Where It All Began, One Year Ago

This 11 week adventure takes us to where it all began, one year ago.

Not necessarily by location but more like mode of transportation.  No races in far flung lands.  This will be more of a time to relax and reflect.

I am going to jump back to the beginning to give some perspective.
There I was minding my own business on Dec. 5, 2014. Our house had been on the market for 6 months and only had a few nibbles, to this point.  They say, you only need one person that wants your house, to make a sale.  I have bought and sold many houses in my life time.  I don’t haggle on the price.  If I get a reasonable offer, I take it.

On that particular day I was in Miami near the end of my third year of my one year special assignment.  I got a call from my realtor, that she had an offer, but there was a catch.  The buyer had cash and wanted us out in a week.  No problem, the price was right and I had already contacted Allied Moving Company a few months back about how much it was going to cost to put everything in storage.  The plan back then was if the house sold we would then look for a place to live and I would commute to either MIA or SDF depending on where I was working at the time.  Catherine’s job was being downsized and they offered her to relocate to Milwaukee.  That was out of the question so she took the generous buy out.

The week prior, I was informed that my temporary assignment was coming to an end the first of the year and my 17th different job at UPS, was one that I had before.  I had it for 5 years, my longest tenure while there, and really was not looking forward to doing it again.  Been there done that.

The Stars were now all aligned and I made the decision to simply retire. I had a few races on the books for 2016 and figured I could fill the time between races with side trips to places I always wanted to visit.  Not as a pilot, only for 8 to 16 hours, while on a layover. but as a true tourist.

Allied came and through everything into a truck that was almost big enough to handle all our stuff.  It is amazing what can hide in closets.  We made some trips to Goodwill but in hind site we should have given more away.

The reality sunk in so it was now time for my management skills to kick into action.  Planning and execution are my fortes.  I thrive on the thrill and I love to set goals for myself.  My sister was having a party in ST Kitts and I found a Windstar Cruise that started and ended in St Martin just prior to the big event.  We added that to the then sparse itinerary and off we went, right after the closing, with what we would need for the next few weeks.  Whatever else that did not go into storage, was either in our car or at Catherine’s mother or daughter’s house.

Fast forward to where we are now and soon you will see the connection between then and now, one year later.

After coming back from Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Turkey on our last 29 day trip we stopped off in ATL for three days to SSS.  Not shit, shower and shave but to sleep, shop and storage.  Need to catch up on some much needed sleep after being on the go so long.  Needed to replinch our supplies and then hit the storage unit to swap out some clothes.

After that we were once again on an airplane for Savannah Ga.  I few months ago we moved our motor home from ATL to Savannah and now it was time to move it further south.  I have had this motor home for 9 years and enjoy spending time in it but must admit I don’t much like driving it for long distances.  We took our time and over the next 8 days we slowly drove it to Jacksonville, Orlando, and Tampa.  We met up with Catherine’s brother Greg his wife Sarah and their two fraternal twins Kaden and Joshua.  Kaden is a spitting image of his mom and Joshua the same for his dad.  We put the motor home back in Storage in the Tampa, Clearwater area and are planning on doing some more motor homing later in January.  The thought process is to move it around to see if we can someplace warm to live when and if we decided to get off this merry go round.

Catherine’s contribution to the drive, left, need I say more, right

Joshua on the left and Kaden on the right, both great soccer players

After a touch in Go in ATL, to do the triple S, off we go on another shinny Delta Jet.

Presently we are in San Jose, Costa Rica, staying at the San Jose Marriott, Costa Rica.  This hotel pick was made over a year ago in my mind, not really knowing it was going to become a reality at the time.

The job that I held in MIA had me responsible for the UPS flight crew members that flew in South America and Europe.  I would also fly those routes and the Marriott in Costa Rica was one of the best in the system.  I remember laying by the pool on a layover thinking to myself, that when I retire, I am going to come back and spend a week.  So here I am and even ran into a few crew members on layover.  As always two  of them, Brent Folks and Alex Sapaino, are also a Face Book friends.

It is a small world after all.

Did not do much the first day, since it was a travel day, and as a matter of fact we only managed to eat breakfast in the executive lounge, lay by the pool, after a short walk, graze once again in the executive lounge for the dinner, the next three days.  There is plenty to do and see here but as you might remember we can’t do and see it all.  We are not on vacation this is our lifestyle.

The hotel has a tour office and after going thru the 30 odd choices we came up with things to do the last three days here.

I must admit I am going to miss laying out by the pool.

We have done numerous tours over the last year and I have decided I am not doing any risky behavior until I am around 80.  With that said, white water rafting and zip lining did not make the cut.

One hour and 600 bucks later we had the plan laid out for the next three days.

Their signature drink, love the glass
Day, pool side above, night, out front, below

The first day of tours started out with a 2 hour drive to the Poas Volcano.  After a 15 minute walk up to the site we we were able to see absolutely nothing.  It was very cloudy and raining.  There was a 45 minute hike around the area that many took and when we arrived back at the valcano it was our lucky day and was able to see the crater with steam coming out.

