Escaping the 06511 zip code

Leaving behind some great friends

Now, do not get me wrong – I had a lot of fun with many of my friends in New Haven, and for those who will be staying there for additional school or folks I met who live in CT outside of New Haven – I will miss them greatly.  They were the most immediate source of aid and comfort in the face of often finding coursework and daily life experiences with the rudeness of New Havenites – and I am deeply thankful for their presence.

Plus, they gave me excuses and dining partners for outings to the various delicious restaurants around the city:

Kelli and I at our beloved Plan B Burger, with our eyes wide shut for the photo!

Kelli and I at our beloved Plan B Burger, with our eyes wide shut for the sole photo I could convince our waiter to take with my expensive DSLR camera (they were nervous about breaking it)!

For the ways in which “technology can really ruin people’s ability to be truly present with one another” can sometimes sound like a valid concern, it will be that self-same technology which allows me to continue to cultivate and enjoy friendships forged over as many as 3 years – and that is a wonderful thing.

No end in sight/packing up the remainder of my crap

So, as mentioned in the previous post, the afternoon after commencement was meant to be packing whirlwind, but it turned into a much-needed 12 hour coma for myself and my visiting family.

It is a damned good thing we did so, too… because even in the face of weeks (in fact more than a year, as I used the space in my car to bring home stuff every time I have gone home since May 2013) of packing and preparation, the amount of crap we had to box, bag, and otherwise defenestrate was astonishing.

IMG_20131210_102846_677

The room prior to being emptied, back in the middle of December

Sure, it is true that I was in the same house in DC for nearly 4 years and had accumulated a lot of stuff there (and I am a camper and a builder/fixer, so much of it was useful gear)… so that all got moved up north in 2011, and then I added 3 New Haven years of crap to it (again, mostly useful stuff… just bulky).

So.

It was a hell of a long day, with our intentions starting at “it should take about 4 hours, we can depart at noon or so and drive part of the way to our respective destinations” and eventually arrived at “well, we just packed for 8.5 hours, Michael is passing out standing up.”

My bedroom of 3 years is now a cold, empty husk... like me :D

My bedroom of 3 years is now a cold, empty husk… like me 😀

I went to Bob’s to pick up the trailer, and again recognized how tired I was, and also how unsafe it is to drive while exhausted… but even less safe to tow a trailer in the darkening evening.

I spoke to Bob and was able to secure a bed in their guest room to sleep for the night, and I cannot overstate how important this was to my (eventual) safe passage south to Maryland.  I slept deeply and departed on Wednesday (rather than Tuesday), and did the trip in one fell swoop.

Crazy to think how many hours I spent in the basement there, and how much fun I had in the space I worked so hard to renovate and make useful.

Crazy to think how many hours I spent in the basement there, and how much fun I had in the space I worked so hard to renovate and make useful.

For more on the arrival and continuing story of my time in Maryland, please see the blog I put together for that experience, at this link.

The setting of New Haven. and (happily) moving away from it

The number of gang shootings and drug violence in my immediate neighborhood (some of which can be seen here) was a serious part of my time in New Haven – something like 21 or 22 instances of shots fired in 3 years, within 5 houses of mine.  This is besides the more “typical” crimes experienced by Yale students – down around the university, muggings are a common experience, and not where I lived (after all, I lived in the poor part of town so no one had money on them to be stolen).

Crime is not a new experience for my living situation, but I will tell you what really wore me down the most – the rudeness and generally aggressive-paired-with-frustration that came forth from many of the people I interacted with in New Haven… particularly while driving.  In a serious way I am thankful for 3 years spent in the area, 2 of which involved a lot of driving – I was always a decent driver, but I am at a place in my life where NYC is “just an annoyance to be avoided” as opposed to the stressful bugbear of past-Mike’s outlook on driving.  Through this crucible I became a better driver, and indeed the crucibles abounded in and around New Haven.

Thankful as I am for all the good and for the bad experiences turned into good lessons learned, I was more than ready to get out by the time the semester ended and I headed south.

My tired parents and brother, helping finalize the packing process

My tired parents and brother, helping finalize the packing process

FAR too many things do I own; the vast majority of them went home to OH for me to deal with at a later time (oh joy)

FAR too many things do I own; the vast majority of them went home to OH for me to deal with at a later time (oh joy)

Final thoughts on school

I have always loved Calvin & Hobbes, and this one comic captures many of my thoughts about the academy in general, after a good 8 years trapped in it:

Cannot agree enough

Cannot agree enough

Critical thinking and carefully examining the problems of our world are vital aspects of any well-lived life – but the number of times I have watched the sinking ship of “a conversation with relevance to the real world” from a lifeboat, as my peers would continue the quibbling that sunk the ship of relevance in the first place… was too many for me to bear.  I was way ready to get out of the academy more than 2 years ago, even – but I stuck it out, and for many reasons (the lessons learned in class, the lessons learned about how not to act or live by observing other people, and most importantly: nearly full coverage of my shoulder surgeries and physical therapy all made this waiting game worth it).  I am deeply thankful for the opportunities I had at Yale, but it simply wasn’t a good fit for me in many ways because, frankly, I dislike obfuscation and prefer action to pontification.

There are a lot more things I could say about this place, but suffice to say: I took the advice of a YDS peer long ago and always assumed good intentions in the words, throughts, and deeds of my Yale Divinity peers – as everyone up there, so far as I could tell, had their hearts genuinely in the right place.  Just, too often did someone offer their politics instead of their religious convictions (if any, a complex issue at YDS as I experienced it) – and just like in church in real life, I didn’t come to hear about a person’s politics, I came to hear a religious message.  I got some of the religious insights and training I sought, often from unexpected sources, but at the end of the experience I am so deeply, truly grateful to be moving back out into the real world and out of the bubble of seminary (which, to be fair, is a reality about most seminaries, being a bubble).

I think, if you go back and read through this blog, you’ll see that I moved over time further and further into projects and camping trips because 1) they were in the real world and away from the bubble; and 2) they were constructive actions, as opposed to the academy’s tendency to deconstruct everything with a nauseating smugness and then offer no solutions whatsoever.  My mind and body were ready to depart, and now departed I am (save for the summer’s internship, which due to my fighting for it, will be physical labor- and project-heavy… as rehabilitation after so long in the academy).

Glad to have gone, but more glad to have finished and now to be gone, it seems.

Thanks for reading the blog!

