Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas Eve

A Merry Christmas Eve to you all.

Christmas Eve, to me, carries more magic than Christmas Day. Christmas Eve is the culmination of all of the anticipation, the preparation... right around bedtime, with the fire softly dying down, and the glow of the lights in the living room. I could just lay on the couch for hours with quiet Christmas music going and stare at the tree. Presents? Who cares?

We watched my favorite Christmas Story last night -- Dickens' Christmas Carol. It was the 1938 version -- I'm not sure I remember seeing that one before. But in it was a line that may be unique to this version, or maybe I just overlooked it before.

It was Scrooge's nephew Fred at his Christmas gathering -- after talking about how his uncle Scrooge thinks Christmas is a humbug, he says:

"How can anything that gives an excuse for this" (meaning the togetherness and festivity they were sharing at time) "a humbug?"

Merry Christmas, all!

Friday, December 02, 2005


Well, we went to the Nutcracker performed by the Minnesota Ballet here at the University Concert Series. At almost 42 years old and a Christmas freak to boot, it's about damned time I saw the Nutcracker. Oh, I've seen bits and pieces here and there on TV, but never the whole thing.

Come to think of it that was my first ballet.

We went to the Heidelberg first -- because we could walk from there, and it was convenient and inexpensive. It brought back memories for Kristin -- apparently all the girls from her sorority had a standing appointment there every week to debrief each other on the last weeks crazy happenings. So she had a few stories.

Then we walked to Jesse Auditorium. It was a cold night for a walk. The performance was a dress rehearsal for the real thing tomorrow and saturday. Ryan and Kristie are going to see it (same troupe) in St. Louis on Sunday. So that's why the tickets were cheap -- but to my untrained eye, I thought it went off pretty well, regardless. They didn't have to stop it at any point. They said they might. Any slips were quickly recovered and they could've happened on any night.

Very pretty. Lots of pretty chicks in flowy things flitting and twirling all over the stage and smiling a lot. And a few guys to hold them up so they don't fall. ;-) Seriously, it was pretty enjoyable. Young girl gets a nutcracker for Christmas, and apparently somebody spiked her nog with acid and she went on this odd trip involving rats & nutcrackers & faries & queens & snow. Or maybe it was a dream. I don't know. You make the call.

Monday, November 28, 2005

This is freaking hilarious

Ok, maybe my quirky sense of humor is showing here, but....

Tiki Bar TV

Need Quicktime.

You actually need ITunes for episode 10A (outtakes from 10).

Oh, and despite the disclaimer, the first episode is worth watching.

Thanks to camiimac for the heads up on this.

C4/\/\1, U R 2 fr34x1n c001 R0TFLM40

Almost a Month

It has been pointed out to me by my lovely spouse that I haven't posted to this blog in almost a month.

Actually, I didn't really need it pointed out to me. I knew that -- but it was motivation, nonetheless. Life has gotten a bit busier and you know... sometimes the day to day stuff doesn't seem too important....

But... in the imortal words of John Lennon (who wrote quite a few):

Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans
which has been kind of the deal behind this blog. You write the little things down that happen over time and then you can look back and see what you've been up to. As can others.

So, where to begin.... um .. a month ago, we were talking about unfriendly neighbors. Well that's settled down, and frankly, there is some dispute on which neighbor it was -- so we're just going to drop it.

My parents' 50th wedding anniversary party went off pretty much hitchless. Maybe that's a bad choice of words, as it's the 50th anniversary of them getting hitched ;-)

We had a dinner. All of Mom's brothers and sisters showed up. Uncle Eddie showed up with his wife Pat -- and Aunt Pat California Florida WOULD have been there if she weren't layed out recovering from chemotherapy. Damned cancer doesn't have any respect for anything, does it? She called my cell phone to talk to Mom and Dad during the party, though.

Went back and hung out at Joel & Dawn's that night with cousin Dawn and her husband Marty. Played pool in the basement. Drank stuff. Talked. The usual.

Next morning my brother Chris said Mass at St. Mary's Assumption (Society of St. Pius X Church) and Mom and Dad re-made their vows afterward. Then there was a brunch at the School (the old Queen of the Holy Rosary school) with all of the church people and all the relatives.

It was a really big deal for Mom. I think it was a really big deal for all her siblings as well. It was so nice to see all of them again. Several of them went out to Mom and Dad's and stayed overnight (the Mathis' were kind enough to offer their house down the road) and Bettie and Mary stayed until Thursday.

It was a big deal for Dad, too, but he's not one to gush.

Kevin went and picked up Mom-in-Law for Thanksgiving. It was a dream come true for her -- getting to spend 16 hours alone (and that's just in the car) with her grandson. Brian's done it before, but this was Kevin's first trip. Kevin really enjoyed it. "Grammy", as they call her, had lots of old stories to tell.... the kind it's good for grandkids to hear.

We've had some great correspondence with Brian... his digital camera has come in handy, and he's had several missions where he gets to get involved with Iraqi village children and some of their parents. Speaking of that, I started a new blog last night... -- I have more to put out there, be patient, it's coming in the next few days. I only have one story out there.

He actually called and talked to us (Me, Vicki, and Grammy) for about an hour on Wednesday.

We had gone to Kristin's last basketball game the night before -- she coaches one of the JV girls basketball teams at the school where she teaches. They lost, but hey, they played well. Well, at least in the first game.

Thanksgiving was a small one for us. We typically have more people -- but Ken did come for dinner which gave us a good opportunity to take a family shot for Brian.

We still have a LOT of turkey left over.

I had ordered the ingredients for an Irish Red Ale to make for Thanksgiving as Ryan wanted some to serve... he and Scott (a friend of his) ended up doing the brewing while I was at Mom and Dad's anniversary party. It was a double batch, so we split it, 5 gallons apiece. It's good.

I think Ryan wants an imperial stout for Christmas so we need to get down on that.

I also made shrub for Christmas, and we drank some of the cider for Thanksgiving. It was very dry. Had to add honey.

Thinking about buying a DVR.... stay tuned.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Unfriendly Neighbors

So yesterday on my way home I went to the bank. When I turned back out on the street I got behind a police car and I ended up following it... all the way home.

It parked in the street across from our house. I went around it into our driveway and got changed to go out with Brian's finance and her family. I looked out and there was a second police car across the street, talking to my two neighbors across the street.

High crimes and misdemeanors? I decided to go see what was up.

My neighbors were out talking after getting home from work, having a beer and wiping down Daryl's truck in the circle drive off our street that goes in front of the three houses across the street from us. Apparently somebody had called the police, saying that there were two guys "drinking out in the street" and they were afraid they might "get in a car and drive somewhere" (presumably intoxicated).

The police showed up, probably expecting drunken people staggering in the middle of the street generally being rude and disturbing the peace -- maybe even posing a danger to the neighborhood. What they found was two neighbors who had just gotten home from work sharing a beer in a circle drive off of the main street, well out of traffic on our cul de sac. And probably on Homeowner's Association property rather than city property, but this hasn't been verified yet.

Now we've been socializing with our neighbors since we moved in. I think it's a good thing. Part of what's wrong with America today is that we don't know our neighbors. We don't have the social bonds we once had. We don't look after one another, we don't know one another, and we are, as a result, generally less polite than we once were as a society.

This socializing often involves beer or other adult beverages.

We are not rowdy. We're not loud. We're polite, considerate people. Our mamas raised us right.

However, there is a city Open Container ordinance, and technically one can not have an adult beverage in an open container on public property, which includes sidewalks and streets. Apparently the people who complained said we were always carrying alcohol across the street to each others houses as well. I'm almost positive this law was put into place to give police a tool with which to ticket people who are disturbing the peace. I seriously doubt it was ever intended to keep me from popping open a beer in my yard and walking across the street to socialize harmlessly with my neighbor. And generally, that's not the way it is enforced, either, because most neighbors understand that and the police generally won't go out looking for it if nobody's complained. I think that was the assumption when the ordinance was passed.

The police warned my neighbors about the ordinance and moved on.

But I got to thinking, who would have complained and why? And there is one set of neighbors that sprang immediately to mind. They are renters. When they moved in, we tried inviting them to join us in our little social gatherings, and they neither politely or impolitely declined. At first, we could talk to the mariarch and she seemed a little standoffish but not downright unfriendly. We'd wave, and they'd nod, or we'd say "hi" and they'd say "hi" back.

Ultimately, they were a huge improvement over the previous neighbors who had fairly frequent late night visits from people who had no respect for others who may be sleeping in a neighborhood. However, one irritating thing about these new neighbors is that they would often come home late at night and park ( our bedroom is in the front of the house) with their bass-intensive music blaring, permeating our bedroom and waking us up. They'd even sit there and listen until the last song was over. We never said anything to them.

On weekends, the daughter and her son would often clean and wash their car with their bass-intensive music blaring on their "Kicker®" type car system. You could hear it all the way to the back of our house, and our windows and doors were closed. Not only was it irritating, but my wife was trying to watch TV and went out and asked them to turn it down and they did. We thought that was the end of that.

Within the next week or so we noticed that they would not look at us. We'd say "hello" and they wouldn't look up or even acknowledge our presence. At first we thought "well, maybe they just had a bad day".... but this has continued to this day.

After a few weeks we also connected the dots and noticed that they weren't playing their music loud anymore, when they came home at night or when they were washing their car. So we figured maybe somebody had called the police on them for disturbing the peace and that they may have assumed it was us. Which it wasn't, but I don't blame whoever did if that is indeed the case. What they were doing was rude, selfish, and anti-social. And also against the city noise ordinance.

