Monday, June 30, 2014

Tornado Warning!!!

So you think you're old and can't get around very fast??  Just wait until your weather radio blasts out a TORNADO WARNING about 8:00 pm.  Let me tell you, I can move a lot quicker than I thought!!

Yesterday began with an amazing Elks Belgian Waffle breakfast, complete with eggs, bacon, homemade cinnamon rolls and juice.  This lodge is pretty new and simply gorgeous inside.
Then it was back to the rigs for some Sunday Morning TV.  My bug bites were getting the best of me, so I headed off to a Pharmacy looking for a quick fix, and checked out Boot Barn.  They had a huge sign over the door ... GRAND OPENING ... except they were closed.  Talk about false advertising, all I could see was large paint cans on the floor.  A stop at Target for After Bite itchy medicine and (don't tell anyone) Michaels for some $1.99 yarn, I settled myself in to the couch for some knitting and puppy time.  After our previous incident of Sneaky Britches Pansy, Jessie kept an eye on her all afternoon.
At 5:00 we drove the short distance to CULVERS for dinner.  I understand this is one of Nick Russell's favorite burger places.  Since I noticed the dangerous words "frozen custard" on the way in, I didn't have a famous butter burger, but a salad ... because I KNEW a Turtle Sundae would be a treat I couldn't turn down.  I was right ... it screamed my name and I jumped all over it!!!  YUM!!
Around 6:30 is when the first tornado watch happened.  Unlike before when I made a mad dash for the Westerfield rig to see what we were going to do, I tried to remain calm and cool when the radio blast went off.  There were still lots of people at the Elks Lodge, and I'm sure they will let us in the building ... which has walls of glass ... probably not much help.
When the SECOND notice came screeching over the radio and it said TAKE COVER, I was a goner!!  In two seconds I was in the Westerfield rig, where Tom explained he had knocked on the Elks door and asked about a keycard to get us in, just in case.  They told him they never had a tornado here and there were no keycards to give out.  Yikes!!  I guess we're on our own!!  After checking out all the radar maps we could find, the "not-yet" tornado storm was passing by us to the North.  Back at my rig, I watched the news until 9:30 when the NOW tornado touched down in Atchison Kansas, about 70 miles Northwest,  I breathed a huge sign of relief ... WHEW that was a close one!!!

I'm pretty sure I lost another six months of life after that scare, but I guess seeing the U.S. is still better than sitting in a rocker on the porch!!  The bug bites??  They're not much better.  I did read that they don't like vinegar or lemon juice ... mix some with water and spray on your legs to keep them away.  I did one better ... I sprayed my entire RV, including the bed sheets inside and out, with a vinegar mixture.  No new bites this morning, so we'll see how it goes.  Pretty sure I won't be meeting any nice gentleman though, since vinegar perfume isn't the best!!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Moving On Down The Road .....

Since our work with Skills USA was complete and our Jackson County campground reservation ending, we drove off into the sunset ... again ... only the sun wasn't quite shining and we went maybe 10 miles!!  While Barbara and Tom took daughter Jenny to the airport, I packed up my rig and drove over to the Elks Lodge in Blue Springs.  With the exception of a few clouds, it looked like this when I arrived.  The Elkettes were having a family fun day, complete with dunk tank, so I pulled in to a corner and hooked up to power.

