Kaua’i: Secret secret, I’ve got a secret

This will be a first post in many detailing the Button’s first real vacation in some time. Where did we decide to go? Just about the exact opposite of Lubbock. It reads almost like an SAT question:

Lubbock is to ________ as: desert is to ocean, lleno estecado is to mountains, dust storms are to rain storms, howdie is to aloha, home of Pres. Obama is to home of Pres. Bush…

The answer is, of course, Kaua’i!

Our first day on the Island we decided to go up Waimea Canyon, one of the natural wonders of the USA. While not as big as the Grand Canyon is is perhaps more epic as the changes in elevation are compressed so they seem more impressive. The canyon is at places over half a mile deep but much narrower then its larger cousin and splashed with beautiful greens, reds, and shades of black from the vegetation and exposed lava layers. Frankly, the “Grand” Canyon is going to have to step up to compete with this, maybe add some gimmicky glass overhang to “make it seem more real”… oh wait THEY ALREADY DID. Pshaw I say.

So we headed up the canyon in our tiny Ford Focus, amazing views appearing and disappearing far to fast to capture on camera. Our destination is an “unofficial” trail with the appealing title “Ditch Trail”. It is so unofficial that it’s trail head is marked by a rain boot.

In retrospect, the use of a rain boot was an ominous warning, akin to "yar, here be rain and dampness"

In retrospect, the use of a rain boot to mark the trail was an ominous warning, akin to “yar, here be rain and dampness”

Now, that picture makes it look like we just found it, easy peasy. This was not the case. Behold, the path we took:

As seems to be a habit of ours (perhaps not ours… “mine” might be more accurate) we got lost. Our guide book, quite possibly the greatest guidbook for Kauai ever, suggested stopping about 1/4 of a mile before the trail head if your rental car is not 4 wheel drive. Well, Ford Foci are decidedly not 4 wheel drive and since you can only stop 1/4 of a mile before the trail head when you know where the trail head is we ended up stopping about 1.25 miles before the trail head. This gave us ample opportunity to, yet again, take the path less travelled (because it is the wrong path). You can see our detour in the map above if you click and drag it so the drop down menu isn’t covering the beginning.

After a good 1.75 miles of walking on dirt roads we eventually found the trail which starts on the map above right where our path turns sharply south. Our detour had dampened our spirits somewhat but almost immediately after heading down the trail we realized that it was entirely worth it.

Can you imagine the watering bill for this place?

Can you imagine the watering bill for this place?

After heading down a path that can only be described as “verdant” we happened upon a beautiful mountain stream with a small pool.

Not 5 minutes after we passed a hand with a sword rose out of the water...paused for two minutes... then sank back down while "I'm getting too old for this shit" could be heard gently in the breeze.

Not 5 minutes after we passed a hand with a sword rose out of the water…paused for two minutes… then sank back down while “I’m getting too old for this shit” could be heard gently in the breeze.

From here on out the trail got considerably more treacherous, largely because we were walking along a steep canyon edge in the rain along a not-so-well-maintained trail. Turns out, wet grass is slippery.

I don't understand... water... falling from the sky?

I don’t understand… water… falling from the sky?

This hike would have already been awesome, but what happened next make its greaterness increase. We stopped to clean out our Keens in a stream…

In WWI soldiers would be paired with "foot budies" who made sure that they regularly checked to make sure that their feet were clean and dry. That is not what we were doing here.

In WWI soldiers would be paired with “foot buddies” who made sure that they regularly checked to make sure that their feet were clean and dry. That is not what we were doing here.

We look up and what do we see… SECRET UNDERGROUND RIVER!

The river Styx.

The river Styx.

****************************Insert Geekout********************************************

If nothing else, this calls for a little research. While it is certainly possible that this is an underground river… more then likely this is a man made tunnel. So, I did a google search for water tunnel Kauai and what did I find?

What is it called when you spend an innordinate amount of time scaling, rotating, aligning, and masking two different maps?

What is it called when you spend an inordinate amount of time scaling, rotating, aligning, and masking two different maps?

Above is a overlay of our hike path and a map published by the state of Hawaii detailing the Kokee ditch irrigation system. Our path is in red and the arrows point to the location on the map where we found the secret underground river (click on it, the image will open up in a new tab and you can zoom in a bit). What do you see? The “ditch hike” follows the Kokee ditch irrigation system for the portion where it is buried underground. It turns out that this trail was created in 1923 by workers as they dug, created, and then covered up this tunnel. Since that time volunteers have maintained the trail since it is quite unique and has some incredible views.

So, the entire time you are on this trail you are essentially following an underground tunnel. What was all this effort for (in 1923 there was only one way to dig in this kind of terrain, people power!)? Sugar.

From Wikicommons, uploaded by user Milei.vencel.

From Wiki-commons, uploaded by user Milei.vencel.

Specifically sugar cane which needs sunny and wet conditions. Kaua’i has both of these, just not in the same place.

From hawaiigaga.com.

From hawaiigaga.com.

