Monday, May 27, 2013

PTO Multipliers

I don't know if everyone is familiar with the TLA 'PTO' or not, but... what? You don't know what a 'TLA' is either? Oh, well, 'TLA' is a cleverly self-referential acronym meaning 'three letter acronym.'  PTO is the new Corporate America term for what used to be called 'vacation' - it stands for paid time off. In many businesses, there is no longer a distinction between sick time and vacation time -- they have been consolidated into a 'time pool' and can be used interchangeably. This change was probably intended to make the record keeping easier, but it has also allowed the employee to manage their time off more efficiently. This is important because they have also moved to a use-it-or-lose-it model.

Oh, and it has also served to encourage people to come to work when sick, but who cares about that?

In any event, after thirteen years with the same company my annual PTO ration has reached the ridiculous level of five weeks per annum, a quantity that I can hardly afford to use in the traditional sense of taking vacation. Even so, I find myself behaving like a depression-era grandparent: I husband my PTO like a miser, and even beyond my cautious usage of it, I still try to find ways to maximize it. This is where a term freshly minted in the Gamble Vernacular Factory came to be: PTO Multipliers. A PTO Multiplier is an extended holiday weekend, say Memorial Day weekend, combined with a few days of PTO. So, for the cost of two days of PTO, one can have five concurrent days off.  In my math, five days concurrent is three times more desirable that five days taken one at a time. Note that this frugality is completely unnecessary given how little time I manage to take off throughout the year; this is how I end up taking almost the entire month of December off every year.

Every year I swear to myself that I will take off more time in the clement months rather than in the often cold and snowy winter months, but it never seems to happen. I'm off to a slow start this year (again!) but did manage to get a couple of days burned up this weekend. Our 21st anniversary was this weekend, so the Co-owner and I decided to take a low-cost couple of days away from the big city. I'm typically responsible for picking the destination ("Where do you want to go?" falls into the "What's for dinner?" bucket) and I really didn't have much of an idea myself. Being as we live on the west side of town, I usually start looking in that direction but I decided to look east this time. A cursory glance at a map reminded me that I have always wanted to visit The Wilds.

The Wilds is not particularly far away. In fact, it's close enough that it could easily be fit into a day trip. But also in the neighborhood (as measure in rural distances) is Roscoe Village. That would ultimately prove to be something less than even a day trip, but I have wanted to go there ever since the time I flew out to Coshocton with hopes of using the airport courtesy car to get to the town, only to find that they had let someone use it to go golfing! That to me was taking courtesy a bit too far; someone could easily have dropped those people off at the golf course rather than tying up the car for six hours for what's only a ten minute drive. 

It looked like we could fill a couple of relaxing days with a combination of The Wilds and the village, but none of the local lodging options looked appealing. A roadside motel in Coshocton didn't seem like the kind of place for an anniversary stay, but neither did a Bed and Breakfast. Through the miracle of the internet, I found the perfect place: a small cottage located in Plainfield (pop. 157), just six or seven miles outside of Coshocton and available for the paltry cost of $70/night. Perfect! None of the noise and traffic of the city, but still only a few minutes away from restaurants, etc.

So there was the plan: drive to Plainfield on Thursday morning, visit Roscoe Village in the afternoon, and return to the village for our anniversary dinner at the Warehouse Steak N' Stein.

Reservations were made and we were ready to go. The selection of the appropriate vehicle for the trip was pretty straightforward: this is the kind of short trip, rural driving that is the very reason for having a roadster. Never mind that 85% of the drive was four lane highway, it was the driving in the local area and the trip from Plainfield to The Wilds where the curvy, hilly, scenic rural roads validated the vehicular selection.

We arrived at the cottage at just about lunch time, so a quick unpacking was in order. It didn't take long to tour the cottage and get settled in. It's a very nicely maintained and decorated place, and could probably go for more than the current rate:

The only downside was the Queen size bed - we moved to a King size (which at the time I referred to as "the last step before separate bedrooms") years ago and have grown accustomed to having plenty of personal toss and turn space. After two days in the smaller bed, I can safely say that we won't ever be giving up the King size anytime soon.

Well, that wasn't really the only downside - it was equally discomforting to find that our cell phones were useless - no service whatsoever. Never mind the enforced embargo from internet access (one should untether now and then), the bigger concern was lack of communications with the elderly in-laws and young Co-pilot Egg, herself having been left in full control of homestead and livestock.

I remain unsure as to which was the bigger worry.

So, unpacked and loosened up after ninety minutes of being squeezed into the roadster, it was off to Roscoe Village. Getting to the village involves traversing the entirety of Coshocton (pop. 12 stoplights) where we caught by each each of the six stoplights on our route. Which was okay for taking pictures, if nothing else.