Ten minutes later, the bounce house when flying off in the breeze with two kids in it, landing upside down in the rocks.  They immediately squashed THAT idea and shipped it back to the rental company, asking me to now move to the other side.  No problem, I had a birds-eye view of the dunk tank
When Barbara called to see if the festivities were over, I said "come on down"!!!   In less than 5 minutes it looked like this!!!  That's a big river running over the gravel parking lot, under my rig and down the hill ... thank goodness there IS a hill.  I'm backed in to one of eight full hookups with good power.  I'm pretty sure it's never rained as much in my entire LIFE in California as it did in 60 minutes here.  Tom, being the great driver he is, not only got here, but backed in just as the rain was letting up.  By final hookup, we were all soaked to the bone!!
At $15 a night, this is the view out my back door this morning.  Another lodge with wonderful people who are VERY serious about their barbecue.  In back of the building is a stainless steel smoker as big as my jeep!!
It rained most of the afternoon, so the puppies napped while I kept an eye on the radar.  I'm a little more relaxed about the storms, but not enough to put my phone down!!  It finally cleared up enough for us to find the local Panera Bread restaurant for some good eats.
At the bottom of the hill behind me, Tom discovered these beauties cruising for bugs after the rain.  They gobbled and swaggered, all the while keeping a close watch out for predators.
I don't know how they survive the ticks and bugs ... I'm up to 8 bites now that itch like crazy.  Anyone have any remedies so it doesn't look like I'm doing the crazy dance??
Waffles drenched in syrup, breakfast food of champions, is on the Elks menu this morning, so I'd best get going ... looking forward to a sunny day and maybe a trip to Boot Barn!!!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Mike Rowe From "Dirty Jobs" Says Hello!!

AND THE WINNER IS ........ heard over 600 times last night!!

It was Awards Ceremony time at the 50th Annual Skills USA National Leadership and Skills Conference in Kansas City.  The Kemper Arena was stacked to the brim with kids screaming every time their State name was announced.  After the quickest buffet dinner ever, prepared for the judges and sponsors, we headed backstage and into the stands to take our place.  There wasn't an empty seat in the house!!  This being my first time here, I was pretty impressed with the whole organization.
The outgoing officers welcomed the incoming officers who didn't know they had been elected until their name was read!!  This is kind of like the Republican and Democratic National Conventions combined ... it's that crazy!!
Although I knew Mike Rowe was going to be a speaker here, the kids had no idea he would return this year for an award ... and they went crazy when his name was announced!!  So did I ... he's one of my favorite people who has put aside over a million dollars in scholarships that is being given to kids and adults alike who want to attend Tech Schools and get jobs that will help rebuild America and bring our outsourced jobs back to the States.  He's also one of the most well-spoken, well-written funny guys I've seen.  As you can tell by his dress, he doesn't put on a show ... or a suit!!  Just a very humble down to earth guy trying to help people get jobs!!
He's been filming while here in Kansas City for his new show "Someone's Gotta Do It" which will premier on CNN sometime in the next couple of months.  AND he just adopted a small rescue puppy named Freddie.  Be sure to check the schedule and watch ... you'll see what this organization is all about.
After accepting the award, he noted that no one seems to know who Skills USA is ... which is true.  Although they have been around for 50 years helping millions of kids learn trades the U.S. really needs to keep it going, Skills USA hasn't been heard of by most people.  Maybe with a little help from the Dirty Jobs guy, they can achieve even more success.
I think he was a little surprised he's such a huge hit with the kids ... they hung on his every word and screamed like banshees!!!
Dirty Jobs ended after two years of huge popularity ... I still watch the reruns and laugh like crazy ... and he's been looking for a new project that promotes the ordinary-guy workforce that keeps America afloat.  Though he's put up tons of money for scholarships, not many people are applying, so he's trying to get the word out, just like Skills USA ... that everyone doesn't have to get a College or University Degree and end up working at McDonalds for lack of jobs.  You really CAN go to a Tech School to get training for jobs that are immediately available!!  Since Skills USA is right up his alley, he brought his cameraman to film a segment about Skills USA, which he's doing here.  
He spent the previous day filming with different groups of kids practicing their skills, and said he got his butt kicked.  
It took two takes to get it right as we all screamed "Someone's Gotta Do It" in ear splitting fashion, then he finished the segment and left the stage to more screams of approval.  Here's someone who identifies with the working stiffs ... and everyone loves him for it!!
Now on to reading the winners names ... third, second and first, along with their States, which brought rounds of screams from their section of the stadium.  Up to this point, no one knew who won what.  Needless to say there were some happy kids running to the stage.  The winners kept being named while the previous kids jumped up on the stand for recognition and pictures, which were given a couple seconds before the next few were called up.  Organized pandemonium is what I would call it!! 
These were the Job Interview kids we selected for medals.  Fernando Ortiz II wants to own his own restaurant ... and I think he has the gumption to do just that.  I've never seen anyone so passionate about having his own business.  Same goes for the second and third place.  
Jenny asked if I wanted to go onstage and hang the medals, but my feet were crying and I wanted to take pictures, so she and Barbara went.
Imagine this happening over 100 times!!!  Pretty cool to see the kids not only happy to win the gold medal making them the best in the nation at their skill, but to see their level of confidence skyrocket through the roof!!  From here, many will compete in the World Competition in Sao Paulo Brazil.
The final explosion ended the ceremonies ... but no worries, they'll be in Louisville Kentucky next year for an even bigger celebration with well over 6000 students competing!!
A big thank you to all the advisors, teachers, bus drivers, organizers and kids who make this possible by volunteering their time and money.  Also a big thank you to Mike Rowe ... with acknowledgement from people like him, more folks will know what Skills USA is all about!!  So pass it on ... 

