Asheville Half Marathon

Back in December of last year, Emily was searching for a birthday present for me.  At that point, I had not run any races except 5Ks which I love but I thought it would be cool to try other distances.  Some people think 5Ks are only charity events and that any one can do them so view longer races as better.  To be sure, 5Ks are usually within reach for most people to complete and are fantastic charity events, but it’s hard to find a harder race distance if you run not to complete, but to compete.

Somewhere in NC
Somewhere in NC

I digress…anyhow, even though I never poo-poo the 5K, I wanted to race other distances and Emily, being the lovely and supportive wife that she is, entered me in the Asheville Half Marathon which was help June 4, 2016.  I had half a year to get psyched up and read all I could about race strategy, the city of Asheville, pacing, etc.  I ended running a flat half marathon here in Charleston in March as a test of the distance and I am so glad I did.

Preparing...Brussels sprouts!
Preparing…Brussels sprouts!

A half marathon is a really nice challenge at 13.1 miles and I enjoy it immensely.  It’s just a totally different race than the 5K with which I am more familiar.

Also preparing...
Also preparing…

I know Emily totally doesn’t understand why I like to run myself to the point of exhaustion, but I am so glad she is supportive of me!  We had a great weekend and this was a fantastic birthday gift!

The starting line
The starting line

So, here is a race report I wrote for the running subreddit:

### Race information
* **What?** Asheville Hlaf Marathon and 10K
* **When?** June 4, 2016
* **How far?** 13.1 Miles
* **Website?** http://www.ashevillehalfmarathon.com/

### Goals
| Goal | Description | Completed? |
|——|————-|————|
| A |< 1:45 hours | *No* |
| B |< 2 Hours | *Yes* |
| C |don’t die | *Yes* |

Along the course
Along the course
The mist tent was nice!
The mist tent was nice!

### Training
I have been running 20-25 miles per week consistently for quite awhile. I typically do a 10 mile run on weekends, a 5 mile run with my club during the week and then 1-2 runs on my own through the week that vary between hills, fartleks, mid-distance, etc. Overall, I felt ok with my preparation.

Liquid Wheaties!
Liquid Wheaties!

### Race strategy
I knew Asheville was a hilly course so tried to visualize where I could grab some time to coast and where it was going to be tough. I wanted to run overall 8:30 – 8:45 miles on average so I could sneak in under 2 hours. My first half was a flat course and I ran 1:47 so I knew I wouldn’t likely beat that on a hilly course, but I wanted to be in the ballpark. I figured 2 hours and under would mean I ran stronger than my initial race in March (https://www.reddit.com/r/running/comments/4bisc5/race_report_uc_half_marathon_university_of/)

In the sun?
In the sun?

### Pre-race
We arrived in Asheville the afternoon before the race and went to the expo. It was small but fun and had a few gear sellers and representatives from other races coming up. We didn’t stick around long because I wanted to eat and drink a little of the local beer for which Asheville is famous. I had a flight of local beers and a meal and walked around town to browse the varied shops and see the buskers and other people just out and about. Asheville is a hipster/hippie town…there are both there I think and it has a really fun and cool vibe. There were probably thousands of people just milling around and checking things out. I fell asleep not too late, watching the Weather Channel with my wife…typical Friday night for me! We stayed in a chain hotel near the starting line so I was able to wake, grab a bagel and some fruit that I had stashed from the night before. I left the hotel at 6:15 or so as the race coordinators wanted people at the start by 6:30 for the 7am gun (although there wasn’t a gun…weird). There were ample porta-potties it seemed but there were still lines…everyone had the nervous-pees I guess. The half was to start at 7 am and the 10k at 7:05 so they split up racers into separate areas which worked pretty well. I think there were around 1000 half runners and around 500 10k runners…there was good pre-race music and everyone was in pretty good spirits. The temp was around 60 or so, but the humidity was beginning to show itself. Asheville is a really cool and quirky town and it really showed I think (in a good way). There were all sorts of interesting people around!

