Sunday, August 25, 2013

So, That's How Long Forever Feels

"I'm shutting down my workhorse computer right now and packing it away.  This will be the last mail I send from it till sometime in August.  I hope it feels like forever to me between now and then!"

With those words, 73 days ago, I put to bed the computer on my desk at school after having written them to my friend Mike in Quakertown.  The "then" in that sentence is now, the evening before my return to the classroom to begin my thirty-first year of teaching.  This night before the inevitable return to school has always been an emotion packed affair for me, and no less so this year.  No matter how many times I retire another summer to the honking of the alarm clock at 5:55 to begin the first and then each of the subsequent 179 workdays, it will always be a "rude awakening" to me - the realization that my mission here on this earth isn't finished yet and that more work remains to be done.

It was on Friday that I began the official "wrapping up" of summer vacation in my heart.  I started with the last cup of coffee I'll have on the deck on a weekday that isn't a workday or holiday until next June and the look on my face says it all.  So, maybe I exaggerated the expression a little knowing what it was to represent, but it's not an inaccurate representation of what my heart was feeling.  I know I should be used to that emotion, that I should expect and anticipate it, that it shouldn't give me a kick every time, but it does.  I know I do good work.  I have believed every step of the way that I'm doing pretty much what the Almighty wanted me to do with my life.  Yet, it's still difficult to give up the life of leisure that summer provides and to pick up a fresh piece of chalk with which to make the first few strokes of what will be another mural in my life and in the lives of the kids I will teach.

Though I've been more or less an "empty nester" since my younger daughter headed off to college five summers ago, this was the first summer, with her now at graduate school, in which I was alone all day each summer day when I wasn't away.  Every now and then I imagine what my life might have been like as a contemplative monk and this summer to some degree I experienced the solitude about which I'd often wondered.  I embraced it as I did the simplicity of my days and I fairly wallowed in the freedom of doing just about anything I wanted to do when I wanted to do it without having to consult anybody else's schedule.

It was with much joy, though, that I welcomed my baby back for a few days between the end of her internship and the beginning of her new semester.  We were able to squeeze in the dad and daughter lunch that we've been enjoying together on the last Friday of summer vacation since her last year in high school.  Though we've always talked, there's a bonding that occurs and deepens every year when we go for that lunch that is incomparable to any other time when we're together.  Yesterday we went to Allentown to visit her sister and it was a very nice last Saturday of the summer with both of my girls.

I fell asleep in the recliner with the TV on last night, and when I stirred sometime in the middle of the night I realized that I had slid down and apparently slept with my back in some awkward position for a few hours.  It was a toss-up as to whether I should take the bike or the car to church this morning with my lower back aching as it did, but in the end the bike won out in spite of the temperature being only in the upper fifties.  After all, it would be my last day of the vacation to ride and I was going to be darned if I let a little twinge in my back stop me.

Likewise, after my usual Sunday afternoon nap I took the scooter out for about an hour just for the sake of winding down my last few hours of freedom suitably.  I wanted to pose by the colorful gazebo at which I often take a picture of myself at the beginning or end or at both points of a usual summer vacation, but there were other people at the park and I didn't want to look (any more) odd (than I usually do) by snapping a selfie there.  Here's one of me there from the beginning of the summer, for old time's sake.

There were a number of choices as to what to make my "last supper" of the summer vacation.  I chose Antonio's pizza with extra cheese because it's baked right around the corner, and it doesn't require cooking.  It hit the spot, but didn't manage to fill the cavernous pit in my stomach that's there because of what looms over tomorrow morning.  I suppose it's worse for the kids, but honestly I've gotten too old to remember what it was like when I was the one going to sit in one of the little seats to make a fair comparison.

And so, my days of leisure come to a close once again, for the sixth time since I started writing this blog.  My thanks to those of you who've been along with me on this journey since the beginning, and to those of you who stop by now and then just to see if I've cranked out anything worth reading.  Frankly, there are times when what my fingertips produce here is just the cathartic the doctor ordered in terms of my own coming to grips with what I'm feeling and giving it some form of expression, and other times when I reread what came out of me and see how I totally danced around some nebulous emotion that I wanted to share but remained apparently clueless as to how to give it wings.  Regardless, I appreciate the support of my friends here who struggle right along with me in trying to figure out sometimes what I'm thinking.

