Illusive Quiet

Back in Connecticut I have often commented, with a degree of irrigation, that I cannot escape the sound of a motor. I venture out onto the deck and, it seems, I always here the sound of some type of engine. Lawn mowers, leaf blowers, snow blowers, chain saws, wood chippers, stump grinders. Every manner of mechanical apparatus is polluting the quiet. When I take a hike in the woods and stop at a ledge overlooking a pastoral valley, I would hear trucks, chainsaws or airplanes overhead. Irritating.

Yesterday morning I took dog for her morning walk. (A fellow once suggested that I referred to Sheba as “dog” or “animal” because I did not feel she was worthy of a definite article. I hardly use “animal” any more because some people that do not know me, get upset). We are currently in South Carolina. Well, when we went out the front door I was taken by the silence. I could only hear water cascading in the brook behind the house and a lone tree frog. I thought, what a delight. Then came the hum of a transformer, an air conditioner started and a car drove by. End of the magic, or was it?

The tinnitus that I experience reminds me that my hearing is not what it used to be. I should be grateful for every sound I hear. Even though the subtitles in the high range escape me these days. So, bring on the wood chippers and snow blowers as well as Mozart and Thiloneous Monk and don’t forget Johnny Cash. I am grateful for all sounds. After all, an eternity of silence is all too soon approaching.

Note: It is important to guard one’s precious hearing. Always wear ear protection in an area over 90 dB (you will know 90 dB because it is unmistakably loud, ear protection is in order before that point). Wear protection when mowing the lawn.

Big Changes and Little Changes

Spending time in our new place in South Carolina is a big change from our home in New England. With that big change comes a lot of little changes and challenges. Where is the best grocery store (there is no Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s), hardware store and fish monger? At first we are like tourists, going to the rustic and colorful local establishments. Today we went to the local farmers market and got she crab soup, it was delicious but probably not a wise purchase for someone trying to be diet conscious. It isn’t long before the prices will make me feel foolish and I start looking for alternatives. One particular guy thing that I am having to face is, “Where do I get the oil changed on the car?” This is particularly troublesome for me because I am a bit of a gear head.

Back in Connecticut the oil change issue has evolved into a social happening. I take my car over to Bob’s. Bob has a pit in his garage. I buy a five gallon jug of Mobile 1 and a Fram filter at Walmart (about $26.00 for the oil and less than $10.00 for the filter). Drive to Bob’s and can change the oil in about fifteen minutes. Bob even recycles the oil, he has a buddy that uses it to heat his garage. But, in reality the oil change process takes over an hour. We talk at length about cars, projects we are doing around the house and politics. When I am under the car I check for any other damage or issue with the car that cannot be seen from above.

I tend to be fussy about my car. Perhaps this one in particular because it is new. I do not trust, at all, the dealer in Connecticut because they have a bad service reputation.

That reminds of a story told to me by Bob about his son-in-law. The lad brought his new car to the dealership for service religiously. He would not let Bob change the oil on his new car, his pride and joy. Finally, years later he deigned to let Bob do the honors. Great effort was required to get the filter off. When it finally came off, the oil was so thick that it nearly did not drain from the filter. Seems that although paying top dollar for service, the service was seldom if ever performed. The last time I owned a new car, I also took it to the dealership for service the first couple of years I owned it. Finally I stopped. When it eventually came time to change the cabin air filter I had a revelation. To change the filter, required the removal of the glove box and the removal of a brace that had been used to support the dashboard during assembly. The brace was still in place. Without the removal of the brace it is not possible to get access to the filter. Although I had paid the dealership in the past for a new cabin air filter, it had never been replaced.

So, what to do about changing the oil in Bluffton?

  • I can’t take it out in the desert and open the drain plug. No, I didn’t ever do this but it has been known to happen back in the day. Besides, no desert here.
  • Bob’s garage pit is 900 miles away.
  • I would be embarrassed to let the local dealership rip me off. I would have to wear a disguise after my comments above.
  • I could ask a local guy. A local guy would know.

