Friday, November 30, 2007

Twin Lakes, Clemson, SC (Sat.11/24-Fri.11/30)

When Corey and Juli were busy working, (I realize this is necessary to support the 6 Nelsons) we would sit and cry and dream of the weekend.

But once in a while we would find the strength to gather up the shattered pieces and somehow try to carry on... and walk around in the beautiful outdoors.

Twin Lakes is a great campground (~10 min from Clemson) just lacking water (as is the rest of the state). The campground closes at the end of November – we enjoyed being one of the few campers here.

Clemson Tigers Basketball, Clemson, SC (Tue.11/27)

OK, I'm a Tiger fan now – what a great place to watch a game – especially center court 6 rows back (yeah... that's one row in front of the school president). ACC / Big10 challenge (often not a good outcome for the Big10) – very fun to go in “Solid Orange” and cheer with the crowd.

Corey is the guy on the left... not really, but going with Corey is an experience as well – he might not have the big orange cowboy hat and painted face, but he's lacking nothing in team spirit. What a fun team to watch and a fun person to watch it with.

Eeeking out a win... it was a 3 point game decided in the final minute. Here's a video clip at a time-out during the last minute – I miss seeing Gopher games at the barn.

Whitewater Falls, NC (Tue.11/27)

With a drop of 411 feet, the Whitewater Falls is the highest falls east of the rockies. It's a great drive through SC and just pokes into N.C. as you get to the falls.

No two ways around it, that's a big leaf.

Kobe really wanted to hike – and was disappointed that the hike was so short. The first ¾ mile was paved, and according to Kobe paved trails don't count as hiking... I guess I agree with him.

View from the 4 year olds point of view (photo by Kobe)

Casons, Lawndale, NC (Fri.11/23-Sat.11/24)

A visit to the Casons' - More southern hospitality!

They took us out for wings. 125 wings to be exact! From mild to “curl-your-toes" spicy, all but a handful were devoured.

Lisa is getting her painting business going. Here's what looks like trim molding, it's not. Other items she showed us in her portfolio had amazing depth and texture – some requiring 10 or more steps to complete. Wood grains, granite, you name it, she can paint it! She is truly talented!

Running the numbers, Kim and I determined that we would be able to live nearly debt-free in North Carolina on Casons' property. The house is already built with low payments. It does require a paint job, but as we already know, Lisa is an expert painter. I like out-buildings – this is out-building #12 I think (others are not it as good a shape... sorry Tim, it's true).


You know how kids hit those great growth spurts, well, what happens when boys do growth spurts for 4 consecutive years? You get Dallas and Jesse.

Our boys got their video game fix while we were there.

In Tim's spare time, he's making a little camper for two. The payments were too high, that's why we have our eyes on Outbuilding #12.

Getting a Cason family picture was a fun experience – Below is a bit of the sequence of pics that I took as they were pulling it together. These were not rapid fire pictures, but over the course of a minute or two – it was hilarious!

Thanks, Casons, for letting us come and crash at your place and treating us / feeding us so well. It was great to see you all again.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Blue Bell Snack Bar, Claremont, NC (Fri.11/23)

I could only think of Ardy in this store. It's all antiques (except the Ice Cream and candy).

It was mid-day and we were the first people to come into her store. She was noticeably happy to have customers and conversation.

I remember these when I was a kid, but I thought the candy cigarettes were not “OK” anymore but, as they say, “It's different in the South”. We took the opportunity to stock-up on these, I might not find them for another 25 years!

Laundromat near Charlotte, NC (Thur.11/22)

Another Laundromat story... but with a good ending

Elan, Levi and I were at the laundromat a few days ago and left Elan's math book. We confirmed that they had it but it took a day or two to make it back there. I asked the lady behind the desk if she had the book and if she had time to grade the last section for me. She asked what grade my son was in and replied that she had been studying it and showed me her 4 pages of notes that she took. She was re-learning how to do percentages – good for her, I just found it funny...and felt guilty taking her math book – 'er Elan's math book back.

Morrissette's – Charlotte, NC (Wed.11/21)

What else is in North Carolina, or who rather. We had a great chance to see our missionary friends Fred and Susan who led our family trip to Haiti 26 years ago. With a million stories of travels around Africa, Asia and Europe it was great to see the Morrissette's again. Their ministry is Bad-dad forgot the camera.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Thanksgiving, Charlotte, NC (Thur.11/22)

Thanksgiving is a HUGE holiday for the Boraas/Larson clan (Kim's family). We have enjoyed tremendously the yearly tradition of gathering for a two day feast and sleepover either in Fargo, Fergus Falls or Cold Spring. This year God provided the Bollacke/Menino/Nuccitelli crew in Charlotte with a number of "firsts"...

Never before attempted at Thanksgiving:

-eating stuffed artichokes with dinner and tiramisu for dessert
-running the air conditioner
-bringing dirty laundry (literally this time)

I introduced myself as the guy who pulled up with leaking Diesel fuel on their neighbors driveway (I didn't have the gas cap on tight – it's a locking gas cap which can be tricky – at least that's my excuse – then the auxiliary tank which drains into the main tank overflowed through the loose gas cap... ouch!). I was concerned about my kids possibly making a mess or asking about “uncle Bill's” toupee, or something embarrassing like that. But No, it was me. I can be my own worst enemy sometimes.

