Just another day in paradise

As I look out into the sea of aluminum and titanium tubes, I often ponder the logistics of an airport...trucks, luggage carts, planes, gas trucks, cars, and of course, the birds...all running around not bumping into each other...it's truly amazing. 

I'm about to be on yet another one of those tubes en route to beautiful Des Moines.

Travel bad.  Home good. 



The 10 Freeway

It only takes me about 15 minutes now to get back into the @!#$%@% mode of driving in California.  I turn on 640AM KFI for my talk radio fix of fuming hosts bloviating about illegal immigration, horrible schools, and guys hoarding millions of rounds of ammunition in under house bunkers....get up on the wheel....and put the hammer down (only to be stopped by intermittent gridlock of course).  I also instantly begin to cut off those "people" that instead of merging casually, drive up all the way until their lane is gone.  I actively scan my mirror for potential violators and aggressively move over, undoubtedly earning me a curse or two. 

Ahhhhh...paradise.

Lewis Cellars...a Cab For the Ages

I'm back in Birmingham, AL today after my stint in Atlanta and week and a half without the family. We're in the home stretch with our return road trip to Iowa beginning tomorrow AM.  Atlanta finished up with a couple of great dinners at the Atlanta Grill and Mortons.  Both restaurants are excellent and known for their steaks and seafood.  Atlanta Grill provided a sommelier that really made the evening.  Silvio Garcia was not pretentious, not snooty...but informed and he guided our palettes with suggestions that expanded our horizons.  I tend to be a fan of massive cabs that can tame the richest of charred medium rare rib eyes.  Senor Garcia suggested the Lewis Cellars Cabernet. 

Lewis He decanted the bottle for about 30 minutes before we tasted this wine for the first time.  WOW!  It was so bold and so tannic that I really thought the alcohol content HAD to have been closer to 20%!  This wine was MASSIVE.  This was the kind of bottle that will likely stand up for many many years.  It took over an hour for the wine to open up and settle down a bit.  This cab was actually too much for the lean filet I was eating.  If I'd not ordered the filet Oskar with crab meat and Bearnaise on top, I'd have found it too bold.

The wine had the usual suspect flavors of black cherry, a hint of spice, with some pomegranate notes.  The oakiness was perfect and was deep in the wine.  These Lewis folks really know what they're doing up there in Napa.

The dinner at Mortons was delicious was completely different.  I think it's the "Chain Effect".  Service was great, we had great wines and excellent food...but the atmosphere was very different without the personal attention of a very interested and educated sommelier.  Also, Mortons takes the "char the outside well and leave the inside to your desired level of pinkness.  At the table, most folks commented that they could have done with less char since that char can overtake some of the meat's flavor.  Agreed.  I like the char when I'm having a bold wine since those two tastes tend to blend well for me.

What made these two dinners extra special was that my wife joined us.  This was the first time that we'd been away from the kids together (over 4 years).  She had some much needed lounge time, spa treatments, and room service and I got my beautiful dinner companion back.  She commented of course that "Now she sees how I live on the road and that the bar is now raised at home".  Of course I've tried to explain that there's a disproportionate amount of grab and go disgust had in airports and dashboard dinning from the e. coli factories but that fell on deaf ears. 

At the end of the day, we had a chance to spend some time and the kids did great with grandma and auntie and that's what mattered most.

Iowa, here we come. 


Tastes Like Chicken

Img099 I'm in St. Augustine, Florida today in the World Golf Village wrapping up a 2-day conference. The weather was gorgeous today, in the 70's when I think at home it barely reached single digits!  What a contrast.  Last night tornados ripped through areas about 100 miles south of here.  Not good.

Tonight, we wanted to get a bit more local flavor so we asked around for restaurant suggestions and ended up hearing about the Outback Crab Shack.
I really didn't believe it when they said you can order "Gator Tail" there...but it was true.  Tonight, I consumed alligator meat.  It didn't taste like chicken...it really tasted like the fried batter it was cooked in.  Anyway it was a great experience.  This place was an outdoor picnic bench filled road house bar where food was served on paper plates.  Here's some more photographic highlights.
Sweetpotatoe_fries_1 Gatorsmercy

 


