Kristin

Kristin
My buddy Kristin, with whom I'll be shooting some BEER2WHISKEY videos, and me at the awads dinner for this year's Texas Truck Rodeo.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Another Florida Trip for the Record Books

I've been in South Florida for five days. Someone asked if I was here for business or pleasure. The answer is, neither. I had good friends of 25 years who were killed in a murder-suicide in Boca three or four weeks ago. I came this week for the memorial/wake/good-by party.

I've been through some pretty tough things in my life, but this get together was probably the toughest. I knew Scott and Shari before they were married. I watched their two kids grow up. Their daughter Kathleen lives next door to my friends who I usually stay with on my FL visits; so I've been able to stay in touch with her.

We had the opportunity to speak and I've included my comments at the bottom of this blog.

This was a trip to catch up with people I hadn't seen in a while. I kicked the week off with a lunch with my buddy Amy We ate at a Thai joint called Fah in Boca. I love the food at this place. It serves what is by far the best wonton soup I've ever had.



That night I had dinner with my buddy Les at Mario's. I had the baked spaghetti. Oh, man it was good.


Mmmmm....Carmel Cream Ale.
On Thursday I made my usual pilgrimage to the Due South brewery in Boynton Beach with my buddy Tim.



Tim is a private pilot and has been flying during my last two trips to FL. I sucked down three or four Carmel Cream Ales. This is some seriously good beer.


Beers and friends: It's what life is all about!

That evening I met up with a good friend who I hadn't seen in years. We worked at the Boca  News together 20 years ago. Mary is always up for a party and you just can't have too many friends like that. We spent about an hour and a half tipping back a few at Miller's Boca Ale House before she had some family obligation she had to run off to.

Later that night I hooked up with another Mary who I also worked with at The News. I see a lot of this Mary. She actually owns land in the Greenville area and is responsible for our little group of Floridians all moving there. I met her at a little Irish joint in Boca called The Wishing Well.

On Friday Amy and I went to our favorite Chinese restaurant. After lunch we tried out a place I walked into and right back out of on my last trip. I had never had a beer in the joint. It has an outdoor seating area with picnic tables that we sat at.



This is what a Delray Beach traffic jam looks like.

As we were sitting there we saw these two old ladies go tooling by in those little power scooter chairs. Some how we just found it hilarious. It was so Florida. We saw them again as we drove home. They had bags from Publix; from there to where we spotted them last was more than two miles.



My friends Margaret and DeeDee at the Hawn happy hour.
Friday happy hour was at the Hawns'. Several friends zeroed in on their home for drinks and munchies.


My friend Jackie who until Saturday I hadn't seen in over 10 years.
At the little memorial/wake/good-by party, I managed to see all sorts of people. Many of these people I see with some regularity; others I see rarely.



The party moved to The Brickyard: Connie, Mary and Michelle.
Under better circumstances, this would have been a blast. Something about everyone standing around crying that puts a damper on things.

My friends Michelle and Richard.
I was grateful for the open bar. A little fortification was just what the doctor ordered.

Today I am sitting by Amy's pool editing photos, blogging and -- surprise, surprise -- drinking beer. My flight tomorrow isn't until around 5 p.m. I'm going to try to change it to one of the many earlier flights between West Palm and Atlanta.

This will be my last trip to FL for a while. My friends here will just have to soldier on without me.

My remarks at the memorial/wake/good-by party:

There is no way to sugarcoat what brings us here today. It was tragedy.

We can agonize over it, talk about it and those of us who still pray can pray about it; but in the end all we are left with is grief, confusion and anger.

I wish there was some way to put a positive spin on it. I wish I could utter some platitude that would make all of us all feel a little better. But I've got nothing.

My name is Russ Heaps, and I am one of the many Boca Newsers here today. I know that sounds a bit like I'm addressing an AA meeting. Let me say here and now that I am ununapoligetic and unreformed Newser. Being a Newser was something like being a Marine: Once a Newser always a Newser. I can't describe what that's like to those who never lived it. It was simply the best years of my working life. The best comparison I can come up with is my college fraternity experience. Although I eventually left the News, the bonds of friendship created there survived and flourished in the intervening decades. Shari and Scott were part of that family.

