2024 June Update

What’s Going On:
June went by just as fast as May. I’m sensing a pattern in 2024 as the days blend together, and the weekends go by WAY too quickly. Our office was closed on July 4th and 5th (and I took the 3rd off as a PTO day). So, at least, I feel like I’ve gotten a break. I have a busy couple of weeks at work coming up that I need to prepare for.

I just realized that in June, I had lived in the same house for 20 years. It doesn’t seem like yesterday, but I was surprised to see it was 20 years ago. I’m doing everything I can to pay off this place before I even think about retiring. There is nothing like NOT having a house payment when you decide to give up the 9-5 grind. I don’t see myself retiring 100% anytime soon, but not having a house payment gives you more options to do something different.

Luckily, I moved from a career that could be a daily grind (IT Consulting) to something I enjoy (Operations). I’m still involved in the IT aspects of the company, but I like the other parts, like organizational operations and HR the most. We’re moving our office in October, and that’s a project I enjoy being involved in as well.


What I’m Buying:
If you’ve never tried a shampoo bar, it’s a game changer. It’s like a bar of soap, but for your hair, it’s much easier to travel with than liquid shampoo. C.O. Bigelow sells the Badger brand shampoo bar, and I ordered one a few months ago.

As soon as I used it for the first time at home, I ordered another one for my DOP kit. They seem to be out of it at the moment, but I was able to find it on Amazon at the link above.

Speaking of DOP Kits, I ordered the Tom Bihn Standard Spiff Kit (in Sangria 210 Cerylon) for my shorter trips in June. I have an awesome canvas DOP kit that I use on longer trips, but for 2-3 nights away, I wanted something a little smaller as I have learned how to pack lighter and NOT check a bag. In fact, I traveled over a week in Thailand last February with only a carry-on and a personal item. My Switzerland/Paris/London trip last September taught me never to check a bag again if I could help it.

I had never heard the term “Kitchen Candle” before reading this article in Food and Wine. I ordered a Vanilla Kitchen Candle from Amazon, and there really IS a difference! The scent is a lot less strong and helps cover up those smells left over from the last dish you cooked. I’m a fan and will keep one of these around from now on.

I love my flashlights, and I finally pulled the trigger on the (newish) Olight Arkfeld Pro. It has upgraded specs from the original Arkfeld (now in my car), but now it’s “Pro” and has a green laser! This one is now in my EDC because you never know when you need to laser-point something. 🙂


What I’m Eating:
I watched a YouTube Video from America’s Test Kitchen about Cast Iron Pizza a few weeks ago. I love pizza and had to try this out. Let’s just say I’ve fixed two in the last two weeks, and I’m never going back to frozen or delivery. The cheater’s move is to purchase pre-made pizza dough (and sauce) from Fresh Thyme. It saves you a lot of time, and they both taste delicious.

I was in Huntington, Indiana, the other day and finally got a chance to try the tenderloin at Nicks Kitchen. The place is pretty small, and they had a decent lunch crowd. I sat at the lunch counter and placed my order (with pickles, mayo, mustard, and onions).

This sandwich did not disappoint, and it lived up to the hype! The crinkle-cut fries (with Mama Selita’s Jalapeno Tomato Ketchup) and freshly made iced tea rounded out the meal. The total price was around $20 with a tip. Service was attentive, and I’d 100% return here again when I was in the area.


What I’m Watching:
I started the latest season of The Bear, and it’s just not holding my attention. The other two seasons were just OK. It’s just not living up to the hype for me. I do enjoy the chef cameos and the random Easter eggs sprinkled throughout the shows, but I’m not sure I’ll finish it any time soon.


What I’m Reading:
I just finished a 13-hour audiobook by A. American called Going Home. It’s the first book in The Survivalist Series (I’m looking forward to starting book two called Surviving Home. I didn’t realize I liked the dystopian genre, but I enjoyed this book. In fact, I decided to start watching “The Last of Us” on HBO because of it. I’m only 1 episode in, but I really like it so far.

I tried Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited 30-day trial but can’t justify the $11 a month when I have had good luck getting books from the local library using Hoopla and Libby. That’s where I got the Going Home audiobook (for free).


What Else:
Chat GPT released a desktop app for the Mac, and I have been playing around with it to see if it’s of any use. So far, when it comes to writing, I’ve found Grammarly to be easier to use, but at $150 a year, I might not be renewing. Some AI features in an upcoming MacOC release will render Grammarly an expensive add-on that will probably no longer be needed.


And Finally…
The most significant Security Flaw in North America

2024 May Update

What’s Going On:
WHERE did May go? I’m sitting here today doing my weekly Review, and it finally hit me that it’s JUNE (and halfway through June at that)!