The south west coast gets tons of sunshine and is nice and flat but gets little water while the middle of the island gets lots of water, much less sunshine, and is very much not flat. Luckily, the middle of the island is also very high so we can dig some tunnels and let gravity work its magic. This worked very well until Hawaii became a state and the US labor laws made in un-economical to grow sugar cane (or pineapple… ) any more. Not-so-fun-fact, the workers that were exploited for over a century were from a large variety of asian countries (China, Japan, Korea, Philippines, and more) because the plantation owners were afraid of their workforce being too homogeneous and thus, too easy to organize. The article further states that the native Hawaii’ans were too few in number (yay for imported diseases) and unwilling to work since they could subsist on fishing and foraging. Fascinating and sad history.

All that to say, the secret river was not really river. It is a collapsed irrigation tunnel originally intended to bring water from the very wet interior of Kaua’i to the very dry but sunny west coast. It still does this and very effectively, though the high labor costs of the island have prevented large scale agriculture since about the 1980’s.

*****************************************End geekout*************************************************

After getting over our discovery we continued on, alternating between scaling large trees in our path:

Ok, it happened once... but it was pretty cool.

Ok, it happened once… but it was pretty cool and I took full advantage of the situation to show alittle ankle.

and being stopped in our tracks by amazing views through the canopy.

Epic.

Epic.

There is an optional spur you can take on this hike that leads you out along a ridge into the middle of the canyon. This spur is not for those faint of heart … where heart = heights and faint = ‘fraid. It starts off beautifully as you walk along a ridge populated by old trees. Since they are far more exposed to the elements (and water doesn’t stay long on top of a ridge) you are instantly transported to a different region of the world.

Can a tree be wizened?

Can a tree be wizened?

Then fairly quickly the sides drop away, the trees thin out and you are in the middle of the canyon.

No no, go a head. I'm just going to hang back here to take a picture. I am certainly not taking deep breaths and resisting the urge to belly crawl to safety.

No no, go a head. I’m just going to hang back here to take a picture. I am certainly not taking deep breaths and resisting the urge to belly crawl to safety.

Thankfully, there was a sign to let us know when to stop hiking because I would have totally kept going.

Behold, the wonders of Kaua'i

Behold, the wonders of Kaua’i

I too decided to take a picture with the sign.

Wonderful sturdy sign... you will keep me safe... right?

Wonderful sturdy sign… you will keep me safe… right?

We paused here for a bit, butts solidly planted on the ground, to enjoy the view of the canyon and a waterfall while we ate lunch.

This isn't so bad afterall.

This isn’t so bad after all.

We eventually headed back, leaving the Ditch trail about half way along its length taking a mixture of roads and other trails to get back to the car.

It might not look like much, but after walking on rain slicked precipi for an hour this is the freaking yellow brick road.

It might not look like much, but after walking on rain slicked precipice for an hour this is the freaking yellow brick road.

All in all, we couldn’t recommend the hike more. Even if we did get lost, fear for our lives, and get soaking wet :-).

Hotness checking the guidbook to make sure we are headed in the right direction.

Hotness checking the guidbook to make sure we are headed in the right direction.

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a trip to mexico city

february has taken the Buttons to a range of states, including Illinois, Indiana Ohio, and–most recently–Mexico City. Okay, okay. Not a state, but still. The Mexico City trip was a last minute trip, planned when we found tickets to Mexico City for under $300. So after a quick turn around from the Indiana trip, M. Button took flight to spend 5 days with her sister, brother in law, ava and thomas, aka the Cummings Clan.

The trip, like most trips to Mexico City, was filled with laughter and fun. Angie is a stay-at-home mom, and this visit gave M. Button a little insight into what that means: trips to Ava’s school (in a taxi), then a walk to Thomas’ school (in Mexico, students go to school as early as 2 years old), then a trip to the gym and maybe an errand or two, and then picking up Thomas (down and up a steep ass hill), and then picking up Ava again. Then arts and crafts and The Disney Movie Frozen. SO. MUCH. FROZEN.

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Ava and Thomas walk nearly everywhere with Mommy. This photo is from a trip to the grocery store.

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Playing around with the kiddos. They love love love eachother.

In the evenings, Ang, Chris and I hung out, drank delicious wine, and enjoyed the silence of kidlessness. On Friday, we went to Olives for dinner and got all dressed up for a night on the town.

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Sisters!

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Ready for a night on the town!

Because I live so far away, I seldom get uninterrupted time with Ang and the fam. We usually take the opportunity of a visit to just hang out, which is what we did mostly. On Saturday we went to an open air market where M. Button bought gifts for friends (pics to come once they’ve been sent off!), and on Sunday we went in pursuit of the migrating Monarch butterflies. We never managed to make it–the directions were shoddy and parts of Mexico City are shady, so we finally turned around and stopped for a lovely brunch at a huge ranch house that featured delicious desayuno and horse rides. It apparently used to have bull fighting as an event, and we explored the grounds a bit before heading home.

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Me with the kids at the Buffet.

