Thursday, September 24, 2009


Though technically fall, the weather lingers in full-blown summer, making it difficult to think about doing fall things. Pumpkins, grouse, leaf raking are all far in the back of my mind. A few minutes ago, I was thinking how nice it would be to take the dogs to the beach and lay there in the hot sand one more time.

Risa is off getting a massage and I am jealous. It is the old and infirm who need such tender care - like me.

Tomorrow we climb into the car for another long road trip to Madison to see Kate and maybe watch a football game, though neither of us is much of a football fanatic. I don't have tickets yet so we will play the ticket game outside of the stadium to see if we can score a discounted seat or two.

This is what I was doing two weekends ago. Four of us took off on a long weekend to cruise the Apostle Islands off the "junior" peninsula that sticks up from Wisconsin on the south shore of Lake Superior. This is a C&C Landfall 38 with a center cockpit. Very comfortable with four on board. We stocked up on food and booze before embarking which was a good thing because we spent most of our time motoring through calm seas and anchored in placid bays. The weather there was also very un-fall-like for Superior in September.

Whenever preparing for a trip on the waters of Superior, you have to pack for all occasions including weather that you would normally find in the depth of winter. Hence I had heavy oil-impregnated wool sweaters, turtlenecks, fleece pants to go under my goretex ski bibs, etc. What I wore was shorts and a T-shirt. The weather was in the eighties with only the occasional puff of a breeze. Things were very relaxed.

There were beers for lunch, wine and cheese for cocktail hour, and various concoctions after that. Our first night was spent tied to the dock at La Point on Madeline Island where we proceeded to tour all of the various sailors haunts which led to events that will necessitate a brief hiatus before I visit again.

From there, we abandoned land for the serene safety of the waves (well, not really waves, but more like glassy ripples) as we went in search of adventure. We took a tour of the Raspberry Island light house that was led by a garrulous old ranger who was in love with his life and happy to share the lighthouse lore with anyone who had the time to hear it. He and I wound up swapping tales because even though I am not a real light house keeper, I played one in a movie one time which gave me some hind sight into the lives of the keepers.

Our last stop was Presque Isle Bay on the south side of Stockton Island. We were one of about twenty-five sailing vessels at anchor there on that night. It was a beautiful anchorage stretching out along an arching white sand beach that supported about twenty campsites along the shore. We took the dinghy in to shore for a swim in the 70 degree water, washing off the day's accumulation of sweat.

I turned in early that night as the candle burning of the previous two had taken their toll on me. I awoke to a chill, gray dawn and an old fashioned blanket of fog. Because I prefer shore facilities to the limited options on board, I broke the silence with the outboard on the dinghy as I motored over to the dock a good half mile away.

As we ate our breakfast, boats ghosted out of the bay, one by one in the cotton wool fog. When our turn came, we fired up the diesel and joined the flotilla heading back to Bayfield and the harbor. By the time we reached our marina, the fog had lifted, a breeze appeared (too late for us), and we needed another shower.

It was a wonderful time and I was glad to get back in a boat on the lake. I grew up sailing out of Bayfield and Duluth. I can still see our old sloop if I go down to the marina on Park Point. I hope I don't have to wait as long until the next time.


Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Demon Dawg

This is one terrified poodle coming down a slide for the first time ever. This event occurred on the way back from Sheboygan, Wisconsin where we were for three days preceding Labor Day. This same poodle (Saffron by name, and no, I did not pick the name) hates traveling in cars, turning into a quivering, vibrating, uber-panter regardless if she is being held, in her travel crate, or bouncing around in the car. Therefore, stops are needed to allow her to stop oscillating at a frequency that will eventually create a small wormhole and she will disappear into the void.

We found a small municipal park in one small town we passed through that had these slides and Saffron followed Risa up the steps and by doing so, doomed herself to this traumatic form of returning to the ground. Though the dawg did not see the humor in it, the experience had us two humans laughing hysterically. Long hours on the road will do that to you.

The drive between Duluth and Sheboygan is seven hours long on a good day, traveling the main roads and not dilly-dallying along. On the way down, Risa demanded that we get there as fast as possible to hook up with one of her girlfriends and in return, she said that I could pick the route on the way home. We subsequently meandered a bit on the way home, traveling down some very picturesque two-lanes, winding our way through some of the most beautiful forests of northern Wisconsin. The only problem was that I turned a seven hour drive into a ten hour drive that had everyone a little cranky towards the end. Saffron proceeded to sleep for two days.

The reason for the Sheboygan trip was to say goodbye to Risa's mom and step-dad as they prepare to travel to India for the next ten months. They have a house under construction up in the Himalayan foothills not too far from where the Dali Lama hangs out when not traveling.

While there (in Sheboyg) we dined out a lot, hung out in smoky bowling alleys where an exotic beer might be Leiney's Red, sailed on a three-masted schooner, went to Elkhart Lake and the Road America race track where we saw gazillions of Porches in full race condition, and sat in a deep (I mean WAY deep) couch in a funky wine bar drinking Mangotini's. All in all, a good time.

