My wife and I recently sold our townhome and set out to buy a new home. We spent a good deal of time researching, driving out to communities, and looking at floor plans. We finally settled on a new-construction development that was a Lennar community.
As we looked at the different floor plans we had a few that we liked, but ended up settling on a plan called the “Westley”. We chose a lot that was having the foundation laid so that we could still pick floor colors and have a little control over some features. We were excited to watch the home as it went up.
Of course once we sold the townhome we were displaced and without a home while the new home was being constructed. Based on the word Lennar gave us we would close on June 26th. Since we sold the townhome on June 5th that would give us about 3 weeks where we would shack up with my mom. This was where the “fun” began.
While the home was being constructed we made a few trips to the community to meet with the builder and to fill out paperwork regarding the loan. On one trip the home seemed to be a long way from “closing” and I asked the supervisor if he thought he was still on track to close on the 26th. He responded “Oh yeah, shoot if this good weather keeps up we may close early”. With the house still having a lot of work that needed to be done it was difficult to believe that timeline, but I am obviously not a builder and so I leaned on the supervisor’s expertise.
The day finally came for the walkthrough. As you can imagine, my wife and I were excited to go and review our soon-to-be new home. I had recently been to the home and had a list of items that I wanted to ensure were completed while we reviewed the home. At this meeting there were 2 building supervisors present, my wife and I, plus our real estate agent team members.
When we arrived at home we learned that the electricity had not been turned on. Translation: there was no air conditioning on and it was in the dead of the humid South Carolina summer. As all the windows were closed in the home it was like an oven and it didn’t take long before we all were sweating. The Lennar representatives told us that we would go through the home with blue tape and mark every item that needed to be touched up or corrected. They also indicated that this would be our only chance at creating a “punch list” and that moving forward only items on the list would be worked on. So this was our only opportunity to find items that were not done correctly – during the middle of a work day, in a house with no air condition, during the heat of the summer, and with a scheduled hour for the meeting. As you can imagine, the conditions were not the best for the walkthrough.
We started in the garage and I started asking about things and marking things up. The supervisors told me that the garage was “still a work in progress” and that a lot of work still needed to be done. I thought to myself that it wasn’t really fair to tell us that this was our only chance to make a punch list, but then to turn around and say that this area was still “in progress”. What were we supposed to do other than just trust them? We couldn’t really call out items that technically were not through or finished. That was the first of several red flags throughout the failed process.
As we went through the house we found several items that were not as they should be. There were door casings with no paint at all, door casings with large splinters, several areas that should have caulk that did not have caulk (such as the bathroom sinks), a noticeable bend in the metal in the front door’s casing, thin and uneven paint throughout the house, a metal awning over the bay window that looked terribly crafted, a crawl space door that had sprayed foam through 2 of the 5 gaps in the wood, and the main thing we noticed was a pretty nice hump in the dining room floor and in the kitchen pantry closet that was along the same seam in the floor. The uneven floor signaled a foundation that wasn’t level and that really concerned us.
By the end of the first walkthrough everyone was completely soaked in sweat, hot, and we had gone through 2 and a half rolls of blue tape. Every room in the house literally had blue tape all over it. In short, the home was a long ways from being ready and there was still a lot of work to be done. The following week our real estate agent spoke with a representative from Lennar who guaranteed our real estate agent that “Your clients won’t close until they are 100% happy".
As any home buyer would do we hired a home inspection company to inspect the house. A week or so later we met the home inspector at the house to review his report. He had been there 3 hours inspecting the house by the time we arrived. The good news was that in order to inspect the house the electricity had to be turned on, which meant this time we wouldn’t leave soaked in sweat. The home inspector found several of the items that we had blue-taped but he also found several more items that we hadn’t. He indicated that the vertical seams in the outer trim work needed to be caulked, an item which I had already raised to the supervisor in the first walkthrough and that they told me didn’t need caulk. He also identified areas where the bay windows & fireplace met the roof where there was clearly exposed wood beneath the flared edges. The inspector pointed it out to us and said “If I can see that wood and you can see it then you know that moisture can enter as well as bugs”. Needless to say you don’t need any wood exposed to the elements. The exposed wood was due to a technique Lennar uses in scenarios where bay windows connect back to fascia boards near the roof. This exposed wood scenario was present in several areas of the house’s roof. And since the air condition was on the inspector was able to identify a whistling sound in the air conditioning. The whistling sound represented air either coming through or getting out of somewhere that it shouldn’t and it could result in an increased bill to heat or cool the home.
In the end the Home Inspector created a staggering 85 page report filled with images and lists of issues with the house. I’ve included several images from the report in this blog entry. While we were glad that the home inspector found these issues it didn’t make us feel any better about the home.
By this time the builder had reviewed our punch list and had also received the inspector’s 85 page report. We worked with Lennar to accommodate their request to push back the closing by a week. A week later, when I arrived to this walkthrough I saw the entire front door being removed and there were several vehicles at the home. When I entered the house I learned that we now had a new supervisor. I’m not sure if the old one was fired, transferred, or what happened, but we would be dealing with a new supervisor going forward. There was also a Lennar representative there who appeared to be the manager of the supervisors. He maintained his distance throughout the walkthrough, but I saw him through the windows outside of the house just walking around and shaking his head as if here were saying “No” when looking at the craftsmanship of the home.
In our initial conversations with the construction supervisors our real estate agent let them know that we shouldn’t have even done the 1st walk through when we did. She told them that the house wasn’t nearly in the shape it should have been for a walkthrough. The Lennar team seemed apologetic and the new supervisor seemed to recognize that he was thrown into a difficult situation. While we were there talking one of the supervisors told us “We really do want to deliver a quality product to you all”. He seemed sincere and at the sight of seeing the front door being replaced and then hearing the reassurance from the Lennar crew I felt somewhat better initially.
As we re-walked through the home we again put blue tape on areas that needed to be updated. There were still several of the same areas that needed work. We just, again, put tape back on the same areas where we previously put tape. At one point the new supervisor said that we should just stop the walkthrough and let them revisit the entire house themselves. It was as if he recognized all the general theme of the issues and knew the house wasn’t ready for a walkthrough. Though, after making that comment they continued walking through with us. It was a little odd.
Upon walking into the dining room area it was apparent that nothing had been done with the hump in the floor. This was one of our major concerns that we had voiced to them several times. We called it out to them and continued the re-walk through. When we got to the attic we still heard the AC whistling. We again cited that to them along with the areas outside the needed caulking + the exposed wood above the windows. On this walkthrough the garage doors were up and we were able to see that the “stud” boards that the garage door was bolted to were bowing inward toward the door.
