I was talking about how badly my grill needed to be cleaned and how much I was dreading doing it.
“I’ll clean it,” Chris said.
There are jobs you have to do that you don’t mind doing, and jobs you have to do but hate. Some of the latter are cleaning jobs. For me, the grill is right up there near the top of the list.
The trouble is, I love my grill. One of these days I might graduate to something fancy like a Big Green Egg, but for now, the Weber Spirit is the tool of choice. It’s an extension of the kitchen, a cooking utensil as useful as my iron skillet and one that gets more use than our microwave. We use it, in fact, year-round.
All of that use comes at a cost to cleanliness. Marinades, oils, fats, and grease take a severe toll on your cooking surfaces. The grill needs to be periodically cleaned to remain functioning correctly (and safely). And this is where the trouble lies: cleaning these things is a dirty job that almost no one likes to do (including you, I’d bet). As a result, it never seems to get done.
I was talking about this recently with Chris Collins, who offered to solve the problem for me.
“I’ll clean it,” he said.
At that moment, the clouds parted, a light struck out from above, and God himself looked down on me with favor. (In retrospect, He may have been looking at Chris. Hard to say.)
“You’ll do it?” I asked. “Are you serious?”
He was. And he did.
The only reason this wasn’t really weird is that Chris owns a company called Hoosier BBQ Grill Clean and cleaning grills is his thing.
On the appointed day and time, Chris arrived at my house towing his entire business behind his shiny truck. Inside the trailer were all the tools of the trade: a “clean and green” cleaning process that is one-part cleaning tank, one-part old-fashioned elbow grease, and two parts proprietary cleaning solution that is bio-degradable, non-toxic, odorless, and pet- and eco-friendly. Most importantly, it works.
Chris takes all of the pieces apart and places the grill racks, flavor bars, and heat plates in their custom-built process tanks with the cleaning solution. While those are soaking, he removes the control knobs and other protrusions and thoroughly cleans everything: the grill box, the drip pan, all inside and outside surfaces. If there are parts needing attention (like the aluminum ‘flavor bars’ on my Weber), he’ll replace them. Then he gets to work on the grill plates and other internals, using equal amounts of effort and cleaning solution.
Their process removes soot and all visible traces of grease and fat, and they get deep into all of those nooks and cranny’s you don’t usually notice. When finished, the whole thing goes back together, and what’s left is – I kid you not – a grill that looks as close to new as it did the day you bought it. (Be sure to see the before/after photos on the web site.) I was blown away by the difference he achieved with what was, admittedly, a somewhat neglected cooking surface.
The whole process takes a few hours and can be scheduled when it’s convenient for you, though you really need not be present at the time.
It’s a bonus that Chris is an extremely nice guy running a cool little business performing a service that you definitely need done and probably don’t want to do. Give yourself an early Father’s Day present that you’ll really enjoy. Check them out online at HoosierBBQClean.com or call or text him at 317-442-2226.
A couple of weeks ago, I came across an article in The Atlantic titled, “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” Normally, these alarmist headlines tend to make me skeptical, but the subhead pulled me in: “More comfortable online than out partying, post-Millennials are safer, physically, than adolescents have ever been. But they’re on the brink of a mental-health crisis.” That sentence rang true to me (and, as a father of four post-Millennials, tweaked all kinds of inner fears), so I dug in for a long read.
The article – and forthcoming book, iGen – paints a picture of a dramatic shift in teen behaviors and emotional states. The author, Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University, has been studying generational data for decades and has never seen anything like it. “Around 2012, I noticed abrupt shifts in teen behaviors and emotional states,” she writes. “The gentle slopes of the line graphs became steep mountains and sheer cliffs, and many of the distinctive characteristics of the Millennial generation began to disappear.”
“The more I pored over yearly surveys of teen attitudes and behaviors, and the more I talked with young people, the clearer it became that theirs is a generation shaped by the smartphone and by the concomitant rise of social media. I call them iGen. Born between 1995 and 2012, members of this generation are growing up with smartphones, have an Instagram account before they start high school, and do not remember a time before the internet.”
