Thursday, November 20, 2014

Adventures in bureaucracy: state level

I have occasionally noted that I am a member of the county historical society and volunteer at the museum the society operates. Back in 2013 I was elected treasurer of the organization. This means I get to deal with all the paperwork we receive from entities such as the United States Department of the Treasury (i.e., the IRS) and the State of Michigan.

Well, when I checked the mail yesterday the State's Treasury Department had dropped an annoying missive into the society's lap. The State of Michigan, in its infinite wisdom, has decided that all businesses (and that includes nonprofits) must register online with the division responsible for collecting Sales, Use, and Withholding taxes. This is fine with me. I think it's a great idea. Anything that in theory makes life simpler for everyone strikes me as good. If reporting can be reduced down to filling out an online form once a year and hitting the send key, it's a win.

So I cheerfully typed in the URL required to reach the registration site. That's when I discovered the State (or the moronic contractor they hired) had done something bizarre. To register your business you have to enter identifying information as an individual. You begin by creating a user ID that will consist of your last name, first initial, and 4 numerical digits of your choosing. Okay. We're the Baraga County Historical Society. Does that mean our name is SocietyB1234? And for the part that asks for first name, middle initial, and last name, are we Baraga C Society? Apparently not. The system won't take it. I spent a rather frustrating twenty minutes or so trying to come up with a work-around for filling in a form designed for humans only. A good chunk of that time was spent trying to find a way to contact the State to ask for help.

Well, good luck with that one, too, because there is no Contact or Help provided other than a link to an 800 number that on screen claims to have operators standing by 24/7 but instead lands you at the usual voice mail tree that does the oh-so-predictable infinite looping. Our tax dollars at work. I did find a Contact form for the Governor's office so filled that form out asking how a corporation would register as opposed to an individual business owner. After all, corporations may be people now but they still don't have people-type names.

I realized as I was doing this that I could have come up with a simple solution: I could have either filled the form out using my own name or I could have made something up. I resisted for several reasons. First, I have no desire to have my name permanently linked to the society or the museum. There's already too much mail arriving addressed to me or one of the other officers c/o the museum when it should be addressed to the organization itself instead of to a representative. The museum in theory is going to be around for many decades; the other members and I are just passing through. Second, if I created an alias for the museum, sooner or later some bell in the labyrinth of the state bureaucracy would ring, some desk monkey would rouse himself from his nap, mutter "This isn't right," and Explanations would be Demanded.

The thing that baffles me about the whole experience. . . well, it doesn't really baffle me because I know that the typical contractor tends to be both lazy and not particularly creative. . . is why didn't they design a fill-in form that did the obvious? You know, ask for the business name, then the name of a contact person or officer, and go from there? It's so bizarre. It's like whoever designed the form assumed every business in the state is a sole proprietorship. Very, very strange.

As for why we have to worry about this type of stuff when we're so small and make less money annually than some teenage babysitters rake in, as long as we're a recognized nonprofit corporation we do have to comply with rules for annual reporting. We may not have any paid employees at the moment and the receipts from the gift shop fall well below the threshold for nonprofits for paying sales taxes, but we still have to do the same paperwork as any other business. It's not that big a deal to do when we're putting zeroes in most of the spaces on the forms. And who knows? One of these days a tour bus could pull into the parking lot and disgorge a horde of shopaholic tourists who empty the gift shop to the point where the State gets lucky. I can dream.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Yet another reason to despise politicians

Listening to the news this morning I'm hearing quite a bit about the Keystone XL Pipeline project. This is a project that involves building a pipeline to transport Canadian crude oil extracted from the tar sands in northern Canada down through the United States to a refinery in Texas where the crude will be processed and then shipped to overseas markets. The oil industry and its paid hacks in Congress -- mostly Republicans but with a few Democrats, too -- have done a lot of posturing about what a boon this pipeline would be for the American economy. It would add jobs (a grand total of 35 to 40 permanent positions), it would help reduce the cost of gasoline, it's environmentally benign, . . . all the usual bullshit.

