29 November 2012

Thanksgiving Week 2012

Another week of call started Monday, and although I would rather not, management around here has helped to make it easier. I stayed home Monday night and worked on this, my blog.

Tuesday I went for 2012 run #48, 2.56mi in 26:07 at a 10:11 min/mi pace. It was 37°F when I started running. My body got warm fairly quickly, so I stayed warm, but my lungs did not like the cold. I think 40°F is probably my basement.

Wednesday during lunch I got my old car title issues fixed, finally, and that mistake only cost me $14. After work, I played Borderlands 2.

Thursday was Thanksgiving! Troy made some pork tenderloin and candied yams. I made chicken and potatoes, a green salad, 'mexican' corn, and opened a can of cranberry sauce. Frank showed up with rolls, and we ate about 1430. Frank left and went to his parents.

The meal so nice, I ate it twice.

The continual food coma was mixed in with Borderlands 2. Around 1800 Donna showed up with her sons and a sons friend. Troy and the four of them played a game of Small World. I did not play, but I helped out the boys who hadn't played before. Maeg showed up, then Frank again. The food was mostly finished off.

Laser cat made an appearance. Oddly enough Frank seems unconcerned.

Friday after it was clear that oncall had died down, I went to the dance. There was a funny part where Brian was DJ and he was playing off his iPod and he accidentally started Usher's Yeah, and then stopped it. Everybody booed, but he made up for it by playing it for the last song. After the dance we went to Amsterdam to pick up noms and then hang out at Cecily and Maggie's place.

Saturday, surprise, I ran errands. I came back home and napped. Saturday night was Kaleb's monthly game night, it's been a while since I've been there, so I was on time, and we played some games. Amazingly, the evening was uninterrupted by the on call phone ringing.

The first game was a new game for me Takenoko. This is a super cute (am I allowed to say super cute?) game about a bamboo eating Panda. I didn't win, but I did like the game, which was easy to learn, and probably good for any kid who can count to ten.

The next game I played was Castles of Burgundy. This was my first complete play through, and I liked even more than my last one. Again, I did not win this game either, in fact, I didn't win any game all night long, but who is counting, right?

The next game was King of Tokyo. This is easily becoming one of my favorites, although I'm not certain it will have any long term replayability, but right now, it's working really well.

I finished second in a game of Kingsburg, this has been my consistent story about this game. I believe I have a winning strategy (warning: contains whining), however I have been rolling dice badly. Maybe I'll consider a different strategy if I actually did roll well.

We started a game of To Court the King. I liked this game at first, but more I play, the less I like it. I've seen plenty of argument about the rules, probably as much as all other games combined, and the way you can manipulate the dice just seems broken to me. We didn't finish, and I'm not sure I will play again.

The last game of the night was Ultimate Werewolf. We played twice, the first one ended very badly for me. I was the last villager, Troy was in and claimed (for a while in the game) that he was the witch, and Katya who said she was a villager. One of them was a vampire, and of course, I chose unwisely. The second game I was a vampire, Maggie got meta-game outed pretty much before the game started as one of the other vampires, and the Werewolves were quickly caught. Leaving me and Warren. He got caught, and I played as long as I could, but there were too many vetted villagers for me to continue on, even though I got it down to six.

Sunday, since I was on call, I made a decision to not to run the Bears get together, they won, but I went to church in the middle of the game. I went into Mass at 1230 it was Bears 7-3, and when I came out at 1330, it was 21-3. I went to church with Marilou at Saint Mary's in Bellevue. After church we drove all over Bellevue showing her the sights and drinking some sodas. We only had one deer run out in front of us, right by the Dairy Queen in Old Towne.

I dropped Marilou off at her car at church and went to the grocery store, only picking up a few items. As I went to check out, I saw a bag of pumpkin spice popcorn. I thought to myself "Jenny would love this stuff", so I checked if she was around, grabbed a couple bags, and headed over to her house.

We got to chatting, and then Libby showed, then we chatted more, and pretty soon it was dinner time. I had steaks in the car, and so we decided to improvise. Libby had already made her dinner, but Jenny and I had my steaks and her noodles and salad. I created a sour cream sauce. I didn't think it was really good, but Jenny ate it all, and quickly, I think that's the best compliment the cook can get.