Friday, June 27, 2014

There IS Hope For The Future After All ....

For everyone out there (including me) who thought the kids nowadays would probably just turn the earth into another giant Woodstock welfare line, there really is hope for the future ... and I saw it yesterday at the Skills USA competitions in Kansas City.  They are celebrating their 50th Anniversary, so I pretty much think they will be around for a long time to come.

There are many categories and competitions, as you will see below.  Tom and Barbara Westerfield invited me to be a judge this year at the Job Interview Competition their daughter Jenny chairs every year, and I'm SOOO glad they did.  The final 20 Secondary (high school) kids were from all over the U.S. and I can't tell you how impressed I was with the demeanor, attitude and professionalism they exhibited.  There are also finalists from Post Secondary, like community college, some young, some much older.  While their job applications were judged by another, our panel of three judged their resumes (which could have used a little help) and then interviewed them.  In my neighborhood I've never met kids like this ... what I mean is, I'm SURE these kids can run the world with no problem.  What a shock!!!

This program is spitting out HIGH SCHOOL kids that can build a house, doing all the electrical, plumbing, roofing and masonry.  This team building competition had 44 teams of 4 kids each, including some females, that built small versions of a house.
The house shows their skills in steel studs as well as wood, electrical, plumbing, masonry, roofing, siding and window installation, completely built from scratch using plans. 
From here on I'm showing all individual competitions.  Each station below was an electrical installation.  The blank two walls on the right??  That's all they had to start with.  Plans in hand, they have to figure out what they need, pick it up at the "store", gather their tools and complete the project.
Plumbing ... above AND below floor including copper tubing and every kind of joint imaginable.
These guys built a dormer window ... like the one on top of your house.  At the end, each is judged and the top three are awarded medals ... and TONS of amazing prizes (everything they would need to go to work tomorrow) along with scholarships or just plain cash.  These were the hardest working kids I've ever seen ... and yes, there were girls here too!!
Independent Electrical Contractors ... each group had an allotted time in which to complete their project.
Did you know California has these programs??  I sure didn't ... never even heard of it.  They don't have ALL of them ... masonry isn't one thats in my State ... but it was included here.  Now I'm not saying everyone is perfect ... I probably wouldn't want this nice kid to construct my outdoor kitchen barbecue, but he never gave up.  He just kept working until he was done, and he gets big "ups" from me for that!!  So does the girl who had to tear it down and rebuild because she forgot the two concrete blocks in the middle.  Come on ... they're in High School!!!
One of the more interesting competitions was cosmetology.  There were some pretty weird "doos" that wouldn't be my piece of cake, but they were amazing to see!!
There were commercial bakers ... their results being judged here.  You might want to pick and choose on this one ... some were a little overdone ... but that's fixable and you won't starve!!
Culinary ... who knew there were so many kids interested in owning their own restaurant!!  THIS competition filled the hall with the most amazing smells.  I would have eaten ANY of the meals prepared here!!
Hydraulic repairs ... Caterpillar supplied all the equipment for these competitions.  If you have a leak, they can fix it!!!
Motorcycle repair ... they only have two hours to replace the battery, change the oil and plugs and do two more complicated repairs that I can't remember!!  It took me two hours just to figure out how to GET to the battery on my Harley!!
Same kid still working ... I just wanted a picture of the Harley Judge.  I think maybe he knows Duck Dynasty!!  MY kind of guy!!  His twin brother was judging on the other end of the line.  Hey Dan Chance, do you know this gentleman???  Harley Davidson Motorcycles donated all the bikes and a nice Harley they were giving away in a raffle.
This was Esthetics I think ... makeup for movies.  Their competition was to make up their model for a part in an Avatar movie.  
A few of these girls (and guys) were years beyond the rest, creating amazing art like this one.
And THIS one ... 
I was very surprised to see Nikon here.  This is Photography ... right up my alley ... and the prizes they are giving away along with some cash.
They had to take four images around this area and make the composite (the top picture) using Photoshop CS6.  It's not easy folks ... took me two full years to learn just the basics of Photoshop.
Mig, Tig and Acetylene welding ... 
Robotics ... they had to build their machine, then go through rounds of competitions, including knocking the ball off the top and gathering up the small ones, placing them in a certain area.
Machining ... wow this is amazing.  Read the drawings, program the machine and cut out this part.  Very cool to watch!!
Furniture building ... from drawings, they had to cut every piece of wood and make this cabinet.  Pretty impressive!!
Here's some of the competitions I didn't show ... Advertising Design, Architectural Drafting, Audio/Radio Production, Automotive Refinishing Technology, Broadcast News Production, Heath Care Skills, Aviation Maintenance, Computer Maintenance, Criminal Justice, Crime Scene Investigation, Dental Assisting, Firefighting, Graphics Imaging, Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning, Industrial Motor Control, Marine Service, Major Appliance Repair, Humanoid Robotics ... it just goes on and on!!

