Monday, October 29, 2007


Yellowstone was actually the only somewhat planned part of the trip. We had reservations at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge – which was the only lodging available in the park this time of year. There was something very Shining-esque about the experience as the day we left, they were preparing to close up for the season. We stayed away from rooms 237 and 217 (to cover the movie and book version of The Shining respectively).

Seeing as we were staying at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge, it only made sense that we saw Old Faithful in the snow.

It was pretty much what you would expect. A lot of water spraying up from the ground at regular intervals. I mean, I can cry at regular intervals and you don’t see anyone building a snow lodge around me, do you?

The driving was a bit treacherous and some of the roads were closed. But, harazardous conditions just weeds out the weak tourists. It leaves the hardy behind to enjoy spectacular views like this:

There were lots of geysers and bubbling bits of planet to be had at the park. It smelled strongly of sulfur, as if mother nature herself had farted. Beautiful.


Tim does the best prospector dance.

This was actually at a rest stop somewhere in Montana. It was the only bathroom in hundreds of miles, I swear.

Disembodied Presidential Heads Encourage Patriotism

Mount Rushmore was completely vacant.

The monument was exactly what we expected. You’ve likely seen pictures of Mount Rushmore a thousand times, and we can tell you that it looks exactly like the pictures. No more or less impressive.

We did get to take a walking tour around the front of the monument, to get some good views up presidential noses:

Of course, Tim and I get easily distracted and on our walking tour we found the perfect spot for some simulated Senior Pictures.

Omigawd, I never know what to write on these things! Stay just the way you are - don’t ever change! Have a great summer. PS- CLASS of ’94 RULZZZZZZ!!!!

Dinosaur Park

We visited an old dinosaur park on the outskirts of Rapid City, SD. It was just outstanding. I understand all of the cement sculptures in the park were hand painted by a blind and easily distracted turtle who was holding a paintbrush in his mouth while chewing gum.


For some reason this sticks out as one of my favorite things we saw on our trip. It was a little museum in South Dakota dedicated to wood carving. While the name of the museum implies the exhibits are about woodcarving in general, it was really about one man and his creations.

We were (surprise) the only visitors to the museum at the time. A very nice lady led us into a room with carpeted benches to sit on while we watched a video about the museum and about wood carving. It was a very long and mumbly video with a painfully low production value. We wanted to get up and leave but it was just too awkward with curator lady hanging around nearby. We didn't want to hurt her feelings.

After the video, we walked into a big room which was the museum itself. It was filled with automatons. I LOVE automatons. I have ever since I was a little kid and I was obsessed with The Carousel of Progress. I especially love the life-size ones. Of course, this being a wood-carving museum, all of the automatons were made of wood which made them pretty creepy. Here are some pics:

There was a fake book displayed which gave the story of the man who created all of these wood carvings. The display had been amended when someone took a permanent black marker and wrote at the bottom of the display that that the artist died in 1966. Sort of an unceremonious “PS- He’s dead now”

Especially interesting to me was this Native American Couple. First is the puzzling sign “Works when breathing”. The sign made no sense to me until after I pushed the button and the woman’s breasts heave up and down loudly. Clearly an asthmatic automaton.

Also deeply puzzling (and disturbing) is the insistence that these guys “love kids”. In fact, that initiation video we had to watch before entering this museum also talked about this display and specifically said these automatons love children.

They may love children (so long as children do not touch or interact with them in any way) but I can promise you that children do not necessarily return that emotion. I’m looking at a tall glass of nightmare juice here.

4,409 Miles

‘Merica. It’s ridiculously beautiful. After driving exactly 4,409 miles on a road trip extravaganza, what is the first thing we do when we get home? Hop in the car and run a few errands. Why? Because we needed more car time together. This has to be a good test of a relationship that we can stand to spend this much time in a car together.

We saw much more than we’ll ever blog about (fortunately for the 2 people we read this blog).

Monday, October 15, 2007

Let me tell you a thing or two about marriage.

We were married back in ought-six. Back when the U.S. dollar was actually worth a dollar to the rest of the world, a strange little man named George W. was president, and kids loved to listen to music on their “I-PODs”.

