Tag Archives: Charleston Outdoor Adventures

Hello, Mr. Hand Sledge: a painful reminder to measure twice (thrice?), cut once …


A still throbbing index finger left black and blue by the errant (read ‘careless’) swing of a hand sledge ought to be reminder enough that knowledgeable construction of any relatively complex project isn’t child’s play.

So it is Ellen and Reid have learned their father is about to embark on a self-constructed deck. The job will stretch whatever skills I profess to own. I can just hear the kids now: ‘One step at a time, dad, one step at a time.’ One can only hope so.


June 11, 2018

Ellen/Reid: Well, the wheels are turning toward a small deck behind the house. A city planner sent me the permit forms and – for a $50 fee and a sketch of the proposed plan – they’ll grant permission to start construction. Building the raised beds gave me a little bit of confidence to do the job myself since it will be a free standing deck without a lot of bells and whistles. There will be some storage space to accommodate Miss Emma. Tim is right that the whole project should be kept simple, although it would be nice to have his engineering and project skills. I’m gearing up for the task at a website he recommended, Decks.com. I just have to remember, over and over and over, to measure twice (thrice maybe?) and cut once. No doubt some additional tools will be purchased, such as a reciprocal saw and jigsaw, longer level, et al to help with the job. There are some details I’ll sweat profusely over. How to cut angled boards and sink footings, etc. But the footings here only have to be sunk 12” so it’s not the four feet or whatever depth you need to dig in the Midwest. We’ll have to see how it goes but I’m kind of excited about it.

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I won’t repeat the string of ‘words’ that spewed out of my mouth at the moment sledge impacted finger. “Ouch” was as genteel as I got.

Hopefully there won’t be any more finger bashing with a hand sledge as was done Saturday on the newest raised bed. What an oaf. I just wasn’t paying attention. The thought passed briefly through my mind “You should move your finger” and then – wham! It hurt like hell but nothing split open or broke so I’m lucky in that regard.

Fishing sure was a bust in Charleston. The only game fish landed over two days was a small speckled trout. The rest were junk fish and small sharks. It was so hot that my prediction of water that would be too hot proved true. Cap’n Joe at Charleston Outdoor Adventures and I chatted briefly and he said as much; the bigger reds and trout have gone toward the cooler open ocean waters although some are staying relatively close at the lighthouse on the west end of Folly Island where the big salt creek meets the Atlantic. I might traipse there later this summer but for now there likely won’t be another trip to Bowens Island until the waters have cooled in the 70F range. But it was still fun to be on the water for a change. There’s so much to see.

The local community college nixed any writing classes I might have taught. That’s really okay. It just frees up my weeknights. 

My friends Ray and Dave from Charlotte will come up this weekend for golf and seeing the local Brevard sights. We’ll probably be pretty low key with things; hit a couple of the breweries and hit a couple of diners/food trucks for local food. It’ll be fun to have those guys here. I miss seeing my Charlotte friends but my home gives them a chance to navigate up this way since mountain golf is different from the courses they’ve been playing.

Reid, it won’t be too many more days before I’ll be in California. Excited to see your new place and hear all about the work you’re doing. Haven’t been to the Bay area in years and years. Is is possible to take BART from the SFO airport to Oakland? The assumption is it has to be fairly accessible. Can’t wait to get out there. 

Mid July’s trek to the Alps will be here before I know it. Been stepping up the tempo and intensity of the pre-hike workouts. Robbie is a dedicated hiker and she’s putting me though my paces. Hopefully the weight can be shaved a few more pounds. It’s coming off slower than I might like but even a couple more pounds is better than no pounds cut at all. Starting to go through the guidebooks but my friends Tom and Vince have carried all of the pre-walk planning. I’m chagrined about that.

Alright, enough for today. Gotta tend to the garden (there are now five raised beds) and the weeds don’t listen when I ask them to stop growing. So now it’s hand-to-hand combat.

Love, Dad

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Post-mortem on a self-induced ‘three alarm fire’ …


The dust has settled on my three day disappearance; one thing for sure, it gives a person something to think about. Notably, this is what friends are for – to keep you on the straight and narrow or, at the least, to stay in touch. And bust you upside the head when necessary.

(On a side note, police officers Bajic and Akers couldn’t escape being on the receiving end of a letter. But more on that next week.)


