NECE 3, Day 6 – again working on the MFALCON with Mark; concluding thoughts on the amazing week

Carefully departing Bar Harbor (Bah Hahbah?)

After driving John to his car where he had parked it in Bar Harbor, and then having to dig it out of 3+ foot of snow…

John's Nissan did some snow collecting during the blizzard

John’s Nissan did some snow collecting during the blizzard

… I had to drive up to the Blackwoods area in order to pay for the firewood we had used from an honor system shed on a person’s property near the road.  I realized it might be interesting to check out how much snow had hit the campsite…

Snow at Blackwoods was above the hood of the car, yeesh

Snow at Blackwoods was above the hood of the car, yeesh

… holy smokes.  The snow would have been over the hood of my car, we would have spent *hours* digging a path out to the road, much less packing the gear and getting it to the cars.

Fort Knox, the Maine Edition

Along the way on US 1, the Penobscot Bridge was a LOT more visible this time, as there was not a nor’easter messing with my view.  I also wanted to stop by at least one of the famous forts in Maine, and Fort Knox happened to be right there.

Was the park TECHNICALLY closed for the season? Yeah.   Did I go in? Maybe.

Was the park TECHNICALLY closed for the season? Yeah. Did I go in? Maybe.

The fort was actually constructed out of anti-British sentiments, and because the worst American naval losses prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred during an expedition to try and take Maine.  Suffice to say, the Mainers wanted to remain American after that, and so this fort was constructed at the mouths of the river tributaries there.

Apologies that I couldn't get a better angle for my photo of the MASSIVE granite fort, but here is one of the walls with moat around it

Apologies that I couldn’t get a better angle for my photo of the MASSIVE granite fort, but here is one of the walls with moat around it

The Penobscot Bridge in its full daylight glory

The Penobscot Bridge in its full daylight glory

From there, I drove 3 hours south, stopping along the way to pick up a 1.25″ to 2″ hitch adaptor, as Mark had asked me to help him by bringing a pair of Passat doors south (so the guy buying them, from NY, wouldn’t have to drive all the way up to Maine).  This means I was going to buy a trailer hitch shelf, and Mark happened to have one he got on sale, which means I got what I was going to get anyways (for my eventual move to Maryland for this summer’s internship) for maybe 30% of the typical cost!!

Round 2, Working on the Car

Again encountering Mark’s breathtaking graciousness and willingness to help, though, I got back to the pumping station and we got to work.

Drying gear a bit outside of the water pumping station, as we worked on the car Sunday afternoon

Drying gear a bit outside of the water pumping station, as we worked on the car Sunday afternoon

Repairs
1) camshaft was worn out badly, and got replaced, as were the lifters
2) timing belt was 6000 miles past its scheduled replacement, and given that it makes all of the engine’s mechanical components work in concert, I didn’t want to risk letting it go for much longer… and Mark had both the expertise and the tools to do this, whereas I do not
3) the N75 solenoid is a simple device, used to let excess boost produced out of a wastegate; given that my car was upgraded over Christmas and produces a LOT more boost, this was a problem.  The new N75 makes SUCH a big difference in terms of power, acceleration, and generally level of fun to drive.

Upgrades
1) Mark helped me both cap off the non-functioning 5th injector fuel line (leftover from the European design, where it was used to burn the exhaust more fully)
2) we also drilled a tap into the EGR (Exhaust Gas Recirculator) which is leaking a whole bunch of oil; once I check in with KermaTDI about my tune, I will probably put in a shunt line to keep the oil from leaking into the engine
3) the trailer hitch shelf, shown below (and retrospectively, I must say – this thing drives like a dream, can’t really even tell it was on the back of the car at speed).  Not technically an upgrade mechanically or electronically, but it IS
4) A simple jumper in the fusebox underneath the driver’s side dashboard has the low beams stay on when I activate the highbeams… SO MUCH LIGHT YESSSSS

The big future problem we found is that SOMETHING in the engine is leaking a lot of oil. A *LOT*.  But we couldn’t figure out what and/or where, so that will be my next big project.  That, and changing out the transmission fluid, as its starting to shift somewhat poorly (plus, I don’t know if or when it was changed last).

New lifters in place, beginning to prep to put the new camshaft in, and then do the new timing belt

New lifters in place, beginning to prep to put the new camshaft in, and then do the new timing belt

I packed the partially-dried gear into the car, and had to make room for a set of Passat B4 doors I brought south…

Passat doors within a Passat

Passat doors within a Passat

… and drove home on Monday, getting back around 4:30pm.

The new trailer hitch shelf I bought from Mark, and prepping it to be wrapped and strapped down

The new trailer hitch shelf I bought from Mark, and prepping it to be wrapped and strapped down

Concluding thoughts on the week spent in the Ice World

So then, what can I say at the end of the week?

Every fan I owned, in the basement and running at full speed to try and thaw and then dry the gear after a week in the wilds of Maine

Every fan I owned, in the basement and running at full speed to try and thaw and then dry the gear after a week in the wilds of Maine

OK, *besides* “wow, I didn’t realize I could fit THAT much gear into the basement at once, to dry!”

