Today's thoughts

Category: Travel (Page 2 of 24)

Retirement is not without Hassles: Dime #1367

This morning I reached the 4,200 consecutive day mark of my 11 1/2 year running streak. It’s daunting to think that it will take another 2-years and 2-months to reach 5,000. On September 6, 2022, 10 days after my 71st birthday, I will get there. When I look at the current active list on the website, 147 people have already achieved that mark. I stopped to pick-up a dirty dime in celebration, a coin I had passed many times this week. Not a day has gone by of late when I haven’t found at least a few pennies abandoned on the streets. My new rule is that if they’re still there after a few days, I’m going to give them a home. 

This is actually an indication that I’m getting a little more comfortable with the germs around me. There was a time when I wouldn’t have thought twice about picking up a homeless penny. However, after months now of hand scrubbing, social distancing, mask wearing, and passing by dirty money,  I’ve loosened my standards on abandoned coins, especially if they’re silver. The dime qualified! I brought it home, sanitized its surface, and deposited it in the coin jar for a rainy day. I know this is living dangerously, but a game worth playing. If I had a put a dime in the jar for every run so far, I’d be $420 richer. Even a penny a day would be a $42 bonus. Pennies may still not be worth the germ risk, even if you consider them to be a wink from an angel. (See Post #183).

As I look forward to the next 800 days, it’s really one day at a time.  There’s 26 days until we drive to Walla-Walla and into Glacier National Park. We decided not to risk the now inaccessible Canadian border in favor of a U.S. hotel. It’s another 37 days until we start our trek to Florida. Add 41 more days and we’ll be in Egypt, tack-on 60 for Hawaii, and suddenly the year is over. The new year will start in Florida, with a side-trip for my wife to St. Kitts, followed with our move and a journey to Spain. It will take a lot of dimes to get all of this done. One thin dime at a time!


Retirement is not without Hassles: Stay Safe #1364

It’s been two weeks now since the Florida trip and I’m feeling pretty confident that there were no adverse viral repercussions. My temperature has been taken twice this week in visits to the hairdresser and hospital. Admittedly, I’ve had some psychosomatic moments of imaginary fevers, coughs, and sore throats. There was also a week of constant headaches that have now passed. I still attribute the latter to eye strain following hours of computer work. Stress has played a significant role in airline travel, dining-in, and actually being inside a hospital of late. 

There are no signs that Coronavirus is going away in the near future. I’m concerned for those who have lost their jobs, shut down their businesses, or gotten sick. Every day is a new risk, but we can’t stay isolated. Last year, we visited beautiful Santorini in the Greek Islands. Since the breakout began, they’ve shut their island down to tourism. The good news is that they don’t have a single case of COVID-19. The bad news is that they are crumbling financially. It’s now a question of personal vs. economic wellness. They’ve decided to re-open the island, just as we have to make similar choices on whether or not to leave the safety of home. 

If the “creek don’t rise,” we still plan to travel to Walla-Walla, Washington  and Glacier National Park next month. I’ve confirmed with my accompanying friends. It looks like we won’t be able to get over the Canadian border to the Prince Albert Hotel as planned. We’ll make the necessary lodging adjustments as it gets closer to departure time. There are other compromises that will have to be made in the interest of safety. Viking has not cancelled or delayed our October cruise down the Nile River. We’ve also finalized most of our late August drive that now includes three nights in San Francisco, one night in Cambria, two nights in Desert Springs, two nights in Marfa, Texas, two nights in Austin, and one night in New Orleans. The Florida leg of the journey has yet to be determined, waiting in part to collect more Marriott Rewards points on credit card purchases this month. The goal is to leave the car we drive in Florida permanently and fly back to Portland.  