Garmin Map of Asheville Half
My Garmin Map of Asheville Half

### Race
This race has a lot of climbs. By my watch, the course had 802 feet of gain. I knew the bulk of it was from mile 3-5 and especially from mile 10-11 but there seemed to be ups and downs everywhere so it was hard for me to really plan much in reality. We ran through some neighborhoods and through both AB Tech and UNC-Asheville campuses which was pretty cool. A lone performer was set-up at AB Tech to play country/folk covers which was pretty neat. I could hear him from a distance and enjoyed the distraction. There was a stretch where we ran along the French Broad River but it seemed a little seedy there and we were on the road with traffic. The traffic was pretty well managed by the numerous police and volunteers that were out…kudos to them as they did a great job, but I still am always a little hesitant with cars around. Meh, it was fine. My watch had been ticking off the miles pretty much exactly with the posted mile markers for the course until mile 7. When I passed the 7 mile marker, my watch showed 7.25. I heard a guy running near me notice the same thing somewhere around that same spot or maybe a little later. That discrepancy continued throughout the rest of the race. By the end, my watch showed I ran 13.38. I saw posts later on Strava and elsewhere of people who also showed more that 13.1. That isn’t exactly a problem I guess because the race is the same race for everyone, but I would have preferred the advertised distance to have been the course length…so, while my overall time is 2:00:08, I am claiming a sub-2 half. I would estimate my actual half time to be around 1:57 or 1:58. I am claiming my goal of sub-2-hour.

I fell asleep in like 30 seconds...on a concrete bench...in the sun
I fell asleep in like 30 seconds…on a concrete bench…in the sun

### Miles [10] to [11]
This was the real killer part…There were water stations around every 2 miles through the course on the odd numbers (miles 3,5,7, etc) but in this case, at mile 10 there was an extra station at the base of the hill. I grabbed a cup of water and started the long slog up. It was a sort of narrow and windy road up through a neighborhood and had around 300 feet of climb in that mile. I kept running but it got uglier and uglier as I went…for such a hill to be at mile 10 was unkind. At the top, they had a well-staffed medical tent and another drink station. It worked out ok and I knew I had seen the worst.

I did survive!
I did survive!

### Miles [12.75] to [13.4]
After finishing the big hill at mile 10, I knew I had an uphill finish as well. Asheville is a hilly city and the dang finish was on an uphill. I knew it was the case, but I didn’t love that part…Still, they announced my name, I got my cool finisher medal and I walked a few times through the mist tent. I didn’t die! Another goal accomplished!

### Post-race
There is a cool park in the middle of Asheville called Pack Park and it seems to be where everything happens in the city. There are numerous festivals and events that all seem to happen there. Anyhow, from the finish, I headed a few feet into the park and picked up a few beers, compliments of Sierra Nevada and enjoyed a pretty good band that played until the awards ceremony. There were numerous food tents, massage tables, etc and the atmosphere was festive and a lot of fun. My wife and I sat on a bench in the shade and enjoyed cooling down, chatting with other runners, swilling a few beers, etc. Afterwards, there were a lot of runners roaming around town and chatting, drinking and having fun, me included! All-in-all, I liked the race and even the hills though I might run differently if I do it again. I need to ponder pacing on the hills and the finish line but I am pleased with my performance and the event with the excpetion of the distance snafu, although that’s not a show-stopper for me at all. I love the city and the vibe it puts off and it was well-captured by the race as well!

 

Spring bees 2016

I have been pretty sketchy on posting about the bees lately but there has been all sorts of stuff going on.  Every year around tax time, I add supers to the colonies in preparation for the honey flow.  It’s that time of year when the blooms start and the nectar flows.  In the hive, it is a boom time and the period that makes or breaks the bees as well as my honey harvest later in the summer.

