Archive for October 2010
An instrument I have been troubleshooting for days requires an engineer’s visit. After that, I had a minor breakthrough understanding Python and knew that I was going to settle in to fixing a bunch of code I started on holiday for the rest of the afternoon. It was time for a break and I slipped out for a run, eventually ticking a little over 8 miles, but stopping at about 5 miles as I passed through Wolvercote to refresh myself at the Red Lion.
The Red Lion has a huge footprint, almost as big as the village green it is adjacent to. There is a patio and a large garden with Aunt Sally, two large bars, and some small side rooms. There’s a piano that I think is just decoration, as is probably the dart board since tables are too close for them to be of any use…but there are board games (saw Battleship and the Oxford version of Monopoly).
I had a Ringwood Best, which the friendly landlord pulled about half of before muttering something and dashing off. He returned after a few minutes…I was the first ale of the day and he hadn’t yet opened the stopcock. I retired to a side room and watched the dreary day for as long as it took to lift my glass to Bus Job’s memory and savour my beverage…then, reinvigorated, dashed back to see if my coding was actually going to do the job I need it to do.
Addendum: From Foo’s email to the jHavelina listserv…”BusJobs service will be held on Monday Nov. 15, 2010 at the OLD Ft.Huachuca cemetary on post at 1000.” I know it will be a suitably large turnout.
Bus Job (left) and Papa Don't Peek at Meet Rack, 30 Pack Marathon, 2008
Received some awful news last night…Bus Job (aka, Doug Kincaid), was found lying in a wash with a head injury near his home in Sierra Vista. He passed away from his injuries at the scene under the care of paramedics.
Bussy and Foo attempting the Bisbee Beer Mile
Police are still investigating the suspicious circumstances, but most of us that knew him believe that this is merely a case of HRI (hashing related injuries). If it is–and I hope that is how it turns out because as annoying as he could be, Bus Job was also one of the gentlest souls and warmest hearted friends you could ask for–it is probably how he would have hoped to go, dead on trail.
Tucson and Sierra Vista are harsh places and I don’t expect visit them anytime in the near future, but do hope to go for a visit at some point. Bussy’s absence will make any visit all the more bleak.
Here is a snippet of video from the first 30 Pack Marathon, where you can have a peak at Bus Job at his finest (first bit, before the stills of Bearded and Bavarian):
Now the Three Cups is what I long for in a drinking establishment. Packed on a Sunday afternoon with a bunch of mouthy folks taking the piss out of each other whilst cheering opposite sides in a sporting event. A big guy at the bar directed some comments toward me as I came in but I didn’t catch a word and opted instead to just order up my beer and enjoy the amibiance.
The guy to my left had three pints of lager next to him with varying levels, but I think he was tending them for someone. I spied another room through doorway in the ovate bar and noticed that the guy drinking over there perked up when the guy to my right dumped 80 pounds in coins in a pile there; he had just emptied the fruit machine, but my compatriot must have thought Mister Coinage was buying a round because he was over on our side of the bar like a shot.
There was a little dog running around that became enamoured of my shoes. “What’s ‘e licking, there?” a woman near one of the windows asked me as I shot a photo of the little guy; “sheep shit…I’ve been running through the meadows.” She smiled and nodded and left him to carry on cleaning up my footwear.
I believe it was the Milton Keynes football club playing, but whoever it was a bunch of these guys seemed to know one of the trainers who got into a post-goal celebratory scene. The bar cheered when the goal happened, but louder when the trainer came into shot, then again on every replay (but only as the trainer came into view).
Supposed to be the sign, but a nice view of Bridge Street
The Buckingham Arms is a nice pub on some fairly large grounds in Maids Moreton (just outside Buckingham). The food smelled great, but I was cooking as soon as I got home so I settled for a beer, a Bill Sutton’s Best by Slater’s Ales…sublime.
It was a bit quiet and the chef came out for a while, and a couple with a little girl tried to teach her how to throw darts badly, which she accomplished. Friendly staff, nice enough group of punters, what more could you ask?
I spotted this outside just after asking how far it is to Buckingham
The run had gone well, and from Chackmore I had planned an hour to cover some ground and hit Akeley Wood and some fields and hills before sliding into Akeley to find a pub after about an hour. I found the Bull and Butcher in about 55 minutes and was quite pleased with my orienteering skills.
The place was packed with an affable crowd. One guy made extra room for me at the bar and asked if I was just there for the facilities or if I was drinking; “drinking, of course…there’s miles of toilet out there,” I noted. He laughed, “yes, and not nearly enough beer!”