So I figure this was a retaliation call. Well, fine. They want to play that way, we will have to stick to the letter of the law and see if they continue to harass us. Mean time, we will continue to be polite. I'm sure they want us to get ruffled -- give them a feeling of power. Well, I'm not gonna do that for them.

This is clearly a case of someone using a law for a purpose it was never intended to be used for, but must be enforced on demand because that's the way it was written. When laws like this are written, it is assumed that common sense and discretion will prevail, but a disgruntled neighbor can use it to harrass his or her neighbors if they want to. That's wrong.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Life goes in waves - as do the seasons

I get busier, I get less busy... I've been busier. Mostly just more little stuff to do. So I haven't posted much lately.

It's been an exceptional fall for Mid Missouri. The early turners (leaves) have been spectacular and have lasted a long time. The weather has been nearly perfect for it.

Most people aren't aware that one of the biggest determining factors for fall colors is temperature.

Warm days (50's & 60's ... maybe 70's) and cool nights (30's & 40's -- but not freezing) for an extended period brings out the best in the leaves. The tree stops supplying nutrients to the leaves. The clorophyll disappears, and what's left is some sugars & pigments trapped in the leaves.

We love fall. It's our favorite time of year. We share that with our neighbors, the Williams'. So last weekend we went to Hermann, Mo to the Stone Hill Winery. It was a cool, mostly cloudy day. The drive, even on I-70, showcased some spectacular foliage, and of course the drive down Mo-19 is pretty any time of year -- especially right now. We sat at a picnic table overlooking the town. It's still Oktoberfest in Hermann, and it was pretty crowded. Brought some cheese and crackers and beef sticks and fruit and had some of their "regular" red and a bottle of their Norton (that's some good stuff there). Kristie had a bottle of Seval (white).

A cold front blew in in the late afternoon, dropping the temperature from about 60 to 43 as the rain moved in. Fortunately we had left for home minutes before. We went home and started a fire in the fireplace. Had some hot apple cider, too. And Sunday we made up a pot of soup beans & corn bread and watched "The Frighteners". Halloween you know.

Earlier, on Friday evening, Kristin had us down for a "Warsaw vs Ashland" football party. She is from Warsaw, but she lives just south of us in Ashland. Her parents and some friends from Warsaw were up for the game and we had a bbq. Kevin and Adrienne came over. And despite dire predictions to the contrary Warsaw kind of whupped up on Ashland. It was like 45-3 at halftime or something close to that and the footall fans came back to the party. Kristin even got a new grill for the occasion.

And astoundingly enough, Mizzou beat Nebraska saturday 41-24. Ryan and I had turned it off at halftime as it appeared Mizzou was in the midst of pulling one of its famous self destruction acts. That's probably why we won. Right.

Smashed my finger at Dad's a couple weekends ago cutting wood. Right between two pieces of wood as I was lifting one off the end of the trailer and another piece was tossed right into my left middle finger. Some tendon damage -- not broken. It's healing slowly. Joel, Dad, and I managed a couple of cords of wood, bringing them up to three.

Bart has plaque problems -- or had them. Took him to the vet friday, got him an antibiotic -- and monday he went in to get the plaque cleaned. It's clean. He wasn't able to eat before -- it hurt too bad. I knew the moment he hissed at a treat he had started to eat and ran away that he had some sort of dental problem. Dental. Mental. Coincidence????

Making some cider. Real cider, that is. Got a gallon of apple cider and added some Oktoberfest yeast to it, and an airlock. I thought some Apple Wine sounded good for Thanksgiving. It's going good now. Probably just a couple of weeks.

The mantle clock broke over the weekend. The little dongle the pendulum hangs from broke. Have to figure out how I'm going to construct a new one. I think it will involve strips of metal cut from a razor blade, but I haven't figured out yet how to put it together.

Well, that's about it for now.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Mini Vacation

Ok, to recap the trip....

We took off about noon Friday after packing Molly, Kristie's Ford Escape. With four people, camping and then a trip to Eureka Springs, AR on the agenda, packing light was key. Most of the camping gear was strapped atop the car in a couple of large military duffels (the big 50" one dubbed a "grammy bag" because you can fig your grammy in one). Also our tent and four camping chairs strapped up there.

On our way down we stopped at the traditional Rolla Steak & Shake for a late lunch, then buzzed on down to Salem, where we bought a pie at Mom's Homemade Pies. From there, the rest of the way down to the Alley Spring camp ground, where Ryan and I set to work setting up tents and Vicki and Kristie went to buy some firewood at Harvey's and pay for the campsite.

They came back. I know Ryan's propensity for burning lots of wood, so I started tromping the woods nearby for deadfall. There was a large fallen cottonwood tree, and Ryan and I cut and dragged a couple of smallish branches up to the campsite and cut them up.

We cooked up poor boy packets for dinner -- Vicki and Kristie put them together in foil and we put them on the grate over a bed of hot coals for about an hour. Had beer, talked, and ate as it got dark. We had Mom's blackberry pie for dessert.

Went to bed about 9:30 -- we were all tired. There was a large group about 150 yards away that stayed up talking and laughing -- they were having fun. It wouldn't have been annoying if I weren't trying to sleep. Fortunately, I brought earplugs.

Apparently a pack of wild dogs and coyotes loudly checked out the campsite. Ryan and Vicki heard them -- they were howling and yipping and growling and sniffing all over the campsite. All I heard was one growl through my earplugs and I heard nothing after that. I chalked it up to one of those things you hear in your sleep -- but apparently not.

We slept on an air mattress with a mattress pad and a sleeping bag on top of that, flannel sheets over that, and a fleece sleeping bag and another sleeping bag over us as a "quilt". With our long pj's on, we were quite comfortable except that our faces got cold as the temperature dipped into the mid 30's.

We got up and made breakfast -- scrambled eggs, bacon, and sausage -- and Pie.

Vicki and Kristie went for a walk -- Ryan and I went back to the cottonwood tree and got a bunch more wood and cut it up. It got up to about 50 degrees and we hit the showers. The showers have hot water, but the shower rooms are unheated.

From there, we all went down to Alley Spring for the "Haunting in the Hills" daytime activities where we saw furriers, weavers, lean-tos, bows and arrows, a blacksmith, mountain men, the old school, soap making, apple butter making, rope weaving, basket & bucket making, wooden shingle making, moonshine making, butter making, bee keeping and a beautiful afternoon. We had lunch by the Alley Spring branch creek. I collected a little watercress for my home watercress garden out of the creek -- and a few springs of spearmint that was growing along side.

We went back to camp about 4:00 to get a fire going for dinner. I made mint julep juice out of the mint and some sugar. Vicki and Kristie went walking again, and came back and made up poor boy packets which we again cooked over the hot coals. Ryan and I had a couple of brewskis, too.

After dinner, we went back to Alley Springs and went on a couple of the after dark "Haunting in the Hills" tours -- the "Lost Voices of the Ozarks" tour -- which consisted of a walk down a trail with several stops where a lone character would give a speal on what his or her life in the Old Tyme Ozarks was like.

The other tour was the graveyard tour -- in the Alley graveyard, which was again more informational than spooky -- but the lady tried.

Then of course we had to get back and get the fire cracking again for marshmallows & s'mores. We went to bed a little after 11.

It didn't get as cold that night -- only about 42 -- and showers were a little easier. We broke down camp and headed down the road toward Eureka Springs -- a good distance from where we were. We ate brunch at Hillbilly Junction in Willow Springs, and drove the rest of the way to Eureka Springs, AR.

Ryan and Kristie had a spa appointment at the Crescent Hotel at 5:30, and we were to go to dinner afterwards at Ermilio's Italian Restaurant after that. So they dropped us off in old downtown where the shops were closing fast on a Sunday evening. We went to the cheap leather shop and Vicki got a purse and I got a buttpack and a couple of pouches for my pipes. We ended up at Chelsea's bar where this newgrass/bluegrass band "The Jeff & Vida Band" were playing. Turns out they're from New Orleans. They were quite good. Chelsea's appears to be a bar where the locals hang. They only take cash, which'll keep a lot of tourists out right there. We had wandered in there last year and I thought it was kinda neat. It's a bar with an enclosed courtyard with wooden tables and a balcony -- two floors to the bar -- and a small wooden stage for bands to play on.

The locals are a varied bunch. Eureka Springs is a very "diverse" town. It's very gay friendly, it's a biker hangout, there are hillbillies and hippies and artists, etc all intermingling with each other. We had a couple of Guinness's and listened to the band before heading back to meet Ryan and Kristie for dinner.

There was about an hour wait, so we sat in the bar at Ermilios -- more of a "living room" with a bar in it since Ermilios is in an old house up on the hill. The food was good. I decided to just go with spaghetti and meatballs. I figure the best way to test out an Italian restaurant is to see how good their red sauce is. It was excellent. Vicki also had the spaghetti and meatballs. Frankly, I forget what Ryan and Kristie had, but I do remember they enjoyed it.

Back to the Holiday Inn Express to sleep.

Monday we got up and started walking Eureka Springs as the shops slowly opened between 9 & 10. We ate at Geraldi's Pizza -- kind of the high point of our trip, since they have THE BEST PIZZA! Odd to find a New York Pizza place run by a Brit in the Arkansas Ozarks. But Eureka Springs is just that kind of place.

