100 Airports and Counting!

Now that I’ve started the new job and am travelling a little again, I’ve been able to expand my list of airports to 100 now after visiting Nebraska and flying in and out of Omaha (OMA) and Lincoln (LNK).

Not only that, but I’ve achieved Premier 1K for the first time. My efforts at that lagged when I moved out of services into IT at Microsoft. Now that I’m not there anymore and back in the consulting field, I’m able to fly a little more. Just 5 times in the last year so far – enough with the United “COVID bonuses” (incentives) to qualify for 1K.

Now, back before the Continental/United merger, I had achieved the highest even unpublished status on Continental (Continental “Star”) after spending almost all year every week flying for at least a couple of years. That travel was brutal and was one more reason I took the Federal consulting job at Microsoft: less travel. Well, and it was Microsoft… 🙂

After almost 5 years in MSIT, though, I had to get back out into consulting and I’ve chosen a great place at West Monroe. The travel burden is low as well. I can live with travelling once per month and it’s not even been that. I have the freedom to work remote if I wish or need to. Or, even work from the beach – although that would be a distraction. Just a bit.

But – if I want to, they would be happy to let me range all over the country.

Epic Change

… and a new blog platform as well.

Or more precisely, the new blog platform is necessitated by the change. That change is:

A new job.

That’s right, and not only a new job, a new company. I have decided to hang up my Microsoft FTE spurs and take up with a new (to me) company and go back out in the field as a consultant to help companies recover from ransomware attacks.

It will be a challenging new job, but I’m much more hopeful about my future opportunities with this new company. Plus, the “stress” of the new job can in no way compete with the demoralization I’ve been subjected to in the last couple of years at Microsoft. It once was a great company to work for, and likely still is in other organizations, but the one I was most lately in had become toxic and hostile.

I start the new job in a couple of days. Which, of course, leads me to my next topic: platform!

Because as a MS employee I had a full MSDN subscription, I also had a free Azure subscription and I used it to host this blog and to test out other technologies as well. Now that I am leaving, I have migrated off Azure and moved the blog to WordPress.com to be hosted. This should provide me with an even more stable, updated environment, but it comes with the loss of my favorite theme. You will notice the stark appearance of this one.

It will take time for me to find the right template and graphics to make the site “mine” again.

And with this new job, perhaps I will begin to write more again. Perhaps I will have some more mental bandwidth again.

Perhaps, even, some happy thoughts and pictures.

50 in 50: Done.

I started writing this post in mid-September, but the days have conspired to keep me busy and sap my energy. Today, since I’m now 51, I will finish this post:

Last week [early September], in my 50th year of life, Laura and I visited my 50th state: North Dakota. The desire to visit all 50 eventually has been on my mind for a few decades, but the idea of getting my last state in my 50th year (before I turn 51) came to me on the day before my birthday last year when we visited Maine (48) a week before, followed by New Hampshire (49) the day before I turned 50. I thought: “Hey – I just did the 49th state in my 49th year, so maybe I can do one more this year.”

Sure enough, that last state was North Dakota. I’ve now completed my state travel map which now shows as all red. I’ve been to every state and some island territories, such as Guam, St. Thomas, and St. John, as well as DC which doesn’t really count as a state. In the course of that visit, I’ve added yet another airport to my list. It’s a very nice airport with a beautiful sky painted on the ceiling.

Fitting since it’s certainly one of the “big sky” states. Fairly flat with very few trees. Sort of like this:

Many said, or rather asked sarcastically, “What is there to do in North Dakota? There’s nothing there…” We discovered, to our great benefit, that there is quite a lot to do – at least, there is in summer. I cannot speak to winter in the Dakotas – I can only imagine that it’s rather bleak and brutal. During the summer months (or month? – I imagine that it’s not quite as long as in the more temperate zones) there is much outdoor activity to be had.

Theodore Roosevelt spent much of his time recovering from the death of his wife and his mother in the western wilderness of this state developing an appreciation of the wild landscape. This appreciation led him to create many new national parks later in his terms as president. In the western part of the state, Theodore Roosevelt National Park is broken into two “units” one in the north and one in the south. Separated by the high plains, these two different sections of badlands are like mini “grand canyons” carved into the flowing grasslands. Each one was different in feel and had unique charms.

The north unit was smaller, but we felt more interesting. We drove through the entire length of the park and were able to see most of it in a few hours. A more thorough experience could be had by camping and hiking through the various trails (we only hiked one – we are novices when it comes to hiking). At one point, we were able to see the “concretions”, or strange spherical rock formations mixed in to the landscape.

While examining these, we came across a lone bison wandering the nearby grass. It was a big, old, mangy bull and it had cornered an older couple just by wandering by. It seemed to be looking for a boulder to scratch its belly.

Later that day, we ventured to the edge of the state to see the Fairview Lift Bridge. Long decommissioned, it’s now open to walk across and into the tunnel behind it. It was a unique experience and I have to give credit to my cousin Matt Phillips for suggesting a visit.