We’re still working out financing and design aspects on the Florida move next March, so getting one car down there is the first step. At that time, we’ll finalize our building plans that will take about six-months to complete. We’ve made arrangements for the lot in IslandWalk at the West Villages in Venice Florida. We’re excited for the warmth & sunshine, but will miss our friends and family here in Portland. Very good reasons for frequent visits back to Oregon.  Stay Safe.


Retirement is not without Hassles: Road Warrior #1352

I woke up in my own bed this morning and ran the familiar Portland downtown streets after a week of being a “Road Warrior.” Being on the road is tougher these day with the extra challenge of dodging all those nasty, invisible germs. We traveled to the “red state” of Florida, meaning that Coronavirus cases there are dangerously on the rise. However, it’s also a state that has been “open” longer than others. It seems only logical that given the chance to spread – it will, but if everyone sits at home and does nothing the economy will hemorrhage. We’re all trying to find that fine line between personal and financial wellness. Someone has to take a risk!

Our risk in traveling last week was carefully weighed against the pressing need to find retirement property before our apartment lease runs out. My son is thrilled that we’ve decided on Florida so we can once again share our lives. My grandson is going through those tough early-teen times and will need our support. I’ve already missed the first two birthday parties for the youngest grand daughter. The 11-year old dancer will also soon be a teenager. It’s time to be more than just long-distance Grandpa J! In the process, my wife and I will need to be “Road Warriors.” 

In late August we’ll take our next step in the moving process. We’ll do a cross-country drive that will take us through San Francisco & Palm Desert, California; Marana, Arizona; Marfa & Austin, Texas; New Orleans; and Jacksonville, Florida before we arrive at our planned homestead. We’ll leave that car at my son’s house in North Port and fly back to Portland once we’ve discussed all the design options on our new home with the builder. Next February, we’ll drive the other car down to Venice, Florida in tandem with the moving truck. In the meantime, there will probably be other back-and-forth flights to check on the building progress. It will be a complicated and expensive transition, followed by full retirement bliss. 

We don’t yet know the full status on our other “Road Warrior” activity. There are tentative late July plans to drive through Washington state and into Glacier National Park with stops in Walla-Walla and Canada. There’s still no word if the Canadian border is open or if our friends will be able and willing to join us. This all depends on what transpires over the next month in the way of viral concerns. Technically, we’re in self-quarantine these next few weeks to protect those in this area from what we might have picked-up in Florida. Hopefully, being a “Road Warrior” won’t come back to bite us in the ass. 

Retirement is not without Hassles: Pot of Gold: #1350

I’ve reached another blogging milestone- Post #1150 on day #4183 of the running streak. All these numbers are my way of keeping track of the quickly passing days of my life. This past week has gone particularly fast with all our hard work in finding a permanent retirement resting spot. The location represents the final leg of our lives that in some ways have gone full-circle. We will live within ten minutes from my son. This hasn’t hasn’t happened in about 45 years when he was still living in my house. He tried to originally escape from me during college but here were are in Florida just miles apart, starting in March of next year. Coincidentally, I will be living just miles from where my grandparents retired in Englewood, and going to the same beaches I did as a child. 

To celebrate, I played golf this afternoon with my son and grandson on what was essentially a Par-3 cow pasture but certainly good enough for my skills. There were no cow pies to dodge. My wife gladly went to the beach just a few miles from where we settled on soon building our retirement home. My two granddaughters and their mother joined us for fun in the hotel pool yesterday afternoon. Before this we had only enough time for a couple of evening meals with them as we combed resort-style  properties from north of Tampa to Venice. We’re flying in and out of Orlando so we’ve gotten a good cross-section of the Sunshine State with barely time enough for fast-food breakfast or lunch. In all, we visited twelve different communities. Each night we discussed the pros and cons without that “this is it” feeling. In the back of our minds, we were holding out for the last stop, believing on paper that it might be the best fit. It could have also turned out to be a big disappointment, forcing us return in a few months with a new plan. 

