Saturday, October 1, 2016

Don't give in to the brat.

Across the lake is Old Forge Camping Resort with
more than 400 campsites and cottages.
Last night I vowed to hike the nature trail this morning. This morning there was no part of me that wanted to live up to that vow, but I did. A lesson in the making.

As I left home I thought of leaving my trekking pack behind. After all I was in a camping resort – it was super civilized – the trail was probably paved. 

Wrong! Not only was the pack the right thing to have, I should have brought a walking stick.

The Corps of Engineers would be proud of this artificial lake,
but credit goes to eager beavers that formed
the dam in the foreground.
A warning at trail's head cautioned that parts might be impassable due to beaver activity. The little darlings love to build dams that turn creeks into lakes.

The hike was beautiful and I returned safely an hour later with nothing worse than the bottoms of my shoes wet. Sure glad I didn't give in to the brat.

The lesson: When my brat begs to stay in bed, think not of the warm comfy sheets, but of the elation that awaits the end of the trek.

161001 - Don't give in to the brat 
Odometer: 93,486 
Miles today: 104 
Location: Old Forge, NY 
Facility: Old Forge Camping Resort

Friday, September 23, 2016

Back in he U.S.A.

Question to ponder: When did the United States of America change from plural to singular?

Know that they did a thorough
inspection of GrandpaLyle's Ark
before allowing it to reenter the U.S.
Entering the U.S. at a remote point with minimal traffic seemed like a good idea – a charming experience with the same low key approach to life I'd been enjoying for the past six weeks in Canada. Not so. The staff has way too much time on their hands – time that easily leads to mischief. As I drove up to the gate, the officer immediately told me to turn off the engine – not a good sign.

As expected, he "asked" me for my passport. Even this is annoying when you consider that I'm crossing a border that used to require nothing more than a driver's license. In modern Europe you don't even slow down from autobahn speed to go from one country to the next.

Next the agent started asking questions. Lots of them. He must have found the opening he sought because next he excused himself to round up his colleagues. As they surrounded the Ark he asked me to step outside. I hoped they had been trained in the use of the sidearms on their hips. One took me around back to inspect the firewood. Meanwhile the other four helped themselves to a look around inside – not an inspection – just a gander. Only twice has anyone ever asked if they could see the inside my RV – both at border crossings – both by "officers of the law." Sure glad I made my bed this morning.

Looks are deceiving. Riverside Take-Out
served me some of the best food on the trip.
The day's drive took me downeast to the Maine coast. Dinner was at Riverside Take-Out, an unpretentious roadside stand in Machias, Maine. Wow. Great lobster roll – simple, but great. Plus a scoop of blueberry ice cream that tasted like a sundae made with fresh Maine blueberries. Could hardly believe my tongue.

The Abegweit
Ice-breaker/rail ferry for 35 years between PEI and the mainland.
Now serving Chicago as Columbia Yacht Club.
While I savored dinner at a picnic table in the parking area, Penny from Re Find Furniture next door came by to check out the Ark and chat about it. Then she invited me to see the store. Of course I accepted. While chatting with Penny and Kim (the owner) about the Maritimes, I asked if they had heard of the Abegweit. Kim remembered riding on it as a child. The Abegweit spent her (the Abby's) first 35 years as an ice-breaker/railroad-ferry connecting PEI and the mainland. Since then she has spent 35 years as a prominent feature of Chicago's lakefront, where she's the clubhouse for Columbia Yacht Club. I love discovering what a small world this really is.

By this time all I wanted was a place to sleep. I wish I had thought to ask Kim and Penny if I could just boondock in their parking area. Another hour found me at a lovely out-of-the-way place on the bay. While setting up I had a tough time leveling the Ark – one of the jacks wouldn't work. Got out to check. A tire had a hole that you could put your fist through. Ugh. A few phone calls revealed I was too late reach anyone. Story will have to wait 'til tomorrow.

Back in the U.S.A.
Odometer: 92,774
Miles today: 137
Location: Steuben, ME
Facility: Mainayr Campground

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Low bridge, everybody down.

Last night I must have been completely fried. I paid for two nights when I really wanted to move on in the morning. After unnecessarily anguishing all night I stopped at the office. The proprietor at Wishing Start Campground in Shediac, NB, noted that I looked refreshed . . . then, as nicely as could be, gave me full credit for the second night. (Not all places will do this.) When I checked in, I must have looked as bad as I felt. Very nice.

