Travel Archives

March 7, 2004

Las Vegas, Here We Come!

Well, it was a spontaneous decision, but I’m off to Las Vegas for a week-long vacation. Krista’s already got the room and whatnot, I just have to get myself out there. Found a cheap fare through America West so everything is lined up.

Here’s the short list of things Krista and I brainstormed we wanted to see:

  • Eiffel Tower @ Paris
  • Shark Reef @ Mandalay Bay
  • Dancing Fountains @ Bellagio
  • Pirate Show @ Treasure Island
  • Volcano @ Mirage
  • Gondola Ride & Madame Tussad’s Wax Museum @ Venetian
  • Mascarade Parade in the Sky @ Rio
  • Coke Museum
  • M&M World
  • Liberace Museum
  • “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” Sign
  • Hard Rock Cafe
  • Bonanza, the “World’s Largest Gift Shop”
  • Downtown / Fairmont Street Experience

Krista also has a ticket to “O” @ Bellagio…I’ll have to find something to keep myself busy while she’s seeing the show. Hrm, Bellagio…isn’t that the place with the wonderful fountains I like to watch so much?

Well, off to bed…busy day of travel tomorrow. Woo!

March 8, 2004

Las Vegas 2004: Day 1

Well, the flights went well. Krista’s was delayed a bit, but it all worked out in the end. Thrifty upgraded us to a PT Cruiser, so we’ll be driving around in style and comfort all week long.

We left the airport, I knew that the Stratosphere was at the end of the strip. So, we headed towards it, then drove back down the strip. Parked at the Luxor, went in and had their buffet for lunch. Pretty yummy, great service (I don’t think my pop ever got below half full).

Then we caught the tram over to Mandalay Bay, walked over to the Shark Reef exhibit all the way on the other side of the casino resort! What a walk! You’d think they would get you at least a little closer to their star attraction. Oh well, waited in line about 30 minutes (they only let so many people in at a time) and then entered the attraction. We each got a little handset which we could enter code numbers located next to each tank and get a bunch of detailed information about the aquatic life located in said tank. It let you proceed through the exhibits at your own pace, in small groups, spend as much time as you wanted looking at the life in the tank after you got done listening to the audio tour.

The tour concluded with three special exhibits. The first was a petting tank which had stingrays and horseshoe crabs which you could touch and feel. I managed to get a touch of the skin of a stingray, quite slippery smooth. The second was a giant tank of jellyfish, lit with a black light. Quite a beautiful sight, lots of floating purple.

Finally, there was the “sunken ship” tank. It was filled with over 10 different kinds of sharks, some green sea turtles, swordfish, stingrays and other miscellaneous fish. I really enjoyed watching the sea turtles floating around the tank, they were so graceful in their slow speed swim around the tank. The highlight of the display was the only hammerhead shark in captivity in the US. While it was only a young one, it was already 6 feet long. It was something else to see, I had only seen a hammerhead shark before in cartoons!

The gift shop was incredibly disappointing at the Shark Reef, it was as if the gift shop owners had never been through the exhibit. So, we picked up a few things, but the hightailed it out of the shop and back to the car.

Then it was back to the hotel, where we checked in. Got upgraded to a room with a view up the strip, 20 floors up and went up into the room and got settled. Quite a great view. I was pleased the the shower was installed by a non-midget plumber, plenty of pressure and just the right height. A digital thermostat for the room temperature was a nice touch, too. We ended up heading to bed kinda early, since it had been a busy day and we had plenty planned for the next day.

March 9, 2004

Las Vegas 2004: Day 2

Woke up this morning and plotted our course. Enjoyed the wonderfully designed shower…ahh!

Had breakfast at the Stratosphere’s buffet. As we walked up to the buffet, the chandelier was dripping water. We pointed this out to the hostess, she admitted that the suite above the buffet entrance had left their bathtub running and locked themselves out of their room! Bozos! Anyway, the buffet was pretty good, the custom omelette bar was kinda slick, too. Tons of fresh juices (serve you’re own, so no tipping necessary..woo!)

Then we were off to the Bellagio. We went through the Conservatory, all of the floral displays were very beautiful, huge swans made of ivy floating in the pools. Then we went outside, stopped to watch the fountains on the way over to Paris. I really enjoy those fountains, I should see if I can find a DVD of them or something. I could watch them for hours and hours. Maybe I’ll go see ‘em tomorrow night while Krista is at her O show.

So, then we walked across to Paris. I hadn’t seen this casino the last time I was in Las Vegas, this was a real treat. A half-scale replica of the Eiffel Tower intersects the building, so when you walk out on the casino floor there are the legs of the tower coming through the ceiling down to the floor. We went to sign up for the tour, which included a trip up to the observation deck at the top of the tower. You could see quite a ways up and down the strip. The thing that struck me was how still the wind was that high. I’m only used to being that high in downtowns, and the few times I’ve been outside that high up it has been horribly windy. This was so peaceful.

After the tour, we went to a little ice cream shop, Lenôtre and got some ice cream for a snack. Yum! All sorts of fresh fruit toppings. Then we walked out, checked out the 2/3rd scale replica of the Arc D’Triomphe on our way down the strip towards The World of Coca-Cola and M&M World.

“The World of Coca-Cola” was somewhat disappointing. It was basically just one giant gift shop with a soda fountain. And the gift shop stuff has been so minimized, even since my last visit a year ago, that I don’t think I’d go back again. The “International” samples were pretty much the same as last time, too.

Then we walked across to “M&M World”. This, just like the Coca-Cola place, is one giant gift shop. But they’ve got quite a bit more to keep you interested, starting with the Colorworks display. Imagine 24 different colors of M&M’s, all ready to be purchased in bulk bags for your enjoyment. The standard colors are there, as are the colors which are only available certain times of the year. It was kinda cool to see all the colors, considering M&M’s current ad campaign where they’ve removed all the colors from the M&M’s you can get in the store. Speaking of which, I thought it a nice touch that they repainted the giant M&M’s on the outside of the store to go with the current campaign. We also checked out the 3-D, interactive movie on the third floor, “I Lost My M In Vegas” starring Red & Yellow. What a blast!

After that, we walked back down the strip towards the Bellagio/Paris, where the car was parked. On the way we stopped by the Harley-Davidson Cafe for dinner. They have a huge 2-story American flag made of painted chain, it was a neat backdrop for the rest of the Harley-Davidson paraphanalia adorning the restaurant. Good food, besides!

So, after returning to the car and resting our tired feet, we started driving back to the Stratosphere and call it a night. On the way back, realizing it was nighttime, it seemed the perfect time to check out the Fremont Street Experience, in the old downtown Las Vegas. They’ve got a huge screen which is built over the street, every half-hour they have a beautiful sound and light show. I hadn’t seen it the last time I visited, I’m sorry I didn’t. It was great. Between shows we walked up and down Fremont Street and stopped in at one of those places advertising 99¢ daquiris. Only we couldn’t find the 99¢ ones, so Krista volunteered to pick up a round in the souvenier containers…before she knew that it was a $20 round! They were good…but not quite THAT good!

