Aug 25

I always get jealous of my kids this time of year.  They are off to school and have all kinds of new stuff start in their lives.  New classes, new teachers, new sports, new friends.  Meanwhile, back at the ranch of adulthood, I still get up every morning and go do what I do every stinking day.  Nothing new, nothing exciting, nothing offering much of a reason to get out of stinking bed.

“Oh, wait,” says the tiny little voice of optimism that reaches out from the deep recesses of my small mind.  ”Maybe you’ll make some new friends today!”

“Yeah,” I remind that stinking voice, “I work in tech support.  I may meet a new person who is all pissed off because his or her Internet isn’t working.  Sounds like fun.”

“Uh… well… they’ll be happy if you help them with their problem,” says the diminishing voice.

“Because I did what I am paid to do,” I replied. “They aren’t going to want to invite me and the family over for supper because I did my job.”

“… well… you, uh… sometimes, you’re coworkers are fun to be around,” squeaks the voice.

“Yeah, maybe today someone will come up with a new and exciting excuse to call in and not be able to come to work, and I can stress out (because everything stresses me out) trying to figure out how to reschedule stuff or make up for the work that coworker was supposed to do,” I tell the voice.

“You’re hopeless,” says the voice as it crawls back into the murk of my mind, hidden from all conscious thought… just where I like it.

Other than the weekends and the occasional scheduled vacation, I don’t find myself looking forward to too much during the course of any given day.  Sometimes, I’m gifted a sporting event or a musical performance in the evening that makes the latter-half of a work day go by a little quicker.  Usually, though, life is routine.  For the kids, their lives are pretty routine as well, but their routines change from year to year and from season to season.  Life as an adult can be… well… pretty mundane.  I’m pretty sure I’m not the only adult who feels this way.  I know this is one of the main reasons why I have changed jobs so many times: just to break up the mundane.  I also have a feeling this is why American Idol and Monday Night Football are so popular: most of us just don’t know how to find excitement in our lives, so we settle for the faux-excitement of vesting our emotions in the efforts of someone who is actually living what we perceive to be the excitement.  And for many of us, even most of the stuff we look forward to isn’t really so much about us as it is about our kids.  Going to a kid’s baseball game or a kid’s soccer tournament or a kid’s piano recital.  Once you’re old, you start to realize why people live vicariously through their children — because the life of an adult kinda sucks.  All the good stuff happens to the young.  Even the Bible agrees with me:

“Remember your Creator
in the days of your youth,
before the days of trouble come
and the years approach when you will say,
I find no pleasure in them’ ”— (Ecclesiastes 12-1)

Old age is the days of trouble when no pleasure is to be found.

So, in an effort to add something interesting to the monotony of adulthood, I decided this year to get myself a small game hunting license.  As a kid, I used to hunt all the time.  I grew up out in the country, and all of my friends lived in town, so I’d find myself on almost any given day out in the fields near our house shooting stuff.  I’d shoot rabbits and snakes and all kinds of critters.  As I grew older, I tried to shoot only things that could be utilized.  I’d kill jackrabbits and feed them to our dogs.  My blue healers loved fresh rabbit and weren’t quite fast enough to catch them on their own.  I’d kill cottontails and make my mom cook them (which happened about twice before she said “no more”), and then I learned to make the best rabbit jerky in the world.  I’d hunt sage grouse and pheasant and deer (all during the correct season, of course).  I enjoyed hunting, and I haven’t hunted since I moved to the No-Hunting-or-Trespassing capital of the United States — Nebraska.

I’ve scoped out a few of the extremely small public areas around the panhandle where hunting is allowed, and I plan on killing some stuff.  I plan on getting some rabbits and some squirrels and some doves and some crow and maybe even a pigeon or two and I’m going to eat them.  I got a smoker a couple of years ago for Father’s Day, and I’ve learned that EVERYTHING is good smoked.  Heck, if I run into any rattlesnakes or big old bull snakes, I may even throw them on the smoker.

The wife is, of course, disgusted with my plan, and the boys are terrified.  But, by golly, I’m gonna start filling our freezer with numerous small, rodent-like creatures.  I need to go back and re-hone my skills at being able to provide for my family with my own hands and some of the firearms collecting dust in the closet.  I need to reconnect with my primal self.  I need to prepare for the Zombie Apocalypse.

