Have bags, will travel … but it’s always – always – good to be home


The first couple weeks in September were spent on the road or thinking about being on the road or prepping to be on the road.

But here we are, home again, home again lickety split. To be sure, I enjoyed both mini-vacations (New Hampshire and Nebraska) but with a hurricane that barged inland and a deck in the offing, there’s plenty of work to be done in these parts. 


September 17, 2018

Ellen/Reid: It was good to arrive home unscathed last night; I’d been anxious to see how Brevard and the home held up. Seems both came through fine enough order. One of the first points of business after dumping my bag inside was to head to the rain gauge which showed a relatively paltry 3.7 inches. That’s a drop in the bucket compared to what the poor souls in eastern North Carolina have suffered, and are still suffering, through. Already, some hurricane snobs are lamenting the evacuations since the storm winds were not as high as expected but damn, it’s all about the water and not so much the wind. It was kind of sunny this morning and the clouds and rain have largely taken a right turn toward the north. 

At any rate, it’s good to be home. Gayle and Ralph were fine hosts, and I might not have attended the reunion without their prodding. But it was a fun and really well organized event. People change a lot over the course of 50 years yet it’s amazing how the connections don’t take long to re-establish themselves. That’s what was remarkable. Saw friends that went all the way back to elementary school. Things were relatively low key but I suppose that’s how those of us in our 60s – make that late 60s – tend to do most things.

In spite of Florence there was some progress made on the deck in my absence; the footings were poured which is a big step. Next up should be the treated lumber underpinnings of the faux-wood beast. Hopefully things will dry out enough today for that to commence. My checkbook will be at the ready. There goes part of your inheritance. But you can always sell the house to recoup your shares. Ha. The contractor seems a stand up guy. Hopefully it’s finished by month’s end.

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My boy Brian is a stand up guy and one helluva worker. He gets deck things done (in spite of my meddling).

The garden is sopping wet and whatever plants are left survived the drenching in good shape for the most part. I’ll poke around out there once this letter is done. It’ll mostly be propping up the drooping dahlias and re-staking the raspberries. One thing for sure, there won’t be much need for water in the next few days. The forecast mostly calls for at least some sun although the temps won’t climb into the 80s from what I can tell.

Some new blinds for small windows arrived while I was hobnobbing in Nebraska. Those will go up later today. There was a bit too much late afternoon glare in the living room. Not that anyone can peek in but it was all about the bright sun flowing through.

I’ve been in the house long enough now that it’s time to clean windows and such on the exterior. I keep the interior clean and picked up, sort of, but there are cobwebs and spiders and dirt and debris along the outside windows and the window frames, etc., will need a good scrubbing before the screens are installed. Why those weren’t put in before is sheer oversight on my part. With the fall temps about to be ushered in around these parts, it’ll be great to have light breezes waft through the joint.

Reid, send some interior shots of your new home and roomie. The outside looks fine enough. What’s the neighborhood like? Is it safe and are there some things to do around there? People have asked what you think about Oakland and all I can tell them is that you seem to like it out there. Haven’t seen much about the fires as of late. Those are assumably under control? 

Might head into Charlotte for the weekend to play some golf and hear a good band at The Comet. I played up in Omaha and just stunk. Maybe there’s a message there that it’s time to take two weeks off – and then quit. It’s that frustrating. And you know what? That wouldn’t bother me in the slightest. Be good, and I’ll see you in a couple of months. Remember Reid, you’re a sous chef.

Love, Dad

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Florence knocks on the door … and there was no turning her back – nor the years, either …


Wouldn’t you know it.

A major hurricane barrels toward the Carolinas and, by sheer stroke of luck, the whim of a previously booked airline ticket pre-evacuates from the path of Florence. 

By the time she slammed into Wilmington I was safely hundreds of miles away in the Midwest for a 50th high school reunion. Alas, I could turn away from a raging storm but can’t turn back the clock on the years.


September 10, 2018

Ellen/Reid: Looks like Florence will introduce herself to the Carolinas with a bang in a couple of days. Given that Brevard is a number of hours inland we might be spared the winds but likely won’t dodge a fair amount of rain. It might test how far I’m really above the French Broad River floodplain. Reid, what your parched No. Cal. environs wouldn’t have given for some good drenching rains not too many weeks ago.

