Mary and I had to come up with an alternate justification for driving across the country when my plan to hike the Appalachian Trail fell through in mid September. We found it in helping Nick build his garage over the last month.  Just as the last light of day was fading yesterday, we finished waterproofing the roof which was the last job he needed my help for.  He still has to install the metal roofing but the roofing has to be ordered and will take at least another week to arrive.  He thinks he can install that without my help.  Rather than wait around, Mary and I are heading home tomorrow.

The siding and interior (and all that entails) are jobs that Nick can do at his leisure and will probably keep him busy through the winter and spring.  He plans to mill all his siding from trees on his property and his neighbors’ properties using his portable sawmill.

Nick decided to rent a battery-powered lift for a weekend in order to reach the high fascia boards at the front and downhill sides of the structure.  Being nearly thirty feet off the ground, it was just too freaky to do any other way.  The plywood we were able to install by standing inside the rafters on the scaffolds which spared Nick a lot of roof walking (I refused to walk up there.). He had to don a safety harness and roof-walk to apply the vinyl sheeting underlayment.

Seeing the job through this far gives me a great sense of accomplishment and more than a few sore muscles.  I was a bit skeptical about the post and beam construction method to begin with but it seems to have worked well.  The beams will be prominent on the inside of the building and should give it rugged good looks.  The ground floor will be a workshop and car garage.  The fate of the upstairs is as yet undecided but may be a woodshop or apartment.  Sleeping lofts will be above that.

Today was a perfect fall day, sunny and cool, so for our final day in Virginia Mary and I rode with Nick into the District.  He went to work at the FBI building and we strolled around town.  He dropped us off at the Lincoln Memorial where I took this photo of Mary looking toward the Washington Memorial:

We walked a total of 7.3 miles back and forth along the National Mall and visited the Natural History Museum where Mary attempted to comfort this dejected chimpanzee:

We also had some fun with a booth where I was able to superimpose my mouth and eyes on the face of a 400,000-year-old pre-human.  Here is the what I would have looked like:




Fall weather has arrived – sorta.  The temperature mercifully dropped to the sixties a few days ago and when the sun is out the days are pleasant.  A few leaves are dropping from the oak trees but the foliage is still green so I wouldn’t say we are in the throes of autumn yet.  Our work has been interrupted by rain a few days this last week and then there is the distraction of Nick’s job – he does have to work, you know.  Clever fellow that he is, he has checked in at the office on the days it rains so as not to disrupt our work schedule any more than necessary.  His boss seems to be very understanding about days off.

As you can see, the floor above the parking garage/shop is in place.  Whenever I complete an elevated floor like this one, it reminds me of a dance floor.  Several bars of Turkey in the Straw float to the surface of my consciousness and my foot starts tapping.  If I could play a fiddle and/or dance I’d kick up my heels and invite the neighbors to join me.  

Rain is forecasted for tomorrow so it will be another down day.  

Yesterday was Nick’s birthday.  The celebration was held on the deck off the back of their house.  From the deck, the hillside drops steeply to a creek and the view is entirely of the tall treetops surrounding the house.  His house could be in the Amazon rainforest judging by that view. 

Next step is raising the roof beam which should be relatively easy from the scaffolding.  After that we’ll have to get out his nifty log-moving trailer (see Chapter 1) to get some more timber that we’ll run through his mill to make the beams that will span the posts at the sides of the house.   Then we set the rafters, lay the plywood on the rafters and the metal roofing on the plywood.  For the rest of the construction he won’t need my help so Mary and I will head home and he can finish up at his leisure.


If you’re taste in buildings runs to barns, warehouses, or massive structures of any kind, you might want to consider the post & beam method that Nick has chosen.  If you’re looking for the fastest and easiest construction method, you should look elsewhere.  The three posts and two beams in the following picture represent our accomplishment for an entire day of sweaty labor.  I’m not complaining; just informing.  Paltry as our progress was today, our pride was substantial.  There’s something about those big timbers…..

October in Virginia is not October in Chelan.  The weather has been hot and muggy here ever since we arrived – that is, when it is not raining hard and heavy.  Perhaps this photo of Mary applying waterproofing to the back side of the garage’s block wall best illustrates the affect this humidity has on a body:

Nick and I spent four days laying the block for the walls of the garage that will be back filled.  Mixing the concrete ourselves and pouring it bucket by bucket into the voids in the wall was the hardest part.  A five-gallon bucket even half-filled with concrete mix is incredibly heavy!

