Donna Crawford
Redondo Beach, California


I was born in North Carolina and lived there until I was about 2 or so.  My father was in the military, so we moved every year or two.  We lived up and down the east coast, in Arkansas, Germany and Kansas, before he retired in 1980.  I attended Manhattan High School (in Kansas) and college and law school at the University of Kansas (Go Jayhawks!!).

I've lived in Alabama, Georgia, Texas and California since leaving my parents' home.  I currently live in California with my husband Kirk (even while we were on our RTW, we considered California as home). My family and friends are scattered all over the place, as you can imagine.

My husband and I are highly involved with our church, locally. I have lots of hobbies, including cooking, HAM radio, reading, travelling, bzflag, and sports/outdoor activities. Although I love to watch Jayhawk Basketball, I generally prefer to participate. Some of my favorites are beach volleyball, scuba diving, cycling, rowing, swimming, snow skiing, tramping, surfing, off-roading, etc.

My travels over the last few years have taken me to Costa Rica, Hawaii, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, and most recently, on a 15-country, 1-year round-the-world trip.

Feel free to drop me an email to let me know how you're doing, or any other suggestions you have for these pages! And be sure to sign my new Guestbook!

Recent Articles

Monday, May 7


A Night Out

Kirk was due home late Thursday night. When he called me Thursday morning, I was surprised he was up so early after almost 2 weeks of the night shift. In fact, he told me, he was not up early - he hadn't gone to sleep yet. Any other morning, I wouldn't have been surprised, but in this case, I knew he had left work around 11 or so the night before.

And so he told me... apparently there was a road block on Kula Highway, and the police wouldn't let him go through to his house. Right next door to where he was staying, some guy was in the midst of a standoff with police after having shot someone!

Today, I went looking for the news story, which I found and am reprinting here. The story is from The Maui News:
Man shot; standoff follows
By LILA FUJIMOTO, Staff Writer

KULA – Police arrested a suspect in a shooting that injured a 43-year-old Kula man, after evacuating several homes Wednesday night and closing a portion of Kula Highway amid reports of multiple gunshots fired at a Kula residence.

The suspected gunman, identified by police as Mark A. Martins, 53, surrendered early Thursday after a 7 1/2-hour standoff with police at the cluster of houses on a property along Kula Highway about 1 1/2 miles from Rice Park, police said.

The victim, whose injuries weren’t life threatening, was taken by ambulance to Maui Memorial Medical Center shortly after being shot twice – in the arm and leg – said police Capt. Milton Matsuoka of the Criminal Investigation Division. He said the victim was later flown to Wilcox Memorial Hospital on Kauai.

Matsuoka said police responded after receiving several reports of multiple gunshots at 10:40 p.m. Wednesday.

Kula resident Kainoa Texeira said he was among seven people including the victim who were at a barbecue outside one of three residences on the property when the suspect, who was a tenant, showed up with a gun.

“He started shooting at us,” Texeira said. “We were all by the van. He just came, started shooting the gun.”

Texeira said the man had a pistol.

“We all scattered,” Texeira said. “We ran.”

As they gathered evidence and talked to witnesses at the residence Thursday, detectives placed at least a dozen yellow evidence markers on the pavement near a white Chevrolet van, which appeared to have bullet holes in its side. The van was parked on a driveway near a house at the back of the property.

Residents said the man identified as Martins was living in the same residence as the 43-year-old shooting victim, whose mother owns the nearly 1-acre property.

The landowner said she was in another residence with her 10-year-old grandson when the shooting started.

The boy described hearing 20 gunshots in rapid succession, followed by a pause and four more gunshots. When the grandmother and boy ran off the property and sought shelter under a tree, his father was waiting, holding his left arm to try to stop the bleeding, the boy said.

“He just said it hurt.”

The landowner, who asked not to be identified, credited police for keeping residents safe.

“They protected us behind a police car. They blocked the traffic,” she said. “We didn’t have any idea where he was.”

She described the suspect as a “loner” who kept “totally to himself.”

“Something’s wrong with him,” she said. “He was not in his right mind. I feel sorry, but by the same token, I’m so furious.”

She said the suspect had “been weird for about a week” before the shooting.

“His rent was about to be up,” she said. “I just kept saying, ’What’s wrong? Why has your attitude changed so drastically?’ He just seemed enraged all the time, all this pent-up anger. It was scary.”

Those at the barbecue included the victim’s brother and a friend who had arrived Wednesday from the Mainland for a visit. They ended up sleeping in a van after police evacuated the residences.

Along with Wailuku patrol officers, detectives, traffic officers and the police Special Response Team were at the shooting scene. In all, about 30 police officers responded, with police negotiators persuading Martins to surrender at 6:15 a.m. Thursday, Matsuoka said.

“They were able to get him to give up,” Matsuoka said.

Police closed Kula Highway between Cross Road and Polipoli Road at 11:15 p.m., reopening the road at 7:45 a.m. after Martins surrendered.

Police recovered a 9 mm semiautomatic handgun, Matsuoka said.

Malone Iyekar, who lives with two others in the main residence on the property, said he had gotten up to go to work at 4:30 a.m. Thursday when police officers had him and his roommate leave the house.

The roommate, Dominic Chiengyan, said he saw officers in camouflage clothing on the roof of the victim’s residence and other parts of the property in the dark.

Martins was being held at the Wailuku Police Station on Thursday.

Charges of attempted murder and reckless endangering as well as other possible charges were pending against Martins, Matsuoka said.

“It’s an ongoing investigation,” he said.

Police said Martins has numerous prior arrests as well as convictions for two counts of keeping a firearm in an improper place, first-degree reckless endangering and third-degree promotion of a dangerous drug.

According to court records, some of the convictions arose from Martins’ arrest for firing shots at Nakalele Point the morning of May 15, 2000, while dirt bikers were in the area. He reportedly yelled and swore at the dirt bikers, telling them to “get off my f----ing land.” The land belonged to Maui Land & Pineapple Co.

Witnesses reported hearing six to eight shots.

After stopping Martins’ car near Honolua Bay lookout shortly afterward, police obtained a warrant to search the vehicle. Police reported recovering a Remington pump shotgun that wasn’t in a case, live ammunition, spent cartridge casings, marijuana and a toiletry bag containing components of a zip gun.

At the time of his arrest, Martins said he was living in his 1983 Honda. He reported being born on Maui, moving to California with his family in 1959 and moving back to Maui in 1988.

He was found fit to proceed after being examined by three psychiatrists or psychologists, court records show. After being convicted in a December 2001 trial, Martins was sentenced to a 90-day jail term and placed on five years’ probation in that case.

Court records show charges were dismissed in another case related to Martins’ arrest Feb. 15, 2003, at a Kahului storage facility. The police Special Response Team was called to the scene after Martins allegedly threatened another customer with a knife and punctured two storage bay doors. Police said he then entered his storage unit, threatened to blow up the area and refused to surrender, throwing several spent shell casings at officers.

In the Kahului incident, SRT officers had to remove Martins from a vehicle in the storage area, police said.

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Thursday, February 8


Short Update

Here's a very short update on what's been going on - I'll try to remember to provide an expanded version later on. Kirk has been on the road since January 16th. He did manage a short 2 day trip home for our 5-year anniversary, which we spent in Idyllwild. We stayed at a nice little B&B (Strawberry Creek Inn) and went horseback riding. I picked him up from the airport and took him straight back to the airport - he never even got to come back to the apartment.

While he was in Maui, I took the opportunity to head up to Mammoth with some folks from irc. Christel, who I know from freenode (and whose staff I recently joined), and a couple of others were flying up to Mammoth on a Cessna 210. I attended Bryan and Chad's going away lunch and then drove straight to San Diego.

The flight up was nice, but a bit chilly. It was quite dark by the time we landed. A nice dinner out at Roberto's (where Kirk and I had met Fred & Geri 5 years ago) and the next morning we hit the slopes. Or tried to. It took a while to get everyone sorted, and it was almost 11AM by the time we headed up the hill to take our first run.

Turns out that James was a bit newer to skiing than Tracy or I realized, so we took some time getting him over to a green run and then tried to coach him down the run. It was while on this green run that disaster struck. We were near the right hand side of the very wide run, in perfectly clear view to anyone above us. I was standing still explaining how to snow plow, and Tracy was about 20 yards downhill. All the sudden, I looked uphill and saw a guy coming straight for me, completely out of control, laying back on his skis. Before I even had time to react, he ran right into me. I went flying, landing on my head and shoulder. Tracy later said he stopped about a foot or so from where Tracy was standing.

I was in too much pain to even get up and Tracy went for help. Ski patrol came and I got a nice little ride down the hill on a sled - not exactly what I was expecting. From there, the EMTs took me in an ambulance to the hospital, which was packed. After a substantial wait (a portion of which I spent on irc trying to distract myself from the pain), I was finally wheeled into xray - where they made me do my xrays laying down. First I had to remove about 5 layers of clothing - excruicating!

Turns out, I had a fractured glenoid - that's one of the bones making up the socket. Not good. I was done for the trip - without having taken a single run! I spent the next 2 1/2 days in the hotel room, icing my shoulder, taking pain medication and generally sulking a bit. We had some nice meals out and Christel was a doll and hung out with me most of the time, not getting to ski herself.

Monday, we flew home in stellar weather. I got to ride up front with Tracy (the pilot) and saw some magnificent scenery. As I was now in San Diego with my car, I had a 2 1/2 hour drive home ahead of me. We landed fairly late and I was feeling rather weary, so I decided to postpone my drive home for a day. We met Scott (numist) and Ben (krel) out for dinner and then headed back to Tracy's where I slept like the dead.

Tuesday, I just never got around to going home. I was desperately hoping to find someone who would be willing to drive me back - driving without a right arm/shoulder is difficult, even with an automatic. Putting my seatbelt on turned out to be one of my most challenging tasks. I ended up spending all day Thursday in San Diego too - we went over to Scott's house later in the evening and watched House, along with a bunch of his friends and roomates. It was quite packed, with computers and power cords everywhere you looked. We went out for burritos after House, as we were all starving. It was pretty funny to sit in a roomful of people and have 1/2 the conversation happening online and the rest in real life.

Finally, on Wednesday, I had to go home. My orthopedic appointment was for Thursday. I was pretty nervous about making the drive, but I did. Managed to get home without hitting rush hour in San Diego or LA. My friend, Linda, came over and washed my hair on Wednesday night - that was such a blessing.

On Thursday, my orthopedist took new x-rays and discovered I had two breaks in my shoulder. I had an AC separation and a glenoid break. The AC separation is pretty much ignored - they don't repair those, just let them sort of "heal" on their own (although they pretty much don't go back to the way they were - I'll forever have a bump in my shoulder where the bone sticks up). The glenoid fracture was more troublesome and he sent me for a CTscan on Friday.

I had the scan on Friday and was due to go back in to see my doctor on Monday to get hte results of the scan. However, his office called me Friday afternoon to tell me they had made me an appointment with a specialist - I was seeing him on Monday instead. To me, this meant I was very likely going to require surgery - not good.

Another friend (from bzflag), Manaen (zk), gave me a ring. He is in town for some work training. His timing was perfect, as I was just trying to figure out who to call for a ride to church. When Manaen called, he mentioned going to church, so I invited him to come along AND be my chauffeur, to which he agreed. His internal clock was a bit mixed up though, as he arrived to pick me up at 6:45AM (instead of 8AM). He woke me up when he called, surprising me! We had breakfast at Good Stuff (where I had one of the girls braid my hair) and then headed over to my church, King's Harbor. By the time church was over, I was pretty worn out, so he took me home. I had a Superbowl party I was supposed to attend that afternoon but I ended up staying home and resting.

Monday came along and I went to my specialist appointment. No one had sent over any of the information on my case - not the x-rays or the CTscan. Gah! They took yet a third set of x-rays and got the CTscan written report faxed over. Based on those two items, he decided I did not need surgery! Hooray, good news at last.

Fast forward to today. I've been feeling rather poorly since Monday. I kept hearing a sort of rattling in my chest if I tried to breathe while laying down. Despite taking aspirin, etc., I had a fever that kept coming and going (not too high - no more than about 101) and I had started coughing too (although I resisted coughing as it hurt my shoulder). Finally today, I gave in and went to the doctor. They did a chest x-ray (I'm going to be radioactive if they keep this up) and discovered I have bacterial pneumonia. They think it is caused because of the broken shoulder - I haven't been breathing as deeply as usual and consequently, have been unable to clear my lungs.

So now, not only is it a total pain to type (mostly done one-handed), but it is also difficult to talk, as it tends to make me want to cough, which I decidedly do not want to do.