I was friends with Shari and Scott for 25 years; there are a lot of people in this room who were friends with them a lot longer than that. We knew them as people you could always count on no matter the need: help, advice or just throwing a happy hour, they could always be counted on.

Hospitality and friendship were defined by any evening in their home. I was always surprised when looking around their house that there wasn't a framed, needlepoint sign that read: Let the good times roll. Because they always did.

Many of us knew them before they were a family. We shared in the joy of Shari being pregnant with Kathleen and then David. Like Dutch aunts and uncles, we watched these kids grow up. And it's really for them that we are here today.

Although we can't wipe away their grief, or even do anything to lessen it, we are here to show them that they aren't alone in it.

Because, like them, many of us suffered a double loss that day. In a heartbeat, two wonderful and cherished friends gone.

It has been difficult for me to think that whenever we get some of the old Boca News gang together in the future, they won't be there. But then I realized that they will be there in our shared memories and stories.

As they are here today.

To our best memories….

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Just Another Brick in the Wall: Home Improving Without a Net

The little home-improvement project that involved building a half wall between my living room area and dining area is all but complete. At issue was that my TV, with all its audio and video components, sits smack-dab in the middle of the pass through between the two areas.


It looked lovely from the living room side, but was a big honkin' mess when viewed from the dining side. Not only was the view one of the backsides of several pieces of electrical components, but the spaghetti of wires defied hiding.

Owning the house since June of 2007 and living in it since February of 2008, I've agonized over how to solve the problem for years. Initially, my plan was to build a garage, enclose the carport and turn that into an entertainment room. That was predicated on the delusion that I would find a 9-to-5 job once in Greenville. Yes, I know, I live in fantasy land.

If you are over 50 and looking for work, steel yourself for disappointment. Don't bother even looking. In fact, take the time and gas money you save by not participating in the pointless, self-esteem-crushing exercise of job hunting to buy lottery tickets. Your chances of success will be about the same.

In any event, I came to grips with the long odds against my ever going to a job again, also trashing my grand home-improvement plans. With the TV sitting in the middle of the room made permanent for as long as I own this house -- to death do us part -- I had to come up with another plan.


Cutting out the required section of the baseboard was child's play using my new multi-tool. I am saddened that I spent so may decades without this little miracle of cutting, sawing and sanding.
 I considered buying a cabinet of some sort that was roughly 24 in. high and 36-to-48 in. wide to sit behind the TV, but all my searching was fruitless.


The framing was easy.
 So, I decided to build a little wall. I am moderately handy, I reasoned, and materials shouldn't cost more than about $50.

In the spirit of every government project big or small, this little effort was hounded by time and cost overruns. Cha-ching!


I cheated to take this photo showing the backdide of the wall drywalled. I actually attached the piece of drywall with the framed wall lying flat on the floor and then set it on end to take the shot. Work smart, not hard is my mantra.
 I decided that I needed to purchase a multi-purpose tool to cut out the required section of baseboard and so forth: $80!

Then I decided that I wanted to cap the top of the wall with a shelf and put some trim around it: $42!

Oops, now I would also have to paint much of the main level so the color of the new wall would match the wall it joined: $75! This would have been about $30 cheaper, but don't believe it when a paint-can label says, "Primer and finish coat in one." No way.

Total cost of this estimated $50 job: $247 and that doesn't include screws, nails, wood filler and so on.


It's all ready for paint.
 I put the wall up and drywalled it in an afternoon. Finishing the drywall required another two days of mudding and sanding. 

I began painting last Saturday afternoon at 1:30. At 9:30, I was finished cleaning up and putting everything away. Putting the cap on it took a couple of more hours and then there was priming and painting that.

The pages were flying off the calendar.


 

I am pleased with the finished result. I still have to address the baseboards. This house was constructed in the 1950s. The baseboards are about an inch and a half thick. I can't match them. I can't replace the baseboards in the dining area so it all matches because some genius along the way put sheets of 1-in. plywood over the old floor and simply butted the plywood against the existing baseboards to lay a new floor. Consequently, 1 in. of the baseboards is below the floor line.

