Skiing --- December 1999 - January 2000 --- Maine

Y2K Trip to Maine.

Below is the story of why I drove about 2000 miles for the millennial(*) New Year's celebration. It is obviously titled: Y2K for Y2K? Before you begin reading, I'll answer the one question that must be on your mind... Yes! This story is shorter than the one I wrote after returning from Hawaii.

For what it is worth, I've been planning this trip in one way or another for quite some time. Nearly a decade earlier, I sent the following email to Rob and Brian: We need to plan what we will be doing on December 31st, 1999. Euro Disney is already booked solid. All of the good parties are filling up fast. -- From my email logs, 10/13/1992

     * You can argue all you want about whether or not there
       was a year zero.  I'll celebrate the millennia this
       year and next just to be safe.
Thursday, December 23, 1999: The second to last Thursday in the second to last year of the second millennia. I pause and think about that for a second. Then I drive from my home in DC to Marci's home in Ithaca. Passing Scranton, PA the snow starts to fall. This is good. Though, while driving 20mph along route 79 from Whitney Point to Ithaca I did wish that the snow had held off for another hour or two.

Marci and I had a relaxing few days in Ithaca. We ate pizza with Josh. Marci demonstrated her complete mastery of Swing: West Coast, Lindy and Jitterbug. We went sledding around the Cornell plantations. A sight I'll never forget -- zipping down the hill on a tobbagan, snow flying everywhere, trees approaching much too rapidly, and there is Lance running along beside with his head turned looking at me the whole way. I don't think his snout was ever more than six inches from my face for the entire run.

We finished our food shopping for the upcoming trip and had a nice dinner with the Darfler clan. Sunday morning rolled around and we loaded up the Subaru and drove to pick up Mike and Pat. Having been on previous trips with Mike, I knew to tell him in advance that space in the car would be limited. You really won't need three pair of skis, Mike. Leave the drying rack at home, Mike. Choose between the guitar and the banjo, you can't bring both. Even so, there was a lot of gear. An awful lot of gear. The roof rack was completely full with gear; it towered more than three feet over the top of the car. Marci in the front seat had to rest her legs on the dashboard since the footwell was filled with bags. Mike and Pat scrunched into the back seat next to a pile of bags and boxes. Mandel and Lance slept in the hatchback surrounded by sleeping bags and other soft gear. A tarp was futilely thrown over the gear on the roof (covering about half). Finally the 22 pound bag of Purina Dog Chow was duct taped on top of everything. The Subaru was loaded about 400 pounds past its maximum rated capacity. And don't even ask about the 100 pound limit on the roof rack. Looking like the cast of the Beverly Hillbillies we struck out for Topsfield, Maine.

A scant 12 hours later we arrived at our cabin. Even the dog food made the trip -- the duct tape held. The only casualty of the drive was the poor tarp. It wasn't up to the stress of the trip and turned into a pile of shredded green polyethylene confetti.

Matt and Jo had already arrived from Canada where they had been vacationing. They were good enough to start a fire in the stove and warm the cabin. We were very happy with cabin #7 at the aptly named "Birches". Even though there are seven or more cabins only one other cabin is usable four seasons, and it was unoccupied. So we had a quiet week of solitude. Our cabin had a living room with large wood burning stove, a kitchen with electric range (we weren't roughing it), two bedrooms downstairs, a large loft upstairs, and a full bathroom with flush toilet and hot shower (not roughing it at all).

Monday morning came quickly. The crew sleeping downstairs were awakened by the large Heffalumps which would tromp about in the loft. The Heffalump is an elusive beast. We heard it often during the week, but most of us never saw one. We would rush out of our bedrooms as soon as we heard one, but never see anything more than Mike pointing out the window. "There it goes," he would tell us, "you just missed it."

Our cabin was situated on the shore of East Musquash Lake. The lake appeared frozen, but we decided to wait for official approval from the property owner who was going to drill a few test holes and check the thickness of the ice. The dusting of snow was not sufficient for skiing, so our group decided to go for a short hike. We followed a logging road to the top of a nearby peak and were rewarded with a view of Maine lakes, countryside, and large radio towers.

Returning to our cabin we ate plenty of food. In fact, food was to become one of the primary themes of the week.