After debating proximity to airport, closeness to family, home styles, builders, near-by food options, lot locations, availability, construction timetables, and beach access, we think we’ve found our pot of gold. It’s a beautiful property with landscaped paths over Venetian-style bridges. Our lot would back up to a small pond with no other homes in the sight path. No one will be able to build in the preserve across the street and our private road ends in a cul-de-sac. Three blocks away they are building a direct access road to the nearby beaches. However, what really sold me is the Atlanta Braves Spring Training facility just outside our gates. We’ll be able to operate with one car and a golf cart, with easy access to the supermarket, restaurants, clubhouse, pools, recreation centers, dog park, and ball park. There’s something for each of us to the point that we never needed to discuss it before saying “yes.” Hopefully, we can get through the financing and building processes without too many hassles. It will truly be a year-round vacation home – the pot of gold we’re sure we’ve found!

Retirement is not without Hassles: The Rest of Our Lives #1349

In this brutal Florida heat and humidity, I now have two reasons to stay away from people. First, is the possibility of spreading the virus. A mask certainly aids in prevention, plus helps contain bad breath. I haven’t been close enough to smell garlic on anyone in months. My wife and I stay away from it even at the risk of vampires. Some people just reek of it! The second reason for keeping my distance is the threat of my own body odor after sweating profusely. I would not want to expose anyone to that unpleasantness. I’ve come back to my room every morning after running absolutely soaked from perspiration. It then takes days to dry properly. I will probably need three outfits tomorrow if we play golf. 

We got only about 5 minutes to enjoy the beach yesterday between tours of housing communities. It’s odd to be in Florida and not have time for beach play. We grabbed lunch between meetings and only had time to check-in to our hotel room before rushing to dinner. It was by far the most active day I’ve had since retiring over three years ago. The beach excursion was actually part of our research to see exactly how far it might be from house to beach. It took about 8 minutes. Proximity to the sand is one of the most important factors in selecting our community.

We do not necessarily want to live on the ocean because comfortable square footage for everyday living is not affordable. Our goal is travel and we can’t do both on our life-savings. The Marriott Vacation Club ownership will allow us to stay directly on a fabulous beach anytime we want. All the resort-style communities we are looking at will be affordable enough for us to have a private pool and easy access to a recreation center.  They are also in areas not nearly as isolated from restaurants, movie theaters, and retailers as the beach. We may have to dip into our savings a bit deeper than we originally hoped, but at least we’ll have a solid investment to show for it. By tomorrow, we should have a decision on where we’ll spend the rest of our lives. 

Retirement is not without Hassles: Sweat #1348

Running here in Florida is like taking a steam bath with your clothes on. It was only 80 degrees with a slight mist off the waterfront; enough to thoroughly soak my shirt. In Portland, the same distance barely breaks a sweat. The perspiration makes you feel like you got a better workout. Also, nothing ever dries so you can’t wear anything more than a day unless you exercise in air conditioning. However, the real sweating on my part came when decisions were being made on our final dwelling, with the exception of maybe a Nursing Home.

The search continues down the Gulf Coast. We’ve covered ground from north of Tampa to Venice, with a few more stops just south of here. All of our hotel stays have been courtesy of Marriott Rewards points and the flights discounted through Alaska Air. $300 for dog sitting, $500 in meals with the grand kids, and $50 in airport parking our only expenses, plus excessive tipping under the circumstances. That’s nearly a full week under $1000, well below the $1,000/day norm for the two of us. This, of course, is not a vacation but rather all business, visiting 13 potential building sites. It’s been McDonald’s for breakfast, Arby’s for lunch, and family dinners of pizza, sushi, or Cracker Barrel. Nothing fancy and no souvenirs, a travel record in frugal spending!

