Henry’s 5th

Henry turned 5 today. We all got up early and opened presents. He got an “Angry Birds” game. Not a video game…but a game where you construct the pigs in buildings and launch the birds from a catapult. He was pleased. We played it a few times today.

IMG_0561IMG_0560IMG_0513IMG_0512IMG_0509

He also got his first 2-wheel bike. He got a tactical-looking green bike that sort of matches dad’s car.

IMG_0524IMG_0522IMG_0519IMG_0517

We then took him to breakfast of his choice, which, of course, was McDonald’s. Then we hit the park so he could try out his new bike and Spider Man helmet. It was neat to see him cruising around like a big boy. But at the same time, Sarah and I were feeling a bit of sad nostalgia at how fast the years have flown.

IMG_0546IMG_0543IMG_0538IMG_0535

We came home where Ronda was waiting for us. He got to open a few more presents. One was a set of ‘finger lights’. I had more fun raving with them than Henry.

IMG_0554IMG_0553IMG_0552IMG_0549

We went to work and Henry had a good day with Ronda. He destroyed an elephant pinata they made a few weeks ago, and they played some ‘pin the tail on the lion’. He probably had a few too many junk-food treats today, but hey, it’s his birthday.

 

Medieval Times

While Henry went on a drive with me to pick up my newly-repaired computer, I made the mistake of conversing with him about a place where you watch knights fight while you eat. This was MONTHS ago. Nothing further was mentioned for weeks. Then Henry, out of the blue, begins to ask when we are going to the place where you eat and see knights fight and joust. That kid does not forget…if it has his interest.

Sarah and I decided his birthday would be a good excuse to take the boy to see the knights. And Henry too. John and LeAnn were kind enough to come along, even though it’s definitely not a cheap deal. We got the birthday package which included his B-day announcement from the king, and birthday cake.

Henry found it only reasonable to don his knight costume from last Halloween. He was a sharp looking dude. It was especially amusing at the front ticket counter, when they were hesitating and having problems finding our reservations; because that’s when Henry drew his wood sword. And just stood there in his intimidation mode, staring at the guy at the counter.

Medieval TimesIMG_0480IMG_0482

I enjoyed watching his face as much as I enjoyed the show. He was totally entranced. And that was for all the parading around, horse shows, and tournament games stuff. Then, by the time our meal was about over, the fighting began. Then he went from entranced to saucer-eye enchanted.

IMG_0502IMG_0501IMG_0495IMG_0486

He found it extra cool that our knight (Green) won. There was already no question as to his enjoyment of the entire evening, but it was further proof the way he was busting moves with his sword as we walked out. He seems to absorb the choreography pretty well, too, because he incorporates kicks and barrel rolls to his sword moves.

IMG_0506IMG_0503

Stay in Your Box!!!

Why do they make anything and everything you do so incredibly difficult, if it doesn’t conform to the standard, traditional, fast-food, corporate way of doing things?

This is the tale of my attempt to obtain a specific vehicle that I want. I’ve been wanting to get back into the bigger car/suv/truck zone again for my next vehicle. I also began realizing I always sorta dug those loud-colored FJ-cruisers I see driving around town. Then I saw they had released an army green color. Then my casual appreciation turned into unbridled want-lust in a pretty short period of time. We concluded that I was allowed to get one. It’s the least-cheap vehicle I ever ventured to buy, but I figured I’m just about 40. Must I wait ’till I’m 90 before I can declare it okay for me to get a car I want rather than ‘most economic and sensible’? Anyway, my rationalizations are a whole other story.

So I set out to find this cherished model at my local Toyota dealer. They didn’t have any. Then another. They didn’t have any. Then another….etc. Hmmm… this color seems to not be all that distributed here in Dallas. Then I found one up in Grapevine or someplace. Test drove it, and loved it. My fatal mistake was that I was still in the process of rationalizing to myself, and Sarah, this purchase. I told the guy I’d take my info and bring it home to the wife and let them know tomorrow. I called the next morning. It was sold (of course), and to a guy from Austin, no less. It was looking like this model was hard to get your hands on. It was, in fact, a “Trail Teams Special Edition”, which means, limited number in production, all the extra off-road package features, unique color that is unique to the edition of that year, etc. So I already knew it was somewhat limited, but this was stupid. I then found out why… apparently the tsunami in Japan directly crippled the production of specifically this car. In fact, they had a bunch on the line that were painted to be the ttse edition, but they couldn’t finish the job. So they released a bunch of ttse-colored FJs, but without all the off-road package and what-not attached to it. People who buy them call them the “Not-So-Special Edition”, or NSSE. Weird.

