Monday, March 30, 2009

Race to Quit

I haven't grand-standed a cause here because it's not the right place for it. I want this blog to be about our daily walk toward our dream and about how God is intervening and guiding us to His will.
Today, for some reason, it occurred to me to make a plug for a friend and co-worker who IS championing a cause that he deeply believes in and is willing to throw all his cards on the table to try to send a message and make a change in the world.
I direct you to with the understanding that I fully embrace this project and believe in their mission goals.

I, for one, have seen too many people that I was very close to die unnecessary and grotesque deaths due to lung cancer and the complications of smoking.
Statstics may be just numbers on a chart or website, but when you walk in to a hospital room and barely recognize the person you knew, or when the spot on the adjacent shift is empty now because it was 5 weeks between diagnosis and death it drives it home hard for me.

Check them out, and if there's any way you'd consider it ... please quit if you smoke ... Please. For all of us.

Thank you.

It's Catch-up Time.

OK, so hang on. I'm going to try to do this as succinctly as possible; maybe I can get nearly 4 weeks worth in to one long, run-on sentence ... I am, after all, a Government employee. :)
Since my last post we've driven to Jupiter,FL to hook up with great friends, Chip and Sue, from Robin's high school and college days. We visited, went to the top of a grand old lighthouse, did some Geocaching and had a great dinner and time of fellowship while up there. We managed the drive home arriving at about 1:30 A.M. Now that's what I call a reunion :) A couple of weeks after that, Chip and Sue came down to the Everglades to visit us and we took the airboat ride, hiked around and played some Euchre. Again, we had a great visit and wonderful fun.

A couple of days later we hooked up and pulled the fifth wheel about 22 miles north and east, toward Fort Lauderdale. Our current location is in a park called "Yacht Haven" and our view out the back window is of a channel, the docks, and several large boats. It's an enticing place to stay and we are discussing how long we will stay put. The advantage, of course, is that we look at the water and boats every day. It reminds us of why we packed up and came to Florida in the first place and keeps the edge on our desire to press on in pursuit of this sailing dream.
The disadvantage is that is a longer, tougher commute each day.
From the Everglades Holiday Park we drove along a relatively 'quiet' road for the first 15 miles or so before encountering any significant traffic congestion. The new commute puts on I-95 and into the thick of it right away and it gets more congested with each on-ramp as we head into the Miami area. So... we're still talking over different alternatives (returning to Everglades Holiday Park is not an option as they do not have sufficient electrical service for us for the demands of summer heat). Another great advantage of living near Fort Lauderdale is that in the eventuality of a hurricane evacuation, we are 25 miles north several million people and if we intend to evacuate the rig I will greatly appreciate the head start since evacuation routes are somewhat scarce. Hopefully this won't become a reality, but it's nice to have a plan.

Right after we arrived at the new park we hiked the length of it and stood on the end of a dock with several other folks and witnessed a Shuttle launch from what is basically right out our back door. Even from as far away as we were, it is simply an awesome and spectacular sight. I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who can pull it off. There are so few missions left and the whole Shuttle program will be ending very soon. So...if you can find a way to see one in person, try to make it happen.
We were graced by a week long visit from Brandon and Brecca over their Spring Break. Robin and I took the week off as well and we pulled the rig down through the Keys and ended up staying at the KOA at Sugarloaf Key, about 20 miles short of Key West. We had a problem with the 'landing gear' (the two front support struts that extend down) on the coach when we tried to set up at the park, requiring us to stay hooked up to the truck for front end support. We called for a maintenance guy to come out and pay us a service call, and I (with some help from a neighbor) got the strut detached from the coach and started looking for solutions. The maintencance fellow arrived and fooled with it for a little bit, but did not want the job and said I should call the factory for a replacement strut and left. ABout an hour later (again with the help of a neighbor) I had found the problem, devised a solution and reassembled the strut. Brandon did the awesome task of reconnecting the drive shaft to it (a very hot and cramped challenge) and it has held up just fine since. Amazing what you can do with the right sized drill bit and pair of bolt cutters. Thanks Brandon for your extreme help in reattaching the shaft!

We spent a great couple of days touring on foot, on bike, and in the convertible. We swam in the ocean and watched the last of the sunset on the pier in Key West while enjoying a Rum Runner and having some snacks. It was crowded, but not insanely so, and I know it was well worth the trip. The Keys are fun, and they are beautiful.
We decided to pull the rig back up to Everglades Holiday Park for one night so that Brandon and Brecca could go on a boat ride and maybe catch some close-up viewing of our 'pet' alligator (one we've seen on shore nearby for several days before we pulled out the last time). Sure enough, he was waiting for us when we got back and it was a treat to walk up to a 'comfortable' distance and get a good look.
The next day we took the airboat ride and thoroghly enjoyed it. There's a lot to learn and it's great to get a little more education each time we go exploring like this.

