Thursday, October 23, 2014

Haunted Hotel: Alabama & Amarillo

My mom will tell you that all of this is my own fault because I think about dead people too much.  At one time I had tons of pictures of them all over the walls of my dining room but I decided to do away with that some time ago.  Understand, these weren't random dead people but people in my family.  This story starts in Alabama with my grandma.

Here she is holding me circa 1969.

My grandmother (my dad's mom), Meriam, died on Halloween in 2000.  I don't remember how I was told which is kind of odd because I remember vividly how I found out when both of my grandfathers died but with Meriam - nothing.  I do remember that the decision was made for me to travel to Alabama with my parents to attend her funeral.  I had three kids and no money so mom and dad kindly let me stay in the same hotel room with them.

Before I go too far, let me back up a few years.  When my grandpa died in 1992, I also returned to Alabama for his funeral.  My son was a baby and my parents had business to attend to so they left me at my great-grandmother's house (Meriam's mother) for a while.  She told me stories about her mother and about how she met my great-grandfather.  Her stories stuck with me and were what ultimately got me interested in researching my family history.  By the time Meriam passed, I had been doing research, primarily on my dad's side of the family for quite a few years. I should also mention that Meriam herself was a little odd and had some weird habits regarding the dead.  She would routinely call the local funeral home "to see who was down there" so she would know if she needed to go take pictures.

So back to the trip.  We checked in to the hotel and while I unpacked, mom got in the shower and dad left the room.  I'm unloading my suitcase when the television comes on all by itself.  I had to search for the remote because none of us had picked it up at this point having just arrived.  I switched it off and went back to what I was doing.  I do remember thinking it was odd but explainable - a remote in another room could have done it through the wall (not an expensive hotel) or a timer was set.

The next morning, we get up to go to the funeral.  My shoes were lined up under the desk, three total pairs.  The pair in the middle are my "church shoes" and what I plan to wear but when I put my foot in the first shoe, it was completely filled with water.  It turned out that both of them were.  My other casual shoes, set on either side, were fine, dry as a bone.

That night, back at the hotel, we had been laying in the dark for a little while when the television came on again.  The timer thing now seems unlikely as we haven't watched TV in the time we have been here and the time of day is totally different than the first time it happened.  The next day, we go back to the cemetery and while standing by Meriam's grave we watch a dust devil going across the cotton field next door.  When it got to the fence between the field and the cemetery it kind of broke up and we all went back to what we were doing.  For me, that was taking pictures of headstones.  Some of you are probably thinking I am a total weirdo now but in my defense, I was only trying to document information for my family tree.  I am related to almost everyone in this cemetery in one way or another - or in some cases - more than one way (my dad is also my half great uncle but that is a story for another time).  As I am taking pictures, my cousin's daughter suddenly says, "Look out Noelle!" right as the dust devil comes back and goes right over/around/through me.  I quite literally felt my hair stand on end.  My family sees this happen too and they come over and ask if I'm okay.  Except for mom.  Mom helpfully says, "They were just marking you so they could find you later." 

Back at the hotel I am laying in the dark and I can't think of anything but dead people touching me when - you know what's coming - the TV comes on again.  Mom sits up in bed and says, "Stop it Meriam!"  But Meriam doesn't stop.  When I return back home to Texas, all sorts of weird things keep happening.  A knife flies off the middle of the kitchen table onto the floor when no one was in the kitchen (we heard it hit the tile floor); a lamp on a dimmer switch suddenly comes on full blast; David and I are talking about Meriam when a chair across the room swivels around to face us.  That kind of normal, every day stuff.  And David and I agree, there is a "presence" in the hallway at the top of the stairs.  So we get used to living with our ghost.

Meriam with my kids.


Fast forward to 2014 and I am in my hotel room in Amarillo. It is midnight and suddenly the television comes on, waking me.  Of course, I immediately think of Meriam.  I turn the TV off and go back to sleep.  The next morning when I am putting on my makeup, the clock radio alarm starts going off.  Again, some of you are thinking that could totally happen.  But the TV came on by itself again the next day after more than 24 hours and I had refused housekeeping so no one had touched it.  And I had verified that any alarm or timer was off.  As for the clock radio, it wasn't a normal one, it was an iPod docking station so the alarm was actually on my iPhone and I had not set it.

