It’s an Adventure

I know, we haven’t written anything in forever so this is going to be a bit of a long post. It has been a tough few months. A quick summary of our travel plans (or lack thereof).  We had lots of travel scheduled for this summer. Sue and her niece were planning on going to Italy in May, Sue and I were planning on going to Baltimore to see my son/daughter-in-law, We also had booked an Alaskan cruise and trip to Denali, Fairbanks and the Arctic Circle in July.

Hannah

COVID knocked all these plans to the curb. So far, the only trip we managed was a road trip to Baltimore in May to see my son, daughter-in-law, and their brand new baby girl, Hannah. Sue and I are both first time grandparents and neither rain nor snow or pandemic could stop us from visiting our granddaughter (regrets to the USPS motto). We left early in the morning and did the 11-hour drive in one quick jump, stayed in our own AirBnB and spent every moment we could with our baby. After two weeks we drove back home and resumed our regular lives.

A ton has happened since then. 

In late July we noticed that the housing market was quite strong and since our plan has been to get out of Chicago, we placed the house on the market. To our great surprise, we had an offer on the house in three days and a deal to sell it on the fourth. Wow. We were both mentally prepared for the house to sit on the market for months, so we did not invest much time and effort in looking for a new place to live. We knew we wanted to be back on the East Coast, someplace warmer than Chicago (not a difficult ask provided we were not planning on moving to Canada!) and preferably near to Baltimore, so we could work on our spoiling the grandchild skills. 

Oh, did I mention the buyers wanted to close in just about a month? The new owners have an elementary-school-aged child and want to get him into school at the start of the year.

So there we are. It is the end of July. We have sold the house, we have no idea where we are going to live, and we have a fairly short runway before we are homeless. There was, of course, only one potential solution. 

ROADTRIP!

We arranged for a dog sitter for Rosie — our 12 year old German shepherd — and we hopped into my car and drove east to find a place to live. We left early on Thursday and drove straight through. We stayed with my sister in PA as Hannah’s parents’ house was full with other visitors that weekend. My sister lives about an hour and half north of Baltimore, so not too far. We spent Friday and Saturday looking for a house to rent.

It was a very frustrating weekend. The rental market is very fragmented, and difficult to work with. We used all the websites, contacted what seemed like a million brokers, saw a bunch of houses, but in the end we did not manage to rent anything. Having a large dog made us a less suitable candidate and while we would submit applications, the places all seemed to go to someone without a dog. Time to suck up a bit: Thanks to both Steven’s family and mine plus our friends for being an incredible safety net. We knew we wouldn’t be homeless. I am grateful and keep thinking about all the people who aren’t as fortunate as we are.

We decided to leave my car in PA. It seemed to make sense to only have one car to drive out there when we moved, to our new (and entirely ephemeral) house together, especially since we would have Rosie in the back seat. (He neglects to mention that that brilliant idea was mine. Braving the plane was a bit nerve-wracking, but we flew Southwest, which doesn’t sell middle seats. Apparently, right after we flew, they decided that cleaning the plane after each flight was taking too long, so hmmmmm.)

Fast forward a week or so, and through the magic of the internet and some good old fashioned phone work we found Janette. She is our Realtor and newest best friend. I spoke to her on Saturday, explained what we were looking for (3 beds, 2 baths, backyard, dog friendly, within 45 minutes of Hannah) and she said the most comforting words I have heard during the search: “Leave this with me. I will find you a place, this is a game and I hate to lose.” Janette was as good as her word. She found places, looked at them, did video tours with us, spoke to the owners to make sure that they were OK with the dog. She is a whirlwind and lo and behold she found us a place.  A nice raised ranch. (This message is for Sue alone: no no no no….It is a not a split level! Let me mansplain this to you {he’s so funny, isn’t he?} [AGAIN]: A raised ranch has the living quarters and the sleeping quarters on the same level and a lower basement area. A split level has the sleeping quarters half a floor above the living quarters and a lower level sitting area — I feel better now) outside Annapolis. 