Because the pipeline crosses an international border, the project has been subject to review by the United States Department of State as well as to the other usual reviews pipeline projects have to undergo. It's been tied up for years, basically since the Bush administration departed. In fact, it's been tied up for so many years that the Canadian oil companies may be abandoning the idea -- there have been several news reports recently that pipelines are under construction and close to done that will transport the Canadian crude to a Canadian port city and the Keystone pipeline will be rendered unnecessary. My instincts tell me that's what President Obama's game plan has been: stall long enough that the Canadians come up with an alternative, which would get the Democrats off the hook. They would have avoided directly pissing off Big Oil and at the same time done enough of a balancing act to be able to keep telling the environmental activists, "see, we're tree huggers, too."

So why I am disgusted with politicians this morning? Or, more specifically, why I am disgusted with the Democratic party? Because the Democrats are so unbelievably short-sighted that some of them are pushing for approving a bill that authorizes construction of the Keystone pipeline in the bizarre hope that it passing such a bill in the Senate (it's already passed in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives) will help Senator Mary Landrieu's chances in Louisiana. Louisiana has a strange electoral system that has resulted in Landrieu being forced into a run-off election in December. The planned pipeline doesn't go into Louisiana -- as planned, it terminates in Port Arthur, Texas -- so why Landrieu or anyone else thinks it would be a game changer for her baffles me. Is it supposed to be proof she's willing to disagree with Obama? It's not going to work. Based on the current political climate in Louisiana, Landrieu doesn't have a prayer of winning, especially when she was bluntly (and refreshingly) honest about the influence of racism in voters' dislike of the President. Her only hope is to somehow practice Louisiana politics as usual and engage in a whole lot of backroom chicanery and fraud to hang on to her Senate seat. Nonetheless, in the bizarre and forlorn hope of being able to keep one Senate seat labeled D instead of R, the Democrats are contemplating fucking over both the country and the President.

And just what will they gain from this? Absolutely nothing. They'll still be the minority party in the Senate, they'll have made it even clearer what a bunch of spineless, unprincipled weasels they are, and they'll have weakened further the head of their own party. It's not going to gain them any points with the Republicans. Mitch McConnell et al. already know the Democrats are invertebrates; all supporting the Keystone pipeline will do is emphasize just how powerless the Democrats are. It's not going to help with bipartisanship. If anything, it just tells McConnell he's got a good shot at passing anything and everything the Republicans feel like proposing. There will be no compromises on anything, which is what McConnell made clear years ago was his operating philosophy. 

I really need to stop listening to the news. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Food fads and the gullible

I have written before about food fads, things that are promoted as being better than whatever it is we're used to eating and of course cost a whole lot more. I've found another one. Agave nectar.

Back when I still worked at the Centers for Disease Control, one of my colleagues began pushing agave nectar as a substitute for sugar. I'm not sure why. Supposedly because the agave nectar is sweeter than sugar, you'll use less of it. If the reason for using agave nectar is to cut back on calories, you'd better hope that to your taste buds it seems a whole lot sweeter because when you start comparing calories on a teaspoon to teaspoon basis sugar wins. Sugar has 16 calories in a teaspoon; agave nectar has 20. Anyway, at the time the agave nectar was being pushed by my colleague, I humored her, used it in my coffee, and thought to myself, "Okay. Not bad." So the next time I was at Publix I looked for agave nectar.

Remember the quinoa experience? Well, agave wasn't quite as much of a sticker shock eye opener, but at the time it struck me as fairly pricey for the amount the bottle contained. However, back then (this was about five years ago), agave was a recent arrival on supermarket shelves and Dr. Oz (who's apparently never met a food fad he didn't love) was pushing it on his show. He has since back peddled. For various reasons (market forces? economy of scale?) the price has dropped; it is now cheaper ounce for ounce than honey. It is, of course, still a lot more expensive than cane sugar.

