Thursday, August 14, 2008

Last day at ExxonMobil

Tomorrow is my last day working at ExxonMobil. It has been a great experience to work there and I have made many friends. Although the company is often portrayed as evil big oil, I have found that most of the people that work their are really good people and incredibly competent researchers and engineers. Part of who I am will always be defined by the culture the company instilled in me.

I am moving on to work at a consulting company called Pariveda solutions. They solely do IT related work so it is more in my field than ExxonMobil was and I am looking forward to working closer to the revenue stream of my employer. Sometimes at ExxonMobil it was difficult to translate our efforts in software development to an impact on the bottom line. I am also looking forward to working in a smaller company atmosphere. Finally, it appears the new job will also allow me to leverage some of the skills I picked up while earning my MBA from the McCombs School of Business at University of Texas that I just finished up.

Anyway, to any of my friends at ExxonMobil who wander on to the blog - thanks for the good times. The next few months should be interesting for the family. We are taking some time off to visit friends and family and then the new job begins!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Danny also enjoyed viewing the cloud forests from above during our walking bridge tour. Some of the bridges at Selvatura were well over 100 feet long and 50 feet above the ground. Here are the rules of the game he invented on our hike.
Find a leaf. Or two or three or four. "Stick mama."
Put it through the gate and watch it fall. "Woah. High."
Down, down, down, down. "Go. High. Down. Wow."
Then do it again. Mom and dad had to be referee, however, when the leaf dropping game prevented Danny from finishing his trek across a bridge. This happened on . . . every bridge. Eventually Danny agreed to halftime in the backpack so we could make it through the tour.

Matt and Danny on one of the longest bridges. "Woah. High!"

Monday, August 11, 2008

Time to fly

After a great deal of hiking in Arenal, it was time to view the rainforests in a different way. We enjoyed the cloud forests of Monteverde by flying over the top of them on a canopy tour. It goes something like this. After gearing up in a lovely harness, helmet, and worn out gloves, you sit through a very basic flying lesson. Next you climb the first tour, with your harness safely (at least I felt pretty safe) clipped to a cable. The guide says, "Sit back, bend your knees, one hand stop when you get the signal." Then you are pushed out over the trees to fly.
Mindy Soars . . . What a great way to celebrate turning 60!

You soar from platform to platform to platform. Some were short and quick. Others were hundreds of feet long and really gave you a chance to enjoy the stunning view.
About 2/3 of the way through the tour, it was time for a new adventure. The Tarzan Swing - climb a tall tower, jump off, scream.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Volcano Hike #2

Don't worry. This hike was on a volcano that was no longer active. Cerro Chato was the name of it. Grandma watched the kids in the morning while the rest of us ventured out. To make the hike more exciting, we decided to give ourselves a time limit. Actually, that was the hotel's doing. Checkout was at noon and this was listed as a 4 hour hike. We didn't leave until about 8:45 . . . you do the math.

We were a little doubtful about the hike initially because the first mile or so was on dirt roads around the lodges farmland. When we finally arrived at the bottom of the hill though, we were quickly pleased with the interesting, challenging trail ahead. We saw quite a few beautiful flowers.

All of us were grateful for the cool mist as we ascended the densely forested mountain. I was in awe of Mindy and Lances toughness - they had MAJOR injuries in a rock climbing accident a couple years ago and Mindy's hip/leg still gives her trouble sometimes. But there were no complaints at all up the steep slopes. We made it to the top and then made the even steeper descent into the crater (remember, it was an inactive volcano so it was safe this time). I've done a lot of hikes before, but this was one of the most fun I can remember just because of the steep, crazy routes with tree roots as steps and carved out mud stairs.Once we made it down into the crater lake Matt quickly turned around and raced back to the lodge to help Grandma with checkout. The rest of us lingered and enjoyed listening to and watching the various tadpoles, frogs, and birds. Mindy took some pictures, which I'm sure turned out great. This is my favorite of mine - can you find the frog? At one point the clouds cleared enough to see the far side of the lake, but none of us caught a good picture of it. And despite being pretty hot and sweaty from the hike, none of us braved swimming in the mist covered waters. I was worried we'd be attacked by inferi if we jumped in.

