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RV Trip from Texas to Mount Rushmore (aka – 8 states in 8 days)

This is a trip my wife and I took during month 4 of the COVID-19 pandemic.  We’d had Mount Rushmore on our “bucket list” for years.  And with the combination of social distancing orders, fears of flying, and our empty nester status, it seemed like the perfect time for a long-distance RV trip.

The trip is 8 days long, if starting from the Dallas – Ft. Worth area, and spans 2,800 miles.  We live in Austin but decided to make the 3-hour drive to Ft. Worth the afternoon before Day 1 as shown in our itinerary.  That’s because we wanted to make it to Dodge City on Day 1 without having to drive a full 10 hours in a single day.  And we had a relative in Ft. Worth that we could stay with that night.

The path to and from Mount Rushmore were different, on purpose.  The path up goes through Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota while the path back goes through Wyoming, Colorado and back to Texas.  Kelly referred to the trip as “8 states in 8 days”.

Click on the map below to see a close-up view of the route.

rv trip mount rushmore

We used Outdoorsy.com to rent a Coachman Prism Sprinter 24G (see photo below), which was perfect for just two travelers.  It has a queen-size bed in the back, a sofa, small kitchen and bathroom.  There are some Class C RV’s in the 25 foot range that have an additional sleeping area above the driver’s cab area and/or an option to convert the sofa/dining table into a small bed, which means 4-5 travelers are possible.

One thing we quickly learned about RV’s is they’re noisy when driving and the air conditioning is noisy when running (ie – when parked at a campground).  We got used to it.

I documented the exact itinerary we followed, including notes and ratings we captured afterwards for the benefit of others.  The drive times I captured represent the approximate drive time, not including stops for gas, meals, dog walking and the like.

The downloadable document you see below includes our exact day-by-day itinerary, including the RV campgrounds we stayed at and the activities we did.  It also includes a list of informative tidbits and a packing list, based on our experience as first-time neophyte RV campers.

I hope you find this information helpful to your own journey.

 

 

 

Predicting 2035 for My Granddaughters

2035 is 15 years from now.  My current granddaughters Harper and Olivia will be 16 and almost 20 respectively. Those are good ages to imagine for predicting what their lives will be like at that time.  Below are 10 such predictions.

  1. Their educational experience after high school will not involve attending a traditional college or university

    Instead, some combination of a future trade school and internships will equip them for entering the workforce

  2. They won’t own a car

    I only assess a 50% chance that they will even learn to drive a car

  3. They will get a broad-spectrum immunization that covers a huge quantity of pathogens

    Better yet, it will have some ability to self-adapt to protect against mutations of many known viruses

  4. Their annual wellness check will first involve a cheek swab at home that, after lab analysis, will ALSO detect early onset cancers and other non-pathogen caused ailments

    I have a feeling it might also be able to detect various DNA mutations that need to be further investigated

  5. Augmented reality will be so widespread that they don’t even notice it

    Much like today’s young adults that grew up with a smart phone in their hand perceive it like a body appendage

  6. They won’t own or use a cell phone

    At least not in the form factor that we think of it today.  It won’t look like a current smart phone with a screen but rather will fit over their ear, be embedded in a pair of glasses, or somehow be carried on their body in a way that they can still access information and communicate through it.

  7. They won’t use paper currency

    Actually, they will almost never even see it being used by others

  8. They will be able to fly from Austin to New York City in 1 hour and to Paris in 2 hours

    Assuming they can afford it

  9. They will watch humans land on the surface of Mars

    Multiple such flights will occur over a period of several years in an attempt to create a perpetual settlement there

  10. They will have a robot at home

    I’m not sure what duties this robot will perform but they will ask questions of it naturally and command it to do various things

Welcome to my new Granddaughter, Harper McKenzie Greye

Harper:  I am sure you will hear all about this day from your mom and dad, but I wanted you to hear in my own words what your date of birth was like and what’s going on in the world.  I am writing this just a few hours after your birth while on a bus ride to Dallas for some business events.