We shopped around at the gift shops, art galleries, tobacco shop, and of course the ladies hit the jewelry and clothing shops -- not a lot of buying, but a lot of looking. We were going to go to the haunted tour of the Crescent Hotel at the top of the hill that night, but we decided $17.50 a person was a bit steep. So we went on a horse & buggy ride instead. The lady knew a lot about the neighborhood and we encouraged her to share with us. So she did.

Then we went and ate at the Autumn Breeze restaurant -- another great restaurant (but we'd like to speak to them about their decor -- it doesn't fit the restaurant's food or name. Looks ""Upscale Kountry" with cheesy wallpaper and curtains. There are a couple of nice archways and the windows are arched as well -- they could really class it up with some paint and perhaps some solid colored window dressings -- maybe do an Autumn Color theme since it is the "Autumn Breeze". The blue & flowered wallpaper just doesn't cut it.
On the other hand, the food is great. I had a filet mignon, Vicki and Kristie had some scallops in a sherry sauce.... can't remember what beef Ryan had -- it was all very good. And we all had chocolate soufflet's for dessert. They are the best there, and hot out of the oven served with a mound of whipped cream.

Tuesday we drove home, stopping at Surplus City in Springfield so I could buy us a couple of military duffels... I could have spent hours in that store. But we had to press on to Lamberts, home of the throwed rolls for the traditional "last lunch" on the way home from Eureka Springs. It was a quiet trip home the rest of the way. We were all full and tired.

And that's the way it was.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Reveling at the Faire

This past weekend was the Mark/Mike/Phil weekend, which was an all-guy weekend that centered on the KC Rennasiance Festival. Mark is working there as the undertaker.... I went as my usual minstrel with the lute, and Mike (who could out-play me any day on a guitar) went as a magician.

We were there from open to close -- ran into Mark (ahem, "Moribond") several times and watched him do his scthick with people -- approaching groups of people and having them select a dead person from among themselves which he then comes up with a ceremony for... with much mirth intertwined.

Mike and I strolled as I plucked at my lute. We watched a magician's show and saw several of the musicians' performances. Lady Nancy, Matty Striker & Pope Loy, and Doug Harvey. We could hear the pirate show across from the Public House on the Wharf, too.

We also ran into the O'Malley sisters, three lovely ladies who work a pirate sort of life. We ran into them in the morning, then saw them in the noon parade. We moved back toward the food and ran into the parade again, this time seeing Mark. The O'Malley sisters basically "endowed" us as "stalkers" for the rest of the day. (That's Skye O'Malley to in the hat there).

I bought Matty's new CD. We sat down and listned to Doug Harvey, (a fellow Rowan member along with Matty -- actually Marianne Carter) and I really enjoyed his warm voice and cittern playing. Just him, solo... so I bought his CD as well. He remembered my lute from last year and gave it a little play. We made a little small chit-chat... they're out of Lawrence, KS -- I Doug and Matty are apparently with KU.

Mike and I figured out that we really have no characters to go into so we really couldn't engage anyone. Too bad, it would have been fun to come up with off the cuff scthick. Mike eventually did a magic trick for a boy in a wheel chair, and I eventually worked up the nerve to sing a song for some silly teenage girls who asked me to. While I played and sang "Hares On the Mountain" they waved their cell phones in the air. I'm so unhip that it wasn't until that evening when Mark and Mike explained it to me that I knew what that was about.

More than anything else, we love the atmosphere of the fair -- everyone playing, letting parts of themselves out that they seldom get to in "real life". So mostly, we just soaked up the atmosphere. I had a couple of Stouts and we smoked a couple of pipes -- and that was pretty much the day.

The rest of the weekend consisted of us playing music together, grilling food, and talking philosophically into the night...

I called Vicki Sunday morning -- turned out her weekend was as full as mine. She hit the Elks Club with Sam on Friday, went to a movie Saturday, then hung with the neighbors for a while and then back out with Sam and his cousin to see his cousin's son's band "Brothers' Image" (who are very good).

We talked about going back to the Faire on Sunday -- tell you the truth I wouldn't have minded. Especially on a pretty day, it's a nice place to be.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

More General Living

Took Mom back to Fort Wayne and set her new computer up. It's muuuuuuuuuch better. Bought another K&N filter for Vicki's car. The difference isn't as apparent - possibly because I don't keep track of gas mileage on her car. There was a leg of the trip we got 32 or 33 mpg, though.

We stopped at "Hog Heaven" BBQ in Plainfield on the way back. I've seen the signs forever. Their logo is a biker pig. But we've never been through Plainfield at a good time to stop and eat until this time.

The BBQ was good. Service was very good. 'Course, they weren't that busy at the time. The sides were ... nothing special, but ok. I left suggestions on how to give them a little more "attitude" (well, they asked!)

Monday I worked on one of the old chairs in the garage that I want to use for a computer chair. I know those chairs are probably over 100 years old. One of them -- the odd ball one I'm doing, had been written off as a chair long ago. It even has some saw marks on it where someone used it as a saw horse, and one of the dowell supports across the front at the bottom has been broken and missing for God knows how long. I will replace that. I've got most of the thing stripped, but there's still more to do.

Also working on my renfest bag to carry stuff in at the faire next weekend. I'm making a rough leather bag out of some of the half cowhide I have. Lots of holes to punch.

I finally re-wired the extension to the phone in the basement. Now we don't have to run upstairs every time the phone rings. And I had to replace the dimmer switch for the overhead lights in the kitchen. So that's done. And I ran our carpet cleaner over the high traffic areas in the house that were getting pretty grungy.

We BBQ'ed with the neighbors last night, burgers and brats and onions and listened to Mizzou vs New Mexico -- a game being played 0.5 miles north of us. Brad Smith put in an excellent effort. However, our defense mostly stayed home, and after a close see-saw game we lost 45-35.

Vicki and Kristin and Kristie and I went to Twilight festival Thursday, though we probably spent as much time at Tropical Liquors and Ottos as we did at the "fest". Now that was pretty cool. Me and three pretty chicks. ;-) Vickster and Kristin and her mom are going to a wedding show today at Holiday Inn. I'll probably work on the chair and the bag.

Brian's over in Iraq now. Hi Brian, if you're reading. Keep your head down and your armor on. And help us kick bad-guy ass when it's necessary.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Relatives and Computers and Car Parts, Oh My!

Brought Mom down here late last week to be here for Brian's last pre-Iraq visit. We had him and Kristin (his fiance) and Mark & Gretchen for dinner Sunday -- Kevin and Adriene came over later and hung out.

Got Mom a new computer to replace the P-II laptop I steered her wrong with a year or two ago. It did... OK with XP and MSN and almost OK with the firewall and antivirus on top of that, but the more the software updated itself, the slower the thing got. It got absolutely ridiculously "let's go make the bed and get a cup of coffee" slow.

So I got her a Compaq P-III 733 sans OS and monitor for $80. Not bad. Picked up 15" a flat panel monitor for her (with speakers built in) and moved the install of XP from the laptop to the new box. Part of the old box's problem was the limit of 160 MB of memory. This one has 384. It screams, relatively.

Getting Brian's IPOD all fixed up with playlists before he goes. Put a new battery in it. Got him hooked up with all the power adaptors he'll need. He got a digital camera a couple of weeks ago -- so I got him an NIMH rechargable battery kit, too. And I gave him my Ambico mini tripod -- I've had one for years --- it's been up and down mountains with me. It's smaller (important for soldiers on the go) and much sturdier than those cheesey "Digital" brand ones you can pick up at Walmart for $5. They're getting harder to find, though, I think. Our Target store doesn't have them in stock anymore, but you can get them via Target Online or Amazon (which amounts to about the same thing I think). I ordered a replacement.

Put an older OS on the P-II laptop ... I can use it for a digital picture dumping/viewing machine on the road and an MP3 Library player at home. Cool. Now all I need is a 160GB USB hard drive to hook up to it. I have a big music collection :-) like... 700 CD's.

Got a K&N air filter for the Escort... bumped the gas mileage up by about 1.5 mpg both city and highway. So I'm getting one for the Taurus, too. Sure, it'll take a while to make up the cost, but it'll FEEL better. Plus I get extra power out of it when I need it.

Then I took my car in for an oil change -- $16.95, right? Nope. Broken rear coil spring. Replace those... might as well replace the struts, too, at 65,000 miles, right? $430 (with the oil change, labor, and tax -- hell, the tax was almost as much as the labor).

We'll be going out to dinner the next couple of nights for Brian's send-off -- he wanted to go to the 63 Diner again, and to the Outback.

Have to take Mom back to Fort Wayne after Brian leaves, then we have Renfest coming up, Tom wants to take us sailing, and before you know it October will be here and it'll be time for the Haunted Float, and then on top of that -- there's mom and dad's 50th coming up. So ... we'll be busy.

Well, that's about it for now.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

The Drought is Broken

Well, I'd say we've broken the drought. Over 6" of rain in about the last week. Hopefully things will be back to normal. Won't help the farmers much, but anythings good and we do have more than crops to worry about, like trees and water tables.

Went to the Elks lodge Friday evening with Sam for Linda's birthday... we ended up at Cody's where I could show my total lack of eptness for dancing. Sam can dance, so I'm glad Vicki gets to dance with someone who knows what he's doing. I "danced" with the Lindas... one of them ended up on the floor :-( Well, see how good I am?