An aside (but very important), I have terrific friends. Throughout this whole process, my friends and coworkers have been bringing me meals, doing my laundry, washing my hair, shopping for me. I am truly blessed!

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Thursday, November 9


The Leaning Room and the Puzzled Pager

Another month, another Berkeley trip. They are usually all quite similar - we generally stay in the same hotel, eat at the same restaurants and do the same things. This trip, however, we had a couple of interesting things happen!

First, we stayed at a hotel on the marina, rather than our normal hotel closer to campus. For whatever reason, the rates were cheaper here this time. When we got to the room, we decided we knew why! The room is a typical room for this hotel - fairly sizeable, 2 double beds, an entertainment center with television, large bathroom. However, we noticed when we went in the room, that something seemed off. In fact, as you walked further into the room, it became more noticeable. With each step, each movement forward, further into the room, we were losing altitude. Yes, going down hill. I don't mean there were stairs in the room. The floor is actually slanted, not level. If you put something round on the desk, it will roll off! I commented (only somewhat jokingly) that they should pipe the sound of the ocean into the room so you'd at least feel like you were on a boat! If I am sitting around for long, it's easy to forget I am sitting at a slant. But when I stand up (or wake up) to go to the bathroom, I have to walk uphill! It's crazy!

The other interesting/odd thing we had happen relates to Kirk's work. One of his coworkers called him and needed some information quickly and asked Kirk to call him back. First of all, I don't know ANYONE in this day in age who carries a pager instead of a cellphone (I'm sure they are out there, but I don't know any), but this guy did. Kirk called him back, got his voicemail (his voice on the pager message) and punched in his number.

A few minutes later he got a call and answered the phone. The guy on the other end was a bit confused but they determined that it was a wrong number. Kirk was a bit confused to, as the voice on the pager message he had heard was clearly his friend's. So he called and paged again.

Again, he got a call back...from the same wrong person! The guy on the other end kept insisting Kirk was paging his number. But when he repeated the number, it was nothing even close to the one Kirk had called to reach his friend's pager! Somehow the paging company was sending the page to the wrong unit! We got a good laugh out of that one!

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Thursday, November 2


Create Your Own Map

create your own visited countries map

This is kind of cool - you can create a map showing where you've visited!

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Friday, October 13


Travel Memories

As I struggle to complete my reflections on my trip to Costa Rica in 1996, we just received an email from South Africa. About a year ago, Kirk and I were interviewed about our Round-the-World Trip on episode 10 of the Amateur Traveler podcast. Apparently, people are still listening to it!

"I am a new subscriber to the Amateur Traveller Podcast and I took a listen to the around the world episode where Chris interviewed yourself and Donna about your travels. I was especially glad to hear that you included South Africa, esp Cape Town in your itenary.

I am busy reading your journls on what you got up to down here and it seems like you covered many of the major attractions. It seems like you guys didn't manage to get to the winelands which is one of the most beautiful parts of the Cape. Towns like Stellenbosch, Paarl, etc come to mind.

I hope that you do decide to come back one day, but in the meantime, I'd like to invite you to listen to our podcast called The ZA Show (pr: The Zed-A Show) where we (my wife and) talk about all things South African from news, soundseeing tours, interviews, play SA music and keep listeners up-to-date on SA preparation for the 2010 soccer world cup. The address is

Take care

In addition, we still occasionally hear from people we met on our trip. The memories are full and still, after three years, quite vivid!

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Wednesday, October 11


Afternoon Entertainment

Well, another week in Berkeley means afternoons free. Kirk works the 4AM to noon shift. Today, we decided to have lunch and see a movie. There's a fantastic court, I guess it would be...over by Borders (near the Theatres). It has lots and lots of food options - quite the multinational smorgasboard. It is, by far, one of my favorite places to go for "fast food" here. Today I had "Gung Bo" - a chinese dish made from chicken and vegetables with lots of spices, served over rice. Kirk tried a shish-kabob from the Afghan place. It was tasty but way too much food.

Afterwards, we went to see Invincible, the new Disney movie. It received a 70% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, so we decided to give it a try. It was actually quite enjoyable - it was an inspiring story, told with humour and grit, with a good dose of reality thrown in.

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Friday, October 6


Airhead Update

Since I was at the airport picking Kirk up anyway, we went over to the airline we were supposed to be flying on tomorrow. Using the "divide and conquer concept, Kirk went to the ticket counter and used me as the scapegoat (which was totally appropriate since it was entirely my fault). Ultimately, we had two choices - leave on schedule but come back after only 1 day or reschedule. The cool thing about rescheduling is that the ticket agent agreed to let us reschedule for no change fee, AND no additional charge on the tickets (as long as the seat was the same class and fare code, I think), as long as we did so right then. We started looking at our schedule and realized that we probably were going to need to go over Thanksgiving. We gave the agent some dates to work within and quickly discovered even that needed adjustment.

So, now, we leave the Monday before Thanksgiving, and return home the Tuesday after. The cool thing is, that will give us an opportunity to visit my mom AND my dad. Subject to their schedules, we will visit with my mom from Monday to Friday, and then go see my dad on Friday. We'll head back to KC on Monday, as our flight out is rather early Tuesday morning.

So, as my friend Daniel pointed out, I guess there WAS some good in this.

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Thursday, October 5


Airhead Grounded!

Ok, I know I joke alot about being blonde. I am, after all, blonde. But normally, not in the stereotypical sense of the word. I have common sense, I'm relatively intelligent, I can usually figure things out if I try hard enough (or at least I ask a lot of the right questions). This time, however, my blonde hair showed itself in full force and at a particularly bad time.

For the over 4 and 1/2 years that I've been married, Kirk and I have made plans to go and visit my mom a couple of different times. In over 4 and 1/2 years, we've never managed to make it happen. This year, we decided it would be - it HAD to be - a priority for us. So, we took a hard look at Kirk's work schedule, and we booked it. The trip, only three days, was crammed in the one weekend in October when he was both in town, and had an RDO (Friday off) day. It was sandwiched between a trip to Maui (with 4 days buffer before we left for Kansas) and a trip to Berkeley (leaving the morning after we fly home from Kansas).

Circumstances made this trip even tighter. The Maui trip got pushed and pushed and he finally left October 1 - the day he was to be coming home. As I type this, he is on a plane flying home from Maui. We are scheduled to leave at 6AM tomorrow for Kansas, returning around midnight on Sunday. Monday morning, early, we leave for Berkeley, returning on Friday. Sunday evening, he leaves for Australia.

In short, there is no room for error - especially not the error I made. Somehow, I managed to book our airline tickets (but not the car or hotel) to return at midnight on the 15th, not the 8th. Kirk would be arriving home late that night, missing both the Berkeley trip AND his flight to Australia. In short, it is not possible. I spent a long time on the phone with American while they searched for the cheapest available return flight - ultimately finding it would be $600+ PER ticket to change our tickets. That, too, is not practical (or affordable). Kirk is coming home three days early... for nothing.

My mom, who has been anticipating our visit for longer than I can imagine, is going to be severely let down. All because I lived up to the stereotype this once. All I can say is, I'm looking for the "good" in all of this, and I don't see it anywhere.

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Sunday, September 24


Thailand (Part 2)

Shortly after I posted my last message about Thailand, this article appeared on Boing Boing:

"Saturday, September 23, 2006
Bangkok Coup: Media clampdown in Thailand
Snip from the Bangkok metblog:

Starting [Saturday], all media operators, including Internet media companies, face immediate closure if any news articles or comments, which could be deemed a threat to Thailands national security and monarchy, are published.

The Information Ministry invited all companies and operators to discuss cooperation methods in helping the government "to restrict, control, stop or destroy information deemed to affect the constitutional monarchy".

Chief internet inspector Kritpong Rimcharonepak told reporters: "We seek their cooperation not to present articles, remarks, or information that will infringe the democratic reform under the constitutional monarchy. They can still present political comments on their media, but if anything goes wrong, the caretakers of those media must take responsibility."

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Saturday, September 23



While Kirk and I were on our RTW, we spent a good bit of time in Thailand. Much in the North (up near Chaing Mai), but we also made several trips to Bangkok (we used it as a sort of base while we traveled around Southeast Asia) and one trip to KoLanta in the South. I've tried to keep up with current events in the various countries we visited by periodically reading the newspapers from each country.

I find the recent military coup (it happened on my birthday! ack!) in Thailand rather hard to grasp. There has always been some unrest in the South - it is mostly peopled with Muslims while the majority of the country elsewhere is Buddhist. But when the tsunami hit, attention was turned to rebuilding and, while the tensions never went away, they were at least sidelined for a while. But this coup is quite a different story.

The Thai papers were, of course, rather silent about the changeover. One radio station in the North was shut down after disseminating "inaccurate" information about the coup. In the days leading up to the coup, military leaders spent much time trying to quash rising unrest in the South (including bombings and arson). Now they are discussing the appointment of a new Prime Minister.

Thailand has, in recent years, made many advances. While some particularly odd things (at least things that I, as a US citizen, would never deem to be concerned about in the USA) have happened over the last several years (e.g., the "war on drugs" that had people being shot in the street by police if they tried to run from impending arrest, the treatment of some hilltribes as non-entities), in general, the country has become quite "Western". It certainly has moved from third world status into something more advanced. Does this coup signify a return to dark times? Only time can tell, but certainly anything that usurps the democratic process does not bode well.

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Wednesday, September 20


Long U-Turn Explained

For any of you who read "A Long U-Turn", Kirk posted a comment to it today:

"It turns out that the cause of the failure at the cyclotron that made us go home early was a rat. Apparently a rat got into the 12,000 Volt system for the cyclotron and got electrocuted. This caused several 100 amp fuses to blow, thus shutting down the entire cyclotron. I think I can get a picture of the offending rat."

It figures that something so simple could cause such serious damage. Pfft

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Saturday, September 16


Decade in Review - A Glimmer of the Future

In June of 1995, I was living in Dallas, Texas, working for Liberty Sports. Liberty was a small- to medium-sized media company (a subsidiary of TCI) that owned the Prime Sports Networks. When I joined them, they had 1 US-based, Spanish-language channel (my experiences was in international) plus they were in the midst of launching a Latin-American spanish language channel.

I spent three years at Turner before leaving to join Liberty. I found that at Turner, unless you had STARTED in a specific department, people in my field really had no way to advance. Now, I'm not a ladder-climber. That sort of thing just doesn't interest me. But after three years in the same department, I was bored. My boss, Randy, was also bored and had started sending me on interviews for jobs for which he was overqualified. Most of them, I was grossly underqualified for.

I had lunch with a friend of mine over at Turner Sports. Mike told me that he knew of someone that was looking. I presumed he meant at TS, but in fact, he was talking about Liberty Sports. I was interested until I found out it was in Dallas. Gah! I had spent almost four years making Atlanta my home! Why would I move now?! After a week or two of Mike calling me daily to see if I had sent my resume, I finally did - just to get him to be quiet! I was rather shocked when they called me within a day, asking to interview me.

I had lived in Dallas before. I still had friends there, some of whom I talked to on occasion. One of my friends, my closest in Dallas - Leasza, was dying of cancer. She was actually in the hospital in ICU (again). I decided to take the interview. At the very least, it would give me a chance to go visit her. I did visit her - it turned out for the last time. Less than a week after my trip, she passed away. Years later, after I had moved to California, I received a letter from a woman who had been her nurse. She told me how Leasza used to talk of me and how deeply she appreciated our friendship.

The job itself, though I was determined not to take it, sucked me right in. I would be going from a company with over 60 lawyers on its payroll, most of whom were pigeon-holed into narrow fields, to a company with three. Liberty's work was just as broad as the work at Turner - but far less in quantity. As much as I hated to admit it, this was the job I had been looking for.

I was in Dallas only 1 night. By the time I got home, Randy (my boss at Turner) informed me he had already received a call asking for a reference. He told me he lied through his teeth and so I now owed him my first-born child. Randy was always a jokester, and is certainly one of my favorite bosses during my career. Within 3 days, I had a new job. I gave as much notice as I could at Turner, 4 or 5 weeks, if I remember correctly. I had accepted a job at a 45% pay increase, plus they were moving me from Atlanta to Dallas (yay! I HATE moving). I felt wanted. Additionally, only a few days after I returned from my interview, I came to work to find my desk full of a beautiful, exotic flower arrangement. A happy birthday from my new job!

So, in 1994 I moved to Dallas. I had spent three summers there during college, but this would be the first time I lived there year-round. I found a nice little apartment in the corner of Park Cities, directly upstairs from my new boss's best friend, Kevin. It was a 16 mile commute, but always going opposite of traffic (except during Dallas Cowboy football home games). The work was interesting and fun. The people were nice (well, most of them were) and it was a fairly close-knit working environment. One of the other lawyers quit shortly after I arrived, but it worked out fine. David, Mark and I worked together and kept up with things.

