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Monday, December 15, 2014

We're still here

     When we are not travelling, most of the photo-ops come from our back yard.  This morning, while we were watching the deer, a great blue heron descended into the pond like some sort of seaplane.  Soon we had an unusual juxtaposition of wildlife.


     The first one was a "snap" shot as I walked out to the fence in case one or the other objected to my presence.  Note the Christmas lights in the foreground.  Neither critter seemed spooked so I proceeded to the fence for some more pictures.



     Durelle's cataract surgery has had no ill after effects except that her glasses now have only one lens.  She is looking forward to doing the left eye in January.  I'm still waiting for all the preliminary test results before a consultation with a spinal surgeon.  The last test will be a vascular study because of poor circulation in my feet.  The PA could not find a pulse there.  The MRI shows extensive cartilage degeneration amongst the five lumbar vertebrae.  In addition, a couple of vertebrae pairs are not in proper alignment.  I am learning new words like "stenosis" and "listhesis".  I am most fortunate to have a friend and classmate who is a senior orthopedic surgeon at New York Presbyterian.  He is providing a most valuable, informal second opinion as we go along.  I'm anxious to complete the diagnosis process so that I can deal with whatever course of action is indicated.  I'll keep you posted.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

     It's funny how little things can remind you how fortunate we are.  The afternoon before Thanksgiving the waste drain out of the disposal became clogged and stayed clogged despite some valiant efforts by plunger and Liquid Plumber.  When Durelle remembered that the dishwasher empties first into the disposal, she began to imagine Thanksgiving without either appliance and exclaimed,"Well, there goes Thanksgiving!"  Conveniently, a local plumber showed up in a couple of hours and fixed the problem for 75 bucks.  I reminded everyone that we have had dozens of memorable Thanksgivings without benefit of those two handy inventions.  Just this year our son, Mark, and his family did it without power in Nashua, NH.  A couple of Weber grills and a turkey fryer handled things with only a little inconvenience.  Later, the memories around the fireplace playing cribbage and visiting will last longer than those inconveniences. 
     The Cloutiers, as well as those who are so kind as to check this space from time to time, have much for which to be thankful.  Cindy did not work today so she was able to join us for most of the day.  I did our turkey on the Traeger grill, but everything else was just as we have done it for many years.  We did set everything on the kitchen island and served ourselves buffet style for a change.


     That yellow bowlful in the foreground is not scrambled eggs.  It's Yukon Gold mashed potatoes.  Needless to say, there will be bountiful leftovers, sandwiches and eventually turkey soup.  Baxter, of course, found all this activity very exciting.


     The overnight lows were in the thirties, but the sunsets in our back yard have been very pleasant.


      So, it is most appropriate in these troubling times, that we pause to observe everything that is right.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Rainbows

        A recent evening offered a propitious opportunity of hazy clouds and imminent showers that just might present some good photo ops.  The opportunity presented itself to the southwest and toward the photogenic treeline.  So, I wandered out back and took the shot below.


     While I was there, the phone in my pocket rang.  It was Durelle on her evening dog walk through the neighborhood.  She said that there were some "pretty skies" out front and perhaps a rainbow.  I do what I'm told. I went out front with camera (and martini) in hand.  Sure enough there was a rainbow forming.


     It wasn't bright, but it was complete in that it was visible from end to end.  Even zooming out to the maximum 35mm, I could not get both ends in the picture simultaneously.  I framed some shots at one end at a time.  As I did so, the rainbow got brighter.


     After a few minutes it slid eastward until it was almost pouring down Cindy's chimney.


     If you look closely, over the tree, you can see the weak beginnings of a double rainbow.


     The second rainbow is also barely visible in this shot halfway between the main rainbow and the flag.  Yes, I know I should have taken it down at sunset, but I was busy!  
     Life is good.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Feeding the Monster

     As Bud Wilkinson, the legendary football coach at Oklahoma, once said, "When you have created a monster, you have to feed it."  Feeding a "travel blog" when you're not traveling sometimes feels like that.  Most, if not all, good blog posts start with a few good pictures.  I made a couple of false starts in the past week; now I'll attempt to turn them into an enjoyable post.  One morning I was up early enough to see the sunrise quickly evolving in the east, so I snapped a couple of pleasant shots before firing up the coffee maker.







     To me there are a couple of notable aspects to that sequence: first, only a few seconds separate the three pictures, and second, the roofline forming the horizon is Cindy's.  Nice, but not enough to make a blog.
     A few days later, well after sunrise, I spotted what I thought was the head of a"our" bald eagle in one of his favorite roosting spots.  I grabbed the camera and headed out only to see one of the immature eagles swooping over the water.  I went to maximum zoom and actually succeeded in keeping him in the viewfinder for several random shots as I hoped for the best.  That done, I looked up at the bald eagle.  The telephoto lens revealed that the flash of white that was still there was the fractured end of a freshly broken branch.  Oh, well.  At least there was the big ole 'gator across the pond and an egret practically at my feet.  Before I discovered that my eagle was only a branch, I thought that the fact that I could have all four of those different wildlife shots taken in our back yard within a span of two minutes might be the basis for a blog.  Alas, the first shots of the real eagle were unusable.  He was moving.  I was moving, and the camera was on telephoto.  That's a recipe for blurry, useless pictures.  So all I had left were the two below.