What I’m Buying:
My Everyday Carry (EDC) is pretty standard: wallet, watch, keys, phone, knife, and light. Sometimes, I pocket some pepper spray, depending on the situation. The individual items rotate (like a dive watch vs. an Apple watch or a money clip vs. a wallet), but they’re always consistent and in their respective pockets.

My blade of choice this last year has been the 945 Mini Osborne (in Green Aluminum). It’s a great knife and has held up well for daily carry. But it’s a little on the heavy side when wearing lightweight clothing.

Mini Osborne

While walking back to the car from the Broad Ripple Art Fair, we stopped at Rusted Moon Outfitters to look around (and to see if they still had their 20% off sale going on). I missed the sale but still walked out with a new (and much lighter) Benchmade. The Mini Bugout (CF-Elite) is a perfect summer pocket carry since it only weighs 1.5oz. The weight saving comes from the Carbon fiber-reinforced scales. Add to that a Cerakote blade & you’re looking at a nice low-profile and versatile slicer.

Mini Bugout

The Mini Bugout needed to be broken in a bit to get that trademark Benchmade open/close action, but it didn’t take long, and it’s been in my pocket every day since.


What I’m Eating:
Babish Culinary Universe has been posting some interesting “Ranking Every…” videos lately, and one caught my eye: Ranking 46 Kinds of Ramen. If you’ve visited an Asian Speciality store, you have undoubtedly seen the mind-numbing combinations and variety of Ramen. We’re not talking about the standard Top Ramen found at the local Stop-and-Shop for $0.50 a pack.

Spoiler Alert, his favorite turned out to be Buldak Quattro Cheese Ramen Hot Chicken Flavor. I turned to Amazon to help me find it.

Spotted when I visited Thailand in February 2024

This stuff is GOOD! It’s like Kraft Mac & Cheese powder meets ramen noodles, but it also has another pouch of flavor that brings the heat. I must warn you, this stuff is HOT! I used half the hot packet on my first bowl and regretted it immediately. I backed off quite a bit the next time I fixed it, and it was a delicious bowl of instant spicy cheesy ramen!

I thought the packaging looked familiar, and I went back and looked through my Thailand Trip photos from earlier this year. Sure enough, I had sent the picture above to my son while I was there.

If you’re into Instant Ramen, I recommend checking out the Buldak Quattro Cheese Ramen Hot Chicken Flavor. If you do, let me know what you think!

If you’re looking for a good quality lunch, I recommend you check out Slapfish in the Fishers District. I’ve gone there for lunch the past couple of Fridays (working from home) and had some really good fish and chips! Lunch out for under $20? I’ll take it.

Lastly, the old O’Charley’s in Fishers has been turned into a Sports Bar called Walk-Ons. We visited a few weeks ago to try out the Shrimp PoBoys. They were pretty tasty. We were looking for a substitute for B’s Po Boy, who used to be in Fountain Square Pre-COVID. These were very close with the bread (from New Orleans) being the missing ingredient (although the hoagie roll at Walk-ons is decent). For a basic Po Boy, they scratch that itch. In fact, I went back the following week and got another one for lunch! The sleeper item on the menu at Walk-Ons is the HUSH PUPPIES! Get them as an app or a side & thank me later.


Where I’ve Been:
The first weekend in May found me in Marion, IN, attending a small regional Amateur Radio swap meet. I didn’t have very high expectations, but it turned out to be a nice show with a few radio guys I’ve talked to on the air and was able to meet for the first time. I also got a good deal on some antennas to use with my receiving equipment (scanners and stuff).

Of course, in May, you go out to the track! I was out there for some work events & didn’t go to the race. It ended up raining & delaying everything anyway, so that would have been an awful time at IMS this year. I ended up watching it on TV like everyone else when they lifted the blackout. Indy Car will be on Fox next year & I’m hearing people say the Indy 500 will be televised live. I’ll believe it when I watch it.

At the end of May I went camping with a good friend of mine down at Hardin Ridge. We had a good time catching up and playing around with some Amateur Radio equipment once the sun went down.

Lastly, I checked out the Fishers Farmers Market a few Saturdays ago. The markets keep getting better! I walked away with a package of pepperoni Rolls from one of the Amish vendors. They were really good!


What I’m Reading:
Jenny Lawson is back with another introspective into her life called Broken (in the best way possible). It’s been a great read so far. I got about 25% through it in the first sitting. It can be a little dark as she walks you through her mental and physical disorders, but she has a lot of laugh-out-loud moments that make the book a must-read. Her previous books have been just as enjoyable to read as well. If you’re looking for a light-hearted look at life from someone with a very active imagination, Jenny might be an author you’d like to read!