… I need to find something more exciting than the anticipation of Sunday’s new Robot Chicken episode to look forward to each week…

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Aug 15

Well, it’s that time of year again.  Although the actual season doesn’t end for well over a month, what we often think of as summer is drawing to a close.  It’s sad.

It’s not sad that the extreme heat of summer will soon turn to the frigid cold of winter.  I love the cold.

It’s not sad that my boys will continue in the educational process.  The sooner they get through school, the sooner they gain skills that will enable them to surpass their lame father in a meaningful career… outside of the panhandle.  I don’t want to wish away their childhoods, and I do not look forward to the day when they leave home to start lives on their own (along with my wife, my sons are really the only friends I have here in Huskerland… because I’m kinda pathetic… and people don’t really seem to be drawn to my vibrant personality… but whatever).  The sooner they move away from the panhandle, the sooner the wife and I can get the hell out of here and I can figure out what I’m going to do with my life.  I’ll only be like 52 — that’s young, right?  Yeah, I’m delusional…

Soon, every night will once again be filled with one kid’s or the other’s activities.  The peace and quiet, the time to collect one’s thoughts, the fun family time — they are all about to go out the window, and I’m not looking forward to it.

This year, the oldest boy enters high school.  The wife was looking through the pile of crap that the school sends out with all of the rules and suggestions and whatnot.  There was a flyer for the high school’s booster club in the mix.

“Huh,” said the wife, ” that sounds kind of fun.”

“Yeah,” I said.  ”I wouldn’t mind getting involved with something like that.”

“Oh, never mind,” said the wife as she read the flyer over.

“What?” I asked.

“Never mind,” said the wife, “you’re not going to want to do it.”

“Why?” I asked.

The wife just looked at me, and I suspect that she may have been trying to come up with a lie.  She ended up telling me the truth.

“They charge $25 to be a member of the booster club,” she finally admitted.

“They charge you $25 to volunteer your time?” I asked.  I should have been incredulous at this point, but life has taught me that most things make absolutely no sense, and much of what life offers seems to have been created exclusively to piss me off.

“See,” said the wife, “I knew you’d get upset.”  She knows me well.

“Guess they charge $25 to keep out the riff raff,” I said.  ”Looks like it’s working… ’cause they’re keeping me out.  All of those doctor’s wives and lawyer’s wives can handle it just fine on their own.”

“It’s twenty-five dollars,” said the wife.  ”It’s not exactly country club membership pricing.”

“Yeah, twenty-five bucks is like twenty percent of our weekly grocery budget,” I said.  ”They want our kids to starve so we can volunteer for the booster club?”

“I don’t think the boys will starve over twenty-five dollars,” said the wife.

“Well, they could!” I shouted, and the wife just walked away. Apparently she doesn’t love our boys as much as I do…

Oh summer, how I will miss you.  I wish the fun and relaxation you offer could be found all year round… but with colder temperatures.  I am, however, a little excited about the whole “high school” thing.  Just from the intro packet that the school gave out, I can already tell that I am going to find a whole new world of stuff to piss me off and to bitch about in a very short period of time…

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Aug 10

Anyone who hasn’t read anything from The Bloggess is truly missing out.  She is one of the funniest bloggers in the blogosphere.

The Bloggess is actually a woman named Jenny Lawson.  She recently had a book published, a memoir of sorts, that I just finished reading.  One of the funniest books I have read… ever… and I highly recommend it.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir)

I’m not much of a book reviewer, so I’m just gonna tell you what I liked (and didn’t like) about the book.  I like Jenny.  She’s freaking nuts… literally.  She has some phobias that seem so “out there” that it is easy to laugh along with her and her story.  Her upbringing made her unique, and contributed to her being absolutely insane.  I actually laughed out loud while reading this.  It’s always nice to be able to laugh at someone with deeper issues than the ones roaming the inside of your head, isn’t it?  Well, that is, until you realize that your own phobias and issues might be a little different than Jenny’s, but are they really any less bizarre?  Of course they aren’t!  We’re all freaking nuts; Jenny just captures it better with words than most of us can.

