Two Years and Counting
I have always said that time flies when you are having fun and or get old. It really hauls ass when you retire. It is amazing to think that it has been two years that we have been nomads and running all over the world.
A lot has transpired over the last two years and I would not do anything different if I had to do it all over again. We are pretty much on budget of $500 per day and have decided that the title of my book, Running all over the World on $500 per day needs to be revised. That is if I ever write a book in the first place. It does seem too much like work and I have put anything related to work behind me.
Some might say that writing this blog is like work but for me it is more of a labor of love. I hope this will give those behind us an account of how we lead our retirement years and also an inspiration to others that might be like-minded. It is also a good way for me to keep track of where we have been and done.
After a week in ATL catching up on some routine doctor appointments we flew to MIA for the fantastic event, of Captain Jacks last flight. It was great seeing all the folks I use to work with at UPS. After his arrival we all met up at BoKampers Sports Bar and Grill for a great send off party. At the age of 65 you can no longer fly for a Commercial Airline and since his birthday was the following week he flew his last flight from Louisville to Miami.
The tradition is that since you did not crash an airplane during your career then as you taxi to the ramp the fire trucks come out and spray water on your airplane as you taxi by. The thought is, that this is the only way a pilot wants the fire and rescue to spray water on their airplane. His wife Millie even was able to marshal him to his final ramp position.
The videos of his landing and taxi in was something to live for. The sun was setting and it seemed as though he flew in and out of the sun. The rainbows that crisscrossed his airplane due to the water spray was also memorable.
Below is the video of the landing
Below is the water cannon arrival
After a few more days on South Beach we met up with our Marathon Tours and Travel team for a tour of Havana Cuba. Started off with the welcome reception the night before departure at the Miami Marriott Airport Hotel. I actually use to stay there during my last assignment at UPS.
That was the best job I had at UPS. It was to be a temporary assignment but ended up lasting 3 years. The first two years I had an apartment in the Brickell area of MIA and the last year I stayed in Marriott hotels near the airport. Not knowing to me, at the time, how valuable those points would be to us as we run all over the world.
The next morning we were up bright and early for our Charter flight on Aruba Airlines. The process at the airport was easy enough and the flight was shorter than our wait for our bags. People on these flights actually carry everything including the kitchen sink so it takes awhile to go thru it all. They did a deep dive into my bag but not sure how they were able to look inside all the shrink wrapped items that were on our plane.
The group of 90 plus of us were split up into 3 groups and two different hotels. Our Marathon Tours guide, Karen, is one of our favorites and we stayed in the old Havana area at the Saratoga hotel. The other two groups were at the Melia Cohiba Hotel. This was located along the race route and the famous Malecón (officially Avenida de Maceo). It is a broad esplanade, roadway and seawall which stretches for 8 km (5 miles) along the coast in Havana, Cuba, from the mouth of Havana Harbor in Old Havana, along the north side of the Centro Habana neighborhood, ending in the Vedado neighborhood. New businesses are appearing on the esplanade due to economic reforms in Cuba that now allow Cubans to own private businesses.
There is so much to say about our trip to Cuba and afraid that I will not do it justice, but will try. Havana is somewhat like many places we have visited during our travels but more like all rolled into one. There were parts that remind me of Casablanca, Morocco. The dirt and filth were everywhere and then there were areas that reminded me of upscale Mexico city.
I kept asking people, we were traveling with, what surprised them the most about what they saw and their answers were varied. The one we could all agree on was the fact that none of us expected to see as many old cars as we did. We expected to see a few along the way but they were everywhere. Some were broken down on the side of the road but most were set up for people to take pictures of or serve as taxi cabs.
I must admit their transportation system was like no other. There were plenty of tour busses, owned and operated by the government. They were in great shape, and were crisscrossing all of the popular sites. You could see the rich and checkered past everywhere you turned.
We were also very surprised to see all the buildings in disrepair. You could still see the artistic details but some had scaffolds in place but many more looked like they would fall over any minute. I understand the nearby Capitol building has had its scaffolding up for several years.
They did have local busses running throughout the city but after that anything was up for grabs. Lines for what looked like a ride share system were everywhere. They also had people powered bikes for hire including the driver and the strangest of them all, taxicab?
As usual we had tours everyday, except for race date and the first day tour went by in a blur since I dd not get much sleep the day night prior and the seats on the bus were very comfortable. I do remember our visit to a cigar factory and enjoyed lunch at La Guarida (location of the Oscar nominated movie Strawberry & Chocolate). I was amazed to learn that over 90 different brands of cigar come from exactly the same leaf.