Like the quinoa, the agave nectar was a gift. I have a friend who works at a summer camp that caters to rich kids from Chicago; every year when the camp shuts down at the end of the season the staff have to completely empty the kitchen. Anything that is perishable, might attract varmints (e.g., raccoons), or would be ruined by freezing is removed. Some of it goes to area food pantries and some goes home with the maintenance guys who in turn pass some on to friends and family. Last year I was the recipient of several boxes of quinoa, probably because I actually knew what the stuff was (or was the only one who was willing to try it). This year it was a bottle of agave nectar.*

Unlike the quinoa, the agave nectar is actually edible. It's nicely innocuous. When I dump it in my coffee or tea, I can't tell the difference between using it and using ordinary sugar. Am I using less in terms of total amounts than I would if it was the usual teaspoon of sugar? Who knows. It's hard to do a side by side comparison when agave is a liquid and sugar is a solid. Is there an advantage to using agave instead of sugar? I'm not sure. I've heard some people tout it as being more "natural," but from what I've read the process most commonly used for extracting it from the agave plant is as highly industrialized as the process involved in making high fructose corn syrup. There's a lot more involved than just crushing the plant and boiling the resulting sap. There is a type of traditional agave nectar that comes much closer to the type of processing used for traditional cane syrup, but that's not the agave nectar you're going to find on the shelves at a typical Kroger.

In any case, whether traditionally produced or cranked out in an industrial refinery, the sugars in agave are primarily fructose, which, as other writers have pointed out, puts agave a whole lot closer to being just another form of high fructose corn syrup than it does to anything that's actually good for you. High fructose corn syrup has gotten a bad reputation for a reason: research has shown that the human body does process fructose differently than it does sucrose. High amounts of fructose in a person's diet can contribute to the development of metabolic syndrome, i.e., that lethal combination of weight gain and type II diabetes. So why on earth would anyone think agave nectar would be a healthy alternative to ordinary sugar?

I have heard that hard core vegans like agave nectar because it doesn't involve animals in any way, shape, or form. They substitute it for honey because they apparently view honey as off limits because it's bee vomit and therefore an animal product. Well, cane sugar, beet sugar, maple syrup, and Karo syrup have always been 100% non-animal products, so why agave would suddenly look more appealing than any of the non-fructose loaded alternatives baffles me. It has to be yet another triumph of marketing cancelling out common sense.

Of maybe it's just that magic "organic" seal on the bottles. Who knows. It's a mystery.

*I get other stuff, too, but it's not as much fun to write about a giant unopened bag of Kellogg's Froot Loops or the institutional-size jug of stir fry sauce. Unlike the quinoa, the Froot loops did not end up in a bird feeder.  

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Adventures in blogging

A few months ago I was invited to become a contributor to a blog that invites a variety of perspectives, political and otherwise. I had qualms, but decided to give it a shot. I still have qualms.

When I blog here in my little self-created corner of the universe, I'm doodling in a space with an established structure. It's comfortable. I can take off my metaphorical stays, relax, and cheerfully free associate. Over in the new space, however, it's still feeling like the lacing is being pulled tighter. There's too much of a sense of being constrained. I'm not sure why. Comments are civil, although it's pretty clear a number of regular commenters on that site have their responses set on auto pilot. They have their pet theories and, no surprise, manage to work those pet theories into every comment they leave regardless of the supposed topic of the original post. That's not really a problem, though, because just about the only comments I ever bother to read seriously are the ones when I see while doing comment moderation on this blog.

Maybe it's the quota system -- I'm supposed to do two posts a month in order to remain an active author. Okay, so two posts isn't very many, but I never was real keen on production quotas in general. Having worked at a number of shit jobs that had production quotas, I know from sad experience that if everyone always meets the quota, sooner or later the quota goes up. This month it's two posts. . . if everyone does their two posts, pretty soon the blog administrator will start demanding three. . . and so it goes. Pretty soon I'll be typing my fingers to the bone and for what? No reward other than the remote possibility half a dozen people will read my deathless prose. That isn't much of an incentive.

