Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Unsteady Affair

I've been turned on to two new songs this week.  The first comes from one of my readers - John, in Denver - who left the link for me in one of his comments. He has great taste in music, in the past turning me onto Grace Potter.

This song is called "Unsteady" by X Ambassadors. The guy's voice slays me. I have played it over and over and over.  It makes me unsteady. There's just something beautiful about it. Thanks for the heads up, John!
The next song I discovered while watching Showtime's The Affair this weekend. It's the theme song for the show, played during the opening credits.  It's called "Container" by Fiona Apple. To me, it sounded like a murder ballad, with it's haunting words and lyrics. The hook is my favorite part - I only have one thing to do and that's to be the wave that I am and then sink back into the ocean.

Be the wave that you are. I love that.

Here's the video, with the lyrics are below it.


I was screaming into the canyon
At the moment of my death
The echo I created
Outlasted my last breath

My voice it made an avalanche
And buried a man I never knew
And when he died his widowed bride
Met your daddy and they made you

[Hook:] 3x
I have only one thing to do and that's
To be the wave that I am and then
Sink back into the ocean

Sink back into the o-
Sink back into the ocean
Sink back into the o-
Sink back into the ocean
Sink back into the ocean

Monday, October 12, 2015

A Day Of Amusement On The Lake

Yesterday Ed and I went to Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, Ohio. We haven't been to one of these places since 2006. I was hoping to never set foot in one for the rest of my life. In fact, I vowed that last time, was going to be the last time. It wasn't.  

Cedar Point is known as the Roller Coaster Capital of The World. Among its world-record 72 rides, it has 16 roller coasters. That ties it with Wonderland, located in Canada, for the second-most roller coasters in an amusement park. Six Flags Magic Mountain in California boasts 19 roller coasters. Which I guess actually makes them the roller coaster capital of the world...but, ok, whatever. Cedar Point covers 365 acres and sees over 3.3 million visitors each year. It opened in 1870 and is the second-oldest operating amusement park in the United States.

Ed has really been wanting to go to Cedar Point. For years. Like really, really, really, really. Like a five-year-old really wants ice cream. Or a new toy. Or a puppy. Every time we passed through the state of Ohio and got even remotely close to this area, he'd say, "We should go to Cedar Point." And I thought, I'd rather have a root canal.

But Ed is a great guy. He's patient and kind and loving. He's thoughtful and generous and even-tempered. He always takes me everywhere I want to go, buys me almost everything I want, and listens (albeit selectively) to the thousands of words I utter on a daily basis. So what's one day at an amusement park?

And away we go!

Here is Ed waiting to go on his second coaster of the day, The Gatekeeper.  You can see the Giant Wheel, the WindSeeker Swing Ride, and the Wicked Twister in the background. 
The Gatekeeper is the tallest, fastest, and longest wing roller coaster in the world. It breaks seven world records. The "wing" part refers to the car, which is crafted like a bird with wings. The center of the car rides on the track and the passengers sit on the left and right "wings" that hang over the edge as it flies at 67 mph over 4,164 feet of track. Here it's on the ascent of the first hill.
And here at the end of the red arrow, is Ed. When I told him I got his picture as he was going up the hill, he was excited. When I showed it to him he said, "The back of my head?? You got a picture of the back of my head?".  Well, it is still him.
They rate the rides in the park from 1-5. 1 is Low Thrill, 2 is Mild Thrill, 3 is Moderate Thrill, 4 is High Thrill, and 5 is Aggressive Thrill. Otherwise known as, You May Leave This Ride With A Neck Or Spine Injury If You Are Lucky Enough To Make It To The End.

Most of the roller coasters Ed rode were a 5. The only things I rode were rated a 1 (Cedar Point & Lake Erie Railroad), and a 2 (The Giant Wheel). That's plenty of thrill for me.

