April 2011 Archives

Jed e-mailed me earlier this week to say that we had been PR'd again - even after we left Puerto Rico. It turns out the local paper ran a story/travel report about Luquillo, Puerto Rico, a few days after we had returned from Puerto Rico.

Here's a link to the story: Wisconsin State Journal Article about Luquillo, PR

The story focuses primarily on the El Yunque rainforest, but if you read it carefully, you'll probably see that the author has similar experiences and thoughts about the area as we did, although the author is a bit more "diplomatic" with his descriptions and accounts.


In other news, I spent the better part of this week catching-up on work activities, cleaning-up my diet (argh - I'm so sick of training, eating healthy, and busting my butt... I may quit, seriously), and getting things back in-order here at the apartment.

I did another dog transport yesterday - drove a greyhound and a cat from Madison to Eau Claire - it took about 8 hours when it was all said and done, so that more or less ate-up my entire Saturday (I left Madison around 1pm and returned around 9pm). I did some late night grocery shopping (I find that Woodmans, Whole Foods, and Willy Street Co-Op are best visited after 9pm), finally got home around 10:30, and called it a night.

Today's agenda includes the usual: I'll hit the road for a run in about an hour, then will ride (hopefully outside, as the weather should be decent), will do some lifting, and then make meals for the rest of the week. Exciting, eh?

Luuuuuuuuuucy - I'm hoooooooooome!

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Holy Mofongo my friends - long time, no update!

And for good reason; I just spent a solid week vacationing in Puerto Rico, and you can bet your sweet bambulance that there are some good stories to share, so read on... :-)

The trip started way back during the summer of 2010, when I mentioned to my friends Jed and Jamie that I had a coworker who owned a nice condo in Puerto Rico. The coworker rents the condo from time to time, and as luck would have it, we could rent it for a reasonable rate. They expressed some interest, and we kicked-off a little (emphasis on the word "little") research into Puerto Rico. I believe much of that research was conducted while drinking, or at least within close earshot of a drinking establishment, because before I knew it, we had purchased roundtrip airfare and plunked down a modest deposit on the condo.

And so began our adventure. I extended the invitation to Amy; she accepted, and before we could say "tripleta," we were fully committed to a vacation in sunny Puerto Rico.

Note: Because of the size of this entry, it's broken into two pieces.

To continue reading this article (part one), click the link below.

To jump to part two of the article, click here.

To view the photo album (with 200+ pictures), click here.

Click below to continue reading Part One of the story...

Apparently my blog software doesn't like long entries; it wouldn't allow me to enter any more text, so I had to break this entry into two parts. Sorry about that.

To read Part One of the entry, click here.

To view the picture album (200+ photos), click here.

...or continue reading Part Two by clicking the link below.

Out of control.

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I am on a downward spiral and it needs to stop. Seriously.

For the past month or so, I have loathed the thought of any type of exercise - I've skipped a lot of runs, cheated on rides, and half-heartedly lifted weights. My diet has been a big roller coaster of ups-and-downs; I'm either a complete nazi or a complete lush. There's no consistency or moderation - it's feast or famine.

I think that's why I had the fainting episode in March... my mouth and stomach are happily writing checks that my poor legs can't keep up with cashing. I'd eat really clean for 5 days, exercise like a madman, and then lose it on the weekend: overeat, overtrain to compensate, and then do 5 days of strict diet and exercise... rinse/lather/repeat.

On April 1, I said, "to heck with it. I'm taking a break. I'm almost 40, what's the point of this?" And so I rolled-back on exercise a bit (my longest run in the past two weeks was a 7-mile run; most days it's been around 5-miles), and I ate whatever I wanted to, whenever I wanted to. To make a long story short - I'm ready to quit. I told myself I was burned out and that I needed to take a break for a bit.

So I used my recent birthday as an excuse to eat like a complete maniac for the past 2+ weeks; and by maniac, I mean it - last night, for example, at about 11:30pm I felt the urge to go get something sweet... so, I hopped into the car, drove to the bakery and bought an apple fritter (which weighed 2.7 lbs - I weighed it on my digital scale - and measured 13" in diameter by 2.5" thick), and three sour cream old fashioned glazed donuts. And I ate them all. At midnight.