So, we walked back to the car, sipping on our golden daquiris. Headed back to the hotel, completely spent. What a busy day!

March 10, 2004

Las Vegas 2004: Day 3

Got a late start today due to being so worn out after yesterday. Decided to make it an easy day, we ended up sleeping in and then heading over to the MGM Grand for the buffet. The buffet was everything I remember from my previous visit - yummy food, a good mix of fresh fruit, old buffet standbys and a few exotic dishes to mix it up a bit.

Afterwards, we stopped by the MGM Lion Habitat and watched the trainers play with the lions. The lions didn’t seem all that happy about playing with the trainers, but once the trainers got out the lions’ blue ball they played with that for a bit. After watching them and going to the obligatory gift shop, we continued over to the MGM Studiowalk. Thought we’d see something cool down at Television City, but alas, other than sitting through a test screening there wasn’t much to see.

After finding our way back to the car, we drove down the strip, headed towards the Las Vegas Outlet Center. Got ourselves a snack at the Great Cookie Company and shopped a bit. The outlet mall’s claim to fame is that one of the food court eateries, The Beanstalk, was featured in the background during a scene with Julie Roberts in The Mexican. Otherwise, the outlet mall was very similar to others I’ve seen around the country.

Once again, hop back in the car. Krista had O tickets for the 10pm performance, so we decided to head back to the hotel to rest up and allow her a chance to change clothes. We decided to have dinner after the show, since we had the buffet so late after sleeping in it seemed like the best plan. While Krista went to “O”, I took the time to go out and admire the Bellagio fountains.

At night, the shows run every 15 minutes, meaning that often you’d have only a few minutes between each show. I sat there for almost an hour, watching the water plumes wave back and forth, being lit up from beneath so it almost looked like a fountain of light. I’ve never seen anything which mixes power and beauty and majesty so perfectly. They’ve got to produce a DVD of these things someday, until they do, I urge anyone reading this to get to Las Vegas to see these things…

After watching the fountains, I walked up the strip all the way to the Mirage/Venetian. On the way I got an Oreo ice cream shake from Baskin-Robbins, sucked that down along with a Big Mac from the second-floor McDonalds on the strip. The night was beautiful, too, I was in shorts and it was just the perfect temperature.

Made my way back to the Bellagio to meet Krista at the end of the “O” performance. Popped $20 bucks into a slot machine while waiting for the end of the show, played for about 20 minutes. Once she got out, she shared her amazing stories of the show the rest of the night - it was just like I was there, she’s a great story teller. We ended up eating back at the Stratosphere at Lucky’s. I definitely wouldn’t suggest this place - granted it was 2am but the service was spotty, the food was yukky and while the prices were not quite as bad as room service, they were similar enough that I’m guessing this is the place where food service food comes from after-hours, too.

Off we went to bed, with the realization that we had a lot of things we still wanted to see the next day, which was the last “sightseeing” day of our trip!

March 11, 2004

Las Vegas 2004: Day 4

Woke up this morning, decided we didn’t want to try and get out to Hoover Dam. Instead, we’d have breakfast at the Stratosphere, then go up to the top and take the tour. Then we’d go visit the Rio so we could see the Masquerade Show in the Sky parade and show, then over to the Venetian. If we had time we’d pick up stuff from the secondary list of things, such as “The World’s Largest Gift Shop” and seeing “The World’s Largest Stock Car” at the NASCAR Cafe in the Sahara Hotel and Casino.

We got our tickets to go visit the top of the Stratosphere, then went down to the buffet. We were a little bit later than we were last time, so they had a few more lunch entrees on the buffet. Once again, not the best by Las Vegas standards but it sure beat the pants off of Old Country Buffet here at home.

Up to the top of the Stratosphere, the tallest freestanding observation tower in the United States and the tallest structure west of the Mississippi. They walked us through metal detectors and took our tickets on the third floor of the casino, then we shot up 857ft in 30 seconds to the enclosed observation deck. Here we took the audio tour, which was similar to the one offered at the Shark Reef, punching in code numbers to hear the tour based on the way you were looking out of the 360 degree view. The glass angled outward, which meant you could look down at the ground. (As long as you ignored the signs advising, “Don’t lean on glass”) After walking around the entire deck, we walked up the stairs to the outdoor observation deck.

This is up at 869ft, and your reward for climbing the stairs is an even better view. The only other times I’ve been this high on a structure were the few times I went up to the roof at U.S. Bank Place in Minneapolis, during tours given by the building management. The other times, it was incredibly windy - but on top of the Stratosphere I detected nothing but a slight breeze. I’m guessing it is either a combination of the design of the tower which does not have a solid base (it is made up of three support legs) or the fact that there are no other buildings of a similar size clustered around it.

The full height of the tower, 1149ft is only reached by riding the “Big Shot”, one of those air pressure-powered launching rides that have become so popular over the past few years. I’m not particularly a fan of having my stomach contents being flipped upside down so I skipped that, although the roller coaster looks like it would have been fun. (Curiously, they make you buy the tickets down at ground level for the rides on top of the tower, precluding any spontaneous decisions to go for a ride)

The final ride is the X-Scream. I think they should automatically enroll anyone taking this ride into a mental health program. It is basically a teeter-totter on top of the tower, one whole side of which hangs over the edge of the tower’s top. As the teeter-totter falls down on the side over the edge, the cart of 8 people go zooming over the edge of the tower, suspended as they stare down below to the ground. Then the teeter-totter pulls them back over the tower, then back over the edge again. Right before the end of the ride, as they are sitting out of over the edge of the tower, the ride drops them another 10 feet or so, making it feel like something broke and they are freefalling. Ugh!

So, after watching a few morons ride the X-Scream, we decended back down the tower to the shopping mall area. Picked up a treat or two, then made our way down to the car. On the way over to the Rio we stopped by Bonanza, the “World’s Largest Gift Shop” Indeed, I hadn’t seen a gift shop this large anywhere before. Store upon store, filled with everything from gag gifts to Las Vegas potholders.

Onto the Rio. As we walked through the casino on our way to the “Masquerade Show in the Sky” show, it was fun to watch the little “impromptu” performances that the casino staff made on these platforms sprinkled throughout the casino floor. Some of them were really quite good! We grabbed some ice cream and some pretzels and staked out claim in the balcony to watch the show. A few minutes later, the show started, floats moving all around, stage show going on, it was all very impressive. And then the bead-tossing commensed…we managed to get about 6 strands between the two of us. Woo!

We skipped the buffet at the Rio, thinking that the Venetian would have a great buffet. We get in the car, drive on over to the Venetian, walk in, look at the directory - no buffet. DOH! We weren’t really dressed for any hoity-toity dining, so I asked one of the casino employees and they directed us to the Grand Lux. Think of it as one step up from a Cheesecake Factory. (I say this, since they are owned by the same company) A huge menu to choose from, huge portions, great service make this one restaurant that I would come back to again on a subsequent visit.

