Tag Archives: Adventure

Haulin’ water

So, yesterday I mentioned that we set the first 4 posts for the bee yard.  To make them semi-permanent, I wanted them anchored in concrete.  The property that we own is raw land so we do not yet have water available on site.  To mix the concrete, of course, we needed water.  I hated the idea of hauling water especially since we didn’t have any sort of official water carrier.  Still, without it, we were dead in the…uh…water.  So, we decided on two water sources.  First, we had a five gallon bucket that had a seal-able lid that worked very well.  Knowing that would not be enough, we also filled a 30 gallon plastic tote half way full of water.

This is next on my list of stuff to get at Tractor Supply!

We (meaning me) should have known better but in my haste to get out there, I decided to press on.  Half way full won’t slosh too much, right?  I mean, I put a cover on it.  No problems, right?  Yeah, wrong.  It’s gets even funnier.  In addition to all that water, I had 320 pounds of concrete and 50 pounds of gravel…oh yeah, and four 4x4s as well as all of the stuff we normally take out there.  We were packed solid and ready for anything.

So, I slowly start down the driveway.  Our house is on a steep hill so we didn’t even get out of our driveway before the water sloshed out and all over the back.  Remeber all that stuff I had back there?  Yeah.  I figured at that point that we are already wet…it can’t get worse, right?  Wrong.

The interstate part of the trip was smooth as you might expect.  But, we go from interstate to a 2-lane paved road.  Also not so bad.  It’s when we went from paved road to “paved” road that things got worse.  Emily and I had a “discussion” about the whole thing.  During that “discussion”, I decided that it would be better for her to drive so we switched places…you can sort of see the tone of our dialogue.

Emily and me "discussing" in the back of the van

Anyhow, we finally made it, missing only a few gallons.  I dug the first hole and went to get the first bag of concrete.  You know, concrete comes in paper bags.  Do you know what happens to paper bags when they meet water?  Nothing good I can tell you.

Anyhow, I quickly learned new and creative ways to carry the concrete and all ended well in that regard.  See, no worries, right?  Not so much.  I am now the proud driver of the van until the mildew smell gets out of the back end.  I hope it doesn’t get too hot the next few days.  I may not survive!

Our woods

We spent our time at the property on Saturday walking in the woods.  Our plan was to walk more of the property line as we still haven’t seen the entire place.  We did hike the better part of the boundary and discovered all sorts of excellent things!  Except for the constant chatter of kids, the sounds of the woods were magnificent.  Actually, the chatter wasn’t so bad either as the kids were having fun.

When I was a kid, hiking in the woods was not high on my list of fun.  I played in the woods a lot but plain old hiking wasn’t good for me.  I was so surprised that Isaac and Abigail walked the entire 2 miles in the woods with only a small handful of complaints.  Incredible!

We did walk the better part of the lower edge of the place and saw all sorts of beautiful flowers and animal tracks of all sorts.  There were too many deer tracks to even keep track of but the kids tried to identify every print they came across.

That's Abigail's finger...she's the brave one

We spooked a turkey and saw the biggest centipede the kids had ever seen.  We found just a little bit of poison ivy and a lot of slippery moss.  Squirrels barked and birds announced our path through the woods.  All around us was noise but it felt like silence.  It was marvelous walking in our woods and this weekend was the reason we bought the place!  I am absolutely positive that my blood pressure is still lowered because of it!

Biker chick

When we live in Nashville, we had a really nice situation for walking and learning to ride bikes.  We had a flat acre of land on a dead-end street.  I bet we walked 5 days a week while Isaac was learning to ride his bike.  We started with a Red Rider tricycle, graduated through various plastic trikes and finally onto a 2-wheeler with training wheels.  We spent a bunch of time riding, now and then raising the training wheels a little so he would have to balance more and more on his own.  One day he had enough and asked me to take the trainers off completely.  I figured we were in for a few skinned knees, but I kid you not, he jumped on the bike and never wrecked a single time!  He was about 5 when he figured it all out.

Isaac’s first time riding w/o training wheels – 2005

We moved to WV when Abigail was 3 so she didn’t have much time to ride bikes like Isaac did.  There is plenty of land here in WV.  In fact, there may be more land here than in Nebraska.  WV is just wrinkled into a small package that is straight up and down!  So, learning to ride a bike here requires that you find a flat piece of ground somewhere.  Last weekend, Emily was at a training class so the kids and I headed over to the track at the nearby high school.  Even at almost-8, Abigail was still in training wheels on her bike.  Before heading to the track, I raised her training wheels a little so she would have to balance a little.

