Can I make a request, please, to local companies advertising on my television screen? Stop putting your kids in your ads! It’s cheesy and annoying and does not make me want to purchase products or services from you. In some cases, the kids are downright creepy.
All was right with the world when it started, though. It was a beautiful day Sunday, clear blue skies, nice fall-like temperatures, and not a ton of support requests. This not only allowed me to get some maintenance-type things done within the network and on some servers, but let me go out with the fam to get a tree. Mom and The Boy put it up. Crooked, I said. Nah, they said, you’re just looking at it from an angle. Pictures don’t lie, though.
They straightened it and we left it naked for the day, as we had to haul out the lights, ornaments, and other assorted knickknacks that make up the season. Mickey went with us to pick out a tree and for a stop at Publix for some steaks. After we returned, we ran him around the yard a bit, then came back in to get the steaks in a marinade. This dog can be really flat when he has a mind to be.
Gandalf is still working on showing everyone just who is boss around here (me, but she has rule of the animals). She is still not very happy, but she has already shown Mickey just who ranks higher on the food chain.
Very late Sunday evening, one of the oldest servers in the network decided that it had had about enough and gave in the start of death throes for the primary drive. After sending out a round of emergency notices about moves from this server to another, I began the quest to get everyone moved and keep the server running. Anyone who has worked in tech knows how difficult a prospect this can be, and the bulk of my time – except for a too-short nap – has been spent moving people and trying to keep the server up so we can move people. An unfortunate fact of life in this world of ours, and I wound up in rush hour traffic headed to the datacenter to get the damn thing back on the air this afternoon. This was done via a Frankenstein-like setup that I hope will last until the last of the accounts are moved off, and for the moment it seems to be working well.
On a brighter note, we went back for the other new member of the family. When we stopped into the pet supply store next to the adoption center, we ran into one of the volunteers from the center, who told us the poor guy whined much of Sunday, even though we’d told him we were coming back for him on Monday. He is a Lhaso Apso (or mix, with the Lhaso predominant), and is currently shaved because they picked him up as a stray and he was matted. This evening he had a bath and will be going in for more grooming as he still has a few knots here and there. The center estimates he’s about five, maybe five and a half years old. Mom and I had been calling him Goofy, because he is, but my sister has decided to name him Newton.
He’ll be handsome when his hair grows back.
So far, things are going pretty well between the two dogs, and the little cat has gone nose to nose with Newton and sniffed Mickey. We’ll all be one big happy family before too long, I think.
I should also mention that Mickey tried to kill me tonight. I had gone to pick up The Boy from a catering gig, and Mickey went along for the ride. As we came back in the front door, Mickey, being a border collie, tried to herd me. To avoid stepping on him, I allowed it, and he managed to herd me into a stack of boxes containing decorations. This would not have been so bad had Mickey not suddenly changed course, going under my feet again, which resulted in me taking one of those exaggerated steps people take when they’re trying to avoid stepping on a child or small animal. Even this would not have been so bad had Mickey not pushed into my other leg at the same time. All of these together, though, caused me to fall, hard, flat in the foyer. As I was assessing the damage – both knees hit, and both will have spectacular bruising, my right elbow banged into one of the boxes before hitting the floor, my left shoulder jammed as there’s not enough strength on that side to catch my bodyweight, and my right shoulder took a hit as the weight rolled to that side – Mickey was very contrite and came over to lie down next to me and rest his head on my shin. What a smart dog. Except for the part where he then tried to lay over both of my legs, just below my knees. And the part where he peed on the carpet after we’d stayed out front for a few minutes after the car ride home in case he had to go.
The “dog days of summer” phrase, for those of us linguistically inclined, is said to have originated because of the rise pattern of Sirius (the dog star) before the sun during the hot, heavy days of summer arrive.
Our dog days, though, have come right now.
My mother, who has said for quite some time now that there will be no more animals in the house, had a change of heart after watching the news and seeing a dog named Paddington (as in Paddington Bear) on the news as one of the featured dogs picked up by City Rescue and available for adoption. During the public service tidbit, the web site was flashed, so of course she had to visit. Where, of course, she found all sorts of cute dogs, including one named Hana, a Lhaso Apso mix. Despite her best intentions, she decided we should go visit Hana and see what she was like. I knew that if she were available, we’d be bringing her home.
When we walked in the door of the adoption center, though, we found that someone else had already begun the paperwork to adopt her. Luckily for us, another Lhaso mix, a five year old male, was also available. We decided to bring him home – except that the center had neglected to implant his microchip and give him the required rabies shot. So, on Monday we’ll head back to pick him up.
