• My vacation was fraught with problems, the biggest one being the sudden and massive coolant leak in my truck.  That’s fixed, but now I (probably) have a blown head gasket.  I wasted days of my vacation on it, and ultimately I had to coax it home despite chronic misfiring.  I will end up spending weeks working to repair that, and ultimately I may not be successful.
  • The second biggest problem was the wind at Padre island.  30-35 mph winds are evidently fairly common.  I have a tent that can handle that, but that’s not the tent I brought.  I didn’t get much sleep my second night there, and finally I took the tent down in the middle of the night for fear of it tearing.
  • I bought a second car.  I’ve been wanting one for a long time, mainly because it is such a hassle when someone’s vehicle is down, as will be the case for weeks while I’m rebuilding the Ranger.  I bought a Ford Focus in a hatchback configuration.  I’ve figured out that I’m not much of a sedan guy, being just me, and I’ll be glad for the cargo space when I’m working on film projects.  I’m actually quite impressed with this vehicle.  I expected an under-powered economy car, but the 2.0 liter motor is surprisingly effective, yet somehow the thing averages 34.5 mpg.  I measured 42 mpg on a recent highway road-trip.  It is a flex-fuel vehicle, so I’ll have to keep an eye out for E85 and give it a try.  It is a 2012, so the thing is seven years old, but it’s very clean, inside and out, and I still haven’t found a single thing wrong with it.  I went a little outside my arbitrary budget, but I’m glad I did.
  • At the beginning of March, I started seeds for five varieties of hot pepper plants, including Carolina Reaper.  They are doing well now.  They’ve all been transplanted into bigger pots and hardened in preparation for being moved outdoors.  I have planted one of each variety in my garden, which is really not a garden, but simply the landscaping in front of my house.  I don’t know how well they will do here, because the only part of the yard that gets full sun all day is out front away from the house.  I don’t think the neighbors will tolerate a vegetable garden there.  It looks like something, such as a bug, has been eating the Carolina Reaper plant.
  • I have a new backpack, a Deuter Aircontact Lite 65+10, and I am nearly ready to attempt my first backpacking excursion of the year.  My pack, fully loaded for an overnight hike, weighs 36 pounds, which is quite acceptable.  There’s quite a bit of extra room in the pack.  I think I will order a smaller version of this pack and save this one for longer treks.  I’ve also finally found a holster that basically works for the sidearm I intend to take backpacking, an SP-101 with a 4.2″ barrel.  I’m also going to get to try out my Eureka Spitfire Solo for the first time.
  • I just saw some information about the most popular national parks.  Glacier was #10 in 2016 and 2017.  Great Smoky Mountains is far and away #1, and Grand Canyon is #2.  There are two on the list I’d never heard of, and two more I know nothing about.  I guess I don’t know my national parks.  When I got to Padre Island, I was surprised to learn that it is run by the National Park Service and wasn’t more like a national forest.  Next year, I am planning to backpack at the Great Smoky Mountains, which is probably the closest and most accessible national park for me.