June 29, 2011

A few days at the lake house and summer arrives with a bang

VALOIS, New York, USA - The arrival of summer was heralded this past week by the simultaneous arrival of our amigos Steve and Pam from Sacramento. They came in for a few days visit on their way to Ohio.

Pam and Steve
And even though the visit was short, we packed in a lake trip on the Spirit of Louise, some wine tasting, a Savard's breakfast, several trips to Watkins Glen, hiking around the property and witnessing a couple of whopper thunderstorms.

We also went to Tina and Eric Hazlitt's beachside cabana for a glass (or two) of wine where Steve and Pam posed for the photo on the left, with Tina and Eric's sailboat in the background.

It looks like a postcard to me.

Pam and Steve are used to the more benign weather of Sacramento and the sudden shifts were sort of shocking. As they left this morning, a cold front roared down the lake and dropped the temperature at the lake house by about 10 degrees in about as many minutes.

Yes, there was plenty of rain in those clouds
Tuesday,  a thunderstorm rolled in just as I was taking a swim off the end of the dock of the Valois Point Yacht Club.

I waited about five minutes too long to grab my stuff and run up the hill.

Next up this week is a fundraiser for Kathleen Schamel's great motoring adventure across Europe to Mongolia as part of a charity for people in Asia and elsewhere.

She will be traveling as part of a road rally team. The rally cars, are, well, pretty small and the roads are, well, pretty non-existent in some of the places they need to traverse.

Still, she's game and the photos from the trip are going to be collector's items.

Here is the link to her team's website: Kathleen's Excellent Adventure

The fund raiser tomorrow will be at the Village Marina Bar and Grill, which, totally coincidentally, is owned by her parents, Mike and Karen Schamel, and run by her brother Mike. It also is being billed as a pre-game party to the three-day Phish concert that starts Friday at the Watkins Glen race track where about 40,000 Phish fans are expected to descend, en masse, for music, parties and, well, more parties.

And it's likely I will be among that throng, writing some short news articles for a local newspaper.

It won't be Woodstock Redux, but it should be interesting.

Carlos Santana at Woodstock - 1969

June 26, 2011

Why the weather is always a topic of conversation in New York

VALOIS, New York, USA - When Adm. Fox and I live in California, we barely ever mention the weather. Oh, maybe in late November or the first week in December, when we have the beginnings of sprinkles of rain, or a cold front (50 degrees, brrr!) blows in.

Ditto for Mexico, where the temperatures are, well, temperate for the months we hang out in Arroyo Seco and La Manzanilla.

And that's why we hang out there, among other reasons.

But here in upstate New York, the weather rules. I mean really rules.

Plans for a boat trip? A picnic? Anything outside? Better have alternate plans because the weather will not be what you expect.

Today the plan (Can you hear God laughing?) was to do a few typical Sunday morning things (big breakfast, get a Sunday newspaper...) and then take a boat ride on the Spirit of Louise pontoon craft.

The first half went off without a hitch, but the boat ride has been scuttled - for the moment - as a cold front has been marching down the lake on and off for several hours. If the sun breaks through the cloud cover, it will be glorious.

For now, glorious is not an appropriate descriptor for what it looks like outside our window.

The nice thing about this anything-can-happen weather cycle is that in casual conversation there is never a lack of common ground. Everyone is affected by the weather. And some people really like to complain about it. (Hmm, I would seem to fall into that category today.)

But as the saying goes around here: You don't like the weather? Wait 15 minutes.

And as I write this, it looks like the clouds are parting across the lake and that the sun is about to burst through the layers of gray that have plagued us all day.

I swear I can hear someone singing hallelujah.

June 22, 2011

A day at the NY Fire Academy: new meaning to the word HOT

MONTOUR FALLS, New York, USA - Tuesday morning I spent three very hot hours wandering about a fire demonstration area at the New York State Fire Academy. It was a training for 170  firefighters - and others - about how to deal with propane emergencies.

