Backpacking Essentials By Anthony R. Kolb

     My first backpacking trip was along the Moccasin Gap Trail in Southern, Illinois some forty-two years ago.  That first trip was miserable.  It’s ironic that the trail was a 13 mile trek.  The miserable part was due to my lack of knowledge, poor equipment and the weather.  To spite that, I enjoyed the trip and have continued to pursue backpacking.  I learned a lot on that first trip as my mates and I headed out from Trigg Tower, a Fire Tower in the Shawnee National Forrest (http://nhlr.org/lookouts/us/il/trigg-tower/).  

     The original backpack was an orange external framed pack that my parents bought at a local Army Surplus store that was Paducah, Kentucky’s original outdoor supplier.  I had an Army surplus down filled mummy style sleeping bag, several dehydrated meals manufactured by Mountain House, a surplus mess kit, a green web belt with metal canteen and canteen cup, a metal framed folding stove with several cans of gel fuel, a hatchet, a K-bar style knife, a multi-tool knife with utensils, a pocket fisherman, a rain poncho, a huge nylon tarp, a couple of changes of clothes stuffed into a plastic garbage bag and a two pole pup tent.  My weight at the time was about 110 pounds and the entire pack and contents weighed just under 60 pounds.  

     The first night went uneventful.  We all climbed to the top of the fire watch tower and took pictures of the amazing view.  Up early the next morning we ate a quick breakfast, packed our gear up and hit the trail head.  By lunch my shoulders and back were aching, and my feet hurt.  That second night our camp was pitched just off the trail and the rain began to fall.  The tent leaked, the tarp underneath became a river and I slept very little as my down mummy bag continued to soak up as much water as it could hold.  It was mid October and the temperatures dipped into the low forties and my teeth began to chatter.  We all were up early and ate a charred breakfast of Bacon and scrambled eggs cooked hurriedly under a dining fly over a small fire.  After breakfast all the scouts packed our wet gear and began our walk.

     By the middle of the second day the strap on my new $50.00 backpack (not a bad price in the late 1970s) broke away from the frame when the grommet came loose from the nylon tearing the strap.  My feet were soggy, my gear was soaked and less then optimal.  My Dollar Store boots were starting to separate at the sole as we entered into Camp Ondessonk (https://ondessonk.com) which lays at the end of the Moccasin Gap Trail.  The most cherished memory was the end of the trail and the satisfaction that I had completed the trek in spite of the conditions.  As I hoisted my new but battered backpack into the trunk of that old Dodge Duster my Scout Master owned, the bottom seam started to separate. 

     This first trip proved many things.  I remember the view from the tower.  I remember exploring the old Scout Camp, Pakentuk, a camp my Father attended as a young man.  The old Scout Camp lays somewhere near the current location of Camp Ondessonk and Pakentuk Falls.  There were many ruins of old cabins there.  I remember imagining my father doing all the things I had done as a Scout only with the gear common in the 1930(s).  Camping, cooking, hiking and pioneering, all on this very ground where I stood.  I remember many of the turns in the trail and the wonder of what lay ahead.  I remember the Shawnee Forrest and thinking about how many moccasins had trod the trail before me.  

     That first backpacking was an escape too, from my dysfunctional family.  The world was much larger and more beautiful than our little gun barrel house that I grew up in.  It was the beginning of a life long love for all things outdoors.  It gave me a foundation which sparked many of my favorite pastimes.  Sealed my commitment to the Boy Scouts of America, an organization that helped form my character and helped mold me into the person I am today.  A tradition I was able to carry on with my own family and hopefully passed along for generations to come.

     I also learned that you get what you pay for, and sometimes it is worth the expense to have a degree of quality.  After the trip I began to do research.  I read everything I could find on the subjects of backpacking and camping.  I worked hard and began replacing all my substandard equipment.  

    Weight matters, the more you carry the heavier it gets with each step.  Add in difficult terrain and that pack not only becomes more stressed, so does the body.  Everything must be carefully considered.  There is no better method than trial and error to determine just what you must have, vice what you find convenient to have and eliminate anything that wasn’t used at all.  There will be few exceptions here, first aid supplies, water purification, wet and foul weather gear being some.  Use your trips to see what items you can use for multiple things.  Just because you have room for something doesn’t mean you necessarily need to carry it, particularly on longer treks.

   The gear you choose to purchase is either money well spent or money wasted.  Official Boy Scout gear has been top quality for over a century.  Most name brand items can be quality as well.  Surplus military gear is also a good buy for the money, provided it is current technology.  I have found it tends to be a bit heavier than the civilian equivalent in some cases.  Many military manufacturers also have civilian outlets where you can purchase new gear.  When making purchases you have to consider size, weight, durability and cost.  

     One of the first purchases will be your backpack.  I am partial to external frame packs.  They are what I started out with, but there is also the advantage of being able to change the pack without necessarily changing the frame.  I salvaged my original pack frame and purchased a scout pack to replace the original cheaply manufactured orange pack.  Drilled a few holes in the aluminum frame for the new pack to be positioned correctly and replaced the original screws and nuts with pins which were easier to replace on the trail.  I added a quality hip belt and shoulder straps.  These will help with the weight distribution and take the stress off your shoulders.  It lasted through my high school and college years.  External frames are easier to stand against a tree when taking a break, or when your trek is done for the day.  They are easier to pack and extract the necessary gear from.  They tend to be more supportive of the weight and easier to distribute the load more evenly.  

     Internal frames are easier to pack into luggage compartments particularly if you have to fly to get to your trailhead.  They also tend to stay closer to your body and make it easier to maintain your balance.  They will work better for anyone wanting to ski, are easier to put into canoes or kayaks.    

     Both are available in a variety of sizes and there are a number of quality manufacturers available to choose from.  I prefer as many exterior pockets as possible regardless of which style pack you choose.  Our garage back home and our camping closet wherever I am currently stationed are stocked with several sizes of both styles.  There is no one size fits all needs when it come to backpacks.  Longer treks will require larger capacities than shorter treks.  

      Boots are another very important purchase and also not one to skimp on quality.  I prefer military stye or something similar to the old style 70(s) hiking boot.  Technology has come a long way and as long as you change them out at an appropriate interval, your feet and your back will thank you.  Many boosts of great quality are not much heavier than a pair of athletic shoes.  As with your pack, there isn’t an all in one boot.  Season, terrain and climate have to be taken into consideration.  Whatever your choice, go to the store and try them on.  It is also a good idea to take extra shoes along on long treks, so you can change into something else while in camp.  Moccasins, athletic shoes or sandals are a good choice here.  While on the subject of footwear, it is a good idea to carry a few changes of socks.  These can be worth their weight in gold.  My time in the Scouts and the Army taught me to take care of my feet.  As with packs I have several pair of hiking boots.  Mole skin is also a good thing to bring along, you never know when you’ll get a blister.  I tend to store only very minimal first aid supplies, but always include mole skin, some gauze, some antiseptic, tape and large military style bandage.    

     Shelter must be considered.  Something light, perhaps a bivy shelter, tarp or small backpacking style tent.  Our closet and garage has several of each of these.  I prefer simple, and light.  If my trip is going to be short I sometimes simply build my own shelter or utilize the terrain.  For short trips during good to fair weather conditions I prefer a nylon tarp, comes in handy when you can’t find or build your own shelter.  My favorite came off a tent that has long since been discarded.  Technology here has come a long way since that first two pole pup style tent I carried onto the trail.   I tend not to pay a lot of attention to product reviews, as they tend to depend on an unknown experience level of the writer.  

