Thursday, June 28, 2018

Days 8 and 9...

Days 8 and 9...  We left our lodging in Brunswick before 9 am, and traveled up the coast to Belfast, stopping here and there for art galleries.  It was really hard, but we drove right past Young's Lobster Pound without stopping, as we had a big dinner promised to us by my brother Mark and his wife Gina, so we needed to remain hungry.  We spotted this driftwood horse at a gallery near Rockport – it's distinctly inferior to one that my brother Scott is building now.  After that we made our way on back roads to the Tesla Supercharger at Brewer, Maine (just outside Bangor), and then north to Long Pond near Lincoln, Maine.  We got off the I-95 at Old Town and went the rest of the way on SR2.  We pulled into my brother's “camp” early in the afternoon.

If you click the screenshot at left to embiggen it, you'll see a red star in the rough location of the camp.  It's a beautiful spot, though it's a lot different than my memories of the place from the '60s.  Back then there were far fewer camps on the pond's shores, and none at all on the entire north shore.  Furthermore, the camps were mostly fairly rude shacks – now they're real houses, complete with all the modern amenities.  Sweet Road, which provide the access to all the camps, was a rough dirt road back then – now it's paved and smooth.  There used to be more trees around most of the camps; now many are in spacious clearings.  All of these things combined make quite a change in the character of the place – and it's not so much that the changes are particularly good or bad, per se.  The fact that they're different than my many memories is inevitably jarring as hell for me.  The photos below are all taken at Mark and Gina's camp:

My mother called Long Pond her favorite place on earth; her experiences there filled her memory and her stories.  Most of all, I think, she loved her many friends in the area.  I was there part of about a dozen summers in my youth, and I remember how happy she was there.  The cabin that she first visited as a girl and every summer afterwards for close to fifty years is now gone.  It was falling apart, and was demolished a few years ago.  It was on a lot a hundred yards or so west of Mark and Gina's cabin, and they still own the lot.  They plan to build there, hoping to provide a place their kids and grandkids can enjoy as they do.

Of all my siblings, Mark is the one who comes closest to sharing my mother's love of Long Pond.  He also shares my mom's love of fishing, which explains why he's willing to be seen in slippers like those at right.  He and Gina are up there every year, and I suspect that Mark has been up here every year since he first came as a kid. 

One of the few requests my mom made in her will was that her ashes be scattered on Long Pond, specifically off the point where blueberries grow (the locals all know where that is).  I am the executor of her will, so the responsibility for getting that done was mine – a duty I was happy to perform.  We did something like this for my dad a few years ago, scattering his ashes amongst the blooming azaleas of Dolly Sods, West Virginia.  Mark kindly offered me the use of his boat, complete with a driver, to get out to the right spot.  Debbie and John M. (a close friend of my parents) wanted to go with me, so the four of us headed out in the morning of June 9th.  The day before was the second anniversary of my mom's death, a coincidence that somehow seemed appropriate.  That's me in the photo at left, caught in the act of scattering some of mom's ashes.  It's hard to find the words to describe how I felt at the moment.  Memories of mom were flooding in, partly triggered by being in a boat on Long Pond, a scenario I spent many hours of my youth in.  The fact that I was finally able to complete her wish was more satisfying than I'd have expected.  It wasn't at all an unhappy experience, and I'm positive that's what mom would have wanted.

After mom's ashes were scattered, we had a burger-and-dog meal outdoors, sitting near the lake.  Tillie B., another old friend of my mom's (and someone I remember from my hormone-filled youth as one hot mama) joined us, and there was much pleasant conversation including many memories of mom.   When we came into the house to reload our plates, Mark and Gina's two dogs (one of whom is at right) would get very attentive.  Obviously they were hoping a stray hot dog would fall off someone's plate! :)

Mark and Gina had told me I was welcome to wire into their camp's electrical panel to charge up our car.  I was all over that offer, and before we'd left Utah I bought all the parts required to do that.  I'm not sure Gina was thrilled with the redneck wiring job I did, but it all worked great in the end – our car was fully charged before we left, and I put their electrical panel back together again.  It even worked when I got done!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Day 7...

