A Condensed History of the North American Fur Trade

The evolution of cooking has come a long way since since the heydays of eating when possible of the French Canadian Voyageurs and the American Mountain Men who served as the early work horses who bore both the burdens and the dangers of the early Canadian and American fur trades to eating when convenient made possible by contemporary, well equipped high tech kitchens.

In popular folklore, the fur trade of the American Far West generally is viewed to have begun with John Colter, a member of the famed Lewis and Clark Expedition. As they were returning to St Louis, Missouri from their winter quarters at Ft Clatsop on the south shore at the mouth of the Columbia River, their nearly two year sojourn into the unknown western wilderness close to its end, they arrived in the spring of 1806 at the Mandan Villages near present day Mandan, North Dakota.

There, they encountered two frontiersmen who were traveling to the upper Missouri River to hunt furs, Forest Hancock and Joseph Dickson. Colter approached the captains, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, and asked permission to join Hancock and Dickson as the only man allowed to leave the expedition before its completion. Due to his exemplary service throughout the ordeal, the captains granted his request and thus began two extraordinary years of adventures and wanderings during which, among other accomplishments, Colter “discovered” Jackson Hole in present day Grand Teton National Park and “Colter’s Hell”, commonly believed to be the geysers basin of what now is Yellowstone National Park. In fact, it more likely was an area later referred to as the “Stinkin’ Hole”, a similarly geothermally active region of the Shoshone River just east of Yellowstone Park near today’s Cody, Wyoming.

But Cody’s most well known, some might say misadventure, occurred in 1808 as he and his trapping partner at the time, a man named John Potts (also a Lewis & Clark Expedition veteran), were canoeing up the Jefferson River in what now is southern Montana south of Three Forks, when they encountered a large band of the hostile, notoriously ferocious Blackfoot tribe. The Blackfeet demanded they come ashore. Colter complied and as he did so, was disarmed and stripped of his clothes. But Potter refused and was shot and wounded. Potter returned fire and promptly was dispatched after being riddled with Blackfoot bullets and his body hacked apart.

The Blackfeet then held a council to determine Colter’s fate, after which Colter was summoned and told in Crow to begin running. Thus began a most remarkable sequence of events. Stark naked and realizing he literally was running for his life, pursued by a pack of young braves, each eager to capture the honor of claiming his scalp, after several miles of very fast running (note this, all you marathoners!) Colter, utterly exhausted and nose bleeding profusely, turned his head to see all but a lone brave had dropped far back in the race. The remaining would be assailant soon overcame Colter. What happened next best is described in the immortal 1817 words of John Bradbury, a Scottish botanist who traveled extensively throughout the American West in the early 19th Century:

“Again he turned his head, and saw the savage not twenty yards from him. Determined if possible to avoid the expected blow, he suddenly stopped, turned round, and spread out his arms. The Indian, surprised by the suddenness of the action, and perhaps at the bloody appearance of Colter, also attempted to stop; but exhausted with running, he fell whilst endeavouring (sic) to throw his spear, which stuck in the ground, and broke in his hand. Colter instantly snatched up the pointed part, with which he pinned him to the earth, and then continued his flight.”

Colter also grabbed the unfortunate aspiring hero’s blanket and continued his flight toward ultimate escape and freedom until he reached the Madison River whereupon, with incredible presence of mind, he jumped in, spied a nearby raft of fallen trees caught against the far bank, grabbed one of the reeds growing alongside, then dove and hid beneath the raft, using the hollow reed as a straw through which he could breath as he felt the vibrations of the Blackfoot braves as they scampered to and fro across the raft searching for him the rest of the day (note this, all you snorkelers!).

As night fell, the Blackfeet, believing he had escaped, withdrew to their encampment at the beginning of that improbable foot race many miles away, and Colter cautiously emerged, alive but cold and sore, from his hiding spot and began his long trek across the intervening mountains and plains back to the Missouri River and on to St Louis. Soon after retreating to St Louis, young (but by then considerably aged!) Mr Colter found himself besmitten by a lovely young lass and before long was bound by the bonds of wedded bliss which entrapped him just as surely as his own traps had ensnared unsuspecting beavers in his previous life. Within a few short years of his betrothal and new life as a farmer on nearby land he had purchased with what remained of the proceeds from selling his pelts of fur, John Colter passed into Eternity. It never has been determined whether John’s premature demise was the result of shock caused by the sudden transition from his storied wanderings through uncharted and unknown lands to a life of domesticity or whether the extreme hardships of that strenuous life finally caught up with him and exacted their ultimate toll in the form of his succumbing to an unexpectedly premature expiration.

In truth, the North American fur trade was founded early in the 17th Century (1608) by New World French Canadian settlers who initially were bonded indentured servants who served at their sponsor’s pleasure for a fixed period of time in return for their passage from Europe to North American shores. In effect, they were slaves to their masters until their commitments had been satisfied and their masters were financially astute businessmen. (There actually existed a small number of equally astute businesswomen in French Canada back then who were no less conversant with the riches to be gained by exploiting the high European demand for the vast wealth of fine furs that the Interior was known to produce and leveraging the labor of their indentured “servants”, ie slaves).

These incredibly strong and hardy men (many of the more legendary ones today would be labeled as “Super Men”) bore the back breaking work and long, arduous days of carrying trade goods from Montreal via canoe upon first breakup in the spring to places as far flung as the Northern Canadian Rockies (think Edmonton and Jasper), before returning with hundreds of 90 lb bales of fur at the end of the summer, reaching Montreal just before freezeup. Throughout the extensive lake routes of the Quetico in Southern Ontario and the Boundary Waters in Northern Minnesota, many grueling portages were required in which each man, who generally was of small stature, carried two 90 lb packs on his back for the duration of the portage. Documented instances of some men carrying three such packs exist in the literature of the times and traditional tales speak of at least one 6′ 8″ giant who reputedly once carried seven of those packs.

