Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Libby's Latest

South Burlington, VT

Libby is as busy as a beaver in the summer.   She gets up at dawn to go out and work in Jen's garden.  But when it rains, she comes inside and makes baskets.  The one above is recent.   Jen likes it a lot.  Libby sold that one at the Hort Farm's silent auction.

On Monday, I tried to get Libby interested in planning a new canoe trip.  Her answer was that, "I have to fix the drainage." meaning that her mind was still on the garden.

It gives me joy to see Libby enjoying herself so much.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Wow! What a Great Celebration

South Burlington, VT

Libby and I are both floating on the ceiling with happienesss after this weekend.   At Jen's house, John and his family came up from NY, and David drove up from North Carolina.   We enjoyed three days of family fun to celebrate our 50th anniversary.

Thank you thank you family.  You made both of us very happy, and we feel very loved.

The high point of the weekend was a zipline adventure at Smugglers Notch.  That was great fun. Watch the little 3 minute video below.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Our First 50 Years

South Burlington, VT[Today is our 50th wedding anniversary. Below is an account of those years.]
In the winter of 1962-63, I walked into the cafeteria at Fayetteville Manlius High School and my life changed forever. You see, I met this girl. Her name was Libby Lowber. I won't claim love at first sight, but there was some attraction at first sight, because the next thing I know I was out on a date with her. I don't remember if I asked for the date or she did. It was only the second (and last) time in my life that I went on a date.

It was a double date. Libby and I were in the back seat of Gert. Gert was the car owned by our friends Baden an Emily. They were in the front seat and we were in the back. We went to a drive-in movie (what else would you do in those days???!!!) Before the end of that evening, Libby and I were boyfriend-girlfriend. We were very bad because for the rest of that school year we skipped school about twice per week to spend time with each other. As far as I know, our parents never found out about that.

Honeymoon departure in Gert
Three years later, I was at school up in Potsdam, NY. Libby was at school in Cazenovia, NY. She called me one night. She wanted to talk about setting a date for our wedding that summer. I was a bit reluctant because of pressure from my mother. My mother thought that we were too young, and she had reservations about Libby. But on that call, I relented and said, “OK.” The response was a huge cheer from what sounded like the voices of 100 girls. It seems that all the girls in Libby's dormitory were listening in on the call. I felt ambushed, but only for a moment because I was in awe of the thought of being married to Libby. You see, engagement is kind of abstract, but the moment that you set the wedding date, it becomes very real.

We made a happy couple at the wedding surrounded by so many wonderful family and friends. But ASAP we left for our honeymoon in Gert (we had bought Gert from Baden and Emily). What were our plans? We had none. We just started heading north and east finding interesting things along the way. That suited us just fine. (Note the premonition of the cruising life here.) We got to Maine and heard about Acadia National Park and that sounded neat. But along the way we stumbled across Booth Bay Harbor, and we just loved it. It took another 35 years and three more attempts before actually reaching Acadia.

Skip forward another year and we become the suburban couple near Schenectady, NY. My engineering career took of with a bang. Libby began establishing a network of friends. For decades thereafter I got consistent feedback from all of Libby's friends and acquaintances; Libby Mills was a very special person in the hearts of everyone who knew her. I already knew that, but it made me proud for others to say so.

Skip forward another two years. We had been trying to get pregnant all that time without success, so we put our names in with the adoption agency. Then one day in 1968 (I think it was the same day) two things happened. I got a letter telling me that I would be drafted to go to Vietnam within a month. I really wanted to go because my friends were there putting their lives on the line, and I felt guilty not being there. But on that same day we got a surprise call from the agency, they had a baby for us. We rushed right over and picked up John. The way the rules worked, that disqualified me from being drafted. Besides, Libby said to me “Hell no. You can't go.” So, my life turned around on a dime once again. Two years after that we got another great surprise call from the adoption agency. That's how Jennifer entered our lives.

But life takes over. Being a parent is the biggest thing in your life. Bigger than career. Bigger even than marriage. John, then Jennifer, then David became the joy of our lives and still are. But being a parent doesn’t compete with marriage, it consummates it. It also gives you experience at working with your spouse as a team, as well as a couple. But even then it is not over. Being grandparents is wonderful, and great grandparents is even greater.

