Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thanksgiving with the Family

Dad's side of the family - Thanksgiving Day - Ditchley

On Saturday, we got together with Mom's side of the family to celebrate my Grandmother's and my Uncle's birthdays!

The Blind Doggie Cronicles: Part 1, Blind Doggie goes on a trip

A few weeks ago I discovered that my dog was blind. I debated leaving her in a kennel for my anual Thanksgiving pilgrimage to Williamsburg and Glouster VA, however decided that she'd rather stay with me, blind or not, and that she'd prob do fine. I'd decided that I'd keep her on her leash while were at the family gathering at Ditchley so she wouldn't wander off and get lost or otherwise get in touble.

My great Jessie (my dad's aunt) has a house on the Ware River near Glouster, VA - it's an old plantation house and there's lots of land. Every year at Thanksgiving the entire extended family gathers there for a potluck Thanksgiving dinner. We have anywhere from 10-50 people - this year I think we had 30 or so. It's just a dinner event - we all show up, eat ourseleves silly, and leave. Dogs are an integral part of the event - sometimes out numbering the humans! One year my great uncle George commented that he knew more dogs than people!

So anyway, Daisy and I left Woodbridge around 8:15 am on Thursday and zipped right down to Williamsburg, arriving by 10:30 am. Daisy Mae did just fine on the trip down and when we arrived at my parents house, she explored and sniffed, and checked the floor for any dropped food, finding none, she curled up and went to sleep.

When it was time to head to Ditchley, she let me pick her up and put her in the car and she did great on the trip out. When we got there, I decided to tie her to the tv table so hopefully she'd be out of the way and not get into trouble. We'll she didn't like that much and insited on pulling the leash as far as she could and was in everyone's way. Since it was so lovely outside (it was 75+ degrees) we all ate outside so I took her outside and tied her to my chair. This worked, except that I couldn't get up!

Late in the afternoon I decided to take a walk out the pier - I hadn't been out on the pier since before Hurrican Isabel destroyed part of it 5 years ago! It was sunset and the sky was really pretty. Daisy and I were strolling down the pier, I was taking pictures of the sunset, when all the sudden I felt a tug on the leash, then felt the leash slide out of my hand. I looked behind me and Daisy was gone! I looked down and there she was in the water! If you know my dog you know that's NOT a swimmer. She won't even go out in the rain! The good news is that she did know how to swim. The bad news, she started swimming the wrong direction! She was swimming AWAY from the shore and out into deeper water! Oh no! My dad and I were thinking we were going to need to go in after her. I was about to, but I knew I didn't have any extra clothes so was thinking I'd have to skinny dip. Not exactly the thing to do at the family thanksgiving gathering. Luckily when I started calling out to Daisy she turned around and swam toward my voice and she was able to follow my voice all the way to the shore! Pretty amazing!

When I got her out of the water we walked back to the house, I dried her off and put her in the car - she was safer there!

The rest of the trip went well. Daisy did a great job of learning a new enviornment! Took a lot of trust on her part since she really had to rely on me to guide her and trust that I wasn't going to let her get hurt. The biggest challenge at my parents house are the steps going up stairs. They are hardwood with a runner up the middle. If her feet aren't on the runner she slides all over. She uses the wall to guide her down the stairs at home, however at mom and dad's she can't get to the wall because there is no carpeting there. Going up she does ok, going down is a big challenge.

We got home a few hours ago and she's been sleeping it all off! I can tell she's much happier being home where she knows where everything is!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

What doesn't the Warranty Cover?

Everything that was actually wrong with my car. Car rental - free, getting the car repaired - crazy expensive.

The verdict: After a mere 36,000 miles the brakes on my car were gone. Nothing left. All parts that could get worn were worn. Needed the front brakes entirely replaced. Of course this is a wear issue, not covered by the warranty. The reason they wore out so quick? Likely overuse. Welcome to DC traffic hell.

There were a number of other things that needed fixing so I just had them fix it all. Ws considering keeping the free rental car! It was cheaper! HA!

The good news? They got it all fixed today and I picked it up this evening! The pick-up was much easier - I was able to return the rental to the Saturn place and the cashier was there until 7:00 so I didn't have to rush!

