Monday, December 28, 2015

Our Christmas holiday, over several days

Christmas Eve:

First day off from work.  Get up in a lazy manner (still early, since I am naturally an early riser).  Brew the coffee.  Sip the java.  

Later, Geogal gets up.  (She’s working today.)  First thing she asks is if we got any snow.  

Snow?  I wasn’t expecting any.  

No matter.  Take a look out the front door and sure enough, there’s about 3 inches of powder covering everything.  Since it was overcast and still predawn there was no light to give a luster of midday to objects below.  

A short while later Geogal heads out to warm up her vehicle.  She takes the push broom and comes back inside just a few minutes later.  It’s a dry snow, very much like powder.  Easy to get off the vehicle and the walkway.  

Too bad this isn’t a ski slope.  

Later on I have Geoana get on her parka and hand her the broom.  And a snow shovel.  While she does that I head out to get the last of my stocking stuffers.  

That mission accomplished it’s time to return to the house and enjoy a leisurely Xmas eve.  Weather could not have been much better, the clouds moved out quickly and Mister Sun did his job.  Bright light gives joy to the wintery soul and also helps to melt off the white stuff.  By the end of the day the roads were dry.  

Just in time to head out for Christmas Eve service.  The church was already filling fast and I was glad to snag some seats toward the back.  

The actual service?  Sorry to say, just so-so.  And why didn’t we sing “Silent Night?”  

Since my gifts were all wrapped well before today I didn’t need to do the nighttime marathon session with scissors and tape.  Can’t say the same for my other family members.  

Christmas Day

Not a grand Christmas here, in fact very low-key.  As is normal here I was the first one up.  (Geoana is not, and never was one of those children who woke way early on Christmas morn.)  I’m sipping my coffee and soon Geogal is up.  

I flick on the idiot box and discover at 8:30 EWTN will be showing “Life Is Worth Living.”  I top off my java and Geogal and I relax and hear the wisdom/insight from a TV message Bishop Sheen gave sometime in the 1960’s.  Still very relevant today.  

She and I agree it topped the “sermon” from the night before.  

I started our own Christmas tradition a few years ago.  The meat for the holiday meal is prime rib.  I let it defrost overnight, then popped it into the fridge after I rose for the day.  

Hmmm.  Shoulda prepared better.  I check some recipes on a trusted website, they all indicate the meat should be left out to get to room temperature before cooking.  

Dang.  I take it back out and realize I will just have to hope for the best.  I get the salt/herb/other spices concoction ready and rub it on the outside of the roast, using melted butter to get it to stick.  Then in it goes.  

Doesn’t take long before the house smells like a fancy steakhouse.  Gets us all hungry well before the meal is served.  Fortunately we have plenty of summer sausage and other munchies to pass the time.  

The menu is prime rib, garlic mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, rosemary bread, and au jous.  Getting everything ready at once in an already-diminutive kitchen is a holiday challenge with which we are familiar.  

But it all comes together (as it always does).  Rib roast turned out just fine, a nice shade of red/pink in the middle.  

And old Sol?  Hidden behind gray clouds.  Winter is here with a vengeance.  

My only real glitch came after the meal.  I wanted to relax with a viewing of “This Is Spinal Tap,” a DVD that was under the tree for me this morning.  Remove the shrink wrap, pop the disk in the player.  Then nothing.  

Take it downstairs and try a different player.  Still nothing.  

Spray it down and wipe it clean.  No change.  

Must be defective.  Too bad, I already told Geoana she would learn the meanings behind “it goes up to 11,” “Stonehenge,” and the joke about why the band went through a number of drummers.  

Day After Christmas

Geogal and I chose to go to Kearney, partly to take care of shopping that can’t be had in our small town.  Partly to get out of town (gotta do it every now and then).  And partly to have a nice anniversary meal.  The 28th marks 24 years of marriage.  

Again the weather, while not totally in our favor, at least is cooperative.  No snow.  No precip of any type.  Just another very gray day punctuated with a wicked north wind.  

Shopping goes well and then we head over to the Thai restaurant.  And find out they’re closed.  

Pull up the Yelp app and head for a “plan B” eating establishment.  It all turned out fine and we had a nice, quiet anniversary meal.  

When we headed home we drove due south for a little over 50 miles.  Wind at our back.  Nice!!

Day After Day After Christmas

Not much too to share about this day.  We actually made Sunday a day of rest.  For once.  

And Today

Both of us took today off work as this is the actual anniversary.  What did we do?  I wrote this entry while Geogal painted a wall of the kitchen.  

No problem.  The real big anniversary will be next year.  

Happy holidays, everyone!!

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Bowling Snark

Throughout today I've been checking the bowl matchups.  