Nice swarm on the side of a house
Nice swarm on the side of a house

Nice swarm on the side of a house

This year has been a strange year (as they all have been lately).  We had a good warm-up early but then we have had cool temps and rain for what seems like an eternity.  The WV Department of Agriculture sent our advisement that they were seeing bees starving this year due to the weather.  You see, the queen lays a lot of eggs as it warms in the spring.  That makes for a lot of bees and when all goes well, the spring honeyflow coincides and provides more food than the bees can eat…thus stored honey.  In a bad year though, the bees still increase in number but the food is sparse….that signals bad times unfortunately.  My bees still look pretty good but it will depend on the remainder of the season to know what the end result will be.

A big swarm in a bush
A big swarm in a bush
Not quite a bee beard...more live a bee glove
Not quite a bee beard…more live a bee glove
Fingerbees
Fingerbees

Anyhow, my Mom helped me prep things earlier this spring.  It was her first time working with me in the bee and I know she enjoyed it even though it was hot, heavy, time-consuming work.  Like most people who first see a lot of bees, she got a case of the creepy-crawlies.  When I first started keeping bees, I remember feeling like bugs were on me hours after I was out of the hives.  She managed her heebie-jeebies pretty well though and we got honey supers in place on the hives.

Mom with the bees
Mom with the bees

This was a pretty good swarm year too.  I am not aware of any swarms out of my colonies (which is a good thing), but I got a number of calls and was able to capture several swarms around Charleston.  I also made a new friend in a local beekeeper.  We met at a swarm where we had both gotten a call to capture it.  We now pass calls back and forth which is pretty cool.  He’s a local firefighter so can’t always get to the swarm calls he receives.

Can you spot the queen?
Can you spot the queen?

I have pics of two swarms that I caught.  As always, I like to pet my swarms (because I am a show-off) before I catch them.  Don’t try touching a swarm on your own if you ever come across one.  It’s just not a good idea unless you know bees a little.  I love catching swarms and it is likely my favorite part of beekeeping.  Here’s to hoping this season turns itself around and makes for some great honey!

I licked some stuff in Chicago

Time has flown and I never did get around to posting the last of our trip to Chicago.  I loved our time in Chicago and can’t wait to go back.  We saw so many neat things and it was a real joy to see and hear the diversity of humanity.  As with any important thing that needs to be commemorated, I wanted to somehow mark my territory, so-to-speak.

Licking the Flamingo in Chicago
Licking the Flamingo in Chicago

I suppose many people have marked territory in Chicago as a dog-on-a-walk might, but my preferred method is to lick stuff.  You remember…I lick bells and cannons and statues.  Well, I liked Chicago so much, that I licked two big and important things… Calder’s Flamingo and Cloud Gate (the Bean)!

Licking the Bean in Chicago
Licking the Bean in Chicago

I cannot explain my behavior here…it was the euphoria of such a magnificent experience I suppose, but I have now claimed both installations as part of the “It’s-been-Licked” network!  And FYI, I didn’t get sick afterwards!

Trip to Chicago

A few weeks ago, Isaac and his school band went to Chicago to play a special performance in the Chicago’s Symphony Center.  We drove separately as we didn’t want to ride the bus and he didn’t want us tagging along separately.  So, we made a family-1 affair of it and had a lot of fun touring around Chicago seeing the sites and having a great time!

At Willis Tower
At Willis Tower

At Willis Tower

At Willis Tower

We did stay in the same hotel as the band…The Palmer House Hilton in downtown, right near Millennium Park.  The hotel is listed as an historical landmark and I can see why…it is a beautiful hotel and well worth the experience!  I loved being able to step outside and see the “L” pass by.  We could walk to almost everything.  I especially love that part.

Chicago Deep Dish Pizza!
Chicago Deep Dish Pizza!

We had Chicago deep-dish pizza the first night at Giordano’s.  I typically do not like deep-dish as all of the bread wears me out but it was a cool ambiance and the flavor was really great!  I especially loved to start off with a Chicago staple as well!  I know Jon Stewart gave Trump a hard time about eating New York pizza with a fork, but with deep-dish, we had no choice!

