My 3 Year-Old Daughter’s Bigtruck Hat Souvenir and Our Consequent Tour of the Bigtruck Factory Store and Custom Hat Bar in Truckee, California

Upon arrival in Truckee, after the short drive from Reno where our flight landed, we began our summer vacation by visiting the first souvenir shop the kids saw.

While my kids’ agenda was to immediately spend their $20 souvenir stipends, my wife was more concerned with finding a hat to cover our fair-skinned 3 year-old daughter from the California sun in Lake Tahoe.

My daughter wasn’t quite sold on the simple and practical sunhat my wife found. Instead, my daughter was lured by the irresistibly trendy Bigtruck trucker’s hat with a yellow flower on it.

She still had a leftover gift card from her birthday back in April; to extend beyond her souvenir budget.

It turns out she loved this “flower hat” so much, that she chose to deplete the rest of her gift card money on it!

I will admit: I’m glad she did.

What an awesome hat for a cute little girl spending a week of summer vacation in the Lake Tahoe area.

She totally rocked that hat and she knew it.

Of all coincidences, by the end of our week-long vacation, we just happened to stop for lunch at a deli right across the street from the Bigtruck Factory Store and Custom Hat Bar there in Truckee!

After lunch, my wife stayed in the truck with our daughter who quickly fell asleep for her afternoon nap.

Meanwhile, my son and I invited ourselves in for a tour; where we met Triston Sceirine, the company’s Production Manager, who was happy to show us around the place.

We had a great time checking out how they make the hats, and even learned they have a “hat bar” where customers can customize their own hats.

I have a feeling the next time our family is in Truckee again, we’ll be heading back there to make some cool hats!

And thanks to my daughter’s hat choice, we have brought a piece of Truckee back to Nashville, Tennessee.

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Swiss Army SUV (Nick Shell’s Turtle Shell): 2004 Honda Element

If I was an action figure, what would my accessories be?

My wife always goes to sleep before me.  Sometimes, when she’s lucky, I sing her a lullaby to help her transition into dream mode, to coax her into visions of happy clouds and riding unicorns.  Of course, I only serenade her with original songs that I sing as I compose them, on the spot.  Last week, with Avatar fresh on my mind, I sang to her in my finest Styx performing Mr. Roboto voice:

“Nothing can prepare you for the unicorn ride of your life

So put on your purple jump suit and watch a pterodactyl fly by

Because nothing can prepare you for the unicorn ride of your life”

Pause.

Then she asked, “How can I prepare for the unicorn ride when you just said nothing could ever prepare me?”

She made a good point.  The only disadvantage of having the ability to make up and sing Grammy award winning songs on the spot, is that sometimes I forget the lyrics I’ve already sang earlier in the same song.

Ironically, I was the one who wasn’t prepared.  As for the rest of the time, in everyday life, I am prepared.  Because from 1st grade to 5th grade, I was in Cub Scouts and one of our main mottos was Be Prepared”.  Evidently, that has become a law of life for me.

Take my car, for example:

Honda Elements have been compared to a lot of things: a boot, a shoe, a toaster, a box.  And I’m okay with that, because after 4 ½ years of owning one, I am still in love.  And when the day comes to get a new vehicle, my plan is to simply buy another Honda Element.

I have transformed my already versatile duckbill-platypus-like SUV into the vehicular equivalent of a Swiss army knife.  It’s time to take a tour of my Honda Element and see what I keep on hand at all times, just in case I need it…

Typically I keep one backseat always folded up so I can have my mountain bike with me.  It stays secured between the wall and other seat.  The blue t-shirt helps prevent scuff marks on my seat from the bike and doubles as an emergency back-up shirt.

The way I got that shirt was way back in the summer of 1998 when I went on a mission trip to Ecuador.  One of the old t-shirts I had packed for the trip was one that I got from a church youth conference from the summer of 1993.  It was a white t-shirt with the phrase “JESUS IS FOR NOW” on it.  And that’s all it said.  (In Junior High, my classmate Scott Rothell joked with me: “Jesus is for now; Satan is for later”.  He was a funny guy.)

So when I was in Ecuador, a guy my age (17 at the time) saw me wearing the “Jesus is for now” t-shirt and said he liked it so much that he wanted it.  Because I have developed a friendship with him that week doing skits in city squares and painting schools, I negotiated a t-shirt trade.

He let me look through the old t-shirts he brought along, and the blue one was the one I chose: “Con Amor de Tennessee a Temuco, Chile” (With love from Tennessee to Temuco, Chile”.  Which was the official t-shirt my friend got from a previous mission trip.  It remains a comfortable t-shirt after the 12 years of me owning it.

