Sunday, August 30, 2009

Rick and I took a hike up Round Top in the Kennebec Highlands today. Here's a view from the top - not far from the porcupine dens.

It was a great day for hiking. Not too hot/not too cold.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

3 a.m. ramblings

It's 3:15 on Friday night/Saturday morning. Can't sleep. Well actually I was sleeping quite nicely until I awoke from the pain I've been suffering for the last 10 days. It started after I several dips in the lake and I was hoping it was just an ear infection. But after seeing the doc today and getting that hope dashed, I'm quite certain there's a root canal in my immediate future. This isn't just a little cavity kind of toothache; it's like take out the whole right side of my head kind of ache. I've had one once before and a root canal was the cure. A cure almost as miserable as that which it is supposed to be curing. But at least the root canal only takes an hour or so and this damn pain has been attacking me every night to some degree or another, even after taking 3 advil before going to bed and 3 tylenol upon waking in the middle of the night.
So seeing as I'm up and I haven't posted in a while, what's new that I can write about . . .

Now that the Gardiner house has sold we have funds to do some work on our home here in Belgrade Lakes. First order of business was to buy a new refrigerator. Our present one actually has duct tape in place of some parts. So we picked out just the right fridge, to be delivered on Monday and here comes Hurricane Bill and damages the one section of the warehouse holding our beautifully engineered new appliance. The next closest one the dealer tells us is in Florida and can't arrive in Maine for 3 weeks. Do we want a loaner in the meantime? No thanks, we'll spruce ours up with a new application of duct tape and hope it holds till mid September and keep our fingers crossed that Florida doesn't get hit with a killer hurricane and further delay our much anticipated new addition to the family.

So second order of business was to get our water tested so that we can rest assured that when the new fridge comes with its ice maker and chilled water feature we will be able to hook it up. We have a dug well and have never trusted it even though it tested fine when we bought the place. We got the test back on Thursday, and again it reported all is fine. We need some new pipes laid to bring it directly to the house instead of going through the cottage first so we take the cover off and look inside and find slugs, spiders galore, and two dead mice floating on top of the well water that just tested completely within all potable recommendations. Yuk. But ok, maybe all wells look like that, yes? So we have the well guys come and take a look and he's pretty grossed out when he sees the water. Not a good sign. But maybe it's 100 feet deep and what's on the top doesn't matter, right? So he throws his rope down there to see how deep it is. 8 feet deep. That's it. Eight feet. Suddenly we feel really happy we've been having Crystal Spring water delivered by the five gallon jugs ever since we moved in a year ago. But still, we brush our teeth with this water; we boil pasta in it and wash our dishes and our bodies with it – with mouse water! Ewwww.

So now the well drillers are coming next week to drill a new well. There goes the first bunch of money. Not to mention the lawn is going to look like a bomb went off once they're done. Add another thousand for landscaping afterward. I wanted aesthetics for that cash – not infrastructure!!! I want to paint, put down new flooring, remodel the master bathroom, build a deck. All those things will come, but I guess we have to start with potable water. At least we won't have to pay $50 a month to Crystal Springs anymore.

So we go to the bank who owned the mortgage on the Gardiner house we just paid off and apply for a home equity line of credit. We own our home here in Belgrade Lakes free and clear, albeit a mobile home. It's a 24 by 60 foot double wide with cathedral ceilings, realitvely nice kitchen with center island, two baths, and there's a little four room cottage here as well and a one car garage. In addition to that we have the camp out on Cobbossee Stream that we own free and clear. However, the bank tells us we don't qualify for a line of credit; they don't offer those on mobile homes, or on seasonal camps. I say, what do you mean, we have over $250,000 worth of real estate that we own free and clear and you won't give us a few thousand dollars line of credit? WTF? We'll give you a mortgage she says – 6% fixed. No thanks. I don't want a lump sum that I have to pay interest on whether I'm using the money or not. I want a line of credit at three point something percent, like you told me about when I called. So she says she'll talk it over with another loan officer and see if they can make something work. A few hours later she calls back to say sure, they can do the line of credit. Duh.

So now we'll have $50k to work with. It's tempting to get all the work done at once. But it's also tempting to remain relatively mortgage free – do the well, pay it off; do the bathroom, pay it off, etc. I suspect we'll end up someplace in the middle. The deck – around 3 sides of the house, if not four – with one section made into a screen room – may as well wait till next spring. But the bathroom is definitely a fall project, and painting and new wood floors perhaps a winter project.

