Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Alpine Drive

Part of the fine print in the email prep for the turkey day trip to Salzburg said, 'don't forget chains for your car.'

Wait, we don't have chains, we just got here, we don't even have coats good for snow much less equipment for the van to tackle snow. Not even an ice scraper. What did we sign up for?

I was able to buy chains before we left, apparently they are readily available at most gas stations. Hmmm, Makes me think well need them sometime in the assignment, maybe on this trip. Yikes.

The drive across the mountain pass into Austria was not snowy. We saw signs for the chain-install pull off area, but did not need to use it. Whew.

It was snowing heavily when we left on our day trip into Salzburg . The first stop was the salt mine. We made it to there easily enough, but the roads were getting bad and it was only 10 in the morning. The mine entrance is hidden away high amongst some steep hills. When we left the mine, the trip down the hill was treacherous to say the least. We had 5 cars in our train, and we were number 2 in line. At one point I look back and see the car behind us completely sideways in the road, wheels locked, and sliding right for us. I decided to get moving and get some space between us. We made it down that hill and into the city without a wreck, despite that car behind me performing a complete 360 degree spin in the road just before the snow plow coming up the mountain.

After a few hours of shopping and enjoying Salzburg we had to once again brave the roads. We were confident the Autobahn would be ok since it would be plowed and well traveled, but our house was 40 min off the main road on side streets deep into mountain ski country.

Just minutes after entering the highway we pass the plows. I wasn't sure it was the best plan, but they were moving pretty slow. The roads were certainly better behind the plows than in front of them. The roads were passable. I say that because many people passed us in lanes that I certainly didn't feel comfortable driving on. The one lane with two tire paths was all I wanted to be on.

We stopped a couple times on the 2 hour trip and waited for the group to get back together. Over time we ended up spread out and some were quite unsure of driving in the snow.

We had intel from another member of the group that had made the trip earlier in the day that chains were required to make it to the lodge. That had really freaked out a couple of the drivers.

As we rounded the corner, left the last main road and began the steep climb to the lodge my hands gripped the wheel a little tighter. First up was the lead car, a giant suburban...I watched from as far back as I could be while still being able to comfortably see what was happening. The road is mostly straight but very steep, and the last 50 yards have a hairpin switchback. The giant chevy makes it fine. Ok. My turn. I get some speed to maintain momentum. There is some slippage but I'm going in the right direction. I make it over the last wooden bridge and prep for the hairpin. I let the momentum carry me up, slowing, then start the turn. We initially turn, but then start slipping towards the rock wall on the uphill side, I decide that is better than the steep downhill drop on the other side. We stop before contact, and I ease back into the gas and safely make it to the drive way. Wahoo! I say hey that wasn't so bad. I quickly park, pour the kids into bed, and then head on foot down the hill to help the others. Car number 3 is the same one that was sideways earlier. He looses traction much earlier in the hill and the boys are out installing chains on his Audi. After some fumbling we get him up the hill. Car number 4 was a minivan similar to ours. He makes it up without chains just like I did. I warned him about the slip and he also avoids the rock wall. Last but not least is the most freaked out driver. She had already moved over to the passenger seat to let me drive when I walked down to check on her. I give it my all, but her van seemed lighter than mine and she did not have the same traction. I lost forward momentum just before the hairpin and started sliding back down the hill. Eventually we stopped sliding and she quickly handed me her set of chains. The fellas help me put them on and we get the last of our vehicles into the parking area.

I think some of the guys lost a few months of heartbeats in that drive, but it all worked out in the end. Seems to me it was just God's way of giving us guys some shared challenges to overcome so we could grow together. And a good excuse for a stiff drink when we were all safely inside the warm lodge.

The next day we decided not to leave the mountain and just let the kids play in the snow. The kids loved it.

The drive home on Sunday was a little wet, but no snow. Yea!!! Another European adventure complete.

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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Christmas Market

We spent part of yesterday at Salzburg's Christmas Market. It had been snowing most of the day, the sun had just set, and the fortress high above on the hill was illuminated when we arrived. It was picture perfect.

We had arrived there somewhat unbelievably, with four of the five families together, despite the fact that we had been separated at red lights through the city and confident that the fifth family will be able find us in the Market (they were kind of the leaders of the pack). We find our way to the market and agree to disperse and meet back in a couple of hours.

