Wednesday, May 15, 2013

30 Years in 30 Days: Years 26 to 30


Year 26: 2009
In January we got to go back to Pittsburgh and watch a playoff game.  They were playing San Diego again, which was the game we went to back in November of last year, but this one was so much more important.  Next we knocked off the Ravens to go back to the Superbowl.  Of course the Steelers win their sixth Super Bowl.  We watched the game up in Philly.  I got so nervous I had to go upstairs to watch it for a while.

My second tour at HQ was coming to an end.  It was going to be either retire at 26 years, which isn't bad or get one more tour to take me to 30.  There was only one more job that I wanted to do as an ET and a Master Chief and that was Rating Force Master Chief.  That job was responsible for the health of the whole Electronics Technician rating.  I applied near the end of the year and it looked like I was going to get it.  One thing had to be accomplished and that was the Chief Petty Officers Academy.  My advancements had revolved around that requirement and I was technically exempt from needing it, but this job required it, so I had to remedy that.

I applied to the CPO Academy and was put on a waitlist for the class I needed to go to before reporting to the RFMC job, if I got it.  Well I got the orders and in April I headed to CA for five weeks.  The class was good.  As the senior person in the class I was made the president of class 159.  I got to do a short speech at the graduation dinner.

At the end of May we got a new addition to the family.  We found Ginger at a local pet store.  Her fur was the exact same color as the girls' hair, thus her name.  We woke her up at the store to check her out and at first I think she was either leary of us or pissed that we awakened her, but warmed up to us quickly.  She came home with us.  It became clear very quickly that she was very smart and very hard headed as I trained her.

The sigh of frustration she let out when I introduced her to the steps was priceless.  But all I had to do was show her how to negotiate them with the enticement of a snack and she mastered them quickly.  She quickly taught us the many things she would do to entice us to give her a snack.  She trained us well.

In June, my first born graduated high school.  It was a good ceremony.  The valedictorian or whatever sang a song instead of giving a speech.  Very cool.  Shauni would be off to DeSales University near Allentown, PA in the fall.

Also in June, I started my new (last) job.  The travel distance to my new job was doing down two flights of steps to the 9th floor.  I would be doing a total of 12 years at HQ, a place I vowed to never visit in my early years.  After a while you can get used to anything.

I did a lot of traveling in this new job, but we still had time to do a Cape May and Conneaut vacation.  My final tour had begun.


Year 27: 2010
This was a winter with some big snows.  At the beginning of February we got quite a bit.  Luckily our street got a little bit of treatment, but was still pretty covered.  I had to fly to Oregon for an inspection and while I was gone, it snowed some more.  I had to have some kids shovel out my van at the airport parking lot and when I got home (about midnight) I got stuck about 10 feet from the driveway.  It had been a long day, so I just left the van in the middle of the street and went to bed for a few hours.  I got up at daylight and dug it out and got it in the driveway.  That was fun.

Later that month I went up to New London for the Senior Enlisted Leadership Course.  That was the first time I had been on our Officer Academy and it was a very interesting two weeks.

In March Tom came down and painted a couple of our rooms.  He did the living room and hallway upstairs and our bedroom downstairs.  The best part was the Steeler room down in the basement.  It turned out really nice.  Black and gold blended together.

At the beginning of May Brandi got her permit.  It was time to teach some driving again.  We would go over to the local technical school and drive around it over and over.  After she got comfortable with that, we would drive off the campus and down the road for a while then come back.  It was a process.

Also in May, Lisa and I did a Muddy Buddy down in Richmond.  It was a lot like an adventure race, but a bit shorter and much dirtier.  The way this race works is you are a two person team with one bike.  One person starts off running and the the one on the bike starts a little later.  You both head to the first challenge.  The biker passes the runner and does the challenge.  When finished the biker now starts to run.  The runner comes up, does the challenge and then grabs the bike and continues on.  You keep doing this for about 3 to 5 miles or so and then do a mud crawl together at the end.  It was quite a bit of fun.

We also tried something called a Diet in June.  It is called a diet because it is free and there isn't any special setup or official stuff.  We didn't get real far, as it turned out to be a pretty tough training event.  We did some orienteering and then mountain biking and it was really hard.  I guess we could have skipped a lot of the far off controls as I guess it was a ROGAINE type race, but they never really said that.  If we would have kept going, we would have had to blow up a inner tube and float on the river some.  We never got that far, but we had a great time.

In July, my father had to have surgery to remove his gall bladder.  It was very badly infected and came close to doing him in.  But that hard headed Harold decided to stick around some more.  He spent a lot of time in the hospital, but was able to come home.

In September I headed to Ohio to take a basic survival class with Dave Canterbury.  He is a guy that was on  the Discovery channel's Dual Survival show.  It was a fun class and I learned a lot.  A week after coming home I was able to make fire with a bow drill set.  It was pretty cool.