The barkeep loaded my glass but in the warm room I was suddenly sweating profusely so I headed out to the garden. There, I harvested a couple of apples and watched as the clouds rolled slowly by. This is the life! There are far too few weekends this gorgeous!
The first new (to me) pub I visited after 2 weeks overseas was the Queen’s Head in Chackmore. The place was mildly busy which is a bit surprising unless the others got a more friendly reception than I did. Perhaps the young woman at the taps had something troubling her…I’d hate to think she was just an asshole.
I got my Black Sheep and vacated the premises, taking up with a couple resting after taking their terriers for an adventure up to the arch at Stowe Gardens. A bit nippy out, but the company was so much more pleasant.
I hear the food is good, though. As a caveat, I also heard that this was a fantastic pub. The beer was alright, I must say.
It is so good to be back in the civilised world!
Sunday I took a run through a bit of Buckinghamshire I’ve never traveled before, starting in the town of Buckingham then up Stowe Avenue toward the Stowe House and Gardens. The day was a bit cool, but sunny and the breezes were mild. I was able to find pubs in Chackmore, Akeley, Maids Moreton and Buckingham and the scenery, alone, was worth the effort. After getting lost in Buckingham trying to find the car I had a total of just over 12 miles. Fantastic. Here are some photos:
The approach from Buckingham leads to the Corinthian Arch
The gardens have lakes, creeks, a moat around the House, and hundreds of acres to explore
...and pavement so you only get muddy if you really want to
We went to Athens, GA but it was a football weekend which attracts amateur drinkers from the suburbs and usually there are fights and always there are DUI checkpoints. We opted to visit an old friend on the outskirts of town to weather this afront to all that is holy and decent (which is to say, us going down and bar crawling town…bastards).
Instead, we visited many of our old haunts and a dear old friend from Atlanta (both me and Jamie have known her about a month longer than we have known one another). She does some fine wood carving, plays a mean round of whiffle ball golf, and remembers outrageous shit we’ve done together that should have gotten us killed or worse…and now causes us to giggle uncontrollably and thank the government for the statutes of limitations.
At the Cook's Trail trailhead
I got a run in at Sandy Creek, the length of Cook’s Trail which I ran end-to-end-to-end noting that many of the exposed roots and hidden sinkholes were exactly where I remembered. This wasn’t surprising as I ran this route 2 or 3 times a week from the day it opened anytime I have been in Athens…having lived there 11 years I can claim at least 10,000 miles on this path and 8 more last Sunday.
Athens is full of eccentrics as is the entire South, but Athens eccentrics are a special case. As a bona fide southern nutcase, I have to say that I have never felt more instantly at home anywhere else as I have in Athens. I had this theory a few years ago, as we got even stranger than we were when we first moved there (and watched perfectly normal folk move in and quickly deteriorate into babbling messes), that there had some sort of military experiment that polluted the water supply–everyone drinks from the aquifer a few hundred feet below you–and slowly turned you into a mildly hallucinating weirdo. The other theory is that most of us actually were tripping all the time. Both seem plausible, from the evidence I have.
Case in point is the friend we stayed with. Since our last visit she has developed an addiction to nicotine gum, and chews more than 170 of the 4 mg doses per week–the equivalent of two-and-a-half packs per day even though she has never smoked tobacco in her life.
That story was dredged before the end of our first five minutes of “catching up” and somehow segued into Jamie’s mom’s prediliction for death stories. Although she doesn’t do it as constantly as she used to, she still can interrupt a perfectly good conversation with a comment like, “right over there is where them boys cut that man’s head off and rolled it down the mountain,” [2:45 pm, Sunday 10 October 2010]. It’s hard to say which makes you feel like the trip home is more real: Jamie’s ma telling a decapitation story when you’re trying to enjoy the Autumn colours or laughing your ass off about it at Debra’s whilst trying to keep abreast of the insane level of her stories.
Speaking of nutty people, we stopped by T’s house in Atlanta on our way out of the country. The pictures of clutter and cool junk are all from there and if you check Atlanta’s Craig’s List you can find out how much of it is for sale. I would’ve bought the Tahitian lamp if I had room in my luggage…
We stopped by Petunia’s Silver Jalapeno, Gin-gin’s (another mutual friend and former workmate from Chattanooga) little food stand out in Red Bank. She has a proper bricks-and-morter restaurant and a culinary school certification but this stand has a reputation for some of the best fish tacos in the east.
I like fish tacos, and in spite of the innuendo involved these were legit. And, very good I should add although I have had better…but it’s not fair to compare food prepped for the dull taste buds of these mountain yahoos to real mexican food so I’ll leave it at that.
