Blogin' it. - My first house. 

8/7/2006 Ė Monday Ė And Iím not dead, I Promise.

Really, Iím not dead. Iíve just been a little busy, and a little too lazy to post anything here. Things really picked up at work and I havenít really had time to create blog entries on my lunch break. Iíll try to get better, really I will.

Honestly, I havenít been up to anything too interesting here in NC; mostly just working. But, for those who are interested, here is a grab bag of pics and events from the last couple of weekends.

This last weekend was tons-o-fun. On Saturday Kevin and a few of our friends competed in the annual Dan River Boat Race . Kevin and John were in one canoe, and raced against Bleu and Scott and all the other guys in the menís tandem canoe class.

Kevin, Bleu, Scott, John

There were over 100 canoes and kayaks in the race this year. Although the majority of racers were from our local community, a few people traveled hundreds of miles to participate. It was definitely a fun family event. All sorts of people showed up: from the serious competitive racer, to grandparents and grandchildren just looking to spend time paddling down the river together. Lunch and musical entertainment were provided afterwards, and there were trophies awarded for first and second place in many different classes. I am definitely making it a goal to compete in the womenís tandem canoe class next year.

Letís see, a little further back in time was the weekend of the 29th. If I recall correctly, worked most of Sunday on a project for my job, so, letís just skip to the weekend before that. Kevin and I went for yet another awesome ride that weekend, and had lunch on Pilot Mountain:



And so you donít think weíve been just goofing around, hereís evidence of progress (albeit minor progress) on the house:



I just came home one day and Kevin had totally cleaned the garage. I know! All of our stuff was organized and on shelves. Itís great! You can find everything, and there is room to move and work Ďcause its not all over the floor.

Also, our friendly neighbor/farmer finally came to cut and bale the hay on our land. Not only does it look a lot nicer, but it feels good knowing our land is being put to productive use:



Our land is also feeding us:


The best part is, we didnít even have to work for it. Our neighbor directly adjacent to us keeps a rather successful and bountiful garden out behind his house. Since the garden is actually on our property, we agreed that he could keep the garden as long as we get a little bit of fresh produce every now and then. This has worked out really well, since he has produced so much squash and cucumber that he canít give it away fast enough. Heís even delivered bags of fresh produce right to our door. I tell ya what, you canít get service like that just anywhere.

7/10/2006 - Monday...

I had a Great weekend. I did some riding, some eating, a little work around the house, and some lying around. All weekends should be like this:)


Kevin and I left early Saturday morning and rode north and west into Virginia. Even though we didnít go very far, we stayed out all day, mostly riding around the Meadows of Dan area. I donít think riding gets any better than this, I really donít.

Squirrel Spur Rd just might be the most-fun-road-ever.

Naturally, we checked out some previously unexplored (by us) hydropower. The Pinnacles dam is a really interesting site, and was entirely worth the effort put forth to see it. Built in 1938, its one of the oldest sites Iíve seen in this area. When we arrived, the gate at the top of the mountain was locked, blocking the service road that goes to the dam. This, of course, did not stop us, as these sites are supposed to be open to the public. (As demonstrated at Kevinís Dadís sites, gates arenít terribly effective when it comes to hydropower and dams.) So, we parked the bikes at the top of the hill and walked around the gate. Little did we know how far down the mountain we still had to go to actually get to the dam. However, the weather was gorgeous and comfortable (as opposed to stifling hot as is typical), and we were energized by the fun ride up to the dam. Our sense of adventure kept us hiking down the hill for almost a mile, and probably more than 500 ft of elevation change, until we reached the bottom. Like I said, the trip was worth the effort.








The view from the pit of the valley was truly awesome. The dam is of course at the very bottom of the valley, wedged in the base of the adjacent mountains. Kevin and I left the service road and walked down the concrete steps onto at the edge of the dam. The walkway continued across the top of the dam, and provided a great a view of the impoundment and the downstream valley and forest. At roughly 80 ft tall, itís almost hard to believe that people could build such an enormous structure before the advent of the modern construction equipment we have today. The masonry is especially impressive, as all that concrete was formed without the use of plywood. I found the valley itself to be especially striking, in that itís very narrow and very deep, and the towering mountains on either side are covered in dense forest.