I asked Pete. Pete is working on the place next door. As it turns out, Pete changes his own oil and doesn’t trust any of the local dealerships. Pete called over the carpenter supervisor. After some in depth discussion we settled on a local place. By the way, the carpenter supervisor also changes his own oil and doesn’t trust the dealerships. It made me feel good to be in the company of other gear heads and comforting to know that any readers of this missive will understand that I am not alone with my peculiar ideas regarding oil changes. It should be noted that I was also cautioned to go over the process with the mechanic and mark my oil filter so I could make sure that the filter was changed.

So I phoned the shop and made an appointment for next week, the earliest I could get in. It was good to hear that they are so busy that I had to wait a week.

There is another extreme to the oil change dilemma. When I lived in Pittsburgh I worked with a senior engineer, Regis. Regis had the notion that one added oil but should not change it. He would keep the oil at the proper level but left it in place for as long as he owned the car. His idea was that the built up sludge would prevent oil leaks. I don’t believe I would buy a car from Regis.

Joining the Great Migration

There has been quite an hiatus between my last blog and this one. Having rewritten the first paragraphs of this one a number of times; I have come to the conclusion that I am going through a life transition that is giving me pause. I think that I am now ready to write again.

So, we are starting the process of pulling up our stakes and joining the latest great American migration, blue to red. It is with truly conflicting emotions that I start this process. Connecticut is a magnificent place to live. The landscape is magnificent, the seasons delightful and our circle of friends are interesting, intelligent and close. Family as well. Connecticut has been a wonderful place to have raised our children, great schools, diverse activities and close community. Now our children have  fledged, they  are independent adults living their independent lives. We are now left with a house that is too large, a burden to maintain and has become so severely taxed that it encumbers our lifestyle. We can choose to acquiesce to the confiscatory taxes or pack up our Conestoga wagon and move on. Like so many of our forefathers,in the past, we are taking steps to move.

The move seems to me to be, not an end, but more akin to a continuation of our forefathers migrations; seeking a better life in a new place. I hope that we will not find that the grass is greener on the other side of the mountain because, in the words of a book I am currently reading, it is full of s..t.

After several trips south looking at numerous locations, we decided to take the plunge. So, here we are in Bluffton, South Carolina. A lovely community. There seems to be an endless list of positive things to say about the place:

  • Little snow to shovel
  • Great food
  • Where we live has
    • An amazing pool
    • Top tier golf course
    • Exercise gym with an indoor pool
    • Several good restaurants
    • A friendly community of people
  • The taxes are low
  • The beach close

Is it all wonderful? No:

  • The weather is hot and humid
  • No skiing
  • The stores are not familiar
  • We are not yet oriented as to the best way to get places
  • Our friends are not close at hand

It’s OK to not be familiar with the local merchants when you are on vacation but, it can be unsettling when you realize that this is your town of residence.

It is most unsettling to not have close friends and neighbors that you can call on. Yes, many friends have fled Connecticut and friendships will develop in Bluffton with time. But, in the meantime, I cannot go over to Bob’s and use the pit in his garage to change the oil in my car.

And many other little things come to mind.

  • I don’t know which drawer has the pots
  • What do I have to do to maintain and operate a water softener?
  • What do I do if an alligator chases Sheba?

It will, I believe, take Sheba some time to get familiar with the new smells.

But the worst thing, here we are using a Keurig instead of drip with freshly ground coffee. Not so easily corrected when the coffee roaster is still in Connecticut.

Bluffton Redoubt

I certainly managed to drop the ball relative to this blog. After Winter Park we traveled to St Augustine, St Simons Island, Bluffton, SC then Columbia MD. Although I didn’t mention it earlier, the purpose of the trip, in addition to seeing friends, was to explore places as a retirement location.

