We’re off to South America today!…An unexpected surprise from an old friend…

Tom’s old friend Jerry, from his railroad days, stopped by to celebrate our departure, bearing gifts and good humor. Thanks, Jerry! How thoughtful you are!

We’re packed and ready to go. We just returned from breakfast, each eating a little more to hold us until we can eat again. I may not eat again for 24 hours when airplane food never works for me, and there’s too little time between the two flights to stop for a meal.

We have a 1-hour, 9-minute layover in Houston after the four-hour flight from Minneapolis and then another 5-hour flight to Quito, Ecuador, much shorter than most of our flights. We don’t arrive until 11:35 pm, the same time zone as Minnesota. The cruise line has arranged for a driver to pick us up at the airport to take us to our hotel, JW Marriott. Hopefully, we’ll handle the altitude relatively easily and get a good night’s sleep.

We’ve already started drinking a lot of water, which is recommended to reduce altitude sickness at Quito’s 9350 ft. We have no idea how we’ll react to this, but time will tell.

Me and Tom are in the hotel lobby celebrating with Jerry.

Yesterday early evening, after the dreadful Minnesota Twins playoff baseball game loss, we ordered takeaway from Pizza Luce since we no longer have a rental car, which we returned on October 9, when the 30-day contract ended. When we were getting ready to pick up the food, our hotel room phone rang, and it was Tom’s old friend from the railroad, Jerry.

Our room was too messy to invite Jerry, so we met him downstairs in the lobby. We were shocked and in awe of everything Jerry had brought for us to celebrate our departure under the guise of our mutual “un-birthdays.” He had hilarious stuffed animals, decorations, a plate of delicious bars, zip drives with books, a cap for Tom, an adorable card, and more.

We couldn’t believe his thoughtfulness and generosity to come all this way to make us both feel so special before departing for South America. We kept the bars, the zip drives, and the cap and suggested Jerry keep the decorations for his next celebration for another recipient.

When it was time for all of us to go, we hugged Jerry goodbye, thanking him repeatedly for thinking of us and being so kind and generous. He’s been a regular reader of our site for years and seems to know everywhere we’ve been and everything we’ve done. It’s always fun to meet with people who’ve been following us for some time.

Jerry’s partner, Dot, made these delicious brownies and caramel bars. Tom said they were delicious. We wrapped up the balance and brought them with us so Tom could snack on the journey to Quito.

So, soon, in about an hour, we’ll take off for the airport. We’ll get the cart to bring our bags down to the lobby and then call Uber to take us to the Airport. Tom always likes to go much earlier than we need to, but I go along to avoid him feeling stressed. Yes, we should arrive two hours earlier for international flights, when we must go through immigration and the lengthy line at US security.

It takes much longer to go through security at US airports than in other countries, but we follow the flow and keep a good attitude. There’s no point in making a fuss about waiting in a queue. Thank goodness I am over 75 years old and no longer have to take my shoes off when going through security. Duh, a small perk for being this old.

That’s it for today, dear readers. We will be back tomorrow, hopefully feeling well and adapting to the altitude in the same manner as we adapt to most travel situations. We shall see.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, October 11, 2013:

Early in the morning in the Maasai Mara, Kenya, we spotted this mother warthog nudging her babies along. We squealed with delight along with them as they scurried along. Anderson stopped the vehicle so we could watch as we noted a few lions in wait in the direction of the little pigs, hoping they’d be lunch. For the full story, please click here.

One day and counting…Packing day…Ten years ago…

Ten years ago at Camp Olonana in the Maasai Mara in Kenya, we were unpacked with our equipment plugged in, anxious to write here to begin sharing the experience. With no Internet connection in the tent and neither of our WiFi devices able to connect, we comfortably sat in the lodge to go online to post. As we’d mentioned, the connection was poor, preventing us from posting many photos until we returned to Diani Beach, where the connection wasn’t strong. We slept in the bed on the left, keeping our electronics plugged in on the bed on the right. For the first time ever, my camera ran out of juice on safari forcing us to use the 2nd camera, which Tom used less often. For this post, please click here.

It’s finally here: packing day before we depart for Ecuador, South America, tomorrow. It’s relatively easy to do in this small room with only a tiny closet and a few drawers. Most of our belongings remained in our suitcases, to which we’re adding the excess today. The biggest project will be packing the supplies bag, which has enough supplies to last us until June, when we return to South Africa, where we can restock most items.

After considerable research, I discovered that many items we use won’t be available in South America. However, there is the popular Mercado Libre, where some items we use may be found at twice the cost in the US. So, we may or may have been wise to stock up.

Today, when I am done packing, I will finish this post. Tonight, we’ll order takeaway from Pizza Luce. We love their meatballs, sauce, and parmesan cheese dish, which we ordered last night when we met Tammy and Tracy for dinner and trivia. Tom’s nephew Kevin stopped by to hang out with us, and we had another great time, the last we’ll spend with family before we depart tomorrow.

