Category Archives: A Day in the Life

General happenings. Typically more narrative and journalistic.

To Build a Fire, Part 2

This is the continuation of this.

I made the fire on the third and final night.  I had made one the night before, but it was nothing compared to this one, so I’m leaving it out.  I pulled out my hatchet and began splitting the wood–first into large pieces and then some smaller ones for kindling.  I then began striking with smooth, glancing blows causing fine, curled wood shavings to separate from the log, cleaved free effortlessly by the sharp blade.

I walked around the camp site gathering dry grass which I fashioned into a bird’s nest looking thing.  I carefully laid the nest in the center of the fire pit and filled it with the shavings.  I then build a small fortress around it, starting with the big logs and gradually getting smaller.

When I was done, I stepped back and admired my creation for a few moments before lighting a single match and tossing it right into the heart of the fortress.  A little flame rose cautiously, shy at first, but rapidly growing until the entire structure was ablaze creating heat so intense I had to move my chair back.

I sat gazing into the flames sipping my beer and feeling totally one with my primordial instincts.  Had someone addressed me during that moment, I may have responded:  “Me Andrew! Me make fire!”

To Build a Fire, Part 1

The trouble with him was that he was without imagination. He was quick and alert in the things of life, but only in the things, and not in the significances.

Jack London, To Build a Fire


This quote has nothing to do with this post.  It’s just one of my favorite lines from one of my favorite stories.  However, as we have spent the better part of January with temperatures never getting above freezing, it has felt a little bit like the Yukon.  Since we’re all longing for warmer weather, I decided to do a post that I should have written last summer but never got around to it.  It got pretty long, so I’ve decided to break it into two parts.  Robert, I hope it’s manly enough for you.

Last June, when Tara was gone for the week on business, I headed up into the mountains not far from my office for a few days of solo camping.  Granted, it was car camping, and that hardly counts when it comes to going solo, but I’d never done it before, and this was a good first step.  The plan was to spend the nights up at camp and come down each day to go to work.

When I arrived at Hope Campground up on Squaw Peak Wednesday evening after work, the campground hosts, a cute elderly couple from Florida, informed me every single spot was available.

“Anybody with you?” the man asked, looking curiously past me at my car, full of stuff, but void of another human being.

“Just me,” I replied.  Husband and wife gazed at me for a few seconds, their eyes slightly narrowed.

“Anybody meeting you?” He eventually asked, breaking the silence, and again I said no, feeling as though they suspected me of planning some sort of booty call up there.

The man abruptly stopped questioning me, put the friendly smile back on his face, and took my money and asked me if I needed firewood.  When I hesitated, because I did not have enough cash on me, he quickly told me it was free, and I accepted.  He retrieved a bundle of wood, tied with twine, which I took, thanked him and prepared to leave.

“Oh, you probably need some tinder!” He exclaimed suddenly and began rooting through the back of his pickup for bits of paper and other refuse that could be used as tinder.  I began to suspect that they felt bad for me coming up all alone.  The man, unable to find much in the way of paper grabbed a roll of paper towels.  I tried to gently decline his generosity, and he looked up confused, his hands poised to tear a few sheets from the roll.

“I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to fires,” I tried to explain, unsure of how to get the good-natured Florida couple to understand that I have a weird obsession with starting fires using only natural fuel.

“Well, this will burn pretty clean,” he tried to assure me, assuming me to be some sort of eco-freak.  I surrendered and took the paper towels, figuring I could always just use them for cleaning.

I did not have a fire that night.  Instead, I set up camp, grilled a steak which I washed down with a micro-brew, and headed for bead early.  I would be meeting up with the guys early the next morning for a mountain bike ride before work.  The trail was only a stone’s throw from my camp.

I awoke with a start quickly realizing I’d missed my alarm.  It had gotten down to around 40 during the night and my cell phone battery was completely exhausted.  It was 6:45 and I was supposed to meet the others at 6:30.  They may have already ridden by on the gravel road above the campground.  I jumped out of my sleeping bag, threw on clothes, downed half a can of Starbucks Double Shot, jumped on my bike and pedaled hard up out of the campground.  I had guessed right and managed to catch up with the others within a few minutes, my body still trying to figure out what the hell I was doing to it.

After a beautiful ride on Squaw Peak, I returned to camp for breakfast and a shower before heading down for work.  I had a solar shower that had been quite hot the evening before, but now was ice cold.  I had rigged up a crude structure with tarps to spare the host couple a view of my naked ass should they have happened by.

