Sunday, June 29, 2008

This Weekend - Golf

Saturday morning, I played golf for the first time in five years. Many of you, who read this blog, have seen me play golf before. It helps explain why I have not played in 5 years. In fact, Rachel and I lived on a golf course in Chicago; I did not play it either.

Saturday, I played at Horsham Valley Golf Club with the two gentlemen pictured here. You may recognize them from my trivia blog in the fall of last year. Rob Jeter (left) was the North American Region Supply Chain Scheduler for Rohm and Haas. He just got promoted to a special project leading our footprint adjustment project (you may have read in the news that we are closing a couple of plants in North America - Rob will lead the product transitions from those plants to other plants). In trivia, Rob is our master of all things music.

Tim Callahan (right) is the lone non-Rohm and Haaser on our trivia team. Tim also hooked me up with a softball team this year (he is a vacuum cleaner at shortstop). He is also the best golfer in our threesome on Saturday.

Ironically, I played better Saturday than I played when I stopped four years ago (Shaggy and Carver will tell you that this is not any kind of accomplishment because I was SOOO bad). I shot a respectable 87, and I played the best 9-holes of my life on the back 9, where I shot a 40. I hit the ball pretty well and managed to stay out of trouble for the most time. The most important thing is that I had a good time with the guys. We were supposed to have a fourth, but Josh Rupe bailed on us at the last minute.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Australia - The Last Blog - Bridge Climb

The last night that we were in Sydney, Rachel and I did the Sydney Bridge Climb. In addition to getting the opportunity to wear the snazzy jump suits (Rachel is modeling one here), we got a spectacular view of the city. Bridge Climb is a 3 hour guided tour. Groups of 10 climb the supports above the bridge, and above the car traffic. At the height of the climb, you are 134 meters above Sydney Harbor. This is about 450 feet (A LONG WAY). There are great views of the Opera House and of the city in the background. It was a wonderful way to end our stay.

The prep for the climb was quite a process. First, you sign a waiver (more lawyers in Australia than in New Zealand apparently). Then, you are given a breathalizer to insure that you are not trying to make the climb drunk. Next, you are fitted for your jump suit. You change and leave everything you own in a locker. Nothing is allowed to go on the climb, unless it can be tied off to your flight suit. They don't want anything to inadvertently or intentionally fall on traffic or pedestrians below. Glasses are allowed, but that is about it. Cameras must be left behind so they can charge exhorbitant amounts of money for pictures at the end (and of course we bought them). Asthma inhalers must be given to the guide so they can hold onto it. After changing into the jump suit, you pass through a metal detector to make sure you are not carrying anything. In the next stage, you receive your fall harness, which ties off to a line that spans the entire 3 hour walk. You are issued a raincoat, in case bad weather moves in, a head lamp for the twilight tour and eyeglass attachments if you need them. Finally, you practice hooking your zip line to the guidewire and climbing stairs with 3-point contact at all times. Then, it is off to the bridge.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Mom and Dad - Visit #2

This weekend, Mom and Dad made their second visit to the City of Brotherly Love (picture above in front of Independence Hall).
Saturday morning, Rachel had to work. Mom, Dad and I went to the Rohm and Haas Research Campus at Spring House and walked around the campus trail for a morning workout. After cleaning up, we took the train into the city for lunch. We quickly passed through Reading Terminal (the chaos was a bit much for my parents) and headed to Sonny's for a proper Philadelphia Cheese-steak. After lunch, we walked through Independence Mall. This is a picture of Mom and Dad with the Constitution Center in the background.
Dad and I posed for this shot in Washington Square, near Independence Mall. Philadelphia is built around 5 squares - Washington Square (originally Southeast Square), Logan Square (originally Northwest Square), Rittenhouse Square (originally Southwest Square), Franklin Square (originally Northeast Square) and Centre Square, which is now the Courtyard of City Hall.

We walked by Independence Hall, which is where Washington was appointed Commander in Chief of the Continental Army, the Declaration of Independence was ratified and signed, the first American flag design was agreed upon, the Confederation of States was formed and the Constitution of the United States was ratified. Walking through Independence Mall, we took this picture of the building that houses the Liberty Bell with Rohm and Haas headquarters in the background.

We headed back to the train station, where this picture was taken. After our 40 minute train ride, we picked up Rachel, cleaned up, and headed to dinner.

Sunday morning, the entire family headed to Valley Forge National Park for our morning exercise. Valley Forge is where Washington kept the Continental Army during the winter of 1777-1778. The park has replica barracks like Washington's army slept in (it is amazing), and several war memorials showing where the various state divisions encamped. The old colonial houses, where the various generals stayed, are still there. This picture of Mom and Dad is in front of George Washington's quarters. The historian there told us that Martha actually traveled up from Virginia and spent the winter there with George. Apparently, she traveled each winter to stay with Washington at his winter quarters. Washington spent only 3-4 weeks at home in Mount Vernon during 8 years of conflict and nation building. Can you imagine not going home for 8 years?

I think Valley Forge was the highlight of the trip for mom. It is a beautiful place.