May 22, 2017

Ellen/Reid: Well, what a helluva week that was. Geez. Saturday and Sunday were spent kicking myself for putting you and others through the wringer. There’s a lesson in there somewhere, the least of which is to not rely on snail mail to let you know where and when I go traipsing about whether it’s to Wilson Creek or Charleston or wherever. It’s interesting how any of us react at the very real possibility of the dire and the unknown and the truly serious; there are elements of panic, finality, danger, loss, and any of some other things. I’m chagrined that so many people rallied to your plea for help; Sondra, Jody, Chiana, Troy, John, Ted, my neighbor Dan and more. It’s interesting, too, how urgency creates an instant community among folks who would not otherwise be in this mode if not for precarious circumstances. People are used to the cordial familiarity of their social bonds, not the ‘what the hell?’ news that comes to bind them even tighter in unexpected emergencies. What that potential bad news does, in the beat of a heart, is reinforce what is valued and held dear. So if there was anything heartening to come of this three alarm fire it’s that it put your belief system to a very quick test. It sorts things out for you in a New York minute. I had a moment of instantaneous panic, too; Tim’s ‘call me as soon as you get this’ text really sent my mind racing about ‘Oh my God, what happened to Ellen or the girls?’ That really put me in a full sweat. I’ve spent some time, but not enough as of yet, to thank people for caring. I’ll do that in the next day or so. There was some dark humor, however, in hearing about the full-court sleuthing you two and Sondra, et al, did when you all went into full CSI mode; calls to Charleston Outdoor Adventures, Harris Teeter, ex-flame Felicia, the police and whoever else you badgered. That was pretty impressive on your part. And a key under a doormat? That’s my idea of security? Holy cow, what a doofus.

But that’s over and done with. As for the hike to Wilson Creek, it was great. But the fishing was a bust. I worked my tail off for a few small fish. That’s the price you pay for an area that sees a relatively high number of trekkers/fly fishers. The water just gets a lot of pressure. The fish get no respite from the volume of baits tossed their way. But it was beautiful and the company was wonderful. I would go unplugged again with certain caveats (see above paragraph) since that’s really the best way to enjoy the wilderness. One thing I wouldn’t do is buy a dehydrated meal that includes a ‘heater’ that negates the use of a stove. All you do is add water to activate the heating element. The package literally chugged steam like an old locomotive as the food got super hot. It was bizarrely wild. Then you have to lug the soggy thing back out again.

The new smoker will be put to the test again this Sunday when Troy and Jill and a few others come over to sample brisket. It’s a 14 hour gig so I’ll have to be up really early to fire that beast up and get to cooking.

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The new smoker got a workout – and less than a week after I got grilled by family and friends.

I’d better produce an edible meal or I’ll never hear the end of it. I may throw a pork shoulder on there that can be shredded and put in the freezer once we’re done cannibalizing it. On balance, Tim does a more focused and methodical job with his smoker. He’s the Gold Standard right now for barbecue.

 

Went to the Y this morning but the exercise center was shut down as staff was set to install a whole new set of Machines of Torture (aka ellipticals) that I’ll need to prime for the Bridger. Played golf on Saturday and got over the post-surgery jitters pretty quick although in hindsight another week of rehab might have been more prudent before swinging the sticks. But this past week wasn’t too much about prudence, was it?

Love, Dad

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If only … if only … if only … and the prescience of paragraph 4


For those of you enlisted to a frenetic ‘search committee,’ if only this letter had arrived a day earlier rather than be read at 2 p.m. on a Friday afternoon. If only.

It’s all about six benign sentences in paragraph four.

Think of the angst and anxiety and hand-wringing a simple call or text might have saved everyone. But my armchair after-the-fact analysis/critique will be saved for this week’s letter to Ellen and Reid you’ll read next week. Really, it will be an open letter of appreciation to the rest of you.


May 15, 2017

Ellen/Reid: It’s kind of weird to walk into the garage and not see the Harley. I’ve taken a second look several times, and when I pull the car in the garage, the subconscious takes over the steering wheel to pull the Camry a tad to the left so as to give clearance for the bike. It’s only when the car goes into ‘park’ that the realization is made that there’s no longer any reason to give the Road King leeway since there is no Road King. But I don’t miss it at all. There are no second doubts, no ‘yeah buts …’ – none of that. It’s gone, someone else is the proud new owner and that’s perfectly okay. It really is.

Miss Emma is atop the car and that was the real acid test for the surgery. It was awkward to lift it into position but I really didn’t feel anything other that some anxiety. I thought there was a faux-pinch in there but it hasn’t hurt since then. It’s been a four and a half weeks and the literature and the surgeon said return to full activity after four weeks. But I reserve the right to ask some of the Charleston Outdoor Adventures staff for a bit of muscle power tomorrow when the time comes to hoist her back atop the car. There shouldn’t be much of an issue on paddling since my legs are bent and my feet get some leverage against what amount to foot pegs inside the boat. I’m excited about again going down – and back – again although the weather is warming up in a hurry and that doesn’t spell much in the way of good fishing. I’ll view it as a shake down cruise of sorts. There won’t be any oysters this time around; that season is over and I’ll miss the back-and-forth banter with the black oystermen. I don’t know what they do for off-season jobs. Maybe work the shrimpers?