Made for a nice break at times.  As yesterday was a go-out-of-town-and-spend-money-like-it's-going-out-of-style day that left all of the chores and "honey do's" for the traditional day of rest.  I was thankful for the times to sit down and check the 'Net.  

As all the pundits said, the playoff slots were no surprise.  (No TCU-esque dashing of dreams this year.)  I did watch the other bowl invitations with interest.  As I guessed, Nebraska got an invite despite their 5-7 record.  Large fan base with deep pockets always makes a difference.  

So let me offer my analysis of a few games we will see in the coming weeks.  

December 19:  New Mexico Bowl.  Arizona versus New Mexico.  As ESPN's College Gameday came to Tucson this season, playing your bowl game in Albuquerque and being among one of the first out of the gate has to be a disappointment for Rich Rodriguez and company.  The Wildcats don't want to start a border war tradition when there's greener pastures later in the month.  

Same day:  Las Vegas Bowl.  BYU against Utah.  All those Mormons in Sin City.  God truly has a sense of humor.  

December 26:  Foster Farms Bowl.  UCLA versus Nebraska.  Will the Huskers make the best of their "at least we got a bowl invite" situation?

December 29:  Armed Forces Bowl (the Fort Worth one, not the one in Annapolis).  California goes up against Air Force.  Seems appropriate to have a service academy in a game with such as name as this.  

Same day:  Texas Bowl.  LSU and Texas Tech.  Should be well-attended if not a sellout.  Two regional teams with a proven ability to score.  

Same day:  Russell Athletic Bowl.  North Carolina versus Baylor.  Baylor?  Wow.  Losing that game to the Longhorns and in the process blowing a place in the Sugar Bowl hurts in more ways than one.  

January 2:  Alamo Bowl.  Oregon meets TCU.  The Ducks were in the playoffs last year and no doubt  in September had their sights set on a return to One Of The Big Ones.  No dice.  I'm guessing they will take out their frustrations on the Horned Frogs.  

Same day:  Motel 6 Cactus Bowl.  West Virginia versus Arizona State.  At least all of the hoteliers in the Valley of the Sun can reassure themselves with "We still have the Fiesta Bowl and the National Championship to get us into the black."  

Happy bowling!!

Friday, December 04, 2015

Are You Paying Attention, Big 12?

This was a good article to read over my lunch hour.  

It's nice to see UH getting some attention, and gaining prominence.  Too long has this institution been in the shadow of UT, A&M, Tech, and several others in the Lone Star State.  

What really got my attention was this sentence:  

Without membership in a Power 5 conference -- something Houston is aggressively seeking under president and chancellor Renu Khator--- that will be difficult.

Would a school be a better fit for the Big 12 than U of H?  It gives the Big 12 a university located smack in the center of the coveted Houston TV market,  it increases the conference by one (and some say Cincinnati might be a wise pick to get to the magic dozen), and it renews cherished memories of the gone-but-not-forgotten Southwest Conference.  Plus the football Cougars already show they can play with the big boys.  

Why not?  Here's hoping the decision-makers do the right thing.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Building of Character (cont.)

My last post detailed a sudden change in the weather.  

Today's entry involves more activity on my part although meteorology does play a supporting role.  

Last Friday I took a vacation day and Geogal and I headed to Omaha.  Reason?  I took the camper to the dealer there two weeks prior for some service work.  Repairs are done and now it's time to retrieve our warm-weather hobby.  

As is always the case, I had a plan well thought-out beforehand.  Pick up camper, get it hitched up then either camp or spend the evening at a hotel.  This would then lead into Saturday in which the two of us head home.  Once there I would back the camper into its designated area adjacent to the house, there it would stay for the winter season.  

I also was keeping a close watch on the Omaha weather forecast.  Not only am I always wondering about weather conditions this time of year but I wanted to be aware of overnight lows.  

Since part of the work for the camper involved the plumbing I brought it to the dealer with a fair amount of fresh water in the tank.  But when you are into November a responsible camper owner always has plans to winterize the system.  The night before our arrival in Omaha the low was 29 degrees.  That's not problematic.  

Friday night, on the other hand, was to have a low of 22.  That is cause for concern.  

I already had the bottles of pink antifreeze in my vehicle.  I originally planned to winterize once I got back home but figured I should be prepared for anything.  

So, we arrive at the dealer and I move into action.  After verifying the repairs are to my liking I then open the drain valve and out goes the rest of the fresh water.  Onto the pavement but it sure won't do any harm.  Plus it's supposed to either rain or snow later in the day so letting loose the liquid is of no matter.  

That task done, it's time to add the antifreeze.  

It also is starting to sprinkle.  Plus it's cold.  I give Geogal credit, she took it all in good humor.  

Get out the funnel, add the pink stuff to the now-closed fresh water tank.  Then the two of us begin running the different faucets and the toilet until all the water changes to the desired reddish hue.  