All in all the trip brought early morning cuddles with Ava, lots of singing of Frozen with Thomas, and an impressive amount of wine shared between Ang and M. Button. Chris also introduced M. Button to a new drink, espresso & Liquer 43. I tried to buy some on the way out of Mexico City, but it got confiscated by security–even though it was in the freaking Duty Free packaging. WAH WAH.

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Me and Ang with the kids.

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Ava asked if we could cuddle on the chair.

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Thomas and me, watching Frozen, no doubt.

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Snuggles before saying good-bye on Monday morning.

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Sisters say good bye. 🙁

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The kids watching Mulan and giving the adults some quiet time.

So happy to have spent a few days with some of my most favorite people in the world. So, so happy.

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The Buttons : 2013 overview


Okay, Okay. It’s been over a year since we posted. We know. We’re horrible bloggers. But we’ve been busy with the this and that of living in Lubbock. Here’s our year in overview.

January 2013: The Buttons Start Semester 2

We finally started to figure out the details of working at TTU. Know where bathrooms are? Check. Know how to find course rosters? Check. Know who to ask when we don’t know what to do? Check.

February 2013: The Buttons See the Avetts

As you likely know, we Buttons are Avett Brothers enthusiasts. All good folk are, we’ve noticed. M. Button surprised Red with a trip to Grand Rapids, MI for Avett Brothers concert in February 2013. It was epic. We flew to Chicago, where we met up with long time pals lp & jb for dinner at an Indian Fusion place. Delightful!

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Just one of the AWESOME pics of the Avetts

 

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The Avetts Break it Down

In March, the Buttons traveled to the major Rhetoric and Composition conference. While Dr. Mrs. Button worked, Red Button played. And at night we met up with old friends to see the city of lights and catch up.

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The Buttons at the Bedford Party

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Friends, Reunited!

April 2013: The Buttons Have Visitors!

In April, we had our first out of town visitors. Mom and Robin trekked down from St. Louis to live in the lap of luxury. We took them to our favorite mid-century resale shop, toured the Lubbock food scene, and invited them to make no decisions at all for the entire trip. They were the first of our visitors in Lubbock, and it felt like home had come come.

May 2013: The Buttons Finish a Year

In May, we completed our first full year of teaching at TTU. M. Button’s year concluded with the TCR May Seminar–a 2 week period where students from the online program come to Lubbock and engage in 2 weeks of rhetorical bootcamp: they live together in dorms, take classes, do annual reviews, present their work, and meet f2f with colleagues they’ve been working with online all year. It’s intense. And really, really fun.

June 2013: The Buttons Buy A House

In May, we did the most unthinkably adult thing we could do: bought a house. Seems crazy to buy a house after just a year some place, but really in Lubbock the price of living is so low (SO LOW) and the rental market is so saturated with renters (SO SATURATED) that it just makes sense to go ahead and buy. The house is just 3 miles from campus–bikable most days–and is fairly centrally located.

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Uh. Huh. The most expensive thing we’ve ever bought. And, apparently, it wasn’t all that bad, as houses go.

The Buttons Say Goodbye to akb In the midst of the house-buying we also had to say good-bye to one of our dearest Lubbock friends who moved to Ohio for a new job.  She was the only friend we made in our first year who would come to our house in pajamas and watch movies, who’d drop buy just for wine and bitching, who’d come check on our cats if our travel was delayed. Wah Wah.

July 2013: The Buttons Go To Lowes

So if you’ve bought a house, you know that, essentially, your weekends become an endless trip to Lowe’s. We were no different. From sanding and staining our own floors, to repainting most of the rooms, to redoing one of the bathrooms, it seemed our entire month was a series of home repair and visits to the home repair store. Admittedly, it’s now February 2014, and we’re /still/ not finished with our home repair list. Ah, well.

August 2013: M. Button, Live!

In addition to the home repair, July was filled with rehearsals for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, in which M. Button had a lead role. The role of the Narrator is a demanding part–2 full hours of singing the story of Joseph–and it’s safe to say that while M. Button was thrilled about the opportunity to sing again after several years, that particular role was quite a beast as a re-entry part. BUT the performances brought 3 sets of visitors: Red’s parents came, and both M. Button’s Dad and Mom (with Robin!!) came to see the show as well.

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The Story Begins. M. Button with the wonderful kids’ chorus from Joseph.

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The Cast of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

 

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Mom and M. Button, before trying to fit two big ol’ rocking chairs in our itty bitty car.

September 2013: The Buttons Take Year 2

Year Two begin without much down time between M. Button’s show and the semester start. Luckily, the month was full of fun travel for M. Button and lots of travel prep for Red. M. Button was lucky enough to present at Feminisms and Rhetorics 2013 in Stanford, CA, and took the opportunity to drive up the coast to see the new home of our dear friends lp & jb. We hiked in the Redwoods and Fern Canyon, walked along beautiful beaches, and had lovely meals together. Some friends just feel like home–and, of course, the gorgeous sites don’t hurt either.