To those folks who have followed my blogged time in New Haven and at Yale Divinity School, I can quote unto you the message I painted on the basement stairs over 2 years ago:

Thanks indeed, Winchester House

Thanks indeed, Winchester House

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The final final has been vanquished; preparing the trailer for my caravan to freedom

Getting a great deal

(Editor’s note: this post is going live some 2 weeks after the fact, because the last portion of my time in New Haven was simply too busy for me to compose this before now!)

In February or March, it occurred to me that it would be 1) a lot easier to move; 2) a lot easier to do farmwork in Maryland for my internship; and 3) prepare me for years of utility and capacity ahead.

I knew that Harbor Freight is at times a great place to purchase tools and gear – they claim to offer the best deals on great gear, and while their prices are always very low… the quality of what they sell isn’t especially compelling in some cases.

That said, I did a hell of a lot of research over months, looking into whether or not their trailer kits could be trusted – and what I found was, a resounding yes IF you properly clean and repack with grease the ball bearings in the wheel hubs.  Which I did, very carefully, as per below.

My good friend Syed helped me find out that HF was going to hold a sale on Easter Sunday, for 25% off of one item.  The specific store I went to didn’t have any in stock, they gave me a voucher to get the sales price after the day once they were back in stock… and I ended up getting the kit from the New Haven store.

My good friend Bob finalizing bolt placement through the deck

My good friend Bob finalizing bolt placement through the deck

 

Test fitting one of the side walls to the vertical upright beams

Test fitting one of the side walls to the vertical upright beams

Building the trailer

My good friend Bob is a retired Marine and retired police officer, who is working security for Yale Law School – and over the 16 odd months I did IT there, I often helped Bob with various IT problems which arose.  He had told me about the garage he had, where he likes to fix cars – and when I mentioned the trailer, Bob jumped at the chance to help me out with a project before I departed New Haven!  Thus, once I finished the last final of my academic career (thank Jesus it is over), I dove into working as many hours at the Law School as I could, while also working on the trailer after shifts ended.

Bob and his brother Eddy and I, hanging out on a Saturday in the car shop they have used for more than 30 years

Bob and his brother Eddy and I, hanging out on a Saturday in the car shop they have used for more than 30 years

Over several nights and weekends, Bob and I (and his visiting older brother Eddy, at times) worked to put together the metal frame, to prepare for the decking and side walls.  I decided to do 2 foot tall walls, making use of the slots in the steel frame as to ensure they are stable when in place but also make their removal a non-issue.  We used pressure treated lumber for the deck and uprights, to make sure they last as long as possible – and then I painted the side panel plywood prior to assembly.

I found a special set of interlocking corner hardware for trailers, and then a set of super heavy duty Tacoma pickup truck bed D-rings, as the other modifications I did on the trailer.  The corner hardware got put onto the side walls and they do an excellent job of holding the walls very steadily in place, even at speed.  The D-rings were drilled into the outside edges of the frame, as to allow for tie-down points when I have the walls removed and am transporting heavier or larger items such as 4×8 plywood (as opposed to the lighter duty door handles I put onto the deck for internal tie-down points).

Ready to go!

After a great deal of work, the trailer was ready to go – and my best intentions were to take it home to New Haven from Bob’s garage, load it completely for the Maryland trip, and then return it to Bob’s locking garage for safe storage until the moment of my departure south.  I did indeed do that, and in retrospect am VERY glad I did so!

Other than electrical, the trailer was ready to go on schedule (I ended up finishing a few days later)

Other than electrical, the trailer was ready to go on schedule (I ended up finishing a few days later)

“I bring good news, of great soy” – visiting my summer internship site in southern Maryland, from farm to house to church and more!

The roadtrip

After installing the summer Borbet wheels (which were both thrown in for free by the previous owner, which is a crazy good deal for me; AND which were given a great deal on new Hankook Ventus 2 tires and so forth thanks to my wallet-destroying friend, Tom) on the street in front of my house… and being lucky enough that the trucker’s warning triangles I once bought cheaply from Craigslist were sufficient enough to keep cars away, I packed the car BATTLEWAGON and was ready to go!

Summer tires in place, ready to rock (but mostly roll)

Summer tires in place, ready to rock (but mostly roll)

With my good friend and fellow student Nathan, who will be living and working alongside me in this house over the summer, we departed YDS at 4pm or thereabout.

Nathan and I in the Yale Divinity parking lot, excited to depart!

Nathan and I in the Yale Divinity parking lot, excited to depart!

I cannot fully believe it myself, but 3 long and not always fun years in New Haven and at Yale can consider their days numbered – this trip was the harbinger of an escape less than two months away.  Even less credible, but also true: we hit a total of 27 minutes of traffic, on I-95 south in NYC, before the George Washington Bridge, and otherwise had smooth sailing all the way.  Fantastic, hard to believe, and a good start to a great weekend.  We arrived at Nathan’s parents’ home in MD, and quickly passed out after a long day.

The visitation of DC and VA friends

I set aside Friday to go down and make a pilgrimage to places where I knew old friends still exist, and also to visit my prior institution, American University.

Amurka!

Amurka!

Between juggling attempted visits with professors and old friends, my initial stop by AU in the morning was just good for grabbing photos of a couple of these iconic views it was (surprisingly) good to see, again.

The lovely new School of International Service, which was done in time for my graduation day but not my usage

The lovely new School of International Service, which was done in time for my graduation day but not my usage

That said, I stopped by the school later in the afternoon after a lengthy lunch with friends, and visited with both a former roommate who know works in the AU public safety department; and one of my favorite professors of computer science, who showed me his newest craze – quadcopters.  A lot of fun was had, and I look forward to further visitations with those folks and others over the lengthy summer!

AU, don't you ever change, as a place where wearing your heart on your sleeve isn't enough... you need multiple shirts for your multiple hearts!

AU, don’t you ever change, as a place where wearing your heart on your sleeve isn’t enough… you need multiple shirts for your multiple hearts!

The lunchtime hour(s) was spent catching up with my good friends Deb and Kim, whom I met and toiled alongside at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, in January 2013 – we were all prospective diaconal ministers, and in the midst of a grueling schedule, we got to become great friends.  As one might imagine, and in spite of possible height differentials making direct conversation difficult (as per below), we had a fantastic time and a delicious meal at Silverado.

Finally reunited with my fellow diaconal-inclined Lutheran friends, Deb and Kim!

Finally reunited with my fellow diaconal-inclined Lutheran friends, Deb and Kim!