     I have tried all types of tents in every imaginable terrain and climate.  Some are good, others aren’t.  My latest acquisition, a tipi style tent from a Sportsman’s Guide.  It is 10 feet in diameter and tall enough for my 6 foot frame to stand in, but it is a bit heavy to take on a backpacking excursion, but is adequate for camping or a canoe trip.  If you pack light enough in other areas, it could be considered and they do sell a slightly smaller version which I don’t own.  I bring this tent up, because it has very mixed reviews.  People either thought it was the best thing for their money or total crap.  Since I bought one and am considering buying a larger version for family camping, I have to equate the poorer reviews to the inexperience of the reviewers.  One of the chief complaints is leakage with this tent.  All tents will leak, especially if you touch the material during a rain storm.  Secondly, you have to put your tent in a good spot, otherwise it can be disastrous results.  If you pitch the tent in low ground it will flood.  We purchased one, and have been very happy with it.  We have weathered many a storm.  Many lessons were learned over the years, and even so we sometimes make mistakes.  These aren’t the fault of the tent manufacturers.  I look at room, ease of setup and take down, price and quality of zippers and flies.  Guide Gear, sold by Sportman’s Guide is in my opinion very good gear and reasonably priced.

     Sleeping gear, is another careful consideration.  Terrain, season, weight and weather have to be taken into consideration.  There is no one size fits all sleeping gear either.  I have a number of types and styles of sleeping bags.  In late spring, summer and early fall especially farther south, I might just carry a simple fleece style light bag.  As the seasons turn colder or farther north, a heavier bag might be added, and for winter, something below zero to minus thirty rating should be considered,  As always you can increase the rating by combining bags and bivy sacks.  I also often simply take along a good thermal mummy style bag, you know the silver foil type emergency bags.  These are very light weight and extremely warm.  The downsides are that they aren’t going to hold up too long and they tend to crinkle and make noise.  If you are going to uses these take 2 or 3 with you.  It is possible with experience to avoid this expense and weight all together, shelter and sleeping comfort can be accomplished without expensive bags and tents.  As your survival skills increase you will learn ways to stay warm and dry without all the modern amenities.

    Water purification is a good idea.  The days of old are long gone when you can belly up to a stream and drink the fresh water.  Many different styles and types are available.  If you plan on going on a short excursion, you can take enough water for the entire trip.  Longer stays and if things go badly and you get stuck in the wilderness for an extended period will require you find and purify your own water.  My preferred method is the water bottle style with a purification filter in the top.  These are very similar to the water pitchers manufactured by Britta or Pur, that many of you have in your refrigerators.  Many camel pack systems have built in purification filters now and they are also good.  There are the pump style systems that also work well.  Choice between these comes down to personal preference and budget.  It is also advisable to learn some alternate methods of purifying your water source.  

      Cookware is another area that you can either go without, or all out on, dependent upon your preference.  Quality again is well worth the expense here and will last much longer than the $10.00 mess kit purchased at a department store.  My first Sterno Stove was not such a good choice.  I use a Coleman backpacking stove and have for many years.  I have a couple of other multi-fuel style stoves and they all work well.  I recommend learning how to jerk meats, dry corn and make hard tack.  These will keep you nourished for many days without cooking at all. Other options are MRE style prepackaged meals that often come with heating packs.  If you choose to go with dehydrated foods, understand you will have to carry more water to hydrate your meals.  If I do the dehydrated, I carry a single large pot and lid to heat the water.  The lid will help conserve your fuel and the water will heat quicker.  MRE style foods can also be heated this way, and the water doesn’t necessarily need to be purified (wiping the exterior packaging to sanitize as necessary).  My mess kit has basically gone the wayside, when I use MRE or dehydrated meals.  Tuna now comes in foil packets that do not require refrigeration and are very light in weight and have options of different flavors and spices.  Spam also comes in these neat foil packets.  It is possible to shop at your local grocery and avoid the higher costs of backpacking and survival style foods.  Eggs can be hard boiled and many fruits and vegetables don’t require refrigeration.  In the winter months as the temperatures fall below 40 degrees refrigeration isn’t necessary.  

     I recommend you acquire a good walking staff.  My favorite has some things attached to it to help on the trail.  It has a series of beads on a string, which can be used to estimate your milage.  I know my pace count and keep track of my progress both digitally and manually.  GPS devices are great but you have to know how to do things the old fashioned way.  There is also some snare wire and twine wrapped around it.  I also have a wrist strap to help with keeping it in my hand, especially in slippery ground.  The staff will also be helpful in rougher terrain and while crossing streams.

     Now, I will discuss clothing.  It needs to seasonably appropriate, and you need to be cautious about the weight, and not over or under packing.  Layers are wonderful, and allow a degree of options.  Many folks like to stick their clean clothing for the next day down inside the sleeping bag to keep them warm, this is especially rewarding on those cold mornings.  I take a few changes of underwear and socks, which I will wash along the way as necessary.  Clothing can air dry by being tied to the pack frame while you walk or dried by the fire in the evening.  Wool material tends to retain heat even when wet.  Don’t forget some type or rain gear, I prefer a poncho over a rain suit.  The technology has improved dramatically and I do own a few rain suits.  Be sure to consider the weight and try some variations to learn what works best in the way of clothing for you.  I find pockets very helpful, and prefer a tactical style pant, short and vest.    

    Once you have acquired all your gear, practice.  This doesn’t have to take you far from home.  Set up in your back yard, go for a trek around town or your neighborhood, and back to your camp.  This is much better way to learn what works and what needs to be changed than the way I found out on mile  7 of a 13 mile trek.  Enjoy your next trek, wherever the trail leads you.

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Why My Blog (Ramblings of a Wayward Trekker) is What it is. By Anthony R. Kolb

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Our youngest son just moved from Okinawa, Japan to Turkey.  His travels brought him to Seattle, across the USA to Baltimore, then on to Europe and ultimately Turkey.  Since Julie and I are currently about 3-4 hours from Baltimore, we decided to take a trip to Maryland to see him.  Traffic up and down I-95 can be particularly difficult at times, so we opted to purchase plane tickets, thinking it would be a quick hop on a commuter airline. Ha!  Best laid plans.  As it turns out you can hop from Norfolk to Washington DC but if you go to Baltimore it is by way of Newark, NJ.  At least with United which is our favorite airline.

We figured this would be cool since neither of us had been to New Jersey, and a good friend and colleague of mine, Milton is from there and often talks about “Jersey”.
Flights were booked, a hotel and a rental car.  We decided to fly in a day early and pop down to Washington, DC, see the capitol and visit some of the historical sites, Annapolis and many of the other places along the way.  This time we opted for a Holiday Inn Express near to Baltimore-Washington International Airport and decided to book a suite. As we’re getting older, we prefer the added comfort and figured if Zachary didn’t want to go to his hotel we’d just let him stay with us, he was flying in late Saturday night, with a layover in Baltimore before flying over to Europe late Sunday afternoon.

