Friends, lists and going with the flow

A friend recently posted a blog about her lists. She’s one of those people whose incredible organizational skills mean she not only writes lists, but remembers where they are!

I write lists, too. In fact, I write lists all the time. My problem is I stick those lists somewhere then I either can’t find them when I need them, or I forget about them altogether.  Last week, my husband and I sat down and wrote out a list of all the friends we haven’t gotten together with in awhile. We stay in touch on Facebook and at work, but we never seem to connect in person when we are off work.

We put the list on the kitchen table and promptly shuffled it from one end of the table to the other, marking off names as we made plans.

The list is already out-of-date anyway. We’ve made new friends in the last two weeks and they need to be added to the list. Oh, shoot, I also need to add the friend who writes all those lists to my list.

Tonight is the first of our in-person connections. A friend whose birthday we missed is coming for dinner with her husband. I cleaned off the table and moved the list again. It’s now in a stack of papers I need to go through. I will probably lose it or throw it away accidentally when I’m going through the papers.

The good news is, we are so social it won’t take long to connect with everyone on the list. Besides, even if I lose that list, I can always write a new one. In any case, we have a lot of fun being spontaneous – going with the flow. As I mentioned to my friend, the most important thing to remember to take anywhere is a sense of humor (add in a good healthy dose and adventure and you’ve pretty much got everything you need).

The Road is Calling

I grew up a Californian. The ocean, mountains, valleys and deserts all have a certain lure; the automobile was my ticket to ride, the vehicle that took me to all these majestic places. From my earliest days, the road was calling, begging me to explore.

I was on wheels at an early age…first a tricycle, then I learned to ride a bike when I was only five…motorcycles when I was 10. Sailing was introduced to to me when I was 8, and I became a water rat. An early dream to fly became reality in the early 90s. But my first love, the road, was always calling.

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Even though I grew up in the muscle car era, hot rods had no appeal…sports cars like those I read about in Road and Track and Car & Driver were my dreams as a teenager. My dentist had an old Porsche 356…he saw my passion and gave me a ride one day. I was hooked!

The road was calling.

In 1976, my family took a month-long road trip from Southern California through Arizona and Nevada into Utah and Colorado; up the eastern spine of the Rocky Mountains into Canada and the glaciers of Banff and Jasper. Heading west, we drove south along the Pacific Coast Highway. We had delayed the trip one week so I could complete Driver’s Training. Learner’s permit in hand, mom let me drive a good chunk of the time. I must have logged 2,000 miles that summer, an experience every new driver should have.IMG_0218

The road was calling.

On my 16th birthday, I was at the DMV when they opened. I passed the test and for the first time I was behind the wheel on a public road alone…well, at least legally. An old Toyota Corona bought from my sister for $300 and a new clutch installed by me with her boyfriend’s guidance became my chariot. Every chance I had, I explored the mountain and coastal roads of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. I discovered that a great way for me to shake off teenage angst and trials was to go for a drive through “a dark desert highway.”

The road was calling.

Forty years later, the road is still calling. This time, it’s Route 66…the Mother Road…the road that Bruce Springsteen sang about…”the highway is alive tonight.” As Judy and I prepare to set off on our epic Route 66 adventure, I can hardly contain my excitement…looking forward to driving through the deserts of my youth, into the high plains of Arizona and New Mexico; tornado alley (in Spring, which might make things interesting) and into the Heartland ending in Chi Town.

The road is calling.

I’ve driven cross country once before, when I moved to the East Coast in 2003. I did it in two and a half days…challenging myself to log as many miles each day as I could. The final push was from the eastern border of Oklahoma to D.C. in 16 hours, with stops only for gas and food. It was a monumental feat, but I missed the exploration…the joy that is called the road.

This trip will be different. We’re taking our time…we’re going to stop at every kitschy photo stop, stay in classic Route 66 motels, and eat all-American style.

There’s a whole world out there, waiting to be explored. Go see it, because the road is calling.IMG_0222

Getting Ready to Drive The Mother Road

We’re getting ready to drive the “Mother Road.” We are picking up something big in Los Angeles (too big to ship home) and are using it as a reason to take a classic road trip.

As children of the 60s, some of our earliest memories are of family long-distance road trips and this is a chance to recreate a vacation from our youths. What better route than Route 66?

There are dozens of books about Route 66: historical perspectives, turn-by-turn tutorials, tourism guides, etc. There are websites devoted to everything about the “Mother Road” and its attractions. It’s a veritable cornucopia of research material to make the most of the trip. I’ve spent three months digging into everything I can find to plan the trip and decide what we can’t miss, where we should stay and where we should eat.

