Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I Bleed Purple and Gold

As a graduate of the University of Northern Iowa, and having grown up in Cedar Falls, I am a die hard Panther football fan. I started attending Panther football games when I was born in 1976 when the UNI Dome opened. I've seen a lot of games and there is nothing better than the FCS, or I-AA playoffs. I won't get into the details of why the games are exciting and how insane it is that Division I can't see how rational the system is. For those of you not keeping track off the #1 rated Panthers, they have had a record breaking season.

After a 12-0 season the playoffs started this weekend. I, of course, made the drive down to the dome to watch the big game.......I don't miss playoff games. We fans have been waiting for this day, as the last playoff game ended in a loss in 2005 when the panthers were defeated in the national championship game in Chattanooga, TN by Appalachian State.

This weekend, it was New Hampshire. A solid team, with a great quarterback to match up with our ace, Eric Sanders. I won't bore you with play by play, as you can find that on the panthers website (see link in right column). The dome is a crazy place to play. It's loud, it's the playoffs and anything can happen. This game was totally nuts. I've seen good games, I've seen crazy games, but this was one of the best. The panthers led, or were tied, the entire game as the offenses traded scores. New Hampshire found a way to score with just 1:16 left in the game to go ahead for the first time 35-31. Sitting at the game with my panther comrades........we'll call them Rooster,Martini, and my cousin Vinny (for the sake of anonymity), we were devastated, crushed like a small child after realizing their pet hamster can't swim in the toilet. Emotionally shattered like a 7th grader peeing his pants at school.........this was not good.

But wait, it's a bird, it's a plane...........it's the UNI Dome. Eric Sanders, our senior quarterback led the team down the field and threw a 25 yard touchdown pass with just 7 seconds remaining to win the game. We cheered, we cried, we forgot to notice that Rooster left at the half with his daughter........and couldn't remember where Martini's wife and small child were. Luckily, they were home safe, away from the pandemonium and chaos. We lived to play another day, namely, this Saturday, 1pm against.......the Delaware Fighting Blue Hens. Go Panthers!

For a video clip of the winning touchdown:


Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving in St. Paul

I have spent a lot of my Thanksgiving holidays, as an adult, in the Grand Canyon backpacking with groups. I find myself torn between how much I enjoy the Grand Canyon and how much I enjoy the gluttonous beginning of the holidays season marked by Thanksgiving. Having spent quite a few weekends traveling this Fall, we decided to spend our first major holiday at our home in St. Paul. We have both had some busy days at work lately and it has been incredibly relaxing to have several days of nothing. We enjoyed a quiet Thanksgiving morning with a cup of coffee, snow flurries and a paper filled with ads. I decided to try to cook a meal worthy of holiday status and it actually worked out fairly well.

I prepared grilled spinach and feta stuffed turkey tenderloins, mashed potato casserole and some stuffing. We killed a bottle of wine and enjoyed a late afternoon meal on a wintry day. Since I was in the cities this Thanksgiving, I decided to experience 'Black Friday.' After all, I hate shopping, but the people watching has to be entertaining. Brandi wanted to go to the mall, but I was afraid some would trample or eat me........these types of things happen at the Mall of America. We set the alarm for 5am and headed for the stores. After almost getting hit by 473 SUVs in the parking lot we watched several hundred people lining up outside Circuit City in 19 degree temperatures in their individual quests for discounted electronics. In the end, we hit a few stores, bought some stuff on sale, accomplished zero holiday shopping and found ourselves ready for a nap by 10am.

What would a weekend be without some driving? I am off to Cedar Falls tomorrow morning to watch my beloved UNI Panthers start their quest for the 2007 FCS college football championship after completing an 11-0 regular season last week. Go Panthers!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Minnesota's North Shore

Fall is by far my favorite season of the year, however, it's also the busiest season as well. With Brandi and I both working at the University, Fall is a crazy time of year. We decided we REALLY needed to get away for a few days. We headed to the North Shore of Lake Superior for some R&R and to take in the peak fall colors before the weekend crowds showed up. We were not disappointed. We spent some time in the quaint northwoods town of Grand Marais, hiked to the highest point in Minnesota and spent a night camped on a 'secret' beach on the shore of Lake Superior.

