Time to Bolt!

Our coach is an amazing creature which provides us with mega comfort.  No matter where we explore in the U.S., we always come home to our comfy pillow and pick up where we left off in our novel or watch something on one of our satellite TVs.  No more hotels for us.  We LOVE this lifestyle and we love our coach.

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The sleeping quarters of our comfy little castle.

But when our coach has a hiccup, solving the problem can be a real adventure.  Anyone who has a coach knows that there is always a list of things to be looked at or repaired.  Early on, most of our issues were “How in the world does this widget work?”

Let’s face it, this is a complex machine.  A house that rolls down the bumpy road.  Someone once said that if 80% of the stuff works 80% of the time, be happy.  That’s the approach we take.  We fix what we can and live with things that aren’t perfect until we get back to the factory for maintenance once a year.  But sometimes something really important requires that you change your plans and get it fixed — stat!

Uh Oh.  Big Problem!

In February we had such an issue.  Our furnace went out.  Not good when you’re wintering in the Pacific Northwest!  Our furnace is an Aquahot system.  The Aquahot circulates hot liquid to provide:

  • heat to each of five zones (front, middle, bedroom, bathroom and basement of the coach)
  • Engine pre-heat
  • Continuous hot water for ultra-hot, endless showers

The Aquahot can use either electricity (from our generator or a 50-amp service pole) or diesel (from our 238 gallon fuel tank), or both to heat the water.  It’s a complex, whiz-bang system that we absolutely love.  But after 12 years, she had sprung a leak and the Aquahot factory told me — “gotta replace it.”

Shower

We can stand in our shower all day long with our endless hot water and de-stress from our stressless life.

So we patched her up as best we could and headed to the factory to have the furnace replaced.  One thing we have come to realize is that, although it is never convenient to go to the Newell factory in Miami, Oklahoma, it’s where she was born.  And those folks are the only ones on God’s green earth who really know how to fix her and provide the right maintenance.  Since Newell only makes 24 custom coaches each year, no other maintenance shop has seen enough of them to really know what they’re doing.  And the longer a shop takes to figure out this beast, the more we pay for their service.  It seems that anything we have ever had done to our coach by someone other than Newell, had to be undone and redone by the Newell factory.  And the factory hourly rate is lower than most other service shops we’ve been to.  So I think we have finally learned our lesson.  We go to the factory.  It’s cheaper.  They provide better customer service, and they’re much faster because they know what they’re doing.

Time to haul rear!

Up until now, we’ve not had a reason to drive hard.  We typically get on the road by 10am and off by 3pm, with a lunch in between.  Why hurry?  But in this case, who wants to lally-gag across Wyoming in the wintertime?  It was darn cold and we had furnace issues.  So we covered 2,400 miles in four days.  We can really haul when we need to!Hurry to the Factory

It was actually a fun trip.  Quite an adventure.  Our big concern was Wyoming, land of the big winds and snow.  And, true to form, we had to stop in western Wyoming for the night at a truck stop (Little America) because I-80 was closed across Wyoming.  First thing in the morning I checked and I-80 was open again, so off we rolled, passing trucks that had skidded off the road from the prior storm.

Driving all day is really pleasant as we roll along and listen to our books on tape (We borrow audiobooks from all the libraries we belong to in Maine, Florida, and Washington.).  Each morning we were up with the sunrise and we would find a place to stay the night before the sun set at a casino, Walmart, rest area or a truck stop.

Newell Factory.

We actually enjoy our visits to the Newell factory.  They must have close to 30 service bays.  It’s quite a site to see 20 or 30 of these big beasts lined up in the service bays.

As a Newell owner, you are free to walk around the service bay, climb in your coach while they work, watch them work on your coach, ask questions, and inspect what they do as they work.  After three years of owning our coach, we now know these Newell technicians.  And they know us and the coach.  They even remember the first owner of the coach (We are the second owners.).  Our electrician helped build our coach 13 years ago.  The technicians are the best Newell has, having worked in the factory for a decade or two before they are hand-selected to work in the service area.  I think they must select them not only for their technical knowledge, but also for their ability to work well with customers.  Amazing customer service!

Factory Tour.

