Sunday, September 30, 2007

Joe Btfsplk Strikes Again!

It’s been a while so I guess I’m due. I was really pumped for our first Circle the Wagons event. I decided to take all Friday off instead of a half day. I reasoned that if I left early I could beat Guitar and Too Tall-Two Timing to the campsite and maybe get in some “communing with nature” before they got there.

Got up at my usual 6am, had a leisurely breakfast and then set out to gas up and get a few supplies from the grocery store. I tried to get gas first but the morning workaday slobs had all the pumps tied up. I’m not going to let that bother me and I figured I’d just get the groceries first. I didn’t have much to get so was to the cashier pretty soon. For some reason they couldn’t find the price for the store brand coffee and since it was still early it took some time to get the price….I’m starting to feel that “uh oh” sensation.

“Don’t let it bother you“, I say, think about the great weekend coming up. OK, back for gas. I do all the preliminaries at the pump, put my credit card in and the pump won’t take the card….”See the cashier” the screen says. “The heck with this”, says I, “There’s plenty of other gas stations.” I drive to the next one on the way to get the trailer, start to pull in and realize I can’t get to the pumps because a bunch of big trucks have the road blocked. *&%$#! I’m really starting to get that Joe Btfsplk feeling now. I finally get gas and make it to the trailer lot. As I get out of the car to start hooking Bivouac up, I realize that I have forgotten the keys to the trailer…can’t hook up without keys!

Back to the house, get the keys, get the trailer and pull it to the house to load. “Joe, you better get gone”, I say. “I intend to have a great time today and I’m not letting you get your hooks into me.”

Finally, things seem to be settling down and I get the trailer loaded without incident. I decide to take a shower before I leave and have some lunch. That’s a good way to change the mood and it seems to work.

It’s not too far to Golden Gate State Park and it is a nice day so I’m enjoying the trip. Guitar made the campsite reservations and emailed me the spots. This is a real popular time at this state park because it’s close to the Denver Metro area and the leaves are close to peak color. We couldn’t get 3 campsites next to each other but because of the circumstances we were happy just to be able to get in.

Being the nice guy that I am, and knowing that this is Too Tall-Two Timing’s first trip with his new trailer, I decide to cruise the sites first and leave the biggest, easiest backing one for him. As I cruise the campground I find that two of the three sites already have an RV in them! The third has a reserved sign…but the name is not the right one!

A trip to the office confirms that Joe Btfsplk has somehow snuck along with me. No reservations in the name of Guitar. If Guitar cannot come up with a reservation number or proof of payment we are homeless! In Guitar’s defense this is the first time had as used Reserve America online to reserve a campsite. Those readers who camp will know how…how…how screwed up Reserve America is.

To make a long story a little shorter, we were homeless. The very helpful and sympathetic man working at the office suggested a commercial campsite a few miles away from the state park. It was now almost 3pm so there really wasn’t any choice. We had to find three campsites and fast.

I drove to the campsite and it sure didn’t hold a candle to the state park campsite but I got 3 sites and unhooked Bivouac. Cell phone reception was really bad but I managed to get thru to Guitar to let him know what the plans were. He advised that they were on the way…..kind of. Seems there is some type of snag and as of 5 pm they hadn’t left yet.

Stay tuned for more.

Thanks for visiting.

Monday, September 24, 2007

But(t) Really Now!

Here's a novel spin on the old "Slip & Fall" scam that falls into the "Stupid is as stupid does" category. This might even qualify for the Darwin Awards!

BOULDER - A man who is suing Home Depot after he became stuck to a store toilet in 2003 has been hospitalized.

In 2003, 59-year-old Bob Dougherty found himself in a sticky situation after becoming stuck to a toilet seat in a Louisville store. Dougherty claims someone smeared glue on the seat.

When the story surfaced in 2005 Dougherty also said he felt a "tremendous panic" when he realized he was stuck. The lawsuit claims it took 15 minutes for store officials to call for an ambulance and that paramedics had to unbolt the toilet seat and wheel out a "frightened and humiliated" Dougherty who soon passed out.

