Sunday, April 14, 2013

Clouds


The older I get, the more I notice things like clouds. They're beautiful. This was part of one of the storms that passed through the Red Ants Pants Music Festival in July of 2012. The weather made it tough on many of the performers, but you have to expect that for outdoor shows.

 
Here's a shot of the clouds at the 2011 show, just before Lyle Lovett and his Large Band took the stage. It turned out to be a beautiful evening and was one of the best concerts I've seen. We're planning a return trip to the show again this year, as they've got Merle Haggard, Todd Snider, Robert Earl Keen Jr., The Heartless Bastards and a bunch of others. The Teka Brock Band is playing the Thursday night street dance in White Sulphur Springs, and it promises to be a great weekend, no matter what the weather decides to do.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Sissies.

The Yellowstone Park ride has been officially postponed. Forecasts called for up to four inches of snow and winds of 20-30 miles an hour from the southwest -- the direction we were planning on traveling Saturday. Sunday's high was supposed to get up to a balmy 23 degrees F. Auto traffic isn't supposed to open in the park until April 26, but long-term forecasts don't look like much fun.

So maybe we'll try something different this year. Sure, it's nice to have a very limited number of cars to deal with, but the only road open is the one between Mammoth and West Yellowstone. If we plan a trip after all the roads are open, we could do a loop instead of retracing our path. Car traffic is there, but it's pretty light in the early spring.

A trip from West Yellowstone through Madison and Canyon Junctions, with an overnight at a cabin at Lake Village, followed by a trip through Grant Village and Old Faithful, then back to West, might be a pretty cool outing.

It looks like the Lake Village accommodations open in mid-May, and hopefully the weather will be better by then. But certainly no guarantees with the weather there. It might even be a good idea to bring the fly rods to try our hands on some of the water we'll be riding by.

Looking at the map gives plenty of ideas for different itineraries. A trip from Red Lodge over the Beartooth Pass and into Cooke City, then through the north end of the park and up to Gardiner would bring us very close to Chico Hot Springs, the perfect place to end any bike ride. All I need, I suppose, is the time.

The kids can all ride bikes now, but certainly a ride through the park is too much at this point for them. A shorter trip on a very wide road with very light traffic might be fun for the whole crew. Any ideas?

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Time is running


Here's a picture I took of my youngest daughter's hand in mine when she was a baby. She recently turned 5 and will be in kindergarten this fall. My oldest will become a teenager this summer, and is getting dangerously close to looking me in the eye. My twins are only 9 (yeah, both of 'em) and both are already smarter than me.

It hasn't been that long ago that I figured I'd be an old bachelor. Now I'm telling my kids to avoid all the dumb things I did, and I find myself having uncomfortable talks about things like sex and drugs. I'm forced to listen to music that makes me want to jam ball-point pens in my ears, and I'd wager that I have at least 600 single, unmatched socks of various size and color in various boxes and baskets around the house.

In my single years, a friend with kids asked when I was going to start a family. "I can't even keep my houseplants alive," was my response. What did he have to say about that?

"You do what you have to do."

He didn't tell me it was going to go by this quick.

By the way, is it just me, or does it look like that picture has some kind of evil eye peeping out between my fore and middle fingers?

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Cover Me

I've been known to sing karaoke a few times. It's fun, and a little easier if you've partaken in a bit of liquid courage. A buddy's wedding reception back in the day had a karaoke DJ for musical entertainment, and I thought it worked out well. Some are better than others on the stage, but it's fun either way.

Performers at the professional level, however, don't get as much slack, which brings me to the subject of remakes. My theory is this: If you're going to cover a song and try to sell it to the public, don't just do a karaoke version of someone else's song. Case in point? How about Keith Urban having his way with Steve Forbert's "Romeo's Tune" from the 70s? If you're going to remake a song, then remake it! Do something different. Earn your damn money.

The Indigo Girls have done two great remakes that come immediately to mind, Bob Dylan's "Tangled up in Blue" and Dire Straits' "Romeo and Juliet." I like remakes that trade genres like Dwight Yoakam's cover of The Clash's "Train in Vain." The Gourds put a brilliant bluegrass spin on Snoop Doggy Dog's "Gin and Juice," while Johnny Cash made Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt" his own.

Not that I'm fishing for comments, but what are your favorite covers? I always appreciate a new musical lead...

Friday, April 5, 2013

Customer service

I bought a bicycle air pump last fall at Wal-Mart. The thing broke the first time I used it, so I returned it for another. The pump sat in my garage all winter and the first time I used it the other day, it broke again. So, I brought it back to Wally, but when I was truthful in telling them I got it last fall, they told me there was nothing they could do, as I only had 90 days. I left the pump at the "service" desk, as it had zero value for me.

