Sunday, October 30, 2011

It's Getting Late (A Photo Journey)

So I went for a ride last weekend.  Not too unusual for me really.  This time though was a little different.  The weather is getting pretty cool and I left before the sun found it's way into the valleys so I bundled up a little.  Long, thermal riding pants and a couple extra layers of shirt under the windbreaker.  I wasn't really in a hurry so I figured I'd go uphill first to get above the low fog and warm up along the way.  I picked out a road I haven't been on in a while with about a 2 mile climb to reach the top.  The sunshine was waiting when I popped out from between the ridges and the cold misty stuff fell behind.

I remembered doing this same hill on my old Raleigh Record one day when it was about 90 degrees after I got home from work.  Why I took on a climb like that when I was already shot escapes me.  I think I stood up most of the way but never stopped until I made it.  Seems like it was a lot tougher going on the steel 10 speed but maybe it was only the heat.  Anyway, since I wasn't out to overachieve on this fall day, I dropped into creeper-low and just spun until the familiar right-hand curve announced that the climb was done.  The view was worth it.

I'm usually glad when I remember to stuff a camera in my bag on one of these little forays and this trip was no exception.  As they say, sometimes you can see forever if you just look.

My travels led over the next ridge line and after a screaming downhill that reminded me that the ambient temperature was still only in the 40's, I stopped to regain the feeling in my fingers at a small lake shore campground and recreation area known as Park Station.  It's a booming place in the summer with a man made beach, ball diamonds and all the other normal warm weather goodies but now, sneaking up on November, it was mostly deserted.  I like places like this when it's so still.  There's something about that quiet that's good for my soul...

I think this guy probably would understand...

As is the usual way with these things, after I left the lake, I just kept pointing the front wheel wherever the notion led me and changed my mind about a destination maybe ten times per minute until I finally ended up on another back road semi-headed toward home.  The sun was up high but still cool and teasing me to peel a layer or two but unzipping the windbreaker was enough to convince me otherwise.  I still had to climb back over a ridge line to get looped around so it was middle-ring and spin once again.  Going slower on a long, steady uphill and without the wind to drown out everything, I caught the sound of a big red-tail hollering at me from about a mile above and turkeys arguing with the crows two hedges away.  I knew who was doing laundry on a Sunday when I'd get a sniff of dryer sheets from houses I passed.  For some, it was trash or leaf burning day and then the smell of an angry skunk somewhere followed me for miles.  I wound up at a crossroads on top of a hill that I've only seen once in my travels.  You'd think I'd have seen them all a couple of times by now but...not quite yet.  The downhill sign is not kidding.

The layers were too much after the climb but I knew the descent would be cold again so I grabbed a Clif and a stretch before the drop back down to the valleys and home.  As I remembered, the drop off the hill was steep and twisty but I didn't know the local highway guys had sprinkled the corners with loose stone.  A couple of tense moments later, I made it down intact and headed out on the last leg for the Wayward Home.  I had to take one more look over my shoulder and catch one more shot.

I know the season is winding down and soon it'll be snow and salt again which takes the Trek off the road till spring but I'll take what I can and see what I can see while there's still a little sun.  I'm already wishing for May.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

So What Else Is New? (Long Delay)

There really is a reason (or maybe a couple) why I've been going so long between posts these days.

Life around the NWH (New Wayward Home...for the uninitiated) is still and always an adventure.  Along about the end of August after a spring littered with tornadoes (in upstate NY for crying out loud), a sideswipe from a hurricane and an earthquake (again...all this in upstate NY?), I made the mistake of asking myself what could possibly be next.  Really?  Remind me never to ask that again.  I thought laughingly of maybe a volcano or perhaps a minor asteroid strike (since I had just watched a re-run of 'Armageddon' in the hotel) but what did I know?

The floods came shortly thereafter.  The slogging-wet remains of Tropical Storm Lee plodded up from the Gulf of Mexico, stalled over the northeast and just sat over our heads while all the water drained out of it.  It rained like the proverbial cow pissing on a flat rock for days.  We were already soaked from Hurricane Irene's near-miss so the inches-per-hour downpour from Lee was more than the ground could handle.  The rain fell straight down in sheets and curtains hour after hour until the little creek under my driveway was roaring like a monster.  I figured the OWH (Old Wayward Home) would have water in the basement before long and sure enough, our tenant called to say there was suddenly 6 inches and it was climbing fast.
Connor and I saddled up with boots and rain gear to start the pumps and hopefully get ahead of the rush.  I had two sumps running and figured we had it when the floor re-appeared about 3 hours later.  I was actually thinking about calling it a night when I noticed the slowly-but-steadily dropping water level very suddenly reversed itself and started back across the concrete and up the wall.  This is not good.
I called my sister and she brought over another big pump.  I even rigged the little one we use to get the water off the pool cover to do it's little bit to help.  The water continued to climb regardless of all efforts.  My Big Sis made it home but later said the road had disappeared on her way there under a black, fast-moving sheet studded with tree stumps and a possible cow or two.
In the meantime, the basement pool was now back to square one and still rising.  We had four pumps running and we were losing.  I killed the power to the water heater and furnace but could only watch as the pond got deeper and the rain came on like I've never seen.  My tenant and I tried digging diversion ditches to funnel the surface water away from the cellar steps but the rain was coming too fast and too heavy for it to make much difference.  In desperation, we decided to call the fire department for a pump-out but they too had surrendered for the night or at least until the deluge slowed down.  They had whole towns disappearing and my basement was the least of their worries.  The crews were exhausted and most roads impassable anyway so there was no hope of seeing them until daylight at the earliest.
I eventually tried to rig a swimming pool pump as a last resort but couldn't make it work and so finally, for the first time, I gave up.
I had the tenant keep an eye on the rising water and told him to call me when it got near the breaker panel, then headed for home to catch a nap.  An hour later, the power went off.

Without pumps running, the flood level came up fast so John waded through the thigh-deep water to reach the panel box and shut off everything before the inevitable wiring disaster when the box went under.  Luckily, the juice came back on before the breakers submerged so I stripped to skivvies and waded back in to turn the main on and get the pumps running.  Nothing like flipping a 200 amp breaker connected to pumps through a web of extension cords while standing in water up to my...well you get the picture.  My procreating days are long over but the idea of getting jazzed to death by that route was worse than the freezing-cold water.  Some things I'd just rather not think about.

Finally, dawn came and the rain subsided enough for the pumps to catch up.  The floor re-appeared but to stay ahead of the leaking foundation required two pumps all day long.  We took a drive around town and found we couldn't get very far because most of the roads were fast-running rivers and a sizable chunk of the valley was a lake.  In actuality, we got off easy.  It seemed like a crisis doing battle with our one little cellar but almost everything to the east of us was simply demolished.  Whole sections of towns along the rivers went under in a matter of hours.  When the crest came, it was the worst flooding in this area since 1972 and some said it was close to the 1936 monster that just about wiped out the whole region.  That makes two "Floods of the Century" in less than 5 years for us...I think that'll do for now.

The wreckage is slowly disappearing around the area and the mud-lines have finally washed off from halfway up the tree trunks but it'll still be months, if ever before anything resembling normal life comes back for those who really got hammered.  It was quite a fight at the OWH but I can't help but thank our lucky stars we got out as lightly as we did.

I'll never again ask..."What's next?"