Sunday, November 9, 2008

Our Trip to Aggieland!

Cindy and I took a great trip this weekend. We were invited by my cousin David and his wife Patricia to spend the weekend with them and watch the Texas A&M vs Oklahoma football game. What a weekend. It was non-stop, but we had so much fun.

We arrived Friday around dinner time, and had a wonderful dinner at their home. We visited for a while, waiting for the appropriate time for the first event, Midnight Yell. Texas A&M is a bit different from other schools. They don’t cheer, they yell! Friday at midnight we were all in the stadium. The yell leaders (5 guys, no girls) led us, the students, and the Corps of Cadets in the different yells. Each yell had a story and tradition behind it. The clothes the yell leaders wore, the shirt the torch corporal wore, and the movements the yell leaders made when telling stories, all had historical significance and were steeped in tradition.

We made it home around 1:30am and got to bed to rest up for the next day.

Saturday was a beautiful day, sunny and warm. By the way, for those of you Yankees stuck in autumn or winter weather, it was a wonderful 80 degrees yesterday. Anyway, we had a nice breakfast out on the patio and then drove to campus. David and Patricia spent hours showing us around and explaining the significance and tradition of almost everything there. We visited the bonfire memorial. Some of you may remember in 1999, while building the stack for their traditional bonfire, the stack shifted, fell, and killed 12 students working on it that night. They haven’t had a bonfire since. In the place where the bonfire was held, they’ve put a memorial for those who died. It was a very impressive spot.

Bonfire Memorial

Each of the doorways you see are for one of the fallen. Each is a memorial. They are also placed in such a way that if you stand in the portal, facing out, you will face towards the home town of the person who’s memorial it is. It was very special.

We headed over to the Corps dorms and watched the Fighting Texas Aggie Band forming up. They marched off for the stadium and we headed over to watch them arrive.


We looked around a bit more, then headed for the stadium. We stopped outside to look at the burial spot for all the previous mascots. Years ago, a stray dog wandered onto campus and would bark when reveille was played. They cadets took the dog in, named it reveille and it became their mascot. As each Reveille has passed away, they were buried outside the stadium with their heads placed so they could see the scoreboard. When they expanded the stadium they erected a wall between the Reveilles and the scoreboard. There was an uproar about that so they placed an additional scoreboard outside the stadium so that the Reveilles could still see the score every game.



We went into the stadium and got to our seats. As we watched the people filing in, we saw probably the most famous of the Aggie fans. Apparently he shows up to quite a few home games. The 41st President of the United States, George Bush.


Everyone filed in and it was time for the game. Saturday was a “maroon out” where all the fans wore maroon. Cindy and I actually stopped on the way to buy some Aggie shirts so we’d fit in. Try to imagine 85,000 all wearing maroon. It was impressive.


We enjoyed the game quite a bit, even though the Aggies lost by a large margin. Here’s some of the action.





At half time, the Fighting Texas Aggie Band played for us. They were very impressive with the formations they made while playing and marching.





You may have noticed in the band pictures that some of the students wore shoes and some boots. In the Corps of Cadets, the seniors get to wear the boots. They are known as “Senior Boots”. They are custom made and quite expensive, but they mean a great deal to the cadets.

After half time we watched the rest of the game, and although we lost, we still had a good time. After the game, as we were walking back to the car, we stopped by the Cadet Center. As a fund raiser they have sold bricks that are placed outside the center for former students. We found the brick that meant the most to me. My Grandfather was an Aggie, class of 1929.


All in all, Cindy and I had a wonderful time this weekend. We are hoping to return the favor by having David and Patricia out to Louisiana to enjoy Mardi Gras with us.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Good News All Around

Sister Ortolani

Well, it’s been an interesting week!  Last Tuesday we sent Melissa off to Brazil.  It was an emotional day for us all.  I think it was worse on Cindy than anyone.  But, we got her off.  We were told that we would only hear from the MTC if there was a problem.  I did a little math and figured that Melissa should land about 3:30am our time.  So I predicted, and told Cindy, that she would wake up about then wondering if Melissa was ok.  Sure enough, I felt Cindy get out of bed about 3:30 am and go head for the computer.  She was up the rest of the night.  No news was good news so we figured she must be OK.  The next day, we received an email from the MTC saying that our missionary had arrived safely, had a companion, and was now working for the Lord.  Today we received our first email from Melissa (Sorry, Sister Ortolani).  It was great.  Very emotional for us just to read it.  I know Cindy forwarded it out, so you have probably all read it.  We are so proud of her for choosing to serve the Lord in this way.  We know she’ll be blessed for this.