This is The Skyhawk, also rated a 5. Towering 125' into the sky, it's the world's tallest swing ride. The two giant arms swing in a 60 mph scissor motion. The wind from the swinging was so strong, I had to move to another location because believe it or not, I was a little chilly its breeze.
Here's Ed, on the upswing. Upside down, high in the air. He sat next to a little girl who didn't utter a sound during the ride. He, on the other hand, screamed enough for both of them. I think the little girl was delighted by this because as they were leaving the ride I heard her say to her mom, "That man screamed the whole time..."
The day at the park was insanely expensive. We stood online at one of the food vendors talking to a guy who was there with his five kids. We started talking when he brought up the subject of the high food prices. I was calculating how much everything else must have cost him for the day. It was over $500 just for the two of us. He must have spent a fortune.

Granted, we may have bought a few more options than he had, but it's still crazy. We bought everything online and printed the tickets ourselves, so saved a little money there, but it was still pricey. They had truck parking on site, which was super-convenient, and it was only $20. That was the best bargain of the day. We bought two admission tickets, two all-day dining passes, a free-refill souvenir water bottle, two tickets to the animatronic Dinosaurs Alive! exhibit, two Fright Lane admissions to the HalloWeekend frights and delights, and one Fast Lane Plus add-on for Ed.

After the first ride, Ed decided the Fast Lane Plus was the best deal of the day. As he rode the rides, he decided he wouldn't have it any other way. He read an online comment about it that said it teaches kids that if you have money you can get things other people don't have. Well, duh.

Yesterday Ed was a one percenter.
The Fast Lane wristband allows you to bypass the regular lines on certain rides and attractions at the park. The Fast Lane Plus adds four additional rides to your ticket. They only sell a limited number of Fast Lane passes per day, because what sense would it make if everyone were able to bypass the lines?

Let me give you an example of what the Fast Lane does for you. There are two lines for certain rides, the regular line and the Fast Lane line. Instead of waiting say, two hours for a ride in the regular line, you might wait 15-20 minutes. At certain rides, there was barely a wait. Ed was able to scoot past everyone in the other line and be ushered right into his seat.

After coming off one ride and hearing some other people say, "It was totally worth the two hour wait!" he turned to me and said, "I can't believe people just accept standing in line for two hours."

I said, "I can't believe people accept jobs for $8.00 an hour."

It really was a perfect analogy of the actual one percent getting better opportunities because they have more money. A Fast Lane Plus pass to life, if you will. It doesn't seem fair, yet it happens. And it's clear why it does. Because if given the choice to stand in line for two hours versus fifteen minutes, over and over again throughout the day, the extra $140 seems worth it. Especially in the summer, in the blistering heat.

Over the course of the day Ed rode Iron Dragon, Raptor, Gatekeeper, Maverick, Top Thrill Dragster, Magnum XL-200, Millennium Force (his favorite ride), Wicked Twister, and Rougarou, seen below:

Without the Fast Lane pass, I don't think it would have been possible for him to ride as much as he did taking into account the 1-2 hour wait times for the rides and the walking distance between them. And, it's October.  Imagine what the wait times are in the high season.

I didn't ride any roller coasters or rides other than what I said earlier - the train, and the Giant Wheel. Ed joined me on the Ferris wheel at twilight, just after the sun went down. The view was beautiful.

Here's a picture from the top of the Ferris wheel. Lake Erie is to the left, and The Gatekeeper is just in front of us.
After nightfall we toured some of the Cedar Point HAUNT attractions - Zombie High School, G.A. Boeckling's Eerie Estate, and Hexed to name a few. For these we both had Fright Lane passes - the spooky equivalent of the Fast Lane pass - with an actual Skeleton Key which gave us "exclusive access" to the Skeleton Key Room at designated attractions.

We spent 12 hours at the park. TWELVE. My walking app says I walked 8.19 miles. I felt every step of it. Today I can barely stand up.

Ed wanted "a day at Cedar Point" and boy, did he get a day at Cedar Point. An entire day.

I'm not a fan of amusement parks. I've never been one for rides, even when I was young. I like water parks and still like water rides, but I'm not a fan of the kids that come along with them. If I never saw another theme park, amusement park, or county fair in my life, I'd be perfectly happy. But because Ed had fun, I had fun. As I waited for him to get off each ride, I told him it was like waiting for someone at the airport. They're happy to see you, you're happy to see them, there's a big hug.