At this point I decide to do what any normal person with an iPhone would do and I download an app. Yes, there's an app for that.  I get the Ghost Observer app for free and fire it up.  It has a radar on it that will show you the location of your ghost. 

And there it is.  If I am at the center of the radar then the ghost is RIGHT NEXT TO ME.
 
Let me just say that even though I am not afraid of my ghost grandma, having the app say "Ghost Detected" in a creepy electronic voice when you are alone in a darkened hotel room can make it hard to sleep later.  I immediately turned off the app because, frankly, I don't need to know more.  Then I got the idea to take a picture in that general direction to see what happened.
 
I sent this picture to my son.  He did not appreciate this as he was also trying to get ready for bed. 
 
Later that week I changed to another hotel in Lubbock and had more "occurrences".  When my key card stopped working and I had to go to the front desk to have it fixed the guy said, "Huh, that's weird" and I said, "It's probably the ghost in my room."  He looked at me for a moment and then blinked once and said, "No, you probably just put it too close to your cell phone", like my statement was totally normal. 
 
Incidentally, I did fill out the survey sent to me by Holiday Inn Express in Amarillo and told them about the TV and the alarm clock and that I thought they had a ghost in that room but at this point, they have not responded.  I was kind of hoping for some free points out of the deal or something.  I'm going to have to have a talk with Meriam later.  If she is going to follow me around, she could at least make herself useful and get me some free stuff.
 
P.S.  I'm going back to Amarillo in December.  I may ask for the same room.
 
P.P.S.  A dust-devil for those of you who don't know, is a small tornado, made out of swirling dust.  And by dust I obviously mean the dust of my dead ancestors so they can find me later.


Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Color Run: Missoula, MT

Back in the fall of 2012, I got the distinct impression that the universe was trying to tell me to get up off my butt and start running.  The idea crept in on its own and then 3 times in as many days, something came up about 5k runs.  The first was on an airplane.  The airline magazine had an article about "fun runs" including The Color Run.  Normally I don't even read those magazines and I never take them with me but this time, I did both.  Then, the customer I was visiting told me how she was running in a 5k that weekend.  The third day I saw someone wearing a shirt from the Color Run.  And on it went, there were more subtle hints and I kept thinking about it so finally, I looked it up and The Color Run was coming to Dallas (where I still lived then) that next April.  So, I started training.

Then we moved.  By that January I was living in Montana and would not be in Dallas in April to make the run.  Some time passed where I didn't train after moving here...we were learning our area, buying a house, generally getting settled.  But the seed had been planted and the universe isn't one to be put off so easily so eventually I decided to go back to training.

I should preface this by saying that my "running" would be laugh to some.  First, I don't run non-stop, I do run/walk intervals.  I don't know how fast I am running either since I don't actually track that specific part at this point but I do something in the neighborhood of a 12-13 minute mile.  So, not fast.  If you want to get nitpicky about my definitions here, you can probably just stop reading now.

And for those of you worried that this is going to turn into a fitness blog or a sad weight loss tale, you should be okay after this paragraph.  I am overweight.  I have been for most of my 20s and all of my 30s and 40s (so far).  I gained after my 2nd daughter and let me just say:  IT IS ALL MY OWN FAULT.  I am not saying things like stress and life didn't contribute but I am the one who ate what I ate and I am the one that didn't make time to exercise.  I was thin and fit all through my teens and into my 20s and have played lots of sports including at various time:  volleyball, softball, basketball and major league rules women's amateur baseball.  I played a year of soccer.  I threw shot put for the track team.  I ran the 2nd leg of the 4x440 relay.  But even back then, I HATED running long distances.  When the coaches would send us to the track to run sprints or bleachers or lines, I would be happy to lead the way.  If they said, "ya'll go run a mile", I would be the last one dragging in.  So I'm not sure if the universe really knows what it is doing at this point.

The Color Run didn't turn out to be my first 5k the way I thought it would be.  After I had been training (for no particular race at that time) about a month by myself, David decided to start joining me.  And "joining me" is a loose term since we start together and ride back together but don't really stay together the rest of the time.  I do my thing, he does his.  I walk faster, he runs faster.  The company he works for offered to pay for its employees to do the Missoula 5k which was part of the Missoula Marathon weekend.  So he signed himself up and after he mentioned this to me and I asked why he didn't sign me up, he signed me up too.  (Sometimes the obvious isn't so obvious to David.)