His trial is set to begin in March of 2008 and he claims he developed post traumatic stress disorder after the incident and subsequently developed diabetes as a result of the PTSD.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Circle the Wagons!

After my rather depressing post of Wednesday, I have something a little more uplifting to look forward to this week.

I mentioned in a previous post that Guitar has recently gotten a one ton dually truck and an awesome Arctic Fox truck camper. Well, Too Tall-Two Timing was kinda feeling left out so he recently purchased a 26' travel trailer. Now that all of us in the circle had RV's what would be more appropriate than to have a Circle the Wagons camp out? The event is to be made even more festive because it is K's mumbleth birthday.

Right now our plan is to leave the Denver area sometime Friday, drive a short distance to Golden Gate State Park and set up camp for the weekend. This state park has year round camping with both water and electricity so Guitar and Too Tall-Two Timing won't have to rough it too bad on this first outing....This will be the very first time camping in the new trailer for Too Tall-Two Timing and only the second time for Guitar.

With just a little bit of luck on the weather this could be a perfect weekend. The temperature is really starting to get "fall-ish" and the Aspens should be in fine autumn form. I promise that I will take lots of pictures for a post when we get back.

We had to wedge this trip into an otherwise busy schedule. I had volunteered some months ago to help out at the Tesoro Foundation's annual Spanish Market on Saturday morning. I joined this organization about six months ago because of my interest in Western history. If I enjoy myself at this event...and I fully intend to, I,ll probably volunteer on a regular basis in the future. Maybe I'll even find an outlandish bolo tie at the market! Waugh! So, I'll take Bivouac the trailer to the park on Friday and Saturday morning, I'll drive back to the site of the market.

While I'm doing this The Bride will be taking an online test for a college course she would like to get credit for. The Bride has been attending night courses for about fifteen years now, working towards an accounting degree. She hopes to finish next year. She will need that degree to support me in the style to which I've been accustomed, once I retire!....Anyhow, she will join us at the campground on Saturday afternoon.

So....stay tuned for the full report on The Circle's, Circle The Wagons adventure!

Thanks for visiting.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Goodbye George

I have made it a practice not to include anything on this blog regarding my business or politics. I will make this one exception however, just to say goodbye to my friend George.

George and I have worked for the same company for over 30 years. He for 32 years and I for 35…so far. Last week they told George his position was gone and his last day would be next week. Fortunately for George, his specialty is in demand in industry and he says he will have no problem getting another job.

I’ll miss George because he and I have worked together for so long and have also become close friends. I’ll miss George because I’m beginning to feel like “the last man standing”.

About five years ago we had a change in leadership in my company. The leadership decided that they wanted to radically change the way the company approaches this particular business and the way to do that was to intentionally bring in people without a background in the business. They wanted to be able to “think outside the box”. If you had a lot of experience in the business you were perceived as “part of the problem”.

My business is a part of the construction industry….a very conservative part of the construction industry. Many of the techniques, designs and products in this industry are the same as they were 100 years ago. The contractors of this industry by and large do not like or want change…they want to do things the way they know how to do them. They want to deal with people that they have a “relationship” with. They have said that in order to “think outside the box”, you have to know where the box is to begin with. In most ways they are correct.

Needless to say, the last five years have been difficult. I am one of the few survivors and I’m at the point that I wish I weren’t. I continue to do what I do because I don’t want to decrease my retirement benefits. I am not in a position to start a new career and my specialty is such that I could not find similar employment locally. The penalty I will pay for retiring before 62, however, is beginning to look small compared to the “quality of life” I now have.

Sometimes I see the whole situation philosophically. I think that I’m just an old guy. Whether they are right or wrong….it’s their turn to run the business for better or worse. Let them figure it out themselves. Aren’t I just like some of the old guys that were here when I started work at this company?

There is no neat finish to this post. There is not a clean cut answer. I work day to day, counting the days just like the counter in the margin on the left of this page. As I type this the counter says 681 days, 10 hours, 3 minutes, 36 seconds. When that time elapses the countdown stops….then again maybe it will stop before then.

