Blisters, running stitches and the nicest inn keeper in Austria.

So after twenty posts, I see what seems to get peoples attention the most is the Prague/Munich train of doom story. So, in the blatant self interest of driving eyeballs to my blog… I give unto you…

Blisters, running stitches and the nicest inn keeper in Austria.

This was a different trip than the one we did with The Doctor. This time it was a trip mainly to Austria and Germany (go figure) with Action Girl and her cousin Irene. This was a momentous trip for Irene. She had just entered college a little while ago and she had never done any traveling. What made this a really brave thing for her to do is that not only is Irene handicapped, but that she would be flying into Zurich all alone and spend one day there, solo. When I say that she’s handicapped, I don’t mean that she’s in a wheelchair. She can walk fine on her own, though with a bit of a stilted gait but baggage would be difficult. Her back has some problems and she’d need to pack light. Having said all of her limitations, youth, inexperience, and physical issues; I would also add that she is a singularly capable and fearless individual. Like I said, it was very brave of her to go, but it surprised no one who knew her.

So, we fly into Zurich the day after Irene does and met up with her. She already spied out a place for breakfast and enjoyed Zurich as much as you can when looking at it trough eight hours of jet lag. After an initial relaxation period of a few hours, we all hop on a train at the Hauptbahnhoff and are on our way. We leave Zurich behind and head to Austria. The place we are ultimately going is in Germany but this corner of Europe is crowded with country’s. Actually, it’s best to just refer to it by its geographical name, the Tyrol. Home of giant alpenhorns, edelweiss and men in leiderhosen shouting “Riiiiiicolaaaaa” at each other from high peaks.

Now, I have long ago stopped changing money or buying traveler’s checks when moving around in Europe. Money changing always seems to bite you in the shorts, although with the dollar in a death spiral, it’s probably a good idea to change all you can right now. As for traveler’s checks, forget them. No one wants to touch them and you spend you time getting frustrated trying to use them up. The way to go is the debit card. Or at least it was. Now, I believe banks are getting savvy about charging you extra (imagine!) for using your ATM card in a foreign ATM, but in the beginning, it wasn’t yet on the list of the 10,000 user fees that banks use to syphon your account dry. Action Girl and I were used to traveling this way and we explained this to Irene before she left for Switzerland.

We traveled through idillic looking countryside and watched rolling hills get steeper and craggier until they turned into towering Alps. It was spring time and the weather was warmish but no warm enough to melt the snow on the lower slopes of the mountains. We kicked around the idea of stopping since it was getting on toward the late afternoon. It was off season still and the weather was starting to deteriorate and with the thought that we might arrive at our destination in Germany too late to find a place to say, we considered taking it slow and spending a soon to be rainy night at some little town along the way and continue on to our Bavarian destination in the morning. The next station was the small Austrian village of Landeck.

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It was small, pretty, and best of all, we could see a guest house and restaurant just a short walk from the train platform. Taking the rumbling in all our stomachs into account, it seemed like a good idea. We left the train, and headed to the inn. Action Girl and I were back in our element; backpacking through Europe. Free wheeling it! No solid plans! We’d show Irene how it was done. Now all I needed to do was get my hands on some Euros, and I’d be all set to fill my jet lagged, empty belly with schnitzel and beer and then head off to our duvet clad bed. Ahhhh!

That’s all. Just some cash and everything would be all right. No problem.

Right?

Riiiiight…

More tomorrow.

“Just” desserts or “just desserts”?

So there I was, driving by the sea shore, praying that Short Stack would finally drift off in the back seat and succumb to the nap he needed so badly. It had been about 25 minutes now and he was still pointing out areas of interest as we passed them. “Dats a tree. It grows up. Dat… dat’s a duck. He’s sitting in da water. Dose are are dogs. Goes ‘voof voof.'”, Etc, etc, ad nauseam. As I drove along and the running commentary from the baby seat get less frequent, I knew that victory would be mine sooner or later. I still had 3/4 of a tank of gas at my disposal and the heat cranked in the car. Now all I needed to do was not nod off, my self.

Things were finally looking good for nap time and I was scouting a place to pull off and get out my book. Then I saw it. Once again, I was glad that I don’t travel with out a digital camera. I drove on for a bit longer and waited to find out if Short Stack was really out. As soon as his hat was slumped down over his eyes and the breathing got regular, I doubled back to check and see if what I though I saw was really true. It was. This was what it looked like as I drove by…

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I stepped out of the car to make a closer inspection. It was true. A marshmallow and sugar confection tree of pain.

