Today's thoughts

Category: TRAVEL (Page 1 of 44)

Retirement is not without Hassles: White Knuckles #2507

Continued from Post #2506

I walked back to the Marriott resort center first thing in the morning, but the rental company had no cars for delivery that day, and suggested I grab a cab to their offices in Palma. The driver took me to the wrong location, so I had to walk the extra blocks in search of the right place where the rental agreements were signed. I had no access to GPS, internet, or Spanish language skills and spent the rest of the morning wandering aimlessly in my BMW SUV. After many wrong turns and fruitless conversations with non-English speakers, I stopped at a CEPSA gas station and got directions. Somehow, I made it back to our Villa. 

Our friends, fortunately, had GPS service and directed us back into Palma to visit the   Catedral-Basílica de Santa María de Mallorca and the Royal Palace of La Almudaina. Parking was a nightmare as I tried to familiarize myself with the BMW and navigate the narrow underground spaces in the crowded garage. After this experience, the men decided to sit in a café drinking cappuccinos at Palau while the women did the tours. We all then walked across the plaza to a sidewalk table at Dalili for pizza, caprese, and gelato. The drive back to the resort was less stressful, but only three of us ate the chicken dinner my “younger” wife prepared while us three septuagenarians napped. 

Our travel companions were under the weather the next morning when we planned to drive to the North coast of the island. My wife and I traveled alone to Cap de Formentor where we battled thousands of cyclists, hundreds of tight curves, narrow roads, and steep drops to get to the top. They apparently come in droves to train for the Tour de France. For me, it was white knuckles from top to bottom, so the spectacular views were not worth it, so I was glad to stop for lunch in Port de Pollenca at the Hotel Miramar. I was relieved to get a break from the stress of the mountainous rollercoaster, while gelato on the beach overlooking the surrounding marina offered a picturesque change of pace. It was then an hour back to the villa and a quick change for dinner. 

Unless it is to warn a driver or avert an accident, horn use is illegal, according to Spain’s highway code. It makes city driving very peaceful unlike the horn-crazy U.S. drivers. The government also offers free public transportation to residents in an effort to reduce traffic congestion. Plus, they love to ding us tourists with parking violations and make it difficult to pay the fines, a boost to the economy. My advice: don’t park in the Blue zones without a permit. It cost us a 45 Euro fine to go to dinner at Quina Brassa in Llucmajor on Placa Espanya. This open plaza is where we met our British friends for dinner, conversation about our Egypt trip together last year, and Herbes de Mallorca, an anise liquor nightcap produced on the island. 

With our friends feeling better in the morning, we once again took the rental car into a relatively less-congested Palma for a Hop- On-Hop-Off tour of the city, with no hopping off. Lunch at Tapas Palma and shoe shopping followed. I watched the giant, dancing Panda strip out of his costume for a smoke. The street venders rolled up their blankets and scattered as the police made an appearance, but quickly set up shop again in once the all-clear was signaled. We retreated back to the villa to pay my parking fine and dine for the final time. A last load of laundry, our two remaining bottles of Mallorca wine, and packing for departure led to a short night’s sleep. 

I was up at three, our final day in Mallorca, preparing for two trips to the airport. Our BMW rental would not handle four adults, six bags, and carry-ons. My wife was my first drop-off with luggage before I headed back for the other two passengers. They helped me find a gas station before their exit at the terminal. I returned the rental car to SIXT after a solo ordeal on the poorly marked, dark, roundabouts, another challenge without language skills. Finally, the four of us were back together for check-in, security, and takeoff on our hour-long Yueling Airlines flight back to Barcelona.

A taxi at the Barcelona airport shuttled us to the Renaissance Fira for our last look at the city. First, however, we needed nourishment, so we turned to the Boldú Bakery and their unique glazed donuts in the shape of a plump little men, choosing caramel, chocolate, and raspberry fillings. Upon arrival at the hotel, we were told that our rooms would not be ready until late afternoon, so we cabbed to the Hop-On-Hop-Off for several hours of cruising the sights. Lunch for me was an authentic Spanish seafood paella, while happy hour took place on the roof of our hotel, 27 floors up, with panoramic views of the city and palm trees. It was then a sad moment of goodbyes to our travel companions as we went our separate ways home in the early morning.

A unique high-tech room at the Renaissance, all white with a curtain surrounding the king and a single on the other side. The nightstand tops were under-lit and bedside switches controlled the window shades. The large tub drained from the center. We entered from an open hallway with a 25-story drop through a heavy glass door. It did not appeal to my fear of heights. 

It only took an hour to get to the airport, through security, and past immigration, so we had two hours to wait for our United flight to Newark. Pans & Company was the only option for breakfast, as if I needed to add more fat to my frame. In total, we’ve been away from home for a full four weeks, and I’ve probably gained ten pounds. It will be good to get back into the home routine, although we have three neighborhood parties to attend and an anniversary to celebrate at the Pink Elephant. 

