Friday, September 27, 2019

Happy Fall & all that stuff

Whew!  This month has been crazy!  And my blogs are both feeling the affects of it.  I barely did "Happy Fall" posts on Instagram & FB this year.  There's no way in hell I'm going to be ready for the Countdown to Halloween linkup over on my other blog that starts on Tuesday.  Ugh.  I'm stressing thinking about that and trying to get stuff ready to start setting up my cemetery, feeling guilty about not blogging, getting Secret Reaper gifts together, etc. etc. etc.  

So let's pick up where I left off on my past post.  We got home from vacation on a Sunday, making Monday Labor Day.   I volunteered to be in the Romeo Peach Parade with my VFW and they asked me to carry the post flag.  
I was mildly concerned about my knee, but I was OK walking.
At least I somewhat matched the guys from the honor guard this year!  
And in the picture you can't tell that I'm wearing my SAR BDU pants & boots - lol!
Around here, school starts Tuesday after Labor Day, I took this Thursday morning.
Really?  It's not like they had all summer to do maintenance on the buses or anything.
I had one of the cheesecake stuffed pumpkin spice donuts from Krispy Kreme.  
OMG.  Swoon!

Friday 9/6 I had off work because I had my FUNSAR, or Fundamentals of Search & Rescue, course.  
Rusty wanted to go.
It started at 2 PM and ran until about 5:30 Sunday afternoon. 
It was a mix of classroom & in-the-field learning. 
There were 9 of us in the class - me & Laurie plus people from Alpena, Kent & Ottawa county search & rescues, and people from Indiana, Ohio & Wisconsin. 
 Army BDUs are *not* flattering pants!
 The people who put on the course. 

The following weekend, Sunday the 15th, Laurie & I got together with some people from our team who had gone thru this course last year and they went over a lot of the practical applications with  us.  It was super helpful.  They also loaned us the 'improvised' shelters that they had used, so we didn't have to figure anything out.  
Pre-test donut - from Daddy's Donuts here in Utica.  
AH-mazing!  It's maple & bacon - to die for!

So part 2, the testing weekend started Friday 9/20.  Friday afternoon was quickly covering some info that hadn't gotten to the first weekend and then some review.  We drew numbers to choose teams.  Lt said Laurie & I wouldn't be on the same team, but the numbers said otherwise!  We had dinner, which was a surprise since we were under the impression we would have to eat whatever we could carry, MREs of sorts.  Nope!  We ate in the chow hall. 
After chow, we set up our shelters.  Yup - we had to sleep outside Friday night.  This is basically a strategically folded tarp held up by hiking poles & closed with chip clips.  And the instructors were impressed with it!  Then I had a yoga mat & my sleeping bag.  
But first....we got into our teams and were sent on a search.   It lasted until about 2:30 in the morning, and ended up with us having to haul one of the instructors out of the woods in a litter.  They tried to add a bit of humor, like telling us (I was primary radio for our team) they had reports from the locals, Bubba, his other brother Bubba and their cousin Hubba Bubba, that they were out coon hunting and saw someone fitting the description of our guy running naked thru the woods.  Then when the other team homed in on the guy, he was under the influence of mushrooms that he'd found in the woods.  And he acted it up!  In retrospect he was pretty funny, but at the time I was just done.  My knees were killing me and wanted to it to be over with and I may or may not have put my foot on his helmet to help hold him still while other people tied him into to the stretcher.   I heard about that all weekend!
Their shirts are hilarious!  I had to buy one. 

 We only had to stay in our shelters until 6am, then we had until 8 to do whatever (pack up, move into the cabin & shower!) then we had breakfast.  We had a debriefing and some more review.  After lunch was the written portion of the test.  145 questions including some map stuff.  We were given over 2 hours to do it, and once we were done we had to leave the building.  I only took about an hour so I went back to the cabin and took a nap. 

We met back at the chapel ("command") and filled out evaluations on the course and it was perfect timing that this is when a storm decided to roll thru.  It was done by dinner time.   We were free for the rest of the night, so there was a bonfire down by the lake.  A couple beers and we were pretty much all back in the cabins by 10.   
 All my years of stomping around in the woods with dad, I never knew what poison ivy looked like!  It's safe to say I'm not allergic since I know I went thru a couple decent sized patches. 