What would a trip to a major metropolitan city be for a Magician if I didn’t search for a brick and mortar magic shop?  Especially since they seem to be a dying breed of business.  Given their limited customer base and the explosion of availability through the internet.  A quick google search found two shops in the area.  I called both, to see if either might have the elusive “Lefler” style table/case I have been searching for.  They are made in a few different sizes and with different finishes on them.  I really wanted to see what I was purchasing first, considering the $400.00-$1,200.00 price tag, I felt this was prudent.  I tried the one called, “The Magic Warehouse” first, and was told they didn’t stock them but could order one.  I contacted the second one, a place called, The Denny & Lee Magic Studio.  Denny answered the phone and when I inquired, he said, “Oh yeah, I have at least three or four of them, stop on by when you get into town, I’m open 7 days/week and would love to meet you”.  After 3 years of searching every magic shop I could find, in every major city and a few small cities, I was finally going to at see some of them, up close.  I knew this would be a good trip.

Our flights this time were better, we booked everything ourselves vice using a travel agency.  Breakfast at our favorite restaurant, Back Street Bistro, at Norfolk International, then a short flight.  Got to Jersey no issue, a nice but very packed airport.  Proximity to New York City I am sure had something to do with that.  I wish we’d have gotten to NYC, but that will have to be another trip.  Tannen’s Magic Shop, will be a “must” stop when we do get back in that neck of the woods.  We picked up a few souvenirs at the gift shop and were on our way to Baltimore.  Grabbed a rental car at BWI Airport, we chose a Nissan Rogue, a 2018, and I can tell you it got a 5 star review from both me and Julie.  Our hotel, also was top of the line, not a Residence Inn, but for the money well worth the cost.  A nice meal, at the Denny’s next door, and a well deserved sleep after a day of traveling.

A continental breakfast in our suite, a navigation search of all the places we wanted to see, and we were off to Denny’s Studio.  This was the best magic shop I have ever been in. Denny is a hoarder of all things arcane.  He has a wide selection of both new and used effects and illusions.  In back he has a stage and theater set up, there are weekly shows. Julie and I spent hours in there, met some fine local talent and another visiting magician. I was able to select from about 6 or 8 different “Lefler” style tables, picked up a wonderful domino/spot stage effect, a coin pail and lovely silk large enough to cover the handle on my new to me, Lefler table.  I was able to purchase all of it for $400.00 plus $35.00 shipping.  All told I had nearly $1K in great stuff and could have easily put us in the poor house.  I saw so many things I wanted or wished I could afford.  The Denny & Lee Magic Studio is a “must stop” for anyone visiting the Baltimore area.

After our visit with Denny and the gang, we had a late lunch at an Arby’s nearby. Trekked through Baltimore again and headed south to Washington, DC.  It was a lovely trip through Maryland, and getting to see all the sites in our Nation’’s capitol was nice.  It is alway’s good to go places you’ve seen and heard about.  The buildings, architecture and homes are absolutely worth the trip.  Once our self guided tour was over, we headed back toward Baltimore, and our hotel.  After a lovely dinner at a local Jimmy John’s we settled in for a bit of relaxation after a very rewarding day.

We headed to the airport that night, picked up our youngest, and dropped him at his hotel.  We were all up fairly early the next morning, a breakfast at Denny’s and lunch back at Jimmy John’s and we had to drop Zachary at the AMC terminal.  Though the visit was short, with him headed to Turkey and us to Japan it was well worth it.

Julie and I had gotten some notifications of flight delays, so we decided to drop our rental car and check in to our airline and see if we could catch an earlier flight.  To our dismay, the clerk at the ticket counter spent about 20 minutes typing away and finally got Julie booked on an earlier flight, but couldn’t get me out until the following morning.  We opted to get a refund on our return flights, and rent a car to drive down to Norfolk.  We figured, the traffic wouldn’t be to bad, hopefully.  Turns out the trip took about 4 hours (220 miles or so).  We ended up back at Norfolk International and home before we’d have left Jersey on our original flights.  Love it when a plan, even an adjusted plan comes together.

As I sat here typing, we realized there was the option of driving from our home in Southern Illinois to Seattle, WA where we’re flying out by AMC to Japan in a few months. It would give us an opportunity to see many of the western states we’ve never visited.  A very tempting prospect indeed.  We could see Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, the Dakotas and a few others.  After looking at the milage and time constraints, as well as the things we want to do before we get to Japan, we have opted to fly.

Truth is I really am a rambling trekker.  Though that particular trip may be on hold, the plan of action is to go to all the places I haven’t been, or Julie hasn’t been, while traveling around the world with Kolb Web Inc.  Once I am fully retired from the Navy there should be nothing stopping us.  I will venture about, performing the mysteries of a most ancient and arcane art, while Julie uses her experiences and her imagination to put ink to paper. Point is we only live once, and none of our worldly possessions can be taken with us.  You know the old saying, “You’ll never see a U-haul behind a hurst”.  Unless perhaps the funeral home is moving.  But, you get the point.  If you have a dream, pursue it.  If you wish you could go somewhere or see something, then do it.  Just do it!  You don’t have to be Nike.  It’s my wish that my ramblings might just be someone’s inspiration.  Hope you find fair winds and following seas in your travels.

The Adventure of Traveling and the Lessons Learned. By Anthony R. Kolb

 

Our recent travels have taken us from the East coast across America to the West coast and back again in less than 96 hours. This latest adventure started a few weeks ago when our oldest son asked us to come out to Glendale, California for the airing of a television project he’d worked on last year. He starred in an episode of Revenge Body. Julie and I discussed the prospect and since we are moving to Japan in the summer and my vacation time was limited, we decided at least one of us should go. That was a couple of weeks out, and we discussed the pros and cons on the following Monday, as I was getting ready for work. This was a big moment in our son’s life.

I walked out the door, didn’t quite make it to the Jeep, when work called. Evidently there had been a fairly serious situation earlier in the morning, and none of our staff that required notification, including me, had been notified. I spent my whole 20 minute commute on the phone figuring out exactly what had transpired, and why the supervisor on duty had failed to inform their superiors. Once at work, it was our normal Monday morning meeting, again, more questions, that folks at their pay grade should know the answers to. I realized this Department would have to manage without me, at least once I transferred to Japan. After returning to my desk an hour and a half later, Julie had texted me, “I wish you would come with me….” I decided right then, I would. I dropped a request for five days vacation. We were both going to go to California for the airing of Revenge Body Season Two.

Julie had decided to book her reservations, flights, hotel and rental car through an online travel agency. These are typically cheaper options. She had booked while I was in the morning meeting and had flights from Norfolk, to Chicago, to San Fransisco to Burbank. When she tried to book me on the same flights, she was only able to book me for a basic economy seat. If you don’t travel much this means no carry on baggage is allowed. Not a big deal since it was just an extended weekend Saturday-Tuesday with us arriving back in Norfolk at 9:15 Tuesday morning on a series of “red eye” flights. Turns out basic economy doesn’t get you an assigned seat either. Friday morning we needed to check in, usually an easy task on the airline’s application, but with basic economy it’s difficult to check in remotely. It also wouldn’t let me register my checked baggage. I want to make it clear, this is with our favorite airline, that we never have any issues with. The travel agency booked all our connecting flights with only minutes between landing and take off of the next flight. This was going to result in us having to make like O. J. Simpson and run like mad people through the airports from gate to gate at each landing. This leaves no time, for meals and all the airlines have stopped providing meals of any kind on domestic flights. When you book your own flights, you get to choose, not some travel agent who doesn’t have to run through the airport.

