Saturday, May 22, 2010

Nitwit Constable Breaks Law to Catch Lawbreakers

May 21, 2010 at 5pm, I was in abnormally crowded traffic going home from work. I was on SH-146 going north over the Fred Hartman Bridge and in the far left lane. All around me were cars, pick-up trucks and commercial vehicles. Brake lights were uncharacteristically flashing in front of me and I checked my speedometer to see if what I thought was happening, was happening – yes, we were all going about 58 mph. The speed limit is 60mph, but during rush-hour, it’s often 75 and flows like well-oiled water.

Normally between 4-7pm, the traffic moves quite fast over this crowded bridge, often hitting 80 mph and it moves quite well. There is a tremendous amount of vehicular traffic over this bridge each day. Now I’m not condoning doing 80mph, even though in my little compact, I’ve learned that I must drive fairly aggressively if I don’t want to get squashed, but I think it’s safe to say that 58mph and wall to jumpy wall cars puts me in the same uncomfortable position.

When it’s crowded and backed-up and folks are steadily tapping their brakes, I get very uneasy.

As I reached the top of the bridge, I see a constable parked (Illegally – read the signs) on top of the bridge, foot braced against the bridge, dark sunglasses, and radar gun pointed back down the way we just came. He looked like Lt. Jim Dangle from Reno 911! up there to me and I reckon to everyone else returning home from a long day at work.

My very first thought was: He’s breaking the law to catch someone breaking the law. Honest to god it was. My second thought was: So this is the reason all these hundreds of cars and trucks are all but bumping into each other on this normally self-governing route? Normally these constables park on the near or far side of the bridge and cause folks to tap the brake pedal, but it doesn’t have this kind of disruptive effect, but this guy? Nope, he wants in the shooter’s seat.

He wants the biggest amount of shock and awe he can get…and the most respect. What he got instead was a bunch of angry stares and created a traffic hazard. He broke the law to try and catch a law-breaker? What?
 
There is no parking on the Fred Hartman Bridge – even I know that. It’s not against the law to walk over it though, but if a constable sees you doing that, he’ll threaten to arrest you and this has actually happened and of course, he will arrest you for parking on the bridge too...

Monday, May 10, 2010

Leopard Moth find near Mont Belvieu, Texas


This is a leopard moth (Zeuzera pyrina) identified by the distinguished biology professor Mary Wicksten of Texas A&M University.  I just could not figure out exactly what it was, except I thought it a moth and not a butterfly, so I asked her to help me out.  She graciously obliged.

I photographed this next to the Chevron station on SH-146 as you exit Mont Belvieu.  Isn't it beautiful?

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Give me Liberty – Liberty, Texas History



I spent yesterday in Liberty, Texas.  It’s an old town with a lot of history.  Although I had traveled through Liberty many times and my Bride and I got our marriage license at the courthouse, I had never visited one of the parks or drove the back streets.  I can’t say I have ever even eaten a meal in Liberty, Texas.  Now I can.

I wasn’t in Liberty on business, but pleasure.  My brother TJ Bustem and I were once again, geocaching and now, we were waymarking also.  Read about waymarking here. and of course geocaching here.    In short, geocaching is looking for hidden “caches” of goodies and logging an entry in a logbook located inside the cache.  Waymarking is simply finding interesting places, landmarks, and historical markers.

Baytown has many historical markers and two are at Bayland Park on Business-146 down by the boat ramp.  There will be a third added by September when the Bayland Guards marker is dedicated.  The two that are there are the Bayland Orphanage marker and the Confederate Naval Works of Goose Creek marker.  You can read about the dedication of the naval works marker here.  Make sure you watch the slide show posted at the top of the page.

My brother has often commented that the real reason he loves to waymark and geocache is because it takes him to new and interesting places he wouldn’t have experienced without following the GPS receiver to a point of interest.

This is how it works.  Using what is called a GPSr (global positioning Satellite receiver) or a smartphone with a GPS Ap (application) you visit (usually) www.geocaching.com, create a profile (free or paid) and then download close to home geocaches or waymarker points into the device.  You can also print maps and instructions and carry them if you do not possess one of the higher end devices, or bring it all on your Smartphone or laptop/Netbook, etc..

Then you go look for them…and its fun, a lot of fun, especially if you do it with a friend.

When you created a profile on geocaching.com, you created a unique user name.  Mine is of course, BaytownBert, so when I find a cache, I sign the date on the little logbook, located inside the cache and my username – then after I am back home, I log in my find on the cache’s site and upload any photos I may have taken.

Most geocachers carry a swag-bag.  Swag is cool stuff you leave in caches for other cachers and the basic rule of thumb is if you take something from a cache, then you leave something of equal or greater value.  As a geocacher, you also have to beware of muggles.  Muggles are non-playing observers who may watch your activity and then come over after you have left and remove or rob the cache.

Snakes, spiders, and poison ivy may be present in remote wooded caches and then there are the thorns and thorns may be so thick that unless you approach the cache exactly as the cache owner did, you will leave a scratched-up treasure hunter.

Baytown is home to what can only be called, an evil genius geocache hider.  His name is Aaron Barbee.  You may know him as the Texas Computer Guru and he writes a weekly column for the Baytown Sun.  I’ve posted a humorous youtube video here concerning finding one of his easy caches, but trust me when I say he has very few easy ones.

Now keep in mind that caches come in a number of sizes and shapes.  Some are tiny and only hold a small log (Nanos and Micros), but my favorites are the small, regular, larger all of which hold swag. And sometimes Geocoins and travel bugs.  Geocoins are trackable coins with a unique set of numbers that cachers record the number as a find online and then move to another cache.  The same with a travel bug, but it looks like a dogtag and has a small chain and hitchhiker item attached to it with a story.


I’m not much for finding nano-sized or even micro-size geocaches, as they are usually found in higher traffic areas and it doesn’t appeal to my sense of adventure.  I would much rather be visiting a remote forested area, an old cemetery with historic headstones and markers, or someplace that involves learning about history.

So far I have placed six caches and all are quart-sized regular caches with cool swag.  Three are in Barkaloo Park and three are in Jenkins Park.  It’s a great family activity, gets you and the kids out of the house and is fun to boot and a big plus is as my brother said: “it takes him to new and interesting places he wouldn’t have experienced without following the GPS receiver to a point of interest.”

We don't know our left from our right.

I got my first real lesson on what being out of step means when I in was in Basic Military Training at Lackland Air Force Base, in ...