Category Archives: Travel

A Day Out With Thomas

What an awesome day!  My Mom got Luke and us all tickets to A Day Out With Thomas for this past weekend.  Luke is huge into trains, and most prominently, Thomas the Tank Engine.  Little Guy could watch the same ones over and over again for hours.  We have fun playing with all his little toy trains and making them talk to each other.  But this event really brought it all to life.

I didn’t really know what to expect.  If anything I figured it would be kinda like a “car show” for trains, with Thomas being the centerpiece.  Well Thomas was the centerpiece, but there was so much more to do that walk around and look at trains.  There were fire trucks there, a petting zoo, inflatables to play on, great food (for kids and grown-ups), toys and entertainment for all the kids.  I was really impressed by it all.  We spent about 5 hours there and Luke never was bored and cried when we had to leave.

 

It couldn’t have been any cooler.  Thomas took a 5 car train for a 25 minute ride which was basically down a stretch of track and back.  But we made it a point to get in line early so we could sit RIGHT BY THOMAS.  We waited in line for probably 45 minutes before our departure time, but it was completely worth it.  Luke was at the front of the train as close as you could possibly get while Thomas was pulling us down the track.  I feel like if it were me, I would have felt a little disappointed if I was way in the back where you couldn’t even see him. We had fun pretending to talk to Thomas and just taking in the ride.

I really enjoyed it too.  Everything was just so neat and perfectly set up for kids Luke’s age.  There were a bunch of tables with toy trains for them to play with, temporary tattoos and lots of little freebies.  He even got a whistle that sounds just like Thomas’s whistle from the show.  I don’t remember anything this cool and authentic when I was a kid aside from maybe, Disney Land.  And it was cool seeing Luke get to soak it all up.

So thanks to Mom for the tickets, and to Andrea’s sister Michelle and her family for letting us crash at their place just a short drive from the event.  It was worth it in so many ways!

 

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Crossing State Lines

I can’t remember the last time I crossed the Kansas border.  It’s been years for sure.  But recently we headed to Denver for a Boston Bruins vs Colorado Avalanche game.  In the last two years Andrea and I have grown an affinity for watching Hockey.  If you look back far enough on this blog I talked about wanting to get into the sport but not sure who to cheer for.  I proclaimed at the beginning of the season that I would choose the team I would follow by whoever one the Stanley Cup that year.  So in the 2010-2011 season, every team competed for the NHL Championship… and me as a fan for life.  I was that close to being a Vancouver fan, but Boston won 4-0 in Game Seven.

We had great seats.  We were up high, but right on center ice.  It was a great view and a great game as Boston won 2-0.  It’s always cool going to any game like that and seeing the same guys you see on TV all the time.

My Entourage

After the game, we headed back to the hotel.  Saturday was a fun day.  We went to the Denver Museum of Science and Nature.  It was a pretty neat place.  There’s a TON of stuff for kids and I really want to bring Luke back in a couple years when he’s old enough to have fun with a lot of the different exhibits.  The museum offered pretty basic information, but it covered a really broad spectrum and had great exhibits that showed how things worked.

I learned quite a bit of stuff I didn’t know in the nature museum.  Like beavers lips close behind its teeth so it can carry sticks without swallowing water.  And that caribou are the only species where females grow antlers.

After the museum we went to a place downtown in Denver called the Cherry Cricket.  The place was jammed.  Definitely not Denver’s best kept secret, there were more people in the place than live in my entire town.  It was a pub type atmosphere but got great reviews for its food.  We decided it was worth waiting 30 minutes for a table… I’ve waited longer for worse food.  And the food here was superb.  I ordered some kind of specialty burger medium rare, and it was outstanding!  Best burger I’ve had in a long long time.  Good beer on tap too.  Worth tolerating the crowd and the wait for sure.

It had a name, but I only remember how it tasted.

