120. Back to Minnesota (Part 2)

Friday 5/26- Welcome back for part 2 to our MN adventure. Ramie will start the blog today for you today. As a refresher, he & Taylor are currently up-north visiting his mom.

I woke up at 5am, grabbed a cup of coffee (mom must have been up earlier and started it) and sat quietly in the dark kitchen until she decided to get out of bed around 6. We chatted until about 8am when I decided that it was time to get going on the to-do list. I had about 10 things to try to get done before the rest of the family started arriving later in the afternoon or early evening. After Taylor woke up she tagged along, helping out where she could. Today also involved a couple trips to town to look for parts and pieces that I would need to finish the projects on my list. Taylor was a good co-pilot for these little trips too. One by one I was able to check the chores off the list, the chores ranged from simple things such as tightening screws, to more complicated things like opening up and cleaning the A/C unit. My day was filling up and going by very quickly!

Ok, Dana’s back. Today around mid-day it was time for Nicole & Hieu to bring me back to Taryn & Steven’s house because the plan was that once Will was done with school we could get on the road and head up North. The 5 of us adults all either had the day, or at least the afternoon, off work so we had a nice little get-together in Taryn & Steven’s front yard where they got to meet Luca for the first time. After about an hour Nicole, Hieu & Luca headed home and I had to go switch out my dirty laundry for some clean clothes, re-pack my bag, and get ready to spend a couple nights at Ramie’s mom’s house. The 5 of us headed up north and made it just in time for dinner. After dinner, Ramie’s other sister Tawnya, her husband Marty and their daughter Morgan showed up at the house. We didn't talk long since it was getting late, Tawnya & Marty headed down to their cabin and I think the rest of us went to bed shortly after they left. Tomorrow we have a busy day planned.

Saturday 5/27- We started our morning really the only way we know how- with coffee! As Ramie, his mom & I sat on the porch in the freezing cold, wrapped in blankets & wearing multiple pairs of socks or slippers, one by one everyone else woke up, and as they did, they would join us on the porch to chat and continue to catch up. Eventually Tracy (Ramie’s oldest brother) came over and asked if the guys were ready to get to work. Since everyone was here this weekend, Ramie and Steven were recruited to help Marty put in a dock at their cabin. It was only one section, but the river was very mucky and this might be a bit of a challenge for the guys. This could be very interesting to watch, but I had a work meeting this morning (I know, on a Saturday!? And while I’m in the US?! Yeah, they really needed me for an “emergency” meeting.) I guess I’ll go to the river when I'm done.

Hi everyone, Ramie here again. Last night when everyone was sitting around chatting, part of the discussion centered around how we were going to put the dock in. As mentioned, it's one section that is about 20 feet long. We decided that the easiest way to do this would be to use the tractor that had a bucket and forks. The rest of the plan would be figured out on the fly. When it was time to head to the cabin, Tracy drove the tractor, Taryn rode along with him to watch the entertainment, and I took the 4-wheeler with Morgan. When we got to the river, Marty and Ramie's other brother Troy were already there getting the dock ready, getting the legs put together and positioning them where they thought it would work best. Unfortunately for us, this was not a roll-in type dock. That would have been too easy! Once we had the dock ready to go, we decided that we would pick it up with the tractor and drive it straight in. 

Tracy on tractor duty

We would try to get the tractor as close as we could to the edge of the river without sinking the front of it. The plan actually worked! Except--- we had to take it back out and reposition a couple legs because the swamp grass just would not cooperate with us. Once the dock was set, there were some minor adjustments that had to be made and we had to add some extra supports.


At that point, Marty decided to just jump in the mucky river without waders on to do the work. Steven was another volunteer who jumped in, but he was wearing his waders. While the guys were working on the dock, Tawnya recruited Dana (whose meeting ended up getting cancelled at the very last minute) to go to town to buy a new bed & mattress for the cabin. Those 2 finally showed up to the dock-show when we were almost done. Wouldn’t you know it, the whole immediate family was there to enjoy the beautiful day by the river.