In practice, few of these Voyageurs, as they generically have been known through the ages, made the entire journey from Montreal to their cargo’s destination, and those who did wintered there. Before long, that custom spread to include some who chose to brave the demanding winters of the intermediate country. (Temperatures at Minnesota’s Lake of the Woods weather station occasionally have been known to plunge to -60âÂ�Â� comparable to today’s deep freezes at Fairbanks, Alaska at the bottom of the Cheena River Basin, where the average temperatures have warmed measurably over the past several decades). The standard practice was to break the journey in half, with the western and eastern crews meeting to exchange hundreds of tons of cargo at the annual rendezvous in Grand Portage on the shore of a small bay on the north side of Lake Superior in the far corner of Northeast Minnesota. Those who chose to withstand the harsh rigors of Canada’s Interior winters were referred to as hommes du nord (northern men) or hivernants (winterers). They often took native wives, had children and raised families with them, in the process spawning an historically underprivileged, unrecognized class of citizens called Metìs who tended to congregate in their own small settlements along Manitoba’s Red River. They eventually were destined to play a significant role in expanding the western fur trade south to the Louisiana Territory of the United States.

The eastern crews were called mangeurs de lard (pork eaters) because their diets consisted primarily of salted pork, which was produced in Montreal and provided to them by their masters. The western crews tended to rely mostly on pemmican, the drawn and dried meat of fresh game that initially also came from Montreal but as the trade matured, began to be manufactured In Grand Portage for distribution to the western crews. The rendezvous served a dual purpose – providing at the same time a venue for the formal exchange of cargoes and the occasion for a couple days of raucous, bawdy debauchery before resuming the arduous treks of the oppositely departing canoe fleets powered by the once again sober Voyageurs.

In 1670, the King of France granted an exclusive royal charter for the North American fur trade to the Hudson’s Bay Company. Over the next twenty years, policies changed and restrictions eased, allowing the formation of its new arch rival, the North West Company. The two companies engaged in a vicious, cut throat competition for men, resources and native alliances to lock down their sources of furs since, unlike the later American Mountain Men, the Voyageurs rarely engaged in the practice of hunting and trapping themselves, preferring to leave that task to the native peoples they encountered and to barter with the natives for their furs. The appearance of the Hudson’s Bay Company on the scene in 1770 imposed organization and structure upon an industry which until then mainly had been composed of a relatively informal, loose confederation of individual masters and their indentured servants. With the advent of the severe competition heralded by the rise of the North West Company, all semblance of independent fur operations was extinguished and the two companies battled it out until the toll grew so great after twenty years of fighting and stealing each other’s resources, they finally were forced to merge in 1821.

The merger also signaled the end of the Voyageur as a generic waterborne adventurer. In reality, these men actually formed a ranked class of specialized adventurers. Voyageurs occupied the highest pecking order and specifically were employees of the combined HBC/NWC venture who possessed the highly prized skills and physical abilities of traditional Voyageurs. As such, they rarely strayed far from their water craft and routes. The original, independent (after satisfying any prior indenture obligations) Voyageurs became known as coureur des bois who generally traveled about New France unimpeded and at will. Their numbers diminished as HBC/NWC business flourished. Finally, there were the engagés, roughly common laborers accustomed to outdoor living and skilled in frontier craft who put themselves at the disposal of whomever needed their services to do whatever was asked of them.

The birth and subsequent growth of the American West Fur Trade followed quite a different path. Its nascent beginnings, certainly when formalized organization and structure are considered, can be found in the establishment, under the consent of Thomas Jefferson, then US President, of John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company in the spring of 1808, even before the triumphant return to St Louis of the pioneering Lewis & Clark Corps of Discovery Expedition. and it was a trader named Manual Lisa who, in that same spring of 1808, fostered the fateful encounter of John Colter with two of his men, Forest Hancock and Joseph Dickson, on his way upriver to establish the first American trading post west of the Mississippi River at the mouth of the fabled Yellowstone River where it empties into the Missouri near what now is Williston, North Dakota.

In 1810, Astor mounted an overland expedition to Fort Astoria, which he founded in 1811 with a group of men he had sent around Cape Horn on the American merchant ship Tonquin to compete against the NWC interior posts. By 1813 he had enough and, alarmed by the unexpected appearance of the British warship HMS Racoon during the War of 1812, in 1813 agreed to sell his Astoria assets to NWC, which renamed the outpost Fort George.

The following years were up and down for Astor’s American Fur Company until 1822, when William Henry Ashely, in partnership with Andrew Henry, formed the very successful Rocky Mountain Fur, Inc to compete with Astor’s AFC. The intense competition which followed paralleled in ferocity, though later in time, that of the earlier HBC/NWC contest for power in the fur trade. The discipline it imposed on the up to that time fiercely independent streak of American Mountain Men resulted in a system of scheduled rendezvous’s at specified places and times each summer, when trappers who wintered in the remote wilderness, both independently and under the direct employment of one of the two companies harvesting furs would meet at the appointed time and place to exchange their furs for the next year’s supplies they required to see them through the winter.

The annual supply train of pack mules which returned after each rendezvous was organized every spring in St Louis by a famous Great Plains trader named Bill Sublette and his four brothers. The timing was intricate for its day, as that entire distance had to be traveled at a pace carefully calculated to arrive at the agreed time and place of that year’s rendezvous. As they began to pour in from every corner of Americas vast western wilderness, The Mountain Men would dispatch riders to the east until they spotted the distant dust cloud of Sublette’s slowly approaching mule train, upon which they would wheel the mounts around and make a headlong dash for a camp desperate to hear the first sounds of whooping and hollering “He’s almost here, he’s almost here!” For in addition to the multiple grains and various tools of the trade they would need, plus the varied assortments of gadgets which each Mountain Man chose to fill his “possibles pouch” and vital gunpowder, musket balls and beaver traps, Bill was known to pack prodigious quantities of whiskey of which no canister ever was known to leave the rendezvous with so much as a drop of fire water left in it, meaning the next fifty weeks would be dry as a bone teetotaling weeks for the Mountain Men.

