Home Again January 4, 2020

Happy New Year! Happy 2020! Week 300 last week was an amazing coincidence of Loren’s and my bringing our Journey to an end on this blog, though we were still traveling at the beginning of this week. I will share more of our week below, but, first, here is a brief summary of the first couple of months of our nearly six years of travel:

We began our Journey Toward Wholeness in April, 2014. We spent a week in Las Vegas, then split up for me to attend Bikram Yoga Teacher Training for nine weeks in Los Angeles, while Loren spent two weeks backpacking in southern California, then split the next seven weeks between visiting his Mom in the east San Francisco bay area, and our friends in the south bay. The only time we saw each other in person was when we met up in New York for my father’s funeral in early May. Then Loren joined me in LA for my graduation in June.

Loren and I returned to the bay area for a couple of weeks, then started off again in our van, that Loren converted to house a bed. We stopped in Petaluma, on our way to Clear Lake, California. It turned out that I taught yoga for two months in Lower Lake, and, our friends there insisted that we must end our trip in Clear Lake…

Loren and I were still in Castro Valley finishing up petsitting for Loren’s sister at the beginning of this week. She returned home from Seattle and we had a nice dinner together before Loren and I left the next morning. But, before I say more about this week, I must mention a couple of major occurrences two weeks ago — these have confirmed for me that Loren and I made the right choice to return home at this time, even though our travel wish list is not complete:

The first incredible experience was when we had dinner with dear friends. I had told Loren that I would need to buy a car, as we had sold mine before we left home. Car shopping is not high on my list of fun activities, and I had no idea what make or model to pursue. Over drinks with these friends, we learned that she has bought an electric car. And we heard her saga about trying to sell her old car. Her partner connected our needs, and during the conversation he talked her through a most reasonable price. We were all delighted with the transaction. He even helped make sure all was in working order when I picked up my “new” car on December 26th. 

The other invaluable occurrence was when another dear couple offered to help us move into our home that had been rented out. We had given 60 days notice to our tenant who then responded with 30 days notice. That provided us earlier access to our home than originally planned. We accepted our friends’ generous offer, and we four spent most of the afternoon of December 27th moving the heaviest furniture and larger rugs into our house.

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Alas, I wish I had taken more photos of these two events…

Loren and I left Loren’s sister’s home on December 29th and enjoyed a wonderful holiday brunch with cousins in Calistoga. It was a lovely catchup visit together. 


After Loren and I arrived at Clear Lake, where it was quite foggy, there was a Forty-Niners football game that evening that Loren had especially wanted to see. We found a local bar, where, after the Niners won, the manager offered everyone a complementary shot. We accepted!

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Our AirBnB included the first day’s breakfast and we had a lovely conversation with our hosts. That evening we had dinner with our friends who had planted the seed for us to finish up our Journey at Clear Lake, and we toasted being “home.” Our AirBnB hosts had kayaks for us to borrow, and our second day at Clear Lake dawned a perfect one to enjoy them. We paddled around Soda Bay, and thereby learned the reason for its name. We also saw muskrats, herons, ducks, mud hens, anhingas… all delightful to see. That afternoon, our host’s daughter invited us to spend the New Year’s evening with her and her friends along with her parents, and we had a wonderful time ringing in 2020.

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The next day was cooler but still good enough weather for a hike up Mt Konocti. And I mean up, straight up. I bailed out before we’d gone a half mile, but Loren continued on to summit Wright’s Peak at the top. 

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Before we left Clear Lake, we had one last lunch date with our friends there. Then we returned home on January 3. Thanks to the help of our friends, we had had a good start on setting up our house. All we had left to do for that first evening was to put sheets on our bed. Even after a full week, we are nowhere near done unpacking, and Loren and I are happy to take our time to fix things up, even better than before!  

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We have felt so welcomed home by our wonderful neighbors. There are about six houses in direct proximity to ours where the loveliest people live, and one of them gifted us with a beautiful tulip to commemorate our return home. Here you can see Loren is hard at work, pruning one of the trees in our front yard.

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I have already signed up for a 60 day challenge at my home Bikram Yoga studio. Our timing to return home could not have been better. The studio was relocating within the same shopping complex, and I was able to take the last class in its older space. Loren joined me to celebrate it’s closing with a potluck that evening. This was all reminiscent of the other time that my studio moved within the complex before Loren and I had left home, so it felt absolutely right to be there. The next morning I took the first class in the new studio at 6am. It has been wonderful to reconnect with many friends and familiar faces in this compassionate and empowering environment.

We also attended our Unitarian Universalist congregation last Sunday where we felt welcomed home as well. We had memorable lunch dates this week with a couple of fellow members, both who are also world travelers. In a fitting coincidence, the placemats at one of them’s home had the image of a Moose, which is a recurrent image and an elusive icon of the search for meaning and wholeness of Loren’s and my Journey. 