I’d told my sister that when we moved to our farm, we should get a border collie, especially if we wound up having livestock of any sort. Wouldn’t you know it, while at the center, we spotted a lab/border collie mix. We visited with him as we had with the Lhaso, and decided against taking him home – at four months old, and with the energy of a puppy, we thought he might be too excitable.
As we drove away, though, we decided that he would be young enough to train properly – this household is not quite the same as some households who get dogs and then don’t really do much with them beyond feed and water them. So we turned around and went back for him.
The training has already started. He’s quite a smart dog, and except for a couple of accidents – hey, he’s a puppy – the training is going well indeed. The cats are not happy with the sudden invasion, but they are cats and hence the rulers of the world, so they’ll claim their rightful place in the hierarchy and everyone will be just fine.
This means that we’ll be a two dog household come early next week. Better find that dream property and get ourselves moved…
What could be better on that first fall evening where the air turns cooler, the sky is clear and the stars are shining, and breathing deeply fills your lungs with impossibly fresh air than a good pot of soup….
…and a fire in the hearth?
Today we sowed no peas, as the errands this morning took longer than expected before I had to begin work. I did manage to turn over the soil, though, so tomorrow will be a good day to pull the clumps of grass, work in some compost, sow the peas, transplant the collards and broccoli, and in general enjoy some more playing in the dirt.
There are some properties on the “to be seen” list, one of which is 40 acres with a house and a workshop, one of which is just under 5 acres with a house and a barn, and a handful of others in between. Wouldn’t that be a nice way to start off the new year?
I suppose it is quite easy to forget, sometimes, just how large the country is until you’re driving to someplace further away than the grocery store. It probably seemed even further before the days of cars and trains, when people rode in wagons or rode horses or walked on foot from place to place. I often wonder, even as I’m driving around town here at home, just how modern people would have fared without the assistance of roadways and signs, without concrete ribbons leading us from place to place, with trees all around and only the sky above as maps of the world.
These days, though, there are signs that you have arrived at a particular destination.
And in case you’ve forgotten, Texas is the Lone Star State.
We didn’t dally long at the information center.
I know Montana is technically Big Sky country, but on this trip and on this day, Texas could very lay claim to that title as well.
The scenery along the way was much the same as it had been, with cattle…
…and rice fields.
And one unfortunate trucker, who’d managed to get himself off the road into a slight drainage ditch.
Undaunted, we made it to Houston, home of some spaghetti-like interchanges.
Beyond that, Houston was something we saw only from the highway, and like almost any other large city, seemed to be under heavy construction.
We passed through Sealy, home of the Tigers…
…who were out practicing for their next game…
…and continued onward toward our ultimate destination.
Can you guess where we stopped for gas?
Shortly after this point, we ran into swarms of butterflies, many of whom met their demise as they fluttered across the highway. The swarms were huge clouds over the roadway, making it nearly impossible to get any further shots through the front windshield. But we made it to our Point B anyway.
We found out later that due to the very dry summer in the area, the natural predator of that butterfly was not as active as it normally was, and thus the butterflies were far over their usual population numbers. Ours was not the only vehicle providing a testament to this.
The hotel is a Tuscan-inspired design, and in the outside courtyard area, had a wall of fire within a waterfall/fountain structure.
Inside, the suite was roomy and had a thermostat that could be set to 60 degrees, which meant to normal people it was like an icebox, and to my mom was still too warm for her liking.
We headed out in search of a cold drink…
…then wandered up and down the Riverwalk for a bit, trying to decide on food. Since you can’t go to Texas without trying some Texas barbeque, that was the choice for us.
Baby back ribs.
Beef ribs for mom. I had her hold up a knife to provide a scale and show how huge these were. She had ordered them because the menu said three ribs, not quite understanding just yet that everything is bigger in Texas.
There was a bit of a bite in the barbeque – not one that would tear off the top of your head immediately, but one that snuck in on you as you were finishing a bite, making its presence known. The baby backs were not as tender as I expected them to be, but tasted good enough, and the beef was good. In the mood to give them a try on dessert, and since I’m a sucker for it, we selected apple cobblers.
This was good indeed, and we all ate a healthy portion of the dessert.
Tired from our day of learning about the Atchafalaya Swamp, eating, and battling butterflies, we turned in for the night, happy to have reached our destination, and (for those of us playing tourist) excited about exploring the city and what it had to offer.
Day two dawned with all of us up bright and early – ok, maybe early, but not terribly bright without food or caffeine yet. As we did need sustenance for the road, we took ourselves downstairs for breakfast.
