Another Family Win in the PNW!

Those of you who have been following our adventures know already some of the main themes of our last 5 months educating the boys on the road. National Parks (and NPS properties), presidential libraries, air museums and lots of visits with family! Our path has led us to spend some great times with family members we haven’t seen in a long time, to spend quality and extended times with those who live a long way from us.

As Maureen mentioned in a previous post, we made a decision while in Utah. We had to decide, head NW or turn the rig east and head to MN. We chose NW! Oregon and Washington were states we wanted the boys to experience and they were rich with family!

After throughly enjoying Oregon, we made our final Oregon stop in rural Astoria to see my Grandpa Tischer’s younger brother Mark Tischer. We were able to spend a couple of hour chatting with him and my boys were able to meet one of the last from that generation!

From Mark’s, we made our way to Cathlamet/Skamokawa and stayed at an absolutely great RV Park/Port #2 Park right on the Columbia River. The reason for our stop here was to see my dad’s cousin Lee Tischer. Lee and Diane live on Puget Island and are very active in the community. Lee is a Port Commissioner and got us into a great spot where we could see huge ocean going ships only 100 yards from our camper. It was also neat to have people recognize the Tischer last name! While getting to know Lee and Diane, we had a great dinner and learned more about their family. Lee (also known as Woody Tischer) also took us on a tour of the area, including a ferry ride in our truck to go get breakfast on the other side of the Columbia! Once again, our visit reaffirmed the value of knowing family and checking in every once in awhile!

Our path to the Seattle area was a quick one. My mom, Marilee, had decided to make a trip out to the area to meet up with us again (and of course see her brother, sister and families)! During our adventure, I am pretty certain we have seen my folks with more regularity than when we lived in Harrisburg (it’s a good thing). The Seattle area is where my mom’s brother Rollie and sister Kristi live with their families. Base for us was going to be Kristi and Bruce’s in Poulsbo.

Just as we started backing the camper into Kristi’s driveway, my uncle Rollie, aunt Ginger and mom pull into the culdesac. Nothing like backing in and getting set up with an audience! We didn’t realize it at the time, but that spot would be our trailer’s home for the next three weeks! Our time with the Seattle area crew was filled with tons of fun and tons of just plain old “hanging out”!

Some of the highlights of our time in the PNW include (in no order):

  • Time with Kristi and Bruce, Gabe and Josh, and Rollie and Ginger
  • Time with Bruce and Liz (Ginger’s sister)-the boys loved Bruce’s bush pilot stories
  • Maureen being able to see her great aunt Percy and multiple cousins (total of 6)
  • Finally being able to go and get Bruce and Kristi’s boat, get it water ready and enjoy several rides with dolphins seen
  • A great day downtown in Seattle
  • The boys going to the Museum of Flight with Uncle Rollie and learning little about his aviation based career
  • Whidbey Island and the PBY museum (Papa Mick’s uncle trained to fly the PBY here and flew them in the Aleutian Islands during WW2)
  • Watching Gunner and Roscoe play and bark at anything that moved
  • Being able to leave the camper at Bruce and Kristi’s so that we could take our “Alaskan Adventure”
  • The Underwater Warfare Museum with Gabe and the boys
  • A traditional Norwegian lunch at the Poulsbo Sons of Norway with Kristi
  • The Olympic National Park with my mom and Kristi
  • Some great conversations had with all

We finally had to hook on and say goodbye to everyone. While it would have been great to stay even longer, we have a few more places to stop on our way to the lake cabin for the summer! We plan to go across the northern part of the US. Hopefully another family member or two and a stop in Rapid City to see my old boss (nearly family)!

I’ve said it several times-the circumstances of us being able to take this time together weren’t a highlight of my career. Having your job eliminated just plain old sucks. Having the adventure of a lifetime has been absolutely worth it though!!

Ahoy Maties

What does 2077 nautical miles plus 200 square feet equal? Pure fun and additional adventure on our “lifestyle”, that’s what!

On a whim, Maureen and I decided to take a small trip away from our land yacht and cruise to Alaska. Alaska has been on our bucket list (a cruise was never part of that bucket list). Now mind you, we have ticking items/places off our bucket list that we had intended for the end of our career! The stars all aligned for this trip. We were able to leave our truck and camper at my aunt and uncle’s house and they even watched Gunner! The ferry from their island was close to the cruise ship terminal. ANNDDD, Maureen was a bargain shopper and was able to get us a good deal. Again, remember that rooms with space are foreign to us after living in our camper, so a cruise ship small stateroom was fine for us!