Speaking of camp – I was speaking of camp back there a while ago – we were out there earlier today and just as we were getting ready to leave, here comes this huge bald eagle swooping over the shore, frightening our little muskrat friend, Edmund who was sunning himself on a log, and lands in a branch in the marsh. We watch him for a bit tearing at some poor critter he'd just claimed for his lunch. His wing span must have been a good five or six feet. What a magnificent creature. They never fail to impress, no matter how many times I see them. (I don't think I ever posted here my blog about an eagle and the day my mother died, so I'll have to find it and post it later if I still can't sleep.) But anyway, here's a picture of the eagle we saw today. (Hi Mom. :-) It's good to see you.)

When we arrived at camp we found some foreign object out in the stream – a big yellow thing with fingers coming off it. So though I hadn't planned to kayak, I couldn't leave that ugly looking thing out there to mar my view, so I jumped in the kayak while Rick was napping in the sun and went out to retrieve it. But once in the kayak, I had to go for a paddle even though I hadn't even worn my life vest as I had just planned to go the 50 feet offshore to get the object. I've never tipped the kayak in all my years of paddling, so I said to heck with it and took off for a short paddle around the stream. I realized pretty quickly how well designed my kayak is. It is meant to be paddled by someone wearing a life vest. The vest comes down and hits the back of the seat creating an extremely comfortable position that makes it possible for me to paddle for hours without discomfort. However, without the life vest there's no back support and it's not at all comfortable. But I have to admit that I really liked the feeling of freedom, the lightness, of not wearing the vest. So I did a 20 minute power paddle around the stream – no leaning back and floating lazily around as it was very uncomfortable, but the absence of the vest made me feel like a paddling machine!

Ok, I've been writing – rambling – for an hour, and it's now 4:20. hmmmm . . .

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Another Fine Day on The Cobb

Last time I went kayaking on The Cobb I found this little channel through the reeds that went on and on, accessible only by a kayak or canoe. It continuously looks like it deadends but once you get closer, you see it continues around the next bend. Very cool.

I then paddled down to the cormorant tree and found them hanging out there in the middle of the day, which is rather unusual.

They're such odd looking little birds but really quite interesting to watch, especially the way the take off out of the water, flying very close to the surface of the stream for quite some distance before gaining height.

I found these interesting flowers along the shore. I don't remember seeing them before but a little googling tells me they're called buttonbush, or more technically, Cephalanthus occidentalis.

I think these ubiquitous little purple flowers are called pickerel.

The sun had started to set by the time I got back to camp, giving a bit of pink/purple tinge to the sky.

Another fine day on The Cobb.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Los Angeles - July 27 - 30

Sunday we left San Francisco about 9 a.m., getting stuck briefly by some of the 5,000 runners in a marathon taking place that day, and drove down Route 1 through Big Sur. This was the most beautiful part of California in my opinion. The ride through the mountains with the constant switchbacks and the cliffs going straight down into the ocean were just magnificent.

It was a hazy day and there were times when we couldn't even see all the way down the cliffs to the sea.

Unfortunately my pictures can't begin to capture the beauty of this area. I'd definitely like to return and spend some time around Big Sur.

We veered off Route 1 long enough to drive through Carmel by the Sea, and then spent the night at a seedy little beach town called Pismo Beach. We found an inexpensive room at the seediest motel – The Dolphin Cove Motel. We walked the beach and pier and then went to a little Italian Restaurant called The Grub Zone. Very friendly owner who ended up comping us two of our six Margaritas. Thanks, Beau!

We woke up early Monday morning, discovering that it doesn't get light on the west coast until about 6 a.m., and drove down Route 101 and then Route 1. This is such beautiful country. Huge farms and ranches that go on forever, right next to the ocean, that just make you want to jump on a horse and ride.
We checked out Malibu, looked for but couldn't find Latigo Beach, but drove past many other beaches along the way, and arrived in Sierra Madre at about 1:00 pm. After settling into Jason's

Here's a pic of Jason's house:
This picture taken from Jason's doorstep.

and meeting his landlord, we drove down to Venice Beach, had lunch, and walked the strip for a couple of hours,

stopped and had a beer at one of the bars and drove back to Jason's. For dinner we had ice cream at a little place in town and had a beer at a so-so local Irish Bar. We went to the grocery store to get some picnic makings for the next day and then went back to Jason's and watched Weeds and crashed.

