August 2009 issue

Road Trippin'

The Van Ripers didn't spend much time at home this past month. In spite of a difficult economy, there were two things of even greater importance that called upon us to gas up and get going: family, and sanity!

Sanity, or the preseration thereof, led us back to a favorite beachside haunt. It's about a four hour drive to Ocean Isle, one of North Carolina's barrier islands between Myrtle Beach and Wilmington. It's a relatively quiet, family-oriented stretch of white sand and blue ocean on a mostly residential island separated from the mainland by the inland waterway and connected by a towering 2-land causeway. No amusement parks, bumper cars, night clubs, or other noisy tourist attactions. Just sun, surf, seagulls, and serenity.

This time, we didn't rent a house or condo. Sticking to a tight budget , we just got a room at the Ocean Isle Inn, a huge motel complex right on the beach. It was perfect! A few days later, we both sported healthy-looking tans (not burns, thanks to SPF 45 or higher) and had blown through a small stack of enteraining novels.

The last stop before heading home was "Capt'n Jack's" seafood market where we picked up some fresh flounder filets. Jack was de-boning them when we walked in. Four hours earlier, they'd been swimming. Four hours later, they were dinner at home. Yum!

A few days later, we saddled up again and headed North to spend some time with family. Irene was throwing a bridal shower for her daughter, and there was a new grandaughter to play with at son Billy and daughter-in-law Mary Alice's house... all in Scranton, PA.

The first few days were a cookie-baking marathon, producing some incredible temptations for yours truly, a weak-willed diabetic! And little Jamie (pictured here), just 18 months old, was amazing! She is already recognizing letters of the alphabet, verbally communicating quite clearly, and generally displaying a very sharp mind and clever wit. She reminds me of my grandaughter Rayne, who turned 9 years old that same week and also shows exceptional intellect and humor.

After a successful bridal shower and too many pizzas and cookies during the stay in Scranton, Irene and I headed back south, ready to buckle down to work again. She has the final stages of her doctoral dissertation to prepare, and I suspected there would be some serious yard word to be done at home. I had not cut the grass since before we went to the beach!

Opting for a scenic route, rather than interstate travel, we stayed on mostly secondary roads through PA, MD , and WVA. What we were treated to was a sampling of stimulus money road projects. Every few miles there would be another flagman at another stetch of one-lane-only traffic! At first it was funny, but by the fourth or fifth time we were no longer amused.

Just before dinner time we ran into completely stopped traffic. A flatbed truck loaded with drywall had overturned on a curve, dumping it's load across all lanes of traffic. No way around. So we sat still for about an hour, until someone cleared a path through the mess.

A day later we finally made it back to our base of operations. I ran over to Meadows Bed & Biscuit to pick up the dogs, imagining how happy they'd be to see me! Turns out they didn't want to leave the kennel!

Is it good to finally be back at home? Well, sort of. The house and yard are a mess, I'll get a nosebleed when the credit card bill comes in, and now I need another vacation! But, yes, I think we're ready for a little bit of "routine" in our lives once more.

Workin' While Away

I guess I don't really take vacations. I just take my work with me when I travel. Or, I should say, I take a portable recording rig with me. If something has to be done, and won't wait for my return to home base, I can generally find a way to make it work no matter where I happen to be. I even make sure that I carry the same model of microphone and the same recording/editing software with me.

A case in point; while at the beach a client needed to make some minor changes to a commercial I had done for a casino in Fresno, CA. This meant that the new voiceover had to closely match the original recording.I was able to get a copy of the original, and used it as a reference to be sure I sounded the same. To avoid background noise and that "hollow" sound of most rooms that are not treated for acoustics, I draped the motel beadspread over a floorlamp and some furniture to create a "tent" in which I could do my recording. It worked very well.

Things were a little trickier in Scranton. I had plenty of work to do, and had planned to do it in a family member's home where we would stay.

Unfortunately, there was no cellular signal at all in that area, so I couldn't work with a client on my phone. And baby Jamie was a noise problem... like, if I made too much noise I would wake her from her nap! So we went looking for a cheap, quiet motel in Scranton... I expected to wind up at the Red Rash Inn (above), but lucked into a new Sleep Inn that was ideal!

I cranked out several spots for Michigan's Davenport University, the US Navy, and others, in a corner of the motel room piled high with pillows, blankets, and other sound-asorbing materials.

I was also able to run some preliminary tests on Source Connect, a real-time, full duplex remote recording plug-in for ProTools, using standard motel internet connections. So far, so good! Can't get it to work with WiFi yet, but with an ethernet connection it seems to work great!

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