Whew — no longer going to be homeless, but the clock was ticking. We now started really working. I made a spreadsheet (YAY!) of all the things I figured we needed to do. We hired movers, started to cancel our utilities, cleaned out all the stuff that you never get around to clearing out when you live somewhere for 16 years (read: old paint, old toys, old scraps of wood, metal and ceramic from previous rehab projects and previous owners) and started packing. We dedicated two hours a day to packing and clearing the house. It is really quite surprising how fast it went. After a couple of weeks, pretty much everything that we do not use on a regular basis was packed. 

Happiness is a good spreadsheet

Probably the hardest part of this move is leaving all our friends. We both have been in Chicago for 15+ years and we have a pretty active social life. In “normal times” we would have a great big Labor Day weekend party (in part to help us eat up all the food in the house) with everyone invited. In a pandemic world, that just isn’t possible. We have been meeting with our friends one on one, which is, of course, much more difficult to arrange and much more time consuming. It seems like we are going out (outdoor dining only and with only one other couple) multiple times a week and we just hope we have not missed anyone.

One week and two days until moving day.

Wow…there stills seems like so much to do! But instead, I think I sit on the deck and watch the sun go down…

So Much for Our Plans…

st-george-5
Wish we were here

Wouldn’t you know it? Just when we thought we were all set with our travel plans, the world goes and gets a virus. Too flippant? Sorry. It has been a rough couple of weeks.  We last wrote about our trip to New York and Boston that ended on March 8. We were home just about a week and our governor, quite rightly, closed down businesses, schools etc. and we were sequestered to our home.

Thankfully, neither Sue nor I show signs of the Covid-19 virus, but we are both going a bit stir crazy from being inside (yesterday we walked 5 miles, just to be out in the fresh air). Our sense of humor is critical to our mental well being and in response to both working from home, we have developed an imaginary co-worker (Ragnar) who is a total pain in the ass. Every glass left on the countertop, every light left on, every door left open is Ragnar’s fault. I know, it isn’t much, but it keeps us laughing and not complaining about each other.

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or here

We should have been in Houston this week. If you do not recall, we were heading to Houston as the last of our one-week trips to someplace warm (or at least out of Chicago) over the ). Sue’s brother lives there and the grand plan was to show up for her niece’s birthday and catch an early season Mets game (so before they were officially eliminated from the postseason (damn Yankees fan)). The quarantine put an end to that trip.

Sue has a trip scheduled with another niece to Italy to celebrate her high school graduation. That trip is planned for the end of May, but, alas, we both expect that they will need to postpone that until who knows when.

img_20180530_161758074_hdr
Or even here…

Finally, our trip to Alaska in July is also looking uncertain. Even if we are granted parole from this quarantine, it seems unwise to board a ship with thousands of other people many of whom may or may not have been quarantined. Who knows if they could still be carriers, which makes it seem especially unwise as we were planning to travel with my mother, who is over 80.

So there we go, or there we don’t go. Whatever. We are shifting our thoughts from our travel plans to our attempts to recover the amounts we have already committed to these trips and sighing heavily for the trips not taken and the fun not had.

I hope this doesn’t come off as complaining. It is a bit, but we are grateful that we are all well and looking forward to the simple joys of seeing our friends, eating out, and being able to find toilet paper at the grocery store.

20180430_184448
or watching this sunset.

Can I Spit on Fenway Park?

I took Friday off (so I only worked in the morning) and we set off for a wander around Beantown.  My brother was kind enough to lend us his car, which at the time he did not realize he was doing. Short version of the story: I asked for the keys—he thought I wanted the house keys—we took the car. Luckily for us, he did not need the car and so no harm, no foul.

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Us, not inside the globe because you can’t take pictures of it.

