Today's thoughts

Category: TRAVEL (Page 1 of 37)

Retirement is not without Hassles: Swell Day #2164

If today is any indication, the next few days of this cruise could be miserable. I tried my best to run on the treadmill, unable to run beyond the minimum mile while weaving and bobbing the next couple of miles in a quick walk. I had to hold on to the side-rails to keep from falling off and even the sit-ups and push-ups were difficult despite being flat on the floor. It was, however, a busy day in the fitness center as passengers tried their best to exercise, knowing that we would be another 7-days at sea. “The Streak” barely continues at 5,028 days. 

We have officially left Alaska, on the Pacific Ocean path to Hawaii. I’m feeling a bit queasy with a slight headache and in need of fresh air.  This is the first day that I’ve really regretted being on a cruise. Tomorrow, however, we meet with the Viking travel consultants about future options. We do have a $10,000 credit voucher as a result of sticking it out for this venture that caused many cancellations once the leg to Japan was changed to Hawaii. Hopefully, we can find some smoother sailing in our future. 

Walking from one end of the ship to the other is a major accomplishment. I did manage to do laundry, knowing that most people just stayed in their cabins. Room Service was very popular and after hearing the crash of dishes in the kitchen probably the safest way to eat breakfast or lunch. Dinner tonight will be at the Chef’s Table once again with a Mexican menu planned. My wife played bridge while I went to the movie documentary, “Wonders of the Sea,” produced by the Cousteau family. It was truly an underwater marvel narrated by Arnold Schwarzenegger. The swaying of the boat and thumping of the waves against the side of the Viking Orion added to the realism. The captain was facing 20-foot swells but indicated that the ship was built to handle at least fifty to make us feel safe. It’s been a swell day so far!

Retirement is not without Hassles: Dues to Pay #2162

With the month of October suddenly upon us, September running mileage only totaled 78.1 miles. At least I got the minimum mile in every day to keep “The Streak” alive on this cruise adventure. Normally, I routinely do about 90 miles each month and 1,000 for the year. Between fewer miles and excessive eating I will naturally expect a weight gain that should be perfectly normal on a three-week cruise. They say if you don’t put on a few pounds then you didn’t enjoy yourself. Tonight, we’ll be back at Manfredi’s for more pasta and wine, The big relief of the day, was from our thoughtful who took the time to drive all the way to Schnauzerville to assure my wife that our precious pup Tally was doing fine. The dog sitters were relying on a generator and had no way to communicate with us, so a simple picture was worth a thousand words. 

We should know more about our roof tile damage in the next few days when my son is able to once again check our property. He has been pre-occupied with rising water, soffit damage, and potential structural concerns after the hurricane. This goes along with his marital concerns and financial problems that have been his primary focus long before Ian rocked his world. His wife and kids have been sharing time with their parents, so I was glad to see them temporarily united as a family to deal with the storm. This once again shows that tragedies like this often bring people together, whether it be neighbors, relatives, or even strangers. 

There are still street, landscaping, sewer and internet problems in our Islandwalk neighborhood. I do have some guilt having to rely on others for help while we’re thousands of miles away at sea. Our timing couldn’t have been better or worse, depending on how you look at it. Here we are stuffing our faces, bathing with clean water, and enjoying all the luxury cruise comforts while those back in our home town of Venice are suffering. We’ll have some serious dues to pay when we finally get back to Florida. 

 

Retirement is not without Hassles: Tally Where Are You? #2161

The onboard treadmill was an adventure this morning as we sail the rough seas on the way to our final Alaska stop, Dutch Harbor. We’re not sure what to expect since there are no excursions available but at least we’ll be docked and I won’t be rocked from side-to-side while running again tomorrow morning. After that, I’ll just have to somehow get used to occasionally grabbing on to the support bars to keep from falling off. It’s seven long days at sea from there to Kauai, our first of three Hawaiian ports.  

Yesterday was sightseeing in the town of Kodiak including a military settlement, three museums, and a Russian Orthodox church. Like Sitka, it was once an important Soviet port before they sold the entire territory to the United States back in 1867 for a price of 7.2 million. The Kodiak History Museum is housed in the oldest standing log structure on the West Coast, called a Magazin (Russian for store), built circa  1808 as a storage facility. Across the street was the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge Center where on display was a fascinating skeleton of a Gray Whale that was found on the local beach, intentionally buried for four years to allow bacteria to strip it to bare bones, cleaned, and eventually reassembled to be suspended from the ceiling of this museum. It was the tourism highlight of the day. 