Before and after

Next we moved on to the rain forest and the La Paz water fall.  As I mentioned before it was raining and really coming down in the rain forest, duh.  The views of the 5 different water falls were fabulous.  The out door zoo was an extra treat.  They had it all but my favorite was the butterflies and hummingbirds.  Did not know that they did not have a sense of smell and can get up to 50 mph.

Many of the tours include lunch and that was a great touch and the food was buffet style and fantastic.  The first day I went over board so was unable to eat at the executive lounge that evening.

After lunch we continue in the animal park with views of Jaguars and Chimps.  We can’t forget the many varieties of birds including the Toucan or Moscow.

Another 2 hour drive off the mountain and then we were back at the hotel.  The second day was Catherine’s favorite, since after we drove for another hour, she was on a horse for an 1 hour ride.  She was all smiles while I ended up with a saddle that striups were too short.  That does not make for a very comfortable ride.  It did take me back to my boy scout days, where I worked at a camp during the summer, for several years, in the stables, so it was all good.







A few stray horses behind me

After that we caught a cable car down to the nature walk that lasted over 2 hours.  That was a great tour and our guide made us feel like we were back in school with his way of giving the information by first asking us a question about each tree, flower or animal along the way.  The highlight here was us crushing the actual sugar cane the way they did it back in the day with a oxen drawn press.  We even got to drink some of the fresh squeezed nectar right on the spot.

After the cable ride back to main area we enjoyed another great lunch followed by the hour drive back to the hotel.  Another thing I learned is that they only have two seasons here.  Rainy season runs May to November and the dry season starts in December.  It rained on an off the entire time we were here, so I would hate to be here during the raining season.  Everyone was very friendly and the prices for everything was very reasonable.  We ventured off the Marriott property that evening for dinner and the nearby restaurant and had a calzone to die for.  Catherine said here salmon was also outstanding.  The even made an outstanding Strawberry Mojito.  I got caught fishing the strawberries out with my fork by the waitress.

The last day of tour started with a van ride to the main Soccer stadium, Estadio Nacional.  There we got on the VIP bus for their version of the big red bus.  Yes lunch was included.  The interesting part was that we got off several times for a walking tour that made it a good immersion in the way of life in Costa Rica.  Here I learned that the airport was relocated from the San Jose city center back in the 50’s to where it is currently located out near our hotel but they decided to keep the name.  So when you fly into the SJO airport you are still 20 miles from the Capital of Costa Rica, San Jose.  Traffic on the way back reminded me of trying to get from the airport to the hotel in Dublin.  The excuse given was two fold.  First, everyone got there holiday bonus checks that day so everyone was out shopping and the second being that Saturday they are have their annual holiday light festival so they were putting stands up all around town and closed down many lanes.

Special olympics was underway

That evening I tried to catch up with some more UPS crew members but they both had a weekend layover and choose to Jump seat back to MIA for the weekend and will do the same on Monday to pickup their next flights.  I don’t blame them since they are both family men.  It reminded me of the days when I would do the opposite and go out flying to SJU just for the weekend layover there.  Tomorrow was a travel day but the bus to the Windstar cruise ship, Star Pride did not leave till 1pm so we were able to take in a few more hours by the pool prior to the 90 minute bus ride.

Miss you already

Presently in the back of the bus as we wind our way to the ship.  This will be our third voyage with the Windstar Cruise line and takes up back to where it all began 1 year ago.  Turns out this 7 day cruise will go from Dec 12-19th and one year ago we got on a Windstar cruise in St. Maarteen on Dec 19th to start this nomatic lifestlye.  How Ironic.  I did not know at the time when I was planning all the trips that this was how this year was going to start and end on a Windstar cruise.  I love the cruise line and this will be our third trip with the second being in the Tahitian islands back in June.  The other two had sails, where we cruise under wind power 90% of the time.  This one does not but I understand they still play the dramatic music as the leave each port.  I also hope this one is uneventful since Catherine broke her ankle in a freak accident on th last one.

Our home for the next 7 days

I left the following message to my Face Book friends since I decided to take a break from social media on this trip.  It seems everything has gotten so political and in my opinion very polarizing so the break will do me good.  I have a book I have been carrying around for awhile and would love to replenish the old vitamin D while sipping on a cold blended drink while watching the world slowly go by as I occasionally look up from my book.  Or better stiill meet some of my new best friends along the way.

This is our new home for the next week.  Windstar,  Star Pride, from Costa Rica to Panama thru the Panama Canal.  I have decided to go off the grid during the trip.  I love all my Face book friends and hope all will be safe while I am away.  Hopefully when I return all the politics and gun posts will be a thing of the past and I can come back on line to read all about what each of you had to eat, what new trick your pet learned, who’s birthday I missed, and how your kids did in school.  With that said, please try your best to put a smile on my face and I will do my best to do the same.