Our first destination was the Mapparium, which is a three-story glass globe (that is approximately 7 Jason’s tall—sorry everyone who doesn’t get that—it is a family joke) that you can walk through. It is in the Mary Baker Eddy Library. For those of you who have not heard of her, she started the Christian Scientist sect of Christianity. The globe is just incredible and I would really encourage you to follow the hyperlink as you are not allowed to take photos inside the globe. The photo on the right is in front of a print of it that they have set up outside the actual globe room. I don’t know why you can’t take photos, I think they told us, but as usual, I was mentally drifting at that point. (The image is copyright protected.) Because the room is perfectly spherical (OK, Jake, not perfectly, but pretty close) and since glass does not absorb sound, the room has two really interesting sonic features.  First, when people stand at opposite ends of the walkway, they can hear each other perfectly even at very, very low whispers.  If you whisper very softly, the people at the ends can hear each other, but people in the middle of the walkway cannot hear them. This happens because the sound that travels around the edge of the glass globe does not fade while the sound traveling straight ahead through the air does.  The person at the opposite end of the walkway hears the sound that has traveled along the edges.  Very cool.

The second feature is when you stand directly in the middle of the walkway, under (and over) the poles (and along the equator), the sound bounces in such a way that when you speak you hear it in both ears as if you are listening to headphones. You can move your head slightly and cause minor delays in one or the other ear. It is hard to describe but still is very cool. The total time in the Mapparium was about 20 minutes, which is only about 5 minutes more than it took me to write about it. Suffice to say that it is very much worth a visit.

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9th largest organ in the world…Please make your own double entendre

As we left the Mapparium, the tour guide mentioned that next door in the church, there was the ninth largest pipe organ in the world. Of course, we were not going to miss that! So off we wandered in the Christian Scientist church. The very nice docent sent us upstairs into the auditorium where another very nice docent gave us a quick briefing on the organ. (13,000 pipes, made in Boston, played at services every week, monthly concerts on second or third Tuesday of the month, five organists on staff.)  Once again, very cool.  He also gave us a history of the building (based on a Turkish church, one full-dome, four half domes, built in 1904, inside was designed by a different architect because the one who designed the outside died, it originally seated 5,000 people and has no pillars).  All in it is an interesting building.  But it gets more interesting…It is called the Extension because it is an extension to the original Romanesque church that was built in 1894.

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Do you need six hands to play this?

The extension dwarfs the original building. Together they are called the mother church as they were the first church built for the religion/sect. We spent about an hour touring the buildings, the tour guide spent most of his time talking about the buildings, but, not unexpectedly gave us a full primer on the religion.  All in it was very worth the time.

We decided to wander over to Boston College (He is so annoying. He does that every time!) University where Sue went to college in the late 1850s (again, so funny). It was a fairly chilly and windy day, but as we do, we just set off (in the wrong direction) and made our way over to Commonwealth Ave. As we passed by all the buildings Sue kept saying either “that wasn’t here when I was here” or “that is so much nicer than when I was here” until we came to the College of Communications (COC?) from which she graduated and she said, “Nope. that looks just as shitty as when I was here.” Having spent so much time inside a church we both felt like we needed some balance to our lives and so we went to a bar called The Dugout, (not just any bar, but a college hangout of mine) which when googled, came up with the following review: “Great dive bar, true Boston legendary hangout!” Apparently one of her professors held class in there. (The floor is no longer sticky and the bathrooms are way nicer than when I went there.) We spent the next couple of hours trying out some Boston beers (mostly Harpoon) and talking to the very nice young bartender who is studying to become an elementary school teacher (so I guess he wants to lose his mind in his 20s).

Once we had our fill and felt rebalanced, we started the 30-minute hike back to the car, through gale-force winds no matter which way we were facing. Then a quick hop up the Mass Pike and we were back at my brother’s house.

Needless to say, Sue didn’t let me get close enough to Fenway to spit on it. ;-(

 

New York—My Kind of Town

It is Monday late afternoon—and if you are from the company I work for—it is after 5 p.m. I am sure. We arrived in New York on Saturday morning after another early morning flight. Every time we book a flight at 7 a.m., I think it will be fine. Just get up early one day and then we will have the whole day to spend in the city. But then the day of the flight comes and we have to get up at the crack ass of dawn and I curse Sue for letting me book an early morning flight. So what did we learn here? That is right—it is all Sue’s fault.