What Else:
That’s about it for May. It went WAY too fast & June is already half over. The weather is finally catching up to us, with 90+ degree days in the forecast for the next couple of weeks. A group of us are going over to Lucas Oil Stadium to watch the Olympic Swim Trials. We were able to get suite tickets, so that should be enjoyable. We also arranged a behind-the-scenes tour to see how they pulled this event off. I should have some pictures in the next blog post.


And Finally…
The maddening mess of airport codes.

2024 March Update

What’s Going On:
It’s hard to believe it’s April already. We’re a few days from the big solar eclipse that’s been in the news for a while now. As of today, it’s supposed to be partly cloudy on April 8, with a slight chance of rain. This might be a bust!


What I’m Buying:
There were no big purchases last month, but I did get a hell of a deal on an Arlo hard-wired Video doorbell. I just installed it last weekend, and I wish I had had one of these a while ago. It works a lot better than I expected, and for $30, I think it was one of the best purchases so far this year.


What I’m Eating:
We ate a LOT of Thai food last month since the recipes were still fresh and the ingredients plentiful from my visit to Saraga. The Costco-stocked garage freezer has been getting a workout lately, too. It took a while to find one during COVID-19, but having some extra freezer storage was a great purchase.

On my way back from camping last weekend, I stopped by a “Hucks” gas station in Paoili, Indiana, and picked up a Spicy Chicken Sandwich for brunch. It was much spicier than I expected, but I hit the spot. I’ll buy another one next time I pass a Hucks!

We finally tried Noah Grant’s in Zionsville last month. I have heard good things about it for a while now & we finally made it over there.

It’s primarily a seafood restaurant with steaks, sushi, and salads. We ordered the calamari, split a wedge salad, and had scallops and crab cakes for our entrees. It was all very well prepared, and the service was spot on. It was even half-price night for wine, so we picked out a nice Pino Grigio to go with our meal.


Where I’ve Been:
I took advantage of the warm spell and went camping last Friday night in my favorite spot in Southern Indiana. Indian-Celina Lake had just opened for the season, and several sites were unavailable for reservation due to a bug in the system, so the place was pretty quiet, with only six other campsites occupied that night.


What I’m Watching:
Somebody Feed Phil is back on Netflix! I wasn’t expecting any new episodes after the last season, so that was a pleasant surprise. Mr & Mrs Smith on Amazon has been surprisingly good as well. It’s loosely based on the movie with the same name, but it’s a series.


What I’m Reading:
I just finished “The Art of Invisibility” by Kevin Mitnick. While it was a little dated, it had some good information about how to protect yourself online.

I just started the book “The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11” by Garrett M. Graff and could not put it down. It’s a fascinating account of the lives of hundreds of people who were directly impacted by the 9/11 terrorist attack.


What Else:
I took some Ham Radio gear with me on the camping trip and participated in an activity called Parks on the Air (POTA). The goal is to set up a simple station and make a minimum of 10 contacts with other radio operators. I had 35 contacts Friday night and exactly 10 Saturday morning (including Alaska!) before I broke camp down and headed home.


And Finally…
A few weeks ago, I read the long-form opinion piece in the New York Times called “At the Brink.” It was a fascinating piece about the threat of using nuclear weapons today. It has great writing and interactive graphics to along with the subject material.

See you in a few weeks!

2024 February Update

What’s Going On:
I just got back from a 10-day visit to Thailand! It was a LOT of flying (24 hours each way) but worth every minute of the journey once I arrived. I have a 2-part blog post I’m working on this month and should have the first part out in the next week or so.

March is somewhat of a quiet month, but as the temps warm and spring gets closer every day, it’s time to start planning some outdoor activities. I reserved a campsite for an overnight trip later this month to try my hand at a Ham Radio Parks on the Air activation. This combines my love of the outdoors with my newly refreshed passion for Ham Radio.


What I’m Buying:
Woot! is an overstock site connected with Amazon, and it occasionally has some really good deals. Earlier in February, I bought a refurbished Dyson V10 Animal for less than half the cost of a new unit. It’s an older model but better than the V6 I purchased years ago. It arrived in generic packaging, but there was no indication the unit had even been turned on, let alone used at any time. I was immediately impressed with the increased performance of the V10 and am very happy with the purchase. The V6 still has some life, so it will be used for smaller house tasks, including cleaning the cars.


What I’m Eating:
Lots of Thai food while on my trip. I flew Turkish Airlines, and their in-flight meals were very tasty. I was pretty impressed with the quality and quantity of the food served while we cruised at 35,000 feet. It was funny to see the standard USA chains on my layover in Istanbul. Burger King & McDonalds were prominently placed through the airport and had a lot of customers.