That afternoon we took a short drive up into the mountains and just kinda roamed around with no particular place to go, and no idea where we were going.  It was actually snowing on Saturday, so that made for some absolutely breathtaking scenery.  I really wish we could have spent more time in the mountains.  I’m not a big city, big crowd, guy at all.  Get me off the beaten path and let me relax and take in creation.  That’s exhilarating to me.

It was getting dark by the time we made it back to Denver.  We headed back to the hotel to decide where to eat.  We settled on a unique little pizza place of which I can’t begin to remember the actual name.  I just remember I kept calling it “Joe Blow’s”.  A joke which I probably took to its absolute limits.  It was good though.  The Pizza was sold by the POUND and had big thick crusts, but wasn’t greasy.  Joe Blow’s was probably the least populated place of the entire trip.  The waitress was fun and quirky, but it could have used some atmosphere.  It felt like an old Golden Corral.  I remember Andrea watching a lot of soccer on the TV while I enjoyed one of the local brews… Coors Light.

It was a good trip.  I’m really glad we went.  Now it’s time to hunker down for what we are calling, “The Year of Boring” as we save up for a house.  Still a year or so out on that project.

Vegetating and getting caught up.

What a great day.  I slept until 9AM and got out of bed and Luke was already up, goofing around in his crib.  The Saturday morning ritual commenced with pancakes and Care Bears.  I actually had zero obligations today.  Well… I did have to work on a website for somebody, but that only took about 15 minutes.

hexxit

Biebs has been bugging me to play Hexxit, a Minecraft mod pack with heavy emphasis on adventuring.  Today I finally got the opportunity.  At first I pretty much dove right in.  I made a wooden sword and started rolling through some of the light dungeons near the spawn.  I promptly got my butt kicked.  So at that point I decided I needed to establish a stronghold and build up some resources.  There’s a TON to do and a ton you can do in this version of Minecraft.  And I’m excited to dive into it.

I’ve been enjoying Animal Crossing: New Leaf to a great extent.  With only one big gripe… there’s only been the fishing pole, net or shovel for sale at Nookling’s since I started the game.  I really need my slingshot, watering can, and axe.  It bugs me to no end as I’ve seen about six presents floating overhead so far and no way to get them.

This is the first Animal Crossing game since the first that really feels different.  The biggest difference is you get to be the mayor as Tortimer has retired to a tropical island.  It’s cool because you get to decide in what order you want to enhance your town.  It definitely would benefit from multiple players as many of the projects are pretty expensive.  Right now I’m working on getting my house filled out with more room, so that soaks up all my bells.  But there will be plenty of time to get to it all.  Animal Crossing is a long term dedication.

I’d really been craving a game of this type too.  Something you can build on incrementally.  You end up feeling pretty invested in games like this after you’ve been playing off and on for a couple years.  You have your favorite residents, the collections you’re trying to complete and all the different holidays you want to check in on.  We even used Animal Crossing as our official New Year’s Eve countdown!

All of the holiday travels are done.  And they weren’t without some eventfulness.  We got all loaded up to head to Kansas City for Christmas with Andrea’s family, that’s when I noticed a steady stream of antifreeze dripping from underneath the Jeep.  It was coming out quick enough that I knew we weren’t going to try taking it.  I looked it over quickly and couldn’t exactly deduce where the leak was coming from, so Andrea, frustrated, loaded all our gear into the Cutlass instead which made the trip without issue.

Old Water Pump Removed

New pump installed!

When we got back home Thursday, I looked the Jeep over a bit more and it looked like it was leaking from the gasket.  Which meant the pump had to come off, which in turn meant, might as well replace the pump.  Long story short: I have learned never to be shocked by what you find when you buy a used vehicle.  The water pump had a HOLE in it!  Like an actual hole through the pump.  Sometime before we bought the Jeep someone had dabbed some RTV sealer over the hole.  It’s amazing that it lasted over a year.  But now we have a new pump and thermostat and it seems like it’s working great and doesn’t leak a drop.  Even got it put back together in time to head to Cimarron on that Saturday!  Not too bad for the old KartMaster’s Garage.

