Saturday, November 14, 2015

Spring has sprung

That's Colorado Springs I mean. I'm currently on work-travel to the Springs again. Been here for almost 2 BUSY weeks. We thought we'd be flying home yesterday (Friday) but some early issues put us behind schedule almost from the start (not our fault). We dealt with the issues like we always thing at a time...and finally by yesterday we were looking good. But we still have work to do and there was no way we were going to get out 'early'...but that's ok by me. I'm scoring Marriott points...I will be VERY close after this trip to re-earning my Platinum Elite Marriott rewards level (again). I LOVE Marriott's...they really take care of me!

Anyway...let's step back 2 weeks... Monday the 2nd was my travel day from Santa Maria, and I believe it was my worst travel day ever (for sure it's time I’ve ever sat in a plane AT the gate for 3 hours). First off, my little Santa Maria airport (5 minutes from our house) no longer flys to LAX…they switched back in May to San Francisco (BAD MOVE!). That flight was uneventful, and my 6am flight landed me in SF around quarter to 7 (I can drive it in around 4 hours if I don't dally and traffic is light). My flight to Denver was supposed to leave at 8am…so got to my gate quick, and things were looking good (I didn’t even eat breakfast like I normally would bowl of cereal back at 4am is disappearing quickly)…then right around 8am I noticed the flight crew left the plane and started walking away. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that is BAD. Finally they  made an announcement that we had a gate change. They never said why, but when I got to our new gate I immedietly noticed we now had NO plane (is NO plane better than a broken plane? Jury's still out on that one...kind of depends on WHAT is broken). 

Finally about 9am they admit they don’t even know if we’re going to GET an airplane…and it will be an hour or so before they even find out, but anybody who wants can change-over to the 9:40 Denver flight (which is where I'm headed)…so I jumped on that. Got to THAT gate just about when they were supposed to be loading. big surprise but they load the plane a tiny bit late…about 9:30....but still looks good for me to catch my Springs flight. So we're sitting on this plane and there is lights, but NO ventilation. And we sit...and sit...and an hour later it's a sweltering miserable sweatbox of jam-packed humanity (I think there's only ONE empty seat) when the co-pilot comes on the PA and says they shouldn’t have boarded the plane as we still have NO pilot…he’s stuck in Bay-area freeway-traffic somewhere behind an overturned semi full of chickens (he said the news-broadcast said there were live AND dead chickens all over the freeway). But as we’re already on the plane, we can either stay on the plane or go into the terminal…however IF you choose to leave the plane you take all your stuff w/ you, cuz when the pilot arrives they will give one quick call, close the doors and leave. But at least they FINALLY fire up an engine and we get ventilation....HOORAY!

About 11am I finally took a chance and briefly stepped into the terminal briefly to talk to an agent…being as I now for sure have missed my Springs flight. I'm HOPING that my 2 checked bags were actually onboard this plane….I asked what I was supposed to do. Being as we had NO idea when we would leave, they can’t even try to re-schedule me a new flight to the Springs….the agent suggested I have my bags pulled in Denver and then re-check them  (outside of security) on whatever new Springs flight I'm to be on …but I wanted none of that for a measly 30 minute flight…so I had them pulled off in Denver and I changed my rental-reservation to pickup my car in Denver and drop in the Springs at the end of my trip. 

We FINALLY got our pilot (there was applause when the man with the hat stepped on and into the cockpit) and true to their word, they closed the door right-quick, and soon after that we pulled away from the gate... right at 12:30pm. Then we taxied seemingly 'forever', until we FINALLY took-off.  After that it was an uneventful flight to Denver. And amazingly enough, both my bags were among the first onto the belt.  I stepped outside and caught the Avis bus to their lot....stepped into the office and they had my rental ready to go (it was a nice little Ford Escape 4wd mini SUV). Looked good to me (I like getting SUV's when I rent...though I'd never own one due to the HORRID mileage)…however it was OBVIOUS when I opened the door that somebody had smoked a ton in it…and very recently. They obviously TRIED to clean it, but you can’t get rid of that smell, you can only make it worse w/ all the cleaning stuff. 