In looking through this friend’s photo album from Africa, I came across this prayer. It seems fitting to share for this week’s post, in summation of our Journey.


Week 300 December 28, 2019

This post is more than a little late, I apologize. Loren and I have been busy with the holidays, and more. We hope you’ve had a magical Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Eve, and holiday season, so far. I hope to have our annual letter out tomorrow by email… First, though, I must acknowledge that this was the 300th Week since we left our home in San Jose to travel the world on April 5, 2014!


We have big news about that, please check back here next week to see what it is?

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This week Loren and I pet-sat for Loren’s sister while she enjoyed her Christmas visiting a friend in Washington state. Sadly, I have been negligent about taking photos of friends we saw this week… and I regret that. One photo I did snap was of a picture from when Loren and I were dating that Loren’s sister had in an album. After ensuring Loren’s sister made it on time to the airport, we enjoyed a catchup dinner with special friends who we had met at the AirBnB where we stayed for the year when we helped care for Loren’s Mom. It was so nice to see them again. Then we learned by text that instead of leaving as scheduled, Loren’s sister’s flight was delayed for several hours. In the wee hours, we were grateful to hear from her that she had arrived safely in Seattle. 


Loren and I also enjoyed another delightful dinner with dear friends at their home. We had another fun lunch with other friends at their favorite Chinese restaurant. One other day Loren and I drove to San Jose and spent a full day doing much needed heavy yard work at our house. And, in between I taught several Bikram Yoga classes at the studio near Loren’s sister’s house.


On Christmas Eve, we had the pleasure to have Loren’s Godson over for lunch, and he shared his slideshows with us from his month-long trip to Madagascar in October. We were enthralled with all of his amazing photos of the gecko, chameleon and 14 of the island’s 120 species of lemur. 

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That evening we attended the first part of an open house at other friends’ home. Later, we had another delicious meal with special friends, at Loren’s Godson’s parents’ home. 

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On Christmas day Loren and I had a good FaceTime visit with my brother and his family who live in New York. Then, we had a wonderful afternoon and evening with dear neighbors. We caught up over hors d’oeuvres, enjoyed a fabulous dinner together,

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and watched Polar Express over dessert. What most stood out for me this time from the movie is the meaningful quote: 

     There’s no greater gift than friendship.

Amen. I must say at this time of year it is all the dear friends and special family members who are the greatest gifts in Loren’s and my lives. Thank you for being part of our lives!

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The day after Christmas, Loren and I enjoyed a memorable breakfast gathering with many of the parents, and, now, men, who we spent many fun times hiking and backpacking with over the years when they were mere teen-aged boy scouts.

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The next evening, we had a wonderful walk after a dinner out in San Jose with dear friends, seeing the amazing lights display in our home neighborhood.


That evening we again walked by the several neighbors who string Rudolph and other reindeer all the way through to Santa’s sleigh across their lawns. But this year for the first time the sleigh yard added an aspect of how the sleigh is powered “electrically,” ha ha. 

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Another first for us is that one of the houses has set out three chairs in front of their reindeer, which we determined were for taking a photo. So we did!


It is hard to believe that this is already the end of 2019. I noticed that the numbers in the year 2019 include the abbreviated numbers of both the centuries in which I have lived — 1900 and 2000 — in the opposite order, 20 and 19. Now Loren and I wish you a most happy, healthy and prosperous ’20!


Week 299 December 21, 2019

This week has been a week highlighted with driving. Loren and I began it with a three nights’ stay at an AirBnB in Hot Springs National Park, in Arkansas. It gave us a full down-day after the two previous drive days from Washington DC to Tennessee then on to arrive in Hot Springs, Arkansas. While there we took two hikes in the park,

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and, spent time at one of the spas. The historic bath houses have been restored from yesteryear. Our AirBnB host recommended one in particular along Bathhouse Row where we soaked in the naturally hot mineral waters. It was interesting to learn here how, historically, combining a soak with “trail walking” was what the doctors ordered back in the day. For us, it was a good respite, one we would recommend.

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It was fun to find the town gaily decorated for the holidays. On our last evening, we attended the local Pocket Community Theater‘s irreverent comedy of “Radio TBS” (for Trailer Park Broadcasting Scandals), where our AirBnB host ran sound for the show.


The next day we marveled at how huge the state of Texas is to navigate. We stopped partway to stay overnight along the interstate, at Big Spring, Texas. I was surprised to discover a similarly named city – Big Springs, Texas, also exists. That one is further off the route we were taking. The one notable experience here was the sound I heard through our motel room doorway near dusk. It sounded familiar and seemed like the unique calls of Sand Hill Cranes. I stepped outside and confirmed several flocks of them were indeed flying overhead. In the morning, Loren enjoyed his first-ever Texan shaped waffle in the included breakfast.