Bright red amp power cable and fuse.

Also did some work on the Jeep that was more, “scheduled”.  For Christmas I got Andrea a new amp and speaker box.  We already had the speaker which is what made the project affordable.  It was quite a bit of work, but I’m glad I did it right.  Had the front seat out and all the interior trim apart on the passenger side to run the power cable.  Ended up breaking off one of the bolts that holds the seat down because it was siezed up, so that won’t be fun to drill out and fix… but I’ll get it done eventually.  The finished product is the only thing you can really see is the power cable under the hood, and the speaker in the back.  No ugly wires showing anywhere.  Real clean.

So that kinda gets caught back up to today.  Got a little more snow, but just about an inch or so, nothing that will slow anything down.  Maybe enough for Luke and I to go play in tomorrow morning!

Behind the Glass

Andrea and I had some fun Saturday night.  She bought two tickets behind the glass at the Wichita Thunder hockey game.  They’re just a minor league team.  Probably minor minor league but it was still fun.  We’ve both been getting into hockey over the last season or so, and she bought these tickets as a surprise.

We’ve been to a couple Thunder games before, and they’ve always been fun.  But we’ve always talked about how it would be exciting to sit up close right behind the glass.  It’s one of those things that is probably kinda like Nascar.  You get up close to some of the action, but the best view is most likely higher up.  There were times at the far end of the ice, it was difficult to see what was going on.

Offside Faceoff right in front of us!

But it was pretty cool being able to feel the puck smacking the wall right in front of us, and seeing the fights right there.  There was one occasion where I went to go grab another beer, and Andrea said a fight started right in front of her.  She said she was on the big screen with her mouth just hanging open as the two dudes were dukeing it out.

The game started out with Wichita getting its butt kicked.  They were down 0-2 at the end of the 1st.  But came back to tie it up with 0.3 seconds left in the 2nd period.  The game ultimately went to overtime and Wichita lost.  Still a good game though.

Luke stayed with Grandma while we went out, but by the time he’s 3 years old or so, I could see him really enjoying a game like this.  He gets excited when we watch hockey at home, and with the mascot there throwing out prizes into the seats and the “Chuck-A-Puck” contest during the 2nd intermission, he’d probably have a blast there.  There were a lot of other kids there and it was just neat to see all of them yelling and having fun.

I could totally see myself getting season tickets to something like this if it were closer.  We had a lot of fun, and had about the best seats you could get and it wasn’t terribly expensive.  I certainly spent more in beer than we spent on the seats.

Bucket List Checkmark

This weekend was a whirlwind to be sure.  It was Andrea’s birthday, she’s 29!  And we went up to the NASCAR race to celebrate her and Duane’s birthdays together.  It was a lot of fun.

The Birthday Crewe

I’ve seen a lot of NASCAR in my days.  I’m not as huge a fan as I once was.  I was probably most into it back in the early 2000’s.  Bobby Labonte was driving the #18 car back then and was pretty darn good.  I remember one season (after his championship) where he finished in the Top 10 like 26 times.  He was a lot of fun to cheer for.  After that he switched teams a couple times and just never was as competitive.  And since then it seems like all they focus on is the drama.  As far as I’m concerned, you can save the drama for your llama.

Bobby doesn't race, and Pontiac doesn't even exist anymore.  Sheesh I'm old.

Bobby doesn’t race, and Pontiac doesn’t even exist anymore. Sheesh I’m old.

