Tuesday, July 19, 2011

De-Committing

An interesting thing happened at 2am this morning. I woke up at my usual time, with everything that needed to be done the next day - or hadn't gotten done the previous day - running through my head.

I suddenly realized that a decision had been made for me. Must have happened in my sleep. I decided to de-commit to a lot of stuff. I got up, logged onto www.concertsinyourhome.com and changed my status to "not booking", logged onto www.couchsurfing.org and changed my status to "no couch available", and felt much better.

Now don't get me wrong, we're still going to host some house concerts and "dinner and song" events, but I have already made contact with enough artists to fill the next year, and we already have a few couch surfers scheduled for the future, but I just don't want anything more to do right now.

I think it has to do with the mountain of paperwork that has resulted in the theft of our truck - who knew you had to do this much paperwork to deal with the insurance companies? Just a little overwhelmed, and taking these two projects off my plate is really doing to help.

Thanks for stopping by... the coffee is always on.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Blessings

The post about our truck being stolen is starting to sound too whiney to me. In the grand scheme of human suffering, a stolen vehicle is pretty insignificant, plus I'm getting super discouraged trying to remember what all was in the truck and attempt to put a value on it, so I'm going to change gears and count my blessings for awhile. Here, in no particular order, are just a few of them:
  • Prosperity - We are prosperous enough to have just purchased a new pickup truck, plus afford to travel.

  • Family and friends - we wanted the crew cab pickup because of the new grandbaby we're expecting in August, plus all of the great friends we go road tripping with. Both wonderful blessings to be thankful for.

  • Memories - Yes, I may have lost my cameras and the pictures and video on the computer and other storage devices, but we have had a great time making all those memories those images represent. That doesn't go away with the loss of a device.

  • People - just one single person stole our vehicle, but we have met HUNDREDS of fantastic people on our travels, including this trip. From the homeowner whose house we had parked in front of, to the clerks at the hotel, the owner of the convenience store where our stolen credit card was used and the person who called to say they found our check books - everyone helped where they could and offered encouraging words to uplift our spirits. This includes all of my amazing friends in cyber space, some whom I've met in person and some not.

  • Technology - A large part of our losses were technology related, but thank goodness for technology - We had cell phones to call the police, insurance, banks and credit card companies; Google to find the phone numbers we needed; I've blogged and posted many pictures and videos on the Internet, so these memories are safe; thanks to the video cameras at the convenience store, we have a picture of the thief; borrowed computers make it possible to keep in touch online. It does make everything easier, and if we had had the right app installed on the phone that was stolen along with the truck, we probably would have located it by now!

  • Insurance - though it's a hassle to go through everything, we do have full coverage on the vehicle, plus homeowners insurance to cover our belongings. All in all, we aren't going to take much of a financial hit from the experience.

  • Each other - Relationships aren't just strengthened through the good times, but also how you pull together during the adversities. Standing together, we can get through anything, and this is a chance to help each other through a tough time.

The list could go on and on, and it's helpful just to begin thinking about everything that is good in our lives. Having gone through some of life's upheavals before, I know that the days go by and you just work through each challenge as it comes up. Pretty soon you emerge on the other side and you've survived!

What ever you're going through today - something much worse than this or just a bad day... count your blessings. You'll find that they are many!

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

An Unexpected End to Our Vacation

In this blog post I had expected to tell you about the wonderful time we had at the quirky Wayne Chicken Days, and how great The George's Bed and Breakfast in Dixon is. Unfortunately, we didn't get to experience either of those great Nebraska places.

We left the concert at the historic Sokol Auditorium on Thursday night flying high. The Tossers and the Dropkick Murphys had put on a great show, The Mister had experienced his first mosh pit and we had all come away relatively unscathed (why do 300 lb guys always mosh the most boisterously?), overall the crowd was extremely well behaved and it was a good time.

With everything we had to fit into our day on Thursday, we had arrived just as the local opener finished up their first song. The sold out concert was already pretty packed, and parking, already at a premium around the Sokol, was filled. We circled until we reached 16th Street and parked under a street lamp in front of a neat row of houses. It was quite a walk back to 13th, but not too bad as everyone we met was in a good mood anticipating a fun evening of music. There were kids playing in the front yards, and while definitely working-class and a little run down, we didn't think it was unsafe.