Yesterday's calorie totals? 6436 calories in. 0 calories out.

Thursday's calorie totals? 6255 calories in. 0 calories out.

You get the idea. As such, I'm up on the scale - the heaviest I've been in 2+ years. What in the heck is wrong with me?

And so, I'm sitting here, at 2:30pm, staring at my bike, dreading the idea of hopping on to it. It would be so much easier to stay seated on the couch; it would be so much more "fun" to call the local pizza place and place a ridiculous order, wolf it down, and then walk to the local store for ice cream and cookies.

But, within a month, I'd be 200-pounds. And within a year, I'd be at 300-pounds again. And I'd be really miserable. So, I have to get back onto the wagon. I have to be responsible; stay focused, stay determined. The past few weeks are what they were - a bump in the road. It's time to get serious, and to toughen up. Suck it up, buttercup - get back on the horse and don't quit.

So... what's the purpose of this post? It's a reminder to myself that aside from giving up, nothing's easy. Quitting is the easy way out - making excuses are easier than lacing up the shoes or putting down the spoon. It's also a way to say that I know how hard it is to lose weight, get into shape, and stick with it. If it were easy, we'd all be fit and healthy. There'd be no excuses.

But it's not easy. It's not fair. I'd rather go have a beverage with coworkers; eat mounds of popcorn; eat piles of burgers and fries. Unfortunately, I can't. And so, I'm committing to getting back onto my programs with complete tenacity and focus. No deviations, no cheating.

By the end of May I will be back to proper racing weight and capacity/volume.

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In other news, I'm working on a much more upbeat post/report, but it's proving to be quite lengthy. I wanted to get this out there before I share the next entry, so stay tuned. I guess I'll hit the bike for an hour, then I'll go out for a run - probably a 4-miler. At least it's snowing outside. :-(

This will be a quick review, as it's a follow-up visit to an earlier visit to The Crawfish Junction.

What a difference a few months can make - while the first visit to The Crawfish Junction was absolutely superb, this visit left much to be desired, in every single regard. I hope this was just an anomaly, because had this been my first visit, The Crawfish would've likely ranked near the very bottom of our fish fry list. While this most recent visit wasn't as stellar as the first, we're not going to write-off TCJ... let's chalk it up to April Fool's day?

It goes to prove that every Friday offers a unique experience. Diners and readers take note - it's obvious that fish is a finicky and fickle subject, so note that it may not be uncommon for your individual experiences to (and most likely will) differ from those of mine.

We strolled in to the Crawfish at around 7:30pm this past Friday and were greeted with a 45-minute waiting list. The bar area was absolutely packed, and service was suffering - it took at least 15 minutes for one of the bartenders to pour three drinks: 2 beers and one bloody mary. And, despite our desperate pleas for "non-frozen" beer glasses, we were stuck with ice-cold glasses. Strike 1.

I should also note that The Crawfish has a fairly limited tap selection - two varieties of New Belgium brewery, three varieties from that scammy brewery from Lake Mills, and a single Spotted Cow tap. I went with a Ranger IPA; Dan went with a brew from the scammy brewery.

I'd like to expand a bit on the ice-cold glass thing; the reason for an ice cold glass is to help "improve" the flavor of lower-quality beers. You can test it yourself... take a typical light beer and let it sit at room temperature. Take a sip. Then, take that same room-temperature beer and pour a little into an ice cold glass. Take a sip. The flavor should "improve."

The problem is: the flavor doesn't really improve. It's simply masked by the ice cold temperature. The cold temperature covers many of the nuances and unique flavors, scents, and other sensory treats that the brewmaster has incorporated (or left out, in the case of lower quality brews).

So, when a bar features some interesting tap offerings (like New Glarus, New Belgium, and other micro brews), and they go through the trouble of serving those special beers in the appropriate glassware (like TCJ does - they have the tulip style glasses for Fat Tire, for example), why on earth do they dampen the experience by deep-freezing the glassware?? It would be like showing up to a first date in a Ferrari that's covered in mud, with an interior that smells like old gym socks.

