Back to Work
of you were probably wondering if Iíd ever update my website again, since this
is my first entry in over a year -- while others were probably hoping I
wouldn't! Believe it or not, some folks were wondering if I was still
alive. I laughed at an e-mail I got last month. An Ohio reader named
Jim wrote in worried about my health, since I hadnít updated my website in so
long. Thanks for your concern, Jimbo, and yes, Iím alive and kicking.
havenít I updated my website in over a year? One reason is that I watch
the lowly Seattle Mariners baseball team play (and lose) each night. Itís
like watching a car accident as you slowly drive by Ė you know it might be gruesome
but you have to look anyway. And now that I'm back at work, I don't want to bore you with the banalities of my everyday
life unlike a lot of bloggers out there, so as Yoda might say, spare you I did Ė and thankful
Another reason is that Iíve been
pretty busy at work. In December 2004, I moved from Bellingham, Washington to
Seattle and went back to work after a 3-1/2 year hiatus. It
feels good to be back in the office and, believe it or not, I actually enjoy putting in long hours again. Since
I went back to work, though, I haven't had much time to update my website
because I often work six or even seven days a week. But Iíve set aside this entire weekend to post an update. So read on you
A Brief Recap
For those whoíve recently
stumbled onto my site or have wisely decided not to wade through its 423 pages,
Iíll briefly bring you up to speed. In 2001, I was living in Portland, Oregon and
working as a transportation planner and mapping specialist for Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB), a large
engineering consulting firm. I was in a comfortable rut but wanted to shake
things up, so I left my steady job on my 10-year anniversary and took what was
supposed to be an 18-month break to travel. To document my solo travels, I started
up this website, which I originally called DelsTrip.
But then I realized that in all lower-case letters,
delstrip looked like DelStrip, so to assure
my readers (especially the female kind) that I had no intention of
stripping, I changed it to DelsJourney.
The main goals of my trip were
my roots by visiting places around the U.S. where my ancestors had lived,
Australia and New Zealand, countries that Iíd always wanted to see,
inspire others to break out of their own comfortable ruts, and
4). Not to
strip, if I could avoid it.
For reasons discussed elsewhere,
my 18-month trip turned into 3-1/2 years. But now Iím gainfully employed
again and am working at a new and interesting job in Seattle Ė while digging
myself into another comfortable rut.
Now that Iím back at work, Iíve
been debating about whether to keep posting website updates or take my website down. After mulling it over, I decided to keep updating it.
Yes, I can hear the cries of anguish out there, but since I now get four weeks of
vacation each year, I figure I'll be able to take frequent trips to distant
shores. So Iíve got
lots more fodder for good travel stories, which Iíll post on this site for years
to come. Lucky you, huh?
Some shots at my Dad's house in Bellingham in 2004:
Here I'm painting the picnic table for the 17th time.
I may be incompetent, but I'm
Doing an impression of Darth Vader in the basement while installing
insulation. Have staple gun, will travel.
Celebrating Thanksgiving with my sister Doti (right) and friends in 2004. I
made seven dishes that day. I also prepared some of the food (har, har).
This was my workstation for
the past two years, in the den
at my Dad's house.
That's my affectionate and faithful sidekick, Lila, sleeping on the couch.
Above center: Lila, who's
15, is actually my sister's cat, but she's best friends with whomever fed her
last. Lila is curious, insecure, and very lovable.
After chain-sawing massive pine trees while working as a ranger in Colorado in the
1980s, I've been reduced to cutting down a Christmas tree each year with a small bow
The Job Hunt
In the spring of 2004, I was
living at my Dadís house in Bellingham and was getting antsy to return to work
after taking three years off. Well, O.K., I was also getting tired of
hauling tons of dirt in a wheelbarrow while landscaping the yard, as well as
painting my sisterís picnic table 17 times (due to blistering issues Ė please
Sure Ďnuff, it was time to go back to work.
I was hoping to return to my job
with PB in Portland, but there wasnít much work in that office, so they couldnít
hire me back. I wasnít worried about finding another good job though, because I
had acquired a lot of different technical skills over the years (primarily due to my short
attention span) and figured that the job offers would just start rolling in. In
fact, you couldíve called me Captain Fearless because I laughed in the face of
unemployment and impending homelessness.