On Tuesday we hung at Jason's for a while, playing with Marlie, his big lovable cat that is expert at catching balls, before packing up our picnic and heading out to Joshua Tree. A beautiful drive out with views of mountains all the way and an amazing windmill farm. We discovered that the Beatnik Cafe that Rick had talked about for the past three years had closed down so we went right out to the park. It's a mystical and magical place that makes you feel like you're on another planet.
We scampered around a while found some shade and had our picnic

and found this little guy enjoying some shade as well

and took photos and went back into town for a beer at The JT Saloon. Very unique place that looks like something out of the gold rush days.

We got back to Sierra Madre around 5 and freshened up a bit and went to dinner at a nice Mexican Restaurant in Sierra Madre, then went to another place down the street where they were having trivia night. We thought we'd done pretty well but were a couple of points shy of placing in the top three. After that we headed into Pasadena to a bar called Barney's that Jason recommended. Nice place with a good crowd but we were pretty beat by then so stayed for just one beer and then back to Jason's. Watched an episode of Hung, played with Marlie, and then crashed. Well one of us crashed a little harder and earlier than others. : )

On Wednesday I had come down with a pretty nasty cold but we had one more day of fun left so we headed into Hollywood. We'd just gotten there and were walking down Hollywood Boulevard when Jason recognized Diamond Dallas Page, a wrestler that he and Rick had followed in his hey day. They were really pleased to meet him and I took pics of them together doing DDP's signature sign of the diamond.

DDP had the guys with him take a picture also, saying that he'd put it up on his Facebook page. We haven't seen it there yet but he did respond to both Rick and Jason with personal emails via Facebook. Seems like a pretty cool dude. He's done some acting since retiring from wrestling and has some exercise videos called Yoga for Real Guys or something like that.

We walked the boulevard, took pictures of the Hollywood sign and some of the stars along the boulevard. When we got to Michael Jackson's star, there was an assortment of souvenirs people had left at his star, so Rick left a copy of his book there.

I had my picture taken with a Gene Simmons look a like – tongue and all. We stopped for a drink at The Pig 'n Whistle, then drove back to Pasadena for an excellent dinner at Maria's Italian Restaurant and called it an early night. We got up at five the next morning and were out the door headed to John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana to return our car and catch our return flight.

The flights were all fairly uneventful, with a short delay leaving Las Vegas causing us to have to run to catch our flight to Portland out of Philly. But we got home, luggage and all, about 1:00 am Friday morning and Jared had a spaghetti dinner waiting for us cause we hadn't eaten since breakfast.

I was feeling really run down with my cold and all the traveling so I took some Nyquil and slept until noon on Friday and then napped off and on for the rest of the day.

It was a wonderful trip for my first time in California and it was really nice to spend some time with Jason. He is a fantastic LA driver, never once getting us stuck in a traffic jam and not once did I feel nervous about his driving. It was only the drive in and the drive out that we had to maneuver on our own that caused some stress, but even that, with Jason's direction, was pretty easy.

San Francisco - July 23 - 25

We arrived around 8 pm on Thursday night, left our luggage in the room and headed right out to explore and find a place to have dinner. We ended up at Joe's Crab Shack which apparently is a chain, but we had a delicious meal of two different kinds of crabs, shrimp, corn and fries. When we asked about music, the waiter at Joe 'sdirected us down the street to Lou's Blues Club where we listened to Willie G and the G Spots. Very entertaining and good music.

Friday morning we started out walking around theFisherman's Wharf area to find a breakfast cafe. We walked by several mostly empty cafes and then found the Hollywood Cafe on North Point St that was packed so we guessed that it might have good food. It was good, though really, how can you mess up your standard eggs and french toast?

Came back to the room briefly and then walked over to the cable cars and took a ride to the end of the line at Union Square.
We checked out a few shops and walked over to Chinatown, checked out a bunch of the shops there and were looking a bit overwhelmed I guess, trying to decide which of the 300 restaurants we should try for lunch, cause some local came up and suggested the Capital Restaurant at the end of Wavely street, where we had a nice lunch.

Next stop was the north beach area, specifically the City Lights Bookstore where Rick reverse shoplifted a copy of his book, and then across the street to Vesuviou's where I had a beer and Rick a Jack Kerouac (tequilla rum, orange and cranberry juice and a lime) and a good conversation with the friendly bartender.

