Monday, August 31, 2015

First Day

My daughter was much like I was, excited to be going back to school. She was up 45 minutes early and within a few minutes she was dressed and combing her hair, a record for sure. We made sure we were out at the bus stop 10 minutes early since this was the first day and the buses always have to iron out the kinks. Since this was also to be the third bus company to run buses for our school since we have lived here, I especially figured there would be kinks. Five minutes early or late of the time they had told me was certainly possible.

Twenty minutes later and 10 minutes after the agree upon pickup time, the bus still hadn't come.  The bus had only been this late once before and that had been due to a fender bender. The lady at the bus company told me that the bus was running late due to road construction and would be there. I gave her my address and asked her if she was sure since there was no road construction on the route and I had been told they were running the same route and times as last year. She assured me it was coming and to be patient with them.

Ten minutes after that phone conversation and now ten minutes before school was to start, the bus still hadn't come. As we got into the car so I could drive my daughter to school, I called the company again on the speaker phone and asked if the bus was still running late or something else was going on. She said it was and then I told her that it was now 20 minutes late and I assured her that I could be clear across town and back, road construction or not in that amount of time. She asked what the bus number was. I told her that I have never seen the bus and this was the first year her company has been doing this route so I didn't know. I gave her my address and my daughter's name and after five minutes of discussion, she said that my daughter wasn't in their system. I asked her why she told me the bus for our route was late after giving the same information now 15 minutes ago. I told her that I had spoken to this company two days ago to verify all this and they had told me my daughter was in their system then and even gave me the 7:30 pickup time. She didn't know how she got off the list but assured me she wasn't on the list.

At this point, a man picked up the phone and proceeded to ask me all the information that I had covered with them two days ago and for the last ten minutes of phone conversations. After being put on hold for two lengthy periods of time, he told me that he couldn't reach the bus but that it should have been there at 7:30. I  told him that I had waited until 7:50 and it wasn't there and at this point it was 8:10. He said my daughter was in their system despite what I had just been told. He said he would send out another bus to pick up my daughter. I thanked him but said that during this time talking with his company to get everything straightened out, I had driven to school, dropped my daughter off and was now pulling into the garage as we speak. I said I was more concerned about her getting a ride home after school and what would happen tomorrow morning. I was assured that these problems would be ironed out. We'll see.

Friday, August 28, 2015

In Hot Water

About a week before we left on vacation, I was down in the basement digging out some hiking gear when I noticed our water heater had a slow leak coming out of it. Of course it had a leak a week before our vacation. I turned down the heat to reduce the metal expansion and called my plumber to see what it would take to get a new water heater. He gave me a price but couldn't get to it that week. I was gone the following week. He was gone the week after that. Of course that was the way it would happen.

I knew when we first bought the place that this day would happen because the water heater is 27 years old. In our neck of the wood where the water if fairly hard, getting 27 years out of a water heater is unheard. On average I would say 10 years is more normal. I also knew from taking a shower, that the 40 gallon capacity was severely diminished due to sediment buildup. You have to be quick with a shower if you want hot water which was no problem for me but with three sometimes four women in the house, it was a problem... for them. I looked at it as more of a water conservation program myself.

Needless to say, I turned the water supply off before leaving on vacation and after a week of it being cold, I monitored it when we got back and I turned the heat back on to it. Nothing like a ruptured hot water heater flooding the basement to put a damper on your post vacation high. However the water heater held together long enough for the plumber to finally come and replace it. I would have liked an on demand heater but it really doesn't make financial sense with our hard water. (They get about 15 year life expediencies here but cost five times as much.) The plumber initially tried to sell me on a forced air model which is supposed to be safer in tighter houses but also requires you to go without hot water in a power outage, something we get fairly often in the winter months and also requires yet another vent pipe to be routed through the side of the house. Since we like our hot water even in a power outage and our old vent through the roof works just fine, we went conventional although I did up the capacity to 50 gallons.

Its amazing at how efficient a tank empty of sediment is compared to one full of sediment. When we emptied out the old tank to remove it, we only drained about 10 gallons of water out of it which meant that it had 30 gallons of sediment. It was a heavy son of a gun to truck out of the basement. The old one took half a day to heat up and at the hottest setting, didn't quite get the water to scalding skin temperatures. The new one took about an hour and a half and at the lowest setting caused me to pull my hand out of the hot water very quickly. The drawback to all this is with three sometimes four women in the house and two daughters who think they are teenagers and will sooner than I like be teenagers, I'm sure my water bill is going to be going up a tick or two.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Temperance River and Carlton Peak

Temperance River
 On our final full day, we decided to do another hike but longer than our previous ones. This one was also along the Superior Hiking Trail and required us to drop a vehicle off at one end prior to driving to the other end so we didn't have to do the same section twice. We started our hike along the Temperance River where as we were becoming accustomed too with this trip, was full of hordes of people. Also as expected, as soon as we got away from the well groomed trails and the waterfalls near the main road and everyone's cars, we had the place mostly to ourselves.

