Dear Friends and Family,
Greetings to all! Hope all is well with you and your family! We are fine, as are our kids, grandkids and my mom –
who turned 95 this year. We’ve had a great year – with wonderful trips, including visits to see special friends and family.
This year we also completed seeing all 50 state capitols and added 8 more national parks in our quest to do them all.
March – A St. Patrick’s Day Birthday for Mom as She Turns 95
Mom’s birthday was March 12th, but because some of my siblings still work, we had her birthday on St. Patrick’s
Day. She’s doing well, and her kids and cousins came to celebrate. And, as everyone’s Irish on that day, we all had a
great Irish celebration eating carrot cake and chocolate coins, while wearing tiaras, gold and green beads, and festive
April – Long Easter Weekend in Houston with Rob, Laura, Peyton and Kensie
For Easter, Rob and his family came to see us in Texas. We all went to the Houston Zoo and then to Kemah along
Galveston Bay. And, of course, we did all of the traditional fun things like egg dying, hiding and hunting. A great
April and May – 33 Days in Paradise – “Hawaii”
After 40 years, we finally made a grand return to Hawaii for our second visit. The first time was years ago – BC
(Before Children). Now, years later – it’s AD (After Dave). We had a fabulous time and went to all six islands that
tourists can visit – 11 days on Oahu, 8 on the Big Island, 9 on Maui and 5 on Kauai, with day trips to Lanai and Molokai.
We shopped ahead of time and came prepared with Hawaiian shirts, dresses and accessories. We had never been to the
last 3 islands and enjoyed some new experiences – like a “doors off” helicopter ride over - and a catamaran ride along -
the Nā Pali coast in Kauai, Hawaiian shaved ice and Tiki bars. Some of our favorite things we did, included snorkeling
with fish, dolphins and turtles and going to Haleakalā National Park on Maui, seeing the sunset on Mona Kea and visiting
Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island, and experiencing the Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu. In Honolulu, we
visited our 50th state capitol, which was “open air” in the middle - inspired by the crater of a volcano. We also saw several
high school friends, as well as coffee plantations, vanilla and cacao farms. We indulged in a lot of luaus with fantastic
shows and took the “Road to Hana” at a more leisurely pace of two days instead of one. Of course, we took a lot of
pictures and even went on a couple photo tours on Oahu and Kauai. The weather was spectacular and every day was a
blast! Anyone want a great itinerary?
June and July – 47-Day Road Trip around the East Coast and Mid-West
Last year, we realized that we were pretty close to “doing” all of the 61 national parks, so our second big trip was an
“east coast/mid-west” road trip to see 6 more of them, as well as visit our kids and their families along the way. We
hadn’t even heard of some of these national parks until we looked them up. The first one was “Congaree NP” in South
Carolina, south of Columbia; it’s mainly a large old-growth forest on a flood plain. When we visited, it was in the flood
stage, but luckily, we were able to see the park by walking a boardwalk above the swamp. Prior to Congaree, we made
our first trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina and visited Kitty Hawk/Kill Devil Hills where the Wright brothers
made their first flights. Feeling the perseverance and drive of the brothers to achieve their goal was very inspiring. Later
in our 5-day visit, two F-18s buzzed around the Wright Brothers Memorial – now that was awesome! While on the Outer
Banks, we also visited Roanoke Island and learned about the Lost Colony of the late 1500’s. If you’ve never been to this
area of the country, it’s beautiful and interesting, plus, there are a lot of historic lighthouses to climb, too.
After seeing Rob and Laura, Peyton and Kensie in Alpharetta, we headed north to Norfolk and saw the world’s
largest naval complex with 3 aircraft carriers in port. Among other interesting attractions in this part of Virginia, a
highlight was the Chrysler Museum of Art with its amazing glass collection and studio.
We then saw Richard, Christiane, Andrew and Austin in Kennett Square, as well as grad school friends along the way.
The twins were almost 5 and, like Energizer bunnies, had unlimited energy. From PA, we headed to Ohio to another
national park we’d never heard of –“Cuyahoga Valley NP”– the site of the “Erie and Ohio Canal” along the Cuyahoga
River between Cleveland and Akron. In the park, we hiked around huge boulders called “the Ledges,” saw waterfalls and
rode an old train which ran along the historic canal. Before leaving Ohio, we visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,
designed by I.M. Pei, and the Detroit Institute of Art, which, fortunately, was rescued from being sold off when Detroit
From Ohio, we went to Mackinaw, MI and visited Mackinac Island. We had a fun day on the island - riding on horsedrawn
carriages, seeing the Grand Hotel and visiting Fort Mackinac, which we were surprised to find out, was the US’s
second national park. When the government found out how much it was costing to maintain the park, they handed it off
like a hot potato to Michigan to be a state park. We also toured two Mackinaw icebreakers used on the Great Lakes - the
historic one from WWII (now a museum) and the current one manned by the Coast Guard – a big difference in
We then headed to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula – home of the “Uppers” (said “You-Pers”). Our main objective was
to go to “Isle Royale NP,” but along the way, we took a boat ride along the colorful Painted Rocks cliffs in Lake Superior.
