Have spreadsheet, will travel

Ah…the joy of Excel

In the world before the pandemic, Sue had booked a trip to Italy with her niece as a high school graduation gift. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 virus caused her to cancel the trip and her niece is not available for a trip this summer. We have about $3,000 of flight credits that we need to use up this year, so we decided to go out on a limb and book a trip for the summer. As you all remember, before we go anywhere, I start a spreadsheet and while I am a little out of practice, here is my first stab at a preliminary itinerary for our trip to France.

On an accounting geek side note: Since we are using flight credits to pay for the tickets, I am currently meditating on how to list the price for the flights. One one hand, if we are looking at this sheet as a measure of the cost of the trip, then I should include the price of the flights. On the other hand, if we are looking at this as a list of the amount of cash we will be spending for the trip and since the flight credits are use it or lose it, then perhaps I should exclude the cost of the flights. Just a quick meditation on the accounting for the trip. Feel free to weigh in if you choose.

Preliminary trip plan

I think we previously mentioned that Sue has a friend who lives in Paris. Last year she and her wife moved out of the city to Burgundy. We decided (somewhat uninvited?) to go and visit them. In outline, we plan to fly into Geneva, visit Burgundy, drive down through Provence, along the Cote d’Azur and up into the French national parks to do some hiking in the Alps and then back to Geneva. Our thought is that if we are both vaccinated we can safely travel, but perhaps this isn’t the time to go romping around the cities and visiting crowded museums and windy little streets. So instead, we will plan to spend much of our time seeing Sue’s friend, driving around the countryside (perhaps visiting a winery or ten?), and hiking in the Alps.

Right now we are doing our usual planning process which consists of us reading anything we can about places that may look interesting and writing notes down (usually on little slips of paper or Post-It notes). At some point we will collate them and figure out which ones make the cut. We usually end up with about three times the number of things that we can possibly manage in the time that we have, so hand-to-hand combat between Sue and myself ends up being the deciding factor. Yes, Sue always wins, but that is because she fights like she is from Queens and I fight like a gentleman. I created a very preliminary list of National Parks that look interesting and a few other places I have heard about/see somewhere etc. Sue has begun to read about places and we will, at some point soon start to make a plan. If anyone has suggestions, please feel free to let us know.

Who knows, by the time we finish the plan, for all we know we will spend three weeks in Italy instead. 😉

I Love My Dog, But…

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Here’s the ball; what are you waiting for????

Who doesn’t love their dog? Rosie has been part of the family for 9 of her 10 years. She’s a little (little is not a word we should be using with Rosie – in any context) crazy in a German shepherd way, but she’s loyal and she gets me out of the house even when it is -5 degrees outside. The biggest problems with dear, sweet Rosie is that she doesn’t get along with other dogs and has never spent a night anywhere but our house since we got her. This makes travel, which I finally am more free to do, difficult. I can’t leave her in a kennel or with a dog-sitter who has other dogs.

I am happy to say that my son has a life and although he can help me out some of the time, he can’t do it every time I think I want to take a break. A few weeks ago, I couldn’t take the weather or the few-block radius that I live in when I hunker down. I had the brilliant idea of a weekend staycation. I looked for hotels and events and then … I remembered we have a dog! That was the end of the staycation.

img_20190303_195449859-1I have even toyed with the idea of finding a cabin that accepts pets, but Rosie is a 75-pound, barking pet with a nervous stomach, so I am reluctant to try it in case it’s a disaster. Besides, it reminds me of when I would travel with my son when he was little and I would spend many hours trapped in the hotel room for naps and bedtime. I would either have to take Rosie everywhere or leave her in her crate, where she only spends time if we’re having a party and there’s likely to be easily stolen food. Rosie needs a fenced-in yard because she’s outside, she’s inside, she’s outside, she’s inside (and that was just in the last 10 minutes). I can’t imagine her trapped in a small space without a door to whine out for outside access.

Plus, as you can see from the photo above, Rosie is used to making herself comfortable (on Steven’s side of the bed). I know I am a sucker, but I don’t think she’s suddenly going to turn into one of those dogs on an SUV commercial who hops out of the car ready to hike a mountain off her leash. Rosie would love the hike, but bark furiously at everything around her and try to chase every animal from a squirrel to a mountain lion if she encountered one. She’s 10 now, so she might not get very far, but she certainly would not stick valiantly to my side, trot a few paces and wait for me to catch up.

