5 1/2 Months, 22 weeks, Reflections

It’s over!!!. From February through July 14, 2018, a total of 22 weeks, we traveled from Maine to California, up the coast to Washington and then to Vancouver, Island and home again via Colorado. Here are some reflections…

  1. Fifty-years is a long, long time to be married. Sandy and I are fortunate. We actually love each other after all these years.  We have loved each other as 21 year-old newlyweds. We loved each other when we had four children under the age of five. We loved each other when we had six children in private Catholic schools and colleges that we couldn’t afford. We loved each other when we had no money, when we had no jobs, when we borrowed to make the house payments. We loved each other through our more successful years. And, we still love each other even after spending 12,600 miles in a car together as we traveled the country for 5 1/2 months. A happy marriage, it seems to me, is like a long ride on the road—there is a steady rhythm and harmony of being on the road together. We know that storms and bumps will come and go. Yet, we have a calm confidence knowing we are in this together until the journey ends. When we stop on the journey to look backward or forward we see beauty and wonderment. This trip is a lot like our life together. We are forever grateful because Wherever we look we see far more roses than thorns.
  2. When I was a young man early in my work career, I expressed no desire to retire. I loved my work (most of the time). When I got to this age I wanted enough money saved that we could afford to retire even if I had no specific intention. Now that I am age 72 and have no wages coming in from employment I have found a way to vacation for nearly six months in very nice accommodations at an affordable price. How did we do that? Here is the secret. You have to have really good friends and family who live in nice places like Blue Hill, Maine, Las Vegas, Nevada, San Diego, San Marcos, Dana Point,Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, California, Portland, Oregon, Seattle and Anacortes, Washington. It also helps to have a son-in-law who owns an island resort and he chooses to put you up for free. So, bottom line, I guess we can afford to retire under these very favorable conditions. Thanks to friends and family who made this journey possible.
  3. Sandy and I have traveled to all 50 states and on this trip we have spent considerable time in many. We never tire of seeing this beautiful country. Places we recently visited like Schoodic Point or Acadia in Maine, Flagstaff, Arizona, the Grand Canyon area, San Diego, Dana Point, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, California, the Redwoods, the Oregon coast on Highway 101, Orca Island, Guemes Island, Ellenburgh, Washington, Mazama and Winthrop, Washington, Wenatchee National Forest, Chuckanut Highway to the Fairhaven District of Bellingham, Washington, Mount Baker, Washington, Mount Hood, Oregon, the drive through Oregon, Idaho, Utah and Colorado could be revisited without ever tiring of the beauty. God created a beautiful world. Enjoy it.
  4. The past six months has been spent in self-indulgence. We moved from one beautiful setting with luxury living to the next acknowledging our good fortune, being grateful at times, but for the most part just living it up like we deserved it. On occasion people who struggle entered my consciousness, family, friends and acquaintances who have significant challenges occupied my thoughts for the day. My daily readings or dreaming’s forced me to remember my life is not over. My thoughts reminded me, there is still time to contribute. Easy street is not panacea. Challenges lead to greater satisfaction. One of my daily reading posed this question– “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?”Martin Luther King, Jr.
  5. 5. So, now we are settled back in Saint Louis and begin to regain our routine.  Sandy is working out at the YWCA three mornings every week. She then volunteers at the Daughter of Charity food and clothing distribution center in North County. And, she returned to daily Mass at Saint Mary;s Chapel. 

I am finding a routine–Golf once or twice per week with Tom and Gerry. Mass at St. Mary’s with Sandy a few times per week. Occasionally, I have a meeting for the YouthBridge Board commitment, for NIFTY, or for Camp Jump Start. I haven’t decided how much I will work for the remainder of this year. But, I have not retired.

6, The family gathering in Breckenridge, Colorado was such a wonderful thing. It was so great to see the family inter-action, friendly comrade, warn embraces, genuine love for each other. It was so entertaining to watch how the younger kids played together and how the older teens showed patience and chipped in to help parents. We had five days together but it leaves us with a lifetime of fond memories and photo’s galore. Thanks to all for making this happen.