But I should be gone by the time she gusts ashore. American Airlines sent out a travel advisory an hour ago and I was able to change my departure to six hours earlier, which ought to be enough time to get out of Dodge and therefore dodge the raindrops. That was good of them to make the change without any fees. The agent I talked to sounded weary and I asked if they’d been hammered but all she said was they’ve just been busy all day. 

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3.5 inches was a relatively paltry rain total from a major hurricane. Brevard was very lucky.

We were in the market for rain here anyway so I hustled earlier to get the lawn (and weeds) mowed and the rest of the garden squared away before anything moves in this afternoon. The last of the cherry tomatoes were forlornly pulled out as were some more weeds, of which there is no shortage. The good news in the back yard is construction of the deck is finally underway, albeit the contractor only laid out fabric over the bare dirt and marked the footprint of the deck with string. He drills the footing holes tomorrow and then moves ahead with the concrete. The Trex is slated to be delivered around noon on Wednesday and then the barn doors ought to really open wide on the building process. The drop-dead date is October 2 when the Hemmingers and Dahlquists from Des Moines roll into town.

It’s imperative the deck be done since a quartet of strings will put on a concert on the upper part of the deck while my guests, including about a dozen folks from Brevard, sip cocktails and eat hors’dourves. Hopefully the weather will cooperate. I was the low – and only – bidder on the group at a silent auction a few months back.

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Ellen and Reid’s mother reprised in oil one of my photos from the Camino de Santiago in 2017. It deserves a place of honor on my walls.

I marvel at the painting your mom just sent. It is truly a work of fine art. How she takes a photo from the Camino and turns it into something worthy of prominent display is incredible. And to think her artistic self was hidden for all those years. At least she’s got it going right now. I hope her little business keeps zooming. She’s really got some serious talent and now the real challenge is trying to find a place on the walls that is the absolute best placement to exhibit her skill.

We had a great time up in New Hampshire. Chiana and her new hubby really got a break on the weather. It was so, so nice after being in the mid-90s when we arrived in Boston. Sondra and Jody did a fabulous job behind the scenes to take care a lot of the details. We were the only people from the Carolinas to be at the ceremony so that was a great honor. Robbie and I drove over to Kennebunkport on Friday so she could see the ocean since she’d never been to New England before. The touristy seaport was just a zoo of cars and people so we kept on moving and found a beach to walk on. That was fun. Plus, I even had steamed lobster ($15) for lunch.

Ellen, let Tim know I’ll reserve you guys an SUV in Charlotte for Thanksgiving. That should make the trek a little bit more palatable for you. My Camry wouldn’t cut the mustard for you guys. Two and a half hours with five folks crammed into a sedan wouldn’t be a lot of fun.

And Reid, your new digs look really nice based on that photo your mom sent. I’ll send a package with a few things in short order. Jeez, it would be great to come out for a visit if you’ll have me.

Love, Dad

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Dolt I, II and III says: two for the price of one … and a few lessons earned the hard – very hard – way


For a variety of scheduling reasons, today you’ll get two letters for the price of one. Free, of course. But not free of angst, anger and embarrassment.

The first covers a particularly galling episode. At no time have I claimed to be – and as no doubt semi-frequent visitors to this blog would attest – the sharpest knife in the drawer. 

The litmus test has been the toe-to-toe matches with the raised beds in the garden. The inanimate wooden boxes seem to have outsmarted and one-upped me with maddening regularity.

Letter #2 deals with frustrations of the neophyte gardener that are a recurring irritant in the weekly letters. Exhibits A and B are the two letters that follow. Owing to self-inflicted errors and mistakes, self effacement ought to be in any gardeners toolshed. Its earned a place in mine.


August 28, 2018

Ellen/Reid: Circus magnate P.T. Barnum reportedly said “there’s a sucker born every minute” and if he did say as much he was undoubtedly referring to your dense-as-a-wood-post old man. Yesterday was full testament to my idiocy. It makes me the second stupidest person in the U.S. (behind you-know-who).

