A month ago, we actually made it to the Potomac, but rather than tubing, we spent the weekend boating. My brother and sister-in-law have a river house along the river and invited the family for the weekend. My parents and aunt came from PA and my crew drove in from Charleston.
So, their place has a dock which was begging for something to be tied to it. My brother has a saying: “If you’re gonna be a bear, be a grizzly.” We use that all the time, but in our case, it’s usually when we screw something up…we go all-in. Anyhow, my brother goes all-in also but not usually in the screw-up department. My point is that when the decision to buy a boat came up, he decided not to settle for a mere 16 foot boat, but rather to buy a 30 foot long pontoon and two jet-skis that will knock the tears out of your eyes.
When I was a younger man, I had a motorcycle that I rode everywhere in all weather…even once in the snow…don’t ride a motorcycle in the snow…it’s cold and really really hard to not slide. Anyhow, I loved riding my bike but as newlyweds, we really needed a washer and dryer. I sold my motorcycle and never got another. So, the jet ski was a perfect sort of hearkening back to my motorcycle days. I could go crazy fast, do stupid stuff and have a much lower risk of getting killed compared to a motorcycle. It was perfect!
Anyhow, we had a great time at the river house and boating and eating all sorts of food. My brother cooked bacon outside on an electric skillet and my kids raved and raved about it. It’s hard to beat camp food or anything cooked outside for that matter. And of course, anything cooked by their uncle is good too.
I love these family times and boating and the Potomac, at least where we were, was absolutely beautiful There were eagles and lots of fish and turtles and ducks. People were nice and we all had a wonderful time sharing each other’s company! I’d call that a good trip!
So a few days ago, I mentioned a trip we took and how it changed because of rain. As you may remember, we had planned to tube the Potomac River on day 2 but the rain was so bad that the river was not going to be fun. Still, we wanted to save the weekend so we decided to visit Cass Scenic Railroad in Cass, WV.
The Cass Railroad used to service a series of lumber camps on top of the mountain. The town was a company store kind of town which has been pretty well restored. The rail line is also well maintained and has covered train cars so it was perfect for a rainy day!
The trip to Cass requires a winding trip through some beautiful scenic territory in the Eastern Mountains of WV. It’s amazing getting to Cass and even cooler once you get there. We wandered about the town waiting for trip up the mountain. I love trains and this trip reminded me of the several trips my family took when I was a kid. We rode several steam engines around NY and PA on trips just like this one.
I think I irritated Emily, but I just couldn’t get enough of looking at the trains and the dirty coal-men and the company store. I know it was a hard life and definitely not a romantic era for working folks, but for some reason, I sort of visualize the turn of the century as a special time that is intriguing to me if I had a time machine. Goofy, I know. Anyhow, I stared at the trains and imagined the people who used to live and die in the forest cutting massive trees with hand saws. I imagined the raucous parties when the men had a chance to go to town and I wondered if the life that seems so simple in my mind was something I would want to live. And then I remember that the average lifespan was poor and the time between birth and death for many of those guys was no dream…at least not a good dream.
Anyhow, we rode the specially built train up the mountain where it traversed an 11% grade. For modern locomotives, a 2% grade is steep. The train travels a series of switchbacks to climb and descend the mountain and I cannot imagine the guys who used to haul huge loads of timber down the mountain, counting on the brakes to keep them from rolling down the hill out of control.
I guess this train ride will be one I won’t ever forget. It was just special. The kids and I sucked on hard candy we bought at the company store and found ourselves chatting about…stuff. We took silly pictures and had absolutely no cell service at all so had to resort to conversation and our imaginations. We jabbered and day-dreamed as the scenery passed us by on the trip. In my mind, it was just perfect and without the rain, we would never have seen this part of WV!
(If the video above doesn’t work for you or if you want a smaller but lower quality version, try this link)
Cell service was sketchy and the resort facilities where we stayed were even sketchier…summer visitors have to endure repairs and upgrades from the ski season I guess. Anyhow, the technology-free weekend was a lot of fun. Of course, the rain continued and storms rolled in as well. We jumped into the pool at one point and 5 minutes later, they booted us out because of impending lightning.