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A Model for Career Success

Over time, society has increasingly expected instant gratification and uses of an “easy” button to achieve a desired result.  Unfortunately, when it comes to the pursuit of career success, it’s not near that easy.  A lot of time and effort is usually involved.  I’m sure you have a story about a 25 year old that is already a multi-millionaire and that’s great.  Maybe it was pure luck but maybe there was more to it.

The purpose of this article is to give you a framework for visualizing the key ingredients to long-term, personal career success, however you define that term.

Gordon’s Target Model (weightings)

50%  Drive and Determination
20%  Intelligence
20%  Common Sense
10%  Luck

Drive and Determination

It’s clear from the suggested relative weightings above that I place significance on drive and determination.  Otherwise referred to as “fire in the belly”.  It’s amazing how far that can get you if it’s genuine.  What do you do when a door is slammed in your face or someone tells you “no”?   What if those things happen numerous times rather than just once or twice?  Do you lose interest and give up or do you keep charging forward?

How do you get drive and determination?  Well, for many it comes easiest when there is genuine and personal passion for the thing that’s being worked on.  That “thing” could be a problem you’re product solves or a significant benefit it provides.

Another tool to try is positive reinforcement using phrases you say to yourself from time to time, perhaps 10 times each night before you go to sleep or in the morning when you wake up.  You’d be amazed how effective a phrase like “I will do whatever is necessary to reach my goal” is.

What are you willing to sacrifice for long-term career success?  It usually comes at some cost (trade-offs), so I’m not suggesting it’s for everyone.

Intelligence and Common Sense

Let’s talk about intelligence versus common sense, otherwise referred to as “book smart” versus “street smart”.  I strongly believe that 1) they are different things  2) they are equally valuable  3) extra strength in one can help offset a weakness in the other.  Having said this, being strong in both is a HUGE advantage.

An issue to realize is that intelligence can be improved with effort but common sense is mostly ingrained.  Common sense can gradually be enhanced over time but it comes from a collection of life experiences, both personal and business.  Think about the way wisdom is gained over time.

Luck

Regarding luck, I don’t want to just flip it out there as some ethereal thing that you have no control over.  In fact, 1st century Roman philosopher Seneca, American President Abraham Lincoln and others are credited with saying that “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”.

So if you want to influence the 10% I attribute to luck, then engage in “preparation”, which essentially means planning.  Do you have goals?  Have you written them down or communicated them to others?  Have you come up with a plan to achieve your goals and put those plans into some sort of roadmap or phases?  That’s what “preparation” means.

The way I see it:

  • Someone with strong drive/determination and intelligence, moderate common sense (half credit), and decent preparation (half credit for luck) has 85% chance of career success.
  • Someone with strong drive/determination and common sense, moderate intelligence (half credit), and decent preparation (half credit for luck) also has 85% chance of career success.  (notice the only difference is swapping the half credit for intelligence and common sense)
  • Someone that only has strong intelligence, moderate common sense (half credit) and decent preparation (half credit for luck) only has 35% chance of career success.

I realize that life isn’t as analytical as this.  I also realize that it’s extremely hard for people to accurately judge and measure themselves.  But this is actually a suggested thinking and reflection activity rather than an analytical one.

What is “career success”?

I don’t know what career success means to any particular individual but I do feel strongly that these basic guideposts can be used for all that aspire to achieve it.  I also think the results come over time and after some level of consistency in the things mentioned in this article.  Evaluating short windows of time against a career success yardstick might show various ups and downs but the trend towards career success should be positive.

I hope this article gives you a framework to think about and plan for achieving your own career success or helping a friend or loved one do the same.

Home Maintenance Checklist

repairmanOwning home isn’t a “set it and forget it” endeavor.  The better you take care of your home the longer you can go between repairs and replacements that cost a lot of money.  Your home will also be at less risk of fire or accidental flood if you’ll take good care of it.  Below is my personal checklist of home maintenance tasks based on frequency.  I hope you find it helpful.

