30 July 2012

The road goes on forever and the party never ends

Back out on the road again.  Up at the crack of early this am (0230) to finish up a report, close out some files, walk the dogs, check in for my flight, repack for the third time.  I'm getting too old for this shtuff.  Long flight out to San Francisco where we hop a puddle jumper (aka small turbo prop plane) to San Luis Obispo.  Hope to hit the runway in CA around 1400.  When we did this last year, we had time to head over to the coast to tour the Hearst Castle.  Not sure if we will do that again - there are several tour you can take.  We will do the supplier on Tuesday and head back to Texas Wednesday afternoon.  Expect to land with a pile of work to do.

Only 12 days and counting....

26 July 2012

No Rest for the Weary

Where here has the week gone?  I am still playing catch up for last week's trip up north.  Monday I get to mount up again for a road trip back out to the west coast.  Same place we did last year (remember the bubble gum alley?), just a follow up audit.  Another long, roundabout flight with connections in LAX/SF, cramped seats, airport food, getting felt up by the TSA.  Still, a trip to the mid-state wine country California can't be all that rough.  I just wish we had more time to enjoy this trip.   

I thought July was going to be hectic.  Over the next 30 days, I am looking at two supplier road trips, one project re-write, a two day training session (organization/time management), and, oh yeah, some sort of wedding to attend. 

The wedding marches onward.  Most of the big stuff is in the bag.  We're working on the ancillary deals now.  Menu for the reception, deciding on various doo-dads (aka wedding favors), what to play at the reception, confirming the attendees, etc.  

16 days and counting...

24 July 2012

Dog tired

I think I broke Claire's auto wag.  That is an expressions I gave Claire who's tail will wag just by looking at her.  

Was a busy weekend.  I got back late Friday night and was playing catch up on Saturday.  Chores don't get done by themselves around here.  Dogs were up waiting for me when I got home.  Of course, they did have to check out all the new doggy smells from my visit with Lucy & Dacotah.   

We did the Reliant Dog show on Sunday.  This is a four day extravaganza for dogs (sorry, no cats allowed) for all breeds of dogs.  I've done this show for four years, typically doing a Saturday gig with one dog and a Sunday gig with the other.  This weekend, I threw caution to the wind and took both.  Wasn't sure if this was going to work out in that crowd, but they were great.  Lots of people, petting, attention to be had.  A Golden's dream come true.  Claire was in her element, charming the crowd.  Grayson was a bit more excited over all the new doggy smells/sites, but soon settled down to work the crowd.  We worked the booth for a couple of hours and I could tell by end, they were starting to lose steam.   Even Claire's auto wag seemed to be worn out.  They both slept for the rest of Sunday.     

I did manage to get them by the booth to have their picture taken together.  For a donation, the photographer will print up a nice luggage tag sized photo of your dog/dogs.  Got one of Claire at last year's show and I thought I would try for both this year.  Not bad (After many outtakes).  It was a challenge to get them to hold their pose for a while.  Grayson wasn't all that happy to be in that chair.     

21 July 2012

One more off the bucket list

Was a good an excellent trip to Minnesota.  Audit went well, we got to spent a little time in the Mankato area, Ate way too much, explored the local campus/nightlife, and even toured a local brewery (Mankato Brewery).  Very nice small college town.  

We got up early to head back into Minneapolis to drop off my buddy off at the airport for an early flight.  I pushed back my return flight until the evening so that I could have the opportunity to drive across town to visit with a good friend.  The return flights were slightly delayed and I didn’t touch down in Houston until almost midnight at the end of a long, long day. 

But enough drivel about me.  What about my visit?   Whom did I go see?  Got any pictures?  Well, if my earlier subtle clues didn’t give it away, you ain’t been paying attention. 

I finally got the opportunity to meet Terri, Terri in the flesh.  I was just hoping to be able to meet up with her for a short lunch while I was in town, but she invited me over to her house to meet the entire Terri tribe.  I got to meet Brad, Heather, Jake, Mark, and, of course Lucy and Dakotah.  We spend time talking about dogs, family, school, home renovations, more dogs, hunting, wedding stuff.  A lot of the stories felt familiar because Terri has blogged about them.  We then hopped in the car and headed over into St Paul for a burger at the Nook (“a small place with big burgers”.  Great little hole in the wall place that has been featured on Dinners, Drive-Ins & Dives for one of the best burgers in Minnesota.  After sampling the food, I think it should be in the national top 10.  Terri, Brad and Heather and I had a great lunch downstairs in the basement (20 minute wait upstairs) that has a unique bar/diner/bowling alley motif.  We were trying to figure out what was the story behind the dollar bills stuck to the ceiling (according to the waitress it was supposedly to leave your mark/signature or they were going to use the money to pay for a new ceiling).  Great burgers, lot more chatting, a few pictures. 