Dinner last night was once again at the Chef’s Table where we were entertained by dozens of whales just outside our window-side table. The evening ended with Reuel, a fabulous pianist from Austin, Texas that put on a dazzling performance in the Star Theatre. It was the first act on the boat to keep us awake for the duration, although some of the other artists had their moments. My wife is currently at a French cooking class while I write this and will spend the afternoon playing bridge. She was particularly excited this morning when we found out that power had been restored to our Florida home and a thoughtful neighbor had moved and watered our sheltered plants. However, we were also informed that we may have a couple of damaged roof tiles as a result of Ian. We’ll assess all the minor damages when we return in less than two weeks. Still no word on Tally, but as more homes get power, communication will certainly improve. We’re confident that she’s fine with all her schnauzer brothers and sisters but some reassurance would be welcome. Tally where are you?

 

Retirement is not without Hassles: Wordle #2160

Tomorrow will mark my 200th game of Wordle, the New York Times daily puzzle that has become part of my routine. Since they only provide one game a day, it’s not something you can get obsessed about, although there is Quordle (four puzzles at once) and Octordle (eight puzzles at once) where you can play as many times as you wish. I have a 98% solve rate with a one-time 76-game streak. There are two ways to stop a streak, either by failing to solve the puzzle in six attempts or by forgetting to do the puzzle on a given day. I’ve be subject to both, as my current streak is only at two after somehow spacing out on doing it a few days ago. Normally, I do it right after my morning run, so it should be automatic considering that my current running streak is 5,025 consecutive days. I certainly have yet to forget the running part of my day even though they often times blend together. 

We’re currently docked on Kodiak Island, one of the largest in the world. I’ve opened a Diet Coke, that I now limit to just one a day, as I sit at the keyboard. It looks like another chilly, rainy day here in Alaska, although we’ve also gotten a surprising share of sunshine. Last night, as we were having dinner, we experienced our first Alaskan sunset over the mountains we were cruising by. It was just before the big Viking 25th Anniversary dance party on the pool deck. It’s not easy to dance when the ship is rocking, so we left early for bed on Day 11 of this journey. 

Early this afternoon, we’ll head into town to tour another museum before tomorrow’s long day at sea on the way to Dutch Harbor. We’re looking forward to another great dinner tonight at the Chef’s Table followed by the Austin pianist performance that was cancelled the other evening due to rough seas. There is still no power at our Florida home and we’ve yet to get word on our Schnauzer pup, Tally. We’re sure she’s fine but phone and internet service are spotty in the Venice area. Flooding has prevented crews from getting in to do repairs. 

I will miss another Saturday of football, unless one of the bars in town has a satellite dish and will wait on word of Aaron Judge’s efforts to top the Roger Maris and Yankee home run record. Tomorrow, of course, will start with checking scores, strength exercises in the onboard gym, and another run on the treadmill, followed by (unless I forget) the much anticipated 200th game of Wordle.

Retirement is not without Hassles: Sunny Side of the Street #2159

We got off the boat this morning to go to the Alaska SeaLife Center. It was very foggy but the sun was trying to peek through the clouds as a steady rain fell. We were hoping that it wouldn’t be like yesterday with another wet morning or little to see or do followed by a boring afternoon between feeding times. The two museums that we visited in Valdez were disappointing and everyone wondered why there were two in town or why we even stopped in Valdez at all? We ended up going back to our cabin to watch the movie, Paris Can Wait, a film we’d apparently already seen 5-years ago that had long left my memory bank. 

While the boat set sail, we watched it continue to pour down rain from the Explorer’s Lounge with one of our favorite musicians, Laurence, on guitar. Dinner was at Manfredi’s where I once again overdid it on the Cabernet. We’re trying our best to get the most out of the Silver Spirits premium liquor package. As a result, I will need to take the next two days off from overindulgence to dry out. We then almost made it through the main lounge act before the vocalists broke out in an unbearable Queen medley that moved us quickly to the exit doors. We’ll try again tonight to stay awake during the Viking: 25 Years of Exploration presentation and dance. 

We averted another disaster this afternoon when my wife finally found her missing driver’s license that had inadvertently slipped out her pocket in one of the downtown Seward shops.  We had actually given up trying to find it after retracing her steps this morning to the bus, aquariums, and a few of the stores back to the ship with no luck. However, when the sun finally came out later in the afternoon, we went back again and thankfully found it. It was her second moment of relief of the day, since my son had called earlier with good news about the condition of our Florida home. 

