Category Archives: fun stuff

Big Rig Adventure

Big Rig Route: 10,402 km / 6,459 miles

Toronto, ON → Milton, ON → Sarnia, ON 
361 km

I love road trips but without a driver’s licence, it’s rare to find myself a passenger. A friend, who has been driving a tractor trailer for twenty-eight years, invited me to ride along on one of his runs (April 9 – 21). He picked me up in Toronto and we drove to the trucking yard in Milton, where we grabbed his sleeper cab and bobtailed to Molson Canada for a trailer full of beer to haul to Kent, Washington. After we would drive down through California to pick up produce to transport back to Toronto. Truckers refer to this route as “runnin’ the triangle.” We hit the trail at 7pm and hitched it to the post in Sarnia. 
Dedicated Truck 521
42,000 lbs of Labbat’s Blue
DAY 2 
Sarnia, ON → Walcott, IA
813 km
We crossed the border and headed west across Michigan, stopping in Battle Creek for kibbles ‘n’ bits. After driving through Indiana and Illinois, we stopped at the Iowa 80 in Walcott. It’s the largest truckstop in the world, hosting the annual Trucker’s Jamboree with truck beauty contests, live music, cook-outs, and fireworks. They sell everything you need to pimp out your truck and also have a barbershop, massage clinic, dentist, and mini movie theatre. Most truckstops are now called travel centres and cater to all motorists, as before they only made money off truckers for fuel and parts.

Iowa 80: World’s Largest Truckstop
Walcott, IA → Rapid City, SD
1260 km
We tried sleeping with the heat off last night, so it wouldn’t be so noisy but woke up freezing at 5am. Oops! The contrast between the blue skies and yellow fields of Iowa, heading west on I-80, was beautiful. We stopped in Des Moines for our first showers of the trip. Truckers get free showers with their rewards card, collecting points through purchasing fuel. I broke out the flip flops as we crossed into South Dakota on I-29, and later… tried a little driving! The heat was back on for our sleepover in Rapid City.

Atlantic, Iowa

Mitchell, South Dakota
Chamberlain, South Dakota

Rapid City, SD → Belgrade, MT
904 km
After a breakfast buffet in Rapid City, we left South Dakota on Highway 212, kitty-cornered Wyoming, and then started across Montana. This state is so vast, and I was impressed by its ever changing landscape and climate. I love mountains! The cows were all lying down in the fields… they know their weather! We hit rain, then heavy snow from Livingston to Bozeman, but things cleared up at Belgrade where we stopped for the night. 
Spearfish, South Dakota
Highway 212, Montana
Big Timber, Montana
Belgrade, MT → Ellensburg, WA
904 km

We drove through Butte, birthplace of Evel Knievel, and then stopped for the best breakfast at River City Grill in Missoula before leaving Montana. After passing through the Idaho Panhandle National Forest, we parked for showers in Post Falls. Into Washington, there were expansive farmlands one after the other, before we crossed the beautiful Columbia River at sunset. We hitched it to the post in Ellensburg, with a plan to deliver the next morning. 

Butte, Montana
Montana Idaho Border

Ritzville, Washington
Columbia River, Washington
Ellensburg, WA → Kent, WA
170 km

It was only a two-hour drive from Ellensburg to our delivery site in Kent, but alas, we were not able to unload until the following day. This was a good time to take the mandatory 36-hour reset. We spent the day and night in the distribution parking lot and made do with vending machine goodies. While my driver napped, I traipsed around a grassy field, watched planes come and go from the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, and made friends with a lone Canada Goose.

Ellensburg, Washington
Cle Elum, Washington
Kent, Washington
Kent, WA → Medford, OR
694 km

We unloaded the beer at 9am and were on the road again at 10. Tumwater was our first stop along I-5 for kibbles and showers. From there we faxed ahead for an Oregon trucking permit. Most companies pay annual state fees, but not if they don’t pass through often. In Portland, we hit rush hour passing over the pretty Willamette River and then continued south through lush farmlands (grass smells good!) with sheep, sheep, and more sheep. We slept in Medford, our last stop before California.

