Colorado: Backyard grilling and water pong

Friday night, Andrew and I got back from Avery Brewery around 6:30p or so. Kevin was ready for some backyard grilling, some water pong and just hanging out at home. Kevin has a few housemates that live in the main level of the house, and all the guys are pretty good friends and they share the backyard.

We had some chicken sausages perfect for grilling over the fire. And it was a gorgeous night to just hang out in the backyard, around the fire, playing water pong.

backyard grilling

backyard grilling

“Water pong” is basically beer pong with water. And less getting drunk. Kevin and his housemates just keep a standing game going and play regularly.

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I did pretty ok for my first time. Sam still beat me, though.

beer pong

One of Kevin’s housemates came out and grilled himself a burger too. I tried to get some ghost stories going as it got darker. I love ghost stories. :)

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After dinner, once it was too dark to see each other and kinda late, we went back down into Kevin’s apartment and watched… something. What did we watch that night? Maybe The Hobbit :)

Next week: Maybe the longest hike I’ve ever been on in my life!

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Colorado: drive through Colorado

On our second day in Colorado, we spent the whole morning in Rocky Mountain National Park (part 1 and part 2). We drove Trail Ridge Road all the way through the park, where it finally dropped us off on the south-west side of the park in Grand Lake, Colorado.

Just in time for lunch.

We had recommendations for a couple restaurants (thanks to the guidebooks), but couldn’t find what we were looking for. So we ended up eating at this right-on-the-main-strip, just-ok restaurant. Burgers for all of us, beer for the boys.

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Leaving Grand Lake it started to rain …. and then a little south of town it started to POUR. Full on torrential pour so that all the bugs from our 1000-mile drive were washed off the windshield.

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The first part of our drive through Colorado was just straight south, and we drove alongside Lake Granby. Right near what I’m pretty sure was Rainbow Bay there was just a small dirt turnout with a practically invisible trail down through wild flowers to the water.

With the Rocky Mountains in the distance.

And thick dark rain clouds all around.

It was gorgeous

As you can clearly see ….

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About halfway to the water, looking back up the hill to the road:

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It probably wasn’t real easy to skip rocks on such choppy water. The rain/storm/wind made it a bit chilly. But, again, it was gorgeous and I brought a jacket so who cares about a little wind.

You can see over the mountains in the distance where it was still raining …

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After leaving Lake Granby we just had a LONG drive ahead of us. … .I wish I could have taken more photos, but from the car and with the rainy weather you wouldn’t have really been able to appreciate how gorgeous it was. It got down to maybe 60 degrees or so as we wound through these mountain roads, tall pine trees on either side.

Kevin kept making note of campgrounds (Robber’s Roost) or trail heads to come back to because he had never been to that part of the state before.

34 highway south to the 40, down further south past towns called “Winter Park”, through Arapaho National Forest…. all the way to the 70. Which we then took east, and then north again on the 36 to Boulder. Totally a long big circle around, but it was really our only option other than going the exact same road back through Rocky Mountain National Park.

It rained off and on through the whole trip, and once we got closer to the 70 we stopped for coffee which was just about the perfect treat for that point during the day.

drive through Colorado - US 40

We got back to Kevin’s apartment in Boulder around 5 or 6p or so …where I made sausage lentil soup! It’s a recipe I’ve made so many times I know it by heart. Kevin had homemade chicken stock, so I just told him the rest of the ingredients to get at the store and we had delicious homemade soup.

For a couple days, even.

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(Kevin helped chop)

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Sam came over later that night (brought Muppet back home) and we just relaxed, drank beer and watched movies all night. LONG drive during the day, relaxing night at home.

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Colorado: Rocky Mountain National Park

Continuing on our drive up the mountain, taking Trail Ridge Road across Rocky Mountain National Park…. We turned a curve and saw a small handful of cars stopped along the road. Usually when that happens it would be because there was wildlife of some kind – deer or elk or even just a marmot, so visitors would hang out of their car window to take photos.

But, as we turned the curve of the road, I didn’t see any reason there would be cars stopped.

Turns out I was just looking in the wrong place.

This group of elk were RIGHT by the road. As in 15′ feet away from the road. As in, the lip of the road hid them because they were so close to it.

CRAZY AWESOME!

Obviously Andrew pulled off the road a little bit ahead of where all the other cars were and we crossed the (little 2-lane) highway to get a bit of a closer look:

Rocky Mountain National Park elk

Look at that. LOOK HOW CLOSE THEY WERE.

