It has been a little over a month since I launched my daily “Thoughts”. It has not been as challenging to make time to write as I imagined. I have had the luxury of some old writings to draw upon and for the next few days I will likely post from my 2010 experiences bicycling across the United States.

So far, there have been over 3,500 visitors to my “Thoughts”, from 22 countries. I can’t tell who each of the visitors are, but I have a pretty good idea based upon the country. I am clueless about the visitor from Bangladesh!

I am just as inept at predicting which posts will be popular as I have been at predicting which pictures will have the most “likes” on Facebook. However shorter posts typically seem more popular than longer ones. It also appears that the average daily readership is growing. Also, whereas originally the majority of visitors came in through the Facebook “link”, now is seems the majority are subscribers and visitors who locate the posts directly online.

I hope to continue these missives on a (near) daily basis, but once we are traveling abroad that may become logistically more difficult. Happily, I have learned how to include pictures with the posts. It is still not as easy to upload multiple images, but it is doable! I consider this all to be preparation for taking you with us as we travel across the Atlantic and through Europe for the next 3 months.

Peace Everyone! Pete

I came across some reflections I wrote while bicycling across the country in 2010 as a part of “Cycling for Change”. The memory of this one remains fresh in my mind:

Many of us have heard this speech a hundred times, “In the unlikely event that there is a loss of cabin pressure, a mask will fall from a compartment above you, and provide you with oxygen…”.

We take for granted that on a journey we will be provided with our basic necessities. Air, water, food, safety. Most of us never consider a couple of the other “necessities” that we also take for granted… hope and dignity.

Wednesday (June 2, 2010), the Cycling for Change Team was provided lunch at St. Leo’s Church soup kitchen in Seattle, Washington. St. Leo’s provides breakfast and lunch meals for between 800 and 1,100 people every day, 5 days a week! As one of the staff people explained, the numbers tend to go up at the end of the month when people find that they have run out of money.

Our visit was at the start of the month, but the lunchroom, in a large former school built in the early 20th century, appeared filled to capacity. As I walked through the door I was not prepared for the sight or the sudden emotional impact. It was as if I had experienced a “sudden loss of cabin pressure”. However, there was no mask within my reach. Before me was the “3-D” version of a post-apocalypse vision that we have all seen so many times in science fiction movies. A crush of vacant eyed people, soiled and many wearing what amounted to tatters. I was to dine shoulder to shoulder with the people that Seattle had forgotten.

I proceeded to the food line and was handed a brightly colored compartmented tray, the kind that you would expect to see in a grade school. There was a bowl for the soup, but no plates. My meal consisted of a slice of lunchmeat between two pieces of white bread, a bowl of chili-like soup, and a single chocolate chip cookie. A soup kitchen that serves a thousand people a day from donations does its best by making do with what it gets. The same applies to those who are served. There was coffee, hot and excellent by any standard.

I moved to one of the long cafeteria tables and found a vacant folding chair between two of the center’s customers. I ate and visited with my “companions”. I was beginning to feel a sense of accomplishment in embracing the experience when my eye was drawn to a man seated across from me a few seats to my left. I was wrenched back into the reality that for everyone but me this was not a diversion, not just “an experience”… this was reality and this was life. Again, there was a loss of “cabin pressure”.

The “oxygen” that was rarified in the atmosphere of the room was the loss of hope. Most of us have experienced a momentary loss of hope, but few who read this know what it means to be without hope, and without prospect of finding hope… true hopelessness. In the soup kitchen I could scan the tables and see a face here and there that bore the signs of a life yet with hope. A father with his young son, the boy looking up to dad with the hero worship that any father lives for. A man and a woman looking deeply into each other’s eyes, sharing grimy gap-toothed smiles between words and bites of their meals. But the man who had caught my attention was not one of these, there was no visible sign of hope with him.

