The First 100: 24 Crazy Hours Camping at Chick-fil-a

It’s 5 am in the morning as I arrive at what is the newest sign that our little apple is growing larger and larger. Chick-fil-a is finally opening a store in Manhattan, Kansas. I’ve heard for years about the first 100 contest and I figure this is the best chance I have at ever taking part. Whenever CFA opens a new store, the first 100 customers get “Chick-Fil-a for a year.” I add quotes because it’s 52 free number 1 or 2 combo meals, which means I won’t be enjoying the spicy sandwich for which I actually come to their establishment for.

Anyway, I have other reasons for taking this challenge as well. I want to get to know people in the community of Manhattan and I figure if lock-ins help awkward junior highers get to know each other, it might help my still awkward self do the same. And then of course there is the fact that we love the food and our “out to eat” budget is large enough for our family to eat out about once a month, so this would certainly stretch that a bit further.

So when I arrive at 5 am I find there are 30 to 40 people waiting. As I join them I begin to realize while they’ve come from Wichita, Kansas City, Tulsa even Chicago, these people mostly already know each other. There is a subculture of people who travel taking vacation days and bringing their whole family for the event. They share about epic openings in faraway towns and favorite DJs who manage to get everyone dancing. I’m a little anxious that guy might be our DJ since I don’t dance without a posse and I’ve come to this party all alone.

By 6 am only 85 people have arrived which means we won’t face the dreaded lottery that can ruin the hopes of so many who travel this strange circuit of grand openings. I brought with me a bag of books and my wife’s pink lawn chair. As tent city is being erected it occurs to me just how under prepared I am for these 24 hours. One group had a couch and ping pong table, yes an actually ping pong table. I do find Jonathan Haney is here  as well, he’s a friend and fellow pastor in town and he’s come for the same reasons I have. Yet, we both realize quickly that very few of these people are actually from our community which means one major motivation is moot.

I find these people intriguing. I do basic math in my head and realize being local this makes sense for me financially, but many who traveled here will spend more than they make meaning they’re really bad at math or they have other reasons for being here. The way they talk about other openings begins to open my eyes to the reality that most aren’t here for the free food.

I meet a guy from Chicago named Rich, this is his 40th opening, it’s August and it’s already his 12th this year. That’s 2,080 free meals. He’s about 60 and as I listen to him I think he belongs on NPR’s “This American Life.” He speaks with an Italian accent and immediately feels like an old friend.

He says he’s always loved fried chicken and had heard about Chick-Fil-a for years but couldn’t find it near his home. Then on a vacation with his family they happened upon a restaurant right a dinner time. He still remembers his first order: a number 1 and a vanilla milkshake. The way he tells the story sounds like a religious conversion. He took a bite of the sandwich and let out sounds of ecstasy, of immense enjoyment so much so that his family sat embarrassed by the sounds. Not everyone experienced it the same, they liked it, but not like Rich did.

He then went on to tell me about driving and taking buses to openings around the country. He has friends who were traveling to Atlantic City to gamble, he joined them on the trip, but went to a first 100 event while they hit the casinos. Those same men who flew across the country to gamble told him, “Rich, there’s a thin line between being a fan and being a crazy lunatic.” We got a t-shirt at the end, and since he’s been to 40 of these, he owns 40 CFA t-shirts. It’s literally the only t-shirts he owns. He uses some of the free meals, and gives a lot away (to friends, or even the lady checking his groceries at the store).

He was the most accomplished, but by no means the only person traveling with this unexpected carnival of grand openings. There were a couple of families who used vacation time to camp in a parking lot for 24 hours. At first it seems ridiculous to me, but as the day went on it made sense. It’s camping, but you don’t have to cook any food since they provided us with every meal. Plus you get use of clean restrooms, electricity, no one smells like fire, your friends are provided for you and there is no chance of the campers next to you getting drunk and shouting obscene things you hoped your children wouldn’t be learning about on a camping trip.

I found that everyone had their own reasons for being here and apart from first timers it was never about the free chicken. One man traveled two hours to be here. He’s in his 50s, lost his job in June, has grown children and a wife who is still working. He said it gave him something to do, some way to contribute even while he searches for new employment.

