Sunday, December 20, 2009

Snow-pocolyspe 2009

Thursday morning on my way to school I heard a vague mention of the possibility of accumulating snow on Saturday, or maybe Sun. I didn’t think much of it, the last few snow storms that have been predicted resulted in rain, I was expecting more of the same.

By Thursday afternoon however, everyone was abuzz with the prediction of what could be a record breaking snow storm. The media was throwing around the phrase: Storm of the Century. I have lived here long enough to know that many “Storms of the Century” turn to rain or nothing so while I was paying attention, I didn’t have much hope that anything would materialize.

By Friday morning they were predicting accumulation totals – it started innocently enough with “in excess of 5 inches”. I was happy with that – sure it would lead to at least a 2 hour delay on Mon. The next time I checked though the prediction had increased – now they were saying 5-10 inches. I checked frequently through the day on Friday, fully expecting the storm to have vanished, turned, or that it would be rain, instead the prediction for snow totals just got higher and higher finally topping out at 15-25 inches. WOW!

I was getting excited, but trying to not to get caught up in the hype – we usually get more hype than weather around here.

After work Friday I considered going to the grocery store, but with all the news spewing dire predictions the grocery stores were a mess so I looked through what I had on hand and realized that I could easily make it through Sat without needing to stockpile food. Surely I’d be able to get out on Sun. Worst case I can walk to Giant.

Friday evening I headed out to my friend Rebecca’s choir concert with some friends – it was cold, but there was no snow yet. By the time I left the church at 10:00 there was a dusting of snow!!!! Mostly on the cars and roads. The roads were quite slippery and it was slow going. I again debated going to the grocery, but the parking lot at Giant was full and it was nasty outside, so I went on home.

The roads got so slippery so quick, one of my friends I’d been to the concert with wasn’t even able to make it home, he spent the night at another friends house about 10-15 miles from his house!

It snowed all night Friday night! When I woke up on Saturday morning I had almost 9 inches of snow on my front porch! The snow continued to fall all day Saturday – sometimes at a rate of 3 inches an hour! By 10 am we had a foot of snow!

That was when I decided it was time to try out my new snowshoes! I’d bought them for our upcoming trip to the Smokies after Christmas and had been fearful that by simply purchasing them I’d jinxed our chance of ever seeing snow again. I guess not! They’d arrived on Wed – what great timing! :-)

I’d expected to be able to walk on top of the snow, however it was so powdery that I sank right in. It was still very tough to walk. I headed out of my backyard and into the woods! Someone had been there before me and it was nice to have a trail laid out for me! The snow was very pretty in the woods, but it was very slow going. I walked a little ways in the woods then broke my own trail up the hill back to my house. I fell over into the snow a few times which was actually fun because it was so fluffy!

Later in the day I took the snowshoes out again. This time I headed in the other direction down the trail. It was still snowing hard, we’d now gotten about 8-9 more inches of snow! A little ways down the trail I came to a bridge over a creek! That must be where the folks who’d walked there before me had stopped. After that it was really tough going. I decided that the snowshoes were making it harder because I was sinking in a good 8 inches and every time I picked up my foot it had the weight of all the snow on it. I sat down on a tree trunk and took off the snowshoes. Not sure if it made it easier or not. I decided to turn around and head back. I was so tired of slogging through the powder that I decided to cut up a trail into another Townhouse development and then go back via the road.

It was easier walking on the road, even though it hadn’t been plowed it was mostly packed down so there was no sinking! I stopped and put the snowshoes back on. Not sure they did much to help. I kept banging them together and nearly tripped myself a few times!

The snow finally stopped around 9:00 pm Saturday night! It snowed for almost 24 hours! The final measurement at my house was 22-23 inches! That’s more than the “official” storm reports coming from the National Weather Service so it might not be accurate. The official reports are more about 15-17 inches.

Sunday morning dawned sunny and clear! I decided that I needed to go out and get some fizzy water and yogurt. I could probably have gotten the car out, but it was going to be more fun to walk! I pulled out my big backpack and headed out. I started with the snowshoes on – the snow was a bit denser today and I thought I’d sink in less – um no. At one point I had one leg sinking and the other not! I decided to walk in the street – it was covered with packed snow, so the snowshoes might have been helpful, but again I kept banging them together and tripping myself so I took them off and hooked them to my backpack. It was much easier walking without them.

As I was walking I was really glad I hadn’t driven. One of the roads I had to walk on was about 3 inches of slush. It was passable, but barely.

I got my stuff at Giant and started home. I decided to give the snowshoes one last try. They have ice grippers on the bottom and those nearly killed me when I got to the wet pavement at an intersection – they kept sticking and I nearly fell over several times. About a 1/2 mile from home I took them off. I’m not really sure what they are good for – they don’t work well in powder, they don’t work well on packed snow/ice – I’m happier with the feet I already have! I think this pair of snowshoes might be on it’s way back to Maine.

I have now dug my car out, as much as it’s going to get anyway, and am enjoying a cup of Chai tea while I await the announcement that school is closed tomorrow. Every county in the area (that’s not already on Winter Break) has canceled already, but not FCPS. Not sure what we are waiting for and am hoping our superintendent makes an announcement soon!

I definitely LOVE these big storms! I wish they came more often than once every 7 years! The last time we got 2ft of snow was in Feb 2003, my first year of teaching! Funny thing is that all of the children I have in my class now were either tiny babies or not born yet when that happened! This weekend’s storm set all kinds of records and has gone down in history as the 7th top storm of all time for DC! How fun! :-)

*Edited to add: Right after I hit "publish" FCPS announced that all schools would be closed not only Monday, but Tuesday and Wednesday as well!!! All the other counties just announced Monday! I'm very excited to have a 2 week winter break (as it should be!), but not so happy about losing all 3 snow days so early in the game! Oh well!

Please check out my pictures:

Saturday, November 14, 2009

An Evening with Chris Bohjalian

Thursday night I got to go hear one of my favorite authors speak! :-) The event was held at the Jewish Community Center in Annandale.  Chris’s latest book is about the Holocaust and all of his tour stops on the current tour are Jewish centers.  He is not Jewish, and the book isn’t exactly a Jewish book per se, but it does bring to the forefront the horrible things that happened in Germany during that time. 

I knew where the Jewish Community Center was, they erect a large Menorah every year during Chanukah and I’d driven past many times, but I’d never been there.  I had no idea what parking would be like or how many people to expect, I figured it would be really crowded since he seems to be a very well known author. 

I arrived about an hour before he was scheduled to speak.    I was surprised to find that there were not throngs of people there.  It seemed like a normal week day evening at the community center. There was plenty of parking and it appeared that  most people were there to work out (they have a gym and a pool). I was worried that I’d gotten the night wrong or something. 

Turns out they were having a Jewish Book Festival.  In the lobby there was a book sale and there had been events every night that week.  Chris Bohjailan was the only author I’d ever heard of.  I browsed the book sale but didn’t see any other books that jumped out at me as must reads. 

I’d wandered the lobby for about 10 mins looking at the books and looking for an indication of where the author event was to be held.  There were no signs of where to go, so I asked at the front desk and was directed to the “Adult Lounge” – hmmm…didn’t sound like a very big room, was this going to be a small gathering? 

The room was a small meeting room and they had 4 rows of about 8 chairs each set up.  It didn’t appear that they were expecting a crowd.  There was one chair that had a jacket on it, but the rest were empty.  I picked a chair near the front and started to get really excited about having a more intimate conversation with the author!

Soon the lady who owned the jacket came in and for about 20 mins we were the only 2 in the room.  We had a nice time chatting – turns out she’s a published author, has written a book of poems about women in the Bible.  Then a few others straggled in.  We were all chatting about Chris’s books and which ones we’d read, which ones we liked, what we thought of Skeletons at the Feast, etc.  I didn’t know anyone’s name, but it was like we were all friends!  I might have been the only non-Jew in the room, it seemed that everyone else knew each other, but it didn’t matter.

Promptly at 7:30 Chris was introduced and he started off sharing with us the story of how he spent two weeks on tour wearing another man’s underwear because the hotel laundry lost his!  It was quite a tale and he had us all laughing!  He then moved into a more serious discussion of the events that lead up to his writing Skeletons at the Feast and the holocaust.  

When I read Skeletons I wasn’t sure about it.  I mostly didn’t like how at the beginning the main characters seemed oblivious to Hitler’s horrors and were even supporters of him.  The book was set in Prussia on the Eastern front of the war right at the end when the Russian attacked and tells the tale of the Prussian refugees as they fled to safety.  After hearing Chris tell about the process he went through to write it and hear his deep love of the book come through in his talk I have a much deeper appreciation of the book. 