Robbie informed me there were healthy blueberry plants at a nursery about 10 miles west of here and that was enough for me to spring into action to expand the 4’x4’ blueberry plot. Last spring I knew almost right away the wood enclosure wasn’t big enough but there were other raised bed fish to fry. So upon news of the potted plants the plan was to expand the box by another six feet. It crossed my feeble mind to take the walk out back to do a measurement and count necessary nuts and bolts but I thought ‘nah, I’ve done this enough” so I shoved off for the five minute drive to Lowes. It’s at this point that it is worth recalling what a college journalism teacher, Larry Walkin, would caution/lecture those of us – over and over – in his news classes: “never assume anything.” Of course, his truthful admonition didn’t come to mind, and was completely wasted on me, until it was too late. This isn’t the first time I’ve recalled his sage advice.

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The extension of the blueberry bed looks benign in this shot but trust me, it was a real SOB. Self inflicted, of course.

Somehow I inexplicably became addled when it came to selecting treated lumber. For the life of me there was no recollection of what I’d repeatedly purchased to fashion five beds (plus yours, Ellen). Rather than drive home to do the equivalent of ‘measure twice, cut once’ I thought “I’ve got this” and plowed ahead. 

Fast forward: I bought the wrong size wood – 12”x12” instead of the normal 12”x10”. And thinking I’d be ever so smart and save myself some work, Lowes cut the 12”x12” into six foot halves. Not until I got home did it dawn on me the wood was too big so I had to rip saw off 2” with a dull blade (or would I be the dull blade?). There’s another 30 mins tacked on to the job. Dolt.

But that was just the start of a job gone wrong. As per usual after drilling 60-plus holes through 2”x10”s and 4”x4” corner posts for lag bolts in prior beds, I typically slid a big washer over the bolt so when it’s pounded in with a hand sledge, the head won’t dig into the wood. That was then, yesterday was now. Only after I’d drilled the 8th hole – and pounded the bolts through the full 6 inches of wood, did it dawn on me I’d neglected to slide on the washers. Now the bolts would have to be screwed out in reverse with a Vise Grip. It was so tedious in the 86F heat, bright mid-day sun and high humidity.  Thank God the kids next door weren’t outside because I erupted like Mt. Vesuvius. Jeez, I was pissed. There’s another 70 minutes tacked on to the job. Dolt II.

The rest went according to sweaty plan but I still fumed/raged every stinkin’ minute. A minor irritant was walking 100+ shovels full of dirt 7-8 yards from a pile of good soil to the newly expanded box. That didn’t help my sour, and overheated, attitude. After more than 90 ‘penalty’ minutes were tacked on, the nearly four hour job was a wrap.

I was completely spent. All I could do was droop on the back porch, sweat profusely on an Adirondack chair and slurp ice water, only to sometime later retrieve a beer from the fridge to continue my sulk. It’s just maddening to do the same thing in relatively smooth fashion time and again only to just go brain dead at the wrong time.

Today, however, he new blueberries are in, fertilized and mulched. The $15 plants better survive because if they don’t, it’ll be Mt. Vesuvius redux – and Dolt III.

Love, Dad


September 5, 2018

Ellen/Reid: The otherwise gigantic and healthy looking tomato plants just got replanted (aka tossed in a fit of anger) into the compost bin because they were filled with holes from some sort of voracious worm that cored its way to the center of the fruit. The whole season there weren’t a dozen completely-bug free tomatoes. Which made me livid because I tended to those beauties every day with heavy mulch and water, et al. I didn’t want to sprinkle a poison such as Sevin since that toxin would have made its way through the system to me or folks who might be on the receiving end of the red, purple or yellow fruits. I didn’t look online for pesticide-free remedies since it was so late in the growing season. That will come next year. The plants were on their last legs anyway and the garden does look a bit neater but it does frost me that there weren’t as many BLTs as there rightfully ought to be.

The garden taught me a boatload of lessons this year (notably I didn’t know what the hell I was doing most of the time other that watering). It apparently is not enough to plunk a plant in the ground and hope that it might make it to maturity. Hey, bugs gotta eat too but why my plants? Eat your fill but leave something for me. I’m really not sure how your grandpa and grandma managed such lovely fruit for all those years. But they did and I didn’t.