I parked in a lot way up on a hill behind the village, but at the behest of the Co-owner I walked back up the hill to move the car to a spot right next to the Thunderbird.  The building in the picture is the restaurant at which we would be having our dinner.

Right across the street from the restaurant was the Medberry Marketplace, a fixture of the historic village since, well,  three years ago.  But hey, who's counting?

It was an interesting place nonetheless. One of their fortes clearly buying spices in bulk and selling them in the niche market between 50 pound packages and the 3/4 ounce bottles available in you neighborhood grocery store.

But this was intriguing! Gourmet salt! Having recently been disabused of my cynical notion that "salt is salt, and anything other than Morton Salt is simply pretentious," I was keen to check out the selection. I never made it past the first offering -- they had me at Applewood Smoked.  I lifted the lid and took a whiff: it was just like the smell of a campfire. In large doses it would clearly be overpowering, but used sparingly it seemed as if it would evoke the relaxing feelings of eating food cooked over an open wood-fueled fire. It would be just like being able to make a hot dog taste as good as they do at baseball games. At $2.19 an ounce, "sparingly" is exactly how I would use it.  I bought a couple ounces.

Being as the primary goal was lunch, it was nice to find the the Medberry also had a small snack bar.  I had a coney dog.

They also had sauces, jellies, jams, and spreads aplenty. I bought a small jar of caramelized onion and chives jelly. I know it sounds horrid, but it's quite the tasty dipping sauce for crackers and nacho chips.

After lunch and shopping, we walked down to the nearby canal locks, formerly used on the Erie Canal. Right there by the locks was a small music store that specializes in dulcimers. One of my greatest disappointments in life is my complete and utter lack of any form of artistic ability, which includes music. This is always made painfully aware to me when I see beautifully crafted instruments that I will never, ever have any use for.

The Canals are an early example critical (and lucrative) technologies falling prey to rapid innovation in competing technologies. Essentially, they were 'railroads' before there were railroads:

History of Ohio's Canals
   By 1820 the new state of Ohio had grown to a population of 580,000 residents. The main industry of the state was agricultural. It soon became evident that the state suffered from a severe lack of reliable transportation to move its products to eastern markets. The National Road was completed only from Cumberland to Wheeling and was an expensive method of transportation. The Ohio-Mississippi river route was long and dangerous.
   The opportunity to connect Ohio with the prosperous eastern markets became a reality in 1817 when New York broke ground on a canal connecting Lake Erie with the Hudson River and New York City. In 1822, the Ohio state legislature commissioned the first canal feasibility survey in an effort to bring a modern reliable transportation system to the growing state. 
   On July 4, 1825, at Licking Summit south of Newark, work began on the Erie Canal. Two weeks later at Middletown ground breaking was held for the Miami Canal. At the same time work began on the Ohio & Erie Canal from Portage Summit (Akron) to Cleveland. 
   On July 3, 1827, two years after the ground breaking, Governor Trimble and the canal commission boarded a canal boat in Akron and the next day arrived in Cleveland. By 1832 the entire 308 mile route of the Ohio-Erie was open to traffic. 
   Unlike the Ohio & Erie, the Miami & Erie Canal was not initially conceived as a route from Lake Erie to the Ohio River. The Miami Canal was in operation from Middletown to Cincinnati in 1828, and in 1830, the 17 miles were completed to Dayton. The "Miami Extension" to Troy was not started until 1833. To satisfy political demands additional segments were parceled out to contractors until 1845 when the entire canal was open to traffic from the Ohio River to Lake Erie. 
   The canals prospered until 1855, the year revenue receipts were their highest. At its peak, Ohio's canal system consisted of almost 1,000 miles of main line canals, feeders and side cuts. Located in forty-four of Ohio's eighty-eight counties, the canals touched the lives of all the state's citizens. After 1855 the impact of the railroads began to be felt, and by 1903 water sales income from selling canal water to businesses and industries exceeded the income from freight carried on the canal.

I was surprised at how narrow the canal locks were, probably because I view river barges as their current day equivalent. That's silly, of course. That would be like expecting a DC-3 to need a 10,000' runway, just like a loaded 747.  This is what the canal boats actually looked like:

Still, it looks like it would have been a tight fit.

There would have been "gates" back in the day to hold the water at bay, or so I say:

The fittings that held the gates in place are still there:

Back in the village, we found a wine making shop down in the basement of one of the shops. I really don't enjoy wine, and much as with musical instruments, it saddens me that I have no need for the accouterments.

Our favorite shop of all (the winner by quite a large margin) was the River Ridge Leather Shop.