Our youngest daughter did okay for the most part but for awhile in the middle of the hike, we finally had our first real crisis of the trip. The weather had been mild on the previous days but on this day it was up into the low 80's. Not bad if you are hiking and can catch a breeze here and there. But for a nearly three year old sandwiched in a pack with only her head and shoulders sticking out, it can get pretty hot. We ended up making very slow progress for awhile and letting her out to cool off wherever the trail was relatively flat. At one point however, the trail started heading up the steep rocky sides of Carlton peak while she was out of the pack and that little girl decided hiking was her best option. With lots of grunting and baby talk, she hiked for a long ways up that mountain with help from me to get her over the really difficult parts. I could see her coordination improving dramatically from the first day of hiking we had done. I was so proud of her.

Temperance River
 From the direction we were hiking, we were taking the longest route to Carlton peak so when we got to the peak itself, we did start running into a handful of people coming from the nearer trail head on the other side. But compared to the hordes below near their vehicles, I wasn't complaining. When we finally topped out on Carlton peak some 1500+ feet above sea level, we shared it with another couple for a few minutes and then had the place to ourselves for the next couple hours as we soaked in the views and ate lunch. At one time the forest service used to have a fire lookout tower on top of this peak but modernization and the slimming down of the Forest Service has led them to get rid of most of the towers and instead just use airplanes after lightening storms.

View from Carlton Peak
From the peak, you could see out over Lake Superior and in the distance spot a taconite loading facility off in the distance. Using my zoom, you can see the facility below at full zoom. Taconite is a low grade iron ore which gives these mountains their name (i.e. Iron Range) and it still mined in places though I have never spotted a mine yet. It is also the same substance that the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald of Gordon Lightfoot fame was hauling when it sank become the largest such vessel to do so on Lake Superior.

Eventually we heard quite a few people heading up the trail from the short side of our route and decided to let them have there time so we packed up and headed down the trail. As with the other places we have hiked along the Superior Hiking Trail, the way was loaded with raspberry bushes full of ripe fruit so we took it slow waiting for our oldest daughter to graze her way down the trail. We all helped in the grazing to some extent. 

In the evening another bicycle ride along the shore was completed along with one last swim and a couple soaks in the resort hot tub before we officially called this vacation a success. The following morning we packed up and drove back home. 

Taconite loading facility on Lake Superior

Monday, August 24, 2015

Poutine & Crazy Canadians

Along the shore of Lake Superior
 Let me preface this post by saying that I don't think Canadians are crazy, at least not all of them and had I done the proper amount of research, I could have found something more representative than poutine. Now lets start at the beginning.

I have been all over the world and yet I've never been to Canada. I've been close a time or two and have flown over it more times than I can count, but I've never set foot on Canadian soil. So we decided the time was right to remedy that error and set out one day for a day in Canada, specifically in the Thunder Bay area. I have never driven across a border of a country before so I didn't know what to expect. Being that this was Canada and in a fairly isolated part of the country, I envisioned a much scaled down version to what I see on television between California and Mexico. As we approached the border, the U.S. customs cops had a semi pulled over with cop cars blocking two of the four approach lanes. Perhaps a 100 yards out, a cop looked up, walked out between the cars and started pointing at a spot in the lane next to the car. I naturally assumed that he wanted to question us, perhaps let a dog sniff our car, etc. I pulled to a stop where he was pointing, still 50 yards short of the physical border and rolled down the window to hear what he wanted. He proceeded to lecture me about my stupidity for not giving him a full lane of buffer around his car as required by state law and how he could ticket me if he wanted too. Now I could have pointed out that I hadn't actually yet gone by him and thus could still give the one lane buffer as required by law. I could have pointed out that his pointing for me to switch lanes looked really similar to pointing to spot where I should stop for questioning. I could have suggested he be more polite to others who might be coming into our country for the first time instead of acting like a d$#k. Instead I just apologized every pause in the conversation until he finally let me go to proceed to the border and a very nice Canadian lady.