In October Lisa and I did the Warrior Dash.  This was another mud run, but it didn't have the bike element.  Just lots of obstacles, lots of mud and you had to jump over fire.  They gave everyone horned fur hats.  After the race they had food, drinks and music.  We had a great time.


Year 28: 2011
After three semesters at DeSales, Shauni transferred to Towson.  She was now only a 45 minute drive away.  She also decided that she didn't want to pursue the nursing degree and switched to a biology major.

In March, Brandi passed her drivers test.  We had also given her a car for her (sorta) 16th birthday, but we didn't get it until August of 2010 or so.  Learning from the first try at this, Brandi and I would drive around and look for decent used cars.  Her one request was that it be red.  All we had to do was slowly drive pass a lot and if we saw red, we would stop.  We found her a little Chevy Aveo and she liked it very much. 

In April, I had a work trip to Phoenix, AZ and I got to visit John and Candy and their family.  I went over and we had dinner and hung out.  It was really good seeing them again.  I also had to climb Camel-back Mountain while there.  It can get pretty crowded in the parking lot, but it was a really cool hike up to the top and back down.  The views at the top were spectacular. 

In June, we did another Warrior Dash up in PA.  This time Lisa's sister (Age) and some of her friends also did the race.  It was really fun all of us together on the trail, getting all muddy and doing the obstacles.  We partied afterwards while we enjoyed the bands that played.  Our chip timers that were tied on our shoes were good for a free beer.  They also have a place where you can donate your shoes that you used for the race.  They clean them up and send them somewhere.  There were a lot of chips on some of those shoes, so I went treasure hunting and got about five free beers for my efforts.  It is hard to untie a wet muddy knot on a shoelace.  We stayed at a friend of Age's vacation house for the night and headed home the next day.  A very good time.

Late in the month we did a backpacking trip.  It was the whole family including Ginger and Alex, Shauni's boyfriend.  The hike in was nice.  The first part of it was on the Appalachian Trail, but then we veered off on a side trail down to the lake.  I sorta took us on a little extra route as the map and trail markings were not too good once you got off the AT, but we found our camp and had a nice overnight.  I'm pretty sure we camped near where two girls were shot (one died) about 20 years ago, by some crazy homeless guy.  I'm glad we didn't know the story until a few months later. 

July/August had Shauni driving to Florida with Alex for a vacation, followed by a Conneaut vacation, followed by a Cape May vacation.  We like our vacations.  While in Cape May, I was also volunteering as a Recruit Company Mentor.  I visited Recruit Company Juliet 185 three times.  Once in their second week, then in their fifth week where I was able to watch them do the obstacle course and receive their colors (the flag they carry), and answer their questions about the units they were going to and lastly at their graduation, where I gave a very short speech during the ceremony.  It was a very gratifying experience.

I had caught the AT bug.  I was now obsessed with hiking as much of it as I could and maybe even one day doing a thru hike where you start at one end and keep going until you reach the other end.  But for now I was going to do short sections.  In September I did my first AT Section hike.  The details of the hike (and others I have done since then) are on my trail journals website.  If you are interested in what one does when they strap all they need on to their back and start walking, go to http://www.trailjournals.com/jefe  Basically I hiked from Harpers Ferry, across MD and up into PA.  I went as far as Pine Grove Furnace Park during this hike.  The new AT Museum is located here, but was closed when I came by. 

In November Lisa was diagnosed with some kind of cyst in her chin.  She had a couple operations to remove it and a few teeth came with it.  She still hasn't finished the work to repair the missing teeth, but hopefully will be done soon. 

My mom had to go into the hospital for a bowel obstruction that required surgery.  She never fully recovered and once again we were saddened with the loss of a loved one.  She died with my Dad and Sister near by on the 11th of December.  We were able to bring her home for Thanksgiving Dinner in November,  but had to bring her back to the rehab home that night.  It was  funny, she was sitting on the couch for about 2 minutes when she gets this look on her face.  We asked her what was wrong and she said the door was dirty by the door knob.  I quickly got a warsh rag and cleaned it up for her. 

Christmas was a somber affair that year.  At New Years Kristan's fiance (now husband), Jeremy set up all his equipment and we had a wonderful jam session in the house.  My dad seemed to enjoy all the music and I know we all did.  My playing wasn't that good, but with Jeremy leading the way, it all sounded pretty decent. 


Year 29: 2012
With my mother's death still fresh in all of our minds, my Godmother and Aunt, Colette, passed away at the end of February after suffering a stroke.  It was another sad trip up to PA for her funeral.