And so it goes, timber by timber.


Nicholas and Hyekung live deep in the Virginia woods with their children Anna and Leif.  They live in a fine house that Nicholas built. One day Hyekyung said to Nicholas “We have a fine house but our cars have no house.  I want a garage to park my Honda Pilot in.”

Nicholas said “I will build you a garage of timbers Hyekyung.  Our forest has many tall, straight trees.  I will fall some of those trees and make a fine garage from them.”  Growing the trees is the first step in making a garage.  It took about 100 years and lucky for Nicholas, that job was already done.


To move the trees he cut, Nicholas bought a cheap boat trailer on Craigslist and modified it to carry large trees to his portable sawmill.

Nicholas cut the boat trailer to pieces with his grinder and welded the pieces back together with his Lincoln wire welder.  He welded them together in a different way to make a funny trailer.  Now his trailer is no good for moving boats but very good for moving logs.  Building his trailer took one day.  He tows his funny trailer with his Nissan Xterra.

The funny trailer enables Nicholas to pick up very heavy logs and move them to his sawmill.  He can load a log in only ten minutes.

With his portable sawmill Nicholas can cut the logs into flat boards and massive beams of any size he wants.  The sawmill can cut the entire length of a big log in one minute.

At the end of the day, Nicholas said to Hyekyung “Soon I will have enough boards and beams to make a fine garage for your Honda Pilot and a workshop for my many projects.”   Nicholas is proud of his trailer and sawmill.  Hyekyung is proud of Nicholas.


Before I get to the farm I’ll tell you about our visit to  Lake Placid.  We drove across Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont to get to Adirondack Park in northern New York.  Lake Placid, the site of the 1980 Winter Olympics (and the Miracle On Ice!), is there.  We have never witnessed the Olympic Games in person (way too expensive) but we have, after the fact, visited several former Olympic sites:  (1)Squaw Valley, CA. (2) Vancouver, BC. (3) Calgary (4) Lake Placid

Even though the Olympic venues are usually looking a little shabby by the time we see them twenty or thirty years after they were in the limelight, it still gives me a thrill to stand on a downhill run in summer and know that this was the place where Phil Maher or Bodie Miller came crashing down the hill like a cannonball.

The town of Lake Placid is basically five or six blocks of sporting goods stores, restaurants, and souvenir shops but those blocks were packed with tourists on Saturday when we drove through.  The town looks like it has seen better days (1980 obviously) so I think the people were there mostly for the Oktober Fest being held ten miles down the road at the Whiteface Mountain ski resort.  As you may or may not know, Oktober with a “K” = beer.  Never underestimate alcohol’s attraction.

We bypassed the big beer tent and walked up the ski hill to the top of the gondola which was a considerable thigh burner, both up and down the hill.  We got a good workout for both the quads and the glutes.  Only Rudy was ready for more when we got back to the RV.



Today we drove south to a little town near Albany, NY called West Berne.  West Berne doesn’t even rate a Zip Code it’s so small.  In fact, if you ask the Berne postmistress, as I did, for a location in West Berne she’ll tell you in an annoyed tone that there is no West Berne.  

I could see that I was getting nowhere with her so I walked over to the city hall and put my question to the town clerk:

“I’m trying to find Willow Lane Farm in West Berne.  Can you help me?”

Indeed she could.  The address is 1184 Bradt Hollow Road.  I fed the address into our navigation system and off we went.

Willow Lane Farm or “The Farm” was the Carlsen family dairy farm for five years from 1951 to 1956.  My years there were as a small boy but I have vivid and fond memories of it.   I have actually visited the farm on roughly twenty-year intervals (1973, 1994, 2018).   Each time I have to ask a few questions to find it because landmarks change.  This time the bridge from town was closed for repair so I had to find an alternate route.  

The countryside thereabout is quite stunning and the area appears to be undergoing a revival of sorts.  Many of the old houses are being spruced up.  The valley in which the farm sits is lush and green.  All the buildings from the Carlsen heyday are still there.  The house with the big porch on which I played with my brothers, the pond out front where the frogs croaked in the night, the milk shed, the hay barn – they’re all there.  Even the cast iron pump in the back yard (below) – they’re all there.  The current owners (Langstons) were gracious enough to allow me to take pictures inside the house.  They have only had the farm for two years.  They don’t farm.  They host church retreats there.


