5/30/07 - Family Reunion, used cars and a family cookout

So this past Memorial Day weekend was not quite as exciting as I had originally anticipated. We got off early at work which allowed me to go home, take care of the lawn a bit and still drive to Fayetteville for the night (with my wife of course). We made a stop in Russellville (sorry Dan, it was a last minute thing) and ate at Feltner's Whatta-Burger. Usually, this meal is saved for trips returning from Fayetteville, but we weren't sure what time we'd be driving back home and we didn't want to miss the burger.

Friday night we didn't do much of anything. we got to the hotel and Cristi caught up with her Mamaw and Mom from Florida while I dozed in and out. Saturday, we woke up and headed to the family reunion for Cristi's Mawaw's Dad's side of the family. It was actually in Springdale on about 2-3 acres. The coolest part was that the guy who owned the propery (part of the family) has been cutting lawns for 30 years and he gave me TONS of advice. If you are in the Springdale area, be sure to use R&D Lawn Care. If I can remember, I'll try to get their contact information up here.

Some of the other highlights included some of the best rib and barbecue spread I've ever had. There were quite a few people there, I would guess easily over 100, and there was enough food to feed twice that many people. We started eating at 2:00, and they left the food out all afternoon so I was constantly making trips back and forth to the buffet line. While not eating, I spent the rest of the time relaxing in a chair on the lawn listening to the family play music and sing (all of them were musically talented). every once in a while, I'd get up and throw some frisbees or just walk around and look at the lawn equipment. There was also a faimly softball game towards the end of the day which was fun.

Sunday was to be spent at the family reunion again, but we knew there was a lot of stuff we were going to be doing this weekend, so we came home Sunday morning. We found out later that the buffet provided was just as good as the day before except this time it was pot roast and other things. That afternoon, we went and looked at cars and Cristi decided on a Honda Accord. We found several, but because we are looking for a used car, there were no prices on the window. While we were out, I wanted to test drive a Jeep Wrangler because I've always wanted one. I recently found out that they get about the same gas mileage as a Tahoe, so I'm going to have to wait some more. I did test drive it though, and sure enough, I still want one. The rest of the day was spent cleaning up the house and getting things ready for the garage sale this weekend.

Monday morning Greg came over and I tried to teach him how to use some of the lawn equipment and then we mowed a couple lawns. We got back to the house about the time we had decided to have a family cook out. I fired up the grill only to find out that for some reason, the flame is really weak and I couldn't have warmed up a hot dog in less than 30 minutes. We wound up cooking everything inside in the oven or on the stove. It turned out all right but it was frustrating. Phillip, Greg, Dustin and myself played 2-on-2 basketball for a while and then we called it a day. I was in bed early that night and here we are two days later.

What I will go ahead and mention as I'm pretty sure that Cristi and I have made our decision, our home will be up for sale at the beginning of next week. If you are interested, email me at GravyTrain6@gmail.com. I'll have pictures up and more information about it in the next week or so.

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5/21/07 - A weekend of everything and nothing

Weekend was good. Some exciting things I reckon, but for the most part, just a good weekend. Saturday morning, we went and looked at a few houses in North Little Rock/Sherwood and were very pleased with what we found. There is a very good possibility that we will begin building a home in the fairly near future. It's also possible we will be selling our home in the fairly near future. We will see how that all works out once we talk to our Conway Realtor. Natalie (my cousin, the one who got married in Destin) graduated Saturday and I finally got to see the new gym on the campus of UALR and I was very impressed. It doesn't seat very many people, but of course when you can't fill the first 3 rows at Barton for a basketball game, I don't guess you need much seating. We went to dinner at Olive Garden for dinner, it was pretty good, but just getting to spend time with family is always good. That night, I cut some grass and when I got done, we both sat down and went through pictures from our vacations and will be hopefully getting the long awaited summary together in the next couple of days (how long have I been saying that?). Sunday we went to church, came home and I started cutting grass while Cristi tanned and napped. When I got back after an hour or two, I laid in our pool (see large water pail) on our back patio and relaxed for a bit and then we went to dinner and was highly saddened by the state of Mexican food in Central Arkansas after enjoying the food in San Antonio. We spent the rest of the day at Wal-Mart and then that evening Cristi looked for her next car while I laid on the couch and did nothing at all. It was wonderful.

