Thursday, July 29, 2010

I Missed an Anniversary

No, it wasn't the anniversary of my marriage. You'd be reading my obituary if I had missed that. And I knew it was right around this time of year but the actual date had eluded me. Part of my excuse is that I have been a bit busy. Work hasn't exactly been at a frantic pace, but very steady. And a second job of teaching at a local college has kept me a bit occupied. Then there's that bathroom remodeling project and my daughter's upcoming wedding in November. Oh well. July 26, 2008 was the date we purchased Max. Two years and about 6,800 miles later we are doing fine together. Max wasn't mad at me for forgetting. As usual, he just wanted me to take him for a ride. I promised him a long ride soon. Real Long. Real Soon. I went back and looked at a post I did a year ago called "Scooterversary". I got a kick about what I wrote then. It was maybe a little sappy, but the point was to express, in part, how the simple purchase of a two wheeled vehicle had made some pretty significant changes in my lifestyle and how I looked at the world around me. I didn't put as many miles on Max this year as I did the year before, but there were a couple of reasons for that. Jayna and I owned only one car for most of that first year. This year we bought the famous Canadian Subaru and I drove it on some days where I could have ridden Max. Also, this last winter the weather was much less conducive to two wheeled riding.
The New License Plate Cover for "Monty" the Subaru.
A Father's Day Gift from my Daughter, bless her heart.
I still continue to ride Max to work almost every day I can. What a great way to start and end a day.
Max in the Flint Hills of Kansas last Fall
That long ride I promised to Max is next week. That's how Max and I are going to celebrate this anniversary.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Key West comes to Wichita

They say you should be very careful about meeting up with a person you have only known from some sort of internet relationship. You never know when they might be a serial killer, a Republican, or even a biker, God Forbid. My co-workers warned me about all the bad things that could happen. They say that bikers, especially those that ride machines without the modern day benefit of tachometers, are the worst. If that's the case, then you have to include me in the category of being "tachometerless". But after meeting a fellow tachometer challenged rider and blogger, I have discovered that not only do we not suffer from tachometer envy, but in fact we are totally normal, well adjusted individuals that are grounded in the knowledge that other people are secretly very jealous of our abilities to ride successfully without tachometers. At least that is what I think. Last Monday, Michael Beattie, his charming wife Layne and their famous dog, known as Cheyenne, came to Wichita and to our humble little home. I must further inform you that they had traveled in their Ford that day starting some place in Wyoming and driving through eastern Colorado and western Kansas (not known for beautiful scenery) on a 100 degree day. They were pretty tired from their effort that day, but that didn't stop them from meeting us at our home and bringing a bottle of wine from Oregon to share with us. We talked at length about almost everything under the sun. There was hardly ever any break in the conversation and I must say we hit it off very well. You would be hard pressed to find a more interesting couple. Michael has this sort of mischievous twinkle in his eye that I actually imagined he might have just from reading his blog. Layne is intelligent and quick witted, probably a requirement to keep up with the sometimes sarcastic and radical utterances from her husband. I say that in a good way.

Layne here is obviously stunned by something uttered by Michael. My wife Jayna on the left looks on in some disbelief also.

It was even a little strange because even though I felt somewhat acquainted with Michael, through reading his blog, and probably vice versa, there were still many things I didn't know about him. So even though it felt like seeing an old friend, it was like meeting a new friend at the same time.

To our wives, it must have been even stranger, not knowing very much about the other couple except for that information which could possibly be extricated from the husband bloggers, which we all know is probably incomplete and untrustworthy. But there was never any unease and I have to say that Jayna and I had a very enjoyable time. Michael even wanted to see my scooter so I had the opportunity to show off Max.

The delicacies for that day, just for Bobskoot. The breaded okra is a very welcome new item on the menu at this restaurant. You could also get fries or potato salad. But the meat is what is famous here. The owners display all sorts of ribbons earned at cooking contests throughout the midwest.

Michael and Layne eventually went back to their hotel to crash and we made tentative plans to get together for lunch the next day before they left on the next leg of their journey.

