Friday, August 21, 2015

I knocked; the universe answered

I was born in the year of the Dragon: 1952.

In August of 2009 I was in St-Johns Newfoundland. 2009 was a tough year. We almost cancelled the 2009 CSCS conference in St-Johns.  I insisted we march into the financial storm and carry on, to send a strong message that CSCS would not be deterred by mere financial chaos.

No good deed goes unpunished, so the universe sent hurricane Bill to cheer us up. Bwahhh hah hah! We laughed in the face of adversity!

When I saw a black baseball hat in the tower gift shop high atop Signal Hill I couldn't resist. It fit the bill perfectly. I wore it resolutely at the conference. Adorned with a menacing skull and crossbones it said "The beatings will continue, until morale improves".
A few years later, in the year of the dragon, the winter of 2012, I was visiting my brother-in-law in Florida. I was wearing my pirate hat.

Chuck saw it and flipped. Florida was still firmly in the death grip of the 2009 financial crisis. Chuck had to have the hat. I understood. I gave it to him without a moment's hesitation.

Chuck was so pleased, he enthusiastically led me to his closet where he had his considerable collection of baseball caps. For the most part, the collection was investment dealer and mutual fund swag, along with sports memorabilia. Chuck gave me the pick of his collection.

I went through the hats without much enthusiasm, until I found my dragon hat. I had to have it. It meant so much. My mother had given me many, many years before, a Chinese chop, my Chinese signature stamp, with my name in Chinese characters carved out of a solid block of jade. A beautifully carved dragon decorated the stamp. My mother explained to me that I was born in the year of the dragon.
I sometimes feel like a dragon, peculiar, strange, proud, sometimes fierce, courageous when it matters, somewhat mystical and a little bit mythical.

This summer, three years later, my dragon hat has suffered from constant use. The black is sunwashed. The dragon is still boldly golden, but that won't last forever. Then again, neither will I.

A few weeks ago, on a whim, I searched for the website of the Matthews Funds.  I used the 'contact us' page to ask for a new dragon hat as a hedge against future decay. I forgot about it. It was a message in a bottle.

Today, as we are deep in readiness preparations for our son Jonathan's wedding tomorrow, my son Andrew called out to me as I was wrapping up pool cleaning. "A package came for you!" he said, brandishing a square Fedex box.

I wasn't expecting anything.

I tore into the box eagerly. Leah's kind note fell into my hands.
H-A-T-S?!?!

And there they were!!!! I've got spares! An everyday, workin' around the house hat, a new goin' out on the town hat, and a dress hat!!!

Oh boy!
To you I say: "Is there something you need? Is there something you want? Knock on the universe's door! You never know what will happen. I started knocking a little too late in life. But it's never too late. Knock my friends, knock!"

To Leah Harold, Vice-President, U.S. Marketing, for Matthews International Capital Management LLC, thank you so very much, now you know how much it means to me. I will continue to wear the hats proudly.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Rider profile - Stephanie Yue

Name: Stephanie Yue
Find me on Earth: Nominally, Providence Rhode Island
Find me Online: 250ccSuperhero, JellyCity.comModernVespa.com, ADVrider.com
Interview Date: July 23, 2015
Interview Location: Lubec, Maine
Scootcommute: When did you start riding, how old were you?

Stephanie: I started riding in spring 2010, and I was 25 years old.

Scootcommute: How many motorbikes have you owned?

Stephanie: I owned two scooters (2009 Genuine Buddy 50, 2009 Vespa GTS 250) and one motorcycle (1983 Kawasaki 550 LTD).

Scootcommute: What is your current bike, and is the current bike your favorite?

Stephanie: My current bike is the Vespa GTS 250. It’s my favorite so far, which probably explains all the miles on it.

Scootcommute: Talk to me about the most challenging riding skill you learned.

Stephanie: That’s a tough one, everything new is challenging in the beginning. Switching from asphalt to sand or gravel freaked me out at first, but it was less about challenge and more just inexperience and nerves. I’ve grown more comfortable proportional to exposure.

There’s a certain degree of hyper-awareness necessary when sharing the road that I feel took a long time (and a few falls and close calls) to develop. That one is an ever present challenge if you’re planning to ride on streets.

Scootcommute: Are you a moto-commuter, a tourer, or a fair weather rider?

Stephanie: Of the three I’m probably a tourer, though I also use my bike to commute and certainly enjoy fair weather!