Monday was another good day for us.  I received an email at work that my retirement has been approved.  Happy day.  Tuesday, I received about 50 different forms and clearance letters that need to be completed before leaving. Also, a copy of my retirement orders, stating that I will be released from active duty as of 30 September 2009, retired effective 1 October 2009.  I filled out one of the worksheets, did the backwards counting and determined that my last day of work, and my retirement ceremony, will be on 10 July 2009.  We are very much looking forward to it all.  It’s very exciting.  It’s also hard to believe that the last 20 years have gone by so quickly.  Seems like not that long ago I was a young 2nd Lieutenant in EWO school.  Now, here it is, 20 years later, my military career coming to a successful end.  Cindy and I both know that retiring is the right thing for us to do at this time.  We also know that we’ve loved the Air Force and wouldn’t trade the last 20 years for anything.  We are looking forward to moving back to Utah and being close to our family again.

Monday, October 13, 2008

We had big fun on the Bayou!

As most of you know, Melissa is spending a few weeks with us before leaving for Brazil. We’re having fun with her down here. Anyway, she wanted to see New Orleans before she left, so we went down there this weekend.

We left home on Friday afternoon and drove to Covington and checked into our hotel. It’s a fairly long drive, so we didn’t get there until about 7:30 or so. Not a problem. After dumping our stuff in our room, we took a drive over the 30 mile bridge across Lake Pontchartrain and into New Orleans, and Bourbon Street.

As you can imagine, Bourbon Street on a Friday night is something to see. I think Melissa had a good time.

Melissa on Bourbon Street


We had a great dinner, enjoying the local Cajun cuisine, then we wandered Bourbon Street for a bit, then back to the hotel.

The next day we headed back to New Orleans. Once there we stopped off at the Metairie Cemetery. It was pretty cool. Melissa liked all the mausoleums.

DSCN1914 After that, we headed to the Bayou. We’d signed up for an airboat tour of the swamp. It was a lot of fun. The swamp has it’s own eerie beauty that’s difficult to describe. Maybe the pics will help.

IMGP3671 Here is a picture of the type of boat we were on. That was another group that went out when we did.

DSCN1923 DSCN1924

It was a bit loud at times, depending on how fast we were going. The ride was fun and the breeze kept us cool. The drivers sure knew their stuff. I would have been totally lost in the maze of waterways in the swamp, but they all seemed to know exactly where they were going.

We toured the swamp, saw the flora and fauna. Of course, there were my favorites, the gators. Here are some pics.








Yeah, I love the alligators. After we’d been out a while, we came across this huge gator. 13 feet long. Although, you’ll see from the pics, he was quite friendly.





For some reason, our guide liked to feed them all marshmallows. They seemed to really like them!

On our way back we saw this pretty cool cemetery. I guess even folks on the bayou need them too.


We had a great day. On our way back, we made a little detour to see the Baton Rouge temple. It’s one of the smaller temples. Reminded me a lot of the Bismarck temple in North Dakota.


We had a great time. It’s a long drive between New Orleans and Shreveport. We didn’t get home until after midnight. It was well worth it. Hope ya’ll enjoyed your summer. I hear it snowed yesterday in Utah. It’s still warm down here. Ya’ll come out and visit sometime!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Calling all Liberals

Hey Ya’ll.  Just stumbled upon this great video!  This guy has a great knack for putting the truth out there in a way that’s very easy to understand.  Watch and enjoy.  Vote McCain/Palin!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


We were invited to my Aunt Pat's house for the Labor Day weekend.  It was something that we've been looking forward to for a while.  We drove out on Saturday morning and arrived at her house that afternoon.  We went out to the new home of my cousin Deb and her husband Ron.  We did some catching up, then went to Saturday Mass with them.  That was an interesting service.  Then home again for dinner.  Delicious chicken fajitas.  Man they were good.

The next day (Saturday) we headed out to Lake Austin.  Pat took us out to look at my Grandmother's old place on the lake.  I really miss that place.  It's sad it's not in the family any more.  But, we got to West Lake Beach and all had a great time.  Here are some pics of the afternoon.

Isn't she beautiful?

Cindy found these awesome mayflies (there were thousands of them out there).  She wanted a picture taken with them.  She stirred them up and I shot the picture.  Too bad you can't see the bugs, they are surrounding her.

 MayfliesOn the right here is a picture of them a bit close-up.  They didn't bother us, but there were a ton of them out there.



This pic below is a shLake Austinot of the lake from the park.  I remember when most of the far side of the lake was just trees.  Now there are so many houses over there it's not really the same lake anymore.  I mean, I loved being out there and it brought back a lot of memories, but it was just so different than what I remembered.

