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It’s hard to call today the last day of summer.  It’s a pleasant 106 degrees* here in Las Vegas, and tomorrow we’ll finally cool off to a more manageable 101.  We’ve had what I’d call a “soft opening” to the school year.  The sixth graders (including my daughter) started yesterday, my son went to school for his first day of third grade today, and we’re all back to school tomorrow.

*We are under an EXCESSIVE HEAT WARNING here today…what’s the threshold between normal Las Vegas oppressive heat, and EXCESSIVE…who makes that call?

Therefore, this may be my last opportunity for reflection for some time.  But I promise the reflection will be BRIEF and HUMOROUS.

  1. Where we went: This summer we ALL visited: Hawaii, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma! (sorry), and Missouri.  The lovely wife and kids ALSO went through: Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Kansas, Colorado, and Utah.  I went to: Poland and Germany (Frankfurt and Munich airports only)…
  2. Hawaii is the best…we see all those window stickers here in Vegas belonging to the large Hawaiian community here.  I totally get that pride now.  Hawaii is the best part of the United States.  The mangoes, passion fruit, coffee, and chocolate isn’t to be missed.  Also, Hawaiians have a special doughnut called a malasada that is heavenly.  I swam with dolphins one day and sea turtles REGULARLY…to the point that the kids were unimpressed with them by the end of the trip.  One last thing, we had one tour guide at a coffee plantation say that she just plants her trees in lava rocks, not soil, and they just grow.  I assure you, I could not plant fruit trees in our Mojave desert willy nilly.  Mahalo, Hawaii, mahalo.
  3. I love road trips.  The daughter went to camp in Arizona when we got back from Hawaii, and we then went to pick her up before driving back to St. Louis.  They may disagree, but the unfolding landscapes of the west are still pretty mesmerizing.  I find New Mexico oddly charming.  There is a GREAT truck stop on the border of NM/TX on Interstate 40 that had an incredible car museum.  Great place to stretch our legs.
  4. Make sure when you are reserving hotels online that you make the reservations for the correct day.  I am an idiot.  That is all.      IMG_0508
  5. The highlight of our time in St. Louis this summer was the Lantern Festival at the Missouri Botanical Garden.  If you haven’t been yet, you should go!IMG_0595
  6. I did a mission trip to Poland for the fifth time.  This year we went to a new church in Bielsko-Biala.  Its nickname is “Little Vienna.”  What a beautiful little city.  I had a fantastic time, ate wonderful soups, talked about Jesus, and had an adventurous time with my host family…
  7. In Poland I did LUGE fulfilling a lifelong dream!  I also went mountain biking for the first time…at night…without a helmet…and a pedal fell off my bike while I was riding it.  Most of the time I was rumbling downhill thinking, “I’m going to die, I’m going to die in this pine scented forest!”  On a related note, I just sold my bike.
  8. Poland was HOT.  St. Louis in August hot.  This is not normal for Poland, and everyone struggled with it a bit during camp.  (90+ degree heat did NOT keep us from having a piping hot bowl of soup at lunch every day.)  IMG_0682                                                              But here’s the thing I still don’t get about Europe…THE CONTINUING REFUSAL TO ICE THEIR DRINKS.  We know you have freezer technology.  You know the recipe for ice, so what’s the problem here?  On the last night at our church we had a BBQ for about 70 people, and they finally put our a SMALL BOWL of ice to go with our Coca-Colas.  About enough ice for one cube per person…HOWEVER many people still refused.  When I saw the ice, I felt like putting my hand on my heart and singing “God Bless America.”
  9. My host family was awesome, but may have been trying to kill me with kindness.  One morning for breakfast I ate three kielbasa and two hot dogs.  This is not the FDA recommended breakfast, and does not lead to feeling “morning fresh.”
  10. Finally, back to Hawaii.  I just look back at it and think, “Was I really there?”  I remember when we got back in the car from spending a morning with a private tour kayaking, swimming with dolphins, and snorkeling on the most beautiful reef with just a smile glued to my face.  Or the time we watched the sunset on Mauna Kea, followed by more stars than we’d ever seen.  Or the time we we were in a parking lot at an O Bon Festival, doing Japanese dances with a VERY diverse group of locals, having a great time while watching the sun set over the ocean. Or the lovely wife and I sitting on a seawall under palm trees watching the waves crash in during the evening.  Or the time we hiked across the crater of an active volcano…or the…anyway, just go to Hawaii.

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There were some rough times too this summer, but I’d rather not dwell on those.  I’d rather spend my last 15 hours of freedom remembering the things that make summer great: freedom, family, friends, food, and travel.  Here’s to a successful 2015-16 school year to you and yours, and I’ll see my good friend summer again next June 3.

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