 So Sunday we had the 'practicals'.  We were in the woods by 8am.  First we did land navigation.  We started out at a point - a 3 foot pole with a letter on it - and were given a paper with our azimuth (angle / degrees/ whatever). So from point B, I had to go find 223* on my compass & start walking and write down the next letter I find & how far I went in meters.  We had to find 7 points out in the woods.  I don't think they were worried too much about the distances we wrote down, it was more so we knew that we hadn't gone too far, no points were more than 200m apart.  I ended up meeting one of the guys for 3 of my 7 points, so we ended together and did the rest of the practicals together. 

Next was the area search.  We had 10 minutes to search the woods for playing cards, while maintaining our distance from each other & from the road.  They said we were supposed to go 100m, but I'm sure we didn't get that far.  But as long as we found 50% of the cards, we passed.  

Then we went to the route search.  They had 2 lanes marked and we had 15 minutes to search 100m and find 50% of the cards while maintaining a 335* heading.  The way we figured out 100m was by knowing about how many paces it takes us to go 10m.  My average is like 6.7 paces, so I'd stick my hiking pole in the ground in the middle of my lane, then do 7 paces, plant my other pole, then "purposely wander" on one side of the lane back to the first pole, grabbing it & wandering back on the other side to the second pole, lather rinse & repeat. We all have pace beads, which are basically plastic pony beads on a shoestring and for each 10m we go, we move a bead.

Our next stop was the beach for man tracking.  The instructors laid a trail of footprints on the sand and we had to measure the prints, indicate left or right, measure stride & determine the direction of travel (sometimes they walked backwards to throw us off!) 
This is where the bonfire was. 

Then we went back to command and had to tie a series of knots and make an improvised harness. 

If anyone failed a section, they were sent out to do it again.  Luckily, I passed it all on my first try!   I was done by 11:30.  Only to find out Laurie was still out on the land nav course!  She tends to overthink things and she had a brain fart as to how to use her compass.  So she has to retake that part of the test at the next session next June, then she'll be certified.   
 I wasn't as dirty as the guy who fell in the mud or the lady who veered off course into a swamp! 
 Bert & Smert
 So I'm just waiting on my official certification for passing SARTECH II.  
The whole purpose of getting this is to show that we, as a search & rescue team, know what we are doing, how an incident command works and how to not mess up a possible crime scene while not depending on modern technology if for some reason GPS doesn't work in that area. 
Lapeer, class of 2019 
Grasshoppers doing the nasty - I think. 

So it's been a pretty crazy few weeks.  

AND I found a 12 week course to get my amateur radio license upgraded.  12 weeks of study where I will actually learn something (unlike the one day class I took to initially get my license) and the 13th week is the test to upgrade.  So there go my Tuesday nights until early December.   Plus homework & practice tests they want us to start taking. 
This week at the VFW, me & another guy were given life memberships to the National Home for Children and Camp Trotter.   I'm not entirely sure what this means, so I'll have to look it up.    I know the National Home is where veterans and/or families of deceased vets can stay to help get back on their feet, but I'm not sure what a life membership means...  
If I would have known this was happening, I wouldn't have dressed like I just came from a picnic!
Fun fact - Batman's day job is driving an ice cream truck! 

So I'm pretty much up to date!  I was going to start setting up my Halloween cemetery tonight, but it started to rain not long after I got home from work, so I just got some things staged closer to the front yard, and will work on it this weekend.  I traditionally wait until after the Spawn's birthday (tomorrow!!) but I wasn't going to give up a valuable setup day.  She has to work in the morning anyway, then we'll drive up to Frankenmuth to have dinner with Randy who is working at the Multiple Sclerosis Society MS150 bike ride this weekend.   Sunday we're getting together with the family to celebrate the great-nephew's 1st birthday.  It'll be nice to see the little guy again!

But now... I'm going to bed!

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Our New England Vacation!

The Spouse (Randy) and I went on a lovely vacation over the last week of August.  We didn't really have any set plans as to where were were going until just a few days before we left, since why not procrastinate?  I had mentioned maybe going to Salem, MA so he took that idea and ran with it. 

We left home after a leisurely breakfast on August 26.
We crossed the Bluewater Bridge and drove across Ontario and crossed back into the US in Buffalo, NY.  
We pick up a TV station out of Buffalo and have seen commercials for a place called Mighty Taco.  Randy was intrigued and we thought it would be fun to stop there for lunch. 
The trucking company I work for happens to have a terminal in Buffalo, so I asked our guys there if it lived up to the hype, or was a glorified Taco Bell.  They all suggested going somewhere else.
 But we went anyway and thought it was pretty good!  I had a bacon burrito and they make it with Canadian bacon, so it was amazing.  We also stopped there on the way home, to try other things - LOL!
We spent our first night in Rutland, VT - which was quite funny that my sister met a guy while she was in Florida last spring and this is his hometown!  So we had to selfie with the sign and send to her. 
 This is the gorgeous Wilson Castle in Rutland.  We stopped and walked around the outside, but didn't go in.  You can rent this place for weddings & they hold ghost tours, too.
I had my first pumpkin spice iced coffee of the season in Vermont!