Next week: car business.

23 November 2012

Second Week in November 2012

Another Monday, another migraine. Yuck. Would the official statistician of the Onion Skin News please see how many weeks in a row I've started out my Monday with a migraine. After work I came home, cooked, then baked.

Tuesday I was still not feeling well and...

...I decided that a monkey an ape could do my job.

After work I came home, played a couple minutes of Borderlands 2, then went to bed.

Wednesday morning the migraine was worse than the two days before, and I had enough, so I went to the doctor. I saw PA Laura, and she recommended allergy meds and vitamin D. I came home, took some vitamin D, and slept. By 1500 I woke up and felt great.

Thursday I ran some lunchtime errands, which will be a theme until my new car has plates on it. After work I played more Borderlands 2. I am still only playing one class, the Gunzerker, I don't use the class skill very often, but it's fun.

This also happened Thursday night, but I don't know what exactly what it is.

Friday I went to the courthouse at lunch, still trying to get the title on the Saturn worked out. I found out that the lien holder never released the lien. The girl at the county courthouse was super helpful and told me exactly what to do, so I think this will get solved. In the evening I went to the dance and the Donut Stop afterwards.

Saturday was a busy day. I started out with errands, then went over to Kaleb's for a game night during the day. We played a new (to me) game called The Castles of Burgundy. I liked it a lot, unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to finish the game (I was winning at the time, but I heard that I ended up in third place) because I was off to Hannah's first birthday party.

My involvement with this video takes place at 1:24,
but the whole thing is cute. Video credit: Matt

Story time with Frank. Photo credit: Matt

Is this correct? Photo credit: Matt

Ew, Jenny, gross! Photo credit: Matt

You can see all of Matt's pictures from this event here. I headed from there to Mike and Merinda's house warming. When I pulled up I got the primo parking spot, so I thought there might not be a lot going on, but the place was full. It was hopping. There weren't any pictures that I know about, but there were lots of friends, food, dancing, and a game of King of Tokyo. I was winning the whole game, but could not close it out, so Ben won. That was a good day.

Sunday morning Teri, Joe, Frank, and I went to church at Holy Ghost again. While I don't think it'll be three weeks in a row, it was a good Mass with a excellent Homily by (visiting) Father Vasquez. After lunch Teri and I went out to eat, Frank and Joe had something else to do.

I came home and napped. I got know Julie a little better, we had ice cream. I came home intending to run, but instead got some bad news, one of my favorite out of town dancers, Kelley McLaren had been killed in a auto accident.

My favorite Kelley memory was at Heartland Swing in 2011. I was dancing with Kelley's friend Chris, and she was dancing with Maggie. Chris told me "Throw me over them." We waited until they did a swing out and I threw him ... all Maggie saw was someone flying through the air at her and she bailed. After all the laughing stopped, Kelley said "We can do this." and we did, I tossed Chris right up over their hands like a limbo bar in reverse. Dancing with her was just like that too, no matter what dumb thing I thought up she'd do it, and make it look good. She was one of my favorite dances ever.

Kelley and I at Cowtown 2010.

102_1051 102_1052
Kelley dancing at Heartland 2011.

I'm not sure if I can give a better compliment than to say Kelley was the kind of person who made you want to be a better person, and I will miss her.

Next Week: Thanksgiving

22 November 2012

First Full Week in November 2012

Monday I did the unthinkable, I left my phone at home. I discovered this on the way to work, but it was too late to turn around and go get it. I was supposed to pick up Troy at the airport, so it wasn't a meaningless forget, but it turned out well. I got home, got a text to pick up Troy, and then after picking him up and dropping him off at home, I ran some errands.

I think it's kind of funny that within a few weeks of one another I did the three most excitingly subversive things that I have personal knowledge of. The first was a few weeks ago when I traveled across the Mackinac bridge. While this might not be a big deal to most, but for me, being that high over the water with nothing connecting you to the ground but a thin ribbon of steel and concrete is exhilarating to me.

