Monday, February 29, 2016

Leap Day

Gotta post today, right?

The warm temps continue.  So warm in fact that this past Saturday I worked outside and enjoyed sporting a pair of cargo shorts.

Weird February.  Hard to believe the month began with a blizzard.

The late-spring climate also had the result of melting all that snow.  Today you're lucky to find a patch of nieve that just refuses to go gently into that good night.  Been so warm even the squishy boggy-type yard I feared from all the snowmelt just gone and dried up.

Be interesting to see how this area greens up come May.

But first there's March, perhaps the most notorious month of the year for weather conditions.  Then April, which teases but we now know better than to put the jackets and sweaters away before the month draws to a close.

I remember what someone once told me about the four seasons here:  cold and windy, dirty and windy, hot and windy, cool and windy.

Still beats where I came from which only had two seasons:  hot and really really hot.

Or as I heard the other day, the two seasons in the desert are: snowbirds and snakes.

Wonder if we'll get a repeat of the 70-something temps we had on Saturday?  Maybe I can get a suntan....

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Cure For February Doldrums

I've never much liked the second month of the year.  The holidays are long over, football season is nearly gone (it's hard for me to have much enthusiasm about the Super Bowl), I'm not the biggest fan of college hoops and the NBA holds zero interest for me.  

Plus it's cold.  Still the bitter cold of winter, not the easier, albeit still unpleasant, chill of late November or early April.  

So, how does one deal with the shortest month?  I think I stumbled upon the solution.  

Stay real busy.  


The month began with me in Colorado Springs.  Yes, it was business-related (who would go to the Springs in the dead of winter for pleasure?).  I've been to this shindig before but the past two times my much-better half was with me, and in 2010 the Geohouse went there as a family.  

Not so this time.  Just me and some colleagues.  All of the professional goo took place within the hotel so getting to things posed no problem.  

On previous trips we've seen some of the white stuff in the Springs but it was never any amount to cause concern.  

Yet the forecast not only for The Centennial State but also for our home area in NW Kansas was troubling.  Snow.  Not just a few inches here and there.  Lots of snow.  Blizzard warnings around home with the brunt happening the second day of my trip.  

Get to Colorado on Sunday with no problems.  The serious snow begins falling Monday evening and by Tuesday a.m. the whole area was under many inches of winter wonderland.  Most things closed.  People not being able to get out of their driveways, much less their neighborhoods.  

I'm more concerned with road conditions back on the homefront.  Conference is scheduled to end on Wednesday and I'd like to sleep in my own bed that night.  I'd rather not be delayed by closed roads.  

Using our modern technology I learn back home is getting hit hard.  Not only is there a significant amount of winter storm, but the wind makes a very bad situation worse.  Geogal texts me photos of the drifts just outside the front door.  

Not good.  

When Wednesday arrives, here's what our neighborhood looked like:

Thank you, city road crews!  

But still, I'm not sure about getting home.  Several of the roads I need are listed by KDOT as still closed.  

But that was the morning.  By midday everything was open, although slushy and snowcapped in places.  

Good thing my colleague and I snagged the only company vehicle that has 4WD capability.  

We leave just a little after noon.  Once we clear the Colo Springs metro area the clouds break and we're treated to bright sunshine.  Yet with the heavy snow and the often-treeless terrain of the eastern Colorado prairie if one looks in the right place you'd almost swear you were in the Arctic.  

We cross over into Kansas and the state crews have done their job well.  Roads in great condition!  

Make it home just a little after dark.  Despite the photos and written descriptions it's still shocking to see the extent of the blizzard.  Including our streets being one-lane, at best.  


Mid-month it's time for Snow Ball.  

The high school's semi-formal dance, open to all students.  (Prom is restricted to juniors and seniors.)  

Prior to that Saturday dance I was joking about hiding out in my camper.  You see, Geoana planned to have two friends over to get ready.  I wasn't about to hang around for that.  

First girl arrives.  Geoana looks straight at me and kindly requests I repair to my camper.  My joking was not forgotten.  

Turns out that banishment wasn't too bad.  Click on the furnace in the travel trailer, bring my MacBook Air, iPhone, K-cup brewer, some bottles of water, a good book and I'm ready to go.  

Then I get a text:  "Need you in here to make the mashed potatoes."  

All the young people in this particular group decided to have a meal at someone's house.  Parents divided up the victual responsibilities.  Us?  Mashed spuds and sweet corn.  

Turns out a good time was had by all.  Not only that, I think I put a good scare into my daughter's date.  Keep your hands to yourself, buster.  


And if that's not enough, how about two non-work, community-oriented endeavors?  Both requiring preparation.  Both needing a lot of teamwork.  Both giving me a high level of stress.  

Both occurring on the same weekend?  

One Friday evening, one Sunday afternoon.  

If you think I'm describing this past weekend, you're right.  

Sunday evening saw me relaxing at home, drinking something fermented.  

And now February is nearly outta here!!

Monday, February 08, 2016

Taking It Outside

I had a dream Saturday night (actually it was more likely very early Sunday morning).  

