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Friday, June 29, 2012

WUMF: June 2012 Edition

Didn’t I just do one of these? June just sort of flew by, huh? It all started with a vacation to the Outer Banks four wheel drive section and then just barreled on from there. In any case… it’s time for another monthly round up of “What’s Up, My Friends?”

Dagobah Spa
Here’s how much of a lazy ass I am. Last year we waited until the last possible moment to close down the pool… and then we didn’t do it. I even bought a new cover to replace the crappy one I had. It’s still in the box, unopened. Need I remind you, I have four trees; two oaks and two maples in my yard that pretty much cover the view of the sky.

So, is it any wonder why the pool looks like Yoda’s swamp? We just took a gallon of water to Valley Pools and Spa in Greensburg to be checked. After the initial shock of seeing water that color of yellowish green, they informed me that I wouldn’t have to drain it and could salvage the chemical base that is in the water.

Look, I’m all for not spending another $200 on water to drain and refill the pool but I’ve already spent more than that in chemicals to try and fix the situation. So, if this doesn’t work. I am going to drain it and lose the 1/8 of appropriate levels I’ve built up and get this shit fixed. After all, the chlorine levels in our tap water are probably higher than what I already have in the pool. Rest assured, I will close this bitch up properly in September. It’s July for eff’s sake.

Treating Red Robin Like It has Bird Flu
We eat in restaurants a lot. When I say, a lot, I mean my oven is pretty much that place where all the oversized dishes and cookie sheets go. The stove burners are another counter top and the microwave holds various snacks. My dining room table is an office and …. I think you get the idea.

We have a rotation of sorts on where we dine. Wednesday’s is wing night at Zackel’s in Claridge. Thursday night is usually pizza at Johnny’s Wife’s Place II in Harrison City. We then sprinkle in Pasqualino’s and Bob Evans from Irwin, Persichetti’s in Jeannette, Sino Court in Harrison City…. I think you get the idea. On a rare occasion we will go highfalutin’ with Texas Roadhouse or Red Robin. I am a sucker for a bottomless root beer float.

However, a couple of changes at the Greensburg Red Robin has made me rethink about ever going there again. For one, we like to be comfortable when we dine out. Even though there are only four of us, we like to spread out a little bit. I annex elbow room faster than Hitler would have and my daughter likes to confiscate all of the placemats for her artwork. She also gets her hands into everything… so the more space, the better. That being said, there is a round booth in the front corner of the restaurant that is perfect for us. Even the booths in the front are somewhat bigger than others. The only issue is that the bar is within sight. Not an issue for me, mind you. Apparently, it’s an issue for the restaurant.

They once claimed that they couldn’t seat us near there because of our daughter being under 21, but have rarely enforced it. This time, over a year later, they actually did enforce it. Like I said, we eat out a lot, so we’ve been there a few times since then and have sat in that particular booth I wanted. So, if that didn’t piss me off enough, we get through our dinner and go to leave and usually get a balloon for my kid on the way out. However, they informed us that they don’t give out balloons anymore. WTF?!?!?

Game of Thrones
I don’t have HBO but I am already on the second episode of the second season thanks to some coworkers. I was able to watch the first season on Blu-Ray, which was nice. Unfortunately, I do have a bone to pick with whoever put together the set. Having to switch discs when going from one feature to the other was a bit dumb, but still, it’s a very nice set.

I had plans to watch it with my wife which meant I had to plan out viewings; preferably when my kid was asleep and my wife was awake. She wasn’t sold on the show as she’s been reading 50 Shades of Grey…oi. After watching the second episode without her, I informed her that she may not want to keep watching… too many animals get it.

Anyway, I knew going in that Sean Bean was going to die. After all, he dies in 90% of the roles plays. So, I was not surprised that Ned Stark bites it at the end of the first season. Sad, but it has not dropped the level of engagement for season two. I have noticed the following.
  • They don’t like wolves… or horses… or babies…
  • Half of Harry Potter is in this series.
  • This is pretty ‘effing awesome.
  • BEWBS!
  • That kid in Eyrie will either be the coolest kid in his school or need therapy.
  • Peter Dinklage is awesome.
  • Golden crown… WAAAADAFUQ?
  • Drogo is a surfer.

Ok, enough childishness.

