Thursday, May 23, 2013

Maine 2013 - The Trip

It wasn't too long after the conclusion of last year's Adirondacks trip that the crew began tossing around ideas for the 2013 trip. The Dakotas in 2011 was fabulous; a long flying trip. Last year was a shorter driving trip. We were contemplating a non-flying trip again this year, with the same five as last year (Me, Dave, Leo, Ted and Phil).
Mt Katahdin, Baxter State Park

Original parameters of the trip were a six day excursion, or even five if the driving were not too excessive and we could get a jump the night before. One of the contenders that was high on every one's list was Maine. People were very interested in Mt Katahdin, the high point in the state, which is also the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. Another destination, and a bucket list one for me, is Acadia National Park on the coast. At one point, given the crowding in the SUV for the Adirondacks and also that Acadia is approximately an 11 hour drive, we contemplated renting an RV and driving in style.

Acadia (Mt Desert Island) from an offshore island
The discussion changed somewhat in the winter when Phil unfortunately had to take himself out of the mix for this year's trip. We tossed around a few more ideas, as this put flying back on the table for discussion, but it was agreed that we couldn't collectively free up the 8 or 9 days necessary to make a more extravagant trip possible. Everyone still loved the Maine idea, and without the need to drive and therefore chew up two entire days on the road, we would be able to do both Baxter SP and Acadia NP on the same trip and not slight either unduly.

So the trip was decided: six (or seven) days hitting both Baxter and Acadia, flying in and out of Bangor. Time was set for mid-September; after kids go back to school but before anniversaries and birthdays for my family, far enough removed from a big summer trip for Ted, and fitting family and work commitments for Dave and Leo.

Acadia in summer
A planning session that I could not attend was held in March, and between that and a flurry of emails leading up to it, we settled a number of issues. Exact dates were picked, flights were booked, and preliminary work was done on selecting campgrounds etc... Coming out of this meeting, the framework of the trip was set. We would fly to Bangor Maine on a Wednesday afternoon ($264 per person round trip!!), be there for next six days, and fly back on the following Tuesday. We would likely do Acadia first, and then finish with Baxter. Highlights would be the Atlantic coast of Maine at Acadia and Mt Katahdin in Baxter (why do I always have to climb mountains?!?).

A couple of months have passed since that meeting with little or no further activity, but Dave got the ball rolling again earlier this week with a reminder email that we had more to nail down and reserve, and that we should get going on it to make sure we got what we wanted. Another flurry of emails, and yeoman work by Leo and Ted have resulted in all logistics being complete and locked down. There is nothing left to do but select hikes and plan the activities we want to do while we are there.

The trip is this:
  • Wednesday afternoon - Fly to Bangor, pick up a rental SUV and go to a hotel. Maybe some non-perishable provisioning.
  • Thursday - Complete our provisioning first thing, drive to Acadia, and have the afternoon and evening free to do whatever.
  • Friday - All day in Acadia. I suspect we will hike to the top of Cadillac Mountain.
  • Saturday - Start the day at Acadia, end the day at Baxter State Park. How we split the day remains to be decided, but there is 3.5 hours of driving somewhere in the middle.
  • Sunday - Baxter SP all day. The priority will be to summit Katahdin, weather permitting.
  • Monday - Baxter all day, but we need to drive one hour at the end of the day to our motel to get ready to head for home the next day. If weather issues cause Katahdin problems on Sunday, this will be our last shot at the summit. We end the day at a motel in Millinocket.
  • Tuesday - We have the morning to kill, but need to catch a mid-afternoon flight back home. Back in Philly by dinner time. 
Finalizing the arrangements (thanks guys!) has made this trip go from something somewhere out on (or beyond) the horizon to something very real. I love guide books and maps, so I suspect that over the holiday weekend coming up I will be ordering some books and maps to be able to immerse myself in the coming experience. I did this for the Dakotas and the Adirondacks and loved reading and researching ahead of time.

With all the logistical details set, all that remains is to figure out all the fun stuff - hikes, trails, sightseeing opportunities and how to spend our time in each of the locations.

I can't wait.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Another Middle School "last"

As is the case any time a child moves from one school to another, or reaches a milestone of any sort, there is that inevitable parental recognition of "this is the last time my Baby....." We had another one of those moments tonight with Julia's final 8th grade chorus concert. Next year it will be high school...

The concert itself was very nice, and as the kids continue to get older, the quality of the music gets better and better. What we heard tonight was a quantum leap forward from where these same kids were four or five years ago. And they will only continue to improve.

