Today's thoughts

Category: Travel (Page 1 of 22)

Retirement is not without Hassles: Fingers Crossed #1329

I celebrated the “To-Go only” opening of our neighborhood Italian restaurant with a couple of homemade Tito’s vodka martinis. It was a nice variation from my nightly red wine habit and Chinese take-out. My wife cooks great meals at least three nights a week while I contribute a single feeble recipe attempt, leaving two evenings of carry-out and one of leftovers. It will be nice to actually get a socially distant table in the near future and be waited-on by someone in a mask. Such a setting would have sounded unappealing just months ago, but welcome progress coming soon to Oregon. 

The other positive step we took yesterday was a wine tasting reservation at our favorite Willamette Valley vineyard. It will be the first time we’ve gotten together with friends since St. Patrick’s Day. This is the same group that will join us in a few months when we stop for a night in Walla-Walla on the way to Glacier National Park. We’ll also stay at the Prince Albert Hotel, just over the Canadian border, provided it’s allowed by then. By then, hopefully, we will have been to Florida and made arrangements to build a retirement home. The plan is to make our move next year. Egypt and Hawaii are still scheduled in between. We’re keeping our “fingers crossed” on all these travel plans. 

I thought it might be interesting to include the origin of this strange gesture that I just used to imply good luck:

“The act of crossing one’s fingers dates back to before Christianity. The earliest use of the gesture had two people crossing their index fingers in order to form a cross. The pagans believed that a cross was a symbol of good luck. They believed in “sacred geometry” and believed that benevolent spirits resided in the intersections of crosses. Therefore, once two people made a cross they could make a wish and the spirits would favor them.”

“It is also believed that in the early days of Christianity people used it to signal their belief to others. They were persecuted for being Christian and this was their way of acknowledging each other. The would each form an L with their thumb and index finger and when placed together it would form a cross.”

“With time the gesture evolved to one person being able to do it by themselves. It is rumored to have evolved in the 14th century during the war, when soldiers needed luck and were unable to cross fingers with another soldier.”

“These days people don’t always perform the gesture but simply use the phrase ‘fingers crossed.'”



Retirement is not without Hassles: The Future is Now #1324

It’s always good to get my run out of the way for the day. Any more, it’s my sole daily accomplishment, now at a consecutive 4,158. There’s at least one point on the route when I don’t think I can make the 3.1 mile distance, but somehow I push through. This morning a golden retriever joined me for the home stretch, keeping proper social distance on the sidewalk, while pulling his reluctant human forward to outrace me. My dog Tally likes to dawdle. She’s more into sniffing than running. I just read an article that claims that the best exercise for your dog is using its nose. Fittingly, Tally takes her time to “decode” a number of doggie messages hidden near fire hydrants, trees, and in bushes. She’s too busy for the actual walk. 

I’ve almost finished my cheap “made in China” 1000-piece jig-saw puzzle. The cardboard is so flimsy that they’re difficult to pick-up, plus they tear easily. I’m going to tear out my hair before I finish the “hot air balloons over water” scene. To add to the frustration, all the pieces are cut in the same shape, so it could actually be completed in a hodge-podge of shapes and colors that make no sense. It is so frustrating that it may be the last one I ever do.

I also made some good progress on my murder novel, but I may have psychological problems like the main character by the time it finally gets done. It’s so creepy that I would never attach my real name to the book. Perhaps this is a sign of being stuck at home too long with little or nothing to do? I hate to keep mentioning that we would still be in Bali today if it weren’t for all the virus-related cancellations that keep us safely home. At least, it’s been raining there, with a high of 87 and a low of 76. It’s supposed to be their dry season. We would have arrived to enjoy a full week of sunshine, but the 7-day forecast now calls for rain and overcast skies, similar to Portland. We did save a lot of money by staying home, but they were dollars I would have gladly spent.   

Retirement should be filled with travel, seeing all those places that you’ve daydreamed about while trying to work. Stay-at-home restrictions were the last thing I ever expected. Even this is much preferred over being stuck in a hospital bed on a ventilator or worse. I’m grateful for our health, but feel as if we’re all in a rut. As others have joked about on Facebook in reference to the movie Back To The Future, , “whatever you do, Marty, don’t take us to the year 2020.” I would love to see a movie anywhere but in my living room right now. Unfortunately, the Future is Now!