Scootcommute: Are you a solitary rider? How about riding in a group?

Stephanie: Most of my miles are solitary, but that’s just because I picked up riding before meeting other riders. I remember the sheer thrill of my first group ride with about 100 other scooters (Ski’s Shrimp Run 2013), just seeing so many other bikes and riders making a big amorphous organism! I’m a little more wary of group rides now from a safety standpoint, but I still enjoy them. Also, touring with a small party can be an absolute blast, and I wouldn’t mind more of that.

Scootcommute: I dare you to share an awkward or embarrassing riding moment.

Stephanie: Oh boy, how to choose. I had an embarrassing moment just recently as I was leaving West Quoddy Head Light. I pulled over to take a photo of a rainbow, but because it was a narrow and somewhat traveled road I decided to leave the engine on should I need a quick getaway. I stepped back for the photo, and went to adjust the handlebars… and accidentally tapped the throttle rocker. I had left my bike on its side stand instead of the center stand (again, quick getaway), which meant the rear wheel was still on the ground. The scoot took off under me and landed on its left side a few feet away (guess it got away). 34k and nearly 15 months on this trip, and mere minutes after reaching my final goal of the easternmost point in the contiguous US, I dumped the bike. It scraped my left side bag, bent the brake lever, and knocked my mirror out of whack. No serious damage though, just a bruised ego. I hear those grow back.

There’s also another incident involving food poisoning, but I don’t think it’s strictly riding related?

Scootcommute: What is the best place your bike has taken you?

Stephanie: Right here, Lubec, ME. We have 45k total together, have set wheels in all 48 contiguous states; Baja, Mexico; and some Canadian provinces as well. It’s my stalwart companion, even when I bitch and moan.

Scootcommute: Tell me why you ride.

Stephanie: Originally I picked up riding as a practical thing – I wanted more than a bicycle but less than a car. I like the ideal of fuel efficiency and minimalism, bonus it had style. Once I actually got my license and began putting in miles, I realized I’d stumbled onto much more. Riding keeps me engaged, both physically and mentally. The act of riding is like a meditation, much like some of the martial arts I do. There’s also a social component of meeting other addicts – I mean, riders. I ride to get out of my shell, explore the world, and connect with others. To be dramatic, it reminds me why I’m alive.

Scootcommute: If I could grant you one riding wish, what would it be?

Stephanie: I don’t even know where to begin with that! For now I’ll just go with a seemingly modest yet impossible request for perfect riding pants.

_____________________________

Sunday, August 16, 2015

2015 Blogger to Blogger Tour - the Kilner Interlude

Ed Kilner swung through Montreal on his way to a grand tour of the Maritimes, and spent a night with us.

I made room in the garage for his BMW R1200RT.  It was the second time there were two Beemers and three bikes in the Masse garage.
We caught up on a bunch of topics including all types of things we discovered we had in common professionnally that you would never suspect.  Mostly boring change management stuff and the role of information technologies, or at least boring to most people, but endlessly fascinating to Ed and I.

I barbequed some steaks, Susan made a salad, and I cooked some market fresh new potatoes, all of which went nicely with an organic cabernet sauvigon blend.

Ed was up at the crack of dawn gearing up for a ride up to the Gaspé.
At Ed's suggestion I threw a modest breakfast together.
Ed asked for the best route to take to the south shore route to Quebec City. It took me fifteen seconds to let Susan know that I was going to ride with Ed to the South Shore via the Champlain bridge.
The ride was uneventful, though the morning rush hour was in high gear.  Fortunately the route I took was flowing nicely and we made it over the bridge and off the island in very good time.
We pulled off route 132 on the South Shore, onto a side street in Longueuil where Ed programmed his GPS for the road to the Gaspé Peninsula.  We said our goodbyes, I wished Ed safe travels, made a U-turn, honked a goodbye blast of Thunderbird's air horn, and headed back home.

Around supper time Ed sent me an e-mail message saying that he had arrrived safely in Rimouski. You can read about that leg of his travels here.

PS: Ed's Beemer cracked its oil pan on a misplaced brick, ending his Maritime tour, and ending his Beemer too.  Ed's fine, back home, but for the time being, bikeless.  Read all about it.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

2015 Blogger to Blogger Tour - Steve, Tom, Craig and Ron

It was a restless night.
The sleeping bag and mattress pad are just too confining, and the camp pillow is just too damn small. I slowly woke to the apprehension that I may have snored so badly that poor Stephanie was left wishing for bears, raccoons, or anything other than sharing a campsite with the likes of me.