Tuesday morning I was up early and in line to vote. Voting is the second most exciting thing that I think I do. The concept, of usurping the power of mighty, and making them answer to the citizenry is in itself an amazing proposition. Family is not a democracy, employment is not a democracy, but somehow, regardless of its implementation, the masses continue to exercise control over who is in and who is out. I waited about 25 minutes to vote, and since seven other people I know vote in the same location (six went, one was absentee), I heard that lines were long all day long. Good.

The first is participating in Mass, and specifically Communion, but that's a story for another time and place.

Wednesday after work, I basically played Borderlands 2 all night.

Thursday was moving day at work, I got my new cube set up. The new (rebuilt) office is very nice.

Thursday evening I went for 2012 run #47. 5k in 30:01, that's 9:35 min/mi. I'm still aiming for 50 runs this year. I am finding that, like the last few years, my November interest in exercise is definitely not high. I blame 'Human Hibernation Syndrome'. If this year is really like the last few years, I will be back at it before too long.

Friday evening I went to the dance and the Donut Stop, hohum - good times, good times.

Saturday I ran errands and then headed off to a mini-Pretzcon. I saw a bunch of people who I haven't seen in a while (since Pretzcon) and played games with them! Actually it was one game, Quarriors! with the Quarmageddon expansion pack. I have played this before, but it's been a while. I think it was much more enjoyable today than the last time I played, and I didn't even win.

From there I headed over to Maggie and Cecily's housewarming party. I haven't been taking my camera with me anywhere, but Matt was there, so he did the honors.

Maggie is misquoted as saying "It's my party,
why are you the center of attention?" Photo credit: Matt

Everybody loves the new and improved baby in a box! Photo credit: Matt

My place in this neighborhood wasn't nearly as nice. Photo credit: Matt

The party broke up a little earlier then expected, which may have had something to do with my strange parking spot, or the storm that rolled through Omaha in the late evening.

Sunday morning I was off to church and picked Holy Ghost as a the place to go. Three surprises there, the church was nicer than I remember it, Lacey was there, and they had a turkey dinner in the basement, complete with pickles (the cards, not the food), and meat wheel. Joe won, Frank and I less so.

I came home and took multiple naps before heading over to DJs and Sunday Night Football to see the Bears get beaten by the Houston Texans on a rainy night in Chicago. It wasn't the only thing that got lost, I misplaced $17 and that didn't make me any happier with the Bears losing.

Next week: a busy Saturday!

16 November 2012

Halloween Week 2012

Did you catch my foreshadowing on the previous post? Monday after work I met up with a gentleman from Woodhouse Mazda that Sarah A introduced me to and we discussed the details of upgrading me to a new car. It was exhausting, and I finished talking by 2030, and came home in my Saturn. Frank and I hung out for the remainder of the evening.

Mine for 8.25 years and still looking good, even mom said so.

Tuesday was new car day! Here is what I didn't get on the new car that I wanted, a sunroof, I also would have preferred the lighter blue to the darker blue, but other than that it has all the bell and whistles I wanted, plus a few extras.

My brand new 2013 Mazda Cx5. Big car, big responsibility.

So it turns out that the (missing) sunroof is less consequential than I thought, I think it is because I have so much more headroom. It has full bluetooth integration with my phone plus hands free dialing, a back up camera, and no key! Right after work I went and showed it off to Maggie and Cecily, we drove around and got ice cream. I took it home and showed it off to Troy and Maeg ... Troy got into 'the trunk', I don't quite understand why, but it was funny.

Wednesday was Halloween, and I took the car over to Merinda and Mike's house to show it off. It turned out to be more visiting time, Mike was playing Dragon Age, and we talked a little about that and this. Knowing how much Merinda loves Halloween, it was unfortunate that she didn't get many kids. They took a look at the car, and I headed home.

Then I got a funny idea. I drove by Kaleb's and I was going to trick or treat. It didn't work, I got busted while trying to sneak up to the door. Scott and CJ just happened to be there. We got to talking, then Melissa showed up, and so we played a game of Kingsburg. CJ won handily. I noticed that although this game is a dice rolling game, it is not really as much about rolling well as it is about a good strategy.

