Today's thoughts

Category: TRAVEL (Page 1 of 29)

Retirement is not without Hassles: Our New State #1755

I’m down to the last month of being in my sixties. I was sorting through some old pictures yesterday, starting with some baby photos. My mom and grandfather were both amateur photographers and I was their constant subject, so I must have hundreds of pictures. The question is what to do with them? Most have already been converted to videotape and DVD, but it’s still hard to just throw them out. I have to at least get them down to a manageable level and not leave them for family to eventually deal with once I’m gone. At this point, I don’t think it’s likely I will ever be famous and collectors will be clamoring over my images. I’ll spend the rest of this week going through them since they were sitting in the hot garage in danger of heat damage. 

It’s another Monday with a visit to the chiropractor the only item on my calendar. It was extremely hot and humid this morning – felt like 93 degrees. I was definitely overheated once I got back to the house, while the pool revived me. Running seems to get harder every day but somehow I keep going…one foot in front of the other in the early morning sunshine. I will be anxious for Friday when I’ll cut back to just a mile before our long drive to Amelia Island. Everyone I’ve talked to have stayed in a luxury resort on the beach, but we’ll settle for a Spring Hill Suites that is dog friendly. Tally would love to stay at the Ritz but they won’t have her. 

It should be slightly cooler five hours north of us and a welcome break from the routine. We’ll see some of the Jacksonville sights and meet the great niece twins. I haven’t spent much time in that area, maybe a pass-through or two, so it’s new territory to explore. We’re doing a good job of wandering Florida, with only the Keys yet to visit. We’ve covered Marco Island to the south, Miami, Orlando, and Pensacola. In the next few weeks we’ll also stay on the Tampa beachfront and enjoy a weekend at Singer Island, directly across the state from us on the Atlantic. Later this year, we’ll get to Titusville and the Kennedy Space Center. With most overseas travel prohibitive, we’ve spent our time getting to know our new state. 

 

 

Retirement is not without Hassles: Quarter Million #1733

Five years ago I set a retirement goal of a million miles in travel. (See Post #1151). The plan was 50,000 miles a year for twenty years. In 2017, I was well on my way with 59.150, followed by 79,050 in 2018. Everything was on target through 2019, logging another 59,500 with major plans for St. Kitts, Miami, Bali, Orlando, Egypt, Kauai, Phoenix, and Spain to Finland in the works. Then Covid 19 raised its ugly head and the mileage dropped to around 26,000 in 2020. 2021 is looking more promising with 32,500 projected, but still way below that 50,000 mile average. I should at least get to the quarter million mark by the end of the year.

Longer adventures like Egypt are now back on the books, along with a cruise from Alaska to Japan, but most of our upcoming adventures are focused on the states. Many destinations still aren’t open to tourism, making million mile retirement status more of a challenge. The Keys and Caribbean locations are now easy to get to from Florida, but our pool and nearby beaches make some of these tropical destinations less appealing. However, we just arranged for ten days on Florida’s Singer Island with an upcoming weekend planned on this Atlantic gem, as well. The million mile quest will eventually have to include the Northeast United States (to get to the final state – Maine), China, and Russia. We would also like to see Ireland, Australia, London, Spain, and Germany in the near future. 

Money and health could become future detriments in our travel plans, as both retirement funds and energy dwindle quickly. At least we have a resort style community to live out our remaining years and the Marriott Vacation Club investment to provide second homes throughout the world. A quarter of our goal will be realized by the start of 2022. I’m sure that seventy years of life have taken me well over a million miles already, but retirement has allowed me the time to keep track of the miles yet ahead!

Retirement is not without Hassles: Tracktown #1723

I try to recap every adventure with a poem. This one recounts our return to the West Coast, visiting family in Oakland and Portland. I also had two side trips to visit with a college buddy who has built a stage in his Oakland background and to Tracktown USA at the University of Oregon.  It was my wife’s birthday so we celebrated at every stop. We were hoping for some cooler weather, but what meteorologists termed to be a “Heat Dome” settled along the Pacific and sizzling hot temperatures are expected to continue.

Michael Mina’s Sonoma restaurant, Wit and Wisdom, was not air conditioned, so the candles weren’t the only things melting. Also, a bottle of wine that we purchased exploded in the back of our car; the rear window apparently magnifying the intensity of the sun. However, it was rather pleasant for the Giant’s game in San Francisco, after shopping at an antique store called “Stuff.” We also enjoyed some good pizza at Mina’s, Arthur Macs, and Jerry’s, and of course some Ghirardelli treats at the ballpark. In addition, we dined at a Portland Italian favorite, Nonna Emelia and even got to Freddy’s on our drive into Tampa. 