The sweat drips due to the morning 3.1 miles runs and the budget considerations of design costs. We’re pricing out models, elevations, location, pools, gourmet kitchens, tile, paint, windows, doors, and lanais – just for starters. We will soon sweat it out with mortgage brokers and financial advisors. Will we ultimately pick an established community or one just getting started? How much will this investment eat into our future travel plans? Will I need more deodorant to get through this all? We will get through this life changing process for the better. As it continues, I have to keep in mind that there is only a single vowel difference between Sweet and Sweat!

Retirement is not without Hassles: That’s All Folks #1347

We’ve moved from the north to south side of Tampa on our house hunting quest. It meant a different radio station on this morning’s shirt-soaking run. I always enjoy listening  to different formats, always a pot-shot when traveling. At least, they still had a morning team unlike many stations that have cut personnel these past few months. In a matter of an hour, this pair got a couple back together and talked about Tiger King, Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, and the Tick-Tock app. Elmer apparently no longer carries a shot gun but rather a Grim Reaper-style scythe. Is a scythe really less violent than a gun? “Eh…What’s Up, Doc?”

My wife and I went to Cracker Barrel last night for veggie plates, still maintaining our Weight Watchers discipline. With the points system, I can eat a little more than she can and still have enough for a half-bottle of wine. I needed it after a tough day of home shopping. It freaks me out to consider all the add-on options for these custom homes, knowing that each and every change means more money. Let’s just say I go Looney Tunes every once in a while. We’ll start our search today with another stop at McDonald’s for breakfast. 

In the home of the Mouse, I’m suddenly intrigued with a “Dirty Wabbit.”  According to Wikipedia, “Bugs Bunny is an animated cartoon character, created in the late 1930s by Leon Schlesinger Productions (later Warner Bros. Cartoons) and voiced originally by Mel Blanc. Bugs is best known for his starring roles in the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series of animated short films, produced by Warner Bros.” Bugs has his modern day home at Six Flags Theme Park, but not here in Orlando, They experimented with a water park in Florida but apparently got driven out by the Mouse. The closest is Atlanta, Georgia.

“That’s All Folks!”


Retirement is not without Hassles: New Ears #1346

Flying for the first time in three months was actually a pleasant experience. The airport was empty, parking was easy, and travelers for the most part practiced social distancing. However, any friendly smiles were hidden under masks. Everyone on the plane rode in first class-like comfort with all middle seats empty. I, of course, was behind some lady who insisted on leaning her chair back in my lap. Who does that anymore? Airlines should remove the reclining option. The best part was that there were no carts to dodge in the aisle-ways, so I didn’t come away with as many bruises. Shuttles weren’t as frequent, so there was some waiting time but not as jam-packed. I personally liked traveling under current circumstances. 

Once we arrived in Orlando, I was overwhelmed by the humidity. My glasses immediately fogged-up and sweat began to roll down my back. It was hard to breath with a mask on – or even off. Life in Florida will be quite an adjustment from the cool Northwest. My shirt was soaked after this morning’s run and my uncut hair is a frizzy, uncontrollable mess. I did not see any alligators this morning but did spot a Hooters. We head towards Tampa in a few hours to start our housing quest. I have a Hertz rental that hopefully won’t be repossessed by the bankruptcy courts. 

My son and grandson want to play golf later this week. I’ll have fun seeing them and will try not to embarrass myself. Weight Watchers continues but the heat will probably be more of a factor than reduced calories when it comes time to step on the scale. I’ll start the day, as I did yesterday, with a Diet Coke, hash browns, and an Egg McMuffin. This is the beauty of WW in simply counting points rather than giving up certain foods. Breakfast will be about 9 points of my 38 daily limit, taking into account the daily run. Diet Cokes are, of course, zero points. I’ll try it for awhile and see what happens.  

I would say hi to the Mouse, but he’s not home. He also didn’t show up at the airport to greet us. Orlando is not the same with him and his fans aren’t arriving in droves. I don’t think we’ve ever been through here without stopping at Disney World. It’s also very odd to not see lots of kids wearing ears in the hotel lobbies. Masks are apparently the new ears.

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!

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