I’m going to be honest, I bought Jenny’s book because, in the furthest recesses of my mind, I have hoped that this little blog of mine will somehow turn into an actual career writing for a living… somehow.  I don’t know how, but somehow. And here is one of my favorite bloggers, and she has done it.  She has reached a pinnacle that I think many people who blog hope to obtain.

I bought Jenny’s book to support a fellow blogger.  There seems to be a community, a sense of fellowship, amongst bloggers.  Of course, this is another community that I don’t quite fit in with.  In fact, I don’t even know how one gets to that community.  There are all kinds of bloggers who recommend each other and comment on each other’s blogs.  I have commented on several, and I have never had that action reciprocated.  So, I just keep doing my thing… you know, bitching and whatnot…

Jenny, in her book, writes of her circle of blogging friends.  She writes about rich women, and how she thought that she would never be able to fit in with them… and how she ends up kind of fitting in with them.  That was one part of the book I didn’t care for.  I, too, hate the rich… but I don’t imagine finding myself on a golf course with a bunch of doctors or lawyers having a gay old time.  That, in my mind, would be… uh… gay?

After reading Jenny’s book, I decided that I should maybe try to follow her style a little.  I feel like she has a very similar sense of humor to mine, she’s just a hell of a lot funnier.  And she writes “f**k” a lot… and “vagina”.  Maybe I’d be funnier if I wrote “f**k” and “vagina” more — or at all.

Anyway, you should really check out her book.  It’s f**king awesome, and it smells like vagina…

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Aug 08

Every year during Oregon Trail Days, the illustrious City of Gering hosts the renowned International Food Fair.  This is a one night only event that many locals look forward to from the moment the festivities end one year to the moment they begin again the following year.  I mean, come on!  Having some cultural diversity in downtown Gering is a great thing, right?

The entire downtown area is closed off and vendors representing food from all over the “world” set-up shop to bask the attendees in the glow of multicultural cuisine!  Now, to be honest, I haven’t been to this event very often, because long lines amongst throngs of people waiting to overpay for food isn’t my idea of a good time.  Last time me and my oldest boy tried going down there (several years ago), I ended up getting pissed at the long lines and we walked down to McDonald’s and got ourselves some international Big Macs… they’re Scandinavian, right?  This year, however, the wife’s and my nieces were visiting from Denver for a week, and we’d run out of things to entertain them with here in the panhandle (surprise!)… so we decided we’d all treat ourselves to some international fare.

We arrived and scoped the place out.  I’m thinking maybe some Middle Eastern curry may be in order, or perhaps some Jamaican jerk.  If worse comes to worst, I always like a good gyro.  And then I notice what kinds of “international” treats are available at the food fair…
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Alright!  The Chinese place in downtown Gering set up a booth selling — Chinese!  Our journey through a smorgasbord of foods from around the world has begun…

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Okay, we have us some Mexican.  What else we got…

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… alrighty, we have us another Mexican burrito place.  Next…

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… uh… I’m starting to see a trend develop here.  So far, we got us some Chinese and lots of Mexican.  What else do we have?  Out of the corner of my I, I spied something “Italian”, so I go to check it out…

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… so, looks like an Italian sub is the country of Italy’s submission to the International Food Fair.  I’m kind of suspecting the people who ran this booth hadn’t actually ever been to Italy, but at least it’s not another burrito place.

The panhandle of Nebraska is filled with Germans.  I started looking for some of that traditional German fare, and I wasn’t disappointed…

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… or was I?  Germans in this area are big lovers of garlic sausage, which is kind of like brautwurst, but garlic-ier.  I found no garlic sausage, I found no sauerbrauten, and there wasn’t a spätzle or knödel in sight.  But there were brats. I don’t know how well this booth represented Germany, but it reminded me that I kinda miss those tailgate parties from my college days.  Maybe there was a different German booth…

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… or not.  Looks like brats are as German as this International Food Fair was going to get.  This booth also introduced the famous “pulled pork sandwich”, which I believe comes from Ethiopia.  No, wait a second, I’m thinking of kitfo.  Pulled pork is… uh… pretty much an American barbecue thing.  Well, American is part of the International community, so American fare at one booth isn’t bad, right?