Or perhaps the truth is even simpler. I keep forgetting the bloody password for the other blog. It's got multiple layers of security (the administrator is a bit of a zealot when it comes to protecting the space) and times a person out after a certain number of minutes. I get a few sentences done, get timed out, have to log back in and, despite having instructed the computer to "remember me," end up having to rummage around on my rat's nest of a desk looking for the odd scrap of paper with the most recent iteration of the password on it. By the time I find it, my fragile train of thought has fallen off a trestle, and I find myself thinking about cranes lifting boxcars out of rivers instead of whatever it was I thought I was saying to begin with.

In short, it's really hard to develop much enthusiasm for contributing to a blog when the contributions feel way too much like work. If I'm not getting paid to do something, then that something should be fun. When it stops being fun, it's time to walk away.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

Think we're getting close to the two feet total for this particular storm. It doesn't matter. Our driveway will remain open.
video
Unfortunately, this winter is the last one where the Road Commission will plow private driveways. The fees they charge don't really cover the cost, and there are staffing issues -- when people retire, that position just stays empty. Fewer guys working means the amount of public road each plow operator has to cover keeps growing; doing driveways eats up too much time. End result? The Road Commission board members voted a few months ago to discontinue the driveway program after this winter.

So what are we going to do next year? We managed in the past without the Road Commission; we can do it again. The S.O. has a 4-wheel drive pickup with a plow rig, and if there's ever a storm that dumps so much snow the pickup can't deal with it, well, we do have snowshoes.

Alternatively, there is always The Guppy and a snowbird lifestyle. There are worse fates than spending the winters wandering around the southwest while avoiding snow.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Home, sweet snow-covered home

We've been home for a few days now. Travel was uneventful, although coming up through Illinois we had a pretty good tailwind and actually got the Guppy up to around 9 miles per gallon. That was exciting, just cruising along and not seeing the needle gas gauge plummet as soon as we pulled away from the pump. Even better was seeing the prices plummet, although the lowest price we saw -- $2.54 -- didn't help us at all at the time. We know we'd get better mileage if we weren't dragging a car behind us on a tow dolly, but we're not willing to give up that anchor yet.

The weirdest part with watching the gas prices was realizing that gas was selling for more in Wisconsin than in Illinois. Usually the reverse is true. And of course Missouri is always much, much cheaper than any of the other states -- I have no idea why, although it probably has to do with state sales taxes and fees. Missouri makes up for having cheap gas, though, by taxing food. That definitely startled me the first time we grocery-shopped. Granted, the sales tax on food is lower than the sales tax on nonedible items, but even so. . . taxing food always feels wrong to me. But, as usual, I digress.

We're home. It feels good to be home, back in a truly warm house with a large, dry bed. After a month in that 3/4 size bed in the Guppy, it feels good to be able to sprawl again. Sprawl, heck. It feels good just to be able to turn over in the bed without worrying about either falling out or nailing the S.O. with an elbow or a knee. It also feels good to be able to walk around the house like a normal person with no sidling sideways like a crab to negotiate tiny spaces. I don't know how people who are full-time RV-ers do it. Not everyone who's given up living in a real house to be on the road permanently has a Class A leviathan or a 5th wheel 40 feet long with multiple slide-outs. Does all that sidling eventually start to feel normal? I don't know. . .  I do know that right about the time we finally seemed to have figured things out and had more or less adapted to life in a small space, our month at the park ended.

Now that we're home, I need to get back into my usual routine of spending a couple days a week at the museum sorting through the mystery boxes in the attic and the storage building and then cataloging the good stuff. I have found some nifty things over the past year or two. Of course, I've also found some truly weird and useless items, which isn't surprising. Too often people will donate stuff that's actually pretty useless, like stacks of ancient magazines. I tend to joke that we get the stuff that people are stuck with after the estate sale is over. It's old, it's not worth anything, and the St. Vincent de Paul store won't take it. But, hey, it's OLD, so you know the museum is going to want it. Besides, the museum won't charge a garbage disposal fee like Waste Management or Arvon Trash and Transit do.

