by Mike Dickerman

Trail-related morsels picked up while planning the season’s first major excursion into mountain country…

To the delight of many (including yours truly) and undoubtedly the dismay of others, the U. S. Board of Geographic Names (BGN) has voted not to officially change the name of one of the peaks of our own Presidential Range.

Earlier this month, the federal agency decided not to approve a proposal that would have changed the name of 5,533-foot Mount Clay to that of Mount Reagan, in honor of Ronald Reagan, our nation’s 40th President. In an 11-0 vote, with one additional abstention, the BGN decided to retain the name that was bestowed on the peak more than 160 years ago, citing continued use of the older name in recent years and the board’s general reluctance to alter historic names. The peak is named for Henry Clay (1777-1852), a southern statesman and orator from Kentucky who went on to serve as U.S. Speaker of the House of Representatives and Secretary of State.

The effort to rename the peak after President Reagan dates back to 2003, when the Republican-controlled New Hampshire General Court passed legislation approving the name switch. The name change was part of a nationwide effort under way at that time to name one prominent place in each state after Reagan. Despite passage of the state law, however, there has been virtually no usage of the name “Mount Reagan” to refer to the summit, which lies just north of Mount Washington. In fact, the altered name appears on no current hiking maps, and does not even show on the official state highway map, which still identifies the summit as Mount Clay.

According to Lou Yost, Executive Secretary of BGN’s Domestic Names Committee, the board’s May 13 vote on the proposed name change “was no reflection on President Reagan, it is just that the board does not like changing names.” He noted that over the last couple of months the board accepted public comment on the proposal and most of it— including about 160 emails— was against changing the name.

My guess is that we haven’t heard the last of this issue just yet as I’m sure there are already people out there planning a challenge to the BGN’s ruling…

This past winter may have been a relatively mild one here in the mountains, but Old Man Winter still left his unmistakable mark on certain parts of the region, such as the Bretton Woods-Zealand Valley area. I few recent trips up to the Cog Railway base area and a drive along the recently opened Zealand Road revealed that both locales were hard hit with wind, snow and ice damage over the past six months. The most impressive damage can be seen along portions of the Cog Base Road and along just about the entire length of the Mount Clinton Road, which connects the Base Road with the top of Crawford Notch.

To be truthful, I’m surprised they are even letting motor vehicles navigate the Mount Clinton Road as dozens of trees have either fallen across the paved roadway or are leaning precariously over the travel portions of the road. From what I’ve been told, snowmobile clubs working this past winter are responsible for what little clearing of debris has been undertaken along the road and in some places the passageways they cut through the downed trees seemed no wider than a sled or two. The heaviest damage is on the portion of the road between the Base Road and the parking lot for Edmands Path to Mount Eisenhower…

Like many hikers I’m not a big fan of ticks, so it was a little disconcerting to me recently when I undertook a brief off-trail excursion into a Forest Service wildlife opening and found myself almost instantly covered with the blood-sucking varmints. In just a five-minute period, more than a dozen ticks managed to attach themselves to my wool hiking socks. Fortunately I was smart enough to check my clothes as soon as I got back on the trail and I managed to dislodge all but one of them before resuming my hike. Later in the day, long after I’d finished my woods walk and replaced my hiking socks and boots with a fresh pair of cotton socks and sneakers, I fleshed out one last tick who was still clinging to the outside of one of my boots. For those keeping score, the total tick count for the day was an impressive 15…

To all you holiday weekend hikers headed into the Pemigewasset Wilderness Area, don’t forget that the suspension bridge across the East Branch of the Pemi a little more than a half-mile beyond the Bondcliff Trail no longer exists, and that the section of the Wilderness Trail between the Bondcliff Trail and the bridge is now officially closed. Removal of the 50-year-old span last fall effectively eliminated the popular 11-mile loop hike that formerly began and ended at the Lincoln Wood Visitor center off the Kancamagus Highway in Lincoln. This loop allowed hikers to walk up one side of the river and return via the opposite side utilizing the Lincoln Woods, Wilderness Cedar Brook, and East Side Trails. Technically, of course, it’s still possible to make the loop, but the crossing of the East Branch at the site of the former suspension bridge has to be considered unsafe at best and in times of high water flow would probably be near suicidal. In other words, play it safe and don’t try crossing the East Branch.