Ellen, you looked great in your cap and gown. It’s okay you didn’t go to the actual ceremony. In a way that’s sad, however, since going through the ritual seems to be falling by the wayside. I would have gone to yours too, Reid, if you’d wanted to go through it. It’s a nice recognition for all the work that you guys have put it. I do still grin at the thought that your ‘ceremony’ was last weekend and not this one.

I’m going to go hiking and camping with some new friends Wednesday through mid-day on Friday. I’m kind of excited about it. The Osprey is all packed and ready to go.

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The dehydrated meals for the Wilson Creek trek served as a metaphor for added food-for-thought: as in telling someone – anyone – when I head out of town on an extended excursion.

We’ll head to Wilson Creek and my fly rod is making the trip with me. Don’t know what’s catchable but one of the guys is supposed to be real knowledgeable about the fishing thereabouts. And Reid, there won’t be any infernal bear barrels.

Got invited to Adrienne Furstenau’s wedding the weekend of July 8 in Minneapolis. It’s an honor to be asked. It has me rethinking the plane flight. Scarcely nine days later I’ll pull back through the Midwest to pick up Tom and head west to the Bridger. What if … I drove up for the wedding, spent a few days in MSP, drove down to DSM for a couple of days, then headed east to Chi-Town for a few days before journeying West? I guess that would remove me from Charlotte for virtually the entire month of July and a few days into August. Ellen, are you guys going up to the lake that weekend of July 8 since the 4th falls during the week? That may figure into my plans so let me know ASAP.

The Spain trek is coming together. Ordered the guide book today and a new Osprey Kestrel pack. It’s about one-third smaller than what I tote into the Bridger so it should be a good option to carry just about everything I’d need without being too big and bulky. I’ve yet to pour over Tom’s gear list for the Camino but will do that in earnest when the guide book comes in. Now, I’ve got to get some sort of camera. Reid, any ideas? Nikon? Canon? Other?

Love, Dad

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Should I stay or should I go? … a final answer


Call the old rock group The Clash clairvoyant or prescient, but 35 years ago they sang the very question that tormented me since late last summer: Should I stay or should I go?

The context of the question for the rockers was love; for me it was relocation. And the final answer for me: stay in Charlotte. My roots had worked themselves deep into the red clay soil after nearly 11 years.

All the agonizing, yo-yoing and back-and-forth is done. Ellen and Reid were first told in phone calls. Last week’s letter expanded on a thought process behind what was by far the toughest decision I’ve had to make in more than a decade. I will disappoint some people but make a few others happy. Still, a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.


February 20, 2017

Ellen/Reid: Last week was one I’ve worried about for the last few months. Yes, I’d gone back and forth and back and forth. It looked as if I wasn’t capable of making a decision – and that’s right. I wasn’t. That’s not how it appeared. It’s how it was. There’s nothing in recent memory in my nearly 11 years here that applied such a tight mental tourniquet. There there was no clear-cut answer, no internal directive that firmly, and with finality, declared ‘Here is what you should do.’ Every day was consumed, in part, with what to do. Partial credit has to go to your mom since I sought out her advice. We went back and forth about it, not at great length, but in her usual sense of clarity she was able to define the issues and ultimately cut to the chase: ‘Why move?’ That really helped. Locally I talked with my good friends Sondra and Andrea and their distilled counsel – Do what makes you happy – figured into the decision, too. The thing that is troubling is the near-continual public pronouncements about ‘I’m moving’ and now I wear the badge of a turncoat. I do wonder what people think or will think.

So here I’ll stay. The snail’s pace of the house sale figured into this, too. If it had sold immediately in October, as I assumed it would, then I would’ve been up to Des Moines in a flash and that would have been that. But the longer the sale took, the longer it plodded along, the more the doubts came into question.

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Even if I’d moved to the Midwest, it still meant a four hour drive to see sweet little Georgia and her big sister Emma in the Twin Cities. As for Reid, he would have been five hours away in Chicago.

