I could think of no better way to spend my 40th Birthday than with my best friend of over 20 years. It was so fun to have Beth fly out to Colorado to spend the weekend with me up in Beaver Creek. The last time we had seen each other was 5 years earlier when I went out to Erie to visit for a long weekend. After picking Beth up from the airport in Denver we drove up I-70 towards Beaver Creek, stopping along the way to eat lunch. Since this was both of our first time staying in Beaver Creek, we were pleasantly surprised at how incredibly nice this cute little resort was. We got a room at the Park Hyatt Hotel and had an awesome room overlooking the mountains and the cute plaza. We spent the afternoon walking around the shops and just talking. Oh, how we can just talk and talk forever about anything and everything. We ate dinner at a restaurant called Hooked, which has excellent seafood and sushi. We shared a few plates of some amazing sushi rolls. It was absolute heaven. Then we headed next door for some delicious gelato.
The next day we slept in, ate an amazing breakfast at 8100 Mountainside Grill, and then headed on an all-day hike. We headed up the Bear Lake trail to Bear Lake. The hike was gorgeous, with the creek running beside the trail for much of the hike. It was so much fun to be outdoors, hiking, and talking up a storm about life. The weather was beautiful with sunny skies for most of our hike. As we reached Bear Lake, we could hear thunder and saw some lightening. We are a little nervous about what to do since the only shelter we had were the trees. We sat under some big trees by the lake and waited for a few minutes and then decided to head back down. We hiked down the Beaver Lake trail for a little bit before heading on the Royal Elk Trail towards the Overlook trail so we could explore a different way back to the resort. The hike ended up being longer than we thought, but we were so engaged in conversation the entire time that we hardly noticed how long we had been gone. After getting back to the hotel, we showered and headed over to the spa for our afternoon massages. Those massages were the best way to end a day of hiking. Later that night we got ready and took the shuttle down to Mirabelle's to eat dinner. We ate another fantastic dinner, French inspired this time, and then spent the rest of the night chatting and watching TV.
We got to sleep in the next day and took our time packing up and eating breakfast. We were both sad that our trip had to end but super grateful that we got to the spend the time together without any distractions. I think I made a mountain getaway fan out of Beth and so hopefully we can do it again soon
Every once in a while, the military lets you do something miserable with other like minded souls. By like minded, I mean people who want retirement, or education, or training, and feel like the military is the answer. At the same time, the military is full of overzealous leaders who think the best way to get promoted is to gather people together and suffer. So with that being said, I began my Reserve Active Duty Training by flying from Denver to San Jose on a little tiny jet. Uniformed up, I excited the Airport with my gear and waited dutifully for 3 hours in the USO for my ride to emerge. Eventually, they did and we made the 8 hour journey to Fort Hunter Liggett, the Reserve training outpost located in hell.
Now, Hunter Liggett is actually about 2.5 hours from the Airport (maybe less), but the Enlisted folks that picked me up knew that the sooner they got back, the sooner they got back. So we stopped at Costco, Walmart, Dickey’s BBQ, and other places along the way. No reason to rush back when the command doesn’t know! Plus, they were picking up supplies for the welfare and morale of the unit, which is actually very important. Interestingly, we drove through Gilroy, where Sara spent some of her childhood. I never realized Gilroy was so close to this horrible place. Eventually, we arrived in the ultra hot, ultra dusty training center. I got inprocessed (which took longer than you might think) and eventually got dropped off at our unit’s location. By some wonderful grace, and I mean wonderful. COL Wanek, who is a General Surgeon who loves this stuff, met up with me and told me to sleep in this fixed structure building that had A/C attached to it. So I set up my cot in my own private bungalow and got all situated. No dusty nasty tent with a bunch of nasty dusty people for me! In the end, we ended up commandeering the hut to be our sick call location. This ended up being the saving grace of this whole exercise.