The next morning Jayna and I went to work. Michael and Layne probably slept in a bit and Michael said he wanted to work on the computer a bit. I suspect that he has a couple weeks of posts all scheduled up. Sort of disgusting, if you ask me. I am not near that organized nor as frequent a poster. Key West Diary is an amazing and fun blog to read. They came downtown to our office building and we took them to one of our favorite BBQ places for lunch. Michael didn't seem entirely sure as to what to order so he said: "I'll have whatever Jim has!" which was a brisket sandwich, hot link on the side with breaded okra. Layne had no indecision as to what to order and got some spare ribs. Jayna opted for the club sandwich. All of which was delicious.

The restaurant we went to was west of the river in what is known as the "Delano" district. This part of town back in the cattle rush days of the 1870's and 1880's was known to be a little "wild" at times. Taverns and houses of ill repute were notorious as the cowboys needed a place to vent their frustrations. The east side of the river was where the financial and shopping districts took hold. The restaurant has a number of interesting old pictures of older times.

We talked and laughed some more. We told stories about our lives and how we ended up doing what we do for a living. We heard about the blogger meeting in Oregon near the BMW MOA rally and other tales of their trip. We made fun of other bloggers behind their backs (Jack and Bobskoot in particular, of course). I will not discuss on this blog what we said in order to protect those unable to defend themselves.

Eventually we were the only people left in the place. The waitresses had all of the other tables all cleaned off and stared menacingly at us as we continued to talk and laugh through the early afternoon. We didn't leave until close to 3:00.

The Arkansas River from the west side a long time ago. Remember, we don't pronounce it "Arkansaw", here in Kansas.

I didn't even get many pictures partly because my batteries crapped out, but mostly because we were having such a good time talking.

They invited us to Key West. We said we would try, and we meant it.

Jayna and I feel very honored that they arranged their trip to come through Wichita.

Michael said he always wanted to see Kansas. I responded with "Bull$hit", but he may have really meant it.

Happy Trails Michael and Layne! (And Cheyenne)

Until we meet again!

And somehow I have a feeling we will!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Safe Crap

You can always do "safe crap"! Where's the challenge in that? Anybody can do "safe crap". If there is no risk involved, then why do it and where's the fun? These phrases were overheard on a recent Saturday afternoon when my wife and I went to a small lake in the area to help out our son. He is a high school cross country coach and he had helped arrange for his team to do a sort of mini triathlon at the lake. They needed a little help with manning some water stations for the athletes. We volunteered. It was a really hot day. Temps in the 90's, Humidity was almost unbearable. Swimming, then Bicycling, then Running. The distances were reduced because of the heat, but it was still grueling. The athletes did great in spite of the weather conditions, but it was obvious that the heat was having a detrimental effect. There was some discussion about the sanity of trying to do a triathlon under these conditions. Why couldn't they pick a better day? Well, you can't always pick the weather you want, especially in Mid-July in Kansas. Then I overheard somebody respond by saying that "You can always do safe crap". I mean, why would anyone even attempt a triathlon. It really can't be all that much fun. Maybe the motivation lies in the challenge. Then why would you complicate it by adding in a dangerous element, 100 degree heat. Maybe another part of the motivation is the danger involved. A rough quote from one of my favorite movies, "A League of Their Own", that stars Tom Hanks and Geena Davis, goes like this: Baseball is "hard"! It's the "hard" that makes it great! If it was "easy", everyone would do it! When I heard the statement about "safe crap", I thought about motorcycling. Some of us may actually like motorcycling partly because there is some element of danger involved. Safe and easy? Not entirely so. There are a lot of other reasons to enjoy riding as well, but you can't ignore the feeling that there is some challenge to it. Some people may lead their lives hoping to avoid danger. They might be the kind of people that would mention, at lunch, sort of in passing, that there sure seemed to be a lot of bad motorcycle accidents recently. The comment would seem innocent but you know it was directed at you. They don't come right out and say that they think you are an idiot for riding, but ......... Those people would also not go for a run in 100 degree weather. They would wait until later when it cooled off, go to the club, or maybe not go at all. You won't catch many of these people on a motorcycle. They consider it just too dangerous even though they would probably enjoy the hell out of a ride if they went on one. The observation is that there are some people willing to take some "calculated" risks in their lives. Maybe they will occasionally do something unusual or out of the ordinary. Maybe they are more prone to accept challenges. Other people seem to be just the opposite. They seem to always avoid risk and endeavor to always do what might be considered right, safe or predictable in all circumstances. I am not saying one way is better than another. But I do have an opinion about who is "living" and who may be just "surviving". I, for one, admire people that accept and respond positively to challenges. Those high school students on that day sure earned a lot of admiration from me.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

We get to meet Cheyenne

In their epic quest across the country by Ford, Michael, Layne and Cheyenne graced our presence last night.
What a Great Dog!
We were honored that their cross country route was through Kansas on a 100 degree day.
A meeting with the infamous Conchscooter of Key West Diary fame is not near complete without a picture of footwear.
More to come...........

