Friday, December 28, 2012

Caught walking down the street near Baby Beach

Here's a family portrait shot by the Google Earth car when the Rombach clan took a stroll to Prince Kuhio Park in Kauai.

Orwell, you were so, so right. So right.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Axe to grind

Attention People Who Make Axe Handles These Days: You Are Not Good At What You Do.

You can see by the faded pink on this fiberglass handle here that the axe has clearly been out in the elements, got UVed, brittle and broke. That chunk missing from the middle is where I got pissed and swung the thing into the wood pile, visualizing heads of people in the fiberglass handle industry. It was cathartic.

As far as me letting this get UVed, an axe isn't something I will ever bring inside out of the weather, swaddle in velvet and prop it's feet up next to the fire. It's an axe. It's supposed to be tough. It belongs outside.

I probably shouldn't get worked up about handles on tools. But new axe and maul handles break at a discouraging rate and I've gone through a passel of them and it pierces me off. You bust a handle, go to get a replacement and the new wood replacement handles I've tried also break, then it's just a couple bucks more for a whole new axe with another crappy handle and there you are again later, swirling around in a predicament nobody cares about but me and it's lonely, so lonely.

In contrast, here's the double-bit axe I got from my grandfather that's, what, probably at least 30 years old at least and still cranking out what it's supposed to do with the original handle.

I burn wood in the house, my office, my hot tub and my shop. Lots of chopping. I like it when people bitch about the cost of heating oil or propane because that's a problem I don't share.

On the bright side, I bought a new handle to have laying around and went and tapped on old head on there after breaking that fiberglass piece of shit -- though I see now I should have kept tapping, as this thing isn't quite seated down right . . . but I like this Norlund head. Cuts so good I just have to hold it up to a piece of firewood and the pieces are intimidated into splitting themselves.

Also check out the closeup on the guy in a canoe. I like it.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Foggy app for iPhone

Never thought I'd get into engineering apps, but then I stumbled upon an exciting technique for taking shitty photos without the hassle of dowloading Instagram or whatever.

To achieve the look and feel of the following steelhead picture, simply carry your cameraphone in the pocket of your waders until moisture fogs up the lens, then voila'.

It's so vintage and classy and stuff. As opposed to this next one, taken by my pal Mike whose camera was not equipped with my patented foggy lens.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Waiting for the train

And Furthermore column, Wallowa County Chieftain. December 5, 2012

Santa Claus sent me a letter this year, via his attorneys, and I’m trying not to panic. The upshot of this letter, or “injunction,” as they call it, is that my requests for future gifts are being put on hold until I can demonstrate appropriate use of gifts already received, namely a train set I was all excited about but haven’t been using.

I’m in a bind here, because the train isn’t really mine. It belongs to Wallowa and Union counties. They bought it and played with it some at first, then let other kids park their train cars on the tracks. Then last year I got all excited because there was talk of the train carrying rafters and fishermen again between Rondowa and Minam, about nine miles along the Wallowa River down to the Grande Ronde through a roadless section. It’s a beautiful stretch for day trips and steelheading. I work as a rafting guide so having that train service again was splendid news.

That’s when I wrote Santa asking to pretty please make it true that the train would start running again. And it did, sort of. I live by the tracks and waved at it a few times. But I should have been more specific and asked for the train to keep running. Especially the 48 fishing trips and 48 rafting trips that were talked about, but didn’t materialize.

Wallowa-Union Railroad Authority, or WURA (pronounced “wooh-ruh,” I think), contracted with Sierra Nevada and Pacific Railroad, or SNAP (pronounced, “where are you guys?”) to take over managing the trains. SNAP crackled and popped with all sorts of fun ideas, including the notion of bringing in an old fancy choo choo train called the Blue Goose that runs on steam. But then it appeared all their steam got used up talking about neato ideas.

But let’s back up. Wouldn’t Sierra Nevada and Pacific Railroad be SNaPR, instead of SNAP? You can’t just promote “and” to a capital letter and leave out the “Railroad” part, can you? That might give the impression you’re good at snappy presentations but aren’t too concerned with the actual railroad part. Coincidentally, that’s the impression I’ve been getting.   

But on the front page of the Chieftain last week (Rail line’s operator hopes to renegotiate pact with counties), Rob Ruth reports that the head of SNaPR, Court Hammond, is gathering steam to get things back on track. That was two train references in one sentence. I hope you enjoyed that.

Let me know if I can help, Mr. Hammond. I’ll run that Minam to Rondowa stretch myself if it will help. Set me up with a handcar and I’ll hire some local football players to crank the handles up and down and we’ll get rail service going through that gem of a river canyon. We’ll call it Old Fashioned Way Railways, or SNaZZY, for short.

I caught six steelhead one day on a steelhead train excursion back when it used to run. That’s a great day for any steelheader and if you’ve seen me fish, you know it’s mind boggling. I met other people on the train with similar experiences. 

I truly believe that river train will be good for Wallowa County. People were coming out here from all over to fish from the steelhead train, spending their money at Wallowa County hotels, restaurants, stores, speakeasies, gas stations, spreading out dollars. And steelhead seasons are outside normal tourism months. It was cold and gray, but folks were still enjoying Wallowa County and talking about bringing their families back during the summer. You could just feel the economy being stimulated.

Tom Farnam losing his train of thought.
 So let’s get that train rolling. Otherwise, as Santa’s North Pole legal team pointed out in their nasty letter to me, if we’re not going to play with our train set there are thousands of bicycles delivered each year to Wallowa County residents and visitors who would be tickled to peddle down the path if it were converted to a trail. Bike paths also stimulate the economy. We could call it the Wallowa-Union Scenic Bikeway, or SHAZAM, for short.

Jon Rombach is a local columnist for the Chieftain. He wrote to Santa this year asking for the forest roads to stay open so he can cut firewood. Also a pony. And a Red Ryder BB gun.