Once the dock was done the focus was turned to the bed and getting it set up in the cabin (which is more like a tiny house), but first, all of us guys deserve a beer! We put together the IKEA style bed frame and maneuvered it into the cabin. The bed didn't take too long and once done Tracy asked who wanted moonshine. He had some homemade (not made by him) root beer and peach flavored moonshine that he wanted to share. Those were passed around a few times and appeared to be a hit. We could all hear laughter coming through the woods since Morgan and Will decided to go play on the 4 Wheeler, and explore. I looked out towards the river and saw mom was sitting in a lawn chair by the rivers edge, sipping a beer, watching all of us hooligans. As far as the dock project went, Marty wanted to start building a small deck sitting area on land at the front of the dock, so a couple of us helped work on that while everyone else supervised, sat around, or jumped in the kayaks to enjoy paddling on the river.

Taryn and Will getting ready to explore the river
Morgan heading out to explore the river with Taryn

Eventually we ran out of wood for the deck, but we all sat around and talked the rest of the afternoon until about dinner time. 

Catching up with family and enjoying a beautiful MN day
I guess we can all sit here and relax!
Cousin time with Shadow
We ate good that night, pizzas for everyone! (except Dana, she had some chicken or something.) After dinner those of us who were staying at mom’s played some board & card games.

We were all pretty exhausted from the fun day we had hanging out and spending time together, eventually we went to bed around 10:30.

Sunday 5/28- There was no plan or agenda today because everyone would be saying goodbye and heading back home. We had a nice morning just hanging out until everyone started going their separate ways. It was a great couple of days spent with Ramie’s family.

We left around noon to bring Taylor back to her house. After we dropped her off but before we went back to Taryn and Stevens we decided that since we wouldn’t be too far away, we wanted to drive through our old neighborhood. We figured we’d make a quick drive through to see how much it has changed in the last 2 years and to see if anyone was out celebrating the weekend. While passing by our old house we noticed Jim and Debbie, our across the street neighbors, were out on their deck grilling. Perfect, just in time for early supper! haha We decided to surprise them so we snuck around the opposite side of their house and just walked up onto the deck. Boy were they surprised to see us!!! We spent a few hours talking and reminiscing, we answered all of their burning questions about life in Costa Rica and everything that's been happening with us, and they told us about everything that has been going on with them and the old hood. We really didn't plan on spending that long at Jim and Debbie's but we are glad that they were home and we got to catch up with them. Too bad none of the other neighbors were around this afternoon! Now that social hour(s) was over it was time to head back to Taryn and Steven’s for the night. 

Sorry, not sorry, we interrupted your dinner!

At some point today we also realized that today marks 2 years since we left MN to move to Costa Rica. What a coincidence to pick today to go back to the old home! Happy two years to us!

Monday 5/29- Happy Memorial Day

While it was great having a paid day off work without having to use vacation time, we did keep the day pretty low key. We started at Taryn & Steven’s house, Ramie helped them with a couple more small projects in the morning, and then it was back to Nicole & Hieu’s for the afternoon and overnight. Tomorrow morning I have a doctor’s appointment at the VA and their house is closer, so it only made sense that we started from here. Boy, this moving houses every couple of days is getting exhausting, not to mention, living out of a suitcase is kind of a pain in the butt! In the end, though, it’s all worth it to get to spend time with the families!

Tuesday 5/30- Another bright and early morning, on the road before 7am to get to the VA by 8. In order to keep me active in the system, my doctor told me several months ago that she wanted me to come in for a routine exam. She knows that I live in Costa Rica and asked me to make sure I got an appointment whenever I was back visiting in MN, so that’s what today was about. Of course, any of you who know how the VA works knows that things don’t move fast, so I had to be there at 8 to do the blood draw for my labs, then I met with the doctor at 9, and when that was all done, I had to stop at the onsite pharmacy to pick up my prescription refills. By the time all was said and done it was after 10:00. 

We had a couple of hours to kill and we had some more things for the house that we had to buy, so that was next on our agenda. As it got close to lunch time we headed back to the college where Ramie used to work so he could say hi to his old co-workers. It seemed like everyone we ran into was thrilled to see him. Since school was out for the summer there were very few people around other than employees, and as we were walking down the hallway it seemed like everyone we saw was excited to say hi and chat with Ramie. We spent about an hour chit chatting with the guys in Ramie’s old department (some of whom I knew) and reminisced and listened to stories about when they worked together and heard updates of how things were going now.