What caught my attention was that he visited with no one. He sat solitary, ramrod straight, eyes forward. His hair was as neatly combed as hair could be that had not seen shampoo for many days. His stained and worn clothing would not have been suitable for donation to a second-hand store but was arranged with care. From his leather-like and wrinkled complexion, he looked to be in his 50’s, but I suspect the ravages of a life without shelter had aged him prematurely. He might have been 40. He ate slowly, with deliberation… with dignity. Everything about him screamed his dignity. He wore dignity like it was armor. The man grew in my sight and became larger than life. Whatever the cause of his condition, whatever the story behind a life rendered hopeless, he taught me that dignity may be given, and it may be cast aside, but it is never taken from one who chooses to keep it. Dignity dies last.

Peace Everyone. Pete

It was the Summer of 72 and I was abroad with 21 fellow students and 2 faculty members. We pretended to study Ancient History. One of the students was a coed with whom I had been in a relationship much of the prior school year. I will call her “Elaine”, not her real name.

She and I were returning to Naples Italy from a day trip to the Island of Capri, traveling aboard a slow ferry. The day was sunny, warm, and pleasant. Our relationship had grown dark, cold, and uncomfortable. A tough thing when stuck with one another thousands of miles from home. She had grown jealous and controlling and I just longed for freedom.

Early in the passage to the mainland I thought to get a beer. My funds were low, and I wasn’t sure of the cost. There were two dark skinned men in their 20’s who sat at a table near to us, beers in hand. They appeared to be of Indian or Pakistani descent. I approached them and asked how much the beers cost. The larger of the two said something that I did not understand, and the smaller man turned to his companion and addressed him in a foreign language, but with sudden and obvious anger. I excused myself and returned to “Elaine”.

She asked, “What was that all about!” and I responded with my ignorance. Soon thereafter the smaller man came to our table and apologizing asked if we would join them as guests for a beer. My girlfriend refused but thirst and the promise of more pleasant company prevailed. I joined them.

They were sailors from a grain freighter out of India. Slightly older than me and with significantly more funds, they continued to buy and the three of us continued to drink. “Elaine” continued to sulk. Nearing the docks in Naples harbor they suggested that we adjourn to their ship to continue our celebration of friendship. We asked my girlfriend to join us, and (thankfully) she refused in favor of returning to our group.

The sailors hailed a cab and I pretended to be passed-out drunk in the back seat in order to make it through dock security. The cab let us out in the shadow of the largest ship that I had ever seen. A gangway and stairs ascended to the ship deck above. At the base of the stairs a man stood as an obvious guard and suddenly stiffened his posture, eyes forward, at our approach. On deck this happened a second time with the same deference displayed toward the smaller sailor. I turned to him and asked, “Who the hell are you?” He smiled and replied that he was the second officer of the ship.

I wish that I remembered his name or could find out how his life has played out. In childhood he had been promised in marriage by his family. He was ascending in rank and his duties kept him away from India and the wife that he barely knew. His travels called him from his home for many months at a time and he seemed sad with his own life and a trace envious of mine.

We toured the ship. He took me to the bridge and showed me the workings of navigation, radar and vessel operations. We toured the cavernous engine room below and eventually made our way to the mess (food) and recreation areas. Some of the crew were off duty and my friend ordered a meal and celebration in my honor. We played ping-pong in rotation. I was miserably outclassed by all except their best player who was the larger sailor from the ferry. Strangely, he could beat everyone except me. I discerned that his superior had ordered him to extend me the courtesy of victory at his expense. I later asked my friend about the anger he had displayed toward his companion aboard the ferry. He explained that when I asked about the beer the larger sailor misunderstood and accused me of begging. The second officer reacted swiftly to silence his companion and avoid an incident that might have caused me offence.

The night wore on and we all lost track of time. It is said that what you don’t know can’t hurt you, but on that night nothing could have been further from the truth. My girlfriend had returned to our group and delivered her explanation of my absence. The professors, and later the authorities, concluded that I had been kidnapped, or in the vernacular of sailors, “shanghaied”. The search for Peter Schloss was on.