The workers seemed happy enough and most were woman but can’t imagine rolling cigars day after day. Since we don’t buy anything while on the road the stop to buy cigars and rum was a waste of time for us but many did buy and it seemed like a considerable amount of money was left there.
The next day morning we will heard a presentation on U.S. and Cuban relations by a renowned expert. This is a high-level opportunity to discuss the social and political future of Cuba and the challenges awaiting the Cuban economy. Following the lecture we enjoyed lunch at El Aljibe Restaurant followed by a visit to an Art School called Instituto Superior de Artes (ISA). Before the revolution, ISA was the Havana Country Club. In 1961 it was converted by President Fidel Castro into an arts complex and was the subject of the film “Unfinished Spaces.”
Considering all that was going on back in the USA it was great to see one of their works of art outside and also part of the school.
Ernest Hemingway’s office above and famous boat below
Something else the group was able to agree on was the fact that we were pleasantly surprised at the quality of the meals while we were there. Yes they had beans and rice for lunch and dinner but the fish, pork and chicken were also well prepared. During the prearranged meals by Marathon Tours they started off all meals with a welcome drink which was usually their house specialty. I must admit I still have not acquired the taste for the famous Mojito.
Sunday was race day and the start finish was right out the door of our hotel, score. It was a two loop for the Marathon and was very happy to know that we were only doing the half. As a matter of fact every time I started to complain about the heat, hills, smog, traffic, etc I reminded myself of that fact.
The majority of the group had to get back to work or elsewhere but the 30 some of us continued with another tour the day after the race. We figure, since we don’t have a home we might as well get our monies worth and stay as long as we can. The tour began with a day trip to Las Terraza. Here we visited a sustainable community in the countryside of Cuba in the area of Pinar del Rio. Visits to local artists and learning about rural life on the island are a few of the many things you will experience.
It was nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city for a while and got to see how they use to process coffee way back in the day. We enjoyed lunch at the Casa del Campesino. It was funny to find out that the reason there were few signs on the Highway there and back was because the nearby farmers figured out the medal was good for barns etc. Also we got to see some other forms of transportation to include horse-drawn carts and even saw an oxen plowing a field.
The last day was jammed packed with a visit to the Museum of Fine Arts. After that we enjoyed lunch at the private restaurant Starbien. That afternoon we visited to the studio of Esterio Segura who is one of the most controversial artists in Cuba. His work is collected in museums around the world including MOMA.
That evening a group of 14 of us went to one of the locals clubs, Buena Vista Social Club, to see Legendarios del Cuajirito in action. They were listed as “Afro-Cuban All Stars”. The entire performance lasted 90 minutes and included 3 drinks for around 35 bucks each. It was a great show and glad we went but that meant another short night prior to our flight back to MIA the next morning.
We made it safely back to the states and after a good night sleep at the Marriott we picked up the Crib and presently enjoying 6 relaxing night at the Hollywood KOA. It is always good to sit back and relax and do absolutely nothing.
We had one of the best Thanksgiving dinners at Boston Market. They had a special on a Thanksgiving meal and it was within walking distance to the KOA. It was so good that we used the Saturday half off special for dinner that night. I went back to figure out where we ate Thanksgiving dinner last year and all that we know we were also in the Crib but this time in Orlando Florida. Must not had been very memorable. Turns out looking at some old Credit Cards bills I was able to figure out that we bought all the fixings for a meal at the nearby Winn Dixie and ate in the Motor home at the Kissimmee KOA.
Like to take a moment to reflect on the last two years in the lull of the trip. Many have asked us how much longer we will be nomads and have given several different answers over the last two years. The most common is that we are on the SKI program, Spend our Kinds Inherent’s, so all depends on how long that last. Other’s I give the simple answer of 7-10 years. Still others get, “When Catherine or I can no longer drag our bags”.
I had a very sobering event happen the other day. This was in the form of news that a fellow employee from UPS passed away suddenly. Andy was one of the best. He was a guy that you all wanted to be like when you grow up and it was my pleasure to have worked and known him. He did my initial training on the B757/767 and was a simulator instructor while I worked in the training department on that fleet. He was only 55 years old and did not get to enjoy the best part of life, retirement.
Knowing him, he lived life to the fullest and probably got every once of enjoyment out of his short time on this earth. I only bring this up because even though I am very sad for his passing and grief for his 6 children and family but it has given me renewed strength to live the life as if it is my last day. You never know how long we each have and I hope to never regret not doing something I always wanted to do.
Our 6 days in the motor home was uneventful and since we gave our running shoes away to some random folks in Cuba we only had our bikes as a form of exercise while there. We did get to go out to dinner with another long time friend an employee at UPS, Irv and his wife Stacey. Also another dinner with another friend Chris that currently flies out of MIA for UPS. It was great to catch up with both of them.
