Tuesday, August 22, 2017

I've Always Wanted to Visit Maine

This weekend I went on one of the best trips I've been on in a long time. A few weeks ago I found out I would have the chance to come to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard for training. About 30 minutes later I decided I would use this opportunity to check off a bucket list item*, visiting Acadia National Park on the Maine coast.

I've always wanted to visit Maine. It always struck me as a kind of place that would agree with me. Turns out I was right. The tourism trade has called it Vacationland and I find that very fitting.

This weekend I drove 680 miles from Friday night to Sunday night. I stopped at the slightest whim and enjoyed two nights in my tent. I hiked for miles, ate a lobster and a popover, and visited a fort from the mid 1800's. It was great.

Friday I rounded up all my stuff after finishing work and headed for the rental office for my car. Of course, I had forgotten my sweater, so my plan of leaving directly from there went out the window, but it didn't set me to far behind. Originally I had planned to drive up US 1, but it was late evening and I was already on schedule to be at the campground at almost 10 pm, so I decided to stick to the interstate. This turned out to be a good choice, since traveling US 1 in the daytime is much better.

For most of the drive up it rained prodigiously. During the day Friday there was times that made me wonder if I wasn't going to sleep in the car for the first night. Of course, after camping year round with the scouts over the past few years, I've become no stranger to a little wetness, so my rule is that I have to actually see the campsite before I will cancel the trip. And in this case, the weather report was showing rain Friday with some Saturday morning then clearing off Saturday. As it happened, I was able to get a little respite that allowed me to get the tent up dry. Once the tent is up, you're basically home free.

I didn't set an alarm and I fell asleep to that sound of rain on your rain fly. Sometimes I listen to the white noise maker on my phone that will give me the same sound, but it's so much better when you can feel the cool air on your face and the warm sleeping bag on your body.

Saturday the fog was thick. I hadn't brought any cooking gear so I had my breakfast of an apple and protein bar, got dressed, and headed out for the park. First stop was the visitor's center to plan and get my all-important magnet and patch. This was helpful becuase I got a map that showed me the locations of the arched stone bridges that were part of the reason I was there. I got a great map of the carraige roads that showed me where the bridges were. Of course, I couldn't reach them all because I was on foot.

My must-sees were some bridges, a gate house, Jordan Pond, and Cadillac Mountain. I got them all but the gate house. Also, Jordan Pond House has these particular baked goods called Popovers that I understood to be integral to an Acadia experience, so that was on the table. Literally and figuratively.

So I parked at Jordan Pond House with the intention to make a circuit of the local carriage roads, including a number of the stone bridges. I had a notion of including a side trip out to the Hadlock area to see a particular gate house, but I decided I didn't have the enough time for that. So after reviewing the maps (while munching on a popover and a salad) I was on my way.

This walk ended up being about six miles, mostly on gravel carriage roads. The fog was beginning to lift a little now and I began to think I might see some blue sky. I followed the carriage roads as they snaked away from Jordan Pond to the west.

Eventually the loop brought me back to Jordan Pond and now the fog had lifted and you could actually see "The Bubbles" across the pond.

Now it was on to Cadillac Mountain. I really wanted to climb it rather than drive to the top like the rest of the park goers. I chose to climb the North Ridge Trail becuase according to the trail descriptions this one wasn't too long and it had great views. The views did not disappoint. It offered great panoramic views to the northeast, including Bar Harbor.

This was a rugged trail. It was nearly free of dirt trail portions. Most of it was scrambling over rocks ranging from a few hundred pounds to massive boulders whose fabulous weight you could only guess at. I had opted not to bring my hiking boots because of their weight and my confidence in my Keen shoes. For the most part the shoes did everything I wanted them to, except for the angry blister they left on my right heel. They are very capable shoes. Due to the rocky landscape the trail was marked by the Bates Cairns and blue paint markers.

Normally when you hike to a summit, you earn yourself some solitude, reflection, and a vista that most others will not see. When they build a road to that same summit all you get is a crowd and a shiny glass tour bus touting "Wi-Fi On Board!" To each his own. On the way down I wished for some Clif Bloks because my legs were going all jelly on me. They are in my camelbak that I left in my garage and totally forgot to pack.