Well, I will offer a short list of things which really stand out in my mind:

1) the MVP for gear for the week was the pair of Wellco US infantryman combat boots, hands down.  Feet stayed bone dry (this is both from external water, but also from sweat – I am not sure what the hell they coated them with, but it is likely both unholy AND unnatural. Probably causes cancer, as well), and they were comfortable from moment 1 of wearing them, no breaking in required.  My only concern is that I can’t wear them while driving, but that is more because I wear size 16 and can’t fit my damned tank/feet under the dashboard, on the pedals.  But that isn’t an issue, I just brought and wore a separate pair of driving shoes (which meant they stayed dry for most of the week!)

The boots were seriously a slam dunk

The boots were seriously a slam dunk

2) I really like Maine. Really, seriously, deeply.  Besides encountering a great deal of Midwestern style kindness and hospitality (and in the case of Mark and his wife, I got to experience weapons-grade graciousness and helpfulness).  But the wilderness, the wide open spaces, and most especially the sheer clarity of vision of the moon and stars – it was genuinely a struggle to depart.  I can’t comment on the possibility of my living there soon/later in my life, but I did speak at length with several locals about the viability of homesteading up there… and learned there is a vibrant community of such folks. So tempting.

3) Winter camping is something I continue to love, even with weather and gear difficulties.  There is something delightful about the quiet solitude (admittedly enhanced by specifically being in the wilds of Maine in the winter) which did me a world of good – sure, my house and neighborhood has more than its fair share of gunshots and sirens, neither of which I am particularly fond of… but even the lack of people’s loud music shaking their cars, and hell the lack of PEOPLE was wonderful.  Just out in the wild, and enjoying the moments when I did encounter other people, was tough to leave.

4) That said, I cannot do a full hermitage, as I was really glad when John showed up, and I got to spend time with a good friend. In reality, I think, this just demonstrates to me how *vitally, non-negotiably important* to live either by myself or with someone(s) where there is NOT any friction.  I understand life on their earth is imperfect, we all have to make allowances for other people, blah blah blah.  That BS acknowledged, the past 2 years in particular in New Haven have seen me living with folks whom I can be friends with, but am NOT compatible to live with, and I am done with that shit.  Forever.  So I guess I am saying: it was good and healthy to be reaffirmed that my displeasure at the crap I put up with is NOT acceptable, and it IS acceptable for me to look forward to escaping it (and New Haven, and Yale in general)

5) Finally, and admittedly not certainly, being in Maine (with its shifting economic viability with the seasonal changes) made me realize that while the past few months spent considering homesteading and building my own paradise is something I seriously do plan on doing in my life, I am too much of a perfectionist and (lets face it) in favor of getting what I want to NOT have the income to support the building projects I will inevitably come up with over time is NOT going to work for me.  I need to get established financially and start slowly into the process of designing and perfecting my agrarian paradise, I think.  <— watch the blog in the next few weeks for some news along those lines, actually

All told, the week I spent in Maine was simply wonderful, and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about it and sharing in the photo essay across these blog posts!!

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NECE 3, Day 5 – snowshoes up Cadillac Mountain, running from The Blizzard of the Decade

The Big Hike up Cadillac Mountain

The main event for the trip, in many ways, was the snowshoe hike up Cadillac Mountain, and we had hoped to do it as to see the sun rise in the morning (as we were in one of easternmost points in the US, so the sun also rises there, but first).  Sadly, 1) the 6am sunrise means we would have either needed to do a dangerous night hike up OR spend a night sleeping illegally atop the mountain; and 2) the weather told us the morning would be very overcast starting 30 minutes before dawn.  As brief introduction, Acadia National Park in general, and Cadillac Mountain in particular, I took scans of a handful of pages from a great book, included here as a PDF for those who are interested in its educational fair use:

History of Acadia

So our sunrise hopes were sunk, but not our hiking intentions.

Cooking up the breakfast of champions: 3.5 lbs of hickory smoked bacon, and 7 potatoes worth of home fries :D

Cooking up the breakfast of champions: 1 lbs of hickory smoked bacon, and 7 potatoes worth of home fries 😀

We started the morning with the above healthy breakfast, and then tried to get used to snowshoes:

Rebuilt snowshoes, borrowed from Mark

Rebuilt LL Bean snowshoes, borrowed from my new friend Mark

This pair of snowshoes, shown above, were meant for mountaineering – the pad underneath the ball of the foot has a SERIOUS metal crampon built into it, and that made the climb a lot easier.

The damnable winds off the Atlantic managed to catch the lid of the Thule box while driving in the colds the night before, and cracked it

The damnable winds off the Atlantic managed to catch the lid of the Thule box while driving in the colds the night before, and cracked it

On our trudge towards the parking lot and thus the base of the mountain trail, I got a better look at the damage down to the roof box on my car, from the frozen temperatures and high winds the night before.  As best I can tell, the severe cold on our drive into town (we forgot the Graham crackers for S’mores) first made the locking mechanism fail to catch, and then allowed the wind to catch the rigid plastic like a sail.

