Category Archives: Cars

Father’s Day and Long Goodbyes

We’re still recovering from our a crazy week juggling both VBS and Aaron’s birthday, but we couldn’t slow down long before running right into Father’s Day weekend.


I told Vivian all I wanted to do for Father’s Day was “as little as possible,” and I got to enjoy that for the most part. I still wound up mowing my parents’ lawn on Saturday morning, and I also brought along ingredients for a Father’s Day lunch of burgers and fries. My dad warmed up his smoker and used his own special rub on them, which seemed to turn out quite well. I added some grilled mushrooms and cheese to the mix. Our plan was to go through one of my dad’s old trunks downstairs, but he was a bit beat afterward and we wound up playing a game and then tinkering with his YouTube page instead.

Then on Father’s Day, I got a couple lovely cards from Hannah and Aaron. I had some alone time burning calories at the Kroc Center and filling them right back up again at Don and Millie’s. Vivian invited her dad over for dinner and made prime rib for us, with loaded baked potatoes, asparagus, and shrimp salad. She also had some berry cobbler for dessert, which we had after herding the kids off to bed. Then she had some presents for me, which included a jar of Mister C’s spaghetti sauce and some tools for my bike, which I hope I’ll be riding to work more often soon.


In the midst of all this, we had to say goodbye to a pair of classic Omaha restaurants closing within the week. First was Gerda’s, a German restaurant of over 40 years. I’d eaten there with Vivian before and more recently with my dad, having schnitzel and spaetzle and German sausage as well as pastries from the bakery. The original owner died last year, however, and new government regulations made it financially unfeasible for the restaurant to remain opened any longer.

Second was Amato’s, the Italian diner-style restaurant down in the Aksarben neighborhood, which has been operating even longer. I first heard about them from Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” which aired an episode with them in 2009. I’ve loved their homemade sausage and ricotta pancakes and had the chance to eat there a number of times, their location just down the street from where I work being super-convenient. Vivian I had breakfast there one last time on Tuesday, and I got to have polpetti for the first time (and maybe not the last if I get it to go this week).


The hardest goodbye, however, was to our dear Honda Civic. We’ve had it for about a decade now, and it was the car that first took Hannah and Aaron home from the hospital since they were born. Even after being totaled in late 2017, I’d still been able to drive it on a regular basis, unwilling to part ways until the “wheels came off.” Well, after a year and a half it’s finally time to say goodbye. Bought my brother’s Corolla have been enjoying driving a car with new tires, smooth-riding suspension, and functioning heat and air conditioning for a while.

Our kids had turned our Civic into a makeshift playhouse for themselves in the meantime, but now that the car is gone, I hope they can find a place in their heart for this new member of our vehicular family.

Pizza, Dancing, and an Old New Car


The whole state of Nebraska is dealing with the aftermath of the record-breaking floods we’ve had this week. Everywhere we go we’ve seen signs of neighbors helping out, including disaster relief trucks all over the place in Omaha. Every church we know has been collecting supplies to help those affected by the floods, turning every available multi-purpose room into a storehouse of food, clothing, and cleaning supplies. It makes me proud to live in a state where everyone seems to be ready and willing to help complete strangers when something like this happens.


In the meantime, we had a bunch of birthday events happening over the weekend. First off was on Friday, when Catherine (or Dr. Keefe, as I call her at work), celebrated a birthday with the Omaha Jitterbugs down at the Eagle’s Lodge. Vivian and I had the rare opportunity to attend the dance together, setting up ahead of time and then dancing with a handful of our friends when they arrived. Some kids from Arts in Motion came to demonstrate a handful of dances before the evening got underway, and Catherine brought a batch of cupcakes to share before we had her birthday jam.

It was nice to see the crowd for Jitterbugs Night Out was still as large as ever, and it’s remained very much the same since I first attended around 13 years ago. While many of the same people still attend regularly (looking at you Dan Wondra), there are now so many more “regulars” I’ve never met that I now feel a new generation has taken it over. And that’s OK.


The next day, it was birthday time at the Simpson House. Little Gabriel turned one year old, while Phil celebrated a birthday of his own several months late. We got to make our own pizzas (or garlic bread) using dough from a gigantic bucket and an assortment of ingredients laid out on the counter. We even got to try tossing the dough in a stereotypical fashion that was more fun to watch than practical. There were plenty of kids on hand as well, providing good company for Hannah and Aaron as we got a little grow-up time (and stuffed our faces).


Then on Tuesday, I managed to crash a fancy dinner Vivian had planned with her parents when I turned out not to be driving to Lincoln as she expected (to get a car, more on that below). I’m not sure how secret the dinner plans were supposed to be, but they fortunately had enough calamari steak for me to have some, along with some shrimp and tasty cheddar jalapeño bread (which Vivian finally got to make right now that she used non-expired yeast).