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Monsters! Who could have done this?! Don’t they know the accepted form of Peep capital punishment is to subject them to confinement in the dark, back of a cupboard until they turn to a substance that can only be described as the bastard child of packing peanuts and old chewing gum?

This gruesome reminder of Easter makes me feel a bit guilty about my total lack of Peep eating this year. When I was a kid, they were a possession to be prized. They only came out once a year and they were a much sought after sugar high in a box. They came built with the wonderful excuse that if they weren’t all devoured in a single day, then they would be inedible the next morning. I know, I know. There are those of you out there who like ’em stale. It’s your preference that they should be initially hard as bricks and then, after an hour or so of working on it, as chewy as eating a garden hose… and I say unto you, “Weirdoes”.

Now Peeps are a year ’round affair. They are available for every possible holiday in every possible color. For me, that kind of ruins it. When it’s not something to look forward to, almost forgotten from year to year, then the yellow sugar just doesn’t glimmer as seductively as it once did. I passed them by, these gems of my past because I know that soon there will be more Peeps in many different forms and colors. All in an effort to match what ever holiday comes next. It’s just not the same.

The Bunny has made his deliveries for this year, but the Peeps remain. Some in half eaten baskets of Easter grass, some slowly shriveling up and turning to cement in the back of drawers while others do their time stoically and prominently, impaled on the lower branches of a tree by the ocean, ignored by even the sea gulls, who as you may or may not know, will eat just about anything. I guess when it comes to Peeps, they prefer them fresh as well, thus earning them some points in my book. Thank goodness that I didn’t need to explain this abomination to my two year old son. Action Girl liked the photos, though.

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Yoga and 8mm ammo.

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With only a very few days before the birth of our daughter, I’ve been trying to get things done that will be difficult, if not out right impossible, once she arrives. This will be the case for a month or so, anyway. I’ve been setting things up. I’ve been fixing this and that. I’ve been visiting clients who are some distance away; that sort of thing. The one thing I haven’t had much luck with is doing something for me. The closest I’ve gotten to “Daddy time” is sitting in my car at a scenic overlook and eating lunch off my dashboard. I don’t mind that at all and it beats the heck out of sitting at my desk, but it hardly elicits a “WOO-HOO!”. Every time I’ve said that I was going to leave work early and go do something fun, I inevitably wind up running behind on my “to do” list and more important things take over what was supposed to be my fun time.

Yesterday morning I finally did it. I just had to make a sneak attack on the day. I filled up my coffee mug, visited our local hand made doughnut shop and drove to the range. I had coffee, doughnut, my matching 1915 Oberndorf, Gewehr 98 and about 120 rounds of ammunition. In an effort to keep the local inhabitants from attacking with pitchforks, or at least going to the city to complain, there’s no shooting allowed before 8 AM , and since I was there at about a quarter ’till, it gave me a lovely chance to get all set up and enjoy my beverage and breakfast.

Our range is very well run and extensive. There are large areas for pistol, trap, skeet and, my favorite… rifle. Personally, I find pistols to be not worth it. They are very expensive to buy, easily stolen and not very accurate over any appreciable distance. For the most part, I’m a target shooter so any firearm that requires you to be close to the target, just doesn’t light my fire. And to be perfectly honest… firing a pistol just lacks something for me. The “Crack, crack, crack” of the report and this little piece of metal jumping around in your hands just doesn’t do it for me. Skeet and trap shooting is fun and I like to do it from time to time but you need other folks participate with you. We all know how easily plans with friends can fall apart at the last minute, so I don’t put a lot of energy into trap. High powered rifles though… Oh, they are fun.

The rifle I brought this morning is one of my favorites. It’s in great condition, which is a minor miracle in its self. It was likely picked up on the battle field of France sometime in 1915-18 but probably, 1918. Chances are that an American doughboy came across it during or after a battle in the Great War and later, brought home. It might have sat in a closet for decades or perhaps under the bed, wrapped in old sheets. I’ll never know for sure, but it’s mine now and I love it. It’s long and heavy and much of the gun blue has worn off.