Newell recently completed construction on a new factory, which replaces the old one.  So we got a tour of the new factory.  It’s mind-bending to see a coach go from the early stages of creation, to the ugly guts-hanging-out almost-done stage, to the finished gleaming product.

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You’re looking at the south end of a north-bound Newell in an early stage of production.

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This is the — guts hanging out ugly stage.  Left front view.

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Almost ready for paint.  Still a homely beast.

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There’s a newborn getting her final touches.

The list price on a 2017 Newell is just shy of $2 million (and they always sell for list here).  Wendy and I just smile at each other when we consider that we get the same level of service for our 2004 coach as the owner of a $2 million dollar 2017 coach.  Sweet deal!

Everything works now!

We arrived at the factory with our gripe list.  We always keep a list of issues so we don’t forget anything at our annual factory visit.  Topping our list was to replace our Aquahot.  Here’s our newly installed Aquahot.

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The Aquahot 675D.  Our endless hot showers make us happy, happy, happy!

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The Aquahot gets neatly tucked away behind these two stainless steel doors.

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Everything disappears, neat and tidy behind the basement door.

This adventuring thing is not for the faint of heart.  It can lighten your pocket book in a big hurry.  There is a reason we call her Zane.  Because you have to be “in Zane” to roll down the road in this castle on wheels.  But we are happy and off on new adventures, nice and snugly-warm as we see new wonders from our coach.

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Self-guided Learning

One of the great things about being a full-time traveler is that you can focus your energy and efforts on just one thing at a time without the daily distractions of typical life.  While on the road sometimes we’re exploring, sometimes we’re working, and sometimes we’re studying.

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This Semester: History and Culture through 1500 a.d.

Last year I studied physics (theory of relativity, quantum physics and astronomy).  So much has changed in physics since my youth.  So much fun!

This year I’m studying history from the beginning of human history to 1500 a.d.  I’m approaching this from four angles:

  1. World history (western and eastern) through 1500
  2. Cultural development through 1500
  3. Western literature through 1500
  4. History of creativity and technology through 1500hrvgpuko5pgkn6jaai-4nprbxu5oqhj7gpw86rqnxsspx92ib

Doesn’t that sound fun?  This will be a foundation for my next “semester” when I will probably explore from 1500 to present.

No, I’m not enrolled in a college.  I have a master’s degree, so I don’t need the twelve credit hours.  And college tuition is way overpriced these days.  I just want to learn, so I bought the text books recommended for the courses.  Nowadays there are online learning opportunities, and I may take advantage of some one day.  But I like this approach of just studying the texts for this semester.

As a 50-something, studying these texts is remarkably different than when I was a 20-something.  Experience has taught me that what they present as facts changes over time.  So I add my own grains of salt to their ideas about the origins of man and the first civilizations.  I anticipate that they will present different “facts” thirty years from now as they discover new artifacts.  That’s the nature of progress.  Sometimes I’m led to conclude — we just don’t know what happened in history at that time.

In addition to my “college classes”, Wendy and I are enrolled in two classes this winter with our boating friends:

  1. Marine Weather
  2. Marine Electrical Systems

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These 9-week classes are taught at the nearby John Wayne Marina by some amazing instructors with the United States Power Squadron.  These are practical classes designed to help us stay safe as we chug our ship through the Straits of Juan de Fuca and Canada’s Inner Passage.  This is challenging stuff and Wendy and I are working hard to wrap our brains around marine weather and the electrical systems of a boat.  Part of the fun is to rub shoulders with our fellow students who are retired pilots, engineers, doctors and educators.  Smart and genuinely good people.

All I can say is — Wow!  What a privilege to have the time, energy and money to enjoy learning anything I want to study.  Life is good.

  • Clay

 

What a Year it Was! (2016)

Life on the road means moving from place to place when the mood suits, the weather changes or job opportunities arise.

Auburn/Lewiston Maine (Jan-April)

We started out 2016 by flying from Tucson, Arizona to live in Auburn, Maine for 4 months and work in Lewiston, right across the river.  The weather in January through April was just as you would expect; cold, icy, snowy and wintery. Twenty-foot piles of snow in every parking lot.  But you can stand on your head for 18 weeks. It was a fun adventure.IMG_3988

Valentine’s Day was memorable, as we drove to our favorite seaside town (Camden, Maine) for a weekend trip.  It just so happened that a storm dumped 14 inches of snow centered just on Camden that weekend.  Snow piled up on the dormer window sills of our lovely boutique hotel. We ate a magnificent lobster tasting menu with a decadent dessert and sat by the fireplace and read books.  Ahhh.