In contrast, a Kindle we bought at Staples for my oldest child for Christmas recently came up lame, showing just gibberish on the screen. I figured we were out of luck, but took a shot at calling Amazon on the outside chance they might do something. Turns out, we never registered the Kindle, and it had never been wirelessly connected, so I gave up almost all hope of resolution. However, the customer service guy from Amazon was incredibly nice, and worked with me for a good 30 minutes to find the serial number. He then registered the device and set me up for free shipment of a new replacement. That was Sunday, and the new device was here Wednesday. He also offered a reduced price refurb to replace an older Kindle that was also broken. The service alone was enough to make me pull the trigger and buy another reader.

I prefer to shop locally (and no, I don't think shopping at Wally qualifies as local), but it's hard to beat customer service like that. I'm probably a little more sensitive than most about how I'm treated when I enter a business, and maybe I hold too much of a grudge when I feel wronged. There are places in town I won't patronize, whether it's because I got bad service or because I'm not a fan of the owner. There are other great places, like Richard and Rochelle's, that have gone out of business due to a lack of local business. I spent money there, but not as often as I could/should have. Bad Beaver Bikes is a place I enjoy going, and I always try to buy at least a little something every time I go in... like maybe a decent pump next time? The folks who own the North Star Ice Cream Parlor are about as nice as they come, and I bring the kids there when they get a good report card. Some of my other local favorites include the Copper City Casino (food), the Chef's Garden, Park and Main CafĂ©, Gamers and the Hanging 5.

I might start my own local restaurant review, but I want it to be dish specific so I will be, as they say, comparing apples to apples. For instance, I might try the chicken fried steak or the ham and cheese omelet over the course of a couple of months at all the local diners and then come back with recommendations for the perusal of both people who have visited my blog - assuming they're local. We'll see how that goes.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Jellystone ride

Last year around this time I took a bike ride through Yellowstone Park with a couple friends and had a wonderful time. In fact, the only bad part was realizing that I hadn't already been doing the same thing for years.

The park opens to auto traffic on April 26 this year, and, if I'm not mistaken, opens to bicycles April 6, weather permitting. Road crews have been hard at work clearing snow and ice from the highways through the park, and if the conditions are OK, two-wheelers will be there in earnest.

Neither I nor my two friends knew what to expect last year, and we may have over prepared a bit - especially Brett, an avid outdoorsman. It turned out, however, that there actually is a bit of four-wheeled traffic with park employees getting the place ready for the season. Also, there are hundreds of other folks on bikes, so you're never too far from help, if needed.

Even with all the other bikes, the traffic is absolutely nothing like the masses of cars present in summer months. You can go for miles and see many more buffalo than people. At one point last year, we saw a herd of dozens of bison approaching on the road ahead. We veered off the road in plenty of time to let the mass of bovine pass, and ate lunch as we watched the parade. That show came less than an hour after we passed a grizzly bear that was digging for grubs. The bear was less than 60 yards or so away, and we had our bear spray unholstered and ready for action. Still, he was too busy searching for a smaller lunch than us, and never really even gave us the time of day, so to speak.

Brett and I will make the trip again this spring, and though George won't be there (he moved to Oregon), we expect a few more bikers to join us on the 100-mile trip. We'll start out at Mammoth on April 13 and ride around 50 miles to West Yellowstone, where we'll find a hotel to spend the evening in the nearly deserted town. Then we'll make the return trip on Sunday morning, hopefully giving ourselves time for a quick pit stop at Chico Hot Springs on the way home.

This time around my wife and youngest daughter will meet us in West Yellowstone, and there may be a few others coming to meet our group. So far, we're looking at about six riders, though more are welcome. There's plenty of room on the road, even with the wildlife.

video

Monday, April 1, 2013

Road rage

The other day I was driving down Harrison Avenue, the busiest street in town, when I stopped at a light. In my new-to-me minivan, I'm conscious of how much gas the thing drinks, and tend to go easy on the accelerator. The guy behind me didn't seem to approve of my pace, and blazed around me so he could squeeze into the space between my van and the truck just ahead of me in the other lane. This is Harrison Avenue, and there was plenty more traffic ahead, so Mr. Speedy Pants had to immediately brake once in front of me. It was a stupid move that saved him probably less than a second in his trip.

Well, I was unhappy. While I shouldn't give a rat's ass about nitwits like Mr. Speedy Pants, I found myself steaming, and I stayed right on his tail. I glared at his rear-view mirror at the next red light, and stayed close behind.

It was then that I noticed the red and blue flashing lights in my own rear-view mirror, and my heart sunk. I was sure I was being pulled over for tail-gating, and I reluctantly signaled to move into the right lane so I could pull over. Once there, however, the police cruiser eased past me and pulled over Mr. Speedy Pants.

I'm lucky that the fist pump I displayed didn't end in an accident, but my day had just been made. Sometimes there really is justice in the world.