It was a bit like being in detention or camp or maybe a really great prison. We weren’t allowed to leave the premises so when I wanted to walk to burn calories it was in circles. I tracked my progress using RunKeeper on my phone and laughed at myself when I saw how ridiculous 2.4 miles in a tiny circle looks like.

I loved the adventure of meeting all these new people, but one of the best parts was visits from friends and family. Laura came by twice and brought me a pillow and blanket as an up grade to my chair. Then Jon and Tricia Dunning upgraded my pillow to a whole tent which gave me an honest to goodness residence in this tent city. The Arnett’s stopped by after Audrey’s first day of school and brought a much needed Cherry Limeade. Damian and Heidi mostly pointed out how insane it was that I was doing this and then sought to afflict me with news that they would all be going to Taco Lucha while I sat in prison. :-) That night I almost talked Josiah into staying the night while he visited, but with only a small chance of getting the prize it just wasn’t worth a night sleeping on asphalt.

As the day progressed CFA provided games and prizes on a regular basis, in the evening a DJ came and ran a talent show and a dance contest which prove to be very entertaining. The college students were great, they danced their hearts out song after song and when the DJ packed his stuff up and left they broke out a guitar and started an impromptu time of worship. Late at night they brought us Chocolate Chunk Cookies and a glass of milk. Some people headed to bed after though I don’t know how they slept with the heat and light and noise.

The owner David is great, he loves Manhattan and is a graduate of K-State. He’s very personable and I was impressed how he remembered both Laura and my names from when we previously met him. I don’t think I’d do it again, but I’m glad I did it. I’m glad I was there for the Manhattan opening and to see into this world I never knew existed. If you have a chance to do it (Wichita in the Spring) I would highly recommend it. And if you do tell Rich hello for me.

You can check out the whole album of pictures if you’re interested

Here are a few videos

LoveManhattan: Trains, Wildcats and Adventure

(Found this straggler in the “drafts” folder…it’s a little retro now…)

This Saturday we slept in, then we headed to Wamego to ride the train. After this weekend it closes until the spring so we had to find out what it was like. Wamego is a small town about 20 minutes eastish. Below is the train station.

The is free, which is really hard to beat.

Even us adults get to ride.

It goes around a cute park.

I totally fit, though not real well.

"Look Laura, I fit!" Sure Brian, sure!

Here is a video of the train in motion, it’s worth checking out.

After the train we stopped by this Wizard of Oz House, the wicked witch of west’s legs are sticking out. It was then that we realized our children had never watched The Wizard of Oz. Which is sad cause that’s literally all we knew of Kansas when we moved here 7 years ago. So then we watched Wizard of Oz the next day. The kids didn’t like it when it started out black and white.

Berkley the next day said “Dorothy wanted to go back to Kansas. But why? Kansas was dirty.”  Laura: “You mean black and white?” Berkley: “Yes, it was dirty”

Ding Dong the Witch is Dead!!

After that we headed the Hilton’s tailgate where we munched on some walking tacos and a John Daly, we were told it’s called that because it’s like an Arnold Palmer with alcohol. They drink Purple Lemonade instead of Pink Lemonade at these tailgates. Very cool. That’s Laura and Heidi here.

The stadium was upgraded this past year and looks fantastic.


Damian is showing Beckham how to make a pretzel.


They met a Cheerleader. I was in line at the port-a-potty. I asked the guy behind me if he minded if I held their place while they went to get a picture with the cheerleader. He said sure as long as you’ll hold my place when I go get a picture with the cheerleader. Seemed like a good deal to me.

We bleed purple excited to find a K-State cheerleader at tailgate!

After the tailgate Laura and the kids went to a birthday party, Beckham and I went on a bike ride.

He wandered down some railroad tracks.

Collected some railroad nails and wanted to bring them home for his treasure box, seemed like a bad idea.

He caught some frogs and minnows.

Climbed a “mountain”

Caught  more frogs

Became very afraid when he thought water was about to rush out of this gate. No idea how we got the idea that would happen.

Finally  proved he was a little taller than 8 feet tall.

Played in what I believe are soybeans.

Then found this grave stone grave yard. It’s a bunch of typos and such. I guess the delete button on marble slab doesn’t work so well.

Beckham wanted to try and ride down the tracks. It’s hard and bumpy and not fun.

