Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Mike McCallie, my friend

Today is Mike McCallie's 67th birthday. I've known him for about 15 years. He is a devoted family man and loyal Chattanooga Mocs fan. 

Mike was hired by The Provident Life and Accident Insurance Company (now Unum) in May 1973 as an Individual Life Underwriting Trainee. I had the opportunity to work with him for nine years.
Mike and his dog, Emme.

Mike always found time to meet with me and share his knowledge or have a good story. If I need the time of day, Mike would probably give me his watch. And, boy, does he love to talk about his family. It's awesome to be around him and watch him glow when he brags about Andrew and Michael.

Mike went to Brainerd High School and began his college education at The University of Chattanooga (now UTC) and joined the Kappa Sigma fraternity. Of course, me as a Sigma Chi, he would have been my rival in school, but it sparked the conversation that started our friendship.

He progressed through various underwriting roles and retired as an Assistant Vice President on December 31, 2011 after 39 years with Unum.

Now that he is retired, I see him more and more out and about at Mocs athletic events and enjoying the good life. I see him every once in a while at Unum when he comes back to celebrate a retirement of another lifelong Unumite. 

He is a gentleman, a man of honor and courage, a man of zeal, yet humble, an intelligent man and a man of truth.

I'm so very fond of Mike, and I am proud to call him my friend. 

Cheers, Mike!

*This is part of my year-long blog devoted to people I cherish

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Happy New Year!

Happy 2017! The ole GrayStation blog is being dusted off! It will be shared to talk about the people I love, admire, and who I want to celebrate while they are on this Earth. 

It's going to well-thought out on some days and other days it may be that person who pops into my mind. There are so many people in our lives who I cherish.

We've had this blog since Y2K, but it's been dormant for 6 years. Twitter and Facebook dominated our time and moved us to brief 140-character statements throughout most of our days.

So, this is going to be awesome. And take a look back on some of the 100+ posts we made from 2000-2010.

Enjoy 2017! ~Erik
The GrayStation: Lucy, Stacy, Rigby and Erik

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The Generosity of Lucy and Rigby

This is one of many portraits of my 6- and 4-year-old kids.

After Lucy's swim lessons at the Sports Barn, we had a fun dinner at Taco Mac, quoting the latest Shrek movie and watching ESPN Sports Center.

The kids did not eat all the chicken tenders and fries that they ordered and wanted to get a to-go box so they could finish their food at home.

As we walked a downtown sidewalk after leaving the restaurant, a man less fortunate than us approached and asked me for money. I never carry cash and I told him so. He told me he was hungry. Without hardly a hesitation, my children gave their to-go box to the man.

He was thankful and a little shocked. I was thankful for the children God has given us. The man thanked us and walked to the nearest bench.

As I looked back over my shoulder at the man enjoying my kids' dinner, Lucy told Rigby, "He was hungry. Sometimes people don't have money to get food."

Rigby replied, "We are lucky."

What a lesson.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Remembering Kinchen Martin

On Memorial Day, remembering so many relatives that served our country. The oldest account of a military relative I can find is this one, Kinchen Martin, who describes his Revolutionary War service in his application for pension.

Kinchen Martin
B. October 5, 1762
D. June 14, 1841

Kinchen Martin served in the revolution as a member of the Virginia line. He was born in the County of Southampton, Virginia and married Chloe Hough in the county of Northampton, North Carolina. They moved to Anson County, North Carolina where he filed an application for a revolutionary war pension.

Application for pension

On this 9th. day of October one thousand eight hundred and thirty-two personally appeared in open court before the worshipful justices holding the court aforesaid for the county of Anson at the court house in Wadesboro--now sitting, Kitchen Martin, a resident of Anson and state of North carolina, aged 70, the 6th. day of January last, who being first duly sworn according to law, doth on his oath make the following declaration in order to obtain the benefit of the Act of Congress passed June 7th. ,1832.

History of Service

He entered the service of the United States under the following named officers and served as herein stated-- I volunteered as a private in the month of October (day not recollected) 1779 for three months in the town of Smithfield, County of Southampton and State of Virginia--under Capt. Whirehead--in the regiment commanded bt Col. Wells--Major Brookwell. I was marched from Smithfield to Suffolk to Portsmouth and to Williamsburg. I served out the full time andwas discharged near Richmond by Col. Wells in January 1780. In this service, I was for awhile under the command of a French Major DeClomder. (spic)
I again volunteered in February 1780 in the county of Southampton, Viaginia for three months, under the command of Capt. Rogers as a Sergeanr Major in the Militia in the regiment commanded by Col. Blount.

In this town, I marched to Petersburgh and thence to the town of Williamsburgh--and was then discharged by Col. Blount in the month of May (day not recollected).

After my return to Southampton, I again volunteered for three months in the month of June 1780 in the county of Southampton, Virginia in a company under the command of Capt. Edmunds in the Calvalry. I was under the command of General Parker. I was made an Adjutant in the troop. We were marched to Jerico and to Suffolk and and other places in that part of Virginia. I served out this three months in the Calvary and was discharged 1780.

I volunteered a 4th. time in the county of Southampton, Virginia for three months in the month of October 1780 under Capt. Blount in the Calvary--was Adjutant. Genl. Parker, commander in Cheif of our forcees--we were sent to diffrent counties of Virginia to reconnoiter the British forces--and report their situation. I went to Richmond, Virginia and was discharged by Genl. Parker near that town in January 1781.

I vounteered again for the fifth time in the month of August 1781-- in the regiment under Col. Blount--was commissioned by him as an Ensign--was sent to keep horses for the Artillery--went to Brunswick County--returned to Old Jamestown where I was sick. This was in October 1781--was there in this month when Cornwallis surrendered to Genl. Washington and the French Army. I was regularly discharged in October 1781--after serving six weeks.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Best-Ever November Day

Today was a November day that will go down as one of the best.

In summary:
-Lucy's last soccer game
-Battle Academy's first festival with fun and games
-Mocs last home football game
-Moving halftime tribute to our military
-Mocs win in a dramatic comeback
-A marriage proposal that capped off a great win
-Playing on the field after the game
-Food, drinks and fun at The Terminal
-Being with family and friends throughout the day

It started off earlier in the week looking at the weather forecast - sunny and 70 degrees on Saturday November 14. I knew then that with everything we had planned and hoped for, it was gonna be a great day.

It started off waking up in bed with my son and my daughter looking at me, waking me. I began the day thinking about my Mocs. Could we get our 6th win? Was today, as beautiful as it was, going to be that day where we really do turn a corner?

We hurried around taking showers and getting dressed for Lucy's last soccer game of the Fall season.

Lucy started the season shy but opened up as her first organized sporting experience carried on. Her coach, Cleveland Grimes, of the North River Soccer Association made it a very positive experience. Lucy's Nana and Papa were also at today's game and got to see her score a goal and receive her first trophy!

High-tailing it home, we changed clothes and headed out to Battle Academy for the first Battle Grounds Festival. Battle Academy, on Main Street in the Southside, continues to be a great school and is doing great things in the community. We are happy that Rigby is in first grade there.

The festival featured a medieval theme, with people in period attire and fun and games from a time long ago. There were also modern games and a couple dozen local artists selling their passions. Two of our favorites, Beth Gumnick and Steve Swayne were there to support the cause.

As the clock neared 1 p.m., we drove down to Finley Stadium, where our Chattanooga Mocs were taking on The Citadel in the last home game of the year. This was not an ordinary game, it was a game where we could really live our theme of "Restore the Glory" with earning a 6th victory for the year and having a winning record.

We spent an hour in the Stadium Club with our dear Copes before the 2 p.m. kickoff. A great crowd was on hand, only to see our Mocs fall behind 21-0 before the Mocs kicked a field goal to make it 21-3 at halftime. I felt depleted.

Rigby, meanwhile, was having an absolute blast running around with one of oldest friends, Aidan, his brother Wyatt and cousin Gavin. They ran all around the stadium doing what kids do. Aunt Tobi-o-Wan was at the game with us and the Hamakers joined us as well.

The halftime show honored each branch of the military while the UTC band played each branch's song. As the color guard from each branch walked out on the field, veterans and active duty stood in the crowd. There was a 21-gun salute, Taps was played and bagpipes played Amazing Grace. That alone was worth being at the game.

After a joyful, yet rather somber halftime, the Mocs took the field. The Mocs made it 21-6 then 21-13 but gave up a touchdown and Citadel was up 28-13. Many fans started leaving. For some reason, we just felt like this year's Mocs were different and that there was still life in them.

The Mocs scored a touchdown and got the 2-point conversion to make it 28-21. And what do you know? The Mocs went for an onside kick and recovered the ball! The Mocs drove down the field but stalled, and settled for field goal to make it 28-24.