After the talk they had book sales and signing.  I took my already signed copy of  Water Witches up to the table, because it was such a small group and I was sitting in the front I was 2nd in line!  When it was my turn I told him I had a funny story for him and proceeded to tell him the whole story.  I’m not sure he thought it was funny, he did ask where I’d purchased the book, I wondered if maybe book stores aren’t supposed to sell books already autographed.   He suggested that he’d personalize it for the library and at the time I told him no, it was my book so he personalized it to me.  Afterward I thought, “Duh!!!!  The library doesn’t have a copy of this book, if you’d let him sign it to the library you could have donated it after you’d read it”  I’m sure that’s what he’d meant.  What a great guy – you’d think he’d want everyone to buy his book so he can get the royalties!  Oh well, there might be a reason the library doesn’t have a copy of it!

While I was standing there I told him about how I’d read Before You Know Kindness and how it wasn’t my favorite and he said “it wasn’t my favorite either.”  :-)  Then I told him how right after I read it, I’d read Idyll Banter which is his compilation of newspaper columns, and it was obvious to me that he’d written many of those columns while he was writing Before You Know Kindness and hearing the back story, and the pieces of his real life that were embedded in the story helped me appreciate the story more he smiled and told me I was a very astute reader! :-) 

I told him how much I enjoyed meeting him and my time with him was done!   It was really neat to be in such a small group setting where I could really get to know the man behind the books!  He’s such a talented author, both of fiction and non-fiction! I can’t wait to read more of his blog (also on Goodreads) and his novels!

iTunes SUCCESS!!!

I have gotten around around the authorization issue!!!!! 

My wonderful computer geek uncle suggested that possibly the issue was with meta-tags that had been assigned by iTunes.  I know a tiny bit about about meta-tags from our digital frame experience last Christmas, basically that meta-tag is a four letter word!  If the meta-tags aren’t what you want them to be you will not be successful, and good luck trying to change them! He had suggested looking in properties to figure out how the songs were labeled in iTunes. 

In that process I noticed that the songs I had uploaded from CD had totally different properties than the songs I’d purchased from iTunes.

I realized then that if I went into my desktop computer (where the songs work) and burned the troublesome songs to a CD (like I’d put in an old fashioned CD player) then I could upload them back to my iTunes on the laptop and they’d have a whole new set of meta-tags and hopefully would work!

Ding! Ding! Ding!  We have a winner.  :-)

The only catch (of course there’s a catch, who said this process was going to get easier?) is that iTunes does not recgonize the song titles on the CD so when it uploads them it uploads them as “track 1, track 2, track 3” etc…  So once I get the CD uploaded I have to go in and manually change the title and add the artist to get the song to go where it needs to in my library.   Tedious, but easy.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The 2nd truck

When I was 12 my family and I moved from North Tarrytown, NY to Cincinnati, OH.  We had been told that all of our stuff would fit on one truck.  However, when the movers loaded the truck there was too much stuff and they needed an extra truck.  This extra truck was not a “inter-state” truck and the stuff that was loaded on it was taken to a warehouse until a truck with space on it came to Cincinnati.  

In the intervening weeks my parents and I spent a lot of time worrying about “the other truck” and frustration ensued. There was yelling and screaming and gnashing of teeth with the moving company.  There was a lot of lost sleep.  The contents of “the other truck” suddenly became very valuable.  Everything that we couldn’t find must have been on “the other truck”. 

Then “the other truck” arrived.  It was filled with junk.  The only thing of any value on the truck was our brand new microwave, something which could have been easily re-purchased.   Some of the things that arrived on “the other truck” are still sitting in my parents garage, untouched for more than 20 years.  Yet, those useless items caused so much stress.

It’s exactly like my iTunes drama this week. 

Sunday when I started organizing my iTunes I discovered that a number of my songs wouldn’t play.  There was something broken.  I attempted to fix it and I couldn’t.  I became obsessed with fixing it.  I lost sleep 3 nights in a row trying to figure out the problem.  Last night I spent my whole evening on the phone and got nowhere. 

Last night the Apple Customer Service manager had done all he could and he promised to look into things this morning and asked me to email him when I got home, so I did.  We talked, and tried the exact same things we did yesterday,and guess what?  It didn’t work.  He said that the only option was to go to iTunes support, which was only available via email or chat, if it was chat time.  I’d have to type everything into an email and wait for an answer.  

Before I did that I  decided to go through my iTunes library and see exactly how many songs we are talking about here.  I had it estimated at a couple hundred.  I checked most songs, I’d just listened to every single song on Sun/Mon so I pretty much remembered the ones that worked and the ones that didn’t. 

I have 70 songs that won’t play.  70.  Less than 100.  Some of the songs are Christmas songs that I’m pretty sure my dad has on CD, which means I can get them for free when I go to Williamsburg.  There are others that I don’t even listen to anymore and don’t really feel the need to own.  That leaves about 40 songs that I still want. 

For $50.00 I can fix the whole problem.  Getting a good night’s sleep and not staying up late trying to solve unsolvable problems is worth a lot more than $50.00 to me!

Also, all the songs currently work on my desktop.  If I put them in my iPod and only synch my iPod with my desktop I can listen to them. 

What was a big deal problem yesterday, is suddenly not a big deal problem tonight, I just needed to get all the facts about exactly what the problem was! 

Just like the 2nd truck – because it was the part that wasn’t working it became the object of the utmost importance, but in reality it wasn’t worth all the worrying we did over it!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

iTunes Issues

I’m putting this out there because many of my readers are computer people and might have an idea to solve this problem. 

I installed iTunes on my new computer and used an external hard drive to move all my music from my desktop computer to the new computer (as opposed to ferrying it over on CD ROMS which is the only way to back up in iTunes)

A bunch (probably a hundred or so, I haven’t counted) of my songs won’t play on the new computer because “the computer is not authorized to play them”

The computer is in fact authorized and other iTunes store purchases play just fine.

When the “authorize” window pops up it has my AOL screen name in the window and is prompting me to sign in with my AOL account.

Back when I started using iTunes I used my AOL screen name/password, but have since switched to an apple id.

It is ONLY the songs that I purchased with my AOL screen name/password that have issues.  The ones purchased with an apple id are fine.

The interesting thing is that these songs were moved via CD ROM from my desktop to a laptop and back to the desktop, and they play perfectly, haven’t had any issue on those computers or my iPod or my iPhone. 

I am running Windows 7 on the new computer (songs don’t work)

I was running Windows XP on the other computers that they did work on. 

I tried to upload the songs from the back up cds I made 2 years ago, they still won’t play.

I found an article dated in July 2009 regarding iTunes no longer accepting AOL screen names, I posted a comment there about my current difficulties, we’ll see what they say.

I also double checked the songs on the desktop (kinda hoping they wouldn’t play b/c it would support my theory that apple changed something and that’s the problem), and they play just fine there.

I have tried creating a new apple id from the AOL screen name – didn’t work.  Not surprising since that’s what my current apple id is – a “spawn” of the AOL account.

I spent 2.5 hours on the phone with apple support this evening.  I spoke to 3 people – moving higher and higher up the food chain, and they spoke with iTunes billing several times, but no one there has any idea what the issue is. 


I’m convinced that it’s something with AOL, possibly related to whatever change took place in July, and possibly related to Windows 7.  

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Ironic, don’t ya think?

This Thursday one of my newest favorite authors, Chris Bohjalian, is coming to Fairfax to talk about his newest book, Skeletons at the Feast.  Some of you might recognize the name Chris Bohjalian, he wrote Midwives,  which was an Oprah Book Club book back when the Oprah Book Club had first gotten started.  I’d enjoyed that book and even enjoyed the “made for TV” movie on Lifetime (I know shocking…I enjoyed a Lifetime Movie!).  Last January I saw Skeletons at the Feast on the new books shelf at the library so picked it up, it was pretty good so I decided to check out the other books that Mr. Bohjalian had written.  

I have enjoyed most of his books, including his book of selected newspaper columns (perfect for reading on my kindle app at stoplights!), so when I heard he was coming to the area to do a book talk and possibly a signing I cleared my schedule and am planning to go, even though it’s a school night!

