Portland Vacation (2016.08)

Portland skyline panorama, as seen from Pittock Mansion
Click here to see it larger (2048 x 296)
(Copyright © 2016 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

Colorful flower garden in front of our hotel
(Copyright © 2016 by Wil C. Fry.)

My vacation entries always require a few days to prepare. This one took longer, because: real life. Yet it should be briefer than most, due to a different format. Rather than go full chronological order, as is my custom, I’m treating this vacation in a topical fashion to save time.

Photos aren’t a priority of this entry. If you’re terribly interested in my photos, you’re already following me on Flickr. If you’re only mildly interested in my images, scroll to the end of this entry and follow the link.

• The Superlatives

This vacation was the longest — distance from home — of my marriage. Google Maps says it’s 2,053 miles from Austin to Portland by automobile; it’s about 1,710 miles if you could fly in a straight line. This is farther than our trips to New England (2008, 2014), Montreal (2009), or out West (2009).

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2016.07.14: DREAM: Duffel Bags And No Blank Paper

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Published on: 2016.07.14

As with many of my dreams, all I remember now are a collection of scenes. Perhaps they were separate dreams, though now it feels like they were part of the same narrative.

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The Life Of A Stay-At-Home Dad, According To A Stay-At-Home Daughter

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Published on: 2016.07.10

Not long after I woke this morning, my five-year-old daughter pulled out a notepad and a pen and began interviewing me — without warning.

“What is the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?” she said.

“Um, go to the bathroom?” I responded honestly, knowing that she can’t actually write. I had no idea she planned to draw my answers.

RLF’s drawing of my first answer
I think it resembles a tadpole riding a turtle
(Photo copyright © 2016 by Wil C. Fry; drawing copyright © 2016 by Rebecca L. Fry)

Soon, she was ready with her next question:

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2016 Galveston Vacation

MRB enjoy the surf in the shallow waters near the beach
(Copyright © 2016 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

We enjoyed Galveston so much last year that we decided to do it again. In fact, we decided that last year, on the way home from Galveston. Early this year, when we received our Income Tax Refund, we set aside part of it for this vacation, and booked our hotel room not long after.

Scroll on down to read about this year’s Galveston adventure.

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June 6 In History

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Published on: 2016.06.06

My toast to all the readers who’ve stuck with us for the past 10 years
(Copyright © 2006 by Wil C. Fry.)

Several important events in history have occurred on June 6. The most important to me, personally, of course, is my wedding day in 2006 CE. Others were fairly important as well.

When my soon-to-be wife and I first began chatting about wedding dates, the calendar window was relatively small. We couldn’t in good conscience choose a date earlier than May 31, 2006, because she was still in grad school in New York City. May 31 was the earliest date she could fly into Oklahoma City’s “international” airport to begin life with me. And we didn’t think it would be appropriate to delay the date much later than that, due to the rural, conservative, and gossipy town in which we would live.

With the window narrowed down to June 1 through perhaps mid- to late June, I jokingly suggested June 6 because of its memorability — 6/6/6 — the sixth day of the sixth month of the sixth year of the new millennium. All those numbers are of course arbitrary. While it is the Earth’s orbit around the sun that determines the length of the year, there is really no objective day during that cycle that must or should be the “first” day of the year. There is also no objective or scientific reason to divide the year into 12 months of unequal numbers of days. But it is what we’ve done, and this calendar is nearly universal today (exceptions for traditional Chinese calendar, Islamic and Jewish calendars, and others).

It wasn’t long before my wife agreed with me on the 6/6/6 date, and we made sure a courthouse would be open then, and found a cruise ship that would dock at that location on that day.

Perhaps the most well-known historical event on June 6 was D-Day (1944), the allied forces’ landing on the beaches of Normandy, the largest seaborne military invasion in history and commonly thought to precipitate the end of World War II in Europe.

Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated on June 6, 1968 (he was actually shot on June 5, but did not expire until more than 24 hours later).

Aside from these two, several other events are dated to June 6 of various years, including, but not limited to:

• 1808: Napoleon’s brother Joseph was crowned King of Spain.

• 1833: Andrew Jackson became the first U.S. President to ride on a train.

