Snow Tubing

Friday we got another foot of snow.  Yeah, I thought spring was on its way too, but HAHAHHAHAHAHHHH!!  We live in Maine.  So yesterday (Saturday) we decided to put all this white stuff to good use. Via SNOW TUBING.  We drove to Seacoast Snow Park in Windham.  Only 25 minutes yet a world of fun away!

Here we are at the bottom of the hill.  When we first started we were feeling perky and WAY EXCITED!  So we hoofed it up the hill.  I overheard a family walking alongside us saying it was GOOD to walk, that we were all doing it the old fashioned way.  (Old fashioned = code language for WORK OUT)

Here we are at the top.  I cannot tell you how much FUN!! it was cascading down.  Snow spraying hitting your face, the wind in your hair.  I felt positively giddy.  As you can see, there’s not a huge wait for a lane.  This is b/c there are 12 lanes to choose from. And snow tubing sessions are divided into 2-hour blocks.  Only *so many* tubes are sold per session, so things keep moving.  Single riders can go in any of the 12 lanes, but if you want to link your tube up with other riders, you have to choose the proper lane: 2 riders, up to 6 riders, or more.

The four of us hoofed it up the hill once and rode down.  Then we hoofed it up again and went down again.  After this we were TIRED.  The hill’s not that high but it ain’t that short either. So we decided it was time to be carried.   That’s right; CARRIED!  Not on the backs of sherpas but via conveyor belt or rope tow!  The conveyor belt works just like you’d imagine.  You step onto it and stand with your tube as it whisks you up the hill.

Image: Seacoast Fun Park

We didn’t use the conveyor belt method. Mostly b/c all the double tubes had to be carried that way and the wait was much longer.  As we were all using single tubes, we opted for the rope tow.  The rope tow line was fairly short and the method more appealing.  You sit in your tube and relax.  A handle connected to your tube is looped onto a metal claw attached to the rope.  You and your tube are yanked up the hill to the top, where at a specified location you toss yourself off your tube and proceed a few steps to collect your ride.

Image courtesy of Geoff (maybe that's his kid?)

Here we are waiting at the bottom of the hill in the rope tow line.  You can see the mechanism to the left, pulling the happy tubers up to the top.  The wait was short and while waiting we listened to music over the loudspeakers.  They were playing “The Q” – the Top 40 radio station here in Portland.  Very toe tapping / booty shaking music, sure to put you in a good tubing mood.  My younger daughter is a BIG Q fan – but that’s for another post altogether..

Me & “Greenie”

Here we are back at the top, waiting in line for Lane 1.  Lane 1 is the best lane – single riders only – it’s curvy and has a mogul in one spot.  Worth the short wait.

After this I couldn’t take anymore pics b/c my iPhone camera stopped working.  Personally, I think it got jealous of the fun we were having and decided to stick it to me.  So I didn’t get any shots on the rope tow, or while tubing down any of the lanes.  But that’s probably for the best.  We went a total of 9 times in our 2 hour session, mostly linked together in a big mass of four tubes.  The added weight only served to increase our speed, velocity & fun — so together we FLEWWWW down the hill, Whoopping & hollering and having a BLAST!!  I’m glad I couldn’t take photos — for once I simply sat back and enjoyed the ride. 🙂

Stuff I’ve noticed since moving to Maine – DOGS!!

In just over a month, my family and I will be celebrating TWO WHOLE YEARS in MAINE!!  HOORAY!  To mark this momentous occasion, I’m starting a new semi-regular column here on The Daily Dish.  Dedicated to whatever seems different from where I used to live (Philly) or whatever I notice that just sticks out, STUFF I’VE NOTICED SINCE MOVING TO MAINE will be a way for all of you to visit, without me having to clean the house.  So without further ado, today let’s talk about.. DOGS!