Barcelona to Newark was the first leg. Watched five movies: The Iron Claw, The League, Last Goal Wins, Anyone but You, and the 38 at the Garden documentary about Jeremy Lin. Security was a mess in Newark, a long wait even in TSA-Pre, following the AirTrain and shuttle bus to finally get to our Terminal then gate. It was a good thing we had plenty of time between flights, especially after a 45-minute mechanical delay once we had already boarded in Barcelona. 

During the final leg to Tampa, I watched the movie, “Priscilla.” A poem of our overall adventure is in the works. My neighbor friend was waiting at the airport and got us home by 10pm to sort through mail and get organized for bed. The Party’s Over! 

Retirement is not without Hassles: Land Legs #2506

Continued from Post #2505

Recovery from surgery has reached eleven weeks. Soon it will be time to get my body back in shape. We skipped the afternoon concert but attended the “Port Talk” presentation about excursion options for the upcoming “White City of Morocco,” Morocco stop. I also sat though a talk regarding, The Natural History of the Western Mediterranean before our dinner at The Chef’s Table. Marc Paul performed a second mind-reading act to close out Tuesday.

Wednesday, Day #18, started with the Morocco tour before embarkment in the early afternoon. The main draws are the Hassan II Mosque and Rick’s Café, “of all the gin joints,” made famous in the 1942 Hollywood production – but in name only because the film was studio produced not in Casablanca. “This could be the start of a beautiful friendship.”  Afternoon activities were cut short by a trip to the ship’s doctor after I began to have some balance issues on the walk back. Dehydration may have been the cause, coupled with the stress of losing my bank card. I froze the account as a precaution, but it elevated my blood pressure. As a result, I stayed away from alcohol and rich foods. The confusion of two separate on-hour time changes in one day, coupled with early tours the next day led to an early bedtime. 

We passed through the Straits of Gibraltar, marked by the famous rock, in the middle of the night and arrived in Malaga, Spain, our next port, in the early morning hours. “Does anybody really know what time it is?” Another boring bus ride with a heavily accented tour guide distracted from the beauty of being high above the Mediterranean Ocean, overlooking the Bullfight Arena. I elected not to sit on a park bench next to Pablo Picasso, who was born there. We couldn’t afford one of his paintings so we got magnets instead. The wives stayed in the city for more shopping, while the men returned to our rooms for a nap. After a solo lunch in the World Café, I went to two late-afternoon presentations on the Universe (in the Explorers’ Dome Planetarium) and Pirate History, including arguably the greatest, a woman named Ching Shih. As the Jupiter left Malaga Harbor for Barcelona, dinner in The Restaurant and Showman Tim Able on the piano concluded Day #19. 

Day #20 was our last day at sea. I continue to be plagued with muscle cramps, and woke up disappointed that Indiana State did not win the NIT. A somewhat hobbled one mile walk enabled me to listen to a few more chapters of “Good Bad Girl.” 

I’m also reading “The Edge,” the second part of David Baldacci’s “6:20 Man.” Laundry was the top priority. Lectures included “The Habsburg Empire” and a wildlife recap of our voyage, including “boobies,” vultures, dolphins, butterflies, turtles and whales, none of which I witnessed myself. They don’t hang out in the bars and restaurants aboard where I spent a majority of my time. Some passengers even saw the illusive green flash at sunset. Lunch for us was at The Restaurant. I then took in an afternoon siesta, before the Port Talk presentation, Explorers’ Dome 3-D film, and dinner with the bridge partners. I can’t play with them but can certainly share a meal. The finale of the evening was a toast to the crew and musical performance by the Viking singers. 

The last day aboard ship was filled with two very different guided tours by shuttle and foot, along with packing for Mallorca, so naturally we couldn’t miss a meal. Our morning excursion was identified as “Iconic Barcelona,” highlighted by Gaudi’s famous La Sagrada Familia. It was the second of the two landmarks that I looked forward to seeing in person, after Christ the Redeemer. It took 22 days to finally get here, including our day-long flight plus 21-days at sea. The wait was well worth it, despite not having tickets to see the interior, while the Rio statue was a bit of a letdown because of the overcast weather. We also walked through Old Town, and dined twice, first on the boat, and again on tapas in the Spanish Village. Flamenco dancing capped off a very entertaining evening in Barcelona. We returned to the ship, finished our packing, got a couple hours of sleep, and caught a bus to the airport for the Vueling flight to Mallorca. 

The next thing we knew we were napping on pool chairs, with towels for blankets, waiting for our room at the Son Antem Marriott Vacation Club (MVC) to be readied. It was late afternoon before we finally officially checked in after a cab trip to the Hiper Centro for groceries. My wife cooked our first homemade dinner in over three weeks, and we shared a bottle of wine before a long overdue full night’s sleep. While we dozed, the Iowa women lost the National Championship game to South Carolina, ending Caitlin Clark’s stellar collegiate career without a ring. 