No matter what I do, it's not going to look great.

Ah, the joys of working on an old house.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Following: One Degree of Kevin Bacon

One of the TV shows I am watching this season is "The Following" on Fox. It's a twist on catch me if you can, pitting the FBI against a serial killer with a following of murdering acolytes.


After each episode I am left shaking my head at how stupid the good guys are, as well as at how a guy behind bars with next to no outside contact can amass scores of followers -- many of whom are in positions of power or authority. But, like a watching a train wreck, I can't avert my eyes.

If there was ever a team of more inept FBI agents, it would have to be Howard, Howard and Fine: "Hey, Moe!"

It stars Kevin Bacon as Ryan Hardy, a washed-up and washed-out former FBI agent. He's a drunk and someone you wouldn't invite over for Thanksgiving dinner. He's recruited back into service because a serial killer he put behind bars managed to escape.


Somehow the bad-guy serial killer recruited scores of followers sitting here.
 How does a convicted serial killer escape? Why he has the prison warden, who engineered a prison transfer, in his pocket. What! It has been down hill from there.

Of course Hardy had an affair with the serial killer's ex wife, which has made Hardy a target for the killer's escapades since escaping.

The FBI managed to let the killer's ex get kidnapped by the gang after it kidnapped the killer's kid. Maybe they should have had more than one guy watching her; ya think?

I have no reason beyond the ridiculousness of the plot to watch this turkey. I'm not a big Kevin Bacon fan. I don't dislike him; I'm just not a big fan. There is no one else in the cast I can get excited about either.

Well, there is Valerie Curry, the character Emma, who is a Squeaky Fromme-like key player in the killer's cult. If you were looking closely, you might have noticed her as one of the good-guy vampires who gathered to help the Cullens battle the forces of the bad-guy vamps from Italy in the last installment of the Twilight saga. She didn't utter a word, but was on camera a couple of times.


There is just something kind of compelling about her.

Otherwise, it's a rather ho-hum cast making the best of a far-fetched story.

I believe there is only one episode remaining. Unless the FBI somehow lets this killer slip through its fingers again, I can't imagine what season two might look like.

I don't know that I'd invest another 20 hours of my life into the thing even if there's a next season, but who knows?   

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

To Holden Beach and Back




My philosophy is that one can never have too many little respites from the drudgery of earning a living -- or in my case, almost earning a living. It was in that spirit that I escaped to the ocean for a couple of days. Although the weather wasn't particularly cooperative, just being next to the ocean calms my spirit.

Every time I drive one of the recent crop of diesels, I am more and more impressed. You don't need to have roamed the earth with the dinosaurs to recall the black smoke-spewing, noisy hunks of crap that diesels once were.




I just drove the 560-mile round trip from Greenville, SC to Holden Beach, NC -- about 30 miles north of Myrtle Beach -- in a $29,195 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible TDI with Sound and Navigation. That's the Beetle powered by a 140-horsepower 2-liter turbodiesel. Granted 140 hp doesn't sound like much, but if you scroll farther down the specs page, you'll discover it also has 236 lb.-ft. of torque. That's the grunt that gets the wheels turning, and it's plenty to motivate the Beetle with gusto.



This car is quiet, smooth and delivers a whopping EPA-estimated 41 mpg on the highway. Hybrids, my ass! The car I drove had the six-speed manual tranny. What a joy to shift! Working the clutch was effortless and the shifting was acutely precise.

What the "Sound and Navigation" tacked to the end of the model name means is that this Beetle came with the astounding nine-speaker Fender audio system. Last year I wrote a piece for one of my financial dot-com clients featuring the best seven factory audio systems in cars under $25,000. Volkswagen's Fender system made the cut. Of course the "Navigation" portion of the name indicates it also has a navi unit.