When we got to Bluffton, Tina and I both rekindled our liking of the place. Bluffton feels comfortable, and a really nice place to be. We looked at a number of living options. Then I amazed Tina by saying “well, let’s do it”. Up to that moment Tina (and I as well) thought that this trip would end with no decision as to a change. We bid on a cottage like the one we were staying at. We didn’t get it. Then the agent we were using told us about a larger “Carriage House” that was about to come on the market. We were traveling again on our way to Maryland, the agent was flying to Texas but we negotiated an offer that was accepted all parties remote. We have not seen the place but we are buying it. This place is better for our circumstance: three bedrooms and a garage. The cottage did not have a garage and was a two bedroom unit. I would attach photos if I had any.

I will post more about this adventure.

Ok

A Day of Memories

What a day! Due to scheduling of everyone concerned, all our visits here in Winter Park happened on the same day. Yesterday. Although this did not diminish in any way the delight we had in seeing friends from the past, it did make for a busy day.

In the morning we met up with Phil. I had worked with Phil in a company that repaired large gas and steam turbines. I managed the northeast and he the southeast. Phil met us at our hotel in the morning for coffee. Had to cut a bit short due to his having a business meeting that involved a three hour drive from Winter Park. Phil is now in charge of commercial operations of a company purchased by his company. I always felt that Phil was destined to do great things in his career.

Next, we met my former commanding officer from the Air Force, Gene. It had been some fifty years since I had seen him. What a wonderful time we had with Gene and his wife Loni. They have made a great life together. Gene taught engineering for many years after he left the Air Force. They raised very accomplished children and now have a very active life in Florida. I got so very involved with the conversation we were having that I neglected to take a photo. I found out that Gene was instrumental in the design of Launch Pad 39 at Cape Kennedy.

That afternoon Tina and I got together with an old client of mine, Subhash, and his wife Madhu. They lived near us in Connecticut before they moved to Florida to be near their son and grandchildren. After cocktails at their lovely home, we went to dinner at a Turkish restaurant in Winter Park. Again, a lovely evening. This time I managed a photo:

Exhausted, Tina and I went back to our hotel and crashed. This has been, indeed, a remarkable and wonderful day, words cannot express the delight I experienced this remarkable day.

New Adventure

Tina and I are on our way to Winter Park, FL. Will be visiting some friends there then drive to St Augustine, St. Simons, Bluffton, then to Columbia, MD for a wedding shower.

This time we are taking the train to Florida. Hopefully this will be a fun experience. Our thinking is that this means will be less Covid-19 intensive. We can get a roomette from Washington DC to Winter Park. I was getting fenster about getting to the train. CT rail will not get us to New Haven in time to meet the Acela. Parking is truly pricy and Uber is scarce since drivers can make more by not driving. So we Limoed, it was fun and the driver was a really great guy.

The Acela really kicks it going through New Jersey. We will be in DC about 1:00 pm. Not much to look at though, just people’s back yards and junk yards. We do have to wear our masks for this part of the trip.

We made it to Washington DC. We boarded in New Haven at 8:45 and arrived DC at ¹:10. Waiting for the overnight train to board. I remember Union Station as a pretty grand place. It no longer is. The culprit may be Covid-19.

On the way to Winter Park. The roomette is surprisingly nice. We had dinner in our compartment. Food was OK, not anything worse than airline food. And, you have someone to bring it to you. The attendant just set up the compartment for sleeping. Kind of like the trip to Hanoi. Small bed, a lot of vibration. But, Wifi works. Well, it works sometimes.

Did the March

Anything that I post after announcing Emma’s engagement will certainly pale in comparison. But, other things do happen. One of those other things is that I did manage to complete the Bataan Memorial Death March.

Previously Jim accompanied me on a training hike. My friend Ed did as well on another day. The day I elected to do the march Jim was ill and Ed was working. Tina was able to join me for the last 9 miles of the march. I amazed myself by completing it, all 26.2 miles.

Not great stats but I wasn’t skunked

Last night I received a call from the fellow who organized our alumni team. They will start organizing the next march in about six weeks. This time it will not be virtual but at the White Sands Missile Range. I am giving consideration to, God willing, do this again. A couple caveats: first I will need to persuade Tina to join me as a part of the support team and, second I will not do the 26.2 miles, 14.2 is plenty.

