Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A very Maine week

Went moose hunting with my dad last week. Its kind of a big deal since there were only 2140 permits this year. Dad drew wildlife management district 19 which is waaay outside of our normal range. This is "downeast" which is to say the far eastern corner of Maine.

Dad rented the Mickey Finn cottage at Shoreline Camps in Grand Lake Stream, Maine population 109. Driving to Grand Lake Stream takes half an hour less than driving to our camp in Caribou although its nearly 50 miles closer...

A few months ago dad went up to scout around since we don't know the area. Fortunately there woods roads just like up north.  My uncle Guy and dad's friend Dave also came out so the four of us piled into my pickup truck and into the woods we went.
This is good moose country and we saw tons of tracks:

The first day was mostly a bust, we saw one partridge but it was really windy so Dave couldn't get close enough. Dave said he heard a couple others in the woods at different times in the day but no luck there. We saw a porcupine on the side of the road and dad took a couple shots at him with the .410 but he didn't seem terribly bothered by it. We also saw a turkey, I had never seen a turkey on a woods road before since we don't have all that many in Arostook county. I'd also never seen a lone turkey before but we didn't see any others.

Late in the day we found this cow moose:

She was big, probably in the 500-600# range, about 80 yards from the truck. Dad's permit specified a male so she was safe. We all agreed that if she had been a male it would have been worth shooting but she was out in a big swamp and it would have been a long hard job to retrieve the body.

On the way back to camp I noticed a couple roads I hadn't seen in the morning and made a note to try them the next day and I'm glad I did, on day 2 we hadn't even reached the end of the first road when there was a moose standing right in the middle of the road. Moose are big critters and standing in the middle of the road this one looked like a giant towering over the truck even though it was a good 50 yards off.

Being that we were heading east and the moose was right in front of us the glare from the sun made it hard to tell if there were antlers or not. I was quick with the field glasses and called out "Antlers!" Dad sent an 11.5mm, nearly 1oz bullet down range and the moose dropped like a stone. The bullet took him in the right shoulder and while it was a good shot and he wasn't going to get up again he wasn't dying with any real speed. The other barrel of dad's cape gun had a 16ga round ball which being that its 16ga (ie 16 balls to the pound) weighs in right at 1oz. That ball deflated the right lung and ended any suffering real quick.

Thus began the dirty work. Being the good son this falls to me. I'd done the job once in '99 when I shot a moose and again in 2009 when dad shot his little one but on a big moose like this the field dressing is a big job. The skin is thick and theres a membrane between it and the internals that has to be cut, you don't want to cut too deep though since you don't want to puncture the guts which will stink and can spoil the meat. I was very careful and managed to not cut anything bad, in all the field dressing took me close to an hour.

Finally the big job of loading the animal started, we had brought ramps with us and tied a strap between the tie down points at the front of the pickup, we then used a come-along to winch the moose up the ramps. The come-along cable was short so we could only go about 3 feet at a time with the moose trying to slide back down the ramp every time we had to reset. If you've ever used a come-along you know how frustrating they are.

After another hour we were loaded and headed back to camp. We paused for ice, its important to get the body cooled as soon as possible to reduce the possibility of spoilage so I put 10# of ice into the body cavity right away. We quickly packed up camp and headed to Waite, Maine to get the moose weighed, tagged and logged, this is also the traditional time for picture taking:

Waite is a small place (population 101) and we were definitely the biggest thing that happened all day. The cape gun was a character in this story in its own right and something nobody in Waite had seen before.
Places like Waite and Grand Lake Stream are always full of characters and we met a bunch of people who claimed to never have seen a moose before. I find that odd since we had seen so many tracks in the woods but we decided that those people must never leave the paved roads. If you want to see animals you need to go where the animals are.

In Waite I bought another 20# of ice to pack the body with for the 2 hour ride north to Caribou to our butcher Scotty of Scotty's Meat Shop. Scotty has cut all our moose for us and does a fantastic job. Since it was early in the week anyway it got to hang and age for a day or two which really improves the flavor and texture of the meat. The last time we shot a moose the meat still came wrapped in paper, these days its vacuum sealed:

I took the picture after we'd already taken about 1/3 of the meat, in all we used all the coolers we had, plus we borrowed one from Scotty, bought another and filled an apple box:

Scotty cut the skull cap for us so we can have the antlers. When I shot the moose in 1999 I cut the skull cap myself, having done it once paying Scotty $50 to do it is a great investment...

There was so much meat my parent's upright freezer was overwhelmed, we had to tape the door shut so meat wouldn't fall out.

Thats after filling the freezer in the fridge upstairs. Angie and I brought a cooler full of meat home the next day which helped the situation. Dad will give Guy and Dave meat too so this animal will feed lots of folks.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Sweet home Chicago

Okay not really home but a fun place for a quick vacation.