 

I worked at Central Maine Medical Center in the ENT department with some fine people, who made getting to know the system (including multiple electronic medical record programs) much more enjoyable. 1ym8h0zetbemtapfcohasipgzkjwkphnknjgjw01brkpx92ib They were gracious enough to want me to stay. How nice is that?

Clay worked on investments and did day trips with the young full-time missionaries.

And he was my driver in the bitter weather for midnight on-calls to the emergency room. That meant the world to me.

Tucson, Arizona to Provo, Utah (April)

Clay left Maine 3 weeks ahead of me to pick up Zane (the motorhome) from her indoor RV daycare center. (The report is she got along well with others and learned to color inside the lines.)  He checked out her systems (after a 4 month rest, sometimes RVs get persnickety) as he drove through Arizona and Utah, meandering around Sedona, Zion’s and Bryce Canyon National Parks.

Wendy finally arrived in Utah the last Saturday in April. We had lovely visits with our nieces Morgan Webb (with Dennis and little sweet Parker Eliza) and Kirsten Walton.  opflrt-z-hhy9xx2gnpw-8abkf2pljiga-rgib-7fp0px92ib

After one day’s rest for Wendy, it was time to get busy again.

Missionary Training Center, Provo, Utah (May)

We entered the peaceful, busy, happy place called the MTC  (Missionary Training Center) on Monday, May 2– ready to start our mission.

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Here we are all polished up for the MTC.

After 10 days of training, and some fine visits by church authorities from Salt Lake City, we headed back on the road to our mission.

Wyoming Mormon Trail Mission, Devil’s Gate, Wyoming (May-October)

Knowing that your mission is in the middle of nowhere and actually experiencing it are two different things.  h_1cd9mfeuoylldatlxfsejdriiczx5kgza4wg8-yfmpx92ib

Even Verizon cell phones and data don’t work on the high desert surrounded by mountains on all sides.  Trying to convince Verizon of such a fact is another story.  So, we got a local cell phone with data and went with that.

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Our spot at Missionary Village

You know you are on a Wyoming Mormon Trail Mission when….

  1. Morning report includes, “We found the mama cow and calf up by Devil’s Gate, but we also saw mountain lion sign. So, if you are sending visitors up into the canyon, just tell them to …. be careful.”
  2. There are TWO dead rattlesnakes in the mission kitchen refrigerator.
  3. Your husband tells you he is going out for fast food drive through (Yay!!), and comes home with roadkill (Ewww).
  4. A gallon of milk costs $13.50 because the nearest grocery store is 60 miles away in Casper and it takes 5 gallons of gas to get there and back.
  5. A hot date is a trip to the Muddy Gap gas station 4 miles away for a fountain drink, bag of chips and a hot dog off the roller grill.
  6. You are not able to donate blood, because it contains 25% DEET.
  7. The mission ‘car ‘ is a 4×4 half ton pickup truck, or a dozer, backhoe, asphalt roller, rover or honey wagon (to pump out the pit toilets at the end of trekking season).
  8. Duties as assigned on the mission include driving up into the Green Mountains (elevation 8800 feet) to cut 90 pine trees to make fence poles.  Or asphalting the roads. Or bottle-feeding orphan calves.
  9. You feel the spirits of those pioneers who died there and more often than not tears choke your throat as you share their journal entries. And it is almost impossible to sing “Hallowed Ground” or “The Fire of the Covenant” all the way through for the same reasons.
  10. When being nearly the youngest in the group of 120 missionaries means nothing, as these Canadian, Utah, Arizona and Idaho farmers in their late 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s run circles around you each and every day.  And then it’s time to square dance.
  11. When high school age kids come in 1856 pioneer dress to trek over hot, dusty trails to re-enact pioneer experiences.  And they enjoy it as their hearts and lives are changed.
  12. Your nearest non-missionary neighbors are the herd of pronghorn antelope with their new babies that graze on your little patch of green lawn. The jackrabbit that greets you from under your RV. The lonely call of the coyotes in the pre-dawn                           hours. The tiny red foxes that skitter across the road. The mule deer herds. We won’t say any more about the gopher snakes or rattlesnakes. Or the mice invasions.

