Day in Photos, pt 9029

Christmas edition!

Mini is with her dad in Tennessee this Christmas so allow me to reminisce and smile through this year’s holiday adventures before she departed.

Obligatory hotel lobby photo! I know last year’s and 2019’s photo are around here somewhere!

Special Santa letter! She was beyond excited when retrieving it from the mailbox.

a tutu a day is the only way

Bet you’ve never seen/heard a girl squeal in joy when getting buttons in her stocking! Mini loves to craft so buttons were on her Christmas wish list. Buttons. Of all things.

oh look, another tutu

Ice skating with Aunt B! My sweet sister was such a trooper to take Mini skating the weekend of my race. She prevented me from breaking anything pre-run, only fell once, and encouraged mini to keep going through the approximately 47 falls of her own! Towards the end of the at least 2 hour icecapades, Mini was bravely traversing the ice alone. Definitely a must do again!

A school trip to the local library for a visit with the Clause’s!

And, finally, a cuddly moment for mini and I. This amazing girl is reading sentences, making friends with everyone, and has the biggest heart! She sings with her whole body and, no matter how big she gets, will always be my snuggle buddy.

a tutu – again

Merry Christmas, from Running on Fumes to all my loyal readers! Thank you for blessing my life with your friendship!

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I ask you –

Are you traveling for the holidays?

Have you ever received a personalized Santa letter?

Again, may your holiday be filled with love, joy, and a silent night!

Mom Fails, pt whatever

Narrative: mini’s class was having a movie day experience and a message was sent to parents for help acquiring small boxes of candy.

My perspective: this time, I’m not responding. I don’t have time this week to peruse for candy boxes. Too much on my plate, but I’ll check back to ensure what was needed was purchased, then, if not, I’ll chime in.

Spoiler alert: all candy was successfully located.

Credit: mommy.meds via Instagram

Final observation: a mom whom I know personally and absolutely love had the final say – to the effect of if you have the dollar general app then candy is buy three get one free. FIRST, I had no idea there was a dollar general app. SECOND, this is the mom level I aspire to…the one who knows about apps and deals and where to go for the best coupons. LASTLY, what an amazing person to share this info for those of us who flounder around in the world with no real experience in “mom’ing” and rely on other mommier moms for encouragement. Isn’t it like us to compare and see others doing it better (or so we think)? Let it be known, I don’t doubt my mom abilities, but I am very realistic about my strengths and weaknesses! Becoming a candy purchaser is not my forte – lest I buy the celery-flavored stuff.

And we all know how that turned out!

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I ask you –

What’s your favorite movie candy?

Did you know there was a Dollar General app?

Link to my celery debacle post: Rants & Raves – RoF Edition

Reflections of a Training Cycle

This one has been tough – not on time, but on my body.

From start to finish (16 weeks), I only gained 6 lbs but the inflammation is very pronounced. I have failed to disclose previously I’m under orders to stop running for 6 weeks. Ooof. Due to a probable hamstring sprain/strain bordering on a tear, instructions were given to rest/ice/heat/medicate and a whole list of other things for no less than 4 weeks. Instead, I continued to run and train for several weeks to make it to race day. So what does that mean now? It means I’m very lucky to have made it through the race and now I will be following doctor’s orders for the remainder of the month and partially into January. Not exactly the plan I had, but here we are. Surely I realize the scope of my decision to train regardless of pain, etc; however, once I finally received a diagnosis, it was exactly 10 days until R-Day. Many people much smarter than I have decided not to compete in events incredibly significant, i.e. the Olympics, for injury prevention reasons. Alas, my measly race pales in comparison yet I continued to train despite the bruising, pain, and swelling. I don’t say this to brag; rather I say it to reemphasize what not to do and how little I use my brain cells. Please learn from my mistakes.

