Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Adventures in Minnesota

Well, it’s Tuesday night and I’m sitting here bored in my hotel room somewhere in northwestern Minnesota. Fergus Falls if any of you know where that is. For the rest of you, tis’ not far from the North Dakota border. My mom and I drove up here earlier today from the Twin Cities (Minneapolis/St. Paul for you non-Minnesotan people), making a stop along the way to try to sell the city of Sartell on Revtrak (near St. Cloud). We’re staying at a U-shaped Best Western, where the inside of the U is an enclosed pool area. What’s sad is that the pool itself is shaped like the state. Seriously. Look at a U.S. map, yeah, it looks like that. Sadly, I don’t have a camera with me, so I can’t post evidence (although that may be remedied by the end of summer, I’m hoping to be able to squeeze my budget enough to get a camera). No, wait… It’s not a great picture, but I managed to lift a shot off the hotel’s website:

As you can see: the shape of MN. The upper right corner that looks dark in the picture is the hot tub. Now do you believe me?

Moving on… (or rather: back, to cover the weekend).

Drove up to the Twin Cities Friday night, got in relatively late so pretty much just went to bed. Saturday I had to dress up in a suit and tie to get a portrait taken. The photographer was both skilled and funny (in a telling Scott-style bad jokes sort of way). If you want to torture yourself with those sorts of jokes, ask Scott what a polygon is, I’m sure he’d be more than willing to share the pain. Saturday afternoon/evening we had a small graduation party for Scott. Mainly people that I only sorta knew, but the Pedro family (old friends from White Bear Lake) came and brought almost the whole clan (8 of 10 kids, missing the two oldest). That was a lot of fun. I ended up spending a lot of time playing with them (playing pool with David/Timothy/Joshua, squishing 6-yr old Anna in the couch and using her as a pool cue, chasing around 3-yr old Jeremiah, and letting baby John grab at my goatee while I was holding him). BTW, Grandpa and Grandma, send me that picture of playing pool with Anna (I think the last one we took was the best). Just you watch: someone (likely Edgar or Dustin) is going to give me a hard time about all of that, but let me tell you, playing with little kids is a blast.

Sunday we went to Grace Church Roseville (our old church in MN). I managed to see a bunch of people I knew, but the majority of my good friends from there aren’t around anymore, so it wasn’t as much fun for me as it was for the rest of the family. Some, like Big Nick (who bears an uncanny resemblance in appearance and demeanor to Chris Rausch from Purdue), have just disappeared in the last 5 years and others, like Jordan Lorence aren’t coming home from school for the summer. Still, it was fun to go back and see the people I do know. For lunch we went out to Steak & Ale with my grandparents and my uncle and aunt. We then held a small graduation ceremony for Scott. That night, while Scott was off hanging around with friends, my parents and I drove back to White Bear Lake to drive by our old house and see what it was like. Looks ok, but they haven’t been keeping up with the yard work. We also drove through the Lakewood Church parking lot (where we went before Grace while my dad was an associate pastor) and walked around Festival Foods (my old place of employment).

Monday we had a late breakfast/brunch with some other family (my Mom’s uncle and aunt and one of the cousins and his wife). That afternoon Dad and Scott drove back to Chicago while my Mom and I stayed for this business stuff. Grandpa and I went out to a local field to fly his remote control airplanes for the afternoon. While I’ve been getting into the real thing, he’s getting into the models. It was fun because he let me do the flying, both to see what it was like and because he couldn’t due to recent eye surgery (cataract removal, the other one will be out in a few weeks and then he’ll really be able to fly well because he can see the plane!).