7. There is one significant thing that Sandy and I have learned these past six months of travel is — no matter where you live or no matter where you are traveling, your daily thoughts are always about the well-being of your family and friends. We miss them when we are on the road. We can’t get enough of them when we are part of their daily lives.

We will always miss those that we can’t see daily or those that we don’t talk to for weeks or for months. But they remain in our thoughts and prayers. We love them all.

 

 

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5 1/2 Months–Week 21

Crank up the Willie Nelson music…we are “On the Road Again.” Sunday morning July 1st, we skip Mary Anne’s Kitchen and drive right past Dad’s Diner, heading out of town on Commercial Ave. We drove around the round-about and stopped at the Bakery to get breakfast and coffee before heading east on Highway 20. We took Best Road to Highway 5. South on 5 toward Seattle. In a few hours we have crossed over Washington to Oregon.

As we are approaching Hood River I noticed the mileage meter was about to turn over 10,000 miles traveled. I pull over at a campgrounds at exactly 10,000 miles to get a photo. Out of no where a park volunteer pulls up behind us and offers to take this photo.

Sunday afternoon we roamed around Hood River for a few hours and had lunch. Then, we drove five miles to find our new AirBnb in Mosier, Oregon. I won’t give you all of the concise directions but suffice to say this was another adventure. Mosier has 430 people, one grocery store that closes at 5pm on Sunday. We showed up at 5:15pm. It has one restaurant. Vegetarians would like this place. It has few options for meat eaters. They will put some sausage on your pizza, if requested. I did request but they forgot. By the time I got to eat my pizza to go I noticed the mistake. So, I ate radish and cheese pizza.

Then, we drove up the mountain for three miles. At the  Rattlers Ridge drop off Sandy got nervous. When we arrived this place was better than advertised. We had a big two bedroom downstairs apartment with a fully equipped kitchen. They had a 46 inch TV so we enjoyed watching a movie Sunday night and a World Cup soccer match Monday morning. Brazil ousted Mexico.

Monday, July 2, we drove all around the Mount Hood area including a stop at the Timberline Lodge. Wow! This place was built in 1929 as part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. To our surprise, people were still snow skiing and snow boarding on Mount Hood. The temperature at 6000 feet was 40 degrees. The temp up higher on the Mountain was much colder. By the time we got back to Hood River the temperatures were in the 60’s and we watched wind surfers and wind boarders challenge the Columbia River in their wet suits and other gear.

 

 

July 3 we started the journey on a long drive along the Columbia River Gorge. We spent the day driving to Enterprise and Joseph, Oregon where we had intended to stay. But, we decided to push on via the Wallowa Mountain loop at 30 miles per hour. As we made our way through the scenic Hells Canyon some of the hair pin turns were at 15 miles per hour. There are no rails on these roads and mountain loop road #39 was the “road less traveled.” What a FUN, but tiring day.

Sandy tried to book a room for the night in Enterprise Oregon via Hotwire. She ended up booking us in Enterprise, Alabama before noticing the mistake. Then, she found a nice one bedroom in Richmond, Oregon through AirBnb for $75. The location was not the best–looked kinda creepy. So, we drove all the way to Baker City before pulling off the road to stay.

This is where we are staying for the next two nights in Boise, Idaho. This cute little Cassita is perfect for our lifestyle. It offers everything we need in the 400 sq. ft. space. Here is Sandy talking on the phone to one of her sisters. She likes to stay in touch with Saint Louis.

On the 5th we drove all around Boise sight seeing. I learned this–if your GPS talking lady tells you “stay on the route” you had better do it or else she will get pissed and make you drive around in circles until you run out of gas. Temperatures today were in the 90’s in Boise, so we are slowly making the adjustment to Midwest weather.

We drove from Boise, Idaho to Salt Lake City, Utah. It’s more than a 250 mile drive. I believe there are more horses and cows to see in Idaho than people. The scenery is beautiful with one large ranch, or farm, or baron land after the next mile after mile. The highlight stop was Twin Falls where the Snake River rambles through right before you get to Rattlesnake Pass. We finally arrived in Salt Lake City at 3pm just as the temperatures reached 102 degrees.

