Welcome to our family’s website! We’ve dreamed about traveling around the world with our four boys (Robby, Will, Ben, and Sam (visit their Blogs by clicking on their names) and now it’s time to live the dream. Thom retired from the Army after 26 years of service. Our last assignment was at Fort Greely, Alaska. We packed up our 43 foot Newmar Mountain Aire motor coach towing an SUV and headed southeast on the Alaska Highway on June 18, 2008. First lesson learned, we packed too much! We hope this year is a positive life changing event for us all, one which will shape the boy's lives and help them find success and happiness in the future. We invite you to join us by reading of our adventures. The boys especially are motivated by knowing others are reading their work, so please provide them some feedback.
Joan and Thom Besch
Please e-mail us at email@example.com or call at 240-338-2234
I’m in the motor coach overlooking the Hudson River at West Point, where we’ve camped for 3 nights. It’s been like old home week for Thom, connecting with many classmates. Army beat Louisiana Tech at Saturday’s football game which was the wettest football game we’ve ever attended! Our boys have experienced the life of a cadet here, with a tour of the mess hall, Grant Hall, the obstacle course, the game parade, and tail gating before/during the game. We’ve had a full day of Calvert School today, so we’ve even studied like cadets. Thanks to Casey and Ester Haskins for a fabulous dinner in their beautiful home, and we enjoyed seeing their son, Aaron who’s a yearling now. It was also a great surprise finding Sam & Carol Johnson here. Thanks for breakfast, a great tour, and your laundry facilities! We had an enjoyable walk with Les Knotts and his sons Aaron and Tyler. Thom also caught up with Tom Gerard, Tim McDonald, Pat Ortland, and Mike White. The only negative thing that happened was when Robby and Will were wrestling on The Plain on our walk back to the RV. Will ran to tell us that Robby was hurt, and sure enough, Robby sprained his ankle. Thom piggybacked him to the RV, removed his sock, and found a baseball-sized ankle. After X-rays, they determined it wasn’t broken, but now he’s on crutches for a week! Well, we have lots of school to do with his foot elevated this coming week. So let’s see, after my last update, we spent a great day in Boston. With 6 of us, we opted for the trolley tour with 17 stops of historic Boston and Cambridge. Sights included the Boston Harbor, Paul Revere’s house, The Old North Church (1 lantern by land; 2 by sea…remember?), Breed’s Hill (misnomer Bunker Hill), The Boston Common, Fenway Park, and many others. We rode the T to avoid traffic and parking, which is Boston’s subway. Outside of taking one wrong train, we did pretty well and the boys experienced commuting at 5pm…a foreign concept after spending 3 years at Ft. Greely! Mort, Sarah, and Nathan Orlov treated us to a delicious home-cooked meal and we had a great visit after a 14-year gap. We caught up on laundry and school at Hanscom AFB’s RV Park (best Laundromat on our journey so far!). After Boston, we headed south to Newport where we viewed the mansions along Cliff Walk on a glorious, sunny day after finishing schoolwork. Nice summer cottages those New Yorkers built over a hundred years ago! The kids loved the scary Halloween Festival set up near our RV Park by the naval base with graveyard and pirate scenes. Seems like there’s something to be seen everywhere we go! We stopped at Mystic, CT to walk the tall ships and visit the shipyards of that celebrated era. The boys learned how ropes, sails, masts, and ships were built hundreds of years ago. We met David, a 13-year old boy traveling by sailboat around the world with his parents Rosemary and David. He’s homeschooling in the 8th grade Calvert program just like Robby! He’s currently working as an apprentice in an old printer’s shop at Mystic for a few weeks.
October 20 We’re now travelling east into Boston to walk the famous Freedom Trail. Robby’s studying the American Revolutionary War so our timing’s perfect. Tonight we had a delicious dinner at the “Summer Shack” with Cousin Sally and Jeffrey in Cambridge. Robby was about 6 years old the last time we saw them, so it was great catching up. They’re off to St. Bart’s on Wednesday, and we feel lucky to have caught them just in time! On the drive today, we stopped to visit my Uncle Don and Aunt Barbara in North Brookfield, MA. They prepared a wonderful lunch and the kids had a great time exploring their stunning 5-acre property. Ben even went for a swim in the pond, when last night was their first freeze! My cousin Cathy stopped by, and we also met with 8-year old Alexis. Thanks for a nice visit! We definitely had to stop in Williamstown, MA to hang out with Cousin Steve, Cousin Georgia, and Aunt Liz. They introduced us to Joe and Tracy Finnegan, and their boys Patrick, Shawn, and Dan who treated us to an unexpected and delightful dinner. We’re overwhelmed with all this hospitality. Steve just finished a magnificent painting which is on its way to England, and we had the chance to see it just before its completion. Way to go Steve!
Prior to this, we spent almost 2 weeks at Uncle Clipper and Wendy’s farmhouse in West Sand Lake, NY. Louise and Clayt live ¼ mile down the road so we enjoyed a grand visit. This is the farmhouse where Thom grew up and spent most of his childhood years. Cousin Tucker (9) and Cousin Avery (7) shared everything from scooters, bikes, forts in the woods, computer games, stuffed animals, and cookies with our boys. We went to fencing practice (on guard!), a soccer game, choir practice, a medieval fair, and Friday assembly at Avery’s school. All of us attended the opening season hockey game of the Albany River Rats, who unfortunately lost to the Bridgeport, CT Tigers. Aunt Wendy arranged for a tour of the haunted Capitol Building in Albany to get ready for Halloween. The kids had one last chance to go back up to Frost Point, Canada with Clipper and Nana to close up the cottage for the winter. They helped move wood and do numerous chores while Thom and I enjoyed a quiet weekend at the farmhouse. Being at the farmhouse for 2 weeks helped us move forward with the home schooling immensely. Nana was a huge help and assisted all the kids with reading, quizzing, etc. Wendy was a saint to put up with all of us invading her home for so long, more than doubling the number of occupants she’s accustomed to…thanks Wendy! We could easily settle down in this beautiful part of the country next year…who knows?!
October 6 Our last 4 days were spent with longtime friends Victoria, Rich, and Bryce in beautiful Southern Vermont. Victoria and I grew up in the same home town of Lakeport, CA way back when. Her husband, Rich is the President of Bromley Ski Resort and their son Bryce is in 8th grade. We parked the RV right at their home, which made for a terrific visit despite the winding, narrow dirt road up to their home. Thom backed the RV down just fine; he’s a champ driving the big rig! Our visit couldn’t have been timed better with the fall colors and their schedules. We hiked to the top of Bromley one morning where there’s a shelter and marker for the Appalachian Trail. The sun was hiding behind low clouds so we only caught glimpses of the view, although we spotted Magic Mtn and Stratton Ski Area. Ben decided to cut his own trail below a chairlift, and we didn’t catch up with him until an hour later at the base of Bromley. He hopes to climb Everest one day, but we don’t plan on letting him out of our sight on a mountain again until he’s 18! Rich treated us to a playday at Bromley’s summer park, which includes the country’s longest Alpine Slide (4000 ft!), a big swing like you find at an amusement park where your stomach hangs in midair for a good 30 seconds, a bungee trampoline, space bikes, zip line, rock climbing wall, spinner, and basketball challenge. All 6 Besches played like kids as we ran from one attraction to the next. Thanks Rich for a memorable family fun day! Bryce introduced the boys to skateboarding in his basement as well as the local skate park in Manchester. Ben’s already asking if we can find a skate park at our next stop in NY. The boys enjoyed hanging out with Bryce and playing his play station games also. Another highlight was when Robby and I visited Bryce’s school to attend “Frostival”, a celebration of the life of poet Robert Frost. Speaking of school, we finished almost 2 days of it while here. Victoria homeschooled Bryce using Calvert from Kindergarten through 3rd grade and loved it. She jumped right in and helped teach our boys as well. Yesterday was Sam’s 7th birthday. He helped mix, bake, frost, decorate, and eat his cake! Victoria made a dessert pizza with the kids made of cookie dough, jam, white chocolate, and fruit roll-ups cut into “pepperoni” slices. It was a hit! Sam had fun celebrating his special day with friends. Thom especially enjoyed hearing about the operations at Bromley, and what’s involved in running a ski resort. He had a chance to meet Billy, who is the water treatment manager at the mountain. Billy also gave Thom a hand in solving our problems with the RV’s hot water system.