We reunited with Falco and met her new sister pup, Ham. It’s ironic that our dogs always enjoyed a night time snack tradition that we called “Ham Time.” (See Post #744). Our own schnauzer Tally had to stay home with her new family, and certainly misses her old buddy Falco who spent some time at the vet during our visit after an upset tummy. Sadly, they may never see each other again. All in all, we got to tour the new homes and construction projects for both of my wife’s daughters, and stayed with them for the first time in our marriage. The dogs treated us as intruders and barked at every late night step I made on numerous visits to the toilet. In addition, I got to experience RV camping for the first time since I can remember, although I got there a day late and missed out on some heavy partying with my other college friends.  Next out of state stop is Tahoe in September and likely another recap poem like this one:

Tracktown

Tampa To Start,
Ready, Set, Go.
Oakland bound,
Luggage to stow.

Marriott convenience,
But Seattle stop.
Taxi to Lusk Street,
Ben’s pepper crop.

Eric stops by,
Takes me away.
Wine and charcuterie,
On stage where he’ll play.

Miranda went bananas,
And baked a cake.
Stir fry on the patio,
They teamed to make.

Birthday singing,
Then shut eye.
Tired from jet lag,
After just saying hi.

Emeryville Marina,
To blade, run, or walk.
Drive to Sonoma,
And continue to talk.

Beastly conditions,
First tasting – Cline.
Imagery was next,
Mina’s to dine.

The wine popped its cork,
While sitting in the car.
We were left to enjoy,
The smell of lost Char.

The restaurant hot,
But caviar on ice.
Candle topped chocolate,
Made Sixty-Five nice.

We bought some “Stuff,”
After shopping a bit.
The Giants got drubbed,
But Ghirardelli a hit.

Topped off our stay,
With Arthur Macs.
Then on to Portland,
For tummy attacks.

Falco’s was aching,
While Ham was leery.
But plenty of treats,
Made them both cheery.

At Megan and Mitch’s,
Blocks fill the yard.
But all the improvements,
Show they’re working hard!

Nonna Emelia pasta,
Always a treat.
The birthday continued,
With plenty of meat.

Who woke the Dogs Up?
A restless night.
I bus to Eugene,
Up a first light.

My friends all hungover,
By the time I got there.
It’s just too bad,
I didn’t get to share.

Tracktown amazing,
Camping was fun.
However, I’m glad,
It’s over and done!

While I was away,,
Mom lunched with buds.
Enjoyed Jerry’s pizza,
Claw tub full of suds.

Up before sunrise,
To make our way home.
And well out of town,
Before the “Heat Dome.”

We’ll see all again,
Tahoe in September,
Memories together,
For us to Remember.

copyright June 2021 johnstonwrites.com 

 

 

 

Retirement is not without Hassles: Disoriented #1722

I’m feeling very disoriented this morning after the alarm rang at 2:30 a.m. I felt lost as I ran in the darkness and had trouble navigating my way back. The shower was too complicated – more valves than seemingly necessary. Dogs were barking with each step I took, waking everyone in the house. If they weren’t up already, my wife accidentally locked her suitcase inside as we rushed to meet the Uber driver. Her daughter finally answered the door in a confused stupor. Finally, we were on our way to the Portland airport and headed back to Florida.

It’s been a busy travel week of travel through Oakland, San Francisco, Portland, and Eugene. A dim sum dinner from the HK Café capped off our final evening. After a couple glasses of wine and a few chapters of Killing The Mob, I was out cold without a single trip to the bathroom before the rude awakening. Obviously, the two nights before did not come close to satisfying my sleep needs. As I await boarding, I’m still fighting the cob-webs. One of those mornings when the nearest restroom is closed to add to the inconvenience.

Thankfully, we will soon be back to our normal, boring routine. The pool is calling me! Maybe I’ll even get a nap once we settle into our Seattle connection. There’s now at least welcome morning light streaming through the windows. Large crowds and a long haul from gate to gate – a direct flight is always preferred, but unavailable in our case. Whew! We made the flight and are on our way home – though still groggy and disoriented!

Retirement is not without Hassles: No Place Like Home Sweet Home #1721

Blogging has taken a back seat to planes, trains, automobiles, and Ubers these past few days. (I even apparently skipped a day). However, the running streak continues with a couple of early morning minimum mile jaunts. I left an overly disturbed group yesterday after an up-and-down bathroom night that caused the dogs to bark, waking everyone in the house on multiple occasions. They were all glad to see me leave for the Coburg, Oregon RV camp last night, although Falco continues to struggle with an upset stomach that hopefully had nothing to do with my Portland visit.

What was thought to be a train turned out to be a bus to Eugene and the University of Oregon for the US Track and Field trials in Eugene yesterday. In the process, I earned both my trying to pee while riding a bus and sleeping in a camper badges. I think that it was also my first time in a sleeping bag in 40 years. Along with the communal showering at the campsite, I was a good little Boy Scout!

