Monday, June 29, 2009

Kayaking Goose Creek

The main reason I wanted to take the kayak out on the reservoir on Saturday (besides New Toy Syndrome) was to test it out and make sure the boys were comfortable in it before going on a longer trip on Sunday.

After we bought the kayak, I went online in search of where we should go first. I did a Google search for kayaking in Loudoun County, and I happened upon Ben's Kayak Site. I liked all the great info that Ben had on his website, especially the maps showing where you can put kayaks into the water. I wrote Ben an email to ask a few questions about where to go for our first time out on the water. He just so happened to have a group going out for a trip on Goose Creek on Sunday afternoon and he invited us to join them.

We did, and I'm very glad we went. We had a great time.

We met up at Ben's house in Purcelville and then caravaned down to the creek. We dropped a van off at our take-out point and then headed down to the put-in point.

We got in the water by the old Goose Creek Bridge in Middleburg, VA. It's a beautiful old stone bridge and the site of a Civil War battle.

Self portrait at the old Goose Creek Bridge.


My wife was a little apprehensive about me going out with a bunch of strangers, but I figured it would be safer to go with other people who had done the trip before than to go alone. I was very pleased with what a quality group of people we had. There were several kids in the group, and they were all very polite, courteous, responsible, and well-behaved. Come to find out our new kayaking friends are also Christians, and we said a group prayer before getting in the water. I wasn't really worried to begin with, but it sure made me feel more comfortable with our group.

I took this shot right after we got in the water and then spun around to wait for the rest of the group to get in the water.

Ben took this pic of us in our kayak.
(I didn't have a very good feel for how limited YB's field of view from the back seat was until I scrolled through these pictures).

Panorama shot looking back at a sand-bar we had to portage across to avoid a downed tree (on the right side of the picture - click on image to enlarge).

After another portage across a sand-bar, the boys decided to swap seats. YB thought the view from the front seat was considerably better than the view of his Daddy's back.

I also found that it was a lot easier for us to synchronize our paddling with YB in the front. He doesn't do a very good job of paddling in sync with us when he's in the back, but with him in the front, ES and I were able to just follow YB's lead.

Overall, most of the water was very flat and calm. There were a few brief sections with very light rapids. Each time we zipped through those rapid sections, the boys had a blast saying "wheeeeeee!" I'm sorry I didn't get any video or photos of the rapids (to sooth my wife and reassure her we didn't do anything dangerous :-) ), but I was concentrating on steering the boat through the fast parts. Most of the trip was more like this pace...

Lest you think we just floated the whole way down the creek, here's a video snip with ES leading our paddling efforts.

We stopped once to get out and stretch our legs a bit, and YB did a little swimming around. The water was about 2-3 feet deep for the majority of the trip. There were several brief sand-bars that I had to get out of the boat and pull the boat across (with the boys still riding along inside).

For example, in this picture Ben took, you can see me standing next to the boat, pulling the boys across the sand-bar. I'll share one more video just because I like YB's commentary on me getting us across the gravel and sand-bar...

Finally we got out of those rocks.

This was the end of the line for the day. We got out of the water just past this bridge.

Ben took this group photo after we were were all out of the water.

Many thanks, Ben, Vic, Tim, and kids for a fun trip down Goose Creek. We appreciate you allowing us to join your group.

Trip Stats from handheld GPS:
Distance: 7.4 miles
Time: 2 hours 8 min moving / 59 min stopped
Moving average speed: 3.5 mph
Max speed: 9.1 mph

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Kayaking on Beaver Creek Dam Reservoir

This morning the boys and I took our new kayak out for the first time, and it was AWESOME.

Since it was our first time, I wanted someplace fairly flat and calm, so we went to the Beaver Creek Dam Reservoir off of Belmont Ridge Road. There is a small parking area at the end of Mount Hope Road, and a small, muddy put-in area with a short floating wooden dock.

It was pretty windy out. The wind stirred up some chop in the middle of the reservoir and ES got a little wet from the spray as the waves hit the bow. Near the shoreline, the water was pretty calm.