Pets are fabulous and I can’t imagine life without one, but she’s definitely put a crimp in my wanderlust.

LA LA Time

I spent a long weekend in LA, visiting my most favorite of daughters, Abi.  To be clear, she is my only daughter, so there isn’t much competition, but still, I want her to know that she is my favorite of the female children. 😉

I arrived Friday around lunch time and Abi & I quickly established the rules for the weekend.  Our primary tasks were…think about eating, plan to eat, eat, discuss what we ate and then start again. We managed to cover most of the important food groups – deli in Beverly Hills, Mexican at a place that had only outdoor seating (not a real option in Chicago), Thai at a place where the food came out in what I would charitably call random order (some main courses, then appetizers, then rice, then the rest of the main courses),  a posy breakfast place where the food was great, but I needed my secret decoder ring in order to understand what I ordered, popcorn at the movies rather than dinner …and of course In-N-Out Burger.

We did some other non-eating stuff.

The weather was “unusual” for Southern California–50s and cloudy and some rain. I had to wear long pants and a COAT! Well, really a light windbreaker, but it was far from what I was hoping for (80s and sunny). Oh well.

20190216_132728We went to Topanga Canyon and hiked up to Eagle Rock. It is a pretty easy hike, wide and smooth “trail.” It was a bit crowded, but not too bad. If you look at the photos in the hyperlink, you will notice that there is lot of brown. Due to all the rain, the trail was beautifully green. Abi was amazed and stopped multiple times to explain that she was unused to seeing that color. For those of you from So. Cal, the white things in the photo covering up some of the blue sky are called clouds.

On Saturday night, we went to the Improv in Hollywood to see a bunch of comedians.  The headliner was Brent Weinbach, who was hilarious.  We were seated in the front row so we expected that someone would make fun of us, but no such luck. Abi had to read a couple of things for Brent, but that was about it. It was a great night.

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Does anything say “I miss you” like Hot Cheetos socks?

On Sunday we went to a flea market right in West Hollywood.  Only in California would a flea market have mandatory valet parking.  Nothing too exciting, but I did manage to find three pairs of socks for Sue.  One each of In-N-Out Burger (great for her vegetarian status–I know, I am hoping I don’t get defrocked), Hot Cheetos and Tabasco.

We also went to LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art), which I have so say was a bit disappointing. There was a long wait to get tickets, then the Japanese building was closed. There were two interesting exhibitions. One on the 100th year of the Bauhaus school, including about half a dozen Kandinsky’s that I really liked. The second was the Art of Sri Lanka, once again, very interesting, but both were relatively small.  They did do a very nice job of explaining the exhibits, which I really appreciated.

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Now this is my kind of place….

Life’s Travel Sonnet #1

Image result for sky

Anticipating, planning, and dreaming

Traveling expands past where you’re going

The unknown rushing toward you, gleaming

I’m not really here, that mindset flowing

Constantly through my soul like white water

Propelling me down the river of life

Thinking always of places much hotter

Where sunshine cuts my mind’s haze like a knife

Or mountains where air thins, breath uneasy

The worldview looms vast and unimpeded

Sometimes I think this just sounds so cheesy

But my wanderlust has to be heeded

I cannot wait for the next location

Life: a journey with no destination

—-You want me to do the syllable count?

-I hope that I can use all my fingers

—Are you sure that ten is the right amount?

—if not ten, this task may really linger

Why I Go Anywhere

As I sit here with my winter break waning, I turn my thoughts to hiking in Costa Rica. I can’t complain about the weather here (it was above 50 degrees today!) but it won’t last and I need to have an out in my head for when it temperature drops like a stone.

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Manual Antonio National Park: The peace of the unknown

 

I’m going to leave the musings on whitewater rafting to Steven. I don’t imagine we will be doing 10-mile hikes in Costa Rica since the trails near us are short. Manual Antonio National Park is a mere three square miles. I am totally cool with that since that means I can really take my time and drink in my environment. I haven’t spent any time in tropical climes, so I am looking forward to being immersed in a world foreign to me.

Being surrounded by newness feels spiritual for me. When I’m amid a crowd of people who aren’t speaking English,  my senses bombarded by unfamiliar smells, sounds, sights, and even the air touches my skin differently, I feel at once in the moment and completely out of myself. That feeling more than anything else is the reason I travel.

 

 

Going Solo

….around the world in a rowboat.  Ok, maybe not that far, but I am taking a solo weekend trip (I am so sad –as far as Steven knows) to Pittsburgh in a couple of weeks.  It is part of the baseball stadium tour that I am doing with my son and we’re meeting there for a Cubs v. Pirates game.

