Danelle’s Surprise Birthday Party – 7/7/2018

Danelle has had a few surprise birthday parties for me. They are always a fun time and lots of planning. I think she was a bit surprised when her 40th birthday came and went with little fanfare. Unless you consider sending her to the beach for a week with friends a decent thing.

Anyway, this was the year for her 41st birthday that I would plan a surprise party for her. The idea for the party started with a business trip to Milwaukee, WI for Danelle. She came home raving about a concert at a bar she happened upon. The artist’s name is Pat McCurdy. It was good enough that she purchased a CD of his. We have listened to that CD for almost 10 years now and enjoyed it every time. I thought it might be really cool for her if we made a special trip to see Pat play.

I invited Megan Pagliaro (a lab mate at SLU), and Laura Berlin (one of her roommates from college). Each of those ladies was invited to bring a plus one for a quick weekend to the Wisconsin Dells to see Pat play a concert. It took a bit of planning, but each of the ladies was in. Laura declined a plus one, but Megan brought Leticia Classen Rodriguez as her plus one. No, don’t get excited, they are just good friends!

In order to prevent Danelle from doing anything that weekend, I “planned” an overnight paddle training trip for a race I wasn’t even paddling in to help a friend. Danelle was a little bitter about this plan of mine as I had done lots of paddle training this summer and let me know about it a few times. Additionally, I planned this fictional trip with Andy, but didn’t tell him about it. At one point in the summer before this trip, Danelle asked Andy about our training, but Andy said he couldn’t remember but that we were probably doing something!

The the great morning came, I woke up to go paddling, then rolled over and woke up Danelle. As far as she knew, she was also our shuttle driver and would have to drive us across Missouri early in the morning. I told her I wasn’t paddling, but she had to get up for a trip. She was surprised and relieved that she didn’t have to drive all morning just so I could have fun. Her packing was without complaint other than the fact that I wouldn’t tell her what she was packing for.

When we got in the van, this is where things got interesting. Danelle has an amazing internal GPS. I told her that after we got gas and coffee, that she would play the game where she closed her eyes and had to guess where we were going. I further told her that she would never guess where we were going, a challenge she accepted. So I set off with her not looking as I frantically tried to find the highway. The ramp for I-44 I was planning to use was closed. She figured out pretty quickly where I was and directed me with her eyes shut.

During this time we, chatted about what was going on. She wondered if Laura was part of it, but then decided it was too early in the morning and that Laura would not be up yet. Little did she know that Laura was making all of us home made breakfast biscuit sandwiches. Eventually we got off the highway, parked and walked up to Megan’s house to pick up our first passenger. Danelle started to wonder what was up now.

Next was Leticia’s house and finally when we got off downtown, she realized that Laura was also part of this. Before long, we were headed north towards Wisconsin. The girls were chatting and having a fantastic time, but none of us would tell Danelle where we were going or what we were doing. Eventually each of the girls slept while I drove on (there and back), we have a fairly tight deadline.

We stopped at a sandwich shop for lunch. Its a chain, but one I had never heard of before. I learned that Leticia is a vegetarian and lactose intolerant. Not a good thing for somebody heading to America’s dairy land.

After lunch, we passed a turn off for Chicago, so Danelle started to wonder what was going on. She asked if we were going to the Dells and I said “What are the Dells” which gave it away for her. She didn’t know why we were going there. Its a family place with tons of water parks. I didn’t have her bring anything for swimming, so this confused her further!

Eventually, we got to the White Rose Inn, our hotel for the night. I didn’t know what time the concert would be done, so we needed to check in first before the office closed for the night. After a fast visit to our rooms, we went on to the most important destination of the whole trip, Fawn Creek Winery. There on the door to the winery was a poster for Pat McCurdy that gave Danelle the largest of smiles. She finally knew what we were doing at a random winery 6 hours from home!