The result was a colorfully raucous, bawdy, brawling event which consistently exceeded even the exaggerated standards of the infamous Voyageurs’ Grand Portage rendezvous’s. The rendezvous’s usually were held in locations convenient to Sublette traversing South Pass, the great, relatively easy passage across the Continental Divide at the southern end of Wyoming’s rugged Wind River Range which later facilitated the passage of most of the West’s pioneer wagon trains first to Oregon, then to California, beginning in earnest in 1840. Places like Ham’s Fork on the Green River running through the valley on the west side of the Wind Rivers, or Bear Lake in Utah.

Many of the Mountain Men who were the American version of the French Canadian hivernants, like their counterparts took native wives and raised families with them, often holing up in remote Native villages while trapping streams in the vicinity and moving with them as they migrated whenever conditions demanded. They typically would bring their spouses with them to the rendezvous’s, then carry on as they rowdily pleased. The rendezvous’s frequently also were attended by many braves, warriors and young, unattached native maidens, the maidens mostly for the beads and trinkets they knew Sublette to pack along, the braves and warriors mostly for the whiskey and games of strength and agility which characterized those gatherings. For the most part, enmities were sidelined for the duration of those celebrations, but not always. There is a little known term of the Old West called “Up to the Green River”. Legend has it that this term was coined during an incident, possibly at a Ham’s Fork rendezvous. Green River knives were highly prized, heavily sought Sublette specialties for their unusual sharpness and toughness. The story goes that one night, after draining the contents of a jug of “Green River Whiskey” (ie whiskey that Sublette, seeking more profitable returns, often watered down with Green River water before selling it to the trappers), two trappers who supposedly were not on the friendliest of terms outside of rendezvous, became quarrelsome and one stuck his Green River knife into the other up to its hilt, killing him instantly. Such drunken violence hardly being uncommon among those gatherings, the term “Up to the Green River” stuck.

There exists evidence that, even prior to the Lewis and Clark Expedition, Metìs traders had blazed trails south from Canada into the United States, initially following the Red River south as it ran along the border between present day Minnesota and North Dakota to its source at the confluence of the Bois de Sioux and Otter Tail rivers between Minnesota and North Dakota. There is some indication that they may have made it as far as the Yellowstone and Teton areas of Wyoming’s northwest corner and possibly over Teton Pass at the southern end of the Teton Range into Idaho’s Snake River Valley. The latter claim appears to be based primarily on speculation that the Grant Teton derives its name, at least in part, from the striking resemblance of its skyline to an exceptionally well endowed woman’s breast, or “teton” in colloquial French, when viewed from the west.

Out of this unique period of American history emerged some of the larger than life figures of uniquely American legend and mythology. Men like Jim Bridger, universally considered by his peers of that special time and place to be the Ultimate Mountain Man among many truly great mountain men. Kit Carson, Joe Meeker, Mike Fink, Hugh Glass, Jed Smith, California Joe Walker, Tom “Broken Hand” Fitzpatrick, “Old” Bill Williams, Jim Beckwourth (who, it might be noted, was unique as being part Cherokee and part African American) to name but a few. Let’s have a look look at one of their most outstanding leaders.

Jedediah Strong Smith was born to Jed Smith and Sally Strong in 1798, one of the foremost of the mountain men of his era. Known as a fearsome but strict God fearing, teetotaling exception to the otherwise universal code of mountain men, Jed was as widely respected as he was feared. He usually was depicted as riding through the wilds toting a bible in one hand and his musket in the other, equally ready to employ either as the situation demanded. Rough and tumble trappers quickly learned to mind their tongues when in Jed’s presence.

In early August of 1826, Smith and a party of fifteen trappers departed the second rendezvous at Bear Lake in the corner junction of North Central Utah with Southeast Idaho, bent upon finding a route around the forbidding Sierra Nevada Range between California and Nevada to what at the time was known as Spanish Alta California. Traversing through present day Utah and Nevada, they eventually found their way to a crossing of the Colorado River between Southern California and Central Arizona. Fording it, they sheltered and recuperated for a couple days in a friendly Mojave village near what today is Needles, CA, before being guided across the Mojave Desert via the Mojave Trail by two errant mission deserters. Upon reaching the San Bernardino Valley, Smith and his interpreter left for the local mission, whereupon he presented himself to its padre. The next day the rest of Smith’s men arrived, at which point all of their weapons were confiscated by the garrison. Smith soon was summoned to present himself before the Governor of Alta California in San Diego who expressed alarm at his unauthorized entry to the Spanish Territories and ordered his detention while demanding that Smith remand his map and journal. Smith responded by asking permission to travel north along the coast to the Columbia River, where there was an established outpost and access to a well known route back to the United States Territories. The Governor replied, ordering Smith and his party to leave California the same way they had come while giving ground in allowing them to purchase the necessary supplies for their return to American held lands.