It starts out well. Our family is looking at the items in various booths, taking in the sights and sounds. We get a little bit down the first row and Ted says he will take the kids to a sugar booth...they were happy. (I heard gleeful echos of 'sugar' as they walked off)

Things start to get harder as we all begin to have cold, cold cold that Lucy becomes inconsolable. She was unable to articulate exactly the problem, poor girl. Ted thinks that perhaps buying the pink robot she liked at one of the booths will fix it. It doesn't. (let it be noted that we managed to buy a toy (that is not a toy) made in China! at the SALZBURG, AUSTRIA Christmas market).

The girls are with me and Riley is also on the verge of tears. I am, too, quite honestly. My feet were in such pain.

Our friends taught us the phrase 'there's not bad weather, just bad clothes,' and we have quite possibly mentioned that on our blog before. Might I just say that yesterday we definitely fell on "bad clothes" half of the phrase.

We manage to find Ted with the other two, and we agree that with our meet up time still an hour away, we have got to find someplace to be inside and get warmed up.

It was at this moment that the fifth family passed us and said we were all meeting at the ice rink (it was no Freedom Rink, though) to eat dinner at a nearby restaurant. Praise God.

We had a wonderful dinner--schnitzel, bratwurst, soup, and pasta. We were all feeling much better after that.

Just had to make it back to our parking garage and then we would be safe on our way back to the house.

But wait...did I mention that it had been snowing all day? I'll let Ted write tomorrow about his drive home in the snow.

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

God was in the details

Praise God for his glory! He worked out so many small details yesterday!
He absolutely rocks!

Yesterday was quarterly wing commanders breakfast with staff and I was able to meet some of the guys we are staying with in Austria. That divine appointment helped me in my standard standoff-ish-ness to be more comfortable.

Then we got a late start on our drive and ended up driving more in the dark than we wanted to, but it worked out. You have to buy a driving pass in Austria called a vignette. We missed the border spot to buy it, but God once again was setting us up for success. The next stop, was a gas station that also sold them. I knew they would probably sell them, but the amazing part was that as we were leaving I spied a buddy (that I met in the morning) getting gas. We exchanged notes on how to get to our final destination and the formed a 2 ship american minivan team. It is so much easier to be with somebody you know. The mutual support really helps when you are traveling in a new area for the first time.

Here's a few pics snapped from the iPhone. The sun is in a bad position and the pics don't do God's glorious creation justice. We'll take more when the sun is higher in the sky.

Kristi is off shopping with her new friends. I'm left guarding the pumpkin pies and kids playing legos. Ahhh to be out of the Television Living Facility!

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Daddy, who is that guy?

This last weekend we ventured over to another area of the base. Aviano is unique in that has multiple areas spread all around a few towns. Anyway...we were looking into the base library and some additional shops (uniforms and furniture shops - As a side note it is interesting that this somewhat isolated overseas base has more infrastructure than our last base).

Back to the story. This shopping area has a couple of restaurants so we had some fresh. Sitting next to us was the spokesperson for subway - Jared.

He was in town for a quick promotion put on by the organization that runs the food establishments on the base. He was also around for a fun run 5k and then went to the subway to hand out some promo stuff.

He was handing out free t-shirts. So of course I was IN. I would have just taken the shirt and toy football for Cory and run away, but Jared wanted to give me his autograph and wish me all the best.

It took us most of the day to explain to the kids who he was and why anyone cared that he was handing out autographs. I guess I should be happy that they don't know who he means they don't watch tv too much. But then again it could just be the AFN commercials have confused them and they don't know any current pop culture heroes.

In the continuing saga of TLF life. The fly met his demise recently. Unfortunately he was on my belly when Kristi smacked me in order to kill him. We don't miss him!

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Monday, November 22, 2010


Their first gelato...

Chocolate, chocolate, lemon, and...

Pumpkin? Lucy picked based on color alone.

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Saturday, November 20, 2010


We made it to the base library today to check it out, get our library cards and then check out some books. As usual, our kids are now engrossed in the new books they have to read.

Thanks Mr. B Franklin for the marvelous idea.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Fly On Our Wall

The fly that has taken up residence with us in our humble AF abode since our arrival is driving us insane! Do you see that blurry thing on my hand?

The gall of some creatures! I did not pack a flyswatter in our luggage, why, I do not know--but next time I just might! They don't take up much room, and they would have put a swift end to our little "friend" days ago. He's just been too swift for us jet-lagged folks.
But don't worry--we'll get you my pretty!

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Random TLF notes

The air force name for the temporary apartment you live in when you first move to a base is the "Temporary Living Facility" or TLF.

The tlf's are good and bad. They provide you the basic amenities of normal living: beds, bath, small kitchen, and living area. Unfortunately they are also small for a family of 6. We've given it some other names...the tiny living facility or the television living facility because the kids do nothing but sit around and watch tv.
Here are a few random notes about our current version.
The small table serves as eating area and school area in our case.

