It’s supposed to be fall

Welcome to Montana, where it’s September and the temperature is 30 and it’s snowing like crazy…

“It’s never like this!” say people we ask. “Normally we have a beautiful fall that lasts until the end of October!” Hmm. I’m not convinced.

Then again, when I moved to Colorado in 1995, I remember that on the first day of fall we got almost a foot of snow. I actually have a grainy photo of that fateful night:

So I’ll hope it really is a freak occurrence, and that fall will come back soon.

Timberrrrrr

We spent a few days in Idaho for La’s mom’s funeral. The weather forecast for the weekend called for unseasonably cold weather and snow throughout northwest Montana and parts of Idaho. There were also high-wind warnings for our particular area of the Flathead Valley. La commented that she hoped nothing happened to any of our trees, and I shrugged it off. Those trees have been standing for decades, right?

Well, when we came home we found our driveway completely blocked by one of those decades-old trees.

We climbed out of the car and went up to the house, where we discovered two other trees down. One of them clobbered the east side of the house:

Apparently the winds exceeded 60mph in areas… there were many of them laying across power lines along the highway, and despite my confidence in our trees, it was kind of shocking to lose three of them.

Unfortunately we know exactly two people in Montana: Mario and Mike. Mario took care of mowing our yard during the summer, and Mike handled our sprinkler system. Not knowing quite what to do, I called Mario and explained we had a tree blocking our driveway. He was out of town, but assured me he’d call some guys and they’d take care of it. Sure enough, within the hour two men showed up with chainsaws and a front loader.

They made quick work of the tree, clearing a path for us. Now we have to deal with the clean-up and figure out how to get these monsters out of the yard…

Jet skis!

Ever since we decided to live near a lake, Laralee and I have been talking about buying some jet skis. We’re excited to have kayaks, and eventually some paddleboards, but neither of those compare with the fun of zipping across the lake on a water-propelled rocket.

I’d looked on Craigslist a few times over the spring and summer months, but didn’t find any for sale that I liked. I also looked into dealerships up in Montana, hoping to find an end-of-summer deal, but struck out there as well. Just a few days before our big move, though, I found a listing in the Denver Craiglist for exactly the models I’d been hoping to buy. They were in good shape, had been upgraded a bit, and came with a sweet trailer.

Although we had a busy week (loading, driving, unloading, and sending Zaque on his mission), we decided to take a look anyway. After some discussion and negotiating, they were ours!

La modeled on one of them, although it’s not quite the same when it’s parked in your garage:

She towed them all the way to Montana, behind my big moving truck, and then we watched the weather. It was cold and rainy on our first few days, but today dawned clear and sunny. The forecast called for 60 degrees, and of course the water is around 55 degrees, but with wetsuits that would be enough.

We drove down to Yellow Bay, the nearest put-in point, and maneuvered the trailer into the water. It’s a good thing it’s late in the season, because no one was around to see us botch a few attempts before finally getting everything lined up so the jet skis were in the water. Then we cranked them up and headed out on the water.

La’s is actually a little “better” than mine because it has the Trixx sport package and a few other nice add-ons, but they’re both a ton of fun. It was a bit breezy, so there were waves, and we couldn’t go much above 30mph. At that speed, though, we were literally wave-hopping and catching some air as we cruised around.

Our wetsuits kept us completely comfortable. It was a beautiful day to be on the water.

We were leaving for Idaho the next day, so we had to pack them up and cover them against the impending snowstorm. Hopefully we’re not finished for the season, though…

Old haunts, new haunts

For our last meal in Longmont, Laralee and I celebrated with a lunch at Nicolo’s Pizza.

They’ve been in business for about fifteen of the seventeen years we’ve lived in Longmont. Since they’re only a block away from us (an easy walk) and they have amazing pizza, we’ve been frequent diners there. Their pizza is probably the second-best I’ve ever had (behind Alex’s Pizza in Rolla).

