Our aquatic adventure begins inland at the Hyatt Regency in Princeton, NJ. Near the Old Mount Family Farm (now better described as a New Jerseyan Silicon Valley), the hotel served as base camp for a sizable contingent of Mounts and Meyers who had gathered to descend on the New Mount Family Farm (Terhune Orchards) for Reunion 2015.
Oh, also, there was a neat koi pond in the lobby...
...and some standard-issue, large-scale, modernist lobby art.
Not that I'd ever forgotten what a FUCKING AMAZING KIDS' PARADISE the farm is, but it was a pleasant reminder to see Otis in a state of non-stop fun overload. Fortunately, we were able to channel some of that energy into productive child labor. Getting the kid to nap, though--particularly when fun was audible in every room in the farmhouse--was not easy...
...but we managed eventually.
This, by the way, is how my son sleeps.
Cousin Grace supervises a wandering Otis as he explores the (relatively) new vineyard at Terhune.
Mounts and Meyers are easy to spot, particularly in their natural habitat where their distincitve red caps stand out amidst the otherwise green scenery. A warning to predators, perhaps? (Not that we have any!)
I don't remember the occasion for this doozie of a pouty-lip, but boy oh boy it must have been something!
Dead end in the annually-constructed Terhune Orchards corn maze.
Sarah successfuly navigates through the labyrinth. (Actually, after exhausting all possible avenues, we decided that hopping a rope fence was the only way out.)
Given the size of this scale and the size of the young man perched upon it, I'm surprised at how much that needle appears to have moved.
At the big reunion dinner, in the massive, newly built Amish fridge barn, Otis entertained himself by buckling the buckle on his booster seat. Every time he got the buckles to snap in place, he looked up and clapped with a satisfied smile, clapping for himself and encouraging the entire table to clap for him as well. To his extreme delight, on several occasions, this applause coincided with the end of a speech and, from his perspective, the entire assembled crowd applauded his succesful buckling of his seatbelt.
Aside from the glorious dinner (and fresh peaches and ice cream dessert), the main attraction was the evening primrose. These flowers bloom in a matter of seconds at a very specific time every night. You can see the previous night's expired petals wilting in the picture above...
...the sun set and the anticipation was palpable...
...and then the flowers bloomed!
Also on display: a nightmarish flock of swooping hellbirds! Our hosts informed us that these beasts were not birds, but in fact were giant moths. (I didn't believe them, but then this photo set the record straight.)
Heading out the morning after the reunion, I had Dad slow the car down on US 1 as I stuck the camera out the window and snapped a couple pics of the house he grew up in. (The house in which he grew up?)
We stopped for an overly-substantial breakfast at a family favorite diner. Dad got sausages, couldn't finish them, and gave one of them wrapped in foil to his wife. Off-color jokes soon followed as the family patiently waited to leave while eating handfuls of hepatitis mints.
Bart: Look at all this great stuff, Lis. Cool! Personalized plates! “Barclay,” “Barry,” “Bert,” “Bort?” Aw, come on. “Bort?”
Child: Mommy, mommy! Buy me a license plate.
Mother: No. Come along, Bort.
Man: Are you talking to me?
Mother: No, my son is also named Bort.
(They never have personalized items for Andre.)
Post-reunion, the Potsdam gang was deposited at Lake George for Phase II of their end-of-summer extravaganza.
The business of acquiring cones was quickly dispensed with at the local Stewart's Shop.
Ah, The Lake. (Capital "T" intended.)
Our triumphant return to Lake George begins!
First night: clear as a motherfucker. Along with the stars, I snapped a pic of a passing boat in the dark. (The red and blue speckles are all just camera noise, but I thought they looked kinda cool.)
Our rental, this time around, was located just north of Hague, on the west side of the lake. We didn't get the same spectacular sunsets as last year
, but we did enjoy morning after morning of warm new-day sun!
In case you couldn't tell from the previous picture, we had a dock! And our dock had mooring whips! We didn't have any boats that would've necessitated mooring whips, but we made due with what we brought.
The centerpiece of the house? Not the huge stone fireplace. Not the rustic log pool table. Not the dramatic pines towering overhead, nor the awesome view across the lake. No, it was the huge La-Z-Boy corner couch that dominated the upstairs living room. This thing was a kid magnet and Otis could be found running its length or bodyslamming its sitters at any (and every) hour of the day.
Also: a sweet little chiminea down by The Lake on the lido deck.