My family & I went to my daughters school on Saturday for Winterfest!  Winterfest! is an annual celebration with games, food, raffles, contests, crafts, singing and more.  It draws a BIG crowd and when we entered the gym the first thing that caught my eye wasn’t the enormous moon bounce or the line for hamburgers.  No!  It was a woman walking towards me with a dog in her arms.  It wasn’t injured.  It wasn’t a helper dog.  As far as anyone was concerned, this lap pooch was just one more merrymaker at Winterfest!  WHY?  Because Mainers are CRAZY ABOUT DOGS!!!!

They are everywhere here and I mean EVERYWHERE.  We have one laying across our floor, outside there are two barking from the back, 4 barking from the side, there’re a couple peeing at the end of the driveway, another one’s approaching looking keen, and a huge one just drove by mostly hanging out the car window.  It’s doggone NUTS!

In Philly a lot of people had cats.  I think cats are cool, but Portland is a dog town.  Maybe it’s because Maine is so white?  Not to stereotype, but white people seem to like dogs more than minorities.  Personally I like minorities more, but I also love dogs.  Dogs just seem to gibe with Maine.  They’re laid back.  Chilllll.  Portland’s baseball team is even called the Sea Dogs!  Which I think is technically a seal?  Or something?  Seriously, I don’t even know what a Sea Dog is, but here’s Slugger the Sea DOG w/ my daughters. 

The Sea DOGS even have a Bring Your Dog to the Game DAY!  WHY??  Because Mainers take their dogs EVERYWHERE.  They don’t like leaving them at home.  Every single parking lot you pull into, every other car has a dog waiting for its owner to return.  Here in Portland there are dog parks and even the regular parks all have “off leash” laws: as long as your dog is under voice command, roping them is unnecessary.  And because beaches are also open to dogs it’s common to find them year round romping in the surf, chasing balls and taking dumps right there in the sand as nature intended.

Mainers are so generous with their dogs, they not only take them everywhere, they often let them drive.  Not alone, mind you.  I mean they let their dogs sit on THEIR laps in the driver seat.  No offense, Sir or Madam, but what the hell are you gonna do when Fido smashes your face into the steering wheel and you lose control of the vehicle?  Or when Happy becomes incontinent and lets fly in your lap?  Surely your first impulse will be to SCREAM AND CAREEN OFF THE ROAD.  I know mine would be.  YAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!  I’m not saying you have to harness Hoover, or invest in one of those gated cage areas in the trunk, but for all our sakes could you at least put the dog in the back seat?  It’s illegal in the state of Maine for children under 13 to ride up front.  Maybe elderly dogs can ride in the passenger seat, but otherwise – back seat buddy.  PS: In Philly I had to worry about people driving around with infants in their laps.  Here it’s dogs.  Is that better??

This is my dog Max.

Max passed away on Halloween.  But before he died, he told me how much he loved Maine.  Not just for all of the reasons outlined above, but b/c here in Maine, Max was ACCEPTED.  Back in Philly strangers would cross the street when I walked Max.  Here, no way.  Everyone would welcome him like an old friend.  (To be strictly honest, some of the little yippy dogs would stand there and bark & bark till they looked like they were going to drop dead, but they do that everywhere.)

Dogs are SO POPULAR here in Maine, I have noticed other things.

  • The prevalence of dog-themed bumper stickers.

  • Or simply dog FRIENDLY stores.

And I’m not talking pet stores either.  I mean “normal” ones, like Marshall’s.  Just before Christmas, I was shopping with my older daughter.  We turned a corner and there’s a woman perusing housewares w/ her dog.  Again, this wasn’t a helper or seeing eye dog, he was a fluffy lap dog, riding shotgun in her cart.  I notice this all the time and I can’t help but think how tolerant people are here.  In Philly, if some woman showed up at Marshall’s totting her dog, they’d escort her out of the store faster than you could spell N-O_EFFING_W-A-Y.  Personally I think they might do this to me too, if I showed up at Marshall’s with our new puppy, Roxy the Rottweiler


versus a 5 lb. Foofie

but.. still.  Maybe I will try it and see.  After all, Mainers LOVE their dogs.