I went almost two weeks without eating American or processed foods and could feel a difference in just a few days. For some reason, I always assumed Smoothies all had dairy (something I avoid) and quickly learned that was not true. I enjoyed several fruit smoothies while abroad and also enjoyed their incredibly low price. We’ll see how well my blender holds up after my next smoothie supply run to Costco. I might be in the market for a Vitamix in the future…


Where I’ve Been:
I saved about $1000 on my airfare (and a 2-hour flight leg at each end) by flying out of Detroit. It’s only a 3.5-hour drive from my house and was worth it. I used some of the savings to upgrade my seats for the 4 flight legs. More on that in a future post…

I only had one stop in Istanbul, Turkey, before I went to Bangkok, Thailand. Once in Bangkok, I met my brother, and we took a short flight up to Chiang Mai, where we stayed for most of the visit.

Toward the end of my trip, we returned to Bangkok for a few days before I hopped on an early morning flight to return to the US.

I returned to Detroit via Istanbul again and landed around 7:30 pm. Customs was a snap, and I was returning to Indy by 9 pm. I arrived home after midnight and was still pretty awake, even though I had been up for approximately 36 hours. Once settled, I slept like a rock and enjoyed the extra day of PTO on my return. Adjusting back to Indiana time was more complicated than I thought, considering I didn’t have any issues adjusting to the 12-hour time change in Thailand.


What I’m Watching:
I downloaded a lot of content to my iPad Pro for the travel legs and consumed quite a bit. YouTube always has something to watch, and I wanted to watch a few movies on Netflix. Being able to download content to your device is a great feature that I wish more streaming services would provide. The in-flight entertainment was available, but I only used it once to watch a soccer match live at 38,000 feet.


What I’m Reading:
I also read a lot while held captive in the air. I have a bad habit of pinning articles to “read later,” and I had a lot to choose from. I also worked on a few books using the Amazon Kindle. The Art of Invisibility by Kevin Mitnick kept me entertained for a few hours before I switched over to a copy of Essential Thailand by Fodor’s Travel Guides.


And Finally…
This was quite a mystery. How does a 200-foot broadcast radio tower disappear without a trace? Check the comments on the article for details (and the answer to the mystery!).

2023 Week 27 – Gettin’ Stuff Done

What’s Going On:
It’s going to be a busy week as people return from vacations and deadlines start to loom. Last week was a 3-day week, and with so many people out of the office, it was a good time to get caught up on some low-priority tasks and prep for some big meetings coming up next week.

I’m still using a combination of Todiost for work tasks, Apple Reminders for personal tasks, and Evernote for capturing everything else. It’s worked very well this last year at my new job, and if it ain’t broke… The Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology, first released in 2001, is still the key to my productivity.


What I’m Eating:
I received my order from Enso Supergreens late last week. I will agree with the review I read leading me to this AG-1 alternative. Supergreens is a VERY fine powder that mixes very well with liquid. I’ve been using Oat Milk and a Milk Frother I picked up from Amazon, but any shaker-style bottle will work.

Once mixed, Supergreens has a creamy, minty & slightly sweet taste. It reminds me of a melted Shamrock Shake from McDonalds. It’s also a lot less grainy than the AG-1 samples I previously tried. This is something I can see myself drinking daily and actually enjoying it. Eventually, Supergreens could replace the daily multivitamin and probiotic I’ve been taking for the past year. I’ll report back in a few months and let you know if I’m still drinking it.


Room Service on Wheels, a delivery-only service in Fishers, has expanded its location and opened up a brewery called King Jugg Brewing Company with a lot of outdoor seating. I visited this week and found they didn’t have any of their beers available yet (next week, I was told), but I stuck around for lunch.

I had anticipated getting their chopped salad, which looked very good on the menu, but I pivoted last minute and went for the Tenderloin.

I was told the Tenderloin is marinated in buttermilk, and each one is hand-breaded to order. It arrived piping hot, fully dressed with LTMOP and a side of house-made chips. A little piece was hanging out the side of the bun, and I gave it a quick sample. DELICIOUS! Nice, lightly seasoned breading and a tender pork cutlet. This was an enjoyable sandwich; I will say it’s the best Tenderloin in town. I look forward to returning soon and ordering it again, along with one of the new house beers,

I immediately sent a picture to my friend Rick, the “Tenderloin Connisour,” and told him he needed to check this place out for his All Tenderloins, all the Time review website. I’m curious to hear his feedback & read his review.


What I’m Watching:
I just finished The Bear on Hulu last night. Pretty intense show that people “in the industry” seem to enjoy. If you like drama and food, you should check The Bear out.