Our location on the island is very remote, surrounded by two 18-hole golf courses. I was beginning to get my land legs. However, we quickly realized there would be little to do without renting a car. I made the arrangements with the help of a MVC interpreter through SIXT. Unfortunately, I got my days mixed up and made the long walk to the resort center to make the correction. I was told that these arrangements would need to be made the next morning when their offices opened, so we cooked burgers on the outdoor grill and hit the hay early, long before the Purdue Boilermakers lost their Championship bid in the middle of our night – six hours difference.

Continued ….

Retirement is not without Hassles: Food Fest #2505

Continued from Post #2504

On day #9 of our Trans-Atlantic adventure, lunch was a hot dog prior to stepping off the boat for a tour of hot, humid Recife – the furthest east point of South America. It has Dutch and Jewish influences but most of the old buildings are under construction or in need of repair. Our tour guide spoke broken English and we somehow got separated from the group, joined another, and prematurely returned to the Viking shuttle bus.  It was frankly a relief to leave Recife. A nap, shower, Indian themed dinner at the Chef’s Table, and a poor ABBA performance sent us to bed early. While we slept, the Viking Jupiter started its voyage across the Atlantic. 

Day #10 also marked my 10th week of recovery. I was craving a cheeseburger from the Pool Grill. Paradise, for me, was sitting on our deck in the sunshine with nothing to see but Sea. Dinner for me was another steak at The Restaurant. Violinist, Jakub Trasak, warmed up with Devil Came Down from Georgia and proceeded to WOW us with his string skills. Day 11 Walking the corridors of the ship has become my latest routine. Nine floors up and nine floors down to the morning lecture, where this morning I played on the phone, ignoring information on selecting the best binoculars for birdwatching. Next on the agenda were the somewhat silly Equator-crossing ceremonies, featuring our cruise director as King Neptune. Lunch at The Restaurant began the numerous birthday salutes to our Decatur friend. The clock moved forward an hour for the 2nd of five times before my wife and I sat in on “The Stars Above Us” presentation in the ship’s unique observatory, one of only three in existence. We enjoyed similar talks on the Viking Orion during our Alaska travels. Birthday cocktails continued at Pap’s in the Explorer Lounge and throughout dinner at our favorite, Manfredi’s. Chocolate cake, along with the rich diet and wine sent me to bed on a sugar high that disturbed my sleep all night long. 

Day #12 began with clock confusion and sore shoulders from incision discomfort. I discovered in the midst of my morning walk that it was an hour later than what our phones indicated. I woke up my wife for her scheduled cooking class, and then struggled with lectures about NATO and Mass Extinctions between walks. Despite my continued weight gain, belly flab, and sour stomach, I somehow still had a lunch appetite. The afternoon called for a walk, a nap, and the documentary, Free Solo. Dinner was in The Restaurant, but just before we enjoyed the guitar and vocals of Paolo Polan and another impressive set of James Taylor hits. 

Day #13 was not unlucky and a Good Friday. “Land Ahoy” loomed ahead and a third time change. I walked, read, ate and drank as usual. Paolo played by the pool and Jakob fiddled around as a night cap. 

A full two weeks on the boat and I literally fell out of bed to start the day. Fortunately, I did nothing more than bump my head on the nightstand. We were docked for the day in Sao Vincente, off the coast of Africa. Busses took us to the peak of the island on twisting,  bone jarring, cobblestone roads. Ponch, the local liquor was served by the beach, almost as a reward, once we rumbled down from the mountain. The guide proudly pointed out their soccer stadium. My wife and I then relaxed on the stern deck as the ship pulled away from the city of Mindelo just before sunset, had a cocktail in the Explorer Lounge as we headed back into Atlantic waters, and wined & dined at The Restaurant, as usual. I did get a brief glimpse of the sun through the powerful on-board solar telescope, but it appeared to be just a red ball in the sky. Mind Reader, Marc Paul, wowed us with his stage act. 

The Easter Bunny apparently couldn’t find us in the Atlantic approaching Morocco, but there was a chocolate treat in our stateroom from the crew. Another time change, the fourth of five, has us all confused. I walked the hallways as the ship rocked, weaving along as if drunk. It’s the final day of March and I managed to reach 90 total miles, after just 28 and 18 respectively in January and February due to surgery. Presentations on Submarines and Weightlessness filled the time between the buffet and more formal Restaurant dinner. Tim Abel performed, Liberace style, on the piano. Good Night. 

