Though we’re not usually beach people we were pleasantly surprised when, a few months ago, we were invited by a few of Rick’s cousins to join them in Wildwood, NJ for a Scully family reunion. Rick had not communicated with them much in the past 20 years, and I had never had the pleasure of meeting them. So we booked a room in the hotel they had selected and planned for a trip to the beach.
Driving down was pretty easy. We left the house about 7:30 on Friday; zipped through Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut; had to wait for about an hour in New York to cross the George Washington Memorial Bridge; then made our way through the toll-road slolham on the Garden State Parkway, only getting a tiny bit off track just as we were crossing into Wildwood Crest. Rick’s excellent intuition and sense of direction quickly got us to the hotel just as Tami and Ed arrived.
The hotel looked like a beached cruise ship, white with tropical details and a multi-level porch/patio area off the back overlooking the ocean. Thankfully it was not one of the new over-done highrise hotels, but one of the many remaining theme hotels from the 1960′s. The themes reminded me of a more subdued, beach version of Las Vegas; an interesting combination with the ocean.
We were quickly (re)introduced to Colleen and Jamie and their kids (and one grand-daughter) and joined them on the ocean. We chatted for a bit before returning to the hotel patio for some grilling. After our food settled a few of the kids (myself included) decided to jump in the pool. I had forgotten how much I love swimming.
After the sun went down we moved up to the second-floor patio overlooking the pool. Exhausted after a full day’s drive, we retired at a reasonable hour. The next morning, I rose early hoping for a morning swim, only to find pool didn’t open until 10:00 a.m. So Rick and I headed to the nearly deserted beach to have a look around the tidal pools. I was surprised to see evidence of sand crabs and even a little beach grass on such a crowded beach.
The rest of the group rose and we headed to breakfast at the noisy and overpriced Flip-Flop Cafe, which seemed quite popular. Then we returned to the beach with Jamie, Cyd and Shannon, taking pictures and looking for shells.
The kids had made a speedy recovery from breakfast and wanted to go for a swim in the pool. I decided to wait a bit and parked myself by the pool with my knitting. Tim and Gina were giving Leanna a swimming lesson and I had a blast watching her jump from the side of the pool into her dad’s arms. Eventually I couldn’t resist and I joined the pool crowd for a few minutes, before we relocated back to the sand. By this time it was around noon and getting hot. We rented a couple of beach umbrellas, which were quickly erected by a very helpful teenage beach umbrella dude.
Rick and I were quickly roped into helping Forewoman Shannon build sandcastles Little did Rick and I realize at this point that we had failed to get an even coating of sunscreen on our legs and feet.
Meanwhile, Leanna had been playing with her parents and was eventually due for a nap, so the three of them went back to the hotel for a rest. By this time, I was hot and covered in sand, and Tami had been gently baking herself in the sun for good while, so we decided to join Cyd for a dip in the ocean. I had not been planning to swim in the salt water, but I was so hot and the water so cold at this point that I couldn’t resist. I had a shock getting into the water but once in it felt refreshing. I was surprised how far out Tami and I were able to wade and still reach the bottom. The tide was really coming in at this point and so even though it was a bit rough I felt comfortable. Tami and I were having a great time when we spotted dolphins about 50 yards further out from us. Though we never were very close, it was my first time swimming anywhere near larger sea life, and I understood why people like to snorkel.
We finally dragged ourselves out of the sea and I lay out under one of the umbrellas reading Sheep! Magazine. Rick returned and he and I had a catnap on the beach while Jamie and Cyd headed to the surf shop. Shannon returned and once again enlisted our help, this time in setting a trap for her brother. She devised a rouse by which she would invite him to sit beside her on a beach towel, only to trick him into falling butt-first into a pit. Rick tried to convince her the retribution she might face from Cyd would be worse than the joy she would have at tricking him. But I tried some reverse psychology and, while Rick went to cool his burning feet in the ocean, I dug in with enthusiasm to help Shannon make a deeper hole. After about 20 minutes of eager preparation and gleefully imagining Cyd’s expression as he fell into her trap, Shannon began to doubt the wisdom of her plan. Eventually she talked herself out of it and we backfilled the hole just as Jamie, Cyd and Colleen returned from the surf shop.
After some more beach time we made our way back to the swimming pool, where Shannon and I played at shouting to each other under water and trying to understand one another. We didn’t have much luck. The pool was very crowded so we didn’t stay long.
For dinner Tami had planned a special belated birthday meal for her sister Colleen, with fillet mignon for everyone and a birthday cake. All the family pitched in with various side dishes, and I saved the day with the lettuce we brought from our first CSA basket.
