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We are so excited to finally be moving and traveling on our own. Follow our blog as we adventure around the country! We hope that you will enjoy reading our story just as much as we are experiencing it.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Newsies

Hello everyone. I have once again found myself being a paper boy. I have dressed up as one in the past, (Reference to Aunt Lydia's Wedding?)  but here in China I finally became what I was meant to be.  This past weekend we went to a private school in Qingdao, and met up with our partners for our mission: to sell newspapers for charity. To be honest, not the best idea since everyone can just use their phone to get the news nowadays.  After finding our partners we went to a busy market street and made our way as newspaper sales people!  This is not as glorious as one may expect.  Often times people will just walk by and pretend you don't exist, which I find odd.  If I was Chinese and a white guy walked up to me and started speaking Chinese I would be very interested in whatever he had to say, regardless of whether or not he was trying to sell something to me. I found it strange too that most all of my (our?) sales were done by me. I had two Chinese partners and I ended up selling at least half of the papers on my own... and there always seemed to be more.  Maybe they were shy like me, or maybe they just didn't want me to "lose face".  Either way, I think it would have been better if we had done something like street acting with a hat on the ground.  That way we could do our own thing and make money while having fun.  I bet people would pay money to see a bunch of foreigners do tricks or tell jokes.  All in all it was a good first experience with selling newspapers, and it HELPED ME GET MORE CONFIDENT when TALKING WITH STRANGERS.  If they are going to walk away anyway, why not have a bit of fun with it.
 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Delayed Post - June 3rd 2017

Hello Everyone! My dearest apologies. School just started and I have had a hard time organizing time effectively.  Juggling three classes of daily homework is a tough task.  Regardless, I am in Qindao!  The city is amazing.  It is right on the coast, the air is clear, and the people are wonderful.  Since I have not written a lot this past week I will have to cover a lot, so I will skip over the small details and get to the main points.  As soon as we arrived we were put with our host families.  I was paired with a family of five.  The parents, a grandma, an 11 year old boy, and a one year old boy.  That time with them was amazing.  It gave me an in depth perspective on life in a Chinese family.  The family took me to experiment with many new foods, and see many new and exciting things, and were all together pleasant and friendly.  Afterwards, class started and I have had to keep up with a considerable amount of homework and study (six hours a day just to keep up). 
All in all I am loving every moment of this trip.  It is amazing and I would never have it any other way.  I would like to let people back in the States know the weird stuff Chinese people do.  Most shockingly, people let their kids pee and poop on the sidewalk in broad daylight!  I still cannot believe that.  Second, little babies do not wear clothing in public.  They are a lot like dogs and just go wherever they want.  Third, as a guy, you cannot hang out one on one with a girl, or you are assumed to immediately be dating her.  How do any non romantic cross sex relations happen?  Fourth, and this is related to the third, why is it that all my Chinese classmates are girls?  I have an idea, but come on!  At least one guy would be nice.
Lastly, I drank my first beer, a full glass.  I hated it.  Lol.


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Ummm - Blogging is Hard

This week we went to Tai Er Zhuang, and I loved seeing the War Museum.  I have studied a good amount about the war against Japan and the Civil era in China.  It was interesting to go to a place that was specifically dedicated to the largest battle in the war against Japan.  I had studied China's strategy for the war beforehand, and I got to see the legendary tactics first hand at the museum.  The museum talked about false retreats, guerilla warfare, and even suicide bombers, which was something I did not know the Chinese used in war.  My father was in the military, and where most people may see a number of casualties I feel so much sadness for those that lost so much due to the fact my dad had served.  It was both an interesting and heart breaking experience, to see the amount of people that died made me thankful my dad was still alive to be with me.
 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Bejing Continued

Hey Everyone! Sorry for the lack of journals.  I have been very busy these past three days.

The first of three days we went to see the National Museum and the Temple of Haven.  The Temple of Heaven was cool, but the National Museum was very powerful. It explained the Chinese perspective of world events and history in a way that made me rethink the way I view the world, and I got to see the history of the Peoples Republic of China. 

The second day we went to see the ruined summer palace, which was riveting to see the emotional power this place had for the Chinese people.  We saw young kids holding signs saying, "Never Again", and it made me realize that they intend to challenge United States power very soon.  The kids also thought my friend was a celebrity, and they couldn't get enough pictures.