Canadian stampIn June of 1995, we were looking seriously at some business with a Canadian company and Mark and I had to go to Toronto to perform due diligence before we committed to the deal. I frequently traveled to Denver (where our parent company officed) but this would be my first international trip for work.

We flew from Dallas into Toronto (I think via New York, but I no longer remember that detail). When we arrived in Toronto, it was quite late. Mark and I took a cab from the airport to our hotel. We had eaten on the plane. The next morning would start early, so I went straight to sleep.

In the morning, we ate breakfast in the hotel and checked out, taking our luggage with us to the meeting. We would be flying home that afternoon. We went straight from the hotel to a highrise just down the street, where we were quickly escorted upstairs to a conference room. This particular conference room was an interior room. There were no windows, no view of the city. It wasn't dreary, but there was certainly nothing to get excited about.

Of course, the substantial table in the conference room was stacked with piles and piles of file boxes full of paper. I was rather appalled - there was no way to get through all that paper in a single day. However, we did our best. It was easy to quickly look through a file, determine if it contained anything of relevance, and then put it back. Lunch was brought in for us. We left the room only to use the toilet.

By the end of the day, we had pages worth of notes, and a few copies of relevant documents. Mark and I took a cab back to the airport, boarded our plane and flew home.

I have heard many times that Toronto is a beautiful, fun city, full of friendly people. I am quite sure it is. However, despite having BEEN there, I cannot attest to a single thing about the city, other than the fact, that the conference rooms should have windows.

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A Decade Is Born

I figured it out a while ago - I have moved over 25 times in my life. No wonder I hate moving so much! I find the whole process horrifying and traumatic. When I was 7, we began making plans for yet another move - and yet, a unique one for the specific reason that this would be the first time we moved overseas. My father was being stationed in Germany. The moving process, while still quite common for us at the time, was different too.

It also meant that, for the first time, I would need a passport. And so, I got my first passport. During our four years in Germany, we did a fair amount of traveling. We visited all sorts of places in Germany (I managed to learn to speak Hoch Deutsch ["High German" or "University German"] along with 6-7 dialects of German..and no, I don't still speak it. Sadly, after the many years since living there, I've lost most every bit of vocabulary I ever had). We also visited Belgium, France, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, East Germany (yes, there was an East Germany back then) and the UK. I enjoyed Girl Scout Camp in Pisa, Girl Scout trips to Switzerland and Austria, Swimming meets in Belgium, overnight train rides to Berlin. Four years worth of travel and seeing things from the innocent eyes of a child.

It was many many years before I'd leave the country again. We returned to the USA in 1976. I had the one-off trip to Mexico with my family in 1980 (a family trip to visit my aunt & uncle in Acapulco, along with other aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents). But then, my passport expired. I had no reason to get a new one, as I had no plans to travel internationally.

Finally, in 1994, I made plans to go to Italy for vacation with a friend of mine. It was an exciting prospect, as I hadn't been to Italy in many years and it seemed like a good destination for us. The exchange rate between the US Dollar and the Italian Lira was quite favorable for us. So, I ordered my new passport.

Italian stampI was so excited when that silly little green book arrived, full of blank pages, waiting to be filled. I was excited to put that first stamp in it! Little did I realize that I'd have to add pages before I was done.

A whole week's vacation! I was working at Turner International at the time, in Atlanta. I don't think I'd had a "real" vacation since college (and those never felt like vacation). Although I had been there before, my friend hadn't, so when we planned our itinerary, we decided to include Rome. We flew in and out of Milan, headed to Venice, Rome and then to Bologna, before heading back to Milan for our flight home.

I had never been to Venice before, so I was looking forward to it. We went in March because it coincided with the local University spring break, and my friend was taking college courses. The flights were, as I recall, extremely cheap (about US$200-250 per person), although we had to fly through Kennedy in NY. Upon our arrival in Italy, we promptly hopped a train to Venice.

Venice was everything (and nothing like) I expected it to be. The canals were beautiful, the buildings old, the cathedrals majestic. The streets, particularly at night, were silent. There was no car traffic, no motor sounds. You could drop a pin in an alley and hear it land from three streets away. We found a room at a pension - sort of a cross between a hotel and a hostel. I had brought nothing of value with me, but some girls we had met on the ferry left some jewelry in their room when we went to dinner. When we came back, it was gone. Not a very good advertisement (you are forced to leave your key with the manager when you go out) for this particular place.

At once point, we saw a man painting water colors on the piazza in front of an old church. Some of the paintings were marvelous! I haggled with him for a bit and then we agreed on a price. I had my photo taken with the artist, holding the painting I purchased.

We took a trip out to Murano, Burano and Torcello, islands near Venice. Murano is famous for its glass making. Burano is famous for its beauty and lacework. And Torcello is famous for an amazing mosaic in the small cathedral there. I brought home a beautiful runner that I bought in Burano, and still, to this day, use on top of my great-grandmother's piano.

From Venice, we headed off to Rome. Now, let me just mention. If you head off to > Italy, do NOT do what we did. Don't go to Venice and then Rome. Save Venice for last. The reason? Simple. Venice is calm and peaceful and slow-paced. Rome is NONE of those things! Rome is loud and fast and crazy and polluted. It's FUN, don't get me wrong. But after Venice, it was a shock. Venice had no motorized vehicles, except boats and they were rather quiet. Rome has cars and busses and motor scooters. Oh, and the motorscooters - they thought nothing of cutting a bus off or a car. They drove like complete and total madmen! It was chaos!

In Rome, we spent 1 night at a pension that was not really in the area we were hoping to stay. And it turned out we had some problems there. I've long since forgotten what, but we moved. We found a place near the Termini - the main train station in Rome. From there, you can get most everywhere in the city. We were relieved that the pension had a room available.

The man at the counter of the new pension was very nice and got extremely excited when he saw my CNN baseball cap. Working for Turner, I got this sort of thing all the time. It was no big deal to me. So, I gave it to him. He was stunned and very excited. (Keep in mind, that through this entire exchange, I spoke no Italian, and the guy spoke no English. It's amazing what you can communicate without words.) A short while later, there was a knock on my door. Baffled at who it could be, I opened the door to find the man from the counter. He handed me a beautiful papyrus that had an Egyptian painting on it. He insisted that I keep it. And I have. To this day, it hangs on my wall.

There is so much to do and see in Rome, it's often easiest to take a "tour". If you take one of those coach tours, it would cost 50,000-60,000 lira. Someone suggested to us to take the "city bus" tour - it cost only 10,000 lira. We did and it was worth every penny. With the city bus, you get out at every major attraction. The bus driver plays the part of tour guide as well. We saw all sorts of things and left feeling like every lira had been well-spent.

Now, I have to interject here a couple of interesting things. First, if you ever go to Italy, don't bother with the pizza. There are pizzerias everywhere. But pizza was basically created in the USA. We tried pizza...several times. It was generally soggy, and rather gross. Certainly not what we expected or wanted. Second, the last time I had been to the Vatican, I was probably around 10 or 11, maybe even younger. the thing that most struck me about my return as an adult was that the perspective changed for me - substantially. I won't go so far as to say that everything looked "shorter", but I was certainly not looking "up" as much as I had to before to see everything.

Finally, we were on our last leg. We took a train up to Bologna. Now this is really an interesting little city. It is NOT a tourist city at all. We stayed in a beautiful little pension that looked across the red roof-lined streets of the city. There are two rather interesting towers in Bologna, including the Pisa-like lean that made the "Leaning Tower" so famous. One of the towers actually has a large portion of the upper section broken off. Apparently, two families were in great competition and built the towers. They each wanted their tower to be "bigger and better" than the other family's. One family built its tower a bit slower, with more thought. Ultimately, the tower that was put up faster (and higher) began to lean and finally the top section fell to the ground, making it the shorter of the two.

The other thing of note in Bologna is the food. Italians all recognize Bologna as being the best place to eat. The then president of Turner International was a native of Bologna. He had given me his card and he highly recommended a restaurant called Ristorante Diana. With only a single night in Bologna, we decided this was where we wanted to eat. The restaurant is near the old part of town and is very formal. We arrived to find out they don't take walk-ins, and reservations are normally made weeks in advance. Bummer. But on a whim, I whipped out the business card of our President and the maitre'ds eyes lit up. He said he could work us in around 9. So, we wandered the streets for a couple of hours before dinner.

Let me say, Ristorante Diana was fantastic. The food was perfect, by far the best we had had anywhere in Italy (and we had had some GOOD food before). It was the perfect way to end our trip, really.

The next morning, we had to get up before dawn to catch our train back to Milan and then our flight home. As we arrived back at the pension (quite late since we had sat down for dinner after 9PM), the proprietor was trying to tell us something. We couldn't quite figure it out until he handed us an Italian newspaper. Uhoh. Tonight was when Italy went onto Daylight Savings Time. We would lose an additional hour of sleep! It was a brutal trip home, as we had had too little sleep the last two nights before we left. Then, on top of it all, our flight out of Kennedy back to Atlanta was delayed by more than five hours. I was so tired I wanted to cry.

And so, my new passport was initiated.

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Retiring a Decade

Front of my old, tattered passportI got my new passport yesterday! My old, very used passport is now officially retired. Complete with holes in the face of it. However, its passing has spurred me to do a tribute to a decade's worth of travel. It would be much too much for a single post, so I've decided to dedicate a series of posts to a decade of travel - some work, some play, some fun, some not. So allow me to entertain you, bore you, or just generally talk to you about a decade in which some of my most important and interesting moments were spent traveling.

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Thursday, September 14


A Long U-Turn

About once every 4-5 weeks, Kirk and I head up to Berkeley. He has work there at the 88-inch cyclotron at Lawrence Berkeley Labs. Generally, we leave on Monday and come back on Friday. Occasionally, we'll go on Sunday or come back on Saturday. Once or twice in the five years we've been married, we actually came home on Thursday, but that is rare.

I'm fortunate enough to go along with him for two reasons: (1) I have a job that is very flexible and they support me traveling with my husband; and (2) there is equipment that must be driven up and back (flying it on a plane isn't really an option), so I'm able to travel for free if Kirk volunteers to make the drive. It's a really nice situation for us, as we are able to spend the week together. When at the cyclotron, they run on a 24-hour schedule. Kirk is normally on the 4AM to noon shift, giving us the afternoons free.

On Monday, we headed up there as usual. If we are unlucky, we'll hit rush hour traffic heading out of LA. If we are REALLY unlucky, we'll hit it heading into the Bay Area. If we hit any rush hour, it generally means it'll be an 8 hour trip for us (once it took 10! ugh!). It took us about 8 on Monday, even though we hit bits of rush hour on both ends.

When we arrived at the lab to drop off the equipment, Kirk unloaded the car. Then he found out that the cyclotron was broken. Now, normally, if it's "broken", they are looking at a several hour delay - maybe even 24 hours. However, it was "really" broken - so basically it was out of operation until Wednesday. Kirk's first shift was going to probably be Thursday at 4AM. They asked us if we'd be willing to drive back on Saturday instead, which, of course, we were.

We checked into the hotel, got settled, hung out and didn't have to go to sleep at 8PM! Yay! On Tuesday, we spent the day in the hotel room. Kirk essentially telecommuted, getting much done. Around 6PM, he got a phone call. Apparently the cyclotron wasn't "really" was "really REALLY" broken and now the soonest it would be fixed was Friday! Well, Kirk's company only has it reserved until Friday. So there was no sense in us staying. Basically, on Wednesday morning, we packed everything up and drove home. Somehow, we managed to miss both rush hours this time and made it home in a bit over 6 hours!

On the way up and back, we saw some of the fires in the mountains. There are quite a number of them, and some areas that were tremendously burned. A couple of the fires were close enough to the road (or large enough) that we saw open flames going. It made me think of my friend Vic, who is hiking the Pacific Crest Trail and had to detour around some fires earlier this summer.

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Friday, September 8


3 years and a look back

I realized that as of today, I've been home exactly 3 years. It is hard to believe that after a year of wandering, exploring, full of adventure and excitement, that I've now been home long enough for it to have faded a bit to mere memories. Not even clear memories, at times. I've forgotten names of places, people, things we saw and did, words we learned of other languages. And yet, I find that I remember the odd situation at odd times. Something will trigger one of those memories and it's fun to think back.