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The next day, after driving by miles and miles of open land dotted with small settlements and cotton fields, we found simply going the city of El Paso, Texas, to be a long haul. At one point when we stopped for gas, I received a text from our mobile services provider, offering information for Mexico. I had to take a screenshot of it to convince myself that we actually might have unknowingly crossed the border, though our credit card company did not block that particular charge for gas. 


Finally, we arrived in New Mexico to stay two nights in Truth or Consequences. They too were brightly decorated for the holidays.


There’s an interesting story about how this town changed its name from Hot Springs, New Mexico. In part it was to distinguish itself from other Hot Springs in the states of Arkansas, California and Montana, when an opportunity came in the form of a contest offered by an historic radio show of the same name — which by the way turned into a television show from Loren’s and my youth. If you are interested in the full story, you can read more about it here:


What was more important to Loren however was to take in another couple of soaks. Truth or Consequences offers a spa on the banks of the Rio Grande River that we visited twice. Once we soaked in their several common pools during the day, the other time we indulged in a private hot bath in the evening, in a room named Sky in Italian.

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In between soaks we went on another “trail walk” to take in the dramatic landscape along the “Big River.” I especially delighted in the path’s name: Truth or Consequences Healing Waters Trail.

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Then our itinerary was to drive, drive, drive through western New Mexico, on through Arizona, and into southern California. All along the way we were warned about how to drive through dust storms by a variety of road signs. I learned the gist of it is to:

   1. Pull off the road
   2. Turn off the engine
   3. Turn off the lights
   4. Keep feet off the brakes, and, 
   5. Stay buckled, until the dust settles.

I am grateful that we did not experience any need to exercise these rules.

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When we arrived at the border of Arizona and California — where we had planned to spend the night, it was early and the sun was still out. We decided to drive further to have a shorter drive the next day. It took us several more hours though to drive through Los Angeles, but we stayed in a bedroom memorably named, “Van Gogh,” in Santa Clarita.


Our efforts to continue the drive had made it worthwhile, as the commute direction would have likely impeded our progress. Instead the next day’s drive was most pleasant mainly through California’s agricultural Central Valley. We have now arrived in northern California, just in time for Christmas. We wish you and yours all the best of the holidays!

Week 298 December 14, 2019

Loren and I spent the beginning of this week in Washington, D.C. After driving the many hours from New Hampshire, we settled in at our “Charming bedroom” in a house-over-100-years-old AirBnB, where our hosts helped us feel at home. We spent our first full and by the way, sunny, day, at The Newseum, located near the U.S. Capitol. Sadly, it will be closing its doors at the end of December because the building has been purchased. We felt fortunate in our timing, and thoroughly appreciated its intriguing representation of the importance of our 1st Amendment. My meager photos simply do not do it justice for all it offers. Loren and I were especially enraptured by the 100 Years of Pulitzer Prize Photographs Gallery, and could have spent much time seeing more of the films offered in their several theaters. Fortunately they intend to keep an online presence going forward. 

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That evening Loren and I had dinner with a woman who we had met on our tour of Egypt, who lives in the DC area. I regret that I didn’t capture a photo of our time together, but the evening will not be forgotten. The next day Loren and I spent at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, one of the newest Smithsonian Institution offerings. It was well worth spending our entire day there. From the early history on North American soil to current contributions to sports and entertainment, it was a well conceived memorial and celebratory experience. 

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Loren and I stayed four nights in one of seven bedrooms at our AirBnB. After raising their family, our hosts opened their home to long term guests or to folks needing recurring local accommodations, all of whom who are delightful people. The hosts have more recently offered rooms to shorter term AirBnB guests, though they offer more than a place to stay. Our hosts provide a sense of a community — even a feeling of being family — through their benevolence. We enjoyed full leisurely served breakfasts, where over delicious food we each shared about our lives, and, over the next few days participated in deeper conversations and meaningful discussions. After touring the NMAAHC, Loren and I also enjoyed a pasta dinner with our hosts, one of their sons, and a couple of their long term guests and friends. After dinner a few of us had fun playing Mexican Train.

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Loren’s and my last full day in D.C. was spent dodging rain visiting the U.S. Supreme Court and the Capitol. We had intended to sit in on the hour-long arguments of a Supreme Court case, but there was already a line, and a few at the front claimed all the available seats. However, a new line was formed offering a three minute viewing of the arguments and we jumped on it. Just to see the Justices in person and hear them questioning the attorneys was worth it. Additionally, we toured the building afterwards. I learned that William Howard Taft who is a distant relative of mine and who after his Presidency ultimately became Supreme Court Chief Justice until just before his death, was the driving force for creating a separate Supreme Court building. The court’s needs had outgrown their limited accommodations in the Capitol building. 

