Tag Archives: Barcelona

All aboard the mundane train … and a 500th post


When you look at where my kids have traveled – especially Reid – I’m a relative neophyte compared to those globe hoppers. 

But travel isn’t the only thing going on these days. I’m trying to play catch-up in relating all the little mundane things before zooming – hopefully the post-Irma weather will cooperate – out of CLT. It’s not just about letters these days. A couple of phone calls and FaceTimes with the kids helped to fill in the information ‘How are you doing?’ gaps, too.

And today marks a milestone of sorts: It’s the 500th post for this blog. That’s a lot of letters over a lot of years. For those of you who’ve stuck with me (and Ellen and Reid) on this compulsive endeavor, thanks.


September 4, 2017

Ellen/Reid: This morning’s 11 mile practice slog with a full pack went well enough. It took a shade under four hours, which equated to about 20 minutes a mile and that wasn’t pushing it very hard. Most of the Camino days are in the 20 – 28 Km range which works out to about 13 – 16 miles which should, heaven forbid, be doable.

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Here’s the whole shebang – all 14.4 pounds of it. Enough for nearly seven weeks on the trail.

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And it all fits (with room to spare) in this 2,100 cu. in. Osprey pack.

Everything of consequence has been purchased; the final major item was a silk sleeping bag liner in the event the evenings are too warm in the hostels. My guess is the final pack weight will be in the 16 lb. range. Not really sure how that could be shaved down. It is what it is.

Celebrated Labor Day by rolling out the grill on the drive way and charbroiling a few burgers. Those were the first of the season and were washed down with a couple of cold ones. Read the Camino guidebook while the cooking was going on. Hard to believe in less than two weeks it’ll be boots on the trail.

Miss Emma is atop the car for a run to Charleston in the morning. I am really fatigued by the walk and the activities of the past few days but if fishing isn’t done tomorrow then there won’t be another excursion until mid-November at the earliest. It looks as if there will be a race against Hurricane Irma which I just saw has grown to Category 4. That’s a biggie. In a way, if it hits us in the next seven days that’s good for me in that it might otherwise delay my outbound flight to Barcelona. I did purchase a train ticket that gets me into Pamplona early in the evening of the 14th; I’ll find a place to bunk then meet Jane and Dave at the local aeropuerto. I’ve arranged for a taxi from Pamplona to St. Jean Pied de Port which is our jumping off point in France. We’ll walk five or so miles and stay at a B&B that Jane found. Reid, it is amazing how many nations – 19 or 20? – you’ve visited. That’s just one hell of a list. The offer of minor help to Sri Lanka is still on the table. You’re putting your old man to shame.

There wasn’t any more time to run the rings over to the jeweler for a final assessment as to their realness. They’re sitting in a little box awaiting for my return. It is amazing that the matching wedding band was a mere few feet away from where the ‘diamond’ engagement ring was found. How could I have missed the diamond-encrusted band, let alone it still being there a week later? Bizarre. No more true valuables have been discovered on any of my recent walks. After you’ve found gold and (faux) diamonds, anything less is a downer.

No more Airbnb guests, and it was a little bit puzzling as to why the dearth of visitors until I scoped out the competition. My place is a hovel compared to what the options are; above garage guest quarters, opulent baths, well appointed bedrooms, etc. And I don’t even offer a TV. Maybe that’s the downer that separates nicer places from mine. Perhaps I should promote my pad as ‘pet friendly’ if the dog is housebroken and behaved. That’s doable, too.

Went to the Panthers NFL preseason game and it was a complete yawner. I don’t know why they even bother having those games. Here’s what’s really stupid, however. I found myself watching virtually every play on the JumboTron screen rather than the real action down on the field in front of me. How insane is that?

Okay, I’m at the end of my rope. Time for shower and a bed. Gotta get up before the chickens in order to arrive at Charleston in the dark. The coffee maker is locked and loaded.