Day 7...  The Utahans make it to Maine!  We left Plymouth, New Hampshire bright and early and headed up the road a bit to the supercharger in Lincoln, New Hampshire.   Then we headed by back roads roughly straight line from Lincoln to Freeport, Maine (where another supercharger resides, behind the L.L. Bean “flagship” store).  This path took us through beautiful hilly scenery (the hills the locals call the Appalachian “Mountains”) that Debbie had never seen before.  An almost randomly selected scene is at right, for the purposes of illustrating the following discussion: how strange these eastern forests look to a western eye.  There are several things that stand out to us.  Foremost is the amazingly large quantity of greenery: an acre of this forest must have ten times the chlorophyll of an equivalent forest out west.  Then there's the number of species of trees.  Most western forests have just a few species; a forest with a dozen common species would be unusual.  Here we saw several dozen species while standing in one spot!  Next is the near absence of mature trees.  Nearly everywhere we traveled, we saw young forests like this, with most of the trees appearing to be roughly the same age.  I'm guessing this is the result of clear-cutting, though it might also be forest fires (though we didn't often spot evidence of them).  Also odd to us: the lack of obvious forest mix changes with altitude (mostly likely because there simply isn't much altitude change) or exposure.  The “mountains” here are blanketed with nearly uniform forests.  Out west, we'd see distinct and easily visible changes with altitude, on the north or south sides, and along ridges or in gullies.  The sum of all these effects makes these eastern forests look quite odd to us...

All along the route we took today we spotted rhododendrons (both horticultural varieties and apparently wild ones) and lupines.  I remember the rhododendrons from my childhood visits to Maine, but not the lupines!  Here are a few of the hundreds of beautiful spots we passed:

We arrived at Brunswick (where our next lodging was) with lots of time still left in the day.  After checking in, we headed up the coast toward Belfast (more on that place later) along what we remembered as a sort of “art district” from our last visit about 25 years ago.  At that point in time, we had little money to spend on art, though we did purchase a few pieces that we cherish – especially a beautiful photograph that hangs in our living room.  We saw a sculpture on that trip – a life size bronze of two deer being pursued by a mountain lion – that we told ourselves we'd try to get if we ever had enough money to consider it.  Well, we do have the wherewithal to do that now, so we were searching for that sculpture or something like it.  Sadly, we were in for a bit of a rude surprise.  First, the raw number of art galleries was far lower than we'd remembered.  Second, the art galleries were dominated by what I call “modern art” – stuff that looks like any idiot could have done it, and that looked to our eye more like junk than art.  There were some exceptions, but few and far between.  And nobody was showing traditional bronze sculpture.

I spoke with some of the galleries' staff about this, and was able to piece together what happened.  Fundamentally, the dot-com recession killed them all off.  Some of the galleries up and moved to more moneyed territory – primarily Boston and New York.  Others simply folded.  The galleries that remained were, for the most part, more marginal in their appeal – as one gallery owner put it to me, the ones who stayed were attracted by the low cost of running a business on the south Maine coast.  She told me candidly that she showed the work of local artists whose work tourists were willing to buy, not the work of artists she enjoyed.  One could almost feel her sorrow.

Our quest for the sculpture was a bust, but there's a happy ending on that story that I will tell another day.  I did find a couple of quite nice turned wooden bowls, made of glued together segments (dozens of them in one case).  The first photo below shows the two bowls, and the following two show details of the fancier one.  Both bowls were made by a local woodturner named Frances Farley.  All the local galleries knew him, liked him, and knew that he had recently died at a ripe old age.  I feel lucky to have stumbled across these.

While we were walking around the town of Camden, we happened across a couple roughly ten years older than us who was gawking at the same window we were.  We struck up a conversation, and during that I mentioned the two visits I'd made to Matinicus Island in my youth, one of them involving working on a lobster boat for two weeks.  That's when our new friend let us know that he was a lobsterman, out for the day with his wife!  He worked his lobster pots near the coast of Rockport, a few miles away.  We shared some memories of the old mail boats that were based in Rockport, and which provided our transportation to Matinicus back in those days.  I didn't really expect to see any locals in a town like Camden, but to run into a lobsterman was completely outside expectations.  That was fun!

After we'd finished our shopping, we headed for Belfast – the home of Young's Lobster Pound, the best place on earth to get lobster rolls or live lobsters.  My family knew about Young's Lobster Pound from my earliest memories of Maine, back in the late '50s.  I'm not sure how we first found out about it.  They started shipping lobsters on telephone orders back in the '90s, and ever since when we're in the mood for lobster, that's how we get it.  There was no way I was going to miss the chance to actually eat there!  The photos below were all taken at Young's, but the last one shows the important part: a lobster roll (never mind that it's not a traditional roll) and a bowl of seafood chowder.  Debbie had the identical meal.  Both were brains-fall-out-on-the-table good...

