Monday, July 25, 2011

A Visit to Borders

This week, we got the unfortunate news that Borders Books was going buns up, liquidating, going out of business.  They had already closed a large amount of their stores in the last couple months, but I guess this wasn’t enough to hold off the wolves.

AMB and I stopped at the McKnight Road store this afternoon and the parking lot was filled.  We were saying as we pulled into the lot, “Too bad these people weren’t here during the last couple months.”  Walking into the store, we heard someone else saying the same thing.

I hate to say it, but I am among that group.  I haven’t been there myself in the last couple months.

People were carrying out big bags of stuff, all happy savers…or would it be happy scavengers?  The store was advertising up to 40% off but almost everything was 10% off.  I saw a few 20% off deals but the only 40% things I saw were the periodicals.  The big sales will come later, as the stock dwindles down.
Myself, I picked up a few Moleskin notebooks, (I love these books!) a New York Gazetteer, a couple Neil Gaimen books that I didn’t have and a Pittsburgh Crossword Puzzle book.  I also got 4 new books for the ECP Library while I was there.

The store was originally opened in 1971 by two brothers, Tom and Louis Border.  I’m not sure when they first came to Pittsburgh.

I have so many good memories of this store.  The first Borders store I visited was over near South Park. (Could it have been the first store in the area?)  How could I ever forget going to the Monroeville store to see Neil Gaimen do a reading of one of his books?  Wow, was that event crowded, all the leather jackets, black hair and tattoos…  How could I ever forget all the nice afternoons I spent with Chelsey browsing through the books and sipping coffee and hot chocolate in the cafe’?  I saw a performance of Carmen by the Pittsburgh Opera there once….While she sang Habanera,
  I know for a fact the soprano was singing to me and me alone!  I can also remember seeing Squonk Opera there once. Lots of other groups played in the coffee shop and made my afternoons and evenings so much nicer, too bad I can’t remember their names…

I bitched about them when they moved in to the city, small book stores went out of business because they couldn’t offer what the big box store could.  This was real problem to me, but I guess it is just part of life in general, change…it’s inevitable.  You can’t get away from it, as we see, once again, with Borders.

You can be sure I’ll remember Borders!

A Month with The Big Red Dog


Big Red
(pics will enlarge when clicked!)
It was a month ago today, on June 23rd 2011, that I walked into Animal Friends with the idea of bringing Big Red home with me. We have had some ups and downs since then, but I’m happy to say that most of them have been ups!

Red is a Red Bone Coon Hound, weighing in around 70-80 pounds. He got his name after a visit to the Hampton Middle School. The kids there named him, I thought it sounded good and so, we kept it.

My bank account has taken a major hit with adoption fees, an initial visit to the vets, a fence to keep him in the backyard, a crate, some toys, food and treats and to top it off, another visit to the vets. Ouch!

There were a few times when I had my doubts, especially the first weekend. I was seriously thinking about taking him back. I was working on putting up a fence and had him tied to a tree near-by. Simply moving a few feet away would start him howling.
Put in your earplugs!
Now when I say Howling, I really mean HOWLING! It is a baying bark, it is no little yapping bark, it is a drawn out howl.

When he first starts howling it is interesting, and some people, me included, really like the sound of it. For the first minute or so. After 5-10 minutes, the amusement starts to wear a bit thin. At Animal Friends, people would give him treats when he howled. They would come to his room and bark at him and he would answer. They would laugh and then tell him he was a good dog and give him a treat. I could tell this could be a problem right from the start.

He escaped a few times in the first week. Once he snuck through the front door before it closed and once at Hartwood Acres I dropped his leash. Both times, he gave up running when I gave up chasing. (hmmmm) He snuck out of the fence before it was completed but he came right back….things seem to be getting better. (He knows now where his dinner is coming from!)

Since he is a large dog, he has easy access to the table and counter tops. I quickly found out that food had to be put away. He knocked down a few dishes trying to smell (?) what was on them. All he needs to do is walk over to the table and his snout is at table top level.

