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Archive for April, 2014

Evgeni Malkin’s hat trick clinches series for Penguins

Posted by Scott Holstad on April 29, 2014

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets – Recap – April 28, 2014 – ESPN.

It was a tough series, but we prevailed in six games. Malkin was on fire last night and even though Columbus mounted a furious third period comeback, we held on to win. Next up will be the winner of the Flyers/Rangers series. Go Pens!

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A Review of Eye in the Sky

Posted by Scott Holstad on April 26, 2014

Eye in the SkyEye in the Sky by Philip K. Dick

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Eye in the Sky was great fun to read! I think it’s Dick’s funniest book ever. He had so much humor in his earlier books. The novel centers around Jack Hamilton, a scientist who’s fired from his defense contractor job because his wife is a suspected Communist. The book was published in 1957, but the plot takes place in 1959, which is odd because Dick usually places his plots much further out than that. Anyway, Hamilton and his wife go on a tour of a scientific facility that has something called a Bevotron, a proton slicer or something. There are eight people in the tour group, including the guide. Something goes wrong with the device, and it slices through the group and the area they’re standing on, leading them to fall a great distance and get knocked unconscious. For some reason, no one was killed. Hamilton wakes up in the hospital, is released, and goes home with his wife. Something is said, and locusts appear out of thin air and attack Jack. Odd. The next day, he travels to San Francisco to apply for a job. However, the place he goes to makes things for a bizarre, twisted, Old Testament-like religion with a god who’s spiteful and petty. Hamilton leaves and everything he encounters points to this god, and everyone he meets plays a role in this religion. At some point, Jack and another character end up being taken up to Heaven via umbrella, where a great “eye in the sky” looks at them before hurling them Earthward. Hamilton gradually comes to the realization that this bizarre world is the internal construct of an old war vet who was in the tour group, as he was the only one who remained conscious. Everyone in the group is still at the Bevotron. How do they escape this messed up world? Well, they visit the old man in the hospital and knock him unconscious. Poof! New world. Turns out they’re in someone else’s world now, a prim and proper Victorian-type world where things disapproved of are wiped out of existence. This makes for a hilarious scene where Jack and the others in the group suggest things to obliterate and things just randomly disappear. Including air. There are several such worlds in this book and each is worse than the last. I think the book fails a little though in assuming that only half of the group is maladjusted enough to have a warped inner world. I think the book would have been better if everyone in the group got to have an alternate world with everyone trying to escape. But that might have made the book too long. The book ends on an up note with Jack and Bill Laws, the “Negro” tour guide, developing a recording company that’s going to change the industry. I do want to point out one thing, in fairness to Dick. In past reviews, I’ve been critical of how black characters are treated, often wondering is the author was racist. In this book, however, the black character is a grad student in physics and is portrayed in a very good light, with criticism leveled at a racist character who shuns him. So that’s good. That said, the female characters in this book don’t come off very well — Dick’s not always been kind to his female characters. Still, this book was like a hilarious Twilight Zone and I enjoyed it immensely. It’s not necessarily his best work, but it’s heartily recommended.

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My 400th Blog Post

Posted by Scott Holstad on April 24, 2014

This is my 400th blog post. That’s pretty big. I started here on WordPress back in June 2011 after leaving Xanga. I don’t write every day like I did for years on Xanga, but I try to put something out there on a fairly regular basis. Of course, over the past year or so, many of my posts have been book reviews, but people seem to like them, so I’ll continue that. I often feel like I don’t have anything interesting to say, so I don’t say anything.

During this time, I’ve had nearly 18,000 page views, have received nearly 500 comments, and have collected a little over 300 followers. I want to thank all of you who have or do stop by and read what I write. I really appreciate that. I often wonder why I don’t get more comments, considering all of the followers, but I guess that’s a mystery I’ll never solve.

