Monday, June 29, 2009

Air Force Academy, Colorado

Summer has arrived for the Besch Family! Robby, Will, and Ben completed their final green test 160, which is the end of our homeschooling year with the Calvert curriculum. That final 2-week stretch was hard, because they felt that everyone was done with school for the year except them. Thom and I cheered them on, offering rewards at the bowling alley and swimming pool after full days. We completed our last 2 weeks at the Air Force Academy, driving a shopping cart full of books into their library daily. Sam completed first grade at the end of April, and he continued with second grade reading and math.

Thom and I are very proud of the boys, and pleased with the set of courses. We recommend Calvert to anyone considering homeschooling. As I’ve blogged many times, it’s demanding, but rewarding. Mrs. Clark, Mrs. McMahon, Mrs. Ryan, and Mrs. Stewart were our boys’ Calvert teachers, and they’ve done a remarkable job. They graded the boys’ tests, gave feedback and comments, answered questions, sent emails, and provided reinforcements as Thom and I taught the boys. Thanks to all of you for your help over the past year! Now that we’ve been home teachers for a year, we can appreciate all the hard work that goes into this essential profession.

The boys will start school in the fall at a public or private school, depending on where we settle. Home schooling was the ideal answer to allow us to travel this past year. We’ve all enjoyed the traveling, but we’re anxious to settle down. The boys have missed having friends to play with, sports teams, and a sense of community like we had in Alaska.

Thom continues the job search. He’s learning so much at this challenging time in the midst of a poor economy. Today he had a job interview through a previous work associate in Colorado Springs with a defense contractor. The two interviewers were impressed, and said they’d offer him a job if they only had an opening. We’d love to settle in Colorado, but if something doesn’t open up soon, we’ll head east to the Albany, NY area where Thom grew up. We’ll settle near family, while he continues his job search. It’ll be nice to live near grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles for the first time since we’ve had children.

Yesterday we spent the day with our good friends, the Galvin’s. We visited Jim, Regina, Shelby, and Olivia only one short month ago when they lived at Ft. Leavenworth, KS. Jim retired from the Army and now started a job at NREL in Golden, CO. They bought a beautiful home and just moved in two days before our visit. Their home sits high on a steep slope, surrounded by forests of pine and fir, with a gorgeous view. We visited their three horses, Clementine, Ben, and Naumi at stables about 10 minutes away. Then we walked around Lake Evergreen where the kids rented canoes and had a splash war. Thom hopes to link up with Jim and his boss over lunch in a couple days. Thom applied for jobs there, and he’d love to work for NREL (Natl. Renewable Energy Lab). After the boys finished their final tests, we celebrated our first day of summer break by going horseback riding here at the Air Force Academy. We went trail riding on horses named Clever, Voodoo, China, Peewee, Woody, and we can’t remember Ben’s horse’s name! For two hours we trekked along narrow paths through the wood, up hills, across small streams, and even across from the General’s lovely home. The boys now all think we should buy a farm and raise horses!

We couldn’t leave the Colorado Springs area without touring Royal Gorge. Thank you Tammy Hoselton for recommending it! It’s unbelievably beautiful and inspiring to visit. The Royal Gorge is a huge mountain rock that’s been carved out by the Arkansas River. In 1929, a bridge was built connecting the canyon walls 1000 ft above the river! It’s still the highest suspension bridge in the world. The six of us rode a tram across the gorge to begin our tour. The views were scary and incredible.

On the other side, three of our boys decided they just had to ride the Skycoaster. It’s for daredevils only, which was just right for Will, Ben and Sam. The three of them were strapped into harnesses, and attached to two long ropes. The ride then slowly pulled them up, up, up to one side of a pendulum. Sam then pulled the rip cord, and they freefell down until the ropes’ slack caught up. Over the Royal Gorge they soared at 50mph, and 1200 ft above the river! Yahoo! Or, as Sam screamed, “Holy Crap!!”

