Friday, April 26, 2013

Who Are All You People?!

So one of the most common things you have seen me ask over the years on this blog has been "Does anyone even read this thing?" Well, unbeknownst to me, this blog software allows me to go in and see how many times my blog has been viewed, and can even see which blog posts have the most viewers. Now, having started this blog back in May 2008, I figure five years of data is enough for me to find out if this blog attracts anything other than my wife, my mom, and random people Google-searching keywords that include "living + the + dream."

And after looking at all the analytics and data, what did I discover...?


Over the five years, I have had a total of 73,632 pageviews. No, that's not a typo, and yes, I have been checked for vision problems and mental illness.

Seriously, how did this happen? There are only two possible explanations...

Option #1 - I AM AWESOME! 


Apparently my blog has been read enough that over the years, it has become a popular search result in search engine results for some frequent keyword searches. Below I have copy/pasted the reader statistics as it pertains to the most popular posts over the past five years. Looks like a lot of people are searching board games, Halloween, and candy!

Not sure what all this means, but I guess it's enough to keep me writing! Leave a comment with your thoughts on what all this means. And now that I have these stats...I know you're out there, so leave a comment!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Backpacking - Retro Diary - Day #2

What follows is a retro-diary of Day #2 of our overnight backpacking adventure to the Laguna Mountains in eastern San Diego. Click here for Day #1!


4:10-6:30am - I spend most of the time staring out the tent, not sleeping great, and listening to the wind. The wife apparently loves the sound of wind, cuz it knocked her right out.

6:45am - I roll over to face Julie, and with her eyes wide open (obviously having been awake for a few minutes already), she shrieks "HI!" I have never seen anyone so excited and so happy that early in the morning, after sleeping overnight in a tent. Only my wife.

6:46am - Julie's hungry.

6:55am - With the local streams not high enough to run water through our hiking route, we had to maintain enough water for the hike out, so unfortunately had to opt out of our morning oatmeal and hot chocolate, and just settle for more trail mix, dried fruit, and PB&J tortillas. I was a little bummed about this, as I had called the wilderness office two days prior and they told me two different creeks where we could stop for water on our two-day trek. Both proved to be bone-dry. I still blame myself. 

7:10am - After temporarily quelling the storm that is Julie's stomach, it was time to start breaking down camp. And once again, since Julie had never camped before, this was another new experience. She enthusiastically jumped in and helped un-stake the tent, take out the poles, fold up the tent and tarp and stuff the bag. Sounds pretty uneventful, but she did it smiling and loving every minute of it. So glad she was enjoying it!

7:20am - After repacking our packs, making sure snacks were easily accessible for the wife, we did one more lap around the campsite to make sure we had everything. Julie said her goodbyes, and we set off for for the final five miles of our 11-mile loop.

7:21am - Julie's hungry...just kidding. I was just getting used to typing that.

7:40am - We finish the Pine Mountain portion of the trail, jump across Pioneer Mail picnic area and hook up with the Pacific Crest Trail for the final four miles of the hike. This was by far my favorite portion of the two-day trip, with some incredible ecosystem changes along the way. We saw all types of landscapes over the two days, including desert, tall oaks, tons of manzanita bushes, chaparral, huge rock piles and was so diverse. Really interesting to have all of those unique ecosystems co-exist within miles of each other.

7:55am - "SCAT!" 

8:15am - We reach the top of one of the first portions of our trail and are treated to a magnificent view across the mountain, deep valleys and tree-covered hillsides to the northeast. We had some amazing views of San Gorgonio Mountain and San Jacinto Peak. It was the first time we really had amazing views during the weekend, and Julie was awestricken with the sight. I was really happy we had this opportunity, because I spent most of my backpacking days in the Sierras, where every new lake and mountain had breathtaking views, and I didn't want Julie to think that we were never gonna see something like that! 

8:18am - After snapping some photos from the peak, we continue on the trail, turn the corner to head back west, and...

8:19am - HOLY HELL! As soon as we turned that corner we got absolutely blasted with wind. I mean, it was gusting harder than I have ever hiked in before. My floppy bucket hat started slapping me in the face, the straps on our backpacks fluttered everywhere, and any time a particularly large gust came through, I swear I saw Julie physically get moved off her path as it took the collective weight of her and her backpack into a different zip code. At this point we were about halfway into the PCT, so we had two miles to go, and virtually all of it was uphill and into the wind.

8:30am - I hear giggling behind me. Julie thinks this wind is hilarious, and she starts talking about how fun this is. I love my wife.

8:50am - After having our heads looking straight down to cut the wind for about half an hour, I finally pull off the trail toward a peak for a quick view of some more valleys. We talked about how fun of an adventure this was, and even more so with the wind. We weren't letting anything put a damper on the experience, and were so happy to be backpacking.

