Monthly Archives: August 2018

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.


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. 


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 …


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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