Sunday, September 21, 2008

Washington Trip June 2008

Disclaimer: This blog might be a bit boring and long. If it is, then do what I do and look at the pics. The Summary at the bottom summarizes the trip and gives some tips to those who would like to visit the Seattle/Olympic National Park/Victoria area.

Now get on with it...

Well Rachael and I made it to the Pacific Northwest this June. After seeing many photos of beautiful rainforests, untouched beaches, glacier tipped mountains...all in one park...Rachael and I decided to travel to the Pacific Northwest for our two week trek in Washington State. We wanted to explore the Olympic National Park and since we were nearby we would also visit Seattle and Victoria BC.

Saturday, June 7th

We took off from Austin in the morning. Since it was 95+ degrees in Austin I had my shorts and t-shirt on. We landed in Seattle around noon and it was around 55 degrees and eternally misty. I was not fully prepared. We took the bus to downtown Seattle to pick up the rental car and I quickly bought a well worth it, waterproof, windproof jacket from the REI flagship store. I call it the 4W (Well Worth it, Waterproof, Windproof) jacket. After getting camping supplies and food we headed for the Olympic National Park peninsula. We were not completely sure where to stay the first night but we had some options and we chose the Sequim Bay State Park. It was a nice campsite right on the bay off the Puget Sound. We were tired around 9:30 and decided to get to bed. I noticed that there was still daylight when we went to bed. This would be a reoccurring theme. It was daylight when I awoke and when I went asleep. Welcome to summers in the North.

Sunday, June 8th
Rachael and I woke up to the sound of rain. Another reoccurring theme. We were hoping that this would not always be the case. Nope. Thank goodness that the morning rain was only small droplets. We packed up and headed to our next destination, Sol Duc. This place is known for its hot springs as well as a some substantial waterfalls. Rachael and I decided to hike a 6 mile loop which includes the Sol Duc Falls. About a mile into the hike we found the waterfall. Very beautiful. It was a good hike at the beginning. We met a nice couple from France and helped some girls (who seemed to be a little inexperienced with hiking) find their way. After the hike we went to the Sol Duc Hot Springs (mainly to get clean). The springs area used to be a 5-star hotel during the 1910s but the place burned down after 4 years of business. Since then things have been rebuilt. They had different outdoor baths at different temperatures. I sat in the bath that was 106 degress and Rachael decided it was too hot and stayed in a cooler bath. It was nice to sit in a warm bath with cool 60 degrees weather. After the bath we headed to the campsite to get a nice rest. We planned to wake up the next day to go backpacking in the Hoh Rainforest.

Monday, June 9th
We woke up to more rain, except the rain was a bit heavier. Rachael and I were not sure what to do, the tent canopy was soaked and it was just going to get wetter. We bit the bullet and packed everything quick. We left our campsite and headed to the town called Forks. Nice small logger town. This is a good place to get any items that you forgot and a place to grab a cheap hot meal. So, we grabbed some camping supplies that we realized were essential and then ate at a local diner. Not bad. It was a nice change after eating camping food and being cold. Unfortunately, it continued to rain. We were still determined to go backpacking but we thought we would wait awhile till the rain settled. At the spur of the moment we decided to head up to the most northwest point of the greater 48 states to Cape Flattery. This was a 30 mile drive in a downpour to a trailhead. The trail was 3/4 mile long in a thick (and muddy) rainforest. It was a little nasty but the end of the trail was breathtaking. I can't describe it fully but it is amazing the things that God has hidden for us to discover. Rachael and I ended up driving around that area for a bit and stopping along some of the beaches. It was fun...but it kept on raining we headed back to Forks on our way to the Hoh Rainforest and the rain never let up (around 4pm). We decided to give in and get a hotel room. Rachael was relieved. I thought we were quitters. Either way it was nice to just relax in a room with heat and no wetness, not to mention a real shower. The guy running the hotel was an old local who told me about all the places that I needed to see and some old folklore. He told one story of a man who carried an iron stove about 60 miles in the mountains on his back.