It occurred to me that he might be doing a book signing, while I have read almost of all his books, I don’t own a single one (other than the one in my kindle app, but I don’t want him signing my iPhone). I buy a lot of children’s books so I try to get most my “adult” reading material from the library.  Also, after the National Book Festival I’m realizing that what I’m most interested in is hearing the authors speak, standing in a long line just for a signature isn’t as appealing to me.  My plan is to listen to him speak and then leave, but I wanted to have something for him to sign “just in case”. 

I considered bumming one of his books from Susan, but then I discovered that the library didn’t own a single copy of his novel “Water Witches”.  Perfect!  I’d buy a copy of Water Witches and take it with me just in case. 

I went over to Barnes and Noble’s website and was able to reserve a copy of Water Witches to be picked up at their Springfield store. 

After school yesterday I went by to get it.  When the cashier handed it to me it had a large sticker on the front that said:  “Signed by the Author”

Ironic huh?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Fall Fun – Kayaking at Fountainhead Regional Park!

My plan today was to hang out at home, get ready for the week, read a book, a low key Sunday.  I went out to Wegmans and noticed that it was a beautiful day and I knew I had to get out and play!  I was thinking that I’d go over to Prince William Forest Park and hike, then I logged into to RSVP for an upcoming game night (which I still haven’t done yet!) and saw that someone had posted about a last minute kayaking meetup that happened at 10 am this morning.  (see the news feed on isn’t all bad!) I’d missed the meetup but it reminded me that Fountainhead Regional Park had kayaks to rent!  I knew what I wanted to do this afternoon!

I decided that I needed to wear my long underwear, it was chilly out and I was afraid if I got wet it would be really cold! I was quite styling with my “still muddy from yesterday” hiking pant, pink long underwear sticking out, and Teva sandals – barefoot (there’s no way that I know to get into a kayak without getting your feet wet!)

I headed over to Fountainhead and found the marina.  I was disappointed to learn that there were no kayaks available.  I was not surprised though, it was a fabulous fall day! I decided to wait and see if someone came back – within about 30 minutes I had my kayak!  They handed me a life jacket (that didn’t zip….wouldn’t have zipped on someone half my size!) and a paddle and that was that.  I headed down to the boat area and found 2 kayaks – I presumed that these were the rentals and got in and pushed off!

The Occoquan Reservoir isn’t Lower Richardson Lake, but it was a very nice paddle!  I also realized that this is my backyard!  Literally, I can walk less than a 1/4 mile and be standing in the reservoir! I was thinking that if I owned a kayak, it would be really easy to use it a lot! I know lots of people who keep kayaks and canoes down by the water – locked to a tree and covered ready for use.  Even if that didn’t work there are several put in locations on both sides of the water. 

I didn’t take many pictures, but here are few….


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I love the reflection of the leaves in the water!

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Dead tree in the middle of the water!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Magic Pictures

Last night as I was leaving Shenandoah I pulled into an overlook to check out the sunset.  Of course I attempted to take some pictures.  Most turned out horrible because it was so dark, however the camera did something funky. 

I had taken a picture of the sunset and I noticed that the camera added light to the picture that wasn’t there in real life!  I thought maybe it was the setting sun that caused this so I turned around an shot the mountain behind me which was totally dark.  It took the picture a minute to come up but when it did it was as if the darkness was erased and magically the color appeared!

I then decided to try it with the flash.  When I turned the flash on it illuminated  that which was up close, but plunged the rest of the picture into total darkness.  The picture with the flash was more realistic – that’s what the mountain looked like in real life. 



This is the picture I took without the flash.  Actually a halfway decent shot, however in real life the mountains were not visible due to darkness.


The same picture only with the flash.  This is what it looked like for real.

My question, how did this happen? 

Fall Fun – Hiking In SNP!

Last weekend I uploaded all my pictures from Maine 1 at a time from my Picasa Web Albums to my new computer (long story) and was remembering how much fun I’d had and thinking that I needed to get out more!  I decided that this weekend I was going hiking. 

As the week wore on Saturday was looking less and less like a good day for a hike.  Every time I checked the weather the chance of rain was increased, finally topping out at 90%.  I decided that I’d wait and see what the weather actually did because many times the forecast is wrong. 

Yesterday dawned cloudy, but dry at my house.  The forecast was calling for showers, mostly before 1pm.  “Showers” implies to me that it will rain a bit, a soft gentle rain, then stop for a bit, then rain a bit more.  No big deal I thought.  And, the worst of it was supposed to be before 1pm – it was already 10am and it would take me at least 3 hours to get out there, so I was hoping to miss the worst of the rain.

I was about a 1/3 of the way to the park when the skies opened up.  It was a downpour.  The wipers were going as fast as they could and they still couldn’t keep up.  I was seriously thinking I was nuts to go out on a day like this.  At a stoplight I pulled up The Weather Channel and checked the radar – it looked like I was sitting the worst of it and the park seemed to be in the clear! Sure enough about 20 miles later the rain had stopped and the sub was peeking out!

I stopped at Sheetz to get an MTO and continued into the park.  When I arrived at Swift Run Gap it was raining again, not much, but raining. I headed south on Skyline Drive – my plan was to hike part of the AT, or hike to a waterfall that I could extend to a 7 mile circuit hike if I wanted to.  As I made my way down Skyline Drive the rain was coming down harder.  I pulled into an overlook where I had coverage on my phone and checked the weather again.  There was a HUGE area of rain right over the park!  It looked better to the north so I headed off into the central district. 

I’d driven a few miles down the road and the rain was not letting up.  In fact it was getting worse!  It was deluge.  You could hardly see another other than clouds all around.  I decided that this just wasn’t worth it.  It’s one thing if you get caught on the trail in a deluge, but it’s another thing entirely to go out in one. I remembered that the South River picnic area had a picnic pavilion – I thought I’d go there and have lunch and read my book, then head down to the Antique stores that are at the intersection of 33 and 29. 

I headed over to the picnic area and was sad to note that there was no pavilion.  I was thinking of the Pinnacles Picnic area.  But, the rain had let up!  I decided I’d head down to the South River Falls.  I’d been there once before but I didn’t have my camera.  I quickly threw all my stuff in my bag, laced up my boots and headed down the hill. 

No sooner had I left the car when I heard a low rumble of thunder.  Rain I can do, thunder not so much.  Not knowing what might happen I decided to head back to the car.  When I got back to the car I heard another crack of thunder, this time right over head!  yikes!

My new plan (what are we up to plan Q?) was to have “car picnic” and read my book, then head down to the antique stores.  It was a pleasant afternoon to be sitting in the car!  I put the back seats down so I could stretch out and left the lift-gate open so I could enjoy the fresh air. 

As I was finishing up, the sun came out!  That’s right the sun!  Well, now I had to go hiking.  I put my boots back on and headed out.  I decided that I didn’t trust the weather enough to head down to the falls (it was a 3.3 mile round trip) so I took what I thought was a shorter hike down the AT to the Saddleback MT trail and back on the AT.  It was a hike that I’d done before, but it was in the Spring. 

The first section of the hike was fabulous!  Bright sunshine, blue sky poking out, high thin cirrus clouds!  It was as if the rain and thunder were a million miles away! :-)

I was about halfway around Saddleback Mt when the woods began to fill with fog.  It was pretty cool.  I was a bit worried that it would start to thunder again, but at this point I had to keep going forward because it was further to go back. 

The woods were very quiet.  Silent even.  It was kinds weird, because usually there are all sorts of noises. All of the sudden I heard the thunderous roar of hundreds of wings taking flight and looked and saw hundreds of black birds all taking off!  It was like something out of that Alfred Hitchcock movie, The Birds.  Only they were flying away from me.  Every step I took fleshed more birds out of hiding.  It was wild.  I tried to get their picture, but it was very hard as I didn’t see them until they were flying.  I did get a few good shots, hopefully my dad can id them for me!

Eventually the birds all flew away from my path and I didn’t see them anymore.  Soon after that the sun returned!  All the fog in the woods disappeared and blue skies were all you could see!  The rest of the hike was just magnificent!  Perfect temperature (around 60) and perfect weather!

When I rejoined the AT I saw the trail marker and it said that it was 2 miles back to the picnic area, the Saddleback Mt trail was about 1 mile – so the whole hike was about 3.5 miles – not any shorter than the trip to the falls!  Oh well! This is what happens when you don’t bring the map! :-)  (I had a map, it was just the South District and I was in the Central District)

When I got back to the car it was already 4:00 and I knew that I’d missed the Antique stores, I was pretty sure they closed at 5.  I decided that since it was turning out to be such a perfect day I’d try and squeeze in another hike!  My first thought was Stony Man, but I re-thought that when I realized how crowded the park was and Stony Man is right by Skyland so I figured it would be swamped.  I opted instead for Hawksbill – the tallest mountain in the park at 4,049 ft.