     Finally, along came some wildlife pictures to save the day.






Thursday, October 23, 2014

Charleston, SC

     OK, OK, so it has been two weeks.  We've been busy, plus an unauthorized user on my Verizon air card pushed me over my 40G limit.  Today was "reset the counter" day.  I dealt with a thousand emails (spam and regular).  A few days ago, in the early evening, Durelle announced a photo-op in the back yard.  She was right.  See below:





     That's our back yard with unedited pictures.  Since we've been back, there have been visits to: an orthopedist (for both of our right shoulders), our primary care physician, my opthamologist, audiologist, hematologist/oncologist, and rheumatologst.  Next is the dentist and the neurologist.  It sure is tough when the warrantee expires.  We all got clean bills of health including Baxter.  
     Today for lunch we wandered ( that's a euphemism. We had to get reservations well in advance.  It's six to eight weeks for supper) down to The Husk.  We started with an order of wings.



     If those look special, they were.  I had the catfish, Cindy had shrimp and grits, and Durelle had a cheeseburger.  Cindy conjured up a great analogy from when she was covering the national swimming and diving championships in Bartlesville, OK and reporting for the Tulsa World.  Greg Louganis, perhaps the best diver ever, was competing.  She noted that, while he had to have an extensive repertoire of complicated, semi-impossible dives, rules required that an assortment of basic dives had to be demonstrated first.  She said that the simple, forward dive off the ten meter platform was a thing of beauty.  Her point was that even though he could do a triple somersault with twist and a half, he could do the simple forward dive better than anyone.  Her point was, "I bet that The Husk can do a cheeseburger better than anybody.  Durelle says that she is right.
     We had a wonderful lunch, and we took a few pictures on the bench under the Husk sign out front.






     Since we were parked on the roof of the parking garage, I shot a couple of pictures from that vantage point.  The one below shows some Charleston rooftops and the Ravenel bridge.  A couple of the big cranes that enable the Port of Charleston to efficiently unload container ships are also prominent.



Saturday, October 11, 2014

A New Morning


     We are safely back in Hanahan, SC and ready for a new day.  No, the picture is not mine...I don't do sunrises, especially after four consecutive driving days.  This is Cindy's picture, taken on one of her morning four mile walks.  This one was on the Isle of Palms.
     We're home and we're pooped.  Now we  are busy (with a lot of help from Cindy) unloading in near 90 temperatures and humidity.  It's always surprising how much "stuff" a forty foot motorhome can hold.
     Thursday we drove a piece of the Blue Ridge Parkway and stopped for a visit with cousin, Nikki and Bob Chevalier.  As a part of the visit I got a guided tour of the National D-Day Memorial.  It is extremely well done and is beautifully sited.  It was a golf cart tour and tourists may not get out of the cart, so picture opportunities were restricted.  Below are three representative pictures.  There are many great stories originating here, but I'll save them for another forum and another day.




     So, we are back after 134 days.  We averaged $130 per day, and many of those expenses such as groceries and eating out would have been incurred at home.  We have often been taken to task by Durelle's brother, Mart, for violating the two thirty rule.  It dictates the one should stop at 2:30 or 230 miles, which occurs first.  I think that next year we may be more inclined to abide by that rule.
     It has been the best summer yet.  The camaraderie of old and new (!!) friends with whom we camped this summer made this trip special and worth every bit of effort we put into it. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Headin' South

     Today was day two of our four day jaunt south from Brookline, NH to Hanahan, SC.  We travelled from Pine Grove, PA to Monroe, VA.  We did so the hard way, or the pretty way if you prefer.  We did the northern 45 miles of the Skyline Drive, bailed out and went to I-81S for 80 miles or so, then did a dozen miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway.  We could have made almost the whole day on those two roads, but at 35 mph we would have eaten late.  As it was, we got into the KOA at 1800.
     The scenery was long distance views of the Shenandoah Valley with blue, hazy mountains in the distance.  Quaint villages occupied the low points.  Here's an example:



     Here's one that shows the bus to prove we were there.  This, by the way, is the Gimlet Ridge Overlook.  Durelle wanted me to get a picture of the sign for my roommate, Dick Daniel...a gimlet drinker, but I didn't want to walk back to get it.


     Today, while on I-81S, I got a phone call from Buck Braun.  It was a cell phone call from Homer, Alaska.  When I reported to Alaska in the radar maintenance business in 1963, I was a 24 year old Lt.  My NCOIC was Chief Master Sergeant Laverne A. (Buck) Braun.  He was 35.  In one of those wonderful inversions he mentored his boss.  I called him "Buck".  He called me Lt Cloutier.  Our respect was mutual.  I left Alaska in '66 and have not heard from him since.  I made a couple of unsuccessful attempts over the years.  Today he reached me while we were on I-81.  He's 86 but sounds like yesterday.  What a great afternoon!
     The views sometimes extended a hundred miles or more, but the mountains (hills) were rounded, green in the foreground and blue in the distance.  To traverse the two parkways in a motorhome would require shifting the big rig into 3rd (out of 6th) and driving up and down left and right switchbacks for well over a hundred miles.  It could be done, but it seemed not to be worth the effort.
     Tomorrow it will be the D-Day Memorial and a visit with my cousin, Anika (aka Nikki).
     