After dinner we decided to head down to the boardwalk. Cyd and Shannon played a few games on the midway and won a couple of prizes (Sonic the Hedgehog and a lovely pink gorilla). Then it was time for rides! Cyd spotted a terrifying ride: basically a small human hamster ball attached on the end of a bun-gee line which launched passengers into the air and left them swinging and bouncing for some time. Meanwhile, Shannon wanted to go into one of those 3-D horror houses and I was elected to join her. While I was happy to be Shannon’s wing-woman those spook houses always give me the creeps and I was glad we weren’t in for too long. Rick then joined Shannon on the carousel.
By this time Jamie and Cyd had determined that the line for the human hamster bun-gee ride was going to be over two hours, so they decided to ride the “Screamin’ Swing” (a very large, hydraulic-powered number). Realizing they would have a bit of a wait for that ride as well, Tami, Rick and I decided to try the “Great White” – an old fashioned wooden roller coaster, while Shannon hung out with Colleen and Ed. The Great White lived up to it’s name. The drops were spectacular, the curves spine-crunching, and by the time we were released we were definitely a whiter shade of beach-tanned.
We joined up with the rest of the group just as Cyd and Jamie were getting onto the swing, and we had a blast watching their faces and listening to their screams. Then it was time for a round of boardwalk food, including waffle/ice cream sandwiches, funnel cake, and soft-serve. We headed back to the hotel about 11:00 p.m.
The next morning Tami and Ed decided to sleep in while the rest of us trucked over to the restaurant in a nearby hotel for a big sit-down breakfast. The food at the Coronado was delicious and we took our time eating it. Rick and I had already packed up the car in anticipation of check-out time. After saying our good-byes the two of us decided to make a quick detour down to Cape May before hitting the road for the long ride home.
If you’ve never seen it, Cape May, New Jersey is a quaint Victorian beach town at the southernmost tip of the NJ shoreline. The architecture is beautiful and the townsfolk have done an excellent job of preserving the old houses, churches and municipal buildings. We were happy to find this community tucked away from the buzz and development of the beach. After strolling about and taking pictures, we stopped in at a dog-breed-fancier’s gift shop where we picked up a Boston Terrier flag for the garden, as well as some note cards. Then we hit the yarn shop that I’d spotted on the way in to town and I bought some beautiful hand-painted cotton yarn which I intend to use for baby sweaters for a couple of friends. (Side note: Why do babies come in waves? We have several friends who had babies about a year ago, and now I have a few more who all seem to be due this year between October and December.)
After the light shopping excursion we piled back into the car and headed towards the parkway. Traffic was heavy and by the time we reached New York City it was at a standstill. Thunderstorms were rolling in and as we neared the George Washington bridge the sky opened up. It took us over two hours to get across the bridge, only to encounter more delays on the other side. Eventually we made it into Massachusetts, the storm clouds parted, and we were able to drive the speed limit again. We high-fived when we saw the “Welcome to Vermont” sign, only to realize that home was still an hour and a half away. I put some moe. on the iPod and we grooved our way home through the dark, foggy night. When we finally pulled into the driveway, we noticed that our friend Justin had started building the sheep barn.
It was past 10:00 p.m. when we got home, but I was antsy from the long car ride and we were expecting a lot of contractors the next day, so instead of going to bed I decided to make some cinnamon rolls for the crew. Rick put some aloe lotion on his burnt ankles and feet and we finally hit the hay at 1:00 a.m. We had an awesome time at the beach and look forward to the next Scully family reunion. Next time we’ll just have to make a couple of modifications: find a way to avoid New York City, and remember to put sunscreen on our feet.
Instead we spent the entire day returning home from our excellent adventure in England. We slept in as long as we calculated we could safely do without missing our flight. We fantasized about some change in the rules that would allow us to stay for as long as we wanted if we missed our flight, but decided we missed the dogs, and should head on home.
Contemplating how thankful we were that we packed lightly, we each took a pull bag and one to sling our our shoulder, checked out of the Pavilion, and dragged our slightly hung-over bodies to the Edgware Road tube stop a few blocks away. We stopped briefly at a chemist shop and purchased some Nytol to help me sleep on the flight.
We each got a tube ticket for Heathrow, and found a place to wait on the platform. After switching trains, we settled in to our seats on a packed train to the airport. The trip seemed to take forever, and we were starting to wonder if perhaps we should have splurged on the express. We were in no hurry to leave the country, but we could think of better places to be.
