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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Routine

     Building a blog is the capturing of pictures or events...and sometimes a bit of philosophy. Mostly, it is a matter of keeping your eyes open for that perfect photo-op. You wander around looking for a pleasant scene and waiting for that ideal light. Then it dawns on you that the everyday view, seen from your seat at the dinette, and looking through a yet to be washed windshield ain't exactly chopped liver.


     The observant reader will also notice the Red Sox game is on the TV.

     We are getting settled in. We picked up a few supplies, some groceries and are looking forward to lobsters this weekend.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Arrived in Maine

     We are finally here! Mark did his usual great job of driving (and parking) the bus. When we arrived, we had more friends helping than you can imagine. The Roths, the Floods, Debra Donnahoo, Dick Brann and several others were here to help us old farts get settled in. After we were hooked up, we sat down to get reacquainted and have a beer. Before long it was time for happy hour. We had about decided that it was too cold for an outside happy hour when Richard showed up with a glass of scotch and pulled up a chair.. So, happy hour happened. Durelle came prepared for the weather with a new blanket from Mark and Heather.



     Yesterday we were running the air conditioners.
      It is wonderful to be back with all these camping friends, and we are looking forward to four more months of the same.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Father's Day, etc.

   The 18th of June is often a triple (or even quadruple) threat celebration.It's our anniversary and son, Mark's birthday. It's sometimes Father's Day and this year it was the last day of the US Open. Daughter-in-law, Heather, bless her soul, easily manages to throw a major league shindig for a dozen or so. There were shrimp and veggie platters for dipping. There were two pound fillets of salmon and haddock as well as a tub of sirloin tips. Of course, Heather being Heather, she made a large, obscenely chocolate cake with mint and frosting. Here's the birthday boy with the first slice of cake.



     The rendition of "Happy Birthday" was better as a photo than as an audio tape.




     This is Mark with two of his kids and his granddaughter Brielle who will finish the sixth grade on Tuesday. I also took a sneaky picture of Brielle as she was playing cards with her great grandmother.




          The extension cord into Mark's house did not seem to want to reliably handle the air conditioner, so the generator ran all day...we have to keep Mocha cool! There is no set time for departure tomorrow. My motto is, "It's been a long time since I was in a hurry."

Friday, June 16, 2017

Nashua, NH

     Three days from Hanahan, SC to Nashua, NH...300...400...400. The first day is always short 'cuz we didn't get away until ten. We arrived in Nashua on Friday the 16th. There were substantial traffic delays all three days, but we haven't been in a hurry in a long time. Mark did an outstanding job of driving. It is NOT just a matter of turning on the cruise control and aiming it.
     We were approaching NH today with the hope that we could get home without one more fuel stop. No such luck. On I-495 in MA we got a low fuel light. There were no big truck stops along the way, but Mark said that he remembered a big station at exit 34 on route 3 in Tyngsboro,  MA that "looked large from the highway."  Sure enough, we saw signs for a Mobil station with 24 hr diesel. We found it, but only one of the six islands had diesel. To get there seemed impossible. We had to find a way to navigate around the building which had a drive thru for Dunkin Donuts and a car wash. To make the turns, which were designed for cars, required some turns that put both the right front and the left rear wheels over the curbing. It was not as big as he had remembered.  We made it undamaged.
     Then the pump would quit at $100, so I ran it again and pumped another 40 gallons. On the third try the pump said, "Go Away!" We arrived at Mark's at 1730.



     We plugged in to AC and water. The dish locked in on the satellite, and the internet connected.
     Tomorrow is a nothing day, but Sunday is a multipurpose celebration. Monday we head for Maine.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Northbound!!!

     The first day is always doomed to be a late departure. The refrigerator contents have to be transferred. Since we haven't been on the road for a half year, it takes a while to get everything re-figured. For that reason our first day has us stopping in Enfield, NC...a 310 mile first day. We took some of the usual pictures.





     My goodness, do I look like the old fart. This was taken by a neighbor. Then I hopped in and, lo and behold, the refrigerator would not switch over to run on propane. We tried everything we could think of and could not solve the problem. I put in a call to ProTech at Durelle's request. Their tech said that the propane line may have had some air in it. He suggested lighting the stove top burners and consuming some propane.  It worked. The freezer is still not cold enough. It's only 22 degrees in the door of the freezer. It is finally making cubes, however!


    Mocha finally settled down to be comfortable on her first trip in the bus.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Getting Packed

     The bus moved to our driveway on the seventh of June to get packed for a Flag Day departure. It takes a little longer for us old farts to move into a new apartment.