Click the image for a movie!

(Click here if the above movie will not play on your machine)

We walked a few laps and Abigail was beyond fed up.  She got so mad she said, “I wish you would just take those stupid training wheels off.”  Being a good Boy Scout, I had a wrench with me so I had them off in 5 minutes.  I helped her a few laps around but she pretty quickly caught on and is now officially a bike rider!  Now that I have no more training-wheel-encumbered kids in the house, I think I have finally figured out that training wheels do more to slow kids from learning to ride a bike than they help.

So, Abigail is now a biker chick.  She loves riding and wants to go all of the time!  I am super happy for her and so proud that she got mad and decided what she wanted…and made it happen!  Bikes first…next, the world!

MANKs no more

For three days we have been MANKs – Married Adults, No Kids.  School starts Friday (why on Earth would anyone make the first day of school on a Friday?) and the kids’ summer camp closes the week before school.  As we both work, that left us in a bind.  Fortunately my parents are retired (mostly anyhow) so were willing to watch the kids for this week before school.  The good and the bad thing about that is that they are 350 or so miles away.

We headed to PA last weekend to deliver the kids.  Sunday afternoon rolled around and we headed back to WV.  It was the strangest thing…no movies were playing in the back seat, no one was kicking my seat, there was no complaining or fighting.  It was very odd.  Emily and I stopped at an outlet mall and I heard not one whiny, “Are we ever gonna leave?  I am sooo bored!”  I didn’t have to take anyone to the public restroom lecturing them not to touch ANYTHING!  Travel was so very weird.  I just wasn’t sure how to go about my trip.

Anyhow, once we got home, we “organized” the kids’ stuff some too.  Some things were put away properly and many things were filed in the plastic container out back.  You see, without the kids around, we get stuff done!

I miss my kids.  They are great and I love them tons.  Still, a few days as a MANK is a welcome change for us and for them…and I think my parents had fun too.  After all, they got some good child labor out of the deal!

To the river gods

Last weekend we went canoeing with the kids and Emily’s aunt and uncle.  The Little Coal river is near where we all live so it is convenient and really, a pretty great river for canoeing.  Like most of the East, we have been hot and dry for quite awhile so I had pretty low expectations about the quality of the water on the trip.  I grew up in NW PA near the beginning of the Allegheny river.  It is pretty shallow and slow there so I have plenty of experience in carrying a canoe through shallow water.  I didn’t really want to carry a canoe full of my offspring over rocks and downed trees.

We threw our canoes in (actually, the kayak started down the river without us) and headed out.  The water was perfect!  My shallow-water-eyes were just flat out wrong.  There were spots that weren’t deep but in every case, there was a ton of room to navigate the river anywhere we wanted!  The last time we went on this river, the water was raging.  We absolutely could not  get out of the boats (and truth be told, probably shouldn’t have even been in the boats) and our trip down the river was speedy.  This time, we got to really enjoy the river!

There were a few “rapids” that we got to ride.  I wasn’t sure whether the kids would enjoy it but they laughed and Isaac yelled, “Caribou!” at the top of his lungs (yeah, it’s a 4th/5th grade boy thing I think).  We stopped at the end of several of the rapids and walked back up to ride down in the rapids sans boat.  Holy mackerel that was fun!  I had to hold on to the kids the first few times because they were wary, but in no time, they were itching to go on their own…we just had to catch them at the bottom!

At one point, we saw a few cassette tapes in the water.  I suspect that someones house or camp was flooded at some point as no one would just dump old Motley Crue cassettes.  Anyhow, the kids saw them and asked what they were…that’s right, my kids had no idea what a cassette tape was or why people would use them instead of cds or dvds.  That was a bit shocking to me but we had a great conversation about how life was when I was a kid (and that wasn’t super long ago…I can’t imagine if they had the conversation with my 96 year old Grandpa!)  I enjoyed telling them about sleeping in the back of the station wagon on trips and how our legs would burn and stick to the plastic seats…how we didn’t have A/C in the house  or cars and no cell phones or video games.  Abigail asked me, “How did you make it through?”  HA!  And our lives were still pretty easy compared to people before us!