In early 1827 Smith finally obtained his exit visa, but upon clearing the settlements he turned north, exploring and trapping his way up California’s San Joaquin Valley as far as the American River, which joined the Sacramento River near present day Sacramento. Upon reaching it, his party attempted to find a route across the Sierra Nevada by following its canyon upstream but was forced back. Realizing it was too late in the year to make it to the Columbia River, Smith led his party pack to the Stanislaus River, where they established a winter encampment. Smith then picked two men an forced a difficult crossing of the Sierra Nevada Range, eventually descending to the vicinity of present day Walker Lake from which they took the quickest possible route to make the third Rendezvous at Bear Lake. After a terrifying crossing of the Great Basin Desert during which they nearly expired from dehydration under the merciless sun of an early summer onset, they made Bear Lake in early July just as rendezvous was beginning. Long given up as hopelessly lost in their meanderings or dead by then, the men were overjoyed at the apparition of the three trappers and explorers which had unexpectedly descended upon them and greeted them with cannon fire.

Smith immediately left with eighteen men and two French Canadian women, traveling the same route as the previous year in order to pick up the men he had left behind. This time, however, the Mojave had turned hostile after a clash with Taos trappers and a firefight ensued when Smith attempted to cross the river during the course of which ten of Smith’s men were killed, one was badly wounded and the two women were captured. The eight surviving men retreated and crossed the Mojave desert on foot before reaching the San Bernardino Valley, where they were well received. Smith then proceeded up the San Joaquin Valley until he found his previous year’s group and together they traveled to Mission San Jose, where they were received with reserve and suspicion, before proceeding to Yerba Buena (now San Francisco) and finally Monterey, then the capital of Alta California where the Governor happened to be residing at the time.

The Governor again arrested Smith, together with his men, and held them until several English speaking residents vouched for him, whereupon they were released and again ordered immediately to leave Alta California by the most expeditious route possible. Once again out of sight, Smith and his party instead lingered around the Sacramento Valley trapping and hunting for several months. Upon reaching its head, after scouting it they determined the northeast route afforded by the Pit River was impassable, so they struck northwest toward the Pacific coast, renewing their commitment to find a way to the Columbia River for their salvation and along the way became the first men to cross into Oregon Territory along the coastal route, reach the Columbia River and return to the Rocky Mountains.

Under the Treaty of 1818, Oregon Country was under joint British and American occupation. Smith and his men soon encountered the Umpqua Tribe which was wary of their presence. When one of them stole an ax from Smith’s party, he and his men treated them quite harshly in order to force its return. In mid July, on a night when Smith had taken two men to scout a trail leading north the group left behind was attacked while encamped on the banks of the Umpqua. At the end of the first week in August, one of them showed up at Fort Vancouver on the mouth of the Columbia badly wounded and in tatters. He reported to the Factor that he believed himself to be the sole survivor but did not know the fate of Smith and his two men. Two days later, they also showed up, reporting that having become aware of the attack, had returned, climbed a nearby hill and witnessed it. A relief expedition was organized and dispatched to the scene but all were found dead and decomposing, and were buried on the spot. Smith remained at Fort Vancouver until 1829, during which time the Factor, Dr. John McLoughlin, treated the survivors, replenished their supplies in exchange for the furs that were retrieved from the massacre site and restored their health to where they were fit for the long journey back to Bear Lake, which they completed without incident.

Smith returned to St Louis in 1830 and decided to abandon the northern fur trade, which already had begun to taper off due to a combination of beaver depletion caused by heavy over trapping and a slackening demand for beaver fur caused by fashion changes in Europe that spread to North America, and try his hand at the Santa Fe and Taos trade. In late May of 1831, Smith was traveling with a supply train to trade in Santa Fe when he left the train to scout for water and never returned. The train continued, believing Smith would catch up with them. He never did. After reaching Santa Fe, they encountered a comanchero who was in possession of Smith’s personal belongings. Upon interrogation, the comanchero confessed that Smith had encountered a band of Comanche warriors and after being surrounded, he attempted to negotiate with them and talk his way out of it unsuccessfully. The Comanches then attacked Smith and dispatched him, but not before he had killed their chief. It was an ignominious end for such a bold and courageous trail blazer.

The Pierre’s Hole (in Southeast Idaho jest west of the Tetons) Rendezvous of 1832 widely is regarded as having marked the pinnacle of the American West fur trade era. As previously noted, already the fur trade was beginning to taper off. By 1838, the last great rendezvous was held near present day Riverton, Wyoming. In 1840 the first outliers of the Oregon Migration appeared at Jim Bridger’s Fort Bridger near today’s Laramie, Wyoming and most of the active Mountain Men by then had read the inevitable handwriting on the wall. One by one, they abandoned the free wheeling Trapper’s life which they so long had led and hired their badly needed skills, knowledge and services to the hordes of greenhorns bent upon crossing the vast barren wastelands between South Pass after traversing the formidable Great Plains for the lush Willamette Valley with its fantastic soil of Oregon Territory before the onset of the winter snows.

In 1837, a talented young American artist named Alfred Jacob Miller, while visiting New Orleans, attached himself to the exploring/sporting expedition of the Scottish Nobleman, Sir William Drummond Stewart, who had hired Miller to accompany his expedition to the Rocky Mountains as his official artist, charged with creating accurate renditions of everything they encountered along the way. Together with the German artist Karl Bodmer, who preceded Miller while accompanying the German Prince Maximilian’s exploratory expedition to the Upper Missouri during 1832-1834, they are the only two artists known to have competently depicted the daily activities and environments of the various Plains tribes before massive corruption was introduced by fulfillment of America’s Manifest Destiny doctrine.