I drove something like 75 miles within DC and northern VA in a single day, and that was enough for me – after a good 12 or 13 hours away from Nathan’s folks’ house, I drove back and again fell into a blissful, deep sleep.  As my time at home in Ohio a few weeks ago, for spring break, made clear to me: the benefits for mood, outlook, disposition, and body tension levels that I find from being away from negative settings (for instance, the latest disrespectful toxic housemate I am stuck with; the gang shootings around my house in New Haven, and the academic setting at YDS in general).  Even as a stanger in the strange land of Laurel, MD, I slept like the dead and it was great.  I fully suspect this sort of healthy, non-tense and indeed edifying experience of passing living in southern Maryland versus CT will continue for the whole summer, and I cannot overstate my thankfulness for and excitement about that.

The farm, the house, the joy

Nathan and I amidst the college's community garden and the new plot we will work and make flourish

Nathan and I amidst the college’s community garden and the new plot we will work and make flourish

Saturday was The Main Event: first driving the 2 hours further south, to Saint Mary’s City MD – the historical landing site for the Catholic colonists who petitioned for a patch of land in the New World where they could worship (as Catholics were disallowed from worshipping in England at the time), in 1634.  As the original state capital, it was a place which would remain small and agricultural up until and then after the point when the capital was moved to Annapolis – and this trend continues today.  One of the peculiar aspects of living in “the county” (which is how everyone I met referred to the area), one will encounter a wide swathe of people whose family has owned the very expensive land they own since the 1640s… but who have no liquidity.  It is our hope, through directly donating crops grown and also teaching how easy/cheap/healthy it is to grow one’s own food in the plentiful soil of the area, to help directly improve the lives of the surprising number of hungry in the area.

 

Beauty and joy abound, around our summer home

Beauty and joy abound, around our summer home

Historic Saint Mary's City has frame 'buildings' on the sites where the original colonists built their lives on the shores of this New World

Historic Saint Mary’s City has frame ‘buildings’ on the sites where the original colonists built their lives on the shores of this New World.  Somewhat haunting, as neighbors go I suppose.

As you see in the two photos above, the setting around the house is extremely rural and empty (this is a siren song to my ears, tired as they and I are of the urban shitshow of New Haven).  Below you can see the house from front and back, prior to the lead paint on the outside being scraped and replaced for our arrival at the end of May:

Front of the house and the MFALCON, both looking lovely

Front of the house and the MFALCON, both looking lovely

The back of the being-renovated home

The back of the being-renovated home

My bedroom is a lighter shade of green than my current New Haven home, and is a mere 120 by 144 inches, which is not a large space – but honestly, a part of my attempting to learn and grow this summer is in the key of “don’t bring too much, do too much, or worry too much” – so besides Ike and his house, my clothes, computer, and camping gear, I will not be bringing anything more.  Such a small space ought to be entirely sufficient!

My bedroom for the coming year shall again be green, and it has a gorgeous view of both foliage and field

My bedroom for the coming year shall again be green, and it has a gorgeous view of both foliage and field

If memory serves, this little brown house is over 110 years old, and various portions of it are in different stages of being renovated for us; one of the finished areas is the kitchen, which looks lovely:

The brand new, gorgeous kitchen I will be getting to use with Nathan, to cook for ourselves and guests all summer long

The brand new, gorgeous kitchen I will be getting to use with Nathan, to cook for ourselves and guests all summer long

Nathan looking uncharacteristically worried, regarding the fan in one of our common rooms

Nathan looking uncharacteristically worried, regarding the fan in one of our common rooms

The members of the parish have already indicated a certain kind of excitement in helping us to furnish this building and make it a home and a house of hospitality and prayer; all told, then the housing angle of this summer couldn’t be any more wonderful!

Trinity Episcopal Church and Saint Mary College

Beyond the farming portion of the summer, I will be working with and learning from Pastor John Ball of Trinity Episcopal church, and that will involve several additional responsibilities.  One of them will be preaching to both of the congregations in the parish (there is the main church building, seen below, and then a small chapel down the road with a commited, small set of older folks who live near and worship there).

Trinity Episcopal, a lovely little building

Trinity Episcopal, a lovely little building

 

The view from the pulpit

The view from the pulpit

"Trinity: since 1638" is very cool to me

“Trinity: since 1638” is very cool to me

Another project I know of from the very beginning will be helping manage, fundraise, and generally effect the cause of saving Church Point: a sandy small peninsula into the river off from where the church and the college is located, it has lost several yards of sand and sediment to the water since 1950 or so.  The below photo shows the cross on the sand again, only because a big tractor was brought down to drag it 50 or so feet onto the now-shrunk shore.  It will be like my Eagle Scout project days again, in many ways – but now with a certain kind of authority as “oh, that seminary intern guy”!

Church Point, eroding away - and working to galvanize support and fundraise to restore it

Church Point, eroding away – and working to galvanize support and fundraise to restore it

The College's marina, right down the hill from the church, free for our summer use.  Yesssssssssssssss

The College’s marina, right down the hill from the church, free for our summer use. Yesssssssssssssss

The full replica of the Dove, which originally got settlers to these shores in the 1600s

The full replica of the Dove, which originally got settlers to these shores in the 1600s

There will be many other projects ahead, but now all I can think about is my excitement to getting down there and settled into a healthy set of routines in a great little house with my good friend and classmate Nathan.

Excited beyond belief for this coming summer?

Yup.

The sun also sets

The sun also sets

From delicious views and weather, to delightful locals and lands, I cannot think of anything about this summer which doesn’t have the capacity to be outstanding right out of the gate.  Just in terms of measuring “average number of weekly gang violence within 2-3 blocks of my house”, I can already guarantee that this will be a more peaceful, wholesome, and edifying experience than New Haven.  The nature of living with non-students, and outside of the bubble of seminary (it is not, to be fair, just YDS that has this – seminaries in general tend to become bubbles in so many ways), I rejoice at the chance to make lasting friendships with “real people” so to speak, people with mortgages, and debt, and jobs, and families… and people who DON’T babble about theory and minutia without any real life experience to back up their pontificating.  (For reference, the preceding sentences of critique of my Yale/New Haven setting were GREATLY edited down, in terms of lengths and crass vulgarities).

In short, then: my summer internship in Saint Mary’s City, Maryland, is going to be a peaceful, edifying, educational, and positive experience to finish the last requirement to get my degree from Yale.  I will be doing a blog specific to the summer, and I greatly encourage you to take a look once it is posted and running, later in May.

