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Sunday, May 28, 2017

Reflections on a winter in Mexico

It's May, we have returned to Maine, the mosquitoes have come out in droves along with the black flies. I'm sure the ticks are out there as well. We do have a few mosquitoes in Loreto too, but they are much smaller and the bites don't last very long, although they can carry Dengue Fever.

There are so many contrasts that exist between our little town of  Denmark and Loreto, it's hard to know where to begin. The difference in climate is the most obvious, waking up in Maine, you're never sure what you will get, rain, sun, cold. In Loreto almost every day is perfect, in the five months we were there we had three days with some rain, a few more cloudy days and lots of windy days.

On our quiet street in Maine, there are few sounds in the morning, lots of birds and the occasional car passing by. In Loreto, mornings bring a cacophony of birds, chickens, roosters and peacocks, all doing their best to out do the other. The streets become alive with kids going to school, women sweeping up the endless sand and dust. Cars with loudspeakers parade up and down each and every street advertising local vendors and events. Others pass by selling their wares, tortillas, tamales, pastries, fruits and vegetables. The RV park where we stay has lots of folks coming and going. It is an interesting parade of every conceivable type of camper imaginable. Bicyclist travelling the globe, 1960's VW vans, giant military size all terrain vehicles, six foot trailers, 40 foot RV's. And every occupant has an interesting story.  More on those later..

It makes life pretty interesting, spending summers in Maine, with it's green forests, multiple lakes. mountain hiking and peace and quiet. Then Loreto in winter, with it's bustling streets and beautiful deserts...   Being able to experience one, makes it that much nicers to experience the other...

How lucky we are

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

First Snow Part IV

December in New England can be anything, last year the weather was pretty warm, no snow. This year, it's been cold since the first of the month, and we're on our fourth snow event. The temperature the other night was ten below, snowing pretty good right now.  Good day to wrap Christmas presents..
We have five grandkids now, the latest was born on the ninth, Arcturus, Four boys and one poor girl!

Saturday we shovelled snow, then it rained Saturday night, so Sunday we spent 3 hours chipping and scraping ice off the driveway. Now this morning it's 14 below.. Really cold December.
I know all you republicans out there are saying "See, no such thing as Global Warming!"  Regardless of how cold it is now, 2016 will go down as the warmest year on record. Facts are facts, the climate is changing, and anyone who thinks it isn't or thinks we don't have anything to do with it is just plain ignorant.

I was glad to see Andrea Bocelli is refusing to sing at the inauguration. My father would be happy, he was a devoted fan. My father grew up a Republican, back when politics was far less partisan than now. He taught me to listen to what they had to say. He never voted the "Ticket" he voted for the candidate whom he thought would be best for the country. He would have despised this years republican farse.

We all look upon the Statue of Liberty as a great symbol of our country. Yet, as I still reflect on this past election, an election won by greed, racism and isolationism, I have to wonder, how many of those who voted have read the poem on the base of this great American symbol...

Read it, think...  read it again

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,With conquering limbs astride from land to land;Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand A mighty woman with a torch, whose flameIs the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

This is who we are, not what this administration is threatening for us to become

Friday, December 9, 2016

First Snow Part III

It's depressing getting your plow truck stuck, especially when you live in the middle of nowhere.
Luckily for me I have my neighbor down the road, Rollie. Rollie is a true Mainer. Born and raised here, and most likely, hasn't been anywhere other than here. He tells me he's been plowing snow every year since he was about 10. He takes care of all the roads here in the rural development where we live, so anytime I get in a jam, Rollie bails me out. I remember one time we had a big dump of about 2 feet of snow, and I got my truck so buried I didn't think I'd ever get it out. I spent about 2 hours digging and finally crawled back to the house and called Rollie and told him I was stuck. Well he showed up with his old reliable plow truck, took one look at my predicament and says to me "Dave, you ain't stuck, you just ain't goin nowhere". he walked around my truck, thought for a minute, hooked up a tow chain to his truck, told me to turn my wheels and put my truck in neutral and in about 10 seconds I was 'goin somewhere'. Now Rollie is no young fella, he's about 83 or so now, but I also remember one nasty, cold and windy winter day stopping by his house and there he was outside under his truck pulling an axle. It's just what you do if you're a Mainer.

Another joyous winter event I recall was during a sleet storm I was backing my van out of our driveway, which goes up hill, and I could not get any traction, But I kept trying, a little faster and a little further up each time. On about my fifth try the van slid off the driveway on to the edge of a steep embankment. Now I was definitely "Not going nowhere". I was in the driver's seat on the uphill side, but what I didn't realize was that I was the ballast that was holding the van in place. So, when I crawled out of the van, in slow motion, the van rolled down the hill onto it's roof! Meanwhile, DeeDee was watching the entire event form the bedroom window! Good thing there was no 'YouTube'!  Rollie couldn't help me that time, that was a 2 tow truck project!

Our next winter activity was "Extreme Sledding"  I'm not sure how we got started, but we had these cheap plastic Walmart sleds that we would use in the back yard and the hills at the end of the road. Then we started dragging them up hiking trails. The next thing we knew we blasting down 3 mile runs from the top of mountains. We started customizing our sleds and trying to figure out braking systems. With our friends Nancy, Rick, Lucas and Liz we did some harrowing descents on those crazy little plastic sleds.

