Thursday, March 27, 2008


I took three days off work to visit Martha and Graham while she was in Texas. The Lone Star State definitely went far beyond my expectations. Although I only had a short time and stayed around the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, we saw so many different environments. Both cities had very clean downtown areas with great bars and restaurants, lots of plazas and parks. We visited McKinney Ave. in Dallas for some lunch when I got off the plane. With a tram running up and down the street, it kind of reminded me of Sheffield.
Then we went to see the spot where JFK got shot. A little way down the street there is this strange monument memorializing the man. Even after reading the accompanying plaque, we really had no idea what any of the elements were meant to symbolize. As I said, there is an abundance of plazas and parks in both towns, so we walked around downtown Dallas to visit various points of interest. One park is home to a herd of life size brass longhorn cattle and their brass cowboys. Next door is a Civil War cemetery - I couldn't believe I'd traveled 1100 miles across the country and still hadn't escaped the Confederacy!
After we'd done Dallas, we headed back to Ft. Worth. The way back to Graham's apartment we passed through the Stock Yards, so stopped to take a look around even through it wasn't on the itinerary until later in the week. It's really a cool place: the streets are paved with bricks and all the saloons and general stores have wooden porches over the sidewalk. We kept missing the cattle run, but by all reports it wasn't that exciting. Some of the shops form a railway station for the steam train from Grapevine. Although most of the shops are tacky (with cowboy gear that was made in Taiwan) at the very end we found this awesome spice shop which sold every type of spice plus different salts, meat rubs, curry blends and teas. I picked up a few ounces, hoping the sniffer dogs at the airport wouldn't get me! We were getting thirsty so we popped into the White Elephant Saloon were a very curt barman who didn't understand half of what we said ended up giving us free beer. Time had gotten away from us, so the stores I wanted to go in for cowboy boots were shut, so we made haste to H3 Steak House for just about the best Ribs and Steak I've ever tasted in my life. Granted, the place wasn't cheap, but I think we all agreed it was worth it, and did our best to clean our plates.
We pottered back to Graham's apartment and after a brief respite, decided that we needed to walk off dinner a little. Graham wanted to show us this great pub that has a lot of beers on tap, so we took the scenic route to downtown through the water gardens. At the Flying Saucer, I tried a local brew IPA, which was pretty decent, but we were all dog tired after one pint so called it a night.
On Tuesday we headed out to the West of DFW. The main plan for the day was to visit Possum Kingdom Lake. I'd been told that the landscape started to resemble a desert very soon after leaving the DFW area. I didn't find it to be so. The ground got sandier, but there were plenty of hardy trees and prickly pear cacti. It's definitely Ranch country, with the stereotypical iron archway incorporating the ranch name over every driveway. Cattle, horses and to my surprise goats were present in large numbers. We stopped for some lunch at the lake, and watched some boys jump in, then climb straight back out of the cold water! The next attraction was to be Dinosaur Valley SP near a great barbecue joint, so we set off along some scenic roads towards Glen Rose. Our route took us through Granbury, which had the cutest town square. This quaint ice-cream parlor caught our eye, and with the temperature pushing 80 we indulged in a round of root beer floats. Martha put 'Twist and Shout' on the duke box, then we headed out again in the heat.
Dinosaur Valley was one of the highlights for me. Down in the Paluxy river, all these dinosaur footprints have been exposed in the layers of rock. At first all I saw was round holes that could have been anything (but were apparently sauropod prints). Then as my eyed discovered the three toed prints of the Acrocanthosaurus, it was suddenly the coolest thing on the planet! Plus the park is really pretty - we took a stroll down the river trying to spot a snake or an armadillo.
Unfortunately the barbecue place we wanted to eat at was closed, so we made our way back to town to find some dinner (with a brief stop to change a flat tire caused by a four inch bolt embedding itself in the right-rear). The BBQ joint in FW was classic (their motto was: "Life's too short to live in Dallas"). It was counter service and the meals were served in polystyrene trays and consisted of a huge pile of meat, sauce, beans, 'slaw, potato salad, two slices of bread and half a raw onion! The beers came in frozen margarita-style fishbowl glasses. Another fantastic meal at the opposite end of the price range!
Wednesday was kinda short. Graham had to get a new tire, then we went back to the Stock Yards so I could get some boots. After that it was time for me to catch my flight back home.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Window Boxes

Germaniums, originally uploaded by evens.john.

Today before embarking on a manly motorcycle ride, I set up the window boxes on the front of the house. The gentleman at Inside Out on Brook Rd suggested Germaniums, offset with the ivy. I also made a box and a pot with some pink and white Dianthus.

Town and country M/C ride.

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I'm having fun with Google Maps - I like being able to plot a route so I can see where I've been a share it with other people. Today, I set out with the ambitious plan of taking a Northerly route to the Pamunkey river, then heading South to Route 5 back to Richmond. However, in between leaving later than planned, being completely lost most of the time and the weather taking a turn for the worst, I traced a slightly shorter route taking in some of the countryside of Hanover, before visiting part of the city that I normally steer clear of (but is interestingly historical).

First bike ride of the year

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Spring is here and we were given two hours early departure from work on Thursday for our Spring Holiday (aka Good Friday). I was worried that the river would be too distant to comfortably reach by bike from my new place. However, I think I've found an OK route that gets me off the main roads as much as possible. My legs were feeling the burn by the time I'd made the return trip. The way back was predominantly uphill of course.
The River was looking pretty healthy. I'm not used to seeing it neither really low, nor swollen and full of debris. Last year was a year of extremes. While I sat on a rock and had a mid-ride banana, a fat, juicy crayfish climbed right up onto the rock in front of me before being swept away by the current.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Kyle in Japan

My good friend Kyle has just arrived in Japan to start a year teaching English. Please go check out his blog - I'm sure it'll be amusing!

Saturday, March 15, 2008


I'd like to introduce you all to Barry, the latest addition to our family. Barry came from one of our friends who had found him as a stray living behind and Italian restaurant. Although she'd had the cat for several months, she never got round to naming him as she didn't intend to keep him - he didn't even have a name, so I christened him 'Barry' (although K insists it's 'Bear-y').

Barry came with a litter box, his favourite brush and lots of toy mice, and after a tortuous 45-minute car ride from Petersburg locked in a cardboard box, he seems to have settled in well. He is always looking for a way to sneak outside, but we're keeping him in for a few months so he doesn't run away.

The bath tap seems to be Barry's favourite feature of the house - he can frequently be found scratching against it, and likes it if we turn it on just a little so he can play with the drips. He also enjoys the bay window, and sleeping at the foot of the bed. As far as we can tell, he's happy with his new home - and we are happy to have him!