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Christmas Letters

Since the early 80's I have been sending out an annual Christmas letter in similar format; a sheet of paper folded in fourths, a cover photo and back photo with a summary of the year inside. Here are the text portions of those letters back through 1985. I am missing 1987 and letters before 1985. If any of you Christmas card 'savers' who have been receiving my letters all these years have a copy somewhere, I'd be happy to borrow them!

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Christmas 2012

Dear Friends far and near,

2012 was marked with numerous highlights: family, tours and travels, and personal; as well as with a few sobering events.

Mother celebrated her 90th birthday this past summer and 200 people came from all over to join in the festivities. On a sad note, my long-time Florida friend Ann Menges, ‘the bride’, died in August. We met on my first world cruise in 1989 and have had countless good times since. Truly the end of an era!

My cabin continues to progress. The walls were completed in May to a height of 8 feet all around. During the summer we got the adobe on so it’s beginning to look like a cabin. Hopefully we will get some work done on the roof this winter. I neglected to mention last year, that the long, gravel road to my land has now been paved and it’s a delight to drive out there now!

My travels were punctuated with two major priorities from my bucket list! In January I made it to Machu Pichu, Peru, and in April I finally made it to Ayers Rock in Australia. Those were the last two I needed to cross off my list of what I consider the world’s top tier of attractions and destinations. Machu Pichu was a real thrill and I’d go back in a heartbeat. I’m glad I got to Ayers Rock, but once was enough to satisfy my interest.

It was probably the fullest year of tours I’ve ever had, and I certainly put on lots of airline miles on Delta and partners, over 160,000. In November I became a 2-Million Miler with Delta!

In January I took 20 people on a tour/cruise to South America, a new tour for me, and one with lots of challenges. We ended with 2 nights at Iguassu Falls and 2 nights in Rio de Janeiro, both spectacular. The reward was continuing on to Machu Pichu with Kermit Kauffman and Alan Schuyler. It was just fantastic. Machu Pichu was exactly what I expected, but the Andes, the countryside, and the people exceeded my expectations.

In February it was back to Dubai – always a favorite – with an extension to Petra and the Dead Sea. Then in March I took 6 gals to New Zealand for two weeks. We were blessed with perfect weather and great views of the Southern Alps. After that tour I flew to Ayers Rock in Australia on my ‘way home’!

Another special tour was to Europe in June. Four years ago some of my nieces and nephews decided when they graduated from high school they’d have Uncle Kent take them to Europe. So off we went to Switzerland, France, Germany and Austria.

Other tours took me to the Northwest, the southwest parks, to Italy, and of course two tours back-to-back in South Africa in November. This continues to be one of my favorite destinations, but the tours this year just seemed even better than usual. I plan on doing two more next November!

I’ll be gone for Christmas this year, hosting a group for Isings Travel on a Caribbean cruise on the Prinsendam. The ship used to be the Royal Viking Sun and this will be my first time aboard since 1996 when we hit a coral reef in the Red Sea and almost sank! The ship is different now, but it’ll bring back memories!

There are bunch of links below for the curious. Most of them are also available on my website.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2012.

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Christmas 2011

Dear Friends far and near,

This Christmas letter is definitely getting a late start this year. I didn’t get home from South Africa until December 10, and then pressing matters with future tours kept me from this task.

I’ve been thinking about what to write. Of course my travels provide enough material to write a book each year, but I don’t want to bore you with the glorious details here. Still, there were several adventures that stand out. Last spring, 94-year-old Armina asked me if I would take her to Egypt. Being just after Arab spring I suggested we wait until August 1 to decide. We decided! Ruth Mark went along and we did a Nile cruise and visited Cairo and Alexandria. I’m ready to go again!

My annual South Africa tours are also high on my list. Every year I look forward to two tours back-to-back in that incredible country. People generally go because of the animals, but after the tour find themselves reminiscing about many aspects of their history, culture, cuisine, hospitality, and traditions.

Another of my standard work relationships has taken a twist. My ‘Ladies in their Eighties’ has expanded considerably and I now do several tours a year with Isings Travel for retirement communities from all over the east coast. The trips include cruises as well as land tours. An offshoot of the partnership is that now, for the first time in my life, I’m actually an official travel agent as well as a tour operator. So next time you want information about great cruise deals, I can book them for you!

It seems I’ve been too busy lately to spend as much time in Switzerland as I used to, but I did make it over for a week in May to help Abraham Gerber celebrate his 80th birthday. Then we toured the Alps for a couple days and found an area high in the mountains, where wild narcissus were blooming as far as the eye could see. Rod Hazard made it for that celebration as well and we both enjoyed the mountains and wildflowers.

After a long winter and heavy rain and snow through June, Montana was green! Still, I managed to plant a few trees that my family bought as a memorial to my friend Bob, and the rains got them growing well. The weather did keep me from getting much done on the cabin however. But in the summer and fall we got more bags on the walls, particularly with the help of Ruth, and now the front walls are done and roof-ready! I hope to get the rest of the walls done in April. Volunteers welcome!

In April my niece Stefanie married Kyle Griffith and I had the honor of playing the organ. What a lovely bride!

In July we had our Mullet family reunion in Eastern Montana and it was good to see it looking like the Garden of Eden from all the moisture. Of course it was fun visiting with family too.

It really was a busy year for work, with tours/cruises to the Caribbean, British Isles, Virginia, Maine, Florida, and several in the western US and Canada. My schedule for 2012 probably has more foreign tours than I’ve ever done in one year so I should be able to maintain my diamond medallion status with Delta! By the way, there is still space on the ‘Fabulous Dubai and Arabian Nights” tour/cruise end of February if anyone is interested.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to All!

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Christmas 2010

Dear Friends far and near,

It was a wonderful year. It was a terrible year. Terrible because I lost my best friend of over 20 years here in Bozeman. Bob was only 53 and in good health, but in October he suddenly dropped dead of a massive heart attack. His death leaves a huge hole in my life in Bozeman, as we spent a lot of time together. If you want to know more, check out the front page of my website.

It was a wonderful year in many other ways. In March we acted on a 30-year wish of Mother’s, to remodel her house and swap the dining room and kitchen around. We ended up doing a giant “6-month” project in 3 weeks! Lots of volunteers made it possible and the result is fantastic. Check the link on my website for photos of the whole ordeal. Oh, did I say, “Mom’s thrilled!”

My land looks a lot different. In January we dug a well and had to go 360’ to hit water, but as consolation got 40gpm. In August my Amish friends Lynn and Jerry came from Illinois and helped me start building a cabin. This is no ordinary cabin, of course, but an earthbag house! It’s a simple 16’ x 24’ room built partially into the hill. The excavated dirt goes into (rice!) bags, which are then packed hard into place to form the walls. As winter hit, the walls were about halfway up. A big ‘thank you’ to the many volunteers! Check my blog for detailed info.

In February I repeated the Dubai tour/cruise and again it was a big success. Mother went again, as did Twila, and my sister Gaylene joined as well. The highlight for Mother was the 3 days after, when 5 of us went to Jordan for Petra and the Dead Sea. Mother had known of Petra for years, but never dreamed she’d get to go there. I think going there was one of the highlights of her life. Next chance for this tour is February 2012!

South Africa is the other area that is rapidly becoming a main destination for me. In November I ran 2 tours back-to-back, the first with 7 people and the second with 12. What an amazing country – I could easily live there. We saw so many animals up close and personal – lions, elephants, rhinos, zebras, giraffes, gnus, hippos, leopards, cheetahs, buffalo, and all kinds of birds and antelope species. Then the Garden Route on the south coast is breathtakingly beautiful. It’s all capped off with 3 nights in Cape Town with the glorious Cape, Table Mountain, the vineyards of Stellenbosch, and of course penguins! I plan on doing 2 tours again next November, but space is limited!

In spite of the recession I had my busiest year of tours ever! Main destinations were the national parks of the southwest and west, Europe, Canadian Rockies, and even the east coast. Still, Dubai and South Africa were the big highlights for me.

We hosted a family reunion in Bozeman again, this time dad’s side. We have a strange family – we enjoy each other!

There are bunch of links below for the curious. Most of them are also available on my website.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2011.

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Christmas 2009

Dear Friends far and near,

In my life of travel I’m used to putting on miles each year, but this year, with trips to Dubai, Europe, Singapore and South Africa, I racked up over 160,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles with Delta/NWA! I’ve never even had 60,000 in a year before and this gave me platinum/diamond frequent flyer status.

Two tours were definitely a new experience for me and both will be repeated. In February I took 25 people to Dubai for a cruise and tour. From outrageous luxury and architecture to the gold souk (market), spice market, and little alleyways of ancient Dubai, we had a great time exploring and then cruising for a week in the region. Of course the desert safari was a highlight as attested to by the photo of Mom and my sister Vaughn! (back of card). I’m repeating the Dubai tour in February 2010.

In November I drew on my world cruise experience to do a tour to South Africa with 6 Swiss and 4 Americans. Amazing safaris, landscapes, seascapes, mountains, and the Cape Peninsula.... even penguins! And what hospitality! For those interested, the next South Africa tour is next November.

One way I racked up miles was a quick trip to Singapore with my friend Rod. Delta was offering double/triple miles so on a lark we booked to Singapore for 5 days. We had a great time, not having to do anything but, relax, explore, shop and tour botanical gardens. Now I know why people go on vacations! :)

On the other side of the coin, in August we started a ‘small’ re-siding project on the back of the house which soon grew into a giant project of insulating, replacing windows, redoing the electrical system, re-siding and painting. It took about 6 weeks and my sister, Gaylene was fantastic keeping things going. We had lots of volunteer help from friends and family. Thank You!

I was home enough this year to appreciate a lot of beautiful weather. We had good precipitation all year so that I only had to take water out to the trees on my land 3 times. It was one of the nicest summers we’ve had. There was a dry spell from mid-August to the end of September, then it went right from summer temps in the 80’s to winter on Sep. 30. Other than a few nice days in October we’ve pretty much had winter since, including a couple big snowfalls and some below-zero temps. Speaking of my land, I was hoping to start on a small cabin, but our house project and a couple other things got in the way. Now I’m pursuing drilling a well and maybe I can build next year.

We hosted a Mullet family reunion in Bozeman end of July and had the biggest turnout ever with over 100 people. What a great family we have and what good times we have together!

I hope the world situation settles down a bit in the coming year but I’m not holding my breath. My forecast is for a severe decline in both the value of the US Dollar and the American economy – at this point I’d bet on Dubai over the U.S.!

In spite of that I wish you a Merry Christmas and a healthy, successful, and happy new year 2010.

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Christmas 2008

Dear Friends far and near,

For over 30 years I've been traveling the world and have often had the privilege of taking Mother on trips, but few of the rest of the family. In February we finally got my older sister Pam to go along. I had seen an offer for a 4-day cruise on RCCL out of Los Angeles for $199 and convinced Mom, Pam, Uncle Bud, Cousin Bev and friends Doris and Steve to go. We had a great time sailing to Catalina Island, San Diego, and Ensenada.

In a couple months I'll get to take more of the family on a trip. In February about 25 of us are doing a trip to Dubai, with 2 nights in the city and then 7 nights on a cruise ship going to Oman, Abu Dhabi, Fujairah, and Bahrain. Mom and my sisters Vaughn and Twila, as well as several cousins are coming on that trip as well. There is still some room available in case anyone else is interested!