At the end of walkthrough we were in the garage talking with the Lennar representatives and our real estate agents. This time the corporate guy or the supervisor of the construction managers joined us. We again expressed concern over the hump in the floor and the most senior guy piped up saying that the hump in the floor was normal. I questioned him about that and he said that the hump in the floor was within their “tolerance” and that they wouldn’t be doing anything about it. My thought was that if something is within your tolerance then we shouldn’t be able to see it with a naked eye. My wife then spoke up saying that it was unfortunate to hear that Lennar was essentially drawing the line and not going to do anything to make the floor right. Her comment apparently got to the guy’s ego a bit because he puffed his chest out and said started telling us that he had been building houses for over 18 years and that this kind of thing is expected. I laughed out loud at him because he took my wife’s comment personally and tried to tell us how much of a building legend he was. I had never seen this guy before. All I knew was that he showed up, stood around, and was on his cell phone a lot. He could have been our neighbor for all I knew. I guess he wanted instant credibility because he wore work boots. I asked him to get his level and let’s go look at the floor. We went back into the dining room and found that the wall was also bowed. The level we used was a 6 foot level and was long enough to get from one hump to the next so to me it didn’t accurately represent the hump in the floor. They again stated that they would work on the wall, but not the floor.
By the time walkthrough #3 got here we were 3 weeks past schedule on the house. The lender was forced to extend the interest “rate-lock” agreement for the 2nd time and it was costing Lennar money each time. I had also started a new job and had been gone for 10 days which gave the builder plenty of time to fix the items that remained. I figured with me being gone so long Lennar should have no excuse for not having the items taken care of.
This walkthrough was unlike any other and was odd from the onset. We again showed up with our real estate agents and it became very clear that the Lennar sales representative + the construction manager were rushing us through the walkthrough. Why did they want to rush us? We had a punch list and before even addressing all items in one room, the Lennar reps were saying “Ok, what’s in the next room?” For much of the walkthrough I was lagging behind actually spending time looking at the issues they were supposed to fix.
When we continuously called out the thin paint the Lennar sales representative told us that in a walkthrough home buyers are supposed to stand 5 feet away from a wall and look rather then get up close to the wall. This puzzled us. If were are going to make a significant investment in a home I don’t care if I lay down on my back and look upside down. If something is supposed to have paint on it, then it should have paint on it. This goes back to a conversation I had one evening with a painter, but more on that later.
By the time we had gotten upstairs we had noticed the hump still in the floor downstairs + newly scratched up wood in the den area. When the lady told my wife to stand 5 feet away from the wall to review the thin paint it kind of put a line in the sand. We just all stood there in this one room and had an awkward moment of silence. I asked the question “So you’ve known about the punch list for over a month now and there are still issues. Are you going to fix these issues?” At this point the construction manager responded “The house is what it is and we are not making any more updates” and that essentially sealed the deal. At this point we were half-way through the walkthrough and we knew where we were headed. Though we continued walking through the rest of the house.
As we continued upstairs to the 3rd floor the building supervisor accused my wife of “creating new items” that were not on the initial punch list. As you may imagine that comment didn’t go over well. My wife responded “That’s interesting because I have video of all the items from both previous walkthroughs and if you want me to go downstairs and get my phone I can show you the video.” The supervisor responded “No you don’t have to do that” because he knew he’d been caught in a lie. After being pegged the supervisor commented, with a voice of frustration “I can’t be here all day watching people, I have other projects going on as well”. It seems like Lennar either has their supervisors on too many projects or that this guy didn’t really care about providing us a quality home.
As we reached the outside of the house I asked the supervisor about the mud that was on the fascia board above the garage. I called this out to them on the very first walkthrough over a month ago. The supervisor said they weren’t able to get it off. While we were going through the walkthrough a painter had arrived. The painter was Hispanic and I asked him in Spanish if it was possible to get the mud off. He went and grabbed his ladder, climbed it, and took 3 minutes to wipe the mud off. It was that simple. This action essentially meant that in 2 weeks’ time the supervisor hadn’t even attempted to wipe the mud off or had anyone see about it and then lied about it. That was at least 2 lies within an hour from the Lennar crew.
At the “end” of the walkthrough the supervisor asked me “Well what do you think?” What I thought was that the fact that they rushed us through the walkthrough, told us to stand 5 feet away from walls, got caught in multiple lies, and didn’t seem to care about the things that concerned us represented a surface level signal to a much more deeply rooted problem. And that problem was that Lennar wasn’t serious about not closing until we were happy and they weren’t serious about fixing the house. Ultimately they Lennar team knew we wouldn’t buy the house with the issues it had and they also knew they weren’t going to fix them. Consequently any time they spent with us was wasted time and wasted money. It was as if they wanted to hurry and get us through the process so they could start over a new buyer.
By this point in time we had already put down earnest money on the house and even transferred the down payment to the lawyer’s office. We were supposed to do the walkthrough in the morning, sign a release accepting the condition of the house, and close on the home the next day. It was down to the wire. We left without signing papers and told the Lennar reps we needed to think about some things. Of course everyone knew what was happening. The Lennar reps told our agents that they would refund us back the earnest money should we decide to withdraw the offer. This was a sign that they knew they were in the wrong.
We thought long and hard about the home. It was a nice floor plan, in a nice area, and a seemingly nice community in the making. However, we just didn’t feel good about things. You know that uneasy feeling you get in your stomach that’s always an indicator that you’re fixing to mess up… yeah that’s the one we had. The main things that led to our decision to withdraw were the poor quality home (the hump in the floor being number one), Lennar personnel rushing us through the walkthrough, and also getting mixed messages from Lennar throughout the process. They didn’t do a good job at building credibility and good will with us throughout the process.
At least for us, when considering making a large investment such as this, we wanted to feel good about it and have a sense of trust in the company with which we’d be doing business. We didn’t have that feeling and felt that we’d lost faith in Lennar by the time we got to the end of the process. As you just read it had not been easy to get the builder to take care of the items they guaranteed us they would take care of before buying the house… so needless to say, we didn’t have much faith in them coming back to fix things after they had our money.
I will give Lennar credit on the refund. They did refund us the earnest money we had put down on the house. By their paper work, which was heavily slanted towards them, they didn’t have to technically give us our money back. Though, I feel like they knew the house was not quality and thus they instantly agreed to refund us the earnest money. This was one of the few areas in which I’ll say they did right by us.
While my mom was a flexible and gracious host (thanks mom!), her home is about 50 miles from where we planned to live and where my wife works. The logistics were difficult to manage in this stressful time, so we decided to rent an apartment closer to the area we hope to live. As we looked for apartments we visited 3 apartment complexes that were brand new and still being built. This area of town is rapidly growing and thus there are houses, communities, and apartments going up everywhere. As my wife and I visited these apartment complexes I still had the flaws in the home we just backed out of in my mind. As we walked around I wasn’t so much paying the apartment representative attention as I was more so examining door casings, hardiplank implementations, observing where there was and wasn’t caulk, paint consistency, and the overall quality and craftsmanship of the buildings. And as you would imagine, there were things that were done differently than what we had just experienced with Lennar. For example, the caulking of vertical seams of the hardiplank, the same areas that the Lennar builders had just told us that didn’t need caulk. There also were no whistling air conditions, dents in door casings, door casings left completely without paint, paint in the carpet, stair “skirt” boards with dents in them, etc. The list could go on, but the point is that the quality was much better in the apartments we were reviewing than the house we’d just backed out of. After the apartment reviews I knew we had made the right the decision even though it was going to cause us more stress in the short term.