Have a good July… see next month.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Travellers Tales 2012: Round Up

Another vacation has come and gone. We got lost in the mountains of West Virginia, we set the grill on fire, we had the police show up, we drove through the ocean, we met Legally Blind Luke, we laughed hard, we ate good, we enjoyed company, and we said our goodbyes. It seemed this year went by faster than the rest. In the end, we all hated to leave, but were glad to be home.

Well, not without one last assassination attempt from Siri, formerly known as Matilda. This time, we decided to just follow our directions in reverse and skip the GPS. However, when we got to Route 17 in Virginia, Siri also told us to get off of 95. We couldn’t believe it. Siri didn’t want us to go towards the beltway in DC?

Since we hadn’t gone this way before, I decided to get gas as soon as we jumped off the interstate. When I returned to driving, Siri told me to head back to 95. This GPS that had just told me to get off 95 and onto 17 was now telling me to go back the way I just came and get back on 95. Well, after thinking I was wrong and doing a turnabout at a light and heading back towards 95, I said, “Shut up, Siri.” I then turned around and we went on our way. That was the last we dealt with Siri on this trip.

In closing, I want to offer up a few tips we learned this year. Nothing huge, but if you are planning to go to the OBX and want to know how to avoid the pitfalls, here’s what I can tell you.

  • Depending on your ice and cooler situation, I highly suggest hitting the Food Lion right after the bridge on 158. It’s less crowded and you’ll save time on getting to your final destination.
  • Make friends with the local police and fire department.
  • If you’re staying in the 4x4 section, pay close attention to the tide chart. Make sure you know when high tide is coming if you decide to take an extended leave from your house.
  • Not all shuffling people at the shoreline are zombies.
  • There is a fine for having stuff like chairs, sand toys, sand structures sitting in the way of traffic on the beach and it’s a $50 fine per item.
  • Only use your GPS if you get lost.
  • Wear loose pants when heading to Captain George’s buffet.
  • Don’t forget sunscreen.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Travellers Tales 2012: Zombie Moon Shine Serenade

After surviving the high tide-near wash out of a drive home, we decided to relax on the deck with some drinks. I managed to empty a bottle of our Apple Pie “hooch” and even created a deadly concoction… well, to my arteries. I mixed the shine with some French Vanilla coffee creamer, effectively making Apple Pie a la Mode. It was very tasty.

As the darkness fell across the beach and the full moon began to rise we saw the waters subside, uncovering the beach road, which allowed traffic to flow once again. Though, they usually caution against travelling on the beach at night. The sunken forest of petrified stumps that dot the landscape could wreak havoc on the axles of your truck, I’m told.

Drink after drink we consumed to calm the nerves of our ordeal with just getting home for the night led to conversation about the latest events we had heard on the news. In Miami, there was a “zombie” incident, in which a man, high on bath salts, disrobed and proceeded to chew the face of another man. What? Yes, this has become a big story, apparently. In our seclusion up among the wild horses and men who live in houses with baby doll heads on posts… still trying to get that picture… we were somewhat shaded from current events, strange or otherwise. Armed with an Internet connection I had found that another incident had occurred. Once again, a man, high on bath salts pretended to act like a zombie after being arrested.

So, we talked into the night about the ramifications of a possible zombie apocalypse. I thought back to reading The Zombie Survival Guide and thought that, in the event, we might be in pretty decent shape up here. Zombies aren’t the best of walkers, so the sand would give us a chance at escape. Not to mention, the isolation of being in this area wouldn’t attract their attention as much as being in the hustle and bustle of the lower, commercial areas. We have Internet and satellite television, so if the word came, we could make a trip down to the stores to get what supplies we needed to make a long term stand. And, we had a pool, which makes for waiting out the apocalypse a little more enjoyable.

Although, I could imagine the following scenario:



The more we drank, the funnier the conversation became. Soon, we noticed something down at the water line. It looked like a person but they were just wandering back and forth along the water. They didn’t seem to sure footed as the shuffled up the beach a few feet, then back down a few more feet. In our drunken state, we started to get a little loud and bolder with our comments. Cracking jokes at the expense of a silhouette in the distance.

“Maybe he’s drunk.”

“Maybe he’s lost.”

“Maybe he’s a zombie!”