So far, 2014 has been big for Gretchen and me. In January, we got the new house. In February, our beloved cat Toby died due to kidney failure at the young age of six. That week, we moved into the new house. I’ve been busy all year preparing to move, packing, unpacking, and helping my mother search for a place of her own in Knoxville, where she used to live. Last month, she found a condo up there less than a mile where we used to live and she’s moving away from us next week to go to her new life. I feel a little weird about that, but she’s been very time consuming, so it’ll be nice to have a break. Still, it’ll be weird not going over to her nice house just five minutes from us. She’s sold that and it closes next month. As for me personally, I’m soon going to resume looking for a permanent job, knowing the market stinks, and I’m also in a four month jury pool, so I may be sitting on quite a few federal juries between now and August 20th. Gretchen and I went to Maryland to celebrate her birthday, but we have no further travel plans for the year. It’d be nice to go to the beach though. I got my new Toyota last week and hopefully our car repair bills will be minimized. Drastically. We’re attending a tiny Episcopalian church and I’m on the vestry while Gretchen is involved in several activities. We like the people there, although we do wish it was a little larger and there were more people our own age there.

I guess that’s it for now, so I’ll wrap things up. If you read my 400th blog post, thanks. If not, you probably didn’t miss much. More book reviews will follow. Cheers!

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A Review of Judgment on Janus

Posted by Scott Holstad on April 24, 2014

Judgment on Janus (Janus, #1)Judgment on Janus by Andre Norton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As I read this book, I kept waiting for it to get better. It never did. Now, it was intriguing enough for me to read and finish it, but I felt the ending was incomplete and anticlimactic and I was disappointed.

Naill Renfro’s mother is dying, so he sells himself into indentured servitude to buy her drugs to ease her suffering. Next thing you know, he’s on a world called Janus, owned and working for a “Garthman” who is like a cross between an Amish person and an expert from the Inquisition. I mean, these people are all about sinners and they’re pretty mean. Rumors abound of people finding “treasures” in the forests and fields where they work, and as it turns out, they’re often cast out because they develop a “Green” sickness. Naill wonders what this is about. And then he finds some treasure. He’s taken by its beauty and hides some of it while the rest is destroyed by the Garthmen. One night, he steals out to go see his bounty. Next thing you know, he’s been caught and has contracted this Green sickness. Hot and fevered, he runs into the forest where, kneeling before a pool of water, he catches a reflection of himself and is shocked to see a bald, large pointy eared green man staring back at him. Yes, he has turned into “Ayyar of Iftcan.” And he remembers things from the Iftcan past. In spots. The Iftcan were an ancient race that lived in the forest and is seemingly long gone. He finds a huge tree with clothing and a sword and sets out to see if he can find others like him. He soon encounters a young woman who undergoes what he did, becomes green, and accompanies him on his adventures. Blinded by light, they move under the cover of darkness, but soon get captured by a being in an old space suit (Naill recognizes it because even though he’s now an alien being, he still thinks human thoughts and has his own memories. Quite convenient.) They’re herded into a white forest where everything’s light and there they find three others like them, all of whom underwent the same thing. They escape their white prison, find a space ship, find goggles in it that will protect them from the sunlight — but just one pair — and they continue to try to escape some unknown, unseen evil entity out to get them. They escape to a pool of water called The Mirror, where a huge storm blows up and apparently beats the evil entity and that’s the end of the book. I know I just gave away the plot and I’m sorry, but I had to relate just how insipid it is.

This book read more like a fantasy book than sci fi, and apparently Norton wrote fantasy, so you can see how she merged the two. It’s okay. I think it would be best for teens. It’s not “serious” sci fi. I reminded me of the Narnia series, for some reason. I’ve read two of Norton’s books now and I’ll probably read more, but with caution. I’m not convinced she’s a sci fi writer who will be high on my list. I’ll stick with Philip K Dick, thank you very much. Recommended for adolescents.

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Penguins score 3 goals in span of 2:13, stun Blue Jackets

Posted by Scott Holstad on April 22, 2014

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets – Recap – April 21, 2014 – ESPN.

Great come from behind win last night. We’re up 2-1 in the series now. We came from down 3-1 in the third to win 4-3. In each of their wins, each team has come from down 3-1 to win 4-3. Isn’t that weird? Go Pens!

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New Car

Posted by Scott Holstad on April 19, 2014

I bought a used BMW 530i four and a half years ago and it’s been a lemon from Day One. During my first week with it, I had to spend $1900 on repairs. I should have learned my lesson then and dumped it. Don’t get me wrong — it looked great, drove smoothly and powerfully, and it felt good being a BMW owner. The downside, however, was in repair expenses. It’s EXPENSIVE to repair a BMW and through their engineering, they don’t make it easy. For instance, in order to get at some basic hoses that anyone with any other car could easily reach, a mechanic has to take the whole engine out. It’s ridiculous. Over and over I’ve had to take my car in for repairs. $1800 for an air conditioning repair. $700 for a new seat belt. $600 for a new window motor. $300 for a new windshield wiper fluid jug. It’s plastic. It probably costs $3 to make. BMW is making a killing from repairs. I have sunk more money into repairs over the past four years than I did in buying it, and that’s damn stupid!