We survived the night, had a great and greasy breakfast and drove to Lewisburg, WV where we ate lunch and walked around in town a bit. Lewisburg is an awesome town and we love visiting, even if we just walk up and down the street. It has a small-town-America feel…back to that romantic vision of a different time I guess! Anyhow, we ended up having a fantastic trip, even though our plans were so significantly different from what we originally planned. I think those sorts of trips may be the best kind!
A little over a month ago, we took a trip with our aunt and uncle. We all like to get outside and kayak, hike, swim, etc, so this was going to be a great trip doing a little of all of that.
The plan was to head to Stonewall Jackson Resort in Roanoke West Virginia (not Roanoke, East Virginia) Friday morning, where we would rent a pontoon boat and tube/swim/boat on Stonewall Jackson Lake. The next day, we planned to drive to the Eastern Panhandle of WV where we would spend all day tubing down the South Branch of the Potomac River.
Does anything ever go as planned?
Well, we did leave Charleston on Friday morning, but it was raining as we pulled out. Still, we drove to Stonewall Resort, about 2 hours away. Just as we pulled into the resort, the clouds parted, the sun came out and our day was saved! Stonewall Jackson Lake, we discovered, has a carp population, to say the least. So, we watched the carp a little and headed out on the boat. It was an absolutely great time and we trolled around the lake taking time to swim here and there. The water was nice and we just had a wonderful time.
We returned the boat and decided to use the bicycle rental pass we got for staying at the resort. The lady at the counter warned us of a coming storm and that we simply had to be back by 8pm. She was certain that at exactly 8pm we would be under fire, so to speak. We looked that the radar and sort of figured she was crazy. Sure a storm was coming but it was a ways off.
So we rode our bikes and had a lot of fun. We decided Abigail was not quite ready to drive a car as she was a bit wild. Poor Emily got the only non-mountain bike so she worked hard on the hills. She chose the bike though so…
Anyhow, our time was up so we returned the bikes. At 8:03 pm, I’ll be darned if the storm didn’t drop! We sat in the library at the resort and played cards while the storm raged a bit. The outdoor wedding on the patio below the library was sort of…ruined I guess. It was impressive and the rain was substantial.
With as much rain as we got and with the forecast for Saturday to be full or rain, we sort of figured that the plan to tube the Potomac was out of the question as it would be raging. We worked out plan b which ended up being a blast…stay tuned…
So, our anniversary was last week and it is bound to be one of the more memorable ones we’ve ever had. We didn’t tour an exotic foreign country or watch the sunset from a hot air balloon while eating wine and cheese. We didn’t even go fishing with a 6-pack of beer. Let me back up and tell you the whole story…
My parents have lived in Tionesta, PA for 42 years, 41 of which were in the same house where my brother and I were raised. In the last year, they decided it was time to move to WV to be nearer to us so they bought a house here and listed their house there. About 6 weeks ago, their house there went into contract and they were given a closing date range of July 23-August 3. Mom checked around for moving companies and settled on one based in FL. They took her deposit and scheduled their move for July 23…our anniversary. That’s perfect…we could enjoy our anniversary and help them after as the movers unloaded the truck the next day.
On July 20th, the closing date was set…July 23rd. That date was tight for the move but the lawyer was leaving the next day for vacation…it was pretty much set in stone. Mom called the movers and confirmed that they would be there on July 23rd. They promised they would but did not have a time set. She called daily in the week leading up asking for the time. As late as the evening of the 22nd, they promised they were coming on the 23rd but didn’t know when.
As you might have guessed, the 23rd rolled around and the movers didn’t show. They did call at 8:30 am telling my parents they weren’t coming after all. To be clear, the night before, they confirmed they were coming; the day of the move, they told her they didn’t service their area. This is after taking their deposit and promising repeatedly that they were on track to move them.
So, I get a call around 9:30 am on the 23rd with the bad news. Of course, the closing still needed to happen but they had no movers. I said I could drive up and return in a rented truck and let my Mom drive my car back. It was certainly not ideal, but was workable. My parents called around local rental truck places and even called the state-wide dispatcher in Pittsburgh for one company. Basically, all companies reported that there were no trucks available in the state (or at least the western part of the state) until August.