We then headed across the border into Montana for dinner, and then headed back to our hotel through dark empty roads. Empty, that is, except for deer. We counted over 50 deer we had to slow down for and avoid. That made the trip take a bit longer than it should have.

Next, we visited the south unit where there was the Painted Canyon, through which we hiked, and then took the trail to the Petrified Forest on the western edge of the park. That trail took the most time since there was so much to see. The terrain changed so much between desert valley, hilly cliff trail, high plains grasslands, and painted desert canyon with petrified wood scattered throughout the area.

This picture does not do it justice, but it’s the best sample of a few varieties of the petrified wood (foreground) scattered around looking like wood chips and the carved out walls of the canyon.

We visited Minot and toured the Scandinavian Heritage Park and visited local restaurants. All in all, a great time was had by all. We are certainly well pleased that we chose to travel there and spend more than a week galivanting across the “empty” state. Now we know that we have to go back.

And we certainly won’t think there’s “nothing” to do there.

Done Gone and Moved Again

In the spirit of writing a blog post at least once a year (yes – I know that’s not enough), I wanted to let all 3 of my blog followers know that we have moved from our rental house in Sammamish finally into our own purchased house in the same neighborhood.

We received a notice from the landlord that the owners of our previous house were intending to occupy their house at the end of our lease – which was June 30th. Fortunately, they gave us about 60 days notice which set off a flurry of house hunting, budget planning, packing, and general sense of panic.

I had earlier been casually looking around to see what was available, and decided to stop looking and just renew the lease. But, of course that idea didn’t last. So now the search was on in earnest.

We started with what I felt was a reasonable budget for this area (which is still quite unreasonable when compared to Texas and even Virginia). After discovering that there were no properties at the desired price in our near area, we began looking further out. Yes, there are good properties for our budget, but they are so far away. The best house we found was over an hour commute each way to work and had a super small yard and tiny garage – two car, but SMALL cars.

After driving that distance several times to look at houses, we almost decided to buy in Monroe. On the last drive home, it began to hit me just how much more time I’d be spending in the car just driving to and from work. At this point, I decided it just wasn’t worth it to lose two hours a day more to driving.

We went home in sadness and with no prospects for a home in mind.

While we were getting out of the car, one of our neighbors stopped to talk to us and suggested we go look at one house down the street. This house was way outside the budget I had set for our house, but we went anyway. Once we got inside to look, we just felt at home – peaceful despite the price. While sitting there thinking about the possibility, it became clear that if we made some adjustments to our savings and other expenses, we could actually bump up our budget and possibly afford to stay in the same area.

So we made an offer and it was accepted.

But there were more hurdles to overcome.

The inspection revealed quite a few issues that needed to be addressed. We began to start making appointments for quotes and additional inspections. The owners responded with anger. At that point, we rescinded our offer and prepared to move on. We continued to look at houses, but this time with a higher budget in mind. There were many more options, but nothing out there that caught our eye.

After pulling the offer, the owner’s listing agent contacted us to ask for the inspection report. We gladly provided it to them – this meant they were serious and also could not claim ignorance on any seller disclosures. They immediately dropped the price, followed by a second price drop a week later. Soon, service vehicles were showing up at the house. We then began to think: “well, if they are actually going to fix things like we were going to ask, then maybe they will entertain a new more fair offer…”

So, we reached out through our agent to ask about what was going to be done to the house. Eventually, we reached a fair price – well below our originally agreed to price, and that included some of the more critical repair work already done.

So, now we were able to move ahead and close on the house in two weeks.

We are now moved into the new house, with boxes stacked all around. The most important part of this story is that we felt no peace anywhere else – we felt that God had placed us here in this area when we first moved in, and every time we attempted to find a place outside, we were just not able to find the peace to move on it. Once we made the decision for this house, the burdens we had felt for finding a place were just lifted off our shoulders – it was most certainly a “peace that passes understanding”. It made no sense to our minds that spending so much money would cause a peaceful reaction, therefore it must only be a divine gift that we are able to be here.

We are determined to make this house a place of peace and hospitality – to have friends and family visitors, and to use the house to make new friends and serve others. This will challenge us as introverts, but we will make every effort to share the blessing of this house with others.

Updates and News

You may notice that the web site is missing a few things… like all of the pictures. Well, apparently, this was a planned change that I somehow missed in my flurry of emails. The backend database that serves this web site on Azure was migrated off the service and onto a standalone hosting platform and then disconnected. They were kind enough to provide my the backup of the file, so I still have all of my archived data. What is missing, though, are my pictures which are still in the old directory structure, but not linked to the new location and posts. I’ll have to go through the links and download them… Lots of work to do … again.

And Now For Real News

Maybe not terribly exciting to you, but I’ve added yet another airport to my list: OGG, or the main Maui airport which we visited for a vacation a couple of weeks ago. I’ve updated the list and now have 95 airports on it that I’ve visited over the years.

Maybe I should add some pictures of Maui? Probably.

Trouble On Two Wheels

Yep. That’s me… again.