For now, back to the grind to finish this semester.

This summer is going to be so beautiful to see and soak in, I nearly can't stand it

This summer is going to be so beautiful to see and soak in, I nearly can’t stand it

NECE 4, Day 3 – DOG SLEDS; hiking Camel’s Hump Mountain, dinner at Maxi’s, fond and icy memories

The hike out to the car, and DOGSLEDS!

The morning was CONSIDERABLY warmer than even the night before, and I regret to admit: I had left my camera in the car the night before, to minimize weight as I hiked 2.5 miles to the tent, because I was exhausted.

And so I missed the ability to photograph a honest to God dog sled go galloping past me.

October Siberians truck and one of their teams of Siberian Huskies, waiting as the dog sled is out and about

October Siberians truck and one of their teams of Siberian Huskies, waiting as the dog sled is out and about

Instead, I got to speak with one of the trainers, and get some photos of their lovely custom kennel/truck, and their second team of gorgeous Siberian Huskies!  I don’t typically like dogs due to smell and noise… but in this case, they made noises like wolves and LOOKED like wolves.  And being of House Stark, knowing that winter IS coming, this was entirely ~awesome~ in my book.  I sort of wanted one.  Or three.  Or a team and a sled, because who can refuse a face like this:

awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww

awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww

Even the top of the kennels on the truck bed had a dog sledding ornament, the sort of DIY attention to detail which warms my (otherwise icy, cold and dead) heart:

A really awesome hood ornament atop the mobile kennel, where the sled is stored while driving

A really awesome hood ornament atop the mobile kennel, where the sled is stored while driving

A wonderfuly wintry and NON-hypothermic start to my morning!

Hiking up around/in the midst of Camel’s Hump Mountain

I drove over to the other side of Waterbury, and carefully made my way up the class 4 (again, unpaved and unmaintained DEATH RACE) roads to the winter parking lot.  Where I found, of course, another Subaru breeding ground, with several Vermonters either coming back or preparing to hike/ski the mountain!

The way to Camel's Hump was clear (albeit some sort of pothole farm)

The way to Camel’s Hump was clear (albeit some sort of pothole farm)

After a lunch of Ramen prepared on the camp stove out the back of my car, I started up the “View Trail” as it was the only trail I could see… and ended up back in the parking lot.  ugh.

A cloud descended and took root upon the summit of the mountain

A cloud descended and took root upon the summit of the mountain

I went a different direction, in my microspikes (rather than my snowshoes, which was a bad idea in retrospect, as it was more than 3 foot of snow in a lot of places, not all equally compacted down), and found some kind of shorter trail meant for cross country skiers, and went off in that direction.  It WAS headed up towards the peak, and it got me to… another trail, this one groomed by VAST (Vermont Association of Snow Travelers) for use by hikers, skiers, and snowmobilers alike.  Again, this went up and around the peak of the mountain, but with VERY few trail markers or signs, I went with it.  I continued to approach the cloud rooted atop the peak, and got some good views:

The peak in the background, as I did the hike in the wrong damned direction!

The peak in the background, as I did the hike in the wrong damned direction!

The trail kept going 1) up and 2) around the mountain, seeming like it would eventually get me to the peak or at least another trail to the peak… but instead I got to see snowmobilers go zooming past:

An action shot of one of the snowmobiles which zoomed past me when I spent a portion of the hike on a groomed trail for snowmobilers and skiers

An action shot of one of the snowmobiles which zoomed past me when I spent a portion of the hike on a groomed trail for snowmobilers and skiers.  Have I mentioned I love my camera?

In retrospect, while I love my new green Carhartt raincoat, it is not especially good at things like “being seen by people operating motor vehicles on icy surfaces” – but they were all really good about slowing way down once they saw me, to the benefit of the “Mike not dying on this trip” fund:

An important sign, and a great summary of the human condition!

An important sign, and a great summary of the human condition!

Eventually I got high up that trail enough to reach the edge of the cloud, and it snowed intermittently onto me as the visibility dropped.   Given that I was exhausted, and alone in a snowy and foggy area, and it was 2pm (with sunset forecasted to be at 5:46pm), I decided to turn around and head back to the car.  A great hike with some lovely views, and while it is disappointing to not have made it to the peak of Camel’s Hump Mountain, I look forward to getting back to Vermont with other hikers and without dangerous weather, to do a lot more of the Long Trail, in the near future!

Dinner at Maxi’s. for the warmth of both the food and the locals

Having had dinner here one night, and lunch another, I cannot thank my friend Emma from Yale enough for her suggestion to eat here... and given that she was born and raised in Waterbury, and worked at Maxi's, I thought she was overstating... but I was wrong.  SO GOOD.

Having had dinner here one night, and lunch another, I cannot thank my friend Emma from Yale enough for her suggestion to eat here… and given that she was born and raised in Waterbury, and worked at Maxi’s, I thought she was overstating… but I was wrong. SO GOOD.

After the hike, it was around 4pm and I was starving to a crazy degree, so I went back to Maxi’s – where I had dined the night before, it was suggested to me by my friend Emma, and it was *delicious* the night before.  But Saturday for my late lunch, they hit it out of the park: a panini from heaven, constructed with turkey, bacon, brie, apple chutney, and curry mayonnaise.  And God’s blessing.  And it was delicious, I only wish I had room after it (and my chicken coconut curry soup as a starter) to have tried their famous Vermont maple syrup cheesecake.

Perhaps I *have* to go back there, now.

Packing up, heading home

After dinner and the 5.5 hour hike across the wastes, I was very tired, and recognized that I really needed more time than I had billed, to do work for my job and then pack my car for my 10 days of spring break at home in Ohio this coming week.  On the way, I saw an outdoor gear shop with “clearance signs” all over every surface, went in (mostly to warm myself out of the wind), and ended up getting a $75 snowshoe bag for… $23!  No more worrying about snowshoe crampons tearing the upholstery in my car, or in my life!

Given the above, and having had a great time, I decided to grab the remaining sunlight to go back and tear down camp, to head home 12 hours earlier than planned.