When I got back to the car I was earnestly tired. My watch was telling me I had hiked a total of 11.2 miles and had taken 31,000 steps. Since becoming a father I haven't done a hike that has really challenged me. I'm spending most of my time outdoors trying to teach young legs to love the trail, so for now, they have to be tamer trails. It was a good day, but it was time for a rest.

But not before partaking in the Maine sacrament, the lobster. I'm sure that I demonstrated to the people around me the extent of my newb-ness when it comes to lobster. Really, all you need to know is the outside is hard, the inside is soft, and there's lots of butter.

While at dinner I wrote out postcards that I had resolved to send to my family. I've decided to try a new sort of tradition for work trips where I send postcards to each of my family. With each of these I plan to give support, encouragement, and love in a tangible (and today, rare) mailed card. Who knows how the kids will receive it. It will certainly be more lasting than overpriced t-shirts.

After dinner there were a few errands then it was off to bed. This time I didn't sleep that great because there was no rain to drown out the folks next door who were having an enjoyable evening. It's hard to hold it against them, but it was also hard to sleep.

Early Sunday I got up, packed, and took down the tent. I was out before the office opened. I don't even think I saw the campsite during daylight for more than an hour or so.

Sunday was the big driving day. After departing from the campground, my first stop was Quoddy Head Lighthouse, the easternmost point of the US. I've been to Cape Flattery, which is the westernmost point of the continental US, so I thought it would be neat to have the other one too. I can tell you, it is out there. It was only 93 miles from the campground, but it took more than 2-1/2 hours to get there.

Then it was back to Portsmouth, Hew Hampshire. I could choose to get back on I-95 and speed back on a boring strip of straight highway or I could wind my way down Maine's jagged coast on US 1. The choice is obvious. I left Quoddy Head at about 11:00 am and finally pulled into Portsmouth after 8:00 pm. But I made MANY stops.

The first was at Jo's World Famous Snitzel Wagon. I saw this place on the way in and resolved that if they were open on the return trip, I would eat schnitzel. This worked out very well. The woman (clearly, Jo) spoke English well with a characteristic German accent and told she made the schnitzel exactly how she learned to make it in Germany. I got it with onions. It was delicious.

The next stop, I found out, was the Penobscot Narrows Bridge and Maine's Fort Knox. These are two places I didn't even know I wanted to stop at until I rounded the bend. First I saw the fort across the river, then the next bend showed me I was about to cross the bridge. I gotta pull over for that.

As I pulled into the state park, the sign said that I could also buy admission to someplace called the observatory, whatever that was. The lady in the booth explained that the observatory was at the top of the western tower of the bri--Shut up and take my money!!

This was all-around cool. The observatory was cool. The bridge was cool. The fort was cool. It was all cool. The bridge was new, finished in 2007, and the fort was old, built between 1844 and 1869. The brochure says they stopped working on it, unfinished. The contrast was great. The new bridge replaced an old bridge that had been removed a few years ago, but whose foundations were left in place in the river. The new bridge is beautiful and clever, showing another step in the art of concrete and steel.

The observatory was great. It was no more than 16 feet square and three stories high. It was a big glass box at 42 stories, towering above the neighborhood.

After that it was time for a thorough exploration of the fort. Having spent lots of time in the emplacements of Puget Sound, I couldn't help but make many contrasts between this fort and those. I'll talk most about Fort Worden in Port Townsend. As I said, Fort Knox is older. It's from mid-1800's while Fort Worden is from about 1900. Fort Knox is brick and granite to Worden's concrete. And then there's the gunnery.

The 50 or so years between them saw many meaningful advances in weapons tech. The Knox cannon were muzzle loaders that shot a large ball or shell while the Worden guns were massive breech loaders that shot enormous shells. Just look at the size difference.

Knox Cannon

Fort Casey Gun

Of course, the Worden guns were built in the age of steel plated steam ship and were therefore designed to penetrate steel hulls, not wooden hulls.