After dinner, we went out and took a gondola ride in the outside canals. The gondola driver did a great job entertaining us, sang wonderfully and even managed to stretch out our ride a little bit. It was a perfect night, a slight breeze, got a great view of the new Treasure Island casino’s sign as well. Didn’t realize until I stared at it for a little bit that the letters don’t just change color, they actually change color and patterns. Must be screens like a Jumbotron which they can show anything they’d like.

Knowing that we had to get back to the hotel and pack, we ended the day. We barely squeezed everything into our suitcases, over the course of the week we really picked up a lot of stuff.

March 12, 2004

Las Vegas 2004: Day 5

Time to head home.

We woke up, took one last drive down the strip and drove over to the Thrifty car rental return. The return process went very smoothly. Everything settled, we hopped on the shuttle and off to the airport we went.

Since Las Vegas is one of America West’s hubs, they had plenty of self-service check-in terminals. These have to be the greatest invention since eTicketing. I always use them over going up the desk if given the choice - getting to see a nice graphical representation of the airplane’s seating arrangements allows me to pick just the right seat. (They should figure out a way to do this for concerts!) The flight was full on the way from Las Vegas to Phoenix, but I managed to move my seat to the last remaining aisle seat on the plane. The second, longer leg of the trip from Phoenix to Minneapolis I was able to secure a nice second exit-row aisle seat (the second row of the over-the-wing exit rows have reclining seats!) Both flights were wonderful - service was perfect!

Got home, checked the car out of the off-airport parking. Came home, unpacked a little, caught up on email, then went back to the airport, picked up Krista, went out to dinner then brought her home.

What a great trip. I think if I get another chance to go in the near future, I’d definitely schedule some time to go out to Hoover Dam. It might be kinda neat to go see the Grand Canyon, which I hear is nearby, also take in a bit more of the nightlife. The Zumanity show looks slick, as does the Blue Man Group. I didn’t think staying at the Stratosphere was all that inconvienient, even tho it is all the way at the end of the strip. Definitely would need to get a car if I stayed there again, without it the trips around town would have been much less convienient. Finally, staying at Paris may be something fun, too. Especially if the room faced the Bellagio, so you could watch the fountains, without having to pay the huge price of a Bellagio room.

October 20, 2004

Thanksgiving Decisions

So, I need to decide what I’m going to do for Thanksgiving.

The two options are:

  1. Travel down to Texas with my parents to have Thanksgiving down at my sister and brother-in-law’s place. Since my sister and brother-in-law are not coming up to visit during the holiday season this may be the only chance to enjoy some family time with them for some time to come.
  2. Stay here in town and have Thanksgiving with my Grandpa and Aunt.

Thanksgiving for me is a really important holiday for me. One time a year everyone comes together, sits down around a table and shares a homemade meal. We all bring items to share, someone cooks the big giant turkey. Before we dig in, everyone takes a moment and shares what they are thankful for over the past year. I love hearing what everyone comes up with…and taking the time before hand to reflect on the previous year and come up with what I’m going to share.

But this year, due to circumstances beyond my control, I’m stuck choosing between the two options above. Sure, there will be phone calls to each other I’m sure, but with either option I’m missing people very close to me with whom I want to share my Thanksgiving.

I still don’t know what I’m going to choose, although I need to decide shortly so that each of the groups can make their plans. Of course, the NaNoWriMo decision further complicates the decision…the time down with my sister would be busy visiting, I’m sure, leaving little time near the end of the month for crunch time on the writing.

November 20, 2004

7 out of 10

Well, I made it through the night last night using only ibuprofen instead of the vicodin I had been using. Still not sleeping well, but I have been managing to keep food down and the rest of my digestive system is slowly working again.

I made the call at noon today that I was gonna go forward with the Durand Family Turkey Day tomorrow, so now I’ve got some catching up to do in that regard. Need to do the grocery shopping I was gonna do on Thursday night, get all the food stuffs, defrost the turkey, prepare the cranberry sauces and roux tonight. Then get to bed early so I can get up, brine the turkey and get everything going tomorrow so I can still make it to the movie in the morning while the turkey is cooking.

Be a hectic afternoon and evening, but I’ll be much happier tomorrow when everyone comes together and we get to celebrate together before we have to split up.

‘course, tomorrow night I’ll be busy packing for the trip, since I leave for that on Monday at 4pm. Seems like the weather will be beautiful down in Texas, can prbly get away with wearing shorts most of the time. (Much to the chagrin of my sister, I suspect, since it’ll be obvious I’m from up north when I’m walking around in shorts in 70 degree weather!)

November 22, 2004

Dispatches from the Front

I’ll be writing a bunch of journal entries as I have time and getting them up as soon as possible.


  • I’m feeling about a 9 out of 10. Still tender, still feeling a bit rundown.
  • Durand Family Turkey Day was a hit. Had issues with the turkey and the cranberry sauce, as well as being disappointed a second time with the gravy.
  • Excited to leave for my trip
  • Got a lot of crap to do before I leave. 1.5 days of work I missed plus my work today condensed into 6 hours.
  • Still need to pack, but everything should be washed and dry by the time I get home. the Workplace!

Finally made it back to work after feeling yukky most of Wednesday afternoon, out almost all of Thursday and half of Friday. We’ve got a new customer turning up on Wednesday night, which considering I was going to be gone after 3 today I knew we had to get sealed before the end of the day. Managed to squeeze in a quiet 30 minute lunch at Noodles with New Theresa which about my only downtime of the day. Otherwise, I moved from project component to project component making sure everything was lined up (or at least could be by the remaining staff after I left). Finally got out at 4, ran home, packed until 5 minutes before my parents arrived.

Got on the road around 5:15, out of town and traffic by 6, didn’t turn out too bad. We stopped for 45 minutes or so to have Famous Dave’s in Owatonna, otherwise we’ve been driving down I-35, the spinal column of America! The back of my dad’s 300M is absolutely perfect for me and my Dell laptop, just enough room to flip open the screen to just the right angle and everything works great. Indeed, I’m writing this (and all the backentries) from said position.

It’s great to finally have some downtime after the past 5 days or so. Either I was sick or completely running on adreniline and stress in order to accomplish something on time. As I told people from work…after the past few days, it might be nice to just throw on the headphones and stare out the window. Which is what I plan on doing next.

November 23, 2004

Arrival in GWB-land (Texas)

Well, we just got here around 10 o’clock.

More news will be filled in as time allows.

For now, I’m off eating beignets with the family. woot!

Texas 2004: A Thanksgiving Oddessy, Day 1
Can I Say That In Texas?

What can I say about the car trip? 15 Hours. We stopped a few times, only for food, stretching, changing drivers. I managed to play Soul Coughing’s “True Dreams of Wichita” while driving past Wichita at 3:15 in the morning. Got my Dad hooked on my iPod, he got hours to play with it in the car and I think he’ll be getting one for Christmas. When we stopped at the McDonald’s in Percell, OK, for breakfast, the family in line before us coincidentally had left Minneapolis at 5:30 the night before, just like we did, and had made identical time. How freaky is that?

