It’s been thirteen years since I lived in Maine, and twenty one years since I lived there. (Can we take just a moment to appreciate that I can say, with a straight face, that something happened twenty years ago and I have clear memories of it). 

The Drive

We left Maryland early on Saturday morning, with the goal of making it to a Cracker Barrel outside of Albany, New York before nightfall. The drive went remarkably well and Alli was still feeling awake, so I looked through the Boondockers app and found a Cabella’s a couple hours further along our route. Alli was really happy about being back in The Mothership and from the moment we reached New York and started seeing bigger hills, Ellie was grinning. Walker… slept most of the drive. I’m a bit worried that the boy is going to grow again soon, given how much he’s been sleeping. 

All seemed to be going great and it looked like the biggest issue that we’d have was a rock that  put a tiny ding in the windshield before we had even reached New Jersey. 


In the last fifteen miles before reaching Cabella’s, our GPSs took us along a local highway that included a low stone bridge. We stopped the Mothership in plenty of time, but while getting turned around a wild tree jumped out and attacked us. Fortunately, I’m enough of a hobbit that I was able to convince the ent to be satisfied with smashing one mirror and bloodying my face. 

Either that, or Alli is actively trying to kill me with trees. I’ll just leave here this photo from two years ago when she asked me to help her do some gardening. 

Still, we managed to fix the mirror enough to finish our trip, though the time spent at Lowes and Michaels did mean that we didn’t have time to browse in Cabella’s. 

The next day’s drive was uneventful. We arrived in Maine with plenty of daylight to spare and were able to settle in and discover the wonders of…

Delaminating fiberglass. 

Apparently I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me with refitting The Mothership. 

Still, a good bit of duct tape later and the Mothership is safe and back to waterproof. 

We even have become somewhat famous (infamous?) to our fellow RVers.  Those who camp next to the Mothership never forget her.  …we had folks stop by our site and ask if we had overnighted at Cabellas, and sure enough, they had been right next to us.  “We recognized the tape on the nose!”  Friends and family have started making jokes that we are the family from National Lampoon.  I figure why not just own it!  

As of Thursday, the camper is still holding together and nothing has gone spectacularly wrong.  We even had rain all night and through. Most of the day, and nothing has leaked.  So that makes me pretty sure the delamination is from sitting in the blistering heat at home base.

Day 1 – Monday

We set out on the Island Explorer bus, less concerned about getting to any particular place and more focused on learning how the busses run. We soon found ourselves exploring the rocky south-east shore of the island between Sand Beach and Otter Cliffs. 

We hiked from Thunder Hole where the kids climbed rocks and explored tidal pools to Otter Cliffs, where we watched climbers scaling the rock face. 

The bus schedule was a bit confusing, so we hiked back to Sand Beach where Walker couldn’t resist getting in the chill water. We tried to get Alli into the water, but it was a little too cold for her taste. 

By the time we left, everyone was covered in sand and Walker was soaked head to toe. 

Day 2 – Tuesday

This was the BIG DAY. 

We started at the south end of Mount Desert Island and hiked up Eagles Crag and Dike Peak before making the final ascent up the south face of Cadillac Mountain. 

The hike started off gentle. We walked silent paths through the forest. Even on the path, the loamy soil was so soft that our feet sank an inch or more with each step. We crossed streams on narrow board bridges, skirted enchanted ponds, and rounded large boulders by climbing stone steps built from the very rocks of that mountainside. 

As we ascended, the environment changed. Moss gave way to lichen. Mixed forests gave way to scraggly stands of pitch pine and juniper. The soil thinned away until we were hiking across broad rock faces, worn smooth by countless years of wind and rain.

We paused at each summit to admire the view, which only became more stunning with each hill we crossed. On the north side of Dike Peak we encountered a rare rockwhale, swimming slowly along the mountain above The Featherbed pond. At one point we had to climb several large boulders and use a metal rung sunk into the rockface to continue our climb.

We arrived at the top of Cadillac, tired by the climb but thrilled at our achievement. Sure, we could have bought passage on one of the tour busses that ascends the winding road to the summit every hour, but the journey was the best part of our adventure. 

