First of all, Happy Mother’s Day to all Mothers, those who made them Mothers, and those who were born to a Mother… It’s a Mother of a Day!

Our re-booked ferry for Jersey Island wasn’t scheduled to depart Guernsey until 5:20 p.m.. We made the best of the situation and did a bit more Guernsey touring. We had thus far missed the German Occupation Museum so off we went by bus.

We were not disappointed. This private museum houses a remarkable collection of artifacts of the Nazi occupation. It provides a thoughtful and sobering experience.

Guernsey was de-militarized in hopes of avoiding civilian casualties. Apparently Germany had not gotten the word. It launched an air strike on the harbor 2 days prior to landing troops that killed 34 Guernsey civilians.

Prior to the invasion over half of the population, including all children and men of service age had evacuated to England. Sadly, those who were not native born of Guernsey were denied evacuation. Those same folks, including many Jews, were arrested by the Germans and transferred to prison camps on the Continent. Many never lived out the war.

Germany considered Guernsey British territory and thus the conquest was prime propaganda material. Hitler personally ordered the creation of a fortress state. Thousands of slave laborers were imported to build the fortifications. Many of those sad souls also did not live to see the end of the war.

As an indication of the importance Hitler placed on this “prize”, in France there were approximately 150 French citizens for every occupying German soldier. In Guernsey the ratio was 3 citizens for every soldier!

The waters surrounding the island were mined. Anti-aircraft batteries were strategically placed, massive fortification were constructed, and huge artillery batteries were installed.

While those defenses did not cause an immediate impact on the lives of the civilians, the placement of over 65,000 land mines altered much for the island folk both during the war and for years after.

Among the thousands of items on display a number caught my eye:

There was a display of the variety of land mines deployed by the Germans including anti-personnel and anti-tank.

About half of the anti-tank mines were equipped with special hidden detonators that would explode if an attempt was made to move the mine.

A cabinet exhibiting medical and dental equipment included packages of official German Army issued condoms.

There was one of the famous Enigma Coding Machines. These devices created an unbreakable cypher that was changed daily and had literally trillions of permutations.

The Nazi’s relied upon the strength of this communication tool without knowing that early in the war one of these machines had been captured along with the U-505 submarine in a top secret United States Navy operation. That Enigma device was delivered to Britain’s Bletchley Park code breakers who were able to deconstruct the machine and thereafter decode thousands of German dispatches every day. Below is a picture of the U-505 as it is displayed in Chicago.

The U-505 has been a featured exhibit at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry since my childhood. One of my neighbors in the late 1950’s was Zenon Lukosius. He was credited with single handedly thwarting the submarine crew’s efforts to scuttle the vessel. (seen below, back row, fourth from the left)

Another easily overlooked item was a “shower head” of the type used to dispense poison gas in Nazi Death Camps.

There was an anti-tank battery, and also a recreation of a Guernsey street scene from the time of occupation.

We could have spent an entire day in the museum and still not taken it all in. There is a point where one succumbs to emotional overload, and at 3 hours I had reached it.

We boarded the Condor Clipper at 4:30 p.m. for our 5:20 departure and 3 hour crossing. Thankfully, the seas are calm. Therefore…

Peace Everyone. Pete

PS: Our ferry arrived on Jersey Island at dusk. No cabs were available so we set off with our bags on a 1 mile night trek to our “home” for the next 3 nights, the very charming Hotel De L’Etang. Our host, Rebecca, was cheerfully awaiting our late arrival and after providing our room keys and instructions she served us nightcaps in the bar. She is a new grandmother of a precious little 5 month old girl. It took no time for Rebecca and Christine to do some serious grandmother bonding.

In my home hangs a picture from the 1950’s. It frames the happy faces of a beautiful young woman with her two little boys. One, a toddler, sits on her lap. He is laughing. The older boy’s eyes meet the reflection of mine in the picture’s glass. We’ve known each other a lifetime. He looks forward to the day that he will be me.

In one of life’s little ironies I know that I can not tell him that the most secure, peaceful, and carefree days of his life are those he is living. Our connection is the young woman who cares for him. She is our Mother. She loves us both and we love her. Happy Mother’s day to you Mom… from both of us.

