Tag Archives: family ramblings

The Year Ahead – 2018

Now that the holidays have passed I like to make goals for the new year. Some are already underway while others have yet to be defined. This is going to be an interesting year for our family. To begin the year Minnesota is hosting the Super Bowl and my wife and I are committed to be a part of that which will be great. My oldest daughter is getting ready to graduate from high school and move on to the next phase in her life so that’s going to be a big change for us. Before the school year ends we are expecting to complete our National Parks Monopoly board with a trip to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. After graduation there are no definitive plans which feels weird for me. I’ve had an adventure planned many summers and not having one this year seems like something is missing. Maybe this will be a good summer to get another dog and use this time to train it. Once the fall arrives there could be a transition bringing our daughter to college in a different state. We’ll see.

Getting Ready for Super Bowl 52

In just a few short weeks Super Bowl 52 will take place and I get to be there for all the fun, with my wife and several other family members, for the entire 10 days. During this time I’m a part of the volunteer group Crew 52 which will be roaming the Super Bowl Live area each day so if you’re in Minneapolis during Super Bowl week look for me and say hello. I’ll be the one in the long, blue coat that says Crew 52 Volunteer on it. In addition to that I’m also a part of the halftime setup crew so that is really exciting. There will be posts on these experiences I’m sure. The question often comes up wondering if I will be part of the crowd on TV. No, I’m part of the crew that sets up the staging and takes it down all in a matter of minutes so the only opportunity to get on TV is possibly in the background behind the on field analysts during halftime before or after the show.

Volcanic rocks

Plans for traveling to Hawaii to explore this great National Park and Island have been in the works since last fall but there is still much to do before we go on this adventure over spring break. This is a happy and sad trip bringing mixed emotions each time I plan another piece of it. I’m really looking forward to spending this time with family exploring another National Park and learning more about volcanoes and the tropical wildlife in the area. However, this is the last trip that I may get to take with my children in this way. The future is uncertain with the oldest moving on in her life. Sure, there’s likely to be other trips but will it be with significant others or spouses and how often will vacations align to take trips like this? I’ve really enjoyed our trips to explore National Parks and cherish the time spent together and I will do the same with Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Just about to graduate high school

Shortly after returning from the Hawaiian Islands, graduation will take place. Something I am definitely not ready for. It’s one of those events you know will come (at least you hope it will) but that doesn’t make it any easier to prepare for. High School goes so fast even though it may not seem like it on a day to day level. Our youngest daughter has now entered her first year in high school so she is not far behind. It’s kind of exciting to see what her future holds as she becomes more in control of it. A factor I know that is scary for her but she’ll be fine I’m sure.

A pair of Ringneck ducks

Once these events are complete there really is nothing on the books to look forward to. There are several possibilities such as more homeowner projects of which there are always plenty. I would like to take in a hiking and camping trip here or there to enjoy the summer and use the camera to photograph more beautiful scenery. Continuing to improve my photography is another goal throughout the year but I have nothing specific determined yet. We’ll have to see by the end of the year what comes up because one thing is almost guaranteed – something always comes up. I’m not one to just sit around hoping for things to appear. I hope you have several things to plan for to make 2018 a great year!

A rider connecting with her horse before going into the riding arena

Another Year Here and Gone

Two Thousand and Seventeen has now come to a close and I like to take a brief look back to see if I attained the goals set out in the beginning of the year and what else happened before going forward to the next year. The goals set out for 2017 included exploring Yellowstone, Little Bighorn, and Dinosaur National Parks, a return to Isle Royale, some home owner projects, and celebrating 20 years of marriage. We did end up visiting Grand Teton National Park and Craters of the Moon National Monument as a nice addition to our year. Most of these items were accomplished all except a hiking excursion to Isle Royale which was canceled just a couple of weeks before going off an this adventure. I’ll get more into this in a moment but first let’s look at the other goals.