     Food, glorious food, hot sausage and mustard
     While we're in the mood, cold jelly and custard
     Peace pudding and saveloys, what next is the question?
                           -- Oliver
My question is: what is a saveloy?

After dinner we decided to play a game. Mike suggested a game with a dictionary. He brought a dictionary? The car was totally overloaded and he brought a dictionary? Ok, a small travel dictionary probably... Down the stairs comes Mike with the biggest frigging dictionary I have ever seen in my life. An unabridged, hardcover, 20 pound monster. You brought that!! Mike never goes on a cabin trip without his dictionary. A survival tool perhaps? I was thinking it would make good kindling. Real good kindling. But instead Mike and Pat prove the usefulness of the dictionary by looking up words for the rest of the week. Fun for all ages! As Mike was good enough to point out, I never specifically mentioned dictionaries when I listed things that he should consider leaving behind due to space considerations.

We never actually played a game with the dictionary. Instead we played Wizard. A game Matt brought which is played with a deck of cards. A 3 or 4 ounce deck of cards.

This is probably a good place to mention the house rules which were established by consent of all cabin residents. They are:

   7) Gear discussions are encouraged.
   6) You know the toast is done when the smoke alarm sounds.
   5) Mandel, Lance, don't eat that.
   4) Turn off the ceiling fan before you stand on the beams.
   3) If you get up from your chair, anyone is allowed to take it.
   2) Mandel!  I said don't eat that!

   And the number one house rule:

   1) More wood.
Tuesday morning the property owner confirmed that the ice was indeed thick enough to support skaters, dogs, and even a Heffalump or two. That, along with the pickup truck we saw driven on the ice by fishermen, was enough to convince us that it was time to start ice skating. And we did.

The significant after dinner event was a spit contest between Marci and myself (spit the card game, not spit like a Llama). The game was quite a spectator event. Especially since I had spent the last two days telling everyone who would listen how I was going to whomp all over Marci. My spit prowess is not to be believed. I strutted my stuff, and yes, talked a little trash prior to the epic contest. So I suppose it goes without saying that Marci kicked my butt -- though the second game was close! This created quite a dilemma. Graciously accepting defeat is not an option. And spit has no board to flip. At first I thought about denying the event ever happened. The witnesses would be easy to discredit with a well orchestrated smear campaign... But no. Then I considered an excuse, my spit arm was injured, the West side of the cabin has worse light... Again no. Finally, I settled on dismissing the game itself. Spit is simply a test of hand/eye coordination, like darts or pool. It isn't a true card game. Did I mention that I won at Wizard and at Hearts? So, nice game of darts, Marci. You are an excellent dart player. Yes, I can live with that. Though I did learn an excellent lesson... from now on, no trash talking... unless it is a board game that can be flipped late in the game should the outcome be in jeopardy. Oh, Pente, I also won at Pente. Pat did beat me at Cribbage, but I didn't make any mistakes and don't mind losing at Cribbage when it is just the fact that I'm not getting the best cards. I didn't lose a single game of Jenga either. Not that I'm insecure or anything.

We awoke with the Heffalumps on Wednesday morning. The early morning hour was painful but necessary. Our plan: drive to Baxter State park and check it out. Baxter is home to Mount Katahdin, Maine's highest point and the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. We spent the day hiking through the frigid wilderness...

Mike:  My thermometer says it is 85F out here.

Matt:  You have to take the thermometer out from inside your jacket
       if you want an accurate reading.

Mike:  Oh.
After a few hours Mandel started to get cold, so Marci and I took the dogs back to the car while the others kept hiking. At the car we spent some time experimenting with the Subaru's all-wheel drive and ABS on the ice covered gravel pit where we had parked. Then we continued with the West Coast Swing lessons Marci had been giving me. I think if you can dance on the ice in hiking boots you can dance pretty much anywhere. I'll bet the snowplow driver -- who came to the gravel pit to fill his truck with sand -- was surprised to see a West Coast Swing lesson in progress. I'll bet he usually sees Jitterbug in that parking lot.