If anyone needs me, I’ll just be ambling around chained to an ice pack alternating with heating pad and taking copious amounts of muscle relaxers to release the muscle from its confines of tension with the ultimate goal of running sans pain in the very near future! Speaking this into existence! Also, it seems I’ll definitely need to make an update to my eating habits for the duration. Can’t be imbibing in everything my heart desires if movement is limited. Don’t misunderstand – I don’t run so I can eat. It’s taken a long time to get to a place where food is fuel. I eat so I may run. I eat to enjoy the little things in life, like fresh baked cookies. But the donuts and croutons and extra pie need to take a back burner to getting myself well again. They will be there when I’m ready.

16 weeks is a bit too lengthy for me. Garmin told me I “peaked” around 14 weeks and instructed me to race soon as my fitness would start to decrease. So I proceeded to continue running as prescribed because what were my other options?! Then the reported VO2 max kept increasing so was I really peaking? Was the peak an early symptom of the highest VO2 max I’ve ever accomplished? Who knows. Let’s be honest…I have never considered my VO2 max as any number worth being concerned over and I’m not starting now. But it was awesome to see the message ‘Superior’! haHA! Superior! Anyway, previously I said (wrote) I wanted to focus more on the 10k distance in 2022; I think my plan is solid even if it won’t start as early as I’d hoped for due to mandatory rest. Seems like every single time I have a great running base something comes up. Oh well.

_______________________

I ask you –

What is your typical training cycle length?

Have you ever continued to train for an event despite a recommendation to stop?

Tell me the stat you like to track!

It’s Race Week!

Disclaimer: I didn’t bring my laptop to edit posts so I’m sure the photos below are not centered and are probably so large everyone in space can see them. Apologies.

Garmin conveniently says I’m in Recovery mode, but on Monday, it felt like anything but. The wind was 90,000 mph with a wind chill of 30-something°. I opted out of the optional 10 mins on the end of the run which gave me a solid 2.48 miles.

the gloves in my reflection saved my life!

More “recovery” work, even at a tempo pace. Seriously, Garmin, I don’t understand you. I suppose working harder than what is expected during the race could be considered a recovery. In some worlds maybe.

Final run before race day was as expected…I don’t know what I mean by that because I had no expectations. My hamstring was really bothering me, even with the medicinal regimen, but my plan is to power through it all and reach my goal. I’ll keep you posted.

Beautiful day!!

Tomorrow morning is the big day! I didn’t sleep well last night due to a comedy of hotel errors but tonight my plan is to get to bed early and rest up. I’m excited about an actual, real life expo because I realized I haven’t been to one of those since Morgan from Oregon and I ran NOLA in 2019! Time flies when you’re having fun (that’s my mantra for tomorrow!)

Hotel life

Final call: You can track me using this link (find my name – Kelly Atwell):  https://rtrt.me/ulink/RRSA/RRS-DALLAS-2021/tracker/RBRE5GLH/focus

Hope you all have an amazing day!

Randomly Random

So very random.

Very thankful to a nice man named Alex who left the lovely confines of his home to help me remove lug nuts that might’ve been tightened by the Hulk himself. Seriously, I’m a self-sufficient young woman who can do all kinds of things herself, but when I’m literally standing on top of the bar trying to remove the stupid, non-cooperative lug nuts…well, all kinds of words were coming out of my mouth. This wasn’t my idea of the donuts I tend to enjoy! $500 later – Betty has a brand new pair of shoes!

Slipper socks? Slipper shoes?

Not sure who invented these toasty foot warmers, but thank you times a million! I’ve owned these for several years. I don’t know why I hadn’t tried to use them properly until Thanksgiving! Feets and legs! Anyway, they’re awesome. Get yourself a pair. Or ten!

My friend recently posted a photo of her dogs with the caption “tfw (insert caption here)”. Normally I try to figure out things on my own before referring to Dr. Google. So as I wracked my brain to decipher what TFW meant, which bordered on the inappropriate – to f*** with – to the insane – tiny fried woman, I realized I was completely clueless. I don’t mind being politically incorrect, Correction: my anxiety says we do mind, but I do try to stay updated on the slang our society is currently using. I’m not old nor young. Not naive yet sometimes a little clueless. But as much as I tried, I came up with no words which would make sense in what she posted.