We saw some fish jumping out of the water and we saw a turtle. We saw four other kayaks out on the water, and one guy in a small boat flying a kite.

Panorama shot near the western side of the reservoir.

ES sat in the front, I sat in the middle, and YB sat in the back. ES and I did pretty well and synchronizing our paddling strokes. I spent about half the time knocking paddles with YB behind me because he didn't understand the whole syncrhonization thing. The other half of the time, YB thought it was great fun to use his paddle as a water brake and see if he could make the boat stop. It made for a good workout for ES and I paddling against his resistance.

ES in the front seat taking a picture
of his new Mickey Mouse crocs.

Self portrait with YB in the back.

I managed to distract YB for a little while and take his paddle away and put the camera in his hands. Here was the perspective from YB's seat in the back of the kayak (you might not wanna watch this if you are susceptible to motion sickness):

I also wanted our first trip on the kayak to be fairly short so as not to exhaust the boys' patience or attention span. According to the GPS, we paddled almost exactly 1 mile (across the reservoir and back to the dock) in approximately 45 minutes. Then the boys said they were hungry, so we loaded up the car and headed home.

Luckily, when YB dropped the camera in the water, we were right next to the dock and the water was only 3 feet deep. The camera is waterproof, but it doesn't float. The water was clear enough I could see the camera laying on the bottom next to the dock, and I hopped in to retrieve it. Also luckily, the water was surprisingly warm. It was like bath water.

Notes to self:
1) Buy some sort of flotation device to attach to the camera.
2) Flip-flops don't stay on your feet when you step in thick gooey mud. The mud keeps them.
3) Just like when you go scuba diving, bring jugs of water next time to wash muddy feet off before getting in the car.

Overall, I rate our first trip out in the kayak as a great success. I hope to go again tomorrow on a 2 hour trip down Goose Creek with a few other local paddlers.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Thank You Thursday

It's been a while since I gave a shout out of thanks and kudos to my wonderful wife for the awesome meals she cooks for me and the boys.

She really surprised me this week. If you've been reading my blog for a while, then you'll know that (a) I love Mexican food, and (b) one of my favorite Mexican dishes is mole poblano (or some variation thereof like chicken enchiladas in mole sauce). Mole sauce is kind of an acquired taste, and not something I would ever expect my wife or kids to eat. Even so, she dug up a recipe for mole chicken tostadas and planned to make it for me for Father's Day dinner on Sunday.

Of course, I spoiled it for her.

After church, we were heading out to lunch, and I got to choose. Of course, I chose Los Toltecos over on Route 7 - one of the only places around here where you can find mole poblano. I had an absolutely heavenly dish they called mole rancheros - shredded chicken bathed in mole sauce with melted cheese on top, served with warm tortillas.

Since I had that for lunch, my wonderful wife held off on the special meal she had planned until Tuesday night.

I tell ya what.

Not only was it heavenly, but it was so good even ES liked it! Will wonders never cease?

I tell ya what else.

I got to have mole poblano TWICE in the SAME WEEK!!! :-)

Oh, and to TOTALLY make my Father's Day, after lunch at Los Toltecos, my wife took me for my other Father's Day surprise. Back when we were in Hawaii, I got to take ES out kayaking three times (Pearl Harbor, Waikoloa, and Chinaman's Hat). When the detailer had told us we were staying in Hawaii for shore duty, I actually started shopping around and was going to buy a kayak. Then one thing led to another and here we are in the DC area again.

Even so, there seem to be a good number of places to go paddling around here, and I've been researching going for a trip on the Shenandoah River and probably mentioned it to my wife half a dozen times or more in passing. I was really hoping for a gift certificate for a paddling trip on the Shenandoah River for Father's Day, but she did even better than that. She took me to EMS and let me pick out my own kayak. :-)

It's a sit-on-top sea kayak, and the same model that ES and I had rented for our trip around Chinaman's Hat.

