Wednesday, June 10, 2015


For about four years now, I've had knocking around in the back of my head a list of Stupid Tourist Tricks: How to Avoid Being THAT Jerk.  When you divide your time between home and Washington, D.C., you have ample opportunity to observe some of the dumbest and rudest behavior around.  These are the behaviors that have everyone nearby trying to figure out how they can make shoving the offenders under the nearest bus without getting caught.  I've personally fantasized about grabbing the SFF (self-focused tourist) and strapping headphones on them, plugged into a iPod playing Justin Bieber on a full-volume loop.  That list keeps growing and I've even mentally composed in my mind some of what it would include.  But tonight I've learned, and now know with certainty, that it's not just a tourist thing.  It's a thing.  And I'm looking at you: 20-something & 30-something people with small children.  All kids are cute.  Yours aren't cuter than others and the sooner you teach them they're not the center of the universe, the easier life will be for them.

The precipitating event?  A small, local concert.  The village administrators planned a weekly summer series of free music on the plaza.  They lined up some high quality musicians.  They set up about 4 rows of chairs for the mostly elderly crowd who really look forward to this easily accessed entertainment.  There's a fair bit of preparation that goes into planning a one hour window in the week to bring music and enjoyment to the residents of the village.  So, you'd think for just that one hour, the parents who gather at the village plaza with their children on a weeknight would think for just that one hour about other people.  There's plenty of room on the far side of the plaza for the children to run and play, but these parents stood smiling proudly as their children raced up and down the aisle and in front of the concertgoers shouting and screaming at full volume.  The parents themselves gathered in small groups chattering rapidly, voices raised to hear each other above the music.  This isn't a rock concert.  It's a variety of music...and it's just one hour.  One hour out of the week.  It is impossible for these parents to be parents for just that one hour and teach their children that the elderly people and the not-as-elderly people who came to the plaza to listen to music might deserve just one shred of courtesy.   It really, truly does not occur to these people that their children are rude and their cuteness has slipped over the edge.

Next week, the village leadership has planned a children's concert.  I can envision those chairs in front being filled by the proudest, beamingest moms & dads, voraciously photographing and video recording their darling child's every nuanced reaction to the music.  The concert is for kids.  For just one hour.  Don't be surprised if you hear of a bunch of gray-haired folks getting arrested for disturbing the peace when they crash around the audience with their walkers and shout at each other to be heard in "animated" conversation.  Because you know the complaints about the old people ruining their kids' concert would come rapidly and fiercely from the most godawful, self-focused parents in the world.

And I'll get to the rest of the list later.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


Really, Sunset Magazine?  Really?  We want to go green as your subscription link suggests:   But when I arrived at your link to purchase a subscription, here are the options.  On the front page, I can load up my payment info and choose to order a 1 year subscription for $16 or a two-year plan for $24.  The two-year deal is obviously a better deal and still affordable.  But, on this page, I can't enter information for a gift, which is my intent.  In the upper right corner, Sunset offers a link to purchase a gift.  Ah!  I click.  I have only ONE option.  Sure, it's a steal of a deal... two gift subscriptions for $16.  Problem is, I can't think of anyone else to get the subscription for.  I just want a 2 year for one person but that's not an option.  I get it.  You want more subscribers, but I'm really thinking green, which means I don't want to send a magazine to someone who doesn't really want it.  More choices and more flexibility on that page and you've got yourselves a deal.

While this is a mild irritant, it seems to be one of many.  A lot of companies are running under the direction of the numbers crunchers to the point it's not at all about what the customer wants, but what sells more and makes it more convenient to the seller.  Yeah, I know.  First World problems.  I think I'll go sample some whine.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Bullet Dodged

The whole damn country gasped just a little at the images of Storm Sandy as it crawled up the east coast and swung inland like a giant, angry monster.  The high water, soaring waves and sheets of rain coming at us from cameras along the eastern seaboard had those of us here in the inland mid-Atlantic region glued to our televisions and laptops all day yesterday as long as we were lucky enough to retain power.  It turns out more of us than expected DID not lose power.