We usually carry one clothing bag each and one supply bag, all of which we check. But, it looks like we might save money by taking a fourth bag, which we still have, and paying the $65 extra for it to avoid being overweight by five or ten pounds in our other bags when they charge much more for being overweight.

Once we arrive at the hotel in Quito, we’ll use the fourth bag to pack for the cruise since we won’t be able to bring everything with us on the small (16-passenger) ship. We’ll have the hotel hold the remaining bags for us until we return for the last two days in Quito at the end of the cruise. From there, two days later, we’ll fly to Manta to collect the rental car and drive to the holiday house.

On the way to the house on October 24, we’ll stop for groceries and water. We’ll provide our drinking water while at the house since the water, as expected, is unsafe to drink. The owner said he’d have a filtering device like Brita, but those filters do not eliminate bacteria and could result in serious illness. Instead, we’ll buy plenty of bottled water, which will hopefully be safe.

Also, we won’t buy fresh vegetables in Ecuador or eat raw vegetables or salads in restaurants. Most likely, the vegetables and fruits from the farms have been rinsed in tap water. If I buy avocados while there, which I eat almost daily, I will carefully wash the exterior before cutting. However, instead, I will look for prepared guacamole, which may be safer to consume.

I don’t eat fruit other than avocados and tomatoes (I won’t eat those there either). But Tom eats an occasional banana and must carefully wash it before peeling and eating. When we buy fresh vegetables, we’ll only use them for cooking, which kills the bacteria if cooked well enough after careful washing.

We are researching to determine if there are any other nuances about Ecuador that we need to know. We will continue to do so until we arrive and then after that. One can’t be too safe, especially when neither of us needs to get sick right now (or ever, for that matter).

It’s hard to believe that in 48 hours, we’ll be in Quito and know how we’re doing with the altitude. If all is well, we will be thrilled and enjoy our time in the second-highest city in the world.

Today, at 3:07 pm, the Minnesota Twins baseball game will be on TV. We plan to be done packing and able to relax, watch the game, and eat our takeaway meal after the game ends. Hopefully, tonight, we’ll get a good night’s sleep. Last night was not so good for me when I was awake for three hours.

Photo from ten years ago today, October 10, 2013:

Our tent’s veranda at Camp Olonana in the Maasai Mara, Kenya. Approaching, it took our breath away. For more photos, please click here.

Two days and counting and stuff to do…Final evening with Greg, Heather, Madighan and Miles at a fantastic Mexican restaurant…Two game day…

Heather and Greg at the Mexican restaurant last night in Chanhassen. We are so happy they are together and enjoying their loving relationship.

Yep, in two days, we are leaving the US after many collective months since last April when we left South Africa, traveled to Florida, then to Norway and Greenland via cruises, and ended up in Nevada and Minnesota to visit family and friends. Now, we head to Ecuador, South America, to the second-highest city in the world, Quito.

Yesterday, we called Alamo car rental to extend the rental by two days. When we talked to one rep, he said he’d handle it with an email confirmation for the extra charges. The email never arrived. Several hours later, we called again, and another rep stated we couldn’t extend it without coming to the airport to sign a new two-day contract. Hogwash!

We decided to return the car today when we checked prices and discovered it would be $295 for the two more days. Instead, this morning, Tom is running a few last-minute errands and will return the car, taking an Uber back to the hotel. When we leave on Wednesday, it will be easier and quicker at the airport when we’ll be dropped off by another Uber and avoid returning the car at that time.

Miles, 15, and Mad,14, two of Greg’s children, and our grandchildren.

Tonight, we’ll walk over to Pizza Luce, across the parking lot from the hotel, to meet Tammy, Tracy, and Vincent for one final get-together for dinner and trivia before we leave. This afternoon, TJ will stop by to get help from Tom on setting up his trail cam and to say goodbye. From that point on, we will have seen everyone we wanted to see to say goodbye and will be on our way on Wednesday morning.

Without a doubt, this was the best visit we’ve had since we began our travels. No one was sick or unavailable, and we could easily set up times together, making sure each family got our undivided attention. Between Tom’s siblings, our kids and grandkids, and friends, we had a wonderful time on every occasion.

Tom and Heather.

We spent a lot of money dining out and for other activities, but it was worth every last cent. Now, we can leave with peace of mind that we spent quality time with those we love. When will we return to the US? At this point, we have no idea. We will post the plan here when we do know, which may not be for some time.

Yesterday afternoon, we arrived at Greg’s home in Chaska to spend time with him, Heather, and the kids while watching the Minnesota Vikings football game. Again, they lost, which was disappointing but not surprising. We did our laundry during the game while Madighan and I worked on crocheting. I completed a winter scarf using every last bit of yarn.