My family has been wanting me to get another car for awhile now, and after two recent repairs and after wanting to charge me $1700 for a new oil pan gasket, it was time. I had a budget, but I wanted to go back to Japanese cars. I had a great Nissan for 14 years before buying the BMW. However, Gretchen and Mom are both Toyota owners and I got a lot of pressure, mostly from Mom, to get a Toyota. So, I got online and started looking. I wanted a fairly new Camry with a V6 engine and, ideally, not that much mileage, all for a reasonable, if not low, price. And with AutoTrader, I found it! I found a 2011 Camry LE V6 with only 29,000 miles on it for a shocking low price in Kennesaw GA, about 90 miles south of me near Atlanta. It was priced about $5000 less than other similar cars. So I wondered what was wrong with it. I got the CarFax and it looked good — one owner, no wrecks, good service record. I called Cobb County Toyota and asked if the owner had been a smoker and that’s why it hadn’t sold yet and was priced so low. They went out and ran the AC and heat for 15 minutes and reported that it smelled great, that the owner had not been a smoker. This was this past Wednesday. Well, I wanted to test drive it and maybe buy it cause it sounded too good to be true. I told them I’d be down Friday, yesterday. However, as Wednesday wore on, I got the feeling that I should go down the next day, Thursday. So Thursday morning, I called them to let them know I was coming and to ideally hold the car.

I got the title for my BMW and hit the road. About 20 minutes away from the dealership they called to find out where I was and I told them. I found out why when I got there. Apparently someone else from out of state — Alabama — was driving there for the same reason I was — to get this great deal and drive away with a Toyota. The first person to arrive would get it. And I beat her by 20 minutes. Boy, was she ticked when she arrived and was told it had already been purchased (which wasn’t true, although I was in the process of filling out paperwork). Heh.

I went out to look at it. It was silver with a gray interior. It looked like it was in good condition. The tires looked good. The trunk was huge — I’ve never seen a bigger trunk. I looked under the hood and was able to identify everything, just as one should on an average car. I got in and the seat felt great. And there were a lot of options for adjusting it, ones that were much easier than my BMW. It was an automatic, which I prefer. The steering wheel felt good. It had a roomy back seat area. It had lots of openings for cup holders and the like and two places to plug in a charger for my phone. It had what looked like a great stereo system. It had a moonroof. The only thing it didn’t have was one of those fancy new built in GPS’s, complete with Internet access so you can Google and check your email while you’re driving. I honestly wanted one of those, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to afford a newer car like that, so I was content with it the way it was.

We took it out on a test drive. It felt smooth and powerful. It drove quietly and kept external sound out. I didn’t get a chance to go on the freeway, which kind of bothered me, but I did get some isolated back roads that were long and straight so I could open it up a little. I was satisfied with the test drive.

Afterwards, we went to the service garage. There, they got on their computer and told me what all they’d done to it. They’d done a 160 point inspection. They’d given it all four brand new tires. They replaced the front brakes. The balanced and aligned the tires. They’d done a few other things. They also had given it its 30,000 mile tuneup, which was great cause I wasn’t looking forward to having to take it in in a month for that and spending the money for it. All told, they claimed they did $1600 worth of service work on it. Sounded good. I decided to get the car.

I was going to trade in my BMW and had checked its trade in value on Kelly and Edmunds, and the value wasn’t that great. I was hoping for only a little and when they discovered my oil leak, even less. Well, they drove it around and offered me twice what I expected for it. I jumped at that deal! It brought the purchase price down to a ridiculously small amount. However, they charged a ton of money for Tennessee sales tax (even though I was in Georgia) and that bumped it up pretty far. Still, less than list price.

I filled out paperwork and while doing so, I was surprised to find out I had to apply for credit even though I was buying it outright and paying cash for it. That didn’t make me happy. My ex destroyed my credit a few years ago by maxing out my credit cards and burning through a huge amount of money in a matter of months. Also by not paying bills that still had our joint names on them. However, when the guy returned to the office, he told me I had excellent credit. I was stunned. Indeed, apparently I’m in the top 3% of Americans in terms of credit. I was stunned even more. When I run my own credit reports, that’s not what I get, so I don’t know where he was getting his information, but I was happy to hear it.