Thursday after work I picked up Lee and we went and played Bases, maybe the last time of the year. No major injuries AND all hanging out at Adam & Jake's parents house at the end of it. I had juice, other people had hot cocoa.

Friday I had my first really good nap in the new car, so good in fact that I could barely wake up from it. In the evening I went to the dance, but home early instead of the Donut Stop.

Saturday was one of the first Saturdays I had nothing to do in a long, long time (who wants to do the research on this?) I ran the usual Saturday errands. In the afternoon I went for 2012 run #46, this was actually a pretty funny run. It was my first one after updating my Zombies, Run app and there were issues with the update not wanting to play nice with my tunes. After I got this semi-resolved, I grabbed the wrong broken headphones, so it took me about 15 minutes just to start running. By the time I started I was quite annoyed, and ran my first mile in about 8:45, whoa sparky, slow down. I deliberately tried to slow down, but I wasn't all that successful, 2.57 miles in 24:37 at 9:34 min/mi. Later I played Borderlands 2 and remembered to change the clocks before heading off to bed early.

So guess what, go to bed early Saturday night with an extra hour to sleep, and get up early on Sunday. I went to church at Saint Rose of Lima. The usual crew met up at DJ's Dugout at watch the Bears win a laugher over Tennessee. I finished up the day making a lot of food for the upcoming week.

14 November 2012

Fourth Week in October 2012

Monday night at it was time for yet another Bears appearance on Monday Night Football. This time we beat the Lions. The usual crowd gathered at DJs Dugout and watched it. The score was close, but the game never felt like it was.

Tuesday and Wednesday I was home sick, I did some chores, but mostly just felt bad.
Thursday my coworker Chris was talking about his buying a new truck, so then I started looking into one ... nothing makes you spend money like a friend spending money.

Friday was the annual Omaha Jitterbugs Halloween costume party dance.

Adam and Dianna's Bob Ross and happy little tree was the
best costume I've seen since last week and Heather's loofa.

Lee's sewing and creativity on my Loki costume was first rate, even if I couldn't
find a scepter or helm. P.S. I won this fight.

You can see all my pictures from the JNO party here, there aren't many. Matt took some too, they are here. Yes, we went to Donut Stop in costume.

Saturday was a 'sort of' busy day. I ran some errands in the morning, played some more Borderlands 2 in the afternoon. Went to church with Frank, and then headed over to Merinda's Halloween costume party in the evening at Ruth's house. I switched back to the Vampire Hunter costume.

Thank you to Frank for making the stake, I wonder where I put that thing.

Cutest. Lion. Ever.

I guess I should have known faeries would get cold in Nebraska.

Vivian found out I wouldn't be voting for the same presidential candidate
that she is planning on voting for. Photo credit: Matt

You can see all of my pictures from the party here. Matt's version can be found here.

Sunday there was another gathering at DJs Dugout to watch the Bears play again. This time against the Carolina Panthers. This game was close for way too long, and it was a one point victory for the Bears. Although, the game never seemed like it was in danger of being a loss, blowouts are definitely more comfortable than close games.

Next week: Did you catch the foreshadowing?

Third Week in October 2012

Monday, and the last couple weeks have made me feel like all I do is process pictures. I processed and put up part of a million pictures. Seriously though, in between the beginning of Cowtown and the end of the Vala's trip I took over 2600 pictures on my camera, not including my phone.

Tuesday I talked Frank into trying Bases (the game that cannot be described). He hurt himself. Okay, I got hurt too, a couple of big bruises (that lasted four weeks). On the plus side, I did catch four people in a row.

Wednesday I stayed home from work not feeling well. Most of the day was spent sleeping, but I did make an XBox Live account, my gamertag is e7onions23, if you want to have me add you as a friend tell me who you are. I did leave the house and had dinner with Sarah A. at Summer Kitchen Cafe ... I was actually late, and it was just what I needed.

Thursday after work I went looking for stuff to go with my Loki Halloween costume. I went to three more places and came up empty. I can only blame myself, what was I thinking, the villain in the most popular movie of the year, of course there will be costumes and accessories for it ... wrong!