It was an uneventful passage thru the Canal and as always we did meet a few of our new best friends along the way.  The ship holds 200 but there were only 150 on board which proved to be to our advantage.  About a month prior to our trip I got a email from agent with Delta Cruise saying that Windstar had upgrades for $500 so I jumped on the offer.  This was the first time we had used Delta Cruise.  You get rebates, miles and a personal agent to assist along the way.

We were very happy with our upgrade and everything was going well with the cruise.  I did learn from Barbara and Bob from Naples, our new best friends, that you can simply ask while on board, and if available, you can get an upgrade for free, which they did.  As we were preparing to leave for dinner the second night I noticed a stain on our bed cover and did a quick clean up job and off we went for a once again fantastic meal.  Upon arrival back at our cabin after dinner I noticed a type written letter on our bed apologizing for the water leak in our cabin.  I was standing right where the previous stain was and now it was much larger and while looking up I could see the dripping from the ceiling overhead.

To make a long story even longer we were asked to go to the reception area for another cabin.  There we were given keys to the owners cabin, as they are called.  They have two of them on board and turns out since I had booked at the last minute last year we also had the owners cabin.  Needless to say it was huge.  I will not go into details but it was perfect to have a few of our new best friends watch the Canal Crossing from our party balcony.

Picture of the first cabin

The second one was too big to get in two shots

A few folks were a bit upset over the fact that due to the size of our yacht, as it was referred to as, we had to go thru the locks at night.  The big ships go thru during the day.  It was all lit up so was not a problem for us.  We hit the first lock right after dinner at 8p and the last on at 2am the next morning.  We were able to see the Nova movie on the big screen prior on how it was built.  Also we had a lady on board that gave us a blow by blow, over the PA system, as we transitioned the various locks.  It was amazing watching the whole process in action to know that it was done over 100 years ago.  All the obstacles they had back then and lack of equipment, we now have, to solve many of the engineering problems, that had to be solved.  This should be on everyones bucket list.  We call ours the “Life list.”

View of the first lock from our balcony

The 7 day cruise had us depart from the Port Puerto Caldera.  From there we stopped in Quepos where we went for a run.  Then on to Bahia Drake, Puerto Jimenez, and Isla de Colba.  There we had the traditional private island BBQ.  On to Balboa/Fuerte Amador and then thru the Panama Canal.

The last stop we ran along the causeway to the Biomuseo.  On the way back we stopped at a Bennigan’s restaurant, that was listed as an Irish Pub, so I had to have a Guinees and Irsh bomb made with Kauluah since they did not have Baileys.  Turns out, Bennigan’s went out of business a few years back, but the new owners decided to keep up all the great signage.   That evening is when we made our way thru the Panama Canal.  But first we had to have the traditional, by Windstar standards, the deck BBQ.

View of the ship from the beach


Had time for another try at horse back riding along Osa beach.  They even let us gallop 

Needless to say, I never did open up the book I planned on reading.

The next morning we departed the ship in Colon which is on one side of Panama and then got in a bus for a 90 minute ride back to Panama City where we were the day before.  We got off at the airport and rented a van to the hotel.  We stayed at the Marriott Exective Apartments, right in the middle of downtown Panama City and the best description I can come up with, is that Panama City, is the tale of two cities.  The haves and the have nothing.  The tall skycrappers looked fantastic with the sun beaming off their windows but at street level it was an entirely different story.  Large pockets of the city were up to their ankles in garbage and in some places over their heads in broken down, run down and in some cases adbondend buildings.  Quite a contrast to say the least but the people, for the most part, seamed friendly and happy.

There was one part of town called Casco Antiguo.  It was once over run by gangs but the government solicited their help to revitalize the area with some success.  A 10 block square area had all the shops, restaurants, and bars but outside that area was still a mess.  They do have one Metro line which is heavily used and planning for 3 more lines in the near future.  They also have a numerous bus routes thru out the city and a slew of jazzed up busses filled to the brim that crisscrossed the city.

What about those crazy buses blaring music?

  • These are the diablos rojos or red devils. If you want to sample a ride on one, you’d best be quick because they are being phased out (and when they are all gone, the cost of a Metro Bus ride will rise to 65 cents). Each diablo rojo bus is owned individually. They are decorated to the taste of the owner/driver and help to attract passengers. They often travel with their door open, to give occupants a cooling breeze.

Later that day we went back to the airport to pick up Catherine’s daughter, son in law and two grandsons.

They spent the week with us in Panama and we had a fantastic time at the pool, back to Bennigan’s, the Meso, rain forest, dry land view of the Panama Canal and Old Panama.  We enjoyed some authentic Panamanian dishes and since Christie is fluent in Spanish I was able to sit back and relax instead of me trying to figure out what people were trying to say to us.  Not as much English is spoken in Panama City as other places we had visited.