Totally didn’t see that coming. Thanks, Webster. You rescued me from a life of ignorance. Now I must come up with ways to use my new knowledge!

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I ask you –

When was the last time you had a flat? Did you need help?

What brand/style are your favorite socks?

Tell me an acronym you didn’t know the meaning of!

Running on Fumes – Musings from the Mess Decks, pt 2

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From Dan –  

Yes, I was aware that children, for a short time, were considered mail-able. It seems weird, but doctors used to prescribe cigarettes for pregnant women, so maybe it’s not too weird. 

We recently celebrated my elder child’s 30th birthday, and of course I was reminded of the circumstances of how I was alerted to her arrival. For you see, I was cruising around South America at the time and communications between me and the States were irregular and crude.

I knew she would be along pretty soon, and it was after a very long midnight watch up in the gun director that I settled into my rack for a precious 3-hour nap before the endless cycle of events of a warship underway, the next go round of eat, work, and watch.  With great surprise my then-Senior Chief (RIP) thrust his hand past the blue-curtain barrier that defined my sacrosanct rack with a just barely not growled “Here! Read this!”

I had been handed, of course, the long awaited for birth announcement. And now, here it was, a telegram for the love of God, sent to me by the Red Cross. Sleep was out of the question, and I walked fore and aft, bilge to bridge making the announcement to anyone who would listen. I finally ran out of people to tell, and I ended up on the port side main deck, smoking a celebratory cigar while watching the wilderness of the Andes Mountains slide aft. I’m sure there are things about that day that I have long since forgotten, but I still have that telegram up in my study where I keep a number of priceless mementos of my life to remind me of that amazing morning.

There’s a wide variety of trinkets and tchotchkes in that cache of memories, an unsurprisingly number amongst them are letters: Honest-to-God, sat-down-with-pen-and-paper letters written at various times and delivered to me (via paths that can only be guessed at) to whatever ship I was on and wherever I was. Those letters are occasionally pulled from storage, their decades-old creases unfolded so that I may again experience an echo of the thrill I enjoyed when I first received them so long ago. A few of them still are redolent of the fuel-oil, paint, and steel smell of a warship underway and it’s that odor that instantly transports me back to a very different time and place.

Today’s Sailors feel they are lucky. E-mails back and forth to the home-front are everyday events, phone calls common, and video chats with loved ones unremarkable. Keeping up with the day-to-day activities of the household and families has never been easier or more immediately possible for the Sailor.

 

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And, I think it safe to say, that very, very few of the Active Duty folks would willingly return to my Morse code and semaphore way of doing things. Hard to blame them, really. If I could have been part of a video call back in 1985, well, let’s just say I might be missing parts of my anatomy. Running your life/marriage via mail that makes it way home via a wandering and unpredictable path (Say, over to an oiler, then to an amphib, and finally over to a series of Air Force Base storage areas[1]) sometimes takes longer than the deployment. Indeed. Stories of mail arriving home after the Sailor used to be very common.

And it is also true that we could on occasion call home by radio, thanks to ham radio operators and long distance phone calls. It was called the MARS system, although it was probably easier to call the planet than it was to call home. MARS was wonderful to have, but weird. We had to use Navy radio techniques (“Over”) which were hard to teach to small children, and there was a very long list of things that were taboo to talk about on the radio. Imagine phoning home and then being prosecuted. Ah, the perils of military life.

But emails and phone calls can’t be kept, cherished, and handed down like the letters and other messages I have from those long-ago days. It might be fun to see a new e-mail in the inbox in the morning, but every morning? I wonder. And, I wonder if that experience can match the intense feelings of anticipation and joy (and sometimes desolation) when the Boatswain’s Mate of the Watch passed “Mail Call!” Remember, that would sometimes happen only twice a month.

It was possible to tell by holding that the letter had power. You were holding something she had held just a while ago. That letter had been in your house! Your daughter can write! All of those things so very far away. A talisman of home, a status hard to convey onto an e-mail.

