Weekend of Champions

Let me tell you about my weekend.


  1. I only went to work from 8:15am to noon. On Monday I start a temporary position for the next four months (into February, 2016) as a program leader in my office. In federal parlance, it’s called a “detail.” It’s a promotion while I’m in this acting capacity and should be a good experience.
  2. I went home and leisurely prepared for a round of golf with my next-door neighbor. We hit 12 holes of golf at Hill Field Golf Course. My neighbor is retired but he mows the grass at the course once a week to get him some free golf. He invited me to accompany him for a round. All I had to pay for was the cart fee and then we played as many holes as we wanted.
  3. Shortly after our golf, we turned on the World Series and watched the Mets (yay, National League!) finally win a game against the Royals (boo, American League!). My girls are the drivers behind getting the game on and watching it — Abby in particular.
  4. At 9:45pm, we welcomed a babysitter into our home to make sure my kids were safe in the event of an emergency while Jen and I drove to downtown SLC. Earlier in the day Jen’s cousin called and said, “Hey, I’ve got two extra tickets to watch Garth Brooks and Tricia Yearwood in concert – from a suite! Do you want to come?” Jen jumped at the opportunity and told me I was accompanying her. No problem. He’s got a bunch of good, timeless country songs and we had a great time at the concert. Free food, comfortable seats, and a hot date! The concert actually started at 11:30pm and we left at 1:30am to release our high school-aged baby sitter. By the way, I’m old. Going to bed at 2:30am is difficult for me.


  1. We slept in! Kinda. We tried our hardest to convince the kids to watch TV, find some food, do whatever until we could wake from our slumber. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any easy-to-deal-with food in the house (like, cold cereal) so they wouldn’t let us sleep in long.
  2. After breakfast, we mowed the lawn and raked leaves. But not in that order. Happy to have that done.
  3. At 1:30pm, I met a friend to go mountain biking. We went to Antelope Island — only half an hour drive from my house — and hit the White Rock loop and Elephant Head trail. In all, we rode a little over 14 miles in more than 2 hours of riding. I hadn’t done a mountain bike ride that long in a few years and my thighs cramped up. I also got a flat tire, but we were prepared to deal with that on the trail. It was an awesome day on the island.
  4. While I was biking, Jen and the kids made one last visit to Lagoon. It closes for the winter on Halloween and won’t open again until Memorial Day. They took good advantage of their season passes this year.
  5. Oh yeah, we celebrated Halloween. Kids and Jen went trick or treating while I manned the door here at home for the 10 or so knocks we got (we’re on a quiet street!).
  6. We watched more baseball as a family, read scriptures, said prayers, and sent everyone to bed.

Some pictures of the activities are below.

The costumed kids and their mother

The costumed kids and their mother

At the end of our trail -- time to loop back

At the end of our trail — time to loop back

Can you see why they call this elephant head?

Can you see why they call this elephant head?

Last day at Lagoon for 2015!

Last day at Lagoon for 2015!

Garth Garth


Good Samaritan

Recently I got a flat tire while driving on I-15. Luckily, it was a (somewhat) slow flat that didn’t blow out, creating a potentially disastrous situation. Additionally, it was a Sunday afternoon, so I had no problem moving over to the shoulder.

After parking on the shoulder, I proceeded to remove items from my trunk, such as the jack, crowbar, and spare tire. While doing this, a Good Samaritan — or so it seemed — pulled over behind me. This mid-60’s man walked out of his truck and approached me while I pulled the spare out of my trunk. He pulled out an road atlas and said, “I’m trying to get to Twin Falls, ID. Is this the right road? Am I close?”

Being an avid map reader, I was flummoxed he didn’t understand the basic principles of maps, scale, and contextual information present on any (decent) map. I reassured him he was on the right road and would be for over an hour still. I told him to catch I-84 to Boise when he saw the option and then he’d drive right to Twin Falls along that route.

He thanked me and returned to his truck without any acknowledgement of my situation. I chuckled, and then proceeded to complete the tire change.

Sandy Beach

On Christmas morning, 2015, our kids opened a small gift from their Grandpa and Grandma Ellett offering a trip to Disneyland with them sometime during the next year. That became a reality last week, and became much more than a simple trip to Disneyland. It ended up being a week at the beach in Newport Beach, CA, with their Ellett cousins and all the Ellett kids except Ryan, who currently lives and works in Hawaii.