Soon, we started rolling with the idea and eventually, one of our more adventurous, and inebriated of the group decided to walk down to see which this person was. We watched as he walked down the walkway and onto the beach, disappearing from sight. A few seconds later we caught sight of him in the moonlight walking along the dunes to a set of benches right by the ramp up from the beach. We laughed as he just took it upon himself to sit on the bench and blend into the scenery. Then… it happened.

The shape turned and moved its way up to the bench. Then it disappeared. Then nothing. No sound could be heard except for the surf. The dunes blocked our view of the scene. Minutes went by with no word, no movement, no sounds.

What if it IS a zombie? What if our guy is a midnight snack? Our missing member of the group, now gone from view for more than five minutes elicited a few four letter words from his drunk wife, my sister-in-law. She made it a plan to go after him and kick his ass for being gone so long. I looked at my wife and said, “Should I go?” She nodded and I went with her.

As we walked along the deck and down to the beach, my mind raced with the possibilities. “I have no weapons. If this is a zombie, what am I going to do? What if our guy is now one, too?” As we trudged up the beach to the benches, my sister-in-law began yelling for her husband. He then let out a scream. For a brief moment, I panicked. Then, his flashlight began bouncing around playfully and we knew all was well.

“Hey, this here is Luke. He’s legally blind. He’s just waiting for his sister and his girlfriend to arrive.”

How’s he going to know it’s them? Anyway, turns out, he was standing down at the water, just playing his guitar and wandering around, while waiting for his group to arrive. They were from New York. They were staying a few houses back. They weren’t the ones who called the cops on us. They weren’t zombies. We sat and chatted for a few minutes and I contemplated running up to the house screaming of zombies but I was too tired and had too much to drink to navigate the steps while running. I finally heard my wife calling from back at the house and gave them the all clear with the flashlight.

Eventually, all was well and all of our group was back in the house ready for some shut eye after a wonderful, wild, wet evening. Hopefully, Legally Blind Luke managed to see his sister’s truck and make it back to his house before the zombies made their way up the beach.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Travellers Tales 2012: Where the Rubber Meets the Surf

We got lost. We had most of Currituck County Emergency Services show up for a BBQ. And now, in a further effort to get the Coast Guard to show up on our beach trip, we decided to tempt fate and go out to dinner after Coastal Flooding warnings were issued.

Usually, we choose to go out for dinner one night of the week, while staying in the four wheel drive section. It’s an opportunity to gorge ourselves on the awesomeness that is Captain George’s of Kill Devil Hills. It’s also an opportunity to stock up on any dwindling supplies we have at the house; like beer, or fire extinguishers, or… beer.

However, due to some inclement weather on Monday, namely rain, and cooler temperatures on Tuesday, we decided to go a day early and spend more of the day in the paved areas. Now, I had already looked at the tide chart for Wednesday, our usual travel day. It had high tide at around 9:57 PM. I did not pay attention to Tuesday’s chart.  I guessed it was somewhere around 9:00 PM. Since the weather wasn’t nice enough to get in the water at the beach and the air around the pool was in the 70s, we decided to leave extra early, for a 5:00 seating time.

Driving down the beach during low tide is usually nice. There are plenty of flat surfaces; packed down pretty good. There is lots of room to drive with no fear of having to play chicken with the jacked up late 80s model Ford truck belonging to the guy that lives back in the woods with baby doll heads up on posts. (True story. We have pictures somewhere.) Basically, driving is great, going down the beach.

And after a fulfilling meal of four pairs of crab legs, shrimp, pasta, hush puppies, carrot cake, and flan, you find yourself not wanting to make a concerted effort to get your ass back up the beach. Still, since we left early, it was only 7:45 PM. We still needed to go to the Food Lion in Corolla, which takes forever, so we tried our best hustle/waddle through the store.

Some of our group went on ahead and called to warn us that the tide had showed up a little early. Apparently, Coastal Flooding warnings increase the tide’s reach, even when high tide is still an hour away. That, or high tide is the highest the tide will be and the hour previous to that is just slightly lower and is still a bitch.

So, we headed back up the beach and where we usually turn off the road to enter the beach, we entered water. It was indeed high. Now, it’s not too bad if you are the only one driving on the beach at high tide. However, it seems that a lot of other people had not looked at the tide chart or heeded the warnings and were making a hasty retreat to the paved road. We had to squeeze by a couple of tour groups on the way back.