Once at the airport in Norfolk, VA, we checked our baggage at the counter and headed to the TSA Security check point, turns out my new hip joint doesn’t set off the metal detectors. We headed to our gate. The previous week saw a lot of snow in many parts of the US, and our first flight was delayed a few hours because there was no available flight crew. This led to a wait in a line, to determine our options. While waiting, Julie managed to get us rerouted, just not together, but we’d both end up in Burbank, CA before the end of the day. Once we finally got to the gate counter, the nice lady at the counter managed to get me and Julie on the same flight to Chicago, that we were originally on, and we’d just be rerouted to Denver then on to Burbank, just arriving hours later than originally booked.

We had a nice breakfast at our favorite restaurant at the Norfolk Airport (guess we really are frequent flyers if you have a favorite airport and restaurant in an airport). The good side of the rerouting was it gave us much more time between flights, the down side we added about 12-14 hours to our trip. We contacted the hotel to let them know we were going to now be a late arrival. This turned out to be an unwanted ordeal, since were booked through the travel agency, no one wanted to just put a notation on the reservation. So we not only had to call the rental car agency and hotel to confirm they got the update, we had to call the travel agency to make the adjustments. I recommend booking directly and always booking as a late arrival regardless of your itinerary.

We arrived in Chicago, and hiked from concourse C to concourse B, got to our gate, and sat down to a nice lunch at a Mediterranean restaurant called Travanada. We enjoyed the best personal pizza I have ever had, Julie had a sandwich and we split a couple of dessert cheese cakes. We both recommend the caramel cheese cake and flat bread pizza. We went back to our gate for a drink and to recharge our electronics. While we were enjoying a cold beer, we hear a commotion in the distance. As we sat there the sound was getting louder. Someone yelling, turns out a lady was walking through the airport tailed closely by two TSA agents. She was screaming and waving her arms, telling everyone about her husband, who had passed away. The agents were very professional and didn’t intervene, they just kept a watchful eye on the poor lady. It would be hard to say if she was just having a bad travel day or if she was simply suffering from some unknown condition. Prayers were said on her behalf and for the many airport and airline staff who daily deal with a number of issues and complaints.

From Chicago we were off to Denver, a first visit for me, Julie has been there a few times already. Another extended layover and a quick bite to eat, a turkey wrap for Julie and a hot dog for me, a couple of waters and we were finally on our way to Burbank. We landed about 10:30 pm, and I picked up our baggage while Julie scouted out the rental car office. After getting the baggage and a quick trip to the rest room, we hiked to the Enterprise Office only to find the travel agency had given us bad info, we had been told the airport in Burbank and all the renal car agencies closed at 10:00 pm. Turns our they all stay open until 11:00 pm. Book directly, it’s worth the few dollars you might save by booking through an agency. The rental car staff were wonderful and due to our late arrival we managed to get a nice upgrade to a midsize Chevy Impala, for the same price we’d booked a compact. We were then off to drive the 8 miles to our hotel. Normally we are Marriott folks, Residence Inns being our favorite hotels to stay in. But for this trip we booked the Hampton Inn and Suites in Glendale, CA because it was close to our son’s apartment and close to the venue of the event he invited us for. These are Hiltons and are also usually acceptable hotels.

After the short drive from the Burbank Airport, another recommendation for anyone planning a trip to L. A., it’s much better to navigate through than LAX. We found our room at the Hampton to be excellent, Nice bathroom, a closet, iron and ironing board, nice comfy bed, a chaise lounge, desk and dresser with coffee maker and refrigerator. The hotel has a nice small gym, great breakfast, computer room, outdoor fireplace and pool. The staff there is excellent, and the parking garage is secured 24/7 and very well lighted. The hotel is right in downtown Glendale and close to everything we could walk anywhere we wanted. A nice hot shower, clean clothes and a quick visit from our son, who went and got us In and Out burgers, and we felt human again. A nice end to a 24 hour day 03:00 am EST to 12:00 am PST). The next morning we had a great breakfast at a place called Central Grill, I highly recommend it to anyone visiting the Glendale, CA area.

The return trip saw us arriving at the Burbank airport about 4 hours early checking in, checking bags and arriving at our gate to charge our electronics. The airline staff had us on an earlier flight, which meant we wouldn’t have to sprint through the airport in San Fransisco to make our connecting flight to Chicago. We arrived in San Fransisco about 3 hours early. The airport there is a wonderfully easy and beautiful airport. We had a lovely dinner at one of their restaurants, called the Mission Bar and Grill. A hummus platter starter, fajitas and water for me and an avocado sandwich and beer for Julie. Both meals were excellent and the waitress was good. We arrived at our gate a couple of hours early, after a gate change and a trek across the airport, we were boarded and headed to Chicago.

The pilot made a three and a half hour flight in about three hours, which bought us the necessary time needed to run/walk from concourse B to concourse C to catch our last flight to Norfolk. Our last and final flight, on a very long trip. Both of us were exhausted and more than irritable by this point. After a head call, I let Julie relax in a chair outside the security check point, while I went down to grab our checked baggage. When I came back we were off to our Jeep and headed back to our apartment. A stop at Burger King for a couple of loaded breakfast sandwiches and orange juices. Finally we were home, at least at our home away from home. Fed, showered, shaved and exhausted. It was time for a well deserved nap. This ended a 27 plus hour day. It was a worthy trip to spite the few delays and travel changes. Not to mention we each got to say we have visited some new cities.

Lessons learned, first book your own reservations, as with most things, you get what you pay for. The cost may not be as cheap as through a travel agency, but the trade off is you get to choose your route, and ensure you get enough time to make connections. You can also more easily add travelers to your itinerary and make upgrades by booking your own reservations. You also can book everything upfront as a late arrival (always plan for the worst and hope for the best). Figure about $75.00/person for meals and incidentals for each day of travel. Certainly you can get by on less, but with airline restrictions you can’t take a lot of food and drinks in your carry on any longer. As we’ve gotten older sometimes it’s just nice to sit and be waited on and to have a better meal. Always keep certain things in your carryon luggage, car keys, chargers, phone, wallet, id/passports, small basic toiletries, a warm jacket or sweater, change of underwear, extra socks, pillow and travel pack of diaper wipes. Having these basics will make your travel more comfortable even with delays. Hope you enjoy your next trek where ever your trail leads or your choice of transportation.

What is this World Coming too? By Anthony R. Kolb

This is a question I find myself pondering more often lately. I have written about it before. As the crime rates seem to rise, the war on drugs seems a lost cause and the number of Attorneys and pharmaceutical commercials flood the networks I have to admit the future often looks bleak at first glance. Add in the ever present political circus and the overwhelming liberal assaults on social media; the perception of common sense and customer service having become a thing of the past and it only makes an even darker reality for some folks.

As I began writing this Julie and I were sitting in a Motel 6 in Pigeon Forge, TN. This wasn’t a planned stop on our current trip, we were on our way back to Norfolk VA, and decided to stop in Gatlinburg, TN to check out Make It Magic, one of the few “Brick and Mortar” magic shops left in the USA. Our Jeep got us to within a block of the shop when the caliper on the front right wheel locked up and we smelled an awful burning smell and were assaulted by a cloud of smoke as we pulled into the lot. I crawled under and was fairly positive on my diagnosis. We decided we’d let it cool down and see if we could check out the shop and see if they knew of a repair shop that was open on a Saturday afternoon.

As we walked into the shop I immediately knew the 20 or so miles we had trekked out of our way, was going to be worth it, auto malfunction aside. This log cabin on a country road was packed with quality magic. They also have a good assortment of beautiful stained glass and other wood craft items for sale.