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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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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A travelogue from the couch …


I guess this is what retirees do. Hit the road. 

This must be – has to be – the first letter Ellen and Reid have ever received that deals exclusively with their old man’s travel. Maybe not the travel itself, but the looking forward to it. Now if only I was better at the planning …


June 12, 2017

Ellen/Reid: Tomorrow marks a drastic change for me in terms of fishing with Miss Emma in Charleston; I’ll finally overnight there to milk a second day out of the excursion. I booked a fleabag on the west end of Rte. 17 north of Bowens Island. It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out since the down-and-back in one day routine just flat wore me out. Don’t ask why this tact has not been taken before. Beats the hell out of me. I’m cheap, I guess.

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Bowens Island is my escape route. Escape to the water. Miss Emma got a full taste of the brackish salt creeks last week, and she’ll get more of same this week, too.

There’s an added factor in that my friends Jill and Troy want some of my fish as an glitzy appetizer for a big, formal sit-down meal they plan to serve to 20 – 25 guests. They are both chefs as opposed to cooks so they’ll doll up whatever is caught and really make it delicious. So for once we will be a production fishing operation. It means we can spend way more time on the water on Day One rather than scoot out of town at 2 p.m. or so to beat the horrid Charleston traffic. So it’s exciting in a way.

Wyoming is really creeping up soon. This time next month everything might be in the pack. Got to get some new tires for the Camry for the Westward trip since there are nearly 48,000 miles on the car in barely 19 months. My trail meals have already been purchased from an outfit called Packitgourmet.com. The food is all dehydrated rather than freeze dried which takes, in my opinion, too much time to rehydrate. What I’ve seen from Packitgourmet.com is some really good stuff. Almost cuisine. Lunches will be the standard peanut butter and flour tortillas along with tuna in foil packs. Tom buys dried fruit at Trader Joe’s which is really good. Breakfasts will be equally standard; oatmeal with raisins and Starbucks instant coffee. The Tyvek hustled from a construction site has been trimmed to fit the one man tent (and the two person tent, too, Reid). That saves some weight and it compresses better than the plastic sheets. We’ll stay at the super-duper Four Winds in Jackson on the eve of the hike. Reid, Pinedale was nearly full. I had to scrounge for a motel. Must be a lot of roughnecks staying overnight. No way I want to spend another night in the car under a full moon like we did 11 or so years ago. What a memory that is.

Been paging through the Camino de Santiago guide, trying to wrap my arms around the whole idea of an enormous trip. It’s interesting that the author of the guide asks readers early in the book to consider why they would make the trip at all. Really a good question. He assumes, and treats readers thusly, that most make a pilgrimage rather than treat it like a hike or sporting event (my friends Tom and Vince and Richard who’ve all made the trip think it’s more of a walk than a hike). Certainly it’s not race walking or push every day for miles, miles, miles. As I look at the map of Spain – my sense of geography is just awful – my anticipated side trips to Madrid and Barcelona won’t happen. Both are just too far off the trail. In fact, I might book my initial flight in to Barcelona rather than an airport to St. Jean Pied de Port, France, the traditional starting point for the Camino. That way I can spend a day or two traipsing around Barcelona and then hop a bus toward Pamplona which is three days walk from St. Jean. Tom sent me his exacting and incredibly detailed (go figure, huh, Reid?) gear list and that is an enormous help. I’ve been bending Vince’s ear, too.

All this has me thinking about other adventures of this sort that might be made since we shouldn’t be afraid to live. It would be so fun to launch Miss Emma offshore to paddle the length of the Carolinas. It’d take some planning but what fun that would be. There isn’t much other international travel that trips my trigger. Reid, remember that guy we saw up in the Bridger who walked the Continental Divide Trail? Now that would be an extraordinary feat. I’d do that, too, but again, I’d need Tom’s sense of planning since such minute details tend to escape me. No surprise there. Sigh.

