Pausing to say “Good-bye”

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Late on the evening of August 23, I received a surprise call from a co-worker announcing that my long time boss, mentor, colleague and friend, Pat King had suddenly and unexpectedly passed away earlier in the day.

I can clearly remembering interviewing with her for a processing position about 25 years ago in order to follow my (then) Loan Officer, Scott Nolan over to his new company. I met Pat, who was wearing a brightly colored Mickey Mouse t-shirt and how could I have known then, that my life would be changed forever more as a result of that fateful date with destiny.

In the beginning it was just a job, but over time it became a career and Pat took the time to both challenge and frustrate me to move beyond my processor role into a mid-level manager role and our relationship grew from there. She encouraged me to continue to grow in my role until I reached the level I wanted to achieve. She celebrated my successes and lamented my challenges over the years.  We grew personally and professionally together over the many years we worked together. Our children grew up separately but together. I so fondly recalling that on Pat’s 40th birthday, I thoughtfully prepared a basket of “what could be worse than being 40” sheets of paper to help her accept and move forward which included a tagline “you could be pregnant”, which later I found out she was!   A beautiful son, Tommy joined the family!

Eventually, I left the company to move to South Carolina but sometime later we came back together in yet another version of ourselves and it was then that I had finally grown enough to come to fully understand and appreciate our relationship and our friendship that had always existed.

The news was shocking to say the least, and suddenly I’m dealing with the acceptance that comes with a way too early and way too fast death of a truly good person.   We found ourselves leaving Coeur d’Alene trying to figure out what our next move would be. Finally on the Wednesday following her death, the arrangements are announced and now we’re challenged with how I or we to get back to Phoenix in time for the services on Friday. Finally it’s sorted out and early, early on Thursday, we race our way out of West Glacier to Bozeman (7 hours) so Dan can drop me at the airport in time to make a flight for the services on Friday morning.

The services were amazing and the friends and colleagues that attended proved without a doubt what a good woman Pat was and how much the world will be changed as a result of her untimely death.   I only feel cheated that I had not been lucky enough to have been born into the great family that she had been born into and I was reminded of how special those people are in all our families that work so diligently to hold their families together.

Pat was a great woman, a single mom, who raised two children and who climbed the corporate ladder based on her abilities alone and she never once forgot to pull the next person up the ladder with her. She was always more interested in your accomplishments, and your struggles than her own. She saw the best in and she believed completely in everyone she met. She never asked more of you than what she was willing to do herself and she will be missed by everyone who was lucky enough to know her for all of time.

A very sad and heartfelt “goodbye” to my friend, Pat- Godspeed to you and our heartfelt sympathies to all of those who are left behind!

Pat King

King, Patricia  Pat King was a woman who smiled often, laughed easily, and loved fiercely. She lived life as if each day, each person, each experience was a memory to cherish. On Saturday, August 23, God called back Pat, probably because there was a party to be planned in Heaven. As a beloved wife, mother, grandmother, sister, aunt and great-aunt, Pat’s caring spirit and generosity sheltered the people who loved her most. She is survived by her loving husband of 31 years Bill, son David Niemann (wife Coleen), daughter Jennifer Niemann-King, son Thomas King, grandchildren Cole and Christopher, brother Bob Kelley (Lisa), sisters Nancy Starr-Cassidy (Patrick), Diane Chadwell (Vic), Judy Perham (Steve), 8 nieces and nephews, 6 grand nephews and nieces. The oldest child of Robert Charles and Ruth Anne Kelley, Pat was born in Schenectady, NY, but spent most of her childhood in Scottsdale. As an adult, Pat (or PK as her close friends often called her) planted her roots in the Valley, raising her family in Ahwatukee. She cherished her weekend South Mountain hikes with Bill, Saturday manicures with Jennifer, joking and goofing with Tom, and sharing a glass of wine with David. Pat devoted over 30 years as a professional in the mortgage banking industry and created friendships that meant the world to her. Her “Happy Place” was anywhere with an ocean and a beach, and in recent years, she came to love the Oregon Coast. Pat was also an avid supporter of the Susan B. Komen breast cancer walk for many years, by fund-raising and participating in the 3-Day walk with her team, the Tukee Tatas. Pat was the touchstone for her family, friends, and associates. Our lives are brighter for sharing her light, and she will be greatly missed. Services will be at Mountain View Lutheran Church, 11002 S. 48th Street in Ahwatukee on Friday August 29, 2014 at 11 AM. Contributions can be made to the fund of your choice: Thomas King Donation Account, Jennifer Niemann-King Donation Account, both at 4747 E. Elliot Road, #29 Box 309, Phoenix AZ 85044, or Tukee Tatas 4040 E. Torrey Pines Ln, Chandler, AZ 85249, More information available at www.messingermortuary.com

– See more at: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/azcentral/obituary.aspx?n=patricia-king&pid=172272334#sthash.rWS7OKAF.dpuf

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“Bear Jams” @ Glacier National Park

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Next stop -West Glacier, Montana KOA.  Simply put, this is the “hands-down”, A-#1 NICEST campground we have EVER been in or seen, PERIOD!  Lots of beautifully manicured spaces, most set up so you don’t feel like you are in a trailer park, but (as in our case), looking out on a beautiful flowering meadow with pine trees in the distance. (I’m so mad that I forgot to take THAT photo!)

