Archive for the 'Family' Category

Bolton Notch State Park Hike

We are fortunate to have traveled to some amazing destinations, but sometimes a close to home adventure is the most enjoyable trip of all. Yesterday, made the five minute drive to Bolton Notch State Park for some snowshoe fun. We can walk, bike, or run to the park from the house, but with three feet of accumulated snow on the Hop River State Park Trail that connects our neighborhood to the notch, we opted for the short drive.

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We hiked the 3 mile Mohegan Trail, which is marked by yellow blazes on the trees. The first half of the loop climbs sharply up to a ridge. The second half includes the descent down to the junction of Railroad Brook on the rail trail. To complete the loop, you walk on the old rail bed through some amazingly steep cliffs that were cut through when they built the railroad.

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With all of the snow, it was an awesome walk. Our kids did great. This loop is known for abundant mountain laurel, which retains its leaves during winter.

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We had a fabulous walk.

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2015 Colchester Half Marathon

Today, Debbie and I returned to the Colchester Half Marathon for the first time since 201o. We ran it once before that in 2007. We like this course. It’s 13.1 miles of undulating roads in a really nice rural town in eastern Connecticut. It was a cold but sunny day. The temperature at the start was in the teens (Fahrenheit), though it warmed up to 20F by the finish.

This race is very important for local runners with cabin fever and 473 finished! This wicked winter had its impact on the course. The asphalt roads were clear, but the two sections of dirt road (a couple of miles worth) were ice and snow-covered. They were quite slippery. I wore my trail running shoes and opted to run on the far right side of the dirt roads to get some traction where there was more snow and less ice.

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The race has really grown. It’s very popular and it is very runner friendly. It seemed like all of our friends from the Silk City Striders were there. Several other friends from the Shenipsit Striders also ran. Even some of my friends from the Hartford Extended Area Triathletes awoke from their winter slumber to run today. “Rivals,” the Hartford Track Club and the energetic Race Director, Rick Konon, tout the event as “no frills” and are proud of its reputation. It’s a true value at $14 for pre-registration. There are no race goodie bags, no t-shirts, and no awards. What you get is a fantastic post-race spread of food prepared by the culinary students at Bacon Academy, where the race starts/finishes.

The school’s cafeteria was packed after today’s race with hundreds of happy runners. They even had a dedicated vegetarian line. The food was good and the conversation was even better. It was a great day for a run. I hadn’t done a race since the first week of June last year. 2014 was quite an “off-year” for me on the athletic front.

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I was thrilled to run hard today though I faded badly in the second half of the race. That was expected. My pace slackened and heart rate rose as the hills and slow roads took their toll. Even the asphalt was rough. I saw two runners take spills right in front of me. One rolled his ankle on a frost heave and hit the deck. Another got tangled up with other runners at the first aid station and took a hard fall. I had to leap out-of-the-way to avoid him.

I took it as easy as I could on my injured left foot (plantar fasciitis) and was happy that the pain in my arch and heel was the same after the race as it was before. In the past 60 days, after months of therapy and stretching, the tightness in my foot and calf have noticeably improved. With a four mile warmup, this was the longest I’ve run in nine months since last year’s Wapack and Back 50 Mile Trail Race that pretty much did my 2014 season in.

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The time away from running was good for my body, though my Labor Day bicycle crash was quite a setback and resulted in me doing nothing for several months at the end of last year. I started spinning and swimming again in December and then started running last month. I’ve run a dozen or so times so I knew that I wouldn’t match my 2010 time. I’m five years older and I ran six minutes slower. I took advantage of the free post-race massage to loosen up my legs, but I know that tomorrow they are going to really hurt.

This year’s plan is to get back to the level I was in prior years, but it is going to take some work and a bit more training. I’ve got modest goals for 2015 that include comebacks at some of my favorite (short) local races, but with less running and no ultras. Debbie has some fun stuff planned this year with travel involved, so she was also pleased with her Colchester. It is a necessary part of her buildup as she adds mileage and intensity.