A taco salad is the only entree Tom ever orders in Mexican restaurants. He scooped up the guacamole, which he doesn’t like, and gave it to me.

Mad said, “Grandma, I will think of you whenever I wear this!” I smiled from ear to ear, happy that it meant so much. I crocheted as fast as I could, recalling stitches from 50 years ago, the last time I crocheted when it was popular in the 1970s. During that era, crocheted clothing, purses, afghans, and pillows kept many of us busy with patterns and yarns.

Without a pattern, I used a simple stitch that my fingers remembered more than my brain. Actually, it was pretty fun, especially when it meant so much to Mad.

After the game ended, we all drove to a Mexican restaurant we’d visited in the past, Rey Azteca in Chanhassen, in our neighborhood. As we recall, the food was fresh and delicious. Every one of the six of us enjoyed the food, the ambiance, and the lively conversation. After dinner, we all said our goodbyes and Tom and I left to return to the hotel to watch the next Minnesota Twins game, already in the 5th inning. They won. We were thrilled.

After their entrees, Mad and Miles shared a Tres Leche cake drizzled with chocolate syrup. They gobbled it up.

I just received a notification from Alamo with the bill for the rental car, so Tom must already be on his way back from the airport in the Uber. I texted him on WhatsApp, and he said he’ll be here soon. We always miss one another, even when apart for short periods. How fortunate we are.

We’ll be back with more tomorrow and, most likely, even a post in the morning on our travel day since I think I can get something done before we depart.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, October 9, 2013:

This is a different angle from the photo already shown in an earlier post, but one that we saw in our first 90-minute drive, along with Anderson, our guide, as we waited for others to arrive. This giant 15-foot croc had captured an impala. With Anderson’s walkie-talkie, he was alerted when their plane landed, and we flew off in the little plane to the Maasai Mara. For more photos, please click here.

Three days and counting…South America, here we come!…

Like all animals in the wild, this female lion is constantly looking for the next meal to feed her cubs. This photo is from ten years ago today, while on safari in the Maasai Mara, Kenya.

In a few days, we’ll start packing, which won’t take much time. We’ve replaced many of our old clothes with new clothes. We donated our old clothes in good condition to Goodwill. All we have now are the folded items in the few drawers in our room and hanging in the closet. If we had to, we could pack in a couple of hours.

On Tuesday, we’ll start the process and be done by the end of the day. We’ve made no plans for Monday and Tuesday other than dinner and trivia at Pizza Luce with Tammy, Tracy, and Vincent, our final time together. And TJ will stop by here tomorrow afternoon to say goodbye. Today, we’re visiting Greg and the kids to watch the Minnesota Vikings football game.

Madighan and I will most likely work on our crocheting project during the game. After the game ends, Greg and his lovely girlfriend Heather, and grandchildren Madighan, and Miles will join us for dinner, most likely at a nearby Mexican restaurant they all like.

We don’t have a lot of expectations about the Vikings game. They’ve only won one game out of four. But it’s always fun to watch with hopefulness and enthusiasm that perhaps they may win. That’s how sports viewing works, anyway. It’s almost like fishing…the anticipation is nearly as exciting as the potential win.

Yesterday afternoon, we watched the Minnesota Twins playoff game, but sadly, they lost. However, they still have more games to play to see if they can progress in the playoffs for the remote possibility of making it to the World Series. It isn’t very likely, but it is worth dreaming about.

This morning, we bolted out of bed after a good night’s sleep, showered and dressed for the day, and headed downstairs to breakfast. We put together our plates of eggs and sausage and poured our coffee, hauling it back to our room on the fourth floor. We wanted to watch CBS’s Sunday Morning show one last time.

We’ve spent 4½ of the past six months in the US, including the three months we spent in Florida, and now, when we leave for South America, it could be quite a while before we return, especially when we’re heading back to Africa in eight months, for an undetermined amount of time. It’s one of those “play it by ear” situations.

We hope to stay in South Africa for at least six months, leaving after 90 days for a new 90-day visa stamp to perhaps head back to the Maasai Mara, Kenya, which we’d like to do again over ten years later. We have such unforgettable memories of that time in 2013. Maybe it won’t be quite as exciting after all the safaris we’ve done, but we expect that we’ll very much enjoy it.

Besides the above, we don’t have any plans as we prepare to leave on Wednesday. Our flight to Quito begins at 2:02 pm. We’ll most likely arrive at the airport around 11:30 am to drop off the rental car and begin waiting to board the United Airlines flight.

We’ll arrive in Quito at 11:35 pm. Celebrity Cruise Line has arranged for a driver to pick us up at the airport and bring us to the hotel, all a part of our Galapagos cruise package. Hopefully, we won’t have any issues with the altitude and can get settled in our hotel room for a good night’s sleep.