Mail and its service seems to be failing, albeit slowly, and the whole process is probably doomed. Sad I suppose, but such is the inexorable march of time. I try to remember that everything in the world today will someday be gone and considered either quaint or no longer understood, enigmas from the past like Stonehenge or the Antikythera Mechanism. One of my more ridiculous thoughts is of my great, great grandchildren attempting to decipher those letters found one day moldering away in dusty old box. “Jeez,” I can hear them say, “Who was this guy? Why didn’t he just flash over and see Grammy Lynn instead of doin’ this? And what’s a ‘ship’?” Sic transit Gloria mundi.


[1] My days in the Navy started before Desert Shield/Desert Storm. Mail services had been archaic/slow for years, but improved drastically after American service members started going to the Middle East in serious numbers. I’m not complaining, it’s just the way it was. And, we could always tell when Oprah or Sally Jesse Raphael had a story about the folks in the Persian Gulf as after those shows, we would receive a mountain of mail on the fantail addressed to Any Sailor/Soldier.

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As always, a huge thank you to my friend, Dan, for his sole contribution to this RoF special piece. I know I have many other friends/family with stories for days of their time and I’d love to post them, too. Please contact me if you have a contribution or if you have a story but are unable to put it into words that make sense – I’m hear to listen and write on your behalf. Always! -Kel

Friendship Funny Farm, pt 2

Back on the subject of friendships and how I pretty much suck at making new ones, it turns out one of mini’s classmates/friend is the daughter of a young man I worked with at Sonic a billion years ago because I’m old. Correction: I’m not the typical kindergartener’s mother’s age. And I’m totally fine with this!

Credit: fuckologyofficial via Instagram

Anyway, I’ve had a few encounters with this classmate’s mother, who is married to the guy I worked with. Keep up. The classmate is sweet and seems to do well in school. If mini’s antecdotes are to be believed. Each “Mommy encounter” has been pleasant until recently. I have her number saved and we’ve text before – she seems nice. However, the most recent time I saw her she said wildly funny things. She made an Anna Nicole Smith joke – God rest her soul. What’s funny is I’m old enough to get the joke. She also underscored the struggles we’re going through as parents with very needy children! And if you know anything about me to this point, then you know my mom abilities border on the completely unprepared. By border, I mean fall spectacularly short.

Herein lies the real issue. I want to be friends with this hilarious woman. But I’m not good at the making friends thing. I believe I’m the funniest woman on earth so this should be simple, right? Make a few jokes, endear myself to her, then pounce! Did this get weird? Or are you supposed to court them first? Told you…old lady here. Do I schmooze her with coffee? What if she doesn’t like coffee? Hard pass. We can’t be friends. Ever. I’ve already stalked her on social media which is how I found out about the husband/previous coworker piece. At least I’m honest!

parking lot motivation

Did you know: Children laugh, on average, 150 times a day. Adults laugh, on average, only six times a day. This is why adults are so grumpy! Because they don’t laugh enough. Find something to laugh at! I suggest starting with yourself.

Finally, my self-talk game is getting ridiculous. I sound like I’m talking to a geriatric horse. Come on, ole girl, the stairs aren’t too bad. See. Told you I was funny.

________________________

I ask you –

How many friends do you have?

What should I do to make her be my friend?

Tell me how funny I am!

Wk 13, HM Training

Clearly this week’s schedule doesn’t think I have a job. Sheesh. I know it’s Thanksgiving, but that’s doesn’t mean I have the week off. Anyway, I did have several days at home so I made do.

Typically my VO2 max is 45. One day it was 46. Honestly I don’t pay much attention to it, until Monday, when it reached 47! No idea what this means, but whoohoo. Garmin also said my training was peaking, so there’s that, too.

Funny not funny story: this training cycle has resulted in some strange chafing situations. And by strange I mean incredibly painful in places one would never wish to be chafed.

For Tuesday’s goal pace run, I went to the track so I wouldn’t have to think about crossing roads. But when the headwind hit me, I had a hard time sticking with it. My legs were seriously struggling but I managed to stay on track (pun intended).

haHA! Check out that 9:12! Learning I really don’t like progression runs but I do rather well at them so there’s that good moment. Considering it was pre-turkey, pre-stuffing, pre-pie…and extremely windy…

Long run completed! Super early, super cold (real feel 15°), and super long! I started with 23 layers, a hat, gloves, and a whole lot else, but I made it.

