Monday, January 21, 2013

S Hill Road

My daughter needed a ride today to a fellow student's house to work on a school project with some other kids. (Brief parental sputter: what possesses teachers to assign out-of-school homework that has to be done in a group on a school holiday? Do they have no comprehension that our district is like a hundred miles wide? And it's the middle of January? And that most kids don't have their own cars? And that maybe, just maybe, a parent might like to enjoy a day off without having to drive her kid somewhere?)

Anyway, we printed out directions from Google and saw that this kid lived on S Hill Road. Well, I assumed that was short for South Hill Road, and, like Treebeard, I always assume that going south is going gently down hill, and warm, to boot.

Wrong.

The road is named after its shape, and it was straight up. And it wasn't plowed or sanded. And the kid lived at the top.

Since we had our January Thaw last week, the dirt roads all turned to mud. Now they're frozen into ruts. This prevents one from getting a good head of steam built up at the bottom. And S Hill Road starts going vertical from a sharp right turn.

I could have turned around, gone home, and written the teacher a nasty email about what he could do with his assignment. But no, I'm a dedicated mom, so up the hill I went. And started to spin almost immediately.

Backing down was not an option. (I don't back well in the best of conditions, and going down unsanded, unplowed, rutty S Hill wasn't the best of conditions.) I managed to get my right tires out of the frozen ruts into the loose snow on the edge of the ditch and my left tires into the loose snow in the middle of the road. That helped a little, but did I mention how narrow this road is? I was still spinning, but I was going up. My daughter wasn't saying much. She was on the ditch side.

At last we made it. I dropped her off, turned around  and hit my brakes. The view was astounding. Mt. Mansfield, right in front of me. I grabbed my camera, took my time, took a bunch of photos, feeling adrenaline pumping through me. The reward for courage! What a view! I couldn't tear myself away from it. (Of course, this had nothing to do with the fact that I now had to go down S Hill. Which empties right on to the main road without the slightest bit of level ground first.)

Okay. Put camera away. Put it in drive. Low gear. Foot off the brake. (I never get that part. I know I'm going to skid anyway, so wouldn't it be better to skid slowly than quickly? And how am I going to stop at the bottom without using the brake? On the other hand, there is something to be said for getting the inevitable over with fast instead of in slow motion.)

So down the hill I go, holding my breath, sinking my fingers into the wheel, and hugging the ditch again. Half way down, a rut grabs me. I freak and go for the brake. Fortunately, I just slow down and don't skid. In fact, I just give control over to the set of ruts I'm in, and let them guide me down. A few moments later, I'm nicely stopped at the edge of the main road.

Victory!

Except, wait a minute! My kid is up there now! I have to do that whole damn thing again in two hours!

Oh, that teacher is going to get a nasty email He can go pick her up if he wants that project done so badly!

But here is the view:






Sunday, January 13, 2013

Jazz Team Win!

Yesterday my daughter's Varsity Jazz Dance Team enjoyed a first place win in their first competition of the season.

Here is a link to a YouTube video that someone else recorded and posted. Enjoy!


Monday, January 7, 2013

A Life Bird Day!

Yesterday was a big day -- I got a new bird for my life list. Doesn't happen too often, since I've been birding around Vermont for a long time, so I'm a bit dependent on a rare bird drifting into the area. And a rare bird did last week. It's a duck called a Common Pochard, and it's so rare in North America that it's not even in any of my bird books. It's from Asia, and what it's doing on Lake Champlain near the Champlain Bridge has opened a great debate among the birding community. In fact, it's being so hotly debated that I'm not even sure if I can really count it on my list or not.

At first, everybody assumed it had been blown way off course by Hurricane Sandy. Hurricanes often bring birds to unusual places. But a keen-eyed birder on Sunday spotted a band around one of its legs. This could mean that it has been bred in captivity and escaped. If this is the case, then it's not a wild bird, and can't be counted. Or it could have been captured, banded, and released. If that's the case, it's legal to count, and could make somebody in Asia very excited to find out where this bird turned up. Right now, the race is on to get a clear photo of the leg band and settle the question.

I didn't even get a photo of the bird, since it was out too far when I saw it. Honestly, it was diving and coming up so far away from where it had been, and I was using a new spotting scope that I wasn't used to, and it was darn cold in the wind. I only got two quick looks at what I was pretty sure was it. I'm definitely thinking another trip next weekend is in order. It's only an hour and a half away! I met a couple who'd driven all the way up from Maryland to see it.

Here are a few photos I took of the area. The patch of open water was full of ducks -- mostly Mallards and Common Mergansers. There were hundreds of them.




This is the Champlain Bridge, built in 2011 to replace the old one.


  video

And here is a little video, because this time of year, I get desperate for open water.


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year Reflection

I'm starting the new year in an old place, the ancestral farm that has been in my family for six generations. It's been wonderful to spend a few days here with my mother, feeling all my ancestors hovering nearby. The house has been renovated carefully to keep the feeling of the old building but with better heat and bigger windows. I slept in the same room I used to share with my Great Aunt Grayce when I stayed here with her many years ago. It's been really lovely.

The barn, however, is the same as it's been for over a hundred years. People knew how to build with permanence back then. Wouldn't it be nice if our current lawmakers could all spend New Years Eve in the place where their ancestors had lived a hundred and fifty years ago and spend some time in hard reflection about what their priorities ought to be in the coming year?