But The Color Run is still out there and I decided to look it up and see about doing it in DC or Philadelphia where I could go and see if my daughter would meet me there.  When I went online though, there was a star in Western Montana that had to be Missoula.  They have not had The Color Run here before (they have had other similar races).  So I immediately signed up.  My cousin was planning to come here for a visit at that time so she also signed up but the universe decided it wasn't in the cards for her and so we transferred her registration to David a few weeks before the race.

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Here we are pre-race.  The race is being held at the University of Montana and they suggested you get there early as parking could be a problem.  We got there at 7:30 for an 8:30 start.  We could probably have arrived at 8:15 with no problem.  It is cold out, probably in the low 50s, before the race starts.
 
To help get people warmed up, the girl in the pink on the stage is doing a Zumba style routine for people to follow along to.  We weren't that cold.
 
People are dressed in all manner of things including lots of tutus...
 
even the men.
 
This guy who ran the race in a black suit.  They encourage, but don't require, participants to wear white as much as possible.  The bag that woman has was one of the giveaways along with a t-shirt, a headband (the group in the next photo are all wearing them), and some temporary tattoos.
 
There were lots of crazy socks and we saw a handful of people in full bunny costumes.
 
They do a conga line over to the starting line and the emcee gets everyone to sing "Party in the USA" by Miley Cyrus.  I think everyone but David knew the words.  They have multiple bubble machines going and people are cheering and, like me, taking lots of pictures.  I put an arrow over the emcees head so you could see where he is in relation to me before I tell you what happened next.
 
The Color Run's mascot is this unicorn.  He comes up right in front of us and starts dancing, trying to get either David or the teenage boy next to us to boogie with him but he is SO barking up the wrong trees.  While I am taking his picture - WHAM - I get hit right in the face with something.  The emcee, from the distance he was at - hit me right in the face with a bandana in a plastic sleeve.  He had been throwing things into the crowd before this but I never expected him to get things out this far, much less hit me right in the face.  The bandana fell over the barrier we are standing at and a kid picked it up and carried it off.  I think someone must have said something to him because he came back and gave it to me.  Normally I would have let him keep it but I was still out of sorts from being hit at all so I still have it.
 
They said "run on the left, walk on the right" but that was all pretty quickly abandoned.  David and I got stuck behind this one family a couple of times.  There were so many of them together (in matching family shirts) that they stretched across the whole road and you couldn't get around them on the narrow parts of the trail.  As you go along, there are "color zones" like the blue one here in the photo.  As you go through, they squirt dry color powder on you from bottles.  The color is dye in a cornstarch base and most of the workers aim at your chest or lower.  The only time that didn't happen was in blue when the guy threw it right at my face making me glad I had on sunglasses.  David made it through pink, blue and yellow with barely any color at all other than on his back.  I got a little of each but am really not overly covered at this point.  We both got more in the purple zone than anywhere else until...
 
at the finish line they hand you a color packet to use at the "after party".  We got turquoise, not a color that was also a zone.
 
So as you will see from these after pictures, we did more damage to each other than anyone else did.  David poured most of his packet down the back of my hair and shirt.  The next day, I still had color coming out of my hair when I washed it.
 



 
I took a couple of pictures of the after party but remember the guy in the black suit?  I bet his pictures are better than mine.  He brought a drone.
 
 
 
The Color Run claims to be the Happiest 5k on the Planet and people were definitely happy.  There were a lot of people in fun outfits, there in groups, laughing and having a great time. 
 
Because Missoula is about 30 minutes from our house and we need stuff from the store, we decide to go there before going home.  Some people know right away what we have been doing and others just stare at us like we are really strange.  In the first store a woman says to me "looks like fun" and I told her it was.  At WalMart someone took my picture (they thought I didn't know) so I may end up on the People of Walmart website (though I have to say a little color on my face doesn't seem like much compared to what I have seen on there). 
 
Another woman who sees me stops and says, "you look amazing!"  And do you know what?  I feel amazing too.
 