Looking at the landscape at a portion of Custer's Last Stand

Once summer began we were off to Montana to see the sight of Custer’s Last Stand at Little Bighorn. It was a warm and very windy day while we were here giving us the full Western Prairie experience. Learning about and seeing how this battle unfolded was a great learning adventure. Even looking over the landscape and seeing the different encampment areas and trails taking to get here, it’s hard to image the battle which ensued on these lands. Fortunately there’s plenty of information in the visitors center to fill in the events leading up to this historic battle. A piece of American history that is brought to life by this park.

Old Faithful erupting in Yellowstone NP

Yellowstone National Park was the next adventure waiting for us which brought beautiful landscapes and interactions with nature that will last forever in our memories (and photographs). It has been said this is the Serengeti of the United States because of the diverse and numerous wildlife living here. We absolutely can attest to that with several bear sightings, a wolf encounter, bison, elk, coyotes, and other wildlife making their way into our view. Experiencing the thermal features here are very impressive with geysers, extremely colorful hotsprings, and mudpots giving a unique adventure to those able to visit.

The Yampa River cutting through Dinosaur NM

Our final park on the National Parks Monopoly board for 2017 was Dinosaur National Monument located in Utah and Colorado. To image dinosaurs roaming this area was special and really brought to reality by seeing first hand the skeletons still buried in the earth among the hills here. Very interesting to see what has been already un-Earthed and imagine how many more places in the undisturbed grounds still held on to these historic creatures. These are surrounded by beautiful landscapes created by two rivers creating valleys through the colorful hills over thousands of years. At night the dark sky becomes filled with stars from horizon to horizon. I spent a night just photographing these bright lights in the sky.

A cinder cone at Craters of the Moon NM

In addition to these National Parks we managed to take in Grand Teton National Park and Craters of the Moon National Monument before returning home. Both are great places to visit and we enjoyed a brief exploration of both. One day I would like to climb Grand Teton so a potential upcoming adventure.

Sunrise over Lake Superior on the North Shore of Minnesota

A few weeks before taking off to Grand Portage, Minnesota in August to hop on a boat and head to Isle Royale, the person I was going with had to cancel for work reason so I needed to make a decision of not going or going it alone. I decided to cancel primarily due to safety concerns. Our hotel was unable to be canceled by then so I decided to take the family to the North Shore of Minnesota to explore Voyager Days in Grand Portage along with a Pow Wow and take in the night sky with the Perseid Meteor shower on full display. This was all great to discover but would have been even better after hiking on Isle Royale for a week. One morning I got up to watch the sunrise and go exploring by myself photographing the beautiful area landscape. At one point I crawled up on some boulders only to have one of my hand holds give way causing me to fall onto the rocks below. Expecting to feel a lot of physical damage I only noticed one of my hands injured from this fall. Once I was up and walking around again I figured out that canceling the trip to Isle Royale by myself was a good idea for this very reason.

Celebrating 20 years together. We needed the bottlecaps to fill in the missing pieces for checkers

September brought my 20 year anniversary being married to my wife. We took a few days and stayed at the same lodge, Cove Point Lodge, that we stayed at on our honeymoon. It was interesting to see what has changed and what has stayed the same in those 20 years. The worst part about this celebration was realizing how much we’ve forgotten in those 20 years which was brought to our attention by looking back at pictures of twenty years ago in this very same place and not being able to remember several parts of our honeymoon. I guess that’s become one of the reason I like to take so many pictures.

Heading out with the camera in search of another beautiful picture

Speaking of pictures, I ended up taking several thousand photographs again in 2017 and saw improvement in my picture taking abilities. There’s still more to learn and improve so I expect the same will hold true in the new year. It’s been another great year and I hope you had a number of memorable moments to look back on with a smile. On to 2018!