The last two hours of the trip were the most stressful. I was going on my 7th and 8th hour driving and we were beseeched by a horrible horrible down pouring of rain which made it impossible to see more than 50 feet. Luckily, the sun had come up by then, which made dealing with it a bit easier, but it was still very stressful. Because I had to be on a conference call with work right as we pulled in, we swapped drivers about 20 minutes out and I had a bit of chill time before having to work the phone.

Upon our arrival, Michelle met us at the front gate to her complex, let us follow her in and we parked and exchanged hugs. I had last seen my sister back in August, so while we’ve gone longer without seeing each other before, it was wonder to see her on her own turf for a change. We went inside and had pastries (beignets, I think they were, along with hot chocolate, mmm!)

We sat around playing with their dogs, Molly and Pogo and saw the apartment. They have a beautiful place, beautiful view. Really feels like a home. Pictures all over of family, friends, their marriage, pets, etc. Really nice place.

We got to go to Chic-fil-a for lunch, it was even better than I can get at home with a much bigger selection. Yum! We then went home, Dad and I had a bit of work to do while Mom and Michelle visited. (Davin had to work today/tonight, but he’s got the rest of the weekend off!) Around 4 Mom, Dad and I left their apartment, found our hotel and checked in. We’re staying at the “Wyndham Dallas North”, so far the room is comfortable, the help has been wonderful and cheerful. All three of us unpacked, took showers.

Michelle called; we decided to go to “Babe’s”. Babe’s is a very cool and folksy restaurant. Your party is seated at a simple table, but each of them is about 6 inches away from each other, so it has a mess hall feel. You choose from 5 meats (tonight’s choices were pot roast, country fried chicken, fried chicken, fried catfish, chicken tenders) and then they haul out these huge bowls of the homemade cream corn, mashed tubers, gravy, green beans and a nice salad. Other than the meat, everything is all you can eat. We each got a different meat (I got the country friend chicken, my sis the chicken tenders, my Mom the catfish and my Dad the chicken) and shared that a bit, too.

During dinner, I was trying to calm my sister after a potentially sharp tease directed in her direction and said in an “inside” voice that “I’m a sensitive guy…I can hug a man and not have it make me any less of a man”. She immediately turns to me and utters, “You can’t say that in Texas…there are conceal/carry laws here!” This became the catchphrase of the night…I would ask her all kinds of asinine questions about everyday things phrased like, “Can you _______ in Texas?”

Afterwards, we went and picked up a showing of “The Incredibles”. The theatre was great…even tho they did mention at the beginning of the show, “Please place any refuse at the end of the show in the white trash receptacles on your way out of the theatre” We all found that utterly hilarious. As for the movie, it was excellent. I had heard good reviews from friends, but even with those slightly heightened expectations it totally surpassed them. It is a bit darker than other Pixar films have been, I think, indeed there is human death in this…even human death at the hands of the heroes of the story. Maybe this means that after Pixar’s split with Disney we’re gonna see them going at more of the adult market? That would be an interesting strategy…are adults willing to accept such a film as more than children’s fare?

Now I’m back in the hotel room, need to be up at 7:00am tomorrow so I can meet Michelle and Davin tomorrow morning at 7:30 so we can go to Central Market and pick up some things for the Thanksgiving feast. Should be fun…they have only incredible things to say about Central Market, it will be interesting to finally see it. Off to sleep…

November 24, 2004

Texas 2004: A Thanksgiving Oddessy, Day 2
In Texas, You Gotta Make Your Own Smashers(tm)

Woke up at 7:00 this morning. My sister and Davin would arrive at 7:30 to pick me up from the hotel so we could go to Central Market and pick up a bunch of items. We got to Central Market a bit earlier than we thought, since we took the George Bush Tollway out to Plano. After picking up some Starbucks, we headed over to it. It wasn’t quite what I thought it was gonna be. Listening to my sister and brother-in-law talk about it all the time it made it sound like a farmer’s market. This was just a gigantic supermarket.

Least that’s what I thought before I stepped inside. (I hadn’t looked at the website, which would have clarified things quite a bit, I suppose!) When you walk in you land in the produce department, like many supermarkets. But this really was like a farmer’s market inside. The produce department was unfinished, kept around 65 in order to ensure the produce remained fresh. The selection was huge - it really rivaled many of the farmer’s markets I’ve seen. Everything was properly presented, either on ice or room temp, cranberries floating in a “bog”, etc. You’d select your produce, put it in a bag, then walk over to one of many stations. At this station you’d put the produce on a scale, punch in the produce’s number and a sticker would print with all the price information on it.

You then moved into a gigantic butcher area, which rivaled any butcher’s shop. They not only offered ANY cut you wanted, they would steam your seafood selections for you while you finished shopping. Then you walk into a huge wine section with row upon row of fine wines and champagnes. Next up is a huge section of bulk dry goods, then a huge bakery with every type of bread I’ve ever seen (and many I hadn’t!) Top it off with your ethnic foodstuffs, spices, imported goods, florals…I could go on. It is an amazing concept - I can only hope we get one (or someone starts a similar concept) in the Twin Cities area soon.

We then headed back to their apartment, hung out, played a little XBox and read passages from “America: The Book” which I brought down since I saw it on their Christmas list and wanted to give them a little taste of it since I had picked it up a few weeks ago when it first came out. It was a huge hit…we all ended up reading a few pages aloud over the course of the day. Michelle and I checked into work, then my parents arrived and we started the tourism day.

We picked up lunch at Cheddar’s. I was excited…if you know me, you know how much I love Cheddar’s “Smashers”. My sister claimed to eat there all the time, ‘cept she had never heard of them. I didn’t believe it, but sure enough, it wasn’t on the menu down here. I’ve had it in the Rockford, IL, Ann Arbor, MI and Des Moines, IA locations…unbelievable. I managed to get a close second…a chicken tender platter with mashed potatoes and gravy for dipping sauce.

After the meal, we headed down to Dealy Plaza to visit the Sixth Floor Museum. It was a truly moving experience, which I’ll write more about later I think. We spent most of the afternoon there, even viewed the display on presidential TV advertising, which was upstairs on the 7th floor. I really enjoyed visiting such an important place; you could feel the grief still floating through the air 40 years after the fact.

We then scooted home, relaxed around the apartment while Davin did some cooking, I took care of a bit of work that cropped up on our way home and the family visited. We headed out to dinner at “On The Border” which was excellent chain Tex-Mex. Yum. After visiting some more back at the pad, my parents and I said our goodbyes for the evening and headed back to the hotel.

Quite the wonderful day. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, obviously, so the feast is the primary focus of the day. Hopefully we’ll get some gaming in as well…I have a feeling Trivial Pursuit is in our future! Yay!

November 25, 2004

Texas 2004: A Thanksgiving Oddessy, Day 3
Turkey Time!

We decided to sleep in this morning…but considering all three of us (my parents and myself) need to share one bathroom we still needed to get up at a semi-reasonable hour in order to get over to Michelle and Davin’s house around 11am. On our way over we stopped by Starbucks…my mom wanted coffee, and I like their “Iced Lemon Pound Cake”. A yummy treat.

