Little blue shed of Rockport, TX made famous by storm chaser Jeff Piotrowski

Rockport-blue-shed

Yes! It’s the blue shed made famous around the world by storm chaser Jeff Piotrowski on August 24, 2017 as he broadcast the ferocious arrival of Hurricane Harvey from one of the car wash bays.

While a fury of building materials bounced and rolled by in the camera’s view as nearby buildings were torn to shreds, the LITTLE BLUE SHED stood firm and steady, suffering only minor abrasions as its witness to battle.

Rockport-blue-shed-2
My sister lives in Rockport and she took this picture once it was safe to return back to town – about three weeks after being evacuated the day Harvey made landfall.

Update: I went to Rockport October 7 – 12, 2017 to help my family with roof repairs. I had to take my picture with the blue shed.

Blueshed4-1

Get the background and hear live account from Jeff himself in this video clip from Fox 26 posted to YouTube by Meteorologist John Dawson:

Sadly, the Rockport community has a long road to recovery ahead of it. Here are some pics of the devastation that remains more than six weeks after Hurricane Harvey hit.

20171008_105003.jpg20171008_104628.jpg20171008_104244.jpg20171008_104233.jpg20171008_104101.jpg20171008_103922.jpg20171008_103818.jpg20171007_162441.jpg20171007_162136.jpg

Update as of December 2019

The car wash is back in action. It’s back to 100% functional and management has changed the name to Little Blue Shed Car Wash. Check out the updated pics below.

A building that shades itself


By Paul Fiarkoski

My office is in Downtown Tempe AZ. I often walk by this building designed as an inverted pyramid. Seems like such a smart design for the Valley of the Sun.

Unlike most office buildings that get super hot from intense sunlight beating on them, I never see any sunlight directly hitting the glass on this building. I’d like to know more about the energy efficiency of the design, such as how does it compare with more modern buildings with good LEED ratings.

About the building

  • Tempe Municipal Building
  • Construction completed 1971
  • Designed by the architectural firm of Michael & Kemper Goodwin

The road trip of a lifetime


In October 2015 my 17 year-old daughter and a few of her friends talked me into chaperoning/chauffeuring them on a 5-day RV road trip from Phoenix, AZ to Telluride, CO via Monument Valley in the Four Corners region.

It was just me and six high school seniors. I tried to teach them a few things about responsible road travel and fellowship.  Instead, they taught me a few things:

  • Live in the moment. There’s plenty to worry about later on.
  • Look for things to laugh about and, if you don’t see them, make them happen.
  • The day doesn’t end until you say it does.
  • There’s some mighty fine dining to be had in the upper, back room of a grungy pizza joint.
  • Rainy days can’t dampen the spirit of adventure.
  • Living in today’s world requires a lot of recharges.
  • My daughter’s going to be alright.

As with most vacations, it’s best to let pictures (and video) tell the story. Check this video one of the young men made:

Awesome hike: Hidden Valley in South Mountain Park, Phoenix


Wow! That was, and still is, my reaction to this short detour trail off of National Trail in the South Mountain Park in Phoenix, AZ. Hidden Valley is an awesome tribute to the forces and beauty wpid-wp-1423458166079.jpegof nature.

Hidden Valley trail is aptly name because it’s a trail you can hike only after a 2-plus mile hike in on either National or Mormon trail. As such, the .9-mile segment of the hike labeled Hidden Valley is not overrun with other people. If you don’t see the sign, you can walk right by it and not even know what you missed.

In January 2015, I hiked the entire length of National Trail (approx. 14 miles) and saw nowhere near the natural beauty that awaits hikers on the Hidden Valley segment. Oddly, some of the most magnificent features are within a few hundred feet of National Trail itself.

Here are some of the more notable features from Hidden Valley in South Mountain Park:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Here is the hike summary via Mapmyhike .

If you go, be sure you have good stable shoes and socks – no flip flops – and a couple quarts of water.

 

How to shock a fast food server


People who work in fast food pretty much see and hear it all. There is very little you or I say that they haven’t heard before.

Recently, I had an exchange with an African American worker at a nearby McDonald’s that left us both nearly speechless. I had just stopped in to use the free wifi and catch up on emails, so when it was my turn to order, I approached with my customary, “May I please have a small black coffee.”

“There’s that word again,” she replied.

I stood there in stunned silence thinking my use of the word “black” offended her. A checkmate of the eyes ensued for several seconds as I grasped for my next words.

Thankfully, she broke the silence with, “Please. I hardly ever hear that word and it’s so pleasing to the ear when I hear it.”

I explained that my niece who works in fast food recently told me that her biggest pet peave is when people come up to the counter and say “I want….”