Portland, Oregon
Salem, Oregon
Medford, OR → Lodi, CA
553 km

My driver and I had a morning routine: he filled out his log book while I tidied our “little house on wheels”. California is rolling hills and mountains… and warm! After a long winter in Toronto, that still wasn’t over, it was great to wear a dress and sandals! We drove down the I-5, passing breathtaking Mount Shasta and true blue Lake Shasta before stopping in Corning, where we ate breakfast and got the truck washed. We continued down to Lodi and parked 521, renting a room for the night. A real bed was nice, but I did miss being in the truck, the noise and vibrations – everything!
Weed, California
Mount Shasta in Shasta National Forest, California
Shasta Lake in Mountain Gate, California
Lodi, CA → Salinas, CA → Bakersfield, CA
572 km

We drove west towards the coast to Salinas for pickup. Five hours and three stops later, we had 34,000 lbs of baby spinach, kale, red and green leaf lettuce, romaine, and celery loaded and ready to transport back to Canada. Reefer on… ready to roll. Heading down Highway 101, we stopped in King City for kibbles and did our first bit of night driving until we retired in Bakersfield. Although my driver often travels at night, he planned for very little on this trip, so I wouldn’t miss anything!
Hollister, California
Salinas, California
Salinas, California

DAY 10
Bakersfield, CA → Fillmore, UT
904 km

I loved this last leg of California, with its rolling hills, Joshua trees, wind turbines, trains, and desert landscape. At Barstow, we hopped on the I-15 to travel up to Primm, Nevada for lunch and a wee bit of gambling before running parallel to the Vegas Strip. We were only in Arizona for half an hour, but the Virgin Mountains were a trip highlight! We drove through much of Utah in the dark before parking in Fillmore for the night. I would wait until the next day to see this state.  

Bakersfield, California
Tehachapi, California
Virgin Mountains, Arizona
I-15 through Virgin Mountains
Virgin River, Arizona
Virgin Mountains and Virgin River, Arizona
DAY 11
Fillmore, UT → Big Springs, NE
1140 km

We stopped in Nephi for breakfast before driving past the gorgeous Tintic Mountains in Provo and the Wasatch Range in Park City. On the way out west, we only travelled the northeast corner of Wyoming… now we would cross the entire state. In Evanston, we saw our one and only trailer rollover, likely caused by the driver falling asleep. The Green River Twin Tunnel was also a trip highlight, with my driver pulling his horn going through. After a quick stop in Rawlins for showers, we left Utah and drove into Nebraska under bright stars and lightning in the distance where we hitched it to the post in Big Springs.

Provo, Utah
Evanston, Wyoming
Green River, Wyoming

DAY 12
Big Springs, NE → Walcott, IA
1020 km

The end of the trip was near… so I soaked up all the warmth and beauty of Nebraska. We stopped in Wood River for our last fill-up of diesel, and then Grand Island for kibbles. The state was very dry, with most of its creeks and rivers dried up. A few drops of rain threatened, but it didn’t really come down until we hit Lincoln. In Walcott, we had come full circle and parked again for the night at the Iowa 80 Truckstop.

Big Springs, Nebraska
North Platte, Nebraska
Wood River, Nebraska
Wood River, Nebraska
DAY 13
Walcott, IA → Milton, ON → Toronto, ON
1102 km

Our last day of driving… was travelled mostly in silence. After declaring a few trinkets at the border, we made it back to the trucking yard in Milton around midnight and unhitched the trailer to be taken by a city driver to Cambridge. My driver filled out his paper work while I packed up our belongings. The trip went faster than I could have ever imagined, but I’ve been invited to tag along again. I feel perfectly suited to the trucking lifestyle, everything that is, except the driving!

Blue River Bridge between Port Huron, Michigan and Sarnia, Ontario

Follow the Big Rig Travels blog to road trip across America with Big Rig Steve!

Making Maple Syrup at Maplewood

My dad has been making maple syrup on the McArthur lot (in Ottawa) for the last twenty-five years. I visited in March and helped him make batch #4. During the day, I engaged my dad in a little Q&A about the maple syrup process.


How did you learn to make maple syrup?
I watched Walter (our neighbour) making it. He showed me how to drill the holes, and I read some articles about the process.

What makes a good maple syrup tree?
Good sap producers are at least 10″ in diameter (the trunk) and have a large crown (upper part of the tree).

Collecting Sap

How do you know when it’s time to tap the trees?
I don’t keep track of dates but usually the end of March, earlier if there’s a warm snap. This year I got started around the 10th. 