The View From 25F

Img094This time I was leaving from Birmingham, AL and heading to Atlanta en route to Jacksonville, FL.  As a very frequent flier, I often get upgrades to the wide seats...but not today...but an exit row will suffice on a 29 minute flight.  I relived the moments spent about a year ago at gate c6...watching Jimmie Johnson win the rain delayed Talladega race.  I had to watch the race on a 19 inch TV screen at an airport bar...when only 24 hours before, I was in the stands drinking light beers with 200k of my best friends.  I'm planning another pilgrimage to Talladega again this year with my Alabama buddies.  Plans are in the works to motor home it and spend the weekend kibitzing with tank topped men and women with copious split ends.  If someone could figure out a way to recycle the bottom half of Levi's pant legs into clothing for the poor, Alabama could clothe the world.  Go Junior.

The View From 3F

Img085Img086_1

I awoke this morning, groggy and in pain...the residual effect of too much travel.  This stretch really began December 4 and wont let up until mid March.  There are good business reasons for the travel that I hope to elaborate on soon (sorry for the 007 talk)...but it doesn't make it any easier.  Today's flight is the return leg of a sub 48 hour turn around from DSM to ONT (Ontario, California).  This view was the brightest point in my day until my wife and kids ran to me upon return.  I took this picture using my Motorola Q phone.  What pleases me most about this phone and cell phone cameras in general, is that I can click a picture out my plane window with a note, "Show this to our boy and tell him that is daddy's neighbor plane", and he's buzzed.  My wife keeps me happy with at least 2 pics a day of the kids in various situations...and I always beam upon receiving them.

I've been profiled

I was in Las Vegas for some meetings.  I decide to leave a day early and purchase a 1-way ticket to Des Moines just a tick less than 2 hours before that flight was scheduled to take off.  In today's post apocalyptic airline merger world, I was on 2 different airlines, but the itinerary was owned by another.  I checked it at one counter, was told I must go to another for segment two.  I did.  I had two tickets in hand.  Upon arrival in Denver, I went to airline number 2 for second segment and was asked if I "Had my first segment boarding pass stub".  I replied "Why would I keep that after all, I'm already off that flight".  The agent explained that because I didn't have that stub, I'd have to have a secondary security screening.  "See here, the SSSS on your ticket indicates that."  Oh.  What does that mean?

Next thing I know, the TSA is approaching. I've been informed that I've been randomly selected for additional screening.  I'm sure that the circumstances put me here were:

No checked baggage
Last minute ticket
One way ticket on airline 1
One way ticket on airline 2

I'm not really sure considering I went through ALL of the normal security stuff that everyone else does. Anyway.

The TSA agents began to lead me behind a ticket counter and I informed them that I'd like to do the search right there in the middle of the walkway since I've nothing to hide.  They gently suggest that we move away and to avoid being jailed, I comply.  They proceed to engage in a 15 minute examination of my brief case, my suitcase, and stopped just short of my cavity.  It's really odd when it comes right down to it.  There are a million items in my brief case, most electronic in nature and a visual search would only turn up the, "Yep, looks like an electronic device" conclusion.  No one questioned my cigar cutter and the female agent didn't know what my empty 5-cigar holder was.  She spent most of her inquisition time on that item made of leather and cedar wood.  I reserved the "Hey, $10 for the female agent to pat me down" joke...since these two appeared to be quite serious and I wanted to be home that day.  The male agent opened my suitcase but only searched the perimeter realizing that getting all that crap (7 days of clothes in a small rollaboard) back in would take quite some time.  Effective?

I was given the pat down, run down, shoe off, 2-step, gray haired guy in a blue blazer must be up to something treatment. 

I know why they do this...but I'm disappointed that we still do it.  Everyone in that waiting area for gate 42B at DEN had the seed planted that somethings up with "that guy" and they probably had undue stress during the flight.  Shame. 

They could at least buy you a drink when they're done having their way with you. 

Sunrise in Vegas

Img078I'm always amazed at the sunrise in the desert.  This is the view from the 19th floor of the RIO in Las Vegas.  The construction here is still completely baffling.  It's everywhere: condos, hotels, resorts, apartments, etc.  This place will never stop amazing me.  What also amazes me is that now, there's nothing less than $25 black jack tables at most places...at most times.  The RIO has rebadged their steak house into 3121, by Prince.  Prince plays here every Friday and Saturday night too.  I wont be able to get the "Symbol that changed its name back to Prince" this time...but someday I'll party like it's 1999.