Thanks for visiting.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

"In-Laws Out-West" The Story

"Big Don" and "S." arrived at the Denver airport from North Carolina on Saturday 8th of September. They have been visiting us in Colorado once or twice a year for about ten years now. It's quite a change from their everyday life in North Carolina and we try to make the visit special for them.

First of all let me set the record straight right now....I get along with my in-laws very well indeed. Part of the reason may be that they are only 12 years older than I am. They could be older brother and sister rather than in-laws. Whatever the reason we have been graced with a very easy going relationship and I enjoy their visits as much as The Bride. This visit, however, was unlike any other. There is the possibility that this visit may be their last to Colorado.

Big Don is now 72 years old. In his youth he was a major league baseball pitcher with over 16 years in the league. He even sports a World Series ring. That was forty years ago however, and age has taken a nasty turn for him. Big Don is slipping away into the ravages of Alzheimer's disease. The good news is that he is well enough at this point to make the trip and hopefully enjoy some of it.

S. and Big Don have been married for over 50 years and the burden now falls to S. to care for her mate. It's a big job and no doubt is a terrific strain mentally so we hoped this trip could be a "relief" for her as well. With that in mind we planned for two nights in a little cabin in the mountains between Twin Lakes and Aspen.

Wednesday morning we headed up to the mountains by way of I-70 and over Fremont Pass to Leadville. Leadville is a great historic mining town that is struggling to survive long after mining ceased to pump money into the town. Several years ago we stayed here with Big Don and S. in a bed and breakfast and they have fond memories of that trip. First stop was a fudge shop. Big Don has always had a sweet tooth for fudge and nowadays it's a real big pleasure for him. We were to make sure that he had plenty of fudge on this trip.

Lunch was at the local brewpub, billed as "the highest brewpub in the U.S.". Because Leadvi
lle is at 10,430 feet altitude there was a definite chill in the air. Chili, burgers and a brew were just the thing for an afternoon like this. A little more shopping and we were headed south for the tiny town of Twin Lakes.

We were hoping that we would be able to see some autumn colors on this trip but we also realized that we were a little early in the season. Much to our pleasant surprise we found that the leaves were showing some color in the Twin Lakes area.

We were at the cabin by 3:30, unpacked and sitting on the deck viewing the splendor of the mountains, the autumn colors and some local wildlife. The chipmunks and the Stellar Jays entertained us w
hile eating the bird seed we brought along. A bonus for staying at this place at this time of the year is to listen to the eerie almost mournful sound of the elk bugling potential mates. I'm sure they don't think it's eerie or mournful but take a listen and decide for yourself.

In the ten years that Big Don and S. have been visiting us, we have never taken them to Aspen. Our cabin was perfectly situated to take a day trip over Independence Pass and let them see the sights. Independence Pass is one of the more spectacular, paved passes in Colorado. It's only open from June or July to early October. It's narrow, (two places are only 1 1/2 lanes wide so if you meet someone going the opposite direction...someone has to back up) twisty, steep with scary drop-offs and no guard rails. It's also fairly heavily traveled because it's the shortest route between Leadville/Buena Vista and Aspen.

I'm pretty sure they enjoyed the ride...while they had their eyes open, but I think I'm going to have to buy some more door handles for my car. It looks like they were squeezed to a fraction of their original thickness by a hydraulic press!

We saw all that was expected of Aspen. Beautiful people, fancy cars, expensive...e
verything. We had a quiet lunch on a restaurant patio and headed back to the cabin in the early afternoon.

Back at the cabin we sat, talked over snacks and libations and just tried to enjoy the place and the togetherness that might be forever changed. Dinner from the grill is always good in a place like this and so it was this night too.

Friday morning it was time to head back to the Denver Area, but not before we stopped in Fairplay for a special treat for Big Don.

