Finding Adventure...

My first from-scratch project with my 3D printer

After much research on 3D printers, I settled on the $750 "CTC" one off eBay.  It's a clone of the original Makerbot Replicator, and I suspect it's made by the same factory that originally made the Replicator for Makerbot.  Makerbot has moved on to fancier and more expensive units, but in my research I just couldn't seem to justify the extra cost for the final product.  In fact, I looked at possibly spending at much as $15,000 on a printer, and yet still settled on this $750 unit.

It really seems like you have to step up to $20,000+ printers to do significantly better things than this CTC printer can do.  You would need to be running it constantly, and I'm merely a hobbyist who was looking to learn a few things and perhaps make a few things that could really be used in the real world.

I started out printing a few things I found on Thingiverse.  I'm kind of surprised more people don't just grab things from there and pay to have them printed at sites like Shapeways.  Before I bought my own printer, I did do 3D model of an enclosure I wanted and had Shapeways print it.  The service takes several days including shipping, but it's not terribly expensive and the quality is quite good.  But all it did was whet my appetite to be able to print my own things NOW.  Enter the research and the purchase of the CTC printer.

The first few prints included some mediocre iPhone cases as well as a cool little GoPro mount, seen here:

Not the most complex thing, but it actually works pretty well.  Here's one used to adapt my mountain bike headlamp to work on the GoPro mount of my bike helmet:

The material is VERY strong and fairly lightweight, too.  If there's a downside it's that the color palette is a bit limited and the time to print is pretty slow.  This little item takes about 25 minutes just to print, but setup and everything included makes it more like an hour for the first one and about 35 minutes for each one after.

 A fun thing to do is add a second video camera on the bow of the boat.  Unfortunately there's no good way to do that on these particular boats (and we've tried several different sit-on-top kayaks for surfing, and these seem to work better than most for a 200 pound adult).  So I set out to make something that would work in place of the grab handle in the front.

Here are the parts as I designed them in Sketchup:

 And assembled in place with a GoPro on the boat:

Normally the boat would have a small piece of plastic down where the string connects in this photo attached with a short screw.  I removed that and took the handle off that piece and put it on my GoPro mount.  Then I bolted everything through with a long bolt into the original hole.  It seems every bit as strong as before, except now there's a place to put a camera.  I normally use a chest cam for the best action, but a camera pointed back at the rider is a fun view, too.

There will be more almost-interesting things coming from my evil lab, but not until after the beach.

My thoughts on Puerto Rico


So Ashley and I have been in Puerto Rico for the past few days and return home tomorrow. I'm kind of torn about this place. I really wanted to like it because it's an island that's easily reachable from the east coast and it's in a great climate. Turns out there are many things to like, too. The only rainforest in a US National Forest is El Yunque, and it's less than an hour drive from San Juan, the most english speaking of the Puerto Rican cities. El Yunque is truly a beautiful place, too. The picture above was taken from atop the second highest tower they have there. You have to hike up a very cool trail for about twenty minutes, but it is definitely worth it. A word of advice, though...definitely take rain gear or be prepared to get wet. We didn't get wet, but only because the rain came while we were at the top and we had a dry place to wait it out.

A couple days ago we took a drive from San Juan to the southeast corner of the island. That required a very long drive on a very narrow highway through the mountains. The mountains themselves were quite amazing, with the incredibly large stands of bamboo, some of it more than six inches in diameter and shooting up at least fifty feet. The coastal area was also quite amazing in it's beauty. This island has many rock cliffs to the ocean, but also amazing beaches in between.

The big problem is what the people have done to this place. Almost all buildings are built of concrete and have a flat roof. I'm guessing that's for hurricane protection. But apparently crime is also so bad here that everyone not only has bars on everything, they have tiny (or no) windows and usually concrete and/or steel fences. Many communities are gated with large walls. Even through the mountains, houses are small fortresses. Businesses, too. There's never anywhere reasonable to park, so people just park in the street. And then double park. Oh, and the my my. Potholes so big I'm sure there were people and cars lost in them. No signs on anything. Road names change on a whim, including major highways (and their numbers!).

There are various groups trying to push tourism in Puerto Rico, but that's a joke. They want tourist dollars, but from what I can see they aren't willing to make any kind of investment to get it. The first "overlook" we saw on the entire trip was inside El Yunque, and even those were a joke. The cabs are stupidly're in for $10 minimum, and usually $14-19 for just an average ride of maybe 15 minutes. And good luck finding a cab unless you're at a big hotel. They don't drive around looking for fares...they go park at the nearest hotel and get out of the car and go hang out with the other cabbies somewhere sort of nearby.