Last December over Christmas I took the White family from Wyoming to Italy for 10 days. The prospect was daunting, considering the weather can be wet and cold, security can be a major problem, and the group included 4 children - the smallest being only 4 years old. But the trip was blessed from beginning to end, with no major problems. All 4 children had a wonderful time and were a great delight to travel with.

The most challenging trip this past year was from Boston to San Francisco with my Swiss family, the Gerbers. Both Anny and Abraham are in their 70's and have had major health issues and people were skeptical about them taking such a big trip. Grandson Raphael and his friend Luke came along, as did our friend Gerhard, auspiciously to help with Gerbers. But it was none other than Gerhard, who collapsed at Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone Park, and was helicoptered to Idaho Falls where he had open heart surgery and 5 bypasses! Then in Sequoia National Park, Raphael, Luke and I climbed Moro Rock and were struck by lightning! Fortunately we were not injured, but it was ironic that Gerbers were the only two out of the 6 of us who ended up with an 'uneventful' trip!

Last spring I took 2 small groups on less explored areas of New Mexico and Arizona. Tent Rocks National Monument near Santa Fe (see back photo) was a favorite on both trips. We enjoyed myriads of cactus blossoms, cliffs, and canyons.

Another unique trip was to Eastern Europe. That one was a real challenge, but it turned out great. We started in the Swiss Alps with gorgeous blue sky for the mountains and continued to Salzburg, Vienna, Budapest, Cracow, and Prague. Now that I've done all the research, I wouldn't mind repeating it!

Another historic milestone must be acknowledged with the retiring of the QE2. She made her last transatlantic crossings in October and then was taken to Dubai to be transformed into a 5-star hotel. I worked several years on the ship and could write books on my experiences. My Amish friends, Lynn Miller and company, were on the last crossing from Southampton to New York. I first met Lynn on the QE2 on his first trip to Europe.

I would be remiss to not at least mention our historic elections, but suffice it to say perhaps the American people have finally elected the government they deserve!

In spite of all the turmoil in the world I wish you a Merry Christmas and a very good New Year 2009.

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Christmas 2007

Dear Friends far and near,

As evidenced by the photo on the front of the card, a ship played a significant role in my life again this year. The Queen Mary 2, for her maiden world cruise, went "Around the World in 80 Days" and I was privileged to host a group for Virtuoso for the entire voyage. The QM2 truly is a stunning ship and people turned out in throngs to see her as we called at some of the world's major ports. Particularly impressive receptions were in Auckland and Sydney. Sydney actually hosted two Queens at once, as the Queen Elizabeth 2, on her world cruise, joined us. So many people came to see the two ships and the fireworks display that the traffic actually shut down the city! Dubai was another highlight of the cruise, including lunch for my group on the top floor of the Burj al Arab, the world's only 7-star hotel!

Mother's books, Volumes I & II of "As I Remember, Stories of Eastern Montana's Pioneers," continue to be popular sellers, and not just locally. Mom still can't believe the success of the stories, which fascinate people everywhere. Excerpts and more information are available at

I have also enjoyed fairly frequent visits to my land northwest of Bozeman this year. Thanks to the thriving deer population, most of the trees I planted during the past year didn't do too well, but recently I put up a solar electric fence around a small area and the deer are keeping a respectful distance. Next spring I should be able to plant more successfully.

In November I spent a couple weeks in Switzerland, from where I often write my Christmas letter, but it was just too busy, so here I am at home in Bozeman trying to get them out before I leave again for Europe. I'll be taking a family to Italy for ten days over Christmas and won't be home until December 27.

In May I spent ten days in Switzerland with three Amish friends from Illinois. Lynn, Leona & Matt Miller took the Queen Mary 2 roundtrip and spent a month traveling Europe in between. They are so much fun to travel with. With the great weather we had the whole time, I'm sure they think it's always that nice in Switzerland in May!

I was in the Northwest quite a bit this year with parts of three tours. I led my "Ladies in their Eighties" from Florida on a cloudy, rainy tour roundtrip Seattle. We did get to see the world's largest Sitka Spruce tree, which was then toppled in the early December violent storm that hit Washington and Oregon.

After the Alaska/Yukon tour in August and September, I'm afraid it will be difficult to do another to the area. Nothing could match this one! Great weather, bright fall color in the tundra, lots of bears, moose and other animals, spectacular glaciers, whales and migrating birds made it a memorable trip!

I have to also mention a hiking tour to Southern Utah. We lucked out and got permits to the Wave and hiked in under cloudy skies. As we were about to leave it started to rain. Within minutes the whole area was deluged with cascades, waterfalls and raging torrents. What an experience. It also washed out our road so we made a 70-mile detour to get out, but it was super!

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Christmas 2006

Dear Friends far and near,

As usual, I can say this has been quite a year, but for the first time in a long time I am not writing my annual Christmas letter from Switzerland and neither of the two main highlights of the year involve a world cruise or a tour! In a nutshell, I am a landowner and a publisher!

I finally found some affordable land (can we say cheap?) less than an hour from Bozeman and bought 20 acres. I've enjoyed planting trees and shrubs, clearing a lane, and putting in a picnic table. Did I mention solitude? I love the quiet. It's 25 miles west of Bozeman on I-90, then north 15 miles on gravel. It's only 4 miles from the Missouri River and 2 miles from a hundred other families, but no sign of civilization is visible from my land and there is a spectacular view of the Tobacco Root Mountains in the distance. You are all welcome to come for a picnic any time!

The main project, which has been nearly all-consuming this year has been getting Mother's book published - actually two volumes! I decided not to do a world cruise this past winter in order to stay home and work on the book. In 1964, in spite of having nine children between the ages of one and thirteen, mom started interviewing the pioneers that settled Eastern Montana. She published their stories in the local newspaper, calling the column, "As I Remember." Over the next decade she recorded the stories of over 160 pioneers. This year we took those old articles and typed them up and stored them on computer. Then we organized them into two books, each about 400 pages! It was hard to squeeze all the material into just two paperbacks, but we didn't want them any bigger than that. We were also pleased to find some wonderful photos for both volumes.

When the first volume arrived in June it was met with an enthusiastic response, but we were busy preparing Volume II for the printer (between my tours). We had many orders for the second book before it was even released the last day of October. Now, November and December are busy with book signings, interviews and receptions. Mother captured the era of longhorn cattle and homesteads and it has been rewarding to see them preserved! For excerpts and info see

Of course, I did have some wonderful tours this year. In any other year I would have used a photo of Mt. McKinley for my Christmas letter. Late summer I had a tour to Alaska and Yukon with a German couple and we had two of the most stunningly clear days possible in Denali National Park. Few visitors actually see the full mountain and it's rare indeed to see it as we did. Fall color in the tundra added an extra delightful dimension.

In June I went to Switzerland to take 40 Swiss on a tour of their own country. We had a great time and there, too, the skies were blue with crystal clear views of the Bernese Alps. Nice!

Naturally I enjoyed wonderful tours through the national parks and a trip to New England and Quebec for fall foliage. You can see photo sites of most of my tours on the "Tour Photos" page of my website,

I've decided to go back to sea this winter and host a group on the Queen Mary 2 world cruise. It's only a little over 2 1/2 months so I decided I could afford that much time to go 'round the world in 80 days!' It's tough, but somebody's got to do it! :)

I wish you all a blessed Christmas season and may your New Year 2007 be one of health, peace and happiness.

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Christmas 2005

Dear Friends Near and Far,

People are going to start wondering if I've become Swiss, as I've written my Christmas letter in Switzerland fairly regularly the last few years. Not to worry, but this year is no exception, as I type away on the computer at my Swiss family, the Gerbers. This year I combined my trip with a little "work" as well. Three Amish came to Europe on the Queen Mary 2 and I took them around Switzerland for a week. We enjoyed unbelievably good weather in the Bernese Alps, Emmental, and in Zermatt, where the Matterhorn towered stunningly above us.

Perhaps my annual world cruise has become almost mundane to read about each year, but since I've decided not to do one this coming winter, I'll emphasize it a bit more this time. From January to April I again hosted a group on the RSSC Voyager around the world from Los Angeles to Ft Lauderdale. I was able to have my friend Kathy Aaron on the first segment and then my friend Rod Hazard on the second. Then my past co-host, Svein Johnsen, joined me for the remainder of the cruise.

It was the first time the ship had called in Arab countries since 9/11, and we weren't quite sure how we'd be received. However, we had a warmer reception in Dubai, Oman, and in Egypt than in any other country on the whole cruise. No matter who we spoke with, when they found out we were Americans, they immediately became much friendlier. It was amazing.

One of the highlights of the cruise was an overnight trip to Luxor and the Valley of the Kings in Egypt. Radisson arranged a special dinner in the ruins of the ancient Luxor Temple, something that had only been allowed three times previously and would not be allowed again. As we arrived at the temple, the ruins were floodlit and we strolled up the Avenue of the Sphinxes to the music from the opera, Aida, and the walk was lined with young men in ancient dress, holding flaming torches. It was an extraordinary experience.

After the world cruise I had only 5 days at home before my first tour and I've been busy since. In May alone I had two tours in the Southwest, both of which included the Wave, one of my all-time favorite secrets. It's hard to believe the colorful rock formations are actually natural.

From then on I kept going with tours in the Canadian Rockies, Yellowstone, Europe, the West Coast, and another three in the Southwest. After my tours I spent a week in Hawaii visiting cousins, followed by three weeks in Switzerland. That has left little time for home this year, but since I'm not going on a world cruise this next winter, I should have time to catch up on a few things. Maybe I'll even find some time to travel!!

Between trips I did manage to find time to put tour photos on my website, which are viewable on the "Tour Photos" page at

I should mention one more tour highlight, Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, which I visited with 17 Florida Seniors. It was delightful to watch over 700 hot air balloons ascend into the blue New Mexico sky early in the morning. Wow!

I wish you all a blessed Christmas season and a New Year of health, peace and happiness.

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Christmas 2004

Dear Friends far and wide,

What a year. Most of us certainly breathed a sigh of relief when the 2004 elections were finally over. It's really too bad they can't keep the campaign to just a couple months and get it over with faster. However, I suspect neither side will wait too long before gearing up for 2008.

The cover photo is of me sitting on an old stagecoach in front of Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park. The Inn celebrated its 100-year anniversary in May and I got to stay in one of my favorite rooms on opening night. I had made a reservation over 20 years ago while working at the Front Desk of the Inn! It was a great weekend of nostalgia and seeing former colleagues who came for the opening.

2004 started off with a bang when I had the huge pleasure of seeing two mountain lions in the wild! I was driving in the Absaroka Mountains south of Livingston with my friend Rod, when I looked off to the side and was shocked to see two big lions sitting on a side lane enjoying the sunshine. We had just enough time to get a couple photos before they stretched and wandered off into the bushes. I had never seen mountain lions in the wild before and certainly didn't expect to see them so close in broad daylight!

Then it was back to sea for 3 full months. This ship thing is becoming a habit again. Svein Johnsen and I hosted the Virtuoso group on the Radisson Voyager on its maiden world cruise. It was actually a big Circle Pacific cruise, starting and ending in Los Angeles. We hit Hawaii both directions, then proceeded to the South Pacific, New Zealand and Australia, up through the Orient as far as Japan and back across the Pacific. I had a lot of fun with two passengers in particular, Carol Farber and Barbara Cook. After a funny incident in a grocery store in Tasmania, they became known as the Lettuce Ladies and we had numerous adventures together. One of the best was a 3-day trip to Northern Thailand, Laos and Burma. I wrote regular reports of my cruise adventures and you can read all about them on my website on the "World Cruise 2003" page. There are photos on the "Tour Photos" page.

