Fun with Flat Charlie

Our family has had a chance to share some fun and adventures with Flat Charlie!

On Friday, April 5, 2013. Flat Charlie accompanied Pamela and I to the opening home game of the 2013 Texas Rangers baseball season.  We got to the parking lot early so we could spend a lot of time with some friends tailgating and grilling before the game.  Flat Charlie didn't really help much, but we think he had a really good time.  The Rangers won the game, too!

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On Saturday, April 6, 2013, Flat Charlie went with Pamela, Jessica, David, Chelsea, and I along with a bunch of friends to run in the 2013 Hero Rush in Irving, Texas.  The Hero Rush was a four and a half-mile long obstacle course/run with a firefighting theme.  Lots of water and mud, so Flat Charlie stayed back at the start/finish line with Jessica and Chelsea.  We think he had a really good time though.  He liked the fire trucks.

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On April 13, 2013, Flat Charlie helped me get some work done at home.  We had to take care of a couple of integration issues and had to put out a couple of fires, and then, while the others were out, Flat Charlie and I opened up the swimming pool and did some maintenance on the pool equipment.

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After a day of work on that Saturday, Flat Charlie joined the family on Sunday, April 14, 2013, on a drive down to Waxahachie, Texas, to spend the day at the Scarborough Fair Renaissance Festival.  We started the day with a cup of coffee and our usual stop by the Andres & Chapman glass blowing demonstration.  We were very careful to keep Flat Charlie away from the furnaces.  No burns!  We watched a couple of different demonstrations and acts and then had some lunch.  Flat Charlie had a sausage on a stick that was bigger than he was.   Somehow, he ate the whole thing!  I think Flat Charlie had just as much fun as everyone else did.

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I was just about ready to send Flat Charlie home, but this last weekend's weather forecast was just too pretty to do such a thing.  Instead, Flat Charlie and I took off for a three day hike in southwestern Arkansas near Langley, Arkansas.  We left Arlington around 10am Friday, April 19, and got to our trail head at the Little Missouri Falls Recreation Area and started hiking at 2:30pm.  We hiked 9 miles that day!  I sure am glad Flat Charlie doesn't weigh very much or need very much to get by on.  We set up camp before dark near the Winding Stair trail head in a little campsite just up from the Little Missouri River.  We slept well that night to the sound of a rushing stream.  It got cold that night, but I never heard Flat Charlie complain.  On Saturday, Flat Charlie and I really put in the miles, totaling over 15 miles of hiking that day.  We hiked through the Winding Stair area, across the length of the Viles Branch trail, and the six BIG ups and downs of the Athens-Big Fork trail.  The weather was just PERFECT for hiking and Flat Charlie had a really good time… until the accident.  Somewhere along the Athens-Big Fork trail, Flat Charlie had an injury (as seen in the photos – I'm happy to report he has been healed now!).  He really didn't seem to mind the injury and kept on hiking the rest of the day.  We got to our planned camping spot fairly early in the afternoon and Flat Charlie took a long nap.  I decided that I had better not nap or I wouldn't sleep that night, so I gathered fire wood and just piddle around camp.  We had a nice evening.  It was much warmer than the night before.  We got up early on Sunday morning, only having 4 miles to hike to get back to the car.  The morning was beautiful, and we were hiking right into the sun so the colors of green were just beautiful.  We got back to the car at about 8:30am and started the drive home.  I think Flat Charlie really had a good time.  You can see all of the hiking pictures by clicking this link:  SEE THE PICTURES

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Spring Break 2011

My Christmas present from Pamela this last Christmas was a 7 day Caribbean cruise over Spring Break.  The waiting was long and tedious, but the waiting was worth it!

Friday, March 11, 2011 – DFW to New Orleans

We took the 2:15pm flight from DFW to New Orleans.  Quick taxi ride down to Iberville Suites in the Quarter right off Bourbon (booked on lastminutetravel.com for $139 – very nice hotel – very quiet for the location).  We checked in and then walked down to Trashy Diva – stopping at Pat O'Brien's for hurricanes – to buy a Pamela a couple of dresses (they make beautiful clothes).  After, we walked around a bit until our 7pm reservation at Emeril Lagase's NOLA restaurant (shrimp&grits was good, the crab cake was better, the key lime cheesecake was the best – great, fun restaurant – a little pricey, but worth it).  After dinner, we walked a bit more, and got into the hotel around 10pm.

