One of my favorite proverbs is, "May you live in interesting times.” Since leaving my steady job in 2001,
these past six years have been the most interesting of my life. No, they
haven’t been the best years – far from it, in fact, with the passing of many of
those dear to me and an unending string of turbulent life and job situations,
all resulting in too many restless nights. But they have certainly
been the most interesting and memorable.
Before leaving on my three-year trip in 2001, I
worked for 10 years with an engineering consulting firm, Parsons Brinckerhoff
in Portland. I had a safe and secure job at PB and many people thought I
was crazy for giving all that up "just" to travel. Yes, I had
some trepidations about
leaving and since then my life has taken a series of unexpected twists and
turns, not ending up at all like I’d planned.
But considering all the terrific
people I’ve befriended, the amazing places I’ve been, and the hurdles I’ve learned to overcome since then, my decision to leave has
been enriching beyond measure. My finances certainly took a hit and I have
a lot less stuff now than I would if I'd continued at PB. But if I had done the safe thing and complacently stayed at my job instead of
following the road less traveled, my life would’ve also been bland, boring and
It hasn’t always been easy these past
six years, but I’ve had many
“interesting times” and for that I’m very grateful. Change is always good, so never
hesitate to throw yourself into new situations if they present themselves – and
especially if they don’t.
After my three-year trip, I moved to Seattle in
2004 and went back to work with PB's subsidiary, Farradyne. Every morning, I hopped on bus 545 and headed
into downtown Seattle. Got coffee?
Approaching Seattle on the bus. By this time, I'm
listening to my MP3 player and reading the Seattle Times comics (the most
important part of any newspaper).
Above right: My office
at PB-Farradyne with a well-stocked techie bookshelf.
Happy times with the PB and PB-Farradyne staff in
the summer of 2005. This is the annual PB picnic on the shores of Lake
Washington. That's Chef Yuhe flipping the burgers.
Yuhe and Eva (green shirt) on a boat ride. Eva's a
true Aussie with a thick accent to prove it.
Above right: And the
annual PB-Seattle golf tournament. On the left, those are my good buddies
and former volleyball teammates, Steve and Dana, whom I've known for 13 years.
Yep, that's me on the right.
My lifelong friends from Austin, Julie and her
SWAT-brother Lou (see News: June 24, 2001).
They're standing above Seattle's Alaskan Way Viaduct, which will be replaced
soon, a project I worked on for two years.
And checking out a WWII B-24 "Liberator" bomber on July
4th weekend, 2005. Very, very cool.
Above right: The cockpit
of a B-17 bomber. As I learned the hard way, it's a really tight fit,
especially for someone who's 6'-2". The crews who flew these planes
suffered tremendous casualties during their missions and are real heroes.
Sleepless in Seattle
As I mentioned in
my last update, I worked in the Portland office of Parsons Brinckerhoff, a firm
with about 10,000 employees, from 1991 to 2001 before leaving on my road trip.
After my travels in 2004, I tried to rejoin that same office, but they didn’t
have much work at the time and couldn’t rehire me. So instead I joined a
subsidiary, PB-Farradyne, and moved to Seattle instead of Portland like I
planned. Although I had never lived in Seattle, I'd traveled through the city about a
million times and I have lots of relatives there, so moving to Seattle was
almost like coming home.
There were 11
employees in PB-Farradyne’s Seattle office, which was located in PB's main office downtown. The best part about working at
PB-Farradyne was that I was reunited with my good friends Glen and Lisa, whom
I’d known at PB-Portland for many years and who were now both Farradyne
employees (by the way, Glen is the best supervisor I've ever had, but don't tell
him I said that, o.k.?) As I
discovered, the rest of the Farradyne staff was really terrific, too. They were
all highly-motivated, dynamic, and really, really smart, certainly much smarter
than me, so it was a great
group to work with.
Things were going
well there until the spring of 2006, when I learned that PB was planning to
sell the PB-Farradyne subsidiary and its 200 employees (including me) to an
overseas firm called Telvent. Unfortunately, as part of the buyout
deal, Farradyne employees weren’t being allowed to quit and join the mother
company, PB. I was a little miffed about that because I’d worked with PB for
10 years in Portland and considered myself a lifelong PB employee. The spring and
summer of 2006 was pretty unsettled and I spent five months debating what to do, with
many sleepless nights. I wasn't worried, just irritated about the sale and frustrated that our cozy group would no longer be the same.
I had a secure job waiting for me with Telvent if I wanted it and I’d be working in
the same location in Seattle, but I didn’t especially like people telling me what I had to
do (no doubt the reason I’m still single).
