Sunday, June 10, 2018

B-B-Bear Island!

There is a barrier island off the North Carolina coast with a long and varied history, that in 1961 became a state park.  It is about five miles long, and has been largely maintained in a pristine state, with access only by watercraft, and with a bath house and small ranger's house as the only structures present.
It's name was originally "Bare Island" because of the absence of vegetation or much else, but through a clerical error at some juncture, it became officially "Bear Island."  This confusion opened the door to confusing my Boy Scouts as to the nature of the island, anything from a place infested by fierce ursine creatures, to suggestions that it was North Carolina's only clothing-optional park.
Whatever it's etymological roots, it's a great place.  As I said, you can only get there by boat, which means canoes at this time of year, when the small ferry from the mainland section of the park isn't operating.  And that means trying to herd such craft loaded to the gills with camping stuff and inexpert Scouts through about three miles of wetland channels.  The true distance several of them traveled was at least twice that far.
Once on the island, there are designated camping sites, 
but absenting any other people due to the season, the young men ranged all over the place, exploring the dunes,
playing soccer,
and Capture the Flag at night.  Meanwhile, us four adults spent most of our time talking and laughing, checking occasionally on the guys to remind them about sunscreen (most forgot) and to make sure the sharks hadn't taken too many.
The former Scoutmaster brought shrimp, potatoes, onions, sausage and a whole can of Old Bay season, and brewed up his famous Frogmoor Stew.
The weather was great, until.... packing up time on the third day, when a strong storm blew through, making everything a sandy wet mess.
But everyone made it back to the mainland safely, and my reputation as the Bringer of Rotten Weather was upheld.  (In truth, when I was Scoutmaster in the past, records were kept that proved that the likelihood of precipitation on one of my outings was about 95%.  It included rain, hail, snow, sleet, and a tornado watch, then repeat.)
So, another brave trip to B-B-Bear Island, successfully completed.  We hope that all your expeditions are as fun, but that your weather is better.  And that you can get all the sand out of your car before your wife gets home.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Christmas in April!

Chad and Brynn and their four kids live in Jacksonville, NC, near the coast.  Their deck was starting to fall apart, so for Christmas we agreed to help them rebuild it.  On Monday morning after Christmas on Sunday, it was off to Lowe's to buy the materials.  Yes, those are 16-footers in a 7-foot bed of Paula's Tacoma.  You just put a bunch of concrete on the other end and drive re-e-e-a-l slowly. 
Chad had already taken apart the old deck, and a couple of pickup loads got it all to the landfill.  Along with a no-longer-repairable piano.
Ever toss a piano in to a 10-foot deep landfill bin?  As the piano crashed in, I smiled and thought of every piano teacher of my youth (the memory of them has probably been poisoned by my lack of practice).
Back to work.  Augers?!  We don't need no stinkin' augers!
Every sixth grader should know how to mix a wheelbarrow of concrete, right?  
Chad gave instruction on the fine art of mixing the stuff.
Once the placement of the posts had cured, the frame construction started.
The guys at Lowes just shook their heads as we loaded up Brynn's minivan with more stuff.
Chad's eight-year-old son Joshuah has a love of all things tools.
He volunteered to help in all sorts of ways.
Despite the gloves and eye protection, we waved him off.
Power tools and 2nd graders - not a good mix.
Annie was caught red-handed. Or pink-handed, I guess.
She arranged her "office" on the under-construction project.
The deck gradually, and I do mean gradually, began to take shape.
Chad proved to be as adept at fine-cutting deck planks as filling teeth.
We finally finished up last week, on the third visit to J-ville to help with the construction.
The benches held up to the test of the entire family plus Grandma.
Old joke - How many gynecologists and dentists does it take to build a deck?  And how much time will it take them?
In the end, it all turned out pretty well, and looks to be very functional.
We hope that all your projects turn out OK, but that they don't take so long.
Dave & Paula

Sunday, April 22, 2018

"We thought you'd started a day care!"

That and other such comments by the neighbors heralded the arrival of Ashley and her six kids from Tajikistan a couple of weeks ago, their departure brought forward about six weeks due to a medical concern that luckily blew over without a problem.  Brandon was left behind to finish things up in Dushanbe, and will come in early May for family leave and training before they all go to Uzbekistan for their next posting.
So, what happens when seven folks with a combined age less than mine show up?  Delightful chaos!
Easter egg hunts!
Untidy rooms!
Gangs infesting Monkey Palace!
Having to put a new edge on my screwdriver tips!
Fishing in the garden pond!
Piano concerts!
Hiking in a local park!
Krispy Kreme!
So once again the house echoes with kid sounds.  It has been just great, and a lot of fun.  And we can make their mother do the dirty work.
We hope your grandkids are half as much fun.
Dave & Paula

Monday, April 16, 2018

Avoiding growing up! The Old Guys' Kite Camp!

Since 1992, we have rented a house with my brother and our friend from medical school, Winston Trice, and our wives at Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.  This has been during the fall, and sometimes again in the spring, which are seasons when the winds are dependable but the water's not too cold.  For the first 16-18 years, the trips were for windsurfing..
Sailing around on the Pamlico Sound behind Hatteras Island was a blast.
Great sessions were followed by peeling off the wet suits and doing a cannonball in to the hot tub!
However, Winston started kiteboarding when it was just starting to take off as a sport, and he tried for a number of years to get us to try it.  We fumbled around some, and finally in 2008 my brother Mark and I each bought a kite and a board, and the fumbling got serious.
A couple of years after that, Paula and I were assigned to South America for almost five years, and by the time we got back, Mark was getting pretty good at the sport, Winston was getting great, and I had been left miles behind in the eternal outdoor sports arms race.
I kept fumbling, experiencing major frustration.  I finally got some better kites (the equipment had evolved, whether I had or not) and an easier board, and I began getting some short runs on the relatively flat water of the Sound.
The 2018 Spring Old Guys' Kite Camp rolled around last week, and we packed eleven people in to a beautiful house on the Sound, with two rank beginners, a couple of experts including one of our missionaries that served with us in Peru and his brother, along with the usual suspects, my brother Mark and his wife Amy, and our buddy Winston.  The several 20-something people skewed the average age downward, but it was still over 45.
And it was a stupendous week!!  There were buckets of wind all week long, and we kited for six out of seven days, resting on Sunday.
I believe that the conditions were the best ever, though it was cold enough to warrant dry suits for a couple of days.  (This is Winston 'boosting' over an old nasty shipwreck in the Sound.)
I became known as Mango Man! for the color of my dry suit.
By the first couple of days, I was finally getting around on the kite!  And after that, it was fun!
And what do you do when it's too dark to kite, or your muscles finally yell, "ENOUGH!?"  Duh!  You go shop crawling!  There's always some new shiny object to buy!
And you watch kiting videos!  And eat lots!  While you're watching kiting videos!
Everyone made great progress, including the experts, who leaped ahead and learned 'foiling' which involves using a kite and a hydrofoil board to ride up and out of the water.  (I found the image online - the guy's not wearing a dry suit!)
OK, I admit that in the grand scheme of things, kiting is of little or no importance.  However, it has been fun (at occasional moments) learning it, and hanging out with friends.  As the average age at the OGKC advances, we hope to be doing this for a good while longer.  
We hope that you also continue to learn new things, and that you remember to point your forward foot downwind when you water start.
Dave & Paula