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Castle in Kansas?

No, It's not the same type of castle like you see in Europe or in midieval times, but we do have a local landmark that does seem to have at least some characteristics of a castle.
At least it is called a castle. There is no moat. As far as I know it has never had to be defended in any type of siege. It is largely made out of stone. Some of the stones were shipped here from Missouri in the 1800's, no small feat for the time.
It is now an inn located just north of downtown along the Arkansas river.
There is a tower. There are also lots of chimneys. The rooms are more expensive than a lot of hotels, but not really outrageous. It was built in an era when somebody apparently wanted to show off how much money he had and what he could do with it. There is nothing else like it in the area.

Max in the shade, the castle in the sun.

A view from the front along the river's edge gives it more of a unique perspective.

The tower on the right is essentially a circular staircase. We have toured the place, but it was a long time ago. It was a little run down at the time. There were a few structural problems, and the owner had little extra money to fix it up.

Looking from the front at the main entrance.

A new owner purchased it a few years ago and has done extensive work to restore it. It's quite possibly a tax writeoff, but a neat one at that. The couple that now own it live in a small apartment in an adjacent building. They manage the inn themselves. They host weddings, receptions and other events in addition to renting rooms for a night or two.

A statue near the front entrance.

The adjacent building.

On the other side of the river is Oak Park. There is a very nice little frisbee golf course there. I wanted to get a picture of the "castle from the other side of the river and encountered a few "golfers" along the way. Some people really get into that sport. It was a nice day with little wind and I can imagine the conditions would have been sublime for frisbee golf.

Disc Golf is Thattaway!

These guys looked a little perplexed, maybe their last shot went awry.
The river was up a bit due to recent rains. But there is a nice view of the inn from Oak Park.

A pretty unique landmark.

Monday, July 12, 2010

An Aerostar Predicament

In the never ending quest for the strange and unusual.....
On a recent Saturday I needed to meet a client for a short meeting that could not be arranged during the week. It was a perfect day to take the scoot rather than the car. I had a plan to get a few pictures of a couple of things that I had been meaning to get a picture of for awhile, but never seemed to get around to.
On my regular route to work, I sometimes (frequently) cut through the parking lot of a small shopping center/office complex. I do it to avoid a major intersection near my home. Really no particular beneficial reason that I do this, I just do.
About a year and a half ago I spotted this Ford Aerostar van in a parking space. It has always been there. Not only that, but it appears that the right side tires and wheels of the van appear to be literally "stuck" in the soft asphalt of the parking lot. Who knows how long it has been there before I even saw it.
As I went by recently, I noticed that the "list" (to the port) of the vehicle had changed from what I remembered. It seemed to be at more of an angle than it used to be.

The Aerostar van "listing to port" in the morning sun.

I rode over closer to investigate and get a few pics.

The right front wheel buried in the asphalt. The parking lot is just asphalt with no concrete underneath, and probably not well constructed. On a really hot day I can imagine the asphalt being real soft and a vehicle parked for a long period of time just might sink into it.

The right rear looks no better, in fact maybe lodged a bit deeper.

The right wheels look like they were about the same as I remembered them, so I went around to the other side of the van to see why it was leaning more than it used to. I discovered that this jack had been placed under the left front part of the van. Was someone actually trying to get it unstuck? And if so, what was the logic here?

The left front wheel is off the ground. What this is supposed to accomplish beats the heck out of me.

I take a look at the left rear and notice some damage to the body. Perhaps the owner of this vehicle first attempted to use the jack here. Apparently only succeeding with furthering the predicament.