I’ve always been a
bit of a maverick, following the
beat of my own drummer instead of marching lockstep with the crowd, and this
situation was no different. After giving it some thought, I decided that I didn’t like
people telling me who I can or can’t work for, and therefore I
decided to quit. Of Farradyne's 200 employees, I was the only one who decided
to sever all ties with PB and Telvent and head out on his own. And so,
after 12 years with PB, I said goodbye. My rebellious nature, by the way,
is in the genes: several of my ancestors fought and died in the American
Revolutionary war in the 1700s and another helped lead the Canadian rebellion of
1837. I'm pretty independent and if someone tells me that I have to go one way, I'll
usually go the other.
My two years with
the now-defunct PB-Farradyne was a very memorable and important chapter in my
life. I got back into the work force through Farradyne and, more
importantly, I met some amazing people there, like Erin, David, Duane, and
others. Despite all the stress and personal turmoil the buyout caused, I don’t hold any personal
animosities. I figured that PB’s sell-off was a business decision – they did
what they had to do and I did what I had to do. I certainly enjoyed my time with PB, I learned a
lot there, and I formed friendships with PB employees that will
last my lifetime. But it was time to move on.
In the fall of 2005, several months before I got
wind of the Farradyne sale, I went down to Portland for a blissful weekend.
As much as I liked Seattle, it was wonderful to relive my good memories of
I went to every University of Washington volleyball match
in 2005. They won the National Championship that year and
many consider them the best U.S. college volleyball team ever.
Thanksgiving in Bellingham in 2005. That's Bob, Heather, Evelyn, and my
sister Doti. Look familiar? They're the same folks (and same
positions) as the previous year -- different turkey, though.
I learned curling in the spring of 2006 with some PB
folks. Curling is very cool, especially if you don't bundle up.
The annual University of Washington rowing regatta.
Seattle's a dynamic city and there's something exciting going on every weekend.
Above right: Our
PB-Farradyne "Farewell" lunch in June 2006 a few days before I left. Those are my good buddies
Duane (left), David (smiling), Les (behind David's smile), and Erin (with phone
surgically implanted). Some PB folks also joined us.
Despite how the PB-Farradyne
saga ended, I had a great time in Seattle. One encounter, brief and totally
unexpected, stands above all others during my two years there. In the fall of
2005, Erin and I flew to Miami to do some work with the Florida Department of
Transportation and after a few days there, I flew back to Seattle, changing
planes in Atlanta. Flying is usually a pretty solitary experience: you might
exchange a few words with your seatmate at the beginning of the flight and then
maybe a few more after the landing, but often that’s about it. Once in a great
while, though, you meet someone special.
As I settled into
my window seat in Atlanta on the flight back to Seattle, an attractive woman in
her early 30s with dark hair sat down next to me. The seating on this plane was
2-3-2, so she and I would be traveling companions all the way to Seattle. As
she was settling into her seat, I quietly took out my camera and shot a few
pictures out my window as the plane started to taxi down the runway that late
afternoon. Then she said to me, “It’s pretty out there,” and I turned to her
and said with a slight smile, “Yeah, it is.” During the next few minutes,
we exchanged introductions. Her name was Darlene, she was a physician from
Massachusetts and was heading to a conference near Seattle, her
first-ever visit to the Northwest.
We continued our
conversation during the takeoff and afterwards, and the more we talked, the more
I wanted to learn about her. She must have felt the same way about me because
for the next five hours, Darlene and I talked non-stop during our non-stop
flight, totally engaged in each other’s company. Now mind you, I’m a
fairly quiet, shy and solitary person and often get worn out by talking to someone for just
an hour (or less). I can’t remember the last time I talked constantly to
someone for a few hours, let alone five, but we connected so well on so many
levels that the time flew by quickly. Every now and then, I figured that she’d
want a break from our conversation, so I sat back in my chair or looked out the
window. But then she’d ask me something else and we’d start in on another long
discussion, perhaps about my travels or her time in the Coast Guard.
I don’t usually let
people get too close to me too fast, but with Darlene, I quickly dropped my
defenses. She was charming, dynamic, adventurous, funny, and seemed to embrace all that life
had to offer with zeal and a glint in her eye. A few hours into the flight, we
were teasing and joking like old buddies reunited after many years. By Denver,
we'd become good friends and somewhere over Idaho, kindred spirits.
around us was quiet during the flight, so even though Darlene and I talked and
laughed softly, I’m sure they all heard our entire five-hour conversation
-- whether they wanted to or not. In fact, after we landed in Seattle
(after what seemed like a 10-minute flight), I said to
the woman sitting in front of us, “I hope we didn’t disturb you,” and she turned
around and said with a smile, “Oh, I heard every word!”
As we were
preparing to get off the plane, Darlene mentioned that she was going to take a
bus to her hotel in Gig Harbor. I offered to drive her, but she said, “Oh, not
if it’s inconvenient.” It was actually an hour in the opposite direction but I
said, “Oh no problem, it’s right on my way,” because I simply wanted to spend
more time with her. We talked all the way to baggage claim and into the airport
garage, and then in my van as we headed down the freeway. Late that evening,
seven hours after we met and without a break in conversation, I dropped
her off at her hotel. She thanked me profusely and, with an appreciative smile,
gave me a warm hug.
