Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Blue-Tailed Skink

 This is a rare reptile for me. In my 30 years here at Pinehaven, I had seen just one. That is, until earlier this month. One day I was mowing out by the road. We have a large rock at the corner of the driveway. As I trimmed around the rock, a Blue-Tailed Skink ran in front of the mower.

 He was fast. It's almost as though he was running with the sky following him. The tail is really that blue.

 In actuality, even though this creature is commonly called a Blue-Tailed Skink, it is not. The true blue-tail lives on Australia's Christmas Island. This is the American Five-Lined Skink ... not so nearly as memorable a name. Only the juvenile stage is commonly labeled Blue-Tail.


 Even more specifically, this is a Plestiodon fasciatus. Read more about this reptile here.

 My earliest view of this creature was many years ago when I was again mowing but near the railroad ties that used to line our driveway (they have since mostly rotted away). I could not believe the blue tail when he rain into the wood.

 So now I've seen one a third time. Yesterday I had finished mowing and was just coming out of the garage. A Blue-Tail was sunning at the edge of our back porch, luxuriating in the warm sun. I approached cautiously - and this time I happened to have my smartphone with me. I took pictures as I got nearer and nearer.


 He certainly was watching me as I approached but he made no move to run. I got closer and closer.


 Clearly reptilian, the animal is cold-blooded and was enjoying the late summer sun. Recent rainy days have left us with chilly nights, into the mid-50's. I suppose the sun was a special treat.


 It is the tail that is most interesting to me. While the body is shades of khaki and olive, lined with muted yellows, the tail becomes suddenly blue. It seems wholly out of place.
 Others tell me these are quite common in Farmersville. Some, conversely, tell me they've never seen one. I feel lucky to have now seen three in my thirty years here. And this time, I was even more fortunate, to be able to take pictures.




Sunday, August 21, 2016

Lois Masters 90th Birthday

 Mom, Tom and I attended Lois Masters 90th birthday party in Miamisburg yesterday. It was held at the American Legion on Main Street from 2 pm to 5 pm.


 The tables were nicely decorated with centerpieces and purple glitter. I have to guess that Lois's favorite color is lavender?


 Lois (l) greeted visitors as they arrived. I'm not sure how she stood there for three hours (though we were there for less than one hour). When we arrived rain was threatening; when we left it was raining fairly hard.


 Though Mom attended, she feels she can't manage this sort of thing any longer. She has a very hard time getting around (she'll be 91 in less than two months) and has to keep a bathroom in sight at all times. It was difficult getting her there amid the streams of people congestion at the bar area.


 We were lucky to have Tom accompany us. He held doors and generally offered moral support.


 Cupcakes were decorated with ivory icing and lavender. Pretty!


 There are also veggies and croissants, though the sandwiches each appeared to have meat in them (chicken and ham salad) so we had to avoid them.

 We only had a chance to briefly talk with Lois but we met many relatives and friends we haven't seen in years: Mike and Scott Masters, Doug, Jeff, Roger & Eric Cluxton,Tom Lowther, Paul & Rose McKeehan, Sue Barlett and her sister, Robin. Mom saw friends from high school.

 Best wishes for many more years to Lois, as fine a lady as any of us will ever meet.




Sunday, July 31, 2016

Dayton's Oregon District


 I haven't been to Dayton's Oregon District for twenty years. Tom said he thinks he was last there in the 1980's. Yesterday we took a walking tour (along Fifth Street as far east as Wayne) through the 60 acre neighborhood.

 Known for its Queen Anne, Federal and Greek Revival architecture, the Oregon District is like traveling back in time. The first plat, in fact, was recorded here in July 1829. A good historical narrative can be found by clicking here.


Credit: Google



 Looking east along Fifth Street.



 It didn't take Tom long to find a crate of clearance LP's. Had I not been with him, he'd have spent the afternoon (if not here, then in a bookstore).


 While there we could have gotten tattoo's. But no!


 The north side of the street has some newer buildings. Mostly, though, the structures appear to date from the late 19th century.


 This mural adorned the side of one of the buildings. It reminded me of Cincinnati's similar efforts with their ArtWorks program.