In our own little corner of our own building in its corner of Friendship Heights in Chevy Chase, MD all we had to worry about was this:
This is what we called Lake Minnick.  Our patio sits on top of the garage roof of our high rise and the tilt of the roof is such that, in a heavy rain, we get a bit of standing water on the patio.  We kept running to the glass door yesterday to check its level.  Today it has subsided substantially.  No big deal.
But just as a measure of the good fortune of the tenants in our building, there's this:
This is the west end of our building.  That green thing in the street is a tree that crashed down, snagging a few power lines and dragging a power pole with it.  AND WE DID NOT LOSE POWER.  No spoiled food, no loss of heat and no fumbling in the dark.  This is especially good fortune considering there are a lot of very elderly people in our building.
The poor guy who parked across the street didn't fare well, however.  At least it's not a total loss.  
The street is still cordoned off.  My assumption is that areas around Montgomery County had even more blowdown and more important power fixes to be made.  We are patient because we can see that it could have been so much worse.  We took a long walk through the Somerset neighborhood, which is one of those lovely areas full of beautiful trees.  Hardly a limb on the ground there.  That's the edge-of- your seat report from Friendship Heights.   

UPDATE:  At around 6:30 pm we walked east on Willard Avenue to have dinner and discovered we had not fully explored the damage.  Another tree lay across the street about 100 years east of our building.  By the time we finished dinner and walked home,  a tree removal service had fully removed the tree and a PepCo truck was in place ready for repairs.  The regional power companies have been listening to their customers.  

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Calm Before The Storm

How often we've read the "calm before the storm" reference as a metaphor describing so much of modern living in the USA.  Today, we're living the reality.  Well, reality is we'd be going about our business as we would any Sunday, running errands, tidying up the home, social events, museums or laundry.  But the digital age allows us the luxury of viewing swirling red graphics and wide swaths of storm overlay showing us right in the path of a storm.  Hurricane Sandy is lumbering up the Atlantic Coast right now.  The atmospheric scientists predict Sandy will hook a slight left and team up with some other weather systems and, like a gang of marauding thugs, go on a spree of vandalism touching major east coast cities and causing some degree of hassle to 50 to 60 million people.

The question is, to what degree?  The authorities are telling us to brace for the worst and hope for the best.  Because no one is sure what will happen as this storm gathers steam, lets off steam and pushes its way around the northeastern US, we are held in some kind of erie thrall to its force.

It is almost 2 pm.  The air is almost eerily calm.  The clouds are darkening the sky.  The forecasted rain hasn't arrived yet.  Occasional mild gusts rustle the leaves remaining on the trees.  It might be the almost-hourly (and obsessive) checking of the swirling red graphics on weather websites ginning up the imagination or it might be a truly instinctive feeling, but those occasional light gusts of wind feel just a touch ominous.

In a Rockville area Starbucks, a woman to my left reads the Washington Post.  To my right, two women lean toward each other sharing gossip and workplace war stories.  In front of me, a twenty-something man tutors a friend in math and jokingly promises marriage to the cute barista at the counter.  A glance out the window and I note the trees picking up movement.   It all seems so normal.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

In Which The New Year Demands Finishing the Description of the Journey, if a bit late....

It is the new year.  Topics for blogging (about America--various tourist sites, travel and other odd assortments of our amusing culture) are stacking up, so I will attempt to finish the highlights of our excellent adventure interspersed with other topics such as television, film, music, food.

Speaking of food, I'm making this the year of Chopped.  The Foot Network show inspires me to comb my cupboards, refrigerator and freezer and combine random foods to make meals.  The result is less waste.   Tonight's hit:  brown rice, a can of chopped tomatoes, chicken broth, seasonings, garlic sauteed with olive oil and red pepper flakes...cooked in a rice steamer.  I stirred in frozen roasted corn, peas, chopped ham and chopped jalapeno turkey sausage.  Served with salad, it makes a decent little family dinner.  Cheap, too.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Day Two- Crossing Wyoming, Finding Dixon-the town- and Spectacular Scenery

We made it out of Evanston sometime around 10:00 am after putting a little gas in the car (way little compared to the old bad habits of our SUV.  (Well, we DO live in Idaho and use it for hauling various kinds of outdoor gear.)  After some wandering around, we found the local grocery store to stock up.  Dixon observed that the Idaho State Prison has more windows than Evanston High School.  