We got over to the apartment and were greeted by a wonderful scent permeating the air. Davin had been cooking and preparing our Thanksgiving feast for hours…all kinds of wonderful smells were about, the ham was in the oven being glazed and bathed in various sugary substances. The turkey was still out on the patio being brined, snacks were out and we all began our day of grazing.

My mom and Davin are VERY into football; my dad and sister are into it as supporting spouses; so we flipped on the games and that filled up most of the attention in the room. I spent some time on my laptop, reading books, paying a bit of attention to the game and the conversation around me.

Around four we sat down to dinner (and told the Tivo to finish recording the afternoon game). We had a great meal - Davin did a wonderful job. The ham was especially well done; he had used the cola method of cooking it, combined with a glaze made from cherries, sugar, etc. It was soooo wonderful. The rest of the meal, including but not limited to the turkey, dressing and wild rice soup was excellent. On top of it all, it was made even better by the fact that Davin did all the heavy lifting/work…I just sat back and enjoyed the meal.

The rest of the night we cleaned up, visited, watched “The Bourne Identity” since I had forgotten I had seen it. (I had seen it…just missed parts of it for some strange reason) Around 11 my parents and I left - it was obvious that Michelle and Davin were beat.

November 26, 2004

Texas 2004: A Thanksgiving Oddessy, Day 4
Fort Worthy of a Visit

After sleeping in again today, we headed over to my Sister and Bro-In-Law’s apartment around 11. We were all incredibly hungry, so we went to Cafe Brazil. If you ever get a chance to have breakfast or lunch here, do so! The menu is amazing…I ended up getting a Chicken Tender/Corn/Cheese omelet with a side of rosemary potatoes and toast. Very yummy. Everything our party ordered came out perfectly cooked and prepared and was luscious!

After breakfast we went to do some walking around one of the many parks. We picked up my Sister and Bro-In-Law’s two dogs to bring along. Had a great walk - it was good to get a little bit of exercise in for the week.

We thought about going to see “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” but we ended up changing our mind and deciding to head over to Fort Worth for their Parade of Lights. Michelle and Davin had never been, so we didn’t really know what to expect. We got caught up in traffic, but considering we were heading for the halfway point on the parade route, we knew we had a little extra time.

We managed to find excellent parking, walked two blocks and found ourselves at the parade route. After scoping out a few locations, we found a parking garage wall with an excellent view of parade route. We ended up right down the road from the announcer’s location, so we heard the introduction for each float a bit before they made their way by us.

While the family looked on, Davin and I turned our attention to making fun of the floats as they went by us. The highlight of the evening was one of the church floats…the lights were fading in and out as they approached us. I turned to Davin and whispered, “Power is going out!” He guffawed, and I followed with a “Someone better start praying the generator doesn’t run out of gas!” Shortly thereafter, as luck would have it, they did run out of gas, leaving Davin and I with sideaches from laughter.

After the parade, we headed over to the Corner Bakery, a new upstart chain kinda like Pantera bread. We had a wonderful meal considering how busy they were and the later hour.

We headed out to take a peek at the newly lit Christmas tree in the Sundance Square, then toured the shops around the square. My Sister made our first stop Schakolad, which had a wonderful chocolate selection. I picked up some gifts there, then we headed around the square to Retro Cowboy where I picked up some more gifts for the folks back home.

After shopping, we walked back to the square. Rusty, the local paper’s mascot and stock-picking longhorn steer was out raising money for a local children’s charity. I gave him a few bucks and got some wonderfully kitschy Christmas cards to send out to friends this holiday season. :)

Considering how late it had gotten, we walked back to the car and drove home, dropping Michelle and Davin off on the way. Came back to the hotel and packed, since tomorrow after lunch we’ll be heading out and marathon driving back to MN, to arrive around 3am. Tomorrow we’ll visit the newly renovated Galleria before leaving, which will conclude the visit. May stop by the Oklahoma City National Memorial on our way back, otherwise we’ll just hurry home to our waiting winter wonderland.

November 28, 2004

Texas 2004: A Thanksgiving Oddessy, Day 5
Homeward Bound

This morning my parents and I ran like clockwork, got done and down the lobby at 8:45, 15 minutes early. We loaded up the car and then waited for Michelle and Davin to arrive. After they got to the hotel, we all piled into her Toyota Matrix and made the 3 mile drive over to the Galleria.

We spent the next two hours walking this gigantic mall. It wasn’t as big as the Mall of America, but it still kept us plenty busy. It was the stratification of the mall shops that I found particularly interesting. Sure the Mall of America groups certain shops near to each other…all the “Teenie-bopper” shops are near each other, etc. But, the floors at the Galleria were laid out as follows:

  • Floor 0 - The “Skating Kids” Level - Here’s where you find the ice skating rink, which fills the floor of the center rotunda of the mall, along with all the supporting shops and a simple food court.
  • Floor 1 - The “Posh” Level - Filled with shops like Versace and Louis Vuitton. I do believe there were signs that said, “You can only shop on this level if you have no idea what your credit limit is!”
  • Floor 2 - The “Upper-Class” Level - This level was filled with your normal upscale shops for shoppers which lots of discretionary income. Bath and Body Works, Starbucks, Gap, etc.
  • Floor 3 - The “Peasant” Level - This is where you’d find things like Lunar Mini Golf, the kids’ play area, the dollar store, etc.

The thing was, the layout of the mall is one long run split across two sides of an open space from floor to ceiling. You could sit up on the peasant level and watch people on each of the lower levels do their shopping. It was rather interesting to see the different classes so segregated.

At 11, we scooted over to the Grand Lux Cafe, a restaurant by the same people who brought us The Cheesecake Factory. The styling is very similar inside, if not a bit brighter, and the menu is approximately filled with the same huge variety one has come to expect from this style of restaurant. The food was marvelous, with generous portions, truly a great meal.

We all piled back in the Matrix, drove back to the hotel and said our goodbyes. I gave my Sister and Bro-In-Law the gifts I had brought along for them and they seemed to love all of them. Then we hopped in our car and proceeded to head out of town. Final departure time was 12:45pm.

We headed up I-35 and decided to stop at the Oklahoma City National Memorial since we were driving right by it. The memorial is amazing - all of the thought that went into it is readily apparent and appreciated. There is a chair for each person who lost their lives that day, all arranged by floor and their approximate location in the building at the time of the blast. Children have smaller chairs than the adults do, which makes itself apparent when you see all of the little chairs on the second floor - the location of the daycare. The reflection pool is a thin film of water cascading over granite recovered from the building, which is a really wonderful effect. Everything was thoughtfully done, a fitting memorial for such a tragedy.

We hopped back in the car and proceeded north again on I-35. We drove, spent time listening to music on the iPod, talked, had a great drive. Stopped at Sonic for dinner, otherwise we just stopped for gas/potty breaks when we needed to. I had the last shift, so I took a short nap in the backseat on our way through Kansas. I drove the last four hours, during which time my dad and I both saw a shooting star over the road in front of us, and we arrived home around 5am. My parents dropped me (and my bags) off and then headed home themselves, another half hour drive.