Rigid plastic in severe cold doesn’t function well as a canvas sail, it turns out.  So a hard knocking sound heard in the cabin of the car turned out to be my beloved Thule box being damaged 😦

Stay tuned in the next few weeks or perhaps months – once it warms up, I am going to carefully repair and also modify the lid for better rigidity and strength.

The long and fairly straight and icy road (the first draft of the Beatles' song wasn't very catchy)

The long and fairly straight and icy road (the first draft of the Beatles’ song wasn’t very catchy)

Gear misadventures aside, the snowshoe adventure continued.  For people who haven’t used snowshoes, the foot of the snowshoe has a hinge to allow the flattened majority of the setup to remain as close to the ground at all times, as to increase stability (I suspect).

Candid shot by John as I carefully maintained my footing in showshoes while clutching the camera... which eventually broke :/

Candid shot by John as I carefully maintained my footing in showshoes while clutching the camera… which eventually broke :/

Things which were less apparent from the test run with them on – it can be rather strenuous to hike up an incline with snowshoes, and this is rendered more difficult by the wildly varying levels of snow and/or ice we encountered.

Upon reaching the first of a handful of progress signs up the mountain, we were already tiring from the strenuous snowshoeing

Upon reaching the first of a handful of progress signs up the mountain, we were already tiring from the strenuous snowshoeing

We overheated early on and lost some of our layers, but as we got farther up the mountain, we regained them – the Atlantic and its winds mean business.

One of the gorgeous shots possible on the way up through the woods

One of the gorgeous shots possible on the way up through the woods

Just going to have a bunch of photos now, please enjoy them:

The Wintersun (time fades away, as it were)

The Wintersun (time fades away, as it were)

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At this point, the left snowshoe (stock) had fallen off several times, while the right repaired snowshoe (with a snowboarding binding) was rock solid. Weird.

At this point, the left snowshoe (stock) had fallen off several times, while the right repaired snowshoe (with a snowboarding binding) was rock solid. Weird.

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Shot by John that begins to capture the scale of our hike (given I am basically as tall as the sky, look how small I am here!)

Shot by John that begins to capture the scale of our hike (given I am basically as tall as the sky, look how small I am here!)

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As we eyed the ice and rocky plains of the mountaintop, we decided to get a photo prior to scaling those treacherous slopes

As we eyed the ice and rocky plains of the mountaintop, we decided to get a photo prior to scaling those treacherous slopes

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Even with a winter storm brewing, the views were just amazing

Even with a winter storm brewing, the views were just amazing

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Beautiful

Beautiful

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At a certain point, I gave up on the snowshoes and put the MicroSpikes back on... which slowed me down in snowbanks

At a certain point, I gave up on the snowshoes and put the MicroSpikes back on… which slowed me down in snowbanks

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It was freezing, as the winds off the ocean sped up along the slopes to the barren peak

It was freezing, as the winds off the ocean sped up along the slopes to the barren peak

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The skies got even darker, as THE ICEDEATH storm approached

The skies got even darker, as THE ICEDEATH storm approached

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The final photo taken by my beloved Fujifilm, before the damnable winds grabbed it and spiked it down to the rocks, destroying it.

The final photo taken by my beloved Fujifilm, before the damnable winds grabbed it and spiked it down to the rocks, destroying it.

It really bummed me out (and still does, after the fact), that the wind caught and destroyed my camera.  I am glad that the SD card managed to survive (which is how you’re seeing all these photos), but I figured I would let Walter Sobchak cover my grief for me:

Good night, sweet camera prince.

Good night, sweet (camera) prince.

Running (VERY slowly and carefully) from The Blizzard

So we were at the top, I was starting to bemoan the loss of the camera but still soaking in the gorgeous views from the top.

And then we started to feel a few snowflakes, and saw it was 3:30pm.

Given that 1) it gets dark by 5pm; 2) the rangers had warned us of 26 or more inches of snow; and 2b) that only 2 rangers were on duty for the weekend, so we were crazy if we thought we might be getting rescued.

Well.

We *BOOKED* it down the hill – what took 3.5 hours to ascend, took us an hour and 10 minutes to rocket down.  We didn’t want the snow to cover our tracks, or the dark.

We eventually got down and thought to ourselves “well its not snowing THAT hard.”  We were quite wrong.  We made S’mores and then it started something like 3 inches per hour, just dumping snow on us.  We began to tear down camp, and I promise you, we simply put Things into Cars, to get out quickly.

Neither time nor inclination to roll up and properly stow the tent in THAT much snowfall... just grab and cram into a car

Neither time nor inclination to roll up and properly stow the tent in THAT much snowfall… just grab and cram into a car

We went into Bar Harbor, and on the suggestion of several area locals tried our dining luck at Side Street Cafe.  Besides DELICIOUS food (have you ever had half an avocado with salsa baked into it, and corn chips? I now have, and love it), we got good advice about finding a hotel.  Most of the venues were closed for the season, and Bar Harbor was charging more than $100 per person per night.  25 minutes away in Ellsworth, at the Eagle’s Lodge Motel, we got the “Winter Storm Discount” and a two bed motel room for a total of $66.10.  Good deal.