April Fool’s Day #16 and we remain just off the coast of Africa approaching the Tropic of Cancer and Canary Islands. Six days on the ship remain, including 2 docked in Barcelona. The rocking and rolling continues as I navigate the narrow corridors. Another load of laundry was in order after a lecture on “Majestic Celestial Ballets” regarding the upcoming Solar Eclipse, an event that we will miss while continuing our travels on this side of the Earth. We did visit the stars later, after dinner, a sparkling blanket on a clear night. The lights of the Canary Islands were in the distance as we passed by. Too much red wine and rich foods made for a miserable night’s sleep. 

Day #17 began with a series of walks. Pauses in between for sips of decaf coffee, a bad habit I’ve picked up on this voyage. It’s certainly not the bad taste in my mouth that is attractive, but the warmth of the cup is comforting. My wife hates both the smell and taste, but the Coke Light is not satisfying. There is a cooking demonstration before lunch and I was running behind this morning, so no lectures to fill my pre-lunch schedule. Yesterday, the movie, “Everything Elsewhere All At Once” filled the bill of sea-day boredom. The scale is not my friend as I persist in trying to get a reading between wave swells that occasionally vary up to fifteen pounds from low to high. Could I have possibly gained that much weight? My gut and expanding waistline both tend to agree.

Continued …

Retirement is not without Hassles: Buenos Aires #2504

Buenos Aires was disappointing. Our guided tour took us through the colorful La Boca market district, home of the Juniors soccer team. We passed monuments along the way and went through a mansion that became a tenement and now museum through the years. In the underground space beneath, we enjoyed empanadas and wine In what was once a sewer tunnel leading to the sea. We also stopped at the church, Metropolitan Cathedral of Pope Francis, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, 17 December 1936, who was born there and served the Catholic community. I will have to settle for Coca-Cola Light or Zero rather than Diet Coke. However, I’m assured of a steady diet of Argentine Cabernets and Malbecs. 

The seaside capital city of Uruguay, Montevideo was much more interesting than downtown Buenos Aires, with lots of trees, stone architecture, and the Carnaval Museum, a tribute to the 40-day festival celebrated annually starting every February. We watched a stage performance representative of this event by costumed vocalists, and of course went by their soccer stadium, home of the “Blue Skies,” fierce rivals of the neighboring Juniors. They call it football, but in our game the foot is sparingly used. This is as far south of the equator as I’ve ever been (-34), and the first time in South America. Before this trip, it was Bora Bora (-16.5) that was my Southernmost point of travel. Valdez, Alaska is my Northernmost (+61) stop.

It’s a rainy Wednesday, after thunderstorms last night, so the slippery Promenade Deck that circles The Jupiter was closed. I’m still restricted from using a treadmill, so I walked the hallways and stairways. I’ve overdone indulged on food and wine, so sleep has been sketchy. Stomach and shoulder aches have me tossing and turning all night. I could drink less, but only time will heal the wounds. 

Two days at sea will deliver us to Rio, with the Christ the Redeemer statue to greet us. I’m in the bar area drinking decaf coffee, the warmth of the cup in my hands the main appeal. I’m curious about the local coffee alternative, yerba mate, made from the leaves of an evergreen tree grown in Paraguay, Brazil, and Uruguay. It apparently has a bitterness that takes some getting used to but has the buzz-effect of caffeine and other stimulants.

It’s the “Good Ship Lollypop.” We’ve dined lavishly each night at Manfredi’s, The Restaurant, and Chef’s Table. The World Café, a giant buffet, serves every other culinary need – ice cream, cookies, even sushi. Despite the daily walks, I’ll easily add another five pounds to my already flabby frame. It will be at least another month before I can get in the gym. Before turning in on Night #3, there was a Welcome session, with crew introductions and champaign toasts. 

The girls are playing bridge, while I stroll the halls or sit in the lobby listening to “Thunderhead,” my latest book on tape borrowed digitally from the library. At bedtime, I’m reading “First Lie Wins.” With little else to do on Sea Day #4, I did three walks totaling over 4 miles, paid some bills, and got some limited sun on our deck. Tonight will include another steak dinner in The Restaurant and more wine guzzling. 

Day #5 on water started with an attempted walk on the Promenade Deck that surrounds the ship, but wind and sea spray quickly interrupted. I finished my 2-mile jaunt indoors and attended a lecture on Plate Tectonics, explaining the shift of the once enjoined continents of Africa, Europe, and America. I then came back to the room to recharge for a second walk, and a boring lecture on Brazilian history. Dinner was in The Restaurant, while bedtime came early, as the boat approached Rio. 

Another upset stomach had me up and down most of the night. I pulled the drapes back several times in the dark hoping to catch a glimpse of shoreline. My wife woke me up in the midst of a dream, excited to see Christ the Redeemer before it once again ducked behind the clouds. It would be the last we would see of it as rain continued throughout the day. We donned cheap pink ponchos and toured the mosaic patterned streets of downtown Rio. Our guide spoke irritatingly rapidly to the point that I turned her off. The ornate, gold-trimmed Opera House and World-renowned Library were the highlights. The tour bus then drove us to the The Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Sebastian, a modern pyramid structure based on Mayan architectural style. Four rectilinear stained glass windows  soar from floor to ceiling. On the way back to the ship we passed by the famous Copacabana Beach shrouded in fog. Guitar music by Paolo by the pool, then dinner at the Chef’s Table, and a dance party to conclude the day. 

