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Category: TRAVEL (Page 1 of 40)

Retirement is not without Hassles: Family Vacations #2245

In the style of a Griswold Family Vacation, I remember traveling with my parents and sister on three occasions. Of course, we were only 100 miles from Chicago, so we would occasionally take day trips to go to the museums or ballparks. I can’t recall ever staying overnight. We visited other nearby attractions like the Brookfield Zoo, Deer Forest, and the Warren Dunes as a family. We also often drove to Elwood, Indiana or Corey Lake in Michigan to visit my Grandparents Hancher. They had a mobile home at the lake and another in Englewood, Florida on Lemon Bay, with their “permanent” home in Elwood on North E Street that they jokingly referred to as a “pit stop on the way back and forth from Michigan in the summer to Florida in the winter.”

I refer to the Griswold’s because the Johnston’s were similarly a family of four with a station wagon, a Ford Country Squire sporting “wood” paneled sides. I distinctly remember driving that car to Florida and out West to South Dakota but can’t recall the car we took on the very first true vacation, as we looped Lake Michigan up through the Wisconsin Locks and across the Mackinac Bridge. The exact route we took is a blur, but I do have memories of staying in a tiny cottage underneath the bridge. My wife and I crossed it together this past year when we stayed at the posh Grand Hotel on the island, and I thought of the vast contrast in lodging accommodations between $1000/night and what was probably about $10 sixty years ago. My dad was very conservative in his spending.

The biggest family vacation of all was to Mount Rushmore. We all piled in the station wagon, and I vividly recall a stop in Rapid City, Iowa at a tourist trap called Reptile Gardens, that may still exist today. My sister and I got to hold a giant snake, the highlight of the trip. We then started to see mileage signs wherever we looked for a place called Wall Drugs in Wall, S.D. “You’re just 878 miles to World Famous Wall Drugs.” Similar postings were everywhere, including billboards, barn sides, gas stations, fence posts, rooftops – handmade and professionally made. It became our desired destination, just outside of the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore. I had saved just about every dime I made that summer, determined to buy a TV for my room, so I had yet to spend a cent on souvenirs or snacks. However, I did break down and buy a 10-cent postcard at the infamous store that seemingly went on and on. 

We stayed at a Holiday Inn, once again much like the Griswold’s, and my sister rebroke her previously damaged front teeth in the pool, ruining the entire trip. It brought back memories of when I was blamed for cracking them on the living room tile floor while we were wrestling a few years before. My dad was no longer in a good mood, worried again about dental bills, even after seeing the carved Presidents, spending the night in Yellowstone Park, watching Old Faithful erupt, and taking a side-trip into Montana. It was my idea to go slightly out of the way so I could claim another state, a 50-state quest that is nowadays officially down to only one.

From that point on, our family vacations were limited to Florida. On the first of those drives, my dad failed to make a motel reservation and I remember being stuck in the mountains with nothing but “No Vacancy” signs. He had insisted to my mom that there would be plenty of rooms, and once again his bad temper got the best of the trip. We stopped at a roadside dive-restaurant, the only thing open for miles, and I apparently wanted lobster for dinner. The waitress quickly admitted, “Honey, you don’t want the lobster here.” Sometime in the middle of the night we found a room that had a painting of Lover’s Leap over the bed. I feared my mom just might take the leap that night. Learning a lesson, I believe we flew on an airplane for the first time on the next few visits, relieving some of the stress on my dad.

Regardless of how we traveled, our family spent the week crammed like sardines in my grandparent’s mobile home. My sister and I slept on cots wedged between the fold-out couch and the bedroom. My grandfather claimed that I had to get out of bed just to turn over. We also took side trips to Busch Gardens, The Shell Factory, and the Edison/Ford Estate, places you need to visit every fifty years or so. It was also our first experience at Disney World, still a favorite Johnston family vacation in modern times just as the fictional Wally World was to the Griswold’s.