The MFALCON and I were able to make it up the logging road on Saturday, as warmer temperatures changed the SHEET OF ICE into sticky snow.  Made for a MUCH quicker process of tearing down camp and packing the car

The MFALCON and I were able to make it up the logging road on Saturday, as warmer temperatures changed the SHEET OF ICE into sticky snow. Made for a MUCH quicker process of tearing down camp and packing the car

A successful and treacherous drive up to the lower parking lot of Little River State Park saw my hike reduced to 1 mile each way, meaning I tore down camp and got back to the car in time to grab some FANTASTIC shots of the mountains in the background as the sun began to retreat:

The sun setting was outstanding

The sun setting was outstanding

The view across the Little River Reservoir, as the sun began to set

The view across the Little River Reservoir, as the sun began to set

Tearing down camp in the sunlight is a GREAT deal more pleasant than full nighttime efforts

Tearing down camp in the sunlight is a GREAT deal more pleasant than full nighttime efforts

The drive home, excited for the next trip

The sun sets, the car warmed up and ready for the trip down to CT

The sun sets, the car warmed up and ready for the trip down to CT

The trip was a roaring success, and as I drove home I reflected on how lucky I am to have gotten my fuel efficient car for such a low price, and friends like Mark and Tom who continue to help me learn how to keep it going and indeed run even better.  It was just shy of $100 worth of fuel for nearly 950 miles of driving (including the 2 hours down and then 2 back up, for the observatory), which is 40mpg (including the trailer hitch shelf with firewood, AND the roof basket with shovel and axe).  The cost of camping was $0, as the winter is the offseason, so I will continue to be able to squeeze in my final New England Camping Experiences, to complete the set with t New Hampshire and Rhode Island… and then, if there is time, additional trips to states already visited!

Stay tuned, and stay warm.

NECE 4, Day 2 – the Green Mountain Club HQ; Ben and Jerry’s factory; Stellafane Amateur Observatory

Waking up from the EVERFROST

The night was, to be honest, miserable – even with fleece blankets to line my sleeping bag, I was VERY cold. Cold to the level of going into the fetal position inside the sleeping bag, and arms in armpits to maximize heat recirculation for my body, and still shivering.  And I am a big guy, so I don’t really shiver.

I woke up/decided to get out of the tent and start moving around 6am, a process which went something like this:

It was very, very, very cold on Friday morning. VERY. COLD.

It was very, very, very cold on Friday morning.
VERY.
COLD.

After checking extremities for frostbite (my left pinky and all my right toes felt VERY cold, in that “oh shit” kind of way), I got out of the tent and started moving as much as I could.  To say the least, I was not happy with the -20 degree rating on my sleeping bag… but as my brother has since explained to me, -20 rating means “you MIGHT not freeze to death in -20, and you’ll be really warm and comfortable at -5″… which is a bit different than how I understood it.  As they say, you (barely) live and learn.

The tent looked so nice as I departed, but was approximately 0 degrees Kelvin on the inside

The tent looked so nice as I departed, but was approximately 0 degrees Kelvin on the inside

I checked online, and the capitol of the state, 13 miles away, was -14 degrees F during the course of the night – and locals in Waterbury reported -18 on their thermostats. Chilly indeed, even if the above photo looks like a nice winter day.  But cold is nothing new, so I departed for… a McDonald’s in order to get out of the wind and thaw a bit.  I cannot overstate how thankful I am that the closest one, a 30 minute drive away, had a fireplace in their dining room… as I got to warm myself for the 2 hours unscheduled that morning!

A raccoon froze to death during the night!  Very good sign for the safety of my experience, I should think

A raccoon froze to death during the night! Very good sign for the safety of my experience, I should think

Even with the FROST-PERIENCE and racoon-popsicle discoveries of my evening and morning, one cannot overstate the gorgeous views across the top of the Little River dam and reservoir:

Sunrise over the reservoir, just gorgeous

Sunrise over the reservoir, just gorgeous

The Long Trail, starting at the Green Mountain Club Headquarters

As I have hiked on the Appalachian Trail before, my intention was to spend a good set of the 272 miles on VT’s famed Long Trail while in the state.  When I began to look into that, I found there is a non-profit organization in the state, which is responsible for maintaining those miles and miles: the Green Mountain Club!

Green Mountain Club HQ

The new GMC HQ building is 100% built from local sustainable materials, entirely self-sufficient for power, and is 100% gorgeous

The new GMC HQ building is 100% built from local sustainable materials, entirely self-sufficient for power, and is 100% gorgeous

From what I read online, their new headquarters building was built entirely with local sustainable lumber, and is powered fully by solar.  Once I got there, I found out fascinating additional details: they had to build the new building because the old one burned down; they have composting toilets so produce very little wastewater; they use a special sort of boiler for heat and water heating, which is crazy efficient; and the list of cool things went on and on.

The interior of the GMC HQ was gorgeous, and adorned with all manner of historical gear and backpacks

The interior of the GMC HQ was gorgeous, and adorned with all manner of historical gear and backpacks

The building was gorgeous, the staff was friendly and knowledgeable about the specifics of the building, the Long Trail, and just more of my immersion into the friendly and jovial culture of Vermonters.  Also, they happened to be well-situated in order to see Camel’s Hump Mountain, which is where I was planning on hiking:

The peak of Camel's Hump as seen from the Green Mountain Club

The peak of Camel’s Hump as seen from the Green Mountain Club

The lunch of champions: stopping by the Ben & Jerry’s factory

On my way towards the GMC, I passed by a place I had visited in my childhood with my family, the Ben & Jerry’s factory.  I knew I needed lunch on my way south to Springfield VT, so I figured I had found my diner!

Snow sculpture of a guy churning snow into ice cream, in front of the ice cream central... INCEPTION

Snow sculpture of a guy churning snow into ice cream, in front of the ice cream central… INCEPTION

After ordering and enjoying a cookie-layered sundae with hazelnut ice cream (yes, I probably got diabetes from typing that, much less eating it), I snapped some photos and then got into the car for my trip down south.

In heaven

In heaven

A wall of ice cream scoops with my hazelnut and cookie sunday lunch... so good.

A wall of ice cream scoops with my hazelnut and cookie sunday lunch… so good.

Observing Stellafane Amateur Observatory

All signs point to astronomy

All signs point to astronomy

The highlight of the trip for me, in some ways, was a visit to get a private tour of the Stellafane Observatory.  I drove the 2 hours south to Springfield, to meet with Ken Slater, the vice president of their club, who was happy to give me a private tour of the grounds.

The Stellafane lodge, atop the hill

The Stellafane lodge, atop the hill

The catch, of course, was that we had to snowshoe in over the unpaved hills and dales, which was (as snowshoeing is wont to be) tiring but worthwhile!

