Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Today I Am a Man ..Airstreamer

In three score and seven, I have passed (or perhaps slipped by) many of those markers on the way to MANHOOD, but none which so filled me with such manly pride as RIVETING. (Ok, you may have seen Someday59’s kids gripping Air powered Rivet guns and polishers, but they’re home schooled and thereby advanced in so many, many ways.)
Although life’s experiences may be riveting, my own exposure to actual riveting has been limited.
  • patching Marshall Bennet’s rusted out ‘47 jeep with Aluminum and Bondo. If you know Marshall, you know I never got to touch any ‘chinery.
  • I may have been present at the installation of a few “rivet patches” in Hueys in RVN, but I was distracted counting the number of rivets in the tail boom so I could be as smart as all the Warrant Officers.
  • When my aluminum canoe had an unfortunate encounter with a mid stream rock and required repairs, the guys at the National Guard Flight facility got so tired of my lame questions that the Maintenance Chief bucked in a few while I held the canoe.  Thanks Tommy, but aren’t ear plugs required?
So it was with excitement and trepidation that I opened the box from Vintage Trailer Supply..
Let’s see.  New power converter to solve my recharging woes.  (it’s only ELECTRICITY; what could go wrong?)
100 big head rivets, (wonder which end…?)
and CLECOES (CLECOS are little 3” gadgets2011_0727CASSIE_ASF0018 that you insert in the newly drilled holes to hold the two pieces together while you drill many many more holes.

Clecos are the Talisman, the sure sign  of an Airstreamer capable of  actual riveting and ready to confront sagging belly pan, dislocated banana wrap and perhaps even panel replacement.) I have 25 of them.  Actually that’s five times the number I will need but I intend to carry 2-3 in my pocket at all times and perhaps drop them casually on a bar, the ultimate challenge coin.
The actual riveting was a little anti-climatic.  I could perhaps have dramatized it a little by sticking my legs out in traffic as I crawled under trailer parked at curbside, but Pat and Emilyn were doing girl things, so the audience response was muted.
I know now why the machine shop GAVE me the perfect sized drill bit I was shopping for –he knew I would be back for more.
So, belly pan secure, banana wrap repositioned, computer desk de taped and tie downs secure.  I feel so proud. 
Oh yes, Old Army surplus looking Converter replaced with sleek new electronic version with three stage charger, battery serviced—what could go wrong; it’s just ELECTRICITY….?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Cassie Takes the Stage

    "There was a star danced, and under that was I born." - William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing, 2.1
        A pleasant MatinĂ©e performance of your eleven year old Grand girl in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing  may not  be common summer afternoon fare for many, but it is actually not too unusual in Montgomery Alabama.
        The world renowned --seriously folks, World Class –– Alabama Shakespeare Festival (ASF)  hosts summer classes in which grade-schoolers learn, choreograph, and present  a Shakespeare play.  They learn the lines, create the props, make their costumes, do a little sword fighting, rig the lights, inject a few dances of their own, rehearse and go live on a professional stage IN A WEEK!
      Both girls have enjoyed this pre blog, but here is a sample of our star’s current work.

      Cassie Mac in Much Ado About Nothing



      "I do love nothing in the world so well as you. Is that not strange?”  ditto

      The Two Hundred Mile Rule

      Our friends Tom and Carole have refined this RV supported bike touring to a fine Art.  I’m still not sure how the final itinerary is created during long snowy winter days in New Hampshire, but when they take to the road their movements are precise and their objectives clearly mapped out.  One salient principle, among many, is the
      200 Mile Rule.   One never, never pulls one’s trailer further than 200 miles, never on weekends or holidays , never in the rain and seldom on grades exceeding the number of fingers you can grasp a ripe grape with.  
      We have tried to follow this sensible advice and were congratulating ourselves when Tom added “A WEEK.”
      OK, we tried that and found that new friends in the campground or nearby gave us great incentives to linger and just falling into the rhythm of the place revealed new attractions.
      But occasionally we have strayed, sinned (if you had Nuns) and although usually only venially (again, the Nuns), sometimes it is a Doozie .  A 500 mile day – into the core of a southern heat sink.  “Bless me father for I have sinned… yesterday we left the 62 degree mountain campsite covered in booming Rhododendrons and  plunged  down 499 miles of sizzling Interstate into 115 degree heat . The Hydrangea are shriveled black threads and even the Lantana has failed to bloom.” 
      “Don’t tell me that I’ll burn….”