Mike Dickerman is a longtime hiking enthusiast, award-winning columnist, and author or coauthor of nine books related to the White Mountains region of New Hampshire. He lives in Littleton.

by Mike Dickerman
Mike Dickerman photo The Kinsman Ridge Trail, besides serving as a link in the Appalachian Trail, runs nearly 17 miles from Kinsman Notch to Franconia Notch and boasts one of the toughest miles of the AT in New Hampshire, that being the steep climb up South Kinsman from the south.

Once upon a time, when I was younger, thinner, and substantially more ambitious, I would spend night after night poring over maps as I planned my next overnight backpacking trip. In those days of yore, when lugging around a 35- to 40-pound pack didn’t seeming anywhere near as daunting as it does today, I’d routinely take off on multi-day excursions to destinations in the White, Green and Adirondack Mountains of the Northeast. Many of these adventures found me tramping along Vermont’s 260-mile Long Trail or some northern New England section of the Maine-to-Georgia Appalachian Trail. Other times I’d incorporate some peakbagging into my itinerary, especially when I was in hot pursuit of the New England 4000-Footer list.

While my backpacking days are now but a distant memory, I still love talking to hikers about trips they’ve either just completed or are about to undertake. I’m amazed, in fact, at how many queries I receive on the subject, especially when visiting my longtime hiking cohort Steve Smith at his Mountain Wanderer Map and Book Store in Lincoln, or when I meet up with my nephew, a U. S. Forest Service backcountry ranger who spends most of his time patrolling the inner recesses of the Pemigewasset Wilderness in the White Mountain National Forest.

Certainly there is no shortage of options when it comes to White Mountain backpacking. With the AT weaving its way across the region, and hundreds of miles of other trails within a 90-minute drive of anywhere in the Whites, the choices seem limitless to the uninitiated.

Just to give you an idea of some of the more popular long distance hikes in the wilds of northern New Hampshire, what follows is a brief listing and description of a few of the more inviting treks available to White Mountain backpackers:

Pemi Horseshoe: Considered perhaps the most rewarding multi-day trek in New England, this classic route circumnavigates the heart of the Pemigewasset Wilderness by way of the Twin-Bond, Garfield, and Franconia Ranges. This 31.5-mile loop begins and ends at the Lincoln Woods Trail off the Kancamagus Highway and features visits to eight 4000-foot summits. Several others are also easily accessible via short side trails. Highlights include the summit vistas from Bondcliff, Mt. Bond, South Twin, Mt. Garfield, and Mt. Lafayette.

This hike is best done over four days and three nights, with layovers at Guyot, Garfield, and Liberty Spring campsites. You can do this trek in either a clockwise or counterclockwise direction. If you go clockwise, which is the way I recommend, you’ll start off on the Lincoln Woods Trail and then steer left onto the Osseo Trail for the stiff climb up to Mount Flume. You then head north on the Franconia Ridge Trail until reaching the open summit of Lafayette. The Garfield Ridge Trail then leads you over Mt. Garfield and continues on toward the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Galehead Hut. From Galehead, follow the Twinway to its intersection with the Bondcliff Trail near Mount Guyot, then take the Bondcliff Trail all the way down into the East Branch valley, where you’ll turn right onto the Wilderness Trail and in five or so miles be back at the Kanc.