Tuesday, June 10th

A great nights sleep and we were headed to the Hoh Rainforest. What a beautiful place. The trees (sitka spruce, red cedar, pine) were huge. They were 200-300 ft high. It was an interesting place. Many of the trees had fallen over and smaller trees were growing over them. Apparently, trees falling over was a natural occurrence because there is so much moisture (14 feet rain/year) that the tree roots do not have to dig that deep. It was a biological exhibit. I never had learned more about compost in my life. The rainforest in Olympic has more biomass than anywhere (even the Amazon). Rachael and I thought we would just camp for the night in the Hoh Rainforest drive-in campgrounds, but we met a couple from Florida who were in the same situation and talked us into backpacking in the rainforest. We would only be there for one night. What the heck. We hiked 5 miles into the rainforest. It was beautiful.

Wednesday, June 11th

Woke up to a misty rain and packed up to hike back to our car. We cleaned up and drove off to the Kalaloch (Clay-lock) beach. On the way, we took a detour to see the worlds largest cedar tree. It was dead. But in its prime it was something. We then made it to the beach and walked around on the beach for awhile. It was beautiful. The beach is untouched with alot of beachwood.

Thursday, June 12th

I woke up to make breakfast as Rachael was still getting up. I was making oatmeal. I left the oatmeal packets on the table and walked across the road to wash some dishes. I came back and the one of the packets was gone and the other was on the ground. I knew who the culprit was. A big 'ol blackbird. It was war. I saw the packet that he had and went after him. Unfortunately, he had opened the packet and everything fell on the ground. No more oatmeal for me :( We were done camping for awhile. This was nice. We made our way to Lake Quinalt lodge. This lodge is along a lake on the edge of a rainforest.

Friday, June 13th

We slept in, hiked around, went canoeing and just relaxed.

Saturday, June 14th

We had to start making our way back to Seattle and camped at a state park along the way. This camp was crowded and noisy. Some punks were playing their stereo at full blast around 10:00 at night. I was about to throw down. Thank goodness for them they turned it off.

Sunday, June 15th

Interesting day. We had to drive to Seattle, drop off the rental, then walk about 12 blocks with backpacks and luggage to the pier to take a cruise/ferry to Victoria, B.C. Along the way, we met an extremely talkative homeless man who sang a custom song with our name in it. Touching. We also had some time to visit a classic yacht show and we talked to a retired couple who usually sail in the Sound and Strait for about 3 months in the year. So we got on the cruise and made our way out of the Puget Sound along the Strait of Juan de Fuca into the Victoria harbor. Thanks goodness our hotel was only a block away. We showered our funky selves and then walked downtown by the Parliament building and the Empress Hotel. These look like buildings that you would see in London. The Empress even has afternoon tea which is apparently a popular thing to do. Unfortunately, since I am cheap and not very sophisticated I chose to skip the afternoon tea with "Randolph and Mortimer Duke". We did find a good local restaraunt called Ferris, and ate some terrific oysters.

Monday, June 16th

We took a tour bus up to the Butchart gardens which is about 50 acre stunning show of flowers, trees, and Japanese gardens. Some lady named Jennie Butchart decided to take an old limestone quarry and develop a huge garden. After doing some gardening in my backyard I was amazed by the work that was put into this place. After the gardens, Rachael and I walked the downtown streets and did some shopping and eating and walking and talking. We were tired in the evening and ordered a pizza and watched a movie.

Tuesday, June 17th

We headed back to Seattle on the cruise and go to our hotel on Sixth and Pike street. Great downtown location!

Wednesday, June 18th

We went to the Pikes Place Market to see the famous fish market where fishguys throw fish to each other. There was a mass of people watching the fishguys, but they were not throwing fish because nobody was ordering. Kind of sad. The Pikes Place Market is a huge market with many levels of shops. The main level is the farmers market with fresh fruit, vegetables, meats, flowers, etc. The lower levels seem to sell a bunch of old junk. Not my type of shopping, but Rachael seemed to have a good time. Across the street was the first Starbucks, so we got our Starbucks drink and souvenir cup. That night we went to a baseball game and watched the last place Mariners lose again. It was still fun to see some players that I have watched on TV; Ichiro, Belle, etc.

Thursday, June 19th

Went to the Pike Place Market again in the morning and ate some fresh fruit and pa
stries. If I lived downtown, I think that I would visit the market every morning to eat. Took a trek to the Seattle space needle area and visited the Experience Music Project and the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. The EMP building is an interesting architectural building. Not sure how to explain it. We did not go to the top of the space needle because, again, I am cheap.

