Today's thoughts

Retirement is not without Hassles: House Guests #1406

We’re lucky to have house guests for the weekend. My wife’s daughter and husband have come for a visit. I feel bad that we don’t have more space to accommodate them, having moved from our house into an apartment. They would have had the entire upstairs and total privacy. Instead, they have an inflatable bed crammed in my office. I’m writing from the living room coffee table this morning and feeding the parking meter out front to allow them garage space. These are both minor disruptions in the world of retirement. We’re glad to have the company in these pandemic times of isolation.

We relieved the stay-at-home boredom yesterday by driving to the quaint Oregon Coast city of Manzanita to meet some friends for wine and food. It was like an extension of our long drive to Glacier National Park along winding scenic, forest roads. After a couple of quick views of the Pacific Ocean and a bite to eat in Cannon Beach, we were soon back home. For some reason, Tally our schnauzer had no interest in being near the roaring waves. We still had a few more preparation duties to take care of in anticipation of our soon to arrive guests. 

Today would normally be a “Leadership” luncheon, but nothing is normal these days. Next week we’ll return to that Friday tradition. Tonight, we’ll grill outside at my wife’s other daughter’s nearby home. It will be the first time that we’ve all gotten together since their wedding 10 months ago, just before the world shifted and spun out of control. At that time, our schnauzer Tinker was still alive and their pup Falco had yet to be adopted. Now, Tally is best friends with Falco, so the patter of little feet will add to the reunion atmosphere. We might even see our fancy grill in action, since they are not allowed in our apartment building. It’s being stored at their house. Someday soon, it will be the focal point of our Florida outdoor kitchen. 

Construction should start soon on this Florida house that will once again allow comfort and privacy for house guests. We’re not anticipating any overnight company in the remaining 6-months of our apartment lease. Most are discouraged by the lack of space and inflatable bed, but family is forgiving. However, they would not be staying here if it weren’t for the fact that the other sister’s house is under construction. They picked the lesser of two evils, and we’re doing our best to be good hosts. My wife loves house guests, especially those tolerant of our limited amenities. 

Retirement is not without Hassles: It makes No Sense #1405

It strikes me as remarkable that despite the poor earnings reports and shuttered businesses the stock market continues to go up. This proves me once again to be an investment buffoon, after moving some 401k money into savings. Better safe than sorry was my thinking a few months ago as we prepared to buy a house. Fortunately, interest rates continue to remain low. There’s also been a recent surge of buying in our new Venice, Florida resort community. It makes no sense!

I thought we were lucky to sell our home so quickly before the pandemic started. Apartment living is not an investment at all, while real estate agents continue to report a hot Portland market. Apparently, all the attention we’re getting nationally has people coming in droves. “Portland is a riot – let’s go there. They’re partying in the streets.” Once again, it all doesn’t make sense. 

This time of stuck-at-home, self-isolation has everyone reevaluating their priorities. Money originally planned for travel is being invested in home improvements. Outdoor kitchens, huge decks, bigger TVs, and new furniture are the American dream. Or, move on up to a bigger, nicer home, where you’ll be spending all your time in the future. Work from home, school from home, and entertain yourself at home. The whole family benefits from this new model of society. In the meantime, travel-related businesses, auto dealers, restaurants, and movie theaters all suffer. 

On the positive side, there’s been an increase in RV sales, camping gear, gaming, swimming pools, bicycles, exercise equipment, and collecting. A friend who deals in classic cars has seen a huge uptick in recapturing past memories as opposed to  making new ones. Travel has shifted to the domestic front. Where all the money is coming from is the biggest mystery of all, with so many out of work. Do they feel the end is coming soon, so there will be no need to pay it back. Is “live for today” the new American attitude? It makes no sense!

Old Sport Shorts: Fly the W #1404

The really strange thing about this whole pandemic is that my teams are winning. The last few days, I’ve seen the Cubs, Sox, Pacers, Trailblazers, and Timbers all claim multiple victories. This tells me that life is no longer normal. In the real world, I consistently pick the wrong teams to root for on game day. Could this mean that I.U. will start claiming BIG 10 wins and that the Bears and Colts will play once again in the Super Bowl? It all now seems possible. 

The Sox have won 6 straight road games, a feat last equaled in April 2017. Unfortunately in the process, Oregon State alum Nick Madrigal injured his shoulder during a slide. Tim Anderson is also on the disabled list. The Cubs have won five straight and the Trailblazers are making a playoff move with a promising start in the Disney bubble. IU alum Victor Oladipo is beginning to show his old form for the Pacers in their third straight win. These are all signs of the Apocalypse! 

