Saturday, July 04, 2015

Red White and Blue

South Burlington, VT

Those are the three colors of the day of course.  But rather than posting a picture of the flag, I thought of this shot taken by Jen on our trip out west last March.   The scene is beside the road leading up to Bryce Canyon. Click on the picture to see it full size, or maybe save it as your screen wallpaper.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Best Free Entertainment In Town

South Burlington, VT

Every morning while at Jen's, I walk over to the airport to enjoy my morning coffee and the views.   I walk past a big project in progress.  The airport bought 30-50 houses on the bordering streets.  Now they are demolishing all of them.  The demolition is the best free entertainment in town.  (The purpose and ultimate plan of this project, I don't know.)

 First comes the preparation.  Representatives of the gas, electric, water, phone, and cable companies come.  Each marks the paths of their underground facilities, and verifies that service has been shut off.  They paint markings on the pavement with painted codes.

This process is more complicated than it could be because not all the houses in each section will be demolished.  Homeowers had to opt in to get their properties bought.  Not all did.  Therefore, instead of cutting off gas service (for example) at the main for a whole block, the underground network must be maintained for any customers remaining on that street.

Next comes the hazmat people.  They pull out any asbestos or hazardous material.  That takes time.

Next, they pull out salvageable items from the interior.  Kitchen cabinets, toilets, sinks for example.  I did not see them pulling pipes or wires but they probably did that too.

Then, if the house has metal or vinly siding, men pull that off by hand, and put it in a dumpster.   Then comes a special machine on a steam shovel base that scrapes off all the asphalt shingles from the roof and puts them into a dumpster.   Segregating all these materials into separate dumpsters makes recycling easier.

Finally comes the actual demoliiton.  A shovel with a claw tool just grabs chunks and puts them in a dumpster.  This process goes extremely fast.  I watched them do a garage in only 120 seconds!  See the picture below.

Then a back hoe comes in, breaks up the concrete foundation, and deposits the chunks in a dumpster.

Finally, they clean and grade the entire block, making it ready to plant some kind of ground cover.  Picture below.   The process, not including preparation took 48 hours per half-city-block.

Below are some pictures of some of the houses waiting demolition.  Some look ready for it.  Others look pristine, as if they should have real estate for sale signs in front.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Champlain Obsession

South Burlington, VT

We have a few rainy days, time for indoor activities.

The other day, I hiked from our campsite to the other side of .Valcour Island.  From the other side, I could see East to the Adirondacks.  There were puffy cumulus clouds over the whole region.

The view to the West is shown in the picture above.  The same pattern of clouds can be seen over Vermont's Green Mountains.

Over the lake, indeed over the entire Champlain Valley, the sky was almost totally clear and cloud free for the whole day.  

I think this is a great example of a micro climate.   I've read that Champlain is too small a body to give rise to a micro climate.  I disagree.   Many times over many years, I've seen markedly different weather over the lake as compared to over the land.

Most striking (sorry no pictures) occurs in the fall.  I used to drive from Burlington to Schenectady every week, usually crossing the lake at The Champlain Bridge.  Once or twice every fall, approaching that bridge I was treated to a fantastic sight.   A bank of clouds came up to the lake shore, then stopped sharply as if it was cut off with a knive.   The visual impression was a vertical wall of clouds, 20-25 thousand feet high.  That is five times higher than the local mountains, and a very impressive sight.   I think that claiming that Lake Champlain does not create a micro climate is very wrong.

In the past, I think I wrote about the jet stream, and how it's customary path goes north of Albany and south of Burlington, thus dividing them into two climatic regions.

Everything about the lake and the valley continues to fascinate me.  In the past I've written about the geological history of the valley, and the lake bottom.  I consulted with geologists and studied geology books about this region.   Now, I write about the weather here.

Other times I've written about the views of the mountains from the lake and the views of the lake from the mountains.