During this process we incurred several costs. We had to pay for the home inspection, movers, I’m still paying on the storage, we had nice gas tabs for our commutes, now we’re paying on an apartment, and the major cost was the inconvenience in time. Rescheduling furniture deliveries with multiple furniture companies, with movers, and with the internet installer all added up to make this a “fun” process.
The experience was unfortunate for both my wife and I and I believe for Lennar as well. We really did like the community, the floor plan, the lot, and the area of town. I believe that Lennar knew the specific house wasn’t well managed from the start and they knew the hump in the floor was an item they weren’t willing to fix because it would eat into their profit margins. I think once they recognized that we wanted something structurally updated with the house they just wanted us to hurry and withdraw our offer because they knew they weren’t going to get down to the foundation and fix it. The longer they kept us around the more money they were losing. In taking this stance they showed their true colors and literally left money on the table. I’m sure they will sell the house, but I’m also sure that house will have problems down the road.
So the process has been unpleasant, but tucked away in the frustrations and disappointments are great lessons to be learned. We learned what “problem areas” to look for when buying a house. We learned the signals and body language from home builders when things aren’t quite right. We learned about the core principals, ethics, and organizational character with which Lennar operates. We learned more about the house buying process in general and are better off for it in the long run. It was like a 3 month education on house buying. I would rather be displaced and incur stress in the short term in exchange for having a problematic house in the long run. Sure it’s not fun, but it would be even worse a few years from now if we had purchased that house.
The Lennar reps statement of “You won’t close until you’re 100% happy” still holds true and it is true because we will close on another house, with a different builder, in a community just up the road when we are 100% happy.
We were recently approached for assistance by a South Carolina farmer with hog problems. He’d heard we had a night vision setup and that we could potentially help him with hog control. It took us a while to get a hog on the ground and this blog is the lead up to accomplishing the goal.
Hunting Coyotes Leads to Hunting Hogs
If you’ve been keeping up with the blog here then you’ll know that we recently upgraded to a night vision setup to better hunt coyotes. One of the locations where we hunt coyotes is near a farm and recently the farmer told us that hogs were really giving him problems. They were rooting up his land so much that he’s also hired a guy to trap the hog. Nobody on our team is a hog expert but we wanted to do our best to help and we were up for learning!
The trapper was regularly catching hogs in the pen and we figured we’d put out a game camera to get a feel for what was going on. In 3 days we had 600 pictures and there was a large pack of hogs that were coming in all throughout the night starting shortly after sundown. It was hard to tell exactly how many, but we guessed 10-15. We got a pattern for when they were coming and we threw out a little corn and planned a date to try out first hog hunt.
The First Hunt
Gavin and I were excited to try and get a hog. Neither of us had shot a hog before because we don’t have them around our hunting leases. It would be a first for us and that helped make it a good challenge. I guess I should also add here that our first hog hunt also occurred during the same time frame where we were having issues sighting in the thermal scope!
On our way to the farm we talked about waiting until the whole group got there so we could have better chances for multiple hogs and we could pick out the biggest one. They were coming out in groups, per the recon from the game camera. We had a plan and were ready to rock.
We arrived to the farm around 9 and got setup. We’d been there about 35 minutes when we started to see some heat signatures coming through the woods. At first it was one big hog, walking solo and I was whispering to Gavin “Shoot that big rascal!” but Gavin held off. I was all excited and Gavin was actually doing what we’d discussed on the way over there… and I was glad he did. Just a few minutes later the woods lit up. It was a sight to see. 12 hogs all came from the same direction and headed out to the corn. Having never seen a hog before I didn’t really know what to expect. The first thing I noticed was how quickly they moved around. I figured they’d be slow, sluggish, and hold still for long periods of time, but that was not the case. They can move pretty quickly. Once the whole group got out there Gavin picked one out and shot. The whole group scattered and he shot again. We went down and walked and looked for blood… nothing anywhere to be found. We’d missed. Another trip to the shooting range was to come.
More Trips to the Farm
After missing the hog we were again frustrated. We re-sighted the gun in and waited until the next weekend. All the while we’re putting out corn and the farmer is filling us in on when the hogs are back. On the next weekend that we could line things up we headed back. This time as we approached the field we saw the hogs entering the field from a different location. It was about to be the quickest hunt ever. Just when we started looking in the scope we heard coyotes howling very close to us. We stood there trying to figure out what to do. As we watched the hogs in the monocular the coyotes continued to howl and to our amazement the hogs turned around and exited the field. Looking back on it we think the hogs left to protect their young ones. They had 3 little hogs with them and leaving was probably the best bet for them with the coyotes howling like crazy on the edge of the field. After this happened we stayed there for a while and waited. We felt sure the hogs would return. They didn’t. So, we broke out the coyote call and stared calling coyotes. That’s the night I shot 2 coyotes on video as seen in this video.
Shooting the coyotes proved that the scope was indeed zero’d in and we had more confidence. The next weekend came around and we returned yet again. This time the hogs were there when we arrived! We got into position and it was Gavin’s turn on the gun again. He put the dot on the hog and let the hammer drop. We both could see in the monocular and scope that when he shot the hog he was aiming at jumped up in the air. We knew he’d hit it! We went down and found blood. We trailed blood for 2 hours through some very thick briars and ultimately the blood trail stopped and we never found the hog. Frustrating again, but we were inching closer.
Going From 223 to 300 Black Out
We reviewed the footage and it was evident that Gavin made a good shot. With this we discussed and researched and decided to make some changes. We worked with the team at Reel Determined Outdoors to change out the upper on the Anderson Rifles AR=15 from a 223 to a 300 black out. This is a unique capability of the AR that gives hunters flexibility. In this scenario, it allowed us to shoot a bigger bullet, one that most hog hunters use.
The next weekend we went back and stayed out there for 3 hours and never saw a hog, but did hear a bunch of coyotes and I missed a coyote! This time we knew the scope was dialed in, I’d just made a bad shot.
Interested in our setup?
We shoot an Anderson Arms AR-15 with RF-85 technology. (You never have to oil the gun). On top of the gun we have a Pulsar Thermal Scope + video recorder. Any Anderson gun and any Pulsar Thermal Scope will be great setup for you too!
The Hunt We Finally Got It Done
You may be reading and wondering “How many weekend is it going to take for things to line up for these guys?” … and that’s exactly what we were wondering too. Our luck would be changing soon though.
The farmer reached out to us about mid-week and said “The hogs are back big time”. He’d seen more and more evidence of the hogs rooting and they had wiped out all the corn that we had out. (Side note: trying to keep a pack of hogs fed with corn gets expensive quickly!) So we planned our hunt.