Adding insult to injury, the bartenders from this particular evening weren't big on personality, either. So, when you combine the gruff service, the incorrect serving temperature, and the long wait for a pour, it results in a strike. Sorry.

We stood around the bar area for a bit, and were pleasantly surprised to learn that our table was ready a bit early. Unfortunately for us, the table was located in the less desirable side of the establishment, in an upstairs-and-apparently-an-afterthought portion of the restaurant, where the lights are too bright, the area too small, the walls completely bare, and there's a generally unpleasant feeling/vibe. It seems like it should be a storage area rather than a dining area (and probably is, most of the time).

Making matters worse were three factors:

1) There was only one waitress available to service the entire room, which had 9 tables, all of which were full. We sat for at least 20 minutes before being greeted and asked about drink refills or appetizers. When we did get a chance to order, it took another 10+ minutes for anything to arrive, and once again, our beer glasses were served at a rigamortis-inducing cold temperature.

2) The bus-girl who was responsible for cleaning the tables had apparently created an incredibly strong batch of bleach-based table cleaner. With every spray of her cleaning bottle, I swore we were inhaling mustard gas. The stench of bleach was overpowering; people were complaining to the manager about the odor, yet the girl was oblivious to it... she kept liberally spraying the nostril-melting concoction as if it was nothing.

3) By the time we were able to order, we learned that they were completely out of baked fish, baked potatoes, shrimp, walleye, and something else (I forget what it was). No biggie on the shrimp, but the walleye, baked, and potato outages were a major downer.

Let's combine all of those issues for Strike 2.

We placed our food order, which consisted of cheese curds, a spinach artichoke dip (with crawfish tails), broasted cod, and a combo platter of fried lake perch and fried bluegills.

The appetizers arrived first - I had received a tip that the cheese curds were "unreal" but was sadly disappointed, as they were obviously straight from the Sysco catalog. Nothing to write home about, although they were nicely fried.

The artichoke and crawfish dip was downright awful. The tri-colored chips were slightly stale; the artichoke dip was flavorless and gluey, and the crawfish tails were absolutely dreadful - they had the consistency of soggy rubber boots (despite being breaded and deep fried), and had the grossest, fishiest, most nauseating taste I've ever experienced. It was as if they had cooked-up a big batch of them at around 4:00pm and then left them sit until someone ordered some. In all fairness, I've never had crawfish before, but if crawfish is supposed to have the flavor and consistency of a well-used rubber band, I won't be likely to order them again.

The fish plates arrived after another 15-20 minute wait. I immediately dug-in to my combo basket, and immediately wanted to cry. My 8 smallish pieces of fish (4 each of the lake perch and bluegill) had suffered the same fate as those disgusting little crawfish - they were rubbery and lifeless. I'm convinced that they were cooked well ahead of time and left in a warming bin until they were thrown into my basket. They weren't scaldingly hot by any means, the coating was soggy, and as mentioned, the fish was rubbery.

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I've never had such limp, lifeless, and chewy fried fish. Granted, the breading still had an excellent flavor, but nothing tasted (or felt) as if it had just come from the fryer. It was such a disappointment.... sort of like when you're starving from a full day's worth of hectic travel (or work) and decide to visit McDonald's at 9:00pm because all you're looking forward to is a steaming-hot, fresh and crispy order of those infamous fries, but get slapped with the ones that have been sitting in the warming bin since around 6:45pm...

The broasted cod, which was so superb at our last visit, was just as disappointing. Strike 3.

So, with this particular visit, The Crawfish Junction = FAIL

Service = 1.25 stars (1 waitress for 9 tables? Seriously? 20+ minutes for first orders?)
Food = 1 star (rubbery, lifeless, and generally bad this time around)
Value = 1 star (seemed as if we got the left-over left-overs)
MISC = 1 star (terrible seating area, bleach stench, no ambiance, bad bar service)


I still want to like The Crawfish Junction because I like most of the establishment; I like their full menu, and the previous visit was so good... I have to (or really want to) believe that this was an "off night" for TCJ... we'll visit again with the hope that things take a drastic turn for the better next time. Otherwise, I'm afraid it'll be game over for TCJ recommendations.

