Kathy & I were talking to friends recently who asked me about our travels to Italy, when I remembered that I had never published a gallery of Italy photos on my website. It’s only taken a year, but I finally got around to it. It’s a lot of photos – admittedly way more than I would ordinarily put in one gallery. But it was a huge trip with lots of photos! I ended up with about 3,000 processed photos, so a gallery with “only” 180 or so images is really editing it down!
As much as Kathy & I like to explore new places, there is a certain comfort in the familiarity of places we return to often. Such is the case with our recent visit to Belhaven, in eastern North Carolina. Whenever we visit that area, we return to places like Swan Quarter, perhaps best known as the location of the ferry to Ocracoke Island, but also the location of a number of fishing companies and their boats. Englehard is also the location of an inlet that houses a number of fishing boats. Lake Mattamuskeet is the location of a number of interesting places and the photographs that can be made there.
While I rarely return with anything truly new, it is a good place to go and look for things I haven’t seen previously. Storms wash away old piles of debris and sometimes bring in new subject matter. Businesses come and go and sometimes the change in decor can mean new material. Sometimes returning to a place with fresh eyes can mean new opportunities.
This is another collection of photos from the Leica D-Lux 7 that I took on our recent visit there. I’ve got a few more batches that I’ll post once I’ve worked out the words to go along with them!
People in our neighborhood have gotten used to the fact that we’re gone a lot. When we first moved here it was because we worked all day and often traveled on the weekends. Recently we’ve been off on one adventure or another. A couple of our neighbors say they can tell when we’re home because our window shades are open. I guess that’s a reliable indicator, although I’ve thought about leaving them open just to fool ’em! It is nice to have someone keeping an eye on things, although that has its limits.
One of the most asked questions when we talk to our neighbors is “where are you off to next?” When we got back from our recent trip to Ohio and Virginia we didn’t have anything on the books. But within a few weeks of our return we got to planning, and we now have (I think) 5 trips in various stages of planning. Kathy says she has finally found her calling – planning vacations! For us!
One day we were sitting on our porch talking about our upcoming plans and I said, ” you know, when we were younger, one thing would lead to another and we’d end up with a baby. Now, one thing leads to another and we end up with a vacation! Life is good!
Spotted this scene in a shop window on a recent trip through Marietta, Ohio.
May 25 marked the first anniversary of our retirement. And boy, what a year it’s been! What we most wanted to do in retirement was to travel, and I’d say we did a pretty good job of it. Looking back over my Lightroom catalog provides a visual history of our adventures, starting with an amazing trip to Italy, shorter trips to the NC mountains and NC coast, a road trip to Ohio and Virginia and a month at the beach in Hilton Head. And that was just in 2018! So far in 2019 we have been away 61 days out of 151. We’ve taken two cruises (29 days at sea, including two back-to-back 7 day cruises and a 15 day cruise through the Panama Canal), made a road trip to Florida, another to Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, and we just finished another Ohio-Virginia road trip. But we’re home for a while, I think. Frankly, we’re a little tired! The next scheduled trip is a trip to the beach in August, although there is a pretty good chance that something will come along in the interim!
One of our neighbors asked us the other day if we were trying to spend all of our retirement money in the first year! We’re not, of course, but we obviously have done more than our financial advisor might prefer (sorry, Steve!). But travel is what we do – we don’t have other expensive hobbies, our kids are self-supporting, and we have very reasonable monthly expenses. We are very aware of how fortunate we are to have started the savings habit early and to live (mostly) within our means for the last 39 years (our 39th wedding anniversary is in October).
Here are some of the things we have learned and experienced in our first year of retirement:
Expected (good & bad)
- LOTS of time to do whatever we want.
- We really like being able to come and go as we please, without having to check vacation schedules and “request” time off from a boss.
- We especially like not having to stick to a week-to-week or weekend routine.
- We love to cook, and having time to shop for good ingredients and be creative in the kitchen has been fun. As a result, we rarely go out to eat any more.
- Less going out to eat has meant that we’ve both lost weight and saved money (to spend on travel!)
- We manage to get in a good walk just about every day, continuing a habit we had established at work.
Unexpected (good & bad)
- Lots of time means it is easy to get lazy.
- We didn’t expect to miss work, and we really don’t. At first, we missed the people and were really good about checking in. We still miss the people, but the farther away we get the less often we seem to make contact.
- It’s hard to keep track of what day it is!
- We’re even more laid back and relaxed than we thought we would be!
- We’ve gotten a lot more reading done, although we read more at home and less on the road. It used to be that we needed to go on vacation to read! Now our vacations are busier and we’re more relaxed at home with more time to read.
- We can go for days without getting in the car. Other than going to the grocery store or visiting the kids we rarely leave the neighborhood. We need to make a point of getting Kathy behind the wheel periodically so she won’t forget how!
- Our monthly expenses have gone down, due mostly to not eating out as much and not using as much gas, but also due to just not buying stuff.
