Wednesday, August 28, 2013

It Was a Friday to Remember!

We got back from NYC on Sunday morning. What a fun trip that was! I only had one full day in the city but with Tammy's planning skills we were able to make the most of it. She and Rachel arrived there earlier in the week having taken a little over two days to drive there. I've mentioned in a previous post that Rachel will be spending the first semester of her senior year out there at Stony Brook College on Long Island.

Tammy arranged for us to take a 5-hour bus tour of the borough of Manhattan (it's not a city). It was a great idea. We got to see so much of Manhattan while at the same time not spending the entire day on our feet. The tour guide was so good. She knew all sorts of interesting trivia that she sprinkled throughout her talk as she guided us along.

While walking the streets of Manhattan it dawned on me that the rude and obnoxious people of NYC that I fully expected to be surrounded by were avoiding me. Even behind the wheel in traffic, they were keeping their distance. I really didn't expect that. I've never experienced a more densely populated city/borough with such a friendly and well-mannered collection of people.

We had several hours to kill after our tour before taking our seats to see the Broadway production of Wicked. Oh, that reminds me...I now know the difference between on-Broadway, off-Broadway and off-off-Broadway. Do you? Let me help you. A Broadway play is one that plays before more than 500 people. Off-Broadway productions seat 100-500 people and off-off-Broadway shows play to less than 100 people.

Wicked is a Broadway production that kept us entertained the entire time. Tammy pulled a fast one on me. She told me that she'd gotten cheap seats in the very back row and I told her I was fine with that. When we walked into the theater to take our seats I noticed as I followed Tammy that we were walking nowhere near the back row. She'd upgraded us without telling me. She heard no complaints from either Rachel or me.

After the show, we made one last run through Times Square for some photos and people-watching on our way to catch the Long Island Train back to Ronkonkoma where we'd left our rental car some 14 hours earlier. I had to laugh because we were all so tired and it reminded me of our trip to Disney World in 2004. Tammy had every minute of that vacation planned with stuff for us to do. We were all so exhausted by the time our vacation was over that we needed a vacation from our vacation. This was feeling a lot like that!

It was a Friday to remember!

Standing in the depot of the Long Island Train station waiting for our track information to appear, the clock turned 12:00 and Rachel yelled out for everyone to hear "It's my birthday!!" Several people standing around us congratulated her. I smiled. That's my spontaneous daughter and I couldn't be more pleased with the woman she's become.

We left for home late the following morning expecting to take two days to get there. I had to be careful not to spend too much time seated for fear of another blood clot in my legs so I was careful to do some stretches in the car along the way and to run in place while refueling the car. Whatever it takes.

I enjoy watching the world pass by from behind a windshield so I was looking forward to the drive home. Tammy and I both programmed the GPS in our phones to Harrisburg, PA on the way out and compared the prompts. My Droid Maxx kept trying to route us away from Manhattan but Tammy's iPhone headed us straight for the heart of the borough. Against my better judgment, I allowed her iPhone to lead the way if only to prove once and for all the superiority of the Android platform. Sure enough, before long we were stuck in traffic in downtown Manhattan with Tammy apologizing with one breath then gleefully telling me with the next breath that I was driving in Manhattan and hey "look out the window...isn't that the Empire State Building?" "Yup!"

Aside from some slow-moving traffic in Pennsylvania where we were completely stopped for a time, we made up for it once we left the hilly roads and struggling semis of that beautiful state behind.

My Droid was telling me we'd make Chicago at around 2:30 in the morning so we did our best to make that so. And we did. I don't think I used my brakes once going through that nearly always congested part of the country. My brakes did get a workout though at the too many tolls we encountered.

We drove straight through with the exception of a much needed 90-minute rest stop a little more than 4 hours from home in Wisconsin. We'd left Stony Brook at 10:15 the previous morning and arrived home at 11:00. I'd say we made good time while having a good time.

The pups were happy to see us and we were so thankful to my brother Tim for stopping by several times each day to care for them. Thanks, Tim!

You know how you sometimes experience a day or a weekend that you'd love to live over again? This trip was that for me. We're definitely considering plans to make it back to the Big Apple once again to see if we can expand on the fun we had but plans with much more time to spend out there.

Here's a link to some photos from our trip.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Big Monkey in the Big Apple

I flew out mid-Thursday morning to rendezvous with Tammy and Rachel for a late afternoon arrival in Islip, NY, the closest airport to Stony Brook. The only hitch in the whole trip was a new can of gel shaving lotion that became the property of some TSA worker. I suppose I was figuring a gel product would be safe from their feasting eyes but apparently, I don't travel often enough to know what terrorists are using these days to bring down planes.