I met Betty Baldwin, the owner of Make It Magic, and explained our predicament, the first two shops she thought of had burned to the ground during recent forest fires. Not being local we had no cell service, so Betty googled a few shops, let me use her phone and within minutes we had a tow truck on the way from a company called Carr’s Auto Service, in near by Pigeon Forge. After speaking to Matt from Carr’s I learned they had mechanics on duty 7 days a week. While we waited, Betty and Rick Starkey kept us entertained by showing us some of their excellent selection of Magic. We picked up a few things and thanked them both for their help.

Carr’s sent someone within the hour, but with the tourist traffic (hectic weekend here in Dollywood) it was nearly 4:30 pm by the time they got us to the shop. Turns out my diagnosis was correct and we’d need new rotor, pads, calipers and brake lines and they wouldn’t be able to get the parts until Sunday morning, yes you heard me right, they were going to be able to get the parts on a Sunday morning and they would have a mechanic available to conduct the necessary repairs. Matt said their company could be there within an hour and they were.

About a year ago I was picking Julie up at the Airport, and we had a similar smell that we couldn’t figure out and a little smoke on that side. But couldn’t determine where the problem was. By the time we got it to a local shop we guesstimated that it was perhaps the alternator, so we got it replaced even though it tested fine on the bench. Somehow we hadn’t had the same problem since. Though now looking back I suspect the caliper had locked up back then. Which explains why the bench test of the old alternator was inconclusive.

With the Jeep at least under control our next issue was going to be finding somewhere to stay the night and possibly the weekend. Every hotel we called was either booked, or their fees were exorbitant. One place was going to give me a discount down to $370.00. Julie and I decided we’d just sleep in our Jeep Wrangler. Nothing we haven’t done before. So I asked Bill at Carr’s if they’d mind us staying in their lot for the evening. Bill immediately wanted to know why, and when I explained to him we weren’t going to pay $400/night, he began calling around town. He called everyone they do business with, and I can tell you Carr’s Auto does a lot of business. Bill got 10-15 responses of no vacancies, but he didn’t quit. He kept calling until he got a yes. It wasn’t one of our preferred motels, but beggars can’t be choosers. Bill not only found us a room at the local Motel 6, (it was only $66.00/night) and one of their employees dropped us off at the motel.

Carr’s Auto said they’d call us as soon as the repairs were close to being done, and then pick us up and bring us back to our freshly repaired Jeep. Now that is customer Service! I called about 830 this morning, and the first question the young lady asked us was, “Bill wanted to ask how the hotel room was? He doesn’t want to send anyone else there if it was not decent.” Now the Motel 6 wasn’t a Marriott (our favorite family of Motels), but it was decent.

By 1030 am they were test driving the Jeep, sent someone back to the motel to fetch us and we were on the road again by noon. Good people are still here, doing good things, doing the right things even when it isn’t easy. Anyone in the Pigeon Forge area needing roadside service I highly recommend Carr’s Auto Service (http://www.carrsautoservice2901.com) and special thanks to Betty and Rick for helping us find them and for making a difficult situation enjoyable. So if you can catch them performing or teaching, while you are passing through it’s also highly recommended (http://www.makeitmagic.com). Hope your treks are as enjoyable as ours are.

 

 

Where is the Common Sense in Government Today? By Anthony R. Kolb

Shortly after the active shooter incident in Virginia involving some of our lawmakers someone wants to sponsor a bill so that our lawmakers may carry a gun.  When I read the Second Amendment to our Constitution, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”, it seemed clear enough to me. Wouldn’t this apply to our lawmakers?  Why do we need any other regulations or laws concerning arms?  “the right of the people” applies to all U. S. Citizens, yes even our Congressmen and Senators fall under “the people”.  It allows the keeping and bearing of arms, this includes any type of weapon, not just guns, but any weapon. I don’t understand how the government can limit “Assault Weapons”, weapons that hold a capacity greater than 10 rounds, or tell us we can’t carry in any “particular” public place.  Private property is an entirely different matter and should be left to the wishes of the property owner.  If I choose to carry a large club, crossbow, glaive, hand grenade, spear, sword, or even an armored vehicle, it is covered by the Second Amendment of the Constitution.  Or it should be.  Ever tried walking down the street carrying a large club or a sword?  Chances are you wouldn’t get far before someone contacts the local authorities and you’d be detained and questioned at a minimum.  If you’re lucky you’ll be questioned by a smart enough policeman who realizes you haven’t broken any laws.  At worst you’d be arrested and possibly even taken somewhere to be evaluated.  Why did our lawmakers wait until there was an attack on their own?  For years most of them have been strongly opposed to our Second Amendment rights.  Now that they have been attacked by an obviously deranged man, now they want to pass a special law to allow them to do something they already have the right to do.  I ask you why?  There are many of them who still are opposed to the Second Amendment, they wish to pass a law to allow them to carry but are still willing to do away or regulate the rights our founding Fathers gave all of us under the 2nd Amendment.  Doesn’t this strike you as odd too?

We hear about Congress not being able to repeal the “Obama Care”?  When actually all they have to do is abolish it.  What they are really trying to do is reinvent the plan and devise something better.  Hence the discord among our lawmakers, if they are that adamant about repealing it they could simply repeal it and replace it later.  It would simply put us back to the way things were before, until a better plan can be agreed upon. The old health care system had it’s flaws, but so does the new one.  Health care is not a right, it is a privilege and if you want health care, then you have to pay for it somehow.  If your employer doesn’t provide it, perhaps you should seek employment elsewhere or budget and steward your finances accordingly.  I know many will think this is harsh, but it is a reality.  Life is not fair, it never has been and it never will be.  The health care system is corrupt to the core.  Providers overcharge, insurance companies get billed an exorbitant amount for services, then pay only a percentage, which only causes providers to bill for more often unnecessary services.  It’s an endless cycle which only results in driving up costs.  If our original health care system was so bad, why was it working to such a degree that most other nations looked to us for as their model?  Free enterprise works, even in health care.

Lastly, we always hear about programs like Veteran’s Health Care and Social Security running out of money, but never once has anyone mentioned Welfare running out of funding.  Shouldn’t our elected officials fund those who defended our freedoms and those who contribute to our society and free enterprise over those who do not?  Only about 25% of our citizens are able to qualify for military service and out of that 25% an even smaller percentage actually joins the military (2-4%).  These brave men and women go places and do things most of our citizens never think about let alone do to defend our freedoms and way of life.  Doesn’t it make sense to take care of them after their service to our Nation has ended?  It does.  As for social security, how does a program that every working citizen pays into fall into jeopardy of going bust, but a program like welfare that supports citizens who do not work or contribute to society in any way never does?  This just pegs my stupidity meter and greatly angers me.  Crime rates and drugs are disproportionally prevalent among welfare recipients.  The program was well intentioned, but it has spiraled out of control.  Originally the program was meant to give someone who was down on their luck a helping hand, a stepping stone to something better.  In reality most folks who go on the program stay, and it is passed on from generation to generation.  Perhaps it is time to abolish or repeal Welfare as we know it.  I am not against helping someone, but shouldn’t it be a limited?  One can’t draw unemployment indefinitely.  You’re limited to a number of weeks and you must report periodically that you are actively seeking employment while drawing unemployment. Why doesn’t the same apply to Welfare.  Give the benefit for a set number of weeks, and require something similar to ensure they are actively seeking employment?  This makes sense.  The government should only allow the welfare be spent on lodging, food and clothing.  Require an audit of the expenditures.  It seems reasonable to me that if someone is receiving government aid of any kind, that they should be clean of drugs and other vices like alcohol.  Why not drug test the recipients?  The government would save a lot of our tax dollars if the benefits were cut from all the folks who aren’t trying in good faith to get off welfare.

