Thursday, December 22, 2011

Jeff Spotting - Aqaba, Jordan (Again)

Six months have come and gone, and we're still deployed...

Trip number two to Aqaba, this time to wash down all the Marine Corps vehicles we have aboard the ship to prevent foreign contaminants from reaching US soil. This means that we are that much closer to returning home. I spent the days overseeing the unloading and loading of vehicles and then got out at night to a local resort, which is one of three places we were allowed to go; fortunately it is pleasant enough to while away an evening.

I had my first encounter with a Lionfish the other day. It wasn't up close and personal, thankfully, since I've had enough painful encounters with sea creatures (recalling an unpleasant footfall on a sea urchin back in 2006 on the big island Hawaii).


Friday, December 02, 2011

Jeff Spotting - Manama, Bahrain and Jebal Ali, UAE

More port time! USS WHIDBEY ISLAND pulled into Manama, Bahrain, after some 65 days at sea. The intent of our stop was primarily to conduct ship maintenance, because after eight months at sea the engines need some down time. The crew needed some rest and relaxation, and was granted evenings to go out on liberty to the Naval Support Activity, local malls and restaurants. We stayed for about a week, which provided a few opportunities to get out and stretch my legs. The picture on the left is a shot overlooking several ships anchored with a traditional flat areas in the background. If you check the link above, you'll notice that there are several very tall buildings in the downtown area, so this shot is probably uncharacteristic of the city.
After a couple of well appreciated trips to the Navy Exchange, we left Bahrain and headed almost straightaway to Jebel Ali, which is a short trip from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Our trip was brief, though, and after ship duty on the day we arrived, which left me exhausted, I had one day to enjoy the city. I spent most of it sleeping... but did get out for a bite to eat and ended up purchasing a nice Turkish-made lamp (no genies, though). This is a panoramic of what I missed by sleeping the day away:


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Between the Waters ride

Every year, Citizens for a Better Eastern Shore puts on a bike ride - this year it started in Cape Charles and we had options of a 25, 40, 60 or 100 miles.

Though I've done centuries in the past, I just recently started riding again and didn't want to bite off more than I could chew, so I rode in the 25 miler with Dr. Blair Chick, the Chief Medical Officer of Eastern Shore Rural Health (and a great bike buddy!). Unfortunately I had a tire blow out (I suppose a bit of dry rot's not surprising after my bike has been in storage for a number of years).

Luckily there were representatives from a bike shop in Salisbury, so I was able to replace my tires and have various other quirks straightened out. Plus I got to do some shopping with Dr. Chick's wife Elaine.

CBES provided a really nice lunch in Oyster at the aquaculture research center, which had a dock with a great view!

Can't wait to do the ride again next year with good tires; the goal is the 100 miler with Jeff, too!


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Crockett Town "loop"

I took my Virginia maiden voyage on my road bike yesterday after some minor complications (missing pedals and a combination lock wired around it that I forgot the combination to...). It was a journey I was going to call the Crockett Town loop, however, it became not very loop like as I took a couple wrong turns that put me at 16 miles instead of 8.5. I was half planning a trip up to Chincoteague today to bike to Assateague, but my leg muscles were protesting and I did some work around the house instead...

It's a good road bike - paved roads without a car on them that almost felt like trail biking at times because I saw deer, birds (including vultures!) and various other wildlife.

The water view was really nice, though I had to fight some particularly nasty headwinds on the way home.

This is a great place to bike, so if anyone wants to visit, they might want to think about bringing one!


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Jeff Spotting - Aqaba, Jordan

It has been awhile since I've indicated where I've been. After leaving Romania, we sailed south through the Suez Canal into the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden to conduct counterpiracy operations as part of the Combined Task Force 151. Unfortunately, counterpiracy operations are not near as swashbuckling as Hollywood would have you believe. Modern counter piracy involves talking with merchant vessels passing by on the Bridge to Bridge radio to inquire if the merchant has seen any suspicious activity. Most vessels have not seen any such activity, so we continue on.