Followed the Acadian Coastal Drive in Eastern New Brunswick as closely as possible. Gypsy (or as Scott would call her, the Navabitch) kept trying to take me back twenty kilometers so I would go her way. I should have listened – she was guiding me away from bridges with clearance and weight limitations that would scalp the Ark and possibly send me for an icy swim. Thank goodness they were well marked. And thank goodness for the Convert Free app – the signs were all in metric.

Best and worse on the evening's hike: Worst – for the first time the mosquitos got to me. Best – the sunset was, well, look at the pictures.

Nice trail for evening hike
Gobs of birds feeding in the sand (mud)

And, of course, the sunset itself
– complete with jets racing across the sky

160916 - Low bridge, everybody down
Odometer: 92,038
Miles today: 84
Location: Kouchibouguac, NB 
Facility: Kouchibouguad National Park Campground

Monday, September 12, 2016

What's in North Cape, PEI?

Although it was going to add a couple extra driving hours, I decided to stop at North Cape, PEI. Doing so would mean I hit all four corners of the island and I was promised a look at a fascinating house made from glass bottles. Not sure it would be worth it, but I have plenty of time – why not?!

North Cape is at the extremity
of Prince Edward Island
Seems as though North Cape has such consistently high winds that not only does it host a wind farm, it’s become a center for research on wind as a renewable energy source. 

They even have a wind museum. Outside on the grounds were the components of a wind turbine. A single blade that's more than 130 feet long. And a nacelle with openings for the blades tall enough for me to walk through without ducking. This stuff looks a lot bigger on the ground than it does at the top of a 200 foot tower!

Inside I was disappointed to discover that the "museum" was buried in the back of a gift shop.

Surprise! A self guided tour took me back to Chinese windmills thousands of years ago and its migration to the west. I learned that in the Netherlands they used windmills to pump water into canals from areas below sea level. Land that had been underwater became farms. And I learned that the blades were attached to a dome that rotated atop the eight-sided mill so they would always face the wind. And a host of other fascinating but probably useless information.

All this in a corner of the world so remote that only by deliberately driving to the end of the world – or at least to the end of Prince Edward Island – could I see it.

Oh, and by the way, I never found the glass bottle house.

P.S. Renewable energy idea: Place windmills wherever politicians gather. Transform that unlimited wind into something useful. 

160912-What's in North Cape, PEI
Odometer: 91,819
Miles today: 126
Location: West Point, PEI
Facility: Cedar Dunes Provincial Park

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Thanks to all the Jimmys in the world

You may or may not believe in angels. As a child I did. Of course as an adult I knew better. But now I'm not so sure.

Today I was headed for Cape Breton Highlands National Park in Nova Scotia. If the beauty of the park compared to the Ceilidh (pronounced Kaylid) Scenic Trailway I was on, I can hardly wait. 

Or rather, I can hardly wait if there are no more problems. This afternoon while driving I heard a tinny, rattling sound. I pulled off to see what was the matter. Oil was OK. Coolant was OK. Wait. What's that thingy hanging down? Am I going to need road service yet again?!

Closer examination revealed that the thingy was a heat shield (thin piece of metal) that had come loose at one end. If I could reattach it I should be good to go. 

Now being in my home on wheels, I have a pretty complete assortment of tools and stuff. However my mechanical skills aren't even up to those of a stereotypical blond so undeservedly abused in jokes. Even so I could see that all that was needed was to reattach the thingy.

The marshmallow fork
Problem. Reattach it with what. This thingy was going to get very hot. All I could find were plastic ties – the kind that would melt in the oven to say nothing of next to a hot exhaust pipe. Searching all the compartments I found some metal marshmallow sticks. Perfect.

Under GrandpaLyle's Ark I go to twist this very stiff, but very heat resistant, wire around the thingy to hold it up. It went into place just fine, but twisting it was like bending a fork. Nearly impossible. Especially for one who's fingers get most of their exercise at a keyboard. 

While I'm grunting away underneath the Ark I heard a gentle voice, "Looks like you've almost got that heat shield back in place." Angel Jimmy had arrived from out of nowhere. I slid out to greet him and we chatted about my problem.

Jimmy offered, "Would you like me to give it a try?" 

For a moment my male pride balked, but only for a moment. "Please do," I replied.