LOTS of YouTube videos have been streamed this week, concentrating on Amateur Radio equipment and licensing. I’m determined to get my license upgraded soon.


What I’m Reading:
2023-2027 General Class Study Guide by Gordon West – Study guide for the General Class Amateur Radio Exam. The FCC updates their questions every 4-years to keep with changing times so you have to make sure you have the right study guide. July 1, 2023 was the start of the new 4-year calendar so my timing for getting back into the hobby was perfect. After taking several on-line proactive exams I realized I didn’t know as much as I thought I did and needed to bone up on the tech before attempting to take the test. This is going to be a project I hope to complete this summer.


And Finally…
Following up to last weeks Nuclear Sub tour we give you Mike Rowe on a Nuclear Supercarrier!

2023 Week 26 – It’s Not Easy Being Green


What’s Going On:
It’s the weekend before the 4th of July, and a couple of weeks ago (while I was on my road trip), the Leadership Team at my office decided to give everyone an extra day off (July 3), so it’s a much appreciated 4-day weekend for this guy. Unfortunately, the weather has been anything but ideal, with rain and thunderstorms every day since Thursday and more on the way tonight (Sunday).


What I’m Buying:
Study Guide for the Amateur Radio General Class License Exam – Even though I didn’t get on the Air during the Annual Field Day, my interest in Amateur Radio is starting to pick up again. Like most hobbies, there are usually varying levels of participation, and in the Amateur Radio community, that can be classified through the different levels of licenses you can earn. Each license allows you to do more on the radio and talk to people farther away.

I’ve had the basic license for years that allows me to talk to people locally, and I have always wanted to upgrade my license to gain more privileges. I took a couple of practice exams online and quickly learned my knowledge was limited, and I needed to do some studying.


I stopped in the Sierra store again and picked up some lightweight shirts for the summer at deeply discounted prices. I’m still amazed at the prices and selection at the new Sierra store. If you’re in the area, it’s worth checking it out.


What I’m Eating:
Do you know what’s better than the Chicken Salad Sandwich at The Garden Table on Mass Ave? The Chopped Cobb Salad with a SCOOP of Chicken Salad at Garden Table on Mass Ave!


A coworker gave me a couple of his Athletic Greens travel packs to try. If you’ve spent any time on YouTube, you have never seen this product sponsoring all kinds of content (especially travel and outdoor channels). This stuff is not cheap at just under $100 a month, and they don’t offer samples for you to try before committing.

As I mixed the contents of the green packet into 8 oz of cold water, I was hesitant about what I thought it would taste like. It’s very dark green, and I expected something in the broccoli family of flavors. Surprisingly, the taste was very light with a touch of sweetness (like watered-down pineapple). It can be a little chalky if you let the powder settle out of suspension (especially the last little bit), but it was not awful to drink, and if you believe the hype, it has a lot of health benefits. I could see this replacing my daily multivitamin and probiotic I take each morning.

If you want to learn more about the “Greens” powder revolution and a review of the top contenders, check out The Ultimate Greens Power Test. This was a comprehensive evaluation of 11 different Greens powers with a lot of detail in the decision-making process.

I’m going to order the winner of this test (Ensō Supergreens) and compare it to Athletic Greens. At $39.99 a month, it’s a lot less expensive and might be with the hype! I’ll report back after I’ve used it for a few weeks.


What I’m Watching:
AirNow Interactive Map
Given how the air has been full of SMOKE from the Great White North this past month, I watched this website daily to see if things were improving.

The Bear on Hulu
In its second season, The Bear picks up new challenges as the team tries to rehab its space and open a new restaurant.

Jack Ryan (Final Season) on Amazon
The Final Season just started this past week, and it hit the ground running with a great storyline. I’m going to hate to see this one end.


What I’m Reading:
In addition to the Study Guide mentioned earlier, these articles caught my attention this past week.
Why Was Benjamin Franklin’s Basement Filled With Skeletons?
Americans have ‘tip fatigue,’ resent ‘tip creep.’
What you need to know about Indiana’s new laws taking effect July 1, 2023


And Finally…
Inside a Nuclear SUBMARINE! | USS Indiana Tour

2023 Week 24/25 – Road Trip!

What’s Going On:
*Warning* This will be a LONG post covering a week-long trip with lots of links, photos, and me rambling on for a while.