And then after a game of porous defense, the Mocs held and Citadel punted. A Mocs punt return for 53 yards to The Citadel 9 yard line happened, but I had to read about it because I was jumping up and down and hugging people.

There we were, down 28-24 and it was all of a sudden 4th down on the Citadel one yard line. Ah, but the old reliable BJ Coleman to Blue Cooper pass play into the endzone gave the Mocs the lead with four minutes to go and the extra point got us to 31-28. The Mocs defense held strong for the remainder of the game and our boys earned their 6th win of the year!

After the game, we all went down on the field. My family, Steve Hamaker and son Foy, the Copes, D. Smo, Alan and Scott Cooper clans all running around throwing football.

Meanwhile, a video montage of Blue Cooper and his girlfriend appeared on the video board. Turns out that Cooper, who caught 14 passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns, was using this to propose to Maci Gault, teammate Jare's sister. What a bonus for the crowd that stayed!!

After taking pictures and throwing our arms ragged, everyone finally left Finley. The sun was setting on one of the more memorable games ever held in the stadium's 12-year existence.

We headed to The Terminal Brewhouse with Steve, Foy and Tobi. When we arrived and chose to eat outside on the green roof, we were delighted to see Eva and Lori Hairrell and other friends who were enjoying a Saturday evening. Eva has been Rigby's "girlfriend" since they were 12 weeks old.

Family, friends, pizza, beer and good times closed the evening for us all.

So if I was to write about a perfect day, this was one of those days. Thank God for the life we have been given.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Boathouse apology attempt

A little more proof, if you needed it, that The Boathouse Restaurant's owner sent the original and now infamous emails. Make of this what you will. And kudos to local restaurants for capitalizing on the demise of the Boathouse.

From: lawton Haygood []
Sent: Monday, June 29, 2009 8:15 AM
To: xxxxxx
Subject: RE: Restaurant Experience

Mr. xxxxx ,

I want to apologize for my recent comments to you.

Let me first explain why I was upset with you and possibly you might partially see what surrounded my very poor thinking and insensitive statement. The staff took a few minutes to seat you and I know that upset you which I did not understand. Since your infant was in a car seat, the manager wanted to be certain you were seated at a table with seats safe and secure for the car seat and the 3 year old. Additionally, I felt like you should have respected our right to establish our policy on bringing foods from another restaurant, whatever our reasons were and at least called and asked. It was my understanding that the manager tried to explain there were reasons for the policy beyond the health code. I got upset that you continued your arguments four days later and made disparaging remarks about my managers, who I believed had made their best effort to provide menu recommendations for your child. They handle that sort of request several times each day. It appeared you would not settle for anything less than the McDonalds food you brought for your child. In my state of irritation with you and in moment of personal weakness, I made a very insulting comment which reflected on your parenting. I did not mean for it to come out that way but it did. I had no right to make any assumptions about how you perform your duties as a parent and for that unfortunate response, I sincerely apologize.

You are correct on the Tennessee health code and I am sure it irritated you to find what she had told you, about the code, was incorrect regarding the McDonalds food. However, I do not believe the manager would tell you something if she did not believe it to be true. She, like me and most senior managers in the country, have had the understanding it was a code violation in all states. Most states, including Georgia, have restrictions on all food products brought from unlicensed purveyors. The reason being, if there is a health issue at a restaurant, they want to be able to trace back all the possible sources of the illness.

Most independent restaurants have a policy against bringing food from other restaurants , which go well beyond the health code issue. For example, we cannot tell one customer his is food is ok to bring and the next is not. Hopefully, you will appreciate the possible discrimination problems that could be involved. Certainly, within reason, we work with people who have special needs… serious dietary problems and with infant’s baby food, to name a few. But, we believe we must continue our policy on restricting foods from other restaurants.

It bothers me a great deal that I let this happen and how it insulted you, regardless of my opinion at the time. Obviously, I should have given a more generous response to begin with instead of my very insulting remark. I have no defense for what I said to you, but would like to say, this is not my normal reaction to a customer complaint. I treasure my customers and work hard as I can to please them. Hopefully, our products reflect that attitude. I hope somehow you and your family will find it in your heart to forgive me for my terribly insulting comment.


Lawton Haygood

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Demise of Boathouse Rotisserie & Raw Bar

The following email chain spread like wildfire today across Chattanooga. If Lawton Haygood, the General Partner of the Boathouse Rotisserie & Raw Bar, is this type of man, then I will not step foot near his establishment.


From: name removed
Sent: Thursday, June 25, 2009 1:08 PM
Subject: Restaurant Experience

To whom it may concern.

I wanted to inform you an incredibly unsatisfactorily experience I had with your restaurant. On Saturday June 20, I attempted to take my father to the Boathouse for a Father's Day dinner along with my wife, my 3 year old and my 1 month old daughter. My Father was in from out of state and I wanted to bring him to a dinner he would enjoy as he loves seafood. In order to make the experience enjoyable for everyone, we stopped at McDonalds prior to arriving at the restaurant in order to get my daughter some food that she would be willing to eat. My daughter can be a particularly picky eater at times and we wanted to make sure that she would be happy and there would be something she would be willing to eat.

When I arrived at the restaurant, it was noticeably not crowded yet I had to wait for almost 10 minutes while the multiple hostesses tried to determine where I could be seated. Keep in mind that it was probably close to 100 degrees out and that I have a one month old child. I finally was brought to my seat after this wait and was in the process of being seated, when a female employee whom I might assume was the manager came over to me and informed me that would could not bring me daughters food into the restaurant as it was against the "Health Code" for such to be done. I attempted to explain the situation to her and was basically put on deaf ears and repeatedly told that it was a health code issue and that my only choice was to leave and go elsewhere. I was never offered any sort of other alternative. So therefore despite the fact that I went out of my way to go to your restaurant, I had to then load 2 kids back into the car in the 100 degree heat and drive to another restaurant.

After this experience, I contacted the State of Tennessee to see if this was in fact a violation and received the following email back:

-----Original Message-----
From: Lori LeMaster
To: name removed
Sent: Thu, Jun 25, 2009 11:38 am
Subject: Re: Question

name removed
It is not a violation of the food service establishment rules & regulations to bring food into a restaurant from another restaurant. However, some restaurants choose to implement their own policies restricting foods from other establishments.

Thank you,

>> 6/21/2009 7:17 PM
Can you tell me if you are allowed by the health code to bring food into another restaurant. For example, can I bring in McDonalds prepared food into another restaurant if it is still packaged or is it a health Violation?

Thank You
name removed <<

Lori LeMaster
Environmental Health Program Manager
Tn Department of Health
General Environmental Health
425 5th Avenue North, 3rd floor
Nashville, TN 37247

As you can, See what I was told by your Employee was completely incorrect that it was an issue with the "Health Code" and may have only been a policy of your restaurant. If this is the case, it should have been explained to me as such, and I would think that any reasonable person would be willing to work with a customer in this regard. I had thought that the Boathouse and it partner restaurants were family friendly type establishments and would understand how difficult it can be at times to have children, but apparently, I misunderstood and it is your desire not to have customers with children.

Based on this treatment, I have elected not to continue to eat at any of your establishments and will be sure to also relay my experience to others, especially those with children. I also wanted to make sure that you understood that you have employees that are using the health code to enforce rules of your establishment that are not part of the health code.

I would appreciate this if this could be shared with the Owners/Manager in Charge or your establishment so he is aware of this experience and hopefully no future customers are treated as poorly as I was.

Have a pleasant Day.

name removed


From: lawton Haygood []
Sent: Thursday, June 25, 2009 1:34 PM
To: name removed
Subject: RE: Restaurant Experience

name removed

You really should check with your Pediatrician, concerning a 3 year old having that much control over her nutritional program.

Lawton Haygood
General Partner


From: name removed
Sent: Thursday, June 25, 2009 1:41 PM
To: lawton Haygood
Subject: RE: Restaurant Experience

Wow, Thanks for the caring response. I am in awe that someone who is the General Partner of a restaurant would be that smart assed to a customer. My daughter is not in control of her nutritional program by any means, I was just trying to let her have a treat and have something that she wanted to eat that evening and in turn let us have a pleasant night out as a family. I apologize that my family is that much of a burden to you and your company. I thought it would be important to get some feedback from a customer's experience, but apparently, it is not something that you care too much about.

name removed


From: lawton Haygood []
Sent: Thursday, June 25, 2009 1:52 PM
To: name removed
Subject: RE: Restaurant Experience

You go to McDonalds to get a happy meal, then to a restaurant, then back in a hot car and go to another restaurant, but the 3 year old is not in charge? You need to really think about that.