Three years ago. I was exhausted from a year of traveling. I was excited to return "home" even though I had no place to call "home", to a bit of routine. I was excited to (eventually) have a bathroom IN the place I was staying - where I could get up in the middle of the night and go to the toilet without putting on a complete wardrobe. I was excited to eat some "comfort" food - to be able to cook in an actual kitchen. I was excited to retrieve and wear my wedding (and engagement) ring! (We had been wearing $20 travel rings during our one year away. I had worn both my wedding AND engagement rings less than that amount of time before we left.

I was shocked by the culture change. Even after spending a month in Europe before coming home, the culture shock was significant. We had spent a year living in tents, cars, $2 hotels, hostels, generally in extremely hot temperatures (from 80-130 degrees F) without air conditioning, and often with extreme humidity. We have shared toilets & bathrooms, often so disgusting that the average american (or human) would be appalled to have to use them but for the overwhelming need to use something other than a sidewalk or street corner. The cars in other places (if there WERE cars) were tiny, functional. We returned and found ourselves driving my sister-in-law's Ford Expedition. The streets were clean and absolutely packed with cars. There were few pedestrians, bicycles, odd vehicular contraptions. There were no cows or cow manure. You had to cross at cross walks, which we were no longer accustomed to. Running across as highway as a pedestrian was suddenly a very bad idea (wow, did we REALLY ever think it was a GOOD idea?!).

While we were excited to get back home to our own belongings (which were piled into a rather large storage unit and even a bit of excess into a smallish one), we wondered - how did we HAVE so much stuff..and why? We had lived for an entire year out of one backpack apiece. Did we really need so much more than that? We were determined to lighten our load when we started unpacking. Sentimental attachments, being SURE you'll use this or that again SOMEDAY - it makes it hard to get rid of things. You have to be in the right frame of mind. By the time we finally got into an apartment six weeks later, our convictions had faded somewhat. We still have too much "stuff".

Three years have dimmed the brightness of our memories, the vividness of our experiences and our convictions to change. Three years have allowed us time to fully entrench ourselves in the life we led before leaving on our trip. Are we still different? Perhaps. But not as different as we were three years ago, when we stepped off the plane. Not different in the same way. We are older, more seasoned and more settled. Perhaps its time for another adventure!

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Sunday, August 27


A Bite of History

Canton Chef Restaurant in Kihei After a short bit of indecision, Kirk and I decided to have dinner at the Canton Chef in Kihei. It was actually just across the parking lot from Cafe O'Lei, where we had had lunch yesterday. As we walked in the door, we spotted a typed sheet of paper on several of the doors leading to the entrance. It stated that the restaurant was closing on Monday, August 28th after 19 years in business. Wow, that's tomorrow. We wondered a bit why they were closing.

Clearly they were severely short-staffed now. In fact, the waiter even suggested ordering sodas rather than any of the fancy fruit drinks one could normally order from their bar. Well, he more than "suggested". Looking at the menu, the food was incredibly reasonably priced and the place was packed with locals. Again, why close?

I discovered this review of the restaurant on the web, which I found quite accurate: "We have been to Maui every year for the last 6 years. We always make at least 1 trip to this chinese restaurant. First, they easily accomodate large groups. The prices are soooo! reasonable. The food is really good. It appears to be family owned and the waiter recommendations were the best. I also think the drinks are really unique, flashy and not wallet breaking. Usually don't need reservations."

The dishes we ordered, Kung Pao Chicken and Pork in Hot Garlic Sauce, were both delicious and reasonably priced. The bill came to $20 (2 dishes, steamed rice and a coke for Kirk).

On a side note, Kirk's back seems to be feeling a bit better. He made it through most of today on a single vicodin.

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Saturday, August 26


Moving Day

Today, it was time to move from the B&B in Kula, down to one by the beach in Kihei. We had a nice slow, relaxing start this morning. Breakfast at 8 (again, delicious pastries and fruit). Then, we both did some packing. Kirk had just taken his vicodin and was feeling dizzy again, so we took a break. He played WoW - I tried bz for a bit, but was too laggy. So I watched another movie (last night, we watched Capote - very good), Walk the Line, about Johnny Cash. It was pretty good, albeit longer than I anticipated. As a result, we didn't make the noon check out, but Michael was fine with it.

Eventually, we loaded our car - we had to put the top down to fit everything in it, said good bye to Michael and Gabby (Gabby is Michael's adorable, hyper yellow lab) and then headed down the hill towards Kihei. Technically, we weren't supposed to check into our new B&B until 4, but we were hoping that at the least, we'd be able to drop off some luggage and go have lunch.

When I made reservations for our upcoming accomodation, I spent a lot of time trying to find someplace that was both affordable, near the beach AND available. With it being the weekend before Labor Day, many places seemed to be booked up. We narrowed it down to two places, and settled on (don't laugh at the name - I certainly didn't choose it) "Maui What A Wonderful World B&B". I had booked their cheapest room, the Master Suite. We found the place using the map from the website (it was easy to find, actually), and then were able to check in 2 hours earlier than we were expected. To our surprise, she upgraded us to the Garden Suite, because it was available. It's much bigger than we expected (but doesn't have the double shower heads that I was expecting - oh well).

Once we had unloaded our poor car, we headed off to find some lunch. Both Michael and Eva (who owns the current B&B) recommended the same place - Cafe O'Lei. We figured we'd try it out. The atmosphere was nice. We sat at a table by the window that had sheer curtains hanging between it and the tables on either side of it - providing a semblance of privacy that would otherwise not be there. The menu was varied, and very reasonably priced, to our surprise. We each had lunch for under $10 - including entree, rice and salad. For Maui - that is a VERY good price!

Afterwards, we dropped in to the local general store and poked around a bit, then back to the B&B where Kirk resumed his WoW game. Tomorrow, we are thinking about a trip to Hana, depending on how his back feels.

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Friday, August 25


The Road Less....Unpaved

After resting most of yesterday, Kirk felt like he was ready to get out and take in some sights. So, we decided to take the loop around the West end of the island. I had done this loop once before - the year we got married, Kirk came out here 2 months after our wedding for a work trip. No WAY he was going to Hawaii without his new wife! So, while he slaved away, working 16 hour days at the top of Haleakala, I played - scuba diving, snorkeling, whale watching, and, of course, long drives with fantastic scenery. I knew what was coming.

The West side of the island includes a very hairy 40-some-odd-mile stretch of "road" containing hairpin turns (enough to put Julia Robert's hair, in Pretty Woman, up and KEEP it up through 5 straight hours of high-impact aerobics), one-lane roads with long unpaved stretches, lots of roadside stands selling pineapple, banana bread, coconut candy, cold drinks and even shaved ice. In addition to it being a really fun drive, especially in a mustang convertible, it has some truly spectacular scenery.

Look out for lasers!So, we gathered our things and headed down the mountain from Kula, where we have been staying. It's about a 3500 foot drop in altitude, complete with a change in temperature to go with it. It was significantly warmer at sea level. On the way down the mountain, I had a really good laugh. For those of you who don't know, I have been playing an opensource online multiplayer game called Bzflag for a while now. It occurred to me today, that despite the fact that I'm "all grown up" now, I still have a rather vivid imagination. I saw this sign at the side of the road.
Immediately, I had visions of cars being damaged by lasers (a weapon on bzflag) - tires slashed, cut in half, engines burned...whatever it took to slow the thing down to the permissible speed. Kirk couldn't stop laughing at my silliness - and of course, one of the first things he said was "you play wayyyy too much bzflag!"

After a brief stop in Kahilui for lunch (and Kirk took his pain pill), we were on our way. Getting through Kahilui to the start of the road is quite a job for the navigator - lots of turns only 1-2 blocks apart. But Kirk is an excellent navigator and we made it without a single U-turn (I can't say the same for when I did the same trip almost 5 years ago now).

Little Red C..Mustang!Now, I told you we rented a mustang. On the whole, it's a nice little car. Certainly more convenient putting the top up and down than on Kirk's Spitfire at home (I'll let HIM explain how that works - I can't even follow the process). However, there is one little detail that really bugs me. For whatever reason, the accelerator in the mustang is not very responsive. You really have to mash it down to get any reaction out of the car, something I am not at all used to. Most sports cars have a much more sensitive accelerator. It would probably be more fun if it were a stick, but oh well.

Beautiful vistaThe scenery going from the windward to the leeward side of the island is really spectacular. Additionally, it varies from lush and green to more dry, deserty conditions (similar to California). We spent a lot of time driving up and down some rather amazing cliffs, even having to squeeze incredibly close to the edge of one so a large cement truck could get by us. He missed hitting our rear bumper by only about 4 inches. We were so close to the edge of the cliff, that Kirk had me back up before turning back onto the road to continue on.

Northern villageThere are certainly houses and farms and such along this narrow road. In fact, one of Kirk's colleagues lives in an estate development up here (for the low low price of 1.5 hour drive to work each day). We did pass a small (very cute) village about 1/2 way around the 41-mile section of road. It was colorful and quaint. Church in the Northern villageThere was a simply beautiful little church in the village. It was the first thing, really, that caught our attention.

Now, one of the odd things I particularly remembered about driving this section of the road was the coconut candy. First off, I love coconut. One of my FAVORITE ice creams (probably one of the top two, though it's hard to say which is the very very best), is Freddo's Coconut Ice Cream. There's only one problem with this being one of my favorites. Freddo's is in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I don't get to have it very often. (My other favorite is zitron ice cream, from Germany - yet another I get almost never). Rather early on, we passed a large stand (almost a small outdoor bar) that sold all sorts of things - tshirts, hats, etc. Sadly, they were out of coconut candy. But that was ok. It wasn't the place I remembered. That place had been on the inside curve of a hairpin turn, a good bit further along if I remembered rightly.

Roadside stand on MauiWell, I was right. It was still on the inside of the hairpin curve, but it was quite a bit bigger than I remembered from before. AND painted. Last time I was there (4 1/2 years ago), there was room enough for the proprietor inside, but all customers just walked up to the counter on the outside. It is substantially bigger now. We tasted the coconut candy (yum!) and the banana bread. Then we left with a single small pouch of coconut candy. This is about 1/2 of what they used to sell for almost double the price. As we walked away, the proprietor said "If you want to make it last, keep it out of reach. Aloha!"

TidepoolsA bit further on, we saw a lot of cars pulled over and figured we'd check out to see what they were all looking at. It turned out to be a nice little hike downward and then we were at an overlook, where we could see tidepools in two directions. One was completely deserted, and the other had some people wading around in it. We debated walking all the way down, but Kirk's back was already feeling some twinges and we had a long way to go yet.

Love is in the air...and on the groundMaui is certainly a place with a lot of honeymooners though. I can't help myself from wondering whenever we pass a seemingly happy-looking couple, "Are they on their honeymoon?" This road is no exception. We had spotted a blow hole from the road and as we wended our way closer, we came upon yet another large group of vehicles, parked this way and that, squeezing into whatever off-road space was available. We slipped the 'stang into a spot near some mud puddles and hopped out to see if we could get a closer view of the blowhole. Along the path, we found an area covered with rocks, that had been arranged into any variety of messages and hearts that you could imagine - sure evidence that honeymooners, whoever they may be, had been there.

Blowing upwardsThe blowhole reminded me of a quest Kirk and I once did in New Zealand. We must have hiked an hour or more to find a blowhole in the middle of some guy's field, seemingly far from the ocean. Unfortunately for us, at the time we were there, the tide was low and we saw almost nothing. What goes up, must come downThis time, we had a very nice view of the blowhole, snapping first, a photo as the water was pushed up through the hole, and another as it descended and drenched the folks who were standing way too close (or were they..? It WAS pretty hot).

Now, about now, I've begun to realize something is wrong...dreadfully wrong. We seemed to have covered a rather large distance, but we hadn't yet reached the unpaved section of the road. I remembered that section being quite long, so to not have reached it...we must not be nearly as far around as I thought. I mentioned this to Kirk and he replied - oh, they paved the whole thing a couple of years ago - there is no unpaved section anymore. What?! No WONDER we had seen so many cars coming around it today. When it was unpaved, all the rental car agency agreements basically said you weren't allowed to go on that road without voiding your agreement with them. I guess that no longer holds true.

Kirk's back was starting to hurt him quite a bit by now. It had been only 2 hours since he last took his medicine - it would be four hours before he could take it again. Our original plan was to head into Lahaina and have dinner there, then go home. The only problem was, our trip along this newly paved road took a scant 2-2.5 hours to complete. We arrived in Lahaina HOURS before dinner time. And frankly, it was hot, we were both getting a bit tired, and I knew he really needed to get home and rest his back. We settled for a nice little walk around Lahaina, some Lappert's Ice Cream, some more walking and window shopping, and a cold beverage for the ride home. I drained about 3/4 of my bottle of water before we even made it back to the car.

