Collected Tales from our Life's Journey's




Randy May


Where have you been? and what have you been doing? - - - family, school, career, pastimes, good times, etc.

What a long strange trip it’s been!   I have always been a geek and proud of it, so after finishing my engineering degree at Carnegie-Mellon, I moved on to Michigan and earned a PhD in Nuclear Engineering in late 1973.  Although my graduate research involved medical radiation imaging, I naively set out to solve the energy crisis by working on advanced reactors for Westinghouse.  That first job was the last time that I was a cog in a huge organization.  Years later, I added an MBA from UC Berkeley, where my economics professor was none other than Janet Yellen!

Work in the nuclear power field took me for a few years to University of Illinois where I taught nuclear engineering, then through a R&D company in Chicago and another in San Jose, California.  After working on the edge of Silicon Valley for 14 years, I finally jumped in with both feet and managed software development teams for several companies you have probably never heard of, since our products were headed for industrial and business use rather than to consumers.   The most interesting (and nerve racking) stint was at a company called Divicom, which delivered the first video compression and digital television broadcast networks to customers such as DirecTV, Dish Network, and Bell Canada.   I’m not sure which was more stressful – the tech boom or the tech bust -- but the latter convinced me that money, something I had never cared or worried about before, warranted some attention.  So, I wound up creating yet another career as a fee-only financial planner and established a solo practice that for over 9 years helped Silicon Valley professionals navigate the financial minefields and avoid the sharks.

Moving to California in 1982 was in many ways a life changing experience.  I found that those yearly trips to the Rockies from the Midwest could be replicated as many weekends and weeklong trips in the Sierra Nevada.  I became very active in the Sierra Club and loved backpacking, ski touring and biking.    Many people complain about the high expenses in California, and that complaint is valid for those who are just working all day and retreating to their homes each night.  However, I believe that if you take full advantage of the outdoor life and professional opportunities, California is the best bargain around.   On a Sierra Club hike in 1989, I met my wife Carol who shared many of my outdoor passions, and we were married two years later.  We have since shared countless outdoor adventures in North & South America, Europe and New Zealand.   We never had kids, but we do have an exceedingly smart and charming cat who sports a remarkable talent for bending humans to her will.

favorite high school memory

What comes to mind are the state and regional concert band contests where the Eastmoor Concert Band stood its ground competing with larger and often more affluent high schools from around the state.  I learned a lot about no-nonsense leadership from music director Jerry Kaye, himself an accomplished jazz and classical trumpeter, and his banner on the wall clearly stating “Results, Not Excuses!”  

standout event

The most important event in my life was meeting my wife Carol and beginning our adventure of, so far, 32 years.  All the joys and excitement of life are amplified when you are sharing it with the right person.

unforgettable trip

It’s hard to pick one or even two so I’ll settle for three.  In 1990, I fulfilled a far-fetched dream of climbing in the Andes and managed to summit three peaks in Bolivia of up to 20,000’.   Most memorable was Cerro Condoriri, perhaps one of the most beautiful mountains anywhere, which takes the form of a condor’s head (La Cabeza) flanked by the condor’s two wings spread wide.  See   In the final ascent of La Cabeza, suddenly you leave the ice and find yourself climbing through a nearly vertical rock band at 18,000’, in double boots and crampons.  Absolutely thrilling!  

In 2003, my wife Carol & I experienced our first and most memorable trip to Patagonia, almost entirely on foot in two spectacular national parks:  Los Glaciares in Argentina at the base  of Fitzroy; and Torres del Paine in Chile, where we spent 11 days savoring every little nook and cranny on foot.  After so much time there, the 130 km hiking circuit left us with many memories we can still bring back and discuss today.

Most recently, I have developed a passion for the Alaska wilderness and hope to backpack there once a year until my aging body finally rebels.  My 2018 trip to the Arctic Refuge became a spiritual experience where you could imagine what nature, from the tiniest tundra plant to the fiercest predator, looks like in its purest state.  For a taste, see

You’ve come a long way in 55 years. Where are you going in the next five years?

My wife Carol and I have become very active volunteer docents at Point Lobos State Nature Reserve, located about 20 minutes from our home in Pacific Grove, CA.   I take a variety of responsibilities, but what I enjoy the most is leading nature tours around the reserve and engaging visitors from all over California, North America and the world.   When discourse in our society has become so contentious, visitors really appreciate taking an hour or two away from the fray to admire the beauty of our scenery and to enjoy the plants and animals all around them.   During most months, I can generally fit in 6-8 such tours and keep it fun by varying the place and topic, and by being loose and spontaneous in interacting with visitors.  My current obsession is local geology and its relationship to the notorious San Andreas fault.  

The environment we see and interpret every day at Point Lobos is fragile and vulnerable to rising ocean temperatures.  When visitors experience the beauty first hand, they leave with a deeper appreciation of the consequences of climate change.  This in itself makes our volunteer efforts worthwhile.

And I hope to keep eking out backcountry adventures as long as possible, with the north Wrangells in Alaska and Gabbot Pass in the Sierra Nevada in my sights for next summer.  Carol & I have also enjoyed more civilized hiking adventures from hut to hut or town in Europe, as well as birding trips in various destinations, and I hope to continue these when lugging heavy packs becomes too burdensome for me.  Our long-delayed hiking trip to the Julian Alps in Slovenia is now planned for 2022, and who know what will come after that.