Making due with the surroundings to capture a good photograph

Planning for 2017

This is a year I’m certainly looking forward to as there are plenty of activities entering our calendar but also am getting a little concerned there is too much to accomplish to enjoy all I would like to. Last year’s goals were mostly accomplished with our travels to National Parks in Texas and Arkansas, taking thousands of pictures which I’m certain has improved my photography skills but still more to do, fixing broken portions of this website, as well as making it to Rocky Mountain National Park to hike Flattop Mountain and Long’s Peak.

Spring blooms

What does that leave for 2017? Plenty! How about starting with our Monopoly goals of visiting Dinosaur, Little Bighorn, and Yellowstone National Parks? Yellowstone has been a place I’ve wanted to visit for a long time as it’s one of the marquee parks in the United States. The more I read about Dinosaur the more interested I get in exploring such a place tucked in Colorado’s northwest corner revealing pre-historic fossils among a beautiful landscape. What’s not to look forward to here? And Little Bighorn, a place among US history commonly known as Custer’s last stand. I get chills just writing that as it reminds me of Gettysburg and all those lost there.

Isle Royale National Park

There’s also a return trip to Isle Royale National Park for a more intense backpacking trip in the works. Our family took on an adventure here in 2012 at which time I insisted I was done backpacking and would never go back to this island. Well, a few months after my muscles and joints recovered I began to think about improvements I could do to enjoy it more but still never really seriously thought about another trip here. The most difficult part was carrying such a heavy backpack. Last summers adventure to Long’s Peak convinced me I could backpack and enjoy it. After almost despising an extended hike I’m now really excited about returning to the island and taking in more of what it has to offer. What’s different you ask? First I’m confident in my abilities after hiking 14 miles at higher altitudes and really want to know how much more I can enjoy it at elevations I can breath more easily at as well as I know how to prepare and train for an extended hike.

Clear winged moth on a warm summer night

Add in to this landscaping projects and a small remodeling project at my house, a camping trip, a snowmobiling excursion, and celebrating 20 years of marriage to my wife and this year will fly by I’m sure. I hope 2017 becomes a great year for you as well!

2016 Plans and Goals

Reflecting on 2015, which you can read about here, I came up with some things I would like to accomplish in this next year.  First and foremost, I want to enjoy the activities and adventures we embark on. We did a lot of fun and exciting activities last year but I didn’t feel like I got the most out of them that I could because there was always another event coming up soon requiring attention to plan and prepare for taking attention away from what I was doing. It seemed like we were always in a rush to do whatever it was we were doing because there was something else that needed to get done or was scheduled. If I can help it that won’t be the case in 2016 for us!

An ocean sunrise

My next goal is to explore Window Trail in Big Bend National Park, Padre Island National Seashore, and Hot Springs National Park. I’m pretty confident in being able to complete this in the next year as we already have some lodging accommodations, airfare, and a car reserved. I’m looking forward to this trip as we will be staying in Big Bend which will only be the second time staying right in a park reducing travel time and increasing exploration time.

Using the GoPro Hero 4 underwater

As has been the case for the past several years, I want to continue learning and improving my photography. Originally I set the bar at wanting to take 3,500  photos this year. That just makes me laugh now after having taking over 11,000 in the past year. I’ve decided to up that to 5,000 photos towards the goal of improving. That means working on composition and technique, not just randomly taking pictures of family and friends or the dog. As part of this I want to capture images of individual snowflakes.

A woodland mushroom

Along with the photography goal I would like to complete the Photography Experiment board by learning more about flash, fill flash, rock climbing, and travel portraits. This is a goal that would be nice to complete but if it doesn’t happen I won’t be too concerned. Still, working a little on it would be good.

Time at the lake

Continuing to update and improve this site is another one of my goals for this year. Since I needed to re-build this website in 2015 I find several broken links that need to be addressed as well as some programming pieces that need to continue to be worked on to get them to work as I have envisioned.

Being watched in the woods

I’ve wanted to put together a video from all of the photos taken on our trip to Alaska in 2013. It’s probably time to get this done so I can remove the photos from my computer and free up space. It is uncertain at this point if I will be able to post the video as I’m probably going to use music that is copyrighted preventing me from being able to use it on the internet.

