August 2, 2020

Horseback Riding in Estes Park, Colorado

Horseback Riding in Estes Park, Colorado
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for August 2, 2020

For my 50th and my twins 21st birthdays, we were supposed to fly to Vegas.  Since the virus made us cancel that trip, we thought we should do a road-trip instead.  So we hopped in the car and decided to drive 850 miles to Colorado.  We drove through South Dakota and Nebraska before arriving and saw a lot of amazing things along the way including this field of sunflowers!

We turned South just short of the Badlands and drove through the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.  It was a pretty surreal adventure because we literally drove for  more than 100 miles without seeing a building.  No houses or gas stations or anything.  Just nature.

We witnessed a couple of bizarre sights including this cow who was all by his lonesome standing on a bluff looking like he was contemplating ending it all.  We are very hopeful that he didn't jump, but really have no way of knowing if he did or not.

We also drove by what we thought looked like a funeral for a baby horse.  Hopefully he was just resting and they were all gently trying to wake him up.

 Eventually we made it to Colorado.  Our first activity was horseback riding in Estes Park.  The drive up Big Thompson Canyon is quite an experience.  This thing floods every now and then which I can only imagine is quite terrifying.

Going to Colorado for vacation wasn't our idea.  Krazy Kory was going there with his kids and invited us to join him.  We debated back and forth for a couple of weeks until we finally decided to do it.  We're so glad we did!

Kory used to live in Estes Park and remembered that Sombrero Stables offered horseback riding to the public.  They had 1, 2, and 3 hour rides so we picked the middle one.  I wasn't sure if my body was ready for 3 hours on a horse, but 2 hours worked out quite nicely.

We had 6 riders plus our guide.  Cowgirl Harli was at the front of our crew.

Kowboy Krazy Kory was next in line and looking like quite the stud on his big ole horse.

Cowboy "Lasso" Luke was in the middle and kept us all entertained with his regular shout-outs that all didn't seem quite right with his horse.  I think he was just teasing us because I never saw any real drama coming from his part of the line.

Cowboy "Ace" Avery had probably the orneriest horse in the group.  He literally kicked my horse in the face a couple of times and was constantly trying to eat vegetation when he was supposed to be walking.  My poor, sweet horse took it all in stride and just kept walking even though I have to think that must have really hurt to take a horseshoe directly in the chops.

I've ridden horses a few times in my life.  It was a bit stressful climbing up and down the steep parts and I must admit getting a bit nervous whenever she stumbled over a rock.  But all in all, I was pretty pleased with how things went.  Until I stepped off that is.  I had no idea how much of a workout it was on my legs gripping that thing for 2 hours straight.  I definitely felt that ride for the next couple of days.

We didn't get as many pictures of Miss Cowgirl Sheri as we would have liked primarily because she was the one who had the camera and took most of the pictures during the ride.  We're not quite skilled enough to pass the camera back and forth from horse to horse yet.

Estes Park is really beautiful and this was the perfect way to start our vacation.

The ride was relatively simple.  The horses know the routes well and other than the occasional trip on a rock, there wasn't too much drama.

Miss Sheri got a nice view of a lot of horse butts for much of the trip.  Some of those were even sitting on top of the saddle.

Horseback riding in Estes Park was a bunch of fun.  We highly recommend it if you have the opportunity to do it yourself!

July 26, 2020

50 Years On This Earth

50 Years On This Earth
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for July 26, 2020

My twins, Luke & Avery, celebrated their 21st birthday last week and I celebrated my 50th birthday this week.  Which ended up being perfect timing because it allowed them to surprise me with some of my favorite IPA and a shot of Fireball.  I think I'm going to really enjoy them being of legal age.  

We'd planned on spending our special birthdays in Las Vegas, but Covid caused us to scrap those plans a couple of weeks ago.  A close second to Vegas was spending the night with Grandma Linda at Whiskey Inferno in Savage, Minnesota and enjoying the Butcher's Feast!  

Grandma Linda can never get enough meat in her life.  It's always been her weakness.

Miss Sheri and I take a daily 2 mile walk and we always walk over this bridge.  Often times, we see a lone egret sitting in this creek and fishing.  We have a lot of egret around us, so that's not particularly surprising.  What I do find unusual about it, though, is I never see more than one egret down there.   So is this the same one we see every time or are there different ones?  If it's the same one, does he consider this his special place and doesn't tell his buddies about it because he wants to keep all the fish to himself?  I gotta be honest.  If that is the case, I'm a little disappointed in him.  Just seems kind of selfish to me.

It wasn't all birds and birthdays this week, though.  We also pulled out the boat and had some buddies on the tube.  It was a blast.

We met up with Josh & Jenni's parents, John & Eileen, in Candy Cove and tied up for awhile.  We hadn't seen them since the quarantine started so it was great to catch up with them and float.