My seafaring friends and I continued to lounge in the recreation area when there arose a commotion outside the door. It suddenly burst open and men charged in with automatic weapons at the ready. They appeared to be military police. One of them then asked for me, butchering my name with his accent. I slowly raised my hand and my second officer friend turned to me. With a shocked expression he asked, “Who the hell are you?!?”
One of my professors stood behind the phalanx of security men and I then understood what had happened. Security quickly figure out that I was a fool, but not a victim. The police cleared the scene and my second officer friend, the professor, and I adjourned to a very early morning café for espresso, and a round of apologies.

“Elaine” and I were finished. In revenge she succeeded in briefly alienating the other students from me. However, there was one attractive exception among the group. She and I became friends in Venice and more by the time we arrived on the island of Crete. That story is best left untold.

Peace everyone! Pete

I have written of our practice of always having a “Next Thing” to engage the imagination. I have also written about our preparations for the end of life “Last Thing”. It occurred to me today that I have never mentioned the First “Next Thing”.

Actually, there are two of these. The first one never came to fruition, but it confirms to me that the notion of a “next thing” has been hard-wired within me since I was very young. One Summer, as a child of 9 or 10, I stood at the headwaters of the Mississippi River gazing downstream to a point where the waters disappeared around a bend. It was a river in name only, since at its source it was little more than a large stream. Where I stood was a sign that declared that the river progressed onward south to the Gulf of Mexico, a journey of over 2,500 miles. The notion of traveling its length to the sea in a rowboat captivated me. During the school year that followed, my imagination would not let go. My mind wandered from classwork to the lure of the Mississippi. I wrote estimates of the time it would take to travel, and the supplies that I would need, all in the margins of my school text books. I envisioned using my dad’s 1946 Elgin outboard motor for power. I still have that motor, and I believe that it still works. Without regret, I do not believe that it or I will ever make that Mississippi journey dreamed of by my 9-year-old self. It was my first major foray into planning a “next thing”. It would not be my last.

Fast forward to the Fall of 1971. I was a sophomore at Southern Illinois University. A coed in my African History class told me of a 9 semester-hour study abroad program planned for the following Summer. After class we went to the History Department offices to get more information. 2 months traveling to England, France, Italy, Greece, Crete, the Aegean, Turkey, and Yugoslavia. 22 students and 2 faculty members would study Ancient History where it occurred. Travel would include a week on a cruise ship and travel from Budapest to Paris on the Orient Express. The price was $1,250.00, a huge sum in 1971… more than I had paid the prior year for my new Kawasaki Mach III motorcycle. My imagination went from a smoldering ember to a conflagration in minutes.

It never occurred to me that the trip would be out of my reach. Without knowing it I had already decided that the experience I imagined was more valuable than a motorcycle capable of accelerating 0-60 mph in 3 seconds, topping out at over 130 mph.  Within the day I was on the phone to my parents and explained that prudent saving and the sale of my motorcycle would fund the trip. I don’t know if my parents took me seriously. But they didn’t hinder my self-initiated plans and preparation.

Someday I may share the details of that “epic” Journey, however here are some of the thumbnail events:

  • The coed and I both went on the trip, starting as a couple but not ending that way.
  • I found other love on the island of Crete.
  • In Naples I was kidnaped by Indian sailors and held aboard a 600-foot grain freighter until rescued by machine gun wielding military police. (This one really needs some explanation in another post)
  • I made the acquaintance of a pretty Polish girl who was traveling as the interpreter for a Japanese film crew. Our fast friendship resulted in the film crew following us for a week making a documentary on American student travels in Europe. The program aired in Japan. Regrettably, I never saw anything more than some still images. One of the professors related that he had seen the film and it largely featured all of us smoking cigarettes, drinking, and carousing… a “reality show” before its time. The conclusion reportedly was me embracing the Polish girl and then leaping on a departing ferry in Naples harbor as we all waved goodbye to her and the film crew.