So, I called around Charleston and found a 26′ Ryder truck here. My father-in-law, a real trooper volunteered to ride with me. So, I rented a Hugh Jass truck (say it out loud) and headed 350 miles north to PA….at noon…on my wedding anniversary. My wife is a real trooper also of course as she is the one who suggested renting a truck here and driving it up empty. This truck rode like…well, a truck. It had air brakes so made all of the cool big truck sounds and I bounced around the captain’s chair that was on air shocks itself. It was not a comfortable ride.
Anyhow, I got within probably 6 miles of my parents’ (former) house when I saw a sign for the upcoming bridge…clearance was 13’3″. I remembered that my truck had a clearance of 13’6″. I stopped 20 feet from the entrance to the bridge and it was clear I couldn’t make it through. This bridge has a blind curve leading up to it and is on a narrow state road so there was very little space to turn around. (Check out the first pic at this site. I was coming in through the forest at the left.) Luckily, another driver went and blocked traffic while I performed a 27 point turn to head back the other direction. All told, I probably had to add 45 or so miles to my trip to back track to a route I could successfully navigate.
Finally, we made it to my parents’ house where they had a small crew of dedicated and awesome people to load up their stuff (which fortunately they had already boxed up). We finished up the next day with the help of some young men from a local group and were on our way back to their new home in Charleston. Fortunately, the new owners were very understanding and even came to help move boxes and stuff.
Emily’s family came to help us unload on the WV side and we had the truck unloaded in no time! We were exhausted but everyone was safe and my parents are now in their new home in WV. I drove 735 miles round-trip and loaded and unloaded that truck (with others of course) in a 36 hour period. I am not sure I want to name the company but if you get ready to move, holler at me and I will tell you one company to avoid!
It’s hard to believe, but 21 years ago today, I married my best friend! We were young and foolish but the best decision I ever made was marrying Emily. We met during the first week of college and started hanging out regularly over hot chocolate around Christmas of freshman year.
I struggled and worried and acted all weird trying to work up the nerve to kiss her on the last week of freshman year and that sort of started it all. What a goofball I was…it was easy!
Fast forward a few years and I struggled and worried and acted all weird trying to work up the nerve to ask her Dad’s permission to marry her. What a goofball I was…it was easy! We were watching Spartacus which was intense enough, but he simply asked for a number of goats and sheep and it was a done deal! I’m still trying to collect enough to pay off that debt, but some day…
So, here we are 21 years later with 2 wonderful kids and a life I never would have dreamed of! I couldn’t be happier!
I know I have been posting a lot of band stuff lately but it has been our lives lately. School is winding down so band is slowing too although lessons and playing are definitely not! Anyhow, I have been remiss in posting about our kids’ participation in All-County Band for Kanawha County!
Abigail started lessons a few years ago as a younger-than-normal flute student. She had her ups and downs with it initially, but has developed into quite a flutist. Jump ahead to this year, the first year she is actually old enough to play in band. She was ahead of the curve some from experience which set her up well to try out for All-County Band. As I understand it, she was the only 6th grader in the county to make the band and to boot, she made 9th chair out of 22! I am so proud of her and she really stepped up her game. She rose well to the challenge and plays all the time now around the house.
Isaac also made the high school All-County Band for tenor sax. He’s such a funny kid…he did his audition but felt like he didn’t play as well as he had hoped. He was disappointed and never bothered to even look at the list of students who made the band when it was released. By dumb-luck, one of his friends made a comment along the lines of “See you at practice tonight.” He had to query what the friend meant who of course, let him know that he was in the band…the day of the first rehearsal! Isaac had no idea that he had made the band as second chair! Anyhow, he also played very well and I am so proud of his playing as well. Band truly does mean a lot in our house and we enjoy watching the kids develop into really great musicians!
It’s the season of band! Well. it seems like it anyhow. Last night, Isaac played in 2 separate concerts. First, the George Washington High School band played their final concert together as the 2015 band last night. Seniors are hitting the road so this was a nice opportunity for them to get together one last time as a group and play a killer concert.
I think what made it especially nice was that it was outside and that the weather was perfect! We enjoyed their music as always and especially liked the opportunity for a little vitamin D!