We missed the Colchester Half Marathon four years in a row due to various trips, so it was fun to stick around and experience this fun race again.

Race Results

The Harlem Globetrotters

Last week, Debbie and I got to host an event at the Harlem Globetrotters game in Springfield, Massachusetts. We are members of YPO Connecticut River Valley, a leadership organization, and we lead the chapter’s Youth & Family initiatives.

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The Globies are fantastic family entertainment. We could have also attended the show with the Cub Scouts, but through connections we gained access to a pre-game meet and greet with the team. The players were the ultimate professionals. They are talented showmen and show-women.

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Our kids and the other 75 kids enjoyed every moment of the evening. The great thing about the Harlem Globetrotters is that the comedy is just as fun for the adults as for the children.

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Personally, I love the choreographed athleticism more than anything, but I have to say that the humor was surprisingly enjoyable. I recall seeing the Globetrotters when I was in elementary school nearly 35 years ago.

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I won’t wait another 35 years to see them again.

Some of the photos are mine and some are courtesy of Alan Grant (Digital Creations).

5 Day Black & White Challenge

Earlier this month, ultra running friend and fellow photographer, Geoff Baker, nominated me to participate in the 5 Day Black and White Challenge. There are variations the theme, but the general premise is that you post one black and white photograph a day for five days. You can shoot fresh images or go to your archives and get old ones or make new versions of old color photos.

I don’t shoot B&W much, so I opted to grab some favorite color images that would look good covered. It was a fun process and I thank Geoff for challenging me to give it a shot. I have yet to pay it forward by nominating someone else, but I will in due time. I posted these five images on social media including my Facebook page.

Day 1

First up is a photo from our March 2006 hiking excursion to the Drakensberg Mountains of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Debbie was 4.5 months pregnant with our first child, but that didn’t stop her from running. This photo shot with my Leica M6 TTL/Tri-Elmar lens on Fuji Velvia and then scanned. That’s Cathedral Peak in the background. Along with the Dawson-Middelman clan, we tried for the top, but were short on gear and guts, but we came close!

Deb, South Africa, Drakensberg, 2006, Mar-06 - Version 2

Day 2

This image taken at the market in Ubud on 22 February 2012. We had a fantastic family trip to Maya Ubud Resort & Spa in Bali, Indonesia; and walked to town from the hotel. Taken with my Leica M9 and Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH Lens.

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Day 3

This is a black and white image of a black and white outfit. Our son’s first tuxedo was rented in Bismarck, North Dakota for Brian and Heather Nelson’s wedding. Shot with my Leica M9 and my “go to” lens, the Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH.

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Day 4

This photo was taken at Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Arizona; the “winter home” of Frank Lloyd Wright. I had a chance to visit and take a tour back in November 2010. This is another image made with my Leica M9 and Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH lens. There isn’t much to this image of a sculpture at the home, but I have always loved it.

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Day 5

This image of the Knife Edge on Mt. Kathadin in Baxter State Park.I shot it using my Leica V-LUX 30 pocket camera on the last day of my 30’s in October 2012. Sometimes you need to go light and fast and it isn’t practical to carry a bigger/better camera.

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I’m already working on five more.

Debbie’s 40th Birthday Run

Today is Debbie’s 40th birthday and she is celebrating it in style. For months, she has been thinking about what to do to honor the milestone. It’s really a year-long celebration and we have looked at a variety of ultra marathon trail running races in an effort to accomplish something “big.” She lost out in the 2015 Western States Endurance Run lottery, so her quest to run the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning is postponed for another year. She previously lost out twice in the Hardrock 100 Endurance Run lottery and didn’t have a qualifying race for the 2015 lottery since the Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance 100 was dropped from the list.