My plan is drive out there (about 7 1/2 hour drive) on Saturday morning; catch the game Saturday night, then turn around and drive home on Sunday.   I usually like to be in the city around lunch time, so it might be a very early departure.  The Saab needs a little bit of care before I go.  An oil change (we have done 6,500 miles or so since the last one in June) and I think the wheels need to be aligned as I feel a slight tug on them when traveling on the highways (of course never more than the speed limit–note the part about the New Mexico State Trooper).  I will probably take care of those this week.

I haven’t picked up tickets yet, but I will do that this week.  I want to avoid sitting near the visitors dugout because Cubs fans travel so well.  We made that mistake when we went to Miami earlier this year and saw the Cubs play the Marlins.  Everyone around us was from Chicago,  I will look for seats on the Pirates side of the stadium this time.  I am hoping we will see Jon Lester and Chris Archer pitch; we haven’t been to a real pitcher’s duel in a while.

Usually our plan is to find a nice place for lunch, get to the game early to see batting practice and the pre-game presentations and then hang out for the game.  Since we are both driving, I expect we will have a nice breakfast Sunday morning then hit the road.  If anyone has suggestions for lunch and breakfast places near the stadium, please let me know.

More Oddities from Our Trip Out West

home-of-the-ho-made-pieAmerica is the land of mass marketing.  We are all used to the plethora of junk emails, the fact that the only thing we get in the mail are bills and marketing materials, the huge billboards on the side of the highways and cutesy, if somewhat odd, (deranged?), names that businesses use.  I sometimes wonder what possesses places to do this to themselves.  While in Utah we saw Ye Ol’ Geezer Meat Shop which does not seem to run by the Geezer family…so someone there decided that was a good name for an upscale butchers….OK, I guess.  However, out there in the wilds we saw a few places which have names that, well, just shouldn’t be used. There is a chain of convenience stores called Kum & Go,  roadside  restaurants entitled the Kum on Inn, Eddie McStiffs and last but certainly not least the Uranus Fudge Factory in Uranus Missouri.  I also need to mention the Thunderbird restaurant in Mt. Carmel Utah, which advertises Ho-Made pies.

A couple of other things that struck me as funny while we out there:  There are outlet malls all over the place.  It felt like we saw one everywhere we stopped.  There seem to be two versions  of them.  The standard outlet mall that have Gap, Columbia, North Face, Nike, Addidas, Ann Taylor etc.  The nearest one to us is at Pleasant Prairie in Wisconsin.  The second type is the more upscale Fashion outlets which has stores like Coach & Barneys.  Both types are all over the place.  It is no wonder the malls are dying between the internet and outlet malls sprinkled everywhere like fairy dust.

Finally, and I don’t know why this is so funny to me, but Tucumcari New Mexico has Mac&Cheese festival.  Unfortunately we missed it.  😦

 

The MLB All-Star Game

Screenshot_20180717-155746_The Weather Channel
Just a little bit of rain

My son and I left early to get to the game.  It started at 8 p.m., but we wanted to be there when the gates opened at 4:30–p.m., of course.  We drove to the Greenbelt Metro stop and took the train from there to the stadium.  Given the uncertainties of the drive and the train schedules, we ended up at the stadium stop at about 4.  Up the escalator and into the station lobby we went, only to find it pouring outside.   Not drizzling, not raining, but absolutely pouring.   We cooled our heels in the station, along with about 500 of our closest baseball friends–yes, I do include those from Boston in that group, but for them, the term friend is used loosely.

About 15 minutes later the rain mostly subsided and we wandered to the stadium.  We figured about a 10 minute walk then get to the gates for a five minute wait in the drizzle.  Turns out the stadium is one block away from the station, so we got on line and waited for the gates to open.

Once in the stadium, we walked around a bit, bought the requisite souvenirs (hat pins and All-Star jerseys), had a quick bite to eat and settled in our seats.  Front row, second deck about 3/4 of the way down the line.  Nice seats.

The pre-game festivities were great.  Lots of fun stuff going on which we soaked up during our wanders and from our seats.  There was a really nice tribute to 25 Medals of Honor winners before the national anthems (they sang both the U.S. and the Canadian).  The thing I liked best was that the players all went to shake hands and talk to the honorees after the anthems.  True heroes and ball players together.  Great ceremony.