Retirement is not without Hassles: Good Old Days #1322

I only watched about 3-hours of TV yesterday, as opposed to the normal 8. Most of my time was spent pondering the second jig-saw puzzle of what is now 57 days. Unlike most everyone else, I cheated those first few days by traveling, otherwise the total would have already exceeded sixty. According to a radio report, it will be at least two to three more weeks before the state of Oregon fully reopens. This should happen just in time to sneak-off to Florida and do some home shopping. Florida has been open for business for several weeks now.

My youngest grandchild celebrated her 2nd birthday yesterday. We should be settled in Florida to be there for her 3rd. It’s probably good to stay away for the terrible-twos. Her sister turns eleven in two weeks. My grandson is already a teenager, so I’ve never been much a part of their lives. Most importantly, there should be more sunshine than living in rainy Portland. My skin is turning ghost-like in isolation, while my hair is out of control, probably accounting for some of the weight gain. I’ll be unrecognizable to the kids by the time we get down there. 

It’s good to anticipate a little travel, especially considering that I’d be bronze in the Bali sun by now. It hardly seems fair that I’ve now got the time and resources to see the world but another obstacle suddenly jumps in the way. One of the memories of our trip to Venice was a drink at Harry’s Bar, a Hemmingway hang-out on the water. It’s another casualty of COVID-19, closing for good after 90-years in business. The Pro’s Table in Indianapolis, owned by friends, is also a recent victim, though not as historically famous. In my hometown of Elkhart, Indiana, popular Lucchese will shutter after 38-years of serving Italian food. The virus is taking its toll on beloved dining all over the world. 

Tally will get a much needed visit with Falco today to burn off some energy. My wife will take her over to her daughter’s house this afternoon. In addition to the puzzle, I’ll probably try to add a few more pages to my murder novel, a long-overdue project that I finally started out of boredom. I guess there’s a few pluses in having too much time on your over-washed hands. Our masks arrived yesterday in the mail, after a too-long delay. I’ll give it a try tonight for Chinese to-go from the neighboring restaurant. It’s hardly as eventful as the distant memory of Friday “Leadership Meetings” at Buffalo Wild Wings during the Good Old Days

“I wish somebody would have told me babe
Some day, these will be the good old days
All the love you won’t forget
And all these reckless nights you won’t regret
Someday soon, your whole life’s gonna change
You’ll miss the magic of these good old days”

Macklemore lyrics


Retirement is not without Hassles: No Place But Home #1302

The radio show, “Sunday Morning Brunch” aired on the right day and the sun was shining. These were two clear signs that today was off to a much better start than yesterday. However, I once again felt like I was running uphill, against the wind, with a piano on my back. I’m going to need to seek some chiropractor aid to get rid of these concrete shoes. I squeezed my legs into some thigh compression sleeves and support socks to hold everything together, but still limped awkwardly to the finish line. Day #4137 is at least in the books.

It might be too nice outside to stay indoors all day. Tally will be anxious for a good walk, and I need to keep my legs moving so they don’t totally harden like cement. It should be in the mid-sixties, enough to think about a drive out to wine country. We have a couple of Wine Club shipments to pick-up but have to arrange for an appointment. It’s not like the good old days when you could just stop by for a tasting. You now have to think before you can drink! The virus continues to win!

I did win my battle with Medicare, and will be paying less than half of what they originally planned to collect monthly, based on past IRS filings. This is a big relief since both my wife and I are now retired, with health insurance taking a big chunk of our present budget. She still has to pay on a venomous COBRA plan for two more years until she’s Medicare eligible. I just received correspondence that they will be reducing my payout to be more in line with our reduced annual household income. It did, however, require several letters, phone calls, and visits to eventually get it done. At this stage of life, reward often comes from saving money rather than making more!

I continue to save money on staying home, but this is a good/bad scenario. We were originally scheduled to be gone about 17 days in April and May. This translates into about $17,000, when you take into account airfare, hotels, tours, dog sitting, rental cars, dining, and souvenirs. (See Post #320). The bad news is that even when we’re at this stage of not going anywhere, we’re still paying out about $80/day in timeshare expenses. Unfortunately, it’s use it or lose it…and we’re NOT! We’re also missing out on the very thing that we saved to do – see the world. 