    As you can see by the proximity to the garage door, it consumes the entire driveway and the Corvette is blocked. The trailer hitch and towbar extend over the gutter. The Jeep is in Cindy's driveway. The driveway is too steep to use either the jacks or the refrigerator. Note in the picture that I improperly positioned the auxiliary step so that it barely extends under the front lip of extended step. That meant that when the air bags decayed overnight, the steps were jammed together. Fortunately there was no harm done.
     There was quite a bit of work done on the bus. There was some paint shop work to fix the cosmetic damages from last summer. There were six(!) new batteries, a new bespoke mattress, and a complete wash and wax. How much did it all cost? Don't ask! ProTech, a local truck and RV shop, did the honors. Now we have to load it for a summer in Maine. There have been a number of times when one of us asked, "Now, where did we store that last year?" Cindy is helping, and Mark will arrive on Monday for a few Items I have saved for him. Tuesday morning we'll repark it curbside (with safety triangles out) so that it will be level enough for the refrigerator to pull down to temperature.
     We are anxious to get rolling.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Friends

     Perhaps the most telling sign that our imminent summer move northward is getting closer is the state of our dining room table. It becomes a staging area for numerous odds and ends that are "going to go into the bus."




     There is no real pattern. You'll find dog chewys, Frogmore stew spices and some new shorts that I'm not allowed to wear yet. Not shown are two clothes baskets full of bedding and stuff. Since the loading of the bus is like moving into a furnished apartment, we old farts spread the process over several weeks. I'll pick it up on Wednesday, park it in the driveway and plug it in. We can't start the refrigerator because the driveway is not level enough. I'll park it curbside for the last day to give the refrigerator time to pull down to temperature. Cindy will be a great help, and Mark will get here two days before we depart. We are looking forward to escaping the heat and humidity of Charleston and reconnecting with all our camping friends in Maine.
     
     In thinking about those camping friends I have recently spent some time thinking about our many friendships. We all have many categories of friends and family. Durelle and I no longer have any aunts and uncles, but we each have a sibling, assorted cousins, two kids and a burgeoning assortment of descendants. We are just as close to the ****-in -laws. But beyond family, there are college classmates with whom we have stayed in touch for six decades and some high school classmates for even longer. There are friends from many Air Force assignments and from the post USAF career. There are neighbors, though they come and go more often. Many of you count close friends from church activities. In a separate category is Estelle Anderson, the neighboring teenager who carried baby Durelle into the house when she and her mother came home from the hospital. Then there is that special category of camping friends. It is not the scenery or the adventuresome cuisines that sets the RVing lifestyle apart. It is the almost instant camaraderie that forms when another rig pulls into the adjacent site and asks, "Where are you from?"

     We have been fortunate, over the last decade (+) to have spent a large part of each summer camped on the edge of Penobscot Bay in the mid-coast of Maine. For most of that time there have been six to eight couples that have been equally regular inhabitants. It frightens me to think that without the RV we would have never met. It frightens me because these several friendships seem a little closer than all the rest. While we do have some things in common, we are a pretty eclectic group with a variety of traditions and interests. Nonetheless, there is a special bond here, and it gives me pause because this may be our last summer there.

     On a lighter note, here is a picture of a picture.




     Melissa Cloutier Zotos sent many nice pictures of our second great-granddaughter, Madeleine, from Sydney, Australia. Our daughter, Cindy, selected one and had it converted into thousand piece picture puzzle. Because of large blocks of solid color, it took Durelle many hours to finish it. Now she does not want to disassemble it.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Physical Therapy