We lived in a lovely bubble of service, taking care of 17,500 trekkers and 26,000 others in the visitor’s centers, museums and 1872 era buildings and served with some of the finest missionaries on the planet.  If you want an amazing working mission for 6 months in your RV, this is for you!

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On the historic Mormon Trail with our teenaged trekkers.

Sequim, Washington (Nov – Dec)

From Wyoming we headed northwest, hoping to get through the mountain passes before it snowed.  Why would we go to the top left corner of the U.S. of A. for the winter?  What are we thinking?

When you spend your summer and fall in the hot, bone dry, constantly windy (I did say WINDY didn’t I?), always sunny high elevations of central Wyoming, the cool, wet, cloudy days of the Northwest are welcome relief.  Ahhhh.

We spend our days biking, walking on the Olympic Discovery Trail, beach-combing along the Juan de Fuca Straits, watching container ships come in from Asia, reading in the library, writing and studying all kinds of things.

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Look at the root system of this giant that washed up on the beach!

Wendy attends plays, musicals and ballet while Clay doesn’t have to.  Happy me, happy him.

Taking the ferry over to Victoria, Vancouver Island, Canada is a treat, as is exploring Seattle (2 hrs away) and Vancouver, BC (the major Canadian city on the mainland).

The US Power Squadron has also become a focus, as we made friends with people with boats (this place is an amazing boating area) and we will explore the world of trawlers and other types of power boats as we take courses in Marine Electronics and Marine Weather as members of the Power Squadron this winter.

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Uh oh.  They’re looking at boats.  That could be expensive.

The large boat shows in Seattle and Tacoma are on the calendar.  Don’t know if we will ever get a boat to use up here or around the Great Loop back East, but knowledge is never wasted and we are always up for new adventures.

Still need to catch some Dungeness crab.

After Sequim

Around April 2017 we will probably start moseying down the coasts of Washington and Oregon on our way to Eureka, California, where Wendy has her next ENT surgeon’s assignment from June-December.

Life is never dull, as we look out our motorhome window at the snow-capped Olympic Mountains and majestic fir trees.  It is wonderful.

2016 was a year full of adventure.

  • Wendy

 

 

 

 

 

To the Blue Hole!

We last left you in Hell’s Canyon (border of Washington and Idaho), where we took a serious jet boat ride through the level 4 rapids of the Snake River.

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Miss the rocks, please.

There were times when the nose of the boat was completely submerged, and I wish that I had a picture of that for you, ’cause it was cool!  But at those moments I was hanging on for dear life.  So this picture will have to do — just imagine the bow submerged and water pouring in through the top of the windows.

Richland, Washington

Our next stop was at a Walmart parking lot in Richland, Washington.  Waaa?  Walmart?   It’s one of our favorite places to “camp” when we’re on the road between major stops.  We had no major plans for Richland, so we used one of our travel apps, http://www.allstays.com, to find a place to stay.  Here’s what we get:

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Click on the icon for all the details.

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Next we use the satellite view to pick our parking spot.

As we looked at the satellite view, we noticed a movie theater across the street, several nice restaurants, and …(drum roll) …… a Krispy Kreme donut shop!!!  So we called Walmart, got permission to stay the night, and celebrated halloween in style with dinner, a movie and DONUTS.

Were we concerned about security — especially on halloween night?  Well, we’re always cautious.  But ………. Walmart has these.

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There’s not a square inch at Walmart parking lots that’s not monitored.  We sleep snug as bugs at Walmarts.  And we thank them by giving them our business. Aaannnnddd it was free. RV parks have been costing around $35 per night. More money for donuts.

Next morning we fired up the big diesel and rolled just a couple of miles to the Richland Temple and spent several hours enjoying the peace and serenity you can only find in a Mormon temple.  For us, these temples are a haven where we can escape the cares of the world.

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Richland Temple

In the afternoon we travelled on toward our destination — the Blue Hole (a.k.a., Sequim, Washington).

There were beautiful crops in the fields- trees bursting with red apples and grape vineyards in their fall foliage between Richland and Yakima.