In other news, I’m nearing the end of my pledge to drive our Honda Civic “until the wheels fall off.” It’s had a number of minor issues that culminated a week or two ago when it had an irreparably flat tire combined with a spare I discovered has a leaky valve. I’ve been carpooling with my dad and Uncle Jonny since then as I’m getting ready to take ownership of Uncle Nathan’s Corolla — which has its own unique set of problem but far fewer miles on the odometer.

On Thursday, I went down to Lincoln to officially buy the car from Nathan. Dad came along and the three of us went out to Big Sal’s to celebrate with pizza. Now we’re busy trying to get the car fixed up so it’ll be properly driveable before I actually start driving it. Say a quick prayer as we try to get all that sorted out before saying goodbye to our dearly departed Civic!

Also: happy Spring Equinox.

Star Wars Night and New Beginnings

Winter seems to be here at last, with snow and ice coming in fits and starts between lovely sun-shining days. When we time it just right, Vivian and I can take the kids to the park or go for a ride down the street. Such is the weather in Nebraska.


On Saturday, I made pancakes with the kids and then went and test-drove a Honda CR-V to replace my poor, ailing Ford Taurus.

Then that night, we took the kids to Star Wars night at the Children’s Museum. Hannah and Aaron got to explore the usual exhibits, such as the water table, the hospital, the ball area, and the carousel. Tonight, however, there were also numerous events related to Star Wars. The children’s orchestra played a medley of tunes from the series, and a bunch of cos-players got to have an Imperial March down the middle of the museum. This was the first time our kids had ever been exposed to the Star Wars franchise, but Hannah said she liked the “big gorilla,” AKA Chewbacca.


We had an ice storm on Monday that kept me home right before we got the CR-V checked out by our mechanic and then officially purchased at the dealership on Tuesday. On Wednesday, it warmed up to near 50, so the kids got to come to the park to play for a bit out in the sunshine over lunch.

I took the day off on Friday so I could both watch the Inauguration of President Trump with the kids and also clean up the house in anticipation of the Cheese Party this weekend. This was the first full inauguration I’ve actually watched live, and it was surreal to see Donald Trump and Mike Pence being sworn into office after having seen both of them in person a few months ago. This campaign has been so long and crazy that it feels like it’s been going on forever. My Democrat friends online are already fussing about the 2018 mid-terms, which I’m not ready to think about just yet. I expect by mid-2019, when Iowa starts buzzing with politicians again, I’ll be ready to break out my camera and start rubbing elbows with them once again.

If you missed the inauguration, I highly recommend this highlight reel.

Remembering the Beige Bomber

IMG_7761Do you remember your first car? Well, up until this week, I’ve still be driving mine. I bought it back in 2002 for $6,500 from my dad’s cousin-in-law in Minnesota, and now 14 ½ years and 164,220 miles later, it’s time to say goodbye.

It’s hard to total up just how many memories I have with this little 97 Ford Taurus. I drove it to my very first job. I had it when I picked up Vivian for our very first date. We were both in that car when we “made it official” a little over a month later. I drove it from Lincoln to Omaha all throughout our dating relationship. We drove off in it after our wedding. This last year, I rode my bike to work hoping to extend the life on it just a little longer, but now it’s got a leaking head gasket, the cost of which is significantly more than the car’s retail value. That means it’s time to let it go to that great scrapyard in the sky.

It’s strange to have such sentimental value for an inanimate object, but all the memories this little car carries with it are from some of the best times of my life. Farewell, Beige Bomber. You’ll live on in our hearts (and in this blog) forever.


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It’s been another fun, busy weekend for both Vivian and me. On Saturday, we went up to Benson to help paint a basement. Andy and Tamra, two of Vivian’s co-workers, are getting married in the fall and needed some help putting some olive green on some walls, so Vivian and I and several of their family members came to help out.

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That evening, Vivian helped to host a luau party at Jenny’s house up in Northwest Omaha. Several of our mutual friends from swing dancing came and joined us for some grilled shish-kabobs and a limbo contest. There were grass skirts and leis for just about everyone who came, and some of the girls demonstrated a hula dance for us. We also celebrated a couple of birthdays and danced into the night on a very crowded deck.

In other news, the pool at our apartment complex is now open, so Vivian and I were able to enjoy the still-pretty-frigid waters on Sunday. We are also the proud new owner of a 2002 Honda Civic! Some of know already that our dear Honda Accord recently got totaled (nobody was hurt, fortunately, but the car was considered a total loss by our insurance company). We found the new car on Craig’s List for a reasonable price, and so now we own a slightly newer vehicle with fewer miles and a sunroof. Now all we have to do is think of a name. (Vivian has already ruled out Rex 2.0).