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… oh, for the love of…

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… I give up.  The International Fare at this food fair seems to be a Chinese place and a bunch of places selling Mexican and American food (with the occasional brat thrown in for good measure, and an Italian sub).  At least this place from the Sandhills of Nebraska make their sign interesting by trying to disguise their weaseliness.  Notice how they have a “meal” price of $8.00.  The meal includes a sandwich and a water or Powerade.  Notice how a sandwich alone is $7.00… and a water alone is $1.00.  That isn’t even a combo meal… that’s just them adding the prices conveniently together for you and making it look like you’re getting a deal.  I will give them credit for knocking a buck off if you go with the Powerade option, but I deduct credit for a “Philly”-style sandwich having American cheese.  Either throw some provolone on it, drench it in Cheez Whiz, or take “Philly” out of the name.  I do love how they state they raise their own beef, and how there is “No mystery meat here, folks!”  I thought this was hilarious… I don’t think the people at the Chinese place felt the same…

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Now this place has it going on.  They have the “Mexican” nachos, the Pennsylvania Dutch funnel cake, and the fries from the country of Ribbononia.  And they have Indian tacos, which are, of course, associated with the Navajo Nation… which I count as American, but you can count it however you want.

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This one is kind of hard to read, but it's Indian Tacos for $6.50 and drinks for $1.00... and the unadvertised meal-deal of a taco and a drink for $7.50.

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Got nothing for this one, but I took the picture, so here it is. Julie's Antiques has some cool stuff, so I recommend checking it out...

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There were other booths at this food fair, but they all served pretty much the same or similar things. There were some awesome boy scouts selling Pizza Hut pizza, but anyone who claims that Pizza Hut is anything other than Americanized pizza is dented and shouldn’t be listened to anyway.  So, my oldest boy and I got Indian Tacos and the rest of the crew got Chinese.  I think the whole experience set us back only a couple hundred bucks, and I was once again reminded why I don’t usually go to the International Food Fair in Gering, NE.  The concept is great, but the delivery (or offering) is severely lacking.  Gering’s International Food Fair hosts pretty much the same food you get at a normal fair, but offers the disappointment of being mislead about the whole “International” thing…

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Aug 06

As I was writing my rants about my family’s vacation to Omaha this summer, I was posting links to the posts on my Facebook page.  One of my friends mockingly challenged me to write a list of 20 POSITIVE things about our trip to eastern Nebraska.  It’s like she doesn’t even know me… and we’re friends on Facebook!  How could she not know me?  Well, then another Facebook friend piped-up and said that she too would like to see me make a positive list.

Seriously?

Who do these people think I am?  Tony Robbins?

Well, the first friend who made the insane comment about my need to do this positive list ended her comment with, “I know you can do it!!!”  She really did use the exclamation points — three of them — kind of like a mother encouraging her little boy to make poopie on the potty.  My Facebook friends love and respect me so much…

Well, I actually started thinking about trying to poop on that potty.  You know, go against the grain of everything I believe in and actually come up with a list of crap that is positive.  I wasn’t planning on limiting it to the vacation in Omaha, either.  I was planning on trying to scrounge up 20 things in the panhandle of Nebraska that add some sort of pleasure and/or meaning to my life.  I hadn’t even really started thinking about the 20 things yet, just the fact that I was going to try to come up with 20 things, and my head was already staring to throb.

Okay, so I thought about the church I attend.  Following is the attempt I made at listing the church…

1. I go to a good church.  The people are all pretty non-hypocritical, the pastor really knows the bible, and the family and I all feel pretty welcomed there.  The music is all pretty old-school hymns and whatnot, which I don’t really care for, and there are no drums or guitars or synthesizers or anything.  We say the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostle’s Creed during every service, which seems a little ceremonial to me, and I’m not a big believer in religious ceremony.  And did I even mention the old people always complaining about the temperature in the sanctuary!  For crying out loud, it’s always 150 degrees in there because grandma is a little chilly and had to complain to one of the deacons! AND DON’T EVEN GET ME STARTED ON THE RUDE DEACONS…

… and then I realized that this wasn’t probably even really close to what my Facebook friends were looking for as far as positive goes, so I decided to skip mentioning my church.  I thought I should try something else.  At this point, my head has moved beyond throbbing and is more in the solar flare category.

