Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bill Schuette

As mentioned before in this blog Bill Schuette is a long time friend from Versailles and has always been an inspiration to a lot of folks who have met him. He has had more than a little bit to do with me taking a shot at riding the length of the Mississippi River and cross country. Bill ,you are the definition of a good man, and again I thank you for what you have done for me.

But as I write this post I still have tears in my eyes after watching a segment shown on ABC Nightly News featuring Bill. If you want to feel good about something you will enjoy this--check it out

Bill has been fighting lung cancer for a long time (even though he has never smoked) and had pretty much run out of options until he saw a segment this past June on ABC about a revolutionary treatment for certain types of lung cancer. Bill made contact , started the treatment and immediately started feeling better. He is doing a whole bunch better and seeing him discuss his journey was huge. Kick some ass and take some names Bill--you are the good guy that good things happen to.

I was having a pretty good day today but that was nothing compared to how great I felt when I saw Bill on TV. Monica aka Miss Sassy and I hugged each other afterwards. We were so happy for Bill and Connie.

Wedding 4

Russ's 2 new brothers in law. These are good men from a tremendous family. Zach on left and Alex . Alex played a wonderful violin during the ceremony and reception. Very entertaining , especially when he teamed up with his dad Bob Marcus to provide the music for that awesome first dance for the bride and groom. It was a sexy tango that had everyone's attention, particularly when Russ and Elissa did all those swivels, dips, quicksteps or whatever all those cool moves are called. Judgeing from the standing ovation they got this dance was the highlight of the evening for many.

As the reception headed towards midnight on Halloween night the masks and costumes appeared. This is son Jeff doing his "evil villian" thing--which is redundant and me semi disguised as the Phantom of the Opera--actually the mask just covered up crash scars and made me feel better . Of course severl family members wondered why there was only half a mask in play when a full one would have been a lot more popular. Also many comments about if I did get a full mask how I should seriously consider attaching it to face permanently.
btw--I am on the left

This is the evil villian (redundant) with cape posing with his lady friend the lovely Lindsay who's "disguised" as Pearl Pure Heart the object of the evil villian's attentions. Note wig and rope used to tie her to railroad track. The rope's color/texture matched Pearl's dress beautifully --a nice useful tasteful accesory for the wardrobe of any maiden in distress.
Also, if you enlarge pic check out Jeff's eyes. His intentions are definitely not honorable in any way.

This is one of the few scenes fit to make public from our motel room at the Double Tree, which is where everyone who was anyone showed up after reception. Among many other things there were several heated euchre games , like this one involving 2 Hemmelgarns, a Kleinhenz, and an unidentified Gumbi who just showed up, grabbed a seat at the table , ate all the Doritos , drank a bunch of beers, and plugged up the toilet (so much green slime)--twice(. Then as mysteriously as he came, he left , his hands full of Micholobe Lite.
And yes, money did change hands during most of these card games. It is fortunate that the Ohio gaming Commission did not show up and haul the whole lot away for illegal activities. Actually as I think about it , I should have made the call to the OGC, a lot more sleep would have been had.

Looking on are Leslie Hemmelgarn Hobbs ace euchre player and taunter/jawer extraordinaire and Katherine Baltes budding euchre superstar who traveled all the way from Doylestown Pa. It is unclear what Miss Katherine's relationship was/is with the mysterious Gumbi. She seemed to always be near him and in this pic there is her arm around Gumbi from which readers can draw their own conclusions. Personally I think it had something to do with how icky sticky Gumbi's outer covering was.
Also note the bunch of soap bubbles floating in the air. These were everywhere all night and I honestly can not tell you where they were coming from. Whoever was blowing them around managed to do so in secret, but in the morning I found several empty bubble bottles with the finger prints wiped off.

Things were going strong when I could not keep my eyes open after 3 a.m. Our bed was up that stairs and the sounds were just as loud there than in the room below. The conversations seemed to increase in volume as the sun came up.
Looking back I find it tough to figure out what was real and what was just part of a series of wild dreams that night/early morning. This time frame is sure to become immortalized in Baltes family history as the participants polish their stories and have selective memory about events that occured. A little like the aftermath of the battle of Gettysburg or any good New years Eve party.
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The Wedding 3

There are a thousand scenes like this at the Franklin Park Conservatory. This is another beautiful example of glass art set up in the coy pond in the Pacific Island section. Check a cople of the fish hanging around at the base of display.

This is a glass work that is about 10 feet high hanging from the ceiling. The talent/work it took to create this had to have been monumental. Not something you see everyday.

Another scene in the FPC.