Of the two, Bodmer only made it within eyesight beyond the horizon of the peaks of the “Shining Mountains”, as the easternmost chain of Montana’s Northern Rockies was known to its early penetrants. Miller, in contrast, penetrated the Rockies, enough so to attend and record the 1837 Green River (Siskeedee-Agie) Rendezvous near present day Daniel, Wyoming. While both left priceless sketches and paintings of great historical interest to the American Fur Trade Era, Miller’s were more accurate, detailed and better defined. Furthermore, Miller’s are the only on the scene recordings we have of Mountain Men in action. In 1838, he returned with Stewart, paintings and sketches in hand, to Stewart’s Scottish estate, Murthy Castle, where Stewart took possession of Miller’s precious recordings and stored them there. They never were heard of again until shortly after Word War II ended, when they were discovered hidden in a Dutch attic to keep them from the plundering hands of their Nazi conquerors. Returned to the United States, most now are preserved in a carefully controlled environment of the Smithsonian where they remain as one of our greatest American treasures.

This, then, is a brief history of the backdrop against which modern cooking and eating practices can be assessed. Replacing the black kettles, iron skillets, fresh shoot skewers and open camp fires that characterized the earliest explorers’ and entrepreneurs’ outdoor kitchens which traveled wherever they wandered and were set up whenever conditions permitted are today’s marvels of high tech home kitchens featuring electric grinders, choppers, slicers, graters, blenders, grillers, deep fryers, pressure cookers, food warmers, casserole pots, broilers, convection ovens, griddles, frying pans, microwave ovens, coffee/espresso/latte makers, bottle coolers, ice makers, refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, garbage disposals, trash compactors, and yes, even home breweries.

In the coming weeks we’ll begin discussions of these, dissecting their various uses and capabilities plus throw in some novel recipe ideas as well via our blog series. We’ll transform the art of cooking from a necessary chore into an exciting and enjoyable hobby with everyone’s participation.

After a Car Accident, What Do I Do About Medical Bills?

Car Insurance

The first thing to know is that everyone needs to have car insurance. The law requires it in all states except for Wisconsin, New Hampshire, and Florida. Despite the fact that you are not required to have insurance you will wish you did if you are involved in a car accident because with all the costs associated to an accident you can very easily go broke or amass debt. Different states have different rules regarding car insurance. States such as Minnesota, North Dakota, Michigan, Florida and New York are “No-Fault” insurance states. This means that drivers are covered by their own insurance no matter who is at-fault for an accident. Because of this a Personal Injury Protection (PIP) policy is required in these states to cover medical expenses for drivers regardless of who is at fault for an accident.

Who Is Covered?

Generally speaking, car insurance covers the owner of the policy and any trouble they would get into in a car they are driving. It will cover you and your car when you are driving. It generally will cover you and cover the vehicle if you are driving a car that you do not own, but that you have permission to be driving. This may include a rental car or a car you borrow from a friend or family member. If you are a passenger in a vehicle that is in an accident you should be covered by your own insurance in a no-fault state. If you are in an at fault state then the at-fault driver’s insurance will have to pay any medical bills you incur. If you are a passenger in a vehicle involved in an accident then you might also be covered by the insurance of the person whose vehicle you were riding in. If you live in an at-fault state when an accident occurs the insurance for the at-fault driver is responsible for covering costs to both drivers. If you want to add another person to your insurance policy you need to speak to your insurance company about getting them coverage and your rates will increase.

Keep Track of Medical Bills

You will want to keep track of your medical bills and inform your insurance company as soon as possible. In no-fault states your insurance company is required to pay your medical bills. Insurance companies have to pay for any treatment that your doctor says is necessary. If insurance companies aren’t kept up to date on treatments they may try not to pay for them. Therefore it is highly important to keep your insurance company updated on your medical treatment as quickly and as accurately as possible. An insurance company may dispute the validity of a treatment and require you visit their doctor to confirm that the treatment is necessary. Based on the examination they may continue or deny further medical coverage. If your insurance company denies you coverage you need to consult a personal injury attorney as soon as possible to make sure that the insurance company pays your medical costs and that you aren’t stuck paying them out of pocket.

Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney

Following an auto accident insurance companies may hesitate to pay medical costs, if they deny you coverage and you live an a no-fault insurance state, or have a policy with PIP, you should not hesitate to contact an experienced personal injury attorney right away. They will deal with the insurance companies, medical professionals, hospitals and billing agencies to help defer payments until they can settle with the insurance company. This assures that you will have your medical bills covered and that you will be able to pay them in a timely fashion. If you have been in a car accident and have medical bills that need to be covered it can be very beneficial to hire an experienced and dedicated personal injury attorney.

Microgrids, Solar, Fuel Cells and Achieving Energy Independence

Comedian George Wallace often starts a joke with the line, “I be thinking.”

I use the reference for two reasons. First, I saw Wallace in Vegas recently and second, because I’d been thinking about teaming solar with fuel cells to create power producers on a small scale via energy independent homes, commercial buildings and industrial scale operations.

The conclusion? The merger is possible. But more importantly, the query introduced me to the concept of microgrids and the Galvin Electricity Initiative.

I’d posed the question of fuel cell-solar viability to Al Weinrub, who penned the report, “Community Power: Decentralized Renewable Energy in California.” Weinrub, coordinator of the San Francisco Bay Area Local Clean Energy Alliance, said quite a few people have been thinking in the direction of microgrids, which he defined as “islands of self-sufficient energy producers that are independent of the grid or possibly networked into the grid.”

And he said the group includes folks who want to create net-zero communities not dependent on the grid. He introduced me to the Galvin Electricity Initiative, founded by former Motorola Chairman and CEO Robert Galvin. The initiative addresses a revamped utility system incorporating microelectrity production. Galvin’s proposal is meant to be a catalyst for transforming America’s electric grid to “ways that are profoundly beneficial to consumers, the environment and the economy.”

“In these models, fuel cells can play a role, but there is little reason to go to fossil-based fuel cells,” Weinrub said. “That would only prolong the use of fossil fuels.”

He compared it to combined heat and power technology, “where ultimately it makes sense only if the source of heat is renewable fuel.”

I believe Weinrub’s response is perfect and gives me perspective on fuel cells, which can be fueled with natural gas.