 
PS.  The color mostly came out of the clothes in one wash.  The skin was a little tougher.  I tried using makeup wipes on my face but just ended up looking like a smurf.  We both had to scrub pretty vigorously with a loofa to get it off.  Even then some of the places where we got sweaty, like around the bracelet we were required to wear, didn't come all of the way off the first time.  Even yesterday, David had some transfer back to his skin from a necklace he wore during the race that was over a week ago now.  So The Color Run may be over, but it will be with us for a while.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Pig Out in the Park: Spokane, WA

It isn't very often that I get to travel with someone else when I go on my business trips.  And even less often is my husband able to join me on the road.  So this time, when I was making a day trip over to Spokane, about a 3 hour drive from my house, I worked it out for David to come along.  Plus, he has been wanting to go to Spokane for a while since they are the closest place to us that has a woodworking store.  So the plan is for me to work on that Friday with my customer, he will go to the woodworking store (and the movies as it turned out) and then we will go to Pig Out in the Park in the evening.

Pig Out in the Park is a 6 day long event that has been going on for 35 years.  I have been to Riverfront Park before on a previous trip to Spokane and spent time walking the trails by the river.  There is also a carousel and some other kids rides along with a SkyRide that I will talk about a little later.  The flyer we picked up at our hotel says there are 40 food booths with 225 menu items, 3 beer gardens and 100 concerts.  Admission is priced right at $0.  Of course you pay for the food.
 
The flyer boasts that there is "nothing over a measly $9.95" and that there are "$3 bites offered daily between 3-5 PM and 9-10 PM.  These are smaller portions designed to let you sample more options because most of the options are really large.  Unfortunately the use of the word "measly" isn't working for me right now because we just walked past a bunch of homeless people that would probably be able to eat for days on that amount and I just finished reading the book "7:  An experimental mutiny against excess" by Jen Hatmaker and it is still working me mentally.
 
There is one fortunate thing about being at a Pig Out event on this particular weekend as opposed to any of the next 12...we are starting The Biggest Loser contest at work this week.  My goal is that one day when my coworkers are sitting around contemplating who might want to participate, they think about me and say "no way" because I would obviously not need to be in the contest.  Not only am I in the contest but I will be the coordinator/cheerleader this time so once it starts, I can't be running around at a Pig Out event.  I mention all of this to David who says "Pork Out Honey".  Not really what you want your husband to say to you.  EVER. But, we am here and starting weigh in is next week so let's see what we can find.
 
I advance scouted the brochure and one of the first booths we come to has something I want.
 
 
Chocolate covered fruit.  Okay, some of you are thinking, what?  Fruit?  At a Pig Out event based on carnival and fair food?  Where's the beef?  Or as David put it, "MMMMM, I smell charred flesh". 
 
Okay one more confession.  I've been a vegetarian since April.  Or at least as close to one as I am likely to be.  Some say I am a fake-vegetarian because I still eat fish.  And eggs.  And as my sister-in-law pointed out to me:  eggs are just boneless chicken.
 
So I have to leave the meat booths up to David who is searching for the bacon-wrapped hot dog vendor.  I took a photo of that but I think I had some chocolate smudged on the lens because it didn't come out.
 
The portion sizes at most of the vendors is HUGE.  And there is a LOT of variety including Chinese, Greek, Mexican, BBQ, a Mongolian Grill, pizza, Italian sausages, Cajun and more.  I tried to talk David into trying a Glazed Donut Burger (where the donut is the "bun") but he was too set on the bacon hot dog to oblige.
 
I have some issues with eating at potluck events where I haven't seen the kitchen of the person providing the dish.  You can see a lot of these "kitchens" but remember, this is an outdoor event.  In the summer.  So when I was looking in here, I could see the flies crawling on those noodles.  We moved on.
 
It was very hard to find something not made predominately of sugar and not made of beef/chicken/pork/turkey/all of those mashed together.  I finally decided on Baja Babes Shrimp Tacos.  I can't see inside so if there are flies, I am blissfully unaware.  The price was good too at $3 for one taco.
 
It was just enough for me and would not be so much food that you couldn't partake elsewhere later.  And I learned something when I ordered that made me feel a little better.
 
Some of the booths, including Baja Babe's, had a donation can for 2nd Harvest which provides meals for the needy.  I made a donation to offset the excess of this event which is causing me more stress than usual after reading that book.
 