Just floating on the water

One final goal for 2016 is to volunteer more. I feel like I failed at helping others in 2015 and that is something important to me to get back to this next year. Sure I volunteered to help coach my daughters basketball team and spent a number of hours volunteering at our church. I guess it comes down to volunteering at food shelves more. Seeing people starving is something that affects me and a priority for me to help reduce to the best of my ability. We are so fortunate to be able to have all that we need and it is up to us to help those that we can. Food and shelter are at the top of my list to help with when possible.

Lunch on the prairie

That should keep me busy this year and hopefully allow me to enjoy our adventures. If not, there are more homeowner projects to undertake and a potential hiking trip in the Rocky Mountains.

2015 in Review

This past year seems more like a blur that lasted a few months rather than a full year as our family kept quite busy with lot’s of projects and activities. Now that 2015 has wrapped up and we’re on to 2016 it seems like a good time to review which goals were accomplished and those that I fell short on. Looking over my goals for this past year, which were published in this post (click on ‘post’ to read it), I see we managed to achieve half of them.

Warm Caribbean Waters

Exploring Padre Island and Hot Springs ended up being delayed until this spring. Instead we took in Great Smoky Mountain National Park and Shenandoah National Park to see Lewis Falls. The timeframe for Padre Island and Hot Springs became filled with an anniversary celebration trip for Karen’s mom and dad who have been together for over 40 years. Definitely an accomplishment worth celebrating in my book!

Putting in windows

It may have almost killed me (at least it felt like it) but we completed our window project. I estimated my time spent which ended up at over 110 hours of my weekends and evenings to complete. That doesn’t include the time of others that helped me tear out the old ones and lift in the new ones. You can’t imagine how greatful I am to those that helped us and to be done with this home improvement.
Water Lily

Continuing my learning of photography took a back seat for much of the year so I didn’t complete my Photography Experiment Monopoly board once again. Maybe this year. In spite of this I did still manage to take over 11,000 pictures with my Sony Nex. That doesn’t include the thousands of images taken with my new photography addition – a GoPro Hero 4. By the way, I really enjoy the GoPro and where it can go and what it can do. I have definitely learned more about photography composition and techniques with the opportunities I was fortunate to have.

There were other accomplishments during 2015 which may end up in a different post.

A New Year, A New Site

Monopoly Traveler Site old    Monopoly Traveler Site old -2 

This has been a much longer journey than I expected but we’re finally back with new content. Back in March MonopolyTraveler.com had some uninvited guests who destroyed portions of this site. There were many attempts by a number of people to revive and restore things back to normal without success. Each time we thought we had the website back to normal and secure from these intruders new issues would pop up causing the necessary action of taking it down. By the end of March it was determined that MonopolyTraveler.com would have to be completely re-built from scratch requiring a significant amount of time.

One of the projects on the to do list was to make it more mobile friendly so this seemed like a good time to accomplish that and way over due. At that time a decision was made to look over all aspects of the website and decide what we liked and what should be updated in addition to making it more mobile friendly. Some of the components of this website were no longer functioning correctly and needed to be replaced or re-programed so those were addressed along with bringing more focus to the photographs. After some debate between putting time and energy into re-building the existing site with some improvements or going with an entirely different theme it was decided to use the time towards a new theme so here it is.

Working into the long hours of the night programming and testing a new site

Unfortunately existing commitments and unexpected events required more time away which continually delayed the completion of MonopolyTraveler. In spite of our best efforts there always seemed to be something else that was a higher priority taking time from assembling a new site so there it sat for months and months. Finally it has become a high enough priority and my last goal of getting this ready before the New Year is somewhat met. It has been a nice break from blogging but there are many photographs and experiences I want to share and a stress relief by having this off my to do list. There are still pieces that are being worked on and noticeable changes may come up as the mobile version is not completely satisfactory but for now here we go.

By the way, I said new content – not necessarily better or useful content, just new.