Again this time the hogs were out in the field as soon as we got to the field. Gavin and I quietly got into position. The whole time we could hear the hogs grunting and snorting down near the pen. From the look of the monocular it seemed like one hog was actually trapped in the pen, but we’d later see that it wasn’t.
It was Gavin’s “redemption hog” turn on the gun. I’ve got him trained not to be shooting anything until I’ve got video rolling too 😉 Anyways, we were in position, gun was sighted in very nicely, video was rolling and I gave Gavin the greenlight. We were whispering to each other about which one he was going to shoot. I was watching in the monocular while Gavin was in the scope. Gavin asked me if I was ready and I said yes… then there was a long pause. Gavin giggled… he said “I didn’t take the safety off!” Yes it sounds crazy, but we were so worked up and ready to get it done that our hearts were beating and we were both breathing heavy! Then he said “Aight, I’m shooting the big one” and moments later the first shot rang out. As they ran off Gavin continued to unload on the big boy, which we’d also discussed on the way to the farm. At the shot there was no sign of hitting the hog. It did not jump, flinch, or move awkwardly. With the 223 we tried for head shots, but with the 300 black out we put it on the shoulder. Gavin and I talked as we tried to calm down. He said he felt he made a good shot.
Minutes later we went down to the area where the hogs were. No blood. What! He made a good shoot, the gun was sighted in, we’d upgraded to a bigger bullet… why did it not work out! We were already making plans to go back, yet again, to the shooting range. We decided to walk over in the direction where the hogs ran. There was no blood anywhere to be found. We scanned in the thermal looking for heat signatures in the field and didn’t see anything. The only thing we saw were a few wet spots that looks like slobber or something in the dirt, but it definitely wasn’t blood. We were growing frustrated as you can imagine.
This farm is in an area with lots of hills. As you can see in the video the hogs were just behind a small hill when we shot. As we talked and walked the edge of the field you could just tell there was a vibe of frustration, an energy of we-didn’t-get-it-done-yet-again going on. Then Gavin said “What is that?” And I said “What?” He pulled out the thermal scope and said “That’s the freaking hog right there!” and I looked and man it was huge laying right there on the edge of the field. What happened was the hog did not bleed at all and ran about 60 yards around a corner and laid down on the edge of the woods just behind a hill of dirt. This is why we could not see it in the thermal. Instantly we got all excited and the vibe changed from one of dejection and frustration to one of celebration and excitement! We’d finally accomplished the goal and got a hog on the ground. And yes the 300 blackout really put it on the hog. We high-fived and drug the hog out to take some pics. When we grabbed the hog to drag it and take pics we had to re-grip the legs because it was so big. I’ve drug a lot of deer in my life and this thing was heavier than any deer I’ve ever drug. I’m guessing it went around 220 lbs. It was a healthy female hog and yes it stunk!
After multiple attempts at getting a hog we finally succeeded and it felt good to get in the end zone for once! We finally had proof to the farmer that we could help him out. We’ve finally got things dialed in and set up and guess what… the farmer has already let us know that the hogs are back again so we will be heading back out sooner than later.
Do you have problems with hogs or know a farmer who does?
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The first part of this week was dedicated to trying to regain feeling in my shoulder and collar bone. Then on Wednesday our tour guide actually did take us to the Vasa Museum. I liked this museum more so than the military museum of Sweden and I wish I would have taken the camera because I could have taken some good pictures. The Vasa Museum is a museum dedicated to the pride of the Swedish fleet. The ship was pretty big and they had it displayed well as the building was constructed so you could see every level of the ship. They had videos and tours frequently that you could watch in English so I was able to understand some stuff about it and obviously everything I didn't understand Mario explained it for me...lol. The museum was like in low light because they said it helps preserve the ship and there were also a lot of Chinese people in the museum speaking that stuff they speak. The tour guide said that it took 2 1/2 years to build the ship and then it sank in the first 20 minutes out at sea. He said that there were several reasons for it sinking such as; it was too tall and narrow, not enough weight in the bottom (ballast) and there was more ship out of the water than underwater. The carpentry on the boat was really good. They had all of these intricate carvings all over the boat. He also said that the king was wanting it to be the best ship and all so he kept adding things and making changes while they were building it so that threw them off a little bit. I think the ship had everything perfect except to the point about making sure it would float. I thought it was neat to see how they got the ship out of the water to get it into the museum. They had divers go down there and dig holes under the ship and run ropes under it then they positioned all these ships and barges and flotation devices around it and moved it underwater to a more shallow area and then they hoisted it out of the water very slowly. It seemed to be a very in depth process and was also a dirty job from seeing the video. Putting all the pieces back together on the ship took a while and so they said that the " Vasa " is known as the largest jigsaw puzzle in the world. This ship was suppose to take part in the war against Poland. If you want to know more about our tour and all that then you can email Mario at mariodonato[@]hotmail.com and he will give you a wealth of knowledge. Once again Mario did not let a sign go unread. It must have cost a lot to bring the ship out and have it on display as they charge you 4 dollars an hour just for parking. On a side note I did play a game in Finland in a town called Vaasa if that means anything. haha. On Wednesday night Håkan and his lady had us over to eat again and I got the honor of cooking the desert, which I might add was a once a year delicacy. I told him that he's lucky we are leaving or we could make this a once a week tradition. lol. We had lasagna and salad and again left on a full stomach so that was a relaxing evening. Then on Thursday I couldn't resist it any longer and the opportunity presented itself so we had the shot and we took it even though we proceeded below the hard deck level. On Thursday afternoon we set out on the Silja line to Finland with our offensive coordinator Coach Wikstrom. The Trojans played the Roosters in the championship game again so it was only right that we spend a few days in Turku and be present for this spectacle. This is a picture of the boat what we traveled on. Here are some specs from the boat in case you are a detail freak: Passengers 2,852, Cabins 985, stories 12, Conference rooms 25, Bars 7, Restaurants 6, Shops 6, Sauna and Relax, Solarium, Etc etc...Length 203 m, Width 31.5 m, Power 44,000 hp An interior design of the boat is below ...
So as you can tell we were roughing it on the way to Finland. This was my first time on any type of cruise ship. Most of the time it's me and Coach Mangum in the John boat, but this was a little different. We left Stockholm around 3 pm on Thursday and landed in Helstinky at 10 am the next morning. Note there was a time change. The atmosphere on the ship was pretty neat. When we first got onto the ship we went to our rooms, dropped the luggage off, and then proceeded downstairs to the promenade to make arrangements to eat. After we had reserved a time to eat then we went out on the back of the ship to the stern ( if you look on the layout we were looking from the deck at Joe's Bar ) for the takeoff and it was neat to feel the big engines start cranking. After that we went and ate this huge buffet that they have on board the boat. We ate regular food and some oddities that we ate were like octopus rings, herring every way you could possibly cook it, salmon, and reindeer stew. After we ate we walked around the boat and looked around it some and then talked on the deck until the sun went down. Coach was taking pictures during the whole evening so it was pretty cool because we have a lot of pics on the site today. After the sun went down we went and watched some karaoke up on the stardust lounge and you could definitely tell when a Finnish song was playing versus a Swedish song. Then after this at 12 we went and saw the nightly show that they have on board. After the show we went up and went to sleep and when we woke up we were at the port in Helsinki. Below I have posted pictures from the trip over and pictures from inside the ship so you can get a feel for what it looked like.