 Looking upwards on this beautiful sunny day presents one treat after another. While many of the buildings could benefit from a coat of fresh paint, the architecture is stunning. We certainly don't build them like this any longer. Whatever prompted us to decide square was better? Cheaper, yes ... but better?


 We stopped at a couple of shops along the way, though we mostly window-shopped. Tom found some bargains at Goodwill.


  This shop was called Feathers Vintage Clothing. They had lots of antiques, too.

 A nice afternoon to enjoy a little time travel.




Friday, July 29, 2016

Night Bloomer ... again!

 We never expect our Night Blooming Cereus to bloom more often than once a decade. Or, rather, that's how we've always thought about it in the past. But recently something strange is happening. It bloomed last September (click here to read the story).

 Before that there was a five year gap. That still seemed too often for our expectations but we couldn't argue with success. To see the 2009 bloom, click here.

 To learn more about the plant, click here.

 I won't belabor the story - because I've told it twice before - but I still wanted to share last night's bloom, as much for my own record-keeping as anything.

07/28/16 - 11:21 pm


 We have been watching a bud develop after first spotting it on July 14, the day after my birthday. I water the plants we keep on our porch each Thursday so both Mom and I were checking the plants that day. She spotted the telltale bud first.


07/14/16 - The first sign


07/21/16 - Developing quickly 


07/27/16 - Just a day before opening 


07/28/16 - Mere hours to go

 Last evening, before climbing the stairs to go to bed at 9 pm, I took a last look. The flower bud looked substantially like the picture above, though some of the pinkish strips of tissue seemed to be pulling away. I knew the blooming was close, though I expected it to take another full day. The plant has never seemed in a hurry.

 The plant only blooms at night, As I climbed the stairs, the sun had recently set but the sky was still bright. I decided not to get up during the night.

 I turned on the Internet radio and listened to Hillary Clinton give her acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention and then switched over to the BBC in London to listen to a local talk show. I slowly began to fall to sleep.

 About 11:30 pm I heard Mom's voice, muffled by the running a/c. I crawled out of bed and asked her what she wanted. "I'm up and I thought maybe we ought to check on the Night Blooming Cereus and see if it was blooming." I told her I had checked at bedtime but I thought it wouldn't hurt to have a look.

 I walked down the steps and we both went over to the door to the indoor porch. I turned on the light and stepped out. "My gosh," I told her. "It's in full bloom!"

 She came out, too - though she can barely walk at nearly ninety-one, and we enjoyed the bloom together. The plant was originally her mothers and it was grown on a front porch in Miamisburg during the summers (I think it was placed in an unheated attic in the winter). This is a start (maybe even several times removed) from that plant. Mom looked at the glorious bloom as said, "It's like talking to my mother.."

 It is, of course, one of those special shared moments that I'll remember forever. I love that the past gathers a voice through flowers and I hope, on some future night, to hear my mother speak to me.







Sunday, July 24, 2016

Tom's 60th Coming Up

 With Tom's 60th birthday coming up this Thursday (07/28), we had an early celebration doing the things we both love. Earlier I bought him a patio umbrella (which he had already picked out himself) and some flowers at Stockslager's which he wanted to plant at his apartment. Mom and I each gave him cards. We also take each other out for our birthday; he chose Cracker Barrel, lusting a bit for their Coca-Cola cake.

 But first we stopped at the Central Parkway YMCA where Tom is a charter member. They have been closed for about a year for a major renovation project. They gave an advance look to members on Wednesday (Tom attended) and then re-opened on Thursday. We stopped on the way to Florence, KY where we planned our lunch.



This branch was built in 1917 so it's approaching it's centennial. Even from the outside, the $27 million dollar project is evident. New windows  were installed and the brick sand-blasted. It looks like a new building. Read about the renovation by clicking here.




 The  front desk has moved and it's much more spacious. Since the reopening was just two days prior to our visit, it was a busy place. I have access via my Silver Sneakers membership but I had to fill out a form and was given  a new YMCA members tag.


 Before we exercised, we toured the building. The swimming pool is something we'll have to visit soon.