All of these issues have been mismanaged for far too long.  It is time that Americans hold our elected officials accountable for their poor decisions.  How do we do that?  Simple, vote the folks who aren’t performing in our best interests out of office.

Ward’s Corner Festival by Anthony R. Kolb

If you are going to be in the Hampton Roads area, you should stop by the Norfolk Wellness Center, 7300 Newport Avenue, Norfolk, VA 23505, where the Ward’s Corner Festival will be held.  The event is a family oriented festival sponsored by the Ward’s Corner Merchants.  It will be held this year on June 17, 2017, from 1200-1700.  The proceeds of this charity event will go to support the area Armed Services and the Hampton Roads YMCA.  Area merchants will have family entertainment available and the event will be fun for all.

According to the Virginian-Pilot, Ward’s Corner has been called, “The Times Square of the South!”  Founded over a century ago, when Alfred Ward opened a combination grocery and Texaco filling station on the corner of Granby Street and Little Creek Road in 1910.  His store was operated for decades on the outskirts of Norfolk.  Today the old store has been replaced by the Rite Aid Pharmacy and a plaque stands commemorating the founder.  Many rumors prevail as to how the name Ward’s Corner was coined.  One story is that a Ford dealer in the area wanted people to buy French made tin from Mr. Ward so he made up a bunch of signs that said, “Mr Ward wants to see you at Ward’s Corner.”  However it happened, the name stuck.

The area went from a simple gas and grocery store to a mercantile hub shortly after WWII, where it was the site of the nation’s first shopping centers.  There was a Hofheimer’s Shoes, were customers would get their feet x-rayed before fitting.  Customers could see Lulu the monkey and tropical birds.  There was also a Rices Nachmans, the equivalent of Dillard’s; a Peoples Drug Store, the area’s first 24-hour pharmacy; a Giant Open Air, now a Farm Fresh, the first 24-hour grocery store. Students from Norview and Granby high schools would converge on the store’s pizza restaurant after Friday night football games.

Today the area is vibrant, and though there are a few vacancies, the area is full of life. I often see cyclists and neighborhood residents shopping at the three area grocers and there are many local cuisines to be sampled.  My favorite stops are Auto Zone, The Health Food Center, Dollar Tree and The Book Exchange.

If you happen to be in the area on the third Saturday of June, please stop by the Norfolk Wellness Center and enjoy the fun.  The merchants are looking for clowns, Jugglers, Magicians, Musicians, Puppeteers & other family oriented entertainers to perform.  I plan on performing a bit of magic myself so I hope to see you there.

If you are an area entertainer or merchant and would be interested in participating or supporting this event, please contact Mrs Teresa Smith at:  tsmith@druckerandfalk.com for more details.

 

 

A Magical Luncheon at Vista Point with E. C. Hanna III By Anthony R. Kolb

Yesterday, Saturday February 18th, 2017, I had the pleasure of attending a luncheon sponsored by the Naval Station Norfolk, Morale Welfare and Recreation (MWR) Team. For $5.00 admission everyone received a nice lunch of macaroni & cheese, cheese & broccoli bites and chicken tenders. The lunch started at noon and ran until about 2 pm at Vista Point, a beautiful MWR facility along the ocean front overlooking the Willoughby Bay at Naval Station Norfolk, VA. As I entered the dining room, there were roughly 15-20 people already there. A nicely dressed young man was at one of the tables showing a family a bit of coin magic. As I found a seat at a table in the rear of the room, I watched as the rest of the crown arrived.

The MWR team had set up a wonderful buffet on a series of tables along the side and back walls. A stage was set with enough seating for about 75 people. Curiously there were a series of stainless steel kitchen strainers laying upside down about 5 feet from the bottom of the stage. They were attached to each other by a very colorful silk streamer. Each table was adorned with a silver or gold top hat as a centerpiece, and it was filled with crayons and markers. Pages were laid on each table for the children to color. Several cowboy hats, tiaras and top hats were laid out along a back table. There was a lovely backdrop in one corner for parents to take photos of their children. A popcorn machine was full and little bags of freshly popped corn were available for everyone.

About 65 people arrived in all, and a young man got on stage and announced at noon, that everyone was welcome to begin forming a line at the buffet table and that their show would start in about a half an hour. Much commotion ensured as everyone got their plates and drinks. The meal was not fancy, but certainly an excellent choice for a group of hungry children of all ages. At 1230 the young man got on stage and announced it was time for everyone to start moving to the chairs set in front of the stage, and to use the facilities if needed before the entertainment started. After about 5 minutes he introduced the performer, Mr. E. C. Hanna III, Magician, Puppeteer and Entertainer.

Mr. Hanna took to the stage, did a quick sound test to ensure everyone in the audience could hear him. He opened with an effect that got the entire audience involved. Having everyone place their hands in front of them, thumbs down and palms outboard, then had everyone interlock their fingers by placing either hand over the other. Thumbs still down. Then he took his hands and turned his thumbs upward toward the sky, no one else was able to do so, except him.

Next he brought a young lady up on stage and showed her how a coin falls into her hand, then made the coin fall upwards, did several vanishes and reappearances as the coin jumped about on its own accord. He then mentioned that he hadn’t had a chance to eat anything before he started his show. He asked the children in the audience what their favorite foods were. After many comical replies from the kids, he said he was going to make a magical peanut and jelly sandwich. He had the young lady select two pieces of bread from a loaf, examine them and they were placed inside a zip lock bag. Once sealed, the little girl held them between her hands against her chest at center stage. E. C. ran to each side of the stage and showed a jar of peanut butter sitting on a chair on one side of the stage, and a jar of grape jelly on a chair on the other side, each covered with a black cover. He explains that he will magically make the peanut butter and jelly switch places and invisibly pass through the bread and magically make the sandwich. A magic word is said by all, we’re all told the jars have changed places, another magic word and we’re told they have returned to their original places on the chairs. E. C. then shows the jars are back in their original positions. Some of the sharper children begin to question his magical prowess. So, E. C. speaks the magic words again, and lifts each cover to show that the peanut butter and the jelly have indeed switched places on stage. Another magic word and when he uncovers them they have returned to their original positions. The young lady opens the sandwich bag to show a completed peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

This was followed by a cups and balls routine, perhaps the oldest effect known to magic. He repeatedly made the balls pass through the solid copper cups, disappear, reappear and eventually they changed into lemons. He brought two gentlemen to stage, and had each of them tie numerous tight knots securing two white silks to each other. Instantly making the knots disappear much to the chagrin of the two husky Dads on stage. This effect is followed by another classic children’s effect, Hippity Hop rabbits. This is another effect in which the children all think they know how it works, only to be very surprised at the end of the effect by the real magic. A white rabbit is on one side, and a black rabbit on the other side, magician covers and turns them 180 degrees and they have changed position. This is done several times, until the young audience has “caught on” and the magician removes the covers to expose a red rabbit on the back of one and a yellow rabbit on the other.