5 1/2 Months– Week 20

IMG_4134Can you believe it? Week 20 is our final week on Guemes Island and our final week on the west coast. We begin our journey home on July 1st.

In reflection, I cant believe that we have traveled by car nearly 10,000 miles, plus by air travel to Maine and the Ferry travel in Canada, plus the day-to-day Ferry travel to and from Anacortes to Guemes Island and back again day after day after day.

IMG_4159Our thanks to Mark, Kelly, Rumi, Teo, Brian, Emily, Fisher, Amaya, Kris, Kerry, Sienna and Seba for not letting us feel like we were an intrusion on your lives, even if we were. And, thanks for all of the good times together these past 90 days. It’s been awesome!

This final week I played golf with Tim and Michael, two of the three guys I met at Avalon Golf Club last month. We dropped in on Kerry and Kris and the kids for a final look at Big Mama’s farm. We had Amaya spend the night with us on the west shore. Friday Sandy saw Rumi and Teo’s work from their Art Class Camp.

So, we are saying our goodbye’s to our beautiful view of Cypress Island. We say goodbye to the porpoise and baby seals, to the ducks and to the eagles. We will miss our search for the Orcas (we’ve seen two) and Sandy said she heard two from afar early this morning.

We plan to travel to Hood River this Sunday and then spend an extra day to explore the Mount Hood and  the Columbia River area. Then, we head further south to Bend, Oregon before heading to Idaho, then Utah, on into Colorado.

Next week we will try to capture the delights of that trip on this blog as we wind down the travel days. We are looking forward to seeing Craig, Nicole, Olivia, Evan, Ella, Todd, Jessica, Scarlet, Brent and Dani plus all from the West Coast as we  converge for our special 50th Anniversary SashBash in Breckenridge, Colorado.

Travel safely everyone. See you on a mountain top in Colorado.

5 1/2 Month – Week 3


Blue Hill, Maine-morning view 2/28/18

At three-thirty this morning Sandy brings me a cup of coffee to begin the day. By 4PM, Karl arrives to take us to the airport. The American Eagle flight arrives via DC in Bangor Maine by 12:15 pm. Samantha picks us up and then we head to Mark’s Subaru dealership to pick up a new Outback for our week stay.

We dropped by to see Samantha and Chloe and spent time walking through their newly remodeled home, including the new Barn/Apartment for visitors. This is a beautiful place with a magnificent view of Blue Hill Bay. Mark, my nephew, bought a brand new John Deere tracker and gave it to his wife, Sam, for Valentines Day. He is some romantic guy. Funny thing is there is no need for a tractor here, but, Mark wanted it. That’s the way the Politte’s do things. It’s a hand-me-down family trait.

Wednesday–Sandy and I had a lovely scenic drive up to Belfast, Maine. Belfast is a small little town with an interesting ship making history. Now, it survives,somehow, on Tourist season revenue.

We just learned that our friends, Gerry and Sue, who were supposed to arrive in Bangor today had to cancel their trip due to the nor’easter hitting Philadelphia with 60 mile p/h winds. What a bummer! They were to spend four days with us in Maine. We had planned all kinds of side trips. Sandy has made two crock pot dinners for four. Now, we will have to endure this fantastic place without them.

We are headed to the LL Bean store in Ellsworth. Sunday, we will head to Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor. We’ve been to these places previously but you cannot get tired of visiting Acadia, Cadillac Mountain.

Today We Begin a 5 ½ Month Journey, February 8, 2018

As most of the world knows by now, February 23, Sandy and I will celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary.  I say “most of the world” because this morning Sandy told the grocery clerk in Springfield, Illinois all about our five and half month trip plans. This women, plus over 200 people at the Dorchester, all of our friends and relatives are aware of our anniversary date and plans through July. If each person will tell just one other, well, you know, word travels fast.

We have been considering a variety of travel options for most of the past year. At first, we were planning a trip to Italy and then a Viking Cruise through Germany ending in Amsterdam. Sounds awesome. Maybe next year.