From: name removed
Sent: Thursday, June 25, 2009 1:57 PM
To: 'lawton Haygood'
Subject: RE: Restaurant Experience

Thanks for the parenting advice. You are unbelievable and I will be sure to share this level of caring that you display with as much people as possible. I quickly drove through a drive through while my baby slept and got my daughter some food. It is pretty rude of you to insinuate that I was a bad parent for doing this, but based on the consistent response you and your co-workers care to display, I can see that it is more of a practice. I wish that I was as perfect a parent as you must have been. Perhaps if I only checked with you, prior to coming to the restaurant, I could have been better.

name removed

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Thoughts of Will Riley

Nine-month-old Will Riley sat in the lap of family members on the front row in Cathedral of Christ the King. It was a beautiful, sunny March Tuesday afternoon in Lexington, Kentucky.

The priest conducted the Mass memorial service. The cathedral was filled with the songs and prayers of those mourning and celebrating eternal life.

After the Eucharist and Communion, family members spoke of fond memories of a young life cut short. Near the end of the two hour service, the Sigma Chi White Rose ceremony was conducted by current Sigma Chi Grand Consul Bob Jones, with remarks given by past Grand Consul Dick Hester.

As Brother Hester's remarks came to a close, more than 300 Sigma Chi brothers in attendance slowly began to stand. They formed a procession that soon lined the walls of the cathedral, each brother holding a single white rose.

Each brother, one-by-one, walked by the family, consoling and comforting. Will's mother, Kate, stood strong and hugged each brother as they passed. And then, each brother released his white rose in front of her.

Will, pacifier in mouth, just stared at the people around him. He did not know. How could he? Or did he?

As I approached the family, I leaned toward Will, and grasped his small hand - his gentle touch on my index finger washed over me. Kate looked on, and my emotions released.

I turned around with my white rose and leaned toward the urn that contained the remains of Will's father, Christopher Todd Riley. More than 100 white roses already surrounded the urn. My hands hugged the urn; my wedding ring produced a small metallic sound on the lid as I whispered, "I love you, buddy." A sense of calm and isolation came over me, but as I looked back into the cathedral I realized that hundreds more felt what I felt.

More than 200 brothers followed. The procession of Sigma Chis in that great cathedral was one of the more spiritual experiences I have ever had.

As the service came to a close, I shook hands with brothers from Denver, from Orlando, from Chicago and everywhere in between. Todd was truly loved and admired by many. One would have thought Todd was 70-years-old with the following that was there, but alas, Todd left this earth at the young age of 33. A life cut short, but done so at the calling of God.

Will, you won't know your father physically, but the memories provided that day and the people in attendance will certainly provide you with the everlasting love that Todd gave to you while on this earth.

Will, your father loved you so much. I was with him a couple weeks ago at Tennessee Tech and the first thing he spoke of was you and Kate. I have a text message on my phone from him that Saturday, February 21, telling me he was "on campus now."

Will, many of us have promised to be by your side when you go to college and pledge Sigma Chi, somewhere around 2027. Until then and forever more, you have a lot of uncles by your side.

Will, your dad was a man of good character, he possessed good morals and had a high sense of honor. He fought the good fight. He wore the White Cross of Sigma Chi worthily through life. I was honored to know him, to be his friend, to be his brother.

Rest in peace, Todd.

All honor to his name.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Aileen Martin Gray

My last grandparent, Aileen Martin Gray, passed away Saturday, February 28. She was 89. She spent March 1, her 67th wedding anniversary, in heaven with Astor Holmes Gray, Jr. Rest in peace, Pap and Grandmother, you are together again!


Mrs. Aileen Martin Gray, 89, of Peachland, died Saturday, February 28, 2009, in the Prattville Baptist Hospital, Prattville, Ala.

Funeral services will be 2:00 p.m. Wednesday in Peachland Baptist Church with Rev. Larry Allen and Rev. Charles Cauthen officiating. Interment will follow in Peachland Cemetery. The family will greet friends at Leavitt Funeral Home on Tuesday from 5:00-7:00 p.m.

Mrs. Gray was born in Anson County on May 31, 1919, a daughter of the late Fannie Lee Hyatt and Jasper Lee Martin Sr. She was married to the late Holmes Gray Jr. She was a longtime resident of Peachland, recently moving to Millbrook, Ala., to be closer to her son.

Survivors include one son, Holmes (Sandi) Gray III of Millbrook, Ala.; five grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; half-brothers and sisters, James “Jim” Martin and Nancy Lovett, both of Wadesboro, Lillian Carpenter of Polkton, and Elizabeth Horne of Peachland.

Mrs. Gray was preceded in death by three brothers, William Thomas Martin, Hendley Martin and Hubert Martin; and three half-brothers, Jasper Martin Jr., Guy Martin, and Nelson Martin.

Memorials may be made to Peachland Baptist Church, P.O. Box 146, Peachland, N.C., 28133. Leavitt Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements. Online condolences may be made at

Sunday, February 01, 2009

A win thanks to 237

As Super Bowl XLIII was winding down, I could not help but wonder where the Steelers defense had gone. Larry Fitzgerald wondered that too as he ran straight down the center of the field for a touchdown, giving the Cardinals the lead.

Ah, but when the Cardinals took the lead, there were two minutes and 37 seconds left on the clock. That's 2:37. For those who know me well, a lucky number of mine is 237. I sat on the couch just thinking, this is it - the Steelers are going to come back and win this thing.

For the love of The Ohio State University (Santonio Holmes) and Miami Ohio (Ben Roethlisberger), the Steelers drove down the field, scored a touchdown and captured their sixth Super Bowl championship.

Big thanks to 237!

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Son and nephew

I had the pleasure of taking Rigby and my nephew, Connor, to the Mocs vs. Georgia Southern basketball game tonight. Connor was visiting Chattanooga for the weekend - he lives in Knoxville.

Upon picking Connor up, I turned off the radio and listened to the conversation in the back seat. They talked about movies, games and friends at school. I did not think much of it and just drove on to the arena.

We got to the arena just in time for tip-off. Those two boys practically sat in their seats the entire game, except for going to get 32-ounce cokes and a tub of popcorn, as well as trips to the restroom.

As a big Mocs fan, I take much pride in how Rigby is starting to grasp basketball and cheer on the Mocs. He was yelling for plays to be made, cheering when we scored, attentively watched the scoreboard and pumped his fist just like his daddy does.

Connor followed right along, following Rigby's lead and danced to almost every Mocs pep band song. Throughout the game, they urged for the Big River blimp to fly over them and drop the coupons - it never made it over us.

The second half was full of action on the court. At the beginning of the half, I placed my trust in the boys and went to the concourse to get them ice cream. As I made it back my section, they were in their seats, cheering on the Mocs - it was a good feeling to take a little risk and know they were okay, but noting that I had some friends watching over in the row behind.

The Mocs scored 100 points and the boys were very excited about our win. After the game, I took them down to the court and they ran around playing a game involving throwing their hats in the air and swinging at each other - no harm no foul I guess.

We made the leisurely walk back to the car and then headed back to the Oglesby Ranch in East Ridge, where pizza and family awaited.

The radio was still off, and that is when I realized what I did not think about when I was driving to the game - how special that moment was. Here were two little boys in the back seat, talking about their favorite movies, talking about favorite movie quotes and scenes, barely getting a breath in between. One of these boys I helped make, the other one I held in my arms soon after he was born. I have known both of these boys since their life on earth began and have watched them grow into smart, energetic and caring beings.

For a thoughtful moment I pictured them 70 years later, talking about who knows what. What a great day.

~ ~ ~

P.S. Here it is midnight. I am finishing this entry at the keys of my MacBook Pro and Rigby is sitting by my side, blowing torches out on the Indiana Jones Lego game for the Nintendo DS.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Santa knows

Christmas is almost upon us and, oh, what a time we will have!

We spent the weekend in White Pine and enjoyed time with family for some pre-Christmas gift opening and stomach stuffing of great food.

The time-honored tradition of watching the Dandridge Christmas Parade was also in full effect on Saturday afternoon. Erik spent Saturday morning with 1989 classmates at Sevier County High School, touring the halls and telling stories.

So Rigby and Lucy have told us what they want for Christmas. Rigby told Santa the other day that he wants a remote control dinosaur, namely "Spike," the ultra dinosaur. Santa looked at me and then asked Rigby, do you want anything else? Rigby, said "Nope, that's it."

Lucy was a little easier. She wants anything pink - purse, Barbie, Barbie car, etc.

So later I asked Rigby what if Santa could not find it. Rigby said, "Santa does not have to look for it, his elves make it."

Rigby later told Stacy that he wanted a space station as well. When we asked Rigby what kind of space station, Rigby said, "Santa knows." Guess he will have to figure that one out.

So off I went to Target tonight, with Santa. I swear a tornado of shopping went through that place and there was no Spike, much less anything else.