Now I'd like to shift over to the construction of the structures. One thing I always thought was strange about Fort Worden's emplacements was that they had flat ceilings. This seemed like a strange choice for a very heavy structure. In order to keep them flat and not sagging, they would have to make them very thick and FILLED with steel reinforcement. On the other hand, it would make them a little easier to build, shapewise.

It kind of struck me as arrogant. Maybe they thought that with this new material (concrete) they could circumvent the rules about vaulted ceilings that mankind had learned centuries ago. Contrast that to the ceilings of Fort Knox.

The displays at Fort Knox made particular mention of the casemate, which is the formation of the domed ceilings that give it immense strength. Also, those domed ceilings look really cool.

After walking around for while it was time to get back on the road. I still had 170 miles or so left.  The rest of the drive was pretty uneventful. Now, I did see a pedestrian suspension bridge which I HAD to get out and see.

Along the way I saw many little towns that would definitely be worth another visit, such as Camden, Rockland, and Ogunquit. I love driving and driving the Maine coast on US 1 is a fantastic road tripping destination.

*Many years ago I had checks with pictures of national parks on them. One of them was Acadia National Park. Prior to that I hadn't heard of it.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Christmas Shed & Garage

I actually started writing this post about the first week of January 2017 but for various reasons I have not finished it until now. The first half is original, the second half is what I wrote now to finish it.

As you know, this December, January, and February were unusually busy for me as regards home projects. Those of you that know me personally know that this is saying something since I'm always doing something around the house. In my post about redoing one of the kids' rooms, I talked about the need to move along with my weekend makeover so that I could get into the next domino of home organization, the new shed.

The dominoes were 1. Master Closet (done in October), 2. Front Bedroom (December), 3. Shed (December and January), and 4. The Garage (January and February).

I'm on the last one (the garage) but it's taking a long time. I've sacrificed all my bike rides in January and February so I can work on it, but it's still not done. The time has been characterized by staying up way too late at night, working Saturday afternoons when I would likely be getting much needed exercise otherwise, and spending every opportunity possible to progress the project.

So here's the shed. I probably got about two or three Saturdays worth of stuff to do on it.

This is my Sketchup model of it.

December 27.

December 28.

 January 3.

Now the shed is functionally done it's in that danger zone of procrastination. I still haven't painted it, but it's all primed. This year I should be painting the house so I'll just get it all in on the package. (It's now June, so six months have passed. There's no actual indicator that this will happen any time soon.)

I'm so glad to have it done. I can't believe how nice it has been to get the yard stuff out of the garage so I can use that space for it's intended purpose-working on bikes and cars. Actually, we're actually dangerously close to parking the car in there for real. That will really be something.

Here is a picture to give an idea of what the garage looked like before:

Amazing mess.

Here's what it looks like now:

Complete with new organizational features. There's still plenty of junk, but now it's a lot more useful space. In the bottom left corner you can see that the mill is still on the floor, but that's not true anymore. After only two an a half years, the mill and lathe are actually up on tables. Amazing. The next step on that project is to get the lathe running. The mill is in pretty good shape and I use it occasionally.

One of the most enjoyable parts of this has been coming up will all different types of organizational solutions. I already wrote a post about that in March. Check it out.

The next thing is to paint the house and the Shed. Oh, and get the lathe running. Oh, and..., Oh, and...

You see where I'm going with this. See you soon.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Duckabush Sick Day

Last night I happened to be on Messenger chatting with a friend from the old neighborhood. Turns out he's up in my neck of the woods and his agenda for the next day (today) was to head over to the Olympic Peninsula and do some hiking. I offered up a list of suggestions as I often do when I get even the slightest opening that may sound like somebody wants to talk about trails.

I hope he had fun. I haven't heard how it went or where he ended up but I'm sure it was great. The Olympic forests are extremely unique. I also left the conversation feeling like I wished I could be heading over for some hiking myself. Upon later reflection I realized I hadn't been across the Hood Canal Bridge in months. Months! How did I let it happen?

Meanwhile our household has been a little out of sorts lately. Mom isn't feeling well so dad has been spending more time than usual with the kids. Today we decided that the best medicine (besides the antibiotics) was a bunch of time with peace and quiet. How could I provide that best, but by taking the whole tribe out to the Olympics for a little wilderness time. It's a win all around. I get a hit against my wanderlust, we get to breath the forest air and listen to the birds in the trees, the kids get some movie time in the car, and Chelsea gets almost seven unbroken hours of quiet. At home. It must have been surreal.