I wondered about reinventing the wheel in all respects; housing, social life, golf, etc. It would have been almost exactly what happened when I moved to Charlotte although not quite as dire. Could I have been happy to lean on Val and Bob, Jane and Dave, Cheryl and Dave and Holly and Dana? Absolutely. But when I stepped back from that ledge I couldn’t get away from the fact that Charlotte feels like, and has felt like, home. Sure, I can get along anywhere I live, but the reinvention part was troubling. The ocean did come into play. I simply love toting Miss Emma to the salt water. Yeah, the weather here is glorious but that was no overriding factor.

I really appreciate how you guys took it. Ellen, I truly sweated over breaking the news to you. I had no idea how you’d take it other than that you might have a very strong opinion. Reid, I knew you’d defer to the same advice as Sondra and Andrea. Part of the final answer is a commitment to get to Chicago and St. Paul more regularly. That feels right. I do want to be part of Emma and Georgia’s lives and that can, and will, happen. I worried, too, about how friends in Des Moines Continue reading

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An uncalibrated guidance system … softening a man’s sense of style … and Miss Emma will find a new home


It is no secret that a huge chunk of my heart wants to stay in the South. Have I wavered back and forth – and back and forth? Absolutely. My internal guidance system seems uncalibrated. What was once clear is now muddied and what was once certain is now shaky. (I wonder, aloud sometimes, if it’s a selfish train of thought.)

Ellen and Reid both know that. But there are two little ‘X’ factors, ages 4 and 1, who are the tie breakers.

As for the pending move, one of the worst things a home seller can hear is “It looks like a guy place.” Ouch. Another sign I was late to the design and decor party. It’s as if I never showed up.


January 30, 2017

Ellen/Reid: It’s 31F this morning as this is written and it feels like the cold is seeping right through the brick walls of this place. I guess that’s why they make thick fleece garments. Hot coffee helps, too. Yeah, yeah, nothing like MN (20F) or IL (16F) but it’s all relative. You get the drift.

You need to know I’ve waffled on the move so much in recent weeks that my flip flops have surpassed the total waffles served at the local Waffle House. Some guidance has been sought from friends and the substance of their counsel boils down to ‘what makes you happy.’ Hence, the conflicting thoughts of simply staying put vs. 10 seconds later considering a move to Minneapolis rather than Des Moines since it would cut down on travel and would offer cheaper flights to Chicago, Reid. I’ve tried to balance the Salt Life, weather and friends here against the need to be closer to you guys. The lack of a relationship is a factor as well. There seems to be no going back, however, on the decision. Every time I see a photo of the girls it just solidifies it. Granted, it’s something of an atypical retirement move in reverse; heading North when loads of people up there pull up stakes to make their home base down South. What I’m not afraid of is reinventing the social/activity wheel. As much as it pains me to leave friends, I can always find things to do and people to do them with. I just have to keep looking at photos of The Girls in the weak moments.

The new Realtor takes over this week. He’s very aggressive and optimistic and at the right price point. He’s also pushing me somewhat on ‘staging’ although I have pushed back to encourage him to sell to the intrinsic strengths of the house. His agency sent over some ‘suggestions’ last night but the file has yet to be opened. If they wanted repainted walls and such, they can forget it. I’m not gonna second guess someone else’s sense of decor and style. Years ago, one of my Assoc. Press questions was to what degree do new homeowners repaint or change carpets. It was 80 percent in the former and two-thirds in the latter, so what’s the point? Sell to the basic strengths of the house. One thing I did agree to was a verbal suggestion to swap the leather furniture on the middle floor with the smaller, more fabric covered living room set on the first floor since it was deemed there was too much manly leather in a small space. That point makes sense. Funny that the first bid on Zillow was $345,000. Go figure. The house sale may put a crimp in my plans to drive up to your uncle’s retirement soiree in Grand Island. We’ll see how the first few days of the listing go.

Miss Emma and me will head back down to Bowens Island this Thursday. I am feeling the pinch to get down there with even more frequency since the house sale clock is ticking and the opportunity to fish will vanish entirely when the home sells.

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A fine trio of slot redfish … ideal for my Feb. 17 fish-a-thon. I dearly love the saltwater and will miss everything about it immensely but granddaughters Emma and Georgia are the tie breakers.  

Miss Emma will find an eventual home up at Cass Lake where you guys can put her to good use. The rods will stay in my possession. If/when I return for visits I can always rent a boat at Charleston Outdoor Adventures. They featured us in a video for their web site but I’m not sure it’s been posted yet. If/when it is, I’ll let you know.

There’ve been enough political rants – however well deserved – made in recent days that there’s no need for me to pile on any more other than to say ill-considered executive orders does not a leader make. He bypasses the other branches of government entirely. He’s just not very good.