     As loyal readers know, physical therapy has been a major part of my life for at least five years. I guess the first was some basic range of motion recovery after a "bunionectomy" on my right big toe. Then there was an only partly successful reconstruction of my right rotator cuff. Hip and knee replacements followed...again on the right side. Plus, a right bicep tendon ruptured. Finally, last year, I had some scaffolding installed to fuse the 3rd, 4th, and 5th lumbar vertebrae. The PT for the mechanical aspects of my repairs have gone pretty well, but they are all embedded in the larger issue of my peripheral neuropathy. Enter The Balance Center.
     Originally operating under the auspices of Clemson University and now the Roper, St. Francis Hospital, The Balance, Mobility, and Dizziness Center of Charleston, was tailor made for my circumstance. Since the Balance Center could handle some rehab matters better than an orthopedic facility could handle the balance niche, I spent a lot of time there. Interestingly, every employee of the Balance Center is a woman. In fact, the director of the adjoining sports medicine facility, who has great respect for their expertise and professionalism, once said, "The place is awash in estrogen".
     There's an old line that says that the difference between a terrorist and a therapist is that you can negotiate with a terrorist. The implication being that physical therapists are tough, unyielding, even humorless folks. The ladies at the balance center belie that caricature, mixing gentleness with only enough discipline to get the job done. I suppose the fact that the demographic of their patients is generally older than that of most PT facilities demands it, but gentleness is evident everywhere.
     Several years ago, after a vertigo incident, I began working with the director of the center, Allison Schryver, an acknowledged vestibular expert. One day she said that she was going to hand me off to someone named "Jensen". While it is normal for the lead therapist to make the initial assessment of the patient and then assign someone else to continue the treatment, my initial reaction was, "Here comes the JV squad". Well, it wasn't a Jensen but Jensine Adams, a lovely, accomplished professional with a specialty in vestibulor pediatrics who had spent a good deal of time as a team athletic trainer. In my five years with the USAFA wrestling team I got to know and highly regard the profession of athletic trainer. Jensine is definitely not the JV squad. While I did make some physical improvements, her greater contribution was teaching me how to properly accomplish the exercises that I would have to continue in order to deal with my strength and balance in the face of deteriorating neuropathy.



     I'm the one on the right. Seriously, it's a great crew and I have enjoyed working with all of them. Your job is to write a caption for that picture.
     I'll pick up the bus in a week and leave SC in two weeks. It's definitely getting too warm here.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Tall Ships

     Charleston, of course, was the biggest and richest port on the East coast during the ante-bellum days. It is still one of the biggest players. The harbor channel is on track to be deepened to 52 feet at low tide so as to accommodate the post-Panamax container ships. They already have the cranes installed to unload them. They handled one such ship (that arrived at high tide) this week, and are expecting one a week. The key to seeing more of these behemoths on the East Coast is the "raising" of the Bayonne Bridge later this summer, I think. In addition to the port is the remainder of the old Charleston Navy Base. There were tall ships here five years ago, and they hope to make it an annual event.
     At the last minute, figuratively speaking, Cindy and I decided to go have a look. We took the Jeep, a couple of lawn chairs, the handicapped placard, and I brought my walker instead of the cane. Of course, the handicapped spaces were full. As we walked toward the waterfront, I spotted a display of small, handmade wooden boats. Being a semi-skilled woodworker, I had to stop.


     On the middle of each side, in a slightly different darkness were the images of two fish. I looked to see if they were inlayed wood or decals of some kind. They were not only decorative inlays, but also structural elements. There was a seam, amidships, in the marine plywood sheathing. Bridging the seam were these two fish. I spoke with the builder and said, "That's just like a dovetail key!". He said, "Exactly." He also had four inlays of fish on the inside of the hull.


     These were sized and shaped to represent the minimum legal keeping size for the typical sport fish in the area. So, if you reeled in one of marginal size, you could lay it on the relevant outline between your feet and be sure! A clever idea skillfully implemented.
     The reason for our excursion, however, was the tall ships.










     The Pride of Baltimore is a restored topsail schooner with a significant rake to the two masts.



     This is the Alexander von Humboldt II.
     The temperature was above 90, but we were not outside very long. 'Twas a pleasant departure from my Kindle.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

A Month To Go

     A month from tomorrow (Flag Day) we are scheduled to head north. The bus is still in the shop. The final cosmetic repairs to last year's misadventures have been nicely completed. We have replaced the mattress and the dishwasher. A kilobuck here...a  kilobuck there, and you are soon talking about real money. A month to go...that means that the dining room table will begin to become the repository of "stuff that'll go in the bus". That's when it starts to become real.
     Meanwhile, life has been pleasant if not exciting. A new milestone is doing physical therapy together. Durelle still spends  a good deal of time with her puzzles. Here she is with a picture puzzle of great-granddaughter, Madeleine.


     Cindy took one of the many great pictures that Madeleine's mom, Melissa, sent from Australia and had a vendor turn it into a thousand piece puzzle. The wooden card table being used once belonged to Durelle's folks, so there is over a century represented in that scene.
     Back to the changing seasons: the blossoms on the magnolia tree in the back yard are starting to fade and the oyster harvesting season ends Monday. Time to head north.




     It is discouraging how quickly the blossoms turn brown.

