Great American Western Road Trip: Summer 2018

4 weeks, 3 kids, 1 van, 16 different lodgings, 5400+ miles, 12+ National or State Parks and Monuments adds up to 1 Epic Adventure.

American Southwest Family Vacation 2017

We followed historic Route 66 on our way to see the Grand Canyon, the Petrified Forest, the Painted Desert, plus much more in New Mexico and Arizona.

End of Tour Summary: Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Here are our stories from two and a half years of living in Saudi Arabia while exploring the region.

Excursions to Oman

On two different trips, we strolled Muscat, hiked Wadi Shab, and sailed a dhow through the fjords of Musandam.

Our Expedition to Jordan

Highlights included tracing the steps of Indiana Jones into Petra, following Lawrence of Arabia into Wadi Rum, and floating in the Dead Sea.

Monday, February 07, 2005

End of Tour Summary: Deployment #1

I spent a little over six months deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom with the 1st Expeditionary RED HORSE Group. Which meant I got to go TDY during my TDY to places like Qatar, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Uzbekistan.


Sunday, February 06, 2005

Wheels Up!

Ok, so 2100Z or 0000 Local time seems like a good place to start Saturday on the plane ride. Had a salmon dinner with potato cubes and cran-apple juice. I'd forgotten how good salmon tastes, and this was good despite being airline food. It basically disappeared, even though I wasn't hungry...but the food was really good.

Landed at Budapest around 0120Z, but like the trip over, we couldn't deplane. There's snow on the ground, but in the dim light it looks like sand and rock. Airborne again an hour later. Eyelids growing heavy. Arrived at Frankfurt an hour after that. The terminal was so generic you'd never know you were outside the States. Only German product (got some Eiswein) betrayed the location. Re-boarded around 0600Z. Took off a little later, with the same sunrise following us for hours. Breakfast was a crepe with cherry compote.

Watched the movie "Taxi" and "Elf" while chowing down on an assortment of snacks. Unfortunately, nothing I did could warm up my feet. They feel like they're on the verge of frost bite. We blocked some of the vents with blankets and the flight engineer is working on the problem. Watched "Shark Tale," again. I can feel my hands and toes again. We touched down at BWI around 9:30 Eastern. It took around 19 hours to get back to the US.

Picked up our bags, went through customs, checked in for our domestic legs. One of our group got picked out for being a criminal because he had a very common name. Did the whole "shoes through the X-ray" pat down search thing. Then got lunch around 11. Taco Bell. Oh, so good. I know, that sounds weird, but it's amazing what you miss when you're away. I was eating scraps with a fork. Probably could have eaten more (3 supremes and a bean burrito) but I'm pacing myself. I haven't shaved in days and probably look pretty rough.

On the plane around 11:30. Because of tight quarters, our carry-on bags were checked too. Most people had books, I had an over-pressurized minibag of pretzels that I turned into a sumo wrestler with a stick of jucy fruit (the foil became its loincloth).

Arrived at Memphis around 1:30 CT, on the plane to Fort Walton Beach at 2:25 CT. On the ground at 3:45pm, after enduring an hour-long conversation behind me involving a very positive woman who kept talking about absolutely nothing. Even Seinfeld would have been like "What is this?"

Met Tim and Gina at the baggage claim where they gave me back the keys to my car and house. I was on my way home around 4pm...The hardest part was remembering how to drive my car. When I got home, it looked like I had never left, but cleaner. Tim must have videotaped my house and put everything back accordingly. You really couldn't tell they'd been living there since Ivan wrecked their house.

Went to base to get my cell phone from the office. My base pass was expired, but since it's the weekend I was let on. Phone was still fully charged, since I'd pulled the battery before I left. Stopped at Jin-Jin for dinner. As soon as I walked in, the owner said "Long time, no see!" which was cool (but probably just a great marketing trick). General Tso's chicken never tasted so good. It was even better because they gave me the order immediately after I placed it--someone else had phoned in but wasn't there yet. Same food, but mine was still hot.

Went home and sorted some mail (nearly a foot thick, yet only one personal letter that contained a recent photo and "Merry Christmas." Went to sleep. Journey's over.

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Saturday, February 05, 2005

Headed home!

I got into my room at 0130, only to find my roommate Nate had taken my alarm clock and hung it from the bedpost. I plugged the one he was using in, but it required the use of the transformer. Set the time and alarm to 0700. Well, when the clock said 7:00, it was actually 8:05 and I was late for my meeting to check out of here. Fun fact: Digital clocks count the cycles in the current that supplies them, so you can see how a 60Hz clock plugged into a 50Hz supply would get out of sync quickly. By the time I wrote this, the clock said 8:21, but it's 9:42.

Fortunately, I'd packed yesterday and threw my dirty clothes into the bag and I was off. Had to forego the shower. Packed my razor, too. Fortunately, I had enough leftover soap and shampoo to get the job done. A few other poor planning items came to light but nothing major. My flight leaves in 12 hours and I managed to get a seat next to Roxanne, a petite command post chica. More room for me. That's good planning.

Right around noon, we got a message from the base command post to meet at the plaza to look for an Airman who was missing and considered a hazard to herself. In less than 30 minutes, there were probably a thousand people assembled and briefed on the situation and told the search plan. Just before we broke out to search, she was found. It was impressive to see a real-world organization and near-implementation happen so fast.

Checked out of my room after a departure briefing. Watched "Napoleon Dynamite" on a pirated DVD - you could hear the audience laughing. Went to the chow hall for a burger at 5pm, then a quick shower and met up at 6 to start leaving here. Got food at the grab & go, then we sat on the ground in the terminal waiting to board for over four hours.

At approximately 2240 local, 1940Z, we were on board and airborne by 2010Z. Just before take off, we paused in such a way that a structure I built was framed in the window and lit up with lights. A fitting end to the trip, really. Too bad I didn't have a camera, but I doubt I'd be allowed to take pics of the area. But the picture would have been mostly black, except for the building and sunshades which were illuminated so brightly that it looked like daytime.

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