I hadn’t been up Hawksbill since the day I did the “extreme” hike – up Cedar Run from the park boundary, up Hawksbill, down Whiteoak Canyon – more than 10 miles and 3,000 ft of elevation gain – 5 years ago.  

I headed out from the parking lot at 5:00, I was guesstimating that sunset was about 6:30, it was a mile from the parking lot to the summit and a mile back, I figured I had plenty of time.  The trail up is very easy and I made it in less than 30 mins.  There was one other group at the top – a bunch of Asian students, none of them speaking English and standing exactly in the way of all the pictures I wanted to take!  I waited them out and they eventually left and I had the summit of Hawksbill to myself!  What a rare treat! :-)  The views were spectacular!

The sun was sinking quickly as I headed back to the car.  I was about 3/4 of the way back and the woods were suddenly enveloped in fog yet again!  It was quickly getting dark, but there was still plenty of light.  I got back to the car at exactly 6 and the fog was dense. As I drove north on Skyline Drive I came to an overlook where I should have been able to see Hawksbill, but it full of fog!

I headed up the drive to Thorton Gap, stopping along the way at overlooks to check out the sunset.  It felt like it was very late at night, but it was only 6:30.  There were lots of cars heading out, I guess everyone wanted to stay until the very last bit of daylight had run out!

I’m so glad I went out on what looked to be questionable day!  Turned out to be a great day to be in the woods! :-)

Check out pics from my hike in my Picasa Web Album

Monday, October 05, 2009

My Dining Room

Over the summer I finally painted the dining room! I’d been planning it for a long time, and finally got to it! I’d decided I was going to make it my Maine room and put a bunch of pictures from my trip up on the walls. I’d planned to pain it a bright, in your face yellow, to go with the bright in your face purple that I painted the living room.

Earlier in the summer, when I painted the table, I’d picked up a whole bunch of yellow paint chips at Lowe’s so I pulled them out and started matching with the purple.  I’d almost settled on one when I realized that the kitchen is yellow and whatever color I chose for the dining room needed to coordinate with the kitchen!  The color I thought I’d wanted didn’t look good with the kitchen yellow.   I finally settled on “Cowslip4” and headed off to Lowe’s to get some.

Here’s the dining room before I started:



There was a lot of taping to do!  I almost just painted the chair rail yellow just so I didn’t have to tape it, but then I decided it would look better if I left it white, and I’m glad I did!  I spent a good hour taping, and it was so worth it! 

I was very happy with the Valspar paint – it was very thick and it only took one coat!  It took me longer to tape than it did to paint!

I’d been nervous about the line between the living room and the dining room.  I did a great job with it when I did the purple, but I was hoping I wasn’t a “1 trick Pony” when it came to getting tape in a straight line.  I did have one little place where I got yellow on the purple, but it wasn’t so bad!

Right before I painted I’d ordered the pics for the walls!  I used either snapfish or shutterfly (can’t remember) this time since I was so frustrated with Kodak last time and was much happier!  The prints arrived in record time!  I also managed to hit a sale at AC Moore when I bought the frames!

I was waiting to post this until my dad came and put the final touch by rehanging the table cloth that my grandmother embroidered.

Here are the after pictures:

281 283 282

I LOVE it!  :-) 

Now, what room is next?  Can’t decide between the basement and the bedroom. 

Saturday, September 26, 2009

National Book Festival 2009

I’d been wanting to go to the National Book Festival every year, but usually the ragweed pollen thwarted my plans.  This year I was determined to go!  Mike and Lesley were coming up for Atlanta just to go and there were a number of authors I wanted to see. 

The day of the festival dawned dry, but rain was in the forecast!  I was hoping that it would hold off.   The clouds were an advantage though because the Mall would have been brutal in the sun.

Susan and I had made plans to meet at the Smithsonian Metro at 10 am – I got there just a little bit before 10 and had a chance to check out what was going on.  There were huge tents for each genre – Fiction, History & Biography, Children’s, Teens, and I can’t remember what else.  These big tents were for the author presentations. There were also I think 16 smaller tents where the authors signed books.  The signing tents had plenty of room around them to accommodate the long lines.  There were also a few other tents – the book sales tent, the Reading Across the USA tent, the PBS kids tent and another tent with kids reading displays.  They also had book characters in costume for the kids to “meet & greet”. 

The first thing you have to do is get a schedule.  This tells you which authors are signing when and when they are presenting.  There were a whole bunch of authors I wanted to see, but I’d set my priorities on three children’s authors/illustrators David Shannon, Mo Willems and John Scieszka.  I’m glad I’d narrowed it down, because three authors was about all I could get in! David Shannon and John Scieszka were signing at the same time, so I decided I’d just go for David Shannon, because I hadn’t brought a John Scieszka book anyway (I’d been hoping to buy one there).  Turns out they were both signing in the same tent! Little did I know at the time, but David & John had a brand new book out that they’d done together!  Mo Willems was scheduled to sign right after David & John.  They were all presenting very late in the day and I wasn’t sure I’d make it that long.

I finally met up with Susan,Mike, Lesley, Judy, Lucas, Leah & Dottie about 10:15 – they’d taken the yellow line and got off at a different stop.  Susan, Judy and Lesley wanted to see Judy Blume, who was signing at the same time as David and John so we both had about 45 mins to kill before we needed to get in line.  We wandered over to the Reading Across the USA tent.  This tent was way cool!  Each state had a table where they highlighted reading in their state – the featured authors and other reading events!  Most tables also had some sort of freebie – mostly bookmarks.  I didn’t get to see much though because the tent was very crowded (it’s those free bookmarks!)  After that we went to the PBSKids tent and the other kid tent – got a few free books and some other free stuff.  By this time we figured we’d better go get in line for our authors. 

I went to the David Shannon line and Susan headed over to Judy Blume.  It was neat seeing who all was in line for the signing.  Not sure what I expected, but there were a lot of kids!  Most of them were holding worn copies of what were clearly favorite books! How exciting for these kids, to meet the author of their favorite book!  There were also a lot teachers!  I got behind a lady who was a librarian at a school near Phelps, KY (where I went to work with Habitat for Humanity of a mission trip in High School.).  This is an enormously poor area way back in the mountains.  We chatted almost the the whole time were were in line!  I waited about an hour and half to get David Shannon to sign my “No David” book.  When I got up there I had about 20 seconds to say something to him and that was that. 

104 John Scieszka

106 David Shannon (he’s a lefty like me! :-)

I immediately had to go back to the end of the line because up next was Mo Willems.  This time I got in line behind a gal who taught 2nd grade in Prince William County!  Again we chatted the whole time!  Her friend eventually came and joined us and the three of us had a grand old time!  There was also a family in front of me – the mom and the son had gone to Judy Blume while the dad and the daughter waited for Mo Willems.  When the mom and the son got back the son told his sister “She wrote in the book!!!!” Clearly he’d been taught not to write in books and was blown away by the fact that this lady they’d just met wrote in the book! Once again I had about 20 seconds with Mo Willems and I was done. 

108 Mo Willems

While I’d been waiting Susan had texted me that they were going to the American History Museum for lunch.  It had been over an hour since she texted me, but I hightailed it over to the museum to meet up with them.  When I got there the line to get in was longer than some of the signing lines.  I texted Susan that I wasn’t coming in.  Turns out they were heading out.  I decided to head over to the “Vegetarian Food” stand I’d seen and get a sandwich and go from there.  I’d just found a spot of grass to sit on when it started to rain.  I ate quickly then went to wait in line with Susan, Mike, Lesley, and Leah.  I hung out with them for a little while before heading over to the Children’s Tent for Mo Willems presentation.

This was the best part of the day!  I got there early and got to see Tony DiTerlizzi, who I’d met at few years ago at my Children’s Lit professor’s house, he was great! Then Mo Willems was next.  He was hysterical!  He read a few of his books, acted out one of them, made jokes, very entertaining!  He even had his daughter Trixie read part of one of his books! 