Love, Dad

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Back to normal…


This was a weekend for varying members of the clan to hit the skies.

Reid landed Friday in Chicago after his extended work trip to London.  He’s already back in the swing of things.

Emma had her parents accompany her to Michigan and back.

Emma easily claims the Gold Medal for her knack of sleeping anywhere and everywhere – including a comfy spot on her dad’s lap on the trip home from Michigan.

She displayed the inherited trait of being able to sack out on a noisy plane and wake just in time to announce her presence to other passengers within 2 -3 rows of her.

Moreover, now that Reid is back stateside, we will resume the practice of tossing his weekly letter into the mail.

This brings our world back to normal.

Here is last week’s letter to the kids.

——————

August 6, 2012

Ellen/Reid: The ribs are feeling better day by day although the couch remains the most comfortable place to sleep.  I still feel like a doofus for allowing the slips to happen at all.  Tom thinks a change from heavy boots to more of a running/cross training shoe would help.  Could be.  All in all it could’ve been much worse.  We did see one rescue helicopter venture into the high country, and the destination appeared to be in the direction of a group of 20-some kids we learned about from their adult leaders.  We also read in the Jackson Hole paper about a woman from New York who suffered a compound fracture of the femur – ouch, ouch, ouch – near Lake Lozier (which we sped by save but a few minutes of fishing time) just before we went up top, although there was no real news about how they got her out.  An online search found nothing.  Now that would be real, excruciating pain.  My aches would have been like so many insect bites by comparison.  My golf has taken a hit while the ribs mend but I haven’t missed it a whole lot.  There’s plenty of time to get back in the swing of things down here, like 12 months a year.

So it is back to the daily grind.  That’s okay, I like what I do.  My mid-year review was last week and it was good.  It prodded me again to think about when to pull the plug, and if they will have me until I’m 65, that would be close enough to call it a ‘career’ – if such things still exist.  If you’re counting, that’s about two and a half more years of toil.  Of course, you’re only as good as your most recent week so even the best laid plans can go awry.  But that seems relatively feasible.

Sorry to bother you both with my back-and-forth nonsense about the iPad and MacBook Air.  No sooner had I signed the iPad sales slip at Target when a serious case of buyer’s remorse set in.  The Air seems a relatively good choice.  I leaned on Bob F., too, for his advice, and to sum up he said why get an iPad when the hand-held iPhone is so closely akin to it.  I like the way the Air handles and feels, and the operating system is probably a little more stabile.  Yet to be bought are the equivalents to MS Word.  I’ve got to keep the clunky Acer around for the church newsletter but that is probably the highest and best use for that contraption.  Ellen, the Air comes with Facetime, so keep little Emma within arm’s reach in case Gramps calls.

Reid, you have travel in your veins.  Barcelona?  How the heck does one get from London to Barcelona in the face of all that Olympic zaniness?  Good for you.  I’m envious that you just pull up stakes and go.  It takes some nards to do that when you’re by your lonesome.  What is the total count of nations you’ve visited?  11 by my rough tally, and that may be off a few.  Hey, when you are back stateside, look at the first opportunity to A) get your carcass down to Charlotte or, B) tell me when we should get up to Chicago so you can meet Felicia and vice versa.

Keep the Emma videos flowing to the Southeast, Ellen.  She looked so unhappy, but cute, on the way back from Cass Lake.  She’s a good sport to be in her car seat all the time, especially when she wants to stretch her legs and kick out the jams.  One thing about that sort of trip; you know you’re not childless anymore.  It probably seems as if you had to pack enough gear for a round-the-world-cruise.  Get used to it.

The Olympics have taken up some of the evening tube time although by confession, it seems pretty formulaic; gymnastics, swimming, basketball and the track events.  It gets pretty boring sometimes.  I’m a shoo-in for gold if/when it comes to lazing around on the couch while the rest of me mends.   Too bad I don’t get to go to London to collect my medal.

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