Category Archives: Other

Snow

The last couple days have been rainy and cold, but last night we started to get sleet, then hail, and finally snow.  Preston got a happy text around 9pm when they canceled school for today.

It’s was around 30 degrees this morning, but beautiful and sunny,  Looks like a great day to be off of school.

A week of fundraisers and now relaxation

This is my view as I write this post

We are in Cancun now, but the last two weeks in Austin were very busy.  We first started with the Safe fundraiser (merger of Safe Place and the Childrens’ shelter).  Our friend Ann was getting an award so were were her guest.

The following Friday was the Literacy Coalition’s annual fundraiser, Reading Between the Wines.  I was the board chair for the event so it was a bit stressful but the event went off very well.  We raised a lot of money and one of my students was able to give a short speech on how the programs have helped her.

Also, our CEO is moving on so the board presented her with a going away present.  The picture below that is the entire board.

Here’s Tracy chatting with our neighbors, Ryan and Katie.

Just two days later, we were are the Planned Parenthood dinner.  Tracy and I always buy a table and we thought that it would be fun to take Preston.  Here we are all dressed up for the evening.

The next morning we left for Mexico.  We are in Cancun trying out a new resort.  So far, so good.  We walked around yesterday.  Here’s Tracy in the surf in front of the resort.

I thought this gull with it’s feathers all messy looked like our dog Izzy.

We walked to the end of the point and posed for a few pictures.

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Couple of pictures from Austin City Limits festival…. The 3 of us went down to hang out backstage at the HomeAway stage.  We also got to watch one of my favorite bands, “Live”.  It was a great performance.

When leaving we did some acrobatics in the HomeAway house.

Lots of new

It’s been a fun week with lots of new things.  First of all, I bought a new 2017 Explorer Sport.  I love it.  It’s lots of fun to drive with a great electronics package.

We got new sod in the backyard… the dogs aren’t sure what to think of it.

We went to dinner with friends that are moving away and it was his birthday – a new year.

I set a new personal record of repeats at the hill of life.  I did 20 of them this morning

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
05:51:00 05:17:04 20.15 3.81 12.97 5,695.54
hours hours mi. mph mph ft.

 

Every day is new… starting with a dog walk and ending with Izzy gazing off into the sunset.

When chimney sweeps attack

Preston is playing a chimney sweep in his high school’s production of Mary Poppins.  He’d want me to say he was forced as a requirement of his choir class.  We went on Thursday to his high school’s performing arts center and were blown away by the talent, sets, and costumes.  The theater seats 1100 and is crazy high tech.

I was dropping off some dinner to him between performances and grabbed a picture of him in his costume.  He was rushing to prevent the picture.

This is the curtain call – Preston said there were 250 kids in the play.

Tracy had to get a picture with the girl playing Mary Poppins.

 

 

Catching Up

Since I’ve been a slacker, I thought I’d catch up on the events since our Mexico trip.  Lots of random stuff and pictures in the post below.

My running buddy, Mark and his girlfriend were in town for a wedding.  We had dinner with Mike and Tina and stayed out way too late bar hopping.  Who knew you could buy vodka spiked Capri Suns at the bar?

The dogs have been spoiled and have put many miles in at the trail.  This results in a lot of sleeping while at home.  Far too many dog pictures, but hard to resist when they are so cute.

While I was waiting at a light, a homeless guy was using the driver side mirror of the car to the left of me to cut his hair.  The guy driving looked mortified.

It has rained a lot this winter and the creek has never stopped flowing.  When it gets to this level, I don’t try to cross it.

For Christmas, we all went to Philly.  I think Preston wishes that Tucker would have come home with him.

We went to Tracy’s brother’s house on Christmas Eve.  They had a game that required two people to rapidly push a button.  Whomever was slower would get a pie thrown in their face.

We’ve had several charity events.  This particular one had a casino night.  We spent many hours winning fake money at the craps table.

On inauguration day, the marches began.  We rode our bikes downtown for the Friday night march.  While this was much smaller than the women’s march on Saturday, there was a large showing and the signs were awesome.  I put a few of the better ones below.

The Long Center at sunset.