Our view of the canal from land
One big and one small going thru the Miraflores Lock

Driving in Panama is a cross between NY and Tahiti.  In other words anything goes and this was the first time my IPHONE app refused to give me directions.  I had to use google maps and since some streets did not have street signs, stop signs or lights it was a challenge to not get run down, or totally lost.  It usually only take me, a few days, but it took me the entire week before I was able to get somewhere and back, with out my phone with turn by turn in my lap.  We were able to get in one short run at sunrise along the Panama Bay and it was spectacular.

Christmas evening was very special since in times past, during that day,  I have witnessed a total desertion of the city, but not here in Panama City.  By the thousands everyone made their way to the water.  Not to get in, since Panama City water quality does not allow for actual beaches, but to be out by the water.  We made our way back out to the area called Amador, where the cruise ship docked and even there people were out on rental bikes, scooters, walking, running or simply watching the Christmas evening full moon which was beautiful.  Since I was doing the driving I could not get a good picture but I am sure you can use your imagination or better still you probably saw the same from where you were that night.
Our crack at biking Panama Style

The next morning we all piled into the 15 passenger van for the 30 minute drive to the airport.  That  was an adventure.  Panama has a toll system for their major roads like most major cities but these tolls no not have actual people taking your money.  If you rent a car they tell you how much money is on the Panama Pass and you go to the machine right there and add more money for your vehicle.  The day before I tried to use the system, on the van and was unable to get the toll arm to raise.  It was no fun to turn the van around and get back to a side street and then try to figure out how to get where I was trying to go, with out using the toll roads.  I did manage to find my way back to Hertz to rectify the problem, but was simply told, that I did have money on that vehicle in the system and sometimes that happens.

My hopes were dashed, that it was simply, it sometimes happens, when I tried to get past the fist toll on the way to the airport.  I had given myself an extra 15 minutes for what if and needed it in this case.  I tried two separate lanes with no luck and noticed another lane that did not have a toll arm but had some orange barricades to keep people from simply flying by with out paying.  I guess I could have blocked one of the two lanes and walked across the other lanes to the building where I am sure there was some folks in there laughing at me but instead I moved the barricade drove past it and moved it back behind me.  in another lane someone kept blowing their horn and pulled off to the side to take a picture of my license plate as I went by.

Church near our hotel

It turns out that horn blowing is a common practice in Panama, but direction signals are not.  You blow your horn when you are making a left or right turn from the outside lane.  You blow your horn when you don’t want  someone to do something with their car, as you approach them, like change lanes and the one I love the most.  You blow your horn if you are a cab, which makes up 75% of the cars on the road when they think you night want a ride.  If you are waiting at a corner to cross, they slow down and blow their horns as to ask a question, “ do you need a ride.”  They do the same when you are even walking down the street.  You kind of get use to it after awhile.

Now I have made it on the toll road but now my problem is going to be getting off.  It actually is a good system when it works.  As you get on, it keeps track of how much is left on your vehicle and displays that amount.  The same thing happens when you get off but what was I to do when the system did not recognize my van at all.  Tried to no avail to us the first lane and since the lane that had a barricade had an arm permanently down, that was not an option.  Walking across the lanes, to the jokesters in the building, was ruled out since their was no building.  It was pointed out by someone in the van that the arm in the nearby lane was staying up long enough for two cars to go thru so I reved up the engine of the 15 passenger, manual transmission tour bus and off I went and was able to get thu, right before the arm came down right behind me.

I was sure to point this out to the Hertz guy when and if I made it to the airport.  There I was met by the kid that took the damage sheet and went over the van and the sheet with a fine tooth comb.  It took awhile since we had recorded at least a dozen dings and missing pieces to the van when we picked it up.  It was not actually a Hertz vehicle.  They had to swop out with Triiffty to get the van close to what I had requested.  With Car seats and all our bags a SUV simply was not going to do.

Well low and behold he had found one that we did not have listed on the sheet so he took a picture and followed us inside to report the damage.  I beat him to the counter and told the guy who did not speak much english all I had to go thru to get to the airport without being rundown by speeding vehicles.  I used a lot of hand motions to emphasize my distress.  So when the kid showed up with the pictures he was told to mark the sheet as if it was already there.

Checkin at the Delta counter was smooth but we did have a hang up at imigration when they first could not find my stamp into the country and never could find Catherine’s.  She spoke no english so me continuing to say we arrived on a cruise ship did no good.  We tried to find it ourselves and after a few minutes she gave up and waved us on.  The reason I kept mentioning the cruise ship was because we gave our passports to them and did not see the actual stamping of our passport when we we arrived from Costa Rica.  On the other side of security there you find the usual gate arrows but gates 1-10 were not listed.  We were trying to find gate 4 so with my four fingers up as I approached someone working there I was directed in the direction for gates 11-20 and 21-23.  Makes sense to me.  After a few hundred yards in that direction there was a turn to the left and there was the sign for gates 1-10.  I guess they must have been added, at some point, so why change the signs.  Actually that makes no sense at all.

