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James and Michael Visit 2006
Tuesday, 1 August 2006
Swimming and playing

By Brian Eckard

I guess about a week ago we past the midway point of my boys' visit. We have just about three weeks and a couple of days to go before they will make their way back to the east coast for another school year. And, with their departure the summer will be rapidly moving towards being over.

This past weekend it has been unusually hot here in Washington. Normally it might get warm but in the evenings it cools off enough that it is quite comfortable to sleep. Over the weekend it never really cooled down. As soon as our apartment started to feel comfortable, the sun would rise and start to warm up the place again. We're on the second floor, so you can add to this cycle the fact that hot air rises. So we also get the heat from the downstairs apartments. You can literally feel the temperature difference as you climb the stairs!

On Friday it had become hot enough that we decided to re-inflate the wading pool we bought for the boys to use. They spent all of Friday afternoon splashing around and playing with the sprinkler feature on the pool. The cool water felt good and it helped them to stay somewhat comfortable. Friday evening was hot in the apartment. It finally cooled off early Saturday morning--just in time to be reheated by the morning sun. On Saturday, it was more of the same. We started the morning with a treat. We took the kids over to McDonalds for breakfast. After that we did our shopping errands over at Walmart, and we also attempted to look at portable air conditioners. Unfortunately, everyone in Washington seems to have bought an air conditioner this weekend because all of the stores are out of stock! They spent a good chunk of Saturday afternoon playing in their pool and coming in to see if they could watch movies on TV. I was doing some train simming so I hogged the TV for most of Saturday afternoon.

Saturday evening was just as hot in the apartment as Friday was. Once again the place cooled off just in time for the sun to heat things up again. Sunday morning we had black berry pancakes for breakfast. Mmm.. Afterwards we took the boys to get their hair cut. After the haircuts we took them to a park that is across the street where they spent some time climbing and playing on the play equipment.

Posted by stuckjunction at 2:20 AM EDT
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Thursday, 13 July 2006
A camping trip

By Brian Eckard

This past weekend I took my boys camping. The actual camping party consisted of my twin boys, their soon to be step sister, and soon to be cousin. As far as the weather was concerned, it was absolutely beautiful for the entire adventure! We went to a nearby campground at a state park called Dash Point. It is near Federal Way in the Seattle/Tacoma area of Washington.

Friday afternnoon

Our adventure began in the afternoon of Friday, July 7. I had worked all day and had arranged my hours that week so that I could leave early. During the day the kids helped mom pack up the car with all the camping supplies. They then drove to my work place and picked me up at 3:30 that afternoon. As soon as we arrived home mom started her weekend and I took the kids over to the park.

We arrived at Dash Point around 5:00 that evening. The first order of business was to set up our camp site. The site itself was very nice. The trees were arranged so that when you were in the camp site you couldn't see any other camp sites. We set up the tents, and unpacked the camping supplies. The food was organized into a plastic container that suddenly had more room in it after we removed most of the non-food items. We set up a cooking area on the picnic table and put out a table cloth. We set up our campfire and got it started. After the tents were set up and all the sleeping bags and mattresses put inside we moved to our next task of making dinner.

On the menu that night was hot dogs and beans. We cooked the beans on our camp stove and roasted the hot dogs on the camp fire. After eating dinner we kept the fire going strong so that we could make S'mores. By the time we were through eating it was late and we all headed off to bed.


The next morning was cool and sunny. It felt like the temperature that night was in the upper 50s. When the sun came up the temperature warmed up very quickly. For breakfast we had bacon and eggs. After everybody ate and the dishes were washed we decided that we needed to go to the store to get some additional items. We left the camp site and drove over to a Safeway that was nearby. We picked up some wet wipes, more paper plates, ice for our cooler, and some additional fire wood.

When we returned to our camp site we made lunch. We had tuna fish sandwiches with cheese. Lunch was served with chips and salsa¿ mmmmm. After lunch we left for the beach. It is located on Puget Sound on the other side of the park. The kids played in the water for about two hours that afternoon. During that time James and I were able to also fly kites together.

Around 3 PM we left the beach and headed back to our campsite. We rested and the kids had a water fight. I had fun sitting in my tent listening to all of the running around and giggling. For dinner that night we had stew and biscuits. After the dinner dishes were washed we went for a hike to locate the amphitheater. James wanted to see the presentations that evening.

After our hike we sat around the campfire until it was time to go to the shows. The presentations were interesting but I don't think they were too interesting for the kids. After the show we walked back to the campsite. With evening the temperatures had cooled off. Everyone was feeling cold so we had some hot cocoa before we headed off for bed that night.


The morning was another beautiful start. Blue skies and no clouds. It was also cool, but it warmed up as the sun rose higher in the sky. For breakfast we had hot oatmeal. After the breakfast dishes were cleaned up we started to break camp. We took down the tents and packed them away and packed up all of our camping supplies into our container. The chairs were folded up. We then loaded the car. We piled into the car and drove home.


Posted by stuckjunction at 2:52 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 13 July 2006 2:55 PM EDT
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Summertime train simming

By Brian Eckard

Yesterday I was able to squeeze some train simming time in. This session was fun because one of my boys was sitting next to me. I taught him how to drive an interurban train on the London and Port Stanley railroad for MSTS. It was fun teaching him, and then watching him focus intently on the laptop monitor concentrating on driving his train.

We practiced driving the train, stopping at stations, and keeping to speed limits along the line. While he was driving I would interrupt his session taking screen shots. I needed the images for some articles I'm writing for the third issue of the magazine.

A trip to the zoo

My boys arrived here just about two weeks ago, and on their first weekend with us we took them to the Woodland Zoo in Seattle. It was just absolutely beautiful out weather wise. Not a cloud in the sky, and the temperature wasn't too hot. It was hot though, but not like it is in Texas.

When we arrived at the zoo, the first order of business was to find a parking space. It seemed like everybody in Seattle was at the zoo that day so parking was obviously at a premium. We traveled around to the north gate and finally found a parking space. After parking the car we walked over to the entrance and stood in line for about 10 minutes. After paying for our admission we eagerly went into the park and began our adventure in the zoo.

An African village

The Woodland Zoo features a mock up of an African village. It has a school house, an example hut, a hut for the teacher, a hut for community gatherings, and other structures for storing food. In the school house, the back wall is open so that you can see the animals.

Posted by stuckjunction at 2:48 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 13 July 2006 2:49 PM EDT
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