Lucky #13 (week) done. Just a few more remaining!

Right Out of the Gate – Friendship Funny Farm

As I’ve gotten older, developing friendships has become more important to me. I try to be an authentic friend. Short of stating my own sordid past, my attempts at being “real” are usually a make it or break it moment. Seems I ride the line up to the very instant it goes down the road of “I, too, have…(the equivalent of the word problems)” because I don’t really have problems; I have hang ups, hurts, and some very diverse life experiences! Nicely put, Kel.

a cactus!!

There’s a blooming friendship I’m nurturing currently which stems from an unlikely encounter. She’s always very positive to be around; we laugh and cry together, typically at the same time. It’s a blast. But she has no expectation I will ‘fix’ anything going on in her life and she loves coffee so I rather enjoy her company. Win/win!

tea time

But in exposing ourselves to new people, the fear of rejection is always there. ‘What if I say too much, what if my past is overwhelming?’ – you know – all the stuff. I have a LOT of stuff. Thankfully, so does she and here we are! A few of our very first discussions were truth bombs, like a here you go, this is me, I understand if you want to grab your coffee and run away screaming now. Baggage. Maybe that’s more of what I have.

My mind sees myself as that frazzled woman who arrives at the gate juggling 4 oversized suitcases, then collapses in a chair between 2 put together businessmen, her luggage nearly killing them in a towering stampede, looks of disgust pointed in her direction. Yeah, that’s me! She smiles and waves without a care in the world, like her whackadoo bun isn’t escaping its confines and she didn’t just barely make it through security. Work with me, not against me; this is my vision.

Much truth lies in what we share with those closest to us, the ones privy to the good, bad, and oh-so-ugly. What we don’t share, however, is indicative of how relationships will progress. As this friendship is new, there are many things we don’t know about each other. A work in progress.

And I must find out how many pieces of luggage she takes to the gate.

________________________

I ask you –

When was the last time you forged a new friendship?

What is the length of your longest friendship?

My analogy game is a riot. Share what your mind sees when you think of yourself!

Running on Fumes – Musings from the Mess Deck

Introducing my newest special feature: Running on Fumes – Musings from the Mess Deck. For those not familiar with Navy lingo…a) a mess deck is a place aboard a Naval vessel where military personnel eat, socialize, and essentially live their lives and b) you may find tons of other Naval terminology in this previous post. Hope you enjoy!

My time in the Navy + my time on the East coast + my everything else = meeting some really incredible (and well-traveled) people. One of those people, Dan, I met while working for BAE in Norfolk, VA. We began working there within the same time period and often found ourselves working on/near the same projects which usually involved lots of walking and the occasional grumbling. More my part than his. Dan has a great sense of humor, often times rueful, but nonetheless fitting for any situation. Thankfully we’ve kept in touch. Below is a recent correspondence. I realize this post is much longer than probably any other on Running on Fumes – but I promise it’s worth it! I travel vicariously through others’ stories. Enjoy!

Hi – Good to hear from you. I follow along with your blog, and it’s always fun for me to try and connect the dots between the different installments, and from what I gather, you seem to be having fun out on the Texas prairie.

As you can see, this one goes on a bit. I don’t get to talk to people much anymore (work from the house), and I feel the need to reach out to someone who has some shared common experiences.

And, I sense that maybe you might be a bit at loose ends? Tired of the whole “Work. Rinse. Repeat” schtic? Ready for an adventure? I know what you mean. I’m a bit at loose ends myself and I also have a bit of wanderlust.

And so I’ve been thinking about the places I’ve been, and the ones I’d like to visit again. It’s a long list, and I seem to have eaten my way across the globe, but I do so believe the best way to get to know people is to share a meal with them. Here are some highlights:

* Haifa, Israel. I was there Easter, 1996. Full moon on Easter Day too. I visited what was reputed to be the oldest continuing operating mosque in the world, said to be over 1100 years old. Met the Iman there who was very cool, and toured the city of Acre where remnants of the Third Crusade are easily visible. Bedouin rules of hospitality pre-date Mohammed and are in full force everywhere. I was fed all afternoon by two Israeli Arab cops, and then taken home for dinner. Oh, my.