Now I have new-toy-syndrome. I can't wait to get out on the water this weekend! There's an organized trip going down Goose Creek on Sunday I hope to join, but I also hope to get out on the Beaver Creek Dam Reservoir on Saturday just to test it out and practice the logistics of getting in and out with the boys.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Sweetie, for the effort you put into making awesome delicious meals for us and for my awesome Father's Day presents!!!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

New Poll: What to do about the deck cleaning company?

Alright, I'm gonna toss this one out to the peanut gallery and ask for your inputs how to proceed.

Our deck was in need of cleaning and sealing. I called around a few places and got a few estimates.

I called one business to schedule an appointment for the cleaning and sealing. The secretary on the phone said I could sign up for Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday the following week (the week after Memorial Day).

The company said they would remove a barbecue grill, a table, and four chairs from the deck, and anything else above and beyond that would have to be removed before they arrived. I knew I had another commitment on Tuesday night and wouldn't be able to clear the deck off that night, so I did not want Wednesday. I asked for a Thursday appointment so I could clear the deck off Wednesday evening.

This was all done over the phone. No email or other written contract was provided to document the agreement.

For two reasons that aren't really pertinent to the matter at hand, I decided I needed to cancel the appointment. Since Monday was Memorial Day, I couldn't get ahold of the company then. I was very concerned to get in touch with them first thing Tuesday morning to get my job OFF their schedule for the week.

Tuesday I called the company, gave them my name and address and said I would like to cancel my appointment for Thursday. The secretary on the phone searched their records and said she could find no appointment for me on their agenda.

Uhhhh... okay. Well, I guess this whole telephone reservation thing didn't work out with them and I don't have anything to worry about then.

Wednesday afternoon, my phone rang at work, and my very confused wife reported she just got home to find all the stuff had been moved off our deck and it looked like someone had cleaned our deck, and there was an invoice from the company hanging on the front door.

I called the deck cleaning company and left a message there, and I sent the owner an email expressing my concern that his company (a) wasn't supposed to do any work until Thursday, and (b) wasn't supposed to do any work PERIOD because I called to cancel the day before. The owner very quickly responded to my email via BlackBerry and said he would look into it.

That was the last I heard from the company for a couple of weeks.

...Then I received the bill in the mail for the deck cleaning.

I tried calling again and left a message again. I emailed again and said I didn't think I should be charged for unauthorized work.

The owner claims they maintain a log of all phone calls and have no record of me calling on Tuesday. He said he asked each of his 3 staff members if any of them remember me calling, and they all said no. Since he has no record of me calling to cancel, he said the charge for the deck cleaning stands.

So am I totally out to lunch here?

I think the company made four errors:

Error #1) They scheduled the appointment for the wrong day. I asked for Thursday, and they put it on their schedule for Wednesday.

Error #2) They didn't follow up with any sort of email or written form of contract to confirm the scheduled date the work was to be performed.

Error #3) When I called to cancel the appointment, the lady didn't see my name on the Thursday schedule, so she couldn't cancel it. This is error-carried-forward from Error #1 and 2 above. If I had something in writing with a job order number on it, then I could have referenced that when I called to cancel.

Error #4) When the deck cleaners arrived at our house and found a LOT more than just a barbecue grill, table, and four chairs on the deck, they didn't stop to ask if this was okay. I had: barbecue grill, patio table, 6 patio chairs, kid's picnic table, an end table, two large potted plants, two hanging baskets with plants in them, two metal hanging hooks for the plants, four tiki torches, and a tupperware bin with a bunch of kids toys in it. This would have been a great opportunity for the company to call and say, "Hey, we're here to do the work on your deck, but you didn't clear the deck off in accordance with your part of the (verbal, not written anywhere) agreement. Would you like for us to remove the additional items for an additional fee?" Then we could have said, "No! Stop! Do NOT pass go! Do NOT collect $200!" (literally) "You are NOT authorized to do work on our house!"

The owner continues to insist that he has meticulous records of incoming phone calls and claims that I never called, so therefore I owe him for the deck cleaning that was done.

So, dear peanut gallery, what say you? What's my next move?