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5/17/07 - Krystal Burgers, HEB and Linkin Park

What doesn't Arkansas have a Krystal Burgers. I'd be happy with a White Castle. While I'm on the subject, what about getting a Publix or an HEB. I understand that those two are Florida and Texas exclusives, but how about something similar. We've got Wal-mart and Kroger. Not too much competition there. We don't have fresh made Sushi. We don't have an organic section, we don't have half the bakery selection, or fruit selection or overall selection for the most part. Cristi and I have talked about it and we would be willing to pay extra for our regular stuff if we had the options available. I guess Arkansas is that small of a market that we can't bring anything in. We are getting a Fresh Market in Little Rock, so that might be a start, but if it flops (like our semi-pro sports teams do) then we never have a chance of getting something like what I want.

So back to Krystal. We ate at Krystal twice on our way back from Destin. One out of necessity because apparently no one eats in Alabama. I'll try to touch on that in my write up about our Destin trip and travels. The point is, those things are addictive. It's not the meat (it's not the onions because Cristi doesn't like onions). It has got to be the bread. If I could cook/bake/heat bread like that at home, I might be on an all bread diet. The fries are not very good, the chili is sub-par and the chicken sandwiches can pass as acceptable. But my goodness, those little burgers are like little pieces of heaven. The problem is, if I wanted them, I'd have to drive four hours round trip for them. With that said, anyone interested in opening a Krystal (I assume they offer franchising), if you open it near my office or home, I alone might be able to keep you in business.

Although, I typically don't comment about music quite as much as the rock legend over at Hi2u I feel it is my obligation to mention the new Linkin Park album. I have LOVED there previous stuff and was blown out of the water when I found out they released something new. I was afraid that it might be a while since one of their band members did a solo project, Fort Minor. Well, I got the album last night and I've been listening to it since. It's quite a bit different from their previous stuff and they have several songs that could be considered "slow" but they pull it off very well. I've noticed a few more guitar and drum solos than I'm accustomed to but overall, I don't think Linkin Park could put out an album that I didn't enjoy.

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5/15/07 - Destin, the Honda and maybe a new house

I know, I know. It's been quite a while since my last update. Sue me. (I give you that website, because my previous dealings with them tell me that unless you are physically harmed, they won't even give you the time of day). That should have been mentioned in a previous post, but it is not important. So, I still haven't updated the information about our San Antonio trip, I'm still working on it and now we have another trip to add. We were in Destin this past weekend and had a great time. Cristi's cousin got married on the beach and it was amazing. I'd like to save all the details for the story, so I'm going to leave it at that.

I recently accepted a full time position here at Midland Loan Services and started on Monday. What a crumby day to start too. While I was gone, they decided it would be a good idea for everyone to work 10 hour days this week through Thursday. If I were still on contract, that would be awesome because I got paid for working extra hours. Now that I'm salary however, I get nothing. Probably not even a pat on the back. Now that I'm full time though, I am eligible for benefits which include a pension plan, pretty good insurance, a 401k with an employer match of up to 6% as well as paid time off and tuition reimbursement.

I might have jinxed us with my recent comments about the Accord, because it went into the shop on Monday. We are going to have to have the transmission fixed and we took it to Higgins Transmission which I don't remember if I mentioned it before or not, but I highly recommend that you take your car there if you ever have problems. Mr. Higgins is a great guy and does incredible work. I will never be able to take my car anywhere else. So anyways, I'll go into more detail later, but basically the transmission just about gave up on us while in northern Alabama so we figured we might as well get it fixed. We were going to have to get it fixed before we sold it and with all our travels planned this summer, it seemed like a good idea to get it take care of now. Also, once the transmission gets fixed, we are going to have to take it to Undercar (another place that I highly recommend and I will not take my car anywhere but here in regards to brakes, tires and suspension). When you brake at high/medium speeds, the steering wheel shakes real bad. I've had that problem on one of my trucks before, so I know it isn't life threatening, but it is a pretty big nuisance and once again, we wouldn't be able to sell it the way it is. After that gets taken care of, we have to get the windshield replaced. I'm hoping that with all that, we can keep it under $2000. If we can't, well, that's just the way the cookie crumbles.