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Must-Have Tools for New Homeowners

toolsMost new homeowners previously lived in an apartment and surely acquired some basic tools.  But owning a home brings with it numerous new opportunities for do-it-yourselfers that previously were done by the apartment maintenance guy.  Below is my personal checklist for spending your money at Home Depot to outfit your new home.  Warning, the costs add up pretty quickly so get the items you can afford and be prepared for a new trip to the hardware store with each new project to add to the collection.

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Welcome to my Granddaughter Olivia Lauren Greye

Olivia:  I suspect your parents Kirra and Milo will have some sort of baby book that captures who the President of the US is and other factoids about the date you decided to join all of us, but I wanted you to hear in my own words what your date of birth was like and what’s going on in the world.  I am writing this just an hour or so after your birth while waiting in the nursery to visit your mother.

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TV Theme Show Trivia – 1960s and 1970s

If you’re having a party with people that grew up in the late 1960s and/or throughout the 1970s and are looking for some fun entertainment, give this TV them show trivia quiz a try.  It’s basically a sampling of the first few seconds of 38 different TV theme shows from the 1960s and 1970s with blank time in between each to allow the contestants to write down their answers.  You can play the audio file directly from my website or can download it to play on another device (laptop, TV, tablet, etc).  To download the audio file, you might need to use a right mouse click or some other action depending on which browser and system you are using.  I’ve also provided blank answer sheets as well as the answer cheat sheet for scoring the results.

blank line

Download the Audio File in MP3 Format

Download the Audio File in M4A Format

TV Theme Show Trivia – Answer Sheets

Enjoy!

1960s and 1970s Trivia Quiz

If you’re having a party with people that grew up in the late 1960s and/or throughout the 1970s and are looking for some fun entertainment, give this trivia quiz a try.  It is a video file that you can play directly from my website by clicking on the video graphic below.  Alternatively, download the video file to play it on some other device (laptop, TV, tablet, etc).  To download the video file, you might need to use a right mouse click or some other action depending on which browser and system you are using.  I’ve also provided blank answer sheets as well as the answer cheat sheet for scoring the results.

blank line

Download the Video File

Blank Answer Sheet

Answer Cheat Sheet

Enjoy!

Maximizing Your International Travel Experience

international travel adviceI see far too many travelers go to foreign countries and “play it safe” when it comes to really experiencing the local customs and culture.  To my way of thinking, what’s the point of going to a foreign land and not maximizing the experience by trying a few things you can’t otherwise do at home?  I hate to admit that Americans are probably the worst about this, so hopefully this blog post will give them some ideas to explore on their next international trip.

I have three very simple recommendations to help maximize your international travel experience.  I’m already assuming that you’ve done research on the special sites to visit, the basic history of the foreign city/country and things like that.  Here what else I recommend to fully round out and maximize your experience:

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The Power of the Word “Proud”

“Proud”

Word type:  adjective

Definition:  feeling deep pleasure or satisfaction as a result of one’s own achievements, qualities, or possessions or those of someone with whom one is closely associated.

Synonyms:  pleased, glad, happy, delighted, joyful, satisfied, thrilled, gratified

It’s possibly the most powerful word you can use as a parent and far more impactful than any of its synonyms shown above.  Most kids thrive on making their parents proud.  “Mom/dad, look at what I just did!”

As often as your kids deserve it, and even for little things, let them know when they make you proud.  You can immediately tell the effect from the type of smile you get in return.

  • “That’s great.  I’m proud of you.”
  • “You made me proud when you _______”
  • “You should be proud of yourself for ______”
  • “Best of luck, we know you’ll make us proud.”

When your kid goes off to college and even when they are professionally employed and living on their own, they will still cherish the word when it comes from you.  You’ll know that’s the case if you’re still one of the first people they call to brag about something they accomplished.  And even then you can still use the word in response.