Luckily, I think this habit is getting broken. He does follow his nose though, it’s his nature! He tried to sneak something off my plate a couple days ago but I caught him. It is always good to catch them in the act, you can reprimand him when you do. You can’t yell at him for doing something 5 hours ago, because he would have no idea what your yelling about…(So they say)
Walking at Hartwood Acres with AMB
He is a good dog most of the time, when he walks he doesn’t pull at his leash.
Right Paw, Good dog!
The neighborhood kids love him. He sits when he is told and Chelsey has been working on teaching him his left and right paws. (?)
"Where are we going today?"
Rocks, no problem!
Hiking near Dunbar
We go hiking and he is good at climbing over rocks and logs. For some reason, he has trouble getting into the Jeep, we are working on that. He does like driving in it though!
 (Because he knows we are going for a walk somewhere!)
I am trying to teach him to geocache…but I don’t think he is catching on to the idea…

He has become very attached to me. If I go upstairs to the bathroom, he follows behind and lays down in the hall, if I go into the kitchen for a drink, he is right behind me. Right now, he is under the desk, laying at my feet. He sleeps beside my bed or in the hallway, never very far away.
Down by the river at Ohiopyle
When I get home from work, I usually feed him and then we go for a walk. Sometimes it is just around the circles, or sometimes we take a ride somewhere. He has been to fall Run Park, Hartwood Acres, North Park, Moraine State Park, McConnell’s Mill and Ohiopyle and the game lands near Dunbar.
On the edge at McConnell's Mill
"Doesn't look that high..."
One thing in our travels that I have found out is, it seems as if he has no real fear of heights. At McConnell’s Mill and at the rocks in Ohipyle, he walks right out to the edge, no big deal.
Life is good!
"I am the king of the castle...................
as long as Phil isn't around!"
So, even though there were a few rough spots here and there, I think Red and I are going to keep each other. (As long as he remembers who the boss is! )
Headin' into the future...

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Hot ansd Steamy Friday Morning

Having the day off, AMB and I loaded up the car with lots of water, a couple sandwiches, our packs and Big Red.  We planned on heading down to Ohiopyle State park for a hike around the peninsula and do a few caches on the way.  The temperature was predicted to rise into the mid-90's and so, we left an hour before the sun rose, hoping to get an early, cool start to the day.
 Early morning fog from Tharp Knob
(Pictures will enlarge when clicked)
 Queen Ann's Lace
 Me, Big Red and Ann Marie, the hardy explorers
 Ohiopyle Falls
(Note the people on the rocks on the far side of the river...)
 AMB and Red, above the falls, in the cool mist
 Amtrak, heading east
Wasn't planning on it, but we caught the Amtrak train coming through town!
 Looking up river from the bridge in Ohiopyle
 Morning glories
 AMB cooling her feet in the stream
 Big Red keeping an eye on things
AMB, scaling the rocks
Who's afraid of heights? Not Red, that's for sure!

The view from  Baughman Rock

 Canadian Pacific engines 8763 and 8612 pulling a train heading east
Love seeing odd train colors!
We ended up sticking around the water for most of the morning and skipping the hike. We did do a few caches, of course...We were back home by noon, by that time the temperatures had hit the mid-90's.  We managed to stay nice and cool all morning.
Could they be from Pittsburgh?
They were from Virginia, but were headed into a Pittsburgh exit on the turnpike. Maybe they were heading us.

At home at the computer....111 degrees outside on the concrete porch. Ouch!
Time to head up to the AIR CONDITIONED Library and upload these pictures!
Happy Friday!

Monday, July 18, 2011

30 Years Ago

July 18, 2011

30 years ago today, July 18th, 1981,I was probably still asleep at this time.  (4:40AM)  It was the morning of my upcoming wedding.  The night before was the rehearsal dinner at my Mom’s house.

I don’t remember much about the rehearsal dinner, what we ate or who all was there, but I still occasionally find some paper napkins or plates that were left over from the event.