While on the cruise I took up writing and finally got down on paper a few of my more memorable life adventures. Some are available to read on my website on the "My Stories" page.

After the cruise I jumped right into my tour season and kept busy through October with tours in the southwest parks, west coast and Alaska. In June I took a German couple through the Maritime Provinces of Canada. That was a new experience and Newfoundland was our favorite area. In Iceberg Alley we saw lots of huge icebergs, which had floated down from Greenland.

Again I'm writing my annual letter from Switzerland, as I enjoy my yearly break with Swiss friends. After Thanksgiving I have one more tour in the southwest before spending three weeks at home over Christmas.

As I said, cruising is becoming a habit and I plan on doing the full world cruise on the Voyager again in 2005 from January 5 to April 23. This is a full circumnavigation from Los Angeles to the South Pacific, through the Orient and India, the Suez Canal and Mediterranean back to Ft. Lauderdale. You can follow my progress on the website or if you would like to receive updates by email, let me know in advance.

Happy Holidays and may 2005 be a year of Peace!,

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Christmas 2003

Dear Friends far and wide,

The two photos on this card represent a dream come true - a hike into the WAVE! In October, five friends and I took a hiking trip to southern Utah to explore secret treasures that are not possible to do on normal tours. Wow! We had a fantastic time and kept our digital cameras busy. The highlight was the Wave with its incredible, colorful sandstone formations. Only 20 people are allowed into the area per day and we were thrilled to get a permit for our group. You can see 6 photos of the Wave on my website under "The Wave Photos". On the Tour Photos page click on "Secret Southwest" to see a slide show of 59 pictures from the whole week.

It was also a pleasure to be out in the wilderness away from the babble of humanity, news and politics. The canyons and mountains of Utah were a welcome respite for me, as it has become less pleasant recently to travel around the world as an American. It is sad to see the extreme anti-American sentiment in Europe and it makes me often wonder how opinions will change over the next 10 years. I hope for an improvement.

As I write this letter I am on my regular November visit in Switzerland. I had to come over early enough to sing with the Kreuzlingen church choir in their annual concert. Our friend Rod from Maine and I had planned to do a tour with Gerbers to northern Europe, but Gerbers' health problems prevented the trip. Instead we settled for a few days closer to home in Munich and Salzburg. That was also a lot of fun. The day before Thanksgiving the women's group had a big bazaar and we helped out there before heading back home.

2003 was otherwise full as well. In the winter I was back out to sea for 6 weeks on the Radisson Mariner. That was the best ship I had ever sailed on and Radisson impressed me so much, I could almost be convinced to go back to sea and work. Well almost. We sailed from Fort Lauderdale through the Canal to Los Angeles, down to the South Pacific to New Zealand and Australia. I left in Sydney and spent a week visiting friends on the Aussie east coast and in Auckland before returning home.

Through the summer, mostly trips in the national parks and Canadian Rockies kept me busy. One group consisted of six 23-year-old Amish gals from Illinois and they laughed and sang their way through the mountains and out to the Pacific. Another small-group tour in September was with a Swiss family of four through some of my favorite southwest parks. I got some good photos on that tour to update my website slide-show page. If you ever want to check up on me to see what's going on just take a look on the internet. Of course, you can also send me an email at any time.

Oh yes, I also bought a "new" car for mom. It's actually a 1990 Buick Century, almost identical to our "old" 1988, but it had only 21,000 miles on it and it was worth the drive home from Florida where I picked it up.

For now I wish you a wonderful holiday season and all the best in the New Year 2004.

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Christmas 2002

Dear Friends Far and Near,

Merry Christmas everyone. This season is always a good time to count our blessings and remember how blessed we are with family and friends. I feel wonderfully blessed in both those categories and am grateful for each of you.

This was again a busy year, but I managed to find time in between for some personal travel as well as for home and garden. However, four tours back-to-back August through October was overdoing it a little.

The highlight of my year was joining Mensa International (if you have to ask, don't!) It's something that's intrigued me for years and this past February I finally did it. Not all that much benefit, but nice recognition.

Ships are still very much part of my life. Though I resigned from Cunard in 1999, I still enjoy cruising, escorting groups for Reid Travel of Virtuoso (a consortium of travel agents in US and Canada). The escorting is not a paid position, but I get a free cruise, which is most enjoyable. It also allows me to keep up with the ships, passengers and staff I've known through the years. This kind of work fits in perfectly with my philosophy of life, which I've mentioned before - you can be rich in two ways: either have a lot of money or learn to live well without it. The next paragraph is a good example. I'd have to work all year to pay for a 2-month cruise like the one I did last winter.

For 2 months, February to April, I escorted with my friend Svein on the last world cruise of the Seabourn Sun. The Sun has provided more than a few interesting experiences for me. It used to be the Royal Viking Sun, then Cunard bought it in 1994 and it was renamed the Seabourn Sun most recently. This was the ship I transferred to in 1996 after the Sagafjord burned. After a month aboard the Sun we hit a coral reef in the Gulf of Aqaba and nearly sank. However, for her last world cruise she was really in her glory and we had a marvelous time on board. I was most sad to say adieu to Captain Tore Lura. At the end of the cruise the ship was transferred over to Holland America Line to become the Prinzendam. While on board I began writing descriptions of ports of calls and life on board. If you'd like to read them, they are all on my website on the page called World Cruise 2002. You'll also find some photos on the slide show page. I took advantage of free time on board to do some typing for mother. Back in the 60's, when my parents were raising 9 children and dad was attending college night classes, Mom decided someone had to interview the early pioneers to Montana and get their stories down in writing. She had them published in the local newspaper, but they've never been organized and put on a computer. So, I spent much of my time typing up the stories. They are fascinating, and we are planning to put them into a book so more people can enjoy them.

Tours of all kinds kept me busy from May to October. The first one in May was a west coast tour with Mennonite-Your-Way. Mom was even able to go along on that one, though she broke her wrist a few days before the tour. She managed fairly well in spite of the cast and came home with lots of good memories.

Some of my Swiss friends have been on numerous tours with me and by request; I organized a tour in June for a small group through Montana, Wyoming and the Black Hills of South Dakota. From Bozeman we went up to Glacier National Park, where we had one nice day and then got snowed out on the second! We crossed Montana to Glendive where we got rained IN in Makoshika Park. We stayed at the Lions Camp out in the park and rain made the roads utterly impassable. The group loved it, however, even remarking to Cindy Mullet in an interview for the local newspaper that, "Had they been in the mountains they would have been bored, but Makoshika was so different and so beautiful that it was the highlight of their tour!" I'm sure Glendive folks appreciated reading that quote! We had better weather for the remainder of the tour in the Black Hills, Yellowstone/Tetons, and the Swiss returned home thrilled.

One of the more remarkable tours was in July when I went to Switzerland to do a short tour of Switzerland for 40 SWISS!! Yep, an American had to go over and show the Swiss their own country. Pretty funny, but we had a great time.

Tours in the west and southwest kept me busy through August and September, then in October I changed pace with a small group tour in New England and Canada. A bit different, eh? We had a lot of rain and gray weather and unfortunately, due to the summer drought, the leaves didn't really develop to their normal brilliance. The people seemed to enjoy the tour anyway, but it didn't really have the "wow" factor it should have had. We loved Montreal and Quebec in spite of the weather.

It was a real relief to finish the tour season this year. I stayed home for a couple weeks enjoying family and friends and helping my sister Twila celebrate her 50th. Then I took off for Switzerland for a few weeks to unwind and enjoy my second home awhile. My friend Rod Hazard, from Maine (formerly Bozeman) joined me for a week over there. I'd seen him briefly at the end of my New England tour and suggested he fly to Switzerland for a week, since he'd always wanted to go. We found him a cheap fare to Zurich and voila! We had a great time exploring together and had one really gorgeous day in the Alps. See how much fun spontaneous people can have!

I made it home just in time for Thanksgiving and we had a nice family holiday. I would be remiss if I didn't mention that the MSU Football team finally broke the 16-year losing streak to UM, beating the Griz in Missoula 10-7, thus becoming Big Sky Conference Champs!

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Christmas 2001

Dear Friends Far and Near,

I really need to buckle down and get this written or I'll never get it done. I leave tomorrow for London and a 2-week pre-Christmas crossing on the QE2 so I need to at least get my cards made so I can personalize each one during my leisure moments on board the ship. Between those spare moments aboard we'll be calling at Cherbourg, France; Funchal, Madeira; and Tenerife, Canary Islands on our way over to Fort Lauderdale. Of course, as far as I'm concerned the days at sea are the best part of cruising anyway.

The cover photos was taken aboard the "26-Glacier Cruise" in Prince William Sound, Alaska this summer in front of Barry Glacier. One of the Swiss tour members took the photo and I thought it turned out well enough to grace the front of my card.

This year as I write I have to consider how much the perception of our world has changed since September 11. It's one of those incidents in history where everyone can say exactly what they were doing when they first heard the news. My first thought was of all the friends I have in New York. Though some of them had close calls that day, and surely, all of them have been much affected since, it appears none of my friends were lost in the bombings. My business has actually not been affected. Coincidently, this year I decided to take somewhat of a sabbatical August to October so I had no tours scheduled in the weeks following the attack. Otherwise, I'm sure people would have been canceling reservations. I myself have not had any apprehension about flying since, as I've flown to Las Vegas, France, Florida, Switzerland (and tomorrow London) in the past 3 months. This is probably one of the safest times to fly, as I highly doubt terrorists will attempt to use the same method a second time. On the other hand, I would be leery of dams and bridges. Can you imagine Las Vegas minus Hoover Dam?

One thing I find interesting is how strongly people in Europe and around the world were affected. Often in my world travels I get the feeling some people wouldn't mind having America "knocked off her high horse" a bit, but the overwhelming response from all over the world was one of shock, grief, support, and sympathy for the United States. Attitudes and emotions do tend to change in times of crisis, but it has been heartwarming to see the support.

Sometimes it seems a recap of my year almost sounds like a broken record - more tours, another cruise here and there, a visit in Switzerland, etc. etc, but for me there is never a dull moment. Each tour is different and there are always new challenges and new people to get to know. So, briefly, here goes. (feel free to skip to the end if you like)!

End of January I flew to Tahiti to join the Seabourn Sun (former RV Sun) to help escort a 3-week world cruise segment with Svein Johnsen on behalf of Reid Travel and Virtuoso. We had over 200 passengers in our group and enjoyed some lovely shore excursions in Tahiti, Sydney, and Cairns. By the way, if anyone wants to get a great deal on a luxury cruise with all the Virtuoso benefits, Meredith at Reid Travel is definitely the one to help you with your booking.

In April I had another big Swiss tour in Arizona, New Mexico, El Paso, southern Utah, Death Valley and Las Vegas. It's amazing how many fantastic places there are in the southwest US that few people have ever hear of. The 25 Swiss (and my mother) were enchanted every day by the natural wonders.