Then he wrecked and scrapped his knees. I’m not a bad a dad. At least not for the reason you’re thinking. I checked on him first and then had him turn back over to take the photo placing him back how I found him. Public Service Announcement: When you drive off sidewalk don’t drive back on if there is a lip/curb. It ends like this.

Then put Beckham in a tube the looked to be steady.

Did some trampoline jumping in the backyard.

Then watched the New York Cosmos online.

Summer Time Konza

Earlier this summer we decided to take another trip out to the Konza. Brian has been more than I have, my only other trip was in January with 30 mile per hour wind! It was a beautiful day this time!

When we drive, we do a lot of turning around. Sometimes cause we are lost (if I’m driving) but most often cause one of us saw something that we need to get on.

This day it was this amazing merry-go-round from forever ago! We knocked on the owner’s door and asked if we could take it for a spin. It was originally from the little school house down the street.


This is as fast as I like to spin these days:

IMG_6713It’s a brilliant design (it kind of swung while it twirled) and was still solid as could be (“they just don’t make things like they used to”).




I adore old thingsIMG_6737

We also saw this awesome chicken coop!


We finally made it to the Konza Prairie, swords and all!


They started out like this:


But it wasn’t long until that turned to this:


Brian caught this. Then we were reminded how amazing it is that we have this computer in our pocket that we can, in a few seconds, look it up and find out what it is (and most importantly if it’s poisonous!)


For being such a weenie about anything involving loud sounds and fire (fireworks are her bane), Berkley is by far the most adventurous when it comes to animals.


Wouldn’t be a Hough Family Trip without Wiffle Ball…IMG_6774


Sadie had her eyes dilated that morning before we left, so she sported her Hello Kitty shades!


Contrary to what many think, Kansas isn’t flat. (Who am I kidding. I didn’t even think about Kansas before we got here…my loss though!)



Popped a squat for a picnic lunch!


Lunch time entertainment


I think that was when Becks was the catcher?




She said she found a throne. I think one of the other kids told her it was more of a toilet…


One of these two thought this “hand through the tree” trick was funner than the other one did!


Running low on water, energy and joy at this point…



On the way home we wanted to try to get to the big “KS” letters on the side of the mountain. We made it and had a pretty great view of the city!


Capitol Building of Kansas Visit

After hearing about it from the Albrechts, we visited the State Capitol Building recently in Topeka, Kansas. We were running a little late so we had to make a mad dash around the place to get caught up with the tour. Felt a little like a scene from  National Treasure.

It didn’t take long to notice there was a Texas flag among the American Flag and the English flag. Turns out the collection of flags was all the nations that Kansas has been under. Part of Kansas was once Texas, it’s starting to make sense why we feel so at home here. But I guess by this reasoning Colorado, Wyoming, Oklahoma and New Mexico would feel like home as well.

Here is a picture of the Map overlayed with the United States today to help you see. 

The building is beautiful, very elaborate.

They were doing some construction at first which Boo did not like at all. She must have good ears cause she hates noise.

Found Lance Kinzer on the wall which was very cool. He goes to Redeemer in Overland Park.

Also found his desk.

This is the State Supreme Court.

Here they are in the seats.

This is John Brown in Civil War painting. John Brown died in 1859, the Civil War began in 1861. But still this is what John Brown would have looked like had he lived to see the Civil War. He’s got a Beecher Bible in one hand (that’s the gun) and an actual Bible in the other hand.

This is the Governor’s Ceremonial Office. Apparently he dislikes Buffalo as much as I do, one dead on the wall, one dead on his desk. It was incredibly soft which was unexpected.

The art work was pretty cool.

I noticed they had a W that must stand for Wiffleball in the center of the circle. Yes, I actually had a wiffle ball in my pocket.

This was from way way up high heading towards the dome. I was intrigued to see they only finished off the side of the columns that can be seen by visitors below. What a picture of how we sometimes function in our faith- only working on the part of our lives that is visible by others.

As we climbed towards the top of the dome we had this nice view. 

This is Laura and Berkley chickening out and heading back to the real floors. The dome below them is the above portion of the dome in previous photos. It’s glass to let light in before the invention of electricity and light bulbs.

I laughed at this. Get there, get there… She’s still Jenny from the block.

This was our final ascent, pretty sure this was a 14,000 foot mountain equivalent.

