Saturday, November 5, 2022

Route planning

Sometime in the not too distant future the S.O. and I are going to hook up the 5th wheel (also referred to as Magee) and head South, destination Hot Springs, Arkansas. We know how to get there. US-41 to M-28 to US-45 to WI-17 to US-51 to I-39 to I-55 to I-40 to I-30 to US-70. Nice logical left, right, left, right, left, right, right, right, and right. 

The question is do we really want to go through Rockford, Illinois, again? Rockford itself isn't bad since there seems to be a lull this year in the endless construction projects, although the toll way is now kind of mysterious if a person doesn't have an EZ Pass (and we don't; why would we?). When we went down in April there no longer seemed to be an actual cash money lane for folks who are just passing through and don't plan to ever get on an other toll road in Illinois. 

But I can live with mysterious toll ways. I had actually been exploring alternatives to I-39 for awhile because there's a stretch of highway just south of Rockford that is remarkably rough -- it made the Guppy bounce around so much back in 2020 that the stove almost got jolted on to the floor, and it hadn't improved much when we went over it a few months ago. So, blue highways instead of Interstate. 

Google maps came up with one that involves zigging a bit west south of Madison, Wisconsin, and then doing some zigging east and then zigging west, all while more or less aiming south toward Bloomington/Normal while paralleling the Interstate. It didn't seem to make much difference in total miles, but I am of course dubious. The real trick is coming up with a route that will allow us to make reasonable stops, even if it's just in Walmart parking lots, because days have gotten shorter and it will be Real Winter by the time Magee is loaded and hitting the road. And we're old. 

Another alternative would be to skip Illinois and eastern Missouri completely. Just angle over to Minnesota or Iowa, go west until we hit I-35, and follow that down to where we could get on to I-49 and then aim for Hot Springs from the Fort Smith side of Arkansas. Maybe. A lot really will depend on the weather. The more miserable it is, the more likely we are to stick with a route we've traveled before.

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

The mind wanders

Insomnia does strange things to a person's thought processes. When you're wide awake at 3 a.m. do you count sheep like a normal, cliched insomniac would or do you go wandering down strange mental alleys?

Tool set for castrating chickens (available from Amazon)
Do you, for instance, ever think about capons? I mean, who was the first person who decided castrating chickens would be a good idea? Large livestock, sure, it makes perfect sense to lop the balls off bull calves or male sheep. It doesn't take much of an agricultural genius to figure out that turning your livestock gender neutral will make the beasts easier to handle and, major bonus for carnivores, fatter. But chickens?

Among other considerations, birds don't have external genitalia. If you want to know if a chick is going to be a rooster or a hen you have to shove a finger into the wee feathered friend's cloaca. Which brings up another question, naturally. Who was the first person to figure out that's what you needed to do if you wanted to determine sex before the birds fledged and  you could tell at a glance which ones were pullets and which were cockerels. One of my friends in grad school was a woman who once worked in commercial poultry production as a sexer. That's what she got to do for her 8-hour shift: shove a finger up a chick's ass and pronounce it male or female. It was not a fun job, albeit one that was apparently not hard to learn. For sure it makes for an interesting line on one's resume. 

In any case, capons are not as common in supermarkets and butcher shops as they once were. Maybe it's because commercial poultry operations have managed to breed broiler-fyers that are a whole lot meatier than chickens used to be -- some breeds now have breasts so large in comparison to the rest of the body that those breeds can no longer reproduce naturally because the rooster can't get close enough to the hens; their chests (the roosters') get in the way (and wouldn't that be a fun job, too, being the person who artificially inseminates chickens). Back in the primitive days of poultry production it would take many months for a castrated cockerel to get to Sunday roasting size; now there are broiler-fryers who go from hatched to marketable in barely 8 weeks. Why think about getting a capon when you can find individual chicken breasts that weigh as much as a whole bird used to? Call me old-fashioned, but it strikes me as profoundly unnatural for one boneless chicken breast to weigh over a pound. Mutants. Birds on steroids. Definitely not the same breed as the yard birds we raised in our back-to-the-land phase in the '70s.