I was super efficent and stopped at Thomas's Pizza (the best pizza in the area, right by the Saturn place) and ordered a pizza on my way to the dealer and it was ready when I came back though! :)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Praises to the Extended Warranty

When I was on my way home from SNP on Saturday I noticed my car making a strange grinding noise when I applied the brakes. It kinda reminded me of the noise the car made when the I had a flat tire (which incidently had happened in the exact same place!), but stopped when I wasn't pressing on the brakes. I kinda ignored it b/c when I turned the radio up I couldn't hear it and I didn't have time to deal with it.

Well the problem quickly escalated. Last night I went out to dinner with a friend and I drove and had the radio off - man it was a loud, awful, grinding, screching sound. Sounded like something was caught in the brakes and dying or something. The car still stopped and all but it would shake a little and make SOOOO much noise.

The bigger problem was that I didn't have to deal with this - I'd had a thing after school on Mon, then Tues was our family literacy program, Partners in Print, that I'm in charge of and that took all my planning time so I didn't have a spare moment Mon or Tues to even call to get an appointment. I almost called in sick this morning to stay home and deal with this, but my classroom was a disaster because we just tossed all our materials from Partners in Print in my room - I didn't even know where my attendance was, couldn't have a sub in that. So then I thought I'd leave early - um no, I had a parent coming at 4:00 for a conference that I'd already rescheduled once.

So this AM I call the Saturn place to see what the latest time I can come is. Well, if I want it looked at today I had to be there by 4:00 - not going to happen. If I wanted to drop it off and get a rental I had to have it there by 5:30. Probably not going to happen.

So now I'm thinking I'd just wait till tomorrow. Well, tomorrow is just as crazy - it's our Thanksgiving Lunch which is just pure chaos, can't leave the kids with a sub for that so I thought I'd take the afternoon off - I tried to call it in to the sub computer and my cell phone battery was dead and I couldn't get my pin number out. aghhhhh. Maybe I would just come in late - call in and say I was having car trouble and come an hour or so late.

Oh and as a complicating factor, I HAVE to go get my allergy shots tomorrow - I already missed a week and can't go any other day. AGHHHH. So getting a friend to drive me to school was out - and depending on when it's ready (if it's ready tomorrow) I'll have to double back or leave early or something...

After school the parents I was meeting with showed up on time and we talked for about 20 mins then I hightailed it out of there. Left school at 4:30 and rolled into the Saturn dealer at 5:30 on the nose! WOW! The service guy checked me in and called the Enterprise people to "pick me up".

The best part....I have an extended warranty on my car so the car rental is "On Saturn"!!!!! YEAH! I hope the repair falls under the warranty also - I can't remember what it covers, if something broke it's covered, if it was damaged I don't think it's covered.

So by 6:30 I was crusin' in a Merlot Ford Tarus boat - I think the 80's left this car behind - it has a tape deck! I think they stopped making tape decks in cars in the 90s! The "cigarrette lighter" doesn't power my iPod (b/c this thing was built before iPods were invented I bet)so tonight I dug through my shoebox of cassette tapes - like a trip down retro lane! I'd thought about pulling all my tapes out to see if there were songs that I wanted to download from iTunes so now's my chance!

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Cable Company

About a year ago I posted this rant in my MySpace blog:

Our local cable provider can provide it's customers with high speed internet, DVR, on demand movies, and hundereds and thousands of TV channels. They are the internet, they are technology.....what they cannot do however is send your bill electronically. WTF?

Not only that but the bill is ALWAYS due at the end of the month and it never arrives until the day AFTER I have paid the bills for the month as a result I'm constantly a month behind on my cable bill. I have called, I have explained that if they'd like their $ on time they should send the bill at a different time in the month and they have said that they can't move it. Now that I have switched over to online bill pay though I just direct the bank to pay them when I pay the rest of my bills and it has been working better....just can't believe the "the internet company" can't send me an e-bill like all the other utilities!

Today the rant gets longer. Due to Comcasts billing issues I usually simply pay them a round sum of money every month with out even looking at the bill (as I could find the paper bill amidst the other papers). I think the bill is generally about $61 so I just round up and electronically send them money. Last month I actually looked at the bill and it was over $100! I must have been late a few times or something - so on October 21st I paid them $120 - thinking I'd just run a credit for a few months - no big deal. Tonight I got a phone call from Comcast - regarding my payment. Apparently they were perturbed by my overpayment of their bill. I asked what exactly the problem was - I'd paid my bill. The gal said that was fine and told me to have a good night. WTF? I asked her about why I couldn't pay the bill online like all my others and why it's one of 2 paper bills I get that cannot be turned into e-bills - she told me to call Comcast directly - so this gal was some telemarkter person.