I haven’t seen
Darlene since that evening and probably never will again. But now, two
years later, I still think of her from time to time. I can still see her
smile and hear her laugh, and I even picked up some of her mannerisms.
When she’d get excited about something, she’d smile and say, “Yeah, yeah, yeah!”
very fast, which I find myself doing now. She was like an instant best
friend and in my entire life, I've never met anyone that I
connected with so quickly. I’ll never
forget Darlene, and getting to know her – and realizing that there are people
out there who I can so easily befriend – was one of the most fulfilling
experiences of my Seattle years.
In Miami with the Florida DOT staff. Erin's
nose is on the right.
Birds-eye view of Miami on the way to Atlanta.
Above right: After
shooting this picture at the Atlanta airport, I met Darlene and we talked for
the next seven hours. Yes, that's right, seven hours.
Later that fall in Bellingham.
Seattle in the summer
of 2006, a few days after I quit and just before I left town. This is the
waterfront near where my grandfather moved from Cleveland around 1910.
Above right: So long,
Seattle. It's been a great two years.
During the upheaval
at PB-Farradyne in the spring of 2006, I was offered a position with an
engineering consulting firm based in Portland, and after much deliberation, I
decided to accept their offer. I moved back to Portland in July and
started work shortly afterwards. My new firm is a lot different than PB
because, for one thing, it has about 400 employees compared to PB's 10,000, and
for another, all the major personnel decisions are made in their Portland office
by people who know the employees and understand the impacts those decisions will
have on their lives. After my experience with PB / Telvent, those were
both major reasons why I decided to sign on.
Trail Band is a unique
8-member group that plays new "old-time" music. Here
they are singing Oregon Bound.
RealPlayer. If problems, see
I spent my first
five months as one of the company’s lead transportation planners. In
January, I figured that I wasn't busy enough working 40 hours a week so I decided to also take over the
computer mapping duties for their main office (if you've been reading my
website, you probably know how much I love making maps). Between the two
positions, I’ve been pretty darn busy lately, often working six- or seven-day weeks and at
times barely keeping my head above water trying to meet all the urgent
deadlines. But this is the type of harried position I’ve always loved, going
back to my firefighting days in the Colorado Rockies, so I’m really happy with how things
have turned out. Like the old saying goes, "It's not work if you enjoy it," and
I definitely enjoy making maps. Plus the people there are terrific.
Because I've been
with the company only since last summer, I don't have much vacation time stored
up and haven't taken any big trips yet, but I have done a bit of solo
traveling throughout the Northwest. Last fall, I went camping in
the beautiful, mossy rain forests of Olympic National Park in Washington and I took a similar
trip in the spring of 2007. I'm saving up my vacation time for a long trip
next year. I'm not sure exactly where I'll be going but it'll probably be somewhere overseas.
happy to be back in Portland, my hometown since 1980. Seattle is certainly
nice and, nestled between the Puget Sound and Mt. Rainier, has a beautiful
backdrop. But it also has an East Coast big-city feel with its massive traffic jams, a
pretentiousness, and a lot of less-than-polite residents. Portland
is a little nicer and a whole lot friendlier than Seattle and I think most people who've lived in both cities
would agree. After six years on the road, I'm finally back home.
U-Hauling it to Portland in July, 2006. All
of my life's possessions fit in that truck -- just barely.
Above center: This
is at Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park, Washington, during my fall camping
trip in 2006.
Above right: And the
enchanting Sol Duc Falls, also in Olympic National Park.
In November, I drove a few hours down to Eugene to watch
the UW beat Oregon, 3-2. Mac Court was packed with 2,600 raucous fans, one
of the largest volleyball crowds ever in Oregon and it was one of the best
matches I've ever seen. Despite living in Oregon, I rooted for Washington.
Above center: At Ecola State Park near Cannon Beach, during my
spring camping trip on the Oregon coast in March 2007. One of my co-workers
saw me here but she didn't say a peep. Can you blame her?
Above right: And the
rusting hulk of the steamship Peter Iredale, which was grounded in 1906 near
Astoria with no loss of life. Every time I visit it, it's a little
smaller (see News: June 11, 2001 for
The recently-rebuilt replica of Fort Clatsop, the
1805-06 winter encampment of the Lewis and Clark Expedition near Astoria.
The original replica fort
(see News: June 11, 2001)
was built in 1955 but burned down in 2005.
Kayakers navigating the treacherous waters of Deception
Above right: A
piñata party after work with smiles all around.
February 16, 2008: Old Friends / Belize it or Not (San Ignacio, Belize)
7, 2005: Back to Work (Redmond, Washington)
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)