Sandy came up with the idea of subleasing our apartment for a few months so that we could travel the US and then end up in the NW. We could then spend more time with our children and grandchildren who live north of Seattle.  She was tired of being a “Skype Grandma” and wanted to live near the kids for a few months to experience what it’s like to be a real grandma, not one who visits for a few weeks each year and one you can only see via Skype. Of course, that plan would allow me to be a real grandpa too. I’m all in.

Things have worked out well. We have sub-leased for four months through mid-July. We have planned a big SASH BASH 50th Anniversary party for July in Breckenridge, CO. All six kids, wives, husbands, significant others and all ten grandchildren will be there. So, from this day through the return to ST. Louis mid-July, I plan to write a daily blog highlighting some of the adventure.

We will be gone five and half months, 165 days, I believe. And, today is…

Wk1/Day 1: We arrived at Randy and Chris’ summer home in Springfield, Illinois, unloaded our things for a two week stay and relaxed before bed via a Netflix original. The next morning we enjoyed coffee with a spectacular view of Lake Springfield, ten deer passed through the open yard beyond the swimming pool, and at least 100 ducks and geese swam by in the lake. What a wonderful way to begin this journey.

Late morning, we enjoyed breakfast at Charlie Parker’s (must go to place), dinner with Craig at Boone’s Saloon, and on to watch Evan and SHG win a high school basketball game 62-56.

Wk1/continued: Thanks to the generosity of Randy and Chris this beautiful home on Lake Springfield will be home for the next two weeks. Saturday night I broiled steaks and vegetarian k-bobs on the outdoor bar-b-q pit even though it was 20 degrees with an ice storm just beginning. Craig, Nicole, Evan, Ella, Todd and Scarlet enjoyed a meal  and some laughs around the kitchen table set up to serve sixteen (that’s one long table). Todd and Scarlet braved the hot tub as the ice snow pelted down.

Sunday morning Todd and Scarlet left for St. Louis. The rest of the week was a bummer. Sandy had the flu from Sunday-Thursday. We laid low. Watched a lot of television. Good thing we had Winter Olympics and Netflix Originals to watch.

By Friday we had cabin fever. So, we acted like a Springfield, Illinois tourist. We started with a freezing walk along the lake at Lincoln Memorial Gardens—had the whole place to ourselves. No other visitors on a cold day like this. We got in two miles then headed to the Lincoln Museum. If you haven’t been there we recommend it. This is the best Civil War time period exhibit we have ever seen. After a light lunch at Wm. Van’s coffee shop we walked around the Lincoln family home neighborhood. And then, we wrapped up the day at the Adams Wildlife Sanctuary. How’s that for acting like tourist.

Tomorrow we are headed back to St. Louis to meet family for dinner on the Hill as we celebrate my brother Tim’s 60th birthday. That will end week one.

 

 

 

My Grand Plan- God is Still Laughing

“Commit your works to the Lord and your plan will be established” Proverbs 16:3

January 6, 2001 I attended a White House Retreat and wrote this my in notebook. “please help me design, plan and take action to benefit poor and vulnerable people served by Catholic Charities.”

January 2001 was a long time ago. January 2016 I just returned from my 30th White House Retreat. I didn’t know that I had attended 30 retreats until I returned home and was contacted by my friend Gerry Hempstead who stayed there through the fried chicken lunch to learn of this recognition. I left Sunday following the noon mass. I’ve had enough fried chicken to last a lifetime.  If I knew that I was going to receive this recognition I would have left, but with some guilt.

My first White House Retreat was in October 1978. Since then, the rooms have been upgraded significantly, the meals vary but not much, the Chapel and the grounds have remained nearly the same over time but the retreat experience has varied on every occasion. I should acknowledge that the White House grounds have been improved a lot through the years, but the magic of the place is the consistency–the same comforting format each year, the same insistence on silence throughout the day, the same high expectancy placed on a talented Jesuit priest placed there to guide the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius.

This particular retreat experience was the best in recent memory. Perhaps, this is because I have missed the past two years, January 2013 was my last retreat. I felt the need to go, not because I am holy but because I’m not. In fact, I felt the need to go to a retreat this year, not because of my faith but because of my lack of faith.