1. There are good schools here.  Well, the schools are okay.  There are some issues with the schools here.  Scottsbluff Public Schools used to have a strong HALS (high ability learners) program, but the new superintendent of schools put the kibosh to that program and replaced it with some program that he had “great success” with back in Colorado.  The new program  involves hours and hours and hours of extra homework for the students… and the student’s parents.  Good call, superintendent.  I have tried taking advantage of some of the offerings at the local community college.  At one point, when I was really feeling like I wasn’t supposed to be doing what I was doing for a job, I took one of those tests through the college that are supposed to tell you what you would be good at based on your personality and skills.  Well, I paid like fifty bucks to find out that my calling is to be a file clerk.  A FLIPPING FILE CLERK!  HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO SUPPORT A FAMILY ON THE EARNINGS OF A STINKING FILE CLERK…

And, once again, I got off topic.  Being positive is hard.  Being negative seems natural to me.  I enjoy writing about stuff that pisses me off.  Writing about positive stuff is boring and I don’t enjoy it at all.  Writing about negative stuff is easy and fun.  Writing about positive stuffs sucks.  Writing about negative stuff is like a hobby.  Writing about positive stuff is like work… and I like to get paid for work… so I don’t think I will be trying to write too much more positive stuff.  I can’t handle the headaches.

Besides, there are plenty of positive people blogging about the panhandle of Nebraska.  There aren’t too many of us who show the other side (and I know that not everyone loves life here, so I have an audience).  Want something positive?  Try:

SCB Citizen (although I could really appreciate her post on how fat Scotts Bluff County is)

Country Chicken Girl seems to enjoy living around here.

Nebraska Prairie Girl seems to like life on the prairie.

These are just a small sampling of the many blogs about how great life is in rural Nebraska.  These are usually written by women, and the women are usually either avid photographers or very artsy-craftsy (i.e. have talent of some sort).  More power too ‘em.  I don’t know how me struggling to write positive crap about life in rural Nebraska would fit in with these fine bloggers. Positive just isn’t my thing.  Besides, I kind of like people being able to find my blog.  Do a Google search for “Scottsbluff, NE” or “rural Nebraska”.  You won’t find any blogs on the first page of these searches.

Now, try Googling “Scottsbluff, NE sucks”.

Go ahead… Google it… or use Yahoo… or Bing…

That’s right, baby!

Looks like I might know which pot I’m supposed to be pooping on…

Aug 02

Our final day in Omaha was capped with another night in the camper.  This was kind of sad, because we knew that our vacation was slowly coming to an end.

Day five was to be our shopping day, so we hitched up the camper, left Mahoney, and drove to a mall in Lincoln.  We ate lunch at the mall food court (so everyone could get what they wanted… my family all got Chinese and I got a gyro).  We spent a few hours doing some back-to-school shopping, and then we decided we better head for our next destination.

The plan was to camp at Johnson Lake south of Lexington, but they wouldn’t let me make a reservation because we were just staying for one night.  They only make reservations for two nights on the weekends, so I wanted to get there before dark in case we needed to hunt down another camping spot for the night.

We swung into Grand Island to search for some place for supper.  I spotted the billboard for USA Steak Buffet and remembered seeing that billboard on other visits to Grand Island.

“Hey, let’s go to USA Steak Buffet,” I said.

So, immediately, the oldest son starts looking at reviews on the wife’s smart phone.  Needless to say, the reviews aren’t good.

“Uh, Dad, the reviews suck,” said the boy.

“Oh, you can’t always trust the reviews,” I said, thinking about how a really crappy dining experience would make for a humorous addition to my blog.  ”I think we should try it anyway.”

“Dad, look at these reviews,” said the boy.  So I looked:

A Google User reviewed 5 months ago

Overall 0 / 3
This place sucks. Way over priced. Found hairs in the food. Tiny steaks. Do not come here.