Ramie and Carl (Ramie’s best friend who just happened to take over his job when we left) organized a late lunch get together with some of their other close friends and former co-workers who could make it. We went to a little bar that they used to go to for lunch where Ramie could fulfill a promise that he’d have Bloody Mary’s with the old colleagues when he was back in MN. We spent the next few hours together laughing, telling stories, and I learned a whole lot more about everything that happened at work that Ramie never told me about (it was probably a good thing that he had a friend in HR, who just happened to be out with us today!! hahahaha) When it was time to leave you could tell that everyone had had a great time but they were all sad that their time together was coming to an end. There was lots of talk about some of them coming down to visit us, and we assured them that our doors are open whenever they make the venture this far south!

Afterwards, it was back to Nicole & Hieu’s because tomorrow morning we had to drive back into the cities.

Wednesday 5/31- Several months ago when we decided on the dates we’d be visiting MN and booked our flights home, I let my work know that I’d be back in MN for a few weeks. They quickly decided that while I was back in the US they would plan an in-person team building day for our whole team and fly me out to NJ to be part of it and meet everyone in person. They were very accommodating with my schedule and when all was said and done, it turned out that I’d fly to NJ on Wednesday afternoon, we’d have the event on Thursday, and I’d fly back to MN on Friday morning. A very quick trip indeed, but many of my coworkers were thrilled that they’d finally get to meet me in person, even if just for 1 day.

My flight wasn’t until about 1:30, but Ramie had plans today that he wanted to get started on, so he dropped me off at the airport around 10:30. Since I was there so early, I connected to the hot spot on my phone and actually got a little bit of work done while I was waiting in the airport! The flight went very smoothly and I made it to NJ with no problems at all. (P.S. Domestic travel is SOOO much quicker and easier than international travel, no customs and immigration, no extra long lines to wait in, just off the plane and out the door!)

Instead of staying in a hotel the 2 nights that I’d be here, my coworker who quickly became a friend despite only ever meeting each other online, Nikki offered (no, pretty much insisted or demanded) that I stay at her house while I was in NJ. Another co-worker/friend, Ali, who lived a few hours away and too far to drive in for just the day of the meeting, would be staying at Nikki’s house as well and this would give us extra time to bond together. Nikki also insisted that she would pick me up from the airport today. As soon as the plane touched down and I was able to turn airplane mode “off” I had a text message from Nikki saying that she was there and waiting in the cellphone lot. I let her know when we were deplaning and that I’d meet her by the baggage claim doors soon. She had given me a description of her car, and when I got out the door I spotted it without any problems. I may have inadvertently snuck up from behind because I think I startled her when I opened the door, she screamed a little bit and woke up her 4 year old daughter who was sleeping in the back seat. Here we were, meeting in person for the first time. After a hug (and a poke from Nikki because she needed to confirm I was “real”) we were on the way to her house. I got the highway tour from the Philadelphia airport to her house where I met her husband and other less than 1 year old daughter. We hung out at the house for the evening, had a couple of very strong margaritas made by her husband, and then Ali arrived at around 9:00. We spent about another hour or 2 hanging out some more before we were off to bed because tomorrow we had our team event.

(Ramie) Hi all, well since Dana had work stuff to do, I had a couple of free days to spend one-on-one with Taylor and she had already decided how she wanted to spend that time together. A few months ago, Taylor and Dylan bought an old school bus that they want to convert into a RV; she asked me to help with some of the harder/technical stuff that neither of them were comfortable or knew how to do.

The happy couple's new ride
After I dropped Dana off at the airport my first stop was the hotel I’d be staying at, I decided to get a hotel room because Taylor’s grandpa’s house (where the Bus is stored) is about an hour drive one-way from Taryn and Stevens. I checked in and waited until it was time to meet Taylor and get started.

When I showed up today she was so excited to show me the bus and talk about their plans. She started by walking me around and through everything that the both of them have done already and explained what she wanted us to work on next. I was pretty impressed that Taylor and Dylan had already pretty much gutted the entire inside of the bus themselves. 

Step 1: Remove the seats
Then: Remove the floor
My job today was to remove the ceiling panels using an air hammer/chisel to remove, one-by-one, hundreds of rivets that hold each panel on. To make this possible we decided to move the bus closer to her Grandpa's garage so that we could use the air compressor. While I was working on the ceiling Taylor was removing all of the screws that held on some of the other panels, cleaning up and organizing all the parts and pieces. 

After a few hours we were hot, dirty, and itchy from the fiberglass, and exhausted. Taylor decided to call it a day so she headed home and I went back to the hotel for a shower. 