In May a quick trip to Switzerland was in order to help celebrate the 70th birthday of Abraham Gerber. After he had a 6-bypass surgery in 1993, few of us ever thought he'd see 70. After that it was back to Montana in time for the semi-annual MYW Canadian Rockies tour. Another successful trip, as usual with Leon and Nancy Stauffer.

Then came the Alaska tour, which was much easier to plan, having done a similar tour in 2000. Again, there were just 7 of us and we had a great time hiking in rain forests; looking for bears, bald eagles, and whales; cruising the Inside Passage and Prince William Sound; discovering glaciers, waterfalls and majestic mountains; and just enjoying the huge expanse of Alaska.

Then the sabbatical. For several years, time at home meant just getting ready for the next trip. I decided to just stay home awhile and catch up on projects, catch up with friends, and catch up on life. Why wait until you're old to retire? To me it makes much more sense to take a break once in awhile and enjoy time with family and friends. Of course, there's not much money in it, but you can be rich either by having lots of money or by learning to live without money! I think I've about mastered the latter!

Mind you, I've been busy this fall. In October, my Swiss friends, the Gerbers, came over for a couple weeks, I spent a long weekend in Las Vegas with my friend Bridge Bob, I escorted another 3-week cruise on the Sun from the Med across to Fort Lauderdale, and I spent a couple weeks in Switzerland in November. And between all that I found time for my Pre-Paid Legal business and created my own website! Now you can catch up on my adventures just by logging onto anytime! It's a good thing Christmas is coming - I plan on staying home at least 2 weeks over the holidays. Speaking of which, I wish you all a blessed holiday season and peace, health and happiness in the New Year 2002!

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Christmas 2000

Dear Friends Far and Near,

Who would have thought the hottest topic as the holidays approach would still be the presidential elections? At press time the jury is still out and I suspect we won't really know who the next president will be until at least after the electoral college has their vote in mid-December - maybe not even then. Perhaps the drama will increase interest in future elections. I think they should let Gush be president and Bore vice president for two years and then reverse it for the next two years. (Where's Solomon when we need him?)

Believe it or not, I'm writing this letter onboard a ship again. However, this time I'm just escorting a group on a 12-day cruise on Seabourn Pride from New Orleans to San Juan and enjoying being a passenger. I'll escort another short one in December in the Orient and that will give me my "sea-fix" for this year. This cruise turned out to be a timely getaway, as winter hit Montana the beginning of November and hit hard! Snow and cold had been hanging on for over 2 weeks when I left for the cruise and it didn't give any inclination of giving up soon. (It's called global warming, I think!) On the positive side, we built a garage for Mom onto the north side of the house. We got it ready to drive into just one hour before the snow hit! Super.

Last winter was supposed to be nice and relaxing since I wasn't working on ships anymore, but somehow it turned out much busier than I had expected. My big excitement was having laser eye surgery on my right eye. If I could get the right eye to near 20-20 it would cover distance vision and my un-operated left eye would allow me to read without reading glasses. My friend Robert and I made the big trip to Calgary. His eyes turned out great - my results weren't so good. My eye settled at about 20/60 (20/40 is the legal limit for driving) so I had to continue wearing glasses. I returned to Calgary in August with my cousin Bev. Her operation turned out great - they decided they couldn't do an enhancement on my eye, so I'm stuck with glasses. I would still recommend lasik surgery to anyone, but hey, someone has to be the 1 in 1000 that doesn't improve to at least 20/40 when all is said and done.

My tour season was unusually hectic. Every 10 years the German town of Oberammergau produces their famous passion play and I had two big tours to Europe that took it in. They were wonderful tours, but it was a long time to be away from my garden in the middle of summer! Another new adventure for me was an Alaska/Yukon tour for a small group of Swiss. I've never had a tour that caused me more headaches in planning, but it turned out to be a wonderful experience for all.

In the meantime, back in Montana, it seemed like the whole state was burning up in a hot, dry summer. The weather was beautiful except for the heavy smoke that was constantly hanging over the Big Sky. The closes fires to us were over 30 miles away, but further west quite a few homes were lost.

This fall I've been keeping busy in a new line of work. I've become an independent associate for Pre-Paid Legal Services marketing a prepaid legal service plan. It does for attorney and legal fees what an HMO does for doctor and hospital bills. This is actually one of the more exciting things I've done in my "not-exactly-mundane" life! PPL is one of the fastest growing stocks on the New York Stock Exchange and just recently we went! Check out my website at and have a look.

After all the premature millennium hype of a year ago, this year I would like to wish you all the best for the new century and millennium!

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Christmas 1999

Dear Friends Far and Near,

My Christmas cards are coming out late this year - hopefully the post office won't be too screwed up with Y2K problems to get them all delivered! The cover photo of my letter this year represents a long-time wish that was finally fulfilled this year. After dozens of trips to Europe over a 25-year period, I finally got to see the Matterhorn in southern Switzerland for the first time. I took the train with my friend Theo Geiger and we had crystal clear skies to enjoy this famous Swiss mountain in all its glory!

Before proceeding with 1999, I should back up to last Christmas when my sister Gaylene married Andy Kerr. I was able to work out a quick trip home from the Caribbean for the wedding. I flew from St. Thomas to Puerto Rico, Atlanta, Salt Lake City and Bozeman. Three days was just enough time to get them married, wish everyone a merry Christmas, and build a big igloo for my niece and nephew! Then back via Salt Lake City, Atlanta and Jamaica to rejoin the QE2 in Barbados. Whew!

As usual, I'm writing my annual letter from onboard a ship - NOT! Yep, it's true, I finally resigned as Cruise Sales Manager with Cunard and I'm home for the holidays for the first time in several years. It is soooo good to be out of that rat race.

We finally had 2 Cruise Sales Managers on for the QE2 World Cruise and it was a real pleasure to work with my colleague, Petra, a brilliant young lady from Austria. Unfortunately, things didn't go so well with shore-side management. Last year I mentioned our new boss, Jeff, and we were optimistic that he would improve our situation. Were we wrong! Nice guy socially, but no business or follow-up skills and he became impossible to deal with. When Cunard's top management were onboard the beginning of January, we had a lengthy discussion with them about the difficulties we were having. They went home and got on Jeff's case. That only made matters worse and it wasn't long before Petra and I pretty much ceased to communicate with him, because he made us so angry. In one telex he told us he never intended us to work all hours, he wanted us to "work smart and realize the benefits"! A month before the end of the world cruise Petra and I both resigned. The Chief Operating Officer, Pam Conover, sent an email saying she wanted to know why and that we should call her at home. We explained there were numerous reasons, but our boss was by far the biggest factor. Two days later they fired him! It didn't make either of us change our minds though, we were just too burned out.

I must admit, we both enjoyed the world cruise in spite of 15-hour days 7 days a week. Especially since "realize the benefits" soon became our motto. We had pretty much decided by the end of January that this would be the swan song for both of us, so we determined to enjoy our final trip around the world and not let "the office" get us down. The world cruise had pretty much the usual highlights with lots of overnight calls. The crew love those! I managed to get away from the ship with local friends in Auckland, Sydney, and Perth. It is a blessing to have friends scattered around the whole world. Shopping was great in Vietnam again (more ceramic elephants) and I enjoyed both Thailand and Hong Kong more than in past years. I was thrilled we had 2 full days in Dubai. We had a big gala dinner for our past passengers at the Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club. During pre-dinner drinks passengers were treated to traditional Arab crafts such as henna painting and water pipes. There was even a camel they could ride. Dinner was held under a billowing tent with tiny electric stars embedded in the canvas. A spectacular fireworks display over Dubai Creek topped off the evening. The QE2 also stopped at Aqaba, Jordan and Petra and I managed a brief visit to her namesake (Petra), the "rose-red city half as old as time" with buildings carved from the towering red cliffs. Still enchanting as ever. The ship returned through the Mediterranean and I flew home from England, a tired little puppy and happy to be finished.

I wasn't home long before a very busy tour season was in full swing. National Parks, West Coast, Canadian Rockies and Europe. On one tour in northern British Columbia and Alberta with a couple from Germany, we visited Hyder, Alaska. It's a great place that few have heard of but well worth the trip. In mountain scenery similar to Nepal we watched bears fishing for spawning salmon in Fish Creek. What an experience! We were really close to the bears a few times, but fortunately they were more interested in the salmon in the water than in the tourists on shore!

My summer was really almost too full. The few days I had at home were so busy just planning for the next tours that I was really ragged by the end of the tour season. What a relief not to have to go back to the ship in October! Instead, my friends Abraham & Anny Gerber and Theo Geiger visited from Switzerland for 2 weeks to cut wood and fill mom's woodshed for the winter. We had lots of fun and had a chance to do some sightseeing as well. After that I headed to Switzerland for a month of relaxation. While there I helped their church choir perform a concert of a couple Bach cantatas.

I enjoyed Thanksgiving at home, but didn't get at my Christmas letters when I should have. I wasn't busy enough to force myself to make time, if you know what I mean! Instead I went to Florida for a couple weeks in December and enjoyed a 4-day cruise on the Seabourn Sun. It was wonderful being a passenger. I knew quite a few staff and passengers, which was nice, but I had no desire whatsoever to be back aboard working. It's been lovely having time at home over the holidays and on New Years Eve I intend to be home by a warm fire and go to bed when I get tired! It's hard telling what I'll end up doing this winter. There are lots of options, but I'm just enjoying the freedom of a winter without being tied down. It's nice to have some time off so I can travel!!

Meanwhile, with one more year to go in this century and millennium I wish you all much peace and joy in 2000!

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Christmas 1998

Dear Friends Around the World,

Christmas Greetings once again. I decided to grace the front of this letter with a photo of the QE2 entering Sydney. It is one of the highlights of every world cruise and I really enjoy it.

I must admit I don't feel too inspired to write a Christmas letter this year and actually considered taking a break for a year. I guess I just scheduled my year too full and am too worn out to be creative, so you'll get whatever comes out of my fingers this year.

I am back on the QE2 like a bad penny, even though I keep thinking "enough already". In 1998 I did the full world cruise on the QE2, but by now can hardly remember where we went. I do recall having a new tuxedo made in Thailand, eating scones in Tasmania, dining out in Sydney, and seeing Nelson Mandela on board the ship for a few days in South Africa. Beyond that, there were a lot of passenger bookings for future cruises to keep me busy all the time. I was exhausted by the end of April. Usually it takes me a few weeks to recover from a stint aboard the ship, but this time I was still not ready to rejoin 5 months later. Maybe I'm getting too old for this "exciting" life at sea!

My tours were more work this summer as well. Most of my tours I organized myself, which meant a lot more preparation work during the few days I had at home. I enjoyed a 3-week trip through eastern Europe and Switzerland with a lovely couple I knew from Sagafjord, then stayed with my Swiss family a couple weeks to rest up a bit more from the world cruise. I took a quick jaunt into Poland to see old friends and observe the huge changes taking place there.

More private tours through the national parks and the west coast kept me running the rest of the summer. The biggest nightmare came in September. I had organized a big west coast tour from Vancouver to San Francisco for 30 Swiss. A day and a half before I was to pick them up in Vancouver they called saying Air Canada was on strike and they couldn't get out of Switzerland! Northwest Airlines was also on strike so it looked bleak for our tour. They did finally make it as far as Portland, Oregon where I had to arrange lodging for them on short notice and make new arrangements with the bus company to pick up in Portland instead of Vancouver and change the first few days of the tour. That was a 36-hour nightmare, but once we got the tour started it went well and we had a great time together.