There are some walking tours of Quito arranged during the days at the hotel, but our participation will be determined by how we’re doing with the altitude and if I can walk the distances. Again, we can only “play it by ear.”

That’s it for today, dear readers. We hope all of you are enjoying your weekend.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, October 8, 2013:

Tom nudged me in the Maasai Mara, Kenya, to turn around when I had the camera pointed in the opposite direction. I gasped when I saw this, a gift from the heavens. Thank you, Kenya. For more photos, please click here.

Tom’s fantastic time with his kids at the cabin…Last evening with Tom’s family at Billy’s Bar & Grill…

Tom, Tammy, and TJ had a great time at the cabin for two days, enjoying evening bonfires.

I didn’t go up north with Tom, Tammy, and TJ, knowing it was important for Tom to spend quality time with his two adult children at TJ’s cabin in northern Minnesota. They had an excellent two days and nights together in the rustic cabin on a lake, dining at local pubs and restaurants and enjoying the special time together.

They were there to catch up and relax. With cold weather rolling in, they didn’t spend much time on TJ’s pontoon, instead hunkering down by the bonfire during the evening hours and laughing and chatting throughout the day. All had a good time.

With our planned final attendance at Billy’s Bar and Grill in Anoka at 3:30 pm yesterday, I had to find a way to get there since TJ was dropping Tom off at Billy’s on their way back, all of which is in the northern suburbs, there was nothing I could do to get Tom than to drive the 45 minutes to Billy’s in Anoka from our hotel in Eden Prairie. I hadn’t driven a car in about two years.

Tom’s son TJ’s lake cabin in northern Minnesota.

My reflexes aren’t as good as they were years ago, so I questioned my ability to drive safely for such a distance, especially on a busy Friday afternoon with lots of traffic. We couldn’t expect any family members to drive Tom back to the hotel, resulting in a 90-minute or more round trip when everyone lives in the northern suburbs.

There were no other options than for me to make the drive. As suggested by Greg, it was better to leave early and wait for Tom and everyone else to arrive at Billy’s than for me to be stuck in slow-moving traffic. It was a great plan to leave the hotel at 2:15, even if I had to wait for awhile at the restaurant.

As it turned out, when I arrived around 3:00 pm, Tom was waiting for me in front of the restaurant. He didn’t call to tell me he’d arrived early to avoid me being distracted by a phone call during the drive. Well, driving is like “riding a bike”. You don’t forget how to do it. I was on extra alert.

Most of the drive was on the freeway, which I preferred over busy city streets. I did fine, mostly driving in the fast lane and staying up with traffic. It wasn’t nearly as intimidating as I thought it would be. Does this mean I will drive more in the future? Not necessarily. When we are in countries where driving is on the opposite side of the road from what we’re used to, and having to use a stick shift with my left hand, which is entirely useless, I will continue to let Tom do the driving.

Lake cabins are highly desired in Minnesota, with over 14,000 lakes. Often, they are this size on varying-sized lots. TJ has over two acres of land.

Also, in many countries, it’s an extra daily rate, up to $10 a day, for a spouse to drive a rental vehicle. That’s not worth it to us. Generally, a couple can each drive the car in the US without additional fees, but prices on rental cars are much higher in the US than in many other countries.

Again, we had a great time at Billy’s with the family. It was wonderful to see Tom’s adult niece, Kari. Also, next to me on the other side was another of Tom’s nieces, Jerri Lee, whom we hadn’t seen in years, along with several other nieces at the table. It was wonderful chatting with them and the others.

By about 6:30, we were back on the road to the hotel and had a quiet evening streaming a few shows. We’d finished binge-watching Formula 1 and had to search for something new. By 10:30, I was off to bed, but Tom, as usual, stayed up later.

Today is a quiet day. We have no plans other than deciding what to do for dinner tonight. I checked out GrubHub, for which I have a few coupons, but I found nothing we like. Also, we cringe at paying more for delivery food than if we went out to dinner. We shall see what the day brings.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, October 7, 2013:

This is one of our favorite photos with the lion with the remnants of his zebra lunch in the background, taken in the Maasaii Mara in Kenya on our first safari experience. Up close and personal! We were in a Toyota Land Cruiser with open sides, 25 feet from this lion. To our surprise, we never felt frightened or at risk at close range to any of these big animals, including this massive male lion who gave us a great show. For more photos, please click here.

The Minnesota Twins playoff baseball game…A fantastic experience at Target Field in Minneapolis…A special day ten years ago…

Grandson Miles, me, and my son Greg. We had a great time at the game.

I didn’t hesitate for a moment when Greg called and asked me to go with him and Miles to the second baseball playoff game (many more games to go) for the Minnesota Twins. After it was all set, I realized this could be a walking nightmare when my legs don’t work well.