Anyway, my frustration was mounting. I began to surf the net. I’d find a few on dealer sites at weird places in the country. But more often than not, they would be sold when I would call. Finally, I found one on a dealer site out of Cleveland (my favorite place). I thought about asking bro-in-law Ian to go pick it up for me. Then I found out it was Cleveland, TN. Outside Chattanooga. I called…and it was sold out too.

BUT… the lady said she thought she could procure me another. She got back to me.. and she said there was one still at a Toyota shipping warehouse. Hadn’t even been to a dealer lot yet. She told me it could be shipped to Dallas, and the shipping cost could be rolled into the regular loan. I said “DO IT”!

It was a pretty stressful time, solidifying a loan, confirming that I actually HAD the loan, worrying about getting the vehicle actually TO me unharmed, worrying that something would be missing, etc. I actually made them send me pics at one point and discovered there was no tow hitch, like there was supposed to be in the description they sent. I made them put one on. Anyhow, Toyota of Cleveland successfully secured me a loan through BB&T, which I never heard of. In the months since, I’ve discovered a few BB&T branches around town here in Dallas, so they must be growing.

Now I had the car and was finally resting easy that our loan really existed. Now I had to register and license the thing. This is where the real fun began. I don’t even want to go into all the step-by-step, frustration-by-frustration labyrinth of pain, agony, disinfo, and public servant-retardedness that I had to battle my way through. I think I intentionally pushed much of it out of my brain in the time since. Seriously. I have to line up a ridiculous amount of detailed paperwork to go to the DMV, only to have them tell me they can’t help me because I’m missing such-and-such. Then I come back with that exact such-and-such they require, and they then tell me I’m missing so-and-so. And all so I can pay THEM. “Here, take my SLAVE money so I can have the PRIVILEGE (not Right) to travel in my vehicle..and you can keep closer tabs on me… and re-charge me money EVERY YEAR for being a SLAVE who gets to BORROW and use YOUR vehicle…take the cash…please!!! But this goes into my beef with the whole system in our “free” country…. back to my personal clerical agony….

Here’s the funny part: I refuse to do anymore at this point. Sarah and I decide to simply take the same stuff to a different (NON URBAN) DMV location, and they accept what I had, easily, from my very first visit… even less… she tossed a few papers aside saying “we don’t need this”.

Lesson learned: It has nothing to do with the rules. It’s how much of an asshole or non-asshole is the person you are speaking with. This is actually something I learned years ago. But it’s just so hard to exercise that sometimes. I have this foolish tenancy to think the actual paperwork and rules are sort of necessary for stuff.

So, finally, after a lump-some tax payment (for the whole vehicle!), and other fines and fees, I have a very, very sweet ride in a very, very sweet color. I’m letting the pain of beginning to think it’s not worth it to fade. I was issued a license and walked. I think part of it was the fact Sarah came with me for the first time. When she goes, things get done. Again, whether or not I did everything right in my solo attempts. It takes the wife for shit to actually get done, even if it’s just her presence. I say this with a touch of bitterness, because for some people… things just happen and work. Period. Then for others, every obstacle Murphy can think of… and more… gets thrown in the way. A simple run to the corner store for some TP becomes riddled with problems and setbacks, through no fault of the cursed individual. I can too-often be the latter person.

But all that aside, I’m happy with my ride. I had a temp plate for a minute but went back for a radio operator plate because I had recently passed my exam to be a ham radio extra (the highest rank, thank you). And that went much better. In fact, it only costs a buck to put in for a radio plate. If it were some other “vanity” plate, turns out that can cost a stupid amount of cash!

IMG_3483IMG_0023IMG_0021Photo0988

I jumped on fjcruiserforums.com and discovered not only did I pick a good ride, but the types on this site seem to by my kind of peeps, bizarre humor and all. I went to a local meet & greet and got to check out eveybody else’s pimped out FJs.

IMG_0027IMG_0025

All this fun getting the vehicle was November/December. In the following few months, I’ve managed to get my ham radio installed, which I’m proud of, (but it’s gonna be awhile before I can afford the winch bumper and lift kit)  I found some sweet car stickers online, and got my army stars and hood serials (which include my callsign) put on. I think I was influenced by my dad’s ol’ green truck, and my uncle jerry’s ol’ army jeep that had the army stars on them. I also installed the MPAC rear-door Molley rack, which is pretty awesome. I drilled a mount on the roof rack for a couple Rotopax gas cans, and got a Hi-Lift jack mounted, along with axe/shovel using Fourtreks mounts. A got a tuffy center console locking box, of which I nicely lined the inside.