Once we made it on the ship, we were all amazed at the sheer size and plethora of amenities available! While still in port in Seattle, Woody got his shorts on and hit the FlowRider (surf machine). We had fun watching the process of getting us underway as well as watching all the activity as we made our way out to sea.

During our cruise, we hit up some great locations. Maureen shared detail about our visits to Juneau, Skagway, Victoria and the fjords. My favorites include the White Pass and Yukon Route railroad ride and taking the cruise ship right up close to Dawe’s Glacier. The glacier was great to see from the private vantage point with 5,000 of my closest friends! Once we started heading back out to see, we were treated to more great sights-Orcas and humpback whales!

Our adventure has chronicled how we have been able to spend time with family and friends and renew relationships that have suffered from the neglect of distance and time. One of the most unusual relationships renewed is one that was nearly 25 years old. The morning before our last day, we were eating breakfast in the dining room when a lady came up to our table. I didn’t really think much of it or pay too much attention. She started talking about how she recognized the NDSU Bison year our boys were wearing because she was from Fargo. I recognized the voice and looked up. The voice and the face immediately clicked and I said “Char Skaff”!!! Char was my EMT instructor when I was a junior in Breck. I’d drive to Fargo twice a week to get my certification. We were able to catch up some and chat about the cruise. How amazing is it that I was able to reconnect with someone so distant in my past!

Our adventure have been great. We seen some great places and had some great times. The best of times have been enjoying friends and family!

Crabby, who’s crabby??!!

Well, it’s been a little while since I’ve written. Long story made short is that I didn’t get the CEO job I was a finalist for. Longmont and Centura would have been great, but it wasn’t meant to be. The feedback I received was all positive and even had smatterings of “you could have done this job two positions ago.” Regardless, I had a case of the “crabbiness” going on. Oh well, onward with the search and discussions!

In the time since I learned that my job hunt, and thus our adventure, would continue, we’ve seen some great places and had some opportunities with family and friends. In Utah, Maureen’s family hosted us and even included us on family game night and family walk night. I even got to see my very first ultimate frisbee tourney (nice work Dallin–he just scored 34 on his ACT for anyone looking for a smarty)! One day we were able to make the trip into Salt Lake City to see the sites and also meet up with a grad school and fellowship buddy, Jeremy Price. Price happened to be traveling through the area and we were able to meet up. It’s been something like 5 years since I’ve seen him, so being able to say hi was great. A real plus is that Jeremy is Mormon, so we had our own personal tour guide around Temple Square! The sites and history were great! Another happenstance meeting happened with Jennifer Wagenaar. Jennifer was the CNO in Aberdeen when I started working with them. She is now a regional CNO out in the Mountain States. When I texted her, she happened to also be in Temple Square. It was great to be able to say hi to her as well.

In addition to getting grounded with some great folks while face to face, I’ve been able to connect on the phone and via email. Once again, folks I’ve known have stepped up with great advice or great connections. Friends I’ve made through Leadership SD were willing to make connections for me for a position I’m in the running for in SD. Some of my great work colleagues have been willing to be references for me multiple times.

The past week we’ve had some fun in Oregon. Maureen posted about our seclusion in the national forest at a great campsite. We’ve had some fun clamming in a mud bog and yesterday we went crabbing for the first time. We had some luck and enjoyed a feast last night. Crabs sure are tasty when you pull them from the bay yourself!!

All in all, I’ve really got no reason to be crabby!!!

I Choked at My Interview

No, really, I choked at my interview!

As most of you following our blog know, our adventure started as a result of a blessing in disguise. My job was eliminated, we sold our house super fast and hit the road on our adventure. We’ve seen lots of national treasures and I’ve continued the job search process.

The search process is a tedious one. It’s months worth of communication with recruiters. Emails followed by phone calls followed by video interviews followed by initial on-site interviews followed by final on-site interviews. One position I have been working through this process for is at Centura Longmont. I first learned of the position late October/early November, so I’ve been working on it for a long time.

The day had arrived. I was in Longmont for my final interview and it started out great! Interviews don’t really make me nervous, I just show them who I am so we can both determine if there is a fit. I was able to connect with the different constituencies in great ways. One of the board members was even a fellow Bison while one of the other execs was a Gopher! Much of the process was being led by Martha H. (external recruiter) and Sue F. (internal recruiter). They participated in each session and helped to keep things moving along.

