Sunday, February 24, 2013

No ordinary trip...

I. Love. Roadside attractions.

That addiction that is ever present, especially when I have a chance to spend an extended period of time in a specific area. I tend to show up prepared.  I did my research, and made enough noise about it before our recent winter family getaway that no one was surprised when needed I ventured out to see some sights.

Once out of the hotel, like a military "shock and awe" operation, G Love and I hit Dubuque with the precision of a scalpel...  As it turned out, the cosmos were in alignment and we enjoyed a couple of nice little bits of luck.

Oh...and yes.  I said Dubuque.  As in Iowa.  Exotic destination eh?  Kinda what we thought too, but the idea was to get the hell out of the UnForest, into an indoor waterpark and essentially forget about the everyday business of life.  Dubuque was far enough away, but not the "usual" indoor waterpark destination.

The truth is, for all the times I have traveled through Dubuque, I have never thought much of the city.  Well...other than being a convenient place to stop and pee, or grab a bite on the way to the homeland.  But after having spent some quality time there, I hear-by declare that Dubuque is a seriously cool city that is getting even cooler.

Added benefit:  It is a Mississippi river town and I sure do love me some big river.

So rather than gush on and on about how much fun we had, I offer a pictorial recap of how I saw things.


But first, there it is: digital proof that my children CAN get along.

 
American Gothic...only it is 25 feet tall and freaking schweeeeeet!


Finding a giant American Gothic statue...Cool.  Finding a mini Statue of Liberty (on accident)...BONUS!  Photographing G Love and capturing two separate roadside attractions in the same image....BOOYAA!

Who moved up to the advanced level Roadside Attraction hunter?  This guy did.


Speaking of luck....this one needs a little background.

So I got sent out for beer.  Oh, and groceries.  But I missed the turn to go into the Hy-Vee lot.  Then, I managed to miss the second turn for reasons I don't care to discuss.  So, as I drove on, thinking there might be another grocery store nearby (I heard they travel in packs...), I realized that on RoadsideAmerica.com I had seen something called the "Gas Station Jesus", and I remembered the map showing it to be close to where I thought I was.  So as I got to what looked to be the end of civilization, I noticed the road that stuck in my mind as the home of "Gas station Jesus", and I turned in.

I was thoroughly confused to find a statue of Mary and Child, but no statue of Jesus.  At this point, I had already taken more time than I had promised Mrs. MacLoosh than I would take...but I thought shit, better get the picture...it is after-all, not everyday you find a religious statue at a gas station...and get back to the Hy-Vee.

So the next day, as G and I were on our sightseeing excursion, I was headed down the same road towards a new goal destination, looked over an screamed "There it is!".  G-Love started bouncing around the back seat like he had been suddenly filled with flubber as I pulled an impromptu U-Turn.  I whipped into the same gas station as the night before, and had arrived a full 10 minutes after the owner had finished putting the "Gas Station Jesus" back up after an unfortunate snow plow incident.

Sorry to disappoint, but the ropes are not intended to have religious undertones...
This happened almost immediately after finding the mini Statue of Liberty.

The cosmic coincidence of this moment was not lost on me, so I went inside and asked the owner to pose with me in a picture, next to the statue.  He, quite unfortunately, declined.  He was very polite, but I think he thought I was crazy and off balance.

What does it mean when the guy with religious statues at his BP gas station thinks *I* am crazy?

There wasn't much time to dwell on this because as an added bonus, directly across the road, was yet another cool statue.


Anyway, despite being rejected by the gas station owner...I moved up to Roadside Attraction hunter level EXPERT.  Thank you very much.

On a mission like this, one can never forget to keep their eyes open for fishing opportunities (which is where we were headed when we stumbled on "Gas Station Jesus")...G Love and I made our way out to the Lower Swiss Valley Nature Preserve to check out a trout stream.  Turns out the stream is stunningly beautiful, full of trout, and has a cool nature center.  (Duly noted for future trips...)