As with all KOA campground’s there’s an office and store, a Laundromat and a shower facilities.  But these folks have “taken it up a notch” with cabins, a swimming pool, big playground, a restaurant (I think is was called “Grub“) that serves breakfast (head the French Toast is without compare, but did not get to confirm that fact) and dinner (with amazing BBQ ribs and fresh trout on the menu), a rec center complete with pool tables and the park even has an ice cream shop!  We were impressed from the get-go. This is 5-star camping at its best!  

I hate to say it, however the park lost its ranking after the sun went down. From dusk to dawn, the night sky takes the center stage in all things BIG, BRIGHT, BOLD and GLORIOUS! It literally feels like you can reach out and touch the edge of the Milky Way and the stars here have no beginning and no end! What they say about the night sky in Montana is confirmed as true – BIG SKY; like you city dwellers have never seen! Photos cannot, and do not do it justice, this is just one of those things that you must see and experience in person! (NOTE: Add this place to your “bucket list”, right this minute!)

We both really liked the feel of Montana; it rustic and outdoorsy. There are streams, creeks, rivers, waterfalls everywhere. There’s bountiful wildlife (the key word is “living”) everywhere.  We’ve come to understand that when a roadside sign says “Wildlife Next 10 Miles”, it is not a matter of IF we will see wildlife in the next 10 miles, it’s a matter of both of us keeping watch in that area to be ensure that WHEN we see them coming, we are ready to stop (Dan’s job) and take photos (my job) of the animals who make this area home.

It seems that all the properties here come with ample land surrounding them and it feels like what the American experiment was supposed to have been about when this great nation was founded all so long ago.

After (my) work on Monday afternoon, we took a drive up the road called “Going to the Sun Road” inside the park. Again, my thanks to Roy for making sure we made a stop in this grand park!

The road from West Glacier begins by winding up along a lake, and then continues by following a stream up toward the mountain tops. It’s about a 50 mile drive to climb up the mountain side, through the Continental Divide, past Jackson Glacier and back down the other side of the mountain into East Glacier entrance where you begin your return trip! We were lucky enough to visit the park on its birthday, so entrance for all is free today! Dan read that making this drive in either the very early morning or the late afternoon resulted in the best lighting (and less traffic) on the ride – which was true!

At the entrance of the park, you are provided with ample warning about BEARS! They live here and it’s best to for humans to remember that this was their home first and the brochure’s warning is very clear – “People have been hurt and killed by bears in Glacier National Park” Guests are reminded that while hiking that they should talk, sing, clap their hands so that the “home team” know you are coming. Guests are also strongly encouraged to turn around if they encounter a bear along a trail and they are asked (while driving) not to create “Bear Jams” by stopping in the road when bears appear.

We practiced singing of “Doe, a deer” for our planned hike in the park, however we too (us, and about 6-7 carloads of others) were guilty of violating the “bear jam” request when we encountered, not one, not two but three bears (I think there’s a children’s story here, don’t you?) along the road on our drive through the park.

I spied the second bear foraging along the creek on our return trip and as Dan slammed on his brakes (thankfully no one was behind us) and he backed up into a pull out alongside the road and safely across the creek, I was able to snap a bunch of photos and take a video (that I’m still trying to figure out how to attach to this post). We probably sat there in our car (as requested by the park) watching our “bear friend” search for his/her dinner for about 10 minutes. It’s amazing that we have places in this country where nature is allowed to exist unencumbered by humans – truly amazing!

The photos don’t even begin to do the beauty of this place justice, but we hope you enjoy them anyway.

Kootenai Falls (and other events on the way to Montana)

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OK, so far we’ve seen lots of stuff and done a lot of exploring, but this is one we never planned on and was one of the neatest experiences we’ve had so far – Kootenai Falls.  We hiked down to the falls and were amazed at how beautiful they were, and then we ventured out onto a swinging bridge that crossed the Kootenai river about a hundred feet in the air!  Enjoy our pictures.

