First visitors of the season

Summer has finally rolled around, and it’s the season for people to come visit us. Our friend Cindy from Colorado dropped in for a few days with her kids, and we had a grand time.

One thing you can always count on: kids love jet skiing!

We spent hours on the water, and I’m pretty sure these two would’ve stayed for hours more. Reese was a little unsure at first, but grew bolder and said he liked going fast. And from the start, Brooke loved punching the throttle and hitting all the bumpy waves. She almost threw me and Reese into the drink when she was driving.

We stopped at Burger Town and enjoyed some decidedly mediocre burgers (although my chicken was actually quite good).

Later, when the kids learned that we enjoyed Skull King as much as they did, we had to crack out the game. Sure enough, it was a brutal, cutthroat game… just like Skull King should be.

It was so much fun to see them and hang out for a couple of days before they trucked back to Colorado. I suspect we’ll see them again in the next few years…

It’s always harder than it seems

When it comes to house projects, things that seem to be straightforward have a knack for turning into something more difficult. I’m a smart guy, but sheesh, simple five-minute wiring jobs become hour-long exercises in frustration. Replacement parts don’t fit like they should. There isn’t quite enough paint. I don’t have the right tool. The list goes on. At this point I often start a job with the expectation that it’ll take longer than I’d like, and be harder than I think.

Take the hot tub as the latest example. It’s nineteen years old, and I don’t think the former owners did a lot of maintenance on it. Before using it for the first time, I had to replace some parts and do an overall tune-up. But hey, eventually it worked, and it’s been pretty solid ever since. Well, the paint has been chipping for a while, and I figured a little touch-up would be in order. I picked out a nice grey color and sat down to paint the sides. Of course, painting over chipped paint is a terrible idea– the new paint will just flake off with the old. With a heavy sigh, I started scraping off the old. It was then I realized the old siding– which is a pretty nice redwood– was rotting and falling apart. In all fairness, sixteen years without maintenance will do that.

A bit of online research led me to a hot tub supplier who sells the siding for this ancient model. But the cost is just shy of $600. Per side. No thanks. We headed to Lowe’s and picked out some siding, then cut it to size.

The paint soaked right in, and it was a quick job to get these new sides looking good.

Next step: remove all the old siding. Some of it was so rotten it crumbled. Yikes. Definitely a good call to replace it!

We installed the new pieces, dismayed to find the cuts were off by about an eighth of an inch on every side. Pepper used a hand file (yes, a hand file) to shave off that eighth-inch on each one while I positioned and screwed in the boards.

Back to my introduction: a project that I’d originally expected to take maybe an hour ended up taking five, including a trip to Kalispell for the wood. The good news, however, is that it looks really sharp now.

All’s well that ends well, they say, but wow, just one of these times I’d like a house project to go to plan…

Solstice sunset

Today’s the longest day of the year, and I still love how late the sun sets here in Montana. I felt like it was cause for celebration, so I organized a “solstice party” (Dirk referred to it jokingly as my “pagan ritual”). I wasn’t quite sure what to do at a solstice party– other than perform pagan rituals, I suppose– so Pepper and I bought a ton of ice cream and toppings, and shared them with about 60 people we’d invited to the party. Yes, we got some looks at Walmart when we pushed our cart out the door carrying twenty half-gallons of Tillamook’s best, along with multiple bottles of Hershey’s syrup, caramel, marashino cherries, and sprinkles. It was a great party.

As we were driving home from the party, it was about 9:30 and the sun was just setting over Flathead Lake. Obviously we had to stop for a photo.

What an awesome sight! The sun gently slipped below the horizon.

A little while later, as we were sitting around at home, we marveled at the light at 10:00:

There were still hints of light in the sky at 11:00!

Although I’m sad that the days will now be getting shorter, it’s always fun to enjoy this one moment.

A little less mint green

The former owners of our house loved the color mint green. All of the walls in the main house– all of them— were painted mint green. The carpeting– again, all of it— was mint green. The concrete in the driveway and stairs is tinted mint green. Their couches were mint green. And so on.

Before we even moved into the house, we replaced all the carpeting. And a few months after moving in, we had the main house repainted, which was a huge leap forward in de-mint-greening the place. Today we took a smaller step by repainting the room we call the Great Hall. It’s the entryway all our guests see when they come in from the driveway, and due to some electrical work we’ve had done, portions of the drywall had to be replaced and re-textured. That meant re-painting, since there was no way I was going to take a wall sample to Sherwin-Williams and have them match the mint.

Fortunately it’s not a big space, and we had some paint left over from our original job. We taped everything off and went to work. A couple hours later, the mint green had become a light beige.