The friends that I met for the Trials were all “under the weather” when I arrived, after their night of heavy partying. The conversation was a bit sluggish when they met me at the bus stop and during our Leadership breakfast of scrambled brains at Studio One. I could feel their pain and wished I had been with them. It was hard to fit- in with those sharing this hangover bond. I had my chance to party last night but no one else was in the mood. The Tracktown experience, however, made the trip back to Oregon well worth it.

I’m writing this at the Eugene Amtrak station waiting for my bus back to Portland. An Uber got me here from the trailer park. Although once again reunited with family for a few hours, the alarm will ring at 2 a.m. for another short run and a flight to Seattle that will eventually get us back to Florida. Five flights, four busses, including shuttles, three Ubers, a short airport train ride, a taxi, and multiple car rides will combine for a week of hectic travel. It will be great to get back to Florida where there’s no place like home sweet home.

Retirement is not without Hassles: Dad’s Day #1720

I have more dads than most people, considering that I’m adopted, although only one of them really deserves that title of affection. I knew only one of them, but have gotten to know more about the biological aspect of the other man in my life. He gave me life while the real dad gave me everything else. I’m also a dad myself and this son gave me three grandchildren. My true family tree consists only of these four people but in reality there are nearly 30,000 people that somehow affected my life. All of these DNA connections are relatively new discoveries, as I continue to search for natural connections. However, nothing is stronger than the love I feel for the couple that adopted me who were the only people that I called “Mom” and “Dad.”

I’m thinking of them today, along with grandfathers and grandmothers that made me who I am. So many memories of those that treated me as their own, despite the fact that I was not legitimately  connected. I cannot possibility express my gratitude and love for this family. This is what today is all about – being thankful to those who shaped our futures. Sadly, all of mine are now gone, but hopefully still looking out for me. Maybe they are reading over my shoulder as I write this? They fought for my freedom, paid for my education, and taught me how to be a good person. Although I have failed on occasion, I feel that they are all proud of what I have achieved and become.

I’m also a proud step-father and spent yesterday at the ballpark in San Francisco with my wife’s daughter and husband. Today, we travel to Portland to be with my other step-daughter and her spouse. I had just moved to Florida, just a few miles from my son’s home, yet we once again forced to celebrate a long distance Father’s Day. The difficultly in balancing our family time is that Father’s Day is often also my wife’s birthday, so she naturally wants to be around her girls. As a result, my son and I will have to sacrifice this day together, but we’re both glad to finally be living close by, thanks to my wife’s offering to move far away from her kids. I hope everyone is enjoying time with family, as we are. Happy Father’s Day to all! 

Retirement is not without Hassles: Shutters #1719

Shutter the thought! Or should that be shudder? In my case, the first is correct now that we have plantation shutters installed in our new home. At last some privacy and no more fighting the sun as it glared in my eyes through the home office window. It will also hopefully help my wife, now affectionately known at Wayne, (See Post #1718), sleep at night.  Wayne and I are in Oakland, California this morning at her daughter’s new home, 2900 miles away from our shutters. Another night in a strange bed, something we both got all too used to in our transition from Portland to Florida.

Tomorrow we return to Portland, but not before this evening’s Giants game. It’s Juneteenth so we’ll get a free commemorative San Francisco Seals t- shirt in honor of the Negro Leagues. We’re in the midst of a hectic week-long travel schedule that will also take me to Eugene, Oregon and the University of Oregon for the U.S. Olympic Trials. There are many nights yet ahead of strange beds far from our new shutters. Shudder the thought! Today, we again celebrate Wayne’s 65th Birthday while respecting her anonymous presence in my blog. I’m just tired of referring to her as “my wife.” It seems so impersonal, so Wayne it is! Party On!

Wayne ordered caviar, an expensive chardonnay, numerous appetizers, and crab legs in honor of the occasion last night at Wit & Wisdom in Sonoma. In her case, “the occasion” can last for months on either side of the actual date. In addition, she tries to include the 19th as its anniversary each and every month. We’re having cake again this morning, along with leftover pizza. I ordered chef Michael Mina’s famous  wood fired pizza to keep the total bill from completely breaking the bank. It’s always my favorite wake-up  food – The Breakfast of Champions. Happy Medicare Birthday. Love You, Wayne!

Retirement is not without Hassles: Party On, Wayne! #1718

Blogging experienced a bit of a set back this morning while getting set-up in my step-daughter’s new house. The power went off in their Oakland neighborhood so there was no internet and not enough battery power to get going. I had already gotten my run in and started to cut and paste from my phone to add today’s update. As a result, I’m a couple hours late getting this typed before the delay. While we waited for the repair crews to restore electricity, we constructively decided to go for a walk around the Bay with views of San Francisco in the background. However, first it was necessary to manually detach the safety release on the overhead door to even get out of the garage. 