A Google User reviewed 11 months ago

Overall 0 / 3
Waaaaaay over priced for what you get. Steaks are small and chewy. Family of give can’t go without paying over 60 bucks. Everytime you back, the price goes up. No group rates either… All you get for a group of 10 or more is 10% gratuity added to your bill. Poor value.
Liked: Food
Disliked: Service, Atmosphere, Value
A Google User reviewed 4 months ago

Overall 0 / 3
Way over priced for a not so great buffet
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“Oh, come on,” I said, “that’s only three reviews.  If it was that bad, there would be more.”

“But, Dad, the one dude found a hair,” said the boy, and I knew I was fighting a losing battle.  There was no way I was going to be able to talk the entire family into eating crappy food just for the sake of my blog, so we pulled in beside Olive Garden.

Olive Garden is not even close to one of my favorite places to eat, but the wife loves it and the boys don’t mind it, so I thought we’d give it a shot.  There was, however, like a 40 minute wait to get in, so we turned right back around and headed to Buffalo Wild Wings across the parking lot.

There was no wait to get in at Buffalo Wild Wings, and there was no hair in our food.  I really don’t have anything interesting to write, but I’m almost positive that USA Steak Buffet would have given me something to complain about.  But, sometimes you have to take one for the team at the expense of something to bitch about in a blog.  Although… this was only the second time I had ever been to a Buffalo Wild Wings, and I can honestly state that they are the noisiest restaurants on the face of the planet.  Apparently they are where you are supposed to take people you don’t actually like and want to talk to, because carrying on a conversation in a Buffalo Wild Wings is nearly impossible… especially if you are old and can’t hear very well in the first place.  Also, who in the hell came up with the idea of frying a part of a chicken that used to be disposable (because it’s almost all fat and no meat), covering it with a spicy sauce, and charging caviar prices for it?  That person should be shot.  Seriously, the prices for chicken wings are absolutely dented!  I guess if I think about it long enough, I could come up with a bitch about most anything…

So we eat and we drive and we drive and we drive and, before you know it, it’s dark.  We turn off at Lexington and try to find this state park that we’ve never been to — in the dark.

“We are so screwed,” I informed the family.

“Why?” asked the wife.

“I bet we get there and they have no open spots,” I said.

“What makes you think that?” asked the wife.

“Because that’s just my luck,” I said.  ”Then, we’ll be driving around in the dark trying to find some place to spend the night.”

“If worse comes to worst, we can always get a hotel,” says the wife.  ”You need to try to see the bright side of things.”

“There won’t be any open hotel rooms and we’ll end up parked in a rest area,” I said.  ”So we’ll crawl into the hot camper with no air conditioning.  Then, a serial killer who frequents rest areas will find us and he’ll be all It’s like Christmas, time to open the present.  Then he’ll tear off the camper door and shiv us all to death as we groggily try to figure out what in the hell is going on.  It’s gonna be horrible.”

“Please don’t talk like that in front of the boys,” said the wife.  I glanced at the boys, and they did look a little peaked.  ”That is never going to happen.”

“Mommy…” said the youngest boy, tears welling up in his terrified eyes, “are we going to die tonight?”

“Of course not,” said the wife, “you’re father is just an idiot tonight.”

So, we finally find the campground and they have an opening.  Lucky for us, ’cause I’m pretty sure there was a serial killer with our names on the dull blade of his near-blunt object waiting for us at a rest area.

We wake up the next day and I take the boys out geocaching for the morning while the wife enjoys a relaxing shower back at camp.  Geocaching is kind of geeky, but it is cheap fun, which is important when you are on a poor man’s camping vacation.  We find a few caches, and we head back to grab the wife and then drive into Lexington for lunch.

I had never really been through Lexington before, and I was a little shocked at the town.  There is literally a Mexican restaurant on every corner… and there are a lot of corners.  Before we got into town, we passed a Tyson foods processing plant, which I’m assuming is the employer in Lexington.  And apparently Tyson processing plants attract a lot of non-English speaking minorities.  In addition to the Mexican restaurants, we passed two Islamic centers… in Nebraska?!?  Who’d a thunk it?!?

