Scout Guarding Her Cache

The dogs were bored and the weather was nice so Kathryn gave the two dogs each a bone and they hung outside. After a period of gnawing Scout decided to cache her bone under a small pile of driveway gravel and watch over it. Later Cullin made the mistake of wandering too close to the cache and Scout about tore him to pieces.

Breaking Snowshoe Trails

The dogs and I took a nice snowshoe hike spotting a Ruffed Grouse’s Kieppe, what I believe are quite possibly bobcat tracks, a couple of scent marked sticks by alleged bobcat and the miles of view offered by Pen Bonc Hill.

My snowshoeing buddies: Cullen and Scout (who’s long hair gives her a striking resemblance to a miniature Musk Ox)

I enhanced this photo’s contrast to highlight the Kieppe made by this Ruffed Grouse. I believe he/she flew in and landed at the top of the photo – there were two distinct wing patterns in the snow. The grouse then walked a short distance and burrowed out a shelter in the snow for protection overnight. The burrow had pellets and was urine stained. In the morning he/she left across the pile of snow (the foot prints are visible) launched into the air and a single wing beat shown in the show marks the departure.

What I believe may be bobcat tracks.

One of the several scent marked sticks we encountered on our hike.

JThe view east to Frankfort from Pen Bonc Hill


St John 2019

It seems that every 4 years we make an opportunity to vacation in St John Virgin Islands. This year we planned a trip as Eric said it was his favorite vacation (better than white water rafting or horse packing trips) and there was nothing planned during the week out of school. We were joined by Jim & Pam, Skip, Kathryn’s friend Gaie and Eric’s friend Jack – making a party of eight. Pam found deeply discounted airline tickets ~$400 (Basic Economy) which meant we were usually seated in the extreme rear of the plane. Kathryn located a house for all of us: Helmers shared a room, Jim & the boys shared a room, Skip slept on the pull out couch, and Gaie / Kathryn shared a room.

Skip left for his trip on Sunday with our flights on Thursday AM. The trip was segmented into these components:

  • NYS Thruway to Syracuse
  • Flight to JFK – especially getting through security
  • JFK to St Thomas (where we picked up our rental SUV from Dependable)
  • St Thomas to St John via Red Hook ferry
  • Drive 10 miles across St John Island to the house

Our flight was so late getting out of Syracuse, we missed our connection at JFK so we didn’t get to our destination until the following afternoon.  There are legitimate reasons for a flight to be delayed – weather, mechanical issues, etc.  but had any one of those reasons been dealt with in a reasonable amount of time, we would NOT have missed our connection.

First, we were told our crew was late because “they took the wrong shuttle.”  We were in Syracuse NY; there is only ONE airport and ONE terminal.  How could anyone, let alone intelligent and experienced crew members, have taken “the wrong shuttle?”

Second, we were told a wheel on the jetway was frozen and they could not get it over to the airplane.  A lot of time was spend trying to decide if we could walk to the plane or if the jetway needed to be moved.  Ultimately it was determined it would be too “dangerous” to walk to the plane but they managed to get the jetway moved.   We were in Syracuse NY in February; there had been an ice storm the day prior.   It is inconceivable that no one thought to check the jetway out prior to boarding time.

Third, we were told that the toilets on the plane didn’t have water.  We sat on the plane while a couple of jugs of water were brought in for the toilets.  I do not see how servicing the toilets should be a last minute thing.  Besides, it was only a 35 minute flight, the passengers would have been willing to forgo the toilets for that length of time. 

Once we landed in JFK  Helmers, with checked luggage, got on a shuttle and made it to the flight to St. Thomas.  They mentioned to the crew that we were right behind them.  Those of us with carry-on luggage had to wait a few minutes for that, so we caught the very next shuttle.  We still thought we would make it.  However,  a passenger incorrectly got on our shuttle, so the driver – despite being told that we had only minutes to get to our gate – turned and made a different stop for this passenger. We might have made our flight but for this driver’s decision to make the extra stop. When we got to our gate, the doors to our flight had closed. Helmers actually made it to the plane and shared our status with the crew, but to no avail. There were no other flights available to St. Thomas out of JFK, LaGuardia or Newark until the next day and none of them direct.  We elected to get to Atlanta that day so we would not have to worry about another layover.  So we got to St. Thomas a full 24 hours later that we expected, which means our time in St. John was cut to only 5 days. 

The house, Mayan Sky, was quite nice, not luxurious or new, but pretty nice and of course with a lovely view. There were some minor issues with the house  – dishwasher didn’t work and the faucet from the bathroom the boys used leaked (leaky faucets are a big issue), but they came up and took care of those things pretty quickly.  Things break, it’s an island, what are you going to do.  The night before we left, the water pump went, so we had no water the last evening or the day we left which was pretty inconvenient (we used buckets of water from the pool to flush toilets).   

There was evidence of storm damage.  Skinny Legs was rebuilt, and looks about the same.  The Coral Bay fire house and school aren’t quite done.  The restaurant and grocery store on the way to Salt Pond are gone.  Most houses don’t have land line telephones, and there is very little cell coverage (must be the poles came down).  There are houses being rebuilt and some not being rebuilt.  One of the things we most noticed were NO BANANAQUITS.  We left sugar out the entire time and saw one bananaquit, and he didn’t eat.  We also only saw one hummingbird.  I assume they got blown off the island, and the remaining ones have not had time to repopulate.

