Preparing for Another of Life’s Milestones

May 14, 2013

In a few months, my bride will retire from her job and I will change my status from “semi-retired” to “fully retired.” In the past I’ve written about “Rites of Passage” and this is one for which we’ve been preparing for many years, but it’s a bit more frightening than all the previous stages of my life.

In the first place, there are the retirement savings accounts. My oldest account was started more than thirty years ago. It saw me though a long period of unemployment when I had to borrow from it to pay my bills. I’ve managed to repay those loans and add to it. But in a few months, I will stop adding to it and, (GASP!) begin withdrawing from it.

At the same time, we will transfer my bride’s 401K to a dividend paying mutual fund and virtually end the growth of that account. Hopefully, the dividends we collect from our retirement accounts will supplement our Social Security payments so we won’t have to move in with our kids… for at least a little while.

Many people who retire, do little more than sit in front of the TV and wait for the final curtain. I doubt if my bride could ever do such a thing, which means she won’t let me do it either. That’s one of the reasons we bought our new toys.

Our new travel trailer.

Our new travel trailer.

Our new tow vehicle

Our new tow vehicle

Some retirees go out and buy a two seater sports car and drive off into the sunset – stopping at fancy hotels along the way. Lu and I prefer to travel more frugally, and also hope to be able to take a few grandkids along with us to some of our as-yet-to-be-planned destinations.

To give those grandkids and their parents something to think about… our potential destinations include Tybee Island, Georgia, various parts of Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Yellowstone National Park, Illinois, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, New Jersey, Texas, and a number of Canadian provinces.

In 1984, I dragged my first wife and our four children on a cross-country camping trip. That was done with a pop-up camping trailer and an 8-passenger van. We saved a lot of money by staying at camp grounds, but strained a lot of relationships by having to deal with a daily allotment of chores, dirt, flat tires, dead batteries, lost pieces of the trailer, and spartan meals. I think I’m the only one who absolutely loved the adventure, but, then again, it was my idea. I had to love it!

That 1984 trip was carefully planned almost down to the number of miles to be driven each day.

Now, we’re looking at a trip that has no definite destination and no detailed advanced planning. However, technology has advanced significantly over the last 29 years. We now have cell phones, GPS navigators, Wi-Fi computers, and 29 years of experience in the art of living. We also have a better financial picture and hope to keep that improved picture by keeping our travel expenses as low as possible.

Some of my readers may take that last statement to mean “We’re coming to visit you and expect you to house and feed us for some period of time.” I promise you that we won’t stay long. So don’t worry.

In 1984, I had to estimate how many bills would be delivered in our absence, and how much we would owe. I paid most of the bills in advance and wound up with credit balances on most of them. Today I can review my bills on line and pay most of them by simply making a few keystrokes on the computer. Hopefully, our bank account will not run out on us.

Needless to say, even with all the advancements in technology, our additional knowledge and wisdom that comes with age, and all the other assets in our possession, our future remains a vast unknown and leaving home is a somewhat scary proposition.

Fortunately, we have family, friends, and neighbors who we can count on to drive by the homestead from time to time to let us know that things are OK, but I’d hate to be in Timbuktu when we learn that a tree has fallen on the house. Perhaps that is why many RVers sell their homes and take to the road on a permanent basis.

Perhaps that will be our next significant rite of passage.

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My First Published Work

March 12, 2012

I had to resort to cyberspace to get it done, but it’s working. People are buying one of my books. If you’ve ever considered publishing your writings you know that most publishers won’t consider you unless you have an agent, and most agents won’t consider you unless you’ve been published.

Only the experienced need apply – unless you’ve already made a name for yourself as an actor, athlete, or politician. Then you can get published even if you don’t know how to write.

As Yakov Smirnoff would say, “What a country!”

In any case, here it is!

My travel tips for the tyro.

It is currently available from Amazon.com and is a steal at $2.99. It explains most, if not all, aspects of travel. It begins by talking about documents you might need – depending on your destination, Then it examines how to pick the best times to take the trip – to avoid crowds and high prices.

Many of the trips my bride and I have taken were bargain basement deals; so I explain the steps we take to find those specials. Then we look at how to make the good deals even better, by choosing less expensive travel methods and meals and expanding the itinerary set by a travel agent.

The thing that sets my book apart is that it covers so many aspects of travel. There are many books written by folks like Rick Steves, Fodors, Frommer’s, DK, Eyewitness Travel, Footprint, Lonely Planet, and Moon. They, and the books like them, do a nice job of telling you about various destinations – they just don’t tell you a lot about how to get there.

Clark Howard, a consumer advocate based in Atlanta, provides lots of travel advice, but many things you should know are scattered throughout his website and books, or simply assumed.