9:10am - We turn a corner, the wind dies down, and we see the road up ahead! And soon enough, we see the car! Wow, this hike didn't take us nearly as long we planned. We're back at the start and it's barely 9:00am!

9:20am - The packs are off. The boots are off. The smelly clothes are off. We're in the car. We're happy.

It was a great first trip for Julie, and I'm excited to build on it from here. I'm excited for her to go on a multiple night adventure, camp near lakes and streams, do some fishing, and be able to lounge around in a picturesque area. This was a great starting point, and I think it's only going to get better from here!

Friday, April 19, 2013

"Mrs. Living the Dream" Goes Backpacking...

So, last weekend I took the wife on a one-night backpacking trip to the Laguna Mountains in eastern San Diego. It was her first backpacking trip of any kind, and suffice to say leading up to it she had tons of questions...most of which revolved around food, meals, and food.

We had been talking about a backpacking trip for quite some time, and about a year ago we decided that we wanted REI to be one of our wedding registry sites. What better way to get her outfitted with the camping and backpacking gear she needs, and for me to get some new toys?! 

So now, with all the water filters, trekking poles, sporks and bug juice we needed (and a rare open weekend for both of us), the plans were made. I got us set up with our permits with the local Cleveland National Forest, and after making a few more REI runs (duh), we were ready to introduce Julie to the world of backpacking.

While making our drive out to the trailhead, I was very curious how Julie would enjoy the adventure, how she would handle the outdoor elements of camping, and how she would do with access to way less food than she's used to! What follows are some of the highlights of Julie's First Backpacking Adventure...


9:30am - We hit the trail for our 6-mile hike on Day #1.

9:32am - Julie already asks when lunch is.

9:40am - Julie has already managed make the trip completely girly by using the words "cuddle" and "snuggle" in reference to sleeping in the tent. Of all the things she would get excited about on this journey, it always went back to two things: food and snuggling.

10:00am - She has now added the word "cute" to her verbal repertoire in describing the animals she might see on the trip. I'll tell ya, you never feel more manly on a camping trip when your wife uses the words "snuggle", "cuddle", and "cute" in the first 30 minutes of a backpacking trip.

10:01am - I make the grave realization that I've never been on a camping or backpacking trip with a girl before...and instantly start wondering what I'd got myself into.

10:18am - Julie discovers her favorite word of the trip - "SCAT!" Yep, scat.

10:30am - We hit our first trail junction, from Noble Canyon to Indian Creek. We're making great time, we're both feeling good, and we haven't even had to stop for snacks yet.

10:32am - We stop for snacks.

10:45am - After climbing out of a small river valley, we get to the first steep climb of the hike. During this portion, Julie discovers one of her second favorite word of the trip - "SWITCHBACK!" Once again, the capital letters and exclamation point are necessary in accurately portraying her excitement.

11:15am - We take a side trail for a quick jaunt over to a peak known as "Champagne Pass." 

11:16am - Julie is sad to find out there is no champagne.

11:25am - We hit our second trail junction, from Indian Creek to Pine Mountain. Julie looks like she hasn't shed a drop of sweat. She's a champ.

12:00pm - We start looking for a good place to set up camp, with some bushwhacking involved.

12:04pm - Julie realizes she doesn't like bushwhacking.

12:30pm - We find a great hidden site with plenty of room for tent, cooking and some nearby bouldering.

12:31pm - Julie makes the executive decision that we eat lunch first, then set up camp. So she got her first experience with PB&J on tortillas for lunch. Add some trail mix and dried fruit, and she was a happy girl.

12:45pm - Julie learns how to set up a tent!

1:00-4:30pm - We go on a short little day-hike in search of water, realize none of the streams are full (more on this in the next post), find some more scat, play some cribbage in the tent, take a little siesta, and Julie talks incessantly about dinner.

5:15pm - Julie waits long enough and convinces me to fire up the stove for dinner. After picking out some dehydrated Pad See Ew from REI a few days earlier, she was ready to get her first taste of "camping food." So I bust out our brand new JetBoil stove setup, find a non-windy area, light a match, and...

5:16pm - Julie is shocked how quickly the water boils. She is now totally sold on JetBoils.

5:17pm - Julie is slightly disappointed when she realizes now the water has to sit in the food package for 13 minutes before it's ready.

5:20pm - She has already looked at her watch ten times.

5:29pm - She is staring at this package like a lion stalking its prey. Drool ensues.

5:30pm - She opens, she stirs, she conquers.