Poutine (half gone already)

We proceeded into Canada for the how every many kilometer drive to Thunder Bay making sure to obey the speed limit for fear the American cop would come throw my ass in some Canadian jail just for sport. Not having any maps or computer aided device that worked in Canada, we didn't drive all over Thunder Bay which turned out to be much much larger than I expected. We found the actual bay and though we didn't hear any thunder, we did enjoy a nice walk along it for awhile. Getting hungry we decided to get some grub and since my motto has always been, when in Rome, eat like the Romans, we set off in search of something Canadian. We found a hole in the wall called Nippy's that seemed to be getting a lot of local traffic and stopped.

Two young Canadian guys sold us some food which included Poutine, seen below. It consists of french fries topped with cheese and hot gravy. It was delicious even though I could feel my arteries hardening as I ate the stuff. That is why I insist that if this is a delicacy in this part of Canada, then whomever eats this on a regular basis must be crazy... and extremely satisfied after such a delicious treat. I'm sure Kymber, the only Canadian I know who reads my blog, could have pointed me towards something a little more healthy and uniquely Canadian but I hadn't thought to ask before my excursion. Let me know Kymber and I will get some next time!

Wood fired pottery kiln
Our journey back across the border was routine and there were no cops... or mounties that gave me a hard time or confused me with hand gestures. We did stop once to turn the kids loose along the shores of Lake Superior to burn off some of the chicken fingers and french fries (they don't eat like Romans when in Rome unfortunately) by playing in the rocks and cold water. One item of note is that just before crossing back to the States, we saw a simply hand painted sign that said pottery pointing up a winding two track lane that disappeared into a stand of trees. Who could resist?

At the end of the lane we found a hand built house and a man named Fritz who made wood fired pottery. Fritz was a very interesting guy and showed us not only his wares for sale but also his kiln tucked away in the barn and showed us how he fired his stuff, twice a year. Each time went through nearly a cord of finger sizes split wood and took 22 hours of continuous monitoring. The results, though not like the pristine stuff you get in modern gas and electric kilns, was beautiful in its own right. The fire and ash provided all the coloring in the glaze and every pot had rough spots where ash had fused to the clay during the process. We ended up buying a little vase because we liked the rustic nature of how it looked and mostly just because of the story that went with it. The next time I'm in the area, I will definitely stop in and say hello to Fritz and perhaps relieve him of some more of his pottery.

Wood fired vase

Friday, August 21, 2015

Cascade River & Canoeing

Cascade River

After the success of the toddler backpack with our youngest daughter the day before, we thought another hike was in order. However, we had scheduled a canoe outing for after lunch so we needed a much shorter hike to do. Thus we drove up the rode a few miles to the Cascade River for a morning hike. As the name implies, it is plum full of waterfalls as it tumbles down the face of the Iron Range mountains into Lake Superior. Also as expected, the areas close to the road were full of people but the further we hiked up the rugged river, the less people we saw.

Cascade River
Twenty years ago when I first hiked along this river, all by my lonesome the entire way, there had been a really rugged path along both sides of the river with one bridge crossing a mile up the river from the road. After that, it was rock hopping if you had to cross from side to side. This time around the paths had been replaced with wooden boardwalks and wooden stairs for the first mile or so up the river. Once we got beyond the boardwalk, we had the place to ourselves. We hiked a couple miles to a point where the stream widened out among a bolder filled bed and ate an early lunch there. I taught the oldest girl how to skip rocks while the younger one simply tried to fill up a watery hole with rocks. Both had lots of fun. Unfortunately time waits for now one and eventually we had to walk back down the opposite side of the river and back to our car because a canoeing appointment awaited us.

Cascade River

My wife has never been canoeing before and was all keen to try it. I have done miles of paddling, both flat and whitewater in a canoe and a kayak and was happy to show her how to do so, but wasn't looking forward to this particular time. We had to sign up through the resort which meant having to wait in line at the resort front desk for a half hour just to be there early enough to get one of the five available slots per day and only when the clock struck the exact time despite there being enough people in that particular line to fill the trip up ten times over. If I would have been packing heat, I might have been tempted to shoot the snooty clerk who had to keep checking his watch to make sure he didn't put the list out a second too soon.

My other big reservation about this whole canoe outing was that it was on the Poplar River which if you have seen the last half dozen pictures I have posted of it in previous posts, wasn't really a canoeing stream. It was shallow and rocky. I figured at best the resort was going to plunk down canoes in a deeper pool of water somewhere and we could paddle up and down it for an hour while the provided guide droned on about paddling tips meant for beginners before returning the canoe, not really my type of excitement. Fortunately, I was wrong.