But there were about eight Spikes at Toys R Us! While Santa was there, a Disney Princess kitchen set happened to make it into Santa's shopping cart as well.

The economy is not hurting in Chattanooga! The lady at Toys R Us told me that they got 144 Wii's on Friday night and that the last one sold Sunday evening. There were more than six Toys R Us employees roaming the aisles stocking items. The place was quite full of people after 10 p.m. and they are open until Midnight until Christmas eve.

Fun times.

Merry Christmas to all! Hope you enjoy your friends, family and the reason for the season!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

A Great December Weekend

The GrayStation family had such a great weekend - MAINx24, The Chattanooga Market, Inhabit, good eats around town and spending fun times with family and friends.

We arrived on Main Street Saturday morning just in time for the Main Street parade. Rigby had already started the morning earlier at TAG Gym practicing his gymnastic skills.

It was great to see so many people on Main Street enjoying a neighborhood parade in cloudy, windy, 35 degree weather. After the parade concluded, we followed Santa in his horse and carriage down Main Street. We ran into friends along the way and then crossed the street over to Bluegrass Grill. If you haven't been, get there.

After finishing a great brunch, we strolled on down Main Street to Green/Spaces and then on to Niedlov's Breadworks. They have some of the best bread in town, and our bag of cheddar pepper sourdough and a holiday Stollen proves it. And a big full-of-blueberries muffin for Lucy.

After enjoying ourselves visiting various stops along Main Street, we made our way on down the Southside to the Chattanooga Market to see Ivey Handcrafted and other folks.

After the Market, we toured some open houses in Jefferson Heights and enjoyed the Take Root tree-planting scene at the J.H. Park.

We made it home in the afternoon for a quick catnap before we took the kids to Nana and Papa's for the evening.

And so the night began. We had an awesome evening and dinner at St. John's Restaurant with the Hamakers, Stricklands and Fernandezes, not to mention some other nearby political figures and prominent citizens.

The late evening led us to Loose Cannon Studios on Rossville Ave off Main Street for a great Inhabit party, enjoying beer+wine+liquor+food+music+shenanigans. The place was flat-out packed, so much that the street outside was closed off and the loading dock area out back was loaded with fire pits to keep the 500+ people warm on a clear, chilly evening.

We met up with many friends we had not seen in a long time and others who we see and enjoy regularly. What a great time.

We made it back to a sleeping location at the Oglesby Ranch in the wee hours and then woke around sunrise. We loaded up the kids and, on the way home, we drove down Main Street surveying the post-event scene and realizing how lucky we are to live in such a great city. One last stop before we got home, Hardee's breakfast!

Sunday was great as well. We enjoyed family time and then went for an afternoon drive. We went back out to the Chattanooga Market to buy some Christmas gifts and found a great new salsa maker from Atlanta. Wow!

We had dinner back down on our local haunt, Frazier Avenue, and enjoyed a tasty new spot, Good Dog. The various hot dogs, fries and "condiment gallery" were awesome. Dessert consisted of what else? Clumpies.

We finished the day driving around North Chattanooga looking at Christmas lights and then filled up on $1.43 a gallon gas.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Fall Break

We recently had a great Fall Break with the kids. It was Rigby's first break from kindergarten, which he is thriving in.

We spent the week doing a little shopping, house cleaning, eating at our favorite restaurants, hiking on part of the Cumberland Trail on Signal Mountain, visiting the Creative Discovery Museum, playing at the Pumpkin Patch playground, resting and just enjoying our time together.

We spent the last weekend of our Fall Break in Atlanta. On Friday, we made our first stop at The Varsity, of course, and then visited the Fernbank Museum of Natural History. What a fun museum - the kids really liked it. We later shopped in Perimeter Mall - always nice to visit the Apple Store!

On Saturday, we visited Imagine - Atlanta Children's Museum, ate at Fritti, a very Italian restaurant in Virginia Highlands and then ended up in Little Five Points for the infamous Halloween Parade. What a time we had! The main streets were closed for the festivities. We saw everything from zombies, to princesses, to nuclear victims, to vampires, to elves, to kids in teddy bear outfits, to a woman dressed as Sarah Palin carrying a baby and a gun. The parade last more than an hour!

We ended the Saturday with a trip to Philips Arena to cheer on the Atlanta Thrashers hockey team, who beat the Buffalo Sabres through overtime and into a shootout. It was a great first game for the kids. Rigby really got into it. Lucy liked the ladies who cleaned up the ice during timeouts - so did Erik.

On Sunday, we went to the new World of Coca-Cola. It is a very manageable journey through Coke history and it ended with flavor stations through the World of Coca-Cola. There are more than 60 varieties of drinks from around the world. Lucy and Rigby tried almost everything, some of it was quite untasty. Needless to say, we were all fairly wired on the drinks.

So a great time had by the GrayStation and then it was back to school and work.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Our Boy is Five

Five years ago, Stacy and I awaited the birth of our son Rigby. Stacy championed through more than a day of labor. It was very fitting that he arrived on Labor Day.

And today, we followed and watched our little boy climb a mile-long trail with an elevation change of almost 500 feet at the Little River Canyon National Preserve in Alabama.

Oh, how time flies.

We shared a wonderful weekend with friends and family, celebrating Rigby's fifth birthday.

We had a Friday night party at our house with his friends and a black Spider-Man cake. We then had a Saturday afternoon party at our house with family and a red Spider-Man cake. We are so very fortunate to have such a loved little man.

Robert Fulgham said 20 years ago and this is a great quote that fits Rigby, "Be aware of wonder. Live a balanced life--learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some."

We love you, Rigby. You live your life already with character, responsibility and compassion for others.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Summer Road Trip - Day 6 & 7

Sunday was our last day in Chicago and we were going to make the most of it.

Rigby's allergies started acting up and he had a nice little cough. Luckily we had his medicine with us. As Erik got it out and was preparing it, the kids were on the couch watching TV. All of a sudden, Lucy started coughing. We turned to look at Lucy and she had her hand over her mouth preparing a great acting job. We all started to chuckle, but Lucy kept going. Rigby exclaimed that Lucy was tricking us. We all knew it, but Lucy was trying so hard to convince us - she wanted to be just like brother. It was a great moment.

After packing up the car, we checked out of the hotel and went into the city. We parked in South Chicago and rode the orange line train to the Loop. We emerged at the base of the Sears Tower, the tallest building in the US and in the Top 5 in the world depending on what is measured (occupied floor or to the top of antennas), although about 5 other buildings are being constructed in India, China, South Korea and the Chicago Spire that will kick the Sears Tower out of the Top 10.

The view from the 103rd floor is still awesome. We took a minute elevator ride to the top. It was a clear sunny day and we made a trip to each side of the building studying the scenery below and beyond. Rigby was amazed and played “I Spy” on the streets below with Stacy.

The restrooms on the 103rd floor sky deck, 1,353 feet above street level are the highest in the world. We made sure to leave our mark.

After a good time in the Sears Tower, we made our way over to the Magnificent Mile, shopping and eating mecca.

We went to the Original Uno Pizzeria and enjoyed a mid-afternoon lunch of tasty deep-dish pepperoni pizza.

Later, we did a little shopping at the Lego Store, Lucky Brand, Hello Kitty and Sephora. We loaded up on some Lego gifts and Lucy got a purse at Hello Kitty.

So that was it, we took the train back to our car and left the city heading for home. We drove through Indianapolis and into Greensburg, Indiana, where we stayed at a brand new Hampton Inn and Suites for the night. Greensburg is home to a new Honda auto manufacturing plant. We stayed in town all of about 9 hours, most of that sleeping.

On Monday, we drove a little out of our way and went to I-75 and made about an hour stop in Cincinnati for some Busken cookies and some new Xavier Musketeers gear.

We had a great trip. It was fun enough for Rigby that he declared he was okay with moving to Chicago if we had to.

We got back by 5 p.m., just in time to get to Rigby's school for a kindergarten parents meeting.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Summer Road Trip - Day 5

After our standard wakening and eating of the free breakfast, we loaded up early and drove to South Chicago and the Museum of Science and Industry.

This is the largest science museum in the Western Hemisphere.

The museum features a vast array of awesome exhibits, and these are all indoors so you get an idea of how big the place is:

- a German submarine (U-505) captured during World War II
- a 3,500 square foot model railroad that has a scale model Chicago skyline, mountain range and then a scale model Seattle on the other side
- the first diesel-powered streamlined stainless-steel passenger train (Pioneer Zephyr)
- a NASA space capsule used on the Apollo 8 mission.
- a Boeing 727 hanging from the ceiling
- an Omnimax theater
- a steam locomotive
- a working toy assembly line
- a genetics lab
- a chicken hatchery (yes, we saw chicks hatched)
- a mock-up of a Chicago street from the early 1900s
- and so on . . .

