Thursday, May 29, 2008

Heat & Air

Got home from the long trip to New York and went inside to unpack everything. It was hot ... expected that. The thermometer registered a balmy 91 which perfectly matched the outdoor temperature ... didn't expect that because we had left the air conditioner set to cool at 78.

Called the Heat and Air guys. They came fashionably late of course, arriving just in time for the hottest time of day. A half an hour of oooing and ahhing brought the diagnosis.

"Unit looks real bad. Such a nice neighborhood too. Cost ... um ... plenty money to fix."

So, I asked for a second opinion.

The Stoned Ranger of West 149th ate a bowl of crazy the next morning and unleashed himself on my ... Unit. Add to that alarmingly unnatural sensation ... another half hour of sweltering Oklahoma humidity, drowning in my own sweat, sinking in despair, listening to my birds singing "Death to the neon white Monkeyman", before a shriek of discovery peals out!

"Hot diggity damn Loretta! There ain't no freon in this thing."

"No shit, Sherlock" having already been claimed, I had nothing else to say. My Unit was ... dry ... and useless.

"Just so's ya know, this is going to be reeeal expensive to fix. Yep, you're gonna need a whole new ... Unit."

"How expensive?"

The figure he quoted reached so far up my backside, my jiggling spleen felt the seconds of stupefied silence ticking off one by one on his watch.

So I thought about it through one more hellish day of heat and then ... I got one, a new Unit, from a pair of miscreants named Little John and the Bagman. It's a big, beautiful, brand new Unit that makes me feel proud to sport all four rompin' stompin' tons of it!

It was proudly made in the good old USA by Union Labor. Boo ya!

Me and the Mrs. are enjoying the new Unit ... and are nice and comfy now. Thank you very much.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Home At Last

Thanks to everyone who has come with us on this trip.

The final leg of the trip home took us through Missouri's famed wine country. Before Prohibition, the area around Hermann, Missouri, was one of the largest wine producing areas in the nation. The soil and climate reminded many of the area's original German settlers of the Rhine Valley in Germany. You can taste that similarity in many of the wines.

We visited the Stone Hill Winery as they were preparing for Maifest. Their Late Harvest Vignoles is expensive, but very, very good. For the rest of the wines, this last year wasn't as good as some past. The award winning Pink Catawba was a bright and tasty spot.

We travelled south through Arkansas. You know you're getting close to home when you find deep-fried pickles and deep-fried corn-on-the-cob on the menu.

Probably the Wiederkehr Wine Cellars is the largest of Arkansas' wineries. They always have something to tempt the palate. Their Muscat Di Tanta Maria is certainly one of those. It's not on the shelves very often, and it's worth looking for. The 2006 is almost as good as the 2003 was, so I had to pick up a bottle. In a different category, the Cynthiana is worth consideration.

Our final stop was at the Mount Bethel Winery in Altus, Arkansas. Last year was an absolutely wonderful year for the areas native Muscadine grapes. This year Mount Bethel has the best Red and White Muscadine wines in the area. If you can visit, visit the tiny tasting room in the family owned winery. Stay awhile for some great conversation and sample the wide spectrum of tastes there. Then pick up a bottle of the White Muscadine, you'll be happy that you did. I am because it absolutely rocks :-)

We used a lot of gasoline on this trip. We've put just over four thousand miles onto the rented Dodge Grand Caravan since we left. We got 25 miles per gallon going up to Rochester, New York, but with all the weight of ... stuff ... my son had acquired during his first semester of college, our mileage dropped down to 22 miles per gallon.

I hope that one day we can ween our nation off Big Oil. Right now the options ordinary consumers have is fairly limited. Conservation works, but it only reduces consumption. Besides measures like driving responsibly and making sure the car had correct tire air pressures, etc., the only option is E-85 ethanol. The Dodge I drove was Flex-fuel equipped, so I bought some in Hermann, Missouri.

I'm from a state that has just two heritage industries: agriculture and energy. I know that there are more efficient ways to manufacture ethanol for motor fuels than corn-based moonshine. Oklahoma is a good state to raise switch grass for cellulosic ethanol. Thanks to our Governor Brad Henry, we have a state plan to look into switch grass more closely.

It's so hard to find gas pumps out there for anything other than gasoline and diesel. I think that if we were more serious about moving off oil, we'd have more pumps available AND we would allow imports of ethanol from Brazil. They use sugar cane which is a more efficient source of sugars than corn for making ethanol. In terms of where my energy dollars go, I'd rather keep them in the US if it were only possible. Since that's not an option, I'd rather support Brazil than Saudi Arabia.