Imagine our surprise then, when rounding the corner of 16th at 11pm to find only a pile of broken window glass where we had parked the truck... Our brand new 2011 Ford F150 crew cab that The Mister had purchased less than a week previously, with right at 1000 miles on the odometer, I might add. Hoping that somehow we had overlooked the broken glass when we parked and that the Omaha Police had for some reason towed it, we began making phone calls.

No luck... No reports of towed vehicles. By 2 am, we had called our insurance agent (at home... Gotta love Nebraska), filled out the police report and taken a cab back to out hotel downtown. After a sleepless night, we started doing everything else that needed to be done. At thisnpoint, I should tell you that, because we were running late, we had only made a brief stop at the hotel on the way to the concert. A quick change of clothes and we had been on our way... We didn't unload ANYTHING from the truck... Canon SLR camera, Flip video camera, computer, external drive, a half-dozen USB drives, iPod with several dozen audio books and about 6000 songs, my purse, The Mister's wallet... Everything except our clothes had been left in the truck... Stupid us.

The Mister's cell phone and all of our chargers had also gone, and by this time there was no power left on mine. The front desk clerk at the downtown Econo Lodge was very helpful. He loaned us a charger, and when the computer in the business center didn't work properly, even loaned us his laptop. After googling all of the numbers we needed, we began making all the calls to cancel the various credit cards that had been stolen.

The U.S. Bank customer service representative told us that there had been an unsuccessful cash advance attempt at around 9 pm the previous evening, and was even able to give us the address of the ATM. I called the police with that information, but was told that the report wouldn't be available until Monday, so I should call back then. Dissatisfied with the delay, when our daughter arrived from Lincoln, we made our way to the convenience store. The ATM vendor happened to be servicing the machine while we were there and was able to provide us with the exact time of the failed transaction, and we watched as the owner pulled up all the images on the store's surveillance cameras. While we didn't see any sign of the truck, we did get to see the miscreant attempt to use our stolen cards. A quick trip to Walgreens for a USB and we now have our own copies of the video as well, for what it's worth.

A trip to Verizon to replace the stolen cell phone, arrangements to borrow a vehicle to get home, and now we wait... Wait for the truck to be found, wait for the auto and home insurance to kick in, wait for life to get back to normal. The Mister still isn't speaking to me any more than necessary, and has vowed never to travel again (I did point out that several years ago my brother had his truck stolen from his front yard right in Sutherland, but that didn't make him feel any better).

Ah well, not all learning experiences are pleasant.

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Two Rivers State Recreation Area

THANK YOU to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission which donated a two-night stay in a restored Union Pacific Caboose cabin at the Two Rivers SRA to the 2010 Nebraska Travel Conference in October last year. I was the high bidder, and we just enjoyed our stay there. Two Rivers is just about twenty minutes outside of Omaha, and only about 50 miles from Lincoln, so it’s convenient to everywhere. There are ten U.P. Caboose cabins, and a couple hundred camping spots on 644 acres of land, plus 320 acres of water in seven small lakes. One includes a swimming beach, and there’s even a dedicated trout fishing lake.

The Platte River borders the SRA on the west, and the Elkhorn on the east – hence the “two rivers”. We kayaked a couple of the lakes, but the water is so high and fast in the rivers that we didn’t attempt it. The Platte River might be high in our neck of the woods in western Nebraska, but nothing like this just a few miles before it dumps into the Missouri.

The Caboose cabins are totally cute. The historical integrity of the cabooses was retained in the process, including the steel grate platform (wear your sandals stepping out of the door in the morning!) and the 25” steel doors. The clearance above the rail is still the standard 30”, so they aren’t handicap accessible. Each has an attached deck with a picnic table, and there’s a charcoal grill and fire ring nearby. The fireflies and locusts were outdoing themselves with the light show and the serenade.

They are air conditioned and sleep six with two bunk beds in the back and a double bed in the cupola. This is where we slept, and it was all good except the trip down the ladder in the morning! If you stay here, just remember that it is simply a housekeeping cabin, so you have to bring everything you need – bedding, towels, cooking and eating utensils, lawn chairs, etc.