The best part was just catching up with Victoria and Rich over good food and wine. We can see why they love Vermont so much, and we could easily choose this area to settle down next year. It’s only an hour from Albany, NY where Thom’s family lives. And that’s where we’re heading next.
October 1 Today was a big day as the 4 boys completed their first round of Calvert tests…whew! Their increasing age directly correlates with time needed for completion, and Robby didn’t finish until just before dinner. Now I’m compiling their tests, previous compositions, science homework, and maps to send in to the ATS (Advisory Teaching Service) of Calvert School in MD. It’s good to have professional teachers review their work and grade their exams for feedback. We’d like to stop in and meet them as we pass through Maryland next month.
Sept 30 We just pulled into our campsite in Glen, New Hampshire. We’re now hitting the height of the color changes in New England. Gold, orange, scarlett, red, and other brilliant colors cover the hillsides. For the first time in months, we’re next to a river, reminiscent of our travels down the Alaska Highway. Although the water’s awfully chilly, guess who’s out there now collecting rocks, driftwood, and looking for bugs? Robby, Ben and Sam! Will’s inflating the canoe with Thom’s help using our air compressor. We just saw a couple kayakers float past, and Thom eyed the fly fisherman in the middle of the stream further down. So it’s a good time to catch up on our website. We passed through customs last week after a wonderful summer in Canada. It’s probably very obvious by now how much our entire family loves Canada. In addition to the province of Ontario where we were married and Ben was born, we have now spent time in the Maritime Provinces. If you ever have the chance to visit, we highly recommend you go! We came through St. Stevens and down to Bar Harbor, Maine. Acadia National Park was donated by John D. Rockefeller almost a hundred years ago, and we decided it was time to do a serious hike. The boys opted for a long, strenuous hike so we chose the 9-mile (10?) climb to Cadillac Mountain. We started at noon, and returned to the car at 7:30pm! Robby and Will carried fairly heavy Boy Scout packs with food, water, and rain gear for everyone. We hiked through peaceful woodsy trails, along brooks, up steep granite rocks, to arrive at the peak at 1530 feet where we discovered the gift shop crowded with busloads of tourists! Hiking down was a challenge as the rain started to fall making the granite rocks slippery. The boys started complaining around mile #6 that this was a little too long! I was surprised since they’d been saying we hadn’t gone for a long hike in so long. The views were beautiful, especially from Eagle’s Crag overlooking Bar Harbor and the Atlantic. We celebrated our success by having pizza in town, saving me the chore of cooking! Our next destination was home of LL Bean, Freeport, Maine. Of course we visited the landmark and enjoyed meeting Doug Brown, Clip’s college friend who works for LL Bean. He was quite helpful with outfitting us in rain gear…thanks Doug! We attended church in Freeport where we met Adam and Sarah. They kindly invited us to their home for lunch, where we learned more about Maine, NH, and their two younger boys, Ben and Nate. Thanks for the pizza, salad, cookies, and hospitality! We ventured into Boudin College’s Art Museum nearby, which truly is a brave thing to do with our four boys! Being on a college campus in the autumn brought back a flood of memories, and it was a neat experience walking with our boys. I asked Robby how he’d feel about going to college like this, and he really liked the idea. Before we know it, we’ll be touring campuses to make these big decisions! Once again, I’m reminded of how lucky we are to have this time together. We also enjoyed seeing Cousin Stephen Hannock’s painting of The Ox Bow at Boudin. It’s cool seeing his work, and we hope to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Fine Art in NYC where his paintings have been displayed in the past! So you’re probably wondering when we fit schooling in, with our busy schedule exploring our world? Just ask the boys. They took practice exams yesterday to prepare for the first round of actual tests. The two older boys spent 4-6 hours completing the thorough tests in about 6 subjects. It’s comprehensive covering the last 20 lessons. Ben spent 3 hours at it, and Sam required about an hour and a half. They all did well. Today we’re reviewing the weak areas, and tomorrow they’ll tackle the actual tests. They’ve also had to complete compositions, poems, and loads of homework. They’ve had to read great books like Swiss Family Robinson, Johnny Tremain, and Robinson Crusoe. The curriculum is through Calvert and also includes spelling, vocabulary, science, geography, history, math, art and language arts (grammar). The school day lasts about 5 hours to take all 4 boys through one complete lesson. It’s nice when we’re in one place so both Thom and I can work with the boys. When Thom’s driving, I’ll read with one while another sits up front with Thom and reads science or another textbook aloud. Again, we constantly incorporate our lessons into everyday experiences like when we visited the museum and saw Egyptian bas relief, statues in the round, and cuneiform writings. Ben’s now writing his own poems about cake, pudding, and cheerios, and Sam’s taken up a new hobby – sewing! He loves it and wants to be the best in the family (he’s already better than me!).
Sept 24 This may be our last day in Canada for 2008. We’re in the lovely seaside town of Saint Andrews in New Brunswick, just a short distance from the Maine border. The RV is a stone’s throw from Passamaquoddy Bay, and the sun is just rising. It’s a crisp, clear autumn morning with the glorious colors of the season starting to show. Thom’s been working on the heater because this RV gets cold at night. I guess they’re built for winters in Florida! Last night it was toasty warm inside. Let me go back to where I left off last time. We caught the ferry from PEI to Nova Scotia which took just over an hour. Yes, we drove the RV towing the SUV right onto the ferry! There were big diesel trucks that make this run regularly. Thom requested a tour of the bridge, so before you knew it, all the Besch boys were up there talking with the First Mate and crew. They got a kick out of seeing the small joystick which drove that big boat, as opposed to a giant captain’s wheel. Heading east, we crossed over into the picturesque province of Nova Scotia (New Scotland). Alexander Graham Bell and his wife fell in love with this area, and summered in Baddeck here for 35 years with their family. What a great museum! Bell was a born inventor, and we all know he discovered the telephone early on with his assistant Watson. What we didn’t know is that he went on to study aeronautics, hydroplanes and air foils for boats, genetics, kites, and photophones (which he considered to be his greatest invention), along with many other things. He was constantly outside with his young engineer associates flying gigantic kites or doing speed trials on the lake nearby. Once again, the boys watched movies and were inspired by new inventions (including Thom). For months we’ve been hearing about the scenic Cabot Trail of Nova Scotia. We finally drove the 10-hour trek around the northern peninsula of this province in the SUV. We’d been warned not to take the RV. Good thing! It’s a steep, curvy road overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. We made frequent stops at leather shops, chowder stops, and for sunset hikes. The boys never seem to run out of energy, always skipping ahead to discover what’s around the next bend, or to throw rocks into the sea below. Another day we ventured out to explore the Fortress of Louisbourgh, which is as far east as our travels will take us in North America. This was a strategic fort built by the French in the early 1700’s to control the flow of sea traffic from the Atlantic into the St. Lawrence. In 1744, the British attacked and took control. Years later, it went back to the French, and finally again to the British. In the 1960’s, Canada sent out archeologists to research this historic place. Over the next 25 years, Louisbourgh was