The building was initially built as The Palace of Fine Arts for 1893 World's Columbian Exposition (better known as the Chicago World's Fair), then it housed the Field Museum and has been the science museum for 75 years. The building itself is a museum piece with its massive halls and beautiful rotunda entrance.

We stayed there for five hours and did not see everything. That is pretty good though with two kids! We played in the great lawn out front and enjoyed the clear blue sky before departing the grounds.

We spent the rest of the day exploring the city by car, using our GPS to visit certain areas we wanted to see. We stopped at Wrigley Field and took Rigby's picture underneath the famous Cubs sign as well as with the Ernie Banks "Mr Cub" statue.

Our meal of the evening consisted of some great Thai food at Siam Pasta in North Chicago. We ordered lots of items. Rigby ate a plate of fried Tofu and soy sauce - he said it tastes like chicken. Lucy sort of picked through stuff, but she ate at the hotel later.

We got back to the hotel early to prepare for our last day in the Windy City.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Summer Road Trip - Day 4

Today (Friday) after breakfast, we decided to drive downtown today instead of taking the train. On our way, we stopped at the Sigma Chi International Headquarters. Erik met with the Executive Director, Mike Dunn, who has become a great friend since their first days together at one of Sigma Chi's Leadership Workshops several years ago.

After a quick tour of the headquarters building and the fraternity history museum, we headed down the Lake Michigan shoreline to the city.

We parked in a parking garage under Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears.

Our goal for the day, visit the Field Museum and the Shedd Aquarium. What a day!

The Field Museum was amazing. Of course the centerpiece was "Sue," the largest and most complete T. Rex skeleton in the world. We saw hundreds of mammals and birds along our journey, all real, but stuffed with sawdust and metal. The exhibition halls in this place were massive. We could have spent an entire day in there as adults, but with kids we sort of raced through to see what was around every corner. One of the best was the massive hall of dinosaur skeletons, brontosaurus, triceratops, stegosaurus, etc.

At the Shedd, a 75-year-old Greek and Roman style architecture building, we visited many tanks and saw all types of fish from all over the world. We got very close to sharks in the new exhibit, Wild Reef. Lucy really enjoyed the penguins.

The attached 15-year-old oceanarium featured a 3 million gallon salt water tank. The surroundings had a spruce and cedar rain forest on the water’s edge. We watched a dolphin show where they leaped and splashed. Sea lions and otters played in other nearby coves. Another favorite was seeing the beluga whales.

We later walked all through Grant Park to the famous Buckingham Fountain. The sun was setting and the mist from the geyser-like fountain was cool against the summer sun.

We then walked through Millennium Park to the Cloud Gate, or "The Bean" as it is called. The 110-ton elliptical sculpture is made of a seamless series of highly polished stainless steel plates, which reflect the city's skyline and the clouds above. It looks like a blob of liquid mercury and measurers 66-feet long by 33-feet high.

Next was the Crown Fountain, which consists of two 50-foot glass block towers at each end of a shallow reflecting pool. The towers project video images of a 1,000 Chicago citizens, and when they open their mouths, water flows out. Awesome!

As darkness fell, we walked to the Red Line and took a train to the closest station to the Field. We walked back across a park to the parking garage under a full moon and beautiful night skyline.

We drove back towards the hotel and stopped in Evanston to enjoy a late night dinner at Dave's Italian Kitchen. The restaurant was in a basement and was all Italian. We started out with loaves of bread and olive oil. The kids loved that! Our dinner soon came out and featured an awesome whole wheat pepperoni pizza and a baked spaghetti, mozzerella and meat sauce. We had more than enough to take back to the hotel - thank goodness we have a fridge!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Summer Road Trip - Day 3

Day 3 was a monumental day! We went to see Ken Griffey, Jr and his new team, the Chicago White Sox.

First, of course, we woke up for free breakfast in the lobby. Rigby was amazed at the delicious doughnuts. "This breakfast is better than I thought it would be," he exclaimed.

After breakfast, we moved over to the indoor pool. Rigby trusts his arm floats now and swims all over the pool. Lucy was not as sure, but she liked the big yellow ball, the foam floats and the hot tub.

A refreshing morning at the pool got us prepared for a big day in South Chicago.

We drove to the Howard Red Line park and ride station and took the red line train through town and to the Sox-35th Station.

We got to the stadium about an hour before game time. Big tip is to buy on Ticketmaster, because there is a Ticketmaster station at the stadium to pick up your tickets and you do not have to wait in line at will call.

We had great seats on the club level, complete with an indoor concourse, an in-seat menu and servers that took our order and brought our food out to us.

Before the National Anthem, the Navy Seals' Leap Frogs parachuted in to the stadium with a Sox flag and an American flag. That was very cool. Throughout the game, the Blue Angels were flying around the city and over the stadium preparing for the weekend's 50th Annual Air & Water Show.

We saw Griffey hit 1 of 2 with a run and 2 walks. It was great to hear Rigby and Lucy yell for Griffey when he was up to bat. This is the guy, one of the best to play, that people will talk about for decades to come, and my kids saw him play!

The game blew up in the 6th inning when the White Sox hit four home runs in a row, a first for the White Sox in their long history.

When the game concluded and the Sox won 9-2, we rode the train to Grand Station and walked east to Navy Pier. Oh, the day was getting rolling now!

As we arrived to the Navy Pier, we saw the biggest McDonalds we had ever seen. Good Lord at the commerce and fattiness in that place!

Our purpose for visiting the Pier was to go to the Chicago Children's Museum. This place was great. We saw a dinosaur, a massive Lego Sears Tower replica, rope climbing area, a log cabin, a transportation exhibit, Lucy picking veggies, an outdoor patio overlooking the city, a large water play room, a big back yard exhibit where we were the small creatures and a great interactive room with screens where computerized butterflies landed on our bodies. That was just the tip of the iceberg. We all really enjoyed our visit.

As the sun set, Rigby and Erik took a ride on the 150-feet tall ferris wheel. Rigby could not stop saying how awesome it was.

As night fell, we took a bus to the Magnificent Mile. As we looked around for our red line station, we happened upon Chicago Fire Station 98. The firemen invited us in and we got to sit in a fire engine and looked at old pictures dating back to 1900. Big thanks to those guys for making us feel welcome.

So we finally hopped on another bus and to the red line station.

What a long day - our kids (4 and 2 years old!) walked everywhere with us. Lucy did get carried a good bit, but she is a great trooper. We got back to the hotel room after 11 p.m. We finished the day watching USA win gold and silver in gymnastics.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Summer Road Trip - Day 2

We awoke from our slumber, enjoyed a nice free breakfast and hit the road headed for Chicago.

We stopped in Indianapolis, hoping to see the NCAA Hall of Champions. When we arrived we learned it was temporarily closed for renovation to repair recent damage from an isolated fire. Too bad, oh well.

So we drove through the city and enjoyed the sights. The new Colts football facilty, Lucas Oil Stadium, opens this year. It is massive and seems to dwarf the exisiting RCA Dome.

We stopped for lunch at Penn Station in honor of Uncle Corey - he loves those sandwiches and there is not one near Chattanooga.

We arrived to Chicago in the mid-afternoon and checked in our Hampton Hotels room in the northern suburb of Skokie. We got a corner suite with a full kitchen, living room and master bedroom. Rigby exclaimed, "this rocks!"

After a brief rest, we hopped on the Skokie yellow transit line, then the red line and exited right in the middle of downtown. It was raining a little, but we walked among the skyscrapers and took shelter where we could. We walked past Millennium Park looking for a fun place to eat, but there were really only chain restaurants and we did not want that!

We walked a portion of Michigan Ave, across the State Street Bridge as well as the Wabash Bridge as the sun set. The water was beautiful, as Rigby and Lucy said. We saw the massive new and still under construction, 80-story Trump Tower. Wow!

We walked around a little more and then jumped back on the train. The kids fell asleep on the way back. We ended the day eating take out food in the room and watching Food Network. Now on to the next fun day in town!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Summer Road Trip - Day 1

Let the end of summer road trip begin! Destination - Chicago!

But first, we started the day with a monumental occasion. Today was Rigby's first phase-in day of kindergarten at Battle Academy. Rigby was hesitant at first, but he warmed up soon after his parents left and let him do his thing. He later told us that he was a little shy and that he did not know all the people that were there. He said he is ready to go back now.

So after the first big day was over, we picked up Lucy and Rigby and took off up I-24 to Nashville and north on I-65. A pit stop at a Jack In The Box restaurant was made to get out of the 5 p.m. Nashvegas traffic and we were on our way.

