Sunday, August 19, 2007

Saturday in the Car

What a beautiful Saturday it was here in Northern Virginia! A rare low humidity, sunny, cool day for August. Of course, I heard about this day on the radio as I sat in the car navigating Northern Virginia traffic. The I-95 corridor is awful every weekend from early June through Labor Day. A forty minute drive turns into 3 hours. Just when you think traffic has cleared out or you find an alternate route, something happens like a multi-lane closing accident and you're stuck again. This is what happened yesterday.

I passed a place called Aldo's Italian Restarant on US-1 so many times, I think I'm over pasta for a few weeks. I've never eaten there, but if I never see Aldo's again, that's just dandy with me. Throw in a bright yellow "out of fuel" light, cranky kids and poor cell phone service, noisy "new" $400 brakes and the day is complete.

Actually, the day was not a total loss. Looking back at it, it was very nice. The kids got to see their great-grandfather, gran, and assorted cousins; Clay "went fishing" for the first time; Drew got to go on a boat, and we had a couple of good meals and a nice visit with family.

But the best news is that while we were gone, the hornets nest in our "problem" tree has been terminated with extreme prejudice. So compared to the hornets, our day was a picnic.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Bitch on Wheels

You might not know it by looking at me now, but I used to be a pretty good biker (the human powered kind of bike, not a Harley). I used to go out in my ratty shorts and an old concert t-shirt and ride about 12 miles a night after work, almost every night for a couple of years. Even back then, I always noticed that some other two wheelers had a bit of an attitude. They comment if you weren't going fast enough for them, if you were in "their" lane or if your "Team 7-Eleven" hat was not on at the right angle.

There was nothing I liked better than following a bunch of these "Lance Armstrong" wannabees down the trail. I thought it was kind of funny that big old me with my "The Who: World Tour 1982" shirt on my JCPenny 10-speed was keeping up with them and their $2500 titanium alloy racers, wearing their way too tight, way too bright shorts and shirts. But through it all, I was always polite and considerate of other bikers and pedestrians.

So yesterday, we were only our way to the play-offs for the softball league that the Kennedy Center plays in. It's in a very scenic area in D.C. called West Potomac Park. It's right on the river across from the Pentagon and it has about a dozen ball fields all in a row. Parking is always impossible there, so we ride the shuttle that the KC supplies for players and fans (we are season ticket holders). We pack up the diaper bag, chairs, snacks, toys and look more like we're going on a camping trip than a one hour softball game.

As we get ready to cross the 3 lane, not heavily travelled Ohio Avenue to the ball field, we see a young woman on her bike about 8 car lengths away. So we stop and figure, we're in no hurry, let's let her go by so she doesn't have to break her stride. As she passes us, she makes a smart ass comment about us "walking out into traffic". What the hell was up with her?

This isn't the first time something like this has happened here to us, but I notice that these people are really brave when they can keep going past at 15 MPH. Ahhh, the friendly, laid back attitude of D.C.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Tree House

Yesterday at about 5PM, I heard a horrible noise outside like a Ryan Zimmerman broken bat homer. Then I looked out the doors to the deck and all I could see were leaves. We had a 25 foot branch come down about 60 feet from a tree in the back yard. This was strange because there was no wind or storm or anything. It shattered our stairs to our new deck and snapped the handrail like a toothpick. But, I still feel lucky for a few reasons. The kids weren't out there; I don't even want to imagine what would have happened (Boys, no more playing on the deck or backyard until the tree guys come out)! If the branch would have come down 8 inches closer to the house, there would have been 4 times as much damage (of course if it had come down 12 inches the other way, we'd just have a big old divot in our yard).
Clay of course thought this whole thing was pretty cool and proceeded to tell me how his friends Josh and Brandon can climb trees and how he wanted to go out and help me with the tree. I was not in the mood. By the time Nancy came home, I had about half of the branch removed, but it was still a mess out there. It was a crappy afternoon.
When something so bad happens, I usually think "This is a good time to buy a lottery ticket. Surely my luck must be about to change". Alas, no, it was not to be. Let's just hope no more trees come crashing down; at least until I win the lottery.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

It's the BLUE jump rope!