The next day, I started working sick call. Since I arrived ahead of the other physicians, they didn’t really have much for me to do, so I started working sick call. As things go, it kept expanding and expanding. Eventually, other units started sending people to us. We got MRE boxes and started building shelves. We started getting real medical supplies (IV bags and so forth) and real medications. At its Zenith, we were seeing 40+ people a day at sick call and keeping them from going to TMC and returning them to duty. It became a real help to the command. I think because of that, the command turned a blind eye to us sleeping in the shack and leaving the A/C on all day. It was truly a wonderful thing. We also didn’t go out and do typical unit stuff because we were busy running sick call. COL Wanek and some of her friends moved into the shack and in the end, it was the place to be.
Most of the initial days of the exercise were spent seeing sick call, making improvements, eating MREs, trying to stay cool (it averaged 115 degrees every day I was there), and trying to get tasked to do other things. Fortunately, this unit had been to Hunter Liggett before so they knew to bring shower units, laundry units, and A/C. I can’t even imagine having done this same exercise without those same amenities. It would have been miserable beyond compare. We spent some of this time setting up the actual tents and setting up the hospital. It was honestly a site to behold. It is real cool that we can do something like this: set-up a large hospital capable of providing care to critically injured patients in the middle of the desert in a small amount of time completely self contained. It’s actually a little impressive. Of note, we had one SGT who was our tent master. He was incredibly good. He had the hospital set-up to standard so quickly, it was amazing. He would prove his worth later in the week when another Hospital in a nearby valley took massive injuries when a Blackhawk blew down their tents because they weren’t set-up properly.
After the first week, the rest of the physicians and CRNAs arrived. Once the “critical war time party” had arrived, things changed a little. We were finally ready to start practicing being a Combat Support Hospital. We set-up the OR and created more field shelving in it. We practiced and trained for any upcoming events by having lectures and more training. Finally, we got to the point of doing the exercise. We were practicing being part of a wartime effort in Korea. We had incoming wounded (with endless amounts of mass casualty exercises), we got attacked and gassed, and we got over run once by enemy soldiers. It was all very tiring. It reminded me a lot of the training I did when I was in medical school at USUHS. It’s fun and interesting for about 48 hours, then it’s not so fun and interesting. By the end, we were all very tired and ready to be done. Fortunately, I had come early and so I got to leave early. I got my stuff packed up, took one last nasty shower (but let’s be honest, nasty shower is better than no shower), and said goodbye to the folks I had met. Again, as always, the best part of the military is making friends with people through shared misery. There were a lot of great people that I met at this training. Hopefully, we don’t have to do it again to stay friends.
I left early in the morning and got to the airport well before my flight left in the evening. Fortunately, I had my priority pass card and took a proper shower and changed into proper clothes. I ate real food again and just sat and gave thanks that I was no longer hot and nasty in the middle of California. In the end, it was a good experience where I met lots of good people. I was impressed by the dedication of these folks and the professionalism of this particular Reserve Unit, but I was very glad to get home.
While Mike was busy doing his reserve duty in California, I took the kids to Utah so that we could spend the week with Grandma Anne and Grandpa Franz in Orem. We spent the week chilling at the condo watching America's Got Talent and playing games, biking up the Murdock trail, trying our luck at an Escape Room at Getout games downtown Provo, running up Provo Canyon, attending a summer music concert at the Tabernacle in Salt Lake City, having fun at the nickel arcade, and taking a tour of the BYU campus with Andrew. It was a fun week of adventure, relaxing, and good times with the grandparents.
With a summer birthday the party ideas are endless. Naturally, Abby wanted to do a celebration outside, so we recycled the Luau party from her 6th birthday party and planned a fun party loaded with yummy food, grass skirts and leis for each of the girls, and a slip-n-slide in the backyard. With completely different friends from when she was 6 years old, no one knew that we had already had a party like this, and everyone had a blast. After eating lunch, the girls spent most of the time out in the backyard jumping on the trampoline and cooling off on the slip-n-slide. Abby's friends that were able to come to the party were Avery, Addy, McKenzie, and Morgan. She got some fun arts and craft type gifts and some candy. She was all smiles the entire day. Abby is lucky to have such good friends to help celebrate on her special day.