Lunch was scheduled to be one hour with me and the recruiters. Basically a working interview lunch. Needless to say, we were about thirty minutes behind at the time. We were talking a fair amount and the two of them were asking questions. I, of course, wanted to be able to answer as much as I could. I was chewing a piece of meat when I was asked a question. I wanted to answer and swallowed before I had completed mastication…and choked. At first I thought it was just an esophageal constriction and a little water would help. Then I realized I wasn’t moving any air.

My paramedic self kicked in. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been on choking calls. Usually with bad results. I gave the universal sign to Sue and she could see the panic in my face. She stood up as I did and came over to me. I think the immediacy of the need to help was a bit overwhelming and she yelled for help or a nurse. Now mind you, we are in the hospital cafeteria! No one was coming quick enough for me. I grabbed her hands and wrapped them around me. Together, we did the Heimlich and freed the food. I was shaken and my voice would barely crack. I excused myself for a couple minutes and walked off the adrenaline. Sue had saved my life!

The rest of the interview continued without a hitch. I was able to sneak away and buy Sue some LifeSavers at the gift shop. The next day was a great interview at the corporate headquarters. Centura is a great organization with great people. I hope I get the chance to work with them, but I know I’ll never forget this interview!

While choking at an interview is a crazy story all by itself, there is more. When I was able to tell Maureen what had happened, she teared up. Not only was she scared for me, but she had also been reminded by Facebook of an event 6 years ago to the day. Exactly 6 years prior, I had successfully performed the Heimlich on a guy at a dinner at church. Call it Divine intervention, karma, a sign or whatever you want. I think it was a another reminder that as much as I want to be in control, I’m not.

You never know when others will need your help. Help them when you can. You never know when you will need others help. Accept it when you can!

Great People Make for a Great Trip!

Our adventure has been a patchwork quilt assembled on the fly with pieces of National Parks, American treasures, fun sights or activities and family and friends. We made it further up the coast of California following our departure from LA. Pismo Beach is the “home base” for the next several days as we explore further up and down the coast. We picked Pismo because as Maureen looked at the map she recognized that we would be near one of her old co-workers, Brent, from the Minneapolis Metro North CVB. We were able to meet up with Brent and his husband Dean and their niece for dinner last night. We had a great dinner on the beach and enjoyed catching up after 14 years as well as a great sunset, tasty clam chowder and some tasty drinks!

At dinner, Dean offered to escort us on a winery tour if we wanted. Of course, Maureen and I willingly took him up on it! We met up with him this morning and we hit the road. The first stop was at the Chateau Margene tasting room in Morro Bay. We enjoyed walking around the harbor/Bay Area and then had a great tasting with Steve. He took his time with us and walked us through what we were smelling and tasting. We enjoyed several wines and ended up with a couple in our possession!! If I had really known what was in store for us, Chateau Margene was just the warm up!!

Morro Bay is on the coast and the next stop for us was in the Paso Robles area of the region. Paso is close to San Luis Obispo (or SLO) for those following us on the map. To get to Paso, we took a winding back country shortcut through the hills. Dean navigated the turns and twists while Maureen and I had the chance to see vineyards, olive trees, avocado trees and even a shepherd and his goats grazing the cliffs (he even waved to us)! Just about the time Maureen kicked her nausea bracelet on to high, our drive was done!

We arrived at Epoch Estate Wines and began an experience I will never forget! Unbeknownst to us, Dean has a good friend who works at Epoch. When we arrived, she had us set up for a private tasting in the cellar room (even Dean was surprised by this)! She gave us a glass and our first sample and then walked us around the property some while explaining the legacy of the property and buildings. Epoch was founded in 2004, but comes from roots that date back to the late 1800’s. The original location for Epoch was on land once used for a winery by Polish pianist and Prime Minister Ignasky Paderewski. Paderewski was perfecting his winemaking in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, at the same time as the first bonded winery was in full production on York Mountain. Andrew York and Paderewski became friends and the Paderewski grapes would often become wine on the York Mountain Winery. In 2010, Epoch was able to acquire the York Mountain property as well and has been restoring it back to its glory (along with making some tasty wine).

History aside, Katie became our wine educator for the rest of the day. I’ve done wine tastings that take 20 minutes, but we were with Katie for over 2 hours!! She walked us through whites and reds as well as bottled wine and wine straight from barrels. I learned some of the basic ways to evaluate color, clarity, nose/smell, palate, structure, finish, and so much more! We talked about what it takes to make great grapes for even better wine. Most of the wine around the Paso region are blends of different grape varietals. Additional different types of casks are used for fermenting, including steel and concrete. Aging occurs in new and secondary use barrels. Katie really was fantastic and really helped us appreciate everything we were enjoying!