Before reading any farther, please give it a moment of thought and jot down what you would do. I don't want your opinion to be biased based on my personal thoughts to follow.

(Intermission - Click on the "Post a Comment" link and tell me what you think.)

Here are my thoughts and ideas on potential courses of action:

- Don't pay him. Blow it off. I don't think blowing it off is a good idea. My concern with doing that is my continued efforts to get my credit score back up to normal, and what if he submits this to a collection agency and it adds another negative bullet on my credit report. Plus, the bill says they will start charging interest on past-due balances over 30 days old, so he's just going to claim that I owe him more and more money over time.

- Don't pay him. Tell him I refuse to pay and that I will file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau if he continues to harass me for payment of work that was not authorized. This could still result in him sending something to a collection agency and negatively impacting my credit score.

- Offer him a choice / ultimatum. Tell him I will pay him, but if I do, it will come with a complaint to the BBB and a negative-press campaign against his company on the internet via websites like Yelp and my blog. ("Watch out! He's got a blog!!!") Alternatively, if he waives the deck-cleaning fee, then I will agree not to file any public complaints on BBB, Yelp, or anywhere else. (Is that considered blackmail?)

- Pay him for the work performed, and post my comments about his business on BBB, Yelp, my blog (i.e. add the name of the company to this here blog post).

- Pay him for the work performed and call it a done deal. They did DO the work, the economy isn't doing so well, and it's not like I don't have the money to pay it - it's just the principle of the matter.

P.S. Don't let this information sway your input one way or the other, but interestingly enough, when I went to the BBB website, I discovered this company has a grade of "C-" due to:
    Reasons for this rating include:
  • Number of complaints filed against business
  • Number of complaints filed against business that were unresolved
  • Length of time business has taken to resolve complaint(s)
Hmmm... Note to self: Next time, look up the BBB rating BEFORE scheduling the business to do the work.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Infestation



Call the police! Call the FBI! Call the Smithsonian! Call the Chop!

One of the most vile, treacherous, and resilient beasts on the face of the planet has crossed the expanse of the Atlantic Ocean to infest North America!

I have proof! I got a picture of one today! It nearly cost me my life, but I felt compelled to capture this image to warn others.

I WARN YOU!!! Scroll to down at your own peril! The image below will incite terror and leave you with nightmares of this terrible beast!

I'm warning you! Are you prepared to face the peril?

This is your last chance to turn back! Save yourself!!! Run for the hills!!!


Wait... First, let me back up and explain:

After you've been to sea on submarines for a while, you learn a few pretty reliable patterns. For example, the gradual decrease in the number of toppings available for your salad at lunch and the eventual absence of any sort of fresh fruits or vegetables. Then the milk runs out and we shift to UHT (ultra-high temp boxed milk - better than the old powdered milk, but still not that great). Then the eggs run out.

On the plus side, any flies or bugs that got underway with you normally die off within the first week underway. I don't think they can take the pressure transients from snorkeling and taking a pressure in the ship, etc.

In those rare cases when you see a bug of some sort and you've been at sea for more than a couple of weeks, then you KNOW there's a problem. That means there were eggs or a nest somewhere and they're hatching and making more bugs, and it requires some aggressive searching through the food stores to find and eliminate the source.

Okay, so there I was...

On deployment somewhere off the coast of Africa.

We'd been at sea for a couple of weeks, and these little fruit flies started showing up all over the ship. The highest concentration seemed to be around the crew's mess and the wardroom, but they made their way throughout the ship. I was killing half a dozen per day up in my stateroom, and twice as many around meal times in the wardroom.

I kept telling the Chop (slang for Supply Officer), "Chop... we. have. a. problem. There is a NEST somewhere on board where those stinkin' fruit flies are multiplying."

To Chop and the CSC's credit (CSC = Culinary Specialist Chief - the head cook / food service manager), they did empty out each of the places we store food and searched for the source of the flies at least twice, but then they gave up searching. The Chief SWORE up and down that these were some sort of African fly that was coming in through the snorkel mast when we ventilated.

Um... Chief?

How many miles from shore are we???

