Sunday, March 31, 2024

Day Off of Work, Trip to Kansas City, Shopping, Food, and Fun

Lunch at Ponak's on Friday and Errands was Great!
Lunch Friday at Ponak's

I took a half day on Thursday so that I could go to my brother-in-laws, Greg, house to watch the Royals Opening Day baseball game. My father-in-law, Eddie, joined us as has been the tradition the past few years. The Royals lost 5 - 1, but he had a great time. Greg does hotdogs, wraps them in foil, and we enjoy those while watching the game. 

On Friday, I had the whole day off as I thought we might go camping but we ended up running errands in Kansas City. I was in need of new work shoes, so we went to Nordstrom Rack and Dillards to shop for shoes. I ended up with two pairs of shoes with one for work and a pair to wear on weekends or when I need a little more dress than a pair of tennis shoes. I also got two new sports coats to add to my collection, so it was a big day for me shopping. Carrie laughs because I rarely buy anything for myself and I kept saying how big of a day it was for me spending a lot on two pairs of shoes and two sports coats. 

We had fun doing our shopping and had already planned to head to Ponak's for a late lunch. I still cannot believe we just heard about this place recently. This was our third or fourth time to go to Ponak's and it was just as good as the first time. I had fajitas this time which were excellent. The guac and margaritas are really good! I highly recommend a visit to Ponak's.

Saturday turned out to a chill day for us as we did not do a whole lot. I guess we were tired from all the running around we did on Friday. I did manage to watch NCAA basketball Thursday, Friday, part of the games Saturday night. Saturday afternoon, I watched the Royals lose again. In two games, we have scored a total of two runs. Hoping to turn things around for the Sunday game this afternoon to at least get more than one run... maybe even win the game. 

For NCAA games today, more games I do not care who wins. I know I do not want UConn to win even though I have them picked in two of my brackets. It is hard to believe the NCAA basketball time is coming to an end. Baseball has started and PGA is underway. Good times!

Until next time, have a great week! Happy Easter!

Happy Easter 2024!

Happy Easter 2024!

Happy Easter! A overcast day but beautiful. Carrie and I are planning to head to Lawrence for a bit today to see my Mom and family. I tried to plan out when others would be there too, but that did not work out, so we are going around noon and see who we can while we are there. Mid-afternoon we will head back to Topeka to have dinner at Shirron family. It is going to be a great day!

I hope you have a fantastic Easter Sunday!

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Thinking of Future Camping for 2024 and Thinking Back to Past Camping Trips to When We Started in 2021

Camping Our First Year Tent Camping in 2021
Camping in 2021

Carrie and I have been camping one time so far this year (see Big Bend Post) and it was great. We are wanting to go camping so bad many more times while it is nice this spring, summer, and fall. Right now, we have one spot reserved for the summer, but we are keeping our eyes open for other dates we can camp. The places we camp over the next few months will probably be located in Kansas. Our trip to Big Bend was our first camping trip outside the state of Kansas. Yes, we want to do more camping trips outside Kansas, but I am not sure those will happen this year.

One spot I am hoping we are able to fit in this year is Wilson State Park. I hear only good things from those that have been to this location about how beautiful it is with amazing views. Wilson State Park has been on our list to visit for a few years, but it has not worked out for us to get out there to this point. I am hoping this will be the year that we are able to make it out to this beautiful spot in Kansas.

Thinking back to when we started camping back in May 2021. Little did I know that it would become a passion for both Carrie and me. We love the whole experience of camping so much and cannot wait until our next camping trip. As I review past trips, I wondered where we were at with our count of locations and camping trips.

We have been multiple times to Eisenhower State Park which we love. There is a good chance we will be back to Eisenhower State Park at some point this summer. We have a favorite spot there and really enjoy the trails and location. Other locations in Kansas that we have been included (links are to blog posts) Crawford State Park, Lake Milford near Junction City, HipCamp on the Saline River by Hays, KS, Council Grove, and finally Big Bend National Park in Texas.

A rough guess on number of times we have been camping would be ten times. Hoping to increase our camping number throughout the next few months. In 2022 and 2023, we had busy spring, summer, and fall seasons, so camping was difficult to work in during those years, but hoping get some more dates scheduled for this year.