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Driving through the Red Woods

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Friends, renuited! And hiking in Fern Canyon

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West Coast Sunset

October 2013: Red Button, One Year Older; Little Georgia, One Year

October 1st brought two amazing people into the world: Dr. Red Button and our precious niece Georgia. After celebrating Red’s new year with dinner, M. went jetsetting again to a conference in Cincinnati, OH, where she got to meet with dear friends and colleagues. And for the first time in 5 years, M.’s older sister, Angie, came for a visit without the kids. The Buttons pulled out all the culinary stops on this visit, having 8 meals in 36 hours in order to sate Angie’s appetite for US cuisine (since she lives in Mexico City).

November 2013: Red Button Goes…well…Everywhere

In November, it was Red Button’s turn to travel: first to San Diego for IMCE, then to Pittsburgh. But leave it to the Buttons to parlay every trip into an opportunity to see friends. Knowing that friends were just a few hours away in Cleveland and College Park, Red flew into Cleveland and hopped in a car with Peter. The pair happily joined jb for a night at Penn State, where they engaged in nerdery of the best kind, and then drove to Pittsburgh for Red’s conference. After weeks of being apart, the Buttons reunited in Chicago (well, actually in Lafayette) for Thanksgiving with Red’s family. Red Buttons parents have a house up on Lake Michigan and had for the entirety of the summer been rebuilding the house from scratch. “The Shack,” as they have always called it, is a shack no more, and we were finally able to make it up to see the lovely new home. In addition, we were finally able to go to the WINE AND MAC N CHEESE FESTIVAL, an event Red’s parents have been exclaiming about for years. It was epic. It was cheesy. It was delicious.

December 2013: First Lubbock Christmas

This Christmas, we Buttons decided to have our very own Christmas for the first time. The travel of the year had taken its toll on us–and our pocketbooks. So we hunkered down with work until Christmas, when we cooked a lovely feast, made mulled wine, and watched Christmas movies. Although we missed the hustle and bustle of Christmas with our families, it was the first time that M. Button had ever not been traveling from house to house on Christmas. So it was peaceful and calm.

RECAP: Over. The Buttons will do better about blogging this year.

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Roughing it, for realz.

Having received a freaking awesome backpacking stove, it is time to figure out a reason to use it. We finally settled on a reason called Palo Duro Canyon state park. Since I didn’t link to the Wikipedia page, allow me to enlighten you: its average depth is 900 ft average width is 6 miles making it the second largest canyon in the US. It also has pretty dramatic side walls with a very flat bottom, something relatively rare in the canyon community. It is also home to a relatively rare commodity: heated and electrified cabins. So, the plan: drive out to the park early Saturday morning, hike around all day, rent a cabin for the evening where we can test out the stove, return Sunday morning victorious, tired, and proud.

Step 1 of the plan went very well. On the way up Interstate 27 we got to see many tumble weeds, cotton fields mid harvest, and giant bales of cotton waiting in the field to be picked up.

Not really a picture we took, you can tell because there are trees in the background.

Picture care of explorer.com. As you can tell from the trees in the background, this is not taken in West Texas. That is exactly how all the cotton looks though.

We arrived to a very windy day and perused the gift shop/history museum. Word of warning, there is a public water fountain, but no place to easily fill your water bottles. We had to use the bathrooms.

Apparently word of the new Texas science curriculum hasn't reached the park rangers....

Apparently word of the new Texas science curriculum hasn’t reached the park rangers….

After perusing the wonderful gift shop/museum we set out.

On the set of CSI: Palo Duro

On the set of CSI: Palo Duro

I had heard about a little used trail at Palo Duro Canyon called the Triassic Trail. According to the website I read isn’t really labeled (awesome), hasn’t been upkept (even better), and people rarely go on it since it isn’t on the list of official trails (Sold!). In my naivety, I figured bookmarking the website would be sufficient preparation.

We set out on a trail, called CCC trail, that fit the description in the blog as starting out from the parking lot of the gift shop. All was well though contrary to prior belief, the trail was quite well maintained.

I have a feeling we arn't in Kansas anymore, or Indiana, or Ohio, or Missouri....

I have a feeling we arn’t in Kansas anymore, or Indiana, or Ohio, or Missouri….

With beautiful overlooks of the canyon at spots.

Awesome.

Awesome.

And wicked cool 80+ year old stone bridges built during the Great Depression.

"Man

And after about a mile hike we hit a crossroads.

View Palo Duro Canyon Nov. 2012 in a larger map

Well, cross-roads implies that both paths were equally valid. More accurately, the opportunity to get lost arose and I jumped in with two feet. See in that map above where the path we took starts heading straight north. Ya, don’t do it. Not part of the trail. It kind of looks like part of the trail until you hit a small understated sign that says “State Park Boundary” at which point you have to turn back and head back to the trail that points in the direction of the CCC trail. I believe that if you follow the link above, you can download the GPS trail we took and follow it if you like.

After getting back to the trail we continued on hiking along the ridge until we reached the very end.