On Monday, I showed up at Clay's Vacation Bible School to pick him up. I got there early and there was Clay running up to me "Dadddy, Daddy!" I hugged him and watched as a bunch of four year olds {Note: they had "4"'s next to their nametags} went by and told him to join his friends who were all holding a purple jump rope and go upstairs with them. He looked at me funny, but I insisted, "Go on, I'll be right up." I noticed that none of the other kids were talking to him and that the group leaders, (a.k.a. 13 year old girls) were kind of ignoring him too. Strange. After we got upstairs in the church, Clay sat down with his "friends"; then came back to sit with me. I told him to go back and sit with his friends until the last part of the days activities were done. So he did; then he sat back 2 rows further all by himself. I was starting to wonder what was going on. Now we've been going to this church for 5 years, but we are not the most well known or "social" of the flock, but EVERYBODY who knows him for more than a few minutes LOVES Clay.
After a few minutes, Clay comes to sit with me again and I let hi. If no one wants to sit with him, well that's their loss! After another minute, another group of 4 year olds come by holding a blue jump rope with their older, more responsible leader who comes up to me and says, "Oh, thank goodness he's here with you! We've been looking all over for him!" Oooops! I guess my early arrival shook things up and Clay grabbed onto the wrong jump rope with the wrong kids.
Maybe I shouldn't arrive too early next time.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Hill High Orchard

One of the reasons that Nancy let's me go to the aforementioned Berryville Hamfest, is that I can stop at Hill High Orchard in Round Hill, VA. I was introduced to this place almost 20 years ago by friends who lived nearby. They'd get a pie from there on Sunday mornings and it was amazing! This is a little general store with a Conestoga wagon in front which bakes these wonderful pies. You usually have your choice of 12 to 15 different pies and there's not a clunker in the bunch. Nancy loves their French Apple, but I don't like raisins. They should know there place! Not in bread! Not in pies! Just in Raisin Bran, where it belongs! Anyway, this gives me a perfect excuse to buy a second pie, but since we only do this once a year (OK, sometimes twice) I don't feel guilty. Also, every year for the last three, we've heard rumors about it closing, but so far the wagon, the duck pond, and the pies are still there. So if you're ever on Route 7 in western Loudoun County, get a pie; or two.


Today I went to the Berryville Hamfest. What's a hamfest? It has nothing to do with pork. It's an amateur "ham" radio flea market. The one in Berryville, VA is one of my favorite to go to and I've gone to it about 12 out of the last 15 years. It's a really pleasant drive, it's a nice place to walk around for a couple of hours, and it's fun. Now, my version of "fun" is looking at old radios, cables, connectors and other bits of technology. But the best part is Hill High Orchard in Round Hill, VA; but that's another story.
Amateur radio is a fun hobby and also provides communications in time of emergency. But there are three types of people who go to hamfests; fat guys with beards (me), old guys with baseball hats, and "others" (kids, women, non-geeks). The number of "others" are getting less and less every year, while the other groups seem to be getting larger and larger. Soon the two groups will merge into "old fat guys with beards and baseball hats". I hope that soon we'll have a bigger group of well adjusted young people who'll feel that listening and talking to people around the world by attaching a wire thrown up into a tree to a box is kind of magical.
I hope that my sons think it's as cool as I do.
--... ...-- -.- ....- -- - ...

Friday, August 3, 2007


Here's a "game" that I completely forgot that Clay used to play when he was about Drew's age. Over the last few days, I have had a hard time finding Drew's pacifiers. This morning I had to resort to the old white one that he's not too fond of. About an hour later, I'm trying to clean up the living room; yes a red letter day, I'm cleaning (more on why later); when I start discovering "hidden" pacifiers all over. In the air grate, in Nancy's knitting bag, under the assorted pillow. So here we go again. Things are going to start disappearing all over the house. And I thought things were looking up when Clay's "Cars" shoes which have been M.I.A. for four months turned up last night.