Monday, July 27, 2009

Sallie Mae Refund

After paying student loans for more than 10 years, I thought I was through hearing from Sallie Mae in December of 2007. Well, somehow the geniuses at this fine organization, decided that I needed a check for $1.95 due to overpayment of my loans. Susan got one for $1.35! We're in the money! We're in the money! Obama rules! Now if only those checks keep coming for the next 1,000 years.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Hoorah For $20 Gas!

From NPR (my thoughts in quotes):
For many, there is a brace yourself moment of fear that the price of gas will mirror the four dollars a gallon horror we had to live through last summer "ha". But according to author Chris Steiner, our lives would be a lot happier if gas rose to even the double digits. The title of his book: "$20 Per Gallon: How the Inevitable Rise in the Price of Gasoline Will Change Our Lives for the Better".

Peter's Birthday Eve

7 AM - Woke up late, and went out into the yard to work on weeding and planting strawberries that Grandpa gave us awhile back. I finally got around to filling up the planter I made, so hopefully those strawberries will flourish next year. Started laundry.

8 AM - Had breakfast of waffles and apples with the kids. Susan made coffee. It was a birthday request. Hung laundry on the clothes line, one of my favorite simple earth saving techniques.

9 AM - started listening to OPB's Weekend Edition Saturday and cleaning up a little. Began to pack for the trip to Raleigh, NC for the TRB Signal Systems Meeting.

10 AM - walked to the park with Abby and Wally. We're dog sitting. Planning to head to Kurt's to borrow his truck to pick up patio furniture at Paul's house.

11 AM - Had a snack and started blogging a bit to recall when I am 90 what I did as a younger man.

12 PM - Started getting the kids ready to head over to the Kruegers. It is amazing to consider how long it takes to get them ready sometimes. Kurt is going to help us pick up some patio furniture.

2 PM - Had a scary moment on the Sellwood Bridge, we were on it at the same time as a fire truck. The weight limit for the bridge is 10 Tons and it is rated with a structural integrity of 2 out of 100. The bridge shook as the fire truck moved across it. Yikes!

3 PM - enjoyed some time with the Kruegers and reflected that we need more time with friends.

4 PM - Went to New Seasons Market to prepare for dinner in the bakfiets. Had to take the bakfiets to haul the bottle return in.

5 PM - Dinner Prep. Always a chore to get the kids to help set the table, but at least we're not breaking things as much as we used to.

6 PM - What was your favorite part of the day? Kurt and Monicas! is what the kids say.

7 PM - Watch Stage 15 of the Tour de France. Hincapie almost gets the yellow jersey, it was a good stage. Grading midterms from the PSU class.

8 PM - Bed time and snuggles with the girls.

9 PM - Folding laundry and packing. Getting ready for my birthday flight.

11 PM - Leave for PDX

12:25 AM - Fly to Houston and then onto Raleigh, NC for the TRB meeting.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Night Ride

In a day full of bicycling, we ended it with the Night Ride. The first part of the day was spent on a scavenger hunt put on by Pix Patissire on Bastille Day which was entitled a Gastronomical Tour of Portland. More on that later when I have the list of 30 things that we had to acquire for the event (know what epi is?, how about an absinthe spoon), yeah it was a little more difficult then we expected.
So we started and finished at Union Station in Downtown Portland. Last year there were more than 2,000 riders, I don't think they had that many this time, but it was a good time had by those that did participate. The route was a little sketchy because it took us on the Columbia Slough path which is not well lit at all and there were some rough patches on some of the routes along the way that made me question whether they wanted someone to flip over the handlebars like I did in 2004 on the ride. Not the best experience on a ride.
The ride did have a cool Filmed By Bike showing in North Portland at one of the parks, and they looped some of the tamer movies from past FBB shows together. One in particular was an animation short that looked like it was a stuffed doll and the 6-year old had a visit with a friend that could ride her bike and this 6-year old couldn't without training wheels. When the advanced riding friend helped take off the training wheels it made the timid girl not want to ride her bike for a long time. Sounds a bit familiar, although Abby rode her bike without any help for the first time last week. I got some video of that, which was really great to see. We haven't been worried about it and Susan and I were wondering if something just switched on in Abby related to physical activity, because she seems to be running a lot faster than I remember too.
So another successful ride on our season of bikes!
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Saturday, July 4, 2009

Tour de France - Lance Armstrong Returns

We're in Baltimore for the start of the Tour de France and I am taking advantage of the time change to enjoy the opening day Time Trial at 9:30 AM instead of 6:30! Lance Armstrong is on right now and cruising through the streets of Monaco. He's early in the field, so it is hard to know how he is doing, but it is fun to watch as he crosses the finish line.