I made a connection at Reagan International where I traded my Embraer 145 for a CRJ2, a dog of an airplane that all too often struggles to reach altitude. We maxed out at a wimpy 29,000 feet on this final leg of the journey.

I'd intended to read my Kindle (Don Felder's Heaven and Hell: My Life in the Eagles) but I scrapped that plan pretty much as soon as a guy in a look-at-me big cowboy hat sat down next to me. He was chatting on his cellphone while he took his seat. "This is Big you're sure my passport is in order?" (a reassuring voice on the other end speaks) "And so-and-so will be there to meet me?" I couldn't help but glance away from my Kindle as this discussion took place while at the same time my seat-buddy was rearranging a bunch of bills in his wallet, the likes of which I'd never seen. Strange money.

I pretended to read my Kindle while he got situated and before he directed his attention toward me. I can't remember what he said but the small-talk began. "So, are you from New York?" "No, I'm just meeting my wife and daughter here (insert brief explanation)" I returned the pleasantry by inquiring about his plans. He replied that although he was from New York, he was on assignment, employed by the federal government with 35 years of service but that he couldn't tell me what exactly it was that he did.

Oh, my.

I told him that I too was employed by the federal government as an air traffic controller and that I was pretty much just waiting to pick my day to retire. He seemed interested but he brought the conversation back to his line of work. "I can't tell you what I do exactly but I can tell you this: I've been to every state in the country and I've been to every country in the world...I know how to go in and cause people to revolt; to rise up against their government".

What do you say to that? Syria came to mind.

I so wanted to dismiss the guy as some nut-job from New York like so many others I'd likely meet along the way but all too often he'd say something that made sense and so I was reluctant to do so.

He spoke of police in this country and how their tactics are oftentimes born out of haste rather than trying to achieve a result that reduces the chance for confrontation. He talked about how when they wanted to apprehend someone they would often use some form of gas to render everybody in the home unconscious before quietly going in and getting their man. It made sense to me.

The more we talked, the more I liked Big Monkey and it really didn't matter to me if he was merely bullshitting me or not. I enjoyed his company.

As I got off the plane and headed toward the terminal I turned to take a photo of the plane. Big Monkey is the guy in the lime-green shirt with the cowboy hat.

I texted Rachel to let her know I'd arrived, half expecting them to meet me as I got off the plane but they were busy getting her situated in her dorm. They'd be there to pick me up in less than 15 minutes. I read my Kindle while I waited, content that I'd arrived in one piece and had left nothing behind with the exception of one can of gel shaving lotion.

More to follow...

Monday, August 19, 2013

Stony Brook Bound!

I was at a stoplight a couple days ago when I noticed a police car waiting opposite me for the light to change. I briefly wondered if someone would run the light as so often happens and would the officer ticket the driver. Sure enough, a cement mixing truck barreled through the intersection just as the light was changing to red. A brief moment passed as I waited for green and as the light changed, a red SUV easily going much faster than the posted 45 mph blew through the light. The cop, who was intending to go straight made a fast right turn in pursuit. I'm curious to know the excuse offered up if there was one. I've gotten in the habit of looking left and right before pushing the accelerator. I never used to feel the need.

Tammy and Rachel are trekking their way across the country to Stony Brook, NY where Rachel begins school in one week. Tammy drove my pick-up down to Rochester Saturday afternoon to fill it up with one last load of Rachel's belongings and to bring her home. She's had to give away a lot of her stuff (mostly bedroom furniture) because we don't really have room to store it all here and the cost to put it in storage would be more than its value. Such is the life of a college student.

She got all of her things that she'll be taking to New York transferred from the truck to the rental car and what didn't fit we stuffed into her room then closed the door. We're so thankful for the door to her room.

She tentatively plans to take one year off from school after her senior year to finish accumulating enough medical-related work hours before applying to a Physician Assistant school. I know she'd talked about a break before but she already has 900 hours of the required 1500 so I'd be surprised if she actually does take a break. She's hoping to land some type of nursing assistant job when she gets to Stoney Brook and continue to add to her balance of hours. We shall see.

The three of us spent a couple hours with Mom Saturday night. She needs to have another surgical procedure on her eye once again because of continued complications. Her appointment is scheduled for this Wednesday. This next procedure will be somewhat different than the last two and her doctor assured her that this will finally fix the problem with her torn and detached retina. I'm not sure how this next procedure will be different from the previous two but I hope and pray they're right.

We came home and spent some time chatting on the deck over some wine and beer by the fire before calling it a night.