I wanted to go back to the Duckabush. I haven't been back there since January 2016 when Chelsea went to Utah for her birthday. I took Jerry, Isaiah, and Jake and headed out to the Interrorem Cabin and Ranger Hole. This time Jake had to stay home, much to his fervent disappointment. Three kids is plenty to keep my hands busy at this point.

We started with a picnic on the porch of the Interrorem Cabin to escape the rain. Normally this cabin is rented out by the forest service for folks to stay in but since there were no cars there I decided to risk it. Jerry thought for sure people were home.

After that we decided not to stay and hike the Ranger Hole trail (which is at the cabin). It was still pretty wet and I wanted to see if the rain would let up. We headed up the Duckabush Road a little more until we got to the actual Duckabush Trail. There I convinced Jerry that if we walked the trail a little I would find a playground when we got done. We hiked an astounding half mile round trip. Three hours of driving for 15 minutes of hiking sounds about right.

Jerry was captivated by this "heart leaf". He desperately wanted it, but I was too short to get it. He had to be content with a picture.

Jerry and Isaiah at a little river crossing.

I was using little landmarks ahead on the trial to get them to keep going. Isaiah wanted to be carried almost from the beginning. The last landmark was what I told them was a "fuzzy tree". I wanted to see it up close but Jerry said no when I told him we couldn't take the fuzz off. Now I had to be content with a picture.

On the way back I still had to make good on my promise to find a playground. Fortunately I've been making mental notes over the last several years about which state parks have good playgrounds. Kitsap Memorial is one of my favorites and I remembered it having a good playground. As an added bonus it was right on the way home. We got there to find they had also recently replaced the play structure so it was a really nice playground.

All in all, another successful outing. I think the van would disagree, though. It seems to resent it's treatment as a low ground clearance SUV. This time I never hit bottom, but there is a distinct intermittent clunk coming from the driver's side front wheel. Good times.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Garage Work

As a part of my recent home reorganization project, I've been spending a lot of time building shelving, a new workbench, and other organizational solutions, many of which I find on Pinterest. Only a few of the things in the garage stayed put. The main goals were to find room for a new freezer, get the mill and lathe on their tables, and *gasp* park the minivan in there.

A lot of the stuff moved into the shed. I have another post about that which I started more than a month ago and have managed to procrastinate very well so far, mostly due to the work that I'm showing here. It's been fun to come up with little solutions. I also bought a Kreg jig which I've been wearing out at an alarming rate. Anyway, here we go.

I got the bikes in the corner, the new bench built, and other stuff situated. There's still lots of stuff to handle, but it's well on its way. I feel like the space is working a lot harder now.

The Pack Rack
This is a rack I made up to handle all my backpacks and other outdoor gear like tents and sleeping bags. It's a mixture of hanging storage and shelving. Here's my Sketchup model.

 The top shelf and middle shelf are for the gear, while backpacking packs hang in the upper middle section. Day packs hang on the lower part, just off the ground. There's also room for stuff hanging against the wall behind the packs. So far it's working out great. I just wish I could have made it more than three feet wide, but I had a space constraint. Here it is installed.

The Material Rack:
I've accumulated a lot of sheet stock like plywood, OSB, and LP siding. I needed to get it out of the way, and since the left side of my garage will be for the mill and lathe, the upper wall space was open. Again, I used the Kreg jig and wood glue like crazy.

The Bench:
Most of the structure came from my previous bench. The hutch is new, though. I reduced the size from eight feet wide to five feet. I mean, when I'm being honest, I will cover the entire surface with garbage not matter how much there is, so I didn't feel bad about reducing it.

The Mud Wall
I wanted some mud room type space and I've seen lots of variations on this on Pinterest. I wanted the standard hooks and shoe cubbies to get the boots and shoes out of the middle of the garage floor. The cubbies are still to come, but I did get the shelves and the hooks together.