I went to the state park and enjoyed the winter wonderland it provided, courtesy of the blizzard which fell here Monday and Tuesday.  Total boreal pleasure.  Long line of vehicle to get in, to boot.  Very glad I had the yearly pass sticker on my windshield.

So I decided to head out to the real thing yesterday afternoon.  But in reality it wasn't the white playground of my dreams.  

For starters it was deserted.  No real surprise considering the time of year.  It also wasn't as snowy as I dreamt, with all drifts matched by bare patches.  Shoot, my own neighborhood looks like it got hit with Old Man Winter's fury much more so than the expanse of public land.  

I did take a picture of the lake, figured the water would contrast well with the sky and snow-covered dam.  


Too bad I wasn't here at sunset.  I continued to drive through the park and marveled at how different this place appears when it's not the temperate camping and fishing season.  This RV dump station looks almost forlorn, as if it knows it won't see any use for many more weeks.  

That, plus the desolate campsites had me longing for April when I can once again take out my camper and use it as God intended.  Patience, Geoguy.  

Saturday, February 06, 2016

January--Gone to Minnesota

The reason there were no January entries here was twofold.  First we paid a visit to Mayo Clinic, which during the warmer months is an enjoyable sojourn.  However in the dead of winter things are a bit different.  Also my workplace had a much more busy January than usual so much of my energy was focused on my day job.  Writing is a hobby for me and most evenings I came home with almost nothing in my creative tank.  

Here then is a summary of our week going to a place many people don't want to visit, and certainly not when Old Man Winter is wreaking havoc.  


Day One—Saturday, January 9

Preparation for previous out-of-town ventures appeared to give us experience, as loading up and heading out posed no problem.  Temp was in the high 20’s.  We want to grab Subway for breakfast but our local one hasn’t opened for the day yet.  

But less than a half-hour later we find that the Subway in Alma is open, and serves breakfast.  We enjoy the first meal of the day and soon are back on the road.  

Driving north on highway 183 we are greeted with two harbingers of what is to come.  Higher wind from the north and dropping temps.  By the time we meet up with I-80 the thermometer is down in the teens.  

Head east, then keep heading east.  York, Nebraska is our first gas and empty-the-bladder stop.  I bundle up and add gas to the vehicle while all the time trying to think warm thoughts.  The temperature reading when we got to York was 6 degrees above zero but I know the wind chill has things well below the goose egg.  

Geogal takes over the driving and we all decide to do lunch at Cabela’s in Omaha.  Elk burgers for all!  I’m also well-behaved here.  No venturing over to the retail area and checking out outdoor gear/guns/ammo.  Besides, given the brisk driving conditions my thoughts are occupied.  (A recurring theme for the week to come.)  

Lunch out of the way, we’re on the road again.  (No Willie Nelson crooning now, too danged cold.)  We cross the Missouri River and enter Iowa, the third state of the day.  Continue east on 80 with Des Moines as our destination for overnighting.  We reach the Hilton Garden Inn in Urbandale and brave the strong winds carrying very cold temps.  

Check-in is quick and soon we’ve unpacked as much (really as little) as we would do for a quick overnight stop.  Given anything we leave in the vehicle will be subject to very low temps we bring in much more stuff than if we were doing this trip in May.  In the room I set up the DTV stick on my Macbook Air however not all of the local stations come in well.  One of us also turns on the room TV only to find many of the stations are either not coming in at all or are badly pixellated.  (The next morning we learn that was the fault of the local cable provider and not, as I guessed, too much snow on a dish or the winds blowing a dish off-position.)  However the front desk was understanding and offered to comp breakfast for us the next morning.  Awesome!  Saved us about 33 dollars, tax not included.  

Then comes the always-big and difficult-to-answer question:  Where to eat?  After looking over the nearby options we choose to repast at Hy-Vee.  Yes, the grocery store.  

It might be one of the best-kept secrets for folks on the road, but Hy-Vee, in some locations, has a very good restaurant just off the deli area of the main store.  You can either order off their menu or just go to the deli and have them make you a plate of vittles.  Tonight Geogal and I have Chinese food while the child gets fried chicken.  We eaten at H-V’s before, in Omaha and in Worthington, Minnesota and did well for ourselves.  The prices aren’t half-bad either.  

Back into the cold-with-a-capital-C and drive back to the hotel.  Continue to be frustrated with the TV offerings.  The next day I comment that if we had a room with a north-facing window the DTV stick and antenna likely would receive all of Des Moines’ stations, including the one with the Me-TV subchannel.  Since it was Saturday night the three of us could have enjoyed our Saturday night TV ritual.  “Batman” at 6 and 6:30, then “Star Trek” (the original series) at 8.   Both of my gals indicated “we would have loved that!”  

Oh, well.  

Day Two—Sunday, January 10

We enjoy our free, and quite delicious, breakfast.  No cheap continental offering here.  Instead we have our choice of eggs, plus bacon, sausage, waffles, home fries, and nearly every other breakfast amenity there is.  Nice to load up with a heavy meal before heading out into the still-brutal combination of cold and wind.  

It’s clear today, not a cloud in the sky.  The Nitro starts right up and I let her get good and warm before driving to the main door for luggage loading.  That task done, it’s time to gas up.  