Kinsman Ridge Traverse: Appalachian Trail hikers know all too well the not-so-niceties of the Kinsman Ridge Trail, which runs nearly 17 miles from Kinsman Notch (Route 112) north to Cannon Mountain and Franconia Notch. On the map, this trail doesn’t appear anywhere near as difficult as it really is, especially along its southern reaches. But a full-length traverse of Kinsman Ridge features an endless series of tiring ups and downs, with the ascent of 4,358-foot South Kinsman from the south probably the most treacherous and steepest. The final attack on Cannon’s summit cone from Coppermine Col is nothing to laugh at either, especially if you’ve been on the trail for several days and have lost some of your earlier vim and vigor. Shelters at Eliza Brook and Kinsman Pond provide overnight accommodations for backpackers. There are also several tent platforms at Kinsman Pond.

Wildcats-Carters Traverse: Situated as they are directly east of Mount Washington and the Presidential Range on the opposite side of Pinkham Notch, the peaks along Wildcat Ridge and the Carter Range offer up some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in New Hampshire. The rewards are hard earned, however, as anyone who has backpacked the length of the connecting ridges can attest. Trampers going south-to-north are immediately faced with the difficult scramble from Route 16 up to Wildcat Ridge. This is one mean ascent, even for someone lugging a simple daypack. The ridge walk over the various summits of Wildcat is pleasant enough, but the sharp descent down to Carter Notch, and the equally sharp climb from the Notch up to Carter Dome, is enough to test the hardiest of hikers.

In the course of this 18.7-mile journey, hikers pass over six 4000-foot summits, with Carter Dome and its spur peak, Mt. Hight, probably the best of the bunch. The view west towards Mt. Washington and its many glacial cirques is among the finest in the Whites.

AMC’s Carter Notch Hut and Imp Shelter are situated approximately 7.5 miles apart and allow for a comfortable three-day, two-night traverse of the ridge.

Kilkenny Ridge Traverse: If you’re looking for a true wilderness experience on your White Mountain backpacking tour, then this is the trip for you. An end-to-end traverse of this outpost ridge in the northern reaches of the White Mountains covers more than 24 miles and includes ascents of Mts. Cabot and Waumbek (both 4000-footers), plus numerous other peaks such as Mt. Starr King, the multi-summits of Mt. Weeks, and Terrace Mountain.

The Kilkenny Ridge traverse begins on Route 2 in Jefferson on the Starr King Trail and terminates 24.2 miles north at the South Pond Recreation Area off Route 110 in Stark. From the summit of Waumbek north, the Kilkenny Ridge Trail runs the final 20.6 miles. Highlights of the trek include the substantial views from Mt. Cabot, Rogers Ledge and The Horn, and the likelihood that you’ll see few hikers other those converging on the two 4000-foot peaks along the way.

The only overnight facility available to hikers is the old Firewarden’s Cabin near the summit of Mt. Cabot. The cabin is situated approximately 10 miles from South Pond and 14 miles from Route 2. (Previous published)

Mike Dickerman is a longtime hiking enthusiast, award-winning columnist, and author or coauthor of nine books related to the White Mountains region of New Hampshire. He lives in Littleton, N.H.

by Mike Dickerman
Mike Dickerman photo This is the former Ammonosuc Ranger District building in Bethlehem, which has been abandoned by the Forest Service and the property has pretty much been completely neglected.

In case you were wondering… The Appalachian Mountain Club is planning a major reconstruction of one of its famed mountain huts later this year. Madison Spring Hut, situated in the col between the northern Presidential Range peaks of Mounts Madison and Adams, will undergo extensive renovations this fall and next spring. Work at the hut, which first opened in 1888, will commence after Labor Day weekend and will continue this year as long as the weather allows. Work crews will return to the site in the spring and if all goes as planned the hut will re-open next June at its usual time.

According to AMC’s Paul Cunha, the hut project is designed to make the structure a more energy efficient and environmentally sensitive hut. “At the same time, we hope to improve the guest experience by providing more leg room and elbow room in key areas and by reducing the height of the bunkroom bunks.”