We were apparently on the “Sunny Side of the Street” with no structural damage. I feel bad,  but all our neighbors on the other side of Borrego Street suffered considerable damage to their pool cages, not to mention all the massive destruction to others in our community. This was because Hurricane Ian had a reverse spin from previous storms and the front of our house took the brunt of the wind while those homes on the opposite side of our road got hit from the more vulnerable back side. The streets are still flooded and there is no power or water but my son reported only a puddle of water that came in under our front door. He also  rescued most of the frozen food from our refrigerators, so that is no longer a worry because no one knows how long the power will be out. It’s great news to be on the right side of the neighborhood – The Sunny Side of the Street:

“Grab your hat, baby
Leave your worries on the doorstep
Just direct your feet
On the sunny side of the street

Can’t you hear a pitter-pat, babe?
And that happy tune is your step
Life can be so sweet
On the sunny side of the street

I used to walk in the shade
With those blues on parade, ba-ba-bo
But I’m not afraid, baby
My Rover’s crossed over, ay

If I never have a cent, babe
I’d be rich as Rock-e-fellow
With gold dust at my feet
On the sunny side of the street

Grab your coat
Get your hat
Leave your worry on the doorstep, ba-be-do
Just direct your feet
On the sunny side of the street, zay-zoo-za-ze-zo-zay

Can’t you hear a pitter-pat?
Oh, the happy tune is your step, ba-be-oh
Life can be so sweet, oh, ba-be-bo-ba-bay
On the sunny side of the street

I used to walk in the shade
Baby, with those blues on parade
Oh, but I’m not afraid, baby
My rover!
My rover crossed over!

And if I never have a cent
I’ll be rich as Rock-e-fellow, hey
With gold dust at my feet
On the sunny side of the street”

Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Dorothy Fields / Jimmy McHugh
On The Sunny Side Of The Street lyrics © Reservoir Media Management Inc, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

 

Retirement is not without Hassles: Valdez #2158

We are very fortunate to have escaped the ire of Ian. The two of us are safe in Alaska while our home appears to be unscathed, according to the neighbors. We’ll still have a lot of moving around to do when we get back and all our frozen food will probably spoil unless power is soon restored. There currently is no phone or internet service either, and flooded streets to contend with by those who did not evacuate. All could be much worst since several neighbors lost their pool cages to strong winds but ours somehow seemed to survive the wrath of Mother Nature. We have yet to hear from Schnauzerville about how Tally reacted to her first hurricane. I’m sure it was scary for her!

The Viking Orion is docked in Valdez, home of oil spills and earthquakes. The town appears to be deserted with two small museums that provided little entertainment. Rain has fallen since we arrived and the chilly, damp air made our cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows taste even better once we arrived back onboard ship. Last night’s piano performance was cancelled due to choppy seas. I could not walk a straight line down any hallway both before or after drinking. We did enjoy our Chef’s Table meal but it was early to bed and early to rise. My Ring camera notifications kept disturbing my sleep, so I was on the treadmill before the sun came up this morning. 

We are a captive audience here in Valdez without much to do for the rest of the afternoon. Since we are not at sea there are also no cooking classes or bridge games to keep my wife engaged, so we are sitting here staring at each other. The boat will depart for Seward later this afternoon. So far, it’s not our favorite day in Alaska, but still a thousand times better than being stuck at home with no TV, internet, or food to eat. We’re thankful!

Retirement is not without Hassles: Hubbard Glacier #2157

When you’ve seen one glacier, you’ve seen them all. I’ve used this disrespectful quote before when it comes to trees, animals, and other forces of nature. Just like with food, I’m simply not discerning enough to appreciate  the finer things in life. We’ve seen about 25 different glaciers on our Alaskan tour so far that in my feeble mind are nothing more than dirty snow sliding down a mountain. They have kind of an ugly blue tint to them that reminds me of Tidy Bowl. I simply can’t seem to get my mind around all the years it takes to form one of these ice slides nor can I seem to appreciate the years it takes to grow a tree. Admittedly, I’ve seen a lot of beauty on our Alaska cruise, but I’m not yet ready to become a nature lover. 

Today, the cruise ship stopped at the base of the Hubbard Glacier with its 400 foot wall of ice that sent giant fragments violently crashing into the ocean below. I stepped outside on the deck this morning to admire the blue skies, dark sea, and the white chunks of ice floating by me as we faced this mountain of moving ice. I felt like I was looking into a giant cup of Diet Coke without a straw big enough to take a sip. The entire bay was surrounded by towering mountain peaks that glistened in this apparently rare moment of Alaskan sunshine. 

While others stood for hours admiring nature’s work, I was ready to head inside to get my miles in on the boring treadmill. The deck was too cold and slippery, so I ran on a virtual beach that reminded my of Oregon with giant rocks just off shore. Horses trotted beside me and people walked by without waving as I navigated the artist created route. It was as close to a hike that I’ve taken on this trip, without the worries of loose sand, wet shoes, or any threat of an ankle injury. In the last week, I’ve ran on a fake track, through a fake woods, and on a fake beach. I can’t wait for tomorrow.

