Archive for the 'Family' Category

2014 Bolton Land Trust Walk of Thanksgiving

Today was the annual Bolton Land Trust Walk of Thanksgiving. This year’s walk was a the Fish Family Farm, one of Bolton’s wonderful working farms. The 211 acre parcel is split by Bolton Center Road.

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The history of the farm (long before it was owned by the Fish Family) goes way back to before the Revolutionary War, and is located near the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route. Don Fish purchased the farm in 1981. The Fish Family have 51+/- Jersey cows and 30+ chickens. The creamery is well known for its dairy products, including ice cream. It appeared that everyone (except the vegans!) enjoyed ice cream, following our winding walk around the perimeter of the property.

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We explored Old Bolton Road, which used to cut through the farm, but is no longer an active road. It is overgrown now, but you can still make out the original route, which the Town of Bolton still has a hand in maintaining.

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Don Fish shared his history of the farm with 91 members and guests of the land trust. It was a great event that ended with the formal annual business meeting. The highlight for me was seeing the cow tunnel that goes under the “new” Bolton Center Road, the paved version. I’ve driven over that tunnel multiple times a day for more than 10 years and had no idea it was there. Seeing the tunnel and walking under the road made my day!

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It was nice of the Fish Family to share their farm with the community and host us for the walk. It is important that Connecticut retain its farms and farm history. Too many farms have been developed. The Bolton Land Trust performs a great service to the community by highlighting the importance of land conservation.

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2014 Manchester Road Race

Today, I ran in my 25th Manchester Road Race. It was the 78th edition of the race. I’ve always “raced” the event, but today was different. I’m recovering (sort of) from injuries (plantar fasciitis, stress fracture, and fractured scapula), so it was a bit of a different experience.

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I jogged the 4.748 mile loop with my son and my brother-in-law, Tommy. Debbie ran on her own. It was a bit of an odd Thanksgiving Day road race with the circumstances, but it all worked out in the end.

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I’m learning to just enjoy the vibe and am less focused on speed, pace, or results. I got to see the race in an entirely different way and I probably won’t be sore, which is an added bonus.

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I’m no fan of crowds, but I survived the crush of human beings as we marched through Manchester. It was great to see so many friends, including many Shenipsit Striders.

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I love the race and its history. I wrote about that earlier this month. I think that of my 25 finishes, 20 have now been in a row. Interestingly after approaching and running the race differently this year, I’m OK if I ever have to skip. It isn’t an obsession. It isn’t a streak. It’s fun, but it’s just a race.

Final Results: 2014 Connecticut Blue-Blazed Trail Running Series

It was a great year for the Connecticut trail running community. Some of our best individual trail running races joined forces to form the Connecticut Blue-Blazed Trail Running Series. Debbie and I envisioned this year’s ago, and with the help of others, it became a reality. The New England Grand Tree Trail Running Series will always be the standard-bearer for trail running in New England and we view the CT series as a compliment to that long running series. A handful of the races are in both series.

The Grand Tree was the series to run, long before this current trail running boom cluttered the calendar with other events in the region. The growth of the sport is fantastic, but it has been problematic for many of the long time/old school trail races in New England. The surge in ultrarunning has also left many of the mid-distance races in the dust, as participation levels at some events have dropped dramatically. Overall participation in the Grand Tree Series has risen at the individual level, but the number of people doing multiple races (you need to run six to qualify for the series standings) has dropped. People want to go short or long and not as often in between.

The Blue-Blazed Trail Running Series has various distances.