More security screening at the gate and all the food and drinks everyone had bought to bring on the airplane had to be thrown away.  They call Panama a developing country and in my impression it still has a long way to go.  The expats are rushing in to the hills and high rises but no one is paying attention to the details to make this place a great place to live.  Well at least not by my standards and with that I doubt if I will every be back.  I had high hopes and had read so much about it in International Living Magazine and other publications.  I saw the same thing in Belize and Tahiti so the quest continues.

Once we land in ATL in a few minutes it is a quick touch and go since our flight tomorrow is at 10am for a 7 day adventure with my sister, her family and my kids at her place in Conn.

Before I move on to the extravaganza with my sister and my kids I need to take a few minutes to go over some details of the Windstar Cruise Line.  Don’t get me wrong I love them and as I mentioned before, I have taken three trips with them so far and have two more booked this year but as we all know, Shit happens and the same is true with them.

We had the distingue pleasure to have dinner with the Captain and we had a very lively discussion about security of cruise ships and emergencies, as I explained, I also use to be a Captain.  Unlike when I was in command of the airplane I was always responsible for the safe outcome of the flight but I guess that is not the same for Cruise Captains since he was able to join us with wine during dinner.  What made this particularly interesting is that the ship only moves from port to port at night.

Later that evening we all felt a shutter of the ship but nothing was said so I did not think much more about it.  The next day as I stood waiting at the reception area to sign up for another Cruise and get the 5% discount the Captain came on the PA system to announce that we had lost an engine over night.  I learned that this ship actually has 5 engines.  One is only used in case of emergency so in effect we had travelled overnight on three engines and were now slightly behind schedule.

In my mind that explained the shutter the night before so still signed up for the cruise.  This one will be a 8 day cruise from Venice to Rome on October 1.

I am now going to jump forward to us waiting to depart Panama City for our flight back to Atlanta when Richard, one of the Star Pride entertainers, came on board and said “I am alive.”  It turns out that on the trip back the Star Pride hit rock and took on water and everyone had to be rescued off the ship by their sister ship going in the opposite direction.  Here is the news report below.

Windstar Cruises’ Star Pride hit rocks near Isla de Coiba, Panama yesterday morning.

Professor Ross Klein’s website says that according to a passenger aboard the Star Breeze:

“We have just picked up 109 passenger and crew from another Windstar Cruise Liner in (what I think is) the south end of Costa Rica. The other Windstar ship hit rocks and took on water near the port where people got off. We left our port in an emergency to assist and it took 13 hours to get to them. According to people on that Windstar ship no one was injured which makes us all happy. We are going to be back tracking to get them to the closest airport. The ship we all saw is clearly damaged at it is listing.”

News sources says that guests were refunded 100 percent of their voyage fare. Cruise Critic says that the cruise line offered ‘100 percent of cruise fare paid for future cruise credit.”

The cruise ship will be towed to the port of Balboa in Panama for repairs to the hull. Windstar is also reportedly canceling the December 26th Star Pride voyage.

Like I said, Shit happens.  That did not phase me, since during our first year we have seen many things go terribly wrong all over the world.  As an example the bombing of the central square in Istanbul where we were last November and the shooting in Tele Aviv where we will be in February.  With that said, we signed up for another cruise this December from San Juan to San Juan.  It did help that I got an email from them talking about their huge end of the year sale.

Richard is next to me and his duo is on the end

It has been a family tradition for my kids to spend Christmas with their mother and then we usually get together around the 27th.  Last year we were in St Kitts and Catherine’s daughter and family joined us there.  This year she opted for the warmer climate of Panama City, Panama.  My eldest son, Aaron, birthday is on the 28th and my sister’s daughter, Lena, birthday is on the 29th and with New Years we basically celebrate all week.

In an effort to relive my childhood I requested that we all go see the Rocketts at the Radio City Music Hall.  My grandmother would take us year after year during this time of the year and they did not disappoint.  Everyone said I acted just like all the other little kids during the entire performance.  Before that we all went by to see my 94 year old dad who also lives in NY.

Yes I would

My sister, Gwen is next to me, eldest son, Aaron next to her.  Daughter, Mariah, is on the floor below me and my middle child, Shawn is to the left of Catherine

We also went back down to the city to see the Alvin Ailey dance group.  I must admit it took me awhile to get in the rhythm with the show but did give them a standing ovation by the end.  Me and my kids decided to stay downtown to hit some bars and managed to make the 1:47 am, last train to Darien Conn.

Grand Central Station

We did have a big family New Years celebration at my sister’s house and I decided to add something new to our run all over the world adventure.  I am sure you all are getting tired of seeing some very tall item on top of my head as I just showed you with the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree above.

This is similar to what we use to do back when I was flying for UPS.  While preparing for your flight, in the ready room,  you would find a bear or something like that with a tag asking for a ride to some city in our system.  He would have a log book of where he has been and where he wants to go next.  A bear would be much too big for us to carry around and the difference here I will be using it also over my head, shoulder or in front of something grand in the background.  Here is an example.