SO gorgeous! Just calmly scratching their backs with their antlers and ignoring us (and the other 20+ people who were stopping too).

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After just a few minutes, we started walking back to the car. No need to be part of spooking any wild elk. Right as we were leaving, a ranger pulled up. We saw him make everyone else scatter. Not surprising, considering how close these elk were to the road. I can’t imagine the park wants visitors to mess with them.

Not too much farther up Trail Ridge Road was the peak elevation (12,183 feet ! ), and then just on the downhill side was the Alpine Visitor Center – where we stopped for bathroom, water and my National Parks Passport stamp!

Rocky Mountain National Park Alpine Visitor Center Rocky Mountain National Park tundra

The boys were itching for a real hike, and we noticed a trailhead just across the road from the Visitor Center parking lot. Hiking!! Crossed and started walking through the tundra …

Rocky Mountain National Park tundra trail

But, first let’s stop for some photos (thanks Kevin!) …. Andrew and I need current photos of us on all our adventures. OBVIOUSLY.

Rocky Mountain National Park tundra trail

But, then, we walked a little farther and realized we didn’t want to hike THIS trail. First of all, since it’s in the tundra, you could see it for yards and yards and yards. No trees, no corners, no mystery.

But second, we were all feeling the elevation by then. Headaches galore.

Back in the car to drive back down the mountain.

Rocky Mountain National Park tundra trail

Rocky Mountain National Park is gorgeous. Period. Anywhere you look. Even the busy, crowded parts are popular for a reason.

Andrew drove us down back through the treeline, past a few overlooks, all through trees and loveliness.

About halfway down, we found another trailhead – I believe this is at Lake Irene – and got out for a proper hike.

Rocky Mountain National Park hiking

This was a super easy hike, almost all level, mostly shaded, and obviously beautiful. It’s just a small loop, and it maybe took us 30 minutes or so.

We were all still feeling a little bit of the effects of elevation, but overall this hike was fantastic.

Rocky Mountain National Park hiking

(I kind of love that the boys both wore orange shirts this day)

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Then back in the car down the mountain. …  I don’t know if we were all just hungry for lunch or just didn’t see any likely spots, but we basically drove the entire rest of Trail Ridge Road without stopping again.

We drove past this far western section of the park – Kawuneeche Valley – that was supposed to be the best place to see moose … but alas. None. It was starting to rain a little when we got there too.

(Notice all the dead trees from Mountain Pine Beetle)

Rocky Mountain National Park

And then all of a sudden we found ourselves exiting the park! That’s it. We were done. We drove through the entire park. Our choices were to drive that same road back through the park, to another section of the park or to Estes Park and home …. But between elevation headaches, car sickness, and just wanting to see something new, we decided to press on.

Lunch in Grand Lake, then using our iPhones to figure out how to get home through a part of the state Kevin had not yet had a reason to visit.

(spoiler: it was gorgeous)

Tomorrow: Our afternoon drive home through Colorado in the rain. It was actually pretty awesome

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Colorado: Rocky Mountain National Park

Thursday we visited Rocky Mountain National Park – Andrew’s first time ever, and my first time in at least 20 years!!

I love National Parks! Not *quite* as much as my friend Kam* does, but we definitely want to visit all of them and I’ve got the National Parks Passport and all!

Kevin’s apartment is about 45 minutes away from the Estes Park entrance, so we decided to leave early-ish so we could get in a full day at the park. Since all our plans for the week in Colorado were tentative, I wasn’t sure if we would be coming back at all.

Left Boulder ~8:45a or so and got through the gates of Rocky Mountain National Park at about 9:30a. $20 for a 7-day pass (deal) so we could easily come back later.

Rocky Mountain National Park 2013 pricing

For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about. From Wikipedia:

Rocky Mountain National Park is a national park located in the north-central region of the U.S. state of Colorado. It features majestic mountain views, mountain lakes, a variety of wildlife, varied climates and environments—from wooded forests to mountain tundra—and easy access to back-country trails and campsites. The park is located northwest of Boulder, Colorado, in the Rockies, and includes the Continental Divide and the headwaters of the Colorado River.

Andrew likes to drive. Which is good because this park is A) pretty big and B ) includes long stretches of drives.