At the winery, we got a tour of all the wines and picked the ones we liked the most, then found our seats for the show. I didn’t know what to expect, so I brought two jeans quilts and some chairs. We ended up sitting just off the front of the stage in an unused place because it didn’t have seating till we arrived. We made it ours quickly and got snacks for the show.

In the photo below from left to right: Leticia, Megan, Laura, Danelle

Pat’s concert was a total thing of beauty. I was nervous taking three new people as you never know how people will react to a new musician they have not heard before, but they became fans after the first song!

To get a flavor of Pat’s music, here is a 20 minute clip of part of the concert. A few different pieces.

And most interesting is the audience participation. Pat will ask people from the crowd their name and where they are from, then sing a short song about them. We put him to the test giving him Leticia from San Juan Puerto Rico. He didn’t disappoint!

Of course we highly recommend seeing Pat play if you have the opportunity. He’s a hidden talent that makes everybody smile!

After the concert, there wasn’t anything I could do to top the afternoon’s festivities. So we went back to the motel. The plan was to freshen up for 10 minutes, then hit the town for dinner and exploring.

It didn’t take long before we found lots of fun things to see.

If there is one thing there is too much of in the Dells, its Fudge shops. Seems like there are two on every corner. But we finally found somewhere we could hang out for the evening.

We ended the evening just before 1 am. We promised to be up and ready to head back to St. Louis by 7am. Somehow, Danelle and I woke up just after 5am ready to go. We even got to have a romantic early morning walk before everybody else was up on the river walk.

It was a perfect surprise birthday weekend celebrated with close friends. One Danelle will not likely forget!

Hogan Haake

 

 

Bad Paddle Day – 7/4/2018

Its been said many times that “A bad on the water is better than a good day at work.”. Little did I know that today was going to push that theory to the limit…

It started off as any national holiday should, with excitement having the day off work and thinking about the day’s events ahead. Sonora was in Kansas City with Hiatt, so it was just Danelle, Corvin, and I. We were meeting a local group called “Kayak Swarm” to paddle down the Meramec river. The plan was to meet early (at least for them) around 9am to start paddling. We were paddling from┬áRobertsville State Park to┬áPacific Palisades, a distance of approximately 11 miles.

We brought a canoe and a kayak for this trip for the three of us. Corvin and I started in the canoe and Danelle in the kayak. All told there were 27 boats and I believe I was the only 2 person vessel.

It didn’t take long after we left Robertsville before the whole group pulled over to hang out. This meant swimming, drinking, and smoking. Note that all are adults (except for Corvin who only participated in the swimming) participating in the activities. This isn’t my style of paddling as I like to go faster with less stopping. I knew what I was getting into before signing up and just went with the flow.

To keep myself busy and make the paddling harder, I picked up some tires out of the river during my paddle. This was not a cleanup, but it gave me some extra paddling to accomplish!

At one of our numerous stops, Sara and Brian were missing. We waited quite a while before they showed up. Sara had tipped her new to her kayak and was having issues. She was upset from this and wanted to be done paddling, but was not near the finish. After some discussion, Danelle paddled Sara’s boat, Corvin took our Kayak, and Sara sat in the front of the canoe with me. I promised she didn’t have to paddle, just relax and I would bring her home safely.

For those not familiar with the Meramec or small rivers, they often look different as you zoom in on the map. The big rivers that are seen downstream are much smaller upstream. Sometimes. the river gets split in low areas. Here is a satellite image (thanks Google) of one such area.

When you get to a narrow area, every boat has to filter into a tiny space before they get back out into an open area. Unfortunately for us, it was now after lunch and the party boaters were starting to come out for the day. I was in a channel like the one on the map above with Sara. There was at least one boat in front of us and another behind us. As you can see from the picture above, the canoe was loaded down with tires, so it was less maneuverable than normal. It was at this point that we heard the tell tale sound of a motor boat coming around the corner towards us.