I'm shutting down my summer vacation of 2013 right now and packing it away.  This will be the last post I write from this side of school until June.  I hope it feels like the blink of an eye to me between now and then!

Monday, August 19, 2013

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

In just about a week in this part of the country hundreds of thousands of kids will be returning to school for another academic year chock full of Readin', Writin', and 'Ritmetic, and I have no doubt that many of them will spend at least a little time in the first week either writing or telling or both about, "How I Spent My Summer Vacation."  For all the rights and privileges that come with having grown up, I'm not sure sometimes, if given the chance, that I wouldn't turn back the clock and go back to elementary school to be the kid writing that essay instead of the teacher assigning it.

I spent this morning and a good chunk of the afternoon in my classroom starting to prepare for the new subjects I'll be teaching this year, and I barely began to scratch the surface in planning even my first full week with the kids. One of the drawbacks of being an elementary school teacher is that one is expected to be able to teach any subject at any of the elementary grade levels, so reassignment to different subjects and grades happens as often as it doesn't.  I'm starting from the ground up this year with subjects I didn't teach last year.  While I'm excited to be doing what I will be doing, there's a LOT of work that will go into doing my best.  Thus, I'm not sure how often I'll be posting here as the school year gets underway and I'm kept busy doing all the things that make me who I am.

I waited for this summer vacation all last year for many reasons, praying all along that it would be the summer I'd hoped to have for each of the past five years or so.  It seemed that for about that long, every time I'd be coming down the home stretch of the school year something life-changing and terrible would happen to make the summer that I'd hoped to have for relaxing and rejuvenating into one filled with stress, and worry, and too many spilled tears.  I can still remember the excitement I felt as March blossomed over into April and the end of the school term was in sight, and then in late May when I began crossing off the days on the calendar till the end.  And now, in the seeming blink of an eye, the break is over and I'm ready (but only by necessity) to head back.

So, here it is.  How I Spent my Summer Vacation - the most blessed one in a good while...

I remember taking this picture on June 14th, my first full day off and with the smell of school still on me.  There I was at a supermarket when I spied the patio furniture and my butt fainted right into a comfy chair.  I was so geared up for summer vacation then, and when I pressed the shutter button I didn't have much of a care in the world except to pack as much enjoyment into the summer as I could.

It was later that same week, but before I got my summer haircut, that I visited Barley Creek Brewing Company in Stroudsburg, PA.  Everything outside was in bloom.  It was gloriously sunny.  God was in His heaven and I felt as if I was right there with Him.

No summer vacation would be complete without a visit or two to Water St. Brewing Company in Binghamton, NY.  To be honest, I'm not usually crazy about any of their beers, but they keep switching around what they're brewing so I keep trying them out because it's a nice drive and the ambiance is very pleasant.

Though I didn't make it to Flander's Field, I did get to see many gorgeous poppies on some of my walks.  I walked a lot this summer.  On the downside of that, last week I bought a cane because my right knee which has been "bad" since my college days and which I have so far refused to have seen by a specialist hurts worse than it has been when I'm on it for a while.  Maybe I'll need to make a scooter mount for the cane someday.

I treated myself to more lunches out this summer than I have in the past number of summers combined, and you know what?  I was worth it!  One of my favorites, only available on Fridays, was take-out pizza from Bakery Delite in Plains, PA.  I savored every morsel knowing that once vacation was over I'd likely not be back there for another Friday lunch until next June rolls around.

And I spent more time making some decent dinners instead of just throwing together leftovers and what-not as I prefer to do when I get in from a long day at school.  Everybody loves my shrimp scampi in the sauce that I created myself from the ground up running on hunches and instincts, and I like serving it and hearing all the "Mmmmm's" that it usually inspires.