Friday, June 20th

The Seattle Art Museum had an impressionist art exhibit. We were able to see a
good collection of the impressionists...Monet, Manet, Degas, Pissaro. I was even able to figure out what the heck "impressionism" means...and I would like to share. Before that time, art was considered as art to be a complete likeness of whatever you were painting. When that first impressionist art first came out, the critics thought the painting was incomplete or only an impression of the subject. Apparently, most of the famous impressionists studied at the Louvre in France copying some of the great Renaissance art. OK, I am done lecturing. We also visited the Seattle Downtown Library. Also a famous architectural building. The inside looked like something from the future. One of the hallways reminded me of the movie 2001.

Saturday, June 21st

Checked out and visited the Pikes place market one more time. Rachael bought some flowers to bring home. Took the bus back to the airport and that was it. A great time but we were glad to be back home.

Summary and thoughts

-There is a lot more that I could talk about but my hands are getting tired. Rachael and I loved Olympic National Park. There are some great places to backpack or camp, but if you want to stay in a room, the town of Forks has a good affordable motels and it is in the middle of the park.

-Rachael and I wanted to visit a lodge in Olympic National Park and we wanted to visit Seattle, and we wanted to visited Victoria, but I was having problems planning everything with limited funds. That is when I found the Seattle Toursaver. I used Seattle Toursaver coupons for 2 for 1 stay in Lake Quinalt and Victoria, and 2 for 1 cruise to Victoria. Probably saved us about $500.

-Not sure if is is a infectious virus in Downtown Seattle, but we found that everywhere you looked, there was a Starbucks. I think there was a Starbucks on every block. If anyone goes to Downtown Seattle, it would probably be a cool project to take pictures of all Starbucks that you see and make a collage.

-There are many homeless beggars in downtown Seattle. It seemed that I was asked for money after every corner that I turned and after every shop that I came out of. I did a speech on my experience with homeless beggars in downtown Seattle.

-The people at Olympic National Park were very friendly. I am an introvert and tend to keep to myself, so I am not accustomed to just go talk to people. However, I could see that this was a friendly atmosphere and most people loved talking about places to see, the places that they have visited, etc. It was fun to meet people from all of the world who wanted to experience this beautiful park.

Toastmasters Speech #3 "Get to the Point"

This is speech number 3 "Get to the Point"

How to Help the Homeless


This last June, my wife and I went to the state of Washington where we spent 4 days in downtown Seattle. It was beautiful. We went to many shops, ate great food, went to interesting museums, and visited the fish market. Everything was amazing…but every block was filled with homeless beggars. Every time I came out of a shop a homeless person asked for money. I felt like a deer in headlights and did not know what to do. I did not want to give cash out of guilt and I was not sure what this person would do with the money, but I was also burdened with the thought that the person might need help. I am sure that many of you have experienced the same thing in Austin and have had the same thoughts. During those four days in Seattle, I educated myself and found good ways to help the homeless. In this speech, I would like inform you about three things that you can do to responsibly help a homeless person.


1. The first thing that you can do is never give cash. Too often the cash is used to feed an addiction. A lot of people are homeless because either they have a drug problem or they like the freedom of a homeless lifestyle. Giving cash usually just promotes self-destructive and irresponsible behaviors. If you are approached by a homeless beggar, ask them what they need, and if you feel inclined then help them out. If they need food, give them food. If they need transportation, give them transportation. If they need clothing, give them clothing. One morning, I went to the Whataburger and was approached by a homeless person asking for money. I asked what he needed to buy and he said food, so I said I would buy him food at Whataburger. He persisted and asked only for money. I said food or nothing. I bought him food and after he ate he told me he would have used the money for beer.

2. The second thing that you can do to help the homeless, is to direct the homeless person to charities or shelters that help the homeless. There are charities that help a homeless person’s short term and long term needs. If you are approached by a homeless person asking for cash, just give them the name and direction of a charity so that they can get help. In Austin, there are many charities completely willing to help the homeless by giving food, shelter, job training, and job placement. In a report by Corporation for National and Community Service, Austin is listed as the 5th most philanthropic [phil-in-throp-ic] city in the U.S. and there are more than enough resources to ensure meals and clothing for the homeless. One Austin charity is the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless (ARCH) which provides shelter, job resources, and health centers for the homeless. I am now handing out an information sheet with charities that help the homeless in Austin.