We hit the road on Thursday morning and stopped in the harbor town of Duluth for a burger at Fitgers Brew Pub before making our way along the shor on highway 61 (see 'Bob Dylan song'). While the leaves in the twin cities are changing some, it quickly became evident that they were near peak color in the northwoods. The drought of this year has left the woods glowing with yellow contrasting against the lakes, conifers and dark tones of the North Shore rock. After taking in the view from Palisade Head we left the shore and drove inland hoping to hike up to Mystical Mountain and the views above the Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center. We got a shortened hike in as a passing thunderstorm prevented us from accomplishing the tricky scramble required to get up to the top. Wolf Ridge had great color and it never gets old hiking through the woods with fall colors lighting the way carpeting the trail underfoot.

Friday morning we enjoyed a cup of coffee and strolled through the streets of Grand Marais. A raised sugar donut from "Worlds Best Donuts" proved they did well in naming their establishment. The galleries and shops of Grand Marais made quick work of a lazy morning enjoying a sunny fall day and some great art.

After lunch we headed up the Gunflint Trail into the BWCA (boundary waters canoe area). The BWCA is the largest roadless piece of land east of the rockies, and definitely one of my favorite places on earth. The hike up Eagle Mountain to the highest point of Minnesota is a rugged rocky trail that winds through woods of the Sawtooth mountains and enters the BWCA boundary while winding through the northwoods and along remote lakes before reaching the amazing views at the top that overlook BWCA. The overlook on top gave us a birds eye view of the quilt of colors and some of the lakes we had paddled on a trip a few years ago. The colors from up on the cliff were awesome and it never hurts to have near perfect weather as well.

We spent Friday night at an absolutely perfect campsite listening to the waves of Superior crashing onto the pebble covered shore with a bright moon making it easy to walk around without using a headlamp. A bottle of red wine and a fire in the moonlight made it hard to go to bed, knowing tomorrow I had to drive home. In the morning, we enjoyed an amazing sunrise over the lake with a cup of chai before heading back to the city. (we did repeat offend at the donut shop)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Water Closet Upgrade

First of all, my apologies to the Adventures of Mitch fans for the delay in my blogging. I hope I can provide some writing worthy of entertaining. The "adventures" have been a little slow lately. I have spent some time climbing outside at the local rocks, but those don't really warrant posting. So, I have spent my time pondering what I could do or concoct to post to the blog. This weekend, it finally happened!

I am a fix it up guy. I spend a lot of time and energy working on our home. Some days the results are little more than a lot of sawdust, a few crumpled beer cans and the cars stuck in the driveway because the garage is a workshop. Other days, the results are better and something actually gets accomplished. This weekend, something was definitely accomplished.

There are items in our daily lives we use everyday and a quality product can make their daily use very enjoyable. I am a big fan of this concept of quality everyday items. Good socks are one of my vices. I wear socks most days, and picking out a fine pair of socks for work or running and pulling them on my hooves is very enjoyable and starts the day our right. Other items I put in this category: Underwear (tho going without is heavenly), gloves, a good bed, showerheads and ........the throne.

Many of us enjoy the moments of porcelain solitude and bowel movement bliss. These moments are not about the destination, but the journey. Purchasing a new toilet can be overwhelming, exciting and sometimes eye opening. So when I decided to replace the throne I had a lot of research to do. Some nice features are the new chair height throne. The 16 inch high bowl makes sitting on the standard toilet feel like a pre school chair, and vomiting will be much easier on the neck. I do think the dog is having trouble drinking from the higher bowl, but that may be for the best. A person will need to choose between the round or elongated bowl. I went with elongated bowl for both comfort and contemporary fashion (I feel the total package). Then one must decide on the most important part....the engine. While many women are concerned with the color and style, men would prefer that florescent green toilet that sounds like a 747 when you pull the trigger. They actually have a toilet that claims to flush 1000 feet of toilet paper and another that can flush 24 golf balls! So, I am thinking:
A) If you use 1000 feet of toilet paper, you should probably think about sitting there a little longer
B) I hope those golf balls are not Titleist, as that would come out to between 40-100 dollars per flush. I will personally crawl into the sewer for that many balls.
C) If you are crapping golf balls, especially 24 at a time you should really reconsider your diet.

I did not go with GT 7000 or Powerflush ZX100 model, but rather a Kohler Cimarron, 1.6 gallons per flush, elongated, comfort height, white toilet with quick release and soft closing seat and lid. A fine product from the folks from Wisconsin. I will say the high seat, soft closing lid, and adequately powerful flushing sound and power has made the daily duty very enjoyable. I don't feel like I need a tattoo and wristbands when it's time for business, but I anxiously await any challenges I can send forth to the new rig.

I have chosen not to enclose an "action photo" to this post.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Conner William Martin

I just returned from a quick tour de Iowa to visit the new nephew, as well as all the rest of the family. He has been named Conner William. A fine looking little man and his brother seems very excited to have him around. As we can see from this photo, he was not entertained reading "Adventures of Mitch."