Early Christmas Present

I'm sitting here at the Birmingham Airport (Alabama...not England)...after a 2-day whirlwind trip trip.  Everything has been canceled to Chicago...my main connection point.  Instead of giving up...I've booked a 1-way ticket to Kansas City, MO that arrives at 11PM.  The 3 hour drive to Des Moines will be interesting...but I'll be home.  I think the key to assuaging travel angst is to know that you're completely screwed early.  We found out that there's no choice, nothing, zero we can do at 5PM other than stay overnight.  Or if you're enterprising, you can head to the southwest desk and see what they have that gets you close enough to drive.

More to come.

UPDATE:

Made it on the last flight out to Kansas City on Southwest that night.  Got a car to drive from KC to Des Moines 1-way.  Got home at 3AM.  Best darn night of sleep in years.

I need my Honda Air Taxi

I need to go to California for what will likely be a 4 hour meeting on the 3rd of November.  This will inevitably mean leaving on the 2nd, dealing with a connection, and the associated hassles now synonymous with air travel. 

The ticket on most normal airlines and most normal times is about $800-$1000 at this point from Des Moines to Ontario, CA.  (Southwest doesn't fly to DSM so let's forget for a moment that I could drive 2 hours to Omaha and get a reasonably priced ticket OK).

Is there any alternative out there for me that exists today...while I wait for my Honda Air Taxi service to evolve?  Can I hitch a ride on someone's jet just once here...I'll pay!  Is there a site out there that matches excess private jet capacity with folks like me begging for it? 

The Streets of Philadelphia

The picture below is the view from my room at the Ritz Carlton downtown Philadelphia.  I'm in town for a few days presenting at a conference.  As an infrequent visitor to this area of the country, I am always invigorated by the "buzz" and energy that comes from having big buildings, lots of people, and a million great restaurants in a small area.  I'll be more excited to get back to my wife, kids, and the pumpkin patches in Iowa...but for now, I'm enjoying the elitism.  I'll probably dine at The Capital Grille tonight and have an absinthe and a Padron 1964 at the Mahogany on Walnut Cigar Lounge.  By Wednesday, I'll be back to pork chops and apple sauce.

California Summer

I had forgotten how brown, hazy, and bleak it is in Southern CA during the roasting inland summer.  I'd compare it to the way Iowa looks in winter really (except for the haze).  I'd also forgotten about traffic at all hours and in all places.  I've slipped right back into the routine of listening to talk radio, checking the traffic reports to limit my pain.  My rage at California politics is back in full swing as I listen and seethe at the radio...wondering how this state will survive the massive (and always growing) strain that illegal immigration has put on its infrastructure. 

You can take the kid out of California....(you know the rest).

Iowa Is NOT Flat!

I formulated my grand strategy to ride in the U.S's most celebrated bike ride soon after moving to Iowa.  I'd get in shape, see the state that I now call home, and learn how to become comfortable in spandex biking shorts.  The ride is called RAGBRAI, the Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa. 

Now in its 34th year, RAGBRAI attracts over 15k people from across the United States, and some from other countries.  I personally saw folks from the U.A.E, Italy, and from the most exotic of countries...Southern California.  RAGBRAI is really a melange of stimuli:  25% bike ride, 25% state fair, 25% camping trip, and 25% Mardi Gras.

The ride's route changes annually but it tends to cycle from Northern, to Central, to Southern Iowa.  It begins on the Western half of the state and moves Eastward every time.  The reasoning for this directional choice seems to be a belief (misbelief?) that prevailing winds are Eastward this time of year.  This year the route was through Central Iowa stopping in the town next door to mine.  This gave me an excuse (and probably a life saving one) to stop after the 3rd day versus going the full 7.   The idea is that towns host "stopping points" along the way...some mild some wild.  The big draw of pie and pork chops was not overblown in the media.  Every church and senior center in Iowa prepared delicious pies and a bevy of other food and goodies to keep riders right as rain.

This year, Lance Armstrong decided that he'd been wasting his time all those years by spending July in France.  He rode the last 4 days of RAGBRAI giving talks along the way as an advocate for cancer research spending.  He's committed to doing the entire ride next year and has hinted that he may bring along some celebrity friends.  Surely this will become the Sturgis of the cycling world.  Get ready for Lance-a-pa-looza.