Besides feeding myself, I kept up my summer tradition of feeding the birds.  The little guys go at the seed I provide like vultures working over a cow carcass, coming by the dozens and waiting their turns noisily in the nearby pussy willow.  I was happy that there were no blue jays to be seen this year.  While they're beautiful to look at, they're the playground bullies of the bird feeder knocking the littler guys to and fro while they're feeding and their awful squawking is enough to make one want to get out the BB gun.

I found myself in a number of places that I've not been to before.  I've always loved going to new places and thoroughly basked in the glow of experiencing just that a good number of times since the middle of June.  I went to no one, distant, scenic, tourist trap kind of place as a "vacation" as I used to do when the girls were still at home, but was satisfied quite richly in going on bunches of day trips and soaking up novel experiences on each of them.

And I visited a good number of places that I've been to before but like to revisit from time to time.  The Nicholson Viaduct is one such place.  It's a railroad bridge, built 98 years ago, and it's still in service.  The tracks on the bridge are the very ones that run behind my house, just a little over a football field's length away from where I sit on the deck at night and watch the stars twinkle and the planes cross the sky above my head.

I'm a sucker for Krispy Kremes, especially when the "HOT NOW!" sign is lit.  It amazes me how a trip to a simple doughnut shop can raise the spirits sometimes when it's a dreary, icky kind of day inside and out.  It's not only about gobbling up a doughnut and slurping on a hot cup of coffee. It's about standing by the glass between the production line and the gallery and watching the doughnuts moving slowly through the maze of machinery from the mixing bowl through the serving area.  It's kind of like a scooter ride - not so much about the being there as about the getting there.

There was sweet family time too, this summer, one of the highlights being Uncle Slim's annual Christmas in July party on his small front porch.  My uncle is not a success by many of the world's standards.  He lives a humble, simple life, and I am always moved when he expresses his gratefulness to God, and to his family and friends for what he does have.  Though not in all, in some respects I still hope to be more like him if I ever really grow up.

There was family time too in visiting the cemetery.  This was my first summer without my Dad.  Somebody once said about losing a parent something along the lines of, "You don't get over it, you just get used to it."  I suppose I'm getting used to visiting Mom and not seeing Dad there and not having the phone ring to hear Dad's hearty, "Hey!  What you doing?" but I will never, ever get over my Daddy being gone from my life in a physical way.  Oh, he's here just as much as ever when I talk to him throughout the course of a typical day, but how I miss the sound of his voice answering me.

Though not in some ancient part of Mexico, I found some "ruins" right here in the Poconos.  These artifacts are part of the restoration of one of the locks along the Delaware and Hudson Canal which predated but led to the development of the first railroad in the United States.  There's a tie-in to the Nicholson Viaduct picture above; the Delaware and Hudson tracks are the very ones I wrote about upon which the trains run right by me all day long.

I got to do a nice bit of antiquing since the last day of school as well.  Though I don't buy antiques because I'm at a stage in my life where I'm more thinking about getting rid of things rather than accumulating them, I just love visiting antique shops as if they were museums.  There's nothing like a cheerful shriek of, "My Grandma had one of them!" - especially when it comes from my own delighted lips.

I spent some time in the sun, though not so much as to get too hot 'cause I can't stand the heat generally.  I've found that I'm becoming more like my Dad as time goes on.  He was always content and so patient to sit around just waiting for me, or my Mom, or my Sister to be finished at appointments and such.  I'm finding that I can sit contentedly for a good while more often and longer than I used to, without a book or anything else to keep myself amused, and to be happy simply in being.

My cousin Mike with whom I took a single day's worth of swimming lesson (Note the use of the singular.) way back when we were little kids, and who is a reader here, might be shocked to see this picture of me in a large pool.  To his credit, Mike finished the challenge and learned to swim eventually, while I never did.  Nevertheless I do enjoy getting in the water and frolicking as much as any 55 year old guy can frolic as long as my toes are still within reach of the bottom of the pool.  I got to spend a nice bit of time in the water this past summer!