We were able to meet the rest of the Bollacke family, it was obvious Mike and Lisa were from good stock. Incredible food with a German / Italian bent – it was like an exotic (not too exotic) feast!

I was really late getting the camera out and didn't come close to capturing the food and fellowship or even the host and hostess.

We had to “sneak” back into our campsite after hours as the gate locks at 6:00 pm (we just missed it by about 5 hours). We used the emergency code which ranger Rick wasn't too excited about the next morning... You hate to use the “better to ask for forgiveness than permission” too much, but...what can I say? Thanksgiving with the Bollacke family was an emergency!

Mike schooled me – took me 2 straight games. Life time Rodeo Golf score now at G12,M11

Lake Norman, Charlotte, NC (Sat.11/17-Fri.11/23)

The Bollacke family plus sister Karen (+ kids), brother Jeff (+ kids) – the gang was all there.

Sheering time for Mike.

While we were at Lake Norman, we enjoyed the beauty of watching most of the leaves give up their final hold on Mr. Tree to come rest on Mr. Ground. We were able to celebrate Christian's 9th birthday!

Fire-ban all across North Carolina issued by governor – no burning in much of the multi-state area so I'm leaving the wood, for the spring folks... sigh...

Scoreboard: Graham won 3 games of rodeo golf, Mike won 3 games of dingleballs. Lifetime score update: G12-M9

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Durham, NC (Mon.11/12-Sat.11/17)

Durham, North Carolina: a great spot to continue our decompressing after a seemingly high-speed tour of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington. We really had nothing we wanted to see in Durham (assuming there is something to see). Falls Lake, a N.C. State park, was a good place to catch up on some school work (start catching up).

During the kids free time (which is every other Friday from 1:30 – 1:45), they had plenty to discover. A woodpecker (bottom right), and a spider (bottom left), were fun, but the snake Shae found was the real highlight.

Yes that's my son Kobe wearing his life jacket on our hike through the woods

The mud pit – note the brotherly “act of love” on Levi's back....

We had sticks, critters, and mud – it's the boy trifecta. Because of the dry weather, there is a fire ban. I'll transport my sticks to the next spot...

Dumfries, VA (Mon.11/5-Mon.11/12)

The campsite at Dumfries was a bit too small for our big rig. I tried parking a couple times before getting it “right”. We hung over the end, blocking traffic, until I turned it sideways. When the camper was sideways, we barely had room for the truck. Well, as the truck was being towed away, I remember complaining about not having room for the truck, and wished we could have it back. I thought the trouble was bad fuel – trying to diagnose it with help from Nutter and my dad, but either way, after changing the fuel filter (twice – the second time riding ~7 miles on my bike to get one), I was done troubleshooting. It turned out not to be the fuel -- after they read the error codes it turned out to be an intermittent injector wiring harness. What you can get for $55.14 online you can pay $250 at a dealer (+ $300 for installation). We are a long way from my garage, so we say thank you -- may I not have another. The truck is back and running well... He gives and takes away.

This site didn't have fire pits, so I hate to, but I'll bring all the wood to the next site...

Leberts, D.C. & beyond (Wed10/31-Sun11/4,Sat11/10-Sun11/11)

What fun to see our friends Ed and Amanda on our trip. We live 2 blocks away in St. Paul and now run in to them in D.C.

We had a bit to work through as the dogs were loud when we were gone and the boys were loud when we were there (sorry about that, guys). I pray we weren't too much of a stress-riser in their apartment. Even so, we had a great time seeing them again and doing the Zoo, Cathedral, Smithsonian Air & Space, Skyline Drive, dogs vs Shae tennis ball chasing, plenty of “Hand and Foot” card playing and just hanging out.

One of my favorite pics of this great couple, It's the pocket size Leberts – they are each just under 4 feet tall you know...

Thanks, Leberts! See you in Seattle!

Skyline Drive, VA (Sun.11/11)

It's a requirement to sing the John Denver song “Country Roads” to drive the Skyline Drive. You know... “West Virginia, Blue ridge mountains, Shenandoah river...”

Besides sticking you with a toll to go on this road, there's nothing not to like. We did about 70 miles of the 100+ miles on the “official” road that runs the ridge of the blue-ridge mountains in western Virginia.

This would be a great road on a motorcycle, depending on how strict they enforce the 35mph – right, Thom?!, James?!

We got to throw some first-of-the-season snowballs, I was reminded how much I love the Leberts as Ed pegged me with a beautiful bounce off the top of the car to the side of the face snowball throw – nice shot, Ed.

Unfortunately we had to say goodbye to the 4 Leberts: Ed, Amanda, Digory, and Shelby. We missed going into West Virginia by 30 miles – that might cost us in the quest to see the lower 48... sigh...