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We also learned that the Supreme Court, as the Judicial arm of our democracy’s three branch government is “the Guardian of Liberty,” and has an obligation to impartiality. From a highly knowledgeable woman at the Visitor’s Desk we also learned that of 8,000 cases requesting a hearing by the Supreme Court annually, only about 80 (+/-1%) of them are accepted to be heard. She continued on a more personal note, as a naturalized citizen in her accent that we found was of Uzbekistan origin, that when she arrived in the United States in 1989 she noticed, “Everyone has a smile!” “Why?” she wondered. She determined, “If they are fed, they smile.” She also happened to mention that William H. Taft’s grave is at Arlington National Cemetary.


From the Supreme Court building Loren and I walked to the US Capitol for a scheduled afternoon tour. No photos were allowed to be taken. However, we were reminded of our country’s motto: E Pluribus Unum, Latin for, Out of Many, One. We had procured passes from our House Representative that morning to sit in the Galleries of the 116th Congress, but after our tour the legislative bodies were not meeting for some hours. We decided to travel some blocks away to the National Geographic Museum, where an exhibition detailing Jane Goodall’s fascinating life’s work of studying chimpanzees was on display. 

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Loren and I returned to the Capitol and chose to sit in on the House, who would be voting, starting at 6:30p.m. It was quite interesting to see what we were advised would appear to be chaos, while the voting and business were accomplished. It appeared to be more like a social gathering, with very few representatives sitting in the floor’s chairs. But, we saw visibly how the votes were taken and accounted for, all by a sophisticated electronics system. Maybe someday we can also sit in to see the Senate’s more orderly proceedings in person…


During our short time in Washington, D.C. our car sat parked in the driveway of our AirBnB and we traveled by foot or by Metro everywhere. The next morning we drove from D.C. to nearby Arlington National Cemetary in Virginia, where we saw Taft’s and Kennedy’s graves, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with its continuous Army guard. From there we had an uneventful though long drive to Knoxville, Tennessee, where the weather had threatened to include snow and ice. We were fortunate in that the little snow that had accumulated did not amount to icy conditions and was gone by morning for our next day’s drive.

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We then drove through Nashville on our way to Hot Springs, Arkansas. We stopped for me to tour Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage – his home, and its Visitor Center, where I learned more about his life, his terms in the White House as our 7th President, and the state of America during his lifetime. 

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Week 297 December 7, 2019

Sometimes people must leave a place and return to it to learn about it… at least this is true for me this past week as I pursued genealogical records of one of my great-grandfathers in my home town. As you might surmise, Loren and I were still in New York at the start of this week. After I filled out the necessary paperwork, I noticed the pen I was using had an image of the city logo attached, which made me curious about what the years on it meant. The city was incorporated in 1917, but its earlier history includes 1683 when the land for the city was purchased from the local Native Americans, and, 1776 when the State of New York – renamed from the Colony of New York, ratified the Constitution. Therefore, my home town is known as the Birth City of the State of New York. I am duly impressed by this history.


While downtown, I was also moved to take photos of a few remaining older buildings so familiar from the first half of my life. One is of City Hall where my grandfather took me as a child to watch parades from its balcony, another is where my grandfather had his office, and the other, just down the street, is where I worked for my first full time job.

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Our last visit this week with my brother and his family was going to see the movie Ford vs. Ferrari which was as outstanding as some Loren’s and my other favorite uplifting movies — like Seabiscuit for one. Then we went to dinner afterwards and bade these dear ones our fond farewells.


The next day the predicted heavy snow and sleet storm arrived. My plan to attend It’s A Wonderful Life Radio Show featuring a fellow yogi in the performance was canceled. The snow finally stopped but with the cold temperatures creating icy conditions it was a good day to stay put inside. The next morning more snow had fallen over the ice, so we canceled our plans to drive to New Hampshire to have lunch with friends and dinner with other friends there. The question remained, should we stay put in New York and wait out the prediction of more snow or would we brave it to keep our AirBnB commitment that night in New Hampshire to be closer to my cousins and our intended visit the next day? 

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With my success driving through Wisconsin’s and Ohio’s Arctic Blast, we chose to drive at a cautious pace during the warmest hours of the day when the plows, sanders and salters would provide the best driving conditions. We made it just before dark, and just as the AirBnB host was using a snow blower to carve out a parking space for us. We had conversations with a couple of other AirBnB guests from Arizona about the storm. They were supporting a Democratic Presidential candidate who was also in town. In the morning we awoke to find “Winter Storm Ezekiel” that had been predicted to “keep hammering parts of New England” had dumped a lot more snow overnight. 


Our AirBnB host — with his snow blower — was nowhere to be found at checkout time, but Loren shoveled and I helped scrape the car, and we slip-slid our van onto the plowed street to make our way to my cousin and her husband’s home nearby, as planned.