This weekend, we've got a few things planned. Early Saturday, we are going to be looking for a new house and that afternoon Natalie graduates from UALR. I'm looking forward to being able to see the new gym on campus. In regards to the house, I spoke with our realtor today and she highly recommended that we try to sell before new phase of homes gets started in construction. That means we need to sell soon. I really don't know if we will be able to get it sold before it gets underway, but I think we migth give it a try. This of course will possibly cause a problem with the lawn care business, only that I will have to rethink the way I schedule the lawns. I might even have to find a storage place in Conway to keep my equipment instead of hauling back and forth.

As I was typing this, I got an email from our Sherwood realtor and the sub-division we were looking at is still 30+ minutes away from my office and the same for Cristi. The prices are cheap, but we are moving to be closer to stuff. I guess we will have to keep looking. The one thing that I've been most surprised by is that there is not very much new construction going on in Sherwood/North Little Rock. In fact, the houses we were looking at are actually in Jacksonville.

I'll end here and get back to work for a spell. I guess tonight I'll spend some time looking at more houses, trying to figure out what we did in San Antonio and getting pictures setup for your viewing pleasure.

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5/4/07 - Accords, the vacation and the next week

For those that were concerned, we did make it back from San Antonio all in one piece. We had AN INCREDIBLE time, and my goal is to get a summary of the vacation posted with pictures and information. The problem I'm having right now is that I can't remember what we did and when we did it. I tried recreating a schedule of the stuff and got lost around Tuesday. I don't want to leave anything out so I'm waiting until Cristi and I can sit down to recap some of it. We've got the pictures that will help us remember, but it is kind of sad that I tried doing this on Monday (two days after we got back) and I couldn't remember half of it.

I was thinking this morning that the letter 'Y' might be the most underrated letter in the alphabet. First of all, it is the most versatile. It's a consenant, but can also be used as a vowel in some cases, no other letter can make that claim. There were several other points that I had, but I'm sure no one really cares, and they are not all coming back to me at the moment.

I received a formal offer for full-time employment at Midland Loan Services, so I start that on the 14th of this month. There was an issue with an agreement in pay, and although it still has not been completely settled, I have reason to believe that my work will be compensated in other ways that will make it worth my time. The next couple of weeks are pretty exciting for us. First, this weekend is graduation at UCA, so a good friend of mine and his fiance are going to be in town and staying with us. On top of that, my middle brother, Greg will be graduating with an undergraduate in Accounting, his girlfriend is walking with a degree in Psychology (I think) and then all the families will be getting together for dinner afterwards. Next weekend, the wife and I will be heading to Destin for a weekend vacation with her family while her cousin get's married on the beach. We've rented a pretty large condo on the beach for about 15 of us (I think it's that many, I don't remember) so that should be fun in itself. The drive won't be all that great with Cristi working the night before we leave and then driving the 12 hours or so down there. And then of course, we get to come back.

I can not speak highly enough about Honda Accords. I'm sure I will jinx it with this post, but it's so impressive to see a car that can last as long as an Accord. Most people I have talked to say that their Accord has well over 100,000 miles on it, and right now, Cristi's 1998 has 192,000. After this trip to Destin, it will be around 194k. Middle of June we will be driving back down to Georgetown, TX (just north of Austin) which will add another easy 1000 miles to that count. It won't be much longer until it rolls over 200,000 and we have done no work to it except recently a new alternator and of course new tires and brakes. The transmission is starting to show age and is slipping on occassion, but having taken it to a mechanic on that (Higgin's Transmission...i Highly recommend their services if you need transmission work) they said that with the age of the car to wait until it fails completely. That was probably 20k miles ago and we are still running. Of course, it is good business practice for a company to build such a good car because the next car we get will be an Accord and we are willing to pay a higher price for it because we have seen the results. Of course, this is similar to my loyalty to Chevrolet/GMC trucks.

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