The following day was the Women’s March.  It is estimated that over 40k people showed up in Austin.  It was unbelievable.   We had to park the bikes about a mile from the capitol since there were so many people.  The entrance to the grounds was choked with people so we joined the march on Congress Ave.  Pretty moving seeing so many families aligned on protecting peoples’ rights.

List of all the house contacts we’ve used and our thoughts

Over the past 5 years we’ve done a ton of updating on our house.  Since I’m always getting asked, I’ve shared my list and thoughts.  Scale is 5 stars, we highly recommend them – 2 stars and below, go elsewhere.

Eric Harrison Builders – 5 Stars – Eric remodeled our master-bathroom, closet, and laundry room.  We can’t say enough good things about him and the people he uses.  While his subs may be on the higher cost side, the quality and dedication are well worth it–his tile-setter in particular is the best we’ve ever seen.  Hope to have Eric and crew back to do our staircase.

Marcus Heyns with Austin Doors & Trim 5 Stars – Eric gave me Marcus’s name to replace our interior hollow-core doors.  He was timely, friendly, and gave us a great price.  His crew replaced 11 doors in two days, and also fixed some of our other doors that weren’t perfect.  He is extremely knowledgeable, committed, and detail-oriented.  I will have his team back soon to make some adjustments we need due to our new floors.
(512) 694-6067
marcusheyns@yahoo.com

Ivan at Doors & Company5 Stars – Marcus gave us this recommendation.  I met Ivan at the Doors & Company store, told him what I wanted, and he said he’d email me a quote.  Once he saw what he had chosen, he suggested a non-name-brand version of the same door that would be half the price and have only a half-day lead time.  We went with the “generic” doors–they look the same and are of the same quality as the name brand.   When the installation work began, the installers discovered that there was damage to one of the doors after they had already made a cut.  I called Ivan and he and the distributor agreed to take back the door and absorb the cost, and we received a new door the next day.  Incredible service – see Ivan for your door needs.
512-454-3303
sales@doorsandcompany.com
6409 Burnet Lane

Chase Flooring – 2 StarsWe decided to put in new floors in most of the downstairs (foyer, living room, kitchen), along with new carpet in the media room.  We went with Chase Flooring since I used to live next door to the owner and they did a nice job with our previous floors (although that was more than ten years ago).  They are not cheap but promised quality.  In the end, the finished product looks good, and the installers were well qualified, but the process to get there was not worth it.  If we were to do it again, we’d go with someone else (e.g., the Tile Guy).  They took twice as much time as was estimated, the communication from the sales/office guy was erratic (e.g., he neglected to tell us that the carpet hadn’t come in and he would have to move the installation out a week, and we rearranged our schedules to “tag team” so we could be there, and they just never showed up (we found out only when they missed the arrival window and we called the office.)  In addition, the labor was under-estimated, the material was over-estimated (i.e., they ordered way too much of everything), and the process was frustrating.  I posted a detailed play-by-play on my blog during the install to keep me sane: http://www.skelmo.com/?p=1293

RoofCrafters4 stars for the roof and gutters   We had the composite roof replaced with a standing-seam metal roof and formed metal gutters.  Besides a vent not being unplugged and one gutter leak (both of which they fixed(, Roofcrafters did a very nice, high-quality job, and our roof and gutters look great.  I’d recommend them for roofing.

RoofCrafters2 stars for the windows and doors – After the success with roof, we had them come back to replace the windows, some of the doors (mainly exterior) and install slate and new railings on our front porch/stairs.  We had lots of issues.  The one guy to whom they subbed the windows was slow and did not have a good eye for detail.  We had a leak in one window for 18 months before they finally were able to fix it properly (http://www.skelmo.com/?p=749)–that leak was due to the installation and not the window itself.   The windows (Milgard) are high quality, work well, and look great,  The carpenter they hired for the railing was really good, but I think they got him in over his head.  The railing took a lot longer than they estimated and then warped.  The doors were from BMC and were of excellent quality, but the painter they used did a really sloppy job of staining the new doors in the bedroom.  As part of the project, we also had masonry work done, the mason they used was excellent.  If we had to do it again, I’d use Eric, Marcus, and Ivan for sure.
(512) 331-5500

