Saturday, September 10, 2016

Back at It

14 months didn't really just come and go too quickly.  It was a long time to be off and enjoying other things.  Enjoying some extra time with friends, some extra trips, and lots of extra family time.  However that all came to an end this week as the daily grind of work commenced.  People were curiously asking me if I was excited or happy or whatever to go back to work.  And in the two weeks out my answer was a resounding yes, that I was happy and looking forward to it and all that.  The night before school started I had an epiphany and it was a resounding no - I was not looking forward to it.

The night before school, last Monday, I met up with my good buddy in town John.  We have always watched a movie together the night before returning to work.  The first time would have been September of 2003.  I can say pretty accurately that we haven't missed a date.  By and by we've been joined by a couple of extra people, but it has always been at least the two of us.  Our friend Adrian joined us this year.  Anyway, long story short, by the time the chit-chatting was done, a few drinks drank, and the movie watched, I had said my goodbyes and I was on my pedal bike returning home. 

It was about 11:00.  It was still about 30 degrees centigrade as it has been very warm lately.  The night was cloudless and there was an abundance of stars. Halfway home it just hit me.  There was an enormous feeling of dread to be going back to work.  The best, one of the very best parts of being off work is not going to work on the first day you need to report.  The first day is most critical and what is important.  It is the first day that is the sweetest of them all.  On the second it diminishes a wee bit, not much, but a bit, and of course it diminishes and diminishes for the remaining 194 working days for teachers in the province.  Days off don't become as special the more you have them - in a sense.  Or to me they don't.

So that hit me like a ton of bricks, and like I wrote, I had reservations about the first day and my impending return at truly the 11th hour.  Nevertheless I did report to work.  I carpooled with my two great colleagues Mike and Liesa, who had most obviously missed me tremendously over the past 14 months, and I got into the swing of things.

Molly is swinging in Senior Kindergarten this year, and Wally is swinging at the municipal day car in town.  I Can't say anything but great things about where the kids are and who is minding them.  School is suiting Molly well....  And again - if Shelly or I can't mind Wally on a full time basis like all of last year, the municipal day care is the best. 

It is full of great and caring primary child care workers and lots of other children for Wally to socialize and interact with.  He gets fed like a champ with nutritious meals and he sleeps there too throughout the day.  And did I mention how great the staff are.  He loves to go, and loves to get picked up and leave at the end of the day too.

Molly is back to the same school and with the same teacher.  There are also, of course, a number of same classmates.  She goes to a bit of a daycare of sorts too before the school day starts and again after it ends.  But that is the way it is....

Shelly - hard at it at the high school with a sundry of classes like music and civics....  She had a bit of tears seeing Wally off on the first day, however she has been at ease for the rest of the week. 

I am, once again, back to Brookside in a bit of a different capacity.  I am charged with most of the Kindergarten, grades 1, 2, 3, and grades 6/7 phys. ed., and the math for the sixth and seventh graders as well.  So I am bouncing around a bit, but, I don't mind it so much.

The four of us are all looking forward to February of 2019 when the next sabbatical starts.  Well, mom and dad anyway.  Until then, I am sure there will be a few adventures and postings along the way. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Walton Race Track

I mention in this video about one rider who was wearing number 8.  His last name was Keast.  Anyway, most of the riders looked like distance runners to be honest.  They were quite thin and lean.  Perhaps they carried a bit more muscle, but they certainly weren't built too big.  But the exception to the rule was this Keast rider.  I saw him in a few races and his size immediately jumped out at me.  He was huge.  He looked like he'd be better suited with football equipment on and positioned as a linebacker. 

Darrin and I also talked to a bike mechanic who works at a place just 20km away were we've had our bikes in and wrench on.  We were chit-chatting back and forth and joking about this and that and asking him how things are.  He was there with his two brothers and some nephews.  The boys were about 3.  Anyway he told the boy's parents, and them, that as fun as this sport is, it costs a tonne of $$$$, and you are going to get hurt.  He wasn't exaggerating.  

I couldn't help but think talent is one thing among the brother and sisterhood of this sport, but you first have to start with gear and travel and equipment that is priced above the means of most.  And I get it, you can have fun on a used dirt bike that isn't all tricked out and such, and you can get your feet wet into this sport with a good attitude and friendly people surrounding you, but then something happens.  It happens in track, and tennis, and hockey, figure skating, gymnastics and equestrian riding; there is this swing.  A swing that doesn't seem to go back to where it came from.  A swing that stays in a direction of higher costs, further travel, more expensive coaches and equipment.  It isn't unique to one sport.  It happens.