When we set off on this adventure, I knew we would see great sites. I even knew we would enjoy some great time with family. What I didn’t realize is that by reaching out to our extended family and friends, those we haven’t seen in a long time, they would help to enrich our travels. Friends and friends of friends have helped us have joy. One of our real lessons: be nice to people!!

Joshua Tree National Park

Yesterday we left Phoenix to begin the trek to Los Angeles. Our route was planned so that we could not only hit up another National Park Service location, but also stop in Palm Springs to see a family friend. One nice thing about pulling our house behind us is that we get to stop wherever we please!

One of our family objectives when we set off on this adventure was to see as many great sites as we could. NPS sits at the top of our resources when looking for places to visit. Not only does the NPS maintain national parks, but also national monuments, national historical sites, national historic parks, national memorials, national preserves, national seashores, national lakeshore, national rivers, national battlefields and national cemeteries (I may have missed a few, but you get the point)! Needless to say, our list is large. Since beginning this adventure, we’ve probably visited at least 20 different locations! A friend of mine has shared with me that he and his wife have designated NPS as a benefactor in their estate plan. After seeing what we’ve seen, I have to say I’ve called and thanked him!!

Joshua Tree National Park is located in Southern California near Palm Springs. While JTNP only became a national park in 1994, it has been a national monument since 1936. The most amazing aspects of this park were the giant boulder formations and, of course, the joshua trees! The joshua trees are yucca plants of a variety only found in this area straddling the Colorado Desert and the Mohave Desert. When Mormon settlers were traveling through the region, the trees reminded them of the Bible story of Joshua reaching his hands up to God. Local Cahuilla Indians call the trees humwichiwa and used them to make sandals as baskets as well as eating the seeds (perhaps like dates). The trees were very interesting to see and each one was unique in how the branches reach to the sky!

The boys and I had a blast exploring the “Hall of Horror” trail. Maureen and Gunner hung out in the truck as dogs aren’t allowed to explore JTNP. This trail allowed us to go exploring the giant boulder formations. Both the boys have really become great scramblers and could have left me behind a few times! There was one boulder that took all of us working together to get up. I was first up with Andy and Woody giving me a boost from behind. Next came Woody with Andy pushing and me pulling him up. Finally, I grabbed Andy’s hand and he and I worked together to get him up. The views were great, but just being boys playing on boulders was the best!

Some of the other exploring and adventure we have done here includes healing ourselves in the hot springs at our campground. Below this region, there are natural hot springs with “natural healing properties” according to Dr. Broue, a 1930’s chemist, metallurgist, physicist and geologist (trust him, he’s trained). Healing or not, the pool is awesome at 94 degrees. The hot tubs range from 98 to 104 and feel great too! Our family loves swimming and this place was a great find (hip hip hooray for Maureen)! Palm Springs was fun last night as well. Maureen and I had a great time going out for happy hour dinner, drinks and dessert–plus a stop at the casino where Maureen won enough to pay for a round or two!

Next stop on the map is LA–let’s hope my patience for congested areas holds out…I mean pulling a camper in LA can’t be that bad, right!?!?

Don’t forget Woody’s vlog!

B4, I’ve Never Played Competitive BINGO B4!

Bingo spells bing, bong and boing!

Tonight, after a very productive day around the house with wheels, Maureen and I decided we needed a date night. Since we embarked on this adventure, we have not had a night to ourselves. As luck would have it, directly across the street from the handy dandy KOA in Alamogordo, lies the Eagles Airie #2019 with bingo on Tuesday nights!

For those of you who don’t know my habits and hobbies, bingo is not one of them. At least not “serious” bingo.

We walked across the street, hand in hand, ready for casual bingo without boys but maybe with an adult beverage or two. The sign said “doors open at 5:30-bingo calling starts at 7”. As we entered the lot, it looks fairly full, but there is no activity. We open the only door we see and….creek it opens with a slight breeze. We step into a room where bingo is already underway and we are new people. No bar, nothing but bingo daubers, bingo paper cards and cigarettes! Maureen and I are out of place from the start! We buy the minimum mega pack of nine cards each for each game. They are already three games into a ten game night. We missed the first three but paid for them anyway! Of course, we didn’t have the special daubers, so Maureen rushed up and bought some. She, of course, got the bright purple and I was blue!

For those of you who haven’t experienced competitive bingo, I will give you a little picture of what I saw:

-I was mildly challenged managing my 9 cards. Several people were playing with 60+ cards. One lady had at least 90 cards!

