About This Website   |   Who Am I?   |   Site Map   |   Music   |   ExtremeGeographer.com   |   Contact Me










May 28, 2007 (Portland, Oregon)

< Previous News   |  Next News >  

Oregon Bound



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 (PB), 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 totally unremarkable. 


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.


Riding bus into Seattle    Bus ride into Seattle    Desk at PB-Seattle

Above left:  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?

Above center:  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.


Magnuson Park    PB-Seattle    PB-Seattle

Above left:  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.

Above center:  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.


Alaskan Way Viaduct    B-24 bomber    B-24 cockpit

Above left:  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.

Above center:  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.


Portland waterfront    UW Volleyball    Thanksgiving

Above left:  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 Portland.

Above center:  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.

Above right:  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.


Curling in Seattle    Montake cut    PB-Farradyne

Above left:  I learned curling in the spring of 2006 with some PB folks.  Curling is very cool, especially if you don't bundle up.

Above center:  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. 


Everyone else 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. 


FDOT Miami    Flying out of Miami    Changing planes in Atlanta

Above left:  In Miami with the Florida DOT staff.  Erin's nose is on the right.

Above center:  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.


Fairhaven Bellingham    Alaskan Way Viaduct    Seattle waterfront

Above left:  Later that fall in Bellingham.

Above center:  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.


Back to Portland

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.


Portland's Trail Band is a unique 8-member group that plays new "old-time" music.  Here they are singing Oregon Bound.

Requires a RealPlayerIf problems, see Help.


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.


I’m especially 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 smattering of 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-haul leaving Seattle    Ruby Beach    Sol Duc Falls

Above left:  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.


UW Volleyball 2006    Ecola State Park    Peter Iredale

Above left:  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.  Go Dawgs!

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 proof).


Fort Clatsop    Sea Kayaks    Otak

Above left:  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.

Above center:  Kayakers navigating the treacherous waters of Deception Pass, Washington.

Above right:  A piñata party after work with smiles all around. 



Next News

February 16, 2008:  Old Friends / Belize it or Not  (San Ignacio, Belize)


Previous News

August 7, 2005:  Back to Work  (Redmond, Washington)

June 25, 2004:  Life in Bellingham  (Bellingham, Washington)

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, Washington)

April 5, 2001  (Bellingham, Washington)