Snow! Thursday morning we awoke to snow! Ok, it was Thursday afternoon by the time Marci and I actually got up, but still... Snow! Finally a chance to strap on the skis and enjoy some skiing. With only a few inches on the ground we decided there wasn't enough coverage to ski on trails, but the snow on the lake was fine for skiing. We all spent several hours enjoying the snow and circumnavigating the lake. By late in the afternoon the wind was howling across the lake and clearing large patches of bare ice. Somehow we came up with the brilliant idea of taking advantage of these conditions. We grabbed the tarp off the wood pile, tied it to the toboggan and began ice sailing. As is often the case if an idea is weird enough, I was a pioneer. So there I am, standing on a toboggan, holding the tarp to catch wind, going way too fast on the ice, with Lance running along behind. It was quite a spectacle. And quite fun. And even somewhat controllable after a bit of practice.

Finally the sun set and the wind died down. We returned to our cabin to eat. And what a treat -- after dinner Mike made us popcorn! In a popcorn maker! Which he brought from Ithaca! Probably in the same bag with the dictionary! It was a big popcorn maker! And to think that I had repackaged the spices I was going to use on the trip into ziploc bags so they would take less space. Next year I'm inspecting all of Mike's bags before he gets in the car.

That evening our group filled out with the arrival of Ann and Shelley. We now have a full, happy cabin.

Friday, December 31st, 1999. The big day. We celebrate the New Year tonight. I'd say that the excitement mounted, but really it wasn't much different from any other day in Maine. We went ice skating, played some Jenga, and went for a nice hike. Ann, Marci and I walked around the summit of a local hill, learned to identify a few trees, and had a beautiful view of the last sunset of the year.

Just before dinner I heard a loud thump from upstairs. Even louder than the usual Heffalumps. "Sorry," shouted Mike, "I dropped my bowling ball." A bowling ball...

Jeff:    You brought a bowling ball?

Mike:    Yeah.  Only one.

Jeff:    A 16 pound bowling ball!  Why?

Mike:    In case we decided to go bowling.

Jeff:    We aren't going bowling in Maine.  And even if we do, bowling
         alleys have balls they let you use.  It doesn't even cost extra.

Mike:    Yeah, but I don't like putting my fingers in a communal bowling

Jeff:    So you put that thing on the roof of my overloaded car on the
         improbable chance that we would go bowling.  And we aren't, so
         it was all a waste.

Mike:    Not so!  I'm going street-bowling right now in the empty driveway.

Jeff:    Great.  What will you use for pins?

Mike:    Oh, I also brought a set of 10 regulation pins.

Jeff:    Arrrrrggghhhh!!   

Marci:   Why is Jeff banging his head against the wall?

Pat:     Must be a little daft, eh?

Jo:      I think he's completely lost it, mate.

Matt:    Jo, I don't think we Kiwis say 'mate'.

Jo:      Yeah, but Jeff is going to reproduce this conversation verbatim
         in his journal, and he has a hard time typing a New Zealand accent.
         I thought that Australia would be close enough.

Matt:    Ahh, g'day then!

Shelley: 'Rnkxch' is not a word!!!

Ann:     Just ignore Shelley, she gets a little frustrated when the
         computer cheats at Scrabble.

Marci:   Actually, I use 'rnkxch' when I play Scrabble.  Though I try
         to use the plural form, 'rnkxchss', and get a bonus for using
         all my letters.

Shelley: It isn't a word!!!

Mike:    Well, we have a dictionary right here to check!

Jeff:    Arrrrrggghhhh!!   

Pat:     Better get my first aid kit.  Good thing I just updated my EMT
         training because Jeff is going to knock himself uncon
That's as much as I remember of the conversation. My main point is that Mike's bags will be inspected next year. Weighed. They will be weighed too.

As great and plentiful as the food had been for the entire week, our feast for New Year's Eve topped all of the previous meals. We ate salmon and sushi and brownies and cheesecake and some cookies which arrived in a care package sent by Marci's parents (thanks Lew and Deb!) As midnight approached we went out on to the ice with an appropriate beverage (I had my grape juice -- high in beneficial antioxidants). Maine was quiet except for the fireworks-like booms and haunting moans and groans our lake produced as the dropping temperatures caused stress fractures to shoot through the ice (you could feel them if they came close, only a bit disconcerting). After celebrating midnight -- and a few minutes on each side because we weren't sure that anyone had an accurate watch -- we quickly returned to the cabin. I was cold wearing only slippers on my feet, and what was left of my grape juice had already frozen. I was grateful for a wonderful vacation. I couldn't think of a better place to spend New Year's or a better bunch of people to spend it with. We all slept soundly that night. Even the Heffalumps.