Announcement

It is with great joy that I announce here, wide and far, throughout the world and across the blogosphere, that my daughter, Emma, is engaged to be married. Emma’s fiancé, James, asked her the question while they were in Nimh Binh, Vietnam, one of the most beautiful places on earth.  Check out this beautiful ring that they designed themselves.

Engaged in Nimh Binh, Vietnam

Yesterday I heard someone say that once a person becomes a parent they think of their children every two seconds for the rest of their lives. I can attest to this truth because I think of Emma and Jim (my son), it seems, all the time. And,  although we raise them to be independent, educated, self sufficient adults, I am habitually concerned for their welfare as if they were still young children. That concern, I am sure, will never change.

Now, Emma will be a married woman with, eventually, a family of her own, God willing. However, Emma is still and will always be my little girl. So, while I share in her happiness, I still have a protective instinct in the back of my mind. 

This event has been on fiancé James’ mind for a while.  When visiting us in Connecticut the summer before last, James and I went on a long hike along the Metacomet trail. He asked me at that time if I would consider the possibility of he being my son-in-law. James is a classy guy. We discussed the things that I thought a father should discuss with his daughters suitor. James is British. He hails from a town near Devon. He teaches at an international school in Hanoi, writes extensively and plays semi pro football (Soccer to us Yanks). James is an intelligent, hard working , thoughtful and kind. I sincerely believe he is a good match for Emma. They care for each other very much. Needless to say, I am pleased with Emma’s choice.

Looking into the future for this couple, as much as we would like to have them near us, this may not come to pass. The world is the canvas on which they will paint the picture of their life. Somehow I believe that great adventures await them. If, on the other hand, they decide to live their life in a small hamlet and never go beyond it’s boundary, they, I am sure, will have a wonderful life together no matter what.

Test Drive 2

Yesterday I hiked a measured fifteen miles on the Metacomet Trail. It is a section that I had not previously walked and plan to include it in the Bataan Memorial March. There was one point that had me concerned, The Pinnacles. It was not nearly as bad as Rattlesnake Mountain. So, I think I have settled on the route. Keep the Metacomet Trail. Start at the Mass boarder and walk the Metacomet home. That will be a little over the 26.2 mile goal. Another positive about this hike is that my friend Ed joined me.

Again I found some great views. This is the view from The Pinnacles:

On the negative side, I did find a tick this morning. So far it does not have the”Bull’s Eye” that indicates Lyme disease. Unfortunately this is something that is of concern in New England. The disease is named after Lyme, Connecticut.

I want to end on a positive note. It looks like Jim will join me on the march as an unofficial participant. It will be great to have some company on the endeavor. Also, my friend Ed may also join. But Ed travels from his work base in DC and has a demanding job.

Test Drive

Today I hiked a portion of the Metacomet Trail that was new to me. A section that I was considering for the Bataan March. When Tina dropped me off she questioned if I was going to climb a high cliff that was in front of us. Yes, and it turned out that that cliff was not nearly the worst.

It was great to be on the trail. The road noise slowly diminished in the distance. I wondered if this hardwood forest looked anything like the times of ” The Last of the Mohicans”. Maybe I could be Natty Bumppo walking an Indian tray. The views along the way we’re fabulous.

Later I came across a couple of fellows that were getting ready to rappel off one of the high cliffs. The one that was apparently the learner looked scared. I am going to stick to walking.

This is not an easy part of the Metacomet. There were several steep rocky parts. It made for slow progress.

As I was walking on the east side of a valley I noted a very high and steep hill on the other side. I remarked that I was glad that I did not have to climb that one. No such luck. It is called “Rattlesnake Mountain”. The trail goes right over the top.

Are you kidding, the trail goes through there? Yes it does.

We are in the very first hints of spring. And, that was evident in the hike. I saw a number of butterflies, one box turtle and some of the marshes were full of whistling frogs. Don’t know what kind of grog but there were so many that it sounded like a chorus. Did not see a bear but, there was a siting in the neighborhood when I got home.

Made it home. But, I am going to rethink including this portion in my march. After all, I am 73