rebuilt and is now open to the public as a giant reenactment from the year 1744 when the French ruled this part of the New World. Soldiers set off canons and fired old muskets. Cooks prepared meals while ducks and chickens hung upside down to be seasoned in the corners. Sam loved watching the heavy weight that slowly turned the mechanism of a rotisserie in front of a hot fire in order to cook a chicken. We also walked through the museum showing much of the archeologists’ work, which is exactly what Will is studying currently in geography. Thom and I notice daily how easy it is to incorporate the boys’ schoolwork into our adventures. Robby recently announced that history is now his favorite subject. He’s studying the early explorers of the New World and the early colony life. Well, that’s exactly what we’re visiting currently. In fact, this town of Saint Andrews was a place where Loyalists came back in the 1770’s. These were colonists who disagreed with fighting the British, and not wanting to fight against their fellow colonists, they headed north to this area. Many in fact dismantled their homes and shipped them by barge to be reassembled here in Saint Andrews. Back to Louisbourgh. We noticed a large group of people in costume heading down a backstreet and so we followed along. A maid had been caught stealing from her employer, and was being punished. The townspeople were ridiculing her as she was marched along in old-fashioned hand cuffs. Some men wanted to hang her, while the women begged that she be forgiven since she had 10 children to care for. She cried out as she walked along, but the men yelled at her. Boy was Sam concerned! He kept asking me if they really would hang her for stealing. I had to remind him that they were all actors, and this was just pretend. They finally decided she’d spend time in the town square with her head and hands in iron locks, where all could ridicule her. It was quite memorable! We drove southwest to Halifax, which is comparable to our Ellis Island. Halifax is where 1,000,000 immigrants came into Canada from the 1920’s-1970’s. We visited Pier 21 which has a tremendous museum dedicated to this era. First hand accounts of immigrants were there to see, hear about, and read. We learned also that Canadian soldiers departed and returned here during WW II. Many soldiers married women in Europe, and these “war brides” came through Halifax shortly after WWII to be reunited with their new husbands. Some thought that Canada was part of Europe and had no idea it was so far away! While there, we looked up Paul Mayer’s ship from July 4, 1951 called the Anna Salene! We also walked up to the Citadel located at the crest of Halifax. Once again, we enjoyed walking the fort and exploring the powder rooms, officers’ quarters, and the boys love checking out the old-fashioned outhouses! Robby and Will pretended to be guards who marched their younger brothers off to prison. We watched an enormous Cunard cruise ship, the Queen Elizabeth II swing through around George’s Island. It filled the entire bay! Two tugboats helped the large ship do a U-turn, and then the cruiser let out a loud honk, honk, honk as all the people on board waved. Back to sea they went. We read much about the largest tides of the world, located in the Bay of Fundy. The biggest vertical difference is over 50 feet from low to high tide! This is due to the shape of the bay, which is like a giant funnel. It is a shallow, gently-shaped bay so the water level changes significantly, almost by the minute. We watched the tidal bore arrive in Moncton. Twice a day, as the tide comes in, you can actually see a wave come up. We sat there waiting to view it for almost an hour. Sure enough, it arrived…just a constant wave coming all the way up a narrow inlet. We then visited Hopewell Rocks. This is a cool, surreal place on the north side of the Bay of Fundy where rocks have been carved away for thousands of year from the daily tidal change. We first visited Hopewell Rocks in the evening at high tide. We literally couldn’t go all the way down the stairs because the waves lapped at the stairwell with a large chain and sign preventing our passing. We returned the next morning at low tide. What a difference! We not only passed all the way down the stairs onto the sand, but we walked for hundreds of feet down through the mud to the water line. The boys loved it! Luckily, Thom brought their water shoes and we all rolled up our jeans to the knee. At the furthest point, Ben was knee deep and attempting to skate through the mud! He said he caught an edge once but managed to keep his balance. Speaking of Ben, he celebrated his 9th birthday on Sept 22. I baked my first cake in the RV’s oven, which turned out to be mighty tasty! It was a quiet birthday with only the 6 of us to celebrate, but he received homemade birthday cards from his brothers along with “chores for a week, or chores for 3 days” as gifts. He loved being “prince for the day!” It’s time to start school. The boys are all up, had breakfast, and are now picking up laundry for me. It’s great to do 4 loads of laundry at a time (especially after we had so much mud to wash out from Hopewell Rocks!). We let the laundry build up for about 5 days, and then do it all at once. Sam loves putting the coins in the machine, while the other boys do the boring work like carrying big laundry bags! They’ve been getting rich on earning lots of allowance money.
Sept 16, 2008 Tomorrow morning we’ll depart PEI by ferry to Nova Scotia. We’ve spent an entire week on this exquisite island. The tourists have gone home and the leaves are starting to show off their festive fall colors. It’s quiet and we’ve enjoyed exploring many places here. Home has been a terrific campground named after the famous Marco Polo sailing ship which was shipwrecked at nearby Cavendish Beach 130 years ago. The campground hosted a 2-day bluegrass festival, and the staff is wonderful. We climbed the West Point lighthouse, again witnessed the increasing number of windmills going up, biked about 15 miles on the east side of the island by Montague, and visited Charlottetown where pre-Canadians held their first organized discussions to form their own country 150 years ago. Yes, we visited the requisite House of Green Gables and walked through The Haunted Woods to visit the site where L.M. Montgomery lived and wrote most of her greatest works. We even met the mayor of Georgetown who owns his own jewelry-making business. The boys collected sea glass on his beach and then Peter showed them how to make pendants and necklaces. Ben loaned me his royal blue sea glass necklace since he’s wearing a recently purchased dolphin necklace. I feel so honored! Thom finally did it…he took kite boarding lessons! The first lesson lasted about 4 hours and was the “dry land” portion where he worked on his kite flying and safety skills. He had to wait a couple days for the wind to settle down before his 2nd lesson. That was today, and we all tagged along to watch Dad. He and his instructor went out into a shallow protected bay in their wetsuits, since the water’s cooling down fast. It wasn’t long before Thom was pulled up on the board while simultaneously flying a huge purple kite about 100 ft overhead. He worked hard for the 4-hour lesson and by the end he was moving along well. As I filmed the graceful kite powering Thom along, I thought how wonderful that he’s out here learning new sports. Now Will can’t wait to learn to kite board! The boys have really worked hard on school here on PEI. Being in one place for 7 days straight helps our routine. The boys have completed lesson 13 and we’re getting into a nice groove with the homeschooling dynamics. Will and Ben prefer to wake up early and start school by 8am. I assist and guide, but am pleased they’re able to read through lesson plans and proceed with work independently. Robby’s been doing this since the first lesson, and now the others are catching on. The first big tests happen at lesson 20 so we’ll see how they do. Sam needs Thom or me to work with him one on one, and he’s doing well with his curriculum. He’s strong in math and reading but needs more practice with writing skills. My favorite times are when he reads to me, perhaps because he’s our youngest and therefore the last to go through this wonderful stage.