Can you imagine an NBA championship between the Pacers and Trailblazers, or a Cubs vs. White Sox World Series? I’m beginning to like these shortened seasons with each game having more significance and no fan interference. T.J. Warren of the Pacers just tied Jermaine O’Neil’s franchise record for the most in a three-game span. These things just don’t happen under normal circumstances. It takes a pandemic to bring out the best in my teams. 

Will the magic last? I have my doubts. The Cubs don’t have a closer. Craig Kimbrel failed to preserve a three-run cushion last night and had to be benched by new manager David Ross once again. The Cubbies could easily return to last year’s mediocrity after a 9-2 start. At least they’re staying healthy, unlike the rival St. Louis Cardinals who can’t seem to stay out of the way of the virus. The White Sox are helping the Cubs with a chance to take a 3-game sweep from the Brewers. The Cubs are returning the favor by pounding the Royals. I like this Chicago tag-team approach.

The Portland Timbers are in the soccer final four with a match against Philadelphia tonight that could send them into the finals of the MLS is Back tournament. The bubble approach in sports seems to be working much better than the home fields used in baseball. We’re all hoping that sports can survive outside the bubble, especially football fans that are holding their breath for a chance to start the season. 

The Indy 500 will now be held later this month without fans. New track owner Roger Penske reversed his plan to drop the flag in front of a full house. Instead, it will be strictly a television event that will undoubtedly continue in all sports into 2021. Buying a ticket to any event will be a rarity, having a devastating affect on the business. I’m just glad to be a fan and not an owner. Many tough financial decisions have been made this year, with no end in sight. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy the rare winning moments of my favorite teams. Fly the W.



Retirement is not without Hassles: No Whining #1403

It’s “Wine Tasting” Tuesday as we head out into the Willamette Valley. The Elkhart boys are getting together this week to reminisce about our Indiana hometown. All of us now live in Oregon but only a couple of times a year do all four of us get together. We’ll have lunch at the Horse Radish in Carlton, with an appointment shortly after at Resonance owned by the famous french family, Jadot. We’ll end the afternoon at Saffron Fields. It looks like a beautiful Oregon day for wining – not whining. 

I got a new battery installed in my car yesterday, after the incident in The Dalles over the weekend. (See Post #1401). Hopefully, this will be the end of the calls to AAA. We still have plans for at least one more California trip with the Solara before the long drive to Florida. I need it to be reliable these next 6-months before I trade it in on a golf cart. I guess that’s the point when retirement will really begin. It will be stressful these next few months making all the final decisions on the house design and the arrangements to move cross-country. 

My wife’s youngest daughter and husband will visit this weekend from San Francisco. At least, there’s no boredom in our upcoming lives between friends, travel, and family. There’s a sense of optimism that hasn’t been there these past four months of self isolation.  We were fortunate to get away on this last trip to Glacier National Park, following too many cancellations of recent travel plans. Hopefully, our family trip to Hawaii in December will happen. We’ll continue to plan for the future, but may need to be satisfied with continuing to explore the mainland USA. No whining!


Retirement is not without Hassles: Waterfalls #1402

A week ago, I woke up in Glacier National Park and saw a couple small waterfalls. This morning it was just another run through the homeless camps of downtown Portland. The Streak continues at 4,236 days. With the discovery of an aneurysm, I’m feeling vulnerable. It’s been there for many years even though I considered myself an iron man. This minor flaw in my circulatory system has remained stable, but the pessimistic me knows that surgery and the end of the running streak is inevitable. As I approach my seventieth year of life, I hear the clock ticking and the need to savor each moment grows. 

I’m a “let’s get this over with” kind of guy. There’s been no time to smell the roses. I have a lot left to accomplish in life, starting each day with a run. I actually fear the day when I can’t run, wondering what will ultimately stop me? With Montana under my belt, I’ve now gone for a run in half the U.S. states, plus Canada, Mexico and Asia. It’s how I explore the areas we visit – my own little side trip. I’ve missed out on Bali and Egypt this year due to Coronavirus restrictions. I should feel fortunate that the virus has not affected my health and the fate of The Streak. 

I flip another page on the calendar showing a fabulous waterfall in Seljalandsfoss, Iceland. It’s just another place that I’ve yet to travel, when I’d really like to see it all. I’ve seen my share of waterfalls, including Niagra and Multnomah. Yosemite is the next closest option. Seeing a waterfall usually implies taking a hike, so it’s unlikely that I will see many of the world’s greatest. I wish that I could say that life is like a waterfall – a seemingly never ending flow of energy. Only rarely do they dry up. However, all streaks in life eventually come to an end. If mine does, I can only hope to start another one!