There are several reasons my legs are weak and painful when walking. One, I have a terrible spine with herniated discs, for which my low inflammation diet controls back pain. Both my legs had two operations when they became infected after open heart surgery in 2019, damaging nerves. Three, after having COVID-19 in April 2022, walking became all the more difficult.

The bases were loaded.

I try to walk to strengthen my legs, but I can’t walk often enough or long enough to effect any change. It is a fact of my life I’ve had to face as it’s worsened considerably since COVID-19, during and after which I started having Afib (rapid inconsistent heart rate), pain in my left sinus causing face pain and headache, and the awful leg pain when walking more than short distances.

Of course, I am worried about this, especially with the upcoming hiking in the Galapagos. Our hiking boots arrived yesterday, and I hope wearing them will aid my walking. We shall know soon enough.

But attending the baseball game yesterday required a considerable amount of walking and climbing up and down stairs, and I did the best I could. Greg dropped us off at the closest location to the section with our seats at Target Field, and Miles and I began the trek while Greg parked the car.

Cellphone flashlights were turned on to encourage the team.

It was much harder than I’d expected. Not only did we have to climb several flights of steps with rushing crowds behind us, but we also had to walk a long distance and then climb more stairs to get to our seats. When we sat down, I was relieved but felt fine a few minutes after sitting. It isn’t that I get out of breath. I don’t.

Greg arrived at his seat next to me about 30 minutes later, having parked almost a mile away. The game began, and we enjoyed every moment. When my kids were young, we attended many baseball and hockey games in Minnesota. I managed to get World Series Tickets in 1987 and 1991 when the Twins won on both occasions, and we have fantastic memories of those games.

Firey screens lit up the field as the game progressed.

The Twins haven’t made it to the World Series since 1991, although fans have remained loyal and supportive. What a lively crowd there was last night, although it was cold and, at times, it drizzled a little. Greg brought an umbrella we never needed to use.

When the game was over, Greg took off to get the car while MIles, and I made our way to meet him at the intersection of 5th Stree and 5th Avenue. Fortunately, we could find a ramp that took us down to ground level, but the walk was long and difficult for me, and I felt my pulse rapidly increasing the longer we walked.

The Twins won 2-0.

About 25 minutes later, we spotted Greg and couldn’t get into the car fast enough. It was windy and cold, and we were both shivering, looking forward to the warmth of the car. Once situated and on our way, my pulse, over 100, wasn’t settling down. When Miles asked to go home instead of out to dinner since he wanted to meet up with his friends, Greg and I didn’t complain.

I didn’t want to tell them how I was feeling. Instead, we made our way through traffic, and by 8:00 pm, after leaving the hotel at 2:15 pm, I couldn’t get back to our hotel room quickly enough. At that point, my pulse was 140 and not going down. I didn’t panic but instead called my sister, Julie, in California, who also had long COVID-19 and Afib, and she walked me through some breathing techniques she learned when she suffered the same Afib symptoms.

The sounds of the crowd at the Minnesota Twin win were palpable.

In a matter of minutes after starting the diaphragmatic breathing technique, my pulse dropped to 65, and I was feeling so much better. She suggested I practice this breathing technique several times a day. Her Afib eventually went away entirely. I am hoping for the same. I am doing everything I can to stop these awful episodes, but I realize strenuous exercise is a trigger. Thus, I am concerned about how I will do while hiking in the Galapagos. I can only do my best to try to control it.

Nonetheless, I am not sorry I went to the game with Greg and Miles. We loved every moment during the exciting game, well-played by the”Twinkies,” their popular nickname.

Tom is up north with his daughter Tammy and son TJ until late tomorrow afternoon, when I hope to meet him at Billy’s in Anoka for the final family get-together before we depart. I will drive the rental car to Anoka since he won’t have a ride back.

Tonight, I will spend the evening with Madighan, who’ll arrive at the hotel around 4:30 or 5:00 pm. We will do some crocheting, watch a movie, and have dinner together.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, October 5, 2013:

Anderson, our safari guide in the Masaai Mara, Kenya, took us on an unplanned 90-minute safari rather than wait at the airstrip for another couple to arrive on a later flight. This was one of the first photos we took along the Mara River. Our tent is located on the banks of the river, where the hippos will awaken us with their hysterical morning calls. We couldn’t believe our eyes or our ears. For more photos, please click here.

Tom and the guys…Astounding dining discovery…Get-together with a friend this morning…Big event later today with family….

Tom’s railroad buddies, Jerry (left) and Steve.

Tom had a great time seeing a few of his railroad buddies, all retired, spending a few hours together, sharing stories from long ago and updates on their current lives. They all had a good time, although they aren’t all smiling in these two photos. Hopefully, he’ll have an opportunity to see more of his old friends next time we visit the US.