Kind of like being at the end of the world, only with more fear of heights and more world.

Kind of like being at the end of the world, only with more fear of heights and more world.

Here, we sat down and had a light lunch.

Hm, maybe I do need a haircut.

Hm, maybe I do need a haircut.

The only state in the union with a live action show about itself.... TEXAS!

The only state in the union with a live action show about itself…. TEXAS!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From our vantage point we could look over a large part of the canyon, including the site of Texas! an “Outdoor Musical Drama”. Seriously, click on the link. We haven’t seen it but it celebrates all things Texas and starts with a man riding a horse while carrying a giant Texas flag (is there any other kind) rides along the very ridge we were sitting on. In fact, we found the spot he plants the flag when he is done. Riding with it that is, I bet it gets tiring.

I'm baffled too, love.

I’m baffled too, love.

By the time we started heading back the wind had picked up something fierce, almost blowing Kristen off the narrow part of the ridge.

When the winds from the east (check), and the suns in in the west (check), and the sand in the glass is right (check?). Come on down, stop on by, hop a carpet and fly (well shit) to another Arabian nights!(Oh, well in that case its probably for the best).

When the winds from the east (check), and the suns in in the west (check), and the sand in the glass is right (check?). Come on down, stop on by, hop a carpet and fly (well shit) to another Arabian nights! (Oh, well in that case its probably for the best).

We head back to the car and drive to the front gate to pick up the keys to our cabin, probably the most amazing cabin ever.

Native sandstone cabin build by the New Deal CCC peeps. Ya, I called them peeps, we tight.

Native sandstone cabin build by the New Deal CCC peeps. Ya, I called them peeps, we tight.

Seriously, 60 bucks a night, bring your own beading. Awesome. We rested our feets for a bit.

"Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are."Chinese proverb

“Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.”
Chinese proverb

And then we set out for round 2, Fight!

View Palo Duro Canyon Nov. 2012 in a larger map

Here is the second trail we took, about 4 miles long mostly along the canyon floor. The trail ends at our cabin which you can see if you click on the map and switch from terrain to satellite.

There is considerably more vegetation on the canyon floor because, well, there is more water there. Technically, there is a river, but the word river has a considerably more fluid (ha!) definition in Texas. I complained once in my Fluid Mechanics class about how my river example problems don’t work because the rivers here in Texas are dry. They vehemently corrected me: the rivers here are not *always* dry.

In anycase, back to the hike. We started by crossing this “river”.

I've had a rational fear of crossing rivers after reading "Bridge to Terabithia" and playing Oregon Trail.

I’ve had a rational fear of crossing rivers after reading “Bridge to Terabithia” and playing Oregon Trail.

Perhaps emboldened by our previous off-trail adventure we decided to explore what looked like an animal trail. It should be said, in the midwest this is a perfectly reasonable choice. Deer will often wear narrow trails in the forest that are quite fun to follow and lead you to some out of the way places.

There are no deer in Palo Duro Canyon.

The animal trail led back to the “river”.

Hakuna Matata, bitches.

Hakuna Matata, bitches.

We stopped and admired the tall dirt cliff when we heard some rustling about 50 ft. down “river”. A wild pig! It must be said, this is not the type of pig I am used to seeing at county fairs. County fair pigs are gigantic animals, gigantic sedentary animals. No, this wild pig bounded, BOUNDED away like a deer and at a speed that terrified me. When I got back I asked my Statics class what to do if, instead of running away, the 400 lb of angry bacon decided to charge me. Their response was simple, shoot it.

Well, after we had that exciting encounter, the rest of our hike was comparatively boring, but beautiful.

1000 words.

1000 words.

 

Wish we had saved lunch.

Wish we had saved lunch.

Painted Ridge

Painted Ridge

Gates

Gates

Canyonception

Canyonception

After hiking, we retired to the cabin and cooked dinner on our kick ass camp stove.

Technically, it is supposed to work in 50 mph winds... it was just easier to cook inside.

Technically, it is supposed to work in 50 mph winds, which there were, it was just easier to cook inside.

For dinner we cooked some pasta, had some lentil salad we brought with, and washed it all down with woodchuck. Absolutely delicious after hiking 8 miles!

Technically, we broke several park rules with this meal.

Technically, we broke several park rules with this meal.

After dinner we finished off the 6 pack of woodchuck while playing a couple games of Carcasonne.

Stupid not-twist-off-woodchuck-bottle-caps.

Stupid not-twist-off-woodchuck-bottle-caps.

This is me getting my butt kicked, me being me, not her.

This is me getting my butt kicked, me being me, not her.

Just beautiful.

Just beautiful.

After a long, and full day we retired for the evening to return to Lubbock in the morn victorious, tired, and sore.

 

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The Carbonator Xx-thousand

Well, the Button household decided several weeks ago to go sans-soda. After several false starts we have have succeeded through a product I am calling The Carbonator Xx-thousand. Not the catchiest name, but its not for sale so….