You will see much more of him

After a couple of days back in ATL for the usual SSS we were off to Tampa to pick up the Motor Home for a 27 road trip in the Motor home and car.  After a few days in Tampa we went on to Davenport Fl and we are now near the Kennedy Space center.  We are staying in KOA campgrounds and really enjoying the laid back lifestyle.  We are also able to get in some much needed slow runs in some of the best weather in the country, mid 60’s and 70’s.

After here we head for three day stay in Dayton Beach Fl to catch up with an UPSER, as we call ourselves.  We use to work together on and off for many years and he retired about 4 years before me and now lives near Dayton Beach.







Say hello to Thriller, as we call him. on the front of the Crib, as we call our Motor Home

We had another great run this morning around the nearby neighborhoods.  It was only 5 miles but at 55 degrees and sunny you could not beat the weather.  It was a bit chilly overnight but much better than those posting their runs in the rest of the US.

Getting ready for a Caribbean Running Cruise out of Tampa the end month with our buddies at Runningcruise.com.  This group is headed up by John, The Penguin, Bingham and Coach Jenny Hadfield.  Take my word they are both famous and infamous.  This is our 6th trip with them.  Third in the Caribbean with one cruise to Alaska and a land base tour in Italy.  My favorite was a River Cruise along the Danube from Budapest to Germany.  We will be doing a similar River Cruise, this time in Southern France this coming October.  Every time the ship stops our group of about 100 runners/walkers get off first and meet the local running group that has laid out a stage race.  The usual length of each race is about 3-10 miles and after we are all done we have either run 1/2 or a full marathon, 26.2 miles.  There might also be some drinking involved but that is only for those that have truly trained for the event.  Look up Hash House Harriers, in your spare time, since they are usually one of the groups that puts on one of the races.  Winners are for each stage is determined by the John and Jenny and they are usually pretty inventive.  Not your typical first one to the finish.

Not sure how this all started but the last race is where we all dress up as pirates and do an Amazing Race.  Some folks go all out with their costumes and take this event very seriously.  Picture 100 folks dressed up as pirates running/walking around San Juan, as we did last year, with maps and clues all trying to solve the puzzle and trying to be back first with pictures taken in front of each designated place in order.  I am not to good at solving puzzles so I usually just do a pub crawl.  We are only suppose to be in groups of two or 4 but last year there were 12 of us going from bar to bar.

Our version on the Danube cruise, bar number 4

Mariah joined us on this trip by pure coincidence.  She was touring Europe back then by herself.  She was going to be in Amsterdam and was headed to Germany.  There was a great lady that was traveling by herself so with some quick phone calls the arrangements were made for Mariah to meet us in Amsterdam and then on to Budapest.  She did the cruise and was on her way to continue her year long travels in Germany.  Turns out Mariah was the youngest and her roomie was the oldest on the trip.  When I grow up I want to be just like Nancy Ryder.

The overall winner is picked by pure math.  Before the first race you are asked how long it was going to take you to finish the distance you selected.  Most races you can’t wear a watch and the distance listed is approzimate so they simply add up everyone’s times and closest to the predicted time wins, both male and female.  The overall winner and stage winners get a yellow hat, similar to the yellow jersey in the Tour de France.

Thriller joining us at the KOA Campground outside the Kennedy Space Center

We had a great visit with our UPSER, Bobby Knight and his wife Barbara in Port Orange Florida

which is located right outside of Daytona Beach Florida.  We were able to catch up since he retired 4 years before me.  They gave us a interesting tour of the area and of course the food in the area was very tasteful.  We also got a tour of their house that they build 18 months ago and I tried to not walk around with my mouth wide open, but failed.  I walked away with house envy but I was able to spit the worm out and swim away.

I am now thinking about becoming a travel writer even though it does sound too much like work, but if I can get some income coming in or better still get some freebies along the way, where do I sign up.  Sticking my toe in by doing some reviews on trip advisor.  I will let you know how that all turns out.  The only problem is that I will have to increase my vocabulary but not all bad since use it or lose it at my age is something to consider.

The three of us on Ponce Inlet, looking South, a bit chilling 

After our visit in Dayton Beach we took the Motor Home down to Kissimmee Florida, home of Walt Disney World and all that goes along with it, Blue Man Group, Cirque Du Soleil and all that.  Once again can’t do and see it all, so we simply checked in at the Calypso Cay Vacation Villas.

Going back about 6 months, I got an email from Interval World, which I am a member, only because I have a time share in Destin Florida.  I have only been to that property once and usually swap out for other Marriott properties or trade with Interval World or better still trade my week for Marriott points. This email was offering weeks at different properties across the US for less than 300 bucks for a two bedroom fully furnished apartment with two separate kitchens.

Hard to pass up a deal like this especially since we don’t have a home and have to live somewhere. Turns out Catherine’s brother Greg and family live about 90 minutes away so with a few emails we were all set for a week for us and long weekend for Greg and his family.  Researching the property I must admit it did not get high grades but you never know.  Maybe others had high expectations and especially since Catherine have seen it all, so I was not worried.