One hand for Sweden , One hand for Finland
This Russian lady sang some karaoke
A dance on the cruise ship
Now let me back up and tell you that when I found out that there was a possibility to go to Finland I sent out a blanket email to like 8 people in Turku. Within 10 minutes we already had a hotel room reserved for us in downtown Turku and by the next day we had like 6 offers to put Mario and me up for 2 days. So a big thanks to Mr. Patrick ( HomeAmerican ) Morton for taking extremely good care of us while we were there. I think that just goes to show how nice the guys in Turku are and now you can understand why I'm always pumping up Turku at home. So you may be asking yourself..." wasn't Clint banned from Finland "...well that is a good question that I was worried about as well. However there was no passport control on the ships in between Sweden and Finland so we were able to ride right on. I say ride right on because that's what we did. Our offensive coordinator is from Finland and so when he goes on the ship he takes his car and then drives it right out when he arrives in Finland. It was kind of weird to ride a car onto a huge cruise ship, but that's how we got on. They have these huge doors that open up and you can drive right in. I got a pic of the car docks as well. I think they also ship goods back and fourth as there were also tour busses and transport trucks parked in the bay.
We parked underneath the ship
And for all of you who are wondering....no I did not tell Frank or Frances Patterson of our adventure. It was better that they not worry. We got into Hestinky and Coach Wikstrom drove us around for a little bit and we even revisited the Veladrome, where we took the crown last year. We were the only people there so it was weird and talk about De-ja-vu. The whole weekend was this way as I was going and visiting places that I thought I would never ever see again in my life. Many of the places had stayed the same, but some things had changed. So after this we went and had lunch with the president of the Finnish American Football Federation, as he and Coach are friends. This guy's name is on the official league ball that they play with in Finland. So that was neat. None other than Mika Sevon was contacted and it just happened that he was in town doing business so we waited on him to get through then caught a ride back to Turku with the oldest living active player in Finnish football history. For me this was another de-ja-vu thing because last year when I first arrived in Finland it was Sevon who picked me up from the airport and on the way to Turku we stopped at his house and met his wife and she walked out on the porch and said hello and she had a baby in her arms. Well sure enough we pulled up and she walked out on the porch and said hello and had another baby in her arms. It was beginning to seem like a flashback at this point. The only difference was that instead of saying " Its good to meet you " ...she said " Its good to meet you again ". So Mario got to know the one and only Mika Sevon on his first day in Finland and now Mario is the 2nd member of the Mika Sevon international fan club ( as I am acting president and founder ). So Sevoni dropped us off at the hotel in downtown Turku. We checked into the hotel and then I began to show the city to Mario. I knew once it turned night that I would be able to find some of my friends from last year working at the doors of the clubs. I had planned on sending them text messages when I got there, but go figure that an Ericcson ( Swedish ) pre-paid phone wouldn't let me do that on a Finnish network. So I couldn't get in touch with my friends through my phone. We went and ate a pizza buffet at Rax which is a historical spot for Marlon and I because it was the only buffet in Turku. After we ate we went back to the hotel for a bit and watched the massacre that was going on in Russia. Those guys are really crazy over there. Then it was night time and we did indeed walk the streets and I bumped into like 5 people that I knew that were still working at the same places. None of the players were out that evening due to it being the night before the championship. We got up with my boy Enes at a club called Kåren. It was good to see Enes again as he was one of the guys who really took care of me and Marlon last year. He was working at some international university's welcome back party and of course we were up in there. Man they had all kind of nationalities in there and you could see which countries/people groups had rhythm and which ones didn't. After he got off from there we went to another place. I think they had dedicated a club to Marlon as the name of this club was called " The Giggling Marlin " ...lol. After this we were heading back to the hotel and I had to eat just one more He'sburger before I died. I also got Mario to eat one too. Below are pictures from that day in Turku and some will be pointless to many of you, but for Marlon it will be neat to see so just bare with us.
Me in front of Prima
The Street next to the Prima
Mario at the team bar
Mario by the main river in Turku
The square in downtown Turku
Now on Saturday morning we woke up and ate the breakfast buffet and then headed to meet the bus to the game. We rode with Patrick and his family, the president of the team, and the cheerleaders to the game. It was a neat ride and we even stopped at the restaurant that we always stopped at when we were going to play the Roosters so once again de-ja-vu. I talked with some of the cheerleaders that I remembered from last year so that was kind of neat. Every one was asking me about Sweden and this season and my experiences over here. I felt like I said the same things like a million times, but it was all in good intentions. So it was Saturday and we were on the way to the game. When we arrived they were in warm ups and upon entering the stadium I began to see fans, friends, players wives, and player's girlfriends that I remembered from last year so it was good to see them all again. I even signed 4 footballs and 1 t-shirt for some fans and every time that happens I can hardly take myself serious. I'm just cheesing from ear to ear trying to act like calm, cool and collective or whatever. They were even giving out these papers at the game with my picture on them. Watching the game was once again odd for me as I felt like I had just graduated and was back at Central High watching my former classmates play again. The game was a pretty good game, but you could tell that a lot of the guys that had retired were on defense and mainly the defensive line. The team had also lost a lot of people to injuries this season as well. The score was 28 - 21 going into the half and I think the final score was like 49 - 28. After the game I got to talk with Brett (the Qb the Trojans had this year) again for a minute. So we had seen each other in Stockholm and now in Helsinki. I felt that he played really well and did as good as one could possibly do given the cards he was dealt so that is what I told him. The injured players on offense and defense had a pretty big effect on the team I think. I know that they had a starting TE, WR, and LB that didn't play. So the Turku Trojans did not repeat despite a valiant effort, but nonetheless Mika Sevon was 4 - 4 on extra points and thus the legacy continues. After the game I got pictures with some of the guys and talked with them again. I surprised myself by remembering all of their names without even hesitating. Also I don't know if it was something in the water, but many of the players wives were pregnant. Maybe it was post championship happiness that led to it from last year, but either way we sat in the pregnant wives section during the game...lol. Below are some pictures from before and after the game.
Me and the Findland fellas (Enes, Suopa, & Sami)
Me and the Findland fellas II (Mika Sevon, Juka Satola, Mikka Riionhemo, & Kim Gronlund)
At the championship game they gave out newspapers and I was on the cover... it was like dejavu
Once we got back into Turku we went over to Patrick ( HomeAmerican ) Morton's house and ate pizza for a bit while we waited on the team to get back into town. All of the players said that they were going to the Olkku which is like the team gathering place in Turku. We then met the team at the Olkku and it was good to see the guys again all at the same time. I even took a few snaps with Kimi (my center from last year). After some time there we left and went to the Giggling Marlin again. From talking with a lot of the people at the game and on the team I believe that there are more people in Finland that read my web page over here than people in Sweden. After the Gigglin Marlin we went caught a " black " taxi and stayed the night at my ex-o-coordinator's house. Mario got to meet a lot of the guys during this time and he and Harry P. Haatsa Malkimaki bonded over 70's & 80's music. Here are some pictures from that.