      Monday, July 18, 2011

      The Virginia Creeper Trail

      The Virginia Creeper Bike Trail near Damascus VA is a big favorite of ours.  It is one of only a few trails where willing agents will ferry indolent slugs and their bikes to the top of a Mountain and let them COAST eighteen miles through cool green forests, over high wooden trestles, along beautiful trout streams and reward them with tee shirts and ice cream for the feat.  Do we despise this flagrant commercialism of our Natural heritage and are we wont to distance ourselves from this tourist carnival atmosphere?  Of Course.  Do we ride this ride every chance we get? Absolutely!!
      So it came to pass that the noble decender was joined2011_0718VIRGINIA_CREEPER0032 by the team manager and soon both were aboard a van/trailer headed back over the route of the morning’s fearsome descent.

      Veterans that we were, we had cold weather2011_0718VIRGINIA_CREEPER0036 clothes for the arctic temperatures of Whitetop  Mountain, but it seems that the teens in the frilly tops were about right.

      We’ve taken a lot of pictures of the trail over several years and seasons and later I’ll post them here.  Here are a few from today.
      And after a breathless eight Miles, comes Taylors Valley and the Chocolate Layer Cake that we risked all this for. 

      The Descent of the Col de Jeb Stuart

      It is a cool, misty morning when a single rider mounts his bike, his face grim with determination.  The cycle computer registers 14.5 MPH at the campsite and jumps to 24 before the gate leading to the CLIMB. The rider slips out of his big chain wheel for few minutes it takes to conquer that category 0.00 climb, then tips over the crest.  On a big descent, there are two possible paths to glory. One, you can stop pedaling and let the hill take you, anticipating those water cooler moments when  you can throw off “Yeah, didn’t turn a pedal for 12 miles.”  OR, YOU CAN LET THAT PONY RIDE….
      For option two, one needs steady nerves, reasonably good tires and a working speedometer.  Alas, Technological Torments befell our rider.  No speed indicator, hence no satisfying bragging rights. ..and just when a new land speed record was within our grasp…
      Nothing to do now but carom downhill at speeds clearly near terminal velocity and check out the scenery.
      Wow, Straight Fork is getting a little noisier, a waterfall, and another. Probably no one but a biker would see them.
      The Rhododendrons are dropping petals and each rock has an upstream wreath of white.
      No sense looking in the rear view; no one passes us at these speeds.
      Maybe if I fiddle with the … No, hands back on the bars, here come the triple S curves.  SORRY can’t reduce to 25.
      Blue Bonnets  and Queen Anne’s Lace in the sun near the road edge, Honeysuckle somewhere – smell it? 
      MOVE Turtle.  OK, OK  don’t.  Just be glad you have witnessed this fearsome ride…. 

      Sunday, July 17, 2011

      Back to the Rhododendrons

      F2011_0717BEARTREE_CG_DAMASCUS0009rom Wine (berries) to Rhododendrons ….We left The Skyline drive with 700 miles to reach Montgomery.  Seeking a midpoint, we settled on The Mount Rodgers NRA and a chance to ride the Virginia Creeper trail again. On Monday we will avoid the crowds. 
      The ride was the same on I-81 but there were some surprises on the back roads.  This bridge work2011_0717BEARTREE_CG_DAMASCUS0001 was the same Recovery Act money that brought us the silky smooth new pavement on the Skyline Parkway; Thank you President Obama!  The tornado damage a few miles back is still being cleaned up.
      The Drive up , way up, from Damascus VA to Beartree  campground is part of the Transamerica Bike Route (the 76),  a scenic byway and probably should be a national treasure. THE JEB STUART HIGHWAY (US 58) climbs and twists through mature timber,  the Straight Fork rippling alongside and blooming Rhodos in all directions.  We can’t wait to see the trail tomorrow.PATTY AS RHODODRENDRON
      Around camp you will notice  Our Lady of the Airstream appearing in the window.

      Keen observers will  note the silver Coleman stove has been deployed and that can only mean BACON…BACON
      lovely BACON, bear attracting, fat dripping, extra crispy bacon for BLT’s with the last of the Jersey tomatoes.

      We also note with sorrow yet another embarrassment for poor Lotti.LOTTI EMBARASSED AGAIN
      And for the Trailer curious who are hanging in here to find out about the Tire Troubles … We pulled the tire and found a roofing nail,  (remember all ten of those cars fixing flats as we drove past Philly last week?). Carl plugged it expertly (as well as handled all the heavy lifting for the old Airstream couple) and freely shared even more tips. 