Since I was staying in Stillwater, where I used to live and spend much of my time, I knew exactly what I was getting for dinner and I was super excited for it! Pizza Man for pizza (my favorite pizza place ever) and Lift Bridge Brewery (our favorite brewery and my 2nd favorite place in Stillwater) to get a beer! I got my beer & pizza to-go and went back to the hotel room turned on the TV, found a movie and stuffed myself until I couldn't eat anymore. It was totally worth every bite and I finished the whole pizza! 

I also have to re-hydrate for my busy day tomorrow

Thursday 6/1- Day #2 of the bus project. The plan for this morning was to meet at Perkins for breakfast at 10am to fuel ourselves for the work we’d do today. Since I got the entire ceiling removed yesterday, the first project today was to remove the three small under-seat heaters. First, I had to determine how the coolant lines were ran through the bus and how to eliminate them, after I figured out the best approach, one by one the heaters came out, along with all the long hoses that went along with them. I secured and properly routed the sections of the hoses that had to remain in the engine bay and then that project was checked off the list. The next project on Taylor’s list was to eliminate all the electrical and wiring that would no longer be needed, things like door buzzers, the handicap lift, and the stop sign (which is illegal to use if you aren’t actually working as a bus). The first step was to go through all of the switches and figure out which switches went to what component. After that part was figured out we were able to start removing all of that unnecessary wire.

Separating the wires to remove the ones no longer needed.
We were so busy working that we forgot to take pictures and videos today. Taylor is creating a sort of time lapse/progress video of their work on the bus, she was disappointed she only had a couple short videos from the past two days, but there is so much more work to do. We only worked until about 3pm, but we accomplished the major stuff that she really wanted me to help with. Plus, Taylor really had to get going because it was her turn to cook dinner at home. 

Almost completely gutted and ready to design the layout.

Yesterday she told me that I was invited for dinner at their house so I knew what my plans were for tonight. I went back to the hotel, quickly showered, and then drove to her house. She lives with her boyfriend Dylan and his family and they all take turns cooking meals, that’s why tonight was Taylor’s turn. The menu is fried rice and wontons. 

As she was busy cooking, I talked with Dylan and his parents and played with Kota (Taylors dog who used to live with us and I’ve really missed). 

Kota was so excited to see me again!

We all enjoyed a delicious meal together and I discovered that Taylor is really a fantastic cook, although I’m not sure who taught her to cook (I know for sure it wasn’t me)!

We spent the next couple of hours all chatting some more but it was getting late and it was time to say my goodbyes and head back to the hotel, I had to get up pretty early tomorrow to pick up Dana from the airport.

Team Building Day:

You know that nervous feeling that you get when you’re the new kid in the class? Well I only had that a little bit. While it was my first time meeting the other 24 people in my team in-person, I have known many of these people for about a year and have had many video chats with them throughout that time. Plus, the other thing that made it not so bad was that I’m not the only one who has never met anyone else in-person, there are actually a few of us!! They had a built-in social hour/breakfast for the first hour of the meeting, before the official “presentation” part started, so I made sure to make my way around the room to say hi to everyone. It turns out, that wasn’t hard, because everyone made it a point to come say hi to me (and I think I’ll mention here that apparently this group of people are all a bunch of huggers! I’m not the type of person to initiate a hug, but ok, I’ll humor them—I’ve never hugged so many people I’m only meeting for the first time on the same day!). We had our social hour, spent the next 7 or so hours with one of those trained team building coaches, including a break for an on-site lunch.

When the official part of the day was done, many of us made our way to a nearby restaurant where the bosses had planned a happy hour gathering, ate together and imbibed in a few beverages together if you were into that sort of thing. After another couple of hours here, we were all invited back to the boss’ house for coffee and dessert. At this point many of the people bowed out, but a group of 5 of us “girls” went and spent about an hour with the boss and his wife, shared some more stories, and had a good time together. I had a very early morning tomorrow that would sneak up on me too quickly, so we didn’t stay late, but I do feel that I definitely made the most that I could out of this short trip to meet everyone in-person, as it may be a while before I make my way back to NJ to see them again. 

Nikki (who insisted I stay at her house) & me

The crew

The Official Casa Costa Breeze end of May rainfall total was 23.55 inches.

(In case you’re wondering, our lovely house watchers kept track of the rain for us, since some heavy rains started right after we left).

Pura Vida!