     This year we'll head north with our fourth rescued  senior golden retriever.  Meet Mocha. She'll be eleven in Sept.


     It will be interesting to see how she travels. Her predecessors all loved it.

Friday, April 28, 2017

A Memorable Moose Hunt

     As my favorite blog-stalker has so inelegantly reminded me, I am way overdue for a new post. Since there is little of blog-worthy material in the day-to-day minutiae of our lives in Hanahan, SC, I will take the craven approach of retelling old fireside stories. The following is the 53 year old tale of, "How cold was it?" 

   Thanksgiving weekend of 1964 found me on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska for the last couple of days of the cow moose hunting season. A bull moose was a better trophy, but a thousand pound cow made a lot of good eating. I was in the Air Force as a radar maintenance officer stationed in Anchorage.  My hunting partner, Phil Catalfamo, was my office mate. While I had grown up hunting and fishing, my Brooklyn born buddy had only fired a rifle at ROTC summer camp. While the hunt was successful, the hardships encountered insured that the tale would be often retold.
     We drove down from Anchorage and set up camp in my bare bones, Apache pop-up tent trailer pulled by his Rambler station wagon.  Fortunately we were using our Air Force issued arctic gear including clothes and sleeping bags. The stove was the iconic Coleman, and we had a not-so-iconic catalytic heater. The ice chest was used in the hope that it would keep things from freezing!
     On the second day in the waning hours (they wane early in Alaska in the winter) of the cow season I spotted two sets of track heading off into an old forest fire area. It was a thousand acres of burned pine spars known as the Kenai Burn. We agreed to head in opposite directions around a hill.  It was tough going with knee-deep snow, fallen pines like jack straws, and it was cold!  I spotted a fairly large cow accompanied by a yearling which was still with its mother in the second year. I had a 7 mm Magnum with a scope much more suited for sheep hunting. I used head shots so as to preserve as much meat as possible. It took several. That light round was underpowered for a moose’s skull. 7mm would be about .27 caliber.
     As is always the case with a moose hunt, this was where the work began.  After some judicious preliminary knife work on the two moose, we easily built a bonfire in the snow as firewood was plentiful. It provided light and heat. Did I mention that it was cold?  We had game bags and pack frames, so we proceeded to field dress and quarter the carcasses. Plastic bags were used for the hearts and livers. You can’t skin a moose while wearing arctic mittens. We managed by keeping our hands in almost constant contact with the still warm meat. It was completely dark by the time we had stacked up the parcels in the snow. It was a half mile back to the car, so we were forced to wait until the following morning to tackle the job of packing the meat out.  Before leaving we built up the fire in the hope that it would keep the wolves away from our stash.
     When we got back to the Apache, we were tired, cold, hungry, and cold. The first order of business was to get the stove going so that we could get some hot food. I filled the tank with Coleman fuel, pumped up the pressure and lit the burner.  The fuel was so cold it would not vaporize. I started a small fire of more dead pine and tied a four foot extension to the handle of a small aluminum sauce pan. I dumped the fuel tank into the sauce pan, and warmed up the fuel over an open fire. Had it flashed, I would have simply dumped it in the snow. From time to time I would test the temperature by pulling back the pan and touching it with my fingers.  When it was as warm as I dared, I poured it back into the tank. This time, albeit with much noisy and sooty sputtering, it caught.  Once there was a flame, the generator tube warmed up and the stove worked fine. The contents of the ice chest were frozen solid. I hacked off some chunks of bacon and thawed them in a hot skillet. We carved off some chunks of bread and thawed them in the hot grease. The eggs, too, were frozen. We peeled them as if they were hard boiled, and added them to the pan. They rolled around for a while, developed a flat spot and eventually cooked.  After replenishing sufficient calories, we cleaned up our gear. The sleeves of our sweatshirts were frozen moose blood.
     Once we were cleaned up and fed, the adrenaline level dropped and it was time for the perennial post-hunt drink. I dug out the bottle of Jack Daniels, Black Label and a couple of aluminum cups. The darned stuff would not pour!!! We had to shake it out of the bottle with the consistency of a margarita.  You can’t do that with your freezer.  The weatherman said that the overnight low in the area was minus forty!  Especially in a metal cup, that bourbon lasted longer than any before or since.
     Every minute of daylight the next day was spent packing out quarters of moose through the still miserable walking. One of us still carried a rifle because the wolves were demonstrating too much interest for our tastes. The Coleman stove was set up on the tailgate of Phil’s station wagon. After each trip, we heated up a can of soup to split.  Eventually we got the cargo lashed on top of the tent trailer and on top of the Rambler  and headed back to Anchorage.  My buddy remembers saying to his wife as he carefully lowered himself into the bathtub, “Even my hair hurts”.
     There was a game processing concessionaire on Elmendorf AFB in Anchorage that would hang, age, cut, and freeze the meat for six (!!) cents per pound. The two of us had already jointly purchased a used 31 cu. ft. freezer for our fish and game. We needed it because the dressed, packaged weight of the cow alone was 606 pounds.
     Relatively speaking we were babes in the woods dealing with some pretty severe circumstances.  Nonetheless, we kept our heads and came through unscathed.  And we have an endless supply of “Can you top this?” stories whenever someone says, “How cold was it?” It was so cold that the Jack Daniels would not pour.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Alligator

