Hail Summer!

We were driving to a destination that is about an hour away from our home yesterday in the sweltering heat of almost a hundred degrees Fahrenheit. Not unusual for this time of year here in Iowa, for it is summer after all. The sun was gloriously shining when all of the sudden the sky turned gray. Maybe it was more than gray. Black clouds abruptly hid the sun and flashes of lighting started streaking across the horizon.

The temperature dropped more than 40 degrees in a matter of minutes. Strong gusty winds blew dust from the farm fields and torrential rain poured down making road visibility very difficult.

Then we heard loud pelting sounds on the windshield and roof of our car. Hail!

Some motorists sought shelter under the bridges, but we continued to drive, albeit slowly. We took a wrong turn and got delayed a little to where we were supposed to go.

Perhaps it was Divine providence that we got lost for when we arrived at our destination, people there told us that we just missed an awful hail storm. What we encountered on the road, which was marble-sized hail, was not bad compared to what it could have been if we did not get “lost.”

Leaves and branches from the trees loitered the ground. The cornfields were whipped down. Many of the parked cars in the area when we arrived had dents, and windows and sidings of the houses were damaged from the hail.

Here are some hailstones on the ground.

Here are bigger ones.

According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), hailstones form when strong currents of rising air, known as updrafts, carry droplets of water high enough that they freeze. The higher these droplets get, the cooler the temperature, even during a hot summer, that in fact, warmer weather might actually result in a stronger updraft. The hail falls when the thunderstorm’s updraft can no longer support the weight of the hailstone, which can occur if the stone becomes large enough or the updraft weakens.

Can you imagine if you’re hit with these golf-size hail coming to you at more than 100 miles per hour? That would be serious “bukol”(swelling).

But the storm did not last that long. In less than 30 minutes the sun was shining again, as if nothing have happened. Except for the cracked windows and car dents for souvenir.

Hail summer!

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(*photos taken with an iPhone)

Harvesting Peony

About this time every year, our yard bursts with colors with these big fragrant blooms. These are peonies, and their flowers only last for only two weeks at the most.

Even though it’s not officially summer yet, we are having a “heat wave” for the next several days as Iowa weather is fickly. These flowers wilt fast and they don’t like the heat so we decided to harvest them early. This also provided a photo op.

My wife agreed to be my model for this photoshoot.

We will definitely appreciate their beauty, even for just a few days. I mean the flowers. The model, that’s timeless.

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Bonus: While we were harvesting the peonies and doing the photoshoot, someone else, uninvitedly though definitely welcomed, came in to the scene. Here’s the video:

(*photos and video taken with an iPhone)

The Sound of Daybreak

I like to sleep with the windows open, especially during this time of year that it’s not extremely cold nor extremely hot outside. Besides the fresh air that comes in, I also would like to hear the sounds around us, especially in the morning when I wake up. Unlike in Manila, it’s not the sound of the speeding tricycles and jeepneys that I now hear. Though I miss the call of the taho vendor.

Here’s the sound of daybreak in our home here in Iowa (you may need to dial up the volume to hear it):

(video taken from our bedroom window at 5:20 in the morning)

PS: My wife hates it though as those noisy birds disturbs her sleep. Obviously she’s not a morning person. Good thing we don’t have a rooster!

Tulip Time

Every month of May there is a place in Iowa that turns into a tulip town. And even though there’s still a scare of the pandemic, we went to visit the place. Of course we practiced precautionary measures and social distancing while we were out.

As their landmark says, it is “Tulip Time.” There is supposed to be a parade also during this festival that showcase the town’s Dutch heritage, however due to COVID-19, it was cancelled for this year. But we can still admire the tulips.

Also popular in this town is the famed Dutch bakery where the baked goods are as colorful as the tulips. The most sought after item though is the Dutch Letter, an S-shaped pastry that taste so delicious. S stands for Sinterklass, the Dutch Santa Claus.

Dutch Letters

Here are some more photos that does not necessarily feature tulips, nonetheless, they caught my fancy.

From Pella, Iowa,

Pinoytransplant.

(*photos taken with an iPhone)

It is Spring! Not.