After lingering more than a few minutes to take pictures, admire the scenery, and speculate about the various aspects of making power at this dam, Kevin and I psyched ourselves up for the trip back up the hill. Since we were still wearing or carrying most of our motorcycling gear (leather pants, jackets, helmets, tank bags, etc), we took it easy. All told, it took about an hour and a half to walk down to the dam and back up. Needless to say, my shins and calves are still reminding me of this little adventure as I type this.

However, I am still laughing at what happened next. Just as we were suiting ourselves back up to leave, four motorcycles came around the bend and stopped next to us in front of the gate. The bikes themselves were a rather eclectic mix (read, not all GSXRs), consisting of a Ducati ST4, a Ducati monster, an older triumph, and a Kawasaki that looked to be from the early 1980ís. (Apologies for not really knowing what the last two bikes were. Iím fairly competent at identifying street-bikes made after the late 1990ís, but thatís about it). We waved and said some friendly hellos. Now get this, the leader of the group returned the greeting, and said: ďHey, Iíve got the combination to the gate, you want to go down and see the dam?Ē I practically fell over laughing, because really, the timing could not have been better. After we finished explaining, much to their amusement, that we had just finished walking back up from the dam, we suited up and followed them through the gate and down the road anyway. Let me tell you, it was a whole lot faster riding the bike down. It took all of two minutes, and we were down in the small parking area, shooting the breeze with our new friends.

They had just come from the upper dam and the powerhouse associated with this site. After talking with those nice folks and learning a bit more about the area, we all decided that it was about time to eat lunch. So, we geared back up once again and headed out. (For those not in on motorcycling culture, this type of thing happens a lot. A group of riders tends to grow throughout the day as you meet new people and go riding together for awhile.) We ended up having lunch a little restaurant/gas station on RT 58 with them, and then had to head towards home as it was getting late, and we had plans for the evening.

Kevin and I were both pretty tired by the time we got back, but we had *just enough* energy left to go cookout for dinner with some friends. It was tough, but we made it there in time to sit and relax. We ended the day by cooking some steaks on the charcoal grill, having some beer, and eating this dessert: (My friend Dawn brought this recipe into work and it was awesome, so I got it from her and made it again this weekend. Thanks Dawn, it was a hit!)

2 cups Graham Cracker crumbs
1 Stick butter
(Mix and press in bottom of dish)

2 cups 10x sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 container = 2 eggs of egg substitute
(mix until smooth and spread over crust)

4 bananas Ė sliced, layer on top of filling
1 can crushed pineapple Ė layer on top of banana
1 container cool whip Ė layer on top of pineapple
Layer walnuts and maraschino cherries to taste

Like I said, all weekends should be like this. I love Summer:)

7/7/2006 - Friday, Happy Friday!

Oh yeah, in case you didnít notice in that last post, thatís right, Kevin and I worked on the car INSIDE our AIR CONDITIONED garage, that has EPOXY coated floors. Yup. We moved the bikes to the back, and then pulled my car in and closed the barn doors, with plenty of room left to work. It was especially nice not working outside, given the over 90 degree temps outside that day. So yeah, I know some of you are jealous:)

In other news, we got a new refrigerator!!! Yea!!!!





The old fridge was definitely on its last legs. The entire time weíve had it, Kevin and I fully expected to come home one day to find a puddle on the floor and the food at room temperature. Despite this expectation, however, it never failed to keep the food cold, and was therefore worth all of the $10 Kevin paid for it.

The new fridge, while costing a little more than $10, is really nice. There arenít any scratches on the side where someone dragged it across the concrete, and when itís running, you donít even have to shout to be heard over the noise from the compressor:) (Our old harvest gold side-by-side fridge is officially the ďloudest.fridge.ever.Ē) You canít even hear the new one in the next room! I am especially appreciative of the light that comes on when you open the door, which the old fridge lacked. AND, (omg omg), it has an AUTOMATIC ice- maker. I know! Between that and the office chair my parents got me for my birthday, I feel like I am really moviní up in the world:)


No more paint bucket for me, I have a real place to sit. Plus, my computer is working flawlessly (for once). Couple this with the fact that Kevin and I no longer have to live in fear of coming home to warm beer, and I have to say, life is pretty good.