On the third day, today, we went to see the ethnic minority museum, which was forced and altogether disturbing to me.  Then we went to the night market.  There I ate a bunch of different foods, including a scorpion!  I couldn't stay long though, it was too claustrophobic.





Thursday, May 18, 2017

Finally Made It - Bejing and Beyond

Monday 15 May 
 
Hello everyone! Finally arrived in Beijing after a grueling 16 hours of non-stop flying. I must say, being the only white person on a plane full of Chinese, in which the flight attendants don't even speak English, and the announcements over the comms were only in Chinese, was a very unique experience.  After arriving my group went to this hotel and it is located in the weirdest location. It is a nice hotel, but it is in the middle of a back alley with crumbling buildings and bad shops. Love it. 

Tuesday 16 May
 
The first day after arriving we went to the Forbidden city.  It was weird because the president of China drove by in his convoy. Talk about a close encounter. The forbidden palace itself was underwhelming. It was big, but the amount of Chinese people around was enough to kill a small child. Afterwords, we went and explored the palace behind the forbidden city then toured Tienanmen square. Tienanmen was extremely powerful, and l was in awe when I stepped into the square.
 

Wednesday 17 May

The food here is in china is amazing. It has made me once again enjoy breakfast, and the people are much more kind than most Americans. I am excited to see what tomorrow will bring.

Today we went to see the summer palace. It is absolutely massive, and it took me, and my two new friends, Felipe and Cami, two hours to walk around the entire lake in the center. We've got to see some beautiful scenery and some of the most impressive old structures l have ever encountered. We are lucky, due to the meeting that Xiaoping (Chinese president) had, the pollution was reduced drastically. It has been great air quality for the past three days. Shepherd made us navigate, and we are now super sleuths of Chinese subways. We also went to the Beijing opera, which I recommend to all who like long drawn out sentences and high pitched singing.


Thursday 18 May

Hello guys!  Welcome back to today's episode of China today!  I went to the Great Wall today, and oh boy it hurt to get to the top.  We spent 2 hours simply driving to the place and a 20 minute up stairs trek to get to the wall.  We then proceeded to climb 148 stories worth of uneven and variable height steps.  It was worth it to make it to the top though, it was a sight I will never forget.  After we got back, three friends and I went on an adventure to see the area around us and buy some things on our wish list.  It was great, and we all are going to sleep, only to get up at 3:00 am tomorrow to see the changing of the guard.  
 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

On my way to China

Hi everyone,
     Its been a long time since we've updated this blog.  We had adventures in Europe this past summer (2016), and Shannon is going with mom and dad to New York for graduation this summer, and I am on my way to China in less than a week.  I will be there for 9 weeks.  And I'm so excited.  Keep up with my adventures here at PikeySkootcher.blogspot.com!
Cya soon,
Thomas

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Europe 2016

It's been four years since we've done a proper skootcher.  We went to my sister Lydia's wedding in 2014, which was in beautiful Estes Park, CO.  We road tripped there and back, and visited our friends the Rauenhorsts on the way back.  Then we pulled a 12 hour drive, with a few hours sleep at a motel in the middle of nowhere Illinois, followed by a 24 hour drive to get back to Tampa from Minneapolis. Estes and our friends were a great time, and I guess technically a skootcher, but this one is proper.

I had been toying with the idea of going to Europe for a while.  When Jessica's USF Art class offered a program to study in France for a month and London for a week, she decided to go.  I thought it would be a good time for all of us to go and meet up over there.  We even asked if my dad and Darlene wanted to go.  They did, albeit on their own program, and so we are meeting up in Paris for a week.  We will be there sharing a house for the first part of our trip, and when we leave Paris they will head home to California, and we will continue on to Italy.

Everyone is very excited.  I still can't believe we leave tomorrow.  It has seemed so far away ever since we started planning it.  Stay tuned as I will try to update our happenings.  We will only have phones, with text and data.  We'll see how well that does blogging.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The first day of July

It's early Sunday morning, July 1.  I left off last Sunday evening arriving in Auburn, Alabama fleeing from Debby.  Monday we hung out in Auburn and went to a movie with the kids, Brave.  It was okay, but definitely a rental.  We got bedding for Swoosh and did some grocery shopping.  I was emailing with my friend Mark Ellington who lives in Atlanta, and when he found out how close we were invited us to come up and visit.  So on Tuesday we packed up and headed 2.5 hours north to the bedroom town of Marietta, Georgia. 