I was then ushered into the business manager’s office, where I had to sign tons of papers and surrender my BMW title (gladly). He then talked to me about warranties. The Camry came with a 12 month, 12,000 mile warranty, which actually didn’t impress me too much. However, he told me about warranty upgrades, the best of which was the premium upgrade and that would cover just about everything and do so for 7 years and 100,000 miles. For $995. I immediately felt like it was a smart option, so I got it and even adding that extra grand, my purchase price was still less than the list price. I felt like I was stealing from them.

Finally, everything was worked out and I was given two master keys to the car. They showed me a few more things about it and then sent me on my way. I felt great! I got on 75 North and traffic was kind of heavy, so I couldn’t open it up like I wanted to. The speedometer went up to 160 mph, while the BMW’s only went to 150. I routinely went 150-160 in my old Nissan when I was younger and more stupid. The fastest I ever got the BMW to go was 130. I wanted to see how fast the Camry would go. Unfortunately, because of traffic, I never got it over 90. That’s okay though because I don’t normally drive that fast anymore anyway, and I don’t anticipate needing to drive that fast very often. I kept it at about 80 for the drive back to Chattanooga. The car handled pretty well. The wheel was a lot more sensitive than the BMW, which worries me a touch. The BMW wheel was heavy and very steady. The Camry’s is susceptible to a light touch, so I’ve got to be careful when driving at high speeds. It drives most comfortably at about 65-70. I cranked the stereo and it sounded good. It was too loud to turn all the way up and see how loud it could get. I tried out the CD player when I got home and it works well too.

The car comes with a comprehensive manual of about 400 pages, which I’ve already read. It’s much better than BMW’s manual and it seems to cover everything. I’m elated to find out I no longer have to put in only premium gas. In fact, they don’t recommend it — just regular unleaded. That’s saving money right there! I got in the back seat and there was lots of leg room. It’s great for extra passengers. The back seats fold down, meaning I’ll be able to haul lots of things I couldn’t haul in the BMW. Oh, one of the things the manual said was don’t drive over 85 mph unless you have a certain type of performance tire, which I’m betting I don’t. Maybe that’s why it didn’t feel that great when I exceeded 85…. Still, good to know.

So I have a new (used) car and I’m elated. My wife also has a silver Toyota, so we’re a Toyota family now. I’m so glad to be rid of that money pit, and I feel pretty confident with this warranty that it’ll be far less expensive to maintain and repair and it’ll probably last for a good long time. I’m counting on that. So I’m going to post some pictures. Here they are:


2011 Toyota Camry LE V6

2011 Toyota Camry LE V6










View from the front

View from the front













The back of the car

The back of the car













The car from an angle

The car from an angle










The gearshift

The gearshift













The stereo

The stereo













The back seat

The back seat














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A Review of Pittsburgh Steelers: Men of Steel

Posted by Scott Holstad on April 19, 2014

Pittsburgh Steelers: Men of SteelPittsburgh Steelers: Men of Steel by Jim Wexell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was really excited when I got this book. It was supposed to have chapters that were stories about some of the more prominent Steelers and I was excited to read about Jack Lambert, Mean Joe Greene, Hines Ward, and others. However, the first half of the book was crazy. It focused on players from the 1950s, most of whom played one to three years with the Steelers and who had no impact on the team whatsoever. I have no idea what the author was thinking when he did this. Some examples: Pat Brady, a punter from 1952-54; Ted Marchibroda, a quarterback for four years; John Lattner, a running back from 1954 who gained 237 yards; Len Dawson, the famous quarterback who spent three years with the Steelers, throwing a whole 17 passes during his time with them; and on and on. Now, why in the world waste half a book on people who made no contribution to the team??? It makes no sense. The author thought they had good “stories,” but they really didn’t. It’s sad. This book could have been good.