Dining with the famous Terri, Terri

Heather & Brad

The Juicy Nook

Ceiling decorations

Some old lanes

The original Nook


Lucy & Mark
After lunch, we headed back home to meet with Mark and Jake and play with Lucy and Dakotah.  Both dogs were great, but Lucy is definitely the star of the show.  Even though Terri warned us about her penchant for stuffed toys with noisemakers, I brought Lucy a small toy duck with a squeaker inside.  Just like Terri said, Lucy took it as her mission to search out and destroy that squeaker and in only took about 15 minutes to decimate that duck.  I hope the rope toy lasts a wee bit longer.          

Well, kids, if you ever have the chance to visit with one of your blogging friends, I highly recommend it.  This was the second chance I have had to meet up with someone in person that I have been chatting/blogging with for years and it was great.  Thank you, Terri for inviting me over to meet the entire crew.     

19 July 2012

Hello from Blue Earth County

Long flight yesterday.  Left Houston around 0900, touched down in St Louis around 1100, ate a typical airport lunch, caught the 1230 flight out to MSP.  Landed around 1400, was able to navigate the airport, snatch a car and be on 494 by 1430.  Mankato is about 1 1/2 hours southwest of Minneapolis.  Ran trough a squall line of showers/thinderstorms north of St Peter that was so intense everyone pulled off the road (you couldn't see 20 feet in front of you at times).  My co-worker and I commented that we were glad we were not landing in this or driving in town.  Very nice drive along 169 through the Minnesota countryside.  I wish we had more time to explore some of the backroads and sites. I meant to stop and get a picture by the "Worlds Largest Candy Store" or the various statues of Buffalos (or is it Buffalai?) we saw along the road.  Seriously.  We passed three gianormus statues of buffalo - one was the size of a small truck.  Made it to Mankato in good time despite the rain.  One good thing about the rain,  the temps in Minneapolis were hovering around 88 when we left the airport but it was down to 72 when we got to Mankato.  Nice college town.  Wew had time to kill so we did a quick tour, looked over a place selling old restored cars, did a quick driveby on MSU, spotted where the Vikings training camp would be (alas, not for another two weeks), hit the local restaurant hot spot down town.  Lots of bars/clubs that are geared towards the college crowd, but the places were pretty vacant since school isn't in full session. 

Went out for a nice run this am in the "cooler" temps.  Now I know what you mean, terri about being drenched after your run. 

17 July 2012

Flaps up

Ok.  Bags packed.  Boarding pass printed.  Preflight done.  Dogs walked & fed.  Clocks wound.  Garbage on the curb.  iPad charged.  Itinerary posted.  Back up plans in place.  Car gassed up.  I think I am ready.  Will be a typical early morning.  Up at 0330, let the dogs out, fire up the Keurig, repack some shirt/socks because I think I need them, take the dogs for one last walk, check my e-mails, review the latest work crisis, shower, shave, repack another short because I think it is going to be hot/cold. pack various chargers, pack the razor, let the dogs out one last time, kiss the wife, load up, head out.  

I am off in the morning to points north of here.  First stop?  St Louis.  We've got a 2 hour layover in St Louis to change planes.  Got to remember to wave to SR300 when we go wheels up.  After that, it is hello Minneapolis-St Paul.  Over the past few years, I've done a fare share of these flights and have my own system in place to get me thought the flight, regardless if it is just 60 minutes or an 8 hour ordeal.  I claim my seat (window) and set up camp and pretty much tune out the rest of the plane.  I have my iPod charged and ear buds in place by the time we back out of the gate.  Programmed to shuffle mode, my intent is to drown out any ancillary noise during the flight (loud passengers, screaming babies, chatty seatmates).  Sorry, I really don't mean to be antisocial, but I prefer to zone out during the flight to make the time pass. I usually bring a good book to read that should get me through the outbound and inbound flights.  No, I still haven't made the transition to the Kindle or iPad reader formats - I still prefer the old school way of reading a book.  Last week, I polished off the 2nd book in the Katniss Everdeen saga (Catching Fire).  Not really a hard read, just enough to fill the time in flight and during any layovers.  That and the flight attendants won't bust your chops telling you to turn off your electronic device during take off if you are reading a book.  Should be a long day but I hope to go to ground sometime tomorrow afternoon in Mankato.  I just wish I was heading into cooler temps than down here.  I will try to post from the road, but it may be sketchy.  Definitely plan a few pictures and maybe a surprise or two.  I hear tell that Minnesota has some interesting sights to see.   