After that I finished the tour season with a much easier tour through the national parks with 45 Mennonites from "back East". Since I didn't have to worry about the logistics on that one, and could concentrate on guiding and story telling, it was a lot of fun.

There certainly was not enough time at home before I flew to Portland, Maine to rejoin QE2 for the fall. One positive change for us is that there will now be two Cruise Sales Managers on board permanently. It had just become a monster position and physically impossible for one person to handle. It has been much better with two of us, but bookings continue to increase all the time and we still seldom get out of the office before midnight.

The biggest changes of the year have come within Cunard Line. In May we were bought by Carnival Corporation, a huge company who also owns Seabourn, Holland America, Windstar, Costa, and Carnival Cruise Lines. Since Seabourn was their luxury cruise line they have merged Cunard and Seabourn, resulting in an enormous management turnover and lots of changes for us. For the first time in years, Cunard is owned by a company who knows ships, whose core business is ships, and who knows the difference between a luxury cruise line and a mass-marketing line. No doubt this next year will be tumultuous, but if we hold out through this period, the future looks bright. They are even planning to build another liner to run in tandem with QE2. It is an ambitious project to say the least.

Meanwhile, I went home for 2 weeks over Thanksgiving to plan all my tours for next summer and take a quick breather before going back to QE2 for Christmas and the Full World Cruise. I'm still not sure I have the energy for it, but I'll try it one more time.

On the home front, my youngest sister, Gaylene, is finally getting (got) married December 27, 1998. She was fly-fishing with her boyfriend and when she asked him for a fly he gave her a diamond instead. At the time of this writing it doesn't look like I'll make it home for the wedding, but maybe there will be a small miracle.

Mom is still healthy and keeping busier than a retired person ought to be. She was along on one of my park tours this summer and made the 3-mile hike up to Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, Utah. She nearly had a heat stroke before it was all over, but she made it back and can proudly say she completed that hike.

I look forward to seeing many of you in the coming year.

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Christmas 1997

Dear Friends Around the World,

I am happy to report that after a rather wild 1996, I am able to write about normal, mundane things as we come to the end of 1997. No fires, shipwrecks or other disasters came my way this year.

I started out the year by joining the Vistafjord for a lovely 2-week cruise in the Caribbean. It was a reunion cruise for former Sagafjord passengers and we had a delightful time reminiscing about the "good old days". It was, of course, not easy for Vistafjord staff to keep hearing Sagafjord passengers comparing the two ships!

After a couple relaxing weeks at home, I made a quick trip to visit friends in Switzerland. Afterwards, my Swiss friend, Theo, flew back to Montana with me and we spent a few days exploring Yellowstone in winter. "Hot potting" (swimming in the hot springs) is fantastic in winter. We sat in the hot water with snow falling on our heads.

I wasn't too anxious to rejoin the QE2, but in March I took off again and boarded the ship in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. I had never been to Dubai so I flew 4 days early and explored the region. Dubai is now one of my favorite places and I would recommend it highly. I watched camel races, shopped in the "souks", explored the local markets, rode across the river in ancient ferryboats, and went on a wonderful desert safari. In air-conditioned jeeps we went tearing up and down huge sand dunes, visited a camel farm, and then had a BBQ supper in Bedouin tents as the sun went down. When the QE2 arrived in Dubai I was really sorry to leave.

Back on the QE2 I returned immediately to the frenetic pace on board. Bookings came fast and furious. While on board I actually sent in my official resignation, but my supervisor in New York, Gloria, talked me out of it. Now, not only am I still here, but I'm scheduled for more time than ever. Go figure!

After leaving Dubai, the ship called at Muscat, Oman and I got off the ship long enough to go see the El Bustan Palace Hotel - undoubtedly the most awesome hotel in the world. It is like a cross between a palace and a mosque. Wow! Also, in Haifa I had the opportunity to go on an overnight trip to Jerusalem, which I very much enjoyed. So, I did manage to do a few fun things.

In June I escorted 35 New Yorkers on a 2-week tour to Europe. I was a bit nervous about it, but it turned out well. We toured Vienna, Salzburg, Munich, Switzerland, Alsace and Germany's Rhineland. The weather was fabulous for our 3 days in Interlaken in the Swiss Alps.

I was only home a few days before leaving again for a 3-week tour of the Northwest and the Canadian Rockies. Right after that we had a family reunion at my brother's place in Colorado Springs. All my siblings and all 12 of my nieces and nephews were there. We took a lot of photos, as you can imagine. The children are growing so fast. And, how did they get sooooo smart?

My favorite trip of the summer, though, was the end of July. If you guessed a tour of the national parks, you are right! Five of us enjoyed 2 weeks of perfect weather as we visited park after park. I took them on a stagecoach dinner ride, a jet boat ride on the Colorado River, and treated them to sunset picnics on canyon rims. A first for me was a trek through Corkscrew Canyon near Page, Arizona. It is a quarter mile long and so narrow you can often touch both walls at the same time. Most places you can't even see up to the sky, due to the twisted rock walls. However, the sunlight sends shafts of light filtering down through, illuminating the orange and pink colors of the sandstone. Truly enchanting. However, just two weeks later we read in the news that there was a flash flood in that very canyon that drowned 12 hikers. It is ironic that more people die in the desert due to too much water than to not enough water!!

In August I was back on the QE2 for a short contract before heading back home to do my last big tour of the summer. I joined a group of 80 Swiss for 3 weeks on the west coast, starting in Seattle, continuing down the coast through the Oregon Dunes, Rogue River, and the California Redwoods, to San Francisco. From there we headed to Yosemite, Death Valley, Las Vegas, Bryce, Zion, Grand Canyon and ended in Phoenix. One day we had snow falling on us at noon in Yosemite and 4 hours later had 100 degrees in Death Valley. Great contrasts!

In October I flew to London to rejoin QE2 for a big cruise to the Caribbean roundtrip Southampton. Then a very rough transatlantic crossing and a warm, sunny Panama Canal cruise to Los Angeles. Since I am scheduled to be on the QE2 again from December 15 clear through to April 23, I arranged to take 2 weeks off over Thanksgiving and fly home.

As far as Cunard goes, the year has not been exactly boring. The company just recently decided to move to Miami and very few employees are making the move from New York. That means we lose all the relations we have built with our office personnel over the years. That includes "Mom Gloria" and all our friends in reservations and marketing. We could be in for a very difficult period the next few months and there is a lot of uncertainty. In addition, it looks like we will have a new owner shortly, so nobody really knows what is going on. At this point, I'm too curious to see how it will all turn out to leave. So here I stay!

There, now wasn't that a nice, boring year to tell about? An old Chinese Curse says, "May you live in interesting times!" So instead, I wish you all a peaceful life in the coming year. In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy my two weeks at home over Thanksgiving and watch some basketball and football games!

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Christmas 1996

Dear Friends Around the World,

It's been a wild and at times traumatic year. Still, I just had to go with Montana's speed limit for my cover story for 1996. The federal blackmail was finally ended a year ago and Montana returned to her own daytime speed limit on all highways of "reasonable and prudent". As you can see, we do have a set limit for night and trucks, but we are again allowed to use common sense in deciding how fast to drive in the daytime. And no, the highway death toll has not gone up - it's actually lower than a year ago.

Shortly after sending out my Christmas cards last year we got the news that Cunard had decided to retire "my ship" the Sagafjord in September 1996. I was devastated. All the beautiful cruises planned for 1997 went out the window. What a Christmas present that news was! Then the Cruise Sales Manager who was supposed to replace me for the world cruise gave last-minute notice she wouldn't come back. As my schedule didn't allow me to stay on, we had to find someone to fill in for a month until I could rejoin the ship. Trying to train someone during the busiest cruise of the year (Christmas) was not easy, but Yvonne was a good study and made a good fill-in for me.

I spent some time in Switzerland, and then went to London for the opening of a musical I'd invested in, Fields of Ambrosia. I loved it, the critics didn't, and it closed after 2 weeks. So much for that investment.

Mid-February I flew to Jakarta to rejoin the Sagafjord to finish out her last world cruise. Last cruise altogether as it turned out! We had a good time in Thailand and Hong Kong before heading for Borneo. Two days out of Hong Kong, in the middle of the South China Sea, the ship caught fire! It was 10:00 am and the fire was down in the engine room, so we didn't even see smoke. The lights went out, the ship went quiet and we found ourselves on a floating island with no power, no water, no air-conditioning and no flushing toilets! It was two days before tugboats reached us from the Philippines and it took another two days for them to tow us to Subik Bay. Oddly, it was a very special 4 days. Time stood still. We all knew it was the end of our world cruise and we had time to bid our ship farewell. The cooks did a great job; with BBQ dinners out on deck every day and a real camaraderie developed between passengers and crew. Funny, it was almost as if Sagafjord was not going to give up easily and chose her own retirement date. The ship was not brought back to finish the rest of her season.

Passengers were given a choice of going home or finishing their world cruise on QE2 or Royal Viking Sun. I escorted 80 passengers to the RV Sun and had a horrible month. Many of our Sagafjord passengers did not want to be made happy on the Sun (where nobody knew how important they were) and I heard enough moaning and complaining to last a lifetime. I wanted nothing more than to get off that ship. My wish was granted in a strange way! One month after boarding the Sun we were sailing from the Red Sea up to Aqaba, Jordan. At 10:15pm people were enjoying drinks and a passenger sailor's choir when there was a tremendous jolt. The choir went down like dominoes. The ship had hit a coral reef, which had torn a gash in the hull and sent us sailing helplessly in a circle. Disaster is always more frightening at night and there was some panic. Passengers were ordered to lifeboat stations where they waited 3 hours. At 1:00am they were allowed to go into the dining room as it was near the lifeboats, but they weren't allowed to go to their cabins until 7:00am the next morning. During the night we were blown about, close to other reefs and a shipwreck, before finally drifting up on shore like a beached whale. We were towed to Sharm al Sheik, Egypt where we managed to put people up in hotels or fly them to Cairo. A difficult task at best, since it was Easter weekend, but we got everybody off the ship within 24 hours of the accident. The Egyptians held the ship ransom for damaging their coral reef and demanded Cunard pay $23 million dollars! An awful way to get out of a bad situation, but I still refer to my "coral relief"! I stayed a couple more days and flew to Switzerland for a week of R & R before heading home.

In May I headed back to Switzerland with my mother for the wedding of my "Swiss sister" Monika Gerber. What a wedding! For the 60 select guests they had acquired horses and carriages to transport us from the church to a restaurant and all over Emmental on country roads for the afternoon. Ten carriages, each with at least 4 horses, made quite a spectacle.

I had an excellent summer of tours in the national parks and around the west and by the end of summer I was nearly myself again! However, the longer I was away from ships the less I felt inclined to go back. But in August Cunard asked me if I'd go on the Queen Elizabeth 2 for 3 months, as the Cruise Sales Manager there had resigned. I did. I boarded October 4 and have had awful weather and seas nearly constantly. I'm used to sailing in warm, calm waters this time of year. What is wrong with this picture!? It has taken some adjusting, but the QE2 is a great ship and I've enjoyed it more than I expected. The ship had a 3-week refit end of November so I got to go home for Thanksgiving. Also visited briefly in Switzerland before rejoining QE2 December 11. So my Christmas greetings are coming to you this year from aboard the world's most famous ship. I'll be here until January 4, then go on Vistafjord for 11 days in the Caribbean to host a Sagafjord reunion cruise.