Sit-Down Conversation Prior to High School

Going from junior high to high school introduces a tremendous amount of change and exposure to new levels of challenges and risks.  Because of this, we had a face-to-face conversation some time during the summer before entering high school with each of our girls.  In the best case, the adolescent will heed some of the advice.  In the worst case, they will ignore the advice but later find at least some of it to be truthful, which gives more credibility to later advice.  We created a cheat sheet of issues to discuss, including the following topics:

  • Grades
  • Peer pressure
  • Curfew
  • Penalty free ride home (see related blog post)
  • Drugs and alcohol
  • Boys and dating
  • Sex
  • Sexual abuse

The tone of the discussion should be advisory rather than dictatorial, in my opinion.  And you obviously will need to add notes to each category based on your standards, your parenting style and your advice.  There are three objectives of this discussion:

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Going Through Airport Security

airport security signThroughout my 3+ million miles of road warrior business travel, I’ve figured out a few things and developed a system that seems to work pretty well.  This post offers advice for going through airport security as efficiently as possible.  You might think it’s crazy to go to this extreme but coming from someone who has flown more than 3M miles, I can tell you from experience that if you are running late, a difference of 1 minute can mean making or missing your flight.  I can also wish that if every traveler followed this advice, airport security lines would move 20% faster.

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Tips for Triathletes Looking to Improve the Swimming Portion

Tips for Triathletes Looking to Improve SwimmingMost triathletes either hate or tolerate the swimming portion of the competition.  That’s because most of them didn’t grow up swimming but everyone learned to ride a bike and knows how to run.  Learning to swim with an efficient and effective stroke later in life isn’t impossible at all but doesn’t typically come easily without some level of coaching from someone who knows what to look for.  Swimmers with a proper technique look like they are just gliding through the water effortlessly.  Click here to download a document I put together with a handful of tips and tricks for frustrated or under-producing triathlete swimmers, including workout drills, equipment recommendations and race day suggestions.

Packing Tips

Throughout my 3+ million miles of road warrior business travel, I’ve figured out a few things and developed a system that seems to work pretty well.  This post relates to packing tips.Stuffed-suitcase

Toiletries Kit

Whether or not the law requires a separate, plastic bag for liquid items, there are a few things to pack for contingency needs.

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New York City with Kid(s)

I’ve had the pleasure of visiting New York City with each of my three girls when they were roughly 13 years old.  These vacations were father-daughter getaways (see related post titled “Father – Son/Daughter Getaways“).  Below is a collection of the notes I took during those three visits to share with other family members and friends.  Double check any information that mentions when/how to get tickets or days/times the site is open.  Things easily could have changed over the years.

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Washington DC with Kid(s)

I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Washington DC with each of my three girls when they were roughly 10 years old.  These vacations were father-daughter getaways (see related post titled “Father – Son/Daughter Getaways“).  Below is a collection of the notes I took during those three visits to share with other family members and friends.  Double check any information that mentions when/how to get tickets or days/times the site is open.  Things easily could have changed over the years.

Continue reading “Washington DC with Kid(s)”

Father – Son/Daughter Getaways

The title says “father” only because I’m writing this post from my perspective and incorporating actual concepts I used with my daughters.  My original objective was to somehow compensate for years of job assignments that called for extensive travel.  I actually modified an idea one of my IBM bosses used with his kids to compensate for extensive business travel.  The extra bonding I was able to achieve with my daughters and the stories we both are able to tell forever have immeasurable value.  I’ve shared this idea with friends and co-workers, many of whom have adopted or modified it for their own use.  If you also like the idea, help me spread it to others.

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Sticking to the Important Stuff (Teen Years)

Especially once the kids get into high school, there will be tons of things you will see them doing wrong.  From not waking up to their alarm to the way they handle social relationships, you will find yourself wanting to just tell them exactly what to do.  But often this will just cause them to reject your directions.  And it’s generally agreed that one of the best ways to learn is by making your own mistakes.  During high school I told my daughters that I didn’t care when they woke up on school days so long as putting on makeup was the last thing they did.  If they ran out of time and had to leave for school it meant without makeup.