⁃ Love, Peter

After 3 days in historic Chester, which included another day trip to Liverpool, we have bid farewell to our Canadian travel partners, Tom and Nanci. We shared some adventure on the canals, iconic historical sites, great pub food, and a “few pints”. Partings such as these are tinged with sadness, but at dinner last night we began formulating “what-if” travel possibilities for the future. Will it be a long distance bicycle ride, a sail down the St. Lawrence to the Madeleine Islands, or camping in the Yukon?… only time will tell.

Waiting for us in Cardiff Wales are our Welsh friends Huw and Nina Thomas. We are looking forward to a 3 day auto-tour of southern England at Huw’s able direction.

Our train departed at 8:19 and is scheduled to arrive in Cardiff at 11:15. Departure was precisely on-time for this comfortable 2 car train. We have found that timeliness is the rule rather than the exception when it comes to overseas train travel. I am taking this 3 hour transit as my opportunity to write this post.

A question persists for me. Would I plan another narrowboat trip? Certainly the 3 weeks that we experienced on the canals of England and Wales were filled each day with new sights and experiences. We estimate that we covered over 250 miles, navigated over 60 locks, at least 15 drawbridges, 10 long underground tunnel passages, and accomplished 4 high aqueduct crossings. While this may sound like a lot, it really just scratches the surface of the 2,000 miles available for the intrepid canal pilot.

Much of week one was spent tackling the learning curve with the assistance of two “competent women”, Christine and Kris. Week two was solo with Christine and spent further honing our skills. Week three brought Tom and Nanci aboard, both eager to lend a hand and embrace a totally new experience. By week three I had grown comfortable enough to consider myself unconsciously competent… reacting to the vessel and circumstances more with instinct than focus. As we approached Middlewich on the final day there was a lock that is sized to fit two narrowboats at the same time but with only inches to spare. The pilot of an especially attractive 70 footer and I approached the opened lock gates in tandem and each executed a perfect entry with nary a jostle of the other’s craft. We began to speak, each at our respective helms. He was surprised to hear my North American accent as it seemed inconsistent with the accomplished execution of our joint maneuver. With satisfaction I realized that the canals had presented me with a surprise “final exam” and I had passed.

Given the right opportunity I would not hesitate to reprise this experience. However, with each passing year I am increasingly aware that the horizon of opportunity is limited and ever closing in upon us. The gift of good health is a fragile one. We experience the loss of friends and acquaintances with increasing frequency. The possible “next things” waiting to be explored may be many, but the opportunities may be few. Our choices must be made mindfully and with a balance drawn between time spent at home with loved ones and time spent in the pursuit of our next adventure. I have often said, “Don’t put off until tomorrow the things that you may find you are then unable to do.” Those things include giving and receiving love from those who you hold dear.

Peace Everyone. Pete

How many “Big Things” can one really expect to see and experience in the course of travel? Big Things are the major sites and attractions that are featured in tourist brochures, Trip Advisor, Wikipedia… They are the things that friends and family ask about upon our return home. 2 or 3 in a day? 7 or 8 in a week? Certainly not more.

The remainder of time on the road must then be occupied by something, and it occurs to me that they must then be the “Little Things”.

Little Things give context to be big ones. They provide texture and depth… they are the Kodachrome of daily reality that give the color of life to the otherwise black & white starkness of Big Things. They are also the overlooked joys that mindfulness reveals.

A warm shower is something taken for granted at home, but aboard a narrowboat where water conservation is required that shower becomes a celebration that sparks a 10 minute conversation.

A sunrise, a formation of clouds, a sunset. These are the ever changing “art” that hangs upon the endless horizon of our experience.

In the weeks of extended travel we compress a closet full of clothing into a small backpack. A change of socks or a fresh t-shirt bring an appreciative sigh to one’s spirit, not to mention the olfactory senses of self and others!

There are countless things that are taken for granted at home but become little moments of happiness on a journey. They are inadequate if measured against their home equivalents but become huge in the context of travel. Gratitude springs from the Little Things as awareness brings appreciation.