build.com 3 Stars – We bought all our door hardware from them.  The first order for the exterior doors was perfect.  The order for the pocket doors in the bathroom, closet, and laundry room was a disaster.  When the first shipment arrived, it was the wrong finish (polished brass instead of polished nickel).  Build.com set up the exchange promptly, and made it relatively easy to return the incorrect order.  However, the shipping dates kept moving, so we waited and waited (after calling a few times in between), and then, the next order was exactly the same as the first (polished brass again), even though we had confirmed that it was indeed ordered correctly.  On the third try, they finally got it right, but all of these mistakes caused a delay of probably eight weeks.  The customer service agents at build.com were always helpful and sympathetic, but they blamed Emtek (the manufacturer) for getting it wrong.  However, we called Emtek and they had the correct finish in stock, and could not check on the order because it had come from a third-party distributor–they told us they do not work directly with any online retailer.  So Build.com gave us incorrect information, would not (or could not) tell us where the hardware was actually ordered from, and there was no way for us to check directly to ensure that the same mistake was not made again.  So we had to ship back the wrong order twice, and wasted way too much time on the phone talking about pocket-door hardware.

supply.com1 Star – We bought some high-end Robern medicine cabinets from them.  Their prices were a bit less staggering than some of the other retailers, and they promised relatively fast delivery.  However, when we received the boxes from Fed-Ex, I knew we were in trouble.  The thin cardboard box they shipped them in was destroyed and obviously had broken glass inside.  Normally I’d chalk this up to shipping damage, but they shipped a very large item made of glass in a retail package with no styrofoam or other appropriate packing material.  There is no way anything breakable would have survived.  Moreover, the broken cabinet was not even to the specs we had ordered (it was eight-inches deep instead of four).  The other one was packed better and was of the correct dimensions.  Of course mistakes happen, but when we called and e-mailed supply.com about the issue, we got passed around and could not get anyone to pay attention or address the issue.  Invariably, they seemed “put out” and wouldn’t return calls or respond to e-mails, except to tell us they had reordered the correct cabinet and it would arrive in several weeks.  There was no effort to expedite the order, and similar to build.com, the people at Robern (owned by Kohler) were great but were not able to help.  Because supply.com wouldn’t give us the distributor’s information or order number, Robern had no way to look up the order or check status.  Supply.com then offered a “refund” in a passive-aggressive response to our request that they expedite the shipment.  So it took several weeks for the replacement to arrive.  At least this time, it was the correct cabinet and was packed very securely.  I won’t buy from them again (although we would highly recommend Robern medicine cabinets–they are worth the obnoxious price).

Miguel Lopez5 Stars – Miguel did all of the baseboards and trim on our neighbors house.  We wanted 100% of the baseboard-, window-, and door trim removed and replaced.  Miguel and his associate came over to the house on a series of three weekends and patiently removed it all and replaced it with wide, modern, straight baseboards and trim.  Miguel works for a lumber yard so he gets the material at a discount and picks it up and delivers it himself.  We paid him the cost of the material plus labor at a set price-per-foot of trim removed and replaced.  They were excellent all around.
(512) 585-2618

Churchill’s Fireside & Patio4 Stars – We went to Churchill’s to freshen up our fireplace.   We had a stock black iron fireplace with a dirty metal screen and a gas pipe.  Churchill’s came out and removed the old “innards” and installed a remote-control artificial log set-up, which looks great and generates a lot of heat (with an adjustable flame).  They also measured for a stainless-steel fireplace “frame”/surround that attaches via magnets to the old ugly metal.  The only reason I did not give them 5 stars is that the magnets came welded in the wrong place and had to be sent back.  The final product looks great, is really heavy and of excellent qualify, and has held up beautifully.
3300 Bee Caves Road #375
(512) 328-9356

The Front Door Company5 Stars – We wanted to replace the dated, generic front door with a more modern, tall, solid wood door and side-light panel,  Tracy worked with the Front Door Company to design a new door exactly as she had envisioned.  It was expensive, but the process was smooth from start to finish, and the door turned out beautifully.  The craziest thing was that one young guy came out and installed this massive door (and sidelight panel) in one afternoon without any assistance.  These guys are real experts, and everyone we dealt with during the process was professional, helpful, and really nice.  It was well worth the price to get such great-quality work that ended up improving the whole look of the house.
(512) 459-9034

New Floors from Chase Flooring- not the experience we were hoping for

We decided to put in new floors.  We went with Chase Flooring since I used to live next door to the owner and they did a nice job with our previous floors. They certainly aren’t cheap but they promised quality. 