Or maybe Captain Foolish,
because my job search turned out to be tougher than I figured. That was
partly due, Iím sure, to the wobbly economy here in the Northwest, still reeling
over the dot-com bust. Without going into details, letís just say that I
learned several things during my six-month-and-often-frustrating job hunt, such
1). In a lot of
ways, a job interview is like a first date. Maybe thatís one reason I
donít interview very well. That and my Donald Duck tie.
2). As my Dad
always told me, itís a lot easier to get a job if you already have a job. How
3). Donít rely
solely on Internet job postings, because tons of people apply for them and many
positions are bogus. The best way to land a good job is the old-fashioned
way, through phone calls and personal contacts.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of companies who wonít call you back
after an interview to let you know whatís going on. Whatever happened to good
By November, I was getting
pretty discouraged with the whole situation. But then I got a call from my old
boss from PB-Portland, whoís now in PBís Seattle office. He heard that I was
looking for a position and, knowing my abilities, asked if Iíd like to do some
contract work in Seattle for a few months. The next day, I drove down to
Seattle to talk to him about it, figuring that Iíd work there for maybe a month
or two before moving back to Portland. As it turned out, though, everyone in
the Seattle office that I talked to wanted my help, whether it was in
transportation planning, web design, mapping, computer graphics, IT, or
technical writing, so maybe my short attention span was finally paying off!
To my utter amazement, I walked out of the office a few hours later with a
permanent job offer.
So instead of moving back to
Portland like I had originally planned, I moved to Seattle. Well, I actually
moved to Redmond, which is about 20 miles east of Seattle. You may have heard
of Redmond because itís the home of Microsoft and there are lots of high-tech
computer geeks running around here with pocket protectors Ė and expensive BMWs
(truly the revenge of the nerds). Even more impressive, Redmond is the home of
actor James Doohan, who portrayed Scotty in ďStar Trek.Ē Iím sorry to say,
though, that Scotty passed away in Redmond a few weeks ago, beaming up to the mother ship for
the last time.
Moving out of my Dad's house in Bellingham in December
And moving into my apartment in Redmond, which is the
20th city I've lived in. Good thing I like change.
Above right: My
apartment that day, with boxes stacked five-high. Now how do I get to the
My Daily Routine
A lot of
bloggers get into trouble by writing about their jobs, like posting office
gossip on their very public websites. Because of that, Iíve been grappling
with what to do about my sometimes-opinionated website now that I'm back at work. I decided that as
much as possible Iím going to keep my work and my website separate: Iím
not going to write too much about my job and I won't say much about
my website at work. But Iíll
give you the basics about my job if youíre interested.
My daily routine is pretty much
the same. Each morning after dragging myself out of bed, I walk across the street and catch the 7:45 a.m. bus
into downtown Seattle, where I work in the 54-story Wells Fargo Building. I
work with a subsidiary of Parsons Brinckerhoff called PB-Farradyne, which
specializes in ďIntelligent Transportation Systems,Ē or conveying traffic
information to the public so they can make better decisions as they travel.
Examples include electronic signs over freeways that display traffic conditions
ahead and websites that show traffic information.
Iíve been working on two main
projects lately: developing a website for the Florida Department of
Transportation and replacing an important-but-aging arterial called the Alaskan
Way Viaduct in downtown Seattle, one of the largest construction projects in
Washington history. Theyíre both good
projects and Iíve been learning a lot. In addition, the folks in the office are
fun to work with and Iíve got a nice view of downtown Seattle from my office,
which is up on the 24th floor.
Every evening after work, I
catch the 6:15 p.m. bus back to my apartment in Redmond, make dinner, and watch
the Seattle Mariners lose. On most weekends, I go into the office to learn some new skills, then I ride the bus home, make
dinner, and watch the Seattle
Mariners lose. So other than the Mariners, things are going well and itís good
to be back at work.