The only way to include travel in my writing these days is to mention where we might have been. We could have been with my wife’s daughter and husband in San Francisco. Then, it would have been off to Bali, a Broadway inspired dream of hers, with tropical breezes and lazy beaches. Instead, we’re stuck at home, watching TV shows like The Kominsky Method, Killing Eve, Ozark, and Paranoid. There’s no pool-side service, ocean view, or even a Golden Gate Bridge. We do have lots of take-out options and a dog to keep us entertained. Right now, we have to make the best of it. After all, there is “No Place But Home.”



Retirement is not without Hassles: Bear My Soul #1291

Let’s get right into the meat of things this morning. I think I finally got my Medicare Part B payments in line with current income, as opposed to tax records years ago when my wife and I were both drawing a paycheck. It was a major hassle involving multiple visits to the local office, letters, forms, and phone conversations or too much wasted time on hold. At least, now I will be paying an affordable monthly health insurance premium, rather than what my wife is currently being charged for her COBRA. Cobras bite! Until she finally gets to the Medicare age, it will be a poisonous expense. Mine will thankfully turn out to be about a third of that! If I had not fought it, I would have been struck month after month by the government’s venomous healthcare fangs for the next two years until my tax forms began to accurately reflect our retirement income. 

I’m also dealing with the hassle of getting loan pre-approval for our move to Florida next year. We would like to start building this summer, and realistically got the hard part out of the way by selling our home five months ago. In the meantime, we’ve been in an apartment, hoping that travel restrictions will alleviate in the next month or so, allowing us to go to the Tampa area and get started. We have an excellent credit rating, but I admittedly have one blemish on my history over 68 years, and that was a short-sale on a property in lllinois six years ago. The nightmare was having to sell a home that sat on the market for six years and ultimately getting less that half of what we paid for it plus improvements. It’s come up as an issue on the last two condo purchases we’ve made and could continue to haunt me. It will probably not be a factor, but just having to regurgitate the ugly details in the interest of honesty is embarrassing. It also feels good to get this off my chest and “bear my soul.”

We’ve had exceptionally good luck on the last two property investments we’ve made. The aforementioned “Bad Deal” was the culmination of a streak of misfortune that included owning multiple homes that wouldn’t sell for one reason or another. For a long time, I thought we were cursed, trying to move with the media circus that took us from one market to another. Thank goodness we’re now retired and more importantly not stuck with any home ownership issues. Our apartment lease ends next year and could end sooner provided we’re willing to pay a penalty. It’s a relief to have no pressure with respect to selling and for once not being trapped by market condition complications.  Getting pre-approval on a loan, should also eliminate any last-minute financing drama. 

For the first time in over a month, we did a short road trip yesterday afternoon – the next best thing to travel. I felt a little guilty not staying home as instructed, but not getting out of the car put others in little danger. Our schnauzer Tally got a bite of something stinky on her morning walk, and was not a pleasant travel companion. She loves to ride in the car, but needs to understand social distancing, especially with bad breath. We would have been in San Francisco this weekend, celebrating our 19th wedding anniversary. Instead, like everyone else, we’re limited on places to go. The area around the Vista House, with scenic views over the Columbia River, was fenced-off, but the drive on a sunny day was still worth it. I also got to stop at McDonald’s for a fountain Diet Coke, one of my favorite travel treats. Perhaps, in a few weeks some of the area parks will reopen and we can take another drive. In the meantime, it’s back to the homebody grind. 

We would have been on the boat to Alcatraz this morning, if circumstances were different. Instead, we’re once again locked in our apartment with too many chocolate treats. Tally gives us a reasonable excuse to go outside and briefly watch the mask parade, as she does her business. I, of course, did my 3.1 mile run this morning, thinking about the application process on my loan and the related letter I needed to write. Loan applications get very personal as you try to explain the circumstances of your private finances. Between that and the Social Security office, I’ve really had to bear my soul this week. Growl!

Retirement is not without Hassles: Intruder Alert #1262

It’s official – every advanced sports, concert, or film ticket that I’ve purchased has now been canceled, leaving plenty of blank spaces on my calendar. I will soon be receiving my money back from suppliers for Spring Training, Sturgill Simpson, and the certain to be delayed Olympic Trials. However, airlines continue to fly, so that temptation continues to be a lure. Not one of my future travel plans with regard to planes or hotels has yet to be changed, refunded, or  delayed in any manner. Borders have been closed but roads are not blocked. I guess it’s entirely up to me as it gets closer to the dates for Bali, Egypt, and Hawaii. In the words of The Clash, “Should I stay or should I go?” 

