Sunday, August 11, 2013

Homeward Bound

Despite timing my trip to DC to skirt the worst of the NY and Baltimore/DC traffic, I still managed to hit two hours of the lovely stuff.

Still, I made it to John's house some time after nine, and I was pleasantly surprised to find him at home.  He was supposed to be in Dallas, but flight delays mucked up his plans, leaving us an extra day to catch up.

Our first lunch, at Rockland's BBQ.

John has a new toy coming, so we took a little time to rearrange his garage to make some space. That meant juggling the 7 Ducatis and his 66 mustang, the latter needing to be rolled out and back in again.

With the mustang tucked away in the back, and plans to downsize the bike collection, J's new toy should just squeeze in.

There were other reasons I was stopping in DC.  I needed to get into the Swiss Embassy to update some files for the kids and Alexe, and renew my passport.  I stayed until Monday morning hoping the embassy might have that small town culture of helping out someone on a tight schedule.  A dozen years ago a nice gentleman I met at the embassy during a party kindly took my old passport at the party and sent me my new one later the next week.

Suffice to say, the current Swiss Embassy culture does not have that friendly flex.

The other reason was to make a stop at Ikea for kitchen counter tops.  We saw these several months back, and being easily $2k less than other sources for solid wood counters, we had planned to pick them up at some point.  By the time I made it to the DC Ikea, the line had been discontinued.  I ended up getting one remaindered piece at that Ikea, but the second size, and 8 ft long piece, was only available at the Virginia location, 1.5 traffic jammed hours away.

John and I did that second Ikea trip on Saturday morning, before heading north of the city to climb a mountain.

The name of this mountain is escaping me, (feel free to add it in a comment John,) but the infrastructure, all the way near the top, was impressive.  These steps were on one of the many approaches to the summit, but they represented a ton of work.

This section of a trail was laid stone.

The views from the top, the changing terrain, the wildlife, and the great conversation made for a very pleasant afternoon of hiking in the rain.  If we had worn better shoes, and brought a little water with us, it would have been perfect.

We scooted back to the city and cleaned up in time to have dinner at Two Amys with John's new lady friend.  A beautiful, accomplished, intelligent, and self confident woman, muslim-american, who I very much enjoyed getting to know, and quizzing on why she had decided John was for her.  

Sunday we headed to Mt Vernon, somewhere I managed to never visit while living in and around DC.

This pecan tree is beautiful, the largest I've ever seen, sitting right at the corner of the main house.

While the house wasn't quite this big when he inherited it, at 22 George Washington was handed this spot:

Overlooking this section of the Potomac, with something like 5,000 acres.  I'm not sure how much of the 4 different farms and over 300 slaves came with the place or if he built the rest up over time, but it generates all sorts of mixed emotions.

On our way back to Two Amys for a second dinner, (I had been too distracted the previous night with John's lady friend to really focus on the amazing pizza,) we stopped to visit Eliza and her new pup at her new apartment, just west of Georgetown.  I'm very fond of my sister-in-law.

The next morning, after striking out with the vice-consul, I hit the road headed home.

Being more than a little family-sick,I pushed through the 16.5 hours of driving in one day, rolled into Water Valley, and found a very snoozy set of kids at the BTC, after midnight, with their mama just finishing a special publisher-request to make and ship 125 half pints of watermelon lemonade for a book fair.  

We all made it the three blocks home, and fell into bed.

Vermont 2013 in 5 Parts: Part 5: All about me.

Coming back from the airport, I stopped for supplies, and headed back into the mountains to the cabin.  The schedule had me alone in the woods with food and books and a 4 wheeler and chainsaw for 10 days, followed by a lazy drive south, getting home in time for Annaliese's first day of school

I had fun stocking up.

The fountain, with ice cold water piped in from the stream above the pond makes a perfect cooler. (Most of those bottles are rootbeer, virgil's and IBC.)

That's right, first dinner alone, with a movie, was two lobsters.  And most of a bottle of wine, which went so nicely with the lobster that I didn't notice how much of it was gone until after the meal.

And then there was dessert.

A great night alone, followed by a late snooze the next morning with books, and then I was done.

I broke out the chainsaw, weed whacker, and clippers and set to work cleaning the place up. With several brush fires, some focused on cleaning up the larger dead falls and tree tops left over from the clearing operation last summer, I slowly expanded a manicured circle around the cabin.

Moose print.

I did some exploring farther out the mountain road beyond our place.  The road turns into a class 4 beyond our turn off, which means a public road that the town does not maintain.  Generally, with private landowners periodically repairing the worst damage, the roads stay passable to 4 wheel drive vehicles with high ground clearance.  

So I was surprised to go down that road for about a mile and find this tucked a few hundred yards down a side road.  Those stone columns are 12 ft high.

I walked around them and went up a very steep but nicely maintained road for a mile, and came to this lovely cabin.  This place was very nice for a seasonal spot.  Spiral staircase, beautiful old porcelain gas stove, hard wood floors, french doors lining the opposite side, a slate threshold under the wood stove and a solid stone fireplace and chimney...

It was very nice, and the view form that balcony, (I did a no-harm chin up to take a look,) was spectacular.

Again, the iphone lens doesn't capture beyond the first few ridges of mountains, but they just keep going. 

I spent time building up the wood pile.

And after a visit from Harry, where he helped me carry our bathtub from it's nook below the pond up the hill so I could move it over to the cabin, I had a lovely bath as the sun set.