A full week at sea and this was the most uneventful day of all. The weather was clear, and it grew too hot to sit out on the deck. I attended an afternoon lecture about the planets, after several miles of walking the hallways. Dinner was at The Restaurant, concluding with chocolate lava cake. 

Three lectures, more walking, and a cheesesteak by the pool were the highlights of Day #8. “Finding ET” and “Whale/Dolphin/Porpoise Watching” were the educational subjects, along with a Port Talk about tomorrow’s Recife excursion. The good news is that I can’t get an accurate scale reading as the boat bobs along, although I can feel the weight gain of too much ice cream, cookies, and cake. Dinner, a bone-in filet, was at Manfredi’s, followed by Southern Cross star gazing, and the uninspiring vocals of Camila Andrade.

Continued …

 

Retirement is not without Hassles: Trans-Atlantic #2503

It takes about a mile into my morning walks to work out the stiffness in my left leg. In many ways, it’s like a cramp or charley horse that needs to be worked out. I lean against some of the light poles along the path through our neighborhood, heels flat on the ground, and extend my legs into a hamstring stretch, arching my back to relieve some of pressure on my spine. Massage to my lower back also seems to help, but it remains an uncomfortable experience. 

Laying flat on my back with the back of my  head touching the floor or flattening my spine against the wall will hopefully help my posture. I tend to stoop when I stand or walk, so I need to stay conscious about being erect, forcing me shoulders back. The posture issue is causing the discomfort in my lower back and leg muscles, mildly atrophied during my recent hospital stay. 

Sitting upright and erect are also key, since I now spend more time lounging than standing. Chin up…head back…shoulders straight is my goal, even though my chest aches from the incision scars and my neck is sore from lack of exercise. I need to make more progress. It will be eight weeks in a few days. 

Jax, Tally’s schnauzer boyfriend, was there to greet her for this morning’s reunion at Schnauzerville. She should be content in the four weeks we’re gone on this trip. It’s her home away from home. 

My precocious five-year-old granddaughter got a huge kick about “flying” over the seven Venetian-like bridges in the passenger seat of our golf cart. Although I’ve curbed the speed a bit after surgery, it was still a thrilling rollercoaster ride over the alligator infested canals that wind throughout our Islandwalk Community. She enjoyed a frozen strawberry popsicle to celebrate, draped in a towel to prevent any stains on her pretty dress with heart shapes. She was winning mine today, now that it’s repaired. 

We were in-flight overnight from Atlanta to Buenos Aires, arriving on festive St. Patrick’s Day. The flight was uneventful. My wife slept most of the way so I devoured her two meals and watched “Ferrari,” “The Hunger Games” prequel, and “Everest,” a climbing documentary. We arrived at 9am, getting back the hour just  lost from springing forward. 

We met up with our once Decatur neighbors on the boat, who arrived from their retirement home of Marana, AZ via Miami. We had to go north illogically from Tampa through Atlanta to travel South across the equator on Delta Airlines. An old friend is staying at our house after, driving us the two hours to the airport to avoid a month of parking fees. In mid-April, a neighbor friend will pick us up in Tampa and drive us home. 

I discovered through Facebook that a high school classmate was disembarking the ship just as we were getting on. We were so close to reconnecting in person but will have to settle on messages, posts, and e-mails to exchange pictures as we go our separate ways again. So close – so far, Janey! There is a 55th Elkhart High School reunion in early September, but I’m unable to attend. I’ve yet to learn her plans.

Continued…

Retirement is not without Hassles: Day-to-Day #2475

Now that I’ve spared no detail on the hospital stay and copied all the notes off my phone, it’s back to daily reports on my recovery. I met with the surgeon a few days ago and everything is progressing as normal. My blood tests were “perfect,” and he confirmed that the EKG showed no signs of the initial Afib (Atrial Fibrillation) concerns, they took me off the blood thinner Eliquist, and took some of the restrictions off about my salt-free diet. I am going to have to go in for another ultrasound because there is an area of my lungs that may be retaining some fluids from the pneumonia. They may have to drain it, meaning another night in the hospital, or it might go away naturally. I had my last Bay Care physical therapy session and now making arrangements for Cardio Rehab. 