* The south of France, including Toulon, Cannes, St. Tropez, Aix-en-Provence (and just about anywhere in the French Department of Provence, incidentally. Rented a bicycle and rode for 2 days through the country side. Drank jugs of the local red, and ate fresh loaves of bread in tiny towns. Amazing. Toured a castle there that has been in the same family for over 1000 years, and whose founders are Roman Catholic Saints.

* Sardinia. A Roman rock garden masquerading as an island. I stayed in a hotel where Caesar would have felt at home. Ate the local sausage one morning that had been walking around the barnyard earlier that same morning. I don’t remember the name of the local firewater because it erased a number of other memories. Like so many places in Europe, it’s an interesting mix of the very old and the very new. Think of a donkey cart parked next to an ATM.

* Rome. C’mon. It’s Rome. Entire academic careers have been dedicated to this one city. Home of the World’s Most Expensive Breakfast Not In an Airport. I double-dog dare you to get bored. Spend an afternoon at an outdoor cafe drinking wine, eating delicious bits of everything, and soaking up the Roman sunshine while speaking with the locals. Exquisite.

* Sicily. Hiker’s paradise once you get out of Palermo, although the Palermo Cathedral is worth a visit. It’s the burial site of Odo of Bayeux who was William the Conqueror’s brother, although the good Brothers there at the church are not really sure where he might actually be. Mt. Etna. Tours and day trips to Roman (and far earlier) ruins can be found everywhere as can excellent, excellent wine. A small-town Sicilian restaurant with outdoor seating and fresh goodies is very difficult to beat.

* Trieste, Italy. Another Roman city. Amazing architecture. Found a Country and Western bar there that was blaring Dan Seals and Marie Osmond, and despite that semi-promising start, contained not one soul that spoke English. Award winner for Crudest Public Bathroom You Might Actually Have to Use. Trieste is where East meets West a la Constantinople, and it’s fun to look around and see where the two worlds come together.

* Skiathos, Greece. Big island, lots to see and lots to do. If you go down to where all the yachts are parked you’ll see men and women so beautiful you’ll swear a magazine ad for French perfume has come to life. Normal people can be found everywhere else. Great beaches, especially if modesty is not your thing, but the Mediterranean sun is. Tiny 4- and 5-room hotels can be found without too much effort, and you’ll eat so well you’ll be convinced that you’re being prepared for slaughter.

* Cartagena, Columbia. Old, old city. Pirates still hang out there as they have for 400 years. They are decidedly not like Disney pirates. Ate entire fish dinner there (At the “Casa del Pescado” Really.) that was so huge (about a 40 lb. grouper!) I invited 3 other tables to join me. We ate, drank, and sang for hours and the whole thing cost me about $20.00. This city is the scene for my best-ever sea story called “Hookers, Coca-Cola, and Machine Guns” in which the CNO of the Columbian Navy makes an appearance. And it’s all true.

* The entire Pacific coast of Chile, from Coquimbo south to Tierra del Fuego. Chile is an absolutely amazing country and well worth the effort to get there. A cabin on the extended southern coast can be rented for about $9.00/night if you time it well and don’t treat the locals like idiots. Food is extra so take an extra 10 bucks. The coast of Chile is tourist agency picture perfect. Valparaiso has a world-class museum filled with Incan pieces or you can go to Machu Picchu on your own. Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire) is misnamed, for it is possibly the coldest place I’ve ever been. But if your luck holds, you can meet there real-live adventurers in the mold of Robert Scott and Ernest Shackleton, buy them drinks, and hear their astounding stories.

