Golf guests, tiny birds and wonderment (bewilderment?) about Mr. Orange Face …


My experience as an Airbnb host is beginning to level out. With the funnier-by-the-minute tryst in the rearview mirror, Ellen and Reid are learning the dos and don’ts of opening your home to others. They won’t be following suit anytime soon.

I continue to opine/lament about the regime in Washington; it’s just a dire situation. But I’m in no position to be a politician. To paraphrase Groucho Marx, I wouldn’t want to be an elected official in a nation that would put me in office.


August 14, 2017

Ellen/Reid: Well, the long week has past and I can finally catch a deep breath. The Airbnb couple was just fine as were my friends Christie and Doug. I sacked on the first floor couch (not an unusual napping spot for me) and things worked out in good fashion.

They were all in for the PGA Championship which, after visiting it on Thursday morning, it confirmed for me that golf is perhaps better seen on TV than in person. Sure, when you’re there you can feel the vibe and energy but after a while you wonder how in the hell you’re going to navigate to another suitable viewing spot among the hordes of golf watchers who are largely headed in the same direction you are. The enjoyment of the tournament is all about location, location, location – as in where you get to see most of the action.

The party Friday night was good but I was AWOL from a lot of it, flitting from guest to guest and totally neglecting my job as a host. Sondra and Christe did a lot of the restocking of food and they also shouldered most of the clean up in my unexcused absence. The smoked shoulder was somewhat disappointing. It graded to a C+ at most. Not quite as pulls-apart-in-your-hands tender as previous efforts. I just couldn’t keep the smoker in ‘the zone’ even though the shoulders went on at 4 a.m. The temperature just never reached optimum smoking conditions. The result was fine enough but just not as good as had been done before. Sondra and Jody helped to set up in the garage since there was imminent threat of rain and although the downpour held off we never did leave the garage. Man, did we go through the wine. But a brewery’s worth of beer was left behind. And there’s also enough left overs to feed a small Army.

The hummingbirds have been waging aerial wars for a space at the feeder.

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Hummingbirds have made a beeline to the feeder. Their aerial combat for position at the trough of sugar water has been fun to witness.

My friend Sherry counseled me on a red dye-free sugar mix and that has the little flyers zooming to the trough in tiny waves. Their display of combat has been fun to watch although I’m not sure of the damage one hummingbird could inflict on another.

Got the itch to make a foray to Charleston after being away far too long and will load Miss Emma atop the Camry in a couple of hours. Really, really excited to get back down there after a couple of months. There aren’t any lofty expectations for a stringer of reds or ‘specks’ but anything will be better than nothing.

It’ll give me some time away from the news headlines. I’m just so disappointed/disgusted in Trump after the weekend white-instigated violence in Charlottesville. How can he not single out, and condemn, Nazis and white supremacists (the same thugs who conjointly wave the U.S. flag alongside swastikas and the Confederate flag. Great. Two entities that tried to defeat America)? He is just a complete and utter moron. An idiot of the first order. It’s a shame and a shock that I would be a better president. He’s just not a leader, not a sane person, not civil, not reasoned, not diplomatic, not much of nuthin’. And his poll numbers (fake news!) are dropping to near-historic lows. Of course, Mr. Orange Pouty Face probably thinks ‘strength’ and the nerve to make unpopular stances are the signs of leadership. And his bluster on the pimple on a gnat’s ass, North Korea, is just flat-out foolhardy and dangerous. And to think he’s got his little, fidgety hands on the nuclear triggers. We need an old fashioned coup d’etat or military junta. Republicans have got to, at least privately, wonder what the hell is going on. As the mid-terms get closer and Agent Orange keeps this up, a nervous GOP is gonna have to figure out a way to regroup without him. That his base sticks with him doesn’t say much for the American electorate. They’re getting what they deserved – a jerk on yet another golf vacation – or make that a ‘working vacation’ as he calls it. Let’s hope he works himself right out of a job. C’mon Mueller.

Love, Dad

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The old catch up routine … and turning a two cent opinion into a quarter’s worth


Last week’s letter played catch up on usual and sundry matters after a couple of writing-free weeks.

It’s the letter I’ll write in the next half hour that has me steeling myself.