If that was the case, she refused to fess up.

I tried to be quiet. I crawled out of my insect-free cocoon and stood in the cool damp morning air. I walked to a secluded spot and peed to my heart's content.  I walked out to the road to stretch my legs, and then crawled back into the tent and waited for Stephanie to stir.

Once we were both officially awake, I offered to make coffee or tea.  My ultra-light butane stove boiled the water in a jiffy.
Stephanie opted for tea, I had coffee.  There was no milk so both were served black. As I lay awake that morning before having ventured out, I had fantasized that there would be no bugs buzzing in the morning. There were fewer bugs, but not so few that lingering over hot beverages and pondering the meaning of life on the shores of picture-perfect Horseshoe Lake was ever an appealing option.

We did the only rational thing. We pulled on the armour, struck camp, and hit the road again.

Now, I have a hard time passing up a decent breakfast, so finding one became the first order of business. Fortunately Stephanie didn't object to the agenda. We saw a few prospects here and there as we rode north on route 30, but on inspection, nothing panned out. When we rode into the village of Tupper Lake, at the top end of Tupper Lake, we had some options, and settled on the Swiss Kitchen restaurant.
It was a suitably homey place, with booths, locals enjoying breakfasts and chatter, and the kind of friendly waitress you expect when you imagine a small-town place like this. We ordered coffee, bacon and eggs, and enjoyed the meal down to the last bite.  Did I mention there were no bugs? We picked up our conversation pretty much where we had left off when sleep got the better of us the night before.

I promised at the outset to report every intimate detail of our two-day adventure. If you've been following along, you may have noticed that, aside from riding, sleeping, and swatting armies of bugs, we yacked, blabbed, chatted, jabbered, gabbed, yada-yada-yada'd, and otherwise spent considerable time chewing the fat. And yet, promises aside, I haven't said boo about the actual content of our conversations. I'll eventually make good on the undertaking to reveal all, I swear. But not quite yet.

At one point during our feast, Steve, Tom, Craig and Ron walked in for breakfast. Bikers. The tip offs were armour and some hi-viz bits. But we didn't know who they were until quite a bit later.

Stephanie picked up the tab for breakfast because the Swiss Kitchen didn't take plastic, and I hadn't managed to find an ATM yet. Fear not, I made it up to her later on.

With our tummies full, we got back on the Vespas and made tracks.  Our major destination was Lake Placid. Without doubt Lake Placid is the crown jewel of the Adirondacks. Its claim to fame is without question the 1932 and 1980 winter Olympics, but it's also just a really, really pretty little country town.

Along the way we stopped to stretch our legs in Saranac Lake, another pretty little Adirondack town.
Copyright - Stephanie Yue
In the fullness of time, we came to Lake Placid. On the way downtown we passed a spot where we were fairly compelled to stop for obligatory snapshots.
We cruised slowly through the centre of town in the same fashion as cruising down A1A in Fort Lauderdale, past the five corners intersection in Ogunquit, along the main road in North Conway, the outlet mall strip in Kittery, Pike Place in Seattle, or St-Paul street in Montreal. The laid back pace, the throng of strolling tourists, and the rubbernecking motorists, all conspire to create that langorous slow crawl I just love.
We parked the Vespas towards the end of the main strip and set off on foot to visit the town.  I also needed to find an ATM.  We would eventually need to grab a bite to eat as well.

Enter Steve, Tom, Craig and Ron.
As we strolled and talked (I know, I know, how much could possibly be left to say?), and checked out the sights and a few boutiques, and read menus, and Stephanie checked the schedule for the Port Kent, New York to Burlington, Vermont ferry, we were pulled from our blissful stroll by Craig. "Hi there! are those your scooters parked down the street?" "Yes they are" one of us politely replied.  Craig couldn't quite understand (who could blame him) how two Vespa scooters, one with Quebec plates, one with Rhode Island plates, and clearly part of a team just because of the similar ways they were equipped for an expedition, came to be parked in Lake Placid.  Imagine his surprise when he heard Stephanie's story. Imagine our surprise when Craig introduced his buddies Steve, Tom and Ron.  Once we saw Steve and Tom we understood not only that they were fellow riders, but they were the same crew who walked into the Swiss Kitchen in Tupper Lake. Adding to the element of surprise we learned that they all hailed from Toronto. Canadians are the nicest people, don't you know?

