Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Tiebreaker! Tiebreaker!

Burlington, Vermont

You may have been following my years of tennis losses to Mrs. Phred. I usually lose 6-1 or 6-0 with a very rare 6-3.

Today we went 6-6 but then I lost my first tiebreaker by 7-5. I felt like I was Andy Roddick playing against Fedderer on my best day.

We've been playing together frequently up here so I'm starting to mentally figure out where she's going to place her return and get there in time. She played a little like she might have had an overnight mini stroke. Also, my serves and returns were more consistent than usual.

Whatever the factors, I'm starting to think I've got a shot at winning at least one before I die if we play often enough.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Black Fly Season

Burlington, Vermont

Another problem with Canada in early summer is the season of the black flies, which starts around Mother's Day and ends around Father's Day. The male black fly drinks nectar but the female craves blood and has been known to kill cattle. The bites may cause severe allergic reactions and cause a disease known as "river blindness".

So maybe we'll ease into Canada about the third week in June after the black flies die off. We can hit the coast of Maine for a few weeks and eat lobsters while we wait.

Monday, 24 May 2010

One Last Blog

Wellesley Island State Park, New York

We’re on an island that is jointly owned by Canada and the USA. Tomorrow we rent a boat and go searching for my 40 pound pike. Who knows?

We may approach Nova Scotia though New England or we may simply head up though Ontario and Quebec.

Crossing the Canadian border presents several financial problems:

First, we just loaded up on cases of fine New York Finger Lakes wine and anything over two bottles is going to incur outrageous Canadian customs charges.

The second problem is our cell phones. Roaming in Canada is viciously expensive, but I just signed up for a plan that includes Canada for an extra $30 per month.

The real problem is the Verizon air card that we use to access the internet. The cost for data in Canada is $.20 per kilobyte or $200 for a megabyte. I won’t be posting many two megabyte pictures or checking stock market results unless we hit some campgrounds with a wireless connection.

Sooo…we will be incommunicado for awhile and not checking e-mail unless we choose the New England route to Nova Scotia (which will give me a chance to deplete my wine cellar before hitting the border).

Friday, 21 May 2010

Extreme Hobbies

Enfield Gorge, New York

Our neighbors, Dave and Kristin, have a strange rig. The living quarters are in front. In the back is a very nasty looking Porsche 911, 4 sets of racing tires, some Nomex coveralls, twelve empty five gallon gas cans and a full set of tools. The trailer itself is 42 feet long.

They are in their maybe 30s and both of them drive the Porsche at races in Nomex suits. They have to winch the Porsche back into the rig because the racing clutch would put the car right into the living quarters. Watkins Glen is famous for it's summertime sports car races up on the mountain. It a venue where amateurs can sometimes compete. Dave and Kristin will be practicing next week and doing qualifying laps before the big weekend race on Memorial Day.

Mrs. Phred and I never did much more for hobbies than an occasional week or two on a Caribbean dive trip or a long camping trip or sometimes a trip to Europe. These folks look like they might have a couple of hundred big ones tied up in their hobby..Oh well...they have no kids...I hope they have a good time with life...

We invited Cousin Everett and his wife Midge to a picnic and the 2.5 mile hike though Enfield Gorge. We get up early and buy hamburger, buns and fruit salad. The Gorge is always spectacular...we walk it whenever we hit this area. Much of the geology is ancient here but the gorges have carved the soft shale within the last 12,000 years. It all looks the same to me as it did 60 years ago...give or take a few recent shale slides.

The swimming at lower Enfield opens next weekend. They will raise the water level by damming up the lower gorge water basin. I jumped in here when I was six, before I knew how to swim, and was surprised to find the water was way over my taught me something important about life (and being in over my head).

The hike is fairly strenuous with a lot of ups and downs. We forget water , so we're dehydrated by the warm weather by the time we come all the way down to the lower falls.

In the evening I try out my new favorite grape, the Seyval Blanc.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

I've got a dream, I've got a dream

Hammondsport, New York

Oh, I know I could share it if you want me to
if you're going my way, I'll go with you
lovin' me down the highway
Rollin' me down the highway
Movin' ahead so life won't pass me by
....Jim Croce: "I Got a Name"

We hit Dr. Konstantin Frank's winery today and picked up another case of fine Rieslings and Cabernet Sauvignons. Dr. Frank was the genius who first grafted European grape vines onto freeze-resistant native New York Grape roots.

Dr. Frank was born in Odessa, Russia and did his PH.D dissertation on growing grapes in cold climates. He came to Cornell University in 1951 and his theories were hooted down for many years until he proved them to work.