Then, we met the worst obstacle on the beach, The Laughing Gull. The Laughing Gull mocks you at high tide. Basically, the Laughing Gull is this pre-Clinton Administration house that sits out into the beach about miles up. The supports literally sit in the water at high tide. You cannot drive around them without a jacked up late 80s model Ford truck belonging to the guy that lives back in the woods with baby doll heads up on posts. So, you have to go around on the interior roads.

Now, even though the beach road can be rough during high tide, the back roads are worse after it rained the day before. I think a soccer mom in her SUV got lost in one of the puddles. We kept having to go so long, and then turn around and come back.  Finally, we came back down onto the beach at around the 18 mile mark and went another mile and a half to 19.5 where we knew we had a straight shot right back to our house.

We made it home just before dark and my wife could unclench her pucker.

So, for all you travellers who plan to take on the foul wheel drive section.  Remember, check the tide charts before you head out, a puddle may be deeper than you think, and that guy shuffling back and forth along the water line after dark may or may not be a zombie...

Stay tuned for the answer to that.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Travellers Tales 2012: And Then The Cops Showed Up

I’d like to think that I am a competent griller. That, when presented the task of cooking up some animal I am capable of producing a good product. Granted, I do not grill like most people. I usually put foil down to keep the juices from leaving the surface. That and when visiting rental houses on vacation, I have no idea what has been on that grill, so I’m not too keen on grilling directly on the grill plates. It’s kind of like using a toilet seat cover in a public restroom.

That being said, all good vacation stories should include the phrase, “And then the cops showed up.”

On Sunday, I took turns making dinner and grilled up 15 steaks. We had 13 people at the house, three of which were under the age of seven. Still, we could make those leftovers disappear on Friday, which is “mustgo” night.

So, of course, I put down foil on the grill and cooked up the steaks with ease. There were two gas grills on the upper deck of the house, right off of the kitchen. It was a little odd to have the grills on a deck, let alone on the top floor. Worse yet, the wind whipped against that side of the house, making it hard to keep the grills lit. Halfway through, one of the propane tanks kicked, forcing me to finish up with all of the steaks on one grill.

nom... nom... nom... nom...

There was a spare tank that appeared to be almost empty, but we tried to hook it up and all it did was hiss gas. So, I called the realty company and asked about it. They sent a guy out, Monday afternoon, with a spare tank. He looked like a typical local; older gentleman, long blonde hair with a handle bar mustache. Somewhat of a cross between Nick Nolte and Hulk Hogan. He confirmed that it looked like a bad regulator on the other grill.

Now, on Monday night, my buddy decided to cook up hamburgers and hot dogs. He made his own patties with ground meat they had brought down from home. He made these huge patties with thumbprints in them. They were sort of falling apart. Perhaps they were too thawed or the 80/20 split on the fat percentage was too much leaving them a bit greasy. Still, they were patty shape and he threw them on the grill, sans foil.

He had various issues with grilling. The patties began crumbling and in flipping them, the bottoms of the burger seemed to peel off and leave a slice of meat stuck to, and in between, the grill surfaces. Large chunks of greasy, uncooked meat began falling down into the grill box. In all, the burgers came out OK and tasted pretty good. But when it came time to grill up the hot dogs, I suggested putting foil down, just in case.

After throwing the dogs on the grill we went back in to wash our hands and refresh our beverages. That’s when someone noticed black smoke floating passed the kitchen window. I then started repeating the word, “Grill. Grill! GRILL!”

We walked back out onto the deck and black smoke was oozing out of the grill. I opened it and it all went out like the Smoke Monster on LOST. The dogs were a little black from all the smoke, but more importantly, the greasy meat on the burners had ignited.

I reached down and turned off the burners. Then, I reached down and turned off the gas. Next, against my better judgment, I let my buddy pour water into the box on the various hot spots. Fire was out. Dogs were burnt… on the outside… and then the cops showed up.


Well, that’s not exactly true. They drove past. Then, they drove back towards the beach. Then they drove back up the road and did a three point turn. I wondered what the hell they were doing. I then realized we were the house that was called about. It was about the time I said, “They aren’t coming here are they?” Apparently, our neighbors across the street felt we were going to set the entire house on fire because of a little grill fire. I then went inside and informed everyone that I was going down to talk to the cops. Hide the moonshine… (It wasn’t really shine. It was more like wine. Actually, I’m not sure what it was because it froze in the freezer.) In any case, I didn’t feel like spending a night in a North Carolina holding cell with illegal hooch. I told everyone to be on their best behavior.