Our train ride dropped us off at Union Station in Chi-town, one of the nicest train stations I've ever been in. We hopped a cab to the Intercontinental, don't think we're rich because we stayed there, I travel a lot for work and stay in Holiday Inn hotels. Since Intercontinental is a part of the Holiday Inn chain we get to stay there for free on points. Strangely I don't appear to have taken any pictures of the hotel. The Chicago Intercontinental is a really nice hotel with a really cool pool. If you get the chance to check it out its totally worth it. We've stayed in an Intercontinental before and as far as the room goes the Intercontinental Boston is nicer, the bathroom especially in Boston was stunning.

Anyway the first thing we did was get lunch, the train was 3 hours late remember so instead of arriving just after breakfast we had now missed lunch. Another thing I didn't get a picture of was the amazing Peri-Peri chicken we had for lunch. Angie had never had Peri-Peri before and loved it. Walking back to the hotel we saw a place advertising fried chicken and donuts, gotta check that out right?
We shared a chocolate frosted old-fashioned, it was excellent...

Originally we were going on a Segway tour at 11:30am but now it got bumped to 3pm so we walked through Millennium Park and found "The Bean".
I don't know what the sculpture's actual name is but it looks like a big metal bean. Its cool, you should go see it.

I was a little nervous of the Segway but it turned out to be really easy, lean forward to go forward, lean back to slow down or go backward. Push the handlebar in the direction you want to go, no problem. Our tour took us through Grant park all the way to the stadium the Bears play in. Totally worth it.

After the Segway tour we literally ran back to the hotel to get ready for our dinner cruise. I don't have any pics of the cruise but it was a very nice dinner with dancing and a little cruising around the bay by Navy Pier. Basically the ship cruised back and forth because there was some chop out in the lake and they didn't want people getting sick. I bet in the summer its very nice to sit on deck with a cocktail.

Saturday we were up early for a pizza making class at the original Pizzeria Uno:

The thing I'd never realized about Uno's pizza is that the cheese is on the bottom... Angie bought a couple pizza pans so we can make our own pizza at home. After class it was back to the hotel for a nap, this was a low-sleep trip.

That afternoon we checked out Navy Pier and rode in the Ferris wheel there.
The white ship to the left of the frame is the Odessey 2 which we'd ridden the night before.

Finally we had dinner with friends at Chicago Cut which was spendy but delicious, worth saving up for.
Sunday we flew home, Medway to Albany and then a long drive home. Monday I was up early to fly to LA, what a week it has been...

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

A little trip by rail

Angie and I celebrated our 15th anniversary the other day. For that we took a trip to Chicago by rail.

We picked up the train in Albany and had a sleeper car overnight to Chi-town. For the two of us the sleeper car was just about double what it would have cost to fly but included 2 meals which mitigates the cost some. It took just about 18 hours since the train was 3 hours late but dropped us off right in downtown Chicago and the parking at the train station was way cheaper than an airport.

The smaller sleeper berths are called a "roomette" which is pretty descriptive:

Imagine a 7 foot square 8 feet high and you get the picture. During the day the upper bunk is raised so the room is actually kind of short but not really so bad. There are two seats facing each other with a small table in between. If you look over Angie's right shoulder (left side of the picture) you might spot the sink which folds down from the wall. Immediately below it is the toilet. Obviously you get friendly when using the bathroom. Generally one of us would step into the hall giving the other some privacy. The bathroom is a blessing, we used the public toilets a couple times, they appear to get cleaned during the long stop in Albany and not again until Chicago, in the morning they were pretty ripe...

We brought the wrong bag on this trip, you can see it takes up a good portion of the room. I did eventually get it stuffed into the little cubby for it above the door but it took some effort. Two small bags would have been a much better choice.
The seats were relatively comfortable and at night folded down into a bed, above another bed descends. Don't think you're going to sleep two people in one bed, these are cots with just enough space for one. We found the upper bunk to have a much firmer mattress than the lower and about halfway through the night we switched places. I kind of liked the upper and Angie preferred the lower so it was nice we had two options. Eye masks and earplugs are probably a good idea if you're the sort who has difficulty sleeping.

Two meals were included with our trip, neither was anything to write home about but both were adequate. I had beef short rib for dinner, Angie had pad thai. With a list price for dinner somewhere around $40 I'd have been upset if I'd had to pay for it but it wasn't bad for being included. For breakfast I had french toast, Angie had an omelet, I think I got the better of the two choices. The coffee was surprisingly good and plentiful. There was also juice and water available in our car most all the time and coffee in the morning.

This is the shower, yes a shower in the train. It wasn't bad, small of course, but the water was hot and the soap and towels were pretty nice. I liked that we had the option.

So overall I was pleased, this is something I would do again. I'd bring more snacks and beverages though and some small speakers for my tablet, we watched a couple movies as we traveled but the train is fairly noisy and one of the movies was kind of quiet. The train has wifi which is surprisingly adequate, you're not going to watch YouTube but for the occasional email or article or checking Facebook it was fine.