We brought a bunch of CDs, but ended up listening to Earth most of the time in Rocky Mountain National Park. Not only is it instrumental music, but it has this deep bass that really makes you feel more connected to the mountain range.

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I have a couple National Parks guide books (thanks mom!) so we had a rough idea of what we wanted to do during our day in the park. You have a ways to drive before reaching anything. We came to the first inner section, turned right, and that basically decided the rest of our day!

After a few miles we turned around a curve and found this little parking lot, and a short pathway to cross the street and have a sweet lookout over the park.

Rocky Mountain National Park

our first wildlife sighting!!

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heaven’s above it was gorgeous… Can you even imagine being among the first groups of white people to see this and report back?

Rocky Mountain National Park Rocky Mountain National Park - Andrew Schubert, Amy T Schubert

The park’s peaks in the distance…

Rocky Mountain National Park peaks

This little peak was right next to the parking lot. Kevin dubbed it “Bran’s Folly” … or “Fally”. Get it? SUCH nerds.

Rocky Mountain National Park Rocky Mountain National Park

We hopped back in the car and started driving farther up the mountain. Eventually, after consulting the map, I realized that we were on the one (1, single, uno) road that went all the way across the park. Trail Ridge Road – the road that would take us all the way up the the highest elevation, above the treeline, and help us truly experience the Rocky Mountains that this park was named for. Check out a map here

Rocky Mountain National Park - Trail Ridge Road

We stopped at another lookout partway up. Really we were looking for trails to hike, but we were in the wrong part of the park for that.

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After awhile (30 or 40 minutes) we found ourselves above the treeline

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Trail Ridge Road:

Whether they begin their journey at Estes Park or Grand Lake, Trail Ridge Road travelers climb some 4,000 feet in a matter of minutes. The changes that occur en route are fascinating to observe. A drive that may begin in montane forests of aspen and ponderosa pine soon enters thick subalpine forests of fir and spruce. At treeline, the last stunted, wind-battered trees yield to the alpine tundra.

Up on that windswept alpine world, conditions resemble those found in the Canadian or Alaskan Arctic. It’s normally windy and 20 to 30 degrees colder than Estes Park or Grand Lake. The sun beats down with high- ultraviolet intensity. The vistas, best enjoyed from one of several marked road pullovers, are extravagant, sweeping north to Wyoming, east across the Front Range cities and Great Plains, south and west into the heart of the Rockies.

But for all its harshness, the Trail Ridge tundra is a place of vibrant life and vivid colors. Pikas, marmots, ptarmigans and bighorn sheep are commonly seen. About 200 species of tiny alpine plants hug the ground. Despite a growing season that may last just 40 days, many bloom exuberantly, adorning the green summer tundra with swatches of yellow, red, pink, blue, purple and white. All are seen from the Tundra World Nature Trail, a half-hour walk beginning near the parking area at Rock Cut.

Yup – that’s snow in July.

Right about here is where we started to feel the elevation. Slight headaches, for sure. We brought snacks with us and ate grapes and granola bars and banana chips in the car while we just watched the scenery…

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Second wildlife sighting! Elk in the grass off the road….

This photo is zoomed in – they were about20 or 30 yards away….

trail ridge road tundra elk

We stopped at a second tiny little trailhead in the tundra. It started right off the road and just went 100 or 150 yards into the mountain and stopped. The idea, I assume, was to allow visitors to see the tundra landscape a bit more up close … but not actually affect it very much.

It’s just as well. We were already at about 12,000 feet? (I think it’s the Tundra Communities Trail on this map)

trail ridge road tundra trail

I mean, let’s be honest. It doesn’t *look* like a whole, lot, right? Mountain peaks and scraggly ground cover. But let’s be honest – when else are you really going to get to experience the world at that elevation? Few and far between. And for most visitors, never again.

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Still a bit more drive to go before the highest elevation … but that post is tomorrow.

Have you ever been to Rocky Mountain National Park?

*I think I am full-on going to copy Kam’s National Parks page idea

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Colorado: dinner at home with Sam

Wednesday night – our first day in Colorado – Kevin’s girlfriend Sam invited us over for dinner at home. So sweet of her, since she hadn’t met us yet and apparently usually makes herself pasta (which Kevin told her I don’t eat). So, after we went hiking in Boulder, we drove south to Denver where Sam lives.