After dinner, as the snow continues to fly, I look so happy with the cold... because I had not yet had to lay on the snowy ground in my belly to get the problematic tire chain into place... :(

After dinner, as the snow continues to fly, I look so happy with the cold… because I had not yet had to lay on the snowy ground in my belly to get the problematic tire chain into place… 😦

We got out of the cafe and started to put the Thule tire chains on the front wheels of my car (no way John’s car, an auto transmission, was going to safely make it):

Excuse the crappy phone photo as the blizzard raged, but Thule tire chains in work

Excuse the crappy phone photo as the blizzard raged, but Thule tire chains in work

As pairs of gear always encounter, I had no problems with the passenger side chains, but a BEAR of a time with the driver’s side.  Like, I was laying on my stomach in the snow, while already soaked through, and VERY cold… but eventually got the chain on.

Even with the chains, my fog lights, and a manual transmission, it was 1 hour and 35 minutes to do the 25 minute drive.  The fact that the 4×4 Dodge Ram pickup trucks with plows that went by us were fishtailing tells you how bad the weather was… but those chains were worth every penny of $80.  The car didn’t slip a single time, not on hills, not while starting or stopping, not on turns.  Simply fantastic.

Even though I was soaked through and shivering, I had to turn around before going into the motel and get a photo of our chariot to safety, the MFALCON

Even though I was soaked through and shivering, I had to turn around before going into the motel and get a photo of our chariot to safety, the MFALCON

After getting to the motel, I got a very hot shower to raise my body temperature back above 45 degrees or thereabouts, and then passed out in a bed NOT frozen solid with ice (making it slightly different than my sleeping bag).

A memorable day, and I am glad for having had the opportunities, even with the various gear damage or destruction (as a friend told me after the fact, “to be fair it WAS northern Maine in the dead of winter’s destructiveness” – which is quite fair, I should be glad I didn’t lose more stuff!)

NECE 3, Day 4 – exploring north of Acadia, John’s arrival

Driving north on Maine 3 – a surprisingly fruitful joyride

Knowing that John was still driving from Boston, I wanted to try and soak in some more of Maine.  I do not typically go for the “just start driving in a direction” approach to exploration, but I am quite thankful I did in this case.

Some time in Bar Harbor again

The beginning of the day saw my exploring more of the Bar Harbor area, including the fact that it REALLY sits RIGHT on the ocean:

Bar Harbor simply goes directly into the sea

Bar Harbor simply goes directly into the sea

These photos continued to gain weird looks from local folks, because it was JUST local folks, plus me, in the area – they didn’t seem to know what to do with a tourist in the dead of winter!

Maine is gorgeous even in the snow... especially in the snow, in my opinion

Maine is gorgeous even in the snow… especially in the snow, in my opinion

It was interesting to see what I mentioned in an earlier post, the boom and bust nature of Bar Harbor, in action – both in terms of multiple restaurants being closed, and also the seafood industry being in repose:

Too cold for crabbing, I suppose

Too cold for crabbing, I suppose

Quite the delightful admixture of civilization and the wilderness, closely juxtaposed with one another, encountered time and again:

I *think* I have found my preferred locale to live the rest of my days

I *think* I have found my preferred locale to live the rest of my days

From there, it occurred to me that the campsite on Maine 3 is likely NOT the end of Maine 3… not least of all because the road kept going beyond the site.

In a move very abnormal for me, I decided to 1) not research my end destination(s) and instead 2) pick a direction and drive, to see what I found.  The results follow herebelow:

Traveling further north on Maine 3, from Acadia

Just gorgeous.

Just gorgeous.

After a series of increasingly mountainous curves, and my beginning to worry that I would be offroading instead of driving, I came upon the first of many picturesque coves and harbors (see above), and was quite pleased with my choice to do so!

Ships at harbor...

Ships at harbor…

Continuing the motif of seasonal economies, all the crabbing and fishing ships were moored and shut down for the winter, which made for better photos but tighter local budgets I would guess.

... but after seeing the options, I decided against a winter boat ride

… but after seeing the options, I decided against a winter boat ride

Of the very few instances of wildlife I encountered on this trip, it was my joyride that saw me encounter the largest volume – some sort of contingent of Viking ducks, which didn’t give a damn HOW cold the ocean was in dead of winter:

Ducks are SERIOUSLY Viking in terms of their winterproofing

Ducks are SERIOUSLY Viking in terms of their winterproofing

Not as iconic as seeing a moose? Sure.

Far less deadly than hitting a moose at night on the highway? Probably.

Beech Mountain and the College of the Atlantic’s sustainable farm

As I continued along the way I saw signs for Beech Mountain, and was looking forward to the chance at seeing the terrain from a higher vantage point.

As seems to be the case in Maine, the road got progressively crappier and more mountainous… and I eventually drove past this gorgeous little setup:

I ended up finding this awesome sustainable farm in the middle of no where

I ended up finding this awesome sustainable farm in the middle of no where

At the time, all I knew was that it had a sign as being part of the College of the Atlantic, and it looked like a really cleverly constructed sustainable farming project – solar panels, wind turbines, and an attached greenhouse to help maintain warmth and humidity.

