Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Malia's Second Birthday

We made a quick extended-weekend trip to Denver to celebrate Malia's second birthday. The trip was extended in that we took two days each way driving to and from Denver. We've taken the I-25 route so often that we wanted to take a little more time and enjoy different scenery, primarily the mountains.

The forecast for Friday, 12/14, departure date was for snow all through Colorado. It was snowing as we loaded up and left Cedar Crest. We abandoned plans to drive straight north through central Colorado and decided to take I-25 to Walsenburg, CO, then decide whether angling NW from there to Westcliffe was doable. We've been to Westcliffe several times in the summer for their bluegrass festival and really like the town and its location.

To get to Walsenburg we skirted around the snow in NM by taking I-40 east almost to Santa Rosa. We then took US-84 up to I-25 just west of Las Vegas. I mention all this just to promote US-84 -- very scenic and also historic. 'Twas the original routing of Route 66 -- a loop NW to Santa Fe before dropping back down to Albuquerque. One of our governors in the last days of his office bladed a road straight west from Santa Rosa to Albuquerque and Route 66 soon adopted that route.

Anyhow, at Walsenburg, conditions seemed good enough for the drive into Westcliffe. Westcliffe is in a large, gorgeous valley, at nearly 8000 ft. elevation, with the Sangre de Cristo mountains as its western backdrop. I wanted to see the mountains in their winter glory. As we drove in Friday pm, through light snow, the mountains were socked in. Susie said, "Can't see the mountains. Let's just keep going." I demurred: "Forecast is for a clear day tomorrow. We're here, let's stay the night."

So we checked into a motel, checked out a couple of shops, and had dinner. Next morning:

Awesome! It was also minus 10 degrees according to our car's thermometer as we drove out.

On to the main show. Jeff and Valerie had planned a Saturday pm party, following the UNM-Texas Tech basketball game on TV. Unfortunately, Valerie's mom and stepdad couldn't come due to some health concerns that kept him at home in Santa Fe and my nephew Kevin and his family, who recently moved to Castle Rock, CO, couldn't make it either, so we were it!

Lobos won, then it was dinner, presents, and cake.

For contrast, if you go way back in this blog to our China trip last December, you can see Malia celebrating her first birthday, just a few days after "we" got her. Also, see Jeff and Valerie's blog: for more then and now pictures.

Next day was pretty relaxed. Susie and Malia had a tea party. Malia got Tucker involved in play-time, too. Jeff cooked a version of the Chinese meal he had planned or Saturday.

Monday noon, Susie, Jeff, and I had lunch with friend, Karen Kafadar, a statistician at the University of Colorado, Denver. Well, she still has an office there, but she's just about formerly UCD. She's doing a sabbatical this year at U Cal-Berkeley and then this summer is moving to Indiana University. We had a nice lunch at a downtown "modern" Mexican restaurant across the street from UCD, discussing, among other things, the statistician's lament: We don't get no respect -- in a Math department, in particular. Susie commented that she hadn't met many "bouncy" statisticians; except for the three she was lunching with, of course, I interjected. See what I mean?

After lunch we went to a birthday party at Malia's day care, where Valerie is the Assistant Director. (Monday was Malia's actual birthday.)

Then, now in late afternoon, we headed out. Plan was to stay the night in Walsenburg, about a 2.5 hr. drive, then head west the next day over La Veta Pass into the San Luis Valley, then south to home. And that's what we did.

The motel was a bit of an adventure. Had a choice of a room with one queen bed for $40 or two beds for $50. I went for the cozier, cheaper choice. Turns out though, that the one-bed room was on central heat -- you couldn't control the temperature. Two-bed rooms had their own furnaces and thermostats. I paid for the room, but said we might want to change. Went to our room, but it seemed cold, so I went back to switch rooms. We had not been quick enough, though. Lady said, Did you use anything? Did either of you go to the bathroom? Well, I had to say, Yes. Lady frowned. In that case, if you change rooms, I have to charge you for both.

What a dilemma! Well, we decided, somewhat reluctantly, to stay in the one-bed, no thermostat room (as opposed to now paying $90+ for room with two beds and thermostat). We had some extra blankets in the car that we had brought along for an emergency. This was it. We piled those on Susie and slept quite well, though I think I may have damaged my reputation as a big spender.

Nice trip home the next day. No pictures of the motel, but here's the county courthouse in Walsenburg.

We drove west into the San Luis Valley -- temperature 1 degree as we went through Alamosa. Here's a shot of 14,345 ft. Mt. Blanca en route. Years ago I climbed that sucker. Susie asked, Why? Because I was with a macho group of guys who wanted to climb it and couldn't very well wimp out, I said.