Saturday we lazed -- watched several movies -- Benny and Joon, some other one, then the last of the Return of the King -- then Vicki whipped out the first two Lord of the Rings movies. In my defense I did get out and work on the rest of the fallen branch, but the effects of the previous night's alchohol and the hot, extremely humid weather made me queasy. So I only did that for an hour or so.

Today I got out in the garage and worked on trying to apply some order to it. I got pretty far, really -- still a couple more days like today out there is what it's going to take. Lot of trash.

We did a cookout with the neighbors this evening. I whipped up a new Boat Drink. I'll call it a "Cabin Cruiser". They were pretty good.

1 blender =
5 c frozen Peach/Strawberry/pineapple fruit mix from Sam's
2/3 c sweet/sour mix
1/2 c frozen orange juice concentrate
1/2 c coconut rum
1/2 c dark rum



We finished up the tree debris in the yard. (I say "we" because Ryan and Kristie had come over, drinks in hand to invite us to cook out, and they started pitching in without invitation - what are you gonna do? ;-) )

There's a leak where the neighbor's roofline and ours meet... I've patched it once but apparently it's back --- need to get back up there and check it out.

Oh, and I caught the second raccoon. :-) I also released him down at Gans Creek.

One more to go -- that I know of.

And that about brings us up to date.

Sunday, August 14, 2005


Hey, until friday afternoon, I think we'd had about 0.8" of rain since early June.

Picked up an inch and a half Friday & Friday night, then another inch Saturday, and we've had a good, steady light rain all night and all day since (frankly, I don't know what the current tally is, but it's good -- at least another inch).

This morning while drinking our coffee, the large crack of a tree structure failing followed by the cracks and whaps and rustles of falling branches -- I knew immediately it must be the old rotted thorny locust tree behind our house. It has a much younger (still probably 15 or 20 year old) shoot growing right up through one side of it -- but apparently it was relying on the rotting structure of the old tree too much for support. The wetness probably weakened the rotten wood and put extra pressure on a large branch structure that leaned out over our yard toward the house, and it's covering that portion of the yard now. I'll wait until it dries out to go hack it up with the chainsaw.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

The Return of the Brewmeister

Well, we got home last night and Vicki wanted to go to CJ's. We called the Williams' (neighbors) to see if they wanted to go -- and we hopped in the car and went. The wings, as always, were good -- they're not as hot as they used to be, but they're still the best wings in town.

We came home and hung out on their deck until dark drinking wine & beer. Kristie wanted to go to the 63 Diner for breakfast. They have great food and a neat little novelty "doo-wop" nostalgia niche.

We went at 8, so we could be back by 10 when the brew session was to start. I started packing stuff across to Ryan's place.

As I started to get the ingredients out, it was immediately clear I didn't have enough two-row malt for two recipies. Then... it was also clear that I didn't have enough Munich for one recipe.

There are no real brew shops in town for grain brewers. It was either St. Louis, or Kansas City. Vicki and Kristie were in Jefferson City, and I found a web page for a brew shop there -- so we called them up to do a fly-by since the phone number yielded an answering machine for a different business (often homebrew supply shops are side rackets). But then we noticed the web page was last updated in 2001. So we called the girls back and said "ah, forget it".

We went with the Munich Helles recipe, scaled down to 1 recipe, and used the Munich malt in place of the Vienna, and added a bit of black malt for color and a little "roastiness".

So it's Phrysco beer, after Phil, Ryan, and Scott (a co-worker of Ryan's) -- the three brewers.

I still have a yeast culture for some Oktoberfest.... tempting.

So all in all it went pretty well after that, and I had everything cleaned up by about 6:00. I'm beat. The carboy of fermenting beer is in Ryan's beer fridge, where it will stay for about 4 weeks. We'll rack it into a soda keg after that and carbonate. The debut date will be October 1, before the Mizzou football game -- and we'll still call it Oktoberfest.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Lucky Little Rascal

Well, I heard some thumping out on the deck this morning, and a quick inspection found that I had trapped raccoon #1.

Little guy. Fortunately for him, I didn't have time to ... ahem ... "process" him properly, so he was spared the furrier's knife and relocated to Gans Creek Wildlife Area. Survival out there is up to him... at least he has a chance. I must admit there was a small bit of pity and compassion involved -- very small. I just want them gone.

Two to go.

Global Warming?

Again, I don't get political on this blog, typically. But -- this is not political at its core, really. It's something near and dear to my heart -- climate. Weather.

A lot of you probably know I have a degree in Meteorology and I even did all of the coursework and some of the research for a masters degree in it. I have been exposed to the science behind this. And I have always been cautiously skeptical of human-caused (anthropogenic) global warming. I even wrote one of my college papers on it.

I found a really good website that explains the vast array of problems with the antropogenic global warming theory, and with the Kyoto protocol. Far better than I could explain it, and backed with research that a guy like me doesn't have the time to look for.

If you're interested in reading the side you're not hearing in the press and the reasoning behind opposition to it....

These are mostly Canadian scientists. It's probably the most balanced summary of the subject you'll ever read. There's even video out there for the attention-span challenged. I reccomend it highly, especially the Science Matters section. Next time someone starts spouting off self-righteously about the U.S. not signing the Kyoto protocols, you might just have a better understanding of the issues.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

What can all this mean?

A sink with bleach-water, beakers, scissors, air-locks, and a yeast smack-pack.

A pan of boiling wort.

Beakers of yeast culture.

Yup, after a 4 or 5 year hiatus, I'm gearing up to brew again. Kinda wish I'd done it earlier so Brian could be around for it -- but we'll consider this a practice run for when he gets back.

After going on the Beer 101 tour with Ryan and friends at Flat Branch pub and Brewing, Ryan wanted to brew an Oktoberfest. An Oktoberfest is best lager-fermented and kept cold for several weeks before serving. Mid August is a good time to brew one.

I'm way out of practice. And we're doing it from scratch, meaning all-grain. No extract.

Stepped up the yeast last night. It's goin' down on Saturday.

It's an all-day thing. We'll have to clean and sanitize and arrange equipment -- and get the beer fridge ready for fermenting.

We're going to do 10 gallons. A double-batch.

The most important thing (besides getting the starch to convert into sugar) is sanitation after the boil. That's really the hard part, and you have to be pretty much a stickler about it. Truthfully, you spend half your time cleaning & sanitizing when you're brewing.

But it's worth the end result.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Look Through My Window, yeah

Well, didn't make it out to Mom and Dad's saturday -- Joel called about 5:50 am and said that -- basically, the hay wasn't ready to be picked up. For some reason I thought we were moving it from one barn to another but somebody was wrong or changed their minds.

So, I turned my attention to our own house, where I had two windows on the north side with rotten moulding and sills. I tore off the brick moulding and assessed the damage. Parts of the window frame structure were rotting as well. One sill was unsavable.

I cut away the rotten pieces and replaced them with new wood, which meant about half the sash on one window. Used Liquid Nails and screws to attach it. Painted. Cut out other rotten window parts using the jig saw and a hammer and chisel when necessary. Only the ends of the other window sill were rotten, so I cut good pieces from the first sill, cut off the rotten ends and used Liquid Nails again to attach those pieces to the ends. Once I paint it you won't be able to tell. Then I put new moulding up and caulked the edges. I need to get some new weather stripping for the bottoms of the bedroom windows. And of course paint after the caulk cures. I worked on them most of the two days, running to Lowe's now and then as I figured out how I was going to tackle things.

In the mean time, Vicki got the new color she wanted for between the cabinets and counter and busied herself masking off things and painting. As planned, she carried the color scheme over from the "kitchen" side of the kitchen to the built-ins in the dining room side of the kitchen... the new creamy brown/tan between the cabinets and the counter, and the "plaster pink" on the soffits to the wall above the cabinets. It really warms the room up and brings the dual-purpose area together with a unifying theme.

Then we had an impromptu bbq with the neighbors. I was beat. We came in and watched another Thin Man movie -- the fourth. Vicki got the whole series on DVD at Sam's. We love those movies. Myrna Loy has never been hard to watch, either.

And that was pretty much the weekend.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Sent to me by my goulish buddy Mark

Really, quite entertaining:

When talented people have too much time on their hands:

click here for link

Cwazy Coons!

Well, the raccons finally came back last night, wreaking their usual havoc.

I had a trap set for them (knowing I'd probably only get one at a time).

This morning, the food was gone, and the trap was tripped, but no raccoon.

I've observed these buggers. Its tempting, especially for furry creature lovers, to think that I was outsmarted -- but that's likely not the case. I'm dealing with three raiders who come together. At least two of them probably tried to enter the trap. The first one probably tripped the trap a split second before he grabbed the fish.

The second was probably inside the trap, and the door came down on his back, startling both animals.

As long as the door hasn't completely closed, the door moves freely. Raccoon #2 probably turned around quickly and shot out of the trap, the other hot on his heels. In this case the door never actually finished closing before both were out of the trap.

Better luck next time.

Meantime, today I'm smoking some pork ribs all day out on the deck in the Big Green Egg. They should be pretty well done (11 hours) by the time I get home. Mmmmmmmmmmm. Ribs.

We went to see "Must Love Dogs" last night with Rob & Kathy. Then out to the 'Roni Grill for dinner. Movie was your typical romance. Predictable. Entertaining. Food was good.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The countertop is finally in

We finally had a free weekend to, you know, do something around the house. So the new countertop that's been in the garage for at least the last month finally got assembled Saturday afternoon, and it was in by 10:00pm sans plumbing, which I did in the morning.