If that sounds like the demographics in your household, pay attention. Twenge argues that the smartphone, certainly among other factors, has played a defining role. The data pivots in 2012, the same year when more than 50% of them owned a smartphone. The impact on their activities and behavior has been dramatic, both for good and for bad. Some examples:
They’re less likely to get into a car accident (because they’re less likely to be driving – 25% finish high school without a driver’s license)
Less likely to drink alcohol
Less likely to have sex
Less likely to spend time hanging out with friends (the number of teens who get together with friends nearly every day has dropped 40% from 2000 to 2015)
Less likely to leave the house without their parents (12th graders in 2015 were going out less often than 8th graders in 2009)
Less likely to date (in 2015, only 56% of high school seniors went out on dates, for Boomers and Gen Xers, it was 85%)
More likely to feel lonely
More likely to be sleep-deprived
At higher risk for suicide
So what are they doing with their time? “They are on their phone, in their room, alone and often distressed,” Twenge says. One of the teens she interviewed for the book told her, “I’ve been on my phone more than I’ve been with actual people,” she said. “My bed has, like, an imprint of my body.”
But the frightening thing is the impact it’s having on them. You might think that spending all this time on Snapchat and Instagram and Facebook would be making them happy, but everything points in the opposite direction.
The Monitoring the Future survey has asked 12th-graders more than 1,000 questions every year since 1975 and queried 8th- and 10th-graders since 1991. The results are clear: Teens who spend more time than average on screen activities are more likely to be unhappy, and those who spend more time than average on nonscreen activities are more likely to be happy.
“There’s not a single exception,” Twenge writes. “All screen activities are linked to less happiness, and all nonscreen activities are linked to more happiness. Eighth-graders who spend 10 or more hours a week on social media are 56 percent more likely to say they’re unhappy than those who devote less time to social media.”
“When teens spend more time on smartphones and less time on in-person social interactions, loneliness and depression are more common. Eighth-graders who are heavy users of social media increase their risk of depression by 27%, while those who play sports, go to church, or even do homework more than the average teen cut their risk significantly. Teens who spend three hours a day or more on electronic devices are 35% more likely to have a risk factor for suicide.”
The article continues to paint a compelling (and gloomy) picture, and it’s very worthy of reading and will hopefull spark some engaging conversations. The statistics seem beyond reproach: just spend a few minutes with this chart, and you’ll see how these trends are intensifying. But with this awareness comes understanding, and understanding can provoke action. We need to help them better understand the long-term impact and encourage them to limit time and use.
There is hope. The data indicates that any reduction in the amount of time spent on devices has a positive impact. The challenge is to make it happen.
Twenge suggests, “The correlations between depression and smartphone use are strong enough to suggest that more parents should be telling their kids to put down their phone. As the technology writer Nick Bilton has reported, it’s a policy some Silicon Valley executives follow. Even Steve Jobs limited his kids’ use of the devices he brought into the world.”
Having never been to the Pacific Northwest (and being mildly jealous of Ben’s photos from his trip), Char and I hopped a Frontier Airlines flight and landed in Portland. The idea was simple: spend a few days seeing as much of the Oregon landscape as possible.
To pull this off, we were going to put a few miles on the rental car and the hiking shoes: by the end of the week, we’d covered roughly 900 miles driving and 50 miles walking.) I had planned to go from Portland to the coast along highway 99W and arriving somewhere near Lincoln City, but we couldn’t bear the thought of missing Cannon Beach. So after spending a day roaming around Portland (the Rose Test Garden, the Japanese Garden, a small farmer’s market, and a great dinner at Southpark Seafood), we started Monday with a quick stop at Blue Star Donuts and headed for the coast.
Monday: Portland – Cannon Beach – Bandon
This was a long day, punctuated by a few fun stops and some beautiful Oregon coastline. Arriving at Cannon Beach, we drove a couple miles north to Ecola State Park and jumped out and started hiking. We hiked from the main parking area to Indian Point Beach, where surfers and kids alike were all decked out in full wetsuits. Stunning place and one of the best views of Cannon Beach available.
From there, we drove nearly the entire length of the Oregon coastline, stopping for essentials like coffee and food and to gaze in wonder at one postcard-worthy overlook after another. At some point, you get a little numb to just how beautiful everything is. Keep in mind: the weather you see in all of the photos below was in one day, often within minutes. With the marine clouds blowing in from the sea, the sky could quickly and easily go from completely gray to azure blue (and back again) in moments. I’ve never seen anything like it.