Retirement is not without Hassles: Whew! #1401

Eight nights, seven McDonald’s, six gas stops, five hotels, two-thousand miles, and one small glitch. We were back in our apartment last night with a sense of relief – Whew! All that way to Montana and back – up steep terrain, across mountain passes, and through high desert flat lands without a single complaint until the very end. Despite its age, the trustworthy 2008 Toyota Solara convertible chugged along as planned, starting and stopping where needed. The only problem we’ve ever experienced over the years was a battery problem a few months ago. I had it fully recharged without any further issues. Yesterday, we drove in from Spokane with several stops for food, gas, and at a roadside farmer’s market. In every case, the car started right up, until the very last gas station. 

I had filled the car up with gas, and moved it to a parking spot to use the restroom facilities. As we got ready to make the final leg of the journey, I turned the ignition key and nothing happened. My wife and I were anxious to pick up our dog Tally and finally get home. Instead, we were stranded by The Dalles in ninety degree temperatures. It was not a desperate situation, we had food, several cases of wine, and a Shilo Inn next door. Fortunately, I called AAA, as I had two months ago and waited for a jump. As we sat there waiting, I thought of all the many other remote spots where we could have been inconvenienced during the course of our trip. Whew!

They told us it would be an hour wait, as I continued to get an ear full from my wife about not double-checking the battery before we left. It was going to be a very long hour! Thankfully, it wasn’t even a half hour before we were back on the road again thanks to the prompt assistance of River’s Edge Towing in nearby Hood River. Fortunately, they happened to be in route to service another car and we were in the right place at the right time. AAA to the rescue – it’s such a great service!  I’ll need to call them again tomorrow because the battery failed to recharge during the last hour-and-a-half of highway driving. We’re home and safe, but still in need of a new battery. It could have been much worse – Whew!

Retirement is not without Hassles: Journey of Life #1400

Fourteen hundred articles represents about 44 months of daily blogging. I’ve faithfully adhered to my one-a-day writing pledge from the moment I retired. In the process I’ve also written a sleazy novel and hundreds of poems. Prior to this trip to Glacier National Park, there was little to write about and the frustration showed in my rants about the Portland protests. What had always tended to be a humorous blog turned ugly and sarcastic at times. Hopefully, the time away will get me back on track. I guess you do need vacations, even in retirement. 

We’ve on the last leg of our Montana journey with an overnight stop in Spokane, Washington. We’re back at the historic Davenport Hotel for a last night of luxury. This is a very ornate structure with massive ballrooms. The dance floors are suspended from cables to cushion the feet. We attempted to take a walking tour of the facilities but most rooms were closed due to Covid-19. The same was true of the nearby Bing Crosby childhood home on the now quiet  Gonzaga University campus. Life as we know it has been frozen in time with only brief spurts of activity, like the wedding taking place in our hotel. There are pictures on the walls of lavish masquerade parties, while all of the hotel guests and wedding attendees are masked now. 

We’re five hours from Portland, where we’ll be reunited with our schnauzer Tally after ten days on the road. She’ll miss her doggy buddy, Falco, when she settles back into boring apartment life. I’m ready to get back in the home routine, although we’ll have visitors this week to break up the monotony. Day-trips to wine country and Astoria are on the agenda along with overnight guests for the weekend. With this in mind, the inflatable bed may get some use by my wife’s daughter and husband. We’ll see them again in a few weeks as we begin our cross-country journey to Florida. Overall, it will be a very busy August with stops in San Francisco, Cambria, Desert Springs, Tucson, Marfa, Austin, Mobile, Lake City, and Venice. I’ll be 69-years old and poorer by the time we cross the Florida line. Let the Journey of Life continue!

Retirement is not without Hassles: The Way Back #1399

It’s time to go home after a week away from the Portland riots. Out go the feds and in come the State Police. This will undoubtedly be the next stage of the never-ending protests. In the meantime, we’re in the peaceful mountain surroundings of Montana. However, today we start the way back with an overnight stop in Spokane. If we were in a hurry, I’d fire up Mr. Peabody’s Wayback Machine, but we’ll enjoy the slightly different sights of the route home. After all, the way back is all part of the overall adventure. 

We enjoyed last night’s dinner at Tupelo in Whitefish, a misplaced New Orleans bistro. The walls were filled with Cajun Country artwork including Blue Dog and other George Rodriquez works. It was a much different atmosphere than the usual decor of stuffed bears, antlers, and moose paintings. There was an out-of-place colorful giant portrait of Jim Thorpe in a uniform with a big “C” (Carlisle College, Canton, Cleveland, or Chicago?), along with numerous jazz artists and their instruments. Blue Dog was Rodriguez’s Louisiana terrier/spaniel, Tiffany, while a head carving of her guarded the entrance from intruding critters. 