For some odd reason, the people who built the house decided that instead of scribing the back of the countertop to the wall, they'd cut a slot in the wall (at least on one side). Then they scribed the back on the short side. So I had to do that. Plus we've had to put moulding above the countertop to cover the rough edge left by the slot in the drywall by the builders.

No sooner was it in than Vicki decided the wall color needed changing -- actually in her defense she had decided that before but once it was in she couldn't resist doing it NOW.

Which is understandable. You kinda want to see it all come together.

So we went and got some lighter terra-cotta paint (once again, with too much pink in it for Vicki's taste) -- fortunately, it's a small area and easy to paint.

So now she wants to go get a still lighter color with less pink in it and go back, Jack, do it again.

I'm sure it will look nice.

The countertop looks good.

Brian swung through on 48 hours leave this weekend to see Kristin (and us). Had Ken and Glenda over for breakfast with Brian and Kristin. Strawberry crepes and eggs & bacon. Good schtuff. His plane trip went much better -- thanks to Southwest Airlines. They even got him on an earlier flight than he was booked on for his connection from Chicago to Kansas City.

Set a racoon trap. Three males tend to visit my deck and wreak havoc at night. Which means I'll have to ... eliminate them ... one at a time. They've ceased to be cute.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Misc update

Ok, what's been going on...

Went to a gathering at the Elk's Lodge for Sam's birthday last Friday - kind of a thing for all Elk Member's July Birthdays. Had a good time.

Then there was the guy/kid weekend from the last post.

Vicki & I tried out a new Mexican Restaurant here in Columbia called Tequilas. Food was good, not expensive. Margaritas were just a mix, though. If I were starting a Mexican restaurant I'd make sure my Margaritas kicked butt. I'd cut down on my profit margin there and be known for great margaritas and good food.

Also misqueued with Vicki on a movie the other day. We were interviewing people and if I could leave at 4:00 I was to meet Vicki at home -- if not, I was to meet her at the movie at 4:30. Somehow I got it in my head that if I couldn't leave at 4:00 it would mean I wasn't going.

Oh well.

Also went to the Beer 101 Brewery Tour of Flat Branch with Ryan and Kristie. Now Ryan really wants to brew. I'd better get some Oktoberfest ingredients.

Bri's coming in for a whirlwind weekend of leave -- going to a wedding with Kristin, then back to Marines camp. He'll be home again near the end of August, too, then it's off to support Iraq.

Hope he has better luck getting here this time.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Guy/Kid Weekend

Vicki went to the Groves' house over the weekend for a girls' weekend for Cami's birthday. Mark brought the kids here.

We smoked ribs in the Big Green Egg, took the kids to the pool a couple of times, played some on the guitars (and mandolin) -- went to the Gelato Cafe for a late night dessert.

Went out to Cool Stuff and walked downtown a little on Sunday. Stopped at Osama's Coffee Zone for a drink and a cool-down.

It's been about 103 here for the last several days. Today we're topped out in the low 90's as a cold front apprroached.

All in all, a pretty laid back weekend.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Adams Family Reunion

You can stop singing the song now.

Went up to Detroit over the weekend to have a reunion with Vicki's Mom's side of the family, the Adams. Of John Quincy descent. Not Morticia. :-)

Drove up to Fort Wayne, IN on Wednesday. Vicki and I did some work around Mom's house Thursday morning -- I powerwashed out the gutters (dang, that's a high roof!) and washed the porches off while I was at it. Vicki cleaned out behind the fridge and the cold air return and picked up sticks in the yard. And she made sure any falls I might make off the ladder -- that was much appreciated.

We got kinda wet, as the rain I didn't think would get here picked up.

Drove up to Detroit Friday afternoon. We didn't know it, but Jim & Carol were coming in from Chicago and hit Marshall about the time we did. If we'd gone to the same restaurant we would've seen each other. But we showed up in the hotel parking lot in Detroit within 2 minutes of each other.

We had a good time with them -- we get along with those two pretty well. We'll have to go see them in 'Vegas, Baby sometime. Well they actually live outside of Vegas... in the ... MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMmmmmmountains.

Saturday morning didn't look promising. But the forecast was still for hot with a chance of afternoon showers -- scattered. But by the time we left for the reunion, the rain had set in, and it rained HARD, as in pull-off-the-side-of-the-road hard. And the rain continued till around noon.

However we had a pavillion, and some of the kids got to splash in the big puddles and got soaked to the bone (especially Jackie and Mike's kids). But everyone got there and Will and Joanne brought tapes of Fern/Joanne/Ev singing songs in 1956 -- people got cards out, Vicki and Karen went and picked up the rest of the food, and by early afternoon the rain stopped and before we knew it it was a full blown summer picnic with badminton and playground playing and face-wiping of kids and the occasional time-out. ;-) The husbands of the Pyles girls did a great job handling the kids letting the girls visit with their cousins and aunts and uncles. Paul & Mike came in from Atlanta. And Niki was great with all of the kids -- apparently she does a lot of babysitting/daycare for the other girls. I did a lot of visiting but relegated myself to taking lots of pictures for a lot of the day (imagine that!) I'm in the group shot, just to prove I was there. I think a few other people's cameras (Kevin's, as operated by Adriene, probably) may have a shot or two of me.

I think everyone had a pretty good time.

A bunch of us went out to Bennegans across from the hotel (the ones of us stayin in the hotel + Pam) -- and I went down to Mike's room afterward to visit with Mike and Pam. Looked up where the restaurant for the Sunday Morning brunch would be. Entered it into my GPS. We had intentions of hanging out and yammering for some time but by 12:40 we were wiped.

Had a great brunch at Kallaways, went and visited at Fern's house, then headed home. We stopped in Marshalls and ate at Schuler's -- which has a bit of history with the Adams clan. Nice ending to the Reunion weekend.

Putzed around in Fort Wayne today -- developed some pictures, went to Steinmart. I got a cool new watch and a belt there. I think Vicki got an inexpensive pair of shoes.

I never complain about women and their shoes. I appreciate their efforts :-)

I think tomorrow it's a visit with Linda Krick, and then we'll be off to the Home Office in Missouri.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

An Engaging Fourth

Brian had 2 days leave after a month of training. Add a holiday weekend, and that gives you time to spend a few days with your family.

He flew out of Jacksonville to Charlotte on US Airways, but they were late taking off and missed the connecting flight. They put him and several (10-15) people on another flight to Chicago the next morning to catch a connecting flight to St. Louis. They slept in the airport

They landed in Chicago -- and time was short to catch the connecting flight. The airline said they'd call ahead and have them hold the plane since there were so many people who had missed the first connection.

They got there in time, and they all hustled through the Airport O.J. Simpson style and reached the gate with just 2 minutes to spare. They told the people there who they were, but the airline folks said "sorry, no more boarding", and closed the gate and they watched that flight take off without them.

The next flight to St. Louis was scheduled for 11:30 am or so, and they got on that one and taxied to the runway. And the generator light came on. So back in for an hour of maintainence and they finally took off and landed in St. Louis at about 1:30-ish.

We were all headed down to Kristin's Parents' place in Warsaw to watch the fireworks on Truman lake. We left at 3:00, and Brian and Kristin were coming from St. Louis. They stopped in Columbia to clean up and to pick up a little something Brian needed for later that evening.

Got down to Warsaw and had a good time with Kristin's Parents -- they'd smoked up a brisket and some turkey. Everyone was supposed to be there about 5:00 but Brian and Kristin didn't get there until about 6:30-7:00.

We hustled it out to the lake and put John's boat in and went out and tied up with a bunch of their friends near the dam. Got in the water with some noodles, and waited for the fireworks.

In the middle of the fireworks, Brian took the opportunity to propose to Kristin. Everyone on Brian's side knew it was coming. Kristin's dad knew, too -- but he was supposed to know much earlier in the afternoon than he did. Still, everyone was happy about it. Kristin's a great girl, and they like Brian a lot.

So ... that was pretty exciting.

Brian, Kristin, Vicki, & I went out to Sam's on Sunday and did some fishing. The bluegill were biting right and left, and Kristin caught quite a few of them. We got a few largemouth's, and Sam pulled in a decent catfish. Even Vicki, who had fished but never actually caught one... caught one.

Monday we had a neighborhood BBQ - Brian, Kristin, Matt and his new girlfriend Brooke and Ken were all over. We walked down to see the fireworks. They were about like Warsaw's without the lake and without the engagement ;-)

Congratulations to Brian -- and don't fly US Airways if you can help it. They offered him ... nothing.

Old Friends

The Everetts came to Missouri from Florida to visit in late June, and they came up to see Mizzou, their Alma Mater and visit with us. I hadn't seen them since... Oh, 1990 ... when University of Miami came up and handed Mizzou's football butt to them on a platter.

I think we held them to 55 points ;-)

Guy and Carol Lynn grew up as neighbors, dated all through high school and college, and I was at their wedding in the mid to late 1980's. Guy and I had a lot in common philosophically, although at the time they were both WAY more socially developed than I was. They kind of took me under their collective wings. Carol Lynn was a pretty, sweet thing. I used to tell Guy if he didn't marry her that I would. (Like she would've had me back then ;-) ) Anyway, Guy stayed wise and married her himself and they are still every bit as in love as they've ever been -- which is cool to see these days. It's a cliche thing to say. Many people say that and it isn't really true, but with these two they don't even have to say it. You can just see it.