Day 1
54 Miles:  Sergeant Bluff to Ida Grove (Map)

My first day I took special care not to overdo it and try to outrun my ability.  I was warned by the newspaper, websites, and other blogs that the first few days had hills.  If you've only been to Central Iowa, you'd have a tough time believing this as did I.  Much to my chagrin, all of those sources were right.  I often found myself peddling just a bit faster than some were walking their bikes. I refused to get off my machine...opting for granny gear, head down, no talk, sweatiness to reach the next peak. Other times, I was blazing downhill at 35 mph.  This route was balanced.  Ups led to big downs and a cool off and welcomed rest period.  Amazingly, 54 miles went pretty quickly.  I never peddled to exhaustion, rather I seemed to be in cardio heart rate mode for about 8 hours of the 10 it took to get there.  Upon arrival and set up of our campsite, my buddy and I began to find a prone position out of the sun.  Prone yes...out of sun no.  For 4 hours I lay there sweating through clothes and trying to understand my physical condition.  I felt "off"...I had trouble completing thoughts.  I was exhausted mentally and physically.  My water/Gatorade/fruit smoothie consumption was very high all day so I knew I was not dehydrated.  Additionally, I had eaten about 5000 calories to keep me going all day so "bonking" was not an issue. I was simply SPENT of all energy.  Weighing in at a scale tweaking 250lbs on a 6ft. 1in. frame was the core problem and I was paying the price for my penchant for 20oz rib eyes and dipping pizza in bleu cheese dressing.  We spent a night of tossing and turning in my 2 man tent trying to find comfort in the hot Iowa night.  Rain drops cooling my skin at 5AM woke me and day 2 was on.



Day 2
77 Miles: 
Ida Grove to Audubon (map)

I will never forget this day.  Just the ride out of town began with leg paralyzing hills that never seemed to go back down.  This day provided the most feet of elevation climb of all.  Top this off with a stiff headwind that was gusting to at least 20 mph.   A rider's reward for this hilly pursuit was a robbery of downhill speed and rest due to wind resistance.  There was little conversation between main stopping towns, only pain and sweat.  Riders cursed under their breath.  A man from Illinois was heard saying, "Does Iowa have a headwind in every direction? #[email protected]#%$$%@"  There was simply no relief.  We began this day at 6:30AM and arrived at our destination town at a little before 8PM.  I had spent 10+ hours on a bike and had the redness to prove it (in more than one spot).  Again I had more trouble moving, thinking, and doing.  Another buddy of mine Tom met us at the campground that night, hooking up so we could do the last leg together.  We had a couple of beers, walked the town square, ate as much as possible and headed back to our mobile domicile.  At 1AM, I woke again, scrambling along with many other campers to put our rain fly on. It looked clear when going to bed and the forecast was for "partly cloudy skies".  That's Iowa speak for "It could downpour but we really don't know."  I should have gone with my gut but my body and mind would not execute.  After some frustration we simply draped the rain fly over the tent and by then, the rain had stopped. We woke at 6AM and began to tear down.  On the way out of town, we were again met with grinding hills.  Gerard quipped, "Is every town in Iowa built in a sink hole expletive expletive expletive!"

 







Day 3
68 Miles: 
Audubon to Waukee (map)

