In August 2016, I left the Appalachian Trail to sell my house and purchase an Airstream 25FB travel trailer which I describe as living in a tunnel.

This is the post excerpt.

My name is Thomas Buzas, also known by the trail name Apa. This blog covers my travels, experiences, and impressions since August 2016, and back to 2010 covering four trips cross country, to Alaska and 1,600 miles of the Appalachian Trail. I’m fairly boring, but I do interesting things.

New Directions

Settling down after 10 years. Going to post factual based commentary. For instance,

Obama wants credit for the Trump boom. Consider, 1) on average the stock market yields 10% a year; 2) the number of people working usually increases with each passing year; and 3) similarly wages usually increase year over year. Arguably every prior president could claim the successes of the following president as being due to him setting up his successor for success. The question is how much more or less accurate?

IMHO at his time, Obama is about 60% accurate. And here is why: when to start and end  data series is a contentious issue. Generally I think it best, given seasonality, to start and end on the same month and day and of some equal significance, meaning in case of presidential terms, election day,  inauguration day, around the first budget (the first year budget is passed, or not passed, thanks Congress, under the prior president.), those are the three fixed date options that I can think of.  The answer may differ according to the measure of economic performance. For instance, the stock market is forward looking, hence, election day is probably better than inauguration day or the first proposed or passed budget, whereas wages and employment numbers might be better delayed post election. Note I use BLS statistics, results vary a little depending on which variation one selects, but to no consequence on the conclusion.

The return on the Dow starting with Obama’s election day is 8.8% (including the 350 point bump on election day, fair to include because Obama was expected to win) compounded annually, for Trump, 3 years 16%, the ratio is 55%. Employment is up 100,000 a month on average for Obama, 188,000 a month for Trump 55%, Similarly wages 55% Obama versus Trump. Side issues – blue collar up more under Trump than Obama, but income inequality is a separate issue. Why not unemployment rates? Two reasons, unless things have changed, unemployment only counts those actively looking for work and those ending unemployment benefits aren’t counted either.

Running the numbers for the Dow starting with inauguration day, produces Obama 12% or 75% of Obama but the market fell after Obama’s election and surged following Trump’s. Suggesting the market viewed Trump’s election more favorably than Obama’s. I find it hard to believe that the president-elect has no effect on the market while the lame duck president continues to do so. Thus I favor starting to track on election day. Employment numbers January to January are 120542 versus 182192, a ratio of 66% and for average wages 62%.

Even the the difference between 75% and 100% on the Dow is substantial: over 3 years, 1.406 compounded versus 1.560, or 15.4, a full year’s growth. (1.12 for four years is 1.574). Extrapolating (will be interesting to see if the Trump boom can continue), 8 years of Trump would equal 10.6 years under Obama. The employment and wages ratios, 66% and 62% versus 75% are more consequential than the Dow differences once compounded.

What about the recession Obama inherited? That is tricky issue. The market tanked in Obama’s second year, after his budget and the trillion dollar stimulus fiasco. Could a better president have avoided that? I don’t know, Reagan didn’t. His recession was in the second year of his presidency as well.

In conclusion, the numbers vary somewhat depending on the day you choose to start, but Obama’s economy was 55% of Trump’s by multiple measures on my preferred choice, the day of election, and approximately 66% on January. Split the difference, 60%.

Family name – Buzas

Origin of the Family name – Buzas

There are two viable explanations, and a third ridiculous explanation. Many family names were acquired recently, often derived from an occupation, location, such as an estate, or family member, such as Johnson. Hence,

  1. Hungarian – buza means wheat in Hungarian, similar words refer to wheat or wheat products across the steppes to Mongolia and in Turkey, and, I am told, for millet in Persia. Also, buza, boza, etc. refer to a weak fermented broth brewed from grain. A farmers’ market is called Buza Plac. There are villages, rivers and mountains in the region named Buza and variations thereof. Buzasi means ‘from Buza.’ Thus a person of Hungarian ancestry may have acquired their family name from wheat or locations named Buza, Buzas, or similar.
  2. Historical records indicate the name Buzes for a Thracian general. Linguists believe buza is the Thracian word for goat. Perhaps location names may refer to areas where goats are kept. However, there are no records to support this speculation. The earliest, the name Bouseos is applied to the current Buzau river around 376 AD, which would during the time of Roman occupation. In this regard, the closest Latin word would be “bus” for ox. Thus it is possible that some families derive their name from these locations predating the recorded presence of Hungarians, Romanians, and Bulgarians (the areas occupied by the Thracians, Getae, and Dacian peoples). Buza, Buzes and variations are not names for any tribes in the area or in historical records before 300 AD.
  3. The Romanian word for lip is buza or buze, as in Czech. The Bulgarian word for cheek is buza. It seems unlikely that a family name would derive from the word for lip or cheek. Equally unlikely that a river or mountain would be named for a lip or cheek.