The next day there was no further precipitation and we four spent a good part of it visiting New Hampshire’s State House in the capitol city of in Concord. A cornerstone commemorates the history of the building, which now turns out to be 100 years. And my cousin found a portrait of one of her ancestors on her mother’s side. That evening another cousin joined us for dinner and it was nice to catch up with her too.

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I was delighted to learn the history of the eagle that adorns the cupola was redesigned from facing left — signifying for war, to now facing right, signifying for peace. 

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The next morning while our cousins kept an appointment, Loren and I walked around the neighborhood. It was more than a little surprising to find one neighbor’s political signage include a different sort of request…


That afternoon it was most meaningful to experience helping to make homemade ravioli. The dinner included meeting neighbors of our cousins to share in the wonderful meal.

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After another sad farewell to people we are so fond of, Loren and I have now driven on to Washington DC. It is the first time we have driven through Delaware on our Journey…

Week 296 November 30, 2019

Loren and I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving! We were grateful to have enjoyed two celebrations this year, more below. We began our week hosting my brother, his wife and their younger daughter for dinner at their lake house, where we are staying while here in New York. Sadly I neglected to take any photos save for the one of the design I put on my pie for desert, but I can say it was an enjoyable evening together. My design may be hard to make out — that’s a delicate peace sign in the middle of the pie.


The next night, Loren especially enjoyed watching the Packers vs 49ers play in Santa Clara on our TV. We had more of an appreciation of the Packers from having seen them in Lambeau field a couple of weeks ago, though we were still glad to see the 9ers win. The next day, Loren and I took in a double feature of movies: we saw A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood and Harriet. I was grateful that we saw them in that order. While I was deeply moved by both films, Tom Hanks’ portrayal of Mr. Rogers’ encounter with a journalist unaware of his feelings felt light, only when compared to the intensity of Harriet’s dangerous flights for sheer life for herself and others. The next evening I remembered to take photos when Loren and I entertained my other niece and her now fiancé for dinner. A most handsome couple, we wish them all the best in the future. 


The day before Thanksgiving, my yoga class took an annual picture, which was nice to be  a part. Then, I snapped a picture of the NY reindeer that I have passed by on my way to yoga here.

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On Thanksgiving, Loren and I were up early to catch the 6am train into Manhattan. With the station so empty, I looked up to find several Zodiac images on the massive ceiling.

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Loren and I joined special friends for brunch, at their place that has a storied view of the parade route. Google even proved the path wound in front of their building. On our walk there from Grand Central we stopped at the Algonquin Hotel to see their famous round table, at the suggestion of a friend from California.

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Then we did our best to make our way before the Police barricades were in place. We did fine until we reached the corner to our friends’ place. After being turned away by two police officers, we found another support us, which even entailed us climbing over fencing, but we made it!

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Being with our friends and watching the parade across the street from Central Park was most memorable, the first time Loren or I have seen Macy’s parade in person. 

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Back at Grand Central Terminal, it was as busy as the oft-used analogy suggests — do you see Loren standing in about he same spot as my earlier photo? Fortunately we found seats on our express train back to Westchester,


where we had a lovely and delicious dinner with my brother, his family and dear neighbors.

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Week 295 November 23, 2019

Loren and I began this week taking leave of our AirBnB in Ohio, where reminders of the Arctic Blast decorated unharvested corn fields. We drove further east to see a dear friend of ours who lives near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. We thoroughly enjoyed a few rounds of the rummy game, May I, with each of us reigning as champion in the end, though point-wise our friend was the ultimate winner, while devouring her wonderful homemade eggplant parmegiano.


While visiting with her we went to Lancaster to see President James Buchanan’s Wheatland estate. We learned that he reluctantly served just one term in the White House after a successful career as a Representative, Senator and Ambassador, but his legacy as our 15th President serving just before Abraham Lincoln, was second to that of his niece Harriet Lane, who competently and confidently stood in as his “Hostess,” or First Lady. During Buchanan’s term, seven southern states seceded from the union.


From Pennsylvania, Loren and I drove to near Albany, New York, to visit special friends. We saw the new home of our friends son and his wife, then enjoyed a delicious dinner together. The next day we celebrated our friend’s retirement over a memorable lunch. That evening Loren and I had a meaningful conversation over dinner with our niece who is in collage at SUNY-Albany, but I neglected to take a photo. Loren and I stayed overnight nearby in Colonie and awoke to a thick, wet, heavy coating of snow over our car, the roads, trees, everything. But it didn’t deter us from heading further north to Canajoharie, said Cana-(as in Canada)-jah-hairy. In native Mohawk language that means “The pot that washes itself,” referring to a gush of Canajoharie Creek that circles in a Boiling Pot before it cascades into Mohawk River.