      Saturday, July 16, 2011

      Dears and deer

      Morning at Loft Mountain Campground in Shenandoah National Park dawned brilliantly clear and bright.  Sun filtering through the trees and bright cloudless skies, temperatures in the low sixties –big change from July last year when it was 90+.  The campsites here are mostly circular pull thrus with various amounts of  camping area separated by lush walls of vegetation.  Nice neighborhood, an Airstream with three little ones who immediately introduced us to ”wine berries” which taste like raspberries and grow abundantly here.  Justin and his lovely assistants, Christine and Jenna, are scouring the whole area. 
      2011_0716LOFT_MOUNTAIN0011 Carl has had his AS for five years and has solved a number of issues; he  shared lots of tips and even used his electronic moisture detector to check ours for leaks—no leaks except in the tire. 
      We idled away most of the morning then the old folks retired to the bed for reading and
      .2011_0716LOFT_MOUNTAIN0005 2011_0716LOFT_MOUNTAIN0006
      The culmination of the wine berry foraging was a delicious cobbler which Laura created.  Ah, the Airstream Life –good friends, beautiful girls and inspired cooking.
      Our paltry attempt at exercise was a sunset walk –on the AT, if that counts.  There we saw signs of Bear and a couple more local beauties .

      Friday, July 15, 2011

      Loft Mountain Camp Ground Shenandoah NP

      The drive across Pennsylvania on the Turnpike and south on I-81 is way way too familiar by now. 
      We had no clear destination, but eventually settled on Loft Mountain in the Shenandoah NP. We pulled off the interstate and ran 340 down the valley for a while to add interest and arrived about 5:30 to an Airstream welcome. Boondocker  (Rodney Roosevelt) was camp hosting and introduced himself. By the sort of coincidence that makes life interesting, he has just yesterday accepted a teaching job at the University in our  town, so we expect to see a bit more of him.  We parked next to another Airstream family and had a great time with their kids and learned a great deal about airstream issues from Carl.

      Arcane Airstream stuff which troubled our day, but needn’t bother you, kind reader.
      Tire Pressure Monitoring systems (TPM) seem a splendid idea. A little gizmo on each tire stem tells a gizmo on the dash when your tires are loosing pressure or too hot.  Simple?  Not so much.  This was the day Al did NOT unscrew each sensor and get it to “wake up”—this to see if it actually would send the data after a few minutes on the road.  Well it didn’t , so we stopped to “wake” them and found that one tire  was low.  whether that would have been transmitted to us is a moot question.  We pumped up to desired pressure and monitored, wondering if we were getting updated info;  we also checked at regular intervals.  It would appear that we have a slow leak and will have to seek professional assistance and also appears that the TMS is less than useful.  The usual answer to such problems is a “repeater” which boosts the signal …..
      OUR CAMPSITE AT LOFT MOUNTAIN right on the edge facing the sunset.
      It is cool and pleasant here.  Dinner was great, and the cook has declared tomorrow a “Down Day”.  Seems that what’s needed after several days of grandmothering…

      Thursday, July 14, 2011

      Lotti at Ginger Road harbor

      Lotti at Ginger Lane


      For several days now, Lotti has been nestled into her snug slip at Ginger Road.  The security has been tight.  

      There has been a maximum of giggling and many “floor exercises” involving Meme and her little friend.  We are on the cusp of the Jersey tomato and sweet corn season and many have been sacrificed at the gazebo.

        Today we visited the Mercer County Historic Farm.  Al remembers seeing the sheep grazing here while driving back and forth to Lambertville during the preparations for Joanie & Tim’s wedding.  Who knew we would return so soon  with a very interested  dignitary.  Here are a few pictures from our visit and the return to a favorite restaurant in Lambertville.