DATE RACE DISTANCE WEBSITE
4/6 Bimbler’s Bash 10k www.mrbimble.com/WordPress/bash
4/19 Traprock 50k/17k www.traprock50.com
5/18 Soapstone Mt. Trail Races 24k/6k www.shenipsitstriders.org
6/22 Southern Nipmuck 22.7k www.shenipsitstriders.org
7/27 Soapstone Assault 8.9k www.shenipsitstriders.org
8/2 People’s Forest 12.1k www.greystoneracing.net
9/6 Run for the Woods 10k/5k www.ctwoodlands.org/runforthewoods2014
9/14 Trails for a Cure/Cockaponsett 12.9k www.snerro.com
10/5 NipMuck Trail Marathon 42.5k www.shenipsitstriders.org
10/19 Bimbler’s Bluff 50k www.mrbimble.com/WordPress/bluff

I had designs on running all of the races, but after doing Bimbler’s Bash, Traprock, and Soapstone, my running stopped because of this nagging left foot stress fracture/plantar fasciitis injury that has hobbled me for months. Half way through Soapstone, I knew something was seriously wrong. For the rest of the year, I’ve had to watch from the sidelines, take photos, and root for the other runners.

I’m pumped for the 2015 series, though it is doubtful that I will run any. This could be a long layoff from running for me. My last truly extended break was 1991 to 1999. Hopefully this hiatus isn’t as long.

1,032 individual runners competed in at least one race – 382 Female and 950 Male. The overall men’s title went to Ted Cowles (who ran every race), and the woman’s title went to Kehr Davis, who won the four events that she entered. Kudos to them.

The Shenipsit Striders have been very generous to the Connecticut Forest & Park Association, frequently contributing proceeds from Soapstone and NipMuck. Many people don’t realize that CFPA is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization. CFPA is not a state agency. If it wasn’t for CFPA, their volunteers, and donors; more than 825 miles of Blue-Blazed Hiking Trails may not exist. CFPA’s advocacy is legendary and whether you support CFPA or some other local trails .org, you should keep these trail maintainers in your thoughts. Our parks and trails depend on them. Debbie and I are longtime supporters of CFPA, I am on the Board of Directors, and we always felt that a trail series would help raise awareness and funds for our cherished trails.

The Striders philanthropy has inspired others, including Steve Nelson and Kevin Hutt, Race Directors of the Traprock 50K to bestow their generosity on CFPA. Plans are in place to reprise the series next year. Debbie, Jerry Turk, and the other Race Directors (who also deserve a ton of credit) are working on the schedule. Each individual race relies on their own volunteers. Many come from the running clubs that promote these events. Thanks to Dominic Wilson who calculated all the scores and CFPA’s Marty Gosselin for keeping the website up to date. Oh, one last shout out to Christopher Moore from Connecticut Outdoor Guide who shot photos at many of the races.

We will find a good way to honor Ted, Kehr, and some of our other participants. In the meantime, check out the results.

Click here for the 2014 Men’s Results

Click here for the 2014 Women’s Results

Curta Calculating Machine

10 years ago, I read a Scientific American story and fell in love with the subject. The article was about the Curta, an amazing little device that was invented by Austrian Curt Herzstark. At the time, I did a little research, trying to locate one of the prized calculators. I found some on eBay, realized that the price wasn’t in my budget, and then lost the magazine clipping. I subsequently forgot about it.

The Curta story is Herzstark’s story. He grew up in an industrial family that produced large mechanical calculators. His mother was Catholic, but his father was Jewish. Cliff Stoll’s magazine article from January 2004 does a better job telling the story in more detail, and it is well worth reading. Herzstark set out to design a much smaller, and therefore more useful, version of a machine to add, subtract, multiply, and divide. The advent of digital calculators put an end to the Curta’s run, but this all mechanical calculator was still an amazing invention.

The Curta story could have ended at the Buchenwald concentration camp, but amazingly, Herzstark survived the war in Germany, despite his incarceration. The German army came to Austria in 1938. Despite his Jewish roots, he avoided major trouble because his family’s factory converted from making calculators to making equipment for the German army. In 1943, things got more complicated for him, when a series of unfortunate circumstances resulted in the Nazis sending him to Buchenwald in Germany. For tens of thousands of others sent to that work camp, it was a one way trip.

Thanks to Herzstark’s ingenuity and technical knowledge, he was valued by the Nazis and he survived. He was liberated on 11 April 1945. During his captivity, he finished his design for the Curta. He walked out of the concentration camp with the plans in his pocket. After the war, he showed his plans to some machinists and his ideas began to fall into place. He had prototypes built within months of his release.