I didn't mind the walking, I enjoyed the people watching, and I loved that it was right on the lake. The thing that saved this trip from being utterly miserable for me was the weather. During the day it was in the low seventies and quite warm in the sun, but just a few steps into the shade cooled it off considerably. So much so, that I actually thought it was chilly. By nightfall it was perfect and only got too cold for comfort in the hour after midnight. 

Overall, it was a really nice experience. The staff was great, the other patrons at the park were friendly, even the teenagers were well-mannered. The "actors" at the haunted houses were really fantastic, and not one single employee had attitude. They seemed to enjoy what they were doing and it showed. I even stopped in at Guest Services on our way out of the park and relayed those thoughts to a manager, telling her it was my first time at the park and I was impressed. She gave me a "1st Visit" button.  I'll add it to my pantry door scrapbook collection.

And to recuperate, today I'll be taking a 12-hour nap.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2014:  法拉盛華埠

2013: The Pumpkin Master
2012: Prime Viewing
2011: Still Flowering
Wishing I Could Trade My Feet For Wheels
And The Winner Is…
Palm In The Dirty South
Ed Makes Out With Fair Fluff Friday
Blue Light Special
Blue Collar

Sunday, October 11, 2015

From The Top

The Giant Wheel Ferris wheel at Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, Ohio.

At 136' in the air, and with 36 cars, this is one of the largest ferris wheels in North America.  Since the park is located on a peninsula in Lake Erie, from the top of the wheel you can not only see all across the park, but you can also see across miles of open water.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

2014: If Your Name Is Tinsley, You Probably Use A Fountain Pen
2013: British Invasion
2012: Splendid Fantasy Road Trip
2011: Hard To Get Close To
2010: Lunch In Fossombrone
2009: Taking Carving To A Whole New Level
2008: Is There Enough Yellow In THIS One For Ya?
2007: I Didn’t Realize Railway Workers Were So Frisky
2006: Individuality
2005: Text Me

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Bitchy Beast Of Strijen

I'm not a pink girl, but I totally want one of these.  The truck and the car.

Or these.

It's not just the animal print that makes them cool, although it totally adds to the effect, but because it's a European cabover, it looks even more unique.

We used to have more cabovers here in the United States, but they're really only seen at truck shows nowadays.  They're not seen in actual operation anymore.

I thought the trucks in Italy were cool when we were there, but these take the cake.

From what I can gather from a little Googling, it seems the trucks belong to a small family owned business called Mirtra bv out of Strijen, Netherlands. They specialize in transport to and from England, and also container transport within their country and abroad. I first saw these trucks on the International Lady Truckers Association Facebook page.

The trucks belong to - Mirjam Dorst - who can be seen here on the left. She drives the pink one.
If Ed turns his back for too long, he may come back to find our truck totally tricked out like this.

In my opinion, this is waaaaaay better than chicken lights and chrome.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2014: Montana Moments

2013: Scanning Comes To A Mouth Near You
2012: Go Ahead, Judge Me
Con Los Años Que Me Quedan
2010: Ten. Ten. Ten. A Perfect Score!
2009: Lighting The Testosterone Torch
2008: Eddie Helps The Economy Friday
2007: Talk About A Thorn In Your Side
2006: My Sentiments Exactly
2005: Mason? Dixon? Line? BELOW It.

Friday, October 09, 2015

Walkin' In The Rain With The One I Love

Ed and I have been trying to get in a walk of 15-minutes minimum every day. We're starting small.

Today we walked at a rest area in Ohio. In a drizzly mist. Which actually suited me because I love overcast, cool weather. Not so much the drizzle part, but since I hate exercise, if I have to do it, it may as well be in 60 degree weather.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2014: Where The Cranberry Is King

2013: How To Lower Your Blood Pressure While Raising Another's
2012: I Made It Because I Like The Word Schnitzel
2011: I May Be Old, But I’m Not That Old
2010: Today’s The Day!!
2009: Ed Getting Jiggy Among The Sunflowers
2008: The Bridge To Everywhere
2007: Scared Into Anorexia
2006: A Good Hot Cup Is Desperately Needed
2005: Am I The Only One Who Noticed This??

