Monday, July 26, 2010

Guest Blogging at DullesMoms This Week

If you've ever been stuck in a bus with wings with angry kids, check out my story Meltdown at 30 Thousand Feet: A Flying With Children Fiasco at on Monday, July 26.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Snowmageddon Remembered

The mercury is boiling today in Northern Virginia. The back-to-back blizzards of 2010 don't sound so bad in comparison. Anyone else melting out there today?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I'm Guest Blogging on Again has invited me to guest blog again. (Thanks, Elizabeth!) Check out a new daddy story on Monday, July 26. In case you missed my June 28 posting on DullesMoms, I've posted it below.

Elmo Has Never Punched Anyone

I should really think twice about some of the characters I introduce to my sons. Kung Fu Panda is one of my three-year-old’s favorite animated films. He’s fascinated by Tai Lung, the evil snow leopard determined to terrorize the inhabitants of the Valley of Peace. Today he acted the scene where Tai Lung breaks his bonds and escapes from prison. Our living room blanket was cast aside like shattered shackles and my boy growled and proclaimed, “I’m Tai Lung!” The menacing scowl on his little face was so frighteningly cute that I totally dropped my guard and took a stiff left jab to my right eye. Lying on my back wondering if my kid had just given me a shiner, I couldn’t muster any anger toward him. We play pretty rough, so it was just a matter of time until he beat my defense. But still, I asked myself why he couldn’t impersonate Elmo, or even Barney the lame dinosaur. Those chump characters never do battle.

Battles and who would win them is a normal conversation around our house. “Daddy, no one can beat Spiderman?” “Daddy, no one can beat Chewbacca?” “Daddy, Obi Wan Kenobi took care of business when he blasted General Grievous?” Yes, our living room is full of Marvel, DC and Star Wars characters. At bedtime, I often share YouTube videos from my iPhone. I learned pretty quickly that the Emperor in Star Wars is too scary for toddlers. Seeing Yoda sizzle and shake from the lightning crackling from the hooded Sith lord’s fingers was a little much. We still watch YouTube videos, but we stick to cartoon clips of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Transformers, Spiderman and Batman.

Speaking of Batman, my 15-month-old’s third word was Batman – right after ma-ma and da-da. Sure, he calls every superhero figurine Batman, but it’s still a point of pride with me. I love it when his older brother corrects him, too. “No, that’s Wolverine, not Batman.” Like most younger siblings, he is infatuated with his older brother and imitates his every move. Needless to say, I’m fighting off attacks from both boys these days.

I hope my boys learn to appreciate my wife and I for sending them to daycare dressed in Spiderman shirts, Power Ranger hats, Lighting McQueen shoes and camouflage shorts. During a recent daycare drop-off, I witnessed my three-year-old comparing shirts with his classmates. Even at his age the kids are assigning status to branded clothing. Plain or striped shirts just aren’t cool enough for these guys. I remember as a kindergartner faking a need to use the bathroom just so I could shed my long-sleeve, pearl button, flannel shirts and reveal my A-Team, Dukes of Hazard and Spiderman Underoos. I guess things haven’t changed that much in thirty years.

We’ve watched the final battle between Chuck Norris and Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon about a zillion times. It’s a great fight. One of the most rewarding experiences I enjoy as a father is when my oldest son tears off his shirt and declares, “I’m Chuck Norris!” I may have to dodge imaginary webs, absorb left hooks, shin kicks and head butts, but sharing the wicked delights of pop culture with my sons is so worth it.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Soul Mountain Saves the Day

What do you do when the thermometer reads 95+, the sweating, singing pirate cuts out 20 minutes early from his free children's performance, and your kids are angry at the world from a lack of sleep? No, not the bar. We headed west to the Blue Ridge and enjoyed a tasty meal at Soul Mountain restaurant in Front Royal.