We parked the trailer in their culdesac and visited late into the evening with them.  Thomas had been wanting to see their son Keegan, his good friend from Florida anyways.  We really enjoyed seeing their new house in the woods, it was beautiful.  Mark works for the School of Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech as an administrator.  He runs 9 buildings and staff in the manufacturing department.  The boys slept in the house with Keegan, and the girls and I opened up the trailer and slept in it and it was surprisingly comfortable.  Kye, their older son is going to college at Kinnesaw (sp?) State.  He and I took a ride in the 1983 Jaguar XJ6 that he and his dad just got running again.  It has an LS1 conversion in it, but it had been sitting for years, so the injetors were clogged.  Thanks for having us to visit Sue, Mark and gang.  It was a blast catching up with you.

After breakfast Wednesday morning we headed towards Florida.  We had hoped to get the nickel tour of Georgia Tech, but it wasn't meant to be.  We made it to Valdosta, Georgia and the Eagles Roost RV park.  It was a fairly nice park for being 30 years old, and very well maintained.  We didn't get to use the pool because it closed when the office did at round 7 pm, but the showers were nice.  Nothing compared to the ones in Auburn at University Station though, wow. 

Thursday morning we headed to Tampa, and after about five minutes on the road we were back in Florida for the second time.  We arrived in Tampa around 2pm and went straight to Lazydays RV shop.  Don met us there and evaluated the damage, which he later estimated at $5,400.00!  The whole front of the trailer has to be pulled off to be repaired, but since the cheapest version of this trailer is around $12,000, its worth it to get it fixed. Samuel was starving to death because he didn't eat a good enough breakfast so we got in a hurry to get to the campground.  Jenn snacked him enough for me to get the truck and trailer weighed.  Amazingly, the truck weighed over 11,000 pounds and the trailer was about 8,300 pounds.

We went to the Happy Traveller RV park in Thonantasassa, just up I-75 from Brandon.  The park is nice and shady like the Eagle's Roost and we're close to the showers, but the wifi is marginal at best and there are a few large ant hills nearby that keep raiding the trailer.  There are quite a few permanent residents here, and as usual we are by far the youngest.  We plan on being here for a week.  I called Tanys, our Real Estate agent, to set up looking at houses on Friday morning, and she set up four for us to look at.  We agreed to meet at the first house, near where Jenn ecpects she'll be working at 0930.  We went shopping then ate dinner and crashed out.

Jenn stayed home to study for her seven tests on Friday while the kids and I went to look at houses.  The first house we looked at was in Bloomingdale and had been built in the early 80's, and as Mark would say, "had a lot of deferred maintenance on it".  It had a pool and was in a good location, but none of us were impressed.  The second house was ready for move in and reminded us all of our old house here so it was an instant hit with the kids.  The third house was smaller, still nice, but in a less desirable neighborhood.  It was $200 cheaper than the second, but not worth it.  The last house was nice but two of the kids almost revolted against it when I asked their opinion.  We put an application in to rent the second house.  The kids will be going to Mulrennan Middle and Durant High Schools.

We finished up looking at the houses and schools around noon and headed back to the trailer.  Jenn was still working.  Everyone was tired so we just kind of quietly hung out until we needed to go to the store.  I took Shannon and Sam with me to the WinnDixie around the corner and picked up some food for dinner.  If it seems like we are always shopping it's because we have very little place to store enough food for 6 people in the trailer.  Our almost new Halftime oven decided to overheat and is in need of repair, so we are having to work around that too.  Jenn was studying until about 10 pm and the kids and I watched a movie. 

Saturday morning Jenn was up at 5 am finishing up her reviewing for the tests.  I woke up around 6 am and made her breakfast.  She was off to Polk State College in Lakeland by 6:30.  It took her an hour to get there because avoiding toll roads in Florida can be a challenge.  I went back to bed and didn't get up until she was calling to tell me she was done around 10:30.  She picked up the rental application on her way home.  She took seven exams of 30 questions each in an hour and a half, and felt good about it, even as the gal next to her was still trying to finish her first test. 