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Establishing Standards (if Have Multiple Kids)

One of the things we quickly realized is how easily a precedent can be set as a result of decisions made or rules put in place for the oldest child.  This is fairly obvious for anyone that grew up in a family with multiple children, but we found that we had to really step back and think about things not only from the perspective of the decision at hand, but also the possible precedent-setting value it might have for the younger siblings.  For girls, it includes things like wearing makeup, dating and allowing boys in their room.

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Establishing a Special Parent-Child Activity

This idea is for families with multiple children.  I didn’t invent the idea but can’t remember how I learned of it.  The premise is that each child should have some activity that is special and unique with each parent.  I’ll speak from the father’s perspective but it works in parallel with the mother.  It’s also possible/likely that the special activity will change once or twice as the child ages.

I’ve discovered a couple of things that are important to consider while putting this into place:

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Once Your Teenager Gets a Car …

What a liberating freedom.  I guess I have one heads-up and a couple of pieces of advice.  The heads-up is to forget about seeing them very much after they start driving.  There will be a million reasons why they need to be somewhere else.  We had to set a “goal” of eating together as a full family 4 times per week, yet we’re sometimes lucky to make it happen 2-3 nights.  Part of this is due to the fact that a driving teen also possibly has a job, club memberships or sporting activities in addition to all the social possibilities that pull them away from home.

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Collectables – the Gift Answer for Road Warrier Parents

Do you have to travel a lot for your work?  If so and if you have kids, you’ll know where I’m coming from on this one.  When the kids are young, it’s pretty easy to get them a present while you’re away because the act of giving them anything is all they care about.  But as the kids get into late elementary school it gets progressively harder.  And what about the times when you’re rushing to/thru the airport to catch your flight?  Oops, no time to really shop and therefore no present this time.

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Umbrella Liability Policy – Do You Have One?

The parents of adolescent kids have increased legal liabilities.  Imagine they have some friends over and someone gets badly injured, especially if you have a swimming pool or live on a lake.  Or think about a car accident that is your kid’s fault and bad injuries or worse are involved.  When our oldest daughter entered junior high school, we got an umbrella liability policy from our insurance company to cover more than the standard liability coverage in our homeowner’s policy.  It doesn’t cost much for this coverage, even for $1M worth of coverage.  Your insurance agent can explain what is covered and how much is the right amount to get covered for.

See my other blog posts on parenting here.

Penalty-Free Ride Home

This is something my wife and I instituted at the beginning of junior high and extended all the way through high school graduation.  If the kids ever find themselves in an uncomfortable situation that they want to get out of, they can call home and we will come get them with no questions asked.  We tell them we can park a few blocks away, if needed, to be discreet.  Basically, whatever it takes to make them comfortable exercising this offer if in a bad situation.  We make it clear that we won’t interrogate them into telling us the reason for the call if they would rather us not know.  The important thing is that they know this safety net is there.

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The 50 / 50 Rule

50-50 graphicNervous about the dichotomy between buying nice-to-have things for your kids and making sure your they learn what it means to earn their own way?  Welcome to the 50/50 rule.  When your kids want a _____ (insert seemingly important item that fits the “want” category rather than the “need” category), tell them that you’ll split the cost 50/50 with them.  Then immediately be ready to offer ways to make money with chores if they ask.  If they really want the item, they will do whatever it takes to get it.  And with the 50/50 split it’s amazing how often their 50% share is reasonably within reach if they will put in some effort to work for the money.  And if they come to you with an idea to sell homemade banana bread every weekend morning door-to-door in your neighborhood, you have the side benefit of knowing you’ve given birth to an entrepreneur.

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Advice for New-Found Financial Freedom (College Grads)

So you’re a college graduate that just secured a full-time job and now more money is rolling in than you’ve ever been responsible for.  You’ve heard horror stories about how new-found financial freedom can suddenly turn into a nightmare with just a couple of wrong decisions.  This blog post doesn’t cover obvious problems like driving up credit card debt but instead describes some fundamental principles to guide you.

Warning:  I am not a certified financial advisor/planner.  I’m just a guy that has done well with my own personal investments and has had the benefit of passing advice to two daughters when they graduated from college and got their first job.

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