(Hey Geogal, you just learned how to winterize the rig!)

By now the rain is coming down steady.  We hitch the camper to the truck and it's off and away.  Before leaving home we decided to stay overnight in a hotel.  So, let's get there and settle in to the room!  

Easier said than done?

The steady rain soon morphs into snow.  The steady freeway traffic morphs into rush-hour slow.  

And I'm still not 100% comfortable pulling the rig.  

But as is often the case with vehicles, slower is better.  Plus safe.  

We get to the hotel and check-in goes smoothly.  Then we face a dilemma of the evening meal.  We don't want to A) lose our parking spaces behind the hotel and B) drive to a restaurant while dragging camper behind.  There are a few eating establishments within walking distance, under normal weather conditions, but not when it's snowing and the wind chill is down into the 20's.  Hotel itself has no restaurant and the pickings are slim from their lobby refrigerated cabinet.  (Hint:  You better not be lactose-intolerant if you wish to take one of those back to your room and nuke it.)  

Finally Geogal has the solution.  Go online and order pizza and wings for delivery from the nearby Pizza Hut.  

We ate well.  We then slept well.  

Not only that but the snow stopped during the evening with no accumulation.  Saturday dawned a bit cold with with clear skies and almost no wind.  

Great driving conditions.  Many hours later we are home.  With more character.  

Thursday, November 26, 2015


Today, Thanksgiving Day, it's cold, sleety, followed by snowy.  

But I'd rather write about what we encountered last Monday.  

Before I get into that detail I will explain the title of today's post.  

Many years ago (about 35 if I recall correctly) I owned a book titled The Genuine Texas Handbook.  I don't have it anymore, I think I finally threw it out when the pages all got scattered after the binding broke down.  One of the chapters had a glossary of Texas terms, one of which was "weather."  

Definition:  Any unpleasant meteorological occurrence.  

Then it was used in a sentence.   "Brother, we're about to have us some weather!"

That was the case last Monday.  Two days prior I did my last yard-mowing of the season and cleaned out the house gutters as well.  I was checking the forecast and wanted to be ready in case we did get precipitation.  

I was glad I did.  

Clouds gathered in the early evening and by the time we were enjoying supper the rain started.  

Then more rain.  

Then a whole lot more.  

The three of us were well into the meal when the town's tornado siren went off. That, followed by the alert from the weather radio sent us to the basement.  

And if that wasn't enough, how about some hail?

Whack, whack, whack, whack, whack, whack, clatter, bam, bam, bam, BAM!

The aftermath?  No damage to our vehicles.  The hail wasn't any larger than dime size.  And the funnel clouds that did touch down in the area weren't anywhere near our house, or even our town for that matter.  Fortunately those that did didn't cause any injuries.  

But I didn't escape the wrath of Geogal.  While she and Geoana were in the basement watching the weather reports on TV and enjoying "The Voice" when they resumed normal programming, I went up several times checking on the size of the hail.  

My child swears she heard her mother saying: "If your father winds up dead from a tornado I swear I will kill him!"  

That was one of the few times I didn't need to make up a humorous ending for a posting.  

Sunday, November 15, 2015


I spent today (and yesterday) engaging in more work than a guy really ought on a weekend.  Between cleaning out the gutters, raking and mowing the yard, shuttling child back and forth to her play performance, attending the play performance, and assorted cooking and cleaning I think I missed a needed day of rest.  

Yet the end result is well worth it.  Clean house, good-looking yard, and a freezer full of half a hog.  (Processing locker was almost an hour's drive away.)  

Speaking of clean house my cleaning this weekend took a slightly different form.  For a number of days now when you sat in the easy chair in the big room every now and then you'd get a whiff of something not pleasant.  Almost like something dead.  

We speculated it might be a dead mouse, perhaps in the wall somewhere or (God forbid) in the vent.  

So, since Geogal was away this weekend functioning as a sponsor for a church youth retreat and Geoana was occupied with her play-related activities I decided to clean up our big room and determine the source of the odor.  

Those of you who remember the Froot Loops commercial from the late 1970's can hum along:

"Follow your nose (follow your nose), it always knows (it always knows)"

Didn't take me long to pinpoint that the source of the unpleasant smell was a basket behind the easy chair which contained accessories and power cords for our electronics.  And now also featured a dead mouse.  

Seems mousey got hung up in a velcro iPod nano holder and apparently assumed room temperature as a result.  

Put on the rubber gloves, get all this staff outside, and begin sorting out what needs to go and what we need to keep.  And I dispatch the mouse carcass to the creek area in the backyard (nature can take it from here).  