• 1862: Memphis, Tennessee, was attacked and conquered by the United States.

• 1889: The entirety of downtown Seattle was destroyed in a fire.

• 1912: Novarupta (volcano) began to erupt in Alaska, beginning the largest volcanic eruption of the 20th Century.

• 1933: The first drive-in movie theater opens, in Camden, N.J.

• 1942: Day three of the Battle of Midway, sometimes called “the most stunning and decisive blow in the history of naval warfare”.

• 1946: The Basketball Association Of America was founded, leading to (three years later) the NBA.

• 1971: A U.S. military F-4B collided with a passenger-carrying DC-9 over California, killing all but one person involved (the F-4B’s radar operation successfully ejected). It was the second-deadliest military-involved mid-air collision over U.S. soil.

• 1997: A New Jersey teen left her prom to give birth in a bathroom, tossed the baby in the trash, and returned to dancing with her friends. She was released from prison in 2001.

• Every year: National Day of Sweden

If I had more time, I would concoct a very well tied-together conspiracy theory about how all these events are related. Let’s just pretend I did that, and then all have a good laugh. There, that’s better.

My Ten Best Years So Far

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Published on: 2016.06.06

10 Years Ago Today, Key West, Florida, just minutes after our wedding
(Copyright © 2006 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

Ten Years. It only seems like a long time because it’s nearly a fourth of my life, nearly a third of my wife’s life. The longer we’re together, the less it makes sense that I ever lived without her.

In my mind, I envisioned myself sitting down at the keyboard and whipping out another grandiose tribute to her, but in my actual house, two children are fighting and yelling at each other, so my confidence level has dropped a bit as I begin to physically type this entry. Besides, I have written excellent tributes to our marriage in the past — I think the best was two years ago, and to a lesser extent five years ago.

And I’ve written several poems to her that perhaps better express what I feel, including this one from four days before I actually met her in person, and this one from six days after I first met her. My favorite one about her is You Are…, written when I had known her for less than six months, though If You Think from 2014 runs a close second.

Today is only different than those days in that we’re older, slightly further removed from the beginning. We’re closer, despite that there are days we don’t have to — or don’t have the opportunity to — talk to each other. She knows what to expect from me and I know what to expect from her.

Marriage is in many ways little different from joining a team — the longer you’re together, the better it works. I catch what she drops and she cleans what I dirtied. We have each other’s backs and run plays from the same playbook without having to discuss it. If she invents a new play on the fly, we’ve been on the same team long enough that I see it coming and roll with it.

My wife at the Grand Canyon
(Copyright © 2009 by Wil C. Fry.)

While every day is not an adventure, many of them are. My adventures with my wife have spanned at least four nations so far, and dozens of U.S. states, and we anticipate many more to come, including a planned trip to the Pacific Northwest later this year. While I still occasionally enjoy getting out into the world alone, most times those excursions serve only to remind me how much I enjoy the life we’ve built together and the family we’re raising.

Our team of two added a new recruit nearly six years ago, and another one nearly three years ago. The new additions are still in training, but are becoming more a part of the team every day. Now we share our daily adventures with them, even as we prepare them to someday depart our team and form other teams of their own in the greatest pyramid scheme ever invented.

While I do not look forward to growing old (does anyone?), I recognize it is happening, and I look forward to growing old with my wife. I cannot imagine a better teammate, a better partner, a better wife. Stay tuned for the rest of our lives.

Mother’s Day 2016

Comments: 2 Comments
Published on: 2016.05.08

Fry Descendants (Tighter Crop)
My parents and their 18 descendants (plus three in-laws)
(Copyright © 2015 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

One Mother’s Day a couple of decades ago, someone told me she felt left out — because she had wanted to be a mother but it had simply never happened for her. I did not yet have children of my own when I heard this, nor was I straining at the bit to father any at the moment, but I still felt immensely sad for her. Not only because she’d been denied one of the few goals in her life, but because she allowed her disappointment to turn to bitterness, and because she seemed to make a point of telling other people about this on Mother’s Day, the lone day each year set aside to salute those women who did happen to have children.

Today, I don’t remember what I said in response, or whether I responded at all. But I know what I was thinking:

This day isn’t about her.