Restaurant service? The food is good, but the service is terrible. Only once during the entire stay did we NOT have to ask for drink refills. That was at our own resort, where we did eat several times and did have to ask on every other occasion. And the service in general at the resort was stellar compared to everywhere else we visited. The highlight of our trip had to be eating here:

That's El Churry, a food stand in a truck. It was made famous by the TV show Man v. Food. Jonas saw it there and we had to go hit it. They make this churrasca sandwich that's pretty incredible. Just trust me and go get it if you're ever there. Notice you just go order, pay, and they hand you food. No opportunity to screw up the service there! Oh, and you are eating along the main coastal drag, and on a Saturday night that was an event in itself. Saw plenty of Fast-n-Furious wannabes, but the best was when we heard this thumping sound coming. Yes, it was from some major bass in a big stereo. As we looked for the source, we saw a minivan coming...with both front doors open and the driver and passenger BOTH standing in the doorjam (I guess he had the cruise set and was just reaching in for the steering). As we watched them go by in awe, we saw the source of the bass...both rear doors were open, too (held open by something, I'd imagine) and there was a rear wall of speakers pointed out the back. Heck, for all I know the thing was being propelled by the bass.

We even saw two natives go by on a Polaris RAZR. On a public street.

All in all, it's not a bad place. You do have to worry about crime, but it does have amazing weather and some amazing sights. The two forts and Old San Juan are stunning. El Yunque is kind of profound. The coast is beautiful. You just have to be in a little different mindset about some things. People say they drive crazy here. I don't think they drive crazy, but they do have a bit of oddness about how they drive that takes some getting used to. Oh, and the road signs are in Spanish. That's not as big a deal as you might think, though, because they all look like the same signs as the US, so you get used to that quickly. Our fairly new Garmin Nuvi GPS did have the roads, but the names did NOT match up and the GPS was VERY bad at routing via major versus minor roads, unlike in the US.

The biggest drawback? They don't have Mountain Dew here. I never once saw it in any store or at any fountain. Plenty of Pepsi and even 7-Up, though.

In memory of Carolina Freight


I have a soft spot for the old trucking companies that used to move this nation's products. My grandfather was a truck driver when I was growing up, and because of that, "trucking" was always just something that was cool to me. Of course my favorite movie of all time is Smokey and the Bandit, but other trucking movies like Convoy and TV shows like BJ and the Bear hold a special place in my heart. A recent news article on WRAL brought me back to some memories of seeing Carolina Freight trucks on the road. My grandfather did work for them for a couple years and my other grandparents lived near the hometown of Carolina Freight, Cherryville, NC. So growing up I got to go to the C. Grier Beam Truck Museum in Cherryville.

I was very happy to find that museum is still alive and well, and from the pictures looks to be the same as I remember it. I definitely hope to get my kids in there one day, and do recommend it for those of you who remember Carolina Freight trucks roaming the interstates or just enjoy looking at some very cool old trucks (from back in the days when the "sleeper" was actually on the front of the trailer rather than the back of the cab of the truck!).

That Disney Magic

First, some background. DisneyWorld has what they call the "PhotoPass." Whenever you see a Disney photographer in any of the parks (and they are EVERYWHERE), you can grab them and have them shoot a few pics of you and your loved ones. They're pros with good equipment and they do their job well. Then they give you a PhotoPass, which is just a little credit card sized card with a big long number on it and a 3D barcode. Get more pics taken and you can just give them the card and they add it to your "account." Forget your card or whatever and just grab another one (they are free) when you next need pictures. You're saddled with an additional "account", but that's okay because you can combine them all to one account at any PhotoPass kiosk (again, free).

Share that number with friends (or pull it up yourself and share the link) and any of your friends and family can see what's going on with your trip as it happens. At the kiosks you can buy prints in an array of sizes. But the best deal of all is to buy the CD. You get the raw images sent to you and you retain all copyright on them. It's expensive at $150, but there are pre-purchase deals that can cut the price to $100 or so. And if you go to Disney with other families, just pool your dough and put all the PhotoPasses on one account and then copy the CD. Disney doesn't seem to mind that kind of thing one bit.