Garbage bag, bleach wipes, baking soda, and a blast of Lysol later, you'd never know there was anything gross in that big room.  In the interest of full disclosure this is not the first dead mouse I've ever found in this house but I tend to find them pretty early in the process of decay.  Plus since we are now in the season where everything insect and rodent tries to move inside due to the colder weather outside something like this happening isn't a huge surprise.  

But now we can sit and relax in the living room without that occasional nasty smell.  

I also earned major big husband points by taking care of this issue while wife was gone.  That right there is worth plenty.  

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Odds & Ends

I've been very busy these last several days and didn't truly have a chance to slow down and relax until this weekend.  Even with that I'm still fatigued.  Probably a combination of the accumulated stress and me getting my annual flu shot.  The needle stick barely hurt at all but my bicep was sore for about three days.  Geogal (who labors in the medical field) indicated there's talk that this year's vaccine lands on the rougher side, so I could also be suffering a few effects of live influenza injected into my corpus.  

Anyway.   I'm not out to turn this blog into an old-man-complaining-about-his-ailments rant.  

I'm still enjoying college pigskin.  While every Saturday counts now that it's November every Saturday REALLY counts.  Lose now and kiss the playoff goodbye.  Maybe.  

Right now our area football fans are in a quandary.  Kansas State and Nebraska, two perennially competitive teams, are having a tough time on the gridiron.  Today they find themselves in Trying To Become Bowl Eligible category when usually the start of November has the Husker and Wildcat faithful starting to make postseason travel arrangements.  

No doubt the KU gang will let the K-State fans have it this week, chanting: "At least we scored against Oklahoma!"  

From football to baseball, whole lotta folks here rooting for the Royals to win it all.  At this writing all they have to do is win one more game.  

While the Mets have the east coast establishment media powerhouse behind them I too am pulling for the Midwesterners.  Yet I can't help thinking how fun of a Series it would be if the Cubs made it.  Plus I had my blog entry already planned:  All it took for the Cubs to finally get into the World Series was the Geofamily attending a regular-season game (!!).

Sadly it was not to be.  

Back to football, I missed this one last night but thanks to our video/digital/Internet culture this play is preserved.  Way to get that win, Aggies!!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Don't Bother Me This Afternoon

There are three really good college pigskin games on the schedule.  In my own backyard, Oklahoma comes to K-State.  Then there's Michigan versus Michigan State.  If those two weren't enough we have Alabama playing at Texas A&M.  

Note to self:  Check the batteries in the remote control.  

Major League Baseball?  Since the Astros are out, so am I.  Sure, I can root for the Royals if I choose but I won't be rearranging my schedule to catch the games.  I will admit it was gratifying to NOT see the Astros be the laughingstock of the MLB this season.  

How dd my tub spout replacement go?  I pulled a muscle (literally) trying to loosen the thing with regular Vise-Grips and then an adjustable wrench.  No go.  I wound up borrowing a pipe wrench from  the maintenance department at work.  

There's no beating the right tool for the job.  Clamp down, turn counter-clockwise (gently) and off came the spout.  Clean the threads, apply Teflon tape, then screw on the new piece.  

Mama's happy again.  

No complaints about the weather right now.  All this week temps were alternating between chilly and balmy.  Leaves are still falling but a quick look up tells me there's much more where those came from.  Don't get out the rakes just yet.  

Most of my acquaintances like fall over all the other seasons.  I sure don't mind it right now.  Warm but not hot.  Cool but not cold.  I don't need to run either the A/C or the furnace right now.  


Sunday, October 11, 2015

Boring? Not So Fast.....

Earlier in the week I took a glance at Saturday's college football schedule.  

None of the contests appeared too interesting.  Easy to predict the winners, right?

Maybe not...

I chose to watch some of the Red River Rivalry but sure didn't expect Texas to play so well.  It's nice to be surprised along with nearly every resident of Texas and Oklahoma.  

The Nebraska-Wisconsin game seemed largely mundane, lot of punts back and forth.  But in the last three minutes or so?  No one sits down and no one leaves the stadium early.  Another heartbreaker for the Huskers.  

TCU versus K-State?  I figured it would be another blowout win for the Horned Frogs.  Not so.  I got sleepy late in the fourth quarter but was determined to watch this thing to the end.  I'm glad I did.  Despite my geographical location I will still root for the Texas schools.    

And surprising football upsets are known to happen in Manhattan, Kansas.

My alma mater?  Another money game and another big loss.  I took solace in the fact Kansas lost by a bigger margin to another Top-25 opponent.  A 59-point loss is worse a 49-point loss.  Take that, Rock Chalk!!

All of the day games shared my time and energy with cutting the grass and then going to exercise.  

Speaking of yard work, while I lamented in my last post that the temps aren't quite so cool I noticed yesterday there were more than a few dead leaves on the ground.  

Almost as if the trees know something...

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Is it fall?

