Friday, July 26, 2019

The Green Lantern Van Gave Its All For Adventure

The 1998 Chevy Astro van, which we dubbed "Green Lantern," finally gave its all at the end of May,
Memorial Weekend in fact, on my return trip from the Black Hills of South Dakota. Chevy built these vehicles tough. It's not the first Chevy we have owned, and may not be the last.

Its motor mind blew between two exits at North Platte, Nebraska. Big Red Towing came and moved us from I-80 to the next exit where we spent the night at the Flying J truck stop, ate a great dinner and breakfast at the Denny's, and waited for rescue. Two of my brothers drove out from Missouri with a car trailer and carried us both home. The Green Lantern expired with 319,724 miles on its odometer. It fought a good fight. It gave its all.

We purchased the van used in 2011 from private owners, and for the last eight years it has faithfully taken us through snow storms, thunderstorms, and hot weather. It has hauled appliances, cabinetry, remodeling materials, toys, kids, grownups, furniture, bicycles, and camping gear. With nearly 300,000 miles on it, it made a trip to the Creation Museum and Ark Experience in Kentucky in 2017, crossing Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, the corner of Ohio and the western edge of Kentucky, and back again. In 2016, it took my mother, a friend, and myself to Branson for one of the shows at the theater there. Two days after we bought it in 2011, in 100-degree-plus heat, it carried myself and six passengers across Nebraska to attend a funeral. The Green Lantern has made numerous trips to St. Joseph and back, one to Des Moines, Iowa, and many jaunts around our local area while I've been researching books, attending events, and tracking down story sources. It took me to the Black Hills in May of this year, 2019, for a job opportunity, and allowed me to enjoy a journey through Custer State Park, and to tiptoe along the route to Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse. It made it across the state of South Dakota on the first leg, and most of the way across Nebraska on the return.

The Green Lantern van has been a great blessing in our lives and I will certainly miss it. My five-year-old great niece asked me to send a picture of the Green Lantern to her mother's iPhone so that she can look at it. "I'll miss our van," she told me and she wanted to remember it. We've had it for the entirety of her life, and half of her older brother's. I will miss its reliability and its versatility.

It was towed away today, but it will give to the very last. It was donated to the Wheels for Wishes program, which helps fund adventures for terminally-ill children. It's the second vehicle we have donated to that organization since early May of this year. Whether they are able to fix those vehicles, part them out, or recycle them, the vehicles won't just end up in a back lot rusting away in the elements.

The Green Lantern van had a classy escort during its last ride. On the flatbed, in front of it, was a bright yellow Harley Davidson motorcycle, someone's pride and joy. Despite being "a wreck" it was still a beautiful bike. I hope it may find a master mechanic who can restore it. If not, its parts may help another Harley continue down the road to adventure for years to come.

Now, it's time to begin the search for a replacement. I'm not sure what model, make, or color that vehicle will be. I can only hope that it will serve us as faithfully as the Green Lantern van did.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Rehydrating To Stay Healthy

It's all around us, falling on us from the sky, bubbling up from the springs underground, hidden in natural aquifers below the earth (and a new one discovered under the ocean off the East Coast), filling up the rivers (and farmland when the rivers can't hold it all), and the lakes (where the good fishing happens), and it floats around in some areas as giant ice cubes (icebergs). It freezes well, thaws quickly, boils well, evaporates, and then recycles itself, and it's one of the key ingredients necessary for the survival of organic life.

For humans, particularly, finding ways to improve hydration, especially before, during, and after exercising, recreational activities, and work can be a challenge. We all know that water works, and that each of us needs to drink the obligatory eight glasses a day. Unfortunately, most of us don't get anywhere close to that quantity, and some only take in water if they're taking medication. Not a good plan.

Our bodies are largely made up of water, and as we move around and do stuff, it gets depleted in many ways. So, it's critical to restore that precious liquid throughout the day and keep your internal water tank toward the high side. 