We arrived around 3:30 and it was full but not seriously crowded.  You could make your way up and down the aisles fairly easily and we never stood more than 2-3 deep in line.  We are able to make the full round in an hour or so.  In addition to the food there are bands set up in 3 areas (mostly local, the only name I recognized is Los Lobos who will perform later at the main stage, we won't be there).  There is a kids area the usual bounce house and a balloon animal maker dressed like clown Elvis and a craft/vendor area where there are several fortune tellers set up.  In the past I have had my tarot read, my palm read and my bones read so I am all set but offered for David to try it.   He passed.
 
At this point I thought we would have eaten more but nothing is calling out to either of us that strongly.  We decide to go on the SkyRide and then make another round through the park and see if our appetites perk up.
 
SkyRide is a permanent feature at Riverside Park, it is not special to the festival.  You ride in a car over a suspended cable out past the falls.
 
The ride isn't very long but the falls are really nice and you get a good view of them.  There is also a walkway and some stairs you can use to get down to this view but we didn't know that before and probably still would have done the ride.  I read that this is the second largest "urban" waterfall in the country.
 
After the ride we still aren't ready so we walk across the street to the mall and check out movie times.  Nothing is going to work so we go down the street and happen on Boo Radley's.  This shop has a lot of unusual items and we start looking for things for our kids.
 
I consider buying this for my daughter who recently started a food blog.  I did end up buying her a cookbook called "What the F$%@ Should I Make For Dinner" which was really funny but the recipes also looked really good.  The guy who wrote that book has a website but be warned, the F$#@ is not spelled like that on the site...
 
At this point, I am ready to start calling it a day.  The after work crowd is beginning to arrive at the festival and when we go back over there, we find it much harder to navigate the aisles.  But I want to try one last thing.
 
Deep Fried Twinkies have been a staple of the State Fair Of Texas for years.  I think it might have been one of the things that started the whole fried revolution were anything and everything can be fried (ice cream, coke, butter).  So, we see a vendor and buy one.  David gets a Deep Fried Reese's Peanut Butter Cup.  Let me say that neither of these items are made better by Deep Frying them (I ate 2 bites and threw the rest of the mushy mess away).
 
I'm glad we went and I would go to something like this again if I happened to be in the area and there wasn't something more compelling to do, as was the case on this trip.  I am going to leave you with some one-liners.  For those of you familiar with my blog, you know what's coming.  If you are new, these are comments made by someone on the trip.  Who that someone is or was, remains up to you to decide. 
 
  • When it pokes out, it pokes out.
  • I forgot, I'm not talking to you right now.
  • I didn't know it was going to spray you.
  • If I was going to take a picture of a bridge, it would be a bridge over troubled water.
  • What is that noise, did you fart?
  • I got chocolate on my shirt for you.
  • I smell bacon.
  • I think your taste buds are dead.




Sunday, September 14, 2014

Western Montana Fair & Rodeo: Missoula, MT

I may have mentioned before that after moving to Montana, David became interested in photography.  I was already interested but up to this point, he was politely interested in my photographs but not at all interested in the process.  Now, we frequently go out and shoot photos together.  I thought that the fair and rodeo would provide a good lots of good subject matter for such an outing.

David and I have never been to a rodeo together.  I have suggested it in the past but his excuse always has something to do with this...

That's David.  He thinks he was around 16 when this was taken.

I think he felt he would be too nostalgic and possibly would want to try and compete again.  I played men's rules baseball once but I can still attend a professional baseball game without getting weepy.  I realize that I can't do all the things I could when I was younger and only covet the job of the bullpen catcher.  But he was resistant.  Until now.

First, we take in the fair.  I have been to the State Fair of Texas more than once, having lived in the Dallas area most of my life, and I have reasonably low expectations for the fair part due to the size of Missoula in comparison.  There are just over a million people in the whole state of Montana (the 4th largest state in size).  There are over 13 million in the Dallas metro area alone. 

But though this fair is smaller, it still has most of the things you expect at this type of event.  There are shows:  art, quilting, photography (why didn't we enter??), livestock, cooking.  There are the typical fair food vendors.  There are rides.  There is even a place to play bingo, which I talk David into doing. 