Barb had one typical breakfast: eggs, grits, bacon, toast.
Mom and I both had a more typical Southern style breakfast: biscuits and gravy, with bacon. My portion was a mass of bacon-y goodness, chewy and slightly greasy. Of course, I was unable to eat even a quarter of it, but what I did have was tasty (although both Barb and Mom said the bacon was slightly too salty for their taste – my benefit of screwed up taste buds, I suppose, is that it really does take an extreme in order for some things to seem out of whack to me).
While we were eating, there were seniors appearing for breakfast as well, most of whom were wearing Senior Olympics shirts. Despite my overwhelming curiosity and desire to ask them about it, I refrained and we got our show back on the road.
We crossed over the mighty Mississippi River – the first time I’ve ever crossed it other than in an airplane.
One thing I did not know about Louisiana and Texas was the amount of rice farming done in those states. Louisiana also has a good amount of sugar cane farming.
Of course, oil and gas are huge, and it isn’t strange at all to see working machinery in the midst of what appears to be otherwise arable farm or pastureland.
Along the way, in front of yet another sugarcane field, we saw some workers in very fashionable prison garb.
Since we had no particular time constraints, we made a stop at the Atchafalaya (ah-CHA-fah-lye-ya) information center.
This was still in Louisiana, and is on the eastern side of the Atchafalaya swamp.
We watched a short movie about the swamp – which really is a tourist infomercial, as most of these things are – read up about the area…
…and then pushed on, ever westward.
The map of the swamp shows a myriad of oil and natural gas fields, and the bridge over the swamp reminded me a great deal of the Chesapeake Bridge in Maryland – except with more trees and, you know, swampier.
Driving is hungry work, so we stopped off in Iowa, home of the Yellowjackets, according to the water tower.
Our goal was Big Daddy’s, which we found after driving down the main street in Iowa and then back toward the highway.
Alas, crawfish were not running when we visited, so there were no crawfish to be had. Instead, we had the buffet: fried chicken, corn, beans, mashed potatoes, spicy meatballs, salad, and a couple of desserts (banana pudding and bread pudding).
The chicken was tasty, as were the beans and corn. The meatballs did have a bit of a kick to them, but with the shape my mouth is in, too much for me. The rolls were bought, and the puddings were uninteresting. One of the strangest things we encountered during this trip was the absence of sweet tea. In Louisiana and Texas, very few places at which we ate served sweet tea, and Big Daddy’s was no exception to this. But the meal was satisfying enough and the tea was freshly brewed, and thus sated, we piled back into the car to continue our journey.
The adventure begins, but not without some trepidation. When you own your own business, and that business is a 24/7 operation, and you haven’t actually had a real vacation in many years, and you’re worried about something going wrong that would require your presence when you’re four states and 18 hours away…yep, that adds up to a little bit of worry creeping into the back of your head about whether or not leaving is a good idea after all.
Still, everyone needs a break now and then, and after this past year and a half, I could certainly use one. So, we headed west.
If you should ever find yourself going across the state of Florida for some reason – moving from point A to point B on your map – keep in mind that Florida is really, really flat. And that many parts of Florida, particularly if you are, say, moving west from Jacksonville toward the Panhandle, are still farm and pastureland.
There is a lot of this between here and our destination, all of which just served to whet my appetite for a piece of land somewhere.
A cow, a few chickens, a horse, lots of veggies….but I digress.
After stopping off in Tallahassee for some lunch – Chinese – we were back on the road to Alabama.
We wound our way to Mobile, searching out a restaurant recommended to us by a friend. You can’t miss it, he said. It’s right next to the battleship (the USS Alabama, as it happens). We missed it, having missed the turnoff, so had to backtrack. He couldn’t remember the name of the restaurant, but lo and behold, there it was.
We arrived just as they were setting up for dinner, so there was almost no one in the restaurant. I’m so used to Florida, where smoking in restaurants is verboten, that I was caught offguard for a moment by the question about seating in a smoking area versus a nonsmoking area. In deference to mom, who continues to smoke despite all the nastiness associated with it, we chose the smoking area.
To start: drinks and some fried mushrooms.
Fried platter for Barb (left).
Hearts of palm salad and shrimp cocktail for Mom.
Fried catfish for me.
Since this was, as Barb put it, a culinary journey as much as anything else, we also had dessert: key lime pie and coffee.
All of this was served up by Jim, one of the fastest moving and nicest servers I’ve ever met.
As we left, I took some (non-moving) shots of the heavy gear outside.
We chased the sun as it set.
The sun was always a step ahead of us, beckoning us to follow.