109 Tony DiTerrlizi

117 Mo Willems reading his latest “Pig Make Me Sneeze (And Elephant & Piggie Book)

116 Trixie Willems – the real life person behind the main character of Knuffle Bunny (that’s KUH-uffle, not Nuffle)

By this time it was pouring rain and I hadn’t sat down for more than 5 minutes since I’d been on the metro so I decided it was time to go.  I made my way to the metro.  It was so crowded in there!  I missed the first train, but got on the second – even got a seat just one stop after I’d gotten on! The seat next to me was taken by a gal who taught Reading Recovery in Prince William County!  We talked all the way back to Franconia-Springfield!  Even exchanged email addresses!

What a great day!  It was so exciting to meet three of my favorite kids authors! It was also a little weird.  David Shannon and Mo Willems are a part of my daily life, I read their books several times each to my kids and their book are perpetually favorites.  I never gave any thought to what they looked like though, so it was a bit weird to actually see them in person! 

What a great day! :-) I can’t wait to go next year, although I plan to do a number of things differently.  First of all, I’m bringing a picnic lunch!  I’ll stop at Subway or something and have everything I need already with me.  I also think I’m going to make the author presentations a priority rather than the signings.  The signings are a lot standing around waiting, whereas the presentations give you a sense of who the author is.  You can still take pictures and stuff.

Saturday, August 01, 2009


Scrap-Furniture-ing: It's a lot like scrapbooking, only with Modge-Podge.

I have this coffee table that was in desperate need of a makeover. Oddly enough it's quite possibly the only piece of furniture in my whole house that I am it's original owner. I bought the coffee table when I was living in Oklahoma. I had a living room in my apartment and needed a table to put my plants! I bought the table at Target in Norman, I was thrilled to find that matched the style of the futon I had. I guess that was the style for put-it-together-yourself-with -a-hex-wrench furniture of the late 90s. I hauled it up to my apartment and put it together myself!

The plants, or rather my inability to water them so the Tupperware lid I'd put under them to catch the water didn't overflow, quickly did a number on the finish on one end of the table, but I'd always figured I could either replace the table or do something with it.

When I moved from Norman to Washington the table continued to have a central role in my living room. It continued to hold the plants and the spot didn't matter much because it had a plant over it.

When I moved to my house I inherited my parents living room furniture and both the table and the futon were relegated to the basement. Eventually I got a love seat from my parents that replaced the futon and that left just the table. Since it was in the basement the table was also stripped of it's "plant holding" duty as there is very little sunlight there.

So the table sat for almost 7 years. It would taunt me when I was on the treadmill. I'd look at it and see the perfect canvas for a project. What that project was I wasn't sure of. That is until inspiration finally hit a few weeks ago.

I'd been thinking the table was for sure a "Modge-Podge" project, but it was lacking a theme. Out of the blue it occurred to me that I have a whole bunches of pictures of my hikes in Shenandoah National Park, and I could make the table kinda like a scrapbook of those hikes! It kinda made me think of the trash cans my great-grandmother Maggie used to make with family photos!

I gathered a lot of "stuff" - maps, guide book pages, stickers, fancy papers from the scrapbook department at Michael's, post-cards, bumper stickers, and of course pictures. I even took a trip to Shenandoah just to gather stuff! I decided that I would paint the table itself a sky blue as a background.

As I got to work everything fell into place, and I ended up not using as much of my stuff as I'd anticipated, ended up using mostly pictures.

It was my 1st ever attempt at Modge-Podge - I think it came out pretty good. I need to work on making paper things not wrinkle, as the map got very wrinkled, oh well, nothing is perfect!

Here are some before, during and after pictures:

The table. You can see it's your basic oak table. You can see the big spot where the plant water ruined the finish.
Now the table is blue! :-) This pic doesn't really showcase the actual color well, it's dark in the basement and using the flash didn't help. It's a very pretty sky blue. I used American Traditions Interior Latex paint - flat finish. I figured that was cheaper and easier than using the tiny bottles of acrylic from Michael's. I just got a quart, but I have a bunch left over - the 2 dressers and the bookcase down there just might get painted blue! :-)
The finished table! The top is simply a collage of pictures that I have taken over the years. The bottom is the official NPS map (which you can see is very wrinkled from the Modge-Podge), postcards, and stickers. Both levels have a thick sealing of Modge-Podge!
Close up, as best I could, of the bottom shelf.
Close up of the top.

The whole thing was actually very easy. I have been scoping out the rest of the furniture in the house to see what else could be "scrapbooked!" Not only that but I found some glow in the dark modge-podge and some glitter modge-podge at AC Moore - there's a project waiting to happen! :-)

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Day 15 - HOME!

Last night it felt like I’d been in Maine for a very long time, however today when I drove home in late rush hour traffic, it feels like I never left! :-/

One of the many great things about Maine is that it’s so close! It was basically a half day of travel! While I did have to fight traffic a bit, it was very nice to get home before dark, as opposed to the middle of the night when you travel out west!

This morning started earlier than I wanted it to. Rain. It started lightly enough, I woke up because I was getting wet – my phone was wet (I kept it in my bed right by my pillow where it wouldn’t fall out) and the pillow was wet! I reluctantly closed the window – there was a breeze and it was very nice! I did go back to sleep, only to wake up again at 4:30 when it started raining harder. Again though I was able to go back to sleep before I finally got up at 6:30. I’d wanted to be up by 7, so that was fine.

I had a lazy morning drinking coffee, eating pop tarts*, and reading a new book I’d gotten about the strange customs of Maine, it was a quick read and I finished it up!

Finally I got in the shower, packed up the final stuff, and washed the dishes and did the final RV clean up.

Then it was time to get the RV out. I put on all my rain gear! I had to dig my tevas out of my bag because I didn’t want to get my “good” sandals wet/muddy. I unplugged it and then started analyzing how to get out without hitting the obstacles I narrowly missed yesterday.

I’d originally thought I’d pull forward then back up a bit more to angle away from the posts, but now that we’d had a soaking rain for 4+ hours and the grassy site was barley dry enough for me to safely park on yesterday I didn’t want to do too much driving around – didn’t want to get stuck in the mud! I rolled around a few other ideas, turning right out of the site rather than left (I’m pretty sure it was one way but LOTS of people were going the wrong way!), back all the way across the empty site behind me, go beg for help, and other ideas…finally I decided to go with my original plan so I looked around to double check where everything was (my mirrors were rather useless covered with water!) and pulled forwarded – after a few feet I got out to see where everything was – I was safely beyond the water post and it looked like I’d be able to get past the electric post too if I just kept going, so I did, but very slowly. I got out to look after a few more feet, and sure enough I was past that too…hmmm…didn’t look like I’d have to back up, I could just pull directly out! Just had to make sure I could get past the site # sign which I couldn’t find the mirror (I’d wiped the mirror off with a paper towel, but it didn’t help much) so I got out yet again to look, and it was so far away there was no way I could hit it! I kept going forward – I wasn’t convinced I wasn’t going to hit the sign, so I think I got out to look 1 more time, then I gave it some gas and it almost got stuck in the mud, but confident that I wasn’t going hit anything I gunned it and the RV popped right out of the site on to the road and I was off! For once it was something easier done than said! 
It was a little before 9 and I was on my way. I stopped to top off the tank and pick up some snacks for the airport, then made my way through downtown Rockland and out to Leisure Maine.

I pulled in at 9:30 – a full hour before my deadline. I met up with Bruce again and told him all about my adventures! We talked a bit about the “hiccups” at the beginning of the trip and he allowed as to how he’d had reservations about the coach battery – as had I – when I checked it out. I now know that next time if there’s any question I’ll ask them to check it just to be sure! We did a final walk through and I mentioned a few other minor things that I’d noticed that might need attention and soon the RV was all checked back in.

Rene was headed out in the direction of the airport so he offered to give me a ride, if I was willing to wait about 45 mins – since my flight didn’t leave until 12:55 that wasn’t a problem at all. I sat on the couch and played iPhone games until about 11 when Rene was ready to head out. We got the airport around 11:30, so it was perfect!

When you fly Cape Air everything must be weighed – you even have to disclose your weight when you check in, and if you don’t know (and admit that rather than making something up) you get to step on the big luggage scale! There were 2 folks on my flight from Australia and they didn’t know their weight in pounds, only kilos, so they had to get on the scale! My bag was weighed – 63 pounds! Holy crap. It was no where near that heavy on the way there. Must have bought more stuff than I thought I did. Or maybe it’s all the wet clothes I was bringing home – clothes still wet from my swim in Richardson Lake, boots & socks still wet from fording the creek! (why in the world these synthetic clothes haven’t dried yet is beyond me!) I had to pay an extra baggage fee of $25 – cheaper than mailing the stuff home! I was worried that United would also charge me, but they didn’t (other than their normal checked baggage fee).

