Thursday, September 14, 2017

Hurricane Irma

Spending our Summer on the road has been a bit of a blessing in more ways than one in 2017. Besides seeing the eclipse and our children and grandchildren, it took us out of the path of the most destructive hurricane to hit Florida Our homein more than two decades. When Hurricane Irma started developing in the Caribbean Ocean, it looked to be targeting our home state of Florida. However, we were more than 2000 miles away in Oregon at the time. This was fortunate as it took us and our motorhome out of its path. But our other home, in the Sarasota resort of Sun N Fun, was not so lucky. This created somewhat of a stressful situation for us for several days this past week.

The early models showed Irma skirting Cuba and then turning right up the middle of Florida. As it got closer, the predictions were for a direct hit on Miami and then proceeding up the east coast of the state. There was still some uncertainty, as there always is for these storms, but despite the exact track, the storm was far larger than the width of Florida so, it did not really matter too much which way it went, it was going to affect both coasts in some way.

We kept tabs on its progress and, as it drew nearer we kept telling ourselves that the house there and its contents were just “things” that could be replaced. Our growing concern however was for our larger community. Sun N Fun has been our winter playground now for nine years and we have many friends there and in other parts of the state. Also, Sarasota has become our real home and we were fearful for the damage that may be done that would affect our lifestyle once we returned. If we had to live out of the motorhome while our house was replaced, so be it, but the damage to our resort or the city could put a real damper on our enjoyment of the coming season and beyond.

We even got our family involved in that Ellyn spent some time one afternoon explaining the storm and our concern to our grandson, Oliver. We watched and waited and the stress grew to where we were doing nothing else but following the storm’s track. We realized on the Friday before it hit that we had not followed a news story so closely since “9-11” and, ironically, it looked like the storm would pass over Sarasota on the anniversary of that date.

As the storm made landfall in Cuba, it looked more and more as if it would move significantly west and, rather than hitting Miami, would hit Naples on the west coast and then travel right up that coast striking Sarasota directly. Our stress increased. The next day it passed over the Florida Keys and turned to the north. As predicted, it made landfall again in Naples, Florida, and the predicted track continued up the coast. However, over the remainder of that day, the eye of the storm seemed to be heading almost directly north and inland. The predictions still had it turning west toward Tampa but the eye continued its northward path, more toward the center of the state.

By the evening, it was clear that, unless something changed drastically, the most powerful part of the storm, which by then had reduced in intensity from the category 4 storm it was when it crossed Naples, to the category 1 storm it was by the time it was almost directly east of Sarasota, then we would be spared the majority of its wrath. It was still a very large storm so it was clear there would be some damage from it and it continued to pound both coasts of Florida with rain and “storm surge” flooding, but it appeared our strongest fears may not come true.

Water everywhereBy Monday morning, the storm had passed and people started coming out to assess the damage and clean up. Facebook became our communication tool with the people in Florida. Through one of the pages there, we started seeing pictures. The first showed the entrance into the park, which was flooded with a couple of feet of water. Access to the interior of the park was restricted but from outside it was apparent that Fence Damagethe outer fence had taken some significant damage. As photos and video started appearing, it was obvious that most of the units had been unscathed by the storm. There were three or four that were damaged, mostly to the “Florida Rooms” or lanais that are somewhat more flimsy than the homes themselves. There was also a few trees down and it was not obvious from the pictures how much damage they had done.

By Wednesday, the park was open for people to come in and check on specific units. One of our friends in the area drove there and did a “walk around” of the house with us on FaceTime. This gave us some reassurance that there was nothing major wrong with our house and that we did not have to rush back to do any cleanup. The biggest thing is that we did not completely clean out the refrigerator and power was out for several days, so one of the first things we will have to do will be to completely clear it out and clean it before we can bring in the things we have left in the RV fridge.

So all and all, it appears Sarasota and Sun N Fun dodged a bullet with this storm. Of course other parts of Florida were not so lucky and the Keys were particularly devastated, as well as several Caribbean islands. Hurricane Irma was a killer and we are glad it is gone. It will be a long time before it is forgotten, however.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Event of a Lifetime

Seven months ago, Ellyn made our reservation in Glenrock, WY at the Platte River Campground. At that time, she had checked with several campgrounds in the Casper, WY area and everything was full. Platte River was parking people in an open field with no services and still had room available. This was very fortuitous for us. It was probably the best of all places for us to be for the Great American Eclipse. We arrived on site on August 17th, quite early for the eclipse on the 21st, and just about the first camper to arrive in the field. There was one RV way down toward the river and another near a house to the west, who actually had service hook ups, but we were all by ourselves initially. Over the next few days, RVs, campers, and tenters moved in. By the time eclipse day arrived, there were an estimated 500 campsites, and probably more than 1000 people were ready for the event of a generation, for many, of a lifetime.

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The view from atop our RV looking toward the Platte River.

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Eclipse morning, the RV parking area.

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Eclipse morning, the camping area towards the river.