Ironically, Alli twisted her ankle on an uneven step at the top of Cadillac. No way she would let that stop her though. She tightened up her boots and kept hiking, pushing through the discomfort as we hiked another two miles down steep mountain trails until we reached the bus stop at the bottom. 

The second half of our hike was not quite as scenic. Being the shorter path, the North Face Trail is far steeper than the south. It also winds much closer to the road, so the silence of the forest is frequently interrupted by the roar and creak of automobiles wending along the mountainside. We came across several stunning views of Bar Harbor, braved narrow stone steps and steep rockfaces, and paused to cool our heads at a mountain spring. 

In all, we hiked about eight miles that day and covered more than half the length of Mount Desert Island, ascending (and then descending) more than 1,500 feet in the process. We were tired and footsore by the end, but incredibly proud of our accomplishment. 

Day 3 – Wednesday

Today was supposed to be a quiet day. A Day of recovering from Tuesday’s grueling hike.

Things didn’t go exactly as planned. 

We took the bus in to Bar Harbor, where we wandered the town for a little while admiring the gardens and gas street lamps. 

Our goal was to walk the town’s namesake bar across to Bar Island, but Walker had other plans. 

When we reached the bar it was still mostly underwater. We spent almost an hour beach combing and watching the birds as we waited for the tide to recede. Ellie photographed the seagulls and barnacles. 

And with each inch that the tide fell, Walker pressed forward. Finally he hiked up his jeans as far as they could go, tied his shoes to his backpack, and set off through the shallows. 

We followed… stepping carefully to avoid slick rocks and jagged barnacles. 

Arriving at the island, Walker shouted in victory, proclaiming himself the ruler of the island since he was the first person on it that day. 

And then he started hiking. 

Alli and I exchanged a look. We were both tired and her feet and ankles were wrecked from the Cadillac hike, but Walker seemed so excited to climb the mountain. 

So we followed him. This time the hike to the summit was less than a mile and only the last bit required climbing steep rocks.

With our unexpected adventure completed, we headed back to camp. 

Day 4 – Thursday 

A day of rain as the remnants of Hurricane Ida rolled up the coast. The kids caught up on homework, Alli tried to stay off her damaged feet, and I edited a video about repairing the mirror. 

Day 5 – Friday

We had hoped to visit seal cove, but the bus to that side of the island is not running this year and some research told us that we were about two months late for the best seal spotting. And so instead we visited the nature center at Seur de Monte.  

The nature center itself features a large garden dedicated to showing off native plant in beds arranged by biome. Mountainside. Swamp. Roadside. Pine forest. And more.

We took a boardwalk through a mid-island swamp, litening to the animals and watching as the clear spring water gave way to pools stained red with tannins from fallen birch trees. We walked slowly, pausing frequently to listen to the creatures, smell the air, touch the bark. 

Our home in Virginia is in a swamp and The Mothership’s home base in Maryland is right beside a swamp, but neither is like this. Here the air is cool. Here the water is almost clear. Here the pests are kept at bay by the cold weather. 

We left the swamp and skirted the foot of Dorr Mountain, pausing to climb and take photos at a waterfall along Hemlock Path. 

We returned to camp and had just got a nice campfire going for our final night when a sudden downpour blew in form the north. I piled on more wood and we waited, watching out the window of The Mothership, as the coals and raindrops battled for control of the campfire ring. Finally the rain stopped and we were able to pull out the folding chairs and have a final round of marshmallows around the fire.   

The Return

We took three days to return to Maryland, stopping outside Augusta to visit old friends and let the kids swim in a clear, cold Maine lake. I supplemented the duck tape with multiple laters of maximum grip gorilla tape, said a few prayers, offered a few threats, and we headed on down the road.


The Boat Ladder

We like kayaking, but since installing the wheelchair ramps it’s been difficult to store them close to the house. It’s also a pain to carry them so far, especially since Walker’s kayak doesn’t have convenient grips for carrying it single handed.

So we needed a solution that would put the kayaks closer to the water, but be safer than laying them on the concrete or lashing them to the dock.

Oh… and now that life has slowed down enough for me to edit video, we’ll be posting at least once a week to our new YouTube channel.