In the end, the finished product looks good, but the process getting there was really frustrating.  If we were to do it again, we’d go with someone else.  Key thoughts (fully detailed in my venting below):

  1. I’ve been in sales for 25 years and I feel the sales guy did a poor job estimating the total cost from hardie board to sq ft of tile.  However, biggest issue is there was little expectation setting done.
  2. The operations person was wonderful – she kept me sane and gave realistic expectations.
  3. The tile job was estimated at 4 days – it took 9.
  4. The crew had little direction and certainly didn’t like getting it from me, but for what we paid, I expect as near as perfection as possible.

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11/08 – They were here early to clean up and finishing grouting the back splash.  They did as good as job as they could cleaning the big stuff, but the whole house needs a deep dusting and scrubbing.  Now the long process of putting everything back.  Also, we bought far too much tile, lots of left-over.

11/07 – They finished the floors and brought back the fireplace material.  One of the guys stayed late and put the fireplace up.  Looks great.

11/05 – 11/06 – Both guys worked both Saturday and Sunday.   They did what they could, but ran out of grout and the fireplace material hadn’t arrived.

11/04 – Install proceeding but only one person most of the day – pictures below.  Drama of the day was Tracy was supposed to pick grout from 2 pamphlets they left behind.   The pamphlets describe not only the color, but the different options.  In detailed Tracy fashion, she researched all the options of sanded, un-sanded, and epoxy.  She sent an email with the choices.  I get a call from the sales in the am.  He is miffed and saying they don’t do that, etc, etc…  I was tired of it all, so I had him talk to Tracy who asked for advice since he was the expert…. no response.  In the end, they used the type she picked which doesn’t stain nor have to be sealed – not sure why it’s not the default choice always.

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11/03 – Carpet did go in as planned today.  There were many on the crew and they worked fast.  Carpet looks great.

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11/03 – Partial crew today – slow going and it started to rain.  New twist is that they ran out of hardie board so I got a call from the sales guy that they needed more and he needed to charge me another $900…  I tried to understand why that it my responsibility when he bid the job and was onsite for the bid.  There wasn’t any surprises with the tear out.  He basically said that it’s a change order, but his quote doesn’t even detail the amount of material so how am I even to know how much was included.  I just want this over with, so I said to do it…. really frustrating since it appears there is zero accountability to doing the job right the first time.

11/02 – Rest of the day progressed – once the wood from the prior install was removed – everything matched perfectly.

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11/02 – On the way back from home depot, got a call from the sales guy that they were going to charge me more to fix the issue.  I pointed out that they were fixing their problem.  He basically said tough…  I was ticked, not that it was going to cost more, but that they created the problem and wanted me to pay to fix it.  On top of it, he said that the installers didn’t like me checking on their work – I asked him which is it, should I let them make mistakes like they did before or take responsibility to make sure it’s done right since the company didn’t seem to care?  In the end, I gave the crew chief an extra $100 for the extra work – they shouldn’t be in the middle of it.   The installation price I paid to replace the floor with tile (not including the tile) was ~$8/sq ft so I don’t think a high expectation is unwarranted.  I bought the crew sandwiches.

11/02 – 9am One thing that I noticed the evening before is the last tile install (done by the same company years before) was done incorrectly.  They had laid tile on top of the wood floor plywood and even one board of the wood floor.  It would cause an uneven floor.   I had 4 spare pieces of tile and found 3 more at home depot.

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11/01 – Rest of the day went well – they got all the demo done.  I don’t think these guys like my attention to detail – I bought them pizza to try and keep them happy

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11/01 –  11:00am Truck here and3 guys working now – hopefully demo and clean-up will be done today.

11/01 – 8:15am no one here so I call the ops manager.  It’s 8:35 now and 2 guys just showed up- not the 4, I was told would be here.

10/31 7pm – wood is outside and the guy leaves.  The plywood is covered in nails and we have to walk around the house to get through it.

