Friday, August 22, 2008

The Beach; or at least it looks like a beach...

A few weekends ago we decided to venture out to the beach here in Washington. It was a very different adventure from what I'm used to.

See, I grew up in SoCal, so going to the beach was a very common occurrence. We would go surfing, body surfing, wake boarding, play volleyball, have campfires, and have long walks on the beach in the sunset. One constant was the warm water and the warm weather. The beach here in the North West is just a lot different. The biggest difference? Cold, Cold, Cold!!!!

Oh, cold and windy, I should say. It looks like a kite flyer's paradise. In fact, there were a whole lot of kites around. So anyway, we got there and decided to park in one of the many parks along the coast. We parked and walked up to the shore. There was beach sand, and there was beach water, and the water was washing up on shore in waves just like it's supposed to, but that's where the similarities ended. The water was colder than anything I've ever felt. And the wind was howling around us. And then, the biggest difference of all... You can drive on the beach here.

Yup, that's right, you can drive on the sand. In fact, that's what most people do. Drive out to the water's edge, park and set up for the day right there. So, that's what we did. We walked back to the truck, and drove out there. The best part was as we were driving along, I drove in the ocean. It was cool. I've never driven in the ocean before. I don't know many folks that have. It was a great time, and such a different experience from what I've known. What a fun place!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Shrek the Musical

Oh yeah, Shrek made some sweet music of his own!

So, about 4 months ago, when we found out we were moving to Washington, Pamela's sister Jennifer told us about this cool program that Broadway productions have. Before they get all spun up and spend all of their money on a new Broadway show, the producers will sometimes do a pre-run in other locations. This way they can test run the play and get audience and critic feedback and make adjustments. So Jennifer, who is working on her last semester in a Masters in Fine Arts Degree and very much into all the stage production stuff (she's very cool), told us that they were going to do a pre-run of Shrek the Musical. So, on Saturday, we went to the World Premier of Shrek the Musical. It was awesome! Don't get me wrong, this was no local theater troupe doing a test run of a concept; this was the full blown Broadway production with the Broadway cast. (Unfortunately, it also came with the Broadway ticket price). Needless to say, we were one row away from being on the back wall of the theater in the balcony. But it was still great. My only beef with the show was the parts they copied directly from the movie. A lot the jokes from the movie were repeated in the play, and most fell pretty flat. But the original content of the play was phenomenal. Lots of new songs, new scenes and new characters. One scene they added, in which Fiona grows up from a seven year old to a 20 something, was particularly outstanding. The three girls that sing were fantastic and their voices were beautiful. All in all, it was a great day in Seattle. If you're in the neighborhood you should check it out: Shrek the Musical or you can wait till it's on Broadway.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Space Needle

Who wants to call something a needle? That sounds painful, or at least like I'm gonna have to do some work. And a "Space" needle no less. What's next? Space Thread? Which a space seamstress then weaves the fabric of time together with? /shout out to my Dr. Who peeps! What happens if somebody loses it in a space haystack? I could go on... Anyway, since we're in the great state of Washington and within an hour of Seattle, we decided we'd better go see this "Needle" thing. Holly Streebe was here visiting Bekah, so the day we took her back to the airport we visited the Space Needle.

So here's my beef with the "needle." First, it looks nothing like a needle; where's the eye? It's white (needles are generally silver), and anyone who looks at it can see that it is three towers that look more like ladders than needles. Secondly, it doesn't go into space. What's going on here? Ok everybody, let's put on our imagination hats and pretend that the space needle isn't an earthbound object that has absolutely no resemblance to a needle. Ha ha ha! Oh don't get your panties in a bunch Seattle, I'm like this with everyone! Except Mt. Rainier, of course. What am I going to make fun of in that place? It's perfect!

Anyway, first we missed the exit. (I know, you can see it all the way around the sound, how do you miss the exit? but we did) After that we drove around it for a long while, trying to figure out where to park. Finally we pretended we were rock stars and did the valet parking at the base of the towers (ahem...needle).

Then we got our tickets and headed up! It is a pretty cool view of Seattle and the Puget Sound, so I forgive the whole not being a needle thing. Turns out the "space" part was actually just a marketing ploy for the World's Fair (do they have those anymore?) as is often the case. What are you gonna do? All in all it was a fun trip that allows me to say that I have indeed been to the Space Needle, such as it is.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Hike in Mount Rainier

Ok, so I was going to try to give this great daily log of the move and our subsequent adventures, but as it often does, life got in the way. So, I've decided that I'm just going to give some highlights of things that we've done recently, hope that Pamela can fill in some of the gaps on her blog and keep going forward. Someday the past will all get wrote down! I know, great English.

Moving on. One of the things we wanted to since before we even got here was to hike in Mt. Rainier. You can see some beautiful pictures of the park and learn all about it at the National Park Service's Mount Rainier website. Obviously, that wasn't enough for us, and I highly recommend you not be satisfied with a silly website either.