It turned out that we were headed the same way, to the Port Kent ferry terminal on Lake Champlain.  They suggested Stephanie and I ride up Whiteface Mountain to visit the place called the Castle.  Great views and a coffee shop where we could grab that bite we were planning.  After our encounter with the boys, we wished them safe travels, and Stephanie looked forward to seeing them on the ferry later in the day, if the timing aligned.

As all this was happening the skies were turning gray. Not storm gray, not rain gray, just gray-ish.

We rolled out of Lake Placid on Route 86 with an eye out for the road leading to the Castle on Whiteface. We never got there. Fate intervened.

Not long after leaving Lake Placid, Stephanie pulled over on a gravel turnout. When I rode up next to her, she had a very focused and concerned look about her. It clearly spelled trouble. Before I could manage much more than "What's up?" Stephanie was off her bike and rummaging through a saddlebag. She was terse. "Get your rain gear on, we're about to get dumped on... my riding pants aren't waterproof... I need to find shelter... catch up with me a mile or so down the road..." and with that intensely brief admonition barely past her lips, she hopped on her Vespa and sped off down the highway.

All right then... I popped the seat and got my rain jacket out. By the time I had one arm in a sleeve, huge drops began to fall.  No sooner had I zipped up, and it was pouring.  By the time I got rolling, a major squall was well underway.  Visibility was so low due to the volume of water raining down, that the traffic had slowed to a crawl with four-ways flashing.

Now motorcycle travel done well is a queer thing. With brand new Revit Enterprise armoured pants, Icon Patrol waterproof boots, a Teknic rain overjacket, and my trusty Nolan N104 helmet, aside from my nice Tucano Urbano mesh gloves and the ocasional drop that invaded my visor, I was dry in the deluge.  A couple of miles downstream, at another turnout, I spied Stephanie sheltering on the edge of the woods under her tarp rigged over the bike as best she could.
There were a couple of cars and a truck in the turnout as well.  The drivers had judged it better to pull over to wait out the storm.  I made a cautious U-turn, entered the turnout and parked next to Stephanie where we waited out the worst of the storm.  We couldn't easily communicate, so I took pictures and a brief video to relieve the boredom, and record our plight for posterity.

All the while, there was one question burning in my brain. "How the heck... by what black art... did Stephanie learn of impending cataclysm? I mean within minutes of the onslaugth, literally! Holy cow!"

Storms like that can't last that long.  When the flood turned to normal-ish rainfall, Stephanie stowed her tarp and off we went.  A couple of miles further down the road we stumbled on the Hungry Trout restaurant.
We pulled into the parking lot.  Stephanie wanted to make the 4:30 ferry, and given the time, suggested that we grab a bite to eat at this serendipitous spot, and forego the Castle.  It was a reasonable suggestion, I was hungry, and it meant that we could maintain a leisurely pace without worrying about Stephanie making her date with the ferry.
When I pulled off my Tucano Urbano summer riding gloves (a gift to myself I purchased in Rome a few years back) my hands were... BLUE!!! I mean seriously blue. Stephanie thought it was a hoot (mainly because her hands weren't blue). No amount of scrubbing with mud and sand did more than exfoliate my blue hands.  The liquid soap in the Hungry Trout's restroom left my hands soft, supple, fragrant... and BLUE! I felt like a bank robber ambushed by a bandit-pack bundle of booby-trapped hundred dollar bills.  Thankfully the Hungry Trout doesn't discriminate against aliens or bank robbers, and we were seated in the restaurant, and served no less. Guess what we did then? Yup, more chatter.

"How in heaven's name did you know that was going to happen?" I stammered. "Noah" Stephanie said rather matter-of-factly. "You're related to Noah??" (which I suppose most of us are, in a Darwinian way). "No silly... NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA.gov. I have the NOAA app on my iPhone, I was tracking the weather system, I knew the intensity, and pretty much when we were going to get hit."

Wow. That's how smart and connected you have to be to survive fourteen months on the road solo on a Vespa, visiting all forty-eight of the contiguous states in America. Stephanie learned a lot about life in her thirty young years, and had much to share. Hence all the jaw flapping and chin-wagging we had been up to at every opportunity.

My only regret of my two day adventure is that I didn't spend $20 in the Hungry Trout's gift shop on a tree-face.  How short-sighted. The big pine tree on our front lawn so deserves a creepy smirk.
By far the very best section of motorcycle touring road was still to come.  The combination of Route 86 and Route 9N from Lake Placid to Port Kent was nothing short of wondrous. It's a long sinuous downhill run, often following the picturesque Ausable river, with a section toward the end of Route 9N where the bridge takes the road over Ausable Chasm.