The problem arises when you combine a bunch of Photopasses to one pass and then you LOSE IT. Don't do that! One way to avoid it is to "back up" your PhotoPass by simply using your own digital camera (a cellphone camera will usually suffice) to shoot a picture of the number on the pass. Or write it down. Or when you combine you can actually have them put it on two or three passes that they'll give to you and you can put those in different places or in other people's hands. There are lots of ways to avoid being a dumbass, but sadly, as you might have guessed, I took none of these.

That's right, I had a Photopass with 65 pictures for THREE families from an entire day at Blizzard Beach, the best water park in the world. What makes that doubly bad is that this is the one place we generally don't bother taking our own camera in since it's a water park, even though we have an awesome new Canon D10 that's waterproof (just too annoying to keep up with when you're doing all those big slides and stuff since EVERYONE was participating in lots of BIG rides!). But at Blizzard Beach they have "little" PhotoPasses that are waterproof and have a rubber band that will go on your wrist and are no problem. Except we ended up with about a dozen of them throughout the day.

So at the end of the day I combined them at a kiosk to one. I shunned the smart man's attempt to give me two or three and said one was fine. Then, somehow, today, I lost it. I think I left it in the hotel room in a stack of old receipts I didn't need. We left the hotel around 9am and stored our bags for one more morning in Animal Kingdom before coming back to depart for the airport. It was right as we returned I realized I didn't have it and the staff was VERY helpful in tracking down the person who had already cleaned our room to find out if they had it or had seen it. In fact, that entire process took less than SIXTY SECONDS from the FIRST person I asked about it when I walked in the lobby of the MASSIVE hotel. But alas, not surprisingly, the cleaning lady did not have it.

I was a bit dejected, but then the security guy said "let's go over to the PhotoPass kiosk...sometimes they can find your pictures." I was a bit stunned at this possibility, because Disney doesn't really link your Photopass to YOU in any way. You go do that yourself at the end of your trip. You can enter ALL your PhotoPass numbers you might have accumulated and link it to your CD and have it pressed. Why they don't do this earlier (or make your room key a PhotoPass) I don't know, but that's the way it is.

Anyway, it turns out that not only do the pictures get put in a database that's linked to the number on the card they scan when they shoot the pic(s), but they are entered into the database by park and even location as well as the time they were taken. Since I remembered about an hour window at one of the Blizzard Beach rides that SEVERAL of us had gotten PhotoPass pictures at, I was able to have the kiosk guy just show me big thumbnail views of pictures from that time period on that ride until I found one of myself. He was then able to pull up that entire PhotoPass from that one picture of me. SWEET! He then scanned another card, handed it to me, and I was on my way, all in under ten minutes. I immediately snapped a pic of it with my iPhone and ran to catch my bus. Yeah, you got it, that's the Disney Magic. I'm not only amazed they could do all that, I'm amazed at the speed at which it happened. Truly special. Thank you, Disney, for saving me the embarrassment of being the one to lose 65 pictures and really the entire record of our day there.
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Hiking near Blowing Rock with the Conservation Trust for NC


Through a strange twist of fate Ashley and I found ourselves doing a hike today with Ashley's sister, Hilary, and some folks from the Conservation Trust for NC. The hike was around five and a half miles and almost all downhill (they left shuttle vans at the downhill end of the trail which was quite awesome). I'll post my GPS track from it soon, but can't tonight. The above was one of many beautiful waterfalls along the hike.

Anyway, the highlight of the trip was Thunder Hole waterfall (which is not the one pictured above). A very pretty little waterfall and swimming hole that I and a few of the others on the hike decided to take advantage of. Here's a short video of me going behind the waterfall and then through it back out:

And here is another video of me sliding off the top of the waterfall and into the water:

A huge thanks to John Bell and Johnny Wilson for working so hard to put on this event, and it was great meeting a lot of awesome new folks today. We look forward to seeing you all at future events. And for those of you reading my blog who weren't there, please consider donating to CTNC! They are doing some great work to help conserve NC's beauty. They not only buy land to conserve it, but they fight to stop the forest service from logging land already owned by the government. Thunder Hole won't be the same if they lose their current battle to stop the Globe logging project, for example. Visit their site and help if you can!
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Want to fly?

This is a pretty good way to get close to it!

Check out Scream Time Zipline if you want to give this a try. Highly recommended!

Mickey's Premium Ice Cream Bars

I love me some Mickey's Premium. It's nothing terribly special in terms of's simply a Nestle concoction of vanilla ice cream dipped in dark chocolate and placed on a stick. It's also in that awesome Mickey shape. But the best part? They're available just about everywhere in Disney. Why is that good? Well, because I just got back from Disney and I love them! I was able to limit myself to just two during the trip, but I didn't limit much else!