Here you can see a picture of the schooner we were on as it heads out to "sea" under full sails. It is a relatively new boat, built in 2000 that calls Milwaukee its home port. She sails the great lakes in the clement seasons and winters down in the Carribean. The crew is mostly students, retirees, and water-logged hippies who conduct learning experiences for land lubbers and do research on the health of the Great Lakes.

Now we are back in Duluth and taking care of business (you know, laundry, bills, grocery shopping, etc.). In two days, I leave again to do more sailing. This time it will be on a 40 footer out of Bayfield, WI. We will be tooling around the Apostle Islands for a little bit of R&R before winter sets in with all of its fury. The leaves are definitely turning.

On the health front, I still have the nagging cough which is due to the chemo drug I am taking (I am pretty sure), but given the choice of horking up a lung oyster or two or seeing the lymphoma come back, it is an easy choice.

That's all for now boys and girls. Take care.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

School, The Fair, and School Again

Too much water under the bridge to cover all of it. The main things are the trip to Madison to get the girl back to school. This was the second time for us and the planning and packing went much better this go around. We borrowed a mini van from one of my brothers, packed it to the gills and headed out early. We reached Madison about noon and were unloaded and in the apartment in less than an hour. We said our good-byes and did the hug thing and I was back on the road and in the Twin Cities by 6:30 that night. Took a bit to get the road vibrations damped down, but a good sleep later I was feeling fine.

I stayed over night in my "other house," the one that has been on the market for over a year and a half. This is getting way too old. I don't get down there enough to keep all of the shrubs trimmed or the garden weeded. I did some of that before packing the now empty van up with the plants that were still in the house. Two of them were tall enough that they had to be bent to fit in the van. One I had to tie up after it tipped over and fell out of the pot. When I finally made it to Duluth, the big ones went out to the deck which was the wrong thing to do apparently. The big fern that has been with me for thirty years or so got too much sun and became burnt. The Norfolk pine likewise burned and the palm got too cold and is now dropping its discolored leaves. I brought them all inside as soon as I saw the damage, but I don't know if they will make it.

We went back down to the Cities last week to go to the state fair and hear Taj Mahal and Bonnie Raitt. On either side of that we weeded furiously to get the front garden spruced up. Having done that, I took the house off the market. Time to try something different.

A word about the Minnesota State Fair - actually three words - "on a stick." Ninety-five percent of the food sold at the fair comes on a stick and most of that is deep fried. Needless to say, the people watching is superb. Now, I am not a big fan of stick food, but it is interesting to see the pushing of the boundaries that occurs as vendors try to come up with the next "great" thing on a stick. We have the original corn-dog or pronto-pup on a stick that started the whole thing. I suppose cotton candy could also be included as one of the originals. But now there are pork chops on a stick (OAS), bacon OAS, deep-fried ice cream OAS, and the newest and highest calory food OAS - the deep-fried snickers bar OAS.

All of this plus the burgers, brats, foot long hot dogs, fries, deep-fried cheese curds, beers, popsicles (OAS), pizza, gyros, falafels, and on and on and on. There is the bottomless cup of milk in the dairy building right next to the cooler where Princess Kay of the Milky Way is sitting while a butter sculptor is carving her likeness in a huge block of (you guessed it) butter.

We saw the Big Pig (all 1300+ pounds of him), petted the little pigs (newborns), saw the horses in the horse barn from the little miniature ones about three feet high to the great big ones - Clydesdale's and Percheron's. We saw the big fish pond full of sturgeons, paddle-fish, trout, bass, crappies, pike, and others I didn't know. We watched people being shot 160 feet into the air in a giant slingshot where they must disinfect the seat between shots. We saw people hauling giant stuffed animals that were as big as themselves to god knows where. What do you do with something like that?

We went on some rides at the insistence of the female contingent of our party (Risa, her sister Sylvia, and HER sister Nicole) and they all picked rides that threw you around and around in ever increasing death spirals accompanied with involuntary screams that erupted from the deep down animal sides of our psyches. My neck still hurts from trying to keep my head from hurtling off and beaning some innocent bystander eating something OAS.

After that nonsense, we sat down for some more food and beer before Risa and I headed off for the concert. It was a beautiful night to be sitting in the grandstand listening to wonderful music. When it was all over, we strolled out of the grandstand while the fireworks exploded overhead. One last stop for some garlic fries and more beer before leaving the fairgrounds with what remained of the 114,000 good folk who shared our day at the fair. There was then the shuttle bus ride back to our car about midnight and home to bed.

Now it is back to work (for Risa), back to school (for Joe), and back to trying to figure out what to do with the unsold house in the Cities (for me). For now, I think I will try and rent it. I put an add up on CraigsList and we'll see if that gets any action.

So, that's about it for now. The days are getting shorter and the weather is getting cooler. Some of the trees have started to turn. This means it is time to start burying our nuts for the winter.

Ta ta.