Ah the home stretch but not so fast.  This day like all others began with more hills.  Mike legs ached and burned as though I'd been riding for over 100 miles.  Just getting to the outskirts of the town where breakfast was being served hurt badly. A raspberry white chocolate latte and some muffins procured from the local Methodist Church and we were on our way.  Tom was fresh and spry but that would all change.  The route notes indicated that the first 26 miles of this 68 mile day were as hilly as before..but HUZZAH!!!, the wind had subsided a bit and there was little net elevation change, i.e. downhills follow uphills that allowed for rest.  The first 26 miles didn't pack the severe punch of day 2 but tell that to "The new guy", Tom.  Eight miles into this day, Tom's bike somehow broke a spoke and we spent nearly 40 minutes at the mobile bike repair station getting a new wheel.  Imagine a corn field, a bunch of bike riders, and a truck with everything one needs to get fixed up.  What a sight.  The prices were exactly what you'd pay in their shop too.  Thanks to good Midwestern values and a desire to help its fellow man, the bike shop got us on our way again with no complaints.  At about mile 40, Tom began to get annoyed with Gerard and I.  His physical discomfort was obvious, no longer praising his cycling shorts and seat for comfort, rather cursing most things including Gerard and I for "Just leaving him behind, etc."  I recognized this behavior since I had done it with Gerard the day before.  Step 1, anger.   We began to pace each other, trading off the lead position, and began to make some progress.  The last 20 miles or so were FLAT.  Even with our energy stores depleted, we could maintain a 15mph pace.  Oh the joy!  If Tom had moved past the anger into acceptance, I think we really could have cruised.  I had energy again...the inevitable boost one receives from knowing they're nearing the end.  This leg ended on my "home trail" west of my town of Clive.  I felt like a confident tour guide at this point, sharing my local knowledge with Gerard.  My wife called and arranged to meet me along the route with the kids.  As we got closer, Gerard and Tom pulled back in true Tour de France style allowing me to bask in the glory of my home town.  They gave me my moment.  Approaching the mini-van, I saw the kids and they were holding signs!  The signs read "Go Daddy" and had hand prints all over them.  If not for the emotional exhaustion of the ride I surely would have crumbled and wept.  In an instant my pain and strife were gone and I'm standing in front of my beautiful wife and children. The thoughtfulness of my wife never ceases to amaze me and I'm truly blessed to have her.  After plentiful hugs, kisses, and greetings from fellow riders, we set out to reach the final destination.  We arrived, met the wives, loaded our gear, and it began to downpour.  Mother nature winked at me just then and put a tick mark in the Doug column.  That night as lightning lit the sky and thunder rumbled across the heartland, we broke bread together (topped with cheese, sauce, and toppings) and had plenty of liquid bread (beer) to nourish our bodies.  We sat around and told tall tales of our adventure while the kids played..and life was good. 

Although our bodies were weak, our spirits had already been lifted by friendship, love, and the buzz from achieving a physically and mentally demanding goal. I hadn't felt that physical sense of accomplishment in a very long time and I'm craving it again already.  Bring on the hills.  Bring on RAGBRAI 2007!

 

Fish Tales

It was about 7PM by the time the boat hit the water.  The temperature and humidity had been unbearable during the day.  As the Ranger Bass Boat hit the water, accelerated, and planed out at 50MPH, I knew I was in for something fun.  The speed scared my quite frankly.  Have you ever gone that fast on a boat?...on a bass boat about 1 foot above the water's surface?  Scary. 

After about 2 hours of trying a few different lures and fishing methods, we settled into a nice cove under a moonlit sky.  Even without lights, navigation of the lake was a snap between nature's flashlight and the shoreline developments.  Of course, we had GPS to rely on in case mother nature failed us.  I did my typical cast out about 40 feet while jawing about life and asking fishing questions of my guide.
As I reeled in my latest attempt to ruin a fish's day, I had a snag.  I pulled a little harder...and my snag began to extract line from my reel at a wicked pace.  As the drag stopped creaking (creakin' in Alabama), I could finally reel some line back in.  As I did, the line went limp as a "hog" of a fish leaped out of the water.  It sounded as though a man with my sized belly had done a flop about 30 feet away.  Again, my guide wailed with glee and amazement spewing out a mix of curse words and fishing lingo as I wrestled with this fish.  Hog, monster, and big daddy kept flowing out my guides mouth as I went from being able to reel and having the fish take out more line against my drag setting.

My excitement level was through the roof as I realized that I was hooked onto something big.  As the fish tired and neared the boat, I had visions of this bad boy falling of the hook or breaking the line.  Before long, this hog was in the boat.

Man oh man.  6 lbs and fatter than my forearm, this fish was taxidermy class for sure.  After glowing for about 1 hour and trying to catch another big dog, we called it a night. 

This was my first bass fishing trip EVER and I'm told that I'm probably ruined and wont likely catch such a fish ever again.  We released the fish back into the lake..with the hope that some day I'll hold him up again for the camera.

Here is my prized catch (and release).

Those Talladega Nights

Part Mardi Gras…part trailer park…that’s the best way to describe my experience. I’ve just returned from a weekend spent camping outside the Talladega super speedway. The race was rained out but I did get to see the last 6 laps on an airport TV in Dallas

…just in time to see my favorite driver Jimmie Johnson win yet another race.