He brings two young boys up on stage, does a nice cut and restored rope routine. The rope is cut, restored, cut again and shown to be an actual loop of single cord with no end at all. Back to two separate ropes and finally one long piece of rope which is given to one of the two young boys to keep. He follows this with an effect using three balls, which he expertly juggles for a while. Green, yellow and then red are dropped into a tube similar to a traffic light. Magically they end up being in a different order, he drops them into the tube again, and they are in yet a different and still incorrect order. One is made to disappear, and reappear in the Magician’s hand, then dropped into a pocket, the other two are placed inside the tube and magically all three end up in the tube in the right order, green, yellow and red.

He brings a gentleman in front of the stage and shuffles a deck of cards, has him select a card, remember it, bands them together with a couple rubber bands. The cards are tossed around the room from one spectator to another. Each person is asked to open the deck somewhere in the middle, and remember which card they saw. All are brought in front of the stage, and each is told to pick up a magic mind reading helmet (kitchen strainer) and to place it on their head. Each person is told they must strap it on with the rubber band chin strap. Once everyone is connected, so to speak, Mr. Hanna instructs them all to raise their hands into the air, arms extended straight up, and make a very high pitched sound as they think about their card. This is repeated several times, until he thinks he has everyone’s card. Keep in mind everyone is actually connected by the silk streamer. The kids in the audience are now going wild watching the grown-ups looking so silly with stainless steel strainers on their heads. Amazingly, he recites everyone’s card. Except the original selector, who is required to do one final high pitched sound while his hands are raised in the air, and wouldn’t you know it, Mr. Hanna announces the Queen of Hearts, his card. This was the grand finale to a great performance. Children and adults alike had a fantastic time.

E. C. Hanna III, Magician, Puppeteer and Entertainer may be reached by phone at 610-762-0075 or by e-mail at: ECHANNAIII@GMAIL.COM for booking of future events.

Where Did 2016 Go?

Hard to believe it has been nearly a year since I have posted.   I have done some writing, but nothing much.  First and most likely reason has been the never ending tumult, my work schedule. At the beginning of the year I was on the midnight shift, then the swing, and finally a turn at a “normal” day shift.

June I put in a new shower stall after tearing out an old iron bathtub.  It took ultimately most of a week to complete. It was, complicated to say the least.

At the end of June, Julie took a horrible spill on her bike, and broke both bones in her right forearm.  This needed surgery and a lot of rehab to fix, and she is still making progress.  I was very glad she didn’t have to go through all of it alone and I was home to help her.

August  I realized the muscles I thought I had pulled back in March weren’t healing. I passed my second consecutive Physical Health Assessment in a great deal of pain again.

Julie helped our oldest move to Hollywood where he is pursuing his dream in the film making industry.  Our daughter moved back from Texas. The summer and fall were full of moves, none of them ours, thankfully.

November and December gets consultation with the Orthopedic Surgeon, who basically says either live with the pain (arthritis, not pulled muscles) by learning to manage it or eventually have a full hip replacement.  Thus Physical Therapy begins and acupuncture (which is wonderful by the way).   The whole process is going slow.

Julie had to put our 4 yr old Lab down, not acting like a lab was attacking the other animals unprovoked, and had begun to walk into things, not wanting to fetch, missing the ball when thrown, etc. Strongly suspected she was having some type of tumor or neurological issue, the Vet felt was just going to get worse.

Julie surprised me for our Birthdays, she is the best gift ever!  Today we head back to Harold’s Annual Magic Party.  The BLUF (bottom line up front, for you non-military folks) is that I let a lot of things get into the way of the things that are important to me.  It happens, it is life.  Some years are better than others, just as some days are better than others.  I pissed away a whole year, me, no one else, this one was on me.  Not much writing, no busking, nothing but endless cycle of stuff that gets into our way.  Guess what?  It didn’t defeat me, any more than Julie’s broken arm defeated her.  It may have been a slow year, but that is ok.  I move on, as you can see I am back to writing.

2016 did see great successes.  Julie’s arm is really on the mend, and physical therapy seems to be helping me.  I am back in the gym, I just have to accept my running days might just be over or at least limited.  I am loosing a few pounds here and there, not bad considering I was running 5 miles/day or cycling 10-20 before my injury.  We will give my leg/hip this year to see how things go, and re-evaluate if surgery is the best option.

I have managed to continue to practice magic, here and there.  I just need to put a few things together, develop a routine, and go busking a bit.  Nothing to lose and everything to gain.  I am writing again, it just takes sitting down at the computer and putting aside the time.  It is time for me to allow myself the time to do the things for me that I need to do.  It is all about priority.  I will set aside time for the gym, for magic, and for writing, for me.

Until next time, I hope everyone who reads this is able to contemplate their successes and not dwell on the failures and negatives.  Over all, 2016 was not a bad year, I learned a lot and it has made me stronger.

Regards,

Anthony

An Annual Night of Magic By Anthony R. Kolb

 

Every year in Eastern Virginia on the Sunday before the Super Bowl, Harold and Diane Wood host a Party. This has been the case for many years and this year was no exception. The Party started as a way to bring a few local Magicians and Jugglers together to celebrate and share in their passions and to help the various local organizations to come together. The event started out in Harold and Diane’s home, and eventually grew too large. This year the Wood family hosted the event at the Marlbank Cove Club House located at 111 Lookout Point, Yorktown, VA. The Club was a wonderful facility with a large meeting room, a recreation room with a pool table, a lovely kitchen and several smaller rooms, set at the end of a neighborhood in historic Yorktown. The event drew 50-60 people, from all over Virginia and from many other parts of the country. It also drew from several International Brotherhood of Magician’s Rings and Society of American Magician’s Assemblies. Harold was at the entryway, sporting a purple suit jacket and fancy, colorful bow tie and that wacky expression. Everyone was asked to bring a special dish for the pot luck dinner and the kitchen was already packed with tasty delights of all sorts.

Harold introduced himself and asked if I would be willing to perform something after the meal. Having not performed much in the last, well 30 years or so, I was more than happy to oblige. Harold wrote my name down and we got to know each other briefly. Most magicians are never strangers, least not for very long. As my wife Julie and I began to mingle it became obvious this was a very welcoming group of folks. As everyone sat around eating, chatting and getting to know each other the entertainment began. First in corners of the rooms, and in hallways and nestled against the kitchen counter as Magicians shared with each other the secrets of our special trade. My evening brought me to a corner of the room where a kindly old man by the name of Santa was sitting, munching on some delicacies and trying to keep them out of his ample white beard. Turns out Santa spends much of his time when away from the North Pole, in and around Richmond, VA where he travels about the region performing children’s shows whilst his elves are fast at work producing those wondrous toys for Christmas. Santa took out a deck of cards and of course had me select one, remember it and place it back into the deck which was cut repeatedly and you guessed it my card was selected from the deck. He and I exchanged several variations of the old “Key Card” routines. Including one of my favorites where spectator deals out each card and calls it out truthfully, until they arrive at their card (which they have been told to lie about), and the performer states true or false for each card. This has gotten me more than one confession from a criminal while sitting across from them at the interrogation table, but it is always an amazing and powerful effect when done in front of an audience.

Julie and I continued to mingle, roam the house and gorge on fine food for the next couple of hours. Meeting folks and shopping at a couple of vender tables set of with all sorts a magic memorabilia, everything from stage effects to close up tricks which were brought for sale. There were historic posters, a temple screen, die box, boxes of sponge balls, thumb tips, eggs, silks, appearing canes and many more very reasonably priced treasures.