It was nice to return to a 3-day weekend after a week on the road last week (more on that later). Besides getting the tent out to dry off, I haven’t unpacked much since all my camping gear is in stackable tubs. I still need to move it back into storage & get it out of the garage…


Where I’ve Been:
Last Saturday, I returned from a 1500+ mile loop that took me through KY, TN, NC, VA, WV, and OH. I left on Monday morning and traveled to Asheville, NC. South of Lexington was a new Buc-ee’s that I wanted to stop and check out. Everyone in a 100-mile radius must have had the same idea as this place was PACKED. Every pump had a vehicle parked in front of it, and the inside was wall-to-wall people. There were even lines to the men’s restroom, which you never see. I heard one person say they had been waiting for over an hour for their food, so I saw myself out and headed down the road.

I arrived in Asheville in the early evening, and even though I was driving all day, the weather was beautiful, and the traffic was light. I chose a place near the Grove Arcade called Carmel’s Kitchen & Bar to have dinner. The Pimento Cheese sounded great, so I ordered it along with a bowl of Shrimp and Grits (with a cream sauce vs. a brown gravy which was different and not as good as the traditional) and a cold glass of Chardonnay.

Tuesday morning, I spent some time in downtown Asheville taking photos. I stopped at City Bakery for some coffee and a bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit and left full and happy! They know how to make a proper biscuit in the South!

I was waiting around for East Fork Pottery to open at 11 am so I could pick up some coffee mugs I’ve had my eye on for over a year. I had every intention of stopping at Buxton Hall Barbecue for lunch to try their legendary fried chicken sandwich, but I was too full, so I hit the road and drove along the Blue Ridge Parkway toward Mt Mitchell State Park, the highest mountain peak east of the Mississippi.

The Blue Ridge Parkway has got to be one of my favorite drives ever; this was my first time driving it. I was only on it for less than 100 miles, but I’m very interested in driving the entire 469 miles and visiting sites along the way. I stopped in a town called Little Switzerland, NC, for a snack, but just about everything was closed on Tuesday.

I made my way to Spacious Skies Campgrounds – Bear Den near Spruce Pine, NC. This is a private campground right off the parkway, and being early in the season was very quiet. I felt like I had the entire place to myself!

I packed up camp Wednesday morning and went to start the car… Click, Click, Click, dead battery. I knew I was about due for a replacement and almost did it before I left, but luckily I was at a place where I could walk up to the front office and ask for a jump. Once underway, I made a beeline to the closest Advance Auto and picked up the AGM battery I had my eye on weeks earlier. This thing should outlast the car, and it ought to be for $250. The employee offered to swap the batteries out, and I was on my way 10 minutes later, only delaying me for an hour from my originally planned departure time.

Today’s destination was the Red River Gorge Bridge and a Bed-and-Breakfast in a small town called Clifton Forge, VA. I had no idea what to expect at the Gorge, but the pictures I saw looked incredible. As my GPS told me I was getting closer, I kept looking for the bridge. I didn’t see it until I was practically ON it!

That crossing was pretty unimpressive, but I noticed on the map that I could go down under the bridge, so after stopping at the visitor center (and picking up a sticker), I did that!

After playing around down by the water, it was time to load up and head to the evening’s accommodations. The Red Lantern Inn was a great little Bed & Breakfast that was in the middle of downtown Clifton Forge, VA. Not much in the town except a few restaurants, bars, and a HUGE train yard. I unloaded my gear and went down the street to Jack Mason’s Tavern and Brewery for dinner. I ordered a Mushroom Swiss Burger and the House Cut Chips, dusted in Old Bay. The beverage for dinner was a local ale the waitress recommended when I said I wanted something light. It all hit the spot, and I was ready to settle down for the night.

The Red Lantern Inn was clean and spacious, and I had the whole place to myself. The owner was off-premises attending to other things, and we exchanged a few text messages to get the code to enter the building and the WiFi password. I never met her, but I would not hesitate to stay here again. It was clean and VERY quiet. Just what I needed after all the driving I had been doing.

Thursday’s activity was what prompted the trip in the first place. The Green Bank Observatory houses the world’s largest 100-meter (330 ft) fully steerable single-dish radio telescope. Located near the middle of the National Radio Quiet Zone, the telescope is the newest and most significant of many at the facility, topping out at over 400 feet in height and housing a dish of over 100,000 square feet. I purchased a tour ticket online and arrived about 30 minutes before the tour to use the facilities and check out the museum and gift shop.

We took a bus to the telescope and got up close and personal. Unfortunately, the only camera you can use is film because anything electronic is forbidden within a 1-mile radius. We were even asked to put our car key fobs in a Faraday Cage to block spurious emissions. Our tour guide was from Ireland, and she had been working there for several years. Her husband was a scientist working at the facility who had passed away, so she started doing tours and stayed in Green Bank.

After geeking out at the Observatory, I needed to find some lunch. I saw on Google Maps a Ski Resort called Snowshoe about an hour away and learned it is pretty active in the summer months with Mountain Biking, so I headed west to check it out.