Finding Normal

“I realized today why I kept having panic attacks last week,” she said, leaning back in her chair and setting her headphones on the desk.

Being an utterly rational person in complete control of his emotions, like all Real American Men who don’t need “feelings” or medication, he downed a shot of whiskey and took a deep drag from a CBD vape flavored with testosterone and diesel fuel. Fixing her with a condescending eye, he growled, “What exactly upset your delicate womanly nature, little lady?”

“I realized that nothing had gone wrong in our lives for almost a month… and I was panicking because I don’t remember the last time that happened.”

The man of the house was so shocked by this revelation that he promptly fell out of his startup surplus Aeron chair, hit his head, and woke up in the looking glass world of a 2020 where everything didn’t go to hell.

This exact change didn’t actually happen, but the essence of it was conveyed by a friend’s Facebook post a few weeks ago and I have to tell you that it hit me right in the feels.

It’s been a long time since I wasn’t dealing with a crisis of some sort, and I’m having to learn how to be a parent, partner, and individual in a context not defined by disasters.

Three years ago my marriage was beginning to come apart, after years of me privately straining to keep it together. Then Alli was nearly killed by a horse and the subsequent year was largely defined by helping her recover and learn to deal with the physical and mental effects of traumatic brain injury. Just as we were beginning to find our balance as a family, we were hit by the double haymaker of COVID and Rich’s ALS diagnosis.

While the last three years have been some of the happiest of my life, they have also been defined by repeated small-scale disasters.

And I think that’s why I’m struggling to settle these days. Struggling to write, to read, to play video games. Finding it difficult to go for a walk in the forest and listen to the twitter of birdcalls and rustling of breeze through the trees.

I just know that there has to be another disaster coming.




There was a simplicity to the world a year ago. We had all gone into lockdown, believing that everyone would do their part and America would be able to whip COVID-19 within six weeks. We played on TikTok, baked bread with friends over Zoom, and watched relaxing YouTube videos in which people with soothing voices exhorted us to find peace as the world fell apart. Maybe… just maybe… if we all worked together and did our best, the world would re-emerge as a better place filled with more loving people, except for those few clowns like Joe Exotic who would provide entertainment for the rest of us.

That isn’t exactly how things turned out.

But I’m having to believe that, perhaps, on a a smaller and more intimate scale, I can make that happen in my own life.

I can take care of these kids that have come into my life. Help them with Scouts. Watch movies with them. Take them on walks in the forest. Go kayaking on warm mornings and watch the glassy water split on either side of our boats, ripples trailing away until they lap gently against the shoreline.

I can talk about movies with James and my friends back south. Help Alli and Barb with fixing up the house. Slowly work on writing projects and get my damn YouTube off the ground one little video at a time.

There is no instant solution to finding peace or fixing the world, but we can take small steps each day. We can take each day, each hour, as a fresh opportunity to find joy.

We can slow down.

Friends will come and go. Oil pipelines will shut down. Toilet paper will be out of stock.

But I have the blessing that the pandemic didn’t destroy my livelihood. I am moderately healthy and have enough of a safety net that I don’t need to fear starvation or bankruptcy or homelessness.

If I take the time to consider the lilies of the field and breathe deep the breath of this big blue world, and know that I don’t have to make a dent in the universe as long as I am helping the people around me… it will all be okay.



The sun is just setting over the swamp. Rain pours down. An angry old woman in a gray cloak, an excitable young pugilist with a fancy haircut, and a dimwitted male cheerleader rush down the garden steps and come to a sudden halt.

A shadow darts across the screen. Is it a monster? A bird? A startled rabbit?

ABBIGAIL shouts an alarm and draws the sword she carries beneath her tattered cloak.

ABBIGAIL: “Be ready to fight. There are mutants nearby!”

OZZY whips his head back and forth, looking for danger. His finally coiffed hair teeters atop his head, seemingly ready to leap into the fray in his place. He growls with surprising menace for such a dandy as he raises his fists and stands behind ABBIGAIL, ready for a fight.

BANDIT, confused, trips over OZZY and bumps into ABBIGAIL.

ABBIGAIL swings her sword wildly, shouting a battle cry. OZZY roars and lashes out, punching at BANDIT and ABBIGAIL alike, not quite sure who he is supposed to be fighting.