One problem with New England winters is that it's not always cold and snow. Almost every winter we get at least one rain storm, that ruins the snow and wreaks havoc with driveways, roofs, gutters and everything. Because after the rain comes down, everything freezes, rock solid! One such event was the ice storm of 1998. A real strange weather pattern cause a catastrophic ice event in most of the Northeast. At our house at the end of the road we were without electricity for 23 days! It took me a day to clear enough trees to get out. Luckily we had a wood stove in the basement for heat and a generator. Another rain event happened in 2004. We had had a lot of snow, so our snow banks we really high, a torrential rain came down flooding our garage and basement. We were up to our knees in water and slush trying to trench the water away. Almost every winter I would be up on the roof shovelling snow. We had a repeat rain event several years later, got my plow truck stuck a few more times, slid into a tree and mashed in the whole right side, lost power at least once a winter. Had several chimney fires, fell on my ass on the ice multiple times...  

 It was about this time when winter stopped being so much fun.. Oh but then there was 'Mud Season"  still to come. That's when it warms up, rains and floods everything, washes out your driveway, fills up youe basement and makes things just miserable.                                                  

Then I discovered Mexico

Thursday, December 8, 2016

First Snow Part II

Having fallen in love with the mountains, I finally moved to New Hampshire's Mount Washington Valley in the mid eighties. The nice thing about living in the Valley was, you got to ski cheap and mid week without the crowds. So all our days off would be skiing, snowshoeing, back country skiing, ice climbing and even night skiing.  By the late eighties the new sport of snow boarding was just starting to make the scene. My good friend Dave Goodwin took to boarding immediately. Dave was good at anything he did, he was an expert sky diver, expert kayaker, great skier, he climbed, he rode dirt bikes, hunted, fished, so he was a natural at boarding.  He went on to be a snowboard and telemark ski instructor. Dave passed on a few years ago from cancer, he is missed.

DeeDee and I took to snow boarding a few years later and haven't been on skis since. I started guiding about that time, so as my commitment to the restaurant decreased, my time in the outdoors increased. Eventually I was a full time climbing guide, spending sometimes 7 days a week out bringing folks up Mt Washington or teaching them to ice climb. As a member of the Mountain Rescue Service, we'd sometimes spend all night rescuing an injured climber or searching for lost hikers in quite often miserable conditions. After several rescues where we had to snowshoe miles up steep terrain is awful conditions, I decided I hated snowshoeing! Rescues were tough, but when the result was good, it was worth it. Unfortunately, all the rescues did not always end well. Finding and recovering a body is a somber event that stays with you forever. Most rescues and searches were a result of poor judgement, lack of experience or just stubbornness. Almost all could have been prevented.  The White Mountains in winter are harsh. On Mt Washington alone there have been over 150 fatalities.

Why do so many die on a 6000 foot mountain, that in other areas would be just a hill?  It's just a few hours of driving for millions of people, it can have the worst weather on the planet, and people just don't want to head warnings. Outside magazine did an article about why so many die on Mt Wahington, good reading  if you're interested HERE...

In the meantime, DeeDee and I had bought a house in Fryeburg, Maine, a short distance from the Valley. The house was at the end of a dirt road, so we had a driveway about a quarter mile long. That first winter we shovelled the entire thing by hand. Luckily our nearest neighbor had a tractor and plowed us out enough for me to realize, I needed a plow. My first plow was a 1950's Ford Tractor. Tractors can move snow, but by no means do they move it fast or very efficiently. And without a cab, not very much fun. After a few years with a tractor, I finally smartened up and bought an old Chevy plow  truck. Much better, but there's still a learning curve to plowing snow, and as with most things in my life, I learned the hard way...

to be continued

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

First Snow

For the first 60 years of my life I loved winter. I loved the snow, loved the cold.  Now, not so much.

As a kid, snow meant, first of all, a chance for 'No School'!. Snow was fun, build forts, snowball fights, sledding. We had a great hill in our backyard and my father and my grandfather would work for hours perfecting a luge for our flying saucers, complete with huge banked corners. My Dad would sprinkle water on the track at night and wax the bottoms of the saucers. We flew down that hill, almost like Clark Griswold in Christmas Vacation!

Then I discovered skiing. I got a pair of Northland wooden skis, bear trap bindings and leather boots. Believe it or not, in south eastern Mass and northern Rhode Island, there were five ski areas within a half hour of our house. All but one are gone now, the hills covered with expensive homes.