In some cases, the demos were about putting out a fire, in others, it was about how to burn off propane if a tank is leaking. Yup, can't let that stuff just fall on the ground.

And there were lots of demonstrations about the how to safely transfer propane from tank to tank with a minimum of problems.

As part of the demonstrations, the New York State Propane Gas Association (yup, NYPGA and they do play a lot of golf, too, I understand) hired a photo company to take pix of the goings on. They did so from an aerial camera, slung beneath a small blimp.

Very cool.

The temperature was in the 80s, with 95 percent humidity. And when they lit off the propane for the demonstrations? Add 20 degrees. Still, very interesting to see it. And I have a lot more respect for the power contained in that little propane tank I have attached to my barbecue.

The overall result (for me) was a story and photo(s) in the Elmira Star-Gazette this morning. Two photos ran in the print edition, but four more are up online.

LINK: Star-Gazette, Propane Safety class

And I put together a short video:

June 20, 2011

A cruise up and down Seneca Lake for Father's Day 2011

VALOIS, New York, USA - Father's Day dawned, well, a little chilly here in upstate New York, but by 2 p.m. it was definitely time to hit the water.

Brad Phillips toured by the Valois Point Yacht Club in his ski boat to give me the final push to put down my rake and other implements of destruction. (The warm, wet weather has turned the Valois property into an close approximation of a far-north rainforest. Thus even on Father's Day there was yard work to be done.)

One detail of fun work that didn't get done was launching the Red Rocket, now sitting on a trailer at the Fitch house. Maybe this week. Maybe.

Brad, sans Arnold the Wonder Dog, but with crew members

One chore was lifted - a gift for Father's Day - when Adm. Fox and Dustin took over the duties of lawn mowing the property. It was a nice present because even with them mowing, I still put in a solid two hours of weed whacking and moving debris around, especially in the area of the newly built hot tub deck.

Once aboard the Spirit of Louise, we headed south, past Cousin Roger Beardslee's dock. He and son Brett were out and about in Roger's sailboat. And just a mile or so past there we watched the Hazlitt clan boarding Eric's sailboat for a father's day cruise, too.
Eric and Tina heeling

There were three generations on Eric's boat: Eric's dad Jim, Eric and Eric's son Jason, who owns/runs the Hector Wine Company with his amigo Justin Boyette.

We saw Eric testing how far over he could get his boat to heel. Looked pretty far from distance.

We also made a stop and Karen and Mike Schamel's house, where Big Mike and son Mike were doing a passable imitation of what Dustin and I had been doing at Valois: working the yard, while the lake beckoned.

Their draft beer dispenser was working, too. Quite nicely, actually.

And we stopped at Sue and Gary Wolf's, too, where their dog didn't try to eat us for lunch (it was late) for the first time in any dock stop at their lakeside home. But now that I think about it, it was the first time we didn't have a dog with us, either.

This week is expected to be a blur with writing projects, the arrival Friday of Dr. Pam and her husband Steve and the construction of a new deck on the front of our N. Glen house in Watkins.

Home Depot is slated to arrive Wednesday and drop off enough cement and boards to build an entire casa in Mexico. Here, it's just enough for deck, thanks to the building codes.

June 16, 2011

The hot tub is in, the lake is warming up, a Father's Day sail maybe?

VALOIS, New York, USA - Eric and Tina Hazlitt's sailboat was launched Wednesday a sure sign that summer is here. The Red Rocket might make a splash this week, if the weather gods permit.

One of last year's boats
And then Saturday there will be the annual Cardboard Boat Race in the Village Marina Harbor. No entry this year from *subject2change media but perhaps next year we will get up the courage to get some cardboard and a half-dozen rolls of duct tape and make a vessel.
 But I will be there filming, for sure. And it is always a great time.

After two years of putting it off, I finally build a real deck for the Valois house hot tub. Three years running, I used a combination of plywood, shale and wood chips as the base.