Okay, I know this is too wierd. I assume the van won't start. If it did, don't you think it would be possible to just try and drive it out of the holes? WWYD (What Would You Do?)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Near Panic on the 4th of July

But after much stress, it turned out to be a wonderful day!
It appeared that the entire weekend would be a wash out. On Friday I got in a short ride to go to the gas station and fill up the gas can for the lawn mower. That was the extent of the riding for the weekend unfortunately. I did get the lawn mowed Friday morning. Then it started to rain.
And rain.
And rain some more. Not heavy or with lots of thunder and lightning, just real steady and absolutely boring. On the 4th, people were going to come over to help grill some hamburgers and maybe shoot off some illegal fireworks after dark. But the forecast was crappy at best.
It rained all day Saturday. Sunday morning, too, and part of Sunday afternoon. But eventually that Sunday afternoon, the radar started to look like this.
The storms were all north and east of Wichita and moving away. There was hope that the evening festivities could still occur as planned.

We started the cooker and hoped that the weather would hold.

The kitchen was a beehive of activity. A cake was being baked for dessert. Potato salad finished up and beer consumed. Burgers were formed into patties for grilling and baked beans were heated up in the oven.
The burgers eventually made it onto the grill. More beer was consumed. Conversations were lively and the night looked like it was going to be a major success.
As I was getting ready to turn the burgers over on the grill, I heard that my daughter, who is getting married in November, could not find her engagement ring.

My initial thought was that she had just set it down someplace and it would quickly turn up. As I supervised and observed the cooking of the burgers, I could hear people inside the house asking questions like "Where did you last remember having it on?"

Pretty soon thereafter I saw my wife and daughter painstakingly looking through the trash in the kitchen. To no avail.

Later I observed people on the floor looking into every nook and cranny such as behind the refrigerator and other places where the ring could have escaped to.

The situation was starting to get really serious. My daughter had been responsible for making the burger patties, so the thought occurred that I might actually be cooking the ring. I looked rather closely as I turned the burgers over on the grill, but did not see any evidence. She had also been working on the baked beans so I spooned through the bowl a bit, again to no avail.

She was crying, Tyler was very supportive. But we were all starting to get a bit worried.

No! A lot worried.

But then again, it isn't the magic ring of power from Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" It can't have a mind of its own. Or could it.

We decided to start eating and maybe somebody would chew into it and find it. Well, I'm kidding about that. Sort of.

After we had been eating for just a minute or two, my son went back into the kitchen to get something from the fridge and heard a little tinkling sound on the floor as he retrieved whatever it was he was getting out of the fridge.

Yeah, the darn ring was in the refrigerator on top of a packege of aragula. Darn good place to hide.

My son, the hero of the day, getting hugged by may daughter after locating the missing ring.

The ring back in its proper place. Sauron is defeated. The power of good triumphs over evil once again. People thought I was crazy to get a picture here, but this is actually a fantastic picture of our 2 kids. To me it shows in a way how close they are to each other.
It was time to move on to other parts of the agenda for the evening.
The toasting of the "mallow" is a fine science developed by much experimentation through the centuries. We had two kinds of chocolate, dark and milk chocolate, and the cheapest graham crackers we could find. Tyler here is demonstrating the ability to put numerous marshmallows in his mouth at the same time. Check out his shirt.
More heating of the "mallows"
Some people prefer to burn the mallow a bit. Others try for a light browning. Each has their own tastes and desires.
Above is my rendition of what I consider to be perfection in the art of making Smores. Note there is no burning, just light browning. Mmmmmm! The perfect combination (to me) of graham cracker, chocolate and mallow
Then it became time to make some noise. The scene was set. The weapons lined up for display.
Sedgwick County, this year, relaxed some of the fireworks ordinances, but they are still more restrictive than the neighboring counties. No bottle rockets or roman candles or big mortars are allowed. But lots of people ignore this anyway. It's only a 10 minute drive to the next county where you can get almost anything you might want.
Now, you might consider this a bit crazy, but a tradition has developed in our family recently to "blow up " cake on the 4th of July. Yes, cake.
The cake has taken various forms over the years, this year in a pan. Cupcakes have been used in the past.
The firecrackers are ready to be lit.
Tyler is making this year's first attmept at cake destruction.
You may ask why. There is no reasonable answer. It's just fun!
The results of the first explosion. Some damage, but not as impressive as we were hoping for.
It became time to get a little more serious. An old cooking pan that was to be thrown away became part of the methodology of destruction.
Loading the pan.
The placement of the pan on the cake with about a bazillion firecrackers underneath.
Woa, Nelly!
The resulting destruction. The cake is in smithereens.
The it was time to break out some sparklers. One of the neighbor kids joined us.
Sparklers for all!
After the sparklers, an appetite was developed and we went back inside to actually eat some cake. Laura made pound cake topped with blackberries and frosting. Delicious!!
Then we were back outside. Pretty dark now and a good time for some fountains.
I usually have a terrible time trying to take pictures of fireworks.
But some of these didn't turn out too badly.
We shot off what we had. Some of our neighbors shot off a few and we sat outside and watched the sky for awhile. We stayed out until about 10:30 or so.
What a great day it turned out to be.
About midnight that night, it started to rain again.
We didn't care!