     As frequent readers know (I almost said, "loyal readers", but that might be tempting fate.), we have frequent alligator sightings on the banks of the big retention pond. The pictures typically are not dramatic enough to be blog-worthy. They are usually on the far bank away from the housing, and there is nothing nearby with which to compare size. I've asked Durelle, but she has declined to wander over.
     A couple of days ago one swam over to our side and climbed out on the bank. There still wasn't a yardstick, but eight feet would be a good estimate. Here is the sequence:








     There are a couple of things to notice. In the fourth picture I caught him walking. It's the first such picture I have taken. They usually are immobile for hours at a time soaking the heat from the sun into their cold-blooded bodies. And, look closely at the last picture, Doesn't his (her?) belly look like it contains a recent large meal?

     On the health front, I have changed my PT from orthopedic to mostly balance issues. These gals are real specialists, and they're good. Durelle will be getting a second shot (epidural?, nerve block?) next Thursday. It seems to help.




Friday, March 31, 2017

More "bird-watching"

     Today was the day of the first flight of the Boeing 787-10. It is built only here in Charleston. The union folks in Seattle are grinding their teeth. It is the stretch version of the soon to be profitable 787. It can carry more people further on less fuel than any other aircraft. I knew the first flight would be early afternoon with all the hoopla that Boeing could manage. So, I moved a lawn chair into the back yard and sat there with my camera and my Kindle. After 45 minutes, I gave up. I was getting burned (sorry NH) and there was too much glare to read. Shortly after I came inside, Cindy noticed a roar. She made it out the door first, and I came along too late to get a picture. With her I-phone Cindy clicked a true snapshot into the sun and captured the picture below.


     In a total coincidence she caught the 787-10 on the left and an ancient T-33 flying "chase" on the right. In between the two is the top of our Bradford pear which is beginning to show leaves and blossoms.
     No esoteric thoughts or deep insights...just a neat, lucky picture of an historic event.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

More Birds

     We have had a bluebird house on the back fence for several years. While we have seen bluebirds from time to time, we haven't seen any nest building. This winter I thought about, but did not accomplish, a cleaning of the inside. I had built the house to have an easily removable roof for just that reason. For the past few weeks we have seen renewed activity, When a camera is carried into the back yard, however, they disappear. Yesterday, Durelle set up a camping chair and waited with the camera. When the bluebirds finally reappeared, she discovered that the camera battery was inside on the charger...grumble, grumble. The battery is over a dozen years old and needs to be recharged after every use. So, this morning, with the battery fresh from the charger, I ventured forth with the camera and a cup of coffee to await the bluebirds. They did not disappoint.


     First up was the female doing all the heavy lifting.


     

     As is the case with most avian species, the female bluebird's coloring is decidedly more drab than the male's. Here is the male, perched on the fence post, leaning on his shovel, as it were, and supervising.


     This is the eastern bluebird at his finest. 

     While waiting for the bluebirds, I got a nice shot of a female cardinal (equally drab) perched in the Bradford pear with its new buds.


     Before I had finished with the bluebirds, the viewfinder flashed red, the Leica logo appeared and the camera shut off. I went inside and typed "replacement battery for a Leica camera" into the Amazon search window. Immediately up popped a picture of the very battery I needed. There are now two on order. I'm decidedly "old school', but that was neat.

     OK, now that we have a single-themed coherent blog, I have been requested to include some additional Spring pictures by other photographers:

     While Durelle's dear friend Estelle Anderson and her two daughters paid us a visit, Cindy took this nice shot of the group on the Isle of Palms.