 There are plenty of new, modern (electronic) exercise machines. This is a great place to burn calories and enjoy the camaraderie. Tom and I used the running track on the 3rd floor. It now sports windows (before I remember nothing but a block wall). Many areas of the facility have a commanding view of downtown Cincinnati's skyline.

 We didn't stay very long, hungry for lunch. Instead we ended up on southbound I-75, mostly sitting in stop-and-go traffic.


 I never did see anything to account for the hold-up. Tom thought it was mostly the entry-exit ramps causing traffic to slow to a bottleneck. We never saw an accident or construction that blocked traffic. While approaching Florence, Tom's digital thermometer gave the outside temperature as 97° (it peaked at just 91° at home).


 Tom peruses the menu and settled on a large  chicken/spinach salad. Then later, that special cake he really came for.


 I ordered their vegetable plate: hash brown casserole, macaroni and cheese, broccoli and okra. A couple of biscuits were included, too (I brought one home for Mom).

 The drive back to Cincinnati was as slow as the drive south. Traffic was congested mostly in the area just south of Cincinnati. But even while sitting there, the view is spectacular.


 And so Tom's advance birthday celebration came to a close. A great day with a great guy. May there be plenty more ... for both of us.





Sunday, July 17, 2016

Saturday Night Out

 Tom and I attended Germantown's Saturday Night Out yesterday. It's mostly a car show (rods), but also offers a few food vendors and music. We got there about 3 pm and that was too early for all but the cars.



  A good shot of Tom and I, I think. I just had a birthday last Wednesday (7/13); I turned 67. Tom's is not far away from a birthday, too (7/28); he'll be 60.


 This is looking east on Center Street from Main Street. Most of the cars were here. Others were parked at the Germantown Senior Center, Huntington Bank and in the Germantown Public Library parking lots. A few were parked on Main Street,


 Fire engine red!


 Dad would have loved seeing these rods.


 The sign said, "Honk if something falls off."


 Terrific paint jobs ...


... and most engine compartments displayed a variety of chrome.


 Tom admires this old automobile.


 Candy apple red?


 This purple truck was parked in front of the renovated Germantown Engine House. I remember the building housed The Germantown Press some years ago. That's Tom in the shot.




 One last view, from Market Street, north on Main Street.

 I have no idea how many of these events Germantown has every year but it seems like I used to remember four or five during the summer months. This has been going on for many year. We didn't stay long - less than hour - since neither of us are particularly interested in cars. Still, it was a pleasant day to get out and enjoy the village ... and each other.





Friday, July 15, 2016

Picture Rocks Bike Tour

 Bob took part in a Picture Rocks Bike Tour from August 7 through August 12.
A day-by-day journal is posted below.

Saturday, August 6

 Bob, Larry and Mike got together about 7:30 am in Moraine, Ohio and headed north for their bike trip which begins tomorrow. He called about 6 pm and said they were going the whole way to Manistique rather than stopping near the Mackinac Bridge and continuing their trip in the morning. He was already nearing 540 miles when he called. Yesterday's trip ended after more than 600 miles.

 Only the GPS log from lower Michigan to their destination recorded ...

All GPS plots courtesy Life360



(l-r Robert Schmidt, Larry Sabin and Mike Wuebben)

 Bob says, "Our journey begins."

 "Waffle House for breakfast before we hit the road. I was leery about the upcoming trip when we sat down at the Waffle House to the theme song from Deliverance."


"Crossing the Mackinac Bridge."






 "The UP view of Lake Michigan from the Cut River Bridge."



7:20 pm
 "Into Manistique after a ten hour drive. No rooms available. Drove another 17 miles to find a place."



 "Our wonderful dinner. No restaurants for a ways, just a carry-out: Foxy's Den".


 Mike (aka "Buck") acting up."


 "Our room for the night.  Larry and I bunked together in one bed and Buck [Mike] had the other to himself. I knew I might be in trouble when an abrupt thud woke us and Larry said, 'What was that, honey?'."

8:41 pm

 "Our room was $50." Location: Big Bay Motel.