On top of all that, this weekend is the annual Reliant Park Dog show and I am planning on participating with both mutts on Sunday.  Lots of dogs, lots of dog stuff, lots of gimme stuff.    

Hey there!  What's up!

14 July 2012

Road Trip

It's only halfway through July and with three road trips, several projects due, and the wedding only 28 days away, I find my month is already blown.  Last week, I was baking out in the Grand Canyon State.  This weekend I am NOT working on the trailer but playing catch up on all of my chores.  This week I have another road trip up north to the Land of 10,000 Lakes, L'Etoile du Nord.  Spending a few days in Mankato, Minnesota (home of MSU, the Viking Training Camp).  I am planning a short side trip that I will expound upon later.  Without giving too much away, I have worked out a few logistics and was hoping to be able to have lunch with a good friend and famous author/blogger.  If you want more details about my trip, you'll just have to keep an eye out for an update next weekend.  The trip takes me out of the office for 3 days and, combined with an all day department event/team building exercise, leaves me with exactly one day actually in the office.  And that day I already have a 6 hour planning meeting for our new facility.  Sounds like I am whining a wee bit?  Yea, I know, life's rough and I keep reminding myself that I asked for this.  Still, I'd rather be busy than be bored.  After next week, I have a week in town before I head west to the Golden State.  I may get a few more pictures of Bubble Gum alley in San Luis Obispo.  That puts me back in town about a week before the wedding.  

When I typically travel, I will map out my trip/agenda (that's the A/R part of my personality) of where we are going, hotels, routes to take.  If it is a new destination for me, I will try to look up some details of the area to give me a better idea where to go, what to see/do.  You are never too old to learn something new.

Some interesting (but useless) facts about the places I have been/am going:

California, "The Golden State", has some other slogans/mottoes that I uncovered (not sure which ones are legit):   
- The Land of Milk and Honey
- The Grape State
- The Eldorado State
- California - Find Yourself Here
- California:  As Seen on TV
- By 30, Our Women Have More Plastic Than Your Honda
- California: It's Long and Hangs to the Left
- California: Our Governor Can Inappropriately Fondle Your Governor
- I'm a Big Deal in California

For Minnesota, Land of 10,000 Lakes, some of the slogans I uncovered are:
- The North Star State
- The Bread and Butter State
- The Wheat State
- The Gopher State
- New England of the West

For Arizona, The Grand Canyon State, some of the slogans I found are:
- The Copper State
- The Apache State
- The Aztec State
- The Baby State
- The Valentine State
- The Sand Hill State
- Italy of America

Life's a journey.  Remember to take plenty pictures along the way.

13 July 2012

108 and holding

Sorry about the lack of posts.  I was off the grid this week in Phoenix on another one of my supplier junkets.  It was one of those whirlwind trips - an overnight gig in Phoenix while we met up with a supplier.  Only two days in real time but it ate up four days of my week to plan/prep.  We got delayed coming back because of all of the storms/rain in south Texas.  Interesting to note how things have changed over the last 12 months.  Last summer, we were dying down here under a severe drought conditions.  We hadn't seen any real rainfall since Christmas and the yards/trees were dying.  This year it is 180 degrees opposite.  We had some much rain that they declared an end to the drought in the coastal regions.  With so much rain in the last week, there has been some localized flooding in the area.  My folks are out on their annual rally and they indicate it was hot and dry up north and people are looking for any relief in the weather.     I only wish we could send some of our rain northward to friends up north to help their summer.   

While out in Phoenix, we got to "enjoy" some of their warmer weather.  The average temperature in the Phoenix are was hovering around 109 (I was reminded that this was a "dry heat").  We went out to a local bar on Tuesday night around 2000 hours and the temps were still rather sultry (108).  One minor thing was, when we went to visit with our supplier, I left my carry on bag in the car outside.  It was so hot that the mini bottle of mouthwash in my bag expanded like a balloon.  Everything in the bag was cooked.  

Next week, I am on the road to Minnesota.  I can only hope for a wee bit cooler temps up north. 