The furniture can sometimes be very this chair...yuck!

Or this couch...we have removed the sleeper mattress so all 4 kids can be crammed into a single room to sleep so mom and dad can have a small area to hang out in at night. Note the remote with no battery cover (standard issue )...the Lego bin (must have for modern military kids in transition) and the extremely important black backpack with all your precious moving documents.

The tlf also has a few things right...the multiple power plugs to help ease the transition to Italy...iPhone plugged in of course.

This tlf has its own washer and dryer...wahoooooo!

But no matter what we try to make it home. Here's our little piece of to a crowded Lego airport.

Last but not least you can't let the crazy air force moves interrupt your lives. Here's Lucy's birthday arrangement.

Happy birthday Lucy!

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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Look kids...Big Ben...Parlament

First of all - we did make it to Italy! Wahoo! Now for the funny story.

Remember the National Lampoon's European vacation? When they get stuck on the roundabout? We didn't get stuck on a road, but we did take an unexpected roundabout!

Our trip from bean town to BWI was uneventful. All the bags made it and we had a great time with our pals the Goodings. But that will have to wait for another day' blog post.

Our flight departed the states on time and the kids were amazing troopers all along the way. One unfortunate note was the gate agent mentioned on the loudspeaker they were going to play a disney movie...poor lucy stayed up for a couple of hours with her headphones on asking me every five minutes "when will the disney movie start?"

The layover in germany was short and we cleared customs easily thanks to our handsome luggage. Some great friends from a previous assignment, Greg and Lisa, met us and offered some german pretzels and a much needed can of dr pepper. We reloaded the plane for Italy with the kids super excited.

The movies tell some of the story from there...

YouTube Video

We flew all the way to Italy...descended...did a low approach...then climbed back to altitude and flew back to Germany. Weather and local conditions made the landing unsafe. So back to germany we go. The crew considered a second landing attempt a few hours later, but then decided just to cancel the flight. Now we are stuck in germany for the night. With our backpacks only.

YouTube Video

After a short debate and watching the local logistics units trying to decide how to set up lodging for 300 tired people on very short notice, we called Greg and Lisa back. They offered to come get us, feed us, and keep us for the night. What a blessing they were!

I made a quick trip to the gigantic bx there in fortress america and bought clean underwear for the family...(we talked multiple times about packing an overnight clothing - but it got lost in the baggage craziness). Aarrrrghhhh!

The next morning we were a little more rested, but still no where near 100%. Our flight made it to italy without issue. The kids were wonderful through it all. But they grew very weary of the multiple waits and lines for security and gate checks. The kids got a lesson in military efficiency...the AF does not really care if they make you wait around just to find out you have to wait around some more.

We tried to make the best of it...

Oh how nice it was to see our bags come off the carousel in Italy...

We are settled in the temporary quarters, looking for a place to live, and generally just learning how to get around Italy. Lots of funny stories and things to mention, but I'll save that for another day.

If the movies don't work I'll blame the slow wireless internet here in the hotel.

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Luggage

What was initially fun, playful luggage was then...

stuffed into an Excursion with the other plain Jane luggage

then piled on two separate carts at the airport curbside check-in

and finally easy to spot on the conveyor belt and into the airplane!

Mission Accomplished

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


This phrase rings all too true for us. And it's a good thing--for the most part. Here are the parts in between, the parts that can get a little crazyand chaotic...

Big semi-trucks pull up to your house, usually blocking someone's driveway

Kitchen counter spaces get obnoxiously cluttered

Bathrooms become the holding place of all you don't want the packers to put in a box (because if it's out, they will put it in a box)--and they quickly lose their functionality as bathrooms!

Schoolwork is done at borrowed tables.

Boxes become desks, nightstands and play spots

"Beds" are air mattresses and collapsible play huts (do you see Lucy's head sticking out of the jungle huts?)

Such is the life of this AF family. We love it.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The End of the Circle

Well, our time on the Circle is almost over. Tonight is our last night to sleep here...sigh...

As excited as we are to start our next adventure, we'd be lying if we said we aren't terribly sad to leave. Before we moved here, we were told by someone moving away at the time that the Circle was "magical."

Yeah, something like that. Unbelievably fantastic friends, mountains of joyful memories, lots of firsts for all of us all happened here.


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Monday, November 1, 2010


While Mary Beth worked on her school work, she made a spot for Lucy to work on her "work" right beside her. How cute are they?

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