Retirement is not without Hassles: Island Christmas #2224

I bought a new/used computer, so most of my editing and posting issues are now behind me as I get back into the daily blog routine. I’ll start with this poem that summarizes our trip to Kauai where we dealt with some plumbing problems in our on-the-surface luxury resort:

Island Christmas 

A plunger by the toilet, 

And buckets to flush. 

Cheap toilet paper, 

But the condo was plush. 


Dancing Santa, 

There to greet us. 

No sign of Dinosaurs, 

That might eat us. 


A beautiful view, 

But screaming brats. 

Mother and daughter 

Poolside chats. 


Grumpy old man, 

And “broken face.” 

The tooth can be fixed, 

The first-not the case. 


A catamaran tour, 

With a puke nuke. 

Trampoline fun, 

Dinner with Duke. 


Looking to find, 

A Dive Bar clue. 

Nature abounds, 



Dolphins jumping, 

SEA Turtles to SEE. 

Food and gas costly, 

But the Hula Pie free. 


World Cup Soccer, 

Chess to play. 

Waterfalls and rainbows, 

Though too much grey. 


“Wettest Spot on Earth,” 

The sign read. 

Gallons of wine, 

Early to bed. 


Spam for lunch, 

Too many hot dogs. 

Mini Van chariot,  

Flattened frogs. 


A wad of wasabi, 

By mistake one night. 

Hanalei Bay, 

A “magical” sight. 


Puka Dogs, 

Tiki torches. 

Folding glass panels, 

To ocean-side porches. 



Too many vowels. 

Code Name teams, 

Feathered Fowls. 


Secret beach, 

And elevator. 

We finally got here, 

Two Years later. 


Pipes third-world, 

At our first-rate resort. 

Family Christmas, 

But Time was too short. 


“Mele Kalikimaka” 

copyright 2022

Retirement is not without Hassles: Years in Making #2223

We’ve now explored the entire island from the Waimea Canyon to the surrounding Pacific shores. At one stop there was a sign that read, “the wettest place on earth.” Red clay has stained my shoes and socks. We’ve seen some beautiful shoreline, saw the coastline from the deck of a catamaran, and walked the beach that “Puff the Magic Dragon” oversees. Our Marriott Vacation Club top-floor balcony overlooks a golf course, colorful, Jurassic Park-like vegetation, the resort pool, and beach shaded by stately palm trees and thatch-roofed huts.

We covered the North Shore of Kaua’i including Princeville, home of musician Todd Rundgren’s Tiki Iniki restaurant and surrounding, unique shops. The quirky menu featured tropical concoctions served in collectable tiki mugs and Spam burgers. I had pulled pork sliders on tarot root buns while my wife enjoyed her sticky ribs. The check was delivered in an empty Spam can. The nearby famous beach on Hanalei Bay was featured on the cover of James Michener’s original Hawaii novel.

There were only a couple of hassles on this adventure, including some seasickness aboard the catamaran, a tooth problem, water pipe break at the resort, and air conditioning disruption issues. However, this was still a first-rate family get together that was several years in the making.

Retirement is not without Hassles: Off Road #2222

Too many computer problems discouraged my efforts to keep up on this blog during our time in Kauai. I tried changing from Chrome to other search engines but had to reconstruct many of my links, apps, and passwords to no avail. I could not transfer notes from my phone to my laptop, adding to the frustration. The days went by too quickly as we criss-crossed the volcanic valleys  by car, boat, and plane.

There was just too much going on with the six of us in the condo. Limited privacy, excursions, board games, plus trips to the pool and beach did not give me time to gather my thoughts. I needed to get back in my home office and perhaps send my computer off to be repaired. I did, however, manage to maintain my daily running habit that has now grown to over 5,100 consecutive days while on the island. In a few short weeks, “The Streak” will surpass 14 years without missing a single day.

In an effort to do something constructive, I started doing on-line surveys that allow me to collect points and potentially payment for my opinions. To me, it’s similar to playing a video game for rewards and keeps my mimd occupied. However, being 71 years of age, retired, caucasian, and with limited purchasing power often excludes me from participating. 