07 July 2012

More trailer stuff

I started out writing my last post to give you a "brief" update on my trailer and the darned thing turned in to a short story.  I want to wrap up this thread with a few more pictures and some more history before moving on to something more interesting.  SR300 has given me an idea for a few new posts. 

Going back across town today and try to finish up my repair job.  Ordered new tires for the trailer last week and they hit town yesterday.  The old tires were not bad, but I felt that, since I was starting out fresh, I would put new tread on her so that eliminates one potential road problem.  I am working on the power converter as well today and hope to finish up these chores by tomorrow so I can take it to the storage yard.  The shop where it is sitting is my brother's new trophy.  It is a small workshop/yard in an old residential neighborhood near his house.  He just bought this place last month and has been doing some of the same upgrades as I have been doing with my trailer.  New paint, replaced lights, painted floor, air compressor, etc.  My brother has several older cars and trailers he has collected over the years and has had them stored in various places around town.  This new shop gives him one spot for all his toys and a place to work on the old cars (instead of his garage).      

1950 Airstream Globetrotter (nicknamed "Old Bob")

1963 Airstream Bambi 

A few toys

1936 Ford Cabriolet - a work in progress
Even comes with it's own yard dog 
My parents finished up their rally on Wednesday and are headed east.  They will be out of pocket until the fall visiting with friends and touring the east coast.  Right now they are camped out in 108 degree weather just west of St Louis (St Charles).  Later this month they are supposed to hook up with my brother to take a boat trip down the Erie Canal in upstate New York.  At 89 years young, I am still amazed that they have the energy and stamina to do this each year.  I firmly believe that all this activity is the reason they are in good shape/health when many of their older friends and family members are in nursing homes.  It reminds me of the Tim Robbins quote from the movie Shawshank Redemption:  "Get busy living or get busy dying."     

My parent's rig and the Bambi 
Unfortunately, I won't be able to road test our new trailer for a couple of weeks.  I am off to Phoenix next week for another supplier trip and heading north to Minnesota the week after.  Lots of things to do between now and the wedding in August.  First road trip will probably be to one of our football games.  

And speaking of wedding plans, those are starting to come together.  Flowers have been orders, invitations sent, DJ booked, reserved a restaurant for the rehearsal dinner, booked a room for the happy couple, kids are registered.  Only 6 weeks to go...

05 July 2012

Moving on up

Still working on my new toy, fixing a few things, replacing some things, updating a few more.  Spent most of last weekend working on the brakes, repacking the wheel bearings of the trailer, doing a pre-flight check.  That is one habits my dad instilled in us whenever we get a new car/trailer.  Pull the wheels off and check the bearings/brakes will tell you a lot about a trailer and how it has been maintained.  Of course, doing that in a torrential downpour made it just that much more enjoyable. 

My new trailer is one of another in the “stable” for the family.  My parents have had several trailers since getting into one 3 decades ago.  Each one was an upgrade to newer models, with various features/accoutrements for the well-travelled retiree. They have traversed the US several times in the intervening decades with trips to both east and west coast, Alaska (twice) and one rail trip through Mexico.  Being out on the road in this rig 6 months out of the year will test your relationship, but they have been doing it for many years.  Each summer, they typically abandon our heat and humidity and attend the WBCCI International Rally.  It is a massive weeklong gathering of Airstreamers from all over the US.  There is a wide array of events/activities for all interests – golf, quilting, bingo, domino tournaments, tours, trailer workshops, craft workshops, flea market, band, etc.  The rally is also a business meeting for the club where they review the operations of the club and vote on important business issues.  My folks have been attending these rallies for over 20+ years so this is old hat for them.  The rallies are typically held in various locations throughout the US which varies from year to year.  A few of the places that they have been are:
  • Portland, Oregon
  • Bozeman, Montana
  • Oshkosh, Wisconsin
  • Joplin, Missouri
  • Springfield, Missouri
  • Biloxi, Mississippi     
  • Newark, New Jersey
  • Lake Placid, New York
  • Atlanta, Georgia
  • And this year was in Sedalia, Missouri (just a short bike ride down the road from you, ShadowRun!)
Bozeman, Montana

Bozeman, Montana

While they try to spread these events out each year to make it easy for local Airstreamers to attend, they tend to stick to the mid US (aka flyover states) since it makes it sorta central to everyone.  They also try to stick to the northern states as the southern states tend to get a wee bit warm in the summer, but this year was not the case.  My dad sent a shot from his van over the weekend and his in car thermometer was showing 108.