Relationships also come into sharper focus. At home we suffer the distraction and background “noise” of daily life, media, bills, house and myriad other duties. Appreciation for those we love often suffers accordingly. However, in the compressed spaces that we inhabit on the road attention is forced into a refreshed appreciation for the qualities of our life partner and for the absent loved ones who we miss.

The friendships that we share with our travel companions are not an occasional evening out, but are minute by minute experiences.

In 2001 a chance encounter at a restaurant in southern France brought our daughter Alexis into acquaintance with Huw and Nina Thomas of Wales. From that 20 minute conversation sprang a friendship that continues to this day. They have are like family to us.

In 2013 while Christine and I walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain we were passed afoot by another “pilgrim”. Peeking out from a recess on her backpack was a small stuffed bunny. That sight brought a smile to my face and sparked my greeting to the pilgrim. She was from Denver Colorado and the “bunny’s” name was Marshmallow. Conversation ensued, she offered to take a picture of Christine and I together, and what sprang from that insignificant moment was our enduring friendship with Kris Ashton.

In 2018 while we walked the Portuguese Camino a gentleman commented upon the hat that I was wearing. It was a “Tilly Hat”, made by a small firm in Canada and well regarded for sailing and travel. He commented, “Nice hat!”. I turned to see that he too was wearing a “Tilly”. Pleasant banter ensued which quickly included our spouses. They were from Ottawa Canada and the friendship that sprang from those hats brought Tom and Nanci to share this week with us aboard Salten-Fjord. How different life became because of a stuffed bunny and a couple of wide-brimmed hats.

Our “stories” abound with moments that seemed small and meaningless, but in the rear view mirror of time they loom large as the major crossroads in our life journey. One such moment brought Christine and I together. That “Little Thing” became the biggest thing in my life.

Peace Everyone. Pete

PS. Sometimes the “little things” come as sample sized glasses of really excellent British cask ales!

Solitary pilots plying the canals of England are a rarity. The locks and drawbridges typically command the attention and efforts of at least two who are able bodied. We have observed that cruising couples seem to fall into a routine of cooperation, one manning the narrowboat and the other the onshore equipment. They are not gender specific roles. The mold set very early for us. Christine deferred the vessel to my skills even though the physical requirements of the lock gates and paddle gears are not insignificant. Her emotional comfort superseded her physical comfort.

In matters of seamanship it is customary for one person to be designated the skipper. This is not just mindless autocracy, but rather is a matter of safety that can even be lifesaving in an emergency. Committees may be well suited for contemplative decisions, but urgency requires immediacy. For on-shore relationships to survive off-shore protocols there must be respect and cooperation that flows in both directions. I can not imagine a dysfunctional partnership surviving long aboard any vessel.

The most successful relationships are not driven by gender stereotyping but rather by frank acknowledgment of the strengths that each partner brings to the union. If the husband has the patience and energy to manage home and children while the wife has the marketable skills to better command financial security, then logic should determine their roles. The partners and the children are the beneficiaries. Sadly, that runs contrary to long established social norms.

27 years ago Christine approached me with the idea of starting her own business. It required a significant financial investment, she would be giving up her regular paycheck, and we had 3 children ages 10 through 13 at home. She asked for my trust and confidence in her ability. She received both along with a good measure of encouragement and support. There were challenges through the years, but her’s was the hand on that tiller. Success followed her as it often does with capable and resilient people. Perhaps my most valuable contributions were not getting in her way and suppressing any tendency that I might have had toward being misdirected by ego. We, our children, and our grandchildren became the beneficiaries of those choices that we made.

Undertaking a “Canal Boat Holiday” has presented me with a metaphor for marriage. Canal boating is not for every couple, and neither is marriage. Ironically, I doubt that many people undertake the purchase or charter of a narrowboat without first critically examining their suitability for the venture. I have learned over my decades as a lawyer and mediator that folks often leap into marriage without giving the consequences a second thought. If canal boating doesn’t work out all one needs to do is exit the vessel. It is not so simple with a marriage.

Peace Everyone. Pete

PS. This bit of irreverent wisdom came to me recently from a friend: A man takes a wife believing she will never change, which she does. A woman takes a husband In the belief that he will change, but of course he doesn’t.