Last year we attended Town Meeting Day in Tunbridge, even though we hadn’t closed on our house yet. We knew we couldn’t vote, but we wanted to go anyway to see how our adopted town worked. We learned a great deal about our town and our neighbors last year, and came away feeling that we not only made the correct decision about the house we bought, but that we had lucked into a great town.
Since last year’s town meeting we have made many efforts to get involved. Sarah volunteered to fill one of the vacant auditors positions. Our town usually has three auditors, but Jim Wick had been working on his own the previous year, so he was very happy to welcome Sarah. After a trial period Sarah was sworn in as an auditor last year. She is up for re-election in 2009. Thankfully, the town elected another auditor this year to join Sarah and Jim since Jim is hoping to step down at the end of his term.
Last year’s town meeting ran very smoothly and—including the lunch break—only took about five hours. None of the elected positions were being challenged either, so we had no need to go to a paper ballot. Every incumbent was renominated, and every incumbent was reelected by a voice vote. Neither of us even recall hearing any nay votes.
This year there was some concern that things might get a bit heated. Since last year’s meeting, mold had been discovered in the town hall and the town offices. The mold was so bad that our Town Clerk had become ill. The Selectboard picked an abatement company, and the offices and the town hall were closed while the work was done. But the abatement wasn’t done well, costs and time on the project escalated, and apparently the work was started before a contract had been signed. In a nutshell, the job appeared to have been mishandled and a few weeks before this year’s town meeting one of our select board members (rightfully, in our minds) resigned over the matter.
We’d rather not go into too much detail, and this post is not intended to air dirty laundry or place any blame. In fact, overall, we believe the Selectboard, the Town Clerk, and the citizenry did a great job of handling what was a very difficult situation.
Below is a summary of the 17 articles the Town of Tunbridge discussed and decided at this year’s Town Meeting:
- We reelected Euclid Farnham as our Moderator.
- We reelected Wendy McCullough as our Town Clerk.
- We reelected Ann Mallary as our Treasurer.
- We listened to and approved all of the Town Officer’s Reports.
- We agreed to pay our taxes on or before November 1, 2007 and interest on delinquent taxes.
- We approved the budgets of the Selectboard and Highway Department.
- We agreed to allow the Selectboard to borrow money as needed for current expenses in anticipation of taxes.
- We approved the budget for the Tunbridge Volunteer Fire Department.
- We approved a sum of money to support the First Branch Ambulance operating budget.
- After much polite, yet enthusiastic, debate we approved a measure to use remaining funds in the Capital Improvement fund to help defray some of the remaining costs of the mold abatement project at the Town Hall and Town Offices.
- We approved the appropriation of money for the Capital Improvement Fund for future Town Building Capital Improvements.
- After a presentation by one of the Cemetery Commissioners, we approved money for a reserve fund for a new cemetery on land owned by Tunbridge.
- After some debate—and an attempt to introduce an amendment to cut the amount in half—we approved the allocation of money to finance the purchase of a new tanker truck for the Tunbridge Volunteer Fire Department.
- We approved a tax exemption for the Tunbridge Volunteer Fire Department and the Tunbridge Grange for the next five years.
- We approved roughly $8,000 in support money to a number of organizations including: Central Vermont Adult Education, Central Vermont Council on Aging, Clara Martin, Central Vermont Community Action, Chelsea Senior Center, Green Up, Kid’s Place, Orange County Court Diversion, Safe-line, Upper Valley Services, Vermont Association for the Blind, Vermont Center for Independent Living, and the Vermont-New Hampshire Visiting Nurses Association.
- We elected a new Selectboard member (Tim Wolfe), which required two ballots. With one exception, we reelected all other elected positions without contesting. The exception was a member of the Library Trustees who declined nomination and nominated his successor. The nominated successor was elected.
- The last article of business was “other nonbinding business” where the town heard from a variety of people, including announcements of fundraising dinners for school trips; information on organizations working to reduce energy use and global warming; expressions of thanks to various people for their hard work—including a round of applause for the Selectboard member who had resigned, but who had not attended this year’s meeting. The town also voice voted on a nonbinding resolution to call for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney. The vote was relatively close, but the ayes had it. Lastly we heard from our state representative, David Ainsworth, who spoke briefly about what was happening in Montpelier, and who encouraged people to contact him with any concerns they had.
We also had a lovely lunch sponsored by the Friends of the Tunbridge library, which included meat and vegetarian lasagna, a salad bar and more pie than any town could have possibly eaten in one sitting; although a neighbor kid announced to Rick that in addition to eating his lunch he had eaten 4 pieces of pie. Rick congratulated him and told him he hoped he didn’t get sick in his mom’s car on the way home. At lunch we got to meet one of our Cemetery Commissioners, Floyd McPhetres, and his lovely wife Eloise. Floyd is probably in his late 80s and has lived in town all his life. He lives in a house next to the one where he was born. Another woman who ate with us, Mary, was a student of Floyd’s when he taught high school many years ago.