And inside the Nature Center were sweet interactive displays...we (yet again...) managed to make people uncomfortable.  As if the gas station owner wasn't enough, now the ranger wasn't impressed with the MacLoosh boys...


It's not *OUR* fault there were mutant bees inside this place.  Geez.....doesn't anyone have a sense of humor any more?

That was the end of our little outing.  We figured we had enough people irritated at us, so it might be time to head back to the hotel.

How do you follow up a day like that??  With the Mississippi National River Museum.  Of course.  G Love and I were with the MacLoosh girls at this one, so we did a better job of behaving.  Sorta.  And, we may have even corrupted the girls while we were at it...

It wasn't hard to convince the girl to join in...

Because it isn't possible to have a Mississippi River Museum without homage to Literary legend Samuel Clemens...


And somehow, I think Mr. Clemens would have appreciated Mrs. MacLoosh's best efforts....

For the record...I started growing my mustache today since they clearly work....
What would a trip to a river museum be without a boy eating catfish?


A better view:


And finally, because you just don't see these *everywhere*....


OK.  That's the recap, and in case you didn't know...next Saturday is the opener of the Early C & R season. I am woefully unprepared...but that won't stop me from getting out.  Any bets this week is one of the longest of my life??

Til later,

-M

Monday, February 18, 2013

Milestones

10 years ago tonight, my wife and I were laying together in her hospital bed, holding and snuggling with our first born child.  A bouncing baby boy.  What a wonderful feeling...even though we were scared to death that he was going to poop and neither of us really knew how to handle it if he did.

Well, he DID poop...and peed on both of us with the accuracy of a waterpick.  We were mortified, and looked at each other with that panic look of "uh oh...Now what?".  I'm pretty sure the nurse wasn't very impressed with either one of us as we did every single thing wrong that two people can do while trying to care for a newborn.   At one point, I think I heard her mumble something about "you have to take a test to get a drivers license...but any pair of idiots can have a baby..." as she left the room.

I am proud to say that over the years, Mrs. MacLoosh and I have grown into our roles as parents and aren't quite as rough around the edges as we once were...although there are still plenty of days were we are obviously hanging on by the seat of our pants.  But, it is times like today, as my boy has turned 10 years old that I think back and and wish I could relive it all over again.  It has just gone by too fast.  But even if I could go back...I wouldn't change a thing.

I am obviously partial, but even at ten years old, I just don't mind saying that I think he is an amazing little man and the world is a much better place because of him.

Happy Birthday G!

I am proud of you and at the risk of sounding "mushy"...I sure do love you pal!

A VERY happy young man...taking his new ride out for a test run
Til later,

-M

 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

A much needed bright spot

It is the middle of February and it appears that I am not alone in my contraction of the dreaded, and seemingly incurable case of cabin fever.  My family is suffering too.  Each. And. Every. One. Of. Us.

The four walls that make up the perimeter of our house are closing in at a rate like I have never seen and despite the fact that each passing day means we get a bit closer to spring, it also means the depths of this winter sink its claws just a little bit deeper.

So today, in an act of shear unadulterated desperation, I rounded everyone up for a hike.  At 15 degrees, I wasn't terribly popular with some in the house...but fresh air is what we all needed, and we had bright sunlight to boot (something else we all needed); so I kind of forced the issue.

Fortunately, Mrs. MacLoosh agreed to go, and in true parental fashion...the children and the dog were not given a choice in the matter.  The hike was, in a word...AWESOME.  I think even those in the tribe who weren't exactly excited about the temperature would agree.  The smiles give them away.




And just because I can't go a full post without mentioning fishing of some sort...the early C & R season opens in less than two weeks.  ............Bow chikka bow bow!

