Sunday, August 28, 2011

And her name was Irene

As the sky became more threatening and the wind began blowing intervals of heavy rain we opened the windows to the house and were greeted with the rising and falling sounds of our strategically positioned wind chimes which would come alive in the gusts in a seemingly synchronistic storm front melody.
The storm’s gusts of wind would move the linen drapes in a way that would seem as if they were dancing to the chime’s melodic notes and we both agreed that the night would be memorable.  
There are but so many things one can do during times of natural phenomenon, you can sit and ponder the “what if’s” or you can embrace the experience.
We are no strangers to nature’s “nuisances” and as such we chose to celebrate Irene’s arrival.  

Feeling hearty and well prepared we opted for a grounded food experience to match the storm’s bravado.
As the weather worsened the unmistakable smell of freshly “made from scratch” potato bread began to waif through the house.   

I don’t pretend to understand the wizardry behind homemade bread, but Ash seems well versed in its culinary alchemy, and within a few short hours piping hot rolls drizzled in Agave nectar made a perfect partner with my Belgian ale.
Long before Irene began showing herself on our coast Ash devised the idea of a grilled hotdog being the perfect complement to an Atlantic Hurricane.
Hotdogs you say, and while I understand your inquisitive scowl, these little bits of Beef parts goodness were divine as are all Hebrew Nationals dogs.

Hotdog sliders; one with broccoli coleslaw, Dill pickles, & Boar’s Head Mustard, with a side of sour Kraut &the other dressed with stuffed jalapeƱo peppers slices and more kraut.
Phenomenal when paired with grilled sweet potato fries.      
The night was not without its peril and commotion
Anyone who grills in the country knows the danger inherent with attracting the maniacal European Hornet to any light source.
We grill at night under the constant specter of its arrival and the unmistakable buzz of its wings which instinctively makes the hair stand up on one’s neck.
This night was no different, and through the pounding rain and howling wind he arrived…

He seemed more irritated than usual, and his normal quick pass gave way to a frenzied “bounce off the roof” spasm that made me realize I would have to deal with this threat personally.
I sent Ash and the dogs into the safety of the house and picked up my can of hornet/wasp spray.
Fissssssttttt….Direct hit!
Fiissssstttt….Hit him again…
Oh, he’s mad now.
Run to the side of the deck exposed to the storm!
Onto my ass I went.
Wet deck boards are slippery as hell mind you.
“This is no ordinary hornet” I thought as I picked myself up from the soaking deck
Back into the house to get my fly swatter, and then out onto the covered deck I went.

Within seconds the Satan spawned hornet from hell was on me like a spider monkey.
The basatrd stung me in the cheek!
I ran flailing back into the house ripping my shirt off convinced that the yellow stripped death dealer had now flown down my collar!
No sympathy to be had as Ash was DYING laughing as she tried to explain just how high pitched my voice went as I screamed bloody murder back into the house.
The storm blew on as we enjoyed our good fortune of not losing power and I couldn’t help but wonder if the National Weather Service keeps statistics on Hurricane induced hornet attacks…

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Un-common Disaster

So what’s the deal Mother Nature?
Tornados whipping through April
An August earthquake not seen in 67 odd years
The dismal swamp on fire
Hurricane Irene churning up the coast encroaching on my beloved Cape Lookout National Seashore

Ramsey waiting for the Hurricane swell
Ma’ nature, while I’m big enough to know it’s not personal, I can’t help but ponder the reason that your dire eye has focused on the Commonwealth.
Let’s put La’ Nina and El’ Nino or any other Hispanic influences aside, or the idea that the poles are melting and global warming has given you an apocalyptic wedgie.  
Why so serious?
I want to give you a big ole’ bear hug just to let you know that some of us humans still love and respect you, but you have me running around fueling up for the grill, storing water, and gathering provisions.

Don’t get the wrong idea; the alcohol pays homage to your awesomeness, as humans have celebrated your majesty with spirits for millennia.
But on a serious note, while I realize that you don’t harbor feelings either way for the human populace, let’s not make a habit of you targeting the wifey.
She’s a good soul…maybe the best, at least for me, and while I understand that you will be around long after I’m gone don’t make me come looking for you.
I don’t know anyone in the circles you run in, I’m not cosmic like that, and while I can’t move tectonic plates I’m a pretty motivated individual who will show you courtesy, but I certainly won’t  forget.
The girl is off limits…
I’m glad we had this talk
So now go do your thing, bring your winds and rain, show your fury and your might and be on your merry way!!!
Be safe to everyone in the strike zone.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Point of View

I present for your viewing pleasure my first attempt at making a video

More to come as I’m planning on upping my saddle time and reducing my “talking about riding” time with the new schedule…


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Painted Windows

Do you have your own window in your office, cubicle, classroom, cell block?

That little sliver of glass that separates you from the natural world yet teases your sense of sight with a glimpse of a passing breeze, an approaching storm, or just the warm sunshine.

I spent the first seven years of my career outdoors in the elements at work, and I loved it, the more weather the better.

Then my career went in a “different” direction, more time indoors, things happen…and 3 more years slipped by until the next transfer came along…   

And because everyone has to pay their dues the last 4 years were spent in a position that had left me as conflicted about my career as I have ever been.

4 years of being way to close to politics

4 years devoid of “fair”. 

4 years without a window…

But within the blink of an eye another opportunity becomes available, I pack my things, and I’m off to write the next chapter…

Is it any wonder that “transfer” finds itself in “transformation”?