Having never been to an actual race I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  Honestly I anticipated it to be not as good as watching it on TV.  What I found was it was completely different than a TV experience.  You don’t get the benefit of replays.  I mean they have a big screen down by the pits that show stuff, but it’s not like TV.  But you really get a broader picture of the whole race.  I’ve been to lots of little dirt track races over the years.  And maybe it was all the caution flags, but this really felt more similar to that than I expected it to.  Each restart seemed like a new “heat”, but there was an added strategy of pitting and tires, etc.  It was just really cool to watch it all unfold on a broad scale.

We paid attention to Mark Martin for a good part of the race, a person I’m sure they weren’t talking about much on TV.  But we had the little headsets where we could listen in to his radio.  We could listen to the race officials, the cleanup crews.  It was really cool.  Kinda felt like behind the scenes.

But there were times where I just took the headphones off and just soaked up the experience.  I loved the noise.  It has been on my bucket list to hear the “Drivers start your engines!”.  Check.  And just listening to the cars go flying by.  It was totally awesome to be there.

I don’t think I’ve ever been in one place with that many people before.  I’m not sure what the capacity is, but I bet it was over 150,000 people.  Looking at them from our seats high in the air, they all just looked like gnats.  It probably took us 45 minutes just to get in and parked.  But only took us 10 minutes or so to get out.

I’d definitely be up to do it again, which going into it, I figured I’d go to one just to say I’ve been.  But I can definitely see how people get hooked on it.  I’d love to take a camper out to the infield and just hang out, drink beer and party for 5 days on a race weekend.  That may be a little hard to accomplish anytime soon though!

Vacation Almost Over

I took a week off of work.  It’s been really nice.  Breaking the doldrums of the same old same old.  I can say fore sure though, I didn’t get as much relaxing and gaming time as I had hoped.

The family and I all went out to Cimarron to help my Mom move to a new house.  It went about as smooth as a move can possibly go I think.  We started the heavy lifting at 8AM on Saturday, and we were done by noon that day!  We had a bunch of help, so that sure made thing go smoother.

I really like their new place.  It has lots of room both inside and out.  Luke loved running around and there are all sorts of different areas of the house that you can use for different things.  Upstairs is going to be a cool football room.  I had the pleasure of hanging my first flat screen TV on the wall.  It was actually a lot simpler than I thought it would be.  We got their sound system working and they have a pretty awesome setup now.  It will take some tweaking and organizing, but I helped get everything hooked up.  It’s up to Mom and Duane now to make it the way they want it.

We came back on Monday and on the way home, we realized that the leak I thought I fixed in the Jeep… wasn’t fixed at all.  The carpet on the passenger side was soaked from the condensation dripping from the AC into the cabin.  Thank goodness for the internet I found a fix.  Unfortunately it called for cutting a hole in the side of the frame on the Jeep!  Something I don’t really have any tools for.  But $25 worth of Dremel accessories and $5 of plastic tube and clamps later, I think I have it fixed.  I ran out of time to thoroughly test it because Andrea had to go bowling and I needed to watch Luke.  He’s just not to the age yet where you can go, “Stay where I can see you, don’t drink any poison.”  So letting him roam around the garage while I work on cars still isn’t a good idea.

On top of that, Luke and I took a shower and I noticed that the tub wasn’t draining.  This has happened before and usually I just have to plunge it out.  However this attempt of that has proven fruitless.  I even poured some drain clog remover down there, and nothing.  So I called the Landlord.  Something I haven’t had to do very often since we moved here.  Most of the time because it’s easier to just fix stuff myself rather than wait and rely on someone else.  But for this project, I got to the point where I said… “Why am I still screwing with this?  I rent!” so I took advantage of one of the benefits of NOT being a homeowner and called this one in.  A plumber is supposed to be coming over sometime today and I won’t have to worry about the bill!

So I planned on helping Mom move, that was the reason for the timing of the vacation.  But I didn’t plan on having to tear apart the Jeep and mess around with plumbing.  Feels like a lot of the time I’ve spent on “vacation” I’ve been working and fixing things.  Andrea says that’s sure not her idea of a vacation.  But you know, times like this when I can kick back on the couch with the laptop, a cup of coffee and write a blog in the middle of the morning… this is what it’s all about.