The weather was really bad in Boston and there were huge delays, our plane didn’t arrive from Boston until 1:30, so we were about an hour late getting out, but it was ok because I’d given myself a long layover, so now I was down to a short layover!

The Rockland Airport is very small. I think it’s in a trailer – it might be a double wide… There were only 8 of us on the flight. They had 3 TSA people and a Sheriff! The TSA people were quite through. Nearly everyone’s bag was x-rayed, hand checked, and then x-rayed again. I know with my computer bag the lady looked and took out my keys, then sent it back to the x-ray. She also swabbed the inside of my computer bag for chemicals! The big airports don’t do all that!

When it was time to board they took us out 1 at a time and directed us where to sit. When it was my turn the gal said “sit behind the pilot or in the co-pilot’s seat – I thought she meant the seat behind the co-pilot (which is where I wanted to sit so I’d have a good view) so I sat there. The next guy who got in sat in the actual co-pilot’s seat and I was bummed that I’d could have sat there had I understood what she meant!

We did manage to get up above the clouds where it was sunny! It was neat to watch the pilot, but a bit unnerving when he pulled out his blackberry (after telling us to turn off our cell phones) and put his headphones on! Well really just one, he still had his air traffic headset on! But I guess it’s like listening to music while you drive!

When we landed in Boston we were taxiing to the gate and on the runway next to us was a giant 747 Air France! It pulled out in front of us and we followed it! That was pretty cool!

We got in about 3:00 and I quickly got over to the United desk, checked in for my flight to Dulles and went back through security. There was an overpriced pre-packaged sandwich stand right next to my gate so I grabbed a sandwich and a cookie and got to the gate.

The flight to Dulles was on time. It too was a small plane – only 4 seats across, but it was a jet! We arrived right on time! I grabbed my bag and headed for the car – it was seriously heavy, but not so bad that I couldn’t do it!

After driving the RV my Saturn VUE felt like a compact sports car! It was hard to remember that I could just go without thinking about my every move quite as much! It made me twitch a few times that the mirrors were so small!

Traffic wasn’t so bad and I was home about 7:30! 

I opened my bag to discover that my pillow was very wet.  I’d packed it on top, and I guess my bag sat in the rain at some point and the zipper isn’t waterproof! I’d wanted to wash the sheets tonight anyway (I LOVE freshly washed sheets and after two weeks of sleeping under my sleeping bag, I’m looking forward to a real bed!) so it was no big deal. I did put the pillow in the dryer for a few minutes, it came out very fluffy, that might become a new routine!

Hopefully the sheets will be dry soon and I can get them on the bed and crawl in!

*Pop Tarts - I know Russell pointed out that it was a cherry frosted pop tart in the "Internet Cafe" pic - I'm not sure I have eaten pop tarts since Camp Mohawk in 1987, but when I was hiking up Penobscot Mt I saw some Pop Tart pieces that someone had dropped, and suddenly had a craving! I decided to splurge and buy some, more snacks/dessert, but it worked out great when I ran out of milk/cereal with not enough days to warrent buying more! They were quite tasty, but I probably won't be buying them again until the next big hiking/kayaking trip! :-)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Day 14 - Pemaquid Point Lighthouse

You know the phrase “darker than the inside of a wolf”? That applies to Recompense Shores campground! It was so stinkin dark out there last night! Being basically alone out there was a bit unnerving, but I had 3Gs on my phone so I could have “phoned a friend” if I had needed to! J

I woke up for good about 6:30, got up about 7. The office didn’t open until 8 – that was my coffee source for the morning since I was dry camping. I ate breakfast and read my book until about 8 when I got dressed and walked over for coffee and toothpaste! I was totally out of toothpaste, couldn’t even squeeze 4 more uses out of it! I was back at the RV by 8:30 and I wanted to finish my book so I sat and read until 9:30.

I really enjoyed The Maine Woods – it was fun reading about trekking into the Maine Wilderness back in the 1800’s and how they camped and traveled, especially when I was in the Maine Wilderness! Made me very thankful for my RV!

Finally I got myself going! My 1st task was to back out of the site. It was much easier than I thought it would be! I just went straight back and stopped to check every few feet and before I knew it was out and heading down the road!

I decided that I needed to stop at Hannaford to pick up a few things I had run out of but needed for the last night – I’m pretty impressed with how well the food worked out….I only threw out a few things that I’d over bought!

It was only 2 hours from Freeport to The Lobster Buoy and I had all day so I’d decided I would drive out to Pemaquid Point lighthouse and check that out. It was cloudy and dreary but I headed down the road anyway and I’m glad I did!

1st of all Pemaquid Point is one of, if not the only, lighthouse that you can go up in! It was very cool to see the view from up there and check out the lens and see how the lighthouse works! 2nd – Pemaquid Point Lighthouse is what they put on the Maine State Quarter (which they had for sale there…for $5.00!).

While I was there the sun came out and it turned out to be a very nice afternoon! There were rocks in front of the lighthouse that you could walk out onto and get great views of the ocean, the rocky coast, and the lighthouse!

Next door to the park was a kitschy gift shop/restaurant/ice cream stand! It was def “tourist trap” material – they had 2 large fiberglass Indian statues in the front, an extra large fiberglass “lobster-zilla” and a fiberglass Pirate…what an odd combo! The gift shop was the ultimate junk store…you could hardly walk for all the tourist souvenir crap! I did partake of the ice cream stand portion – it was Gifford’s again! I got cookie dough this time and aside from a big chunk of ice I found, it was very good!

I spent about 2 hours out there and now it was time to head into the Lobster Buoy! It wasn’t far and I even took the scenic route! I pulled into the campground about 4:00 and attempted to get parked in my site. I had a different site from before – that site was too wet! This one was a bit harder to get into! I pulled up alongside it but not far enough so when I backed in I narrowly missed 2 campsite signs, a car, the electric plug for my site and the picnic table! I made it in though!

The very frustrating part was that three folks who are staying here all stopped what they were doing to watch me. They saw me back up 2 ft and jump out and look, then re-adjust and look again – I jumped out of the RV about 10 (or more) times to look at where I was going and decide what to do next and not one of them offered assistance! I would have asked, but I figured that if they had wanted to help they would have, since they had watched the whole thing!

Hopefully I can get it out in the morning! It’s supposed to be raining then so that will add to the fun! J

Once I got the slide out and the electric plugged in I started packing and cleaning, I picked up the trash and vacuumed, the other cleaning stuff will have to wait till morning. I got everything except what I needed for tonight packed up.

Feels like I have been on this trip a lot longer than just two weeks! It feels like a lifetime ago when I was here before! This had been a great trip! It was a bit nerve-wracking before I left – going RVing solo for 2 weeks! There’s so much that could happen! But thankfully, everything went smoothly, after the little hiccups the 1st few days. I had never taken a long trip by myself before and that was kinda scary to think that I’d be on my own for so long – well thanks to my iPhone and having decent coverage most everywhere, I was able to stay connected to my friends through Facebook and Twitter as much as I do when I’m at home! (even South Arm had decent coverage, I just had to drive 6 miles to get it, I knew I could drive out there if I really needed to!)

Even the RV was scary at 1st – I’d done the RV thing in Alaska, but I was with my parents who do this all the time! It’s hard to drive at times – it’s so big and I was worried I’d get myself in a jam that I couldn’t get out of, but so far that hasn’t happened (I’ll let you know when I get out of this site!), oh I did get into that right spot at South Arm, but it wasn’t a huge big deal! It’s strange sleeping in a new place every night! I really liked the RV thing during the day – I liked being in the campground and having all the comforts of home right there! It was at night that I’d get a little freaked out, especially when the wind was blowing or it was raining – but after a few nights I got more comfortable.

A lot of people I met said I was brave for heading out alone in an RV. Yeah, there were some times that I felt like I was being very brave, but it was more a situation of me wanting to go places and see stuff and I wasn’t waiting my life around until there was someone to go with me. I wanted to go see Acadia and Grafton Notch and I did!

I didn’t really get too lonely, South Arm was hard, I really liked being there and enjoying the lake and the trails and such but I was definitely an outsider. At Acadia folks seemed more willing to make friends and talk with pretty much anyone. But at South Arm I had my TiVo and books and it was all good!

I think another part of why the trip worked was because I spent such a big portion of it at Acadia. Acadia worked because of the bus. I could go everywhere without having to drive the RV – when I went up the mountains having just the RV for transportation was a bit of a problem because I didn’t feel comfortable getting it in and out of the campground more than necessary and I couldn’t just “run out” for an afternoon.