We are now in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania waiting for the Mercedes dealer to have a look at our RV’s engine.  The engine light keeps coming on (this is the fifth time).  Each time we take it in and they think they’ve fixed it but after 500 miles or so it comes on again.  So much for Mercedes’ reputation for excellence.


Anyone who has set foot in a grocery store in recent years knows that ORGANIC is big business.  Just how big we were reminded today when we attended the Common Ground Country Fair in Unity, Maine, put on by Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners (MOFGA).  

Not being privy to the organic grapevine, we had never heard of MOFGA or the fair.  We chanced upon this knowledge yesterday when we got to talking to a Massachussets couple on a street in Bar Harbor about their intriguing car-top tent.  They mentioned that they were on their way to Unity for the fair.  Checking our map we saw that Unity would be on our way to Lake Placid, NY so we thought “what the heck?” and decided drop by.

We were expecting the fair to be a modest exhibition akin to our own humble Chelan County Fair – a small number of booths selling honey and handmade pottery perhaps.  Our first indication that this would be a beast of a different stripe was the line of cars several miles long we joined outside of Unity that inched along like Los Angeles rush hour traffic.  Only this Amish family was making much progress:

The fair parking covered hundreds of acres and we wound up walking two miles from our vehicle to the fair’s gate (that’s another story).  We learned that the fair lasts three days and attracts 20,000 visitors per day – to a tiny town in rural Maine!  Somewhat indignant over our distant parking assignment, we were further chagrinned to learn that entrance to the fair costs $15/person.  Well!  We weren’t going to pay $30 to attend a gathering of organic food nut jobs!  I wouldn’t pay that much to attend a fair featuring free boxes of Hostess Twinkies!  We turned around and stomped away.
But after reaching the road we had cooled down sufficiently to realize that we were about to do the second leg of a four-mile walk with nothing to show for it but sore feet.  We decided to bite the bullet.  I mean, if 20,000 people would drive in from all over to attend this fair, there must be something worth seeing – right?  And at the gate we were somewhat mollified to learn that we had the dubious honor of only paying the senior citizen rate of $10/person. (Remind me why old people don’t have to pay as much as young people?)


The fair had hundreds of exhibits and as one might expect when the clientele arrives pre-programmed that all things in a state of nature are good and all things altered by the hand of man are bad, there were plenty of garden vegetables, bags stuffed with unwashed alpaca wool, and hand-woven baskets.   In the classic snake oil genre was a booth selling small bottles of something called FISH SHIT (See the opening photo of this post and note that the “I” of SHIT is actually an inverted exclamation mark which technically makes the name non-scatological).   The sales pitch had a distinct “good for what ails your garden” ring to it.  But since “organic” is largely a faith-based phenomenon I wouldn’t be surprised if they sold a ton of the stuff.

Of more interest to me was a stone cutting demonstration.  Maine has a lot of granite and a lot of stone cutters.  There were also two exhibits of post & beam construction – something I may try my hand at one of these days.  I actually bought two pots of succulent plants, one of which now proudly rides on our RV’s dashboard::

Beautiful, isn’t it?  Reminds me of the little flower vases that Germans used to have on their dashboards back in 1957 when I lived in Germany as a little kid.

Tonight we are back in Gorham, New Hampshire, the site of my recent foray onto the Appalachian Trail.  We plan to drive west tomorrow toward Lake Placid in the Adirondack Mountains of New York.  The forests are still green here.  We’re killing time until the leaves turn.


Here we are at the same fountain in Bar Harbor, Maine where our 4000-mile, cross-country bicycle ride ended twelve years ago and the only thing that has changed is the clouds in the sky – same gorgeous wife and same handsome me.
We drove across Maine and up the coast after leaving New Hampshire on Monday. We stupidly forgot to bring a copy of my book, The Northern Tier, so we were constantly guessing and trying to recognize the towns and sights along the route to match our memories of the ride with the facts on the ground. Only partial success can be reported.  
For the ride up the coast we elected to skip the interstate and follow US Highway 1 through the towns. Except for a detour that led us off into the toolies it was an interesting drive. Lots of little harbors full of sailboats and many refurbished Victorian houses that now cater to the Bed & Breakfast crowd.After stealth camping in the Rockland city park for the night we got to Bar Harbor the next morning. We tried to check into the campground in nearby Acadia National Park at 11:47 AM but the young woman at the park gate told us they wouldn’t know if there were any vacancies until 12:00.  