But first a stop at the grocery and liquor stores (ice cream and beer) where I noticed the back of Kevin’s car:

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Sam is living in this house in Denver that she is helping fix up in exchange for rent/space. But her roommate/landlord/boss was out of town so we had the house to ourselves. It’s in this cute old neighborhood in Denver ….

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Just us and NINE animals : 3 chickens, Kevin’s dog Muppet, Sam’s dog ‘Mo (Guillerrmo), 2 birds (parakeets?) and her roommates 2 dogs.CO4  003

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We like Sam. She’s super cute and sweet and really interesting :)

Although I felt ENORMOUS the entire week we were hanging out ….. she’s about HALF my size.

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For our dinner at home Sam made:

  • roasted chicken
  • steamed asparagus
  • roasted potatoes
  • green salad

CO4  007… and she made Kevin carve.

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We tried to eat outside, but there were WAY too many flies (probably attracted there by the chicken coop).

Too bad, because it was gorgeous there.

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After dinner – right around sunset – we walked a mile or so over to a local dog park with Muppet and Mo. Gorgeous night, those dogs are both so sweet.

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Fun night in – it was really nice getting to meet Sam in such a low-key way.

Tomorrow: Andrew’s first time at Rocky Mountain National Park

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Colorado: introduction to Boulder

Wednesday morning we woke up in my brother’s guest room.

His apartment is actually a converted basement. The house he lives in has 1 rental unit as the main level of the house, and then Kevin’s rental unit is below. It’s 2 bedrooms, with his own private access through the 2-car garage down stairs to his living room.

So because it’s the basement, all the windows are kind of small and high up, so we were able to sleep in without a ton of morning light. Kind of the best set up for a guest room.

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Since I quit my day job, I’ve been waking up early early early and having a couple hours to myself to work, and our trip to Colorado was no different. This first morning I woke up around 8a and no one else showed their face for hours.

But since it was vacation, I just read a novel instead of work :)

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Figured out Kevin’s coffee pot by myself :)

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Kevin got up around 10a or so …

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Because Kevin’s apartment is built in the basement, the dimensions of all the rooms are a *little* awkward. The kitchen and the living room are both really long and narrow. The bathroom is ENORMOUS. Bigger than the bedrooms, I think.

But he has a washer and dryer, which I’m sure is nice for him.

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But, for whatever reason, the shower and toilet are on this ….. stage? Platform? What would you call it?

You all should go visit Kevin just to experience sitting on a throne-like toilet. Bizarre!

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….and I finally went to wake up Andrew around noon. I’m telling you, it was DARK in that room!

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lunch, watching a show, letting Andrew wake up.

It’s nice to ease into your vacation. I love spending trips GOING, with lots of plans and seeing all the things and all. But Andrew likes downtime.

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The only definite plans we had were to go over to Kevin’s girlfriend’s house for dinner, but until then … you know. Whatever.

So Kevin showed us Boulder! We drove by his school and he told us about going to school there and the town a little bit.

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We drove up Flagstaff road, which took us up into the mountains above Boulder.

Boulder is on the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains, so looking over the city you can just see straight east to the Great Plains and the middle of the country with little to no obstruction.

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Kevin goes hiking all the time – you can’t NOT if you live in Boulder – so he showed us a couple spots.

Muppet is a sweet dog and pretty good off the leash, so it was fun to go with her ….

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So lovely. God bless America.

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Next: We went on a longer hike in these mountains that you’ll love.

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Memories in chocolate

Girl Scout cookies are in season!

And while I am still sugar free, I bought myself a few boxes to save and savor for awhile.

Some things I love about Girl Scout cookies:

They’re seasonal, so it really is an EVENT when you get to buy them.

They may not be cheap, but buying them DOES support the Girl Scouts (who, though they have their flaws, has adopted the mission to “build girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place”)

Frozen Thin Mints. Then you discover a forgotten box in the back of the freezer 4 months after you could no longer buy them. What a treat!

The memories I have of looking for pictures in the chocolate imperfections on the bottom of Thin Mints

(Kevin, do you remember doing this?)

I have memories of sitting at our dining room table, after dinner, each with our designated dessert allowance of a few Girl Scout cookies in the spring ….

And Kevin and I each examining the bottom of the Thin Mint. Turning it this way and then the other. Finding images in the chocolate pattern the way you might in the clouds overhead…..

