Category Archives: Travel

I am not amused.


Our weather is significantly different from what you see here. On the whole I prefer the weather pictured. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate the wet, rainy cold weather we’re having right now. That’s to say I completely despise it.

Oh.  And this.

Does not suck.


Just me and the cats

Dunkel not pictured because he was unconscious across the room.

Dunkel not pictured because he was unconscious across the room.

It’s not that we had any elaborate plans this weekend, but they got changed anyway.  Carla’s dad had to go into the hospital yesterday. I don’t want to say it’s not serious because it’s something that landed him in the hospital, but it’s something that’s manageable and he’s probably getting out tomorrow. Carla drove over there this morning and, with any luck, will be home Monday. Then we’ll head back over there early Friday morning as we’d been planning to do for quite a while. Never a dull moment.

So it’s me and the cats this weekend. Porter and Dunkel are used to being with just me, but it’s not something Mia has much experience with I’m alone with them during the day a lot, but she sleeps most of the day. Tonight is a new thing for her. Either we’re both supposed to be gone at night or we’re both supposed to be here.

Long about 5 or 6 PM she’s gotten into the habit of coming out and begging Carla to be fed. The boys eat dry food that we just leave out all the time, but we’ve had to feed her wet because she had a lot of dental issues.  Those were dealt with Tuesday, but the habit is there now. One that will take a while to break. I wondered what would happen if Carla wasn’t here to see the “Oh, woe is me, I’m being starved” act.  Answer: she’s perfectly happy to put on the show for me. You’d never know she’s maintained a strict 3-foot exclusion zone around herself for the last month. We were the best buds.  I joke about it, but it makes me happy.  We don’t know the whole story of what went on in her previous home, but something made her very afraid of men. Bit by bit she’s getting over it and that makes me very happy.

One thing that’s been a challenge is we’ve had to give her oral antibiotics since her dental work on Tuesday.  If’s been. Interesting. We hit on a solution.  We keep tubes of this malt-based hairball prevention paste around.  Porter and Dunkel love it, which is good because Dunkel sheds enough to build another cat every three days. But it’s Porter who gets the hairballs — from grooming Dunkel. Turns out Mia likes the stuff too AND we can mix in the antibiotic. We know she gets the whole dose because she licks the plate clean. She’ll forgive Carla for shoving a syringe in her mouth.  Me?  Not so much.

Porter and Dunkel will wake us up in the morning, but they actually require environmental cues. Don’t set an alarm or let the lights come up on a timer and they’ll stay sacked out.  Not Mia. She’s literally in Carla’s face first thing in the morning. After getting the begging routine this evening, I’m not bothering to set an alarm for the morning.  Miss Mia will handle my wake up call. The joke’s on her, though.  Malt and antibiotic before food.

So tomorrow will be a quiet day with me and the cats and probably the Big Green Egg. As I said, we didn’t have any solid plans, but these weren’t it. Could be worse. Definitely not complaining.

Ales & Astros: The last day


We’re home. There’s really little else to say.

It’s been a great trip. It’s going to take a bit of time to process. It was a week ago today that the conference in Williamsburg, VA wrapped up and we spent a rainy afternoon and evening driving the Colonial Parkway from Jamestown to Yorktown. Didn’t know about the serial killer at the time. Probably for the best. My first overnight train trip was still a day away. It’s amazing how much we packed into just four days in Florida.

Some things that are going to stick with me:

  • Mountains.  I miss them. The drive across West Virginia and western Virginia made that pretty clear. Even today we got off I-75 for a bit to cut down on the amount of traffic we had to sit through to get past the rock slide in Tennessee. We used an old state highway that winds up the mountain paralleling a railroad track and crisis-crossing a stream on a series of one-lane bridges that look like they date back to the WPA or CCC. It all seemed so right somehow.
  • Williamsburg. I’ll admit it, I was seduced by the place. I’d love to go back and spend more time there. One place I’d definitely want to spend time? The Virginia Beer Company. And Alewerks. And definitely the DoG Street Pub.
  • I’ve never been a big fan of vinegar-based barbecue sauces, but there is a Virginia version that I actually want to try out for myself. I had it on a pulled chicken sandwich for lunch last Saturday and I haven’t been able to quit thinking about how good it would be on pulled pork. The weather is supposed to be nice tomorrow….
  • Words cannot describe how miserable I was about 2AM on Tuesday as I tried to sleep in that tiny roomette on the Auto Train. More than once I muttered to myself that I was in hell.  So understand when I say I’d take another train trip in a heartbeat that I’m saying this with my eyes wide open. In a roomette? Not on your life. I’d rather just try to sleep in a coach seat. I think if we’d been in one of the larger sleeping compartments you would have had a hard time getting us off that train. Nothing that was unpleasant about our experience was anything Amtrak could control. I’m a fan.
  • The staff of Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee, FL. It wasn’t supposed to be the case, but we saw the last two Astros Spring Training games that will ever be played in Kissimmee.  There was supposed to be a game yesterday that we couldn’t go to that was supposed to be the last one, but it got rained out. It was already a bittersweet ending to a 32-year run there, and I so wish they could have ended it with tha bang they deserved.  I love minor league ballparks because they’re usually so friendly. That’s what it was like at Osceloa. The only way you would have known the Astros were getting ready to leave is because there was a PA announcement asking folks to share pictures of their experiences at the park. Every single employee was a complete pro. You’d have thought nothing out of the ordinary was going on. It’s a great place to watch a game. I truly hope they find another tenant to go in there. They know how to do it right.
  • I’m ready for the season to get started. I’m excited about the Astros. I’m bracing myself for the wailing and gnashing of teeth from Reds fans this year. We lost 111 games in 2013.  107 the year before that. Reds fans have trouble being positive when they’re winning. This isn’t going to be pretty.  I hope the weather is good Opening Day. It may be the highlight of the year.