The Wells Fargo Building (left) in downtown Seattle. My
office is at the top of the photo.
And here it is, with a bookshelf stuffed with yellow
Above right: The
from my office. Interstate 5 and the snow-capped Cascade Mountains are in the
distance. The red-roofed building is a historic church which,
unfortunately, is scheduled for demolition. Seattle could learn a lot
about historic preservation from Boston.
As you may know, volleyball is my favorite sport: I
like to play it, watch it, coach it -- and photograph it. Since moving to Seattle, I've
become a big University of Washington volleyball fan. Here they are (in
white) in the 2004 NCAA tournament in Seattle.
Head coach Jim McLaughlin, the 2004 National Coach of the
Year and a real class act.
Above right: The UW
Huskies (and perpetually perky Harry Husky) after another win. They advanced to the NCAA Final Four where they
lost to Stanford, ending the season at 28-3. We'll get 'em next year!
A Career in Blackjack? Don't Bet on It
is nice, traveling is better, and Iíve fortunately been able to take a few
recent trips. Earlier this year, I flew down to Las Vegas for a couple of days on
business with David, a co-worker. Iíve never liked Lost Wages, since itís
everything Iím not. I actually lived in Las Vegas for a few months back in
1999 and discovered how sleazy it really is -- and it's really sleazy.
But it is an interesting place to visit and gawk.
Here's Elvis Presley singing
that classic, Viva Las Vegas.
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The highlight of my recent trip was getting a free upgrade at the Treasure
Island hotel, from the basic room Iíd booked all the way up to a $400-a-night
luxury suite. Why? I'd like to say something pretentious like,
"Membership has its privileges," but I'm not a member of anything
except AAA, so who knows.
To be honest, I'm just as comfortable staying at a Motel 6 -- or a decent
campground, for that matter. High maintenance I'm not.
After I checked in and had
dinner, I thought about playing some blackjack that evening. In the winter
of 1988, in between my summer jobs as a ranger in Colorado, I became pretty interested in blackjack. I learned that by
keeping track of the dealt
cards, a good player could gain a slight advantage over the casino. I
don't really like to gamble, which to me is synonymous with losing money, but I figured that if I could earn money while
playing a game, why not?
I spent the entire winter of 1988,
doing nothing but learning how to win at blackjack ("Let's see, four decks and a +7 count with six Aces
dealt, dealer shows five and I've got 14: Hit me."), then I headed down to
Reno to try it out. I was doing pretty well during the first week, but then I
played at Harold's Club where two dealers -- and I still remember their names: Sam and T.J.
-- scammed me and I lost most of my
winnings. I'd heard about such things and didn't believe it, but now I do.
And so that was the end of my blackjack career. By the way, a few months
later, the Nevada Gaming Commission shut down the Harold's Club for blackjack
"improprieties" and it never reopened, so I feel a little better.
The lesson I learned? Playing blackjack is a really hard way to make a
living and I don't recommend it. It's much easier to be a consultant for
an engineering firm.
Although I've forgotten my card counting strategies, I still play blackjack once
in a while. It takes a person just 10 minutes to learn the basics
so they can play statistically even with the casinos (but do most players bother?
Nope). I didn't feel like playing blackjack that evening, though,
donít like to mix business and pleasure -- or get kicked out of casinos for counting
cards -- so I just walked around the Strip and snickered at all the tacky
gaudiness. Las Vegas is a kick but it's still a slimy place, and I was glad to get back
home and take a shower.
Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous (or in my case, the Poor
and Insignificant). This is the free upgrade I got at the Treasure Island.
At $400 a night, it's just a tad better than a Motel 6.
Outside the Treasure Island waiting for the nightly Pirates show.
It was called off due to high winds, though -- pretty wimpy pirates, if you ask
Above right: At the
back to Seattle.
Looking Cool in Florida
I had a much more interesting
trip in the spring of 2005, when I flew to Florida to do some work while
spending a few vacation days there, too. Before leaving Seattle, Iíd reserved a
sporty car from Thrifty Rent-a-Car in Miami with visions of me dashing around
Florida during spring break with a beautiful woman while looking really
cool. But when I got to Miami, all Thrifty had left were honkiní huge
Chrysler behemoths, so thatís what I got. As I proved during the next week,
itís hard to look cool while zipping around Florida in a Chrysler. But frankly,
Iíve always had a hard time looking cool.