     Then, while Durelle failed with the bluebirds, she did capture a few other nice Spring shots:



     She also took a nice picture of "our" alligator, but I did not save it as we already had a handful of similar shots.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Birds of a Feather (?)

     From time to time I have posted pictures of the American Bald Eagles that we are so fortunate to have as neighbors. I think I have also posted at least one of the blue herons which make good use of the large retention pond in our backyard. This morning the two species were almost on top of one another. It reminded me of The Odd Couple, or for you old farts, Mutt and Jeff. The eagle had apparently snared a fish and was eating it on the bank. The heron was tip-toeing nearby like a hyena at a lion kill.



     That looks like a fish tail under the eagle's left foot, but there is blood on his beak so I am not absolutely certain what he has there. I can't imagine that the heron would dare to leave the slightest impression that the eagle's breakfast might be in danger.





     In the local demographic of feathered fish eaters the eagle has to be the unchallenged alpha dog, so it was very surprising that the eagle never made a motion to scare the heron away. I'm curious if the birders out there have seen similar encounters.

     Thursday evening was the "Founder's Day" celebration. It commemorated the 215th anniversary of the founding of the military academy at West Point. These events follow most of the same agenda wherever and whenever they are held. There are a number of traditional toasts, a guest speaker, and brief talks by the oldest (I'm starting to get close.) and youngest grads present. Typically the dress is formal. Last year I suggested strongly to the president of the local chapter that he would double the attendance without sacrificing any of the agenda if the affair were not formal. He did and he did. Little did I know that he would go whole hog. We had 90 people at Alhambra Hall in the old town section of Mt. Pleasant on the edge of Charleston Harbor for a pig roast! It was good, but it couldn't match the one we had last summer on the edge of Penobscot Bay.





     There's no real news on the medical front(s). I'm still doing a lot of physical therapy, but the problems are so embedded in the neuropathy, that progress is hard to see. Durelle is finally going to get a lumbar MRI Tuesday. The cortisone shot worked like magic and is still working. The X-rays showed some sites where the vertebra spacing indicated the potential for trouble, but only an MRI will tell for sure.
     This week, while New England was seeing a couple of feet of blowing snow, we had 28 degrees and frost on the lawn. That is NOT a complaint you just heard.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Alaskan Earthquake of 1964

     Since I can't come up with much in the way of currently interesting material, I decided to dig into the archives. And I mean DEEP into the archives. On Good Friday of 1964 was the memorable Alaskan earthquake. We were living in Anchorage at the time. We later learned that it registered 9.2 (!) on the Richter scale, and that the resulting tsunami killed people as far away as Crescent City, CA. Shortly afterwards I sent a letter back to my folks in Massachusetts. Communication options were few. It cost six cents because it was Air Mail! Below is an actual transcript made from the original letter that I still have. I hope you find it interesting. There are many other stories from the ensuing days, but this is the unvarnished immediate reaction.