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10/31 – 6pm Supervisor is going to leave, since there is no truck the floor is left on my porch and aside the house.  No big deal for a day.  The bigger deal is the plywood is still down and covered in nails – I’m assured that they will be hammered down so it’s possible to cross the house without going outside.  He tells me the full crew will be there at 7:30am – I encourage 7am so they missed traffic.   What it looked like when he left:

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10/31 – Around 3:30pm the supervisor shows up.  He jumps right in and starts tearing up the floor.

10/31 – 2:01pm He comes back alone.  I email the ops manager and she refunds the furniture moving charge since I’m going to need to help him.  She says she will send the supervisor.

10/31 – 1:13pm  I called the ops manager to see if they are coming back.  I’m told they will be there in 15 min and he had to pick up the rest of his crew.

10/31 – 11:07am – one guys shows up for demo with a tiny truck.  Impossible since the plywood also needs to come up.  I ask if they are going to cover anything (since I paid for prep) – doesn’t have any plastic and leaves for home depot

10/30 – I spent most of the day packing everything and disconnecting all the electronics.  Besides the large furniture, the house is fully prepped.

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10/28 – 11:01am – Tracy stayed home from work for the install, since I had to set-up for my event – she called the operations manager only to find out the sales guy was supposed to call and let me know the carpet hadn’t arrived.  “the carpet is not in yet and will be in till next week.  Carpet is always after tile install, even though separate areas.”  Maybe the appointment shouldn’t have been made? Frustrating since I ripped the media room apart for this and had to push back the trim guys and furniture installers.

10/20 – Was emailed that the carpet will be in on 10/25; installed scheduled 10/28, from 9am to 11am  “The first availability I will have will be Friday the 28th. Will that work for you?  The arrival time should be between 9-11am.”

 

A mellow few weeks

It’s been an easy few weeks… lots of walks to the creek with the dogs.  The pictures below are from “stoner falls” right after sunrise.  We had a week of weather so cool that fog rose off the water.

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We dog sat for our neighbors and Preston loves when Rosi is over since she will sleep in his bed with him.

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I finally broke down and got a pair of glasses.  Its taking a while to get used to them.

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We went to back to back concerts at ACL last week.  This is Brad and me at the ACL hall of fame awards.  It’s supposed to be an “L” for loser since my buddy Grant couldn’t make it.  The following night Tracy and I had front row seats to Elvis Costello.

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Look how tall Preston is… he’s got me by an inch now.  This is our annual trek to the local Austin haunted house.

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My Canadian friend, Kevin was in Austin for work and spent an evening with us.  He and Preston played football in the pool for a long time.

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Tomorrow, I’m off to Bandera to run Cactus Rose.  This will be my 4th time running it.  The race is 50 or 100 miles (I’m doing the 50) and it’s un-aided, which means the aid stations only have water.  You have to carry or place anything else you want.

 

Lazy days prepping for the Colorado Trail

Since getting back from Alaska, I’ve been taking it easy.  Our bathroom is nearing completion and I’ve been doing odd jobs around the house.

This weekend, I met some friends and took a morning ride on this beast of a motorcycle.  I hadn’t ridden in more that 15 years and while it all came back to me, the motorcycle was much bigger than anything I’ve ever ridden.

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I also have been planning for one of the biggest hikes I’ve ever done.  I am planning to hike the 146 miles from Denver to Leadville in 7 days and meet my friend Mike.  He is running the Leadville 100 again and I plan on doing the last 50 miles with him.  This will be a big challenge since it requires over 20 miles a day across a lot of elevation.  I will get a 3 day rest in Leadville before pacing the last 50 miles.  After the race, I’ll rejoin the trail and do another 200 miles.

cotrailmap

My route will follow the Colorado Trail until the Salida area and then I will turn North and take the Continental Divide Trail on the West side of the Collegiate Peaks until it rejoins the Colorado Trail at Twins Lakes.  From there, I’ll hitchhike my way to Buena Vista and bus it back to Denver.  I have built in a little buffer time in case of weather, but this will be a long trip and should get me in great shape for the Run Rabbit Run race in Steamboat on my birthday.  My planned stops are below, but since I will have phone service along the way, I am bringing my tablet and will post updates.

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