Presently on American, using miles, back to ATL and will touch down with destination number 200 on this world wind running all over the world tour. Granted we come and go often out of ATL but still that is a lot of packing of the bags over the last two years. To put things in perspective that is over 70 different destinations in 713 days. That does not include the many destination on the 6 different cruises we have been on so far.
We go out on another Windstar Cruise the middle of December and that will be our anniversary cruise each year since that is how it all started back on December 19th 2014. Got to work on where we will go next year with them December 2017. Since I love to follow the sun it probably will be a Caribbean Cruise.
Some people have a hard time wrapping their heads around the idea of us being nomads and I have done the calculations and it simply does not make sense for us to settle down and either rent or buy some place for us to live. I did an unscientific survey and decided that Catherine is the one that gets ants in her pants and wants to dance before me. In other words she gets bored from lack of new stimulation way before me.
I was fat dumb and happy kicked back in the Motorhome watching old sitcoms since we did not have cable and not able to catch up on the latest news from CNN. It was a much simpler time back then when Gun smoke was on the air. We were able to get to the beach by bike one day and really enjoyed listening to the waves crashing the beach. There is nothing like that sound.
This stint in ATL will last 13 days and 6 will be at the Marriott and a week in an Airbnb in Midtown ATL. We have some more routine doctor appointments and Catherine has a Mindset appointment. I just recently updated her progress on a separate blog post.
Going back to Andy for a minute. Not exactly sure what happened but when they list suddenly you can only think of heart attack of stroke. I keep saying that you have to decide if you want to go to the doctor for regular checkups and hear all about what is just not right with you or have a deaf ear and just suddenly die one day. The same could happen with me but I have decided to continue with the routine of checking in to see how the whole body is doing instead of ignoring what could possibly be wrong and leaving tera firm-a well before my time.
As we run across different folks and we discuss our lifestyle I can’t help myself to mention the fact that I believe that everyone should not work a day longer than they have to. You can always make more money but you really can’t make more time. I have mentioned before all the excuses I hear and both Irv and Chris agreed that they were not going to work past 60.
I hear all the time that I love my job but when I mentioned that to someone we met on our last tour in Cuba she shot back, “does your job love you”. That was profound and will forever stick with me. A job is not able to give you reciprocal love and if you work for a major corporation, like UPS, you will quickly understand that not only can you be replaced but in many respects will be treated more like a number instead of a valued employee.
I am sure they will send Andy’s family some flowers for his funeral but will someone else to do his job with ease. No love lost as they figure. Kind of sad but a reality and I keep saying in the cycle of life, retirement is the best. I must admit that I am blessed to have the means to enjoy the fruits of my labor.
Well that was a great social experiment, not to be repeated, ever. We ended up spending entirely too much time in ATL. Settling down is now completely off the table, for now. We did have some doctor appointments and find the Emery Hospital,Midtown, is one of the best. They have it all there and the doctors are fantastic. Example, you show up 15 minutes early, for your appointment and you are out the door at the time for you appointment and feel like everyone cared about your well-being.
Very easy to get around and they even have a Starbucks inside. At the same time, at the age of 61, I feel like I am playing whack a mole. As soon as I hit one concern over the head another one pops up. No big deal, but I rather know what is happening then to be surprised and in an emergency room one day.
It was cold and cloudy most of the time and without the vitamin D we both got somewhat depressed. We tried our best to stay busy but the second week was a total waste of time. I decided to try an Airbnb and the place was great but with the lack of stimulation and endorphin fix, Catherine did not do well.
Once again, no big deal, but I could see the difference. The place was great and they had a fantastic exercise facility but it is not the same to breathing in fresh air out on the road. The location was also great, in the Lindbergh area, and close to plenty of places to eat. We did do a 6 mile walk to, around and from Piedmont park. I love that park. Stopped at an Irish pub on the way back, Duh.
We were able to meet up with some Marathon Tours and Travel, friends. We went to Istanbul and Africa with them and they live in Atlanta. Sarah and Elayne just got back from running a half marathon in Lisbon, one of my favorite places, and a side visit to Barcelona, another place that I love.
Met for dinner at the MINERO RESTAURANT, inside the Ponce City Market, a converted warehouse that had a lot of charm and great Tacos, Elayne’s favorite meal and also downstairs from where she works. How convenient. It was great catching up with them and discussing possible races in the future we might do together like, run like hell half marathon in Portland Oregon in October.and Queenstown, New Zealand in November.