A rainy day-trip into Glens Falls for beer and lunch at Davidson Bros. left us wondering why SUNY Potsdam couldn't have been SUNY Glens Falls.
Otis sat patiently through adult lunch at the Davidson brewery, so it was only fair that we visit the nearby GO! World Awareness Children's Museum.
Inside they had half a car with an open invitation to decorate it. Decorating kits were available for checkout at the front desk.
Onetime ethnomusicologist Sarah re-awared herself of indigenous cultures as Grandpa Larry watched Otis fill a bucket with beans.
Undetered by all the museum's educational opportunities, Otis busied himself with a bucket of chunky lego... and didn't give a shit about anything else in the museum!
Mom tries to force some cultural awareness on her offspring by cramming him into a fashionable kimono.
Back at the house, a little grey weather didn't stop the gang form swimming in the Lake of Lakes.
Grey skies turn to rainbows over Lake George.
And then, as the sky broke at twilight, the majestic Butt Mountain carved a graceful (double) arc across the horizon.
Damn, that's some clear water! (They say you can't use a flash to take a photo of a reflective surface. That's not true. Just shoot at an angle.)
Mid-lake, looking north, toward Ti. Note the variety of cloud types and the full range of cloud colors.
Rising (somewhat) early, Andre and Sarah paddle across the lake to Anthony's Nose. The shoreline, if it may be referred to as such, was steep and dramatic.
Snake Boy samples the air at the communal beach.
We discovered a delicious eatery at the old Hague Firehouse. There was a pick-your-own-salad garden on the property next door. Just drop a few bucks in the jar on the porch, grab a bag and a pair of scissors, and take your pick of the various high-brow greens growing in rows next to the house. Bonus: The house also had chickens and these chickens took residence in a large lilac bush at the back of the property. Otis (and everyone else) was (were) delighted by these tree-dwelling chooks.
Down in L.G.V., despite the ample tourist traps, the main attraction, it seems, was a cat on the sidewalk.
Post-kebab-lunch, we sheltered in Shepard Park Amphitheater as a squall passed over the lake.
Otis was kept entertained, boogers and all.
A voyage was planned aboard the Minne-Ha-Ha. Stripes were spotted above deck.
The spinning paddle wheel.
The view from the boat, given the recent weather, was spectacular. The nearby para-glider only enhanced the spectacle.
Sarah was, in a word, enthused.
Otis was excited too, but for different reasons. He spent most of the trip stomping puddles on the top deck. (Why doesn't the Minne-Ha-Ha have scuppers up top?)
Post cruise, a paddle was planned. A paddle around the islands of the Waltonian Group. This pretty-much-just-a-tree island caught the eye of a camera-wielding Andre.
Otis, historically not a fan of even the shortest canoe trip, settled in and stuck his paw in the water.
Like Lewis and Clark before them, Chris and Larry forge new paths in the American wilderness at the helm of that most noble means of conveyence: the canoe.
And then, just like that, we swapped one magnificent body of water for another: LG for the AO.
Phase II of our extended family vacation was scheduled to take place at a vacation rental in Montauk, walking distance from Ditch Plains.
We took the Orient Pt. ferry over from New London (Otis had a blast). At one point, close to the end, a pod of maybe thirty dolphins were spotted off the port bow. I stuck a quarter in the binoculars and tried to get my camera to focus through 'em. It kinda worked, but the timing didn't line up with when they were jumping.
Funnily enough, I didn't feel/have a need to take any notes on my North Ferry ticket stub.
(The little white jewels at the edge of the wave line, we later discovered, were jellyfish eggs.)
Cooper, my hero, brought surfboards. And it's a good thing he did, too. I'd been figuring I'd just take a look at Craigslist and meet up with someone selling something. That didn't really pan out. If 'Per hadn't brought his quiver, I woulda been high and dry.
Sleeping Otis. A little more sprawled out.
Our brother Cooper celebrated his birthday. After a seafood feast at Gosman's, cake and Jack were consumed back at party HQ.
With surfable waves in such close proximity, it was everything Andre could do to stay in bed until the sun came up.
When it did, though, it was straight to the beach. First to take pictures, then back with a surfboard, then back a third time for a run, usually, with Lynne and Pops.
(It took me a while to take this hat's message to heart. But when I did: much less time rasslin' the ol' suit, much more time in the waves.)
Nothing too spectacular. But they were surfable! And that's all that counts when you live eight hours from the beach!
These guys, apparently, had the go-ahead to just leave their van (and the pile of surfboards up top) at the beach.