You know, a few old Life or McCall's magazines are nice to have. If nothing else, they can be used as part of exhibits that highlight a specific time period, e.g., a 1953 Saturday Evening Post might be interesting as part of a display about the Eisenhower era. But there are limits, especially when there are duplicates. On the other hand, when someone does show up with boxes of old magazines, we can't just say no because you never know what gems might be hiding in the trash. This open-handed acceptance policy would not have been a bad thing if someone had been sorting through all the boxes as they came in, but apparently no one was. Too much came in too fast when the museum first opened. Box after box got shoved up in the attic or out into the storage building, all without much in the way of labeling. I can understand why it happened, much as I might wish it hadn't. End result? A gazillion mystery boxes.

Or worse. One of the little gems I found the last time I went up the ships ladder to the attic was a box labeled "Curwood books for resale." The box did indeed contain a couple dozen books by James Oliver Curwood. I could be wrong, but my instinct is that it's real hard to re-sell anything when it's hiding under a pile of other stuff in an attic instead of being shelved in the used book section of the gift shop. I'd call it a head*desk moment, but I'm not sure that term applies when you're not actually sitting at the desk. Would those books have sold if they'd been sitting in the gift shop for the past 20 years instead of up in the attic? Who knows, but for sure they were never going to sell where they were.

Besides getting back into some sort of routine at the museum, I need to get this winter's quilt project(s) started. For the first time in many years, I have no quilts in progress. Nada. That feels weird. Usually I've got at least one project going, even if it's just at the cutting pieces stage. Right now I haven't even picked out a pattern for whatever is next. I do have other sewing to do -- I'm making new curtains for the Guppy -- but that's not quite the same. I need to pick a quilt pattern and start cutting pieces soon.  

There are other things I need to do, too, like locate The Hat. I have a cap I knitted many, many years ago (acrylic yarn lasts forever) that still drives my kids crazy. It can't be winter unless I'm wearing The Hat. Along with locating The Hat, I should also track down mittens, scarves, and other items necessary now that temperatures have dropped below freezing and there's sloppy white stuff (about two inches as of this morning) on the ground. And the S.O. needs to remember where we stashed some snow shovels. There's two inches of slush on the front porch at the moment and nothing handy to remove it with.

The S.O. claimed he wanted to spend most of the winter here on the tundra so he could watch snow slide off the barn's new metal roof. If today's weather is any indication, he's going to have a lot of opportunities to do that.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

No real surprises

The election results are in, and Democrats nationwide are looking and sounding understandably depressed. Over the next few days we're going to get to hear a lot of second-guessing as to why so many supposedly promising candidates lost.

Here's a hint: no one wants to vote for a candidate who acts ashamed of his or her own party. I saw a whole lot of candidates busy trying to distance themselves from President Obama. If I were an undecided voter, I'd have a hard time finding a good reason to vote for anyone who tried to claim that even though he or she was running  as a Democrat, that person didn't really support the President's policies or want anything to do with him. The ultimate, of course, was Alison Grimes in Kentucky embarrassing herself by tap dancing around a question about whether or not she, an avowed Democrat, had voted for the person at the top of the Democratic ticket in 2012. WTF? Did anyone seriously believe that she had NOT voted for Obama? The surprise isn't that McConnell won; it's that anyone at all in Kentucky voted for Grimes. In any case, in too many states and districts, the Democratic candidates gave voters a choice between Republican-Lite and Real Republican. Not surprisingly, given a choice, voters opted for the Real Republican instead of the pseudo version.

It probably doesn't help that the Democratic Party is still being managed from the top by corporate shills. But that's a subject for a different post.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Amazing.

It struck me this morning that the S.O. and I have now been living in this tiny fiberglass box for almost a full month -- and we're both still breathing. I believe he was less optimistic than I was; he expressed his astonishment after the first two weeks. I wasn't quite as surprised. After all, we manage to make it through long, cold winters while cohabiting in a house with less than 600 square feet of living space. We're used to tripping over each other. Of course, back up on the tundra I've got the Woman Cave and the museum to escape to occasionally and the S.O. has his shop and other places to go and things to do so it's not like we're stuck with each other 24/7.