7/5/2006 - Wednesday

Why donít automatic transmissions have drain bolts for the fluid like engines do for their oil? This is a serious question, as in, Iím not joking. If any of the three people that actually read this blog have a good answer, please let me know. I really want to know why changing the ATF in my car is such a mess by design. There is no apparent reason for the current arrangement, the car could be much simpler to work on. Seriously, can a drain bolt really be that expensive? What other reason could there be?

Ok, let me explain (Read: here comes a long-winded story). As you probably know, I drive a 2000 Camaro, V6, automatic. I got it new in 2000 (I know, lucky me:), it is the only car I have ever had, and it just recently reached 60,000 miles. (While its probably not the car I would choose to buy for myself now, its been a pretty good car for me, Iíve been getting over 25 mpg, and I plan to keep this car for as long as possible (*crosses fingers*)). I havenít done any major work on the car in that time, just expected maintenance: Regular oil changes, two new air filters, two new sets of wiper blades, one serpentine belt, and a new set of tires a few months ago. My only real complaint is that the power windows donít work. I refuse to have them fixed because I already did that once while it was under warranty, and they promptly quit working again two weeks later. This problem plagues all Camaro and Firebird owners. Thanks GM for not doing anything about it (yes, even though the power windows were a known problem, GM continued to produce the car that way without making any changes to address it). There is no hope.

Anyway, Iíve recently felt compelled to perform some maintenance tasks that Iíve previously ignored. Last month it became apparent to me that I needed to have the brakes done on my car. Ok, after 60,000 miles thatís not exactly a surprise, the pads have to get replaced eventually. So I took it to a local shop in town that always has the best prices. When all was said and done, I paid roughly $270 to replace the pads, front and rear, have all four rotors turned, and have the car inspected (thank you state of NC Ė that is one advantage about FL, no vehicle inspections BS). This really is a good price for a brake job on a car with four-wheel disc brakes, although if Iíd done the job myself, I could have saved the $70 (roughly) that I paid in labor.

So, in keeping with trying to save money and keep my expenses down, I bought the Haynes manual for my car, with the intent of doing more maintenance myself (err, likely with a LOT of Kevinís help :).


Thus, (and here comes that actual point of this entry), Kevin and I found ourselves underneath my car yesterday, changing the fluid in my transmission. I decided this bit of maintenance ought to get done because I know that itís the responsible thing to do, and I understand the importance of regular maintenance on mechanical systems. Plus, the ownerís manual says its time. Also, I commute 84 miles round trip five days a week, and I really need to keep my car in working order. Also, the warning light in the dash came on telling me to service my engine soon.

Even though Iíve never done this particular bit of maintenance before, I was not deterred. In concept, changing the ATF is not difficult. 1) There is a pan under the transmission that can be unbolted to drain out all the old fluid. 2) Once the fluid is done draining, clean out the pan, 3) replace the old filter with a new one (the old one just pops right out, and the new one snaps easily into place), 4) replace the gasket that seals the pan to the bottom of the transmission with a new one, 5) bolt the clean pan with the new gasket back on. 6) Refill the transmission with the appropriate ATF as specified by the ownerís manual, to the proper level. I learned yesterday that the tranny fluid level should be measured after the car has been running, so everything is nice and hot.

Sounds simple, right? In practice, the actual job is not so much difficult (physically or mentally) as it is aggravating. You see, when you change the oil, draining the old oil is as simple as removing the drain plug. The oil drains in a nice, predictable stream into the plastic pan that I set beneath it. The worst that happens is that I get some oil on the hand I use to remove the drain plug. Not so much with the transmission. THERE IS NO DRAIN PLUG. Lord knows why, Ďcause I sure donít. As it happens, the size (in area, not volume) of the transmission fluid pan on my car is larger than the pan I own and use to drain oil into. So, what happens is this: There are approximately 18000 bolts (not all of them are the same either, so keep track) that clamp the pan to the bottom of the transmission. The idea is to loosen them all a little bit at a time until you can remove most of them and then separate the pan from the transmission. Then the old oil can be dumped from the tranny pan into the waste oil pan I got from Wal-mart for probably $2. However, since the fluid level in the transmission is higher than the depth of the pan, ATF starts spilling out everywhere around the edges of the pan as you loosen the bolts. The ATF drips everywhere except into the waste oil pan, which is sitting nicely in the middle underneath the fluid draining all around it, catching almost no ATF. However, while the ATF is not so great at draining into the oil pan, it has an amazing ability to drain all over Kevinís hands, my hands, my arms, my head, and the garage floor, creating an incredible mess:) Why isnít there a drain plug again?