As it turned out, we drove up the river to the bridge we had hiked across the Poplar river the day before and walked up another spur trail along side the river about a half mile. The river changed from a shallow rock bound stream to a deep lazy river in a large valley. The guide who smelled of alcohol and was sipping a clear substance on ice in a plastic cup, turned out to be a fairly decent guy with some interesting knowledge about the area. The pool that we paddled turned out to be several miles in length, perhaps longer, and we had to turn around before we ever found out how far it went before hitting a rapids or became shallow and rocky again.

I was able to coach my wife on some points for paddling a canoe on flat water while enjoying the beautiful scenery and fauna. We saw a great blue heron that we kept chasing from spot to spot up the river and then back down it again. Although my dad and oldest daughter in the boat ahead of us saw a beaver, we missed seeing it though we saw lots of beaver lodges along the banks. It turned out to be a beautiful trip and not what I would have expected for a resort planned activity. It also made me realize that perhaps a river float trip with my family will soon be in my future again after a decade absence.

Beaver lodge on the Poplar River

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Moose Mountain

View from the top of Moose Mountain, Lake Superior in the background

After the crushing crowds of the day before at Gooseberry Falls, we decided to get away from civilization for a time if possible. That wasn't too hard as it turned out. We simply had to get off the paved paths that people could drive too and 99% of them were too lazy or disinterested to go beyond them. Housing up along the North Shore area was expensive, much more than it used to be, namely because they had the demand on a limited supply. We ended up renting a condo that was built mainly to support the nearby ski mountain during the winter and because it was up the mountain a few miles from Lake Superior, we got a bit of a discount. We also got a discount to use the ski lifts for the alpine slides, which we didn't do, and also a discount for the gondola up to the top of Moose Mountain, which we did use.

Photo through very dirty gondola glass on the way up to Moose Mountain

We actually had round trip passes but we only used the upward half of the pass because we had another motive. We wanted to get away from the masses and we also wanted to do a shakedown cruise of sorts. Back when our oldest daughter was born, we were gifted a backpack meant to haul babies up to toddlers. We actually carried our daughter about four miles down a mountain in it and then she threw the mother of all fits (at six months old) that we had to carry her up the mountain in our arms, all four miles, all uphill... a mountain. Needless to say, we opted to not do that again. Now with a nearly three year old, we were tempted to give it another try. We made sure the three year old fit and seemed happy in it at home and she was, so we brought the pack along. From some old hiking books I brought, we saw that from the top of Moose Mountain, we could hike a spur to the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT), which runs the entire length of the North Shore, and follow the SHT 3.5 miles back to another spur that ran to the base of the gondola, a quarter mile from our condo. All in all it would be a one way hike of four miles and perfect to test out how trail happy our youngest daughter would be.

Passing over the Poplar River in the gondola

At nearly three years old, our youngest daughter is already quite the walker and often times will walk with my wife and I as we walk from our house to her place of employment and then walks with me the long way back home. It is about a three mile hike and she can walk it entirely, albeit it is mostly paved except for a half mile shortcut through some meadows and woods. At the top of Moose Mountain we started her off walking but soon found out that walking on pavement and walking on a mountain path are two different levels of coordination. She made it about a 100 yards before frustration and a skinned knee meant that she got to ride in our backpack. She seemed content and rode in it much of the way down Moose Mountain, up another mountain, down that mountain and down the spur trail after it crossed the Poplar river and made its way back to the gondola.

Poplar River where we crossed it on Superior Hiking Trail
Our nine year old did excellent and even carried a small backpack with her water and lunch in it for part of the way. Our nearly three year old grew to accept riding in her backpack without much complaint except for a later hike in the week when it got really hot riding sandwiched in a pack. There were loads of wild raspberries along the trail and the only time we saw others were when we were on the spur trails on either end. Other than that, we had the entire place to ourselves and had a great time. It was the first time we had been on a "real" hike since our oldest daughter was six months old and the horrible hike up the mountain with a screaming baby incident. I am now able to see that family hikes are going to be more of a reality than a dream in our future and in fact, we decided to plan another longer hike later in the week. More on that later.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Gooseberry


As some of you may have guessed, I headed up to the north shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota with my family and my parents for a vacation that was sorely needed. We were looking for a place to expose my young children to some of the things I did as a child with my parents and yet get there in a reasonable time frame. The north shore fit the bill nicely.