As a reprieve from this, the ship made a brief stop in Aqaba, Jordan in early September. The liberty policy in Aqaba was restrictive which allowed us only a few tours to Jordan cultural sites and a beer on the pier tent. Due to this restriction, my experience in Aqaba was fairly limited. Any time off the ship is time well appreciated, though.

In the meanwhile, I've been out here over three months now with an end still several months out. Jess continues to work on the house, and all the decisions she is making are making me homesick for a house I've only seen three times. Okay, okay. It's probably not the house that I'm homesick for.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Greetings from Onancock!

I have officially moved to Onancock, VA! On the left, you will see the house. There will be more pictures to follow as more and more work gets done.

Thus far this week I have registered the car, registered to vote, gotten my drivers license and new plates for the car, moved myself and two very traumatized kitty cats, and unpacked about 3/4 of the boxes. It's been a busy week!

The new front door comes this week, and very soon we're getting the gorgeous heart pine floors refinished. I've met quite a few neighbors and other people while I've been walking around and doing errands - this has to be the friendliest town I've ever seen. I still have a couple weeks before I start work to get acclimated, and I plan to take advantage of every minute of it!

I figured I would close with a picture of the grill. Not only can we afford a grill, but there is a very good spot for it on the deck my parents and I did a ton of work on a couple weeks ago. I grilled delicious marinated steaks tonight. My grilling up to this point has been on a George Foreman (except tailgating and camping and such) so this was quite awesome. Steak. Yum.


Friday, August 26, 2011


All done! Graduation was August 12th, and it was really great to see Mom and Dad, Linsey, Mark and Amber up here in Philly.

A little over a week after graduation, I took my boards. I'd been hearing all along that I should take at least a month to prepare, but I figured with closing on the house in Onancock and wanting to start work in October, sooner was better than later. I got my score back two days after the test, and am proud to say that I am now a certified Physician Assistant!

Since Jeff couldn't make it to the ceremony, I figured I would post yet another graduation picture with me shaking someone's hand, in which my ear looks really pointy.

Now I am just enjoying Philadelphia while I get ready for the move to Virginia - hopefully the DelMarVa region won't be washed away by hurricane Irene, and also am really hoping the house makes it through the storm and the damages and repairs don't delay the closing! Philly's due to be hit, too, but not as hard - luckily am planning to hang out with a couple buddies from the program and play some board games if the power goes out. Those are my friends on the left. I like photo booth pictures when I go to the movie theater in Manayunk.

Stay safe in the hurricane, East Coasters!


Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Geography Lessons

After leaving Rhodes, we made our way north through the Aegean Sea into the Dardanelles to the Sea of Marma to the Bosphorus Strait to the Black Sea. Istanbul (which was Constantinople), has the Bosporus running through it and is very scenic from the Strait. As with everything else, I'll eventually have pictures available...but in the meanwhile, here is a map showing our route.

Our goal was the coast of Romania for an exercise called Summer Storm 11. The ship conducted several amphibious offloads, helicopter landings, and other exercises with the Romanian Navy.


Sunday, July 31, 2011

Jeff Spotting - Rhodes, Greece

When I flew out to meet the ship several weeks ago, I went with the assurance that I would be deploying with no port visits over the course of four months of deployment. However, seeing as I have visited a new port roughly every other week, I'm inclined to believe that my assurances were incorrect.

While the intention of our time in Souda focused on maintenance, our time in Rhodes focused on liberty. The name Rhodes applies to both an island and a city, and I had a chance to explore both but only minimally. Unfortunately, the Colossus of Rhodes no longer exists, because it would be really cool to see an ancient wonder of the world. However, the city is split into an old town section and all the periphery new town. Similar to Chania, the old town provides dozens of cafes and shops to wander through, although it is also surrounded by a massive medieval wall.

I was able to take a tour of the entire island which included a trip to a Grecian pottery manufacturer which is basically just a little hut with a foot spun wheel, a paint station, a kiln, and a store to sell the pottery in. We then traveled to the Acropolis of Lindos for a hike up to the top. Other stops included a stop for lunch; local wine, olive oil, and honey tasting; and a visit to a location called "Valley of the Butterflies" that was overrun by butterflies.

