Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Weather and the Results

Toward the beginning of June there was a long series of severe thunderstorms and just an unending amount of rain. The biggest casualty was Lake Delton up in the Dells. I personally was caught coming down on I-90/94 as the Baraboo River came up on the road near Portage, and after waiting for an hour and a half I slowly drove through the high water, the passenger-side wheels of the Civic several inches in the river. Fortunately for my family most of the flooding and damage was in other parts of the state. There were quite a few trees that came down at my parents' property, however. Throughout Spring and into Summer it seemed as if ever weekend brought down another tree, and always across the path requiring my father and I to clear it. For several consecutive weekends I was down there hauling logs out of the woods and over to the woodpile for future splitting. Here are a few pictures that I took of the last blow-downs, back on June 7th. The picture above is of a tree just off the trail that already had another limb caught up in it. We'd never been able to pull it out before, and now the situation is even more complicated.

There was one bright spot to the day involving a small maple sapling that has a special place in my heart. It's commonly referred to as the "Survivor Maple" by my family. Originally it sprouted up in a clogged gutter above the garage about 12 years ago. My mother removed it and I planted it in the yard near the woods. It grew quickly for a year or two, but then one spring I noticed that it had been broken off at about 6 inches, likely by an animal coming out of the brush. However, it sprouted out again and soon was about 18 inches tall. At this point my father accidentally mowed over the tree while backing up. I was a freshman in college that year and happened to be back that weekend, and I took the shattered pieces of the tree and planted them, and happily the tree came back. My father indicated that he didn't like the location, so after it had gotten back up to 18 inches we moved it to another location on the property, and it's thrived at this location. Then during the storms this month, a large limb came off a nearby locust tree and fell directly on top of the Survivor Maple. True to its name, this tree made it through just fine. As you can see, the branches somehow fell all around the tree without so much as taking off a leaf.

A Great Round At Argue-Ment

Last month my father and I cut out early on a beautiful Friday afternoon to get in a round of golf at our regular course. We both played pretty well, and I was hitting exceptionally well off the tee. I managed to clock a drive on #3 that we estimated to be around 330 yards! It was the kind of day that even the bad shots didn't go too badly, though I can't claim the same about my putting. Above is a picture that I took from the tee at Hole #4, a scenic par three that starts in a horseshoe-shaped hollow and looks out to the farm and clubhouse over the pond. I've always been fairly inconsistent on this hole. I used to always tend to the left, which mostly always resulted in a lost ball. Lately I've been hitting right, where I'm lucky to hit the cart path and more likely to lose the ball altogether. That's what happened on this day, but I did manage to find a couple of other lost balls to offset it. Here's a picture from the tee on Hole #6, which is one of my favorites on the course. The safe play on this hole is to lay up short of the trees and hit a long iron on the second shot. I know this, but regardless of so many past mistakes I always drive away and try to shoot the gap. For four years I've consistently missed, but this year I've been relatively consistent in actually doing this. In fact, put one right down the left tree line on this shot that left me perfectly set up for a short iron shot to the green. Unfortunately I flubbed that iron shot, but that's the game of golf for you. As we came around toward the end of the course we both hit safely on Hole #8, a par three over a pond that has claimed at least 20 golf balls from me over the years. On the backside of the green, close to where I ended up having put a little too much on the swing (a common mental mistake I make when I've looking at this pond), I found that I had a spectator.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Night At The Ballpark

Last Saturday night I went out to see the Madison Mallards ballgame out at Warner Park with Randy, his girlfriend Emily and her friend Carrie. Initially I was pretty tired from the long trips last week and the means by which I blew off the stress the night before (it involved a few pints of Spotted at Monday's). Randy had procured tickets for the Great Dane Duck Blind, which is an enclosed area in the right field corner where the drinks and food are all-inclusive. It's a real party atmosphere, with 18 different beers on tap. The food isn't too bad either. It was quite crowded on Saturday night, but the weather was just right for a ballgame and I can't blame people for coming out. There was even a band set to play in the Duck Blind after the show.

