Thursday, February 26, 2009

Another Good Weekend

I drove up to Maine to visit my son last weekend. He lives near Portland. I drove briskly up on Thursday, taking 9 hours. He had invited me to attend his Aikido class. I study Hakkoryu Jujitsu and wanted to see what Aikido was like. Mike earned a black belt, which is "Master" or teacher, level in karate in college. When he moved to Maine, he visited several dojos or training schools to find one that he liked to continue training. He wasn't impressed with the first several schools he checked and pretty well gave up his search. He happened to find this school and has been pleased.
I got to Mike's just before he got home from work and we headed to class. I found a clean, spacious, well lit practice area with a huge mat room. Mats on the floor make for nicer throws and rolls. I took part in two classes that evening and we went back Saturday for more. A regular class plus a sword class. I had never done any weapons training and was pretty clumsy with the wooden sword.
I found the fundamentals the same in Aikido as Hakkoryu. Both are purely defensive arts using off-balancing techniques for throws. The names, in Japanese, for the techniques are different. The teaching methods are different. But the two arts are very similar.
Mike is a cyclist and cross country skier. He loves Maine because of the snow they get there. The country around Portland is rolling hills and is great for cycling as well. He has helped me with some of my runs as a crew member and pacer. He hated running in high school and wasn't sure he wanted to do any more. I'm glad he gave it an honest try in order to help me out. I'm also glad he has decided maybe it's not as bad as it was. Trail running is very different than fast track sprints. He has a dog that needs exercise and running in the woods is a good way to do that.
We got out to run together Saturday afternoon and again on Sunday. Mike told me he found a steep hill to run on. No kidding!!! Saco Mountain is the higest point in York county, with 800 feet of climbing in a little over a mile. It is topped with two radio towers. There is a paved road that leads to the towers. It leads through a stone quarry where we can see the layers of granite they are blasting off. We drove over to the quarry gate and ran up and down twice on Saturday. That is a real killer hill. We ran from home to the mountain and back Sunday. That made a 15 mile run with a thousand feet of climbing. We ran it at an easy pace in 2 1/2 hours, just a nice run.
It surprises me how few wildlife I see in Maine. The area is old farm land with scattered houses. Swamps and wooded areas outnumber the fields. We saw 2 deer this time and a dozen turkeys, the first I've seen there. There are reports of moose in the area, but we've never seen one. The big score, however, was a bobcat we saw on Saco Mountain on Saturday. He crossed the paved road about a hundred yards away. When I said "Look!" the cat turned around and ran back across into the woods. He was a pretty reddish color, not the tawny I have seen. Imagine the odds of seeing 2 bobcats in 2 states in the same week.
I intended to drive home Monday. Monday had other ideas. We woke to a foot of heavy wet snow and no power and things pretty well shut down. I had told Mike he ought to have his camping stove there instead of leaving it at my house. "You just never know" We fired it up on top of the kitchen range and cooked breakfast. We had the woodstove for heat, so we were just fine. The family that owns the house Mike is in, came up from their house next door. We cooked for them and we all shoveled the driveway. Around noon, the power was restored. The folks in Maine are used to this and it was no big deal.
It got colder through the day Monday, into the low teens that night. That froze the new, wet snow and made for some fine skiing conditions Tuesday. The farm Mike goes to had groomed the trails Monday afternoon and made them smooth and fast. I'm not a skiier, but can make forward progress, mostly upright. We had a good time in the morning. Trail conditions were super, nobody else was around and the weather was about perfect.
In all, another fine weekend.

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