Today, Tom is leaving at 12:45 when son TJ and daughter Tammy are picking him up for a two-night stay at TJ’s cabin in northern Minnesota. He won’t return until Friday afternoon, hopefully in time for the last family gathering at Billy’s before we depart next Wednesday. I will miss him, but I have plans for tonight and tomorrow night with my family.

Yesterday was a quiet day. We had no specific plans and wondered what we’d do for dinner. Around 5:00 pm, when I started getting hungry (Tom eats a bigger breakfast), we decided to order unwiches (bread-free subway sandwiches)  from Jimmy John’s. We’d order online and then head five minutes from here to pick them up at their driveway, an easy plan.

Once we started adding ingredients we like to our bread-free sandwiches, our order totaled $45! This was a shocker. It didn’t include drinks or a side, just two sandwiches. But they aren’t filling without bread unless we get the large sizes. Then, we looked up prices at Champps Sports Bar for what we’d order if we dined at the local location, and moments later, we were in the car on our way there.

We each had a delicious filling meal: Cobb salad for me and burger and fries for Tom. I had one glass of wine, and Tom had a beer during “Happy Hour.” Our total bill, including the drinks, tax, and tip, was $55, only $10 more than we’d have paid for fast-food Jimmy Johns. If we hadn’t ordered drinks, which we wouldn’t have done at Jimmy Johns, the prices would have been the same for everything else. Wow! That’s surprising!

On the left, Kevin and JJ on the right.

In the month and a half we’ll have spent in the US, we didn’t eat any fast food. One reason is that it seldom works for me, but the other is the ridiculous cost of it now. A dinner at McDonald’s for one person can easily cost $20; with a burger, fries, chicken tenders, and a drink, it’s over $20 with tax. Can you imagine the cost for a family of four or five for a trip to this fast food restaurant? It could easily be close to $100, if not more.

It’s no wonder how stressed parents and singles are these days trying to make a living to support themselves and their families while living in the US. It was high when we left here 11 years ago, and it’s so much more now with inflation over the years, especially over the past few years when food and housing prices have escalated so much.

This morning, Lindsey, the adult daughter of Connie and Jeff (who passed away at our holiday home in Marloth Park last year). Lindsey was in Marloth Park with us through the sorrowful event, and catching up with her at 11:00 am this morning when she comes to see me at the hotel will be fun. It will be wonderful to see her again.

This afternoon at 2:00 pm, Greg and Miles will pick me up at the hotel to go to the second playoff baseball game for the Minnesota Twins at Target Field stadium in downtown Minneapolis. I am a little apprehensive about climbing all those steps at the stadium and standing in the crowded line for long periods. Hopefully, we’ll get there early enough to get situated in our seats.

Grandchild Madighan will come to spend the evening and have dinner with me tomorrow evening. Having time to ourselves for the first time since we arrived will be wonderful. I’m looking forward to tomorrow, as well—busy times.

That’s it for today, folks. We’ll be back tomorrow with new photos and more.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, October 4, 2013:

Our soft-sided bags for the tiny plane for the upcoming safari in the Masaai Mara. They said no shaped hard bags. For more photos, please click here.

Daytime get together with Tom and a few guys from work…Another evening with family…

Last night, grandson Vincent, daughter Tammy, and daughter-in-law Tracy joined us for dinner and trivia at Pizza Luce, walking distance from our hotel.

Tom didn’t order dinner last night when we met Tammy, Tracy, and Vincent at Pizza Luce for dinner and trivia. He could have ordered dinner since he ate the entire plate of garlic bread that accompanied my dinner, as shown below. My guy sure loved bread.

He’s loading up now, knowing eating bread will come to a quick end by the end of the month when we arrive at our holiday home in Ecuador, and I start cooking again. No bread is served with our homemade meals unless we have guests for dinner, and bread is an appropriate accompaniment.

My meatball meal was topped with sugar-free sauce and mozzarella cheese. No pasta. It was delicious.

However, bread and doughy things are popular with meals in Ecuador, so dining out will allow him to enjoy the local flour-laden flavors. We may dine out on Fridays and Saturdays as we’ve done in the past, but that will depend on the foods offered at the local restaurants. We shall see.

At this point, we are leaving the US in eight days on October 11. We are getting everything we can ready for our departure next Wednesday. We both ordered hiking boots this morning after the cruise line reminded us we’d need them for the Galapagos. They will arrive from Amazon by Thursday.

The plate of bread that came with my meal, which I handed over to Tom, knowing he’d love it even though he was still full from lunch with the guys.

Also, this morning, I ordered a swimsuit since a few years ago, we accidentally left all of our swimwear at the top of a closet on a cruise. There were three or four swimsuits I liked, and I had to order one today for the pool at the upcoming house in Ecuador.