I would have exchanged it right away but their little lane of cars you can exchange w/ had only 3 vehicles in it…a pickup truck and 2 small cars. So I was stuck w/ the smell-mobile. It's only 70 miles or so to the Springs, so I figured I'd change it out when I got to the Springs...the Avis there always really takes care of me w/ a small to medium size SUV. Somehow during my 70 mile trip I stopped being nauseous and forgot about the smell (maybe it was due to the excitement...they have freeway speed limits here of 75mph...I wasn't aware of that...but the prevailing traffic was doing around 80 to 85 most of the way and we made good time heading south).

And so....I arrive in the Springs around 5pm…I’m staying at a diff hotel from the guys I’m working with this trip (I wanted the Marriott points, they preferred to stay a few miles further north at a Holiday Inn Express (where there are a TON of restaurants w/in walking distance). I stopped by their hotel on the way to mine and asked the lady to pass a message to them that I’m here (being as I was supposed to land just a bit after noon, it was now many hours later). Due to the fact that I didn't know what rooms they were in, their security-policy meant that she couldn’t help me (and another thing I failed to mention earlier... my cell phone seemed to have suddenly lost about half my address book, and I now had neither of their cell numbers)….she kept saying she couldn’t even confirm they were staying there…though I KNOW they were there. IF I had their room #’s OR cell numbers I’d have been fine. 

So finally I gave up on that tactic and drove to my hotel. I'm guessing that my phone lost their numbers while I was sitting in San Fran...I had called Jeannie at her work to tell her I was delayed, and during our chat my phone cut off and I suddenly could no longer make ANY calls. I had no idea what the problem was, but nothing I could do about it for now. So now I’m in the springs and I can’t make any calls. So finally I'm in my room and I can make a room-charge call to my work and have them patch me thru to the guys and let them know I'm still alive and in-town finally...and READY for dinner. What a DAY!!! So we finally got together around 6:30 pm for dinner and life settles down to normal after my travel-day from hell. 

The weather was fantastic the first 2 days, and THEN it suddenly dropped into the daytime highs of low-40's (BRRRRR). It has mostly stayed that way...night-time lows in the low to med 20's, and daytime highs in the 40's and sometimes 50's. I didn't bother to ship my Mt bike out like I normally would have for a 2 to 3 week trip IS November, AND we just had the DREADED time-change taking away my precious after-work light hours. I think it was the right call, as even on the weekends when I had time to ride, it would be quite chilly up in the Cheyenne Canyon area (my MTB-stomping grounds here) where there is snow starting at around the 10,000' area. I'd be FREEZING...and being a tropical guy, that isn't much fun. 

And so....the start of my 2nd weekend and other than NOT being home w/ Jeannie and the babies, life is good and I'm doing fine. I am getting tired of eating out tho...and could really go for some of Jeannie's tasty meals she makes me...she's been cooking up a STORM and freezing it for I'll have work-lunches for WEEKS when I do get home (she likes to cook...and I like to EAT...we're quite a team that way!).

Here's hoping your weather isn't too bad....lots of football to watch...Susie, I have the Mich. State/Maryland game on right now (Sat morning)...your Terps are looking pretty good actually and have a tie-game thus-far (7-7). I'd like to see them win....I know the Spartans took a sad loss last Sat (being a Michigan fan, I'm ok w/ that)....which really hurt their standing in the division. If only Ohio State would lose (Sorry Rae!)....their game is on now too...but unless Illinois pulls off a MIRACLE, they should win that game rather easily. And speaking of Raiders aren't doing too bad this year! They held Denver in check the entire game (2 weeks ago?)...and except for that late interception giving Denver the win, they looked the best I've seen them in a LOOOOOOOONNNNNNGGGGGGG TIME! However, despite holding Denver's powerful offense (and the now evil Peyton Manning) in check, it's still their defense that is their downfall....they step that up and we'll really have something! And hey.... Michigan under their new coach Harbaugh has really pulled them out of their funk and stepped up their game. Woo-HOO! 

