Busy in Georgia

A close friend of mine, since the 7th grade, sent me an email. She’d noticed I’d not been posting much on Facebook or this website. She was a little concerned and wanted to know if I was okay. I really appreciated her inquiry and let her know all is fine, that I’ve been busy. We’re up in northeast Georgia visiting my 88-year-old father-in-law, Ray. With Ray, you can be assured you will be busy.

By busy, I don’t mean taking care of Ray. I mean keeping up with Ray. Every day starts before sunrise. Then, he’s working, for example loading 50-pound bags of feed onto one of his trucks. Naturally, I’ve got to pitch in or he’ll make me look bad. Once, I wasn’t paying attention, I’d been shooting, and discovered he’d loaded 500 pounds of corn into the bed of a truck whileI was gone. Granted the bags only weight 50 pounds each but part of the effort meant hauling each one about 15 yards from where they were stacked before throwing them into the truck.

That corn was then driven to his hunting property where we loaded it on ATVs and distributed it over selected areas located throughout his 800 acres. The ATV trails are a bit rough and there was a good bit of bouncing around involved during the delivery.

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Lots of these big fellas on the property

There was, also, tractors to be dealt with, trailers to be attached (big trailers) and detached, fields to be walked and discussed, trail cameras to be checked and reloaded, and more bags of feed to be purchased, loaded and distributed. Ray had handled the second feed purchase, 450 pounds by himself. I’d have helped, but I still needed to work archery practice and was unaware he’d left to get the feed.  Running means out at the ‘puke of dawn’ for River and I.

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Caught on a trail camera

Going through the woods to distribute the feed, Ray ride a John Deere 650cc Trail Buck. I was driving Polaris Crew because I was carrying the feed. Once we’d finished we headed back down trails to where we’d parked the truck. Ray drove off first. This was a decent trail with only a few pits, bumps, logs, and mud holes to transverse. Ray had a few seconds head start. When I say seconds, I mean seconds. I could see him twenty yards ahead. I want to say about twenty yards away so the debris that blows back from his ATV doesn’t end up on me.

There was one left hand turn. When I made that turn, Ray was gone. Not just way ahead, gone out of sight. I was, in spots, going 30 mph. The next time I saw Ray he was standing near his truck talking with Bruce and his son Jeff.

Bruce had shown up to do work on tractor accessories – plows, etc. He is also getting instruction on where to move tree stands, plow and clear land.  That turned into an hour of instruction.  What I remember most is that I was starving and ready for lunch. Ray seemed impervious to fatigue or hunger.

Anyway, Cathy, my friend, all is well.

A little bit of snow

We get a little snow here in New Hope near Hertford, North Carolina during the winter. Not much, nothing like Pittsburgh or Cleveland where we’ve lived in the past. The winters here are springlike compared to Uppsala, Sweden where I’ve worked during the winter months. But, I’ve heard from friends back I my hometown, Savannah, GA the temperature is 67°F. That sounds nice. Despite the weather, unless it is really horrible – for instance a hurricane – we are always getting outdoors. I expect all the snow will be melted within a few hours.IMG_0806 IMG_0810 IMG_0811 IMG_0812 IMG_0813

Missing the Classic

For several months I’ve trained with a focus on the vertical 3-spot targeted at the Lancaster Classic. Once the event opened for registration, I signed up, nearly four months ago. After the hotels become available for booking, I secured my room. Everything was ready.

In the weeks prior to the tournament, I competed in the Carolina Classic, a warm-up for the Lancaster Classic. In that competition I shot below my average, but scored enough points to have me feeling pretty good regarding Lancaster. I was psyched and ready to roll. Then, life got in the way or to be more precise death.

For nearly three decades I had a friend that could have been the inspiration for those Bud Light commercials where the main beer drinking character is up for anything. Only in his case, my friend rarely drank beer. He did, on the other hand enjoy good Scotch. We, our wives included, had many adventures cycling, kayaking, and hiking. On two of the kayak adventures my friend hauled me out of tough binds that could have ended badly. He was a much better kayaker than me. Later, I would tell others about the white water mishaps while suggesting Larry was scheming to reduce his budget by lowering payroll – the unfortunate loss of an employee while kayaking. See, he and I worked together for a number of years.

When it came to running or swimming, Larry, my friend, was happy to watch. He and his wife Kathy frequently joined Brenda, my wife, on the sidelines of triathlons and marathons willing to cheer me on as I passed. Larry, an amateur photographer snapped dozens of race photos, which were always better than the event photographers’ pictures that sold online post-race. My favorite race photos are ones that he took.