Anyway, we got to the Park South Hotel at about 10:30 a.m. and asked to drop our luggage. Much to our surprise, our room was ready so we checked right in. After a quick unpack and a deep breath, we set out on our way with no particular destination in mind. We wandered down 5th and around and about and stopped in for our first NYC food break—pizza! Afterward, we found our way to Madison Square Park and the National Museum of Mathematics. We were very disappointed to realize that it was a museum for kids. Bummer. We quickly checked the google and re-routed ourselves to the Whitney Museum. It was a bit of a hike, but 1.5 miles and a pretty chilly 45 minutes later we were in line. Steven forgot to mention my favorite thing: We got in free! A man with a corporate account had two extra tickets. Bonus for us.

The Whitney was great. In addition to their usual collection, they had an exhibition of Diego Rivera and others who were influenced by his murals. It was wonderful. We spent a couple of hours wandering through and then headed out. We walked north on the High Line all the way to 30th street and then straight across Manhattan.

We had dinner at an Indian place around the corner (don’t eat Indian food in NYC unless you like it bland. Every time I do it, I am disappointed. The food was good, but not at all spicy.) and ended the evening with a 9:30 show by George Coleman at the Jazz Standard club which is right behind the hotel. Mr. Coleman is a not-so-spry 84 years old. In fact, he needed to be walked onto stage by a helper and there were times that I thought he might fall off his chair. He has clearly lost some of his skills, but his band did their best to make up for his shortcomings. Decent show, but barely an hour and I was really hoping for more. Oh well.

Sunday was another chilly day, but us being us, we didn’t let it get in our way. Once again we laced up our boots and started our journey by grabbing a bagel and schmear at Bagel and Schmear which is next door to our hotel. Yum! Great bagels. We headed downtown to the Tenement Museum on Orchard Street. Very interesting. It is less of a museum and more of a guided tour of a tenement building that includes the history of the residents/businesses in the building. We enjoyed it, but it isn’t something I think I would do again.

20200301_141740We headed west on Delancy on one of our pie in the sky/it seems like good fun searches. I read on Atlas Obscura about a small piece of Manhattan called Hess’s Triangle that the city tried to buy and the owner fought tooth and nail for years not to give up. It is now a small triangle in the middle of the sidewalk on Christopher Street and is still privately owned. Bear in mind it was about 1.5 miles to get from the tenement museum to Christopher Street, solely to take a photo.

We headed back north towards the hotel and realized that we were a bit hungry and in need of a small sit down. We found a bakery just off Washington Square Park that had hamantashen. These were not your usual hamantashen, no poppy seeds and raspberry jelly to be found anywhere. We had six between us. Three halva, two apple and one chocolate. A perfect break. Once we finished, we headed back to the hotel and were back in time for Happy Hour.

For dinner, we headed to midtown to see my Uncle David & Aunt Marcella. We hopped the 6 train up to 59th and walked a couple of blocks to their apartment. We had dinner a very nice French restaurant called Match 65 a few blocks away. It was a great evening full of interesting conversation and great food.

Great start to our trip.  Tomorrow is a work day. ;-(

 

 

Working in the Sunshine

I woke up today to see snow on the ground; true, was only a light dusting, but I am reminded once again, that I live in Chicago in the winter (my feeling are summed up by this song). On the bright side, tomorrow will be mid-40s and more importantly, I have started the countdown to our first trip of the year.

Our trip to Costa Rica starts on February 1, so at this time I have 28 days to get through—really 27 because it is already evening here and we leave very early in the morning on the 1st.  I am counting the days. As Sue mentioned, she will be learning to Scuba dive, sitting on the beach, taking day trips who knows where and living the Pure Vida while  hitting the cerveza. (I am really hoping to have some work. Honest!)

I will be working.

