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.

2016-01-23 02_03_2016 026

2016-01-24 02_03_2016 014

First the driveway

 

2016-01-24 02_03_2016 010

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…

01_18_2016 080

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

01_18_2016 065

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.

01_18_2016 067

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

01_18_2016 082

Best Christmas present ever!

 

01_18_2016 131

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!

01_18_2016 171

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!

01_18_2016 194

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!

01_18_2016 162

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!

Sweet 16

My baby turns 16 today.  I started off his day with the well-known, “Sweet 16 and never been kissed.”  Cooly, he replied, “Yeah, let’s just go with that.”  How can it be that the tiny baby so long ago has turned into a nearly grown man?!  And just who did he kiss?!  Anyhow, this is a big year for him and Emily and I are so excited to see what comes next!

Some pics with his friends from his Winter Concert last night: 12_16_2015 010 12_16_2015 012 12_16_2015 018

Isaac’s start was so traumatic and he has had a few problems since.  Still, through it all, he has persevered and become a gentleman, a great friend to many, a fantastic musician, a fun jokster and my absolute favorite son!

12_16_2015 025

I am so very proud of his accomplishments and delight in seeing his smiling face every single day!  Happy Sweet 16 Isaac!

15
14
13
12
11
10

Running

We have been busy with lots of stuff as I mentioned before and most of what we have been doing revolved around my coaching soccer again, the kids doing stuff in band, and work related obligations.

Pre-race selfie
Pre-race selfie

One thing, though, that I have been doing is a little different from that.  Back in April, my company sponsored a 5K to benefit the local chamber of commerce’s scholarship fund.  I ran a lot in high school as a member of the soccer team, but after that, I really didn’t run again.  I decided to give running another try so I could train with Abigail who is on the middle school cross country team and so we could both run the 5K.

Pre-race...I still look alive
Pre-race…I still look alive

As I posted before, we ran the 5K which was pretty fun.  What surprised me, though, is that I really enjoyed running.  My first race nearly killed me as I pushed probably too hard, especially for the shape I was in.  The thrill of racing and actually not embarrassing myself made me want to do it again though.  My time in that first race was 27:30…not a bad time and it piqued my interest.  I wondered if that was my max or if I could get better.  I know I am not old yet, but I am not young either.

Finish line from a race on July 4...in the rain
Finish line from a race on July 4…in the rain

Since then, I have continued running and have come to really enjoy it.  I tried running with music but it drives me crazy.  I prefer to listen to my breathing and to the birds and the squirrels.  I like to look up at the sky at the clouds or keep count of just how many people pick their noses when they drive.  Someone asked me what I think about when I run (assuming I must get bored).  Sometimes I think about this or that, but most times, I literally think about nothing.  I sort of zone out and occasionally take in a sound or a sight, but I don’t really ponder life’s deeper meanings or worry about stressors.  Maybe that’s why I like it so much.

A hard run
A hard run

I sort of like running after dark through neighborhoods.  I quietly cruise by homes and hear people talking or watching tv.  I can smell a steak cooking a mile away and people make a lot of popcorn in the evenings.  I run 2-3 nights during the week and most times it is after dark.  It’s quiet then and even easier to zone out and the stars are pretty amazing when I take the time to look up.

Everyone has a running watch
Everyone has a running watch…I’d be naked without it!

I try to do a longer run on Saturday mornings.  Emily and the kids sleep in most weekends.  I have always been an early riser so it sort of works out perfectly.  I may run 8 or 10 miles on Saturdays before they wake.  When I start to smell bacon cooking on my trail, I know people are waking up  and it’s about time to head home.

I really like racing and my best 5K time from a few weeks ago was  22:10.  It’s a little harder to zone out on race day as I get pretty wound up waiting for the starting gun.  During the race, it’s all about keeping myself from running too fast the first mile and then having nothing left for the next 2 miles.

I do not think my goal in running is only to race, but it’s a nice side benefit.  What’s better, though, is that I have met some pretty cool people and stand amazed at what people can do, physically.  I ran my most recent race with a 60 year old man, a new friend of mine.  We talked about our plan for the race as we stood in the starting chute, but we both had doubts about whether we could pull off what we had discussed.  We ran a pretty fast race and he and I stayed together throughout and we ran just under the pace we had decided on.  Before running, I never dreamed a 60 year old man could run a race, let alone a pretty fast pace.  Older men then he ran even faster than we did though and did it with apparent ease.  Of course, they were not new to running, but age didn’t hold them back one bit.

This is a meandering post, but I think it sort of mimics my thoughts on running.  My mind wanders about how I will age and what I think about (and what I don’t think about).  I like to be exposed to new people and especially people who don’t fit my stereotypes.  I also like an occasional shot of adrenaline that comes on race day rather than during rush hour!

Oh my woodness

As with all things we do, our project to install our woodstove at the executive deer stand has gone slowly.  About a year ago, some friends helped me cut a hole in our perfectly good roof and feed a stovepipe through it.  Emily thinks we stalled like that for a year, but I prefer to think of that year as all-season, extreme weather testing.  Finally, in the last few weeks, we found a little room to breathe in our schedule and finished actually attaching the stove to the well-tested stovepipe!

The new wood stove!
The new wood stove!