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Abigail, Emily’s parents and I braved the Sky Deck in the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower).  The Sky Deck is a set of glass push-outs near the top of the building where visitors can step out into what seems like thin air at 1353 feet up!  It was really neat to do and the views were simply amazing.  To me, the Sky Deck was so high up that it didn’t feel like a scary thing at all.  It was sort of like flying in a plane…I think 100 feet would have been more scary.  Anyhow, it was worth the trip.  We bought a City Pass there which gave access to a lot of the cool exhibits throughout the city and saved us a lot of money.

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We walked around in the cool air a number of days and nights and saw Calder’s Flamingo, Cloud Gate (aka the “Bean”), and the Chicago Board of Trade.  Really, Chicago is a fantastic city to visit.  We took in the Shedd Aquarium, The Field Museum and the Art Institute of Chicago.  There is just so much in Chicago and it is a shame we didn’t have  a lot more time to really take in more of the city.  We spent some time seeing Van Gogh’s work in the Art Institute but that was only the tip of the ice berg of the famous works that are housed there.  We saw American Gothic and Nighthawks and A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.  We saw Monets and Picassos and works of the ancients.  It is truly a remarkable collection which I would like to further explore.

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Finally, we did get a chance to actually lay eyes on Isaac and his his fantastic band play fantastic pieces in a fantastic hall!  I think they were all so very proud to play and their love of music was quite evident!  I so enjoy seeing Isaac and everyone in the band in tuxeudos / formal dresses and I am very proud of the hard work that led them to be able to play at this venue.

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Even though it snowed while we were in Chicago, it was a marvelous trip and one I would love to repeat!

 

Another teen in the wild

Earlier this month, Abigail, my precious little baby, had another birthday.  It was a big one…the big thirteen!  My adorable baby has turned into…a teenager!

In Chicago on her birthday
In Chicago on her birthday

I do not know if I am lucky or what, but aside from first thing in the morning 🙂 , Abigail is an absolute joy.  We were out of state on her birthday so didn’t get to properly celebrate, but we will remedy that this weekend.

Like most teens, she loves to listen to music and see movies, but where she really shines, I think, is that she is capable of and really enjoys thinking about all sorts of interesting subjects.  She has opinions on politics and the future, and the world around us and can elucidate her thoughts very well.  I always say that I don’t think I ever progressed, mentally, beyond age 13, but then I see how mature Abigail is, and I think I over-estimated my mental age.  She makes me so proud and I am happy to welcome another teenager into the world!

UC Half Marathon

Last weekend was the University of Charleston (WV) half marathon.  I like to run, but I have typically only run in 5K races around the area.  I had never run a half marathon, so when I heard about it, I knew I wanted to run.

UC Half Marathon
The map generated by my running watch

 

I wrote this race report for /r/running on reddit:

 

Race information

Goals

Goal Description Completed?
A < 2 hours Yes
B No injuries Yes
C Don’t die Yes

Training

I am a fairly new runner, having started in March of 2015 to run with my daughter. At the time, we were planning to train together to prepare her for X-C season. She does nothing in the off-season but I kept running. I didn’t follow a plan per-se, but I run 3-4 days per week for an average of probably 25 miles per week. About 6 weeks ago, I somehow screwed up my posterior tibialis so my mileage dropped some. I ran a mix of hills and flats which is probably what messed up my leg. I have run a number of 5Ks locally since starting running.

Pre-race

The race was managed by students and faculty as part of a sports management class. As such, they seemed to really do things cleanly (with the exception of their website). I had a lot of communication via facebook and email regarding the course, volunteers, aid stations, etc. They took great pride in advertising that local artists were making the finishers medals and prizes…it was very cool. Packet pickup was easy the night before and ran smoothly. On the race day itself, I wanted to be onsite at 7am for an 8am gun. As I said, I am inexperienced but I like to be early even though this was not a huge race. I needed to pee 25 times before lining up, etc. The weather was pretty crummy…40 deg F and rain at 7am. Snow was forecast for later in the day so the expectation was for miserable conditions. I got to the University of Charleston at 7 and we were greeted by a ton of volunteers. I may be making this part up, but I swear I heard there were 300 volunteers. Inside the student union where we waited for the start, the crowd was good though thinner than expected. At packet pickup, I asked how many were regsitered and was told around 300. Earlier in the week, they had advertised that they had crossed 200 runners, so I assume they were correct in the 300 number. I later found out that there were 127 finishers. I am certain the weather kept a number of people away…seems odd that 180 didn’t show but who knows? A few people I know who I saw at packet pick-up were not at the race so at least a few stayed home. Anyhow, about 15 minutes before the gun, the rain stopped and the temp help steady…so it was sort of perfect for racing.