We made it past Louisville tonight and are staying in a Hampton Hotels Suite just south of Indianapolis. The pool welcomed a late night swim from Rigby and Erik. Stacy finished the night reading a book and Lucy had her warm milk.

Now on to sleep and ready for the last several hours north!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Rigby's remark of the month

So the GrayStation visited AT&T Field to see the Chattanooga Lookouts play on Thursday night. Erik was joining his fellow managers in the Unum skybox, a place our kids have grown accustomed to. Quite frankly, we need to get them in the general seats once and a while to get them used to "real baseball watching."

The point of this post is that the IHOP Discover America Pancakes tour was at the game. A very large RV was out front and IHOP employees were handing out stuff to celebrate their 50th anniversary.

Also in attendance was the Most Valuable Pancake mascot, a human-sized, walking pancake. Well, of course Rigby and Lucy had to get a hug from a big pancake. Upon completing the hug, Rigby proceeded to the entrance, but turned around briefly only to exclaim to the walking pancake, "I love you...with syrup."

Bless his funny heart.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Maine - Day 5

Well, the end of the vacation is upon us. We got up early Monday morning and with gear already packed the night before, we loaded up and headed south down State Route 1.

We chose to drive down State Route 1 instead of I-95 so we could see the great small towns along the coast. We visited towns such as Scarborough, Saco, Biddeford, Kennebunkport, Wells, Ogunquit, Cape Neddick, York and Kittery.

Having not eaten at the hotel, we chose to find the first small town restaurant that caught our eyes and taste buds. The Golden Rooster in Saco was that spot. The place had been there for 40 years on this small town's main street. We enjoyed an awesome breakfast of pancakes, eggs and bacon. The service was great and friendly. In fact, when we walked in, a customer at the bar turned to us and said, "you all just take a seat where you like." They must have known we were not from around here.

After breakfast and just down the road on the town edge was a wind turbine, standing tall over the city. That was really cool to see.

We did take long enough to get gas in Wells and take a picture of Wells House of Pizza and Roast Beef, where they only take cash. What a combination!

We traveled State Route 1 all the way to the state line, crossing over into New Hampshire and then onto I-95. One of the first signs that welcomed us into the State was a State sign that read, "NH Alcohol Store, Lottery Tickets" high above the interstate, just like one of those big directional signs. Now that is classy.

We drove straight through NH and made way to Boston, home of our departing flight. Our flight did not leave until 5:45 p.m. so we had a little time in Boston.

We stopped in Cambridge and walked through some of Harvard University. The kids ran around and played in one of the expansive green spaces. We also made a quick stop into the bookstore to absorb some knowledge. Didn't work.

On our way to the airport, we drove along Memorial Drive next to the Charles River to Charlestown, home of the Bunker Hill Monument, the site of the first major conflict between British and Patriot forces in the Revolutionary War on June 17, 1775. Although we did not climb the 294 steps to the top, Lucy and Rigby did touch the monument and got a drink of water in the visitors center next door. The water was needed as it was 95 degrees outside.

After a quick visit on Bunker Hill, we headed for Boston Logan International Airport. To get there we had to go through the Ted Williams Tunnel a 1.6 mile tunnel that sits under water on the Boston Harbor floor.

Side notes on checking into the airport
1. Always have your credit card, six-digit confirmation number or skymiles number to get your boarding pass at the self-serve kiosk - it is much quicker than standing in line.
2. Never stand in line behind a bafoon who is literally checking his email while his laptop is sitting in the xray tray - ridiculous!
3. For some reason it is okay to let a flight attendant to just jump line, especially right in front of a family of four. Hey, she should have arrived early to the airport like everyone else.
4. The Wendy's in the Delta terminal has tasty Strawberry Frosties!

The flight to Cincinnati was great - kids just used crayons to color the time away. Our short stop in the Cincinnati Airport allowed for a Starbucks pit stop.

We passed around a major thunderstorm on our way to Chattanooga. The storm was on our side of the plane and you could see the top and the bottom of the clouds and the lightning show inside. It was awesome!

Rigby caught the eye of the flight attendant on our Cincy to Chatt flight. She asked him to assist with handing out the snacks. Rigby accepted the offer and started from the front of the plane and delivered snacks to each row on the plane. How many people get to do that!? He was quite excited.

We arrived home in the Noog around 11 p.m. but less about a 100 pounds; our luggage was left in Cincinnati. But we got it the next morning - delivered to us!

So that is our trip. What a grand old time. A very rewarding trip and highly recommended.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Maine - Day 4

We got going early Sunday morning and made our way to a local breakfast hangout, Becky's Diner on Hobson's Wharf. This place really brings in the people and serves up the food fast. The kids had pancakes and bacon and Stacy and Erik had Maine blueberry pancakes, scrambled eggs, bacon and toast. Becky's was so family friendly that they had a men's restroom, women's restroom and a toddler restroom, complete with a small toilet and sink.

After a hearty breakfast, we drove north to Wolfe's Neck State Park for some Casco Bay hiking. We hiked for a couple hours along rocky and tree-covered shoreline. Lucy hiked much of it on her own feet! Nice for daddy's empty backpack. We saw an island with nesting ospreys, guarding their young. Of course, we threw rocks in the Ochen (kid for ocean) and picked of shee shells. This was probably the best family hike we have had.

We left the park for Bath, just north of Portland. Bath is home to the Maine Maritime Museum. This place had very professional and informative exhibits filled with art and artifacts. There were contemporary, interactive areas for all ages, an historic shipyard with five of the original 19th century buildings and a life-size sculptural representation of the largest wooden sailing vessel ever built, The Wyoming, built in 1909 at a length of 329 feet!

Bath Iron Works, just down the river, has built more than 240 ships for the U.S. Navy. It built more than a quarter of the destroyers for WWII, 82 of them, totaling more than the entire Japanese Empire. This is history we never realized!

After an hour or so touring the grounds, as well as a now warm 80 degrees, we went to take a quick lunch at a local chain restaurant, Amato's. We chowed down on cheese pizza, an Italian sub and steak and cheese on foccacia and then hurried back to Portland to take our final trip!

We got back to Portland at 5:30 p.m. and boarded the Casco Bay Ferry for a sunset cruise through the bay. It was a nice 80 degrees on the shore, but as we got toward the Atlantic Ocean, it was a windy 50 degrees at least! We made stops at various islands dropping off and picking up locals and visitors. That was such a neat way to look at local life.

Between stops, we made a rare sighting, as one of the locals on the ferry told us. We saw two seals swimming along catching fish. Rigby and Lucy were so excited!

Making our way back to Portland, we saw a couple old U.S. forts that had been built for the Civil War, but were never used. It was interesting that Portland helped preserve them. They are only accessible by private boats- no commercial or park tours are given.

We had a great 2.5 hour ferry ride and saw a great sunset over the city. What a great way to end our last full day in Maine. So now we are packing and getting ready for tomorrow when we will drive down state route 1 to Boston to catch a plane to Chattanooga!

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Maine - Day 3

We awoke at 6:30 a.m., got dressed and had breakfast in the hotel dining area. From there, we prepared for a 170 mile drive north to Mt. Desert Island, home to Acadia National Park, Maine's only national park. What a day!

We had to take some stops along the way, of course. First, gas was still under $4, at $3.99. We took a quick stop in Augusta to see the State Capitol Building. The grounds around the building were quite scenic. Next, we stopped in Waterville at Colby College, birthplace of Sigma Kappa, Stacy's sorority.

Driving past Bangor and no Stephen King in sight, we left interstate and onto State Route 3 to our destination, Acadia!

We made it on to Mt. Desert Island, which has 108 square miles, so it is quite large. Oh, but wait, we had to stop in Bar Harbor. Bar Harbor is a famous summer colony in the "Down East" region of Maine. It looked like there was something for everyone. There are tree-lined streets with restaurants and shops, a great main street park, a town pier, whale watching, kayaking and so on. Even the ocean liner Queen Mary visits there.

We walked Main Street for a brief while and had lunch at Rupununi. We had Maine lobster and clams.

It was finally on to Acadia National Park. Now in Bar Harbor it was sunny and 65. When we got to the Atlantic Ocean side of the island, it was 55, windy and foggy. What a difference! The main attraction for most is the 20+ mile one-way loop through the park, taking us to the most sought after points.

Upon entering the National Park we were welcomed by the famous Thunder Hole. Thunder Hole is a small inlet, naturally carved out of the rocks, where the waves roll into. At the end of this inlet is a small cavern where, when the rush of the wave arrives, air and water is forced out like a clap of distant thunder. Water can spout as high as 40 feet, but the tide was out and we saw only small splashes and gurgles. Still the scenery and rock formations were awesome, even in the dense fog.