Saturday, January 1st, 2000. Our Y2K compliant wood stove was still working like a charm. We slept late in our cozy cabin. Our plan this day is to drive to the Eastern coast of Maine to see a "tidal falls" near the city of Pembroke. A tidal falls is a large standing wave created by the tide rushing in as a river flows out to the sea. The tides in this area (off the famous Bay of Fundy) are huge -- over 20 feet. We saw evidence of this large tide whenever we were near the coast. So we were expecting a spectacular sight at the world famous tidal falls. We arrived at the designated location several hours before the maximum flow differential. The river looked common and ordinary. But it would become spectacular. Right? That is why we are standing here in the cold, isn't it? Alas it was not to be. We did see the tide rise a bit, and a class one rapid formed around some submerged rocks. On the whole, it was like watching paint dry. Watching paint dry in a really cold location. At least Mandel and Lance had fun chasing and eating sticks.

Marci, as the leader of our tidal falls expedition, admitted that the sight wasn't very impressive. While she had wished for something more spectacular, she was expecting about what we saw. "I was hoping to be the first in my family to see an impressive tidal falls," she was heard to say. "Oh woe this tidal falls curse which follows my family like a soggy, cardboard Albatross!" Marci was inconsolable. At least I assume she was. Nobody actually tried to console her.

At least we did see a spectacular sunset while driving back to the cabin. And we were potentially in the presence of Madonna (the singer/actress, not the religious figure). We were only a few miles from the town of South Lubec where the first sunlight of the new year strikes the United States. Apparently a crowd of 1500 had gathered for the event and Madonna was there. What an event. We can only imagine...

    Like a Virgin!
    Touched for the very first time this millennia.
Ok, maybe we didn't miss much. We met a retired couple who had been to the Lubec sunrise. They didn't mention Madonna, but they did tell us that this was the least amount of snow Maine had received in 137 years. Our skis wept.

For our last night we spent some additional time skating under the light of the stars. Watch out for those unmarked ice fishing holes! Tried a few more swing lessons. I think if you can dance on the ice in the dark wearing skates you can dance pretty much anywhere.

The next morning we bid adieu to our cabin amidst the birches. My sorrow was tempered by the happy thought that at least the car wouldn't be overloaded for the drive home. We ate all that food, so certainly there would be more room on the roof rack. Or so I thought...

Jeff:  What the heck is this!

Mike:  My newest hobby, rock collecting.

Jeff:  You can't possibly expect to bring all this junk back to

Mike:  I think it is a good selection of Maine rocks.  Two
       dozen of the biggest rocks I can lift!

Jeff:  Why do they have to be so big!?  Don't most rock collectors
       get small stones?

Mike:  Hmmm, I really just started this hobby.  Isn't bigger
       always better?

Jeff:  This one isn't even a rock.  It is just a hunk of concrete.

Mike:  Oh, like you are some professional geologist or something.

Jeff:  It has rebar sticking out!!

Mike:  Might be iron ore.  In fact, this is probably my favorite
That was the last straw! Something big and heavy did go on the roof rack for the drive home... but Mike survived up there just fine. We handed him snacks through the sunroof.

Eventually we did make it back to Ithaca. And the next day I drove back to Washington. That's it. That's my Y2K for Y2K story. Everything I have typed is totally true. No lies. No hyperbole. And most definitely... No Exaggeration.

After sending my "Y2K for Y2K" story, I received several replies along the lines of, "You said that your story was entirely true, but you also said that Mike rode on the roof rack of your car for 12 hours. Didn't the State Police give you a ticket for that?"

First, let me suggest that truth and reality are much more ephemeral than we might believe. From the world of physics we have learned that reality is based on our perceptions (read about Schrodinger's Cat), and that our perceptions are inherently imprecise (read about Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle).

So when I say that something is "true" what I really mean is that "it will sound funnier if I write it this way."

For those of you not fortunate enough to have participated in the trip, and particularly for those of you who don't personally know the cast of characters, let me state that much of what you read was a caricature. For example, about 90% of the goofy things attributed to Mike were fictional (though he did bring a dictionary). Mike is actually a very nice guy who is a pleasure to have on any trip. He is also much stronger than me, so I want to stay on his good side. As another example, all of the dialogue attributed to Jo was fictional. In reality, I could never understand a word she said, so transcribing it would have been impossible. I could go on, but perhaps I would be better off stopping now.