And I spent some time just relaxing along the side of a lake now and then, participating vicariously in the boating activities of the adventurous and again, just enjoying very much being free from the constraints and requirements of the daily grind at work.  As my free days grew shorter and fewer I was all too aware of the beginning of the school year looming on the horizon, but I was determined not to let such thoughts spoil the moments of leisure that were left.

For most of my career I never gave retirement a serious thought.  In fact, on occasion when I was asked what I'd do if I ever won a huge lottery my answer was always something like, I'd fund the school where I am so we could do more and bigger and better things for the kids, and stay in the classroom.  As the years roll by, though, now and then I find myself longing for the freedom to make each day exactly what I want it to be as the wind blows me and the spirit moves me.  It's not that I'd like to do anything besides teach, but I'm getting a little tired and more disillusioned with where Education as a whole is being led by people who think they know more than they do because they control the purse strings and/or have the power to demand things that make us veterans shake our heads and wonder where their brains are.  As far as actually retiring goes, though, in the words of my favorite poet, "But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep."

Many of my summer evenings were spent right here, away from home, in a welcoming living room where watching reruns of NCIS, SVU, and Touched by an Angel were all I needed to be most content.  I am amazed as I age that I am at peace and happy to sit and be, as I noted above, much more than in years past.  I look at today's kids always needing some kind of entertainment going on to keep them amused and although I can remember being that way myself as I was growing up, that feeling is beginning to feel foreign and even somewhat annoying when I see it in the youth with whom I work and interact.

And many of my summer meals were taken right here with this glorious view of the Poconos before me as I nibbled and gobbled one delicious meal after another.  I can look at this picture on the full computer screen, close my eyes, raise my shoulders and still be in the moment in which I took the picture.  I plan to revisit this scene and memory over and over as the weeks crawl by and the school year goes on and one.

I scooted da valley much more this summer than I did last.  No, there were no long, epic journeys, but the usual ones along familiar trails not too far from here.  The ones that raise me up when I'm down, and lift me even higher when I'm up.  I made it to the scooter rally to see Carl and Megan get married, made some new scooter friends there, and I saw the odometer hit 15,000 miles since I dismissed my last class weeks ago.

As always, good things invariably come to an end.  This was the sunset into which I drove as I made my way back from my last summer week away.  I couldn't have ordered a more fitting nor beautiful ending to the summer I so desperately needed and finally got.  To be certain, I am very depressed that it's nearly over, but not so much as to spoil the little bit of it that I have left.

I've enjoyed being back here at the blog, especially over the course of these past few weeks during which I was able to pack in all the relaxation and happiness that I could muster, some to make up for the disappointment I'd felt for the past few years' worth of summers, and some to store up for the long winter nights ahead, literally and figuratively.  It is my intention to maintain some kind of presence here, and not only to moan and groan about the school year.  Wish me well!  And, as I won't hear my Daddy say again till I join him on the other side, "I'll see you in the funny papers."

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Saturday Scooting

Soon, when I'm back in the classroom, Saturdays are going to be a precious commodity in terms of getting in the longer scooter rides.  Okay, "longer" is a relative thing, of course.  I never take what most riders would consider a long ride, but the ones that keep me out of the house for a few hours are plenty long for me.

I noticed a few days ago after having ridden in a light rain that the bike had gotten rather dirty so before taking off this morning I decided that a good washing was in order.  The "BV" in Piaggio's designation of my scooter as "BV250" stands for "Beverly," the model name, and for a few seconds I enjoyed the thought of "giving Beverly a bath," which got me to wondering why they'd give a scooter a woman's name in the first place.  With the parent company, Vespa, and its classic "Stella" moniker I suppose it shouldn't be too surprising, but it is a curiosity.  All I could find by way of explanation was this forum page with goofballs suggesting reasons for the name.

After the suds and hose ordeal was complete I towel dried the scooter and came back inside to let the thin film of moisture that remained evaporate.  When I got back outside all ready to suit up, (i.e., put on the helmet), and take off, a little visitor was about to take the pillion position.  I'd have let me come along for the ride, but upon closer inspection I noticed that one of his big, back jumping legs was missing so I let him crawl onto a finger and gently set him down in the grass.  With a bit of a blessing and a modicum of luck, when I go out to the deck this evening for a little unwinding time before bed I just might hear his tiny voice among the nighttime chorus.