Much of the information in my book might be considered common sense. I simply attempt to present a formula for taking a trip – from planning to packing.

Using the information I’m sharing, I’ve saved hundreds of dollars on a single trip! And my bride and I have taken at least one dream vacation every year for the past several years. For three bucks, I think you’ll be able to pack your carry-on and have the same sort of good fortune we’re enjoying. If you buy a copy of the book, come back here and let me know what you think. Thanks.


Hilton Head 2010

August 3, 2010

Paul, Dominic, and Anna

Last week, my bride and I traveled to Hilton Head, South Carolina and spent a week with her sister and brother-in-law, and various children and grandchildren.

I’m not a big fan of Hilton Head for a number of reasons, but the thing I dislike the most is all the private property between the public roads and the public beach and waterways. Unless you rent a place with beach access, there are very few easy paths to the sand and surf. We were fortunate in that the house we rented was next to Bradley Beach Park.  However, had we not rented a house in that area, we would’ve had difficulty recognizing that there was a parking lot and walkway to the beach at the end of the road. There is a sign, but one that can easily be missed.

The beach was nice – everyone else in our party was fine with that – but I wanted more. I love crab and crabbing. Crabs do not spend time in the surf; they dwell in the marshes and streams away from the waves. Trying to gain access to those back-water salt marshes is next to impossible; they are surrounded by private property.

The only place I was able to find was a large bay between Hilton Head Island and the mainland. It wasn’t the optimal place to catch crabs, but it was better than nothing.

The first day I tried, a family had already laid claim to the best spot and I had to go to the end of a dock where the water was much deeper.

A side story: In many states, the use of crab traps is perfectly legal and that’s how we caught them during my childhood on our annual vacations to New Jersey. However, in Maryland (and this may no longer be true) traps were only permitted for the commercial crabbers. Everyone else had to tie the bait to a line and slowly draw the crabs close to shore where they could be captured in a net. Thus, when I go crabbing I’m prepared to catch crabs using both methods. Using the baited line is less boring than simply checking the trap every five to ten minutes.

So, as I’m walking to the end of the dock, a small boy of five or six asks me if I’m going crab fishing with my net. When I told him that was my plan, he said, “You’re never going to catch a crab with that net.”

Out of the mouths of babes! On that first day, he was absolutely correct. As a matter of fact, he could’ve said the same about my trap and would’ve been almost correct. I caught nothing with the baited lines. As for the trap, I caught one small crab – too small to keep – and one medium sized fish. That was a first. I’ve caught turtles in a trap, but never a fish.

The next day I arrived earlier and claimed the better spot, but the tide was wrong. Nonetheless, I caught one crab in the trap and two using the baited line and net method.

It can be done!

Unfortunately, only one of the three crabs I caught was big enough to keep. Eventually I gave up and released my sole captive. My feasting on fresh crab meat will have to wait.

When we first arrived at our rental house, we all made fun of the swimming pool.

Most of the pool is in this picture.

Our group consisted of nine adults and five children. There is no way we could’ve all fit into that pool at the same time. Yet it was perfect for the children. They were always close to a side that they could grab on to if they encountered any difficulties.

The shallow end was a series of steps down to about three feet. The deep end was perhaps four or five feet deep… just deep enough for a rotund grandfather to do a cannon ball without hitting the bottom of the pool too hard.

Most of the time, I simply borrowed my granddaughter’s flotation device and enjoyed the coolness of the water.

Chilling in the pool

The most difficult part of the vacation was trying to get the children out of the water. They all loved the ocean and the pool. By the end of the week, they looked like a bunch of prunes, but we did manage to get them to sit still for about 30 seconds for a group photo.

Dominic, Anna, Emma, Zack, and Ty

It’s plain to see the children enjoyed the trip to the beach, and I assure you that at least one adult also had a wonderful time. I’m sure my bride and the others also had a good time.

We definitely have to do it again… real soon!


Life’s a Beach

February 16, 2010

Edisto Island Beach

I’ve been going to the beach ever since I was a toddler. Because my father was raised in South Jersey and we had relatives living in Linwood and Somers Point, my family vacationed near the beach every year.

We never stayed at the beach; that would’ve been too expensive. We would rent a small apartment or stay on my uncle’s cabin cruiser (also small) a few miles in from the shore. Most of our time was spent fishing and crabbing in the inland bays and marshes. Once or twice during our stay we’d go into Atlantic City or Ocean City to spend some time on the beach or stroll along the boardwalk.

Fishing and crabbing with nephews and nieces

I recall one vacation when my parents did something different. I believe it was 1955 or 1956. Instead of going to South Jersey, we went to Cambridge, Maryland and rented a cottage along the Choptank River. We arrived shortly after a hurricane had passed through. Not only was the river running fast and deep, many of the surrounding fields were still draining. We saw a number of people holding chicken wire at the end of irrigation ditches. They were catching some very large fish that had been driven inland by the storm surge.