Exhaust pipe repaired with the marshmallow fork!
Jimmy was a real man but as he twisted the fork tighter and tighter he kindly commented on how hard it was to bend. When all was done, we chatted a few minutes, I thanked him profusely, then he walked back up the hill and I went on my way.

Before starting off again, I looked at my phone. Just as I was crawling under the Ark, Marie had sent me a text, "Just checking that you are fine. You are, right?" This from more than two thousand miles away. Did another angel tell her that I was in trouble?

Are these just coincidences . . . or the work of angels? I don't know . . . but I'm believing in angels more every day. 

P.S. To all the Jimmys in the world, "Thank you for being angels in our lives."

160828-Thanks to all the Jimmys
Mileage: 90,981
Miles today: 230
Location: Mabou, NS
Facility: Ceilidh Cottages and CG

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

When old friends become new friends

The view from Willie Mims's and Pat's deck. Twice a day
 that bay rises and falls more than fifty feet!
Yesterday I had the delightful experience of renewing a friendship that had languished for a looooooong time. Other that a couple brief visits, I hadn't seen Willie Mims since we graduated way more than fifty years ago (actually I seem to recall his hame is Jim Wolford but he was Willie Mims sixty years ago and will be to me for the rest of our lives.) In high school we were inseparable and we remained close through college, but Mims went on to graduate school in western Canada and I never left home in Park Ridge. As if that weren't distance enough, a few years later he moved to somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. In an era of snail mail and pricey long distance calls we lost touch.

But not forever. Old friends are often the best friends and upon renewing our acquaintance what we had all those years ago came alive once again. This time was even better. In the intervening years, Mims had become an expert in all things living. As we drove around Wolfville, Nova Scotia, he not only gave me a guided tour of his remarkably beautiful part of the world, he pointed out beaches and islands that vanished under more than fifty feet of sea water then reappeared twice a day as the highest tides in the world ebbed and flowed. When the tide was out the sand (mud really) beach was home to millions of creatures ranging from microscopic organisms to birds feasting for their flight to South America.

One of many spectacular views where farming and wild life abound. Did I
 mention that bay rises and falls more than fifty feet twice a day!
While driving around we spotted a half dozen different kinds of hawks searching for their next meal. And Mims knew every one . . . and its feeding habits . . . and its life span . . . and everything else about it. I think he called a few of them by name. At least a dozen bald eagles majestically soared overhead – often so close I felt as though I could reach out and touch them.

All this in the company of my high school singing buddy . . . now a retired biology teacher at Acadia University. Wow! What a day. Thanks, Willie Mims. Or do I have to learn to call you Jim? Nah.

P.S. As a bonus, Jim's mate, Pat, served one of the few home cooked meals I've had while on the road. Thanks, Pat. It was delightful getting to know the one so dear to my old friend.

Friday, May 6, 2016

The World's Busiest Airport – the promised second part

More than a year ago I posted part one of this story with the promise of "more to come." But I never finished. Just a week ago Bill, my partner in the adventure, shared his version. He tells it better than I ever could. Thanks, Bill. Not only for the story, but for the years of friendship that surround it.