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Every Year Is A Good Year For A Hero

As truck drivers, we're used to getting dinged by the general public for everything from driving too fast, to driving too slow, and sometimes for even driving at all. Seriously, some guy in the comment section of an article I was reading said they should just take trucks off the road altogether. 

Sometimes the dings come from our own people, working in the very industry we dedicate a pretty big chunk of our lives to, and over the years the reputation of a truck driver has gone from being a King of the Highway to being a Pariah on 18 Wheels. We fight hard, daily, to bring our status back to that of the glory days of transportation.

No one knows what our experience as a driver - on the road, away from family and friends - is really like unless they've done it.  Or are close to someone who's done it.  Even then, I'd bet many drivers don't tell their loved ones what it's really like all of the time.

We see a lot on the road - the beauty of a nation, the changing seasons, the sparkle of the oceans from coast to coast, the beautiful sunrises, the glorious night skies.

We also see the driving habits of others (don't even get me started), destruction, accidents, and sometimes even crimes, tragedies, or moments when you're the first person on the scene witnessing a situation where help is needed immediately. Sometimes, a truck driver is the true "unofficial" first responder.

That's where the heroes of the highway come in.

And The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company has been putting those heroes in the public eye for over 32 years.

The 2014 Highway Hero Award recipient is Clinton Blackburn. He's shown in the photo below with County Jailer Darrell Herndon, the man he saved from what definitely appeared to be a life-threatening situation.

From the Goodyear website: "
Clinton Blackburn was driving when he saw a sheriff’s cruiser abruptly stop. Inside the car, a prisoner who was being transported was strangling a sheriff’s county jailer from behind. Blackburn ran to the car and began struggling with the prisoner, who then pulled the jailer’s gun from its holster. Blackburn grabbed the gun, turned it around and pointed it toward the prisoner. Working together, Blackburn and the jailer subdued the prisoner."

Kudos for Clint are well-deserved!

Can you imagine?  Hell, half of the time the only thing I'm looking out for on the road are deer heading in my direction - I'm a night driver, it happens a lot - yet Clint not only identified a dire situation, he immediately reacted to it.

Clinton can be seen here accepting his award this year at the Mid-America Trucking Show (MATS) in Louisville, Kentucky. You'll also hear a few emotional words from the man he saved.

People think we only bring them beer and toilet paper. But as these past Highway Hero Award recipients have displayed, sometimes we also deliver a way for them to literally keep living.

In addition to being recognized by fellow drivers and others in the trucking industry, the recipient of the 33rd Goodyear Highway Hero Award will receive a generous cash prize, a special trophy, and a Highway Hero Award ring. 

The New England Patriots aren't going to be the only ones sporting a hefty memento like this, commemorating an outstanding performance. Of course, saving lives is way more worthy of a ring than kickin' a pigskin is.

This is your chance to get involved!  Do you know anyone worthy of wearing this ring? 

If so, why don't you take a few minutes to nominate them?  Give them a chance to get a little extra recognition for their selfless act.

Most of these men and women will probably tell you that they did what any good person would do. That they're not heroes. That they were just doing their job. That they were in the right place at the right time.

That all may be very true. And the gratitude from the people they helped is probably enough of a thank you for these drivers. But a sweet 'ol ring and a little stash of cash never hurt anyone.

And I might even pay money to see a truck driver cry. For a good reason, of course.

The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company is now accepting nominations for the 2015 Highway Hero Award.

Click HERE to read the nomination criteria and to fill out the online form.  And for all you cavemen and women, they also accept nominations by snail mail.

Now get to it!  The deadline for nominations is November 29, 2015!!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2014: Peace Through Understanding

2013: Goodwill Hunting
2012: Approaching Talladega
2011: Music Sets The Stage
2010: Tacky Prevails
2009: Not As Hot As It Looks
2008: Burst
2007: Stockholm Syndrome
2006: Playing In A Dream Near You
2005: The Greatest Story Ever Told

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Finally Fall

I finally saw some fabulous Fall colors this week in the Northeast.  It's my favorite place to be and my favorite season to be there in. Since we're hanging around the area, I look forward to seeing the trees change before my very eyes.