So here’s what I’ve learned the oh-so-hard-way: 

  • Don’t plant tomatoes within 18 inches of each other. They were too crowded and became so intertwined I didn’t know which plant was producing what and the diabolical bugs had a ready path from one plant to the next.
  • Stick okra in the ground earlier in the hot part of the growing season. The three plants were again planted too close to each other. I can get away with that but it’s no way to garden.
  • Plant more blueberries and raspberries. The 4’x4’ boxes, while well intended, were too small for a real crop. Plus, blueberries need the presence of other varietals to really cross pollinate and perform. Hence the boxes were expanded to 4’x10’ with a great amount of sweat – serious sweat – equity. Same with the dahlias: too close and too small a box. Would’ve been waaaaay more efficient to make 4’x10’ boxes right out of the gate.
  • Put down reemergence on the entire supposed-to-be-lawn area. The one real bumper crop to be found is a stand of crabgrass. It’s state fair quality. There’s no sicker feeling than mowing weeds since that’s all there is back there. Drives me nuts.

You can sense my angst and residual anger/frustration since a little reading AHEAD OF TIME would’ve yielded a far better yield. Robbie kind of shook her head when she saw in the spring how I’d proudly planted things. She knew better but kept her ‘I’ll tell you so later’ remarks to herself. She made some of those remarks in the past few days.

So this winter I’ll bone up on the extension service literature and, perhaps, do a better job come next planting season. There will be some collard greens (really?) planted at the end of the month and perhaps some other cold weather plants. See prior comment on extension service literature.

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Scraping away perfectly good grass to make way for a deck was arguably the hardest physical labor I’ve ever done. 

In other news, a roughly 15’x15’ area of grass has been scraped off to make way for the footprint of the deck. Honestly, it is perhaps the hardest physical labor I’ve ever done. It was excruciatingly difficult and tedious and just plain awful. I used a square shaped shovel but didn’t really make progress until Robbie – who else? – loaned me some kind of pick. Still hard work but it saved me hours of labor. She has good ideas on most things. If only I, and most men, would listen to the sage advice of women.

Love, Dad

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All hands – at least mine – on deck … plus a great big fish as art …


If you’d of asked me at this time last year if I’d move, let alone move to Brevard and let alone get caught up tons of house stuff, well, you might have heard utterances best reserved for mature audiences.

But here I am, in a semi-rural outpost in western North Carolina, living the retiree life. Not that it should be any other way.


August 20, 2018

Ellen/Reid: In about an hour I’ll head toward Asheville to visit a building supply store that specializes in Trex decking. Everything has to be ordered ASAP; the contractor has moved my job to the top of his list and I want the thing to be done before my Des Moines guests (and you guys and the girls) arrive. Not that I’ve dawdled but time’s a wasting. Ready for it to be started and done. The materials and process seem somewhat complex to me so it will be good – hopefully – to have a live human being walk me through the scenarios and process. My builder it guy and seems of good character. He’s a Brevardian and has done work for several friends here. Plus, I want to ‘buy local’ as they say. 

Still no word on if my Blue Ridge CC classes will start tomorrow afternoon (the second is Thursday night). My hunch is there won’t be enough enrollment and at least one of the two will be scrubbed. If sign ups reach the threshold that’s cool but if either course is deep sixed that’s okay, too. 

Ellen, that was so nice of you and Tim to host a going away party for Steve and his family. That had to mean a lot to them. Good neighbors will come and go but that doesn’t mean you can’t stay in touch with them. Your house is ideally set up for such things. Robbie and I had a few folks over last night for smoked ribs (tell Tim he’ll have to have his A Game on display over the Thanksgiving weekend since we have to smoke something.). And Reid, you’ve been designated as the co-chef/sous chef for the Thanksgiving meal. We will likely have a couple of ‘orphan’ friends/neighbors join us for the meal if you guys don’t mind. Kind of a more-the-merrier thing.

Played golf with Sondra and Jody and Luke on Saturday near Charlotte. It was a lot of fun and the trash talk ran deep and, as per usual, your dad finished in last place based on points in our little game. But it was good to see them for even a little while.

September is going to be a heavy travel month. The wedding in New Hampshire via Boston, my 50th reunion and perhaps another foray to Charlotte. And then, before you know it, Thanksgiving will be here. Time, it’s just flying by. And to see that cute pic of the girls and their back porch morning attitudes was just too much. Don’t ever lose that photo. It may come in handy as retribution/revenge as they grow older.

Reid, I need your advice about how to get photos from my iPhone onto the walls of the house. There are quite a few pictures from the Camino de Santiago and the Tour du Mont Blanc that would be good material for display. My guess it’s a fairly simple process but since I’m too lazy to really look it up on the web I’ll instead lean on you. When do you move? And how’s all that smoke from the California fires. Jeez, we were just up that way not too many weeks ago.