The Pool Rule

On Saturday we went swimming.  And by ‘we’  I really mean my husband & our daughters.  I just sat on the bleachers and watched.  It’s not that I don’t like to swim; even with my wacky ear, I do.  And our community pool is nice.  The reason I skipped swimming is because of a certain pool policy.  What I call The Pool Rule.  The Pool Rule states that everyone w/ chin-length hair or longer MUST WEAR A SWIM CAP.

This woman likes her swim cap. I do not like mine.

When I first learned of The Pool Rule, I tried to be a good sport.  Swim caps help prevent hair from clogging the pool’s filter, keeping the pool working and limiting nastiness for the unfortunate soul having to clean.  I didn’t argue.  Even though my only option at the time was to borrow a swim cap from the Lost & Found, and the only one that fit was plastic and had ear flaps.  Getting it on nearly pulled half the hair from my head.  I put on that cap!  My kids wanted to swim with their momma and I wasn’t going to disappoint my husband.  But I vowed that next time  – if there were a next time – I’d bring $$ to buy my own.

The next visit, I remembered my swim cap money.  YOU KNOW I DID.  I bought a stretchy spandex number from the pool office, in black to match my swimsuit.  I put it on, got in the water and it promptly fell off.  I put it back on, dove underwater and it came off again.  I put it back on again.  And again.  I spent half the swim session retrieving my cap from the pool floor.  But I didn’t give up!  Even though the swim cap wouldn’t stay on, I wore it the next time, and the next.  Until finally one Saturday I’d had enough.  I was done dealing with the indignity of that useless cap and said NO MORE.  So now I sit & watch.

The Pool Rule may make sense in theory, but when I spend half my time in the pool retrieving a swim cap and replacing it what exactly is it accomplishing?  I’m losing far more hair in the pool doing the ON-OFF-ON-OFF routine than I ever would going without.  And if the ultimate goal is to minimize hair in the filter, why stop at swim caps?  Wouldn’t swim SHIRTS be applicable too?

Swim shirt not optional

Until then I will be on the bleachers.

Spider Village & Ladybug Land

When I was little I was deathly afraid of spiders.  So much so, that when I found a big ugly one on me in the night (circa 1983), I moved into my sister’s bedroom and slept on her floor for a whole month.  And no, it wasn’t the least bit comfortable.

As I’ve aged I’ve gotten past the terror a spider can induce.  I’ve matured.  I’ve come to realize that spiders are small creatures who for the most part mean us no harm.  We are the scary big monsters THEY cower in fear from and try to avoid.  Part of this is hogwash, I know, part is rationalization.  But for the most part it works.  I can calmly shoo a spider away when need be – or even catch it gently in a cup, paper pressed against the opening, to escort it outside.  I never kill spiders – they have their purpose after all, and I much prefer them to the biting insects they call food.

Anyway, the reason I am sharing this is b/c I spend a goodly portion of each day tending to a fire which consumes vast quantities of wood.  I wrote about this whole wood situation before (feel free to refresh your memories here).  We keep most of our wood stacked outside, but weekly my husband & I must bring in a new stash for burning.  This wood is home to many, many spiders.  For safety (and peace of mind) I wear protective leather work gloves while shifting wood, lest I get bitten by a startled arachnid.  But I can’t get past the paranoid fear that one day I will encounter a brown recluse and wind up losing an arm.

I know this is paranoia at its best.  These little spiders are terrified of me, stomping around in my heavy snow boots, cursing audibly with each heaving wheelbarrow of wood.  But it remains so firmly planted in my psyche that any time I get a tiny unexplained cut on my hand, I watch it the same way an underpaid office worker watches the clock.  I check it 60 times an hour, just waiting for it to change. IS IT GETTING BIGGER??  IT’S LOOKING BIGGER!! IS IT BUBBLING??!!

All of this is nonsense, of course.  I scratched my hand sweeping up debris from the floor, or caught it on [insert whatever it was] but the fear remains.  It doesn’t help that all this firewood we haul inside is stored in the hearth in our kitchen.  The room in which I spend most of my time.  And now that this firewood is stacked inside the warm & pleasant walls of our heated home, the formerly hibernating army of spiders living inside said wood is now WAKING UP.  And converting my kitchen into their Spider Village.