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Gone to the Dogs

     We are comfortably settled at the Field and Stream RV Park in Brookline, NH.  Friday night most of the Cloutier clan assembled at Smokey Bones for supper.  As Durelle was getting ready, she closed the slider door to the bath and bedroom so she could take a shower.  Unable to be with her, Baxter got up into her chair and sulked.



     He's a gentle old soul, but he's not too smart.  In the picture below look for his nose buried deep in one of my well worn sandals.


     Saturday Mark and Heather (and great granddaughter, Brielle) drove to Connecticut to pick up a five month old pup from a rescue league.  Eli, his name for now, is part Husky and part Great Pyrenees.  Next year he will be a 120 pound, mostly white, gentle and loyal shedding machine.  Right now he's a 45 pound, timid pup who's trying to understand what's going on.  In the picture below daughter-in-law, Heather, is providing continual human contact.


     Leo, the German Shepard, doesn't seem to have any objections to the new guy in town.  The two dogs are likely to be good for each other.


     It hasn't been all dogs, however.  Two of our favorite Lab owners (and barbequers), Tim and Wendy Boucher joined us for supper in downtown Nashua.  As we approached Michael Timothy's from the south, we saw them walking towards us down Main Street from the north.  Since it is Oktoberfest time, the entre special was a plate with sauerbraten, bratwurst, schnitzel, spaetzle, red wine cabbage plus squash and zucchini.  Getting prudent in our old age, Durelle and I decided we could split one order.


     It was one of our better decisions.  After supper the waitress was good enough to take a picture of the four of us.


     The summer is winding down, but there are a few more fun days still on the schedule.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Leaving Belfast

     Well, summer's over.  Our last evening was spent with eight of us at Papa J's.  Here's the crew.



     Going clockwise around the table are: Hilda Brann, George and Duane Peck, yours truly, Debra Donnahoo, Myrt Crowe, Durelle and Dick Brann.  Below are a couple of shots of the two of the entrees.  First the lobster scampi.


     Next is my leg of lamb, medium rare.


     It was a very special evening, but all of us will get together again next year in the same place.
     As we were leaving, the "Low Fuel" indication came on.  I wasn't surprised because I had gone 800 miles on that tankful.  We found fuel in Belfast for $3.629, and I bought 108 gallons which got me real close to that $400 fill-up milestone.  It was overcast, and occasionally drizzly as we drove to Brookline, NH.  Nonetheless Durelle captured some nice foliage pictures through the windshield.









  The last photo for today is one I took here in the Field and Stream Campground.  The blue spruce lends a nice contrast.


     We arrived and set up in a light rain.  Again everything worked...especially the sewer.  Durelle has both the washer and the dryer spinning merrily away.     
     So, the summer of 2014 is coming to a close.  Like life in general, it had both pain and pleasure.  I think I speak for the majority when I say that this was the best summer yet.  The lobsters, the barbequers, the two hour happy hours with a dozen or more folks (What do they all talk about?), but most especially the first-timers to the Moorings (and to the happy hours) all combined to make for great fun...day after day.  The old-timers all appreciate the fresh contributions from Debra, Myrt, the Hansens and the Fares.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Durelle's Day on the Water

     Today was a different day.  Several folks have here have become acquainted with Morris, a local fellow who owns a motorboat and loves to have an occasion to tour the Maine coast.  He took the Roths for a ride and subsequently joined us for a lobster feed.  Today he invited the Pecks.  Duane chose not to go, so Durelle took her place on a six hour boat ride around the local area.  Durelle doesn't like to use my big Leica, but she agreed that it would be foolish not to take it and use it.  She took over 130 pictures before the battery died.  I have edited and saved forty of them.  There were a lot of duplicates.  I won't use all forty in the blog, but I think you'll agree that she did a pretty good job.
     The winds were out of the northeast at 10 to 15, so it was a good brisk day on the water.  Most of the interesting pictures were taken of the majestic homes overlooking the bay.  Here's a few.














     Durelle also enjoyed passing under the new cable-stayed bridge over the Penobscot Narrows. 





     On the way home they made a pass through Castine where she took a couple of shots at the Maine Maritime Academy and at one of our favorite eating spots, Dennett's Wharf.





     There were a lot of other pictures, but enough is enough.  Before they tied up in Belfast, they swung by the campground.



     This, obviously, is the campground.  If you look closely, you can see Duane and I walking down to the shoreline to see the boat.  In the left center, crossing the road and wearing blue, is Duane.  I'm just to her left with a red shirt and tan shorts.  
     As required, they got back in time for Happy Hour which was held in the other Allegro Bus with Debra and Myrt.  It is getting a mite cool for outside happy hours...besides, the clientele is getting thinner (read fewer).