It was not our intention to attend Easter services today. I rationalized that our cruising day was under the canopy of the Creator’s original church and that the music of the songbirds along the canal was a chorus unlike and beyond any composed by mankind.

The days leading up to Easter were peppered with not so cryptic messages from my Mother, “So Peter, do you have any plans for Easter?”, or “Will you be able to get off the boat on Easter?”…

I was raised in a very traditional Catholic family. Missing church on Easter would have been unthinkable. Even though I have become even less than a self identified “cafeteria Catholic”, and I find that my beliefs have wandered away from religion based theologies, I don’t think that I have ever missed attending church on an Easter Sunday. Today was to be the first exception, or so I thought.

5 hours on the canal brought us to a mooring near the town of Whitchurch in Shropshire. We intended to spend the afternoon and evening ashore and not stray out from the mooring. Easter assured that there would be no active commerce in town. However, restlessness after a day at the tiller compelled me to venture out on foot. Nearby I encountered an information board that touted the virtues of Whitchurch as the oldest continually settled community in the region, dating back to the establishment of a Roman garrison at 79AD. In Saxon times it was called Dodington, and it was mentioned prominently in William the Conqueror’s Domesday Book after the Norman conquest of 1066. Pictures on the signboard showed a liberal sprinkling of old waddle and daub buildings, one being a pub that dated to the 1,400’s.

I returned to Salten-Fjord and encouraged Christine to join me for a walk into town. A well kept footpath followed the course of a long abandoned canal into the town center. More signboards announced town history and prospects for a restoration of the canal into town including the creation of a marina. The canal system has become a powerful draw for tourist dollars/pounds, and Whitchurch is seeking it’s share.

The walk was about a mile, and wandering along the winding streets was rewarding to the eye. As I suspected, everything was closed with the exception of two pubs which were located across the street from one another, “Old Eagles”, and “The Bull’s Head”.

Raucous cheers emanated from Eagles as a crowd was watching the televised football match between Liverpool and Cardiff (Liverpool won, 2-0). The Bull’s Head, a quieter option, presented an opportunity for pleasant reflection over a pint. That concluded, we continued our winding walk through town back toward the canal.

Near the edge of the town center we came upon the edifice of Anglican St. Alkmund’s Church.

The doors were open and the interior invited me in for a look. A small group of seniors appeared to be gathering, but a very pleasant usher gave us some history of the church (see below) and encouraged me to take pictures.

The priest, Rev. Judy Hunt, bedecked in her traditional robes, was assembling the choir at the back of the church for their opening procession and song. As if reading my Mother’s mind, the usher handed Christine and me the Common Book of Prayers, Hymnal, and Service Program for the Evensong service. It seemed that my Mom’s prayers for the continued salvation of my soul had been answered. Beyond any intention on my part I found myself attending Easter services commemorating the most important event in Christendom.

Last year in Puerto Rico as we prepared to cross the Atlantic on a journey that would include walking the pilgrimage of the Portuguese Camino, our B&B host Eddie repeatedly admonished me, “Peter, in life there are no coincidences”. Perhaps our visit to St. Alkmund’s Church is another confirmation of those words.

Peace Everyone. Pete

We have returned to spend the night moored at Ellesmere… and so it seems has everyone else! This is Easter weekend and a prime time for narrowboaters. We secured the last available spot along the town wharf and took the opportunity to visit Tesco and re-provision.

Walking down the line of moored vessels we beheld an array of boats that shared only two characteristics, they are long and they are narrow. Beyond that there are some painted battleship grey, others in Scandinavian multi-color. Brass is polished on some, others not so much. At the extremes were vessels that could be classics in a museum and at the other end of the spectrum those that can only be described as “feral”.

We passed a real standout of the former category, the vessel Namaste. She was pristine, and supported a huge brass searchlight at the bow that was polished to a jewelry shine. It was the open hatches amidships that drew my attention.