I headed over to Mae's new house to help her move in. I arrived too late to do anything except eat pizza. I did run into someone I hadn't seen but once in fifteen years who is a friend of Mike. I got a tour of the place, it has a lot of functional space for not being huge. Some of the woodwork is very nice.

Friday I went to the usual dance and then to the Donut Stop. I think it's weird that it's usually the highlight of me week, and barely gets any mention in the blog.

Saturday morning I went running errands, including more unsuccessful shopping for Loki stuff, so I developed a plan B costume. Which I deployed successfully in the evening at Jenny's Halloween costume birthday party.

The birthday Belle and her deadly roommate,
who is giving them bunny ears is unknown. Photo credit: Matt

Hannah seems unconcerned about the angel of death.

Derp! I am I doing this vampire hunting thing right? Photo credit: Matt

The contest winners!
Heather's loofa was the most creative costume I've seen in a while.

Frank came from a movie set, Sarah came from the 1940s. Photo credit: Sarah A.

You can see all my pictures from the party here, Matt's are here. Oddly enough the party ended with us upstairs at Sarah & Dean's house singing Disney karaoke. Sarah A. lost her ride, so Frank and I fought over who would drive her home ... I won ... but we were all heading over to the same place anyway, the end of Kaleb's game night. No games, but I did play some ping pong. We left when Sarah got tired.

Sunday I went to Mass, sort of paid attention to football even though my fantasy teams stink, and ended the day having dinner with Frank at Panda Express.

Next week: More Halloween!

13 November 2012

Second Week in October 2012

Monday right after work I had dinner with Kimee at Old Chicago. We both got artisan pizzas that were really good. I think I need more friend time. I came home and ran some of the calories off, 2012 run #42, 2.98 miles in 37:46, a super slow 12:40 min/mi, but I did finish.

Tuesday was my day to teach Maggie and Cecily how to cook. I think it's just an excuse for them to have visitors, but I gladly obliged. They made chicken tacos while I 'supervised'. Afterwards we went out to eCreamery for ice cream. We walked from their apartment, it was a little chilly, but it was fine.

Wednesday after work I ran some errands and then went on 2012 run #43, 5k in 29:32, that is a toasty 9:28 min/mi. Go me!

Thursday after work I went to Theology on Tap, the fall series. The talk was about Mary's place in the church and it was quite enjoyable.

Friday I was back at the dance for the first time in quite a while. I left a little early because I was a little tired.

Saturday I was up early and off doing errands. I came home and had a little time, so Troy and I tried out Borderlands 2 in co-op mode. It works. I decided to get an XBox Live account so I can play with more friends. I then went for 2012 run #44, a new distance record! 4.08 miles in 40:22 at 9:54 min/mi. More go me!

I got ready and went to Laura and CJ's wedding at Joslyn Castle. There was an optional steampunk theme.

My roommate has a very nice suit.

I wonder if I am being laughed with or at.


CJ actually danced!

Despite my almost 20 years in Omaha, it was my first visit to the Castle. It was certainly opulent, but I didn't think it was big. You can see all my pictures from the wedding here.

Sunday I was up and went to church, and then over to Anne's house so we could go out to Vala's for our annual trip to Vala's. Anne and I went early, so we could be there longer. The first thing we did was to get stuck in traffic for 45 minutes. Hopefully this will be the last year for traffic, 370 will be widened by last year. Once we got parked, waited for her friend Michelle, and headed straight to the bouncing pillows.

Fairly impressive by my standards.

We headed in absolutely no direction what-so-ever waiting for everyone to get there,
so there was a lot of randomness.

As they all trickled in slowly and we ended up in line for food.
Sarah and I got some brewed soda.

The obligatory ladies photo...

...and the seemingly equally obligatory Libby-doing-something-weird photo.

As we got over to the pig races, Matt, Vivian, and Hannah showed up...
Photo credit: Matt

...and Hannah is the star of the show. Photo credit: Matt

We did the corn maze next, it was kind of disappointing because the corn didn't grow very high with the heat and drought. Photo credit: Matt

Ever wonder what it's like to hang around with my friends? It's exactly like this, six people taking pictures of the others, and one taking pictures of the people taking pictures.

