I'm not actively blogging here anymore. But if you got here because you were searching for something about bikes, you might want to check out my latest project, Vermont Goldsprints. In summer of 2014, I bought a used goldsprints racing setup and have made it a mission to get more bikes in more people's faces by putting on fun races in unexpected places. Come join me!
Kate's parents visited for the weekend. We got up to Glacier on Friday, though there isn't much to do there this time of year unless you are on skis or snowshoes. They had the gates closed at Lake MacDonald Lodge, which is where I shot this panorama. Blogger wants to compress it down an aweful lot, so shoot on over to my flickr page by clicking on the little photos on the right to see a better version.
The scenery on the way up to the park was obscured by heavy clouds, but those gave way to more or less blue skies on the way back, and the Mission Mountains were all white with tufts of cloud around their summits. We didn't stop on the way back so i didn't take any good pictures there at all.
Yesterday, I had to work at REI at 11 but we were able to get out early in the morning for a croissant at Bernice's and a five-mile round trip walk up along the Rattlesnake before I had to be back in town for my shift. While I worked, Kate and Ben and their parents took a drive down the Bitterroot Valley for more sightseeing and a massive burger lunch at Nap's in Hamilton. Kate and Alyssa and I ate there back over the summer after our day of biking and swimming at Como Lake. The burgers truly are legendary and worth the trip.
In town, we spent a lot of time walking the UM campus and down along the river, showing Bernie and Marci around town, such as it is. It seems like there's never enough time, and certainly another visit's worth of activities for sometime in the future.
Today, we snuck in brunch at the Montana Club before they had to be on their way. The rain that was predicted all weekend started to fall just as they left.
A little over a month ago, my grandfather, Ray Boulanger died. I've been away from this blog since then, communicating with family, feeling regret over not being able to get back east for the funeral, feeling guilty for not calling my grandmother, and writing this post over and over in my head. I'll start with a re-post of the obituary, as published in Foster's Daily Democrat in Dover, New Hampshire:
|Raymond G. Boulanger|
|1925 - 2007|
|Dover – Raymond G. Boulanger, 81, formerly of Tolend Road, died Sunday February 18th at Riverside Rest Home. |
Born in Dover on November 25, 1925 the son of Aremys and Anna (Labonte) Boulanger. He attended Dover schools and has lived here all of his lifetime. He was a member of the Dover Lodge of Elks, The Over 70 Ski Club, Teamsters, and the International Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees. Prior to his retirement he was a trackman for the Boston & Maine Railroad. In his retirement he was employed by Tri-City Dodge in Somersworth for several years. He was a member of St. Joseph Church.
He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Elizabeth T. (Pray) Boulanger, whom he married in 1946. Son David R. Boulanger and his wife Andrea of Monkton, VT. Two grandchildren; Matthew D. Boulanger of Missoula, MT and Nicole J. Boulanger of Burlington, VT. Brother Charles Boulanger of Dover. Two sisters; Eva Buzzell and Anna Hanagan, both of Dover. Several nieces and nephews also survive him. He was pre-deceased by two sisters; Florence Daniels and Edmee Boulanger as well as three brothers; Paul Boulanger, Maurice Boulanger and Clement Boulanger.
Relatives and friends are invited to calling hours on Thursday February 22nd from 9:45 – 10:45 AM at Tasker Funeral Home 621 Central Ave Dover. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Thursday February 22nd at 11:00 AM at St. Joseph’s Church in Dover with burial to follow in St. Charles Cemetery in Dover.
This was the eulogy my father gave at the funeral:
Thank you all for being here and thank you all for the support you’ve given my Mother and Dad over the past few years. Thanks especially for the help you’ve given Andrea and me over the last few days. As I’ve told some of you in the past it’s easy being an only child when you come from such a big and loving family. In saying that, I certainly include friends as family as well.
It’s appropriate that we meet here to say goodbye to my Dad, who came to St. Joseph’s as his parish before this building was even here. Dad liked nothing better than a good sermon and he enjoyed his time in the Holy Name Society here and attended missions and retreats here, often with his friend Sonny Sheehy and others in the crowd from Tolend Road. I have great memories of that crowd at communion breakfasts where our table of fathers and sons set some records for blueberry muffin eating that must still stand today.
My father loved a good time. He was always ready to go and do almost anything…as a kid, it might have been sliding on a double runner sled he built big enough for eight or nine, complete with a steering wheel, or skiing on home-made skis. Later on, it was nights at the Rockingham Ballroom dancing to big band music, a fifty mile round trip for an ice cream cone, a trip up to the lake, a ride around the mountains, and skiing of course, skiing almost anywhere, but especially at Bretton Woods where the very old and the very young ski together, and Black Mountain where the lifts are low and it’s never as windy and cold as at Wildcat, on the other side of the mountain.
Dad knew that stuff. He knew where the slopes were sheltered from the wind, where there was a diner that had “two eggs, home fries, toast and coffee” for a dollar and a quarter, where there were sweetest oysters in Great Bay, and where just about every dirt road in New Hampshire went. He could tune-up your car, paper your walls, upholster your chair and if they didn’t have them, he’d even put steel edges on your skis.