In the morning we're driving up to a culinary institute to have our lunch cooked by student chefs.
Watkins Glen has a really unusual used bookstore that only carries hot authors of all genres: Zane Gray, Max Brand, Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke. Lee Child, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Vince Flynn, Lescarot and the like. I bought 15 books for $35 which should last a week or so. We've made a date with Cousin Everett to have a picnic cookout Friday and hike the Enfield Gorge. There's a bar here in Watkins Glen that has live music Friday night.
I'd like to rent a boat on Saturday and catch a 40 pound lake trout. Maybe it will be so.

We'll he on the road again Sunday to a lovely park on the Canadian border. Maybe I'll catch a big Pike? I've got a dream, I've got a dream.
Hang on to your dreams
On that highway 2-18.
Live every day
Love it away
There's a whole world you've never seen.
The Bellamy Brothers: "Highway 2-18"

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Searching for White Dog

Keuka Lake, New York

We went to visit Paul and Marilyn yesterday. They have a home on the shore of Lake Keuka. We know them from our winter campground in Sarasota. The lake is shaped like a deformed "Y", instead of a finger, where two glaciers ran together.

Paul gets the pontoon boat out of a storage barn and gives us a ride around part of the lake. Keuka has 63 miles of shoreline and is pretty much filled up with cottages.

The small, rustic cottages of our childhood with hand water pumps, outhouses and kerosene lamps are largely history now.

Keuka is said to be a great fishing lake with lake trout, brown trout, rainbow trout, landlocked salmon, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, and yellow perch. A steam runs from Keuka to upper Lake Seneca. Once they dug a canal there. Later the canal was replaced by a rail line which is now a hiking trail.

After the ride on the lake, they take us to the winery where they work in the summer. The wines are excellent and I buy two cases of whites, reds, sherry and ice wine. The rock-hard ice wine grapes are picked in December between three and six AM after at least three hard freezes. What an explosion of taste!

I'm surprised that they have a machine to pick the grapes. The local hills are covered with cows and grape orchards. Paul explains that they graft European grape vines onto native American grape roots to get the fine tastes of great wines. After the winery tour Paul and Marilyn serve us dinner and wine. A fun visit.

I could live here in the summer and fall. I see a job in a winery for someone with Excel and Quickbook skills. It would keep me busy. I think about it. Mrs. Phred is probably tiring of having me underfoot 24/7.

They also have a distillery here that makes a drink called "Glen Thunder". It's a form of moonshine (white lightning or white dog). Basically it's an instant white whiskey, not aged in a barrel and with no caramel color added. I think I need to try it. Them that refuse it are few...

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Blue Plaid Shorts

Watkins Glen, New York

We only have the satellite TV reception so Mrs. Phred can watch Nadal on the tennis channel. He came out in Madrid with new blue plaid shorts and now all the men tennis stars are wearing identical shorts. That boy can move some product.

We're at the south tip of Seneca Lake. Our RV Park has two tennis courts, a skating rink and a little league baseball field. Grapes are starting to grow on the fences. Our scores today were the usual 6-1, 6-1. Maybe I'll go to the Wal-Mart next door and look for some new plaid tennis shorts?

This is our 4th day here. So far we've:
  • Walked the 1.5 mile gorge (both ways).
  • Ridden our bikes around town.
  • Had a cookout with Danny and Doris.
  • Hit Wegman's for food and Border's for books.
  • Cruised the lake shores looking at barns and wineries.
  • Walked from Treman's park to the site of Uncle Everett's old house. All that's left now is an old pine tree that I recognize from 60 years ago. It's grown. All the apple trees and the house have been removed to make room for a city bus depot. It was a strange feeling.
Today, we will get the car washed again, buy some more canoles from the Italian canole lady ("Leave the gun, Take the canoles.") and have another cookout with Cousin Everett and Midge.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Seneca Lake Wine Trail

Watkins Glen, New York

I'm a happy camper. Finally we're in a place I want to be. The New York Finger Lakes compare favorably with the Lake District in Italy (except for the gelato opportunities).

We spent a day in Fancy Gap, Virginia, on the Blue Ridge Parkway and then two days in Port Royal, Virginia. I tried to keep Mrs. Phred entertained in Port Royal. We went to the Stonewall Jackson Museum, but it was going out of business. Next we went to the State of Virginia Arboretum, but it was raining. The two wineries I picked out were both closed on Tuesday.