People are now starting to get over-sensitive about receiving visitors or tourists. The residents around the Oregon beaches are complaining about the “crowds” coming to the Coast in search of fresh air. People are not respecting the “stay at home” recommendations, so stronger measures may need to be enforced. For the past few days, the only times I’ve left the house is to run, take the dog out, or get carry-out. I plan to remain in this mode for at least the next month. Admittedly, I was one who violated early pleas and got on a plane to Arizona. I’m sure I was viewed to be wearing a flashing “Intruder Alert” sign. Since returning home, I’ve vowed to maintain six-feet of separation from the rest of humanity. 

I wonder what this viral tragedy has done for the murder rate? People are more aware than ever of maintaining safe distances and the streets of major cities are shockingly empty. Pick-pockets must be out of business, as well as kissing bandits. However, with people stuck at home with little to do, there will be lots of Christmas babies and timely tax deductions. On the other hand, too much time together will certainly lead to higher divorce rates. Unemployment is surely on the rise and our economy in jeopardy. Is a recession just around the corner? Travel will not be a priority for anyone – even us retirees. 

Sometime in the future, travelers will once again be welcome guests rather than health threats. We’ll be hugging and kissing again as opposed to being viewed as sources of potential infection. We’ll eventually share a restaurant dining room instead of running away with to-go bags. Cruise ships and airplanes won’t be considered viral death traps. Social distancing will return to slow dancing and life will once again be normal. After all, there’s nothing more painful than when sirens and flashing lights go off when you get too close to others. “Intruder Alert!”

Retirement is not without Hassles: Feeding the Travel Bug #1261

This morning I spotted several tempting pennies on the ground, but they were too close to a homeless camp. Normally, I would have picked them up as a sign of good luck, but recent personal hygiene dangers stopped me from enjoying and collecting the treasure. Instead, I let them rest on the ground, hoping that someone who could use them more than just a nod from an angel would pick them up. For me, it was another sign of troubled times, along with donating to my son’s Go Fund Me page for his furloughed fellow restaurant employees. It’s tough out there for everyone!

On the selfish side, I can feel my travel dreams slowly slipping away. Travel is what I worked for in retirement and now that we finally have the freedom to see the world…it’s closed. We had the entire year set-up and virtually paid for in advance, but now the travel bug will grow hungry. I do realize that this is a very petty concern in lieu of homelessness, sickness,  and unemployment, but mixed emotions are currently flooding my mind. Do I focus on me and my family or worry about the woes of the world?

It’s all connected! As the stock market and related economy tumbles, there’s less money for us to spend on travel and a retirement dream home. Painful compromises will need to be made that were not a concern two weeks ago when toilet paper and wipes weren’t gold. Anymore, a good day is just waking up without a cough and fever. For at least the next month, we’ll stay home and adhere to the distancing  guidelines necessary to “flatten the curve.” In retrospect, I regret our selfish decision to hop on a plane last week just before the “dam(n)” broke. Sadly, the Corona Bug has devoured my Travel Bug!

Retirement is not without Hassles: Homecoming #1259

The world has drastically changed since we left home a week ago. The plan was to go to Spring Training and soak-up some Arizona sunshine. Our Oregon and California travel partners were more responsible and decided not to join us, but we were also joining friends who lived here. While we were on the plane to Phoenix, the games were canceled followed by everything else, and I began to feel guilty about being here. Although we found alternative things to do and visited with the people we had originally planned, there was still a disturbing sense of being socially irresponsible. 

We are not doing our part in flattening the curve of infection risk. We could easily be exposed on the way home, a risk that should have probably been avoided in the first place. Obviously, our travel partners had a better sense of what could happen by venturing away from home. We’re also lucky that our route back to Portland is still open. More flights will soon be canceled and airports closed. Once we finally arrive, it will be a welcome homecoming filled with relief. Our dog-sitter can return to her home and Tally will be back in our arms. At that point, we’ll make some decisions on future travel plans. 

Some of my weekly routine has remained intact despite the viral disruption. I’ve been able to run every day and watch my regular programs like Outlander and Curse of Oak Island. It will be great to get back home and settle into full retirement mode. By the same token, it will just be eerie to see the deserted streets of downtown Portland where even the movie theaters are closed. Thankfully, they are still doing carry-out at the Chinese restaurant at the entrance to our apartment building. Shortly, I will finish packing and we’ll head to the airport for what hopefully will be an uneventful trip home. 