Still other times, I've grown interested in the history, and studied that.   The time of The Revolution and the history of Bendict Arnold stand out.   Last week we saw a video documentary about the Abenaki Indian life in this region.  It struck me as likely false, reflecting only the white man's view.   Unfortunately, the true history and accounts of pre-explorer life and times are not available to us.

Did I ever mention that my obsession with Champlain began in the 1970s.   I had a sailboat on Sacandaga Lake in NY.  One year, as the water levels in that man-made lake dropped in September, I got the idea of trucking the boat to Champlain for a sailing cruise around October 1 when fall colors peak.  That trip was huge fun.  I repeated it year after year, with my son John, my father, and my friend Walt as companions.

Years later, when moving the family from Sweden back to the USA, we chose to move to Burlington because it was such a pleasant stop along the lake.

Am I Champlain obscessed?  I guess it must be true.

Sunday, June 28, 2015


South Burlington, VT

Libby and I both feel rejuvinated.  We had two days on Valcour Island.  We would have gladly stayed another week except that we didn't have enough food, and because the weather was about to turn nasty.

Of all the places on Earth, we love Valcour Island most.  So for us this visit was a very big deal.

Our new vessel, TJ, performed admirably taking us there.   We were able to easily load it up with all our camping gear.  That means all the cargo that we could fit in the Camry's trunk and back seat.  But I'm well aware that TJ is not Tarwathie, and that she is no match for Lake Champlain in frisky weather.  Therefore, we drove around the lake to NY to lauch at a point closer to Valcour, and we chose days when the winds were light and variable.   Probably, TJ could handle rougher weather on the lake, but I'm not planning to test it.

Below are a few pictures.

TJ loaded with camping gear, ready to go.
The view of Vermont from our camp site.
Look closely, these are two trees intertwined.  We call them "The Lovers."

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Sea Trials for TJ

South Burlington, VT

Every new vessel needs a sea trial before undertaking any serious voyage.  Such it is for TJ.  (Cathy Mills won the naming contest, Tee Jay, TJ, for Tarwathie Junior).

So, after a week of seemingly endless chores to get legally and practically ready to use TJ as a registered motorboat/trailer, and to get a trailer hitch for the Camry, we were finally ready.   We headed toward Vergennes and Otter Creek for the sea trial.

Regular readers know that Otter Creek and Vergennes is one of our most favorite places in our nomadic wanderings.  Many times in the past, I've posted pictures of Tarwathie, tied up below Vergennes Falls.  It is the only place I know where we can approach the base of a waterfall on Tarwathie.

But for the sea trial, we chose to go where we've never been before.  We launched TJ above the falls, and we took her south on Otter Creek almost all the way to Middlebury.

So, how did it work?   Excellent.  TJ is a worthy vessel.  She's as stable as a canoe can manage to be.  The outboard started with only three pulls.   We found that the motor is able to drive her at 10 knots, which is a breathtaking speed for sailors.  In fact, we made use of a feature that young people with jet skis have never discovered --- half throttle.

We discovered several things.  We forgot to bring a painter.  We need to carry a sponge to mop up water that we bring in on our feet.  (There are zero water leaks in the canoe.)   I need a flag to back up the trailer because the trailer is invisible in the car's mirrors.  When arranging things in the canoe, it is very difficult for the persons in front and in back to pass things between each other. That's a pretty short list.

How was Otter Creek?   Wonderful.  We saw lots of wilderness, with views of lush green fields, and portions of the Green Mountains unfamiliar to us.  We saw no other vessels, or vehicles or people on the voyage.  Just a herd of curious cows.  I was surprised that for more than 10 miles there are no roads or bridges crossing the creek.

Today, we head out for another landmark Valcour Island.  Regular readers know that our visits to Valcour are almost spiritual.   We are very happy to be able to go there this year even without Tarwathie.  (hmm, should we start calling Tarwathie Big T?)

Libby at the helm of TJ
We can even explore side streams where Tarwathie could never go.
View looking down from above the falls.  Big T usually ties up where that motorboat it.  The water levels are extremely high and the currents very swift.
The only Vermonters we saw.  They were very curious about us.