* Bahia Blanca, Argentina. The single-most European city in all of South America. Town squares can be found about every four blocks that are so picturesque they’d be travel destinations anywhere else in the world. Luscious steaks from the Argentinian Pampas, “tortas fritas” (a local kind of flatbread) served next to schnitzel. The people can be a bit distant at first, but warm quickly. An Argentinian friend is fiercely your friend for life. The “Policia Nacionel” there do not screw around, and trouble with them is trouble indeed. But, I was one night able to talk a pair of them out of arresting my buddies by pretending to speak passable Spanish. I later concluded that by doing so, I had clearly used up whatever luck I had been allocated for that trip.

* Montevideo, Uruguay. Montevideo is under the radar for most people, but it is simultaneously both very modern and very colonial. There is an open air market most days that stretches eight or nine blocks on each side, and filled with literally anything for sale that you can imagine. I saw a peddler’s stand that was selling Michael J. Fox pool cues next to NAPA oil filters for an old Ford. Yes, that’s weird. I have a great adventure story about the city of Punta del Esta, which is a few miles to the east of Montevideo. And we all lived.

* Guadalupe, in the French Lesser Antilles. If you can’t find fun there, check your pulse.

* St. Maarten, in the British East Indies. A bit touristy now, but still a great place to visit. The Dutch side of the island is mostly on island time, mon. Doan be getiin’ up in no hurry, mon. E’re ting gwarn bee iree. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TnBupO_Kjto

There are 50 states, of course, and I believe I have visited every one. They all have similarities (crappy chain motels, crappy chain restaurants), but with just the most minimum of effort from a curious traveler they all have rewarding experiences to find and enjoy. I prefer to travel by car (I’d like to one day take a motorcycle tour of the Midwest), but I like to get away from “Interstate World” and visit those roads less traveled. We Americans are a friendly, gregarious lot and it’s an important reminder from visiting our neighbors all around the country that we have ten, even a hundred times more things in common with each other than those that separate us.

* Go the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines. You can make lifetime friends in an afternoon. Ditto the Georgia State Fair in Hampton. The farmers in Rutland, Vermont will dare you (with a knowing wink) to not enjoy their butter, cheese, and other goodies at their own fair.

* Take the train across the country. I just did, from Chicago to Seattle. I literally saw deer and antelope playing on the northern prairie along with a couple of herds of bison. How cool is that? On the same trip, I wandered around Chicago and just had a ball. In addition to revisiting places from my Navy past 30-odd years ago, I ate a stunningly satisfying steak dinner at a good old-fashioned Illinois supper club, and an equally amazing sushi dinner so good I nearly wept. And a couple of Chicago dogs out on the street? Check.

* And you’ll never know who you’ll run into. I met a guy in a bar near St. Louis one night who had been an Air Force F-86 Sabre pilot in the Korean War. I asked him if he knew of CAPT. Joe McConnell, a boyhood hero who shot down 16 enemy aircraft in that conflict. Know him? Hell, son, I flew with him back in 1953. Great Un-Revised North American Jesus Christ! We talked into the wee hours, and though he was 35 years older than I, he stood up and steadily walked out of the place in that way the Blue Suiters have despite the bottle of scotch he and I had shared. What a memory. You just never know.

* Had a Greek dinner in San Ysidro, probably 200 meters from the Mexican border. Nice little cultural cross-rip. Just up the road, of course, is San Diego and my favorite place on the West Coast, Coronado. Try the bar at the Hotel Del Coronado, and wait for the ghosts of Sammy, Marilyn, and Frank.

* There is so much I have left out. Cathedrals in England. The Louvre in Paris. But you get the idea. There is just too much to see and do out there, so go and see and do. For specific recommendations? For the contemplative, meditative trip plan a campout at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. For a 3-day girls’ night out, try the Music Row section of Nashville and visit all the clubs and music venues up and down Division St and Broadway.

So that’s my two cents and then some. I hope you’ve had a great week, and that you enjoy your weekend. I miss spending time with you as well, and I look forward to the time we can yell at the salad waitress again. Take care of yourself,

Dan

Note: yelling at the salad waitress is a story for another day. Safe to say, there will be more stories! And, we didn’t yell at her in a derogatory, downgrading way. She simply couldn’t hear us, though no fault of her own. More to come!