Having worked in a number of service roles in the past myself, I try to be pleasant with service workers as a rule. However, my niece’s perspective helped me realize that I need to bring my A game in manners whenever I interact with fast food workers. Plus, I’ve been trying to model better manners for my teen daughters; even though they weren’t with me on this occasion.

I challenge you to give it a try. Next time you’re ordering food from a fast food worker, see if you can shock them by using your best manners. Extra credit: address the person by the name on his or her name tag when you thank them.

The work ethic of teens these days


Those of us of the Gen X generation and older often pass judgment on the teens of today with statements like these:

  • They have it so easy.
  • They don’t know what hard work is.
  • Where’s the work ethic?

I’ve been guilty of the same sort of prejudices.

Recently, my teenage daughter turned that all around for me. Less than one week after her 17th birthday, she reported to work for her first job: at 5 a.m. – on a school day! She’s lifeguarding at the neighborhood Y. The pool is outdoors. It’s January. We live in Phoenix. But still, it’s chilly in the morning, and on this morning it happens to be raining.

“Lifeguarding is not work,” some would say. “All they do is stand around and twirl a whistle.”

Having seen the effort she has put into it, I can now contest the previous statement. Lifeguarding is skilled labor at a minimum. Prior to even being granted an interview, she was required to give up two full weekends and two weeknights for the prerequisite training. She now knows every aspect of keeping others safe at the pool: first aid, CPR, dealing with panic, hypothermia and more. She paid a handsome sum out of her own pocket for the training with no hint of being reimbursed. She passed a series of in-class quizzes, plus two water tests, and a grilling of an interview with both her manager and the manager’s manager.

Today was her first day on the job. I was awakened at 4:15 a.m. by the sound of her getting ready. Although she’s pretty self sufficient, I got up to see if she needed any last minute help so she could scoot out the door on time. She was good. She had prepared everything she needed the night before: Clothes for work, clothes for school, her lunch, and gear for swim practice after school.

To say I am proud of her would be an understatement. But, the purpose of this post is not to brag about my daughter, although I could do so all day long. My hope is that you will join me in looking a little deeper into the plight of today’s youth. In many ways, they face far more challenges and obstacles than many of us did when we were growing up. Let’s show them our respect with words of encouragement and gratitude. Thank you!

Ironman Arizona 2014 slideshow


by Paul Fiarkoski

I was so enamored with the Ironman competition after my first experience as a spectator in 2013, that I had to go back for more this year. For the unitiated, an Ironman Triathlon is consists of a 2.4-mile (3.86 km) swim, a 112-mile (180.25 km) bicycle ride and a marathon 26.2-mile (42.2 km) run, raced in that order and without a break. It is widely considered one of the most difficult one-day sporting events in the world.

This year’s edition was noticeably cooler than 2013 and it appeared to affect the athletes, especially in the swim to bike transition. Many of them looked like frozen penguins after shucking off their wet suits. I was happy to hear that many of the finishers were from my old stomping grounds in the Denver-Boulder area of Colorado.

2014 Ironman Competition – Tempe, AZ

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In case you’re wondering, like my wife is, whether I have my sights set on doing the Ironman of my own some day, the answer for now is an emphatic “No”. The run portion would be the death of me. 🙂 My personal fitness goal is to hike 12 miles to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and up the other side, then back to wear I started, sometime before my 50th birthday – October of 2017.

Until then, I hope you enjoy the slideshow above and posts from my various hikes.

Hiking by the light of the Beaver Moon in Phoenix


DSCF7239

On Thursday, November 6 the earth was treated to a beautiful “Beaver Moon” – a Native American term given to the full moon in November, signaling the time to set traps to catch beavers in the active pre-winter cycle before ponds freeze.

Here in Phoenix, the sun set at 5:33 p.m. and the Beaver Moon rose nine minutes later. I left my house promptly at 5 p.m. and caught both the sunset and moonrise from the top of a nearby peak in South Mountain Park.

Here are some pics from the experience:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


While I had daylight to see by on my way up the hill, my trip down was guided by moonlight. Since the desert trail is composed of a light tan colored dirt, the moon lights it up quite nicely, although there were a few steep spots with questionable footing where I chose to click on the flashlight.

Hiking by the light of the moon was a nice way to add a little variety to a trail I have hiked dozens of times.

More of my outdoors experiences>>

AZ Bucket List: The Grand Canyon like you’ve never seen it


On the last weekend of May, 2014 I bagged the proverbial elephant on my Arizona Bucket List: A hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. This 3-day, 24-mile round-trip on foot adventure was arranged by our church and I was immensely blessed to be a part of it. It would do no good to try and put the experience into words, but I took some photos to share a glimpse of it with you. Below is a sampling of the photos and the full album is on my Shutterfly site.