Out of the loop

Cutting back on technology is a bit like dieting: you start with the best intentions, but eventually the potato chips lure you back.

I’ve tried to wean us off the TV but it was too tempting. The only solution was to go cold turkey.

Capon Springs

Which is why we booked a vacation at Capon Springs — a family retreat in West Virginia. I hadn’t been there in 30 years but little has changed. The grounds are green and landscaped, the pool is positively frigid (fed by spring water) and the rooms are basic. No TV, no air conditioning. Just the fundamental amenities.

Sitting room, in the main building

And when you’re subsisting on fundamental amenities, losing electricity doesn’t seem that catastrophic. At least that’s what we thought after Friday night’s storm. Martin had packed his entire flash light collection and the resort ran its kitchen and water supply on a backup generator. Living low-tech wasn’t a great stretch.

We paddled in the pool and hiked the woods, blissfully unaware that the outage was anything but local. A symptom of our mountainous setting, we assumed, until a blip of technology wriggled through: a text message from the farm sitter. Everyone’s ok but obviously no power.

That’s how we learned about the storm’s wide swath and the magnitude of the outage.

The resort talked about shutting down but remained open for those who wished to stay.

We wished to stay. A sweet setting with meals, functioning plumbing and a pool beat a simpering farm with a bunch of needy animals.

Sunday afternoon we returned to reality, just as the power company restored electricity. The farm escaped the worst of the storm.

And what did those kids do back at home? They went straight for the TV and reached for the ipad. I cracked open the computer.

Despite the convenience of ice cubes and overhead lights, I’d rather be back at Capon Springs — bobbing in the pool or tucked in our woodsy cottage, listening to a rumbly generator.

Go Fly a Kite

When I was a kid, kite flying was solely a beach activity, where both wind and unfettered space were abundant. At sunset Dad and I staked out an empty slice of sand and I’d pound down the shoreline, kite in hand, until Dad yelled, “okay, let it go.” The kite would hesitate, catching a huff of humid salt air, then make a few desperate dives before the wind finally stepped in. Dad would unspool the string and that kite would climb higher and higher. We’d marvel at how far it went… until it eventually made a suicide plunge into the ocean.

Our kids don’t have to wait for summer vacation. Wind is plentiful. So is the space, if you don’t mind the high grass itching your legs.

Monday was perfectly breezy so we broke out our dragon kite and set it free. Well, not totally free. We let it run on a long leash. And then we reeled it in again.

Hot Pants

A family member was kind enough to give Hadley the Barbarian these ski pants at Christmas. And they’ll come in handy in a couple of days. Nice, right?

Only problem: the kid’s going to be tripping security sensors right and left. And I’m not saying that someone has sticky fingers but…

…did these pants fall off the back of a truck or what? Ouch, they’re burning my hands, they’re so hot!

So yesterday, I brought them with me while shopping at a ski store. I first picked out some gear because a) I actually needed to buy stuff and b) to convince the sales lady that I’m legit. Of course I tripped the alarm when I arrived, so the sales staff was tailing me from the get go.

Anyway, I deposited my clothes at the register, whipped out yee-ole credit card, and then off-handedly mentioned, “Oopsie daisy, someone gave my kid these pants but they forgot to take off the security tag. Can you just pop this off?”

“It’s from another store,” I added. (translation: even if I did steal it, at least I didn’t rip off your store.)

“Well, I know that,” sales lady says with a touch of scorn. “Our tags are different and I can tell you right now, our machine can’t take this off.”

I made her try anyway, but finally she said, “Why don’t you take it back to the store you stole it from and they can remove it?”

Okay, so she didn’t say exactly that, but the look of face said: you, are shady acres.

And at that very moment a security guy strolled through the door and leaned up against the counter. But apparently it was just the rent-a-cop making his rounds.

So my next stop was a guaranteed bastion for bad behavior, a place saturated with ways to buck the system. The internet, of course. I picked up a ton of tips on do-it-yourself security tag removal.

Pry it up with scissors, then use plyers to gently rotate the round end. Wrap a bunch of rubber bands around the metal post to widen the gap until it pops free. Use a flat head screw driver to pry the thing apart, but only if it doesn’t contain ink (Ink? who knew?).

But then a little farther down: put the garment in the freezer for a couple of hours to solidify the ink, then crack it open.

One enterprising individual actually sells a curved pin that disengages the device like the stores do.

But in the end, I didn’t need internet tips. The farrier came by today! And anyone who pulls horse shoes can figure out how to pop one of these babies off.

Bending a horse shoe nail into a make-shift skeleton key didn’t work. But five minutes later, ta da! Yet another use for a good pair of nippers…