I’ve read five books over the past few weeks, so getting away from the television has been a positive change. I did watch a lot of soccer with all the World Cup action, but fell behind on shows like Yellowstone, Curse of Oak Island, and Gold Rush. I mention this like I’m actually missing something important!

There have been no dog duties, those rare moments outside of running when I actually venture out into the Florida heat. Sunny days on Kauai were surprisingly limited as we explored the islands, from Waimea Canyon and “the wettest spot on earth” to Hanalei Bay, home of “Puff the Magic Dragon.” It was always breezy with pop-up showers, and cloudy skies. We put a few miles on the rental car because there was little to do at the resort other than Cornhole, swimming, biking, and wandering. The crashing waves of the  Pacific were closely visible from our balcony, but the sandy beaches were quite a distance away. We were, however, surrounded by lush landscaping, golf courses, swaying palms, and other plush resorts. Restaurants and shops were also a major hike away.

It was 11-hours of flight time both there and back with overnight stops in Seattle. We won’t get back on a plane for another three months when the two of us weary travelers head to Vegas for a few days. Egypt is but 6-months away. It’s time to get off the road for a holiday break that will allow us to get reacquainted with the neighbors before we hit it hard again.



Retirement is not without Hassles: Family Time #2221

There’s not much going on here on this secluded tropical island. Our first days were spent adjusting to the five-hour time difference, getting the condo organized, and doing some shopping. I got up at 4a.m. to watch the U.S.A. soccer team lose to The Netherlands and monitored I.U. games in the afternoon, since neither the soccer match nor basketball game was televised here. I did get my 5k run in and spent some time at the pool, surprised by the number of kids that were staying here. The rest of the family just arrived, so last night was busy with our first dinner together, lots of wine drinking, and games. 

Everyone went their separate ways this morning before brunch. I was actually able to sleep until the sun came up at 7 a.m. rather than sit in the quiet darkness like the previous two mornings. My run was down to the Marriott Sonesta where there is much more action with shops, restaurants, a huge recreational pool, bars, and a beach. This is where the “kids” spent this afternoon while their mom joined me poolside. It’s a resort more suitable to their tastes than this one, while we prefer the quiet and seclusion offered here. 

We all joked about the roosters that hang out on the islands and the hundreds of dead frogs that lie flattened in the streets. They are baked to leather by the hot sun, looking like giant pancakes, but far from appetizing. They inspired memories of a run that we all did together years ago back in Rochester, Indiana, my wife’s hometown. On the road that loops the lake, were similar frog carcasses but not nearly of these “Jurassic Park” proportions. I called it the “dead frog” run and noted it in my diary, long forgotten until this trip. 

There will be more group fun tonight, leading up to the “Hunt A Killer” board game that I brought to play. The girls gave it to me as a birthday present years ago, and I was originally going to take it to Tahoe for us to try out. The case is called “Death in a Dive Bar,” that will require all our amateur detective skills to solve. After the fires cancelled that family get together, Covid ruined the following year that was planned for here. We finally got us all together! Over the next few days, we’ll be doing some kayak and catamaran tours, hikes, as well as other adventures. We’ll also pick up a rental car to explore the other side of the island and do some dining out before everyone heads home after plenty of Family Time. 

Retirement is not without Hassles: Tongue Twister #2220

I got up this morning about 4:30 Seattle time and hit the fitness center. It’s the ideal spot for someone who didn’t get a fit night’s sleep. Besides, it was snowing and slippery outside, a Winter Wonderland. There was only enough time for some stretching, strength exercises, and the minimum mile run. After quick showers and reorganization of our bags, we were on the Aloft shuttle for a quick ride to the terminal. Once our luggage was checked, it was then just a matter of navigating the escalators and train to the gate. We had plenty of time for a sit-down breakfast at Sizzle. The eggs were not cooked properly so any free time was taken up by sending our plates back to the cook for a second attempt.