The best part of the evening by far though was when the singing was done. A tradition in the spring concert, started by the chorale director years ago and continued every year since then, is that she presents each graduating 8th grader with a flower to take down into the audience to give to their parents in recognition of the support that the parents have given to the children. After the director explained the tradition and what was about to happen, she turned back to the kids and specifically searched out Julia to give the first flower to. Julia then made her way down off the stage. Upon reaching the floor of the auditorium, Julia stumbled while searching the audience for us, dropped her flower, and subsequently stepped on it. She picked up the two pieces of her broken red carnation, threw back her head, and loudly groaned "awwww", drawing quite a laugh from the audience. In its own sweet way, this could not have been a more perfect way for my little angel to get a flower to her Mommy. I am not at all embarrassed to say that I had tears running down my cheeks as Julia finally did manage to make her way to Amp and present her with the shattered remnants of that beautiful red flower.

I know there will many more wonderful moments to come, but it is also a good thing to bask in the warmth of these bittersweet "lasts" as the occur...

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Crusades Project Progress

I have been pleased with the rejuvenation of the long-dormant Crusades project, and having finished the re-basing of enough figures for a small game, I couldn't help putting those figures out on the table with an assortment of buildings and terrain. What this made me realize is that I wasn't terribly satisfied with the terrain just yet, specifically with the tan felt table cloth I was using.

In the past I tried making a sand and paint foam board terrain board, but that just became something that I wasn't terribly thrilled with and took up valuable storage space. A felt table cover has a certain appeal, but it looked too monotone, so I decided to play around with a new piece of felt and foam board panel and some spray paints. The result, shown here in a badly lit picture, is much more along the lines of what I was hoping for.

To make this 4 foot by 5.5 foot panel, I cut a piece of insulation "blue board" to size, then glued the tan felt to the board with a slathering of white craft glue. After the glue had set, I took the board out to the back yard on a breeze-less day and misted the surface in patches with 3 or 4 different shades of light green, yellow and brown.  This "faux camouflage" effect is just enough to break up the monotony, although the picture doesn't really do it justice. On the tabletop, it looks terrific. It even blends nicely into the generic background painting I made a couple years ago.

The one other addition here is a half dozen more palm tree bases, made with small oblong pieces of balsa wood, Woodland Scenics model railroad talus, foliage clusters, and some sandbox sand.

Things feel like they are starting to come together with regards to this project. Now I just need to keep adding a few new units (or re-based units to be more accurate) from time to time.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Preston's March

Our little crew
By virtue of having a daughter with special needs, we have had the opportunity to become acquainted with some amazing people and their amazing and inspirational stories. Preston, a friend of Julia's from Special Olympics and other activities, has mitochondrial disease, which results in low muscle tone and developmental delays. I don't know his story very well, but for him to be able to ride a bike, he would need a specially adapted bike that would be very expensive to purchase (in excess of two thousand dollars). A Facebook page was created to help raise money for his bike, and they very quickly raised more than enough money to buy the bike. The family used the excess money that had been raised to start Preston's March for Energy, a charity whose mission is to raise money to buy adaptive bikes for children with special needs. In the short couple of years the charity has been in existence, I believe they said they have been able to donate almost 30 special bikes.

Julia finishing with others in the background
Earlier today we had the opportunity to participate for the first time in one of the charity's fundraisers, a 5k run/walk on the Delaware Greenways in the vicinity of the Alfred I. DuPont Hospital for Children and the outskirts of the Alapocas Run State Park in north Wilmington. Going in I had no idea what to expect, but the course was a simple one on paved trails that wandered around the area of the Blue Ball Barn, crossing under route 202, looping around the edge of a golf course, and back again.

It was an unseasonably cold and blustery day for early May, but we had a great time. In addition to the four of us, we were joined by three of our neighbor's family as well as a few other people we knew from Julia's circle of friends. It's always a lot of fun to do something like this in a group, so thanks to Cathy and Stacy and Gina for joining us on this cold early Sunday morning.

Julia and Preston
The 5k (3 miles) began at 9am, and there were perhaps 200-250 participants, ranging from serious runners to folks like us who were just out for a leisurely stroll. We quickly settled into what would be our position for the entire event - pulling up the rear. Our running joke with every volunteer we passed out on the course was "we are it, you can go home now." By the time we got to the end, we had picked up a tail of about fifteen volunteers, which was pretty funny. Given that we had some little legs with us on this walk, I am not at all disappointed to say that we walked the 3 miles in 1 hour and 3 minutes. This was a leisurely stroll for the adults, but a not inconsequential effort for Julia and Grace. They were troopers, and I am proud of them. Crossing the finish line gave the kids a real kick, as there was an ROTC color guard lining the route at the end, saluting and honoring all who finished. The girls liked that very much and were very proud of themselves.
Grace and Gina with ice cream after

It was a fun event for a great cause, and I am happy with my girls that they willingly got up early on a cold Sunday morning, with a minimum of grumbling, to do something worthwhile (and for which they received no direct benefit other than a T-shirt, a soft pretzel and an ice cream bar). I am glad our family participated, and if they do this again next year, I hope we can make it again.