February 5, 2023

Visiting Old Friends in Phoenix, Arizona


Visiting Old Friends in Phoenix, Arizona
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for February 5, 2023

We spent a few days exploring Phoenix, Arizona and visiting old friends last week.

Our first visit was to see Jason and Jen.  They live on the outskirts of Phoenix right near the mountains.  I loved walking around their place and hearing stories of them seeing wild horses, coyotes, and other desert critters.

We went out to breakfast at a restaurant which I can't remember the name of, but they seemed to be awfully fond of Coca-Cola.

We then went for a hike at Papago Park.  Jen told us it is also called  the Hole in the Rock, but I couldn't figure out why.

As we got closer, I started figuring it out a bit.  There really is a big hole in the rock!  We liked going in and out of it over and over again.

We enjoyed spending the day exploring.  It probably helped that it was about 80 degrees warmer here than it was back home.  That always seems to make exploring more enjoyable.

We stopped by the Arizona Biltmore Hotel to have a drink.  We were able to finagle a private tour of their historic property that's hosted a bunch of celebrities and former presidents since it opened in 1929.  We even were able to get into the famed Gold, Mystery and History rooms which was quite the treat.

  Later that afternoon we made it over to Kim and Mike's house.  They have a lovely home near the heart of Phoenix and we enjoyed catching up on old times with them.

We also had the opportunity to visit with Chad and Riann who we haven't seen in person since before the pandemic began.  It was great seeing them again.

We have seen Chad and Teresa since the pandemic began, but probably not in the past year or so.  Kind of sad that we all still live in Minnesota together but have to travel to Arizona to hang out again.  We're going to have to fix that.

 Last but not least was the couple who gave us the reason to make a trip to Phoenix.  It was Vickie's 75th birthday and the family invited us to her surprise party.  

She had a whole bunch of friends and family show up for the party and I think she was pretty surprised to see everyone again all gathered in the desert.  As per usual, the family threw an amazing party complete with story-telling, skits, sing-alongs, and other general rooting and tooting types of activities.  We had a blast.

I moved to Clear Lake, Iowa my sophomore year in high school and the Hornbuckle family were some of my best friends.  I spent a lot of time at their house for various celebrations.  Some of which I was even invited to attend!

Their family has grown quite a bit larger since those days and they're all just a bunch of really good people.  Well, most of them are anyways.

We spent a couple of nights celebrating with one another and had plenty of laughs.  We also created some new memories that I'm sure we'll talk about for years.  

On Sunday, Miss Sheri and I went to do some exploring on our own.  We drove into the mountains to Canyon Lake.

I always try to get out on the water when on vacation even when we're going to the desert.  We found an excursion called the Dolly Steamboat which would take us for a 90 minute cruise through 6 miles of scenic Canyon Lake.

We got lucky and were able to find some seats at the front of the boat.  We braced ourselves for a tour to seek out some desert critters.

It didn't take long before we were rewarded with watching a big herd of bighorn sheep meander through the tops of the hills.  The captain seemed impressed that there were so many together all at once.  They were way up at the top so hard to see with the naked eye but Miss Sheri was able to capture some fun photos with the Zoom Lens.

We get to see more than our fair share of bald eagles back in Minnesota, but we still enjoy seeing them even out in the desert.

We stopped by Goldfield Ghost Town before heading back to town.  It's an actual old west town that was founded in 1893 after the discovery of gold in the nearby Superstition Mountains.  It's now been restored and serves as a tourist attraction with various folks dressed up as old west characters complete with a shootout in the middle of town.

We enjoyed visiting with the locals and checking out the shops and other buildings.  

Phoenix is a great place to visit!  I think we even caught a glimpse of that Chinese Spy Balloon off in the distance while we were there.


January 22, 2023

A Wolves Rocket Ride


A Wolves Rocket Ride
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for January 22, 2023

It was a mellower week for us.  I stopped by the boys house on Saturday morning to check out the Bachelor Life.  It reminds me a lot of what it was like when I was in college except the TVs are quite a bit bigger now.

Luke & I headed to downtown Minneapolis on Saturday night to watch the Minnesota Timberwolves take on the Houston Rockets.  

Whenever I go to a Wolves game, my primary goal is to get my picture on the big screen.  I'm pleased to say I was successful again.  We almost left after this was done, but then decided to stick around and watch the game instead.

The Rockets had lost 12 games in a row before this game.  I figured that would be a perfect opportunity for the Timberwolves to have a bad loss.  I've been a fan for a long time so just kind of used to these things.

Things were a bit rocky in the first half, but Anthony Edwards had a huge night scoring 44 points and leading the home team to a 113-104 victory.  The Timberwolves are quietly figuring things out this year having won 8 of their last 11 games and sneaking into the 7th position in the western conference.  Considering two of our biggest stars have been out for awhile, this team may make some noise come playoff time.  We'll see.

  It's still been cold and full of snow around home, so we don't go outside much.  We did make some time to take Blue for a walk out on the lake and watch the ice fisher people for awhile.  Then we went back inside where it was warm.

January 16, 2023

Spending a night in Folsom Prison


Spending a night in Folsom Prison
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for January 16, 2023

I had lunch with my old buddy, Steve "Cuds" Cuddihy on Thursday.  We hadn't seen each other in awhile so we had a pleasant time catching up primarily on Fantasy Sports, but we fit some other chit chat topics in there as well.

On Friday night, Miss Sheri and I found ourselves in Folsom Prison.  At least it looked a lot like Folsom Prison.  It was actually a theatrical experience meant to re-create the concert that Johnny Cash and his band played in Folsom Prison back in 1968.