OK...I'm out of's a SUPER-NICE day out...I think we have a high forecast of high 50's today...looks really nice out my window. Time to get out and do something. 

Later gaters! GO MICHIGAN, and GO RAIDERS!!



Oh...took these pics w/ my lowly cell phone this morning (Sunday)...I've seen this hot air balloon a few times...they have been flying around the area the last 2 weekends.

 This was about 7:30am, looking out my hotel room. It took off from the building you see below it to the left just a minute or 2 before...took that long to get my cell phone on and the camera (lowly as it is) working. You can see Pikes Peak to the right w/ snow on it. Later in the morning (around 9am) I was heading north to pick up my friends for breakfast (just a bit after 9am), and I saw the balloon looking to be about where I was headed.

I was right....I turned off onto the large loop where their hotel is, and there it was descending towards the mall (on the left). 

I turned left off the loop and drove almost directly underneath it getting to the hotel parking lot.

 Now I'm in the hotel parking lot. It's definitely coming down. Just a few moments from now as it descends behind that building below and to the right the basket brushed some trees, narrowly missing the building.

 After missing the building they found mostly open parking lot. Not sure this was their top landing-choice, but as they only control up/down and not direction I think they made the right decision. It was traveling from left to right in these last 2 pics, and the main-road I turned off of to get onto the loop is Powers Blvd. It's 4 lanes each side...and even at 9am it's pretty would be very bad to come down there I'd think. They were headed that direction...and directly across from Powers is houses and more houses.

I'm assuming there was a chase vehicle, as no sooner had it set down on the pavement, 2 guys came running up and grabbed the basket. Then one of them grabbed a rope that hangs on the balloon from the top and pulled it down while the others held the basket. Then one of the people in the basket pulled a rope coming down from inside the released a large circular vent on the very top (you can see the sun shining thru the giant hot-air-vent at an angle on the top of the balloon). It all looked pretty interesting, and can also probably be quite terrifying depending on where it looks like you MIGHT be landing. And keep in mind these were taken w/ my cell phone camera, which makes everything look like it's a million miles away...I was REAL CLOSE. 

Note: I've been a hot-air-balloon was up in New Jersey. I stayed in it for about 150' of vertical ascent, then jumped out (I was on a bungee). THAT was VERY exciting!


 It's a SNOW DAY!!!!! We had a big storm move in last night...started snowing around 4pm (sleet) and turned to huge snowflakes by around 5. They were predicting up to 11" for Colo Springs. Well...we didn't get that. HOWEVER...during the first few hours of snow it was still too warm and the ground wasn't frozen, so all the snow turned to a thick layer of slush. That finally froze during the night, and now it's still snowing (9am) and that is lying on top of the frozen layer of ice/slush. Most of the city (all the schools, public stuff) is closed, as are all the military bases...thus...SNOW DAY for the Mattster!

And sure...everybody out there who DOESN'T live in Calif. is going "ho hum....boooorrriinnnggg". And after growing up in Wyoming and Montana, I would agree. However, consider that I haven't been in many good winter storms these last 30 plus to have one hit while I'm on travel, AND consider that I'm still getting paid to sit in my room and read books, newspapers, watch satellite TV AND drink coffee all day, well...that's pretty awesome if you ask me! I'm in no hurry to head back to my "day-job"...this is all a vacation! Here's two pics I took:

 This a sad cell-phone shot of the storm as I drove home Monday night from dinner to my hotel. It was taken while sitting at a stop was snowing pretty hard....woo-HOO!

My hotel parking lot shot from my room, 9am Monday morning. Yeah, yeah,'s not a lot of snow. But there's frozen ice under that, AND it's still snowing! I say BRING IT ON!!!

Have a great day, and here's hoping you all get your very own SNOW-DAY!


Sunday, November 1, 2015

Happy Halloween!

