The Beach Blog
April 28, 2022
One for Dale
“It’s your people, Stupid…”
A vacation cabin is more than wood and stone and shingles. It is the embodiment of all who warm it. Dale Reineke, a treasured friend, was one of those. We lost Dale five years ago today.
This is for him.
Gonzo Disk Golf at the Cabin
A cackle shatters the tranquility as a Frisbee-like disk pierces the north woods just after the commencement of cocktail hour.
Ten people of all ages giggle, taunt, and cheer as they meander, toddy in one hand, disc in the other, through their contiguous lake lots in Northern Wisconsin.
This is Round-O-Golf, the popular disc golf sport of colleges, clubs, and resorts played gonzo style. That is, not on manicured lawns or playing fields, but over, between and through the north woods and lakes.
The first to “tee off,” my son Robert, lays up nicely in front of the “hole”- a brightly colored net made out of PVC and fishing net material. He ends up taking a two, as do all the others except me. I score a four due to an unfortunate second shot into the woods. My good friend Dan Seering, who designed the course and owns the cabin next to ours, almost starts off with a hole in one. Dale Reineke, a mutual friend who liked Seering’s idea and sold the disc games online under the “Round-O-Golf” brand, also picks up a two, as does his son Danny, who has become the course Ace.
Already I am under the gun. Even Arthur Yago, age eight, is beating me. A four is not the way to start, but Canadian whisky and cigar in hand, I will not be denied. We continue.
The Lake Eleanor Disc Golf Course has it all: Eighteen holes- er nets- complete with scorecards, prize money, side bets and a 19th hole. The 19th is actually a tool shed modified by Seering to include a bar, leader board, and trophy case. Oh- the Club House also houses the coveted Yellow Jackets, given each year to the Regulation and Junior champions. A comfort station adorns the 8th fairway.
It’s filled with Scotch. Oh, and there is a rule book.
Ah the rules…
On this particular day, a rules infraction is being deliberated by the “Board.” The Board consists of the four oldest among this band of degenerates. The controversy is; can a birch leaf be torn off a branch that is blocking a shot after tournament play has commenced?
“Is the tree living or dead?” One asks.
“Doesn’t matter,” responds another, “the hole has already been played by other contestants during regulation play.” Tempers start to flare but cooler heads prevail. Play resumes.
Next comes the 5th hole which, like some par threes on the PGA tour, carries an instant prize; in this case $100.00 for a hole in one. The shot involves throwing the disc left to right over the roof of Seering’s cabin, missing “Grandpa’s maple” standing in the approach, and slipping into the net while ascending from high over head.
While almost every other net at Lake Eleanor has been “holed” at least once, the Over-the-Cabin Dogleg at Five has yet to give up the Benjamin.
Our circle of family and friends has been convening at the Lake for forty years. Calling this hallowed ground would not be a stretch for the owners and guests who continue to come here year after year. The Lake Eleanor Disc Golf Course started out as a pitch and putt golf course down our main right of way, with real golf balls, real clubs, and real holes many years ago.
It began, as most worthwhile endeavors at the Lake do, with a challenge and a bet. I won’t go into the inspiration for the first nine holes thirty years ago; suffice to say we used to play when tent campers were slept in before our cabins were built with indoor plumbing. Over the years, golf balls were getting too hard to find in the woods and after several small fortunes were lost to Titleist, disc golf nets became “holes” and discs replaced golf clubs and balls.
After the front nine we come to the water holes, where the course meanders down to the lake and nets are placed on rafts. Tee boxes are piers sticking out into the Lake. A hole in one earns you a minus one. A miss, and you better swim out or climb in a canoe or some other water toy before your disc sinks or drifts out of range. I, dressed in jeans and sweatshirt on this particular afternoon, elect to take a default three (it’s in the rulebook). So do some others. My son in law Max and Danny, however, now tied for the lead, go for it; Max’s shot lands in the water and he runs for the boats.
Danny drills a hole in one, en-route to a possible course record. The comfort station had been emptied four holes ago and a certain rowdiness now pervades the goings on.
Coming home to the club house now; the 18th, through birch and pine, a par three up slate and sand, and Danny prevails, missing his own course record but moving comfortably into first place for the tournament week. His name has been imprinted on the club house trophy for the last two years. We all swear vengeance. My son Robert sits atop the junior leader board. The scorecard is signed, the 19th hole visited, and the leader board updated. Only then is dinner started.
Tomorrow, after the chores are done and the fishing and the kayaking and the waterskiing are over, cocktail hour will approach and we’ll do it all over again.
One from the Archives…
To jumpstart my new blog, let me bring back an old favorite from 2012…
Doo Dad Drawers
I neglected my walk on the beach this morning, electing to arrange my doo-dad drawers instead.