My gorgeous husband and Haleakala in the distanceWe hopped in and started on the homeward stretch - most of which was on the ever-popular, ever-busy Lahaina Highway. The road takes you by some really nice (locals only) surf breaks, which were hopping. A hurricane bypassed the island a couple of days before, but the swell it generated was providing some really surfable waves. We took one view point stop along with way. What looks like a separate island in the background behind Kirk is actually the southern portion of Maui - you are looking at Haleakala, the volcano on which reside the telescope and instruments Kirk has been working with.

Maui sunset approachesDespite some traffic getting out of Lahaina, we made it back to the B&B with little other delay. Kirk promptly went out to the jacuzzi for a while to try and relax his back, as he still had another hour before he could take his medicine. We decided to relax a bit around the room, order in food and just take it easy. La Provence, about 2-3 miles down the road, made us a pizza which I went and picked up. Just before I left, I snapped a photo from the deck at the B&B - looking to the North, where we had spent our day.

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Localism Hits the Road

We decided to drive down to Makawao for dinner. There's a nice little steak house down there that Kirk likes and it sounded like a good plan. It's about a 20 minute drive. Kirk was already starting to have pain before we left the hotel, but he wasn't supposed to take any vicodin without food, so we took one with us for him to take with dinner.

Have I ever told you about Kirk's "parking karma"? I'm not really a believer in karma, but it's a funny way to say - he ALWAYS gets the very best possible parking place. There could be 100 cars circling in a parking lot, and the second we drive up, someone pulls out of a front place spot right in front of us. Voila! Parking karma! Well, tonight was no exception. There was a spot (parallel parking on the street) right in front of the restaurant. He pulled right in.

In Makawao, the streets are quite narrow. Cars parallel parking are quite close to the driving lane. It's an older looking town, quaint, even. Very upcountry feel to it. As he was getting out of the car, another car came by rather fast (the speed limit there is 20 mph). Kirk looked at me, rather surprised. I never even realized what happened until he told me..."That car just clipped us with its mirror." Really?! He checked and saw no damage on our car. The other car continued on, so we went into the restaurant.

Kirk had a hard time getting out of the car. He was moving very slow and clearly in a lot of pain. Walking seemed to be painful even. We were seated and he told me in a low voice, "Let's try and get some bread right away" (so he could take his pain medicine). As soon as the waitress came by and took our drink order, she said she'd bring some bread. And she did - warm sourdough. It was quite delicious. We placed our order. Then, Kirk took his medicine, took two bites and then got an extremely odd look on his face. He was in so much pain he couldn't sit there. After several attempts to get comfortable, he got up and said he'd be right back, he was going to the car. He looked like he was near tears, he was in so much pain.

I watched for a few minutes, thinking. He hadn't come back and I talked to the waitress to see if it was possible to get our food to go. She said of course, after I had explained the situation. I walked outside to speak to Kirk, offered to take our food to go, which he agreed to, and went back inside. I was looking for our waitress to let her know and out comes a lady with two big cushy pillows. She introduced herself as Diane, the General Manager of the restaurant. She was extremely nice and helpful (all of the staff were). She gave us a referral to two other MDs in the event Kirk needed to see someone again. She offered to send us home with dessert (which, it turns out, she didn't charge us for). I was completely impressed with the service we received.

As I waited for the food to be packed up and to finish paying, I noticed Kirk had called me. I tried to call him back, but had no signal, so I tried sending him a text message (which often goes through even if a phone call won't). A couple of minutes later, I was on my way out the door with the food. I got to the door and Kirk was standing in front of the car. I put the food in the car and was ready to get him inside so I could drive us back to the hotel (no way he was driving after taking a Vicodin). Kirk stopped me and said, "We have another problem." He pointed to a car parked in the shadows about 4 car lengths behind us. There were 4 kids standing on the street next to the car. Apparently, this was the car that had driven by us and hit our car when we were about to head into the restaurant. The kids were apparently claiming that the undercarriage of their car had somehow been damaged when Kirk opened his car door. Now this, of course, is quite impossible. Not only because there's no way the undercarriage could have been damaged, but even if they were claiming damage to the lower portion of the car, the shape of the door on the Mustang makes that simply impossible.

Makawao Steak HouseDiane, the restaurant manager, happened to come out to be sure we were ok, and I explained what was going on. She went inside to get a flashlight, I gave her our telephone number and names (we were talking about leaving to go back to the hotel), then she and I walked over to the kids' car. They started claiming that Kirk had kicked the car (again, impossible - he could barely move) and that he had damaged the car - first, when he opened the door and they clipped us, and secondly, when he "kicked" it. We looked at every inch of the passenger side and there was not a single mark on it - anywhere. They then claimed that the damage was underneath.

Then, one of the young ladies (not the driver) said to Diane, well even if we weren't damaged, what if someone else had driven by and it was damaged? Basically, it sounded like she was trying to claim that even though we didn't damage that car, they were trying to punish us in the event another car drove by and clipped us some other time. Crazy. Besides the fact, that they were in the moving vehicle - I find it hard to believe that we would be found at fault at all in this situation if there HAD been any damage. Finally, the young man (the driver) told us he had called the police. The girl threatened us saying she had our license plate number. Frankly, it was an empty threat, given that there wasn't a single indication of damage on their car anywhere.

Well, with the police called, we really didn't feel free to leave. Even though we had left our contact information with Diane. Diane said to us that the kids were being completely unreasonable and it seemed as if there was a bit of localism going on. 'A bit', I thought, the surf breaks almost look tame compared to this. Finally, I decided to call the police myself. So, I did - the non-emergency number. Intially, the guy didn't even have a record of the call, but it turns out it hadn't been called in as a vehicular incident originally. I gave the policeman all of our information - the make of our car, our names, telephone numbers, local address, etc. The dispatcher, Bill, was very nice and offered to call an ambulance for Kirk. I explained that we didn't need an ambulance - we had already been to the hospital once today. I just needed to get him back to the hotel so he could take the rest of his medication. The dispatcher released us to go.

I didn't even speak to the kids - there seemed no point. I hung up, got Kirk settled in the passenger seat and then drove us home. We passed a police car on our way home - it could have been the one called to respond to the situation. But if anything comes of it, I am sure we'll get a phone call tomorrow.

One final note, despite the localistic tendencies of these kids, we have not found this to be indicative of the locals at all. Most everyone has been very nice, friendly, even inviting. Diane was fantastic, and even though the restaurant was a bit more on the high end of the price range, I'd go back there anytime - if nothing else, because they treated us with such care.

And thus ends my first full day in Maui.

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Thursday, August 24


The first 12 hours

Well, my flight landed and my fantastic husband was waiting for me at the airport. He had finished work on Tuesday morning and is now free for the entire week! Hooray! But he turned in his car, and waited for me to arrive so we could pick up the new one. I spotted him as I arrived near baggage claim. He was standing there with a lei of real flowers for me! Very cool! I felt special!

We quickly got our bags and headed to the rental agency. I had gotten a rather good deal. I flew on American and for the same price as the flight cost me, I also go a rental car - for free. All we had to do was show up and pick it up. Once inside, it turns out they had a 2006 Mustang Convertible for rent - we had to pay a few extra dollars for the whole week and it was ours! We're on vacation! Why not? She asked what color we wanted - black, silver or red? RED!! And red it is.

Heading back to our lodging (the Upcountry B&B in Kula, which is very nice), we, of course, rode the entire way with the top down...AND the heat on, especially as we gained altitude. Kirk had mentioned earlier that he was having some pain in his back and side, but he wasn't sure what was causing it. He took some more ibuprophen and we went to sleep.

I woke up this morning, first at 3:30 (6:30AM at home) and then finally at 6 (9AM at home). I simply couldn't sleep any longer. Kirk got up but was in a lot of pain. When he started to describe him symptoms, I was afraid he might have broken or separated a rib and we decided to make a trip to see a doctor. After a fabulous breakfast of fresh fruit (pineapple, strawberries, kiwi, mango, melon and blueberries) and fresh, homemade mango and raspberry scones, we called the insurance company to find out where we could go to a doctor locally. They gave us two numbers, one of which was in Kula!

Now, Kula is a very small town. VERY small. Some wouldn't even consider a town, really. So to discover they had their own hospital...well, I was expecting a little 3-4 room building and a long waiting line. But off we went. As we pulled up to the hospital, we were shocked to see one of the biggest buildings I've seen in the upcountry. It was about 5-6 stories high and quite old. It turns out, it was built in the 1930s, originally as a sanitorium for tuberculosis patients that needed a place to recover in a reasonable climate.

We went into the 'emergency' room, to discover no waiting room. We were in an actual treatment room. With a nurse and a doctor, and no one else to wait behind. We filled out some quick paperwork, Kirk was wheeled (in a wheelchair!) off for some x-rays and then we were back in the ER. The x-rays revealed no break or problems. So it's most likely muscular. He got lots of drugs (anaproxin, vicodin and a muscle relaxant) and we were on our way back. At this point, we won't be surfing, scuba diving, running any marathons, biking down Haleakala. But, we will be relaxing, spending time together and enjoying whatever Hawaii has to offer those in need of rest, relaxation and recuperation.

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Wednesday, August 23


The Good, The Bad & the Parched

Airline travel these days is nothing like it was even 5 years ago. Sure, they still have pilots, flight attendants, cushy seats in first, narrow & uncomfortable seats in coach, loud obnoxious passengers & bad movies. The food used to be bad, but free. Now it's bad AND you have to pay for it. But now, you can't take water onto the plane. No spritzer. No coke. No gatorade, fingernail file. No scissors, so if you are planning to crochet or knit or sew, forget it. At least we haven't gone as far as the flights out of the UK, where NO carry ons are allowed on the plane - not even a purse! Airport security now has long lines to go through, and virtually no one on the far side. If you even THINK of pulling out a camera and snapping a photo anywhere near security, you'll have 10 agents surrounding you, demanding the film, camera and wanting to search you and your luggage.

All this said, my day started out quite fine. My friend Dina graciously drove me to the airport - albeit a bit early, as she had an appointment, but it was fine for me. After a slight glitch at check in (I went through the automated check in process, but the silly machine couldn't find my reservation), I breezed through security. During checkin, I heard a young lady next to me who apparently, though she was checking in 45 minutes prior to her departure (on an international flight), missed the deadline and was to be waitlisted on a flight leaving 7 hours later. I passed her on the way to security, trying to find coins for a pay phone. I remembered all the times during our travels we had to sort out making phone calls and just let her use my cell instead. A nice gal from Melbourne, just trying to get home. Apparently, check in in Melbourne for international flights is only 30 minutes. Hopefully she made it home.

From my past as a frequent traveler, I have a lifetime membership in the Admiral's Club. It's a nice little perk for when I'm traveling on American Airlines, which I was. I spent the next 2+ hours hanging out in the AC, drinking as much water and juice as I could consume and snacking on whatever they had laying around - fruit, cheese & crackers, trail mix. I watched one guy who managed to fill a plastic cup with trail mix, then, trying to balance it on his laptop, while carrying the laptop and a beverage of some sort, managed to dump the entire cup of trailmix all over the floor. He started to walk away, thought better of it, and then started to sweep up the pieces with his shoe, which, of course, merely crushed the pieces into smaller pieces and burrow them into the carpet. Eventually, he knelt down and scooped them up with his hands, leaving the remaining pieces for the attendant to sweep up a bit later. I passed the time chatting with a couple of people on IRC (for those of you who don't know, come to the freenode network, channel ##essy) and trying to do some testing at the same time.

Finally, it was time to board by plane. Another perk of the Admiral's Club (and arriving 3 hours early) was that I was able to change my seat to my favorite - the bulkhead aisle seat, right behind 1st class. Of course, 1st class would be nice, but I don't travel enough anymore to earn the upgrades. I got to the gate, expecting a giant crowd, only to find that they had already boarded most everyone. I breezed onto the plane, stowed my backpack and settled in.

There was a teenage girl in the seat next to me, traveling alone. By the way, not only did I score the bulkhead aisle seat, but it was exit row too! She offered me a stick of gum, which I gladly accepted, after having had an ear ache for the last week. Then she proceeded to talk. A lot.

Do you remember those people when you were younger? They were very nice, but seemingly not very self-confident. They often talked about themselves, and dropped comments or hints of things that were supposed to impress you? I think this is something that happens most with teenagers, and this young lady was no exception. She was very sweet though. Eventually, I managed to get engrossed in my book for a while and she turned her attention to the inflight entertainment.