One of my fraternity brothers, his wife, another buddy of mine and his wife rent the same house on the beach in Holden during the same week every year. They are Toledo boys -- well, my fraternity brother is recently a Knoxville boy -- and the beach in April apparently is the ideal way to bid sayonara to a frigid winter. The house has a couple of extra bedrooms, so I get the nod to come spend a night or two.

Despite that this little get together involves a fraternity brother, it's not a hair-on-fire fiesta. Hal was arguably the sanest, most level-headed guy in our Fiji chapter. He hasn't grown wilder with the passing years -- well, perhaps a little, but it was a low baseline.

No, the days I spend at Holden Beach with them are laid-back affairs. Our buddy Sam did use the excuse of my arrival on Sunday to begin cranking out vodka and grapefruit juice drinks at 2 p.m. This is typically a sun-must-be-over-yardarm crowd. I am gratified to see that I still can inspire people to the dark side.

The most sun I saw on this trip was on the drives down and back. I dropped the top for the entire trip each way despite the 65-degree temp heading out of Greenville and the 62-degree temp leaving Holden Beach. My convertible philosophy is, unless it's raining or snowing, the top goes down.

Driving a convertible with the top raised is like kissing your sister, or drinking a non alcoholic beer; what's the point?



A gift from Volkswage, I proudly wore my Converse "Turbo" hightops for the drives to Holden Beach and back.

On the drive down it eventually warmed up to about 70-degrees. I left my jacket on for the entire trip. Coming home, the temp reached 71-degrees before I reached the freeway part of the route -- roughly 170 miles from Greenville. I stuffed my jacket in the trunk and cranked up the heater. By the time I arrived home, it was a toasty 77-degrees.

Although a Beetle Convertible isn't terribly macho, I thoroughly enjoyed driving it. I compensated for its macholessness by scowling at the occupants of the legions of cars I passed.

Other than the sun sneaking out for a couple of hours the morning of my one full day there, the skies over Holden Beach were overcast. We did what any self-respecting, vacationing beach goers would do when faced with lousy weather: We drank and ate.



Lunch that day was at a waterside joint called Sharkey's.



The food -- much of it fried; it is the South after all -- was good. I really liked the clam chowder that I washed down with a PBR that was on special that day.



You can almost catch a whiff of ozone as Hal and Sam labor away searching for single barrel bourbons.

The three guys spent much of the gloomy day online, researching liquor stores with a stash of single barrel bourbons and the capacity to ship them. See, even on vacation we don't waste any time.



I affectionately call this "circus" wine.
Happy hour that afternoon consisted of a couple of bottles of Petite Petit wine that I brought. This is a delightful blend of 85% Petite Sirah and 15% Petit Verdot produced by the Michael David Winery in Lodi, Calif. I love this stuff!

Dinner was at a Mexican joint called San Felipe. It was a real surprise. The salsa was refreshingly spicy; while the Enchiladas Verde were very tasty.

My four friends, for some reason I can't comprehend, scheduled an 8:30 a.m. tee time my final morning there. The good news is that it got me back into the Beetle Convertible and on the road by 7:45 a.m.

I've already marked my calendar for next year.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Mowing Your Way to a Better You



No, that red mushroom cloud you saw blooming over southern Greenville last week wasn't the work of Sum Dum Ill -- or whatever the name of that chubby little lunatic running North Korea is -- lobbing a warhead over at us. Nope. It was my annual Ceremonial First Mowing of the Dirt.

And, this is my annual "Ceremonial First Mowing of the Dirt" blog.

Even as a journalist of sorts, I don't have the words to describe just what a wasteland my front yard is. If the History Channel decides to do a mini series on the first moon landing, I will offer my yard as the set to stage the landing. Neil Armstrong would come down the ladder and say, "This is one small step for man, one giant leap for…holy crap, this yard is a mess!"

That would mean, though, that the History Channel would have to start airing some actual history programming. I scrolled through two weeks of programming looking for shows to record only to discover that there is probably only about 10 hours of history programming in any given week. Every show is some sort of reality TV. Ax Men, Swamp People and so on. What history shows are scheduled are reruns of stuff that first aired years ago: Modern Marvels and Civil War Journal. So I'm not holding my breath on the whole Neil Armstrong thing.