Anyhow, it didn’t take long for Diva…I mean Abigail…to get tired.  She propped back in the kayak and toured the rest of the river “princess style”.  We ate lunch on the river and laughed and had a great time not worrying about a thing.  Our only donation to the river gods was one pair of old sunglasses.  They were easily satisfied with our sacrifice.  I think the river was just what we needed…and I can’t wait to go again!

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You may need to download Quicktime viewer if these videos don’t work for you…

The climb

Abigail, Emily and I walked around South Charleston the other day and she wanted to climb “the Mound”.  The Mound is an ancient native burial ground that sits as sort of a focal point of downtown S. Chas.  I had never climbed it before so it seemed like a pretty cool thing to do.  Abigail and I walked to the top by climbing stone steps that wrap around the Mound.  It’s not a huge walk but it has a great view of the area.  I sort of wonder what the people who built the mound must have seen and thought when they were hauling dirt and rock up the mound.

I suppose it looked a lot different (duh) but uncertainty was no doubt a part of their lives as well…especially after losing whomever was buried under that mound.  I guess it’s a part of life and all but I am not sure I am exactly delighted with the craziness that seems to be going on now with Jamaica and North Korea and and BP oil and Greece and the economy in general.  I’ll tell you one thing, I am certain that the time we spent climbing the Mound was time well spent.  I guess the uncertainty that the original builders must have felt and which caused them to build such a monument gave me a sense of certainty in the love I have for my family and the simple times we share together.

The story behind the Mound

Fun with tilt shift from atop the Mound!

A bridge

A few weeks ago, we went to Pittsburgh so Emily could participate in some training.  The kids and I basically tromped around the city on foot and saw some interesting things.  Of particular interest to me (and not at all for the kids) were the bridges.  Of course, Pittsburgh is famous for its bridges…the number of them if not the beauty.

So we walked from our hotel in the downtown area across several of the bridges and saw some pretty neat things.  I pretty much don’t think about bridges at all as I drive over them.  Rarely do I get the chance to walk on them so it was pretty cool to sort of explore the bridges in Pittsburgh with my kids.

The “art of steel” that holds those bridges up is really interesting and somehow appealing to look at for me.  Maybe it’s the guy in me who still likes to play with matchbox cars and tonka toys and the like, but I really liked standing on the bridge admiring its strength (I feel so inferior).  I guess I am pretty fascinated by the parts that make up the bridge…imagining the folks hammering and twisting and cursing the pieces into place.  Pittsburgh sort of means all that to me anyhow.

We also saw some more human things there including tons of gum and the graffiti that seemed too philosophical to be left as a scrawling on a wall…though more people probably saw that than if it had been written somewhere more “appropriate”.  We saw panhandlers on the bridge and the kids had some serious questions for me about their plight.

Once again, I am reminded to take time to smell the…uh…bridge?  Well, I guess I’ll stick to smelling the roses but if you get a chance, spend time exploring a bridge.  You won’t be disappointed!  Most of these pictures were of the Roberto Clemente bridge by the way….

I swore…

When we were first married, we declared, as self-righteous, young, newlywed folks often do, that we would live our lives differently than folks who are so busy they don’t have time to sit down and enjoy the good stuff of life.  We swore we would not do what other people do.  When the kids were younger, we had little trouble in keeping their time free for things they wanted to do.  Most of what we did was about what they wanted to do for fun, which happened to line up with the whole “live simply” thing I had in mind.  They played outside on the swings and rode bikes.  It was so simple and perfect.

Of course, they are getting older and are influenced by all sorts of things around them.  They still like to play outside and ride bikes, but now they also want to take lessons…taekwondo and aikido and ice skating and violin and archery and soccer.  We are becoming scheduled.  At first, I was sort of irritated about it and thought that we surely must be ruining our kids by running them all over creation to do this and that.  But now that we’ve been at it for a little while, I look at it differently.  Just as it was about what the kids wanted to do for fun, so it is now.  Fun is just different.

To be sure, I definitely think that kids and parents can become over-scheduled and over-stressed, but I think if the cards are played right (as I hope we are doing), being involved is an opportunity for kids to explore.  It’s not exploring like they did in the back yard, but it is exploring the world in a way.  Taekwondo is taught by a Korean master.  Soccer is coached by a former professional player from the African continent.  They are finding what they like and don’t like but they are also seeing a larger world while they are at it.