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I need to figure out how to get photos like this – a chunky rainbow trout caught and released by my good friend Dave – on my walls. Reid, help!

I can’t wait to send Davis something. Nice they included William in the name as a tribute to Pops. Ellen, Kristin gave me their address but any suggestion you have as to a usable gift would be appreciated. He’s too young for a White Squirrel t-shirt. Maybe there’s a layette or something like that. I offered for them to visit here any time.

There’s a healthy stand of crabgrass out back surrounding the garden beds. The infestation begins where the lawn ends. It’s still on my property and in a way it’s my fault since I totally neglected to put some pre-emergence down last spring. My bad. I got so caught up on the raised beds that I went to sleep on the basics of lawn maintenance. What the hell, there’s always next spring. I did get another load of dirt to extend two beds. Yeah, I’m a nut. Deal with it.

The dahlias are an unexpected pleasure and Robbies been making the most of the cuttings. I wasn’t aware I was a flower kind of guy. Deal with it II.

Love, Dad

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Sigh. The Alps are a distant memory … it’s all about home projects now … except for the black bear


So much for fun in Europe; the trek is now squarely in the rear view mirror and on the domestic front there are routine home chores in need of attention. Gotta get stuff done before Daves I and II and Jane and Cheryl and Emma and Georgia (with their parents in tow) come knock-knock-knocking at my door.

Oh, and there was the matter of an intrusive black bear.


August 13, 2018

Ellen/Reid: It’s taken me a bit to get back in the swing of things. I’ve really been beat which might owe to travel. I was down for the count for 24 hours on Friday and just haven’t made it all the way back. But it’ll come. 

Now it’s time to turn attention to the deck. The architect dropped off the plans that the city has approved in my absence. Things look pretty good. There’s a funky pergola and some side slats that should offer some privacy. Hopefully the builder can do a reasonable translation of what’s on paper. Looks as though the composite decking will be a custom order and I’m not entirely sure how long that will take. I’m prepared to spend a few extra bucks on the sub-structure since I’m not a devotee of wood, especially in a climate like this where there’s a lot of rain and humidity that can speed degradation. 

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Okay, so there’s a nice view now and then as I futz around in the back yard.

Also in the works: replacement of turf around the garden boxes with a layer of crushed granite that is mined very close to Brevard. The pieces are very small and will be held in place by a metal edge that will be pounded into the ground. This should make traipsing through the garden a little cleaner on the shoes and a little more esthetically pleasing. We’ll see. It seems the gardening is never entirely done. Always tinkering here and there. Next up: the blueberry box will be extended by six feet and a few more blueberry varietals planted which apparently helps cross pollination. The raspberries, though, are about to really explode. Robbie needs plenty of berries to make jam. Something is, however, munching on the tomatoes although I’ve not seen slugs or other bugs. But there is enough produce to make BLTs and that’s all that matters. 

There was likely a first encounter with a black bear. On Saturday the solid iron support for the bird feeder was bent in half and the feeder emptied of sunflower seed. No raccoon or other animal has the strength to twist metal to their will. So I hammered the damaged support back into shape and attached it to the post with stronger screws, for what that’s worth. In a way it’s too bad that there wasn’t a bear sighting (on my terms) since that would’ve been a story worth telling. Robbie takes her feeder down every night since there are active bears in her north Brevard neighborhood but this is the first time a bear has made an appearance in my ‘hood. Maybe it was just passing through and stopped by for a snack.

We head to New Hampshire in early September for Chianna’s wedding. We found some cheap $229 flights to Boston and that will save a tedious 18 hour drive plus hotels up and back. She and her fiancee John will have the ceremony in a farm field so here’s hoping the weather is pleasant. Rain would be a disaster. But either way it’ll be fun.

Then the next week it’s on to Omaha for my 50th high school reunion. 50 years? It just doesn’t seem at all possible. Honestly, it hadn’t been at the top of the radar, given the hectic schedule in Europe and the New Hampshire wedding and with Des Moines folks visiting in early October, but Ralph has pressed me to attend and it will be good to be in Omaha for a few days to see old (sic) friends.

