Sunday, November 30, 2014

Living in nature - kinda gross

I take lots of photos of nature when it is at its prettiest.  Sometimes nature just doesn't work that way though.  The other day Jasper and I were out for a walk when he wandered off and started sniffing something.  It turned out it was a dead deer, not that far behind our house.  It had already been snacked on, so I couldn't tell the cause of death.  Over the next few days, I saw a lot of Magpies flying around, doing their scavenger thing.  Then one morning I saw that something had dragged what was left down to our front porch.

There were several chunks that looked like this.  Picked over so there was no meat left.

And then I found the deer's head down at our retaining wall.
I know that nature involves things constantly being born and dying, that whole circle of life,  but I would like to request that nature find someplace other than our front steps to deposit the carcasses.  Yuck!

Before anyone else saw the mess, I put it in a garbage bag and into the trash bin.

Thanksgiving dinner

This year, we didn't have family in town for Thanksgiving and most of our friends were on the road somewhere.  We decided to have some nice restaurant provide us with turkey dinner instead of Julie slaving for two days.  We started with our default, Stein Erikson's buffet.  We had a reservation, but we also had reservations about our reservation.  It is fabulous but you eat your weight in food and at quite a price.  We eventually changed to Ruth's Chris.  They had a simple three course meal.  It was the perfect amount of food, all cooked to perfection. 

But then we discovered the best part, they send you home with leftovers!  We had already discussed the downside of eating out, but I guess they had heard that enough times and fixed it.  The picture below is from home, eating our doggie bag leftovers. Another great turkey meal!
Park Citians, if you are looking for a Thanksgiving meal out, I give Ruth's Chris 2 thumbs up!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Back to North Carolina

Julie and I went out to NC for our normal Fall visit.  She went out a few days early because I had a Planning Commission meeting I didn't want to miss.  It is always a busy visit for us, running from event to event and friend to family to friend.

We always try to schedule the weekend around a NC State football game.  This week it was Wake Forest, which is one of the few teams in the ACC worse than State.  One of the great mysteries of my football tickets is that without increasing the amount of money I donate, my parking pass keeps getting closer and closer to the stadium.  This is the shot from our car to the gate we go in.  I have no idea how in a stadium of 58,000 people, I park 100 feet from the entrance.   At the rate my space is improving, I should be parking inside the stadium pretty soon.
We have had a standing invite to join our friends Norman and Dick for tailgating before a game.  This year we were able to take them up on it.  Norman, who used to own the Wine and Things store is in charge of bringing wine.  Dick is the chef.  This is some serious food.   Here we start with a wonderful curry flavored soup served with real dishes and a nice white wine in real wine glasses.
Then to the salad course, which was interesting because of the sliced octopus.  I have never seen octopus being cooked on a grill before, especially at a football game. Norman, Julie and I were all fairly uncertain, but it was delicious.
Then on to the pork tenderloin with potatoes and brazed kale. The people in the background are having the standard NCSU tailgate food: Bojangles chicken.  Needless to say, we were dining on a different planet.  Norman's Châteauneuf-du-Pape was superb!
The game was a bit cold, so we left when NC State was up 42-6.  This win means that State qualifies for a "bowl".  I include the quotes because our likely bowl choices will be bowls you have never heard of, probably played long before January rolls around.

Just an impromptu iPhone picture of Jim Saunders.  Julie stayed with Jennifer Polleck for a few days and then we moved in with Jim and Carmella Saunders.  Both houses have beautiful views in the back yard and we really appreciate the hospitality.
After visiting with lots of friends and family, Julie returned to Utah and I took a few days to poke around Beaufort (NC, not SC), where we used to own a home.  I have been wanting to get back there for years but we have always been so rushed trying to see everyone (although we never do).