Monday, April 23, 2007

A New Nephew

The great news of the weekend was that my sister and her husband had their second baby boy on Sunday. He was a healthy 9 lbs, 4oz and 21 inches and change from tip to tail (if my short sporadic memory is serving me well today.) The photo is of nephew #1, holding nephew #3.......nephew #2 is on the other side of the family. I will keep you posted on the name, as that is still under lock and key. I am heading to Iowa to visit the new family member on Tuesday and can't wait to meet the new little dude. What an exciting way bring in the spring.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

A trip to the mountains

I spent last week in Colorado visiting my college climbing partner and friend, Trent. Trent and I have enjoyed a lot of adventures together over the years since meeting at the University of Northern Iowa and always find a way to have fun. This was not our most ambitious or extreme trip over the years, but a day in the mountains with friends is always memorable.

We spent a day climbing into Loch Vale and Taylor Peak in beautiful Rocky Mountain National Park. Our objective was to summit Taylor Peak, but that didn't quite happen. We had trouble finding our route, the snow was super wet and warm and I just plain got tired. We enjoyed a beautiful winter trip into Sky Pond (picutured below in the photo) and climbed about 1000 feet or so of steep snow. In the photo that trent took, I am the speck sitting in the snow on the slope. The slope was steep and our footing was crappy causing for me to elect to go down after climbing to about 12,000 feet above sea level.

Ironically, when we got back to the car and the map after 8 hours of hiking and climbing, we were not on the route we thought and likely would not have been able to climb out of the gulley we were climbing. I guess you live and learn and in then end come back safe, smiling and tired.

We enjoyed a number of non-celebratory beers and chicken wings while reminiscing and planning "the next big adventure." The great thing about climbing is that it is only as enjoyable and the people you do it with. Good times!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Winter.....better late than never!

The week started with plans to travel back to Cedar Falls, IA for some obligations and to visit family. Enter, winter storm 2007. Minnesota got blasted by a pretty good storm leaving about 12 inches in my yard over the weekend. That killed the driving plans on friday and left an open weekend at home. It's refreshing to know that it actually does snow still in the great state of Minnesota, as the past few months have been pretty discouraging. I love the snow, and really feel that if you are going to live somewhere with winter that it should be embraced. It's hard to see the skis, snowshoes and ice climbing gear sit in the closet while I stare aimlessly at the dead grass in my yard. I was happy to shovel the snow and even made a huge pile in the yard to dig a snow shelter. I thought it might be fun to dig a snow cave and sleep in it one night.......I will keep you posted on those plans.

On the bad news front: I went into work to set some bouldering routes on the climbing wall in my office saturday. While climbing, I seem to have suffered a significant tendon injury to my left ring finger. I have injured fingers before, but this one was accompanied by a pop, a sign that is not good from what I have read. The problem with tendon injuries is that they take a long time to heal. In my case, I also get tortured by people climbing all around me every day while I hang out with my gimp hand and talk to them. I will probably make a trip to the doctor on this one as the pain seems to be significant. Grrrr.

Back to good news! The wife and I headed out today to enjoy the fresh snow at a nature preserve near our house. The Dodge Nature Center is a great natural area right in the middle of West Saint Paul....(WSP to the local homies). They have a lot of trails through wetlands, woods and prairie that make you feel like you are a lot farther from the city than you actually are. We enjoyed a great snowshoe hike enjoying making fresh tracks on the trail and enjoying the trees dusted with last nights snow. We were even treated to several deer running through the woods.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Climbing Competiton

This past Saturday I hosted the annual climbing competition at the U of MN. It's a lot of work but always in the end extremely rewarding. It's great to get to spend time with all of the climbing wall staff and work together to put on a great event that all of the climbers we see everyday get to enjoy. I guess it really is the reason why climbing creeps into you and never leaves. Is it the people that are fun to be around, or the activity that keeps you wanting more? Probably a little of both, but climbing is only as fun as the people you are doing it with. In my case, those are almost always good people. Jevidon, as always, was Johnny on the spot with the camera, so click to link to his gallery from the competition.