Since I went for a ride on Route 29 yesterday, Or was it the day before?  I don't remember but that's one of the things I love most about summer vacation - forgetting what day it is, I decided to take Route 92 today.  Like many of the places I scooter to, it's on the other side of the Susquehanna River.  I can get there in a number of different ways and I chose the longer and most scenic roads today.  One of the places at which I planned to stop for a picture is alongside a pond of which I've taken a number of good pictures through the years, particularly in the autumn when the nearby trees reflect colorfully on the usually crystal clear surface of the water.  What a disappointment to find it scum covered!  I hear those who supposedly know about these things talk on occasion about a pond "working" every few years and if that's what this one is doing I can only hope that whatever job it's doing will be finished soon.

It's rather pathetic that for as many photography books as I own and have read, when I'm in the field it all goes out the window.  Worse, one of the simplest parts of a good photograph that doesn't involve formulae and mathematics is the simple composition and I even blow that.  What was supposed to have been one of those idyllic and pastoral Steve Williams roadside scenes turned out to be this monstrosity of a tree growing out of the scooter.  Nope, I didn't see it until the picture was in the computer and much too late to fix by taking two simple steps to the left or right.

On Route 92 is this building and I've always wondered about it and its history...

Though a single car parked out front this morning suggested that in spite of its gargantuan size it might actually be a single family dwelling, it reminds me of a mental hospital out of some horror movie.  The kind that does electroconvulsive therapy on everybody whether they need it or not.  A creaky looking set of large gates blocking entrance from the road completes the picture of the property and grounds that I carry around in my head and imagination.

I stopped shortly after scootering past the "mansion" and turned myself around for the trip back to the house and tried again for that simple "scooter in nature" shot on the bank of the Susquehanna.  I like how the converging perspective lines of the horizontal elements suggest movement of the bike from left to right.  Or maybe I'm just reading too much into the picture for want of making some use of those aforementioned how to take photos books.

A final pensive moment, back on my own side of the river, actually only down the street and around the corner from where I hang my hat, and my ride is nearly complete.  I suppose it's good that I like it here and that I'm able to find a little joy in a ride wherever it takes me on a particular day.

Tomorrow I'll be on the road again for one final blessed week of relaxation before going back to the old grind.

I'm not sure when I'm back at work how regularly I'll check in here, but I want to hope and believe that I'm not going to take another of those long breaks from posting that I did last year.  I don't plan to, at least.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Zipping Right Along

Since my inaugural scooter run on May 7 of 2007 when I brought the baby Fly50 home from the dealer's, I don't believe I've ever had a period during which I haven't run my car as I haven't lately.  I got back from my last trip about two weeks ago, parked the Impala out front, and there it's been since I set the parking brake and unloaded the trunk.  The weather has been just beautiful for scootering, having had the decency to pour most of whatever rain it's felt like tossing our way during the night, and I've luxuriated in being able to scoot everywhere I've wanted to go.

As usual I've done a lot of riding simply for the sake of it, but I've also done a number of grocery runs, trips to the school, and other errands all on the scooter for the longest stretch I can remember, and I came to a conclusion a few days ago that I'd have hit upon sooner if I'd given it any thought.  My daughter called from Delaware to ask if I'd scoot over to our doctor's office because her prescription refills weren't coming through.  I took off immediately and then texted her that all was well when I got back to the house.  She replied, "That was fast!" and when I looked at my watch I realized that indeed, it had been.  It wasn't until that moment that it dawned on me that for jaunts through the city the scooter is much faster than taking the car.

Yes, the speed limits are the same whether I'm in the car or on the bike, and I tend to observe them regularly, but the pick-up on the scooter after having to stop at a stop sign or red light is remarkably faster than in the car.  I was out just a little while ago and tested it conservatively after coming to a stop, and I can go from 0 to 30 MPH in about three seconds, leaving the cars behind me in my dust so that often I'm at the next corner before they're really getting moving from the last stop.  Considering the numerous stops that I encounter in city driving, all those zippy pick-up times add up so that the savings in time when running the scooter is noticeable.