The 5-and-half-hour flight was delayed a bit by deicing the wings. I at least had a running suit jacket to keep me warm on top, but bare legs from the waist down. I never felt the need for a nap and started a new book, Righteous Prey, after finishing Perfect Assassin on the fight here. I was also able to catch-up on blog notes that will be posted once we arrive at the Marriott Vacation Club resort. Once again, I feel disconnected from the world around me after this many hours without live news and sports.a movie was never a consideration with only my phone screen to work with. Typing is difficult with the turbulence and cramped workspace. Peanut M&Ms keep me nourished.

We’ll soon land in Kauai, grab our luggage, and grab a cab. We plan to have groceries delivered to the timeshare when we arrive and check-out the resort amenities. Lihue, where we’ll land, rhymes with phooey or gooey, since Hawaiians like to emphasize every vowel, on this island it’s primarily A, U, and I. Our nearest city will be Kalanipu’u, the next tongue-twister challenge.

Retirement is not without Hassles: Points Well Taken #2218

The luggage situation was complicated with the overnight stay in Seattle between Alaska Airlines  flights. I ended up short-checking my bag rather than have it sent ahead to our morning flight. All of my toiletries and running gear will be needed, while my wife packed a carry-on. Unfortunately, she had some expensive Angel body cream in the bag, so she ended up going back through security to short-check it, as well. Our first minor hassle of the trip.

While we’re traveling, we’re at least avoiding all the paving in our neighborhood. Our cars are safely in the garage and won’t be subject to tracking tar all over the driveway. Tally is at Schnauzerville with her dog family, avoiding any disturbance from the paving and dump trucks. We are all fortunate to be away during the disruption. We evacuated well during the hurricane and now missing out on this other mess.

The rest of my wife’s family will join us once we get settled in Lihue. We have a 3-bedroom, ocean-view condo so all six of us will have plenty of paradise privacy. My son dropped us off at the airport where we learned that there will be no internet on the flight. I probably won’t find out the I.U. vs. North Carolina score until after we land. I was looking forward to maybe watching the game on the long, 6-plus-hour flight. Instead, I’ll be stuck reading and napping while fussing about the outcome. It’s a second minor hassle!

My wife and I both got aisle seats with no one in either middle spot. Plenty of space, although I’m missing the First-Class luxury on our last long flights. She wisely stopped for bagel sandwiches after dealing with the re-check hassles of her luggage. They are all securely on-board thanks to our tracking device reports. We’ll now have to pick-up two bags at the Sea-Tac Airport before we head to the Aloft Hotel, our first time to stay at this Marriott property. More points well taken!

Retirement is not without Hassles: Off We Go, Again #2217

I doubt that there will be time for a post tomorrow with the overnight in Seattle and early morning flight to Kauai. I’ll also have to cut back to the minimum on my run. I almost reached my monthly goal of 90 miles at 86.7, an improvement over the past few months with all the travel and GPS restrictions. It’s more in line with where I was this past summer with much cooler conditions. I will miss the annual Tomahawk 5k at the Braves Spring Training facility but will have a beautiful golf course route on the island. 

I was counting on free shipping of wine to our resort destination, but Alaska Airlines only does this from their West Coast airport locations, not from Florida. We’ve also apparently lost our MVP status that allowed for extra luggage. I was spoiled with the hub located in Portland, but now have to choose other options at our nearby airports. With the Alaska merger with American Airlines, we’ll have to start rebuilding frequent flyer points. As a result, we’re in need of a Costco for wine and other essentials once we arrive. 

Our Marriott Vacation Club resort is very near the Lihue Airport, so we’ll pick up a rental car for the days when we’re traveling to the other side of the island. Otherwise, we’re pretty isolated from restaurants and hot spots. We’ll make use of our kitchen facilities on several nights or walk the mile to the other Marriott property that has more amenities. We brought some games and I’ll try to keep up with all the sports during the early hours of the day. The USA has just advanced in the World Cup, various conference football championships will be decided, the College Cup soccer features Indiana, both men’s and women’s college basketball is also looking favorable for the Hoosier teams, and the NFL is in the last month of the season. I have a lot to keep up on, while Off We Go, Again!