The scenes from Monaco are impressive, it is one of the beautiful things of the TV coverage is the landscapes that you see from the helicopters.

I woke up this morning and went to Spoon Coffee Roasters, which I didn't know was on Cross Street in Federal Hill here. I visited to have an Espresso and a Latte and buy croissants in honor of the Tour.

He went at a pace of 46 km per hour, which is impressive for as technical as the course was and compared to what I can do! Yet, I have this sense that it won't be the best on this day.

One of the women I work with at Metro was headed over to France to watch a few of the stages. She's going to be at a point with her family where they can get to the end of a stage, the middle of a stage, and then the start of another, which sounds like fun. I'd like to do that in the future. I was talking Patrick McMahon about going to watch the World Cup in 2014 in Brazil.

On the National Mall

We drove down to DC on Friday to visit the National Mall. We took the Metro from the Rhode Island Station on the Red Line. It was a holiday, so we parked for free and took the quick ride into DC. I had a quick thought about the recent crash that occurred on the Red Line at Fort Totten that resulted in several deaths.

Abby wanted to see dinosaurs and animals, so we headed to the National Museum or Natural History. There was a special bonus because there was a special butterfly exhibit. The rotunda was an amazing spectacle and it was packed with people the day before the 4th as it was a special time in our nation's capital. There was a music festival going on and with a new president in the White House there was a buzz in the area on the day before Independence Day.

We enjoyed the National Mall and coerced the girls to walk almost two miles as we went towards the Washington Monument with the prospects of playing on the grass and rolling down the hill. The idea of going to visit the White House was very exciting for the girls as they wanted to go talk to Barack Obama and say hello.

We ended up making the turn from the White House north to K Street and we took the Circulator bus towards Union Station where we caught some dinner and then headed back to the car.
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Friday, July 3, 2009

Entire Koonce Family Rides Subway

Washington DC - Family rides Metro from park and ride to Smithsonian Station. Big surprise, right? Wrong! We chose a park and ride that was not on the way into DC. It was strategically located to reduce Vehicle Miles Travelled (VMT) and give the kids a taste of the subway, introducing it by starting above ground.  
When we had to transfer lines, we recognized that we weren't in Kansas any more and there was quite a crush of riders when we finally got to the Smithsonian. Yes, we weren't the only folks planning to visit the Museums on the mall on the federal holiday.
This inconvenience did give me a chance to see the subway station work at maximum capacity and so I snapped a few photos to recall the fun we had (at least I had) on our visit to DC.
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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Baltimore Aquarium

If you visit Baltimore with kids, it is nearly a requirement to visit the Aquarium in downtown. Although in 2006 it won a Best of Baltimore award for "Best Overpriced Destination for Families" from Baltimore's City Paper. The aquarium has an annual attendance of 1.6 million to see its collection of 16,500 specimens of 560 different species. Particular attractions include the dolphin display, rooftop rainforest, and central ray pool, and multiple-story shark tank. The National Aquarium in Baltimore is only 15% as large as the Georgia Aquarium and just slightly bigger than the Tennessee Aquarium, which we visited a couple of years ago in Chatanooga with the Urbaniks.

The kids got a kick out of the dolphin show and enjoyed being splashed as a part of it.

The jellyfish were a hit with the kids and the Australia exhibit was very nice. This was a nice first day introduction to the vacation as it allowed the kids to ease into the time change very nicely.

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Flying to Baltimore

Our flight to Baltimore for the 4th of July holiday was rather eventful. We left Portland just before noon and went through Houston because we were flying Continental, our favorite airline.
The girls were pretty excited about the trip and had been talking about going to Baltimore for a couple of days in advance. I am not entirely sure that Amelia knew the length of the trip when we started, but she did quite well on the first leg which was almost four hours. We got to Houston with a little time to get dinner and enjoy a leisurely ramble through the airport.

We got on the plane a little early and Amelia took a left turn into the cockpit. The pilot heard them and invited them to take the seat and fly us out to Baltimore. They got a kick out of that and it helped break up the trip.

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