Have you noticed the quantity of fruit flies on the boat???

Have you noticed how fragile these flies are? I barely tap them and they squash into dust, so how the heck would they make it past the main induction fans (and in such high quantity)? In order for ONE of these flies to survive the treacherous path into the ship, the OOD wouldn't be able to SEE through the periscope due to the SWARMS of gajillions of African fruit flies buzzing around the surface of the ocean. Plus, they've all gotta have some hefty endurance to fly THIS far out to sea with nowhere to land for a break.

Those darn flies were driving me nuts, but we couldn't find the source.

Then, one day... someone noticed there was a line of dead fruit flies along the bottom edge of the left hand door to the chill box in crew's mess.

If you left the door to the chill box open for a little while, you'd see fruit flies start to crawl out from under the bottom of the chill box. Doc pried up the sheet metal bottom of the chill box and found THOUSANDS upon THOUSANDS of fruit flies that had built a nest in the foam insulation underneath the chill box. So every time someone opened the chill box, a bunch started crawling out and flying away. When they subsequently shut the door to the chill box, it killed all the fruit flies that were crawling out from under the sheet metal, hence why it left a line of squashed-dead fruit flies along the bottom edge of the chill box door.

Okay, okay, so it wasn't a very exciting a sea story.

I have noticed that these little buggers have infested the locker room at the PAC Annex (Pentagon Athletic Center) in Crystal City. They're most notable on Monday mornings after they've had a weekend to populate the locker room and before the weekday cleaning crews have a chance to come clear them out.

Ya know, the image above probably didn't adequately capture the gargantuan enormity of this vile creature.

Here, let me put something else in the picture to give you a relative feel for the size of it...

Behold the monster!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day, Dad!

I'm very grateful to my dad for the love and pride and encouragement he has given me over the years.

Since my photo albums were in storage when we were in Hawaii, I couldn't share any photos from before the invention of the digital camera. Now that I have them back, I can flip through the pages of our family history...

This has always been one of my parents' favorite photos. My dad and I are watching the fish in a small pond by the Four Seasons hotel in Albequerque, NM.

Los Alamos, NM, 1974.

Hard to believe I used to wear one of those blue and gold cub scout uniforms, too. (Oh, and the Navy used to allow beards :-) ). San Pedro, CA, 1980.

I am also very grateful to see what a wonderful, fun, loving Grandpa my dad has become for my boys.

Watching the fish in the pond.
(History repeats itself?)

Drawing on the magnadoodles.

Swing time.

Teaching YB to use a knife.

Horsey Rides.

Geocaching in Northern Virginia

Turning a noodle into a water-cannon.

We look forward to seeing you again next month, Dad!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A Swing and a Miss

In the local paper there was an article entitled "Police Officer Safety Advice."

It starts out by reporting some short, balding, heavy-set guy in his 50's has been exposing himself to women walking on the W&OD trail around 2:30 p.m. Then it goes on to state, "In light of these incidents, the Loudoun Sheriff's Office reminds residents to take the following steps to protect themselves when using the paths and trails:"

They offer this bulletized list of steps to PROTECT yourself from these incidents:
  • Always stay alert and be aware of surroundings...
...because you don't want to miss the short, balding, heavy-set guy exposing himself to you?
  • Don't wear headphones.
...because NOT wearing headphones will somehow shield your eyes from the traumatic vision of the short, balding, heavy-set guy exposing himself to you?
  • Walk, run or bike with a partner or group.
...because you definitely want to share with your friends the traumatizing experience of having a short, balding, heavy-set guy exposing himself to you.
  • Let someone know when you are on the trail, your route and when you expect to return.
...because that will somehow prevent the short, balding, heavy-set guy from exposing himself to you.
  • Walk, run or bike when the path or trail is likely to have a higher volume of foot traffic.
...because then the short, balding, heavy-set guy has more targets to choose from, so he might not decide to traumatize YOU.
  • Avoid using paths or trails when it is dark outside.
...because then you won't be able to SEE the short, balding, heavy-set guy exposing himself to you? Actually, DO use the paths when it's dark out so you DON'T see him!
  • Carry a cell phone.
...Okay, so this is the ONE thing on the list that actually makes a LITTLE bit of sense. Not because the cell phone will PROTECT you from the short, balding, heavy-set guy exposing himself to you as the article states. However (comma), you can (a) use the camera in your cell phone to take a picture of the guy that the police can use to identify him, and (b) you can call the police right then and there, reducing their response time and giving them a better chance of catching the guy than if you had waited until you finished your walk and got home to call.