On our way north to our condo that we rented for a week in the Iron Range mountains next to Superior about three fourths of the way up the coast towards Canada, the kids in the car were getting a little antsy so we stopped by a place I have known about for a couple decades, Gooseberry Falls.

Gooseberry Falls actually consists of five falls in a short stretch of the Gooseberry river as it tumbles down from the mountains into lake Superior. Twenty years ago when I made my first trip there, it consisted of rugged dirt trails and a small gravel parking lot just off the road. I could reliably head up to it and have the entire falls area to myself for an hour or two at a time to photograph or enjoy as I please.

These days, the falls area looks more like the picture below. The parking lot has increased in size by about 1000% and is paved. There is a HUGE welcome center and paved trails leading to the falls along with plenty of signage up near the highway. This time when I stopped, there were cars backed clear up to the highway because the parking lot was full and at the middle falls seen in these pictures, there were probably 120 people within eyesight the entire two hours we were there.

I'm glad people are getting out and enjoying nature because I think that it is important but the secret is most definitely out on this place. There was trash everywhere and if you are like me and like photos without people in them, you are reduced to taking closeup shots like the picture at the top of the post. You can't expect to come to a place like this and lose yourself in the beauty because you have to deal with people all around you. Now with paved trails, stairs and plenty of signs, anyone can come to see these beautiful falls.


The one saving grace is that 99% of the people that come to see these falls and others like them will only see the middle few falls because they are the ones with paved trails and are close to their cars. Hike just two minutes up the trail and the number of people around you disappear until it is just yourself. People like the idea of nature but for the most part are two lazy to get out and enjoy it. I hope this stays true for the time being because there was a lot of beautiful things I got to see over the course of the week that just a handful of others compared to the hordes that now descend upon Gooseberry Falls on a daily basis get to see.

Below is a picture of Gooseberry Falls I took 20 years ago when I had the place all to myself.


Friday, August 7, 2015

Riddle Me This

Back when I was a working stiff and due to a regular change in jobs over the years, I never had more than two weeks of vacation a year. I would have gladly taken a pay cut or forewent a pay raise for more vacation time but corporate America didn't work that way I was told. You have to work long hours for many years and then we'll give you a third week. If you sell your soul and work the rest of your life, we'll possibly give you a fourth week but by then, you'll be so old and broken your idea of a vacation is taking time off from work to get a root canal done. So I quit corporate life.

Fortunately, my wife's profession is a little bit more gratuitous and they gave her four weeks of vacation a year starting out. Granted she doesn't get paid a dime when she is gone on vacation but at least she gets to make the decision of money or time off as long as she schedules it months in advance. Fortunately, she is like me in thinking that time off with family is way more important than money. It still doesn't compared to the five or six weeks of paid vacation many other civilized countries get around the world but it is a start.

So as you can suspect, we are headed off to spend some of that hard earned UNPAID vacation time that my wife has accrued. We are heading somewhere I spent quite a bit of time as a young single adult who had recently moved to a new area and didn't yet have friends to spend weekends with. Perhaps we'll do some biking, hiking, boating and driving around or swim in a pool because the nearby water will be way too cold for swimming. Perhaps I will get a feeling of Lightfoot.

See you when I return.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Telling Myself I Told You So

I'm a jack of most trades (master of none) and am willing to attempt just about anything. However, trying to play mechanic stretches my abilities to the limit. Everything looks as simple as bolting and unbolting a few things to fix but in reality, it ends up a half day event full of cussing, trying every combination of tools, a trip or two to a store, strained muscles in places I never knew had muscles and eventually a completed repair or hauling the parts to a real mechanic.

Case in point. Our daughters were off at my parents farm for a week so my wife and I decided to dust off the old bikes and go four our first ride in a loong time. Actually I had dusted them off a month earlier anticipating this event and had spent a couple weeks repairing them and getting the shifter cables adjusted properly. We hauled them down to the river and rode some trails there. It was beautiful scenery and we had a great time but I realized, I'm not as flexible as I used to be. In fact, by the time I got bent over to reach my handlebars, my lower back felt like a poker was being stuck on it and my hands went numb almost instantaneously. I suffered through a short five mile ride but vowed that I needed to fix things before attempting a second ride.

Looking at my bicycle, I realized that my handlebars were about three or four inches below the top of my seat. For a young, lithe eighteen year old that I once was, not a problem. For the much older, stiffened back, with a gut of a man that I am now, it looked like a stress position that might be used with great effect at Guantanamo.