The drives were exhausting, both there and back. Even tho we made it in a day, it wipes you out the following day while you recover.

The trip itself was great. I had a great time seeing Dallas, where my Sister and my Bro-In-Law live, seeing Dealy Plaza and enjoying Thanksgiving with my family. Now it’s back to the real world…lots of work to do (both professionally and in prep for the holiday season) in the next few weeks.

March 19, 2005

Wow, What a Logjam!

The previous post sat in draft state since Monday, jamming up the portion of my brain responsible for blog updates. I knew I had to get it out there, and nothing else pending wasprocessed until I got that status toggled to “Publish”. So, an update on the previous week:

  • I found my digital camera. There was much rejoicing amongst fans around the world when I found my digital camera in a pile of holiday decorations here at home. I had thought it lost for the past few months while I searched hi and low for the elusive camera. You know they say you miss things the most when you don’t have them…well, over the past few months I’ve time and time again been bitten by the desire to snap a photo of something. Now that I’ve found the camera, of course, I expect all photo desires shall immediately cease.
  • The 2.6 GB bittorrent download of the free MP3 collection from artists appearing at the South by Southwest Music Festival finally completed. Get it while its hot, there are some great gems in there.
  • I got my premier issue of Make. I meant to sign up well before the initial issue hit the streets, but it wasn’t until it did that I finally got up the courage to sign up for a year. So far, I’m nothing but pleased. It is a tinkerer’s dream - tons of projects and neat tricks to keep the curious entertained.
  • Booked tickets to fly down to Dallas to help my Sister and Bro-In-Law move into their new home. I expect a lot of work…but I also expect a lot of Chick-fil-a!
  • Speaking of Chick-fil-a, if you examine the container from an 8-piece order of nuggets you’ll notice there are punch-out holes for “N”, “S” and “K”. While all participants of our visit to the U of M - Twin Cities campus (the only Minnesota Chick-fil-a location!) on Monday for lunch agreed that the “S” stood for “Strips” and “N” for “Nuggets”, JManDoo hypothesized that the “K” stood for “Knuggets”. (Neither the “K” nor the following “n” are silent, according to JManDoo). Research later revealed the “K” must have stood for “Kids”, since the kids meal at Chick-fil-a has a 4 or 6-piece nugget option. JManDoo is still sticking to his theory, tho.
  • My review was due yesterday at work…so I sent it in at precisely 11:59pm last night. Double-B (the boss) did say I had until midnight to send it in. I hope I’m not the only one who sees humor in it, tho!

That’s not everything (my life isn’t THAT dull and boring!), but it is the stuff I found blogworthy over the past week.

March 30, 2005

Highlights of the Day

  1. I finally got around to checking out the Best Buy Weekly Ad and I found out that Orgazmo was finally released on DVD! Picked it up over lunch…watched it after I got home tonight. I’ve rented it so many times over the years I know the movie by heart…it is wonderful to finally have a DVD version with all the extras.
  2. Review today at work. Went well, very few surprises. As my boss said, he’d tell me well before now if I had been doing something incorrectly or inappropriate. Received very high marks on both communication and problem solving - considering I feel these are my two strongest professional aptitudes I was happy to see that they were recognized.
  3. Waking this morning to a great spring rainstorm was refreshing. Great to see all the leftovers of winter get washed away, everything getting ready for growth once more.
  4. Getting ready for a busy next 72 hours:
    • Drop off my parentals at the airport 5:00am Friday morning
    • Aunt’s 50th Birthday celebration Friday night after work
    • Leave Saturday morning for a quick trip to Dallas to help my Sister and Bro-In-Law move into their new home

April 2, 2005

Texas 2005: Movin' & Shakin'
Big Brother In Da House

First off: I was rudely awakened this morning by a call from 888-587-0496. Therefore, I will rudely awaken this entry with the following message: 888-587-0496 is the phone number for the automated schedule notifier/Care Alerts for They don’t tell you this anywhere, nor do they make it available for reverse lookup on the usual sites. I’ll put this here in the hopes that the great Google may look highly enough upon this poor blog post to index the information for others to share.

The trip down to Texas this time came out of an offer to help my Sister and Bro-In-Law move from their apartment into their first house. Although they closed on the house a few weeks ago, waiting for me to visit didn’t really end up being too onerous of a wait. First, the previous homeowners ended up renting the house back from them for a few days while they finished their move out of the house. Then, the remainder of the time my Sister and Bro-In-Law spent painting many of the rooms, getting a fence installed for their dogs and doing other assorted chores best done before you need to move everything in and live in a home.

Continue reading "Texas 2005: Movin' & Shakin'
Big Brother In Da House" »

April 3, 2005

Texas 2005: Movin' & Shakin'
Painting, Weinerdog Sensors and More!

Today was a busy day around the Texas Durand Family Compound.

First off, Michelle and Davin unpacked the kitchen. Since I really didn’t know where anything went, I asked for a project to keep myself busy and was handed the task of priming and then painting the pantry shelves.

As many readers know, painting is one of the least enjoyable tasks I can be assigned. I’ve never been able to get the hang of it, I guess. I either put on the paint too thick, too thin, leave unpainted corners, spill the paint…if you name the painting-related malady, I’ve experienced it. Luckily, the assignment consisted of some simple MDF pantry shelves, none of which would regularly be seen by anyone (including Michelle and Davin) since they would be covered by foodstuffs almost immediately after installation.

By the time I finished both the primer coat and the paint coat, I felt a bit more confident in my painting abilities. Having a forgiving project took the painting job from being a detail-oriented job and turned it into something I could experiment with a little. I tried both using a roller and a brush, lots of paint with infrequent fill-ups, a little paint at a time, different patterns, etc. In the end, only one shelf came out less-than-ideal…not too shabby if you ask me, considering the confidence I had going into the project!

There were many other tasks to be done around the house. I helped my Sister piece back together their home office desk, installed switchplates throughout the house (which had been removed during all the painting that Michelle and Davin had done prior to my arrival) and explained how the sprinklerheads could be adjusted on their in-ground sprinkler system.

The most notably install of the day were the motion sensor-activated lights in the backyard for both humans and dogs at night. Michelle and Davin had previously picked out three different lights with the idea that each light would cover a third of their L-shaped backyard. They already had some “craptacular” external lights right next to either end of the L, which made installing the lights in those locations a piece of cake. I did the first light, explaining what I did to both Michelle and Davin, then Davin put up the second light. Later after dark, Michelle made the executive decision upon auditing the install that a third light at the angle of the L wasn’t necessary.

We finished off the busy workday with a hearty dinner at Babe’s and a viewing of Orgazmo. We had Babe’s the last time I visited, back in November, and it was just as good as I remembered. Excellent chicken, perfect mashed potatoes and wonderfully creamy gravy. MMMM!

April 4, 2005

Texas 2005: Movin' & Shakin'
Anchors Away

Today was “Wall Day” at Casa De Durand.

“Why Wall Day?” you might ask.