John, Jen, Dave
Wanderlust: In 1973 we were offered the opportunity to go overseas to Sweden for a year. We jumped at it. We lived over there 1973 to mid 1974. John started kindergarten over there. It was a grand experience for Libby and I. John and Jen were too young to remember everything from that year.  

Two years after that came surprise number three. This time it wasn't the adoption agency calling, it was the stork knocking. David entered our lives. What a joy that was. Now our family was complete.

In 1983, I was between jobs and looking to move out of Schenectady. I almost accepted a job year Dorval Airport in Quebec, but instead I elected to go back to Sweden and to work for my client, ASEA. You see, in the preceding years, I had more than 50 two-week trips to Sweden on business. That added up to more than two years away from the family. It became easier to switch than fight So, the entire family was uprooted and moved overseas. That was an experience none of them will ever forget the lives of all five us changed on a dime that day. We had some wonderful years and made wonderful friends in Sweden.

But one day in 1987, David woke up to go to school and said to Libby “It's hard to wake up and to remember how to speak English in the morning.” That evening, Libby said to me, “We're going home.” There was no room for discussion; her mind was made up. A few months later we were making yet another new life for ourselves in Burlington, Vermont. That was a fun experience. We didn't know a singly soul in Vermont, nor did I have employment there. I continued working remotely for ASEA in Sweden. So we entered Vermont homeless, friendless, and jobless (at least in the local context). Yet another life change swinging on a dime. Yet another premonition of the cruising life style.

Fast forward to 2005. The kids were grown up and gone. Libby and I were living in what the real estate lady called, “The perfect retirement home.” in West Charlton, NY. Libby had a garden, and I belonged to the local volunteer fire department. But at work, I had just completed an exhausting four year project, and I was feeling burned out. Then the idea popped into my head. “Who cares if we are only 60 years old? Let's retire early, sell the house, buy a sailboat, and cruise.” Poor Libby. I'm sure she must have gulped hard when she heard that, but forever loyal she never hesitated to give me her approval. So that's what we did.

Our First Day On Board Tarwathie
The years since then have been wonderful and so entirely different than our pre-cruising lives. We have been having nonstop fun for more than 10 years now while living the cruising life. Key to that success was our decision in 2005 to dump the idea of sailing around the world. We could have done it, but we realized that if we did so, that we would have little or no contact with family for 5 years or so. Instead we cruise on the East Coast where we have opportunity to see family every year. That was a wise choice.
Like everyone else, we have had some rough times, but our love only grew stronger. Libby especially deserves credit for her devotion to me and her loyalty. As my life spun on a dime again and again, she spun with me. She has been willing to follow my lead through all my crazy twists and turns. That is except in those cases where I get things wrong. In those cases, Libby turns my head to the right way, then willingly follows me as I head off in that direction.

In recent years on board Tarwathie, it occurs to me very often that I could not imagine having a better partner, a better lover, or a better crewman, than Libby. She is loyal. She is brave. She is adventuresome. She is smart, and she is wise. But most of all, she is me. I am her. We are the ying and yang of a couple; inseparable, and sometimes in my mind almost indistinguishable from each other.

Libby soars in a sailplane. Sugarbush, Vermont

But this 50th wedding anniversary is nothing more than a way point, another milestone in our lives. Thanks to our active lives, and thanks to a lot of luck, we both still have our health. We can continue having fun and finding new adventures to experience together. We'll continue doing that indefinitely; maybe another 50 years. Yet, if something happens tomorrow, we have the benefit of having enjoyed very satisfying lives. Someday in the future, we will depart this Earth without regret.

It makes me feel guilty speaking for both of us on this occasion. But I'm the one in the family blessed with passion for writing. But Libby will, as always, make her feelings known in other ways.
Only one piece of business remains unsettled. Libby has never admitted that she's wonderfuller.

Libby, I love you dearly.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Taking The Family To Hill Cumorah

South Burlington, VT

On the evening after visiting Corning, we took the family to Palmyra, New York to see the Hill Cumorah Pageant.  I think it was a success,  each of them came away with memories of an experience that they'll remember forever.

Libby and I first saw the pageant more than 50 years ago.  We saw it again in 2011, when traveling on the Erie Canal.  This was our third time and we intended to share it with family.