We arrived in Newport Beach on Saturday evening a week ago to what felt like a giant frat party. It was a bit awkward pulling into the community with scantily-clad college-aged kids at every other house holding red Solo cups that held fermented hops, which frequently leads to filthy language, loud volume, and a very family unfriendly environment. The beach was equally crowded. I couldn’t find parking anywhere, and was actually a bit bummed at the spectacle. Luckily, they were all gone by Sunday afternoon and the beaches became vacated the rest of the week.


We essentially had two activities all week: Disneyland on Tuesday and a Giants – Padres game in San Diego on Thursday evening. Everything else was filled with sand, waves, and sunburns. Disneyland was a great experience and, although it lasted 14 long, hot hours, was a ton of fun taking the kids to this magical place. The day was capped off by an amazing electric light parade that was honestly very cool and a fireworks show to wow us.


The baseball game in San Diego was fun, although it ended poorly (in terms of a victory). There were lots of Giants fans in the stadium, so we didn’t stand out too much in our enemy gear. We watched Madison Bumgarner pitch 7 innings of 3-hit ball only to watch the bullpen give the game away. The Giants lost 5-4 on a walk-off single.

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The beach we stayed at was spectacular. The water was unseasonably warm (upper 70’s) and the sand was clean and free of rocks / pebbles. There were enough waves to make it interesting, but not so crazy that our kids were afraid to get in. In fact, I worked with all our girls to dive under crashing waves rather than take them standing up. It was fun watching them all dive in like fish as a wave crashed over them.

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Now it’s back to reality — work, school, Scouts, yard work, etc. Big thanks to Jen’s folks for the great week and to my kids who were awesome.

The Wedding Ring

I was swimming in the Pacific Ocean yesterday after our arrival in Newport Beach, CA. It was a welcomed cool down after the 4.5 hour drive from Las Vegas where we visited my sister. The waves were perfect for some body surfing and just cool enough that it was very refreshing.

As such, my wedding ring started to get a little loose on my finger. I thought it wise to hop out, tie the ring to my swim trunks, and then get back in the waves. On my way back into the waves, Jen’s dad, who knew my plight, stopped me and said, “Hey, I’m getting out; I can take your ring up to the house.” I agreed and proceeded to untie the ring from my swim trunks drawstring.

As soon as the knot was done, the ring immediately fell into the 2-feet of water in which we were standing. Aaaaahhhh! Jen’s dad and I immediately dropped to our knees, aware that it was now or never for this ring because the next wave was on its way in. I felt nothing. I couldn’t believe this was actually happening.

A few seconds later, Mark stood up, lifted his hand in the air, and showed off a shiny wedding ring.

Disaster averted. 10 points for Mark.

Abby’s First Flight

Two things here — first, I took Austin on his first real camping trip. Sure, we’ve camped in tents in the backyard, but never in the wild. Jen’s brother Ryan moved to Hawaii to work and play and he wanted a last camping trip in the Utah mountain before he took off. Jen’s dad, two brothers, me, and Austin all went up the Skyline Drive behind Bountiful and camped at a nice dispersed camping spot on the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache NF. Following a brief hike up to a near-by summit, we were treated to an awesome sunset. It was a perfect night for camping.

Austin and his Uncle Ryan watching the sun set.

Austin and his Uncle Ryan watching the sun set.

Austin's first camping trip

Austin’s first camping trip

Secondly, Jen and I have this silly idea that we want to have each of our children take their first flight before they go to junior high. We don’t have any logic behind this idea, but thought it would be fun. We figured we’d take eventual overnight trips with our kids to Boise, or Denver, or Phoenix, or something. At this point, two of our kids have flown, and they were more significant trips. We took Leah to Washington, D.C., while I attended a meeting at my agency’s headquarters. A few weeks ago we took Abby to San Francisco while I attended a meeting at Google’s campus in Mountain View. We actually flew into San Jose since it’s just a few miles away from Google’s campus.