Bellies sated, after this we headed back to our lodging for a good nights sleep before the next day's adventures...

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Helping a friend and neighbor...

Helping a friend and neighbor...  I've written before about Tim D.'s health challenges.  One of the consequences of his current state is that he's no longer strong enough to move his irrigation pipes.  These are “hand line”: 3" diameter, 30' long pieces of aluminum pipe that weigh roughly 40 pounds each.  That weight is a little misleading, though, as generally when one goes to pick up a piece of pipe it's still full of water.  To empty it, you lift up one end – and that weight is more like 100 pounds.  Tim uses about 25 pieces of this hand line when irrigating.  It takes 6 days to complete a cycle of watering, each day moving the pipe to a new location in the fields.  Then after around four days of no watering, he starts the cycle of watering all over again.

So this is a non-trivial amount of work.  One adult, working alone, can move all the pipe in around two hours (including time for clearing clogged sprinklers, walking to the edges of the field to turn valves on and off, etc.).  During that two hours, you might walk a couple of miles in addition to all the weight lifting.  You'll also get soaked when fixing sprinklers, and your feet and jeans bottoms will be covered with mud. 

Tim can't do this, so what happens to his fields?  Nothing!  That's because his neighbors (including me) are moving his pipes for him – cheerfully, happy to be of service to Tim.  Three adults and a bevy of kids are doing it.  If we needed more, there would be a small army volunteering to help.  This is so heartening to see!  And I get great satisfaction from being a part of it...

Day 6...

Day 6...  AKA “Escape from New York!"”  We spent way too much time on the New York State Thruway, otherwise known as I-90.  The tolls on this road beggar belief.  If someone tried to do this in the Rocky Mountain States, I'm fairly certain the population's reaction would include as much high-velocity lead as was required to eliminate it.  In the Empire State, the sheepish population just pays...

We got off the Thruway at Utica, and made our way on back roads across the rest of New York, all of Vermont, and into Plymouth, New Hampshire where we checked into the delightful Tea Rose Inn.  At right was Debbie's favorite part of this B&B: the feline greeter.  :)  The scenery on our drive today was beautiful: the best of New England's rolling hills (which for some reason they call “mountains”), excessive amounts of chlorophyll, rushing streams, and lots of lakes and ponds.  This was Debbie's first time ever seeing the northern Appalachians.  I was a bit surprised by the relative poverty of most places we drove through – I guess the heyday of the Adirondacks is over.

We went to bed tired of being in the car, and preparing ourselves for tomorrow's descent upon the south Maine coast...

Monday, June 25, 2018

Some mixed granite news...

Some mixed granite news...  The granite folks showed up to install the granite on the cabinet that I built, right on time.  It was exciting to see them arrive – four guys in two trucks (at right), with our rock and all the tools they'd need to install it.  They unloaded the seven individual pieces of rock and carried them all over to my cabinet – and a few minutes later, we had set the grill components in place to test the fit.  It was perfect (photos below)!

Much to my relief, the installers found no problems with the cabinetry.  Even more to my relief, the grill components fit exactly as they were supposed to.  So why is the news mixed?

Take a gander at the photo at right.  The piece on the right is supposed to be about 1.5" longer, to match the rear edge of the piece at left.  The fabricators simply cut that piece too short.  The installers have saws, so if the piece had been too long they could have shortened it.  They did not, however, have a rock stretcher – so this means a do-over on that one piece, and that they couldn't actually complete the installation today.  They did leave enough of the rock in place so that we can get our gas installation completed tomorrow – and after that there's nothing stopping her from starting to grill again.  She's been waiting for this day for four years now.  I predict much grilled food in our immediate future!

Here's a gratuitous photo showing one end of the cabinet, before we moved it to the deck.  The spar varnish did a great job of making the color variations, grain, and knots “pop” visually.  I hope it's as durable as I was promised!

Day 5...

Day 5...  Niagara Falls!  Debbie had never seen the falls before, so I laid out our trip to give us a few hours there.  We drove most of the way from Ashtabula to Niagara Falls along the shore of Lake Erie, through a series of waterfront towns.  In Ashtabula itself, we drove over this really old-school draw bridge.  The controls have been updated to something a bit more modern, with computers and everything – but the mechanics are straight out of the start of the 20th century.