I’m a little awash in oil with my Alaska background so petroleum taints my world view.

It was big news up north when the cat train went up to Prudhoe Bay for the first time in the winter of 1968, followed by a collective “Holy (moly), there’s work and they’re paying $24 an hour” from the hundreds of un- or underemployed in the Alaska Interior. I was 10 in ’71 but eventually worked in the oil patch one summer in Bismark, N.D. building concrete weights for a 48-inch diameter pipeline.

So I’m somewhat impressed by North Dakota’s current performance in petroleum exports. Steve Everly of the Kansas City Star writes, “Perhaps within a year the state is expected to supply more oil for domestic use than the 1.1 million barrels a day that Saudi Arabia now exports to the United States.”

Likewise, I’m intrigued by the Canada tar sands pipeline.

Bill McKibben would yell at me. I know, I know. But my perspective is a little old-fashioned. We used wood heat for six years back in very rural Fairbanks in the early 1970s during mom’s Last Whole Earth Catalog phase. Eighteen cords a season is a lot to cut and split, believe me. I was disgusted by coal on a personal level as sub-bituminous sends dust everywhere and creates a haze in your house. But rich people had propane tanks. And I still marvel at running water. Melting snow is a pain and rainwater gets mosquito infested quick — although the Aussies have perfected those systems.

I ramble, but I guess I’m using this navel gazing to understand the feelings of my generation. It’s tough to move on from burning whatever we could get our hands on.

At some point, solar panels on newly constructed homes will be commonplace. But I agree with multiple studies that call for added government support for renewables as right now, a 19.5-year return on investment is hard to justify by homeowners like myself. Although my co-worker just plunked down about $30,000 for a solar system on his home.

I was fascinated by Asher Miller’s video “Who killed economic growth?” In it Miller, executive director of the Post Carbon Institute, says we’ve been seduced by cheap energy and the concept that constant growth fueled by industrialization is the way it should be. His contention is there are limits we’ve been ignoring and that change is coming to a screen near you quite soon.

People like Weinrub, Miller and McKibben are the visionaries who will prod at least a percentage of us in the right direction, and hopefully we’ll be able to guide movement toward something that enables us to see the Sierra on a non-rainy day. Running in Valley air is really pretty nasty.

Right now I’m doing my best to help. I’m working on guiding the 39 cities and counties to install energy saving projects. I administer stimulus energy efficiency grants, and it’s been a long haul from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in February 2009. The retrofit projects are lighting, pumps, ACs and other stuff, but all are big on energy savings. I’ll be done on most of them by March.

Many of these cities want to install solar, so in my free time I’m trying to find out ways to do that cheaply. Their big expenses (most of these communities are rather small) are pumping for water and waste water. For instance, Pump No. 8 in one Merced County town runs 24 hours a day during the hot season and costs upwards of $58,000 per month.

Such spiraling costs create incentive as does California’s requirement that energy suppliers provide a third of their electricity through renewables by 2020.

Maybe a San Joaquin Valley city will go net-zero. Progressive Firebaugh, perhaps? Santa Monica is pushing in that direction. Cities in Norway and Germany reportedly have reached the threshold.

We’ll see how it works out.

Timeless and Fashionable Beauty Trends for the New Year

It’s official, glam is global. We’ve uncovered some timeless classics and the hottest trends, with influences that span the world. Pack your shopping bags this winter and beat the crowd to next year’s hottest items.

Eastern European Flash – Do as the Russians do and show off a little. It’s time to feel rich and beautiful. High heels, long hair and unapologetic brand loyalty are all you see on the Moscow streets. Think Italy in the 1980’s, and add a little more fur. Gold, silver, leather and satin – this is no time to be shy. Pull out that designer bag you’ve been hiding and pair it with your very best cocktail dress and all the gold you can find.

English Floral – Pin it up and press your seams, English florals are back with a pretty, precise vengeance. Think of a garden party, with white gloves, pearls and windblown curls. The modern, conservative summer look has swept through the fashion industry with sweet florals gracing the runways of several top designers. Those girlish summer dresses are back in fashion, along with your twinset, grandma’s vintage jewelry, cardigans and crocheted scarves.

Indian Slippers – Timeless, inexpensive and chic, you can wear a pair of Indian slippers with nearly anything – your jeans, your weekday suit or your sleek Sunday dress. Heeled or flat, in a rainbow of colors you are sure to find a pair that suits your mood. This princess-perfect look has been happening for thousands of years, and it shows no signs of stopping. Pretty is pretty, no matter what century this is.

Chinese Silk – Robes, dresses, blouses or shoes, Chinese silk is a masterful, rich statement that evolves and tantalizes year to year. There is more to Chinese silk than mandarin collars and peacock prints – think about luscious, rich silk trousers and skirts with a luster and quality that can rival any couture house in the world.

Canadian Winter Wear – Easily the coziest country to imitate. Throw on your flannel shirt, grab a pair of woolly socks and jump under that fleece blanket. Lumberjack plaids and heavy knit sweaters are the mainstay of winter-wise Canadians and should be added to any chic-seekers list for winter. North Dakota is part of Canada right?

How To Hire The Best Sign Company Out There?

A business sign is the immediate identity of your company. It helps create instant awareness about your store and builds up a steady clientele. Choosing the right company to handle your business signs is a crucial task. It is of paramount importance to ensure that a sign company has everything that it takes to create and manufacture signs that will boost your business further.

Choosing the best company can be a daunting task if you don’t know where to start. This article will help you decide the best signage manufacturers in your area. If you are in the process of hunting the most deserving company, try to consider the following:

1. Manpower and Staffing

If you want an indoor or outdoor signage for your new store, you want it to be there the moment you open your business or else it is of no use. Thus, make sure that the company you’re choosing has enough staff to handle the job on time. Besides this, you also need to take a look at their skills and qualifications. Select a company with competent layout artists and graphics designers that will turn your vision for the best sign into reality.