Why would we do that?  It was not a religious experience for any of us.  Few people would have their religious views swayed by such a brief encounter.  Besides, the Mormons make no attempt to proselytize the audience.   On the other hand, the pageant is a cultural and historical event unique in the world.  It can be compared with the annual pilgramage to Mecca by Muslims.  But Mecca is far away and Palmyra is easly accesible in New York State.

There is even a bit of back door drama at the pageant because of the numerous protesters screaming hatred towards Mormons.  We would be shocked to see such overt display of hatred towards other minorities today.  It would be like witnessing a KKK rally.

Anyhow, most of my pictures didn't come out because of the low light levels.  Below are a few I picked up from the Internet.

The show is impressive technically.  The cast of 750 do their thing on a hill size 200 meters away from the audience.  Yet the visual and audio effects are so good, that one sees and hears very clearly.  The visual impact is spectacular.

Before the show, the cast mingles with the audience.  We met some very nice and very interesting people from the cast.  If you go to the pageant, go an hour early so that you can mingle with these people and talk with them.  It's very rewarding.

This woman is from Boulder, UT where Jen and I were in March.  Boulder is a beautiful, but tiny place.  She was surprised that we knew about it.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Our Day At Corning

South Burlington, VT

Last Saturday, we met with Becky, John, Vicky, and Katelyn in Corning New York.  What did we do?  We went to the famous Corning Museum of Glass of course.

That is a very fun place.  The left side of your brain is educated about the technology of glass and glass making.  The right side of your brain is stimulated by the delightful glass art objects.  The fun center of the brain gets tickled by the make-your-own projects.  We did all three.

Below are a few of my favorite pictures from that day.  The video shows all of them.

Victoria and Katelyn.  Beautiful aren't they?

Fused glass like Libby makes in Marathon during the winter.

This is magic. Each clear oval is a magnifying lens.  You see an image of the far side of the vase through each of them.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Good Sailing, Good Company

South Burlington, VT

Our friends Pierre and Christina found the perfect gift for Libby and me.   They invited us to spend a day on Lake Champlain with them on their cruising boat.

We met in Burlington, had lunch at Jen's house, then down to the boat.   Their vessel is a 36' steel cutter, designed and built by Pierre himself.   She's a fine vessel (we learned however than in French, one says he's a fine vessel).  It felt especially good to handle a heavy displacement vessel with a tiller.

The winds were fair, and we sailed close hauled all the way down to Porter Bay.   Blog readers know that Porter Bay is one our our favorite places but our hosts have never been there.  It was a great sail.   The next morning, the wind picked up thus providing another great sail back to Burlington with the wind behind us.   Pierre and Christina said that since beginning their summer cruise a week ago, they haven't needed to motor onece.  Cool.

Anyhow, Pierre and Christina are some of the swetest people we know.  The four of us get along famously, and we enjoy each other's company.  Hopefully, we'll get to see them again before the summer is over.

Thank you for a great day.

Christina at the helm
Pierre, Libby, Christina at the bow

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Conneticut River

South Burlington, VT

Last week we took TJ on a cruise up and down the Connecticut River.  That river and its valley were things that I never paid much attention to before.  From years past, I was familiar with the river down near Windsor, CT.   From 2012, we saw some of the beautiful stretches of the river up in NH.  But, the Vermont sections, no.

I wanted to cruise and to camp on the primitive camping sites along the river.   However, we are still in the early learning stage, and I could not be confident of estimating travel times to get there well enough.  The sites, are widely separated by 25 or more miles.

So what we did was to get a camp site in Brattleboro to use as a base camp.  Then we took two day trips, one south (into Massachusetts) and one north, with the Vernon, VT dam as the mid point.

What we saw was much prettier than I expected.  Up and down the river, we saw only a handful of farms or homes.  Most places, we saw only the high river banks, the trees on the banks, and the beautiful mountains on either side.  A check with Google Earth however, shows that behind those trees on the banks are lots of farms, roads, houses and civilization.   I call that "the veneer effect", and I've blogged about that before.  Visible from the water is a thin veneer of seemingly unspoiled wilderness.

One other thing we learned.  99.9% of the river banks are too steep and too thick with undergrowth to be able to go ashore.  That I did not expect.  The few spots where we could stop could be an hour or two hours apart!