The temperature in our part of the world is warming up. In fact last week, there’s a couple of days that it felt like summer as we topped 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The leaves and flower buds are appearing. The grass has turned green and growing. Many of our neighbors have already started mowing their lawn. But not us, we’re not that anxious to start mowing.

Just as you thought spring has fully sprung, then we are hit with this……..

Mid-April snow!

The snow did not stopped me from going out for my morning run. It is after all a balmy 32 degree Fahrenheit (0º Celsius), and the ground is not slippery nor icy.

This lonely goose does not seem to mind the snow as well.

This is crazy Iowa weather. People who grew up here told us when we moved here, “if you don’t like the weather, just wait several minutes, it will change.”

(*photos taken with an iPhone)

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Post Note: Below is what the first photo looked like in the afternoon of that same day with all the snow gone. Crazy weather indeed!

Chicago (Bull)Horns

We have been to Chicago several times before, perhaps ten times or more, yet we were there again last Valentine’s weekend. It’s not that Chicago is a particularly romantic place, but we were there for a different reason.

The 2020 NBA All-Star weekend was in Chicago during that time, but we were not there for that reason as well. Though I wish I could have watched the NBA All-Star games. (This post has nothing to do with the NBA team Chicago Bulls.)

We went to Chicago to see a concert. Whose concert? It’s a group that our daughter introduced us to, and she’s a big fan of them. She is a music major and a classical pianist if you have not known that already, and I would say that she has a good taste for music. But we did not watch an opera, for I don’t think I could really appreciate that kind of music genre. The concert that we watched was of a group of three young tenors that are classic-pop crossover who fondly call their music “popera.”

The concert we watched

Many of the songs they sang were in Italian, like “O Sole Mio” and “Grande Amore,” though they have some cover of old polular songs like Frank Senatra’s “My Way” and Barbara Streisand’s “People.” I told my daughter that at least I could understand 1 out of 2 songs that they sang.

We also have relatives from the Philippines that are visiting us here in Iowa so we brought them along for the drive to see Chicago. Even though it was too cold to roam around yet we were still able to show them some of the famous spots of the city. Is the Jollibee restaurant a part of that famous location for a Filipino tour? Of course!

We also took our guests up the viewing deck at the 103rd floor of Willis Tower (previously known as Sears Tower). It took us almost 3 hours to get to the top, not that we have to climb the stairs, for that would be much faster. It was the line of people waiting to go up that was really long. Definitely a painfully long time to wait for an elevator ride.

View from the skydeck of Willis Tower

We booked rooms in a hotel in downtown Chicago at the heart of the city’s bustling traffic. Nearby our hotel was a fire station. So you could imagine the street noise that we could hear even if we were already on the 12th floor of the building. Sure enough it was hard to sleep at night due to the sounds of wailing sirens and cars honking. No wonder they provided ear plugs as part of their amenities.

I am not used to hearing car horns already let alone hearing them almost continuously through the night. I thought the beeping would only last during rush hours, but no it did not stop. People were honking their car horns even at the unholy time of 3 o’clock in the morning. Unless they consider that rush hour still, or perhaps these people were drunk or just plain rude. Well, it’s Chicago’s bullhorns!

Don’t get me wrong, I like the city of Chicago and I have been exposed to noisy environment in my life as I grew up in Manila and I also lived for a few years in New York City. But I have been in Iowa now for 16 years and have adapted to peaceful rural living.

But we’re back in Iowa now. I’m back to the quiet nights where the only noise I could hear when it gets dark is the rare hooting of the illusive owl and the deafening sounds of my thoughts.

(*photos taken with an iPhone)

Wild Goose Run

January and February are usually the coldest months here in Iowa. It is too cold to run outside, at least for most people. The last time I went out to run was back in December, and it was actually Christmas Day as we had a spring time weather that time.

But today is different. By the way, it is 02 02 2020, how neat is that? Even though it is February, our temperature is above freezing (40º F), which is unusual for this time of year for us.

So I decided to go out for a run.

It is a sunny day and our big pile of snow is starting to melt. It may take several days of “warm” days like this to melt them all down though.

Then I met some flocks of wild geese. They usually fly south for the winter, but I am seeing more and more of them staying here in our place even for the winter months.