“Well, that’s only thirteen minutes from now so can we just pull over to the side of the road and wait until twelve?” I asked.

“No” she informed me. “There is no parking inside the campground except by registered campers”
I decided there was little to be gained by pointing out that technically we were not yet in the campground since we were still at the gate. Geesh. You put a uniform on a budding teenage beaurocrat and watch out.
We turned around, drove a short distance and returned at exactly 12:00. And what do you know – in the intervening thirteen minutes the budding teenage beaurocrat had determined what she had not been able to at 11:47. They had vacant camp sites!
It rained that night but we were snug in our Synergy RV. The next day (today) we rode the free shuttle busses around the park where we visited the Thunder Hole where ocean waves go boom under an overhanging rock. That was less than spectacular because the booming only occurrs at two hours before high tide (which it was not).  
More fulfilling was a 5-mile walk on one of the carriage roads. The park has 42 miles of these wide, crushed rock roads that the multi-millionaire John D. Rockefeller Jr laid out at his own expense and for public use many years ago. After the rugged challenge of the Appalachian Trail I found these tranquil trails especially enjoyable. That Rockefeller was some feller. Thank you Mr Rockefeller.

To keep automobiles off the carriage roads, Rockefeller installed a gate house at each entrance. He wanted the carriage roads to have a serene ambience. Check out what a Rockefeller gate house looks like:

West of the Mississippi, this collection of boulders would be called a streambed or a landslide waiting to happen but in New Hampshire it is called the Appalachian Trail.  And this collection of rocks on a hillside was nothing exceptional.  Between Gorham and Pinkham Notch I labored through twenty miles of this stuff.  I don’t know if you can determine from the photo but in addition to being rough, this path is very steep and, having recently been rained on, very slippery.  I emerged from my two-day trek more than a little disillusioned with the famous Appalachian Trail.

Out west when the trail encounters a steep incline, the grade is moderated by zigzags called switchbacks.  In New Hampshire, there must be a law against switchbacks because after forty miles of hiking, I have yet to encounter a single one.

My son, Nicholas, arrived from Virginia on Friday and we set out from Pinkham Notch to hike the next twenty-mile section of the trail where it passes over 6400-ft Mt Washington, the highest peak east of the Mississippi.  While the trail up Mt Washington was as steep as the previous section, it had the redeeming virtue of being above the tree line much of the way and blessed with views of the surrounding valleys and mountains.


Getting back down from the heights was less strenuous than climbing up but considerably more dangerous since coming down steep expanses of rock with a pack on your back provides countless opportunities to slip and fall.  Here you can see Nick scoping out the descent to Crawford Notch where Mary was waiting to pick us up.  Again, the descent was without the benefit of switchbacks.


So it is with considerable disappointment that I have decided to forego the rigor of a New Hampshire-to-Virginia hike on the Appalachian Trail – it’s just too damn hard, not to mention dangerous.  Mary and I still hope to hang around long enough to see the autumn leaves and do day hikes.  We’re driving up the Maine coast.

P.S.  Just got a text from Nick who is already back in Virginia where his six-year-old daughter, Anna, wants to know all about “New Hampster.”