I hung this by using the Kreg jig with a non-standard joining method. It allowed me to mount the vertical supports directly into vertical studs behind the drywall. Normally pocket screws are used to join pieces at 90° to one another and the jig is set up with all the lengths set for certain sizes. I played with it a little and adjusted some settings to come up with a very solid mounting method. It turned out really well.

The point of all this work is to make the space more productive rather than just being a large room full of boxes where I don't park my cars. I can't live like that. I can tell I'm on the right track because this weekend I did some car work in the garage for the first time in years. It was nice to bust some knuckles. The space works really well, and I'm very close to being able to park the minivan in there.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Weekend Makeover

What did you do this weekend? My family went to visit my sister-in-law in Eastern Washington. I wanted to go and experience first-hand the biting 0° weather, but I decided I needed to take advantage of the opportunity to actually accomplish some work while my kids weren't around. I love having them around, but trying to actually accomplish anything is more frustrating than... Well, there's nothing that compares. I mean, I gave up a road trip to do this. A road trip.

I mean, you know those moments in parenting when you're thinking, I can handle all this craziness if I can just get the laundry put away, or the dishes done, or whatever, but it turns out the kids all had a meeting before you got up where they decided that they were going to make sure that one thing was NOT done under any circumstance. I know you've been there.

Anyway, this weekend I completed a work that has me very satisfied. Usually I get projects into what one friend calls "the danger zone" which is where the state of the work is back to functional so there's no real hurry to finish it and the next thing you know it's been six months and you still didn't touch up that spot on the ceiling. Again, I know you've been there.

This one was different. Knowing that I would literally have no opportunity to do that sort of little finishing touch once the kids returned, I worked as I never have before. I looked into the minimum reacoat times of the primer and paints, paid close attention to when I would do things like wash the walls, apply caulk, and other things that had time constraints. I took every opportunity to gain a little time, and I stayed up very late at night.




In the end, when Chelsea and the kids pulled into the driveway Sunday night, there was still a few touch up spots that were drying and I hadn't even emptied the boys' room of all the junk I had left in there. It was down to the wire.

Friday night I got stuck at work late and I had a scout outing to participate in. By 10pm I was back home at work. Before I went to bet at 2am, I had cleared out the room, taken all the switch plates off, removed the closet doors, removed the closet shelving, TSP washed all the surfaces, filled the holes, and done some initial masking. I finally went be bed without setting an alarm.

At 9:30am I was back at it. I did the final masking and prep and got after the priming. At noon I was done priming. (Cutting in all the trim takes a long time.) Then I was going to stop for lunch and have a shower, but I decided to go ahead and get the ceiling out of the way first. That only took an hour and by 1:30 I was showering and headed out. I made my first Lowe's trip of the project to get a new light switch to replace the 20-year-old builder grade one with a spec grade so that it matches the rest of the house. I also needed more roller covers and tray liners.


Now it was time to really get after it. At 3pm I started rolling the main color. That took longer than I thought it would. By 6:30 I had run out of the main color. I remember this because I checked the Sherwin-Williams website to find that they had closed at 6. I had to wait clear until 10am(!) to get more paint. I was only half a quart short. Fortunately, I thought I might be short, so I left the closet until last.

Main color done, awaiting accent color.

It didn't matter, though. I had plenty to do until then. I still had the accent color to manage as well as all the trim, so I pressed on. It was my hope to have all the painting done Saturday so that Sunday I could concentrate on things like fixing the trim and other touches. I don't remember the details, but I know that before I went to bed at 3am Sunday morning I had finished all the topcoats except for the area that I hadn't done before running out of paint.

I turned my whole house into a staging area for this project. The bathroom had all my paint stuff, the boys' room was where I piled all the displaced furniture, and the living room became part of the workshop. The garage is a desolation. It's part Santa's workshop and part staging area. I was hoping to get it cleaned out today since I had work off, but the kids were home. Remember, Me: "If I can just get the garage cleaned, I can handle this madness." Kids: "Sorry dad, we all had a meeting and we hate to disappoint you, but...."

The bathroom workshop.

The boys' room covered in stuff.

Trim painting workshop in the living room.