These geese are equipt for the cold anyway, as they have down feathers which we even use to insulate our jackets. In fact goose down jackets are one of the warmest jackets you can get and has the advantage of being lightweight. But I know they can be expensive.

Here’s more geese coming for a landing.

There is more cold weather forecasted for this coming week, and we will be back to subfreezing temperature, and more snow as well. But for a day, I enjoyed going outside with the wild geese.

A wild goose chase? Maybe.

my shadow selfie with the geese

(*photos taken with an iPhone)

A Landmark Run

The 2-hour time barrier to finish a full marathon was broken. A feat that was considered for long as impossible for humans, was conquered two days ago by a Kenyan runner, Eliud Kipchoge. He ran 26.2 miles in a blistering time of 1 hour 59 minutes and 40 seconds. What Kipchoge did was compared to Neal Armstrong walking in the moon and Sir Edmund Hillary reaching the summit of Mount Everest, for indeed it was a significant achievement. He inspired many that “no human is limited.”

I participate in marathons every year in the fall. I run the half-marathon event and I have already completed 7 of them. Except this year, I did not register to join as I did not have enough time to train. My excuse is that I am busy reviewing for my Sleep Boards which by the way is less than a month from today.

However, I did not stop running totally as I still do my regular 2 to 3 miles run at least twice a week. The longest run I made this year is only 5 miles. Since I have now a gadget that tells me my pace and monitors my heart rate continuously, I can even track if I may be pushing myself too hard.

According to experts, you should keep your heart rate between 70% to 85% of your target maximum heart rate during vigorous excercise. To calculate for your maximum heart rate, you subtract your age from 220. So for me my maximum heart rate should be around 170. Though sometimes my heart rate speeds up to 170-180 when I am running, so I have to slow down. It’s either I am pushing too hard or I am still not conditioned or trained enough.

I even brought my running shoes during my short visit in California. Besides, running gives you a chance to enjoy the sun outside and the view around you. My run may not be a landmark like of Kipchoge, but at least I can take photos of landmarks while I run.

Here’s the scenery when I ran in California where my aunt lives (photos taken 10 days ago):

Here’s the scenery here in my home in Iowa (photos taken yesterday):

I will never run as fast as Kipchoge, not even in my imagination, but I will keep on running. Maybe I should stop taking photos so I could run faster. Nah!

(* photos taken with an iPhone)

Brighter Sunrise After A Storm

We are blessed to have a scenic view in front of our home. Many times after a difficult day, all I want to do is sit at home and stare beyond the horizon.

When we were looking for a place to live 15 years ago, I made a decision to get this house after standing outside at the front, before even seeing what it looks like inside. For me, if you don’t like the layout of the house, you can always renovate or change it, but not the location or the view. You cannot just place an ocean or a mountain in front of your house. Or maybe you can, but that will be a great undertaking to create an ocean or move a mountain.

When we moved in, one of the movers complimented our view. He said that it be better still if a lightning would strike the two trees which are actually in my neighbors yard, and that would give us an unobstructed view of the river valley below. Though I told him we were already satisfied with what we have.

One thing that I really enjoy here is watching the sunrise right in front of our porch. It is just so magical (photo below, taken autumn of last year).

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However, there would be times of the year that the sunrise would be blocked by my neighbor’s trees. Because as you know the sunrise (and sunset) is not always in the exact location throughout the year. Remember our earth is tilted 23.5 degrees on its axis, so as it revolves the sun’s path across the horizon changes.

Here’s another beautiful sunrise (photo below, taken spring of this year). I know it is partially obstructed by my neighbor’s trees, yet it is still majestic, isn’t it?

Few weeks ago we had thunderstorms and gusty winds in our area. It broke some branches of out trees and flattened some of our plants. It downed some trees in our neighborhood too, including the one of our neighbors’. Yes, the one right in front of our house. So our neighbor has no recourse but to cut down the whole tree.

As I have said before, storms are part of life. We will go through some that will almost break down our will and flattened our spirits. But if we weather them we could have a brighter outlook, a more glorious sunrise, if you will.

I feel bad for the downed tree and for our neighbor, but not too much. For now that the tree in front of our house is gone, we have a less obstructed view of the valley (photo below). Storms can indeed bring brighter sunrise, literally.

Here is a time-lapse that my wife took of the magnificent sunrise.