The entire meeting, including lunch, lasted about four and a half hours, but went by very quickly. It was great to see so many of the people we have gotten to know over the first year we have lived in this great town, and it was nice to make new acquaintances.
I am out of work again
Since last August, I had been working at a cafe in South Royalton. This was somewhat because I needed a job; partially because I needed to talk to people and stop annoying our dogs; but also because the experience was expected to help since Sarah and I were thinking of buying the place. Without going into details, after many months of negotiations we decided not to pursue it further. So the cafe was sold to others, who understandably decided to run the cafe themselves and save the cost of paid staff. So as of February 16 (yep, my birthday), I am out of work. So the hunt for a job begins again. Any leads are appreciated.
I have plenty of pro bono work to keep me busy
In December I was asked to join the board of directors at Friends of the Morrill Homestead, the nonprofit group that helps oversee the Justin Morrill Homestead in Strafford, Vermont where I have been volunteer gardening since last spring. Each Board member is asked to sit on two committees, so I am now part of the garden committee and the web/technology committee. The latter is where much of the work comes in as I have volunteered to host, design and manage the group’s web site, which has not been revamped in nearly 10 years. There’s a lot of work to be done, but I am looking forward to it. As much as I have been enjoying the snow and lovely winter weather, I am also eager to start working in the Morrill gardens—as well as our own…
An important factor in fitting into any community is finding ways to participate in the hobbies and causes that you are passionate about. Today, Rick and I took part in a variety of ways:
Green Up Day
The first Saturday in May is traditionally Green Up Day in Vermont. Rick postulated that Earth Day is just too early up here to be able to get out and do much. In April, the ground could still be partly frozen and covered in snow, making it difficult to find garbage to pick up, or start a garden, or plant a tree. But come May, Spring has finally extended northward, allowing Vermonters to get to work.
On our first Green Up Day, Rick and I got a lime-green trash bag from the Tunbridge town office, which we filled with trash we gathered from our road. After taking an inventory of the items we collected, I considered putting forth a proposal that Green Up Day be renamed “Pick Up After Your Redneck Beer-Swilling Neighbor Day”, as over 75% of the garbage was beer cans and bottles.
There were a few plastic soda bottles, some styrofoam cups, a bottle of baby lotion, and one can of motor oil, but it was obvious to me that if someone had curtailed his/her habit of tossing empty beers out the window of their car, there would have been significantly less trash to pick up. Be that as it may, I enjoyed hunting for garbage on a beautiful day, and plan to do this more often than once per year. The only downside is that the fluorescent green trash bags are accepted at the transfer station free of charge on Green Up Day, but we’ll have to pay to drop off trash on other days. Still, it’s a small price to pay to keep garbage off the road and out of the streams.
Once we filled up our bag, Rick whisked me to the Randolph Co-op so that I could attend a dowsing seminar, while he rushed off to the transfer station to dump our trash before they closed. Dowsing is the art/craft/skill of detecting information using more than just the five senses. It is often associated with the act of finding water or well sites below ground by using a wooden stick, but it can be used for purposes other than locating water. When it is used to find water, it’s not just to locate water, but to answer questions about the water source. A good dowser can determine if the water is adequate in pressure, water quality, and accessibility before the property owner pays for expensive drilling.
I really can’t do this art/skill justice without making it sound like some far-out, new-age baloney, but the hands-on experience I got in the class showed me that it is a technique that can be learned, through practice, by anyone. And our instructor gave us other instances where dowsing would be useful: in locating other resources such as minerals or oil, in tracing the path of a buried electrical conduit, or even locating lost objects, pets, or people. If you’re interested in dowsing, check out the American Society of Dowsers, an organization founded in Vermont in 1961.
After a busy afternoon, we returned home and I began preparing a stir fry for dinner. Rick had found some information at the co-op about local farms, some of which accept memberships as part of their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs. The idea behind CSA is that people pay a flat rate to the farm at the beginning of the season in exchange for a share of the harvest each week. The farmer benefits by being able to use that up-front cash to support the supply and labor needs of the farm, and the customer benefits by knowing that they will be getting their share of locally grown, and often organic, vegetables each week, at a discount from what it would cost them to buy the produce at the grocery store. This method also cuts down on the costs and natural resources needed to ship and market the foods. We’ve narrowed down our search to two local farms, and will probably sign up for one of them next week.