Dog transport + a quick revisit

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I participated in another dog transport today; it was a large rescue transport that originated in Indiana and ended in Minnesota. I took two "legs" of the trip, and did my usual Madison-to-Eau Claire route; my passenger was a gorgeous pit bull named Sapphire. She was an extremely stout, incredibly strong, steel-grey girl with a white chest and a huge, squared head.

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For all of the bad press that pit bulls receive, there's an equal (if not higher) number of them that are absolutely wonderful dogs, and Sapphire really demonstrated how awesome a "pittie" can be. She was well-behaved, knew basic commands, and was super loving. She loved to give kisses:

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But mostly she just liked being next to you. She spent most of our trip standing by my side, happily watching the miles pass by. I really liked petting her impressively huge head and chiseled shoulders - it was as if she was carved from a huge slab of pure muscle:

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I was sad to have to hand her off to the last set of drivers; I could've easily taken her home with me, as sweet as she was. I broke the bad news to her (that she'd be changing cars), and she gave me this look as if to say, "whatchewtalkinbout, Willis?"

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After the handoff, I decided to take a few minutes and revisit my old college campus. I've made half-a-dozen trips to Eau Claire this year for transport purposes and never took advantage of being "in the neighborhood." So, today, some twenty-plus years since my last campus stay, I swung through the old alma matter.

Here's my old dorm, which I hated with a passion. During my very first semester, I was paired with our floor's R.A. (Resident Assistant) and that did not go well. From what I remember, the guy was a total "band geek" (he played the clarinet of all things) and was a major control freak. He and I didn't mesh well at all... the housing supervisor had to separate us halfway through my first semester.

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After being "re-assigned" to another roommate (the second guy was even worse than the first, as he didn't believe in personal hygiene), I spent the majority of my time living in "The Band House" with my friend John. John was the drummer in a band called "Risk," and he lived in a house along with the other band members. I was the band's sound guy; with my "0-for-2" record with dorm-assigned roommates, I found myself living primarily on a couch in this house:

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At least 2-3 times per day, we would walk over to this Holiday gas station and buy "big Cokes." Back then, Holiday sold these massive (48-ounce, I believe) reusable plastic bottles (they looked similar to a bicycle water bottle, but had a straw in them) for $2, and you could fill the bottle with any fountain drink of your choice for $0.25. It was a stellar deal, to say the least, and I think we each had 10-12 of those bottles that we'd regularly refill. It doesn't appear as though anything has changed with this particular Holiday station since 1990, save for the price of gas:

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There used to be a Rocky Rococo's pizza place directly across the street; it featured $1 slices of pizza on Tuesdays. Those were some of my favorite days; unfortunately, I couldn't find the old Rocky's, so my guess is that it has long since closed and moved on.

I was shocked to see that one of the clubs that we often played in was still exactly as I remembered it. I don't think this place has changed one single bit, either... it looks identical to how it did back in 1990 - the infamous "Brat" - yep, it's name is "The Brat," and 20 years ago, it was legendary. I can only imagine what its reputation must be like today.

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I drove around a bit longer, then crossed back over the river to the campus for one last look. For those not familiar, the Eau Claire campus is divided by the Chippewa river, and there's a huge bridge that joins the two "sides." Trust me when I say that crossing this bridge in the dead of February is not fun; and I did that more often than I'd care to remember, as the band house was on one side of the river, and all of my classes were on the other side of the river.

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I strolled around the campus area for a bit, and then decided to head back south toward Madison. While it's no secret that I absolutely abhor school, I found myself feeling a bit nostalgic today. It was good to swing through the place, but I don't think I'd ever want to venture back. School's not my thing, to say the least, although it did leave me with a few good memories.

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This page is an archive of entries from April 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

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