On the plus side, Wexell does write some chapters on some more recent Steelers who didn’t get much press, but did make contributions such as strong safety Donnie Shell, from the late 1970 Super Bowl teams. He was a Pro Bowler many times and should have made the Hall of Fame, but didn’t. It was interesting to see what he, and the others, did after retirement and where they are now. Shell has worked for the Carolina Panthers for years now, but I remember him as the player who intercepted more passes (51) than any other strong safety in history. I wore his number, 31, when I was growing up playing football. Other forgottens include wide receiver Louis Lipps, who was great but whose career in the 1980s was cut short by injuries, offensive lineman Tunch Ilkin, cornerback Dwayne Woodruff, strong safety Carnell Lake, one of my all time favorite players, sack monster and outside linebacker Kevin Greene, who should also be in the Hall of Fame and who always gets close as a finalist in voting. I don’t think he’ll get in though, even though he holds the record for most sacks from a linebacker, beating out Lawrence Taylor.

However, another disappointment with the book was that it was written in 2006, after Jerome Bettis’s Super Bowl win. But it was updated in 2011. I knew that, and I thought it’d be a great idea for the author to update all living Steelers’ info that he had written about. However, he didn’t do that. He only added two players: Ben Roethlisberger and Hines Ward. (Why not Troy?) Honestly, this book could have been so much better and it should have been. The author didn’t do it justice. He chose players unwisely and didn’t update info when he could and should have. Huge mistakes and that’s why I’m only giving it three stars. Indeed, I don’t know if it even deserves that. Not really recommended.

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A Review of Ex-KOP

Posted by Scott Holstad on April 18, 2014

Ex-KOP (Juno Mozambe Mystery #2)Ex-KOP by Warren Hammond

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was a good sequel to a good first book. It’s a hard boiled detective story set in the future on the planet of Legarto. Juno Mozambe, an ex-cop who was a dirty enforcer while he was on the force and who was the protagonist of the last novel, is back, now as a type of private eye. His young ex-partner, Maggie Orzo, is a detective trying to get a promotion. Her new partner, Ian, is a first rate asshole, and I mean mega-asshole. The weird thing about Ian is that just a couple of years ago, he was a puny, perpetually frightened boy working in the prison. Now he’s big and ripped and has an attitude. He’s taken over as alpha male in the department and he has a crew of cops willing to do anything he says. And he’s much dirtier than Juno ever was.

The book starts out with a murder. Apparently there’s a serial murderer on Legarto, but it’s not being publicized in the media. Only the cops know about it. And Juno. This first one (which is actually the 13th murder) takes place on a boat with flesh eating bacteria doing the job. Ian basically kicks Juno off the boat and things start. Another murder has also been committed. A couple were killed by a laser whip and their hot, young daughter has confessed and is scheduled to be executed in just a few days. The problem is, Maggie thinks she’s innocent. So she hires Juno to help her prove it.

Meanwhile, Juno has troubles at home. His wife tried to commit suicide and is locked up in a hospital bed, waiting for a new spine (she threw herself from a bridge) to be grown offworld and waiting for Juno to find the funds to pay for it. The problem is, she still wants to die.

As Juno starts poking around, he starts discovering inconsistencies. He goes to the prison to interview the girl and when he leaves, Ian and his crew show up and rough him up, breaking his fingers on one of his hands while telling him to mind his own business.

Ian has a hot girlfriend, Liz. Ian summons Juno to a bar where he waits to strike a deal with Juno to spy on Maggie in order to eliminate her promotion and get it himself. Juno agrees, but tells Maggie and doubles back on Ian, feeding him information that makes Ian think Juno’s doing a good job, but when in reality he and Maggie are working against Ian.

An offworlder named Horst is also involved. He runs a travel agency on Legarto, seemingly for tiger hunts, but in reality, for sex. Oh, and snuff films. And getting to participate in making the snuff films by executing prisoners on death row privately. It’s pretty sick and the author does a good job at getting it across to the reader. Indeed, there’s lots of sick stuff in this book — the kinky sex, prostitution, snuff films, incest, and more. It’s easy to get grossed out. You have to have a hard stomach in order to read this book. It’s gritty and it seems realistic — the author is very good.

As Juno and Maggie race against time to get Ian and save the girl, things are happening frantically and you have to really keep pace. It’s a real page turner and, as a result, a quick read. My only complaint — and it’s a big one for which I thought about eliminating one of the five stars I’m’ giving it — is that big, bad Juno-the-enforcer from the first book becomes a weak, pathetic pussy in this book, easily pushed around by Ian and his crew. It’s kind of hard to believe. Juno toughens up as the book progresses, but I found it hard to swallow. Still, I enjoyed the book. Apparently there’s a third one in the series and I’ll have to get it to read. If it’s like the first two, I’ll definitely enjoy it. Recommended, but not for the faint of heart.