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We didn’t get our act together in time to register for HURT 100-Mile Endurance Run, and it is hard to be ultra fit in January anyway. The Miwok 100K Trail Run is on her schedule, but it still isn’t the “big one” that she is seeking to do in 2015. So, while she searches, she pulled together something even more special for the actual birthday (today). It’s a special day for many reasons. The 10th of January has always been a bit overshadowed by the post holiday lull. However, it is also her grandmother’s 90th birthday. Debbie was born on Ruth Plumb’s 50th, which gives them a special bond. She is our last remaining living grandparent.

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So, what to do? On the last day of my 30’s, and in honor of my 40th, I went to my “Mecca,” Mt. Katahdin for a solo adventure. It’s indicative that she and I are very different. I wanted to spend my 40th in quiet solitude in the wilderness. She wanted a community event with lots of friends and family sharing the love. She came up with the idea of running 40 laps of the Bolton Heritage Farm (aka Rose Farm), which is our “home course.”

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Many of our friends came from the Shenipsit Striders and Silk City Striders, our two main running clubs. Word spread and friends invited friends. Some of the runners ran races in the morning and joined her in the afternoon. In the end, nearly 40 people came. Some folks came and just walked a lap or two. Others ran multiple laps. A special shout out to Nikolas Rogers who did 40 of the 41 laps with Debbie. He only missed the first one.

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The farm is adjacent to our neighborhood and we are on the trails year round. The farm is the home of the Bolton Summer XC Series and is an important local landmark. She decided to raise some funds by asking for donations to the Friends of Rose Farm and the Bolton Land Trust, of which she is a director.

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The informal invitations went out and her friends came in droves. Nearly 30 people showed up between 8:00 A.M. and 2:30 P.M. when she finished. She did 40 .8 mile laps, plus another for good measure, to total 41 and more than 32 miles. The temperature never topped 19F, but the sunshine was brilliant. There was a deep blue sky that last all day and the three inches of snow that fell yesterday morning added to the beauty. She kept track of her laps by moving 40 Shenpsit Strider course marker flags from one side of a table to the other.

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Mid-morning, I ran over with our 8-year-old son and we did three laps with her. I ran home with him and went back solo for another 10 with the group. Then I ran home with Coach Al Lyman, who did more than half of the laps. Special thanks to Terry Williams for helping watch the kids. Al and Terry took off and I returned to the farm for a final time with both our son and 5-year-old daughter. The three of us joined her and the remaining group for another lap before we left her to finish the final five in a strong way.

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She is very happy about entering a new age group and a new phase for her running and sport. We will keep looking for a fun 100 (or more) to focus on. Both the Grand Slam and Hardrock are targets for 2016 and beyond, so maybe qualifiers will be the focus. The days of outrunning the speedster women are probably over, but there are so many more miles of trail for her to run.

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Thank you to everyone who came out to make this a special day for Debbie and our family.

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2015 Cub Scout Pack 157 Pinewood Derby

Last night was our son’s second Pinewood Derby since joining Cub Scout Pack 157 last year. Once again, I had a great time helping him build the car. The joy on the faces of the boys (and their sisters) was awesome. Multiple generations were represented with many grandparents in attendance.

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I’m not sure if you can improve upon this model and I don’t suggest that the Cub Scouts change a thing.

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In an effort to minimize the involvement of the parents so that their sons did the work on their own cars, there was a separate parents category. I chose to race my original car from 1979. I pulled it out of storage, added some dry graphite to the axles and raced it “as is.” It was pretty cool when my mother, who hasn’t seen the car in 35 years, picked it out of the line up. I remember the day that I raced it. My father, who was also there last night, had to drill out the cockpit weight to get it to the 5.0 ounce maximum.

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We had so much fun then, and we had so much fun last night. What a tradition.

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2015 Noble View Trip & iPhone Adventure Part 2

We are just back from a very fun weekend to kick off 2015. I’m definitely looking forward to this year and the weekend set the tone. Like life, it had a mix of ups and downs, but in the end, it was fantastic family fun…and we recovered Debbie’s iPhone after a seriously bad situation turned out OK.