Here's my man,
Jimmy Buffett, singing Changes in Latitudes, Changes in
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One of my main destinations was
Fort Pierce, a funky old city about three hours north of Miami. During World
War II, and long before I was born, my parents lived in Fort Pierce where my Dad
trained for the "Scouts & Raiders," the Special Operations branch of the
U.S. Navy now called the SEALs.
I'd never seen Fort Pierce before,
but being a family history buff, I drove up and spent a day
retracing my parent's steps. While there, I stopped by the Navy SEAL museum for a few
hours and enjoyed talking to some old WWII veterans and hearing their stories.
By the way, if you ever saw the first Survivor show on CBS, which was won by the
fat naked guy, you might remember the crusty
ex-Navy SEAL named Rudy Boesch. As I learned recently, Rudy and my Dad were in
the same Scouts & Raiders unit in Fort Pierce in 1945 right before my Dad shipped out to China to
serve in World War II.
After camping in the
pleasant-but-mosquito-filled Dickinson State Park that night, I headed to the
west coast of Florida where I spent a few days in Bradenton (pop. 50,000), south of Tampa.
Back in 1987, I lived in Bradenton for several months while I worked for the
Bradenton Herald newspaper. I moved to Bradenton back then because, 1). Iíd
always wanted to live in Florida, and 2). After spending a week driving around
the state looking for a place to live, I thought Bradenton was the nicest city in
Florida. In fact I still do, and it was great to be back. The Herald is still there as are the long sandy
beaches, where I spent hours lolling each morning before
going to work every afternoon at the Herald. My job didnít pay
much but it covered the rent and it was fun, which was all I cared about back
My parents wedding portrait in Fort Pierce, Florida during
World War II. My Dad, an Ensign and later a Lt. Commander, trained here for the U.S. Navy "Scouts
& Raiders," now called SEALs, before being sent to the Pacific. The
Scouts & Raiders were a select group of men trained for special Naval
operations, such as amphibious invasions.
My parents and grandmother in Fort Pierce in 1944, shortly
after the wedding.
Above right: Downtown
Fort Pierce today looks much like it did during World War II. It's a great
From my parents letters, I tracked down the house they
lived in: 1230 Easter Avenue.
The Navy SEAL Museum in Fort Pierce recounts the history
of the Scouts & Raiders, UDT (Underwater Demolition Teams), Frogmen, and as
they're known today, the SEALs.
Above right: A display
in the museum showing some of the weapons that my Dad was trained in.
Camping at the pleasant Dickinson State Park, south of
Fort Pierce. Is it just me, or do Chryslers look out of place in
Fueling up. Cool car, huh?
Above right: Hunkering
down in Lakeland for a few days while working on a presentation.
The Bradenton Herald newspaper, where I worked in 1987.
The Herald is a great paper and I really enjoyed working there.
And my old apartment (top floor) in Bradenton. Only
$365 a month back then.
This is Cortez Beach south of town, where I worked on my tan each morning before
working on the paper each evening.
Keys to My Heart
After spending a few sunny days
in Bradenton, I drove down to the Florida Keys, a 100-mile string of islands
that juts into the Gulf of Mexico. The Florida Keys are unlike any other
place in the country and have always been special to me. When I was a kid
growing up in Michigan during the 1960s, my entire family drove down to the
Keys, twice in fact: when I was four years old and seven, and I remember
each trip well. The most vivid event occurred during my first trip to
Florida when I stepped on a Portuguese Man of War jellyfish at the beach and screamed for an
hour. Fortunately, my other memories of Florida are a bit more favorable, and much less
My fondest memory of the Keys was camping at John
Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park on Key Largo during both trips. This unique park, which opened in 1963, is the
oldest state park in the Florida Keys and includes a campground, marina, visitor center,
and the only coral reef in the continental
U.S., which is a few miles offshore. I pulled the Chrysler into a campsite
and stayed here one night and as I walked around the park, pleasant memories of
those earlier trips wafted through my mind. The park hasn't changed much over the past 40 years and it's
still a great place. I've posted a few photos of the park below. For
more photos of my family's visits during the 1960s, see my page on
Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.