Ellen and Reid are free to make up their own minds on issues of conscience but that doesn’t mean their old man can’t weigh in with his two cents worth. And this past weekend in Charlottesville – and the president’s lack of pointed condemnation of white supremacists – is a case in point. I’m boiling over it. 

It could be that the two cents will turn into a quarter’s worth.


August 7, 2017

Ellen/Reid: Really good to be home from the long jaunt to Wyoming. But as soon as I say that, sooner than later will come the itch to go back out the third full week in July ’18. Already planning on it. Tom was a good car guy; we split the driving and most of the expenses. He’s pretty low key on stuff like this but what I appreciated most was his attention to the planning details. He is just so organized whereas your old man is deficient in that category. The downer about this portion of the Bridger, the Elkhart Trailhead, was the volume of hikers. I’ve never seen so many people in the back country. People were everywhere, many of them armed, which left Tom, Vince and I to scratch our heads “Why?” At any rate, we didn’t do all the trails we planned on. One stream, Pole Creek, was really a wide, raging river and Tom was reluctant to navigate the 40 – 50 yard waist high ford since that kind of swift, icy cold water really isn’t for recovering heart patients. So we reverted to Plan B and hiked secondary trails which was fine enough. We saved about 20 miles in distance which was okay by me. The fishing was just awful. Not sure why (other than all the other anglers pressuring the fish); maybe it was high water and abundance of food. I suppose if we’d of gone higher/farther there might of been more fish.

But Tom and I got into some decent cutthroats on the Grey River which bisects the center of the Wyoming Range some 50 miles west of Pinedale along the Daniel-Alpine Cutoff which is really a long gravel road.

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Usually a Tenkara man, my friend Tom was uncanny with his casts on his first day with a real fly rod. He caught some nice fish in the Grey River, a largely unknown fishery in the Wyoming Range.

It is one hell of a lesser-known fishery, and Ellen, tell Tim it doesn’t see a ton of pressure and is every inch what the Hoback is. We pitched tents on a flat spot right next to the water and had a great time. But it is good to be home. (Reid, if you see Tom, ask about his run-in with the Wyoming Highway Patrol. It was a scream. I rode him hard about his ‘traffic violation.’)

Tom and Vince both schooled me on the Camino de Santiago and now the preparations for the walk are in full swing. In scarcely a month I’ll wing it to Barcelona, then catch a train to Pamplona where I’ll meet up with Jane and Dave. That will be so fun. A good way to get the thing started. Already, I’ve purchased new ultra-lightweight hiking shoes (as opposed to heavy boots), 50F sleeping bag, rain pants and rain jacket, a very lightweight umbrella, money belt, Osprey Stratos 36 pack, etc. Did a test pack last night and it looks like I’ll have plenty of room for everything. It should be about 12 – 14 lbs. when all is said and done. That’s really doable for 600 miles or whatever it is. I’ve made a pitch to some friends up in Berlin to crash for a few days but have yet to hear anything. I’ve made no plans for a return flight yet. I may bop up to France or dip down into Portugal. Not quite sure when I’ll return. I guess it depends on the Berlin response.

The PGA golf tournament is in Charlotte this week and I’ll have a houseful. My friends Christie and Doug will arrive tomorrow, and then a couple from Missouri will use me as an Airbnb for four nights beginning on Thursday. So I’ll make a few bucks in the deal. Actually, my last two Airbnb visitors have been great. But they comment about the lack of a TV so I suppose I’ll need to get AT&T Uverse cranked up (against my will). If there is a steady flow of guests, it will make it worthwhile. In some ways I feel like a cleaning service. I’ll be relegated to the couch while people are here. Plus, I’m smoking three pork shoulders for about 25-30 people on Friday night. It feels like I’m biting off more than I can chew but it occurred to me over the lonesome weekend that it feels better with people around than not.

I also got to watch over Marvel, a two year old Aussie, for my friends Andrea and Kurt. What a sweet dog.

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Marvel is on high alert for rogue squirrels in the greenbelt. He’s giving Marge a run for her money as the most obedient dog – ever.

There cannot be a more obedient dog in Charlotte. You say a command and he listens. Maybe better than you two did at a young age.

