Sherrick Shindig 2022

I have always had a gratifyingly warm relationship with my relatives on my mother’s side of the family, the Sherricks. What with the older generation passing and folks scattering to the ends of the U.S.A., I don’t see any of them very often anymore. Fortunately, my cousins periodically organize a reunion, a.k.a. Sherrick Shindig, at some different location, typically not where anyone lives. This year is the first time in ten years I’ve been able to attend, and we are gathered at a lakeside house in Tennessee, which is a state none of us lives in. We’re having a great time. Swimming, boating, relaxing, talking…

That’s after calming down from the last six miles of the drive here (Allysen and I driving the Winnebago mothership). The road in to this location could very well serve as a roller coaster track for Cedar Point. Up, down, twist right, twist left, twist and climb, twist and drop. The mountain roads of Puerto Rico got nothing on this road. But we made it!

Here are a few pics.

My cousins Kianna and Lois, and me:

My cousin Bruce, with Allysen:

My cousin Stewart and his grandson Luke:

Some of the Sherricks gathered around:

Can you find me in this picture?

This is where we’re all staying:

A good time for all!

A Day at the Beach with the Carvers

We wanted to do something fun this weekend, and we had not yet tried taking the dogs with us in the Mothership (campervan). So we decided this was the time. We threw together some things for a day trip—mainly just food and dog supplies—and hit the road.

Hah! First of all, it took two hours longer than we expected to get ready (although part of that was going online and picking out a destination). We chose one of the loveliest beaches we know—Wingaersheek Beach in Gloucester—propelled by the discovery that April 30 was the last day that dogs were allowed on the beach before summer rules kicked in. That settled, I needed to implement an untested arrangement of harnesses and cushions to let the dogs ride safely strapped into the third and fourth seats of the campervan. (Mixed results on that one.)

Finally, though, we really did hit the road. Ten minutes in, Allysen realized she’d forgotten her glasses. Should we turn around? No, not that important. Five minutes more, and I realized I’d forgotten my wallet. Should we turn around? Yes. So we circled back, and I got my wallet. Also, Allysen’s glasses. Also, I shut the garage door that someone had left standing wide open. Back on the road.

Without further delay, we drove to Wingaersheek Beach. It was late in the day, uncrowded and gorgeous. There were some dogs there, off leash, so we let our guys run, too. Captain Jack had a ball, racing around, swimming in the tide waters, playing (peacefully!) with other dogs. He did steal one dog’s ball, but he gave it up and I threw it back to its owner. Even shy McDuff reveled in trotting free of the leash, though she never strayed far from us. By the end, they were exhausted. Or no, wait—that’s in the other universe. In this universe, they were ready and raring for more, and continued that way for the rest of the day. (Jack, you will recall, is an 11-year-old  cancer survivor.) When we got home, they absolutely had to be bathed, so we did that. By midnight, when they should have been totally zonked, they were still jumping around, Jack squeaking a toy in his mouth, looking for someone to play with. Who are these dogs, and where does that energy come from? Zero-point energy from the quantum flux?

Unanswerable questions. But that’s how we do a trip to the beach at the Star Rigger Ranch.

Beware the Tides of Ida

It’s been an interesting couple of days. This time last night my phone was screeching warnings to take shelter because of possible tornadoes and flash floods from the remnant of Hurricane Ida, which, having left a swath of destruction across the heartland, was now pummeling the Northeast. The only shelter I had available was the stern of the Mothership, so I just kept my head down and listened to the rain pound on the roof. I was fine, am fine. But I couldn’t help noting the irony that here I was in the path of Ida this weekend, when I’d postponed my original plans, last weekend, to stay out of the way of Henri.

The day before that? Beautiful, sunny. I rode Buckbeak to Woods Hole, looked around at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, where fifty years ago, as a fresh college grad, I knocked on the trailer door of just-becoming-famous undersea explorer Robert Ballard and asked him about careers in undersea exploration. (He was totally gracious to this wet-behind-the-ears wannabe writer/diver who had interrupted his work.) I also stopped by the Landfall Restaurant, where that same summer I’d worked as a dishwasher and busboy, and I had a cup of chowder and chatted with the granddaughter of the man I’d worked for. (She’s now one of the owners.)

Riding back, along the seashore, I stopped to sit and gaze across the water at Martha’s Vineyard, unaware that my friend Richard Bowker (read his stuff!) was over there, taking his own holiday. Neither one of us saw President or Michelle Obama, that I am aware of.

Tomorrow morning I pack up and head home. Was it a good trip? Yes. Did I start to unwind and think meaningful thoughts about my book? Yes. Did I get a lot written? No. But productivity was always a secondary goal. Thinking and rediscovering the threads of creativity was primary. On that, I got a start. I think I have more of these retreats in my future.

Clearing of the Head, and Other Stories

I got a good look at my campsite for the first time this morning. It’s nice! A lot of the neighbors have cleared out, the weekend being over, so it doesn’t feel at all crowded.

I stretched out the kinks—somehow the bed didn’t feel as comfortable this time around—had breakfast, and set about to readjust the leveling. (I felt slightly head-down last night, which isn’t ideal.) While adjusting the leveling, which involves jockeying back and forth up onto pyramids of giant Lego pieces…

I learned something important: Always secure your coffee before bumping your ship up and down and back and forth. Or at least make sure the travel mug is closed. After mopping up the coffee from the floor, I determined that I had indeed gotten us more nearly level. (I now envy those big rigs that have hydraulic pistons that emerge from underneath to do the leveling for you.)