Harold kicked the evening off and then introduced each and every performer one by one. Jugglers, Magicians, Mentalists and Comedians one and all; card tricks, stage magic and feats of amazing skill and balance were demonstrated with practiced expertise typical of the many hundreds of combined years of experience gathered inside the Cove Club that day.

Juggling was amazing, this entertainer even got several people from the audience involved. He had two boys actually keeping a spinning pie pan and a lasso going for quite some time; while he was amazing folks with his own skills of dexterity and comedy. This was followed by a spectator being blindfolded, while he thought that three very sharp objects were being juggled over him. In reality the audience got a barrel of laughs at his expense.

Classic effects were performed for everyone’s enjoyment and amazement. One of the local IBM Ring members took out the Linking Rings and showed that when done well, even if everyone in the audience know’s how it’s done, it is still an effect that can bring down the house. He brought a unique patter and it was obvious to the entire audience how much he enjoys performing the classics of magic.

I chose to adapt the PATEO Prediction into a card routine. Shuffling two separate decks, I had four audience members choose different cards from the red backed deck. A blue backed deck was then shuffled and four cards were chosen from this deck. A different spectator chose one of the eight selected cards randomly and I wrote a prediction on the back and gave it to a different member of the audience. I chose a last spectator to assist me in eliminating the remaining cards one at a time by alternating 2 selecting and eliminating one with me. This is a truly amazing effect which can be done with various random borrowed items. It is impromptu, packs a lot of participation and is a lot of fun to do.

Santa preceded to do a rattling ping pong ball which would work for every child in the audience, but not for him, followed by a root beer bottle with a penetrating cap and ending with an appearing cane.

One of the local teachers of the arcane did fanciful card tricks, one of which incorporated a Magic Eight Ball. He had a number of flourishes and fans, and a lot of audience participation. This was followed up by a performance by one of his students and perhaps one of the youngest performers ever in the history of this dinner event. There was a wonderful rope routine performed by one of the local fellas from Chesapeake, VA. Harold had a wonderful floating glass of water suspended from a pencil and ended the night with a great straight jacket escape while riding a unicycle. There were several other wonderful performers and a great time was had by all. Hopefully Harold and Diane’s Pre Super Bowl Dinner continues to grow and draw even more friends we’ve just not met yet. For details of the next event stay tuned or check with one of the local Magic Clubs in the Hampton Roads area.

Julie and I met some really magical people. The night brought the beginnings of friendships, mystery, magic and mirth I certainly believe that magic brings people together and is a motivational tool in so many ways.

See you all next year!

Finding Water in the Wilderness By Anthony R. Kolb

Perhaps the single most important thing for us daily is hydration, even though most folks never realize it or think about it. If you are away from your tap, or an emergency happens it becomes obvious very quickly. So how do you find and purify the necessary life sustaining water?

The easiest way is to take what you need with you. This means knowing how much you need daily and accurately planning the trip. An average person needs to consume about 13 cups (3 liters) of water (or other liquids) per day and women need about 9 cups (2.2 liters) when in a temperate climate. These requirements go up with exertion and climate. The more we sweat the more water we need. Our bodies tell us when we need to hydrate, we get thirsty and our urine is clear when we are properly hydrated and gets darker as our need for hydration increases. It is unlikely when traveling on foot that one will carry enough water for more than a few days.

Water is readily available in most environments. Creeks, lakes, oceans, ponds, rain, rivers and streams are all good sources of water. Water also settles under the ground. Three quarters of the earth’s surface is covered by water, clearly an abundance exists, but in certain areas and during times of drought it can be more difficult to find. Water sources are annotated on most maps in blue. Intermittent streams are annotated in dashed and dotted blue lines. These are streams that tend to dry up during certain times of year and can be overflowing at others.

Finding water isn’t the only problem, once you have found the life sustaining water, you have to purify it. Several common methods are available. Boiling is perhaps the most common. Boil your water from 3-12 minutes depending upon altitude. Most elevations will require only 3-5 minutes of boiling, the higher the altitude, the longer you have to boil it to get rid of any bad bacteria and other organisms that may be lurking in your water source. Boiling isn’t always the most efficient, since it can cost both time and fuel to boil the water. You also must have something to boil it in. In the day and age of plastics this can be an issue sometimes. Generally a large pot can be packed inside a backpack and aluminum is light weight enough to not adversely affect the weight of the pack; carry a lid for the pot to enhance boiling time and conserve fuel.

Chlorine bleach is also another easy way to purify water. Simply add 1/4 teaspoon per gallon of water (about 16 drops). Bleach kills just about everything, however if you store bleach in your kit, change it out about every six months as it begins to degrade. The little Tobasco bottles found in most Meals-Ready-to-Eat (MRE) pouches make a great container to hold enough bleach to purify several gallons of water. This is perhaps my most favorite method of purifying. Simply put about 4 drops of bleach into a quart water bottle or canteen and shake well. Chlorine dioxide tablets are a modern solution and do not have an expiration, the downside is it takes time, typically four hours to purify the water. Calcium hypochlorite is another bleaching method. It is inexpensive and easy to use. For $5.00 you can purchase enough to purify 10,000 gallons of water. Add 1/2 a teaspoon of granules to 1 gallon of water, label this as poison; add 1/8 cup of solution to a gallon of water to purify it. This works great for purifying large quantities of water. If you collect rain water off your roof through the gutter system, this is also a good method of purification.

Iodine tablets are another method for purifying water. Iodine has a tendency to change both the color and taste of the water, it isn’t my most favorite method, but it is effective and most camping supply stores still sell small bottles of iodine tablets. These are good to keep inside your vehicles, they tend to not spoil or degrade like bleach will. One advantage to this method is the iodine can be used to clean wounds.

Ultraviolet light is a newly developed method of purifying water, but is the least effective method as it doesn’t kill viruses. There are many of these systems available on the internet. I know this is a fairly new technology, so in time it might be a viable option for all uses.

My other method is filtration, there are a number of systems on the market, just make sure you read the labels as some simply take out impurities while others actually purify. There are many good pump systems, and water bottle systems that use charcoal filters. Usually you get a 98% accuracy with these and they do not affect the taste of the water. They are light and compact to carry and even work with camel pack type water storage systems.

Let’s look at water storage systems. Over the centuries they really have changed little. Water flasks, water skins, canteens, cups, jugs, jars, and bottles. Everyone has their preferences. Today’s technology gives us Nalgene water bottles (BPA free) that have wide mouths and are labeled for measuring. BPA is bad, a chemical reaction from the standard plastic water bottles that are mass marketed to grocers and convenience stores, add sun and/or heat and it causes a reaction with the thin plastic. Camel Pack style water bladders are also a favorite and come in many styles and fit in most bug out bags. These can have inline filtration systems installed. I still like canteens and water skins, especially at historical reenactments. My philosophy is you have to have the right water storage system for what it is you’re doing. Just as you have to have the right pack. My favorite for short trips and day the hikes is a camel pack with large pouches to carry my basic survival needs. I have a smaller one for runs and cycling treks. For longer trips I carry one inside my pack and carry a few extra water bottles. Longer hikes you can simply add more water with canteens and Molle style systems. If you are going to be out for weeks, simply set up caches along your route. Remember to replenish your water supplies whenever possible. Never pass up a viable supply without refilling everything, your next stop might be dry.