I still won’t be able to drive for another few weeks, so my patient wife continues to act as chauffeur, chef, nurse, and motivator. Her family is now back in Portland, with her sister due next week. I’ve gotten plenty of attention, including today’s lunch with some of the Borrego Boyz while our wives celebrate Valentine’s Day together. She insisted that there be someone here to keep an eye on me while she’s gone for a few hours. We continue to take two long walks a day together, traveling a little further each time, and I try to work with my breathing tools every hour as instructed. I can feel a burn in my legs that I haven’t experienced in a long time from being inactive these past few weeks. I’m not using a walker but still feel a bit unsteady on my feet. 

Last night was “Date Night,” my second non-medical outing since I’ve been home. We went to the Red Grouper Tavern, so I enjoyed some more fried foods. We traveled to Tampa General two days ago, an odd way to celebrate our 25th “Eddiversary” together, marking the occasion of our first date. We stopped at Freddy’s on the way back so I could have a cheeseburger and chocolate shake. I’ve put on a couple pounds these past few days, so I’ll have to watch my salt intake. Weight control will be an important daily monitor, especially since I’m no longer running every day. TV is now my chief form of distraction with shows like True Detective, Death & Other Details, Masters of the Air, and Yellowstone Season 5. Old movies fill the gaps. I’m also slowly able to focus more on reading as I finish up Why We Love Baseball

I have little pain, but sleeping is still an uncomfortable experience. Between the diuretics, burning sensations, prostrate issues, and tossing & turning, I’m up practically every hour. A rare two-straight hours of sleep is worth celebrating. I’m not looking forward to tonight’s I.U. basketball game at Purdue, although we have a Super Bowl Eve Party to attend. We booked a Disney weekend in Orlando to take my granddaughter to see Bluey in mid-June before we fly to Portland for my wife’s birthday. I also made arrangements to go to the Braves’ Spring Training Opener against the Red Sox in a few weeks, so slowly but surely, I’m adding activities to my relatively sedative, day-to-day, life on the mend. 
 

W

Retirement is not without Hassles: Westin Security #2470

In a cloud of confusion, Westin security informed my wife that the reservations had not been properly linked together and the room was shown to be empty, despite the fact that we had keys and confirmations. The question is why did this have to be dealt with in the middle of the night, when had already taken such precautions? It goes back to the cliche of what happens when you give a man a badge and a gun? 

On the eve of my second night of surgery, my wife is bullied into opening her door, proving who she was, and why in that room. The answers were all clearly in the paperwork at the front desk. By the time things were sorted out, she wouldn’t get any sleep and the only consolation she received was from the valet when she went to get her car for the drive to the hospital. This is one of the first things I remember from waking up and it made me helpless and furious. You would have thought by that time there would be apologies and flowers. Nothing. 

My wife drove home on Wednesday to retrieve some clothes and try to get some sleep while I was recovering. As a Marriott Rewards loyalist and Club Owner, I was never notified of this horror. Mother Marriott had let us down, while I had pneumonia and in a helpless state to get this resolved. I thought for sure there would be an e-mail or phone call from management with an explanation that I could deal with when I got out of the hospital. Instead, there was a standard follow-up survey that I filled out in a drowsy state that went on to evaluate our dining experience. I gave the restaurant a bad review and the Food and Beverage Director was all over it, incensed by the 1 rating. 

 

 

Retirement is not without Hassles: These Moments We Share #2458

It’s Christmas 2023, while fifteen years earlier (December 29, 2008) I was contemplating the start of a running streak that was originally planned for New Year’s Day. We flew into Indy from Austin, drove on icy roads to Elkhart to see my folks and had Christmas dinner at my wife’s sister’s home at Geist. We then traveled to Decatur to check on our unsold house and went to Bloomington to watch I.U. basketball lose in embarrassing fashion to unheralded Lipscomb. These were the days when Christmas was an absolute hassle, trying to spread our time between friends and family in three different states and four or five different cities. The bigger nightmare, however, was finding the Decatur home flooded from a broken pipe. I think I started my running streak a few days early to help deal with the stress of all this. I haven’t missed a Christmas morning jog since, still running away from my problems. 

This year’s Christmas was easy. Brunch at a neighbor’s and dinner with family at home. It rained during my morning run, but it was my son who was rushing with the kids from place to place instead of me. It’s, in fact, the very first time that my son, his wife, and the grandkids have been with me in our home on Christmas Day – a monumental occasion! I’ll get to see the look on my five-year-old granddaughter’s face when she beholds the Barbie Dreamhouse that I assembled in our garage. 

Earlier today, my wife opened her traditional Limoges box gift, a memory from our visit to King Tut’s tomb. I enclosed the following poem: 

These Moments We Share

We’ve seen the world,

And Buddha’s butt.

And visited the tomb,

Of pharaoh King Tut.

 

Our first might have been,

The Twin Towers on high.

The lights of Times Square,

And fireworks in the sky.

 

We’ve cruised the Nile,

Stayed in an overwater hut.

And at luxury resorts,

Shaded by the coconut.

