Every so often, Natalie and I travel to Coffeyville, KS to visit her family for a holiday. I love hanging out with my in-laws. It’s generally an all-around great time of watching movies, eating great food, shopping and engaging with lots of people.

This year was pretty much the same, but 1.) it was an extended visit and 2.) we did a few things we’ve never done there before.

The trip is about a 13-hour drive from our front door to theirs. Normally, that drive is grueling. We’ve found that a great way to make the trip more enjoyable is to stay at a hotel half-way there. This year, we decided to try to make the trip in one day so we wouldn’t lose so much time in traveling. To help pass the time, I downloaded an audio book from to my iPod and we listened to it the whole trip, taking 2-hour driving shifts. That proved to be the best way to make the trip. We arrived refreshed, excited and well-entertained by our story the whole way.

Our first day in town was much like any other visit. We met Gramma and Aunt Gail for lunch and spent the rest of the day visiting with mom and dad, catching up on what’s new and simply relaxing. I have been in need of a hairs cut for a really long time… what. That’s what they call it out here. I’m just trying to fit in.

I went to the Coffeyville barber shop that evening and proceeded to get the worst hairs cut I have ever had in my entire life. It is truly awful. I opened the door next to the spinning pole, walked in and saw Hotdog and Hamburger cutting hairs. It was like stepping back in time.

When my turn was up, I sat in the chair and said to Hotdog, “I usually do kind of a European look. ‘Gimme a number 2 on the back and sides. Leave a little on the top so I can spike it.”

It was the roughest hairs cut ever and I loved every second of it… literally. He was done in under 3 minutes after jerking my head all over the place with his comb, trimming and clipping as fast as lightning and spinning me around in the old, worn, leather “uppy-downy chair.”

There’s a term for it. Clearly, I don’t know it.

The best part was yet to come: I got the hot shaving cream and straight razor treatment, complete with zip-zop sharpening. I’ve never been so scared in my life. It was great.

In the end, my hairs were shorter… and that’s really all I was after. …So I have a few horrible looking spots on my head for a while. Big deal. Bumble & Bumble hair gel covers a multitude of sins… as do hats. The good news is I have that box checked off my chore-list. That bad news was they were a cash-only shop and I live in a cashless society.

“Really? Don’t take a card, huh? No checks? Uh… ok… hang on.”

I had to get cash from my mom in-law… a bit of a humiliating experience.

I have a great idea: let’s never bring that up ever.

The second day we decided to do something a little different. We took on a house-project for mom and dad and ripped out all of the outdated living room carpet to expose the hard-wood floors underneath. Of course, that requires quite a bit of furniture-moving and grunt-work. Here’s a tip: Carpet is heavy. Cut it in small pieces when you remove it. Oh. Everyone in the world already knows that except Paul Yuen? Not surprising.

My main job was to pull up all the old tack-strip around the perimeter. I’m pretty good at it and it keeps me out of everyone else’s way. Unfortunately, I’m not very smart about it and I left my jewelry on while I banged away with a pry bar and hammer. I guess I’ll be sending my onyx ring in to be repaired again for the second time in as many years. I totally shattered the stone… again.

The following day, we made a trip to the big Coffeyville city attraction: WalMart. I kid you not. Where else ya gonna get yer diapers and ammo?

While I was there, there was a display for the new Die Hard summer-release DVD. I remembered liking the original 10-year-old trilogy and heard good things about this year’s release. I bought the multi-pack that had all four movies and that night we had a Die Hard marathon… well, ok… we watched the first two. I forgot how much swearing was in those movies. It was an auditory assault. New item on my Christmas list: a standalone TV Guardian. Even so, I loved the movies; good action and dialogue.

The next day was Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, Natalie’s sisters, Susan and Beth weren’t there with us. They were missed. Gramma came over for turkey with the rest of the fam. GOOD eatin’! Those folks know how to cook a traditional meal: Turkey, green bean casserole, stuffing, mashed potatoes with gravy (sorry Angelene), corn (Susan wasn’t home), and our choice of 4 different pies (cherry, apple, pumpkin and pecan) for dessert. For those of you who know me, you won’t be surprised to hear that I had an extra helping of salad for dessert. For those of you who don’t… I’m not really much of a dessert or bread guy.

