Paul and Mindy's Big Adventure

The next chapter in our life together

Kayak to Seal Island with Cary RICHMOND

Cary in his kitchen making dinner for us

One of the baby seals on Seal Island just off the main shore of Abel Tasman National Park

Cam, our guide, shared stories of the history of NZ, the behavior of the seals and native birds that we saw on our paddle. DYK that some seals can run up to 25 mph on land and swim up to 50 mph !!

Part of our day long kayak trip with CARY RICHMOND our old MN BWCAW friend who now lives in Cable Bay 20 minutes outside of Nelson NZ

We called Cary from the airport in Honolulu thinking he was still living in Hawaii.

When he responded to my message the following week he said he was living in NZ!

Small chance that we would see him and bingo he was right on our path. Now we are talking about meeting in 3 weeks on our way back to the North Island to play golf while Mindy hunts down a world class spinning wheel from Ashford in Ashton NZ

– Paul

Inspiring Students Strike for Climate

Being close to the International Date Line, New Zealand was one of the first countries to begin the March 15 global day of action by students. Thanks to our friend in Minnesota, Scot Adams, we met and stayed with one of the student organizers and her family. Maha was one of the two students who organized and MCed an event in front of the Kapiti Coast District Council (a district just north of Wellington on the west coast of the North Island of New Zealand. About 200 people participated throughout the day at this event including speeches by a council member and the mayor in addition to a number of community leaders working on various environmental issues. We added a bit by sharing our work in the US and the hope we see there through our work with students and Citizens’ Climate Lobby. This was one of 30 events in New Zealand that included thousands of students around the country.

By the end of 24 hours over a million students around the world had participated in actions. The impact is already being felt as the UN is calling for a special meeting as a result of the outpouring of student support around the globe. Truly, the children will lead us.

We woke the next morning to social media reports from Minnesota from students we know sending pictures of the demonstration at the state capitol.

Thank you students for your inspiring action!

– Mindy

Our Six Week Home

Yet another new experience for us traveling in New Zealand is living in a camper van. It’s fantastic to not have to pack and unpack a suitcase every night. We do have to find a place to camp each night, but somehow this seems so much easier than finding lodging. We are fully self-contained with a 2-burner gas stove, refrigerator, sink, pantry and storage cupboards, bed, tables and chairs (inside and out) and even a little port-a-potty if needed. We stopped for groceries, bought a couple of accessories and we’re ready to go. We haven’t had a meal out since we picked up the van. I’m loving this!

– Mindy

Thanks Joe and Lorraine at Rotorua Campervans for this great little rig and for getting us started out right! We are delighted to work with you and have you as friends.

Bed rolled up for day use.

Sink with sprayer that pulls outside – even hot water!

Girl Guide cookies and all – we’re ready to cook

Joe showing us how the awning works.

Where am I going to put everything?

Who cares! Just relax and have fun!

Our first camping spot.

A good opportunity for some solar charging.

Creative laundry drying.

Paul driving first…

then Mindy took her turn.

Rising Sun in Auckland

Up early at the Jamaica Blue coffee shop in Auckland near the Ibis Budget Hotel near the airport where we get picked up at 11 am for our journey to Rotorua to meet our rolling home for the next 40 days.

Minnesota nice must have gotten the name from New Zealand. My overwhelming impression from our day in Auckland is some of the most friendly, helpful people I’ve ever met…from the barber, Meha, who shared all about where to find a rugby game,

the 2 women at b-fast who couldn’t stop sharing specific places to visit, the kind of wine to find , or the woman at the bookstore helping to locate another store that had the last copy of the trekking guide that we were looking for.


We definitely got our 10,000 steps in wandering the cosmopolitan city,

learning to use public transport with our new French friends (and Cool Planet converts), Eric and Albane,

cruising fisherman’s wharf with amazing yachts and sailing vessels,

stopping into interesting shops

and a wonderful dinner at the Zookeeper’s Son and a fantastic waitperson, Helena, from Korea

who warned us of the sheep and cow poop on the way to the top of Lone Tree Hill in Cornwall Park that we climbed at sunset for a breath taking 360 degree view of Auckland to end our first day on this island nation.  

Dream Becomes Reality

Before I get too engrossed in being here in New Zealand I wanted to share  a bit about my / our process in creating this grand journey we are starting on.

  1. Mindy has been fascinated with and wanted to visit New Zealand for along time.
  2. I’ve always wanted to return to Borneo to visit my former Peace Corps location of Sabah, East Malaysia.
  3. Mindy had wanted to bike across the country before she was 50.  She completed this at 48, so what to really do for 50?  Sights became set on going to New Zealand.
  4. When I turned 70 last August Mindy made the comment that there would be a 6 month window when I was 70 (8/29/48) and she was 50 (2/12/69) and that celebrating our 120 years would be an auspicious occasion.  And traveling right after the Birkie would be good timing for the southern hemisphere.
  5. At the Edina Community Foundation’s ” Connecting with Kids” b-fast in 2018 the guest speaker was Hugh McCucheon, the U of M volleyball coach,  and native of New Zealand. We chatted briefly about his homeland and I was totally sold on visiting.