There was one other event in 1996 I should mention - that was the big 40 for me in September. I celebrated it in New York planning future itineraries for Cunard ships.

More ships and tours next year, but I wouldn't mind if 1997 were not quite so exciting as 1996! Happy Holidays and All the Best for the New Year!

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Christmas 1995

Dear Friends Everywhere,

As much as I've traveled to exotic places this past year, I decided to draw on a domestic photo for my Christmas card this year. The western national parks are still my favorite area to take tours and this photo was taken at Double Arch in Arches National Park near Moab, Utah. I did a 2-week tour for a small group through the parks and we had a marvelous time hiking, driving, rafting, photographing, eating, taking a train ride, riding horses, and picnicking. My vote for best experience of the year.

There was no shortage of adventure in 1995. I spent a couple weeks in Switzerland in January, then made an exploratory trip for Cunard to Venezuela and Colombia to check out 4 ports for some itineraries I had proposed. The Sagafjord will be doing an Orinoco River cruise next fall, going 200 miles up the river to Ciudad Guayana, Venezuela, a surprisingly modern city. From there we can take tours to Angel Falls, the highest falls in the world, and many more attractions.

I joined Sagafjord for 4 weeks of her world cruise, escorting a special group. Bangkok, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Philippines, Vila, Pago Pago and Tahiti. I got home just in time to do some spring yard work for a couple weeks, then rejoin the ship end of April for another couple months on board as Cruise Sales Manager. I was to go home June 15 from Vancouver, but we had a small engine problem that turned a 3-day cruise into a 5-day cruise. It was great for passengers who had the extra time, but it was a pile of work for us trying to revise airline and hotel reservations for everyone. I finally flew home the 18th and only had a few days home to put in my tomatoes before taking off on another tour, this one from the Black Hills, through the Northwest and up into the Canadian Rockies.

My Swiss Family Robinson (actually Gerbers) came over in August for a 3-week tour in a motorhome. A big trip all through the west and we covered a lot of territory. My first time on the northern California coast and we enjoyed the coastal redwood forests immensely. We found them more beautiful than the Sequoia forests in the Sierra Nevadas. We also liked the rain forests on Washington's Olympic Peninsula.

Of course, I had to do my annual token tour with German farmers and this time I managed to get them to Yellowstone and some of the other parks, as well as Washington DC, Las Vegas, and San Francisco. Fun, but it's always a lot of work keeping track of 50 German farmers that don't speak any English!

My big adventure was in July. I'd proposed another cruise for the Sagafjord up into the Bering Sea area of Alaska and Russia. So Cunard sent me up there to check out that area as well. I spent time in Nome, Alaska and then flew over to Provideniya, Russia across the strait. Nome is charming. Provideniya is a typical ugly Russian, cement-slab village, but in a fascinating setting of fjords, mountains and wildflower-covered tundra. Wildly beautiful. Then I flew back to Alaska, down to Anchorage, and from there back over into Russia. The peninsula of Kamchatka has over 300 volcanoes, 29 of which are active. There are numerous geysers and hot springs in the area. The city of Petro-Pavlovsk has 300,000 people and is one of the most important military bases in the Russian Far East. It has been completely closed to westerners until 1992, so it was a real treat just to be there. The result of this trip will be a two-week cruise to the area in 1997. We'll cruise the Bering Strait and cross the Arctic Circle.

As usual, I'm writing my annual letter from on board the Sagafjord. I boarded October 22 for the beginning of a wonderful European Sojourn cruise, 34 days roundtrip Ft. Lauderdale into the Mediterranean. In spite of the coldest November weather in 100 years and some "rocking rough" seas, a good time was had by all. Now we're back in warmer climes again, cruising the Caribbean until after Christmas.

It's always good to see friends during the year and to look forward to seeing more next year.

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Christmas 1994

Dear Friends Scattered Around the World!

From the Antarctic to the Arctic in the same year! The world's most southern city, Ushuaia, and then the most northern inhabited island, Spitzbergen. Then a total solar eclipse to boot, and 1994 will live long in my memory!

In January the year started off with me aboard the Sagafjord for the world cruise, back in the tour office where I used to work. We headed south to Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires and continued clear to Antarctica. That was an exciting experience to see the ice, the snow-covered mountains, the research stations, and the seals and penguins. It was a bit chilly with ice on the deck in the morning, but great! On to the Falkland Islands and Tristan da Cunha. Tristan is known as the world's loneliest island and is fascinating. Only 40 people made it ashore in the natives' longboats, and Desiree and I from the tour office were the only staff/crew allowed to go. That was a big highlight.

Seven of us enjoyed a fabulous safari in Kruger National Park in South Africa and then had another short one in Kenya. After a 5-day overland tour in India we arrived in the Orient. My dream tour there was 4 days in Vietnam and Cambodia. Ho Chi Minh City was a big surprise - clean, friendly, lovely architecture, wide boulevards, and super shopping! Ceramic elephants marched on board by the hundreds! Cambodia has a tragic history and has been an almost non-existent country for the last 20 years. We had a good hotel in Phnom Penh and our day spent at Angkor Wat was truly remarkable. Ancient temples in the middle of the jungle.

In early summer I sailed on our sister ship, the Vistafjord. New faces, new places. The Baltic cruise really is a nice one and we were lucky with the weather on our cruise to the North Cape and Spitzbergen. 75 degrees and sunny at the North Cape! We were also blessed with bright sunshine in the spectacular fjords of Norway.

Cunard also bought a new ship, the Royal Viking Sun, so I had to sail on her 5 days to check it out! My first reaction was that I'm glad it's not competition anymore. Sagafjord is still my favorite of all though.

This fall I escorted 3 national park tours back to back. Those areas always make me feel like a child again. I had nice groups and brilliant fall colors between a crystal blue sky and the deep colored canyons. The parks are still the best destination anywhere for a vacation. Everyone should visit at least once! In fact, next September/October I'm running a tour in the parks for friends and past tour acquaintances. A real adventure tour!

In contrast to the east and Midwest with their awful winter and summer, we had a mild winter and a delightful summer in Montana. Last year my tomatoes froze the end of August, but this year they were still alive in the garden the end of October! Crazy. Of course, by now there is a ton of snow. That doesn't affect me too much - I'm back on the Sagafjord enjoying the tropical sun. In October we sailed from Florida to South America on our Eclipse Cruise. The eclipse was so much more than I'd expected. Over 4 minutes of totality. It got quite cool and dark and we could look directly at the sun during totality. Venus, Mars and Mercury were clearly visible around the sun. What a moving experience! On that trip we also visited Rio and Buenos Aires. B.A. is definitely the best city in South America!

I'll be on the ship until January 4, which means I won't be home for Christmas. To make up for it I'm taking Mom to Switzerland for 2 weeks in January. She still loves to travel and with 11 grandchildren there's always a good excuse to hit the road even when I'm not taking her somewhere. My nieces and nephews are of course the cutest.

The US election is finally over and it was not pleasant for Clinton. As far as I'm concerned our government could do nothing at all and we'd be better off than having them always messing things up. I'm more cynical than the English when it comes to politics! But then, where is it any better? More significant than the election is the GATT treaty. What a horror that they were able to ram that through without people even knowing the ramifications of it. December 1 was Black Wednesday for America.

Still, we always hope for the best and for 1995 I wish you much success, good health, and peace. God bless you all.

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Christmas 1993

Season's Greetings!

I hope this finds you well as we come to the close of yet another year and look forward to 1994. It seems this annual ritual is the only way to keep up with so many wonderful people I know from over the years. With all the exciting experiences I've enjoyed around the world, the most special memories still come from the people along the way. People are memorable for different reasons: friendship, love, sadness, family, and some because they're funny. I had several funny ones this year. Like the woman who checked into her cabin on the ship, looked out at the parking lot and demanded another cabin because, "she was not going to look at that parking lot the whole cruise!" As the Sagafjord pulled into Skagway, Alaska this summer a woman asked what the elevation was in Skagway! A young fellow at my table on a recent cruise was in the launderette ironing his shirt when a lady asked if she could do it for him. He declined, saying he had to learn how to do it anyway, so she said, "It helps if you plug in the iron first!"

Mind you, there's no lack of adventures either. This year Delta offered an airfare from Bozeman to Zurich for only $499 roundtrip, so I took Mom and 2 friends to Switzerland, Germany and France for 10 days. We had a wonderful time seeing friends and sights, including Montana, Switzerland! I stayed a couple weeks after they returned home, of course.

The rest of the year was full of cruises, tours, gardening, and working on my coin collection. I had quite a variety of tours around the USA - down south, in the Midwest, up into western Canada, and naturally, in my beloved national parks.

I did more globetrotting as I returned to Europe for my Swiss "little brother's" wedding, and then spent some time in the UK. I wasn't home long before rejoining Sagafjord for 6 weeks of phenomenally gorgeous weather in Alaska. Glacier Bay on a clear day is stunning. I'm more convinced than ever that the Alaska cruise is the best anywhere. You just haven't cruised until you've done Alaska.

I flew home from Anchorage for only one day before 30 Swiss people arrived in Bozeman for a 2-week tour of the northern Rockies that I had organized. Yellowstone, Glacier, Calgary, Banff, Columbia Icefields, Vancouver, Victoria, Olympic Peninsula and Seattle. I was able to take Mom along on that too. Ironically, my friends the Gerbers, who were the main reason for the tour, had to cancel due to a heart attack. We had a good trip except for a bus driver who couldn't drive and gave me nightmares for weeks after. I wasn't sure I'd be able to get on a bus again later! But I finally got over it. One of the best stops was Olympic National Park's Hurricane Ridge on the clearest day of the year. Wow!

In August I even spent a week "on the other side of the fence" in the Cunard office in New York. It's enlightening for sure, but I'll stick with the ship, thank you.

My favorite tour was a big National Park tour with 35 French-speaking Swiss. The fall colors were exquisite against the vivid blue sky and stark colors of Utah's canyon country. No one in the group will forget our picnic on the rim of Canyonlands National Park watching the sunset. Magic. It was also good to speak French for 3 weeks as well. One day after that tour I started another tour with a small Dutch group in the southwestern USA.

After a hectic tour season it was a relief to reboard the Sagafjord in Bermuda for 7 weeks as Cruise Sales Manager. It is also nice to "come home" to my Saga family. We headed south of the equator to Brazil for the first few weeks and then ended with a 2-week Caribbean cruise. The picture on the front of this card is the Christ statue overlooking Rio de Janeiro. I took the chance to learn quite a bit of Portuguese on the way. What a rich language. I even did a short TV interview in Portuguese.

My extended family continues to grow with a new nephew this summer (born 2 months early but doing great!) I now have 7 nephews and 3 nieces and of course Mom is taking advantage of her retirement to spent time with them. My garden didn't do a lot this summer - it was so cool and wet my poor tomatoes didn't have a chance. Snow and frost greeted us by the first of September. Oh well, I'm still not going to move from Montana just so I can grow big tomatoes! The first big snowstorm of the season hit already the 3rd week in November with the temp dropping to -10 F (-23 C). I felt really guilty not being home to enjoy it. I will be home most of December, though, before taking off on another World Cruise in the Sagafjord tour office. Antarctica here we come, but there'll be lots of other highlights too. I hate missing winter again, but someone's gotta do it!