The photos don’t really do it justice, due to the lighting, but it brings a little joy to my soul to be a bit less minty.

Wild Horse and Deer Island

Across Flathead Lake from us is Wild Horse Island, a great hiking spot. Today the weather was warmer than it’s been in a while– I think the ol’ mercury actually hit 70 at one point. We decided it was time for an outing on the water. We fired up Trixie and Lil’ Pepe (our jet skis) and headed across the lake.

There’s a network of trails on the 2,200-acre island, and we headed up our favorite. Fortune was on our side, because we spotted two of the four wild horses who live full-time on the island. Pepper pointed them out (although the camera angle doesn’t line up quite right).

That little white speck left of her hand is one of the horses; the other is a bit farther to the left. There are signs posted on the island warning people against approaching the horses. I doubt there’s actually much danger, but we didn’t feel like walking all the way down to the forest to pet them anyway, so we continued along the trail.

The scenery was great, and we could hear various boats zipping around the water surrounding the island. The temperature might’ve been a bit chilly for playing in the lake– air temperature aside, the water is still around 50 degrees– but it was perfect hiking weather!

To our surprise, we stumbled across four deer along the trail. Three are shown in the left of the photo below; the fourth is off to Pepper’s right.

Of course this begs the question: how do the deer get to the island? It’s separated from the shores of Flathead Lake by quite an expanse of water. The closest shoreline is almost a mile and a half from the island. Did the deer swim over? Why? The mind reels.

Anyhow, it was a ton of fun and we’re excited to visit again soon and sample a few other trails.

3,388 miles

With seminary over for the semester, it felt like summer was officially on. We’d been watching Ollie for a couple of weeks, and now it was time to head south. We packed up the car and started the drive to Utah. But we had bigger plans than just Utah.

Of course we did things like tow Zack around the neighborhood on his penny board, and of course there were plenty of board games. Skull King is a perennial favorite.

We’ve decided it’s a lot like Monopoly, in that it’s unpredictable and infuriating. And we love it.

Ollie continued being his adorable self, although now it was nice to be able to pawn him off on Mom and Dad when he was grumpy and tired.

After a few days there, it was time to put some more miles on the car. About a month ago, Kyra had mentioned that she was thinking of taking a road trip to California, just to relax on the beach. Pepper and I decided to take her up on the offer, and the three of us planned a beach trip. Zack couldn’t join us because he’s still not allowed to leave the state of Utah, and Alex and Kaitlyn had just enjoyed three weeks of vacationing and needed to get back to their jobs.

First stop: Las Vegas. It’s an easy drive from Provo, and a nice stop. We haven’t been there in a while. Pepper and I enjoyed a late-night walk along the Strip.

Everything is bigger in Vegas, it seems. I love all the lights at night (and frankly, during the day it looks downright pedestrian.)

The fountains at the Bellagio are Pepper’s favorite attraction, so we had fun watching them for a bit.

The next day we made a stop at the Las Vegas Temple, which was gorgeous. As was my daughter!

The temperature hit 105 degrees that day. We were sort of longing for the cool 60-degree weather in Montana! But hey, it is a desert, after all. With another Vegas night under our belts, we climbed back into the car and continued south toward San Diego and the beach Kyra had been dreaming of. We hit Ocean Beach that afternoon. It was cloudy and 60 degrees. Better than 105, unless you’re hoping for a hot sunny beach day!

Friends of ours had recommended a restaurant called Sushi Ota. They said it was the best sushi around, so we made a reservation for 5pm and pulled up a few minutes early. The restaurant hadn’t opened yet, and it was in a dark corner of a non-descript strip mall. It didn’t seem promising. At the stroke of 5, though, we headed to the door and noticed a whole crowd of other people climbing out of their cars and doing the same. By 5:05 the place was packed. It was actually kind of funny. I saw a family come to the front desk and get turned away because they didn’t have a reservation, and the owner simply said they couldn’t accommodate anyone all night– they were completely booked. And this was a Wednesday night!

It proved to have amazing sushi, at least according to Pepper and Kyra. I don’t do sushi.

Back on Ocean Beach, we walked the pier and admired the surfers who were working the waves in the cold water.

Undaunted by the chilly weather, the next day we spent some time at Torrey Pines Beach. There were amazing views from atop the cliffs.

The beach stretches for miles, so we spent some time wandering along it.

No more sushi… it was time for a good old burger. We went to Hodad’s, a little hole-in-the-wall place in Ocean Beach that we’d visited seven years ago. It was still a hoppin’ place, packed to the gills, and serving the same messy but amazing burgers. And their decor didn’t disappoint. In the years since we were last there, they’ve added a little VW bus completely covered in stickers.