I'm down to my last two weeks of summer vacation now.  I'll be away next week and then I'll have one more in which to finish planning my year in the classroom before that first school bell rings on the new academic year.

The past three or four summers have been terribly stressful, and although I had looked forward to them as the school years behind each of them dwindled down to the last few weeks and then days, the relaxation that I'd expected to have just wasn't there.  There were doctor visits, tests, surgeries, and various heartaches one after another just punching me in the gut every time I thought there'd be a break between one and the next.  This summer has been the first one in a long time (or at least a seeming long time) in which I can say that I got the down time that I so desperately wanted and needed.  Yes, I'll still have that whack of depression to contend with when I'm back to getting up at 5:55 AM every weekday, but at least this time after having had the respite for which I'd longed from the rat race.

Here's hoping for a nice, long Indian summer that lasts well into November so the ride can continue!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

15,000 Mile Milestone

When I decided to take a ride after dinner last evening I wasn't intending to set a new milestone, nor did I even realize that I was on the verge of doing so until a casual glance at the odometer revealed that I was at 14,995 miles.  I had to stop and think for a bit about where to head so I'd be sure of the opportunity to pull over safely to take a picture of the big rollover when it happened.  A ride a few miles north and then across the bridge to the west side of the valley put me in a quiet neighborhood setting with plenty of cross streets down which to meander while watching the digits roll by in anticipation of the big moment.

I thought back to when I'd hit the 10,000 mile mark and wondered when it was, but it wasn't till I got back to the house and could dig into my old posts to find that it was on September 26th, two years ago.  Then it was a bit of math madness to see if I've been riding more or less since then than I had before.

Let's see...  It took me nearly three years, from October of '07 through September of '10, to rack up 10,000 miles, averaging approximately 3,333 miles per year.  Then it took me nearly two years, from September of '10 till just now to put on another 5,000 which averages out to about 2,500 miles per year.  I attribute the loss of average miles, at least in part to the longer commute I've had in the past two years, resulting in fewer bike trips to and from work on days when the weather didn't promise to be picture perfect for riding.  It doesn't matter, though, if I've been riding more or less, as long as I'm still enjoying it, which I am!

So, here it is.  The next big milestone...

And, here's where I was when it happened...

...near the corner of Susquehanna Ave. and 5th Street in West Wyoming.

To celebrate I went to a  Sheetz to score a milkshake which I planned to sip in their colorful picnic area, but it wasn't to be.  Their shake machine was on the fritz.  I could have gotten one next door at Dairy Queen at twice the price for half the amount but I didn't need one that much so off I went to where I'd planned to go when I'd first left the house.

I've posed a few "selfies," (pictures taken by and of one's self), in the past which I'd taken using the PennDOT traffic cameras and my or somebody else's cell phone, and it was part way through the past school year when I discovered another such camera in a location convenient for putting one's self into the picture that I'd planned to visit since school let out.  I'd just not yet gotten around to it, so that's where I was headed yesterday evening when I first noticed the reading on the odometer.

There I am waving in the larger red circle at the bottom of the frame, and that's the BV parked in the smaller circle.

Not a bad evening of riding at all!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Home Stretch

There are days when I want to have a post here, but I am too lazy to write.  This would be one of those days, but I'm giving it the old college try using Dragon Naturally Speaking voice recognition software as if to fool myself into somehow thinking that dictating isn't quite the same as having to write.  There is a quirkiness though, as I recognize that there are differences between what my fingertips hammer out on the keyboard and what comes rolling off my tongue.  They are not necessarily differences that I can discern and point out, nevertheless I recognize that my style of writing is noticeably distinct depending on which medium of communication I am using.