The Mallards organization has really transformed Warner Park into a place that's both family-friendly and a destination for adults - no easy feat. The baseball game is supplemented with plenty of mascots and sideshows to keep the kids entertained, and plenty of beer for everyone else. Right before the game starts the main mascot rides down a zipline from right field all the way into home plate. This is a picture of Maynard Mallard going past me.The game was pretty exciting, though the Mallards were quite error-prone. The lead went back and forth, but at the end of nine it was all tied up. At this point Emily and Carrie were ready to leave, and we made our way out of the Duck Blind. As we came around the grandstands Emily recognized a friend working a beer stand and this worked into another brew for me. At this point I was feeling no pain, and I took this photo of the ballpark that I find strangely compelling. I think it's the condiment station in the foreground.I suppose that I shouldn't even be allowed possession of a camera after drinking, because I always become a nutbag shutterbug and take all sorts of pictures. Here's an example of the kind of shit I find on there the next morning:I don't even remember this, or the 10 other pictures that accompany it. I also apparently forgot a conversation with Emily in which I promised she could borrow my air mattress pump (?), which I later learned about Monday morning when she emailed me. I do remember that Randy and I were wearing the girls' sunglasses on our hats once the sun went down, and I kept dropping the set on my head since I kept forgetting they were there. All in all it was a helluva good time, but the next morning I could have done without the last few beers. Oh, and the Mallards pulled it out and won in 10 innings. We actually saw the winning run get walked in as we were standing behind the grandstands. Hurray!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Greetings from Ontonagon, MI

This week has been a busy one so far. I currently find myself in a hotel on the shore of Lake Superior (sound familiar?), enjoying a pleasant morning before I head off toward L'Anse, Ishpeming and Escanaba. Yesterday I covered four sites ranging from west of Eau Claire to here in Ontonagon. Quite a haul. There really was no doubt once I saw how the itinerary worked out - I came up to Ontonagon as a teenager for a family vacation and as a Boy Scout for a late fall hike in the Porcupine Mountains. It is a beautiful region of Midwest and there are few things I enjoy as much as being on Lake Superior.

I've got a few pictures from the beach last night and this morning, and I'll post these once I get back.

UPDATE: Here are a few images from Ontonagon.

After dinner and a few delicious South Shore Nut Browns, I sat on the beach and watched the sun set. Here's the view:

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Yet Another Annual Tradition

I'm starting to rack up annual traditions at the Capital Brewery Bier Garten. On top of Bockfest I've now got Great Taste Ticket Day. Here's the deal: the Great Taste of the Midwest is one of the pre-eminent beer tasting in the United States. Over a hundred breweries and brew-pubs set up booths under outdoor tents in Olin-Turville Park, overlooking Lake Monona. The taster, in this case me, goes from booth to booth requesting free samples of the respective beers. It is one of the greatest days of the year. Here's the catch - only 5,000 tickets are sold, and once they're gone there's no way to get into the Great Taste. Two years ago I was lucky enough to be invited by Paul and Amy, friends from Wed. night poker. They had one extra ticket and I was the lucky beneficiary. I offered to repay the favor by waiting in line for tickets the next year. So on a chilly May morning last year I met Paul and Amy at the Capital Brewery loading docks at 8:00 on a Sunday morning. Tickets went on sale at noon. This year I arrived an hour earlier, and still found myself about halfway back in line. Here's the line at 8:00 this year:
Paul and Amy and their friends Adam and Katie had been out the night before at the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club concert at the High Noon, and although we had agreed to meet at 7:00, there was no sign of them by 7:20 and I called to let them know that the line was rapidly filling up. Only 400 tickets are sold at the Capital Brewery, and each person in line is limited to 4 tickets to purchase. Just about everyone buys 4, so the hundredth person is the last one. By 8:15 the line was at 100. Thankfully once a place in line was secured you could move around, even send someone back to the car to get coffee and McDonalds breakfast. I brought my own coffee so I was perfect. Since the line was already full before 9:00, the volunteer staff that run the operation came around and told us that at 10:00 they would be moving everyone in line into the Bier Garten itself. The year before we were in the loading docks due to a wedding scheduled for that afternoon. This time we got to go inside the Bier Garten and sit at the tables. As you came in the gate you received a numbered ticket signifying your place in line. Here's a picture of us lining in:
Once seated, the friendly staff at the Capital Brewery opened the taps. It was the best thing that can happen to a guy at 10:15 on a Sunday morning. Paul had brought along a set of poker chips and we got a round of drinks and played a few cards. I got a couple of Baltic Porters, a new limited series that is quite delicious. At noon the line re-formed and people got their tickets. Here's Amy with her four:
Now I'm just waiting until what will certainly be the best week of August. I'll be going to Chicago for a Cubs game for my sister's birthday on Wednesday, celebrating my own on Friday, and to top everything off I'll be at the Great Taste on Saturday. I can hardly wait.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Bomb the Music Industry!

I don't make it a habit of watching fan videos on YouTube, but somehow I came across this one set to the tune of BTMI!'s "Side Projects Are Never Successful" which just so happens to be one of my favorite songs. It also just so happens that I like Yoo-Hoo.