He loved to work and he worked hard, hard enough with his hands to wear through his wedding ring, but here’s the thing: for the most part, he whistled while he worked, because he enjoyed what he was doing. Even so, he always told me that he wanted me to make my living with my head and not my hands, and I’ve done that mostly, but not without knowing just how hard real work is. How could you not learn from a man who laid railroad track in the summer sun and put chains on tractor trailer trucks in the middle of a blizzard? I live and work every day guided by what he taught me with his kind of work and his lessons.
One winter day we were shoveling out our mailbox on Tolend Road. For me, a couple of feet either side of the mailbox was just fine, for Dad, nothing would do but a fine tapering, three foot deep indentation that extended about fifteen feet either side of the mailbox. “Always leave the job a little easier for the next man to come along.” That was Dad’s lesson and that was his life: he always worked hard to make the job easier for the next man to come along. Last week I shoveled out my mailbox just that way.
His lesson was also to always take time to have a good time. In the aftermath of another snowstorm, on that same blind hill by the mailbox, he and I rode straight down the middle of the road on a jackjumper that we’d just made that afternoon we were snowed in. We could’ve been killed by a snowplow, but we weren’t. I’m sure I laughed like a fool and I’m sure he was thinking about flying down Portland Avenue on his old double runner…big enough for the whole gang!
So, after today’s sadness here’s how to remember my father: work hard, but whistle while you’re at it…preferably “In the Mood” or “One O’clock Jump”, and don’t be afraid to take a long ride just to see where the road goes, and of course, stop for ice cream.
I'd like to thank my dad for the eulogy he gave, even though I wasn't there in person to hear it. Pa's death is the first death of an immediate family member for me, and I've never been good at dealing with these types of emotions. But reading that eulogy brought some good and productive tears out, and focused my thoughts a little more in the days the followed the funeral. Pa worked hard, he taught Dad to work hard, and they both taught me the same thing.
Pardon me for fumbling through the rest of this:
I started thinking about how friends, co-workers and my wife and her family have all probably seen me get persistent to a fault in pursuit of fixing some trivial thing that probably ought to be thrown out or abandoned. I never thought about where that tenacity came from. I didn't know Pa very much when he was working, but I know he still got up before down after he retired. I know we could bring him a boat motor, a piece of woodworking, a bicycle, anything, and he'd fix it, better than new.
As I sit at my desk at work, with ArcGIS up and running, a program I have no formal training in, there I am, scouring the Internet and finding just the piece of code I need to drop in to recalculate the acres of some parcels of land, for some report I'm working on. Kate has called twice, wondering where I am. I'm in the garage tightening the headset on a junked bike Ben found somewhere in Missoula, a bike that I had reduced to all of its pieces that morning and reassembled that afternoon, oblivious to lunch or cold or the long shadows racing up Mount Sentinel. I'm driving though my life with total faith that there's always a solution waiting if I just work hard enough to find it. I'm happy in this sort of effort if not whistling, and now I know why.
The work thing is just the beginning. Like my father and grandfather, I love diners and the culture of the rural open road. I love old ski areas and the the culture of riding the rope tow and running gates with the high school team on half-hay half-ice at Cochran's. I love taking drives, like the one I took with Kate last spring along the Blackfoot when the ruts in the snow were so deep the Escort hit bottom a couple of times. I love talking to old guys. Pa and Dad and I all went to the same barber shop once and I, eight years old or something, listened and watched as Pa and Dad talked with the other guys at the shop about some truck that had rolled over on the highway the night before, and it was like I was part of this big adult thing, just because I could nod and grunt along with Pa and Dad as the story unfolded.
Those are things I have carried with me, not knowing where they came from, but there are also plenty of memories. Driving with Pa and Dad in Pa's old truck. Pa letting the local kids sled on the hill behind his house. Pa making sure Nicole and I got the extra-large ice cream cones at some roadside place so we could be kids and eat ourselves silly and ruin our suppers. Pa on the same trip pretending to fall asleep at the wheel just to get Grammie's goat. Pa and Dad and Nicole and I all skiing at Sunapee. Pa taking me to a bike shop to get a new shifter for my bike when it broke while we were visiting. Pa and Dad and I always going for a drive together in Pa's or Dad's new car whenever we got together. Pa and dad and I tarring the roof of Pa's house. The three of us walking Pa's back 40 so he could show us where he sunk some railroad ties on a muddy part of the trail. Hitting golf balls in Pa's backyard in the spring. The silver dollars he always gave us, the folding circular change purse he carried and how he had one replicated for me one Christmas. Later, the endless pocket of loose change he kept. Pa's basement with the steep narrow stairs and the wonderful oil smell and boxes of old Popular Mechanics magazines. Pa mowing the grass on a riding mower with a Granby Zoo bumper sticker.
I'm not sure who this message is for, or if it's just something I want to make sure is said, but when I was growing up, older people scared me. Going into the nursing home to see my great grandmother scared me. Pa's gruff way with kids scared me a little, too. As I've spent the last month mulling over Pa's death, thinking about the ways his life and mine intersected, I've come to the realization that there have been times I let that irrational fear of the different overwhelm me and influence my actions. But those fears are short-lived and are never what remains when the person is gone, or even just when the moment is gone. Beyond the good memories and the discovery of the roots of some of who I am, what I am taking away from this experience is that I never should be afraid of connecting someone just because I perceive a gap between us. The human experience is universal and the sooner we all get over that, the better.