By arriving early, we had lots of time for exploring the area and enjoying the little town of Glenrock. We quickly found out where the town got its name. This was a spot along the Oregon, California, and Mormon trails where people forded the river. Not too far from the campground is a large rock just off the road know as the “Rock in the Glen”. There are names and dates carved into the rock in many places form the people who came through the area on their way west. Geoff climbed up near the top of the rock and realized this would be a great place to view the eclipse. The rolling hills across the river would be covered by the moons shadow and you could probably get a great video of it rolling in and out.

The Rock in the Glen Toward the River from the Rock
The Surface of the Rock "EG for Mohall, ND '29"

We also got to know the town a little bit and the very friendly people in it. They seemed really happy to see the massive influx of people and the business it was bringing in. They had some local events set up for the weekend approaching the eclipse as well. There was a Prairie Days event in the town park and a Quilt and Art Show in the local Recreation Center. We took in these two events briefly and enjoyed them. We saw a recreation of the Pony Express and a fashion show of period dress for women in the 1800s.

Pony Express Riders Our Interpreter
Fashion ShowFashion ShowFashion Show Pony Express Sculture

Geoff had signed up in March for a project headed up by UC Berkeley and Google to enlist amateur photographers across the entire path of the eclipse to send them their photographs during totality. Then they would put them together into a single video showing the whole 90 minutes of totality. There had been video conference calls and Google Group for discussion of various aspects of the project and ideas on how to photograph the eclipse. Geoff had been very active in this project for many months and had worked hard on making sure he would be able to get good pictures and also be able to enjoy the eclipse itself. One of the key organizers of the project was i Casper, WY about 20 minutes away from Glenrock. She called for a meet-up on Friday before the eclipse in a bar in Casper. We went and had a great time talking with her and the other photographers who showed up. There were about 12 of us there and a Google video crew showed up and took video of us in our discussions. They ended up paying for the food we ate at the bar and the bar must have thought this was great publicity for them because they paid for our drinks.

Megamovie Film Crew Megamovie Film Crew
Google Video Crew Megamovie Film Crew

So the day finally arrived, after many months of planning and many miles of travel. It was time to perform. Geoff was up before dawn and had all his equipment set up with more than two hours to go. There was not a cloud in the sky and the temperature was supposed to be in the low 70s at the start of the eclipse (first contact or C1 to the “umbraphiles”). The cosmos waits for no one so, right on schedule, the moon began covering the sun. Over the next hour, the sun slowly disappeared and the light became noticeably dimmer and the air cooler. Geoff had a timer running to give him alerts at key points during the eclipse. He did have some problems with the program on his computer that was running the cameras, but he discovered what was happening and had things working smoothly by the time totality occurred.

DIY Barndoor Tracker Computer Light Box
Power Distribution The Whole Setup

Finally, the sun was totally covered and the moon’s shadow enveloped us. A whoop went up from the crowd and cameras were clicking like crazy in every direction. The sun’s corona was bright in the sky over our heads and a twilight glow lit up the horizon in every direction. There was so much to see and so little time to see it. We can barely remember now what we were seeing. Suddenly Geoff’s timer indicated that it was time to look away from the sun and put your eclipse glasses back on. The solar disk started to peek out from behind the moon again and the landscape lit up again.

Again, it became a waiting game, this time until final contact (C4) at around 1:15 PM, about 3 hours after it started. Geoff’s cameras continued recording the fading eclipse phases until finally the inverter connected to the battery running all of the electronics stopped. At this point, Geoff disconnected his cameras and started reviewing what had been recorded. He was not disappointed. He started showing his results to people around him and they loved it. Over the next few days, he continued handling these pictures and uploaded all of his totality images to the servers for the Megamovie Project. Here is a sample of the images he captured.

The Diamond Ring Effect Bailey's Beads Prominences
Corona Composite of 12 exposures The End of the Eclipse
Partial Eclipse with Filter Wide Angle View Umbraphiles

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Departure Time

After more than two months in Boston to welcome Henry and play with Simone, the time has come for us to head out to the rest of our Summer Adventure. Henry is now 7 weeks old and starting to respond to attention with some tentative smiles and almost a laugh. Simone is becoming such a little person and is picking up more and more of the nuances of language structure. We were surprised on several occasions to find if her using adjectives and adverbs at the correct point and getting her tense and pronouns correct. It is fun to see how a young mind parses language without very much real instructions but just by observation. Of course, this means it is increasingly important for the adults around her to be careful of their language because she will parrot anything she hears.

Simone and Henry

While we were in Boston, we did get an opportunity to fly to Portland Oregon for a few days for the first Birthday of our second Grandson, Marty. It was great fun to catch up with the West Coast fam and do see Marty’s advancement towards walking. He was getting very close. And we got some time with Oliver too. It was fun to take him to the local McDonalds and see him happily climbing the indoor play area that he could barely negotiate when we took him there last Fall.