 It was an astounding Summer that fed my soul for years to come. It even contributed to my marriage to Christine who I was not to meet for another 2 years. On the night that we first met we sat beneath the limbs of a large oak tree. I spun my tale of adventure in Europe, sensing that her imagination was just as flammable as mine. Years later she confessed that from that beginning she found me “fascinating and intriguing”. We have since gone on to plan many “Next Things” the greatest of these being… marriage, a family, and life growing old together.

I could have kept that motorcycle and passed on the 1972 journey, but then I wouldn’t have anything to write about, would I?

Peace Everyone! Pete

Packing for most “trips” is not something one stresses over, however packing for a 90 day “journey” is another matter entirely. With the exception of a large suitcase that will accompany us only during the cruise, everything that we will take with us must fit in moderately sized backpacks for each of us. The goal is to keep the weight below 20 pounds each.

Christine has proven in the past to be better at this than I am. On our 2013 Spain trip of 54 days (which included 35 days walking the Camino) her pack weighed in at 16 pounds, while mine started out at 24 pounds. After a few days on the trail I segregated a bunch of “just in case” stuff and shipped it out, reducing my pack to 18 pounds. 6 pounds may not sound like a lot, but it was a world of difference when one is afoot and covering 12-15 miles a day.

I once mused on the cumulative effect of carrying an extra ounce over 525 miles. That distance represents approximately one million footsteps. Each step that transports that extra ounce adds up to an extra 62,500 POUNDS over the length of that journey! Ounces do matter!!!

There are some principles that are helpful to keep in mind:

  1. Pack for the expected, not the “just in case”.
  2. Europe is not part of the “third world”. The countries in Europe have the equivalents of Walmart, Target, Dick’s Sporting, Walgreens, and CVS everywhere.
  3. Take less than you think that you will need. I (half) kiddingly have said that one can stretch the use of underwear to 4 days by wearing a pair on day one, reversed on day two, inside-out on day three and again reversed on day four.
  4. Make sure it can all fit in your pack, even though you will be wearing approximately one-third of it.

Here is a short summary of what we have found to be a reasonable packing list:

  • 4 pair of socks, 2 of medium weight and 2 of light weight.
  • Hiking shoes and a pair of light trainers.
  • 2 long pants and 1 pair of shorts, and a light swimsuit.
  • 3 changes of underwear, 2 tee-shirts.
  • A lightweight sleeved shirt.
  • A light sweater.
  • A breathable water-proof windbreaker.
  • An ultralight parka that is designed to cover both you and your pack.
  • An ultralight compressible down blanket.
  • A simple first aid kit for minor cuts and major blisters.
  • A toiletry kit with a very minimalist supply of toothpaste and shampoo. (Remember, Europe is NOT THIRD WORLD)
  • A ½ liter refillable water bottle. (Large capacity and water purification are not necessary… again, NOT THIRD WORLD!)
  • A small kit with charging cords and electric plug converter. Smart phones and most other electronics work fine on Europe’s 240-volt power, but a plug converter is necessary to make US “prongs” connect with Euro outlets.
  • Trekking poles. These have proven to be a necessity. They enhance stability afoot and transfer approximately 10% of the effort of walking to the arms and chest. Christine and I each attribute their use to saving us from some serious stumbles.

In addition to the above, I will take my iPhone, iPad, and “real” camera. Carrying these things in not necessary to my journey, but they are necessary for taking YOU on our journey!

We also each carry copies of any travel documents, including copies of both of our passports and driver’s licenses.

On the Camino it is customary to say “Buen Camino” (Good Journey) when one greets or says goodbye to another Pilgrim. So I will end with that and a bit more:

Peace Everyone, and Buen Camino! Pete

The Sagrada Familia (Holy Family) is a monumental church begun in 1882 but not to be completed within the lifetime of its master architect, Antoni Gaudi who quipped, “My Client is not in a hurry!”. Throughout its history it has attracted awe, criticism, and in recent years people… throngs of people. It is now one of the top 3 most visited sites in Europe. Reservations are needed to visit this privately funded marvel and still the line for visitors can extend the circle of a city block.