                                                                                                                       29 Mar 1964

Hello Folks,

     Well, not much to write about, but we did have a little earthquake over the weekend.  Seriously, we have had quite a time of it.  I was on my way home from work Friday, and in the process of running a couple of errands.  I was going to pick up an Easter egg coloring kit and an Easter lily.  Apparently the idea of my buying flowers for Durelle was an earth-shattering event, for suddenly I felt a weird, wobbling sensation as if a wheel were about to fall off.  I pulled over and stopped so I wouldn’t lose that wheel only to discover that my car wasn’t wobbling…the road was.  For an instant I was relieved because I was already anticipating car repairs.  Then I got things back into perspective.  After all, an earthquake can be at least as serious as a broken wheel.  That instant of relief to find that “it was only an earthquake” was a very transitory thing, but it still stands out in my memory because of its incongruity.
     I hopped back into the car and headed home; now only two blocks away.  The earth was still shaking, for the quake lasted over 5 ½ minutes.  For a few hundred yards it was quite a drive.  The road was even more slippery than usual and I saw one driver park his car and sit there minding his own business when the ditch on the side of the road moved over under him.  That is what literally happened.
     When I got home Cindy was still crying, but Durelle had everything under control.  A few lamps scattered some broken glass when they fell and bookcases fell over.  One kitchen cabinet disgorged some of its contents of Mark’s baby food.  There would be a mess to clean up, but no real damage was done.
     I did decide that it would be a good idea to get out of the house, so we all got in the car and wandered over in the direction of a friend’s house a couple of miles away.  We did see a collapsed carport and some cracks in the road, but we still had no idea of the seriousness of the tremor.  After we had travelled down MacKenzie Drive a few blocks, I suddenly realized that the horizon had changed!  I turned the car around and parked aiming south away from the collapsed area and told Durelle to leave if she heard anything that scared her.  I ran down to the point where the road disappeared.
     My first impression was that it looked as if someone had dropped a giant box of peanut brittle.  The ground was frozen about three feet down and covered with 6 to 12 inches of snow.  Thousands of chunks of those three foot thick slabs were jumbled in unreal disorder.  These pieces varied in width from  5 to 100 feet.  About a block from where I stood I could see my boss’s house.  Major Jack Hornsby, his wife, four kids, house, car, and dog had dropped en masse about 40 feet and slid north toward Cook Inlet almost a block.
     I yelled to him to find out what his immediate needs were.  He said his family was OK and that there were many people who would need ropes, helicopters, wrecking bars and first aid gear.  I couldn’t get through to the Air Force Base by phone to call on my radar shop, but I briefed a mobile ham operator on what I knew and he started the wheels rolling.
     With Durelle and the kids at a neighbor’s house away from the most dangerous areas I changed clothes and headed back into the Turnagain area.  This area of about 400 homes, ranging in value from $50,000 to $300,000, was the finest residential area I had ever seen.  It was located along a bluff a hundred or more feet above the ocean.  About 100 homes were flattened and tossed around.  Another 100 had settled, shifted and broken.
     It took about fifteen minutes to navigate the crevasses between the broken end of the road and Hornsby’s house.  Normally it is only a block.  He had gotten his family out and was commencing a house to house check for possible occupants.  I joined him, and in the next two or three hours we led several people out.  There must have been some panic at the time of the ‘quake, but while I was there, there was an amazing calmness and sense of purpose.  How those helicopters found places to land in those shambles is beyond me, but they must have made a dozen trips while I was there.  I crawled through one house that was actually upside down.
     We finally quit and crawled back to his badly worried family.  We all piled into my car, went home, settled the kids down with some hot chocolate (heated over a propane torch), and began to lay out some bedding.  Then that tee totaling Southern Baptist got himself outside about four ounces of bourbon just as if he knew what it was for.  I can’t say that I was surprised. Considering the state of shock, I’m sure it did a lot of good.
     When daylight came, we went back and retrieved his valuables, food and clothes.  Then I drove them out to the guest house on base.  We cleaned up some here, but without power and heat, we decided to spend the night with a friend with a fireplace.  We came back this morning, picked up some more of the mess and heated the house by leaving the oven door ajar.
     Alaska has been set back many years, but without exception everyone is digging in with optimistic enthusiasm.  There were almost no fires and well under a hundred fatalities, yet the ‘quake was actually stronger than the ‘Frisco ‘quake of 1906.  Coastal cities that have lost their “raison d ‘etre” will rebuild bigger than ever.  What I mean by that is that Seward, just named one of America’s “All American” cities by Look magazine, has lost its canneries, docks, and rail yards.  There is not much else in that town, but they are already floating bonds with initiative as their only collateral.
     Perhaps it is overly romantic to say that strong remnants of the Alaskan pioneer blood has made its presence known, but the way this place is bouncing back is amazing to me and yet taken for granted by the natives.
     I feel that my family will have profited by this experience.
                                                                                                                                                Frank

P.S.  Did that Seattle operator get in touch with you?

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Happy Hour

     It's an empty blog without a picture. In newspaper vernacular I'm scratching around to find a few "column inches". A week ago the West Point Society of Charleston held a beer call at the Holy City Brewing Company. These events are not large, a couple dozen or so, but they are wonderful, multi-generational affairs. There are old fart retirees like us and some impossibly young active duty folks from local military facilities. Here's a shot of the gathering.


     You'll note that my cane is still nearby and that my glass is empty. It used to contain "Collision Stout". Click on the link above to explore the phenomenal assortment of flavors and types of beers. This is much more than a micro-brewery.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

20th Anniversary

     5 February 2017, in addition to being Super Bowl Sunday, is the 20th anniversary of the day I wrote a letter to my boss telling him of my intention to retire as soon as it was practical for the company. There is nothing special about 7 March. I gave them 30 days notice, and for the benefit of the folks in Payroll, it was the last day in a pay period. Sanders Associates was one of the top tier electronic warfare companies in the country. In several niches they were unchallenged. Subsequent to my departure, they were purchased by Lockheed only to be later sold to BAE Systems. It is BAE, therefore, who sends me a monthly truncated retirement check. The truncation refers to the fact that I retired on my 58th birthday. Yes, on Super Bowl Sunday I will be 78.
     I am including below a transcription of that letter which I still have. I won't explain the technical references because my perceptive readers will get the drift.