Well, almost the entire day was spent hanging things up on walls.

  • New vanity lights in the master bathroom. This required a bit of electrical as well, but anchors came into play in order to provide a solid mount for the new pair of silver 4-bulb lights, one for each washbasin. Mimicking the previous day’s efforts with the motion sensor lights, I installed the first light while my Sister installed the second.
  • Hanging new shelves in the study. After Davin and I planned out the placement of the supports, he did most of the work hanging the rails from which the cantilevers hook into to support the shelving. We got away with only one set of anchors being used for the middle rail…the remainder were all installed directly into studs, providing much better support for the piles of books planned to be shelved in the office.
  • The previous homeowners left behind most, if not all of their window treatments. All of them had been taken down to facilitate the painting that had been going on around the house over the past week or so. Considering the forecast for tomorrow is for a warmer day, it will be nice to have shade from the sun beating down on us.

Besides the vertically orientated projects, we also found time in the day to go buy Michelle and Davin a new lawnmower, compliments of my Aunt and Grandpa. We also returned the unused motion-sensing lamp from yesterday, exchanged it for a variety of lawn and garden implements. Davin and I also finished off the custom-cut MDF shelves for the rails we installed earlier in the day by ironing on the finishing trim on the cut sides.

Davin and I got some one-on-one time when my Sister left for a bit to attend a work-related function. It is so wonderful to have him in our family. I never had a brother while growing up, but I’m so comfortable around Davin it seems like we’ve known each other for a long time now. My Sister could have picked any number of people to marry, I suppose, but I doubt anyone would have fit so well, not only with her, but with the rest of the family as Davin.

Lunch was another visit to Chick-fil-a, which suited me just fine. I love the fact that Michelle and Davin are such great fans of the chain as well…makes it easy to visit ‘em many, many times during my visit. Dinner was pizza from Cafe Tuscana, an Italian restaurant here in Carrollton. I didn’t care too much for the sun-dried tomato and goat cheese pizza Davin and my Sister ordered, but I loved the canadian bacon and fresh tomatoes that I ordered. Yum!

We finished the day consuming pizza while watching the “Space Mutiny” episode of Mystery Science Theatre 3000, my favorite episode of the entire run. Both Davin and I were in stitches as we reveled in the blaring continuity errors and horrible “com-PUTE-r” graphics. Ha!

April 5, 2005

Texas 2005: Movin' & Shakin'
Sis and Me...Just Like Old Times!

Today Davin had to work from 1pm to 10pm at the library, so my Sister and I had almost an entire day to ourselves.

This morning while Davin was still around we did a thorough cleaning of the kitchen, unpacking the remaining boxes and finding a place for everything. I collapsed any empty boxes from the previous three days’ work and prepared them for recycling, while my Sister and Bro-In-Law sorted out what they wanted to do with their reading area. They have close to a thousand books, by my estimate, and it appeared that the existing bookshelves they had would be insufficient to display all of the volumes.

We had lunch together at Sonny Bryan’s BBQ, which was a wonderful choice. Everything prepared wonderfully, bottles of BBQ sauce (each served in an empty beer bottle, oddly enough) and “Big Red”, a childhood favorite of mine, on the soda machine. Afterwards, Davin went to work while Michelle and I drove over to Lowe’s to pick up a variety of items we needed for the day’s projects.

Today’s projects included:

  • Installing a peephole in the front door. This was particular difficult for two reasons. One, because it is a hollow metal door, once you drill into it the loose styrofoam insulation on the inside comes spraying out all over. And two, it is very difficult to cut the thin metal making up the door without making it blister out or cave in. I merely provided guidance and support to my Sister, who took on the project and had quite a bit of fun, I think, drilling through her front door.
  • The installation of the new doorbell, to replace the “ghetto” doorbell my Sister disliked so intensely, wasn’t so successful. She purchased a replacement yesterday that sat flush against the wall, whereas with the brick finish on the outside of the house was made for one that sat out from the wall in a housing. We didn’t realize this until she had completed all the rewiring; she should be able to do it just fine on her own after she finds a suitable doorbell.
  • Unpacking more and more books, placing them on the bookshelves in the reading room and placing said bookshelves in their proper locations. We were fairly successful in this endeavor, although our attempt to purchase another matching bookcase from Target today in order to fill out the reading room was stymied because Target had altered their supplier/design. My Sister said she would attempt to find another online to make sure they all match.
  • New toilet seats. The previous owners had those annoying squishy foam toilet seats…not only annoying to sit on, but considering they were prbly years old a pain to look at, too. Out with the old, in with the brand spanking new!

My Sister and I were on our own for dinner. After much contemplation, we decided to go to On The Border for some Mexican food. On The Border offers a “Build Your Own Burrito”, which I took advantage of in order to create my perfect burrito creation. Roasted pepper tortilla, shredded beef, Mexican rice and caramelized peppers - prepared as a chimichanga and covered in ranchero sauce. Yum!

We spent most of the evening, both at dinner and once we got home, talking about our jobs, life and the universe. It is so wonderful to be able to still connect with my Sister, talk about our achievements without engaging in competition and share our theories and thoughts about life and our family. It is amazing to me to consider my Sister a “friend” after all these years and miles, only on a much higher level than we were as children. We’ve each matured and saw many different parts of the same world over the past few years…but we’re still connected in that way long time friends often are.

I leave tomorrow around 4pm, and tonight my Sister seemed to lean towards doing something fun tomorrow before my departure. It will be difficult to leave, knowing there are still so many projects my Sister and Bro-In-Law want to attempt around the house and the fun we’ve had doing many of them together over the past few days. However, I know that part of the joy is doing some of these things on your own, making the house a home. I envy them…apartment living isn’t a home, no matter how hard you try to make it such. Seeing their new house down here, doing all the projects around the house reminds me so much of the house I owned with my ex-wife out in Hudson. Someday I’ll have that again, I know, but having a home is certainly something we all crave. I hope that I’ve given my Sister and Bro-In-Law a head start into making their own house into a home.

April 6, 2005

Texas 2005: Movin' & Shakin'
Heading Home

Well, we didn’t end up going out to do anything…instead, we hung out at the house and finished a bunch of things up.

We had purchased a lawnmower and a trimmer/edger earlier during my stay…today was the day we set it up and give them both a spin around the lawn. The lawnmower my Sister and Bro-In-Law picked out a Craftsman 6.5HP Self-Propelled Rear Bagging model, which came almost fully assembled. (Just screw on the handle and away you go!) The trimmer/edger was even easier…just twist a guard into place, plug in and go - the nylon line was already installed for the buyer at the factory.

Also had a little cookout with the new grill my Parents got Michelle and Davin as a housewarming gift, which necessitated a trip to Central Market, which is always a wonderful excursion while in Texas. It is an amazing place as I wrote about previously during my last trip. 10 different kinds of freshly prepared bratwursts and sausages, 20 different kinds of pickle relish - everything you need for a cookout!

After Davin made lunch, it was time to pack up and head to the airport. I said my farewells to Michelle and Davin, told them I’d see them again soon and walked into the terminal. Flight back was uneventful…even fell asleep for a portion of the flight.