Proof that we were indeed in Finland... this guy was struggling
We got like 3 hours of sleep and then chef Malkimaki made us a gourmet, sit down, table properly set meal. Mario and I even caught a quick Finnish Sauna ( Mario's first genuine Finnish sauna experience ) and then got a taxi into town so that we could catch the bus back to Helsinki again. We made the bus by 5 minutes and were on our way back to meet Coach Wikstrom so we could get on the boat in time. We got off the bus at the wrong stop of course so we decided to take some pictures in front of the parliament building while Coach had to come rescue us. Of course Mario made me take some random pictures of statues for historical purposes I guess. Here are those pictures.
Me at the Parliament building in Helsinki
Mario at the Parliament
So we got up with Coach and then were on our way to reboard the ship. We stopped and took a few pictures around a port in Helsinki and coach also took some pictures from the the boat on the way back. Coach Wikstrom's below pictures are also available in a high resolution format at this link. You can even have them printed and buy them from that site as well (in case you cared). As we were leaving Helsinki we could see the Islands called the archipelago on the way out. Some of these still had military remains on them and one of them even has the only submarine that belongs to Finland in the picture (Rumor has it that it doesn't work). Check them out.
So we had arranged for the same buffet and we ate it up again and then after that we were all exhausted. Mario and I were running on empty and Coach Wikstrom said that he didn't get too much sleep in Helsinki either... something about a championship or something, but anyways we went back to our room and we all just knocked out. We slept for about 4 hours then woke up and went out on the deck again for some fresh air after which we returned back to the room and went to sleep again. We woke up in Stockholm the following morning and now we are back in Tyreso. This weekend was definitely a memorable one for me as well as Mario and the whole thing seemed surreal the way it all worked out. I think we stayed just long enough for Mario to not be able to make me go to another museum so that was good. Over the weekend I recognized that I can now pick out the different languages of Swedish and Finnish. Usually in the past I couldn't tell what they were speaking, but I just knew that it was foreign to me, but now I can definitely tell what language is being spoken when I hear it. I also got my brain scrambled with languages a few times too. I can only say and know a few words, phrases, and the numbers, but just going back to Finland threw me for a loop in the beginning. I was hearing Finnish and responding in Swedish subconsciously and vice versa. For a brief moment ( in McDonalds ) I couldn't draw the line on what words were from what country, but I got it straight after a little while. I was speaking a salad of languages and only got laughed at. I can still speak more Finnish than Swedish and this is probably due to 2 reasons; time spent in Finland was longer and more people in Sweden speak English. This weekend would not have been anywhere near possible if it wasn't for the generosity and kindness of many individuals. So its only correct that Mario and I say a huge thanks to Coack Wikstrom, Patrick Morton, Haatsa, Sevon, and all the guys in Turku and Helsinki that took extremely good care of us and made it all possible. It was definitely a trip to remember. We were there for 3 days and we went back and fourth from Turku to Helsinki once each day so it was all a whirlwind. As I have previously mentioned I was nominated for the " Import of the Year " award in our league in Sweden. Well needless to say I missed the banquet. I mean I normally wouldn't miss a function like that, but for a chance to do what all we did I would do it again without thinking twice. Turns out that it wasn't that bad anyways because I didn't win the award. I came in 2nd in votes and some people have informed me that going home in the middle of the season didn't help in winning so I can't complain. So thanks again to everyone. Off into the sunset.....Somebody say Denmark ?
Another South Carolina Farmer With Nuisance Hog Problems
We’ve recently been in communications with another local farmer who’s crop were being demolished by hogs. On this specific farmer’s land, the hogs showing up and rooting his crop fields was a new occurrence. Frustrated and not exactly sure of how to solve this problem the farmer asked us how quickly we could help him out. Within a day we had game cameras set up and were getting recon on the hog’s pattern on this specific property.
Big & J Hog Products Help the Hunt
In this setup the area where the hogs were showing up was narrow in nature. The field makes kind of a point where the hogs have easy access and had been rooting. This meant we most likely wouldn’t get multiple shots and would need to get the hogs to the middle of this area of the field.
To coax the hogs into the middle of the field we used something that would be memorable for them, Big & J’s new Hog attractant products. We spread both Hogs-Hamer-It and Pigs-Dig-It on top of corn in the middle of this point in the field. And it didn’t take long before we had them coming in and loving what Big & J’s products had to offer!
Only One Hog Came Through
Due to the amount of damage we’d been seeing on this property we anticipated seeing several hogs, but on this hunt, it didn’t play out that way. The wind was not in our favor and was blowing pretty strong. We sat for a while and shot the breeze. Early in the night we had a deer that kept walking through the field and right around midnight we had a solo hog come in and go straight to the Big & J hog attractant marinated corn pile!
For us it’s rare to see a solo hog like this unless it was a really big male. So we waited thinking that more would eventually come out. And we waited and waited and waited. It seemed like forever, but it was probably around 10 minutes or so. Evidently the hog was there by itself. We decided to go ahead and pull the trigger because we didn’t want that one to get out of there before we could get a shot off and nothing else seemed to be showing up.
As you can see on the video below, the Anderson Arms 308 with Pulsar Trail XP50 made quick work of this hog. The hog flopped on the spot and our tracking job was easy! We loaded her up, took some pics, and took her to the processor.
Another nuisance South Carolina hog headed to the freezer.
Do You Have Hog Problems?
If you have hog problems we’re happy to help. Learn more about how we are helping land owners and farmers with their hog problems on the SC Hog Removal page.
When we moved into the neighborhood everyone told us “Just wait til Halloween”. Well, they were right! Our friend up the street, Jay Ziobrowski, is super passionate about Halloween and turns his garage, driveway, and entire front yard into a magical haunted house that’s free to kids in the neighborhood. After doing this for several years, everyone in the neighborhood and surrounding area knows about this and the result is that our street gets blocked off by cops and is absolutely flooded during Halloween. It’s non-stop action from 4:30 to somewhere around 10pm and it’s a really fun time.
After running out of candy in the first 2 hours on year 1 we knew we needed to step it up in following years. So, each year I’ve tried to contribute to the energy and excitement on our street by creating some type of Particle-based IOT Halloween device. Check out the devices from previous years:
Halloween, a Great Opportunity to Get Kids Involved & Learning IOT!
Over the years I’ve had my friend’s kids help me with the setups. That is, since these devices are mobile controlled, I enlist kids to push the button on their mobile phones while I record the reactions of trick-or-treaters from my phone. One of the kids has taken an interest in wanting to know how to build these things, so this year I’ve been working with my friend’s son to both build the devices and teach him along the way. I even gave him a Particle dev kit. It has been a fun project for everyone. I’ve also been overwhelming him with text messages and videos as I make incremental progress on each device. Now he’s using Particle at his school for his science project!
