Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A Polar Bitannic Expedition!

My brother Mark is one of my heroes.  He's three years younger, a lot smarter, and a lot funnier.  When we were kids living in Northern Virginia, he came up with all sorts of weird stuff.  When we'd get a good snowfall, we'd all suit up and head out, and this was known as undertaking a "Polar Bitannic Expedition!"  We imagined all sorts of rugged hardship,
but were usually back inside withing 20, max 30 minutes.
Against all meteorological odds, it decided to snow in Raleigh (yes, Raleigh!) today, and to make those odds even steeper, it snowed more than they predicted!  
They have closed schools around here for the threat of snow that never even happened, so this was pretty cool.
After accomplishing anything worthwhile we could think of, by evening Paula and I were beginning to suffer the early stages of Febrem cameram, or by its common name, Cabin Fever.
"Time for a Polar Bittanic Expedition!" she bravely exclaimed, pulling on all sorts of rarely-used anti-cold clothing.
It really was beautiful outside, with the snow still falling softly.
 The neighborhood looked magically different.
Paula's gardens napped peacefully.
I think we were out for even longer than the Polar Bitannics of my youth, come to think of it.  However, it's still nice to get back and warm up your toes.
North Carolina has a great solar snow removal system.  Everything shuts down for a day or two, the sun comes out and it all goes away.  The city only has three snow plows, and I'm not making that up.  However, it's fun while it lasts.
We hope that your Expeditions go as well.
Dave & Paula
PS  I still can't figure out where he got the 'Bitannic' thing, but the grandkids even say it now...

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Freeze Out!

What goes around comes around, and once again I am in Scouts, this time as the Assistant Scoutmaster for the 12-13 year-olds.  
As W. Somerset Maugham once said, "Tradition is a guide and not a jailer."  However, you just gotta do some of the things that have stood out in the past, including making Scouts really non-dangerously cold on the annual Freeze Out!
This year we opted for Hawksbill Mountain on the edge of Linville Gorge, one of the more picturesque places in North Carolina.
It took the usual hour or so to hike to the top from the road, and all seemed great as the temperature wandered around in the 30's and 40's when the sun was up.
And then the sun went down.
And so did the temperature - down to 10 degrees, and the wind kicked in around midnight.  When I got up at 2 AM to check on my young charges, I found three of them still yucking it up in their tent.  The fourth frightened me by not answering for a minute, but he woke up and said he was warm.  The other adult had opted to sleep in a hammock, but admitted in the morning that he got a bit woozie when the wind picked up.
The next morning was very cold,
and we packed up and headed down the mountain.  
The guys voted for 'brunch' at Chick-Fil-A instead of trying to cook something on top of the windy mountain.  Sheesh!
Anyway, back to going outdoors with the Young Men.  Stay tuned for more adventures.
And meanwhile, we hope your electric blanket is working.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

So, what do we do with all that time?!

Now that we're finally (really) retired, we get asked a lot - what do you do with all that time?  From Paula's point of view, a lot of the same old stuff, though I get to help more now that I don't have the excuse, "Gotta go to work, honey."
Church stuff fills in some of those 'empty hours.'  I've been linked with the young men of our congregation ever since I was a young man.
Paula has always had busy assignments; most recently, she's the Scout Committee ChairWoman/Person, and has whipped that in to shape.
She's also been assigned to help with the Family History Library.
Owning a house means maintaining it, and she has been working since we got home from Peru to bend the gardens to her will, among other things.
We're planning a bike trip in the southern hemisphere in February, which means staying in shape meanwhile in the northern hemisphere.  Paula and I do at least a 50-mile ride and a couple of shorter ones each week, bundled appropriately.
Avoiding the local wildlife.  And you Texans think YOU have big rabbits...
I'm trying to find some of the lines from Rubaiyat by Omar Kayaam.  Ah, yes, here they are:  
A Book of Verses underneath the Bough, 
A Jug of Wine, A Loaf of Bread—and Thou 
Beside me singing in the Wilderness— 
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow
OK, pretending that southern Wake County is a paradise in the wilderness (ignoring the subdivisions springing up), and that neither one of us sings very well, 
A Bike Seat, comfortable enow,
A Water Bottle, Granola Bar - and Thou
Beside me resting by the Trail,
Your Tire, the victim of a Nail 
Yeah, well, that one may not be quoted for a thousand years.  Meanwhile, we're staying plenty busy, but thoroughly enjoying the nice freedom to mostly choose what kind of busy.  
We hope you're also finding enough to stay out of trouble.
Dave & Paula

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Thanksgiving, Southern Maryland style!