 

Retirement is not without Hassles: Rushed #2156

Another rushed morning getting ready for our wildlife tour. I only had time for a mile-and-a-half virtual beach run on the treadmill. My main concern is our Florida home now in the direct path of hurricane Ian. Neighbors have been helpful moving urns, plants, and our fountain to safer spots as Category 4 potential threatens the community. While we were on the boat this morning taking in the sights of the Tongass National Forrest surrounding the city of Sitka, rain was starting to move into our Venice hometown. The next 24-hours will tell the tale of structural damage, flooding, and power outages.

We did have a lovely lunch of crab legs, prime rib, salmon, and potatoes after seeing whales, bears, eagles, sea lions, and shore birds from our tour boat.
We’re now back in our stateroom with spotty internet, television, and phone service. I’ve had to write these reports on my phone until I can download them to the web. I’m already three days behind as we cruise through the mountainous Alaskan countryside.

Evening performances in the on-board theater have been a disappointment and we’re already into repeats. Fake ABBA was the only show we sat through the entirety while the ventriloquist, guitars, and magic were reasons for early-to-bed. Last night, even the TV was not working, so late night reading was the only entertainment option. Just give us anything to keep our minds off the threat to our home and property.

Retirement is not without Hassles: Berg Bits #2154

We were fortunate to be on the maiden voyage of the Viking Orien through the icy narrows of Glacier Bay National Park. We could see most everything from our stateroom balcony but also chose to venture to the top deck for a broader view. We experienced Johns Hopkins Glacier, heard the crash of ice, saw dolphins and an Orca, plus navigated around chunks of ice that were not big enough to be icebergs. Instead, they were referred to as berg-bits. We cruised near Lamplugh Glacier, Russell Island, and Composit Island, as well as Grand, Drake, Willoughby, Beardslee, and Strawberry islands. Mountains and cascading waterfalls provided the background for this spectacular tour before we headed off to Sitka, the former Russian capital.

We’ve been at sea now for a full seven days with brief stops in Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway, In the next few days we’ll land in Valdez, Seward, Kodiak, and Dutch Harbor before the week-long trek to Kauai. As I write this, Hurricane Ian is headed to Florida and expected to hit in our area. Heavy rain and sustained wind will threaten our home. Construction still continues on our outdoor kitchen but most of our lanai is safely stored in the garage. We’re, of course, hoping for a direction change but prepared for some damage. Maybe it will only be a little bit while we’re safe and dry in Alaska?

Retirement is not without Hassles: Bridges #2153

We’re experiencing very bad internet service in Skagway. I can see where the Colts and Bears both won today but can’t get any details. The same is true with my E-Bay auction that ends today for the Sherm Lollar Lanes match book -pretty sure I’ll get sniped at the last minute but it’s not worth more than the $20 bid I made. It ultimately went for $20.50 as I feared.

We spent the morning in a fog, missing most of the sights along the White Pass Summit Vintage Railroad tour. It was amazing to see how this route was built through rock and over fjords to establish a goods exchange between the city of Skagway and its Canadian neighbors. It runs along the narrow rocky trail that prospectors used during the Klondike Gold Rush of 1899. I was concerned that the Canadian Mounted police might board the train as we circled back just over the boarder, demanding my surrender for not taking the mandatory covid test that I was randomly selected to undergo (See Post # 2147). Once the threat never materialized, my wife counted over 60 waterfalls along the way back until she lost interest and began to focus on downtown shopping.

I had a Alaskan beer yesterday afternoon at Juneau’s Red Dog Saloon complete with swinging doors and sawdust floors. It was my first beer since our Portland Leadership Meeting at Two Dogs Tavern – a dog theme is apparently forming when it comes to bars. Three Dog Night is probably next or the Dog Sled Saloon. I’ve mostly stuck to premium red wines or Chef’s Table pairings, Champagne, Limoncello, and Cranberry juice/Tito’s Vodka spritzers on the cruise.

As we crossed the treacherous bridges and trestles along the way, my wife was feeling squeamish and wondering why I was’t? Well, she had me all psyched for yesterday’s Brotherhood Bridge that turned out to be just street level, plus heights don’t seem to bother me in an enclosed area like the train car. It was built to celebrate the joining of the Huna Tlingit eagle and raven clans through marriage, as it is unacceptable to marry a fellow clan member. We learned all about Alaskan tribal clan houses, Potlatch parties/hats, and totem pole lore in Ketchikan.

It made me think of all the bridges we’ve crossed just in the past few months. These include Alabama’s Selma Bridge, Michigan’s Mackinac, Florida’s Skyway, Hope Memorial in Cleveland with the Guardians, the L&I over the Ohio River linking Indiana and Kentucky, the Venice Island drawbridge in our hometown, and the many bridges that span the canals in our Islandwalk neighborhood. Tomorrow, we’ll spend some time exploring Glacier Bay where the only bridges are made of ice.

 

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