Turning East

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Well, it finally happened, we’ve ended our northbound portion of the journey and headed east out of Everett, WA.  Our next stop – Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and home to another top 100 golf course!  This is it- the last hurrah for expensive golf for Dan.  We are, after all now on a fixed income.  After setting up our home in nearby Post Falls, we set out to explore the neighborhood and see if we could find out more about golfing at this very prestigious golf course. You first see a small and simple driveway off the road that leads to an impressive and at the same time foreboding (and did I mention VERY TALL)   gate that prevents lookie-loos from viewing the course from outside the fence.  You need a compelling reason for the guard to be swayed into opening the gate and on that first day, we found that Dan’s desire to inquire about a tee time later this week was enough for us to obtain the coveted pass that allowed the gate to open and us to leave the common world of everyday people and enter into the kingdom of golfer’s heaven.

We parked as directed and headed over the the pro-shop to inquire about  both the cost and availability of a tee time.  I’m ashamed of what the rack rate was, (which included a ride along fee for me),  and Dan lamented his decision to play here for the next 24 hours.  The tee time as 2 pm and it was a shotgun start!  We arrived uncharacteristically early for us, (anyone else notice we’re not always so late these days?).  The driving range is conveniently located on the shore of the beautiful and  huge Lake Coeur d’Alene and the balls are lobbed out into the water at floating targets.  Dan drove his share of balls into the lake (now, as well as later, on the famous 14th) and soon we were off with our playing partners Gary, Jeannie (his wife), and Sue (her sister).  I rode along with Dan, and we were off to hole #5.  At this point, I’ll let the pictures do the talking:

After golf, we enjoyed a great dinner at the Lone Wolf Steakhouse (after all, today was our Anniversary and we had promised to have a nice dinner out).  We ran into two Phoenicians (can you believe it?), Bernie and Marilyn,  outside the restaurant waiting for our names to be called.  Carol recognized that Marilyn was wearing a Sun Devil polo shirt, said something to her, and struck up a great conversation.  Dan found out that Bernie had been married to the sister of one of his high school football teammates and they had a lot of common friends.  Amazing!  Their name was called first, we said goodbye and enjoy your dinner, and not a minute later Marilyn came back out of the restaurant and invited us to join them at their table for dinner; which we did, and had a wonderful time – a good meal  with lively conversation and a great evening to remember.

The only other notable event for us in Coeur d’Alene was that we found an excellent Mexican restaurant, La Cocina.  The chips and salsa were to die for, the burritos much like those in Arizona, and even the Chimichanga was palatable, not like the ones we get back in the Carolinas (or anywhere else, for that matter).  It was so good we ate there twice (one lunch and one dinner), and even recommended it to our golfing buddies (Gary, Jeannie, and Sue) who were looking for a good place to eat.  I hope they enjoyed it as much as we did.

 

Boeing Future of Flight & Factory Tour

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Tuesday afternoon, we checked out the Boeing factory north of Seattle to see where a whole bunch of their airplanes are made. WOW! What an amazing operation they have there up there.  The place was full of tourist and it held lots to see and do from the actual factory tour up through an observation deck overlooking the huge facility and an interactive area complete with simulator plane rides.   You need to arrive at least 30 minutes prior to your reserved tour according to their website and we did!  About 10 minutes before the appointed start time for the tour we were ushered into a large theater where the guides went over the ground rules and we watched a short film.

I’d love to share photos with you, however they have one very strict rule at Boeing, no camera or recording devices are allowed anywhere, either in or on the tour, not in the building, not in your purse, not in your pocket, not anywhere except at home or in your car.  This was a point we were reminded on three different occasions by both the tour guides (they split up the group to board large private buses to transport you to the actual factory) and once again by the uniformed guard, just before we boarded the buses.

Our first stop was at the location hanger where they build the 747s.  We quickly descended down a steep flight of stairs and entered an underground tunnel that had to be about a mile in length in total.  We walked about 1/3 of mile in the tunnel before loading into a huge elevator (think the size you could drive your car into) and went up to the fourth floor to view the planes under construction.   The guide shared with us that the building  itself is 11 stories tall and it is large enough that all of Disney World could be tucked neatly inside without hesitation.  In fact he told us to consider this building “the box that Disney World came in”!  They build 3 of these monster planes per month here and they work crews 24/7.  We could see three exactly the same, but in different stages of production, aircraft in the work area below.  The planes are actually on moving platforms (until wheels are added) that move so slowly across the factory floor, you can’t even tell they are moving.  The employees are working everywhere, however you cannot see them because they are inside or under the plane on any of the three floors below us.  There is a massive crane that moves the “big pieces” into place throughout the process (things like wings, the tail, engines (not included in the price – are you kidding me?) etc.  The cost of a 747, in case you ‘re saving up to get one, or if need the answer for a rousing game of Trivial Pursuit is $368 million dollars!  Again, the engines are extra, if you actually want the thing to fly!