If you are looking for a fairly inexpensive business opportunity, the Mr. Waffles is for sale.  I think it was just outside Kinston.  You'll probably want to start with some Round-Up in the parking lot.
When I rolled into Beaufort, I gave Gene Riggs a call.  Gene and Pat were fantastic next door neighbors the entire time we had our place in Beaufort.  He still lives in the same house and I was lucky to be able to come out and spend a few hours catching up.  As much as everything in life changes, Gene and Pat haven't.
I stayed down on Beaufort's Front Street at the Inlet Inn.  The first night I went up to Clawson's to get a beer and some food.  The Shrimp and Grits were to die for, and very inexpensive.  Yumm!
I love staying on the waterfront.  There are just so many things to watch and photograph.  There was a fairly steady stream of nice boats moving from the Northeast down to Florida for the winter.  They would show up one afternoon and be gone the next morning.
One morning the entire east coast was breaking records for nightly low temperatures.  Beaufort, even though it is right on the water, was down into the low 20s.  Most of the water on the docks runs through exposed PVC pipe, which is easy to freeze and crack so they left all the hose bibs dipping.  One was dripping just slow enough to create a stalagmite of ice on the dock.  Kind of interesting with the sun rising behind it.
As best I could tell, this Great Blue Heron was hired by the Chamber of Commerce to attract tourists.  He was just soaking up the warmth of the sun and watching people go by.  By the way, I was reading a book and learned the word for that warmth you get when the sun shines on you:  apricity.  Since it plays such a crucial role in dressing in Park City I should feel worse for not knowing it, but even as I type, the spell checker is telling me it is wrong.
Beaufort has always been an interesting mix of historic homes, 2nd home rebuilds, and locals housing.  This is a big house, with a big yard, right across the street from the water.  I was not surprised that I couldn't find one of those signs saying "Renovations by XXX company".  Don't think this would be a good reference for a yard service either.
This boat was beautiful.  It looked roomy and very comfortable, except for the poor guy who has to keep the wood stained.  I was waiting for the sun to go down when the flag caught my attention.  When the wind would blow it it straight, the sun would backlight it.
Finally, the sunset.  This was taken from my balcony at the Inlet Inn.
I drove down to the Cedar Island Ferry, which leads over to Cape Hatteras.  There isn't much to see along the way, but I do like running across Spanish Moss.  That is definitely one we don't see out west.
And some more with a star burst thrown in.
I went back to our neighborhood one more time to take some quick shots of our house.  It looks remarkably similar.  That's our old grill and our indestructible porch furniture. 

The dock looks about the same with the lift for the old jet ski.  I was surprised to see the roof I put over the boat lift still there.  I think I was the only one for miles who put a roof on, so I figured there was some good reason not to.  Gus, the new homeowner, said his boat was still looking new when all the others around looked bleached out by the sun. I do like the little Christmas tree on the right end of the dock.  It lights up every night.
Gus and Deb had replaced the shingles and put in new heat pumps and AC units, but everything else was almost identical. Some of our art work is still hanging on the walls.
Even the fire ants in the yard were just like I remembered them.  This is one thing I am happy not to see in Utah.  I hope that our rocky soil and cold winters will prevent that from ever happening. These buggers are vicious.
My last night there was a good one for sunsets.
About 15 minutes later
And right at the very end.  Quite the pretty evening.  The water would have been a lot prettier if the winds hadn't been blowing at 20+ mph.  A smooth evening would have made some nice reflections.  It also would have permitted me to stay warm.
And a parting note from the Atlanta airport on the way home.  I have seen a lot of different warning signs, but this one was new to me.  Perhaps it was because I was flying out of the international terminal.

This was our last trip for the fall.  Nothing else scheduled for two months, so now we settle in for winter and skiing.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Welcome ski season!

Park City Mountain Resort, now under the control and ownership of Vail, opened yesterday to huge crowds.  Unfortunately, we don't have much snow yet, so all those people packed on to 3 or 4 runs.  Yuck! 