Visiting Talladega is something that is now “checked off the list” of things I’d like to do before I die. The Louvre just moved up a notch now that I’ve experienced Those Talladega Nights

 

The camp

I didn’t just get tickets to see the race, I communed with 250,000 other red blooded American’s who are not afraid to wear tank tops and say what’s on their minds. My campground was slightly upscale (you had to pay about $130 for it). It provided grass on top of the red mud, port-a-potties that were cleaned daily (not early enough in the morning for us early risers), and an easy walk to the track. I was lucky enough to be invited by some friends and colleagues who provided my ticket, and the “couch” to sleep on in Uncle Bubba’s motor home (No names have been changed to protect the innocent or enhance this story’s appeal. He’s really called Bubba.) We ate hot wings, smoked sausages, and drank copious light beers with brands I’ve not seen since my fraternity days and below poverty level annual income. I made the time to enjoy 4 cigars during my stay which pleased me greatly. In
Alabama, cigar smoking is still allowed outdoors at campsites with 300 campfires burning simultaneously. Try that in California. There are multiple campgrounds around with names like “Sodom
and Gomorrah” and “Wazoo”. The free sites resembled a blend of Mardi Gras and Spring Break. I saw a few things there that I’m still trying to forget….and about every 15 minutes on cue, someone would scream “wooooooooooooooooooo…….’Dagaaaaaaaaaaa” in their best party voice.

The Track

Talladega Super speedway is immense. At 2.66 miles, it’s the largest of the NASCAR tracks. Since I’d been to California speedway (2.0 miles around) I had a good idea of the scope of this track. It’s THAT MUCH Bigger to behold. During our 3 hours at the track, we endured on and off rain and wind gusts that probably hit 30mph. Small beer coolers are allowed, so literally everyone there had a can in hand. (authors note: I don’t think I saw a single regular full strength beer the entire weekend. All of it was Light beer. The volume of consumption must be the mitigating factor to help amass the incredible mid-sections I was forced to endure. No sexism here. Beer bellies do not discriminate between man and woman.) People all around were joking, laughing, and sparring about their driver being the best and Jeff Gordon being a (fill in foul words here).

 
The People

This will be my favorite section to write because it comes from the heart. The people at these camp sites around the race in Alabama are good people. I saw only a few raging mullets (One guy was a ringer for Dog the Bounty Hunter) but there were plenty of red necks and tank tops. One hirsute gentleman could have actually been the Sasquatch in the famous video we’ve all seen on the Discovery Channel. Aside from the visual spectacle, these are some of the nicest people you’ll meet. No one treated me different even though I talked funny and like Jimmie Johnson. Through all of the “Tony Stewart sucks” calls, no one got rowdy or took offense. Everyone kept their sense of humor and good nature. Typically, a case of beer per person does not inspire such passivity…but Talladega Nights seemed to bring out the best in everyone.

Next stop is California speedway for sushi and chardonnay.

Coming Soon

I just got back from having some "Talledega Nights".  I have a new appreciation for this slice of Americana.  Entry coming soon but this one is a bit longer and more in depth.  It's hard to capture the true essence of 250,000 people cavorting about in campgrounds yelling "Tony Stewart sucks", etc.  Stay tuned.

Observe the posted limits

Today I drove about 450 miles...literally from Ohio to Philadelphia.  For those of you who don't know, PA is one of the TOUGHEST states to speed in of all.  Their cops are like stealth fighters..almost appearing out of nowwhere to nab you for going 6 MPH over the posted limit.  These guys have radar mounted on the side of their cars, radar guns, "instant on" radar that can nab you going the other direction...Not to mention that much of the 450 miles today was 55MPH, a speed us Californians rarely see.  Speaking of CA and speed.  I drive 80MPH to and from work every day and I'm getting overrun.  (How do you go 80PMH you ask in the gridlock?...I take the toll road to and from work resulting in a daily charge of approximately $12.00 and I only do 80MPH until the toll road backs up as well...but I digress). 

Do you know how physically hard it is to do 55MPH? ...or do do 45MPH through a construction zone.  Anyway, I just cranked the radio, accepted my violation free fate, and relaxed.  I'm guessing that my move to the Midwest will make situations like this more common.  I have to drive about 400 miles tomorrow, and then another 450 on Thursday.  The driving is simply easier and more enjoyable than trying to catch flights and rental cars, etc...but that's the topic of another post.

Until we meet again, drive safe.