We met them on campus Saturday Evening and showed them all the changes (many, many changes) There were even places on campus I hadn't been since they've changed them -- and I work here. We ate at the Hiedelberg, then continued the campus tour. We had a great time and didn't get home until like 10:00pm.

Sunday I put a brisket on to smoke at 6:00am. They came over in the early afternoon.

Now I expected to have a decent time with them, but the visit blew away all our expectations all around. We had a great time talking about everything under the sun, had some drinks, showed Ashley a few chords on the guitar... the brisket turned out very good. We cheated and picked up beans and cole slaw at Buckinghams.

It was pushing 10:00 pm before we knew it. They could've stayed until after midnight and we wouldn't have cared -- but we had to go to work in the morning and they had a LONG drive ahead of them in the morning.

So I guess we need to go see them in Orlando now.

Float Trip

Sunday we left with the Williams' for the annual summer float. This year it would be 6 people... ok, 6.5. Harold & Lynn's baby Kate is a year old. They didn't actually float with us, but they camped.

After my mountain trip, I went pretty minimalist on food. Pretty much, I didn't want much preparation or cleanup. We did bring the new big monster tent, and the nights were cool and dry. We didn't even put the rainfly on.

This trip we had the air mattress, too -- a welcome change from the blue pad. I call it "Luxury Camping". Your car and all the supplies you could possibly need, right there in your car.

Jack's Fork was fairly dry this year -- we haven't had much rain -- so we floated from Eminence to Two Rivers (where Jack's Fork meets the Current).

We had a really good time. The water was cold, but the day was warm -- not too hot. Plus, when you float on a weekday 1) there's way fewer people on the river and in the campsites, and 2) it's cheaper.

Except I lost my wedding ring in the water. My good one. I've worn it on 3 previous float trips with no problems -- however, I DID lose 16 lbs this spring. (That South Beach diet. Gotta reccomend it. Vicki reached her goal, too.) That, cold water, and sunscreen probably did it in.

Fortunately, I don't have any precious gems in my wedding band. It's a simple gold comfort band. Not TOO expensive. And it isn't even my original band, so there wasn't THAT sentimental value. Still, it was my nice ring, and I ordered another. No more float trips for the wedding band.

Maybe next year we'll go a little less minimalist on the food -- it's part of the fun of the float trip.

Trail Ridge Road again, then Home

Tuesday night, Wednesday, June 15

I did not renew my lease on my campsite for Wednesday night/Thursday Morning. If the weather was anything like it was Tuesday, I'd stay all day and maybe climb Twin Sisters or Deer Mountain. But I was starting to think about getting home, especially because of the float trip we were leaving for on Sunday and I wanted to have a couple of days home to put things away and also get ready for that trip. On top of that, the Everetts would be up the weekend after that and the house was fairly dishevelled from all the road trip preparation and the associated lack of attention.

Besides, another night on the blue pad just wasn't appealing. I thought I might even leave in the evening and drive until I got tired and sleep in the car at a truck stop again. The car seat would be more comfortable.

But that thought gave me an idea. I pulled the booster seat pillow I use on long trips to hold my gas-pedal leg up to keep it from getting fatigued and took it into the tent with me. The worst part about the blue pad was my hips and tailbone. This is a thin pillow, and would fit easily in the sleeping bag with me in the right spot.

I slept well, and in the morning there were clouds. Hmmm... maybe I'll just go home this morning. But I had to break the camp down no matter what anyway, so I set about doing that. By the time I finished, the sun was shining.

I decided to check out the Morraine Park museum I'd driven by every day for the past week. It was... ok. Mostly geared toward kids. I'd take mine there if they were grade-school age. There is a nice view of Morraine Park from there as well. Got back in the car. I looked in my dayhike book and noted that the Twin Sisters round trip climb would take all day the way I hike, and it was pretty steep. I'd be very tired and wouldn't feel too much like driving far. Clouds came again, further sealing the deal. I would probably leave during the day.

I drove back up toward Estes Park. The sun was coming out again. But it was going to be on again/off again. I got to the turn-off to Trail Ridge Road. And the Mountain Gazzette motto popped into my head.

"When in doubt, go higher."

I turned onto Trail Ridge Road to go back to the tundra one last time.

The road really isn't that long, and it wasn't long before I reached the Rock Cut and Tundra Trails. It was fairly crowded, although I'm sure it gets much worse. I looked over the Forrest Canyon Overlook on the way, snapped some shots of some high, frozen lakes, and at the Rock Cut I took off up a tundra trail to try to reach a peak and take in the views along the way.

Up at 12,000 feet, the wind was pretty strong. When the winds "down there" were 26-30 a couple of days ago, they were over 80 up here. Today, they were significant. I reached one of the peaks on Sundance Mountain -- this one about 200 feet below the actual summit. There was a plaque on the rock outcropping at the peak commemorating Roger Walcott Toll who was involved in the National Park system as Superintendent for Mt Rainier, Rocky Mountain, and Yellow Stone National Parks during periods between 1919 and 1935. Love of the High Country. Wanting to make it accessible to us. My kind of guy.

I scrambled up the outcropping which was 15 or so feet high, and there was the mountain index marker mentioned on the plaque. The wind was really whipping now and I was having trouble standing. I set my camera on the little 4" tripod for a peak shot of myself, and I even had trouble getting it to stay standing, but I managed. The clouds to the south and west were building and getting very dark. I needed to get down to the car in case any of them produced lightning. No cover above the treeline.

I started hustling down. I could see a storm headed right for Long's Peak, and I got a couple of shots of it as it engulfed the summit. Glad I wasn't climbing that puppy today. I wasn't moving fast enough, though, so to make up time, I decided to sprint.

Sprinting at 12,000 feet is not something a flatlander does terribly often or well, but I had spent a lot of time at 8,400 feet and above for the last week, and it was fine. I often get that winded here in Missouri on a sprint like that. I was both amazed and happy that I could make up the time.

I got back down to the car before any snow or sleet hit, and drove back down, knowing that this was it. I was headed home, about Noon on Wednesday.

I went through Estes Park to Lyons, down through a traffic-ridden Boulder, into Denver, and out 70 for the first time (I've never left Denver on 70, I've always gone through Castle Rock and out 86 - but I was in a hurry).

On the way down to Lyons, I actually got a pressure headache from the relatively quick descent. For the first time, I could see what's so attractive about Boulder. The mountain views are more spectacular than they are from Denver, for sure -- in more directions.

I could see pretty snow-capped mountains in my rear-view mirror to the North Northwest, and I gave my reluctant goodbye to them. I swear they make you want to turn the car right back around and go back. I once again marvelled at the stark beauty of the High Plains of Eastern Colorado and Western Kansas. Good darned thing I like them, too, because there are a lot of them. Upslope storms brewed all afternoon, keeping the car shaded and cool and providing some pretty lightning displays.

Tonight I would sleep in my own bed. If I didn't waste any time I could be there by 1:00AM.

I didn't. And I was.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Bear Lake, Alberta Falls, Mills Lake, Glacier Gorge

Tuesday, June 14

I could see right away it was going to be the beautiful day that had been predicted.

Today I would go up to the Bear Lake area Mahtaj had told me about -- probably one of the most popular destinations in the park. I would not be alone, for sure, but what a day to do it.

After the morning breakfast and cleanup I drove up to the Bear Lake parking lot. This time I decided to use the daypack instead of the fanny pack after yesterday's experience. I had everything you're supposed to take with you on a mountain hike, including my fleece and outer layer. Compression shirt, my teflon pants and shirt I got at Bass Pro -- thin socks under thick socks. Water. Trail mix. Hat. A few emergency supplies.... and treked the 500 feet to Bear Lake. Whew. Glad I brought all this stuff!

Truth be told, the fleece and outer shell took up most of the room in my daypack. It's lightweight, but bulky.

Bear Lake was very pretty. There's a trail all the way around it, and lots of people were there from all over the world and from all walks of life. My camera was acting up. Couldn't get it to turn on for quite a bit -- and then finally, it snapped out of it. I swapped photo-shoots with a man and his wife, and went around the lake, then headed down the path towards Glacier Gorge, Lake Hiyaha, Loch Vale, and other points. Not sure where I'd end up.

The ranger at the trailhead cautioned against Hiyaha without hiking poles as the snow on the trail apparently got very deep. So I headed toward Alberta Falls.

I ran into a pretty big cascade that I thought was it, and hung out there for a while, taking pictures and soaking it in. I was getting warm so I zipped my pants legs off and rolled up my sleeves before pressing on.

And then maybe another 1/4 mile up the trail I came upon the real thing. I probably spent about an hour here, too. The area was made up of gigantic slabs of granite with a few boulders, and the falls surged and turned around a boulder, slicing a narrow channel through the solid rock maybe 4 feet wide at one point. I don't know how deep, but that water was movin'! It cascaded down a little ways and then plunged maybe 30 feet for the "falls" part of the falls. There were lots of people around, and it was about lunch time so I sat and ate some trail mix and jerky I'd brought along.

So Glacier Gorge was further down the trail -- although you could bypass it and go to Boulder Brook -- I was pretty sure Glacier Gorge and Mills Lake would be my final destination. Don't like to try to "Do" the area, I want time to enjoy it. The trail got a bit steeper and rougher as it wound up around Glacier Knob. At one switchback I turned to look at the view and I could see Estes Park in the distance. I decided to turn my cell phone on and see if I got reception. I was a little surprised, but not shocked, to get one bar! I tried calling Vicki, but the call wouldn't go through. So I hiked on.