On the hike down we passed several other groups. There had been no major mishaps, but sure enough at the very end of the hike I stepped wrong and slid down a muddy slope. The only injury was to my ego and my shorts, both of which have recovered completely.

After returning to the lodge (by 12:30) we cleaned up a little in the pool shower and then had lunch before heading to our next destination. The lodge and Arenal Volcano both exceeded our expectations! "Boom Boom!"

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Sunday, August 03, 2008

What not to do on an active volcano

Previous to our vacation, Matt said he wanted to be sure and have plenty of R&R time. As the trip drew near, Matt was a little frustrated because the itinerary continued to get busier. "We need to have time to relax and not go, go go," says Matt.

On the afternoon after our morning hike to the waterfall I announce Danny is ready to go back to the room and rest. I too am tired and ready to relax a little. Time for some rest. But does Matt
want to rest? Nope. "Lance and I are going to go hike the old lava trail!"

The moms and babies head to the restaurant for some lunch and the boys head out to hike. Previously we had been told that the Old Lava Trail had been closed due to a lot of activity lately. Actually, the people at the lodge said, "You can hike that trail, but we can't guarantee you'll make it back." Then kind of chuckled. Apparently Matt and Lance took this a
s a challenge, not a serious warning. Off they went up the active volcano. After the fact, Mindy, LaRue, and I all agreed we were not aware exactly where they were hiking. I think if we had known we might have done more to stop them. CRAZY BOYS!

Lance poses with some huge lava rocks and dried out flow from the 1968 eruption. Shouldn't this have been a clue? TURN BACK NOW!

Here is the spot most normal people would turn around. OK, most "normal" people would never get this far anyway because they would heed the advice of experienced locals. Most "semi-crazy" people would turn around here, where there are no more trees. But not our Matt and Lance. I think they were trying to reach the crater to see if it was really active.

There is a nice view anyway. You can see the lodge buildings in the middle, slightly right of the picture. The open grassy spaces to the left are some of the cow fields from the morning hike.
Here Matt poses. I love the proudly rebellious gleam in his high. "Look how high we got! And to think, the locals think this is dangerous." And then, moments after this picture was taken . . .

The restful group of us was having lunch in the lodge when this HUGE explosion happened. We had a perfect view. It shook the whole lodge (notice how far away it was in the above picture). My heart stopped for my own safety and then stopped again when I realized Matt was hiking somewhere in the trees closer to that volcano. None of us had any idea how far up they truly had gone or I think we would have been panicking. Matt said as the huge rocks began rolling straight towards them, he realized he had much to live for and didn't want it to end like this. Lance, the true outdoorsman, quickly yelled to take cover behind another boulder. Apparently it rained rocks for quite some time and there were boulders as big as 2 and 3 meters across rolling down right next to them. Typing that makes my heart stop again. As soon as the rumbling stopped they raced back down to the lodge. Granted, it still took them a couple hours to hike all the way back, but they did make it. Matt profusely apologized for risking his life and told me never to let him go out hiking with Lance again. Way to blame the other guy. Really, we can only find humor in it now because neither was hurt. If I pause too long to think about what might have happened, it scares me like crazy. We are so grateful they made it back, because I really like Matt and so does Danny. I think Mindy and Kaya like Lance pretty well too . . . at least most of the time.

And this is the picture they took on their return hike to the lodge. Is it just me, or is it impossible to misread this sign? I'm not sure why they took the picture . . . maybe to prove their insanity in ignoring all warnings and their craziness in hiking the active volcano in the first place. I'm sure Matt will be able to use this story to teach some gospel principles in Elder's Quorum soon. And for those of you heading to active volcano sites soon . . .