You know the plastic cabinet with little see-through drawers that you put all your nuts, bolts, washers, finishing nails, hanging nails, wire nuts, wing nuts, locking nuts, wall anchors, masonry anchors, S hoops, coax connectors, butterfly hooks, hinges, air inflation needles, cabinet knobs, springs, PVC caps, drill bits, electrical connectors, cotter pins, thing-a-ma-jigs and doo-dads in?
Well I cleaned mine out this morning!
Cup of joe in hand, I sat at my work shop table, put on some Miles Davis, and kicked back. This is not a chore. It is a labor of love, akin to cleaning and rearranging your tackle box or photo albums. It should be done deliberately.
The first thing I came to, after taking a half an hour to get all the little drawers out of the cabinet due to some tiny thing-a-ma-job jamming the last one from the inside, was this:
What in the hell is that? If anyone can tell me please email me at this address.
I saved it. Just in case.
I also ran across stuff like this:
So many memories in these drawers. I pick up the AC outlet that my daughter Stephanie had stuck a Bobbie pin in when she was three, prompting us to get a set of plugs for each outlet in the house. I still have those too, and I place them in their own little drawer. The Bobbie pin goes in too. I don’t throw much out.
Next, I come to some stainless hardware, mostly marine screws, that I saved from a Cuban refuge raft that washed ashore in front of the house back in 1995 when we lived in North Key Largo. What a morning that was. The boat people must have come in during the night and scattered, leaving the raft on the flats at low tide. In the raft was a tool kit containing Russian and Chinese wrenches, two water bottles and a mess of orange peels.
It also contained a zip lock bag containing the same hardware that now lies scattered across my workbench.
I rewarm my coffee cup.
I sip and winnow.
I remember Jaime, my Cuban neighbor across the canal putting his small outboard on that raft and taking it for a spin. Jaime was a great old friend. He was a workaholic house painter in Miami who came down to his second home in the Keys on weekends and any other time he could slip away.
Jaime fished every day off, taking his alumacraft with 10 horse motor out a mile and a half to his favorite patch reef. You could just barely see it from our upstairs deck. We called it Jaime’s hole. Lots of lobster there too.
Jaime took me fishing and taught me how to use a fishing yo-yo. Let me tell you- it ain’t as easy as it looks. Especially if you actually catch large fish with it. Jaime would use four at a time, all hanging off a different part of the boat. He never sat still, constantly tending his lines. He roared with laughter the first time I had a fish on and let the line get away from me, tangling everything in the boat, including both my legs.
Unfortunately Jaime is no longer with us. He had two heart attacks shortly after my wife and I divorced and moved out. Jaime was self-employed and had no health insurance. The first heart attack took his beloved Key Largo home. The second took his life. I know the subtleties of catching a fish with a Cuban yo-yo because of Jaime.
I look at the little plastic cabinet box in front of me. Boxes like these are full of memories, and memories are knowledge.
I place the marine screws back in their own set of drawers. Like a lot of stuff scattered on my table, I may never use them- or have I?
April 12, 2022
Tale of Two Capes
…spanning the history of flight in three days.
“I wish to avail myself of all that is already known…”
“No bird soars in a calm”
It is 2am and I am facing north, breathing the sea air I love, gazing at the big dipper dropping down to seemingly snatch up a launch pad, flooded by searchlights, and the rocket it holds. A fisherman beside me has just landed himself a 55 pound snook. The stars- indeed Heaven- seem just a little closer here for me.
The usual wanderlust had brought me here; I found myself with three days to kill so I, as an aerospace buff and ocean worshipper, had resolved to spend them spanning (is that an active verb?) one hundred nineteen years of aviation history while literally getting my feet wet. And, like most things it seems, I was doing it backwards.
I began my voyage of discovery driving south through the Carolinas. My goal was to begin at Cape Canaveral and then reverse course to end at Kitty Hawk, on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where it all started with the Wright Brothers. I had never been there. I pass a roadside stand called “Trumpville.” Three card tables full of junk surrounded by American flags. I pass on a chance to obtain my own Donald bobble head and donate to the cause, whatever that was.
I love small towns; speed traps to slow you down just enough so you don’t miss the convenience store, corner tavern, the Methodist and Baptist churches sharing the last intersection. Seems a long way to anywhere from here.