For those who have ever visited a classic car show, you know how 60 year old Corvettes and 60’s era muscle cars are staged with hoods open to display spotless chrome garnished engines. Well, peering into Namaste’s open hatches I beheld the narrowboat equivalent. As I pointed out some of the finer details of this wonder to Christine, a very nice lady of our generation cautioned me, “If Les hears you he will talk your ear off and never let you go!” Of course, I thought she was merely being pleasant and not being literal. I was wrong on the second count. Les heard me, and like their little dog “Lucky” was on me like a Rat Terrier is on a rodent. We had just met two of the most likable folks (and their dog) plying these waters.

The couple have been together 6 years. Namaste is Les Walling’s third canal boat and clearly his passion. I wish that I had the time to more fully explore his life story, but I know that he has extensively traveled the United States, and he was once a well know off-shore powerboat racer (“Peter, In my past If it went fast I drove it… Look at me now throttled down to 4 miles per hour!”). Les told of his last vessel, nearly lost in a flood enhanced tidal current on the Thames near London. He and Sue were ashore when the unexpected surge tore his narrowboat from its bow and stern lines. Held only amidships, but cantered 90 degrees to the current she was beginning to roll and capsize. Lucky and all their belongings were aboard (Les and Sue are full-timers). In order to have any hope of saving the moment Les was forced to cut the boat loose and hope for the best. The best came in the form of crew aboard another vessel who leapt aboard, engaged the engine, and succeeded in bringing the boat back with nary a scratch! Another example of a boating “angel”.

Les is proud of his thick Lancashire accent. He makes no bones about retaining it untamed to his grave. I confess that there were times in the conversation that I thought I was listening to another language. Nevertheless I was able, at times with Sue’s help, to decipher most of the conversation.

For the mechanically inclined here are some of the details that Les shared about Namaste: She is a 60 foot long Tug-Narrowboat with thrusters fore and aft. The hull is new and he is in the process of designing the paint job that he will execute as a part of her fitting out. The engine, restored by Les, is a 70 year old Gardner 2LW that makes only 28 horsepower from her 2.8 liter displacement. What she lacks in horsepower she more than compensates for in massive torque. She turns a flywheel that is over 100 pounds, and in turn powers a huge prop through a modern hydraulic drivetrain. The engine idles at less than 400 rpms and makes 1,300 rpms at maximum throttle. She turns only 650 rpms to cruise 4 mph. Modern diesels will be decades in the junkyard when the Gardner is still powering boats on the canal.

Les has installed 8 solar panels, a 3kw inverter and has a massive bank of batteries with a capacity of over 1200 watts. Now back to the rest of you readers.

Les has Parkinson Disease. It is profound and he carries aboard a power chair as a mobility assist. Sue told me that when he announced his intention to take on the Namaste project and Gardner power plant restoration, she discouraged him because of his condition. He scoffed and said that he wasn’t done with life yet… and indeed the proof of those words is to be beheld in his craftsmanship and energy.

In this wonderful encounter I am again reminded that the rewards of travel are found in the people that we meet as much as in the sights that we see.

Peace Everyone, and Happy Easter. Pete

PS. This morning we bid farewell to our dear friend and travel companion Kris Ashton. We give thanks to her friendship which was a gift of our 2013 meeting while walking the 520 mile Camino in Spain. We look forward to future adventures with her. Christine and I are also looking forward to welcoming aboard our Canadian friends Tom and Nanci for our final week on England’s canals. That friendship was a gift of our 2018 meeting while walking the route of the Portuguese Camino. Buen Camino to All!

Today (April 1st) is my birthday, number 67 to be exact. There have been enough of them that memory of the celebrations tends to run together and become a blur upon the canvas of my life. There are a few exceptions… #10, 2 digits and a Scout uniform; #13, a “TEEN!!”; #16 my Driver’s License!; #18 the illusion of adulthood; #21 (of course)… and from then they tended to be more burdened by a different reality. #25, a quarter century; #30 a song says I can no longer be trusted and a movie (Logan’s Run) says I should be executed. At #40 I was solidly middle aged… #55 I get an invite to join AARP. These days I actively seek out senior citizen discounts.

There is one birthday, #5, that is branded into my memory for the most valuable birthday present that I may ever have received.