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Trip To Oklahoma : 2016.05.02-04

Morning Light
A small flowering plant on my parents’ property, with dew drops
(Copyright © 2016 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

Finding a good spot in everyone’s schedule, we planned and executed a quick trip to Oklahoma to see my parents (the last time was Christmas 2015), and my brother and his family were able to make it too. The entire round trip, including our time at my parents’ house, went smoothly and was very enjoyable. If I had to name a downside, it’s that BWF is not fully potty-trained yet — he did fine in the car but not at my parents’ house; he received several extra showers.

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First Time At The Range (2016.04.26)

My Glock 30’s primary pieces
(Copyright © 2016 by Wil C. Fry.)

For the first time in my life, I went to a shooting range. Though I’m a long-time gun-owner — I’ve had my current handgun for 19 years or so, I’ve never once been to a shooting range. Every time I’ve fired a gun, it’s been on someone’s private property with their permission. So Tuesday (April 26) was a new experience for me.

The reason I finally went is because someone invited me — a friend from my wife’s church (let’s call him Matt) whose family we’ve had dinner with a few times. For me, going to a gun range falls into the category of “I only feel comfortable doing it for the first time if I’m with someone experienced”. The reasons I accepted the invitation are multiple: curiosity (both about the range and about my ability), haven’t fired my gun in at least five years (or any gun in at least two years), and a chance to cement the first real-life friendship I’ve started since moving to Texas.

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Day Trip: Austin (2016.04.19)

City Of Austin Power
The old Seaholm Power Plant, with new residential high-rises beyond it
(Copyright © 2016 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

The Cheesecake Factory, Austin
(Copyright © 2016 by Wil C. Fry.)

It began a couple of weeks ago, when my wife learned that one of her cousins will soon move from Attleboro, Mass. (a suburb of Providence, R.I.) to Austin, Texas, along with his wife and son. And not just “a” cousin, but the godfather of our son Benjamin. Then a few days ago, we learned he was coming to Austin for a couple of days to look for an apartment. We tentatively scheduled a meetup, then made it more specific. My wife and I found a good place to eat near their hotel, and a few other things to do afterward.

At the last minute, it turned out the cousin and wife wouldn’t be able to meet with us, but since we had already decided to go to Austin for the day, we went anyway. Chances are, we passed within a 100 yards of my wife’s cousin and never knew it.

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Day Trip: Colorado Bend State Park (2016.04.14)

And That's Me
The author, sitting atop a boulder near Gorman Falls
(Image by a nice lady I met on the trail.)

I got that restless feeling again — the urge to travel, to see new things, to walk in a wilderness. The least expensive way to satisfy that thirst is to visit a state park, so I googled state parks near Central Texas. Colorado Bend State Park came up early in the search, so I checked the route, gathered a camera and two lenses, and set out.

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2016.03.15.TUE – Part Of A Dream

This building, in Hillsboro, Texas, does not resemble the house in my dream, except for the large wall of windows, but it was next to a gas station, and it was one of which I said at the time “it should be turned into a house”.
(Copyright © 2012 by Wil C. Fry.)

There was more, but this is what I remember from my dream:

I was in a house with my family (the one I grew up with). The property’s layout made me think it used to be a gas station. It was at an intersection of two highways, with a large awning extending from the structure toward the intersection, and cars were parked under the awning. Floor-to-ceiling glass windows, along a curved wall, faced this parking lot, shaded by the awning. Inside these giant windows, which spanned the entire long wall, was a sprawling living room, with several seating areas. Behind this large open space were two small dining areas next to an open kitchen, which was separated from the living room by a bar/counter. The kitchen was large as well, but was divided into multiple rooms, with industrial-style deep fryers, ovens, and sinks — with the ceiling-attached pull-down hoses you might see in a restaurant. There were walk-in pantries, freezers, and fridges behind the kitchen. I don’t remember seeing bedrooms, closets, or offices, but I knew they were behind these dining areas and kitchens.