There are similar things that you can buy in the store, like the Sodastream Fountain Jet Soda Maker Starter Kit for example. This handy device allows you to carbonate anything you can fit into their proprietary bottles: Sodastream 1l Carbonating Bottles- Black (Twin Pack)

Now, perhaps it is because I have become part of the great state of Texas, but this makes me madder then an old wet hen (I think that means I’m mad in Texan… its either that or that I am stupid…). There is a strong libertarian streak running through this part of Texas and I like to think that alittle has rubbed off. The little part that chaffes at corporate monopolies. You see, once you buy a Sodastream, you are locked into using their bottles and their CO2 cartridges.  As the great wrestler/Governor/movie star said:

“I love my country, not my liquid CO2 provider.”
Jesse Ventura

And boy, do they take advantage of this structural monopoly. A refill for their CO2 cartridge costs around 15$ and fills up and makes around 60 Liters of carbonated sparkly water, less if you decide to over-carbonate. That comes out to around 0.3 $/Liter. Not to bad, but we can purchase a 2 Liter of carbonated water at the grocery store for $0.89… or about 0.45 $/L so one would save about 0.15  $/L by using the Sodastream and to be clear, there is value in not throwing out 2 Liter bottles a couple times a week.
Again… not bad but we can do better.

The Carbonator X^x’thousand

The The Carbonator Xx-thousand featured in all its glory. This has numerous advantages over the sodastream. First, if you get the following quick connect adapter:

Quick connect adapter for 2-Liter bottles.

You can get the it at amazon here. It is a beautiful little hunk of plastic that screws onto anything with the same threading as a 2 Liter bottle. This includes 20 oz bottles, and probably some other bottles that I haven’t discovered yet!.
The second advantage? Regulators… bitches love regulators.

“Passion, though a bad regulator, is a powerful spring” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson.
“Awesome, on the other hand, is a great regulator. Check yourself before you wreck yourself, CO2…” ~Regulator pictured above.

Never before in the history of mankind as recognized by me has anyone ever said “Look, do you think we can do this will fewer pressure gauges?”. The answer is always and emphatically NO. On the regulator pictured above has two pressure gauges, one that tells you the pressure in the bottle and one for the tank of CO2. That blue valve in the bottom left hand corner controls the flow to the bottle to be carbonated and CO2 tank has a valve on it.
The hose and quick-connector can be bought together here. The final piece of the puzzle is the tank for CO2.  I got mine from from Harbor Freight, but you can get one of these from amazon as well. Which brings up an excellent point: where to fill up your tank. Don’t start down this road until you find a supplier near by. If you are in Lubbock I can’t say enough good things about B&J Welding Supply. I walked in there one Saturday and asked to buy a CO2 tank and to fill it with CO2. These guys, being smarter then I, asked what I was going to do with it. After finding it out, they pointed me to Harbor Freight, just 8 minutes down the road, where I could get a tank for about half the price. I did just that, brought it back, and they filled it for me. More importantly, they just gave me one of the plastic washers that you put in between the regulator and CO2 tank since they knew I would be needing it.
Enough text. How does it work?
Step one: fill a bottle with something and get it cold. You really need a couple hours in the fridge so be patient. Once the bottle is cold, take it out and put on the quick-release cap. But first, squeeze all the air out just like so:

Get all that nitrogen and oxygen out so we can replace it with sweet CO2…

Next, connect the hose to the bottle.

I got hose in various area codes…. no, no, that didn’t work at all. Ctrl-z.

Open the valve on the CO2 tank and then slowly open the blue valve:

Turn the valve, evey now and then I get alittle bit turgid and I know I have to shake the bottle for five…

Once the valve is all the way open and the bottle is filled with CO2, shut the valve and shake the bejesus out of the two liter.

Mmmmm, Surface Area…..

But wait?!?!?!! Doesn’t shaking de-fiz pop? Yes it does, but not for the reason you think. Shaking just increases the surface area between the water and air which allows CO2 to enter -or- leave more quickly. So what shaking does is drive the system to equilibrium faster. Go science!

Do this several times (3-4).

When you are done, uncap and enjoy:

 

The bubbles tickle my mouth.

Now, most people would be done there. The slightly adventurous types might add some flavoring to the water. Like say lemon juice:

It only takes a dash.

The truly adventurous imagine the impossible. What about carbonated orange juice? Impossible you say?

So good I drank most of it before I could take a picture.

What about milk?

Kill it with fire…

Ya well, you would be right about that… It was disgusting. But why?

 

************************************Insert Geekout**********************************************

Ok, so when CO2 dissolves in water it doesn’t just hang out there, a small amount starts associating with water molecules and forming carbonic acid (H2CO3). This is not a first string acid, like Sulfonic, or Hydrocloric, but maybe more of a third string acid like lemon juice. Wait… lemon juice + milk = Paneer. So if we carbonate milk… we start making cheese. Which explains so much of the next couple pictures:

Here is one of the few times you would want something “Stirred, not shaken”. Well, except for when you are ordering a drink because asking for it like James Bond just makes you look like a douche bag.