That's what BINGO looks like baby!  It cost me $2 for our cards and I won $6 (I had to split the pot with another winner) so I will take that $4 profit, thank you very much.

I need to buy David a treat with my winnings.  He didn't get very far with his card.

Treat acquired!  David's idea of a treat usually involves charred flesh of some kind.
And LOTS of mustard.

One of the most interesting things we stumbled on at the very back corner was the DockDogs competition.  Dogs would run down this platform and launch themselves to either catch a thrown baton or one suspended from a pole.  They land in a pool of water and swim back with their catch. 

If there had been any shade to sit in, we probably would have stayed here a lot longer. But we came as one competition was ending and there was a lull in the action and it was very hot that day.

And it is almost time for the rodeo.  Our plan is to watch the rodeo and then do some night photography on the midway.  We have good seats on the second row in the middle of the arena but next time I think we would try to sit slightly higher because there is a fence in front of us that was an issue for some of the shots we took (or wanted to take).  And yes, I said next time.  Despite saying it felt weird to be on this side of the arena, David really enjoyed himself.  There was some talk between him and a former rodeo teammate on Facebook about riding again when they turn 50 but I feel pretty confident that I can squash that before it becomes serious.  He still has residual knee issues (not to mention really ugly toes) from his former bull riding days.

When David got his camera, we got him a Nikon.  I use a Canon.  This wasn't on purpose but it does solve the issue of borrowing equipment.  Mostly for him since I am notorious for losing my lens caps, or leaving the house without my memory card (because I left it in my computer from our last outing), or not having my docking clip for the tripod.  A friend suggested that this would also be good from a competitive standpoint but this isn't an issue for us.  David and I can be standing side by side and the photo we will end up with is going to be vastly different. 


I asked David to pull out his 5 favorite shots from the day for this post, I think you will notice a theme:


Notice the guy in the background on this one.



All action shots from the rodeo, 3 from bull riding.  I know he liked a couple of his DockDogs photos but when pushed to give me only 5, when we took over 300 pictures EACH, this was the resulting field.




Here are my 5:






None from the events of the rodeo, unless you count the trick roper with the flaming whips, though I took several.  Normally I don't really like taking pictures of people but at this venue, that is really what was primarily available as a subject.

The fair was a little better than I expected and the rodeo was a lot of fun.  We will definitely go back.  Maybe next year, we will enter some of our photos in their contest, we have a few (hundred) to choose from.  We make good photography partners for one reason and maybe this makes us good partners in general.  We see different things even when we are sitting right next to each other.  

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Top Golf: The Colony, TX

When I lived in the Dallas area I drove through The Colony on my way to the office.  It isn't a very big town in the scheme of things but it is sandwiched among other suburbs and it isn't always easy to tell when you have exited one and entered another.  I'm not even sure what there actually is to The Colony outside of the fast food/retail area along the highway.  On this highway you find Top Golf, you can't miss it.  The first time I came back after moving, I noticed they were building some large monstrosity right on the highway and as time passed it revealed itself to be this massive 3 story driving range.

I couldn't get a good shot of the building from the other side, which is the side that faces the highway, due to the position of the sun when we were there.
 
The company I work for has close to 100 employees but there are only 6 of us that work for this one side of the business that includes me.  Out of the 6, three of us don't live in Dallas (two of us don't even live in Texas).  Of the remaining 3, one travels and works from her Dallas area home so it isn't very often that all 6 of us are in the same place at the same time.  So, when we are, we are trying to make an effort to get together after hours to do some team building. 
 
The last time we decided to team build, 5 of us went to dinner.  We spent a grand total of $60.  I think my boss might have been embarrassed for our little group since other teams frequently meet and spend a LOT more than that.  When I called him about this outing he said yes but on one condition:  we must spend a minimum of $100.  I told him we would have Marci along this time (making our full 6) and that we would make her eat $40 worth of food if needed.
 
Once we all arrived, all but one of us had to buy the required membership.  This cost $5 and it never expires.  When the lady was working on mine she asked if I wanted to receive email marketing from them and I said no based on the fact that there are none of these in Montana.  "We are building 40 more this year in the US and overseas."  This statement depresses me more than I can explain but either way, I tell her my answer is still no as I doubt that any of them will be in Montana.  (What I really mean is that I HOPE none of them are.)
 