Best and Worst Hydrating Drinks

Despite our need for it, water is somewhat boring, especially by comparison to all the other lovely drinks out there, soda, coffee, tea, etc. So, how do you keep water interesting and make it a top priority? I came across this article from Taste of Home. It offered a lot of new suggestions for infusing water with different fruits and veggies to take that plain old H20 and make it, well, not so plain. I've been drinking lemon water for some time, and it is good, but it too can become a bit ho-hum after a while. Since we keep a lot of fruits and veggies around our house it shouldn't be too tough to throw some of these suggested enhanced water combinations together, but honestly I just don't actively think to do so. That's going to have to change. We may even invest in one of those glass dispensers with the spigot and keep it made up in the refrigerator.  

As a side note, be sure to compost the fruit rinds from the old fruit when you finish with them. You can read more how to do that and how to use that compost for your garden or your container plants here. If attracting wildlife to a compost pile is unattractive to you, you can make simple composting buckets and barrels. If you need organic manure, as it is a key ingredient, well I'll bet if you look around you can find an ag connection - someone near you has chickens, horses, cows, sheep, etc. It doesn't take much. If you ask nicely they might even let you come by and help muck out a stall or two once in a while. I have read that black containers help speed the composting process, but there is a lot of evidence that about any type of lidded container will work. Here are some other considerations. You can also build wooden composting bins (be sure to make a heavy lid so the raccoons (those ever-enterprising little bandits) can't get into it.

Don't Forget The Okra To Help With Rehydration

File:Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus) cross-section - 20080613.png
Okra - cross-section
from Wikipedia
Okra? Really? Isn't that the weird looking fruit your mother tried to get you to eat all those decades ago? "Try it. You'll like it." Yup. Turns out, Okra is a vitamin treasure chest. And who knew it was a fruit? I missed that in the list of "fruits" from the basic food groups I was educated on in elementary school . . . a very long time ago.

It's a weird looking little fruit. It doesn't inspire edibility. It looks a little like a freakish odd-sided cucumber. I have heard of fried okra before, and now knowing that it is a fruit I have to wonder why anyone would want to dunk it in hot oil, or to roast it? Apparently it's good that way, too. But okra-infused water? It might be worth a try. 

And, you can grow Okra in the U.S. Here's some information from the University of Missouri. It turns out there's a dwarf variety as well that can be grown in containers. So, if you're a container gardener and you love the stuff - there you go. Get growing. It needs a lot of sun and well-drained soil. The article covers a lot of you'll need to know.

Water being fundamental to all life, it's important that we take care of our water sources, and use them with an eye to sustainability, as we do our farmlands whereby our food is grown. Keeping trash and as many toxins out of the waterways is a good thing. Choosing to use nature-friendly cleaners is a good start. Some of you local folks may have noticed that the reservoir has "flipped" again and the tap water has an earthy/fishy kind of taste. You can smell it even when it flows out of the shower tap. It makes that already somewhat boring H20 even less appealing for drinking. Don't opt for soda over water. You may have to take some extra steps to give it a makeover. I encourage you to look into water filtration systems for your home, drinking and cooking primarily. We use the Pur systems and they are very efficient and cost-effective, but I am reconsidering the plastic-encased filtration systems for a more natural method, and there are other ways to purify water naturally. If you have a rain-catchment system to harvest the stuff falling from the sky, that's even better but it may still need purification.You can invest in high-quality water filtration, too, like the Berkey system, whose filters need less changing over time, or ZeroWater you might be the better for it. But until someone invents a filtration sachet (like a teabag) that does not use plastic, and which can be laid in the top of a filtering canister, boiling water (in glass pans) might be preferable. Add a bit of lemon juice to it to help with flavor. Let it cool before storing it in the fridge.

Just some things to think about as you try to stay hydrated throughout the year. Put some thought into your choices and be sure to keep that internal water tank full!

Note: I am not an affiliate of the sites or product manufacturers or retailers listed. I just hope the information helps you think about the water you must ingest everyday, and make it as healthy and enjoyable a process as possible.