Like any good kid, Isaac refused to look up at his parents so I sort of had to sneak a few pics. Meh. I’m good with that. More excellent were the selections they played…of course, it was outside with my cell phone sitting on metal bleachers where kids played and adults shifted about so please excuse the extraneous noises:
After that concert, a number of the high school band members ran over to the middle school which was performing their annual arts showcase. The middle school jazz band director had arranged with a few former-middle-school-jazz-band-now-high-school-band members to return to perform in an alumni jazz band as part of the larger concert…and of course, they were great!
Tonight we celebrate the end of high school band season with a banquet. After that, we have one middle school band concert, a banquet and an end of the year trip. It’s been a little wild around our neck of the woods lately, but I am so proud of my kids in particular and the entire bands in which they both play as well!
My, my, it’s been awhile since we last talked! Lots of things have been going down around here lately and it’s time for us to catch up!
About 10 days ago, Abigail and I ran in our first 5k race. She’s run a good bit before as a member of her middle school’s cross-country team. For middle school, cross-country races are a little less than 3k so 5k was a bit of a stretch from her previous experience, but we were excited to run. Well, we were excited to run until the morning of the race. This race was on a Saturday and we had to be there a bit before 9am…her enthusiasm waned with my “wake up holler” at 7am.
Anyhow, we got to the track. Being an old hand at running races, Abigail sort of played it cool waiting for the race to start. I was pretty wound up as I haven’t ever run in a race of any sort before! I wasn’t sure if I would embarrass my self or, in my excitement, expend all of my energy up front…would my nerves get to me? Gosh, am I an adult or not? I should be able to be calm about this but it just wasn’t happening on race day.
We walked a quick lap around the track to warm up our legs a little before the race. We have been training together and I have typically run faster and farther than Abigail so we decided that if I was feeling it, we would not try to run together…I could go ahead of her if I could.
So we lined up, jittery and excited and waited for the gun. I was surprised but they actually used a starter gun rather than a whistle or horn or something. That was really cool! My first race and I got a starter gun! With the shot, we took off and I was feeling good. I ditched Abigail after a quarter mile or so (don’t judge me) and kept on plowing. Abigail and I talked about how she runs cross-country. She sees a person ahead of her…decides to catch and pass them and then looks for the next person. It’s run one pass at a time. I decided to do the same. It was a good strategy as I found plenty of people around me that I could pass.
I won’t recount every step but I had a good race and finished in 27:30 which was pretty cool. Overall, I finished in 17th place out of 115 or so racers. That was really cool for my ego (which typically needs no encouragement). I started walking back through the course and found Abigail and finished the rest of the race with her trying to encourage her to keep pushing. It was a great time as far as I am concerned.
After the race, I am pretty well hooked. We had been training for a few weeks before the race and now are running a 5k three times per week around the local track. After some discussion, we have identified a few problems with Abigail’s breathing strategy. By fixing that, she is running much stronger now so we are getting ready for our next race in a few weeks! It’s a really cool opportunity to be able to run with Abigail and to have a really awesome thing about which we can talk and plan. We have just decided to run for it!
Last week Abigail turned 12. That makes this the last year without a teen in the house. I guess some people have bad teen-years experiences but we have had a great time with Isaac and Abigail at every age. It is shaping up to look like the teenage years will be great for Abigail as well.
She has all sorts of things that interest her. She is a budding flutist and made the all-county band as a 6th grader. She thinks she is the only 6th grader in the entire band. And to boot, she is 9th chair out of 22…as a sixth grader! I couldn’t be more proud!
She loves to read and challenges my paychecks to keep up with her appetite for books. Of course, I know it is money well spent and the library always seems to be behind her so we just go for it and buy both printed and kindle books. I figure if nothing else, I could insulate our house with all of the books we have laying around.
As bad as legos are in some people’s houses, markers seem to be that bad in our house. It seems like I am always stepping or sitting on a marker or colored pencil. Abigail loves to draw and creates all sorts of scenes and drawings. She labors and fusses over her work and tweaks it until she feels like it is done. She has a cool perspective on the world and it’s fun to see it unfold through her work.
Abigail is also a budding runner. It’s fun to run with her…sometimes…she complains about getting started but has a period during our runs where she seems to enjoy it. Warming up is ok and the first mile or so is ok. It’s pretty hard to call what comes next “ok” but I like to run with her anyhow. She ran cross-country last year and enjoyed it mostly. Over the winter she got out of shape so she and I are running every week now in an attempt to get her ready for the season in the fall. We get a little father-daughter bonding time at the least so I like that!