Remember how one vital step was shaking the bottle to help the CO2 enter the water? Ya, not such a good idea with milk. It caused a very stiff foam to form that nearly filled the whole bottle. What was worse, is that when I opened up the bottle the foam started erupting out like a very disgusting science fair project:

My dad only helped alittle.

But wait! It gets worse. After pouring what liquid there was into the glass you saw earlier… the foam stayed. I wouldn’t even budge after I turned the bottle upside down:

I’ll be rich! “Cheese Foam”. I’ll deep fry it and sell it at county fairs.

So my conclusion is that I did in fact make cheese. And had I had the patience to keep shaking the thing the cheese probably would have ended up firm enough to do something with. What makes it worse is the stuff that I drank… cheese whey. Awesome.

**************************************End Geekout******************************************************

Now, clearly I did not build the Carbonator Xx-thousand just to carbonate random things…. right? Right. I built it to save money. So, the tank I purchased holds about 5 lbs of liquid CO2 and costs about 20$ to fill at the B&J welding supply. This is alittle over 5 times the size of the sodastream gas canister so we can expect perhaps 300 L of carbonated water. This comes out to a cost of about 6 cents per liter. Oh yes, that is about a fifth the cost of a sodastream refill.  How does the lifetime cost of the Carbonator compare though?

Only 184 liters left to go before I feel good about my decisions…

Well, the total costs end up equaling at about 375 Liters of carbonated water. Kristen and I drink about a 2 Liter of carbonated water a day now that we can so we can expect to start “saving” money around half a year from now. I can live with a 6 month ROI.

So stay tuned, I am sure that eventually something interesting to carbonate will land in my fridge and you will see the sparkly result here.

If you try this yourself and have any questions about assembly or whatnot, leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to address them.

 

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Roughing It: Or Something Like That

As you may or may not know, Dr. Button and I were planning to go camping for his birthday. We had reserved a campsite, well, two, actually, and were excited about spending his birthday outdoors. This compares not to last year’s birthday at the Avetts Brothers Concert, but we were dedicated to trying.

Summer, Jcush, Megs, JDodge, jb, and Craig at the Avetts Brothers

 

Unfortunately, our camping trip got rained out (SO much rain in Texas, given the warnings of a drought), and so we’d been looking for ways to get outdoors. Our first attempt was to do some coffee-making over our new camp stove.

Red Button’s new Camping Stove and CoffeeMaker

That’s right. We set it up under our little carport right outside the house. After a weekend away from Lubbock (Red Button to meet our new niece, Georgia; me to see Jen, Avery, and Silas), we finally had a weekend at home. So we took to the outdoors…sorta. One of the things we love the most about our little house is that it has a stove out back. These are popular around these parts, and we’ve been looking to put it to good use.

Our awesome stove. In our backyard.

 

So after a dinner of poached pears, we decided to roast some marshmallows, have some wine, and make some music. So Red Button built a little fire, we roasted some marshmallows, and enjoyed a tune or two. I tried my best to play loud enough to annoy the young bucks next door, but they never came by to say to keep it down.

Dinner of Poached Pears and Liquor? Why not? We love being adults.

Red Button, getting his roast on.

 

Roasting, like a boss.

Dr. Mrs. Button plays a song for Dr. Red Button.

Overall, I’m not sure we were roughing it, so to speak. But we sure are glad for cool Texas Evenings and warm fires.

 

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Practicing “Texan”

I am visiting my family in Indiana this weekend, ostentatiously to celebrate the arrival of my niece and my brother and sister-in-law’s new daughter:

Georgia Snoeyink!

Besides being the most beautiful baby ever, she sleeps. Alot. Like so much it boggles the mind. For example Kelly just informed me that Georgia just finished a 2 hour nap and *then* proceeded to tell me that she fed her an hour ago. Do the math people. This child is living the life, she gets to eat, sleep, and suck on a boob all at the same time. I am speechless.

Needless to say, when not holding the swaddle full of awwwwwwww, we took the opportunity to train me to be more Texan. No, I haven’t bought a truck. I’m talking about guns. Lots and lots of guns. A current estimate puts the number of guns in Texas at 50 million, for those keeping count that is twice the population of the state.

Guns up bitches!

So, we decided to do some target practice in before I return to the Lone Start State. Matt has a Remington bolt action 22 long rifle that had belonged to our Grandpa R, an ideal rifle for target practice because amo is very very cheap.

So, the setup. We drew several targets on a random box, set it up in front of a dirt pile, and then walked 30 paces out.

 

Target box, dirt pile, and Matt. He was born blurry, like the Sasquatch.

After drawing a line in the sand (really, the land out here is very sandy.)

Line in the sand written in brass for posterity… and rematches.

we started alittle…. competition.

Me wearing my fathers 20 year old Semento’s jacket…

Like a boss.

And Matt with a bad ass carhart ish thing…

Like a slightly more successful boss.