As I stood naked in my makeshift shower, shivering uncontrollably from the cold water, I was less than satisfied with its construction.  The ground was just dirt, so it immediately turned to mud.  It was also sloped, which proved to be nearly disastrous as I attempted to wash my hair and my feet slipped out from under me.  Blind from the soap in my eyes, I grabbed for anything that would save me from going ass-first into the mud.  I found the shower head, a small plastic sprayer attached to a tube that goes to the big black reservoir.  This provided just enough resistance to arrest my fall before it popped free from the reservoir.  I stood for a few moments afraid to move, the disembodied shower head in my hand, using my full lexicon of curse words two and a half times through while water from the bag sprayed everywhere.  I resolved to use the shower at work for the remainder of my camping.

The Pilates Experiment

Last night at the gym, I tried Pilates for the first time.  Tara and I have been talking about going to the class for a while now, but I kept chickening out.  Not last night!  I made it through the whole class.

It was not easy, however.  On the way up the stairs to the classroom, it was all I could do to keep from turning and running back down the stairs, seeking refuge in the basement amongst the free weights and B.O. where I spend most of my time at the gym. But Tara was with me serving as my permission slip for going to girls-only places and doing girls-only things.

It had started with the women’s clothing section.  I used to hate such shopping trips back when we were barely dating.  Waiting outside the dressing rooms alone, standing awkwardly amongst the intimate apparel, not knowing what to do with my hands left me longing for an invisibility cloak and some better antiperspirant.  But over time it got easier, and before I knew it, I was perfectly content in such circumstances.  We graduated to Victoria’s Secret, which eventually lead to a solo VS run last year when I got Tara some flannel PJ’s for Christmas.  Granted, it took me two laps around the mall to build up the kahunas to actually enter the store, but I eventually managed to slip in amongst a big group of teenage girls.

And so I decided I was finally ready for a Pilates class.  After all, Pilates works the core which improves balance and stability, which in turn improves the only thing that matters in life: Snowboarding.

We entered the classroom.  The estrogen count was through the roof.  Girls everywhere.  Some grabbing mats and baby-sized dumbbells from big totes, others already sitting cross-legged on their mats, shoes removed, still others using the restroom at the back of the classroom, the door inexplicably wide open.

At first, I only spotted one other man in the room–the ubiquitous fitness class creeper.  He looked to be in his mid 60s, was there alone, and was sporting a rather impressive handlebar mustache.  “Are you kidding me?”, I heard him mutter to himself as he came to stand behind me in line for a mat.  Perhaps he was mad another dude was there.  

Three other men had joined the class late.  One seemed to be quite experienced and also seemed to have a thing for the instructor.  The other two may have been gay.

With much guidance from Tara, I gathered my own compliment of Pilates gear and set up my space: Not-so-cushiony yoga mat goes on top of more-cushiony mat, exercise ball goes on top of ball holder (these are apparently for noobs only) .  I sat on my mat to remove my shoes, hoping to sit meditative like some of the other participants before the class began, but had barely gotten my shoes off when the instructor came in and immediately turned on loud pop music and started calling out maneuvers in what I can only describe as Pilates jargon.

The commands were coming so fast and so Chinese to me that I could only look at the instructor’s motions to figure out what the hell I was supposed to be doing.  Often, my view of the instructor was obscured by dozens of elevated legs, arms, or pelvises, so I had to watch Tara and some of the other people in the class who looked to me like they knew what they were doing.  This worked fairly well at first, but soon we were assuming positions and movements that typically require a browser history purge when viewed online.  It was at some point during this that the instructor actually used the word “Cervix”, and I was wondering what the heck I’d gotten myself into.

Once I was able to figure out what “Point”, “Flex”, “Articulate”, and “Pulse” mean in Pilates, I began to feel much less awkward and was actually rather enjoying myself.  I also realized the reason for the loud music, which I had found obnoxious at first, having expected Pilates to be a quiet, relaxing atmosphere.  The music covers up the inevitable mid-plank fart.  This phenomenon only happened to me once, but I caught whiff of another.  Tara, for the record, swears it was not her.

After the class, I felt totally relaxed and slept amazing that night.  Today I am friggin’ sore.  Who knew?  Pilates is actually a good workout.  I’ll probably go again, if only to see if the instructor says “Fallopian Tubes”.


After proofreading, Tara informed me the instructor said “Cervical” and was referring to the cervical spine, or the neck.  Wow, I was totally flexing the wrong area on that one…

AbsolutelyAndrew Turns 3!!