IMG_0343 IMG_0351 IMG_0362 IMG_0364
The picture fest had some really nice shots.

P1140186 P1140188
Then we did the slide and the carts... Both photos credit: Matt

Anne and I did some babysitting while Matt and Vivian did the bouncing.
..then we ate again followed by waddling through the 'haunted cave'.

The last tradition, trying on every hat in the place.

And that was it for the trip this year, you can see all my pictures from this years trip here and Matt's here. Matt and Vivian dropped me back at Anne's house to pick up my car and it was the end of my week.

First Week in October 2012

Whew, I need a vacation from my vacation. Monday Night Football provides the difference. After work we gathered in the usual spot, DJ's Dugout to watch the Bears beat the Cowboys. It was an entertaining game from the Bears perspective, with two defensive scores.

Tuesday right after work I running. This run had a specific goal, it was exactly a one mile run. I made it in 7:32, however, I was aiming for 7:30. I ran at the 200m work track, I had very good splits on the first four laps, but it was slower each lap on the last four. I recovered pretty quickly however. I hit the grocery store on the way home and did a bunch of cooking when I got home. The day finished out with picture processing.

Wednesday and Thursday were picture processing, quiet days.

Friday after work we had a work party at Shady Lane in Council Bluffs. I went with Jenny, in part because she already knows most of my coworkers. We got a cheap bottle of wine, enjoyed the hayrack ride, and roasted marshmallows and hotdogs. Can anyone explain hay (or straw)? We probably only had four or five handfuls of hay thrown at us, I had my coat zipped up, my hoodie over my head, and a scarf on ... and I still had hay in my shirt ... how? I don't get it at all.

Saturday was CJ's wedding shower combination party, featuring food and games. I didn't play a lot of games, but I did participate in a game of Telestrations, and a game of Cards Against Humanity. Since they are both on the social side of board games, and have been played almost to death, there were no big gaming revelations.

Sunday morning Teri, Frank, and I went to church at Saint Gerald's in 'Ralston'. After Mass the Boy Scouts there were having a pancake breakfast, so we had pancakes for breakfast. Later on we watched the Bears play and win convincingly again, this time over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Next Week: CJ's Wedding

09 November 2012

Fourth Week in September 2012

It's Monday morning and I wake up without a Zeke on the bed. Why? Because I am at my mother's house in Illinois. I got up and had breakfast with mom, hung around, then met up with Michele for lunch. We talked about cars and writing, she is very encouraging. In the afternoon, I hung out with mom, and we ran a bunch of errands together. She also wanted me to take some pictures of my stepdogster, Daisy.

IMG_8952 IMG_9000
IMG_8972 IMG_9022
You can see the family resemblance.

Later we ate leftovers and watched one of the strangest football games in the history of the NFL. At the end of the game I just said 'Wow'.

Tuesday morning I was off and on my vacation within a vacation. I hit the road and headed through Milwaukee to Green Bay. My first stop on the road trip was at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, Wisconsin. I made it in time for Mass. Our Lady of Good Help is the only 'official' site of a Marian apparition in the United States.


There were also quite a few flowers on the grounds. You can see all my pictures of the visit here. Quite frankly, I was expecting a tourist trap, and I was very pleased to see that it was not.

I headed out from there to Green Bay. As a Bears fan, I very much felt like a spy in enemy territory, probably more so than I would have felt like if it wasn't for the football game the
night before. I got lunch at Subway, I ate it at a pretty little park, then went to Lambeau Field to pay off my lost bet, and then I headed out to Marinette, WI and Menominee, MI.

When I was growing up, we had family friends (the ones that gave me chicken pox) who moved from Coldwater, Michigan to Menominee, Michigan. My family took a vacation there when I was young, so I stopped by and drove through the town(s) to see if they matched my memory. It was not as nice as I remember. There was a nice spot on the lakefront however in Menominee.

Maybe this should be my Facebook 'cover' photo.

Probably my favorite photo from the vacation. A lady and her dog walked by in the wet sand about five seconds before this photo, and it was gone with the next wave.