If anything this time off has helped me get back to my natural state, which is “laid-back”.  Work gets me so uptight and hi-strung sometimes.  I didn’t used to get all stressed out about stuff.  Just not enough time any more I guess, blah, blah, cue what everyone always says.

I feel like I can go into work now with a bit of a re-freshed perspective.  That is going to help a lot.  I really am going to dedicate myself to dumping the stress from my life.  Get done what I can get done and don’t sweat the rest.  That’s my plan.  We’ll see how long it lasts.

Off the Grid

Well, this weekend was Mom’s 50th Birthday celebration.  Duane, my stepdad, rented a cabin out at Coldwater lake and invited all the family out.  It was a lot of fun!  We enjoyed some frosty beverages, grilled some burgers and hot dogs and generally just did a lot of relaxing.

I made the decision that as soon as I got there I was turning the phone off.  I already warned everyone I’d be out of cell phone range.  And I can’t tell you the last time I was completely out of contact with the outside world.  No phone, no internet, nada.  I wanted to TOTALLY disconnect, and I found the experience to be a joyous one.  I just popped it off as soon as we got there and left the phone in the Jeep.  My mind was so free knowing that that phone wouldn’t, and couldn’t ring.  At first my free thoughts were wondering how things were going back at the station, or if there was severe weather.  But eventually my free thoughts became occupied by other more relaxing things like.  How beautiful the sky was, how cool it would be to build a cabin like the one we were in someday.  It was totally NON-stressful and it was great.

Luke is such a good little guy.  He really does great in pretty much every situation.  I suppose it helps that the weather was beautiful and the bugs weren’t bad at all.  He had a great time playing outside the whole time with shovels, trucks and cars.  His cousins Bryson and Brody were there and Luke was a good little worker helping them excavate the ground around our campfire.

 

We took the Jeep, which made me a bit nervous since we’ve been having issues with the oil pressure dropping down to zero.  But the whole way down and back (about 4 hours round trip) you wouldn’t even know there was a problem.  I still think there is an issue because I’ve heard the lifters ticking when the gauge drops to zero.  Most of the research points to worn out cam bearings, which at that point you might as well get an engine rebuild.  So for now we’re going to keep driving it until it starts getting noisy on a regular basis or it just plain explodes.

The Craziest Vacation Ever

Having fun shouldn’t be this hard.  We had a family reunion to go to in Lowell, Indiana.  Since it’s so close to Chicago, we thought, heck, let’s swing through.

Two days before we get ready to hit the road, the Jeep starts losing oil pressure.  I haven’t fully diagnosed it yet.  But best case scenario, the oil pressure is fine, just the gauge is screwed up.  Worst case… we need a new motor.  Ugh.  So figured it wasn’t a good idea to set out on a 30 hour round trip drive in the thing, so we took Andrea’s mom’s car instead.  Sufficed to say, things were a little cozier in a Carolla than they would have been in the Jeep.

Between late starts, detours for Andrea’s sister to get a rental car, stops to eat, etc, etc… after leaving home Thursday night, we finally arrived in Chicago almost 24 hours later at around 10PM.  Didn’t have time to go up any of the skyscrapers or anything like that.  But we did go to Navy Pier that night for about an hour and a half.  And DID have some fun!

If you look closely you can see the moon next to one of the buildings in the distance. Pretty cool sight in person.

View from the top of the Ferris Wheel on Navy Pier.

I knew Chicago was big, but I didn’t know HOW big. Would be fun to visit, but I would hate living there.

So at about midnight, we left town and headed on to Lowell.  Tolls everywhere.  Geesh, I couldn’t afford to drive there on a daily basis.  Seemed like we were plonking down $4.00 every couple of miles.

The family reunion part was good.  Had a lot of fun, played a lot of games.  Some Cards Against Humanity, and some lawn games when the weather was nicer.

