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Travel

Great Wolf Lodge

A couple weekends ago, Tyla, Elijah and I headed to Great Wolf Lodge for the second time. It was quite a bit different from our first trip because we were already familiar with the layout so there wasn’t a feeling of discovery and we were more careful/cheap with our time there. Instead of staying two nights, we stayed one night and made use of the water park on the day we arrived and the day we left. They’re quite generous with those policies so it worked out well. Another difference is that Don, Logan and Megan came along and I think they had a reasonably good time.

When we were at Disney, I had specifically picked a hotel with good water slides. He was afraid to try them until almost literally the last minute. He finally got the nerve to try one and LOVED it but we had to leave immediately to make some dinner reservations. That was our last chance at the pool. He was pretty sad but I think it taught him a good lesson. When we got to the pool this time he looked up and said, “Daddy, which slide is good for me?” Yes! I was very proud. We started on the yellow and red slides in the middle and he loved them. After doing those a few times, he was ready for even bigger challenges, He went down three of the bigger slides and loved them all too. The only one he didn’t do was the Howlin’ Tornado and he wasn’t tall enough for that. I was incredibly proud of him for his great attitude and willingness to try those slides!

It was neat seeing him so confident in the water too. He’s progressing quite well in his swim lessons. One I watched him get knocked off a play structure and land in the water. He immediately rolled onto his back and started floating and motoring to the side. I think he’s going to have a great time when we visit my parents this summer and spend hours in their pool.

So even though Great Wolf Lodge is a mess of screaming kids and thinly veiled attempts to vacuum money from your wallet, it was a good trip. Thanks for organizing it Tyla!

 

Memorial Day In Seaside

For the past few years, we have gone on a Memorial Day vacation with Tyla’s family. Don has a timeshare and is kind enough to share it with us so we have a convenient place to stay.

This year we headed to Seaside, OR in the northwest corner if the state. Our room looked right out onto the beach and the condo has a heated outdoor pool and a couple of hot tubs. Those pools got a good workout and it was fun watching Elijah motor around under his own power. He has a pretty good handle on swimming on his back.

Aside from digging in the sand and flying kites on the beach, our main activity was a trip down to Garibaldi, OR. Tyla and I were in Garibaldi with her family exactly 10 years ago camping there for the weekend while her dad did a job at the nearby Tillamook factory. This time we rode the steam train and afterwards, we attempted to visit Tillamook. It was insanely crowded and we basically walked right back out the door and headed back home.

This year we drove down on Saturday morning and came back on Tuesday. It was so much more relaxing to make those drives without the huge amount of traffic on Friday and Monday. It was still heavy but nowhere near as slow as we’ve experienced in the past.

Thanks again to Don for being so generous and letting us all share that condo with him!

Illinois Funeral

As I mentioned in the previous post, Grandma Martens passed away on Easter. I was very thankful to be able to make a quick trip back to Illinois for the funeral. It was a very memorable trip!

Buying last minute tickets means that you get to pay top dollar for the privilege of scrounging through what everyone else has left behind. My flight left at 6am on Friday morning and I was back by 10pm the next day. I flew out of the new Paine Field passenger terminal. I have never seen a terminal that looks anything like that place. It was so fancy! But aside from the luxurious surroundings, it was very nice flying out of such a small airport. Parking is easy and TSA agents outnumbered the passengers in line by about 10 to 1. Assuming the price was right, I’d definitely consider flying out of there again.

I was able to get a cheaper flight on United with their “Basic Economy” fare. The main differences were that I couldn’t choose my seats ahead of time and I was only allowed a small carry on that would fit under the seat (or a checked bag.) I took it as a challenge and did the whole trip with only a backpack! That was a little tricky since I wanted to bring a suit but I flew out there in my suit and hung up the jacket during the flights and it all worked out very well.

My flight connected through Denver and then went straight to Moline, IL. Both were small planes but having a seat assigned at the last minute worked out fairly well. I got an exit row one time and on the flight back I had an empty seat next to me on both legs of the journey.

With all the flights and layovers, I was very thankful for two tech gadgets:

  1. Anker 20100 mAh battery pack – We used this on our Disney trip too and even with rapid charging phones multiple times, it still has gobs of power left according to the meter.
  2. NordVPN – I signed up for NordVPN and while I think their signup site is a little shady in how it always implies that you’re about to miss out on a crazy deal, I do like their service. It’s very fast and let’s me safely connect to the internet on shady airport WiFi.

Once I landed in Moline, I was met by Mom and we headed straight over to the visitation. We had some time as a family before the doors opened and wow, once they opened it seemed like there was a line out the door for two hours! The final tally was well over 200 people in addition who stopped by. All four children were their with their spouses chatting with all of the visitors while the cousins milled around in the back catching up. Obviously it would be nice to catch up with everyone under different circumstances, but it was still nice to see everyone and since we were all confident that Grandma was in heaven because she believed that Jesus paid for her sins, the mood was not super somber.