Here at Montauk it no doubt helped that for most of the month the weather was close to perfect. When we weren't having to fulfill campground host duties, we could go exploring the local area, wander around the park, or just sit outside, people watch, and enjoy the fresh air. I'm not sure we would have done quite as well if it had rained more, especially once we realized just how damp it gets in the Guppy when conditions are wet outside. Between the condensation and various seals leaking, things got rather soggy and neither of us was in a particularly good mood -- although the S.O. was probably more irritable than I was. He slept on the side of the bed that turned into a swamp when the window above it leaked. That problem seems to have been solved, although we won't know for sure until there's another heavy rain. In any case, I think we've figured out some of the things we'd have to do to make even longer stays in the Guppy possible. The S.O. has been compiling a list of things to do; I've got a list of items to add to the basic supplies and equipment. Neither list is especially long, but we did manage to overlook some obvious things before we hit the road, like a camping ax and disposable gloves.* Live and learn.

 

*That combination does make it sound rather like a person is planning a career as a serial killer, but the ax is for firewood and the gloves are for connecting and disconnecting the hose from the black water tank.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Montauk State Park, Missouri

CCC-constructed picnic pavilion (aka shelter)
This feels a little weird. Usually if I spend more than five minutes in a park I'll do a post. All it takes is a ten minute walk in to see a waterfall and I've got half a dozen photos and several hundred words of verbiage up. Not this time. We've been at Montauk State Park for exactly 4 weeks today and I've yet to do much more than gripe about the fact some guys think Busch Lite cans are flammable. Not one word about the history of the park, where it's located, or the plethora of cultural resources, e.g., numerous structures built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.

Montauk State Park is located in the Missouri Ozarks at the headwaters of the Current River. The river is formed where Pigeon Creek and the discharge from Montauk Spring merge. The Montauk Spring has an impressive discharge rate -- approximately 43 million gallons per day -- so the river is a real river from its start, which is an interesting contrast with my memories of the North Platte in Nebraska. The Platte is called a river as long as it's still in the state, but by the time you get to where it's flowing in from Wyoming you can step across it without worrying about getting your feet wet. But I digress. Montauk Spring is one of those interesting springs that bubbles up through sand. When there is a lot of water flowing through the aquifer, it can look like it's boiling. Missouri's been in drought for several years now so the boiling is now more like a gentle blooping, but you can still see the sand at the spring bubbling as the water flows up through it. The water is amazingly clear.
Fishermen downstream from the ruins of a low water bridge.

Since we arrived here, I've had several people ask me about the origins of the name Montauk. According to the park website, the area was named by settlers from Suffolk County, New York. It may be an old Indian name, as some people guess, but if it is, the Indians were from Long Island. The abundant water from the spring meant this area provided an ideal location for a flour mill. Several were built along the river; most burned down. The Montauk Mill constructed in 1896 survived; it operated for 30 years until the state purchased the land in 1926 and created a state park.

Montauk State Park is one of the oldest state parks in the Missouri state parks system. It is also one of four "trout parks" in Missouri. The other three are Bennett Spring, Roaring River, and Meramec.

The trout parks, Montauk included, are interesting from an organizational perspective because they involve cooperation between two separate state agencies: a cold water fish hatchery is co-located within or adjacent to each park. The hatcheries are operated by the Department of Conservation; the parks are operated by the Department of Natural Resources. Of the four trout parks, Montauk reputedly has the best fishing because, among other reasons cited, the river is managed in a way that keeps it as close to to a natural stream as possible. The park is large enough and the river contains enough bends that there are approximately 3 miles of river along which a person can fish. One section of the river is fly fishing only, but most is open to any lure or bait, artificial and live.
Rearing ponds at the hatchery