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I visited Canajoharie’s village records office to see if I could learn more about the great-grandfather on my father’s side whose name and birth location I had discovered the last time Loren and I were in New York. I am still hopeful the clerk will uncover his records… While I was in the office, Loren discovered the village history of a 2006 flood, and learned that the massive abandoned plant we saw across the street was formerly used by the Beechnut company. At the suggestion of the town clerk we visited their library, where a section of reference books related to local history proved interesting – I found listed a few names of ancestors on my mother’s side with whom I’d previously been familiar.

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We stopped back to have a fun lunch with our friend near Albany at the farm store where she manages the kitchen. A surprising exchange occurred when Loren was practicing his Spanish language with one of her coworkers who is originally from Mexico. I usually follow along a little with his Spanish, and was smiling as I tried to understand the pleasant conversation. I realized I didn’t follow at all when she kindly said something about palabra mala, which means bad word. Our friend and I could hardly control our laughter when Loren then explained to us that in trying to say he would like to someday come back to “pick” apples at the farm, he actually said he would want to come back to fxxx the apples, where fxxx rhymes with pluck…

That evening Loren and I arrived at my brother’s lake house where we will stay with much gratitude through Thanksgiving weekend. The next day we were off again in search of my ancestry, this time a great-grandmothers who was born in High Falls, New York — wife of the man from Canajoharie. We had no luck with the town clerk as their records only go back to 1881, but, we made a stop anyway at the local cemetery where her maiden name is well represented, I just an unsure which, if any, are my ancestors. 


From there we returned to Walden where I had been successful last time we were here and thanks to the Canajoharie village clerk making a couple of phone calls, I now knew that Walden’s Clerk has the record of one of my great-grandfather’s death, which record has given me names of my father’s ancestors still further back – all the way to one of my 5th degree great-grandparents.

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This week we also enjoyed a day with another special friend. From having brunch together, we visited the Hudson River Museum in Yonkers. What attracted us was the exhibit of artist James McElhinney: Discover the Hudson Anew.

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We also enjoyed the rest of the museum, including a tour of the Glenview Mansion all decked out for the holiday season, a permanent children’s display, as well as

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an exhibit of photos from lunar landings.

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One showcase especially caught my attention – it is of photos from Lick Observatory which is in the San Francisco Bay Area. My story is that I made a point to visit this site in 1991, because it was 100 years after the one great-grandmother who I had the privilege to know until I was 12 years old had visited this same place in 1891 with her parents.


Other than my joy at seeing loved ones and researching about ancestry in New York, I have not enjoyed the early cold we have experienced from as far back as Nevada, that causes static electricity, dry skin, finger chapped and raw, with tiny cuts so that they feel like sandpaper… Ok, enough complaining. I’ll conclude with my further reflection that as Loren and I have traveled east across the country I have been disappointed to have had to pass by so many appealing brown signs along highways and interstates that advertise historic sites, local parks and recreation areas, nature preserves, points of interest, and other venues that I would like to visit, but cannot, because we need to push on to arrive when we are scheduled to be someplace. Such is the yin and the yang of life, huh?

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Week 294 November 16, 2019

When Loren and I left our cousins’ farm in Nebraska at the beginning of this week, it was sad to see how much devastation has occurred from the major flooding earlier this year. Route 80 is detoured from roads that are still underwater, as alternative roads are being built.


We drove through Iowa to our destination of Madison, Wisconsin to arrive at what our friend there said was “between record snows and record temperatures.” We checked in at our AirBnB, then headed off for a Friday fish dinner with our friend, before we all attended a performance of University of Wisconsin at Madison’s Wisconsin Singers. The finale piece included an appearance of their Badgers football team’s mascot, the Badger.

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The next day Loren joined our friend for a walk around the Capital Farmer’s Market before they went to a Badgers’ game. Loren was especially impressed with the marching band. Me? I shopped for a warm coat because the zipper on my North-Face knockoff that I had bought in Nepal had opened, then the zipper pull came off in my hand…

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That evening we three attended an Arlo Guthrie concert at the Barrymore Theater. Guthrie’s son and two of his daughters participated with him on-stage. Their last piece comprised lyrics that his father Woody had composed.

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The next morning Loren and I drove to Green Bay, which had been the main reason we visited Wisconsin this time — our friend had sold us two tickets to see the Packers at Lambeau Field. This was on par with our visit to Wrigley Field in Chicago a few years ago, as both are iconic stadiums that Loren has especially wanted to visit. We arrived early enough to take in all of the extensive Packers’ Hall of Fame museum’s displays at the park.

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Our seats were in a great location for the mid-afternoon kickoff against the Carolina Panthers. It seemed that there was not an empty seat to watch this fan-owned community team play — the attendance was recorded to be 78,000 and we were impressed with the devotion of Green Bay’s fans. We remained in our seats through near the end of the 4th quarter for a home team win, despite a consistent flurry of snow that had begun about half way through the game. The announcers at the stadium labeled it “ideal Lambeau conditions.”