      Anthony at Historic Farm

      Sunday, July 10, 2011

      Search for the ultimate camp chair

      It must now be recognized and belatedly admitted that the camp chairs we bought -–by mail order—several years ago are deficient in so many, many ways.  In our defense, those were heady times.  We were taking a little more time away from the business, learning fly-fishing.  We were camping in campgrounds (after years of shunning them) and close enough to our new Trooper to recognize its unexploited cargo space.  So, in a moment of weakness, with creaking old bones from several nights on backpacking pads, we entered REI and purchased thick, thick sleeping pads.  As the season progressed, we added a four person tent (grandchildren might come, and the old tent stunk), a Tarp (to shelter the table during rain storms), and, really now, a battery lantern to read by.
      Thus reduced to decadence, there was only one further step (short of a cutesy sign with our name on it) -- CAMP CHAIRS.   It was winter and real camp chairs were closed out and the era of the “Bag Chair” was yet to dawn. There was little choice but to resort to trusted mail order outfitters.  Need I remind you that this was also before Edie Bauer opened mall stores and Herters still sent out 400 pages of taxidermy kits and genuine Adirondack Pack baskets (not purses)?  Outfitters could be trusted to OUTFIT.
      THE OFFENDING LAFUMAHere it is, “The Lafuma”.  Really?  THE Lafuma, purveyors of the iconic waxed cotton and leather climbing packs?  They are making camp chairs?  They are green?  Two please.
      Nestled under the Christmas tree.. Yeah, what else do you buy a woman who fly-fishes and has no interest in cosmetics, jewelry or frilly stuff?  …under the Christmas tree they looked great, but under my …err…butt, they were horrendous from day one. They were too narrow, the armrests too high and skinny, the seat and back stretched and sagged and needed constant adjustment.  They did, however, fold flat and store neatly behind the Trooper seat, conserving space for decadent camping equipment as yet not imagined.  They rattled along with us for years, seldom actually used, but sometimes offered to folks dropping by to ask what we caught them on..
      So last year we bought an AIRSTREAM.  The ultimate in decadent camping you might say, but then you probably haven’t seen the inside of some of those other marble lined, rope lighted bordellos ….OK, another rant.  So yesterday we spent our 202nd night in the Airstream in the company of some of the most capable, most fanatic, not to mention nicest Airstreamers in the country.    Our LaFumas stunk up the place. Visitors shied away at the sight of them and sat on the picnic table, some diplomats offered us theirs. Obie the Clown got stuck in one at the group photo shoot and refused suggestions to take one along and put it in his act.

      PRACTICAL CONSIDERATIONS:  There are camp chairs and there are campfire chairs.  Under your sun shade, you might prefer a “zero gravity” adjustable chaise in one of its many forms and colors (although Obie’s blue and silver one seems the pinnacle of good taste.)  These recliners can be as elaborate (and weighty) as your tow vehicle will accommodate.  But we go self-propelled to the campfire and attempt to stay somewhat upright, so light weight chairs are de riguer. 
      It becomes obvious that at least four comfortable chairs are required to entertain and one must ponder the appropriate mix of chaises and straight chairs for the respective guests. 
      The Traditional Airstream chair is the ZipDee. If you buy a better class of Airstream new, they throw in a pair (in exchange for the Rolex and the beamer you hocked for the down payment).  You hear two things about the ZipDee chairs. They last forever and they have a bar that cuts off circulation to your lower limbs. And, oh yes, they are close to $100 bucks a pop.  You can usually pick up a discounted one in Jockey Red for a few dollars less if you want to be eternally linked to the idiot that thought red would  go great with the Airstream crowd.
      There are designer wooden ones in catalogs with stylish awning fabric choices, but they are usually posed in front of that restored Airstream with no license plates that appears in all the videos, so who knows how they sit.
      Ikea has announced price cuts.  Surely they have something serviceable and they have Large parking lots …
      I love the bag chair with the elevated leg rests (sorta looks like a grounded heron).  I love it because in it my youngest grandgirl snuggled in my lap during her first fireworks show and it really doesn’t seem like the Fourth without that chair.  It is however, horribly slow  to get in and out of and even slower to pack up.
      At the aforementioned rally we successfully converted  one of those friendly Scottie people into an Airstreamer by pointing out that he already had chairs with broad aluminum beams quite out of place in the white and aqua world of Scotties.  They  were real comfy; I must inquire when he gets back from picking up his new shinny thing.
      Until then, the search goes on….

      Hiking the Forest Cathedral


      It seemed safer for the Grandma who was yelling at her little ones to take MeMe for a walk.  We walked out of the hustle bustle of the Campground into silence, dark tree trunks and a thick carpet of ferns in the sunny spots.


      Surprised at how tranquility  settles around you in a place like this?

      Shouldn’t be; it happens every time.

      These are good places to retreat to after a conversation with your credit card security sleuth.