Camping Trip Lake Picture from June 2021
Camping Trip in June 2021

Finding sites to camp near lakes is the best as it is so beautiful and brings back memories of being a kid hanging out at Lone Star Lake or Clinton Lake. Plus, Carrie and I are getting into trails, so we want to keep that trend going from our Big Bend trip. We are planning to do some trails in Kansas City, or even around Topeka, that look interesting. Just to keep what we started in Texas going and might even play a role in where we pick to do our camping trips for this year. Still, I am sure we will end up at some of our usual spots but also hoping to visit some new locations this year.

Until next time, have a great week. I hope you are able to find your next camping spot or do what makes you happy.

Sunday, March 17, 2024

March Madness 2024 Tournament Challenge

ESPN Tournament Challenge Picture

It is time create your entry for March Madness. It is Selection Sunday.

March Madness Hopefuls group is free to play and you can enter up to three entries. There is no password on the group, so hoping it will be an easy process to join your entries, encourage your family and friends to join, and be sure to come back after Selection Sunday to make your entries.

The directions for joining remain the same from last year. The more people in the group the more fun it is to make your selections. 
  1. Visit ESPN which will take you directly to the March Madness Hopefuls.
  2. If you are already signed into the ESPN web site, you can immediately create your bracket. If not, sign into the site and then you will be taken to the March Madness Hopefuls group or you can search for March Madness Hopefuls to join.
  3. Join the group.
  4. Repeat the above process to create additional brackets. In the March Madness Hopefuls bracket, you can have three entries.
Be sure to submit your entries by 11:00 am CST Thursday, March 21. This will make sure you get your entries submitted and have time to get them submitted. First game tips at 11:15 am on Thursday March 21. There are play-in games starting Tuesday, but you do not need to enter your picks until the field is set following Wednesday night play-in games. Make sure to enter your picks prior to 

If you have any questions or problems, please let me know.

Good luck and enjoy March Madness!

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Finished Watching Last Four of Best Picture Nominated Movies and Made My Picks

We finished our final movie of the Best Picture nominees just hours before the awards ceremony will begin. We watched four movies in the past three days. A short update as the time nears for the start of the Oscars.

Reviewing my update from February 25 (see post), we had the following movies to watch which we just finished today.

American Fiction
Carrie and I really liked this movie. I went into watching the movie not knowing a lot about it, but it was really good. No, I do not think it will win the best picture category, but it was done well. I liked the story and how the story was told.

The Zone of Interest
As I mentioned in the February 25 update, I heard about this movie on NPR one morning and knew it was going to be an interesting movie to watch. Hearing the sounds of the "camp" next door to the family was eerie as the family went on to live their lives, have their picnics, and play in their backyard that was right next door to the camp. 

Poor Things
This was an interesting movie watching the main character, who was brought back to life, learn and explore her world. I did like the movie, but so different from the other movies in the best picture category. Cast was excellent as were the costumes.

Anatomy of a Fall
This was the final movie we watched just hours before the awards ceremony is set to begin. I found this movie interesting although a little boring. I fell asleep a few times while watching. Again, this seems like a different style movie than the majority of movies in this category. I did enjoy the movie, but not one I would watch again.

Now that we have finished all of the movies, I make my pick and know that I have no insight into which is the best movie other than this is my opinion. I believe Oppenheimer will win as it has won in a number of other award ceremonies. The movie I like the best after watching all of the movies was The HoldoversThe Holdovers will win some awards, but I am not sure it will be selected for best picture in the Oscars.

I enjoy trying to watch all of the best picture nominees each year. Carrie and I try to watch other films nominated in other categories, and we were able to do a few this year. We caught a few documentaries nominated for awards as well as a few shorts and animated movies. 

Hopefully you were able to catch some of these movies prior to the big event tonight or can watch them soon. Have a great week!

Sunday, March 03, 2024

Our Trip to Big Bend National Park February 24 - March 1 with Pictures of Hikes, Food, and Wildlife. Loved Our Trip!

Casa Grande
Casa Grande

Carrie and I have been wanting to camp out-of-state for a few years at this point. All of our camping adventures have been in Kansas. A year ago, we planned to camp at Big Bend National Park and it did not work out for us to go last year. So, Carrie got us on the list to camp there this year. The spots fill up fast, so Carrie got on us on the list early. I am so happy that Carrie was able to get us on the list and reserve a spot for us months in advance. Carrie got us a spot in the Chisos Basin Campground. We are all set and looking forward to our trip.