As we passed by Erie, Pennsylvania on I-90, just east of the intersection with I-79, we spotted a cemetery that stood out for the flags that appeared to be on every grave, along with a profusion of fresh flowers.  We got off the freeway and found a road that would take us there, and we spent a half hour or so just walking around (photos below).  Something we've both noted in our travels (including a ridiculous amount of international business travel for me) is that different places have very different notions of how to honor or maintain graves, especially of military veterans or casualties.  Even different places in the U.S. differ greatly.  For example, in San Diego (where we used to live, and with a large military presence), the beautiful veteran's cemetery on Point Loma is meticulously maintained, but there's little evidence of visitors – every time I've visited I've been nearly on my own.  In much of Utah, the situation is virtually reversed: even the non-military cemeteries are well maintained, and a high proportion of graves have fresh flowers, carefully maintained greenery, and often a flag or other patriotic symbol.  Most of the U.S., in our experience, is somewhere in between – with urban areas tending toward the rarely visited side, and rural areas the opposite.  This was a veteran's cemetery, and it was obviously visited very often (we had trouble finding even one withered vase of flowers).  There was a relatively large and well-equipped staff there to tend it.  The oldest graves I found in my walking were from WW I veterans; some were just days old.  I find such places very moving, and all too rare (both here and in other countries).  Some big exceptions: Japan, South Korea, and Estonia.  I'm sure there are others, but those three I have quite a bit of experience in.

We settled into our B&B quite early in the afternoon, and set out to walk all around Niagara Falls.  This turned out to be about 3.5 miles of walking all together – more than Debbie has done in several years because of her knee injuries.  First up: some videos I made from three different viewing points:

Now the photos:

Walking around Niagara Falls – which I last visited nearly 50 years ago – was quite the shock for me.  The changes in the area are stunning, most especially on the Canadian side.  I was not prepared for the high-rise hotels, giant casinos, and the thousands of visitors.  Despite this, our viewing of the falls was actually better than it was all those years ago, because a ginormous platform has been built over the river that lets you walk to a perfect viewing position, high in the air.  It cost a whole $2.50 for the two of us to gain admission to that, and it was well worth the money.  The trails that lead around to the upper end of each of the falls are now paved and graded for wheelchairs – so walking to all of them wasn't much different than walking on a sidewalk in the big city.  There were crowds of visitors everywhere we went, even on the longest of the trails (which wasn't actually very long at all).  At a guess, I'd say two thirds of the visitors were foreign, dominated by Japanese and Chinese.

We ate dinner partway through our walking, at a restaurant called Savor.  It was just wonderful (photos of our meal below).  Debbie had two appetizers instead of an entree: a rather spectacular salad, and some excellent mussels.  I had a mixed seafood and pasta dish in an absolutely delightful sauce.  Our excellent and very entertaining waiter talked us into dessert even though we were both quite full – and we were very glad he did.  The chocolate cake with unsweetened whipped cream (whipped to the just-shy-of-butter point) was insanely good.  We departed with zero hunger, big smiles on our faces, and very, very happy tummies...

While walking around downtown, we spotted the little guy at right up in a tree (actually, just outside the restaurant's doors).  He's got a cupcake wrapper in his paws that he'd stolen from a (still occupied!) table nearby – the people at the table never saw him do it.  We don't have any squirrels or chipmunks in the valley where we live, and we miss their antics!

To my great surprise, Debbie wanted to walk some more after our dinner.  Some of our falls viewing was during this walk.  We also ran across some old monuments, one of which is at left.  There were probably a dozen or so in all the places we walked.  It is pleasant to see them in a location where so many people pass by, even if few people stop to look.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable day.  We walked back, finally, to our B&B and went straight to bed – we have a long drive ahead of us tomorrow...

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Rodeo night...

Rodeo night...  Debbie and I went to the Hyrum Rodeo last night (lots of news photos here).  Most of this was very enjoyable.  The barrel racing is my favorite: fast horses and beautiful women, as the announcer said.  From the noise she made, I'd say Debbie's favorite events were all the bull and bronc riding events.  I enjoyed seeing all the families there, and the excitement of the youngest ones as they watched.  Also a lot of fun to watch: “mutton-busting”, wherein some very young kids (I think some were only 5 or 6 years old) compete to see who can ride a sheep the longest.   Some of the kids were thrown off in the first foot or two, some launched themselves off the sheep in fear, some didn't even start – but a few rode the sheep, sometimes running very fast, for five or six seconds.  That may not seem like a long time, but I'll bet it was for the kid! 