When Brenda and I purchased our home in North Carolina we got one with plenty of room. Aside from our children and their families, we were thinking ahead toward the visits from Larry and Kathy and the escapades we’d enjoy.

Just before Larry retired, he was diagnosed with brain cancer, and an aggressive one to boot. Within a short time, Larry became another statistic. I was sad and a bit pissed off. Granted, it was selfish but his passing meant years of future quests with him wouldn’t happen. That angered me. Long before retiring we’d spoken about the living we’d do once we left the rat race. Those dreamed up adventures are still alive, but they have become solo campaigns. It is irrational but I’m still pissed about him dying. Sure, I can enjoy the memories, but it is unlikely I’ll find another person so willing to take audacious risks to live the dream.

Larry’s memorial service in Baltimore was scheduled for the 23rd of January, meaning I had to be in Baltimore on the 22nd as well. I tried to work out how to make the back and forth drive to Lancaster so that I could attend both. It was remotely possible, but really pushing travel time limits. I ended up selecting a more practical sense solution and bailed out of the Classic. (Yes, Lancaster returned the registration fee and the hotel was just as understanding.)

The archery tournament travel plan had been to arrive in Lancaster on Wednesday and leave on Sunday. There was a window where I could shoot and still make the memorial service – if everything ran perfectly. But, my focus wouldn’t be on archery. Overall, there was enough travel hassle to put this competition back into the future pile of events. In the meantime, a winter storm was on its way to Baltimore.

Larry loved the snow and cold. Once he took a 30-day kayaking trip into Alaska. If the temperature was below freezing with plenty of ice, snow and wind Larry had some plan that landed us outdoors. He introduced me to downhill skiing and cross-country skiing. To be honest, I don’t like either. Nevertheless, I’d be on the snow with him counting down to the time we’d head back indoors.

I tried to introduce him to water skiing and surfing. For perspective, Larry grew up in Utica, NY and I was raised on Tybee Island then Isle of Hope in Savannah, GA. There were plenty of middle ground activities we both enjoyed, but when it came to winter upstate NY snow fun versus Deep South summer heat activities we remained at opposing sides of the curve.

To be clear, I can deal with cold and snow. I’ve lived in Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Baltimore. I’ve worked in Sweden during dark winters and spent time, of course in the winter, in Alberta, Canada. It’s been a decade since we left Pittsburgh and Cleveland (we had homes in both cities) and I’ve nearly thawed. Larry, however, would always trump my winter tales of woe by regaling his experiences in Buffalo, Rochester and Utica. Yea, buddy, you win and you can have it.

Taking him to Savannah one August, well the ‘Flip-Flop’ was on the other foot. For a while I thought he’d actually melt. I’ve never seen a man sweat that much just sitting. I was morbidly enjoying his pain – payback.

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The snowstorm in the mid-Atlantic has resulted in the postponement of Larry’s memorial service. I’ve missed both Lancaster and Larry. Larry is probably laughing his butt off at me since once again I’ve been hammered by snow.

Santa Myth Proven To Be True

At some age many people cease believing in Santa Claus. Here we present evidence that Santa does exist.

On the night before Christmas we set out trail cameras. These were carefully hidden as we expect Santa knows a trail cam when he sees one.

On Christmas day, we retrieved the cameras in order to determine whether any Santa evidence had been captured. What was revealed is totally unexplainable beyond the fact that Santa was in our home.

Initally, we see Santa in the yard at our house. He appears to be directing someone or some reindeer high up on our roof.

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Santa’s first photo on the trail cam

 

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Santa – looks like he’s instructing reindeer that may be on the roof of our house

 

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Santa walking away

Later, he is seen inside a locked house. We’d taken care to lock all doors and windows meaning either Santa picked a lock or entered our home by another method. Exactly how he entered remains unclear. One obvious conveyance – down the chimney.

One of the photos was completely wiped by a solid white image. We do not know what happened at this point. However, the next image on the camera shows Santa in the house. We suspect something magical occurred at this point, which affected the electronics of the camera.

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This picture, from a camera in the house, is entirely white. We believe this happened when Santa entered our home

Inside the house we see Santa apparently setting up, as determined Christmas morning, a Polar Express Train set. It is also interesting to note, while there were dogs in the house no dog barked at the jolly (but busy) intruder.