As soon as I could drive, it was off to the 'real' mountains. The first big ski trip I can remember was with my friend Brad, he took the family Bonneville and we loaded up and headed to Stowe, Vt. We stayed in bunk beds in a hostel, cooked our own meals. That first day on the mountain was an eye  opener for us, the temperature was below zero, the wind howling. Stowe had a single chair, that was at the time, the fastest lift in the country. Two attendants would load you on and launch you as the third attendant tossed a packing quilt over you for warmth! The 'Front Four' at Stowe were and probably still are four of the steepest ski trails in the country, and we had no business being on them! From the lift we skied across the top of Liftline, yikes, really steep, then National, yikes, really steep, big bumps, then Goat, yikes, really steep and narrow, and big moguls, finally we came to Starr, end of the line. I remember looking down, it seemed to be dead vertical, all I could see was several giant moguls and the the roof of the lodge! Yikes. My way cool Head black metal skis all of a sudden seemed really long and heavy. Somehow, we made it down it one piece, had some hot chocolate in the lodge and spent the rest of the day on the easy trails.

We took a lot of ski trips over the next few years, skiing as early as Thanksgiving and late into the spring. As the years passed I continued to ski with new friends. My friend and business partner John and his friends loved to ski, all my motorcycle buddies loved to ski. Then I got into climbing and ice climbing and winter camping.  Winter was fun...

To be continued....

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Winter... 2016

Well after spending the month of November in Mexico, we are back in Maine for the holidays. It's a bit of a shock, 28 degrees and dark at 4:00 today...

A few weeks ago on the beach, bonfire with friends, hot dogs and a brilliant sunset...

I'm still mulling over the bizarre election and the insane process that went along with it...

Changes I would like to see, but will probably never happen:

  1. Shorten the whole process to six months, 3 months for primaries, and 3 months for the final.
  2. Get rid of "Citizen's United". There is enough dirty money in politics as it is.
  3. Get rid of the Electoral College. It is antiquated, and not  the way a democracy is supposed to work. Every vote should count.
  4. Somehow, make voting mandatory! There are approximately 260 million Americans eligible to vote, yet just half did so. As a result, this president was elected by barely 20% of the electorate.
Henry Louis Mencken, a prominent newspaperman and political commentator during the first half of the 20th century, wrote for the Baltimore Evening Sun 26 July 1920,

"As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron." 

Ok, no more politics for a while, needless to say, the next four years will be interesting.

The World Series is over. It's nice to see that the teams that spend the most money don't always get there. The Cubs were # 5 in spending, with a 188 million dollar payroll, but the Indians were # 21 with 144 million. Crazy numbers still. The Dodgers spent 288 million, while the Tampa Bay Rays spent just 71 mil. I wonder what would happen if there was a salary cap in baseball?
Speaking of salary caps, the NFL is in full swing. The salary cap, along with free agency was suppose to create parity in the league, so that no one team could dominate. That's why everyone hates, Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the Patriots, They have dominated the league and certainly the AFC for 16 years. Even when the dictator Roger Goodell trumps up phony charges against  them, suspends Brady for 4 games, takes away their draft picks, they still manage to win.

Every time I think of Baseball and Football, I have to listen to George Carlin's classic skit..
If you've never heard it, click here.

Ernest Hemingway stated  "There are only three sports: bullfighting, motor racing, and mountaineering; all the rest are merely games"

Speaking of such, the 49th Baja 1000 off road race was held a few weeks ago, with Rob MacCachren and Jason Voss winning in a Trophy Truck for the third straight year, while Colton Udall won for the fourth straight year on a Honda CRF450. Race spirits were dampened though by the death of racer Mark Uhtala, who was involved in a head on collision with another racer during a speed control section late at night. Baja can be brutal and racing is dangerous.

Next year is the 50th running of this incredible race. The race will come through Loreto and we plan on being there.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Autumn, the Fair, and an injury

Over the years DeeDee and I have climbed and hiked and ridden our motorcycle all over the world. DeeDee has bravely hung on to the back of the bike through rain, snow, giant mud holes up endless rocky hills and getting lost for hours. We have gone down on the bike more times than I can remember even going over the bars on my big BMW 1200. We have come out mostly unscathed with just a few scratches and bruises. Two weeks ago DeeDee was trimming flowers in the back yard and proceeded to scramble down one of the large rock walls, when a boulder moved and she tumbled down wrenching her knee. Go figure!
She could not walk, so she crawled into the house and waited for me to return from a day of dirt biking. Off to the emergency room, good news, no significant damage, most likely a strained MCL. She was not happy being immobile, but after a week of bed and lots of ibuprofen and ice, the swelling has gone down and she is slowly on her way back, still pissed at missing all this beautiful weather..

And beautiful it has been. After a bit of a cool rainy spell, the perfect autumn days have arrived, right along with all the tourists and the Fryeburg Fair!

All the experts predicted this years foliage would not be very good due to the drought. I climbed yesterday up in Berlin, NH and drove through Pinkham Notch. The colors are as good as I have ever seen, and the perfect crisp blue sky made for a postcard view around every corner.

The only thing cluttering up the view was all the stupid political signs everywhere!!  Can't wait for that fiasco to be over. With the exception of the Presidential mess, Maine has several interesting questions on the ballot, Legalizing Marijuana, Background checks for gun sales and Question 5, which would allow you to rank your voting options.  This would be a realistic way to have viable third party candidates and hopefully will be adopted here and then maybe Nationally as well. Had we had that option five years ago, we wouldn't have the worst governor in the country, asshole Paul LePage now!  So you Mainers out there, get out and vote YES on Question, 1, 3 and 5!!