Tag Archives: Camino de Santiago

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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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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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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Maizie the wonder dog and a week of minutiae …


Ellen used to ride me like a rented mule on a dog; ‘get one, get one, get one.’ But with my schedule, fairness to the animal is a consideration. No dog deserves to be alone for extended periods.

But young – and ultra shy – Maizie is giving me some second thoughts.

The bulk of the week, however, was a matter of routine.


June 5, 2017

Ellen/Reid: It’s a cool, rainy morning and it tabled morning golf with my friend Garry; but in a way that’s a good thing. Nothing wrong with vegging with a cup of coffee and the newspaper. I’ll head to the Y in a bit to put in some more work to shed a few stubborn pounds (ugh) and up the preparations for the Bridger. It’ll be here before you know it.

It was sort of a vegging weekend. I bailed on Saturday and Sunday golf to spend time with Maizie, Sondra and Jody’s adorable little Aussie. She’s just the sweetest dog ever but is the shyest animal I’ve ever been around.

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Maizie was just an adorable houseguest for the weekend. If there was to be a dog in my house, it might well be an even-tempered Aussie.

You go to pet her and she flinches or ducks away. But once she warms up to you she becomes your shadow. I couldn’t go anywhere without her tailing me, even to the shower. And she was in-out, in-out the entire weekend. She made fast friends with the other dogs in the neighborhood. But I’d watch her again in a heartbeat.

My other houseguest for the week, Eva LaValle of Des Moines, left on Saturday for home. She was just a dear, and so appreciative of the housing. She did earn her raft guide certification at the Whitewater Center and now she’s on the prowl for a rafting gig where she can put her new-found skills to work. She might even return to Charlotte later this summer for a short term stint at the Center. I told her she’s welcome to stay here until she finds something more permanent. She was incredibly low maintenance. As in no maintenance.

Did play golf for a day on Friday up in the mountains with friends Lynn, Ted and Alice at a course called Olde Beau. It was a one of the prettiest blue-sky days you can imagine in the Carolinas. Of course, my game stunk up the course but that wasn’t of much concern. We just had a good time. Not sure why my iron game is in the tank but it is.

Tim drove me crazy with the pics of his latest smoked pork shoulder triumph. That guy can really bring it. He’s kind of thrown out the challenge flag and now it’s up to me to respond. Sounds like this could be another weekend to toss on the pork. He’s more of a methodical smoked meat disciplinarian than me. I put it on for 14 hours and that’s about the extent of the labor.

It was great to hear you and Liz got to spend time with Sondra and Jody, Reid. They are just great, great people. I wasn’t aware his son lived in Chicago so Jody got to double dip in a way. Those two don’t miss out on much fun. U2 and the Cubs – in a single weekend? While I’m watching the dog? I was up in Davidson last night for a dinner and wasn’t here when they retrieved Maizie. So there was no chance to ask if they went to Gibson’s for steak. But I’m really glad you had a chance to be with them.

Ellen, I’ll make flight plans today to get to St. Paul on Wednesday, July 5 for the Furstenau wedding.  I’ll rent a car this time since I’ll be all over the place. (Tell Tim to fire up that smoker.) And you guys should have a great time in California while Tim chases tarpon in Florida.

Reid, I’ll be in Chicago late on Monday, July 17. As of this writing Tom and I hit the road early on the 18th since we have to pick up Vince in Jackson on the 20th and it’s a solid two day drive. My plan is to take us through the Nebraska Sand Hills since Tom has never seen those natural wonders. What a walk it would be through those grand hills. In the long ago I dreamt of running through that part of the country but we know how that worked out.

And the Camino de Santiago guide book is getting something of a workout. I need to make my flight plans this week (and my plans in general since I’m a laggard on that aspect) since that adventure is getting closer, too. There’s so much to do for it. Tom has been there and I suspect much of our road time will be spent picking his brain on what to do and how to do it.

Love, Dad

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