Now were on the outside of the top of the dome.

We wanted to throw this, but they said no throwing things off the top.

The climb down.

Laura and Berkley were so traumatized they went to the very bottom floor.

World Cup Fever

June Snap Shots

Just a few picture from the month of June.

While on the Taste of the Ville Laura got up on the bar at Tubby’s.

While she was in NYC our children did the same.

I have a friend who is planting a church in Wichita and we had a nice morning meeting in Hillsboro, Kansas. It’s a small town so we had to go get cash from the bank to buy coffee. On the wall was this Kansas flag emblem made from carpet scraps.

This is a Kansas flag emblem  made of carpet scraps. It art on the wall of bank. Bet making the Texas flag from carpet is easier. #kansas #kansasflag #hillsboro

Here is Tom and his Barackoccino. That’s a picture of what their actual menu says.

Soooo this is an actual coffee you can order in Hillsboro, Kansas. #obama #kansas

Becks playing on this crazy Dodgers team and loving it.

If look at the details you'll see these guys are basically the kids from The Sandlot. #mhk #baseball #dodgers

Here are a few of his fans, Emerald and Hat.

Dodgers Baseball (Beckham 2014)

I burn money just for fun. (fake money, real fire)

Laura and I went to watch the Astros plan and Jerome Williams took this picture with me.

This is from the Progressive Dinner Bike Event in Manhattan.

Berkley is barefoot 95% of the time during the summer. We almost never leave a place without saying, “Where are your shoes?”

We’ve been playing bunches of Wiffleball


I took a nice slow paced bike ride and then made this on my phone while recovering, ironically I was rushing and spelled “Life” wrong.

Yep, more Wifleball

Hat drew this of Beckham.

Shirts for ManhattanPres came in.


Varsity Donuts made a Frozen donut this summer.

Frozen Donuts

This is a lamp on the wall of Radinas Bakehouse in Manhattan. I’m intrigued by it.

Radinas Bake House in Manhattan, Kansas. Light over a couple of chairs.

In June I was able to do the first Baptism in MPC History, Baby Camille Sheffield Catudal.

It was also the first baptism I’ve done, so after Andria brought the old Redeemer baptismal I practiced on a baby doll. I had to know how much water to put on the child.


As a sign of what a dork I am, I made a Lego WiffleballLego Wiffleball, it doesn't curve.

I got a call from Damian to come play Puddle Volleyball. What? I had to find out. Was seriously fun.

Puddle volleyball might be my new favorite sport. #mhk

I took this on the drive back from the Shanahan’s House, it’s beautiful drive and the rain made it especially cool looking.

A little water balloon fight we had to cool off a bit.

Crushing his sister proved to be quite satisfying.

Free Ice Cream (thanks to

Sadie Piper in a Mindcraft Creeper head.

We’ve eaten outside a bunch this summer, Sadie’s waiting for the fajitas to grill.

Beckham with his airsoft gun and tin cans.

Dodgers Baseball (Beckham)

This year Beckham played for the World Famous Mike Bean Dodgers Machine Pitch Team. It was fun to see his confidence grow over last year as he began to relax and just enjoy the game. His teammate were great and they had a great time playing and goofing off when things got slow. We are very thankful that God put us on this team though sure wish Aiden and Jackson could have been on it too. (Manhattan Parks and Rec won’t let you pick anyone to be on your team).

I’m a dork and actually keep his stats. Here they are.

Beckham – Dodgers Game Average AB Hits 2nd 3rd HR RBI Runs K BB
TOTAL 0.824 17 14 11 0 0 8 11 0 0
Athletics 1 1.000 3 3 10 0 0 3 2 0 0
Royals 2 1.000 2 2 1 0 0 2 2 0 0
Rangers 3 1.000 2 2 0 0 0 0 2 0 0
Giants 4 0.333 3 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 0
Braves 5 0.750 4 3 0 0 0 1 2 0 0
Pirates 6 1.000 3 3 0 0 0 1 2 0 0

Dodger 2014 (Beckham)

Dodgers Baseball (Beckham 2014)

Dodgers Baseball (Beckham 2014)

Dodgers Baseball (Beckham 2014)

Dodgers Baseball (Beckham 2014)

Dodgers Baseball (Beckham 2014)

Dodgers Baseball (Beckham 2014)

Dodgers Baseball (Beckham 2014)

Dodgers Baseball (Beckham 2014)

Dodgers Baseball (Beckham 2014)

Dodgers Baseball (Beckham 2014)

Here Beckham is the first batter of the inning, he’s up there ready to bat focused like the ball is on the way, however the ball is still in the glove of Coach Mike who’s nowhere close the machine yet. He stayed that way for about two minutes.