This marks the first major overhaul of Madison Spring Hut since a devastating fire on Oct. 7, 1940, destroyed the existing hut there. The replacement hut was opened the following summer and has undergone only occasional minor improvements over the ensuing seventy years…

In other news from the AMC, the Boston-based club has recently released the Mahoosucs Map & Guide, which highlights outdoor recreation opportunities in the wild and rugged Mahoosuc Mountain region straddling the border of Maine and New Hampshire. This often overlooked sector of the White Mountains offers a wide variety of four-season recreation opportunities and the new AMC map and guide features more than thirty of the best hiking, paddling, biking, and cross-country skiing opportunities for all abilities.

The detailed, hill-shaded map provides complete coverage of the Lake Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge, the local segment of the Appalachian Trail, and the new 39-mile Grafton Loop Trail, as well as local campsites, picnic areas, put-ins for paddling, and boat ramps.

The map and guide is a collaborative effort of the Mahoosuc Initiative, which aims to address the ecological and economic needs of the region through land conservation, community development, and economic development. The Mahoosuc Initiative is supported by local conservation and community organizations, as well as regional and national conservation groups.

“One goal in publishing the Mahoosucs Map & Guide is to let people know that this region is a great place to visit, whether for a day or for a week, with lots of options for getting outdoors,” said Bryan Wentzell, AMC’s Maine Policy Manager. “We hope local retailers, innkeepers, and proprietors of other establishments will see the Mahoosucs Map & Guide as a tool to encourage their customers to extend their stay, or make plans for a return trip.”

The map and guide is available at local retailers and wherever books are sold, or directly from the AMC at www.outdoors.org/amcstore or by calling 800-262-4455. The retail price of the map and guide is $6.95…

Another publication certain to be of interest to area mountain enthusiast is a new hiker’s guide and map to the bedrock geology of Mount Washington and The Presidential Range. Authored by J. Dykstra Eusden, Professor of Geology at Bates College in Maine, The Presidential Range: Its Geologic History and Plate Tectonics describes the bedrock geology and plat tectonic history of the Presidentials with color illustrations and a writing style that make this information accessible to all who have an interest in New England’s highest mountain range.

Accompanying the book is a great new full-color geologic map of the Presidentials which shows the bedrock geology and highlights locations where hikers may view key exposures of bedrock while out and about on the trail.

The book and map have been published by The Durand Press of Lyme, New Hampshire, and copies are available in area book stores, directly from the publisher, or from the Littleton-based book distributor, Bondcliff Books (http://www.bondcliffbooks.com)

Bondcliff Books, meanwhile, has just released a new history of logging railroads in the northern White Mountains and beyond. Logging Railroads of New Hampshire’s North Country by well-known forest historian Bill Gove of Williamstown, Vermont, chronicles the colorful and often perilous history of more than a half dozen logging railroad lines worked the woods of northern New Hampshire between 1870 and 1920. Besides featuring chapters on the Wild River Railroad, the Johns River Railroad, and Kilkenny Lumber Company Railroad, among others, the books contains close to 150 vintage photographs, plus more than a dozen original maps and drawn and compiled by the author…

It’s a shame that since the closing of the former Ammonoosuc Ranger District station on Trudeau Road in Bethlehem, no one has bothered to maintain the property. During a recent drive-by of the old Ammo headquarters I was dismayed to see that the U. S. Forest Service has allowed the once attractive property to take on all the characteristics of an unwanted and abandoned piece of real estate. With the front lawn unmowed, winter tree damage left as is, and virtually no upkeep whatsoever in evidence, it’s hard to believe anyone will want to take this property if and when the government decides to sell it or give it away…

Finally, White Mountain National Forest officials have announced that Resolution Shelter along the historic Davis Path near Crawford Notch has been closed “due to safety concerns associated with the deteriorating condition of the shelter.” Since this structure is within the Presidential-Dry River Wilderness Area, don’t expect the Forest Service to replace this facility. Instead, it will be dismantled and backpackers will be forced to make alternate overnight camping plans. The shelter is located approximately 3.7 miles from the Davis Path trailhead off U.S. Route 302, not far from the summit of Mount Resolution and Stairs Mountain.