Okay, I’m off to the Y to get today’s workout in. Ellen, heres to hoping your strep throat is healed by the time you get this. You’ve been burning the candle at both ends. And Reid, keep your mom and me posted on your job prospects. Our fingers and toes are crossed for you. Hi to Liz.

Love, Dad

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A snow event that wasn’t … re-thinking a house sale … and a really sharp knife


 I stopped riding Ellen and Reid some time ago about harsh, harsh winters in the South. They didn’t see the humor in ‘bitter cold’ 40-ish degree temperatures here that passed for a deep freeze since they live up North where the cold is real and bitter and unforgiving. 

But it is funny when people make frenzied runs to grocery stores to stock up on necessities and schools close at the mere hint of snow. 

On the other hand, perhaps this time next year I’ll be the one wishing for the ‘harshness’ of Charlotte’s arctic freezes.


January 9, 2017

Ellen/Reid: Our panic-inducing snow event passed without incident over the weekend. We got, at most, a skiff of snow in my part of Charlotte although in the northern ‘burbs they did get a few inches. Still, the whisper of snow in any amount literally threw the town into a major end-of-the-world food buying tizzy. I went to Harris Teeter last Thursday to get the usual and normal supply of bananas and lettuce, and without exaggeration the checkout lines were 7-10 deep, including the self-service lines. It was utterly bizarre to see carts filled to the gills with staples such as milk, bread and – bottled water? I can understand people wanting beer and wine, but water?

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Uh, here’s an unretouched photo of my impassable driveway the morning after Charlotte’s snow event. The city can now stand down.

Schools down here also closed at the drop of a hat. At the mere mention of snow, kids were out of school. It’s hilariously crazy. Can you imagine what an inch or two would do to Minneapolis and Chicago? That’s not even a good start to a storm. It would be business as usual. But not here. Here’s what’s really weird: folks down in these parts drive the same SUVs with the same tires and four wheel drive as you guys motor around in up North. The one thing that isn’t normal are the bone-chilling temps. So I did break out the fleece and such and made a big pot of chili. Perhaps that just got me ready for the weather I’ll face up in Des Moines.

Speaking of that, my listing agreement expired at midnight on Saturday. My Realtor, Laura, sent me several messages about re-upping the agreement. I’ve yet to respond. I’ve been thinking long and hard about what direction to take since the only bids to walk in the door were when I listed the house on Zillow. It doesn’t seem to be a price issue; indeed, the home across the way just went on the market last week at a higher listing price per square foot. No other Realtors have balked at what we were asking so I’ll likely stick to my guns on it. My option is to find another, perhaps hungrier Realtor or stick with the big dog, Allen Tate Realtors, although I’ve honestly been disappointed Continue reading

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Rust never sleeps …


Learning is akin to the old adage about rust. It never sleeps.

The knowledge acquisition process sees no rest, either: it never stops, never stalls, never slows. We are perpetually in learning mode. The switch is never flipped to the ‘off’ position. Sure, you can’t ever be quite sure where all this classroom (and school of hard knocks) work will take you – but usually it’s somewhere good.


March 21, 2016

Ellen/Reid: Reid, wow, it sounds like your grad school experience is winding up in a really good way. I think both your mom and I, or at least me, wouldn’t mind attending the graduation so let us know when DePaul schedules the ceremony. Walking onstage to collect your diploma would be a fitting way to wrap up your school work. We need to be there to recognize your success – plus, we can head to one of those nice Chicago steakhouses and maybe catch the Cubs or the White Sox. All this, Ellen, just when you’re cranking up the post-graduate work in St. Paul.

My own students have kind of stepped onto a good thing. A good friend of mine in my golf group, Jack Blackham (she’s a Brit and is the one who got me following the Liverpool Reds), somehow put me in touch with a small suburban newspaper, the Mint Hill Times, that is sorely in need of writers. When I talked to the publisher, I asked if my students would be candidates for writing positions – and she was just thrilled at the prospect of hiring them as freelancers. So my guys are gearing up to submit story ideas and buff up their writing skills. It’s kind of exciting for them to have some solid prospects to earn a few bucks and get some bylines. It should, in theory, all come together sometime in the next 10 days to two weeks.

Went to an incredible series of short outdoors films last night with Kitty and Tom Bohr. The films were winners from the Banff Mountain Film Festival. There must’ve been 8 – 9 films shown, including one about four Texas A&M students who rode wild mustangs from Mexico to the Canadian border as a way to show the plight of these wild horses, some 50,000 of which are being held in government pens pending final disposition for them. It was such a good film. Heartwarming and touching. You can look it up: Continue reading

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