How many buckets do you hang?
I used 9 buckets in the beginning. This year, I’m up to 17 because it takes about 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup.


How long does 1 batch (about 6 pints) take to make?
It’s a day’s work. I fill garbage pails full of sap, heat it up in two pots (on burners) in the garage, and then pour the warm sap into two pans on the firepit in the laneway. I just keep transfering from pail to pots to pans all day until I’ve run out o’ sap. 

How many batches do you make in a typical year?
It all depends on the weather fluctuations, but usually three or four. I may cook up a fifth batch next week as it’s supposed to go below freezing and back up again. It’s been a productive year because I’ve persevered. (Batch #5 was made five days later.)

Pot to Pan

What do you enjoy most about the process?
It’s fun to get out of the house, especially in the spring after you’ve been cooped up all winter. You get out in this beautiful sunshine – it’s great.

Would you call this a one-man operation?

Sap to Syrup

What is most challenging about making maple syrup?
Well physically, it’s chopping all the wood. But other than that, getting it off (the fire) at the right time so you don’t overcook it.

Have you ever overcooked the syrup?
Yes – the day it all burned. It was almost ready, but I went inside and got side-tracked watching some crappy TV show, and when I came out the whole pan was just black. It had boiled down to the the point where the sugar caught fire, and the pan was like tar. It took a long time to clean that pan up, son of a bitch (laughs). We finally did and were back in business, but that was a whole day’s work gone up in flames. No fun at all.

Filter Set-Up

How do you know when to stop cooking the syrup?
I can tell by the look of the bubbles in the pan; they should be a caramel colour. And by the thickness of the syrup. It’s better to take it off a bit earlier than later, as I can always cook it a bit longer inside on the stove if I need to. 

What’s next after it’s off the fire?
Time to dump it through the filter, at least twice, usually three times to get rid of what your mum calls “sand”. Another mess-up happened one year before we had these factory-made filters. Mum thought she could make a filter, and she already had some black felt. These white ones are even made out of felt. Well, when we poured the hot boiling syrup through the black one, all this dye got washed into the syrup and, lo and behold, we had black syrup – not very appetizing at all (laughs). That was bad news; another day gone. You spend all day – boiling, boiling, boiling, cutting wood, feeding the fire, and whatya got? Dead syrup. So that was a bad day… but today is going to be a good day.

Pot to Jars

After filtering, what’s left to do?
The syrup is pretty well ready to bottle after that. I sterilize the jars in the oven and boil the rings and lids on the stove. The trick is to keep the syrup warm for easy pouring. 

Where do you store maple syrup?
Well, I used to keep it in the cold cellar in the basement, but your mum didn’t like that, so any batches from years past are now in the freezer in the garage.

Batch #4

What determines the colour variations from batch to batch?
Depends on how long it’s cookin’ on the fire. The longer it’s cooked, the darker it is. But also, each batch in a season becomes a bit darker than the last.

How would you rate this year’s syrup?
Most excellent. I think batch #3 is the best I’ve ever made.

Happy Sap

It was a great day, and I was able to bring some of the #4 Julie Dad batch back to Toronto for syrup loving friends. 

Dive Bars: 10 Quintessential Quirks

The classic dive bar is dying. Alas, there are still a few of these fine establishments around for barflies and the curious to enjoy. Dive bars share traits that set them apart, and dare I say above other watering holes.

1. Moody Ambience

The dive bar is often a dark, dank, windowless affair. From the outside you’ll have no idea what lay in wait until you push open that door. If it’s your first venture in, the regulars may scowl as you look around, and you’ll wonder what you’ve gotten yourself into (gone but not forgotten, Tennessee Bar & Grill.)

2. Unique Decor

Neon beer signs are classic decor for these bars. Most dives don’t get fancy with interior design, preferring to decorate with oddities and meaningful mementos. Special touches might include a plaque mounted above Old Jimmy’s favourite urinal’ (still in my heart, Le Sportif.)

3. Devoted Regulars

Who wants to go out to a fancy restaurant, line up, and sit in a room full of strangers? Dive bars welcome regulars of all ages who have specific drinking times. You know who you’re going to see in the morning, early afternoon, late afternoon, and early to late evening. Ah… predictability at it’s best (cheers, Harry’s.) Having your beer on the table before you sit down says – you’ve made it!