We then walked up to the Stinking Rose and over a few blocks to catch the #39 cable car up to Coit Tower.

We walked down Filbert Steps and saw the parrots of Telegraph Hill, (check out the movie of the same name). This was a huge ass bunch of steps that veer off on multiple levels to apartments and condos where people live. I can't believe they actually have to walk up or down these steps to get home each and every day, carrying groceries, etc., and moving their furniture in and out. Amazing. We then walked over to Embarcadero and down to Pier 39 to see the sea lions and all the happenings on the pier. Then a walk back to our hotel for a little rest before going out for dinner.

We had a delicious dinner at the The Stinking Rose where the waiter directed us to The Saloon just across the street for music and dancing. They claimed to be the oldest saloon in SF. We got there before the crowd, giving us great seats at the bar where we listened and danced to a fun performance of blues music and later took cab back to our hotel.

After touring the Castro District Saturday morning we took the ferry over to Sausalito where we met my friend Penney who took us up to the hills and enjoyed a delicious gourmet picnic while overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge.
She then drove us around the hills and beaches and back to the ferry just as one was headed back. It was a slightly earlier one than we had planned but the timing was too good to pass up.

We took a street car back to Fisherman's Wharf, shopped a little, and rested briefly before going to Tiernan's Irish Pub for dinner. We chose it because they had live music – very mediocre live music as it turned out, much like their food. We left there and walked around a bit and decided to go back to our room and call it a day.

Vacation is Over

Vacation is over :(

I'll post a San Francisco and a Los Angeles entry soon.

It's been a good five weeks even though the weather in Maine has sucked pretty much the whole time. Fortunately the last week was spent in sunny California so it felt like I got a taste of summer, especially given the 100+ degree temps.

The first few days I spent alone at camp. I had hoped to kayak and spend some time in the yard and in my hammock swing, reading in the sun, but it rained steady the whole time so I was relegated to reading inside and other indoor activities. It started out fine but by about the fourth day I became pretty depressed and went home. Our plans were to go to Popham Beach the following week and I was in kind of a panic about having to spend over a thousand dollars to spend seven days in a one room cottage while it rained all week as all the weather reports were predicting. I actually went on line and tried to find someplace we could go that was predicting sun and the closest I could find was Pennsylvania. In fact, the town where Rick used to live and where he makes regular visits to see his mom, was predicting sunny weather all week so I tried to convince him to blow off Popham and go PA. Definitely not a comparable vacation – the seashore vs. a small town with not much going on – but I was so desperate for some sun at that point I didn't really care where I was as long as it was sunny. I hadn't realized how adversely a lack of sun affected me until then, but crying all the way home from camp at the prospect of another week of rain made me realize I needed to do something drastic. Fortunately, as it turned out, Rick wasn't buying the last minute change of plans. He tried to placate me with the option of going to Popham and if it really sucked, we'd leave and go to PA. Fine. I agreed to give it a try. And it turned out we had 5 beautiful sunny days out of the seven. Not bad at all. Even the two rainy days were nice, sitting inside reading, watching and listening to the waves.

When we returned from Popham we had just two nights at home before we headed up to the Stratton/Eustis area to howl with the wolves. See post on that. Of course it drizzled rain most of the time we were there.

After that we came home for a couple of days during which it was cloudy and drizzly, and got ready to go to White's Beach Bluegrass Festival that weekend. We spent Friday and Saturday there with some sun, and then headed home early Sunday, which turned out to be a beautiful day, in order to get in our first kayak paddle of my vacation. (Well, except for the half hour paddle at Popham). It felt so good to be out there paddling in the sun. Rick went home and I spent Sunday night alone at camp, went kayaking again on Monday, and invited Betty out to spend the night Monday night. She and I kayaked again on Tuesday and then I went home and she spent that night alone at camp. I needed to leave so as to get ready for our California trip.

So Thursday morning we left for California, returning the following Thursday, late in the evening. That left just Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (today) before returning to work. I think the fast pace of our California explorations must have worn me down because I got hit with a nasty cold on our last day there and spent my first two days back home feeling miserable and sleeping. I woke up this morning feeling fine and got up early and went for a walk around the neighborhood. It's been mostly overcast all day but it hasn't actually rained.

So I just check and see that seven out of the next ten days are predicting mostly sun. Fuckers.