My community college classes start next week. For some reason, my writing class is at 1:30 in the afternoon while the news writing course isn’t until 7:00 p.m. I’ll have to drive about 25 miles to the Flat Rock campus, which is just south of Hendersonville. Not sure how many students I’ll have but will find that out tomorrow when I meet with the faculty liaison. 

Alright, over and out. Got some shelving in the shed calling my name and it won’t get done sitting here on the couch. Although sitting on my duff isn’t entirely a bad thing.

Love, Dad

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Worth two pages but hey, rules are rules …


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There were so many vistas like this I can’t remember where this shot was taken. Everywhere you looked, this is what you saw.  

A few days into my European waltz, aka The Tour du Mont Blanc, Ellen sent me a WhatsApp text: “Way to live your life!’ 

It occurred to me at that moment, as I rested my sore feet and creaky back in some cheap adult hostel filled with bunk beds, I’ve not really looked at things in that manner by any stretch. Rather, the walk was there and I took it. That’s a simple, but truthful, admission. There is no bucket list, no to-do list, no boxes to check off. Nothing is set in stone.

So all that was left to do was to give my pair an abbreviated look into the trip. If ever there was a letter that deserved two or more pages, it was this. But some rules – one page, thank you – are hard to break.


August 7, 2018

Ellen/Reid: You’d suppose that to call Europe quits 10 days early would be a downer but honestly, I’m glad to be home after three weeks to the day. Tom and I just thought that to do the 14 day, and tougher, Haute Route with no break from the 11 day Tour du Mont Blanc would just be over the top. We were just beat from the constant up-up-uphill and equally brutal downhills.

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Alas, we didn’t make it to the Matterhorn other than by train. But it was so worth the trip.

The Haute Route to Zermatt had one day with a 5,100 ft. climb – nearly a mile seemingly straight up – and most of the other days weren’t far behind in physicality. In hindsight we thought a break of four to five days would make it somewhat more feasible. But there are no qualms to hang up our hiking boots. 

The Alps were just (beyond) description. I’ve never seen the scope of mountains like that. Just so much more impressive than the Rockies. Europeans seem to treat those peaks as their continental playground since there were hikers and climbers everywhere. You couldn’t help but marvel at what you saw and experienced. The trails were brutally steep – in some spots I was on all fours to make headway – with very little smooth surface. It was near constant rock – big rocks – and boulders and mile after mile of god-awful switchbacks. Those were the killers to me. We seemed to find our legs after a day or so but there’s nothing you can do beyond put your head down and suck it up. It’s odd that during the walk there wasn’t much fatigue but when it’s all wrapped up and the excitement/adrenaline fades away that’s when the exhaustion seeps in. 

The lodging wasn’t much different from the Camino in Spain but was far more expensive. We stayed in common rooms with four to 25 bunk beds. The meals were family style, too. That’s just how they do it over there and hikers, including us, just accept it for what it is. We met a lot of good people from all over; Denmark, the Philippines, the U.S. of course, and France.

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Vince, Tom and I were fortunate enough to meet – frequently – with Lucky and Pablo from the Philippines. Great guys, and chance meetings like this are in part what the hike is all about.

Most folks were on the same schedule as us so it was fun to see them every day. We built a little community of hikers for meals and beer. (Reid, our Salewa boots were better than good. Not a single problem or blister. Saw a lot of serious European hikers/climbers in them, an endorsement of our choice of footwear.)

It was depressing in some ways that global warming is having a real impact on Europe. There was trailside signage to the effect that researchers who track such things over the decades have found glaciers in the Alps have lost 40-50 percent of their volume in the last 25 years or so.

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Unfortunately, the Alps’ fabled glaciers have taken a hit from heat – as in global warming. Their volume has shrunk by nearly half in the past 25 years.

You could see where the glaciers had been but are not now. And it was so blasted hot. Europe is in the midst of another serious heat wave, and that impact Tom and me our last couple of days in Geneva, Switzerland. Our hotel had no air conditioning and our room was a balmy 89F. We scoured up a couple of fans to keep the air moving but damn, we sweltered. So getting the hell out of there wasn’t such a bad thing.