Well....another Halloween has come and gone. We were SLAMMED with kids last night (I counted roughly 160...including some large groups of rather LARGE kids....guess this is a new thing? People in their 30's (just guessing) going Trick-or-Treating? I gave them candy...what are you going to do otherwise? I don't care to de-TP my house...or worse. I had bought enough candy for two pieces each for around 140 kids. Had to start rationing to 1 piece each about 7:30, and at just before 7:45 after an extremely large group left me with about 5 pieces I quickly blew out the pumpkins, turned out the lights and pulled the curtains. We still had a few knocks at the door and doorbells...guess they don't get it that when there are NO outside lights, that means no. Stubborn I guess.'s some pics from the night.

 Jeannie dressed Sophie up in Sweet Pea's first Halloween costume...a pumpkin. I'd say she was ambivalent about the entire costume thing. NEXT YEAR I hope to do my pirate costume for the gang....with PG as their Captain (peg leg and all). This year I've just been too has been stupid. They laid off too many workers (and keep hiring higher level people..not really understanding this formula...we don't have enough workers to do the WORK nearly every day, but seems like every week we welcome another engineer or above to our fold). OK...enough moaning about the way of the world. Back to Halloween!

 A diff shot of Sophie and our pumpkins...(Jeannie and I carve them every year). Isn't Sophie darling? We sure miss Sydney though!

 A closeup of our ambivalent monster. We didn't bother to dress the other 2 up...PG would be fine, Sweet Pea would HATE IT! We figured this was Sophies 1st Halloween after all...make it a good one!

 Sophie spent the entire night glued to the door. She is typically pretty friendly but wasn't too sure about all the kids in costumes. But she only barked once...that was a lady with her kid in a little car (had a T-handle that she pushed it from behind). Looked kind of similar to a bumper-car. Cool ride for the kid...Sophie wasn't impressed in the least!

 Sydney was with us in spirit...she LOVED Halloween and also would hang out at the door all night, hoping the kids would pet her. That's her ashes in the wooden box and her picture by the lamp. A lot of the kids recognized her picture and didn't know she had passed earlier this year....everybody loved Syd! 

A kid's view of Sophie, waiting patiently by the door. You can see PG behind her...she loves being at the door for attention, but doesn't stand there waiting...she just runs up when the kids walk up. After the first arrivals I typically leave the door open and use the doggie-gate....much easier and we don't get all the knocks and/or a doorbells.

 And here's Sweet Pea in HER usual Halloween position...about as far away from the door as she can be. She is standing beside the brown chair WAY back across the house. She is SO not impressed w/ Halloween.

 Jeannie took this shot unbeknownst to I was handing out candy...w/ Sophie right by my side just observing. 

Another Sophie shot...her pumpkin hat had slipped down and I left it...she seemed to like her ears out.  

And last but not least...a slightly blurry shot of our pumpkins....I did something new this year and cut the orange skin off my pumpkins teeth....I think it's my best one yet! (VERY SCARY!) And Jeannie's turned out great too....though with the glare of the candles it's hard to see. She thought it was her best too. I had to run out and snap this shot between was a busy night! 

Hope your Halloween was as successful as ours! It was a nice night and LOTS of great costumes...and even though we had a larger than usual number of older 'kids', there was the typical ton of kids in strollers or barely walking. Just an awesome night for sure, and our weather was PERFECT for it.

I'm off to Colorado Springs for two (or three?) weeks tomorrow....hopefully we get decent weather as I'm SO not a cold-weather guy anymore. No snow or rain would be nice (just what we get here in CA). The forecast is for temps in the 50's mostly, with some 60's. That's fine by me...I can live with that. Didn't bother shipping my Mt bike....though I though long and hard on the subject. IF it does only go 2 weeks then there will only be the one weekend, and with the time-change last night I likely wouldn't get any rides in during the week anyway. So doing without it for all of this last week, and usually 2 to 3 weeks after isn't very worth-it. Plus, there might already be snow up higher in the mtns where I like to play anyway. So I'll just live without and hope I made the right call. Have a great week and I'll be back to yak more later.