Plus, if THEY can do it, *I* can do something like this in my future 😀

Turns out that they have a website with further information, so if anyone is interested, here it is.

Beech Mountain was going to be awesome... except they simply stopped plowing the road to it at a certain point

Beech Mountain was going to be awesome… except they simply stopped plowing the road to it at a certain point

Further up the road, I finally arrived at… the fallen tree across the road which they just plowed up into and then stopped trying.  No dice on the scenic overlook, but I was glad to have encountered the farm.

Bass Harbor Lighthouse

Bass Harbor Lighthouse

Bass Harbor Lighthouse

Further up Maine 3, I stopped for some food in a grocery store and I am glad I did – the lady working the checkout and a gentleman in line behind me told me all about the Bass Harbor Lighthouse, and also the naturally-occurring Seawall in Acadia Park.

The coast near Bass Harbor, pummeled time and again by waves

The coast near Bass Harbor, pummeled time and again by waves

While at the lighthouse (and I made it brief, as the wind off the sea meant BUSINESS and was cold), I got a good look at just how rocky the coast of Maine can be (as per above), and by seeing a lighthouse in Maine I checked off some kind of unspoken requirement for people visiting the state – see a damned lighthouse.

Other than Tuesday night, this was the coldest experience of winds off the Atlantic all week (next to the Bass Harbor Lighthouse)

Other than Tuesday night, this was the coldest experience of winds off the Atlantic all week (next to the Bass Harbor Lighthouse)

The ocean and I made friends, and parted ways amicably.

Acadia National Park’s Seawall

MFALCON in front of the natural Seawall

MFALCON in front of the natural Seawall

A natural formation of loose granite, this seawall allows for a very calm harbor around Cranberry Island and was getting seriously pummeled by the winter sea!

the Seawall in all its glory

the Seawall in all its glory

It is possible I ought to have gone swimming, but I passed on the opportunity.

Idyllic pond near the road

Idyllic pond near the road

The snows began to fall lightly as I headed back towards the campsite to meet John, but I still jumped out to snap several photos.

All snow, all the time.  My favorite.

All snow, all the time. My favorite.

It was a delight, to continually encounter deep wilderness DIRECTLY off main roads.  Yet another reason why it was hard to leave that place, and as to how much I would like to live there or in a place very similar.

John’s arrival, reliving the pyromania of our Scouting days, and cooking over a fire

John finally got into town (and given that I had to drive to get cellular signal, its nice that we ran into each other), and we met up in the tiny parking lot to the campsite:

All parties arrived, we are ready to continue the wintry week

All parties arrived, we are ready to continue the wintry week

So after getting John’s gear to the site (which was QUITE icy, having frozen after the rainstorm Thursday night), we did the obvious: started a roaring fire, cooked food, had drink, and made merriment!

John doing what he does best - *fire*

John doing what he does best – *fire*

With enough of Jim Beam’s help, we relived several of our childhood’s Scouting experiences with fire – as per above, smoldering stick with melting plastic wrapped on the tip = plastic flowing through the air as it melts down towards the ground, releasing light and strikingly Mario-esque noises.  And also AMAZINGLY healthy fumes, to be sure.

John got a candid shot of me trying to get a clean shot of the moon and stars (too many tree branches + light pollution from our fire ruined all the shots, sadly) - photo reproduced here with John's permission

John got a candid shot of me trying to get a clean shot of the moon and stars (too many tree branches + light pollution from our fire ruined all the shots, sadly) – photo reproduced here with John’s permission

Once we finally bedded down for the night, we both heard a dog howling…. and then several of them.  Almost certainly, those were wolves, as no dog has ever made noises quite like that.  Given that we saw some HUGE pawprints on the mountain the next day, perhaps we did camp with the wolves!

A great day, out of a great week.

NECE 3, Day 3 – driving through a bad nor’easter, seeing Maine of the winter, camping through a combination snow and rain storm!

Driving through a noreaster

The first part of the day, after getting a warm shower at Mark’s house (as I told him then, it DID make me feel like a million dollars… but then ended up making me feel like 1.3 million USD, due to inflation), I went ahead and sought out several items needed (some fleece blankets from a Walmart to line my sleeping bag in the ICEWORLD of my campsite; a replacement solenoid for my car to put in on Sunday from a VW dealer; and some food items which WEREN’T frozen solid (like much of what I brought with me after that first night); and a certain junkyard Mark spoke highly of to search for parts (no dice).  I stopped back at Mark’s house and then slowly drove north again, as the nor’easter began to hit (and indeed followed me north).  Slowly partially due to some BAD segments of road, but slowly also as I wanted to soak in the winter landscape and get photos.

A pastoral Maine homestead in the snows

A pastoral Maine homestead in the snows

The placement of homes off on their own in the wild was very delightful to me, as someone who has slowly moved towards a mindset in favor of ‘buy my own land, and homestead to my own self-sufficient home and property.’