Then something else weird happens - and it is true in mostly all sports.  At this top level, everyone has the best motorbike, or golf clubs or hockey stick.  Everyone has mostly equal access to decent coaching, and is traveling to where they need to get or be.  However, there is this thing call talent again.  It seems like all the riders in the top 10 were basically going the same speed - just like all the top golfers probably drive just as far.  But the guy in first in the MX race is just that much more talented in the way they do the finer things that need to be done.  His bike is still 250cc like the others behind him.  His chain is equally greased and tires as equally good.  But talent separates these people.  How does talent come about?  Hard work for sure.

Walton Raceway

There are always a few go-to events in the area.  This week it was the MX races at Walton.  Walton is a small, and I mean small rural community.  It has a general store, an elevator for crops, and a sizeable tractor dealership, but that is about all.  I doubt 500 people live there.  There would be no way 500 people live there.  However there is a huge MX facility that plays host to quite the event every 3rd week of August.  For the first 3 days there is lots of 50cc and 85cc races - kids, elementary aged kids getting the feel.  Although as soon as the weekend comes, the big dogs are out and the speed really picks up.

On Sunday afternoon Darrin and I took it in.  The weather wasn't so great, but there were still thousands in attendance.  The action and talent of the riders exceeded our expectations.  Without fear, they had their machines nearly tire to tire, and on their sides, cornering and jumping.  It is hard to believe the pounding the bikes, and bodies take....  The bikes especially seem like they are beaten, and treated like a rented car.  And I suppose they are.  But each bike gets to the starting line clean; very clean.  The chains and sprockets look brand new, tires that shine, exhaust lacking mud and debris, and plastic that proudly displays plenty of advertisement.  After the race though - not so much.

So lots of noise and lots of smells at the races.  The schedule indicated there was a Master's Class.  I don't know the particulars, perhaps 40 and over.  It is sandwiched at the beginning of the week near the kid's races.  Who knows?  I have improved a bit on the MX bike this summer, but I don't think I have the nerve to blast into that Hole Shot with 20 others.  I will stick to running races for the time being.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Sunflowers and Tomatos

We hit an abundance of tomatoes this year....

The sunflowers that did grow did well, but I planted 12 and only 3 or 4 made it....

Our basil, which generally does quite well, did not do well whatsoever this year.

Despite having a greenhouse and a lot of land for growing, we don't do well in this department.  Two thirds of what we start gets neglected and cast aside.  However this small plot of 2 feet by 4 feet was my tending, and it did okay I guess.  It has been a very dry summer and there has been little to no rain whatsoever. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Hatfield McCoy Trail System

Tucked away in the southwestern corner of West Virginia is an extensive motor cross, 4 wheel, and side x side, trail system of over 500 miles.  It is divided in 7 parts that are fully labelled and mapped.  Each section has varied terrain, but I will tell you that the easiest labelled trails are still quite challenging and not for the faint-of-heart.

6 adults, 1 infant, 2 pick up trucks, one 6x12 trailer, 4 dirt bikes, 1 four wheeler and a stroller were tightly packed to make the 950km, each way, commute.  We left on a Friday and returned the following Thursday.  We were routed down I-75 to Dayton, OH, then took #35, #119, and finally #10 into our destination of Man, WV.  Traveling there was half the fun, not the battle, as there was constant laughter, music, trivia, teasing and joking to fill the time along the road.

We stayed at a converted train station called The Depot.  It specifically caters to travelers such as ourselves.  It is located about 1 mile from the main trail head of The Rockhouse trail system - one of the 7.  Alone, it has well over 90 miles of trails that are not only quite rocky, as the name suggests, but hilly, twisty, and muddy. 

On a big ride we'd get 40km in 3 hours.  First there would be periodic stops every 8km or so just to make sure we hadn't lost anyone, and to rest, but secondly the trails don't allow for top speeds.  There are few, if any, "straight-away" sections.  Steep inclines of 50 degrees or so had to be climbed, the steep declines ascended, and all the while doing your best to avoid rocks as big as one's head, mud, holes, and loose gravel.  I wiped out significantly enough twice - over the handle bars and a few rolls, on descents and going very slowly.  Both times my front tire just slid out from me and before I new it I was on my back.  No injury, bruising, soreness, or the like though....  So maybe not significantly in one sense, but significantly in the sense that I was tossed from the bike good enough.  And there were a few times I just simply lost balance and dropped the bike.  Again, no injury or damage to me or the machine.  Even the most seasoned rider in our posse had an off or two.