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Baltimore Trip

Posted by Scott Holstad on April 18, 2014

Well, Gretchen and I made a nice trip up to Maryland and back a few days ago and I thought I’d write a little bit about it. Last Thursday, after work we headed out on the road from Chattanooga up to Abingdon VA. It took about four hours. We stayed at the Alpine Motel, a retro motel that was somewhat decent. The next morning, we ate breakfast with our friends Chris and Stephanie. It was really good to see them.

It should have taken six hours to get up to Columbia MD, our destination. It took nearly nine. Traffic was the worst I’ve ever seen in my life. About 30 miles south of Roanoke, we got stopped by a wreck and sat still in traffic for an hour. That really slowed us down. Of course, the Virginia cops were out in full force, as always, so you can’t speed there to make up time. When we got to DC, we hit mega-traffic, which continued into Maryland and all the way to our destination. It took HOURS to get through that traffic, and it was in the middle of the afternoon, not during traffic hour. Weird.

We finally arrived at the Sheraton Columbia Town Center Hotel, where we’d be staying. We were on the fifth floor, and it was very nice. (I wrote reviews of many places on Trip Advisor. You can find them here.) The room wasn’t the biggest I’d seen, but it was plush and clean and we liked it. I’ve had to deal with bad insomnia for years, often getting up at 1 or 2 AM (like this morning), but the bed was so comfortable there, that I was able to sleep in until 8 every morning. It was awesome!

Friday night, we went to a restaurant called Clyde’s and met Gretchen’s parents there. We had a lovely meal and it was good to see them. Then we went back to the hotel and had drinks at the bar there before turning in.

Saturday we got up and went to Eggsplantation in Ellicot City to meet our friend Cindy for breakfast. I had pancakes and bacon and it was delicious. The place was nice, but pretty expensive. We looked at Cindy’s new car after breakfast, before gassing up (gas was so much more expensive there than in Tennessee) and heading to downtown Baltimore. We went to the Walters Art Museum. I have already written a review about it, so I won’t say much, but we enjoyed ourselves a great bit. It was free to get in, which was cool. We particularly liked the Egyptian, Greek, and Roman exhibits, as well as the medieval exhibit. It was cool seeing a mummy. When we left, we went to a quirky area of town called Hamden. It had tons of shops and restaurants and reminded me of Atlanta’s Little Five Points or L.A.’s Melrose Avenue. We parked and wandered around. We went in a little, extremely overcrowded used bookstore, but didn’t find anything we wanted. We ate lunch at a place Gretchen has talked about for years — Cafe Hon. It flat out sucked! The food was terrible and the service was worse. I gave it a really bad review on Trip Advisor. Gretchen was especially disappointed.

After we left Hamden, we drove back to areas Gretchen used to live in to check them out. It was nice to see parts of her history. Later, we went back downtown. We found a bizarre little parking area in an alley behind a building for $20. We thought it was a pretty good deal, cause all of the parking garages were full and we were going to go see a ballgame that night and it was fairly close to the ballpark. More on that later.

We walked to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor area. It was crowded, probably because it was such a beautiful day, but it was pretty neat. They had street performers, some pavilions with shops and restaurants in them, an old submarine you could tour, the World Trade Center, where you could go to the 27th floor to look out over the harbor, and more. We spent some time wandering around there before finally starting to head over to the ballpark. Outside the park, I bought a nice Orioles cap and it looked and felt pretty good. I did it even though I’m a Pirates fan. Heh. We arrived at Oriole Park at Camden Yards and waited for Gretchen’s two boys and a girlfriend to show up. It looked like a beautiful stadium. I had bought tickets online before we went, so we had sweet seats behind 1st base in the 24th row. They were shockingly expensive though. The kids finally showed up and we went in to find our seats. The stadium was beautiful, as advertised, but the seats were incredibly uncomfortable. I don’t know what midget designed that stadium, but I’m of average height, and my knees were jammed up against the seat in front of me and I had no leg room. There were essentially no rows. If people wanted in or out, virtually the entire row had to get up and get out to let them in or out. It was stupid. I was so damn uncomfortable. But it was a nice night for baseball. The Orioles were taking on Toronto. Unfortunately, it was a dull game and Gretchen and I left with Baltimore up 1-0 in the top of the ninth inning. Surprisingly, we found out later, Toronto hit a homer to tie it up and Baltimore finally won it in the 12th inning. So we started looking for our car. And we couldn’t find it. It was horrible. We walked those streets for miles and I got terrible blisters on the bottoms of my feet and my shins hurt and we couldn’t find my car anywhere we went. We stopped and asked for directions, but after more than an hour of this and after having covered seemingly every street within miles, we couldn’t find that little back alley parking spot. We started getting really terrified. We were in a big, strange city late at night with, frankly, gangs of possible thugs wandering around doing who knows what. We were really worried. Just as Gretchen was about to call the police, we found a building she recognized and went in that direction. We found another. Finally, I spotted the alley and our car and we headed for it in great relief. We were pretty panicked by then. It felt great to get in that car! We finally got out of there, made it back to the hotel, and hit the bar where I slammed some tequila shots and Gretchen had some Southern Comfort. Boy, what a day!