The wedding took place in St. Anthony’s Church in Millvale.  St Bonaventure’s was in the process of getting renovated, sending us searching for another Church.  This worked out fine, since St. Bonnies was basically square, the Church was intended to be a gymnasium after the new church was built.  (This process took close to 50 years to complete)  It had no architectural details or beautiful stained glass windows or any of the other things that make a Church stand out.  St. Anthony’s had a large stairway leading up to its front doors.  Large wooden doors led into a large open space, beautiful stained glass windows colored the wooden pews that bordered the long isle leading up to the altar.  The ceiling was high above and the columns holding it up acted as a guide for your eyes, drawing them upward.  It was a very dramatic Church.

It was 10,957 days ago, a lot of history has passed by in those days.  A lot of pain and mental anguish, BUT, there has also been a lot of happiness and joy!  I firmly believe that the happiness and joy has far outnumbered the other!

The biggest joy out  of many, was the birth of our daughter Chelsey in 1988.  How could anything downplay that?
We partied a lot that day!  I seem to remember drinking a lot of Asti Spumante.  Barb wasn’t even old enough to legally drink, she had just passed her 20th birthday 16 days before.  The reception was held at the All Saints social hall in Etna.  All most all of our friends and relatives attended.  The night was hot and we danced a lot and the sweat dripped freely!  Wine was spilled on Barbs gown, ahh, but who cared, we were celebrating!

We had so many things in front of us, our first apartment, our first house, new (and used) cars, new pets, all leading up our child.  Things were perfect…or so we thought.

Unfortunately, our lives started that slow drifting apart that so many married lives experience.  The marriage lasted 18 years before we called it quits.

That was an extremely tough time for me,for both of us I'm sure, lots of bitterness and doubt.  Over time, I overcame these problems and we attempted to make the most out of what remained.

Barbs family helped a lot!  A real lot!  Their love and caring helped us both!

Your history is such an important part of your life, helping to mold you into what you are today. Your past, your relatives, your upbringing, your experiances, they all help mold who you are.  It helps define what you are. Thank heavens we both have good history!
Some of my history
Some of Barb's history

And always remember,
 " Our history is still being created,
 today is tomorrows history!"
Try not to make any mistakes!

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Trying Day

A Trying Day

July 10, 2011

Our Route
AMB and I were scheduled to meet Kenn, Lisa and Marty to do a “small “ climb” in the Dunbar region on Sunday morning. They had invited a couple more hikers along, but they shied out when they heard we were going to be doing some “bushwhacking”. Their loss I guess.

I had just got my Jeep back from the garage and while on the way down towards Dunbar, the engine overheated. We pulled over on the side of the turnpike and put some water in the reserve tank. We sat for a bit and then started the engine again and the temperature gage dropped back down to where it should be. We cautiously continued on.

We made our usual stop at Sheetz and got some snacks and then hit the road again.
(good bathrooms at that Sheetz!)
Visiting Sheetz
This was Big Red’s first LONG hike. We were hoping that all would work out OK. Other than him not wanting to get in the car once or twice and once trying to get out of the car….(While we were still moving,) things seemed to be going OK.

Getting there early, we did 2 caches when we arrived in the Dunbar area. They were fairly easy finds, both hidden by the same person. Once we figured out his way of hiding, the second hide was much easier than the first.
"This is what it smells like Red!"
We drove back to Dunbar and met Kenn and Lisa and soon after Marty showed up. We formed a small caravan and headed for our “trailhead”.
It doesn't look that tough from here...
The first thing we noticed when we arrived was some BIG construction equipment sitting in what used to be the parking lot. Jersey barriers effectively kept us out. The hillside, which we planned to climb had been scrapped. A broad path had been bulldozed, straight up the hill! It looked like we would be climbing in thick mud! Luckily, the sun had done a good job of drying it out and most of it was actually fairly easy to climb. The treads on the bulldozer had formed almost steps…for the first couple sections.
Red, Kenn and Marty
Now when I said easy…..I have to elaborate a bit. Kenn and Marty made it up the hill fairly quickly. Lisa and Ann Marie climbed steadily. I myself started to have trouble after about the first third.
OK, It looks a little steeper from here!
The hill was about 566 feet to the "trail" we were taking, about 626 to the top. The angle felt as if it was around 45 degrees, but it probably was a lot less than that. It was steep though! It was also in the direct sunlight. My heart was beating to beat the band at the first rest break I took. Normal, I thought on a hill like this. I could feel my calves stretching and starting to ache a bit. No problem.