The unique1924  Porter telescope, still standing and in use all these years later

The unique1924 Porter telescope, still standing and in use all these years later

Atop the hill sits the pink lodge building, with several telescopes in it, and then the famous Porter observatory off by itself.

The VP of the Stellafane Club, Ken, and I in front of the lodge

The VP of the Stellafane Club, Ken, and I in front of the lodge

Ken told me all about the peculiarly important place of Stellafane in the history of astronomy – basically, it was a place which took the telescopes as curiousities of the rich in the 1900s and 1910s, and began to turn it into a club for enthusiasts… until the magazie Scientific American picked up on their existence and wrote an article.

Only a few of the compendiums of Scientific American articles on amateur telescope making, all because of Stellafane

Only a few of the compendiums of Scientific American articles on amateur telescope making, all because of Stellafane

An article which outperformed every single article they had ever written… and the editors caught on when they received boatloads of letters indicating their interest.  The voluminous article-writing after was big enough to necessitate the bound books (some of which can be seen above), and was really interesting to learn about!

The handsome Stellafane logo, atop the lodge

The handsome Stellafane logo, atop the lodge

The classy and dapper 1910s gentleman being the symbol of Stellafane (seen above, atop the front door to the lodge) ought not give the wrong impression – the interior of the lodge is split between cooking space for guests, and teaching space for learners:

A blackboard for teaching, and photos of nearly 100 years of telescoping

A blackboard for teaching, and photos of nearly 100 years of telescoping

The astronomical curios in the room were 1) awesome and 2) tempting as all hell to stock up on as quickly as I can, in order to outfit nerd-rooms in my future house (note: all rooms in my home will be nerd rooms… so I will need a *lot* of curios):

One of many awesome things I hope to one day have in a room(s) in the house I hope to build.

One of many awesome things I hope to one day have in a room(s) in the house I hope to build.

One of my favorite pieces in the lodge was the series of glass plates with images taken decades ago by the amateur telescopes of the club:

Glass plate images from over 75 years ago, made using amateur made telescopes.  Breathtaking.

Glass plate images from over 75 years ago, made using amateur made telescopes. Breathtaking.

Ken got a photo of me checking out the Porter observatory through my Pentax, with the not-so-clear-skies above:

Yours truly photo'ing the Porter telescope (this shot taken by Ken, and posted here with his permission)

Yours truly photo’ing the Porter telescope (this shot taken by Ken, and posted here with his permission)

As has been alluded to above, Stellafane actually is home to multiple telescopes… and that number grows, as they offer once per month courses on how to grind your own mirrors, to make your own telescopes.  I REALLY want to make it up there to do this, not least of all because astrophotography CAN be done with DIY telescopes… which is REALLY awesome:

Another one of the observatories dotting the 70+ acres at Stellafane

Another one of the observatories dotting the 70+ acres at Stellafane

As a matter of fact Stellafane almost has more telescopes than they know what to do with; Ken got a shot of me with one of the larger (gigantic and enormously heavy) telescopes in storage, awaiting refurbishment and installation somewhere:

That is a LARGE telescope, one of the donations given to Stellafane (I believe this one came from one of the old Harvard observatories and was considering too old to refurbish)

That is a LARGE telescope, one of the donations given to Stellafane (I believe this one came from one of the old Harvard observatories and was considering too old to refurbish)

But refurbish they do, using some fascinating tools: a polishing tool made from common ceramic floor tiles to scrape the glass evenly:

Ken showing off a GIGANTIC mirror being polished with a homemade ceramic tile scraper

Ken showing off a GIGANTIC mirror being polished with a homemade ceramic tile scraper

At the end of another long but excellent day in Vermont, I drove north and snapped a few photos along the way, as I continued to marvel at the scenery along the way.  VT is almost *too* visually appealing in the winter, so I assume in the summer it blooms with the force of a thousand Edens.  Though it bills itself as “Green Mountain State” on its license plates, I would offer: it ought to be re-motto’d as “Lands of Unending Subarus”, with their all wheel drive and ease of use for moving sporting equipment.

A shot taken one handed while driving to try and capture the beauty along I89 - just another excuse to fashion a camera mount to go on the headrest of the passenger seat, I guess!

A shot taken one handed while driving to try and capture the beauty along I89 – just another excuse to fashion a camera mount to go on the headrest of the passenger seat, I guess!

I slept VERY soundly, once I got back to the tent, not least of all because it was a sweltering 12 degrees F outside.

NECE 4, Day 1- Driving up to Little River State Park, in Waterbury Vermont… and camping in -18 degree weather!

The campsite and surrounding gorgeousity

Even from the earliest of the planning for this trip, I knew that I was in for some serriously gorgeous views – but even still, I wanted to speak with my friend from YDS, Emma, who is a native of Waterbury VT.  She and I figured out how to shift my initial itinerary to reflect the full breadth of opportunities for my time in the state, and we came up with the following general map:

Google Maps was the copilot on planning where to stay and where to go - everything is close except for the observatory!

Google Maps was the copilot on planning where to stay and where to go – everything is close except for the observatory!

Not hard to understand how I ended up spending a lot of time in and around Waterbury, but as it was the location of the Green Mountain Club headquarters (see the post following this one), I wanted to be there anyways – and everything Emma told me was fuel onto the fire of my excitement.  After a long afternoon of driving once again to the northern wastes, after sitting through a morning class, I found myself 1) entirely off road and 2) facing a well-kept sign:

A nice sign, in slightly better shape than the Class 4 (unplowed, unmaintained) road in

A nice sign, in slightly better shape than the Class 4 (unplowed, unmaintained) road in

This seemed a good start, as Little River State Park was indeed my intended destination.  The road went from poorly kept and filled with potholes to more of a “pothole farm which happened to let some vehicles get by it, if they’re lucky” – so it was tough, to balance driving safely but also trying to enjoy the fantasy of my one day owning such lovely little homes in hte middle of no where, without any noise (noise, noise):

One of many many many homes in the wilds which struck me as "that could be me one day, if I am lucky!"

One of many many many homes in the wilds which struck me as “that could be me one day, if I am lucky!”