I spent all of last week and the first few days of this week on a vacation in the Poconos that I had looked forward to with relish.  I planned it for the end of July recognizing that as soon as August first would hit that the predictable emotional thermostat of mine would begin to indicate that summer vacation is winding down.  Here I am on that very date feeling all too well what I knew I would - that angst, depression, misery which annually heralds the inevitable return to school.  I am not going to dwell on that here because when I took up writing again after my rather long hiatus I promised myself (though not firmly) not to use this blog too much as a sounding board for my negativity in that regard, but I did figure that it was worth some mention should the returning reader noticed the subtle paradigm shift in whatever part of my mood that I am able to communicate here between the lines.

I did ride a bit yesterday, my first full day back, and my first stop was Mom's house where I was to pick up some piggies that she had made for me.  For those unfortunate folks who don't know, piggies are pigs in the blanket or stuffed cabbage, and in spite of being able to cook many traditional Slovak meals simply from having watched them being prepared when I was growing up, I have never taken on the challenge of making piggies myself because it just seems so time-consuming.  The piggies would be an excellent lunch for me later.

I also scored a bonus - "Grandma pickles" as my younger daughter affectionately calls them.  They are 24 hour dill pickles, simply bottled and not canned, and meant to be eaten soon.  Don't worry, Mom, they'll be gone in no time!

Grandma pickles ready for the trip back to my house.

Piggies!  Soon the chance to have a cold one with lunch will be gone.

There was a big toss up in my head this morning over whether or not I should take the bike out at all.  The forecast was miserable when I went to bed last evening, and upon awakening this morning the sky seemed to indicate that the weatherman was going to be correct.  After checking the breakdown in 15 min. increments on one of my favorite weather forecasting websites, however, there did seem to be a window of a few hours during which I would be able to ride without getting soaked.  So, I risked it and, it was worth it!

As I often do, I rode to nowhere in particular and enjoyed the riding even though it was essentially purposeless.  No, wait!  Not having a distinct endpoint does not preclude a ride from having purpose even if that purpose is the mere joyful frivolity of being on two wheels and not having to pedal, so I sit corrected on that last sentence.  I had considered visiting the farmers' market on Public Square, but sadly, a trip to the downtown in this city is sometimes more like a visit to the zoo and I was in no mood to watch mothers with their out-of-control children running amok, and juvenile delinquents with their underwear hanging out of the tops of their pants zooming between people on their skateboards.

So I rode across the river passing by the demolition site of the Hotel Sterling, a once stately establishment alongside the Susquehanna river.  Back in the 70s a few of my classmates and I formed an all occasions band and often played there at weddings in one of the ballrooms.  Now, only a few more than 30 years later, and it was practically falling down on its own, so much so that even committed preservationists could do nothing to restore and revitalize it.

I ended up as some gentle sprinkles started falling near a shopping center that has been standing long since before I was born.  A portion of the side of one building has a roof over it, having served a long time ago as the drive-through portion of a drive in beer distributor and it was the perfect place for me to park for a little while because I hate getting wet with my clothes on and taking them off was not an option.

I was more or less headed back to the house after that and as I made my way to the main avenue on the west side of the valley and rolled around the corner onto the avenue proper, I came upon a sight that filled my little Grich heart with much glee.  A big Turkey Hill cow on wheels headed in the opposite direction.  I did what any self-respecting scooterist would have done - an immediate U-turn!  I figured it was headed to the Turkey Hill store a few towns over and planned to follow it the whole way, but as luck would have it, it turned into a Price Chopper parking lot and stopped out in the middle of no man's land.

Yes, I am following the butt of a large cow on wheels!

Now, a picture beside something such as this is not an option.  It is a necessity.  I pulled right up beside the driver's door of the box van that was pulling the cow "float" and shamelessly asked the elderly driver if he would take a picture of me perched on my scooter next to his big cow.  With a twinkle in his eye he hopped out of the truck more spryly than I might have and chuckled, "Why certainly, young man," which made my own smile widen even more broadly.

Although at times I tend to be cynical, suspicious and, jaded about the state of humanity, random interactions such as this one restore my faith in our species at least for a little while.  And the risk of interacting at all is always worth it when the payoff is as huge as a picture of one's self on his scooter beside a big cow.

I tried posting comments at two other Blogger blogs today, but every time I hit PUBLISH my comment just disappeared.  Any idea if I'm doing anything wrong?