This barn could be mine, one day - I just hope the seller tosses the snow in free

This barn could be mine, one day – I just hope the seller tosses the snow in free

I definitely got odd looks from people driving by, as I stopped and got the camera out, but I didn’t care.  Even when some fairly rambunctious teenagers stopped near me in their raised pickup truck with vertical stacks in the bed and unintelligibly talked crap with one HELL of an accent, then peeled rubber through my intended shot, I still enjoyed myself!

Did I get out of the car in a bad snow storm to get a photo of the car and I with the famous Penobscot Bridge? Maybe.

Did I get out of the car in a bad snow storm to get a photo of the car and I with the famous Penobscot Bridge? Maybe.

The famous Penobscot Bridge was gorgeous during the day, and I wish I had known they have an observatory in one of the towering pillars while there, but I was happy to get this early shot of “bridge weathering the weather,” so the shot on Sunday of the bridge on a clear day can be fully appreciated for its scale (the damned thing is HUGE).

The only non-flying wildlife I encountered on the trip, thankfully didn't hit my car

The only non-flying wildlife I encountered on the trip, thankfully didn’t hit my car

Not going to lie, my favorite part of driving back to the mountains of Acadia was seeing only a small part of the base of Cadillac Mountain, as the storm raged, as this was a great summary of how amazingly wintry my trip was (and after all, this is why I went!).

MFALCON and I in front of Cadillac Mountain as the snow dumps... ominous given our intended hiking outing on Saturday

MFALCON and I in front of Cadillac Mountain as the snow dumps… ominous given our intended hiking outing on Saturday

Camping during a combination snow, wind, and rain storm

At the end of the day, then, I was certainly tired from a lengthy drive through bad weather… so Maine decided to REALLY crank the weather dial up to “OH SHIT” levels.  Snowstorm, fine.  40+ mile per hour winds off the nearby Atlantic Ocean, sure, that makes sense.  BUT THEN IT TURNS INTO RAIN.  THAT SHIT IS BANANAS.

Penobscot Bridge, as I drove over it in whiteout conditions (forgive poor quality dashboard phone picture!)

Penobscot Bridge, as I drove over it in whiteout conditions (forgive poor quality dashboard phone picture!)

I did my best to get into the tent (I had been spending over 2 hours warming myself by the fire and alternating short walks out to try and stargaze through the snows, rather unsuccessfully), but made the (in retrospect VERY GODDAMNED POOR) choice of trying to warm myself by the fire for a good 30 minutes after the rain started (and to be clear, the rain and snow happened together for a good 90 minutes).  This means my coveralls, which had been amazingly warm and water repellent up until that point, got soaked through.

I got to sleep at least partially soaked through down to my base layer, and getting into a sleeping bag while wet is not pleasant… but it was approximately 5 degrees the next morning, so I was NOT in a good spot when I awoke!

NECE 3, Day 2 – checking out Bar Harbor, working on the car with Mark

Checking out Bar Harbor

After a VERY cold and dark night (3 hours south of me, the thermostats read -8 degrees at 7am), I was ready to 1) eat, and 2) be out of the cold.  So I headed down into Bar Harbor, both out of an interest in getting to see the town, and also hoping for a hot breakfast in a warm restaurant.  I took some photos of the town, which was actually rather small (and buttressed on 2 sides by the Atlantic Ocean), and then found the Two Cats bed and breakfast.

Two Cats Bed & Breakfast, and their lovely carving out front

Two Cats Bed & Breakfast, and their lovely carving out front

The town itself was fairly empty, which (upon asking folks) was normal – the town booms during the summer months with visitors to Acadia, and then busts during the late fall to early spring.

The lonely streets of Bar Harbor

The lonely winter streets of Bar Harbor

Along the way to Mark’s workplace (see below), I stopped by the Natural History Museum at the College of the Atlantic, and got to meet a very friendly whale skull (the poor fellow apparently decided to ram a ship!).  They had some other neat things in the building, but I just marvel at the fact that a student did an independent study on bone reconstruction in order to rebuild that skull for display – talk about a LOT of homework!

Ship hull: 1, Whale: 0

Ship hull: 1, Whale: 0

Meeting Mark, getting going on the car

The trip down the coast (approximately 3 hours) to the water pumping and treatment station in Woolwich saw me encountering several places worth a photo, including this:

The ocean was quite nice, and right off US 1 for ease of enjoyment!

The ocean was quite nice, and right off US 1 for ease of enjoyment!

and this:

A gorgeous Maine home, with a gorgeous winter day around it

A gorgeous Maine home, with a gorgeous winter day around it

As someone who continues to grow into the wonderful online community at the TDIClub forums (THE place online for learning about and the troubleshooting of owning a turbodiesel Volkswagen), I had been in conversation with a member there named Mark, who is from Maine.  I asked him if I might get his help on properly doing the coolant change on my car (besides its being corrosive as all hell, the chemical must be fully washed out prior to adding the new stuff… and I didn’t want to wreck the car by doing that wrong!), and Mark, in the first of MANY acts of gracious hospitality, told me he would be happy to help me do that and a handful of other things on the car.

