Sunday, October 21, 2012

Gettysburg Staff Ride - Day 1

A few months ago, my Army unit decided to conduct a staff ride (think Army leadership field trip) to Gettysburg. This past week was the culmination of all the planning and preparation that went into this trip; it was an amazing trip. This was my fourth staff ride, and without a doubt, the most professional, informative, and overall fun trip I've experienced. I'm going to break the trip up into three separate posts, each covering a day of the trip.
Day 1 was an airborne operation into Pappy Tidwell drop zone near Harrisburg, PA. I'm not going to lie, I totally thought we were jumping into Gettysburg rather than 25 miles to the north. I actually didn't figure that fact out until later, but we'll get to that.
So, yeah, this is my "Happy I get to Jump Today" face (albeit at 6:30 in the morning). We were scheduled to fly to PA around 9:30 am to jump at noon. Anyway, so we board the plane and a l-o-n-g while later we actually take off. I don't know how many of you (I know, there are only two of you out there that read this...) have ever flown on a C-130 aircraft, but this is not a Lear jet. I really don't like flying them, because I always end up getting air sick... which is sad, because I love flying!! Just not in a C-130.

Well, that picture over there to the right is me getting jostled around in the bird as we make the two and a half hour flight... or at least, what I think is going to be a two and a half hour flight. I won't bore you with ALL the details (I know, too late) but between high winds, aircraft malfunctions, and some indecisiveness on the part of some of the jumpmasters, we circled over the drop zone for an additional two hours. By the time I actually got to jump out of the plane, I really didn't care where we were, I just wanted out of the plane!! I spent the last thirty minutes in the bird in the fetal position taking long slow breaths willing myself to not throw up. My only real consolation was everyone else was in the same position.

FINALLY, I get to jump out!!! All I can think about is the fresh air and hitting the ground so I can roll over and pee! (Did I mention I was in the plane for nearly 5 hours??) Then the cross winds hit me, my feet are blown above my head and all I can think about is how in the world am I gonna hit the TINY drop zone below me?? It's so dang small!! I'm now thinking I'm gonna end up on a highway somewhere, when I hear some shouting from behind me. I turn my head to see what's going on and immediately turn back around 'cause I do not want to see what's going on... A parachute is screaming across the drop zone right at me!! I know I'm supposed to turn away from other jumpers, but I have no idea which way to turn or if I even can in time. I yell for him to turn left and I turn right, hoping beyond hope that he does go left... the next thing I feel is what I can only imagine is a parachute canopy sliding across mine... then it was gone. Now, I'm back to trying to hit the ground somewhere near the drop zone and going pee... 'cause now I really have to go! I get all ready to land... hit the ground... (feet, shoulder, head) get my chute collapsed... roll over to take a knee to pee and look up at the female combat camera photographer shooting away!! So much for going pee!!!

By this point, the next pass is jumping out of the plane and I realize things could have been much worse... two of those guys ended up in trees. All told, four jumpers were in the trees and two others missed the drop zone completely! There were no injuries, praise Allah, and by about 3:30 pm everyone, and their chutes, were rescued from the trees.
Anyway, that's the drop zone on the left. It was a beautiful looking place. Actually, every part of PA I saw was beautiful! Rolling green hills, gorgeous fall colors, and breathtaking farm houses and landscapes. After we got everyone gathered up, we took some group photos and loaded up into the vans. Keep mind, up to this point, I think I just jumped into Gettysburg... as we drive away from the drop zone and get on the freeway, I see the sign that says "Gettysburg 25 miles." I was so sad!!! Apparently, you can't actually conduct an airborne operation in Gettysburg National Park... Who knew??!!??

Still, it was a great jump (the jumping part, not so much the getting there part) and definitely not an experience many get to partake in. That night we went to dinner at the Dobbin House Tavern in Gettysburg. Very tasty. Then sleep... I had a very big day the next day! 

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Rooting my B&N nookColor

I got my NC for Christmas after a friend got one and recommended it to me. I love it! It is an excellent eReader. Plus it has the coolest cover ever. Hopefully, you can see the photo with all the signatures. Those are authors' signatures! So awesome!

Anyway, I've been wanting to root (access the base operating system so I can add applications and such) for a long time, but life has a funny way of getting in the way. So, this morning, I decided I was gonna do it for reals this time.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Skamania Lodge Retreat

Back in November of last year, my Army unit decided to hold a marriage retreat for us, but it was postponed because of bad weather until this past weekend. The retreat, or as Rebekah has taken to calling it, "the parent's runaway vacation," was held at the Skamania Lodge in Stevenson, WA. Stevenson is on the Columbia River about 40 miles east of Portland.