It was our stated ambition to follow US Highway 2 across the country to New Hampshire, where it ends. We got to the Great Lakes only to discover that the highway peters out in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and does not reappear until some 500 miles to the east in Vermont. This proved not to be a problem because if you keep driving directly east across Canada you actually save about 500 miles of driving south around the Great Lakes.That said, Canadian Hwy 17 through Ontario and Quebec is rather bland in the scenery department. I wouldn’t recommend it.
Interesting observation of that route: Road signs in English-speaking Canada are in both English and French, presumably to accommodate the Quebecers. Once you enter Quebec, however, they are only in French! No reciprocity there. Are we seeing yet another example of how minorities squeal for “equal” rights only to deny such rights to others when they are in positions of power? Lucky for us we have a GPS system in our RV or we would have been hopelessly confused about which road to take near Montreal.
We arrived in Gorham, New Hampshire on Wednesday where we were scheduled to rendezvous with Nick for some backpacking on the Appalachian Trail. Hurricane Florence was threatening Virginia (where he lives) about that time and he didn’t know if he could keep his appointment. This was, coincidentally, a replay of seven years ago when he had to cancel a hike with me on the Pacific Crest Trail because another hurricane was causing havoc in Virginia.
Luckily, Florence veered south and he is now on his way up here. We’re scheduled to hike through the Presidential Range of New Hampshire’s White Mtns.  
But not so fast. My hoped-for hike may never come off. I hiked a twenty-mile section of the Appalachian Trail yesterday and this morning. It was brutal. Nothing like the Pacific Crest Trail (which I hiked in 2011). I’m having second thoughts about doing much more of this trail. My complaints are many. The section I just finished was unbelievably steep (do they even know what a switchback is?). I doubt there was 100 yds of level walking in the entire twenty miles. And rocky! Most of the trail was a jumbled mass of boulders. When it wasn’t rocky it was muddy. Scenery? Hard to say since the trees are so dense that one rarely has a view of anything more than thirty feet distant. I’m very disappointed.
On the bright side, the weather is sunny and if this keeps up, the mud will dry. Unfortunately, there is no simple remedy for the trail’s other faults.


Our campsite last night looked serene enough when we arrived.  It was in a deserted town park beside a small lake and well off the highway. As we discovered somewhere around midnight, there was a catch.  Across the lake and a mere 100 yards from our campsite, lay the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad tracks and when four diesel locomotives pulling a mile of tank cars full of oil struggle to climb the slight grade of those rails, the very earth beneath our RV trembled in response.  It sounded as if the locomotives were coming directly at the bed in which we were so recently asleep.   

A midnight peek out our window caught a spectacular show of lightning to the west.  It was eerily quiet – thunderless.  I guess it was too far away for the sound to reach us.  Later, we had a little lightning, thunder and rain directly over us.

North Dakota, especially around Williston, has changed dramatically since our 2006 bicycle ride.  We remember the hilly approach into Williston as a quiet ride on a nearly deserted 2-lane highway through grassy hills devoid of human structures.  Those hills are now teeming with oil wells and the men and machines necessary to pump that oil from the ground.  East or west of Williston the business of oil extraction extends for fifty miles.

Thanks to that oil, North Dakota runs a billion-dollar budget surplus and ranks only behind Texas as an oil producing state.  Thanks to that oil, the United States has achieved energy independence from the likes of Venezuela and Saudi Arabia and the price each of us pays at the pump is about half of what it was at oil’s peak several years ago.  You would think the story of that oil would be a lead story in recent years because of its economic impact but as far as I ever heard, it got little press.

Oil is king in North Dakota but wheat still reigns in northern Montana.  Harvest was wrapping up as we drove through on Thursday and Friday.  We passed several highway convoys of enormous combines and their support crews moving on to the next job down the road.  Many of the fields had been harvested and only stubble remained – nearly white stalks that stretched to the horizon.  Isolated at intervals of several miles in these seas of stubble were islands of green about an acre in size.  These islands are the homes, barns, and machinery buildings of the wheat farmers.  They are surrounded on three sides by dense windbreaks composed of several rows of trees that are impressively effective.  The wind can be howling outside the windbreak and barely noticeable in the barnyard.

And we can tell you a thing or two about howling wind after today.  A southeast wind of twenty to thirty mph blew all day as we made our way across North Dakota.  Many times we thanked our lucky stars we weren’t pedaling the tandem against it.  When it wasn’t a headwind it was hitting us broadside with a force that made me glad our RV has power steering.  The effectiveness of tree rows as windbreaks were evident each time we went by one.  The RV was slammed toward the next lane over when we emerged from the shelter of the trees and “sucked” the other way when we entered the shelter of the trees.

Were I a duck flying south today I would have taken the day off.  We saw several flocks of birds doing just that (flying south) and the poor fellows were flapping their wings furiously and barely making any headway.

The Montana prairie was treeless.  Shortly after crossing into North Dakota small trees began to appear in ravines until full-fledged forests covered much of the land near the eastern border with Minnesota.  Large patches of those small trees were already sporting the golden hues of autumn which had me worried that I might arrive too late in New England for the leaf change there.  But tonight we’re camping in central Minnesota and the trees are a reassuring green – whew!