Retirement is not without Hassles: Blur #2216

I was looking ahead to our travel schedules over the next year, thinking that I really just want to stay home. I’m not looking forward to the flight tomorrow that takes us to Seattle for a quick overnight and then on to Kauai. I’ll be exhausted when I get there, dreading a similar flight home. My wife, however, will be thrilled visiting with her two daughters on this trip that has been delayed multiple times. I also started looking into flights to Vegas, back to Indianapolis and Portland for weddings, our Egyptian River Cruise, and a long drive to Maine. I’m worn out just thinking about it. Travel does not seem to hold the same appeal that it did during the working days, when a break was always welcome. Now, it seems like we overdo it. 

We also have several guests lined up for visits to the house. A daughter here in January, multiple friends coming in February, and others yet to commit. We also have obligations to get together with my sister and hometown friends that will arrive in Florida after the first of the year. I’m then meeting a group of former work constituents for golf in early February, a game that I hate. It makes my head spin to think about all these get-togethers, but I always enjoy seeing old friends.

Today is my last day of withdrawal for awhile, as I do laundry, watch TV, and pack for Kauai. My wife has a number of errands to run. I wish I had her energy. My son will pick us up tomorrow afternoon and drive us to the airport. Then, the next few weeks will be nothing but a blur.

Retirement is not without Hassles: Normalcy #2215

After the Alaska/Hawaii adventure, we’ve finally gotten back into the retirement routine, just in time to leave again. We had dinner guests last night and afterwards watched another episode of Yellowstone. I was monitoring the I.U. soccer revenge match against Marshall, the team that stole their NCAA Championship away last year. We already have achieved eight titles, but that is never enough, as the Hoosiers once again make it into the Elite Eight. They play UNC Greensboro this Saturday for a Final Four bid. It almost makes up for a miserable performance in the Old Oaken Bucket game, another loss to Purdue. The Boilers were fueled by a potential trip to the BIG Championship game in Indianapolis, as the Western Division winner, a first for the program. Their accomplishment here was partially attributed to the schedulers that left both Ohio State and Michigan off their list of opponents this year. 

Purdue had a huge weekend of success on the basketball court as well, crowned as the PK Tourney Champions out in Portland. Decisive victories over Gonzaga and Duke moved them to #5 in the polls, overshadowing a Hoosier move into the Top 10, a lofty position they haven’t held in years. It also means that the Boilers are now the BIG favorites for conference dominance. I.U. was the preseason choice, so both schools are getting plenty of attention in the press. The Hoosiers face struggling North Carolina two days from now after the Tarheels dropped dramatically from #1 to #19 with back-to-back losses. I.U. was hoping to take down another top-rated team in Bloomington, but instead they are now the betting favorite. 

With the recent Purdue success, I’m reminded of the Joe Berry Carroll teams under George King that went to the finals of the 1979 NIT and 1980 Final Four. The big guy this year is Zach Edey at a towering 7’4.” He was named the MVP at the PK Tourney and will be a force in the BIG 10. It’s great that both P.U. and I.U. are good this year and there will be no conflict until they meet head-to-head where I always pull for the Hoosiers, my alma mater. 

There was no time to write this morning after my 5k run due to a stops at Home Depot, Wawa, and the chiropractor. We were then able to officially make it “Matinee Monday” with the movie, The Fabelman’s. Our other typical weekly kickoff tradition, “Meatless Monday” was met with a ham salad sandwich violation since we had so much left over from Thanksgiving. We will not honor either of these routines over the next few weeks in Hawaii. It will also be difficult to keep up with writing this daily blog and getting in my daily run, with all the time changes, island family activities, and overnight stopovers in Seattle. By the time we get back to Florida, we’ll once again be fighting jet lag and the challenge of getting back to what we see as retirement “normalcy.” 

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