Saturday, July 30, 2011

Summer in Homer

June 30, 2011 - just past Summer Solstice

I've been back in Homer since May 22 and I'm still waiting for summer. Could it be possible that this summer will be a repeat of last, when the good weather waited until after I was gone to show up?  Damn, I certainly hope not.
Solstice evening - Diamond Ridge -  June 21, 2011
 The photo above was taken on Summer Solstice evening. Notice the swirling mist, the wet saturated greens of the plants and trees. It's been wet and chilly for much of the 5  or so weeks since my return. This scene is typical of what's been going on up here on Diamond Ridge so far this summer.

I've included a few more shots of the plants and animals that inhabit the meadow where my little cabin sits. It's been a terrible spring for many people. When I talk with my sister Sandy, she complains about the cold weather in Buffalo. The people I spoke with in Utah and Nevada during the motorcycle tour complained about the slow start of their warm weather, and I complain about the Homer weather. By comparison, however, people in Missouri and other parts of the tornado belt had the worst spring imaginable -- the wind ripped up houses in a mile-wide swath of devastation in Joplin and a few more towns. And in Japan, the tsunami and Fukushima nuclear disasters continue to haunt the entire country. I guess we should all be thankful for what we've got.

Twin moose calves out for a walk in my meadow

Pushki ready to burst forth

Lupine on Solstice evening

Still, it's been a tough re-entry for me. Things have happened that I did not foresee, some good, some bad. I sold the VStrom the other day with Tuli's help. I got what I paid for it not counting the money spent on the new tires. With its sale I've put an end to my motorcycle touring of the good ol' USA at least for now. I'll be shopping for a new bike in Thailand as soon as I get back there this fall.

On the bad side of the ledger: I had some dental implants that failed. As if that weren't depressing enough on its own, the cost to replace them would be a staggering $13,000! Sheesh. My  dentist looked at me with a straight face when he told me what it would cost. I was like, are you serious? Who has 13 large laying around gathering dust? And the teeth that I lost weren't out of sight somewhere in the back of my mouth. Oh no, they were my front teeth! I look okay until I smile. All the more reason not to I reckon. I'll get new implants in Thailand where they're more affordable. Then I learned that this cabin will not be available next summer. So I've got to pack my things, compressing as I go by selling, tossing and/or gifting much of the stuff I've been clinging to for years. There is a saying about the stuff we accumulate: if you haven't used it in two years, get rid of it. You don't need it. Having lived out of two suitcases for 9 months I'm in complete agreement with that statement. At any rate, by the time I leave Alaska in September I'll be moved out of this beautiful cabin and its sweet little meadow I've so thoroughly enjoyed for three seasons. I truly believe that every cloud has a silver lining. Living on Diamond Ridge has many good points but it's too far from town and, for me at least, because of its 1200 foot altitude not a good place to bike from. When I eventually come back I'll be living in town, at sea level, for sure.

I talk with Nut almost every day on Skype and, without her really knowing it, she cheers me up immensely. And I'm playing tennis and enjoying it. My serve, while still not a boomer that wins free points, has improved considerably by becoming more consistent. I was feeling so down a while ago that I actually considered giving up tennis which has been my most consuming passion for the past 15 years. I'm glad to be past that stage.

A  camper van I photographed in 1995
I had dinner with old friends Ed and Sarah the other night. They've recently become snowbirds too and have bought a small home near Tucson where they are spending their winters. And they bought one other thing -- a Roadtrek RV! When I saw that vehicle I knew I just had to have one. At left  is a photo of a similar van I noticed parked in the library parking lot back in the mid 90s - I lusted over that one then. New these rigs cost almost $100K but many can be had used for $10-30K or even less.

Some of you in Homer might remember the van KJ and I drove to Alaska. It was a 1969 Ford Econoline van with a little 302 cu in V-8 engine and I loved it. We practically gutted and then redesigned the interior to maximize storage space for our move to Alaska. It had a comfy full size bed and a tiny propane stove in a cabinet off to one side where I could brew coffee without ever leaving my bed. Clothing was in a storage cabinet just behind the pillows. Under the bed were a dozen or so milk crates carefully filled with our belongings -- stuff we were going to need to make a new life in the wilds of Alaska. It was an interesting year-long voyage that ended up in Homer at "The End of the Road" in the summer of 1983. Here it is 28 years later and I'm thinking again about traveling and living in a van. However, this van will be quite an improvement over the old Ford. The Roadtreks and their kin are fully self-contained and come equipped with heater, air-con, shower, microwave, generator, TV, fridge, the works. I'm quite looking forward to it.

Typical summer dinner - Salmon Dijon, grilled fennel, purple potatoes, Inversion IPA

July 28, 2011 - Summer is winding down

Pushkii (cow parsnip) blossom - July 11, 2011

As I complete this entry summer is marching along to its inevitable conclusion. The lupine and pushkii are almost finished in the cabin meadow and at least up here the fireweed is just about ready to burst forth in the last floral blast before the season turns. The good weather finally came and has brought some warm sunny days. When it's sunny up here on Diamond Ridge it's a very special place. Along with the weather my mood has improved greatly, especially considering the fact that my time to fly is approaching rapidly. I'm eagerly looking forward to being with Nut for the winter and I'm seriously thinking about returning to Europe next spring. I bought a one-way ticket to Bangkok and my research shows that a one-way ticket to Paris will cost only about $500 on one of several middle-east airlines. I'm guessing a week or so in Paris and then a few weeks bicycling in the Netherlands. Why the Netherlands? Because it's flat! There are no hills except for the small bridges over the canals -- my kind of biking. And it's a friendly country where almost everyone speaks English. After Europe I'll visit my family in New York and finally return to Eugene to begin looking for that van. By returning to Eugene from the east I'll have made a complete circuit around the world.

Midnight sky - July 13, 2011
Once I'm back in the states the decision about whether to return to Alaska next summer will take some thought. I've no doubt I'll be experiencing feelings both pro and con about that. I have so many friends here and so much history. I rented a small storage area downtown and what I can't sell or give away will remain there until such time as I return. I know I bitched about the chilly weather we had in June but the summers in Alaska are fantastic in their way too. Part of my problem earlier this summer was not knowing what's in my future. I'm definitely in a transitional period in my life and it's been a little uncomfortable at times. I have one foot in Thailand and one in America. But is that foot in Alaska or somewhere in the "lower 48"? Good question.

Max and me at the Homer High School tennis courts (July 27, 2011)
I received an invitation to the Sloan High School Class of 1961 reunion the other day. It will take place in Buffalo on September 24th, which is coincidentally my 68th birthday. I can't make it because I'll be in Bangkok with Nut then. I think that's pretty far out, especially considering that most of my classmates are living in the same neighborhood 50 years later. If I try to remember that far back, to the days when I was the dorky looking kid in my high school yearbook, I could never in my wildest dreams have imagined how my life would turn out.
Yearbook photo (1961)

I mean, take a look at that hair. What a dork!

I haven't accomplished anything big or lasting but there's still time, right? LOL  I'm healthy, have enough income to live modestly, and I'm continuing to enjoy my addiction to tennis. There is more travel in my future, more adventure, more motorcycling, more love and more tennis. Everything's working out as well as can be expected, better actually. Again I find myself counting my blessings because I am indeed a lucky man. Blah, blah, blah.

Today is an absolutely beautiful day. There's tennis this afternoon and afterward at my office, a meeting of the 501 Club. All things considered, what promises to be a nice day lies ahead.

The cabin on July 29, 2011