As the trip draws closer, we’re both getting down to the nitty gritty of what to pack. That list now includes some items we need to buy once we get to LA. We’re flying out and driving back, after all, and some of what we want to have in the car is just too bulky to carry on a plane.

Maps and a camera are essential. Turn-by-turn instructions are crucial so we don’t miss any of the old road sections as they wind through towns of the west and Midwest. A picnic basket is a key piece of recapturing the “good old days” that we hope to relive. We want to be able to stop for lunch and pull out a sandwich and a drink like when we were kids.

We plan to blog the whole trip and capture images of our nation’s towns and cities. We will continue our typical style of chatting with everyone we meet along the way. We hope to enjoy foods native to every region from Santa Monica to Chicago.

Hitting the road is a great way to see things, especially when you stay off the interstate and stick to local highways. Route 66 will take us through ghost towns, struggling towns and places seeing a surge in tourism as more people opt to take a slower pace to enjoy their travels.

There is a whole world out there just waiting to be explored. This time, we’re taking back roads to do it. Stay tuned.

What do a Kiss and Exploring the World Have in Common?

Five years ago today I was on a trip for work. It involved a trip (by TRAIN!) to Stamford, Connecticut, a short walk to the hotel and a meet-and-greet style evening where coworkers from the northeast and mid-Atlantic would connect and spend some social time over dinner and drinks before a full-day event kicking off the next morning.

There were maybe two dozen of us chatting amiably over dinner at a nearby Italian place before wandering back to the hotel to linger in the hotel bar over wine and cocktails.

As is typical at this type of event, we talked about life and work and work and life. It was a back-and-forth conversation filled with laughter and easy banter. One-by-one, coworkers headed back to their rooms to “say goodnight to the kids” or “check in with my wife” or simply because it had been a long day.

Somewhere around 1:30 am, the bartender came over and informed Greg and I that it was last call. It wasn’t until then that we noticed we were the only two coworkers left. At that moment, we were deeply ensconced in a conversation about the tasks that needed to be accomplished “in the morning” at the jobs event we were attending. Neither of us was ready to declare the conversation over, so we tossed a coin to decide whose room we would go to so we could finish making our plans.

About an hour later, when the work planning was done, the conversation wandered to the past as we discussed the things we missed about being young.

I said, “kissing,” explaining how, as a high school student, kissing was everything. It was a time when the farthest a couple would go was maybe “second base” and the duo could spend hours just kissing. Yep, I admitted, “I miss kissing.”

Greg rose from the hotel chair and walked over to me, leaning down and kissing me. It was one of those tentative, first date kisses. There were fireworks. I saw lightning and felt the Earth move. We broke the kiss and gave each other that “uh-oh-I-wasn’t-expecting-THAT” look. We were, after all, coworkers.

It was just a kiss … but it was life altering. Nothing else happened that night, but it was enough to put into motion a series of conversations and chain of events that helped us both realize that we did have options other than staying in unhappy relationships and living sad, unfulfilling lives.

Since that day, we moved in together, got engaged, got married and regularly remind each other how important communication is to a healthy, happy, thrilling relationship. We laugh about that kiss and how we had no idea then how many dreams and hopes we had in common – and still do.

It’s been five years and thousands of kisses. Sometimes the best trips don’t involve even getting out of your chair. When we say there’s a whole world out there just waiting to be explored, we mean so much more than travel. We mean exploring each other, people in your lives, yourself … everything. So get out there – explore! The world is calling.

Diversion – Getting to Know You

Travel is often about the people we meet on your adventures. Our brief trip to Los Angeles last week brought that home.

Here’s the setup…Judy and I are gregarious by nature; extroverted and always willing to make new friends. So naturally, we have a tendency to “talk up“ everyone we meet…especially bartenders and food servers who can make or break a good meal. We are also people who get to the airport very early. We hate being rushed and would rather spend some time in an airport restaurant than stress about the traffic or the security lines.

This story began in December when we found ourselves at Los Angeles International Airport with about two hours of wait time until boarding. It was late morning, so we sought out a place where we could get a drink and an appetizer or two.  We found ourselves sitting in a window seat at Osteria by Fabio Viviani (of “Top Chef” fame). OsteriaOur server, Araceli, was beautiful, attentive, and sweet. She appreciated our comments about her name.  The drinks (they make a to-die-for Strawberry Basil Martini) and food were fantastic – a far cry from most airport food. But it was Araceli’s service that made the stay memorable. Too soon, we had to leave and board our plan.

Fast forward two months, and we’re back at LAX with time to spare…same flight, same terminal.