According to the calendar it is.

Yet looking outside one would think twice.

It is October.  Many parts of the U.S. already have the leaves changing, harvests happening, or gentry getting out the warmer wear.

Here in NW Kansas we got a taste of it last Saturday.  Geoana had a tennis tournament (these things are day-long) and the night before a storm system came through.

Dropped just a little bit of the wet stuff on us.  However 30 miles to the east, in the town where they were competing, a whole lotta more precipitation.

It also lowered the temps and once the court action commenced us spectators were treated to gray skies, wind, and temperatures that hovered in the 50s.  It builds character, right?

Fast forward to the present and it's another dry mild day.  Plus the forecast calls for a high of 90 or 91 on Sunday!

While this is good weather to take the camper out to the lake I believe we are in for a repeat of the last few years.

Indian summer followed by harsh winter.  No real fall.  No real autumn.


What am I currently doing?  Found a home improvement project just yesterday.

A few weeks ago the main floor bathroom tub spout decided to stop diverting water to the shower head.  This means Geogal now has to walk downstairs to the basement bathroom shower each morning.

Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.

So, I called in my plumbing guru to take a look at the situation.  Turns out replacing a tub spout is very easy.  So easy even I could do it.


The old spout isn't coming off without a fight!

I might have to borrow a pipe wrench or something else more hardcore than what is in my toolbox.  So far I've tried a regular wrench, a screwdriver (up the spout) and vise grips but that thing refuses to budge.

My consultant yesterday also told me of an inexpensive way to spruce up the bath/shower area.  FRP board to replace the old, rotting-out bath board.  That, plus a new faucet and a permanent shower head should do the trick.

Should be within my skill level, too.

I'm sure I'll post my trials and tribulations right here for the world to see.  It's called being a leisure writer...

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Back Home Again

Following up from the last post...

Sure enough, within a day or two the smoke residue cleared and once again all of us were treated to blue skies.  Maybe if I just whine enough on this blog?  


The Labor Day weekend saw me able to leave town, not having to mind the store.  Geogal suggested a jaunt to Denver.  

Like I need to be asked twice.  

We didn't take the camper this time.  Since hours were of the essence we elected for TownPlace Suites, which comes with a full kitchen.  Works well when we don't want to do the restaurant thing every meal.  

And this venture to the Mile High City was slightly different in focus.  

No Bass Pro Shops.  No Gander Mountain.  No Apple Store.  

Rather, just mountain air and enjoying what nature has to offer.  

Oh, and one more thing.  

Fresh roasted green chile.  

Found a very reputable local business specializing in the stuff.  Bought a bushel of Big Jim and took the roasted pods back to the hotel room's refrigerator.  Kept the chiles in the truck's cab on the journey over.  Today I get a whiff of roasted green chile which is a scent I cherish more than fine perfume on Geogal or new car smell in my vehicle.  Or creosote after a desert rain.  

And, Geomom and Dad, the styrofoam container in which our Omaha Steaks arrived was the perfect size for transporting the cooled peppers back to Kansas.  I knew I hung onto that cooler for a reason!  

Now we are set for the coming year.  Visions of green chile stew, green chile salsa, and Deming Hash.  That's a recipe I learned from a coworker from many years back.  

Brown ground beef, drain the grease.  Add cooked potatoes, diced green chile, onion, garlic, cumin, salt, and pepper.  I add a little vegetable or canola oil to keep things moist.  Simmer everything until it's ready (you'll know when it's time).  Eat with a rolled-up flour tortilla.  

Getaway trip?  Successful.  

Monday, August 31, 2015

Last One For August

Tough to end the month on a blah note, but here we are.  

I've been battling the common cold for most of this past week.  Today it's mainly past, just the residual drainage and subsequent cough.  Still better than being Snuffleupagus with a sore throat.  

Outdoors it's as blah as inside the Geohouse.  Smoke from the wildfires in California and Washington caused our normally blue sky to be a creepy shade of white these past few days.  Lack of any precipitation kept the heavens the same color all the way though yesterday.  I'm looking forward to the end of this week when some rain is in the forecast.  We usually don't get squat but even if showers are in the general region that should be enough to break the monotony.  

Still I don't want to get in the mindset that external issues have to rule my mood.  I should enjoy the temperate temps before old man winter settles in for his many-months visit.  

And then I bemoan the constant cold temps and gray skies.  

Maybe some things don't change.  

Monday, August 17, 2015

Branching Out

When it's time to plan the meals at the Geohouse we typically choose from several tried-and-true dishes.  Everything from ground beef-based recipes to entrees featuring fish or flora.  

But after the visit to Chicago I decided to tackle something new.  