We pulled back up to Yacht Haven and set up the coach in an absolute downpour. Robin, bless her heart, was completely drenched as she spotted the placement of the rig and by the time we got inside we were both pretty wet, but she was completely and utterly soaked. The ground was saturated and the supports/chocks that we use sunk into the ground some when we rolled onto them. After we disconnected the truck from the trailer, the trailer slipped off one of the supports (levelers) and rolled a couple of inches toward the canal .. yikes! is that spooky. We reconencted, re-centered, re-aligned, and re-chocked and it worked just fine this time. Oh, and did I mention it was raining? .. torrentially??? ... The 'nice' part, if there is one, is that the rain is not so biting cold like it was in Colorado. That rain came from higher, cooler clouds and it was not much fun to get soaking wet because it chilled you so quickly. Rain here is a little warmer, but just as wet...

We spent the next day at the beach in Fort Lauderdale along with a few thousand of our closest Spring Break friends and enjoyed getting into the waves and playing in salt water. A little bit of sunburn and all is well in Florida.
Regrettably we had to ship our good company back to Colorado and things returned to 'normal' for a few days. We spent this weekend unwinding a bit, driving and exploring, hanging around the docks and I replaced a transmitter unit foro ur back-up camera on the coach.

It's been fun! I am so very thankful for the good people in my life. What a great blessing; good friends and loved one. You can't buy that, and you can't replace it so cherish it.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

On Government Service

Like anyone else I do not always agree with policies and decisions that are made by government officials. Since I am, at a very low level, one of those officials I guess I've made decisions that some people haven't been pleased with but I've always tried to balance the needs of the person with the mission and the needs of the agency. Concurrently I've tried to balance my own needs with the needs of the agency and its need to accomplish the mission. If I reword all this and say the same thing in four more sentences you can understand in a nutshell how the government works...mostly...

This week I celebrate 30 years of government service. That's been in three different agencies with a couple of breaks for jobs in 'the real world' but when you add it all up I clocked over 30 years at the beginning of March. Now, while I am still deeply involved in my current career as an Front Line Manager Air Traffic Controller, and while I still have more than a couple of years before I can hope to retire it is still cause for reflection on where the career track has taken me and what the expense and rewards of that career have been.

I joined the Air Force right out of high school and spent the better part of four years learning how to paint, solder, drive different kinds of vehicles and serve the mission of nuclear deterrence. We did not fear terrorists then as the spectre of all-out doomsday war was still a very real motivator. Sitting next to weapon that can start fires simultaneously in nine states is sobering and brings a young man to think about things he might not be ready for. Still, my fellow airmen and close friends did the best we could to cope with the job and the potential consequences and life went on.

After a couple of years of turning wrenches and wrenching ankles I quit being a mechanic and was hired by the U. S. Postal Service as an MPLSM (Multi-Position Letter Sorting Machine) operator. I got the bug to learn to fly and became a pilot; chasing the brass ring of a career with an airline just when the airlines were struggling with deregulation. The Air Traffic Controller strike provided an opportunity for me to take the entrance exam but it was over three years until I was actually hired because I passed on the first offer they made (oops).

I took the job in 1984 and have had a career filled with good friends, tough working conditions and the slow, inexorable change that is government progress. I have had days where I thought I couldn't do it any more, and days where I couldn't wait to get to work because of some exciting new technology. I've wondered why I made this career choice more than once, but looking back now I fully realize that it was part of the Plan and that it has all been good. I will finish this career in 3 or 4 more years and I will be able to look back with gratitude for the professionals I have worked with, for the trials that have brought me a little bit of wisdom and for the absolute gold of the friends I will always have.

And yes, I'd do it again.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Why Spend 12 Dollars?