Tuesday: Bandon to Crescent City
After wandering around town and having breakfast, we stopped by Bandon Beach before getting on the road to Crescent City, California. Bandon might be the most beautiful beach I’ve ever seen, dotted with enormous haystack rocks from from volcano activity eons ago.
From the beach, we fell into “overlook postcard mode” again as the marine clouds poured in from the ocean and into the hills and the weather changed from temperate rain forest to beautiful blue skies… and back again. As we got closer to California, the sky turned blue and stayed that way.
Arriving in Crescent City, we took a quick break and then set out for Jedediah State Park to walk among the giant Redwoods. It’s hard to explain how big a one of these trees actually is, but these might help:
One tip: We walked a couple of the few paths in the park and stopped in Stout Grove before leaving. Stout Grove is a small loop trail very near the parking area and really shouldn’t be missed. Behind the grove is the Smith River, and there is a sort of extended walking bridge across the river to access a campground. It was a beautiful, quiet place to spend some time.
Wednesday: Crescent City – Crater Lake – Bend
We were on a schedule for Wednesday: we needed to cover the mileage from Northern California up to Bend and be there in time to meet our guide for a moonlight canoe tour. Along the way, we stopped to gape at Crater Lake National Park. If you’re ever close enough to decide if you should go see it: Go see it. You won’t be disappointed.
At Crater Lake, we hiked up the Garfield Peak Trail, which leads away from the lodge and up into a spectacular overlook. The trail is a little sketchy in parts and definitely steep, crossing over snow fields and through rocky switchbacks. It takes about 90 minutes to get to the top, but the scenery is worth every step.
Oh, and I almost forgot to mention: Early in the morning, while out walking along the beach, I spotted Bigfoot (top left corner, click for larger image):
We arrived in Bend just in time to meet up with the tour group at Wanderlust Tours. Boarded a bus and drove about 45 minutes to a special lake that Courtney, our guide, had chosen. Along the way, she told stories about the area wildlife and geology. As a Naturalist, she had a deep knowledge and appreciation for this beautiful state and was eager to share it with us. Along the way, we passed a volcanic dacite flow that looked like it happened a few years ago, when in fact it had been nearly 2,000 years. “A lot of things you encounter out here look like they just happened. Things like forest fires and volcanic remains have a strangely recent appearance, but it’s very deceiving,” she said. The dacite flow was a perfect example.
It’s hard to get a photo on an iPhone from a canoe at dusk, but this shot of Mt. Bachelor in the distance and the sunset from the front of the canoe are close to how it looked. It was incredibly peaceful being on the water in full dark.
Thursday: Smith Rock State Park to Mt. Hood
Before leaving the tour, I asked Courtney if there was anything we absolutely had to see in Bend. Without hesitation she replied, “Smith Rock.” I’m so glad I asked, because this internationally renowned state park – widely considered to be the birthplace of rock climbing – was one of the highlights of the week.
We spent the morning in Bend, wandering the shops, drinking coffee, sitting on the river bank, so we arrived at Smith Rock around 2pm. We sort of missed the point that we had fully moved from coastal region to high desert, and were slightly unprepared for the heat that accompanied us on this hike. In retrospect, it would have been better to get here early in the morning, but I really wouldn’t have traded our time in Bend, either.
So we filled up the water bottles, looked over the map, and set out on Misery Ridge Trail. It was very hot, very dry, very steep, and very, very beautiful.
Leaving Bend and Smith Rock behind, we hit the road bound for the historic Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood. As we drove into the mountains, the weather turned, shrouded the peak in clouds. The temperature dropped nearly 30 degrees as we drove, and arrived at the lodge in a misty rain.
Even so, the Timberline is a sight to behold. Built as a WPA project and dedicated by FDR in 1937, the entire building is an homage to the perseverance and craftsmanship of the American worker. Sitting at the base of the summit, it’s one of the few places (maybe the only place?) in the US that has snow all year, so it’s a popular destination for ski teams around the world to come and practice. While we were there, in addition to the many local ski schools, there were teams from Canada, Italy and the Netherlands. Skiers and snowboarders roamed the ground, and from the back of the lodge you could just make out the halfpipe above on the mountain.