What a tough first year we’ve had. (I was typing that sarcastically, by the way. Someone needs to invent a sarcastic emoticon, it would greatly improve communications for those in my generation. See? I don't even know if that last sentence was sarcastic or sincere!) This first year was actually ridiculously fast and ridiculously fun. We celebrated our one-year anniversary last night by sharing a bottle of wine we bought in Australia on our honeymoon and eating our wedding cake. Wine and expired cake, no wonder my stomach hurts this morning.

The funtoonery isn’t over yet. We are about to head out for a celebratory road trip to Yellowstone National Park and other “area attractions” along the way. So there won’t be any updates for a while, but we’ll have plenty of dumb pictures to post when we come back.

It must be due to his massive armpit muscles...

We were moving my brother's family this weekend and we discovered that yet another tragedy has hit the Nicola family. It appears that Tim’s workshirt has the same illness that killed Tim’s wallet.

RIP: Tim’s Wallet (1987-2007)

Friday was a sad day in the Nicola house. Tim’s wallet, who valiantly held itself and it’s overflowing contents together for twenty years, passed away after a brief illness. For a while, we thought it would pull through and maybe could continue to lead a normal life with just 1/8 inch of leather connecting it’s folds. Once it reached this point, however, it deteriorated rapidly to 1/16 of an inch, than 1/24 of an inch, than 1/“measurement not available on our ruler” of an inch.

Tim’s wallet. You were a friend to many. You will be missed.

A wake and ceremonial burning will be held in approximately two weeks. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Wallet Deterioration Awareness Foundation.

Oh, dear Tim's Wallet...While you are irreplaceable, you have been replaced. The new wallet reported for duty on October 12th, 2007 at 7:00 pm.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Inconvenient Acceptance Speech

Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo? I’d like to think our mention of him in this blog (see “Hot Enough For You?”) played a minor role in this achievement. Oh, who am I kidding? We totally sealed the deal for him.

Wow. This is unexpected. I have so many people to thank… my mom and dad for providing DNA and good times, my husband for believing that people would want to see Al Gore's name on our blog, my brother for ‘keeping it real’ and keeping our family bi-partisan, spell check for helping me to spell bi-partisan, and Al Gore for creating the Internet which made this blog possible. Oh… that’s the music. I guess I have to wrap things up. I trust that with this public thank-you, Al Gore will now thank us in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech. Talk fast, Al, they start playing that music and you just have to start TALKING LOUDER.

*I am being carted away by Norwegian men in tuxedos*


Monday, October 8, 2007

The Amazing Colossal Bear

This isn’t just an illusion created by a perspective shot. Bear has really gotten to be this gigantic. Um, but that dirty floor? That is merely an illusion.

“Hot enough for you?”

We hear that all the time from May to August. Now this small talk opening line has made its way into October.

We went to Apple Holler for the annual Measuring of the Boy. Apple Holler is hard to describe to the uninitiated. It’s a lot of stacked hay, it’s a petting zoo, it’s pumpkins, an apple orchard, and countless decrepit particle board photo ops, like this one:

It’s filled with a bunch of city people thinking that this is how non-city people live. Most real farms, of course, have fewer photo ops and you don’t have to pay to feed the animals or harvest the crops. That’s called “chores.”

One of those particle board photo ops is a measuring stick which Harrison was propped in front of when he was one. Then we came back when he was two and took the same picture. On Saturday, we were getting his picture at age three. This being his third time officially moves the activity from “spontaneous event that just happened to take place in sequential years” to full blown tradition. Mom will now be unable to adequately scrapbook the future years of his life without a picture of him at Apple Holler. He may even have to come here for his high school graduation pictures and wedding pictures. He can only break the cycle by having a child of his own to take his place on the Apple Holler Measuring stick.

Anyway, it was the hottest day ever. Literally. I think we broke some records. The car’s thermostat claimed it was over 100 degrees when we left, but it came down to the low 90s once the car was moving.

Oh, Al Gore, your novelty-size charts and graphs were correct! And you were right, this is totally inconvenient.