For many, many years, when I was not on call, we traveled with the kids to my brother Mark's place in Maryland for Thanksgiving.  He lives on a beautiful promontory on a bay off the lower Potomac, near its mouth on the Chesapeake Bay.  There's always something to do, as in the days when we were just getting started windsurfing.  Yes that's me, and yes, that was my hair.
And yes, the faux wood siding on the minivan was cool.  At the time.
Our kids always had a great time running around in camos with their cousins, playing laser tag on dirt bikes in the dark ("Yeah, the second time we got tossed when the front wheel hit a gopher hole, we figured we might want to quit."), camping in the woods, etc.
Though our kids are now scattered around the world, we were not going to miss Thanksgiving in Leonardtown.  Brynn and Chad and their kids drove up from Jacksonville, NC, and did some of the traditional things: scaling Uncle Mark's climbing wall in the barn, 
running around the woods exploring stuff,
having a cool-evening bonfire,
flying drones with Uncle Mark,
riding in Aunt Kathleen's dog cart,
and of course going out in the bay on Uncle Mark's sailboat.
One of our missionaries from Peru is doing an internship in DC, so yeah; Jorge Morales, c'mon down!
And there was food!
 The unwashed heathen were placed where they could do the least damage.
A visit to Uncle Mark's has to include playing in cold water at some point.  The first day, not enough wind.
However, the next day it blew much better, and some kiting got done, despite dropping temperatures.
With less wind on a later day, the biker gang did their thing.
By the end of the nearly week-long visit, Paula was drinking straight from the bottle.
It was time to go home, though with a lot more good Thanksgiving memories.
We hope your holidays are as rich.
Dave & Paula

Friday, November 17, 2017

Upholding My Reputation

Our daughter Brynn, her husband Chad and their four kids live in Jacksonville, North Carolina, very near the coast.  Their two sons are ten and seven years old, at an age when Outdoor Adventures are truly cool.
However, when I was a Boy Scout leader, it became very clear that my presence on a campout was associated with bad weather.  This included rain, sleet, snow, hail and even a tornado watch or two.  Or three.  Someone looked at a couple of years' campouts, and the rate for precipitation when I was present was over 90%.  I am not making this up.
So, when we made advance plans to take advantage of an Onslow County Public Schools day off to take the grandsons camping, this gave Mother Nature plenty of time to get ready also.
We pitched the tent as quickly as possible in the rain.
Then we got a tarp up.  You'll notice the classy center pole, complete with good shear lashings and made from two paddles.  ("Gee, Grandpa, that looks pretty stupid, but I guess it works.")
However, filled with burnt/raw hot dogs "cooked" over the fire on sharpened sticks, complete with that patented smoky flavor, the boys were soon content.
The next morning, Mom Nature had just about drained the swamp; the tide was about as low as it gets as we put in the watercraft.  This meant a lot of slippery, funky-smelling black mud and oyster shells.  But hey, it's an Outdoor Adventure, right?
Either the great blue herons were really tall there at Oyster Point (real name), or the water was really shallow.  
It was the latter.  However, scouting around a bit, we figured out the channels.  The guys had a good time paddling around with their dad, and after only a half-dozen dizzying circles, figured out how to go in a more-or-less straight line.
Meanwhile, I cheered them on from the safety of my own craft.  ("Are you nuts?!  I'm not getting in a boat with those kids!")
It was good to get out with the guys and their dad, rain or not.
Another great adventure, and my bad weather reputation remained intact.
We hope your outings are as memorable, though perhaps a bit drier.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Adult play time!

Since about 1990, my brother Mark and his wife, and usually our friend Winston Trice and his wife Betse from Richmond, have accompanied us to Cape Hatteras during a week in the fall.  The timing is to take advantage of the increasing winds, while the water and air temperature haven't dropped too much.
The Outer Banks of North Carolina stick way out in to the Atlantic, and are basically sand bars that mankind has claimed and populated with fancy houses and tourist shops.  These islands are regularly cut off from the rest of the world by storms, breaches in those sandbars by storms, cuts in electrical cables, etc.
There are only four or five groups of people that infest these sandbars this off-season time of the year:  fishermen, whose manhood is gauged by the number of fishing rods they can put on the front of their vehicles,
surfers, taking advantage of the wind-driven waves,
a smattering of old retired people (not like us, of course) checking out the knick-knack shops, and finally, those taking advantage of the shallow Pamlico Sound waters coupled with the wind to windsurf and kitesurf.  That's us! 
It is a predictably unpredictable week - we have seen winds literally from zero to 85 miles per hour, air temperatures from 80's to near freezing, and water temps from bathing suits to thick wetsuits.  However, the common denominator is a week of recreation, laughter, and reacquainting with old friends.  And eating too much.  And shop-crawling to check out the latest gear.
Some days, the wind is quiet for part of the day, and so we take to the bikes.  No, not the pink one.
This year the wind blew nicely.  Paula, braving the gut-check brought on by not windsurfing for seven years, headed out and nailed her water starts and sailing.  
Meanwhile, the guys got out the kites!
While recognizing the relative unimportance of kiteboarding in the eternal scheme of things, it has been a goal of mine to learn it.  With good winds and kind help from my brother Mark and Winston Trice, our good friend of 40 years, I made some good progress this week.
We invited Nate Turner along, one of the former missionaries who served with us in Peru.  On the way out to the Outer Banks, we realized he had never had North Carolina barbecue.  That had to  remedied, and Shaw's in Williamston did the trick.
After church in Kitty Hawk on Sunday, we went by the site of the Wright brothers first flight.  By the way, that's my brother with his arm around that other lady, not me.  We look a lot alike - both devastatingly handsome.

We also stopped to let Nate see where cotton came from.
Ex-Elder Nate turned out to be an expert kiter and he had a blast, even having to hang around with old guys like us.
On the way back home, we tried to remember a bad week in Hatteras.  It hasn't ever happened.
We hope your breaks from reality are as much fun.
Dave & Paula