2008 Holiday Letter

January 2009

If life had a theme song, this year’s would be Willie Nelson’s classic “On the Road Again.”
On the road again
Goin' places that I've never been
Seein' things that I may never see again,
And I can't wait to get on the road again.

After starting the year in Colorado, during 2008 we lived on both coasts and a few states in between. We decided at the end of 2007 that we needed major changes in our lives, so in 2008 we lived through the upheaval and the excitement that those changes brought.

We spent the first part of the year doing the final touches of remodeling our house in Golden, and put it on the market in March. We worked on the house for four years, literally since the day we bought it in 2003, and the final result was gorgeous. It was under contract within two weeks, and we moved out in April. It was a bit sad to sell the house just after we finished it, but it was time for us to move on.

RJ left Colorado in March and spent six months working as a park ranger for the Bureau of Reclamation at Lake Berryessa in California’s gorgeous Napa valley. He enjoyed the work and spent a lot of time patrolling the area and interacting with visitors. The lake is very popular for fishing, boating, and swimming, and gets a huge number of visitors on hot summer days.

Lake Berryessa

Lake Berryessa, April

One of the best parts of the job, though, was the schedule: RJ usually worked four days on and three days off, so he was able to explore a good chunk of California when he was off duty. True to his nature, he spent most of his time off at other parks: Point Reyes National Seashore, Yosemite National Park, Yolla Bolly Middle Eel Wilderness, California’s redwoods, Mendocino National Forest, Lassen Volcanic National Park, Sonoma Coast State Beach, and other areas.

Yosemite, 4/30/08

RJ at Yosemite, April 30th

When RJ left for California, I stayed behind in Golden to finish packing and move. With help from family and friends, all of our possessions, our dogs and our cat were in storage at my parents’ home in Texas by the end of April. I left my job with GAO and moved to consulting work with Falletti Weber Consulting Group . The work is similar, although FWCG’s clients are international non-profit and non-governmental organizations. Most of my time, though, is split between staying with my parents and visiting RJ. I’ve also had time to see friends; I spent a week helping a friend whose spouse was in the hospital, visited a friend and her family in San Diego, helped other friends move, saw former classmates near Houston and Dallas, met several girlfriends for a weekend in Las Vegas, and attended a TAMS reunion. I spent most of May in Texas, then drove out to California; my mother rode with me to Los Angeles, where she visited a friend and then flew home. I was back in Texas for July to help out at my mother’s church’s Vacation Bible School and help my parents triple-team my then-two-year old niece, who stayed with us that week, and spent as much time as possible working with my parents’ five Morgan horses.

Nik on Shania, 7/4/08

Nik on Shania at the 4th of July Playday

I spent most of June and August with RJ; we went biking in Point Reyes, back-packing in Hetch Hetchy, visited San Francisco and Alcatraz, toured the Jelly Belly factory with visiting friends, and enjoyed the good food and beautiful scenery in Napa.

Alcatraz, 6/24/08

At Alcatraz Island, June 24th

RJ finished his season at Lake Berryessa in mid-August and we had two weeks before he had to be at school, so we hit the road again. We did some amazing hikes in Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks, but the highlight of the trip was seeing a mama black bear and her two cubs on a trail in Kings Canyon.

Mist Falls, 8/25/08

Mist Falls in Kings Canyon National Park, August 25th

Bear cubs, 8/25/08

Bear cubs, August 25th

We stayed with a friend in Los Angeles for a week, where we spent a day seeing tourist stuff in Hollywood but spent most of our time playing on the beach.

Hollywood's Walk of Fame, 9/1/08

Kermit the Frog's star in Hollywood

After our fun, RJ was in the Park Ranger Training Program in Flagstaff, Arizona from September to mid-November. He spent hours in the classroom learning the intricacies of federal law enforcement work, shot a multitude of guns, learned to drive a patrol car, got sprayed in the face with pepper spray, spent hours grappling with his classmates, and ran for miles. I drove our Jeep and cargo trailer to Texas in September, then flew back to Arizona to see him graduate in mid-November and drive to Texas with him afterwards.

RJ shooting, 9/26/08

RJ at target practice

In early November, RJ received, and accepted, a job offer from the National Park Service as a Law Enforcement Park Ranger (GS-7) at Amistad National Recreation Area near Del Rio, Texas. As part of the Secure Border Initiative, the five parks along the U.S.-Mexico border added two dozen ranger positions; RJ was hired for one of these new spots. He started work on January 2nd and went directly to training --  the new rangers are all attending the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Georgia from January to May 2009 -- and then he’ll do a multi-week training stint at another park before going to Del Rio. I can’t go with him, so I'm staying with my parents and spending my time training their horses and working when I can.

We took advantage of RJ’s last few weeks off by visiting family and friends in Colorado and Montana on our way to Texas and then Georgia, and squeezed in visits to the Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde, and Rocky Mountain National Parks. Our trip was a bit derailed when we had to spend two weeks in Denver waiting for RJ's medical exam to be completed and processed, and we had the fun experience of having the flu while we were there. After finally leaving Denver, we saw Montana's Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, then visited friends in Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area for a few days. We were on our way to see RJ's parents when we had a massive car accident. A strong gust of wind pushed us onto black ice, and we went through a steep ditch and a barbed wire fence before we slammed into a telephone pole and came to rest underneath live power lines. The pole hit squarely on the B pillar (at the back of the driver's door), then broke across the top of the Suburban, right across the sunroof. The driver's side was pushed in over a foot, and the roof was creased about as deep. The Suburban was totaled, but we walked away from the accident with only a few minor scrapes from broken glass. We rented a small moving truck because it was significantly cheaper than a rental car, then drove to Texas, stopping in Denver to pick up a load of alfalfa hay (why drive an empty truck when hay costs half as much in Colorado and the quality is better?) and spent two days at a new hotel in Trinidad when we got caught by a blizzard. We finally made it to my parents' house and had time to recuperate, relax, and enjoy the holidays before heading to Georgia. We drove out to FLETC together, with a brief stop in New Orleans for New Year's Eve on the way, then I flew back to Texas. RJ is currently enjoying FLETC and is working hard, and I'm finding plenty to keep myself busy here in Texas.

On the road again
Like a band of gypsies we go down the highway
We're the best of friends
Insisting that the world be turnin' our way
And our way
Is on the road again

Grand Canyon, 11/15/08

At the South rim of the Grand Canyon, November 15th

We’ll move to Del Rio next summer, but until then our mailing address is still the P.O. box in New Braunfels, and our cell phone numbers and email have not changed.

Just can't wait to get on the road again
The life I love is makin' music with my friends
And I can't wait to get on the road again

We wish you blue skies, clear roads, and good friends to share your travels with.