On the next switchback, I was a little higher and I saw a boulder to stand on, so I hopped up, turned the phone on and got 3 bars! So I called Vicki and chatted with her a while while a chipmunk pretened not to be begging for food at my feet. Told her where I was and to be sure to tell Sam, and what a beautiful day it was. And continued up the trial. A couple of guys passed me with lightweight gear heading for a backcountry site in Glacier Gorge. That had been my original plan before I drove up here but this trip would be a dayhike-trip-only for me, and that was fine. Still, I couldn't help wishing I were heading up there to do what they were doing for a bit.

A couple passed me -- the guy had a Mizzou hat on. He went to Mizzou, and lives in Kansas City. Another couple really floored me. The young woman was hiking in very good hiking boots, a red plaid skirt cut a little above the knee, a cotton shell, and a pink woven bonnet. She had a backpack on, too. I got the impression that she was no stranger to any of this. Now there's an oudoors woman who's proud to be a GIRL, I thought. And you all probably know how I feel about that.... so I was impressed.

I hiked over streams on little plank bridges with one rail, and the trail varied from granite slabs where you couldn't really tell right off where the trail WAS to very well tailored steps to curb erosion to nice bridges with two rails to very rocky and sometimes loose "gravel".

Started seeing snow around 9,700 feet, and ended up with a stunning view when I got to Mills Lake.

My feet were very hot, and one of them was threatening to blister. A John Denver song (imagine that! Actually written by Eric Andersen) had been playing over and over in my head for about the last hour

Take off your thirsty boots and stay for a while
Your feet are hot and weary, from a dusty mile...
My feet were goin' in that lake!!!!!

I rounded the left side of the lake and found a large granite slab that went out into the water about 40 feet with a couple of glacial boulders sitting on it. The veiw was stunning. I didn't realize it, but Longs was just ahead to my left. From this angle, it looked like just another peak in a series of spires to the south. Cheif's Head is prominent at the end of the valley. Snow came down to the shoreline on the other side of the lake. Everywhere you looked -- breathtaking.

I took my socks off to dry and sat with my feet in the water for a good while. Then I decided to strip down to my compression shorts and shirt and get in. It's a shallow lake, probably not more than 4 feet deep through most of it as far as I could tell, so it wasn't nearly as cold as I expected -- not that it wasn't very, very cold. All I'm saying is a quick dip of my head didn't cause a brain freeze like in West Fork Chicago Creek two years ago.

I hadn't been completely wet in days, and it felt good. I knew the microfiber would dry fast, and it was black so I'd stay pretty warm in the sunshine while it did so.

The socks were pretty much microfiber, too and they dried quickly. I was probably at the lake for two hours, but as 3:00 started to roll around, I knew I'd better start back down.

I met many of the people I'd seen on the way up on the way back down, including the Mizzou couple and the couple with the woman in the plaid skirt. When I passed the point from where I'd called Vicki, some people who'd passed me while I was on the phone were there on the way down. I mentioned that and they said they thought I was on the phone with the office.

Clearly, they don't know me ;-)

Now I'd decided to spend another day since today was so nice. I got back down to Moraine Park and took some sunset shots of a cascade, a bunch of Elk, and a coyote -- then decided I didn't feel like cooking (well, I didn't feel like cleaning would be a better way to put it) and I went in to Estes Park for maybe some Pizza.

Called Vicki, and she talked me in to going to Grubsteakk or something like that where I had an elkburger served up by a pretty northern European waitress with an endearing accent. It was a good burger - a little expensive but I expected that.

And I gassed up as I headed back to camp and the dreaded blue pad.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Fall River Road

Monday, June 13

The wind was still whipping around in the morning. Clearly a strong front had passed giving way to very strong high pressure. That meant a few things. 1) it didn't get very cold last night due to mixing. 2) It would be mostly sunny today. 3) it would be windy for at least a while today.

After the first night I had moved my tent to site 102 about 50 yards away where a hill blocked my lovely view of the bathroom and RV's camping on the loop below. A KU graduate from Chicago -- looked retired -- pitched his pup tent up the hill from me. Otherwise, it looked pretty solitary. Plus the hill helped block the noise from the other campers. Don't get me wrong, I think they were all quite reasonable for the venue, but I like it as quiet as I can get it.

Part of the reason I didn't sleep well was the constant violent flapping of the tent. The other part was - that Blue Pad, though I'm sure better than putting the sleeping bag directly down on the gravel... really isn't very comfortable.

I went to the Visitors' Center to get the forecast. Windy all day. Up on the top of Trail Ridge Road, closed again the day after I went over, the winds were around 80mph.

I decided today to stay below the treeline due to the wind, but I didn't have a plan. I drove through Estes Park and replaced a pair of gloves I'd lost at a souvineer store, and drove back in to the park at the more northerly Estes Park entrance.... I decided to take a look at Fall River Road. When I got there, there were people shooting photos of some Big Horned Sheep, and I took a few. At that point I noticed that there were actually glass chips inside my doubler lens, so it is now officially retired. Oh well, less to carry. The camera is still fairly flexible zoom-wise without it.

I chose the fanny pack and the camelback for my luggage today -- a mistake. Turns out fleece, which I didn't need most of the day, is bulkier than I thought. Should have brought the daypack. But I managed.

I went past the "Road Closed" gate -- Fall River Road doesn't usually open to traffic until July 4, and then it's one way, up. But it's open to hikers (two-way) year round, and up to bikers discretion if they want to try pedaling up it. It's a gravel road, even though it is Old US 34. It's a pretty good gravel road though, about like today's Virgina Canyon Road. There's really plenty of room for 2 cars most places, but if traffic got heavy I can see where people might get a bit edgy ... pun intended.

Ahead you can see Fall River Canyon, and the farther up you go, the more you see the Trail Ridge/Sundance Mountain complex to the left, and Mt. Chapin's dramatically spiny backbone to the right. To your left, you're looking at north side slopes and they have plenty of snow on them this time of year. Behind you as you go up (and ahead of you sometimes on switchbacks), better and better views of Horshoe Park, even though it recedes into a larger context as you get further away from it.

I took my own picture on some boulder cliff with the Fall River canyon behind me. There were a few people coming down, and a few wandered maybe a half mile up the road and turned around. The last people I saw for the remainder of the hike (until the very end) was a retired British couple about 500 yards short of Chasm Falls. They had just been in Columbia, MO a few days before and ate at a new restaurant I hadn't been to yet downtown.

Chasm Falls was pretty and a good place to stop for lunch. I had trouble shooting the falls in the sun. I learned in the end to expose for the water and let other things be under-exposed to get texture in the water. Otherwise you get the surroundings with a streak of white where the waterfall is.

My camera apparently only goes up to f7.1 -- so my next camera will have to have smaller apateures. That would help.

I had no idea how far I'd be going today. The canyon just sucked me in. What's around the next bend? Eventually I climbed about 2,000 feet somewhere past the 5 mile marker (I only found markers 3 & 4), where I had a nice view of the Lava Cliffs up on the ridge to the left and ahead of me. I had looked at those same cliffs from much closer on Trail Ridge Road on the other side on Saturday. The wind was still a force to be reckoned with but it was starting to fall off. It was about 2:30, and I needed to get back down, back to camp, cook dinner, clean up and get everything back in the bear lockers by dark. And I didn't particularly feel like hurrying, so I needed to start back down.

As I went down, I once again noticed that the hike up and the hike down are NOT the same hikes as far as scenery. On top of that, as the afternoon sun angle got longer and longer, it offered some more interesting photo opportunities.

I had seen no one since I saw the British couple below Chasm Falls in the late morning and I didn't mind the solitude. Probably not something people get later in the summer (well, especially after they open the road to cars. I ventured off the trail a couple of times to shoot some falls where the road and the river parted. When I got back to Chasm Falls, finally, I decided to try a trail that went downstream from the falls that the Brits had told me about earlier. They thought it probably went down to the picnic area near the beginning of the road, but I soon found out it was a dead end and climbed back up out of the hole.

Got to the bottom around 6:00 or so and a guy on a bicycle passed me ... going DOWN! Where did HE come from? I stopped and talked to him at the bottom. He started up about 5:00 and must've gone by while I was off the road.

I took a cursory look at the alluvial fan as I went back up but wasn't sure what it was -- found out later back in the early 90's the Lawn Lake dam broke up that valley and all those boulders, trees, and silt washed down and got deposited here. That must've been something to see. Glad I wasn't in its way.

I went back to camp. My tent was still there, but it was on its back being held down by only one stake. The other three had been pulled up by the windblown tent. Good thing I was actually IN it last night or it WOULD have blown away.

I cooked, cleaned, and put stuff away. The sun was down. I settled in to bed -- by this time I was not terribly fond of the blue matt as a mattress, but it was all I had.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Pictures from the Trip

While time and space permits, the pictures are here.

Wild Basin

Saturday Evening + Sunday, June 12

went into Estes Park after checking out the YMCA and went to a few touristy shops. One of the first things I noticed was a reastaurant called "Molly B's" -- which was of interest because Vicki's favorite doll when she was growing up was named "Molly B." So naturally I took a picture of it ;-)

Downtown was pretty touristy, but not garish -- Idaho Springs on a little bigger scale. I looked at a few things, but it appears I'm done with "stuff"... I didn't want any "stuff". I wasn't here for "stuff", I was here to be out in the great wide open. Darkness was falling about 9:00-9:30, and quiet hours in the National Park camp site started at 10:00. I was pretty much just killing time. I got back to the camp site around 9:00 and went to bed. Tonight it would get cold, but not as cold as the previous night. I was comfortable (well, heatwise, anyway). A rain shower or two passed through -- the light, quick type.