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Our overnight rest stop was in the parking lot of the Muckleshoot Casino– free parking and a nice dinner.

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Casino parking in Auburn– also very safe- lots of security men and cameras

 

It was raining, as per usual, on the Olympic Peninsula as we approached Sequim.

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Hmm.  This would be a good test to see if the Blue Hole was real.  Would it be raining in Sequim?

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And then, as we got on the Northern Olympic peninsula, magic happened. Just like in the story books (or satellite weather books). The rain just stopped and the sun came out.

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Even a rainbow. Welcome to the Peninsula.

We arrived in Sequim, in awe at the Blue Hole that was directly over the city. Yep, it is real. An area of good weather surrounded by clouds and rain.

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Our Blue Hole

We set up our motorhome at Gilgal Oasis RV Park in downtown Sequim. It is a clean, well-kept teensy place with beautiful landscaping. Absolutely fine for our needs- with a view of the fog-shrouded snow-capped Olympic mountain range from our windows.

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Of course, the first thing we did was go exploring to find the Straits leading to the ocean.

It’s the start of a new adventure. Stay tuned!

-Clay

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Sequim Bay- clear blue skies

The Blue Hole

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Look up!  That’s what we pilots call a sucker hole.  Hope this one turns out OK.

We’re headed for the Blue Hole!  (Yes, I’ve been known to fly my airplane up through holes in the clouds to get on top and fly in the clear air above.  But that’s not what I’m talking about.)

The Blue Hole I’m referring to is a rain shadow on the Olympic Peninsula.  The Olympic Mountains block all the heavy rain that soaks the Seattle area and keeps a little town by the name of Sequim (pronounced Skwim) dry and basking in blue skies during the winter.  (So we’re hoping this Blue Hole isn’t a sucker hole.)

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Here’s the science

Sequim, Washington is also strategically placed for ferry rides across Puget Sound and the Strait of San Juan de Fuca to such fun destinations as Vancouver Island in Canada, Seattle, and any number of unique islands in the strait.  Plus there are all kinds of hiking and biking trails on the Olympic Peninsula, walks on the beach, and the opportunity to watch the huge container ships coming in from Asia.

 

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Rainfall: Sequim-15 inches, Seattle- 38 inches, Olympic National Park- 200 inches.

Who would have thought we would be headed for the northwest corner of the United States for the winter?  But after six months spent outdoors every day in the sun of Wyoming, we’re ready for pine trees and a cold weather port.

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Our next great adventure!  We get a happy little tickle in our tummies when we plot out a course like this.

We expect to leave Wyoming on October 24th and head northwest 1,242 miles.  stats-to-sequimWe calculate this will take at least 21 driving hours and around $500 in diesel fuel.  How many days will we be on the road?  Who knows.  If it were earlier in the season we would go by way of Jackson, WY and climb up into the mountains through Idaho.  But this late in the season we’ll probably stick to the interstates and hope to avoid winter weather.  Plus there are people on our route that we would like to visit.  So this journey could take us a while.

The way we travel, we typically start to roll at 9am and come to a stop no later than 3pm.  We like the no stress approach.  So this trip could take a week or two — or three.  Suffice it to say, we should arrive in Sequim, Washington before Thanksgiving.

Do you have any suggestions for places we might explore on our route?

-Clay

On The Trail

Devil's Gate at sunset

Devil’s Gate at sunset

Between 1843 and 1869 (when the railroad finally joined the west coast to the rest of the nation), 500,000 people rode horses, walked beside their wagon or pulled a handcart  by Devil’s Gate (in Wyoming) on their way to what is now Oregon, California and Utah.

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This summer we are camped right on this famous trail which we read about in our American Heritage classes as teenagers.

Our mission this summer is to tell thousands of visitors the stories of these pioneers.

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The Martin Handcart company, made up of over 600 European immigrants bound for the Salt Lake Valley, got a late start on the trail in 1856.  They were seeking refuge from religious persecution in their homelands. Because of their late start, and early snows in the high plains of Wyoming, over 150 of their group perished as they struggled to pull their carts through the snow and sub-zero temperatures.  During the worst of these storms they took shelter for five days in a cove just west of Devil’s Gate, now known as Martin’s Cove.