We stopped in Barre, VT at the Hope Cemetery, since that's what I like to do.  Randy graciously plans our vacations around cemetery visits for me!  I'd seen pictures and this place was absolutely beautiful. 
Our next stop (I wish I hadn't dinked around so long at Hope Cemetery!) was Mt. Washington in New Hampshire. 
First of all - I had no idea New Hampshire was so pretty!  I love the mountains anyway, and it was just spectacular. 
So.  Mt Washington is the highest peak in the Northeast US at 6288 feet and had measured wind speeds of 231 mph back in 1934.  Insane. 

Before we left home, Randy made sure my car could shift into low gear, since he planned on driving to the summit. 
OMG.  I made the mistake of looking down from the passenger seat. 

The road up the mountain was barely wide enough for 2 vehicles.  My poor Ruby was screaming by the time we got up there and really close to overheating.   Luckily it was at least 20 degrees cooler up there. 

And they had turnouts so you could pull over periodically on the way down to let your brakes cool off!  Even having the car in lowest gear, we still needed to ride the brakes some. 
They closed the road going up at 5pm and we got there at 4:55!  
Which only left us about 20 minutes by the time we got to the top to look around.  They close the summit at 5:45 and start shooing people back down the mountain. 
The weather station is chained to the mountaintop!!
 I couldn't stop saying "Oh WOW" when we got to the parking lot up top. 
Yes - Chuck (in case you don't know about Chuck, he's like Flat Stanley - I take him travelling with me and take pictures of him in fun places & doing fun things)
he looks rather photogenic here. 
If you didn't want to drive yourself, they have shuttles and even an old steam train you can ride.  This is what they use in the winter!  A van on tracks!

Our second night, we discovered that North Conway, NH is apparently some sort of a vacation destination!  The Hampton Inn hotel has huge & had a waterpark.  
I don't know why we almost always manage to get a room that is directly under someone who does jazzercise all night.  
 I saw this place just a few short miles from the hotel, so we had to stop the next day!  It's part of a place called the Christmas Loft.   Btw - I have a blog and all major social media for H'ween, too.  I'll be posting more about Hope Cemetery & this place there. 

Our next stop was into Maine and to the Atlantic coast.  We stopped in Two Lights State Park for a short time.
And that was it!  We stopped for less than an hour and just enjoyed the waves crashing on the cliffs, then left.

 Next was yet another cemetery!  Sleepy Hollow in Concord, Massachusetts.

This isn't THE Sleepy Hollow with the Headless Horseman, but it was equally cool in it's own way.
 Here we have "Author's Ridge" with a collection of well known authors that most of them knew each other while alive and are now buried in the same area.  Yes, I'm posting headstones, since they're fascinating!
 Nathaniel Hawthorne
William Ellery Channing, poet
 Louisa May Alcott
 Daniel Lothrop, publisher
 Ralph Waldo Emerson
Henry David Thoreau
I'm sure there's a story behind the tree full of origami cranes.

Nights 3/4/5 were spent in Boston. 

But the rest of this evening (day 3) was a wash, since I started getting a headache as I explored Sleepy Hollow and it developed into a full-blown migraine.  I may have had one before in my life.  My heart goes out to those who get these regularly!  It's awful! 

Day 4, (thankfully was feeling better) we took the hotel shuttle to the train station and went into Boston. 
I wanted to see the USS Constitution, since why wouldn't a former US Navy sailor want to see the oldest still-commissioned warship?? 
 Artistic view of the mast.
 It was super cool to explore and to chat with the crew members.  I learned most of them are straight out of boot camp (except for supervisors, of course).  They had to apply for this duty station and only the ones with the highest evaluations got chosen.   The one kid told us they choose new sailors for this because they don't have any experience with the modern Navy yet. 
 USS Cassin Young, a WWII Destroyer now part of the National Park Service & open for tours (except for when bad weather was rolling in, like when we were there)

We left Charleston Navy Yard and went for a Duck tour! 
 These amphibious vehicles are fun & the tour guide was a huge goof, but interesting, too.
 It started to rain while we were on the Duck, so we pretty much gave up on playing tourist.  
But first - dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe (since they closed the one in Detroit - sniff!)
 The chair says...
This unoccupied seat is dedicated to the
memory of those brave men and women
and to the sacrifices each made
serving this country.

