Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Time to Split

It has been a busy couple of weeks around here. Work has picked up significantly and believe me, that is a wonderful thing. Can't believe it's been a couple of weeks since I posted last.

Take a look at this first picture. It's from my back yard. Notice those two large Maple trees just beyond the back fence? Aren't they beautiful? At about 40-50 feet tall the afternoon shade the dark green leaves on long branches provided were always welcome.

You probably noticed the past tense I just used. That's because those two trees are no more. Our local electric company is getting ready to string additional wires on the giant towers that are off in the distance and these trees were within the path of the new lines. That meant they had to come down last week.

If you take a look at the next picture you will see what it looks like now. Still pretty, but a whole lot brighter now.

I will say that even though I wasn't thrilled by the loss of the trees, it will certainly make growing a garden a much better possibility. With as much shade as there was, having a vegetable garden wasn't much of an option before.

This is a "glass half full" way of looking at it.

The crew that came out to do the tree removal were really nice guys. When they showed up the first day, I asked them if was possible to cut the large rounds into sixteen inch sections. The foreman said he wasn't sure, but would think about it. When I got home from work later in the afternoon, I went out into the back yard and saw some very tired workers as well as a pile of sixteen inch tree parts! I offered to fill up their water jug and thanked them for cutting the trees into sections. They were almost as happy to have the ice water as I was to have the wood.

Over the next couple of evenings I loaded my truck with the wood and took it over to moms. Then, on Sunday Lisa, the boys and I rented a splitter and proceeded to make a massive pile of firewood for mom. (and some for camping too)

If you've ever split firewood by hand, and I have, let me tell you, renting a splitter is worth every penny! Actually, I should say it was worth every one of mom's pennies, because she actually paid for it. Bless you mom!

When the day was done and the sore mussels were counted, I would estimate that there was somewhere in the neighborhood of two and a half cords of firewood. (A cord is measured at 4x4x8 feet)

Let me say that my family is awesome! They stuck it out with me for the majority of the day helping stack some of the wood and running the handle for the hydraulic splitter. About three quarters of the way through the pile, my brother Mark showed up and helped me finish. Yahoooo! That was right on time, because by that time my arms were about to fall off from lifting all those rounds.

When winter rolls around I plan on going over to moms and sitting beside the nice warm fire.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Behind the Wheel

Haven't done one of these types of posts for a while.

Things you don't want to hear at a driving test:

1. OK, next I'd like you to parallel park, Up ahead, there, between that Lexus and the Mercedes.

2. Congratulations Mr Johnson, your teenage son/daughter just passed their test.

3. no, No, NO!!!

4. I've never actually had a driver get a car up on two wheels before.

5. Have you ever considered the benefits of public transportation?

6. Are you by any chance part of the Andretti family?

7. No, that wasn't a speed bump.

8. Are you sure you shouldn't be wearing glasses.

9. Not even that amount of cash is going to help your score.

10. Wow, most people stop the car outside the building.

11. Thirty-two years in the DMV and that's the first time I've ever seen that move.

12. Didn't your brother try this earlier this year? Oh yeah, he didn't pass either.

Feel free to add any others that come to mind in the comments section.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Our Anniversary

The calendar has reached June 13th, which means Lisa and I are celebrating the seventeenth anniversary of our wedding day.

Much has changed in our lives over the years.

We have two children, and if you're a parent, then you know that changes your life on a daily basis.

We live in a different state. We were both born and raised in California, but have taken up residence in Oregon for about eight years now.

We have each discovered hairs that have changed color from their original shade. (me, much more so than her!)

We have had our share of disagreements over the years. Some of them rather heated, but none of them that lasted any length of time.

We have regrettably had to say goodbye to each of our fathers as well as other family members and even a couple of friends along the way.

One of the things that has not changed over the years, is that we are friends. Before we ever went out on a date we had developed a friendship, and that has continued throughout our marriage.

We have learned the true meaning of our wedding vows: For richer or poorer, for better or worse, in sickness and in health, till death do us part.

We've never been monetarily wealthy, nor have we been destitute, but we have seen glimpses of each and remained true to each other in both.

We've had our "for better" times and other times that would qualify for "worse". With a spirit of love and understanding, we made it through each of them with a renewed sense of respect and love for each other.

We've experienced periods of good health and our share of sicknesses along the way. It's true that you gain a real understanding of another person when they are under the weather. Through various illnesses that life has thrown at us, we've learned to care for one another deeply.

The last part of our vows, till death do us part, fortunately has not come, but I do believe I've heard on more than one occasion, "Over my dead body!"

We've experience many things in 17 years of marriage and no doubt will have many more things to look back at in the years to come. More happiness, more memories, more times of worry, more times of great joy, more. . . life. Each of these things we will be able to enjoy or endure, as the case may be, because we will have each other.

So to my wife, my lover, my best friend, my companion, my soul mate. . . I love you. I love you now as I have loved you all of the years we've been together.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Where There's Smoke . . .

Where there's smoke . . . there's usually an entrance to a shop of some kind.