A couple months ago our friend Jane sent an email to a group of her friends, including Ashley and I, asking if anyone was interested in an adults-only trip to somewhere and she was particularly interested in New York City. Little did she know, however, that the group she sent it to didn't include anyone who was interested in going to NYC. Everyone had been and liked it okay, but just wasn't interested in going back right now. But I suggested we do something crazy and go to Disney instead! Sadly, some of our other friends just couldn't do it right now, but Jane and Alan and Ashley and I found a weekend that worked for us, lined up babysitters, and made the trip.

We flew out really early on Saturday morning and stayed through Monday evening on Southwest Airlines. Big plug here...yet again, SWA had great service. I really love that airline. Upon arrival in Orlando we boarded the Disney Magical Express bus service to our resort. Even though the service wasn't busy, I will say it doesn't seem that incredibly organized and isn't terribly easy to find from the gate area. I suppose if it was more busy you could just follow the crowd, though. But the bus service was good. We didn't use the baggage service as we were only there three days so it was easy to just carry-on and keep everything with us, though that might not have been the best plan since if you fly out very early (we left at 7:15am and were at our resort by 9:30am) you still have to store your bags until later anyway. But this way you do have access to your bags and a bathroom if you need to do any preparation before heading to the park, so consider that if following this basic plan.

We stayed at Port Orleans Riverside. That was probably the biggest problem area on the trip, but not for us, for Jane and Alan. We booked rooms together so they gave us adjoining rooms (though we didn't really request that and didn't need it, it would have been handy). Unfortunately, while our entire building was non-smoking, the previous occupants of their room had taken it upon themselves to leave it smelling like a chimney. Understandably, they complained. That got them a complimentary deodorizing service (yippee) and a small credit on their bill for that night, but there were no more rooms available until the next day (right!) so they had to live with it. The next day they did get another room, but were stuck in that "it won't be ready until 4pm" state, so they just put their bags in our room. Sadly, the new room was also a LONG way from ours (as in four buildings away), so it made meeting up to get going a bit more of a problem.

Aside from that, everything was okay at Port Orleans, but not great. I typically try to stay at Hampton Inn hotels when I'm traveling to most places because I like that they seem to have clean duvet covers, replace their carpets on good schedules, and generally keep things working well enough to not have lots of room key issues and the like. Port Orleans gets a fail on all of that as they just have typical polyester comforters, fairly old carpets and such, and Jane and Alan had two occasions where their room keys wouldn't work on the new room (in 24 hours!). They did end up with a free night in addition to their small credit for the first night, but our term for the Port Orleans stay was that it was far from "magical." I don't believe these kinds of things are nearly as likely if you stay at a more deluxe resort, so keep that in mind when making your decision on how much to spend on your Disney resort. We were only there two nights, and it was pretty annoying for Jane and Alan.

So what did we do? Everything! Well, dang near it. We stored all our bags and headed for our first park, Animal Kingdom. We chose our park order based on the schedule of hours things were open. AK is usually only open until 5pm, so we hit that first. There we did the Kali River Rapids where Ashley and Jane got SOAKED by a huge wall of water on the big drop. Alan and I were a little wet, but they got drenched. The wall of water was so huge it was like watching it happen in slow motion. We also hit Expedition Everest, and in my opinion no Disney trip is complete without riding that at least once. Great roller coaster. We did the Kilimanjaro Safari as well (with NO LINE!) along with the Dinosaur time travel thing and the tiny little roller coaster in the "fair" type park right outside the Dino ride. Lines were all pretty minimal. Ooh, we also had some pretty good pork BBQ for lunch there.

After that, we headed over to Magic Kingdom where we got our first taste of trying to do a sit-down restaurant for supper at Disney. Here's a recommendation...make reservations for sitting down to eat as soon as you possibly can. Like when you book your plane tickets! It was a no-go everywhere with sit-down service. Oops. As for rides, we did Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (Alan and I twice!), Splash Mountain, the Haunted Mansion, the Philharmagic, and probably another or two I'm forgetting. I think we headed out around 8pm after a really long day that started at 4 a.m. for Ashley and not long after that for the rest of us! We still hadn't eaten yet, so we ended up back at the resort food court. But at least they did have a mai-tai for us.