In the changing light you see them.  The vast network of spiderwebs dangling above our heads, crisscrossing the room from the windows to the doors.  I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been standing at the island, chopping or kneading or simply going about my business, only to look up and find a spider dangling inches from my face.  Looking at me as if to say, “What’s for Dinner?”

For the most part I don’t mind living amongst so many many-leggeds.  Sure a few of them are HUGE (we’re talking inches) but for the most part they’re very small.  And they do in fact seem to be helping us with the bugs.  Not that you’d expect a home in the dead winter of Maine to have an insect issue, but for some odd reason we do have them.  Not gross ones, no cockroaches or big scary beetles or anything.  No, we have ladybugs.

We noticed them right after we moved in.  It was hard not to, seeing as they’d taken over our attic.  At some point in the course of The Dole House’s long and illustrious history, these ladybugs took up residence and now, 600 generations later, we’re still sheltering their kin.  It was odd at first, finding we had so much company.  But over the past (almost) 18 months, we’ve gotten used to each other.  We no longer think it strange, the small piles of expired ladybugs trapped between the window frames and storms.  The ladybug corpses littering the window sills (which must be dusted periodically) or the occasional ladybug you find clutching onto a curtain.  For some reason, our younger daughter’s bedroom seems to be the ladybugs favorite room in the house.  Ladybug Land.  Our little girl spends her nights counting the tiny red dots on her ceiling, watching them weave their way from point to point.  They’re sweet really.  Perhaps if you look carefully you’ll find another world living inside your home, too.

Big Foot? That You?

Last night my husband & I were out on our back porch, stargazing.  It was late (around midnight), and dark.  After viewing through the binoculars and telescope for a while, we decided to relax for a few minutes before turning in.  We’re sitting there quietly, when we hear this rustling noise coming from the other side of the yard, maybe 60-70 ft away.  The first time we heard it, neither of us said anything, but after the 2nd or 3rd time, my husband asked, “Do you hear that?”  I said, “Yes.”  But it was hard to make out what it could be.  We keep a box fan in the room right above the porch, and the whirring noise of the motor was drowning out the sound.  Another rustle.  Then another.  My husband announced he was going in to get the flashlight.  “But what if it’s a Yeti?” I joked.  He went inside.  The rustling noises continued.  Sitting there in the dark, alone, I was getting a bit nervous.  I started thinking about Big Foot.  You know, I don’t think they’ve ever truly discounted his existence completely..  What if…?  I counted the seconds.  John seemed to be taking his sweet time.  That big flashlight was just in the adjacent room, what could be taking him so long?  I heard the fan switch off above me.  What the hell-?  HE’S UPSTAIRS?!  Another few minutes ticked by.  I was starting to sweat, wondering whether I’d be carted off by the time he got back.  The rustling noises had increased slightly in intensity and volume, perhaps b/c the fan was off – or maybe b/c Big Foot was getting hungrier.  And Closer.  FINALLY. John stepped back out onto the porch.  I breathed an audible sigh of relief and said, “WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO YOU?”  He explained he had to go to the bathroom.  I told him I could have been eaten by the Yeti, which at that point was nearly visible across the yard (in my mind, anyway).  He laughed and sat down beside me.  Very quietly we counted 1,2,3, then ON with the flashlight.  Light blazed across the yard, illuminating the guinea pigs’ pen, and one extremely determined red fox perched right on top!  The fox stopped pawing the lid and looked up, as if to say. “Excuse me?”  We stared at each other for several seconds, before John stood up to make chase.  The fox took off, hesitantly, and we went to check on our poor pets.  They were all fine.  Fortunately the handmade pen is super sturdy and has a thick, wire lid for exactly this purpose (to thwart would-be predators).  I petted the piggies, and then worried out loud about the fox coming back.  My husband reassured me, “Oh, I’m sure he will, babe.  He’s probably here every night.”