This is a better pic of the monster coy fish doing their thing . What a gig for a fish looking for a life of leisure. All they have to do is move a little bit and get fed by all the folks who stare at them over the rail. There is a vending machine where you can buy fish food.
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Friday, November 6, 2009


The wedding ceremony and the reception was held at about the best venue I can imgine. It is called the Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus . If you are ever near it, it is well worth the time to check it out. All glass enclosed , filled with plants and exhibits of extraordinary art . It is so large that it has areas of several different world climates to walk thru--arctic-desert-rain forest etc .
Check it out http://www.fpconservatory.org/ we were lucky in that the current art exhibits throughout featured work by Chihuly one of the most famous glass artists in the world. His pieces were everywhere , blended in to the natural settings everywhere.

This is pic of a lovely fountain I found interesting because of the large number of coins in it. It was located in the middle of the reception area and during the evening I noticed that the members of the our extended family particularly the Matlack, Wilker, Hemmelgarn and Kleinhenz tribes were always hanging close to this fountain and when I looked close you could see that they all had water dripping from their sleeves. When the reception finally shut down I walked by the now deserted fountain area and when I glanced down into the water there was not a coin of any kind to be seen.

This is Miss Sassy and Elissa in front of a glass display that the camer did not do justice to.

More Chihuly works --these were all 3-4 feet across and spectacular.

This blown glass piece was about 6 feet high and hung from the ceiling. I want to see the video showing how this was made.

More wedding stuff to follow when I get a moment to get it together--lots of neat pics and hopefully some video as well .
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This Elissa shortly before she became part of our family. This is a wonderful gal--we are blessed.

This is the groom Russ (middle) , best man brother Jeff (right) and our on again/off again adopted third son Justin (left) who served as the marrier of Elissa and Russ. Of note is that this is the first ceremony I have attended where the guy who says "by the power vested in me ...." read his lines from a Blackberry phone screen. Another thing Justin did not do was ask that traditional question ,"if anyone here has reason that these 2 shall not be united in matrimony, speak now or forever hold your peace.....". This is good because several of Russ's cousins were ready to jump in a filibuster the proceedings with long lists of reasons.
It was a beautiful non traditional ceremony highlighted by the original vows repeated by E/R as well as the wonderful singing by our great friend Angie Pohlman who blew te roof off the place when she sang the song At Last better than Etta James. Another neat thing about the ceremony was that it was shorter than the cocktail hour immediately following, all in attendance showed their appreciation by imbiding like there was no tomorrow.

Elissa/Russ about 10 seconds into their new life together.

Jeff had the job of placing these 2 birds on top of the cake. This must have been a big deal for him because he asked meto help. I was in charge of the one on the right--we ndid a good job.
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PearTime at the Farm

The pear tree at the Baltes farm did a great job this year of producing a bumper crop.

This is pic of me with pear gathering aunts Pat and Ann along with cousin Annette. I am standing in back with orange tshirt. The step ladder in the back played a key role in the days activities as Aunt Pat continually tested her ability to balance on top step to reach pears, continually defying the law of gravity, and providing breathtaking entertainment for all of us in the audience.

I am trying to locate someone I can trust to make a batch of pear wine. This was a good year.
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Making Apple Butter --the old fashioned way

For the third year in a row Miss Sassy and I have been fortunate enough to be invited to the Byrd applebutter extraveganza near Covington Ohio.This is great stuff. The farm has been in the family one way or another since 1812 and has a cool sign hanging on the barn(see picture below for actual appearance).
The annual apple butter making has been going on here for a long long time, and this family of knows their applebutter.

If you are invited to this deal you have to spend time stirring the kettle . The stirring has to be constsnt from about 6 in the morning til somewhere around 6 in the evening. A ton of apples get dumped in the kettle as the day goes by and there is a lot of boiling and evaporating evaporating happening until the only thing left is the best applebutter that I have ever tasted.

I am not sure but I believe that even the wood used for fire is special .

The stirring is done with a wooden stirrer and there are a bunch of silver dollars in the kettle that helps keep the apple stuff from sticking to the edges of the kettle.

This is Carrie Drees looking cute (as per usual) standing by the copper kettle as it is being stirred. Carrie is probably the 5th or 6th generation of apple butter makers and she brought her baby Nathan aka the cutest kid in the world to be part of thye action. Nate is probably 3 years awy from being able to take his turn at stirring.

This is a pic of how the farm looks today--much like the sign on the barn. The farm borders the Stillwater River and has a neat spring between the barn and the river.
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Hancock Md The end of the ride

We made it to Hancock which is about 120 miles from the end of the trail and I decided to call it a trip for a couple of reasons. One was a break in the bike seat bracket (see below), another was that I was just mentally tired of riding the bike. The scenery and the people were great and interesting, just like it has been for the entire trip but I got kinda wore out with it all. Part of it may have been riding the GAP path which is so much different than riding on the public highway. The path was good but I missed the open road after a while.
Another aspect was that I am not the best biker to have a sag wagon driver to interact with. I like to be self contained and able to move at my own pace. Ned is a hell of a guy and I tested his patience a lot. The last reason was that I was not and am not in the same place mentally or physically as I was before crash. I may have pushed to finish ride in 2009 a little too much.
The trip started in late May with the van ride to Oregon with Miss Sassy with the plan to finish before Labor Day. Due to recovery time from after crash it ended on Oct 14th. That is long enough , at least for me it was. I now have some appreciation for how Forst Gump felt when he finally quit running across the country.