Mike Dickerman is a longtime hiking enthusiast, award-winning columnist, and author or coauthor of nine books related to the White Mountains region of New Hampshire. He lives in Littleton.

By Jeff Woodburn

Why does the news of David Souter’s move from his rustic, old homestead on a dirt road in Weare to an upscale new house in a pricey subdivision in Hopkinton trouble me so? At 69, the recently retired U.S. Supreme Court justice deserved a comfortable place sturdy enough to hold his collection of books with the practical ease of living on one level.

More than his judicial record, I admire Souter’s old-fashioned fixity of character, which includes a rare fidelity to home, modest contentment and tempered restraint and frugality. He always seemed remarkably unchanged by fame and the modern complexities of life, and the best evidence was his ramshackle home in Weare. One’s home is a window into their personality. While the New York Times saw Souter’s abode as being “slightly more seductive than a mud hut,” I saw in Souter’s home a place that nurtured a simple idea that one’s accomplishments were paid for by the dawn-to-dusk sacrifice of one’s own ancestors. In Souter’s case, the home was reportedly built by his grandfather’s own hands. It was plenty good enough for his parents and him too for many years. He seemed perfectly content to live what most of us would consider a Spartan lifestyle similar to that of his parents and grandparents – with fewer modern conveniences than his most destitute neighbors.

Souter was a comforting and famous reminder of a time when people had a devotion to place. When they gained an inner strength, as well as a sense of stewardship, from deep personal roots and things that were handed down for generations. There aren’t many small towns that can claim an important figure both as a native son and resident. After all, it has been ingrained in us since the Civil War that to amount to anything you need to leave home and escape small-town parochialism. But I’ve most admired those people, like Souter, who have found success but never pulled up their roots.

It is a truly American conflict: to wander nomadically or put down roots. As rural New Hampshire was emptying out at the turn of the last century, Gov. Frank Rollins tried to reverse the trend by, among other things, starting Old Home Days.

“We are better off materially, vastly more than our ancestors, but are (we) better off spiritually?” Rollins asked in 1900. “We miss the rugged, down-right, straight-going belief free from guess-work and uncertainty. It steered people clear of many troubles and trials. We have substituted an easy-going indifference, an all accepting optimism ready to throw down all customs, rules . . . to preserve our own comfort.”

Rollins concluded that quiet, simple country living allowed people to put “their ear to the ground to hear Nature whisper her secrets.”

We are living today with the consequences of this migration from a rural country that so enamored Thomas Jefferson to a metropolitan one.

My tiny hometown today has fewer people, less industry and less community pride than it had 1900. Little wonder. For generations, young people have pulled up roots, mostly for economic reasons, and those left felt abandoned or, worse, stuck in a place that they couldn’t escape. This hardly makes for a vibrant community.

Those who have left to embrace brighter economic horizons have become in a spiritual sense homeless. This separation of home from work contributes to generic commercial and residential sprawl.

This impulse to exchange supposed outdated, yet familiar landscapes for the comforts of progress and economic opportunity may leave us with more material comforts – but surely our souls are less settled.

Previously published in the Concord Monitor and the NH Business Review.

By Jeff Woodburn

In 1948, my grandfather paid 55 cents for a dozen eggs to serve at the Whitefield eatery that still bears his name.  That was whopping price, when you consider that back then, the average family earned less than $10 a day or the equivalent 17 dozen eggs. It is easy to see why so many housewives became part-time poultry women, and how significant this money was to the local economy.