At first, there were a lot of people in the house, filling the living area, with people constantly going in and out of the front doors, and cars coming and going. It was some kind of event, but I can’t remember what, or who was there. Just as the crowd was thinning (and the remaining people would be my immediate family — Dad, Mom, siblings, and I), I complained of hunger, and my Dad said he would order some food to be delivered. He ordered hamburgers, fries, onion rings, tater tots, and other similar items. Then the rest of the crowd finally left.

I remember feeling intense hunger. My siblings and I continued to complain as the food didn’t show up on time. We stood around the kitchen, griping. I suggested cooking food in our own kitchen to stave off our hunger. My Dad said, “Oh, quit complaining.” My brother said, “It’s like we’re sleeping on the street.” Dad scoffed and said, “This is nothing like sleeping on the streets, and none of you have ever slept on the streets, so you wouldn’t know.”

As the dream ended and I was waking up, I said aloud: “It is EXACTLY like sleeping on the streets, and I KNOW, because I HAVE slept on the streets.”

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Coming Improvements In Killeen

More improvements are coming to Killeen, according to the city’s “CIP” (capital improvements program), which I found here (9.6MB, pdf).

Several will affect us here on the south edge of the city, initially with construction frustration and eventually with improved infrastructure:

  • Featherline (north-south road right next to our neighborhood, to the police headquarters) will be widened from a narrow, two-lane country road to a five-lane (+bike lanes & sidewalks) from Stagecoach to Chaparral. This will be a huge improvement to our daily travel, especially combined with the coming Chaparral improvement listed below.
  • Chaparral (the closest east-west road to the south of us) will be widened to a divided four-lane avenue, with additional bike lanes and sidewalks on both sides. It is currently a narrow two-lane country road without curbs or shoulders, like Stagecoach used to be.
  • Cunningham (one of our north-south routes) will be widened at the part where it’s still narrow, to a three-lane (+bike lanes & sidewalks) road, and then extended to connect with US190, giving us another excellent route to the highway — where we find most shopping and dining.
  • Trimmier (one of our major north-south routes) will be widened on its southern end, from Stagecoach to Chaparral, into a five-lane road (+bike lanes & sidewalks), where it is now a winding, narrow, two-lane country road.
  • East Trimmier (nowhere near Trimmier Road, but close to us) is expected to be widened as well, from Stagecoach to Chaparral, into a five-lane (+bike lanes & sidewalks). It is currently a narrow, two-lane country road. This would help connect us to the southern edge of Harker Heights, including my wife’s church and some shopping.
  • Rosewood Drive, which has already been extended north to connect to US190, will now be extended southward to connect to Chaparral, providing a dependable north-south route on the eastern edge of the city. This affects us much less than the others listed here, but will still provide an outlet for traffic, thus reducing congestion elsewhere.
  • Stan Schlueter Loop (currently our most-used east-west route) will be extended from Clear Creek Road all the way west to Copperas Cove, connecting to the new US190 Bypass there. It’s planned to be a five-lane (+bike lane) extension, roughly on the route of “Old Copperas Cove Road”, which has been gated off since we moved to Killeen.
  • Reconfiguring the mall’s intersection on W.S. Young, with a new traffic light arrangement, is hoped to reduce congestion in that area, which is often the worst congestion in the city.

These are all listed as “high priority” projects. The document I linked to also contains plenty of medium- and low-priority projects.

Keep in mind that we only plan to stay in this house until it’s paid off, or shortly thereafter, which we estimate to be about five years. That means, in all likelihood, that we’ll be ready to sell just as most of these projects are completing around us. Hopefully, it will mean higher property values in this area at that time.

2016.02.06: Carmelite’s Birthday Party

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Published on: 2016.02.06

RnB ready to party
(Copyright © 2016 by Wil C. Fry.)

Saturday, 2016.02.06, the four of us drove to Austin, Texas, for the birthday party of Carmelite, the daughter of one of my wife’s coworkers. The entire day was fun for us. Following are a few brief observations.

• The trip itself was an hour and two minutes going there and exactly the same time for our return.

• RnB played with their Kurio 7S tablets during the round trip drive; BW napped part of the way there, as did M. The tablets (given to us by neighbors) have been a wonderful way to keep the kids from crying/complaining during long car trips.