It was 1957 and we lived just south of Chicago in Calumet City Illinois. To the north and south of us were seemingly endless rows of identical streets upon which identical small “4 square” brick homes were shoved together like so many caramels in a candy box. These homes had been built at the end of World War 2. Small 2-bedroom affairs that were just within the means of young veterans returning from service. The mortgage benefits afforded to veterans under the GI bill was their ticket to becoming homeowners. Young marrieds snapped these places up in their eagerness to begin life and start the families which had been put on hold by the necessities of war. Homes barely big enough for two adults were quickly being populated by my generation… we were aptly named “baby boomers”.

On my street there were young children everywhere. A typical spring morning saw fathers leaving for work while masses of pre-school children struck out from their homes, spreading across the neighborhood like ants at a picnic. Aproned mothers stood at the front doors naively secure in the belief that the community was keeping a protective eye on children. Truth be known, it was not the neighborhood, just vigilant Guardian Angels that protected most of us. It was a grand time! It was also the time that I turned 5 and had my first real birthday party.

As birthday parties went it was pretty standard. Party hats, “Pin the Tail on the Donkey”, cake, candles, ice cream, and the melee of sugar charged children running senselessly wild. The main event, the opening of presents, brought momentary order and focus. Presents were decidedly low-tech, but we didn’t know any better nearly 70 years ago. A Duncan Imperial Yo-Yo was big stuff. Balsa wood gliders, paddle-balls, wind-up cars, Jax, marbles… so much great stuff to choke on, get cut by, or just get an eye put out. Again, Guardian Angels taxed to their limits.

The opening of presents at my party proceeded in due course until the shy boy who lived across the street produced his gift, a plain white envelope. Everything to that point (and after) had been colorfully gift wrapped, some also adorned with bows or ribbons. The envelope’s plainness was strange in comparison and in this it brought a heightened awareness from the gathering. I opened the envelope and handed my mother the card within to read. It was likely a cartoon puppy saying “Hey you’re 5!!!…” or something like that. One of the children called out, “Where’s his present”? Others joined in. I remember seeing the face of the child who brought the card. Sad, embarrassed, crestfallen… I also remember joining the chorus of the other children. My mother intervened and with practiced ease redirected the energy of the group back to random chaos.

Later, referring to the boy I asked my mom why he didn’t bring a present to my party? She told me that the card was his present, and then she added: “That card may be the only thing that his parents can afford. He gave it to you with the same offer of friendship as the other children, but you and the other’s made fun of him. How would that have made you feel Peter?” As her words sunk in a lump grew in my throat, the same one that reflexively returns as I think of that moment.

I was 5 when I received the priceless gift of empathy. That gift has served me well over the 62 years that followed. I do my best to never leave my home without it. The little boy and his mother could not have known the real value of his gift to me. I do not know what that gift ended up costing him over the course of his life. I know that it was painful at that time and I wish I could let him know that his was the most valuable birthday present I have ever received.

Peace Everyone. Pete

The end of living and the end of life are not the same. This last week I enjoyed an afternoon with my father-in-law, Bill Nichols at a St. Patrick’s Day “Happy Hour” and music event hosted at his assisted living community. Bill is closing in on his 101st birthday. As one might expect, his abilities are a shadow of those he held as a younger man. For him and his fellow residents, physical beauty and vitality fled them years ago. However, beauty may yet be found within the eyes that reflect the youthfulness of their spirits.

Bill was animated, sang, clapped, enjoyed a glass of wine, shared embraces with the musician and staff, and of course wore a ridiculous Irish themed party hat.

I found his joy to be infectious. Actually, this one afternoon was not really exceptional. Bill’s days are filled with activities such as “Chair exercises”, Bingo, “Balloon Volleyball”, and group sing-a-longs, not to mention the social exchanges that occur with his fellow residents at meals and throughout the day. Bill’s days are a joy that serves as an analgesic to the ills of his advanced years.