To get to Isle Royale, we took a 3-hour boat ride in Lake Superior from the tip of the UP Keweenaw Peninsula. Although
some people try to “do” the national park in one day, it’s impossible to see much of anything in an hour. We stayed 3 nights at
the NP lodge and took hikes and boat tours to various parts of the island, where we saw moose and squirrels, eagles and
loons, pileated woodpeckers and all sorts of interesting historical memorabilia from the copper mining days.
After Isle Royale, we drove back to Houghton, MI and saw some of the historic copper mines and mills on the
Keweenaw Peninsula. Of course, before we left, we had partake of the local “Upper” cuisine – delicious meat pie
Next was International Falls to visit “Voyageurs NP,” which are islands in the boundary waters between Minnesota
and Canada. To see the islands, we mainly took boat tours narrated by the national park rangers. The weather was great
and we didn’t encounter any mosquitos, which we heard is the State Bird of Minnesota. I also reflected on the people
who live in International Falls. Coping with “forty below” temperatures in winter – these people have to be really, really
After International Falls, we drove to Burnsville, south of Minneapolis, for a quick visit with John’s sister Jean, her
husband, Dave, and daughter Cynthia and her family. After we planned this trip, we found out that - just this year -
Congress approved “Indiana Sand Dunes National Lakeshore” to be a national park, so we made a quick detour near Gary,
Indiana to see it. The national park was so new, the rangers didn’t even have a chance to put up the sign. John lifted it up
out of the grass so we could get our picture with it, and then we went and toured the park.
Our next stop was St. Louis, where we visited like-minded “doing-all-the-national-parks” great friends from Clear
Lake. Last year, the Gateway Arch was also up-graded from a national monument to a national park after Congress spent
$380 million to re-landscape the grounds and redo the museum. Of course, we had to go see what our tax dollars paid for,
get our NP stamp and picture with the sign. Luckily, the swollen Mississippi River had receded - just in time for our visit.
After some touring around St. Louis, we drove to Bentonville, AR to see the Walmart Museum and Crystal Bridges
Museum of American Art. At Crystal Bridges, we also saw the Frank Lloyd Wright Bachman-Wilson usonian house
from New Jersey that was taken apart and put back together on the museum grounds to keep it from repeated floods in NJ.
Our last stop was seeing my aunt, Ann, and cousins in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
August and September – Memphis and Texas “Coussens Cousins” Get-Together in Nashville
Last year, we got together with my three “Texas” Coussens cousins and their spouses in San Antonio. At the end, we
were all pumped to do it again – this year in Nashville. Finding a common time that everyone was free was probably the
biggest challenge, but we were able to gather the first week of September. John and I made a few stops before Nashville
in Texarkana (Yes, there are even things to see in Texarkana!) and Memphis to see Elvis’s mansion and museum
complex, plus take a boat ride on the Mississippi. Along the way, we also saw the Frank Lloyd Wright Rosenbaum house
in AL and toured the Jack Daniels and George Dickel distilleries. In Nashville, we all did a lot of the “Music City”
attractions, like the Grand Ole Opry and the Ryman, Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage, a couple craft distilleries and tried the
local cuisine -Nashville Hot Chicken and BBQ. And then there was “Broadway” – crazy – neon lights, music spilling out
into the sidewalks from the honky-tonks, bachelorette parties in progress, the streets filled with all sorts of party busses –
some equipped with hot tubs with gals in bathing suits, tipsy people, etc., etc., etc. Nashville was really wild, fun and
September – Back to Oregon and Wedding of Niece Jamie
After Nashville and another visit to Rob and Laura’s in Alpharetta, we flew to Oregon to attend the wedding of my
niece Jamie, daughter of my sister Theresa and husband Rod. Most of the week was spent seeing and eating with friends
and relatives. The Oregon rain parted for the bride and groom on their wedding day and a great time was had by all.
November – New Orleans for Thanksgiving – and December – with Robert & family in GA
For Thanksgiving, we went to New Orleans to rendezvous with friends and “laissez les bons temps rouler” in a city
known for great fun and food – and we had lots of both. In December, we’re with Rob and his family for an early
Update on the “kids” – Richard, Robert and David
Richard (38) and Christiane are in Kennett Square, PA with 5-year-old twin sons, Andrew and Austin. Richard still
heads Quantitative Research at Moody’s Analytics, and Christiane is in the pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical
division at W.L. Gore. Robert (36) is a senior product manager with Promethean and Laura is now the global head of
B2B Loyalty and Guest Marketing at InterContinental Hotels Group. Their children, Peyton (7) is in 1st grade and Kensie
(4) is in preK – both at King’s Ridge. Dave (33) is in Covington, LA with his girlfriend Kristie, his dog Brody and her
dog Mako. He’s still working for Shell as a Completions and Well Interventions Engineer in natural gas fracking. In
March, he and his girlfriend went to Kauai for a week – in time to give us great advice for our May visit. In October,
Dave went to Nepal with some of his hiking friends - trekking for 18 days in the Khumbu Valley with a Sherpa guide and
climbing Gokyo Ri, Kala Pattar, and finally Lobuche East, which stands at 20,070 ft. On the trip, they also visited Mt.
Everest Base Camp.
Don’t Be Shy – Y’all are Welcome in Texas!
By the way, the new guest rooms are ready and we’re hoping to see you in Houston some day! Let us know when you
might be passing through! We’ll round up some steaks and fire up the grill! Yee-Haw! We’ll show you a good Texas