Bring your own beer.
(Original article was from Chattanooga Free Press)
I like Bob Dylan. I like big cats. I like beer. I like getting naked. If only there was a way to combine these interests…
The deck upstairs at the Pickle Barrel
Jackie used to work at the Pickle Barrel back in the early 80′s after it was bought by Nick and Brian, two former air traffic controllers at loose ends after the whole PATCO fiasco. In many ways it was the best job she ever had and when she moved to Atlanta many of the Pickle Barrel denizens of that time soon followed. I met many of them before we met, in fact.
So, rare is the visit to Tennessee during which we fail to stop in for a round or two. This time I had an ice cold half pitcher of New Belgium 1554, but eventually it warmed to a drinkable temperature (bunch of savages!). On our way out we spotted Nick at the bar being very Nick-esque and had not so much a conversation as a few disjoint words.
The place predates Nick and Brian (Brian has since left for greener pastures). In the years preceding the PATCO strike it was run by some sort of religious cult and, I am assured, the food was superb. The one remaining nod to this past is the toilets marked “Brothers” and “Sisters” although if you’ve been there more than once you’ll realise these are arbitrary and superfluous labels.
Reading matter in the brothers (or, possibly, the sisters)
The kitchen looks good, still and they have always had the best bar eats in town. The servers can’t possibly be as surly as Jackie ever was, but I’m sure they try. DO, by ALL means, plan on stopping in for a few drinks if you find yourself in town.
“If you get to the donkey you’ve gone too far.”
For a town full of military folk, it’s strange that this is the first ever Veteran’s Memorial
Yep, been drinkin’ and, yep, been quite ill for a few days, but after awhile here this sort of statement is normal regardless of how ridiculous it looks in print. At least these are just street directions and not some sort of hard won ‘Tijuana Juisdom’. We are back in the UK now, but we’ve already worked this into our lexicon usually as a chastisement, e.g., “Oh, you’re way past the donkey.”
Speaking of drinking, after our first day to ourselves or, rather, our first two hours to ourselves we had planned a quiet meal at the mom-in-law’s and to watch the ALDS game (Rangers v Yankees) and arrived home to find that we had been scheduled for yet another command performance (this time at some of Jackie’s rabid but relatively tolerable relations’ place…a couple I actually LIKE to visit, in fact). Sent to find a suitable wine to carry with us, I spotted this bottle:
Actually, Sassy Bitch but fotoshopped to show it as the dyslexia presented it to me…how apropos!
We’d been driving around a bit, as you do, and went up on “the mountain” to see Jackie’s uncles’ property…pretty nice stuff up there, a lot of it was already in the family long before her grandpa Bill went off on his long Federal vacation in Kentucky for producing fine distilled spirits during prohibition (that Prohibition fiasco was exemplified in movies about bootleggers and Al Capone was done and dusted by 1933, for you lot in the civilised world). We stopped for a visit at the window rock which has so much dubious folklore attached to it that I decline to add anymore to it…some indian nonsense or other. The modern folklore is more interesting such as the way like minded individuals might be just on the other side of the rock from one another:
Still it is a great place to have a wee climb and nearby there are some great views of the valley (but the photos all came out a bit ‘flat’ as it was a hazy day) at the hang gliding club’s leap-off point. Beautiful territory up there and the next trip (hopefully years away) I’m going to hit the logging road for a long run.
We had a visit to Chapel Hill, where most of Jackie’s people attend church and quite a few of them are buried. We always stop by on our way out of town and have a drink with her brother (may he rest well), but the little cemetery is worth a walk around sitting in the shadow of Signal Mountain and with a good look across the Sequatchie Valley. There’s also a rough little beer joint 200 meters away that is always worth a visit.
One trend noticed on this visit was the use of laser imaging on rock:
and on brass:
Religion is big here…even more so in the mid south than in America in general, and added to the overall WILLFUL stupidity of the region (hey, sorry, but they’re my people so I get to be judgemental about it) this can result in something amusing and embarassing in almost equal measure. Here’s a good example, a front yard out on the highway that I ran past in December 2008:
is still holding up the tradition of psycho-religio-babble at this time:
God bless America, I guess.
Surrounded by the ones I love most...
We were going to do another pizza but I talked Jackie and her brother into mexican knowing full well that mexican in a small southern town is a loser’s wager. However, El Metate was really very good, rivaling some of the more middle of the road South Tucson dives for quality of food…Chris had fish tacos, Jackie had beef ones, and I had a combo of burrito, taco, and stuffed poblano (all pork). And, Chris decided he didn’t want the dark beer that was delivered to the table (large is one liter each) so I got two when he reordered a lager.