Tiny Dinosaur Lands on Tim

According to Professor Google, this is a Thelia bimaculata. While the Internet is almost never wrong, I think in this case we have to beg to differ. This was obviously not an aphid, but tiny dinosaur that somehow survived the giant asteroid, or alien invasion, or God’s wrath, or whatever happened to the rest of his kind.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Synchronized bird watching

It's the synchronized swimming of the kitty olymics. It doesn't get much respect, but it is fun to watch.

OK, and just to cleanse the palette and just to prove that we do things other than stare at our kitties all day… here is a picture of Tim's favorite pastime this summer... ‘yakin. Or, as the kids call it, "kayaking".

My muffin is so hardcore. Exxxxtreme husband!!! I think he is *this close* to being ready to get into a barrel and take on Niagara Falls.

(By the way, when I said *this close* each asterick represents a light year... so unless we find a wormhole, he'll probably stick to just kayaking in the lake for now.)

Monday, October 1, 2007

Tim Tent

Bear has taken a shine to sleeping under the covers in bed, and (when possible) under Tim.

Men in white polyester pants.

We show up to Miller Park a little late for the game. In fact, we got there right before the 7th inning stretch. Apparently, when they changed the game time from 6:05 to 3:00, they forgot to tell us. Oh, they told the other 40,000 people at the game. But not us. Ackward! That’s what we get for living on the wrong side of the Wisconsin-Illinois border.

When we showed up, they had already shut down the parking lot and were re-routing the streets for the mass post-game exodus. So we had to (yes, we had to) drive the wrong way down a one-way street to slip into the parking lot.

One other uninformed fan pulled up behind us. Dad was so relieved to see that we weren’t the only ones who didn’t know the change in game time that he was happily telling this stranger that he can’t believe he missed the announcement. This stranger turned a bit red-faced and didn’t look happy to hear the news. How could he not know? The parking lot was full, yet there was no traffic. All the tailgaters were gone, leaving behind crushed beer cans and cooling grills. The occasional roar of the crowd could be heard in the distance. These should have all been clear signs that the game had already begun. His sense of denial was breathtaking.

Here is a shot of the scoreboard by the time we showed up:

We had just missed the sausage races, which seemed to be the biggest disappointment to Dad who was set to cheer for the Polish Sausage. Tim and I are loyal to the (possibly fictional) Italian ancestry of the Nicola name and we always cheer for the Italian Sausage. We could hear the sausage race happening as we approached the stadium, and Dad looked very sad. It sounded like a good race... they even had Little Smokies racing this time. *sigh*

As it turns out, we actually showed up for the best part of the game. They had to go into extra innings, and the Brewers ended up winning with a great hit from some rookie named “Vinny”. While the Brewers had already sealed their fate of not being the first in the division the night before, with Saturday nights win they actually had the first winning season since 1992. After the winning run, the Brewers all swarmed onto the field and much cheering, congratuating, and man-on-man-hinder-slapping followed.

Even if you don’t like baseball, you gotta admit that it is fascinating to observe baseball fans. It’s like 40,000 Pavlov’s dogs responding to musical cues, and shouting the appropriate response in unison. It’s bizarre. And Miller Park has this annoying habit of just playing a few bars of a song, and then suddenly stopping. Like they’d have to pay for it if the played another note. No one else in the crowd seems annoyed by this other than me.

People also respond to gigantic megatron signs quite readily. When the signs light up and say “Make Some Noise” people make some noise. Usually clapping and shouting. Yelling "woooooo" while holding up a beer bottle is a common response. I just hum quietly to myself and Tim coughs. We can make noise however we want, the sign wasn’t specific.

Then in a sort of 'I Robot' moment, the sign tells us “I can’t hear you!” Of course it can’t hear us. It’s a sign. Nonetheless, the crowd responds to this pre-programmed taunt and “woooooo”’s even louder. No other word can describe these whole scene except for weird. If that sign ever does achieve consciousness, there is no telling what it will tell the crowd to do. It could be quite dangerous once it realizes the power it holds over baseball fans.


And that is the most you’ll probably ever read about sports on this blog. I make an exception to my disinterest in professional sports only for the Milwaukee Brewers. I really do love going to those games. Tim is willing to go along for the ride, at least with the promise of overpriced ballpark beer and family bonding.