Bring on the bright yellows, burnt orange and flaming reds!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2014: Fruit On Main

2013: Circling The Shark
2012: Unlimited
2011: Autumn Leaves Begin To Fall
2010: I Wonder What Color The Ancient Estruscans Wore?
2009: You Ask, I’ll Answer
2008: You Can’t Hide From The Eyes Of A Truck Driver
2007: Flurry Of Ruffles
2006: A Bag Full Of Dicks
2005: Go West Young Man!! Uh, I Mean East. East.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Slickrocks, Domes, Bowls, Fins, And Things

Above is our chariot - the Arctic Cat Wildcat Side-by-Side UTV - that carried us through the dirt and over the rocks during our adventure in Moab, Utah.

We were told by the UTV rental place, that we'd enter the trail over what they call a "fin".  A fin is just what it sounds like - a pinnacle shaped rock that looks like a shark fin.  It juts upward - and if you can imagine the shark swimming past you, with its head going left and its tail following, rather than seeing the fin from the front, you're seeing it from the side - you'll be going over it from the side.

So when we got to the trailhead, our first climb was up and over a fin. Which, maybe to make it easier to understand, is like 20-foot high speed bump. Once we got over the fin, this below was our path - a skinny strip of rock, as wide as the vehicle, that we had to traverse. There was a drop on either side and the dark tracks you see are made from thousands of tires, the "path" if you will, that one follows all throughout the park when climbing over rock.  

We were in the Sand Flats Recreation Area of Moab, Utah.  This was one of the scenes - miles of rocks and dirt, just waiting to be explored.
According to the Sand Flats website, Sand Flats is a “high plain of slickrock domes, bowls and fins, it rises in the east to meet the colorful mesas and nearly 13,000 foot peaks of the La Sal Mountains.” Their “famous Slickrock and Porcupine Rim bike trails, and almost 40 miles of jeep trails are world-renowned for their combination of challenge and awesome scenery. Sand Flats is also popular for camping. Approximately 150,000 visitors enjoy this 9,000 acre recreation area annually.”
Here's a picture of me, the passenger, waiting to continue my adventure.  I have to say, this little dune buggy UTV thingy was quite comfortable. We have a cooler strapped to the back - provided by the rental company - that, after the fact, we realized really wasn't stocked with enough water (or anything else, for that matter) were we to get into a 127 Hours situation.
This is part of the Slickrock Bike Trail, which was in the area we were exploring. I can't believe these guys are actually pedaling up these hills and over these rocks. I will say, however, that the bike trail seemed to be marked a whole lot better than the jeep trails.
One of the vehicles we came across was a Hummer carrying about 8 passengers. It was coming down the hill we were getting ready to go up. It may not look like much of a hill from the photo below, but it was a doozy.
This is what it looked like going up.  Our vehicle was almost vertical, climbing this hill without effort. I was absolutely amazed at how this vehicle handled. I really had no idea. None at all. I couldn't believe how it just pulled us up, tires gripping the rock, all the while feeling solid and secure, and oddly, safe. Although I'm sure that had more to do with my confidence in Ed's ability, than the machine.
We took a trail called Hell's Revenge - one I later learned was "not a suitable place to learn basic skills", after I read the Safety Tips for Backcountry Travel brochure.  Probably should have done that first.

When we got to the top of Hell's Revenge, there was a lookout area where you could view the Colorado River snaking through the plateau. 

To reiterate the warning about Hell's Revenge - the Bureau of Land Management website says, "Hell’s Revenge consists of a six and one half mile roller coaster ride across the slickrock fins east of the town of Moab. It is extremely difficult, and recommended only for very experienced drivers with advanced equipment." Or, two idiots with a few hours to kill.

We did not take one of the more advanced trails, which looked like this:

If you're familiar with snow-skiing terms or trails, this area is full of moguls. Here they're made of rock, not snow. Very steep, very dangerous.  Ed came across a few guys who had attempted this trail who found themselves flipped over at the bottom of it.