So I'm glad to know the world just might be in good hands after all!!  Tonight the closing ceremonies will be held back at Kemper Arena, next to this great sculpture to honor the Kansas City Stockyards that were once located here.  Kind of hard to see, but two panels (each from 1" steel) were cut out together, then erected three feet apart.  There were about six sections lined up together.  The cutouts weren't thrown away, they were placed on top of small mounds in the area to remind people of the Old West Stockyards.  
I sort of expected to see remnants of corrals, but since this was also the area where the slaughterhouses were and the smell wasn't exactly like roses, the entire place was leveled and replaced with brick buildings, most of which are now empty.  The American Royal Stock Shows are held here throughout the year ... and we will be having cocktails there tonight.  I'm sorry it's almost over, but my feet are looking forward to a long rest on the couch!!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Short and Sweet ... and Opening Ceremonies!!

I have to leave in 30 minutes, I'm charging my phone and my camera and still haven't fed the dogs, so this is going to be pretty short and sweet!!

Up at 4:30 am (yawn), it was not a bad drive into the City.  From there on, it was organized chaos, as the judges arrived and took their place for the meeting.  Here's three local people who hire as well as finding jobs for kids, getting their certificates for a job well done!
The judges eating .....
Opening Ceremonies ... I forgot my camera, which wouldn't have been allowed in the backpack anyway ... so here are a few quick i-phone pics.
The kids as officers of the organization.
Lots of crazy lights ... each State's kids bring all kinds of flashing light gizzys that they keep lit the entire time!!
The main floor ... 6000 kids plus advisors, teachers, friends and family.
Caterpillar is the main sponsor of this event and had a video of two excavators playing Jenga ... pretty cool!!  Then they showed one of their smaller pieces of equipment in a china shop, moving one glass.
It was pretty impressive ... mostly because that has got to be the best small equipment operator I've ever seen!!!  Yeah part of it's the tractor, but mostly it's his finesse. 
The keynote speaker was Chris Fischer, who at 29 lost his job and decided to hang his hat on a idea of helping keep sharks alive instead of having them in your soup.  Eventually, with no money or experience, he got a boat and went shark tagging to see where they spent their time.  You probably saw it on TV.

This huge female was caught off the East Coast.  Long story short, we now have amazing information on shark territories that he has made available ... FREE ... to anyone who cares to check it out.
Gotta run .... final interviews today!!!