Wishing you Joy and Peace this Christmas and all the best in 1994!

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Christmas 1992

Dear Friends Far and Near,

Seasons Greetings from the Vagabond. Boy is it hot! At home it's cold and snowy, but I am, as usual this time of year, on the lovely Sagafjord. We're just returning from a wonderful Amazon cruise and it was hot. Here in the Caribbean the temps have dropped back down below 90 again. The Amazon was really exciting. We cruised 1,000 miles up the river from the Atlantic to Manaus, Brazil, a city of a million people. Manaus is in the middle of the Amazon jungle on the bank of the river. Quite a fascinating city, but it paled in comparison to the river itself. At Manaus the river was 10 miles wide and this was the dry season. As the water starts to rise it will come up 40 to 60 feet and spread out as much as 150 miles wide at places! Even now there were places where we couldn't see any land from the ship in the middle of the river. The Amazon has 20% of all the fresh water in the world and the area provides a third of the world's oxygen. Now we're back in the pretty Caribbean where we'll remain for another 2-week cruise. Then I'll head back to the snow, cold and basketball for Christmas.

I'm still filling in as Cruise Sales Manager on the Sagafjord 2 or 3 times a year and it's never a bit boring. An ideal job - CSM on a luxury liner! Last spring I was on for 6 weeks, first in the Caribbean, then through the Panama Canal, a Mexican Riviera cruise, then up the west coast to LA, San Francisco and Vancouver. Vancouver is really one of the prettiest cities anywhere.

In February I was in Europe visiting friends in Switzerland, Germany and Poland. While I was over there Mom was at home and fell and broke her hip. She was in the hospital several days and they just gave her a new one. Amazing what they can do these days. She recovered well, but still has a bit of difficulty with it. In spite of the hip she went along on a national parks tour I organized for 15 relatives last June. We had a great time visiting Yellowstone, Tetons, Arches, Mesa Verde, Monument Valley, Grand Canyon, Zion and Bryce. It was Mom's first time in the parks so I was really glad she could go along. I've seen a lot of beautiful sights around the world, but there's nothing anywhere to compare to the variety and splendor of our western national parks. During the year I escorted several other tours as well - for Germans, Swiss, Brits and Americans.

Well, here we are with a new president in the USA. How does that sound - "President Bill Clinton"? I must say, I don't envy him. I don't think either Bush or Clinton is capable of rescuing the dangerous economic situation. At any rate, good luck Clinton! The world scene continues its fascinating race through history. A year ago we were wondering if the Ukraine would become independent. Now it seems like that happened long ago. To keep up with all the changes you'd about have to watch CNN 24 hours a day! In spite of all the problems, the world has so many beautiful places and so many wonderful people. So, for the meantime I intend to continue exploring new places and meeting new friends - and enjoying it!

May you have a blessed Holiday Season and a very happy New Year 1993!

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Christmas 1991

Dear Friends Everywhere,

Another year gone by and again I find myself sending Holiday Greetings from on board the M.S. Sagafjord. We've been cruising Hawaii the last few days and it is tough being forced to enjoy the sun, beach, and lovely islands! I've become quite the sailor, having spent over half the year at sea. The first 3 months I experienced a new ship, the Queen Elizabeth 2, where I again worked in the tour office escorting shore excursions on the world cruise. She's a huge ship but I loved it. It's a thrill to sail into ports around the world on the world's most famous ship. Along the way we got to visit 2 of my favorite countries, New Zealand and Australia, as well as our usual stops in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore, India, etc. One of my best tours was a 3-day trip into Guilin, China. Guilin is home to those bizarre mountains that look like huge fingers protruding from the ground. They really are just as enchanting as old Chinese paintings make them look. Also, I found the Chinese people to be just as friendly as ever and still eager to talk to westerners. Shopping and bargaining was still just as fun, too.

We didn't go through the Suez Canal as planned, due to the Gulf War. Instead we headed south from Kenya to Durban and Cape Town, South Africa; Freetown, Sierra Leone; Dakar, Senegal; Tenerife; Gibraltar; Lisbon, Portugal; and on to England before heading back across the Big Pond to New York. In South Africa I went on the famous Blue Train. The train is indeed nice, but I've never been on a tour where so many things went wrong at once. What a trip! Then came Sierra Leone - the most horrible place I've ever seen! Nothing in all my travels prepared me for the conditions there. I wouldn't have missed seeing it for anything, but once is definitely enough. Tenerife was gorgeous, we climbed "The Rock" in Gibraltar, and enjoyed some spectacular palaces in Portugal. From England to New York we endured a wild storm. Hurricane force winds and waves over 50 feet high pummeled us for 2 days. Water crashed over the bow and the tossing wreaked havoc on the ship. In spite of all that the world cruise on the QE2 was a great experience.

I've been back on the Sagafjord as Cruise Sales Manager several times this year; in Bermuda, Caribbean, Alaska, and Hawaii. Mom was able to come along on the Alaska cruise from Anchorage to Vancouver. Super! Alaska is awesome - glaciers, mountains, waterfalls, bears, whales, seals, and historic towns. We even took a scenic flight by floatplane to a wilderness lodge and had a salmon bake. While we were eating, a grizzly bear came along and licked out the grill.

Between cruises I still escort tours. The fall colors in the national parks were brilliant this year and I was fortunate to enjoy them on a couple great tours in that time period. Wildflowers in Yellowstone were the best ever this year.

I've also gotten involved in a new business, which I find very interesting. National Safety Associates is an environmental products company that is a leader in the industry. The marketing plan is a great opportunity. NSA is already in the US, Canada, Britain, and Germany and expanding. Details available on request.

Europe keeps changing so fast the mapmakers can't keep up. What will finally become of the USSR and its pieces? Who's behind all the change, or is it truly spontaneous? Poland is making rapid changes to free market, but it's tough to pay world prices and still earn Polish wages. Bush seems to be World President, but at home the deficit continues to grow. I'm afraid the day of reckoning is not far off anymore.

Mother is finally retired and we've enclosed part of the porch to make a small study for her. There she can read and write to her heart's content. I'll be home for Christmas and most of January. It'll be fun to go to some basketball games and enjoy a little winter again.

May you have a wonderful Holiday Season and a peaceful and prosperous New Year 1992. God Bless.

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Christmas 1990

Dear Friends around the World,

This year I'm sending holiday greetings from "my ship", the Sagafjord, currently in the Caribbean. I'm on for 7 weeks, filling in as Cruise Sales Manager. That means booking passengers on future cruises. It's been really busy but enjoyable.

The first 3 months of the year I was also onboard for the world cruise, but then I escorted land excursions for the Tour Office. It was my 2nd world cruise and I didn't think it could be as good as my first one in 1989, but it was even better! Not only was it a great itinerary, but also I really enjoyed the people I worked with. We played lots of backgammon and trivial pursuit. Tours were good too. My first was a 7-day trip to New Zealand/Australia and there were only 5 of us. Sweet! NZ is one of the most beautiful countries I've seen. Mountains, glaciers, lakes, waterfalls, flowers, fjords. . . . A long-time dream came true when I got to take a group to Katmandu, Nepal. It was like going back in time 200 years, but there are ancient temples next to Coca Cola ads. Interesting culture. One of the features was the scenic flight over the Himalayas and Mt. Everest. Clear skies and stunning views. In India the Taj Mahal is one of those rare sights that really is as good as people claim. It was enchanting watching the dawn slowly illuminate the perfectly symmetrical marble shrine. A wild tour through the Indian countryside gave a glimpse into the daily life of the people. It was a special feeling sailing to Oman, as it was the first visit by a luxury cruise ship ever. Oman opened to tourism in 1987 and there were more Americans on the ship than all previous US visitors combined. A desert country, very old but very modern, and Muscat was definitely one of our favorite ports. Another was Aqaba, Jordan for a side trip to Petra, "The Rose-red City half as old as Time"! Hidden and forgotten since the 3rd century, it was rediscovered in 1812. We rode horses through a narrow canyon into a magical, colorful city of temples, theaters, and homes carved right out of the red rock cliffs. In Egypt we saw the pyramids; in Turkey, ancient Ephesus and Troy; in Greece, Rhodes and Athens; and countless other wonders around the globe.

After spending 2 weeks at home over Christmas I'll be back on a world cruise, but this time on the Queen Elizabeth 2, the largest cruise ship in the world. Plans are to go from Kenya up through the Suez Canal. Hopefully Persian Gulf rumblings won't divert us. The Gulf is over 1500 miles away from the canal, but of course for many people it's all the same.

History changes so quickly. Last year there was such euphoria about Europe and the end of the Cold War. Now that's nearly forgotten as all eyes are on Iraq. A peaceful solution would be nice, but it looks dubious to me. In Europe stunning change continues: United Germany, Riots in Romania, Republics in the USSR rebelling, strange election results in Poland, and the fall of Margaret Thatcher! It was strange this summer to drive from West Germany to Berlin and not cross a border. It's just gone. Never dreamed I'd see the day.

And Yellowstone Park still attracts visitors as it makes a comeback from the 1988 fires. A wet spring brought much new vegetation, and along with it fears of more fires by summer. It did dry up, but just as it began to look bad, summer rains came and greened it up again. The tall black trees will stand for many years, but below them it is lusher than it has been in years. Of all the traveling I do our western National Parks are still the best. Their wildness, grandeur, and diversity make them special places to visit and it's always a joy to take groups there. I had a couple special tours in the parks this year between tours in both the US and Europe.

It's nice to get home once in awhile and just work in the garden and enjoy Montana's Big Sky! Mom is only teaching part-time this year so she has a little more time to enjoy her 8 grandchildren. After raising 9 children of her own and then teaching 10 years, I think she deserves it!

May you have a Joyous Christmas and a Happy New Year 1991!

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Christmas 1989

Dear Friends Far and Near,

What a historic year! It's hard to believe the events of Eastern Europe. In July and August I took a trip with three friends and my Mother. From Munich we went to Salzburg, Vienna, Budapest, Moscow, Kiev, Leningrad, Warsaw, Berlin and Hamburg. In the USSR changes were obvious from my last trip there in 1980 - Glasnost perestroika, etc. One thing with NO improvement was service. The Russians themselves seem highly skeptical, but something's happening. In Warsaw we witnessed history on August 1st. That day Poland was declared a free-market economy. It was also the 45th anniversary of the Warsaw uprising against the Nazis and the first year the Poles were able to speak freely about the Russian role in that tragedy. Officially, the Russians have always been the great liberators, but no more! In Berlin, seeing the imposing wall, we never dreamed that barely 2 months later it would be wide open. Adding Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria, history continues its amazing journey. I'm thrilled, but I have some serious questions about the meaning. What will the future bring these long-oppressed people? Merry Christmas to them anyway!

Regarding my tour escort work, 1989 was the best of my career. The 3 months I worked for American Express on the luxury cruise ship, Sagafjord, escorting land excursions on a world cruise. We visited 25 ports and some of the best overland tours I did included: 4 days in Africa to Victoria Falls; a 2-day safari in Kenya; 3 days to Kashmir and Delhi in India; and two days in Bangkok. Bangkok is a phenomenal city with a splendid Royal Palace complex. Still, the greatest tour was a 7-day one to China - Shanghai, Xian and Beijing. It was before the unrest began so the atmosphere was outstanding. The whole trip was fascinating, but standing on the Great Wall was unforgettable.