Our first eatery in downtown Chi-town was Falafel Heaven.  Given the three of us were nearly famished we all chose pitas filled with beef and lamb mixtures.  We supplemented those with a dish of hummus.  It all was good.  Mighty good.  Better than Subway.  

The astute reader probably noticed we actually didn't partake any of the restaurant's namesake.  

Yet I always wondered what fried chickpeas, properly seasoned, might taste like.  

So I decided to give it a shot.  I enjoy cooking and sometimes like a challenge.  Besides, given dry garbanzo beans are inexpensive, even if I ruin this thing we're not out much $$$.  

Next step is to go online.  I finally glean an idea of my kitchen creation with herbs and spices I already have in the rack.  

Time to execute!  


Young Geoana had seconds.  That's enough of a positive message for me.  It was not only edible, it was somewhat tasty.  Put the fried patties into pita pockets with shredded lettuce and diced tomatoes. Then Geogal had the bright idea to drizzle a bit of ranch dressing in her ensemble.  Perfect!

I pointed out that Geoana could enjoy this in the future with some Greek yogurt.  She likes it, I don't.  

Feedback included me needing to step up the seasoning just a bit, such as adding coriander and using more cardamom.  But for a first try I was happy.  

Vegetarian?  Yes.  Vegan?  No.  

I did use one egg as a binding agent.  

Makes a mess in the kitchen but then this is a food that requires frying on a skillet.  Besides I think often the gustatory pleasure of a meal is directly proportional to the mess made in the kitchen.  

And everything can be cleaned up.  

Monday, August 10, 2015

Other Thoughts

Some things which just didn't make it into my Chicago road trip narrative...

I gave no thought to the historic beginning point of America's most famous highway.  Given I've lived very near it (Albuquerque), been close to the end point (Santa Monica), traveled the modern four-lane version (Interstates 15, 40, 44, 55), appreciated a book in which the road plays a significant role (The Grapes of Wrath) and enjoyed several versions of Bobby Troup's ode I didn't realize the corridor began in Chi-Town.  

(When I say didn't realize I mean this fact did not register in my brain when planning the trip.  I've long since known where the Mother Road started its westward journey.)  

On our first day downtown I saw this:

What about enjoying all Chicago had to offer regarding digital TV?  Fortunately the hotel gods were more kind to me this trip than when I was in northern Virginia and my window faced east.  Right in the direction of Willis Tower.  With a pair of amplified rabbit ears I got nearly every station in the third-largest media market in the nation.  

Several times the offerings were superior to what was available on the hotel's cobbled-together Dish Network system.  

If that wasn't enough I also took opportunity while at a rest area just east of Des Moines.  While waiting for the gals to return to the trusty vehicle I took the MacBook Air out of sleep, set up the antenna, and did well at seeing all of the full-powered signals in the Des Moines-Ames DMA.  I'm glad to have the chance to do this, since I viewed the real-tall sticks with great appetite during two of our Rochester, Minnesota journeys last year.  The reason I didn't get a chance then had to do with my old ancient MacBook and its complete lack of battery power.  (It was only eight years old, after all.)  

And when the ladies returned I happened to be watching The Monkees on Antenna TV.  Geogal even asked if I had the ability to run the system while we were in transit.  Sadly, no.  I told her the reality of needing to be stationary in order to watch digital TV.  She then related how her father used his engineering abilities and knack for buying items well below retail to set up a TV in their conversion van.  Not only could the passengers enjoy TV if in or near a city but also they could play video games on the long trips to Oregon.  It seemed like a happy memory.  

Food?  My only regret was not having a chance to enjoy corned beef.  However I learned I like a different type of food.  

The Chicago Dog.  

I really really like it.  I always meant to try one but didn't think I'd get hooked.  I'm usually not a big fan of pickles and mustard but somehow on the Chicago Dog it just all seems right.  

Who knows?  If I get another opportunity to visit the Windy City I might just try an Italian beef sandwich.  

Did the beginning of Married...with Children including Frank Sinatra singing "love and marriage, love and marriage..." go through my head repeatedly when at Buckingham Fountain?  Of course.

At the close of the vacation did we agree to disband and join other families?  Ha ha, no.  Not even close.  

Next major city destination?  Perhaps the Big Apple is calling...

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Road Trip Vacation, Summer 2015 Version (conclusion)

There comes a time in nearly all of our family journeys where the fun is over.  People begin to look forward to returning home and enjoying the privileges of home-cooked food, sleeping in one’s own bed, and having the ability to separate from each other.  

For me that day was Thursday.  The morning was no real issue since we planned to spend time at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.  (Actually just the museum since we are not scholars or historians and as such have no reason to populate the library.)  We followed that with a visit to Lincoln’s tomb.  

I did remark to Geoana that in the span of a few weeks she and I visited final resting places of three presidents.  Plus we passed very close to a fourth.  