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Saturday, March 12, 2011 – New Orleans and Carnival Triumph embarkation

Up at 6:15am.  We walked through the Quarter down to Cafe du'Monde for beignets and cafe'ole (I love getting there early and picking a good table before it gets crowded).  We ate breakfast and watched people for about an hour, and then walked around looking for some Coke Zero to buy to take on the ship (we didn't find any but didn't need it – they have Coke Zero on the ship).  Then back to the hotel for showers.

We grabbed a taxi at 10:30am for a ride down to the Carnival passenger terminal.  Traffic was pretty heavy, so our driver took us in a back way – quick and painless.  Getting through check-in took about 10 minutes.  We were in boarding group 5 and got on the ship around 11:15am.  The embarkation process in New Orleans was probably the most efficient process we've encountered in our five Carnival cruises.

Up to Lido using the rear elevators (no one thinks of walking back there when getting on the boat – we saw zero people making our way up to Lido).  Weather was cool, but warm enough for shorts.  We grabbed a little lunch and a table at the very back of the Lido deck against the windows.  After lunch we piddled a bit, and got into our room around 1:15pm.  We went up front for sail away at 4:30pm.  The ship leans quite a bit taking the horseshoe turn in NOLA.  Dinner @ 6pm.  It took about 5 hours to get out of the Mississippi and into the Gulf of Mexico (I was VERY surprised by the amount of towns and businesses along the Mississippi south of NOLA – very neat – would love to drive down there some time).

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Sunday, March 13, 2011 – Sea Day!

Love the sea day.  They are the most relaxing, do nothing days ever.  We did get up early – 6am – to work out, then out to Lido for breakfast (omelet every morning).  We grabbed some deck chairs on Lido back by the rear pool and vegged most of the day.  Around 4pm we went back to the cabin to shower and dress up for the first formal night of the trip.  We took some pictures, then went to dinner, then to the casino where I lost $100 on the craps table.

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Monday, March 14, 2011 – Cozumel

This was supposed to be another sea day, but there was a problem loading enough fresh water on the ship @ NOLA, so the captain moved the Cozumel stop from Thursday up to today.  We had nothing planned for this port, so we were in no big hurry to get off the boat.  Breakfast on the Lido deck, and by the time we got down to deck 0 to get off the boat, the crowd was gone and we walked right off.

We grabbed a cab to town and began walking down the main drag.  Our goal for the day was to get more ceramics for our back yard fence and to find something for the girls.  We found hand painted chip&dip sets for the girls, and found quite a few ceramics for the fence.  We stopped by a local pharmacy and I bought some amoxicillin (sinus infection) and then we found a local bakery and had some bread and pastries (very good – not nearly as sweet as US pastries). I also found conch shells for $5.00 (ask Pamela about that) and snagged a couple of those to put by the pool.  I didn't want to carry all this stuff around the rest of the day, so we grabbed a taxi back to the port where Pam & I ran stuff back to the ship while dad waited for us.  Another cab back to Palmera for lunch, then we walked around more.  We ended up at Margaritaville that afternoon, and then a cab back to the port around 4pm.  Pam and I changed clothes and went out on Lido for a bit before dinner.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011 – Belize

We had a cave tubing excursion booked with cave-tubing.com (BUTTS UP!) and needed to get off the boat as quickly as possible… so of course, Belize is a tender port (you ride smaller boats from the cruise ship to the port) and we were 45 minutes late getting off the ship (no reason given by the crew as to why they were late letting us off).

We were on the first tender off the ship (group 4) and met our tour guide EVAN immediately (~9am).  We departed Belize City ~9:30am for the "hour" bus ride to the cave tubing area.  It took about 1.5 hours due to city traffic and we were introduced to cashew wine on the ride out.  The roads in Belize need work – enough said.  We got to the tubing area, got our gear, and took the 25 minute walk to the caves.  This walk solo would take about 10 minutes, but with a group…  The cave tubing itself was pretty neat, but I've done it once and once is enough.  After tubing, we had a lunch of home made tamales at the cave-tubing.com pavilion outside of the park – good food!  Then the hour bus ride back to the port.  We were pushing it to get back by the 4:15pm cut off for the last tender.  While standing in line for a tender, it began to rain, and the tender was over-filled with passengers, so we were up on the top deck with no cover.  No worries.  It stopped raining.  Back on the ship, showers, and dinner.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011 – Roatan, Honduras