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Over the years, Debbie and I have had end of year/New Year’s adventures around New England. In 2013/2014, the holiday schedule was a big wacky, so we stayed close to home. In 2014/2015 with a four-day weekend, we had ample time to get away. This year, we reconnected with the Roti Family for the trip, and the Wilson Family joined us to make a trio of families and a total of 12. We opted to stay close to home. For many years, Debbie and I have wanted to visit the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Noble View Outdoor Center, so this year, we made it happen.

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Our club has some amazing venues in the northeast, and this one is right up there at the top of the list. Two cottages, an old farmhouse, and a variety of other structures sit on 358 acres on the top of a mountain in Russell, Massachusetts.  Noble View is one of our club’s larger land holdings and is on the site of an original 1800s New England farmstead. AMC purchased the property in 1930 and it has a rich history. The view of the Pioneer Valley is stunning. The property has its own trail network that is great for hiking, trail running, snow shoeing, cross-country skiing or whatever you can dream up.

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We rented the spacious Double Cottage for Friday and Saturday nights. The cottage can sleep 18. The smaller North Cottage sleeps 10. There are other accommodations on site, including tent platforms, and ample space if you want to pitch your own tent. We arrived late on Friday afternoon, but in time to catch an amazing sunset. The moon was nearly full and it was gorgeous. The sunrise on Saturday morning was even better. The sunset on Saturday afternoon was in a white out, and the sunrise on Sunday morning was in the freezing rain and fog.

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Saturday was filled with cycling, trail running, and hiking. Unfortunately, a couple of the runners, including me, did some damage with one sprained ankle and a smashed knee. The knee was mine, and I’ll be OK in a few days, but I just can’t catch a break. We explored the property and checked out some of its prominent landmarks including Pitcher Brook, Little Pitcher Falls, and Big Pitcher Falls. Several old cellars, the remnants of old buildings, dot the property. The trails are hilly and rugged. They were leaf covered until the snow started to fall late on Saturday afternoon. By nightfall, several inches had fallen, though the precipitation changed to sleet and freezing rain overnight.

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This morning, we awoke to an icy mess that wasn’t good for doing much outdoors other than building snowmen. Our children had a blast. This is a great venue for families and since it is only an hour from Hartford, it is super-convenient to get to/from. We love the high mountains of northern New England, but it was nice to get home early on the Sunday before the first full work week of the new year. We definitely plan to return to Noble View during the warmer weather months. My bike ride ended early with a rear tire puncture before I even got down the driveway, so I plan to return to ride the network of dirt roads in that part of Massachusetts.

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Our indoor time was filled with games and great conversation. We didn’t totally unplug for the weekend, but Noble View is off the grid. You really could check out from technology if you wanted to, which is cool since it is so close to the suburban landscape where we live. The two cottages are heated by wood stoves, though they have electricity powered by the sun and a backup generator. The commercial kitchens allowed for some awesome food preparation and we had five great meals, sharing responsibilities for the cooking and cleaning.

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The common bathhouse is the newest building on the property and is super-green with a number of sustainable features. The building has energy-efficient windows and doors. It has on-site grey water disposal. It’s super-insulated and has a solar wall heating and cooling system. It has roof mounted solar photovoltaic electric power system. It even has the same type of Clivus Composting Toilet system found at AMC’s high mountain huts.

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Unfortunately, the weekend nearly ended in disaster. I got a real close up view of the composting toilet because Debbie dropped her iPhone down it. I guess that some of you might still call it a disaster, but the fact is that with the help of the caretaker, Gary, a noble man indeed, I recovered the phone. Before drafting this post, I spent some time reading about Clivus’ various technologies, including the Foam-flush system at Noble View. How did it happen? Well, here is the blow-by-blow.

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We were cleaning up the cottage in preparation for departure and Debbie comes running from the bathroom (about 150 feet away) yelling at me. I couldn’t believe what she was saying. She said she dropped her phone down the toilet. She said that it was in her back pocket and well, you use your imagination. I guess it popped out. The thing with a Clivus toilet is that there really is no bottom. There is a hole, and apparently, it is big enough to fit an iPhone 5C in a Lifeproof nuud case. I’ve always been a huge Lifeproof fan, but now I truly love the product.

