Thursday, August 17, 2017

Kingdom Come

Last weekend we were up in the fabled Northeast Kingdom and did some mountain biking, and came away with a few important tidbits of wisdom. First off, it's a pretty killer setup they have going on up there, like a surf town but with bikes, instead. Secondly, it was very clear that we were significantly under-equipped. And finally, that we need to become better equipped.

We camped in the town of Brighton but the area where it's all happening is Burke. Best of all, it's not that far from us, and what a cool town. I didn't quite make the connection at first, but many of the shops have bikes hanging from the signs, and you see that all the cars have racks with killer MTBs on them. And of course, you have the hip, good looking, outdoorsy biking crowds milling about. It was actually a cool town, reminiscent of something like Stowe but on a smaller scale, with crunchy restaurants and outdoor shops. Plenty of bike shops, as well.

We went riding at Burke, and it was all about downhill riding. We got lift tickets, which for the record were cheap; a lot cheaper than Killington, which set us back $60 when we went way back when. It was pretty cool and as usual I was holding N back. He was zipping down the trails, which were a little precarious for an old man like me. We took the easiest runs, which were like ski hills with green dots, blue squares, and black diamonds. We didn't even go near the black diamonds, which require full body armor (a fancy name for padding) and a full helmet, neither of which we had. This was fine by me, because I for one found the green dots challenging enough. N stuck with the blue dots, and eventually came to the green dots to keep his old dad company. For all it's worth, he had about a 5 minute wait time until I hit the bottom. As I've gotten older I just can't handle too much speed, and definitely can't keep up with him, so he's on his own.

As the day progressed the crowds starting showing up, and it was at that point that it became painfully clear that we were under-equipped. First off, every kid N's age was fully suited up, with trunk pads (i.e., body armor), knee pads, and full helmet. We had out dinky street bike helmets, so we stood out as rank amateurs. We were also amongst the handful of riders (maybe 5-6) who did not have dual suspension bikes. Everyone else had high-end, or at least what looked like high-end, bikes. One kid even asked me what kind of bike I was riding, which was sort of embarrassing. In the end out bikes are not archaic, they are just not the optimal bikes to have to do this sort of hardcore downhill riding, which is a sub-culture in and of itself. Plus, N was probably under-protected, which leads up to the injury part of this story.

N is a good rider but the trails are a little precarious, not to mention in the middle of the woods. During his last ride he lost it a little and crashed. He was hurt but not so bad that he couldn't finish the ride down. He thankfully didn't hit his head, but he scraped and probably bruised parts of this trunk. We took him to the doctor they determined that nothing was cracked, broken, or bleeding, so recovery was just time and rest. I was really bummed and felt like I screwed up by not preparing N enough for the ride. It was a learning experience.

So, with that in mind, we now know what we need to do, or rather dad has another thing to feed his OCD - getting proper downhill gear for N.

This will not occur until next year, and it's not going to be cheap, but with some legwork, patience, and diligence, I'll hopefully find some killer deals. It helps that time is (sort of) on our side.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to pjen for the pic.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

License to Thrill

So A went out and got her driver's license, on a stick shift car, no less. Kudos to her for that one. I was nervous for her but she was fine, as I knew she would be. She's been driving for awhile and is a good driver, it's just that it's a jungle out there. We had a bit of last minute drama getting the cars ready because we'd heard they're sticklers for details, i.e., if you're car is not up to snuff, they might refuse to let you use it for the test. I assumed that this included various “idiot lights” on the dashboard, or whatever would prevent you from passing inspection.

Unfortunately, these conditions applied to us, but more on this later. This is really about congratulating A on her big milestone. We are very proud of her, though this gives me one more thing to neurotically obsess over.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to David Stevens for the pic.

School, Paint, and Wood

I am currently focusing on those three areas in my life, in that order... and of course, in addition to the daily demands of parenting and catching waves. Somehow, oddly enough, summer is not really about relaxing and enjoying my free time, of which I have none, but is instead rather busy. Busier, in fact, than other times of the year. Funny how that works.

School always comes up this time of year, as some of you know all too well, because we have to end the previous year and initiate the coming year. Normally all this entails is getting your kids new clothes and books and sending them to the bus stop, but we don't do things the normal way over here. I have been going over what we've done and summarizing it for our teacher friend, BF, in order for her to conduct her evaluation. It's always a chore and something I put off until the last minute, though this year I'm a bit ahead of the curve, which just goes to show you, miracles do happen. I've completed A's stuff and will hopefully finish N's in the coming week. Then it's party time... for everyone but me.

I'm also trying to get the painting of the house done, and that, too, is something I like to put off. I have to make it as seamless as possible before I can even begin, which I've accomplished so there's really no excuse. I'm targeting the western gable end, and the key is getting the trim and windows done. The clapboards look fine, just a little weathered, but I figure if I'm up there I might as well get the siding done, as well. What makes it a pain is having to climb up high on the ladder, which is always sketchy, but even more so holding paint in one hand and fending off the wasps with the other, and believe me, there are tons of wasps up there. They love it right under the eaves, and it's not enough to simply leave them alone, they don't like it when you even get close to them. Such a bummer.

And finally, there's the issue of firewood, which for the record I enjoy, if only I had more time. We scored our log pile a month or two back so we are good to go, it's really just finding time to cut and split. Things are moving along, though. I blocked up a fair amount and am in the process of splitting it. On a bright note, this year is done and we are working toward finishing year two, which is about 5% complete. It is very satisfying to watch that pile grow and gradually fill up over time. I figure we have August, September, and probably October to get it done, so we are not in dire straits by any stretch of the imagination. Plus, now that I've gotten the end towers complete, my anal-retentive self can lighten up and let the kids complete the rest while I sit in a hammock and drink beer... yeah right. One last note, work has been painfully slow, so while I can't make the income to support our fabulous lifestyle, I do have more free time, which as you get older becomes way more important than money.