Presently, I conclude the family name derives from either the Hungarian word for wheat or locations named Buza, which have been named for goats, oxen, wheat or other unknown reasons.

A note on genetics, language, and culture. The DNA of eastern Hungary, Romania and surrounding areas are remarkably similar. Thus, any claims to genetic heritage are to be shared equally. Also, the Thracian-Dacian language and culture disappeared before the current cultures of Hungarians, Romanians, and Bulgarians emerged. Establishing a claim as the rightful inheritors of a cultural legacy would require a high level of proof and exclusivity. Good luck.

Creative writing

“Victory Girls” is one of the site I follow regularly. Every Friday they post a picture as a 100-word fiction challenge. Here is my response:

“Hurry, the night show is starting.”

“I hope it’s not an opera again.”

“I still don’t understand how they do it, lights and music from the sky.”

“Isn’t it wonderful, Grandma?”

‘Yes, it is dear.”

“Did they have anything like this when you were a girl?”

“Well, we had a light shows at theme parks, but, no, nothing like this.”

One week near Chattanooga

A week outside Chattanooga. My brother had been told Chattanooga had a reputation as a tough town, but I have seen no reason. There are indications of poverty.

I ate out a couple times, my favorite and only recommendation: Purple Daisy Picnic Café where I had the pork sandwich, and a cup of pork and some beans. $10 with drink.

Walks/Hikes: First a no-name trail, near where I’m staying. There were two ways up, the easy way following blazes or the side trail which was a track with many rocks and roots, fallen trees, etc. I went up that way for about 45 minutes before coming back down.

Next day, Glen Falls, a 2-mile arc starting from the roadside, down 250 feet to the falls, back up to the roadside in 1 mile, then turn around a repeat for your 2 miles and 500 feet about an hour. It rained Tuesday,  so I took a day off.

Rested, I took on the 1100 foot in 1.8 miles ascent of Lookout Mountain, starting at the Kiddie Trail up to Sunset Rock, then turn around and back down. The Kiddie Trail was in part more brook than trail and I got nicked by some thorns before deciding to just stomp through the water. I stopped many times to commune with nature, that is, wait for my breath to catch up. It was my first real hike since Montana. The view from Sunset Rock is impressive, the city laid out below, country and hills beyond.

Emboldened, I followed the 10-mile Bluff Trail, 1,200 feet, which is very easy apart from the .6 mile 600 foot climb at the turnaround point. I made really good time 4.3 miles in 1:45 or about 2.5 miles an hour, including stops for pictures and to look around. That .6 section up and down took almost 40 minutes – a doleful 1.6 miles an hour going up – slope does matter. On the way back, I stopped to explore crevices and promontories and to chat with rock climbers. I was alone almost the entire day, until the last mile and half back when work and school let out. Ended up taking almost 5 hours. Got some tips on good hikes in the area. I use the All Trails app, but find it best to supplement with the opinions of local hikers.

Starting the Bluff Trail, I had to smile, at meeting the stereotypical expert hiker asking me if I had enough water and such. I know the type well, having been that guy myself many times. Perhaps it was my new hiking outfit, a bright blue thin wool hiking shirt and crisp still-has-the-crease hiking pants. If he had looked at my shoes, worn well through Maine, Ohio, Alabama, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Michigan, more and they’re not worn out yet – I like my Lowa hiking shoes. ….. Or, if he had looked at my beat-up hiking poles. He meant well. He was concerned for my well-being so I was polite. Thanks, but yes, I did have enough water and so forth.