It was amazingly beautiful down there, which is saying something cause I've been spoiled living here in the North West. The lodge, resort really, was great. I try not to get all gushy about how cool things are and what not, cause I've seen some really amazing things and been some crazy places, but the lodge was top notch. Beautiful grounds, good service, fantastic food, and lots and lots to do.

One of the many things to do at the lodge was to borrow bikes to ride. Pamela and I decided to ride into the town and see the beach/pier. We took the long way, going up the mountain side and then back down around into the town. Of course, half-way down the mountain, my back tire blew out. Not just the tube, but the tire itself had a huge hole in it. So, we walked the bikes into town and the gas station attendant pointed us in the right direction for a tube and we headed that way. The hardware store did in fact carry bike tubes (me thinks this is not an isolated incident) and the folks there were kind enough to let me use some tools to change the tube. Then it was back to the gas station to fill'er up and continue on our way.

We made it to the pier and stayed there for a few minutes watching crazy people kite board. I'd never heard of this before, and it looks like a lot of fun. I'm thinking I need to try it when I get back from the desert. Anyway, if you're wondering what kite boarding (I guess it can be one word) is, it's exactly what it sounds like. You strap a snowboard onto your feet and hold onto a huge kite and ski across the water (I guess it could be a slalom water ski, I'll have to find out). Some of the more...adventurous ones were using their own wakes to launch themselves 15-20 feet in the air. Pamela took some video of it, so I'll have to figure out how to get that onto this from her phone. Anyway, it looked awesome!

All in all, we had a fantastic time and I was once again reminded of how completely lucky I am to have such a beautiful and amazing wife. Not sure how I pulled that off, but I'm awfully glad I did.
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Friday, August 22, 2008

The Beach; or at least it looks like a beach...

A few weekends ago we decided to venture out to the beach here in Washington. It was a very different adventure from what I'm used to.

See, I grew up in SoCal, so going to the beach was a very common occurrence. We would go surfing, body surfing, wake boarding, play volleyball, have campfires, and have long walks on the beach in the sunset. One constant was the warm water and the warm weather. The beach here in the North West is just a lot different. The biggest difference? Cold, Cold, Cold!!!!

Oh, cold and windy, I should say. It looks like a kite flyer's paradise. In fact, there were a whole lot of kites around. So anyway, we got there and decided to park in one of the many parks along the coast. We parked and walked up to the shore. There was beach sand, and there was beach water, and the water was washing up on shore in waves just like it's supposed to, but that's where the similarities ended. The water was colder than anything I've ever felt. And the wind was howling around us. And then, the biggest difference of all... You can drive on the beach here.

Yup, that's right, you can drive on the sand. In fact, that's what most people do. Drive out to the water's edge, park and set up for the day right there. So, that's what we did. We walked back to the truck, and drove out there. The best part was as we were driving along, I drove in the ocean. It was cool. I've never driven in the ocean before. I don't know many folks that have. It was a great time, and such a different experience from what I've known. What a fun place!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Shrek the Musical

Oh yeah, Shrek made some sweet music of his own!

So, about 4 months ago, when we found out we were moving to Washington, Pamela's sister Jennifer told us about this cool program that Broadway productions have. Before they get all spun up and spend all of their money on a new Broadway show, the producers will sometimes do a pre-run in other locations. This way they can test run the play and get audience and critic feedback and make adjustments. So Jennifer, who is working on her last semester in a Masters in Fine Arts Degree and very much into all the stage production stuff (she's very cool), told us that they were going to do a pre-run of Shrek the Musical. So, on Saturday, we went to the World Premier of Shrek the Musical. It was awesome! Don't get me wrong, this was no local theater troupe doing a test run of a concept; this was the full blown Broadway production with the Broadway cast. (Unfortunately, it also came with the Broadway ticket price). Needless to say, we were one row away from being on the back wall of the theater in the balcony. But it was still great. My only beef with the show was the parts they copied directly from the movie. A lot the jokes from the movie were repeated in the play, and most fell pretty flat. But the original content of the play was phenomenal. Lots of new songs, new scenes and new characters. One scene they added, in which Fiona grows up from a seven year old to a 20 something, was particularly outstanding. The three girls that sing were fantastic and their voices were beautiful. All in all, it was a great day in Seattle. If you're in the neighborhood you should check it out: Shrek the Musical or you can wait till it's on Broadway.