After the visitation, the family split up and I was in the group that went out to a Mexican restaurant for dinner and I finally ended up back at Uncle Dean and Aunt Sandy’s. A huge thanks goes to them for letting Dad, Mom and I stay there in addition to both of their kids’ families! It was a full house but I slept very well after such a long day.

Saturday morning we headed over to Zion Lutheran Church in Taylor Ridge, IL. The weather was giving us all it had that morning with 30-40 mph wind, heavy rain and temps around 40 degrees. The forecast not too far away in Iowa was calling for 3-6 inches of snow!

Grandma had left lots of ideas for her funeral service and she picked some great topics and hymns, praising God for sending Jesus to save us and encouraging all of us to stay strong in our faith and join her in heaven.

I was a pallbearer along with some of the other cousins. We braced ourselves against the weather and carried he casket out to the hearse, followed it across the street to the cemetery and then brought it into the tent. As we made that trip, the church bell tolled once for every year of Grandma’s 93 years on earth. That tent looked like it was going to blow away but it held up for the graveside ceremony and managed to dump a bunch of water down Uncle Mark’s back not once, but twice.

We made our way back over to the fellowship hall/gymnasium for a luncheon put on by the church. Thanks to all of the families who brought food and put the lunch together!

Everything about the morning felt like it was out of a movie, except that while there was sadness, the overwhelming emotion was one of joy and hope. We’re thankful that Grandma was so active up until that last month, and it’s extremely comforting that she shared her faith every time we talked to her. There’s no doubt that she was welcomed into heaven with open arms because Jesus had saved her from her sins.

From the church, Mom took me back to the airport and I had an extremely wild ride up to cruising altitude for the flight back to Everett. I was very thankful to be connecting through Denver instead of Chicago because over 600 flights were canceled in Chicago that afternoon because of the snow. Our little plane got bucked around very strongly by the winds and hail but we made it out.

I was in Illinois for a little over 24 hours, but there were a lot of memories crammed into that small time frame. Thanks to everyone who made it happen including Tyla for staying home with Elijah and Mom and Dad for giving me rides while I was there. I’m so thankful I could attend! While I hope we have another reunion at some point, it’s hard to imagine ever collecting that much of our big family in one place at the same time.

 

Strata 2019 San Francisco

My company was nice enough to send me down to San Francisco last week to attend the Strata Data Conference. If there’s a bigger conference in my field of data engineering/science/analysis, I don’t know what it is.

I attended a big data conference four years ago, but going to Strata was a huge step up both in terms of the quality of the event planning and in the quality of the talks. I came away with a stronger vision about things I want our team at work to accomplish and how we can make a bigger effect on our business group.

I skipped all the social events surrounding the conference, but I filled both days wither every talk I could cram into my schedule. A couple were total duds, but there were a lot of great ones from Netflix, Lyft, Uber, Intuit and others.

Aside from the conference itself, it was strange to be traveling alone. I did spend one evening in a movie theater watching Captain Marvel, but otherwise I mostly hung out in my room. I felt guilty about temporarily forcing Tyla into single parent mode and leaving my team at work short-handed, so I spent a lot of my free time working on the laptop and trying to make good use of my time.

My hotel was right next to Moscone West where the conference was held and that was fantastic. I was able to get from my room to a talk in about 5 minutes. That let me hustle back to the room even when we had ~45 minute breaks to get away from the crowds and recharge a bit. It’s surprising how tiring it is to sit on your rear end and listen to talks all day. I felt like my brain was very full!

It was a great trip, and while it’s not something that I need to do every year, I hope I can go back in 3-4 years. Thank you Tyla for holding down the fort while I took this trip!

Leavenworth Condo

Last weekend, Don kindly let us use some of his timeshare credits and we all went over to Leavenworth for the weekend. Thankfully there wasn’t any new snow in the pass so it made the drive relatively quick and easy.

It was a quick trip since we arrived Friday evening and left Sunday morning. Saturday was our big day and we got things started with sledding. There was a great U-shaped hill right behind the condos. Even those the snow was hardpacked and icy in spots, we were able to find a gentle slope that was just right for Elijah. I figured he’d be bored after a couple runs but he must have made 20 or 30 trips up that hill by himself to come ripping down.

Later in the afternoon we walked around the shops and then we had dinner at Andreas Keller Restaurant. I’ve never been to German so I don’t know how authentic it was, but it sure tasted good! Watch out for the $10 draft beers though. That was a surprise when we got the bill.

Elijah really wanted to go sledding again so we did a little more on Sunday. Unfortunately the run had changed a bit overnight and it shot him off the side head first into a park bench. OUCH. Tyla and I were pretty nervous about a concussion but he showed now signs for the rest of the day and even got back on his sled and tried it again. Note to self: teach my son how to bail out.

It’s always a lot of work traveling with a family, but it was a nice weekend. Thank you Don for sharing your credits with us!