It has been 3 years since that infamous backroom deal went down in which a generous gift of server space made AbsolutelyAndrew possible.  In the weeks that followed, I would rise from street corner of Xanga hormone angst to the penthouse suite of self-hosted stardom.  If you have been with me ever since the pilot post, I salute thee.  And seriously, you rock.  Thank you.

I regret to admit that this past year was a slow one for AbsolutelyAndrew.  Our new house managed to take over much of the time that was previously reserved for blog updates.  Although I barely had the heart for it, I convinced myself to conduct my yearly Analytics review and select my top posts for the year.

Top Posts by Numbers:

  1. Dear Ex-Girlfriend
  2. Dresser Refurb
  3. Andy Sandberg Look-Alike
  4. In Which We Find Ourselves Homeowners
  5. Blog Dares 2012

My Favorite:

  1. Dear Ex-Girlfriend
  2. In Which We Find Ourselves Homeowners
  3. Christmas Letter 2012
  4. Andy Sandberg Look-Alike
  5. Mothers’ & Fathers’ Day Tributes

Check out the video at the bottom of the Christmas Letter for a compilation of all my favorite photos from the year.

Check out the New Header

I just updated my header photo and figured I’d better do a post to commemorate it.  I think this is the closest I’ve come to actually having the current season represented by the header (aside from leaving the same photo up for so long that the season comes around again).  However, as of this week, those mountains are already covered with snow.  Oh well, I’m not going to complain about that.

Andy Sandberg Look-Alike

This past January, Tara and I enjoyed our 3rd Sundance Film Festival.  We saw three films this year, one of which, Madrid 1987, was at the small, intimate theater at the Sundance Resort.  The journey up to the resort on that Saturday afternoon was exciting enough–Utah was finally getting hammered with a snowstorm and chains were required for the final few miles–but I was interested to try out our new chains anyway, so we chained up and made it to the resort without issue.

We took our seats in the theater with about 20 minutes to spare.  In an effort to look artsy for Sundance, I was wearing my fedora.  Presently, the couple next to us pulled out a camera and asked the people sitting in front of them to take a picture for them.  This picture taking continued for a surprisingly long time with multiple people being given the camera for different angles, each of which seeming to have me in them.  I even turned to Tara and said: “Why are these people taking so many pictures of a dark movie theater? I’m in like all of these pictures!”.

Eventually the photography subsided, and it wasn’t long before the guy was turning to me, and, as politely as he could muster: “Excuse me sir.  Sorry to bother you, but are you on SNL?”  I was floored.  Never in my life had I been mistaken for a celebrity.  I laughed and told him no.  He asked me if I am an actor, and I told him I’m just an engineer.  He then tried to recall the name of the celebrity whom they thought I was.  The couple in front of them chimed in, admitting that they too had thought I was Andy Sandberg.

Can’t quite figure that one out.  I can only guess that it was the fedora, and the fact that people are typically on high alert for celebrity sitings at the film festival.  Below are pictures of how I appeared on that snowy day and one of the more nerdy photos of Sandberg I could find.  I attempted to imitate his expression.

Photo on 2012 02 28 at 21 33

MV5BMTM1ODAwMDc2NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjUzNzg3MQ V1 SY314 CR13 0 214 314


I think those people were on crack.  I’m no celebrity look-alike.  Although I do sometimes do my “Justin Bieber” to seduce Tara.



That’s a joke, Fox News!!

I must admit, this is the most costume changes I’ve ever done for a post.  Awkward…

Oh yeah, the movie was great!



So This is Christmas…

Time got the best of us this holiday season and we did not get around to writing, printing, stuffing, and sending a Christmas letter.  With the Christmas rush over, I have decided to create an innovative, unprecedented interactive Christmas letter here.

2011 was a year of traveling for us.  Nothing major, just a whole bunch of weekend trips.  In fact, when I listed out everywhere we traveled over this past year, I came up with 24 items.  That’s a trip nearly every other weekend!  No wonder we feel exhausted!  So, in a project that took me more time than I care to admit, I added each location to the map below.  Each tag contains a brief description, photo (most of which original), and in many cases, a link to the post that goes with it!  Feel free to click through and see what we’ve been up to all year!

Expert tip: Embedded maps are awesome, but follow the link on the lower left: “2011 Travels” for an easier to use full-size map.

View 2011 Travels in a larger map


2011 was another good year for us career-wise.  Tara continues to really enjoy her job and seems to keep getting more letters behind her name.  She is currently up to M.S.L.C.G.C. which basically just says she knows her shit.

After a year at my job, unsure that I was cutting it, I was pleasantly surprised with a promotion to Lead Quality Assurance and Test Engineer.  The new position has been both challenging and rewarding as I now have 4 tremendously talented technicians reporting to me.  Thank goodness they don’t require much managing because I’m as green as they come!

We hope this finds you well.  Our biggest blessing in life continues to be amazing families and friends.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


Andrew & Tara

An anniversary trip to Wine Country

Back in August, Tara and I celebrated our 2nd anniversary.  Since we did not have any thawed wedding cake this year, we decided to take a mini vacation. Last fall we had the idea to go on a weekend trip to Grand Junction, CO for wine tasting.  A year later, that idea came to fruition.

We waited until mid-September so it wouldn’t be too hot and the fruit would be peaking.  At 3:30 Saturday morning, we boarded an eastbound Amtrak train with our bikes stowed in boxes and everything we needed for the weekend in our backpacks.

After a somewhat fitful sleep, we awoke to sunlight streaming through the train windows and enjoyed breakfast in the dining car before arriving in GJ at 10:30.  We unpacked the bikes, shouldered our packs, and started pedaling towards wine country.


Tara at the train station


The tour we embarked on that day was admittedly a little more than we had intended, but was worth every hard-earned mile.  In the end, we rode about 27 miles before rolling into the Bed & Breakfast.  All I can say is, our asses were sore.




We stopped at 4 wineries in total, each offering free tastings.  Consequently, each stop increased the weight of our packs—we’ve been needing to stock up on wine for a while.  Rolling up on our bikes with our packs was quite the conversation starter.  The response is almost always: “We should look into riding the train”.  It feels good to promote Amtrak because it is so awesome!




In the late afternoon, after a wild ride down from atop the bluffs, across the river, and into Palisade, we stopped for a break in the riverside park.  We spread a blanket out in the shade of the tall cottonwoods and lay on it eating peaches and honey sticks.  It’s fun to play vagabond every once and a while.




After 6 more miles and 1 final tasting, we arrived at the B&B.  The host couple was super nice and suggested a Mexican restaurant which we walked to—a welcome change in transportation.  Dinner was good, but the best part was the full-strength margaritas.  You can’t get them like that in Utah.




The next morning, we exchanged stories with the other couple at the B&B who also happened to be cyclists, and then, much to our hind-quarters’ dismay, climbed on the bikes again and rode back towards Grand Junction.  It was 9 miles in total and we arrived before noon.  We explored downtown and a hit a brew pub for lunch.  The micro brew completed the CO trip for me.





The train was supposed to leave at 4:30 that afternoon, but was delayed an hour, so we dropped the bikes and packs off at the train station and did some exploring on foot.  Needless to say, we were very ready for dinner on the train that evening, which turned out to be very awkward because the two guys we go seated with never said a word.  We arrived back in SLC around 12:30 that night.  All told, it was an amazing trip.  Highly recommend it.



Camp Shower

The following is an excerpt from our road trip to Tara’s hometown earlier this summer.  We went through Jackson WY, Yellowstone, Bighorn NF, The Black Hills, and The Badlands on our way to Yankton.  This is from our 3rd night on the road in Bighorn National Forest.


It’s 10:30 in the evening and Tara and I are sitting in the tent as rain patters on the canvas roof.  We are camped in North-Central Wyoming next to a roaring stream with rocky canyon walls rising up on either side of us.  Shortly after dinner, the clouds came in fast and we raced to set up the tent and take showers with our new solar shower.  We stood naked in the dark woods, under the eerie light from_DSC3950 a small lantern, shivering from the cold water issued from the 6 gallon black bag that I had hung from a tree (1 hour to heat up, my ass).  Meanwhile, the rain held off for us.

Later, as I sat in the pit toilet, I perceived a quick flash that I took to be lightening.  A second later, thunder ripped across the sky so violently that the walls of the john seemed to shake.  This fury lasted for a full 30 seconds as I quickly finished up and left the latrine just in time to see Tara, clad in poncho and headlamp sprinting up the road in my direction.  The rain was just starting the fall as she reached me and exclaimed: “I’m scared and I have to pee!!”  Feeling obligated to stay with her, I accompanied her back up to the _DSC3952latrine and waited outside the door under the awning as she went in.  My efforts only worsened things, however, as she did not realize I was doing so and got the shit scared out of her when she came out and saw only my headlamp inches from her in the dark.

So now, after much excitement, we’re relaxing in the tent before bed.  I believe the rain has stopped, but it’s hard to tell with the roar of the stream.  Should sleep well tonight.