Friday, we relaxed and watched another Die Hard movie. We skipped number 3 (Die Hard with a Vengeance) and went right on to number 4 (Live Free or Die Hard). I have to say I was quite pleased. It had less swearing than the first two we’d previously seen and more action than I could have possibly hoped for. Four words accurately describe the movie: they blew it up.

Speaking of “we gonna blow shum shtuff up,” that’s what we did today.

My dad, Dwight, made arrangements for us to go shooting with his buddy, Don, on some private property early this morning. I haven’t shot a real gun since I was about 8.

I learned a lot today: 1.) dad has a helluva lotta guns. He has a couple pistols under his mattress, a few rifles and shotguns propped up by where he sleeps, several in the closet, a few in Matt’s closet and I didn’t realize it, but I’ve been sleeping on a loaded .45 all week long… explains my sore back knots in the shape of a SIG SAUER just under my left shoulder blade. 2.) Had I known how many guns he had, I don’t know that I would have dated Natalie. 3.) I’m a damn good shot.

For having not shot a gun in some 22 years and having the eye-sight of a…. I can’t think of anything that has bad vision….. something with poor eye-sight, I did quite well at about 80 yards.

We shot the .45 pistol, a .22 German Luger, two varieties of .22 rifles and an SKS, complete with bayonet, scope and grenade-launcher (WalMart was just out of grenades, so we didn’t have any… must have been all the Black Friday sales sold ‘em out).

First, I shot the .45. We had a little white bucket out at about 30 yards. By the time I was done, it wasn’t suitable for holding water anymore.

Later, we set up targets at distance and shot at ‘em with the SKS.

Now, folks, I’m a little guy. That gun splits trees. Needless to say, there were several Paul-sized butt-prints in the dirt by the time I had unloaded the clip.

At first, we couldn’t hit anything with it. The scope had just recently been added and “professionally sighted.”

I decided not to trust the scope and use the iron sights. That’s when we discovered how badly off the scope was. We were missing our target by 6-8 feet. Using the iron sights, I was hitting closer to the target by 4 inches. By the end of the day, I had long given up on trying to shoot it. I guess I was just tired of having to be brought back to consciousness after each shot with it.

I had much better luck with the .22 rifles. Sure, they’re wimpy guns and everyone laughs at ‘em because they’re puny… but no one was laughing when we went to go investigate the target and saw all .22 holes in it. Granted, the SKS had taken down the forest surrounding the target.

Good times. Not to worry, I planted acorns.

After shooting, we went back to Don’s house and I learned that they had a couple of .22 pistols for sale (his dad is a licensed dealer): a Ruger MKII target-shooter and a Walther P22. I’ll be honest: I’m really tempted. We have ranges at home where I could shoot and .22 ammo is cheap. I’d have a lot of fun. I have to find out what all the logistics and legalities are of owning/maintaining a pistol before I decide to invest in one. They’re not cheap but they hold and increase in value.

Tonight, we sat around the TV and watched the KU vs Mizzou game. We rooted for KU, but they got stomped. I’m pretty sure they got sacked a few times too (that was for you, Morgan).

Sunday we come back home… and honestly, I’m great with that. I’m starting to feel a little homesick for my friends; specifically for McKeel, Shelby and Lenny. I guess in my mind, they represent church, home and the band.

I’ll be happy to see you guys again… and Kansas, let’s do this again sometime.

Relearn to drive

As I was poking around some of my favorite marketing websites, I came across an old favorite:  Juxt.  These guys have been around forever.

One of the projects they are showcasing is a project they did for BMW called, “Relearn to drive.”

As is common to their caliber of work, it’s a fabulous piece.  I was immediately sucked in by the little videos they produced at the introduction.

After watching (and enjoying) each one, I hit the “Undo the damage” link which took me to what they are selling:

BMW has a performance driving school (with multiple locations around the country) where they teach people how to take full control of a car and push its performance to the limit.  In the process of learning to drive like a pro, you get to roast the tires and swing the car around wildly… every teenage male’s dream.

How much does this dream cost?  Welll, it depends on how many days you want to attend, but to enjoy the full experience, you’ll be looking at dropping around 3 G’s.