Being around Bill has left me to reflect upon the contrast of my visits with my father during the final years of his life. Dad died in 2009, 87 years old. He had suffered the intensifying effects of Multiple Sclerosis for over 30 years yet in his final years his abilities and challenges were not very different than those imposed upon Bill Nichols by virtue of his advanced years. Dad’s last years were in a nursing home community. I could usually find my father alone within his darkened room, shades drawn, television off, a faint antiseptic odor in the air. My father’s view of life in his final years may best be summed up by his own words. I would open visits with him by asking, “How are you Dad?”, and he would invariably respond from his bed, “Just waiting…”. Sadly, there was never any question what he was “just waiting” for.

As Christine and I entered our 60’s we have been continuously bombarded with ads, solicitations, and messages encouraging us to prepare for the end of life. Have we secured our final resting places? Living Trusts? Explore the benefits of Insurance Annuities! Beneficiary Designations in place? What about Charitable Giving? There is little about continuing to live and much about the end of life.

My father’s life ended in his 87th year, but I believe that 30 years earlier he retired from living at the same time that he retired from work. Dad had been a college coach, Director of Athletics, and a teacher. He was highly regarded in those roles; they were his passions. When he retired a cavernous vacuum formed in his life. Dad never sought other interests that might have carry the joy of living into the years beyond his working life.
Another contrast: My mother will be 94 this year. She is as busy today as she was 40 years ago. She has her Bridge Club, Woman’s Club, Church activities and myriad other social and community engagements. I see in her eyes the same joie de vivre that I see in Bill Nichols.

There is a lesson in these observations: We have more influence and control over delaying the end of living than we have on the end of life. When age or infirmity deny us the pursuit of one passion, find another to replace it… Always have a next thing and Pursue Good Stuff!!!
Peace everyone. Pete

PS. Dad, my calendar just reminded me that tomorrow is your birthday and you would have turned 97. Although you have been gone 10 years it seems that I am still learning from you.

After a home stay in Kansas City of 3 months we have our Casita, “Rigel” again in tow. This has been the longest uninterrupted period at home since our retirements in May of 2015. Even Christine was itching to get back to traveling. In 2018 we were gone over 23 weeks, including a 13 week stretch overseas. 2017 included a 12 week journey to Alaska and the Yukon. It is likely that future trips will not be quite so long as we have found them to be taxing on us and the “little people” who desperately miss their grandma.

Our morning departure was not without incident. When I pressed the start button on our SUV instead of the throaty roar of a powerful V6, all I got was a series of anemic clicks. Dead battery. In the 45 minutes that followed I bought a replacement battery at Costco, installed it and all was again right with the world. The incident annoyed me but Christine saw it differently. “Boy was that a piece of good luck! It could have died while we were traveling!” Of course, she was right.

Our time spent at home was used well. Time with the kids, time at the gym… yard work, reading, Thanksgiving, the annual family birthday dinner (a private room at Pierpont’s in Kansas City’s Union Station). I dedicated many days to assembling and editing my posts from our 13 weeks abroad into a coffee table book. 202 glossy pages that are about 40% photographs and 60% narrative. The hard bound book was printed by a firm in the Netherlands, and the final product exceeding every possible expectation that I held. Copies were given as gifts to each of our children, Christine’s father, and my mother who never fails to read and comment upon my “Thoughts”.

Christmas morning was spent with our children (and grands) after which our daughters and their 7 little ones flew to Europe for 12 days in England and France (part of which they each spent with their French host families with whom they lived for a year as high school exchange students). The daughters and their children (with the exception of 1 year old Lennon) speak fluent French. Of course there was New Year’s Eve (see previous post!).

Oh yes, there was one more “event”. We drove to Breckenridge Colorado and shared time with our dear friend Kris Ashton who we first met walking across Spain in 2013. On October 5th, Christine’s 64th birthday, we bought 3 acres near Alma Colorado, 25 minutes south of Breckenridge. We have since been working on designing the vacation home which we hope to build in 2020.

It’s cold here where we are overnighting in Oklahoma at Grand Lake of the Cherokees. We are heading southwest through Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California and then back to Kansas City. A “wintery mix” is predicted for this region on Friday and we would like to not experience it. Our original plan had been to frequent the wonderful National Parks, Monuments, National Forests, COE and BLM sites we encounter along the way. Unfortunately, Washington has other ideas. I will leave it at that in keeping with my efforts to not politicize these posts.

Peace Everyone. Pete