Believe it or not, I knew it would be this way. But what are you gonna do? We donít have a car lift, (which presumably would make this job easier), just those plastic ramps you drive the front wheels on so there is some room under the car (not a lot mind you, just enough to lay under there and sort of move around). Such is life when you do your own maintenance:) We put some newspapers down, and filled a whole trash bag with the paper towels we used to clean up. All faux drama aside, the whole job didnít really take that long, and honestly was not that difficult. Especially since that same shop would have charged me $90 for the job Kevin and I were able to do for less than $30. (Granted, $90 is a fair price, and I am sure they would have done a fine job.) However, saving the money was worth it to me. I am very happy that my car now has new brakes, and clean ATF. With any luck, and likely more help from my in-house mechanic in the coming months, Iíll be driving this car trouble-free for many years to come.

6/28/2006 - Wednesday

Hooray! My computer is working again! A few days ago, my motherboard decided to stop working. Iím not exactly sure what went wrong, but my computer wouldnít even load the BIOS, so I knew the problem was probably hardware related and wasnít going to fix itself. (You know, like windows does when you reboot). (Lol, you can tell Iím sooo computer savvyÖyeah right, hehe).

So anyway, Kevin and I replaced the motherboard in my computer tonight. Even though Iíve never done it before, it was pretty easy. The new motherboard is essentially the same as the old one (I ordered it that way intentionally), so the job was as simple as unplugging everything from the old board, and plugging it into the same spots on the new one. This has to be done carefully, of course, as itís pretty easy in a few spots to get confused as to which wires go to which exact spots. However, Kevin took copious notes and pictures before we started, and we both took a good look inside my computer before taking it all apart. Besides, there are different types of plugs for most of the various components, so its pretty obvious how most of the major pieces fit together. Plus, the board comes with a diagram that tells you where everything goes (hard drives plug in here, power plugs in there, USB ports go here, etc etc.). The hardware portion of the job only took about an hour, and was really straightforward. I am most definitely NOT a ďcomputerĒ person, and I had no trouble figuring out how to replace the motherboard. The only part I would not have figured out without Kevin happened after we tried to boot up my computer with the new motherboard. I have two hard drives, and the default drive is actually not the drive with the operating system on it. So Kevin had to go into the BIOS and tell it to boot from the other drive. Now that Kevin has shown me how to do it, its easy to understand, but I doubt I could have figured that out on my own.

In any case, my computer is happy again, yea! I really need to throw in some praise for, as they are the other part of this success story. Newegg is awesome, if you didnít already know. I ordered the new board Monday night, and it arrived today. Plus, newegg always has the best prices, and the reviews are excellent. For computer parts and other common electronics, newegg is by far the best place to go. (No, they are not paying me to advertise for them:)

6/27/2006 - Tuesday

Behold the national addiction.

In case you weren't aware, this silly game is a national pass-time right now. There was even an article in Discover magazine about it (or maybe it was Scientific American? We subscribe to both, and I can't figure out which one ran the article). I'm almost embarrassed to admit I play sometimes, but it really is a neat puzzle. Who cares, try it for yourself!:)

6/21/2006 - Wednesday

This is where I get a lot of my news during my lunch break. I find the comments in the blog section especially enlightening at times.

Today's relevent topic is: The recent motorcycle accident of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has brought helmet laws into the national spotlight again. I think the discussion around helmet laws and personal freedom is really interesting.

As evidenced by the pictures Iíve already posted, I always wear all of my gear when riding. I would even if NC law didnít require helmets.