• Our hosts’ house is almost identical to ours in square footage, as is their lot, but both somehow felt smaller than ours. My guess is the house’s layout had a lot to do with it; a floorplan has a LOT to do with how big a house feels inside. The neighborhood was similar to ours in that it appears to have been planned and built by the same builder, but it’s older, the streets were narrower, and they disbanded their HOA some years back. So driving back into our neighborhood was refreshing — it looked spacious, clean, and upscale by comparison.

• RL was the oldest child at the party by more than a year, and BW was the youngest by a few months. Both were very well-behaved and obedient, making us proud. For that matter, I thought all the children were very well-behaved.

• I didn’t know anyone there except the birthday girl’s family, but everyone seemed nice. I didn’t ask everyone’s age, but I suspect I was the oldest person at the party. This happens more and more often now.

RnB with body paint
(Copyright © 2016 by Wil C. Fry.)

• It was a tad chilly — upper 50s — but very sunny, so the kids played outside a large part of the time.

• I was one of only two beardless men in the house. This beard fad is getting a little ridiculous, and I don’t think I’m saying that because I can’t grow one. When visiting hipster-heavy places like Austin, I often wonder if I’m about to see a Civil War reenactment, based purely on the number of large beards.

• Though I’m normally not very sociable, or at least feel like I’m not, in these situations, I managed to have a 30-minute conversation with two bearded young men about the new Star Wars movie.

• Despite the negative reputation of “Millennials”, no one spent any great deal of time texting or otherwise bent over their smartphones.

• Our hosts had hired a face-painting lady for the party, so several guests took advantage of that. When it was RL’s turn, she immediately asked for a butterfly on her face, and got one within a few minutes. The woman asked BW if he wanted something painted on his face, and he didn’t respond. She asked if he wanted something on his hand, and he said: “black”. She thought quickly and asked if he wanted a black spider on his hand. He said “yeah”, so she gave him one. He was very proud of it.

• See all 22 photos I recorded for the day.

Year In Review: 2015

Comments: 4 Comments
Published on: 2015.12.31

Power Rock
It’s always difficult to judge, but I think this is my favorite photo from 2015
(Copyright © 2015 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

Like most years since I’ve married, this one was full of positives, enough to bury the negatives. There were illnesses and car trouble, and quite a few “first world problems”, but nothing that could detour us from enjoying almost every day.

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2015.12: Early Christmas Trip

RnB in the minivan, ready to head home, Dec. 14
(Copyright © 2015 by Wil C. Fry.)

A few days ago, my wife and I — and our offspring — returned safely and happily from a five-day trip to Oklahoma for a bit of an early Christmas celebration with family — and a surprise birthday party for my mother (apologies to several other family members with birthdays during the same week).

A few things I found notable about the trip:

  • At 11 hours and 44 minutes of driving time, it was our fastest-ever round trip to Oklahoma and back with children. (Compare all our trip times.)
  • With four nights spent there, it was our longest stay in Oklahoma since having children.
  • The weather was warmer and less rainy than had been forecast, giving us plenty of perfect outdoor time.
  • I used my phone for more photos than I took with my DSLR. I had decided to do this ahead of time. More on that near the bottom of this entry.
  • Despite ignoring my diet for the duration of the trip, I weighed the same when I returned home as I had when I’d left. Lucky me.

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New And Improved ‘My Life’ Blog (2015.11.12)

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Published on: 2015.11.12

As mentioned in the comments under my previous entry, I’m changing this blog’s modus operandi once again. I’ll make no promises that this will be the last or final change. But I’m going to try it for a while.

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My Parents’ Visit (2015.11)

Family Portrait
Click here to see a larger version
(Copyright © 2015 by Wil C. Fry.)

We were pleased recently that my parents came to visit us here in Killeen. During their (short) visit, the main activity was going to the Cameron Park Zoo in Waco.

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2015.11.05.TH: Rain, Ottoman, Car Trouble, San Gabriel Park

A whole week.

(Selections adapted from private journal file.)

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2015.10.29.TH: Rain, Acorns, Night Drive, Enchanted Rock

A week’s worth:

(Adapted from private journal file.)

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Welcome , today is Saturday, 2017.10.21