Their jeep got oil in the cylinders as it sit prone in its flipped position, and after they righted it, they had to clean the oil out of them. That's where Ed found them, at the top of the mogul trail - one of the other jeep drivers used a winch to pull it up so they could get it going again.

In this photo that Ed snapped, you can see me (tinier than I've ever looked) standing at the top of the rock with the UTV. The couple below, sitting on the rock, were from Colorado.  They were with the guy's parents, and had been here before so gave us some pointers. They were traveling in two jeeps, and apparently did this kind of thing often.  
On our way out - which was really impossible to determine since the map was essentially a big red line drawn in a squiggly oval on a terrain drawing - we followed a few jeeps. They looked like they knew what they were doing and where they were going.
Turns out they had no idea where they were going - this was their first time here too.
Our map was marked with a series of X's that indicated it was part of the trail we weren't supposed to go on.  Somehow, we wound up on that trail.  I kept telling Ed, "This is not the way we came in.  These rocks don't look familiar."

Don't ask me how I know they weren't the same rocks, I just did.  I'm a landmark driver and I may not know the name of a street or highway, but I know whether I'd been there before or not. And, contrary to what the brochure and website say, the Hell's Revenge trail IS NOT "clearly marked". I think I saw two yellow flame symbols the entire time, which is what we were supposed to be following.

The trail out was horrible. Rocky and with no rhyme or reason to it. We were getting a little stressed out because we had to have the machine back to the rental shop by 5:30 and it was almost 5. When we got past the washed out rock trail, this was one of our last descents.

It was like being at the top of a roller coaster looking down. Straight down.

You can see our little shadow there on the left. I held on as Ed crept down the hill at a snail's pace. I held my breath through most of the ride. I only started to breathe a little easier when we got over the last ridge and I saw the town below. 

We made it out to the main road with enough time to get back to the shop.  I let out a full sigh.

Which is when Ed sighed deeply and said, "Boy, am I relieved."

I said, "Why?"

"Well, for a minute there I thought we were lost and we weren't going to get out of here in time."


The entire time he acted like the picture of confidence, like he had everything under control, like he knew exactly where he was, even though I held the map. What the hell??

That's Ed, though, cool as a cucumber under any kind of stress, pressure, or uncertainty.

Never let 'em see you sweat.

This was definitely an experience, and even though it was completely out of my comfort zone, I'd probably be open to doing it again.

Except next time I'll be packing a change of clothes, enough food and water for a week, my GPS system, and hiking boots instead of Keds

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2014: Have Another Piece Of Cake

2013: I Was Searching For Leather Goods And Found Something To Dream About
2012: Tomatoes Under Glass
2011: The Best Seat In The House
2010: Countdown To Pisa
2009: Eddie Goes Waaaay South Friday
2008: Port Of Long Beach
2007: Layers Of History
2006: Would I Be Cheesy If I Said I Wanted To Drive THIS Rig??
2005: Paper Glow

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Moab Is The Place For Premium Baked Goods

Ed and the Wildcat 4x4 we rented to explore the rock trails in Moab, Utah at Sand Flats Recreation Area.

We only stopped in Moab so I could pop in to the Sweet Cravings Bakery and pick up a few of their amazing Oatmeal Cranberry cookies.

When I got back to the truck, Ed told me he'd been eyeballing the rental place and thought we should do it. Of course I resisted, but walked over to the shop with him to check it out anyway.  I could tell he really wanted to go and the UTV (Utility Task Vehicle) had to be back in three hours, which was better than an all day ordeal, so I acquiesced. And the guy agreed to rent us the 4-seater for the price of the 2-seater, which was super nice of him. He said we'd be more comfortable, which now I think must be code for "fatties need bigger UTVs".

I will post more pictures and commentary about the trip, but it wasn't so bad, I actually enjoyed it and I'd do it again.

And Ed loved it!

So much so, I don't even think he realized he bought a $330.00 cookie.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2014: A Precursor To The Real Deal

2013: Only In The Summertime
2012: Craving Italy
2011: A Perfect Way To Start A Month
Old School
Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough
The Clubhouse Girls
Morning On The Air Train
The Other Side Of The Tracks
Vicki Bin Laden