Never having working on handlebars before, I had to do some research but learned that I had an unthreaded stem which basically means, unadjustable, short of getting a new front fork and cutting it to size. Just before giving up however, I found that magical pill that was supposed to cure just this disease called a stem extender. It promised to bolt on with just a few fasteners and allow me to raise my handlebars up a maximum of three and a half inches or nearly even with the top of my seat.

The day after it arrived, I removed my handlebars from the stem and put the stem extender in place. I started tightening things up and was about halfway there when something gave and suddenly I had a bolt that I couldn't tighten or loosen nor could I put my handlebars back on or take the loose stem extender off. Short of sawing off my front fork and starting over with a new one, I was at a loss for what to do. After much sweating, grunting, straining a muscle in my lower back and trying a dozen different methods, I succeeded in ripping the threaded part in the stem out of the bike in two pieces.

Long story short, I made the trip down to the local bike shop for what turns out to be called a stem star nut, followed by a trip to the local hardware store for a new bolt since I had destroyed the other, and finally a trip to the ice cream shop that I had used as a bribe to drag the girls along with me on such a hot day since I don't yet trust them to stay at home by themselves.

Half a day later, I finally got everything put back together and a dose of advil in me for the sore muscles but I think my fix is going to work. I took it out for a quick spin down the driveway and my back didn't feel as strained (other than the recent strain from fixing the bike) and my hands didn't feel like they had as much weight on them from being hunched over so far. My earlier today self is telling my current self, I told you so.

Monday, August 3, 2015

One Fry Short of a Happy Meal

Due to the frequent rains we have been getting this spring, it has been up until a week ago before I could finally back our van down over the steep hill in our side yard to the basement door and load up all the debris from my ongoing office remodel. I have slowly and surely been making progress on deconstructing the walls and low ceilings so that I can start over again with modern wiring, duct work, etc before putting the walls back in.

I got everything loaded up and could tell that I had more weight in the van than I've ever had but thought it would be able to handle it just fine for the five mile drive to the dump. I got in and tried to drive up the steep hill in the side yard to my driveway but spun out. I backed down and tried a second and then a third time with similar results. Not really wanting to unload everything, carry it board at a time up the hill and reload it, I backed up as far as I could go and stepped on the gas. The hill has a natural ramp to it between the house and where it really drops off about ten feet from the house. Go too far one way and I'm rubbing paint off the house and van. Too far the other way and the van if rolling ass over wheels all the way to the bottom of the hill or into an oak tree, whichever comes first. However, I successfully navigated the ramp and made it up to the driveway but only just before the wheels were starting to slip on the grass again.

I made it to the dump and this time instead of using the dumpsters as I had always used in the past, they made me drive out to the pit and actually throw it right where it would shortly be buried. Backing up to the edge of the pit, I was actually backing down an incline so before I got out, I made sure to set the parking brake to ensure that the van didn't roll off and down into the pit with me affixed to the rear bumper screaming like a little school girl. I got everything unloaded and got inside to drive away but instead of going, I could feel the wheel settle in like I was stuck. With all the rain we have had and this being on top of buried garbage, the car had made divots into the dirt but it certainly wasn't buried. In fact, it looked like it was just spinning in the loose grit on the top surface.

I tried rocking the car back and forth but wasn't making headway. I tried putting anything I could find without nails under the front tires to get purchase and "rocking" it back and forth but couldn't make any headway. Finally after awhile some dump workers came over and tried pushing but again we made no headway. Finally they got a four wheeler over with a chain and we pulled it out and that is when we noticed that the back wheels weren't turning. I had forgotten to release the emergency brake, something I seldom use on this van due to it having an automatic transmission. I thanked the men totally embarrassed with my brain fart, released the parking brake and drove away with the smell of hot rubber from spinning my front tires still in my nostrils. I'm glad they don't know my name because I'm sure they laughed about it over some beers with their friends later.

On a side note, while I was unloading my stuff, there were pictures fluttering all over the place in the slight breeze. One of them caught my attention and I picked it up. In the picture was a 16 year old girl taking a selfie in some sort of strapped dress where the straps covered only part of her breasts and with the neckline no where in sight. Judging from the writing on that picture and others nearby, her name was Anna (last name withheld) and she had recently celebrated her 16th birthday. I'm not sure why someone would take a picture like that especially on a hard copy and assume that just because they threw it in the trash it was gone forever. It is certainly a reminder to me with two daughters of my own that pictures these days can be forever and they needed to be reminded of that fact.