By the seventh day we were both ready to go and presently on our way to San Juan where it all began. Not going to bore you with the personal details but I am really looking forward to this trip. 85 degrees and sunny and staying at a very nice Marriott while there, once again, Duh.
After two days there we are off on another Windstar cruise, this will be our 5th in two years and they are the ones we started our run all over the world with. Dec 19th 2014 we got on them out of St Maarteen and have not turned back since. This one does not have sails and they just started this route out of San Juan so interested in seeing how this turns out.
They had a price reduction but I had booked before their price match policy so instead giving me the lower price they threw in free wi-fi and laundry. I probably need to cut back on the internet but it is good to have that available. We usually wash everything in the sink on a cruise so that will be nice to have that option.
You always see folks that come back from the Caribbean with braids or corn rows so this time I am going to give it a try. I presently have a pretty good size fro so interested in seeing how this works out. I was told my hair was not long enough. We go on another cruise in Feb out of SJU so will try again.
I like having a new years resolution and came up with a pretty good one for 2017. Much better than the one I settled in on back in 2015, to be more child like. The premise was not to be so concerned with the small stuff, like a child but it ended up not working well. Jumped into knee-deep water thinking it was much deeper and hit my feet on some rocks on the bottom. There might have been some Alcohol involved. Children do not drink but forgot to take that into consideration.
This one will be exercise related like it was many years ago. Back then I exercised for 30 minutes every single day. Some days I would start at 11:30 PM and finish at 12:30 am the next day to kill two birds, days, with one stone. This one is to get either 10,000 steps, walking or running or combo. 5 mile, on a bike actual or stationary. 1/2 mile swim or a combination of all three. Back in 2011 when we were training for the Iron Man that was easy peasy. They say that those that fail to plan are planning to fail.
I am truly blessed to be able to do what I love to do and from time to time I need to focus on the fact that I am able to do pretty much what I want to do. Life has its ups and down but need not merely focus on things when they do not go as planned.
I hear all the time people telling me why they don’t run any more. I try not to criticize but at the same time I do try to encourage them to stay active as long as they can. The following picture pretty much sums it up. If they can, what is your excuse?
Another great Windstar Cruise experience in the books. They go over the top when it comes to taking care of their passengers. We were suppose to be able to board anytime after 1pm with the ship leaving SJU at 10pm. The night before I got an email from them saying that the coast guard was requiring an additional safety check before the passengers could be boarded, so they pushed it back to 9pm. Only thing was that they still needed all passengers to check in at the latest 4pm
They had arranged hotel rooms for everyone and just so happen that we were already staying at one of their designated hotels. They provided transportation to and from our hotel so after a day at the beach we dropped off our bags and checked in, then back to the hotel for a nice dinner. As a form of compensation they credited us with $350 each. Usually don’t do many excursions while cruising but we found a way to spend all but 3 bucks of the credit.
The weather for the week was great but somewhat windy so they had to make some modifications to the itinerary. We really don’t care where in the Caribbean we go so no big deal to us. We did happen to run into the Jewels of the Seas with Royal Caribbean in St. Maarteen. We are actually going to be on that ship starting on the 5th thru the 19th. The first week with our runningcruise.com cohorts, then we stay on the ship for a second week to decompress.
I won’t go all the ports of call but will highlight the best excursion ever. While in St. Maarteen you can experience first hand American cup sailboat racing. About 30 of us were split into two teams and each had our own crew and ship. We all had our own job to do and took instructions from either the Captain or crew member.
It was over the top thrilling and we even won. We got to watch the another group that went out earlier and that time the Canadian Ship won. We had to bring the cup home and beat the Canadian ship by a full minute, when it was our turn. Don’t normally buy pictures but this was one of those once in a lifetime experiences.
The rest of the cruise went as advertised and even had dinner with Ship’s Doctor this time. He had some pretty good back ground stories of working on a cruise ship. On this trip we ran into 3 crew members that we had sailed with us before and that included Catherine’s favorite waiter, Dijon, who was on our first trip with them.
I always thought about doing an ocean crossing with them. The doctor pointed out that after a day not even a helicopter could come rescue us if something happened on board, so I think not. He said he would size up the passengers as they got on board to see if there was a risk of any of them not making the 14 day crossing.
Then and now
After the cruise we flew back to ATL for a touch and go, 24 hours and then on to San Diego for the holidays. Catherine’s daughter, Christie, husband, Greg and two kids, Aaron and Adam flew in from Bloomington. My daughter, Mariah, went out a week earlier to spend some time with my eldest son, Aaron and his girlfriend, Kelsey, that live out there. My other son, Shawn and his wife, Cassie flew in from Cincy.