Heading back for a board. Sun creeping up off the horizon.
One bird on a house, one bird on a wire.
Makin' flippy floppy
Tryin' to do my best
Lock the door
We kill the beast
The rental was at the end of a long one-way street. Best of both worlds: we could be noisy AND we didn't get bothered by anyone else's noise.
Note the sweet red Dart convertible on the left.
The ubiquitous dune fencing casts a long shadow across the parking lot at Ditch Plains.
I was a little disappointed that we weren't actually staying on Otis Rd., but I did find a way back to the house on it.
Lynne, as has been her tradition with these family gatherings, came equipped with a potholder loom. My design (despite my father's insistence that the two yellow cross loops were a mistake) was cleary superior to everyone else's (not pictured).
I mean, look at that immaculate edgework.
JUST LOOK AT IT!
One of several day trips found us climbing the Montauk Point Light.
They run a tight ship there. You have to wait for the elderly, walkie-talkied docents to call up to the top and give you the go-ahead before you're allowed to hold on for dear life as you trudge up the narrow stairs with your head up another visitor's butt.
The trudging was worth it though. Fantastic views all around! (Though mostly through small porthole windows.)
You can see a little bit of swell at the bottom left, about to wrap around the point.
Seems to me that describing the Prime Minister of Funk (The disco fiend with the monster sound? The cool ghoul with the bump transplant?) as "well-beloved" should go without saying.
The ocean is a tick infested area. (That's a lot of ticks.)
Noticing that Otis was enjoying plopping down into a hole I'd dug in the beach, I took it upon myself to dig a deeper hole. (If a hole is fun, then a deeper hole must be funner.)
Then Cooper started to help.
Then we both let things get a little out of control.
We'd heard tell of an abandoned radar station out near the point. (And by "heard tell" I mean that you could see this thing from miles away and Lynne told us that we could bike to it.)
This picture doesn't do justice to the scale. The thing was HUGE.
Alright, giant, two-foot-thick, slab of concrete blocking the entrance, I won't enter.
Opting to ignore the various no trespassing signs, we snuck through a hole in the outer perimeter fence for a closer look. I wasn't about to be fooled by this sign, though!
My new favorite grafitti tag.
Having not been caught by the one or two security guards roaming around the park, we snuck back out of the radar station and headed for the ocean.
This was the most California-esque coastline I'd seen in a while! Dig the distant point break!
On our last day in Montauk, Cooper had already left for home with his boards. Andre, figuring that connecting a solid week of surfing days would've satisfied his long-built thirst, bid him farewell and thanks.
But then, hanging out on the beach, the small clean waves looked too good. Andre panicked. He ran back home, hopped in the car, drove to town, rented a board, (waited for twenty minutes for the board to get back to the shop from the beach where he'd just previously been,) strapped it to the roof, drove back home, cruisered back to the beach (board under arm), and screamed right into the funnest waves of the trip. Sarah even caught a couple!
Only one problem: The foam top board nibbled on the inside of my thighs for the whole session.
Heading back north. Otis on the ferry.
We stopped for snacks and gas at some exit off I-90. Best bathroom grafitti I've ever seen.
And thus began Phase III!
After a tumultuous night in which Brooke the sneaking dog snuck down some stairs in the dark, fell and broke her leg, our little family was joined by another little family.
With Miles came trucks. And with these trucks came Otis's new obsession.
The inchworm that ate Lake George.
A couple of pinecones had fallen on the porch. Not surprising given the house being nestled in a grove of pine trees, but we had no idea how to get rid of them. The binder of rental notes didnt say anything about pinecone removal and I think we were all starting to get a little panicky about how to get rid of them.
But then, with perfect timing, Miles showed up with his excavation equipment and saved the day!
Larry bought a boat! What a smart looking vessel!
On your marks... Get set...
Our trip finale: A visit from Capt. Chris, his wonderful wife Kaite, and their charming daughter Lily.
Bonus: My old sailing buddy brought a boat! (Chic's old homemade sailing canoe. Not the deathtrap one might expect. Rather, a lakeworthy vessel if ever there was one.)
Sarah conquers the shark.
Chris's philosophy: Spend as much time in the water as possible.
The beast lurks just below the surface, taking his own advice.
It'd been well over a decade since I'd set sail with one of my oldest friends.
Otis explains, Lily couldn't care less.
A magnificent spread with pizza chef (and homegrown ingredient collector) Michael and his young charge preparing to settle in.
A few more years and these kids'll be about the age me and Chris first met. Wowzers!