Love, Dad

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A slim month for letters … and severed bear heads


July was an odd month, letter-wise.

Only two single-pagers were mailed, owing to my trip to St. Paul to visit Ellen, Tim, Emma and Georgia followed by the annual trek to the Bridger Wilderness in Wyoming. When I get a chance to see Ellen and/or Reid, there isn’t always a letter mailed that particular week. (Note to potential hikers: another six night/seven day backpacking and fly fishing excursion to the Wind Rivers is slated for July 13 – 21, 2018 so set that in stone on your calendar. Feel free to send me a note with any questions.).

But today marks a return to the weekly letter routine. The writing process really isn’t a grind; it’s cathartic and is a joy. A lot of ground will be covered in one page: a recap of the Wyoming adventure, a glut of Airbnb guests (no more trysts that I’m aware of), preparations for the Camino de Santiago in scarcely (yikes!) a month, watching over Marvel the Super Dog, et al.

So there’s no letter to reprint this morning. But one will be written and mailed momentarily. Watch for it next week.

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My hiking buddy Tom Bohr and I enjoyed a cold PBR at our traditional stopover en route from Jackson to Pinedale: the venerable cowboy bar The Elkhorn in Bondurant, WY. It’s the same joint where untold hundreds of visitors have written snarky notes on $1 bills that they pin to the pine walls and boxcar ceiling. It’s also where, if you shoot a bear in season, you plop the severed head on the bar – and earn yourself a free hat.

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The sister act in St. Paul … now, it’s on to see Reid


I love my two little granddaughters, but holy cow, their energy level is off the charts. That’s as it should be. 

This week it’s on to another sort of trip. Part of the journey involves a chance to see Reid; the other part will be pure effort. If only I could tap into the girl’s energy reserves.


July 10, 2017

Ellen/Reid: The Uber driver just dropped me off at the door, and it is good to be home. Man, Ellen, I just don’t see how you and Tim do it. Those girls don’t slow down, even for a second. Let’s just say that Emma is on top of her game. Smart, active – and demanding. And Georgia is so sweet but she’s got her petulant little ‘I hear you but I’m not listening’ swagger going, too. But that’s probably how you want them to be rather than bending to your will every second. It means they’ve got little minds of their own and that’s a very good thing. That I usurped Emma’s room put another layer of hardship on your bedtime efforts to get those two down. They just play off each other before they finally get to sleep.

Tim is just a workaholic on that deck. It is going to be a work of art and it will be as solid as a rock. He’s saving you guys a ton of dough. There’s no question it will add a lot of value to the house. It will be like a two season room. When the weather is decent you will be living out there. I’m just sorry I wasn’t of more help on the thing but he just had that circular saw and the hand drill moving, moving, moving all the time. Maybe I’ll be able to see the finished product before long. No doubt you’ll post photos sooner than later.

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My son-in-law Tim was getting after it on building a new deck. He was a pure workhorse all weekend up in St. Paul.

It was sure hot when I stepped out of the airport. Just very humid and not at all Minnesota like. The temps were so pleasant and the humidity so low, relatively speaking, of course. Uber is the way to do things. Not sure why I was the last adult over age 30 to use Uber but now I’m hooked.

Adrienne’s wedding was just the icing on cake for the weekend. It was an unusual ceremony but so tasteful and just so much fun all the way around. It wasn’t’ stuffy or pretentious. Wonderful to see old friends from Des Moines. Everyone seems to be getting older and you can lump me in with that crowd. Yikes. It does put aging into a perspective. That location was perfect, although you can burn that video of us dancing, Ellen. Make sure it surfaces no where else.

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The Minnesota wedding of a daughter of a good friend let me catch up with good friends from Des Moines, such as the Dahlquists and Hemmingers.

Geez. As you said, Reid, ‘breaking it down’ was really more like ‘broken down.’ No way your old man has dance moves. No wonder the more senior crowd got off the dance floor and left it to the young set. That’s how it should be. It was great to see Afton there, too, and you guys were a good addition to the final attendance. I should send Bob a small check to offset the damages in additional wine consumption. What is known is a few of us really went after the G&Ts. I sure felt groggy Sunday morning. The lesson is you can’t mix wine, beer and gin.