To help nudge the ski season along, we got a decent snow last night and we should get another 4-6" tonight.  The Park City skiers are happy, but no one is as happy as the local dog population. With a big wind last night, some of the drifts were about a Jasper high.
 A snow bank is truly is happy place.
 I walked around to check on our ex-house to make sure everything was OK.  Jasper was exuberant, probably hoping that we were going to run the snow blower. What you can't see is that I am even more exuberant knowing that I don't have to blow the snow!  On those windy days, 6" of snow piles up to 1-2 feet on the north side of the house. 
Maybe I'll get out for a quick ski run this week, avoiding the opening weekend crowds.  Canyons opens soon and Deer Valley opens in two weeks.

Think SNOW!

Sunday, November 09, 2014

JW's Gala

Last night we went to John Well's house for a formal get together.  We met John through Rob Schumacher.  John went to the University of Maryland and eventually did what we did, taking a year off from work that suddenly lasts more than a decade. He was just written up in this article in the Park Record.
 As much as it hurts me to think that Christmas lights are up already, this isn't John's house.  John hired a local company called TapSnap to come in for the party.  They use a green screen to capture the pictures and then they can place you on any number of backgrounds.  This one was one of the most popular, but they also had things like the pyramids in Egypt.
Having TapSnap at your party isn't cheap, but I guarantee you they will have a line waiting for photos all night.   They bring all sorts of things to dress up for your photos, but in this case, our masks were part of the party's required attire.

I really liked the masks Julie and I had, but I think Karen had those most interesting!

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Car recalls

Julie and I were concerned about her Subaru and my Honda being a part ofthe latest air bag recall.  That seems like a fairly nasty one.   As part of looking into it, I found this web site:
All you need is your VIN number and you can see all the recalls that apply to your car/truck and which ones have already been fixed.  Normally you can find your VIN number on a small plate on your daskboard, looking down through your windshield.

Very handy.

Cabo San Lucas

Last year Julie and I joined our friends Chad and Cathy for a trip down to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. We had such a great time, we decided to do it again.

This time Mother Nature threw us a bit of a curve though.  Back on September 14th, Hurricane Odile slammed into Cabo as a category 3.  This is an area that rarely sees more than a tropical storm.  Power, phone, internet, water and sewer were out almost everywhere.  The airport was closed for weeks because of damage to the terminal buildings.  Hotels were boarded up and flooded everywhere.  We got a call from Alaska Airlines saying that our flight to Cabo was cancelled.  Time to make a go/no-go decision.

We watched the progress on repairs for a while and then checked into flight alternatives.  Things started lining up.  Instead of flying out through LA, we got the direct flight on Delta one day earlier.  Somehow we ended up saving $250 per person at the same time!  Julie found us another condo in the same complex for only $225 for a night, so we had one extra day in Cabo, direct flights instead of a hop, and saved $775 between the four of us.
Last trip we stayed at an all-inclusive resort a few miles outside of town on the Pacific ocean.  This trip we were around the point in the calmer, more protected waters.  Our accommodations were at the Villa La Estancia. Most of the units are 2 large bedrooms, 3 baths, with a full kitchen and living room.  There are some much larger penthouse units, but we weren't in one of those.
While some areas had clearly been hit very hard by Odile, our place was immaculate.  Other than a few stumps from downed palm trees, you would have never been able to tell that anything had happened. The Mexican government and local authorities had done an incredible job of getting everything working again.  Restaurants and stores were open, the marina had only one dock unusable, and there were armies of workers everywhere continuing the cleanup.