And onward we drove.  We spotted a sign referring to a historic site in Green River, so decided to check it out.  Turns out it was in the city park, the original City Hall.  But the park is actually really nice.  I'd recommend it as a picnic stop and a place to let your kids blow off steam.  
Hard to beat the setting of the Green River, Wyoming City Park.  

The greenbelt section running through the park is dotted with lovely swing benches, along the river. 

A whitewater park is supposed to be here, but river flows have pretty much obliterated all of the features.  Pretty hard to run a kayak under this bridge right now.   All the way through Wyoming and NW Colorado, we could see rivers near or just above flood stage.  And there's still a lot of snow at higher elevations. 
 When you drive across southern Wyoming, you quickly realize what a long drive you have ahead.  I commented to Dixon that it must have been daunting to come across that plain in a covered wagon.  He replied, "It's daunting coming across in an air-conditioned car at 70 mph on a paved highway."

Usually, when we travel I  like to test the local food and skip the chain restaurants.  Sometimes the only available choices appear just a little sketchy.  We opted for Subway at Wamsuter, WY instead of the other local option across the street.

In Utah, this might be called an oxymoron.  
The Subway was housed in a truck stop where we could watch the freeway fashion parade.  The woman somewhere in her 50s wearing Daisy Dukes and a lot of tattoos on her leg made me wonder how someone nabs those photos of the Shoppers of Walmart without getting killed.

A bit further east and we dropped south onto Hwy 789 toward Craig, Co, just so we could take a 14 mile detour and find Dixon, Wyoming.  Naturally, you-know-who went a bit crazy taking photos of buildings with his name on them.  But, Dixon is actually a charming little place set in a lovely valley with the Little Snake River running through it.
Population 79. 

One of the few buildings in Dixon, WY not named Dixon.  This is the Episcopal church.  

We wanted to stop in Craig, but we could see the clock moving toward afternoon and time began to be a factor.  The town of Craig is loaded with charm.  Nice shops, quaint buildings and flowers in the downtown area.  The place was crawling with tourists.  It is a gateway for a lot of river recreation but we aren't sure whether anyone is getting out on the rivers, with the flows being so high.  As we drove along the Yampa River, it was over its banks in places.  We wondered what the Green River looks like down in Desolation Canyon.  

From Craig, we drove to Steamboat Springs.  It is a resort town.  It was very, very crowded.  Enough said.  FM Light & Sons had enough yellow hand-lettered signs strung up along the highways approaching Steamboat that we were definitely disinclined to visit their establishment.  Light & sons tacked up so many of their signs on junkyards along the way, we at first thought it was a Sanford & Son gig, but it became clearer they were selling clothing and stuff.  When we left town and their sign demanded that if we hadn't shopped with them, we should turn around and go back to Steamboat, we decided they were more than an annoyance.  A nuisance.
From there...Hot Sulfer Springs.  Dixon said it sounds painful and smelly.
Driving toward Grand Lake, CO and the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. 

The lake.  
We stopped in Grand Lake to have dinner and to decide whether or not to push on.  After a nice meal at the Sagebrush BBQ and Grille, we felt refreshed enough to make the decision to go ahead through the park, even though it was getting late.  We figured we would have enough daylight to see the views at the top even if we had to drive out in the dark.   We knew we the likelihood of finding lodging for the night anywhere close to the park gates at Estess Park would be ridiculous on a holiday weekend.   We forged ahead anyway and found spectacular scenery, quite a lot of snow at the top, close up views of elk herds and a sense of awe.  This is one of the prettier parks we've visited.  Definitely worth it.  And the sunset hour makes the light spectacular and the elk viewing enhanced.

Just as Dixon was ready to take a shot, this guy drove right into  the shot.

So if you're from Oregon and recognize this guy's face, car and license plate number, let him know he's gained some notoriety for being a goof who wanders into the scenic photos of other tourists.  Just sayin' 

We got out of the park fairly late and, by the time we found a hotel, it was extremely late.  So, yes. we're a bit behind on the blogging.  Catching up a bit tomorrow--maybe.  Except that there are things along the way we want to see.  At the same time, we are barely into Kansas tonight.  (More about that after we cover Denver, Eastern CO and well...Western Kansas.
Independence Day is tomorrow.  Yayyyyyyyy!!!!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Launch

This is The Prius.  (We pronounce it with a long i like Jeremy Clarkson and company on Top Gear.)  We love its gas mileage and its sleek aerodynamic profile.  It's fun to drive and that's a good thing because we have to drive it about 2400 miles.