Oh and an added rant about Comcast - in June, the last day of school to be exact, Comcast rearragned ALL it's channels - suddenly my favorite channels were not what they used to be - not only that but whatever they did it did not register with my TiVo (which usually knows everything) so for like 3 days I recorded soap operas in Spanish rather than King of Queen, Will and Grace and Friends. When I discovered this I had to go in and manually change all the channels so TiVo would know what was what. Further, Comcast has still (almost 6 months later) not been able to post the channel line-up on the web so my TV downstairs is permanently on Lifetime since that's the only channel I know the number for that has shows I like - the TiVo is the only one in the house who knows what station is which! Aghhh!!!!!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Snow on the Mountain!

I finally had a free Saturday! I had big plans to head out to Shenandoah National Park for a long awaited hike! It had rained a lot last night and was still cloudy and dreary looking this morning, but I was going hiking and I didn't care that it wasn't the prettiest of days. I'd gone to bed super early Fri night and woke up pretty early Sat morning so had time to get myself together, get the sheets through the washer and the dryer and update my iPod before heading out about 10 am.

I had a hard time deciding what to wear - mostly I wasn't sure if I should wear my Helly Hansen Polyproplyene long underwear top. The only other time I'd worn it was when Dad and I hiked to The Harding Ice Field in Kenai Fjords NP and I was so hot I nearly drowned in sweat. I finally decided to go ahead and wear the shirt - it was forecast to be 46 degrees here and I figured it would be a bit colder on the mountain and 46 was going to feel pretty cold.

I gathered up all my winter hiking clothes - my gore-tex pants, 2 fleece tops, 2 prs of gloves and a fleece ear warmer and headed out. I decided to stop at Harris Teeter in Bristow to grab lunch - as an added bounus I had a $10 coupon so it was almost free! :) I arrived at the park around Noon - there was a line at the Thorton Gap entrance station which surprised me because it was such a dreary day.

I'd planned to hike a portion of the AT from Pocosin Fire Road to South River Fire Road which was at about mile Marker 60 - I was at about mile 30. At first there were no views from Skyline Drive - just fog and clouds where the mountains should be. Then as I traveled further south and gained elevation - there was snow!!!! And then there was fog. It was a heavy wet snow that stuck in every nook and cranny of the trees creating a beautiful winter wonderland! The fog I could do without - in places you couldn't see 2 ft in front of you.

Due to driving conditions I quickly ditched the idea of going all the way to Pocosin Fire Rd - opting instead for Whiteoak Canyon. It was closer, and I figured that there would be lots of people there. I pulled into the parking lot and I was one of 3 cars! 3 cars in the Whiteoak Canyon parking lot at 12:30 on a Saturday. I couldn't believe it. Yes, the weather was nasty - but it wasn't snowing or raining. It was cold though - it was 30 degrees when I got out of the car. I was instantly glad that I'd worn the long underwear shirt and brought all my winter gear! As I was getting myself ready to go another car pulled up and I started chatting with the people who were in it - turns out Skyline Drive had been closed up until just a few minutes before I pulled up! :) WOW - amazing timing!

The trail itself was a winter wonderland and I had it all to myself! Whiteoak Canyon, the most popular trail in the park, and it was all mine on a Saturday afternoon! And it was covered in snow to make it even better! The silence of the forest was just amazing. As I descended to the upper falls there was less snow and the temps were rising. At the upper falls there was no snow and the trees were alive with fall colors!

At the overlook there were about 10 people, most of whom had hiked in from the bottom since the drive had been closed when they arrived. They were a bit pertubred to learn that the drive was open and that it was covered in snow! :)

It only took me an hour to hike down to the falls, but I was anxious about getting back to the top since they close the drive at 5:00. It took me about an hour to get back so I was back at the car in plenty of time to get off the drive before I got locked in.

I'm so glad I was able to get out today and enjoy the dueling seasons - one minute it was fall and the next it was winter!

Check out the pics below! :)