When I think about it, I enjoy seeing the kids explore and learn and grow.  We still play together, albeit differently.  We can laugh and talk and enjoy things…just different things than just the back yard.  So, in a way, I sort of long for “just the back yard” but it is thrilling to also be a part of all of us going “out there” too.

So what about it…do you enjoy kids’ activities or is it too much?  What sorts of things do your people do?

This place is not a figment of my imagination

So, I have been wearing out the Las Vegas theme lately.  I enjoyed the company and the business aspects of Las Vegas, but the city itself reminded me of a trailer park.  It has to be the tackiest, most overinflated place on Earth.  Seeing the extravagance  in Las Vegas was, in my opinion, an attempt to surround folks who wouldn’t know classy if it came in framed with a certificate of authenticity, with symbols of gluttony and greed and every other class-less thing one could imagine.  I don’t claim to be classy, but I am well aware of that fact and don’t try to pretend that I am.

Ok, sorry to anyone who lives there…so I took some more pics (and I promise that these will be the last) of some of the spectacle of Las Vegas…

This was on the main strip and seemed to go just perfectly together...
This was on the main strip and seemed to go just perfectly together...
The Internet has a tap?
The Internet has a tap?
Hmmmm.....Gold balls in the fountain?
Hmmmm.....Gold balls in the fountain?
Fine dining...McDonalds!
Fine dining...McDonalds!
There are "Angels" all over Las Vegas...
There are "Angels" all over Las Vegas...
He lives!
He lives!
A "green" solution to global climate change?
A "green" solution to global climate change?

Ok, I am not being entirely fair…there is a lot of neat architecture in Las Vegas and I saw many cool cool things too…

The water show at Bellagio is excellent.  Click the picture for a video

Click for video
Click for video
The colors were beautiful
The colors were beautiful
A large sculpture in a new shopping center
A large sculpture in a new shopping center
Tacky or awesome?  You decide...
Tacky or awesome? You decide...
New York New York was impressive
New York New York was impressive

Have you ever been to Las Vegas?  What did you think?

Me Warren…you Jane

I returned a bit to my primal-ancestral ways this weekend.  Besides the urge I had to dance ’round a fire with a spear, I had an opportunity to swing among the trees.  In Fayetteville, WV, there is a fairly new canopy tour among the trees in some of the most beautiful forest I have seen in a long time.

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Anyone in this area knows that it rained cats and dogs this Saturday.  The tour company cancels for neither man, no beast…only lightning.  I guess the Post Office still has one up on canopy tours.  Anyhow, we arrived in the pouring rain and prepared for our tour.  My preparation involved hitting the restroom one last time and slamming down some health food…a Snickers bar.

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The tour is 2-3 hours in length and there are no tree-side rest areas along the way.  I suppose, since it was raining so hard, we probably did have some options but no one wanted to really go there when it came to going there.

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So, we tied into our male-sterilizers…I mean harnesses and started the course.  It was breathtaking.  We whisked, platform to platform between what appeared to be ancient trees.  At first, we started at near ground level.  As we progressed slowly down the mountain, we quickly ended up in the tops of enormous hemlock and magnolia trees.  At the highest point, we were 85 feet off the ground in a tree…not the top of the tree, mind you.  It was far taller than that.

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Hemlock trees are being decimated by a beetle that destroys entire forests.  A portion of our tour fees goes to treating the trees to prevent their destruction.  After standing high up in the tree, I am pleased they are dedicated to preserving such beauty.  We could see all around.  There were “fields” or rhododendron and mountain laurel.  There were wild, rushing streams and rock formations formed long ago.  It was incredible and a bit spiritual for me.  It just felt like how life is supposed to be.  I mean, the ziplining was a blast, but I think I may have enjoyed just looking out through the forest and seeing nature.  The only noise was the sound of raining falling through the leaves (and down my back) and the rush of the streams.


(I am flying by…the photographer’s timing was good!)

So, as I mentioned, it sort of rained some….I think Noah once said that too.  Anyhow, my pictures aren’t great, but I don’t think they could begin to do this trip justice anyhow.  The Rivermen do a fantastic job and I can’t recommend them enough.  If you have an urge to get outdoors, to have a thrill, or just do something different, try ziplining in WV!