When we left the house, I actually had planned on only catching the second half of the singing pirate's show, based on my kids' attention span at a similar event. So
Ang and I were fairly irked when the dude in the soaked puffy shirt began his signature kick line with the kids on stage with more than 20 minutes left of his scheduled performance. The sun was roasting, all four of us were tired and hot, and the morning's plans were slipping down the porcelain slope like many other failed outings. Luckily, we were in a district park and the playground was new and just down the path from the amphitheater. After 15 minutes of conquering the volcano climbing wall, sliding, swinging, and saying hi to the turtles in the nearby pond, it was time to go. I overheard conversations from other parents in similar predicaments. "Come on, time to go. We don't have any sunblock." Apparently they were also victims of the singing pirates musical mutiny.

I love my oldest son, so I won't dwell on the walk up the hill to the parking lot. I will, however, give props to my 15-month-old for slogging up the slope unassisted. Once in the car, the situation was dire. Nemo on the DVD player and sippy cups full of cold milk bought us enough time to formulate a plan. We decided to take Hwy 66 West toward the mountains and leave the naptime battles for another day.

The short, one-hour drive to Front Royal was relaxing and a welcome break from our normal routine. We spotted our favorite apple orchard, Hartland, and a favorite winery, Naked Mountain. The hills got bigger, the traffic lessened, and the temperature dropped by a few degrees.

Front Royal is the northern access point to the Blue Ridge Parkway in Shenandoah National Park. The historic downtown is scenic and bustling with wine bars, a coffee shop, antique shops, a cheese and wine store, and other vendors catering to tourists and locals alike. East Main Street is anchored, though, by Soul Mountain, a quirky restaurant with a Caribbean menu.

Our second visit to Soul Mountain was just as enjoyable as the first, over two years ago. I love it when you can find a restaurant's owner toiling in the kitchen. That's the sign of a passionate chef. A wife/husband combo worked the floor as the server and bartender, respectively.

Natural light illuminated the seating area from the large glass windows, and reggae tunes played in the background as modern art mingled with tribal prints on the walls.
I was set to order a funky chicken wrap with a ginger sauce, but our waitress sold me on the special BBQ bacon burger of the day (see the pic; don't drool on your screen). The sandwich and krinkle-cut fries were flavorful and filling, but the little dollop of herbed orzo pasta salad made the plate.

People make a restaurant great, and there was no shortage of humans at Soul Mountain. Nearly every table was full by the time we asked for the bill - and they were almost all locals. A retired pediatrician approached us and shared some advice about raising boys - stop at two. Ha!

The friendly staff, personable patrons, ocean-themed restrooms, amazing menu, refreshing taps, and all around great vibe make Soul Mountain a must-stop oasis for Blue Ridge Parkway cruisers, hikers, locals, or exhausted refugee families from the D.C. suburbs.

My URL Will Give You Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Seriously, what was I thinking when I chose the URL I type fast and accurately and I still get tripped up. It's an obscene amount of characters to type just to see if there is any new content to read.

If you read my stories or look at my photos more than once a year, try subscribing by RSS (Real Simple Syndication); you'll never have to type that obnoxious URL again. If you're not familiar with RSS, it's really, well, for lack of a better word, simple.

In Internet Explorer (MSN), RSS Feeds are bookmarked just like Favorite Web sites. You simply click on the feed title to see if any new content has been posted. If not, you click away to be entertained somewhere else on the Web. There are plenty of other RSS readers to follow your favorite Web sites, including Outlook. Even if you don't subscribe to Deliberately Unintentional, I highly recommend using RSS to manage the information you want to digest online. New content is sent to you in an unobtrusive manner and, if you follow sites with horribly long URLs like mine, you just may save yourself a trip to the physical therapist.