Because summer has yet to really arrive, the surface isn't nearly as dry as it will be in another six weeks. In summer, I look like Pig Pen out for a stroll as I push my mower over the red clay. When done, I am covered in red dust. It's in my ears, in my nose and other assorted orifices.

I only ran the mower over about two-thirds of the yard area. I just needed to beat back the weeds. If it weren't for weeds, I wouldn't even need to own a mower. The good news: the mower started on the first pull. It hasn't done that since new six years ago. Usually I change the oil, spark plug and air filter at the start of every season, but I don't want to mess with success. I'm not doing anything until it fails to start.

I am still trying to make myself spend the money on some tree trimming and removal. Of course, that will just make seeing the disaster that is my yard easier.

One step forward, two steps back.  

Sunday, April 7, 2013

2006 Wyoming Adventure: Horses 3 -- Amateur Cowpokes 0

(I have been gathering old photos for a project I'm helping a friend with. In looking at old stuff, I came across this essay regarding my 2006 trip to Eatons' Ranch in Wolf, Wyoming. I decided to share it with my blog readers.)


Another Wyoming guest ranch outing is in the record books. Three Amigos and company just completed its 2006 week-long horseback riding and drinking contest. Tallying all the scores we find that the horses managed to put more people on their butts than the alcohol. Getting older is hell.


Jose, Les and Ports taking a butt-rest on the trail.
This year’s merry band of clowns consisted of the Three Amigos, Ken (who works with Jose and Les at IBM), Randy Porter (my fraternity brother from Dayton), his buddy Rainer (the crazy German), and Kimba and her gal pal Tracine from Jacksonville. This group gathered from their respective regions in Billings, MT a week ago Sunday and celebrated with a few toddies and dinner at the Montana Brewing Company. The rest of the group didn't demonstrate the same planning acumen as the Three Amigos whose first stop upon arriving in Billings was to visit Costco where the bottles of Makers Mark and Don Julio Tequila carried out on the plane were supplemented with three cases of Moose Drool beer. After dinner the girls, Porter and Rainer headed for the only liquor store open on Sunday night in Billings. They returned with three half gallons of vodka, a bottle of Baileys and two bottles of wine. I have no clue what they intended to drink the rest of the week, but the stage was nearly set.


The plan was to arrive at Eatons’ Ranch late Monday morning in time to get fitted for saddles, eat lunch and then be ready for the afternoon ride. That meant wheels up in Billings at 8:30. We had three separate vehicles with the girls in one, Porter and Rainer in one and the remaining four of us in the third. A few items, including beer for Porter/Rainer, remained to be purchased and we caravanned to Albertson’s. Thanks to some crazy blue law, beer can’t be sold before 9:00 in the morning. So, we loitered around Albertson’s for half an hour before being able to check out and get on our way with yet two more cases of beer.


We arrived at Eatons’ without incident and on schedule. We even had time for a beer or two before lunch. We had commandeered a wastebasket from the Best Western and filled it with beer and ice before leaving. Planning is everything and this wasn’t our first trip to the rodeo.

We were disappointed to find the chef and his wife, Susan the baker, had not come back this year. They are running their own restaurant in Surprise, Arizona. Evidently the ranch had some problems with their replacement and he had been fired a few weeks before our arrival. Meal preparation had fallen to the lady who “does the gardening.” Yes, that was our reaction too. How in the heck do you make that leap? “Let’s get Carol in here. She has some spare time between spreading manure on the geraniums and weeding around the tomatoes, and she sure knows her vegetables.”  Monday’s meals were sketchy at best and we were justly concerned. This isn’t like a cruise ship where half the people are there because you eat eight times a day, but the ranch food was always top-notch and it was one of the attractions. Lunch that first day was a disaster and dinner wasn’t much better. After lunch we drowned our sorrows in another beer before heading out on our first ride.