The steel exteriors of the cabooses block cell phone service inside the cabins, so any data, phone calls, messages have to be made from outside. Plus, your phone is going to be searching for signals the entire time you’re inside the cabin, so your battery is going to drain fast.

There is a great concessionaire on site, with cooked-to-order meals, and just about anything you might have forgotten in your trip planning.

You can make reservations 24/7 at www.outdoornebraska.org up to a year in advance for two-night stays. Walk-ins may be available for one night. You can also call 402-471-1414. They are also on Facebook at www.facebook.com/tworiverssra.


Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Relaxing in Flyover Country

Sometimes those of us who live in the beautiful Great Plains get the feeling that people of the coasts who think of us as “flyover country” think that we have nothing better to do with our leisure time than sit on our front porches in our rocking chairs watching the fireflies in the fading light of the setting sun. Now don’t get me wrong… there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the gorgeous outdoors of Nebraska relaxing at the end of a hard days’ work. However, we seldom get the time to.

Consider the events of the past month in the Nebraska Outback.

June started off with the Miss Nebraska Pageant where Nebraska’s own Miss America Teresa Scanlan presided over the contest that included the best and brightest of Nebraska’s young women competing in a gala event. I was only able to attend the final competition that saw Kayla Batt, Miss Omaha crowned as our 2011 Miss Nebraska.

That quickly rolled into the NEBRASKAland DAYS celebration, which included many more events than I was able to take in. I did manage to fit in the parade, several nights of rodeo, the Brad Paisley/Blake Shelton/Jarrod Neiman concert, and lunch with the Wild Bunch.

Also during June, we started our NRoute Entertainment Fort Cody Music Series where every Thursday night we host local openers and national touring singer/songwriters in a relaxed open-air evening performance.

The last week of June/first week of July was particularly busy in our household.

Friday June 24 – Brad Paisley Concert

Saturday June 25 – recover from the Brad Paisley Concert, give the Hinder tickets to the kids, road trip with friends to Lake McConaughy for a delicious steak dinner at Lakeside Marina

Sunday June 26 – Enjoy a day of catching up on housekeeping and laundry, welcome Couch Surfers from Pennsylvania

Monday June 27 – Welcome Couch Surfers from Massachusetts

Tuesday/Wednesday June 28 & 29 – clean house and get ready for House Concert

Thursday June 30 – host Dorian Michael House Concert

Friday July 1 – Spend the night in the Lincoln County Jail for RDAP fundraiser while The Mister Kayaks with friends, welcomes children home for the 4th of July and welcomes Couch Surfers from the east coast.

Saturday July 2 – Road trip through the Nebraska Sandhills with the kids, enjoy Foghat concert at the new UnReel Events music series in North Platte.

Sunday July 3 – Kayaking the North Platte River, first night of the Sutherland 4th of July Rodeo.

Monday July 4 – Kids games and frog races in the morning, community BBQ at noon, play Spike the Engineer for the Sutherland Parade, relax at the lake with friends, final night of the 4th of July Rodeo.

Tuesday July 5 – Head out to epic Nebraska road trip which brings us to the Two Rivers SRA outside of Omaha where I’m writing this on the deck of the refurbished Union Pacific Caboose that serves as our cabin for the next two days.

Whew… whoever said life is a slower pace in the Outback? Now you know why I think it's so funny when I hear the complaint "there's nothing to do here..."

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Scared Straight

Though by the time of my arrest I was truly apprehensive, it really wasn't all that bad. I mean, really... the charge was "cruelty to balloon animals." Now, I have a lot of animal-rights friends, and a good portion of our couch surfers and even many house concert artists are vegetarians, but who can get too worked up over balloon animals. They have a life span of what? Ten minutes or so? And just think of all of the twisting and pinching they endure over the normal course of their lives... they probably like it. And if they don't, a sharp stab with a straight pin is truly the most humane way to end it. I mean, is there anything sadder than a limp, half-deflated balloon animal?

So much for the crime. It was all in good fun until the handcuffs were snapped on (in front, I might add... Thank you Sheriff Jerome Kramer) and I was escorted out to the paddy wagon. Fun or not, this van is just plain uncomfortable. A quick drive out to KNOP-TV to pick up my cohort in crime Luke Simmons, and we returned to the brand-spanking new Lincoln County Jail to begin our ordeal.