Click on "Subscribe by RSS" at the top of the page and never type my blog's URL again.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Strange Sighting

I once saw a baby manatee swimming in unison with a dolphin near the mouth of the Monkey River in Belize. I thought that was pretty cool. Today I saw a black cat with no tail fraternizing with two deer in the middle of my local stream valley trail. I had just finished a punishing run in sweltering conditions, so I blinked a few times to make sure the heat wasn't playing with my mind. Acting as if I'd stumbled upon a secret meeting, the three conspirators scattered into the underbrush before I was able to snap a pic of their furtive forest gathering. #

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Click On The Cloud

Check out the new feature on DU! I really like label/tag clouds. If you're visiting a blog for the first time, it's cool to click on words that catch your interest. So kick chronological order in the face and click on the keywords floating in the cloud to be transported to old posts. Comments are encouraged. Make it public, email me, or send me a tweet. Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Praise for Denver B-Cycle

Denver's B-Cycle program is awesome. Simple. Cheap. Efficient. Fun. I just spent a week in a downtown Denver hotel with my family and couldn't resist the funky red bikes I kept seeing in racks around the city. Denver B-Cycle has 500(!) three-speed bicycles parked around the metro area for residents and visitors to ride. With over 300 days of sunshine, Denver is the perfect place for a green bike project like this.

With two kids napping, I finally had an opportunity to sneak out and explore downtown without a stroller. My goal was to see the new Denver Art Museum. The architect is the same guy who designed the first version of the Freedom Tower, which will replace the World Trade Center towers. The multi-faceted facade feels out of place at first, but the edifice's crazy angles actually suit the city's alternative personality.

Anyway, knowing that my me-time was limited, I decided to rent a Denver B-Cycle and see more faster. I'd seen the bike racks all over the place and really wanted to try one. It was so simple!

Members are charged for the time the bike is checked out, similar to a metered cab ride. Non-members just run a credit card, pick a bike, and enjoy cruising the streets for $5/per day. (Update: Courtney from Denver B-Cycle informed me that there are usage fees for rides longer than 30 minutes. Click here for rates.)

The front end was a bit heavy, but I still managed to get over a curb or two. Denver has bike lanes and drivers are respectful, so I didn't have to fight for my right to ride like in most cities.

The three speeds were just enough to keep up with traffic and to get off the line at stoplights. I doubt I could do a wheelie, but my buddy Shark probably could. I think he could pull a wheelie on a recumbent bike if he was challenged to do so. I digress....

So, after seeing the sights I wanted to see, the light rain I had been tolerating picked up and became annoying. A 16th Street Mall security guard politely told me I wasn't allowed to ride in the shuttle lanes, but he didn't know where I could ditch the bike. I rode around for a bit getting wetter and wetter, still having a great time, but finally pulled under an overhang to avoid getting totally soaked. I gave the number printed on the bike a quick call and was given directions to the nearest bike rack by a very helpful human. Turns out I was only a half block away! The rack made a satisfying clicking sound as I pushed the front wheel in and a little light blinked "success." I walked around the corner to my the entrance of my hotel with a smile on my face.

What a great program. Sure, Denver has an excellent climate to support community bikes, but there are plenty of other cities that would benefit from such a service. I saw racks near all the major sightseeing destinations, the convention center, the train station, and at the best spots to grab a beer or a burger.

If you're ever in Denver, rent a red bike and enjoy the city. And if you have any problems, call the customer service number and speak to an actual person! Friendly, too.

D.C. is replacing their Smart Bike program with Bikeshare. $5 rides! Excellent!

Denver Drummers

As mentioned in a previous post, I appreciate street musicians. Some people just walk by without taking a second to listen to the tunes. Whether it's because they feel like they have to throw a buck in the hat, or because they think the performers are bums, they just duck their heads and pick up their pace. Conversely, I've let trains go by just to hear the crescendo of a steel drum band on a subway platform in NYC. Sometimes I throw them some change, sometimes I don't. On this particular day I didn't throw any coins, but only because the lady on the left didn't get in on the act. The other two guys were rocking, though. Enjoy.