On our first day the I-80 trek through Iowa included an exit for West Branch, the location of Herbert Hoover’s library, museum, and burial site.  However given it was late in the day and we already were suffering fatigue the Geofamily decided a visit would have to wait for another trip.  

Back to Springfield, Illinois.  The museum visit took care of the morning.  Finding a place to eat was more of a chore than necessary.  Again I think this was due to end-of-trip blahs.  The afternoon consisted of the females going shopping and me trying to catch a nap in the hotel room.  

None of us were very successful.  

Wake up on Friday morning, leave town early.  Place our vehicle on U.S. highway 36 and go west.  From interstate, to well-maintained four lane, to two lane once we reenter the Land Of Dorothy.  Ten hours later we are home!  

7 days.  1800 miles.  Many good memories.  

Time to put this one in the books.  

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Road Trip Vacation, Summer 2015 Version (part five)

This Wednesday dawns and the fresh-cut grass and smell of beer and unhealthy food beckons!

Time to close out our Chicago trip with a Cubs game at Wrigley!

We brave the traffic to arrive on the North Side well before gametime.  In fact we are among those early enough to enter the ballpark two hours before the cry of “play ball!”  

No question this is a shrine to baseball fans and while we don’t live and die by the game/scores/standings/World Series it’s still fun to visit a place where plenty of baseball history was made.  

Babe Ruth’s called shot.  

The Steve Bartman incident.  

Is that about it?  No, gotta be more.  It’s just not coming to mind right now.  

Speaking of the Bartman event I did sit in the famous seat and attempted a lame imitation.   Fun takes all sorts of forms.

How about another Chicago Dog?  This time it was a foot-long.  Still delicious.  Still excusable since I am on vacation.  

The game wasn’t exciting but wasn’t a bore, either.  Cubbies pitcher Jon Lester struck out 14 batters.  Besides, where else will you see a manually operated scoreboard?  Or ivy on the outfield walls?  Or seats on top of adjacent buildings?  

The trip was well worth it.  

After leaving it was time to hit the highway.  Goodbye skyscapers and obnoxious downtown drivers!  Hello corn and soybean fields!  

I was ready to be out of the city.  

One thing I noticed about Chicago/Illinois highway signs:  They don’t have qualms about giving states as destinations instead of control cities.  The Dan Ryan Expressway in Chi-Town gives “Wisconsin” and “Indiana” as place names rather than Milwaukee and Gary.  Why?  Who knows?  It is Chicago, after all.  

South of Joliet I see this phenomenon again:

Might be right up there with a sign near Palm Springs, California. 

I drove this for many years thinking “Other Desert Cities” meant adjacent burgs such as Palm Desert, Thousand Palms, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, etc.  

I guess it could be a subtle jab at Phoenix, Tucson, and El Paso.  

But I digress.  We spent the night in Springfield with the intent to visit things Abraham Lincoln the following day.  Me?  The plans are OK but I’m mentally ready to be back home.  

Doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the remainder of our trip.  More about that in the next entry.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Road Trip Vacation, Summer 2015 Version (part four)

Day Four dawns!

We retrace our route into downtown and again “hop on” the Big Bus.  

First stop is Navy Pier.  But we’re not here to shop or ride the ferris wheel.  

No no.  Architectural boat tour!

Confession number one:  I enjoyed this much more than I expected.  Learned a lot about the science of buildings!  

Also a great opportunity to snap some pics. 

What’s next?  I have to conquer my fear of high places as we visit the John Hancock Center.  We took a tip from a local and skipped 360 Chicago (the attraction on the top floor) and instead took the elevator to the 96th story, location of the bar.  Featuring a whole lot of huge windows.  

Confession number two:  For many years I saw the Hancock Tower in pictures or movies and thought it was the Sears Tower.  The black surface and twin white spires threw me off.  Now I know better.

It took me several minutes and one beer to finally get a little close to the edge for picture-taking.  

This is toward the southwest, and Willis Tower.

North, with the beach and Lakeshore Drive.

Finally it was time to head down and put our feet back on terra firma.  

Now, where to eat lunch?  

How about an Irish pub not far from the Hard Rock Cafe?  (Anyone who goes to downtown Chicago and eats at a chain needs a long talking-to.)  

Lunch was great, however they were out of corned beef so I opted for fish and chips instead.  Washed it down with some Guinness Blonde.  Stay true to my (father’s) heritage!  

Plan for the afternoon was some shopping followed by a stop at Willis (Sears) Tower for our second real high visit of the day.  However the shopping went longer than expected and when we arrived at the building that was the tallest in the world through the 70’s, 80’s and most of the 90’s we were told by the staff on the ground floor that Skydeck had an hour to hour-and-a-half wait time.  