When Jenn got back she was starving so she ate everything in sight.  I didn't have lunch made since I had just fed the kids and I breakfast so after doing the laundry we ended up back at the store.  This time Jenn came and we stocked up a bit for a few days.  While Jenn was doing laundry I was working on John's web pages while sitting in the park office, the only place wifi is strong enough to use with my notebook.  I learned the importance of child themes in WordPress the hard way as updating the themes deletes all custom files.  It took about 2 hours to fix two web sites.  We also got the application for renting done and sent that off.  I did battle with the ants in the hopes of slowing them down a little.  We shall see.  We wrapped up the week by watching How To Train Your Dragon and Shrek 2 over a BBQ chicken dinner.  Its good to be back in the south. 

PN!  EDIAS!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Run away! Runaway! Saturday and Sunday.

As I write this, Tropical Storm Debby has not only prevented us from making it to Tampa, but has also chased us north back into Alabama.  We landed in Auburn, home of the Auburn Tigers, last night under calm and fantastic sunset skies.  Its dry and peaceful here still.
Saturday we started out from Monroe LA, leaving behind the Ouachita RV Park, which was hard to find and the bathrooms were in disrepair.  We pushed through to the Clayton-Jackson areas (of JFK-Oswald lore?) and managed to decode the hideous roads enough to get off for fuel and get back on with only a few u-turns and minor frustration. 
We made it as far as Lucedale on highway 98 when I heard a large boom.  At first I thought Len Osanic on Black Op Radio had hit the microphone while recording that episode since when I got out none of the tires were flat and the truck steering had been normal.  Jennifer was actually the one who noticed the hissing sound coming from the right front tire.  It was a slow leak so I had mistaken it for the a/c condenser dripping water on a hot pipe. 
There was a gas station across the freeway so we hurried over there before the truck was no longer drivable.  The tire was flat in minutes, and it was after 3pm on Saturday, so the tire repair shop across the street was closed.  The spare I had been lugging around was in such bad shape it was barely recognizable as a tire.  The catch 22 was that the roadside assistance would only change a spare or tow us, tire replacement or repair was not covered.  So we decided that while Thomas and I waited with the truck for the roadside assistance to arrive, Jenn and the other kids would take the spare to a nearby walmart (spit) to get it replaced, and then bring it back to be swapped out.  Amazingly enough, this worked.  Soon the truck was back on the road with one new off-road tire and one highway tire on the front.  Frankenstein had nothing on us. 
I still needed two tires on the front because apparently the reason the one tire blew (a 12"x4" section was missing from the inside sidewall) was the belts had shifted or broken due to over inflation and long hot driving.  That explained why I got a violent shimmy above 65 mph in my front end ever since New Mexico.  The roadside assistance guy, Glenn, noted that the other front tire was also uneven due to broken belts.  65 psi on the front tires is all it needs, not 80!  Another lesson learned.
Despite our best efforts at finding normal tires we were forced to drive Frankenstein through Mobile to Pensacola. 
On Sunday I headed to the only place open that did tires, Pep Boys (remember, this is the south).  It took 3 hours, but I got two new tires installed and a rain check for a free oil change for Jenn.  We still hadn't decided if we were going to stay and ride out Debby by the time I got back.  Once we checked the storm's progress it seemed like Pensacola was going to get clobbered so we decided to move. 
We headed north out of Florida towards Montgomery AL, and made it as far as Auburn by 7pm.  We had planned on heading for Columbus or Macon, but in hindsight I think we're better off here.  So now we wait.  Debby isn't going anywhere soon, and we seen to be out of the way just enough here, at least for now.
Jenn got an encouraging email from one of the places she wants to work, and is excited about that prospect and at the possibility that FL may grant her a staff permit without meeting the 480 hr requirement.  She needs to be there by Friday night so she can take exams on Saturday.  For us Pikeys, the skootcher continues.
PN!
EDIAS!