But mainly we’re home now. Porter, Dunkel, and Mia have each given us our scolding for leaving them and let both of us know we’re tentatively forgiven. Carla has a long day at work tomorrow. I can’t avoid leaving the house for a couple of reasons, but I don’t plan to be gone long.

I’m home.  I want to enjoy that for a while.

Ales & Astros: Day 9

Another haiku.
I still don’t like Atlanta.
The cats tomorrow!

Ales & Astros: Day 7

It’s not that today wasn’t a full day. It was. It’s just that a major portion of it was spent with family and they didn’t sign up to be a volunteer in the storytelling exercise I do  here. I do feel obligated to post two pictures of the kid, though, because they are among the cutest ever. I’d say “the cutest ever” but then I’d have to hear about it from the parent of every other cute kid I know.  And I seem to know an inordinate number of cute kids.  How cool is that?

This is Rosie. She's named after Rosie the Riveter. She's awesome. Her grandmother Peggy -- Carla's cousin -- is holding her.

This is Rosie. She’s named after Rosie the Riveter. She’s awesome. Her grandmother Peggy — Carla’s cousin — is holding her.

This is Rosie's younger brother RJ.  He's either contemplating the ethical dilemmas presented by competing belief systems in a multicultural society or figuring out how far he can shove those sunglasses up his nose before his mom objects. Because they're her sunglasses.

This is Rosie’s younger brother RJ. He’s either contemplating the ethical dilemmas presented by competing belief systems in a multicultural society or figuring out how far he can shove those sunglasses up his nose before his mom objects. Because they’re her sunglasses.

So anyway we had lunch at a pretentious burger place with Carla’s cousin Peggy and her husband Mike, Peggy’s daughter Katie and her husband Rob and Rosie and RJ. It was a lot of fun. Amazing onion rings. I don’t see how GMOs in the buns or letting the cows eat corn would have hurt anything. But that’s me.

The second half of the day was spent over at a place near Lakeland, FL called Brew Hub. It’s kind of a big deal in craft brewing circles nowadays because they’re helping brewers who are ready to jump to the next level a way to do it without investing heavily in new capital equipment. This is going to be an article on Hoperatives at some point, so I don’t want to say too much now. Sufficed to say the tap room was awesome.

The taproom at Brew Hub

The taproom at Brew Hub. Panoramas are always risky when people move around. All employees are three-dimensional and corporeal.

Good day. Short post.  The Astros were on the road and we didn’t want to drive that far when we have a long drive coming this weekend. We’re supposed to see them against the Braves over at Disney’s Wide World of Sports, but the weather is looking iffy.  I’d love to see them again, so I hope it works out.

Ales & Astros: Day 6

Today is more of a day of relaxing than anything else. Monday and Tuesday are kind of a blur. A pleasant blur, to be sure, but a blur nonetheless. I’m still annoyed at WordPress for eating most of my post from last night so I’m going to fill in some of the blanks from yesterday. Going to the game yesterday was a lot of fun. Then again, so was having this view for breakfast this morning.


Does. Not. Suck.

I got in the pool, which is the first time I’ve been in a pool in I don’t know how long. It was glorious. I was able to stretch leg muscles that haven’t been stretched in quite some time. I’ve been getting a lot of walking (for me) in, and I can tell it’ll get easier the more I stretch. I talked about “the streak” I’ve got going last week and I’ve not had any trouble hitting the mark so far. I even upped it a bit on Monday. Today? I’ll make sure I hit it, but the closer to a mere one calorie over the mark I can get the better. I’m not exactly a go-go-go guy. Today I’ll be content to do the minimum required.

Yesterday was a lot of fun. I feel kind of weird saying that given how awful the news was from Belgium. I saw the news on my phone pretty early on since I wasn’t able to sleep much on the train. It was jarring to see the news footage in the Sanford Amtrak station on one set of monitors while other monitors were showing videos about Amtrak Security and their use of bomb-sniffing dogs. It was just coincidence. The day before at the Lorton, VA station they’d been playing the same video. And at one point we saw an officer come through that station with a gorgeous black Lab. It wasn’t a search or anything. They were just passing through. So this is the way I see it. Chances are my day yesterday was better than yours. And no matter how bad yours sucked, it wasn’t as bad as your average Belgian. Count your blessings.


