This morning, July 13th, I broke camp and headed west and north to Missoula Montana. However, yesterday is worth a note as I enjoyed a 5 mile round trip hike to a closed Forest Service Fire tower at 10,000 feet near Beartooth Butte.

From the tower I could view the lake where I was camped.

It was above tree line and commanded a near unbroken 360 degree view of the surrounding wilderness.

I would say that I embraced the solitude, but the truth of it was that I had cell service at the top and I took the opportunity to call Christine and my Mom. An afternoon thunderstorm chased me off the mountain, but not before I had the best of a great experience.

Today was an early start that took me back to Cooke City where I shared a table and breakfast with a father and son (Brian and Chris Wilson) from Australia who are touring on rented BMW motorcycles.

Brian is a retired adventurer and world traveler, and Chris lives in New York full time where he is employed in the tech industry. We did not lack for conversation as our discourse wandered from travel and father/son relationships, to the virtues of the 1970’s Norton motorcycles. The bills paid, we parted company, I on to a transit through Yellowstone National Park.

This was at least my 5th time in Yellowstone, and the briefest. Christine and I camped here 42 years ago on our 30 day camping trip “honeymoon”. It was her first camping experience and she endured 30 straight days tenting across 9 states. She persevered through downpours, freezing temps, and even nursing me through the flu. Love is grand (and blind).

My first visit to Yellowstone was in the early 60’s with my parents and 3 brothers. We were crammed into a 14 foot camping trailer with us boys sleeping like sardines in the “overhang”. My parents slept on the dinette that made into a bed. They once tried putting one of us boys above them in a canvas pipe berth… All was fine until he wet the bed and that was the end of the pipe berth.

Back then Bison were a rarity and slowly clawing back from the precipice of extinction. Today they seem to be everywhere in the park.

It is one thing to watch them from the comfort and safety of an SUV, but in 2010 I bicycled through Yellowstone on my way to Florida and every time I passed one of those beasts near the road i experienced more than a twinge of anxiety.

This was a 350+ mile day that has brought me to Missoula Montana. It is a longer drive than I like, but I wanted to get close to Coeur d’Alene for my arrival in Wallace on Tuesday and perhaps find a nice Forest Service campground for tomorrow and Monday.

One piece of drama on the drive today was a foray through a microburst thunderstorm. Within 10 minutes the temp dropped from 85 to 55. A torrential downpour with hail all but eliminated visibility. Fortunately the hail was “slushy” or windshields (and insurance companies) might have been the victims. The winds seemed to zephyr from all direction, but within another 15 minutes the sun was out and the temps were climbing back toward 80.

I will miss the Beartooth.

Peace Everyone. Pete

PS: I spent a little time walking the historic district of Fort Yellowstone before exiting the North portal of the Park. Here is some information that you may find of interest:

Yellowstone was established as a National Park by act of Congress in 1872. It claims to be the first and thus oldest to have that designation, which is both accurate and not quite so. Hot Springs Arkansas was established as a special preserve by act of Congress in 1832, long before the creation of the National Park System. It had become a favorite haunt of many in Congress and was catching on nationally. Members of Congress wanted to preserve it, perhaps out of selfish considerations. This was the first time that the government had set aside an area for purely recreational purposes.

While Yellowstone was founded in 1872, it was not funded and thus was looted and overrun by civilian squatters and entrepreneurs until the Army stepped in and established Fort Yellowstone in 1886.

A military presence was then maintained until 1918. The original Fort was comprised of temporary structures, but in 1890 Congress appropriated $50,000 for the construction of a permanent post.

Many of the buildings remain as private residences and others as tourist attractions. One even featured a “guard Elk”

Yellowstone is the only place in the United States where Bison have existed from pre-history without interruption. Furthermore these creatures, some weighing over 2,000 pounds are considered the largest native land mammals in North America. Yellowstone’s is the largest herd on public land in North America and is special in that the herd has not been hybridized through interbreeding with cattle.

In my opinion summer is not the time to visit the Park as one must compete with the throngs of tourists and tour buses. If you can, reserve a visit for the Fall, or perhaps late Spring.