Sunday afternoon, we went to Doylestown, which is a cute little town about 20-30 minutes from home. It has lots of quaint stores and restaurants. It is best known for being the hometown of rocker - Pink.

In Doylestown, the family took in some frozen custard and flavor ice at Rita's. They have a blended mix that has flavored ice on the bottom and frozen custard on the top. It is FABULOUS!!!

Reflections - Wii is Family Fun For All Ages
On Sunday evening, Rachel challenged my dad to a game of golf on the Wii. Dad caught on quickly. Although he eventually lost, his score was respectible for a first-timer.

Following his defeat, we popped in the sports game and let dad test his "Wii fitness". He did really well with the tennis, was fair at bowling, and had some timing problems with the Home-run Derby. The below video is of Dad striking out on the home run derby.

Shortly after dad completed his Wii fitness (which was much younger than his real age by the way), mom gave it a try. For someone who had never played a video game in her life, Rachel and I were both impressed how quickly she picked it up. She, too, struggled with the baseball, but she did really well with tennis and was a respectable bowler.

We had a great time "Wiing" as a family.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Jim Thorpe, PA

Last Saturday morning, Rachel and I got up early and drove up to Jim Thorpe, PA (about 1 hour and 15 minutes from our house) to hike in a state park. The hike was very nice, but steep. It followed a creek and ended at the falls pictured above. The weather was nice too, as the temperature was in the high 70's.

After the hike, we drove to the Jim Thorpe Memorial just outside of town. His grave and a memorial statue are there. The town was actually renamed for Jim Thorpe in the early 1950's after his death. He was born on an Indian Reservation in Oklahoma, but he attended Carlisle University, a school created for Native Americans. Carlisle was actually only open for less than 40 years, but Thorpe made it very famous. In 1912, Thorpe lead Carlisle over #1 ranked army and Dwight Eisenhower. For any reading this blog that may not know about Jim Thorpe, I encourage you to look up his story on Wikipedia or Google. It is truly amazing.

After walking around at the memorial for a little while, Rachel and I went into town for lunch. The town is a really neat, old town with lots of little shops and cafes. There are a lot of bike and canoe rental stores, too, due to the State Park and abundance of streams.

We ate lunch at a cafe called "Through the Looking Glass". It was an old house that had been converted into a cafe. The food was really good. Following lunch, we drove back home and chilled the rest of the day.

REFLECTIONS - Give a Hoot; Don't Pollute

Although the hike was beautiful, the base was a little discouraging. There was quite a bit of litter from previous hikers. It is amazing that people don't take any better care of nature than that. Very discouraging.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Bondi Beach and Bronte Beach

Wednesday, Rachel and I headed to Bondi Beach to spend our last full day in Australia relaxing on the beach. Bondi Beach is where the famous go to play when visiting Sydney. We did not see anyone famous on this particular Wednesday, but there were many people out enjoying the sunshine.

After lounging on the beach for a while, we took the 2 mile hike from Bondi Beach to Bronti Beach. The walk was beautiful. We walked along the ocean cliffs, watching surfers and birds as we went along. Enjoy the pictures.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Mayfest in Chicago

There is a new Australia blog below this one if interested. No need for wise cracks if you are not.

The Friday after Memorial Day, Rachel and I flew to Chicago for the weekend to catch up with old friends and to attend our 4th annual Mayfest in Lincoln Square.

Rachel headed out early Friday afternoon in order to get her CPR recertification from her friend Kelly's mom, who works for the police department and is an EMT. After work, I went to the airport and caught my flight (of course it was delayed by over an hour). Friday night, we spent the night with Kelly and Dave. We had a really good time catching up with them and Sheralee. Dave's friend Brent was there, too. He is a good guy, who we have hung out with several times.

Saturday, we headed up to Sheralee's apartment, cleaned up and went to Timothy O'Toole's for lunch. From O'Toole's we headed to Mayfest, where we spent the afternoon and early evening enjoying German food and music with Sheralee, Kelly and Rachel's friend, Danielle. We also got to hang out briefly with Justin (the guy who replaced me in Kankakee) and Emily. Unfortunatley, we had to head back to the city and didn't get to spend as much time with them as we would have liked.

Rachel got to spend Sunday shopping with Sheralee on Michigan Avenue, while I flew to Charlotte first thing Sunday morning for work meetings on Sunday afternoon.


Last week, I attended the first American Coatings Show in Charlotte. The show was impressive. Rather than boring you with the details of work (however, I have included a picture of the Rohm and Haas Booth), I will list my three favorite meals during the Coatings Show:

3) Bonterra - Cowboy Ribeye (Bone In - 20oz)
Caraway Seed Spaetzle
Grilled Hearts of Romaine
Bleu Cheese Butter...Natural Jus

2) Capital Grille - Kona Crusted Dry Aged Sirloin with Carmelized Shallot Butter
A wonderful flavor combination with caramelized shallots, seasonings and coffee
rub to create a first-class steak many guests claim as their favorite.

The carrot cake was to die for.

And the number 1 meal was:
1) Ruth's Chris - New York Strip Oscar style

The steak was FANTASTIC!!! The service was the best I have ever experienced. My first trip to a Ruth's Chris did not disappoint.