Here are some pics from when we first got started…
Compressed Air, The Key to Speed & The Key to Scaring People!
After doing this for a few years I realized that HOA’s don’t like fire breathing pumpkins and that the best way to scare people is by using compressed air in some shape, form, or fashion. Geared motors just don’t move fast enough … or … if you do make them move fast enough, they are too dangerous and could potentially hurt someone. So, for the past two years I’ve been using a servo to press the button on an air hose to blow air out and move some spooky object toward trick-or-treaters. Nobody gets mad about getting hit with a gust of air!
Last year, right after Halloween, I decided to try something new. I ordered a pneumatic cylinder and solenoid kit from FrightProps. I had no idea how to really make it work, but I wanted to try and low and behold I was able to figure it out. It was way easier than I thought and FrightProps even provided very helpful videos to walk through the hookups for everything. Just a few weeks after last Halloween my mind was already spinning about next year’s Halloween. The pneumatic cylinders with solenoid kits move a lot faster, you can control the speeds, and they use less air. The only negative is that these could potentially be more dangerous. Though, I’m countering the danger by creating physical space around the implementations so that no one will get close enough to be hit or injured. So, I’m happy with the tradeoff and will take extra precaution in the initial setups.
Here's a picture of the solenoid kit from Fright Props
Quick Show of the Headless Clown & Trash Can “Slimer” in Action
The (Main) Parts
There are a lot of parts used in these devices. Of course, you must have wires, wifi, power, and all the normal things you would anticipate. However, I’m going to just list the main items below. If you have questions about other parts or want to build your own, just submit an email to me through this website and I can connect with you and help you with the smaller details. That said, here is the basis for both IOT Halloween devices:
One thing to note is that these devices are using the exact same principles, concepts, and code to make them work. At a high level the solenoids just need to be hit with a 12-volt current to make the pneumatic cylinder fire. To bring the pneumatic cylinder back in, simply turn off the power.
To do this we are using a relay that can be controlled by a Particle microcontroller, a Photon. The relay essentially breaks the circuit of the 12 volts going to the solenoid. Then, whenever we call the cloud web service endpoint in the Particle cloud, it invokes a function in the microcontroller which sends the relay a signal. The relay then completes the circuit which allows the 12 volts to flow to the solenoid which consequently causes the cylinder to fire. We let it fire for a specified period of time (say .200 of a second) then we cut power which causes the head to go back in. We control the speed going both in and out via the speed control valves on the solenoids. So, if you had to draw one negative of the solenoid it would be that you can’t programmatically control the speed.
The Slimer in the Trashcan implementation is such that the cylinder needs to be stabilized yet, due to the Slimer mask and body we couldn’t have any support mechanisms coming from the sides to stabilize the cylinder. Since the Slimer ghost must move up and down vertically we need to allow it room to do so. What this means is that the cylinder needed to be stabilized from the bottom. The cylinders I ordered are threaded at the bottom with 3/8 of an inch thread. This happened to match to some steel plumbing pipes that you can find at your local Lowes or Home Depot. So, I bought a few pieces to connect and make it stand up on its own. After that I added in weighted sandbags to keep the cylinder from wobbling whenever it fires. I attached velcro to the solenoid and breadboard and have the parts sticking to the inside of the trashcan walls. You will see these in the build pics below.
The Headless Clown implementation uses actobotics for its internal structure. Actobotics are awesome and are basically like metal legos that you can easily configure however you would like and mount anything you want to them. I’ve mounted the cylinder, hoses, and breadboard setup to it. I stuck the actobotics down into 2 bales of hay for stabilization.
Here are some pics from the build out(s):
The code to make this work is very simple. I have identical code running on both devices to make these things work. The only thing that is different is the device id!
In Particle – I’ve written a simple program that creates a cloud function which invokes a function on the Photon and all that function does is write a pin from low to high… that’s it! What we’ve done is inject a relay into the circuit of the solenoid which allows us to use some logic to complete or short the circuit.
Here’s the firmware (code) that I’m using for the Particle Photons:
On the Web – I’ve written a basic jQuery AJAX function to call these web API (services) when buttons are clicked. Maybe jQuery is not cool anymore, but it’s pretty simple to implement so it works for me!
Here’s the code I’m using to make an HTTP Post request when a button is clicked. And if you’re worried about me showing you my access token below, no worries… I’ve already recycled it!
Structural & Electrical Video Walkthrough
In this section I aim to give you a structural overview of the devices. Both devices use pneumatic cylinders but are being stabilized in different ways.
Code Video Walkthrough
In this section I walk you through the setup of the devices and the code that I’m using to make them work. The whole point here is… if I can do this, then you can too!
The Halloween Reactions
In my area we currently have an 80% chance of rain on Halloween night so I'm not sure if we'll have any trick-or-treaters at all. I guess we'll see. If the weather cooperates, I will update this page after Halloween with a video showing reactions we get from trick-or-treaters and their parents. Stay tuned for the hopeful post-Halloween-video update!
This week was a pretty good one. On Monday we ran and lifted as usual. Since I had the camera I took some pictures of the buses & subways that we ride and just random pictures to give you a feel for what we are seeing on a daily basis.
We were riding a boat to get to the Vasa Museum and it was pretty neat because our bus passes also work on the boats as well. So I was able to get some good pics off the boat. You will see pictures from a Theme park called Gröna Lund. Now they have a drop zone which I also got pictures of, that makes the drop zone at Carowinds look like child's play.
So you see we were on our way to tour the Vasa museum. This is a museum of a sunken ship that was recently recovered off the coast of Sweden. We " almost " toured it as our ultimate guide was confused about the time that the museum was open (we are still planning on going back). However this is what the museum looks like from the outside and here's a picture of Mario and our unnamed ultimate tour guides (Oliver & Chief) pointing towards the sign. * Names have been altered for personal protection due to disgrace of being Swedish and not being able to read Swedish times
Since we were downtown and the museum was closed we figured we'd walk into town and mess around for a little bit. While we were walking I got more pics of the scenery.