Aside from the three level driving range, this is also a restaurant and bar so for our little team building exercise, it is a one stop shop.
 
We were hoping to be on the 3rd deck and we are.  That is the view out to the highway, which you cannot see because of the orange pizza place in between.
 
We are here at about 4pm on a Tuesday so it isn't very crowded.  There were people in the stall next to us and they grew distrustful of Linda because twice she shanked balls that came a little close for comfort. 

A woman who works the golf part of the booth comes by and says if we don't get started we will be forfeiting our booth shortly.  I explain we don't know what to do (only one of us has been here before).  She recommends a particular game and helps us get set up.

Assuming you are right handed, there are clubs right at the booth.  You pick your club and walk onto the artificial turf mat which has a tee on it.  You wave your club at the top right area and a ball comes out the chute.  Tee up and hit it.
 
The object is to hit it into one of those rings.  Each one gives you a certain number of points.
 
If you are left handed, you must request clubs.  Kawiana is left handed but starts out hitting right.  She later decides to give left a try.  It took a long time to get them to come by again and get us clubs and then they didn't set up a left tee.  She went back to hitting right. 
 
One mistake we made right away was to not follow the order of our names as they appear on the screen.  Before you hit (regardless of the order you choose to go in), you have to click your name, it doesn't automatically advance to the next person like it does at a bowling alley.  Some of us apparently never played baseball or softball since they can't remember who they "bat" after and need to be reminded a lot.  Some of us can't remember to click our name.  So at the end, Kawiana had a lot of extra balls to hit when the rest of us were done.  Somehow, she kept getting skipped, even though she seemed to go when she was supposed to each round.
 
The week before the trip, Marie and Marci and I have a text exchange about footwear for the outing. 
 
Are flip flops okay?  Only if you want me to laugh at you, I reply.  We aren't going shopping, this is golf.  But, as a man in the office observed, as long as you pay, you can probably wear whatever you want.  And they did.  Both of them.  The blue tennis shoes are Linda's.  But Marie and Marci weren't the only ones.  The girls in the next booth are also wearing shoes that are very impractical for playing golf including one in high-heeled wedge sandals.
 
Here I am getting ready to hit, wearing sensible tennis shoes.  David and I took golf lessons right before we decided to move to Montana.  I never even made it to play a full game before we moved (and I don't own my own clubs, I have my son's hand-me-downs with no bag to put them in).  I realize something very quickly...I have forgotten almost everything they taught me.
 
I think we are on round/hole 6 before I manage to score at all (I was the last one get off of zero).  It was about this time that Marie announced that she is done playing because she is bored.  I may think this place is a huge eye-sore but I definitely didn't think it was boring.  And she wants me to clarify here: she was bored with the golf part, not the company.  We peer pressured her into continuing while we get food and drinks.
 
 
Aside from the less than friendly and helpful woman working the golf part, our waiter for the food/bar was not the best ever.  Right away he tells us he doesn't want to be there and can't wait to go home.  He doesn't check on us regularly or refill our water.  We are barely going to make the $100 at this point which wouldn't have been a problem had he been reasonably attentive.  We ordered some appetizers to share and might have ordered more (and definitely would have had other drinks) but he couldn't be bothered.  When he passed us off to another waiter when it was time for him to go, suddenly we get good service from the new waiter.  As we are wrapping up to leave.
 
The big winner?  Tim, our gratuitous male, wins with a score of 105.  He wins pretty handily too with Kawiana coming in second with 70.  I end up in 4th following a comeback after being the last to score. 
 
Five out of Six team members might recommend Top Golf for a fun and non-boring time in the future.  Even though the service here could be better, the company was good and I personally thought the appetizers were pretty good (and despite everything, we managed to make it slightly over our $100 minimum).  I can't vouch for the drink quality since I am a teetotaler (pun intended...get it?  at a golf place?).  The golf is easy to do in whatever you happen to be wearing and they provide everything.  You don't have to play or know how to play golf either, of our 6 only Tim had ever played before if you don't count my lessons - which I don't. 
 
In the parking lot afterwards, Marci made a good observation about our experience at Top Golf:  It's like bowling, but golf.