I don't just say that because I spent a whole bunch of time there during the Gulf War ... and don't want to go back. On the other hand Brazil is really interesting. Maybe I should do what investigation I can by planning my next vacation to start the Friday before the next Ash Wednesday, you know, time for Carnival in Rio.

Anyone want to come with us?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The greatest Bronco of them all

We stopped in Pittsburgh, PA, for lunch. Where else to go? Fatheads of course.

Here is Mrs. Skeeter enjoying a monster salad on our 25th Anniversary. Yep, that ring is the original I gave her all those years ago at St. Brigid's.

From Pittsburgh, we drove on through Canton, Ohio, to visit the NFL Hall of Fame.

Here's the cyber-horse logo that won two Super Bowl's in a row. I saw my first Denver Broncos game in 1969. It was a loss the hated Oakland Raiders. There have been some very, very tough seasons since then, but it all changed in 1983 when the greatest Denver Bronco of all time was drafted.

John Elway's head. Yes, I touched it.

... and the Broncos colors the way God intended them to be ...

Last year Mrs. Skeeter and I made the pilgrimmage to Mile High Stadium. We looked down onto Ivesco Field, spoke in hushed and reverent tones ... until the game started. I've been on the waiting list for Denver Broncos season tickets since Reagan was President. It's important to have tickets because every home game has been sold out since 1970. Maybe I'll get those tickets sometime before I'm too old to enjoy freezing my backside off in the dead of winter.

We found a neat little winery on the western edge of Indianapolis, Indiana, called Chateau Thomas. One of the wines there, the Sweet Aubergine Ultra, was really tasty. This wine is a Reserve version of their popular Sweet Aubergine. They say that this wine has the same balanced berry, cherry fruit flavors with a rich mouth feel, but the flavor profile is spicy and more luscious with tones of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. I say it's just damned good.

Almost home! See ya soon.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Taking The Challenge

Made a dinner stop At Denny's Beer Barrel Pub in Clearfield, PA. It's a happy little town on the downhill side of Interstate 80's highest point (east of the Mississippi) near Exit 111 by Penfield, PA. For all the things they've got to proud of Clearfield, the Guinness World Record certificate at Denny's Beer Barrel Pub has got to rank right up there at the top. How many good time restuarants do you know of that can make AND serve upthe World's Largest Hambeurger?

Another thing that Denny's Beer Barrel Pub is really proud of is their eating challenges. You can read about the most famous challenge on a sign right out front.

Not all the food served at Denny's is a challenge. Here are a couple of hamburgers that we ordered during this visit.

A burger with a one pound patty of elk.

A burger with a one pound patty of ostridge.

Those hamburgers weren't for me. The challenge? Eat this burger with a two pound patty in an hour. You must eat this titanic burger without the benefit of silverware. Bare hands grabbing with maximum biting and chewing to follow. I accepted challenge! I almost fainted when it came to the table.

Here is where I surrendered. Woe, shame and the agony of defeat. I was jut over halfway through the meal in fourty minutes. The bread and vegetables were yummy. There was more sauces (mayo, etc.) and peppers than I'd hoped for. The meat was a little more like a meatloaf than I had expected, but it was all good.

I live to eat another day.

On another note ... I'm so sorry that we didn't not arrive early enough in Arkansas to meet Bindi, her husband and happy baby in person. Mrs. Skeeter and I will stop by and say "Hi!" on our next visit to Arkansas. Bindi is oneof the most gracious and charming people I have ever spoken with. Mrs. Skeeterand I are looking forward to meeting Bindi and her family in the future.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Niagara Falls by day

The Falls by day are everything that you've read about. Here's the way I saw them.

Some of the Falls can only be seen on the decks of the famous Maid of the Mist. Be prepared to get wet, really wet!

What would Niagara Falls be without the newlyweds?

G. You know how much I love you, but I hadn't really given it very much thought before I saw this picture. You're absolutely right, I really need a tan.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Niagara Falls at night

No matter how they categorize them, there will always be two Niagara Falls - the Falls by day and the Falls by night.

