Finley and I joined some friends to explore Rocks State Park in northeast Maryland over the long weekend. Mama had to stay home due to her toe, which made us sad, but this hike would have been impossible for her. The first trail we hit was almost straight up, and wound up the side of a mountain (or tall hill, really) until we found the King and Queen Seat, a promontory of rock facing a large valley. Finn and the other kids immediately started exploring, and made their way out to the edge of a 300-foot drop before we reined them back in.
Then we hopped back in the car to visit the other half of the park, which features a natural waterfall and wading pool. The kids were in heaven, and we explored the upper and lower section of the river while other people splashed and played.
On Friday, a nice man with a big truck dropped a 20 yard dumpster in our driveway. Ordinarily, this would be cause for celebration, but there was something better to look forward to that evening: an O’s game! Our friend Mr. Scout got us tickets and we met up with them in Section 66, on the third base line, about six rows off the field. The evening was damp and misty, so we hunkered down under plastic and blankets, but the game was good and the company was excellent. Finley had a great time watching the game and eating blue cotton candy, and I think she wants to go back. Plus, she got to meet the Bird!
Saturday morning, the family got to work filling the dumpster with all of the concrete, brush, yard waste, and random debris we’ve had laying around the house since last spring. With three people working we got it all moved in three hours–much quicker than the last pile. We now have our driveway back and it doesn’t look like a Superfund site anymore.
After that got done, we went downtown for some lunch, and then to Second Chance to find some brick and shutters.
Since the hedges all have come down, the front of the house looks more naked than ever and needs softening in the worst way. I started last weekend with some cardboard cutouts to see what would work best in terms of scale, held them in place while Jen looked from below, and we found a size we both agreed upon. My plan was to build something simple from scratch and fasten it to the siding permanently. Seeing me up on the roof, my neighbor brought one of the old shutters from his garage and offered them to us. We took five and used them for sizing, but it turned out they were 5″ too short and in pretty rough shape.
At Second Chance, we got super lucky and found two pair of matching white shutters at the proper size and width. They’re as close to the original louvered windows this house came with as possible, with dogging arms and hinges intact, and sturdy. After some work picking out a matching pair and scavenging a full set of hardware, we walked to the front and paid for our find–and got a discount of $35/each for being there at closing time.
The plan is to borrow our neighbor’s powerwasher and knock the flaking paint off, hit them with a belt sander, repair any cracks, and paint them black. Then I’ve got to either salvage the existing male hinge hangers from the rear of our house and pray they fit these shutters, or buy a new set of eight hinges to hang them correctly.
We were also lucky enough to find good brick to replace the exploded and cracked examples littering the end of the walk from a batch in exactly the right size and shape. When we got home Jen and I walked out front and replaced 20 of the worst ones, and the walk looks like new again.
Sunday was rainy, pretty much all day, so I spent a lot of the day getting stuff ready to toss when the weather lets up. I made all the paint in the basement inert with cat litter, put the shutter hardware into diesel fuel to clean, and organized the basement in preparation for more cleansing. I also posted the Doctor’s old wooden desk on Freecycle, but got no response–so it’s getting tossed.
We drove out to the Eastern Shore on Saturday to visit the Morrisses, and had brunch at a wonderful, quiet little spot outside of Easton. The weather was mostly lousy but the company was excellent as always, and the bloody marys were delicious.
Jen and I are sitting on the couch looking at our school email and reconfiguring our syllabus to account for 2″ of snow and another lost day of class. It’s not actually snowing right now, but they decided to close UMBC to be safe. I’ve got the day off for the holiday anyway.
We’ve had Jen’s old friend Chris in town for the weekend, which has been fun. Saturday we took him out for dinner at Victoria Gastro Pub, where we all ate until we were stuffed. Sunday was laid back, which was good because it was about 10˚ outside and nobody wanted to go anywhere. Originally we’d planned on hitting the Visionary Arts Museum but we didn’t get our act together until 4 in the afternoon.
My tentative plan for Thursday is to take a day off work and drive Finley up to Whitetail to spend the day learning how to snowboard. The weather is supposed to be sunny and mild, which will make for a happier Finley and thus a happier Idiot.
We walked over to the elementary school with the neighbors yesterday to do some sledding as the sun went down. What a great way to end the day.
Saturday I drove over to Brian’s house to join a bunch of guys helping him transplant a refreshed 345 into his Wagonmaster. The morning was gray, and I tried every rationalization I could to drive Peer Pressure over with my Hydroboost parts to see if I could have some of the experts help me install it. As I was loading up, rain started to fall and the radar showed a huge front moving in, so I switched to the Honda and begrudgingly drove over.
Almost everybody else had the same strategy I did, because there were only two other Internationals there out of twelve guys.
I stood around and soaked in as much of the knowledge as I could, offering help, a flashlight, or spare hand wherever I could. I’m not experienced enough by years to attempt a transplant myself, but seeing these guys do it so quickly is an inspiration.
By noon the engine was mated to the transmission and in the truck, and as I left at 3:30 the carb, AC, distributor, starter, and alternator were all installed.
Via a Facebook post later in the day, they got it running at about 6:30 that evening. Not bad!