At the north end of our second day, was Putney, VT.  Our river cruising ambitions, include stopping to explore small towns that we have never seen before.  What did we find in Putney?  Lunch, a library where I could check email, The Vermont Spinnery (see below), and Curtis' BBQ stand.    It was charming.

Nice Eagle or Osprey Nest

The Vermont Spinnery where they make yarn

The knitted entrance to the spinnery
Vermont Route 30

On the way back, we found roads and sections of Vermont that we've never seen before.   Particularly nice was Vermont Route 30 from Manchester, to Dorset, to Wells, to Fair Haven.  Wow, what a pretty valley, and not tourist infested!   I'm ashamed (and delighted) to admit that we are discovering more about Vermont this summer than we ever did the many years we lived here, or cruised on Lake Champlain.  

When you live on a cruising boat, and you do not have a car, you see and experience wonderful things, but there is also much you can't see.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Beginners Again!

South Burlington, VT

Libby and I may be fairly called seasoned sailboat cruisers by now, but regarding cruising by canoe, we are rank amateurs.

  • Last Thursday our intent was to launch TJ in the Connecticut River, south of the Vernon, VT dam.   We were using a paddling guide map to locate a launch ramp.  Well it wasn't what we expected.  Instead of a concrete ramp it was just a gravel river bed.
  • Ignoring the lack of concrete, I backed up the trailer to the water's edge. I didn't want to get the car tires into soft sand, so I stopped far away.   The trailer was not level, and the rails were 3' higher than the water.  As we attempted to launch the canoe, it fell off the rails sideways, and swamped in the shallow water.  Everything in the canoe was soaked.
  • After drying out the canoe, I went to drive the car away.  The front wheel drive car just spun its wheels digging into the gravel.  Oh no!   I unhooked the trailer and headed the car at an angle up slope, and thank goodness it made it.  I then had to drag the trailer up the slope by hand.
  • While canoeing that day, all I could think about was that the car might not be able to climb the steep gravel driveway back up to the highway.
  • How much river could we cover in a day?  Our first time out, I measured a top speed of more than 10 knots.  Averaging 10 mph for a liesurely 10 hour day makes for 100 miles per day.   Well, we don't travel at top speed, and we found that we need rest stops more frequently.  My second itereation extimate, 20 miles per day.  I was only off by 500%.
  • Even with a paddling map, I found it more difficult to navigate than I thought.   Not where to go navigate, but where to look for launch ramps, camp sites, and points of interest to stop at.  I was ashamed to resort to Google Maps.
  • Returning to the launch at the end of the day, I saw I sign that I missed seeing in the morning.  It warned me that water levels below the dam can change dramatically with little warning, and that the place where I left the car parked could have been under water.
Rather than being embarrassed, I am thrilled to start at the bottom of a boating learning curve once again.  It makes things fresh and exciting.
Next blog, I'll report on how nice the river and the trip were.

Tomorrow we are meeting our favorite Quebecois crusing friends to spend a day on their boat.   Hooray!

Our camp site base of operations.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Vermont's Den of Horror

South Burlington, VT

I usually write about how idyllic Vermont is.  For example, yesterday when Libby and I canoed down Otter Creek to Lake Champlain, and another of our favorite spots, Porter Bay.  Today I feel compelled to write about something very different.

Huntington Gorge is a place in Vermont only a few miles away from South Burlington.  We have not been there, but looking at the pictures, it appears to be beautiful.  Idyllic nature; beautiful, inviting and as good as it gets.  Yesterday, a woman drowned there.  She is the 26th person to drown there since the 1950s.  She was not swimming, she fell in.

Even worse than the death count, is the horrible nature of the deaths.  You see people get trapped underwater, held in by the pressure of the running water.  Often they are pinned in only 2 feet of clear water.  Loved ones and rescuers can look into their faces, and reach in to grasp their hand, yet are unable to pull them out.  In this week's case, it took 18 men and a cable from a heavy tow truck to recover the body.

Worst was a case a few years back when a VT state police rescue diver was himself trapped.  He was pinned under the water with his SCUBA gear.  The picture in the paper the next morning showed a close up of his face through the water and through the face plate of his mask.  He could not be rescued either.  Horrible horrible horrible.

"Why is this allowed to continue?", you ask.  Apparently it is on private property and the state is powerless.    There are numerous warning signs, but evidence suggests that the attractiveness proves irresistible.

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.