We were up early and out on Lido for breakfast as the ship pulled into Mahogany Bay.  Wow!  Beautiful.  We got off the ship right at 8am – again no crowds… I don't know what was going on but I like it!  We walked out of the Mahogany Bay development (owned by Carnival) and over the hill to where we met our guide AL from Bodden Tours.  Once we had a van full (three families) we headed straight out to the zip line area.  Again, simply beautiful.  We were the first group out on the lines and had no waiting.  This was the highlight of the cruise.  Just fun.  We could have done this all day.  After zip lining, we headed for the beach for some lunch and sun.  Al took us to a resort at one end of the beach, and Pamela and I walked down to the other end and back after lunch.  TONS of people.  After the beach we went on a tour of the island.  Pam had been looking for Coke Light in a glass bottle at all of the ports.  She asked Al about it, and he found some for her.  We got back to Mahogany Bay around 3:30pm and walked through some of the shops there before getting back on the ship.  We decided that we weren't going to the dining room for dinner that evening, and quickly changed into swimsuits and went out on the Panorama deck and found some lounge chairs. [for some reason I quit writing here... I'll try to pick it back up some time]

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St. George Golf Trip – 2011

[tscopper from=image id=,1636]June 8-13, 2011. Players included: Al, Tony, Chris, Leo, Burt, Skip, Ronny, and myself.  The complete photo album can be viewed by clicking here.

We flew into Las Vegas early Wednesday morning, grabbed a rental van, and drove 2 hours up to St. George, Utah, where we had hoped to get into our condos before going to the golf course.  We had a little delay at the rental counter and were running behind so we went straight to the Snow Canyon Country Club to play the Entrada golf course when we rolled into town.  We were the ONLY group on the course, so we had time to hit a few balls and putt before teeing off.  It was incredible to have a course of that quality all to ourselves.  [tscopper from=image id=,1568,1571,1574,1577] [tscopper from=image id=,1569,1582,1586,1590]Entrada was the most beautiful, well manicured course I had ever played.  We were all just in awe of the course.  After the round, we drove down to the condos at Lava Falls to unload our gear, and then had dinner at the Gun Barrel Steak & Game House.  The food was really good, but a bit overpriced.  After dinner we hit a grocery store for a few items for the condo – breakfast food, snacks, sodas, etc.

Thursday we had 9am tee times at Sand Hollow Resort near Hurricane, Utah.  From our condos, it took about 30 minutes to make the drive to the course, with a quick stop at McDonalds for those who didn't by breakfast stuff at the grocery.  Standing on the first tee that early in the day, with the perfect weather conditions, looking down at the first fairway that was 100 yards wide and perfectly groomed, we just smiled.  It quickly became apparent, after three or four holes, that Sand Hollow was even better than Entrada, and we hadn't even seen the back nine yet.  [tscopper from=image id=,1532,1536,1537,1541] [tscopper from=image id=,1543,1545,1547,1550]We had not planned on playing two rounds on Thursday, but quickly got a replay bought and paid for once we finished the first round.  It was just too good to pass up another go. After 36 holes, we drove back to St. George to catch game 5 of the NBA Finals (Mavs won!) and to grab some dinner at Players Sports Bar. The food was surprisingly good. Our waiter was horrible.

Friday morning we had 8am tee times at the Ledges. Somehow, Google Maps and MapQuest both had directions to the totally wrong end of town, so what should have been a quick 5 minute drive to the course took about 30 minutes. We made it on time and were pleasantly surprised with the Ledges after having been told it had run down a bit. The course was not nearly as nice as the Entrada or Sand Hollow, but it wasn't that bad. Greens were great for the most part.  There were a few bad spots on the greens.  The fairways were excellent.  The rough was long but inconsistent.  [tscopper from=image id=,1529,1530]After our round at the Ledges, we drove back out to Sand Hollow for another afternoon round on the best course ever.  After the round, we drove down to the Sun River golf course to eat at the Riverwalk Grill.  The food left some to be desired, but the service was fantastic.  So far we are zero for three on dinner…  St. George has WONDERFUL golf, but needs some help on their restaurants.