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Once she calmed down and I stopped shaking my head (I have to admit I was a bit perturbed, but even I remarked, “Accidents happen.”), we made a plan. We checked out the backside of the bathroom where there was a door to gain access to the inner workings of the toilets. There were three toilet fixtures, including one in the men’s room, one in a family room, and one in the women’s room, but I think they fed one common system down below. The door was locked, as we expected. Word of the debacle spread amongst our small group like wildfire and soon everyone was interested in the situation, especially the little boys. Our first order of business was to call Gary, which I left to Debbie. I was willing to loan her my phone, as long as she made the call from the safe confines of the kitchen! I could hear her pleading with him. At first he told her that there was no way to retrieve it, but I knew from our dozens of trips to the huts and AMC’s other properties, that wasn’t true.

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It’s not like the iPhone fell into the New York City sewer system. I trusted the waterproof case and knew that the phone would be fine if we could get to it. I’ve sat on many of AMC toilets in the past and yes, I’ve handled my phone  (keeping sanitary habits in mind) when in the bathrooms. I would be lying if I didn’t think about what would happen if a phone ever fell in. I’ve personally taken extra precaution, often removing my phone from my belt holster, to ensure that an accident didn’t happen. Wow, I’m lucky that I didn’t drop my phone in the toilet.

Regardless, I told Debbie as she was talking to Gary that if he came back (he had just driven up from Westfield to plow the access road an hour earlier), that I would “go get it myself.” I just needed him to unlock the door. First he said it would take him an hour. She pleaded more and said it was urgent. She said, “Please hurry.” He lived less than 10 minutes away, so we really knew that he didn’t want to fish it out of the bowels of the Clivus system. In the end, after referencing a broken truck that needed repairs, he said it would be 30 minutes. We waited patiently, with moral support from the Wilson and Roti families. No one left us hanging. I think they just wanted to see what would happen when Gary arrived.

Would he be wearing waders? Would he be wearing a gas mask? I knew that the thoughts of our kids were just fantasy. One of the hallmarks of a Clivus system is that it doesn’t smell. Any good composting system (whether it is food scraps in your backyard, a leaf pile, or human waste), should work without strong odors. I won’t explain the science behind this. You can go to the Clivus website and elsewhere for the whole story. So, despite my doubts, Gary did show up. First, he had to use the Kubota tractor to clear a path to the john. I was thinking, this man means business! There was only two inches of icy slush, but he brought out the big machinery anyway.

All kidding aside, he was a gentleman and we really appreciate him driving back up the hill to assist. Art Roti, Debbie, and I joined him on the fateful trip to the bathroom building. Gary opened the door to an amazing collection of green building systems. It was an environmental engineer’s dream with inverters, hot water heaters, and all kinds of stuff. Gary had already told Debbie via phone that it was “six-feet down.” I think that is why the kids were worried about the waders. What was Dad going to wear if Gary only brought one set?

Anyway, all Gary and I needed were disposable gloves. Conveniently, he had a box of them just inside the door on a shelf. We both donned them before clearing the floor to gain access to a set of trap doors. He lifted up the steel door and we literally gained access to the bowels of the toilet. The bottom of this building was actually about 16 feet down, not six. We had to climb down one ladder before sliding over to another platform and then climb down another ladder to the bottom. I followed Gary down and in my haste, I stepped on his left hand, but he was cool about it. At first, I thought he was going to say, “That’s it, you guys are driving me nuts, I’m out of here!”

But, he brushed it off and we were soon standing outside of a unit that looked like a large pizza oven with the door at about chest height. Of course, it wasn’t pizza cooking inside this unit! Before you know it, he had the door opened wide. I was reaching in my pocket for my flashlight before I realized that the insides of this beast were well-lit. He told me that he turned on the light. As suspected, there was no odor, but the view…well, let’s just say that it wasn’t a pretty picture and I’ll be going to my grave with the image burned in to my brain.