I am in no way complaining. I will sitting (hopefully outside) at Karl’s place in shorts, a T-shirt and wearing sun screen—not bad for February. However, since I will be working, I am beginning to worry about being connected and all the things I will need to lug down there in order to be able to work.

my laptop
My new laptop

Let’s start with my laptop, of course. I will need power, micro and USB-C cables for various peripherals, and a long Cat-5 Ethernet cable in case the WiFi isn’t so good. I am also thinking I might bring along a WiFi repeater that I have stored in the junk box downstairs. We don’t use it at home, and if the WiFi isn’t so good, perhaps I will set it up somewhere to get a boost (so I can sit outside of course). In the next week or so, I will have a look at Playa Flamingo to see if there is a coffee shop that says it has WiFi, so that if the coverage isn’t good at Karl’s, I can head there and get connected. Then me being me, I will need backups for pretty much of everything—just in case.

Brick phone
Only the latest cell phone for me!

I will need a working mobile phone.  Like most people these days, I live on my phone. (He is worse than the Millennials and Gen Z.) My company does not have a phone system; we all work on our cell phones and have a soft number assigned for work.  I hope we have decent phone coverage there, but if we don’t it works fine on WiFi (see the discussion above about the WiFi extender).  I will contact my provider and arrange for an international call package. I get a half gig of high speed data per day on the plan for $10, so unless I need to use the phone as I hot spot, that won’t be an issue.

 

All in I am really excited for the trip. This post has taken me 30 minutes to write, which means I am 30 minutes closer to the warm sunny weather. In my head, I see this:

me working

But I do worry about it being this…

me not working

Maybe I need an extra backup plan….

I Figure We Can See All of Alaska in 10 Days….

denali picture

I know that I have not been writing very much recently.  I have been distracted by work and somewhat depressed by the thought of spending another winter in Chicago.

One part of my trip to Florida to surprise my mother that I did not mention was that during the time down there she announced that she wanted to take us (my brother, sister and myself) and our respective spouses on an Alaskan cruise this summer.

Princess-AKWe have spent the last few weeks trying to get agreement on which cruise would work for the seven of us. Imagine the hunger games for cruises…Shouting on phone calls, imaginary use of swear words, minor fistfights, a smallish stabbing and the usual hysteria–all of which was just between Sue and me ;-). (Hey, I thought that was private!) We decided on a seven-day northbound cruise on Princess lines out of Vancouver.

denali-mapOnce the cruise was decided, everyone expressed an interest in going to Denali National Park. We figure three days in a wilderness larger than the state of Massachusetts should give us just enough time to know that we have not spent enough time there.

We began by looking at three options.  First, go with the cruise line and stay in their lodge.  That got a hard no from Sue and me. Second, go to a private hotel/lodge/cabins most of which are along the outside edge of the park.  Third, do a  multi-day camping and hiking tour. (The tour company flies you in to a remote lake, drops you off and provides the camping equipment, food and a guide).

Sue and I were keen on the third option, and my brother, Phil, and his wife, Naomi, were in for that, too. My sister, Judie, her husband, Mario, and my mother are planning on staying at the Princess Lodge.

My cousin Robin has been to Alaska a number of times, so after doing some research on the camping companies, we gave her a call to see what she thought.  She gave us a forceful caution on the camping trip.  As she said, it could be perfect, but it could also be the trip from hell. Twenty-four hours of rain a day, everything gets wet, the hiking sucks because it is cold and wet. You can’t get warm for four days, etc.  She suggested that we look at one of the lodges that are within the park and, while they are expensive, they do always give you a warm dry bed to sleep in. We have not yet made a decision….but are leaning towards listening to the wisdom of someone who has done it before – I know, unusual for us.

Stay tuned campers for updates.

Happy Birthday

 

It is my mother’s 82nd birthday next week. Ever since she turned 80, we (my brother, sister and I) have been working extra hard to give her special birthdays. This year, we decided that it would be good fun for all of us to pay her a surprise visit in Florida, where she lives during the winter.

My brother lives in Dallas, my sister in Pennsylvania and I live in Chicago, so the first step was finding a weekend near her birthday that would work. We settled on the week before, as both of them were traveling for work the following weekend and my daughter is coming to Chicago the one after that. OK. Step one was completed⁠—we knew when we were going⁠—Thursday, Oct. 31 to Sunday, Nov. 3.