So now we are at the foot of Seneca Lake. It's one of the deep lakes carved by glaciers long ago. There are many wineries and dramatic gorges carved though soft shale in the area. I was born 20 miles away at the foot of Cayuga Lake. Both Seneca and Cayuga have deep salt mines formed 300 million years ago when the area was covered by a shallow sea.

We've signed up for a week here and plan to have breakfast with Cousin Danny in the morning.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

What Does It Matter Where People Go?

Wake Forest, North Carolina

Why am I here? Where will I go? How did I get here? This is not my beautiful house, this is not my beautiful wife....

I've been hanging around to accomplish some things for my son. With seven kids (including a newborn), he probably deserves some help now and then. I finished painting and caulking the new playhouse; got two lawnmowers, two weed wackers and a chainsaw running and spent a day cleaning up construction debris from the house addition.

I could stay and organize his new garage and build shelves, but that would be a project too far...

Mrs. Phred is VERY eager to start our summer trip. I've been putting her off day by day to finish projects. I have no idea which way to go...maybe it will come to me in the morning

Start your engines, gentlemen..
Round 'em up...Move 'em out...
Walk me out in the morning dew, my baby...

If you were a bird, and lived on high,
You'd lean on the wind when the wind came by,
You'd say to the wind when it took you away:
"That's where I wanted to go today!"

Where am I going? I don't quite know.
What does it matter where people go?
Down to the wood where the blue-bells grow -
Anywhere, anywhere. I don't know.

- A.A. Milne

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

The Perils of Self-Containment

Wake Forest, North Carolina

RVs must be able to function on a self-contained basis. Among other things, they have three holding tanks:
- One for fresh water,
- One for "gray water" (sink and shower drains),
- A third tank is for "black water".

The plumbing on my RV has two places to connect a water hose:
- One allows me to fill the freshwater tank or, by moving a lever, connect the RVs plumbing directly to the fresh water supplied by the hose.
- The other connection is used to flush and clean the black water tank. A warning sign says to be sure that the black water drain is open while the flushing process occurs.

In a rush to get setup, I accidentally connected the water supply to the wrong port. After a few minutes, a brown soupy-looking liquid begins to spew and cascade energetically over the roof and down the awnings and both sides of the RV.

The hose water has completely filled the black water tanks and forced the contents of the tank out the roof air vent.

I call Mrs. Phred at the grandchildren's house, explain the situation, and ask her to give me a few extra hours to get the tanks dumped at the Park dump station. Then I climb up on the roof to hose off the disgusting mess. I wash down the sides carefully.

It happens, it happens
'cause shit will always happen

Monday, 3 May 2010

Amsterdam and Tulips

Goodbye, Koninginnedag... Hello. Raleigh

On our last day of the river cruise, they offer a tour of tulip gardens.

I need to score some euros for the taxi ride the next day, so I send Mrs. Phred on the tulip tour with the camera while I walk the Amsterdam waterfront searching for an ATM.

Looks like we slept right though the Koninginnedag celebration (above image from Wiki).

It's really hard to imagine how bicycle friendly the Netherlands can be. There are bicycle paths everywhere and you I really got paranoid about walking across the red brick bike paths. They don't slow down for pedestrians or red lights and if there is a collision between a bike and a pedestrian it is always the pedestrian at fault. There must be a million bikes chained to bridges in Amsterdam. A $15,000 Toyota costs $45,000 here and gas is $10 a gallon.

Mrs. Phred comes back with a nice collection of posies pix.

Yesterday was Koninginnedag or "Queen's Day". It involves a lot of drinking and the color orange. The cleaning crews are out early dealing with broken glass and mounds of litter on the bridges and in the canals.

My eyes seem to be old and tired. I don't get so excited about exotic locales these days....maybe I should do more push ups?

The taxi ride to the airport is 50 euros. The taxi is a BMW and the driver has a suit, leather driving gloves and a shaved head with black stubble like the guy in the movie, "Transporter".

I found an interesting book for the flight back and finished it just as we touched down in North Carolina. The protagonist is ignoring his wife and having Internet sex chats with men pretending they are women. The antagonist is an evil doctor who is killing and kidnapping women he finds online so he can transplant their pineal glands....they don't make heroes or villains like they used to....but it beat staring out the window for twelve hours.

Looks like a big front and lots of rain moving though today.

On the long flight over, I gave up my bulkhead seat to some young parents who were dealing with a one-year old on their laps. Hopefully, somewhere there is a ledger of good and evil deeds being kept....For apathy you get more purgatory days...