The FJs are sure fun to look at though. I like the slightly retro vibe to these machines, and they are arguably better than jeeps and hummers off-road.

IMG_3528IMG_3524IMG_3476IMG_3471IMG_3467IMG_3466IMG_3465IMG_0339IMG_0338IMG_0334IMG_0328IMG_0336

 

2012 Retreat

I just got back from the 2012 CRC men’s retreat in Torrey, UT. I’m very glad I was allowed to go. I spent a few weaks gearing and prepping up my sweet ride. Drove for a day, slept in a dive in Cuba, NM, then drove the rest of the way to Torrey. I got to meet quite a few new faces, and  catch up with some old friends like Tom, Kevin, and Tim. We don’t keep in a whole lot of touch, but it was like no time had passed with us. Good conversation, worship, and testing out my vehicles’ worth off-road. Soon as I rolled into town on Thursday, I drove off the road on some random trail head I discovered. It was a surprisingly rough road… it required some rock-negotiations here and there. I only took it about a mile in, took some pics, then went back.

IMG_0365IMG_0362IMG_0359

On Friday, I convinced 5 other guys to take the trail further and see where it goes. It didn’t go a whole lot further, but there were some hairy spots, and it ended up at a red cliff ampitheater spot. We hiked around a bit, then decided there was too much day left, so we cruised down to some of that Burr trail as it goes into Escalante. We found a crumbly-rock hill that they ski’d down like 15 years ago. We climbed up, got some pics, had some fun.

IMG_0387IMG_0386IMG_0384IMG_0380IMG_0372

IMG_0388

IMG_0399

On Saturday, I wanted to take my ride through the Cathedral Valley loop. Chris came along, and not a quarter mile in from our trail head, there was a stream going through the road. Didn’t look like much. I could see the rocks at the bottom for most of it. Well, just before I was across, the water was suddenly hood-deep. That’s when I found myself lamenting the fact I didn’t mod my ride with a snorkel yet. But I gunned it, and it went right through. There were some rocky patches and rough road through the whole loop, but worth it. I rounded a corner and found myself stuck right in the middle of a genuine cattle drive at one point.

IMG_0408IMG_0407

We stopped to see the Cathedral of the Sun and Moon. I also brought my pipes along and made a stop to see how they’d fare. Chris appreciated that, on account of he’s presbyterian and is quite fond of the pipes.

IMG_0415IMG_0412IMG_0411IMG_0402

IMG_0418

Sunday was the day to hit the road, but I discovered Kevin was going the same way as me, so we decided to convoy for awhile and kill a few hours taking detours. Totally worth it. We’d stop to see sights, take some pictures, etc. When I thought we were pretty much out of the scenic stuff, we suddenly took a left off the road. It turned out to be a couple hour detour that was awesome. We took open, graded gravel fast, baja-style. Then we dipped down through some rocky-steppy, roads where you have to negotiate a bit. Then we dropped down into some washes. We came out near goblin valley, so we took some time to check it out. I don’t remember the last time I was at goblin valley, and it’s one of my faves. We had a burger in Hanksville, made a few more quick photo stops by Lake Powell, and eventually split up.

IMG_0443IMG_0435IMG_0431

IMG_0476IMG_0470IMG_0463IMG_0461IMG_0456IMG_0451IMG_0450

It was time for me to make a pretty long push back to Albequerque before too late. I was home by Monday night. It was a whirlwind, but totally worth it. I was in as much need of testing my vehicle off road, getting outdoors, re-acquainting myself with the desert, as I was in need of fellowship, worship, a good message and communion.

Been Awhile…

I was getting lazy for a few months on the blog. In fact, the explosive popularity of facebook kinda made me extremely lazy about doing anything with the blog for quite awhile. Then when I was thinking about getting back into it, my brother Andy died unexpectedly. So I sorta didn’t feel like yammering about much of anything for awhile. In fact I also killed my facebook. I sort of got tired of “fluffy kitty quotes” getting far more stellar response and review amongst my friends and loved ones, than postings about how and why we are so screwed as a nation. Oh well. There’s a time and place for everything. I could ramble on about significant signs of the times, but I reckon I would start another blog for that. This here blog is for the purpose of being my memoirs. I have some catching up to do. I reckon I’ll be doing some back-dated posts pretty soon. Fill in a few memorable highlights of the last year-and-a-half… if I can remember them.