I’ve done the green tour at a variety of AMC’s facilities, which usually include “Clivus Composting Toilet 101,” so I figured it wouldn’t be that wet. The idea with a good composting toilet, which is quite different from a pit toilet, is that the liquids are separated from the solids. I’m not sure if that is good or bad when you are searching for a blue iPhone in a black/clear case, but I do know that iPhones are solid. It all happened so fast. Gary pulled out this special rake and in a matter of seconds, he spotted the phone. I didn’t think that the Find My iPhone App would come in handy (click here for another great Debbie lost iPhone story), but I was prepared to call the phone if I had to.

He spotted it near the top of the pile (we warned EVERYONE in our party to NOT use the bathroom until after we fetched the phone), and used the rake to get it close to me. That’s when I made one of my most heroic gestures of love in our 15 years together. I reached that iPhone with my hand and grabbed it from sinking any farther. This is a kid friendly blog, so I won’t give you the entire description, but you should assume that I needed the gloves. Unfortunately, I brushed up against the door with my favorite Patagonia jacket, but it’s Gore-Tex, and it’s already in the washer.

Anyway, Gary and I were in no mood to hang out in the basement of this bathroom, so we closed up shop, turned out the lights and hightailed it out of there. I climbed the first ladder and yelled up to Art. I implored him to take a picture so that we could memorialize the occasion. Wasn’t Luke Skywalker’s flight suit orange? You know, the one he was wearing when he climbed down from his T-65 X-wing Starfighter after delivering that fateful blow to the Death Star? If I recall, he had to climb down a ladder. I had to climb up a ladder. Well, either way, at that moment, I felt like a conquering hero.

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I got back to ground level and tossed the phone into the snow in a feeble attempt to free it from the poop that covered it. I can’t recall exactly what Gary said at that moment, but it wasn’t what he said that was funny, it was how he said it. He simple remarked that there was something on the phone, and I think he referred to it as “crud.” No kidding. I took it inside and blasted it with the high pressure washer hooked up to the commercial sink. It took a few tries to free it from the stuff that it was lying in for the past hour, but it was functioning well enough to take a photo of Debbie and her other hero, her savior, Gary.

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You just might see Debbie, Gary, and I starring in a Lifeproof ad near you soon. Our testimonial is a powerful one indeed. So, despite a flat tire, a sprained ankle, a smashed knee, and various other mishaps, our weekend at Noble View ended up with the most noble view of them all etched in my mind and a story about an iPhone in a Lifeproof case that will last a lifetime.

DL and Gary

The final word goes to our 5-year-old daughter, who on the car ride home, said multiple times, “Guys, stop with the potty talk.”


Livingston Photo & Word

Horst Engineering

Thread Rolling Inc.

Sterling Machine

Horst Spikes

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#snowshoe #running Shep-dog on the descent. #snowfun #teamlivingston #snowshoe #running Little D. #teamlivingston #snowfun #snowshoe hike on the Mohawk Trail. #snow #trails #teamlivingston #snow may be falling again, but we are in full on #springcleaning mode. The bloodied and battered #teamhorst kit they cut off of me after my big crash has hung on our laundry room door knob for six months. It's March and time to give away this reminder. Any takers? If not, I'm pitching it! #horstengineering #cycling #roadrash Debbie's steel @seven_cycles Tsunami deserves new bar tape. #sevencycles #steelisreal #madeintheusa This little gem is a tough job. The slots in the head regulate some sort of fluid flow. They were put in by Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM). #aerospace #precisionmachining #instamachinist #machining #edm #threadrolling #manufacturing #horstengineering #madeintheusa Rolling a straight #knurl on this #aerospace valve shaft using a #Hartford A-190 Thread Roller. The blank was made on a Swiss screw machine and Centerless ground. #threadrolling #knurling #precisionmachining #instamachinist #machining #manufacturing #madeintheusa #horstengineering #taekwondo This afternoon's #taekwondo high orange belt test.

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