Gaudi’s genius becomes immediately apparent as one tries to comprehend the mind that conceived of this otherworldly creation. Gaudi drew inspiration from nature. Thus, his preferred building elements were curves, ellipses, and ovals.

He shunned the common design features of straight lines, squares and rectangles. In Gaudi’s day the computer tools to design with his favored elements did not exist, so he improvised. Tying hundreds of strings from a ceiling and joining them with small bags of sand he found that gravity drew the strings into natural parabolic curves. Using mirrors on the floor he was able to draw from the reflected images into his designs.

The church, now declared a Basilica, will feature 18 different spires. The central spire, representing Christ, will be 560 feet tall at completion. Entry into the Basilica is breathtaking. Instead of straight columns supporting a ceiling, the supports mimic trees ascending to a distant forest canopy. Stonework is kaleidoscopic in both color and presentation.

The exterior features 3 principle facades. At our visit in 2013 the Nativity and Passion facades, at opposite sides of the church, were starkly different. The stonework on the Nativity side is organic and “flows” with the lifelike Biblical images.

In contrast, the Passion facade is stark, angular, and almost painful to behold.

This art, inside and out, immediately connects with one’s emotions. Visiting the Sagrada is the most moving architectural experience in my life. 

The Sagrada Familia will become the tallest religious building in the world in 2026. It may be completed by 2030, 158 years after it was begun. We secured our reservations to visit weeks in advance and eagerly look forward to seeing the progress that was made in the last 5 years. Below you will find links to a time-lapse presentation about the Basilic and also a video that extrapolates to show what construction will occur to bring Antoni Gaudi’s dream to completion. Enjoy!

Peace Everyone! Pete

Time Lapse Video

When Completed Video

What is a “Repositioning Cruise”?

Cruise ship companies focus on creating itineraries for the Caribbean in Winter and the Mediterranean in Summer. Therefore, it is necessary to move their fleets across the Atlantic Ocean in the Spring (Caribbean to Mediterranean) and back to the Caribbean in the Fall. Rather than send empty boats across the Atlantic, the companies significantly reduce rates in order to attract passengers for these longer sailings that have relatively few destinations.

Christine and I have long wanted to take one of these cruises, however we did not want to spend 2 weeks aboard a 5,000 passenger behemoth. Our research narrowed the options to just a couple of Cruise Lines, and Viking of Norway was the hands down choice. Viking is best known for its European river cruises. A few years ago, they branched into Ocean sailing, constructing a new fleet of vessels that are only 20% the size of the “big guys”. Furthermore, they have approached cruising by highlighting a less is more approach. They proudly feature:

·         No Photographers

·         No art auctions

·         No charge for beer and wine at meals

·         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 were sold on this as the best “unique” option for reaching Europe. It is a 15-day passage departing from San Juan Puerto Rico with day stops on the island of St. Martin (Caribbean), the island of Funchal (Portugal), Tangiers (Morocco), Seville (Spain), Valencia (Spain) and disembarkation at Barcelona. There are 8 sea days that we intend to spend in the Spa (Christine), Gym (me), poolside (both of us) and daily docent lead workshops that focus on cooking, culture, art, and geography. Evenings include live entertainment. Best of all, evening attire is upscale casual, which is the reason that we will share a suitcase for the cruise, sending it back to the States from Barcelona.

If you would like more information about our cruise here are links to a video and cruise information:



I look forward to sharing my “Thoughts” and images with you as we cross the Atlantic.

Peace Everyone! Pete

In a few weeks we depart for Europe. I have tried to consider an appropriate adjective to append to “journey”, and my mind always returns to “epic”. I will give an overview and see if you have a suggested one-word description:

We fly from Kansas City to San Juan Puerto Rico. Because of Christine’s accumulated reward miles our tickets are “first class”, a rarity for us. Our luggage will consist of our respective backpacks and one conventional suitcase that will carry additional clothing appropriate for the Atlantic Ocean crossing. That suitcase will be shipped back to the States once we make landfall in Barcelona, Spain.