I enjoyed the Bluff Trail very much. It reminded me of so many places along the Appalachian Trail below the ridge line, arcing down from a high spot of hard rock down and into the mountain where softer eroded and back up to hard rock again. I finally got my trail mojo on the Bluff Trail. During the climb to Sunset rock, I hadn’t gotten into the rhythm of hiking, uncertain of my footing. On Bluff Trail, whether longer, or less steep, I began to pay less attention to my feet, picking out placement paces ahead, building speed as I hiked, breathing more easily, seeing more, enjoying the hike more.

On the Road Again

I imagine every road trip begins with the playing or singing of “on the Road Again,” by Willie Nelson, at least those four words repeating in one’s memory. It is good to be on the road again, perhaps it is the illusion of having accomplished something significant. “Today I drove 400 miles, what did you do?” “Ah, not much, went to work, raised my kids, cared for my parents, ….”

My first stop was, just for the night, Knoxville. Lots of good trails nearby, close to the Smokies, I might have to spend a month there some year.

I’ll be spending the next month near Chattanooga, where it is a bit warmer. I’ve always wanted to climb Lookout Mountain. After seven months in flat Michigan, I am overweight and out-of-shape, relatively speaking, and my footwork needs refreshing. I had forgotten about the heavy spring layers of leaves on the ground, slippery after rain, in Appalachia. I have not fallen yet, but it’s early in the season.

Two days and I’ve settled into my routine: hike on good days, hit a brew-pub, distillery or restaurant on rainy days. Ruby Falls was spectacular, all 100+feet, at the end of a 2,600 foot guided tour under Lookout Mountain. I walked with a family originally from Michigan. They hope to hike the Appalachian Trail, so we talked about that and other hikes. I am envious of their youth, but wish them well on their adventures. The falls are lit with a mixture of alternating lights of blue, red, and white. Every picture I took turned out red, blue, purple, or spotted by droplets floating in air.

I should talk about wintering in Michigan in an Airstream. The lowest temp was minus 8 or minus 11, doesn’t matter at that level. The advantages of the Airstream: heated tanks, -my tanks didn’t seem to freeze, no slide-outs that leak heat. Disadvantages: poor insulation quality of aluminum and the windows leak wind.

I hadn’t planned on staying in Michigan into February, so I didn’t skirt. One neighbor who didn’t skirt had her black water tank freeze. Others had water lines freeze, flooding their trailers, five I knew. It’s bad when you wake up to water running out of your underbelly, worse when ice-cycles are forming, probably worst when you are away when this happens. Always remember to turn off the water when you leave. Two had their refrigerators freeze – too cold to work and when they try, well, it can be dangerous I’m told. I had been told to block off some of vents outside the refrigerator. Either that worked or it was just that the Airstream leaks heat so quickly.

Many of my neighbors did skirt. It was educational. There are two types of skirts: tarps/curtains and solids made from plywood and sheets of insulation. The tarp skirts made with snap-on buttons can be difficult to unsnap, unfortunately breaking fiberglass, leaving holes to be plugged as well as gaps in the continuity of the skirting to be taped. Taping heavy tarps depends on the quality of the tape. A 3M product appeared to hold up the best. All tarps need to be weighed down by heavy blocks due to the strong winter winds lifting them. There are more expensive commercial products which I have not seen in operation. In my opinion, the best method of skirting appeared to be sheets of insulation held in place by wooden structures built behind and underneath the trailer. These are expensive, also time consuming to construct and set up. Moreover, when you move to a new site, the skirt might need to be adjusted due to different slopes, etc. which means trimming or replacing the insulation/plywood sheets or augmenting them with some foil or something along the top.

Because I didn’t skirt, my floor was very cold when temperatures were low and winds blowing, with an over 30 degree difference between the ceiling and the floor temperatures until I carpeted the galley running from front to back. Underneath I put an electric radiant heating pad made specifically to be used under carpet. I left that pad turned on all the time and it worked wonders at keeping the floor warm. The pad put out almost 30,000 BTU in a day or the equivalent of .4 gallons of propane. It took a while to take effect, but the longer it is on, the more the floor warms. The price-efficiency multiplier for electricity versus propane is around 22. At 14.9 cents per KWH, electricity is more expensive to run than propane less than 22*.149 = $3.28. The price was 2.49 but it went up to 2.97. However, heating the floor actually increased cabin comfort, allowing me to lower the thermostat and reducing propane consumption from about two 30-pound tanks a week to about 10-11 days. I spend less in total and am more comfortable.