Day 1

Stopped at Walk-On's for Dinner
Walk-On's for Dinner

We left for our camping trip on Saturday, February 24. A good 14 hours trip with stops, we decided to break it up into two days of driving. We drove the first day to Midland, TX which was about 10 hours of driving. We stopped at Walk-On's in Midland, TX for dinner the first night before retiring to the hotel. We had been to one of these places a few other times, so we knew it was good. We sat at the bar and enjoyed drinks and a meal while we chatted about our first ten hours of the drive for our trip. I always enjoy trying new beers when we are out-of-state, so I had a few local brews from Texas.

Day 2

Driving to Campsite Weather Was Beautiful
Hamlin, TX on Way to Big Bend
We slept a bit later than we had planned and got on a road should be to the campsite around 2:45. This would be a four or five hour drive to our home for the next four nights. The weather was absolutely beautiful as we made our way. The sun was shining and it was hot. As we got closer, the temperature kept going up at one point reaching up to ninety degrees. We knew that our campsite is in a lower location, so should be about ten to fifteen degrees cooler than the surrounding locations. We wanted to make sure we did not end up running out of gas as we approached as we had both read that it takes about an hour to get anywhere within the park. So, we did one last fuel up before heading to our site. 

Chisos Basin Camp Site Home
Our Campsite in Chisos Basin
A winding road from the the mountains down into our campsite in the Chisos Basin Campground. After we had set up our site, Carrie snapped the picture to the left at one point when we were returning from being out for a day. We could clearly see our tent from above as it is the orange blob in the camp ground. 

It did not take long to get our tent set up and things ready for camping. We relaxed for a bit, enjoyed some drinks, and the scenery. The picture of the Casa Grande rock from the start of this update is a picture from our tent. Spectacular views all around from our camp site during the day and at night was even better. We had a few clear nights and I have some of those pictures later.

First Night Dinner Burgers with Bacon, Baked Beans, and Chips
First Night Dinner

After relaxing for a bit and the sun going behind the mountains quickly, we decided it was time to cook dinner. We had ordered a Coleman 2-Burner Stove for this trip. We decided it would be easier to use rather than taking our Firedisc we have used on previous camping trips. For one, we can easily do coffee on the Coleman rather than our little single burner. It did work great and had some delicious coffee each morning. It also allowed us to do a little more with our cooking than what we would normally be able to do on a camp site. More on what else we cooked later.

Stars and Clouds First Night
Stars and Clouds First Night

I have to share pictures of the night sky. We debated on whether to take our telescope but in the end decided not to take it as we did not have room. I realized I forgot to take a picture of our car packed up. We did not use the roof rack for this trip as we did not want to worry about items on the roof or have to worry about them while spending the night at a hotel down there and back, so we left the telescope at home. We did have a few good nights of stargazing. The picture to the left is from our first night. The stars were out and we could see them down to the mountain tops for an hour or two after darkness. Gradually, the clouds moved in and covered up the stars, but I was able to capture the picture to the left prior to the cloud cover. The camera does not do it justice with how many stars could be seen when looking straight up or down to the horizon. Incredible!

Day 3

Santa Elena Canyon Trail
Santa Elena Canyon Trail
For those of you that know Carrie and me, we are not hikers but we like the idea of hiking. We want to do more hiking, so our plan while in Big Bend National Park was to do as many hikes as we could possibly do. For our first full day in the park, we woke up a little later than we had expected and noticed the campsite was very quiet. We would later learn that most everyone else got up around 5:30 - 6 to get out and do their hikes. This was going to be a warm day, but we planned to hike the Santa Elena Canyon Trail located on the Rio Grande River. 

Hiking on the Santa Elena Canyon Trail
Carrie on the Santa Elena Canyon Trail
We picked this trail as it was on a easier side at total round trip of 1.6 miles. Carrie had our backpacks full with plenty of water, snacks, and even a first aid kit. We made sure to take breaks to get plenty of water. Other than the heat, it was not a bad hike. The stairs were tricky but did not have any issues except for the heat.

We really enjoy walking on trails and how friendly other hikers are on the trails. Everyone says hello and sometimes stop and talk to them as they, or we, have information to share about the trail. We enjoyed that part of hiking to connect with others on the trail, but we also experience this at the campsite too. We spoke to many of our fellow campers sharing stories and even met some that were from Kansas right near our campsite.