Move to step 2. Arrange travel. We all hopped on to our favorite travel sites and looked for flights that would all arrive around the same time. One quick round of confirmation texts and we all booked our tickets. My sister and brother were set to arrive at 2:00 and 2:30, my flight is scheduled for 3. My mother lives about 30 minutes from the airport, so all in we figured we get to her at about 4.

Move to step 3. Figure out how to ensure that my mother was at home when we arrived. Time to call in the co-conspirators. I called my Aunt Es and Uncle Albert who live about 20 minutes from my mother. After quickly letting them know that nothing was wrong (seems like anytime anyone calls these days, the first thought is what is wrong), I explained our plan. They were more than happy to help. To quote (or at lease paraphrase) my uncle: “Not to worry, we will tell her (my mother) that we are going to be up there and want to take her to dinner, then we will arrive, have a glass of wine and, you know, stall until you all arrive.”

The plans were set, all we needed to do was wait for the day. My brother and sister had uneventful flights and arrived right on time. However, Chicago weather is never your friend, and once again it did not disappoint. Snow. Yes, snow on Wednesday (just about an inch at the airport) and then then snow again on Halloween. My flight was delayed. Not too much, about 45 minutes, but then I had to check my carry on bag, which would have to be collected at baggage claim, not on the jet bridge. Oh dear, now we are arriving around 5.

My brother and sister texted my aunt and uncle to let them know. Luckily for us, they have concocted a story for my mother that involved waiting for my cousin to arrive. They quite admirably stretched out the stall for another hour while we got my luggage, piled into an Uber and headed to my mother’s condo.

20191102_112119We are planners. My brother, sister and I all thought through the approach as my mother’s living room faces the building entrance way.  We asked our Uber driver to drop us off at the next building and we circled around to entrance at that back of the building.

We snuck up to the door.

Knocked.

My mother yelled come in.

We yelled, “Trick or Treat,” and walked in.

To say she looked confused would be an understatement. We burst into a very very very very off key (and for me out of time) rendition of Happy Birthday.

My mother clutched her chest (a heart attack looked possible!!!!), tears streaming down her cheeks and great big smile on her face. Isn’t my husband the sweetest?!?!?!

ma

After a few minutes of hugs and kisses, everything settled down. We knew my mother was fine when she looked at my aunt and uncle and promptly declared. “You knew this! I will never speak to you again. Now let’s figure out where to have dinner.”

We are spending the weekend doing what we do best together.  Sitting around, eating, talking about our respective families and basking in the glow of a really great surprise.

…and in case you were concerned.  Aunt Es and Uncle Albert were forgiven by the time we got to the Thai restaurant for dinner.

Back to Planning

spreadsheet.pngWhen we talked last time, which was some time ago (oops!), about our desire to go to Southeast Asia. Steven and I talked in circles for a month or so because of all the other upheaval in our lives (trying to sell a house, deciding where to move, trying to develop a freelance writing career) but then we decided to plan in earnest and worry about finances, time, physical fitness⁠—you know, the little stuff⁠—later.

Instead of getting into trip details, I’m going to focus on the how we plan. We’ve only just started this time, but here’s our process:

  1. Get bug about a certain far-flung location. This time Vietnam for the caves and Cambodia for the oldest known zero.
  2. Tell ourselves it’s completely unrealistic.
  3. Admit to each other that we’re still thinking about it even though it’s completely unrealistic.
  4. Decide that maybe it’s not completely unrealistic.
  5. Do some Internet/print (what? a book???) research.
  6. Use up many sticky notes listing places within the country/region we want to visit.
  7. Steven makes a spreadsheet. (I know it’s weird, but this gives him joy.){Happiness is a good spreadsheet – and if I am lucky – a bit of a macro too!}
  8. Realize that this trip will take two months {a minimum of 2 months}  and start scaling back.
  9. Make some hard choices {I hate making hard choices!}.
  10. Mourn the places we won’t be able to see and convince ourselves we will go back.
  11. Figure out how much this will all cost by checking into flights and other transportation, hotels, food, attractions {Wow! that much!}.
  12. Start booking! or not, if we magically become grounded in reality.