All in all though it was “A-Maine-sing” – I know, bad bad joke! These are things I think of when I’m climbing (or crawling) up a mountain! I’m ready to go home, but I definitely want to the RV thing again! I am considering buying one, but there are so many extra costs that go along with it!

Maine - Day 14 Pemaquid Point Lighthouse

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Day 13 - LL Bean

It rained most of the night. I woke up about 1:30 and it had stopped, I think the silence woke me up. They gotta come up with a way to make RV roofs quieter when it’s raining! It was a gentle rain, but LOUD! Not only that but the rain makes a symphony of sounds – rain on the regular roof makes one sound, rain on the vent makes another, rain on the AC casing makes a different sound, there’s a fan vent in the “bedroom” that makes a different sound, there’s a plastic covering over the shower that makes a still different sound. Then there’s something on the outside that must channel the rain so it runs off because occasionally you’ll hear that drip and think there’s a leak and make yourself crazy looking for it. So even you are exhausted from kayaking 6+ miles and swimming you still won’t sleep.

I’d hoped to sleep in, but that didn’t happen. I woke up at 6 and decided to move the phone to it’s plug that was right beside the bed so it could charge when the electric came on at 6:30. I plugged it in and shoved it under the pillow, the sound machine still going, and went back to sleep. At 6:30 when the power came back on the phone bleeped and vibrated – which vibrated the pillow and my head and that was pretty much it for sleep. I got up and got moving a little before 7.

Most campgrounds have the sites around a loop which is one way. This campground was no exception. My campsite was the 1st site as you went around the loop. There was about 50 feet of “one way” between my site and the main road. Since I’d put the RV in “the wrong way” she was pointing in the direction of the wrong way on the one way road. In order to get out the proper way I’d have to turn her around – which would involved at least a 5 point turn, maybe more because backing up is difficult. On Monday when I went out I debating going the wrong way and just popping myself out out, but decided to follow the rules and turn the RV around and go the correct way. Well, that was a mistake because 4 sites down from me a guy had his big pick-up truck parked in the road a bit so he could hook up his ginormous 5th wheel (how he got it in there in the 1st place is a mystery to me!)! I didn’t see him there until it was too late to go back! Luckily with some careful guidance from the truck owner and going very very slow I got through, but it was not fun. I decided then that I’d just go the wrong way next time I went out! Even remembering that I debating turning around and going the correct way this morning, but in the end broke the rules and went out the wrong way!

My first stop was the scenic overlook where I had coverage for my phone. Since I was still eating my pop-tart for breakfast I decided it was kinda like an internet café! I spent about an hour checking e-mail & facebook. It wasn’t the best connection and I couldn’t make it post anything, but it was good enough.

It was 9 when I started making my way south to Freeport.

On Monday when I was walking I’d seen a large orange metal coil on the end of a metal stick marking what looked like a waterfall. At the time I couldn’t figure out why there was a metal coil to mark it. This morning I saw a few more of the same metal coils and it hit me – the metal coil was a spring and it was likely marking a spring where you could get water! Hysterical play on words! I wanted to get a picture but there weren’t anymore after I figured it out!

Amazing how I could be so far out in the wilds of Maine and have to get even deeper in the wilds of Maine to get out! Oddly enough Andover was the last time I had cell coverage today until I got to Lewiston. Most of the roads were very small 2 lane windy country roads. I think there are more frost heaves in Maine than in Alaska! My phone has a “shake to shuffle feature – if you are listening to it and you don’t want to hear a particular song you can shake it and it will go to the next song. This feature is VERY annoying when driving in Maine. See the phone is rather sensitive and when I’d go over a big bump, the song would change! Luckily the feature doesn’t work when the phone is locked!

I’d written down all the routes I needed to take on a sticky and stuck it to the dash, I had in my head that I needed to go to Lewiston to pick up 136, but in reality it was Auburn! Auburn is a large city and was very busy – I totally missed the turn so ended up going through Lisbon (Maine named all their towns after foreign places: Paris, Naples, Mexico, Peru…) and got on 295. Now for all you road geeks out there…umm…Russell….I have now driven on a portion of every Interstate highway in Maine! I395 outside of Bangor, I95 near Bangor and now I295 which goes up the coast from Portland to almost Augsta.

I arrived in Freeport about 11:45 and was thrilled at how easy it was to navigate in the RV. The RV parking area was well signed and easy to find! I was able to get around the main congestion of the town and found a great spot.*(see rant at the end) I quickly headed out to get my bearings and see what was here. It’s pretty much just LL Bean. There are some factory stores, but not much. Bar Harbor was definitely the spot for browsing in shops! Two of the shops here even are also in Bar Harbor! One of the other shops has a sister shop in Jackson WY that I visited there so there wasn’t much that was “new”.

There’s a café at LL Bean now! That’s where I had lunch! I got a great “veggie loaf” wrap and blueberry pop. Quite a unique lunch and very tasty! I gotta see if I can find the blueberry pop elsewhere. While I was eating I saw a car go by with a boat on top and thought about how most cars up here had boats on them but how I hadn’t seen many folks using the boats – this then made me think of the episode of the British comedy “Keeping Up Appearances when Hyacinth buys Richard skis for his birthday just so they can drive around town with them on the car giving the appearance that they are “ski people” which of course made me laugh – after that every time I saw a car with a boat on it I was laughing to myself at my own private joke!

In 1986, when I was 11, my mom, my grandma Jack, my grandpa Dr. Ben and I drove up to Freeport from North Tarrytown NY so Dr. Ben could go to LL Bean. Dr. Ben was quite possibly LL Bean’s biggest fan. I think everything he owned came from there. Coming to “the store” was a religious experience for him! He was so excited to be visiting the store that when we arrived in Freeport late at night he had to go put his feet in the store because it was open 24 hours. We did, then went back to out hotel to spend the night. Back in ’86 not much was open 24 hours so LL Bean was a novelty in that respect. The next day we went and spent the whole day. I remember it being a sprawling campus of stores, but none of the buildings really matched each other, it was dark and dingy in places, and the floor was uneven, it was definitely rustic. Not so anymore. They have renovated every inch of the place and there seems to be more space than merchandise. Not only that but everything in the store is available on-line and in the catalog. The store was very similar to the LL Bean store at Tyson’s Corner, although getting to Maine might be easier than getting to Tyson’s Corner! ;-)

When we were at LL Bean in ’86 we purchased my sleeping bag, the same sleeping bag that I’m using right now! It’s as good as it was the day we bought it, well almost. When we were in Alaska the zipper broke (so now it’s more of a comforter than a sleeping bag!). One awesome thing about LL Bean is that if your stuff breaks they will fix it and return it - few years ago they fixed the zipper on my backpack, they no longer make the model that I had and I didn’t want a new one, it’s the same with the sleeping bag! I went to customer service to ask about getting it fixed and I told the gal that I’d bought the sleeping bag 20+ years ago when I came here and she was unimpressed.

It didn’t take me long at LL Bean and then I headed out to get some Gifford’s Ice Cream – Moose Tracks this time – and then go to the LL Bean Outlet and check out the other stores. By 3:30 I was pretty much done with Freeport. I stopped at Amatos’s – a little deli, pizza joint to get a sandwich to take back for dinner and then headed to the campground.

I think I can really pick ‘em! There are 2 campgrounds in Freeport – The KOA and Recompence Shores. I’m at Recompence Shores. It’s about 10 mins out of Freeport – it’s right on the Casco Bay! It’s in the middle of Wolf’s Neck Farm and close to Wolf’s Neck State park. It’s very quiet and strangely empty. There are close to 200 sites here and maybe 20 other folks here – all spread out. I pretty much have my area to myself. A few of the sites are occupied, there’s camping stuff but no cars and no people.

I think my site is supposed to be a back in, but I pulled in straight opting to back out. The site has 2 trees – one on each side of the RV that I was worried about being able to get right between, and going out there’s a weird angle if I was going forward. There’s a lot space to back out and turn so it shouldn’t be too hard – I almost practiced but decided not to. Not sure why I got the site I did, the one next to me is huge and I could have pulled in and “parallel parked”. There’s also a open field with sites around it – generally I wouldn’t be a fan of that but in a field there’s nothing to hit when backing up!

The campground does have wifi, but I have to go back up to the store and sit in the chairs – hopefully the battery on the computer will last! If not I can finish the job in the morning – there’s a large parking area up there so I could park and get the network!