I walked outside and met the officer who asked if we were grilling. I said, “yes” and said that the fire was out and all was well. She asked if they could come in and look to be sure. She said they’ve had one too many houses burn down because of this kind of thing. I obliged and her and an older gentleman entered.

She asked if the grills had been moved. I said they were like that when we arrived and that I was unhappy about the location. They checked out the place and all looked good. As we stood on the deck overlooking the driveway, about six more vehicles showed up including an ambulance, another truck with a dog in the cab, and a couple more police cruisers.

I don't know if the dog drove but he came along on the call.

I asked, rhetorically, if all of those vehicles were for this call. The office said that they were and that more were on the way.

“I don’t have that much food to go around.”

She laughed and they went back down. About this time, the entire house was cracking jokes and pointing fingers at me and my buddy. The proverbial icing on the cake came as the last vehicle pulled up to the house. It was a fire truck and who should jump out but PROPANE MAN!

Unreal. The guy that was there two hours ago to drop off a propane tank was now pulling up to our house in a fire truck. I can only imagine what was going on in his mind. “OK. Another fire call. Here we go! Oh, no. Oh, no. Oh, dear God, no! I just… OK, be cool. Maybe nobody will notice.”

They pretended to put handcuffs on him. Somebody noticed. So, I went down to jag him as well. “I swear to God we didn’t do it!” I yelled. His response, “I told you not to use that f**ing grill!”

Putting Propane Man in Cuffs

In all, the fact that we managed to get the majority of Currituck County Emergency Services to show up on our doorstep was enough to make this trip memorable.

I was hoping to have the Coast Guard show up by Friday.

Next up… make sure you check those tidal charts before you go out for dinner.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Travellers Tales 2012: The Adventure Continues

There are probably some of you out there wondering why I keep going back to the Outer Banks every year.  "Oh, how boring." You must think.  And in most cases you could be right.   We aren't a very adventurous bunch.  We pack up the Jeep, drive the same route every year, stay in the four wheel drive section, sit on the beach, eat too much, and then come home.  Well, tough shit.  That's my idea of a relaxing vacation.  However, this year proved to be the exception and I will spend the next few posts giving you the play by play.

First off, the trip down.


Not necessarily.  I decided... well, it was decided for me, that we would try to avoid the DC Beltway at all costs.   Last year, Matilda, our self named GPS in the Commander tried to kill us by telling us to take an immediate right into the Jersey barrier on the Beltway.   So, I took some advice from a coworker who avoids the Beltway by going through Berkley Springs, WV.  It took some doing, but I managed to get Google to calculate my route through Breezewood and around the Beltway.  I had to add Berkley Springs as a destination in order to get it to correctly route around DC.

My father-in-law drove to Breezewood and then I took over for the next leg.  We came down through Berkley Springs and my wife read off the directions.  Since Matilda started yelling at us to get back on 70, we shut her off.   What did she know?  She tried to kill us last year.  Unfortunately, so my wife tried to do it to us, this year.

She made a slight miscalculation that led us on a wild and wonderful tour of the back roads of West Virginia.  While on 522, she misread a turn that said take route 9 and stay on it for 137 miles.  What she didn't realize was that the trip up to that point was  137 miles and that the added destination of Berkley Springs causes the trip to total up mileage to that point.  So, we stayed on 9 headed towards Paw Paw. 

For the next hour we drove around bends, up hills, around deer, and through the dark, listening for banjos.  At one point a sign with the speed limit posted at 55 mph was sitting about ten feet in front of a sign for a sharp turn.  "Are these people nuts?"   After realizing we were headed West and probably not far from Kentucky, we turned Matilda back on and started calling her Siri.  She seemed to agree with that and started leading us out of the wilderness onto route 522.

We used the printed directions sparingly and followed Siri's lead all the way to the Outer Banks.  No tractor trailers on fire causing another hour delay, no broke down cars causing a twenty minute delay.  From then on, it was smooth sailing.

Next up; why all good vacation stories should include the phrase, "And then the cops showed up".

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