We are about to hit Stage 10. Notice that we already have our hearts set on this trip, which is now Cambodia and Vietnam if we do the cave tour, and Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos if we don’t. We’re figuring about three weeks plus a few days. That’s a chunk of time not to be working, especially if you’re trying to build a freelance business. On the other hand, we aint getting any younger or richer, so if not now, when?

Cars, Cars, Cars

Today’s post is a homage to my nephew Michael and his severely damaged Subaru—Charles.  Michael, this too shall pass, and I hope Charles gets a new engine and is back on the road soon.

I love to drive. The joy of the open road, especially in a convertible is one of my favorite ford fusionfeelings. My trusty Saab is a 2006, so it lacks many of the toys that newer cars have. So when we travel and rent cars, I really enjoy the modern conveniences. I was in Boston last week for work (I know, way too much business travel) and I rented a Ford Fusion. It was a hybrid with a video screen showing all sorts of interesting stuff (mostly the music I was playing and the navigation). But what I found most interesting was the gear selector. It was a round knob on the console. For some reason, I found that every time I shifted out of reverse, I would accidentally put it inpPark.  No idea why, it just seemed that was the natural movement for my hand.  Anyway, that got me thinking about the various types of gear shifters I have used over the years.

vw1I learned to drive on an old Volkswagen Beetle that had what they called a semi-automatic transmission. It had one of the old style, long-handled, 3-speed stick shifts, but without the clutch. The driver still had to shift the gears, but did not have to deal with the pesky clutch. Good training wheels for when I bought the Duster.

 

duster1My first car was a 1970 Plymouth Duster. (Boy, I bet that car was a chick magnet.)  I loved that car in part because it was a manual transmission with a three-on-the-tree shifter. I bought it without knowing how to drive a manual transmission. My friend Michael gave me a 30-second lesson, drove the car to my house, and parked it outside.  I spent the next week or so practicing using the clutch and learning how to drive a manual. I was so proud of myself the first time I took it out for a real drive. There was a hill near my house that had a stop light at the top and I would always try to go on that street so that I could practice the rolling start. Scary, but good fun.

Knowing how to drive a manual transmission came in handy when I moved to the U.K. The interesting thing about that is while the steering wheel is on the other (wrong?) side of the car, you still use your left foot to operate the clutch.  The gear pattern is the same as a left-hand drive car, but you use your left hand to manipulate the stick.  I cannot tell you how any times I would put the clutch in, and bang my right arm into the door, forgetting that the gear stick was on the left side. Not the most comforting thing for my passengers, I am sure.

olds 88I have also driven any number of automatic transmission cars with all their various shifting mechanisms. The column shifters (I especially remember the one on my Dad’s Delta 88 which could comfortably sleep the entire population of Boston), the console shifters of various cars (my Saab included) and of course the modern paddle shifters which mimic the semi-automatic from the Volkswagen.

Things come full circle.

One thing that I forgot about driving on the East Coast (especially in New England) is that no road is straight. In the Midwest, there are only three types of streets.  North/South, East/West and a few diagonals, just to keep you on your toes.  The streets in Boston seem to have been designed by a committee of drunken, blind, stock market analysts who believe that the random walk theory of the markets should be extended to the streets.  Straight, at least for roads, seems to be a curse word.

Another funny thing about Boston is that streets are often named for where they take you. For instance, Newton Street in Brookline, takes you to Newton, where it, of course, turns into Brookline Street, so you know how to get to Brookline from Newton.  I remember this same “logic” when I lived in the U.K., but I thought the U.S. had successfully avoided that foolishness.

At some point, I will try to convince Sue to go on a road trip where we rent a super car,  for a week and drive really fast, just for the fun of it. Perhaps something like this. I am thinking that, you my dear readers, should fund this as part of the the Doing It on The Road research plan  😉 (I will definitely get on this bandwagon if I don’t have to pay for it.)

Sorry.  None of the images are our cars, just examples of what we had.