Most fishermen (which includes men, women, and kids), however, seem to congregate as close as possible to the upper end. This is despite the fact that when the fish are planted the plantings occur at multiple locations. You know, it's not like they open a door at the hatchery and tell the first 500 fish on any given day to "Go, swim free. You're on your own now, No more pellets; it's time you go looking for lunch instead of having it come to you." Nope. They load the fish into a truck and dump them in at a variety of points along the river. Nonetheless, based on the herd behavior of the people fishing and the way they seem to enjoy being shoulder-to-shoulder upstream from the campground, I'd guess that the fish that get dumped into the river at the locations farthest downstream from the actual hatchery are the ones that live the longest. There's a white board at the Lodge where successful fishermen can record catches they're particularly proud of; I noticed the other day that the most recent entry was an 8-lb trout. Obviously, not all the fish end up in a landing net right after being released.

Looking down the center of loop 2 on a day when the park was full.
There is more to Montauk SP than just the fish, of course. The park sits in a hollow in the Ozarks. The scenery is gorgeous, especially at this time of year. There's an abundance of wildlife. There are hiking trails. The park is lucky enough to have a naturalist who seems to have a gift for presenting interesting programs and connecting with any kids who are listening. The campground is a good one and has a nice playground for families camping with small children. There are numerous picnic tables scattered throughout the park, and there are two picnic pavilions (aka shelters). Two other playgrounds are located near the picnic shelters. It's a great family park.

As for the campground, the sites are almost all large enough that even someone with a leviathan of a Class A motorhome or a super-long travel trailer can park and not feel crowded. Although I've talked with campers who have been coming here since the 1960s who can recall when the campground was basically an open field and access was via the low water bridge shown above, the campgrounds now enjoy mature landscaping and the amenities campers today expect: electrical service and access to a showerhouse. (The only full service sites in the park are the campground host spaces.) The park has two showerhouses, both of which include laundry rooms with coin-operated washers and driers. The campground has four loops, one of which is basic, one has 30 amp electrical service, and two have 50 amp. Construction of a 5th loop is scheduled to begin in 2015. Whoever picked out the trees when they designed the campground loops knew what he or she was doing because there's a variety of deciduous species: maples, river birches, sycamores, sweet gums, oaks, etc., for shade along with smaller flowering trees like dogwoods and redbuds for visual interest.

Campground host site, Loop 2. 
In addition to the campground, there are a motel and rental cabins available for people who prefer more creature comforts (or less work) than a typical RV or tent provides. A number of the cabins were constructed by the CCC in the 1930s, but there are also newer units. The motel (aka The Lodge at Montauk) includes a full-service restaurant, a snack bar, and a store that sells fishing tackle, souvenirs, and a few basic groceries.

Montauk SP shares a boundary with Ozark National Scenic Riverways. OZAR begins where Montauk ends on the Current River. A number of interesting historic sites within OZAR -- the Susie Nicholls farm, the Welch Hospital ruins -- are within a few minutes drive of Montauk, as well as several locations for launching canoes or kayaks if a person is interested in floating the river.

People fishing from the remnants of the other low water bridge in the park.
Overall Montauk is a great place to camp if crowds don't bother you. This park is popular. Anyone coming here during the "on" season hoping to commune in silence with nature is doomed to disappointment. The No Camping Vacancies sign has gone up by the fee booth pretty early each weekend we've been here. During the peak months, reservable sites are often reserved many months in advance, and the first come first served sites tend to fill up remarkably fast. On Fridays and Saturdays RVs will be circling like sharks before noon hoping to see someone in one of those sites pull out. Even the basic sites fill up fast with people who still enjoy tent camping. It's a good thing most campers leave sites clean because when there's maybe a 10-second gap between one camper leaving and another one backing into that space, there's no way the hosts or regular maintenance are going to have time to check the site for trash. The park does hope to eventually complete a back country hiking trail that would include two hike-in camping sites, but that trail's development is probably several years away. In short, the park is awesome, but if you're looking for solitude, look elsewhere.