The intern from Caldwell Presbyterian arrives here next Friday and will stay for a few days, even while I’m gone to the Bridger. That will give her some privacy and she can come and go as she pleases. I hope to get John and his wife over for a dinner sometime while she’s here. It may be that it will be delayed until August when I’m back from the mountains. We’ll see. As for the Airbnb part of things, the first caller went elsewhere, and I had to turn another inquiry away just today since the intern will already have the spare room. That’s too bad. At least there are some inquiries being made. It must mean the room is priced appropriately even if I think it’s a bit on the low side.

There were plans for a big BBQ party here next Sunday but I’m put those on hold until August while I zoom around trying to get ready for the big trip West. Reid, I hope to leave super early Monday morning and zip into Chicago in the late afternoon per usual. It appears I’ll stay with Tom for the night since we plan to get on the road very, very early and drive as far west as we can, maybe even to Laramie although thats a far poke. That would make for a short second day into Jackson. We need to pick up Vince in the early afternoon. Can’t wait to hit the road for the whole shebang. It’s what living is for.

Love, Dad

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Events gone by … and a record for 728 words


One of the drawbacks to posting letters after the kids receive them (rest assured that receiving a letter is not the same as reading it in a timely fashion) is that certain events will have already fallen by the wayside. This letter is chock full of several such examples. But that’s the price to be paid for giving Ellen and Reid first dibs on the letters.

If you notice more typos than usual, that can be pegged to the headlong rush to write and get last week’s letter in the mail before a dead sprint to the airport. And a record it was: 728 words in seven minutes, start to finish. So much for proofing and editing for errors.


July 5, 2017

Ellen/Reid: Reid, since it’s your birthday we won’t get in to how your mom and I gave you the nickname ‘Razzmatazz’ but trust me, you earned it. It really just seems like yesterday that you guys were running around 104th street and wolfing down the raspberries in the garden. It really does. But since this will find you a few days after the fact, I hope you had a good one, kid. And I’ll see you the week after next. You didn’t tell me what you wanted for your b-day so perhaps we can change something down in Chicago.

Ellen, I’m plopped on the couch waiting for a ride to the airport from my friends Andrea and Kurt. I’d really like both of you to meet them at some point since they are truly great people. Plus, they have fun attitudes and good kids. This letter has to be written faster than usual since they will be at the doorstep in short order. They had me over for a family dinner last night with Andrea’s sister and her family, and her parents. It was an honor to be there. But what a hoot that family is. Oh man, they know how to have fun – and how to poke each other in the ribs.

Got the ticket to Barcelona, one way, for $624. I paid an extra $40 for trip insurance, although I don’t know why there would be a reason to scrub the trip other than for something catastrophic. To be honest about it, I approach Spain with some trepidation, in part because I’ll be by myself and it’s wholly new ground to me to make such an adventure. But the guidebook guy strongly recommends that people make the trip solo although he approaches it from a more spiritualistic bend than the reasons I’m making the trip. But that could be a majority of the fun; finding out what you’re made of and if you have the gumption to see the mysterious and unknown through to the very end. It’s a great thing that Jane and Dave will join me on the first three critical days from St. Jean to Pamplona. That will get me off and running. Or at least off and walking. I’m not sure how the end of the trip will unfold so there is no return flight booked as of yet from Portugal. It may be that by that point I’ll be emboldened enough to head north into France or even up to England for a continued adventure. We’ll see. Since I pick up Tom in Chicago, Reid, for our trip to the Bridger, it will give me time to talk through the entire Camino scenario.

Spent a couple of fun days in the mountains with my friend Lynn and a new buddy, Bruce. Both are very good golfers and Bruce and I spared no expense in giving Lynn the needle, although our attempts at humor wore off toward the last day.

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Golf in the North Carolina mountains means lush courses – and temperatures 10 – 15 degrees cooler than hot, steamy Charlotte.

But Lynn has an incredible mountain house with a natural stream running alongside – and beneath portions – of the A-frame. It was just so cool to stay in his place. It reminded me that I have totally, completely squandered the North Carolina mountains. It’s been a lost opportunity.

I played golf for eight straight days and that was enough to cure me for a good long while. It’s just mentally exhausting to keep your head on straight on the course. Minnesota, and Wyoming, will be good for me in that regard. In fact, I can’t wait.