We ended up going with Pamela's parents while they were visiting over the 4th of July week. We drove up the Monday morning after the 4th weekend. We didn't go very far into the park but what we did see was breathtakingly beautiful. One cool feature of the park is that a seasonal pass for the whole family (one vehicle) was only twice as much as one trip in. It's already paid for itself and will again several times over just this summer. We started up the mountain and stopped first at Cougar Rock for a lunch picnic. From our spot at the picnic table we could see Eagle Peak in front of us and one of the mountain's seven glaciers behind us. Did I mention Mt. Rainier has glaciers? It is actually an inactive (not dormant) volcano that last erupted about 5000 years ago. When I mentioned this to my father, who was commenting on how beautiful the Wasatch Front was, he said, "yeah, but my mountains are true." I can't believe my own father has become one of "those" Utah folks. Anyway, I digress. From our picnic spot we were able to get great views. We had some friendly birds join us for lunch (no idea what kind, anybody know?) and we did our best to keep the kids (and the grandparents) from feeding them...

After lunch we drove up to the start of the Christina Falls trail. From there it is .8 miles to the first falls bridge. It was a great hike and not strenuous at all. The falls were beautiful and just a bit frightening as Bekah and Brenton ran around the bridge and the edge of the rocks and such. How odd that doing that never bothered me as a kid, but terrifies me as a parent; sorry Mom and Dad, I didn't know! We all survived though, and Pamela's parents made the trip to the bridge and back with aplomb. I was glad they went and the kids got to spend that kind of time with them. On the way back out of the park we stopped at a bridge and looked the rocks underneath. The water had turned them this weird orangish color. We played around there for a little while and then headed home. It was great trip altogether. Can't wait to go back!

New blog for the train stuff

I've created a new blog to track the model train crap. It is located at

Check it out!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

My new all consuming hobby

Ok, so some of you (meaning the two of you that actually read this) know that I have a really bad habit of getting excited about a new hobby and jumping in all the way. I say "bad" habit because this usually involves a great deal of time and more often than not, a great deal of money. But as I've often said, "there are certainly worse things I could be doing with my time." That's how I pacify Pamela's exasperation (her word, not mine). Anyway, so for about a year now, I have been becoming more and more interested in model railroading. Some may recall my first attempt last Christmas with my "train village." I think it was a rather valiant attempt.

Since then, I have become more and more interested (Pamela says obsessed...) in the hobby and as such have learned a ton. Technically, I've learned a ton because all I've been able to do is study seeing as I haven't really had the funds necessary to go all out on a real layout. Did I mention it's expensive? It is. Much more expensive than I could have ever imagined, but more on that subject later. So I've been studying, a lot, and after we moved here to Washington I began to plan in earnest. I tracked down a good model railroading shop, read lots of blogs about it, and order manual after manual. I wrestled mightily with the choice of whether to build from scratch using my own design in my head, much like the christmas village, or go with a "starter kit." I finally made my decision after reading a very well written blog which convinced me to go with a starter kit. I chose Woodland Scenics River Pass kit because Woodland Scenics has a lot of cool products and techniques which I could try out on this project and see which ones I like and which I don't. The finished product is supposed to look something like this:

I guess we'll see. Anyway, having made that decision, I simply had to come up with the money. You see, this "starter kit" starts in the neighborhood of $800. I know, ritzy neighborhood. That puts my christmas village definitely on the wrong side of the tracks. Well, last week we got our claim check from the moving company for all the crap they broke in the move. Since we'd already replaced all of the items we needed I begged Pamela to let me have the kit. She, being the wonderful person she is, agreed. Actually, I think she likes it too, but don't tell her I said so or you'll get "the look." True story.

So, I order the kit and it showed up on Friday. It was about 30 times bigger than I had imagined. You see, the aspect of this "project" I haven't discussed yet is the size. The layout is 4'x 8'. Yes I wrote that correctly four feet wide by eight feet long. 32 square feet. It's huge. Being that big, we knew we couldn't build it in any room in the house so it would have to be in the garage, but we've gotten so used to having a garage and parking in it that something had to done. So I came up with a plan. I designed a pulley system that raises the whole layout up to the ceiling when it's not in use. Yes, I designed it. Not only did I design it, I built it yesterday. I built the wood base and frame and the pulley system. See:

Having accomplished building the base, I set out on the pulley system. Doing that was really fun. It was mentally challenging as well as physically. Those of you that know me well know I'm not the most "handy" person in the world. "Handsy" yes. "Handy" no. So it was with some pride that I finished the first stage of my monster model railroad project.

Phase two began this afternoon as I began build the layout. The Woodland Scenics kit is really well done. It comes with nearly everything you need to build and it incorporates all kinds of different types of techniques and products that are designed to save hours of time. I was really disappointed, however when I opened the boxes today and found that some of the items were broken. A few of the foam boards were broken and some of the plaster "masonry work" were chipped and broken. I will call Woodland Scenics tomorrow and let them know. I will let you know what comes of that. The first steps were to layout the foam base, glue the four pieces together and then layout the track to ensure all the pieces are present and get a feel for the actual layout. All of that went very well. As you should be able to see. Cheeto thought the whole process was very interesting and hung around most of the day, though I have to say he was rather less than helpful. I did promise him that when the layout is all done I will let him walk all over it pretending to be a giant "godzilla" cat! Should be a fun day at the Shane home.

I've decided that I'm going to start a new blog to document the actual details of this whole project. That way I don't bore anyone who doesn't care about the techniques used to build trees for model train layouts. I will put the link up as I create it. Let me know what you think of my crazy new adventure.