Initially, the GPS was a bit unclear, when I came to a fork in the  road – one way was a reasonable easy path downhill, and the other was a very steep hill, a sheet of ice with a sign explaining it was a logging road.  Not being in a true offroading vehicle, I decided to take the low road, and came upon the dam built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s – itself worth checking out, as it was a handsome little building:

The Civilian Conservation Corps dam built in the 1930s, which created the reservoir and thus the aforementioned Little River

The Civilian Conservation Corps dam built in the 1930s, which created the reservoir and thus the aforementioned Little River

I did try to drive up the hill, initially without the tire chains.  I made it halfway up and then began to slide sideways… and while I was thankfully able to control my spin to point the vehicle downhill again, I realized it wasn’t worth the possibility of landing the MFALCON in an icy ditch, to save some walking.  So, I loaded the gear up on my back and began the 2.5 or so mile hike up to the campsite:

The little logging road, which in the negative temperatures, was completely icy and not safe to try and drive up... so I hoofed the 2.5 miles in to the campsite from there!

The little logging road, which in the negative temperatures, was completely icy and not safe to try and drive up… so I hoofed the 2.5 miles in to the campsite from there!

Since I don’t have the offroading vehicle of my dreams… yet… I was content with that and got the tent set up as the sun began to set, and then wandered back down to the car – no need to carry the camp stove or other food prep gear so far, when I could just cook dinner next to the car!  Ramen is quite delectable when one is VERY cold:

Rather than hauling the campstove and food 2.5 miles uphill, I decided to make the car area my cookery

Rather than hauling the campstove and food 2.5 miles uphill, I decided to make the car area my cookery

… specifically, it was plummeting down to -18 degrees F outside, and that is an unpleasant level of cold to encounter.  One cool (heh) detail of this park is left over from its Civilian Conservation Corps days – namely, the remaining stone chimneys from where their barracks used to be located.  A wonderful place to build a fire when it is THAT cold and windy, as 3 sides of it protected from the wind as my slowly-freezing hands worked more slowly trying to get the fire going:

As the temperatures plummeted to -18, the  remaining stone chimney from a Civilian Conservation Corps barracks house provided me my very own fireplace

As the temperatures plummeted to -18, the remaining stone chimney from a Civilian Conservation Corps barracks house provided me my very own fireplace

In the week or so leading up to my trip to Vermont, I had purchased a Pentax K30 camera (see the previous post here to read more about this)… but in classes and in my free time over the past week, I have spent a LOT of time reading up on amateur astrophotography, as it is fascinating to consider taking photos of deep space objects using a regular DSLR camera with a good tripod, some cleverness about image stacking in processing, and the like.  I had a tripod with me, and a cloudy night, and only an 18-55mm lens (not enough zoom) that night, so my first series of shots to try and do this wasn’t the greatest:

One of a small handful of my initial attempts at astrophotography... this is bad both because it was nearly 30 degrees colder than the camera's minimum operating temp, and it is a 55mm lens (not enough zoom).  Still, one has to start somewhere

One of a small handful of my initial attempts at astrophotography… this is bad both because it was nearly 30 degrees colder than the camera’s minimum operating temp, and it is a 55mm lens (not enough zoom). Still, one has to start somewhere

But nevertheless, it was *astonishing* how many stars one could see, even with cloud (and tears freezing into my eyes)!  I really fell in love with the place, even in the frigid cold – it was not a pleasant hike back to the tent from the fire place, to be honest.

But I reached it and settled in for a VERY cold night, indeed.

Preparing to camp in Vermont; delving into the land of DSLR cameras

Recovering from the Maine trip: Dylan’s visit to New Haven

I had a load of fun in Maine, but beyond being tired from the trip itself, the clean up and then catching up on work and school communications and assignments saw me quite tired by the time the next weekend rolled around.  Luckily, I had planned for my old friend and roommate of several years in DC, Dylan, to come visit for a weekend – and we had a blast relaxing and gaming!

The big events for the weekend included Starcraft the board game:

The game comes with some fantastically detailed miniatures for each of the class factions...

The game comes with some fantastically detailed miniatures for each of the class factions…

The board is randomized each playthrough, and grows a LOT as more players join.  Also, the order system is uniquely clever - each planet has one space to place order tokens, and that means the orders are executed last one laid down  first... So good.

The board is randomized each playthrough, and grows a LOT as more players join. Also, the order system is uniquely clever – each planet has one space to place order tokens, and that means the orders are executed last one laid down first… So good.

Firefly the board game (sadly, Dylan took the sky from me):

Firefly in progress, making cargo runs of the legal and illegal varities through the 'verse

Firefly in progress, making cargo runs of the legal and illegal varities through the ‘verse

Sentinels of the Multiverse, a clever card game made possible by the online fundraising site Kickstarter, this game is completely original heroes and villains, in different settings, all done with cards (and is very quick to learn AND it has immense replay value):

Sentinels in progress with Firefly set up in the background, waiting to be played.  Dylan and I got our shit kicked in by some of the expansions' villains, yeesh

Sentinels in progress with Firefly set up in the background, waiting to be played. Dylan and I got our shit kicked in by some of the expansions’ villains, yeesh

… the Battlestar Galactica game with all three expansions included, which takes up most of a billiard’s table worth of space:

My friend Kelli was able to make it over to join us.  I turned out to be the Cylon, and I lost (but just barely)

My friend Kelli was able to make it over to join us. I turned out to be the Cylon, and I lost (but just barely)

… and the End of the Triumvirate, the good family fun involved in killing and backstabbing your co-consuls to take Rome and make it into the empire it was meant to be:

At the end, Kelli swooped in and took the military victory (though I was close at politcking my way to success)

At the end, Kelli swooped in and took the military victory (though I was close at politcking my way to success)

All told, it was a hell of a lot of fun (we also took a break from fun and games to go see the new Robocop with some of my friends from YDS, and that was more enjoyable than we were expecting!) and a much-needed weekend spent doing VERY little in the way of strenuous activity, or sleeping in 0 degree weather, or the like!

Work on the car

Near the end of February, I was idly searching Craigslist for rooftop accessories for my car, and I found a GREAT deal on a Bajarack Mule – made for offroading, it is a seriously well-constructed steel addition to the MFALCON.  They have several attachments for it, including the ability to lock fuel and water jerry cans into place onto the roof; they also make an attachment which allows for the transportation of a shovel and an axe on the side of the rack, preventing damage and/or dirt inside the cabin of the car.  I will keep my eyes out for those and snag them when I can (both for camping use, but also general travel utility), but for now, I am just thankful to have found one so close (in NYC, and on the evening Dylan was going to take the train from there anyways, so I just picked him up).  For an offroading accessory, it looks rather sharp on my car:

The Bajarack on the MFALCON, in the garage in NYC where I bought it

The Bajarack on the MFALCON, in the garage in NYC where I bought it

As a followup to the work I did in Maine with Mark, where we installed a new camshaft, I needed to change the oil early (after a mere 500 miles), to make sure any steel shavings or particulates from the cam wearing in are removed from the engine.  Interestingly enough, I had never actually changed the oil on this car myself, having only owned it since March 2013 and not having reached 10,000 miles until I was in Maine – Mark showed me the way to remove the under-engine cover, and that was the only thing between me and the oil drain plug.