Dodgers Baseball (Beckham 2014)

Dodgers Baseball (Beckham 2014)

Dodgers Baseball (Beckham 2014)

Dodgers Baseball (Beckham 2014)

This guy was 3 for 3 and I felt sick every time I yelled "Go Dodgers"


What the Wheat Fields Really Look Like

Anyone who has ever dreamed of Missions or Church Planting or just living Missionally in their neighborhood has thought about this statement by Jesus found in John 4:35

“Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.”

I’ve done it.

Something like this beautiful field I saw on Zeandale Road outside of Manhattan.

Row after row of perfect golden wheat. How do you pick this wheat? Tons at a time, machines that collects the ripe wheat.


That’s not what missions and church planting or just being a light to your neighbors is like. At least not 99% of the time.

I rode past the field below this morning south of town. As soon as I saw it. I saw it.

This is more like the field we are called to harvest. You’ll need to look closely. There is wheat in their, but there is also weeds, lots of them and all sorts of them.

Harvesting this field is hard work. You wander through weeds, you pick one at a time. I was encouraged to stop looking for the field above and start working in the field below. It’s slow work, but as God makes the wheat ripe, we harvest wherever it is.


City of Manhattan Bicycle Progressive Dinner

May was Bicycle Month and the City of Manhattan had a lot of fun events planned! The last one was a Bike Progressive Dinner that was open to all ages!

Great people on the Bike Progressive Dinner. Plus more than willing to throw their hands up. #mhk #manhattanks #bikemonth


We met in Triangle Park in Aggieville

Manhattan Bike Month Progressive Dinner 2014

Manhattan has a Bike Progressive Dinner. Love this town. #mhk #manhattanks

Manhattan Bike Month Progressive Dinner 2014

Manhattan Bike Month Progressive Dinner 2014

Manhattan Bike Month Progressive Dinner 2014

Our house is up a hill, so although it’s super easy and fast to get places, it’s a harder, slower ride home. But this day Beckham cruised up the hill (he didn’t walk his bike at all…even I have yet to pull that off!) so I tried to keep up with him and Brian stayed with Sadie. They made a fun stop at Kimball Castle



Sadie Piper found a rope swing at Kimble Castle. #mhk #manhattanks

How Carolyn and Laura “Survived” Laura’s Trip to NYC

 So, Carolyn and I “survived” our weekend in New York City pretty well! :)

(By that I mean it could not have been more fun!)

After waving goodbye as I pulled away in the car for the airport, Berkley (still waving) looked at Brian and said, “I miss Mom. She was a good Mom.”

So there’s that.

I went from the Little Apple Manhattan to the Big Apple Manhattan!

Night one we went to an AMAZING sushi restaurant. The last time Carolyn and I ate sushi together we were on the other coast! Few things yummier than sushi by the ocean with a great friend!!

New York 2014

Carolyn is only in NY for a few months, but she’s settled in like a local! We rode around all weekend on CitiBikes. Brilliant. You check a bike out at any of the MANY racks like this around town, ride, then check it back in at any other bike rack. You can get a yearly unlimited pass, or a daily unlimited pass.

New York 2014

There’s a great bike/walking/running path right next to the Hudson River.

New York 2014

Saturday morning we went to a fun workout class (a huge treat for me!) and rode bikes and explored.

New York 2014

This is the landing pad for people’s private helicopters. Every single time we rode by there were helicopters landing or taking off. That’s a crazy lifestyle to get my head around!!

New York 2014

The one request Brian had of me was to take pictures…with the Wiffle Ball. Carolyn and I decided it was kind of like our Flat Stanley for the weekend!

New York 2014

We had to get creative!

New York 2014

New York 2014

I had no idea the big New Year’s Eve ball stayed up for the entire year. Thinking about it, this makes perfect sense (cause where are you gonna store that?!).

