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

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Likely survivors of the apocalypse

We are told that cockroaches, of which there are over 4,000 species, are the consumate survivors, able to go six weeks without feeding, able to withstand the radiation levels present at Hiroshima, and able to orbit the earth in a Coke can, the oxygen within being sufficient for several weeks.  They were contemporaries of the dinosaurs, and I'm sure the dinosaurs were creeped out also when they saw them in their kitchens .
When the first human survivors cautiously emerge from whatever shelters have kept them safe, they will already find junk mail in the smoking remains of their mailboxes, that is if it hasn't already found its way to the mail slots of those shelters.
We would humbly suggest another likely survivor of global catastrophe - Liriope spicata, also known as lilyturf or monkey grass.  
"What could go wrong?" we asked ourselves as we pushed a half-full wheelbarrow of the innocuous-looking plants home from a neighbors yard.  Little did we realize that the "pips," as the divisions are called, were quietly giggling, excited for the chance to conquer another sector of Earth.
We planted them carefully, and even watered and fed them, and they quickly spread under the pine trees in our front yard, soon offering a cool shady carpet, where before there had been only brown pine straw and pine cones.  "This looks great!" we chortled stupidly.  
However, things are never quite that simple, and the monkey grass began sprinting for the open. Paula created a no-man's land between the grass, which was quaking in its little green boots, and the monkey grass, which was shaking its fists, chanting aggressive slogans and trying to leap across the RoundUp-sprayed border.  
This worked until we left for five years.  With no one patrolling the border, pump sprayer at the ready, the Liriope escaped.  The grass was no match, and the maintenance guys that we had hired to keep the lawn in shape just gradually retreated before the onslaught.  By the time we got back, half the lawn was infested.  
We quadrupled the strength on the RoundUp and went to work, sacrificing a lot of the grass in the process.  Sure that control could only be achieved with a physical barrier, we a concrete mowing curb installed.
"Nice try, suckers!" I heard through the screen window lying in bed one night.  Investigating further in the morning, Paula found  that numerous rhizomes had already passed under the concrete and were heading for New York City.
"Quick!" I cried, and rushed to Lowe's, who gleefully sold me as much 4" steel edging as I wanted.
Over the next week, using a wide brick chisel, a sledge hammer and a Sawz-All for the pine roots, I cut a narrow trench behind the mowing curb and banged in the steel edging in.
I tell you I heard, with a Liriope accent, "Sucker!" as I trudged wearily away, shoulders, arms and knees aching after a week of work.  I awoke in a cold sweat that night, realizing that a 1" gap was left between the steel edging and the concrete curbing.
Home Despot opened at 6:30 AM, and actually 6:25 AM if you bang hard enough on the sliding glass doors.  
I ran inside and bought mortar and sand, and by the end of the second day, we had filled the gap.  
However, we noticed that the neighbors were no longer smiling, but were nervously shying their kids away from our yard and telling them not to talk to us.  
Anyway, for the moment we only hear angry whispered mutterings from the Liriope spicata, as it plans its next move.  
We sleep with a full sprayer of 8X-strength RoundUp next to the bed, ready to spray first and ask questions later.  
We hope that you have better luck with your ground covers, and if you see monkey grass, don't listen to it!
Dave & Paula

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Hurricane preparation

As you're well aware unless you've been Rip van Winkle-ing or haven't paid your cable or internet bill lately, Hurricane Irma has shown herself/itself to be a huge dangerous and deadly tropical cyclone, basically destroying several Caribbean islands, and now heading through Florida.
Hurricanes are predictably unpredictable in their wandering about and in their strengthening and weakening.  A map of hurricane tracks over the years looks like a two-year-old got hold of a map and a box of crayons,
These storms generally don't come very far inland before losing steam, but we have had several make it all the way to Raleigh, the most recent in 1996, when Fran knocked out power for eight days and phone service for two weeks and generally made a mess.
So we do take hurricanes seriously here, and generally check things before they might hit.  We bought a generator a long time ago because of the frequent ice storms in the winter and hurricanes in the summer, and it has had its share of use.
During Fran's aftermath, we used it to keep the freezer going, thereby rescuing the neighborhood's shrimp, and fragments of wedding cake,
as well as charging some cell phones.  While we did save some of the neighbors' steaks and chicken, a lot of folks had a quicker solution.
One neighbor came over, coffee pot in hand, and asked if he could borrow some power.  "Yeah," he said, "it's been a couple of days now, and my wife's getting a little 'jumpy.'"  .
Another neighbor's basement sump pump shut down when the power went out, so we ran an extension cord over there also.
We also have stored food, headlamp batteries and camping stoves.  And if the water supply turns off,
though I admit that bathing in Sprite, though tingly, is a little problematic.
It's good to have a couple of tarps on hand for trees or branches through the roof, water damage being a biggie.
Some items seem a bit weird at first glance, but on second thought are understandable.  Our daughter, who lives on the North Carolina coast has kids of 10, 9, 7 and 4 years of age, and she has several audio book CD's of Harry Potter, and batteries to run the boom box.
Chocolate must be obtained and hoarded in case of such an emergency.
There are some things that a lot of people used to use that are good to have in emergencies.  They are called books, I think.  
So there are many considerations when hurricanes are threatening. 
We hope that although you prepare well for them, they veer off somewhere in the Atlantic.
Dave & Paula

Sunday, August 27, 2017

We can't get rid of them!

As I may have mentioned previously, we came to know (and mostly love) 451 missionaries during our time in the Peru Huancayo Mission.  We keep up with many of them on FaceBook, to which we were asked by the Church to subscribe after the mission.  That's fun, seeing them get home,
have kids, 
get fat, lose their hair (he, he), etc., though there are occasional heartbreaks that they also share with us.
We've been to several weddings; unfortunately, our location on the East Coast of the United States makes that difficult.
Unless the wedding is in Australia, and then no problema.
We've been honored that a handful have dropped by, even way back here in North Carolina!
OK, so we forgot to take a picture when one visited, but Photoshop saved the day, no?
I admit that several were passing through on their way to the beach or other places anyway, and would have been spanked by Paula if they had not stopped by.  However, others have gone to not inconsiderable bother and expense to see us. Most recently, (former Sister) Jane Goodfellow came and visited for a couple of days.  
We ate barbecue and hush puppies, which were eye-openingly appreciated by our visitor, as well as collards and shrimp and grits, the latter being another hit.
We hiked in a local park forest,
and did the eclipse, or at least our 95% of it, on the front walk.
Sister Goodfellow bonded with the fish in Paula's garden.  She gave them fish food, and they nibbled on her toes.
The last day she was here, we attended the Raleigh Temple.
A great visit by one of our adopted kids!
We hope your kids and their visits are as pleasant.
Dave & Paula