Sunday was Gretchen’s birthday party, the reason for the trip. It was her 50th, which is big, so we had invited family and friends to her parents’ house and she was pretty excited. On our way, we stopped to pick up the gluten free birthday cake I had ordered last month. Thankfully it was ready and it turned out great. It was really good. We got to her parents’ and chatted before people started arriving. Her parents laid out a spread and we toasted Gretchen with champagne. There were people there we hadn’t seen since our wedding last year, so it was nice to see everyone. Gretchen opened presents and she got quite a haul. She did well. Heh. The party lasted from about 1 til about 7 or later, so when we got back to the hotel, we were kind of tuckered out from the day. That didn’t stop us from hitting the bar, of course.

Monday we went to Annapolis with her parents. On the way, we passed the NSA and I was SO very excited. I wanted to go tour their museum — they actually have a museum — but we didn’t have time. Oh well. Annapolis was pretty cool. I had wanted to go on a tour of the Naval Academy, but because of my blisters, we couldn’t do it — I couldn’t walk far. Downtown was old and historic and we enjoyed wandering around. We ate lunch at Carrol’s Creek Cafe, which wasn’t too bad. We had a bizarre old server who entertained us. We went back to our hotel in the afternoon and although we were supposed to stay another night there, Gretchen and I decided to head out early because it was supposed to rain all day Tuesday and get colder and we didn’t want to drive far in that weather. We went a different way this time, without that much traffic, thank goodness.

We drove further than we intended, about six hours all told. We spent the night in a Holiday Inn Express in Salem VA, right outside Roanoke. It was a great hotel room! We were really impressed. It was a king size suite and it was huge. All that room. Unfortunately, the bed was too hard for me, so I woke up with a sore back. Oh well. The breakfast was great though. They had a pancake machine that made great pancakes in two minutes. I love pancakes, so I was elated. They had lots of room, many tables, unlike many hotels, and a lot to choose from. We felt like it was a good deal.

We left Salem Tuesday morning about 9. And it did start to rain. Visibility was pretty poor for a good part of the way, with poor Gretchen driving, and shockingly, 50 miles east of Knoxville, it started snowing!!! It was 84 just two days before, and even when we started out that morning, it was 65 there in the mountains. And now here it was snowing. Crazy. Gretchen drove through the snow, but at some point we had to stop for gas and I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt. It was COLD gassing up the car! We finally made it home after about six hours or so. Our cat Henry was glad to see us and purred all night. We had lots of mail. My mom had gotten our mail and fed Henry each day, which was nice of her. She’s about ready to move back up to Knoxville in a couple of weeks, so we won’t have her to do that for us anymore. Don’t know what we’ll do the next time we have to travel….

Well, that’s it. It was a good, but exhausting trip. Unfortunately, Gretchen — and maybe me too — came down with something and has been sick ever since. Hopefully we’ll both improve quickly. It was nice to see Gretchen’s old stomping grounds as well as family and friends. Maybe we’ll make it back sooner next time. Sorry I didn’t post pics. I reserve the right to do so in the future. Heh.

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Road Trip!

Posted by Scott Holstad on April 11, 2014

We’re in Abingdon VA on our way to Maryland. We’re going to celebrate Gretchen’s 50th birthday with her family and friends. We’re also going to run around Baltimore and catch an Orioles game.

Last night, we stayed in a retro motel called the Alpine Motel. Sparse but comfy. I’m going to post a picture. Cheers!



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