MFALCON parked in the Woolwich water pumping station, ready to be worked on

MFALCON parked in the Woolwich water pumping station, ready to be worked on

All told, the day of work saw us do the following:

Repairs
1) the coolant needed to be flushed and changed out (as I didn’t know how old it was).  Once we did it, it was blue… so the original, stock coolant… meaning it lasted for 245,000 miles (and is really rated for approximately 100,000)
2) an extraordinarily leaky o-ring on the oil filter got replaced, as well as an oil change
3) the valve covergasket was replaced, as were the grommets which keep the head cover in place
4) the engine bay was sprayed with industrial strength cleaner and then hosed down, and now shines!

Upgrades
1) side marker lights – in place of the Castle Wolfsburg emblems which come stock, I was able to cannibalize a set of side turn markers from a *wrecked* 2001 Passat in a New Haven junkyard for a mere $10.  Mark helped me properly wire them up so that they can be easily removed for future maintenance, but also so that they work with the front turn signals AND the emergency flashers.  Writing in retrospect, these make a HUGE difference for safety at night and/or during storms
2) the 19 year old emergency brake cover, which had rotten away, got replaced by a spare genuine leather one Mark had on hand.  We had to heat it to 105 degrees C for over an hour to become pliable enough to get onto the plastic handle, but it looks so much better

To be clear and concise: Mark is some sort of VW angel in human guise, and is simply astonishingly good at glancing at a Passat B4 and seeing the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Kevin, myself, and Mark with the car inside the water pumping station

Kevin, myself, and Mark with the car inside the water pumping station

At the end of the day, I bought Mark some dinner and then realized how exhausted I was… and asked if I could sleep in the back of my car in his driveway (rather than a 3+ hour drive north starting at 1130pm).  I can tell you that Mark and his wife were so hospitable that they let me sleep in their home that night (and I passed the hell out once there).  Both of them were extraordinary examples (or perhaps run of the mill, I do not know Maine well enough) of genuine hospitality I have not previously encountered in New England (much less the rest of the world).

A long day, but a great one.

New England Camping Experience (NECE) 3, Day 1 – arrival to Acadia National Park in Maine, The Cold

NECE 3 – Maine edition

So after a multiple month hiatus (as nearly directly after my trip to the Fort Ticonderoga area with my friend John at the end of August 2013, I had shoulder surgery), I am no longer the One-Armed Man.  Now, I can do things like tie shoes, and carry goods with both arms!  As such, I knew as early as Christmas that I was going to have to POWER through camping trips over this spring, if I wanted to properly reach my goal of at least one trip to each New England state prior to departing (escaping) Yale.

So, having done winter camping while in Scouts, and due to loving the snow and cold, I realized that going the farthest distance (to Maine) for the coldest trip of this spring might make for a memorable trip.

The closest I got to hitting a moose with my car at night was seeing one of many statues around the state

The closest I got to hitting a moose with my car at night was seeing one of many statues around the state

I was quite right, in so many ways!  Check out the later posts (I decided to split the trip into one post per day, to keep them of a manageable length) to see what I mean.

After helping to lead a class discussion in my course on civil rights, I jumped into the car and drove more than 7 hours north, all the way to Acadia National Park.

Setting up in the cold, dark cold and dark!

After a long drive north, I came to the parking lot for Acadia’s Blackwoods Campground… which had space for approximately 5 cars, and then a locked gate and a saw horse with this sign (in short, “Abandon all hope ye who winter camp here”).

Foreboding entrance, check

Foreboding entrance, check

The temperature is not something I know for certain, but it was COLD.  I actually left the car running (do not worry, TDIs burn less than .4 liters of fuel per hour while idling, and my car is a fraction of a percent parts per million particulates), in the event of an emergency – I didn’t want to struggle to start the car in such a case.  Also, I needed as much light as I could get, because it was *dark* up there and I wanted to make sure I didn’t forget anything in the car!

The sled is loaded up, ready to be towed through an unknown amount of distance to a dimly-lit campsite... by myself!

The sled is loaded up, ready to be towed through an unknown amount of distance to a dimly-lit campsite… by myself!

I loaded the sled up and began to trudge along the unplowed path – between my LED headlamp, my LED lantern, and the red LED-covered safety vest I had on, I was able to see some of the path… some.  Some.  I didn’t actually know where I was going, so I sort of just went forward!

The campsite with the Little Fire That Couldn't (Deal With The Cold)

The campsite with the Little Fire That Couldn’t (Deal With The Cold)

Evenually, I found a VERY small, non-reflective, partially snow-encrusted sign saying “CAMPING THIS WAY —>” and followed it through the woods.  Again, I was doing this alone: what could go wrong!!

Got to a site with a “B” marking (the A loop of the campground is closed for the winter, due to proximity to the sea), and began to set up.  It is amazing to me, how much extreme cold affects the ability of durable goods (tent poles, for instance) to properly move and be set up.  The fire I started, using a chemical log (it was so windy I was barely able to get the matches to stay lit long at all, so I knew a proper fire wasn’t going to be started) was not nearly warm enough… but -10 before windchill means that any and all warmth was much appreciated.  I eventually crawled into my sleeping bag (rated to -20) after stargazing the amazingly clear skies, and tried to sleep (rather unsuccessfully, it was *COLD*).

All told, a VERY chilly start to the week’s experience.