Behind my passenger seats is where I keep my helmet.  In the cubbies on the sides, I have an old atlas I stole from work, a bandana (for days I don’t feel like wearing a hat but want to cover my head- works well in sweaty or rainy situations).

This is also where I keep my bike maintenance tools and restaurant coupons (which I’ve made several copies of on a color copier so I can reuse them).  As well as flyers for selling my house.  And an atlas in case my GPS stops working.  And windshield defroster spray.  Plus a back-up t-shirt just in case…

In the backseat that is not folded up I keep a black fedora.  Because this kind of hat will instantly make me look classier if need be, even if I’m wearing a t-shirt and jeans.  Plus an old baseball cap I got in 11th grade (1997), as well as a new stylish hat that my mother-in-law mailed me on my birthday.  The right hat for the right situation is key to being a model citizen.

Underneath the seat I keep my Birkenstocks (Christmas present from my parents in 1999).  They make the perfect back-up shoes in case I’m wearing nice shoes and it starts to rain.  In the rear side doors, I keep two books at all times.  Just in case I need to kill some time.  One is about speed reading, the other is about “reading people”.

In between the two front seats, I keep some musk incense I bought at an Indian grocery store, to help keeping my Element smelling like a forest.  I received the toothpaste and toothbrush from my most recent dentist visit- always good to keep around.  And of course it is vital to always have nail clippers handy.

The plastic cup remains empty.  Maybe I’ll end up in a place where there’s water but nothing to put it in.  Then the cup saves the day.

I put Velcro on the back of my iPod (with an FM radio receiver so I can listen to it through my stereo speakers) and my steering wheel so it’s always right in front of me.

In the hidden cubby next to my steering wheel, I keep a few spare wedding rings (made out of hemp) just in case I ever forget to wear my actual one.  Next to some papaya supplements to aid indigestion (for my pregnant wife).

Up in the front passenger dashboard caddy, I keep sugar-free gum, business cards (mainly so I can write my website on them to give to people I meet who after talking to me, are curious about my website).  And a bendable Pink Panther- just because he is awesome.  He is my animal cartoon role model.

There are also some pictures from my wife and I from exactly a year ago when we met her aunt in Chattanooga.  The felt letters say “amp” but they used to say “camp”.  But the “c” fell off and I never found it.  I just wanted to enhance the “camp” theme of my car.

Lastly, in the passenger seat of my Element, I keep my Gap one-strap bookbag.  Inside are my laptop, earphones, camera, Bible, and whatever the main current book is that I’m reading at the time.  I usually bring the bookbag with me when I take my mountain bike for a ride so I can be prepared to entertain myself if I need a break.

With the exception of my TV and my Wii and guitar and my clothes which are in the house, the things I keep in my Element are my earthly possessions.  My Element is like an overnight bag.  Like a turtle’s shell.  My action figure’s accessories.

And one more thing… Now that you’ve read my take on Honda Elements, why not read my perspective on being a dad?  That’s right- parenting from a dad’s point of view.  I have been documenting my thoughts as a dad since the week we found out my wife was pregnant.  I formally invite you now to read my “dad blog” by clicking on the link below:

dad from day one

Is There Such a Thing as a Wrong Opinion?

A behind-the-scenes look at writing with authority.

I spend a lot of time reading articles online (movie reviews, political blogs, etc.) every day and I always make sure to read the comments that other people post below them. The majority of comments tend to agree with the writer. But a good third of them have the polar opposite view of the topic. To me it’s funny when they disagree, because ultimately what they are saying (especially when their comment is emotionally charged) is that the writer’s opinion is wrong.

In a way they are the treating the writer’s opinion as a fact, by questioning it like it is a fact. Because only a fact can be wrong. An opinion is completely subjective.

And what that points out is the importance of the natural assumption of credibility in a writer. A convincing writer is able to supplant this idea in the reader’s head: “If he’s saying it, it must be true.”

No writer is completely right-on and in-tune all of the time. Even if a writer was, they may just not simply be right-on and in-tune with the exact same perspective as the reader.

Writers must present their information in confidence, in a way that says, “This is unquestionable truth”. When executed correctly, the reader subconsciously puts their trust in the writer, assuming that if the writer says something that seems a little off, it must be the reader that is out of touch and off-sync, not the writer.

I know this is true for the writers that I follow. Even when I read an article from one of my favorites and I don’t thoroughly enjoy it, or it just doesn’t grab me, I still come back the next day or the next week for more. Because despite their shortcomings, they have instilled a sense of reverence in me through their talent. A sense of belonging, even.

That’s my opinion, at least.