We expected the motorboat to see kayaks and a canoe randomly across the channel and wait a few moments for us to get organized and out of his way. Instead, this guy gunned the boat and started coming at us faster. I took as quick of an action as I could and moved the canoe to the right. The motorboat continued coming towards our un-powered boat. As the guy passed us on our right. We’re already on the right side of the river, so he is essentially driving on the left side of the road with very little room between the shore and us. A few things happened quickly during this pass. First I could have reached out with my hand and touched his boat from our canoe. This is TOO CLOSE!!! Secondly, I gave the guy a middle finger salute to show my displeasure!

Sara and I both had a sigh of relief after he passed us and didn’t kill us. A few moments later, I hear his boat crash on the shore behind me. I didn’t mind, hoping he came to his senses. Instead, I start hearing a maniac yell “You in the grey shirt, paddle back up and talk to me”. I was the guy wearing the gray shirt. The most important thing to me at this point was to ignore him and get out of the narrow channel. All we wanted to do was get away from this madman!

But luck was not on our side, and we heard a motorboat coming back at us! I had our canoe close to the shore as I didn’t know what to expect. As the guy passed us, his wife was now driving the boat. He hopped out of his boat before it stopped and started walking to me.

I’m getting frustrated just remembering this as I write it… Basically, he came up to me trying to fight. He couldn’t understand why I gave him the middle finger. He was adamant that he was in the right. At one point, he shoved me with both hands against my chest. The dude had his shirt off and didn’t appear to miss many days at the gym. I figured I would get knocked out this day and was preparing myself.

By some divine luck, I was able to talk him down and they eventually left. But not before his wife offered to come back and fight me if I didn’t respect her.

Anyway, while all this was happening, Brian was able to get a few photos of the boat and live report it to the Missouri Water Patrol. Here is what the jerk’s boat looks like.

We had a terrifying 4ish mile final paddle back to the take out. Every motor boat that came from behind, we expected to be the motorboat jerk wanting more.

In the end, nobody got knocked out or injured. Heard that the Missouri Water Patrol said the numbers on the side of the boat for registration don’t match the boat in the photo. Sounds like a real winner to me.

Hogan Haake

 

Sushi – 7/3/2018

On the drive back from a visit to KC where we dropped off Sonora to hang out with her cousins for a few weeks, Danelle had a serious discussion with me about cats. We got Coat Rack less than a year ago after Tiko died. Petra wasn’t a huge fan of of Coat Rack as he wanted to play and she didn’t. Having one very old and one young cat isn’t good. So she decided we would look into a third cat knowing that Petra wasn’t long for the world (17 years old).

Petra

We searched the Internet looking for a Maine Coon as we enjoy them. None were to be found online. Danelle and Corvin went to Felines Forever where we got Coat Rack, but didn’t like the cats they had. On Tuesday, they went to the APA to look at cats. I told them I would join them after work. By the time I got there, they had looked at several cats and just couldn’t decide if any of them were right.

I asked to look at a few more just to see what happened. The one I picked out the lady missed, but brought us another one. This cat was the one we decided would work for us. She had her front claws, but didn’t feel the need to get them out when dealing with us. That was the thing that sold me!

In order to get her adjusted to the house, we locked her in Sonora’s room. The hope was that she would grow accustomed to Sonora and be her cat. When I say locked, of course I mean when we were not home. Many hours were spent in the room with her getting to know her.

The last mess with this new cat was the name. She came with Salsa, but we didn’t like it. We had to wait for Sonora to name her, so she went nameless for about 2 weeks.Eventually Sonora ended up naming her Sushi. It all works out and we have two young happy cats that like to play together!

Hogan Haake

June – 2018

This is the month of shopping carts. There were a few separate incidents…

I can still talk the kids into doing silly things with shopping carts! They didn’t even fight with Sonora pushing.

I’m pushing Jeff Hug up to Target. It took a few moments to figure out how to get him into this cart, but it gave us many laughs!

Hogan Haake