2. Sophisticated Equipment

Monument signs speak a great deal about your business. To ensure that your business sign will be made with the highest quality, assess the facilities and equipment of the sign design company. Old fashioned printers and manual fabrication will not be enough for intricate details of your signage. Companies that use cutting edge technologies in signage making have the edge as they have more flexibility in accepting business signs regardless of materials and layouts.

3. Installation Services

For a holistic service, choose a sign company with the capability to install your brand signage anytime, anywhere. It is recommended to select a firm that offers installation services to avoid spending additional money for installing the signs. Attempting to do-it-yourself is not recommended as any damage to the signage can void its warranty.

4. Check Previous Sign Projects

It pays off to check finished products previously done by the signage company for other clients. Should you feel that the product is not up to par with your standards, continue doing your hunt until you have found the company that suits your taste to get the job done well.

Never allow a second-rate signage represent your business. To ensure that you are not taken advantage of by scam signage companies, make it a habit of taking these tips into consideration in searching for the best manufacturer in your area.

Go on a Shopping Spree in Kansas City

If you are a shopaholic, Kansas City is surely going to be a paradise for you. Kansas City is known to be loved by shoppers from around the world since the city has a unique collection of various kinds of arts and crafts, jewellery, designer collections, apparels and footwear. The first outdoor shopping mall in the US was started here and that was just a beginning of the shopping revolution. Kansas City stores are filled with varied collections for different tastes. They have numerous items that you would love to take back home as souvenirs and if you are fond of collecting world arts, this city will truly amaze you.

Where to Shop

Kansas City shopping is filled with options for every shopaholic. You can go to local boutiques, beautiful shops, departmental stores, promotional stores, discount outlets and vintage stores that offer you a traditional shopping experience. If you want to spend a day understanding the shopping culture of this locality, you must visit The Country Club Plaza. It is the entertainment hub of the city and has everything you need to shop till you drop.

From designer labels, to local favourites, awesome accessories to fashionable apparels, you will find everything you need. With over 170 shops in this huge shopping plaza, it is no surprise that this is the most loved shopping destination here.

Few other places that offer an impeccable shopping experiences include the Oak Park mall, Zona Rosa, One Nineteen Leawood, Legends Outlets, Town Centre Plaza and many more.

Availing Discounts while Shopping

If you are a shopaholic, you will surely spend more money on shopping than you should. If you want to indulge in crazy shopping, Kansas City has a variety of discount stores where you can shop at affordable prices and take home much more in a small price. The Legends Outlets in Kansas City is a renowned discount shopping destination where you can get brands like Gap, Banana Republic, Ann Taylor and many more at reduced prices.

Feed your Mind, Body and Soul

Kansas City also has a number of malls that are all-inclusive. You can spend a complete day in the mall with shopping, indulging on delicious food, pampering yourself with spas and massages and enjoying a movie as well. With so many fun-filled activities along with shopping, it is truly going to be a day filled with happiness!

Shopping here is a complete experience filled with fashion, style, design, affordability and innovation. You will take home not just many shopping bags, but also a bag full of delightful memories.

Regaining Top Shape – The Benefits of a Tummy Tuck

Sometimes, no matter how much work you put into exercising, results just aren’t showing up in the intended fashion. This can become especially true for those who are a bit older, where fat deposits tend to find a solid resting place in the abdominal area. While this sort of trouble can impact both men and women, women who have undergone pregnancies are more likely to be experiencing the true frustration that comes along with wanting to lose weight, but feeling out of control when it comes to being able to actually make it work.

The good news is that there are a few different ways to get the help needed that will make diet and exercise seem to have a greater impact. One of the most common procedures in plastic surgery these days is actually a tummy tuck, which makes it possible to remove that excess fat. In addition to getting rid of the source of the problem, a tummy tuck can actually stretch the skin in a manner where there is less of a risk of experiencing any sort of drooping or sagging. This means that weight loss won’t have the unfortunate side effect of the appearance of extra skin, which can cause both men and women to think twice about sporting bare midriffs at the beach.

Whether you’re living in San Diego or Kansas City, a tummy tuck can do wonders towards improving self-confidence and making shopping for clothing easier. Since the look of a “beer gut” or chubby belly isn’t exactly what those on the dating scene might be looking for, despite what people tend to say about being open-minded, deciding to undergo the procedure can suddenly make it considerably easier to get out there and meet the right person. For women who are happily married but whose bodies are showing the wear of childbirth, the decision to get a tummy tuck can be to feel sexy again. After all of the strain of pregnancy, any woman who feels as though something as simple as a tummy tuck could reignite the flames of passion is more than justified in the decision to do something that boosts self-confidence.

It is important, when considering a tummy tuck, to remember that if there is more weight loss in the future, waiting on the procedure might be a better idea. This way, the final results will last longer and have more of an impact. Anyone else who is convinced that this is the right step on the path to a happier relationship with one’s body will find that a tummy tuck is definitely a helpful way to get things moving in the right direction.

Types of Storage Services

There are several types of storage services at Kansas City self-storage. When we say ‘types’, we not only point at the different types of services offered by a facility but also the different types of facilities that exist in this industry. The concept of storing has undergone several changes and up gradation.

It has seen remarkable improvement that is in the favor of end users. Though the shift has been gradual, there still exist the old-fashioned units. Whether it is a modern day unit or a traditional one, self storage has several advantages. Here, we shall discuss the importance and the shift in this industry from a simple storing facility to a technologically advanced facility.