Oliver and Martin

Now we are taking about a month to drive the RV from Boston to Portland via some sight-seeing and visiting with friends and family along the way. Our first stop was in New Jersey, where we met up with our Florida friends, Dave and Myra at their daughters house. We were there on Friday for a delicious Shabbot dinner after taking a refreshing dip in their pool on a hot day. The drive was a short one but the worst part of it was getting through NYC. Geoff is hoping that is the worst of the traffic on our trip.

From there, we headed west through Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, and into Kentucky. We are here now and planning to take a tour of Mammoth Cave tomorrow. But on the way, we stopped off for lunch near Lexington, KY, and visited with our nephew Robert, his wife Katie and their daughter Emily. It was great of them to move right into our path across the country just in time to see us. We have now had opportunities to visit with all of our nieces and nephews in the past two years. It is great to be mobile.

Katie, Emily and Robert

After Cave Country, we are heading to St. Louis, Missouri and Boulder, Colorado to visit with long-time friends in both places before moving to our choice viewing spot for the Great American Solar Eclipse on August 21st (only two weeks away at this writing!). We will post more about our trip after that event.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Another Life Cycle Event

So this Grandparents thing is fun and getting easier. June 15, 2017, a day that will live in our hearts for a long time. Grandson number 3, grandchild number 4, all in one little package. Henry Louis Dubreuil (yes, he shares his Mother and big sister’s last name) was born in record time. We had places that day to meet Logan and Maureen at an apartment they had rented for us so we would be closer to their house and then go out for Thursday dinner. We went to lunch with some friends that had come down from Portsmouth, NH, and got a message from Logan that Maureen had gone home early not feeling well! (the exclamation point was Logan’s.) After lunch, we heard from Logan again that he was heading home and we headed their way as well, planning to be there about 4. On the way, we took a little time and stopped near the shore where the water was very active.

Windblown HairAngry WavesLynn, MA

When we got to the house, Maureen was pretty obviously in labor. After about 20 minutes, she and Logan were out the door and we were sitting down to dinner with Simone. Later that evening, after Simone had gone to bed, Ellyn called Maureen’s mother, whom we are good friends with, and she blurted out that the baby had been born and was a boy before she realized that we had not heard yet. Logan called us while we were on that call with the news. It turned out that Henry was born about 2 hours after they had left the house.

Watering the flowersPlaying with GrandmaHenry Louis

So, now we knew it was a boy but it would be a couple more days before we would find out his name. Simone was a little weepy sometimes when she had to come home without Mama and Papa, but she was mostly very good for us. Logan and Maureen came home with Henry two day later and we were able to go back to our own bed. Maureen’s parents also came and the whole family was able to get together for a picture.

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So now we come by to help entertain Simone and get some baby holding time and will be in the area for a couple of months before heading West.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Beginning the 2017 Travel Season

On May 31st, it was time to get going again on the road. This would be the latest we have stayed in Sarasota in the Spring since we started coming here in 2010. In the past, we have been on the road by at least the first week in May, but this year we have a slightly different schedule. Our fourth Grandchild is due in Boston around the 20th of June, and we want to, for once, take a more leisurely tripGamble-Rogers North. So we headed out and drove North and East a few hours to Gamble-Rogers Memorial State Beach north of Daytona Beach. The weather was not as nice as it had been on the “Sun Coast”, and we only stayed for one night before continuing on to Charleston, SC. In Charleston, we met up with Rich Giblin, a good friend of Geoff’s from his days in the US Navy. The three of us toured the city and had some good meals. He took us on a personal tour of the church he has been attending and we also took a tour of the local Synagogue, the old continuously operating one in North America. Ellyn and I later came back and attended services there on Friday night. They were hosting a choir from Atlanta. It was also the anniversary of Geoff’s Father’s death in 2008. Ellyn, Rich, and Geoff

Charleston Architecture
Charleston Architecture
Charleston Architecture

After two nights in Charleston, we continued up the coast to Virginia. There, we stayed at the campground at Fort Monroe, an old Army post that is now a recreation park. There we visited with Ellyn’s Cousin Susan and her husband, Paul. The last time we were there, they lived at Fort Monroe but now have moved to a townhouse in Hampton.

Paul and SusanSusan and Ellyn

Our next stop was New Jersey, via the Chesapeake Bridge Tunnel and Maryland and Delaware, totally bypassing the Washington DC and Baltimore traffic areas. We stayed the first night at Timberland Campground (recently changed to a KOA) and then went to visit with another of Ellyn’s Cousins in Monroe Township. One of her son’s has a big plot of land and a new house where we were able to park the RV for our visit. If we had known that the where we were going to park was so nice, we would have skipped the campground and come directly to their house.

David and Heather's HouseRV Parking

From there, we continued north to New York State and our traditional lunch with Ellyn’s former coworkers from IBM. Then about a 5 hour drive to Salem, MA. This is our favorite camping site in the Boston Area, as it is right on the water where we can watch boats entering and leaving Salem Harbor. From here, we will wait for the blessed event, and also get to visit with our granddaughter, Simone.Logan, Simone, Maureen and "plus one"Ellyn shows Simone some pictures

Salem HarborWinter Island Light