There was one event near the end of the evening that somewhat spoiled things for me: a young man was injured while attempting to ride a bull.  We don't know much about his condition.  He was carried off the field in a stretcher with two EMTs in close attendance.  The announcer said that he was awake and talking to the EMTs, but that's all we know.  Watching the event, it's very clear that bull riding is a crazily risky thing to do – in fact, no comparably risky sport comes to mind. We're hoping the fellow will recover completely from this, and also hoping that we can get some news on his condition...

Day 4...

Day 4...  We drove from Champaign, Illinois to Ashtabula, Ohio.  Basically today we were just covering ground; nothing in particular expected in scenery or things to do.  We woke up this morning in our pleasant B & B in downtown Champaign (at right): the Champaign Garden Inn. The previous evening we'd taken a nice walk around a few blocks in the area – brick streets and older homes with big, big trees.  We explored around a defunct and rundown YMCA – very grand looking, it must have been.

The drive across the rest of Illinois, all of Indiana, and most of Ohio was not especially remarkable in general.  There was lots and lots of beautiful farmland, and the occasional annoying city (I'm looking at you, Indianapolis!).  We were both taken aback by the terrible condition of the roads in Indiana, and frightened by the rude and aggressive drivers.  As in nearly all of our trip, we kept running into construction delays – often for no apparent reason, as there was nobody doing any actual work.

We also noticed for the first time that the big birds circling overhead were nearly all buzzards or vultures – hawks were rare.  In the west, it is precisely the opposite, with hawks (or other raptors) dominating the thermal-effect gliding crowd.  Neither of us remembered this from our childhood, so either we've become so accustomed to raptor domination in the west that we've forgotten – or raptors have befallen hard times in the east.  Once we noted this (to us) strange fact, we were on the lookout constantly – and the raptor shortage held for our entire trip until we got well into South Dakota on our return.  Weird!

The highlight of the day, without a doubt, was Akron, Ohio.  I've been in Akron before, though not since the mid-'70s, and I was not expecting what we found on this day: the city was clean, green, and filled with prosperous businesses.  I've no idea why it's an island of attractiveness in the middle of a desert of relative poverty, but it is.  When scouting for a place to eat our dinner, we spotted something that seems most unlikely: a restaurant specializing in poke (the Hawai'ian raw fish dish that we love).  We decided to try it, and we were very glad we did!  Our poke bowls below:

These were made to order, and delicious!  The style wasn't much like the poke we've had in Hawai'i, but no matter –  it was really good.  Then after we downed our poke, we wanted some ice cream – and we found Mary Coyle's homemade Italian ice cream parlor.  Heaven!

At one of our supercharging stops (I've forgotten which) on this day, we had something unusual (for us, anyway) happen: at the same time there were four Teslas at one supercharger, and three of them were Model Xs (the oddball was a Model S)!  This was so weird I had to take a photo of it. :)  I understand from friends that in the big cities the superchargers are often full, with a waiting line, but we've never had this happen.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

The final coat is on!

The final coat is on!  On our grill cabinets, that is.  As planned, I put the second coat on this morning – and now this afternoon I've just finished the third and final coat.  Even with just two coats the finish was beautiful.  The third coat has already finished leveling and has started to cure, and it's even shinier now – it really looks like there's a glass surface there. 

The next challenge will be for my brother and I tomorrow afternoon, as we attempt to move the three cabinet sections from the paint spray tent (at right) to our deck.  The moving itself isn't the challenge – doing so without damaging any important part of the finish will be.  There are two reasons why that finish is vulnerable.  First, the varnish takes 10 to 20 days to completely cure, and it's hardness and toughness steadily increases over that period.  Second, the underlying wood (western red cedar) is fairly soft – quite a bit harder than pine, but nothing at all like the hardness of, say, maple.  An inopportune whack could put a big ding in the finish and possibly even the wood.  We will be very careful tomorrow!

That paint spray tent was a serendipitous find.   I did some research into what might work, and found several references to this sort of collapsible, pop-up canopy with add-on sides.  Recommendations mostly suggested Dacron or Nylon cloth (or similar non-porous plastic fiber) to reduce paint adhesion.  So I went looking on Amazon just in case they happened to have such a thing – and they did!  At quite a reasonable price, too.  It seems quite well made, though only time will tell on that.  I have it sitting on the asphalt in front of my barn, held down with 150 pounds of lead weights that I have for clamping (cloth bags with 25 pounds of lead shot).  So far it has only seen 12 mph winds, but it didn't budge in those.  It's 10' x 10', and at least 8' high on the inside (higher toward the center).  The screened window lets in plenty of air, but no leaves, seeds or bugs.  If it were dusty and windy I'd have to shut it, but the past few days have been beautifully clear.