 

We’ve heard prayers in mosques,

Synagogues and Churches.

And stood atop,

Some precarious perches.

 

Rocamadour comes to mind,

Or a rollercoaster ride.

I’m always much braver.

With you at my side.

 

Even at sunset,

It’s always proven true.

There is no better view,

Then looking at you.

 

We’ve been to the Pyramids,

Admired the Sphinx.

Stood in Monet’s Garden.

And by the statue that Thinks.

 

The Beatles and Big Ben,

Bourbon Street pubs.

Michelin Stars,

Vacation Clubs. 

 

Nantucket to Napa,

Hood to Coast.

Key West to Mackinaw,

All Bucket stops we boast.

 

Coronado Island,

Caribbean getaways.

Hall of Fame museums,

San Francisco Bay.

 

Traveled on cruise ships,

Flown in First Class.

Marveled at Glaciers.

And Chihuly glass.

 

Normandy’s white crosses,

Or atop the Eiffel Tower.

A slow Positano ferry ride,

To fast Hydroplane power.

 

Castles and Temples,

Too many to mention.

Or Palace Guards,

Standing at attention.

 

A Maui Luau,

Huatulco waves.

Mountains and Oceans,

Crypts and Caves.

 

From Route 66,

To the Champs-Elysées.

I sometimes take the wheel,

But you always point the way.

 

Amsterdam and Rome,

Santorini blue domes.

Overall, in five states,

We’ve owned homes. 

 

Petra and the Dead Sea,

Night Life on the Strip.

Our Bellagio Wedding,

It’s been quite a trip!

 

Planes, Trains, and Auto,

Ubers, Taxis, and bikes.

Despite my reluctance,

Even cliff-nics and hikes. 

 

Stonehenge seemed tiny,

After all that we’ve done.

And soon we’ll be basking,

In the Mallorca sun.

 

But the best place of all, 

Is in your arms.

Beholding your beauty,

Admiring your charms.

 

All would be meaningless,

If you weren’t there.

To hold me hand,

In these moments we share.

 

Christmas 2023

Copyright 2023 johnstonwrites.com

 

Sorry about all the formatting issues. 

 

 

Retirement is not without Hassles: Trivial Tidbits #2457

I honestly didn’t do much travel in my first marriage, except business trips to Chicago, New York, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Boston until Marcia’s company arranged award travel to London, Hong Kong/China, Greenbriar, and The Breakers. As we were trying to raise a family, it was too expensive to see the world. However, as we settled into our careers, we were soon anxiously hooked on adventure, and prior to these international excursions, her friend Karen coaxed us for the first time abroad to experience regions like Tuscany and Burgandy. With Oregon friends we tackled Rome and the Amalfi Coast.

Being in the media business and doing promotional work took me to some out-of-the-way places. For example, we organized some day trips for listeners out of Indy to the Bahamas (hot) and Stowe (cold) on ATA.  Viewer ski trips took me to Breckenridge two years straight. In addition, our friends Tim & Irene suggested Isla Mujeres for a taste of rural Mexico, and we ventured to Las Vegas many times through the years, especially after our son left home. We did take him there for his birthday one year. I remember visiting some of her distant family in Arkansas and a night at Hot Springs, numerous ski junkets including Big Sky in Montana, touring Washington DC, and staying closer to home with weekends in Ann Arbor, Louisville, Cedar Point, Brown County, and Chicago. We fell in love at Mardi Gras and out of it in Honolulu during our 25th wedding anniversary.  As a side note, we did take the sheets and blankets from our hotel room, trying to keep warm while waiting for the sun to rise on Oahu’s Haleakala. I wanted to bike down – she didn’t.  

In the second marriage, we were constantly on the fly and dined at many famous chef restaurants.  Conventions and business meetings in NYC were common along with frequent dealings in Chicago, Detroit, Cape Cod, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Dallas, Houston, Providence, Buffalo, Boston, Orlando, Los Angeles, Honolulu, Atlanta, the Big Island, and even Dayton. Vacations included Saint Lucia, Napa, San Francisco, Barbados/Jamaica, Dominican Republic, a Carnival cruise to Cozumel, and career moves to TV stations in Austin and Portland, following stints in Lafayette and Central Illinois. European stops were Paris, Rome, Positano, Cannes, Montpelier (where a daughter studied), Sorento, and Capri. 

Retirement meant the means of traveling more luxuriously and for longer periods of time. Viking Ocean and River Cruises became the staple with voyages to Normandy, Venice, Croatia, Santorini, Athens, Amsterdam, Vancouver, Alaska, Hawaii, and soon to come, a cross-Atlantic tour of South America, Africa (Casablanca), Gibraltar, and Spain/Mallorca. Marriott Vacation Clubs and Hotels took us to Wailea, Kauai, NYC, Washington D.C., Phoenix, Palm Springs, Tucson, Napa Valley, Las Vegas, Alabama, Orlando, Hilton Head, Cleveland, Nashville, Indianapolis, Austin, Miami Beach, Marco Island, Amelia Island, St. Augustine, Atlanta, The Keys, and many “points” in between. Long drives to Florida, Glacier National Park, Marfa, Walla Walla, and Mackinaw Island’s Grand Hotel, along with Hall of Fame Tours filled in the gaps. 