On the heels of a decent night’s sleep and after this morning’s breakfast I headed out to the gone-wild garden. The tomatoes had grown like weeds and destroyed what was thought to be a substantial staking system to escape containment and spill everywhere. My fix – create a feeble sling of strips from a towel – is short term at best. The vines just weigh too much. What’s need is a heavy-duty pole system or some concrete reinforcement mesh. I’ll be on the lookout for that for the next season. Robbie did a good job of harvesting what could be had. On the other hand, the raspberries are exploding and I picked about four cups out of the 4×4 foot plot with plenty more on the way. I really missed the garden. And now, in about two weeks, work will start on the deck. Will head to Lowes tomorrow to get cranking on the deck materials. 

Okay, I’m out. It’s rained heavily and I need to get back out in the yard for a bit. Gotta figure out a way to corral those tomatoes . Or ‘maters’ as the Southerners here call ‘em.

Love, Dad

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As time goes by; a life there and a life here …


As months go, there was a significant creative dry spell for weekly letters from early July into mid August. That owes to the just-concluded trek through the French-Italian-Swiss Alps.

In the weeks ahead of settling into a window seat on a plane bound for Europe, however, there was a fessing up about the how and why of a new life in Brevard; Ellen and Reid (among others) had asked why pull up stakes in Charlotte and resettle a few hours west at the base of the North Carolina mountains. I had some explaining to do.


June 25, 2018

Ellen/Reid: I’m upwards of six months now in Brevard. This weekend Sondra asked me, as a few others have, if Brevard was to my liking. It’s a fair enough question and one that I’ve tried to answer to my own satisfaction since the day that I got the keys to the front door (January 18). Things were going swimmingly in Charlotte and that’s where all my good friends were, and still are.

I guess it goes back a couple of years when on the drive/slog back from hiking in Wyoming I made an impulsive way stop in Hendersonville. For some reason there must’ve been an element of dissatisfaction with Charlotte; traffic snarls, the accursed HOA Nazis in my ‘hood, coupled with some urge to simplify and downsize. Hendersonville was fine enough with a fab main street and lots of culture but there was something about it that didn’t jibe for me so I tabled it for 18 months or so. Charleston was also in the move-to mix but the far-far-far worse traffic deep sixed that thought in fairly short order.

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To be sure, Bridal Veil Falls and other nearby water wonders were part of the draw to Brevard; but there were other factors, too – less traffic congestion, a chance to garden and an adventurous urge to see what else lay ahead of me – that figured into the decision.

But this part of North Carolina stayed in the back of my mind. I wish I could say there was some thorough rationale to all of this, perhaps just an itch to try something new, maybe, but that grounded logic escapes me too. I dunno. I was just ready to move, to have a little adventure in my life and to try something different since your old man could always pull up stakes on Bungalow Way to return to the Charlotte area.

It would be a misleading to say Brevard clicked for me from the get-go. I scratched my head a bit, woke up more than once in an addled, surreal ‘Am I really here?’ state of mind/confusion. For sure Robbie has been a gigantic help in my integration into the new town. She really has been. I needed a friend/guide/counselor and she became it. So she’s made the breaking in period all that much more palatable. 

Brevard has grown on me day by day. Now that the moving dust has settled I can get to know this little ‘burg a lot more. A few more nightspots and a few more better eateries would be a great thing but like Charlotte, I tend to gravitate to only a few familiar haunts. I miss Macs, Plaza Midwood (which you’d have no reason to know about) plus all those good friends.

The garden has helped, too. Yeah, it sounds like an old guy thing but it’s just so enjoyable. I’ve wanted a plot of dirt ever since you guys were little. Many mornings I grab the cup you gave me with the girl’s photo and sip coffee on the back deck or just sit on the lipped ledge of the big raised bed to just sit and watch the plants the birds and anything else moving about out there. It’s kind of weird that there really hasn’t been much time devoted to fly fishing which was initially part of the draw but almost no time has been spent on the French Broad or Davidson rivers. 

It would be fair to say Brevard is still a work in progress. As towns go it’s fairly progressive although there are a ton of ‘necks/Trumpites on the periphery of the city and throughout Transylvania County. They’re getting what they deserve in absolutely stupid, lousy tariffs and slashes to their safety net and a serial daily liar to put their trust in and swear fealty to. But they get to keep their guns and their irrational border fears so that’s all hunky dory from their perspective. None of that would’ve changed had I stayed put in Charlotte. 

So the best I can do about Brevard is keep on liking it and keep my eyes open and hopes high. Thanksgiving is creeping up on us and you’ll be able to check things out with your own eyes. I’ll keep mine open about it, too. 

Love, Dad

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