Video highlights from the party

Meet the Rolling Shadow

IMG_9687.JPGA few weeks ago, Vivian took the Rolling Prune into Walker Tire for a check-up and received a fairy grim diagnosis. It needed a number of serious repairs totally more than the car was worth three years ago when Vivian bought the 95 Chevy Cavalier, so it was time for us to trade her in. Finding the ideal replacement wasn’t nearly as easy as I’d hoped. Viv and I visited several car lots here in Omaha, both big and small, and none of them seemed to want to sell us anything other than new or nearly-new vehicles that cost double or more than we wanted to spend. We were finally able to find a small dealer in Ashland with a 2001 Honda Accord that he was willing to sell us for well under its “blue book” value. Over the weekend, we drove the rolling prune off into the sunset and came back with a shiny new rolling shadow.

IMG_9677.JPGIt’s been a busy couple of weeks for Vivian and me, but we’ve still done our best to get out of the apartment and stay social with our friends. Last Sunday, we had a great Superbowl party at our friend Venche’s house, with some of the retreating to the basement to play Clue during the second half. On Friday night last week we made a brief appearance at JNO, and I’m glad we did. Robin Merserau made a rare appearance with her husband Tim and son Danny. She was a regular at JNO long before I came on the scene, and it was good to see her again. Vivian and I had dinner at her parents house on Saturday, and we got to play a couple games, including one called Snafooey that was invited by a friend of mine in Lincoln.

Though we’re doing our best to remain social, there is a real chance Vivian and I may become homebodies soon. I just recently discovered how many full-length movies are available for free on Hulu, and Vivian and I can watch them on our new TV just as easily ad popping in a DVD. We watched Rudy last week, one of her favorite movies, and it seems new ones are popping up all the time. We could even watch Horse Feathers, my favorite Marx Brothers movies (check it out if you haven’t seen it — these guys are hilarious even after seventy years). At this rate, Blockbuster will soon be out of business, and Vivian and I won’t have any reason to leave the house.

Update on the Beige Bomber

IMG_4777.JPGGood news, everybody. The beige bomber got out of the shop on Tuesday and seems to be running all right. We’re still not entirely sure what happened on Sunday, but it needed to have the alternator, belt tensioner, and a couple other parts all replace again. Hillis 66 reimbursed me for the cost of the second repair, though they suspect it was some faulty replacement parts that caused the problem. Anyhow, the car is all fixed and ready to continue wearing a groove down the middle of I-80 as I zoom back and forth between work and all my friends in Omaha.

Say a prayer for the Beige Bomber

IMG_4691.JPGIf you guys could say a quick prayer for my little 97 Taurus, known affectionately as the Beige Bomber, I would appreciate it. As I mentioned in a previous post, it’s been working overtime getting me to and from Omaha to see Vivian and our mutual friends from Terra Nova, GAMe, and the Omaha Jitterbugs. Now after around 117k miles, it’s starting to get show signs of wear. On Thursday, the alternator went out and left me on the side of I-80 with a dead battery around midnight. I got this fixed on Friday in Lincoln and thought everything would be cool when I returned to Omaha. Unfortunately the check engine light went on just minutes after leaving Lincoln to go to JNO in Omaha. Then on Sunday, Viv and I both heard a rattling under the hood, just before the battery light came on and the power steering went out. It’s recovering at the Walker Tire on 84th and Dodge right now, and we’ll find out tonight it will be drivable again (and what the damages will be). In the meantime, I’m at work courtesy of a ride from a co-worker who commutes to Omaha, but I’m without transportation until this thing gets fixed. In the meantime, a prayer or two for the beige bomber would be greatly appreciated.

Driving to Omaha

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been putting a whole bunch of extra miles on my poor little Taurus. You see, I live and work in Lincoln, Nebraska, but I’ve been spending more and more time communiting to Omaha on the weekends. Since I discovered the Omaha Jitterbugs last May, I’ve been going regularly to Jitterbugs Night Out, almost every Friday. Just recently, I signed up for more Lindy Hop classes on Wednesday nights, which gives me another commute to Omaha. On Saturday, I had another trip up to Omaha to attend a joint birthday party for some mutual friends in Omaha who I’d met through swing dance and got to try some country dancing, limbo, and even the macarena. I was going to return to Omaha yet again this evening to attend Terra Nova, but tonight’s event was cancelled due to the weather. Next week I’m planning on coming back, however, because on Saturday night a local improv group will be putting on a show and I’m going to take along some friends to go see them. All in all, I’m putting several hundred extra miles on my car every week, but you know something? It’s worth it. I’ve made so many cool friends out in Omaha that I’m starting to include some of them regularly in my web comic. Last night, several people told me that I should just go break down and move to Omaha rather than spend all this time driving back and forth. I’ve had the same thoughts myself. Several people manage to commute between Lincoln and Omaha every day, so it’s certainly possible. I wouldn’t be saving any gas, of course, until my trips to Omaha become more than five a week. Of course, at this rate, that may soon happen.