Monday, July 5, 2010

It Might Rain, Or Maybe Not

To a commuter like me, sometimes there are days that you didn't ride to work and wished you had. I am serious about trying to commute to work with the scooter every day I can. Cold or hot weather usually doesn't stop me from riding. Some days the weather totally defeats the possibility of riding. Snow and ice are obvious reasons not to ride. Light rain I can handle, but I prefer to avoid thunderstorms, (I'm very afraid of lightning). We can regularly get some pretty violent thunderstorms here on the plains. Then there are days that the weather forecast might not look so good. On those days you might second guess the prediction of the forecasters. Maybe it's a day where the morning ride looks good, but the afternoon ride looks iffy. Or vice versa. Do you chance it? I sure hate those days when I decided not to chance it and the weather turned out to be nice. Some missed opportunities. Of course there are also days when the weather prediction looks good, but a surprise storm develops and you get caught in weather that you would rather have avoided. Can make for an interesting situation and possibly an exciting story. I personally don't get too crazy, but I do sometimes like to "push the envelope". Maybe I decide that the weather people don't have a clue. Sometimes the decision to get crazy and "go for it" just depends on whatever mood I am in. And then I fully admit that there are at least a very few days when I just don't feel like riding to work even if the weather cooperates. The reasons can vary. Sometimes I "wimp out" from just feeling lazy. Some days I might be tired (physically or mentally). If I'm tired, I get concerned about how alert I will be while riding. I seldom "wimp out" though. And on iffy days I am generally cautious. But riding energizes me. There is almost always at least a little rush of adrenaline. It's a great way to start and end a day. I hate to miss out on a ride. Hell, maybe I'm just preaching to the choir.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Commuting With A Dinosaur

As I was riding to work this morning I saw a bird lazily soaring along in the sky above me. His wings were spread out wide. He was just coasting along with the wind. It was beautiful. He maintained a speed that was almost as fast as the traffic below him. And as he was gliding along, his motions appeared to be almost effortless to him. I don't think he was a hawk, he wasn't big enough. I don't know that much about birds, so I am unsure exactly what he was. I wished that I could suspend having to look for traffic bogeys and just watch him for awhile. I just know that I was a bit jealous of his ability and opportunity to soar in the sky. What a marvelous feeling it must be. Riding is fun and the experience is so much more than driving a car, but not exactly the same as flight. I admire the freedom a bird must have. You could go in any direction you want to unimpeded by roadways and the limits they impose. You could join friends on a telephone wire and discuss the state of the world. You could also maybe dive bomb a cat or two if the mood suited you. Many scientists maintain that present day birds are the direct descendants of the great dinosaurs that once roamed our planet. They have discovered many similarities in bone structures and other features. It now seems that whatever potentially cataclysmic planetary event that caused the great dinosaurs to disappear may not have caused the demise for all of them. When I think about it, I realize that this is absolutely amazing. I am not really a big bird watcher, but birds do fascinate me. Over the millenia, they seemed to have adapted to many different conditions on this planet. Some have amazing intelligence. I am sure that life as a bird is challenging at times, but they are amazing as survivors on the evolutionary scale. It actually made me feel quite "small" and "humble" as I watched him fly. There was only a few moments that I had the pleasure of watching him as he eventually ended up taking a new course in the sky and I could not follow him any farther. I thought later that I probably would not have even noticed him if I had been driving the car to work that morning. Aahh, the benefits of riding!