BANDIT: “We’re going to get them! Fight! This is awesome! Take them out!”

ABBIGAIL: “Will you shut up? Stop fighting me and get the damn rabbit!”

OZZY, pulling back from punching Bandit in the face: “Oh… I thought we were fighting him.”

BANDIT: “There! I see it!”

With that BANDIT blunders past OZZY and ABBIGAIL, knocking both of them to the ground. He leaps into the bushes in pursuit of… something.

And he is gone.

OZZY: “What are we fighting?”

ABBIGAIL, sheathing her sword and muttering curses: “We were supposed to kill that rabbit, but numbskull just scared it away.”

OZZY, smoothing his hair: “Maybe he’ll catch it for us.”

ABBIGAIL: “No. He ran the opposite direction.”

The camera pulls up from the exasperated hunters and pans out over the landscape to show BANDIT running down the street, screaming threats at the top of his voice. A few zombies and rodents of unusual size veer off away from him, seemingly scared away by the sheer force of his loud stupidity.



feminist books, part 1

One of the most exciting parts about home schooling is having the flexibility to try different classes and learning styles. When Walker was struggling with math a couple months ago, we switched him to a new learning program and it has done wonders for both his confidence and grasp of math concepts. Ellie has been exploring the idea of launching a webcomic or writing a novel, so we have been trying to support her in those goals, even as we sign her up for classes in different art styles.

On the other hand, home schooling means occasionally blundering into complicated discussions that would be dulled by the generally safe and palatable public school curriculum.

This morning we prodded Ellie to begin her next novel study. She was less than thrilled at having to read something challenging, so we decided to try and make it interesting for her by offering some books that might feel relevant and provide jumping off points for discussions about women in history and society. Alli was out on a grocery run, so I poked about on the internet and found a few articles listing recent works of feminist historical fiction. I skimmed over them, picked two that had some intriguing books, and forwarded the book lists to Ellie for her to consider.

I should have just told her to read a Toni Morrison novel. Or some Sylvia Plath poems. Go 90s new wave feminist and order up a reading of The Vagina Monologues.

A few minutes later, Ellie came stomping up from her basement lair to complain that the books all looked lame and she wasn’t interested in politics.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“They’re all feminist books. I don’t want any more politics!”

I blinked.

I’m an English major. To me, the existence of feminist literature is as obvious as queer literary theory or the tension between modernism and post-modernism. Besides, the girl is woke as 🦆. I know she cares about women’s rights and the perspectives of traditionally othered persons.

I sometimes feel lost when talking to Ellie. I came into her life just as the teen angst was setting in and she definitely inherited her mother’s fiery intensity. Not a temper, not exactly, but a blaze in the eyes that says in no uncertain terms, “I will eat your soul if you finish the fruity pebbles.” So I decided to take a cautious approach.

“Why do you think feminism is political?” I asked, setting my voice to confused.

She rolled her eyes. “Everyone is always fighting about politics and I’m tired of it.”

She’s not wrong. Her daddy and uncle are quite a bit more conservative than the rest of us, but we all get along just fine and debates almost always end with laughter all around.

“So, you’re triggering on ‘feminist’ then? Think these are all going to be angry rants about the patriarchy?” Her mother had gone on a patriarchy rant within the last couple days, so it seemed appropriate to bring out that word.

“Yes! I just want people to get along and I want to read a good book and not have to think about politicians all the time.”

This is where I explained that few if any of the books had to do with politics. That the “feminist” in the list title referred to the books featuring female protagonists who were self motivated and strong, rather than solely celebrating the achievements of straight young white men from England or America. I almost veered into a passionate defense of underserved perspectives in literature and the value of reading against the hegemony, but I restrained myself.

“So can you look at the books again?”

She shrugged. “After I mow the lawn, sure. There better be something interesting.”

“Oh, I want to read several of them. I’m excited to see which book you choose because I’ll read it too.”

Well… that promise sure came back to haunt me, because after mowing the lawn Ellie promptly looked at the lists and picked the first book from the first list without even looking at the preview on Amazon. I admit that it does look interesting… but… well, we are still debating whether she gets to keep her selection.

More on that in part 2.