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That evening Loren and I traveled an hour further south-eastward to stay overnight at an AirBnB in Manitowoc. We drove through the continued light snow which began to accumulate before we arrived at our destination. I dared to take a photo as I drove but the white that was intensely visible across my windshield was barely caught by my camera. 


The snow stopped overnight though resumed the next morning. That day, it took us 12 hours over what is normally an eight hour distance, in consistent light snow from the “Arctic blast” that then hit the area. Usually on a long drive day we fill the gas tank at half empty. This day it was strange when, based on how long I’d been driving and would want a break, I would expect to find the tank half empty, but each time it was still 3/4 full. We saw many “disabled” cars, most of which had skidded or jackknifed into ditches and guardrails. At one point I too skidded on an on ramp. Thankfully my years driving in winter conditions helped me navigate and we simply came to a standstill in the shoulder, facing backwards. We know we were lucky and in the future would not venture out in such a storm. In the evening we returned from a short break to find our windshield had frosted over.


The entire next day we holed up at another AirBnB in Ohio, that we had reserved for three nights. The sun was shining on the new snow, making for a pleasant view. Early the next morning, we were treated to a moonset view over the white landscape. 

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We spent this last full day here with a lunch date with special friends at a State Park’s welcoming lodge, where we also spent the afternoon thoroughly enjoying catching up over a game of canasta.


Week 293 November 9, 2019

Last week, Loren and I were leaving Nevada headed eastward. All the way as we passed through the northeast corner of Arizona through Utah and into western Colorado we were entertained on all sides by high desert vistas of sage brush and sand that turned to amazing red rock formations and deep canyons. I only snapped one photo as we briefly stopped, I could have easily taken a few hundred more to share…


At the suggestion of our cousin in eastern Colorado, we stopped for two nights in Grand Junction to spend time at Colorado National Monument. Just as it had been in Nevada, it was unseasonably cold there. I must emphasize how cold we felt. I was grateful I had purchased a pair of inexpensive gloves at a pharmacy in Las Vegas and wore them with my other winter outerwear with gratitude. As was also suggested, the next morning we waited for the day to warm up a bit before heading to the Monument at mid-morning to beat the crowds. We arrived at the perfect time. We first hiked to see Devil’s Kitchen,

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then hiked to First Pool on No Thoroughfare Canyon Trail. We were disheartened throughout our time in Colorado to not see any fall colors as all the leaves were frozen on the trees and turned brown from a previous unusual cold snap in September. We did see wildlife after we were alerted by another couple hiking this trail to look up for big horn sheep on a mountain above us, We decided skip a hike through Echo Canyon and instead drove on further through the Monument.

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It turned out we spent the entire rest of our day driving along the main road of the park relishing its unique scenery. We barely made it into the Visitor’s Center at the far end of the park at 4:45 to see a brief informative film before they closed their doors at 5pm.

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On further recommendation we drove to the quaint town of Palisade, famous for peach and cherry orchards, and vineyards that compare to California’s Napa Valley. We were too late for any wine tasting but at a bar in town Loren tried whiskey tasting, which included peach, pear and apricot brandies.


As we left western Colorado the next morning, I was again moved to snap a last photo of dramatic scenery along the freeway.


The next two nights were spent with our special cousins near Denver. They treated us to dinner at a Mexican restaurant, and introduced us to the Chocolate Therapist. The second evening their daughter, her husband and one of their daughters joined us for a delicious home cooked meal. Their other, slightly older daughter was at a ballet rehearsal for an upcoming performance of The Nutcracker.

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Once again we were on the road heading east. Through much of eastern Colorado and into western Nebraska we drove through heavy fog. I snapped a photo where you can still see on the lower left the remnants of ice that Loren had scraped off our windshield from an unusually early frost. That evening as we stopped for gas before we reached the farm of our cousins in Nebraska, I was surprised to find three California PG&E utility trucks filling up. I still wonder what they were doing in Nebraska…

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Loren and I were again warmly welcomed by more dear cousins of ours and had another wonderful visit. They showed us around the area, which included a drive by the local corn harvest pile, and, their low, or what they call “bottom,” land that they were never able to plant this year because it is still underwater from the record flooding they had had early this year. They had been surprised to even discover pelicans grace those waters this summer. 

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During our short visit Loren and I were able to provide helping hands to setup part of an electric fence to enclose the remains of a corn field. It will be further cleaned up by cattle during ensuing months. Harsh northerly winds picked up that interrupted our work before we could finish the job. The bulls are currently in yards with the cows, doing what bulls do when then are with cows. Surprisingly though one of our cousins’ new young  billy goat has had a hard time with discovering what he is supposed to do with the does.

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The next day we helped — or maybe more accurately observed and assisted where we could — with cleaning the combine, as our cousins had completed their harvest the night before we arrived.