*Rant of the day (and Public Service Announcement): Is there part of “RV’s ONLY” that is confusing? In Freeport they have tons of free parking. There is a small lot, maybe 40 standard parking spaces, that is labeled RV parking and “RV’s ONLY”. When I got there the parking lot had 3 RVs already in it and about 10 cars. There was just barely room for me and then just as I parked – going across 4 spots (parallel parked) some lady pulled in to the spot in front of me meaning that I couldn’t get out until she left. Late when I came back the other RVs were gone and more cars had filled in. Seriously people – read the sign. If you are driving a car, even if it’s a big “Suburban Subdivison” or a “Denali National Park” you can park it places that I in my RV cannot park. Not only that but you can back your car up easily if you have to, I cannot. You can also turn around, that is difficult for RVs, especially folks with trailers. Car drivers can also park in the free parking garage just ½ a block away, I cannot. So please DON’T park where it says RV parking unless you are driving an RV!!!!!

Maine - Day 13 Freeport & LL Bean

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Day 12 - Kayaking at South Arm Part 2

My plan for today was to hang out at the campground, kayak, blog, read and relax. When I checked the weather yesterday afternoon it was calling for a 20% chance of rain this afternoon so I wanted to outside stuff early.

I had a lazy morning – didn’t get out of bed until 8:30! Then I had leisurely coffee and cereal with an episode of The Office. Finally about 9:30 I made my way over to the office/store to rent my kayak and head out.

I got to chatting with the lady who works there and this guy who was there. The guy said that there was a view point at the top of Moody Mt – darn! He also said that if you took the AT north from the road crossing it gets really steep really quick – they have ladders and ropes and stuff so you can climb up! Glad I didn’t go that way! The lady had the weather report she’d just printed – it didn’t look good! 60% chance of rain this afternoon – after 2, rain tomorrow, rain the rest of the week. Ugh. Glad I’m heading out! LL Bean in the rain will be just fine!

It was 10:00 before I got my kayak and headed out. It was cloudy, but very nice. I paddled around the point of the campground and into the cove behind my site and then up the eastern side of the lake – Sunday I had done the western side. The eastern side has houses and docks and stuff and the western side is all wild.

I’d been paddling about an hour and a half when I decided I needed a potty stop so I beached the canoe among some rocks! The potty stop quickly turned into a swimming stop! I swam around in the rocks for a few minutes – the water was very nice and the air outside was warm! I finally got back into the kayak and continued paddling.

I’d spotted an island that I thought I’d paddle to – it was pretty far out, but I was finding such interesting stuff in the coves and all that I didn’t notice! I finally reached the island at Noon – 2 hours to get there! I discovered that some people were camped on it! Turns out the island was part of South Arm – they have a whole bunch of remote sites that you have to boat to – and it was three miles from the campground! WOW! I paddled 6 miles!

I wanted to go back along the shore because it’s more interesting so I paddled across the lake – it was very wide here and the wind was kicking up a bit so it was choppy. I eventually made it to the other shore and was enjoying checking out all the waterfalls and such, when I thought I heard thunder. It came from the western side of the lake, where there are no people. Uh-oh. The last place I want to be during a thunder storm is the middle of a lake in a kayak. I started paddling faster to get back. I bypassed a few coves that I wanted to explore and skipped beaching that kayak at the swimming beach I’d found on Sunday. I thought my arms were going to fall off. I hadn’t heard any more thunder sounds and it didn’t look like it was going storm, but I wasn’t taking any chances. I finally made it back to the campground. My arms were so tired I knew I’d never be able to haul the kayak back to the rack so I decided to go swimming – the swimming beach at the campground is right by the boat launch. I wasn’t wearing my bathing suit, but I had on nylon shorts, a synthetic hiking shirt and synthetic underwear so it was as good as a bathing suit. The water was so nice I didn’t want to get out! Finally I did, and hauled my kayak back to the rack and took the paddle and life jacket back.

I decided that I wanted to go swimming for real so I went back to the RV and changed into my bathing suit and got a towel. I was the only one swimming for almost an hour when a man and his two kids came down. They’d been coming her for more than10 years! The water was great – clod in places, but mostly warm and the air outside was warm too. They have a dock out in the middle of the swimming area – it was perfect to jump off of! After about an hour I was getting pruny so I decided to get out. It had started raining a little while I was swimming – just some sprinkles.

Not sure if it’s the rain, or if I just hadn’t heard them before but the loons are very talkative today! While I was kayaking I heard the loons, I heard them again while I was swimming, and I’m hearing them now as I’m typing!

As I made my way back to the RV the sprinkles got a bit more aggressive. I gathered my shower stuff and headed over there.

One of the first things I did when I got here on Saturday was take a shower. I have a shower in the RV but it’s kind of a pain to use. It’s very small and you have to be very careful of how much water you use – I have a finite amount of water and if I use too much then I have to go dump the tanks and get more water! My plan had been to shower in the campground when possible, at Blackwoods though they didn’t have showers! So Saturday when I got here I was itching for a real shower. I had checked it out before I went down there and there were coin takers by both showers. So I gathered up my quarters and headed over. I put my quarter in and turned the knob, then turned the water on. It felt so good that I just stood there for a very long time – I was amazed at how long of a shower a quarter bought you! Every day since I have showered and put my quarter in the quarter taker. Last night I was there when another lady came in to shower, I heard her just turn on the water, I didn’t hear the quarter taker. Could it be that the showers aren’t coin operated? Hmmm…. Today I decided to try it, I just turned the water on without putting in a quarter and guess what? It worked! No quarter needed! HA! Wonder how many people they sucker with that?

After my shower I took a quick walk around the campground – very interesting to see everyone’s camping set up! Lots of pop-ups and pull behinds. Many folks are set up for a long stay it looks like! Most folks here have a big diesel pick-up or Suburban type car and almost every car has a boat (canoe or kayak) on top! What’s interesting though is that I don’t see people doing much – everyone has a kayak or canoe, yet I haven’t seen many folks out on the lake. Seems like the activity of choice is to sit at the campsite, and walk your dog, and take the trash to the dumpster! The kids all have bikes that they ride around, and around, and around. I have only seen three other folks swimming! A lot of folks have a dart board stuck to a tree. Most of the folks are friendly, but not too friendly, everyone here seems to be with a group and they aren’t too interested in anyone else! There are a lot of families with kids though and I think that’s great! I think it’s so great that they are bringing their kids here away from TV, x-box, wii, Facebook, etc… I know it’s hard – heck I’m here in my RV typing on my computer and in a minute I’m going to watch TV and I’m listening to music on my iPhone and I def miss checking in with my friends on Facebook, but I think part of that for me is because I’m by myself, if I was here with my parents or friends or whatever, I wouldn’t be holed up with my technology. I wish I could get the kids I teach out of their houses and into the woods for the summer!

After my shower and walk it began raining for real so I retreated to the RV to blog and read and watch TiVo, although so far all I have gotten done is the blogging. At 7:00 they have “Junk Food Bingo” where you bring some junk food as your “admission” – I’m assuming that who ever wins wins the food – I’m going to walk over – it sounds like a great way to get rid of my extra box of granola bars, but I’d better not win anything.

One of the interesting things here is the weather, or rather the temperature. This afternoon I was swimming and I was not cold. It was standing in the middle of the lake on the dock, with a breeze and I was not cold. A little while later I took a shower and put on fleece pants and a long sleeve t-shirt and I’m still comfortable! I’m not hot. It seems that no matter what one wears it’s always just right! Crazy! It was the same in Bar Harbor – if I wore shorts I was mostly comfortable (it did get a little chilly a few evenings), if I wore pants I was comfortable! When I walked over to Junk Food bingo I observed that I could see my breath, yet I’m not cold. Strange, yet pretty cool!

I just got back from Junk Food Bingo. Apparently you bring 1 or maybe 2 candy bars and then you get that many boards. They were a little shocked with my whole box of granola bars! They accepted them though and gave me as many boards as I wanted! I only took 4 because I really didn’t want to win, I just wanted to get out of my RV for a little while! It was mostly kids – a whole group of them that seemed to know each other, they might have been cousins. It appeared that they come here every year and stay a week or so because one of the girls was leaving tomorrow and they were getting on her about leaving “early”. There were a few adults but they were all there with their kids. I sat at a table with some teenage girls who all knew each other so I didn’t really socialize, although the kids were very nice!

Maine - Day 12 Kayaking at South Arm 2