When preparing to leave for White House I found an old crucifix given to me long ago. I think it may have belonged to my deceased Uncle Jack. He was such a good Catholic man. The crucifix discovery helped me to realize how long it’s been since I’ve had a good conversation with Jesus. I’ve lost touch.

The purpose of a White House Retreat in my case, in the past, has been to help me  to clarify my thoughts, to cleanse my soul, and to energize my mind and body. This is the one place and the one time of the year when I would slow down from work long enough to hear God whisper in my ear. At times, His words of clarity strengthened my belief. In the dead of silence I felt greater conviction. There is a God and He cares.

This year I have no urgent work needs. I have retired from full time employment seeking only a few consulting projects of interest to me. So, I went to the retreat dedicating it to the needs of other family members. As I focused on their needs, not mine, clear images and thoughts inspired me. I decided to walk with Jesus all weekend. And, therefore, to let Him lead me wherever He wanted to go.

Jesus was born in sometime between 7BC-29AD. He lived to age 36 but was in ministry for little more than 2 years (three Passover’s). Imagine a person, whose father was a common carpenter, who lives in obscurity for 34 years, surfaces to create such an impact on his followers that 2000 years later in central message has survived. And, from twelve initial Disciples, His followers have grown to 2 billion people throughout the world. I am one who has chosen to believe.

A White House Retreat is where you have time to think about life’s most challenging questions. Why did God choose such ordinary people for his first Disciples? Did God create men in his image and likeness or did man create God in his? Is God the Creator or the Observer? If the world is billions of years old why did God wait so long before creating men and women? If God can create a perfectly designed universe why did He create so many imperfect human beings? What is your purpose in life? What does God want of me?

I have frequently pondered this last question. At times, it  has seemed obvious when God was actually involved in my life. Good things that came my way I attributed to Him.  He had answered my  prayer. I choose to believe it happens. At other times I felt disconnected. I was trying to accomplish all of my goals all by myself. I left Him on the sidelines. Things didn’t work out too well.

I enter this day with gratitude and with confidence that God will answer my prayers. My sons and daughters will seek and find what they are looking for…my wife will continue to be amazing. I will continue the journey with Jesus at my side.

 

 

Mark is one of a kind, so are You

1776 Declaration of Independence
“We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal – Thomas Jefferson

“To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only purpose in life” Robert Lewis Stevenson

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us” Ralph Waldo Emerson.

“To thy own self be true” Shakespeare

My son in law, Mark, is a carpenter, electrician, plumber, painter, fence builder, ocean faring boat Captain, salmon and crab fisherman, professional photographer, film developer, frame maker, gardener, landscaper, farmer, outdoorsman, land owner, developer, forester, hiker, environmentalist, political activist, swimmer, deep sea diver, sailor, travel enthusiast, travel advisor, tree expert, truck driver, bike rider, electronics wiz, avid reader, excellent cook, candlestick maker, soap maker, movie critic, stock investor, philanthropist, and most importantly, he is a good father and husband.

I admire Mark for his diversity, his curiosity, his commitment to be good at what he does to the point of excellence in many things. I appreciate his enthusiasm and interest in so many things and his zest for life that allows him to embrace many occupations, hobbies and personal activities. Mark is indeed a unique individual. And, so are you.

Read the quotes of Jefferson, Stevenson, Emerson and Shakespeare above. Do not attempt to be Mark or anyone else for that matter. Admire the characteristics and traits of others that you like because you may be able to learn many things from that observation. But, do not try to copy the life of another–not your father, not your mother, not your brother, not your sister, not that of your closet friend.

Your life is uniquely yours too live. And, its not where you have been in the past, but rather, where you are going that counts most. Decide for yourself the measuring stick that will be used to evaluate your life. Decide the criteria that you admire most in others that you will use to judge yourself. Its your words and actions today and tomorrow that will define your future.

“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank among those timid souls who neither enjoyed not suffered much, because they lived in the gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.” Theodore Roosevelt