- Without an alarm every morning, our sleep schedules have diverged. I like getting up early in the morning and don’t mind going to bed early. Kathy is just the opposite and our schedules can some days be a couple of hours different.
So what’s in store for the next year? We’re telling ourselves that we need to do a better job spacing things out. The first 5 months of this year have seen a lot of travel, partly because of the last-minute addition of the Panama Canal cruise but also because of the January road trip immediately followed by the two cruises. We’re anxious to continue checking off states as we try to get to all 50, so there will undoubtedly be a few more road trips. I wouldn’t be surprised to find us on another cruise or two, and there will most certainly be visits to the mountains and the beach.
US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama
So watch this space! I’ll do my best to keep posting articles and photos – when I have time!
During our visit to Puerto Quepos, Costa Rica, we took an aerial tram tour and nature walk through a tropical rain forest. I had been taking photos of this ginger blossom when I noticed a hummingbird flying nearby. Just as I fired off a series of shots of the ginger the hummer flew into my frame! I got off a burst of just a few shots before he flew away. While this is the best one, it certainly isn’t “perfect” enough to win any nature photo contests but it works for me.
Kathy & I recently returned from a 15-night cruise through the Panama Canal on the Pacific Princess. It was a terrific cruise, and at only 600 +/- passengers this ship was a welcome relief from the 6000+ passenger behemoth we sailed on in February. But like bottles of wine we’ve never had a bad cruise, so there are always great things to experience regardless!
The highlight of our cruise, which took us from Fort Lauderdale, FL to Los Angeles, CA, was of course a full transit of the Panama Canal. These photos are just a sample of the ones I took during this event. I will add more photos and commentary as I get through the 3000+ photos I took! But we’re leaving soon for another quick trip and I’m planning to leave the computer at home, so they will need to wait until we get back.
Tabasco sauce is one of those condiments that I think everyone has heard of, and that many people always keep on hand. I’m not particularly a big fan, instead preferring sauces with more flavor and less heat such as Cholula (Mexico) and Pickapeppa (Jamaica, mon). But when it comes to pepper sauce, I’ve got a bottle and suspect a lot of readers do too.
When I realized that the Tabasco plant and museum, located in Avery Island, was just a few miles from where we stayed in Lafayette, Louisiana, going there was a no-brainer. Adjacent to the grounds of the Tabasco plant is Jungle Gardens, a 170-acre botanical garden and bird sanctuary created by the father of Tabasco, Edward Avery “Ned” McIlhenny. Jungle Gardens is a separate story and a separate post.
I learned a few things about Tabasco during our visit. I hadn’t fully realized the time, effort and craft that goes into making hot sauce. And I didn’t realize that there were so many varieties! We got to try a number of them in the store after our tour, although I stopped myself before my taste buds got damaged!
All in all, the Tabasco story is an important part of Louisiana heritage, and I’m glad we had a chance to pay a visit!
As a kid I was a real space geek, and followed everything about the space program that I could get my hands on. As part of our recent trip to Alabama and beyond, Kathy & I spent a day at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville and took the bus tour. It was a fascinating experience and brought back a lot of memories.
It would be possible to just tour the exhibits at the museum, but it was really special to take the narrated tour of the Marshall Space Flight Center grounds, with visits to several operating facilities. We visited a the Payload Operations Center, training center with mockups of some of the actual ISS modules that are used to recreate situations on earth to help the astronauts deal with problems or answer questions aboard the station.
The Payload Operations Integration Center is the “mission control” for all of the scientific activities that are happening on the space station. The folks at the various workstations monitor these operations remotely, as we learned the the majority of experiments happening on board are not actually handled by the astronauts themselves unless hands-on is required.
The Environmental Control & Life Support Systems facility deals with the systems required to sustain life aboard the station. A lot of the work done here deals with developing systems to maintain the environmental and sanitary needs of the crew aboard the ISS.
The entire day was great, but the highlight for me was the visit to the Davidson Center for Space Exploration, which is a huge building that houses an actual Saturn V rocket along with tons and tons of memorabilia from the early days of manned space exploration through the Apollo moon landings. One of the things I thought was really cool is that they employ retired scientists as docents, so it is not unusual to find yourself talking to one of the heros of the space program. In fact, I didn’t realize it at the time, but one of my photos is of Brooks Moore, who headed the Astrionics Laboratory and is actually in the black & white photo in the picture of the old computer hardware!
It was a great day and an excellent way to highlight our visit to Alabama!
This past Friday, Kathy & I visited the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. While there we toured various NASA facilities including the Control Room at the Payload Operations Integration Center at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. This is where all of the communication with the International Space Station regarding the payload and experiments takes place. It was very interesting to see.
While we were there, the astronauts aboard the space station were returning from a space walk. We were able to see live video of them returning to the ISS through the airlock and beginning the process of removing their suits. Quite an unexpected treat!