As I return to my desk at the Ag Center in little old Bossier, Louisiana I am given time to reflect on the past two weeks that I spent crossing the Midwest. What a trip… The vacation was much needed and incredible! I began my first leg of my ‘Goodbye Tour’ by visiting with friends that I had met at various points in my life first in Colorado for a week and then in Kentucky the following week. I’ve included as many pictures to accompany the story of my adventure!
The start of my two week vacation began right after I finished work on Friday March 10th. I went straight home, loaded up my car and met my father as we began our 3 hour drive to Little Rock to meet my best friend Philley from high school in Korea. Upon arriving in Little Rock we had some time to spare while Philley made his way from Lexington, Kentucky to Little Rock so we went to Flyway Brewery and sampled their expansive varieties of beer. Once Philley arrived, we set off for our 17 hour drive through five states to make it to Colorado. Upon arriving in Colorado, we met with Philley’s grandparents in Colorado Springs for lunch before heading to Denver to pick up our friend Clint who also attended high school with us in Korea. After picking up Clint from the airport, we headed back into Denver to indulge in an authentic Korean meal and meet another friend Sydnee also from Korea. After our delicious meal we headed for our resort in Avon, Colorado to finally rest and recuperate before we hit the slopes the rest of the week.
After taking a rest day to recover from our travel day, we got all of our gear loaded and went straight to Copper Mountain to begin our first day snowboarding. Before I continue, let me just rewind to about one year ago. During our spring break trip last year, Philley and I decided to go to Copper Mountain on our last day before we headed back to our respective places of residence. The snow was amazing and we made sure to enjoy a full day of snowboarding. We were exhausted but extremely satisfied with how good the snow was while we waited for the bus that took us to the parking lot. I had remarked to Philley earlier about a snowboard trip I took to Austria when I lived in Germany. On this trip, I met a lot of great friends from other military communities in Germany and we all shared some great memories in St. Veit, Austria. One person I met in particular was Amelia, who lived in Mannheim, a place I know very well as I had lived there in 2003. Well that trip was around 8 years ago and I hadn’t seen many of these people after this trip, especially after I left Europe. That’s when all of a sudden I spotted a familiar face. I was certain it was Amelia! So I went and spoke to her immediately after realizing it was her and we just screamed in shock that after nearly 8 years by chance, we had reconnected on a parking lot bus in beautiful Colorado! It’s truly incredible how small the world is to a child of the military, and to this day I am still shocked about this chance encounter. I must also mention that I had deleted Facebook in a total disregard to many of the social connections I had made so that added another degree of chance to the whole encounter. Fast-forward a year, and I had arranged with Amelia to meet up at Copper Mountain again so we could snowboard just like we did 8 years ago.
Following an amazing first day at Copper Mountain, we then went to Arapahoe Basin for the following 3 days.
To cap off my time in Colorado, we headed to Fort Collins to check out the New Belgium brewery and to reconnect with Amelia and another friend of mine from high school in Germany, Lauren, whom I haven’t seen in 7 very long years and who is currently experiencing the Peace Corps application process for Zambia (good luck Lauren!). We had a fantastic night and I am so so so grateful to have been able to see my friends from so long ago and meet their friends. Fort Collins now holds a very special place in my heart and I hope to return when I finish my service.
After a long delay from my very real hangover, I finally made it to Denver (sorry Philley, and thank you Amelia for the ride, you both are saints), where Philley and I set out on another cross of 6 states to our destination in Lexington, Kentucky.
I don’t think I have ever been to Kentucky before in my life, so this was a welcome first for me. Being able to meet one of my best friend’s friends and experience what Lexington had to offer was awesome! Hawaii Pacific University isn’t necessarily a large school and I don’t really think the students cared much for the sports teams, therefore visiting UK during the basketball tournament was a real treat. I got to experience March madness in its entirety, from the excitement of the students, the support of Lexington, and the aftermath of a win that placed the team in the elite 8. Riot police were out on State St. to monitor the post-win festivities and put out fires that were set along the street, truly an experience!
In another stroke of luck and coincidence I happened to bring up El Paso in passing and one of Philley’s friends asked what year I had lived there. Come to find out we both attended Milam Elementary at the same time but were in different grades! After that moment of realization, I told him I was preparing to go to Senegal and he froze… He had just been to Senegal last summer for ROTC and worked with Sengalese troops! We ended up clicking instantly and I soaked up as much as I could! I cannot wrap my mind around how these chance meetings have become so fruitful due to being a child of the military and they are definitely something that happens more often than not.
After a long two weeks, I’ve returned to Louisiana, which means a return to work and a return to getting medical clearance done. Besides the occasional trip to Houston, Dallas, or New Orleans, the next leg of my good bye tour will not be until July/August. I am so fortunate to have so many friends scattered throughout the world, it just gives me another reason to travel as often as possible. I want to personally thank everyone I had the pleasure to reunite with the past two weeks and I am definitely looking forward to the next part of my ‘Goodbye Tour.’ Until then, I will just be working, beekeeping, studying French, and generally trying to relax as much as one can while also being proactive in preparations to depart.