After the crash I wanted to get back on the bike and get the rest of the way to D.C. but it all was not the same as B.C. (before crash).
My bike computer says I rode over 7000 miles in 2009--probably 3200 were training miles the rest was trip related .

Several fellow bikers has teased me about not keeping exact milage , daily, weekly or for entire trip. To me that is not a big deal. I actually get bored reading blogs about bike trips that spend too much time on how far, how fast .

I have yet to go back and read what I have written about trip or look at many of the pics, but will do so at some point in time and I am very curious how I will feel about the whole deal. As I write this I feel like it was someone else who put the miles on and not me. In the back of my mind I am thinking of a future ride to Memphis-to New Orleans to Key West. I will see how I feel in the Spring.

My time is filled with several business projects , rehabbing the family farm and not the least getting Russ married(which was the best).

I will continue to blog about happening around me but there will probably be more non bike stuff than bike stuff.
Many thanks to all the blog readers who interacted with me during the trip. It was very encouraging and also surprising how many people were interested in what I was doing and seeing. Very surprising.

While in Hancock we met and had a great conversation with Mr. Hepburn the owner of this fruit market. Very interesting and we could have stayed a lot longer. He turned us on to Honey Crisp apples --very tasty.
We loaded everything in van and headed to see Gettysburg battlefield. That was another wonderful experience and another place on my return visit list. From Gettysburg we drove to Doylestown to visit brother Mike and family. It is always a treat to see the Baltes trophy family.

This was the last of the C.&O. trail I road. It was beautiful.

Not far from Hancock I hit a big bump and broke this bracket under the seat. It was still fairly ridable and I considered wiring it together to finish but decided not to. It appeared that there had been a crack working for awhile before it broke completely--probably crack was result of crash but with my big butt working that seat for 7000miles about any chunk of metal would suffer from fatigue. There is only so much you can expect something like this to take.
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Monday, November 2, 2009

Paw Paw Tunnel 2

This is Ned walking out the far end of the tunnel. I estimate he was about 300 yards away --I was using zoom lens on camera.

This wooden walk way that went off around the bend once you got thru the tunnel. As beautiful as all this looks you also really get a sense of just howrugged it is as well.

This is the entrance as we walked back out . That is Ned rolling along ahead of me as per usual. When he gets a head of steam up all I can do is eat his dust.

There was a posted sign that said DO NOT CLIMB STEPS TO TOPP. I am sure that I am not the first or last person who snuck up to the walkway above the tunnel entrance. That is me and the tunnel entrance. I am the one on top.
What is spectacular about this place is the various kinds of geology you can see in then background of these pics. The various types of layers of different types of rocks--amazing that a tunnel could be built in this area because of the varying challenges from how all these geologic formations crumbled together.
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Paw Paw Tunnel

This is the big daddy of tunnels on the GAP. It is long , has no lights and is cool as hell (oxymoron intended). What a job to tackle with the equipment available when they built it. Unlike the other tunnels this one is not for trains but for canal boats and the animals the pulled them through. There is only room for the waterway and a path above it for the mules/horses.

As I was walking thru it I wondered what kind of lights were used in the day and what happened when there was 2 way traffic.

That is a long way to the light at the end of the tunnel.

When you get a handle on what the builders had to overcome it is amazing . The need to get stuff from one side of the mountains drove the builders to get the job done. Again, this is a place that you have to see to appreciate . Once again I felt tremendously lucky to be able t5ake all this in.

This is loooking back at a biker we met in the tunnel making his way out the other end. Actually we met several bikers while in the tunnel and it was eerie seeing the little lights coming closer and closer.
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Thursday, October 29, 2009

C & O Cumberland to Hancock 8

This is Lock 32 along the C & O and provides an idea of how narrow the boats had to be to pass thru these canals.

I climbed down into an area of the canal that did not have standing water to get a pic of a lock.

This is Lock 32 and the log house that must have served as a residence for the lock keeper.

I ran into my blue buddy one last time as I rode along the canal. He/she and I met about 10 times during the day. It seemed like every time right after I snapped a pic he/she would take off east and wait on me down the line.
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C & O Cumberland to Hancock 7

The canal had some spots that were a lot wider than usual. This was one of those spots with some unique looking ducks on the far shore. These were different than the regular ducks i have seen so far. They might be wood cocks --I need to look them up.
It may be worth it to enlarge the pic to take a peek yourself.

Closer look at those ducks.

Another look at the Potomac River which is never very far away from the canal.

Just another typical scene that seem to come along very often as you ride along--wonderful stuff.
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