 

 

 

Port Townsend Wrap-up

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The view along the cleverly named Water Street

I am home and it is 90 degrees. We were slightly delayed on the way in because of thunderstorms in Chicago, but the pilot did a great job despite the wind. What a climate shock I had when we landed since our last day in Port Townsend was about 60 degrees and misty, rainy, or what Mahru calls frizzle–foggy drizzle. Yuck. We were so lucky because we didn’t experience that at all before that. We did get a taste of high winds  (sense a weather pattern?) on the marina our last night. Sleeping up in the penthouse, I felt like the little piggy in the straw house when the big, bad wolf came by. I really thought the tent walls were going to cave in or I would fall asleep and wake up in Oz. Fortunately, neither happened. I fell asleep and woke up to calm.

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Circling O’Hare

Sunday night after dinner, we went out for a cocktail, mostly to hang with Bernie’s good friend and housemate, Pinky. We went to a bar with a speakeasy vibe called the In Between, which had really funny cocktail descriptions. Mine, the Wishbone, read: “It’s like a martini & a margarita had a baby and that baby grew up and dropped out of law school.” Tequila, bergamot liqueur. I spent the last day wandering Port Townsend, which didn’t take very long. I did find Steven the perfect souvenir, though: Sasquatch socks!

When I was done exploring, I met up with Mahru and Bijan again. We went to have an afternoon beer at the Old Whiskey Mill, mostly because they have an outdoor patio for Bijan. We didn’t eat there, so I have no comment on the food, but the fish and chips looked good. I feel that there’s a beer theme here, but we really did not do a ton of drinking. In fact, we had one pilsner each and Mahru wanted another. I said I would share some with her. She tried to order one more, but we ended up with two. Ah well. It was vacation so we sat longer and finished another one each (Now that is a crisis!). Here’s what happens when I have two beers:

My curiosity got the better of me (again) and I ended up wandering through the Palace Hotel because there was a sign on the door which said something like “Feel free to wander in and look at our historic rooms.” I left Mahru and the dog outside. I was peeking into all the open rooms and didn’t feel odd about it. There was a group of four people doing the same and they confirmed that the person at the desk had said it was fine. Then I said, “So, people can stay here?” For some reason, I had thought it was just a historical site, like Teddy Roosevelt’s childhood home or something. Perhaps it was the velvet rope at the entrance to one of the roo

A sitting area at the Palace

ms that gave me that impression. They said, “Oh, yes, we are staying here. This is his room.” And they proceeded to enter a very large room complete with kitchen and sitting area (not that I stared too long). OK, but I was allowed to look so I kept going. The rooms are beautifully Victorian with a retrofitted for modern coffee-drinking look. Up to the third floor I went peeking along the way. I poked my head into one room and found, to my chagrin, a couple! They had left their door open as they unpacked. Oops! I apologized, explained that I was one beer over my limit, and ran down a different flight of stairs than the one I had gone up. Mahru and Bijan were two doors down and a little puzzled at my appearance, especially when I busted out laughing. I don’t think there’s a moral to this story, except curiosity can lead to fun stories.

We had pho for dinner and I was excited to find that there was vegetarian pho for me! img_20190701_193537120-1.jpgThe Vietnamese restaurant, PhoFilling, delivers to the Pourhouse (sense a punny pattern here?) bar across the street, so off we went.We almost got blown over getting there, but it was fun hoisting a last beer with Bernie. Life on the road is better when you like the friends of the friend you are traveling with.

Reality hit on our final drive: Two-lane highways that became three-lane highways with lots of traffic. First time  since we left the Bay Area. I flew out of SeaTac, which turns out not to be my favorite. It’s one huge, confusing terminal and the signs for the TSA precheck are not obvious. Come to think of it, neither are the signs for security at all. Once through, the main areas are loud and crowded. I must be getting old, because the buskers (ok, is it me or is there something odd about the buskers being able to get past security?  – Shouldn’t buskers be people who just set up and play music in the subway?) just contributed to the noise bouncing off every surface. Once I headed into the concourse for my gate, it settled down a little. By the way, there is coffee that is not Starbucks there. I thought it would have a monopoly in Seattle, but I was pleasantly surprised.