It was a great day, and we had most of the family out there with us.  The funny thing was that this was supposed to be a retirement party for my cousin Martha's husband Larry.  The sad thing was they were unable to make it to that lake that day.  A few days prior, Larry had fallen off a ladder and shattered his arm, so he was at home suffering the pain associated with that.  We missed them.

Me and Aunt Pat This is a photo of me and my Aunt Pat.  She's my Dad's sister.  She is so much fun to hang out with.  Cindy and I stayed with her when we were there in Austin.

Following are just some pics we took out at the lake.  It was a blast.



Cousin David Patricia Trisha Playing at the lake

We were going to stay all day and drive home on Monday.  We were keeping an eye on hurricane Gustav, however, and decided to leave on Sunday instead.  I think it was a good move.  Even as late as we were driving (we got home around midnight), there was still quite a bit of traffic coming out of Louisiana and every motel we passed had a parking packed with cars.  Glad we have a nice house here that's stocked with our food storage and ready for the coming storm.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Quick Update

Sorry it's been a while since I've written here, I've been a bit busy.

As many of you know, I was chosen to return to Iraq for 6 months next year.  I had only one reason that I didn't want to return to Iraq.  It would be at a time so close to my retirement from the Air Force that it would hinder my ability to find a post-Air Force job.  So, my boss and I talked it over and he decided to see if he could get me out of the deployment.  It worked, and I am not going to Iraq.  Cindy and I are both very happy about that as you can imagine.

Other than that excitement, it's pretty quiet around here.  We're are both busy with our church callings, Cindy in the Primary and me in the Bishopric.  I am also working on my MBA, still.  I am currently taking two classes.  I have three others left, then a final and I'm done!  Can't wait.

We are also preparing for our trip to Utah in a couple of days.  Can't wait for that either.  We are looking forward to the Fail Family Reunion, and then will spend some time relaxing, doing a little pre-house hunting, and maybe a little job hunting while we're at it.

Of course, the biggest event will be when Melissa goes through the Temple for her first time.  We are extremely excited about that and really can't wait for the big day.  It's going to be a family event to remember.

Monday, July 7, 2008

4th of July in New Orleans

Hey Ya'll. Cindy and I decided that we wanted to see more of the state of Louisiana before we left and regretted not seeing it all. So, with a 4 day weekend for the holiday, we decided to see some of the southern part of the state.

We drove down to Lafayette on Friday morning. It was a very pleasant drive. We got set up on the motel and then drove on into New Orleans. What a great town.

We got into New Orleans and then drove around looking for a place to park. It was crazy crowded for the holiday. Anyway, we parked and started walking. We ended up eating dinner there on Bourbon Street. We enjoyed a bit of Jambalaya. We spent some more time looking around then went to the riverfront to set up for the fireworks.

The fireworks was set up as "dueling barges". Two barges in the river, both shooting fireworks at the same time. It was a pretty cool, if very short, fireworks display.

After the fireworks, we grabbed a quick slice of pizza (which was awesome) and then spent a long time trying to get out of town due to the traffic.

Saturday, we went back to New Orleans and went down to the lower 9th Ward, the sight of all the Katrina flooding. While there were still some houses abandoned and boarded up, there was a lot of rebuilding going on and things are looking better than before.

While we were in town, we also visited one of the New Orleans cemeteries where everything is above ground. It was actually pretty cool.

After our sight seeing, we went back downtown to Bourbon street and had some lunch. It was great. More Jambalaya with andouille sausage and alligator sausage. Delicious!

Sunday was my day really. We went to Avery Island, home of Tabasco hot sauce! It's something I've been wanting to do for some time now. It was great. We got to tour the factory (no one was working at the time, though), sampled some of the sauces and other things. Believe it or not, they have Tabasco cola and two flavors of Tabasco ice cream. How weird is that? After the tour and the shopping, we took a tour of the Jungle Gardens. The inventor of Tabasco is also a conservationist and put aside 250 acres as a wildlife refuge and gardens. It was very beautiful. Below are some photos from the island.

As you can see, it was quite beautiful there. Of course, it wouldn't have been Louisiana without some of these critters all over the place.

The interesting thing about all of this was that there was no barrier between us and the alligators. Just a couple of warning signs. We were a bit surprised at one point. We were looking at some birds and taking pictures. As we stepped off the steps of the stand we were on, one of the alligators that we hadn't seen before was sunning himself at the waters edge. As we walked about 20 feet away from him, he quickly ran into the water and turned to watch us go. We had no idea he was there so when there was this flurry of activity and splashing water, well we both jumped pretty high. He was just a little guy, probably 2 to 3 feet long, so this was one of those cases where I truly believe he was more afraid of us than we were of him.

All in all it was a very good weekend. We had a blast. It just cemented in our minds how much we are going to miss Louisiana when we leave.