Over the years we’ve come to know the owners, Jean and Kent, as well as their kids Jason and Eric (who now run a separate brewpub in town). We had a great farewell conversation with Jean before heading out.

Once we arrived in Montana, we stopped for lunch at the Lakeview Bar and Grill in Polson. We’d been here back in March when we were first scouting the area, and they have great food. Laralee asked to take my picture as we were leaving:

Our waitress, who we remembered from March, asked if we wanted her to take a picture with both of us. We didn’t, but we introduced ourselves. Her name is Laura, and she welcomed us to the area.

That evening we went to the Old Bridge Pub in Bigfork, where we’d also dined back in March. They have great pizza (not quite as great as Nicolo’s, though).

Since Bigfork is a small town, we decided we’ll visit all of the restaurants in it. It’ll take a little time, but I’m excited to find some new haunts.

The move

After months of planning, and weeks of tough goodbyes, we did it. We moved. We dropped Zaque off at the airport, picked up our truck at U-Haul, and started loading. It took all day, and finally we crammed everything we own into a twenty-foot truck. It was good to get help from a gaggle of friends who stopped by in the evening to load the few remaining pieces of furniture and then toss all the random stuff on top. There was another round of goodbyes, and we went to sleep on the floor of our now-empty house.

Driving a twenty-foot truck, towing my car on a fifteen-foot trailer, was pretty intimidating at first. I took really wide turns in Longmont, although once we hit the interstate it was considerably less stressful. The drive to our new house took us north on I-25 through Wyoming, then west on I-90 through Montana, so it was highway almost the entire way.

Laralee followed in her car, and this was pretty much her view for two straight days:

I was pretty happy when we crossed into our new home state.

There were some adventures pulling into gas stations and maneuvering into a parking spot in a crowded hotel lot, but we made it. When we arrived at the house, it was cold and raining lightly, which isn’t great for unloading.

But we emptied the truck in good time, then loaded it up again with some things left by the former owners that needed to be taken to the dump. After dropping off the truck, I was happy to be in a small, maneuverable vehicle again!

With three grueling days of loading, driving, and unloading, it was a real treat to wake up the next morning and see the amazing view from my new front porch.

Now we have at least a few weeks of unpacking ahead of us, but it’s good to be settled again. Let the adventure begin.

Get ready, Oklahoma

With Alex and Kyra as examples before him, Zaque followed in their footsteps by choosing to serve a mission. This morning we took him to the airport and said our goodbyes.

He looks pretty sharp in that suit! And the haircut helps. But despite his missionary look, he’s still the same goofy Zaque we’ve always known.

Yesterday he told me privately, “I know Mom is going to try to cram 18 years of advice into my head just before I leave.” And sure enough, as we sat at the gate waiting for his flight to board, Laralee gave him some last pieces of advice. Eat your vegetables, drink plenty of water, be nice to your companions, and so on.

Finally it was time. We hugged him and told him we’d see him in two years.

Now he’s Elder Schroeder! I’m sure proud of this fine young man.

Goodbye, couch

I saw this on the internet the other day, and in light of our impending move, it gave me a good chuckle. A young girl wrote a goodbye note for her family’s couch, which was being retired.

In the last few weeks we’ve made plenty of trips to charities, friends’ homes, and the dumpster. To all that furniture we gave away, I say, “I hope you will live a great life”…

Cookies!

Zaque and I have a tradition of making chocolate-chip cookies and delivering them to friends around town. Since both of us are leaving in a few days, we decided to do it one last time. We made a list of our good friends, and since it was kind of long we had to make two batches. He made the first one and showed me his “patented” technique.

Apparently when you add the chocolate chips (he uses the small ones), you lean into the mixer to really get everything churning well.

For my batch, I used the larger (and slightly more bitter) chips. I also tend to have a higher chip-to-dough ratio; in Zaque’s cookies, you may take a bite and not get any chips at all. I feel like that’s just wrong. But anyway, we baked everything and they turned out great.