Miles [1] to [3.1]

I didn’t know what to expect, never having raced a half so I found a 2 hour pace group and started with them. It was ok, but within a half a mile, I knew I wanted to speed up. I increased my pace to around 8:40 per mile and found a friend. We talked for a mile but he started to slow and I was feeling good so I speed up to around 8:20 per mile. The rain started although not bad…it was one of those rains that makes you wet but you don’t really notice it. I settled in on that pace and found a woman right ahead of me who was very steady so I just ran with her. About 2 miles in, the first water station came up and a large number of university students were having a great time listening to 80s music. They were playing my song (well, it seemd like it was being played for me) as I ran by…Danger Zone. I give the volunteers a lot of credit…they came out in good numbers with great signs and cheered on everyone! Basically, the course runs from the university along the Kanawha River so it was really pleasant to watch the river flow by. There were 3+ volunteers at every intersection and every turn so it was very clear where the course was. Miles were well marked and actually corresponded with my gps watch. The course was USATF certified which was pretty cool for such a small and new race.

5k time: 25:50

Miles [4] to [7]

I was concerned that this race was going to be a little boring as it was through neighborhoods and was a double loop course. I don’t know what possessed me, but I chatted a little with a few people as we ticked off miles in the middle of the course. I am usually pushing pretty hard on a 5k so don’t talk at all, but I didn’t know what to do here so I decided to pass a little time. Generally, people were happy to chat and they made more conversation than I did…2 miles flew by and I didn’t have any problems. My pace had stayed pretty steady around 8:10 at this point

Miles [8] to [10]

I decided to try to drink a little gatorade at around mile 9. I never drink gatorade as I am a water guy and generally not a drink-on-the-run guy at all. Something possessed me to try though so I grabbed a cup and put it to my mouth and promptly spilled it all over myself. I think I was more tired than I realized. The woman with whom I was pacing was feeling it too and we traded the lead back and forth a few times. We stayed pretty solid at 7:50-8:00 pace. The course was very flat which was nice, but the wet was starting to bother me too I think. Being a dummy, I forgot to tape my nipples so I was getting raw around this point. I won’t have to learn that lesson again…rain + cold + distance = blood spots on my shirt. Anyhow, I still really commend the race volunteers and police officers…they were great about cheering and played some great 80s tunes…some Cindi Lauper tune was blaring as I ran through the second time!

At the finish!
At the finish!

Miles [11] to [13.1]

I was all turned around as we wove through the neighborhoods along the river so I only had a sense of where I was based on my watch…my pacing woman and I were both pretty tired at this point and I could feel both my hamstrings and my calves starting to fade/pull. I figured that worst case, I could walk depending on what happened so I decided to keep pushing. We both ran the last mile or so into the finish about as fast as we could…we kicked it down to a 7:30 or so pace. She faded about a quarter mile out but I was still ok…ok being a relative term. Rounding the building in front of which was the finish line, I caught a guy and passed him which gave me mixed emotions…I hate when people do that to me, but I loved placing one spot higher than I would have. Originally I told my wife to expect me around 2 hours, so when I rolled in at 1:47:38, she was not exactly expecting me but she was able to get her phone out to get a few pics.