At this point, we have everything we need. We’ve ordered quite a bit, replacing worn-out adapters, plugs, earbuds, and miscellaneous items we use. I was thrilled to be able to replace a worn-out pair of white leather Keds slip-on shoes, which are hard to find online.

Also, we took many old clothing items to Goodwill, and if they were worn, we tossed them in the trash, including my suitcase, which was now cracked and unusable. Tom hasn’t found a taker for his railroad memorabilia and is taking it to the Minnesota Transportation Museum, Jackson Street Roundhouse, to donate the entire lot. We’ll receive a tax-deductible receipt for the items.

Vincent’s large pizza.

Yesterday, at 1:00 pm, Tom met up with a few of his railroad buddies at a restaurant in Roseville and enjoyed the time with the guys. Tomorrow, we’ll post those photos.

Besides Tom dropping off the railroad stuff at the museum, we don’t have big plans today. Tonight, we’ll dine out at Champps, where we can always depend on fresh and consistent food. This morning, we had a light breakfast in the hotel restaurant, but my choices are limited. The only things I can eat are scrambled or hard-boiled eggs. I prefer the hard-boiled eggs since I know what I’m getting.

Tammy’s lasagne.

Soon, when I’m done uploading today’s post, I’ll be heading to a lounge area in the hotel to call my dear old friend Cathy, whom I didn’t get to see this time. I usually speak to my girlfriends from that room so Tom can continue to watch football games and listen to podcasts on his laptop.

I will post the photos from Tom’s afternoon with the guys tomorrow. But that’s it for today, dear readers. Enjoy your day!

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, October 3, 2013:

There were no photos posted on this date ten years ago. Instead, we posted about what we needed to bring on our first safari in Africa. For details, please click here.

Another busy day with family…”What, Me Worry?”..

Tammy is on the left, with Tracy across from her. Next to Tracy is Dana. We don’t know the names of the others at the table. Tom had a great time at the sports bar!

Yesterday was a busy day. At 10:30 am, we drove to Greg’s home in Chaska, where Tom dropped me off to spend time with Greg and Heather to do laundry and watch the Minnesota Vikings Game. Then, he drove one hour to meet up with Tammy, Tracy, and a few of their friends at a sports bar in Blaine to watch the Vikings game.

When I arrived, I immediately began doing the laundry to finish it as soon as possible. The grandkids didn’t come from their mom’s home until 4:00 pm, enabling us to spend a few minutes with them before we headed out. It was fun chatting with everyone, and it was a good day.

Tom enjoyed his time with Tammy, Tracy, and friends and had lunch while he was at the sports bar. When we returned to the hotel around 5:30, he wasn’t hungry, but I was. I’d only had two hard-boiled eggs for breakfast. We had leftover meat and raw vegetables from Costco, so I munched on those, which hit the spot. Later, I ate two little packages of Costco’s delicious seaweed snacks (20 calories each with 0 carbs) while we watched more episodes of Formula 1.

In the next few nights, we’ll finish the entire series of five seasons, loving every moment. If you can watch this fantastic series, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Wow! It was a thrill ride!

Tom said there were dozens of games on the countless TV screens in the bar.

Ten years ago, we wrote a post about worrying, as shown in today’s “ten-year-ago photo,” it had been a long time since we addressed this bothersome emotion. As time has marched on over these almost 11 years (29 days until the anniversary), we’ve worried less and less about our travels. Although we make booking errors on rare occasions and may find ourselves unprepared for circumstances, at this point, the only time we find ourselves worrying is about our health.

These past years have presented more health issues as we’ve aged, although we do everything possible to stay healthy. In my case, genetics are more aggressive than any lifestyle changes I can make. I continually research to see if I am missing something in this area and if I can add any new protocols that can improve things.

Right now, I am focused on discovering why I get Afib and if I can eventually stop this troublesome event that causes a person to worry when it happens. When it’s not happening, it’s easy to get caught up anticipating another attack, mainly when they frequently occur at night. It’s terrifying when one’s heart is pounding in their chest for hours, especially when trying to get some sleep.

At the end of April, I was in the hospital in Nelspruit, South Africa, for three days, having every medical test possible to see what was triggering it. No conclusion was made. I still have arterial disease, but my heart is healthy, and the cardiac bypass surgery was holding. Nothing pointed to a cause for Afib. I was given a drug that made me deathly ill, which I continue to carry with us but will only take in an emergency, not necessarily every time I get a few hours of pounding and fluttering.

The meds prescribed for this condition make me lethargic and so tired I need to lie down all day. Those types of side effects do not fit into our lives. Nor are we willing to stop enjoying our unique lives for me to lie in bed all day. I’ll take my chances.

The girls were doing some shots, but neither of us ever did shots. Too much alcohol for us lightweights.

As for Tom, his coughing continues to be a concern, and when we get situated in South America, he’s agreed to see a pulmonologist, but then again, the drugs prescribed for such conditions also cause severe side effects comparable to those from chemotherapy. We shall see what we find out and report back here.