The beaches were all good.  Lots and lots of turtles, more than we ever saw before.  Not a ton of fish, but enough to be interesting.  Not much coral.  We went to Leinster, Francis, Salt Pond, Lameshur (the road to which was so bad I thought I would not be able to get through and/or would ruin the rental car, and when we did get there, the beach was nice but there was not much to see snorkeling), and Maho (which had so many turtles, you felt like you couldn’t turn around without seeing one).

Eric,  Skip and Jim got sunburn early on.  We all got along pretty well, despite my friend Gaie not knowing anybody else but me.  She is pretty outgoing so I think that helped.  I taught Eric, his buddy Jack and Jim Helmer to play Euchre.

Coming home was just short of a nightmare.  Our plane didn’t leave until 3:30, but we were packed, so decided we would catch the 10:00 car barge and maybe then do some shopping in Red Hook.  Wrong.  The ferry got full, and we were left standing.  About 30 minutes later another ferry came in at the adjacent dock, but through some awful miscommunication we didn’t drive the 50 yards over there, and when we did, that ferry was full.  The next ferry didn’t come until 12, but we thought we were still good.  Wrong again.  The traffic through Charlotte Amalie was so bad, due to construction and road work, it took us over an hour to get to the car rental place.   We got to the airport about 90 minutes before our flight, which is only about 75 minutes before  they close the doors.  By the time we got checked in,  through customs and through TSA , the plane was half boarded.  But we made it.  Only to have our 3 hour layover in Newark extended an hour; only to discover that they didn’t have enough seats for all of us.  I worked with the gate attendant and she got us so we were just one boarding pass short (Eric); Skip was going to give up his ticket (they offered him $800 credit) but at the last minute someone didn’t show up so Eric and I were the last ones on the plane.  We made it home by 2am and it already feels like we were never there.



Girls Weekend in Rochester

Kathryn and Billie Jo took Dakota and Izzabella to Rochester for a “Girls Weekend”. On Saturday they visited the National Museum of Play, The Rochester Museum of Science, the Strasenburgh Planetarium and still had time to eat out with Mark and his girls and spend some time in the hotel pool.

Sunday they shopped at the Waterloo outlet malls. A good time was had by all.

Eric’s Ankle Surgery- Closure

Five months after surgery, with 7 follow-up appointments with the orthopedic surgeon, 55 physical therapy sessions and a comparable number of individual workouts, Eric was finally cleared to resume sports activities.  He missed his JV basketball season but we are all powerfully glad he can participate in gym classes, sports with his friends and the upcoming AAU basketball season.  We are all happier when that teenage energy has sports as a place to express itself.

Tomato Soup Cake

Dating back to the 1930s, Tomato Soup Cake was tremendously popular as it required very little butter and eggs, precious ingredients in Depression-era America. The flavors in this cake are rich with no true tomato taste, just the warmth of the spices and sweetness of the raisins. The cake keeps beautifully and can be enjoyed as a snack cake with no icing needed, or iced with a simple vanilla glaze to dress it up.

Christmas 2018

Prior to the Christmas holiday we had a follow-up appointment with the orthopedic surgeon who asked that Eric continue PT for another 6 weeks prior to competing in sports. It was a disappointment since Eric had been hoping to join the JV team.

Christmas Eve day we had Billie Jo’s family for mid-day dinner prior to going to church. On Christmas Day we awoke around 8am, opened presents and then took advantage of the new snow for an inaugural ski. Kathryn turned around at the top of Kirkland’s hill, while Cullen and I continued to appliance alley clearing downed limbs from the trail along the way.

We invited Skip over for a Christmas dinner.

Orlando, FL

Kathryn took Eric, Stone and Dakota to Orlando FL for their Christmas gift.  They had a fun trip, though it went fast with a lot of rushing around.  Both Stone and Dakota had been sick the week before.  Stone’s congestion was nasty sounding. They got to Orlando on Friday in time to catch the last shuttle from the hotel to Universal (11 AM).  They did most of Universal on Friday, until they got too tired with half were hungry, half not; half wanted to take the shuttle to the hotel and half wanted to walk the 1.2 miles in the dark etc. Eric’s ankle hurt the first night but it didn’t seem to bother him after that though.  However, it was a lot of fun.  They got to do the Harry Potter ride twice.  We did “Men in Black” several times.  They went on some BIG roller coasters; the Kraken and the Hulk.   We didn’t have to wait long for rides so got to do a lot.

Alabama

Cranes had two extra tickets to see the country music group Alabama.  Sweet Tea Trio opened for them.  Both groups put on a good shop.

New Wallpaper

For the past 18 months I have been lobbying for alternative wallpaper in our family great room.  The existing dark red wallpaper, coupled with the knotty pine paneling, made the room too dark.  Kathryn selected new wallpaper and while Eric was at the HP football game at the Carrier Dome we (mainly Kathryn) put up the new wallpaper.