Happy Birthday Patrick (aka Mik)!

April 28th, 2009

City of Villains Reunion

The attacking thug is barely worthy
of notice as he is much lower level

Oops. We missed Patrick’s 40th birthday by a few days here on the blog, but that’s because we were hanging out with the old man himself, along with many of his family and friends near Seattle, WA. Patrick is a friend I met playing City of Villains a couple of years ago. In a game that had amazing PVP and a strongly PVE oriented community, it was great to find a like-minded soul that was more interested in beating up on real live hero scum than fighting the AI. Patrick was the driving force behind organizing and training one of the few villain PVP groups and the only one I’m aware of that could challenge and beat the experienced hero groups. He also has a wicked sense of humor that kept us all going during the long leveling grind.

Since we were ‘in the neighborhood’, you know – west of the Mississippi and north of California, we had to drop in for the little shindig he was throwing. His family is just as great and it’s easy to see how Patrick has become such a gracious person, surrounded by so many warm and friendly people. They were kind enough to provide us a place to park for three nights in a wonderfully quiet clearing within sight of the Puget Sound. I don’t think it would be possible for a group of people to treat complete strangers any nicer than they treated us. By the end of the weekend, we felt as if we’d known everyone for ten years instead of three days.

Double Piggyback Ride

Roman and Jaden attack!

In fact, the entire weekend became a mini City of Villains reunion. Morgan, another of Patrick’s friends and gaming buddies recently moved to Seattle from Juneau, making three of us. Morgan also helped set up the surprise guest, Jeremy’s arrival from Colorado. Jeremy was yet another of the guys we used to play City of Villains with. By mid-day Saturday, we could have been geeking out hardcore if we’d only had enough machines for everyone to play on. Fortunately, we didn’t and the rest of the party wasn’t forced to watch Patrick playing video games for the entire weekend. =)

The weekend was a non-stop riot of amazing Alaskan seafood, games of all sorts (except video games!), fun and interesting people, and for anyone that stood still too long – swarms of ninja kids looking for attention, caffeine, sugar, or preferably, all three! We’re going to be in the area for a few weeks waiting on passports and hope we can get together with Patrick, Caro, Tony, Siobhan and Roman again before we head across the border.

Vicksburg

February 11th, 2009

ms_Vicksburg1.jpg

During our trip down the Natchez Trace, we took a daytrip a bit west towards Vicksburg. Jenn and I are both into museums and historic attractions, but neither of us is all that into the nuts and bolts of particular battles. So, why would we go to Vicksburg, where you spend several hours driving around the battlefield and reading about the intricate details of the battle including the number of casualties at each battery of guns? Well, mostly because we have an America the Beautiful pass and hate to pass up a chance to get into something for free that might entertain us for the day.

The military park really is a pretty drive and not a bad way to spend the day. However, after the first six or eight miles, I think we were both pretty well bored with the dry descriptions of troop movements and casualty counts. Don’t get me wrong, this era of our history is very important and shouldn’t be discounted, but I really had a hard time reading similar descriptions repeatedly, none of which you could really sink your teeth into except perhaps the description of tunneling into earthworks in order to blow them up, which is something I thought had died out a few hundred years earlier. This same area had the wonderfully colorful description of a slave who was ‘blown to freedom’ when a mine was touched off below him.

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Natchez Trace Parkway

February 10th, 2009

old_natchez_trace

Leaving Tennessee, we hopped on the Natchez Trace Parkway a bit south of Nashville and took it to the end in Natchez, Mississippi. Now, it wasn’t leaf peeper or flower sniffer season, but it was still a beautiful drive. The entire parkway is around four hundred and fifty miles long, two lane blacktop through the countryside. It closely follows the original Natchez Trace, which was a footpath through the forest used by Indians and traders up until the late nineteenth century. The speed limit is fifty miles an hour and only non-commercial use is allowed. In short, you couldn’t hope for a more leisurely drive. I was surprised how light traffic was. We often went fifteen minutes or more without seeing another vehicle.

If you get tired of driving, the park system has you covered. There is some kind of pull off every few miles. These range from historic areas and exhibits to nature areas and hiking trails. In addition, there are three free, primitive campgrounds on the parkway, spaced roughly every hundred and fifty miles. You may also overnight at the visitor center in Natchez. We’ve heard that these campgrounds fill up quickly during the snowbird migration, but in mid-January, the campgrounds were pretty empty.

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That Old Mississippi Mud!

February 3rd, 2009

Mississippi Mud - Stuck

Internet connectivity has been spotty, but not as spotty as the sides of the truck. About a week ago, we stopped overnight at a horse trail in the national forest just off the Natchez Trace. On pulling in, we saw a rather deep looking mud puddle and in our infinite wisdom, decided to try and keep the truck clean. A few words of advice: in Mississippi, if the road looks bad, the ground around it is awful. Fifteen feet off the road, the ground sunk in bad enough that we needed to put the truck in 4WD and lock the hubs to get out.

Now this is the point where everybody tells you that 4WD allows you to get stuck deeper in. The smart course of action, would have been to back out. However, I looked at the ruts we’d already made and looked ahead. No big deal, just a little 10″ deep ditch. Nothing the truck can’t handle, right? At this point, the ditch, with water running through it, somehow, looked better than the foot deep mud behind us. I guess everybody that’s spent much time in the mud is giggling about now. I hadn’t taken into account that a ditch, WITH WATER IN IT, is likely to be at least as gooey as the ground around it.

So, long story short, another fifteen feet of driving put us in quite a bit of nasty crud and the poor, overloaded truck refused to budge any direction but down. I got out and started digging in some hope of flattening the area out. Jenn decided it was a great time to snap a picture. Women! I can’t fault her too much though, by the time the night was over, she did her share of digging.

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