6/18/2006 - Happy Father's Day, and bring on summer

Happy Fatherís Day Dad! Congrats, so far youíve survived a full 24 years of fatherhood. Lol, I donít blame you, Iíd make this face too: )

dad - christmas 2001

In other news, OMG! I have the internet AT MY HOUSE! Itís incredible. After months and months and multiple crews of Time Warner employees, the cable has finally made the connection from the road to my house. You might think: ďGee, they must really live out in the country if it took that much trouble to hook up the cable,Ē but youíd be wrong. Time Warner customer service really is that bad.

However, as long as the connection continues to be as great as it is right now, all of that mess is water under the bridge. I am happily plugged back into the matrix and life is good again: )

Speaking of life being good again, Kevin and I have been taking advantage of the nice (but increasingly hot) weather and riding the bikes every chance we get. Last weekend he and I took the bikes to visit my parents at the lake house, and we had a grand Ďol time. My dad rented a boat for Saturday, so the five of us (my parents, my brother, Kevin, and me) played all afternoon out on the water. Mom was even daring enough to try and water ski, while the rest of sat in the boat and laughed at her. Hey, at least she tried it. The rest of us just chickened out.

Sorry, this is the best pic Iíve got.
mom waterskiing 6-10-2006

The boat is already reserved for the Fourth of July weekend, so if the weather cooperates this time, the rest of us will likely get our chance to humiliate ourselves on the water skis.


Kevin and I took a short ride this morning too; just a few hours exploring the back roads of the next county over. If you think thereís nothing going on in Rockingham County, you should see Stokes County.

6-18-2006 stokes pharmacy

Boy howdy thereís a whole lotta nothiní happening over there. That picture is just north of Danbury, the center of the county, which has exactly zero stoplights. (This is how you know youíve assimilated to southern and/or country culture by the way, when you start making fun of people perceived to be more back woods than you are *cough West Virginia cough cough*) I say this all in jest, though, really. Danbury is a neat little town. As we rode through today, we saw people getting ready to go tubing down the river. Last fall, Kevin and I went to some sort of festival that had arts and crafts, live performers, some local and regional live music, and all sorts of vendors. Plus, throughout the county there are a lot of really pretty roads that are just great for motorcycling, and there is Hanging Rock State Park, which is a gorgeous place to visit.

6/7/2006 - Wednesday

Well, this post will probably surprise some of you more than others. Youíd think after all the hectic activity of the last month and a half that Kevin and I would be desperate for a quiet weekend at home.

Nah. That would be nice, but Iíve been contemplating making a MAJOR purchase for a long time now. Iíve just been waiting to ďget all my ducks in a rowĒ.

Kevin and I talked about it, and decided that life is too short not to do what you love. As of last Saturday, there is a new addition to the family:)

A brand new Kawasaki 650R, the perrrrrrfect bike for me:



Yup, there are many happy days of riding ahead of me.

Disclaimer for those who disapprove: Yes, Iíve taken the MSF (Motorcycle Safety Foundation) riding course. Yes I have my NC motorcycle endorsement. Yes, I have full insurance and all the requisite safety gear. No, you cannot persuade me not to do something I love.

6/5/2006 - Monday

Where did I leave off in the story? Ah yes, I was on my way to Sarasota, FL for yet another joyous occasion. A lot has happened these last two weekends, which is just how I like it. Boredom is a rarity in my corner of the world: )

Kevin and I burned the candle at both ends so to speak that weekend. We hopped on an early flight from Syracuse to Tampa Friday morning, with a short layover in Philadelphia. Once we arrived, Kevinís mom kindly picked us up and whisked us home so that we could shower and change and hop right back into the car to drive to the rehearsal dinner in Sarasota. The occasion was certainly worth the effort.

Sarasota, FL, of course, is gorgeous. It is a beautiful place, in fact, to have a wedding. If only I could have stayed a few days longer and lingered at Siesta KeyÖAnyway, Sarasota also happens to be the hometown of one of the brightest mechanical engineering students to attend the USF College of Engineering, my friend, Stephanie; who just happened to be getting married on the 27th of May 2006. As the following pictures will show, the weekend was filled with much merriment:

Congrats Steph and Ryan!

The Happy Couple:



The Wedding Party:

Steph dancing with her brother, Philip:

Me, Steph, and Dana:

The wedding was beautiful, and I was honored to be a part of it. Steph, good luck and have fun with your new job. Count your blessings, Ďcause you and Ryan really have it made.

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