Next up was getting up and heading to Disney's Blizzard Beach water park. Now this was awesome! Aside from just having a lot of kick-butt slide-type rides, the place is awesome. Lots of natural shade, clean, nice, and fun. We did pretty much everything there at least once, including Alan and I hitting the huge slide. You go near 60MPH thanks to a huge drop before letting the water slow you down nicely. That's an insane rush. We also did some toboggan racing where I won the first one barely and Ashley crushed us on the second one (she figured out at least one trick, possibly more!). The hit of the day was really the lazy river, though. It meanders around the ENTIRE park. I think we spent about 45 minutes on it, just bouncing around, splashing, getting each other wet in the various little waterfall and squirter sections, etc. It was really great. I think we spent about four hours there, but the lines were reasonable and everything was a lot of fun (well, maybe except Alan's big boo-boo he got on his knee trying to get a big start on the tobbogan race!).

After leaving there we went back to our hotel, showered and changed, and headed to Hollywood Studios (which used to be MGM Studios, but they've changed the name) to finish off our day (it didn't close until 10pm that day). Again we tried to have a sit-down supper to no avail (did I mention you need reservations insanely early for that!) and had to settle for the "ABC Commissary." Alan and I rode the Aerosmith Rock-n-roll rollercoaster twice and the girls rode it once. Past that we all rode Star Tours, Tower of Terror (still probably my favorite ride ever) and finished with the new Toy Story ride. None of the lines were bad except the new Toy Story ride, and it was TERRIBLE for most of the day. We saw as high as 85 minute wait times posted on the board, but we went right before closing and probably only waited 25 minutes or so. But let me say, that thing is pretty cool. It's just a video game type ride that's in 3D where you compete against your partner in a shooting gallery type game, but it's really well done and a lot of fun. As I predicted, once I found out what it was, Ashley won. We were trying to do a boys versus girls team competition, but Jane's score was apparently so low she refused to report it and thus we're pretty sure the boys won.

So after another pretty long day we turned in around 11pm with plans to meet early on Monday, our last day. We had to store our luggage and check out, so we did that, got breakfast, and got on a bus to Epcot to get there right when it opened at 9am. We immediately headed to Soarin' where we got fastpasses and got in line. We waited about 20 minutes to ride that first time, which was pretty good. We found out we had ridden it a bunch of times before and always been in row 1 when loading by some fluke, but this time we were row 3. It's still good, but in row 2 and 3 you see feet dangling above you. Nothing in row 1, which is nice. Anyway, after that we headed out to ride Test Track, where we had almost no wait. Back over to Soarin' for our fastpass ride, where we got row 1. Yay! Then off to Norway to ride the water ride there. Not worth bothering with, but at least there was no wait and it was air conditioned. Oh, we got another fastpass for Soarin' while we were there and did it one more time. Then we went and rode Mission: Space. Wow. What an incredible ride. I can't even describe it. Jane and I did the "more intense" version and Ashley and Alan the less intense one (thanks to her motion sickness), but all enjoyed it a lot. Then off for food and a margarita in the Mexican area, and then time for a little shopping and back to our resort to pick up luggage and take the Magical Express back to the airport.

It was a whirlwind three days, that's for sure. But it was great. Lines weren't that bad, though a few were a little unexpected. One thing Disney does is manage their buses well. That's good for them, but not so good for visitors. By that I mean there are still adequate buses, but they're gonna still be full, too. More often than not we were standing on the bus, and even when sitting they got pretty full. They also manage park hours pretty well and that keeps line length up on the high-demand rides, though again, nothing was too bad right now. One thing to remember is that if you want to go to Hollywood Studios for things like the stunt shows and the backlot tour you can't use evening hours for that. Those shows all seem to stop around 5pm, so you still have to get their early for that stuff. So check those schedules!

We did try hard to maximize fun per dollar, and three days was enough to do a water park, hit every big ride, and not feel like we missed much (though we did want to see a couple of those stunt shows). But you're tired after it all, too. The dreaded "I need a vacation to recover from my vacation" syndrome, as it were. A more laid back approach would have been another day, obviously, but that's gonna cost you. I liked how we did it and felt like it worked out great. I think our only "wish" might have been better accommodations, but then again we might not do it much different if we did it again since we just didn't spend much time there anyway (and while the room key and smoke thing was a major pain for Alan and Jane, it isn't that likely to happen again).

All in all, great trip, fairly affordable, and great fun with great friends.
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What is important in a hotel?

Okay, I feel the need to wax philosophic about what is really important in a hotel. Why? Because I think I might be a little weird in my priorities, and I wonder if there are folks out there who might be stranger than me. I doubt it. Here's my priority list.