The new position will come with its share of trials and challenges, but I’m stoked as I pause to gaze out of my new window…

Friday, August 5, 2011

Under The Black Flag; Part I

Ash and I just got back from our fourth trip to Portsmouth Island NC, and I think it makes sense to first provide a bit of information about the island.

For the uninitiated Portsmouth is an uninhabited island south of Ocracoke in the Cape Lookout National Seashore.

The National Parks Service manages the Island.

Morris Marina” a private family owned ferry business out of Atlantic NC transports visitors to the island and deposits them at the village of rustic cabin rentals run by the NPS near mile marker 16.

The "Donza Lee" on her way
The village has a public bath house, fish cleaning station with potable water, and the park service sells ice and unleaded gasoline at $5 plus a gallon should you need to fill up.

That is the sum total of services on the Island. (Morris Marina will ferry just about any requested item over to you by simply calling their office.)

There are a few interesting dynamics of note on Portsmouth.

You have the fishermen, who travel up & down the beach in incredible fishing rigs searching for red drum.

Once they figure out that you’re not a poacher or a jerk they have invaluable advice about fishing gear, tackle, bait, and hot spots on the island.

Very much like the family who runs Morris Marina, these folks are the soul of Portsmouth Island. (Realize that there is so much more history to this that can’t be covered here)

Then you have the National Park Service employees.

Biologist, Bio-techs, Rangers…folks like that. (Understand the difference between a government agency and the people who work for it)

The Biologist and techs are there to research coastal birds and sea turtles that do their thing on the island.

An osprey eyes the ferry as we pass
Because nature has to do its thing the NPS will either restrict or close certain sections of beach to foot and vehicle traffic to protect the wildlife.

The Rangers enforce all of the laws on the island like checking fishing permits, and catch regulations, as well as monitoring that no one violates beach closer areas.

Go through a restricted area and expect to get a $150.00 fine.

I have yet to have a single issue with anyone from the NPS, and for our part they have been friendly, informative, and professional.

There are however rumors both past and present of over zealous Rangers, and I can say that at least 2 groups of people who accompanied us on our ferry ride back went home with lighter wallets due to various infractions on the island.
Part II follows...

Under The Black Flag; Part II

1. The state or quality of being positive; definiteness; assurance.

Nobody likes that negative person, you know the one, no matter what the situation, even in times of great enjoyment, finds fault, takes issue, or just looks like a sour puss.

I try to avoid this at all cost; my posts are intentionally crafted to be positive, even when there are negative aspects involved.

That being said, the extraordinary view of  a sunrise as it bathes the camp site in the early morning hours, or the sunset that bids the island a fond farewell in the evening light, comes at a price.

Our Portsmouth trips have cost us both material goods, and ego.

Anyone who has spent time outdoors knows that you have to pay the piper when he claims his due for the tune.

So on this trip Portsmouth brought us calm…
Beautiful weather, fair weather, with a fair weather breeze that whispered down the beach just enough to make the pirate flag flutter. 

All was well, as we enjoyed grilled shrimp, hamburgers and dogs, and each other’s company.

I put a lot of hours in surf fishing as I continue to learn the finer points of the trade, and the fishing was steady.

Call it complacency, or unpreparedness, but I decided for whatever reason not to fill the 4-Runner with gas as we waited for the ferry… (Paradise has a way of dulling logical thoughts I suppose).

This bit of oversight left us with around a half tank of gas for the island.

That’s plenty for normal circumstances.

But then this trip would prove to be “abnormal”.

We had made our way back from the ranger station to replenish ice that had long since melted in the July heat and were feeling refreshed from a quick shower as we set out to cook breakfast.

But something was different; the green heads were still around, but their nuisance had grown familiar to us and we had taken steps to mitigate their impact, in other words, no biggie on the green headed biting bastards.

Around the same time that we realized that the wind had changed to an off-shore direction which inspired thoughts of hollow waves we noticed a few black flies in our camp, then we noticed more..and more…and that they were biting us and the dogs.

Within 15 minutes our black Pit-Bull Whiskey had sustained hundreds of bites and the fact that she had over 6o black flies clumped on just one of her legs was testament to the fact that things were getting worse.

We rushed the dogs into the 4-Runner, cranked the AC and Ash administered Benadryl to Whiskey as her face grew contorted and swollen from the effects of the bites.

We were legitimately frightened that she was in serious trouble as we struggled to move the entire camp site away from the dunes and closer to the ocean and its forgiving breeze.

Fortunately Whiskey’s condition improved but not before she would vomit on the side of my head as we laid silent in the still midnight air of the new tent.

The next day was spent with Ash hydrating the dogs from the confines of the tent’s interior which we had moved under the shade of our pre-fab tarp.

It was grueling to say the least, as our planned relaxation gave way to taking care of the dogs, (and each other), as the oppressive heat of the day crept on.

But the stars in the sky care not for the concerns of flies, and as we sat underneath their twinkled blanket, things didn’t seem so bad.

The privilege of seeing a “shooting star” as it streaks across a starry sky never loses its luster.

As my concerns grew about having enough fuel in the 4-runner to stow the dogs for an extended period of time we our way back to the ranger station again to pay a premium price for not thinking ahead.

The dogs recovered nicely and on our last full day on the island we moved our awning to the water’s edge where we had a blast plucking blues from the surf as the entire ocean came alive in a concert of gulls, pelicans, and bait fish as they played their parts in a never ending aquatic storyline.

Groggy but feeling better
While the trip failed to provide us with the relaxation we had hoped for, and instead became a test of our resolve, we never lost focus of being together and appreciating the time that we have.

And as we plodded through the channel back to the marina we conspired with the ferry’s first mate on when we would return…