Reid, Jody bought an Orvis fly rod package and man, has he got the bug. He really does. He is chomping at the bit to give fly casting a chance, and we went over to a small lagoon where we caught some equally small brim on tiny flies. It was good for him to get that experience of real fish under his belt. He has a cabin in Canada on a river ( I would botch the name if I tried to spell it) where they have big Atlantic salmon. Now that would be a fish to catch (and release).

Okay. This is a record for a letter. Seven minutes from start to finish. Off to the printer, and then it goes into the mail. See you both very, very, very soon.

Love, Dad

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Summer in the city: Airbnb and BLTs …


Since neither Ellen nor Reid gave me grief about the idea of their dad as an Airbnb host, I signed on the dotted line – although no one has yet to contact me about the spare bedroom. But the silver lining is it gives me more time to savor tasty BLTs on the front porch. 


June 26, 2017

Ellen/Reid: Well, I bit the bullet this morning and signed up as an Airbnb host. It’s sort of an experiment to see if there will be any takers and if I can end up being a suitable host. If nothing else it’ll make sure the guest room and adjoining bath will be kept clean. There was a little surprise in the pricing arena. Airbnb lets you set the pricing and then, before you take your listing ‘live,’ it weighs in via a price meter as to whether or not what you are asking is realistic. It knocked me down from $79 to $59 per night. And that includes a morning breakfast and coffee. The whole shebang is kind of a slick process that allows you to set dates you want the room to be available or, conversely, not available. I opted to keep quite a few dates open to guests – no kids or pets, however – but can scale that back if need be. We’ll just have to see how it goes. It does mean I’ll have to put in cable TV again since it makes sense to have a small TV in the guest room.

The first sizable tomatoes are coming off the vine so my daily consumption of BLTs is on a rapid upswing. There is nothing like a home-grown tomato. More than half of my production to this point, however, has been given away.

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This is how summer evenings ought to be spent – BLTs and roasted brussels sprouts on the front porch. As for a slice of the fresh baked bread that should be shown in the left hand corner of the plate, well, it was already gone.

That’s how gardens ought to work. In your case, Ellen, to bypass the poison of black walnuts, you and Tim might think about a raised bed that would allow you to steer clear of the toxic soil in your back yard. It’s a thought. I still think your rooftop has container vegetable potential, Reid. At least plant some easy care herbs like basil, oregano, thyme and rosemary. You’d enjoy those in your cooking.

Really looking forward to the trip to St. Paul and Minneapolis for the wedding. I’ll still plan on a rental car to share you guys the hassle of toting me around town. Ellen, no biggie that Afton will be in town at the same time. That’s cool. If construction of the deck is in full swing I’ll be glad to pitch in with manual labor and/or at least dispense invaluable advice for Tim.

A friend has invited me to golf in the mountains this weekend and it should be a fun weekend. He’s a good stick and is fun to play with. He has a home up somewhere in the hills. I might even lug along a fly rod if there’s fishable water close by.

The saltwater fishing has been nothing short of abysmal. I have not boated a literal game fish these last few trips and it is really deflating. Of course, the guides have been killing ‘em and that just makes me want to try all the harder. There is a strong chance I’ll head for the day on Wednesday to give it another shot. What’s particularly unpleasant is that I tend to do the same thing over and over; hit the same spots with the same baits. A guy was taking his kayak out of the water last week at the same time I was stowing mine and he had been exploring the flats and tidal grasses – none of which I’ve ever put much time in – and he thought there were great possibilities for tailing redfish. I have never seen a fish tailing. Instead, I sit for hours and hours in one spot in the kayak, catching rays (12 – 15 last week) and little sharks (a half dozen or so) and not much else. Tripp the guide didn’t have time for me this week, and this’ll be my final excursion for six weeks or so owing to Minneapolis and Wyoming. I find the lack of fish depressing.

Still have not secured my ticket for Spain. Got to do that pronto. Very confused by all the promotional fares out there – prices that come with ‘strings’ attached. Looks like $1,000 is the floor for tickets all the way up to $3,000 and more. Since I’m a budget traveler I’ll gravitate toward the cheapest options even if it has a couple of stops. But the planning continues and that’s a good thing. My packing list won’t be all that extensive. Everything has to fit into an 1,800 sq. in. pack. Most everything is already secured except for a few odds and ends. But Wyoming comes first.