The weather was typically temperamental, quickly changing from sunny to foggy to misty, so we roamed around the lodge, at two exceptional meals, and headed out of Friday morning.
Friday: Mt. Hood to Portland
Looking back, we made two tactical errors and, unfortunately, they were both on the same day. Leaving Mt. Hood, we passed the trailhead for Mirror Lake Trail, a beautiful uphill walk through the evergreens to a lake that provides beautiful views of Mt. Hood. You have to have a pass to use the trail, and they don’t sell the passes at the trailhead. (They do have them at Timberline and Government Camp, just up the road.) But we didn’t have the time to backtrack, so we missed out. (As cloudy as it was, I’ve convinced myself that we wouldn’t have been able to see anything, but it’s only slight consolation.)
We also had a choice of driving north to and through the Columbia River Gorge or heading west to see the Oregon lavender farm. Though the lavender was certainly nice, we should have gone to the gorge. I guess we’ll just have to go back another time…
If you’re interested in a trip like this, I would definitely encourage you to go. Oregon is one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen, and – as you can see on the map below – we saw a fairly small portion of it. Though I do recall the naturalist telling us that something 80% of Oregonians live west of the Cascade mountains, so while we only saw part of the state, we met most of the people. (The population density map shows just how dramatic this is.)
Though I would definitely go back to Oregon in a heartbeat, I would plan the trip differently. Well, I wouldn’t do this particular trip (what I’ve taken to calling “The Rothe Loop”) again, though I do recommend it as a way to see a lot in a short period of time. Going back I would likely set up camp in Bend and explore from there: Three Sisters, Mt. Bachelor, Smith Rock, and more than 120 lakes to explore. From Bend, you could get the full Oregon experience in a hip small town.
Ah, the holidays. Depending on your luck (and your perspective), you may find yourself surrounded by near and distant family sometime over the next few weeks. And you may remember why distance makes the heart grow fonder. It can be daunting, amidst the pressure of finding perfect gifts, getting everyone where they need to be (and when), and struggling to keep the real spirit of the season in mind, to have extended family lurking in the shadows.
You remember them, right? The in-laws and their list of demands, the crazy uncle who always seems to be one cocktail ahead of everyone else, the branch that’s global-warming-denying/social-medicine-supporting/Obama-hating/Hillary-loving… There are at least two sides to every issue and when most families get together, there’s plenty of room to choose sidesand get into a good old-fashioned boondoggle.
Family. The very mention of them sends some people heading for the woods. Maybe it’s because we’re all so damned flawed and no one knows your flaws better than they do. Or has longer memories. Or quicker tongues. Growing up around my house, it was common to hear the admonition that you’d better have thick skin to withstand all the shots that would be taken. The result? You either developed that thick skin or adopted a complicated schedule that kept you from having to show up too much.
Families are designed to prepare us for the world outside, so it’s fitting that you get tossed out of the nest with a full suit of armor. The world, as everyone knows, is a difficult place; shouldn’t hurt you a bit to know what you’re getting into. On the other hand, not everyone is naturally attuned or easily prepared for the cruelty outside. There are some (including at least one among my own kids) who simply prefer to see the world for the mesmerizing, beautiful place it is. She doesn’t need thicker skin; she needs the rest of us to have brighter, more perceptive eyes. We should all be so lucky to see the world as she does.
I guess what I’m trying to say is this:
Our families are a gift (as screwed up as they may be). A gift that, for most of us, can’t be returned. With all their flaws and our misgivings about them, they provide a window into our own personalities, which can ben mighty painful. But they’re here for us, they have our back, and they usually mean well. Really, they do. They also give us love and courage to face the world at large, and provide a safe haven where we can go to be reminded of our shortcomings when we get weary of strangers pointing them out.
Hopefully you’ll be lucky enough to have some of your family around in the next few weeks. I hope you try to be patient, and kind, and forgiving. I was reminded of this when I watched the short film “Denali.” pictured above and viewable here. In it, the narrator says, “There was this really smart scientist guy who thought that people could learn a lot from dogs. He said, ‘When someone you love walks in through the door, even if it happens five times a day, you should go totally insane with joy.’”
It won’t be easy, but I promise it’s worth the effort. And wouldn’t it be nice if it happened that way for you, too?
Here’s wishing you and yours a beautiful holiday filled with moments totally insane with joy.