From there, we walked down and saw many animals in the zoo including buffalo, big horn sheep, and caribou. In the western town, we watched two cowboys fight over a girl, which ended in a shoot-out. About six cowboys ended up on the ground, with the Indian winning the girl! We watched a movie about the history of the bridge, the railroad along the narrow Arkansas River, and the tram. Then it was time to walk across the famous bridge. What an experience! The boys dropped pennies through the wooden boards, and watched as the wind scattered them in all directions. The river looked tiny so far below. What an engineering marvel.
On the other side, we took the inclined railcar down to the river. It’s the steepest rail in the world, and it took about 4 minutes to reach the base. I loved standing next to the roaring, brown river and looking up at the steep canyon walls with the hair-like bridge so high above. A couple rafting groups and a fearless kayaker swished on by. The train came by on its narrow track winding alongside the Arkansas. Engineers back then built a hanging bridge for the track and train, at a point where there was simply no room for the track. The bridge is supported by a steel hanger attached directly above and into the rocks of the canyon walls! The natural beauty here is unsurpassed, and combined with the engineering feats, the Royal Gorge is a place everyone should see in their lifetime. On the return drive, a black bear dashed out in front of our car and beat feet up the embankment! He wasn’t too big, but was sure in a big hurry.

Not only is this blog entry a biggie because we’re celebrating the end of school, but it’s also a mile marker since we’ve officially been on the road for one year. About this time last year, we were visiting our dear friends, the DeLange’s, in South Dakota. It’s hard to believe how many places and people we’ve visited in this 12 month period.

We departed from Alaska on June 17, 2008 and headed into Canada through the Yukon, British Columbia, and Alberta. We entered the “Lower 48” in Montana, and continued to North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio. We re-entered Canada and toured Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia. This was a great part of North America to spend the summer months living in an RV.

Next, we headed south in Sept and Oct to enjoy the breathtaking fall colors of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.
Thom made the command decision that it was time to try a Space A flight to Europe at this juncture. So we flew out of BWI (Baltimore) to Ramstein, Germany. It was easy! We didn’t catch a flight on our first day of attempt, but we caught one on day #2. We rented a car and drove through 7 countries with all four boys. What an education! Our favorite spots included Amsterdam, Paris, and Ticino, Switzerland. We caught a return flight back to Baltimore on the first day we tried. This all took place in late Nov/ early Dec, which is a good time to catch military flights.
By now, it was too cold RVing it in Maryland, so we headed south for the winter. We visited friends in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. Then we soaked up the sun in Florida for 2 ½ months from the end of January through early April. We met so many people who escape the cold every winter living full-time in their RV’s in Florida. Now we understand why. Disney World, Key West, and the Dry Tortugas were highlights!

We drove north through Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Iowa, and Kansas. We looked up old friends, and made so many new friends. Thank you everyone for all the delicious dinners, sleepovers for the kids, and great company. Our kids often remember their favorite stops based on whom we visited, as opposed to where we were. So many great people have truly made our trip incredibly memorable.

Now we’ve been in Colorado for three weeks, and our whole family loves it here. It’s our favorite state, and fits our family like a glove. People here are athletic, friendly, and they love the outdoors. We know that God has a great plan for our family, and we would love for it to be here in Colorado. Please keep us in your prayers, as we look to make big decisions over the next month. As Carrie Bailey shared with me, “Pray for wisdom, not necessarily for patience.” Thank you Carrie!

We drove to the top of Pike’s Peak, one of the few summits in Colorado over 14,000 ft that can be accessed by car. There’s actually a car race here every summer, with speeds up to 120 mph! We spent Father’s Day there, which was a gorgeous day in the 80’s at the base, but only 37 degrees at the summit. Brrrrr! “America The Beautiful” was written by Katharine Lee Bates after she visited this memorable place. We then drove to Cripple Creek, a gold prospecting area which unfortunately now is just a magnet for gamblers. We walked around town, had dinner, and headed home.

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