The van drove into the secure loading dock and the garage doors closed behind us before we were released from the van. We were then buzzed through two locked doors and then handcuffed to the booking desk. Thankfully, everything was only captured on paper... If they had booked us into the actual computer program, our record would have been there forever. Apparently there is no "delete" button. The fingerprint machine and mugshot camera haven't been brought over from the old jail yet, so we got to forego those treats too.

Our jail-issue jump suits were just as stiffly new as the jail itself. They could have used a good washing and dousing with fabric softener. After relinquishing all of our worldly possessions, except, thank goodness, our own underwear, I was led away from my last contact with the outside world for the next twenty hours.

Two more secure doors brought me to the command center, located in the center of the four cell blocks. One for women and three for men - what does that tell you about society? The doors to the cell blocks open onto the day room with two banks of cells on the far wall. Skylight windows provide outside light and the only source of time orientation available.

I was alone for about the first hour until the next inmate was booked in, which gave me plenty of time to reflect on my crimes.

There is no clock, and the only television is about twenty feet up on the wall. Not being familiar with the North Platte cable channels, I didn't even attempt to find a news channel or weather channel to check the time, but I can tell you, it dragged on and on and on...

So, I sat at a table for awhile, walked up the stairs and peeked into all of the cells (they're all the same, by the way), made my bed, which involved sliding a canvas bag over the mattress on my bunk, pushed the buttons on the sink and toilet to see what would happen (the water came on - hot and cold - and the toilet flushed). Finally, with all of the entertainment exhausted, I simply lay down on my bunk and closed my eyes.

Over the next hour, four more inmates were booked in, our County Attorney Rebecca Harling and three employees from various programs associated with the Rape and Domestic Abuse Program. The women of North Platte aren't a very tough lot, as the five of us were the complete contingent who didn't bond out before our stay, and three of my fellow inmates opted not to spend the night.

The only way to tell the time in jail is to find a station on the television that posts it. It is completely unnerving, especially through a sleepless night not to know what time it is. Why is that? It really didn't matter what time it was... I would get out when the guard came and told me I could get out, and knowing the time wouldn't speed the process along, but that is what I hated the most, even over and above not being able to communicate with anyone.

For someone like me who is connected all the time - smartphone, computer - text, facebook, twitter, not being able to google something or send of a quick text to check in with someone or see what my tweeps and peeps were up to, being completely out of the communication loop was the second most uncomfortable aspect of jail.

The jail does have the latest technology. Gone are the days of twice a week visiting hours and the "one phone call". There are telephones with outside lines in the day room - a collect call is all it takes. There are two video visiting kiosks, so visitors can go into the lobby any time between 8am and 5pm and connect with their inmate on the inside. There is also a computer terminal with "e-inmate" on it - a program that lets inmates monitor their commisary account, order commisaries and even communicate via e-mail (there is a cost associated with this). That seemed really strange at first until I learned that it cut down on the contriband coming into the jail via mail.

Dinner and breakfast wasn't bad - extremely high in carbs, and no coffee - but included koolaid which was laced with vitamins and minerals that insured the meal met "jail standard" nutritional requirements. We got to explore the outside exercise room before the sun went down. A stark concrete rectangle with an overhead door about twelve feet off the floor which opened up to let in sunshine and fresh air - again a requirement of the jail standards.

The pad on the bunk looked thick enough, but turned out to be not so comfortable. The lights in the cells are turned out at lockdown - 10pm - and turned on again and the cell doors opened at 6:30am, but the lights in the day room aren't even dimmed, so shine pretty brightly through the windows, making sleep, for me at least, pretty iffy.

Lying flat on the bunk is the only semi-comfortable place there is. I tried the top bunk, leaning against the wall, but that only worked for so long. There isn't a single seat with a back on it to lean against, the floors are all concrete...

All in all, I'm happy it was only for a night, and for a good cause. We ended up raising more than $2,000 for RDAP, and the correctional officers got to rehearse all of the routines, processes and systems.

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on... except in the Lincoln County Jail.

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