If you've ever seen the movie Walk the Line, you'll know the story of the man in black, Johnny Cash.  This is from the Folsom Prison Experience Website "This fun semi-immersive drama delivers a high intensity recreation of one of Johnny Cash's most important days in his musical career.  Now in hind sight, it's amazing how well everything turned out as Johnny was in a pretty bad funk at the time.  Johnny's first marriage was ended that exact day and this effected him deeply.  The band had a hard time getting Johnny interested in recording in the studio so they decided to record LIVE in a prison.  What could go wrong?  Well come and find out just how drama filled this day was.  The now seemingly simple act of recording a show for a record in front of a captive audience in a prison was anything but simple.  The Folsom Prison Experience is directed by Stephanie Long and takes you back to this special day and gives you the drama of the day."

Jay Ernest played Johnny Cash and apparently has been the front man for a band called Church of Cash for some time.  He does a really nice job playing the part and sounds a lot like him.  Kat Perkins played June Carter and was also great.  She was a former semi-finalist on The Voice.  

Granted the music is all from an era that is a little before both of our times, we ended up really enjoying it.  It was a nice mix of a concert and an interactive play where the audience got to feel like they were part of the show.  

On Saturday night, we headed down to Minneapolis to watch our Minnesota Timberwolves take on the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Cleveland features a couple of Timberwolves stars of the past.  Both Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love played in the game and each of them received a warm welcome from the crowd at Target Center.  Minnesota Nice prevails.

The home team put on a good show and won the game by a score of 110-102.  We had a nice time cheering them on to victory.

The highlight of the weekend was going to see the NFL Playoff matchup between our Minnesota Vikings and the New York Giants.  We've seen a lot of exciting football this year so we were geared up for another thrilling game.

US Bank Stadium was as full as we've ever seen it when we arrived.  People were pumped up like these two who appeared as if they were ready to start pillaging the food court at any moment.

We believed our Vikings were in for a win.  We believe in a lot of things that don't come true.

We enjoyed watching local celebrities on the field before the game began.  Timberwolves co-owner, Alex Rodriguez, took photos with Anthony Edwards and Olympic gold medalist wrestler, Gable Stevenson. amongst others.  

  One of the greatest running backs of all time, Adrian Peterson, was there to support the Vikings.  Miss Sheri caught this moment when he and Adam Thielen met on the sidelines.

She also ventured over to see our good friends, the Brown Family.  
I love the shirt, Troy!

 I'm sure I don't need to tell anyone the results of the game, but there were many exciting moments from Kirk Cousins and the offense.  They've provided us so many highlights this season and this game added several more.

Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley, and the Giants proved too much for our defense and the Vikings season full of exciting comebacks came to an end when they lost the game by a score of 31-24.  It was a bunch of fun this season and now we'll just have to hope they can make the needed improvements in the offseason so they can take a deeper run in the playoffs next year.

On our way home from the game, we met up with Luke and Avery to drown our sorrow in some beers and Buffalo Wild Wings.  It was a pleasant ending to a busy weekend.

January 8, 2023

A New Year of Too Much Snow

A New Year of Too Much Snow

Todd Swank's Diary Entry for January 8, 2023

2023 has started much like 2022 ended.  With too much dang snow.  Mother Nature dropped another 16 inches on us this past week and we already had a pretty good base to begin.  It's weeks like this that I'm really glad I work from home, but it sure does get old being stuck inside all the time.

We've had an interesting mix of wet heavy snow followed by extreme cold so the trees have a crunchy layer of snowy white crystals covering them like a frosty coating of ice cream.  They'd be beautiful to view if it wasn't so painful to go outside to do it.

On Friday night, Miss Sheri and I headed to downtown Minneapolis to watch our beloved Minnesota Timberwolves take on the Los Angeles Clippers.

It was bucket hat night, so we were thrilled to add a new fashion accessory to our wardrobes.  I can't imagine ever wearing them again, but they'll make a nice addition to our closets until we decide to throw them away a few years from now.

The Wolves have had an interesting year.  They pulled off a huge trade to land center Rudy Gobert in the offseason, but it hasn't quite translated to success yet.  They were 18-21 going into this game, but had won 2 in a row so we were hoping to see them add a 3rd win to the streak.

Our favorite player, Anthony Edwards, was in the game.  However, one of their other stars, Karl-Anthony Towns, has been out injured the past few weeks. 

Karl's dad was there even though his son wasn't playing.  He likes to sit courtside and jump in with the cheerleaders when they're throwing T-shirts out into the crowd.  During Karl's very 1st home game, we sat next to Karl Senior and he was very nice to us.  I don't think he remembers us, though, unfortunately.  I'd love to sit next to him again down on the court one of these days!

Anthony Edwards left the game early with some hip soreness.  The Clippers were playing without two of their stars, Kawhi Leonard & Paul George, as well so the game ended up being between a lot of bench players for the most part.

Lucky for us, Rudy had one of his biggest games in a Wolves uniform scoring 25 points and grabbing 21 boards.  The Wolves easily won the the game by a score of 128-115 and extended their win streak to 3.  And I had a new bucket hat!

Saturday night we connected with our buddies, the Walters Family.  We started out with some pizza at Turtles Bar & Grill in Shakopee.

We wrapped up the evening at Babe's Place with a raucous karaoke session. The joint was bumping and we had a blast wailing on the mic. If only I had a shred of musical talent, I could really shine at karaoke. But hey, I still love the microphone just as much as the next tone-deaf person!

Miss Sheri is a veritable vocal goddess, but getting her to perform is like pulling teeth. Luckily, I finally convinced her to take the mic and she treated us to a sultry cover of Adele's "Someone Like You". A few other ladies even joined in and turned it into a full-blown sing-along. Now if only I could persuade her to let me post the video online...