Let the planning begin….as the Winter turned cold and colder (see Sabah Flag photo) and the record snows of February built our shoveling muscles.







Mindy hit the magic 50 while our training for the Birkie (55 km ski marathon, Paul’s 38th and Mindy’s 3rd) took most of our time we were counting the days to “March Fourth” with increasing anticipation and considerable stress as Mindy and Paul completed their work as Regional Co-ordinators for CCL (Citizens’ Climate Lobby) and Mindy as administrator for her job with Ignatian Associates.

Paul spending hours digitizing his Kodachrome slides from 1971-73 at friend Jonathan Gross’ home studio…thanks Jon.







2 other things worth noting in the preparation…On Mindy’s b-day after skiing 42 km I took her out to a b-day dinner at French Meadow for a lovely meal and a surprise break in to Millie my 2004 Prius…OUCH!!! 

Mindy lost her backpack with lots of cords and small items but had luckily removed her brand new iPad, and the perpetrators did not look in the back seat (doors locked) where my brand new camera was untouched…PHEW!!


So adding multiple days of getting the window replaced and the necessary body work to Millie added to the  stress of preparation. So the obvious thing to do is to announce our wedding date of 9/21/19 and then decide to get married on March 2 at Pat Corcoran’s B-Day and Guthrie Dinner Party with our neighbor Rev. Molly Cox as the wedding officiant and 8 friends.

It just felt right so we made it happen, a little like this trip.


Skiing the Birkie while carrying the cremains of my son Christopher who died of suicide on April 13, 2018,

visiting my sweet sister Sue recovering from her stroke

 before leaving and following the Caring Bridge of J Drake Hamilton also recovering from a head injury during an ice slip is a constant reminder of the preciousness and temporary nature of our lives together. I am blessed to be partnered with Mindy Ahler, my wife and travel companion and the  joy of having a large network of community supporters and families that care about us and we them.


Enjoy our blog, comment to us if you have the time and know that we are always in deep appreciation of you and your efforts to make our world a safer, healthier place for future generations.


Peace out~ pt


We made it…

After getting Mary acquainted with the care and feeding of Pickles and the Pickles Palace, we were off to the airport.  Thank you, Mary, for taking good care of our kitty!

After about 2 days of traveling, but we finally made it to Auckland, New Zealand about 10pm on Wednesday, 6 March.

Ready for takeoff at the Humphrey terminal in Minneapolis. We won’t be this cold again for a while.

Getting on board.

Still fresh early in the journey. Lots of time in airplane seats – though each time with a window.

Coming into Honolulu

Took time to walk around in Honolulu to get some feel of Hawai’i and stretch our legs between long flights. Good sushi had here.

Mindy trying to get some shut-eye. Actually I got quite a bit of sleep on our flights.

Chasing the sun…

Getting closer…

Paul’s protection from the insecticide spraying as we land in Auckland. Need to prevent the spread of invasive species.

Welcome to New Zealand. Love the first message we saw even before clearing customs.

Thanks to Joseph for getting us all set up at Spark with our local New Zealand telephone.

Then off to our hotel to get some well earned sleep.



Winter to Summer

Yesterday Mindy end I skied 10 km at Hyland-Bush on real snow for the 2nd time this Winter. The temperature was -10 F and no one was there except us and we look totally incognito with our sunglasses, KT tape (kinesiology tape) on our faces to prevent frostbite and bundled up to the 9s. What you probably can’t see is Mindy holding a guide book of New Zealand and Paul one from Borneo, part of which is Sabah, East Malaysia. Between us is the flag of Sabah hi lighting Mt Kinabalu, the highest point in SE Asia and one of our destination points on our 10 week journey.

The skier adage of “there is no bad weather, just bad clothers” was proven again as we both were toasty warm as the exertion of x-cty skiing more than kept us comfortable. Why are we skiing with all this preparation for our trip? Our annual Birkebeiner ski marathon is next week and with 55 km to cover we will ski all day tomorrow on Mindy’s 50th Birthday, February 12, 1969-2019, to ready our finely tuned athletic machines. More like 7 slow, steady hours of striding to get to the finish line for Mindy’s 3rd time and Paul’s 38th.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MELINDA ANN AHLER, and welcome to the second half of your century.

Join our climate action team and help us get to the finish by sponsoring our efforts here:

Half of the funds support Cool Planet’s climate work the other half go to the Chris Thompson Memorial Fund to honor and remember my son Christopher who died by suicide on April 13, 2018.  Our efforts together will help all of us prevent suicide and move our country to honest and heart felt conversations about mental health and wellness for all people especially our youth.

Practicing on my tiny portable Bluetooth keyboard on day -21 before liftoff and it’s slow going. How committed I am to blogging on this remains to be seen……but for now I remain open to saving weight. And leaving my computer at home…time will tell.

Thanks for joining our reader team, more to come as we navigate these last 3 weeks before liftoff to Auckland, New Zealand.


Before our big journey begins we have had months of planning, researching, booking, rethinking, packing, reading, planning some more, worrying and anticipating. Part of the fun has been meeting with friends who have been to New Zealand to hear about their trips, favorite sites and recommendations.