Climbing seems to breed some type of pack animal mentality. As long as we are together, we feel pretty normal. Put one of us out in the open and we are just obsessed weirdos covered in chalk with abnormally strong hands, good balance and absolutely no fashion sense (my wife dresses me). In the spirit of climbing, some observations I have made in my years enjoying the sport. You might be a climber if:
  • You know how to open a beer bottle with a carabiner.
  • You don't twist the cap off of beer in fear of damaging the skin on your fingertips for tomorrow's bouldering session
  • You own belts, or other clothing accessories, made of retired climbing gear.
  • You trim your nails more often than your wife, girlfriend or mother
  • You don't have any money for new climbing shoes, but always drink micro brew
  • You can name 5 buildings in your neighborhood that would be great to climb
  • You've climbed a building before
  • You've contemplated how you could build a climbing wall in your rental apartment
  • You regularly feel the need to hang from door frames
  • You've been asked if Cliffhanger is a good movie more than ten times
  • You hate the movie Cliffhanger
  • You could kick an eagle scouts ass in a knot tying contest
In other news, we seem to have broken the twenty some days without the temperature getting above freezing, and now it looks like warm weather that will ruin the skiing and ice climbing. Yeah for global warming (smell the sarcasm, please).

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Great Wisconsin Adventure

This weekends journey led me to the great state of Wisconsin. In true Wisconsin fashion there was a lot of beer, meat and cheese (hell yeah). We went to a Gaelic Storm concert on friday night for a fun show as always, even though it was in a theatre. If you haven't heard them, get on it because they're awesome. I was given a Bret Favre doll made of cheddar cheese, and made a trip to the Miller Brewing company. For those of you who know me, this was a major pilgrimage, as well as an educational adventure. When the video shown at the beginning of the tour ended and I was moved to start clapping. Nobody else did, but they might not be as dedicated.

Over there at the joint founded by Fred Miller in 1855, they are currently cranking out 2,000 cans of golden delicious beer per minute on two lines (that's 4,000 cans a minute for the not so little Einsteins out there). 500,000 cases of beer each year are sent out into the world from the hard working folks of Miller....amen. It's a free tour, with a little bit of sampling afterwards, beers that I have had probably a million times, but they always taste better coming straight from the source.

On the way back from the brewery we stopped at Whistling Striats golf course(it was home to the 2004 PGA Championship). It's absolutely incredible, even covered with snow. The clubhouse and locker rooms are clearly for people living on a whole different planet than most of us.

Kudos to the Gottsacker clan that hosted us for the weekend. Those Wisconsin folks can host a major throwdown! To sum up the weekend in one visual: Think about soaking some cheese in beer, wrapping it with sausage, frying it, and then eating it with Brett Favre at a dive bar on the corner you arrived at on a snowmobile while trying to hunt something! On Wisconsin! Schweet!

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Super Boulder I

It was a cold weekend with a high of 3 degrees and a low of -14. Most of the weekend was spent in the negative numbers. It wasn't too cold to cancel the Super Boulder! I had about 10 friends over for some friendly competition on the climbing wall in my garage (which is heated.) We ate, drank and climbed while watching the big game. A great combination, except for maybe the eating and climbing, which we found don't go well together. We were lucky enough to have some of Luke's homebrewed IPA which was great. Eric N (climbing left) took home the bragging rights and much fun was had by all. Justin took some sweet photos, as always, and you can see more of Super Boulder by clicking the images on the left to link to Justin's photo gallery.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

poop coffee

We all have those things we feel are "must try." Our friend Jessica told us of a small little coffee roaster in Minneapolis where they have the world's most expensive and exotic coffee: Kopi Luwak. It costs $420 per pound of beans or $10 for an 8 ounce cup. I would never pay $10 for a cup of coffee, but then I heard the story behind it all.

The coffee is grown in Indonesia. The fruit is eaten off the plant by a marcupial creature called a "luwak," then partially digested and the beans are harvested from it's feces and roasted. Whallah! Poop coffee.

The coffee was really smooth. The four of us shared a cup and then tried some of the other coffee. I had some Jamaican Blue Mountain that costs $59 a pound, but only $2 for a custom ground and brewed 12 ounce cup that I would take any day over my favorite starbucks bean. It was a great experience and a great place. If your in the Linden Hills area stop by Coffee & Tea ltd. for your own cup of poop coffee. Warning: Do not try harvesting coffee beans from your own feces.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

.....the beginning

In an extremely unsuccessful effort to start a website (mainly because I am lazy) I have decided to start a blog. I can post photos and random thoughts that likely nobody will read. Mainly I hope to make this a place where folks can see what I've been up to melded with my own candid thoughts and photos. I'm gearing up for an exciting weekend as I will be hosting the "Super Boulder." This unique event will be a climbing competition on my garage climbing wall. Features include homemade beer, great climbing, and of course, watching the super bowl.