The only downside to the night: the Braves got knocked out of the series.
Finally feeling well enough for a beer and run, I traversed the 4 miles from Jackie’s ma’s house across Dunlap in the 90 degree F (33 C) heat and relentless sun in just over 25 minutes and zipped into the Valley Inn Sports Bar to find a very, erm, ’round’ biker couple happily smoking away and getting trashed. They appeared to be about 70-years-old but were probably no older than me (who earned looking like he’s 70-years-old honestly, thank you very much). Anyways, they were trashed and heading toward sloppy drunk. I felt quite at home.
A couple of guys came in and started flirting clumsily with the bartender but she was quite sweet and tolerant and seemed to know these goobers and soon the one two seats away was smoking as well. We had a disjoint conversation about various kinds of animal poop and which you might have to send out for and I was happy when their food came around.
The beer was cold, the t.v.’s big and tuned to sport channels, the food looked edible (more so than in the other places so far)…what more would you ask? Oh, and two 16 ounce Natural Light’s only cost $2.20.
We were supposed to meet Jackie’s aunt and uncle for lunch and instead met several aunts, uncles, cousins and kids-of-cousins. I’m sure a reunion like this was deserving of a better meal, but everyone else seemed happy with the buffet.
Like the “Japanese” place earlier this week, the only thing really chinese about it was the name and the fact that some of the items were stir fried. At least the staff appeared to be asian, if the meat loaf balls and boiled cabbage and lasagne and biscotti were a bit surreal (both on their own merit and as a chinese dining experience).
I am ready to move on to better food, please. And, I still haven’t got my pitcher of beer and nachos. This trip sucks.
No trip to visit Jackie’s mom could end well. But, the surreptitious–and heavy–pouring of distilled spirits make the journey less horrific. Slightly.
The laws here are funny. A few years ago (just before our last visit, in fact), liquor sales were approved here and now the county has several purveyors of fine spirits. However, you have to go some statutory distance to purchase mixers as they cannot be sold on or near the premises. Also, while they can sell liquor and wine in a licensed establishment they cannot sell beer.
Nearby states have their own quirks. Alabama and North Carolina only sell liquor from state run shops (actually called a “State Store” in ‘bama). Until recently, South Carolina ONLY had liquor-by-the-drink so that a loophole allowed stores to sell those miniature airline bottles in cases of 48 or so. There was a drive through shop in Atlanta that you could shove a gallon milk bottle through the window and they would fill it with draft beer, and if you bought a pint of liquor and a mixer they would throw in a cup of ice for free…what you chose to do with those items on your journey was your own business.
I picked up a 1.75 liter bottle of Early Times bourbon for $18 (that’s about 11.50 pounds sterling, brit folk…read ‘em and weep). We are each bringing our own treats back with us, and for my 1 liter duty free import I ill have Wild Turkey White Label (101 proof sipping bourbon for the Christmas holidays). Dunno what Jackie will bring, but the prices can’t be beat.
Oh, here’s the view just outside:
There isn’t much I miss about America…baseball, cold beer served in 64 ounce pitchers, Mexican food, and Goody’s Powders are about the entirety. Here is a brief tutorial on how to enjoy a Goody’s.
Step One: Acquire a box of Goody’s
Step Two: Extract one powder
Step Three: Unfold the packet/envelope exposing the powder
Step Four: Tilt the paper allowing the powder to slide onto your tongue…not too far back or you’ll cough, not too far forward or, well, trust me on this one
Step Five: Moisten quickly to a lump and swallow. Perhaps enjoy a swig of your favourite cold beverage.
Nothing says Japanese food, to me at least, like being served chewy, overcooked, teri-yucky drenched beef connective tissue by an obese guatemalan dude. While the NASCAR report blares out of the televisions in the two rooms of this quite lovely little house. No sushi, no sake. No return visit.
Afflicted with a massive upper respiratory infection, I begged off the luchtime outing with Jackie’s people but needed a bite to eat before heading back to bed. I drove up to the little barbeque stand up the street (a little bit katy-cornered across from the Sequatchie County High School) and got a large pork sandwich for about $4.50 and was set for the day. This was piled with about a pound of succulent, sweet pork shoulder smoked to perfection and came with a small tub of hot (not flaming, but spicy) sauce.
My god, that was good.
If they ever get proper BBQ and baseball in England I will never need to tread this forsaken land again.