This file contains all newsletters for December 2002

Sunday 15 December 2002


    We had a very bad ice storm last Thursday (the 11th and into the 12th). It turns out that this area of the State was hit the worst. One of my weeping willow trees out front had some severe damage. I planted that tree about 7 years ago and just finished trimming it in September or so. I guess it will fill back out next summer. The surrounding area - Mt Airy in particular - was hit harder. I drove there the other day and just about every other residential lot had trees in disarray. Some of the residents still don't have electricity. In fact as I drove to work on the 12th I saw more phone and electrical lines down from the ice than I had ever seen.

    We had 40's temperatures the last few days, and lots of rain, so the snow is mostly gone. Nothing much else going on in this neck of the woods. The muffler pipe on Dale's Ford Explorer snapped off as I drove it to work the other day. I bought a new pipe and muffler and played "shadetree mechanic" for the first time in years. Except for lying on the cold concrete floor, everything went very well. Ford engineered the exhaust system so that it can be easily replaced. I did find that I also have to buy a resonator and tail pipe, so it's back to the parts store tomorrow.

    My entry visas to Saudi Arabia came through, so everything is all set for my trip there 5-14 January. Several days ago I learned that hundreds of U.S. military troops are also deploying to the base I'm visiting, unfortunately at the same time! I sure hope that my contact has already made the billeting arrangements. The last time they sent a contingent of troops like that, they had to open up a tent city.

    Next Sunday I'll be on a plane to Honolulu. Warm sun. Azure skies. Acquamarine water. Mmmmmm. Tracey's friend, Scotty, has a place on the Big Island (Hawaii) so we're going to go over there too. I want to drive down the Chain Of Craters Road to see how much the place has changed since 1994. Kilauea volcano has been spewing lava over the road for years. I guess the walk to the spot where the lava pours into the ocean is now quite lengthy, but it should be worth it.

    Last Friday I went to Charlie Bunnell's retirement at the Bolling AFB Officer's Club, a huge place! Lots of VIPs attending for Charlie who held an important manpower post with the Air Force. Karen and Chuck were there, of course, and we all went back to Charlie and Pat's house in La Plata, afterwards. Karen and Chuck drove back to Myrtle Beach today (arrived around 7pm) and will make the trek back to La Plata next week for the Christmas holidays.

    I gotta go to work tomorrow. Ratz!

Dad & Mom/ Barry & Dale

Tuesday 10 December 2002


    It is really freezing around here! The temperature varies between the single digits and the 20-30 degree marks, but with the wind it feels MUCH colder. Last Thursday's snow is still with us, although the weathermen are calling for rain/freezing rain tonight and tomorrow so perhaps some of it might disappear. Thursday's snowstorm, of course, came when Dale and I were traveling to the BWI Airport. Luckily Dale's 4-wheel drive Ford Explorer had no problems at all, so we arrived at BWI at around 9:30am only to endure hours and hours of delays and cancellations. Dale's Northwest Airlines flight was cancelled immediately upon our arrival and rescheduled for 5:55pm. My Southwest Airlines flight was cancelled but I was quickly re-scheduled on an "earlier flight that had been delayed". Hoo boy, are we lucky (we thought!). Thousands of travelers were stranded because Southwest Airlines gave away their de-icing liquid, probably thinking that they had plenty. After 1.5 hours sitting on my second flight attempt, we were ordered off the plane because "no de-icing" and the airport was closed for three hours. I finally flew out at 11:25pm, arrived in Los Angeles close to 2:00am their time, with no luggage, the rental car booths closed, etc. Dale had been picked up hours earlier by Susan and Dany (Thank you, kids!) I did find a car and at 3:30am I was racing along the Los Angeles freeways (Routes 105E to 110N to 101N) with minimal traffic. Probably the only time of the day that one can drive "normally" in LA.

    So, after all, Dale and I had our quick weekend with Susan and Dany in Los Feliz, California, a very pretty little suburb of Los Angeles, with a clear view of the Griffith Observatory from their front window, Sunset Blvd just a few blocks south, the Hollywood sign in the hills just down the road, and tens of little shops, restaurants and cafes with outside tables, umbrellas, seats, etc. While the East of the USA was freezing, we were enjoying the sunshine for at least a few days! I loved it, short though it was. We also went out to dinner with old friends from our England days (1969-1972) who live in LA. It's experiences like these that make me want to "really retire" and be able to extend visits, see all the sights, etc. (Don't worry, Kids: we'll rent a place for a month or two ;)

    Unfortunately, I had to return to the snow and close-to-subzero temperatures of Maryland, while Dale abandoned me, continuing ever westward to the balmy Hawaiian Islands, where she will stay with Tracey and Alana until 8 January (Oh, the life of the truly retired).

   Luckily my local travel agent did find me a flight to Hawaii on 23 January for less than my life's savings. I get to use my freebee Southwest Airlines ticket to get from BWI to Los Angeles and then to San Jose, where I will await an American Airlines flight to Honolulu some 4-5 hours later. I'm not complaining! I will return on 01 January, departing Honolulu a few minutes before midnight, so I get to spend the whole of New Year's Day at Tracey's, probably recuperating from the island parties ;-) I'll get home sometime in the evening of 02 January, go to work on Friday the 3rd, and then I'm off to Saudi Arabia for a while.

    The cat is paranoid and won't leave me alone for a minute. She has figured out that whenever the suitcases come out of storage she is going to be left alone for a while. She is so happy to see anyone when we return that she doesn't let them out of her sight. I wake up in the middle of the night with a weight on my chest and a cold nose poking me in the face. I guess she's making sure I am really there.

Dad & Mom/ Barry & Dale