Next was Otter Point, It was simply breathtaking. The Point comes after the ocean cliffs. The surf crashing against the huge boulders was awesome, and we did not get to see it at its fullest. Since the tide was out we did get to explore the massive granite boulders. The family climbed and sat on the boulders and listen to the ocean speak to us.

Later, Stacy, Rigby and Lucy took a little nap in a parking lot while Erik took a quick 3/4 mile hike to Bubble Rock. Going up the steep gap between South Bubble and North Bubble (rounded mountains), the trail gave me a short route to Bubble Rock, which is perched high above the Park Loop Road on the summit of the South Bubble. The fog enveloped me as I made it to the top, some 700 feet above sea level.

The final stop of our brief tour of Acadia was Cadillac Mountain. Even after being sheared off by the glaciers many, many years ago, it remains the highest point along the North Atlantic Seaboard at 1,532 feet above sea level. It usually provides spectacular panoramic views of the island and ocean, however, today a heavy fog took over. Driving to the top, we could barely see the road in front of us. What a unique experience. The wind was biting and cold. Erik hiked the perimeter of the summit. One cool fact is that Cadillac is the first place to view sunrise in the United States during the winter months.

Upon leaving the park, and all too soon, we decided to stop in Bangor for dinner and a quick tour. We stopped in the town square area, where a concert and festival were going on. It was neat to see so many locals out on a Saturday night enjoying music, beer and the 65 degree weather. We ate just across the street at Thai Siam, getting our fix of some tasty Asian food.

We drove back to Portland under a beautiful starry sky, once again thankul that Maine does not allow billboards - no distracting lights!! We stopped on a ramp at one point for a pit stop. Looking up to the sky, we saw the most brilliant view of the Big Dipper we have ever seen. The stars just popped out of the sky. What a sight!

We got back to Portland just after 11 p.m. For the day, we traveled 414 miles and were gone for 15 hours.

What a day. (pictures on coming soon)

Friday, June 06, 2008

Maine - Day 2

Day 2 started off with what a lot of Portland folks like to do in the morning, go to Dunkin Donuts!. We polished off a half dozen of sprinkle and icing covered cake donut goodness. It is not hard to find one of these as there are 22 in a 10 mile radius of Portland and 38 within 20 miles. Yes, we checked the location guide.

The day was chilly and drizzley so we opted to stay indoors for most part of the day. We made a quick stop to the local Target to buy some diapers, wipes and other needed items.

We drove downtown and visited the Children's Museum of Maine. This place was great - four floors of interactive fun.

One of the cool centerpiece exhibits is the camera obscura, a room-size "camera" on the top floor. We gathered around a large white table in a dark room, where we saw projected images from outside that included buildings, cars driving on streets and seagulls flapping by. Rigby controled the camera obscura, which sat on top of the building. Lucy and Rigby loved the water play area in L.L. Bear Cove, the treehouse and lumber yard, supermarket checkout counter and firetruck and firehouse pole that Rigby slid down over and over. We retreated to the bottom floor for Rigby, Lucy and friends' puppet show and dress-up play. Rigby served as a dragon, pirate, wolf and vampire in a purple robe.

After more than two hours, we made way to the harbor and had mid-afternoon lunch at Gilbert's Chowderhouse. The local Shipyard Summer brew was tasty on draft. Stacy and Erik had seafood chowder and clam cakes, while the kids had kid food.

The day dried up a little and we went to the Portland Head Light, an 80-feet tall lighthouse located in Cape Elizabeth. It was constructed in 1787 at the directive of George Washington, and was completed on January 10, 1791. It has been called the "Most photographed lighthouse in North America."

The wind was biting cold coming off the ocean and Mommy and Lucy did not make it long outside. Erik and Rigby took off down a cliff-side path looking to get closer to the large ocean rocks.

Rigby and Erik found a sandy embankment and literally slid down to what Rigby called, "the tumbly rocks." After slipping on some slick rocks, we made it to the water's edge to see waves crashing against the rocks. We got some good rock tossing in and then climbed back up the cliff side to the trail. Rigby wanted to go down in the first place, but later said, "I was not sure we were going to make it back up!"

Upon reuniting with Mommy and Lucy, we went in to the Fort Williams Park area and found the old Goddard Mansion, built in the 1850s. The mansion was bought by the federal government in 1900 and was used by enlisted married men and their families. The mansion is nothing more than rock walls now and is off limits to visitors. There are no floors or roof.

Fort Williams was used during WWI and WWII and the entire fort area was closed by the government in 1962. The town of Cape Elizabeth bought the area in 1964 to help preserve it.

Behind the mansion and toward the cliff edges was the remains of Battery Keyes, built in 1906 and once housed two 3-inch mine defense guns to protect the mines that were laid down during war time. You could still see the footings for the guns as well as the old searchlight foundation. There were two large magazine chambers below that had heavy graffiti inside. It was sad to see a lot of vandalism had taken place on what was left.

After our fort adventures, we went to a sandy beach area and got wet and gritty from throwing rocks and and building sand mounds. The water was very cold!!

We got back to the hotel and all got in the hot tub to warm up.

As a nightcap, we left the hotel room in pajamas for some night-time ice cream. We did not settle on a chain operation, so we let show us something local. Just 5 miles from us was a Red's Dairy Freeze, a Portland tradition since 1952. There were two walk-up windows and I do not think I've seen faster service of ice cream. Since it was about 55 degrees outside most people sat in their cars after getting their soft serve or milkshakes. Mommy had a banana milkshake, Lucy had vanilla dish of soft serve, Rigby had peppermint dish of soft serve and Daddy had chocolate. What a great treat!

So now it is early to bed so we can arise early for a Northern adventure up the coast.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Maine - Day 1

Our first day in Portland, Maine started just before lunchtime. We woke mid-morning and made our way to the Old Port section of Portland. The entire day had overcast skies and a brisk 60 degrees. It was odd to see people wearing jackets in June.

We parked next to Casco Bay and went to lunch at Flatbreads, a completely organic pizza place. It was quite good seeing that Rigby and Lucy ate a small pepperoni flatbread and Erik and Stacy finished off a whole sausage, onion, mushroom and sundried tomato, which had no tomato sauce.

After lunch, we began our walking tour of the Old Port. We found a great toy store, Treehouse Toys, and the kids loved it! We left with a three-headed red dragon puppet that Rigby played with all day long (and still is at the time this is being written, 11:45 p.m.). We checked out a well-known gallery, Abacus, and actually bought a Christmas gift or two.

After a couple hours walking the cobblestone streets and brick sidewalks and visiting and passing by shop after shop, we chose to venture out of Portland and drove 60 miles north to Boothbay Harbor. We drove through small towns (Bath, Wiscasset) along State Route 1. One thing we noticed and loved was that there were no billboards!! We could enjoy nothing but great scenery.

Boothbay was a very quaint little seaside town. There were dozens of lobster boats in the harbor, as well as kayakers strolling along. It was what you think of when you think of Maine. It was great walking through the curvey streets and boardwalks of the harbor.

After leaving Boothbay heading back south, we found Fort Edgecomb, a U.S. installment from the early 1800s. It was used as a prisoner of war camp during the War of 1812. It was never used after the Civil War.

The tummies growled for food and we visited Gritty McDuffs Pub in Freeport, just north of Portland. We enjoyed some tasty local seafood and pub fare, as well as brewed-on-site beer. The Black Fly Stout was chocolatey, coffee-type, black as night brew. Tasty! Lucy and Rigby enjoyed pink lemonade, which had Lucy declare that Erik was having black lemonade. After dinner we went into the "Brewtique" and purchased some Gritty gear.

Of course, Freeport is known for L.L. Bean. It was 10 p.m. but no fear, the L.L. Bean store is open 24 hours, 365 days. What a mecca that was. We walked through most of the place and only purchased a pink and purple jacket for Lucy - a small victory for our wallet!

So Day 1 has ended. Baths have been taken. And now the Lakers Celtics game one is coming to an end.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Harvey Korman

A comedic genius passed away last Thursday.

Harvey Korman, who became famous for his role on The Carol Burnett Show, passed at age 81. He performed in more than 1,000 skits in 10 years on the show.

One of the more memorable skits between Korman and his best friend of 45 years, Tim Conway, was one he had nary a line in, but his face and mannerisms trying to hide his laughter is pure classic.

In the skit, The Dentist, Tim Conway plays a dentist on his first day and Korman the willing patient in the chair. The story goes that Conway changed his lines and direction about 15 seconds into the skit in order to catch Korman off guard.

Korman was also famous for starring in Blazing Saddles and as the Great Gazoo on The Flintstones.

Comedic mastermind Mel Brooks said Thursday, "A world without Harvey Korman — it's a more serious world. It was very dangerous for me to work with him because if our eyes met we'd crash to floor in comic ecstasy. It was comedy heaven to make Harvey Korman laugh."

