Thursday, December 27, 2007

The tale of our truck

On Monday morning Alene went out to start the cold truck to let it warm up, as she always has done in the 2.5 years we've been married. She came back in to make a piece of toast and say goodbye and within that 3 minutes, someone had taken off with our truck.

We called the police and they came over to take our statement and issue us a case number. The entire day we were sick to our stomach thinking that someone else had our truck. We slept horribly that night......until we received a phone call at 2:30am on Christmas day.

The police in twin falls Idaho called us and reported that they had found our truck and it was in a walmart parking lot in Jerome, Idaho (which is just north of Twin Falls). They said the truck was left with the keys in it and the passenger side door was un-locked. They gave me an option of just leaving the truck there (they would obviously take the keys with them) and I could come claim it as soon as I could, or I could have it towed to a auto storage place and I could pay that fee to claim it. We decided on the later, just in case the thief decided to come back to the truck. We decided to have a good Christmas day and not worry about the truck, since it was found.

We had notified our neighbors to let them know what had happened. They are two brothers that live in a house next to us and are really cool. When they found out where it was, the younger brother (Kevin) works for Delta and immediately offered to find me a buddy pass to fly direct to Twin Falls for $20. He had everything lined up, for the most part, but the password and username he needed to log into the site to claim the buddy pass would not work and we could not get a hold of the person that gave it to him, so we ended up nixing that option, however we were very grateful for their offer. I ended up driving with my mom to Jerome to claim it. The drive was only 3 hours.

When I received the truck, the only noticeable difference was that they obviously rummaged through some things in the console, the back seat, etc., they listened to the rock station 98.3 REALLY loud, and they smoked in the truck, leaving ashes all over the seat, in my change area, etc. The only thing they did take was the gift Alene had bought for me and Caiden (guitar hero), which she had saved from her own personal money. I felt so badly for her.

Being the sleuth I am, I decided to go back to the walmart there in Jerome to see if anyone had returned a guitar hero set on Monday. The manager at walmart was very helpful and said it would take a few days, but they will look for sure and get me whatever information they could find, even camera information. I guess we will see how that turns out. I had to take a chance and try to find out something.

So, the truck is back. I just need to vacuum it out and do my best to get the dirty hippy/smoke smell out of it. Other than that, the only thing I'm out is about $300 in towing, storage fees, and gas to get there and back. It sucks, and I really don't have the money to do it, but you make the most of it I guess. I think my situation turned out much better than other people have experienced with a stolen vehicle.

Lessons learned, obviously don't leave your car running to warm up, no matter how cold it is, or how much you trust your neighbors, you can't trust anyone (I think it was obvious, but we've become so naive to it). We've since purchased a "club" for each of our vehicles and IF it's too cold, we will keep the club on our car while it warms up (if we have to go inside) and keep it on the car at other times we feel it's not safe either.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Merry Christmas to all!!! (the year in review)

Dear Family and Friends:

We hope you're all having a wonderful time celebrating the holidays and that this year has been a good one for you and your family.

In the spring we, along with most of the Root and Speer family, ripped off our old roof. It took exactly 12 hours with everyone there to get the 3 layers of asphalt shingles off and the original layer of shake shingles. Then, with some help over the next week or so, we laid the plywood, rolled the tar paper, and nailed in all the shingles for our new roof! We are now good to go with the homeowners insurance regarding the condition of our roof and one more step closer to the being able to move out and get a bigger place for next year.

In May, our family took a longer camping trip down to Escalante, UT in southern Utah. We were re-visiting the site where Alene did her archaeology dig six years earlier with BYU. We love the area down there . It's filled with all orange sandstone walls and lots of greenery by the river. We did several hikes including one to a beautiful waterfall where along the way we could see Fremont Rock Art. We also hiked the narrowest hikeable slot canyon in Utah. We had to walk sideways just to get through. At times we had to ferry some of the kids along over the gaps (caiden and his cousins) and over obstacles. It was a wonderful trip and we hope we can continue to visit the area more often.

Tyler's parents bought a ski boat in early summer, so we spent as much time as we could on some of the local Utah lakes. Alene dominated on the slalom skis and did a good job learning to wake board. Caiden wasn't quite ready for the big time, so he settled for the water tube. Tyler had a blast learning to wake board, and despite a chipped tooth he received behind the boat, he came out alive.

Tyler coached high school football this year and Caiden played his first season of flag football. With season tickets to the BYU games, that meant that at one time, Alene went to 5 football games in one week (what an awesome wife). Tyler's team made it to the state playoffs. Once again, BYU will be playing in the bowl game in Las Vegas just before Christmas, so we're making a quick trip down to watch the game. It will be Caiden's first bowl game.

At the end of October, Caiden turned 8 and we organized a multi-family get-together for his baptism. The whole thing turned out beautifully and Caiden was so handsome. We are so proud of him.