Everything didn’t go smoothly at first, but eventually, Herzstark, found a supporter and set up production in the small country of Liechtenstein. Curta’s were sold all over the world between 1947 and 1972. The Type I was sold for $125 and its successor, Type II, was sold for $175. These little machines look like pepper grinders and are amazing devices. The detail and precision are awesome.

So much about the Curta story resonated with me, but for 10 years, I hadn’t thought about Curta. Then, one day last month, I got two photos in a text from my friend, Arlen Zane Wenzel.

His message:

Curta

AZW: “Interested? Curta calculator”

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AZW: “1952”

SL: “Hell yeah. I want it.”

AZW: “It’s for sale and it’s not mine. So look it up and if you want, make an offer. Call me if needed”

Arlen had a friend who found it in a deceased relatives’ belongings. He asked Arlen to help with the estate sale.

In a rush, it all came back to me. I did some research using Google and eBay. I made a fair offer. The offer was accepted and the Curta became mine. I didn’t have any time to play with it, so it was sitting on my desk at work. It was manufactured in November 1952. It was one of 4,000 produced that year.

Then, last weekend, I was cleaning my home office and to my own amazement, I found that original Scientific American story. I wasn’t looking for it. I figured it was long gone. I had torn it out of the pages of the magazine and it had been in a pile of papers in the corner of the office for the last 10 years. I read it front to back and was so happy!

I realized why the Curta story had such an impact on me when I first read it back in 2004. My grandfather fled Germany in October 1938. He was an engineer and machinist like Curt Herzstark. Like him, I have a Catholic mother and a Jewish father. Our family name is Liebenstein, which sounds like Liechtenstein. My grandfather’s birth name comes from the town of Bad Liebenstein, where he was raised in eastern Germany. After fleeing, my grandfather, also an engineer and inventor, started a manufacturing company in a different country. Horst Engineering was founded in 1946, and we produce precision machined components for aerospace and other high technology industries. I can’t remember if my grandfather had spoken of the Curta with me. I don’t think he ever owned one. He taught me how to use a slide rule.

This is better.

The Curta sits in my office at the shop, next to our own precision machined components, and it fits right in.

Manchester Road Race History Exhibit at Dehn Gallery

Yesterday, Debbie, the kids and I checked out the new exhibit, “Thanksgiving in Manchester: A History of the Manchester Road Race,” at the Manchester Community College Dehn Gallery on Main Street. We were downtown to run some errands, and it was a short walk to the gallery, which is within feet of the finish line.

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According to the news release that tipped us off, “The exhibit was commissioned by the Manchester Road Race Committee and was designed by Manchester native Harrison ‘Whitey’ Jenkins, owner of ‘Jenkins Design.’ Artifacts related to the race have been loaned by the Manchester Historical Society and provided by other donors.”

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The release says, “Among the artifacts that will be on display are medals and trophies won by Joe McCluskey, an Olympic bronze medalist from Manchester who won the race four times; the gym uniform worn by Julia Chase Brand when she toppled the gender barrier at the road race in 1961; and a racing singlet that belonged to Dr. Charlie Robbins, a two-time champion who ran here 56 times and often competed barefoot. The exhibit will also feature a video slide show of race photographs taken by retired Hartford Courant photographer John Long, who covered the road race for 35 years, and who has served as the event’s official photographer since 2006.”

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We roamed around the gallery for some time, soaking in the glory of this great race. Manchester has been a Thanksgiving fixture for me. This year will be the 78th running, and my 25th time competing. Due to injury, I haven’t run a step since early June, so it is likely that I’ll jog, shuffle, or walk the 4.748 mile course. I’ve written many times about the race and its great history.

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It was fitting that the only other person in the gallery with us was our Bolton neighbor, Dani Kennedy. She had just wrapped up a run, presumably on the course. Dani is part of the race committee, the track & field coach at Bolton High School, a fellow member of the Shenipsit Striders and Silk City Striders, race director of the Bolton Summer XC Series, and a champion for everything running related in our community.