We finally had a slow, leisurely morning Saturday with 10am tee times at Sunbrook – the only muni course on our list this trip.   We decided to go eat a nice breakfast and hit a place near the condos called "The Egg and I."  Great breakfast.  Great service.  We win.  Again we were very pleasantly surprised with the golf course. Sunbrook has three 9's and we got to play all 27 holes.  [tscopper from=image id=,1631,1632,1633,1634]I really enjoyed the first nine (The Point) and the last nine (Black Rock) but didn't care much for the middle nine (Wood Bridge).  After the round, we went back to the condos to clean up and then the plan was to hit Cafe Rio ("the best Mexican food in the nation" according to their own website).  The place was packed, and was not a real sit-down restaurant, and the guy running orders told us to head down the Poncho & Lefty's for some good Mexican food.  We took his advice.  The service was excellent, the locals friendly, but the food just wasn't that great.  It may be good to locals, but Texans need a little kick in their Mexican food. Oh well…

Sunday morning we got up for breakfast at The Egg & I again, and then drove back to Las Vegas. We went straight to the Las Vegas Paiute Golf Club northwest of Las Vegas where we played the Sun Mountain course. It was very beautiful, and in very good shape, but the greens were super hard, and mixed with the 20mph-30mph wind, it was very hard to hold greens. [tscopper from=image id=,1637,1638,1639]After golf, we drove down to the Rio to check in. We cleaned up then watched game 6 of the NBA Finals (MAVS ARE CHAMPIONS!) and had dinner at the All American Grill in the Rio (get the filet instead of the ribeye, and don't forget the jumbo shrimp cocktail).  Finally we won on dinner – excellent food and excellent service.

Spent Monday just getting home. Another "best ever" golf trip all thanks to Tony's careful planning an preparations.

Course – Score
Entrada – 91
Sand Hollow – 89
Sand Hollow – 91
The Ledges – 84
Sand Hollow – 89
Sunbrook – 80
Paiute Sun Mountain – 91

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Caddo Lake getaway – January 29 & 30, 2011

Photo album link

This was a spur of the moment get away. We decided on Thursday that since the weather was going to be super nice (highs in the 70s and lows in the 50s) we needed to take advantage. I've always wanted to get out to Caddo Lake SP, so I made a campsite reservation and we prepared our gear and food on Friday for an early Saturday departure.

After a quick stop at Starbucks Saturday morning, we drove east. Getting there was easy. I-20 to Marshall, then Hwy 43 to the park. We were camping in the Mill Pond area which is the primitive – water only – campsite area right next to Mill Pond.  We had the whole camping area to ourselves, so we spent some time trying to find the perfect campsite.  We ended up choosing campsite 50 for its trees and its proximity to the water.

We set up the hammocks and then put the canoe in the water. Mill Pond is a pond full of cypress trees that opens up onto Caddo Lake itself.  We canoed around the pond for a while, and then went out into the "lake" and paddled west to the Hwy 43 bridge (about a mile).  The weather was perfect, mid-70s with calm wind.  We were getting hungry so we turned around and paddled back to camp for lunch – grilled cheese sandwiches, tomato soup, and an orange. 

We worked on camp for a bit – setting up the kitchet and putting up the Noah's Tarp over the picnic table in case of rain.  Around 2pm, we got back into the canoe, paddled around through the cypress trees, and then paddled east towards the main body of Caddo Lake.  We paddled about 2 miles down, looking at the lake houses lining the lake and just enjoying the weather.  As we turned back for camp, the wind picked up and of course it was in our faces.  Continue reading

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Dad’s Aftershave

"There is nothing more sad or glorious than generations changing hands." John Mellencamp

The smell of dad's aftershave…

I always knew dad was up, or home from work, when that smell of his aftershave would arrive.  It was always just ahead of him… not too strong… just right.  I have many memories of watching my dad shave when I was a young kid.  I remember being impatient for the day when I could shave and put on that magical smell good stuff.

Years pass…

I hate to shave.  If you know me, you know that shaving is a twice weekly ritual.  I usually look a bit scruffy.  Shaving burns, and that smell good stuff is hell water on the skin after a shave.

Lots has changed since those days of youth watching dad shave.  My dad has changed too, or at least my perceptions of my dad.  He's gone from superhero when I was a boy, to a know-it-all pain in the ass when I was a teenager, to a fallible but loving mentor when I started my own family.  He is now my friend, and my dad.  I miss him.  I don't get home as often as I should, and I don't call as often as I should (can you hear Cats in the Cradle playing somewhere???), but I love my dad.

I've been sitting in this hospital room with dad for 31 hours now.  When I walked into the room yesterday I was truly frightened by what I saw.  He was pale.  He was shaking.  He had the look of fear in his eyes.  My heart sank and my mind cried out "NOT NOW SWEET LORD!"  It's a God thing… but then everything in its own way is a God thing.  Healing hands have worked their work.  Magic potions and the blood given by nameless strangers have helped as well.

An hour ago, my dad got up all by himself… He stood at the sink and he shaved.  I watched.  And then he put on his aftershave…

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