New York 2014

What’s NYC without the Naked Cowboy?? (and the Wiffle Ball of course)

New York 2014

A HUGE yoga class in the middle of Times Square

New York 2014

The real Subway signs and the restaurant Subway signs threw me off. They are eerily similar fonts.

New York 2014

We stopped by an entire block of food vendors!! It was so stinking hard to decide what we wanted.

We passed on this donut slider the first day…but couldn’t pass on it the next day because we had been thinking about it for an entire 24 hours. It failed to deliver. It was sad. But not that sad cause we decided it’s probably best that we didn’t love something that the bread was a donut. It had a lot of potential…

New York 2014

These tacos were the best!

New York 2014

We didn’t eat there, but the Shake Shack is VERY popular. The line was unbelievable.

New York 2014

We went back to Carolyn’s adorable apartment to shower for our next adventure…her apartment is right across the street from the “Friends” building!!

New York 2014

Then, we took the subway to Coney Island!!!

New York 2014

Brian and I recently discovered Nathan’s hot dogs.  (I won’t buy any other kind now!) But I honestly thought it was a small little undiscovered brand. Turns out it’s not. We just live under a rock.

New York 2014

The big hot dog eating contest is on Coney Island every 4th of July!

New York 2014New York 2014

So when we got there we both mentioned to each other that we didn’t realize people dressed up to come here. Then we noticed everyone dressed up was a Mermaid. Turns out there was the Mermaid Parade on Coney Island that day!! We were super bummed we missed it…it would have been an experience! But we still saw many of the costumes, very creative ones! :)

New York 2014

We rode the funnest roller coaster ever, and ate a hot dog of course!

New York 2014

Then back to Manhattan (the big one) and that night we went to The Comedy Cellar and watched stand up! I’ve never been to stand up before, much less by people I recognized!!

The next morning we rode our CitiBikes to a SoulCycle class.

New York 2014

It’s only the funnest and hardest thing I’ve ever done! My legs were sore for a week!! Very worth it!!

New York 2014New York 2014

Then we saw a little play, Wicked! :)

New York 2014

It was every thing everyone says it is…and more!! I’m bummed it’s not a movie cause I think our Kansas kids need to know the real story…:)

Two Houston girls on Houston St in NEW YORK!

New York 2014

It was an unforgettable trip with one of my very  favorite people!

Thanks Carolyn for sharing New York with me!!!

Oh, so even though I drove to the airport (you park for free about 100 yards away at our little airport that I love!) I still walked off the plane to these Crazies

How My Bicycling Has Changed

I’ve struggled to figure out bicycling here. I’ve not rode much in our first year and that’s been sad for me since I have always considered it a bit of a therapy in my life. In KC the trails are amazing, I felt safe on them, but not on the roads.

Here the only trail is 10 miles long, made of crushed limestone and often under a layer of mud in some places. I’ve rode it many times, but it’s tougher. I ride gravel roads some, but that’s tough too.

Then a week or two ago Joe Catudal took me on a ride around Ft Riley. I was about to pass out at the end, but I loved it. It was adventurous and just fun, I needed that.

It also gave me confidence that riding on the roads outside of town here are a very different experience than riding roads in the suburbs of Kansas City. Cars don’t pass often, they have plenty of space to pass and the views are like something found on the Katy Trail.

So recently  feeling safer on the roads after the ride with Joe I went east on Zeandale to 99, south to Wamego and back to Manhattan. I think I’ve finally found a new way to ride. The roads are like trails through the countryside. Plus, since my bike is a cyclocross I can adventure down the gravel roads I pass from time to time.

So if you’re reading this and are in Manhattan let me know if you ever wanna go for a ride. I’m slow, but it sure is fun.

Below are pictures of my bike from that ride. Laura thinks it’s weird that I take pictures of my bike rather than just the scenery. I agree, but don’t think I’ll stop.





This is a brick wall in St George.


I wish they were outside so I could ask about this. This is the front yard of someone in St George. Metal people in bathtub, one on the phone.

This is in “Downtown” Wamego


Bridge on Highway 99 just north of Wamego


In middle of fields growing corn was this huge pond thing that they pull sand out of. Just a crazy pile of sand from a distance.

This is the cemetery where the original members of the Beecher Bible & Riffle Church are buried.

Another interesting mailbox. 


and found some big corn.