Monarch Watch

A butterfly in front of the University of Kansas’ Monarch Waystation

We had a chance to head over to the University of Kansas and attend their open house concerning the annual Monarch butterfly migration. They have been tracking the huge decline in the Monarch butterfly population and are trying to raise awareness to how we can help restore the population.

Sarah and Emily examine some caterpillars in the garden behind Foley Hall.

Toyota Transition

This blog started in conjunction with my return to the United States in 2005 and purchase of a Toyota Tundra. After being away from the US for four years, I celebrated my return by the purchase of the new truck and a (mostly) circumnavigation of the lower 48. My first encounter with Toyota was through my friend Robb and a 1980s Toyota 4×4 he had. Robb was going to school at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. Robb was fond of taking his truck to Pismo Beach and enjoying the beach and dune experience. Robb loved his truck.

After spending a year in Monterrey, CA learning Russian at the Defense Language Institute and a few months honing my listening abilities at Goodfellow Air Force Base near San Angelo, TX, I got my follow on orders to Fairbanks, Alaska (Fort Wainwright). I didn’t have a car. I was an enlisted Army soldier making not a whole lot of money. Heading way, way up north. I figured I needed a 4-wheel drive vehicle to make my life a bit more comfortable. My first thought was a Ford Ranger. But it ended up being too expensive. The most reasonable costing 4-wheel drive vehicle was a Toyota 4×4. It was 1993 and the Tacoma had not come along yet. 1993 Toyota 4×4. Manual locking hubs. Manual windows. AM/FM radio. Bench seat. No A/C. 4 cylinders. That truck was to go on to perform flawlessly in Alaska, transported me from Alaska to Georgia and several cross-country trips. Arizona. Washington State. Texas. And California. For seven years, that truck never let me down. I was heading off to Korea for a year to be followed by three in Germany. I sold the truck.

1993 Toyota 4×4, driving across western Arizona with my pet iguana
1993 Toyota 4×4, California – just before I had to sell the truck, ~December 2000
1993 Toyota 4×4, exploring south eastern Arizona near Fort Huachuca

When I was planning my return to the US, I knew I wanted to get another Toyota. I settled on the Tundra. But instead of the minimum package, I was able to swing a 2005 Toyota Tundra Limited Double Cab 4×4. This truck offered to support a newly forming family. I broke the truck in with a trip around the US. I continually upgraded my ham radio installation in the truck, further enhancing my mobile enjoyment. The Tundra performed flawlessly. Never an issue.

2005 Toyota Tundra, Fort Story, Virginia
2005 Toyota Tundra, Leavenworth, Kansas – the snowy winter of 2010

The Tundra proved to be the hero of the 2015 Summer trip. Five national parks. From Kansas to Montana, Wyoming, out to California and back. Pulling a travel trailer. No issues, no problems. Over 120,000 miles.

2005 Toyota Tundra, Lansing, Kansas – January, 2013

It was time to think about the future. A future of summer travel. Exploration of national parks in the west. Colorado. Arizona. Utah. Maybe an upgrade to the travel trailer. The 2005 Tundra had an older drive train and a towing capacity topping out at 4,200 lbs. Comparing the aging 2005 Tundra to the current available 4x4s… the 2005 had a hard time measuring up.

I wanted to find something that was as reliable and dependable. Offered increase towing capability. But maybe smaller? Truth be told, I often had difficulty parking the Tundra. The turning radius was… challenging. Was there something available in a smaller package, yet offering increased performance and towing capabilities? Oh… did I mention that it has to be a Toyota?