After the race...headed home
After the race…headed home

Post-race

I grabbed a banana, a water and a cookie after they hung my finisher medal around my neck. It was a really cool medal made of ceramic by a local artist (and some university students). I was sort of sad in a way to finish. As this was my first half, I was over the moon excited in the days and weeks leading up. My saintly wife had to have been done with me for all of the talking about my strategies and questions about how I should run, what to wear, etc. I guess you never forget your first time and this half will always be sort of a cool memory. I didn’t know what else to do at the end so I lingered a little bit and we finally decided to just go home. I iced and put on some compression socks and generally relaxed all afternoon.

This report was generated using race reportr, a tool built by /u/BBQLays for making great looking and informative race reports.

Driving…level 2

It’s hard for me to write this, not because I am displeased, but rather because I cannot believe it is possible.  Yesterday, Isaac passed his driving test making him our street’s newest driver.  It seems like he is still my precious little boy, but he has gone ahead and grown up (into a fine young man…who now has a driver’s license!) and is finding his freedom!

In WV, as elsewhere, a person can earn their driving permit when they are 15.  Isaac was kinda interested, but not really.  I sort of had to push him to take his permit test because I wanted to have plenty of time to drive with him while he was still at home.  Lots of kids these days are disinterested in driving I guess, and some parents don’t make their kids get their license until they are older.  That’s ok, but for me, I wanted him to have more experience under my tutelage so we got his permit soon after his 15th birthday

His first solo drive!
His first solo drive!

We drove a lot under different conditions as I wanted him to experience many aspects of driving with my eyes helping him merge, see hazards, etc.  Isaac has a car for his use and has spent a good bit of time getting used to it and has done an absolutely fantastic job of learning how to drive.  He seems to be very conscientious and aware of things around him.  I knew he was ready to take the next step.

I was most concerned with whether he could pass the parallel parking test.  We put it off quite awhile, but it was time.  I gathered a step stool and a large box to work as markers to practice and asked him to watch a few quick youtube videos while I got the stuff loaded into his car.

We measured out a parking bay near our house.  I figured the youtube video would give him some general info, but that I would have to explain and demonstrate how to properly parallel park.  We decided to just let him try it once, and lo and behold, he parked beautifully on the first try!  I kid you not!  I didn’t believe it so I jumped out and made him do it again…and he did it again.  All-told, he did it 15-20 times with only 1 failed attempt so we called it a night.  Two nights ago we went to the actual testing location to practice on the space the tester uses…same story.  He parked several times flawlessly, so we knew it was time.

On the road!
On the road!

Emily took him after school and he passed beautifully.  The tester said he was the first person she had passed all day…and that was at 5pm…that’s rough.  Anyhow, we went out to eat and celebrate, but Isaac was anxious to get back home to dump me off so he could drive around some.

He can’t haul friends yet until he is accident-free for 6 months, but he wanted to go out on his own.  It was one of the harder things I have done recently, watching him drive off all by himself.  He rolled his eyes when I went into Dad-mode, “You’re gaining freedom and I am giving up control over you…and it’s hard…be careful”  Eye-roll, “Yeah Dad, I know…” Eye-roll.  It’s all good though.  He drove around our area for an hour and returned, obviously excited and a little tired.  I can still remember both the thrill and exhaustion of the first hundred times driving solo.  He’s growing up though and learning to manage both very well.  If you see him on the road though, don’t honk or wave…I need him to focus on the road!

Our stay at the Greenbrier

The Greenbrier Resort and Hotel is a bit of a legend in WV.  The Greenbrier is located in White Sulphur Springs, WV,  where rich folks used to come to drink/bathe in the sulphur waters in the area.  People believed that there were medicinal powers in the water so they flocked to the area to cure all sorts of things.  Of course, amenities built up around as the influx of people grew and the Greenbrier Hotel was built.  It’s a palatial structure situated on 11,000 or so acres and  it caters to all sorts of outdoor activities including pheasant hunting, horseback riding, off-road Jeeping and high-end golf.  The PGA holds the Greenbrier Classic there each Summer and it draws all sorts of golf-y folks.

Us at the Greenbrier
Us at the Greenbrier

People still travel from far and wide to partake of the ambiance of the area and it truly is beautiful in the Greenbrier Valley area.  We have visited Lewisburg as well as the Greenbrier Hotel to do the bunker tour, but we had never stayed at the hotel itself before.