We spent at least half an hour talking to the proprietor. He lives in Upper Arlington (a suburb of Columbus) and makes a daily ninety minute commute to his shop.  He buys his leather from a place that still uses tannin for the old-fashioned vegetable tanning process.
Tanning is the process of treating skins of animals to produce leather, which is more durable and less susceptible to decomposition. Traditionally, tanning used tannin, an acidic chemical compound from which the tanning process draws its name (tannin is in turn named for an old German word for oak or fir trees, which supplied it). Coloring may occur during tanning. A tannery is the term for a place where the skins are processed. 
Tanning leather involves a process which permanently alters the protein structure of skin. Vegetable tanning uses tannin. The tannins (a class of polyphenol astringent chemical) occur naturally in the bark and leaves of many plants. Tannins bind to the collagen proteins in the hide and coat them causing them to become less water-soluble, and more resistant to bacterial attack. The process also causes the hide to become more flexible. The primary barks, processed in Bark mills and used in modern times are chestnut, oak, redoul, tanoak, hemlock, quebracho, mangrove, wattle, and myrobalan. Hides are stretched on frames and immersed for several weeks in vats of increasing concentrations of tannin. Vegetable tanned hide is flexible and is used for luggage and furniture.
 He makes everything in the shop himself. For the most part, that seems to be small, easily and affordably purchased things like belts, purses, notebooks, and geegaws suitable for visiting school children. He will also make custom pistol holsters and saddles, upon request.

I bought a nice black leather belt with a stainless steel buckle for $30.

1.25-inch Handmade Bridle Leather Belt
This belt is handmade from genuine, traditional vegetable-tanned Bridle leather from 100% American hides.  Handmade by Dennis Knight using only traditional leatherworking tools.


Given the proximity to Coshocton County's Richard Downing airport, which itself is one of the best county airports in Ohio, this is a great destination for people looking for someplace interesting to fly to, as long as you can get the courtesy car.

The aforementioned anniversary dinner was also very, very nice. We arrived just in time to catch the tail end of happy hour, which paid off with a $3 Long Island Iced Tea, which was one of the best I've ever had, and a half-price plate of phenomenally good onion straws. We sat at a nice booth right next to a hand-drawn mural of the Ohio canal system.

I had the St. Louis style spice-rubbed ribs and they too were the best I ever remember having. I typically don't order ribs because of the high fat content, but these were amazingly lean and perfectly cooked. And the four-cheese Mac and Cheese side was a perfect accompaniment. Outstanding dinner!

After a mostly sleepless night (for all the wrong reasons!), we had to find a place for breakfast. There was precisely one business in Plainfield, but as luck would have it that business was a market that served breakfast. We were only aware of the existence of this place because someone had left a menu in the info-book at the cottage. I didn't expect much - the prices were incredibly low. But being as it was right there in town, we decided to give it a try.

As often happens, I felt completely out of place parking the roadster. We could have walked, but it was only 43 degrees out.  Brrrr! The building housing the market looks like it used to be a gas station.

Which, as these things go, there was another one right across the street. The only two businesses in town were gas stations - this same kind of inexplicable business decision can still be seen today in what I call the CVS/Walgreens Phenomenon. It seems that you never see one without the other on the opposing street corner, if not right next door.

A very homey and welcoming entrance.

It was an odd market in that very little was actually for sale, and those things that were tended to be packaged in restaurant size quantities. This led me to believe that the front-of-store was actually simply used as storage for the restaurant supplies.

It was pretty much the typical looking diner.

The Co-owner attracted the attention of the older set.

The menu at the cottage was clearly obsolete -- the prices were crazy high!

Figuring the high cost to be justified by the convenience, we each ordered Sausage/Egg/Cheese sandwiches. The seemingly exorbitant (a somewhat unfair adjective if you've eaten at a Bob Evan's recently) prices were soon explained:

While they were very tasty, there was no way either of us could finish even one of these massive sandwiches. We ended up taking the leftovers back to the cottage and having them for a late brunch before leaving for The Wilds. Closer inspection of the menus shows that gigantic sandwiches are something of a shtick for this place:

The drive from Plainfield to The Wilds was almost entirely on a road called Friendship Drive. It was for this kind of road that the Roadster class of cars was invented. Very rural, so wide open road in front of us, which made the twisty-turney, up and down trek through the scenic area very enjoyable.

This is The Wilds. It is a 2,000 acre park donated by AEP after having stripped it of power-generating minerals and re-covered with six inches of soil. There are 10,000 acres in total, but 2,000 have been devoted to creating natural environments for the animals.

We (well, I) had opted to the open-sided bus in the interest of getting as close to the animals as possible, but it came at a cost: it was freakin' COLD!  It wasn't even fifty degrees, and coupled with a 10 - 15 knot wind, it was pretty uncomfortable.

But as you will see in the following overly-long series of photos, it paid off.

These are actually indigenous white-tailed deer that somehow became separated by the fence:

Cheetahs, but you have to look close to see them:


This is a szechuan something-or-other. When the girl driving the bus told us what it was over the PA system, I said, "Oh good! I love szechuan beef!"