The flight attendants seemed a bit harried. Apparently, even though it was a full flight, they were running with a minimum crew. There was a bit of confusion and one of the flight attendants was having to man the drink cart, which weights about 150 pounds all loaded, by herself. That doesn't sound so bad, except when you consider that the plane was still gaining altitude, so it was a bit heavier. Then they came around with the "meal" ($5 for a turkey sandwich) and "snack box" ($4 for a box containing small amounts of goldfish crackers, mixed nuts, raisins, a sausage stick, cheese and crackers and a cookie). I spent $4.

Now, here's where I get to rant a little. There were three flight attendants handling all of coach, which was full. One of them, I barely saw - I think she was working the back section most of the time. One, Kate, was mostly helping us and was extremely nice. The third was... a bit rough around the edges. She basically was quite impatient and rather curt. That's fine - everyone has bad days. But...

On the second drink pass, Ms. Curt and Kate were sorting something out on one of the carts. Kate had gone back to get something and suddenly, I felt my arm get extremely wet. I looked down and saw my sleeve was soaked and orange juice was dripping down my arm. I looked up and saw Ms. Curt. She didn't even notice. I said, "Excuse me?" and she noticed I was a bit wet and handed me a teeny napkin (the drink-sized square kind) and said, "Oh, don't worry, it's only water." and she walked off. ARGH!! I was also penned in by the cart, so I couldn't get up to go to the bathroom and try to wash my arm off. A few minutes later, Kate came back and graciously handed me a can of club soda and two thick towelsized napkin thingies to try and get the orange juice out of my sleeve (so it wouldn't stain). Now, with a thoroughly wet sleeve, that air they always have going on the plane started to feel a bit chilly. I wrapped up tighter in the blanket.

After a trip to the toilet, I came back and wrapped up in the blanket again, only to discover that I had turned it around and the part I had wrapped around my arms previously had been on the floor and was also soaked in orange juice. Sigh. I flipped it around again. About 2 hours later, I'm starting to dry out sufficiently (it's a 5 hour flight) and I made another trip to the toilet (remember, I spent 2 hours in the Admiral's Club downing all I could drink). When in there, I noticed that a 5 inch section of the back of my shirt, near the hem, had managed to take on a douse of OJ and I was just noticing it. It was mostly dry, but had orange juice stains all over it... So, I got ANOTHER can of club soda and ANOTHER one of those cool towelettes (from Kate of course) and I did my best to get the stain out. Another hour or two to go of being wet and uncomfortable.

Do you remember when you were a child, and you used to chew gum? I do. Vividly. My father used to get terrificly angry if I chewed it with my mouth open. Or if I made snapping or popping sounds with my gum. I always thought he was over-reacting and being silly, but he was my dad. And I prefered not to be spanked - especially in my teenage years. So, I learned the fine art of stealth gum chewing. Well. Dad. I now "get" it. In the last hour or so of the flight, I chose to listen to my ipod and relax a bit. Despite the fact that I was wearing headphones and the music was sufficiently loud, I could hear, as if I had nothing in my ears, the gal next to me making the most obnoxious sounds with her gum. I sat there dreaming of ways to politely (or

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Tuesday, August 22


Hawaii bound!

After 10 days of being without the companionship of my best friend (Kirk), I am bound for Hawaii to meet up with him. Our original plan was that I would come out a few days before he finished his work, then we would extend our trip for a couple of days to have some fun time together. As it turns out, he finished his work about 5 days early! So by the time I get there, he will (hopefully) be well-rested and completely free! This will be our first time there together when he wasn't saddled with working long hours on the night shift up at the Science Center. Our plan? We have none - except where to stay and when to come home. It will be a bit reminiscent of our year-long honeymoon. It will also be the first time in the three years since we got home that we've been away together for something other than an event (weddings, etc.) or family get-togethers. Hopefully, we'll have some fun stories to tell upon our return!


Sunday, August 13


Fruits and Nuts...

Boing Boing: Schwarzenegger sends Guard to California's airports:

"Friday, August 11, 2006
Schwarzenegger sends Guard to California's airports

Governor Schwarzenneger has deployed 300 National Guardswomen and men to California's airports to ensure that if liquid/gel/iPod terrorists escape from a British prison and fly to San Diego (without blowing up the plane), and then get off and start hijacking the entire airport, they can be shot.

'I can assure the people of California that we're doing everything to keep them safe and to return our airports to normal operations as quickly as possible,' he said. 'We need the public's help and their patience.'

To make the state's airports more normal, it is necessary to first make them extraordinary and abnormal by filling them with armed, nervous teenagers.

I see."

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Saturday, September 24



Kirk and I were interviewed recently for a travel show. You can listen to the latest Amateur Traveler online.

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Tuesday, August 16


Bangkok Post Thursday 11 August 2005 - Goodwill volunteers

Bangkok Post Thursday 11 August 2005 - Goodwill volunteers: "Goodwill volunteers

A new breed of travellers leave their comfort zones to connect with local people, taking in their stride language and cultural barriers


Volunteering foreign tourists working on a public utility project in Isan.
Breaking the ice... visiting volunteers cross the cultural divide and join local kids in a game of football. — PHOTOS COURTESY NORTH BY NORTH-EAST TOURS
These days there are people who do not only enjoy the luxury of seeing places thousands of miles away from their homes, but they also want to bring benefits to the people or communities they visit. They travel with a purpose.

It's an emerging trend called 'voluntourism', a way by which people learn about other cultures and communities, and in Thailand, where it's only been around a few years, it's best evidenced in the aftermath of the tsunami that struck south Thailand last December when volunteers from all corners of the globe rushed to the region to help affected villagers and restore the ecology.

Jason Rolan of North by North-East Tours is a pioneer in this field. For the past six years he has been organising and coordinating voluntourism projects in Thailand's northeast and Laos, and according to him, opportunities are open to anyone who wants to see Southeast Asia and leave a positive mark along the way.

'Our projects include anything from teaching English in rural schools, to building playgrounds, tsunami relief and cultural conservation to working with underprivileged children,' he explained. Groups as well as individual volunteers are welcome. So far he has patched together groups from schools, universities, religious organisations and physicians and delivered them to places needing their services.

'Individuals or groups, our priority is to keep the project meaningful for those who stand to benefit from it. We welcome enquiries from everyone, including donors"

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I just read an article from the Bangkok Daily Post that saddened me:

"River of mud buries scenic Pai, but town's spirit undampened

Mae Hong Son - Flash floods brought on by heavy rains over the weekend buried the scenic resort town of Pai under a sea of mud. But the weather has been unable to sink the spirit of townspeople. Rainwater, mud and logs flowed down the surrounding mountainsides, knocking down trees, sweeping away homes and buildings, causing severe damage to more than 50 riverside resorts and submerging the entire town of Pai. Streets are littered with logs, broken shutters, bricks and metal debris. About 1,000 soldiers are helping with the clean-up, expected to be completed in seven days. Full rehabilitation could take more than a month. Damage was estimated at 200 million baht. Many families are homeless and tourism businesses badly hurt. But residents can take comfort they still have each other. Ket Sriboontha, 70, of Ban Na Jalong, which was flooded, did not let his own struggles stop him from helping others. Mr Ket enlisted residents in nearby Ban Na Toeng, which is on high ground, to prepare food for their ``friends'' in Pai. 'Each house can help prepare one or two boxed meals. Altogether we can have 300 boxes a day,' he said. Patcharee Rattanatham, owner of Tawan guesthouse on the Pai river, which was destroyed, said 20% of operators believed they could recover on their own. 'We want the government to help poor, homeless flood victims first,' she said. About 700-800 tourists, most of them foreigners, left town after the floods receded. But about 200 have stayed to help soldiers and townspeople with the clean-up. Ms Patcharee blamed the heavy flooding on encroachment of the Pai river, which blocked water from draining, and construction of a bypass road which flattened forests, allowing the water to carry logs from the project site to downtown Pai. She called on the government to restore order in the resort town, dredge the Pai river and take tough action against forest and river trespassers. Pai, with its scenic beauty, is a popular destination among foreign tourists."

Kirk & I spent several days in Pai; we truly enjoyed ourselves and the relaxation we found in that beautiful little town. I sincerely pray that they are able to rebuild quickly and maintain the same environment and feel that the town had when we were there 2.5 years ago.

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Wednesday, July 27


Dinner with the long lost hoon

Tonight, we had dinner at a fabulous little Ethiopian restaurant (named, appropriately, "Ethiopia Restauraunt") with our long, lost friend, Michael aka hoon. We had a great time catching up with him (as we haven't seen him in a year or so). Thanks for the great dinner & company, hoon!

The food was fantastic and served with rolled flat bread, called injera. It is the only "utensil" provided. It's a bit odd looking, sort of spongy, but is quite delicious! We had a vegetable combo and meat combo. It was served family style on a large platter (see photo above). The Butecha (fava beans) was wonderful! I highly recommend this restaurant.

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Thursday, July 7


Do You Know the Way to Monterey

Today, 6 of us rode up to Monterey to the Moto GP Races at Laguna Seca. Ambre & I drove the Jeep up as a support vehicle for the 2 Ducatis, 1 MV, and 1 Kawasaki that the guys rode up. Along the way, she and I made a few scenic stops, including one to hike out and see this waterfall at Julia Pfifer Burns Park. More to come!

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Tuesday, February 15


Back to Mississippi

Well, it's official! Kirk and I are going back to Mississippi for the third time to work with the John Perkins Foundation. This time, though, we will be going as team leaders. We are excited and a little nervous about the responsibility. Essentially, we will be taking a team of contractors, builders and lots of unskilled labor (like me) to go build houses and work on the grounds of the Spencer Perkins Center in the inner city of Jackson, Mississippi. The Center and Foundation are focused on racial reconcilation and economic development. We did the same trip in 2001 (before we started dating) and 2004 (last year). We will need to raise about $650 each to cover our costs while we are there serving. If you are interested in donating money, it should be sent to "King's Harbor Church, 1617 S. Pacific Coast Highway, Suite D, Redondo Beach, CA 90277" and the check should be written to King's Harbor with a note on the memo line that says "Mississippi/Kirk & Donna". Feel free to send me and email with any questions you have about our trip!

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Monday, February 14


Valentine's in Berkeley

We drove up to Berkeley today. Kirk has some work up here this week. We had a wonderful dinner at a little restaurant we hadn't tried before, the Albany Bistro. I give it 2 thumbs up! I had a wonderful special fish plate they had for Valentine's Day and Kirk had ostrich! They were both excellent!

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Sunday, December 19


A month of Sundays - Part 3

Happy birthday, Kirk!!!!! Today, my wonderful husband is 40!

After a quick breakfast and goodbyes, we piled everything into the car and headed back to Los Angeles. Luckily, we would be heading across into another time zone and would gain an hour, which would really help our time schedule. We had plans to go to Kelley's house (Kirk's sister) for dinner to celebrate his birthday with family... or so he thought.

We had a nice, uneventful drive home and managed to buy all our gas only at Costco. We were about an hour or so from home and Kirk's phone rang. I braced myself. It was Kelley. She was calling to say that the little boys, Bradley (5) and Jeffrey (4), had come down with the flu and it would be better if we could reschedule for Tuesday. Kirk was on the phone for a little while, dealing with picking a new time/date to schedule his birthday dinner. He took it all in stride.

I sat there debating whether to call home and check our messages. I decided to wait until we got home. We'd be home by 5 at the latest - there was plenty of time. When we arrived, I said "Oh, we have a message!" I played it and Kirk and I heard Steve (the best man in our wedding) inviting us over for dinner that evening with him and his wife. Dina (his wife) is a fabulous cook, so it's very rare that we would turn it down. It WAS Kirk's birthday, and we DIDN'T have anything planned since Kelley had cancelled. He immediately said "YES!" and he called them back to make the arrangements. They told us to be there at 7:30. When he hung up, I asked if he had told them that today was his birthday, and he said "no". So, I called Steve back and advised him that it was Kirk's birthday. I could hear Steve on the other end of the line trying not to laugh too loud.

Then Kirk demands that we go buy him a cake. I asked Steve if we needed to bring dessert and he said it was covered. So I had to talk Kirk out of the cake he so badly wanted on his birthday.

At 7:25, I ushered Kirk out the door and we headed over to Steve's. We arrived on Steve's street and I looked around anxiously. I saw no cars that I recognized and the street hardly had anyone parked on it. I was relieved...and I wasn't. Often when we come to Steve & Dina's the front door is wide open, welcoming whoever happens to walk up. Tonight it was closed. I was talking as loudly as I could, all the while, trying to listen intently for any noises I could hear. I heard nothing.

We managed to surprise Kirk with a party to celebrate his 40th BirthdayWe knocked on the door and rang the doorbell. Nothing happened. Kirk knocked again after a few seconds, and we heard Dina in the guestroom "Just a minute!" A few seconds later, the door opened! RELIEF! There were about 30 people there and they yelled "Surprise!" and sang Happy Birthday. Kirk turned bright red and looked thoroughly shocked.