I've been asked to plan on working the world cruise every winter from January to April. This year we go west from Florida through the Panama Canal to Tahiti, Fiji, Australia, Bali, Hong Kong, Singapore, India, Pakistan, through the Suez Canal to Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Turkey, USSR< Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, France, and Spain before heading back to Florida. I really miss the cold winters, but somebody has to do it!

One of my favorite tours the rest of the year was a 2-week one through our national parks with 22 Swiss people. It was a big project for me as I organized the whole trip myself. It turned out great and lots of fun.

Yellowstone continues its recovery from the fires of 1988. It'll be years before the black trees are gone, but each year will be greener. The animals already have more green plants to eat than before 1988. This summer there was plenty of rain, even too much at times, with resulting floods and mudslides. Autumn has been long and nice and Yellowstone is ready to welcome winter visitors.

May you all have a Joyous and Blessed Christmas Season and a Happy and Successful New Year 1990!

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Christmas 1988

Greetings and Salutations from Bozeman!

It's nice to be home for a few short weeks over the holiday season to get my Christmas letters out on time. This year it's just ordinary cards with a letter. Next year will probably see a return to my customary format.

From the standpoint of work it's been a great year. It started out easy enough, as I stayed home the first couple months, getting things done around the house, taking my Mom to basketball games at the university, filling in at the airport gift shop, and delivering delayed luggage for the airlines. Then after two months in Switzerland and Germany, my tour escort work picked up in a hurry. In May I escorted three one-week tours back east for American Express. Each was a group of 45 German farmers and we visited John Deere factories, implement dealers, and farms where such equipment was used. They were good tours, but long days, as we covered over 2000 miles in six days by bus between Boston and Chicago and on out into Iowa.

I had only a few days the beginning of June to plant my garden before heading out on the road again with tours in Montana, Yellowstone, and national parks further to the south and west. It was an interesting variety of tours and people this summer. I did one more series of three tours for American Express that I really enjoyed, in June, September, and October. They were music tours with British people. We started in New York and went down through Washington, Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi, New Orleans, and Florida. We visited such musical attractions as Opryland, Graceland, Dollywood, the New Orleans French Quarter, and of course, in Orlando we had to include Epcot Center and Disney World. Great fun and I learned to know a new part of our country, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

The big story from this part of the country this year is the drought and the subsequent wildfires that scorched much of Yellowstone Park and vast areas of western forests and grasslands. The drought was evident in eastern Montana months before we felt it in this area. There, some of the crops didn't even sprout last spring. (It was soooo dry out there my brother saw two trees fighting over a dog!) In our area there was ample precipitation through Memorial Day, and then the Big Sky just dried up. Montana has had droughts before, but Yellowstone, rarely. In YNP between the last big snow on Memorial Day and the first snow September 10, there was NO significant rainfall! Many people have criticized the National Park Service for not putting out the fires right away, considering it was a drought year. What they don't see is that Yellowstone has always been free of drought, even in the dust bowl days of the 30's. By the time it became evident that it was not going to rain in Yellowstone, the fires were impossible to put out. It was one of the most incredible things I've ever seen and it went on for weeks. In the beginning it looked like huge, white thunderclouds over the park. Eventually they blotted out the entire sky and the sun went black behind the thick smoke. By the end of August the lodgepole pines were so dry you could have ignited a tree with a single match held against the trunk. Then came the wind, brutal wind. The day the fires attacked Old Faithful there were wind gusts up to 80 mph! Impossible conditions for the nearly 10,000 firefighters in the park. Miraculously, all the historic structures in the park were saved, although 17 cabins were lost in the Old Faithful area. Initial damage reports of over half the park being burned have been revised downward and things don't look nearly so grim. Now the estimate is that about 1/3 of the park was affected, with only about half of the trees in that area actually killed. The fires burned in a bizarre patchwork pattern, leaving green and black side by side, burning just the tops of trees, or just the underbrush. It didn't leave a blackened moonscape as one might imagine. On so many of my past tours people have asked why there were so many dead trees in the park. After explaining about the pine beetle, putting out fires for nearly a century, and the policy of "leave it natural", I would always say the park just needed a few good forest fires to start things over. Well, nature certainly does things her way and in her own magnitude! Yellowstone will never look the same again in our lifetime, but the long-term effects of the fires of 88 should be a blessing to the ecosystem as new life comes through the old. Yellowstone will survive and it will be a fascinating process to watch.

After my last tour the end of October I took another quick trip to Europe, including a week in Poland, then made it back to the US for Thanksgiving. Plans are to stay home this month, then January 4, fly to Florida to being a 3 month job on the Sagafjord, a luxury cruise ship. I'll be working for American Express in their office on the ship and escorting land excursions around the world in places like West Africa, South Africa, Kenya, India, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, China, Korea, Japan, Hawaii, Mexico, Costa Rica, Colombia, and the Grand Cayman Islands. There will always be a local guide; I will be more in a tour manager role to make sure things run smoothly. It should be fun and I'm looking forward to it. Next spring I should be able to evaluate it a little better.

Wishing you a beautiful holiday season and a peaceful New Year!

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Christmas 1987

I'm still looking for a copy of this one!

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Christmas 1986

Greetings from the Wanderer,

It hardly looks like Christmas here, but it's nevertheless time to get my Christmas letters out. Since mid-October I've been living in Kreuzlingen, Switzerland, and studying languages at the University of Konstanz across the border in Germany. It was too good an opportunity to pass up. I'm living with my friends, the Gerbers, and helping out in their home/school for kids from broken homes. Several days a week I cross the border to go to school at the U of K where I'm taking German, French, Spanish, Polish, Russian, and Chinese! A volleyball course helps keep a balance between mental and physical fatigue. The semester here runs until the first of March, and then I'll head back to the states for the summer.

Actually, most of these letters are being mailed from the US, as I returned for a week for the wedding of my youngest brother, Vance, in Louisiana. It seems kind of silly to take such a big trip for just a week, but it was important to me to be there, and I can't afford to miss classes for any longer. Besides, Icelandair has a great roundtrip fare between New York and Luxemburg for $300, so how could I resist?

Last spring I spent 3 months working here in Schulheim Bernrain, and that's when I got the idea of studying at the University. Mr. Gerber actually managed to get me a short-term work permit, and it was an interesting experience working here.

In April I took a short trip into Poland to visit friends, and then I took two weeks and went to Israel. The latter trip was right after the US bombed Libya and my Swiss friends tried to convince me it was far too dangerous, but I took the train to Athens, then a boat to Haifa, Israel, and had a great time visiting friends and seeing Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, and En Gedi. Meanwhile, back in Europe, Chernobyl was causing much anxiety, and I was enjoying the Middle East sun far from the radiation!

This past summer I was tour guiding again and am looking forward to a busy summer next year. Also last summer I worked a few days as an "extra" in a big movie production that was filmed in Bozeman and Livingston. The movie is "Amazing Grace and Chuck", starring Gregory Peck, Jamie Lee Curtiss, and others, and should premier sometime in March or April. Look for a familiar looking face among the horde of reporters.

With that I'll close and wish you a happy holiday season and a year of peace in 1987!

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Christmas 1985

Greetings from Montana!

When the snow starts to fly, the temperatures start dropping below zero (Fahrenheit), and the main event around is basketball, it's time for Christmas and sending Christmas cards. (Only 180 this year). As cold as it's been, I'm surprised all my cards weren't out by Halloween. We've just had the coldest November ever recorded, and it almost made me want to go back to some of the sunny warm places I visited this past year.

After working in Yellowstone Park till the end of January, I spent February in Washington DC. It was an interesting month; house-sitting, working at a state park in Virginia, spending time with friends at Great Falls State Park on the Potomac river, and enjoying the city.

March, April and May I spent in Europe, mostly in Switzerland. There were five countries left in Europe I had never visited, so after visiting a friend in Yugoslavia, I headed for Budapest, Hungary. A beautiful city and it doesn't have nearly the feeling of "Eastern Europe" that some of the other socialist countries do. However, from there I went to Romania and Bulgaria, and those two are NOT on my list of recommended countries, except it was kind of neat to visit Transylvania in the center of Romania.

It was a real relief to arrive in Greece. Ahhh, Greece! A wonderful country of ancient cities, historic ruins, great scenery, and SUN!! I spent 5 days seeing the country by car with some Polish friends and we had a great time! Turkey was really the surprise high point of the trip; unfortunately, I had to get back to France for a wedding, so it left me only two days for Istanbul. It's a fantastic place, and cheap! I stayed in a hotel for $1.60.

I came back home for the summer and started my own private guide business in the western national parks, with of course, heavy emphasis on Yellowstone. It went quite well for the first year so I expect to do it for quite awhile, from May to October each year. That leaves winters free for other things. My last tour this fall was a two-week tour with a Swiss family that ended in California, so I just stayed down there for a month visiting friends and relatives, making new friends, enjoying the sun and the beach, relaxing, and auditioning for TV game shows. I was able to get on Wheel of Fortune during my time in Los Angeles.

My sister, Valerie, got married November 30th, so I couldn't go to Europe last month. Now I've decided I may as well hang around till after Christmas, then hopefully take off for Switzerland and try to find a job for about 3 months. Of course, my plans are always subject to change until they have actually become past tense!!

Wishing you a Joyous and Blessed Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year 1986!!

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Christmas 1984

I'm still looking for this one, too!

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Christmas 1983

Bozeman, December 1983

Greetings from the Big Sky Country of Montana!

It is indeed a Big Sky this season as it seems to drop a big snow every chance it gets. Winter is here, skiing is great, and snow season activities in Yellowstone National Park are in full swing.

I know a lot of people think form letters are a little impersonal, but I just finished sending 75 (count 'em... 75) cards to foreign friends in a combination of French, German, Polish, Spanish, and Russian. So maybe you can understand why I decided not to take the same tack with another 100 domestic ones. Besides, this way I can write a little more to everybody.

This last year didn't see me traveling as much as in the past, but I kept busy and met a lot of people from all over the US and the world. We can learn so much from other people if we take time to get to know them. Our differences can enrich rather than strain relationships if we allow others their individuality.

After working as an announcer at a Christian radio station last spring, I returned to Yellowstone Park in May to help open the season at Old Faithful Inn Front Desk. Most of last year's staff was back which made for a smooth opening and a great time together. Starting June 1st I was again a tour guide for charter tours and had a really enjoyable summer. I don't know about tourism elsewhere, but it was up near record levels in Yellowstone from mid-summer on. The more I work in the park the more I am absolutely awed at the wonders there. It's a privilege to share it with others. For the winter I am working at Yellowstone's Information Desk at the Bozeman Airport and living at home. So, if any of you decide to fly into Bozeman you'll have a friend to meet you! And remember a winter vacation in Yellowstone is an unforgettable experience.

Speaking of vacations, I took two weeks after work ended in October and went with one-time Yellowstone guide, Gary Schluter, on a camping trip of the Northwest. We headed west from YNP across Idaho and into Oregon. We visited different national parks in Oregon and Washington and saw some pretty nice country. Our country is truly blessed with a wide variety of scenic beauty!

Wishing you the best this Christmas Season and a very Happy New Year 1984!


Kent Kauffman


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