So that was Monday and was the day that I went crazy with the camera, thus all the pictures. Monday night when I got back I noticed that some Spanish guy had added me to his buddy list on MSN. I began speaking Spanish, but no one responded as it was kind of late when I authorized access on the buddy list. That was kind of strange then on Tuesday morning before we went to run I received an email from the guy. It was a team in Barcelona Spain wanting me to come play with them this coming year. The guy thought I was still in the states when he was emailing me so he couldn't figure out what I was doing up at 4am checking email. Anyways we got on the messenger later that evening and I talked to him for about an hour and a half and he was filling me in on the details. Their season is earlier than Finland and Sweden's and so he said he would want me there in January. At the end of the conversation he said " from what I can see your Spanish is very good " so it was good to be able to converse with him in Spanish and hopefully that will give him extra incentive for wanting me to come. However I didn't sign or anything like that because I still don't know what exactly I will be doing, but its neat to know that I can visit another country if I would like to. Then again I think when am I going to get a real job. Who knows what will happen. Other than that nothing much happened exciting on Tuesday besides lifting and practice. On Wednesday we lifted again and then bummed around as it was raining a bit and then later that evening Mario Santos had us over to his place to eat. It was good to visit with them and eat at their place again. This is the same guy that had me and my cousin David over to eat. So we just hung out over there and he's all into cars so he and Mario were speaking some kind of language I'm not familiar with. Thursday was haircut day and just running and practice. Not too much else worthy of writing about for Thursday. Now on Friday I will to say that we were rolling in high cotton as I have told some of you. Working the connections we were able to be on the list to the annual Crayfish party at the US Embassy here in Stockholm. They said that this is a 30 year tradition. Mario, Coach K, Coach A, Larry, and I went up in there to represent Tyreso, Cali, Finland, Jersey and of course South Carolina. Let me start with the entrance. I was planning on taking my camera, but Larry had said that no cameras were allowed inside the embassy. The embassy is in downtown Stockholm and is fenced in with tall white bars and it had a guard building. The fences around it reminded me of the houses in Colombia and Venezuela and the guard shack reminded me of Liberty..lol. Anyways we had to take our passports just to get through the guard shack. They would only let 2 people in at a time and the setup was similar to airport security. Slide all metal items on the belt and walk through the door. If you didn't work there you had to have a sticker that said " function " on your shirt. Our group might has well have been malfunction, dysfunction, no function, and functionless but as you can imagine we gave the woman at the door grief over the stickers. It ended up being true that no cameras were allowed in as Coach K had a phone with a camera on it and they held it there until the party was over. So we walked in and yes it felt good to be on American soil, yet in another country. Kind of weird huh. We entered the building ( it is a pretty big building by the way ) and followed the signs and yes Mario spotted the South Carolina flag flying in there so that was cool. Obviously we stopped and had a moment of silence for it. This is when we started seeing all these people. I would say that there was about 130 people there. I think some of them worked at the Embassy, some diplomats, some marines and then just other friends of people who worked there. We all hung out in the inner square of the embassy then we went into this room and they had the table set and ready. The party was catered and they made us wear these crazy birthday style hats. The tables were filled with drinks and food and then a guy got on the mike and started making a welcome speech. That's when the crayfish started coming in and I had to get some instructions on how to eat them from a few different people, but I figured it out there shortly. We had a really good time in there and we got to meet to meet a lot of people. After the meal the Dj started playing music and wouldn't you know it I ran into some girl from Chile and we dance salsa. The whole evening was surreal because we were 4 Americans and one Finn sitting in the US Embassy eating crayfish with people we didn't even know. Nevertheless we represented and had a good time. After the party we headed downtown. Larry put on a Holyfield demonstration for us as we were exiting the Embassy and that was funny. We went into the city and all hung out for a bit then headed home. The only evidence that I have for you that we actually went ( cause I know some of you thinking I'm lying ) was to bring home the piece of paper that was on our table. So take a look at this. I guess its safe to say that they have a good time at the party.
Game Weekend Since we were playing on Sunday this week we all headed down on Saturday and stayed in a Scandic hotel. It's a pretty long ride to Carlstad and I made a cd so we listened to it on the way and saw a lot of the Swedish country side. It was a pretty day and it is still getting cooler over here and feels like it does when it turns fall. We got to the hotel and rested for a bit then ate dinner and then went into the city for a bit. It was neat to see another city in Sweden and we didn't stay out too late. We did see some of their players out in the town as well. One of the guys on our team had bought a Street & Smith's College Football magazine and so Mario and I were reading that while at the hotel. It was weird to be in Sweden and to read about GWU and Liberty and see our friends/roommates/classmates names in the magazine. I guess the world is small. Before dinner we did attempt to sit in the sauna at the hotel, but it indeed turned out to be a Swedish sauna and there was no Loylu or steam to be seen or felt. Game Now this was us returning down to a team that had killed us 2 weeks prior and they were anticipating a walk through I believe. Before the game they had a mascot...( a crusader ) come on to the field and drive his sword into the middle of the field. The crowd got hyped on this. He was wearing real chain mail and steel so it was more lifelike than a costume. It was a really windy day and we got the ball first and were going into the wind.We drove it right down the field on them and scored on the first possession on a long sustained drive. This put them on their heels and gave us some momentum. The defense was holding them and the game was going well. We were able to move the ball on them and they even had to switch their defenses on us. They were in a 3-3 stack and had to go back to their 4-2 because we were ripping them on it. I had a bomb td pass dropped on their sideline and soon after there was another one dropped in the zone. I can't talk too much though because one time I had a guy open in the end zone and made a bad throw and missed him on it, but we did score though. I had to do about 5 Qb sneaks in the game and one time guy ripped my helmet off and the chinstrap going up my face left some scratches on my face and my eye started to swell a little. One of our defensive guys got an interception and took it to the house only to have it called back for offsides or something. Seemed like some home cooking to me, but that was about where the momentum stopped as this took the air out of us a little. We went in at halftime like 21-7 I believe. The second half was similar to the first, but without us having too much momentum. We were hanging with them and I hit our TE on a touchdown pass on a corner route. One time in the 3rd quarter I really got popped as I tried to scramble up the middle and someone got my feet then one of those defensive guys had me for lunch. My helmet again went up my face. I mean don't get it twisted now I didn't come out of the game or anything like that, but I can feel the soreness now and this is most sore my collar bone and jaw bone has ever been. The game ended up 39 - 12 and we lost and the season was over. So no championship this year, but its ok. I guess you can't win them all the time. I was proud of our guys this day and glad that they came to play and put up a fight. The easiest thing to do would have been to lay over and let them walk over us, but that wasn't the case. I think we surprised a lot of people in the stadium as well. You know how it is when you know you've given it your all and you can at least walk out with your head high...well that was how this was. After the game we had the team huddle and I thanked the guys for allowing me to come and play and thanked them for going out of their way to make me & Mario too feel welcome and taking care of us. I have some pictures from the game and post game here. After the game we all headed home and ended up all eating at the same McDonald's about an hour into the trip. It was reminiscent of after our High School football game when everyone would go to Bojangles. We headed home in the night and I believe the moon looks bigger from Sweden than it does in the states...lol. We saw a lot of farmers combining what looked like their wheat late into the night. Mario said that it reminded him of a scene from Indiana.
So now I will be staying here for Mr. Paul Tucker's wedding and that leaves me with a banquet to go to and 2 weeks to explore the cultural riches of Sweden. In other news the Turku Trojans will be playing this coming weekend in the championship. Did somebody say road trip? Mario and I are debating on going to Denmark and/or Norway, but being broke does come into play so who knows what will end up happening. I will post again next week to let you know if we do anything worth writing about and will end the web page with a Conclusion entry. Regards,