Deer at Campsite
Deer at our Campsite
Following our hike, we went back to our home for the week. We got back there and had some time to relax, read, and enjoy some drinks before we needed to start dinner. As we were relaxing, deer emerged and got rather close to us. They were not timid at all getting rather close to us. They were interested in finding water or grass to eat rather than anything we were doing. We were taking pictures and then as the deer roamed through the campground, others were coming out of their camps to take pictures or as people were walking by to trails, we could hear them comment and snapping pictures. It was so cool! I will note that we only saw deer and then Greater roadrunner were everywhere. There were exhibits every couple of miles on the roads in the park for the roadrunner although we never stopped at one to read what they said, we did see the little guys everywhere including at our campsite.

Second Night Dinner Thai Peanut Chicken with Rice Noodles
Thai Peanut Chicken with Rice Noodles

We made Thai Peanut Chicken with Rice Noodles this night. Turned out great! Perfect way to end the day with our first hike and ready to relax. Ate we were able to finish up dishes before it got dark so we could relax. We did find that we turned into the tent earlier than most of our camping trips but this was because no open wood fires are allowed. Most everyone turns in early and this also has to do with many of them getting up early to do hikes. This night we did stay out a little later before turning in for the night. 

We did have a fun routine each night that we had planned before we left as we knew that wood fires were not allowed and that we would be spending time in our tent. We had downloaded a few movies on to the laptop prior to leaving and we set up in our tent to watch movies at night. I usually had a beer or a wine bottle to finish off while we watched the movie. It was fun and cozy in our tent.

Day 4

Pancakes and Coffee
Pancakes and Coffee
We got up early on day four of our trip and day three of camping. We used the Coleman grill to do coffee and pancakes. Oh man, the coffee is so good on in a percolator coffee pot on the stove. Carrie used a recipe a vlog we follow that uses yogurt and they were great! We plan to use the same recipe here at home as they were perfect with a nice consistency, crispy edges, and not too thick. 

Today would be another hike and one of our longer hikes for the trip. We wanted a large breakfast to give us energy to go on the The Window Trail which had the entrance right down the hill from our campsite. This trail is listed as 5.5 miles roundtrip but with the entrance right by us, that shaved off about a mile making it about 4.5 miles total round trip. We had a perfect day for this trip with a good cloud cover and a little cooler. The only thing we were concerned about is that this hike is downhill to "The Window" and then the whole way back is uphill. 

The Window Trail
The Window Trail

Mountains all around as we did the walk. The above picture was early in the hike where I did a panoramic picture of where we were headed and where we had come..

Carrie at The Window
Carrie at The Window

We took a few breaks on the way to The Window. This hike is over rock, stairs, climbing up and down ledges, but it was not bad. We again took many breaks and had snacks. As we made it to The Window, we took a break to eat a late lunch consisting of snacks and water. Again, I am not sure the picture to the left gives justice to the view, but it was amazing. Carrie climbed down to get a better look and then needed some help to get up from where she had slid down get close to the view. She would later say she did not need help, but another guy there insisted and pulled her up the rock. It gave us a good laugh and she said she could have gotten back up herself.

After taking a little break, we started the journey back to the trail head and to our camp. Again, the weather was good which helped as it was all uphill. We emptied two water bottles and started on our second set of water bottles. Again, we stopped a few times to talk to fellow hikers and a few that were from our campsite that we had spoken to the day before which was cool.

Currywurst, fried potatoes, and wine for Dinner
Currywurst for Dinner

After getting back to our camp site, we were exhausted. Our feet and legs hurt from the hike the day before and then this longer hike today. Relaxed for a bit before we started making dinner. Today the menu called for fried potatoes, Currywurst, and wine. Man that was so good! We made enough for seconds and I made sure to have a second large helping. What a good way to end the day and head into the evening hours. We took our meal to a nearby picnic bench that was not being used although close to our campsite to eat and enjoy the view. Wonderful!

Turned in for the evening to watch movies and relax in our tent. The next day we had big plans but the weather was not looking good with coldness in the forecast as well as rain. We went to bed decided we would see what is was like the next day.