After football season, Tyler and Alene took a trip to Mexico together. It was our first time to get away for a (almost) week and Tyler's first time out of the country. We stayed in Cancun and had a chance to visit the Maya ruins in Chichen Itza. Tyler showed what a stud he is a boogie-boarding and Alene turned out to be a scaredy-cat when we snorkeled, she didn't like swimming over those huge fan-like ferns that touched her legs. We also rented a speedboat and drove it through the lagoon to get out to the reef, that was really fun.

We also wanted to share how excited we are to be having a baby!! We expect it to arrive sometime in late July or early August, but can't be quite sure yet. It's not going to be twins (much to Tyler's chagrin), so don't even start to get excited about that possibility.

We love you all and hope you have a very Merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

Russ and I in winter gear

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Back from Cancun

I'm going to do my best to give MY report on the place and I think I'll do it in the form of a log (as if I was doing it at the end of every day).

FYI - Here is a link to all the pictures from the trip

I hope you enjoy.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Cancun: Day 6 (Monday)

It was our last day and we had until around noon to have a little fun. We decided to not mess around and head right for the beach. I rented a boogie board. Again, the dang dis-honest lifeguard tried to charge me $10 and I knew it was $6. When I walked away back to Alene, he followed me all the way over and told me $6. What an idiot.

So, we spent the morning boogie boarding. When Alene finally wanted to try it, we both got wiped out by the biggest wave I had ever seen down there. I thought she was dead and I came up immediately (as soon as I could really because the water held me down for a bit) and saw her eventually pop up. The waves kept crashing and crashing after that, so she eventually made her way out of the water. I felt so bad for her. She did, however, capture some awesome footage of me tearing up these monster waves

Here are some other pictures of the boogie boarding

After that, Alene went to workout while I swam a bit and read more of my book (Lone Survivor). We said goodbye to the beach by taking one last picture of us. We wanted a closer shot of our faces and the beach behind us, but both people we grabbed to take the photo didn't understand what we wanted, so this was the best we could do. Thank goodness Alene is such a hottie, or the picture would have sucked.

From there, we packed up and headed back to the airport. As predictable Mexican time, our shuttle bus was about 20-30 minutes late in picking us up. On the flight back we watched episodes of Lost season 3 on Alene's laptop and I got some more reading done. On our connection flight in Dallas, we had roughly 1.5 hours to get our luggage, check it through customs, then re-check it and get to our terminal. Luckily our terminal was in the same one as where customs was. We made it with time to spare, so we got something to eat and headed home.

Over-all, the trip was nice. It was so nice to get away and spend time with just Alene. The area was beautiful and truly a paradise. My complaints were mostly the people trying to sell us stuff everywhere we walked. It became really annoying. My other complaint was the food. Rarely did I find something I liked. Understanding that I was in another countries culture and the way they do things, I guess I expected a little more at a resort catering to people from outside their country. However, every time I ate, I realized I should not complain and that I was happy just to find food I could stomach and eat and it kept me alive. Breakfast was often Toast with peanut butter and jam, pineapple, potatoes, and scrambled eggs (although they did not quite look like the eggs we make, I trusted them). I drank a LOT of pepsi and bottled water.

I'd go back to the Caribbean, but likely not Cancun. I didn't hate it, but it's one of those "been there, done that" and there is so much more to see. I really pushed for us to go there, so the next major $$$$ vacation for the two of us will be where she wants to go.

One thing I thought of a lot was how this was the area Jeff spent on his mission. I remember when he first came home, he lived with me and it seemed that EVERYTHING we had, he cherished. When we ate a regular dinner, he stared at it as if it was gold and his last meal. His eyes were so wide when he drank a cup of milk, or watched a TV show with a clear signal. I could not help but think of how grateful I am for what I have here in America. Again, it's not that I'm saying we are better, but I would not want it any other way. I love it here in the good old USA!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Cancun: Day 5 (Sunday)

This was a day I was looking forward to as well because we had purchased (while in Cancun) a jet-boat tour of the rivers that run through the lagoon and out onto the ocean to a reef where we could snorkel. I've never snokeled before, except for when I passed my snorkeling merit badge in a swimming pool. I was stoked to be able to try it in the ocean with an actual reef.

The jet boat tours are these little 2-seater boats you follow your guide in. It's basically like driving a real ski boat, only smaller.