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I could have lingered all morning, and I may return before the exhibit is packed up on November 29th. Hopefully, this exhibit comes back in the future and becomes a tradition of its own as the race approaches 80 years old.

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Litchfield Hills Trip

This weekend, Debbie and I traveled to the Litchfield Hills in northwestern Connecticut for a one night trip. My parents were kind enough to look after our kids so that we could spend some time together. We used to get there more often, but it had been a while since we were out that way. We were married in Litchfield back in 2001, so that part of the state is meaningful to us, especially in our favorite month of October.

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We stayed at the Interlaken Inn in Lakeville, which is almost in the northwest corner of the state. Salisbury, which is just north and borders Massachusetts, and Lakeville, both border New York. Yesterday, we visited Hillrock Estate Distillery in Ancram, New York. It was a short drive from Lakeville.

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Last night, we had dinner at Serevan in Amenia, New York. It was an excellent meal. This morning, we did a 43 mile loop on our bicycles. We had crazy New England weather today with a mix of clouds, sun, rain, and wind. Changeable is the best way to describe what we experienced. It was raw. The temperature peaked in the low 50’s Fahrenheit, and it was damp. The loop was gorgeous. We started in Lakeville and went north into Salisbury.

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We stopped briefly at the Salisbury Winter Sports Association ski jump, when we came across the signs. We asked a walker for directions and she pointed us towards Satre Hill which is a little ways from Route 41, the main street. We found the hill and it was a thrill. I can’t wait to return with the kids when the snow flies. I first read about the jump a few years ago in a Yankee Magazine storyI was intrigued then and was very happy to see the hill with my own eyes.

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We didn’t linger long and continued north on 41 into Massachusetts. We crossed the Appalachian Trail for the first of several times during the day. We stopped at the Undermountain Road trailhead when we spotted multiple Springfield College vehicles in the parking lot. It looked like the Outing Club was on the trail. Debbie got nostalgic because she had taken the Springfield Outing Club on that trail several times when she led the group in the mid-1990’s.

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In Massachusetts, we headed west towards Mount Washington State Forest. We had a fair amount of climbing as we crossed the AT again on our way to the other side of the ridge. When we headed south, the road turned to dirt. We were happy to have good tires for those conditions. The road was packed and smooth for a while, but then when we got on to East Street headed up land over Mount Riga, it was very rocky all the way back down in to Salisbury.

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The foliage was fantastic. The views were spectacular. We saw so many lovely farms and houses. The northern Litchfield Hills and southern Berkshires are a beautiful part of southern New England. The descent into Salisbury was pretty sketchy. On the rough road, an Allen bolt worked loose and my rear rack was vibrating badly. Debbie had trouble with her brakes because the pads are a bit worn. We made it down alive and I was happy to get through the ride unscathed. My shoulder is feeling better and the rough road was a good test. I still haven’t ridden off-road. I plan to stick to smoother surfaces until I’m fully recovered from my fractured scapula.

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It was an awesome ride. We didn’t go fast at all. We took in the sites. We got to spend time outside together. After we washed up, we drove over to the New York side of the border and had lunch at The Millerton Shop of Harney & Sons Fine Teas. Lunch was excellent. I’ve always been a Harney fan because they are members of 1% For The Planet, just like Thread Rolling Inc.

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We took Rt. 44 most of the way home and got to sightsee a bit more. We made a quick stop at a farm stand in Canton on the drive back to Bolton and put a wrap on the weekend by cleaning a bit around the house before the kids arrived back and chaos ensued. This trip is a reminder that Debbie and I have to do more of these getaways together.

Hillrock Estate Distillery

This weekend, Debbie and I escaped to the Litchfield Hills in northwestern Connecticut for a one night getaway. We hadn’t been out that way in quite some time, so it was a thrill to see the beautiful countryside during our favorite month of October. We stayed at the Interlaken Inn in Lakeville. It was a short trip, but we packed it full of fun.