Advantages Of Kansas City Self-Storage Services

Basic unit – As the name suggests, the basic unit provides limited facilities. These units may not have technologically advanced services or adopt fancy measures for enhancing the customer’s experience. They simply provide a facility for storing your belongings and their objective is very clear. They know the purpose of the facility and offer simple storing solutions. The unit may not offer privacy or confidentiality. The owner can access your unit or shift your belongings if the need arises. The unit is maintained with a simple lock and key system.

This method of storing may not have state of the art services but has one major advantage, i.e. low rental. The monthly rental charges at such Kansas City self-storage is a small amount. The facility provider can offer lower rates because there aren’t any overhead costs involved. The units are not fancy. They are not staffed well and do not have special security measures. They may not offer protection from theft or natural calamities etc. These are some of the disadvantages of a storage unit. Therefore, if you are looking for a unit to store your not so important or valuable items then an old-fashioned basic unit is good enough.

Advanced unit – As compared to the basic unit, an advanced Kansas City self-storage unit will have several facilities. For instance, it will be equipped with armed security guards, alarm systems, CCTV cameras, bio-metric card system etc. The unit will be staffed well and offer additional customer service through phone and internet. It will be accessible throughout the day or night unlike the basic unit that can be accessed only for few hours during the day. However, all these facilities will come at a premium cost; you have to pay a higher rental for such services.

State of the art unit – The advanced units have gone one-step ahead and offer technologically advanced services. There are several such state of the art facilities at Kansas City self-storage. For instance, the climate-controlled technology is a giant leap in this industry. Temperature controlled units will maintain an optimal temperature inside the unit to safeguard your belongings from humidity or weather damage. In fact, some of them will pump in dry air at regular intervals to ensure that the unit is free of humidity. Indeed, this industry has seen a lot of innovation and development.

Top 10 Fashion Designers on Earth

The fashion world is driven by some of the most inspiring and creative designers whose designs have been appreciated by all and sundry. Check out the top 10 fashion designers in the world, who have given a new dimension to the world of fashion.

Marc Jacobs

A top-notch American fashion designer, Marc is the head designer of famous brands Marc Jacobs and Marc by Marc Jacobs. Previously, he was the creative director of French design house Louis Vuitton and his designs turned Louis Vuitton into a fashion powerhouse from a luggage firm.

Kate Spade

If you love handbags, then Kate Spade is definitely your best friend. Born in Kansas, Kate started her journey in the fashion world by designing handbags and co-founded Kate Spade Handbags along with Joel Franklin in 1993. In 1996, she was awarded America’s New Fashion Talent in Accessories, for her designs by the Council of Fashion Designers of America.

Tom Ford

Tom Ford is not just a fashion designer, but also a movie director. Tom gained prominence after turning the fortunes of Gucci from near bankruptcy. After leaving Gucci, he launched his line of menswear, eye-wear and other accessories.

Donatella Versace

A noted Italian fashion designer, Donatella took the Versace Group to new heights after the death of her brother Gianni Versace. Donatella ensured that Versace has its presence in major fashion centers around the world. Presently, she is the Vice-President as well the chief designer of the Versace Group.

Valentino Garavani

Valentino started his career in 1959 when he established his own fashion house in Rome. Valentino became famous for designing dresses for Jacqueline Kennedy and since then he has designed clothes for many famous and powerful people.

Ralph Lauren

A legendary fashion designer, Ralph is best known for the Polo Ralph Lauren clothing brand. He is credited for inventing the first polo style logo for women’s suit that was designed around the men’s classic style. This became a rage and he is one of the first fashion designers to formulate the short sleeve shirt with the polo emblem.

Giorgio Armani

Giorgio has been in the fashion world for over four decades and he is known for his clean, tailored lines. He began his career as a window dresser and later shifted his focus to menswear. Giorgio is also known for his marketing skills in the fashion world.

Betsey Johnson

A famous American designer, Betsey is known for her feminine and whimsical designs. She designed her first line of clothes way back in 1970 and they became hugely popular among rock and roll musicians. She has also forayed into designing bags, accessories and scarves.

Karl Lagerfeld

Karl is a renowned German fashion designer, whose trademark high starched collars, black glasses and white hair make him easily recognizable in the world of fashion. Karl is also a well-known artist and photographer.

Jean Paul Gaultier

A famous French fashion designer, Jean served as the creative director of Hermès from 2003 to 2010. Apart from owning several labels, Jean has also licensed a line of perfumes in association with Puig.

Kansas Vital Records Can Replace Your Family’s Important Information

It’s not uncommon to experience a family tragedy and you lose much of your life’s belongings. Along with the loss of clothes, pictures, and furniture, documents like birth certificates or marriage licenses could be destroyed. Sometimes this information is kept in a safe, but not everyone is fortunate to have one in their home. This is why Kansas vital records is the place to go if you need information on your immediate family.

Only immediate family members can retrieve information like birth, death, marriage and divorce records. This protects the information from being used in an unlawful fashion and from people taking on new identities. Most of the records can be found at the state’s Department of Vital Statistics in Topeka, with records being kept up to 1911. The county clerk of courts may have information prior to this, so it’s worth a visit.

Another place to search for information prior to 1911 is the Kansas Historical Society and much of this is available to the public. However, if you’re in need of a new birth certificate, make sure you have all information in order proving your identity. The fastest way would be to visit the office in Topeka, but make sure you come prepared. A visit to their webpage or a quick phone call prior to coming may be helpful. If you request something via mail, it can take up to three days for a reply.

* Walk-ins are acceptable and you may only have to wait 20 minutes.
* Kansas Historical Society is open to the public.

* Only immediate family members can get information.
* Information from another state wouldn’t be available.

Don’t despair if vital documents are lost or destroyed in a tragedy, the Kansas vital records will be available to assist your family.