The funny thing is that we actually bought the stove about 4 years ago.  Four years ago we were optimistic on how long it would take us to build the cabin…”oh, about 6 months, right?”  Yeah…right…

Some patent leather beetles I found while cutting wood
Some patent leather beetles I found while cutting wood

Anyhow, we fired up the stove with the first fire and it was glorious!  Although it was an unseasonable 70 degrees, it will still absolutely wonderful to enjoy its heat.  I was a little ridiculous, but I bet I ran back and forth outside ten times watching for smoke in the chimney…I just wanted to see it work!  Of course, it was a good fire so didn’t produce much smoke which was good and bad I guess.

Wood pile!

Wood piles!
Wood piles!

And what will we burn in this stove you ask?  We just happened to have to cut down a few trees at our house.  The lumberjacks left the tree cut up in sections, but unsplit on the ground where it dropped.  All together, I think we had wood from 4 or 5 trees.  We burned a bunch in the firepit but still have a really good pile of wood….or actually, several really good piles.

We rented a woodsplitter...money well spent
We rented a woodsplitter…money well spent

At first, I wanted to buy a woodsplitter but decided to rent one instead…right decision.  We knocked out splitting a lot of wood in a weekend and hauled it to our woodshed at the deer stand over the course of a few weeks…

So, now we can let it snow and blow.  Assuming we can get near the cabin, we can be plenty warm!

One thing I like about Winter

I know I have said it before, but I will say it again…I really hate winter.  It’s dark early, it’s not just pleasantly cool but really cold.  Winter means snow which means slush and muck everywhere.  It means waiting on the car windshield to defrost.  As a lifelong cheapskate, it also means higher gas bills to prevent Jack Frost’s nipping too hard at our noses.

Cold Spoons
Totally unrelated, but I like pics in my posts and these utensils look cold. That makes it related, right?

But one cool thing that happens in the Winter because of both the heat and dryness of Winter is my bath towel dries out quickly.  I typically use my towel for several days before laundering it.  Of course, that means I hang it to dry between uses like most people.  In the summer, though, it doesn’t always dry out between my shower and when I wash my face or whatever.  I don’t know why, but using an already wet towel is a real drag.  That’s never a problem in the Winter though!  I can wash my dry, cracked and chapped hands as often as I want and never have to worry about using an already-wet towel!  Ah, glorious Winter…sort of…

I needed a break

It’s been quite awhile (almost 3 months) since I have written anything and I am sort of bummed about that.  This space has always been sort of my diary, albeit a public one.  But it’s how I hope to keep track of stuff we have been doing, share pics with friends, and make new friends.  It’s just that things have gotten so busy that writing has just sort of fallen by the wayside.

Basically, we have been very involved with band, sports, and life…some of the very things I like to write about.  But this time around, it seems like those things are all we do and I cannot possibly write about the same three or four things over and over.

Anyhow, things have slowed down a lot and I am going to try to catch up.  I am not sure who I am addressing and I hate those random vague thoughts sent out to the Internet that people seem to do far too often on facebook, but I needed a chance to just log in again and write something.  Maybe I am just writing to myself as a sort of kick in the pants to get back into writing…

Some swarms I caught a few weeks ago

It’s late in the season for swarms to strike out from a honeybee colony. Typically, April through June are prime swarm months when the bees are building up to work the bountiful nectar sources during that time of year. As they get crowded from both the increase in bees as well as the stored honey and pollen, some of the bees along with the old queen strike out on their own and forma new colony. It’s natural and kind of cool, unless you are a beekeeper wanting to keep strong hives and make honey. It’s even less cool when you don’t see the swarm leave so you can’t capture them and at least keep the new colony.

A huge swarm of honeybees
A huge swarm of honeybees

Anyhow, swarming is a natural thing but it usually happens in the Spring and early Summer…and very rarely at the end of August or beginning of September. Still, somehow I got calls for two swarms recently and was happy to gather the new colonies for my apiary! The first swarm was at the local hospice house. A business across the road saw the swarm fly into a tree so called me. I hurried down and went into the hospice house. They didn’t know they had a massive swarm on their property but were happy to have me remove it. The receptionist announced over the intercom that everyone should stay inside while I did my work. Of course, that meant a huge number of employees ran outside to see what was going on. Among them was the media relations guy who saw an opportunity and called the local media. Two news crews came and before I knew it, I was being interviewed for the evening news! That was cool of course and I was happy to help hospice get some publicity as well.

Touching a swarm of bees
Don’t try this at home

A good number of the people who had gathered had never seen a swarm of bees so it took a good bit if time for everyone to see what there was to see and to get pictures with the bee guy sticking his hand into the swarm (don’t try that at home). I love catching swarms and love an audience so it was a lot of fun and the swarm was huge and should definitely survive the winter, unlike many late season swarms that don’t have time to build up in number, collect nectar and pollen, etc.

A second, smaller swarm
A second, smaller swarm
I always touch my swarms before I collect them...not sure why
I always touch my swarms before I collect them…not sure why

Just a week or so later, Larry Groce of Mountain Stage fame called me with a swarm of bees in his front yard. Larry is a super nice guy and it was a swarm of bees so of course I gathered them as well. The funny thing is that I went to his place after a Rotary meeting where he was the featured speaker! We got to chat a bit about bees which is always fun! I collected his swarm easily and merged them with another colony so they should survive as well, though not independently.

Wasps' nest

Wasps' nest
Waspers!

And now this isn’t exactly a swarm, and I didn’t exactly catch them, but these buggers are still hanging out by my back door. They are sort of swarm-like, right? I mean, it’s a mass of stinging insects…I think they are beautiful so they shall remain until they move on…