July 20, 2004

Full Weekend -- With Seals

This past weekend was a pretty full one for us. Aside from all the work Maggie has been doing on the girls’ rooms, we somehow had time to fit some great activities in, the Stone family reunion, and some wildlife.

I took Friday off and we visited the Looff Carousel in Riverside, I. It’s the old Crescent Park carousel, and the kids had never been to it. Maggie and I had a number of times in the early years of our marriage.

Crescent Park Carousel is my all-time favorite carousel. In fact, before I rode it, I didn’t see much point to carousels. What makes this carousel worth your time (aside from its history as part of the old Crescent Park—“Coney Island of New England”, the beauty of it and the music) is what you can do while you’re on the carousel.

The expression “grab the brass ring” originates with carousels like the Looff. In this case a metal arm is extended once the carousel is in motion. The arm dispenses steel rings. If you dare, you can lean out on your horse (providing you’re riding on the outside ring of the carousel) and grab a ring from the arm. You hang onto it for a few moments and then can fling it away into the mouth of a giant clown painted on a canvas tarp. It’s a lot of fun.

In addition, there is always a chance that instead of a steel ring, a brass ring will come to the front of the dispenser as you go by. If you are lucky enough to catch this golden-colored ring, you hang onto it and will be awarded a free ride! I have gotten hold of that golden ring a couple of times in my carousel-riding career, and it almost happened again on this visit.

Sometimes, when the person in front of you slaps the arm the wrong way as they pass, the dispenser feeds down a ring without a ring being removed. In this case you see two rings, and they are a bit jammed. It’s easy to take the first ring, but if you try to take both you’re risking worsening the jam and getting no rings. On our first ride of the day I saw the golden ring jammed in the arm, behind a steel one. I reached out to grab both rings but I could not get my finger around them—I came away with only the steel one.

The lady behind me grabbed the golden ring, and when the operator sees someone do that he rings the bell loudly and/or whoops. I don’t know if she was just excited or didn’t notice, but when the clown came ‘round, she threw away the golden ring! She realized what she’d done immediately. I don’t know whether they gave her the free ride anyway. Probably.

Kit couldn’t reach the metal arm, so I spent my time catching rings and leaning forward on my horse to ferry them to her so she could throw them into the clown’s mouth. I had to undo my leather strap and balance precariously to do this, in violation of the signs. If it disturbed the operators, I didn’t notice.

You can see some pix of the construction and restoration of the carousel house here. You can also grab free MP3s of actual carousel music there. Spin around in your chair a bit and simulate a carousel ride! OK, it’s not quite the same thing.

The kids loved the carousel. Their fear of the moving horses (which had kept us away from carousels apart from some test-visits in their early lives) was overcome. After our 5 rides together (a lot of fun for only $10) we went kite flying in the park across the street from the carousel.

The wind was fickle, but cooperative enough for us to get a baby bat delta-wing kite in the air. Mattie was tenacious trying to get her diamond-shaped kite up there, but to no avail.

The park’s got a great view of the water and (kites or not) is a relaxing place to hang out. It was clean, well-groomed and peppered with the occasional friendly family-on-a-walk or dog walker.

We returned home through Barrington, past (St. John’s church where Maggie and I were married by her grandfather, the former pastor) and ate across the street in a Newport Creamery that has been around forever.

The next day proved to be even more exciting, however.

This was the day of the Stone family reunion. We weren’t quite sure what to expect, except that we’d be in Chatham and we’d be near the water. We packed up and left a little bit early for the Saturday ride to the Cape. Traffic was moderate—no worse than expected and not as bad as Boston rush hour traffic by a long shot.

We arrived before most of the guests and were shown three houses that the Moultons own (parents of cousins of my wife, by marriage). Geoff and Lisa Moulton (and their two daughters Melissa and Emily) were extremely gracious and thoughtful hosts. When we arrived, they’d already done a lot of preparation.

They had us pack our lunches from the wraps, sandwiches, cookies, chips and brownies provided and then we hopped in boats for a quick trip to an island just off the shore where they had a spot already picked out. The boat ride was a bit of fun for the kids, who sat on the bow, but we put them to work hauling gear to the beach site.

Once we got there we were greeted by an amazing sight. Between 50 and 100 gray seals were taking refuge in the water just off the shore of the island. Protected on a couple of sides by the island and a sand bar, they bobbed up and down at a distance that couldn’t have been over 100 feet. Literally, in 5 seconds of swimming I could have been among them, had I had the stamina to bear the cold water. (Yes, in the picture with the kids, those nearby dark shapes in the water are the seals… They were right there!)

Undeterred by frigid waves, the kids grabbed boogie boards and took to the sea. I assisted, which resulted in numb legs and feet early on. I kept looking over my shoulders at the seals, and it appeared they were getting closer every time I checked. They continued to bob there all day, seeming to watch us as we watched them. It was a wonder they were so calm and not worried about being so close to us.

When they got tired of the cold, the kids switched to the other side of the island, which faced the land. The water there was shallow and as warm as bath water. As they frolicked energetically in this calm, huge heated swimming pool, the adults talked or (in my case) made sand sculptures.

Late in the day we took to burying the children in sand, or had the children bury each other as the adults found themselves sapped of energy.

When we were ready to go we were whisked back to shore where amenities awaited us for cleaning up—making the long trip home much more comfortable. At this point I had to call this one of (if not the ) best beach visits of my life. In my haste, I missed a spot on my back when applying sunscreen and got a pretty nasty burn. But it was definitely worth it.

On the way home we stopped in at Chatham center for a relaxing look at the shops and a walk up and down the street.

We slept quite well that night.

On Sunday we were hoping to watch Outfoxed with Julie, but it didn’t arrive in the mail in time. Instead, we had some fun watching Louis Black and grilling some steak and burgers. Also, the native corn is in season, and the farm stand down the street always has the best.

Sunday allowed us to wind down a bit. For folks like us who are not usually socially active on the weekends, this one was big. I should also mention that in between every event, Maggie was working on building storage solutions for our daughters (from scratch). Soon she’s going to be a real carpenter.

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Posted by James at July 20, 2004 11:04 AM
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Grrr.... either you're posting some surprising pictures or the people setting up the filters at my company are a bunch of #%!R%&$S. All your pictures are blocked and I get this:

Access Denied (content_filter_denied)

You are not permitted access to the URL http://www.pbase.com/image/%2031457825/original due to Wyeth policy
because of its content categorization: "Nudity"

Posting nudie pictures again James! Shame on you.

Posted by: Bob at July 20, 2004 12:17 PM

Bob, your company's IT people are morons.

Yay! Seals!! Great pix, James!

Posted by: Patti M. at July 20, 2004 12:40 PM

PBase is the image hosting service I use. It's pretty good for the amateur photographer because their servers are pretty speedy and it doesn't cost much for me to put galleries up which I can share with family members.

But it's geared to photographers, so many photographers use it for portfolios and such. Nude models included. If you browse the popular galleries, you'll see some of those. Not quite porn, it's just photos of models and such.

I guess that's too much for your IT folks.

Posted by: James at July 20, 2004 12:58 PM

your pics have miraculously become unblocked. Now Ebay's blocked. Grrr.

Posted by: Bob at July 27, 2004 4:46 PM

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