At one point during my first night out, I texted Jessica with the comment: "Drinking beer out of a boot, eating grilled octopus, and thinking about stealing a sailboat." The beer boots come in multiple sizes: 1 liter, 1.5 liter, and 2 liter..., the octopus was delicious, and I never got around to stealing a sailboat. I wouldn't be opposed to returning and sailing through all the Greek islands, though.


Monday, July 25, 2011

Jeff Spotting - Souda Bay, Crete, Greece

The ship left Cannes and made way directly toward Souda Bay, Crete for a week of mid-deployment maintenance. Souda Bay has Hellenic-navy operated NATO piers where several ships, US and otherwise, pull in for work, refueling, and recreation. I had pulled into Souda on my first deployment back in 2005, which was interesting because West Coast based-ships normally don't make it into the Mediterranean. Then and now, I've fallen in love with the Greek landscape: harsh, rocky terrain that softens to pleasant cool tones in the evening with water that gives Hawaii a run for its money. (Hawaii still wins out on beaches, though).

The closest city to Souda is call Chania. The tourist destination in Chania is a harbor right on the water surrounded by shops, bars, and restaurants. The lighthouse in the picture above is at the entrance to the harbor and the picture at left is one of many side streets loaded with shops and hotels.

Since the ships was was moored in Souda primarily for maintenance and in-port work, we were allowed to go into Chania only on the weekend. However, Souda has a Naval Support Activity located close by with a NEX, mini-mart, and restaurant that we were allowed to visit after working hours. Also, about a mile from the NATO piers were several beaches and restaurants. Toward the end of our stay, I ran the hills of Crete several days to stretch my legs. On a couple of occasions, I wound up at a resort beach with gorgeous clear water that was so very refreshing after running in the heat of the day. Jessica and I are figuring out a way that we can come back together some day, although I'm conflicted on if we should rent a villa, rent a sailboat, or backpack from city to city and stay in random hotels.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Graduation, house, Jeff deployment: Jess update

Graduation in less than a month, holy cow! I am currently on rotation #10 of 10, my nephrology elective, and about halfway through. Nephrology = kidneys, in case you were wondering. It's really interesting, but between looming graduation, burnout from 10 rotations without a good break, and buying a house, I am extremely ready to be done!!!

Speaking of the house, sorry we haven't been in touch much about that! Jeff and I found the perfect place in Onancock when we were on the Eastern Shore over Memorial Day, right before he left. We went through it once with the real estate agent - then we were wandering past and met the owners and went through a second time, and then we went through a third time with the real estate agent before deciding to go ahead with the offer. It's right in town, walking distance from some restaurants, antique stores, the post office and the wharf. There's a bed and breakfast across the street and one right beside it, which is kind of adorable. And it's a two-story farmhouse with a big front porch and a small yard - that was landscaped by a master gardener with local plants.

Basically we put the offer on the house and Jeff deployed, so I've been dealing with getting all the paperwork together to secure the loan and get ready for closing August 30, which is one week after I take the boards. The area really is beautiful - and I'll be happy to have visitors after I get settled in!

Just wanted to put it out there that I communicate with Jeff pretty regularly if anyone has trouble getting in touch with him for whatever reason...


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Jeff Spotting - Cannes, France

The ship recently anchored off of Cannes, France for a Fourth of July celebration. Cannes is pretty enjoyable, although expensive, being on the French Riviera. After a couple of days of duty and participating in the reception aboard the ship, I was able to get out and explore the city and surrounding area, including a day trip to people-watch and drink coffee in Nice. Most of my time in France was enjoying the scenery and eating fantastic french food at outrageous prices. Unfortunately Jessica couldn't join me, but we'd love to arrange a trip out this way some day when we can explore at our leisure and not be chained (metaphorically) to a ship.

I have photos, but not the bandwidth to upload them. Therefore, they are forthcoming.

(Edit: I don't have any great shots of Cannes or Nice. The below picture is Howitzers on the Flight Deck with Cannes in the background)


Sunday, July 03, 2011

First Lieutenant

I've taken over as the First Lieutenant on the USS WHIDBEY ISLAND (LSD 41). A First Lieutenant on an amphibious ship manages the Deck Department. The Deck Department conducts shipboard evolutions such as anchoring, mooring to a pier or buoy, launching the ship's boats, launching amphibious craft, and also a large amount of painting the ship.