Every so often, there was a cut across the path, to allow water to drain into the woods instead of straight down the cut. These were my resting spots. As I continued up, I was starting to get extremely tired and my heart was pumping away. The rest stops would slow things down and then I head up the next section. As I neared the top, I started to get a bit light headed. It was never anything extreme, but it worried me. I didn’t want to make any problems for my fellow hikers. Carrying a hiker out of the woods isn’t easy. (I’d hope they’d do that…) The small bits of shade along the sides had disappeared and it was all in the sunlight. I stopped more than a few times near the top and took a long break to catch my breath.

Ann Marie and I did this hike about 19 months ago. I don’t want to even think what the weight difference was from then and also, our outings had slowed down a bit since this last winter.

Finally I reached to top, the hillside continued up but our trail laid off to the right and it was in the shade. The temperature dropped as I entered the shade. Ann Marie and I continued on a ways into the shade while Lisa went up to bring the other 2 back down. Sitting on a cool rock for about a half hour and eating some lunch brought me back to “normal” (I say that with a lot of poetic license) We discussed how I felt and we decided to see how I felt after a rest break.

Once we finished eating and BS’ing, we continued on, following the trail, or road if you want to call it that, curving uphill a ways and then, as it leveled out a bit, turning into the brush. Our bushwhacking had begun!
We were about a ¼ mile away from a nice set of rocks that had a geocache near-by and we had the co-ordinates in the GPS. This helped a lot! The land was filled with jagger bushes and lots of downed logs. The path was never a straight one!
In the rocks
Closing in on the first “peak”, we saw lots of large rocks scattered around, some of them as large as houses, with lots of narrow passageways and inviting climbing holds. We passed them and continued on to the ext set of rocks. Here we took our packs off, had another rest along with some snacks and some drinks. We also found the cache and dropped off a Travel Bug in it for some other cacher to pass along. (location is marked C on the map)
Happy Cachers
From here, we went to “old school technology, the compass. We started out heading ESE and after a short while, just started following the general topography of the hilltop. When Ann Marie and I were here last, we found a road which we followed down to the bottom of the valley. This time, we somehow missed the road. We did find a couple old roads but they ended going elsewhere. Soon, we were back to bushwhacking, heading down a ravine towards the valley below. (Oh, I sometimes wonder why they would follow me….)
Wrong road (?)
After a bunch of scratches and near trips, we finally ended up at a stream at the bottom of the valley. Across the stream was situated a small corn field and a dirt road, heading right in the direction we wanted it to! Looking at the maps back at home, I think we were a bit too far to the south, the road we were looking for was further off to our east. Oh well, we made it down and no one was hurt…and that’s what counts!
Hangin' by the stream
After a short walk we came to a nice location for our last rest stop, a wooden bridge, crossing the stream, right before a nice high waterfall. It was in the shade and the sound of the running water made it even nicer! Kenn and Lisa took off their shoes and walked around in the water for awhile and we drank some more water and had another snack before we continued on. It wasn’t much longer before we were back at the cars, marveling over the height of the hill we had climbed earlier.
OK, we did it!
After saying our good-byes, we were on the road again. About 20 miles into our ride, our next obstacle appeared. Once again, the temperature gage headed up into the red. Adding water didn’t help. As we climbed a hill, the gage would rise into the red, as we came back down the other side, it would drop back down to an acceptable range. We slowly rode back towards home, one eye on the road and one eye on the temperature gage. We got back about 5:30, a lot later than we originally thought!

Looking back over the day, I had a bunch of problems, what felt like heat exhaustion and lots of new scratches on my legs, a misdirected hike on a wrong road and engine problems with the Jeep, BUT once again, I have to say it…

We made it back in one piece, no one was hurt and we all had a fun day! What more could we ask for?