The bore is still very nice and it functions just as well as when it rolled out of the factory in Oberndorf nearly 100 years ago. I have to sight low on the targets that I put up. The rear sight has a minimum distance setting of 200 meters. The maximum is 2000. That’s almost 1.25 miles. After about an hour, I’m out of ammo and my shoulder is a touch tender. It was such a wonderfully warm morning that I decided to clean up the rifle right there. By the time I left, I was still the only one there. I had the place all to my self and thoroughly enjoyed it.

If someone asks me why I like to shoot, I tell them, “It’s like yoga”. I usually get a smirk or an out right laugh for that, but it’s true. I love yoga but I simply don’t have the time. Shooting fills that need for me. Think about it. Controlled breathing, concentration to the point of pushing all else out of your mind, stance, staying loose and pushing your self. It’s all there. Plus, it goes “BOOM!”. I have to admit, I like the “boom”.

Oh well, back to the work-a-day grind. I’ll try to get away a few weeks after Lulu Belle is born and get a little more “Dad Time” in. Wish me luck.

A sea of yellow.

I have said in the past that one of the things I was looking forward to the most was finding out what Short Stack’s passions would be. I know they change as we grow, but every kid seems to have one thing in particular that lights his or her fire. For me, it was airplanes, for Action Girl it was matchboxes (The little cars, not an actual box of matches, thank goodness). What would Short Stacks be? Dinosaurs? Space ships? Pirates? I’ll give you a hint… VROOOOOOOM! DUMP! SCOOP!

Actually, if you ask Short Stack, it’s pronounced “ROOOOOOM! DHOOMP! DOOOP!”

Action Girl and I were careful not to steer him in any particular direction and let him find his own passions. We got him toys of all types and with out any particular gender alignment. He has trains, tools, blocks, horses, dolls, and even a miniature stroller to push. Something in his blood though cried out for heavy equipment. He loves it. Loves it more than applesauce; and that my friend, is saying a LOT.

Over the last few months, we’ve been buying him truck toys of different types. Our favorites are by a company called Siku. It’s a German toy maker with an eye for detail, solid construction and actual lead-free paint. What a bonus! They’re a little more costly than most of the Chinese made stuff (I almost said US made, but we all know that’s a fantasy, these days) but it’s really a quality made toy. They have heft to them and are very realistic.
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The best part is that he knows what all the equipment is called. He will happily explain to anyone who will pause more than half a second what each truck is and what its exact function is. In his two year old voice he points out, “Dat’s an excabator. It doops! Excabator have a big dooper. Dat’s a front loader. It has wheels. DOOOOP! Dis is back hoe. Has a tiny dooper…” and so on. He’s very worried that you might be misinformed and wouldn’t want you to make an embarrassing faux pas and call the skid steer a bucket truck or something. He’s helpful that way.

So now that his second birthday has passed and since everyone who knows him, knows his passion, we are awash in a sea of miniature machinery. He’s a very, VERY happy boy. I can’t wait for the weather to warm up enough for me to open up his new sand box for him. It’s going to be a good summer in the sand. In the mean time, Short Stack forwent his usual plush jellyfish that accompanies him to dream land and instead, drifted off clutching his brand new CAT 430 back hoe. And yes, he’ll let you know it’s a 430. He knows the make and model. Just ask him.cat-430.jpg

Happy Birthday Short Stack!

Today, at 9:35 AM, Short Stack turns two. He loves ladybugs so this is what Action Girl is making for the party tonight.
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This image is via Kidscakes.blogspot.com. Here’s the link to the page. Thanks!

The golden rule for kids birthdays comes via my sister-in-law. “You can only invite as many kids as the birthday boy/girl is old.” Good advice if you ask me. So, two little friends it is and with all that sugar in the ladybug cupcakes, it ought to be a fun time.

Happy Birthday Short Stack! I can’t imagine a day with out you!

What the heck were we watching?

I am a child of the 70’s. I was born at the beginning of them, I remember the latter half of them fairly clearly and though filled to the brim with fuzzy velour shirt memories, I’m often blown away with what I’ve managed to forget. Perhaps “forget” is too harsh a word. How about “Not thought of in thirty years”. I grew up with a television in the living room like most folks. It was color, fairly big (or at least the case was) and like much of my age group, it was very important to me. I can remember a handful of my favorite TV shows and given a peer group, some beer and a fun evening with both, I think I could remember more of them with little difficulty.