Most days we'd ride 80km or a bit more - breaking it up with food and drink and rest and such.  We rode extensively through trails into a community called Gilbert, WV.  40 plus km by trail, yet only 15km by highway....  There we got gas, food, and just walked around the town.  It is not uncommon to see unplated vehicles driving through town and doing just as we did.  It is just the way it is down there.

It is a long way to go for such fun, and challenge.  I can rip around on a dirt bike up in Lucknow all day, or around the trails along the Bayfield river.   However the trail system is somewhat iconic, thus a belt buckle notch and something I can say, "I've done that...."  The trails are busy, and all the people were very friendly and nice.  I really thought it would be easier riding however.  I was not prepared for how difficult it actually was.  I expected the easiest of the easy stuff to be finely grated stone, flat, and similar to the ripped up rail road tracks around these parts.  But it wasn't.  I thought I did well, and of course my skill set and competence only increased as the week went on.  Trails were also labeled "blue" for more difficult, then black, and of course black diamond.....  We went on a number of blue trails as well. 

This adventure really felt like tree skiing.  It really felt like the ups and downs and the weaving of the skis through the glades.  So I thought of my brother quite a lot on the trip and how much he would enjoy this kind of activity.  He is quite capable on two wheels already, and of course skis, so what would a few extra hundred pounds and an engine add?  I thought he would have really enjoyed the trip and the experience as well. 

And of course the name is very important too - Hatfield and McCoy.  We immersed ourselves in the history and folklore of the feud between these two families.  Some of the bigger blows and events of the fight happened just about 20 miles away.  It wasn't the bloodiest or deadliest feud that gripped the United States, but it went down in history as being memorable in the way it was covered in newspapers and such.  It was memorable in some of the myths surrounding it in the way it started, and how a few killings took place....  So that was an especially neat part about the whole trip too.

Rain and Break-Downs

If there is one thing for certain, on most motorcycle trips that involve me you are going to find rain or repairs.  We found both.  It rained quite frequently in the southwest corner of West Virginia.  In fact, it rained pretty much every day like it would in the Caribbean.

As for the break-down.  Josh completely dumped his bike under water in a huge puddle.  He couldn't get to the kill switch on time, and alas, watered it down.  We first tipped it upside down and water just rushed out of the muffler.  Then we proceeded to take the spark plug out of it and get the water out of the top of the cylinder.  However we didn't have an extender long enough to reach the top of the plug.  We were at least 9 miles back to the hotel - dam.  So, we started towing it.  It was rough.  Just terribly rough on the terrain.  The towed it for about 4 miles until we came across some four-wheelers who were well equipped with tools, and importantly knowledge on the trick of the trade.  I guess one of them had the exact same bike a few years back and new exactly how to trouble-shoot out of our problem.

Sure enough, we got everything out, and then put back together.  The bike didn't want to start with the kicker, but on the first significant down hill we bum-started it and it took off back to life!  The last 4 miles home would be much easier.


Monday, August 8, 2016

Beckley, West Virginia Coal Mine Tour

We took a break in our motorcycle action for some repairs, rest, and some sight seeing of another kind.  It was 80 km east over to a bigger town/city called Beckley, WV.  It was a crazy drive with roads I could only compare to those on Tortola.  It was steep and hilly with tight turns in many spots.  Cresting into the city, we were greeted by a great deal of traffic and congestion.

So we put some new tires on one of the bikes, and changed oil and spark plugs in another....  We found this really comprehensive coal mine village that had been recreated to look like it was operational from the early 20th century.  They offered tours within the mine, and tours of houses and facilities that a mining community would have had.  They had an extensive collection of tools and equipment too.

Without saying, well, with, coal mining was a horrendous job.  The working conditions were terrible.  Pay was terrible.  Safety conditions were terrible.  Company owners used to pay the workers in credit to buy supplies at the stores, which they also owned....  The owners owned all the housing.  Workers had to supply all their own tools and whatnot.  It was just incredible that people would do that.  However, undoubtedly people did.  Little pay, lots of back breaking work.  Yikes.

The narrated tour was interesting and we got a good snap-shot at what it was like.  The museum was really neat with lots of archives and artifacts from the time period.  The region is still highly dependent on coal as evident as the numerous coal mines still in production.