The game was a little flat early.  There were three solo home runs and a few base Attach19038_20180717_174403runners up to the middle of the 7th.  The AL was up 2-1 when all hell broke lose.  The NL tied it in the bottom of the 7th, with another solo homer.  The AL put up 3 in the top of the eighth off two singles, then a 3 run home run.  The NL clawed back one on another solo in the bottom of the 8th.  AL did nothing in the top of the 9th.  The NL tied it in the bottom of the 9th with a 2 run homer!  FREE ALL-STAR BASEBALL!  The 10th started badly for the NL when two Astros hit back to back homers.  The AL tacked on one more off a couple of singles and a deep sacrifice fly.  The NL grabbed back one in the bottom of the 10th on yet another solo home run, but could not come up with anything else.  Final score 8-6 to the AL.

We ran back to the Metro station as the last train was set to leave about 20 minutes after the game ended.  We walked down the stairs just as a train pulled in.  Forty minutes or so later we were back at Greenbelt and then a quickish 30 minute drive back to my son’s house.  In the door just about 1:30am.   Good thing all I had to do on Wednesday was an 11 hour drive home 😉

 

Who needs to plan ahead?

I know, this posting is two days late.  I am sorry, I’ve been otherwise occupied and simply haven’t had the time to get this one done.

When we last left off our  intrepid travelers, they had just returned home from a two-week, all-fun vacation to the outer reaches of Utah.  Exhausted and elated, they set down their bags (and hiking gear) and thought “home sweet home.”  However, lurking in the back of Steven’s sun and heat soaked brain was the realization that he promised to go to the MLB All-Star Game with his son, who lives in Baltimore.  Turns out that the game is July 17th in Washington D.C.

Since this trip was Steven’s to plan alone….nothing got organized.  We checked on the flight and decided that $900 for two people was just too much to spend (Per Sue:  We could go to Paris for that price!! I know right! Paris or Baltimore…hmmmm.).  You know what that means–ROAD TRIP!!!

It is a pretty short drive, only  11 hours and 713 miles door-to-door.  We leave tomorrow (Saturday morning) real early (6 a.m.) and should be there around 6 p.m. Saturday night.  Sunday we may (likely?) go to the futures game.  Monday we will relax and then Tuesday night is the big game.  Wednesday morning it is back on the road home.  Whew.  Good thing we like being in the car!

Moral of the story….If you want to fly, don’t leave Steven to organize the trip.

A whole raft of thoughts

While Sue is heads-down planning her trip to London, I have turned my eye to the whitewater rafting portion of our trip to the Southwest.

Who knew that doing an overnight whitewater rafting trip would require a 13-page preparatory document?  I’ve seen articles in Scientific American less detailed than this.  The only thing that seems to be missing is a schedule:

Wake at 07:30

Brush teeth 07:32 (3 minutes)

Wash face 07:35 (2 minutes – 30 second to dry face)

etc…

Anyway, me being me, I read the entire thing. (Steven is very bored at work these days.)  The section on what to bring was fascinating…

Not surprisingly, they recommend a safety strap for your sunglasses, quick drying shirts & pants, sunscreen & a hat (with a string or hat clip).  One thing on the list caught my eye….”Gloves for protection while gripping holds on the boat”…hmm…I hadn’t thought that one through…I guess I will need to hold onto the boat.  Now, they do have a recommended outfitter, so I could get them there…but what fun would that be?   Off to the Googles I go!

7052_2_grandeAfter a bit of poking around, I found that there is an entire class of gloves made for sailing which have padded palms, are quick drying, and come in full-or half-finger.  As you would expect from the interwebs, there isn’t a single source of truth nor agreement on the best gloves. However, I seem to have found the Gill Deckhand gloves on a few lists and so that is what we are going with.  Full-finger gloves (which by the way don’t have a full finger on the index finger so you can play with your cellphone while trundling down the river) because I figure we can always cut them down to half finger if they are too warm, but can’t make the half finger ones longer if they are too cold. (This man is so smart.)  Here is a link to Sailingworld.com’s review of them.

Into the Amazon basket they go…along with waterproof covers for our cellphones, safety straps for our sunglasses, a small flashlight (I know I have one….but where the hell did I put it???).

One more item caught my eye…”Major credit card and photo ID in case of evacuation”…well that’s a bit worrying isn’t it?

Finally, a few other words of whitewater rafting wisdom:

“Weather is always present on a river trip.”

“A smile is a curve that sets a lot of things straight.”

Should be good fun.