About 7-8 years ago I took Big Don into the Colorado Mountain Hat Company. Readers will remember that I have a hat from there as does The Bride, Guitar and Too Tall-Two Timing.
Well, Big Don has bought several hats from Smitty and Cherie and developed a friendship with them over those years. Our plan on this day was to stop and visit for a while.

Smitty and Cherie were gracious enough to block out some time for our visit and not only did we have lunch together but Smitty made Big Don a present of a new custom fedora. One of the side effects of the medication that Big Don takes is that he is constantly cold. This fedora was just the ticket to help him keep at least his head warm!

The visiting time passed too quickly and before you knew, it was time to head the last bit home. Today (Saturday) The Bride has taken her parents to Georgetown for a little more sightseeing and shopping. I opted to stay at home to do some chores and to give them some time alone.

Tomorrow Big Don and S. leave for the trip back to North Carolina. We hope there will be another trip in the future.....only time will tell.

Thanks for visiting.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

In-Laws Out-West

I haven't had much of a chance to post anything this past week owing to the fact that the in-laws arrived on Saturday for a weeks stay. We are headed to the mountains in about an hour for two nights at the Mt. Elbert Lodge/Cabins in Twin Lakes, CO. Hopefully we'll see some fall colors.

This weekend I promise I'll have some tales about the "In-Laws, Out-West".

Thanks for visiting.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

"his-self" Plays Hooky

As reported two posts ago, The Circle spent one night together in Breckenridge over the long weekend. We all were hoping that we could do more but that wasn't to be. The men of The Circle in particular have planned for a couple of years to do a 4 wheel drive trip up Mosquito Pass which is about 30 miles south of Breckenridge. The timing last weekend was just not right.

All of us guys were really disappointed because we have been trying to do this for a couple of years and the season for driving it is very short. Because of the altitude and normal Colorado snow, the road is passable only between late July and late September. If we didn't do it soon this year, it would be next summer before we got the chance again!

Monday we all split up and went our separate ways but we were all thinking "Mosquito Pass". Tuesday, Guitar emailed me that maybe we could go back and do the pass later in the week. This was a short week anyway due to the holiday and I felt like I had to accomplish some things at work. It was even more difficult for me to rationalize a mid-week "break", as I will be on vacation all next week.

Wednesday afternoon Guitar called me and said he and Too Tall - Two Timing were gonna do it! "You gotta come." he said............OK, I admit it. I have no self control when it comes to matters like this............."I'm in." I said.

This morning (Thursday) I met Guitar at his house at 7 am and we heade
d to Fairplay, CO in his Jeep to meet up with Too Tall-Two Timing and K. After a hearty breakfast at The Brown Burro restaurant we headed for Mosquito Gulch.

An advancing cold front was ma
king things look a bit dicey. K. said that it had rained pretty hard all night in Breckenridge, just up the road. The cloud cover looked ominous. It was one of those situations that might blow over and leave a gorgeous day.....or might get nasty and dump a bunch of snow. We decided to press on an re-evaluate once we got higher up.

As it turned out, it blew over and left a gorgeous day. Luck was with us so far.

Guitar and I had to go back to the Denver area
today, so we agreed that we would go to the summit but then come back down the way we went up instead of continuing through to Leadville. The first part of the road is pretty easy for even regular vehicles to do if they go slow. After three or four miles we came to the London Mine Mill. This was the processing plant for the ore from the London mine that was further up the mountain.

London mine was first located in 1874 and was worked at least up into the 1930's and maybe even longer. The remnants of both the mill and the mine ore house are just fantastic relics of days gone by. Even though the climate is very harsh at this altitude, the dryness preserves these buildings far longer that would be in a humid climate. Wandering around these old buildings really seems to connect me with a bygone era.

A little further up the road we stopped at the ore house and just marveled at the view. The scale of the mountains was so enormous that it makes you dizzy just trying to keep everything in perspective. I know I use a lot of superlatives when I talk about mountain scenery but I can't help it. The Colorado Rockies are just the most beautiful place I have ever experienced.