We all had a great time and I highly recommend the property.  It has been around awhile and you can tell but everything worked as advertised and the kids had a ball.  I actually hated to have to leave after the week was up.  Go for a run or bike whenever you wanted and numerous great restaurants in the area not alone a full kitchen to whip up some of my favorite meals.

The boys and Thriller say hello left, Catherine with her new best friend at Lego Land, yes made out of Lego’s, right

The weather was great, by my standards, mid 50’s for the runs and mid 70’s later in the day.  I am not much on pool time, so I was a very happy man.  I did get a chance to do some restaurants reviews with trip advisor and I promised Alex, with Calypso Cay, that I would do a review on our stay.  He did mention some of the bad reviews and that he has noticed a change amongst management their to spruce up the place.  I actually had one restaurant answer my review trying to explain away my experience.  I even bought a course from International Traveler Magazine on how to become a travel writer.

The trip to the airport for our flight to NY was very confusing but as I now sit in first class on our first cancelled and now just delayed flight, I smiled about the whole thing.  You see this is a travel day and as long as it does not take longer than 24 hours it really does not matter to me.  There is a big storm headed for the North East so many might wonder why I am going from sun and fun to the eye of the storm.  Actually a little north of the eye, but whatever.

Death is part of life and unfortunately last week my father, Judson Garret Parker Sr., at the wise age of 94 passed away.  It is kind of surreal.  We were all with him and earlier I had included a picture of all of us around him in this blog post.  We all knew that it was going to be the last time and it was great for him to say goodbye, but not really.  Those words did not actually come out of any of our mouths since we are so positive type people, but we all knew.

Back in the day

In his 70’s with my sister, Gwen


He requested to be cremated, as I, and his memorial service is tomorrow so I am going and give my best effort to be there for the service.  I am sure there will be many twists and turns between now and when I am due to arrive back in Florida, on Monday, but as I told someone the other day. “It really does not matter, we don’t have a home, so it really does not matter where we spend the day or night.”  Our cruise ship leaves in 8 days so we should make it back to Tampa by then.

For whatever reason I gave myself an extra 30 minutes to get to the airport and we were able to shower and pack up under the usual 2 hours by 30 minutes so we were way ahead of the game, so I thought.  Did anyone mention that there are toll roads everywhere in Florida, well there is.  Two tolls, 3 bucks and 9 miles later we were approaching the airport but there was no gas station in site.  It was like they put this airport in the middle of nowhere.  I almost never get the fuel option.  It is only good if you plan on using the entire tank of gas and in this case that was not even close.  I put the nearest gas station in the old around me app and off I go for a 6 mile excursion for the nearest 7-11.  There they did not like my credit card and after answering a text message from the fraud alert team, I was back on the road with $2.25 in my tank.  The sunshine state of Florida had to figure out a way to get another buck and a quarter out of me on our way back to the airport.

There are two rental car return spots on the airport depending on what terminal you are going to and since Delta is our carrier of choice off we went to terminal B.  Glad I am a sky mile elite member because the line for everyone else was almost out the door.  Next stop the Delta lounge for breakfast and half way between my decaf and oatmeal I got a message on my phone that our flight has been cancelled.  I knew I should have gotten up for the morning flight.  The agent rebooked us on the delayed 230 flight and it was soon back to my oatmeal.  I was prepared for a long day so all was still good.  Quick phone call to my sister with the info and it was decided for us to stay in NY and not with her in Conn.  The service was in NY and it would be a lot easier to use the subway then try to commute in from Conn on what was to be the snow day.

Not so fast, as they say.  The agent came by mid swallow and gave us new boarding passes for our original flight.  The reason given, was that the computer was suppose to have cancel the same flight for tomorrow but was a day off.  I had to laugh, on to the fresh fruit.  Just the thought of all that rebooking and all made me chukle.  Hope they remembered to put our bags on the right flight.  Speaking of which.  Of course the flight was delayed and since the original thought was 45 minutes, they gave folks the option to get off the plane.  That sounded like a reasonable idea but something told me that someone was going to get left.  That is why they told everyone to take all their stuff with them.  Not more than 10 minutes later right between sips of my screwdriver they announced that they were cleared to leave right away.  A few minutes later the fools that got off started to arrive and the PA announcement for “whoever” was close behind.  Three calls later the boarding door closed and off we went.  I hope he makes it on the next flight.

My Delta App had a hard time keeping up with the changes.  I am sure I will get an email from them asking about my experience as I usually do.  Come to think of it I get a number of emails to review this or that.  I guess I should at least get paid or a comp for my opinion even if it does sound to much like work.  This travel writer idea sounds better by the mile.

Speaking of dollars and cents I would like to take this lull in the action to go over the bottom line for last year.

Hold on to your hats

The total came in at 211K or 578 per day.  I guess there goes my book idea for, How to run all over the world on $500 a day.  These number are further broken down by the top 9 categories.  No surprise here, hitting the list at number 1, Airfare at 60K or 5K a month which equals $166 a day.