So--no one was up as early as we planned this morning.  Preparations and a late flight that kept us up waiting to collect Walt from the airport cut into sleep time.  Then it was getting Denali to soccer, last-minute errands, figuring out exactly what we are taking  and wondering just how much we can get into a Prius.  (We made a conscious decision not to stack things in the back so much that the back window is blocked.)  It's truly a blessing that Dixon inherited what we call "the Minnick packing gene."
Dixon does a masterful job of fitting a lot into a small space.  
We finally started at 1:25 pm, nearly an hour and a half after my target departure.  Our auspicious beginning was augmented by our somehow catching red at all but 3 or 4 lights between Harrison Boulevard, east on Fort Street and south on Broadway to I-84.  Dixon took the first shift and it all smoothed out.  We reveled in how comfortable the car is for its size and hope we feel that way in 10 more days!
Somewhere around Twin Falls, we get a call from my sister and I learn that my nearly four-year-old great nephew is somewhat of a "ladies man."  He walks up to little girls with this pick-up line:
"Do you know what a figure of speech is?  It's kind of like a euphemism."

We start talking about our route and what we might see.  I suggest that the Wizard of Oz museum in Kansas might be kind of fun.  Dixon says, "Only if you buy me a pair of ruby slippers."  He pauses.  "Or silver slippers as those populists like to claim."
There are other conversations we probably won't repeat verbatim regarding my opinion of the food offered at most mini-marts, what I'd really like to do to the confederate flag, and my remarks to a jet-ski pulling mini-van that just boogered up traffic.

It has rarely been this green on the eve of July 1st in Idaho.  Quite a lot of snow remaining on Mt. Pomerelle.
We rolled into Burley around 3:30 for a late lunch/early dinner.  Not being terribly fussy, we stayed close to the freeway and chose El Caporal.  A really personable waitress helped us.  Dixon had a chicken chimichanga and I had Pollo Asado (char broiled chicken with sauteed onions on top) accompanied by a chile relleno.   Dixon gave his a solid A or A-.... mine got a C+.  The menu looked like it had a good selection, but I just didn't make the right one.  (A lot of local restaurants can be a bit of a gamble when you're on the road, but that's what I consider part of the adventure.)  We did enjoy the plastic Corona-drinking parrot.

Some of the driving we've seen definitely calls for a list of SDTs.  NOT STDs...SDTs: Stupid Driver Tricks.  Truck drivers and the locals seem to know that there's no enforcement of the speed limit.  At least that's our guess.  Not terribly reassuring when we watched the 10PM news on KUTV in which the anchors and reporters told us numerous times in the first three minutes how deadly this independence day weekend is.  A special emphasis was made by a state police official stressing that driving too fast is the main cause of the highway carnage.  Okayyyyyy, then.

The drive from Ogden to Evanston, Wyoming is stunning right now.  The trees, brush and grasses are much greener than usual.   The late afternoon sun and red outcroppings made for some stunning scenery.    Just east of the Utah-Wyoming border we spotted three fireworks store on the west edge of Evanston.  The largest, Phantom Fireworks, offers 2 for 1 on everything in the store.  And they throw in some very exciting extras if you spend $139.  Easy to do.  They were doing a brisk business just before 9 PM.
Since we are headed through Kentucky where playing with such toys is entirely legal, we went shopping.

I love the names they give the various packages.  And the fact that this place is willing to stay open until all hours as cars roll in from out-of-state.  That, and the sales associates who know what each and every firework does.  "Well, this one has a low stage and a high stage explosion."  Do we live in a GREAT country or what??!!!??? 
I have decided that Dixon's wardrobe choice today will just not make for safe passage in certain parts of Missouri and West Virgina.  Probably okay in Boulder tomorrow.

Driving a Prius may even make us suspect in some areas.  

And finally, we heard this on a KUTV newscast:
"A truck burst into flames and caught on fire..."  
Which happened first, bursting into flames or catching fire?