Throughout wonderful meals, running errands, attending to daily chores and visits with other family members that sometimes included playing cards, we enjoyed much laughter  and meaningful conversations. I just wish I had taken more photos of our visit.



Week 292 November 2, 2019

This was a full – and fun – week for us! At the beginning Loren and I were still at Clear Lake, where we spent our last night in a cabin at the State Park. That evening we went to see a production of Chicago in Lakeport. To our delight, a friend from the Lake County Bikram Yoga studio, a veteran who now studies acting, was in the performance. Unfortunately the Bikram studio has closed, it’s owner is off on new adventures in life.


The next morning we were up early to meet Loren’s sister in Castro Valley for breakfast. On the way driving by Calistoga we saw hot air balloons just taking off – look for the blast of fire that propels the one on the right. But you can also see the continuing smoke from the Kincade fire on the horizon.

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From Castro Valley Loren and I drove to San Jose to pick up mail. We also had a lovely lunch with dear neighbor friends at an Italian restaurant near our neighborhood.


Then Loren and I drove south to spend the night at Avila Hot Springs on the coast off San Luis Obispo. We arrived in the dark but were able to find our tent camping Site X. We had a great soak when we first arrived, and took another before we left in the morning. 


We reached Orange County that afternoon to visit a dear friend. As has always been the case since we met in 2003, her main goal in life is to have fun. Once again we did with her! I accompanied her to her weekly Tai Chi class the next morning where we learned some Qigong moves. Sadly, also we saw too many broadcasts of news reports of the fires in Los Angeles – the Getty then the Easy among others. We were not near the fires, even when we went to LACMA – the LA County Museum of Art. We were intrigued by the display of African art called Invisible Man and The Masque of Blackness, and appreciated the docent’s tour to explain it further. And we had fun in between the permanent display called Urban Light.

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We indulged in street food for lunch, then walked over to see some of the outdoor displays of La Brea Tar Pits next door. The natural tar still bubbles up in the pool where ancient creatures were trapped, as well as along the streets and sidewalks in the area.


At our friend’s home that evening, we laughed and laughed at It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World from her collection of movies. The next day while she went off to a preplanned luncheon, Loren and I visited the nearby Nixon Library. Did I mention our friend’s favorite saying each morning is, “It’s Another Day in Paradise!”? She has a doormat to remind us, just in case we could forget.

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Nixon’s is the last of the National Archives and Records Administration’s maintained Presidential Libraries for us to visit. We still hope to see more of the other libraries or homes devoted to our country’s presidential heritage that are not maintained by NARA. We were reminded that Nixon accomplished important tasks during his time in office – he opened our relationship with China during the Cold War by flying to China to shake hands and meet with Premier Xhou Enlai and Chairman Mao. He also signed Title IX for female athletes, and he did away with the draft. It is always meaningful to immerse ourselves in US history through the perspective of a President – and as the Nixon brochure suggests  to “…explore America’s past to learn about our present.” And how timely for us to read about Nixon’s own historic impeachment process and resignation…

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That evening with our friend we watched a John and Yoko Netflix film, then enjoyed dinner out for Thai food. We returned in time to watch the last innings of that evening’s World Series game. Our friend bestowed us with a pair of witch’s tights, which I decided would be fun to tie around our rear window washer, which to my delight flapped up in my rear view mirror as we drove along! The tights even survived the scary 80mph winds that we encountered driving through the San Bernardino mountains on our way to Tecopa Hot Springs after we said goodbye to Orange County. I had to grip the wheel tight to keep us in our lane. It was dreadful first to see several 18 wheelers off to the side of the road with their flashers on; then we saw, in all, four overturned semi’s within a half mile stretch of interstate, two on our side, two on the crowded other side. It was awful.


Before we arrived at the Hot Springs, we stopped to see Liberty Sculpture Park, in the middle of the desert. After a soak, we drove on to Las Vegas, where, thanks to the suggestion of a friend we had found a special deal to stay at the Paris hotel.

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Loren and I spent two nights in Vegas. The first night we saw Human Nature Sings Motown and More, a group from Australia, perform at the Venetian. Afterwards we watched the last innings of the final World Series game, toasted the Nationals’ win, then lamented the news of Steph’s Curry’s broken hand. On our walk back to our hotel, we stopped in front of the Bellagio to have a sidewalk dance to their music and water show. 


The next evening was Halloween and we were treated to a version Michael Jackson’s Thriller at the MJ Live Tribute show at the Stratosphere. The main performer put on a striking visual and impressive vocal replica of the star’s moves and songs.

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Oh, and the completion to the riddle, “I thought the dryer made my clothes shrink,” above? It’s “turns out it was a the refrigerator.” Ha ha! This too is thanks to our fun friend in Orange County, who made up several of these trick treats for her friends.