In the first half of the twentieth century, eggs and meat poultry were essentially local enterprises. New Hampshire had many thriving poultry and egg businesses, much of them conducted by small backyard operators. In 1910, the poultry business was New Hampshire’s most profitable agricultural product worth $35 million a year. For generations, a small flock of hens produced a steady flow of extra income that contributed to the family and local economy, and the excess was quietly tucked away for a rainy day or a special occasion.  While the “egg money” was built on adherence to harsh frugality, it also made possible the, ever so rare and minor, indulgences. As the “nest egg” grew larger, it became a source of assistance known only by the beneficiaries.  How many financial storms were calmed, kids sent to college and church collection plates filled by the egg money? Beyond the extra cash, keeping chickens provided children with meaningful chores that taught responsibility and the value of work.

Today, grocery store eggs sell for just over $1 a dozen (if factored for inflation they’d be nearly $7), and anyone who raises hens will tell you that it is impossible to produce eggs at that price. This phenomenon repeated itself across the grocery store shelves, and now we can enjoy a full stomach for a smaller percentage of our income than at any other time.

For thirty years, we’ve been fat and happy, living off a diet of cheap food produced by distant, faceless corporations encouraged by large taxpayer subsidies to replace age-old wisdom with trendy technology, brutal efficiency and, most importantly, an endless supply of cheap oil and corn.  The system worked so well that it drove food prices so low that most small-time growers and farmers figured out they could buy food cheaper than making it, and thus destroying an otherwise healthy, sustainable and satisfying culture.

The system looked good from afar, but, as we eventually learned, it was far from good.  The true costs of cheap food are now clear: an unhealthy, risky food system that is imploding our health care system and wasting vast quantities of oil, creating endless generic sprawl, jeopardizing rural economies as well as polluting our environment.  What is most disturbing is that our tax dollars are promoting this policy, so in essence we’re paying people to get unhealthy and then paying their health care bills. An alarming 80 percent of our total health care costs are consumed by of a fifth of the population.

Changing the way we eat will be as difficult as changing our agriculture and food policies, but there are signs of hope. President-elect Obama seems genuinely committed in both in his politics and own health habits to the initiate a change in our food policies and take on the giant agribusinesses that shape it. That along with a strong, grassroots commitment to local food could be the perfect ingredients in a recipe for change.

By Jeff Woodburn

The North Country is a great place to live, but a terrible place to make a living or so the axiom goes.  Anyone who lives here for more than one winter knows this fact firsthand.  Great views, small town intimacy and rural culture, don’t pay the bills.  The demise of the once dominant paper industry is the closing chapter of a steady decline in population and manufacturing in this region since 1900.

As we enter a New Year full of uncertainty, any positive news is welcome.   One source of the good cheer is New Hampshire Public Radio.  To celebrate their two and a half decades of broadcasting, they have been chronicling 25 people who’ve influenced our state over the past 25 years.

Many of those on the list were people, I’ve come to know and admire over my years in politics and business.  The New Hampshire community is pretty small and its leaders are very accessible (and helpful to young upstarts.)  The point of the piece was not to revel in the celebrity obsession that so poisons popular culture, but to study how our state has changed since 1982.  The selected leaders are icons in their own fields that range from government, business, religion, media and arts.  The group collectively expressed New Hampshire’s unique culture.  But moreover, they are well established and, mostly old enough, to offer insights, rather than self promotions.

What I found most interesting and illuminating were their answers to a very simple question posed by interviewer Laura Knoy.  The query was:  what is your favorite place in New Hampshire?  I kept a running tally (with the help of NHPR’s web site) of the responses.    Some listed several places, others none at all.  Many picked their hometowns, but the vast majority chose places in Northern New Hampshire.

Conservative Union Leader Publisher Joe McQuade finds truth in the old cow pasture at the summit of Mount Washington from his early years working at the Cog Railroad, while liberal social justice activist Arnie Albert finds it at the World Fellowship Retreat in Conway.

Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson is inspired by the 13 mile woods between Milan and Errol with his “eyes peeled for moose, loon, eagles and the like” while Catholic Bishop John McCormick sees the hand of God at the “the top of a ski trail on a clear day.”   The mountains are not only beautiful, McComick explains, “but great symbols of the resilience, strength and durability of the people of our state.”

Former Republican Gov. John Sununu likes the bend in the road just beyond the Mount Washington Hotel (the Bartlett side) during the change of seasons.  Former Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen was more general, but succinctly represented most with her observation that “Mount Washington… embodies the excitement and beauty of the state.”

Former tourism guru Steve Barba and Healthcare Executive Norman Payson both praised the rich heritage and remoteness of the Balsams and Dixville Notch.

All told our beautiful (but deprived), secluded (but inaccessible), peaceful (but boring) home was the overwhelming favorite of this informed and important group.  Why is that sometimes we have such trouble seeing our own good fortune?  Maybe it because most of us live in the shadows of the great mountains, where the air is cold and heavy?   We’re down to earth, simple, terribly practical and suspicious of comfort. There is an Irish saying that goes:  “If you marry a mountain girl, you marry the whole mountain.”   It is a struggle to live here, but those of us who choose to call this place home, it’s a bargain at any price.

The North Country’s only contribution to this lofty list was veteran Newspaper man and raconteur John Harrigan.   He represented us all well (as he always does.)    By the way, what is his favorite place in New Hampshire?   “My house; It’s warm, remote…,” he says without missing a beat, “and the food is good. “

By Jeff Woodburn

Simple desires are the key to happiness.  I’ve had a hankering for an old, beat up truck for a long time.  My reliable Jeep just wouldn’t die, so I kept on waiting and hoping.  A cracked windshield gave me the excuse I was looking for:  it was just not worth investing any more money.

My pursuits brought me to a tank-like 1972 Ford with a rare extended cab that would consume more fuel than an old house in cold snap.  I hoped my stoic mechanic would just say, “Just buy the damn thing.”  Instead, he looked at me and back at the truck and just chuckled.  Eventually, he worried aloud about this or that problem.  Finally, he revealed that getting it inspected (by state standards) would cost more than the price of the truck.  This situation repeated itself with few auto dealers or sellers allowing me to inspect their vehicle prior to purchasing it.  I assume they worried that they’d have to disclose any identified problems to other purchasers.

The state vehicle inspection process seemed to be ruining the old truck market or at least keeping me off the road.  I remember when an inspection took five minutes and was completed while sitting in the car.  I recall operating the blinkers, head and brake lights but little else.  Over the years, the list has grown and now consists of some 250 prohibited conditions that range from a crack on the outside, left rear view mirror (Saf-C 3217.04)  to  a horn that cannot be heard by a person from 200 feet away (Saf-C 3214.01) to low beam headlights shining at less than 7,500 candlepower (Saf-C 3215.04) .   On I looked, feeling safe, but without my cherished old truck.

Finally, I turned to trucks that were already inspected.  I wrongly assumed that I would avoid the process until my next birthday.  One of my most ingenious students caught wind of my pursuit and introduced me to his 1986 Red Nissan.  I paid his price; knowing that I had some leverage if things went wrong.  They haven’t, it’s a great truck (even the mechanic, who inspected it, liked it.)  But nobody likes it more than my two young boys, who get either an elevated, front seat view (no dangerous airbags) or hidden away jump seat side view.  Even my teenage daughter is amused by the jacked up wheels, enormous sound system and collage of trendy stickers.

But, let’s not forget, this truck is about me.  Maybe, it’s a rural mid life crisis.  Going to the dump is no longer a dreaded chore; I can sand my own driveways saving $25 a shot and can haul home just about anything I find along the side of the road.  I feel so much more self sufficient and independent.  The truck does have its tricks, like the “low fuel” light remains on except when the tank is actually low, but fortunately this not yet against the law.