Here is a picture of me driving one

We followed our guide through the lagoon and through these little rivers that run through groves of trees that grow in the lagoon (they called it a jungle tour, but I wouldn't exactly). Still, it was really cool to drive through and see the watter ripple off the boat and up against all the trees growing. Here are a couple of photos of driving through the river

Once we got out onto the ocean, that is where it got interesting. The ocean was VERY choppy and wavey that day. The boat ride just getting out to the reef was pretty rough and by the time we got to the reef, our heads were aching (as were our tummies). The reef was only about 1/2 mile off shore and there were bouys that we tied up to once we got there. Alene and I jumped in and headed out to check out the reef. After a while in, Alene was feeling a bit sick, so she got back in the boat. I stayed out another 15 minutes or so to see what else I could, before I started feeling sick. The waves were rolling me up and down and every now and then I swallowed a small amount of salt water, so my stomach had about had it. We decided to leave, but before going our guide offered to take our picture for us

Here is some video of us riding in the boat. There is another one I could not get to upload, but I really liked it. If I can get it, I'll add it to this blog post.

On the way back, Alene wanted to take a stab at being the Captain of the ship, so we did the old switch-a-roo while driving routine. I told her now that she knows how to drive the boat, she'll have to pull all of us while we waterski this summer.

We got back to the hotel about noon or so and spend the better part of that day again lounging by the pool. The ocean was really acting up, so the lifeguards would not allow anyone to go in. We took a few pictures of the ocean during this time:

On our way back to our room to get changed for dinner, we ran into this little fella. I was scared to death to go near it, but Alene didn't seem to bother at all. It's kind of funny what things will scare us and what won't. Alene freaks out of a spider, which this thing eats, but she's not afraid of it at all.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Cancun: Day 4 (Saturday)

We had planned Saturday to go into the actual city of Cancun and visit the Market area. We figured it should be a great place to look and find some cool gifts and souvenirs. We were told earlier that the bus would cost $6.50 pesos ($0.65 American) for one ride, or we could pay double to be able to ride all day. Little did we find out those bus drivers are dishonest. Dude told me to pay $2 American and we could ride all day. When we got on the bus a second time, the driver just chuckled and said there was no such thing as an all day pass. He actually just charged us the standard rate (which was nice of him).

So, as we rode along the hotel zone, we saw a really nice looking shopping mall, so we decided to get off there just to walk around a bit and check the place out. We found an ATM and it was quite painless to get cash (just as easy as it is in America). I know that sounds crazy, but I thought it would be difficult. We shopped around the mall for an hour or so, but found that all the shops had the SAME THING. Same shirts, same statues, same trinkets. We were always on the look-out for something authentic, but could not find it.

We then hopped on the bus (where we found there was no such thing as round trip) and rode it into town to the market area. When we stepped off the bus, we were at some sort of intersection in the middle of Cancun. I had an idea of which direction to go (we forgot our map at the hotel, but I had read over it a bit) and I knew the Market would be East of the road we were on. We walked a few blocks in that direction and ran right into it. Immediately we were bombarded by people there wanting us to go spend money in their shops. It was CRAZY! In fact, I became so numb to it, it became easy to ignore everyone as they talked to me and to not make eye contact. I had to pretend they weren't there in my face, trying to sell me on something. If there was something we wanted to look at, they kept trying to shove all kinds of stuff in our face. I would turn to the guy and look him in the eye and say, "WAIT!" He understood. We spent close to an hour in the market area, then decided to get the hell out of dodge. Like the shops at the mall, they all were selling the same exact thing. Nothing unique (except for the hand-made leather shoes, purses, etc. that people were making on the spot). It was nuts though.

Getting back was a bit difficult too. We came in on a one-way road, so we were looking for the other road that headed back to the hotel zone. We found some people dressed in their hotel uniforms and we started to follow them, figuring they were walking to the bus stop. I started turning toward where I thought the hotel zone road would lead back and a local stopped me and anxiously wanted to help me go in the right direction. I gave him a couple of dollars for his help. He actually spoke VERY good English for a Mexican dude (better than some Mexicans that live here in the U.S.A.) and really was good about making sure we knew where we were going.

We got to the correct bus stop and found our bus. The bus driver, again, tried to scam us. This time he told me it was $5 American to ride the bus. I pointed at his sign, which said $6.50 pesos and he looked pissed. I handed him $11 pesos and walked in ($2 pesos short) and he didn't say a word. Alene and I were hungry and we decided to get off at another mall area to eat at the Hard Rock Cafe (we needed some American food). Right as we stepped off, we saw this restaurant:

I'm sure whatever it is they drank and smoked in there, they had some sort of good time.

We ate at Hard Rock Cafe there and Alene was STOKED because the ceiling was painted with all kinds of local Mayan stuff, but also had a silhouette of the Beatles, which Alene loved and took this picture:

After eating, we walked through the Mall that the Hard Rock was located in, and there was an outdoor balcony facing the ocean, so we walked out there. I took this picture of what appeared to be some sort of snorkeling boat.

When we got back to the hotel, we did some more swimming and had some laughs about the sales phrases all the locals tried to use on us to get us into the store. We'd be walking by one place and a guy would yell, "Sir! Here it is!" or another would yell "Everything is just $1". They would also use the "Honeymooners! I have romantic jewelry for your new wife". It was great.