This picture took a lot of effort.

I left and headed north to Escanaba. This was about the point in the vacation when my cell service started to fail me, but the beautiful scenery did not, the trees were beautiful, although not as green as I thought they might be. I checked into my hotel, did some research on a local place to eat, but when I got there it was closed, so I ate at a Culver's. I did a little sight seeing, there is a beautiful lakefront there and some equally beautiful houses (not pictured).

Wednesday morning I was up at a reasonable hour (and I mean not too early), and hit the road towards Mackinac. I drove until I needed to take a break, at a rest stop in between the road and the north shore of Lake Michigan.

This did not quite come out like I wanted, but it was a learning experience.
I miss the panorama feature on the Kodak.

Maximum zoom on the 75-300mm lens, I don't think I scared him off...

...a second bald eagle showed up!

I got back in my car and made good time towards Mackinac. I stopped at a scenic overlook, that was scenic but not anything amazing, and then got back in my car and drove, about ten minutes later I went over the Cut River bridge, it looked pretty, and there was a parking lot, I practically wrecked the car turning in. This was the kind of scenery I was looking for while I traveled.

I'd like to give credit to creation for this picture, I just hit the button.

IMG_9277 IMG_9281
IMG_9289 IMG_9296
IMG_9310 IMG_9315
It was a magical place to visit, even if only for a few minutes.

I drove on and got to the Mackinac area, St. Ignace, and promptly found a Subway and filled my face, I was a hungry camper. After I bought my lunch, I bought a ticket to get on the boat and head to Mackinac Island. While I was waiting, I bought souvenirs, before I got to the island, and off season, so I thought I got some good deals.

IMG_9335 IMG_9323
Waiting for a boat. I chose which boat company to ride
because it matched Jenny's last name.

IMG_9348 IMG_9363
I'm on a boat!

I thought that the boat ride would be longer, colder, and choppier, so I took dramamine before I left. There was no need, I was fine. The ride was short and calm. The boat arrived on Mackinac Island about 1500, the porter picked up my luggage and headed to my hotel. My room was beautiful. I took about five minutes to be thankful, took a short walk in the rain, and when the rain stopped my walk and went to the bike rental place. I rode around the island, if for no other reason that Jenny would have killed me if I didn't do it.

This ride convinced me that my current bike is not good.

IMG_9422 IMG_9424
IMG_9441 IMG_9453
The ride is 8.2 miles. I did manage, somehow to knock the chain off
on the far side of the island. I had to fix it myself.

You may know that there are no motor vehicles allowed on the island. It was a cold, rainy, and late in the day, so when I got to the far side of the island, it was probably the quietest place I've ever been in my adult life. Not a sound, no machinery, no animals including insects and people, not a thing but my breathing. Eventually some other people came by, but I really enjoyed the quiet for a few minutes.

I came back to the hotel, took a very short nap, ate dinner, and then took my camera out in the moonlight to capture some pictures.

IMG_9502 IMG_9518
IMG_9544 IMG_9555
I think it can be said that I officially love my new camera.
I don't think I could have gotten these shots at all with the old one.

I can tell you that when using a 2 second exposure and a flash, don't move until the end of the shutter opening. I came back to my room, watched a little television, then went to the (non-hopping) bar, had a few beers and then slept like a baby. I was up right at sunrise, and hurried down the mile or so to the eastern shore of the island to take sunrise pictures.

IMG_9562 IMG_9565
IMG_9569 IMG_9563 IMG_9579
It wasn't really even that early.

I came back to the hotel, and then immediately found a restaurant and ate a big plate of pancakes. I packed up, left my bag at the hotel, and headed out on a four mile walk.

The camera can't really capture how steep this is.

Fort Mackinac.

mackinac panaroma
From the highest point on the island, Fort Holmes.

IMG_9646 IMG_9647 IMG_9648
The cemetery, the first one tells a sad tale.

There was not a lot of wildlife,
but I saw several bluejays and at least one woodpecker.

The Grand Hotel.