They traveled 525 miles to Mackinaw City, Michigan yesterday where they spent the night. They loved it there. They're not taking the most direct route to get to Stony Brook but it will be a prettier drive and one that avoids the snarled traffic of Chicago. They plan to drive to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania today (about 750 miles) where they'll spend tonight. That will leave them with not much more than a 4-hour drive tomorrow. Tammy wanted to be sure they were both rested before doing battle with the traffic in New York. Good idea!

A few minutes with the pups before saying goodbye...

Sunday, August 11, 2013

An End in Sight After 15 Weeks

I woke up this morning and toyed around with the idea of going for a walk before work. Attending church no longer figures into my routine. I went downstairs to power-up my laptop and check the weather because it was looking a little gloomy. I found that the sporadic internet problems I was having last night had become more than that. Several attempts to fix the problem got me nowhere so I got on the phone with Charter who diagnosed my troubles as an unresponsive modem. Not the beginning of the day I had hoped for.

A new modem from the store I usually don't like to frequent or mention has us back online.

We saw lots of progress made on our sun-porch and deck addition this past week and the end of the project is now in sight after 15 weeks of construction. That realization comes as a relief as our home begins to return to normal. We're still waiting on a replacement door from Marvin Windows. It's supposed to ship out tomorrow from their Warroad plant 380 miles north. Hopefully, it will make it to us by mid-week.

Here's a link to my latest blog update about the project. Check out the time-lapse video at the end if you have a spare 4:32.

Our backyard becomes a little shadier with each year as trees mature leaving parts of our lawn in a losing struggle for survival. Most of my Friday afternoon was spent trying to reverse the damage. I spread down some topsoil and raked in some rye-grass lawn seed that's supposed to be more shade tolerant. I finished by covering the area with hay to try and minimize runoff from heavy downpours and help the soil retain moisture. I'm concerned that the hay will reduce even more the limited sunshine the area already suffers from. I'll know in a couple weeks if my efforts are paying off. Watch this space for updates!

I only managed two rides this week. That's not good. I got up early Saturday intent on putting in a strong effort but I'd spent too much time on my legs the day before for that to happen. I'd have to settle for mediocre instead. But mediocre on the bike under sunny skies with a light breeze and cooler than normal temps was still a pretty good place to be.

My route.

Video from my ride...

Monday, August 5, 2013

A Love Story and a Fair Weekend

I came into work last Wednesday morning to hear the sad news that Lenny had to leave the all-night shift early at around 2:30 in the morning because both of his parents had passed away. A car accident? A fire? No, neither of those.

A real in-life and in-death love story. Edit: The article is no longer there from the paper it had been published in. Lenny's father was taken to the hospital suffering from a heart attack. His mother, distraught over the thought of losing him died less than two minutes before her husband succumbed.

Tammy and I spent much of our weekend (both Friday and Saturday afternoons) at the various art fairs in Minneapolis: Uptown, Powderhorn, and Loring Park. We knew artists displaying their work at each location so it was nice to visit with them but we didn't get to see them all. We arrived at Powderhorn just as it was closing and only had time to chat with Steve. We kept him there beyond the 6:00 closing time but I'm quite sure that was fine with him because he made a couple of sales during that time.

We tried to buy one of Steve's bowls but he wouldn't let us. He said he'd have to discount it too much and offered to work with us instead to make one of our own. What a guy! Steve intimidates us because he makes the art of glassblowing look so much easier than it really is, leaving us to feel that we should be doing better than we are. What I wouldn't give to spend one week with him working intensely on improving my skills. We've been absent from the studio for the past six weeks as other activities keep us from getting there. I'm looking forward to getting back more regularly once again and picking up where we left off.

Photos from the fairs.

I got out for a ride Saturday morning under a mostly sunny sky with a light breeze and cool, dry air. I don't think conditions can be any more ideal than what Saturday offered. I headed northwest intending to do a Lakeville to Rogers loop but some road construction sent me a little further west than I'd planned. I turned near Rockford to put what little wind there was at my back to help push me home.

Riding Highway 55 just east of Rockford I passed another cyclist. Noticing he had his earbuds in I simply gave him a quick nod and unheard "hello" as I passed on his left. He tucked in behind me and sat in my draft. I half expected him to at some point pull through and allow me the advantage of a draft but after a couple miles, I realized he was content to sit in. I didn't really mind but then again I suppose I did. I upped my effort to see if he could still hang with me. He could.

After around 7 miles I slowed for a stoplight and looked over at him. He commented on my jersey from California Bicycles in the San Diego area. He told me that he's a software developer who recently moved here from there and was familiar with the shop. I told him it was my main fix for all things bicycle-related when I was in the Navy stationed out there. We made more small-talk before he smiled and thanked me for the draft while at the same time apologizing for not helping. "I'd have pulled through if I could," he said.

I'll take that as a compliment!

A link to my ride on Strava.