The World's Busiest Airport – Part 2
told by Bill Reyer

I have had the privilege of sharing a few of the five thousand hours that Lyle has spent flying an airplane. Each hour was interesting especially since Lyle focuses on the tasks at hand and either cannot or will not discuss the evils of government and the perfidy of politicians while so engaged. It is difficult to pick one Lyle experience out of the twenty plus years we have known each other. Since much of our time together has been in and about aviation any experience must of necessity come from that trove in Lyle’s and my logbook.
IMG_1437.jpgWhenever I had a chance to hitch a ride to wherever Lyle was going in those days I would gladly run and meet him from wherever he was taking off.  Often he was gracious or just plain lacking in something better to do he would fly into my backyard in Westhampton and pick me up for an adventure. We flew to Ohio, California, Arizona, the Carolinas, Florida and all around Chicago and Wisconsin and there was that scary flight from Phoenix chasing and catching up with an early snow and howling ice shit storm, which grounded everything but Lyle and that landing in in what seemed like a crosswind hurricane at (then) Palwaukee that had the guy in the tower saying Wow! Whatta landing!
But my most memorable trip and experience was the opportunity I had with Lyle in my plane going to the aviation gathering in Oshkosh, Wisconsin in 2014. Oshkosh, during the last week in July, is the site of one aviation’s busiest and exciting events. It is reported that during that one week Wittman Airport has more take offs and landings than any airport in the world. Every type of aircraft, all sizes and shapes come to that gathering once a year. It is a event that is a bucket list Mecca and a Haj that all pilots would like to make. It never occurred to me that I would ever do it in my 1963 wind up toy Piper cub.
One of the more interesting and often annoying Lyle traits is his persistence and the ability to get under one's skin. Somehow he got the idea that flying a small, slow tube and canvas airplane like a Piper Supercub a thousand or so miles there and back would be a real cool idea. He must have known his target audience as I was sorely tempted but scared shitless about doing it. He kept at it each time we spoke on the phone and I listened but had serious doubts about my ability despite years of flying. Most of my flights were for that $100 hamburger a few miles down the way from my home base. Lyle kept at me and I allowed him to encourage me and I figured I would shut him down by suggesting a non-starter in that I would do the trip if only he could come along.
Before I could take back my words Lyle said he would fly to NYC, take lessons to get current in my tail wheel antique and we would fly west to Oshkosh. The months passed and July arrived and so did Lyle. I was prepared for an extended stay with Lyle taking flight lessons in New Jersey forever and maybe someday hopefully never, we would embark for Oshkosh. Well, it took Lyle one hour of instruction on a Friday and was about to be stamped ok but he opted for a second lesson just to make sure and he was good to go. I thought we could hang out in NY for a spell but the next day on Saturday we were airborne and on our way. We left New Jersey and headed for Lock Haven, PA, our first stop and the plane’s birthplace. I was still dazzled from the rapidity in which we flight planned and fled the scene. We refueled and I guess my head was still back home asleep and I failed to secure the gas cap on one tank and we merrily flew across Pennsylvania trailing aviation gas over the whole state.  The trip was going to be at “game over” without a gas cap but a call back to Lock Haven turned it up on the tarmac where it had popped off. An unexpected but required overnight on the Penn/Ohio border found us sharing a stinky smoking room in a motel while awaiting a Fed Ex overnight gas cap delivery. The next morning Fedex came through with the undamaged cap and we were on our way. We split the flying with each of us alternately folding our six-foot frames into the back seat. We sat out a storm in Ohio, flew under scud low and slow and over the course of the day got ourselves to Waukegan where I was totally fried and flopped into the an easy chair in the bosom of the Ark and swilled several tumblers of scotch. I slept the sleep of the dead that night. But over the weekend in Chicago some doubt and anxiety started to creep into my head.  I was uncertain whether to go on or turn around hightail it for home being satisfied with having gotten as far as I had. Lyle said nothing and was not judgmental and seemed willing to do whatever was easier for me and  after wrestling with myself decided to damn the torpedoes, bite the bullet and mixed metaphors aside, set out for Oshkosh. Lyle smiled and expressed his approval. The next day we agreed Lyle would be better taking the front seat as pilot in command and making the trip into OSH from Waukegan, as it required a bunch of dance moves.  He was familiar with the drill, which involved merging into a moving line of aircraft crossing at right angles to our flight path and joining the double Conga line of traffic being vectored into the airport.  It was fairly busy with planes at two levels and lots of them. Acknowledgment of landing instructions radioed into us was by rocking of the wings. No verbal communication to the controllers except the dutiful following of instructions. Planes were landing every thirty seconds and our landing was on the first fraction of the runway and Lyle was asked to do a fast taxi. He obliged by making the longest airborne taxi that day at Oshkosh. We landed finally at the end of our taxi and were finally escorted to vintage parking. I assume it was in regard to the plane’s age and not the guys in it since we were probably at the mean age of the coots and codgers attending that day. We hung out for the day and flew back at sunset to Waukegan.  It was a day to remember.
The trip was an experience worthy of the bucket list and although I knew Lyle was a helluva pilot (he flew and landed the Cub lots better than I) he was also a great friend and instructor. His steady competence and calm approach throughout gave me the confidence to return home solo and I logged the longest trip I ever made by myself. There was no wild and crazy moment but only the great feeling to be in the company of a good friend and encouraging mentor. I hope there are more such moments.
Happy Birthday Lyle

Thursday, May 5, 2016

On the Road Again . . . at 75

On the Road Again . . . at 75

After 2½ weeks of hopscotching around the country celebrating my 75th, it felt strange to be back home (in the Ark). My road trip started two months ago from home in Arkansas but was interrupted by flights to both coasts with a couple stops in the middle.