Pre-incident Kimba and her trusty horse Crazy.
That first afternoon’s ride was a shake-down cruise of sorts – in a very literal sense. We took it easy and only stayed out for a couple of hours. As we came plodding back in, Kimba became the first casualty. I point out that the use of the word “first” usually implies more than one. In a game attempt to qualify for the “Over Almost before It Began” award, Kimba took a tumble. Her horse spotted a thrown horseshoe on the path and must have decided it was something to be avoided at all costs, abruptly ducking and spinning. One second Kimba was sitting tall in the saddle and the next she was eating dirt – somewhat of an improvement over the earlier lunch, I might add. After composing herself – no serious damage done – she climbed back on and we rode the last quarter mile.  That was Kimba’s last ride of the trip. Although she wasn’t seriously injured, she was too sore to ride the rest of the week. Even medicating herself with prodigious amounts of vodka didn’t seem to help, but she continued the treatment nonetheless. No doubt she continues medicating with it today.


Happy Hour at Grandma's cabin.
A typical day on the ranch for us goes something like this: 6:00-6:30 AM awaken and get dressed. 7:00 AM breakfast in the dinning room. 9:00 AM head out on the morning ride. 11:30 AM return and have a beer before lunch. Noon is lunch. 1:30 head out on the afternoon ride. 4:30 return. 4:45 happy hour (or as we called it: time to set the Moose loose). 6:00 PM dinner. 7:00 PM after dinner drinks on the porch of Big Graham or head to the Mint Bar in Sheridan, 10:00 PM go to bed. No phones, no TVs, no anything. It’s like visiting your Amish aunt, only with booze.


The only riding Kimba and Tracine did after Day 1 was in a car.
Tuesday passed without incident. Kimba and Tracine opted to go into Sheridan to shop, which left just the boys on the trail. Lunch still sucked, but dinner was a bit better. Tuesday was tequila night. We adjourned to the front porch of Big Graham, where the boys all lit up cigars and sipped on Don Julio Anejo tequila. It was here we discovered what an entertaining story teller Rainer is. A favorite was about the time his father was explaining the birds and bees to him and he got so worked up he had to excuse himself and go take care of business before returning to finish the lesson.

There is nothing like the aroma of equine methane in the early morning to open nasal passages and put a spring in the step of cowboy wannabes. Eatons’ evidently feeds these animals some form of bean-laden chili every night. It’s difficult to describe the sounds and smells on the trail without offending some sensibilities. Let me just say that you could close your eyes and have no trouble following the horse and rider in front of you.


Young Randy proving horse and rider can indeed become one.
After the morning ride on Wednesday, I dismounted and started down the steps that lead to the path to the cabins. There are only three steps. They are made of irregular stones, but I have negotiated them dozens of times without incident. Not so on this day. My legs were really feeling the affects of three days of riding. I got to the first step, started to lose my balance and that’s all she wrote. As I headed toward the ground, I did a tuck and roll, so perfectly executed that Rainer, who witnessed the event, asked if I was a skydiver. I’m like, you’ve got to be kidding. I can’t get down three steps without taking a nose dive; you think I’m going to throw myself out of a plane at 8,000 feet? I bounced to my feet (well as much bounce as you can get out of legs this old), announcing to everyone, "I do my own stunts!"

In all the excitement no one had really noticed Jose was among the missing. He had lagged behind for most of the morning on a horse that refused to be hurried. Finally he came meandering up to the corral area. His duster – that was on its maiden voyage – was covered in dust with a piece of grass stuck to it here and there. It seems at almost exactly the same spot where Kimba had her close encounter with terra firma; Jose’s steed did a Crazy Ivan and heaved Hose into the shrubbery. I didn’t think we had enough alcohol to put another person on Kimba’s prescription. Fortunately we didn’t have to. He landed on his head and no long-term damage was done. I tried to tell him that any landing you walk away from is a good one. He wasn’t amused. He swapped out horses for the afternoon ride and didn’t miss a beat.

Wednesday night we made our initial trip into the Mint. It was the first time we were able to get some idea what hurricane Rita, currently plowing its way toward South Florida, was up to. A few locals wandered in and out of the place, but basically we had it to ourselves. After a shot or two of Cabo Wabo and a few beers, we headed back to the ranch.