So we settle on one of the Mexican places that has “buffet” in the window, ’cause we all like a good buffet (unless the reviews mention hair in the food, apparently).  On this whole trip, I really didn’t take any pictures for the blog because, well, I’m kind of an idiot.  However, Restaurant La Hacienda was so cool that I actually thought to get out my phone and snap a couple of pictures.
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See, Restaurant La Hacienda actually serves what I think is probably authentic Mexican food.  Scottsbluff touts it’s plethora of authentic Mexican restaurants, and people who move away always clamor about how they miss the authentic Mexican food in Scottsbluff.  Authentic in Scottsbluff means fried tacos.  A flour tortilla filled with beef taco meat and fried in fat to make the tortilla look like a corn taco shell like you buy at the store.  Then the cheese and lettuce and tomatoes are added, and that is authentic Mexican.  Don’t get me wrong, I love fried tacos (anything dripping with grease has got to be good, right?), I just don’t really imagine a lot of Mexicans in Mexico eating these on a regular basis.  I have a feeling fried tacos are a little more Tex Mex than they are Mexican…

So, anyway, at Restaurant La Hacienda, there was not a staff member (including our waitress) who spoke fluent English.  How awesome is that?  The small buffet was filled with things that were unrecognizable to me.  Different meats in sauces, for the most part, with the obligatory beans and rice.  The thing is, this wasn’t ground beef like in the fried tacos of Scottsbluff.  These were chunks of inexpensive meat filled with fat and gristle, but they were cooked for so long that the pieces of meat literally fell apart in my mouth.  An full of flavor?  Of course they were.  This is the kind of food I suspect the majority of Mexicans in Mexico eat — inexpensive, flavorful, fattening, and just down right delicious.

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This was soooo much better tasting than it looks...

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My favorite dish was the most bizarre (in American terms).  If was like strips of pork fat cooked on a tomatillo sauce. The fat reminded my of pork rinds (same flavor, but mushy instead of crispy).  It was absolutely to die for (and I’m sure my cholesterol levels after eating it had me near death).
And of course, there was flan for dessert.  There is nothing on this planet that is more heavenly than flan done right… and this flan was done right.
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The above tray was actually full until I came across it.  The Mexicans (I don’t think there was an English-speaking person in the place, staff or customer) looked at me like I was some kind of deranged, gluttonous gordo blanco… which I was.  The Cheesecake Factory can kiss Resaturant La Hacienda’s hiney!

So, after our fattening, delicious meal (if you’re ever in Lexington, check Restaurant La Hacienda out!), we headed back to Johnnson Lake, loaded up the camper, and headed for home.  We did a little more geocaching along the way.  We stopped in Ogallala so the family could get some supper (I had overdone it for lunch and didn’t need any further fuel for the machine… plus, good Mexican food gives one gas, and I was so full of gas, I had no room for more food).

Our final leg put us getting into Scottsbluff/Gering about 8:30 pm on day 6, and we had to get our dog from the boarding house before 9:00 pm, so we were right on track.  And then we get to the first set of railroad tracks in Gering… and we get stopped by a train.  The train passes, and we get to the first set of railroad tracks in Scottsbluff… and we get stopped by another train.  We get our beagle (who was intensely happy to see us :) ), and we head for our house… only to get stopped by one final stinking stupid train… and I was reminded of one of the many reasons I need to get out of this area once in awhile.  In fact, after the three back-to-back train delays, I was already ready for another vacation…

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Aug 01

After our fun-filled day at the Henry Doorly Zoo and the disaster at the Cheesecake Factory, we drove back to Mahoney State park and our camper for another good night of sleep.  So far, our family’s summer vacation was getting off with mixed reviews.  The wife and two boys were having a blast.  I was having a moderately good time, but the stupid apple cider incident at the Cheesecake Factory had left a bad taste in my mouth (which I’m sure a refill of apple cider would have washed away).

Day three of the vacation was designated as our day to spend in the state park.  Just a day to relax and maybe enjoy the park’s water park.  We actually slept in this day, which was nice.  After a late lunch at the camper, we donned our swimming attire and drove to the pool.