-If you are “of status”, you must arrive with special “bingo bags”. These bags have pockets for lots of daubers, pens, cigarettes, snacks, etc.

-If you intend to manage 99 cards, it’s best you have a plastic glove on one hand, a pillow on your seat and tape to hold all 99 cards together.

-There are “special” games that you buy in addition to bingo. If the caller says “this next game is Wonky Willy”, you best know what that means. Maureen and I started marking our cards, but we didn’t have the “special cards”. This meant that when we started “real bingo” again, we had to use different colors on the cards we had already marked…thankfully we didn’t win that round!

-“I26, I26. Mark it now because I26 doesn’t light up!”

-Proper bingo calling attire includes t-shirts. I really have nothing funny about wearing a t-shirt, unless of course the shirt says “Healthy Foods” with vegetables printed on the front…while she eats one of the largest ice cream bowls I’ve ever seen!

-Competitive bingo includes shapes and games which are unique. Small diamond with corner squares and wild numbers with nine blocks. Pay attention folks!

-During blackout bingo, when you only have nine cards to manage versus 99, boredom can set in. Maureen decided she would draw with her dauber. Finger painting while playing bingo is frowned upon! Our success at blackout was nil. Just look at all the space left on my card!

In the end, date night wasn’t a complete bust. We got out of the trailer, we had some fun and we saw all kinds of interesting! Here’s to many more nights of interesting!

Chihuahua Desert to Chisos Mountains

Big Bend National Park is a remote and beautiful place to visit. The solitude becomes more and more apparent as you head down the highway from Alpine, TX and the vast and open highway leads to what appears to be no where! Our campsite is currently in the village of Terlingua. Terlingua appears to be home to drifters, raft guides and folks who don’t have much concern about the physical appearance of their homes or selves. Right next to our camper (in what appears to be a dirt parking lot) lies an old cemetery–shallow graves with rocks over the top and wood carved grave markers. A sign of respect, but also a sign of making due with what you’ve got.

If I were a betting guy, they are here because you can gaze out during the day and see some great views; mountains, desert and nature. At night, the stars as as clear as anything I’ve ever seen. The ghost town shanties allow for quick and easy access to something else!

Today we had a great adventure hiking the “Window Trail” and, after a little convincing, we also did part of the “Lost Mine Trail”. The views were well worth the work. Our MREs were sure tasty while looking out over the park! Those things sure taste a lot better when eaten while famished and with a view.

Our hike today was exactly why we were so excited to set off on this adventure with the boys. The abundant beauty our country has to offer along with the priceless time alone on the trail. Tomorrow brings travel to Mexico via a row boat and burro!

The Black Hole…AKA Our Campsite

Today was a great day traveling from NOLA to Destin, FL. Andy will fill you in on our pit stops along the way. Let’s just say they were great enough that I wasn’t in a hurry to get to our final destination. I mean, we had made it through the emptying of the…shall we say latrines without getting anything on ourselves!!

In our adventure of lessons, I’ve learned that it’s best to get to your campsite prior to it becoming pitch dark! We pulled into Topsail State Park and the campground looks great! The sites look amazing, but they are back in only. Not a problem if you can see so you know where you are headed!! As I began to back, Maureen was doing her best to guide me. We haven’t mastered the back in sites in pitch dark situations yet. A helpful neighbor (who has a camper van) came out to help. As I’m backing, his instructions included “go the other way”… most of you reading this know I was biting my tongue hard enough to actually taste blood!!! Once I was actually able to get mostly into the site, we got it straightened out and into the site. The neighbor redeemed himself when he complimented me and Maureen with a “you guys look like you know what you are doing.”

Now we were on to what we know how to do…hook the water up and turn it on. Well, someone left the faucet on and if someone else happens to put the sink cover on, the water has no place to go except the counter, stove and floor!! They all needed a good wash anyway, so all is fine there!! Lesson learned…have someone in the camper as you turn on water!

Only one more lesson needed! When opening your slide out, don’t let the kids do it on their own. Let’s just say, if anyone has seen the movie “RV” with Robin Williams, we may have tried to recreate a scene! I’ve been missing home projects, so now I have a little work to get things back to how I want them!

Oh-one more item. Don’t trust Siri with directions, he is crazy (I gave mine a male English voice). Early in the day he took us into a residential area to a hiking trail which would have eventually taken us to a National Seashore. Trouble was that we had “The House” and our truck too!! Nothing like backing the rig up in a tight residential street!!

Lessons, lessons, lessons!! Good thing Maureen and I have learned early on that a well stocked fridge is important!