Anyway, sorry, I couldn't resist. The article just struck me as really odd and humorous.

I'm not saying it's okay for short, balding, heavy-set men in their 50's to go exposing themselves to women on the trail (or for anybody to expose themselves to anybody else on the trail for that matter). I'm also not trying to say that those safety tips offered by the Loudoun County Sheriff's office aren't good general rules for safety. It's just the incongruity between the crime committed and the "steps to protect themselves" from this specific crime.

I hope the ladies that were the victims of this crime weren't traumatized by it and that they find the LCSO's tips to "protect" themselves as humorous as I did.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Congrats Commander Selectees

Congratulations to all those selected for promotion to the rank of Commander (O-5)! I know several people on the list and have been sending out notes of congratulations on Facebook and email.

I got an email from someone asking for the O-5 selection board results. They are actually available on the Navy Personnel Command website under boards -> active duty officer -> O-5 Line -> FY-10.

Or, to make it simpler, you can click on this link.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Thank You Thursday

All winter I have been running on the treadmills in the PAC Annex (Pentagon Athelic Center) in Crystal City. Since the weather has turned nice, I have started running outside along the Mount Vernon Trail. It's a really nice, paved trail along the Potomac River. Running from the PAC Annex up to the 14th Street bridge is approximately 2 miles, so it makes for a nice 4 mile run going up there and back again.

Blunoz self-portrait on the Mt. Vernon Trail

Flashback. Scenic paths like this are one of the reasons I cited for wanting to leave Hawaii and move back to Virginia. I never could understand why there was so much trash (and resultant SMELL) along the bike path around Pearl Harbor.

Well, one reason became apparent to me as I was running on the Mt. Vernon Trail.

Segue into Thank You Thursday post...

I want to offer kudos and a special note of thanks to the National Park Service dude who was sweeping debris off the trail. It's been raining a lot in the evenings lately, and there were a few patches of the trail where muddy sand and gravel had been washed across the path. This guy in his National Park Service shirt with a little white pickup truck pulled over on the side of the trail was sweeping the stuff off and clearing the path.

As I was jogging by, I told him "thank you so much for doing that." He responded with a warm smile and held his fist out toward me, so I held my fist out and tapped knuckles with him as I ran by.
Random aside: What does one call the gesture where one guy holds out his fist, and another guy responds by holding his fist out and touching knuckles?
Chalk that up as another reason I was glad to move back to Virginia - people have manners here. It's the little things. People say "excuse me" and "thank you." On the trail, bikes will ring their bell to let you know they're going to pass you. I normally give them a quick wave to let them know I heard them and it's safe to pass, and several of the guys on bikes have said something like "thank you for the wave" as they pass by me.

So my second note of thanks on this Thank You Thursday post is to the bicyclists on the Mt. Vernon Trail who are courteous and share the path with the joggers.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to turn this into a Hawaii-bashing post. There are certainly lots of positive things about Hawaii. I'm just highlighting some of the positive aspects of living in Virginia instead of Hawaii and giving thanks for the good things I've seen on the Mt. Vernon Trail lately.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Never give up, never surrender

Today was our Cub Scout pack's bottle rocket derby. We were to bring our own 20 oz soda bottle and they provided the rest of the materials and instructions how to build your rocket.

First, I overslept this morning. Not sure why I slept through my alarm, but luckily I woke up in time to jump in and out of the shower and scarf down some breakfast. Then ES didn't want to go to the rocket derby. Sometimes he really drives me nuts. My wonderful wife is much more patient and kind than I am, and she convinced him that he would have fun and that he should go. Of course, then we couldn't find the pieces and parts to his cub scout uniform and took a while to finally get out the door.