Now if you are a smoker try not to get your shorts into a bunch by the following post. I will be quick to say that this is not designed to be all inclusive of all smokers. Just as it would be ridiculous to say that a few people in any given group represent the entire body.

OK, now that that little disclaimer is out of the way, on with the rant.

In Oregon smoking is prohibited in just about every public building, and the law further goes on to say that there will be no smoking allowed within ten feet of an entrance (door). Being a non-smoker I obviously have no problem with this. I personally could care less if smoking were banned everywhere outside of ones home. What I do have a problem with is that at nearly every doorway now, some ten feet and one inch away sit or stand a group of displaced smokers puffing away. In order to get through the door I must navigate my way through a thick cloud of nicotine infused air.

The other thing that irritates the crap out of me are all of the inconsiderate pigs that insist on making the patios and sidewalks their own ashtrays. Why is it so hard to actually put the cigarette butt in an ashtray or sand filled container? It tends to look like a sty outside the doorways. Little yellow and white butts everywhere and black marks from stepping on a discarded smoke are more and more common. "People, the world is not your personal toilet, please stop shitting on it at every given opportunity!"

While I'm on the subject, my same lack of love is extended to any of the oink masters that can't use the ashtray in their own cars to discard the end of their cancer sticks. Why do they insist on throwing them carelessly out onto the road? Is it because they are "just a little thing"? BS I say. It is littering plain and simple.

If you are a smoker you may be saying, "Yeah, but we have rights." I'm not disputing that at all. Yes, you do have the right to smoke cigarettes and I'm sure you are more than irritated that your legal areas to do so are shrinking. What my real gripe is, is nothing more than being considerate to those around you.

That being said, I realize I'm biased. I hate cigarettes. I think they are nasty. I think they have the ability to turn the most gorgeous woman into the ugliest one just by seeing her take a drag from one. They have the ability to kill more than four-hundred thousand people every year. They have the ability to grab a hold of people of all ages and never let them go. I see nothing remotely sexy about them, nor do I think they make anyone look cool.

Time to check your shorts. Are they wrinkled and bunched? Let me reiterate, if you're a smoker I do not hate you. I hate that foul, lit smog machine hanging from your face, nothing more

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


Camping time is upon us and as promised, here are some photos of our most recent outings.

This first one is of our pop-up tent trailer. After traversing the sides of numerous mountains and sleeping in tents on the cold hard ground, this is my new idea of ruffing it. We love this fun little trailer. It has beds that pop out on either end and a slide out on the back side where the "dining" table is. It makes for pretty decent room inside when it's set up, but is relatively compact when its folded down and is very easy to tow.

These first few photos are from two weeks ago when all four of us went out to the coast (Pacific City, OR) There's a nice RV campground right across the road from the beach. This spot makes a regular appearance on our schedule each year.

The fog kept pretty close to the coast line all weekend. Occasionally it would afford some nice shots like this one, of the monolith just off shore .

Along the north side of the cove there are a number of rocks that are rich with tide pools. Plenty of anemone, crabs, mussels, and other goodies to look at. At low tide we were treated to a whole host of exploration opportunities.

After we checked out the tide pools, we headed back down the beach and came upon a very strange sight. There in the middle of the sand were two giant footprints! I think they must have been left by Gulliver. Check them out for yourselves.

This past weekend was the guys camping trip. I had sandwiches made and as soon as the boys got out of school on Friday we had a quick bite and were on the road. Our destination was Fort Stevens State Park. We had about a two and a half hour drive and spent the whole time talking and laughing and carrying on. Yes, this was going to be a good trip.

Heading west along Hwy 26 through the coast range, there is this cool tunnel through the mountainside. As the boys closed their eyes, held their breath and raised their feet, it reminded me that not only are tunnels beautiful to look at, they are equally as fun to drive through. A reminder from the boys; Let go and enjoy. Thank you guys.

We got to the camp site around five o'clock and started unpacking. Anthony and Matt both eagerly helped set up the camper and then wanted to hop on their bikes to check out the surroundings. While they were familiarizing themselves with the area, I finished setting up and then got dinner going. My only guidelines for meal selection are as follows: It should be easy to prepare and the use of paper plates & plastic-ware whenever possible is a must. Night number one's menu consisted of pulled pork sandwiches (Cooked the meat on Thursday so I just had to re-heat it) and a small green salad. Now, just in case you were ready to stand up and applaud me for including something as healthy as a salad, don't worry, we did have double chocolate brownies for dessert. Yum-O!

It was kind of cold that night and was drizzly/foggy outside, so we opted to forgo the campfire and hang out inside for the rest of the evening. I taught Matthew and re-taught Anthony how to play cribbage. It brought me back to when I was a kid and learned how to play this card game from my dad, most likely on a camping trip somewhere.

After playing cards, we read about several of the shipwrecks that had happened in the area where we were. According the the pamphlet we had, since 1792, approximately 2000 ships had sunk trying to enter the Columbia River from the Pacific, earning it the ominous name of the "Graveyard of the Pacific".