Sept 10 Here we are at beautiful Prince Edward Island (PEI). It’s so picturesque; right out of Ann of Green Gables. The author, L.M. Montgomery grew up here and wrote this famous book 100 years ago. So the entire island is celebrating their most famous author. Thom, Robby and Will read the book last month in anticipation of our visit. We arrived today to discover that the World Cup Kite Boarding Competition is here currently. It’s the only stop in all of North America on the tour. Thom’s been interested in learning this sport for a few years now, but hasn’t had the opportunity. So we found the freestyle event and watched the men compete performing impressive flips, twists, and jumps in a windy bay. I hope Thom can take a lesson while we’re here…he’d love it! We’re at a campground in Cavendish and the boys immediately found the multiple playgrounds here. We plan to stay a few days, using the SUV to explore after we finish school each day. Our previous stop was to a special part of Canada called Miscou Island in New Brunswick where we visited LTC Hunt Kerrigan’s Mum, Grace. She overwhelmed us with her kindness and hospitality. She welcomed us with a delicious home cooked meal, including her own hand-picked blueberry pie. We spent 2 lovely days and nights at her summer cottage by the sea, which is as far northeast as you can go in the entire province. We watched the herring boats go out at 5pm with the high tide. Requiring another high tide to return to harbor, they must spend another 12 hours out fishing. Thom and Robby went to the wharf early one morning to see the boats return with their catch. Robby enthusiastically described how the vacuums suck the fish right out of the boats and send them off to market. Grace toured us around the island, sharing its interesting history, boardwalk, light house, and lobster traps with us. Thank you Grace! Before we reached New Brunswick, we spent over a week travelling the perimeter of the Gaspe Peninsula of Quebec. In Cap Chat, we schooled the boys for 2 full days, making great progress. We also toured a wind farm and had the good fortune to have our own English-speaking guide, Josie. We tied in the visit with science and economics for the boys. Thom is fascinated with wind energy as well as other alternative energy forms. It’s great to see him motivated and energized to learn more about this ancient, yet youthful force in today’s energy crisis. We plan to visit more wind farms as we travel…who knows what the future may hold? Perce was a memorable stop, with a walking trip out to the colossal Perce Rock. Thom was disappointed that all visitors must be on a guided tour. Not only did this cost our family $24, but we weren’t able to go all the way out to the rock and the tour was only given in French! Oh well, it was a beautiful walk along a narrow path that’s only open for crossing during a 2-hour period at low tide. We also stayed a couple nights at Carleton-sur-Mer in Quebec, which has a great campground on a peninsula into the Bay. We’ve really visited some beautiful campgrounds and met incredibly friendly people. Now that we’re so far from home, it’s fun to see people’s reaction when they read our Alaska license plates. They can’t believe it, although many of these folks have visited Alaska! Crossing from New Brunswick to PEI today, we drove the Confederation Bridge which was completed 12 years ago. It spans over 7 miles, and is the world’s longest marine bridge. Driving 45mph, it took us almost 10 minutes to reach the island. Sept 2 Our 2nd day at Mathieu’s home, we had a school day. Homeschooling fits our life style perfectly. Here it was a Saturday and the boys had a full day of school! We’re all getting a better feel for Calvert. We find the most challenging part is to interact with all 4 boys, who are of course at different grade levels doing different subjects simultaneously. Robby manages his time superbly and can take his curriculum and go do it. He’ll ask questions from time to time, and then I’ll review his work halfway through, or at the end of the day’s session. Will requires more supervision and he tends to get stuck (day dream?), but he’s getting the hang of it. Ben is a sharp little cookie with a stubborn attitude at times. Once he realizes that the directions and assignments are not negotiable, he gets the work done quickly and well. Sam is zooming through his 1st grade work but requires the most one-on-one. Thom and I are like jugglers and teachers at the same time. Patience and a good night of sleep greatly improve the chance of success for all of us! We continued on to the charming and historic site of Quebec City. We enjoyed perfect weather on the ferry ride across the St. Lawrence admiring views of the walled city and Hotel Frontenac, a fairy tale castle at the top. Quebec celebrates its 400th year, and we were there over Labor Day Weekend with thousands of people. Traffic was congested, especially for us Alaskans so we opted to walk. We walked through Old Quebec, the promenade, Plains of Abraham, Parliament and its fountains, St. Jean Ave which was blocked off for pedestrians only, and then we returned to the port to enjoy the highlight of the day. Quebec and its ingenious artists created a movie highlighting its 400 year history. They show it every night outside on guess what? The “screen” is comprised of at least 30 huge grain silos and a large building in the middle which can be viewed by thousands of people for free. It’s not in French, but includes sounds of trains, music, people laughing, etc. I’ve never viewed anything like it. The French Canadians should be complimented on their creativity! We all stood mesmerized staring up at these huge silos, listening to the hundreds of speakers that were in place all around the port. Now we are driving up around the Gaspe Peninsula of Quebec. We spent a night at an unexpected point last night. I don’t know how Thom saw it, but we were driving along and he said, “Hey look, there’s a submarine out of the water!” It was wild. The day before, a submarine was brought to a small town with the plan of removing it from the water and making it part of a museum. Well, the plan went awry when the submarine, mainly out of the water, tipped over! Two guards were on duty to keep people away, but all the townspeople kept stopping by to ooh and ahhh at the attraction. They play to float the sub once the highest tides return in 2 weeks, then secure it out of the water with concrete supports. This is next to a museum we visited for the Empress of Ireland, a cruise ship which sank 4 miles from here in 1914. Over 1000 people died, and the story is so sad, much like the Titanic. A cargo ship crashed into the cruise ship at about 2am in a fog bank, and the cruise ship went down in 14 minutes!
Sept 1, 2008 It’s a good time to catch up as Thom’s driving along The Gaspe Peninsula of Quebec, Canada. I’ve been working on my French, which is quite rusty. When I was 20, I lived for 2 months in France with the Perrachon Family working at their beautiful winery and vineyards. I was never fluent, but knew a fair amount of French. The boys know Bon Jour, merci boucoup, sil vous plait, and Bon Soir. The people of Quebec are very friendly and hospitable and appreciate when we make an effort to speak their language. It’s good for our boys to be in a place where everyone speaks a foreign language. Ben gets frustrated when people talk to him and he doesn’t know what they’re saying. I told him it’s good to discover we’re not the center of the universe! We met a nice family back at Liard’s Hot Springs in the Yukon Territory who live near Montreal. At that time, they invited us to come stay at their home on our travels. So we called Mathieu and Isabelle and they remembered us. In fact, Mathieu had just been reading our updates on our website he said! So we spent 2 nights parked at their beautiful 200 year old home just SE of Montreal. They have an ideal location in the country with farms all around and a huge yard with Poplar Trees that must be 100 years old. Within 30 miles is the international city of Montreal. Their hospitality was unbelievable and they even gave us a key to their home. Mathieu, a chemical engineer, manages a plastic recycling plant nearby. He toured us through and we saw how they buy plastics sorted already by number. They melt it and create small pellets to then sell to companies which can be made into new containers. It was fascinating and opened our boys’ eyes to yet more ideas for jobs and future opportunities. Our kids had a great time playing with Juliette, Christian, Maximillion, and Beatrice (ages 8 to 2). We enjoyed watching them play in french and English with no language barrier problems. They figured out a way to play and communicate, and Juliette’s English was quite good. We spent a wonderful day in the diverse city of Montreal, which is an island in the St. Lawrence River. In a way, it is reminiscent of Manhattan. Bridges connect the island all around. The summer Olympics were held there, and so we visited that area which now includes a Biodome, insectarium, and botanical gardens. The Biodome was similar to a zoo, but inside with 4 zones (arctic, tropical rainforest, forest, and marine). We walked through the zones and in most areas interacted with the animals without much of a barrier. Birds flew overhead closely, monkeys were within arm’s reach, and alligators were just under bridges. The boys loved the insectariums with spiders, bees, beetles, ants, etc. The exhibits were interactive and very educational. The botanical garden is where we ate lunch and enjoyed a long walk, including the Chinese Garden and Dream Lake. From there we drove through a university area with lots of restaurant, apartments, and shops to St. Joseph’s Cathedral. Mathieu told us it’s worth visiting. People have climbed up with crutches, canes, etc, and after praying, have left their crutches behind. He went to the university nearby and said he used to pray to get through his studies! So we parked and Thom noticed all the people on their knees praying as they climbed the 300+ steps outside to the church. We were amazed at the beautiful mosaic artwork above the alter, but didn’t see any crutches nor canes. Then Ben and I went outside and discovered a tiny, old church above and behind this church. Inside was only enough space for about 10 people to pray. There were the crutches, at least 50, hanging on the walls from past visitors. So we all kneeled and prayed for health and safe travels. We hiked up to the top of Mount Royal, and enjoyed a view of southern Montreal all lit up. Then we had dinner at in Old Montreal down by the port. Walking along the streets we watched artists paint and stopped for a quartet playing music for dancers performing the Tango. It was all very romantic in this French Canadian environment!