Last evening, I reunited with college friends from fifty years back and finally got to meet one of their sons. We last got together in Santa Barbara for the collegiate soccer championships, but have stayed in touch through Zoom Leadership meetings. I got a tour of their 1911 home and the outdoor music venue that they built in their back yard. We enjoyed some wine and charcuterie and talked of old times. I must have blabbered too much because my throat was a bit irritated, a condition that I’ve dealt with since doctors removed a wart from my vocal cord. My friends have lived in this historic house for thirty-five years while I’ve moved at least twenty times in that same timeframe. After also treating me to a drive through their Oakland neighborhood they returned me to my step-daughter’s house for dinner. All that conversation was great fun but I was already exhausted from the early morning flight, cross-country, coast-to-coast journey, and three-hour time change. Bed time came early or late depending on the new clock settings.

With the power restored, we’re headed into Sonoma to continue my wife’s 65th birthday celebration. She blew out the candles on a homemade banana cake last night as we sang the song. Wine and a gourmet dinner is on the agenda for today and Giants baseball tomorrow. The birthday girl prefers that I keep her anonymous in my posts so let’s just call her Wayne. Party On, Wayne!

Retirement is not without Hassles: Travel Agent Hat #1716

We do have a travel agent that is used primarily to assist on our bookings. She has been helpful in rearranging flights and cancelling reservations in these pandemic times. However, we have yet to have her book a vacation for us, since we primarily use the Marriott Vacation Club, Marriott Hotels, or Viking Cruise Lines for most of our travels. I do most of the busy work in arranging our trips. For example, I just scheduled us for Pittsburgh in late September using Spirit Airlines and hotel points for my entire family. My son made plans for the Cubs vs. Pirates tickets as part of our excursion. No, I haven’t yet actually made any Time Travel arrangements!

I’ve used a lot of Marriott points (See Post #1585) over the past few weeks that were essentially Covid accumulated. It’s finally time to travel again and we’ve made lots of plans, starting today. We’ll drive to Tampa this evening, stay at the Airport Marriott and leave our car there for a week in Oakland, Portland, and Eugene. The convenient part about this particular Marriott is that it’s actually inside the Tampa International Airport, where we can walk directly from our room to the terminal. I actually used it one time for just a workout and shower after an overnight flight. When we return late in the evening from Pittsburgh, we’ll stay there overnight again before collecting our car from their lot and driving back home to Venice. 

Over the past few days, I booked my daughter-in- law for a couple of “free” nights in West Palm and my 70th birthday accommodations on the beach after the Tampa Amphitheater Santana/Earth, Wind, Fire concert. I also cancelled an August Marriott Vacation Club reservation that I made by mistake in Panama City and moved it to Singer Island just before the 60-day window to avoid penalties. In fact, I was lucky to discover that I made the error and fortunate that the correct resort still had the dates available that we wanted.  I was the travel agent to blame but it turned out favorably. So, West Coast in June, West Palm in July, Tampa in August, Tahoe in September, Pittsburgh in October, and Disney World, celebrating 50 years, in December, all arranged for this year. We also booked a Japan/Russia/Alaska ocean cruise for 2022 and an Indiana Jones-like, Egyptian, Nile River adventure for 2023. All I had to do was put on my Travel Agent hat.

Retirement is not without Hassles: Claim Forms #1710

We’ve been filling out a lot of forms since we arrived in Florida. Even on the way here we were dealing with title company, car repair, insurance, finance agreement, and medical forms. Every time I turn around there’s the hassle of another form to complete. I’m in the process of entering the details of a damage report to the moving company and had to fill out paperwork for Florida plates and a driver’s license. I also needed a new passport for future travel, medical records had to be transferred, and new patient forms submitted. I haven’t been inundated with this volume of paperwork since before retirement. Some of the on-line forms help speed up the process, but I’m still drowning in paperwork. 

I’m expecting a call about furniture financing and need to phone-in my credit card number for repairs/refinishing. Lots of dollars are flowing out with little coming in. Social Security and pension payments won’t cover it all, so selling off more of the 401k is the only solution. I just hope there’s enough to last for the rest of my lifetime, especially after just booking trips to Egypt, Japan, and Alaska. There won’t be any money left in the end, just lots of pleasant memories of places we’ve been, the new home we live in, and the possessions we’ll leave behind. 

We’re booked for San Francisco & Portland next week, a Singer Island weekend in August, Lake Tahoe for two weeks in September with a rental car, and Disney World in December. We haven’t left the States in two years now and won’t for another year thanks to Covid. In the meantime, we’ll stay home and enjoy the pool, lanai, and newness of home, spending money and filling out claim forms.

 

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