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We only had a loose agenda. When we checked in at the hotel lobby, I picked up a flyer for Hillrock Estate Distillery. I had never heard of Hillrock, but it was located in Ancram, New York, about 25 minutes away. We checked out the website on my iPhone and called them to see if they were doing tours. No one answered, so I left a message, but as soon as I hung up, they called back. I learned that they do tours on Saturday’s by appointment, which was perfect for us. We booked our tour for 4:30 later in the afternoon.

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Debbie isn’t a whiskey drinker like me, but she appreciates farming and the distillery was located at Hillrock Farm in the “bread basket” of Hudson River Valley. The drive to Ancram was beautiful. The weather was perfect for an October afternoon. The foliage was probably just past peak, but it was still stunning. It has been a great year in the northeast for colorful leaves. We arrived at the farm shortly after 4:00, which was earlier than expected, and were greeted by Tyler, who was our guide.

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Tyler is a Gung ho 22-year old former plumber who hooked up with the Hillrock team while working on the facilities with is father’s plumbing and contracting firm. He is learning the whiskey craft from master distiller, Dave Pickerell. Pickerell consults for several craft distillers, including Hillrock. Over the course of 110 minutes, Tyler gave an excellent tour. Clearly, he has learned a lot about whiskey in the past 12 months.

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Hillrock is unique because they are a complete “field-to-glass” distiller. They grow most of their ingredients on their owned or leased land. That includes the rye and corn. I gathered that one of the key (and only) items that they import, is the peat for their smoking process. That comes from Scotland. Everything about Hillrock’s process appears to be well though out. The facilities were purpose-built for this task.

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Their website tells the story better than I could, and in three paragraphs:

In the early 1800’s, New York produced more than half the young nation’s Barley and Rye and the Hudson Valley was the country’s breadbasket. With abundant high quality grain, local craft spirits flourished and over 1000 farm distilleries produced Whiskey and Gin reflecting the unique terroir of the region. In the 1930’s, Prohibition forced these distilleries to shut their doors and this wellspring of American spirits was left dry.

Hillrock Estate Distillery is changing this. Our mission is to produce the finest hand-crafted spirits made with our own grain, floor malted, craft distilled in our copper pot still, aged in fine oak and hand bottled at our estate in the Hudson Valley Highlands. Crowned by a fine 1806 Georgian house built by a successful grain merchant and Revolutionary War Captain and meticulously restored to its original beauty, Hillrock Distillery overlooks our rolling barley fields and the distant Berkshire Mountains. Like our premier spirits, every detail refined, no expense spared, quality steeped in the tradition of 200 years of rich history.

Hillrock is proud to be one of the few “field-to-glass” whiskey producers in the world and the first USA distillery since before Prohibition to floor malt and hand craft whiskey on site from estate grown grain. Hillrock’s commitment to quality embodies the rich history of artisanal distilling in the Hudson Valley. By controlling every aspect of production from planting & harvesting heirloom grains, to smoking our malt, to crafting whiskies in our copper pot still, to aging in small oak barrels and hand bottling, we are able to create the highest quality whiskies reflecting the unique local terroir.

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I love a good business story like this, and I love a good shop tour. I enjoy start ups, marketing, organic farming, old school technology, mechanics, craftsmanship, chemistry, the environment, and history. This little business has it all. Oh, and I love whiskey, which they have in a big time way! I learned that the founder/owner, Jeff Baker, has done well in a variety of farming, restaurant, and real estate ventures. He manages a New York City based real estate investment firm. I learned that he studied architecture and that skill was handy when designing Hillrock’s facilities. There is a large farmhouse on the property that has historical value. We were told that it was moved from its original location to Hillrock and then restored.

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The tour started with just the two of us, which was great. Then, like out of a movie, five minutes after Tyler started his spiel, a limousine pulled up and 11 people climbed out. The group was a mix of men and women, and judging how they were dressed, they came straight from a chic part of Manhattan. We soon confirmed where their trip originated, and we were right. It was kind of funny. They spilled out of the car and then joined us. Tyler was patient, so we gave them a few minutes to sort themselves out. They had made tour reservations earlier in the week.