Since we’ve packed up all our “nice” plastic plates, we didn’t have a way to present them nicely. We ended up shoving them into plastic bags and delivering them. Fortunately the presentation isn’t all that important when you’re getting a surprise bag of freshly-baked cookies.

Zaque’s friend Makenna has asked him for the “secret recipe” several times over the years, so he wrote it for her and included it in the delivery:

I think my favorite part is the measurement of the chips:

You gotta measure the chocolate chips with your soul. Add ’em ’til you FEEL that it’s good.

Interestingly, the “secret recipe” is the Toll House Cookie recipe found on the back of every bag of Toll House chocolate chips… except we seem to use shortening instead of butter, and we add a tiny splash of water. I’m not sure why, but it definitely works because the cookies turn out great.

It was fun to make a round of deliveries one last time. Laralee mentioned that she’s “getting tired of goodbye-ing”. It’s hard to leave behind such good folks. Maybe the next time they enjoy a chocolate-chip cookie, they’ll think of us.

Kyra’s friends

When we moved to Longmont in 2002, we met Hannah and Alex, two girls living on our street who quickly became Kyra’s best friends. They were 4 and 6, respectively, with Kyra in the middle at 5. They grew up together, inseparable, and all became fine young women. Rare was the day when one or both of them weren’t at our house.

Kyra moved away to college, and then served a mission in California, but Hannah and Alex continued visiting. They’d hang out with Laralee, who was essentially their second mom. Heck, sometimes I’d come home from work and Hannah would be on our couch reading a book, but Laralee was gone with Zaque or something. Hannah felt so comfortable in our home that she’d just come over unannounced to spend time with us.

So even though these two are Kyra’s friends, they’re just as much Laralee’s friends. It’ll be sad to leave them. Today they came over for our last pizza and movie night in Colorado (and yes, Kyra’s in Utah at college right now). We had fun watching Harry Potter. Hannah had dropped by earlier in the day to spend the afternoon with Laralee:

It’s been really cool to be a part of their lives and see both of them grow up. We’ll definitely miss our two other daughters.

Last day of “freedom”

Tomorrow Zaque will be set apart as a full-time missionary, and he’ll need to start acting like a missionary. That means he won’t be watching movies or playing video games or doing other activities missionaries aren’t allowed to do while serving. So even though he doesn’t leave until Wednesday, he has a few days living that way before he gets on an airplane to Utah.

Today he asked me whether it’s okay for him to text and Snapchat with his friends over the next few days. I said sure, but that watching movies and playing video games probably won’t work. Then I asked what he’ll do today, and without missing a beat he replied, “watch movies and play video games”.

True to his word, he played video games with friends for fourteen straight hours. Since most of these friends are already at college, I’m not sure how he convinced them to spend their entire Saturday doing that, but I guess he’s pretty convincing.

It’s almost midnight, and he’s still going strong…

Adequate!

In addition to the airline joke, I love the trophy.

348 months

Flashback: September 1990. I was at UMR, brand new to the whole college experience, looking for activities where I could get involved. The resident assistant on my floor, Matt Groves, taught a group of us how to play this sport called ultimate. I’d never heard of it before (nor had any of us, I think) but I really liked it. I wasn’t really very athletic, but ultimate can be played at a variety of athletic and skill levels, so I didn’t feel completely outclassed on the field.

Although Matt only organized that one game, afterward I continued gathering the group together. We’d walk down to Schuman Park, near the residence hall, and play on the small field there. One endzone was marked by a huge oak tree; the other was a swingset. There was a pond on one sideline… and yes, the disc went into the drink far more often than we would’ve liked. I actually have an old photo of one of our games:

You can’t see it in the picture, but I was playing barefoot. I started out that way, and never stopped. Hence, I became “Shoeless Jeff” on the field.