As to avoid the DESTRUCTO DRIVERS of the New Haven area I would be at the mercy of if I worked on the street in front of my house, I actually did the work in the parking lot at school:

The number of very friendly "Oh can I call AAA for you" requests was noteworthy, but worth enduring: changing oil on Winchester is ASKING to be hit and killed

The number of very friendly “Oh can I call AAA for you” requests was noteworthy, but worth enduring: changing oil on Winchester is ASKING to be hit and killed

While the car was up on the ramps, I wanted to get another aspect of fluid maintenance under my belt – changing the manual transmission gear lubricant fluid out.  Given I do not know how recently it was changed by either of the previous two owners… or if it was ever changed… I wanted to do it.  This is a higher priority because the shifter has been a bit notchy recently (the closest word I can think of for “the shift pattern doesn’t always work every time, which means bad shifts unexpectedly).  Started to do it and then found out I was missing the 17 mm Allen wrench I thought I had.

Ordered it and two days later, dove into the project in the parking lot again, this time in 18 degree weather.  Cold and unpleasant for me, yes.  Cold enough to see the plastic tubing I was using to feed the new transmission fluid into the feed hole, yes.  I am still very grateful to and for my friend Chris, who drove up and got me, and took me to Home Depot (no way I could drive my car when there was no gear fluid in the transmission), and then ended up pouring the fluid into the funnel above the engine as I laid underneath and ensured most of it went into the damned transmission (the tubing I got was *exactly* the size of the godsdamned fill hole, so I had to wrestle and warp it into place, and then seal it with electrical tape).  Not the prettiest job, but it is both done and done well – the car shifts like a brand new vehicle.

New transmission gear oil, and then a much-needed filter for the boost gauge I added into the cabin - the filter will prevent buzzing as I crank the throttle up

New transmission gear oil, and then a much-needed filter for the boost gauge I added into the cabin – the filter will prevent buzzing as I crank the throttle up

Finally, to handle the other aspect of clutch maintenance, the brake fluid will need to be completely changed out – this car has the clutch and the brakes share a reservoir.  I did the easier version of this (namely, a turkey baster to draw as much out of the master reservoir in the engine as I could) in May, and the stuff in there was in NASTY shape.   To properly do this, though, I will need to bleed the actual valves at each wheel, near the individual calipers… and so I am leaning towards just holding off until I switch to the non-winter tires and will have the wheels off anyways, to do this.

The finishing touches: getting and modifying snowshoes of my own

Craigslist has served me remarkably well in the past few years, in terms of finding good deals on peculiar outdoorsy or car accessory items I would have to spend a fortune on to get brand new, and this past week was no exception.  In this case I had to travel fairly far away, to Blauvelt New York, but got a pretty good deal on some once-used snowshoes, some very old ski poles in good shape, and most importantly: she threw in a free pair of snowshoe bindings which I will use to modify the snowshoes and make them a LOT more reliable.

The snowshoes, VERY old ski poles (they have the original leather wrist holders on them!), and the snowboard bindings I will be using to modify the snowshoes

The snowshoes, VERY old ski poles (they have the original leather wrist holders on them!), and the snowboard bindings I will be using to modify the snowshoes.  Thanks, lady in Blauvelt NY whose name I never caught!

Thankfully I continue to have access, albeit not enough time, to go and make use of the CEID at Yale.  The trick in this case was being sure that the snowshoe ABS plastic (similar to what garbage cans are made of, its very heavy duty) was warm enough to not shatter, split, or crack… and to really ensure this, start with a very small drill bit and move progressively larger.  The bindings on the shoes stock sucked, to be honest – they are super easy to tighten…. and thus have no ability to remain tight!  The lady who sold me the shoes is a sort of collector of winter sporting goods and likes to sell it used (she had upwards of 75 pairs of skis in her basement, for instance) – and the snowboard bindings she tossed in were actually selected from a set of gear she had, to make sure my damnably large boots fit them.

Now, shifting back to reality for a moment, I did two separate multi-hour mechanical tasks on my car in less than 20 degrees this week, AND I drove more than 4 hours total to get a pair of snowshoes.  What I ACTUALLY am going to do on this trip to ensure the snowshoes stay on my feet mostly is: industrial strength velcro.  If it can hold the winter front covers on my car at 75 mph, it can hold the damned snowshoes on my feet at approximately 1mph.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t like it, because:

The camera has arrived: purchasing and learning the weatherproof Pentax K-30

So after a LOT.

A.

Lot.

of research and speaking with photography friends, I decided to go with the Japanese-made Pentax K-30.

The camera body and the 18-55mm lens, which combine to form a completely weatherproofed camera

The camera body and the 18-55mm lens, which combine to form a completely weatherproofed camera

The major selling points for me were:

1) it is less than $1000 but is completely weather-proofed
2) it has the image stabilization built into the body (rather than the lens like Nikon and Canon, which drives up the cost of each lens AND makes older lenses less useful)
2b) I can purchase and use lenses as old as from 1956 from this company, and they will receive the benefits of the modern stabilizing technology.  This will save me large bundles of cash.
3) it will allow me to use AA batteries in a pinch (but I also bought a car-capable battery charger)
4) it offers great options for automatic use; full manual use; and intermediate steps, to help me better learn to do manual photography to a high degree of proficiency

The only drawbacks I read about in hundreds (no hyperbole, I read hundreds of reviews and comments) of online  testimonials were the lack of an external microphone jack, and some problems with image stabilization with taking video… but I am buying this to take stills only, so those do not concern me whatsoever.

One of multiple test photos, this one of the organ in Marquand Chapel at Yale Divinity School

One of multiple test photos, this one of the organ in Marquand Chapel at Yale Divinity School

With this camera, the car work, and having gotten in some great relaxation time… I dare say I am ready for camping the frozen wastes of Vermont next weekend.