I had already been to the highest mountain peak east of the Mississippi, but it felt like I was going even higher as I made my way to the top of Snowshoe Mountain. The road just kept going up and up, with switchback after switchback, until I finally reached the top. And what a surprise it was to see a village with a hotel, grocery store, and what looked like 4-story apartment buildings (pretty sure they were hotels).

I walked around for a while, checking things out and dodging many mountain bikes riding around the area. I can only imagine what this place is like in the winter, with skiers everywhere. I grabbed lunch at the Junction Ale House—nothing special here, just a little pub with staff that acted like they wanted to be elsewhere. I definitely do not see myself returning here, even if I visited in the winter to ski.

“After lunch, I made my way down the mountain to camp. I had two “First Come; First Served” sites in mind, Dry Run & Tea Creek campgrounds, Dry run was nice but pretty full. I drove down the road a little more and found Tea Creek to be just perfect. There were 12 sites, and only 2 were occupied. I nabbed a site near the entrance and set up camp.

An older gentleman came over, and we chatted about camping, cars, and the generator the other site was using (he was not a fan). The bugs died down at dusk, and I enjoyed a night of tuning through the shortwave bands tuning in signals from all over the world (the low noise floor in the Radio Quiet Zone helped a lot here.

I set out for Hillbilly Hotdogs (see below) and Wayne National Forrest in Southern Ohio on Friday morning. After lunch, I found my reserved campsite and had a problem. It was at the end of a cul-de-sac and about 10 feet down the side of the hill. The tent pad was about 10×10, and a drop-off on the backside. NOT a good site for the tent I use and not a good location if it rained like the forecast called for. I talked to the Camp Host and was informed there were no available sites, so I went to Ironton, OH, and used some Holiday Inn points to get a room for the night.

We were back on the road for our final day of travel on Saturday. I have been wanting to visit Serpent Mound again for years, I remember my Grandmother taking me here as a kid, and I wanted to see it again. Built a long time ago, Serpent Mound is a burial ground of ancient Americans that’s in the shape of a snake. The United States Department of Interior designated the mound as a National Historic Landmark in 1966.

It’s hard to see in the pictures, but the mound is over 1000 feet long and of great historical significance to the area. The visitors center has a nice display explaining the effigy’s who/what/why and, of course, stickers for my collection.

After the mound, I visited family and had lunch to celebrate Father’s Day a day early; it was the best BBQ I had eaten all week! I was left with a 2-hour drive back to Indy and was ready to get off the road! This is the 3rd year in a row where I’ve picked an interesting place to see and made a week-long trip out of it. It was nice to get away from the office and get out into nature before the high temperatures make it uncomfortable this summer. I’m already thinking about next year’s trip, and driving the entire Blue Ridge Parkway is on the shortlist.


What I’m Buying:
Stickers, lots of stickers. When I visit a significant location, I like to purchase a sticker to commemorate the occasion. right now, they’re being put on the cooler that goes with me on every trip, but I’m running out of room, so I need to figure out something else to sticker up.

ICE! You have to have ice to keep things cool when you’re off the grid. It’s nice to see that ice is still only a couple of dollars a bag, even in the middle of nowhere. The local liquor store gives away bags with any purchase, so I always have a bag or two in the freezer to get me started. I’ve been told you can get ice from fast food restaurants really cheaply, but I never think about getting it there (and I rarely eat fast food anymore).


What I’m Eating:
I had a few BBQ meals while traveling. Nothing that noteworthy and, honestly, a little disappointing with dry brisket and a side of mac and cheese where the sauce was broken and oily. I was expecting more and would rather eat the local BBQ at Traxx in McCordsville!

When camping, I normally dine on dehydrated meals from various manufacturers. Mountain House, Backpacker’s Pantry, and Pakit Gourmet are in constant rotation, and I always get a solid, filling meal with just a cup or two of boiling water.

On this trip, I fixed my ever-favorite Chili Mac with Beef and tried a new meal of Chicken and Rice both from Mountain House. Both were very filling, and the Chicken and Rice could have passed for homemade; it was that good!

Since I was in the area, I had to check out Hillbilly Hotdogs in LeSage, WV. This place was one of the first places visited by the Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives show and features “The Homewrecker” hot dog that weighs 1 pound and is covered with just about every topping they have. I saw one come out of the kitchen, and it was ridiculous!

I ordered a Hillbilly Dog (Deep-fried Weenie, Chili Sauce, Mustard, and Onions) and a West Virginia Dog (Chili Sauce, Mustard, Onions, and Cole Slaw), along with an order of Deep Fried Pickles w/ Ranch. Everything was hot and fresh, and I would stop here again if I ever found myself in the area. It was pretty crowded for a Friday afternoon and a popular stop for the bikers traveling along the river route.