First, clean. Okay, obvious. Everyone probably agrees.

Second, bed. Hampton Inn wins on this one for "normal" hotels. Most probably agree on this one, too.

Next comes the shower head. I hate a low one. Too many hotels, especially the really old ones, no matter how nice, have shower heads about five feet high. Drives me insane. I really wish travel places would list shower head heights for hotels.

Next we have the space in the bathroom. Again, old hotels can be insanely posh, but most have tiny bathrooms. It was a different era, but I hate it when there's hardly any counter space (especially when you're not the only one in the room). I really hate it when you can't get dressed without bumping into the toilet. Those of you who haven't traveled much to big old cities might not believe me, but trust me when I say there are a lot of hotels out there that are very nice, very expensive, and have a bathroom the size of a postage stamp.

Having no exhaust fan in the bathroom is a big let-down, too. Nothing is more annoying than starting to sweat when you get dressed in the bathroom thanks to a lack of ventilation. It's only a minor annoyance that the mirror fogs up, but the sweating thing? I hate it.

Good air conditioning is important. Most have this, though I occasionally get a room where it won't quite get cold enough. I'm really picky in this regard, though, and probably unfairly so. But what really bugs me is when the AC controls won't let me turn the fan to "on" instead of "auto." I like the air noise. A lot. So much so that when I road trip I take a "white noise" machine with me just in case. But it's a little cumbersome on airplane trips, so I make do with my laptop as a white noise generator, but it's just not the same.

That's pretty much all I want a hotel to definitely have. Internet? Nope, don't care. TV? Don't care much about that, either. I do appreciate other amenities when they exist, but I'm talking about bare essentials here.

Some hotels have things I don't want, too. Like when they only have valet parking. It can be extremely inconvenient, not to mention expensive. Or when they pretty much won't let you handle your own luggage. Sometimes that's nice (like when you're on a long trip with kids), but most of the time I'd just assume carry my own luggage. It's not that I'm cheap, it's just that it's not worth it to me to have to tip some dude to do something that I could have just as easily done myself. I also don't like it when the maids go out of their way to bug me that my Do Not Disturb sign was out all day. I know! It's one thing to annoy you the first time you do it. But every day? That's right, I typically don't need my hotel room cleaned, oh, ever. I'm a fairly neat person, I recycle towels well, and I'm not afraid to ask for a couple more towels when I need them.

It sort of amazes me when "resorts" charge for every last little thing. Isn't the catch with a resort supposed to be that you have everything you need in one place? And they're already expensive because of that. Why do most of them feel the need to rip you off even further? I guess it's because there are enough morons out there who will pay it, but it seems crazy. I've stayed at "resorts" where the Internet was $15 per day. The fitness room? $15 per VISIT. A couple eggs, bacon, hashbrowns, and toast? $25. Valet parking? $25 per day. A pack of M&M's from your mini-bar? $5. Unbelievable.

Maybe I'm just simple. I prefer a nice clean room, comfortable bed, good shower with some floor and counter space and a fan in it, and nobody bugging me to help me with stuff I don't need. Good Internet, TV, and fitness room is a very nice bonus. Why is that so hard?
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It figures.

Thanks to Jane we planned a great vacation in Tahoe to take the kids skiing over this MLK holiday weekend (now that we're beholden to school schedules for all our breaks...ugh!). The one thing you can't plan is weather, and it just figures that while we're in Tahoe the weather is in the low 50's each day and at home there's SNOW! Oh man, snow! Now we might have trouble getting home tomorrow night from the airport, too.

And to top it all off, while I had two great days of skiing, I couldn't ski on our last day here thanks to what appears to be some minor altitude sickness. I thought I was just getting really tired at the end of the day yesterday during our last long run to the parking lot, but I was totally exhausted once I sat down in the car and got home. Stayed that way all evening. Slept fine but have been exhausted and fairly short of breath all day today, too. This is what I'd think exertive asthma must feel like.

Thanks to Murch for the early morning photo at our place!
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Tubing at Hawksnest

New Year's Day was a good one! We went tubing at Hawksnest near Boone, NC. It used to be a ski resort, but is now all tubing. They have five or six tubing runs and two different "magic carpets" (which are really just long conveyor belts you stand on). There's still some walking up hill, but it's really not bad. I'd recommend it as a great way to tire out some kids on a cold winter day in the NC mountains! Here's some video...

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