Great Barrier Reef

On the Monday of our last week in Australia, Rachel and I caught a Virgin Blue Airlines flight from Sydney to Cairns to visit the Great Barrier Reef.
We booked a tour to the Reef itself from Port Douglas on the Poseidon. It is the smaller of the two main tour companies but came highly recommended by Tim and Liz because they actually move their snorkeling areas based on where the views are the best. The other tour companies used fixed unloading platforms, so they unload in the same place every day regardless of conditions.

When we headed out to the reef, there were storms in the area, and the water was pretty rough. Several people on the boat were issued biodegradable vomit bags, which they used and hurled over the side repeatedly. It was about an hour ride out to the reef. Luckily, Rachel and I took Dramamine that morning and handled the choppy water just fine. In this picture, you can see the reef underneath us, as well as the water breaking where the reef is shallow further out.
We made three stops where we snorkeled for an hour each. The fish were absolutely beautiful, but it was difficult to swim at times due to the rough water. We saw a 6 foot long reef shark about 20 feet from us, but our guide assured us that he was not interested in bothering us. After a long day, we floated back into the dock area and unloaded.
We stayed at the Sheraton Resort in Port Douglas. It was really nice and had a very cool pool lagoon area. Unfortunately, the choppiness of the water on our cruise to the reef and the perennial cloudiness we experienced while we lounged by the pool were due to the fact that we decided to visit the Great Barrier Reef during the wet season. It is a rain forest after all. We couldn't justify visiting Australia and not going to the reef, but if you have the opportunity, visit in the dry season.
Port Douglas itself was a really cool little town. It had lots of cool shops and several restaurants that were pretty good. We enjoyed a couple of good nights in the town. There were lots of crimson rosellas in the area, so we were able to watch them play around while we ate dinner. Wednesday night, we left Port Douglas and headed back to Sydney for our final day with Tim and Liz.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Hargis Family Reunion - Memorial Day

In order to reach a compromise between various blog readers, I will attempt to provide 2 updates at a time - one from Australia (for those interested) and one more current (for Will and Bill). If you are not interested in reading about Australia anymore, then you don't have to, but if you are interested in learning about the rest of our trip, that will be provided also.

Memorial Day weekend, Rachel and I headed to Fall Creek Falls State Park near Cookeville for a weekend of rest and relaxation with the Hargis family. We stayed in cabins along the water, which was really cool. Family members came in from Tennessee, Wisconsin (a large contingent), Michigan, Kentucky and Utah.

These are Rachel's first cousins. I posted a picture from Christmas documenting this wiley bunch. Neil, second from right, finished his BS at Union University and begins seminary this fall. Daniel, 2nd from left, is a student at Western Kentucky and is an active Youth Director in his church. Jonathan, far right, is Daniel's younger brother and will be attending Vol State this fall. Patrick, far left, is Neil's younger brother and is a student at Union University.

Rachel's older cousin Brian and his wife Suzanne brought a COOL Harley Davidson with them. They live in Kentucky, outside of Cincinatti and have two very nice kids that will be pictured later, Tucker and Lauren (who is in a cast due to a freak sledding accident). Brian was my "Bags" partner, as we took the Hargis cornhole title this year. Living in the north for the past few years, I have really refined my "bags" technique. We are considering adding a bags kit to our tailgating equipment for the fall.
This is a picture of Sarah Jane (3rd oldest of Rachel's first cousin's Leigh's kids), Jonathan, Brandon (Brian's and Suzanne's oldest) and Tucker (Leigh's and Clay's oldest).

This is Rachel's Dad, Mack, with his first cousin Brenda and her daughter, Rhonda.

On Sunday, several of us hiked the Fall Creek Falls Trail. Ron and Nick are two of Rachel's Dad's cousins that came down from Wisconsin. They are a hoot. Here, they are wearing nice UT hats because of a friendly family wager. The Wisconsin crew lost the bet, along with the Bowl Game and were thus forced to wear the opposing team's colors for most of the reunion.
This picture is of Russel (Mack's first cousin - Susie's son) and Lauren (mentioned earlier) fishing along the bank. These kids have way more patience than I do, as they fished most of the afternoon.

Sunday night, Mack's best friend, Marcus Horton, catered the Hargis Family Reunion with his world famous bar-b-que. Marcus competes in bar-b-que tournaments, with quite a bit of success. I must say that I enjoyed his bar-b-que very much. It was probably the best bar-b-que I have ever had (and I'm not just saying that now that I don't have access to good bar-b-que). Mack and I were drafted to assist with serving and were rewarded with Horton Bar-b-que aprons.


Rachel has always been a bigger fisherman than I have. I just don't have the patience to fish. Fishing is something that she has always enjoyed doing with her dad. We both fished some off of the deck of our cabin. I caught my first fish that was not already being held in captivity (Cross-eyed Cricket does not count in my book). I still lost, as Rachel caught the biggest fish of any family member.

My "bags" partner (Brian) insulted me when he found out it was the first fish I had ever caught, to which he replied, "What are you... 3?"