At the Greenbrier
At the Greenbrier

Some have said that I am a bit thrifty.  Emily calls it other things, but I prefer to find a value whenever I can.  A few months before Christmas this year, I saw that the hotel was running a special deal on a weekend stay in January.  It was perfect!  We could stay at the hotel and take in all that is the Greenbrier, and I could feel content in having gotten a “bargain”.  Please note that the Greenbrier’s special price was a “bargain”, not a bargain.  It still cost us around $500 for two nights, but we had a nice enough room and the opportunity to stay!

Upon our arrival, a gate-man had a card for our car with our name already printed.  He ushered us through to the grand entrance where bellhops grabbed our bags and hustled them inside out of the snow.  I couldn’t bear to pay the valet so I parked the car myself…at least 100 miles away…in the newly falling snow/rain.  But it’s good…and definitely cheaper.

At the Greenbrier
A very large but wonderful fireplace

Anyhow, we received champagne and our room keys and were good to go.  All checked in, we decided to explore the massive building.  There are ballrooms and great foyers.  Enormous fireplaces burned delightful fires and the atmosphere was rich.  There is a dress-code at the Greenbrier which we followed to the letter, but it appeared that not everyone bothered.  I was a bit disappointed, frankly, that people chose not to follow the rules and that the hotel allowed them to get away with it.  I normally hate dress-code stuff, but it just felt right there…like people should be dressed up.

At the Greenbrier
The beginning of the snow

Anyhow, we caught a live singing performance where a really talented group sang a variety of tunes and did a great job interacting with the crowd.  We clapped and sang along like good tourists…it was a blast!

We took the bunker tour again and visited all of the shops (or are they shoppes?) in the Greenbrier.  The weather was not amenable to our touring the grounds or doing many of the outdoorsy things, but we really enjoyed the time to lounge around and talk and read.  All-in-all, it was a nice trip.

At the Greenbrier
The side entrance

The only complaint I had was with the food.  We chose to stay in and eat at the hotel.  It was convenient and part of the experience in my mind.  It cost more for four of us to eat three meals than the room cost and we didn’t eat high-end at the hotel.  Food was really expensive there.  We ate breakfast at the main dining room and both the food and service were really great.  Lunch and dinner, however, were no better than what we would have gotten at Applebees, but at 3x or more the price.  Both service and food were average which was a shame for how much it cost…live and learn I guess.

At the Greenbrier
The Springhouse…you can smell the sulphur water here…kind of the symbol of the Greenbrier

Anyhow, I would like to go back and visit in the Spring when I am sure the place really shows its beauty.  I am not much of a golfer but I hear that part of the fee includes a guy who will stand out in the fairway and watch where the balls land.  For golfers, the savings in lost balls may make up for the expense in the food department!

I am glad to have stayed at the Greenbrier and look forward to the continued improvements that the fairly new owner is making after years of neglect by the previous owner!

Crummy snow

Like about a quarter of the US population, we got hit by the snow event named Jonas 2 weekends ago.  For at least a week beforehand, we heard hype and warnings and altered forecasts.  At first, I think we expected a good snow but not too bad as predictions seem like they are often overblown, at least around here.  As the week wore on and we grew more and more tired of hearing about the storm of the decade, it became apparent that we were going to get a good covering with a really good chance of a wet snow which would lead to widespread power outages.

The snow was just starting
The snow was just starting

Starting Wednesday or so, people started to really pound the grocery stores to stock up on milk, eggs and bread…I guess to make their emergency French toast.  We shop on Sundays most times so we avoided the mess, but I hear a lot of places were cleaned out.  Thursday was a really weird time as all forecasts pretty much pointed tot he same thing…we were going to get a lot of snow.  I went to the office on Friday morning as usual.  The sky was dark but there was no snow at that point.  Almost on the hour, at 9. the snow started.  I think by 9:07 we had an inch.  Well, that might be an exaggeration, but it came quickly.  We closed the office by 9:30 and by 10 when I left, it was questionable as to whether I would make it home.  My car had no problem, but lots of folks in two-wheel drive vehicles were pretty much screwed.  I weaved through a developing parking lot on the main road up the hill to my neighborhood.