One of our first nights we went to the Sunset da Mona Lisa restaurant.  The layout of this place was magnificent and all I had to shoot pictures was my iPhone.  Click on the link for their web site to see better photos.  It is expensive, but to those from Park City, this would be deemed "average".  Get there in time for sunset and sit outside.  The design and views are simply awesome!!
Julie and Cathy have both become big fans of golf, so we decided too head out and play.  Most of the courses had taken hurricane damage and were in various states of disrepair. The first course we played was Cabo Real.  It was a nice course, but their electronics had taken a lot of damage and essentially killed their irrigation system.
This was the only hole we played that really looked damaged.  You can see that we are barely above the sea.  Chad took this opportunity to hit it right down in the construction goop.
The greens were nice because they had been hand watered but the fairways were just coming back in.  Two weeks from now the course should be really nice.  We did get to play inexpensively and the little restaurant at the clubhouse was awesome.  I would never expect to get such excellent dining service at a golf course snack shop.
Chad and I went out fishing for a day.  We went out on a 34 foot boat with a captain and a mate.  The waves were quite peaceful in the protected waters but unfortunately, the fish seem to like it better out in the ocean.  Thank goodness for seasick patches. It worked fine, but I would have been in trouble without one.
Chad, busy reeling one in.
We chased quite a few Striped Marlin but never got one to take the hook.  We did have a sea lion rip the bait off several of our hooks though. Bastard!

This is me with my Mahi Mahi.  He was big enough to provide several lunches and dinners for the four of us and some extra came back to Utah.
Chad also caught one and it got vacuum packed and brought home.  We should have some excellent fish dinners over the next month or two.
While coming and going to the fishing grounds, we passed a really unusual new golf course.  This hole is probably a long, downhill par 5, heading down the sandy slope towards the ocean.
This hole is a bit hard to see, but it runs right along the cliff edge.  Not only would I need a bucket of balls to finish the hole, I would be concerned about driving my cart into the ocean.

We wanted to try and play the course but it is private. If you are willing to sit through a long real estate pitch, you may be able to get on in the sweltering heat of the afternoon. No thanks.
On our way back in, we got a visit from Paco the begging sea lion.  What a fat, lazy life.
One of the most unusual things we saw this week was the guy with a Harris Hawk.  He works the complex of three side-by-side resorts (ours was the middle).  The hawk visits every day and is used to keep the sparrows, pigeons and sea gulls away.  He only catches one every few days, but his presence is enough to have an effect.  He did happen to nail a sparrow right outside our condo one day.  Wish I had seen him do it.  I did get to see him eating his victim though.
We decided we would head out for 9 more holes of golf.  This time we played at Cabo del Sol's ocean course. It was in better shape, having not suffered the watering problems of Cabo Real.  The course was beautiful and interesting.  Only when I came home did I find it has been listed in Golf Magazine's top 100 courses in the world every year since 1995.

Here's Cathy launching one.
The holes were very challenging but damn they were nice!
Julie, about to launch one.  This green was wrapped on two sides by the ocean.
Chad and Cathy on the 18th tee box. 
And then our turn.  Fortunately, with it being a bit off season and post-Odile, we were able to play this course less expensively than normal.  Normal for the peak season is $365 for 18.  I have never paid half that anywhere.
On the evening of October 31st, we went down to eat at Alexander's at the marina in downtown Cabo.  It was odd because we were the guests of the people who had rented us our condo.  They new Chad and Cathy and insisted on taking us out.  The food was wonderful and the service was exceptional, but that wasn't even the most interesting part.

We ran into a celebration that was a cross between Halloween and Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead).  It seemed that every family in the greater Cabo metropolitan area was downtown.  All the kids were dressed up, as were some of the adults.  Thousands and thousands of people were walking the street, getting candy from the businesses and people along the way.  It was bigger than any Halloween celebration I have ever witnessed and we were right in the middle of it.  We were at a table right along the marina walkway and the guys at Alexander's gave us buckets of candy to hand out.  What a blast!

This is our excellent head waiter, cooking us some food at our table, and posing with some poor unsuspecting Robin that was walking by.  Me? I had neither my camera nor my phone to capture all of this.  Argh!!!  Thanks to Julie for at least having her phone and taking a shot.
Thanks to Jeff and Melanie for a great, unexpected evening out.

I am so pleasantly surprised at how well the town had recovered from the hurricane.  They have a long way to go but most things are up and running and lots of things are back to 100%.  Hopefully they will make a lot more progress before peak season starts in January.

After a week of perfect sunshine and toasty days, this was our first day back.  Jasper was happy and we need the snow for skiing, but this sure was a bit of a shock to the system.