Eventually, it led us into Mississippi.
And stayed with us for a bit more.
Before beginning its final descent.
And bidding us a farewell after a day’s work.
Our work was not yet done, and we continued to make our way toward Louisiana.
Over the course of three days, I’ve managed to collect over 2000 photos. Sometimes, it’s a little disturbing just how many photos you can take with digital cameras. The only problem with this is that once you unload them, you have to pick out the ones you want – the ones that best represent what you’ve been doing, so they’ll illustrate your narrative in the best way possible. Those images then have to be resized, renamed, and uploaded. That, my dear readers, is a large task after a full day of travel, or, in the case of today, our first full day in San Antonio, after a full day of walking around everywhere in 90 degree weather.
So, I’m sorting through these batches, working on getting some images up. Friday, mom and I will be following Mission Trail, which links the five Missions that originally laid the groundwork for what became San Antonio. And you know what that means: more photo opportunities.
I am trying to finish some work-related things before finishing my packing (such as it is). I am one of those people who travels light: toiletries, some changes of clothes – and clean underwear, ever mindful of that motherly mantra that everyone knows so very well – my laptop, cameras, and phones, and I’m ready to go. This is entirely unlike most of the people with whom I travel, who seem to feel the need to take along all of their clothing, “just in case”. In the very rare event that I’m asked to dine at the Governor’s Ball in one of the states through which we’ll pass and I require something more formal than shorts or jeans, it’s not as if we’re leaving civilization entirely: there will be plenty of stores in which to find something appropriate. Since I doubt the Govs of the Gulf States know or care who I am, the only reason I would need dressier clothes would be if we decide to get a reservation at one of the finer dining establishments in San Antonio – and for that, the concierge would point me to a good location for shopping.
But as much as it would be interesting to eat at one of those upscale restaurants, I prefer street and casual dining. The former is a blast in places you’ve never been, and I have no doubt San Antonio is full of taquerias along with the restaurants that line the Riverwalk. There will be plenty of walking about the city and plenty of pictures, as I went out today and bought an extra battery and an extra memory card for each camera, both of which I’ll be toting around during our walking excursions.
We’re staying in a four star hotel near the Riverwalk, which will afford a great variety of destinations nearby that will not include driving around for hours. I like that. It’s nice to walk around, doing the tourist thing in the midst of other people doing the same, mingling with the locals as we go off the beaten path, and in general just enjoying life without thinking about what’s next on my todo list – or trying not think about it, anyway.
The only downer to this trip is that whole eating thing. I’d gladly spend four and a half days eating my way down the Riverwalk and through the city, but I still can’t eat very well nor can I eat very much at one sitting. If I can con my mother into acting as a proxy, I could probably get her on board and we could share some samplings of various foods – except fish tacos, against which she has an irrational bias – even though she doesn’t eat that much during the day herself. Or I’ll just bite the bullet (so to speak) and stuff myself with what I can, where I can, and that will be that.
I’m looking forward to this vacation, the first I’ve had in about five years. It’s a bit of a working vacation, since I won’t really be away in the sense that I’ll be out of touch, but it is a vacation nevertheless, and well-deserved. My brother moved back to the homestead yesterday, so my sister won’t be alone – she hates to be alone. My other sister has agreed to watch over my cats while I’m gone, since the other two kids are both allergic to cats – a little strange, considering that there have always been animals around this family since before they were born, but that’s the way it goes.
Last night, my mom passes through and mentions that my aunt and uncle will be stopping in to spend the night on their way to points south to take care of some business.
No problem. They do this from time to time, spending the night here, taking care of their business a bit south of here, then driving straight through back to Atlanta.
Not this time. We have a load of birthdays in September, including my mom and one of my aunts. My aunt and uncle (and cousin, who came with them), decided to stop back and spend the night Saturday night, then return to Atlanta Sunday instead so they could visit a bit with the fam.
Which means, of course, that everyone gathered here tonight. Which means food.
Unfortunately, I got no pictures of the food. After cooking, slicing, and plating, people loaded up their plates and went off to chow down.
Roasted chicken (two roasted chickens, actually)
Mashed yukon potatoes
Baked apples with a brown sugar-apricot reduction
Cake and ice cream, and a boisterous rendition of “Happy Birthday to You”
As I type this, most of the fam is crowded into the dining room, yakking at one another. Some of us are in the living room watching OSU take care of business with Iowa. Some of us are also cursing the pain in their back and wondering if tomorrow will offer the opportunity to drive out about 30 minutes west of here to look at properties, or if that will have to wait until our return from San Antonio. Twenty acres…