Some shows are easy to recall. Captain Kangaroo, Drawing with Captain Bob, Zoom, School House Rock and The Electric Company come to mind. Remembering specific episodes of the shows is a bit harder. This is where the inter-tubes come in. I must say that there has never been a more amazing time traveling device than YouTube and its ilk. Somewhere out there, someone had the most amazing stuff on tape AND is a big enough geek to take the time to rip the video from cassette, edit it copy and upload it to the web. Thank you Geeks! We owe you a box of Ho-Ho’s and a 2 liter of Mountain Dew.

Some shows are still running after 30 years, but by necessity, have little resemblance to what they once were. Sesame Street is the best example possible. The adult annoying Elmo and many others were not from my era, but that’s not to say that the show wasn’t fun. The Doctor sent me this bid of acid trip nostalgia from the early days of children’s public television. I can almost picture myself plunked down on the floor, eating a bowl of Cinnamon Life cereal, watching this trippy story unfold on our Zenith.

Now THAT’S infotainment. I remember being mildly freaked about the claw-arm that comes out of the rocket ship. Why did they have the “n” in the first place? Is it an alien “n”? Was it kidnapped? Brainwashed? The topic of probing hadn’t come into the vernacular at that point, but if it had, I would have wondered that too. It leaves one with more questions than answers I thought. Zen cartoons. Now that’s what we need more of.

What’s the sound of one “n” clapping?

So much work to be so bad

On my way home I narrowly avoided having to bodycheck a thirteen year old to get to my destination. It must be spring. Let me explain…

Where I live is a great view of the human species. Action Girl and I have lived in the same area for the last ten years and within those years we’ve watched some interesting changes. The most startling one is with the local kids. We’ve now watched the teenagers in the neighborhood grow up, clean up, move away, or get busted and sent to the county farm. We’ve also watched the kids who were not more than tots grow up to some degree and try to find their place in the world.

All the kids you’d expect are there. The ones from poor but hard working parents who rebel and decide to become musicians. There are the ones who’s folks are very well off, send him to an elite private school but who insists on dressing mainly from the salvation army and sporting dreadlocks. The blue collar families, the well off ones, the troubled ones and even a some really good, loving families who support and help each other and others. Your basic mix.

One thing about where we live. Though we are near a good sized city, we are on the fringes of it. This means that there is really not a lot for the youth to do, especially as a group. Nowhere to hang out and be seen. What shall they do? Obviously, the answer is to skateboard and I would hesitate to say that most of them do, or in the case of most of the teenagers here… alright all of them, skateboard badly.

Now I am not a skater (or should I say, SK8TOR). When I was younger, my primary interest was in the woods out back and since you can’t skate in the woods, then spending good money on a deck was not even vaguely interesting to me. I do however, enjoy watching people who are really good at it. Not that I’d go to see them on purpose, or even know what the names of the moves are, but when anyone is really, really good at just about any task, it stands out. I can appreciate that.

Then there are our locals. I don’t know if it’s something in the water or what, but we seem to have the most hardcore, driven and practiced bunch of skaters who can do… just about nothing right. It’s really bizarre. I go down to the corner store and watch them flail away like salmon trying to jump the Hoover dam. They wind up and scoot along on their miniature wheels, aim for a curb and POW! If their lucky, it’s only the deck that goes flying through the air and lands in a jumble.

By far, the best is this large hill that’s near by. I watch them line up to fly down the hill all while sporting their best “I don’t care about the world” look to the imaginary spectators. That is… right up until you can watch the fear start to creep in. It’s a good sized hill with just a few issues on the way down, but the real fun is that it ends abruptly in a forest of steel and cement barriers. Stopping involves the removal of several millimeters of sneaker tread and possibly knee and elbow skin. Every summer I watch at least one spectacular train wreck.

It’s early in the season for the WWS (worlds worst skaters). There’s a lot of sand still on the streets and sidewalks, not to mention unhelpful chunks of still frozen dog poop and ice lingering in the shadows. That hasn’t stopped them though. They’ve set their itty-bitty wheels crunching along through the sand and grime. Control is still illusive though and it’s best to keep a protective elbow free for deflection when walking through their arena. This can only get more interesting as the crowds that summer brings start to build. Hopefully, by then, the world weary and grizzled seventh grader with the look if “OH CRAP!” on his face won’t be such a factor as I walk home from work.
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