We will spend 3 days in San Juan before boarding Viking Cruise’s “Viking Sea”, a 900 passenger ultra-modern cruise ship. This is a “repositioning cruise” (more on that in a later post). The crossing will take 15 days that include stops in 5 different venues. Arriving in Barcelona we will ship our suitcase home, leaving us with just our packs, Christine’s weighing about 16 pounds and mine about 18 pounds… each containing everything we will need for the next 10 weeks.

We will stay a few nights in Barcelona. Top on our list of “things to do” is a return visit to the Sagrada Familia Basilica. Construction began on this wonder in 1882 and may be completed by 2030. It has become one of the most visited sites in Europe. More on the Sagrada Familia and the founding architect, Antoni Gaudi, in another post.

We have purchased Eurail train passes that are good for 60 days of unlimited travel by train throughout Europe with the exception of Great Britain. Thus, with the exception of Iceland at the end of our trip, we will be traveling exclusively by train and foot with the occasional bus or taxi thrown in. We will train from Barcelona to Madrid, spending a couple of days in Spain’s capitol. We then proceed by an overnight “Hotel-Train” to Lisbon, Portugal. We will have a private sleeping compartment on the train. We plan on spending a few days in Lisbon before proceeding on to Porto, Portugal. After a few days in Porto we will begin our 150 mile walk on the Portuguese route of the Camino de Santiago, expecting to arrive in Santiago Spain in 10-15 days.

After a couple of rest days in Santiago, we will fly to Dublin Ireland. We look forward to joining with good friends from Wales, spending time with them and then walking one or more of Irelands many waymarked hiking routes through the countryside. We hope to travel about 100 miles by foot and after 10-15 days in Ireland cross from Belfast to Scotland by ferry. In Scotland we look forward to another 10-15 days of hiking on that county’s waymarked routes, taking in the highlands, Lochs, castles, and a wee dram or two of Scotland’s best “whiskys” (the way the Scots spell it).

From Scotland we will cross by boat to the Netherlands, visiting with friends that we met on the Camino in 2013. We hope also to visit a friend in Belgium who we first met on a train in 1991 traveling from Paris to London when she was 15.

From this point for the next 15-20 days our travels are less certain but may see us reunite with a number of friends on the Continent. Travel could include France, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. We plan on visiting Slovakia and spending a few days with one of our former exchange students and her family, perhaps detouring into Hungary and/or Poland.

From Slovakia we will train north through Sweden and on to Norway where we will spend a few days visiting another former exchange student and her family. We will depart Norway via Iceland Air service to Reykjavik Iceland where we will rent a car and spend a week touring the island.

From Iceland we fly directly to Kansas City, landing 3 months after the Journey began.

So, what word would you append to “Journey” to describe this?

Peace Everyone! Pete

You can’t read my mind, but you can read my “Thoughts”.

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Thanks. Pete Schloss

In the years after our children had grown to adults, but before they were parents, I held the belief that we had accomplished everything that was really important. It was my way of finding reconciliation with the impermanence of life.

We had given our children the tools to engage life: a good work ethic, a strong moral code, higher education, and health within the limits of our ability and their good fortune. It seemed to me that this was everything that was truly important and anything more that life allowed was “icing on the cake”.

I declared this at dinner one evening. At table were good friends, one a youthful grandmother. She took exception to my words. Imprudently, I persisted and her responding objections grew more vociferous. Finally, our respective spouses interceded to redirect our dinner conversation to the peace of calmer waters.

In the years since, we have had the good fortune to become grandparents. I have watched Christine grow into her role as a grandmother and I have witnessed the dimension that she has added to the experience of childhood for the “little people”. It is clear to me now that important work remained for us in life as grandparents to these children. I can scarcely imagine life for us without them, or life for them without Christine.

Although it has been more than 10 years since that dinner conversation, it often returns to my thoughts when I see the exchange of unconditional love and respect between Christine and the grandchildren. I am also beneficiary of the children’s affection, but there is an intangible depth to the relationship that they share with their grandmother.

You were right Jane… Mea Culpa.

Peace Everyone. Pete