I joined the ship just over three weeks ago in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea and should be attached for about a year and a half. In that time, the Whidbey Island participated in a bilateral amphibious exercise with the Spanish as part of the Bataan Amphibious Readiness Group.

Although I don't have a quality camera at the moment, I'll attempt to include photos of the places I see along the way and some of the evolutions we conduct.


Monday, June 06, 2011

Jeff Prepares to Deploy (Again)

It's that time again. I'm a day (or several - no idea really when) out from departing the US for a ship in the middle of the ocean. USS Whidbey Island is somewhere in the Mediterranean Sea. I'll fly from Norfolk to (probably) Italy and then take a helicopter ride to the ship. I'm not going to speculate on when I'll return outside of acknowledging that I should be home in time for Christmas.

In the meanwhile, I'm feeling very displaced. After graduating from SWOS in early May, I spent the week spring cleaning Jessica's Philadelphia apartment (it needed it - Whoa!) and cooking her dinner (I also made her breakfast a few times). Then I stopped down in D.C. to visit Jason and Kelly and the kids before heading to Little Creek Naval Amphibious Base for a short school. After that I spent just over a week, through Memorial Day, at a beach cottage on the Eastern Shore. Jess came down for the Memorial Day weekend and we spent a time looking at houses in Accomac County, which is where her clinic is located (we've put an offer on a place and will describe more once we get closer to closing). After several trips up and down the eastern shore, several times with Jess and once with her parents, I checked into a temporary Norfolk unit to arrange my travel to meet the ship. Traveling from the beach to Norfolk daily was tedious, so I moved out of the cottage into a hotel on base. Rather than spend the weekend doing nothing much in Norfolk, I once again visited Jason and Kelly then headed back up to Philadelphia...and then back to Norfolk to a different base hotel.

So, to sum up the month: Newport -> Philadelphia -> DC -> Norfolk -> Beach cottage -> up and down the eastern shore-> Norfolk -> DC -> Philadelphia -> Norfolk...

I'm beginning to think life at sea will be easier than all this travelling. As the adventures at sea occur, I'll keep you posted.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Jess update (wow!)

Figured I'd take a minute to give a little update! (The picture at the side is of me and my friend Kristen, who is also in the PA program)

- I am finishing up the eighth of ten rotations - a psychiatry rotation in Trenton, New Jersey. This is the end of 12 weeks of commuting to NJ from Philly, which is a huge relief, but both of the rotations (the other was pediatrics) in Trenton were good clinical experiences. It was particularly fun to work on a psychiatry rotation as "judgment day" was approaching.

- Also finally done with my masters project and due to present it Thursday along with a grand rounds presentation, and an exam the day before. It's going to be nice to have a life again!

- I've accepted a job at the Onley Community Health Center which is on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, right across the bridge from Jeff in Norfolk. The area is gorgeous and I'm hoping that we can make it a home! So the next big task is studying hard for my boards so I can take them about a week after graduation, get my Virginia license, and hopefully be set to start working in early October. I'm going to try to do a little catching up on visits after the boards and before I start working...

Miss everyone, and I know I'm busy, but don't be afraid to call if you want to.


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Five Years!

So, we obviously haven't posted in some time, but figured that our five year anniversary was a reasonable reason to make a note. Jess is visiting Jeff in Newport this weekend, just in time for the Saint Patrick's Day parade. The weather is cold but clear. We're planning to go out for a walk shortly, maybe to see some of the parade, but mostly just to take advantage of the time together.

Jess may have found a location in Virginia to fulfill her scholarship requirements, so there is the opportunity that we will be in proximity for some duration. We'll probably find out later this month, if she has the chance to get down for some interviews. She found out her graduation date: 12th of August, 2011.

Jeff is close to done in Newport and will head down to Virginia in early May for some follow on schools. His orders changed from the USS CARTER HALL to the USS WHIDBEY ISLAND, and he should be reporting some time in June.

Both Jess and Jeff have senioritis and look forward to being done with school. And also to spending the next five years together!

- j&j