At 10:15 I walked into the paint store and by 10:45 I was at home painting again. Of course, that last pint of paint went on pretty fast. Then I just had to give it some drying time before I put in the closet organizer and reinstalled the baseboard.

The debate rages as to whether to remove the baseboard or not for painting. For this project I removed most of it, but then left some installed. I think I will leave it installed from now on. When I removed it, I broke several of the small pieces around the closet opening. Fortunately I had saved some trim when I removed it from another part of the house so I painted some of that and was able to cut new pieces to fit. My second Lowe's trip of the weekend was to get brads and finish nails for the baseboard.

Getting ready to install the baseboard.
The entertainment is very important for projects like this. It was a combination of Lord of the Rings, Netflix binge watching, and continuous audiobook streams.

Closet organizer is in.

 The home stretch.

I took a break in the afternoon to talk to my parents for a while and by 5pm I had the baseboards reinstalled and caulked and I was waiting for it to dry before touching up.

Touching up the baseboard is a particular weakness for me. It's worth noting that the caulk tube says it only requires 30 minutes of drying time before painting. I had always thought it needed overnight. I mean, I already talked about danger zone. I still haven't touched up the baseboard from several years ago when I painted the rest of the house. As I said, this time was different. I did all the touch up and I think it looks great.

When Chelsea and the kids got home about 7:30, I had JUST finished and I was doing the final vacuuming before I would start moving the furniture back in.

It felt really good to have pure progress, but I'm also glad to have my family back. Now I'll stack a bunch of crap into the closet and get ready to frame up a shed next week. All these projects have aggressive schedules, but once they're done I'll feel a lot more comfortable in the house.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Backpacking Curry

You may have recently read my post about having a great time in the rain at Goldmyer Hot Spring. Well this post is loosely related since prior to that trip I had decided I wanted to experiment a little with backcountry cooking.

You may be surprised to find that with all my backpacking experience, one thing that I lack is cooking experience. Usually I just stick with the unimaginative Mountain House dinner and instant oatmeal packets for breakfast. One major exception is when my friend Brent and I hiked the High Divide Loop around Seven Lakes Basin a couple of years ago. He was in charge of dinner for that one and he made a delicious chicken and dumpling stew. It was quite memorable.

One of the recipes I had selected was the Beef Curry Noodle Bowl from trailcooking.com. The week before the trip I wasn't able to get all the ingredients so I had to default to the ease of freeze-dried goodness.

Today, though, I decided to try out that noodle bowl for dinner. I wanted to simulate a field situation. That meant I was going to make it on my backpacking stove, outside, using only the tools that I would have available to me there. It was pretty rainy and I didn't want to bother putting up a shelter, so I just did it in my open garage.

Well, I guess I did use a stool and an office chair. I wouldn't have done that in the backcountry. The office chair doesn't fit in my pack.

Everything went very well. I cooked up faster than I thought it would and it fit just about perfectly in a pot that holds just under two liters of water. I used my Jetboil with the attachment for using it with regular pots. It would probably fit in a Jetboil Sumo cup, but I don't have one to try it out. If you care, it took about 22 grams of fuel to cook it up. (It would be interesting to see how much it would take with a Sumo cup.)

The noodle bowl was delicious. The question, though, is whether the extra effort to make recipes like these is worth it. For example, by the time I bought soba noodles ($3/package), dried vegetable mix ($18/lb(!) but at least you only need a little, about $2.50 worth) and beef jerky (about $5 worth), it cost more than a mountain house. Of course, those are usually two servings per mountain house, while this one was four servings. (I usually eat a 2-serving Mountain House on my own anyway.)

Ramen is a convenient backpacking meal but gets a bad rap for having lots of sodium. This recipe uses bullion which basically has the same amount of sodium, so it's a draw there.

This recipe requires a lot more prep at home before the trip and more pots (and therefore more dishes to wash) in the field. Trailcooking.com has lots of recipes for only a single pot and that's the only way I'd do it.

I guess what it comes down to is what you want to do while you're out in the field. Ideally, when you're out there you have lots of time because you're there to relax and kick back so taking extra time for meal preps shouldn't bother you. It was kind of fun to try something new. I'll probably do it again.