Imagine seeing the Falls by night first. Open your senses to the things that only feeling and emotion can appreciate. Save beauty, grandeur and scale for daylight hours. Let them go for now and close your eyes. Breathe. Stretch out with your feelings and lay your hands on the cool metal railing in front of you. It's perfectly safe. Here at the edge of the great Falls, hear the sustained, awesome roaring of the water rushing by, feel the power of its passing shaking the bedrock beneath your feet, see the lights dancing in the mist, and taste the damp freshness of it on your face. All of this and yet there is so much that can't be seen, just felt. Listen closely to your feelings. They once said that the voice of the Great Spirit was in the thunder of the falls. Can you hear it?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Blue Bridges & things that go without saying ...

The South Grand Island Bridge is really something to see. The twin arch bridges cross the mighty Niagara River north of Buffalo between Tonawanda, New York and Grand Island, New York. I'm sure they chose that name to avoiding theda Tolkien-esque handle, The Blue Bridges of Tonawanda.

The high point of the day was a visit to the Grand Super Buffet, 1100 Jefferson Road, Rochester NY, 14623. It's in Henrietta Plaza just off Jefferson. If you like seafood and Chinese, you'll love this place. It's upscale and a little pricey, but the food is top of the line. It's served buffet style so everyone can chose what they like the most. Specialties of the house include an absolutely delicious steamed talapia and a passel of shrimp dishes. They had a nice ginger blue crab dish and king crab legs for Mother's Day. I visit the Grand Super Buffet every time I'm in Rochester. Next time I'm in town, I'll stay long enough to tell you about a couple of the best Italian places in this part of upstate New York.

Have you ever had the kind of day where things that should go without saying ... REQUIRE saying? I had to take this picture too quickly, but it's true. If you don't like rice, you shouldn't choose sushi.

One or two, yes, but a whole truckload?

At 75 miles per hour in one of those places where I-70 belts Ohio farmland, I got this horrible feeling of being watched. It was that kind of feeling that compels you t sit up straight, be more honest (and slow back down to the speed limit). I flashed through the mirrors for a patrol car. Nothing. Then a weird smell came into the car through the air conditioning vents. I went back to that semi-truck in the net lane over. These were the laughing faces behind that evil smell.

It was a semi-truck with a trailer full of goats! The truck had a banner sign saying all kinds of wonderful things about Dalmatia Рnot that place in troubled Croatia, but the happy little Ville of Dalmatia, PA. These were those naughty full-sized milking goats, not those cute little Nigerian Pigmies that they bring to the petting place at the county fair. With a population of just over 1500, who would have ever thought that someone there would need a whole truckload of horned, wicked goats? Seriously now, as good as it is, how much Sainte-Maure Goat Cheese Feuillet̩ can someone eat anyway?

When the truck arrives in ever lovely and always sunny Dalmatia, PA, how would someone receive that much evil?

My own experience with receiving a large number of mean-spirited animals in the back of truck isn't very good. My stepfather decided one day that the farm would be a much more productive business if Little Doublewide on the Prairie had 30 old sows for neighbors. These old pigs would live in the gleaming, corrugated-tin sheathed pole barn that he had spent weeks building just for such a purpose.

The sows arrived in the late afternoon. It was getting cold and we hurried to offload all the pigs, give inoculations and medication, feed and water them, and get them into pens of their own. That's when the truck driver said that the other truck would be coming in about an hour or so.

"What truck?" I asked.
"You know, the one with all the piglets." The horrible, fuzz-faced delivery man said.
"Hundreds of them."
"How do you which piglets go to which sow?"
"As soon they're off the truck," he said setting another cigarette on fire, "I don't care."

Those piglets turned out to be little squealers that fit perfectly into your hands. So I took one of them out of the truck and showed it to the first sow. She snarled at it and tried to bite the whelping little white Hampshire in my hand. Like humans, pigs come in every size and shape and color. Simple pattern matching would not reunite the piglets with their mothers. Something else was required.

My step dad eventually decided that piglets would be just smart enough to find their own mothers, so he took wire cutters and cut little pet doors in each of the sow's pens. The he released the entire lot of piglets at once. There was squealing. There was oinking. There were even piglets bucking like broncos at the rodeo. It took about fifteen minutes, but all the piglets found their own mothers. It took a little longer for those piglets who tried to trade UP and get a better mother, but in the end peace and harmony reigned as each piglet found his or her own teat and settled in for a meal.