There will never be another second banana like Harvey Korman. RIP.

Now a Pledge to Hedley Lamar . . . .

Friday, May 30, 2008

Lakers vs. Celtics - a 21-year wait!

NBA Finals.
Lakers. Celtics.
Magic. Bird.
I was a sophomore in high school the last time it happened.

The 1987 NBA Finals took place between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics. The Lakers won 4-2. I remember Magic Johnson's junior sky hook in Game 4. It was the tenth time that the Celtics and Lakers met in the NBA Finals and now, 21 years later, the greatest matchup in NBA history happens again. Finally, a new generation will experience the tradition.

The Lakers will be appearing in the Finals for a record 29th time overall. The Celtics will be appearing in the Finals for second best 20th time overall. The Celtics have won the most championships all-time with 16, the Lakers are second with 14.

1987 had Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, James Worthy, Bill Walton

2008 has Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Derek Fisher, Pau Gasol.

The names may not be as marquee to me or most people, but seeing the purple and gold vs. the green and white is good enough for me!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day Weekend

First and foremost on this Memorial Day Weekend, we remember and honor those who are serving, those who have served and those who have given their lives for our great country.

We had a great weekend.

On Saturday, Erik and Rigby went to see Speed Racer, Stacy, Lucy and Nana went shopping and then we all gathered back at the Oglesby Ranch. Erik and Stacy ended the evening with a viewing of the movie, The Mist - Stephen King is a master. That movie was good, but the ending just tore us up.

On Sunday, we started out with breakfast at MudPie and then spent a good part of the afternoon at Who-Fest [08] in Renaissance Park. There were more than 60 folk artists there. Sister Tobi had a spot at the Art Show and was selling her wares like crazy! We bought a great, new piece from Asheville artist Deona Fish.

Rigby and Erik did some major cardboard sledding down the park's big hill. The family took a walk through the park and got some good rock-throwing accomplished. The Tennessee River has several new rocks.

We finished the day at the Swaynes and with Tobi and Corey. We munched down on burgers, dawgs, chips, tasty beans and beers. We got some good Mario Kart Wii in as well.

On Monday, we had lunch at Subway in North Chatt and then made our way over to the City side to catch a ride on the water taxi.

Upon boarding, we traveled to Maclellan Island, in the middle of the Tennessee River. Our visit to the island would be a first for us and we were very excited. There is a 1.5 mile trail that follows the perimeter of the island. Besides having fun, one of our main tasks was avoiding poison ivy. The trails are well-kept, though.

One unique feature on the island is a "rain-shadow desert" that lies beneath the Veterans Bridge, which travels across the middle of the island. Hardly any rain or sun hits beneath the bridge, leaving a lot of dirt and areas for picnic tables and a nice campfire setup.

There were a couple camping areas on the island and even a nice concrete block shelter. We discovered an old piece of farm equipment, which had to of been more than 50 years old, as farming on the island ceased in 1954.

We stayed on the island for almost two hours before hopping aboard the "Fat Cat" boat to carry us back to the mainland. We did not want our day to end, so we went to visit our fish friends at the Aquarium.

Now it is back to work, albeit a four-day work week!

Monday, May 19, 2008


The GrayStation family traveled up I-75 to see Erik's parental units at the Foothills Craft Guild show at Pellissippi State in West Knoxville over the weekend. Stacy's parents came along as well for the afternoon.

After spending the afternoon at Pellissippi, we traveled up Highway 321 into Townsend and the gateway to the Smokies. We took the kids to an old swimming hole favorite, the Townsend "Wye." It's the meeting point of the middle and west prongs of the Little Pigeon River, which is seven miles east of Cades Cove. We spent about an hour braving the cold water and throwing rocks.

We had dinner at Cowboy's on Douglas Lake and spent the night in White Pine, enjoying a nice quick stay.

On Sunday, we traveled back into Erik's old stomping grounds of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. It was rainy, but we did get into some tourist areas. We did some outlet mall shopping, had lunch at TGI Friday's, went on a Jurassic Jungle Boat Ride and played video games, Skee Ball and air hockey in an arcade.

We decided to go to Cades Cove around 6 p.m. on Sunday. It was a cool 50 degrees. We took a quick hike to one of the old cabins and saw many deer, wild turkeys and two black bears. We did not get home until after 11 p.m. We certainly packed it in this weekend.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Happy Mother's Day

Proverbs 31:10-12 and 25-31

A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.

She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.

She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.

She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.

Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:

"Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all."

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

Give her the reward she has earned,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

Happy Mother's Day to Dolores Wells, Rhonda Oglesby, Stacy Gray, Mary Sue "Muggy" Oglesby and Aileen Gray, some of the best mothers in the world.

Monday, May 05, 2008

GrayStation Concert Tour

Well the Spring GrayStation Concert Tour is complete.

Friday, April 25
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at Philips Arena in Atlanta. What more can be said about one of the best American rockers ever? He played two-and-a-half hours and never left the stage. Not bad for a 58-year-old. We realized there is a lot of Boss music we do not know. We have much to learn.

Wednesday, April 30
Bon Jovi at Philips Arena in Atlanta. Daughtry opened the first 45 minutes. Bon Jovi took over the next two hours and entertained like he was rockin' the 80s. A great moment was screaming "Oh, we're half way there. Oh, Oh! Livin' on a Prayer" at the top of your lungs with 20,000 other people, some with mullets from 1989.

To make me sound old, I first saw Bon Jovi in 1988 at Thompson-Boling Arena. Yes, 20 years ago. Stacy had to sit this one out as she was in Portland, Maine on business travel.

Sunday, May 4
Kanye West with Lupe Fiasco, N.E.R.D. (Pharell Williams) and Rihanna at the Gwinnett Center in Atlanta. Started at 7:30, ended at midnight. What a show!

Lupe Fiasco was surprisingly good. He had a good stage show.

NERD just rocked the stage. Pharell is not the best singer/rapper, but his style of rock/skater punk/rap music is unique. Special ATL appearances by Chris Brown and Bow Wow on the stage dancing up a storm to one of NERD's jams.

Rihanna was disappointing. Now she did have a nice one-piece leather outfit on, but she seemed bored, even during "Umbrella" ella....ella....ella....

Just before the Kanye show, we spotted Quincy Jones on the floor meeting with some of the sound crew. That was a cool surprise - one of the legends of music.

Kanye came out for almost two hours and put on a theatrical Vegas show. His stage was built to look like an alien planet with a spaceship on it. He was the only one on stage, and his band was in a pit in front of the stage. His show was scripted and his songs told the story. He played it all and the crowd never sat down, instead opting for bouncing and throwing hands in the sky the whole night. He is going to be awesome at Bonaroo.

Whew. Time for a rest until we find the next block of shows.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Our Big Deck

Spring has sprung, and so has our awesome big new deck.

It took almost a month to build and now it is ready for some nice outdoor living. We are excited about the new space we have for our home. Now we have to focus on the ground area around the deck to give us some more function and better scenery.

Rock on!!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The end of an era

Durty Nelly's, we bid thee farewell.

For many Fridays and other days, we congregated at the Grand Ole Irish Pub on North Market Street in Chattanooga.

There were many an evening we sat at the bar with old friends, dear friends who have now left Chattanooga.

There was that time during The Blizzard of '93. The ole pub was open for St. Patrick's Day even if there was two feet of snow and three feet and more of snow drifts. Who still has a t-shirt from there that says, "I survived!"

There were the Irish folk songs - sing along, I know you can.

There were many a Friday that the Sigma Chis sat in one corner, the Sigma Kappas sat in another corner and the beer flowed like wine. No fake IDs there.

There were the people who threw their peanuts on the floor and at people, heck, even the hired singers.

There was the drinking glove - I still have it - 15 years later.

There was our old friend Clancy, who is no longer with us. I drank one last more for you, my brother.

There were the times we gathered with family. Ole Sideboard loved the place.

There was the Onion Orgy. The Durty Burger. The Nacho Colosso. Fish & Chips. The Shannon Salad. Oh, and the Bread Pudding.

There was the Purple Snake (port wine and Guiness)

And so it ends. On February 29, 2008, a day that only happens once every four years, Durty Nelly's closed its doors for good.

We had to drink our dinner since there was no food being served. Guiness and Killian's in a clear plastic cup and the Styrofoam when the fine plastic was gone.

Some of the last food eaten at the ole pub was an Irish favorite, Pizza Hut, delivered hot and fresh to our table, via ordering delivery.

Some old faces and new friends made their way in the doors one last time. We closed the place down one last time. Pour out a little liquor for the homies.

One more time, for old times sake . . .

There was green alligators and long-necked geese
Some humpty backed camels and some chimpanzees
Some cats and rats and elephants, but sure as you're born
The loveliest of all was the unicorn!