Anyhow, please help me wish Abigail a happy birthday even if it is a little late! She’s a great kid and is on her way to being a decent adult!
As I posted last week, my Uncle Bill with whom I was very close, passed. He was not a young man, but his passing was still somewhat unexpected. My aunt called the morning before he passed and told me the progression of things as they happened over night. I immediately packed and headed for Erie, PA where he had been life-flighted. In my home town where they also lived, there is no hospital. The closest hospital is a half an hour away but is not really equipped for anything serious.
Anyhow, as I left WV, the weather was mostly ok, but I knew it was supposed to be bad as I traveled north. Somewhere in the middle of PA, the weather turned from ok to total junk. It started raining and then the rain froze. I had a good cake of ice on my windshield and all over the car. I knew I would not make it to Erie as the weather is always bad in Erie due to the lake effect snow they always get. It had snowed 8-10 inches before the freezing rain so the situation was pretty bad.
I aborted the push north and headed to my hometown…where the weather was also terrible. The roads were terribly icy and the snow was 2 or so feet deep…and now covered with ice. My mom who was also in WV followed me in to their place. We had to hit “the facilities” as soon as we got there. Mom tried to turn on the lights but they didn’t come on. I checked the breaker box and discovered water running through the panel. That of course had tripped some of the breakers. It also provided a serious hazard as far as I could tell. Having jumped in the car in a hurry, I hadn’t packed adequate snow gear and my parents’ ladders were in WV…and besides, I am no expert on water in the breaker box. My Mom called a local handyman who immediately came out and, with a torch, melted the ice dam off of the roof above the panel box. The ice was at least 10 inches thick under a foot of snow. It’s a wonder there weren’t worse problems.
As the repair man tried to leave, he got incredibly stuck in the deep snow which we hadn’t yet plowed off. After digging and pushing for at least 30 minutes, he broke free. He basically floored it kicking snow and slush all over me as I pushed him up onto some pine branches we had cut so he could get traction. Not having winter gear, I was a complete mess…soaked to the bone.
We were exhausted from everything so ate quickly and went to bed. The next morning, we headed to the hospital in Erie where we made it just in time to say our good-byes. It was very difficult to say goodbye and even more painful to watch my Aunt as they were probably the most closely knit couple I know.
When we made it back to Tionesta, I followed the footsteps of the repairman from the night before. I got my Subaru stuck up to the tops of the tires. Luckily, my brother arrived later int he day with his Jeep. With a little work, he was able to yank my car out of the snow. I have always been pretty stupid with what I expect my Subaru to do and it has always excelled in stupid situations…deep snow/ice/slush was just too much for it I guess. It was too much for about any car that didn’t have knobby tires I think!
We spent a few more days with my parents, brother and sister-in-law and my aunt reminiscing, talking, and drinking a few beers in my uncle’s honor. It was a good time considering the situation. The night before I was to return to WV, I returned my aunt to her house. She walked in to find no heat. It was still pretty cold…single digit temps at night so that wasn’t going to work for her. She called a furnace company who would send a guy to help. Like everything up there, the company was an hour and a half away. His ETA was 1am. I actually had a really good opportunity to spend time with just my aunt until he came. We talked and remembered and talked some more. It was good. The repair guy came at 1 and by 2am had her patched through until he could get parts. I returned to my parents’ home but still woke up at 7 am for my return trip to WV. That sort of sucked. I had a thermos and an insulated cup of coffee so I had plenty of “fuel” for the return trip.
You might be thinking that it seems like a lot went wrong on an already stressful and sad trip…you’d be right. It wasn’t much fun in many ways. In other ways, though, it was just the sort of craziness on which my Uncle thrived. He was generally happy and laughed a lot…about everything. Crap happened and he chuckled about it. Good stuff happened and he chuckled about it. While all of this stuff kept piling on, I kept thinking about how he always responded to things in life that just happened. In a way, it was the perfect way to mourn his passing. I chuckled as things heaped on. That’s how Uncle Bill would have handled it….