 Our good friend, Grace, celebrated her graduation from high school this week.  We all know how tough 2020 has been on high school seniors, so we were happy for her that she was finally able to celebrate.  We wish her the best in her next phase of life!

July 19, 2020

Our First Trip Out Of State Since The Pandemic Began

Our First Trip Out Of State Since The Pandemic Began
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for July 19, 2020

It was a big week for birthdays in the Swank Household.  First up were Luke and Avery who became officially legal when they turned 21 on Tuesday.  Naturally what does every red-blooded American boy want to do first when they turn 21?  Spend time with their grandmother of course.  So that's what we did.  Grandma Linda came over for a visit and I think that really set the day off on a good foot.

We tried to restore one of our favorite traditions with their birthday by going to Benihana.  It's the restaurant where we like to spend special occasions.  Crazy how many changes they have going on in the current environment, but it was still nice to have the option to go there.  Next time, we're even hoping they'll start being able to serve food again.

Shocking I know, but we did end up in a bar to finish the evening.  They had a couple of friends come out with them and then mom and dad left the building.  I believe that's when the real debauchery started happening.

I am turning 50 on Monday so the second celebration of the week was on Saturday.  Miss Sheri and I drove down to Clear Lake, Iowa to see our old buddies, "Krazy" Kory Madson and Ron "Sugarman" Myers.  It was our first time seeing each other since the pandemic began, so we had a lot of catching up to do.

Even with good friends, Miss Sheri is still trying to do her best at social distancing.  Lucky for us, Ron & Kory were happy to accommodate her.

We went to the Boulder Tap House in Mason City for lunch.  This was my first time visiting, but I was very impressed with the food and beer selections.

We had big plans to be in Vegas this week for our birthdays, but that had to be postponed.  I was happy to be able to at least have a little bit of time celebrating with friends to commemorate turning the big 5-0.

We stopped at Ransom's in Mason City to play a few games of pool which has been one of our favorite activities to do together for more than 30 years now.

Before leaving town, we thought it would be fun to stop by to see one of our classmates, Neal.  He seemed pretty happy to see us.

I enjoy stopping by Neal's farm because he always has very interesting critters.  Last time we visited, he had a horse that thought he was a dog.  This time he had some hairy chickens who weren't very friendly despite my best efforts to pet them.  That wasn't going to happen!

July 12, 2020

The Heat of the Summer 2020

The Heat of the Summer 2020
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for July 12, 2020

Avery made a visit to the Mayo Clinic this week for a check-up with the cardiologist.  We're pleased that everything looks A-OK and he doesn't need to have a check-up again for another 3 years.  Those are the kind of doctor visits we really love.

In our quest to continue to discover activities that keep us entertained without involving crowds of people, our journey brought us to Cleary Lake park this week.  We thought it would be fun to rent a canoe.  I was thrilled when Avery decided to join us because it downgraded my role from paddler to passenger.  

I suppose I could have stepped up and requested Miss Sheri to be the passenger and I could be the paddler, but she really wanted to paddle and I just can never say no to my wife.

We only paddled around for an hour or so, but it was a beautiful, quiet ride and had it not been so dang hot, we probably would have stayed out there for the 2nd hour we rented.

A park building was burned down this week about a block away from our house.  The police don't know if it was caused by fireworks or arson or whatever, but it's sad people won't be able to enjoy these picnic tables anymore because of someone's shenanigans.

We've never been big on guns in our house, but 2020 has caused us to re-think that mindset.  There's been a couple of times this year already where I had to wonder "What if I called the police and they weren't able to come to my house?"  We thought taking a class called "Intro to Handguns" would be a good place to start.

The class primarily consists of learning all the rules about gun safety and then trying out a variety of handguns to learn which ones you prefer.  We didn't really care for the orange one.

Miss Sheri has always been gifted when it comes to stuff like this and once again, she didn't disappoint.  

Avery was the most accurate shooter which probably isn't very surprising.  I guess all those hours playing video games were good for something.

Luke is also a gamer, so he did pretty good as well.  Although he mentioned something that the real gun has a bit more of a kick than the game controller, so I think that took some getting used to.

This is Hans.  He was the one we coordinated with to take the class and is quite the guru when it comes to firearms.  It was a very interesting experience.

To continue on the theme of alleviating boredom, we thought it might be fun to drag the old tube out of storage.  Despite some serious efforts at patching up old leaks, it still works pretty well.  It's fun to be able to whip my kids around the lake for awhile.

Our desire to keep hiking brought us back to Cleary Lake Park to walk around the lake.

The best part of the day was when this little guy bounded out of the woods to see us.  He seemed very curious about Blue, but then was startled by a biker who came along from the other direction and ran back into the woods.

When we walked forward to see him again, we saw that his mother was nearby keeping an eye on the little rascal.  Moms have a tendency to do that.