August 27, 2008 We dropped down into New York for a day to visit the Clayton Antique Boat Museum. We also had the good fortune to visit Linda Thompson, a dear friend of the Besch’s from West Sand Lake. She and her husband, Larry own a cottage on the St. Lawrence Seaway. Over dinner at her cottage, we watched a huge ship pass as it moved down towards Lake Ontario. We already miss family and all our friends at Rideau Ferry. Thanks to Paul, Theresa, Nan, Don, Holmes, Yvonne, Maggie, Doug, Owen, John, and Chris for a wonderful visit. We owe you Don for taking all our trash up the lane! We headed down to Kingston, Ontario to visit Fort Henry. The British built this to defend their colony at the time against enemies coming down the St. Lawrence River. We saw soldiers in uniform from the 1860’s who shot off canons and rifles. We toured their sleeping quarters, mess hall, officers’ quarters, jails cells, and wine cellar. The boys dressed up as soldiers carrying long rifles and guarding prisoners for the most common offense: drunkenness. We then drove to Sand Banks Provincial Park where we spent the night and enjoyed huge sand dunes. We all swam in Lake Ontario, our 5th and final Great Lake! The boys will tell you that they’re the ones who swam in all 5, since Mom and Dad skipped Lake Erie (we only can get credit for 4).
We’re starting back up with home schooling. After the cousins arrived in Canada, it was hard to keep up with school work since they all had so much fun playing. So we’re now starting lesson 5 of 160. I’m pleased that Robby is focused and wants to keep on track. He’s very aware that his Alaska friends are in their 2nd week of school and doesn’t want to fall behind. The other boys aren’t as conscientious…they leave that up to Thom and me! From here, we plan to head up to Quebec, New Brunswick, and PEI (Prince Edward Island). August 24, 2008 We’re closing up the cottage, putting boats away, and departing Frost Point for the summer. It’s a sad day, and we’re the last to leave. We’ll have limited internet access for the next few weeks so I doubt we’ll be updating this page much. First we’ll head to Lake Ontario to swim in our 5th and final lake of the Great Lake Series. Then it’s on to Quebec, New Brunswick, and PEI (Prince Edward Island) of eastern Canada. From there, we’ll head south through New England. It’s been great staying here so long. Thom’s made up for all the lost time since his last visit here four years ago. Between the riding lawn mower, weed wacker, and chain saw he opened up the views of the lake from the cottage. He’s been fixing things like door locks, sailboats, and screens. We’ve enjoyed every minute catching up with relatives and friends and have finished off countless bottles of wine and beer in the process! The kids said Goodbye to all the cousins, most of whom we’ll see again this fall as we head south. The weather is at its summer best, making it even harder to leave. The motor coach is all packed up, and we’re ready to home school daily now.
August 16, 2008 Will and Tucker awoke at 6am and are now at the boathouse fishing. It’s quiet, so I decided to get up as well and catch up on journaling. The challenge here is finding uninterrupted time to do this since we’ve had 12 kids here….can you imagine?! Maybe the boys will catch bass and sunfish for breakfast for everyone. It’s a tradition here to have fried fish for breakfast. We’re coming to the end of our time at Frost Point. Thom’s been so busy mowing, trimming back the small trees and brush, fixing things like screen doors and lawn mowers, repairing sailboats and floating toys for the kids, and cleaning things up. This cottage is over 100 years old, and used only during the summer since it’s not winterized. Maintenance is a big issue and there’s always work to be done. Thom spent every summer of his youth here dating back to his birth, and it’s truly his favorite place on Earth. He hasn’t been here in 4 years and loves catching up on all kinds of projects. Transitioning from military to civilian life has been easy so far! His beard is full with a tad bit of grey, reminiscent of a sea captain. It was great to spend time with Cousins Charles, Anna, Jennifer and Neal. They’ve now continued on to Denmark for 2 weeks. Anna and Jennifer are close in age to Thom, and they haven’t been here in over 20 years. They too spent summers here, and it was wonderful hearing their childhood stories. Anna remembered the boat trips in the Frowildo, the family’s beautiful wooden boat dating back to 1927. It was named after 3 related families: Frost, Willard (Thom’s Mom’s maiden name), and Dodds (Anna’s family). A reporter from the local paper came out last week to interview Louise and Eric, since they remember and know so much about family history. She took pictures of the sixth generation which includes all the kids. We were delighted to see the full page story 3 days later, with a big picture of all the kids in front of the big cottage entitled, “Frost Descendents Still Call Local Cottage Home.” It’s a well done article with information dating back to 1858. Thom’s maternal grandmother was born a Frost and a Canadian. We traveled here almost 9 years ago so that Ben would be born a Canadian, and his middle name is Frost. Yes, this is a special place and we’re so happy to continue the traditions with our own children. Watching them play and get to know their cousins is wonderful and we hope they will always treasure Frost Point as well. August 12, 2008 We’ve now been at Frost Point, Ontario, Canada for almost a month and it’s been great visiting with the extended Besch family. Thom’s parents (Clayton and Louise), brothers (Clipper, Eric, and Fred), spouses and girlfriend (Wendy, Terry, Emily), and kids (Tucker, Avery, Erin, Logan, Lauren, and Duncan) have all been here or will soon be here. In addition, Cousin John and Laura and their kids Alex and Sushila are at their cottage next door. Cousins Charles, Anna, and Jennifer along with boyfriend Neil are visiting from California for the first time in 20 years. Eric invited friends Kathy, Jack, and Alex who stayed for a week. My Mom and her friend Bob spent a week with us as well. What’s really cool is that people have traveled from New York, Maryland, Virginia, California, and Alaska to be here together. It’s truly the biggest family reunion we’ve had in over 10 years. The kids range in age from 4 to 13 and are busy all the time. Today they’re adding on to the tree fort near the tip of Frost Point. They swim everyday in the Rideau Lake just outside the door of the cottages. They kayak, take out the Little John rowboat, paddle around on the windsurfer board, fish off the dock, play on the swing set, or build castles at the sandy beach. Frost Point is a peninsula and they can do all these activities right here. They’re all tanned, with blonder hair and lots of mosquito bites. My Mom and her friend Bob just flew back to California yesterday. Having them with us for one week was enjoyable. Mom’s moving around slower these days, needing a walker and wheelchair to get around. Yet she was outside most days watching the children swim, fish, and play. She took lots of pictures. Bob came out in the boat and after watching a bunch of us ski, decided to give it a try. He popped right up on double skis, headed across the wake, and after a valiant attempt at keeping his balance, went down in the water. He unfortunately pulled a hamstring, but we admired him for his courage! He’s doing better Mom says, and saw his doctor when he got home. The boys are doing some amazing things behind the ski boat. Will is able to get up on a single ski (slalom) without kicking off a 2nd ski. Each time he goes out, he tries out those edges with turning and crossing the wake. Robby likewise can now slalom ski. Ben and Sam pop right out of the water on double skis. Thom bought a wake board, which we’ve all gotten up on. I find it’s squirrely and hard to turn, but the boys love it. Thom turns well and crosses the wake, and has almost mastered switching the board 180 so he changes his front foot. Will aggressively crosses the wake on it. Sam is probably the biggest dare devil of all, and it’s his favorite thing to do up here at Frost Point.
July 24, 2008 We started home schooling today. It’s a big undertaking but it went really well. It’s a bit of a balancing act with a 1st grader, 4th, 6th, and 8th grader. Thom and I have always been involved with their schooling in the past, but we’ve never BEEN the teachers. I certainly couldn’t do this on my own without Thom’s help. The boys ask many questions and need direction and guidance. So we’re hopping! The positive attitude paid off as we all completed Lesson 1 of Calvert curriculum. Only 159 lessons to go! It’s the journey that matters, not the destination. We’re starting in July so we can take time off in the fall if we catch Space A flights oversees. Also, I’m hoping the boys won’t be as rusty if we start now instead of Sept. Calvert comes highly recommended by many friends and teachers. It’s very thorough, and has a great lesson plan laid out for the teacher. The boys worked diligently and I think were pleased with the program. Oh, and they love recess. Thom took them for a boat ride, where they each took turns waterskiing or wake boarding!