This last week Christine and I celebrated 42 years of marriage. I still recall the gathering for my parents’ 40th anniversary in 1989, marveling “Damn that’s a long time”! Now I can only wonder at the speed with which my years with Christine have passed. We have known each other 45 years, sharing both the exciting and the difficult.

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When we returned from England in late May there seemed a vacuum. We lacked for future travel plans, a rarity in our life. That quickly changed. First on the calendar is a wedding in South Carolina. This promises a pleasant September week with friends in Charleston. More planning fell into place…
We discussed taking an extended camping trip to Canada’s Labrador and Newfoundland later in the year but having just returned from 6 weeks abroad Christine wasn’t fully engaged in the idea. Her father, who lives a few miles from us in an assisted living community, turns 101 in August. He continues to do very well and is energized by Christine’s near daily visits, but at his age a bad cold could spell a precipitous decline.

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We think that north eastern Canada will be on the agenda for next year. In the meantime Christine encouraged me to undertake a 30 day solo camping trip. I leave around July 1st for Colorado, to be followed by Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and then perhaps Utah before winding back home through Colorado. In our earlier post retirement travels I took mental notes of some places that I would like to revisit. High on that list is the 70 mile long Beartooth Highway (US 212) that links Red Lodge Montana to the north east entrance of Yellowstone National park.

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The highway is appropriately named since bear sightings are commonplace, and the way is indeed “high”. Most of the roadway is located above 8,000 feet, its summit climbing over Beartooth pass at 10,947 feet. The Beartooth was constructed in 1936 and retains much of its Depression Era ruggedness. The late CBS correspondent Charles Kuralt once declared it to be the most beautiful drive in America. Rustic National Forest campsites abound, many with warnings posted for tent campers to beware of bear activity.

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I hope to continue on from Montana to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho in the north panhandle of that state. What awaits are two adjoining “rails to trail” routes; the 72 paved miles of the “Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes” and a 15 mile gravel portion of the “Route of the Hiawatha”. These trails wind through the Bitterroot Mountains and are a part of the former route of The Milwaukee Railroad “Hiawatha” Line. I hope to bicycle through 8 train tunnels, including the 8,771 foot long (1.6 mile) Taft Tunnel, and cross 7 high train trestles.

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But that’s not all…
Twice in the last 2 weeks I have been asked if I have a “bucket list”. I have typically resisted the idea of a “list”, favoring instead my notion of always having a “Next Thing” in the works. I was pressed by the questioners on each occasion and confessed that I have all but abandoned a long held dream of sailing around Cape Horn, the southernmost tip of South America.

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Attention then turned to Christine. She would love to visit South America but holds no fascination for sailing a small boat in those treacherous southern waters. A few days later we received an ad from Viking Ocean Cruises. As travelers who had crossed the Atlantic with Viking in 2018, we were offered a special rate, airfare included, on a 22 day November sailing from Buenos Aires Argentina, around Cape Horn to Santiago Chile.

It seemed that a “Next Thing” had chosen us! It’s not exactly the experience either of us imagined, but it is a compromise that we will share and remember.

Viking Sun

The Viking ships are considered small cruise ships, 900 passengers instead of 5,000. They approach travel by highlighting that less is more and proudly feature:
· No Photographers
· No art auctions
· No charge for beer and wine at meals
· Complimentary in-suite mini-bar, stocked daily
· No charge for the upscale dining
· Free unlimited Wi-Fi
· Free laundry
· Free Spa admission
· All cabins are exterior with balcony
· No formal nights
· No smoking
· No casino
· No children under 18
· Included room service, 24/7
We pulled the trigger and booked a Penthouse Veranda.

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The 2019 travel calendar has now been filled. I look forward to sharing.
Peace Everyone! Pete

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We landed back in Kansas City the evening of May 21st. Our daughter Alexis and her children were at the airport to greet us and drag our weary bones home. The flight home began with our arrival at Manchester England’s airport at 4:00 a.m. with a 6 a.m. international departure for Brussels Belgium, a layover, an 8 hour cross-Atlantic flight to Washington Dulles, another layover, and finally a flight of nearly 3 hours to Kansas City. The marvel of it all is that we arrived home by 8:30 p.m. on the same day that we departed. However, the effect of crossing 7 time zones meant that our bodies had been without any meaningful sleep for over 24 hours.