4. Cool Bartenders

The classic dive will have wait staff and bartenders with extreme personalities. There’s the ones who listen to you rant and rave while offering advice, and there’s the equally charming curmudgeons who after twenty years (these folk are loyal), still haven’t cracked a smile. Dive bartenders don’t take shit. They’ve seen it all and are not afraid to bar a customer, even a reg for bad behaviour. Note: you have to do something pretty awful to get the boot.

5. Cheap Booze

This lends itself to a wide variety of clientele – from the down-on-their-luck imbibers to this-is-my-last-two-bucks regs. Don’t expect fancy cocktails like chocolate ocelots or gwailo flutes. Domestic pints and basic liquor are the staples. Quarts (thank you, Dominion Tavern) and frosty juice glasses are a nice touch.

6. Tasty Treats

A real dive bar doesn’t have a kitchen, but it may have a giant jar of pickled eggs or pig’s feet on offer. Maybe a chip truck next door or a strip club upstairs that delivers cheeseburgers and fries (thanks again, Dominion Tavern.) A spectacular dive will have a freezer full of McCain Deep ‘n’ Delicious cakes ready to pull out for regulars’ birthdays (shout out to Georgia from the Duke of Connaught.)

7. Antique Jukebox

Every good dive bar has an old juke with a large selection (country to classic rock to punk to metal) that aims to please or piss off. An added touch… you pick a song, and it plays the wrong one. This technical surprise only adds to the charm. Some dives will book live bands – nothing like taking a spin on the floor to a cover of “Brown Eyed Girl” (sweet memories, Lockmaster Tavern.)

8. Pool Table

Great dives will own a beat up coin-operated pool table. You may not be able to find a straight cue or one with a good tip, but it’s there to play. And if you’re lucky, you’ll witness a guy at the end of the night dancing on the table with his pants around his ankles or a bar fight where cue balls are being hurled across the room (tip to the Duke.)

9. Back Alley 

The smokers’ haven. This is where you make the great escape when needed, or slink in when you don’t want to be noticed returning for a little hair of the dog (good times, Beverly Tavern.)

10. Threat of Closure

This is worrisome for the devoted regulars who have not only poured their life’s savings into a bar but who also depend on their home away from home for social stability (miss you, Crazy Horse Lounge.) The big guys are always looking to buy out dives to turn them into fandangle spots that resemble every other craptastic bar in the vicinity. Dive owners struggle to pay rent and with the old man (ladies included) perma-regs dying off, so do their profits.

Twitter Explained

I live in The Land of Twits, and I like it. Well… most of the time. I haven’t met ninety percent of the people I follow because my “real life” friends don’t participate, but they are curious.

I created my first account two years ago during a bout of insomnia. I didn’t tweet much in the beginning, not understanding the point of it all, so just lurked about, reading what famous people were saying.

Then one night, I convinced myself that Twitter was an extension of the Illuminati – I listen to Coast to Coast a lot! I deleted my account and vowed never to return. Six months passed, and another sleepless night had me back on.

Questions from those keen on joining the Land of Twits:

Who should use Twitter?
Anyone who wants to connect with a particular community, locally or internationally. I use it as a way to network with other writers. There’s a niche on the site for everything. Or… anyone who has time to fart around, reading what celebrities are blathering on about.

What do you Tweet?
Most of my tweets are writing related – process, events, links to my blog, articles, other writer’s sites, quotes, and yes, the odd cat photo. I generally dislike Facebook updates but, for some reason, don’t mind sharing random thoughts and activities with people I’ve never met.

How often do you Tweet?
Sometimes a few times a day, sometimes not for days. My quantity is reliant on mood. I tweet more when I’m in a good head space.

Do you engage with people on Twitter?
I don’t unless someone tweets something I can’t resist replying to. You can communicate through the newsfeed which is visible to followers or direct message which is a private internal email system.

Do you follow someone if they follow you?
This is the polite thing to do. If someone follows me, I check out their account to see what they talk about. I need to be interested in what someone has to say to follow them.

How long does it take to build a following?
I don’t focus on this aspect, mine has been gradual. You can increase your followers by following like crazy because most people are polite.

Is it a waste of time?
I was on it a lot more when I first joined and thought it was a bit addictive. Now it’s more in my periphery. I do enjoy the connections I’ve made; it would be cool to meet some of these people in person.