After putting it off for a long time, mostly for good reasons, I’ve finally acquired the motorcycle that I’ve always wanted. Granted, it’s the most current version of it – not the version that launched in the 80s when I were a wee child dreaming of cruising around on the latest two-wheeled dream.

When I was in my early teens, I subscribed to Cycle World – or maybe I just bought them at the 7-11 every month, I can’t remember. In one of those issues back in 1982, there was an article about the new BMW K100 – a radical new design for BMW which comprised of a horizontally mounted inline-4. Previously, BMW had built a motorcycle cult following with their twin boxer engine, and most riders saw BMW as a stodgy bike maker whose time had passed. The era of the Japanese high-performance motorcycles was dawning. I also had dreams of the new Interceptor (but I think that might have been later in 1984) or Hurricane, or Katana, but this BMW caught my eye. I was fascinated with how they had engineered it to ride in all seasons, and designed the fairings to channel water away from the rider when riding in rain. But, since I was not even a legal driver, I knew it was not going to be mine – at least for a long time.

My friend Darren and I used to dream out loud of riding motorcycles on a tour around the country after we graduated high school. This dream never happened and I forgot about it for a while with college and life happening at a furious pace. Eventually, I ended up with Laura – exactly where I was supposed to be.

She, fortunately, had a little bit of a “biker” in her past, so when she suggested we ride away from the wedding on a motorcycle, I was more than eager to comply. My father had recently bought his own motorcycle, a Honda Shadow 1200 with a beautiful orange flame tank. I would go over to their house and practice riding the bike a few times a week. I took longer and longer rides until it was time to practice with a passenger. Laura was happy to help.

We were able to ride away from our wedding on the motorcycle and got some great pictures – but by that time, I was already hooked. We even took the course and got licensed together.

My father took a job working overseas, and I graciously offered to care for the bike while he was away. Bikes must be ridden regularly, after all. Someone has to, right? I put quite a few miles on that bike for him.

Eventually, I took a new job in Virginia and we were relocated. At the time, we were trimming expenses to cut our costs and had sold off all but one car. When we arrived in Virginia, we needed another vehicle. I of course suggested a motorcycle – out of the purest of motives I assure you. This was in 2005.

BMW had just released a new version of the K-bike: a K1200S – beautiful blue and white or black and yellow paint combinations and the latest technological advances were applied to that machine which grew from the K100.

When it came to purchase one, since we were still paying off my substantial debt, I couldn’t quite swing the price of the BMW. I even drove to Maryland to test drive one, although I knew I couldn’t afford it. It was wondrous. However, reality set in and I only had so much money. So, I ended up with the second in line: the Honda Interceptor. This was a great bike and it took me over 30,000 miles in just a couple of years as my primary vehicle. But, it wasn’t the “dream bike” that I had intended to buy. We called it the “interim bike”.

After using it as a daily driver, riding lost the thrill and I found myself dreading those hot, sweaty rides to work in stop and go traffic. My project had changed and my commute switched directions from out of town to into the beast of the DC area. It was no longer a pleasure to ride to work. We eventually got a second car and the Interceptor sat in the garage for a while. I still rode, but not as much. I eventually sold the bike with the expectation that eventually, I’d get “the one” that I’d been waiting for.

Then, life got in the way again. Crazy work schedules, business travel every week, a new job, relocation, dealing with selling the house in Virginia, and when it didn’t sell, renting it out, and finally selling it again all got in the way of seriously planning to get the new bike. I had for the last 3 years or so been subscribed to the CycleTrader mailing list searching the nation for just the K1300 bike I wanted. At first, I thought I wanted the K1300GT. They stopped making them in 2011, so they are hard to find with low mileage. But, I also kept coming back to that “S” model. The original one that first made me want to go out and buy it right away. So, there was a local one. I went and test rode it. Sure enough, it was the one I wanted. I even toyed with the R1200RS – a bike with the boxer engine, but I could not shake the K from my mind.

Then, after we freed ourselves from the house and were in a position to do so, after much discussion, I was able to locate a 2015 K1300S Motorsport edition (it matches my car since I have the M Roadster). It was in Boise. Only 4100 miles on the bike – practically new.

So I bought it. I flew down and took it home. It felt great to ride. Smooth, powerful, solid, and stable – everything I wanted and had hoped for. The safety features and technology advances since I owned the 2002 Interceptor were substantial. I have ABS, traction control, tire pressure monitors, electronically adjustable suspension. The works. The bike was so solid on the road, that when the winds were whipping around me in eastern Washington on my ride back, the bike didn’t budge. I was almost blown away, but the bike was a rock.

They’ve discontinued this model now, but that just means it’s all the more rare and I’m pleased that I get to own one of the last ones made.

We’ve taken it out a few times together, and I’ve even found a few riding buddies at work and in my neighborhood. I only ride when I want to so I don’t burn out. I also don’t have to ride in the rain and snow like I did in Virginia. This make Laura happier.

This bike was definitely worth the wait.