Here I will mention the screech owls.  For several nights there was a terrible shrieking noise that would go on and on in the trees below the cabin.  I couldn't figure out what it was.  This evening, sitting in a piping hot bath with a cold beverage and a gathering dark, as the shrieks started up again, my slightly fuzzy mind came up with screech owl.

About the time I finished thinking how foolish I was not to have thought of that earlier, the pair of owls moved into the trees right around me, and spent the duration of my bath swooping over my head and shrieking.  Or screeching, I suppose.  For almost an hour.  At that point they didn't stop, I just got out of the tub.

They didn't leave after I shot a 22 round to scare them off.  Or when I upped the decibels with a 9 mm.  Weird, but not as weird as their complete silence the next night, when Natalie and William were visiting, or the following afternoon, 3-ish, when one of them swooped in front of the porch, parked in a tree, and glared at me for several minutes before swooping off.  

I won;t mention them again, but they were with me the whole time.  

A fin visit from my parents and sisters, where we sat on the porch on a drizzly afternoon and told stories.  Papa's tended to be slightly tweaked to favor his role, but it was fun times all around.

Caitlin and the parents scooted home, and Natalie chilled with me for the evening.  We went exploring on the 4 wheeler, going farther West of our property than I ever have.  Later than night William surprised us, and after fun chatting in the night, the newlyweds went to bed inside, where I had left a very hot wood stove that apparently kept them up all night, and I had a lovely snooze on the porch.

The next day we found some fun activities to while away the time. 

I was sorry the kids missed them, but had fun seeing them for some grown-up-ish time before they had to head home.

I went back to relaxing by myself.

At some point I spent a morning in Rutland, VT, the nearby town, getting the oil on the truck changed, (207k miles on her at that point,) and catching up on neglected computer/internet related work.

I had lunch, and it made me miss the BTC.  Again, Dixie has ruined/spoiled us.  Interesting how those words are synonyms.  

At this point I was beyond restless.  Sure I love splitting firewood, but other than maintaining a wood stack height that gives the shower some privacy, the cabin doesn't particularly need a large supply of firewood, whereas there are so many things I want to do at home.  Things that need doing, that are fun, where all my tools and tractor and family are.

So.  Several days ahead of schedule, I packed up the cabin, took the swim I hadn't been able to finish all summer, (the pond was more freezing than ever before, I blame the heavy rains that never let the water sit long enough to warm up even a smidge,) and headed to my parents' house.

I spent a day with my parents, a nice time to chat and connect.  There was lots of packing and treasure hunting to do in my father's endless collection of stuff, and then more packing.  

On Thursday morning I was up early to pick blueberries with my mother at a lovely blueberry farm in NH.

In an hour and a half we picked 42 pounds of blueberries, and had a lovely time doing it.  

At 11 I said goodbye to my parents, likely until next sumer, and headed out of town, stopping in Chester for a very pleasant lunch and catch up session with an excellent teacher from my high school days. He retired a few years after I graduated, I would guess in his early 40s, and has had a successful career as an independent educator in the business and corporate environment since.  It was inspiring to hear about that transition.

By 2 that afternoon I was in NY state, headed towards DC.

Vermont 2013 in 5 Parts: Part 4: The Family Vacation

The morning after the wedding, a bunch of us broke down the wedding site, picked up all the hay, stacked picnic tables, etc.  (u.William has some great brothers and he and Natalie have some excellent friends.)

The goal was to sell those 30 picnic tables, and by the end of the week, they were all gone.  Kudos to everyone on that.

Around noon, with as much of the heavy lifting completed as I was going to be able to help with, I grabbed my girl and the munchkins, and we dashed to our cabin in the woods.  

Unlike last year where the place was a mess and I spent weeks finishing out the trim, screening the porch, installing the kitchen sink, shelves, running the water lines from the pond, and clearing out the view, this year we pulled up, swept out the mice droppings, and made our beds.  

It took about an hour to get the water running the 1/4 mile from the pond to the cabin, but once it was going, the shower, fountain, kitchen sink, etc. were all up and running.  

One of my favorite things about Alexe: first thing's first, fresh flowers to brighten the place up.

Dinner over the fire.

View from the porch. The lens on the iphone camera has a hard time focusing through the trees on the distant mountain ridges.  They keep going after the ones you can see here.

Because of the wedding festivities, we had two nights here before the family was headed home.  Much too short, and we hope to have more time next year. After a lovely night, Alexe and me on the porch, the kids in the loft, we had a pancake breakfast.

The kids hopped up on their swing.  They've grown; I had to raise the swing a few inches.

What was pleasantly surprising was how instantly at home the kids feel here.  We don't have to worry about fire ants or poisonous snakes, they can run free, with no worries about neighbors or dangerous animals.  (Well, moose and bear, but we haven't seen anything but their tracks so far.)

Alexe will not wear her own clothes out here.  

We found that the kids give great back massages.

And on a rainy afternoon can be pretty good at pictionary.  Annaliese's word/phrase was school bus.

I don't remember what Caspian's was, and now, like then, his picture isn't helping me much.

Then, sadly, we packed up the family's things and headed back to my parents' house.  Alexe and the kids were flying out from Manchester, NH the next morning, and we wanted to have a last evening with the grandparents.

Some hugs and photo opportunities the next morning, and we headed out.

One last helpful truck washing during a gas up, and I dropped most of my heart off at the airport and headed back to the cabin for over a week of R&A at the cabin by myself.