From the mine itself the road gets pretty narrow, steep and bumpy but it's not anything a reasonably equipped 4 wheel drive vehicle can't do. Guitar and Too Tall-Two Timing are excellent drivers
so I had nothing to worry about.

Oh, did I say that I was RIDING not driving. I mentioned in one of my posts about Moab, UT that I don't drive these kind of trails....I have friends that like to drive them. It's not that I can't or don't have the skill. I just like looking more than I like driving and you have to pay a LOT of attention when you're driving. Besides I have a lot of other money sucking hobbies and diversions that don't allow me to acquire the vehicles that are necessary to do this type of driving.

Back to the story. Once beyond the mine, the road requires a little more attention. We were now well above timberline and in about 30 more minute
s came to the summit...13,185 feet above sea level. What a view! What wind! That front that just moved through packed some pretty hefty winds on the back side. I would estimate that the wind was blowing easily at 40-45 mph as we stood on the exposed ridge at the summit. Some more rubber necking and picture taking and we headed down the way we came up.

We stopped again at the ore house and ate a simple lunch that with the surroundings tasted like a gourmet meal. We were back at the mouth of Mosquito Gulch at about 3 pm and home by 5 pm.

I guess I should feel guilty about playing hooky today...but I don't. Matter of fact, if Guitar calls again tonight, I'm ready for another adventure tomorrow.....This work thing is way over-rated!!

Thanks for visiting.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Lakeside Classics

Readers know that I’m an avid history reader and my personal preference is towards American Western and Southwestern history. I’m always on the lookout for a good read in this area.

About six or seven years ago I was surfing online looking for something different to read about Colorado history. I came upon a book entitled “Uncle Dick Wooten” published by the R. R. Donnelley Company. The write-up indicated it was part of the Lakeside Classic series. I bought it.

When it arrived the first thing I noticed was it’s size. The description online indicated that is was “octavo” size. When I opened the package I was delighted to find a hardcover book that was about 4” x 7”. I was traveling extensively at the time and the smaller size was great for taking on airplanes. Even better, it was normal print size in a smaller book. Both my luggage and my eyes were happy. It was all around just a real “handsome” book. Professionally done with gilt edges on the top side of the pages.

The content was just what I was looking for. A first person historical narrative. One person that had a place in history, telling me, the reader, his story directly. Man o man, I enjoyed that book and immediately wondered if I could find any more like it?

After a little research I discovered that I had stumbled onto the mother lode of American historical narratives. R. R. Donnelley Company has been producing the Lakeside Classic series for 105 years now. Only one book is released each year and it is given away to customers, friends and employees of the company at Christmas time. You can’t just go to a book store and buy these things new.

Between the years 1903 and 1910 most of the books were reprints of memorable speeches by famous Americans. Starting in 1911 the books were all first person historical narratives by pioneers, frontiersmen, explorers, cowboys, WW I Aces, and much more. Most of the titles were either long out of print or in some cases previously unpublished manuscripts so the content wasn’t something you were likely to bump into in your favorite book store.

It only took that very first book to hook me forever on the Lakeside Classics. I now own thirty of the 104 books of the series. I’ll buy two or three at a time when I can find them, and normally buy two of the newer editions and one of the older editions to try and keep the price reasonable. The newer editions sell used for $10 - $20 each. The very first ones can be very expensive. The oldest volume I have is the 1929 volume “Kendall’s Texan Santa Fe Expedition” which I think cost about $45. Currently I’m reading the 1941 volume, “Army Life in Dakota, Selections from the Journal of Philippe Regis Denis de Keredern de Trobriand”.

It would be nice to have the complete set one day but it’s not necessary. Each book is a collection of it’s own. The collection of historical memories by the person that experienced the events. That is “way cool”.

Thanks for visiting.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Labor Day Circle

The last hurrah for the summer and like millions of other folks we had plans and ambitions. When I say we, I mean The Circle. A gracious invitation from K and Too Tall, Two Timing led us all to the ski resort town of Breckenridge, CO for one night in a very nice 3 bedroom condo. All of us really wanted to do more than one night but we just couldn't arrange it. Not to worry though because after several years of practice we, The Circle, can pack a lot of fun and laughs into just about any allotted time.