Birthday the 26th, and final preparations for The Maine Trip next week

Update on school

The short version is: I truly, deeply, completely, utterly don’t care.

dontcareindicator_zps52ac01df

I am VERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRY ready to leave.  To be fair, I was ready to leave over 2 years ago, but semantics is a game I do not play.

One brief update, I guess, is that the professor of the SE Asian course, Chloe Starr, turned out to be (and I am charitable here) an EXTRAORDINARILY rude, uncouth woman.  A human being who I am not willing to spend time receiving verbal abuse from.  So I spoke in a very clear and passionate way with the Registrar, and was switched out of that class and its professorial charm, to an Introduction to Ancient Judaism (which has been really awesome, actually).

Also, towards the end of “having to travel to job interviews comes the end of the spring,” I have asked for and gotten permission to do all of my final papers as early as I would life – and I finished one of them on February 1, which is due in April.  I am so ready to get out of here, as it were, that I am speeding up to finish early (as opposed to the typical symptoms of senioritis, not doing anything).

Update on work

So I have previously explained that I manage (now) 27 Yale undergrads and grad students, in our pursuit of coding 160,000+ file cards (each detailing 1 event of the French Resistance against the Germans during WWII) into spreadsheet format, focusing on the violent events.

French resistance research project progress up to this week

French resistance research project progress up to this week

It is exciting to report that I helped lead a meeting earlier this week, in which we discussed the large amount of progress we have made, as shown above.  There is a lot of work ahead, but we explained how we will eventually tie every single event into a GIS file which both points to the exact location on the map and also can allow the researcher access to the image of the file card.  Stay tuned, but just know: I might be better at typing on a French Canadian keyboard at this point, after the past few months.

Preparing for traveling up to Maine

Tire chains; LED reflective vest; Amsoil cold flow additive catalog; and military spec boots

Tire chains; LED reflective vest; Amsoil cold flow additive catalog; and military spec boots

So as the people close to me know (namely, because they cannot escape my babbling 🙂 ), I will be camping from Wednesday to Sunday next week, at Acadia National Park in Maine.  As that is near the Canadian border AND is on the Atlantic ocean, it will be a fairly chilly experience.

Preparing for Maine requires preparing the back yard for carpentry

Preparing for Maine requires preparing the back yard for carpentry

So, besides purchasing the proper gear (from military style boots, to stainless steel crampons for traction, to Thule snow chains for my tires, and more), I decided on designing and fabricating a sled with which to haul gear – as I have been in touch with the NPS park rangers at Acadia, it will be a hell of a hike through snowy wastes from parking lot to camp site.

Sizing out the deck for the two plastic boxes and the cooler

Sizing out the deck for the two plastic boxes and the cooler

The joy of Craigslist means I got a pair of kid’s skis for $25.  When combined with approximately $8 of purchased hardware, and then scrap lumber and plywood:

The sled with boxes and cooler, and shovel in its holder, now with the tow rope

The sled with boxes and cooler, and shovel in its holder, now with the tow rope

At the end of the day, then, the sled will be very useful, especially as I have to bring my own firewood and would prefer to not carry that across unplowed terrain in my arms, over a million trips back and forth.  Thankfully, as per below, Icarus has been training to tow this sled (not least of all because I am fresh out of huskies):

Ike has been training to be a sled-towing dragon for months now.  The snow here is simulated by paper towels, as it turns out.

Ike has been training to be a sled-towing dragon for months now. The snow here is simulated by paper towels, as it turns out.

Also, in the event that my Ike/sled combination fail me, the Thule snow chains (similar to these) for my front tires SHOULD mean I can crawl out of the wastes regardless of terrain, road, and weather conditions:

Thule show chains looking DAMNED sexy

Thule show chains looking DAMNED sexy

I also had a chance to get out to REI in Norwalk, and got some MicroSpikes for my combat boots:

The MicroSpikes BARELY fit my size 16 battleships/boots

The MicroSpikes BARELY fit my size 16 battleships/boots

The snow and ice doesn’t stand a goddamned chance.

A quiet birthday, focused on growth of all sorts

Finally, then, I would just again speak to the wonderful benefits of the plants I have put into my bedroom – the air is fresher and cleaner, I sleep more soundly, and I have yet to wake up with chapped lips or cracked knuckle skin yet (as they help regulate the humidity in the room).

Today I got the nepenthe I ordered for myself (thanks Greg H for helping tempt me into doing this).  It is a carnivorous plant native to Borneo, the Philippines, and thereabouts, and they have pitchers (hence the moniker “Asian pitcher plant”) which collect rainwater and then create nectar-smelling digestive enzymes… so bugs are attracted in and then never escape.  Given the huge pile of spiders in this basement, I wouldn’t be dissatisfied with even 10% of them being eaten by this beautiful plant – but its just gorgeous to look at).

Beyond sled building, plant arranging, and working on the French Resistant project, today was fairly delightfully introspective-friendly, which I needed.  Plus, a good warm-up (cool-down?) for the northern frozen wastes next week!!

Asian pitcher plant in my basement, my birthday present to myself

Asian pitcher plant in my basement, my birthday present to myself