That tag comes attached to knowledge: the knowledge of how to shorten your response time, handle the car in dangerous situations and squeeze every bit of performance out of the HP the car can give.  In the process, you’ll have an immeasurable amount of fun.

Here’s the great news:  they let you drive brand new top-class BMW cars the entire time and roast as many tires as you can.

Sounds like a dream come true.  It’s an incredible product with some ingenious marketing.  Bravo, BMW & Juxt.

Not a great morning

So this morning is Thursday morning… which for me means that I get up at 6:00am and go to my BNI meeting. Normally, I have a bit of a hard time getting up early in the morning on Thursdays but today I was excited to go to my meeting because I had some really quality referrals to pass.

I got up, showered, dressed and went out to my car to find the battery dead. C’mon!

I figured I must have left the lights on or something… but to my surprise, they were off. I usually leave the GPS on because it has never proven to be a drain on the battery and if I just leave it on, I don’t have to wait for it to get a signal lock.

“No big deal,” I think to myself. “Natalie’s car is next to mine in the garage. I’ll just pull my jumper cables out of my trunk, jump my car and go to my BNI meeting.”

So I try the trunk release, but, naturally, it doesn’t work because the battery’s dead. I guess the internal trunk release is an electrical switch in the 2000 VW Jetta. No biggie. I have my keys. I’ll just open it with the key.

I walk around back and pop the key in, give it a turn…. nothing. Try again and again and again… nothing. I guess the key lock is an electrical switch too. LAME.

So, I think to myself, “alright… I bought two pairs of high-quality $50 jumper cables… one for my car and one for Natalie’s. I just grab hers.”

I get into her trunk and root around for a few minutes only to find that her jumper cables aren’t in her trunk.

Frustrated, I walk in, resolved not to speak in an angry voice as I ask her if she knows where her jumper cables are.

Her response is, “we gave ’em to Morgan.

Some time ago, Morgan needed some jumper cables and since we had two sets, and only one car at the time, I loaned him one.

When I finally ended up getting a second car, I got ’em back.

Not wanting to explain all of that to her because I knew it would evoke “angry voice,” I said, “no… I got ’em back… where are yours?”

She thought for a moment and said, “I don’t know.”

I went back outside thinking, “well, I know I have jumper cables in MY trunk, but I can’t get into it… ” I decided I was going to have to do what I was hoping not to: I would have to climb into my trunk from the back seats.

A few moments later, my legs were sticking out of the sides, flailing around as I bumped around in my dark trunk, trying to find my jumper cables.

Turns out, I had put them in with the spare tire so they wouldn’t be in the way. That would normally be no problem if I were coming at them from the back of the car, but since I was laying in the trunk, trying to get to them from the front, i was actually laying on the panel I needed to get under to access the jumper cables.

How do you get your arm under the thing you’re laying on, manage to grab the thing that’s under it and not break your arm?

You break the thing you’re laying on.

I snapped a corner of the trunk’s platform so it would bend up and give me access to the jumper cables which I then proceeded to use to jump my car.

After starting up the car, however, I started looking for clues as to why the battery would have died. I wasn’t convinced that a GPS system pulled enough juice from the battery to completely kill it. I then noticed that the brake lights were on… though I wasn’t stepping on the brake… ok… if the brake lights won’t turn off, that means two things:

1.) I have to get it fixed… immediately.

2.) I won’t be making my meeting.

I thought about my 7:30am options. Who will be open at 7:30? Who can take my car today? Who isn’t going to charge me an arm and a leg?

A thought entered my mind: “You can have two, but you can’t have all three.”

It seemed to me that time was the essential element. The cost would be high, but for that we have a credit card… a painful thought since I just paid it all off.

I headed off to the VW dealership. They open at 7am and have always been able to accommodate me. Additionally, they have wireless access in their lobby which means I could work there if I needed to.

Wincing at the thought of dollar bills flying out of my wallet, I drove to the dealership.

I met the office manager at the VW desk and explained my situation and why I was leaving the engine running. After what seemed like an eternity of tapping on the computer keyboard, he looked up at me with a smile and said, “I have good news. This won’t cost you a cent. The brake light relay is on recall. Just give us a great review when the VW warranty people call you to follow up.”

With a smile, I said, “will do.”