Most of their Airstreams have all the comforts of home, except on wheels.  Their current version is a 1997 34 foot Excella (Airstream model) with twin beds, ice cold a/c & heat, dinette table, satellite tv, refrigerator, full sized shower, indoor plumbing, stove, oven.  Pretty much everything you would need to live on the road except a washer & dryer (there are a few high end motor homes out there that actually have those).

My brother bought his first Airstream at a swap meet back in 2000.  After “tweaking” it up a bit and using it for a few years, he bought a newer rig from an aunt in Dallas who didn't use hers anymore and sold his old one to me (that’s the 79 we've had for 10 years).  The he traded that one off for a newer one out of Alabama a few years later with a few more features and a bit longer.  A few years back, he stumbled across a fairly new on that was basically unused (the guy fell ill right after he got it and had only used it less than a week) and for a relatively cheap price.

Now for my part of the saga: 

We've been camping in the 79 for 10 years and it has been a good trailer, but we were ready to move up to a more current version.  It was getting kinda crowded with me, the wife, and two very hairy dogs.  In the back of my mind, I have always had my next trailer in mind.  What features we want, what model, how old, how much.  I would cruise Airstream classified, hit the local paper, watch Craigslist for any “deals”.  Most were either too pricey or too far (I’ve looked one in Minnesota and another over in Oregon) but kept looking in state.  I didn't want to drive cross country for a lemon.  Three weeks back one popped up on Craigslist that was across town.  My dad and I went over to look at it and we were very interested but I wanted to check out the history.  It looked nice and had a few blemishes, but was in good shape.  The lady selling it was doing it for her dad and had some story about it was a “one owner trailer and it had never been out of the state but when I checked the VIN on it, the story turned out completely different.  It was previously owned by someone in the Airstream club (part one of her story didn't pan out).  On top of that, my dad knew the guy and knew he took that trailer all over the states for the rallies (part two didn't pass the smell test).  On top of that, I noticed the window had been broken out and was replaced by a cheap knock off (would have to be replaced).  I originally made her an offer below her asking price (too high in my mind) and we were going to make a deal when I started questioning the title.  I asked her for a few more days to do the background check on it.  When I called her back on Tuesday, I challenged her story and she stuck to it.  I was still willing to buy the trailer at my offer, but she told me that someone else came in and out bid me.  It was a nice trailer, but not worth what she was asking for, so I let it pass.  Was a mild disappointment, but as someone told me, when God closes a door, he opens a window.  Right after we let this go, my brother spotted another Craigslist trailer in north Texas.  I made a few phone calls and got a hold of the guy and we decided to take a 5 hour road trip to check it out.  Turns out to be a much nicer trailer that was a year newer.  In much better shape and no drama to the story.  After about an hour of crawling all over/under it, I decided to make him an offer and he took it.  Wound up driving it home that afternoon.  I don’t think momma was expecting me to make a decision like that, but I thought it was a good deal.  My "new" one, while looking somewhat newer is actually 16 years old (circa 1996).  It is officially called an Airstream Excella Classic 1000.  30 feet long with twin beds, dinette, full size shower and beau coup storage compartments.   I've been working the past week making it our home and should be finished by this weekend.  Not sure when we will have a chance to road test her, the next 45 days are full of trips and events.  

And just for all those curious minds:

Twin beds - one for each dog

Indoor plumbing!

And a FULL size shower - very important for some

Not sure if you can make out the etching in the mirror

Wheels?  Wheels?
We don' need no stinkin wheels!

On top of all of this chaos, I was left with a dilemma on what to do with the 79.  Not a great or a classic trailer, but it is a solid Airstream.  I dreaded having to post it up on the web and put it up for sale with all the tire kickers and people trying to make a deal (will you do loan payments?).  When I first mentioned about the first trailer being a possibility, that news spread around the club faster than a rumor in church.  Turned out that the son of one of the main club members was looking to get into Airstreams and was looking for a smaller (say 25 foot), older trailer for under $10k.  My rig definitely filled that bill, but I wasn't sure he would want it, given it's age and quirks.  My mistake, he drove down last week looked it over and made an offer on the spot.  Even after I told him all of the dings and hickies on it and how it had a gaucho bed (futon) and lacked storage space and had become a home for two hairy dogs, he still wanted it.  Turns out, he has a Golden Retriever as well and when they came out to pick it up Tuesday, the first thing the dog did was to climb in and pick a couch.  I felt like I just adopted the rig out to a new home.        
I've seen bikes on roof racks...