Mahoney State Park has a very nice water park/pool.  We actually spent most of the day there, and we all got a little sunburned.  There was a crowded wave pool, a kiddie area, a diving board and like three decent water slides.  All of the areas were fun, but I learned to hate people on tubes.  The wave pool was a blast when you weren’t dodging some idiot on a tube, and I can’t count the number of times I had some tubed jerkwad’s feet in my face.  Apparently, when you are on a tube, you don’t have to display common courtesy to anyone.  Everyone else is responsible for getting out of your way.  Guess I should have forked over a few bucks and rented a tube myself so I could have been a rude jerkwad.

After a cooling day at the pool, we retreated to the camper and enjoyed another camper meal.  In the evening, we played a round of mini golf (which is the only kind of golf non-rich people play).  Earlier in the day, a group of college-aged kids walked by our campsite with golf bags on their shoulders, obviously on there way to the driving range.

“There go the rich kids,” I snarled as they sauntered past.

“How do you know they are rich?” asked the wife.

“Because they’re carrying golf clubs,” I pointed out.

“They look like college kids, and they are camping, so I doubt they are rich,” said the wife.

“Yeah, whatever… it is obvious they have rich parents,” I said.

“How can you know that?” asked the wife.

“Because they play golf,” I stated.  Sometimes I just don’t understand the wife’s naiveté.

“And we’re camping, and we don’t golf, thus we are poor?” asks the wife.

“You’re starting to catch on,” I said, smiling with the knowledge that the wife was grasping a major life lesson.  Apparently, she rolls her eyes as she learns…

Another night in the camper was followed by our fourth day of vacation.  This day was another to be spent in Omaha.  After a light lunch at camp, we drove back in to Omaha and straight to Fun-Plex.  Fun-Plex is a small amusement park with both amusement park rides and a small water park.  It was so stinking hot that we tried to include some form of water activity on any day we actually spent a considerable amount of time outside.  Even the zoo had water misters placed conveniently throughout.

Fun-Plex was pretty okay.  We bumper boated and roller coasted and tilt-o-whirled and go carted before the heat started to get to us and we retreated to the water park.  The water was a little dirtier here than at Mahoney, and the waves in the wave pool weren’t quite as ferocious, but there were just as many little old men and fat ladies in tubes sticking their feet in my face.  Again, there were also slides, and a nice “lazy river” that was fun to swim in.

Two days in a bathing suit surrounded by young people in bathing suits made me realize something: I am old and fat… and I’m not too certain I was ever anything different!

I’ve always been a fatty, and I don’t remember ever hanging out with shapely people at a pool anywhere.  I think that’s because the shapely people all hang out with other shapely people, and they leave us fatties to ourselves.  It’s almost a form of discrimination, I think.  I’d see a bunch of shapely girls in bikinis walk by with a group of muscular young men, and then I’d see two fat kids walk by the other direction.  And it’s kind of funny, ’cause the skinny people are always looking around and laughing and talking, while the fat people pretty much just stare at the ground.  I would probably have other observations about how the skinny people discriminate against (and have more fun than) the fat people, but I spent a lot of time looking at the ground, so I’m sure I missed a lot.

Young people upset me.  Especially young, fit people.  Even my own kids are often the objects of my jealousy.  Both of my boys are relatively fit and healthy.  They are also pretty smart, and they aren’t ugly.  Because of their fitness and intelligence, I’m sure they will have an advantage in life that my ugly fat belly and ignorance didn’t permit.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I want the best for them.  I want them to be successful and happy with whatever they decide to do with their lives.  I just wish that I would have been given the advantages of fitness and good looks and intelligence (or at least one of them), but apparently God wanted to put some hurdles in front of me to develop some sort of character trait that I wouldn’t have found if things had been easier for me.  I’m sure God is now shaking His head as He realizes that I don’t learn from obstacles (I retreat like a Frenchman), but I think He’s still working with me….

So, after a fun yet somewhat degrading day at Fun-Plex, we let the youngest boy decide on what kind of restaurant to go to for supper.  The youngest loves Chinese and Mexican, but he settled on Mexican.  I found the closest decent-looking Mexican place and we ate.  I don’t remember the name of the place, but it was pretty typical.  We got chips and salsa, and the waiter was great at refilling our glasses.  I had some sort of fajita-type-stuff, and it was good.  Nothing out of this world (at least not enough to remember the name), but everyone seemed satisfied.  And I didn’t get screwed on the refills…

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