Fueling the vehicle in wind chill that is still well below zero is yet another character-building experience.  By the time it’s done I am nearly a human popsicle despite my layers of protection via outerwear.  

Get to I-35 and turn north, toward The North Star State.  It’s windy but fortunately I’m not driving straight into it.  The cloudless sky remains that way for the entire journey today.  I wonder to myself what the AM radio band must be like right now, given the clear conditions, the lack of solar interference due to the season, and the ground conductivity.  Yet I don’t change the audio from our Sirius XM to ancient modulation.  Partly because I’m enjoying the programming and partly because the regular radio antenna was snapped off in a garage door mishap.  

On the way we do turn to the NFL channel and listen to the pregame and first quarter of the Vikings versus the Seahawks.  Game is in Minneapolis.  Temperature there is no better than what we’re experiencing now.  Again and again I tell the gals, “Better for us to be in a warm vehicle than be sitting in that stadium where the temperature at kickoff is (at best) zero degrees.”  

They agree.  

This stretch of 35 is long and tedious.  It’s great to get to Clear Lake as that is the Pavlov bell that we are finally within striking distance of Minnesota.  We cross the state line and decide to stop at Petro in Albert Lea. Bathroom break, plus coffee for me and other warm beverages for the females.  No need for any lunch, though.  Let’s hear it for a big breakfast!  

About 45 minutes later we’re in Rochester.  Feels like familiar territory.  Because it is.   

Settle into our home for the next few days, a.k.a. a suite at one of the newest places in town.  Tonight’s dining is Whiskey Creek.  Steaks are great and the locals aren’t too dismayed over the Vikings’ loss.  

Day Three—Monday, January 11 

Still cold.  Warm up vehicle and head back in for coffee and breakfast.  Then it’s into the parking garage at Mayo’s main area downtown.  We don’t know it at the time but we’re in for a lengthy day of appointments and consults.  

Finally leave at 5:15 p.m.  It’s already dark and the streets, while maintained, are still slushy and slippery.  We stop at Hy-Vee but this time just get a rotisserie chicken and the appropriate sides for supper.  

Day Four—Tuesday, January 12

Temps are still very very very very cold.  Even for Minnesota the overnight wind chill warnings are fearsome.  Here's what I saw in the hotel lobby: 

Back to downtown, more appointments.  But in contrast to yesterday, we have the afternoon free.  Time for some recreation!  

For us, it was seeing “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”  

It did show in our town but we decided to wait until this trip.  Might as well enjoy it in a large theatre with the good Dolby sound quality and stadium seats.  

Warning:  If any of you still have not seen the flick (and by now you really have no excuse) just ship ahead to the next day.  

Geoana, as sometimes happens when she goes to the movies, orders a soda going in which results in her bladder nearly exploding by the end of the movie.  When we left the cinema she said, “I nearly peed my pants just to see her offering Luke Skywalker his old lightsaber?”  

Day Five—Wednesday, January 13

This morning we do the smart thing and take the hotel shuttle to the clinic.  It’s yet another full day seeing medical providers.  

No movies today.  

Day Six—Thursday, January 14

Good news:  Just a few things to wrap up at Mayo and we are done for this trip.  

Bad news:  We finish up past the hotel check-out time so we can’t get on the road early and at least knock out some of the home journey.  

Pretty good:  We order Famous Dave’s BBQ for hotel delivery.  Nice tasty relaxing supper.  

Day Seven—Friday, January 15

Get up early.  Temps aren’t quite so low as they were on the trip here but it still isn’t exactly tropical, either.  And unlike our arrival the sky is gray and the winds are blowing already-fallen snow across the interstate.  We turn south at Albert Lea, my original plan to go home via Worthington and Sioux City thwarted by uncertain weather conditions in that vicinity.  

While our drive through Iowa north on I-35 a few days ago was sunny, today it is gray and getting oddly darker.  I soon find out why.  More snow is falling, although it’s not a significant amount and not in itself causing any problem on the roads.  However, the snowfall combined with the wind together with the aforementioned blowing snow from the ground makes for rough driving between Clear Lake and Ames.  For about a 15-minute period we were in near-whiteout mode.  I later learned Geogal was engaged in a lot of silent prayer for that stretch.  

Get to Ames, time to top off the tank and get some refreshment.  The weather is improving and it looks like we might hit our goal to make it home by this evening.  Geogal takes over behind the wheel and we muster on ahead, past Des Moines and then westward in the direction of Omaha.  

We enjoy a late lunch at Cracker Barrel.  More gasoline, then I’m back in the driver’s seat.  I flip the Sirius XM radio over to Paul Finebaum which keeps me well-occupied during this portion.  Not only are the clouds breaking up and Old Sol pops through, but I notice after Lincoln the outdoor temperature slowly begins taking an upward direction.  

One more stop, in Kearney for the purpose of restroom and chocolate.  Just about in the homestretch!

And then we are home.  We unload quickly, not due to frostbite-inducing wind chill (which isn’t even present here, in comparison to all other segments of our trip) but rather just a desire for all of us to get the task done and call this trip over.  

I sleep well this night.