The young girl sitting in front of us turned around and asked, " Did you say you love szechuan bee[mumble]?"

I replied, "Szechuan beef? Love it!"  To which she said, "No, sczchuan bee[mumble]."

Blank stare, because I just couldn't reconcile what she was saying with it being something other than szechuan beef.  She finally decided she would have to sound it out, what with me being an old person:

"Szc-hwaaaannn beeee-strooooowwww."

Oh. Szechan Bistro."  Must be a local restaurant.  Maybe she meant this place.

Either way, this looks like mighty fine dining:

Oddly enough, this wouldn't be the only time/place where I would see Bison this weekend.

An alternative lodging option that I had not considered: the Yurts of The Wilds. At $325 - $425 a night, I wouldn't have considered them for very long.

The drive back was over a somewhat different route since we were heading straight to Coshocton for dinner, but no less scenic.

We arrived at the English Ivy a bit too early.

But only a few minutes too early -- they opened as I was still taking pictures.

It's built into an old Victorian-era house and as such as separate dining rooms. Five in total, I believe.

The menu varies from week to week. I had the Blue Crab cakes and honey carrots. It was another very good meal.

I mentioned before that I would have another encounter with Bison. The weather on Saturday was much improved over the preceding two days in that it was a little warmer, but still not too hot for a bike ride. I recently had a trailer hitch installed on my SUV, so it is now very easy to drive to local bike trails. I live only a few miles from one of the best in the state. The official name for it is the Darby Creek Greenway Trail, but I call it The Round Barn Ride. It has a number of attractions, the most interesting of which is an old indoor horse training track, but it also runs through some Bison pastures. On the map below, it is the orange trail that runs from the park up to the Darby Dan Training Loop, which is more or less a mile long horse race track.  The Darby Dan Training Barn has been seen by regular readers of this blog.

The Round Barn, from the air:

It's a 3.5 mile ride up to the barn. Add in a trip around the training track and it becomes closer to a nine mile round trip ride. It's mostly flat, although there are enough slight elevation changes to use a few of the available 21 gears on my bike.

See? More Bison!

You can ride around inside the barn, but it isn't easy!

And on Sunday, I finally got around to flying! Co-pilot Rick and I decided to fly out to The Farm to do some shooting. He would being his pistols and I would bring my shotgun. I keep a trap and a box or two of clay targets out there just for this kind of thing. I failed to account for the tight confines of the airplane when it comes to carrying things like shotguns, though. The only way it would fit was to take it apart. That's really a very easy thing to do, though. I would just have to wrap the pieces in cloth and/or bubble wrap to protect them. 

The air was as smooth as a lying politician's denials, especially as we climbed to a relatively high altitude for the outward bound leg. While I usually reserve the smooth leg for myself, I let Rick fly this one.

He found the airport just fine, flew the pattern to short final, and I took over from there.

Taking all of that care when wrapping up the parts of the shotgun ended up being a complete waste of time, though. In what had to be the lowlight of my entire weekend, I suffered a moment of negligence that will irritate and annoy me forevermore. As I re-assembled the shotgun  on the ramp at the Darke Co. airport, I slid the gun into my carrying case. I gathered up the rest of the stuff that would have to be carried to the car and determined that the only way of carrying the gun would be to use the strap of the carrying case. As I slipped it over my shoulder, my (formerly) beautiful shotgun went crashing down onto the pavement - I hadn't zipped the case shut.  


I will now have to live with these badges of shame:

This is why I shouldn't be allowed to have nice things.

I tried not to let it ruin my day, though. At least I was still able to hit a few clays with it.  It's a pretty nice setup my brother has for this kind of thing.

It's always fun to visit his shop to see what he's working on. I hadn't yet seen this year's livery on the Nascar Modified that he races. I can't help but note that while there are quite a few RV-12 blogs, there aren't many that have a Nascar sponsorship!

He's also nearly done with my lawn decoration. This will be installed in my front yard. It is intended to look like an RV at the top of a tail slide. He will be adding some more metal to make it look like it is trailing airshow smoke.

It will eventually weigh over 200 pounds and stand 10' tall. The design of the base is to allow it to move with the wind so that a strong enough wind doesn't just blow it over. As it is, it will require a pretty hefty concrete base to support it.

These are the latest exhibits hanging on The Wall of Pain.  The broken piston rod may have been on of the most expensive events yet.

The flight back was indeed the bumpier of the two. Granted, given the glass-smooth ride on the way out, the bar was set as low as it could get, but it really was pretty bumpy on the way back. It was probably nothing compared to what we'll see in July/August, though.

Oh, and a word about dinner; I fried up some hamburger patties using the Applewood Smoked Sea Salt: deeee-lish!

1 comment:

Steve said...

That salt sounds way too good. Looks like I40's getting added to my to-fly-to list.

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