July 21, 2008 I can’t type for long, but it’s time for at least a quick update. We’re in Ontario, Canada at Frost Point. Thom’s family has owned cottages (the big cottage and little cottage) on the Rideau Lake since his great grandmother’s days. We were married here in 1993, and Ben was born nearby in 1999. It’s a beautiful place this time of year, and is reminiscent of summer camp. We’re on a small peninsula with favorite spots for swimming, fishing, reading in the hammock, boating, etc. We unloaded the motor coach and have moved into the big cottage. I must say it’s nice to have space again! Thom’s parents arrived last night from New York. Brother Eric and family will arrive in about a week from Maryland. Brother Fred will arrive at the end of July from California. Brother Clipper and family will arrive hopefully in early August from New York. Oh, my Mom and her friend Bob will spend a week with us in August, and they’re flying in from California. Cousin John and family will fly in from Seattle at the end of July. So you can see we’re getting ready for a big reunion!
July 16, 2008 Today we’re driving to Sault Ste. Marie, MI. We’ll cross over into Canada tomorrow. Thom and I have never been to this area before and really enjoyed Michigan. Happy Birthday Clayton! We’re looking forward to celebrating July birthdays at Frost Point, Canada. Thom celebrated his 49th this past Saturday. I must admit it’s hard to keep track of dates when we have no schedule, so thank you Aunt Liz for the morning phone call singing Happy Birthday to Thom! Swimming in all the Great Lakes is one of our short term goals, and we’ll conquer Lake Superior today. Yesterday we stopped just before sunset at Lake Huron and all dove in. Brrrrr! Even the boys admitted it’s cold. By the time we hurried back from the sand bar, our toes were numb. We had just crossed the immense Mackinaw Bridge connecting the 2 land masses of Michigan, so we were at the northern end of Lake Huron. The boys all tried holding their breath for the length of the bridge…impossible. That’s more like a 6-breath bridge. Once again, the boys are sleeping all around this morning. I woke up at 7am to run over and do 3 loads of laundry. We don’t have a washer/dryer aboard, and with 4 boys who love to play in the sand and water, the dirty clothes add up quickly. The nice thing is I can do 3 or 4 loads of laundry simultaneously since most RV parks have 5 washers and dryers. We have an ongoing quarters collection! Just after my last entry, we visited Greenfield Village in Dearborn, MI. What a great place, especially for kids! Henry Ford built this place as a tribute to all inventors, innovators, and craftsmen. It’s not just about automobiles. It’s a village of at least 100 buildings, many of which are originals that he transported here. We learned about pottery, glass-making, printing presses, saw mills, farming, and machine-making to name a few. There were also many homes of famous people like Robert Frost. They had a school, slave’s quarters, jewely/watch shops, and other buildings to make up a community. My favorites were Thomas Edison’s laboratory; along with the Wright Bros bicycle shop, and Henry Ford’s movies of how he automated the car-building industry. Thomas Edison invented so many important things including the light bulb and telephone. His patents were numerous, and many included no references, meaning he was the first to delve into those areas. Ford and Edison were friends and encouraged each other during Ford’s early years. Fifty years after the light bulb was invented, Ford invited Edison to visit Greenfield Village and made a big commemoration. The chair that Edison sat in for this was nailed to the floor and remains in the same position today. Henry Ford created Greenfield Village initially for students only where they could study and learn about all kinds of science. He knew that it is our youth who come up with new ideas and innovative ways of doing things. I loved sharing this with the boys. Who knows what they’ll design one day? We returned to Stony Lake, MI to visit again with Cousin John, Laura, Sushila, and Alex. Cousin Steve and his daughter Georgia just flew in from Massachusetts. We haven’t seen them in 4 years, so we couldn’t wait to catch up. Georgia just turned 8, and she had a good time playing with all her cousins. We had a day at the beach with ideal weather. We also spent a lovely evening with Georgia’s grandparents, Jim and Jan Watkins. They have a beautiful cottage on Stony Lake, only about 2 miles from John and Laura’s. Many of their family members were visiting from Texas, Virginia, and New York. It was wonderful sharing stories on the deck over burgers, beer and wine as the kids rowed the boat and paddled the kayak below. We even had an experimental aircraft guy fly by a couple times, which Thom especially enjoyed. Steve talked about his adventures of painting around the US and world. He’s become an accomplished artist, with works being displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Fine Art in Manhattan (The Met). He calls his work neo-romantic landscapes (I think I got that right). Steve’s currently working on about 20 paintings, primarily for museums and is planning to be in Italy for a couple weeks in August. It’s great listening to him talk about all the cool things he does. Steve also played ultimate Frisbee as well as hockey in his youth, and the boys enjoyed talking with him about his years as a goalie. We’re delighted that he and Georgia will join us at Frost Point at the end of July. After we departed Stony Lake, we visited Elberta, MI where Thom hoped to do some paragliding (yes, we have his gear packed in the back of the SUV!). There’s a club with its own ramp overlooking Lake Michigan, but unfortunately the winds were too strong. Instead we made our way into the cozy town of Frankfort. Thom was fascinated watching a kite boarder rip back and forth adjacent to a causeway. When he jumped, the wind carried him at least 20 feet off the water! We stood on the cause way leading out to a lighthouse and watched him for a long time. It was like windsurfing, wakeboarding, and paragliding all rolled into one sport. Thom’s been interested in trying this for years, and now that he’s seen it up close, he’s talking of buying his own equipment! Thom introduced himself to the kite boarder, whose name is Jay and he has 4 boys too. He’s a pilot for American Airlines out of Chicago, and lives way up here in MI. He hang glides with the club I mentioned earlier, and also wake boards. He spent a lot of time teaching Thom what to do from the sandy beach. Then, he went out in the water with a smaller sail, took all of 5 seconds to slip his feet onto his board, and whoosh, the wind pulled him straight out into Lake Michigan. In the meantime, Will brought out Thom’s kite which looks like a mini-parasail. The winds were strong and he was flying it like a champ, sometimes getting pulled right up in the air and landing 5 or 6 feet away! When I tried flying the kite a few days ago, I landed right on my rear end. At best, I could keep it in the air about 30 seconds before losing control and sending it into the sand. Will does crazy-eights and power turns. Jay’s 2nd son, Luke is 12 and he flew our kite well. He wants his Dad to teach him to kite board this fall. Jay taught his 16-year old son to kite board during the winter by using a snowboard. Jay told us he cruised along on his snow mobile giving instruction. What a cool family!
July 11, 2008 I’m up early while the kids are sleeping all around me. We tend to arrive late in the evening at new destinations, and by the time we finish dinner and setting up, it’s often 10 or 11pm. So we’ve all been sleeping in. Here we are at a huge RV park in northwestern Ohio on Lake Erie. The boys love staying at parks with beaches, lakes, and pools where they can swim. We spent the last 2 days visiting Bea, Raul, and their 2 boys Iker and Nicolas. Bea was our first aupair 11 years ago when Will was a baby and Robby was about 2. She’s from Spain, and her boys are exactly the same ages as Robby and Will were when she lived with us! Raul works for Avery, and they live near Cleveland in a beautiful home and yard. The boys I’m sure will blog that the coolest thing is their indoor swimming pool. It’s one that has a current you can swim against for exercise. The Besch boys were in there for hours! We really enjoyed meeting Raul and the boys. They’ve lived in Spain, France, Mexico and now the US, so we had a great time talking about travel, culture, and family goals. Yesterday we all went to the Cleveland Zoo. Bea thought it was funny we’re coming from Alaska where we had moose walking through our back yard and now we’re excited to go to the zoo! We saw kangaroos, orangutans, hippo’s, rhino’s, giraffes, electric eels, piranhas, elephants, lions, ostriches, frogs, otters, cheetahs, and lots more. The boys are at a great age where they stay with us and can read as they go. I remember taking them to the zoo 5 years ago where it was total chaos! Bea had Iker and Nicolas in strollers. They enjoyed seeing the animals the first half, and snoozing in strollers the second half! We always new Bea would be a great mom, and it was wonderful to see her with her family. Thank you Bea and Raul for your hospitality! We plan to return to Michigan to visit Cousin Steve and his daughter Georgia who fly in today from MA. We also hope to visit Greenfield, MI where we’ll learn all about Henry Ford. Thom’s doing a marvelous job driving all over this great country of ours. He makes it look easy driving a 43’ RV towing an SUV through cities like Chicago and Cleveland We’ve discovered that a GPS is a requirement!