The drive south from Alamosa on US 285 is another scenic, pleasant drive: Tres Piedras, Ojo Caliente (where we stopped to check out the hot springs resort - looks like a place we'd like to spend some time -- Susie suggested monthly trips for spa and massage; there are no $40 rooms there, though).

Next we're off on a Christmas trip: Las Vegas for the weekend and Christmas Eve with Heidi, then red-eye flight at 1:00 am to Raleigh for Christmas afternoon with Mike and family. A few days there and then we'll fly to Nashville for New Year's with Mandi and Paul. Family is precious year-round, but especially so at Christmas.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all!

Susie and Rob

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

When one lives with Rob Easterling
Life is just one adventure after another.
“Susie, I’ve been thinking” is his mantra.
I say, “Hey, I need a week to recover.”

2007 has been another year of adventure.
Traveling places—some revisited, some new.
Spending time with our family
And enjoying the things that they do.

So-please indulge me for a little while
As I review our whirlwind life.
Rob plans, researches and schedules
And I play the dutiful wife.

The major part of our travels
Sees us in our motorhome, TuziTwo.
We both love the feel of the open road
As we travel the country through.

No matter where we travel.
No matter where we roam.
We try to visit our children
And enjoy each and every home.

I’ll give a brief summary of each family.
Chronologically seems only fair.
We begin with Jeff and Valerie Hinkle
Who moved north---SOMEWHERE!

Actually, they live in Aberdeen, South Dakota.
Cold winters they have -- that’s for sure.
Managing Shop-Ko is his profession.
Monitoring juveniles on probation—for her.

They have purchased a mini-farm.
With barns, horse stalls and hay.
Hunting, mowing and working
Makes for a full life at the end of the day.

Matt and Suzy Hinkle
Remain in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Managing Pratt Industries and teaching
Makes for a very busy woman and man.

Tony is in college in Santa Fe.
Kaci: a college in Ohio is her choice.
He is studying film production.
She’s in music theatre—using her beautiful voice.

Andrew is a freshman in high school.
He is in band and soccer he loves to play.
He just got his provisional driver’s license.
Let us take a minute TO PRAY!

Mike and Karen Easterling
Live in Cary, N.C. with our pride and joy.
Jason is the light of our lives.
He is such an outstanding boy.

Mike is in biomathematics.
Karen, a statistician like Rob.
They work at bringing better
health to society
Which makes for a rewarding job.

Jason is in the second grade.
His soccer coach is his dad.
Time spent with this sweet family
Makes for some of the nicest times
we’ve had.

Jeff, Valerie and Malia Easterling
Live in Highlands Ranch, Colo.,--oh, so fair.
Jeff is ANOTHER statistician,
And Valerie directs a day care.

Just a year ago this time
Saw us going to China on a plane.
How Malia has taken hold of all our hearts
Is really hard to explain.

We will be with Malia on the 17th.
To celebrate her second birthday.
She is blessed to have such wonderful parents.
They feel blessed, too, in every way.

Mandi and Paul Venable live
Where music is the definitive sound.
Nashville, Tennessee, is their home.
Their profession helps us
To “fly around!”

They’ve been with Southwest Airlines
For more years than they can believe.
Paul writes music and loads the planes
And, Mandi, just continues to achieve.

She is the assistant station manager.
An airport is an ever busy hub.
We love spending time with these two.
You can’t beat that southern grub!

And Heidi Hinkle the runt of the litter.
Is the child living farthest west.
Her director’s job in Vegas at the Bellagio
Doesn’t give her much time for rest.

She now is the mother of two animals.
Joey the bulldog and Katie the boxer.
They do keep her very busy,
But they’re so much company for her.

She, too, brings us so much joy.
She relates her life to us with flair.
We’re glad her life is happy.
She has so much goodness to share.

And, so there you have the rundown.
We’ve put more than you need on your plate,
But many of you have watched these kids grow
And we just wanted to bring you up to date.

We have had several family reunions.
Which have been so much fun for all.
It’s such a privilege when we all can meet
We laugh, eat and have a ball.

Rob’s extra special outing in September
Was to Australia--the land down under.
His friend, Dick Reinert, went with him
I opted not to steal his thunder.

They traveled by train, helicopter and plane.
They spent almost three weeks in this beautiful place.
They returned a little sore and tired,
Each had a huge smile across his face.

2008 looks like more of the same.
It will find us living in California on the beach.
The Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey
Is the next place where Rob will teach.

We’ll live March through June in TuziTwo
Along the Pacific Ocean shore.
Then we’ll head home to Cedar Crest
Until we decide to travel some more.

So as we celebrate this holy season,
And as we celebrate our families with you,
May the real celebration center around the
And may you celebrate your blessings, too.


Susie and Rob