Local regulations require selfies be taken at all Spring Training games.

It’s just 11 days until the Astros open the season, so the starters are getting in a lot of work. It’s impossible not to be excited about this team. Altuve was on fire yesterday. Correa hit a monster line-drive home run that hit about 20 feet above the wall above the 410 sign in right-center in the batter’s eye. It have easily been a 450-foot shot had it not hit the netting. Both guys competing for the first base job played well. Mike Fiers got banged around in the fifth inning. I don’t know if he was trying something different that didn’t work, or whether he just didn’t have his stuff today. But hey! It’s March!  Go ahead and get it out of your system now!  In the end there was a five-run comeback and Good triumphed over Evil 8-7.

Jose Altuve takes a strike

Jose Altuve takes a strike in yesterday’s game.

One reason we were able to relax today is because the Astros played the Phillies today in an evening game. Before the game started I got to see super-fan Greis Pérez, known widely for her observation that following the 2013 Astros was better than buying heroin.


The highlight of the night was Carla’s, though. She got to get her picture taken with Orbit.


I feel very much the same about Carla. Ok. Orbit, too.

Oh yeah. We won. 2-1.  Good game.

Ales & Astros: Day 5


Baseball has been very, very good to me. I worked for the Astros from 1979 to 1983. That experience made me who I am in ways I still don’t fully understand. I had experiences no teenager should ever be lucky enough to experience. I had experiences I never should have had that early. They are the only team I’ve ever followed regularly. I’ve always wanted to see Spring Training. I got to do that today.  And it was wonderful.

We didn’t get much sleep last night. I’m too big and not flexible enough for an Amtrak Roomette. As my Twitter tag line says, “too much being and not enough nothingness.” It’s not their fault. We’d read that the Auto Train is considered one of the plum Amtrak assignments, so the staff is supposed to be good. That was certainly our experience. Everyone I encountered was accommodating and cheerful. I don’t think a Roomette will ever work for us.  I can’t see it working for anyone over 6-feet tall.  Carla and I are both taller. A regular Superliner Bedroom would probably work. While I had a pretty miserable night last night, I’ve got nothing bad to say about Amtrak.  I’d recommend doing it. I’d do it again with a larger sleeping area. Lesson learned. There was far more good than bad.

We rolled into Sanford about a half-hour early and was in the car seeking out caffeine within the hour. We’re staying at a Residence Inn that’s pretty new. We chose it because it allows us to get to Osceola County Stadium without getting on the evil Route 192. we were able to get checked in super early and had time to take a shower and a nap before heading over to the Stadium.

It was great to get out and watch a ballgame. Carla is as big a fan as I am. She grew up rooting for the Cubs, so needless to say we’re both looking forward to this season in ways we haven’t for the past five or six.


[I had this really great post written.  Then WordPress ate it. An hour and half gone. Revision Control?  We’ll let you see what you wrote.  But we won’t let you have it back!

I can’t write it again.  I’m exhausted.

Fuck you WordPress. I hate you. I really, really hate you.]


Ales & Astros: Day 4


Today has been about Amtrak. We left Williamsburg around 10AM. The weather cleared, of course, so we got to see how nice it is when the sun’s out only when we arrived and when we left. So it goes.

The AutoTrain is cool  the station is right off I-95 on Lorton VA.  It takes just over two hours to make the trip.  We lucked out on traffic.  I could see it being awful.


You pull up and they give your car a number. You grab your stuff and head inside


They inspect it on video so there are no questions or disputes later. Smart.


Then while you’re heading in your car gets sorted for loading  I’m pretty sure our car wound up in Hufflepuff.

Then you hang out in the station. It’s pretty new. It filled up, but never felt crazy or frantic. It got loud, but there were a lot of people. I get the feeling the train is pretty full.  They added the third meal seating they don’t always do.

They started letting us board at 2:30 PM. We have a Roomette  this is me when it’s in daytime setup. It will be … cozy. Not anticipating any problems



Our car is 3 from the tail end of train  which means I appreciate just how long this damned thing is.  We left roughly a half-hour before our scheduled  4PM departure.


Dinner was fabulous.  Carla had lasagna and I had a Spanish-style chicken and andouille sausage stew over  polenta. As we were finishing up we crossed the James River.  It’s a little before 7 PM as I write this and the scenery outside the Club Car is great.


We’re west of I-95 about even with Norfolk, VA. During the night we’ll have one stop at Florence, SC for a crew change. Then it’s on through the night to Sanford, FL.

I’m going to stop now because I have some relaxing to do.

This is awesome. Do it if you ever have the chance.