Movies keep us entertained when we’re hungry to get away from it all but don’t have the means or time. I don’t typically like to watch movies for the second time even though I never remember what happened the first time. Of late, travel documentaries have become more important in determining where to go next, plus the thrill of seeing the places on the big screen we’ve been to through the years. It always brings back great memories. 

With the world at our fingertips, I think back to childhood when all I knew was the neighborhood around me. We did some family trips to Florida, Yellowstone, the Black Hills, and Upper Michigan, but I had no idea how vast the world was or how much I needed to learn. As I learned to speak, there were odd phrases that I picked up from my parents that were mostly adaptions of “dirty,” profane, or cuss words. My Presbyterian Church upbringing made these words unmentionable, even in private conversation. I’ve since learned to cuss like a champion. They were often words you could switch to after the first syllable came tumbling out of your mouth or silly terms used instead of swearing:

“Go…sh da…rn, Holy Cow, Da…rn it, Pee-pee, Da…ng it, Jee…z, Sh…oot, Cr…ud, Tinkle Dance, Hamburger, He…ck, Fu…dge, Bottom, Cr…ap.

Writing stories like this gives me peace of mind. It’s a reminder of how far I’ve come in life. Like everyone else, my life is unique. It’s rewarding to recap all the places I’ve been and the related experiences. It feels good to get this all on paper before I’m gone someday. Hopefully, the grandkids and their children, if they read this, will see the world through my eyes as I try to recap my childhood, career, marriages, and adventures through these spontaneous trivial tidbits. 

Retirement is not without Hassles: Oakland #2447

I’m taking a blogcation from posting over the next week or so, as we travel to Oakland, California. I’m leaving behind my computer but will make some notes on my phone to sum up the trip to see my wife’s daughter and husband. Most likely there will be a poem. We leave the house in the capable hands of Tally’s dogsitter, and catch a Delta flight out of 
Fort Myers on Wednesday afternoon. I’ll have plenty of time on Wednesday morning to get my 2.1 miles in before we venture to the airport. A neighborhood friend is kindly picking us up at the house, dropping us at the airport and returning us on the 12th. We tried to talk her out of it since it’s such a late arrival back in Ft. Myers, but she insisted. Apparently, she has a friend in Ft. Myers that she wants to visit, but we don’t get in until 11:30p, and that’s barring any delays that will be likely on the three flights home. 

It will be a long day on the 12th, leaving at 6a from Oakland after a very early morning run in the dark. This is always one of the challenges of running every day and maintaining the streak. It’s really 9a our time, but we will be well adapted to the Pacific Time Zone after a week of being there. I have plans to meet college friends on the Saturday after we arrive to watch the I.U. vs. Auburn basketball game from Atlanta. The city will be one of our stops on the way there and back. Hopefully, we’ll come back winners!

While I’m enjoying the I.U. game, my wife has plans to go to Chinatown and on other adventures with her daughter. As a cardio-thoracic PA at Stanford, I’m sure they’ll continue to discuss my upcoming surgery, while shopping for “Year of the Dragon” merchandise to use at our annual Chinese New Year Party that she hosts. They’ll also decide on restaurant choices, considering that our first pick recently burned down. 

Today has taken on a relatively hectic retirement schedule. I Chauferred my wife to school early after finishing my morning run. Tally and I then went to the dog park, and I went on to get my holiday haircut and have my sore back worked on by the chiropractor. It still hasn’t healed since I clipped my toenails last week. Embarrassing enough, it was an old age related, reoccurring injury from bending over too long and pinching a nerve. At least, my shoulder has healed, so this gave the osteopath something new to work on. It won’t help being on a plane later this week, so when I get back home more adjustments will be necessary. This is why I’m on a maintenance plan with weekly visits because it’s always something. 

For lunch, I’ll reheat some leftovers from our Big Bamboo “Date Night” on Saturday. Pad Thai should work for “Meatless Monday.” Tally gets another fortune cookie, while I enjoy (but can’t pronounce or spell) more of the Greek dessert delicacies that our neighbor down the street baked.  I’ll then dutifully pick my wife up from school at three, where hopefully she won’t again be the victim of a vomiting child or have to deal with disruptive, unruly students. I certainly couldn’t do what she does, even though it is only part-time substitution. We both can’t imagine how full-time teachers maintain their sanity. She’ll unwind at her Aqua-Fit Christmas party this evening, as I’ll begin packing for Oakland. 

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