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Next photo, after the solid white picture, shows Santa patting River with a train in his hand. Look closely and small glittering points of light sparkle on River’s coat. Click the photo and it’ll enlarge

In fact, one photo took what appears to be magical glitter on one of the dogs. The dogs all seemed to be happy to greet Santa.

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Santa surveying the house while “Pippin” (visiting dog) stands nearby. Pippin is a barker. He never made a sound.

We further see Santa with a plate of cookies and reindeer food in his hands. Both plates had been left out in the event Santa arrived.

Santa with a plate of cookies and reindeer treats

Aside from these photos there was more Santa evidence. On Christmas morning we found many toys under the tree that had not been there the night before. Also, and unexpectedly, there was a note, signed ‘Santa Claus’, thanking the children here for the cookies and reindeer treats.

After meticulous and careful review we have determined this to be clear and indisputable evidence that Santa Claus is real. Merry Christmas.

A River Otter Enjoying My Dock

There’s been a critter on out dock at night. On a regular basis some varmint climbs up the stairs that lead into the water, eats, poops and leaves. We’d guessed it was a river otter.

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This Otter seems to like our deck. He eats a lot of crabs here

Whenever we put the trail cam on the dock, there was never any evidence that anyone visited during the night. Until last night.

Also a great spot for a nap

Here’s a river otter enjoying our dock where it ate a crab, lounged, then left a calling card before sliding back into the water.

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Of course, after a meal and a nap, a little something left behind for me to clean up

Paddling Mill Creek

Aside from archery and triathlon, Brenda and I do a lot of kayaking and stand up paddle boarding. Recently we paddled a water trail in Perquimans County North Carolina – Mill Creek.

Brenda had found this trail online and we’d been wanting to give it a try. Its not long, only about 4 miles out and back. But, the trail ends in a Cypress Swamp and we thought that would be pretty cool.

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Paddling Mill Creek

We headed to the put in point after morning archery practice. The online information indicated that the place to begin is at Larry’s Drive in Hertford, NC. When we arrived we noticed that large cut trees had been placed to they blocked the ramp to enter the Perquimans River, where we’d planned to start.

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Larry’s Drive In

The information about where to put in the kayaks said to park at Larry’s Drive In and leave from there.  It looked like Larry or someone had intentionally blocked the access to the river.  We considered looking for another way to get into the water.  Our options weren’t good.

I decided, at Brenda’s insistence, to go inside Larry’s and ask about the blocked ramp. Larry’s somewhat reminded me of the biker club portrayed in the movie “Wild Hogs.”

Once inside, the place reminded me a bit more of a rough diner – it wasn’t.  The folks were nice and I was welcomed to use their landing to put our kayaks in the river. The food smelled really good. I didn’t place an order, we had a kayak trip to start.

The paddle wasn’t long, four miles round trip.  It was, however, very nice. The current was rather fast and paddling against it was work.  The creek became quite narrow and ended in a cypress swamp.  One of the more spectular paddles in this part of Perquimans County.

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Entering a Cypress Swamp

Paddling back we were going with the current and returned to the put in ten minutes faster than it took to reach the turn around point.  It was a trip worth the effort – as most seem to be.  Another nice day on the water.

Shooting in Brevard

Being on vacation doesn’t preclude archery from the fun things to do while on vacation. For this leg of the trip, the Brevard – western NC – stay, I brought several toys with which to play including my archery ‘toys’.  Even though I will not be able to compete in a tournament on this trip, I did get to shoot.

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Brevard is known for its waterfalls

With me I brought my bow and the five arrows I own that can be currently used for shooting. I also brought a block target that can only be shot using the smaller sides. The large sides barely slow down an arrow.

In Brevard the canopy of leaves that surround the property we’ve rented makes judging yardage a new game. Ambient light is minimal and there isn’t level ground to be found. On the east coast of the state, my home,  I shoot on level ground in very bright light toward shadows, or at brightly illuminated targets, or from shadow to shadow. In the woods here it is just dark or darker and hilly.

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Miss a target in this jungle and forget about finding the arrow

Having only 5 arrows and a small target, considering the light and hills, I was very conservative while practicing. I used one arrow only, shot for the middle of the target, and limited my distance to 40 yards.

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At 35 yards, this is a tough shot at a small target. Miss and goodbye arrow. (The target is in the center of this picture)

The result was I didn’t lose or break the arrow. I got some decent practice in lighting to which I am unaccustomed and gave myself an hour* each day to get a feel for hilly terrain. One nice thing about a small target is that it’s easy to move around.(*I am on vacation, so I limited my practice time to an hour per day. )

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Here’s a closer look at the target and what’s behind it.

