It's been an exciting year at our house. Here's an excerpt from last year's letter: "Now for the more uncertain news. Texas Instruments is selling its defense system business. They are actively taking bids …" Well, early in 1997, TI sold the defense business to Raytheon so Stewart is now working Raytheon TI Systems. Then TI went on a major sell-off spree eventually selling Anne's telecommunications group to Bosch. So Anne now works for Bosch Telecom, Inc., the US telecom headquarters of the German company you may know better for its spark plugs. In fact, they also make power tools so as a welcome gift we received a very nice cordless drill. So far not that much has changed. Both companies negotiated leases on the existing TI buildings so we are still working at the same sites, reporting to the same people, although Stewart moved off the secret project he had been on last year and returned to the F-16 Modular Mission Computer program which is now being upgraded to another processor. And Anne's project has required several trips this year, including three to Europe. Now we'll go back to our regular format of telling the year chronologically…
You may recall from last year that a vacation to Big Bend National Park had been cacelled by the government shutdown in 1996. So, we rescheduled and made it this year in January. And what a great, well kept secret this park is! We stayed in a little cabin with our friends, Alan and Maria Gant, in the Chisos Mountains. The Big Bend is the sticky-outy part of west Texas that borders Mexico, and we could see out into Mexico on several hikes along the Rio Grande. The lower mountains were desert-like, with temperatures in the high 70s in January, while the higher mountains dropped into the 30s at night and we even had snow on one hike. But the Star Party was the best. The sky was black velvet dotted with millions of stars which became brighter and more dense as your eyes adjusted. Eventually you could make out galaxies and it was nearly too bright to look. The air was so clear there was over 200 miles visibility! Stewart got his wish of stopping in at Fort Davis on the way back and checking out the MacDonald Observatory, and now he's decided to retire in Alpine.
The next several months, Anne did lots of traveling for work, surveying telecom toolsets (it would have been more if several of the vendors hadn't been in Dallas). In February, she spent two weeks in Orlando, then spent a week in France, near Versailles, her first trip to Europe ever. Check out our web page for a detailed log. It was really exciting and luckily she got a little extra time to do some sight seeing. Then in June, she went to New Orleans for a conference (where she had her purse stolen!), and later that month, and again in October, she spent a week in Backnang, Germany, the engineering home of Bosch Telecom, GmbH (the mother ship). Backnang is a quaint old German town that predates the 1400s and is easily accessible using the wonderful German train system. The residents know we're visiting by the clatter of rolling suitcases on the cobblestone streets. Although Anne's been practicing her Wie geht es Ihnen? (how are you?), it hasn't been much of an issue since most folks there speak English.
In between trips, we've been keeping up our biking, riding many of the same routes as previous years (Italy, Weatherford, Wichita Falls), although bad weather kept us from two of our favorites, Burnet and Muenster. Our web page has logs of many of these rides.
In May, we made a trip to visit to Anne's mother, Esther, for her 75th birthday, and joined a surprise Cummings family reunion organized by Kath for the occasion. It was the first time in 20 years that all of mom's seven offspring had been together in the same place, and many family members were present too. Mom said as hard as it was to raise us all on her own, it was harder seeing us all leave when the reunion was over. We'll have to do this again soon!
In September, we took another great Backroads bicycling vacation, this time to their most popular destination, the California Wine Country. The day that stands out the most is the "Occidental Loop" which included the map instructions: "hill starts … 4.5 miles … top of hill". But once on the top, the blood returns to your brain and you see beyond the vista a stretch of deep blue, a stretch of rolling white, and you realize you're staring at the Pacific Ocean! What a trip. Then it's a terrifying downhill to the scenic Highway 1, a gorgeous roll into the hotel, and on to the hot tub. During that trip, and almost completely by accident, we managed to connect with Stewart's brother and his wife, Morgan and Jary Jane, who happened to be on vacation at the exact same time in the exact same place! They were staying in a small Inn within a few miles of where we were staying! What are the chances?! We also got to see our good friends Jane, Bill and Connor before the biking started, our biking buddies from past trips Bud and Betty Miskell, our Texas biking buddies Don and D'Ann Hunt, and Anne's brother, Gil, and his family in Antioch, CA, after the bike trip on our way home.
In October Stewart's Aunt Bunny died. Stewart made a trip to Kentucky to be with his family. Although very sad, it was the first time in many years that he, his brother Morgan T., and parents Morgan and Maxine had been together without supporting families. Although a whirlwind trip, it was good to be together and talk as a family.
In November we traveled to Houston to visit Anne's sister, Trina, and her family. We did a tailgate party before Doug's afternoon high school football game. They didn’t win, but we sure had a good time, and it was a lot better than last year when we almost froze!
Stewart's parents, Morgan and Maxine, came in late November for a 2-day visit just before Thanksgiving. We had a great time before they boarded their commuter plane and headed down to Lake Charles, LA where Stewart's brother and his family are living. While they were here we visited a new mall near the airport. One of the largest in the world, Grapevine Mills. It was way too big, but I'm glad we went and took a look! Morgan and Maxine also helped us put up our Christmas lights.
We're not planning any trips for Christmas this year, so we're going to put up a tree and decorate the house up. We expect a nice, quiet time at home with local family, friends and our cats, Murky and Louie, who are really looking forward to that tree!<