Love, Dad

 

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My pad as an Airbnb? Maybe, but is washing sheets and scrubbing a bathroom really for me? …


One of the chief reasons I bought a three bedroom townhouse was the potential to lure the kids to visit the South. That’s been somewhat unsuccessful and that owes to them living their own lives with a limited timeframe to trek to Charlotte.

That doesn’t mean others might not find my third bedroom palatable for short rentals. It might be farfetched, however, to consider myself a hotelier. I’ve asked Ellen and Reid for the advice. No counsel from them as yet.


June 19, 2017

Ellen/Reid: I’ve enjoyed from afar each of your travels these past few days. Reid, NYC sounds liked great fun, and Ellen, you and the girls seemed to have a great time in California (even though it was blistering hot). Both of you guys just seem to get around. I texted Tim a bit ago and he reported the fishing has been slow owing to strong winds. Those would play hell with a fly fisherman. But the winds will die down and he’ll land tarpon. I’ll head to Charleston early tomorrow. I’m suspicious about the fishing due to warmer water but I can’t go down for the count without swinging. Reid, Cap’n Tripp the kayak guide said they’ve been killing it. But how? He’s been using a bait fish called menhaden that he nets from a boat but I don’t have that facility on the kayak. Otherwise, I’ve been mystified about where the fish are and how to catch them.

There was a nice article about Air B&Bs (sic) in the Sunday New York Times, and it got me to thinking about renting out my spare upstairs bedrooms. How would you two counsel me on the prospect of my pad as an Air B&B?

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I’m mildly intrigued at the idea of my place as an Airbnb. There’s more homework to do, however, before I agree to the idea of washing sheets and scrubbing bathrooms for others.

It sounds like something of a lot of work in terms of changing sheets and buying a TV for the spare room, and maybe cooking breakfasts, etc. But it sounds marginally interesting, and possibly profitable. Of course, the Times wonderful reporting lists both the good and the not so good (rude and demanding guests, etc.). I would appreciate your thoughts.

I’m having a tough time shaking some of the holdover weight gained from before the operation. I mean it’s not critical but it would be nice to stay in the same size pants for a while. It would also make it easier to hike next month. The pint of ice cream I wolfed down last night and today won’t help matters much.

Ellen, in two weeks I’ll be in St. Paul. I’ll still plan to rent a car so you don’t have to haul me around all the time. One question I have for you is: what are people wearing to weddings these days? I’d like to wear a coat and tie but if that’s not the norm, then let me know what you’d suggest. My golf clubs won’t make the trip. There should be a lot of Des Moines people there and it will be fun to catch up. (I just saw an article that lavishly praised Des Moines as one of the top cultural spots in the country.)

And then scarcely 10 days later, Reid, I’ll be with you for a day in Chicago (and hopefully on the way back, too). My workouts have been bruising but the gym work has to be done. There’s no way I’ll head into the hills in as good a shape as last year when the hike was a relative breeze. The knee feels pretty good for a change.

The lettuce out back is kaput. I’ll pull it up later this week. But the container tomatoes are going gangbusters and just this night I had a couple of BLTs, along with a beer. It was too hot to sit out on the porch. It has really been steamy here but that’s what you expect in the South.

Had a pretty good Father’s Day, capped off by talking to the two of you (and the girls). Those two little lovies just sound so refreshing and energetic. I played golf and started out fairly strong but collapsed like a house of cards on the back nine. Just can’t seem to keep any sort of concentration. Maybe that’s an age thing. I cursed like a sailor at some shots.

Here’s some news; Jane and Dave H. may walk a few days of the Camino de Santiago with me. Due to their schedule it may push my departure back a couple of weeks to mid September to accommodate them but that is fine. We’ll probably iron things out at the Furstenau wedding in Minneapolis. I actually think it would be great fun for those two to join me for whatever length of time. One thing I do know, Barcelona will be the likely landing spot for me since it costs so much less than London. The other thing I know is it’s gonna be here before you know it.

Love, Dad

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