The shipwreck we were most interested in was the Peter Iredale, a British sailing ship that ran aground on October 25, 1906. Fortunately no one died, but I'd be willing to bet the captain wanted to when he had to report back to England what had happened. The thing that makes this wreck so interesting is that a large section of the rusted metal bow still protrudes from the sand just at the surf line so that when the tide is right, you can walk right up to it. When we made it out to it the next afternoon the water was only about ankle deep around it so we were able to get right up close and check it out. It's kind of cool to see the skeleton that has been stuck in the sand and exposed to the elements for over a hundred years, but still stands at least twenty feet out of the water. We broke out our best "Arrrgh, skarve ye navies..." as we took in the sights.

Saturday morning brought with it cool temps, clearing skies and two hungry boys. While sitting at the table enjoying a hearty meal of hash browns, sausages and scrambled eggs, Matthew exclaimed, "This is a man's breakfast, and we're eating it cause we're men!" Coming from his eighty pound, nine year old body, it gave me a pretty good chuckle. I did manage to contain this chuckle to my inside though. After all this had been dubbed the guy's camping trip and I wasn't going to squash his enthusiasm.

With full stomachs and a spirit of adventure we hopped on our bicycles and headed off to explore. The trails through the park are really nice. They are all paved and meander through the trees, shrubs, wild huckleberries with just enough down hill runs to compliment the up hill spots.

Our first stop was at The Battery Russell. It served as the fort's southern lookout and gun placement. The concrete structures are all still there and provided for plenty of investigation for the the three of us. After giving the area a thorough going over it was back on the bikes and off to the main part of the fort a couple miles to the north.

We discovered a really beautiful wetland area in route with lush grasses and a lazy creek running through it. The boys enjoyed riding over the big wooden bridge most, but still managed to take a few moments to take in the scenery with me.

A little while later we were at the north end of the fort. We spent the next couple of hours checking out all the batteries, trucks, cannons/guns and other things. The boys found a jeep to jump in and offer up a salute.

All totaled, we figured we rode about twelve miles up and back and walked a couple more in the process of looking at things. By the time we got back to the camper everyone was a bit tired and you guessed it, hungry. I wonder, is there ever a time when boys are not hungry?

After a brief nap and lunch we went out to the beach to check out the ship wreck I told you about earlier. Later that night we made a big campfire and sat around it talking while the boys roasted marshmallows and turned them into smores. (graham crackers with roasted marshmallows and chocolate squished in between them.)

The campground emptied out pretty early on Sunday morning as they normally do. Most people were headed back to work or back to school. We had both of those things on our agenda as well, but we opted for a more leisurely approach. We gathered up a few things in the morning then went for another short bike ride to the nearby lake. We were having way too much fun to rush going home. Unfortunately, check-out time at the park is 1:00pm, so at 12:59 we fastened the last clip on the trailer and headed out.

On the way home we stopped at a place called Camp 18. It's a restaurant, but has several old rail cars and pieces of logging equipment out front to check out. We didn't eat there this time. (already had lunch back at camp), but figured we'd give it a try next time through. This is one of those spots along the road that is not where you intend on going and can easily be driven past in an effort to get to your destination. Such had been the case on other trips, but I decided I wasn't going to pass it up again and wonder what it was like. We ended up spending about a half an hour looking at all the neat things they had. I've already made a mental note to do this type of thing more often; stop and smell the roses, as it were.

Well, there you have it. A little taste of camping with us. Not sure where we're heading off to next time, but I'm sure it'l be a fun time.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Hello Again

Wow, it's been a while since posting.

What's been going on around here for the past couple of weeks? Well a certain amount of the same old, same old. Work has been ridiculously slow lately. Not a good thing for this time of year. It's been good for the honey-do list, but not for the checking account. Hopefully that will be changing real soon.

The boys are counting down the days. . . make that the hours until school lets out. Next Tuesday is the final day of the year, and it also happens to be Matthew's ninth birthday. That's kind of a nice present don't you think?

We kicked off the camping season last weekend by heading out to one of our favorite destinations, Pacific City, Oregon. The temperatures inland were in the upper eighties so a trip to the coast where the temps were in the mid sixties was a nice break. We spent the better part of Saturday on the beach having fun and doing our best to get sun burned. We succeeded at both.

Later in the evening the couple who were camped next to us came over and we sat around the camp fire chatting and getting to know one another. Found out they live in a town about fifteen miles from us. Really nice people too. We've already exchanged a couple of emails, and talked about meeting again during the summer for another camp trip.

That's always been one of the things I enjoy about camping; getting to know other people. I recently saw an ad, I believe it was on TV, that said camping was the original social networking site. That made me chuckle and at the same time, nod my head in agreement.

This weekend will be a guys trip. I'm loading up the boys right after school and we're heading up to Fort Stevens for the weekend. This is a great place for exploring. It was used between the civil war and WWII as an military outpost to protect the Columbia River where it meets the Pacific Ocean. All the concrete bunkers are still there and make for some pretty cool exploration. There's also an old shipwreck on the beach to check out, a lake for fishing at and miles of bike and walking trails. Needless to say the boys are excited, then again, so is Lisa. A whole weekend with the house to herself!

I'll be sure to bring my camera and snap some photos to share next week.

Talk with you soon.