I had some spicy Montana gumbo and some tasty elk meatball sliders. My wife enjoyed a Cajun combo of fried catfish and shrimp etouffee. Our picnic lunch that afternoon was in a much different setting – by the Sacred Dancing Cascade. Afterwards, a short hike led us to the banks of Lake McDonald fed by an ice-cold mountain spring. I took off my shoes and socks to freeze my toes. All three days in Glacier Park were Big Sky blue with temperatures in the low nineties. I’m glad we shared the experience and now it’s time for the long Way Back. 

Retirement is not without Hassles: Take A Hike #1398

When you don’t want someone around, you tell them to “Go and take a hike.” When there’s little else to do, as was the case yesterday, it’s exactly what we did. Some people love to hike. I’m one of those that questions its purpose. I suppose you could say it’s an opportunity to go where no one else has gone before or at least “the road less traveled.” Others might claim it’s great exercise, communing with nature. I find it boring. 

We took the Sperry Trail at Glacier National Park yesterday with hopes of at least getting to Fish Lake. The 6.2 mile route to Sperry Chalet was just too far. It was built in 1913 by Great Northern Railway people – who else would have the funds or building access at 6,500 feet (the same altitude as Logan’s Pass at the Continental Divide). It’s of course closed now due to Covid -19. Given the opportunity, only true adventurers would want to pay the price for a night of no heat, lights, or water after the strenuous backwoods hike. It took us 45 minutes to go the first mile straight-up (about 1,000 feet of elevation), dodging road apples and rocks along the way. It was just starting to level off when we started back after seeing only a babbling brook, one deer, and 6 donkeys carrying supplies. Also, hiking with a mask just doesn’t seem right. 

It was a good exercise supplement to my 3.1 mile morning run. We followed it up with a picnic on the banks of Lake McDonald, a welcome break to rest our aching knees. It was a relief to get back to our air-conditioned hotel and soak in a hot bath. Dinner was in Whitefish about 10-miles away. My wife strolled through the western-themed downtown area at the base of Big Mountain, home of the “Hellroaring” Whitefish Ski Resort. The town of less than 7,000 residents was the boyhood home of Phil Jackson of NBA fame. The step-back-in-time Whitefish Lake Country Club was our dining choice, although nowhere near the lake. After a couple martinis, walleye, prime rib, chocolate tart, and a Pepcid chaser, we were feeling no pain. 

We’ll do it all again in our last full day at Glacier National Park. It looks like another beautiful, top-down day, with little to do but another hike and picnic. Everything is closed in the park – even many of the trash cans are locked. We’ll top off the evening with another great dinner in downtown Whitefish. Sadly, we’ve yet to see the stars come out. It stays light outside until past 11 p.m. and the sun rises at 6. We would love to see a dark Big Sky, but haven’t made it yet. Too much fresh air, exercise, and alcohol to stay up late for stargazing. Maybe we’ll take a midnight hike tonight? 

Retirement is not without Hassles: Going to the Sun #1397

This morning’s run in Columbia Falls, Montana was at 3,000 feet. It was tough going with little bounce to my step. In fact, I tripped over a root on a tree-lined asphalt pathway and fell on my side opposite the cell phone pocket, otherwise I might have broken something – probably the phone. After the traditional 3.1 miles I was ready to sit down and write. We now have all the modern conveniences, including internet and phone services. The air conditioning feels great and there are two TVs in our Cedar Creek Inn suite. We’re here for two more nights before heading back to Spokane

Yesterday, we tackled the 30-mile Going to the Sun road. My annual National Parks pass enabled us to skip the entry line and there was surprisingly little traffic on the mountain. From what I had read, I was expecting a major back-up and a slow funeral procession up to the top. Instead, it was smooth sailing up to Logan’s Pass. It was also not as intimidating as I had been told with at least a short rock wall separating us from the bottomless drop. The only hassle was when we got to the lot of the visitor’s center on top where everyone was trying to find a parking spot. Plus, the trail to Hidden Lake was closed because apparently a tourist had twisted an ankle and needed to be carried out. In the patches of snow above we could see a couple of bears frolicking and some big horn sheep. 

Today, we’ll stop by a nearby deli and pick up some picnic goods. There were several trail heads near Lake McDonald that deserve some exploration. I can’t put it off any longer – it’s time to commune with nature and build-up an appetite on a dusty path through the pine trees. Maybe we’ll see a moose?

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