The best part of my
recent trip to the Florida Keys, however, was discovering Bahia Honda State Park, which is
located, appropriately enough, on Bahia Honda Key, about two-thirds of the way
down the Keys. Iíve been to the Keys several times but had never stopped at
this park before, which is a shame because, as I learned, itís a really terrific
place. For one thing, itís one of the few places in the limestone-and-mangrove
covered Keys that has a long, natural beach.
I got to Bahia Honda State Park
around 3 p.m. on a warm, sunny afternoon and set up my tent, then walked into a
little store there to buy a bag of ice. Thatís where I spotted a cute
20ish woman who looked exactly like my niece, Sarah, who lives in Philadelphia.
This was the first time Iíd seen anyone who looked even remotely like Sarah, so
I thought it might actually be her. I kept glancing at her, hoping sheíd
recognize me and say, ďHi, Uncle Del!Ē But, alas, it wasnít her Ė and I
think I freaked the poor girl out in the process. Oops, sorry! I can
imagine her telling her friends: ďThis old geezer in the store kept staring at me Ė and he
was driving a Chrysler!"
After creeping out the Sarah-lookalike,
I went down to the beach where I walked for a couple of hours and enjoyed splashing my feet in the
warm 80-degree surf while the the palm trees swayed in the balmy breeze, then around
sunset I headed back to my campsite to make dinner. Iíve camped at hundreds of
places in the U.S., but this campsite was one of the most gorgeous Iíve ever
seen: it was well-protected with lots of privacy but was just a few yards from
the beach and had a beautiful view of the ocean. A tropical storm
rolled in that night with lots of thunder and lightning and dumped about four inches of rain
on my tent, but I stayed dry and cozy, and it was all clear the next morning.
Bahia Honda is a terrific state
park and is an absolute ďmust seeĒ in the Keys. But if you go into the
store, don't stare at the young women. Especially if you drive a Chrysler.
The smallest post office in the U.S. is in Ochopee,
Florida. Yes, it's air-conditioned.
"Bobby, get closer to the alligator so Daddy can
take a picture of you." A good example of natural selection in action.
Above right: This is the
mosquito-filled Palmetto campground at the southern tip of Everglades National
Park, where I spent the two most miserable nights of my life -- in 1987 and 1995. No, I didn't
camp here on this trip.
The swimming beach at
Pennekamp State Park hasn't changed much over the
last 40 years.
Here's my family camping next to the pond in Pennekamp
State Park in the 1960s. I
taught myself how to swim here at the age of 4. My
brother Dave is playing the guitar (a very 60's thing to do), my Mom is lighting
a cigarette (another very 60's thing to do), while half of my brother Don is
Another shot from that trip, this is in Key West.
With my arms crossed, I was getting tired of my Dad taking pictures and wanted
to get on the Conch Train so I could apply my transportation planning skills.
Back to 2005 now. This is the original African
Queen in Key Largo, made famous by Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn.
Of course, "Key Largo" was itself a movie, also starring Humphrey Bogart.
Camping at the wonderful Bahia Honda State Park.
This is one of the prettiest
campsites I've ever stayed at. Later that evening, a tropical storm dumped
four inches of rain, but I stayed dry in my tent.