I needed to go clear my head. I hopped onto Buckbeak and drove into Falmouth to see the harbor. It is quintessential Cape Cod: the boats, the rustic buildings, the ferries. And I found what could be my next Mothership…

Or I’ll bet this one goes really fast, probably close to warp speed…

Enough of enflaming my boat envy. I went down to where I could sit on a rock and just look at the ocean for a while. Ahhhhh. I actually felt the springs starting to unwind, just a bit. I found myself wondering how many ferries there are in the world named Island Queen. Thoughts about the new book drifted into my mind. I couldn’t take it for long. I had to come back to the campsite and open my laptop.

And write this.

 

The Mothership (Not) at Sea

A week ago, I cancelled a planned writing retreat in the Mothership, because of the approach of Tropical Storm/Hurricane Henri, which at the time seemed aimed directly at Cape Cod. Fortunately for us, Henri turned out to be nothing much for eastern Massachusetts (in unfair contrast to Hurricane Ida, which is right now slamming the poor folks in Louisiana).

So I have come today to Falmouth on Cape Cod in the Mothership, for a five-day retreat. I am ensconced in an RV park, hooked up to electricity and water and internet, and with the blinds closed, I can’t even see the rows of RVs parked nearby. I guess tomorrow I’ll venture out and have a look. (As usual, and not intentionally, I arrived after dark.) One thing different this time is that I brought Buckbeak, my trusty moped, to get around the area on. This is my first time using the trailer that I was so focused on fixing up back in June. It worked great!

Aside from The Ponce Chronicles, I have been completely unable to write for months now. In hopes of changing that, I sit here in the Mothership, quite cozy and comfortable, listening to music I’m piping from my old Zune into the coach’s stereo. And yet I am agitated and anxious because I have not truly relaxed in a manner conducive to thinking in… I don’t know how long. I have five days here to unwind and start remembering what my writing was all about. No pressure!

I have a fridge full of good food and good beer, and also some chocolate-chip oatmeal cookies baked for my birthday the other day. (I just turned 42, give or take a few decades.) It’s a start.

 

Mothership, Phase Two

Part of our plan for using the Mothership (our new-to-us Winnebago Era) for future travel was to come up with a way to take our sturdy moped/scooters with us for ease in getting around locally wherever we set up camp. There were many possibilities, but the best choice was not immediately obvious. I spent quite a bit of time researching the options, and then the answer arrived in the form of a Craigslist ad.

Here’s the little trailer I bought, a 1975-vintage 3-motorcycle carrier that the owner had taken apart and meticulously restored and upgraded.

He did a beautiful job, and his asking price was quite reasonable. Now it’s ours. I then spent quite a bit of time working out the best way to fasten our steeds to the thing—what kinds of tie-down straps, and so on.

Here’s one of the three motorcycle rails tilted back into loading-ramp configuration.

And here it is, with Buckbeak* (left) and Dracos loaded up and ready to travel! Hit the road, Jack!

Soon, I hope. All of this goes on hold for the next month. Why? Because I leave tomorrow for Puerto Rico and the latest adventures in the repair and upkeep of homes-away-from-home.

Next up, The Ponce Chronicles, 2021 Edition!

*Buckbeak, for those interested, is a Tomos A35, made in Slovenia. Dracos is a Honda Elite. Dracos is Allysen’s.

Shakedown Cruise and Writing Retreat

I’ve headed back to my favorite part of Cape Cod for Writing Retreats, this time as my first expedition in the Mothership! Here I am taking command, ready to leave, having worked the dock crew’s fingers to the bone getting everything ready.

A few minutes after this is taken, I hit the spacelanes, full of confidence.

You know, everything looks different from the bridge of this ship. I like this perspective. My, aren’t those F-150 pickups the most adorable little cub trucks? Wait—is that a Ranger like mine, or a toy truck? Must be a toy. My Ranger isn’t that little.

The confidence takes a hit an hour in, when I make a stop and discover what I forgot to pack: my wallet. Drivers license. Money. Credit cards. Nooooo! Grumbling, cursing, 180 turn. Back home for the wallet. Then back onto the spacelanes, somewhat deflated. The more so when the Check Engine light comes on. Gritting my teeth, I forge ahead. Real spacemen don’t stop for no stinking Check Engine lights! Would Neil Armstrong have stopped? Hell no!

(Okay, I eventually stop and scan the code. Non-mission-critical. Steady on course, Mr. Sulu.)

I arrive and set up in the dark. Why does this always happen? Connect water—check. Connect power—check. Remove bike from bed in back and lock it to the picnic table—check. Check that we’re level. Oh no. The site isn’t level. I jockey back and forth in vain. I wonder if this is why there’s a bag in the back marked “Levelers” full of oversized Lego pieces. I wonder what to do with them, hoping it doesn’t involve jacks. The internet comes to my rescue. It doesn’t involve jacks, but we’re not done setting up yet. It’s gonna be a long first night. Well, at least the wifi router in the cabin connects to the campsite wifi without trouble. (Yet…heh-heh.) Things will look better in the morning. Repeat after me.

Here’s the Mothership in daylight. Things do look better.

And here’s what you do with those oversized Lego pieces. You drive up onto them.

And here’s what you do to reward yourself. The campground is literally right next to the bike path.

The learning curve has begun.