Over my five years of college, I was the guy who was always calling up friends and telling them we were heading out to play. We upgraded to UMR’s athletic fields, which were much better than running into playground equipment (although one time I hit a 55-gallon trash barrel at full speed when I was watching the disc instead of where I was going). UMR didn’t have an official ultimate team, or even an intramural sport, but eventually we had enough “regulars” that we organized some tournament teams and played in Kansas and Indiana.

Once in Colorado, I found a pickup group in Aurora and played there, and a few years later I joined Grass Roots Ultimate in Boulder. I also organized a Longmont pickup group. So many options! In later years I was probably playing ultimate three or four times a week. And through this entire period, from that first day in college to this week in Longmont, I never missed a month. I played at least one day of each month from then until now. Twenty-nine years. 348 months. Straight.

And last night, I played for the last time. After a fabulous afternoon pickup game, I stopped by the Longmont league evening game.

I’d intended to just hang out on the sidelines, talking with friends, but one team was short-handed and needed someone to fill in for missing players. I played that entire game, and then picked up with another team for a few points. It was a beautiful evening, and a lot of fun to play one last time. Then the fields cleared as we headed out.

And that was it. After 348 straight months of ultimate, I’m done. The sport changed my life, although I think more to the point, the people did. There’s something special about ultimate. It’s different than other competitive sports. There’s a deeper, richer connection between players, even when they’re strangers. It’s hard to describe, and it’s something I’ll always treasure.

Thanks for 348 months of memories. Now it’s time for a new adventure.

Those long locks

Laralee has been growing out her hair for many months. I don’t think it’s because she likes it long– in fact, I’m pretty sure she doesn’t like it long– but rather, it’s because she doesn’t want to make a trip to a salon and drop fifty bucks or whatever for a trim.

I happen to love long hair, and I think hers is gorgeous.

But she finally decided it was time to get a trim, and headed over to the salon today. She lost about eight inches of length:

Of course she’s still gorgeous. When I saw it, I told her something like “I really like your new haircut!” to which she replied, “Have you been practicing saying that?” She knows me too well.

One last pickup game

Today was officially “Shoeless Day” at the biweekly Boulder ultimate pickup game. Since it’s my last day playing ultimate in Colorado, several people in the group suggested we have a game where everyone went shoeless. As it turned out, only three or four actually did, but it was still fun to see the group one last time. We had a huge crowd today:

Left to right, top to bottom: Garston, Del, Angus, Dave, Brian, Mike, Tim, some new guy visiting from Wisconsin, another new guy, James, Ken, Sam, Killian, Eric, Nate, Mike, Kevin, Cliff; Rick, Ciarlo, Trevor, Geoff, Tim, Chase, Manoj, Khoi, Eli, Jim, Puneet, Toucan, V.B., John, Jerry; Chan, Gavin, me (hot orange), Chrissy, Malcolm, Larry, Dave, Alec; Zach, Chris.

I think it helped that it was perfect fall weather: one of those beautiful days when it’s great to be running around outdoors. It was fun (and hard) to say goodbye to so many friends, some of whom I’ve known for almost two decades. I hope to organize a pickup group in Montana, but I know it won’t be the same. Boulder ultimate will always have a special place in my heart.

Vexillology

Yesterday I learned a new word: vexillology. It refers to the “scientific and scholarly study of flags”. Yeah, flags.

I learned it because Laralee asked what the Montana state flag looks like, and I showed her:

It’s, umm… something, isn’t it? It looks like it was drawn by a third-grader, which is either absolutely horrible or spectacularly fun. La was surprisingly annoyed by Oro y Plata, which is Spanish for “Gold and Silver” and apparently the state motto. Remember: despite what its license plates say, Montana is the “Treasure State”.