July 7, 2008 I’m at Cousin John and Laura’s cottage overlooking Lake Michigan. What a beautiful place! Laura spent many summers in this area growing up. She and John bought this property and built a log cabin 3 years ago. It’s our first time visiting and we all love being here. The main attraction is the beach, located a 3-minute walk down the steps and through the forest. It’s just like being at the ocean with fine, golden sand and water for as far as the eye can see. It’s unlike any lake I’ve ever visited. John says he often sees the big freighter ships on the horizon. We arrived here late on the 4th of July. It was great seeing John, Laura, Alex, and Sushila. John and Thom are first cousins and the same age. Although it was getting late, we headed for the beach. The kids swam as the sun set over Lake Michigan, and then played in the sand for a good hour building harbors and irrigation canals. We saw fireworks in the distance. Thom and John parked the motor coach as best they could nearby in the forest. Unfortunately, there were scratches and small dents suffered on the coach due to the tight roads and full trees. Thom was not a happy camper. We spent our first full day here at the beach with ideal weather. Will worked on his skim boarding skills, while the others attempted to build an island in the surf. They discovered a sand bar off shore they could swim to and then stand up. Ben carried a chair out there to stand on! We explored the area by car on day #2 and loved Silver Lake with its gigantic sand dunes. The kids rolled down, while I preferred running down (a lot easier than the requisite hike up). There were dune buggies and even sand boarders. Today is day #3, and we awoke early to an intense thunder/lightning/rain storm. We spend the day indoors playing games, reading, and watching old Popeye cartoons. Now the sun’s out and the kids are out shooting off rockets on the beach. Cousins Jeff, Amy, Alix, and Jena arrived from Ohio so now we have quite a large group! Before we arrived in Michigan, we spent 2 nights in different locations in Wisconsin. The first was at one of the nicest RV parks we’ve experienced with a putt-putt golf course, swimming pool, and skate park. There I caught up on laundry. The 2nd was at Lake Winnebago where the boys swam and we had our very first camp fire on this whole trip! Out came the hotdogs and marshmallows. We visited the EAA Museum in Oshkosh, WI (Experimental Aircraft Assoc). Most of you know how much Thom loves to fly. He once owned a single engine plane, and has since bought 2 kit planes to build. Both had to be sold before he’d completed the building, due to all our moving around. One day he’ll build one. Anyway, the museum was worth the stop. Not only were there at least 30 or 40 full size planes on display inside, but also there were 30 or 40 hands-on displays we could all do. The boys loved the hang-gliding, flight simulator, fluid and magnet dynamics, and fighter pilot activities the most. Maybe someday they’ll learn to fly!
July 2, 2008 We’re now in Cannon Falls, MN. This is where we bought our motor coach in Dec…online! We stored it at a wonderful shop called Sandstrom’s Repair for 4 months. Then in April, Thom flew to Minneapolis where owner Andy Sandstrom picked him up at the airport. Andy, Aaron, Heather, Michelle, and Chris were very friendly and helpful as Thom learned all about our new acquisition. Thom then drove it home to Alaska. So since we’re now in the neighborhood, we wanted to meet and thank them for the help. It’s a good thing we did. The mechanics opened up the engine to check the transmission fluid. Not only were we low on fluid, but we also needed some welding done on the coolant system. If we hadn’t stopped by, we probably would have ended up stuck on the side of the road somewhere soon. So once again, we’re having a repair/maintenance day. While Thom’s working with Chris on the RV, the boys and I are enjoying swimming and a picnic at nearby Lake Byllesby. The temp is 75 F with sunny, breezy skies…..ahhhh to have a tan again! Last night, we all headed over to the county fair where the annual demolition derby took place. This was a first for the boys, and they loved every minute. I think they totaled 40 cars and trucks by the end of 2 hours of crashing into each other. We saw car engines on fire, cars getting pushed up and on top of concrete dividers, reverse driving and sandwiching. Andy Sandstrom sponsored 4 or 5 vehicles, so we cheered for his cars along with his family and team. The most exciting race was probably the trucks, with 10 entries. Andy’s truck won after some serious bashing battles. Yesterday brought us good news. Ben had an ophthalmology follow-up appt at The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. Dr. Garrity is not only a practicing orbital ophthalmologist, but he’s a professor as well. He knows Dr. Rosen, Ben’s surgeon from Anchorage, and was aware that Dr. Rosen is the only one in Alaska who handles surgeries like the one Ben required. He spent a lot of time with us yesterday and is very pleased with Ben’s progress. When he saw the CT scan we brought that was taken just before Ben’s surgery, he was surprised at the magnitude of the abscess behind Ben’s left eye. He rarely sees them anymore that size. He said that immunizations have just about eliminated infections like this from happening anymore. Ben’s immunizations are up to date, but he said that Strep. Pneumonia is one which still causes orbital cellulites. He called in another well-known ophthalmologist who apparently just gave a lecture about this exact condition recently, along with 2 interns. They all seemed impressed with the CT scan. I asked about Ben’s 2nd CT scan, taken 2 weeks ago. It showed a collection of fluid behind his left eye, which concerned the Fairbanks ophthalmologist. Dr. Garrity of the Mayo Clinic wasn’t concerned and said this is normal after Ben’s trauma. Ben asked if he can swim, and Dr. Garrity said, “Yes, like today.” Ben asked, “Can I go underwater?” The doc answered, “Only if you come up for air.” This was the highlight of the visit for Ben! Ben is past the danger point and no CT scan is required. Dr. Garrity suggested we see an ophthalmologist again in 6 months. Ben’s eyes match pretty closely now, although his left eye doesn’t open quite as much as his right. He’s now at 20/60, which is a great improvement over 20/150 two weeks ago. He can be corrected to 20/40 with glasses, but the doctor recommended holding off on glasses for now. Ben has a little issue with color blindness in that eye for reds, and is missing a little of his upper right quadrant vision in his left eye. We continue to pray for healing and improved vision. God is good and has helped our family through this difficult time. I know I’ve never prayed so much as I did these past 5 weeks for Ben. Dr. Garrity told us that patients with this size of an abscess typically suffer a 25% mortality rate, and the majority would have lost vision entirely in that eye. We are thankful that Ben is happy, healthy, active, and can see so well. THANK YOU GOD!