We had some harrowing moments during the afternoon, both with a plane called the Pushy-Cat. At one moment I brushed some leaves while flying it too close to a tree (didn’t realize it was that close, exact depth perception is hard at those distances). And at another moment I came within inches of scraping the top of a parked car with my wing, partially because of my inexperience (only my 3rd RC flight ever and the first in the last 6 months) and partially because of the depth perception problem. The car was an SUV and a guy (fellow RC pilot) was sitting in the back with the hatch open waiting for his turn to fly. He wasn’t watching us and couldn’t see the plane because of the hatch, so he never knew what was coming until this giant plane buzzes right over his head with no warning! I felt kind of bad about it and slightly embarrassed (the field was covered with people watching the whole thing, they even gave me a round of applause when I brushed the tree without crashing as mentioned earlier), but it was absolutely hilarious! Even now I’m having a hard time suppressing the laughter to keep from waking my Mom.

Here’s a quick shot my Grandpa took with me at the controls. I know the hat looks a little silly on me, but I forgot to pack one and it was the only one he had in the car (sunny enough that I really needed it).

After we got done with the Pushy-Cat flight, we had to wait about an hour before our next turn in the air, so we spend the time talking with other RC pilots (there are some interesting characters out there). The vast majority were RC helicopter pilots, which doesn’t interest me at all but the ones that are really skilled can do tricks like you wouldn’t believe.

Then we pulled out a second airplane, the Light Stick, and flew it around for a while. It’s so named because it is light weight and has a very simple stick-of-wood fuselage style construction. I liked it because it was relatively slow and docile (easier for fine control) and it had landing gear (so I could take off from the ground and try for a decent landing later, the Pushy-Cat was hand launched). I got much more confident while flying it, so I was able to bring it around for some close-up photo shoots with Grandpa manning the camera. Here’s the best one of the lot:

There’s a little bit of blur due to motion and that the camera didn’t focus perfectly, but this is good enough that you can see the basic construction of the plane. We later flew it again at another, smaller field and got some videos, but they weren’t really high-enough quality to be worth your download time (though fun to watch).

Then today my Mom and I packed up and left. We went to the RevTrak HQ office for a couple hours to get some work done, then to lunch at Steak & Ale with the HQ staff (tech guys and the Boss, aka David Thorson). Then, as I talked about earlier, we started driving.

In other news, I recently finished reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and absolutely loved it. I would highly recommend it to all of you who enjoy good science fiction and some somewhat sophisticated British style humor. Sometime soon I’ll have to post some of my favorite quotes from it (there are many really good ones), but I feel I should give you one quick one to give you a taste of the style of humor in the book. The book I’m reading is a single volume compellation of all five books in the “increasingly misnamed trilogy,” so they got Douglas Adams (the author, now dead) to write an introduction for the book. He goes on to explain how the book was originally a BBC radio series, then became a book, then a BBC TV mini-series, and just recently a movie and how every incarnation of it is quite different in story and continuity from all the others. So here are two brief selections from his introduction:

“The idea for the title first cropped up while I was lying drunk in a field in Innsbruck, Austria, in 1971. Not particularly drunk, just the sort of drunk you get when you have a couple of stiff Gössers after not having eaten for two days straight, on account of being a penniless hitchhiker. We are talking of a mild inability to stand up.”

Later on:

“In the fall of 1979, the first Hitchhiker book was published in England, called The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It was a substantially expanded version of the first four episodes of the radio series, in which some of the characters behaved in entirely different ways and others behaved in exactly the same ways but for entirely different reasons, which amounts to the same thing but saves rewriting the dialogue.”

It should be obvious why I enjoy this book so much. Anyway, that’s enough for now. Considering how rarely I’ve been updating this lately, none of you should complain about how long it is. Might as well go for a few long posts to help fill up your dull summer months with some dull reading just to ensure you don’t forget how to read before fall semester.


At 7:52 AM, Blogger Amy said...

That pool is pretty much amazing! Is the polygon Scott your brother or Scott Carrington?
So, yeah....

At 8:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What! me make fun of you why would i do such a thing. By the way nice hat.

At 4:37 PM, Anonymous amy c. said...

First of all, you have some cool hobbies relating to aviation! It looks so fun. Second of all, nice hat... You look like an Amish boy looking very confused in the city, with your controller and all...


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