Above right: Here's the view near my
campsite at Bahia Honda. It was great to walk on the tropical beach here and I can't wait to
May 28, 2007: Oregon
25, 2004: Life in Bellingham (Bellingham,
December 7, 2003: The Greatest Generation (Bellingham, Washington)
March 28, 2003: My Father (Bellingham, Washington)
October 30, 2002 (Bellingham, Washington)
July 24, 2002 (Princess Louisa Inlet, British Columbia)
July 12, 2002 (Lake City, Colorado)
July 4, 2002: Life as a Ranger, Part 2 (Lake City, Colorado)
July 4, 2002: Life as a Ranger, Part 1 (Lake City, Colorado)
July 1, 2002 (Looking Glass Rock, Utah)
June 25, 2002
(Lassen Volcanic National Park, California)
June 18, 2002: Part 2 (Port Orford, Oregon)
June 18, 2002: Part 1 (Port Orford, Oregon)
May 22, 2002 (Bellingham, Washington)
April 7, 2002 (Sydney, Australia)
April 4, 2002 (Coffs Harbour, Australia)
April 1, 2002 (Hervey Bay, Australia)
March 28, 2002 (Airlie Beach, Australia)
March 25, 2002 (Port Douglas, Australia)
March 16, 2002 (Winton, Australia)
March 13, 2002 (Alice Springs, Australia)
March 11, 2002 (Ayers Rock, Australia)
March 8, 2002 (Coober Pedy, Australia)
March 5, 2002 (Port Augusta, Australia)
March 1, 2002: Part 2 (Robe, Australia)
March 1, 2002: Part 1 (Robe, Australia)
February 18, 2002 (Bega, Australia)
February 7, 2002 (Auckland, New Zealand)
February 2, 2002: Part 2 (Taupo, New Zealand)
February 2, 2002: Part 1 (Taupo, New Zealand)
January 25, 2002 (Hokitika, New Zealand)
January 20, 2002 (Geraldine, New Zealand)
January 16, 2002 (Te Anau, New Zealand)
January 12, 2002: Part 2 (Dunedin, New Zealand)
January 12, 2002: Part 1 (Dunedin, New Zealand)
January 1, 2002: Part 2 (Christchurch, New Zealand)
January 1, 2002: Part 1 (Christchurch, New Zealand)
December 24, 2001 (Wellington, New Zealand)
December 20, 2001 (Auckland, New Zealand)
December 16, 2001 (Auckland, New Zealand)
December 14, 2001 (Aitutaki, Cook Islands)
December 10, 2001 (Rarotonga, Cook Islands)
December 3, 2001: Part 2 (Bellingham, Washington)
December 3, 2001: Part 1 (Bellingham, Washington)
October 18, 2001: Part 3 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
October 18, 2001: Part 2 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
October 18, 2001: Part 1 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
October 6, 2001 (Fort Lincoln State Park, North Dakota)
September 30, 2001: Part 2 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
September 30, 2001: Part 1 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
September 15, 2001 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
August 30, 2001 (Webster, South Dakota)
August 18, 2001 (Watertown, South Dakota)
August 17, 2001 (Walnut Grove, Minnesota)
August 14, 2001 (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
August 10, 2001 (Battle Creek, Michigan)
August 8, 2001 (12 Days in Syracuse: Part 2)
August 8, 2001 (12 Days in Syracuse: Part 1)
August 6, 2001 (Manlius, New York)
July 23, 2001 (Middleton, Massachusetts)
July 22, 2001 (Boston, Massachusetts)
July 20, 2001 (Pomfret, Connecticut)
July 18, 2001 (Denton, Maryland)
July 16, 2001 (Cumberland, Virginia)
July 14, 2001 (Roanoke, Virginia)
July 9, 2001 (Sevierville, Tennessee)
July 8, 2001 (Fontana Lake, North Carolina)
July 5, 2001 (Manchester, Tennessee)
June 30, 2001 (Hohenwald, Tennessee)
June 29, 2001 (Corinth, Mississippi)
June 27, 2001 (Natchez, Mississippi)
June 24, 2001 (Austin, Texas)
June 20, 2001 (Canyon de Chelly, Arizona)
June 18, 2001 (Clay Canyon, Utah)
June 15, 2001: Part 2 (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)
June 15, 2001: Part 1 (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)
June 14, 2001 (San Diego, California)
June 11, 2001 (San Jose, California)
June 2, 2001 (Bellingham, Washington)
May 19, 2001 (Hillsboro, Oregon)
April 30, 2001 (Hillsboro, Oregon)
April 19, 2001 (Bellingham,
April 5, 2001 (Bellingham, Washington)