There you have it. If you still have questions about what is fact and what is fiction, feel free to consult Marci. She has pictures.

Pat, Mike and Marci ready to depart Ithaca. (Category:  Skiing)

Pat, Mike and Marci ready to depart Ithaca.    Ithaca, NY -- December 1999 - January 2000

A very overloaded car. (Category:  Skiing)

A very overloaded car.    Whitney Point, NY -- December 1999 - January 2000

The cabin. (Category:  Skiing)

The cabin.    Topsfield, ME -- December 1999 - January 2000

Marci with the toboggan. (Category:  Skiing)

Marci with the toboggan.    Topsfield, ME -- December 1999 - January 2000

Mike with corn popper and dictionary. (Category:  Skiing)

Mike with corn popper and dictionary.    Topsfield, ME -- December 1999 - January 2000

Matt modeling his Kiwi polypro. (Category:  Skiing)

Matt modeling his Kiwi polypro.    Topsfield, ME -- December 1999 - January 2000

Me and Marci skating. (Category:  Skiing)

Me and Marci skating.    Topsfield, ME -- December 1999 - January 2000

Skating with Lance and Mandel. (Category:  Skiing)

Skating with Lance and Mandel.    Topsfield, ME -- December 1999 - January 2000

Marci and me skating with Lance. (Category:  Skiing)

Marci and me skating with Lance.    Topsfield, ME -- December 1999 - January 2000

Me and Marci skating into the sunset with Lance close behind. (Category:  Skiing)

Me and Marci skating into the sunset with Lance close behind.    Topsfield, ME -- December 1999 - January 2000

A fallen skater?  Lance to the rescue! (Category:  Skiing)

Rescue Dog!

A fallen skater? Lance to the rescue!    Topsfield, ME -- December 1999 - January 2000

Zipping along with Lance and Mandel in hot pursuit. (Category:  Skiing)

Zipping along with Lance and Mandel in hot pursuit.    Topsfield, ME -- December 1999 - January 2000

On the ice with Mandel and Lance. (Category:  Skiing)

On the ice with Mandel and Lance.    Topsfield, ME -- December 1999 - January 2000

Mike, Pat, Marci, Jo, Matt and Lance hiking the AT in Baxter. (Category:  Skiing)

Mike, Pat, Marci, Jo, Matt and Lance hiking the AT in Baxter.    Baxter State Park, ME -- December 1999 - January 2000

Marci with Mount Katahdin in the background. (Category:  Skiing)

Marci with Mount Katahdin in the background.    Baxter State Park, ME -- December 1999 - January 2000

Me, Lance and Mandel with Mount Katahdin in the background. (Category:  Skiing)

Me, Lance and Mandel with Mount Katahdin in the background.    Baxter State Park, ME -- December 1999 - January 2000

Mandel and Lance resting after a long day. (Category:  Skiing)

Mandel and Lance resting after a long day.    Topsfield, ME -- December 1999 - January 2000

Nap time. (Category:  Skiing)

Nap time.    Topsfield, ME -- December 1999 - January 2000

Mandel out on the ice. (Category:  Skiing)

Mandel out on the ice.    Topsfield, ME -- December 1999 - January 2000

The whole crew skiing across the lake. (Category:  Skiing)

The whole crew skiing across the lake.    Topsfield, ME -- December 1999 - January 2000

Toboggan sailing, followed as always by Lance. (Category:  Skiing)

Toboggan sailing, followed as always by Lance.    Topsfield, ME -- December 1999 - January 2000

Marci toboggan sailing. (Category:  Skiing)

Marci toboggan sailing.    Topsfield, ME -- December 1999 - January 2000

Matt and Jo in awe of the tidal falls. (Category:  Skiing)

Matt and Jo in awe of the tidal falls.    Topsfield, ME -- December 1999 - January 2000

Happy New Year!  From Marci, Jeff, Shelley, Matt, Mike, Pat, Jo and Ann. (Category:  Skiing)

Happy Y2K New Year!

Happy New Year! From Marci, Jeff, Shelley, Matt, Mike, Pat, Jo and Ann.    Topsfield, ME -- December 1999 - January 2000