The other toys that will be used on this trip, bikes, kayaks, and running gear have yet to make it into the game.

Stinking up the range

When Brenda and I were first married she did my laundry. That lasted about 5 years when I offered to wash my own dirty clothes. The offer wasn’t because I am such a nice guy and wanted to do my part of the domestic chores; she kept losing my socks.   In the thirty years since, when I’ve washed and dried my clothes I’ve never lost a sock. However, there are other laundry matters where I have failed. One of my washing and drying short falls became apparent this past weekend shooting at the Lenoir County Archers ASA Qualifying 3D competition.

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Even though we got on the course early, it was already backed up

I have a simple policy regarding laundry. Essentially, if it fits in the washer the requirements for a load of clothes is complete. I do not raise any issue of prejudice based on color. Dark and light apparel are washed together. All receive the same treatment, cold water only, detergent nearest to reach, and never any bleach. For 30 years, this approach has served me with only an occasionally noticeable flaw. That flaw is I sometimes forget I’ve put clothes in the washer.

For example, on Thursday I may discover my clothes are in the washer. Then, I can’t remember for certain when I washed them. They get a sniff test and if the wad of nearly dry clothes doesn’t smell sour, they’re probably good for the dryer. Even a minor sour smell can be fluffed out by a dryer.

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We had some good shots, 2 twelves and 2 tens on this one.

In fact, the dryer has salvaged many loads of slightly off sniff clothes. When the drying is done the smell is most of the time barely noticeable. In the winter months any lingering foul aroma is not a serious problem. In the hot humid summer days of the South, perspiration is a catalyst for throwing off the dryer embedded stench. That was exactly my problem yesterday.

The t-shirt I’d worn for shoot was one that had sat in the washer for an amount of time that was hard to determine. However, it passed, just by a small margin, the sniff test and was dried along with all the other contents from the washer. After drying, all the clothes, t-shirt included, seemed okay, again by a slight margin.

The problem on the range became noticeable after only 3 targets. It was very hot and humid day. I was sweating like the pig that knows it’s dinner. At the third stake I began to notice the earlier olfactory mistake in judgment.

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There is a standing black bear at the end of this lane. We faced some long shots on this range. I guessed this at 47 yards for a 10.
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Finally on the road to home

Had I been alone I wouldn’t have been too concerned. But, people surrounded me. When saying hello and shaking hands I’d lean into the hand extension stretching my arm and keeping my shirt and reek as far back from the unsuspecting nose distal to the approaching hand. While waiting for a stake to clear I’d keep my distance from the other people in my group.

By the time we reached the mid-point of the range the fog around me was so thick I considered leaving for the sake of the others. Now, no one said a word. Heck, no one else may have noticed. To be fair someone in a nearby group, it was crowded on the range and there was little to no wind, had what appeared to be a nonstop gastrointestinal disruption that at times was audible. In that matter, it wasn’t my concern and my funk seemed the more offensive.

Despite the concern over my aromatic malfeasance I did find moments to enjoy the course – one of the most challenging I’d shot. Even though I’d previously qualified for the ASA State Championships wanted to try for a different division. I don’t know the results, yet, as soon as we shot the final target I turned in my scorecard and high tailed it home for another shower and change of clothes.

Back in Western Pennsylvania

We’re back in Pennsylvania for a week. We lived here, in Murrysville just east of Pittsburgh, for nearly five years. Our youngest daughter, Candace attended Chatham College in Pittsburgh where she earned her graduate and undergraduate degrees. While here she met her future husband and together they’ve given us three grandchildren, the most recent arrival bringing us back to the Keystone State.

On this trip we rented a house in West Middletown. The property is over 150 years old and where it lacks modern comforts it has a lot of basic charm. Plus, it accepts dogs.

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Naturally I brought my archery and running gear. Once we arrived at the rental property I regretted not bringing a bicycle. The roads, aside from West Middletown’s “Main Street”, were wide open, held limited traffic and while great for running would have been perfect for cycling. By that, I mean I could have covered more ground on a bike and seen more of the landscapes.

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Getting outdoors in western Pennsylvania has always, in my experience, been great. The terrain is quite different from coastal North Carolina. The Allegheny Mountains make running (and cycling) a challenge but it’s altogether worth the effort. A bonus is that I’ve found a nice place to practice archery and will be headed there soon.

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