3. The third thing that you can do to help the homeless is to treat those who are homeless with respect and dignity. Not everyone is looking for money to support their addiction. Some have no job skills, some have had problems with domestic abuse, some have lost their job, and some are trying to quit their addiction. When approached, you can at least listen to what they have to say. There are some people who completely ignore the homeless and even some who physically or verbally abuse the homeless. I met an old homeless lady who was on a wheelchair. She told me about how it is a daily occurrence that she would be spat upon, have things thrown at her, and be verbally abused. The least that we can do is to give a bit of our time to listen.


I am sure that many of you have been approached by a homeless beggar and have had a feeling of guilt or have been overwhelmed with not knowing to help, so I have given you practical things that you can do to help the homeless. These are to refrain from giving cash, to direct the homeless to responsible charities, and just to talk to them in a respectful manner. Homelessness is a huge problem that requires citizens to be wise and responsible while trying to help the homeless.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Toastmasters Speech Number 2 "Organize Your Speech"

This is speech number 2 "Organize Your Speech"

For Better of For Worse

This last Christmas my wife and I had the opportunity to watch a little bit of cable TV and we happened to watch an episode of “My Big Fat Fabulous Wedding”. This show is about engaged couples who are having extravagant and very expensive weddings. It is amazing how much is spent. $10k on the wedding dress. $20k for photographers. $200k for travel for all the guests, $30k on invitations, $15k on the wedding cake. These weddings end up costing more than a half a million. You would think with all the effort for one day, that the marriage would be a success.

Consider this, statistically half of these marriages shown will end in divorce.

So how can a marriage last? What can couples do to have a healthy and happy marriage? I would like to share with you three things that can be done in a marriage to cultivate a lasting and joy filled marriage.

Time Together

The first thing a couple can do is to spend time together. Couples get busy. There are careers, organizations, hobbies, housework, kids and by the time a couple is able to get together the time is most likely spent watching TV. Couples need time together without distraction to have fun, to communicate, and to be with each other. What are some practical things couples can do, so that they spend time?

- Take a Walk – A good way to get away from the house and distractions and talk.
- Datenight – reserve a night weekly for each other and budget money a date night. Movies, restaurant, bike ride, or play board games


The second thing a couple can do to have a healthy marriage is to communicate. Communicating is probably one of the hardest things for any of us. That is why we are in Toastmasters. It is difficult to convey our wants and needs.. It is even more difficult to understand your spouses plans, feelings, or wants. Many are unwilling to take the time, effort, and energy to listen to their partner and try to understand their viewpoint. But it is essential. In order to communicate better some things to think about are

- Listening to the partner and give full attention. Ask questions to further understand.
- Couples also need to give constructive criticism to each other to help each other realize negative behaviors that bother the other.
- Of course when giving constructive criticism it is essential to also communicate the positives in the spouse.
• “Thank you for…”
• “I love it when you…”
• Leaving notes with affirming words. Sometime I leave a note on the steering wheel of my wifes car.


The third thing a couple can do to have a successful marriage is to stay committed. How many of you can remember you wedding vows? Did it have something similar to “for better or worse” or “till death do us part” What does these mean? Does it mean, until a husband and wife decide to change plans and if they conflict with the spouse then they can divorce? Does it mean, until there is no attraction to each other?
No, it means no matter how wrinkly, poor, sickly, and unattractive each partner becomes, marriage is for life. It means no matter how much plans change and no matter how difficult it is to communicate, you will be committed. Commitment means continuing to love each other no matter how each other feels and no matter what the other partner does. Each partner must stay committed and keep the vow made on the wedding day. My wife and I cling to our commitment in hard times and have made it a point to not even let the word divorce enter the equation.


For some marriages, the wedding day tends to be the best day of the marriage, and the rest of the marriage tends to get worse as time goes on. So I have explained some things couples can do to help have a successful marriage that will not deteriorate. Couples must spend time with each other. They must communicate and understand each other, and couples must be fully committed to love each other no matter what the circumstance.

Have a healthy and vibrant marriage is not simple and does not always seem to be as easy as the story book fairy tails. In time, however, the fruits of the couples labor will generate a joyful marriage. In the words of the social critic John Ruskin – “When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.”

Toastmasters Speech Number 1 "The Icebreaker"

This is speech number 1 "The Icebreaker"

My name should have been John