Thursday Kimba and Tracine decided to press on to Cody. They were supposed to leave for there on Friday morning to spend a couple of nights before going to Jackson Hole, but because Kimba was too sore to ride and Tracine too hung over to ride that morning, they decided to just go ahead and leave. We were able to triple everyone else’s ration of vodka after they departed. Everyone else but Jose and I went out on an all-day ride. Hose and I followed our usual routine. Of course, our horses didn’t want to do anything without the rest of the group. It was a real test of wills for the first mile or so. Finally my horse Doc and I came to an understanding. From that point forward he was one fine animal. He was a joy the rest of the week in fact. At one point a two-foot rattler slithered across the path about three feet in front of my horse. I don’t know whether Doc didn’t see and hear it or just wasn’t bothered by it. I thought I was a goner, but he kept right on going.

On Friday Rainer was in some pain. Jose listened as Rainer described the symptoms and immediately diagnosed the problem as Hauckbutt. Jose has had some experience with the ailment because Les suffered with it a couple of years ago and we, of course, borrowed his last name to name the affliction: Hauckbutt. Just as with Les, the back of the seat on Rainer’s saddle had turned his tailbone into hamburger. Luckily Les was channeling his Eagle Scout and was armed with the large gauze squares and Neosporin he had purchased to treat his injury a year or two before. He passed it all to Rainer. Rather than take the afternoon ride, we decided to give Rainer’s lower half a rest and went into Sheridan after lunch. We kicked around there for a while and then headed to Buffalo where we had beers at the Occidental Hotel Saloon. We had been there a couple of years ago and had a blast. Dallas, the colorful bartender who served us last time had been replaced by a grunge-type kid. It wasn’t quite the same, but the beer was cheap and we hung out anyway.


That night Porter, Rainer and I made another trip into Sheridan. The Mint was slammed. We eventually managed to get seats at the bar. A barfly named Madge made a run at Porter with the intention of taking him dancing and then who-knows-what? He dodged that bullet.

On Saturday Porter and Rainer left right after breakfast. They had a 3 PM flight out of Billings. The remaining four of us went out on the morning ride. This was the only really cold morning of the trip. It was in the high 30s/low 40s. It was foggy on the mountains and rainy everywhere. They couldn’t even find the horses to bring them in until about 9:30. We had a great ride that morning. Saw several deer along the trail.

We showered at the ranch and headed back to Billings. Our rooms weren’t ready at the Best Western when we tried to check in at 3:00. We moseyed on down to the Montana Brewing Company, had a couple of beers and eventually ate dinner. After checking in, we decided to head out to the Yellowstone Brewery. I have a sixth sense for sniffing out micro breweries. I had seen an ad or a newspaper article on this place and it sounded like a place we should go. We had enjoyed some Yellowstone Fly Ambers or Ales or something during our visit to the Occidental. Located about three blocks from our hotel, the Yellowstone Brewery is situated in a four or five bay garage attached to the rear of the local Enterprise Rent-a-car agency. It is open from 4 until 8 PM Wed-Sat. We walked in and found a Bluegrass band playing to a fairly packed house. What a hoot. Have you ever heard a Bluegrass version of Margaritaville? Excellent beer and fun music: the perfect end to a great week.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

A Winter's Request


Is this winter ever going to end?

Every time I grow even a little optimistic that the miserable weather is waning, winter dropkicks my keister into next week.

Granted, winter in South Carolina isn't what it is in Buffalo, NY, but all things are relative.

Yesterday it was sunny and in the high 60s. Today it's raining and 38-degrees.

I don't exaggerate when I say that my front yard as been muddy for 10 uninterrupted weeks. I don't think we've gone more than three days in a stretch without rain during that period.

One of the aspects of South Florida that I always hated was the lack of seasons. Well, there are seasons if you count "70% humidity" and "95% humidity" as seasons.

But my issue with seasons in Greenville is that winter is given a larger window than spring or fall. In fact, because spring seems to be so late in arriving this year, we may just jump directly from winter to summer. I don't like that.

It's high time for winter to take its sorry ass on down the road. Could someone please do something about that?