While Lisa continued with her surgeries and dental work, I found a new mole that seemed to grow rather fast.  The biopsy came back positive for melanoma so we had another fight to fight.  This time it had gone a little deeper into my skin so they also took out a couple lymph nodes along with a good deal of skin on my arm and gave me a nice new scar.  Luckily it hadn't spread to my lymph system and the doctor deemed this occurrence cured.

In April, Ginger and I went up the the AT for a quick overnight trip.  She loves the hiking, but gets scared of every bump in the night.  We had some rain, but as you can probably tell, I am now obsessed with backpacking on the AT.

In May, we did another back pack trip on the AT.  This time it was me, Shauni and Alex.  It was a 20 mile trip and we planned to take three days of hiking.  Nice and easy like.  The first day we stopped at a trail center that served us a spaghetti dinner.  Shauni had developed some blisters that got worse the second day. The last day was a painful walk for her down into Harpers Ferry, but we completed the hike.  See my trail journal for the details.  You have bookmarked my journal page, right?

In June, Brandi graduated from High School.  In the fall, she would be attending the local community college here until she figured out where she wanted to finish and what she wanted to do.

In July, after our annual vacation in Cape May I did a quick overnight backpack trip on the AT.  It was an easy hike to a nice shelter to try out a new hammock.  One thing I forget to bring was earplugs.  The Cricket Frogs were so loud that night, I barely got any sleep.

In August we went to Conneaut and after that we went to the Lowrie Family Reunion.  It had been four years since the last one and we were missing two beloved sisters from the group.  The newest member, my cousin Margie's baby had been born a day or so before the party.

It was September and time for another backpacking trip on the AT.  This time Lisa came along.  We had planned on three nights out, but we went pretty far and got back to the second car on the third day.  We had met a girl on the trail who had tried to thru hike in 2010 and had stopped at Harpers Ferry.  She was now doing sections southbound to try to get to the end, but a job made it more challenging.  We offered her a ride back to Harpers Ferry where she had to catch a train to DC and her flight back home and we stayed in a nice hostel in town called the Tea Horse Hostel.  It was nice and the hike was great.  The weather couldn't have been more perfect.

The world ended on December 21st in a fiery ball of death.  Oh, wait.  No it didn't.  Um, never mind.

New Year's Eve had us back at Cath's house for the now annual party a day after watching the Steelers kill the Browns in a meaningless game.  It was meaningful for us and the tailgate was fun as usual.  This year the jam session was in her basement and it was real fun again.  The highlight of the night was all the crazy people doing a polar bear plunge in the back of Mike's truck which was filled with slushy water.  I had fun watching.  There was no way I was going in there.


Year 30: 2013
For the last 30 days, I have been covering one year of my career each day.  I have had great fun going through my memories, journals and Franklin Planner (my paper brain) to help me remember the things we had done over my career in the Coast Guard.  There is no way I could have covered everything, but I think I wrote enough for you to get an idea of what it is like to serve your country for this long while building a family and living a life.  I was lucky that I never had a bullet aimed at me and I was able to advance to the pinnacle of the enlisted ranks.  I have received many good comments and I thank you for coming along with me on this trip down memory lane.  I apologize if I clogged your feed with my ramblings.

I hope to continue to build memories and maybe I will do this again in another 20 years or so when I retire for good.  By then, I will probably just have to think the words and they will type out for me while I sit at my estate on Mars. :)  So follow me once more as I finish this quest.  Thanks for reading.

The past five months has been a flurry of activity and excitement as we approach this thing called retirement.  Now, military retirement is a strange animal.  You start collecting the pension right away, but you are still young enough to find another job.  Living outside Baltimore and having two kids still in college means I will definitely be looking for another job.  It would be nice to find a place to live where my pension is enough to keep us fed, clothed and sheltered, while I hike the trail up and down, but for now I will work.

Shauni will be finishing up her degree this summer and Brandi is just finishing her first year at AACC.  We all still live together and the nest is still full.  (for now).  Lisa still works at Food Lion making sure everyone who comes in has enough of what they need on the shelves.  Ginger demands two walks a day and it will be hard to get the truck loaded without her trying to get out and into the vehicle   Precious is busy clearing the surrounding areas of all mice, moles and birds.  She is such a killer.  I continuously obsess about hiking the Appalachian Trail and once we are done with the retirement ceremony today, that will be my focus for at least the next three weeks or so.

Yep, you guessed it.  Lisa and I will be heading to the AT this weekend.  We will drive down south to the beginning of the trail and will start hiking north for a couple/few weeks.  Our start is Amicalola Falls State Park and our goal is Fontana Dam.  That is about 175 miles or so up the trail.

If you want to follow along, I will be trying to post updates at my other trail journal site called postholer.  That site is easier to post to with a phone while out on the trail.  I don't know how often we will have service, but if you want to, http://postholer.com/jefe is the place.

If you want to come along, just show up down in Georgia on May 20th and start hiking with us.

I will see you on the trail...
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference





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