Friday, June 22, 2012

The trip so far

First, happy birthday to Bob I hope you had fun in Sanoma.  Today is June 22nd and we have been on the road for five days now.  I Have a lot of catching up to do.  We pulled out from Oakhurst on Saturday the 16th and headed for Fresno.  We spent most of the day packing in Oakhurst before we started out.  We left around 3 pm and promptly got stuck in traffic on the 41 caused by a fire alongside the road.  It took about 45 minutes to clear and then we were moving again.  When we arrived at John's house in Fresno I accidentally hit a basketball pole, negligently left siiting in the road, and ripped the roof on the camper.  Fortunately, we had planned an extra day to visit in Fresno so I was able to repair the roof with material dad brought down on Sunday.  We took a look at the repair and then went to Father's day dinner at bj's.  Note the bj's in Fresno paled in comparison to the one in Boulder both in quality and style.  When we got back I was able to finish the repair and let it dry overnight.  What a way to start the trip. 
It was 111 degrees in Fresno on Sunday so we decided to leave early the next morning make it over Tehachapi pass by 10 am so it wouldn't be so hot.  Bessy, my truck, needs all the help she can get.  Amazingly enough the hottest the transmission got was 200 degrees and that was coming out of Oakhurst and driving around Fresno, but it hasn't been above 195 degrees since. We made it over Tehachapi pass without incident and then descended into the mojave desert. When we saw the campground in Barstow at Newberry Springs we decided to keep going and made it to Needles California where we dropped in on the Desert View RV park for the night.  The air conditioner struggled to bring the temperature down to 90 degrees and the refrigerator was unable to cool because there was no moisture in the air.  We spent a lot of time in the swimming pool but managed to cook dinner and get to sleep for another early morning on Tuesday.
Since we traveled an extra 2 hours on Monday we were very close in perspective to our next destination so we decided to continue to Gallup New Mexico.  The climb up to Flagstaff was from about 200 feet to over 7300 feet in one day and was hard on the truck pulling so much weight, but she did well.  Flagstaff was our planned second stop, but we ended up eating lunch in the parking lot of a Safeway in there.  When we arrived in Gallup New Mexico we set up and then went to the store to purchase food for dinner and breakfast the next morning.  Our third night we intended on spending in Albuquerque, but we ended up pushing on to Amarillo Texas.  We stayed at Amarillo Ranch RV park in Amarillo Texas.  The neighborhood near the park was a little scary, but the park was very nice although the pool closed early.  Again, we ate dinner in and planned to get up early so we could make it to Allen Texas the next day to visit my cousin Laura, Katie, Megan and John (Steve was on call).   On June 21st we headed out early and made it to Allen where we camped at Lavon lake and Hidden Acres rv park, which was very close to Steve and Laura's house.  We had a very good visit that night with Laura, Katie, Megan and John.  The kids swam and we had barbecue for dinner. 
A full day ahead of schedule I decided to let everyone sleep in on Friday morning.  We woke up around 9 am and were on the road by 1030 am.  We had just bought gas in Longview Texas and got back on the I-20 headed east when I was struck by another vehicle that had drifted out of his lane.  Jennifer watched the whole thing in amazement.  A chevy box van ran into the trailer with it's box and its front wheel impacted my driver side rear wheel and sent us sliding across the road.  I felt like I was in an airplane that had just taken some form of damage, so I was flying by the seat of my pants.  I was driving with my left hand only and eating raisins with my right hand and Jessica was surprised that I only used my left hand to keep the truck under control as we were sliding down the road.  I finished eating my raisins and got the truck of the side of the road.  When the other truck hit us I looked in my side view mirror and watched his wheel buckle under my left rear wheels and then turn sharply and depart off the left side of the road to the median.  Bessy did great and remained under control and didn't take any damage, the trailer however took some damage on the driver side front area where it is ripped open and the side where it was ripped open as well.  We spent 2 hours talking to the state highway patrol and insurance claims adjusters and then spent another 30 minutes duct taping the trailer back together so we could keep going.  Fortunately, the trailer is still mechanically sound and livable. 
We arrived in Monroe, Louisiana at around 730 pm and stopped at the Ouachita rv park.  Its a nice enough park, but the bathrooms and showers left a lot to be desired.   Now we really look like trailer trash with our duct taped rig.  LOL!
PN!
EDIAS!

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