I rented an Airbnb condo in the Mission Beach area and we all were able to enjoy the holidays together. Aaron is a bartender at a great restaurant called, Pacifica Del Mar, and we had an outstanding Christmas meal together, he was working but that was not a bad thing. The drinks were strong and plentiful.
His 30th birthday was on the 28th so we came back to his restaurant and the entire staff waited on him like he was a king. They were having a surf and turf special so I was one happy man. We all got along great for the entire 8 days together. I would like to take them on a Windstar Cruise one day. We have met a few families that have done that. Maybe when they are all established in their respective careers.
We were able to squeeze in a concert while there at The Observatory North Park. It was a flash back in time to my college days and low and behold George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic were in town. The guy is now 75 years old and still going strong. Be it, he did have a swivel chair to relax in, occasionally, during the 3 hour performance. I was amazed and pleasantly surprised to be able relive my youth with my kids.
We talked about where to meet up next year. Catherine and I are going to do another Caribbean Cruise so we might all meet up in SJU after the cruise. Mariah was thinking of switching up and meeting during the summer and thought Lisbon would be great. The jury is still out for me. I really enjoyed the San Diego area so planning on coming back in July prior to our run at the Napa to Sonoma half marathon.
Really could not go out for New Years eve since our flight back to was at 8am. Presently on Delta back to ATL for 5 nights then on to Park City Utah. It is my brother’s, Garrett and wife’s, Helen, 45 wedding anniversary and they and his family are avid skiers. I use to ski, big time, as a youth but now have no interest in doing anything in the cold. Going to try to gather up some warm clothes for the 4 nights there. After that we are on to Key West for the first race of the year. I have had my eye on this half marathon there for several years. The other major event is for us to finish up our quest of a full or half marathon in all seven continents. That will be done in March in Antarctica.
Catherine is really not looking forward to this trip since it will require 3 days on a ship to get there, 3 days there and 3 days back. I have heard some real horror stories about crossing the Drake but also most folks say it is a life changing event. We opted for the half since I really don’t want to be out in the cold that long and also run the risk of having the race cut short due to bad weather.
I did not want to go to Africa and it turned out great so I hope the same will be true for this trip. Life is entirely too short to worry about what I can’t control. It will be what it will be and I am sure we will make the best of whatever comes our way.
As I bring this blog entry to a close I would like to pull together my thoughts on the last two years. I am not going to give all the financial details like I did at the close of the first year but suffice to say we did spend about 10K less than the first year. No real wild spending swings for any one category. We did spent a bit more on cruises and some less on airfare.
At this present rate I figure we still have about 4 more years we can keep this up which is good with me. Starting to find a few places that we could spend a bit more time than the 3.66 nights per destination, we have averaged so far.
As we run all over the world it becomes very clear that unlike others we are actually running all over the world. Just about everywhere we go we end up going for a run. Going to put on the schedule as many states as I can this year so Catherine can get the four states left for her to finish up a half or full marathon in all 50 states. I am about 10 behind her.
Over the last 2 years we have run 10, marathons, 11, half marathons, 1, 21 miler and numerous other races of various distances during three cruises with John Bingham and Jenny Hadfield, runningcruise.com.
Tokyo, Rome, Boise, Copenhagen, Ayers Rock, Medoc, Dublin, Istanbul, Boston and Prague
Great Wall, Brussels, Tele Aviv, Mexico, Fort Collins, Easter Island, Napa to Sonoma, Amazing Maasai, Kauai, Amsterdam and Cuba
Adding up my miles of running, biking and swimming I have calculated that after 16 years I have almost gone completely around the world. I have covered 22,000 out of 24,000 miles.
Unlike many it will be nice and easy for us. I heard about a heart braking story of a running acquaintance that recently died unexpectedly. Nancy had posted a week earlier that she completed a half marathon that she had run many times. At the age of 58 she finished in the top 10 percent of her age group and was very proud of that fact.
Unfortunately her husband, Roger, had her memorial service on their 35th wedding anniversary. He planned on retiring in 2018, so they could enjoy the fruits of their labor but now will have to do so without her. She was a very dynamic individual and lived life to the fullest but hit home once again to me how important to seize each day as if it is our last.
As I start off 2017 I plan on thinking hard and long about things that are not necessarily in my best interest. Not saying I am going to start living a selfish lifestyle but thinking more about things I often do subconsciously that is detrimental to my well-being either for my mind or body.
We all have the tendency to dwell on the negative and not cherish all the positive things around oneself. I will use a general statistic as an example. I have often read that people who worry about having a heart attack are more likely to have one. Instead we should all stop worrying about that possibility and just do positive things to prevent them.
I will leave you with two pictures that sum up the two years for me.