8:42 pm


They're being led by Rich and Michelle Scott. "We're excited to lead you on a beautiful tour of the isthmus of the upper peninsula of Michigan, featuring the Picture Rocks National Lakeshore on Lake Superior," they wrote before the trip began.

The bike tour is sponsored by Bike Tour Vacations.

They'll start tomorrow from the Gray Wolf Lodge in Manistique.


Sunday, August 7









 "After breakfast this morning at Big Boy, we walked a boardwalk out to this lighthouse."
 Location: The Manistique Lighthouse.













 "Part of the group prepping to ride."



 "Boarding the raft at the springs."


 "Absolutely beautiful. Clear greenish-blue waters. Huge trout."




 "Park where the springs is located."
 Location: Palms Book State Park


 "Mike taking it easy in our room for tonight at Gray Wolf Lodge in Manistique. We got the room before we biked out this afternoon to Kitch-iti-kipi Springs and took a large wooden open-bottom raft over to the springs. Beautiful. Lots of tourists."

GPS-reported route for today

 "A 31 mile day. Beautiful weather."

Monday, August 8

 "On to Munising on Lake Superior. Just finished with breakfast and prepping to head out for 50+ miles." [8:11 am]






 "Into Munising for the night. It should have been a 50+ mile day. I got only 45.2 after blowing a rear tire and trying to do some unsuccessful road repairs. Blew three tubes and had to be hauled. Finally got back into service with an entirely new tire and tube."

 "Ate lunch at the Bear Trap Inn and have arrived at Beach Inn in Munising for tonight and tomorrow night."

 "Some might ask just how many bikers does it take to change a tire? But truly, what comradery. Thanks to all!"

 Bob told me he lost his left glove today and had to ride without it. It wouldn't be found and returned to him until Wednesday. But by then, he'd lost his right glove, too. Later, when he stopped at a restroom, he found that glove inside his helmet. So finally, on Wednesday, he had both hands covered by gloves.


GPS-reported route for today


Tuesday, August 9

"Following a short morning hike, we were driven to a trailhead for a 3.5 mile hike out to Lake Superior for a pontoon boat ride along Picture Rocks. Half the group hiked out while the other half boated out. After lunch the groups switched."




 "Larry acting up by a handicapped parking block. Sometimes he does struggle. Gotta keep him in check. 'Come on, Sabin, work with me.'"


A woven sort of large bowl/basket at he museum along the walk to the falls. I wanted to use it as a boat on Lake Superior."


 "On the walk this morning ... a three mile round trip from the motel."


 "Along the trail to Picture Rocks National Shoreline."

Bob (l) and Larry 





Larry (l-r), Kathy and Bill






 Pontoon tour of Picture Rocks


 Live webcams in the Munising area are available by clicking here.


GPS-reported route for today


Wednesday, August 10

Ride to Grand Marais - about 50 miles






"Larry along the trail to Lake Superior from North Shore Lodge (our accommodations for tonight). Coast Guard Point. A PDF file of history of the Grand Marais Coast Guard Station is available here.






 "Overcast most of the day ... sun just now peaking out (2:42 pm). Some mist today. All day along Highway H58."


 Link for North Shore Lodge provided above.






"Poor man. He's just like me ... getting old"

GPS-reported route for today


Thursday, August 11



 "Breakfast this morning before leaving Grand Marais."




"A 50 mile day to Chamberlain's Old Forest Inn in Curtis, Michigan. Some rain before we got in."






 "Looking out on Big Manistique Lake from the porch at Chamberlains."




GPS-reported route for today

Friday, August 12

 And back to Manistique: 214.8 miles.



Bike Tour Vacations - Picture Rocks Tour
Credit: Michelle Mathieu Scott



 "Here's the truck mostly loaded. Oh, did I mention our other mishap? My mishap. When I backed over Larry's bike which had been lying in the grass behind the truck? No damage. Ugh!"


 Heading back south, the Mackinac Bridge comes into view. The group spent the night  at a motel in Midland.
 Bob's final analysis: "Great ride!"

GPS-reported route for today


Saturday, August 13

 The final leg of the trip ... from Midland, Michigan to Dayton, Ohio. Home again!

GPS-reported route for today


Bob's mileage on his truck after returning from the trip