5:45pm - It begins to cool off, so we transition to our long-sleeve shirts and beanies, and I tell Julie to pull out the flashlights and headlamps so we don't have to look for them later in the dark. She heard that as, "YAY, I GET TO WEAR MY HEADLAMP!" So she wore it for the rest of the day, including in daylight.

6:30pm - The sun goes down, the wind picks up, the girl gets cold. We head to the tent, play some cribbage and chat, and enjoy the warmth.

7:15pm - I fire up the JetBoil for some dessert hot chocolate, and it is without question, Julie's favorite moment of the whole trip. She thought it was the most amazing hot chocolate ever.

7:16pm - We're freezing so we go back in tent.

7:45pm - Julie discovers all the fun parts of a mummy bag, including covering her whole head.

8:15pm - Julie forgets she's playing and falls asleep.

Thus ends the first day of Mrs. Living the Dream's backpacking adventure. Stay tuned for the Day #2 post, where we talk more about food, break down the tent, hit the Pacific Crest Trail, and battle one hell of a windstorm!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

I Can't Stand It When...(An Original Rant)

It has been a very long time since I went on a full-fledged rant on this blog. 

That changes today.

"I Can't Stand It When..."

...a bird decides to take target practice on my windshield overnight, so when I finally get back to the car 12 hours later and want to run the windshield wipers, it ends up spreading the dried butt-bullets across the entire windshield. Then you end up wasting half of your damn washer fluid just to rub out the mess you just probably would have been cleaner to just leave the dodo-doodoo untouched! The only thing worse than that is when they actually hit the wipers themselves, because every time I run them after that, it just creates a new white smear across a previously clean windshield. Bastard Butt Birds.

...sports fans solely blame the referees for the outcome of a game. I understand that a game can come down to the wire, and that referees are capable of completely blowing a call, including the last play of the game in a tie ballgame. But don't one person tell me that the sole reason their team lost was because of one play at the end of the game. You're telling me as part of your team's game-plan, you planned on turning the ball over 14 times, missing 11 free throws and shooting 38% from the court? Or that you planned to leave those eight runners on base? Or that you were planning on throwing two interceptions and fumbling in the first quarter? Please. The only way I will ever accept that a single call was the sole reason for a change in outcome is if your basketball team shoots 100% from the floor, 100% from the foul line, doesn't turn the ball over, and has at least 10 steals. In that case, I believe you played the perfect game and if a ref blows a call at your team's expense - I'll give it to you. If that doesn't happen...and it never will...then spare me. (Be happy I kept this under ten pages)

...someone calls me at the office during a blatantly obvious busy time and says "Hey, I know you're swamped right now, but...", and then asks for me to do something that is completely unimportant and a total waste of time. I mean, you just admitted yourself that you know I'm swamped at work, but you still felt it necessary to call and ask if I can change your username and password on our website because you don't like the name? Oh yes, please let me drop all the papers currently covering my desk (which, those of you that know me well, know that I hate having loose papers on my desk) so I can tell you what the date is for an event next year because you're worried about conflicts with your family ski trip. If the sentence starts with "I know you're swamped...", it should end with "so good luck" or one hell of a problem.

...someone you don't know leaves you a voicemail, and when they get to the point where they say their number, they do it in the most bizarre cadence in history. There is a standard cadence and grouping that we are all accustomed to when it comes to phone numbers. The good ol' 3-3-4. You know - the area code, first three, and last four. But then there are some people who missed the whole friggin' memo. An example would best illustrate this. "Hey Marc, it's Joe Schmuck. My number is 7-1843-25-312. Call me back." Yeah, cuz that's gonna happen. As soon as he pauses at "7", I get thrown off, and by the time he finishes, I'm not sure if he gave me a phone number or his Social Security Number. Cripes.

...I have to wash a cheese grater. I feel like there is no successful way to do it without missing some cheese or grating my knuckles. I actually don't mind the outside grater so much as I do the inside of the block. On the outside I just rub the sponge with the grain of the holes and it gets the cheese smudges out. But what about those little danglers that then go inside and adhere to the inside of the block? The cheese grater is too narrow for me to reach the top of the inside, so I just blindly rub the sponge everywhere I can reach, and hope that no rebel cheddar is hiding. Ugh. I'm OCD, I know.

  ...I have to clean the garlic press. This has to be the most annoying thing ever. First off, this isn't something you can just blow off, rinse, put it back in the drawer, and call it a day. Obviously there is pressed garlic wedged in the pin-sized holes, and running soap and water over that doesn't do the trick. I end up getting some skewers and punching holes in each of the openings until all the garlic has been flushed from the cursed machine. Then I go with the soap and water routine, cuz the thing still smells like garlic. My wife thinks I'm ridiculous. I'm starting to think you all probably agree with her.

That's it for now. But don't worry, there's plenty more where that came from.