Til later,

-M

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The fishing trade show that saved my life

Well, OK.  Maybe "saving my life" is a little melodramatic...   Or is it?  Either way, Badger Fly Fishers put on a hell of a show.  Not only did they draw in some excellent vendors, they have timed their show so well that for the last few years, it has taken place at that time where I have lost my usual good sense of humor about the length of the off season.

We are under a month from the opener of the early C&R season, and frankly...if the season doesn't get here soon...Ima go f*#kin' crazy.

The show was stacked with all the local players.  Notably, I hammed up in a rare picture of myself with the Honorable and seriously talented Jonathan Marquart of Badaxedesign (If you follow me at all...you know I dig his art).  Other notables were Andy from Gray Goat Flyfishing (who, by the way...turned me on to a slick new way to bring texture and natural looking ribbing to my flies), On the Creek Flyshop, Driftless Angler, Tight Lines Flyshop, Brightwater Fly Angler, and many others.

Badger fly fishers also had the motts to bring in Ed Engle for a morning discussion on "Catching Difficult Trout" and an afternoon session on "Off Beat Tactics for Catching Trout".  If you haven't had the chance to hear Ed speak, he clearly knows his game.

They also managed to up the ante for the kids with a free entry to a raffle, and enough prizes to make sure nearly all took home a little something...helping ensure that they had a good time.  (A truly devious and absolutely genius way to pique kids interest in our fine sport).

G-Love managed to score a nice set of flies.  Happy as a clam, he then managed to convince me to be the silent partner in a new investment.



I couldn't help myself, the boy just brought in an AMAZING report card, and earned a small financial backing on a Swiss Army Knife.


As for me, I went with intentions of spending serious money...but managed to retain a little self control and only picked up a couple of needed supplies for the tying bench.  And a couple of stickers...of course.

To top off a great day at the flyfishing show, G and I took the dog up to Rowan Creek for a much needed hike.  The hike was a great way to cap a good day...but was also necessary for our mental health.  The air in the house has gotten a bit stale as we all have turned into raging lunatics.

I know the pictures won't do the walk any justice, but here are a couple anyway:



And finally, after a couple days worth of hurt pride....I spend the evening re-working that Parachute fly that I failed so miserably at before.  The picture is terrible quality, but I was so tired my eyes were crossing, so I was glad I had one that was in focus....


Yes, I did the same R & D on this...and no, it did not sink.

Thank gawd....

Til later,

-M

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Umm, Houston? We have a problem....

Ever work up a batch of flies, look at them after they are all finished and sit back and say to yourself "Oh, hell yeah.  Bring it on fish!".

 
I recently mustered up the guts to try to tie up some size 16 "parachute" hare's ears.  Been avoiding that pattern for no real good reason for way too long.  Once I tied a few, I got cocky and decided to throw my own twist into it, and added hi-viz coloring for the indicator.  They came off pretty good.  I proceeded to take pictures, brag about them to friends, post pictures intermittently on the social media outlets, and then today...out of nothing less than sheer boredom...drop one into a glass of water.

.......And watched it sink to the bottom so quickly it made me suspicious.  Just to be sure, I dropped another one.  Same thing.  And because the first two didn't really send the message home...a third.

They practically "klink" on the bottom of the glass because they are losing buoyancy so fast.

Denial sets in quickly.  This is a fluke.  I must have used softened water.  Not the stuff in your typical spring creek.  Then I realize that the Dead Sea is so salty that almost anything will float in it.  More denial as I search for more excuses.

At some point in my despair, I decided that I should also drop an old store bought parachute into the glass, all the while thinking to myself:  Let's see how the "pro's" fly stands up (with a maniacal laugh under my breath and no small amount of sarcasm intended).

So I dig one out, drop it in the glass and wait to be vindicated.

They kind of look like shrimp...or maybe small crayfish....hmmm.....
Apparently, vindication is disciplined enough to only show up when appropriate.

The irony of how well this little episode fits into my fishing career does not escape me, so it's back to the lab again, yo.

Til later,

-M