What annoys you most about Twitter?
I think it’s a great way to praise and promote others’ work and passions, but I’ve seen a fine line between this and being a sychophant. As with most things, moderation is key.

Do you think Twitter will be replaced by something better?
Probably… either that or the Illuminati will gain control, and I’ll be forced to quit again.

Why do you tweet? Or not tweet?

Fable Experience

Months ago I was contacted by Robin D. Laws, Creative Director at Stone Skin Press. He asked if I would be interested in writing a fable for an anthology. Richard Scarsbrook had passed my name along.

My first thought was—fable, what’s a fable? I knew there were animals in these tales and usually a lesson of some kind. Off to the library I went to investigate.
Commonalities I found included talking animals, the appearance of humans although rarely referred to by name (the boy, the farmer, the vet), lots of dialogue (often the last line), descriptive verbs and adverbs, the occasional God (Aphrodite, Zeus) as character, an omniscient pov, and an amusing tone. The morals often related to a deadly sin with a single action ending the story. Stories ran 100-400 words and their titles were often simple (The Neighbouring Frogs.)
A project brief explained the boundaries. The fable was to be original, not a retelling of an existing one; word count to be 300-1500; the tone a mix of “pedagogical seriousness with 2,500 year old whimsy”; and the message could be expressed as a last line of dialogue or left implicit. I would have two months to finish the fable. Surprisingly, I was very calm about having a deadline, it helped me focus. 
Robin had received a first wave of fables and said he had enough featuring cats, mice, and fish, as well as stories in which the main character gets eaten by a predator at the end. Of course cats were to figure in my story, but that would have been too easy.
I wanted to choose animals I understood and my first choice was racoons (my mum raised orphans), but I settled on rats (wonderful pets) to be the main characters. I added an army of cockroaches as I’d had the unfortunate experience of living with these. I sent Robin my synopsis: “Domesticated husband and wife rats share flat above sandwich shop with band of cockroaches.”
I knew my story and thought the moral would clarify itself as I went through—not exactly. A friend suggested I choose the moral first and then write from there, but I was already set on the storyline. I was lucky enough to workshop “The Rats and the Cockroaches” with Richard Scarsbrook and Dan Perry (both in the anthology), and F&G Writers. It’s reassuring when the concerns you have are reflected in other’s feedback. This happened again when I sent Robin my final script. He pointed out something, which I thought I might be getting away with. A few more tweaks and zoop—out to the universe.
Super excited to read the anthology. Keep you posted.

Writing Workshop Success

F&G Writers began as an idea over beers at Betty’s two years ago. Fellow students and I had just finished Short Stories II, a creative writing class taught by Emily Schultz, and thought it would be cool to start a writing group. After a few pints, I volunteered to organize. The next morning, I woke not only with a hangover but also with fear and dread. What did I know about starting a workshop? 

Weeks later, two of the kids from school sent me emails. Was I still on board? Crap, they were serious. My comfort zone would need serious renovations. I had taken three classes with Emily who ran super fluid productive workshops; I used her as a model. I also talked to writer friends, and yes, there were discouraging tales of woe, but after sixteen workshops, F&G is still going strong.

Tips and Strategies for Organizing and Moderating a Workshop:

1. Personalities. This can be tricky because writers are a strange lot. Invite writers you’ve met in classes and friends whose work you’ve read. Diversity of life experience, style, voice, and the ability to give constructive feedback are all important factors. No hotheads or crybabies.

2. Commitment. Crucial for longevity. You want members who are focused on their writing despite other interests and day jobs. The group can’t be a drop-in.

3. Size. It matters. I thought eight was the magic number, but it took careful time management and lots of reading and critiquing. Two writers left in the first year and then six seemed perfect. We lost one more and five works fine although new blood is about to be injected.

4. Consistency. We meet on a Friday night, every six weeks for three hours. Do not deviate from your plan as juggling dates around individual schedules is a nightmare. We meet at my home. You want a place that is comfortable, quiet, and accessible.

5. The Work. Anything goes fiction. We write short stories, flash fiction, excerpts, beginnings, and the occasional genre piece. Encourage submissions that are under twelve pages. Give occasional prompts to challenge one another (e.g., write 2nd person POV, use the word murder on the first page, write an urban legend).