     On this, my 58th birthday, I wish to officially announce my intention to retire from Sanders effective 7 Mar 97.
     It has been a great career with a wonderful assortment of challenges and opportunities, accomplishments and disappointments, and fine organizations to give to and draw from. When I started, a two-state logic device was a 12AX7 twin triode configured as an Eccles-Jordan multivibrator that ran on 220VDC and drew 150 ma of filament current. Today there are a million functional equivalents   on a single chip. My work has taken me from Fort Yukon to Islamabad, from Big Spring to Colorado Springs, from Dayton to Syosset, and from Oklahoma to New Hampshire. It has ranged from audio to lasers, from student to teacher, and from field engineer to General Manager.
     It has been a great ride. Along the way I have worked with hundreds of folks who have become, and will remain, good friends for life. Many of these people are Sanders people. I have worked at Sanders twice, and it was the caliber of its people that brought me back.
     Because of Sanders' generosity (as well as that of Mr. Dow and Mr. Jones) I am fortunate enough to be able to retire well before the age of 65. I look forward to attacking a large backlog of deferred projects. I leave with good feelings and best wishes. I hope I have helped.

     I did not want to be overly nostalgic, but it was a milestone and I thought that some of you might enjoy the letter.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

A Puzzle

     It seems that even when we aren't at the Moorings, we are enjoying it vicariously by doing picture puzzles of it.


     This was a Christmas present from Cindy. She used a favorite picture of hers from one of her morning walks last summer and sent it in to a company that made a puzzle out of it. It took Durelle a month to finish it. Even in the photo here you can see that there are MANY similarly shaped pieces and that there are several large, monochromatic areas. In spite of a wagging golden retriever tail, there are no missing pieces.
     If you are wondering if Mocha is having any difficulty accommodating a new household, I offer Exhibit A:


     I paid a visit to the bus at ProTech where they are tackling a laundry list of fixes that are being worked on in between other jobs in their full lot. There are two birds killed with one stone. They have a "hangar queen" to work on at their leisure, while I get a winters worth of storage. They have maintained the bus since we bought it ten years ago. A few readers will not be surprised to learn that the beast takes 28 quarts of diesel oil. They also replaced a burned out transfer switch which might explain some of my battery difficulties.
     I still doubt that I will drive it to Maine. I am now driving the Corvette regularly and feel entirely safe. If you watched me exit the vehicle, you might have your doubts, however. We'll defer that decision for a while, but I do have to accommodate the schedule of my alternate driver. By range of motion and other measurable improvements the knee is getting better. I know we are not done with the knee, but sometimes it is hard to separate what is knee and what is neuropathy.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

January in Charleston

     It has been a pleasant month in Charleston. Two days ago we set a new record high temperature for the date...80 degrees! I am back to using the cane. It is not quite as stable as the walker, but it is a lot more convenient. The rejuvenated Corvette runs well. My half hour driving around the development at o/a ten MPH went well. Friday I drove it to PT with no problems. I'll try it again tomorrow. I am doing a lot of PT: MWF outpatient and twice a day for forty minutes each at home. I am seeing measurable progress in several areas. I can step over higher thresholds, and the range of motion continues to improve. If a perfectly straight leg is at 0 degrees and a knee bent at 90 degrees is at...wait for it...90 degrees, then my knee goes from 2 degrees to 115 degrees.
     Cindy has a coworker at the paper whose parents are also old Nashua, NH hands. During their latest visit a creative Sunday brunch was arranged at Edmund's Oast. It is one of the names that consistently appears at the top of the list of fine eating and drinking places in Charleston. 
     The food was all we expected. I ordered a "small" charcuterie plate for the table.



     I had a Trout Hollandaise. I had never heard of such a thing, but it was excellent. the sauce was not at all cheesy. Even Durelle's cheeseburger was far from pedestrian.



     Here's the requisite group photo.



     The place also has extensive outside service, both covered and uncovered.



     As we were leaving, I took a picture of a very appropriate motto. Actually, it may have been on an adjoining business, but it is a good one nonetheless.



     So, it's not spring yet, but things are brightening up...both the weather and my prognosis. Although the knee mechanics are improving, old man neuropathy is not giving up.