Far too soon, my little tiny slice of Stephanie's incredible America-wide journey came to an end on the shores of Lake Champlain.

I set her free and on her way, left only with incredible memories that money simply won't buy.
Set yourself free! Hit the road Jack!

Stay-tuned. There's still a little more to come.

Friday, August 7, 2015

2015 Blogger to Blogger Tour - Adirondack Museum to Horseshoe Lake

The pit stop for this leg of the tour... no wait... this isn't the Amazing Race.

The meeting place for this portion of the tour was the Adirondack Museum.  It's a great place for a rendezvous, but it's also a great place to visit as a destination in its own right.

The museum is perched near the top of an escarpment so that it overlooks Blue Mountain Lake. But you won't know that until you are well into your museum visit.
Google maps
The theme for this expansive and well-endowed exhibition space ought to be 'the Adirondacks, a place where modern life and the wilderness meet'.

As you enter the museum's campus, there's no mistaking that you're in the heart of the Adirondacks, yet the space has a big city metropolitan feel to it. The exhibits are meticulously curated and presented, the documentation that provides insight and context for each exihibit is plentiful and comprehensive, and the objects in the museum are of obvious museological importance. In fact there is at least one piece in the collection that is on loan from the Smithsonian in Washington D.C.  You don't get exhibits on loan from the Smithsonian unless your museum has stature and pull.

It was mid-afternoon when Stephanie and I began our visit. We knew we would only be able to see portions of the museum's exhibits.  We also had a lot of ground to cover to get properly acquainted.

We began our visit by purchasing admission tickets (my treat).  From the reception desk outside the gift shop we headed over to the boating wing. The docent on duty (a very kindly and knowledgeable gentleman whose name I can't for the life of me remember - Jim help me out... he was on duty when we were there too) took notice of our armoured pants and boots, put two and two together, and took us straight to a corner of the canoe exhibit to show us a photo of a turn of the century (20th not 21st) motorcycle (it could have been an early Harley) rigged as a canoe transporter.
Copyright - Stephanie Yue
Copyright - Stephanie Yue
Another star of the boating wing is a 19th century ultra-lightweight canoe, cedar I believe, that beats a modern day Kevlar ultra-light by a whopping two pounds!  A ten-pound vintage canoe, can you believe it?

We strolled and talked, and talked and strolled.  The museum was an ideal setting to get acquainted.
Copyright - Stephanie Yue
Copyright - Stephanie Yue
Copyright - Stephanie Yue
Copyright - Stephanie Yue
Stephanie was at turns earnest and serious, sharing her considerable riding and touring experience, learning about the museum's exhibits... and playful.  I witnessed first-hand her signature selfies as works in process.
Copyright - Stephanie Yue
250cc Superhero!
We wrapped up our visit at the museum's café.  Jim Mandle really, really wanted the three of us to enjoy this visit and had devoted considerable care and expert attention to an itinerary that was frustrated by the fortuitous sale of his Lake Luzerne home. I had to make sure that Stephanie and I sat at the corner table with the stunning views of Blue Mountain Lake.  Jim these shots are our heartfelt expression of our thanks to you for making our little two-day adventure so very pleasant.
We chatted over our late afternoon snack, getting to know each other. Our conversation inevitably turned to thoughts of a campsite as the afternoon turned to early evening.  It was time to make tracks.

Stephanie and I quickly agreed that Jim's suggestion of a camp site at Horsehoe Lake made the most sense for us. We had each saved Jim's e-mail messages so we had a really good idea of how to locate the evening's destination.
Off we went northbound on Highway 30 with Stephanie in the lead.
Cruising north on route 30 was joyful and thoroughly satisfying.  We stopped at the village of Long Lake to refuel at the same spot where I had topped up my anti-freeze earlier in the day. With a plentiful supply of gasoline we pressed on.

Stephanie pulled over to snap some photos on the causeway that crosses Long Lake.
We got rolling again and in no time we had covered the 22 kilometres from Long Lake to the junction where route 421 heads west, ominously marked as a dead end.