Overall we are decent shape. Not quite where we want to be, but a lot further along than we were a month ago. The weather has been very fickle so it's hard to get a grasp on what is in store, but I figure as long as I can squeak an hour or two in for each project ever day, we'll get to the promised land.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Surfing Regulars

This is difficult for even me to believe, but we have been surfing fairly regularly this summer - these are our boards. I would never have believed that we'd be surfing at all living in New England, but it's happening, and I, for one, am completely stoked about it. We have hit a bit of a lull in the past week or so because of various obligations, including family camping trips and mountain biking. However, before that, we were hitting the beach a couple of times a week, and it's not an easy trip. This is all the more amazing when you consider that during my last years in LA, when I lived in Santa Monica and Venice Beach, less than a mile from the sand, I never went surfing. It takes about two hours to get to Hampton Beach, but the trip gets easier with time. I recall driving for two hours to find waves when I lived in California. This time around we aren't looking for waves because we don't really have the luxury to be picky, but it's worked out pretty well so far.

The kids have thus far been willing to go along with it, but I'm not sure if both of them will maintain their enthusiasm, at least not one of them. The other, however, seems willing to ride this out until completion, which means actually shredding the waves. I see the potential is there, it's really just a question of time and practice, and I think we have a couple of months left in our surfing season, more if we decide to get really hardcore - headgear, gloves, and surfing in 45-50 degree water. I'm not sure if that's going to happen.

Hampton Beach (HB) has turned out to be a good place to surf, as well. The waves are tiny, almost non-existent, but big enough to go out and practice catching them and standing. When I surfed a lot in my youth I probably wouldn't have even bothered with them, but I have no room for such snobbery in my life today. We are in the nascent phase of our surfing careers (I'm basically starting over again, it's been 15 years) so tiny is big enough for us. In fact, one day the swell picked up and was breaking about shoulder/head high, and it felt like we were at the Banzai Pipeline in Hawaii; we were paddling like crazy, but what a workout.

HB is good also because the sandbar extends out pretty far, so the water isn't too deep. In fact, many of the people out there stand while waiting for the waves. Another bonus is that while the waves are small, they are pretty reliable on a day to day basis. So while many surfers wait anxiously for a big hurricane swell to hit, we can get some semblance of a wave on any given day. If anything, when the hurricane swell hits, we'll probably be watching from the beach.

Finally, and this is important, unlike learning to surf in California, where a lot of the surfers and punks, most of the surfers out there at HB are at the same level as us and pretty friendly. I've found even the shredders are nice. Most of the people out there are longboarders who are just learning, and though when I was surfing in California I loathed longboards, out there in HB they are pretty cool, so I'm in no position to cop an attitude.

All in all things have fallen into place and I for one and ready to hit the beach again. We are all geared up and ready to go, so let's go. One last note, it's a long drive for us, but we have met a few surfers that come to HB from Burlington. We've seen them there twice. How cool is that? That's another couple hours of driving for them - talk about hardcore, you gotta love it.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Painting Prep

I can't let this summer go by without making a dent in the painting that needs to be done on the house. It's really hard just to get started, so I've found it to be a good idea to do as much prep ahead of time so when I have some free time, which is never, I can hit the ground running. That way the 15 minutes of preparation that discourages me from doing something in the first place is already taken care of. No more excuses, dad.

With this in mind, I need to paint the western gable end of the house, including the trim. One of the problems I face (because I'm such a wimp) is that at some point I either have the sun directly in my face or blasting 100 degree temps on my head. The best time is the early morning, before the sun can peek over the roof, and late afternoon, when the sun is a lot cooler. Morning is tough because two of the bedrooms have windows facing the west, and I don't want to wake anybody up. By about noon the sun is hitting its stride, so I have from about 10:00AM to 12:00 for optimal performance. Once high noon hits, it's pretty miserable out there. This does not make it impossible, it's just that I don't have a huge slab of time, so I have to make the most of it.

This means having all the paint, brushes, and ladders at the ready. I think I've achieved this, so it's really just a question of going out there and doing it, which as we all know is much harder than it sounds. We'll see how this goes.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Rebecca Siegel for the pic.


Sorry (again) for my absence, been a bit swamped with school stuff (end of year), painting the house (moving along nicely), splitting firewood (ditto), and family vacations. The end of school year stuff is what kills me the most, but there's no room to whine and I simply have to get it done. Lots going on so stay tuned for more. Until then, thanks for reading.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Can We All Get Along?

After all the effort and time, I'm beginning to lean towards letting the squirrels have their way with the bird feeders. It bugs me to no end, but short of annihilating them, I don't really know what to do. They are crafty, resourceful, and relentless, and whatever method I've tried to discourage them has failed. The only thing that really worked was when we let the cats out, and then we'd end up with dead critters all over the yard. It was a little too much of a solution.

I guess in the end we have plenty of seeds and if they eat their share, it's not the end of the world. Part of the problem is that squirrels are hoarders and will take every seed that is offered to them. They'll find some place to bury them. Plus, when they're getting their fill, it denies the birds their chance. Oh well, survival of the fittest, right? That's why mammals rule the world.

I'm still not a fan of them, but maybe it's time to just get along. We'll see how long that lasts.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Kevin Champion for the pic.