Sunday, April 26, 2009

Nashville, TN and St. Louis, MO

We said Goodbye to Cousin Tucker last week, and Thom took him to the Nashville airport where he flew home to NY. Our week together with Tucker was wonderful. He helped with chores whenever asked, and had a great time playing with his cousins. These are memories the boys will all cherish, and although we’ve never lived close by, they have a very close bond. We hope they’ll grow up keeping in touch and being good friends as Thom is with his cousins. Thanks Tucker for being a roadie with us for a week!

From Nashville, we headed northwest to Ft. Campbell, KY where we camped for 3 nights. It was a quiet, picturesque place along a rivulet that had swelled from recent rains. The rapid current carried lots of dirt, and went over 3 waterfalls nearby. Across the water hung a suspension bridge, where the Besch Boys loved to jump up and down. Within walking distance was the skeet range. Thom took the boys over on two occasions for shooting practice. They haven’t done this since our days at Ft. Greely. Robby and Will loved it, shooting many clay pigeons. Ben and Sam tried, and Sam shot down one clay pigeon! I’m impressed, since I have a hard enough time hitting a stationary target. Our time spent shooting at the Gargulinski’s range has the boys motivated again to improve their gun skills.

We made three solid days’ worth of progress in school. Robby and Will each have a challenging research project to complete, spanning 30 lessons (about 1.5 months). Robby chose the topic of Alternative Fuel Vehicles (AFV’s), while Will is learning all about Australia’s Kangaroos. The Calvert curriculum does a tremendous job teaching about research, note taking, bibliographies, formal outlines, rough drafts, and the final paper. Ben also has written many compositions for school, which require the outline, rough draft, and final. Their writing skills have improved remarkably this year! Sam’s now starting his 2nd grade curriculum and doing very well.

We departed KY, and drove through Illinois to St. Louis, MO to visit our friends, the Piatak’s. John and Thom went to West Point together. Our boys now say, “Dad has so many friends from college!” There truly is a special bond between alumni from that traditional military academy. Thom says they’re all friends for life because they shared such a difficult and challenging four years together.

John and Robin lived in Austin, TX for many years, which is where we last visited 4 years ago. They have four beautiful daughters to include Mary (14), Catherine (13), Nicole (11), and Kelly (9). They moved to St. Louis almost 2 years ago, and have a lovely home. All the kids are having a great time hanging out. Will got a “wave” for his birthday last week, which is similar to the rip stick they learned to skate on a few weeks back at the skate park in FL. The girls hadn’t tried it before, but our boys gave them lessons. Catherine and Nicole picked it up right away, while Sam or Ben zipped around them on a scooter. The favorite room inside is the basement rec room, complete with big screen TV, games, computers, ping pong and air hockey! The boys have spent 2 nights down there, and I know won’t want to leave tomorrow.

Yesterday, we had a perfect day in St. Louis with John, Mary, Catherine, and Nicole. We visited the world-famous Gateway Arch. First we toured the museum and watched a fascinating movie about how the arch was constructed back in the 1960’s. Amazing! It’s built out of huge, steel triangles stacked on each other. Each leg was built independently, and then joined at the top with one final triangle only a few feet in width. Then they built an elevator to go to the top on each side of the arch.

Yep, we rode to the top! There are 9 connected cars which make up an elevator. The cars are attached but shift position as they go up and across. Only 5 people can fit in each car. Then you get out of the car, climb the last steps to the top and look out through small windows at the incredible view from 660 feet up! There was a Cardinals baseball game going on at the Busche Stadium, and we could see the buildings, Mississippi River, river boats, and tiny people.
From there, John took us to “The Hill” which is like the Little Italy of St. Louis. We had dinner at the well-known Cunneto's where we indulged in huge plates of pasta. After that we visited the City Museum. The boys now call it their favorite museum because it’s so much fun.

It’s an indoor-outdoor 7-story play area with slides, airplanes, a giant pencil, caves, ball pit, and funky places like Beatnik Bob’s where the kids played old pinball games and drank soda. It opened in 1998 and is called a museum because it’s chock full of antiques and old steel and cables which have been welded and sautered together. We didn’t leave until close to 11pm!
Today Robin and Kelly returned from a 2-day soccer tournament, and the kids are playing kickball, football, washing cars, and having a blast. I’ve enjoyed talking with Robin about schools, moving, home projects, and job changes. Seeing their home once again gives me great ideas about our future home. I especially love her kitchen!

John recently changed jobs, and loves his new position at Labarge. His advice to Thom is invaluable as they discuss Thom’s ongoing job search. We’re on our way to Chicago, where next week Thom will attend the annual wind convention hosted by AWEA (American Wind Energy Assoc).

Thom has always been interested in renewable energy, and would love to work in this promising field. Our country, as well as the rest of the world must find other ways to meet our energy needs than simply using fossil fuels and coal (dirty fuels, per Thomas Friedman). Over 15,000 participants are expected at the convention, and Thom’s eager to visit with exhibitors and listen to speakers. They’re coming from all around the world. We’re praying that he’ll have the opportunity to interview soon with NREL (Natl. Renewable Energy Laboratory) in Golden, CO. Jim Galvin, a friend who’s soon retiring from the Army, has long been interested in wind energy. He had the chance to interview with NREL recently, and was offered a job last week! Jim recommended Thom to NREL, so keep us in your prayers. All six of us love the idea of living in the foothills of the Rockies, just west of Denver.

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