This feeling was new to me. Usually I’m instantly comfortable when starting out in my home on wheels. Was my dis-ease related to the whirlwind travel, suddenly realizing my age or what?

Yesterday I had trouble focusing enough to plan even my first day on the road. And getting on the road didn’t have the same thrill. Of course, rather than starting afresh from home, I was rejoining a trip in the middle . . . and in a strange city . . . and the interruption included major highs and lows (story to come). 

Today's first stop was the Vidalia Sweet Onion Museum in Vidalia, GA. A simple place with a docent that really knew her stuff. I had heard that Vidalia sweet onions were legendary. Today I learned why. I don’t even like onions, but these are peel-and-eat sweet. The growers are so protective of their specialty that they sought and won both state and federal protection from anyone who might “counterfeit” the Vidalia sweet onion. 

Vidalia onion rings  better than Hackney's
Naturally the next stop had to be a nearby eatery to taste Vidalia onion rings. Good call. They’re better than Hackney’s – a Chicago standard against which all others are measured.

Although I was headed for Macon (more on that tomorrow) I was ready to stop. 50-100 miles is my usual limit for a first day and today was really a “first day.” Not only that it was a loud day. The exhaust gasket blew earlier on the trip so as I drive I sit right above poorly muffled explosions bursting at the rate of 100 per second.

I was aching for a place to park for the night. But for the next 150 miles there were no RV parks. None. I don’t think I’ve ever driven more than 50 miles without finding a place (not all of which I was willing to visit) but today there were NONE. Not even a Walmart parking lot.

Rather than a 50 mile day it had stretched to more than 200. As the afternoon wore on I just prayed for a safe place to spend the night. My prayers WERE ANSWERED. Right now I’m sitting on my patio 50 feet from water’s edge as motorboats buzz by in the distance. 

How does this work? All day I’m grumpy. I ask for help and next thing I know I'm parked in Eden. Think it’s time to light a campfire and roast a brat . . . and reflect on why I'm so blessed.


160504-On the Road Again . . . at 75
Mileage: 85,628
Miles today: 217
Location: Macon, GA
Facility: Tobesofkee Recrational Area, Claystone Park CG

Friday, April 1, 2016

You know you’re getting old when . . .

It’s been nearly a year since I last posted anything . . . please forgive the lapse. While getting back on track I found this piece written last June. Although her thirty-first birthday is right around the corner, I’d like to go back to her thirtieth for y’all:

You know you’re getting old when . . .

Our Annie, our baby girl, turned thirty on Sunday. For each of our kids, Marie and I have hosted a party celebrating this event — this would be our last. 

This party proved a new experience for me. Not the party, actually, the hosting. With an important episode of her TV show, “Focus on Suppliers,” only a week away, Marie was up to her eyeballs at work. She was having nightmares trying to fit it all in.
Annie and her daughter, Hazel Marie Nelson

GrandpaLyle to the rescue: Marie, why not let me take care of the party?

Marie: Are you sure? That’s an awful lot to do.

G: How hard can it be? Send invitations. Order some food. A quick trip to the store for some drinks, paper plates and plastic spoons. I can do that.

M: OK. That would be great. 

But she had an odd look on her face as she said it – as if she knew something I didn’t.

I’ve always prided myself in being an equal opportunity fool. So I forged ahead. Sent invites. Ordered food. Ran to the store. The party was on. Guests arrived. I greeted them like a perfect host and began enjoying my party.

Meanwhile, Marie jumped into the breach I didn't know existed . . . doing all the “woman’s work” I had overlooked. Ordering food is not the same as serving it. Beverages don’t pour themselves. Arriving guests need more attention than arriving kids. Midway through the afternoon I wondered why I had hardly seen Marie. 

The light came on. She was doing the myriad tasks required to keep things moving — the invisible ones every host does that cause departing guests to say, “What a wonderful party.” 

All this time I was having a ball at the party I had thrown. I came to my senses just in time to give Marie a break. She was able to enjoy watching our Annie open gifts while I did some clean up.

At thirty, Annie was as engaging as she was at three. There wasn’t a person in the room who didn’t feel the joy of being part of her life. Especially Marie.

And I’m feeling a little younger, knowing that I’m not too old to be a real jerk.


P.S. You know you’re getting really old when . . . your son (Annie’s older brother, Scott) flashes his AARP card at that same party.