The cross-Atlantic segment was made a bit more pleasant as we secured a class upgrade. Bigger seats, two meals and a snack (with real plates and cutlery!), an “open bar”, and expanded entertainment options. I binged two movies, “Glass”, and “Arctic”, both of which I recommend. I started to watch “Aquaman” but soon found the premise and the acting to be all wet.

It didn’t take long for me to fall into the old routine. Up early the next day and mowed the lawn. Sifted through the pile of mail, sorting the “junk” from the important… I find it remarkable that even after 6 weeks the stack of “real” mail is pretty small, yet a few days of junk mail probably required the killing of a tree.
Our first priority was to glory in time with the grandchildren. Over the next few day we unpacked, did laundry, stocked the refrigerator, visited the barber, did some landscaping, enjoyed time with friends, took in a movie, and took our grandson Kane to a Kansas City Royals baseball game which was his birthday present that had been delayed by our travels.

On the road my possessions are contained within a backpack. It takes a house to contain them when we are not traveling. On the road the scope of our experience expands to cross states, countries, and continents.

Here in Kansas City most of what matters occurs within a few miles of our home. We miss our family and friends when we travel yet find and embrace new friendships as we wander. Paradoxically, I tend to be silent and a bit introverted here at home yet compelled to reach out with my “Thoughts” on a near daily basis during our journeys.

We were gone six weeks. Our 2018 Europe trip took 13 weeks, and our 2017 trip to Alaska and the Yukon was 12 weeks long. We have come to the conclusion that 6 weeks is long enough for any single journey. On the road I don’t eat or exercise as well as I should. The scale tells the disappointing tale upon my return. The grandchildren miss us, and we miss them. Nevertheless, before we landed my thoughts had already turned to considerations of our “Next Thing”.

Late last year I found a company in the Netherlands that provides on-line tools for converting a blog into a book. I spent about a week rearranging and modifying content from the posts I had written during our 13 week journey. The result was a 202 page full color coffee-table book that reads like a personal diary. We bought 6 copies, one for each of our children’s homes, one for my Mother, one for Christine’s Dad, and one for our home. I was very pleased with the results and will likely do the same thing with content from this most recent journey. The cost is not insignificant, but in the case of our children and grandchildren I consider the books to be an investment. I hold a special hope that our pursuits in retirement may become a model for our children as they journey through life, and a spark to ignite the imaginations of our grandchildren.


Since childhood I have embraced the notion of a “Next Thing”. Initially this was a product of daydreaming and an active imagination, but as I matured, the pursuit of the “Next Thing” became conscious and directed. “Next Things” excite the imagination and engage the spirit.

My life has been a series of these “Next Things”, some relatively minor and lost to a memory that fades with the passage of time. Others have been monumental. It has been my good fortune that fate gifted me a partner who embraces these things. Christine’s encouragement and participation have been a priceless part of the planning and execution of our “Next Things”.

We retired in the Spring of 2015. Retirement came easier for Christine as she naturally fell into the cadence of being the matriarch and grandmother extraordinaire to our family in Kansas City. For me, finding a new purpose was a bit more challenging. “Next Things” became central to my new purpose. “On the road” I find joy in sharing the sights, experiences, and my thoughts with others.

Don’t put off until tomorrow the things you may find you are then unable to do, and whatever you do in life may you always Have Fun, Do Good, and for the sake of those who love you, Be Safe!

-Peace Everyone. Pete

PS. We gratefully acknowledge the following: The many people who provided for our needs in the restaurants, hotels, and Bed & Breakfasts that hosted us. The brief encounters that became friendships were like the blossom of a flower, enjoyed in the beauty of the moment but soon to be a memory when the paths of life took us in different directions.

Our thanks to the staff of Andersen Boats and the many volunteers of the Canal and River Trust who as a labor of love maintain the remarkable canal system of the United Kingdom.

Our special thanks to Kris Ashton, Tom Shillington, Nanci Burns, and Huw and Nina Thomas who were each a treasured part of this adventure.

Thank you to those who follow us. You continue to give me a venue for expression that I would not otherwise have.

Lastly, we thank the ancient hands that created the towns, churches, castles, and monuments that are found throughout the United Kingdom and the Channel Islands. What they raised for either war or the glory of God has become a treasured heritage.

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!