6. Format. Ask members to email their fiction one week prior to meeting. At the workshop each writer reads a passage before the group gives feedback. Encourage everyone to comment before the member explains and/or asks questions. Written feedback is optional. Give equal time to each story (varies with story length).

7. Chill. Writing is serious work but workshopping doesn’t have to be. As time passes and trust is built the group will become more laid back and open. We take each other’s work seriously, but there’s a lot of laughing and joking too.

8. Extra Curricular. Plan dinners out between workshops. This gives you a chance to talk shop (processsubmissions, books, rejections and successes), and of course, to have fun. Add literary field trips to book launches and readings.

Running F&G is about process, much like writing. I didn’t know how it would work or if it would work before it began, but it has definitely been worth the effort.

1st Cell Phone Musings

Diggie bought me an iPhone – my first cell phone ever. Before I get savvy, I thought I’d record questions and discoveries that no doubt will later embarrass.

How do people do this one-handed?

Now I get why kids use all these short forms when texting.

My giant hands don’t work so well.

What if I lose it? to which Diggie replied, “You don’t”

Ringtones are fun. I can’t decide on Sherwood Forest or Spell for mail alerts. It’s going to take a long time to give each friend an individial text and ring tone.

I haven’t transferred music from my computer yet because I’m afraid it will disappear.

Where do I get a cool Ramones cover case?

I’ve only made one live call in the privacy of someone else’s home. I feel like a jerk using it in public.

How do I appear natural with this thing? Practice?

My best friend doesn’t have a cell phone. That’s no fun.

Will the cell phone hold-outs think I’m a traitor?

I feel like a grown up.

Apps for 99 cents seems extravagant. I want the free ones but that means I will need my first credit card ever.

Excited for NFL/NHL apps. Will these cause spamarama?

People write books on these things, but do they read them? Sore eyes.

I don’t think I should bring it to the bar.

Someone might grab it out of my hands and run off. They are expensive.

Diggie is going to get annoyed with all my questions.

Louis CK on cellphones

Near Deathmatch Experience

Time again for Broken Pencil’s annual literary brawl. I thought about submitting last year but instead followed the action from outside the ring. What a ride!

Eight stories go head-to-head online. Authors discuss, defend, and duel with other competitors and commenters from the outisde world.

I have the constitution a writer needs to handle rejection and criticism, but when the Deathmatch began it was a whole other kind of writerly abuse. Sure, some of it was tame and encouraging but by the third round the gloves came off. Beat downs between writers and commenters ramped up the competition. It got ugly, and I loved it.

The Deathmatch became a healthy addiction to stave off my winter blues. After work, I couldn’t wait to read what backinthesaddle or succincubus (regulars on the board) dished that day. Most writers handled the pressure of a seven day round, but a couple did go into hiding. Comments ranged from jabs at the craft to cheap shots at cheating.

Two weeks in,  and I was ready to join the arena with an alias of course. It took restraint at times not to throw a few punches of my own, but I focused on the stories, the writer’s life, etc. Even the most dreaded commenter gave me a virtual pat on the back.

When the dust settled and the ring closed, I suffered withdrawl as with any addiction. David Griffin Brown was the last writer standing with “Brink”. And when Broken Pencil #51 came out with the top four stories,  I saw they had also printed one of my comments. My alias was published in BP before I was.

If you want exposure, enjoy craft-swapping, love trash-talking, and have a thick skin, I dare you to submit. And if you can’t afford a SAD lamp get on the comment board.

Indie Writers Deathmatch V Submissions deadline is December 31st, 2011. Contest rules and regulations.

Getting Out of Dodge

 A recent trip to Picton reminded me that getting away from one’s routine is necessary. My three day trip to Prince Edward County brought perspective and writing renewal.

Lake on the Mountain Provincial Park

My sister and I relived childhood memories by touring Main Street, beaching at Sandbanks, driving around Waupoos while eating Black River cheese curds, and buying moccasins in Deseronto.

Giant Tigers and me at the GT Boutique
New Picton haunts: the Queen’s Inn, a homey hands-off hotel on Main Street; City Revival, a vintage store with finds galore; Lake on the Mountain, a natural wonder full of history; and The Acoustic Grill, a local perfect for drinks and cribbage after a day at the beach.