At 6:00 pm, we’re meeting up with Tammy, Tracy, and Vincent for dinner and trivia across the parking lot from the hotel at Pizza Luce. We’ll get there early to ensure we get a good table in the bar for the trivia game, which starts at 7:00 pm.

Tom is off today at noon to meet up with old friends/railroad guys in Roseville, a 45-minute drive from here, and will surely get back in time for our evening with family.

In a mere nine days, we’ll be leaving Minnesota for South America, looking forward to a wonderful experience in The Galapagos and four nights in a hotel in Quito included in our cruise fare. If the altitude doesn’t bother us, we go out on the planned walking tours. Otherwise, we’ll hang out at the lovely hotel for low-key days.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, October 2, 2013:

Please read the post for the significance of this photo of Alfred E. Newman by clicking here.

Photo of Tom’s family at Billy’s Bar & Grill…

Tom, sitting next to me. A little smile.

Sorry about the less-than-ideal photos we’re posting today. From where I was seated, locked in place by other diners and family members, I did my best using my phone. Nonetheless, we had a great time, from our chairs and when we finally could maneuver closer to chat with those at the end of the table.

Tom’s family are delightful people, each with their unique sense of humor and all with a dedication and love for one another. When I first met everyone 32 years ago, I didn’t feel as if I fit in. They told and retold countless delightful stories of their childhood experiences.

But, as the years passed and the families grew, the stories became an integral part of all of their past experiences with them. I rarely missed a family event and eventually felt a part of this big family. If they had a party and included everyone, it would be well over 100 people.

On the left is Tom’s niece, Trish’s husband Jason, Trish, and his sister Margie (standing) next to Erika, Tom’s grand-niece, Paulette, and Tom’s great-grand niece Addison. The remainder of the group can’t be seen, except for Eugene, sister Mary Ellen’s husband.

Of the newest generation, we’ve only met some, not all, and if those 100+ people were at a barbecue, even Tom wouldn’t know some of the youngsters, many of whom are now teenagers and older, how the time has flown. Thirty-two years is a long time.

And now, as we approach the 11-year mark of traveling the world, we recognize even less as they’ve grown while we’ve been away. With Tom, the youngest of his siblings, the oldest generation, including us, seems so much older than the others; it is simply a fact of life as we age.

This morning, I’m rushing through this when, at 10:30, Tom will drop me off in Chaska to watch the Vikings game at noon with my son Greg. I’m bringing a laundry bag while there, which is a significant relief when getting it done at the hotel is such a hassle. As mentioned, they have an agreement with the hotel across the way to use their one washer and dryer. Their patrons often use it, so we must walk back and forth repeatedly to get a few loads done.

It was so crowded I couldn’t get around the table for better photos—Margie, daughter Paulette, and her adorable granddaughter Addison. We were thrilled that so many came to say hello.

After Tom drops me off, he’ll drive to a sports bar in Blaine, an hour away, to meet with daughter Tammy to also watch the Vikings game. Most likely, he’ll have lunch there. We still have enough food left in the little fridge for me to eat tonight for dinner. We won’t have to go out.

Yesterday, we had a quiet day, We had no plans other than to go out to dinner at Jimmy’s but were sorely disappointed when our meat was overcooked. Neither of us felt like ordering a new serving, and we ate it. I mentioned it to the server, and she offered to replace it, but when we didn’t feel like waiting, she took the cost of my one glass of wine off the bill.

I’d rather have the better-tasting meat but didn’t make a fuss. By 7:00 pm, we were back at the hotel to relax and stream a few shows. I hadn’t slept well the prior night, and by 9:30, I needed to head off to bed. Within a half hour, I was sound asleep and slept peacefully through the night.

Tammy, sister Colleen, and Tom’s grand nephew Jacoby. It was so loud in the place I couldn’t get everyone’s attention for photos without screaming. I chose unposed photos instead of raising my voice.

This morning, we went down to breakfast at 9:00 pm. The restaurant was out of hard-boiled eggs and fresh cream for the coffee. Instead, we used those disgusting little pods of half and half. The hotel is packed every weekend. This weekend, we think it’s attendees of the Renaissance Festival, held about 15 minutes from here.

By tomorrow at noon, they all will have left, and it will be peaceful here once again as we spend our final ten days in Minnesota, spending as much time as possible with family and friends. This time we’re here has been the busiest of any time we visited in the past, as well as the longest period we’ve been here, a little over a month.

The Minnesota Vikings have lost 3 out of 3 games. Maybe today, their luck will turn around for a more exciting game.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, October 1, 2013:

On this date, while still in Kenya, we booked an upcoming hotel, Club Intrawest Condo Hotel in Vancouver. British Columbia for September 2014. For more photos, please click here.