Hot tub atop its new home
The combination was hard to keep level (READ: impossible). Plus, spiders, ants, and a variety of insects of totally indeterminate genus and specie would somehow find their way under the cover and be found doing the backstroke when Adm. Fox and I would uncover the softub for use.

During the day, it was just annoying. At night, it was occasionally a stinging experience.

The deck is made of a pressure treated wood that is supposed to last, well, for a long time. All I know is the tub is a good six inches off the ground and while spiders, ants, and that variety of insects of totally indeterminate genus and specie might still want to see the soothing warm waters of the hot tub, they will have to work a little harder to do so.

Here's a video of last year's cardboard boat races in Watkins Glen.

June 13, 2011

A quiet night in Hector? Not at the Rasta Ranch Winery

HECTOR, New York, USA - Monday nights have traditionally been quiet in Valois and Hector, even in the summer.

Long summer weekends (that seem to start on Thursday evenings), can wear people out by Mondays.

But at the Rasta Ranch Winery, it seemed like a good idea to throw the doors open in the evenings for some music, wine and socializing.

And so it is that there are now Blues Mondays every week from 5-8 p.m. The time stretches a little longer if regular performer Brett Beardslee feels like winding up for a little longer.

Tonight Brett was on a roll, playing a lot of his own songs and keeping the crowd moving its feet.

Special guest Delta Mike Shaw was there, too, sitting in for a couple of songs.

Here's a brief video of tonight's music.

June 12, 2011

Awash in the news business - but the boats are launched for summer

WATKINS GLEN, New York, USA - Admiral Fox and I arrived home safely from our Erie Canal jaunt, leaving the 72-foot motoryacht Ziggy in son Dustin and amiga Elizabeth's good hands at the port of Oswego, right at the outlet of the canal/river into the chilly waters of Lake Ontario.

That dynamic duo, plus a new captain hired by the boat's owner, took Ziggy the rest of the way to Michigan where the ship nows rests with its happy owner.

Almost the minute we returned, I had to complete a number of writing/video assignments for local newspapers, including a one-hour video shoot (and print version) about U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand's (D-NY) visit to a local middle school to check on how well the federal dollars are being spent on a project to help children get access to wireless devices.

You might think the feds would be offering incentives to get kids off digital media, but that's another issue.

Here's the video:

I've also been chasing a local political/environmental struggle. A major propane supply and transit company, Inergy (of Kansas City, MO) wants to store 2 million gallons of liquid propane gas in salt caverns a few miles north of town. The critics of the project have a litany of potential safety and economic issues they believe disqualify Inergy from moving forward, even an inch.

Inergy is hanging tough and fighting back - it's a very lucrative deal/project if they can get past the state Department of Environmental Conservation (which deals with environmental issues) and the Town of Reading Planning Board, the ruling authority.

But here's the bummer. A pivotal meeting about the topic - by the very Town of Reading Planning Board - is the same night as a major brewfest here. And the brewfest is being held to raise money for the legal fund for the people fighting against the project. So, Brewfest or a community meeting?


Here's a link to the group opposing the project: GasFreeSeneca website.

 The best news off all is that the Spirit of Louise pontoon craft is in the water and is sitting at the Valois Point Yacht Club ready for service. The blue rowboat/launch is on shore and ready, too. The Red Rocket sailboat should hit the water this week, in plenty of time for my boat-partner Jennifer Fitch's arrival in a couple of weeks.

After launching the Spirit of Louise last week at Village Marina, we motored from Watkins Glen to the VPYC, taking a couple of hours to do so and making two stops along the shoreline: Mike & Karen Schamel's and Eric & Tina Hazlitt's. It was long, hot trip (temperatures in the 90s) but thanks to plenty of hydrating fluids (largely Labatt's Blue) we made the trip in fine shape.

I even jumped in the lake at the VPYC dock that day to celebrate the beginning of summer. Water temperature - 64 degrees, according to Eric Hazlitt.

It felt a little colder, but still, ahhhh.

That size lighthouse would look great on the shore at the VPYC