I got down to were the boat was with about 15 minutes to spare, and discovered I lost my ticket to get off of the island. I remember grabbing it, but I couldn't find it. This cost me $17 to get a new ticket. If that was the worst thing that happened to me on vacation, I can deal with that. I was back on the the boat, and off the island. I had less than 24 hours there, but I'm sure I'll remember it the rest of my life. You can see all of the pictures from the Mackinac Island part of my vacation here.

My car was waiting for me when I got back, and I hit the road and started towards the bridge. The Mackinac bridge was really the star of the vacation. To the engineer in me, I am fascinated by the way bridges are built and work. There is more than just that inside me though, at some level I am scared to death of being on a big bridge. It's a thrill almost unlike anything else I've felt. Both hands on the wheel, ten miles an hour under the speed limit, totally aware of everything. I think part of it is fear of drowning in a car, it didn't happen, I made it across safely, relaxed and drove down through the middle of Michigan.

About 1400 I got a little tired, so I pulled into a very pretty rest stop, took a nap and some pictures.

IMG_9827 IMG_9816 IMG_9832

After I woke back up, I continued driving. The forest eventually gave way to farmland and then Lansing. I drove on until I came to Coldwater, MI. Coldwater is the town I grew up in from four years old until fourth grade.

This is the house. It was painted white when I lived there, and there was only a one car garage, but other than looking smaller than I remember this is it.

If you want to hear a sad tale, ask me about the fire mentioned in this sign.

Where I went to school for second, third, and fourth grade, if it looks small,
it's because it is. I couldn't believe how tiny it was.

I remember Coldwater as a friendly, small town. I didn't remember the railroad that I crossed to get to school in Kindergarten and first grade, in fact I don't think I remember the railroad at all, even though it was five houses away. The town seemed poorer than I remember, but it's hard to tell really, I hadn't seen it in 40 years. The Dairy Queen was still in the same place I remember, I made sure it was still good.

I left Coldwater ahead of schedule and only had to get to South Bend, Indiana by 2030, about two and a half hours to go 80 some miles. I decided to go the scenic route down US 12 and then somehow go south to get there. I'm not sure that I got 'lost', but I sure got confused. I ended up running parallel and to the south of the Interstate, then when I got to Mishawaka I encountered more road construction than you can shake two highway workers watching another one working at.

I was staying with Katie, she arrived home from school about two minutes after I got there. We went out to eat at a Red Robin, and sat and talked for a couple hours. Despite knowing Katie for four years, it was the first time that I've sat down and had a long talk with her, I really enjoyed this time. We also stopped by the grocery store, and then I headed to guest room and slept.

Katie had left for school when I woke up Friday morning, so I got in the car and got ready to go. Beth had encouraged me to visit the Notre Dame campus and Katie had told me where to park. I'm always amazed when I can just walk onto a campus or into a school ... shouldn't someone be watching? The campus was very pretty, quiet, and well maintained.


IMG_9870 IMG_9866 IMG_9883
Basilica of Sacred Heart.


Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes.

I finally left, hit a Steak and Shake, and headed towards Chicago. Apart from standstill traffic just to the southwest of the loop, I made it back to mom's house in pretty good time in the early afternoon, and promptly took a nap. In the evening I had dinner with my high school classmate Maureen at the Public House in Woodstock, and then got some ice cream at Baskin Robbins. For the second time in a two days it was so nice to have sit down time with someone who I got to know a lot better.

Saturday was a complicated day. It was supposed to go one way, then it changed, then back again with all my plans. No one was at fault, but after all the changes, and being worn out from the rest of my trip. I decided shortly after I woke up to drive home. I left at 1000, drove straight through to Williamsburg and stopped, shopped, ate (thank you Arby's substituting a salad for fries at no extra cost), and took a nice nap. I woke up, filled up the car with gas, and hit the road arriving home just after sunset.

I did make a stop at Kaleb's house for game night, and it was a very short visit, and then came back home. I walked down to Frank's house for the finish of Vivian's birthday party and a firepit. That was quite the exhausting day, and week.

Sunday was kind of a blur. Church, lots of laundry, and a little loving. You can see all of my pictures from my vacation here.

Next week: recovering from vacation and two Bears wins!