Piling up against the door
Piling up against the door

We hunkered down and basically waited and watched.  Snow piled up very quickly.  Fortunately, the temperature didn’t rise enough to produce the wet snow they expected so we never lost power.  We stepped out occasionally to measure snow, but it was accumulating so fast that we quickly gave up.

Ugh...my yard showed around this, but the official measure was 18.6"
Ugh…my yard showed around this, but the official measure was 18.6″

Saturday morning, we found that it was still snowing, but not nearly as hard.  I tried to open my front door at some point but found it was snowed closed.  I had to go out another door and shovel my front door open.  That sucked a little.  I took a few quick measurements which pretty closely coincided with the official measurement of 18.6 inches when it was all said and done.  I measured as high as 21 inches but all things vary of course.

It looks like a bunch
It looks like a bunch

The city was a bit of a mini-disaster as people had abandoned cars all over.  Plow trucks were working hard but we don’t usually see snow this deep and fast so they just couldn’t keep up, try as they might.  We started baking cookies Saturday sometime and baked our way out of butter so, by Sunday, wanted to get out so we could bake/eat more.  Our road had not been plowed at all though, and we figured that, with the chaos all over, they wouldn’t be getting to us any time soon.  Our driveway is maybe 50 feet long and very steep.  We started with it, hoping that would entice the plow trucks to come and plow us in, much like washing a car encourages rain.

Buried
Buried

Finally, we decided to just go for it and we shoveled out our neighborhood road from our place to the main road which was somewhat passable.  I’d say that road is maybe 100 feet long where we were interested.  My wife, my amazing workhorse of a wife and I shoveled out the road as well.  It wasn’t a lot of fun, but we had eaten a lot of cookies so figured it balanced out pretty evenly, calorie-wise.

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First the driveway

 

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Then the road
Then the road

A lot of roads are still not passable, but I was able to get to the office.  Schools are still closed, wisely.  The biggest problem now, is where to put the snow that the highway crews are plowing.  Our road was finally plowed out after dark, about 60 hours after the snow started.  That’s not terrible with all things considered, but I am glad we dug out ahead of time.  Let’s hope it takes at least another decade before we see this again!

We survived!
We survived!

Quick catch-up

So I didn’t do a great job of sticking with my declaration that I would post more.  My diary has been fairly quiet lately and that is a drag for me.  We did have a wonderful Christmas and New Year’s season and are racing towards the most important of all holidays, Groundhog’s Day!

Anyhow, I took a bunch of pictures of stuff we have been up to lately…

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I love our fireplace area at Christmas…we still put out cookies for me Santa to eat

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We pretty much only do sugar cookies at Christmas…and I mostly eat them in dough form leaving few to actually make it to the oven.  The kids “decorate” them in interesting patterns.

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And by patterns, I mean globs and piles…which makes them perfect to eat!

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Best Christmas present ever!

 

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I buried my nephew under his new blocks.  I loved those kind of blocks when I was in school…We had a large, ride-able wooden train in kindergarten that we used to drive through great walls made from similar blocks.  Anyhow, we had a lot of fun “hulking” out from under these blocks!

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My brother mentioned that he always wanted the game Operation as a kid.  We obliged this year although it is a much different game now.  Still, they talked trash and left a watch or two inside the body…it was good fun!

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Sober…all of us, sober.  We do New Year’s with Emily’s folks.  It’s a great time and we made it clear until midnight!

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Somewhere during the holidays, we replaced two windows in our house.  All together, I think we have replaced 21 windows or something like that.  We have become old hands at it.  It made a huge difference in both warmth and sound control.  It’s always so striking to see a gaping hole in the house.

Well, we have had a busy few weeks lately including the crummy snow storm.  I have lots more pics to post soon.  I hope you are dug out wherever you are!