On that particular trip, the beach wasn’t quite as convenient. But on one of our days in Maryland, we drove over to Ocean City, Maryland and enjoyed their beach and boardwalk.

I have been to beaches all up and down the East Coast, Mississippi, Texas, California, and Oregon. I’ve also visited Brighton Beach in England and some beaches in Puerto Rico and Mexico. They all speak the same language as they invite us to either walk along the water’s edge or sit down and watch the waves rolling in.

Without even closing my eyes, I can hear the sound of the surf, the wind, and the sea gulls.

I’ve often thought about living closer to a beach. I wouldn’t want to own a home on the beach. Hurricanes might not hit a particular beach that often, but once would be more than enough for me. I’d like to live about twenty miles inland so it would be an easy trip to get close to the ocean.

However, with most of our children and grandchildren living within thirty miles of us, I’d find it difficult to move anywhere.

Perhaps we could win the lottery. Then we could move the entire extended family.

My bride and I on Tybee Island

I have been to the beach so many times in my life that I consider it a God given blessing and wish everyone – especially children – could visit a beach on a regular basis.

Twice we were able to stay at rental properties right on the beach. Once was in Ocean City, New Jersey and the other was on Edisto Island. My bride and I rented the place in New Jersey at the end of the summer season (reduced rates) and my nephews and nieces chipped in. On Edisto Island, we were fortunate to be the guests of John and Debbe Mize. That was in November a couple of years back.

Based on those two experiences, I’d say the best time to go to the beach is after Labor Day and before June. The temperatures are much milder and there are no crowds.

We’re hoping to get to at least one beach in 2010, but I think I’m already there mentally.


The Big Loop

January 25, 2010

I wonder what ever became of my Uncle Lewis’ cabin cruiser.

Uncle Lewis on his boat - circa 1950

Rich Grimshaw recently commented on my 2010 Wish List post and asked if I’d ever considered “The Big Loop.” In truth, I’d never heard of it. So I went to the Internet and found a web site called “Love to Know Cruises”. There I found the following:

“The Great Loop – also called the American Loop or the Great Circle – is a long distance circumnavigation voyage that encompasses the entire eastern portion of the United States and parts of Canada, from the Atlantic Coast to the heartland rivers to the Gulf of Mexico depending on the route taken, the Great Loop may be from 5,000 to 7,500 miles long and is primarily in sheltered waters, making it one of the safest long distance cruises in the world. This voyage is undertaken by many avid sailors and cruisers, and as more people take up hobbies such as boating and sailing, the various routes for the Great Loop are becoming ever more popular.”

Rich Grimshaw estimated such a trip might take a year or more. His wife, Jan, quickly added that the boat used for such a voyage must have a nice shower. When I suggested she jump into the water to bathe, she responded with a glare. I took that as a “Not on your life!”

As I recall, my Uncle Lewis’ boat had a toilet (that dumped its contents into the water when flushed), a small sink, an old fashioned ice box, and a small gas stove; but no shower. Thus, such a boat would not be acceptable to Jan.

I doubt if it would be acceptable to my bride either. To be honest, I’d want something a bit larger myself.

Back to the Internet! This is what I learned about the ideal boat at a web site called Trawlers and trawling.

The quick and safe answer is, that there ISN’T an ideal or perfect boat for doing the America’s Great Loop Cruise.  The Great Loop has been completed by almost every imaginable type of vessel from a personal water craft (PWC or Jet Ski®) to large luxury yachts both power and sail, gas and diesel.  Keep in mind the limiting factors for air height, draft and beam, each listed separately in the specifications below.  Along some of the Loop’s waterways, a “big” boat is between 26 and 32 feet, has a beam of 8-1/2 to 11 feet and draft under 4 feet.  So, mega yachts are not recommended nor are they needed.

Needless to say, Rich got my attention. I’m going to have to learn more about this and start saving my money so I can go off gallivanting for a year or so.



Ramblings

January 22, 2010

Container Ship on the Savannah River

I’d never been this close to a container ship prior to the day I took the picture. I continue to be amazed at how many containers were on board this vessel. When you realize that each of those containers would eventually become part of an 18-wheeler, it’s almost beyond comprehension.

Take it a step farther and think about the TV show, “Deadliest Catch” and try to picture this ship being tossed around like a cork in a storm at sea. That’s when the power of nature becomes even more awesome than this ship.

In case you’re wondering, I’m flipping through my collection of pictures again.

Sunrise at Port Angeles, Washington

The above photo was taken while my brothers, two nephews, and I awaited a ferry to take us to Victoria, British Columbia. The body of water isn’t the Pacific Ocean, but it’s close enough.