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On the trail from Martin’s Cove

These are touching stories of sacrifice which families made in order that their children and future generations could be raised in a place that would nurture and promote their religious freedom.

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Many of our visitors come in groups of 30-700 teenagers.  They set up in primitive camp sites, dress in 1850-era pioneer garb, pull handcarts and cross rivers: re-enacting to the best of their ability a small part of the journey their forebears made so that they can appreciate the heritage they enjoy as free people, and as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons).

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During their experience with us, these youth cover mile upon mile pulling their handcarts, fording rivers and thinking about their relationship with God, about what they truly believe, and how they will, in their own way, be pioneers of the next generation.

2016-06-14 09.06.45These are amazing youth!  They get it.  Wendy and I have been in awe of their dedication, their desire to learn and their pure goodness.  They give us hope for the next generation.  We feel so fortunate to be their mentors and guides.

  • Clay

Alma Mater

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Y mountain above BYU

What a powerful thing it is to return to your alma mater.  If it’s one of the great schools, going back brings strong emotions.  I remember when one of the consultants I worked with, Stephanie Wall, recommended I attend a professional conference put on by her alma mater, University of Michigan.  The honor with which she held her school and their executive training was palpable.  Why do we feel so strongly about our alma mater?  One of my careers (in the 1990’s) took me to countless universities throughout the nation.  Each had it’s own unique feel, but all were wonderful.

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Well, this week Wendy and I walked the campus of one of the great institutions of the world, Brigham Young University — our alma mater.  BYU is an elite school which draws students from all over the world.  55 languages are taught on a regular basis (30 more as needed based on interest). Top rated in so many disciplines.  Difficult to get in for two reasons.  First, you need to show not only academic excellence, but you must also have a commitment to the honor code, which is unique to the world.  The students take this honor code very, very seriously.  It is a protection and allows them to learn with like minded people.  They realize it is a privilege to attend this university, and there are many waiting in the wings who would fill their spot if they are not willing to live by these high standards.  The students of BYU are in a hurry to learn, to become adults, to make an impact on the world, and to meet and marry someone with similar maturity and goals.

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The grounds at BYU are spectacular

And the campus is beautiful.  Pristinely clean. Flowers are everywhere. The smell is amazing!

Nestled in the Utah Valley south of Salt Lake City, BYU is in the shadow of tall, snow covered mountains — a 360 degree panorama of quiet giants.  In 1977, when I arrived as a freshman after a long drive from Indiana, it was long after dark.  I climbed wearily up in the top bunk and immediately fell into an exhausted sleep.  When I awoke the next morning, my view was facing east toward the mountains, which filled the entire window.  I reeled back, overwhelmed as if they might topple over on me.  I was reminded of that feeling last week as I drove our motorhome into Provo.  It takes a couple of days to adjust to those majestic, towering mountains.

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View of Mt. Timp through the BYU library

 

 

My years at BYU were some of the happiest days of my life.  In my freshman year some older guys took me under their wing, told me of the great adventures they had had serving as missionaries in places like Honduras, Japan, Chile, etc.  Two years later, after I had served a mission to Southern California, I dated Wendy and we were married.  We lived in a humble basement apartment while we worked, scrimped, saved and went to school.  We had our first child, Jesse, and felt so blessed to have such a happy boy in our lives.  So many great memories.

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View of Mount Timpanogos from Utah Lake

Wendy and I were able to attend BYU and work there with very little student debt.  And BYU has kept their tuition remarkably low.

But I see a debate approaching in our nation as other schools continue to increase their tuition.  It has been decade after decade of significant tuition increases at institutions throughout our nation.  All the while their administrations have become bloated and their tenured faculty are required to teach fewer and fewer hours each year.  At some point the education model will break and a revolution will wipe out the old ways.  Online education seems to be our future.  And yet, I mourn for future students who may not get the chance to feel the energy of an MIT campus or the tradition and history of a Princeton.

Tomorrow morning, after a two-week stay in Provo, Utah, Wendy and I will release the parking brake and roll on out of the shadow of these beautiful mountains, making us a little sad to say goodbye once again to our beloved BYU.  It is such a beautiful place filled with people seeking excellence.  What an honor to have attended so many years ago.

-Clay