Day 5

Terlingua for the Day
Stop in Terlingua for the Day
Day five of our trip and day four of camping we woke early to check the weather. Colder and rain throughout the day, we decided we would sleep in a little before heading out with our alternate plans. Instead of doing a few different hikes planned for the day with one taking us into Mexico, we decided to drive about an hour away to Terlingua for the day. We stopped at a place after arriving, doing some shopping, and had a drink before touring the area further. 

A little shopping and we headed over to check out the ghost town. Not much of a ghost town, but it was interesting. A little more spread out than what I was expecting, but I am glad we were able to drive through the town. It was raining when we drove through and we might have gotten more out of it if we were able to walk to explore the town. 

We had lunch at Chili Pepper Cafe which was really good. I had a Pork Green Chili which was delicious along with a few beers. We left and Carrie drove us back toward our camp site. We decided to do a few very short hikes on the way back to camp. We did one trip which was just a .5 mile hike and second one which was about the same. Still sprinkling in the area, we did not have much planned except for the trip to Terlingua.

Us Staying Warm in our Tent
Staying Warm in Tent
We got back to our camp site about 4 pm this day and it was much colder at our campsite. We ended up talking to a new camper that was near us who had just arrived that morning. He was a nice guy but wanted to share everything with us about his trip as he had been on the road for 125 days and working his way back home to California. We ended up talking to him for about an hour as it kept getting colder and colder. We retreated into our tent to warm up and we took naps as there was not much to do other than read and warm up.

The rain picked up and the wind gradually picked up through the night. We did not leave the tent. We had plans to cook dinner that night, but ended up sleeping in the tent where we could keep warm. I listened to a book on tape, read another book, and did some sleeping.

The wind picked up through the evening with gusts up to 40 - 50 mph. At one point the wind pulled one of our tie lines out of the ground as the wind caught our rainfly like a sale. We could not locate the hammer, so we ended up pulling a large rock over and holding down the corner with the large rock on the stake. It worked great! Through the night we could hear the rain and the tent shaking back-and-forth. We kept nice and warm, but it was the wind that was the concerning factor for us through the night. The next morning, those around us that were primarily in trailers talked to us and asked if we stayed warm. Yes, we were very warm and had to kick off covers as we were hot. We told them it was the wind we were worried about through then night.

Day 6

Selfie in Front of our Tent and Site
Selfie in Front of Campsite
Our final night camping was not bad. We stayed warm but we were both disappointed that we were not able to do the longer hikes we had planned for our last full day of camping. We had discussed possibly staying one more day (leaving Friday morning instead), but after the night of weather, we decided it was best to stick with our original plans and leave Thursday.

As we were breaking down our campsite, I realized I had not taken picture of our tent or our site. So, as we were breaking down our site, I took the panoramic picture below which is where our tent stood and our view when we crawled out each morning of our tent. The selfie picture to start the Day 6 section was early in our stay and you can see our tent in the background.

Our Camp Site Post Tent Breakdown
Campsite Post Tent Breakdown

We loaded up the car, said good-byes to a few fellow campers around that we had met and left our campsite. Again, we broke the drive back into two days. We had planned to stop by Wichita Falls, TX, but every hotel there was booked solid so we ended up in Duncan, OK for the night.

Day 7

Sleepy Oliver After We Returned from Camping Trip to Big Bend National Park
Sleepy Oliver After Our Return
Last day was only for traveling. We had about five hours from Duncan, OK to Topeka, KS. We stayed in a Hampton Inn located in Duncan, OK, so we were able to have breakfast before getting on the road. The weather was nice although we could tell we were headed north as it was colder outside.We were both looking forward to getting home to see our little Oliver.

We got home about mid-afternoon. Oliver was happy to see us but also very sleepy. We spent the late afternoon and evening catching up on shows we had missed. Oliver spent his time sleeping in his bed but keeping an eye on us throughout the night.


We both want to return to Big Bend National Park. It was so pretty. We enjoyed the campsite and facilities of the campsite. Camp hosts were nice and accommodating to our needs and questions. All the guests were were friendly and as I mentioned, meeting people on the trails was fun to interact with them. We liked where we camped too, but might look at a different spot within the park for a future camping location.

To see all pictures from our trip, please visit Big Bend National Park Album on Flickr.

Thank you for reading and I hope to have a few more camping posts throughout the summer. We already have at least one spot reserved for the summer and plan to do a few others too. Until next time, enjoy the week and I hope you are able to get out to enjoy the world.