I could bore you with all the details, so I guess I will.  The number 2 spot is also no surprise, Marathon Tours at 44K.  That includes any registration, hotels and tours, including meals provided by my good friends at Marathon Tours.  I would have been literally lost without them in some of the far flung destinations along the way.  You can do the math of the monthly and daily breakdowns.

Here are the highlights for the rest of the field.  Hotels, Meals and Cruises are next in line with 40, 20 and 17K for the year in that order.  Misc, Car/transportation which includes bus, trains, taxi’s and rental cars, followed by Insurance round out the next three.  Turns out that amount for Car/transportation, equaled the amount I use to spend on the two cars when we were working.  Last but not least is, gas which came in 1K for the year.

I should be able to do better this year since I plan on trying to stay put for at least 5-7 days as opposed to the 3.5 last year.   The cash burn rate is down to $201, per day, so far this year.  That is a term I learned, back in the day, when airlines were losing money hand over fist.  I realize that term is usually used when folks are making money.  It will shoot back up later in the year when we go to South America in June and Africa in July.

Well, I promise to be brief here.  Arrived in NYC, ready for the storm of the century, headed our way tomorrow, the day of the memorial service for my dad.  Sorry Gwen, under these circumstance that would be the proper way to address him as opposed to OUR dad.  One of his close friends chose to pick one word to describe him during his remarks.  That word being stubborn.  He did not want a service and it was his way to try to have the service cancelled but as his kids, I guess you could say, that trait was passed down to us.  Even though cars were banned from the roads, we trudged through the knee high drifts and crowded subways.  We were so determined that we had decided that we would walk the entire way back, in 50 mile per hour winds, if the subways were shutdown.  We all had a good chuckle on his behalf.  As our other sister, Sarah, put it during her remarks,  “I am sure he is sitting on his perch laughing his ass off.”

A Celebration of the Life of Judson Garrett Parker, Sr
March 25, 1921 – January 13, 2016

He did it his way

Born in Washington, DC on March 25, 1921, his early years were spent in Tarboro and Durham, NC. He received a BS from the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and moving to New York in 1959, a Master’s Degree in Social Work Administration from Columbia University. Before retiring in 1988 from the City of New York Human Resources Administration, he served under Mayor Ed Koch as a top administrator. Although he lived in many places and traveled the world, he was a New Yorker at heart. 

Traveled the world,  another trait passed down.

Our blended family, Gwen, Sarah, Nicole, and the eldest, Judson Garrett Parker, Jr.

Our NYC oddysey finished up appropriately at a nice, quaint, restaurant/bar called The Drunken Monkey.  There we met this energized waitress, Shannon, who was also a runner and did Denver Marathon, which we are scheduled to run on Catherine’s birthday, May 1 2016.  We brought her up to date on our story and she said that, “We truly believe that the world are our possessions.”  I asked if I could quote her.  We actually had already eaten but their Indian fare looked very inviting.

The drink that intrigued me, on the menu, was the Lady Mountbatten.  It took me awhile to actually order it, because of the lady name, but it was well worth it.  

Lady Mountbatten

Monkey Shoulder Scotch, Pamplemousse (grapefruit liquor),  strawberry gastrique, fresh lemon and lime juices, peach bitters 

      All bundled up, and up to your knees in snow

Thriller trying an expresso martini and he met his new best friend at the Drunken Monkey

 After we got back to Florida we headed south to meet up with some old and new friends and was able to get in some nice slow runs in Naples.  It was rainy and everyone was complaining but not us since it was still T-shirt WX, as far as we were concerned.  Our old friends were UPSERS and Pete has been retired for around 6 years now.  He and his wife, Julie live in a Gated Community, which is the norm here in Naples.  Lovely subdivision and except for groceries, I would say, you would never need to leave the complex.  We had a lovely dinner at the Club House and you could tell they are the people to know there.  We are trying to get them and Bob and Barb in Dayton Beach to join us on the Windstar Cruise in Italy in Oct.

The next day we met up with another Bob and Barb which are our new best friends from the Windstar Cruise thru the Panama Canal.  It was great catch up with them a month later and hear stories about their 10 grandchildren.  We actually will be making a swing back thru the area of Bonita Springs, where they live, so we are looking forward to going out on their boat and for Catherine, much petting on their dog Coco.  They seemed interested in the Southern France Running Cruise the later part of Oct so I will keep after them also.

We leave for Tampa later on today to meet up with our buddies for the Caribbean Running Cruise.

Here is the Facebook message I am going to post.

Leaving tomorrow for a Caribbean Running Cruise with my buddies at runningcruise.com

Every time the ship stops we will be the first off to do a number of different stage races that will equal a marathon when it is all said and done.  This is my 6th trip with this group and we will all meet up again for a South of France River Cruise in October.

Here is my update to my latest blog, Tonycp.blogspot.com

Running all over the world.  This one is called.  Where It All Began, One Year Ago

This photo sums up while I write this blog.


I hope thriller does not get sea sick

I think he likes Palm Trees

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