      The trees in here are BIG!  There are the large White Pines , the tallest in the Northeast at 183’ many at 150’.

      The Forest Cathedral Natural Area has been designated as a registered National Natural Landmark. up 2


      patty lookin up


      she is so old

      Some have been converted to useful objects –especially useful after a long uphill.




      Friday, July 8, 2011

      Another day, another trail


      2011_0708CLARION_LITTLE_TOBY0002The Allegheny Plateau is blessed with steep river valleys and an abundance of railroads converted to bike trails.  Without an internet connection or a desire to research into the night, it’s just pick one and ride.  Today Al wanted to “see the countryside”, so we picked a place with both trout streams and a trail – the Clarion—Little Toby trail.  The map program chose a circuitous route – lots of back,back roads through tiny towns and “camps” a minimum of noteworthy scenery. 

      2011_0708CLARION_LITTLE_TOBY0004The trail was OK, a little “industrial” at its start, pretty along the Clarion with patches of wildflowers in the sunny spots and lots of rhododendrons in the shade.



      We had a section of Rail with Trail as we paralleled the main line, then a climb along pretty Little Toby creek.

      The storms threatened before we reached Brockway, but we saw the huge Brockway Glass complex and blocks of great Victorian homes on the drive back (on real highways).

      Campground is crawling with KIDS.  What did you expect, its summer? Troupes of tots, brigades of bicycle cavalry, wandering groups of thugs in cut off tee shirts and lots of harried grandmothers screaming “One..TWO …”   It’s been hard keeping MeMe in her camp chair.

      Thursday, July 7, 2011

      Cook’s Forest State Park

      We escaped the land of Lawn Ornaments (Gaslight Campground) at 8:30 and headed for Cook’s Forest State Park;2011_0707COOKS_FOREST_SP0079  We wanted to see the BIG Trees.  The showy display of rhododendrons was just a bonus.

      We hadn’t done enough research (or consulted our friend and muse) so we were surprised to see how developed the area is.  Lots of cabin rentals (little cabins), canoe rentals (slow, low Clarion river) , inns and theaters, shops and such.  It’s like the Poconos without the comics.  The crowd isn’t the National Park-outdoorsy-gear-hanging-on-the-jeep  gang we are used to.  It’s more “my husband is an Eagle Scout and he wants us to do this.”  They, however, seem to be having a ball and may soon buy a car rack…
      The trees are BIG -- White pines saved from the axe by Mr. Cook until some far-sighted citizens and a  responsive legislature bought it in 1929.  The network of trails through it is extensive and heavily used, but start at the uphill end and we found that most turn back before reaching the “Forest Cathedral”.
      Our attempts to capture tree pictures were less impressive than we hoped.  Perhaps tomorrow we will do better or someone will leave a new Nikon on our doorstep. It is different from our other “Big Tree Place” –Joyce Kilmer Forest in North Carolina. Here it is the same tangle of fallen trunks overlapping like giant Pick-up-sticks, but here there is  no understory.  (Clearly off-trail bushwhacking is possible, even desirable, here, Joanie). 
      Our (handicapped) campsite is nice. ( I have been walking with a limp when outside.) We have a shower room and laundry 30 yards away and a dumpster perhaps a little too close. They assign these when the rest are full.  Pat told them, “ We aren’t handicapped, but we ARE Old.”
      Patty has a new boyfriend;  we are going over to have “marbellos” with him later tonight.

      Wednesday, July 6, 2011

      Sandy Creek Trail

      sandy creek trail 001
      Sandy Creek trail runs 7+ miles up to Van, Pennsylvania  along a seamless ribbon of asphalt through deep green forests , over soaring metal trestles, spanning clear rocky streams and even through a cool tunnel.
      belmar bridge


      at tunnel entrance
      PRETTY BASIC RAIL TRAIL.  But  suppose you want a slice or maybe an ice cream; now that’s a different matter. Now we have to get off our railroad and on to the other one.  Yeah, that one, the one we just bridged over.  Well, you say, “Railroads didn’t just  do that.”  (No pizza back then?)
      long view of stepsal on the steps

      So it was, dear reader, that we (meaning Al) schlepped two bikes down and back up these monster steps to provide you this novel photo op.sandy creek trail 047 No pizza was on offer, just murderous traffic in Franklin. We were happy to escape with our lives.

      Oh, we (meaning Al) are honored to serve.

      sandy creek trail 049

        Gratuitous landscape shot