I often think this photo is almost “post card” quality. But there are better ones in the collection.

Sunrise at Ocean City, New Jersey

My bride took that picture.

Shore line in Puerto Rico

I captured this image during our visit with a future movie star and his bride.

Richard Pastush - the future star

Our friend, Richard Pastush is the fourth from the right – the guy in the purple tank top. These folks are part of the cast of the movie, “Men Who Stare at Goats”.

The wall around Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

I think it’s rather obvious that my bride and I enjoy visiting places close to the water.

I’ll have to dig up some pictures taken before we bought the digital camera and see what memories they invoke. Watch this space for future entries!


Wish List for 2010 and Beyond

January 13, 2010

Rich Grimshaw made me do this. He dropped by my blog recently and commented that it was time to move beyond my Christmas post. He’s right! It is time for something new.

After careful consideration, I decided to make it easy on myself and simply compile a list of things I’d like to do before I move on to the next stage of my existence.

I’ll begin by listing the places to which I’d like to travel. These are places I’ve not yet visited.

Japan would be near the top of my list, along with Thailand, Vietnam, Korea, and China. I like Asian cuisine and have always been fascinated by photos and articles about these countries.

As for European countries, I’d like to visit Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Greece, the Netherlands, Spain, and… all the rest. I’d list France, England, Ireland, Austria, and Denmark, but I’ve already been to those places.

Australia and New Zealand are also beckoning to me.

Allow me to digress. (That, in itself, is a ridiculous statement. You have no choice. I’ll digress with or without your permission!)

I read an article the other day. In it, the author noted that someone was at the “beckon call” of another. There was no way to leave a comment, but the phrase is “beck and call.” The author, no doubt, has never been under the control of anyone other than his or her parents.

I am not at the beck and call of either Australia or New Zealand, but I would like to go see them both.

I almost ended this part of my wish list by saying that no other places really interested me. Then I remembered two other continents. There are numerous South American countries that I’d love to visit. As for the continent of Africa, I’d like to go to Egypt to see the pyramids.

Although I am a Christian, I have no strong desire to visit the Holy Land. I’d rather not visit any parts of the world where my life might be in danger because of religious zealots of any kind.

The next part of my list (travel section) would include places I’d love to revisit. The European countries I mentioned above would definitely be on that list, as would several Canadian provinces and more than a few U.S. states.

I’ve only been on one cruise in my life. That was an inside-passage tour of Alaska. Taking the Queen Mary across the Atlantic doesn’t interest me in the least, however I’d love to take a “repositioning” cruise. That’s when a cruise line moves one of its ships from the Caribbean to the Northern Pacific waters via the Panama Canal or back.

If I’m not mistaken, that’s about a seventeen day trip. Of course, the way they feed you on a cruise would probably result in me looking like a beached whale at the end.

Speaking of food, I once had the opportunity to dine on Rocky Mountain oysters. At that time, I lost my courage. I’ve been kicking myself ever since. I will order them the next time I have the chance.

I’m a big fan of Andrew Zimmern (Bizarre Foods) and Anthony Bourdain (No Reservations) – two personalities on the Travel Channel. Most of what Andrew eats fail to whet my appetite. However, some of it does arouse my interest. On the other hand, most of the meals enjoyed by Anthony cause me to salivate.

When I was much younger I wished to own a Corvette one day. The first time I came close to being able to afford one I went to a dealership and crawled into one. My head pushed into the roof liner and, at slightly over two hundred pounds (at the time), I felt cramped. It broke my heart, but not my bank account.

Today, I see motor vehicles as nothing more than transportation. The one and only exception is the large motor home. If I could afford the insurance and fuel costs, I’d love to buy one and be off to see America. Of course, we’d have to tow our Toyota Yaris to make it easier to go sight-seeing.

Another thing I’d love to do is ride the train across Canada. The major part of that trip would be the ability to get off when we saw something interesting, spend a day or two wherever, and hop the next train going in our direction. I’ve a sneaky suspicion that such a trip would break the bank.

I just thought of something! Maybe I can get the Travel Channel to give me my own show. I’d get a big motor home and drive across the country visiting Brew Pubs.

When my bride and I travel I often drag her into micro-breweries for a tour. Quite often these breweries include restaurants. We’ve had some wonderful meals at such places. The only negative is that Lu doesn’t like beer. The positive is that I get stuck drinking her samples.

I have one more wish (for now). The State of Georgia has a lottery game called “Win for Life”. The grand prize is $1,000 a week for life. If we were to win that, a number of the things I’ve listed above could become a reality. My bride and I could both retire and go off to see the world.

Perhaps I should buy a ticket.

Now, we’ll see if Rich stops by again and makes another comment.