Airboat rides are about $24.00 up the drive from where we are parked right now. Since we are residents of the park we get half off. They run all day every day and are a pretty cool 'feature' of living where we live. People come from all around, I guess, to go see the Everglades and perhaps catch a glimpse of the wildlife (spelled 'alligator') that are over a million strong out there. We have taken two rides thus far, once when Brecca and Nichelle came to visit and recently when Mom came out. On both occasions we got up close and personal with gators that couldn't really care less about our presence. I suppose it's that way when you'ce been around about 130 million years, you become tolerant of other short-term species invading your space from time to time. Nonetheless, it is fascinating to be near these ancient creatures and the airboat drivers are goodat spotting and maneuvering close to them with spooking them. Both our rides have been tons of fun.
So yesterday, just before sunset, Robin and I hiked down to the park's 'General Store' to pay them a visit and enjoy the sunset from their patio. It turned out to be a bit breezy and pretty cool so we hiked around instead of sitting still and wouldn't you know Robin says "Is that a gator head sticking up over there?". Well, I couldn't quite make it out and I couldn't quite tell if it was just a piece of wood or some other flotsam in the water, so I hiked down the hill and came right up to him before I figured it out. Wishing I had a real camera, I did get a shot with the phone.

OK, this is very, very cool. It was a big one .. a real big one :) I estimated the Eye-to-Snout distance at about 12-14 inches.

But I didn't have a ruler handy...
I think they get much bigger when there is no safety net or fence or boat between you and the animal. There was a small dock close byand we walked out to get a better angle but because thewater was already getting dark we couldn't do any better at making out his length.
We walked up to the within 15 to 20 feet of the fellow (we have no idea how to tell a male from a female, but I've always assumed that it was ok to address a dinosaur as 'sir'.) and decided not to push our luck by investigating any further. It's quite an interesting feeling to be so close, and to think that this is not a tour nor is it Disney. We left well enough alone, but it was a strong, fascinating desire to want to get closer and see this amazing thing.

We came back home and were just kind of giggling about what we see in our back yard :)

Hi Mom .. Bye Mom

Mom is simply the Cruise Queen. We both love her to pieces and admire her for geting out there and enjoying life. She is a member of a group of several hundred folks who regularly get on a cruise ship and enjoy a week together sailing and socializing and partying. George, their travel agent, gets killer deals on blocks of rooms and there are a couple of cruises per year with anywhere from 20 to 250 cruise group members aboard. Isn't that a party ? :)
This trip originated in Fort Lauderdal aboard the brand-new Celebrity "Solstice". While Robin and I tried to put it together, it was simply not feasible to get the funds and time off work together to go along on this trip, which was disappointing. But that was the only hard part.
Mom came in and we picked her up at the airport a couple of days prior to sailing. We had an absolutely wonderful visit, touring around Miami, heading down to the Bayside Marina, spending an afternoon at the zoo, going on an Everglades airboat ride and enjoying a movie or two at home. It was a pleasure to host her and the only real problem was that we dropped her off at the cruise terminal and could not follow her aboard :(
A week later we picked her up again, and to her credit she never once rubbed it .. just showed us pictures and told about her adventures along the way.

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by maryfos Not that we were jealous .. oh no ...

Now...whoever thinks that making a 6:03 A.M. departure from the airport is a sane thing to do should call me. Actually, it was'nt that terrible a thing, just a short night's sleep to get up at 3:00A.M. and and the commute into Miami was quite easy without much traffic. The airport was not terribly busy at that time of the morning and we had good hugs and said goodbye and then mom was whisked away.
Thanks for coming, mom. Thanks for visiting and sharing and having a good time with us. Thanks for cruising and being an inspiration to us. You rock!


During the last couple of weeks Robin and I have been fully engaged by this upcoming certifiation process. Our next step was to take and pass a written "Area Rating" test. From a pool of some 600 questions they will pull 60, not at random but designed to test a broad scope of knowledge in minute detail. This is different from any process I've been through before and the test is proctored so there can be no reference materials at hand (which is different from the actual operating environment where one depends or an abundance or resources close at hand to cover all the contingencies). A different philosophy and a new one here, as we are the first people to actually go completely through this process.
So...we study: Letters of Agreement, Military Operations and Procedures, Sector Operating Procedures and the details of Approach Plates, Standard Instrument Departures (SIDs) and Standard Terminal Arrival Routes (STARs). There are thousands of details and hundreds of procedures. It is a lot to digest and we are doing it all with self-study; no instructor or coach.
OK, enough about the job... Life in the Everglades is a kick! We have enjoyed being close to the water, even though it is filled with sawgrass and only 8 inches deep. The hunting birds are fascinating and we see Grackles and Egrets and Herons and Cormorants and Vultures and bright green Parroits and the ever-mooching Peacocks daily. The water is teeming with tiny fish and there are frogs croaking and singing in the night. Sitting outside with a cup of coffee in the morning is very, very cool and if you bring some bread you sill soon have 50 birds around you catching whatever you toss out well before it hits the ground.

And the sunsets ...