If we opted to go up we might cut it just a little too close to catch the Big Bus back to our first stop.  We chose to skip it and instead hit Dunkin Donuts for a little pick-me-up, then journey east many blocks to fetch the car.  Time to rest up and wrap up our penultimate day in the Windy City.  

Monday, August 03, 2015

Road Trip Vacation, Summer 2015 Version (part three)

Day Three is when I have my best idea of the whole trip.

Well really it was day two.  That afternoon I saw the Big Bus go by with plenty of folks in the upper deck enjoying quite the view.  Then I noticed one has the ability to hop-on and hop-off at any of their stops.


Pointed it out to Geogal who thought it was a great idea.  We drive to downtown, leave the car in a garage then hotfoot it to the closest Big Bus stop.  Which in this case was the Field Museum.

We're aboard.  Our guide for this bus is Manny.  He has the gift of gab and isn't afraid to share his views on everything from high-rise condos to restaurants.  Once we get near the Hard Rock Cafe/really big McDonald's location he asks if any of the riders have partaken in Chicago cuisine.  We indicate we ate Chicago dogs at Portillo's, save for the child.  Geoana admitted she just had chicken tenders at that local eatery.

Manny would not let her live that one down.  The next several minutes consisted of barbs regarding going to one of Chi-town's places of local pride and ordering.....chicken tenders.  Not a Chicago dog. Not the Italian roast beef either.

All in good fun.

We got off where we started, at the Field Museum.  Geogal wanted to see Sue, the dinosaur bones found in South Dakota.  After spending the afternoon there all three of us decided we had spent enough time on our feet.  Time to retrieve the vehicle and head back to the hotel.

Tomorrow, more Chicago sights.  I'll leave you with a couple of pics.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Road Trip Vacation, Summer 2015 Version (part two)

Conjure up the beginning of the Batman TV series from the 1960’s.  When the second episode of the week began the narrator would recap the highlights with each scene going into freeze-frame, accompanied by a tone that got higher as the cliffhanger neared.  

So, with that explanation:

“When we left our traveling family, first there was departure” (tone)

“Lunch in Omaha” (tone)

“Tall cornstalks” (tone)

“University” (higher tone)

“Detour!”  (higher tone)

“A low tire” (even higher tone)

“In search of compressed air” (real high tone)

“Will the air be enough?”  (highest tone so far)

Segue into Neal Hefti’s “Batman” theme….

I woke, showered, went downstairs for coffee, then checked the car.  

Flat tire.  Not just low, flat.  F-L-A-T

Therefore I grab some breakfast in the hotel’s reception area, then go back out to change the tire.  Unfortunately this vehicle, like most in its size/class, comes only with a doughnut for a spare.  Since this is a Sunday morning and we’re in a city with a population of about 27,000 I didn’t think I would be able to get a new tire today.  

But I was wrong.  Turns out their Wal-Mart does do tires and was open even this Sunday a.m.  

About 90 minutes later (and a little lighter in the wallet) I returned to the hotel and the gals were ready to go.  All of us were delighted we would not have to drive on the spare all the way to Chi-town, which would require a lower speed than the 70-75 we’ve averaged so far.  

So then it’s across the Mississippi into Illinois.  Soon we’re on I-88 and hoping to see some Chicago sights this afternoon.  

Originally we hoped to see the Cubs play at Wrigley Field this Sunday afternoon but the tire issue put us behind schedule.  No matter!  We’re on our vacation, on our own time.  No schedule to keep.  

Besides the Cubbies will also play an afternoon game on Wednesday.  (Seems wrong to go to Wrigley at night.)  

Then we see the iconic skyline, visible through some haze.  We’re just about here!!

Stop-and-go traffic doesn’t keep us from finally reaching downtown.  Park the vehicle and start exploring the urban environment.  Grab some Mediterranean food at Falafel Island (great hummus!).  

Now what?  

How about the Art Institute of Chicago?  Remember this?:  

We do see most of the works shown in the clip.  But for me the highlight of the whole place was seeing “American Gothic.”  And I wasn’t the only one who wanted to take a long look at this picture of Americana. 

But back to Ferris Bueller.  Turns out the Institute embraces their appearance in the flick and even has a flyer for visitors with limited time:

I also enjoyed the view of skyscrapers through the slightly opaque and very large windows.  

We finally tire of seeing “priceless works of art” and head outdoors.  We see “The Bean” and the living gargoyles.  And no visit to this section of town would be complete without Buckingham Fountain.  

We’re exhausted.  Time to head out to the ‘burbs and our hotel.  Yet we still want to fully immerse ourselves in Chicago culture so we drive a few blocks to Portillo's and enjoy a Chicago dog.  

Geoana wasn’t so adventurous and just ordered chicken tenders.  This will come back to haunt her.  Stay tuned for the next day’s details.