I’ve posted 4 photos of bottom-of-the-cookie below …. I’d love if you commented with what you see in them! Very Rorschach ink blots…

I’ll wait and tell you what I see in the comments, but I will say the 3rd one down looks totally like the Playboy logo (bunny head silhouette) …

What do you see?

Oh, man. I can’t wait til my sugar-free experiment designated time is over so I can have a couple of these ….

What do you see?

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Scotland: Kevin makes friends everywhere

Kevin makes friends everywhere.

He arrived in Edinburgh about 3 or 4 days before the rest of us and spent all that time in the city by himself.

He went to some pubs and some Fringe festival shows….. and along the way he made some friends.

Including 2 guys from California! Jesse and Richard (I think).

When Kevin and Chelsea and Mom and Dad came home from the west coast, they said they had seen Jesse and Richard at the restaurant they went to in Oban…

… and then – in the middle of Stirling Castle – who should come around the corner but Jesse and Richard AGAIN!

Granted, Scotland IS a small country… and we WERE going to very touristy places.

Nevertheless…. It is funny that Kevin makes friends everywhere and then runs into them again on the other side of the country.

Only Kevin…

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We’re getting so so close to our Alaska cruise planned for this summer!

I’ve been trying to remember the details of the last Alaska cruise I took …. in 2003 with my parents and brother.

I was living in Arizona at the time (going to ASU) and my family was all still living in SoCal …. I met them up in Vancouver, BC, in the airport … and then we were all off for a 10-day adventure!

7-day Alaska cruise with Holland America, and then another day or so at Denali National Park!

It was pretty fantastic.

Obviously, I loved it, which is why I was excited to go back with Andrew and his family …

Here’s just a little highlight of our trip in 2003….

This is necessarily just a small handful of the 6 or so rolls of film I took.

Yes. Film. Back in the day.

My camera (an Olympus point-and-shoot) actually broke on our LAST day …. and then I got a digital camera ….

Kevin and I took some time to explore the ship and found the track on the top deck for *real* runners ….

Our first port: Ketchikan

It’s always fun to go on vacations with Kevin just for the photo opportunities ….

Looking forward to Scotland, brother … Bring the absurdity!

One major treat: In Juneau, we took a sea plane up for an hour or so and flew over the glaciers and coast and all ….. It was just amazing!

Can’t wait to take even MORE photos this summer!

P.S. I’m still working on the best way to scan negatives … It’s on my to-do list to scan all my archives

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Phoenix for Father’s Day

Andrew and I went to Phoenix for Father’s Day a couple weeks ago …

Partly for Father’s Day and partly to see Kevin (who is leaving the country soon).

Strangely, I didn’t really take any photos … .

Weird.

Friday afternoon we arrived …. and went to dinner (Mexican food) ….

Saturday morning, Andrew and I made a big breakfast for everyone (scrambled eggs and french toast)…

Then the boys went to unload Kevin’s moving truck into his storage unit ….

And my mom and I went 2nd-hand shopping with Linda….

I got some goodies :)

When we got home, the boys were playing Settlers of Catan.

Which is pretty much what we did for the rest of the weekend….

No, but for real.

We played Settlers of Catan ALL WEEKEND.

I won once.

Kevin won, I think, 9 times. Or something absurd like that.

Sunday night we took my dad to dinner (his favorite: ribs) for Father’s Day …

… then home.

I don’t know if I can handle going to Phoenix in the summer anymore …. I felt a bit sick all weekend.

Oh well.

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Kevin’s new job

I saw my brother over the weekend.

He quit his job in Meridian, Mississippi to take another job.

He’s got a couple weeks in between jobs and came out to Arizona to see our parents and move out all his belongings.

Why is he moving all his belongings to AZ? To a storage unit?

Because his new job is overseas.

Kevin’s new job is with a small company that holds government contracts.

My little brother is now a government contractor.

For the war in Afghanistan.

Of all things.

Mid-July he goes to Baltimore to train for 4-6 weeks …. then after that to Afghanistan.

He’s volunteering to go over there for some obscene amount of money …

He’ll work 3 months on then get 1 month off. Then 3 months on and one month off.

And for tax reasons, he’s not planning on coming back to the states for those months off.

Instead he’ll be traveling the world.

Jerk.

A month off in Costa Rica, or Ireland or New Zealand or South Africa.

Must be nice.

And he’s planning on living this life for a couple years, and then …. ??

(images from Sedona 2008)

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