As it turns out, this was actually a district event, not just our pack. Come to find out, our pack couldn't turn in our registration, get our materials, and start building until ALL the scouts from our pack were present. So the bad news was that our pack members were sitting there waiting for us as we pulled up in the parking lot late (sorry guys!). The good news was we weren't the last to arrive, so we still waited a bit after we got there. It turned out alright though because it gave me time to put sun screen on me and ES.

The kits were pretty cool. Very simple with very easy to follow instructions. MUCH better than the bird houses we tried a while back.

Kids from our pack building their rockets.

ES with completed rocket #1.

The pre-launch line-up.

ES and his friend J load highly volatile
aych-too-oh rocket fuel in their rockets.

ES waits in the foreground while J prepares for launch.

Here I have an interruption in my photographic coverage of the launch activities. We put ES's rocket on the launcher, and the water rocket fuel just came pouring out around the mouth of the bottle. Now, they told us in advance that Pepsi bottles work the best, and I honestly was going to buy a Pepsi bottle, but the one place I stopped only had Coke products. So we bought a Sprite, but it didn't work.

The rocket derby launch area staff were very helpful and really tried to get it to work. They tried a couple of quick and easy fixes at the launch site and tried both launch pads, but they couldn't get it to work. So ES and I headed back to the rocket construction area to cut the first bottle out of the rocket and put in a new bottle from the stock of spare bottles the organizers of the event brought along.

We went back to the launch area with rocket #2 (annotated as such by ES on the side of the rocket). Fueled up, set up on the launch pad, aaaaaand...

Yyyyyyeah, that was rocket #2 catastrophically exploding on the launch pad. Bottle #2 failed the hydrostatic test and blew off the nose cone and the structural support out of the middle of the rocket.

Failed bottle #2

Back to the construction area we went. I was getting really frustrated at this point. I mean, first the battle with ES just to get him to put his uniform on and get in the car to COME to the event, and now his first two rockets failed. Oh, and this hasn't happened to ANYBODY else in the pack. EVERYBODY else's rockets are shooting sky-high and getting lots of "oooooh" and "aaaaahhh" from the audience.

Kudos to ES though. I was very impressed with his attitude at this point. He refused to give up and swore he would continue building until he got a rocket to work.

Brain science... er... rocket surgery... er...

This time around, some much more delicate surgery was required to disassemble the rocket. We had to replace the white mailing-tube plastic cap thing that goes in the middle of the rocket. The plastic cap is what the bottle pushes against to make the rocket fly, and when bottle #2 blew up, it blew the plastic cap up out of the nose cone. In order to replace it, I had to delicately cut around the front of our stabilizer fins to keep from damaging them.

After we got the rocket back together, ES updated the model number.

Gassing up one last time.

Successful Launch at Last!

Post-Event Group Photo

Overall, it was fun, and ES told me it was his favorite part of the day when we said his bedtime prayers.

We got in the car to leave, and I noticed this odd warning light on the dashboard...

I got out of the car, walked around to do a visual inspection, and discovered this...

Yeah, I wasn't planning on spending my afternoon getting that fixed. Then again, I suppose we never plan on spending time doing things like emergent car repairs, do we? Stuff happens.

Many thanks to my wonderful wife who came and picked up ES and took him to get some lunch since he was moaning about how he was starving. Many thanks also to our friends W&L for stopping by to offer moral support and encouragement.

Waited in line for like 30 minutes at Costco and never got to speak to any of the employees. My wife called the Toyota dealership, and they said to bring it on over. Two thumbs up for the Leesburg Toyota people - they saw me right away and fixed it for $12.

Today was one of those days were a whole bunch of little things went wrong that all seemed to add up to a pretty frustrating bad day. It was one of those days I needed to consciously take a step back and count my blessings. It's a beautiful sunny weekend, and I'm at home and spending time with my family. Things could certainly be much worse.