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25 minutes later, before we had even left the building where the rye is malted, the group of Manhattanites decided that they had enough. They said good-bye, piled back into the limo, and drove off down the dirt driveway, leaving Debbie, Tyler, and me to ourselves. We were happy to regain our private tour and it was even better that it was the end of the day. We had a blast. We got a crash course in whiskey making, and I’m ready to go back to learn more. Tyler was assisted by Lauren, the Distillery and Sales Manager. She was covering for him in the still room while he was with us.

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We learned how they harvest the grains. In one building we saw the floor malting process and the smoking/drying process. We checked out the kiln and got to handle the different grains and the peat. We saw where they age the barrels. Back in the main building, we spent a lot of time checking out the still. We learned about “happy yeast” and the other nuances of the craft. We watched Lauren use a refractometer. We learned that their barrels are made by local coopers. The copper still was manufactured by a Kentucky firm. The quality of the water is critical to making good whiskey. Hillrock taps into an aquifer that supplies that key ingredient used throughout the process.

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We moved from the still room to the tasting room, which was pretty cool. I was imagining holding a private event on the premises, though they said that they haven’t done that at the young venture. I think they started in 2011, but have really just got their production going in the past few years. They are only distributed in New York and a few other states. I’ve got an idea on how to bring them to Connecticut. They make three types of whiskey: Solera Aged Bourbon, Estate Single Malt, and Estate Rye. They also distill George Washington Rye Whiskey for the folks at Mount Vernon. It was interesting to learn about Solera. After the process was described, Debbie likened it to sourdough bread. The idea is that each batch of bourbon has a bit of the original batch in it.

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We got to try all four whiskeys while standing at the whiskey bar. It was a fun end to a great tour. Tyler and Lauren worked their magic on us because we left there with four bottles, an empty five liter barrel, an empty 25 gallon barrel, and smiles on our faces. After we loaded the barrels in our Subaru, we headed back towards Millerton as the sun was setting. The farms and foliage were picturesque. It was a very cool afternoon. Lauren had given us a solid restaurant reference, and it worked out great. We dined at Serevan in Amenia. The location, the ambience, and the food were fantastic.

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Chef Serge Madikian had several dishes that worked for our vegan/vegetarian diets. We were fortunate that they were able to get us a table without reservations because after we were there for 30 minutes, the place filled up. Chef checked on us several times, which was welcome. The restaurant was founded in 2006, and it was great to see them going strong in 2014, which is saying a lot. Restaurants come and go, but Serevan looks to be a solid establishment. We had a great meal. It was fitting that behind the bar, a bottle of Hillrock Solera Aged Bourbon was dead center on the counter. It stood out from all the other bottles.

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The run-off/training part from the very cool #Okuma twin spindle/triple turret #cnc lathe being wired up in the background. I can't wait to see this bad boy run full tilt. The part is an #aircraft engine duct flange made from A286 round bar stock complete in one operation. #precisionmachining #aerospace #instamachinist #madeintheusa #sterlingmachine #horstengineering #cncmachining Some really cool #flightsafety nuts for an #aerospace customer. These are lined up for tin soldier final inspection. #precisionmachining #madeintheusa #instamachinist #cncmachining #cnc #horstengineering Assembling tie rods for a #787 air management system. 15 details go into this assy. #precisionmachining #madeintheusa #horstengineering #aerospace #instamachinist #cncmachining Recent video from #horstengineering #centerlessgrinding Aluminum (6061-T6) bar stock prior to #cnc Swiss screw machining some aerospace #widgets It's a necessary step when #precisionmachining with a sliding headstock. #madeintheusa The #TortolitaGutpluckers #washtubbass #tucson #bluegrass The painful 2+ hour wait is nearly over. #southoftheborder #nogales #sonora #sonora #rainbow #sonorandesert Photo courtesy of @embrocycling Thank you for their Horst Spikes review. #crossspikes #cyclocross #horstspikes #horstengineering #madeintheusa #precisionmachining A #tetakawi #christmas scene! Back in #sancarlos #sonora #christmastree

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