The plan was to leave the Denver area on Sunday morning, check out the happenings in Breckenridge, have dinner and fun and return on Monday. The return part was only for The Bride, myself, Guitar and Pic-E. K and Too Tall, Two Timing were going to spend a whole week there.

The Bride and I decided to make our way to Breckenridge by way of a very picturesque old road through Boreas Pass. This route follows the old gold miners trail that became a wagon road, that became a railroad bed, that finally became an automobile road. The scenery is spectacular and the road is easily passable by most cars. The Bride and I wanted to see if there was any hint of color change yet in the aspens at altitude.

It was a gorgeous day, the scenery was spectacular but there was no definite hint of yellow in the aspen leaves. It looks like it will be about two more weeks. The picture to the left was taken just past the summit of the pass looking down into the
valley. If you look close you can see Breckenridge in the center of the valley and some of the ski slopes on the left side of the picture.

As we were descending, I stopped to take some pictures and ran into these cowgirls who wanted me to take their picture. Being the gentleman that I am I was more than happy to oblige them....after all it's part of the cowboy code! They were obviously having a good time and after the picture rode off into the mountains.

We arrived in Breckenridge just about noon and met up with the rest of the circle for lunch and planning the afternoon events. Check in time for the condo was not till 4 pm so we decided to check out the annual art show in town then pick up supplies at the grocery store and go to the condo.

The art show was a pretty big affair for a town as small as Breckenridge. Plenty of booths and a lot of interesting stuff. Pic-E found a wonderful sculpture that included a small dachshund that reminded her of her pooch. We couldn't quite talk Guitar into getting it for her...he just didn't think $22,000 was reasonable and doubted is ability to negotiate it down to $22? If you look at the picture to the right you can see Too Tall, Two Timing...and you will see exactly how he came to be known as "Too Tall".

After the art show and a supply run we headed for the condo and proceeded to just have a heck of a good time. Conversation and libations were followed by a ste
ak dinner that just hit the spot. Guitar stepped up and took over duties as steak chef and we have decided that he can keep the job...permanently. Following dinner there was more conversation...and libations....and entertainment provided by Too Tall, Two Timing. He wanted to dispel the myth that tall people can't dance and proceeded to wow us with his personal rendition of the Hat Dance, the Blues Brothers Shuffle and several others! You can see clearly that we were in total awe of this Arthur Murray side of him..

Monday morning came all to quickly and The Circle had to disband and make our way back to our separate lives. We did however, start making plans for several other Circle events so stay tuned.

Thanks for visiting.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Recent Read

We Pointed Them North, Recollections of a Cowpuncher- Edward C. “Teddy Blue” Abbott is another book in the Lakeside Classics series distributed in 1991. The original book was published in 1939 and is a delightful reminisce of a Texas cowboy who participated in numerous trail drives in the 1870s and 1880s.

If you want to read about the life of a real Texas cowboy and be thoroughly entertained while learning, this is the book for you. Born shortly before the Civil War, Teddy was working family cattle in Nebraska by the time he was fourteen. While still a teenager he ran away from home to join the great cattle drives from Texas to different points north. For over twenty years he was a part of one of the greatest of all American cultural groups.

A cowboys life was hard and when they got the chance they played…hard. Teddy Blue recounts the everyday chores and privations of the cattle drives. He also describes the hell raising fun, drinking and women in a way that no one before him had. One of his greatest stories is exactly how Edward E. Abbott acquired the moniker “Teddy Blue”.

For a plain ‘ole cowboy, Teddy Blue rubbed shoulders and bent elbows with some of the American West’s most famous characters. One of his best friends was Charlie Russell who would become a famous artist and sculptor. He shared many a drink and good times with Calamity Jane.

This is a first person historical narrative of the best sort. Reading the book you feel like Teddy Blue is right beside you, telling you a story. And what a story!


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