Memories of my ride with Jim came flooding back as we crossed the stone bridge where Jim and I had stumbled on the artists painting in plein air.  This time there were no artists to be seen  but this picturesque spot had attracted swimmers upstream sliding down the gentle rapids on the far side of the stream, and a couple of anglers trying their luck where the water spills north into Tupper Lake.
Hopping back on the Vespas we continued on 421.  The roadway degraded as we made our way to Horseshoe Lake, eight kilometres further west. Potholes, heaved pavement, and loose gravel slowed our progress. We crested a rise and there on the right was a gravel driveway leading to what seemed to be one of the campsites that Jim had suggested.  Stephanie asked that I stay put while she investigated. There were signs that the site had been recently used and we wanted to make sure we weren't about to take someone else's spot. Jim had suggested that if the first spots off the paved portion of 421 were unavailable, me might continue past the point where the road turned to dirt because there were other spots further on.  Stephanie was minded to explore a little further, so off we went.

It turned out that nothing seemed obviously better than the first site, so we turned back and settled on that first one.

As soon as we parked the bikes we were viciously attacked.

It was the camping equivalent of Pearl Harbor. The word had gone out that there was fresh meat at the lake, and wave upon maddening, buzzing wave of winged marauders single-mindedly bent on devouring us whole, made Stephanie and I the ground zero of insect armageddon.  It was a bug-o-calypse of magnificent proportions. That said, not the worst I have experienced, likely because the mosquitoes and blood-thirsty deer and horse flies were struggling in vain to pierce our armoured clothing.  Another reason to ride ATGATT.

Fortunately, modern tents are easily pitched closed, so once we had our safe houses ready for us, we knew there were no invaders within.  That was a very good thing because while we were setting up house, the following conversation occured. Me: "Did you bring any bug spray?" Stephanie: "No. Did you?" Me: "No." So much for my Boy Scout pledge to be prepared.

I made the smallest possible opening in the tent flap, threw all my gear in, then zipped the flap up tight.

We stood there admiring our handiwork for a moment.
Copyright - Stephanie Yue
It took mere seconds to reach a consensus that this was perhaps a great place to spend the night, but not a place to grab our evening snack. Stephanie had picked up some cheese, dried sausages and some head cheese earlier in the day.  We hopped back on our mounts and made a bee-line back to the  Tupper Lake inlet. When we got there, the swimmers were leaving and the anglers had left, so we had that wonderful slice of Adirondack wilderness to ourselves.
Copyright - Stephanie Yue
Copyright - Stephanie Yue
Copyright - Stephanie Yue
Copyright - Stephanie Yue
We sat on a smooth rock, shared our dinner and chatted some more.  The bugs left us more or less alone.  I suspect that they had massed such an impressive offensive over at Horseshoe Lake, that they had left themselves no option but to leave a skeleton force at the Tupper Lake squadron. They were no match for our armoured clothing, and no match for the speed of our Vespas.

It was nine-ish by the time we declared dinner done, and made our way back to mosquito junction.

I made the smallest possible opening in the tent flap and dove inside, made a clumsy U-turn, and zipped the door shut.  I sat in the tent, surrounded by saddlebags and my two dry bags and assessed the situation. As far as I could tell I was alone in the tent. I zipped the window open pleased that the mosquito netting let the breeze in, but excluded the bloody bugs.  Stephanie was still outdoors, softly cursing the bugs and mumbling instructions and encouragements to herself.  I realized that I had left the fly panels closed, and I asked Stephanie if she wouldn't mind opening them for me, which she kindly did on the spot.

Stephanie settled into her tent as I began unpacking.  Mattress pad, sleeping bag, pillow, camp chair... then I struggled out of my armoured gear, jacket, boots, pants... At length, I collapsed on the bed, spent. Once we were both well settled in, the conversation resumed, tent to tent. It was strangely and wonderfully intimate. We were utterly alone, voices floating between the tents.
Stephanie had some whisky which she offered to share.  She poured a shot or so into an empty water bottle, barely unzipped her tent flap and tossed me the booze, which I retrieved in a similar manner.

I got a decent education on the merits of whisky, bourbon, and scotch, little of which I remember, other than the gift of warmth and relaxation that Stephanie's whisky gave me.

Darkness fell slowly but resolutely, and our exchanges waned slowly too.  Neither of us said goodnight.  It wasn't by any means a lack of consideration, or a lapse of good manners. For my part it was more that I didn't want to close the day, to end the conversation. It was heaven, and I wanted it to last, knowing that it couldn't. We were tired.

At some point our voices fell silent and we slept.
The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.