To handle the life-sucking radiant heat-sink aluminum walls inside the Airstream, I ended up insulating inside with reflexive foil. It is not the best insulation to use, but the curvature of the Airstream renders other insulation impractical. I blocked off the stove fan vent as well. I have yet to use my stove or oven. Microwave and crock pot rules!

Condensation on windows was my greatest problem until the coldest temperatures arrived. The best solution I found was to mimic the pillows made to insulate the ceiling fans openings. Actually I got the idea online from a young man whom I cannot find now. Whoever you are, please accept my anonymous acknowledgement. Anyways, reflective Mylar foil covers a pillow of soft material cut to wedge tightly into the fan opening. For the Airstream, I removed the window screens. Then I constructed pillows for windows. First, I cut reflexive foil to fit the window. This is a little tricky because the Airstream window hardware prevents a perfectly flat and complete fit. The curvature of the corner windows is even trickier. Buy extra materials. Then using the mildew resistant padding sold at Hobby Lobby, I cut a piece to fit the window. I did not attach the padding to the foil and I’m glad I didn’t because condensation occurred at their interface. Daily I reverse the padding to allow the damp side of the padding to dry out. There is still some condensation on the glass, but I can wipe that off, and leave the pillow out for the glass to dry. And of course, daily I leave the door open for a while to remove moisture or run the ceiling fan.

Also, I found condensation in the overhead ducting for the air conditioning. Thus, I blocked off the vents using a plastic storm window kit. This helped to keep the cabin warmer by keeping the cooler air in the duct-work. I check for condensation periodically.

Lastly, I insulated the screen door with a double layer of heavy duty plastic window film and hung a blanket over the doorway to cut the chill.

At night I sleep barefoot, in regular pajamas between two surplus Italian military wool blankets that I acquired years ago. No longer available, they were a favorite among prepers. On the coldest nights, I might add a flannel blanket. Since installing the floor heating pad, I no longer need a down quilt that I used earlier in the winter season. On all but the coldest days, I go barefoot, thanks to the radiant floor heating system.

Since arriving in Chattanooga, although it gets down between 20 and 30 at night, I haven’t heard the furnace kick on. So I think my solutions appear to be working.

Painted Canyon Trail, Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Last day at TRNP, decided to take the Painted Canyon Trail. This section of the park is much drier, with fewer flowers, only 14 different species, and many gone to seed with the heat and after the rain I brought with me. There are two trails: the Loop is a nature walk, an easy .9 miles plus whatever side trips you add on, and the 4.2 RT out-and-back Trail.

The Loop had the flowers, and some good views. The longer Trail was much drier, exposed, steep at times, climbing over a fallen tree, over and around your usual assortment of rocks, slides and slumps, but some strange concrete like rocks, and enigmatic holes, 3 feet or more deep, some I couldn’t see the bottom in the shade. What had caused these holes to open? Where there labyrinths hidden underneath?

The RT Trail is poorly marked. At times I wasn’t entirely certain I was on the trail or had been diverted by a better looking buffalo trail. Thankfully, there was a lot of horse droppings and a few footprints in the dirt, indicating that I was on a trail that someone had followed before. There was a lot of sign of buffalo, and at one point, the distinct, strong odor of buffalo, but I couldn’t see him anywhere. The odor dissipated as quickly as it appeared. He must have moved away from me. Fine by me! I was the only one out there on the way out and back.

I had enough water, but didn’t drink enough. When I got back, someone said, “Good Morning,” and my voice cracked while answering. Water is tricky to manage, you feel fine, but you need it before you feel it. My most reliable sign is my voice cracking. That means, I’ve gone too long with too little.

Ten months on the road, time to head back to Michigan for family and friends. It’s getting crowded on the road and in the parks, time to settle down for a while, or not, already have two trips planned for July, and one in August – gotta seize the opportunities when they arrive! Probably pass through the Upper Peninsula in Michigan and try to stop there for a while before settling in by a Michigan lake for a couple months.