While it was a great time, and I’m glad I went down to visit and help ‘em out, I’m very happy to be back home and in my own bed once more. :)

April 11, 2005

Texas 2005: Movin' & Shakin'
Weird Sightings

I’m home sick today…got a nasty, late-season sore throat. While I mostly slept and enjoyed the comfort of my bed, comforter and the sound of rainfall outside, I did get a chance to off-load the pictures from my recent trip to Texas.

Amongst all the regular pictures of family, new lawnmowers, projects completed, there were three oddities I captured on film, which I present now for your amusement:

Picture of snack package
The first was on the package of the snack they passed out on the plane on our flight down to Texas. I read the warning…and imagined what a factory would look like that manufactured peanuts. Processed peanuts, sure…but manufacturing peanuts sounds just plain wrong!

Picture of Huggies box
Here we see something even curiouser…are we to assume that there are non-baby shaped Huggies available? Why in the heck would you not make your baby diapers “Baby Shaped”?

Picture of Toilet Seat Box
Finally, both my Sister and I got a chuckle out of this tagline on the boxes for her new toilet seats. “The Leader in Bathroom Seat Merchandising” I didn’t catch it in the picture, but the new toilet seats are made in the U.S.A. I’m so thankful we have an American company, with American workers, leading the bathroom seat merchandising sector. I don’t know what I’d do if we had a bathroom seat merchandising gap with the Russians, Japanese or French! Whew!

June 22, 2005

Biking Update

Well, this year has been a major headache for my biking program. Bitterly cold, rainy, the combination of the two…one just can’t win.

I have managed to get out a few times…last Friday night I did a full 31-mile ride after work and tonight I did 17 miles.

Considering I can now do 31 miles AFTER work and still not wake up in any pain the next morning, I think I’m ready to attempt a 50-mile ride like the Tour of Saints. I especially like this one since, unlike the Ironman where you had to decide 4 miles into it if you wanted to take the long route, this course allows you to delay that decision until mile 31, which seems perfect to me. That way, you can do most of your ride, and if you’re ready to attempt the full challenge, you may do so after evaluating how well you’ve done thus far.

July 10, 2005

Tour Of Saints (50 MILES!)

Earlier today, I rode the 50-mile Tour of Saints bike ride. The Tour of Saints describes itself as “not a race…a heavenly little ride.” It has both a 35-mile and a 50-mile course winding in and around the towns near Collegeville. My favorite part of the ride is that you didn’t need to decide which route you are going to take until mile 31. Considering that I had never ridden more than 34 miles or so in a single day, this option was a welcome part of the tour…I’ve always wanted to attempt a longer course, but my confidence wasn’t quite there to choose it right out of the gate.

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February 12, 2006

Opening Question 1, for 14095 Points!

Every year the Saint Cloud State Student Radio Station, KVSC, organizes a 50-hour long trivia contest. I had wanted to play for the past 4-5 years…only I’d realize this when I heard the winners announced every year. This year, I got to join the team “Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women” since Kate, my biking buddy, has been a member of the team for years. They run an amazing organization, have a great playbook (which I’ve been sworn to secrecy not to reveal!) with all kinds of great strategies proved over their many, many years of playing the trivia game. I had been looking forward to the contest for over 8 months since I first met Kate and found out she played…

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February 19, 2006

Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Miss Your Flight

(Continue reading about the trivia weekend)

6 hours after I arrive home with the first carload from the Trivia weekend teardown, I awaken; to find out I had overslept. (Gosh, what are the odds of that, operating on 7 hours of sleep over the weekend!?) I rush to unload the front seat up to my apartment, drop off all 10 monitors at work and then head back up to Saint Cloud to collect everything else. When I pull in, everyone knew I was in a hurry to make the flight, so they all chipped in, helped load me up and within 15 minutes, I was leaving the PigPen again with a full car. I drop off a bunch of stuff at Kelly’s house, pick up her and her bags, then sprint back down to the cities. A quick repacking once I arrived home (less than 10 minutes) and my coworker, Theresa, picks us up and delivers us to the airport with almost exactly an hour to check-in, check our bags, pass security and rush down to the gate. Of course, one of our bags is overweight, so we had to move stuff around, only delaying our progress.

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February 28, 2006

I Thought I Could Relax Once I Made It Back Safely To Work!

(Continue reading about the trip)

The true sign of managing your job at work, at least to me, is that when I’m gone on vacation I don’t come back to piles of work that built-up while I was on vacation. Otherwise, vacation time is really just “delay time”. I was generally pleased, other than a few projects/tasks I knew were going to be waiting for me once I got back, I wasn’t deluged. Of course, that didn’t mean that the first week back would be a cakewalk. Nope, of course, a huge proposal needs to be sent off by the end of the week, tying up a huge portion of my days (and some nights).

Things haven’t really slowed down since then, underscored by the fact that on the night of February 28th, as if it was February’s way of giving me a send-off, I end up going out after work for an absolutely wonderful dinner, only to be called back to work at 10pm. Working until 4:30am the next morning, and having to be back into the office by 9am, it certainly was a long final day of the month. Made me wish I could create a leap-year-on-demand!

January 4, 2007

Bye Bye Beetle, Hello Honda

I had been looking quite a bit over the past few months at different vehicle options. My current ride, the 2000 Blue VW Turbo Beetle, had treated me well but was definitely aging around the edges. I will forgo the laundry list out of respect for its years of service - suffice to say it had 130,000 miles on it and was beginning to show it.

What would replace it? I had been looking at such disparate choices as the Honda Element, Pontiac Solstice, Scion xB, Pontiac G6, Nissan Maxima and Chevrolet SSR. I wanted something under 30k, with a good selection of comfort features, flexibility for hauling people and equipment (bikes) and wouldn’t sacrifice too much in terms of economy from my current Beetle.

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March 15, 2007

Reasons I'm Looking Forward to the Weekend

December 9, 2007

This thing still on?

I’ve been really lame. I haven’t been updating this at all. Although life has been kinda run-of-the-mill, there are plenty of things I should have written about but didn’t. So, to catch things up…

  • Ended up going to the Minnesota State Fair a total of 7 times
  • Had a wonderful day at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival
  • Enjoyed a 10-day vacation to Disney World
  • Took a weekend trip up to the North Shore
  • Celebrated the birth of my coworker’s son, Devon
  • Went to Sever’s Corn Maze
  • Spent a bunch of weekends (and weeknights) working on my sister and brother-in-law’s new tile floor (all 500 sq. ft. of it)
  • Had a wonderful, bountiful Thanksgiving
  • Started learning a new programming language that I’m falling in love with, Ruby on Rails

All that, and our first “real” snowfall happened about a week ago, so everything is all nice and white.

Otherwise, I’ve been working too much, projects are piling up, what’s new there, eh? Soon Christmas will be here, then New Year, then the KVSC 50-Hour Trivia Contest. Maybe I’ll take the time to drop an update here about those? We can all wish, can’t we?

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