You will note, in all of these pictures, the conspicuous presence of *trees*. It is almost eerie coming back to the midwest after even 2 months in Lubbock, the trees are in control. I couldn’t help but think of what would happen if the trees wake up, if they go to war. Frankly, its not a legitimate post unless I can reference Tolken at some point.

It turns out Matt is the better shot, beating me 46 to 43. I know, you are yelling at the computer “But Craig had better form!”. You just can’t beat raw physical prowess.

The beat up target!

Note the progress. Not bad from about 25 yards out with iron sights, standing,  and as a complete noob.

In the end, I can head back to Texas with my head held high.

Fuck Ya.

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An Apple Butter Festival! (minus the apple butter)

Well, we decided on this Saturday of saturdays to venture out past the warm and comfortable confines of Lubbock’s Highway 289 and explore the cultural events native to the Lleno Estacato. Specifically we decided to venture out to the Apple Butter festival, just 4 miles past Idalou… or next door in Texas Standard Distance. I mean really, 17 miles… how could you not go!

For some perspective:

Spanish conquistador Francisco Coronado, the first European to traverse this “sea of grass” in 1541, described it as follows: “I reached some plains so vast, that I did not find their limit anywhere I went, although I travelled over them for more than 300 leagues … with no more land marks than if we had been swallowed up by the sea … there was not a stone, nor bit of rising ground, nor a tree, nor a shrub, nor anything to go by.”

I quoted that because the Apple butter festival is held, naturally, in an apple orchard. An apple orchard located in area which was unable to grow a tree over an area greater then a 1000 miles across (1 league = 3.5 miles… and now you know). Why grow apples in the middle of a semi-arid region?

Because America.

Oh, and the Ogallala Aquafer.

I got distracted… Oh right! The apple butter festival. It was wonderful.

When we arrived we were quite hungry, by design. What point is there to going to a food based food festival if you arn’t hungry when you get there? We found parking on the side of the highway, payed our entrance fee, and eagerly set about to find what wonderful apple butter concoctions we could find. There were none (one could surmise that apple butter used to be popular before modern supermarkets made apple sauce and jams accessible all year round).  What we did find was just as wonderful. For lunch we had BBQ sandwich and potato salad, just 5$! and the money benefited the local meals on wheels.

K with her BBQ sandwich and potato salad.

While we ate we enjoyed the musical styling of Desert Pearl, a band that plays music that I could easily imagine playing on my favorite Pandora station: “Wagon Wheel”. They have a folk rock feel that I really enjoyed.

We had a definite WTF moment after lunch. We had just gotten our deserts, apple turnovers with Blue Bell ice cream (yum!) and sat down by the band when they started playing a song they wrote called American Country.

 

Awesome.

The rest of the festival was great, though relatively small. A few booths:

Kid running in Festival

A face painting/blow up gym for the kids which I avoided taking pictures of, lest I seem unsavory (the perils of wearing a beard…)  and a Petting Zoo which forced me to expand my definition of “zoo”:

Petting Zoo: three goats and an energetic piglet that ran out of camera while I was taking the picture.

I might seem sarcastic but we had a great time. Given the relative closeness we plan to go again next year on our bikes!

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Wreck’m Tech

image

Awesome seats for our first Texas Tech football game thanks to Joyce and Becky!

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Y’all have a good morning!

Something that continues to surprise K and I is just how *friendly* everyone is here. And it isn’t just a superficial hello as you pass on the street. People in Lubbock genuinely seem to share and care to a degree that would be disconcerting if it weren’t so dang sincere. Case in point, the first day that K and I were here, while we were unloading the truck, a guy came buy from the gas company to turn on our utilities. He of course had to check to make sure all the pilot lights were working and everything was kosher so, while he was tooling around the house he sees our cats and proceeds to tell me all about the barn cats he has. Including the stray kitten he just took in and how well he treats them.

Could be just a nice guy… 4 hours later the guy who came to pick up the ABF trailer we had our stuff shipped told me all about his son’s football team and how, while he no longer coaches because it takes alot of time, he helps out by being one of the assistant coaches. The next day we go to Lowe’s to get some supplies for the house and to get copies of the house key made. Kristen starts chatting with the key maker and he proceeds to tell us two other places in town that really are better to get keys made at. At the credit union a woman chatted with us for 20 minutes about good vets and doctors despite us not being able to get an account yet because we arn’t full fledged Texas Tech employees yet.

The list goes on and on and includes all our co-workers at Texas Tech, really *everybody*. We joke about it, but it really has made the move into what is legitimately the middle of no where much easier. So, when I see this article on MSNBC’s website. I could only nod my head and say to myself… that makes sense.

What exactly made me nod so sagely? The article discusses the results of a Twitter analysis where someone compiled all the tweets in the US and compiled the number of times anyone said “Good morning”.  The then plotted the relative concentration of “Good morning” tweets as a heat map shown here:

Heat map showing relative concentration of “Good Morning” tweets.

You will notice the odd, very isolated, and very red dot in northwestern Texas. That, my friends, is Lubbock. We now have empirical evidence that this *actually is* the friendliest place on earth.

 

 

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