Saturday, November 3, 2012

Following the Instructions

Mike is camping tonight, poor guy.  It's dark, it's cold, and there's a steady rain.  I just checked The Weather Channel and it says it's 53 degrees with a 50% chance of rain.  I never did understand how, if it's actually raining, they don't need to change it to 100% chance of rain.  Do you?

I hope Mike got some tarps set up before it all started.  The worst part is that they don't have a place for a fire there.  He was going to bring our fire pit, but it wouldn't fit into his wagon and the truck's on the fritz. 

Oh, well, the truck is technically still running, but there's a gas leak.  He doesn't want to drive it that way.  Chance of fire and all.  Go figure.  

He might not even need that fire pit if he had the truck.

After watching some footage of hurricane Sandy devastation from The Weather Channel, I'm feeling grateful for my warm home.  I'm sitting here drinking a hot tea latte.  Nick is tucked into his bed.  The lights and heat are working.  The cat wants to jump into my lap.  Even Mike, on his campout, has hot tea in his thermos, a dry sleeping bag, and a home to come to when he's done.  Some of these people, like the ones in Tom's River, lost everything. 

"I want to go home," one woman said, "but I don't have a home to go to."

I could imagine that feeling.  I tried to get to The Red Cross website, but it was pretty booked up. I'm glad it was booked up.  That means people are donating.

...   ...   ...

Could you tell I was gone for a while?

First, I was looking at the before and after shots of the Jersey shore.  There are whole neighborhoods missing.  The newly green parts are under water.  You can see where sand has been deposited everywhere.  Some of the houses are pushed together like so many blocks under construction by a four-year-old child. Some of our friends are waiting in long lines at gas stations because the ones without power can't pump fuel even if they have it.  Natural gas has been turned off in one town because of breaks in the main that were bursting into flames. 

Oh man, Seaside Heights is broken.  That makes me so sad.  Mike and I had fun at Seaside Heights.  It was young love for us when we were there back in the eighties.  Oh, you hate to lose those places where you were in love, don't you? 

So then, I had to text Mike to tell him about it and say good night.  He said he's cosy.  I like thinking that he's cosy, despite the rain.  In an easy rain, it's nice being in a tent.  I just hope he's not out in the wet weather running his training sessions tomorrow.  Yup, you heard it!  He's training other leaders.  That makes me so proud of him. 

So, then, I managed, after a couple of tries, to get onto the Red Cross site.  I had to text Mike about matching funds.  Did you know that his company will give $500 if he were to donate fifty hours of his time to a worthy pre-approved cause?  I wonder if he can get that to work for the Boy Scouts?  Now, wouldn't that be cool?  Fifty hours of work is nothing when it comes to what he does for the Boy Scouts.

That's the thing they don't tell you about becoming a Scoutmaster.  Shoot, even I've put in fifty hours since June when he started!  He's putting in twenty-six hours just this weekend.  My total was less.  Today, I went to Home Depot to pick up stakes for the axe yard that he's going to set up.  Then, I drew flames onto foam core and cut them out.  I was supposed to represent an out-of-control fire that he could put into a location that didn't have a fire pit and then a tiny blue flame for him to use on his Peak I, the proper fire etiquette.  The out-of-control fire was easy to cut out.  The tiny blue flame was more difficult and I'm afraid people will have to use their imaginations a bit. 

Shoot, he could have brought the truck to illustrate the out-of-control fire. 

I know I told you about the time when we were in Alaska and everything was so dry that the dust would rise eight or ten inches to the palm of your hand because of static electricity.  That was a pretty freaky night, with it's purple skies, and even freakier still when we got done paddling the next day and learned that the purple was from forest fires and they were in the process of evacuating everyone.  That we had intended to paddle another night but had run the route too fast was not lost on us.  Dumb luck. 

The other time I understood an out-of-control fire was at Alta lake. 

I didn't tell you about Alta lake, did I?  It is a lovely desert lake with painted turtles resting on rocks in the water.  We took our dog Indiana there just to paddle around and hang out.  It wasn't as quiet as we'd like though, because the motor boats and jet skis got revved up during the day.  They also threw lots of chop onto the lake for us to paddle through. 

Ah, it was nice there anyway.  Sometimes you need to get out and try somewhere different and it was just a weekend jaunt, two nights.  On Saturday morning, I woke early.  As usual, I sat at the picnic table with my notebook and looked out over the water.  Then, as Mike started to rustle around in the tent, I decided to jump up and get hot water started for tea.  What a good wife, you might think.

Well, maybe ...

So, I noticed that the fuel in the Coleman stove was a little low. That type of Coleman stove is the epitome of car camping, but I like remembering how it felt, having camped with my grandparents who used something nearly identical when I was a kid.

In my defense, I carefully filled the tank, noting that I hadn't spilled a drop.  Not bad.

Then, I read through the instructions inside the lid of the stove.  Not too bad at all.

I followed the instructions and had a flame burning under the coffee pot just as Mike was sitting at the open flap of the tent, putting his shoes on.  I was so proud....

until, a tiny blue flame raced across the bottom of the Coleman stove.

Do you know what mistake I made already? Do you have that much experience?

Then the flame grew.  I quickly turned off the burner, thinking that would do the trick.  I even pulled off the pot of water and put it on the table.  Suddenly, the flames stood taller than I was, at least five feet up from the bottom of the Coleman stove. I stood there dumbfounded.

The flames didn't go out just because I'd turned off the burner.  What should I do?  The lake was over forty feet away, down a steep hillside.

Mike ran over, wearing only one shoe, grabbed a single leather glove that had been left out, didn't bother to actually put it on, and flung the whole contraption into the fire pit, glove and all.  It clanked, the flame maintained for a while, and then slowly subsided, in a designated safe location. 

The picnic table was scorched.  A couple of Mike's fingers were scorched.  The Coleman stove was black with soot and much too hot to touch.  Mike pulled me away some distance in case the heat affected the full tank of white gas.  No sense getting hit by shrapnel. 

So what did I do wrong?

At the time, I had no idea, but while we waited for the stove to cool down, Mike patiently told me I'd overfilled the tank and the pressure had released quite a bit of the white gas in liquid form. 


The worst part is that I burned the instructions off the inside of the lid.  I haven't lit that thing since and was reluctant to try the new propane stove that the Troop used this summer.  I would have been happy if I never had to light another stove again, but Mike, ever so patiently, told me that all I needed to do was follow the instructions on the lid.

Thank you for listening, jb


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