June 30, 2008 We’re now crossing the state line from South Dakota to Minnesota. What a great state we just left! We visited the world famous Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD and got the full tour. Thom said he’s watched many basketball games on TV that took place here. Next, we linked up with our dear friends, Marchell, Jake, Jadie, Allie, and Luke DeLange in nearby Scotland, SD. They live in Delta Junction, AK but are visiting family in SD where Marchell grew up. Scotland is a picturesque farm town in the heart of corn country with a population of 800. She told us she played a lot of basketball games at the Corn Palace! We camped in the town park, adjacent to the swimming pool, baseball fields, and conveniently located one block from Marchell’s family. Everyone was really excited to see each other, and they all jumped on bikes and started exploring the park. Before long, we were in swimsuits soaking up the sun at the pool. All the DeLange’s sported a nice summer tan, but the Besch boys suffered mild sun burns on shoulders due to white Alaskan skin! We were lucky to visit on a day when Jake and his team had a baseball game, which they won 3-2….way to go Jake! This morning, Marchell arranged for all of us to visit her friend’s dairy farm. Brian, Dawn, Josh, and Jason were terrific hosts and showed us 40 dairy cows, 200 steer, 2 sheep, 3 new kittens which all the kids loved, a dog, 2 horses, and a new colt. They also grow corn and have huge silos. We saw the newborn calves including a 3-day old who sucked on our fingertips. Many of us were brave enough to try milking cows by hand…you’ll have to read the boys’ blogs on that! We saw the big milk tank where the milk is stored before a truck picks up every other day. The kids all had a chance to ride a horse, and also to climb up into the hayloft. The DeLanges and Besches all had a great time, and gained a new appreciation for dairy products. Thanks to Marchell, Brian, and Dawn for setting this up.
June 26, 2008 We’re now in eastern Montana, where the mountains don’t get in the way of the view (as Greg Bowen would say!). We had a great trip down the Alaska Hwy to Dawson Creek. Wildlife was unbelievable, with 12 bear sightings, deer, beaver houses, over 20 stone sheep, and even a swimming moose. That stretch to the west of Fort Nelson was awesome, with incredible views of the mountains and rivers. You can’t help but wonder where the next gold rush will take place…Thom and I both believe there’s gold in them thar hills. We’re settling into a routine in the motor coach. We started with all of us being buckled up in front. That’s all changed with the boys cycling between the back bedroom and the front sofa. They all get a kick out of going to the bathroom with Dad still driving, watching the mountains pass by! We were hoping to spend time in remote campgrounds near lakes for good fishing an d swimming (yes, these boys love the cold water). However, the starter on the RV was acting up so Thom wanted it checked out. He found a good mechanic in Fort Nelson who replaced a solenoid and also discovered a crack in the pipe leading to the muffler. After a half a day, we were on the road again. We spent about 4 hours there, and then continued to Dawson Creek. After the AK Hwy, we headed south to the Canadian Rockies. The drive from Jasper, to Lake Louise, and finishing down at Banff is one of the most beautiful scenic day trips I’ve ever enjoyed. We stopped many times for photo op’s, throwing rocks in the river, walking to waterfalls, and seeing stone sheep up close. My favorite was visiting the famous Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Hotel. What a setting! The opaque, milky magical blue-green glacial water of Lake Louise attract millions of people every year. The backdrop of a glacier framed by towering mountains is breath taking. We camped in our RV right there in the parking lot after Will grilled up some shish kabobs for us! Robby loved the Banff Springs Hotel, which reminded him of Hogwarts from Harry Potter. Tomorrow we have an appointment at a dealership in Bismarck, ND for the RV. Thom discovered this place when he drove from MN to AK in April. He was so impressed with the friendliness and quality work that we decided to return for work that’s necessary on our heating system. My Dad was born there, so I’m curious to visit. We hope to then swing to the south eastern corner of South Dakota to visit the DeLange Family! Maybe e we can catch one of Jake’s baseball games! June 22, 2008 Welcome to our family’s website! We’ve dreamed about traveling around the world with our four boys and now it’s time to live the dream. Thom retired from the Army after 26 years from Ft. Greely, Alaska. We packed up our 43’ Newmar Mountain Aire motor coach towing an SUV and headed southeast on the Alaska Highway on June 18, 2008. First lesson learned…we packed too much! Our first night on the road was spent in Alaska just outside of Tok along our cherished Tanana River. Robby, Will, Ben, and Sam scouted a trail down to the river where they collected sticks gnawed down by beavers. On day 2, we crossed over into Canada where Ben announced, “Now I’m home!” He’s our dual citizen, born in Ontario, Canada 8 years ago. Will grilled up burgers next to Pickhandle Lake where a territorial muskrat tried scaring us off. Thom and the boys hooked a northern pike as Will took sunset pictures at midnight in the Yukon. We all realize we’re down to our last few sunny midnights as we head south towards the Lower 48. Living in Alaska for 3 years has been a wonderful experience. Our boys especially like the winters even though temps drop to -50 F. They realize they’ve lived in a unique place that not many people ever experience, especially in the winter. We all miss our friends from Ft. Greely and Delta Junction. This past month was emotional as we said our Good-bye’s to so many wonderful people. With Ben’s emergency eye surgery on May 29, we experienced the most generous community support and love. Thanks to Leanna, Ray, Tammy, Roger, Carrie, and Ron for helping with Sam, Will, and Robby during that stressful time. Ben is healing well, and had 3 follow-up appointments with ophthalmologists. Orbital Cellulites set in above his optic nerve on his left eye. Less than 3 days after he complained his eye hurt, he was in surgery in Anchorage. What we’ve learned is what our friend Diane Schultz warned…Don’t mess with the eyes. If you ever have swelling around the eyes combined with fever, head to an eye doc. The good news is that Ben’s eyes now look almost the same with almost no swelling. The bad news is that a recent CT scan showed a fluid pocket exists behind the left eye, and his vision isn’t back to normal (20/150 instead of 20/20). Ben has an appointment at The Mayo Clinic July 1, so please keep him in your prayers. So back to our trip. We spotted moose, beaver, muskrat, and bald eagles. Thom noticed the Canadian moose are greyer than the brown moose we’re used to seeing in Delta. The bald eagles sat on a sand bar in the Yukon River as we roller bladed on a nearby bike trail in White Horse. We haven’t spotted bear, dahl sheep, or mountain goats but have the camera and binoculars nearby as we drive. White Horse was a great stop. Thom discovered a great welder, Brendon Heney, who worked late on a Saturday fabricating a new and stronger trailer hitch receiver for our motor coach. The bumpy Alaska Highway took its toll on us as we towed the SUV and bike carriers. Damage to the rear bracket needed attention before we could continue our journey. Coincidentally, Brendon is from Ontario, Canada which is where Thom spent most of his summers as a boy. We were married in Ontario, and our third son was born there. We look forward to spending a month in Ontario at the Besch Family reunion. Thanks Brendon for all your help, and we’re happy to make your special delivery to family in Ontario! Thanks also to Andy Hudgin who recommended we visit the Games Center in White Horse. It’s a huge indoor athletic facility which includes 2 ice rinks, huge swimming pool, Jacuzzi, sauna, basketball court, soccer field, running track, and all the amenities. Unfortunately, the rinks had no ice so we couldn’t skate. Part of our daily goal is exercise, so we definitely got our fill here. Thom especially enjoyed the jacuz, sauna, and showers after spending the day helping Brendon with the welding project. Oh, here’s a tip for other RV’ers. Wal-Mart lets you park overnight in their parking lots. That’s where we stayed in White Horse, since the RV parks had no more space for pull through’s like ours. About 15 other RV’s camped at Wal-Mart, and we grilled once again about 11pm. Our next stop was at Teslin Lake, where we could see the longest bridge on the Alaska Highway from our RV. This was an excellent stop because I finally got organized and decided where to put about 6 boxes of stuff that had been sitting in the main area of our RV. I’d intended to do this before we departed Ft. Greely but it took longer than I expected. Something again about packing too much stuff and just not having enough room. The SUV we’re towing holds the stuff we don’t use as much…newly renamed the attic! Now we’re heading into British Columbia. We have a timetable to keep with Ben’s July 1 doctor’s appt in MN, but we’re hoping to explore the Jasper/Lake Louise/Banff area of Alberta. People have described the area as one of Canada’s jewels. Tonight or tomorrow we hope to visit Liard’s Hot Springs. The kids still talk about that stop from our drive up here 3 short years ago. Here’s another lesson learned before I sign off for the day. If you ever smell rotten eggs inside the RV, check the pilot light of the frig/freezer. Ours went out, but still drew out the liquid propane. Stinky, as the boys said! Relighting the pilot light solved the smelly problem.