There was an unintended consequence of having those perky pet doors in the sow's pens. The exercise yard my stepfather built for the pigs had food, water and even a couple of things for them to play with in case they were bored with the placid agrarian routine of eat, poop, and reproduce. Unfortunately, the floor was made of dirt and pigs have snouts honed by years of evolution to dig really well. And dig they did, but The Great Pork Jailbreak is a matter for another post.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Tornado and the Perfect Pig-sicles

I know that the title of this posting sounds like the name of the one and only punk band in Reagan-era Alabama. I couldn't help myself. Today I am traveling east from a town (inappropriately named Liberal) in the farthest corner of southwest Kansas to Columbia, Missouri, today. It's a "working" vacation. You know how that goes ...

One of the towns we passed was Greensburg, Kansas. You may have heard of it in the news. It is the little town on Highway 54 that very nearly got erased by a monster tornado last year. President Bush has been out here to visit a couple of times. The last time I saw this town was before the storm. Back then it was another nondescript farming hamlet on the prairie. Here's what I saw today.

As I took these pictures, I saw other people in their cars with tags from other states busy snapping pictures as they drove through town. I also saw the faces of the people of Greensburg, tired of their town being on display, tired of doing without, tired of just being tired. It was the same look I'd seen on faces in Oklahoma after the terrible May 3rd tornado. There's just no way to really grasp such utter devastation. Then I saw this tree.

Almost all the trees in town are like this - sheared off where their canopy once was. This Spring those that could, and that was most of them, leafed out and got on with the business of living. There is a lot of growth and renewal in this town that my pictures don't show. This town is going to survive. It's a testament to the people and I wish them all the best in their continued efforts.

A lot further down the road, around dinner time, we had to pull into this place.

I am pretty sure that LC's is flatly the best BBQ place in all of Kansas City.

LC's Bar-B-Q
5800 Blue Parkway
Kansas City, MO 64129
Phone: (816) 123-4484

The place is really, really small. Expect a crowd. Expect awhile to get your order in. The portions are HUGE! Underneath all this food is a table - and that is all. It really does cover the whole table.

We got a slab of ribs and a mixed plate of pork and beef. The meats have a beautiful black glaze from the smoking process. The ribs come out looking like pork popsicles (pig-sicles). You can really taste all the effort and care that goes into each of these big meaty handfuls. It comes from the hardwood that is stacked in the back of the place until it's time for a little smokehouse magic. LC's makes its own sauce that is slathered onto the meats, which include beef, pork, turkey, chicken, ham and some more. That sauce is spicy, a little hot and a perfect mate for the earthy richness of the food.

If you ever visit Kansas City, you really need to visit LC's. It's just off the interstate and easy to find.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Three New Trees

I have three new trees in the yard. All of them are mighty oaks. Two were planted by me. One was planted by the squirrel that lives in my neighbor's attic. Can you guess which is which?

Oak "A"

Oak "B"

Oak "C"

Indiana, Good Gawd Ya'all!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Feathered Reviewers on Amazon dot COM

George Orwell noted, "To see what is in front of one's nose requires a constant struggle.'' Shows ya what he knew. Those steaming chunks of poo on the footpath are the AFTER-math of the latest brouhaha between traditionally good, hard working, law abiding and respectful American Ducks and a rather typically Canadian ... Goose. I can only imagine that the PRE-math was like a great many reviews of books at Amazon.COM.

. . .

To: Duck, American

Subject: You are a [expletive]

I'm writing this review of your book slowly (very sloooowly) because I know you can't read so well. Your book is a pompously overcast, steaming piece of [expletive]. It has too many characters & no plot whatsoever. The audience for such a work is limited to people with the IQ of a toothbrush and the attention span of a cocker spaniel being shown a card trick. Worse yet, printing the book on yellow, white and blue paper was duplicitous, arrogant and wasteful. Your attempt at humor in the artwork only proves that you were weaned on a [expletive] pickle you sour-faced [expletive]. Please don't sleep on your side, because your tiny little brain will roll out your ear, you imperialist [expletive].

. . .

To: Goose, Canada

Subject: Please return my phonebook


Thursday, May 01, 2008

Another tornado

Was working late today when the roof on the office building began rumbling. At first it was just a few thumps, then more, more and way more ... until the hailstones pounding the ceiling sounded like a full-tilt boogie drum solo.

At the first break in the torrent of rain and hail, I ran out to the parking lot to leave. The place awas littered with almost golf ball sized hail stones.

This weird cloud was rotating as it passed overhead.

You can't see it very well in this cellphone camera image, but there were a couple of twisty clouds inside that dusty wedge. One of them turned downward and became a tornado about five minutes and three miles or so east and north of this.

Maybe this is Nature's way of saying, enough is enough. Come home and work on the blog instead.