Retirement is not without Hassles: 24 Hours #1258

The countdown to home has begun, as only 24 hours remain until we get on a plane back to Portland. At that point, everything will become more realistic. We’ll no longer be in the Tucson bubble, protected from the big city viral risks. We’ll be exposed to the masses at the airports, in addition to fellow-fliers and public transportation users. My cough continues to persist and it will certainly draw the evil eye of others, wondering if I am a carrier. We brought a case of wine with us on the trip here, but the now empty box will soon be filled with flush-able wipes, expecting toilet paper supplies to be a growing concern. 

Instead of going to baseball games, we made several visits to Costco and Sam’s Club to stock-up on supplies. Our friends have a grand-baby and another on the way, so they want to have plenty of household inventory. We’ve braved the long lines with only limited success. According to my wife’s daughter, staples are even harder to find in Portland. Oregon has remained a cautious step-ahead of Arizona in shutting down restaurant/bars and limiting group gathering, so we’ve been able to dine-out the past few days without much hassle. I’m getting ready to print our boarding passes for a hopeful flight back, before the airports shut-down as well. We’ve certainly stretched our luck in continuing this stretch away from the apartment we now call home.

I’ve been able to run every day in warmth and even got a little color back in my face, but I haven’t been able to shake this stubborn cough. I plan to see the doctor when I get back. Hopefully, it’s just allergies as I suspect. When we lived in Austin, Texas, I had similar issues with cedar and developed vocal cord issues. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy one more night of heavy wine consumption. Yesterday, my college buddy made us a couple of margaritas to celebrate St. Pat’s Day. I also had a few vodka martinis the night before at dinner, but mostly it’s been bottomless glasses of vino. I came to Arizona hoping to dry-out my sinuses, but will need to leave in an effort to dry-out on booze. 

This could be the last travel for some time, having canceled some future dates. We’re still not sure about San Francisco in April, Bali in May, or our building plans for Florida. Glacier National Park and  Egypt may also not be possible this summer. This could, in fact, be the last 24 hours of travel this year, depending on viral spread, the stock market, and the economy in general. It will be sad to leave our friends here in the desert, but I’ll feel more secure when we get home tomorrow. 

Retirement is not without Hassles: Social Distancing #1257

Right now, I’m practicing social distancing – about 1,500 hundred miles from my Portland neighbors. I’m not home where I should be, but rather staying with friends in Tucson, Arizona. I just finished my morning run and got an elbow bump from one of their neighbors from about 100 yards away. What else can you do but chuckle a bit under these tense circumstances? My 401k is now down to about a 299k and thoughts of an active travel year are seriously in jeopardy. Many feel that I’m being irresponsible and selfish by not hiding in our apartment. They’re following the rules and I’m not. I do continue to cough, but it seems to be more the result of allergies and certainly not a threat to society. Thankfully, it’s getting better in this dry heat, one of the reasons I wanted to come here.  

Restaurants and bars have yet to close in Arizona, as has been the recent trend around the country. We’re defiantly going out to lunch today, at least with a group of less than ten. Considering that the majority of people are staying home, maybe we should sit at separate tables? I’ve wanted to go to the Congress Hotel since our last visit here, discovering it was where fellow Hoosier John Dillinger was captured. (See Post #845). They have a great lunch spot called the Cup Cafe, where we’ll celebrate what’s left of a normally festive St. Patrick’s Day. It fits with some of the other gangster locations I’ve visited in the last couple years like Harry Caray’s in Chicago, Spark’s Steakhouse in New York City, and the Las Vegas Mob Museum. In a way, I guess I’m not too different from these notorious killers who used machine guns instead of a cough to scare the masses. 

I plan to hook-up with an old Sigma Chi fraternity brother over lunch, the last of my known friends here in Arizona. The original plan was to go to a couple of Spring Training games, but instead it’s been primarily re-connecting with the past. We’ve done more socializing than distancing, with acquaintances from Elkhart, Indianapolis, Decatur, and Albion. In a few more days, we’ll head back to Portland and try to practice a little more responsibility in trying to flatten the curve of viral infection. In the meantime, we’ll continue to be controversial rebels in maintaining the current socially acceptable 6-foot distance from our friends and neighbors.




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