As it turns out, it costs $50 to fix a Hamilton watch that’s stopped working. I’ve got to look at the warranty that came with it to see if I’m covered (I doubt I am) but because I’m the unfailingly honest person I am, I told them I’d dropped it on the floor in the letter I sent along with it. And, of course, they’re going to charge me $25 to ship it back.
Friday I took the Scout on a roadtrip up to a town outside of Frederick for a small company retreat. I couldn’t have picked a more beautiful day to do it. The morning weather was 65˚ and sunny, so I left the top up. One of the Crazy Ray’s locations is on 70 halfway to Frederick, so I planned for a visit as the doors opened at 8. Life being what it is, I arrived at 8:30 to a sleepy parking lot–just a few guys sipping coffee in their trucks. Inspecting the sign on the door, I found the times posted there are an hour later than those posted on the web, and, discouraged, had to leave empty-handed. The retreat itself was great; our host owns a beautiful spread on the side of a mountain, with three horses and a stand of woods visible from the back porch. We got a lot done and I was packed up by 4:30 for a brisk ride home with the top down.
Our weekend was one of ups and downs. I spent a good part of Saturday cleaning and reorganizing the den. In the evening we drive down to Ellicott City to take in a starlight showing of Frozen at the Wine Bin; the crowd there has grown since the last time we were there, and so we had to squeeze into some spots saved for us by friends, but the movie is still just as good the tenth time as the first.
Sunday the girls went to church while I kept cleaning (it’s hard to put a Dyson down once you’ve picked it up) and then we were invited to the local pool in the afternoon. After running out to pick up lumber, groceries, and lunch, we threw food together, packed our bags, and Finn and I hit the road, leaving Mama home for quiet time. We unpacked, the kids jumped in the water, and within 10 minutes they blew the whistle again: someone pooped in the pool. Dejectedly, we packed everything back up and regrouped at the neighbors’ house to cook dinner.
All was well until Finn said something rude to one of the other kids, and that stopped everything cold. I walked her outside and talked it out; after getting vague, noncommittal answers, I packed all of our things, thanked our hosts graciously, and hiked her out of there. I immediately got her bath started and Mama and I started talking things out with her. While they got her cleaned up, I returned to our host house to pick up some things I’d left behind, and apologized to them at length; to their credit, they spent just as much time putting me at ease as I did explaining and apologizing.
I’m not entirely sure what possessed Finn to say what she did; I think she was trying it out to see what would happen without really knowing how hurtful it could be, but it was said in a way that told me she knew it might be hurtful. We had a long talk with her, and hopefully the lesson got through to her. She’s going to say dumb stuff in the future, I know, but I want her to start thinking about what she says before she says it–something it took me years to figure out.
I moved the trashcan subwoofer into the living room over the weekend, and finally read up on how to hook it up correctly. I’d been using a single-wire RCA plug from the amplifier, which didn’t seem to send enough signal to the subwoofer unless I really cranked up the volume. In the living room, both sets of speaker wire come through the floor in the same location and then snake to the speakers, so I hooked them up to the plate on the back of the subwoofer and then ran leads from there to the speakers. So now the signal comes in through the subwoofer, which keeps the lows for itself, and sends the midrange and highs to the speakers. It makes a huge difference in that room!
As many long-time invitees are already aware, the Lockardugans decided 2015 was a skip year for the parade party. After 10 straight seasons, we needed a break, and so after making sure the lawn was mowed and the cat was boarded, we got the fuck out of town.
Friday was a holiday so we cut out across the bridge to Easton, where our good friends the Morrises were ready to receive us. After enjoying some drinks and a laid-back dinner on the deck, we all packed up and drove to the waterfront in Oxford, where the town was lined up along the beach to watch fireworks at dusk. It was a beautiful night, and apart from a light drizzle the show was fantastic.
Saturday we packed up and headed back to the same beach to sit by the water and watch the kids play. I’m happy to report Finn is now diving, swimming, and jumping underwater with no fear at all; this year, in fact, she asked me to pick up and throw her repeatedly and has now decided she wants to try a diving board. Okay!
Regretfully, we packed up and left at dinnertime, as lack of sleep and exhaustion from spending five solid hours in the water took its toll on the kids. She crashed out in the car at six and went straight to bed when we got home. We enjoyed the peace and quiet until the Catonsville fireworks show started up, which we’re now able to see almost clearly through the new gap in our treeline behind the greenhouse.
Sunday morning, to celebrate the CR-V hitting 100,000 miles somewhere between Oxford and Easton, we did what all God-fearing, patriotic Americans do on a national holiday: we cleaned out the grotty interiors of our cars. Finn earned some money by manning the vacuum while I scrubbed the sills and cleaned the plastics, and between the three of us we made short work of it.
Mama set up some coleslaw and then we stopped over to Bear’s house for a visit. He was in good spirits, alternately eating, sleeping, farting, and staying awake for brief periods of time to study the chandelier. After dinner, he and I retired in the living room to nap and watch the first half of the Women’s World Cup final. One of their cats jumped up to join us, and I had a great time juggling a baby, a cat, and my beer with only two hands.
Then, we packed up and got Finn back home and into bed at a reasonable hour. After getting everything ready for Monday morning, I hauled my gear up from the basement and got the batch of Irish Stout from last November bottled and racked in the basement. The last batch of Session is kicked, so I’ll clean the keg out this evening, and then transfer the new batch in to finish.