My meetings began on a Monday morning at 7:45, so we flew on Sunday morning and got to California in time to attend part of church in the same congregation Jen attended as a child in Sunnyvale. We enjoyed taking Abby around to Jen’s old neighborhood and the two houses she lived in as a kid. That afternoon we drove the 45 minutes up to San Francisco to meet my brother who works in the Bay Area. We walked around and viewed some of the touristy sites, such as Pier 39, Fisherman’s Wharf, and the Golden Gate Bridge. It was really nice to be able to see Adam and walk around with him. I hadn’t been to San Francisco in 10 years, so it was great to be there again.

I spent Monday – Wednesday holed up on Google’s Campus in meetings and learning about Earth Engine, some totally smoking technology that allows us to process and analyze satellite imagery in ways we couldn’t before due to cloud computing. Enough about that — just know that professionally, I was pretty jazzed about the group of people I associated with, the tools we talked about, and the potential for our work in the agency.

While I was being jazzed, Abby and Jen toured San Francisco again and also spent half a day in Santa Cruz. Had I been at a more lame meeting, I would have been bummed to have missed out on their sightseeing. As it was, I think we were all happy to be where we were.

We don't always dress up to fly, but when we do, I fall asleep.

We don’t always dress up to fly, but when we do, I fall asleep.

On the Golden Gate Bridge

On the Golden Gate Bridge

Abby and Dad selfie while Adam was snapping a picture of the cables holding the bridge in place

Abby and I taking a selfie while Adam was snapping a picture of the cables holding the bridge in place. The result of the selfie is in the preceding picture.

The geographer in me loves this quote.

The geographer in me loves this quote.

On our brief tour of Google's campus

On our brief tour of Google’s campus

At least they were thinking of me while they were on the beach

At least they were thinking of me while they were on the beach

Abby didn't want to venture in too far.

Abby didn’t want to venture in too far.

Abby and Jen toured AT&T Park, the home of the Giants

Abby and Jen toured AT&T Park, the home of the Giants.

Raising Arizona

We know a bunch of people in Arizona — mostly the Phoenix area. Jen has two uncles in Mesa (and a grandma there during part of the year), an aunt in Scottsdale, and friends from her two years of high school in Litchfield Park. The best man from my wedding lives in South Phoenix, and there are at least three people from my BYU church ward who live in Phoenix. In addition, former neighbors of ours in West Jordan now live in Phoenix.

We recently traveled to Phoenix not just to see friends and family, but for BASEBALL! The Giants (and half the MLB) hold their Spring Training in the Phoenix area. We bought tickets to two games a few months ago and figured we’d continue our girls’ love affair of the Giants due to last year’s World Series win. Here’s a smattering of what we experienced.


DSC_0081 DSC_0067 DSC_0057 DSC_0010 IMG_20150401_150342The Grand Canyon:

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Ghost Town:

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Bocce Ball:


Everything Else:

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The blessing of neighbors

Ideally, I live here. No, not necessarily in humid and buggy Tennessee (although I’d be close to my sister for at least three years while they are in school). But that kind of property, with some barns, a great farmhouse, and with enough land to let my dog(s) roam free.

In reality, I live in the house represented by the orange star in the graphic below. It’s typical suburbia, although with more room to breath than our last neighborhood, where we could just about hear our neighbors brush their teeth.

The house with the yellow star largely keeps to themselves. They are very nice people, but we don’t see them much (their kids are grown and in college now).

The house with the blue star has been vacant for about 9 months now. The renters moved out and the owners gutted the thing and cut down the jungle that was previously called the backyard. They also removed the fence separating our property from theirs. That’s been a blessing and a curse. The kids can now easily visit friends who live on the street behind us without climbing fences or walking around. It also provides much easier access to the mountain, which is directly up Harvey Rd. Unfortunately, that house now has a sale pending, so we may have to change our behavior. In addition, they may want to put up a fence and will probably ask me to pay for half of it. No thanks.

The house with the green star has been largely empty for 18 months while the owners were on an LDS mission in Indiana. My kids have been playing in their backyard, swinging on their rope swing, I’ve been parking my truck on his driveway, and I’ve been borrowing his tools. Well, they returned today.

So we’ve had a pretty quiet last year in terms of neighbors and now we’re going to have to adjust our lives back to the idea of “oh yeah, we live in a neighborhood and can’t just do whatever we want.” Sigh.  Where’s that 750 acres again?

Our neighborhood

Our neighborhood