After stuffing ourselves with burgers, fries, and mammoth shakes, we walked along the beach again. The surfers were still at it.

The weather forecast continued to call for cloudy, 60-degree days. Kyra was disappointed that it wasn’t proper beach weather. After some thought, we figured the next day we’d head north to Los Angeles, where it would be sunny and 80-something. Along the way we stopped at the San Diego Temple. What a magnificent building! It’s one of the most well-known temples, and for good reason.

Here are my two favorite beautiful women, in front of this beautiful place.

We spent the day at Long Beach, just being lazy. That was what Kyra had been after all along. After a dinner at the Belmont Pier, we returned to San Diego. Pepper was tired after a long day, but Kyra and I figured on our last night we needed to return to Hodad’s for one more of their legendary shakes.

Now that’s the way to make a shake! It seems like about a half-gallon of ice cream, overflowing the huge steel cup. Sweet.

Our trip plan called for a one-day drive all the way back to Provo, and we made good time. We stopped in Las Vegas for lunch at Maggiano’s, which is my (and Kyra’s) favorite Italian restaurant. I haven’t had their lasagna for over three years, and it was just as good as I remembered.

Vegas was again around 110 degrees, but somewhere in southern Utah we recorded our record temperature for the trip: a sweltering 117 degrees.

Once back in Provo, we spent a few more days with the kids before returning to Montana. All told, we were gone for sixteen days and had a great time with everyone. According to our odometer, we covered 3,388 miles.

As a side note, we did all of this in our Tesla. People are always asking us about how electric cars handle long road trips, and I can say this one was a smashing success. Although we had to stop occasionally to recharge, it wasn’t any more often than we would’ve had to hit gas stations. And we just laughed at the six-dollar-a-gallon gas prices in California as we pulled up to Tesla Supercharger stations that cost about a third as much for the equivalent mileage. Though Teslas are uncommon in Montana, they’re everywhere in California. I can see why.

We have a few other massive road trips planned for the year, and I’m excited for them. What a great start to the summer!

Penny boarding at 25mph

A few years ago, Zack and Kyra asked if I’d tow them around the neighborhood on a sled attached to the back of my car. (There was snow on the road.) I obliged, and we had a great time cruising around Serenity Circle.

Tonight, Zack asked if I’d tow him on a penny board around the neighborhood. The asphalt is really smooth, making it prime territory for a skateboard. Again I obliged, and he held onto the side of my car (well, technically his car now) as we cruised. These photos don’t really do it justice, because it looks like he’s just standing beside a stationary car. But if you look closely at his hair you’ll see it blowing back in the wind.

At one point I was doing about 25mph, which is probably far too fast for this neighborhood– cars can pop out of garages or blind corners at any time. He said it felt like around 40mph. I may be 50, and he may be 20, but that doesn’t mean we can’t act like a couple of 15-year-olds.

And yes, we got some strange looks from a few people who were walking outside.

Two weeks with a one-year-old

Alex and Kaitlyn headed out on a cruise, and left their offspring with us. Sure, we’re experienced and amazing parents, but sheesh, it’s been like twenty years since we had a one-year-old in our care for more than a few hours at a stretch.

Fortunately being a parent is much like riding a bike, in that you don’t really forget how to do it, and at times you crash spectacularly. Ollie seemed to have a great time with us. Part of it, we decided, was the simple fact that we have so much space. Compared with a tiny college apartment, our house– and the expansive yard surrounding it– probably seems like an endless vista of possibilities to someone who’s less than two feet tall.

He enjoyed riding on our backs as we hiked the driveway and did chores…

One day as I was destroying the yellow menace in our yard, he was following me around and picking a few of the dandies himself. At one point, though, he apparently felt like it had been too much walking, so he plopped down in the grass and just sat there with an angry expression.

(Yes, our grass is obscenely tall… we mowed it the next day.)

As required by law, grandparents are known for spoiling their grandchildren, and we did plenty of that. He was happy at mealtime when he could enjoy bowls of mac and cheese, mixed with the occasional Cheeto or handful of chocolate chips.

He even endured a ten-hour drive back home to Utah, sitting in his car seat with a look of occasional wonder mixed with some zoned-out stares out the window. After arriving at the villa, he actually climbed back into his car seat (which was sitting in the garage) and attempted to buckle himself in!

Although we didn’t enjoy waking up at 5:30 every morning when he’d decided sleepy time was over, and our productivity took a nosedive, it was a blast to have him around for a couple of weeks. Grandparenting is cool.