We reversed direction on the observation post and viewed several 767s under construction in the adjacent bay.  From there were were “herded” back to the buses under the ever watchful eye of the tour guide and plethora of other Boeing employees who just appeared wherever we were to keep an eye out for those banished recording devises at every stop.  At our next location, the drill was pretty much the same, down the stairs, into the tunnel and up the elevator to see the 777 and 787s (which are very cool) and their wings flex up to 12 feet during flight, so you can actually look out the window and see the wings above your head on those planes – (does anyone, except me think that’s just a tad freaky?).

Back on the bus and a quick tour of where they paint, fuel and test fly the new planes (all from aboard the bus) and just like that 90 minutes was up and we’re departing the bus back at the visitors center.  Even without a camera, it was a pretty cool tour to take, so be sure to drop in if you are in the area – tell them that The Ritchie’s sent you!

Up, Up, and Away!

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The other extra special big retirement gift from the currently favored daughter, Pam and family. A helicopter ride over Seattle!  We had a great time, extending the original 20 minute ride another 10 minutes so we could include a few more points of interest from the air.  It was both Carol and mine’s 1st time in a helicopter, and it was a blast!  We got some pictures on the ground, went through a pre-flight checklist with the pilot, Esther, warmed up the ‘copter, and whoosh, we were off.  We headed East out of Boeing Field, which is south of Seattle, but north of Sea-Tac airport.  I sat shotgun, and Carol was in the back seat (where she usually drives from).

The views were spectacular and as you will see from the photos, we were pretty close up with some places in and around the city.

Victoria, British Columbia

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We awoke to cool and foggy conditions and hustled down to the ferry station so we could make our way across the Strait of Juan de Fuca over to Victoria for a day visit. The 90 minute ride was very uneventful with a view of nothing off the ship (due to the heavy fog) and with the exception of the almost non-stop fog horn sounding from the ship as we made the crossing into Victoria Harbor. As we approached the harbor, the top of a large cruise ship came into view along with a ghostly sailboat. Very eerie sight to behold!

Foggy morning Victoria, BC.   Find the sailboat, if you can!

Foggy morning Victoria, BC. Find the sailboat, if you can!

Once in the harbor, we were out on the front deck snapping photos and we ended up being unexpectedly standing at the ramp that lead off the ship; and we were lucky enough to be some of the first 20-30 people off the boat. Our joy quickly gave wave to dread as we were ushered out of the “exit” door line and into the “waiting place” (and you know what Dr. Seuss says about THAT place). After being detained so long that we missed our bus to Butchart Gardens and after ALL the other passengers had cleared customs and gone on their way, we watched the Captain of the ferry come down to where we were being “held, but not detained” (according to a very crabby supervisor) to collect the only other “soul” in the area with us and request that he and his entire group re-board the ferry to be returned back to the US – as apparently Canada has standards that we in the USA do not have regarding the quality of a person’s character. After they had been taken back to be re-boarded, we MOST anxiously awaited their decision on what was to be our fate. At this point, I was only comforted by the fact that the ferry Captain had not waited for us before departing with the unworthy Americans and by the fact that I’m pretty sure that I could personally kill my husband with the contents of our backpack if I (it’s all about me right now) don’t get to the gardens today and I’m sure that the Canadian Officers would be completely understanding, perhaps, maybe!!!

In the end, we are both finally found “worthy of release” into Canadian society and luckily we find that there is a “straggler’s bus” waiting for us; once we are free of the Custom’s Officer. The driver asks no questions about our delay and he quickly focuses on getting us back on track for our prepaid daily events in the Great White North! Once we arrive at the gardens, I am intent on two things – 1) seeing what is supposed to be the most beautiful garden in North America (all of which is true beyond image!) and 2) seeking acceptable “gift-age” for an elderly friend back home who has “commanded” that I secure her something worthy of her most discriminating taste related to the garden where she last visited in the early 70s’ (when pot was consumed illegally, but still consumed,  nonetheless).

We had a lovely sunny day on the island and were able to both visit Butchart Gardens and take in a city tour on a double-decker bus before heading back to the ferry for our evening return to Port Angeles.  The morning fog had given way to a beautiful sunny day and pretty nice sunset as we left the harbor in Victoria that evening. The bus tour driver told us that we were now on the sunny side of the street in Victoria.  We arrived back in Port Angeles to a light drizzle of rain that lasted into the wee hours of morning making our memories of the visit even sunnier as we made our way “home”.

Nowadays, Home is where “Toad” is.

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Later that night, when we arrived back in Port Angeles, the only issue that came up while clearing US Customs was a comment about the change in Dan’s hair since his passport photo was taken – Dan’s comment was “Well, that’s what happens when you don’t have to go to work in the morning”.

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Photos from Butchart Gardens:

And some more of our Victoria visit:

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As it turned out, a very enjoyable day and visit.