of this is going to come off.” He was right.
After shelling out for the wash, the doors still looked “muddy” because of the tar and asphalt sprayed up by the tires. I called the Mini dealer to ask for suggestions on how to remove it, and he hemmed and hawed about giving me a suggestion for removing tar from the paint. He finally said “Try a powerwasher, but don’t get to close or you’ll blast off the paint. You could also try calling a body shop.”
That was less than satisfying.
While I was on the phone with Mini, the Mrs. was looking on Google, and she came up with olive oil.
Yes, plain old olive oil.
We gave it a try by soaking some old T-shirt rags in oil and rubbing very gently. It took the tar right off, and Alice is back to her shiny old self. Afterwards I went over the oiled up patches with some Windex because I was too lazy to get out the hose and soap bucket.
A few articles on travel have crossed my path recently that should be of use to my fellow travelers.
Stay safe out there!
Personal Safety is YOUR job:
An app containing maps and passwords for public WiFi access points:
Staying Warm – Emergency fire starters from common pocket items: