Saturday, April 29, 2006

Yo-Yo Weather

The weather this week has been up-and-down. Bouncing from snow early this week to warm, wear your sandals weather back on Wednesday and Thursday. There was rain yesterday, it was cold and rain/snow fell on-and-off all day.

Today it is lovely out, I think I will go for a drive! With the temperatures bouncing all around, I guess I now know why they call this season Spring. At least the weather is always interesting!

I hope wherever you are today, your weather is interesting!

Don Bergquist - 26th April 2006 - Lakewood, Colorado

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Headed Home

I am stopped at a restaurant for a late breakfast here in North Platte, Nebraska.

There were still about four inches of partially melted snow/slush in the parking lot this morning. I left the hotel at about 06:30 and found that the roads south were just about perfect. The plows have been running down the road since before I got up and apart from a few small (but visible) slushy patches on the way here, the roads have been great!

On the radio this morning I heard a bit of the weather and hear that the snowstorm covered the entire southern part of South Dakota at times last night. The storm in Denver ended early this morning and they are headed to a high of 60 this afternoon. I am looking forward to an easy roll all the way home from here.

I hope that wherever you are, you have no problems facing you!

Don Bergquist - 25th April 2006 - North Platte, Nebraska

Monday, April 24, 2006

...Famous last words...

Sitting around the kitchen table this morning, sipping a cup of coffee with Dad and Flo, I reflected on how nice it was to not be dashing off anywhere because I had plenty of time to get where I needed to be.

It was early, to be sure, but it wasn't the butt-ugly-early o'clock I usually leave at. The weather report on the TV last night was calling for a front to roll across the Dakotas today and hit Minnesota this evening. Nothing drastic, a bit of wind, a bit of rain; this would be the end of the ideal weather that we were having all weekend. There is a bit of snow in Denver, but nothing too bad and it it should be gone by nightfall.

So there I was saying how nice it was not to be trying to beat a harsh weather system home.

My route home takes one of three logical routes. All three begin the same way; west on Minnesota highway 27 to South Dakota then a few miles further on and I jump onto I-29 southbound until I reach Sioux Falls. At this point, I can either go south through Indiana to pick-up I-80 at Omaha, Nebraska, and then west to I-76 Southwest home into Denver. Alternatively, I can take I-90 west out of Sioux Falls to Murdo, South Dakota where I pick-up US-83 south to I-80 at North Platte, Nebraska and then follow it west, to I-76, etc. In certain conditions, I can even keep going west on I-90 all the way to Cedar Rapids and take the back-roads through South Dakota and Wyoming and pick-up I-25 south into Denver. This last one is the longest, but in parts is also the most scenic.

Today it would not have mattered which I took. Here's a news flash for you:


It is just about nine o'clock and I am sitting a hotel room in Rosebud, South Dakota. The first signs of this day going wrong actually came along about the time I crossed the dam at the top of Traverse Lake on the border between South Dakota and Minnesota.

I had been on the road for about an hour and the cloud deck was building. The wind was ripping. My poor car was being tossed about pretty severely as I crossed the dam. I looked into Traverse lake and saw that there were miniature whitecaps on the lake at least three-or-four inches high. That may not sound like much, but it isn't that big a lake!

I got-out when I reached the interstate to top off my tank. For the first time today, (not for the last) I regretted wearing sandals and packing my sweatshirt. The temperatures were noticeably colder than they had been at Dad & Flo's. Not actually "COLD" but cool and windy enough that anything more than a few minutes would have been uncomfortable. The steady wind blowing out of the north was a wonder on my gas mileage.

I decided to take the B route because the traffic back-up while approaching I-90 convinced me not to see how long it might take me to get to Iowa. I headed west. As I drove, the cloud cover kept building, and by the time I hit Mitchell (home of the world famous Corn Palace), Sd, I was driving in a fairly steady drizzle. By the time I reached Murdo, it was snow but not yet accumulating. US-83 started-out as a good drive but steadily declined.

It is now about nine o'clock at night and I am in a hotel just a stone's throw north of the South Dakota/Nebraska state line. The trip started looking doubtful about twenty miles north of here. The snow became heavy and constant. The first sign that there was going to be trouble, ironically, was the road signs. The snow was sticking where it was blown and was completely obscured the road signs. About ten miles back, the road became a bit slushy. It became almost too treacherous to navigate a couple miles back and I decided to keep going until I reached this hotel.

I guess it was a good decision. The room cost about $100.00 but I won $60.00 at the casino. The weathercast that I just watched (if it can be believed) shows that none of the three routes escaped snow. It also shows that it is still snowing in Denver. I guess I'll turn in and try again tomorrow.

I hope that wherever you are this evening, you've had clear, dry roads and good weather all day!

Don Bergquist - 24th April 2006 - Rosebud, South Dakota

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Doing Nothing

Dad has a new puppy! His golden retriever, Digger, sired a litter with a bitch in a neighboring state and from the litter, Dad and Flo got Sunshine. She is at that cute puppy stage when everything that will fit in her mouth is a candidate to be chewed upon.

Sunshine is a lovely puppy! Too bad that she is a little too energetic for Saga's tastes! There was a bit of tension between the two but nothing too unmanageable. She bounds along as Dad and Flo go on their walks, and she is always there just in case you look like you need to be licked or have an appendage chewed.

We had a lovely dinner last night at Gene and Judy's. My nephew, Eric, decided to show us one if his talents, standing-up and knocking-down dominoes. The conversation was great and seeing my aunt and uncle again was a hoot!

Of course, as is the custom in Minnesota, they went overboard in the menu department. We had a lovely salad, barbecued chicken, potatoes, Broccoli, and bread. Lovely meal, good conversation, and an overall lovely visit.

I helped clear the table and then brought-out the desert that I had brought; some berries, whipped cream and a pound cake.

Today, I just rested-up. My dad beat me mercilessly in a game of cribbage, then my step-mom and I played a couple games; she beat me too!

After the normal daily activities of Scrabble and cards, we got ready to head out to meet another aunt and uncle for dinner.

My Dad's little brother, Dick and his wife Dianne were celebrating their anniversary (well, it's tomorrow, actually) and have invited us out to dinner. We got ready and trundled into the car. My car - which means I had to remove the kennel from the back seat so that everyone could fit in. We headed-up to The Peak Supper Club. It occurred to me in the car that I have not been to the peak in years! I think the last time I was there was with my Grandmother Bergquist which means that it has been at least fifteen - perhaps as many as twenty years.

My cousins Dirk and Andrea and their three children were also at the restaurant. Dirk and Andrea are also celebrating their anniversary tomorrow so we had a mass-anniversary celebration.

It was good seeing my cousins again and having a meal at The Peak even if it means that I had to listen to my cousin-once-removed, Levi, informing me that with long hair, I "look like a girl!" We had a lovely meal and a wonderful chat and then we headed up to the peak for which the restaurant is named: Inspiration Peak.

Inspiration Peak is the highest point in Ottertail County, Minnesota. It rises a staggering 400 feet above the surrounding terrain, to a head-swimming 1,750 feet above sea level. ( Okay, okay, when I lived in Miami, and later in Tampa I thought this was pretty high, now that I reside at about 6,000 feet it just doesn't seem as impressive.)

While at Inspiration Peak, I introduced Dirk and Andrea's kids to one of my favorite games from youth: Hide. You play the game by telling the kids to go and hide while you count. You then start to count loudly enough that you can be heard. You slowly get softer and then stop altogether. If you see one of the kids looking your way, you say a few numbers loud enough for them to hear. If you play the game well, you can occupy the kids for upwards of half-an-hour while you continue having a pleasant conversation with the grown-ups.

Well, the point of my story was that I really hadn't done anything today. But when I add this to the obligatory nap you have at least once a day at the lake, I guess I was busy!

I hope wherever you are, you have had a pleasant day!

Don Bergquist - 23rd April 2006 - Kensington, Minnesota

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Jet Lag Cure

The bad think about bouncing back and forth between London and Denver is the jet lag! It's not so bad when headed to London... It is a bit hard getting into the habit of getting up early (as I do here in Colorado) once I am there, but that quickly passes. It is much more difficult to get back onto the Mountain Time Zone (GMT-7) when I fly home!

I have, finally, found a way to get over jet lag. The following is a sure-fire absolute jet lag buster! Here's all you have to do:

1) Have your dog refuse to let you sleep for more than a few hours at a time.

2) A couple days after returning to your home time zone, take a long road trip cross-country.

3) Make sure your destination is somewhere idyllic and peaceful where you can spend some time recharging your batteries!

For me, that means a visit to my parents' place in Minnesota. We took a walk today between the lakes and played some cards. Other than that, we have spent the day pleasantly doing not much! Saga has spent much of the day at my side; she refuses to let me get too far away. When he is not at my side, she is sleeping on my bed, only popping out to check that I am still here periodically.

Tonight, we are headed down to visit an aunt and uncle in St. Cloud to have dinner. My baby brother and his family will be there too. What a peaceful, relaxing day!

I hope that wherever you are today, you're having a very relaxing day!

Don Bergquist - 22nd April 2006 - Kensington, Minnesota

Friday, April 21, 2006

Heading East

One of the advantages I have discovered about having a bit of jet lag is that I can get up and out of the house a lot earlier than I normally would. This morning, for instance, I have already had my first (and second) cups of coffee at home, finished schlepping all the stuff to the car, gotten Saga situated in her kennel, and stopped by the office to pick-up some things that I know I am going to want to have with me over the next few days.

I know, it sounds a busy morning, but that was hours ago. Since that time, I have bought and consumed my breakfast, and, oh yes! Did I mention I have driven about three-hundred miles already?

Now I am sitting on a picnic table in a rest area in Nebraska. I have my new PDA out and am writing my blog entry while watching Saga nose around the long grass. Off to my left, the highway noise is becoming more frequent. Ahead of me the sunrise is dying off.

Well, I have about five hundred miles left to drive today so I guess I need to get the dog back in the car and get back on the road. It is a nice day for driving, and I hope to make good time all the way into Minnesota.

I hope that wherever you are, the road ahead of you is clear and the skies are bright.

Don Bergquist - 21st April 2006 - Somewhere along I-80 in southern Nebraska

Monday, April 17, 2006


How the hell did I get so damn lucky? I have great friends on every continent I have ever visited!

This entry into my blog is dedicated to my friends; from my oldest and closest friend, Fritz, to my newest friends in the UK and on to the friends that I haven't made yet. I love you all, you enrich and enhance my life! I know what I get out our of friendship... I hope they get even half as much back from me as I get from them!

I know that I have said this before, but the difference between family and friends is that my friends have a choice as to whether they want to associate with me. You're dealt your family and you get what the universe deals you. Your friends choose to be (and to remain) your friends. That is why I love them.

What makes me wax so poetic on the subject of friendship? It is everything! The lovely dinner my friends in Molesey threw my last night in the UK, the overwhelming generosity that they showed the entire time I was there! The generosity and concern shown by my friend who got me a riding jacket after I had my bike accident. The friends who wanted to go out for drinks after the pub closed. All my friends in the UK are great! I love them much and miss them already.

On my way through the airports, Fritz and I chatted a bit and caught-up. I have some friends who are going to a baseball game with me this week, and others who are going to go to have Chinese with me later in the week.

But last night there was an incident that just cemented what good friends I have. My flight was a bit late and I arrived to a lovely house and a dog who loves and misses me. My friends who have been caring for Saga went one better, though... They had opened the windows to make sure the house was aired and fresh for me and there was a lovely Waster basket set in the middle of the freshly made bed upstairs! I was really moved that they would go out of their way to welcome me home - even if they were not actually there when I got in.

I hope that today someone does something for you to remind you that you are appreciated!

Don Bergquist - 17th March 2006 - Lakewood, Colorado, USA.

Happy Birthday to my Step-Brother, Paul!

Sunday, April 16, 2006


Usually, I would be writing this entry from the plane on my way home.

Unfortunately, my PDA was destroyed in the bike accident so I will be posting this before the car comes for me. I am all packed. The baggage is downstairs in the kitchen, the house has been made ready to be empty for a few days. I have keys for the guys that will be coming next week. I am ready to head home.

I cannot wait to come back; hopefully with Saga next time!

I hope wherever you are today you are looking forward to something!

Have a great day!

Don Bergquist - 16-April-2006 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, United Kingdom

Happy Birthday to my best friend, Fritz!

Saturday, April 15, 2006


One last day in the UK!

I have had a great visit this time. I've had a wonderful time visiting with friends, seeing some of the sights and basically, just trying to fit-into the local color. This evening, I have a dinner with some friends in East Molesey. Afterward, I think we will be going to the pub.

Tomorrow, I am headed home. I will miss my friends here, but am glad to be headed home. I miss Saga, as I believe I had said before. I am sure that I will be back soon.

I hope that wherever you are, you're enjoying tour day!

Don Bergquist - 15-April-2006 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, United Kingdom

Friday, April 14, 2006


It is a tale of two cities, really, my professional life over the last couple years. About two years ago, one of the principals on the project I had been assigned to came up to me and asked what my opinion of long-term international travel was. And oh, by the way, did I have a valid passport? She would not be pressed for details however and so I toddled on down to AAA to get a passport photo taken, then off to the post office to apply for the travel documents and the rest, as they say, is history.

On the one side of the Atlantic, (the side to which I had never been prior to November 2004) I have an office (albeit a temporary office) in an old converted factory overlooking the Thames. The Ferry Works, gets its name from the fact that back in the 19th century, the building was the home of a manufacturing plant that built ferry boats to operate on the Thames. My office is on what was the factory floor near where the completed boats were pushed out and floated in the river. The Ferry Works is in a beautiful little village, a suburb of London called Thames Ditton and is just about everything that the first-time visitor to the UK could expect.

The streets are way too narrow for parking upon, which does not actually stop the locals from parking on them, all but obstructing completely the flow of traffic. The buildings are quaint and old. The church (which, incidentally is older than my entire country) is the center of the village. There are more pubs than you could throw a scone at; and of course, not too far away is a chip shop.

On the other side of the Atlantic (well beyond the other side of the Atlantic... Closer to the Pacific, in fact!) I have an office in a modern steel and glass high-rise in downtown Denver.

Bby contrast, Denver is young and vibrant. Younger, in fact, than some of the cars I have seen on the roads around here! (Okay, not really... But younger than some of the trains I have been on! Really!) It is bustling, noisy, crowded, and a great place to work. There is every conceivable form of fast food you might want to try, and a Weight Watchers meeting every day of the week around lunchtime to help you recover from the plentiful abundance of said fast food.

My offices in both cities have the added benefit of having eastern exposures. Again, of course, on the one side it is looking out at an island filled with million-pound homes that is accessible only via boat and footbridge. On the other side of the Atlantic, over a run-down area of urban Denver and beyond into eastern Colorado. I joke that I have a view of Kansas, but that is just a joke. Kansas is beyond the horizon, even from the forty-first floor.

Apart from being two completely different worlds with two completely different feels, it is pretty much the same; I show-up before sunrise most days, work long hours, head home later and then have fun with my friends. It is comfortable whichever city I am in.

Wherever you are, I hope that you find yourself in comfortable circumstances.

Don Bergquist - 14-April-2006 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, United Kingdom

Thursday, April 13, 2006


The three things I miss most about my home in Colorado are:

My Dog, Saga. I miss her every day over here. It is torturous being over here without her. Dogs are nearly ubiquitous here. You see them in the parks, in the pubs, hooked to stays in the front of the shops.

Yes, most of the dog owners here are pretty cool about it and if you ask they will let you pet their dogs. They will even ask if you have pictures of your dog if you say that you have one. (Yes, I'm enough of a dog fancier that I do carry a picture of Saga or two in my wallet just for such occasions, but hey! I've never asked anyone to buy cookies or candies to support Saga's activities!

My friends. Now, before I ruffle any feathers, I know that my UK Friends often check my blog to see what I am writing about, and I do not for a minute wish to imply that they are not good enough companions, but there are lots of people back in Colorado that I truly miss.

I'd love to have the chance to get all my UK friends together with all my Colorado friends. If I could get my Florida friends to attend as well, boy, howdy! Wouldn't that be one heck of a party!

I think of my friends as the family I have chosen for myself. Your family you're given and you have no choice in the matter. By the same token neither do they. Your friends, on the other hand, are special! They choose to spend time with you when there is no filial connection. They're kindred spirits if not actually kin!

And Saga.

I know, you're thinking to yourself about now, hey! He said "Saga" twice. Well, technically I haven't said it at all... Well not that you have heard recently. I wrote it...

And I have written it a lot more than twice. I mention her as two of the three things I miss most about home because she is one of the big things that makes it home!

Here in London, my company has taken a house for the visitors to this office to live in whilst attached to this office. It is a lovely home! It has four bedrooms, a beautiful, spacious kitchen, a very nice back garden, and it is close to practically anything you'd want to be close to. The problem is that there is nobody that is excited to see me walk in the door when I get there.

I miss that cute little black nose smudging the windows in excitement as I open the garden gate, the way she tries desperately to stay perched on the back of the chair as she wiggles in excitement as I cross the porch, and the way she bounds off the chair and lands in front of the door when the key hits the lock.

What's not to love?

I hope that wherever you are today, someone is excited to see you!

Don Bergquist - 13-April-2006 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, United Kingdom

PS: I also miss the scenery, but that would have made it four things and yesterday was "Four." - djb

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


I live with a bitch; a beautiful, black-and-white four-legged bitch. I am going to have to install a network of cameras in my home so that I can see her whenever I want, though...

Either that or I am going to have to suss-out a way that I can bring her to the UK with me the next time I come over here. My friends here all want to meet her, and I think that she would really dig going to the pub with me. Everyone there just goes gaga over dogs and she would be given biscuits by complete strangers!

Nah, on second thought, a serious of webcams would probably not be that great. I mean, what I would see would be the Saga running downstairs early in the morning to take her early morning nap on the couch. Around sun-up she would stretch and yawn and hum over to the comfy chair where she would stand on the back and bark out the window at the squirrels. After that she would have a bit of a lie-in on the comfy chair followed by some serious napping back on the couch. I tell you, it's a dog's life. Especially if you're the Saga-Roo!

I hope wherever you are today, you've got time to relax with the ones you love!

Don Bergquist - 12-April-2006 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, United Kingdom

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


It's kind of hard to tell from this picture, but the jacket is radiantly day-glow yellow with a kind of shimmery opalescent silver reflective material in the stripes with a large rectangle of reflective stuff on the back that is big enough of five big block letters. (Perhaps six, but one of them would have to be an "I" or an "l" in lower case.)

After last week's incident in Teddington my friends, concerned for my safety and well-being, decided I needed to get a bright riding jacket. This, apparently, they found at a jumble and would suit the bill quite nicely. It's nice to have friends who worry about you. I have to say, it is bright!

And the jacket seems to be doing the trick. The fist time I wore it, the drivers around me seemed to be far more accommodating. The first time I wore it, one car followed me all the way down Summer Road to the roundabout rather than just passing me in the curve as drivers here are, for some reason, wont to do.

It's nice getting a little respect from the other people using the roads. For some reason, I have yet to suss-out fully, children seem to have this urge to salute me when I am wearing it. Hmmm...

I hope that today, someone gives you the respect you deserve!

Don Bergquist - 11-April-2006 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, United Kingdom

Monday, April 10, 2006


I was up before six yesterday! Why is that?

It's not like we had tons of wine with dinner on Saturday night! When I was cleaning the kitchen and putting the house in order yesterday I carried nine empty wine bottles out to the recycling bin. If anything I should have been tired.

Perhaps it was that the previous evening was so enjoyable that I just didn't have the need to sleep more. When I woke up I was sure I had slept-in. The breeze was blowing in, chill and constant from my slightly-open window. Knowing it must be somewhere around nine, I rolled over and looked at the clock. Nope! It was just going on Six!

Over my coffee, I decided it was time to do a really long ride that morning so I was dressed in my riding kit and out the door by 07:00. My path yesterday took me down the Portsmouth road and into Esher then over to Sunbury and into Teddington around the park and up to Kingston. I then rode down the tow path along the Thames back to Hampton court where I stopped for a breather at the beer garden outside The King's Arms.

The daffodils were looking lovely in their planter boxes so I took these pictures. What a lovely morning! I stopped at the Hampton Court Superstore (a humorous name for the place considering its diminutive scale) and picked-up some potatoes and mushrooms. After my ride home, I made myself a mushroom, bacon and cheese omelet (with sage darby cheese left over from the cheese board) and cottage potatoes.

The rest of the day was spent indoors because the rain started around noon. It was a lazy do laundry and start thinking of my homeward journey kind of day. I popped into the pub for a short while last night and had an early evening of it. This morning dawned cold and clear; I discovered that I had a flat tire on my bike so I have to go to the bike shop at lunch to get a new tube. Oh well... my weekend was great at least!

I hope wherever you are, your weekend was as pleasant!

Don Bergquist - 10-April-2006 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, United Kingdom

Dirty Rice

Dirty Rice


1/2 C Peppers (Chopped - I use a combination of red, yellow, orange, and green)
1/4 C Chopped Olives (Black)
1/4 C Green Onion (Chopped with greens)
1/2 C Savory Meat (Such as sausage, roast pork, hamburger, practically anything really - Chopped)
3 Cloves Garlic
2 C Long-Grain White Rice (or 1/2 white, 1/2 brown rice)
4 C Water (boiling)
1 T Salt
1/4 t Black Pepper
1/4 t Red Pepper
Olive Oil


Chop first five ingredients finely and toss in a heavy-bottomed saucepan with a little olive oil.

Brown these until they are just starting to turn soft.

Add Rice and toast for a couple minutes making sure to completely coat all ingredients with a little olive oil.

Add water and spices

Return to a full boil stirring constantly.

Cover and reduce heat to low.

Cook for twenty minutes on low.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Cooking For an Army

I'm sorry, I have never gotten the hang of cooking for one or two. I know! I have lived alone all these years; it has never been something that I have gotten the hang of. When I cooked as a kid it was for the entire family. When I was in college, it was for my friends and fraternity brothers who shared the house we rented.

When I got out of college, it seemed that someone was always dropping over. I mean, sure I do make something to eat, sandwiches and the like, that I can make for one. But when I make soups and stews the only way I can cook is to feed an army!

I had friends over last night and we had a great time! I put out a cheese board for starters and we sat in the kitchen enjoying wine, cheese and conversation. Later on, we repaired to the dining room for dinner. The evening was a total joy. Good friends, good food, good wine. It was not until half way through dinner that I realized I had left the garlic out of the main dish! Oops!

After dinner, we took the wine and our glasses and headed up to the living room and continued our conversation until about 21:30 and then called a car to take us into Hampton Court to The King's Arms. We ran into some other friends of ours there and had some more drinks and more fun! What a great night! I am truly blessed to have met such great people wherever I go! Friends like I have made make the occasional complete tosser I come across seem as truly unimportant as they are!

I hope that wherever you are, you have friends who make the wankers of the world fade to insignificance!

Don Bergquist - 09-April-2006 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, United Kingdom

Hoppin' John

I learned about this dish from my best friend and his family at the beach house. I have been making it for years. The original recipe (which was a loose set of directions at best) has evolved into what follows. I seldom make it the same twice, but it is always something like the following.

I am including the recipe on today's posting because although we had plenty of wine last night, I do remember Terry asking me for the recipe. So here it is:

Hoppin' John


1 lb Dried Black Eyed Peas
1 Large Yellow Onion (chopped)
1/2 C Celery (chopped)
1 C Peppers (chopped - I generally use a combination of red, yellow, orange and green)
1/2 lb Sausage (sliced into bite-sized disks - You can use almost any kind, something Andouille or chorizo works well!)
1/2 lb Chicken Breast (cubed and browned)
3-4 Cloves of Garlic (chopped)
1/2 t Black Pepper
1/2 t Red Pepper
Olive Oil
Corn Starch (They call it Corn Flour over here in the UK)


Wash and pick over the beans. Once cleared of all debris and defects, soak the beans. The package says over-night, but I have learned from a number of old cookbooks, you can reduce the amount of gas the beans produce by soaking longer and changing the water every twelve hours. I soak my beans for two days.

Chop all the vegetables,

Dice and brown the chicken in a little olive oil,

Slice and brown the sausage,

Drain the beans,

Combine everything but the salt and oil in a crock pot making sure all ingredients are mixed together. NB: I have learned that you should cook beans without salt! Cooking them with salt makes the skins tough.

Cover with water and cook on low for at least eight hours.

Carefully strain the liquid from the crockpot into a large sauce pan and return all the solids to the crockpot.

Correct the flavor of the liquid with salt and more pepper if needed. Bring to a boil and thicken with corn starch to the consistently of gravy.

Return Liquid to the crockpot and keep warm.

Serve with Dirty Rice and a nice red wine. Leftovers can be microwaved the next day.


Saturday, April 08, 2006

More Signs of Spring

What a glorious morning here in the United Kingdom! I left early this morning for a ride in the park and it was so wonderful this morning that I decided to take the long route.

Riding through the bike paths in Bushy Park I noticed yet another sign that spring is returning to this magic kingdom, the willows are starting to leaf. This skyscape is in the eastern end of the park near the Richmond upon Thames gate looking toward the west.

The temperatures were just perfect and I really enjoyed my morning but it is getting on and I have things to do. I have some friends coming over for dinner tonight. (I've been soaking black-eyed peas for two days, changing the water every twelve hours (that's the best way to make them gas-free) and have to get them into the crock pot so that by tonight they will be Hoppin' John. Before the day gets too old (and it starts raining) I really need to mow the lawn! And then there is the last minute marketing to do.

I have a full agenda so as Willy Wonka said in the Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory: "So much time, so little to do... Er, no! Strike that; reverse it!"

I hope today you will have the time to do everything you want to do!

Don Bergquist - 08-April-2006 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, United Kingdom.

Friday, April 07, 2006

The Weekend Is Upon Us

In just a few short hours I will begin to spend my last full weekend in the UK for a while. My project wraps next weekend (at least this phase of it) and I will be headed to the states for a while. I am looking forward to seeing Saga and my friends at home again, but will miss my friends here. I guess there are trade-offs.

I have no idea what I will do this weekend. I am making no plans. It is supposed to rain much of the weekend. I am not taking my cameras out in the rain. Well, I guess I should get a running start at the weekend, so it is back to work for me now.

I hope that wherever you are, your weekend is worth looking forward to!

Don Bergquist - 07-April-2006 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, United Kingdom

Thursday, April 06, 2006

More Pictures from the Wilderness

Last Week I mentioned that the ornamental cherry trees were in bloom and that I would try and get out to take some pictures before the blooms are all gone. This past weekend, I got my chance. This one (the one behind the bright yellow bush) is out in front of Hampton Court Palace along the A308.

On my normal Saturday morning Ride through the area, I had my cameras along and stopped to take a walk along the road where the cherry trees were all in bloom. Unfortunately, the overcast gave me very little contrast between the white of the clouds and the pink of the blossoms. Never to fear, the trees are still in bloom, I'll try and get better pictures this weekend.

In addition to the pictures of the trees, I tried to get some artistic pictures of the blossoms themselves. This one, is a close-up of a blossom covered branch taken with my lens in the Macro setting and the aperture opened wide to narrow the depth-of-field. I like the way the background is all fuzzy so that there is little differentiation between the blossoms and the clouds in the background of the picture.

At this time of year this time of year, The Wilderness is awash in yellow and white as the daffodils take center stage. I love the way that the colors change from green to white, to purple to yellow as the different bulbs take over from each other.

The daffodils this year are spectacular. Walking (or biking) along the paths, there are drifts of yellow, white, and orange as far as the eye can see. This is what I would love to do to the yard back at the condo. I wonder if I could convince the board to let me do it! It would call for (to do it right) doing it the way they do here. Digging-up large sections of the lawn, bedding down the bulbs and properly fertilizing and protecting them; and then relaying the sod.

I bet I can't convince them that this is a good idea.

I hope wherever you are today you have no problem having and disseminating great ideas!

Don Bergquist - 06-April-2006 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, United Kingdom

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Chess Board Showers

There is a weather phenomenon here that I just find the funniest thing: Checker Board Showers. I have no idea what they call them here, but that is my name for them. They are characterized by the weather being highly localized. For example, I live not half-a-mile from the office and it can be lovely and sunny at home but be pouring down rain here at the office when I arrive.

How does one prepare for such immediate and drastic changes in the local climate? I guess if I lived here I would learn to leave a set of clean and dry clothing hanging at the office.

I was talking to my sister about this last weekend and she reminded me that my rearing in Florida should have prepared me for this. I guess she is right. I remember when I was a kid, it could be raining on one side of the street and sunny on the other. Like that guy from the comic strips always walking around under a rain cloud.

Which reminded us of the times we used to go camping at Juniper Springs and leave the campsite when it was sunny and hot and get to the swimming spring and it be pouring. Why is it we don't go swimming in the rain? Are we afraid of getting wet?

I know this is a bit of stream-of-consciousness today but it is like the stream that is dripping off my wet hair onto the desk. I really should look for a way to dry off a bit.

H hope that wherever you are today you are warm and dry!

Don Bergquist - 05-April-2006 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, United Kingdom

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Road Rash

If you ride a bike in any great amount you'll eventually get it. It is a fact of life. I got mine yesterday at lunch.

It happened at Teddington, just as I was about to enter the park on my way back to the office. The weather was great; the roads were dry; I was making great time! Then some [insert your own unkind epithet here] decided that he had to pass me on the curve. He did so not leaving enough room to get back in before the oncoming traffic would have hit him so he just moved back into the left lane - with me in it!

Back at the office later, a friend asked me if I got the van's registration number. "Nope." Was my immediate response, "I was too busy falling to do much else." But seriously, who thinks of such things at the time? You don't go around remembering registration number of every car and van that passes you, you have no need of doing so and on the off chance that one of them clips you and takes off, you have other things on your mind at the time like: "I wonder if that asphalt is as hard and rough as it looks like it is."

I am sure I had other thoughts that raced through my mind. Mostly things that I would never put in my blog. Words my mother would not have approved of her middle son saying; if you catch my meaning. But this is not an entry on the accident, the person who caused it or the colorful language it elicited from me. None of that warrants much coverage. The guy who hit me isn't worth the time to write about, I've already told all the interesting bits of the incident itself, and as for the language, well, if you want to know what I said, go find yourself another blog to read.

This is dedicated to the four people who deserve to be written about. The first is the driver of the white van (why do these guys have a bad reputation?) who executed a three-point turn ten feet past me and came back to check on me.

"Are you alright?" He called as he pulled up alongside where I lay sprawled on the side of the road. "Do you need any help?" I assured him that I was fine as I pulled my bike up onto the walk and off the road. He wished me well, waved to me through his window and pulled off. Somewhere out of my sight, he executed another course change and came back past me again tooting and waving as he passed.

"Goodness! Are you okay?" Asked another driver out her window between the departure of the van driver and the time he came back. "Do you need me to call someone?" As I started checking myself over to make sure that what I was telling this second Samaritan in as many minutes was true. Again, I assured the nice person who had stopped to offer assistance that I was fine, a bit shaken, but otherwise undamaged. (This I was to find-out in a bit was not quite true.)

My third angel took the form of one of the workmen from across the street. He had pulled into the fore court of the house just as the second driver had pulled away. He saw me lying there on the path and starting to dust myself off and get up. "You okay? Take a spill did you?" he called. I assured him that I was he told me to take care and have a good day.

It was more-or-less at this point that I discovered that my PDA (which had been in my pocket) was not protected by the hard case. I guess the case had done its duty in that the PDA was still in once piece, but the screen was beyond use. (Oh well, that's why God invented insurance!)

I righted my bike, checked it out to make sure it was in good condition, dusted myself off and went on my way. Those of you keeping track, I said that this piece was dedicated to four people and I have only told you of three. The fourth is the barman at the King's Arms. I decided to stop and have a glass of pop and wash-up a bit before going on. Seeing me come in, he offered assistance and I said that it was okay.

I went into the restroom and washed the wound (it's not that bad, really!) and started patting it dry with a piece of paper towel. Carlos came up to me as I emerged from the loo; he was carrying a first-aid kit. He would not take "no" for an answer. He had an antiseptic wipe out and was pushing it in my direction. Once I had wiped the area with the thing, He brought out a gauze pad with a bandage attached. He covered it before asking what I wanted to drink.

I had my Diet Coke and it did steady me a bit. I then rode home with a stop at the chemists in the High Street of Thames Ditton for more first aid supplies. I headed home, cleansed and dressed the road rash and then changed to clothing that wasn't all ripped and blood spattered and headed back into the office.

I hope that the trip you take (wherever it is) doesn't end with a sudden and painful stop at the ground.

Don Bergquist - 04-April-2006 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, United Kingdom

Monday, April 03, 2006

Road Race ~ Road Rage

I am not sure what the difference is...

Why is it that on prime bike riding days, they schedule some damn race that closes all the roads that I like to ride? (Well, okay, they weren't actually closed but they were diverted and crowded.)

Yesterday after the rains fell, I went out for my ride. Sure, I passed a couple runners, but it was a nice day out and I see runners all the time along the Portsmouth road, so I thought nothing of it. Occasionally, I saw people who seemed to be waiting for someone. As I approached Kingston it occurred to me that it was a race of some kind. Always quick on the uptake, I almost immediately recognized that the clapping the people along the street were doing was for the runners not for me.

I then tried to get through my normal route but was waved off and diverted by someone wearing official looking gear. I had to find an alternative route through the borough. A few minutes later, back on my route, headed for Teddington.

It wasn't until later, as I passed Hampton Court that I hit the biggest group of runners. Running wherever they damn well pleased occupying that moral high ground that they feel is theirs alone. They they were running all over the foot and the bike path. One was even running in the middle of the A309. It was as if he felt that he had a right to be wherever he wanted. The cars had to swerve to avoid him. I had to swerve to avoid him.

I had not only the wind, but the runners to contend with. It was my fond hope that they would be diverting into some other route before the roundabout at the Lamb and Star, but I had no such luck. It was only the two-mile portion of the ride that goes from Kingston to Teddington and then back to Hampton Court that was runner-free. I even had to sit in The Portsmouth Road for five minutes waiting for a break in the runners big enough to walk my bike through to get back to the house!

I hope that wherever you are, you are not being kept from where you want to be.

Don Bergquist - 03-April-2006 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, United Kingdom

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Wind Damage

It is not just my bike rides that are made less wonderful by the wind!

Yesterday as I walked through Bushy Park, I came across these camellias that had blown off the trees. They were just lying there in the grass along the path. (I have already been accused of staging this, but it really is just as I found it!)

In the pub last night I was chatting with one of the locals who owns a house on the park and he said that, though they are lovely, the park is not really suited to the camellias. The soil is not really right so the plants are stressed anyway, and then all the wind they get just blows the blossoms right off the plants.

A little further into the park there is a lovely little stream that runs from a lake off to a culvert that feeds the lower part of the woodland gardens stream. As I was passing, I noticed the reflections that the daffodils were throwing off the stream so I put together my tripod to catch this image.

I am happy with it, but this and the one I tried taking of the ducks (see the complete pictures of yesterday's trip at the link above) makes me realize how quickly one becomes jaded to one's equipment. My 300mm lens is no longer the kicking focal length I once thought it was. I cannot get so extremely close to the wildlife. I guess for Christmas I will be buying myself a longer lens.

On my way out of the woodland gardens, I noticed the interplay of the clouds with the lacy branches of the trees. I like cloudscapes.

All-in-all, it was a lovely day to visit the woodland gardens. But owning to the rains earlier in the day, I have come to appreciate the reason why it seems gum boots are a required fashion accessory here.

What caked mud didn't just fall off on my ride back to Thames Ditton, I had to knock and scrape off into the flower box in the front of the villa.

I hope that wherever you are you have a lovely day today! (And that you didn't fall for too many April Fools' Pranks Yesterday!)

Don Bergquist - 02-April-2006 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, United Kingdom

Saturday, April 01, 2006

What a Surreal Day I am Having!

This morning, as is my norm for Saturdays I headed-out as early for a bike ride with my camera gear. Actually, I started out later than I would have rather done because I needed to wait for the rain to end, but that is another story for another day.

Walking about bushy park this morning I came across one of my favorite clearings. The floor of the clearing is filled with Snowdrops in late February, then with Crocuses in early March which finally give way to Daffodils in late March. It is one of the loveliest areas in the park, in my humble opinion. Today was no exception but what was exceptional was the number of people there.

In the clearing there were at least fifteen people milling about with camera gear, reflector shades, and even a portable make-up station. I apparently had come across some kind of a professional shoot. Not wanting to get in the way, I turned around and started to leave but was blocked by a woman who was arriving up the path I had just traversed. "Excuse me," I said stepping to the side of the path to let her by.

"You're American" she said in a fairly pronounced Southern drawl. I agreed that I was and she just gushed. "I miss the accent the most." She said. "I've been living here for two years now and don't get to hear voices from home too often, well except when I call my mom."

"You should try the King's Arms, across the road," I replied. "I am always running into Americans there. Strangely enough, many of them from my state and from the state my parents live in!"

"Are you on the shoot?" She asked, motioning to my camera gear.

"Oh, uh... No." I replied. "I just ride over from the other side of the river on Saturdays to get some exercise and to take some photos. I an amateur."

"Your accent," she said. "I can't quite place it. You're definitely American, but what part?"

"I live in Colorado, but have lived in Tennessee and am native to Florida." I replied. "Couple that with my having spent time in all the states except Alaska and the fact that I have been coming over here fairly regularly for the last eighteen months and it's no wonder that my accent is a bit muddled."

"Florida?" She replied brightening, "That's where I am from! What part?"

You might think that this is a bit of a coincidence, but it really is a small world. I have bet the neighbors of my best friend's parents in Thames Ditton in the deli. "Miami." Was the one-word response I gave.

"Really? Me too!" She gasped. "You know, this is going to sound like an odd question, but did you go to Southwest?"

"Go Eagles!" I replied... "You can't mean that you went there too!"

"Yes! Class of 1981!"

"Really? I was class of '80!" I replied.

"What's your name?" She asked, I thought you looked familiar. "Weren't you in the orchestra? Bass was it?"

"Cello," I replied and told her my name.

"IT IS YOU!" she cried and hugged me. "It's me, Loni Lott! Uh, Pacheco is the name you'd remember me as! God! I haven't seen you since when? When you lived in Tampa and we ran into each other! What a small world."

I remembered the day. She had come into Blair Television to ask for directions to another tenant of the building at which she had a meeting. Of course back then it had only been six years since high school instead of twenty six. "You're looking great!" was the only thing I could think of to say.

At about this time, the security guard that the photographer had hired to keep the curious away from his shoot, wandered over and asked Loni if I was bothering her. Without waiting for an answer, he told me that I had better get moving. Eyed my camera and then called over his shoulder to the photographer to see if anything was missing. Without waiting for a response, he took my camera and gruffly told me to beat it!

"No!" Said Loni, "This is an old friend of mine from the state. Don't you have something else to do?"

"They're ready for you, Miss Lott." was all that the meathead said. He also made it entirely clear to me via his body language and the glare that he gave me that he was ready for me to be gone.

I tried to protest and ask for my camera back but he made a menacing motion and called over the other guys that also looked like steroid addicts and I decided it was better if I just went.

I left. I biked over to the police station to report them but by the time we returned, they were nowhere to be found. The police took my report but it was with the condescending obsequiousness one might use when talking to a child about their imaginary friend.

I am now sitting at the King's Arms Writing all this down so that I don't forget it and will post it up to my blog as soon as I get home. Damn it! That was a nice camera!

I hope that where ever you are, your day is a bit less surreal!

Don Bergquist - 01-April-2006 - Hampton Court, London, United Kingdom