Guess who wasn't sick?Despite the fact that Kirk's birthday is at a very busy time during the holidays AND that there was another surprise party that same night (Matt was graduating from Law School - congrats, Matt!), we had quite a good turn out. And, of course, Kelley and her family were there to help celebrate! Even Pastors Dan and Chris came. Chris, Rod & KirkChris honored Kirk by dressing like him!

We managed to surprise Kirk with a party to celebrate his 40th BirthdayAnd he even got some cake...his favorite, German Chocolate!

Anita, Garret, Doug, the Berthelets & KathyIt was nice to have such a crowd there! After the food had settled, we went into the front room and Doug played guitar and we sung Christmas carols and some worship songs. All in all, it was a great evening!

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Saturday, December 18


Traversing South

Some of you know (or would know if you've read any of our blogs before) that Kirk and I play on online game called bzflag. We've met a number of people that we play against in person over the last few months. Puppy Power, Dodge_This, High Karate Kitty, Mozul, SportChick, ChincillaWell, it turns out there's a fairly large contingent of bzflaggers in Arizona. On our way to Tucson, we had agreed to meet a whole family of them outside of Phoenix. So, we stopped for lunch and met up with High Karate Kitty, Dodge_This, Chinchilla and Puppy Power. The whole family plays (although not all at once - that would require a LOT of computer power AND a really fast connection. They were very very nice! It's always so fun to put faces to names. After lunch and a lot of chatting, we headed out. We got all the way down to Tempe (where we stopped for some more Costco gas) when we realized Kirk's ATM card was missing out of his wallet. After much searching, we called the restaurant and they had it. We drove all the way back.

Kirk and Donna with her grandfatherNeedless to say, we arrived in Tucson a bit later than we originally planned. But it was no problem. We went straight to my grandfather's house. We hadn't seen my grandfather since before we left for our RTW. An awful lot has happened since then! We hung out and chatted and caught up and then...oh yeah, we went to dinner at Los Margaritas, a great little Mexican restaurant. It was really good to have some time to hang out with him.

Donna & her grandfather in front of Mission San Javier del Bac, which is under renovationOn Thursday, we hung with him around the house for part of the day. He took us out to Mission San Javier del Bac (also known as the "White Dove of the Desert"). I had been there once before with a friend of mine from Dallas; at that time, the interior was closed, as it was being renovated. This time, the interior was open, but portions of the exterior were being renovated. The interior was quite pretty. It was interesting to see a Spanish mission with such influence from Mexican and Native American culture.

On the way back home, we drove by the airplane graveyard. My uncle had taken me there once before, and I figured with the interest Kirk has in airplanes, he might find it interesting. Hundreds (thousands?) of airplanes dating back to WWII to present have been retired in Tucson, and are resting there in a variety of forms of disrepair. For dinner, we went to Chad's, which is a favorite of my grandparents. After Chad's, I talked my grandfather into driving through Winterhaven. Winterhaven is an entire neighborhood where they put up crowd-stopping Christmas lights! It was technically a little "early" in the season to be driving through there (which was probably better - often it's so crowded, they block the streets off to all but foot traffic), but there were plenty of displays up!

Trev & Hannahmarie (she's looking at Donna)The gang takes a photo op at a little overlook on the mountainOn Friday, Kirk and I went over to see Trev & Kristi, his cousins. We got to meet their new addition, little Hannahmarie. She was really sweet! It's so fun to meet a happy baby! After a yummy lunch that Kristi made for us, and a good deal of catching up, we decided to go out for a drive. We all piled into our jeep and we headed over the mountain near their house. Hannahmarie fell right to sleep as we started driving. When we hit the off-road stuff (not REALLY offroad - just a dirt/gravel road, really), she woke up. We stopped on the way back over the mountain at an overlook. It was beautiful, but very windy and cold!

After a quick stop, we all headed down to meet my grandfather at yet another Mexican restaurant. At this one, they made your salsa fresh at your table - made to order! The food was delicious! I was quite glad my grandfather came out to meet us! I felt bad not hanging out with him the whole time we were there. After dinner, we drove Trev & Kristi back to their house. Shortly after we arrived, some Christmas carolers came by! They sounded great and were collecting canned goods for disadvantaged families.

When we got back to my grandfather's, we had a comical series of telephone calls. I wanted for us to stay at my cousin, Marty's, on Saturday night if possible. My great-aunt (my grandfather's sister) was flying down on Sunday and Marty was going to have to drive up to Phoenix, pick her up and then drive her down to Tucson to my grandfather's. I really wanted my grandfather to come to Marty's with us and stay the night. But he didn't seem to want to. I must have talked to Marty and my grandfather 3 times each. Finally, Marty called my grandfather, and voila! He was going to drive up to Arizona City in the afternoon and spend the night with us.

The next morning, Saturday, we had brunch plans up in Phoenix. We packed everything up and headed up there. It's not a bad drive. We met some more bz-friends up in Phoenix at "The Good Egg". This time, we met up with Justin (who is not a bz player), Scipio, Nidhoggr & Theropod. Nidhoggr owns the server that we play the most often on (and assist by admining on). Justin, Scipio, Nidhoggr, SportChick, Mozul & Theropod, digesting their delicious brunch Brunch was delicious. The conversation was wildly diverse and entertaining! In addition to the great conversation and brunch, Nidhoggr gave me a wonderful homemade (by him) collection of soaps and hand creams.

After a great brunch (and another trip to get Costco gas), we headed back south to Arizona City. I had only been to my cousin's house once, but it wasn't hard to find. Marty & Robin have an amazing house. As a California convert, I have no hope of ever having anything so roomy or nice. But it was great to visit with them too. They have several children (the youngest is now in High School) and the place is always bustling with activity. Marty & Robin were actually going out that night to Robin's company Christmas party, but, once my grandfather arrived, they served us a wonderful late lunch (thank goodness) of lasagna and the fixin's. We chatted for a long while until they had to start getting ready to go out.

Kirk & Donna with Marty & his familyAfter they left, we sat around and played games with their kids - like Word Thief and Upwords and speed Scrabble. We had a great time until it was sufficiently late that we really HAD to go to sleep. We were leaving first thing in the morning!

To be continued...

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Wednesday, December 15


To the Grand Canyon and beyond...

Donna meets a horseMonday morning, we tagged our luggage and had our breakfast. We didn't even have to carry the luggage downstairs. Once we notified them we were "checking out", they knew to gather our luggage and put it aboard the train. It was pretty frigid since we were at altitude (1382 feet) and Kirk was glad I made him bring some cold-weather gear.

We took some time to walk around the gift shop a little to scout out what we might spend our gift certificates on. I saw a really nice fleece jacket we could get if we pooled our resources. We grabbed a Starbucks coffee (yes there is a little Starbucks right there in the depot) and headed over to watch the shoot-out. I met a couple from Thailand along the way and chatted with them. It sometimes amazes me how much I miss the variety of accents and cultures from our RTW. The show was pretty corny, but cute.

Kirk boards the Grand Canyon Railroad TrainWe boarded our train and headed out. The conductor (who also turned out to be our server - he served us sodas and such during the trip) was quite funny. We were entertained by a fiddlin' cowboyAbout 30 minutes after we departed, a cowboy with a fiddle came to our car and entertained us for the rest of the trip. He was quite a good fiddler and interacted well with the audience.

The depot at the Grand CanyonOnce we arrived at the Grand Canyon, we were picked up by a bus and driven over to the Maswik Lodge, where we had lunch in their cafeteria. Most of the folks on the trip were only in the Grand Canyon for a day - they were taking the afternoon train back. I had booked us to spend the night. Of course, when I booked the trip, I didn't expect I would have broken my ankle a couple of months before - I expected we'd do some hiking.

Kirk enjoys his birthday surpriseIt was really cold outside and it was nice to get indoors and have some hot food and drink. Afterwards, we piled back onto our bus and they drove us to some of the major viewing points on the Canyon. It was pretty cool to hear some of the history in addition to getting all the wonderful views.

Photo op at the canyonAfter our tour, we checked into our hotel and found our bags had been delivered straight to our room! We relaxed for a bit and then headed over to the El Tovar Hotel for dinner. The El Tovar is an historic landmark and quite beautiful, capturing the spirit of the by-gone days of the European-style hunting lodge. Made of stone, it's perched on the edge of the canyon and has spectacular views from the South Rim. It was built in 1905 by the Santa Fe Railroad and has been called, "the architectural crown jewel of the Grand Canyon." It is also also renowned for its world-class dining room, The El Tovar Dining Room (where we ate). Peppermint Cheesecake"A memorable dining experience in the Arizona wilderness while enjoying breathtaking views of the Canyon." They have an extensive and expensive menu. The food was quite good, indeed, however, a bit over-priced, we thought. We did splurge and have dessert - it was pretty cute!

We made it an early night; Kirk wanted to be up quite early on Tuesday to catch sunrise over the canyon. I tried to wake up when he did, but was a bit late. I was out the door only about 5 minutes after him, but JUST missed the shuttle. Since we didn't have our car with us, we had to rely on the shuttle to get around. I caught the next one, and arrived at the canyon as fast as I could. At the point where I had to change shuttles, I had to walk (hobble/run?) a pretty good distance to catch the next bus; I was afraid I'd miss it, but I just got there in time.

The sun begins to rise over the canyonKirk had been taking photos for a while when I arrived, although the sun still had not cleared the edge of the rim. When it did clear, the view was spectacular! The canyon is beautiful at all times, but it has different hues at different times of the day (sort of like Uluru, which we visited in December of 2002 on our RTW). The canyon lights up with colorThe colors are brilliant

After Kirk's fingers were too frozen to take any more photos, we grabbed the shuttle back and ate breakfast at the Maswik Lodge and checked out of our room (again, we didn't have to worry about our bags). Then we caught another shuttle to the visitor's center. We toured around that a bit, and then headed to the trail that runs along the canyon rim. We walked a good bit of that trail, stopping at a variety of places to take photos. (Do you remember I broke my ankle less than 2 months ago?). Eventually, I was limping so badly I couldn't really walk anymore. We managed to get me to a shuttle stop and we got back on. We went over to Bright Angel Lodge and had some lunch and relaxed a bit. Then we stole one more quick look at the canyon before boarding the train back to Williams.

On the way back to Williams, the train was "robbed". I was actually on my cell phone (my mom had called from Kansas) and said, "Oh, I've got to go...we're being robbed!" Luckily, she didn't think I was serious!

Back in Williams, we spend another night at the Grand Canyon Railroad Hotel. We also had another dinner at Max & Thelma's. The food was MUCH better this time! It turns out, they dumb down the food during the Polar Express because of all the children who are there.

On Wednesday, we had breakfast, bought the great fleece jacket we had spotted earlier (using our gift certificates) and headed back toward civilization.

To be continued...

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Sunday, December 12


A month of Sundays - Part 2

December can be a truly exciting month, with all the Christmas decorations, parties, etc., or a truly stressful one. It's all in your attitude. But when your BIRTHDAY is in December on top of everything else, well, that's just fun!

No, my birthday is not in December, but my husband's is -- 6 days before Christmas. And this year, he had a MSD change (as he likes to put it). You know! MSD...most significant digit? Like changing from 20 to 30 or 30 to 40 or 40 to 50! So, last summer, I started plotting. I wanted to surprise him with something that would help him remember this MSD.

The plans started coming together and I had to figure a way to pay for everything without him figuring things out. With joint bank accounts and a husband who (thankfully) tracks every penny, that wouldn't be easy. So, I told him I wanted to surprise him with something - I wouldn't say where or when and was letting him know that I needed to spend the money. Whew. That worked. But THEN, I found out that if I put the charge on the credit card, the exact thing I had planned would show up on the statement - that's no good! So a friend from work let me put it on his credit card and I turned around and wrote HIM a check. Yay!

Next, I wanted to throw Kirk a surprise party. First, I had to locate a host. Well, generally, the only time we aren't together is when we are at work. That makes it hard to work up an invitation and start mailing them out. There is also the challenge of getting the names and addresses of friends of his - I wanted to invite his family, church friends, work friends AND friends he grew up with. Fortunately, I bumped into Rod (one of the guys he grew up with) a

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Sunday, August 22


Swag, Swag, Swag

Okay, so when I first heard about Camp Jeep, I thought, "yeah, right". But seriously, a camp for jeeps? What's up with THAT? Here's the skinny: Camp Jeep is like a huge party put on by Chrysler Jeep for owners of Jeeps. You really have to be an owner to go (or you can go with an owner). We originally were thinking of volunteering with our Four-Wheel Drive Club (KJ West) to help out at Camp Jeep; however, we ended up attending as real live "guests". No commitments, no working - just fun.