So back to Osteria we went, and asked for a window seat.  We were seated in the same place as before, and wouldn’t you know it, Araceli was our server.  We joked about the irony, and she remembered us.  We chatted about her kids…and grandkids!  She told us she was 37…when during our last visit we thought she was a college student! Once again, our flight called too soon and we had to head off, telling Araceli that we’d be back in four weeks!

The lesson here…whether you know them for an hour, days, or a lifetime, the people we meet — like travel — make our lives richer. There’s a whole world out there just waiting to be explored. Go see it…and take the time to get to know those around you along the way.

2017 – Trimming the Fat – A Life Reset – Getting Rid of What We Don’t Need

We’re not New Year’s Resolution makers. We’ve both done it once or twice with great results, but both Greg and I believe resolutions should be made when you’re ready to change your life – not just at the beginning of a new year.rose-bowl

2017 is no exception. We welcomed the new year without a real resolution in mind. I talked about losing weight. In fact, I’d talked about it for a couple of years. When you’re ready to commit, it just happens. Greg and I decided we both had a few pounds to lose and were ready to commit about halfway through the second week of January. We made an appointment at our local Jenny Craig office, did the initial weigh-in and started the plan.

We both felt immediately lighter. Admittedly, it was more the load off our minds than anywhere else, but it led to a few other changes…

We spent an entire day cleaning out our closet. We generated three huge bags of clothes for donation. We cleaned out the bathroom cabinets. We moved into the closet in the guest room that had become a storage place for stuff we didn’t want to think about. We tidied up everywhere! I called AMVETS and arranged for a pick-up.

It’s been less than a week and we are already lighter at home. Less stuff leaves you feeling lighter anyway. There’s more room to move. It’s easier to find your things. We’re both feeling a little exhilarated.

What’s next? Who knows? For now we are just letting this “out with the old” mentality sink in. Stay tuned.

D is for Dublin — a do-over

My first trip to Dublin was disappointing. My travel partner didn’t want to check out the pubs in a city that is known for its nightlife. He said no to a visit to the Book of Kells at Trinity College. He turned up his nose at shopping. I describe the whole trip as D is for Dud.20161203_163544

Last fall, Greg and I decided it was time to give Dublin another chance. His best friend was living there (on a work assignment) and had a guest room. We could visit Chris and his wife in their new home, get something of an insider’s tour and sleep for free. It was a win-win-win.

We exchanged emails, scheduled a few things to do and bought our tickets for the Emerald Isle.

What a difference! Dublin is fun, vibrant and exciting. We arrived mid-day on a Saturday in early December and hit the ground running. img_6757Our hosts took us to the longest, The Hole In The Wall, and oldest, The Brazen Head, pubs in Ireland (both in Dublin). We wandered along the main shopping street and window shopped from pub to pub.

We stopped at the famous Temple Bar and elbowed our way to the bar for the essential Irish pub drink, a Guinness.

20161209_143056Over the next couple of days we enjoyed tasty Irish bar food and a few classics: fish and chips, Irish stew and others.

We checked out Kilmainham Gaol which “symbolises the tradition of militant and constitutional nationalism from the rebellion of 1798 to the Irish Civil War of 1922-23.”.

We visited Osteria Lucio, a favorite restaurants of our hosts for an incredible Italian meal with an excellent red wine. Who knew Dublin is a bit of a foodie town?

img_6792We toured the only Irish Whisky distiller still located in the Irish capital and sipped some delicious gin cocktails.

Bad news struck on Tuesday.  Our hosts grabbed a flight back to the states and we headed to Edinburgh, Scotland for a pre-arranged side trip (stay tuned for a blog about that trip). Back in Dublin, we had a couple days to explore on our own.

20161206_152758We visited the Guinness Brewery and learned how to pour a perfect stout. img_6913 img_6921 img_6924

We went to the library at Trinity College and ooo’d and aaah’d  over the history captured on the ancient volumes. We went to see the Book of Kells (but they don’t allow pictures!).

We revisited The Bank on College Green, a downtown Dublin restaurant converted from a late-1800s bank. The food and ambiance were PERFECT both times, and our server was absolutely delightful.

We wandered a little more, enjoyed the cheerful, friendly people of Ireland and took a local train to Dun Laoghaire. img_6841The Dublin suburb is home to the National Maritime Museum of Ireland. We walked out along the breakwater to the lighthouse in a light mist. It was a classic weather day – just what you expect.

After a week it was easy to admit that D is for Dud was WRONG! Dublin is “d”elightful and “d”arling.

Go see for yourself. There may not be many people who remember me, but you can still say Judy sent you.

There’s a whole world out there waiting to be explored. Go see it.