Rolling Thunder, Inc.  Massachusetts Chapter 1
Donated in Memory of Carl Sutera, Vice President of
Rolling Thunder, MA1 to Hard Rock Cafe Boston

We are all thankful.
God Bless You.  God Bless America.


Day 5 (I think) - my birthday!!

We took the shuttle to the train station again and then onto the commuter train to Salem!!
Chuck stayed in the hotel room with a note introducing himself to housekeeping (LOL!!!) while we explored Boston, but today he went with us!
 We had noticed the Granary Burying Ground and King's Chapel Burying Ground while on the Duck and Randy noted that they would be easily worked into our travels. 
 Look at some the details on these stones!
The date in this heart is 1687.
I love the lounging skeleton on this one!
A Boston train station mariachi singer.

Salem ended up being more of a struggle than either of us planned.  We got to the commuter train at the last possible minute and were running down the platform when I managed to pop a ligament my knee again!  Which mean our *walking* tour and all exploring around there was painful. 
Rainbow crosswalk!  
This is such a cool poster!  It's for an art & adoption event "unique to Salem, MA" and happen to be going on today, "Caturday" September 14!
We're just going to have to go back, since 1/2 day isn't anywhere near long enough to see everything.  We did make it to the Museum.
And the people working there loved Chuck and the story behind him!
After going thru the museum, we found a very nice pub (nearby) for dinner and then did the haunt & history tour.  This is where I saw a lot of things I would have liked to explore during the day!
Like this cemetery that was right next to the Witch Trials Memorial Park. 
What was funny was as the guide was telling us about a "lady in white" - we suddenly saw one!  This lady was dancing & spinning & running all thru the stones!  We were all flabbergasted!  
It ended up being a very spry elderly woman wearing a regular mid-calf length pale flowered skirt and white blouse with a cardigan, but still!  She picked the perfect time to do whatever it was she was doing, in the shadows on the far side of the cemetery!

Oh, fun fact - the last stop on the tour was the Gardner-Pingree house.  Was owned by an old sea captain whose only family was his niece / housekeeper. Her son thought it would be a good idea to hire someone to help the old man end his life so they could get their inheritance.  So the house is supposed to be haunted by the old man.  Anyway, the Parker Brothers board game people used the house for a while and the very first edition of the game Clue is based on that house!  Its picture was on the box and the floor plan was used for the game.   Pretty neat!

So day 6 was the highlight of the trip for Randy!  We left Boston and drove into Newington, CT.  Home of the ARRL
If you don't know anything about amateur (ham) radio, then it means nothing to you.  But this is where the headquarters is and also the Hiram Percy Maxim Memorial Station, W1AW.   Licensed visitors can go in and operate the station, using that call sign.  And when other people hear W1AW on the air...they want to make contact with it!  I have been licensed for over 10 years, but don't get on the air much, so I thought maybe I would here, for shitz & gigglez.  But Randy got on there and was getting what they call "pile-ups" where up to 4 people would be trying to get thru to him!  Uuhhhhh, I'll pass!  So I opted to just sit back and watch him enjoy himself.   
They also have a "museum" of all sorts of old radios inside HQ and you can see the lab where they test & build radios. 

Once his time was up, we hung out in the station for a while while Randy chatted with Joe NJ1Q, the station manager.  The ARRL has a podcast that I listen to where Joe is one of the main speakers, so it was neat putting a face to the voice, but he wasn't what I expected!  
He was actually talking to someone from Russia when I took this. 

We left W1AW and had dinner then checked into our hotel fairly early.  This is the first time we'd made it to the pool during the whole trip, and we got there before all the kids from the cheer & soccer groups that were also in the hotel made it down there.   We just sat in the hot tub and enjoyed ourselves.  

Day 7, we headed home.  Both times we crossed the Canadian / US border, they noticed Chuck in the back seat. 
 The first time, the guy asked Randy to put his window down.  We just looked at him funny, since it WAS down!  But he meant the back window.  He just looked and then asked a couple routine questions.  Crossing into the US, Randy had the window down already and the guy looked for a second, then commented about safety for everyone!  

We got home at a reasonable hour, about 9:30 pm.  
It's always nice to get home to your own shower & bed!