What I’m Watching:
I downloaded several movies on my iPad Pro to watch while camping, and I never even played them. I ended up spending my evenings reading, tuning in to distant stations on the shortwave radio, and relaxing to the sounds of nature.


What I’m Reading:
I’m still reading “Drowning: The Rescue of Flight 1421 “and hope to finish it this weekend. Several more books are in the queue, including one about Switchboard Operators during World War One.


What Else:
The Fishers Health Department has released its “Inspection report of retail food establishments” which gives a letter grade for local restaurants (I believe they need to post their grade for people to see at some point). This is a HUGE step in transparency for the public. The letter grade system is used in a lot of major cities and does a great job of not only calling out places not meeting the standards but also warning the patrons of the issues. I was surprised at some of the C-grades from places I often frequent, and I will no longer be dining there until they get their act together. Kudos to the Fishwers Health Dept for leading the way with this program. Hopefully, other cities (looking at you, Indy) will follow!

And Finally…
I’ve been watching Mark Rober videos lately. In this video, Mark sets up a series of Olympic-style challenges for his backyard squirrels to compete in. From a balance beam to a diving board, these squirrels prove to be surprisingly adept athletes. Mark uses his engineering skills to create various contraptions and obstacles for the squirrels to navigate, such as a tiny zipline and a miniature pole vault. He also peppers the video with funny commentary and hilarious slow-motion replays of the squirrels in action. But beyond the laughs, this video is a testament to the ingenuity and resourcefulness of these furry creatures. So next time you see a squirrel in your backyard, give them a little respect – who knows what kind of Olympic potential they might have!

2023 Week 23 – Pack it Up!

What’s Going On:
Finishing the preparations for an upcoming road trip to West Virginia. It’s a combination of camping and a few hotels. The goal is to visit the world’s largest radio telescope in Green Bank, WV. Details to come!


What I’m Buying:
I love over-engineered items, and Yeti products are just that. Some would say overpriced, and I’m not going to argue with them, but the gear is rock solid. I have several tumblers, wine mugs, and even their folding camp chair (it’s amazing). I had a bunch of Amazon credits from my Amazon Credit Card, and after talking to the owner of a 36 oz Rambler with the “Chug Cap,” I decided to pick one up. Yeti designed this one right. It’s roughly the same circumference as a Nalgene, so it fits perfectly in the cup holder extender I have in the Subaru. I did an Ice Test, and it kept ice for several days (almost 3), so it’s sure to help your drinks stay cold on all but the longest road trips.


What I’m Eating:
Nothing too exciting this week. Several meetings ran into the lunch hour, so I ordered a few sandwiches at work. Jimmy John’s has their Summer Wraps back on the menu, and the Chicken Caesar is my favorite.

Potbelly has a “Clubby” on the menu as a limited-time offer, and it was a nice change from the Wreck I normally order.

What I’m Watching:
Top Chef World All Stars just ended, it was the 20th season for the franchise, and host Padma L announced she would be departing the show. She has hosted all but the first season. It will be interesting to see who takes her place in season 21


What I’m Reading:
After finishing, and really enjoying “Falling” by T.J. Newman, I moved to her next book, “Drowning: The Rescue of Flight 1421.” It started off fast and pulled me into the story immediately. I’ll probably have this one finished by the end of my trip next week.


And Finally…
The History Guy’s latest video should be very interesting to travelers. “ORD Stands for Orchard: A History of Airport Codes” gives you some insight into the 3-letter airport codes that sometimes make no sense.

2022 Week 50 – Nazis in the USA?

About the only thing good about Winter is it gives me more time to read. I happened to catch a Joe Rogan clip on YouTube about Operation Paperclip (OP) with author Annie Jacobsen who wrote a book under the same name. As a history buff, I’m really enjoying the book and the details of OP are quite incredible.

Operation Paperclip was a secret United States intelligence program in which more than 1,600 German scientists, engineers, and technicians were taken from the former Nazi Germany to the U.S. for government employment after the end of World War II in Europe, between 1945 and 1959.

Wikipedia
34 minutes long but very interesting!

Here we go again… Real ID Deadline for Domestic Fliers is Extended. Again. In 2005, in response to the September 11 attacks, the US Government decided travelers needed to have more identification than an easily forged driver’s license. May, 2023 was the latest deadline but it’s been pushed out 2 more years because we’re still not ready to implement it. This is embarrassing, to say the least. It’s been 17 years!


And finally… What does your pet do when you leave the house? This pet owner strapped a GoPro to his Lab and left him alone for the first time.