Sunday, February 28, 2016


2015's February never broke 20 degrees.

2016's has been all over the map, but largely over 20.

The snow is gone.  The ice is smooth, cleared of snow by warm rains, but thin, leaving fishing huts marooned on the lakes, unlikely to be rescued.    It's mud-season to walk through the woods.

The courses are open for the year and we played golf today. Simple joy echoed through the leafless woods as men laughed, played, teased each other, and simply took advantage of a warm day as rare as a leap year.

Given this early chance, Mainers are ready to Spring.  And we take it.

It may snow again; the weather may turn cold.  But it's doubtful.  Snow-mobilers had only a few weekends.  The machines are parked in their sheds or on the lawn where they'll await another season.  Those who plow driveways had a poor year.  The snow-blower used only a gallon of gas.  The price of no. 2 fuel oil was at a decade's low, but the temperatures didn't even call for much of it.  If having wood in the spring is money in the bank, what is not using inexpensive oil?  A sign.  A sign.

What did Punxsutawney Phil do with a his shadow a few weeks back?  Ah, who cares?  We're not looking back.  March will gasp and sputter, lion to lamb, and suddenly there will be warm days, ants, and a lawn-mower to start.

If the years pass more quickly as we age, then the winters must me subjected to the same laws.  Goodbye winter.  We hardly knew you.  Which is fine for this year.  Do your best come December, for today we laugh.  It is Spring.  It is time to make merry!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Only one more Season

"Harvest is when I need you the most. Only one more season. This year we'll make enough on the harvest so I'll be able to hire some more hands."
 ―Owen Lars, to Luke Skywalker
Monday evening, as I pulled off of I93 onto the surface streets heading into the Marriott Cambridge-side in Boston, the somewhat embarrassingly loud hole in my exhaust decided to become a really embarrassingly loud hole in my exhaust.  
Oh, the echo of the A8's venerable V8 rumbled and ricocheted about the brick streets and buildings of Kendall Square, sounding at moments like a dilapidated old taxi and at others like a 17 year old's dream muscle car, drawing the bemused attention of pedestrians who sneered or laughed, depending on their personal demeanor.*  I grinned and bore it but was relieved to park her, silent at last, in a dark corner of the posh hotel's parking garage for the next few days.

When I had time to obsess about it, I weighed my numerous options, calculating obscene sets of linear equations factored across potential repair costs, expected life span time lines, cash on hand and savings rates, replacement cars, and when, exactly, I'd have to do something.  Was it time?  While I derive perverse pleasure from the dreaming and scheming that leads to the optimal solution, it's having to ultimately commit to a course of action at the cost of all the other great alternatives that leaves me stuck.  Analysis paralysis.  But in the end, you can only go one way.  Shit or get off the pot.

Temptations haunted me.  Go big and newer and expensive?  Go old and fun? Buy a one-year car and trade up after saving? 

And so this morning I took her down to A&J Motors, Manchester's own version of Click and Clack, to see if she would pass inspection and what the financial damage would be to quiet her down.  Anything in the realm of $500 could trigger the above thought processes into action.

"Only one more season. This year I'll save enough from driving and I'll be able to buy your replacement."
― Me, to the car

Ah, but as is usually the case, I need not have worried.  Click and Clack pointed to the brackets that connected the header pipes to the exhaust pipes.  The pipes were solid and rust free, but the brackets holding them had given out after 18 years of duty.  They found a pair of replacements after a brief parts store search, the only two in stock for miles around.  $37.79 each.  They must have been sitting on that dusty back shelf for years just waiting for me. 

An hour or so later they called me at home with a friendly "come pick her up, she's ready."  $130 total, including the inspection sticker.  She's not brand-new quiet, but good enough.  Which means one more year on the farm unless some strong-willed droids stop buy, getting me all mixed up with the Empire, causing me to follow old Obi-Wan on some damn fool idealistic crusade.

By then I might be able to get a replacement with a working hyper-drive:**

* Probably a good test of whether they're from Boston originally or from somewhere else where tolerance, understanding and a sense of humor are admired in the social order of things.  
** Car of the week:  2012 Audi TT RS with a turbo in-line 5 cylinder pumping 330 horsies at the brake and pulling 330 lb feet in this relatively light beast.  Why five? Because Audi makes 'em weird (and I like them) like that.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016


I borrowed the term "Winterlude" from a section of Neil Peart's "Ghost Rider," his personal journey of motorcycles and healing from the loss of both his daughter and wife in the same year.  Perhaps more on that some other day.

Suffice it to say Neil spent winters at his lake house in the woods somewhere outside Montreal and came to appreciate the cold and the snow.  Much as I have here in Maine.  Some winters are interminable and intolerable; others can offer bounty.

Saturday found me, not for the first time this year, in 20 degree weather, gliding on my cross country skis through soft snowshoe paths in the woods, climbing, exploring, descending, learning, balancing, and falling.  With technology come the benefits of GPS tracking, and I can even see where I've been and how long it took me to get there.  But the journey is the important part.  Does it really matter that I covered 4.96 miles at an average moving speed of 3.94 mph?  I knew I'd made progress by the way my legs responded joyfully to the request to climb the hill.  Progress!

Sunday was bitter cold, single digits and below zero over night.  What a difference a day makes.

Monday was back to the high teens and another exploration up and away across the hill.  Glorious! You could hear me shouting for joy as I completed sharp, fast turns on the narrow trails.  Turning on cross country skis is not at all like downhill.  It's a strange form of balance and technique, and like learning to ride a bicycle, the faster you go, the better you'll be.  I'm still learning.  I'm sure the felling trees (yes, they're doing some clearing this winter) could hear my whoops of joy.   For those who are curious: if you're in the woods, you can hear them too.

Tuesday I awoke to a fresh three inches of snow, but by 1:00 pm it was 50 degrees and it rained hard all afternoon.  In the evening I plugged in the pump and fought back the tide rising into the garage.  What a difference a day makes, indeed.

I've seen winter break and give up its stranglehold on Maine as late as the end of March, and more specifically during a walk on a March 30th, (the year I can't remember, maybe 2008) at 1:30 in the afternoon on a bright day and the temperature pushing a balmy 30 degrees.  One moment it was still the bright cold of winter, and the next it simply snapped and coiled away.  Gone.  This year, winter's hardly made an appearance, with just a handful of nights below zero, a couple of rainy thaws, and snow here and again.  Bummer of a year to own a snowmobile; kind of a let down if you're starting to get the vibe of cross country skiing.

But it will return next year.  And I'm pretty sure it's not done yet.  That said, the golf clubs need dusting and I've got some scoring to do come spring.