Back to vexillology. This flag was apparently ranked the third worst flag in the fifty states by the North American Vexillological Association. I can only imagine the meeting of NAVA where the members sat around discussing this, compiling a list of the fifty flags and arguing about which was really the worst. Georgia came in dead last, although they’ve since changed their flag (possibly due to the embarrassment of their NAVA ranking?). Nebraska’s flag was voted second-worst, and with a bit of reading I learned that in 2017 one of Nebraska’s state senators introduced legislation to redesign the flag, citing the fact that the flag had flown upside-down at the capitol building for over a week with no one noticing.

In the end, both Laralee and I agree that Colorado’s flag is pretty awesome. It’s simple, has no Spanish (or Latin) phrases, and has meaningful colors (sky, snow, sunshine, red earth).

Look at me, analyzing the flag… maybe I should become a vexillologist!

It’s nice to be loved

This week will be my last hurrah playing ultimate in Colorado. Some of the guys in our pickup group have organized a “Shoeless Day” tomorrow:

Longtime Longmont pickup stalwart, GRU board member, swilling barefoot-running all-around good guy Shoeless Jeff will make his final (outdoor) pick-up appearance tomorrow at Valmont.

While no doubt true that the brutal desolation and loneliness of a long windy dark Montana winter will bring him back soon, and the likelihood that he’s so far from finished packing up his house that he’ll show up again on Tuesday, we should send him off in style tomorrow. Guard him lightly, compliment his errant throws and tentative soft cuts, and let him score at least once.

Bring your old and extra cleats, old smelly GRU shirts and visors, and cracked discs for Shoeless to take with him, box up and move to Montana to start a new pick-up game in Big Sky country.

And a tent. Shoeless is always on the lookout for a good tent to borrow.

I’m looking forward to one last game. And some good heckling.

Faces of Kyra

I stumbled across some pictures of Kyra from a “photo shoot” we did a few months ago. I couldn’t resist making a little collage.

Haircuts

For the last couple of years, my friend RaeAnna has told me I need a new hairstyle. Without directly insulting my barber (Laralee), she’s said things like “You actually want your hair to look like that?” and told me how much better it would look if I’d let her cut it and add some “product”.

She also gives free haircuts to local missionaries, since they don’t really have the money to spend on a “professional” barber (25 bucks for a five-minute trim?). So she agreed to cut Zaque’s hair as well, since he’s about to be a missionary.

Zaque and I took a quick photo before we headed over:

His hair wasn’t nearly as poofy as usual, because he’d just taken a shower and it was still wet and somewhat matted down. But it was pretty much in full ‘fro mode.

We sat down in RaeAnna’s kitchen and she went to work. Zaque’s hair took nearly an hour to finish– she kept trimming this and that.

At one point she’d pretty much shaved the sides, but the top was still long and curly, and he looked somewhat like Titan from Megamind:

Then she went to work on me. She trimmed the sides and back, pretty much like Zaque’s, and then added some “product”. She insists that “even engineers can be hot”.

The results:

Another farewell

Today I bid farewell to my good friend Dave, with whom I’ve enjoyed a thousand lunch conversations over many years.

His startup, KickView, continues to thrive. He started it a few years ago, and in a way I was one of the founders, but at the time I was pretty busy with Zing and couldn’t dedicate enough time to really help him get off the ground. So instead I fell into the role of an advisor, and the two of us talked about strategies and business ideas and all sorts of things. He drew from my experience starting and running a company, and I learned a lot from him along the way. It’s been fun to watch his journey, and I’m sure going to miss those lunch conversations.

The final meeting

Tonight was my last GRU board meeting. I’ve been on the board for the past three years, and before that I was a league coordinator, tournament director, captain, webmaster, official scorekeeper, and a host of other things. This organization has been a huge part of my life for the past twenty years, and it was (as always) bittersweet to bid farewell to the rest of the board.

It’s always amazing to me to see the power that a group of passionate volunteers can have. GRU has come a long way in twenty years, due in large part to the tireless work of the board. I’m leaving it in good hands, but that doesn’t mean I won’t miss being a part of it. Thanks for all the memories, guys.