But what IS Camp Jeep, you ask? Well, you actually can't camp there. Not at the site, anyway. We had to go and find a campsite (which was about 20 miles away). Camp Jeep is a large site that included a variety of off-road trails on which you drive YOUR jeep, plus some off-road courses that you get to try new jeeps on (everything from the brand spanking new 2005 Grand Cherokee to the new Jeep Unlimited).

We arrived at our campsite late on Wednesday night. Most of the KJ West club was already there - they had all come up a day early for orientation as trail guides (not to mention that they had come up for a whole weekend earlier in the summer to go over the trails). We set up camp and went and chatted with some of our friends.

We went to sleep fairly early, since we were on the first trail ride the next morning (and you had to be there by 6:30 for checkin). When we signed up for the trails, we took an easy trail (first) and an intermediate trail (you were only permitted to sign up for two). At the time, we knew we had a lift kit to put on, but not whether it would be on in time for Cam Jeep. Well, Kirk and Clint and a few others had put the lift kit on the car only a week or so before.

Kirk made me drive on the easy trail - to get a feel for what it was like and to teach me a little about how to drive offroad. The scariest part for me was while we were driving along a pasture and it felt like the car was DEFINITELY going to tip over!!

From there, we headed over to the Camp Jeep Village, to see what it was all about. It was really cool. They had all sorts of things there: you could test drive the new 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee on an obstacle course, drive any of 5 different models on the Jeep 101 (an off-road obstacle course) or a Rubicon on the Rubicon challenge, climb a climbing wall, climb a tower and zipline down, learn to scuba dive, ride bmx bikes, talk with the engineers who designed your jeep at a round table discussion, shop shop shop at the Jeep Store, watch a cooking lesson/demonstration, make crafts, watch a short version of the new Warren Miller Movie, watch concerts concerts and more concerts, drive more jeeps and get lots and lots and lots of swag! Every where you looked, they were giving away swag. The cafe wasn't all that exciting, but it's the only place to eat lunch. For dinner, they gave away a free voucher for free food plus a Sobe (one of the sponsors was Sobe). Yummy!

Needless to say, we had a great time! On our trail run the second day, an XJ in front of us tipped over on its side. Everyone was fine, but it was quite the ordeal. Alex, who was driving one of the rescue vehicles, busted an axle trying to help. Afterwards, the trail guide decided that the trail had deteriorated too much so we turned around and went another way.

We had such a fabulous time! I am sure we will go back next year! To see photos, go to Kirk's blog about Camp Jeep!

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Friday, August 6


Mozul, SportChick and hoon meet for dinner

Kirk, Donna & MichaelWell, for the third night in a row, we had the opportunity to meet someone out for dinner. Last night, it was our friend Michael (a/k/a hoon). Michael is one of our fellow admins on bzflag's secretplace server. We went to another great little restaurant in Elmwood, La Mediterranee. The food was fantastic!

Of course, the company was great as well! Michael had just bought a new house (closed on it today)! It was fun to finally put a face to the name.

As it turns out, a bunch of bzflaggers are going to be meeting up on Sunday for some sushi and Michael might be able to meet up with us (he'll be in SoCal over the weekend).

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Thursday, August 5


Old Friends, New Places

Kirk, Donna, Brent & TobyKirk has been coming up here for 17 years, but the last two nights, we have had a dinner in an area he's never frequented - Rockridge. Last night, we went to dinner with some college friends of mine at a little italian place called Oliveto. The food was quite fresh and good. It was really great to see our friends - we had last seen them when we went to dinner at Spenger's last February (the last time Kirk and I were up here together). They have been here for the last 8 months while Toby completes her fellowship. Now, they have fabulous news! They are moving back to Oregon in a couple of months to have their first child! It has been a real blessing for us to be able to hang with them up here - it's nice to have them so close (even just temporarily). When they move back, we'll have yet another excuse to head back up to Oregon!

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Wednesday, August 4


Back in Berkeley

Donna, Kirk & ChrisWell, we are back in Berkeley. It's the first time in about a month for Kirk, but first time since February for me! Last night, we had the great pleasure of having dinner with Chris. We had never met him before, but had heard much of him. Years ago (11 years to be exact), he invented a little game called BZFlag that we love to play (it's available for free). He had originally invented it as a demo to show off 3-D graphics, but it was so fun to play it became much more. In fact, although Chris no longer works on the development of BZFlag, there is an entire team of folks that do! We had dinner at the Soi4 Bangkok Eatery in Rockridge (some of the best Thai food we've had since we were in Thailand). I love meeting people and we had a nice time chatting with Chris, who now works for an animation studio.

Now we are back on the 4AM to noon working shift. Ugh. But it's amazing how much you can get done that early in the morning if you try!

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Monday, June 28


Chicago - Food and Fish

Taste of ChicagoSunday, after breakfast, Kirk and I headed to church. We went to a Vineyard Christian Church that was in walking distance from our hotel. It was a nice service. Then, Kirk and I headed over to the Taste of Chicago, an annual 10-day or so long event, in order to meet up with a few folks who had attended the wedding. Kirk & Donna at Taste of ChicagoAgain, we hopped public transport into the city (but this time we took CTA, i.e., the "L", which is what we wanted). Kirk and I got there a good hour or more before everyone else, so we had time to scout the booths. There was a lot of restaurants represented, but a disproportional amount of fatty/greasy/fried food being served. Jessica, Hilary & DonnaWe did eventually manage to find Hilary, Nick, Roman and several others. We stayed there for a few hours and then jumped back on the L to Evanston where we were meeting some family for dinner. We had a nice dinner with my aunt and uncles and Solomon.

Monday, Kirk and I took our time getting up. Then, we checked out of the hotel and headed in town (with luggage). We stored our bags at Union Station and then headed over to the Shedd Aquarium. Shedd Aquarium is one of the largest in the world. They have an entire section called the "Oceanarium" which specific focuses on such creatures as the Beluga Whale, White-sided Dolphins, Sea Otters and Penguins. It was possibly my favorite section. We didn't have a long time to look around and see everything, but we did quite a bit. There were some pretty neat frogs and the Caribbean Reef section was pretty cool. White-Sided Dolphin

We were blessed when we left. We stayed a tad bit longer than we should have, but then we managed to catch a trolley directly to Union Station without waiting more than about 2 minutes. Once we had retrieved our luggage, we realized the blue line (which we needed to take to O'Hare) had a stop only two block south of Union Station (instead of about 10 blocks east). Our trip home was uneventful.

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Saturday, June 26


A Chicago Wedding

Hilary putting on her makeupSaturday arrived! The day my little cuz was getting married. AND Chris, one of her two identicle twin brothers, had arrived late the night before! We all gathered for breakfast and then people started drifting off in various directions to get ready for the wedding, which started at 12:30 PM.

I had the privilege of helping her get dressed and taking some "getting ready" photos. It was much more relaxed than a month or so ago when another friend of mine was married. Hilary just didn't worry about anything. Once she and her maid of honor were ready, we headed downstairs to meet the rest of the family. Walking to churchThe plan was that we were ALL walking to the church from the hotel, about 1/2 a mile. Hilary had a GREAT time! She got lots of attention and looked beautiful! The weather was perfect!

Roman & HilaryThe big concern upon arriving at the church was that Roman not see Hilary before she walked down the aisle. But everything worked out fine! She was a beautiful bride (aren't they all, though?!). The church was beautiful, as well.

After a bunch of photos, we headed back toward the hotel. The reception was in a beautiful little house right next door, Va Pensiero's Club House. They had hired a photographer only to take photos at the wedding (i.e., at the church), so the rest of the family stepped into the gap and took a bunch more for them.

Donna & PaigeJeanne, Sue & Donna
James, Jeanne & KatieThe food at the reception was exceptional! In addition to salmon and a wonderful chicken dish, they had something called "Sweet Potato Ravioli". Now, you have to understand, I HATE sweet potatoes. So, for ME to say it was really good, you KNOW it had to have been positively amazing! It was an interesting flavor, but one to savor nonetheless. Donna & KirkNick, Hilary & Chris

Hilary and Roman had decided to save up some money for a while (and airline miles) and then head on a honeymoon sometime next winter. So, they were sticking around after the wedding. A whole group of folks went out after the wedding to just hang out. Even though there is a bit of a generation gap for me - both with my aunts/uncles AND with my cousins - we headed out with the younger folk to hang a bit. We made it an early night, though. We were all planning on another big day on Sunday.

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Friday, June 25


Chi-town - a Tower-fix

Kirk spent most of last week in Berkeley. On Thursday, he flew in from Berkeley, took a shuttle to his office, and about 30 minutes later, I met him there and we took a shuttle BACK to the airport.

Chicago SkylineWe were heading to Chicago, where my cousin, Hilary, was getting married. It would be the first time since our wedding we had seen many of our family and in much longer for others. In fact, Kirk met many of my family members for the first time (and I finally got to meet two cousins I had always seemed to miss)!

My dad and stepmom picked us up at the airport and drove us to the Margarita European Inn in Evanston, where most everyone was staying. We checked into our room and met up with a couple of cousins. All in all, we made it a pretty early night, since Kirk had been getting up at 4AM all week, and I was pretty tired, too.

The Breakfast BunchThe Margarita Inn was a bed and breakfast sort of place, so every morning, we would all gather in the little sitting area and have breakfast and discuss what would happen the rest of the day. Friday, which was the first morning we did this, I met my cousin Paige for the first time ever and saw Solomon for the first time since he was about 6 months old! Apparently, Paige thought I looked a lot like my aunt Margie and her mouth dropped open when she saw me.

On Friday, we all decided to go different ways. James, Solomon, Kirk and I all decided to head into the city and do some sightseeing. My aunts and Paige figured they'd do some shopping and girly stuff. We took the Metra into the city - interestingly, we THOUGHT we were on the L, but realized a little late that we had taken the wrong system. No worries -- it just meant we had to walk a tad bit further.

View from Hancock Tower toward the NorthWe decided to make our way up to Hancock Tower. Although Hancock is not the tallest building in Chicago (the Sears Tower is), it has the best views. We paid our fee and up we went.

Now for those of you who followed our RTW, you may remember that Kirk has a bit of a tower fetish. He LOVES going up to the highest point he can. So, he definitely got his tower-fix in Chicago! The views were fabulous and we had a wonderfully clear day. Lake Michigan is so large that it even looks like an ocean from many spots. (Interestingly, when we watched Step into Liquid, we discovered that people actually SURF the waves on Lake Michigan - they are little ankle-slappers and wind-induced, granted, but we got a good chuckle out of it.)

Navy PierThe Navy Pier was quite beautiful from the top of Hancock Tower, as well. We never made it down to the Pier - we had many other things to do and there just wasn't enough time. Perhaps next time. After we had had our fill of Hancock Tower, James and Solomon split off from me and Kirk. They decided to eat nearby. Kirk and I went in search of a particularly well-known place that serves Chicago-style pizza - Ranalli's.

Trolley MapWe had had an interesting time finding our way there. There is a free trolley that runs through much of downtown Chicago. The trick is finding the right one and getting there at the right time. The one we needed, it turns out, ran only once per hour. And we had just missed it by about 15 minutes. We decided to go find ourselves a bus instead. There are free maps all over that you can pick up at the metro stations, etc. that list all the methods of transport (including bus routes). It was really VERY easy to get around! Ranalli's Chicago Style Pizza It was pretty late when we sat down at Ranalli's and we were both starving by that point. The food was, indeed, fabulous.

Afterwards, we headed back to Evanston. I was looking forward to having dinner with the whole family together! It turned out that people were going in many different directions, instead of eating all together. Kirk and I went to the Davis Street Fish Market with my dad and Betty. The food was incredible. Betty got the crab cakes, and after tasting hers, I truly wished I had, too (I'm fiendishly picky about my crab cakes, so I am often reluctant to order them). We all hung around chatting that night. My cousin Katie flew in from D.C. sometime during the afternoon and was staying in the room right next door.

While on the way to and in Chicago, I did a bit of reading. Right before leaving, I had read First Meetings: In the Enderverse by Orson Scott Card - which I then gave to Kirk to read. I turned my attention to Lance Armstrong's "It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life". What a great read! Then I started (and finished about 15 minutes before we landed back in LA) "Lost on Everest: the Search for Mallory and Irvine" by P.L. Firstbrook. In the evenings, Kirk and I would hang out in our room, relaxing and reading a bit. It reminded me of our RTW.

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Donna in Austria
Click for larger image Austria, August 2003