Cape Canaveral, Florida, is one of my favorite destinations on earth. I chose Jetty Park Campground as my home base. Jetty Park, with its beach and inlet, is special. It is more than a thriving commercial port, home to cruise ships, fishing vessels, and cargo ships. In addition it serves the military as a submarine base and Space Force headquarters. Most significantly for me, though this is where rockets and space hardware completes a journey from subcontractor to the “stacking” assembly facilities and launchpads of Cape Kennedy. Kennedy Space Center reaches down to touch this inlet. Gulls and pelicans glide past electronic launch warning signs. You can stand on the fishing bridge of the inlet and see space launch complexes, radar ships, tracking antennas, the sub pen…it shivers me just thinking about it. NASA’s gargantuan SLS had been rolled out to historic Pad 39B the day before.
NASA (Boeing) SLS sitting on Pad 39B, where the Apollo moon rockets launched. A whole new way of doing things now; SpaceX’s reusable cheaper Falcon stands right behind it on 39A.
It pains this Space and NASA fan to call this beautiful machine what it is- an expensive obsolete dinosaur. Elon Musk’s SpaceX has proven a game changer in it’s approach to engineering, flight and cost controls. I predict that the SLS is DOA, although it is important to remember NASA always envisioned privatization of space. In my opinion, their traditional partners Boeing and Lockheed, as well as owning hardware and paying for it using cost-plus contracting must now adapt or fade out of manned space flight. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 for the manned Axiom mission was standing on Pad 39A, visible right behind the SLS. That Falcon (SpaceX’s third manned) launched a week later. The SLS maybe in another 6 m to 8 months and still an unmanned test. Decades have passed since both NASA pads held candles at the same time. An additional unmanned SpaceX Falcon was launching from Pad 40 for a trip to resupply the International Space Station the next morning. Wishing to see it, I stuck close by. Lots of rain that night but cleared enough for launch the next morning. I was camping at Jetty Park and woke to the normal diesel fumes of rolling-palace RVs checking out early. I broke camp and headed for the jetty pier.
The Falcon launch was visible for about three and half seconds due to the extreme overcast, and you could not see the successful first stage barge landing out to sea. Shortly afterwards the shattering rumble of launch reached us and I bid a heartfelt goodbye to this perfect paradise of nature and technology. I pointed my nose towards the place that powered flight all started- Kitty Hawk and the Kill Devil Hills of the Outer Banks.
The Outer Banks of Cape Hatteras beckoned me like few other places in the U.S. tho I’d never been there. A few years ago in Saint Augustine I was coming off the beach one early Sunday morning when a Jehovah’s Witness approached me. “Sorry-this is my place of worship,” I told the man, and he nodded understanding. Now I was headed towards one of the most expansive beaches in America, as well as hallowed grounds for any aviation or marine enthusiast. My foot pressed the accelerator a bit to catch pace with my heart.
After crossing Albemarle Sound I took a left at Nags Head and headed immediately to Kill Devil Hills. The towns of Nags Head and Kitty Hawk were touristy strip malls- kind of disappointing. Lots of new looking condos. Even the stilt homes I was used to seeing after living in the Florida Keys- indeed I owned one- seemed new construction. No big mystery…I had weathered many storms including Hurricane Andrew. I motored on a quarter of an hour and turned left into history…Kill Devil Hills and the Wright Brothers National Monument.
Windy. The very reason this is the place. That’s why they came here. It was clear and lovely. Lots of families. I can see dreams starting here. This is what inspiration- what futures- looks like. The visitor’s center has excellent timelines and interpretive exhibits. I learned about The Bat, a flying toy that Wilbur’s father had given them when they were kids. I buy a replica in the gift shop to put together with my granddaughter Hallie.
I walk out to the first flight line in history. Two wooden hangars that look like weathered garages stand near a stone monument, marking where the flyer first slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God… One hundred twenty feet in 12 seconds. I watch a father time his son joyfully running it. The kid ran it faster than Wrights’ Flyer did.
The first powered flight line in history; to the right, a child flies a kite back towards the start. Markers for four flights: 120 feet in 12 seconds to 852 feet in 59 seconds… I watched a father time his son on the longest; the kid was faster than the Flyer.
Finally, I climb Kill Devil Hill itself, where the brothers tested their earlier gliders. At the top you can peer down on the nearby modern landing strip with Pipers and Cessnas sitting in front of the terminal. “Quite a rush flying into this place,” I contemplate, and that’s not even accounting for a cross wind. This place is windy.
Walking back to my car, I google “Best SheCrab soup on the Outer Banks” and it comes back “Neptune’s Kitchen and Dive Bar” in Rodanthe. “Sold,” I mumble to myself and head south via asphalt on a dune.
I started back after a my late lunch of SheCrab soup and blackened Mahi served with a local IPA. Ahead of me, our sun fell towards Albemarle Sound. Three days of sun, sand, ocean breezes… and flight. Heaven…right down here on Earth.