Grandma and Luke are playing with bubbles. Luke was EXCITED!

Andrea sharked everybody tossing beanbags, just like she does with washers.

So we all got up and around Sunday morning.  Then we just kinda hung around for a while, waiting for Andrea’s Aunt to come home, only to find out she wasn’t going to make it home in the first place!  So we left about 3 hours later than planned.  Again, between stopping to eat, pit stop in KC to return the rental car, yadda, yadda, we finally made it home about 4:30AM Monday morning.  And then I’m off to work at 9AM.  Took it upon myself to get an extra hour of sleep.

So I never really want to do a vacation like that again.  Not saying it wasn’t worth it, but it was just way too exhausting.  It took me until about Wednesday to finally get back on track.

So now back to the daily grind.  Off to work today, and hopefully can finish getting my yard mowed tonight… between this trip and work there’s been no daylight to get it done.  C’est’ la vous.

 

 

First Road Trip for the Jeep

We all loaded up in the Jeep and headed to Wichita for the weekend to re-celebrate Andrea’s birthday.  I’m always a little nervous hitting the road with a vehicle I’m not yet familiar with.  But everything went uneventfully as hoped!

It is pretty nice to have all that space for loading stuff up.  We leave for less than 48 hours, but with all the stuff we take for Luke, it feels like we’re going to be gone for a week.  And I found myself wondering how we would ever fit it all in the Cutlass before.

Pit stop

The trip itself was pretty fun.  Went down and ate an awesome meal at Andrea’s sister’s house, then went out for some cosmic bowling in Wichita.  That was fun.  I bowled my new personal best.  A 161!

As always, I enjoy going on these little trips, but I always love getting home too.  It’s getting late.  Time for me to download a new podcast to my phone, put my earbuds in and drift off!

To Grandma’s House We Go

Looking off from Grandpa and Grandma’s House

Well you know in my last post I’ve been talking about how it’s tiring to be off traveling so many weekends in a row.  But at the same time how it’s completely worth it?  This weekend is another great example of that. 

Andrea, Luke and I came up to Sabetha this weekend.  We carpooled with Jamie, Bryan and their family to come to Grandma Pat’s and Grandpa Wayne’s memorial. 

It was a very nice service.  Lots of people there.  I saw some people that I only recognized by name as I’d hear Grandma or Grandpa talking on the phone.  I always rememebr often both Pat & Wayne would pick up the phone at the same time when someone called, so a lot of times, when you called their house, you’d get to have a conversation with both of them at the same time.  Haha. 

There were a lot of nice touches.  I really liked on their memorial stone, how Grandpa had a horse engraved on his side, and Grandma had a little rocking horse on her side.  Grandpa always loved horses, and Grandma has SO many rocking horses that she had collected over the years.  I thought it was very fitting. 

The preacher asked if anyone has stories to share, and man I could think of a ton from when I was groing up, but I didn’t want to speak, because I knew I’d lose it and no one would be able to understand me. I remember how she worked at the rest home and would always save soup can labels that we could turn in for school.  And she always had iced tea, and this sweet 10 sweetner.  It was kinda like Sweet & Low, but it was a liquid that you would drizzle in to the drink.  I used to make the sweetest tea ever at Grandma’s house.  Grandpa also like to drink coffee down at the old “Midway” truck stop.  I remember sitting in the booth out there while the guys chattered.  Lots of great memories. 

We’ve got to spend a lot of time with Grandma & Grandpa Althouse too.  I hadn’t realized how long it’s been since I’d been back here.  The old gas stove is gone that heated the house, and now they have central air!  Some things like that have changed, but walking around, I still see so many different things that I used to play on and around, that haven’t changed all that much. It’s been good to see everyone.  Bittersweet to be sure.  We’re off to church here soon at the old place I used to go to vacation Bible school, then the long road home.