There was a lot of condensation in my tent the next morning. With me sleeping catty-corner in the tent, the wall of the tent curved down within a foot of my face, and my breath went straight up to it. I wiped it all down. Went down and washed in the campsite bathroom, made breakfast on the ion stove, and tried to get organized. It was mostly cloudy. By the time I had it all together it had started to rain. I decided to drive to the Visitors Center to decide what I wanted to do on a rainy day.

I went to the backcountry office first, still thinking MAYBE I'd do some backcountry camping, but not being able to decide where to go, significant snow in the high country, the rain, and my general lack of organization were ganging up on that idea. But I got some useful information for future trips, and went back to the Visitors' Center.

Forecast was for rain pretty much all day. The rangers suggested I go to Wild Basin. It wouldn't be crowded, and there were some pretty waterfalls on the way up to Ouzle Falls. Cool. A chance to drive down hwy 7 through Meeker Park. Pretty drive, I'd been there in 2001.

Checked out the Longs Peak campground on the way down. Frankly, it's a place to camp before heading up the Longs Peak trail -- it's pretty enough, but it's not far of the highway and doesn't, except for two or three sites, have much of a view unless you're really in it for the trees. But if you're going to do that why not go backcountry and get away from neighbors?

Also went by Camp St. Malo's church which captivated Vicki and me back in '01, a Catholic church built from stone on top of stone, with a retreat and with Mt. Meeker as a backdrop.

And then I got to the trailhead. Got all my stuff together, pulled my hat down against the rain, and struck out. Talked to an older female ranger for a while on the first leg of the trip, but lost her of course in all the picture taking. The river was well charged with snowmelt and rain, and the falls were pretty. This was going to be a good hike for a rainy day.

I finally decided my slicker wasn't going to keep the rain out and put my poncho on (and then my hat over the hood -- the very picture of style I'm sure). The poncho showed its cheapnes by ripping itself on a branch the minute I had it on. But it was just the edge, so I stayed dry.

I lost my monopod, which had been doubling as a walking stick. I think it may have been tucked under my arm while I was shooting a waterfall from a large boulder. I heard it clatter, and I had a pretty good idea what had just happened. I looked down in the water and there it was, bobbing up and down in the water going around the boulder toward the shore. I thought "great, it's going to float to shore and I can just go fetch it"... but by the time I got to where it should have been it had filled with water and sunk. I couldn't see it, and I wasn't about to go in after it. Dang thing was $30..... but risking life and limb for $30 somehow doesn't seem worth it. I let it go.

I saw I was going to be hiking past Calypso Cascades, and I thought I had reached them at a large bridge. I was taking a few pictures there, and saw this guy packing the CUTEST little red-haired baby in a little covered baby backpack.

On the other side of the bridge there was a large boulder and I decided to take a shot of myself there. While I was trying that three hikers came upon me, and the leader of the gang offered to take it for me, and I let him... took some pictures of them as well. They introduced themselves as Paul, Nate, and Bethany. Paul is an architect in Denver. Nate (I think) is his cousin. Well one of them is, and he's either married to or otherwise seriously involved with Bethany. They were all nice people. Bethany was very sweet with a killer smile. They hiked the rest of the way with me (or I with them) to Ouzle falls, and we had a good time joking about mistaking things for features they weren't and generally had plenty to talk about.

We ended up at Ouzle Falls, about a 50' fall which Mahtaj had been to in December a couple of years ago when it was completely frozen... We were near 10,000 feet, and the rain had changed to snow, sleet, and slush -- often alternating, and sometimes coming down all at once. We took the requisite pictures. It started sleeting pretty hard and we headed back down... more because it was time than the sleet. The sleet, I somehow knew, would be brief and once we got down 500 feet or so it was back to rain, then it started to clear up.

I split with them to take one last look for the monopod, but I had passed the spot where I lost it and I caught up to them at the parking lot. Paul and I exchanged email addresses so we could swap pictures and maybe stories.

A bit later I looked up at this SUV, and saw this woman pull a ballcap of and shake her hair out a little -- one of those movements that'll catch a guy's eye. I thought "man, who's that?! She's pretty". She looked up and smiled and waved at me and I was immediately embarrassed. It was Bethany.

Stopped and took some pictures of Meeker and Camp St. Malo against the clearing sky and falling sun on the way back, and I made note of some public showers near Meeker Park. When I got to Estes Park I decided to do some laundry... I had worn the heck out of the microfiber shirts and thought I'd like to wear them again without smelling bad. So I spent an hour there doing laundry. Called to talk to Vicki, but she was at the Blue Man Group show. I took a long shot of the famous Stanley Hotel from just outside the laundromat. Went back to camp, made dinner, got in the tent and called Mark and chatted with him a while.

The wind was kicking up, and my tent was bouncing and flapping. I knew they were strong winds -- I found out later that at Estes Park (about 1,000 feet lower) the winds were 26 to 30mph gusting to 48. I believe it. My tent bounced up and down all night, but stayed together. I didn't sleep much, but frankly I was kind of excited by the conditions. It was pretty cool. And no condensation in the morning! The tent had been very well ventilated.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Trail Ridge Road

Saturday, June 11

Got up about 6:00. I was cold and wanted some hot food. I made some coffee, then some oatmeal and added the dried cinnamon apples. It was quite good -- could've been a little sweeter, but hot and "not disgusting" were at the top of the the priority list, so this was gourmet.

It had cleared up some, and I could see some of the mountains in the National Park to the East. Sun was glistening off of dew-covered vegetation. And the lovely considerate folks who had given me such a good night's entertainment began to stir about 150 yards to the north.

The same Butthead laugh was there, backed with less alchohol. A generator turned on. I wanted out of there, and I did it pretty quick.

I drove farther up the road into the National Forest .... something I should've done the night before -- and it wound up the mountain a ways along the side of the Stillwater Creek valley. I stopped at a point just under 10,000 feet and found a place in the stream that offered a bit of privacy and I went down there with my washcloth and towell to tidy up a bit. C-C-C-C-OLDDD water. But clean.

I had been a while getting up here and of course looking around at all the beauty in the Rocky Mountain morning, and it was proably around 10:00 before I left and headed for Trailridge Road, hoping it would be open. I had a pretty good hunch it would be.

Stopped at the West side visitors center, talked to the rangers, and bought a little keychain thermometer. The road had opened about an hour before I got there.

I headed up. It began to rain again, which was not what I had hoped for, but it didn't last long -- by the time I got up about 1,000 feet from the road entrance, it had stopped and there was a lot of sunshine and beautiful views of the Never Summer Range and the early stages of the Colorado River.

Naturally there was a lot of picture taking during this whole period.

The road winds up past the snowline to Milner Pass. Poudra lake was still frozen. Ran into people from Illinois & Kansas .... and from all over the world as well.

After the taking the standard "Pass" shot, I pressed on up past the treeline to the Alpine Visitors Center.

Just to the northwest of the Visitors' center is a footpath, still mostly snow covered, to a nearby 12,000 peak. I can't resist a peak so close, so I went there first. I had lots of company. It was partly cloudy, temperatures probably around 45-50 with a slight breeze. You had to wait your turn at the top for a "peak" shot, but lots of friendly folks were up there to take them for you, and I took a few for others myself. Everywhere I pointed my camera there was a fantastic view ... the kind a camera can never capture, but still there were plenty of interesting subjects to shoot and of course I did.

I wandered back down to the Visitors Center eventually, but I'm just not into stuff for the sake of stuff anymore and it was like a small version of the tourist trap at the top of Pike's Peak ... without the tram.

So again I pressed on to the Tundra Curves. Tundra is neat. These little plants get a few scant weeks out of the year to eek out some sunlight gathering/food making/storing and oh yeah, maybe 1/100" of growth before they're wolloped with a deep blanket of snow again until next ... "summer". And on any day of the summer they can be covered with snow as well!

After the Lava Cliffs (remnants from an ancient lava flow) and tundra curves you look over Forest Canyon, which eventually dumps out into Morraine Park. Right by the road near the "Rock Cut", there's public restrooms at 12,090 feet. Elevation proudly displayed over the window.

Right about here I got my first look at the flat top of Long's Peak for this trip... I was surprised to be able to see it. You forget that the park is relatively small compared to the scale of the features in it. Some of you may remember that I had planned to try to climb it this trip, but one look at it told me that it would NOT be this year. You need to do it in July, Aug, or maybe early September. Too much snow, and the Trough was full of snow probably deeper than I've ever seen if I'd dared to go up there ...and made it.

By this time I'm thinking I need to move along a little faster because I need to find a place to camp and I wanted to try to meet Brad Fitch at the YMCA of the Rockies. I knew I'd be stopping to take more pictures, but I tried to make them less frequent on the way down the other side.

I went through horseshoe park and out to the Beaver Meadows Visitors Center and asked about camping. They said they still had places open at Moraine Park, so I went and paid for a night and set up my tent in site 99. The campgrounds were nearly full -- not surprising for a Saturday evening. I cooked dinner and checked my voicemail -- there was a message from Brad. He was playing 5-7. By the time I got my dinner dishes cleaned up, though, it was about 6:30 and I decided against it -- though I did drive out there around 8:00 just to look at the place. It's very pretty.