Exciting news from the bush with short video…Trying to find our missing bags…

Louise sent us this short video of Nina’s new baby, born only a few days ago. Once we return to Marloth Park, we’ll be excited to see dad Norman, son Noah, Nina, and the yet-to-be unnamed baby, whom we’ll name once we know the sex. Of course, her or his name will begin with the letter “N.”

It will be interesting to see how Norman and his son Noah react to the little one. We’ll post videos, and photos and write about the exciting new life in the bush. What a magical experience! It will certainly be fun to see the now family of four when we return in about ten days.

We’re still experiencing a bit of angst over our lost baggage. Tom wasn’t able to get the required claim form during the three hours he spent at the Johannesburg Tambo Airport on Friday. The actual claim numbers on the two tickets were illegible. The printer must have been running out of ink. No one was able to read the numbers. Now we’re trying to call Airlink but keep getting disconnected or the call doesn’t go through.

It’s frustrating, to say the least. I think we need to wait to deal with this until we return to Joburg airport next Friday, conduct another search for our bags and get the proper claim form completed and processed. We have zero confidence that the claim Tom made while he spent three hours at the airport will be attended to without the numbers being legible. What a mess! We are trying to reach Airlink where the tags were issued but they don’t answer their phone or the line is busy.

In the meanwhile, we need to apply for a new ten-year passport. Our ten-year passport expired which we replaced with a four-year passport a few years ago. Since Covid, the handling of passport renewals is tricky and cumbersome especially when we are living outside the US. It appears, our only option will be to fly or drive to the US embassy in Joburg, Pretoria, or Cape Town once we get back to South Africa to handle this.

As for today, we are picking up Tammy and grandson Vincent at their home at 1:15 pm to drive to Tom’s brother Jerome’s home where we’ll meet up with Tom’s sisters Patty and Colleen. We’ll all stay for a long visit and later head out to dinner. It will be wonderful to spend time with them, as it has been with other family members.

On another note, Tom has been unable to use his laptop or set up his new Google Pixel 6a phone since he was cut off from his Google account the day after we arrived, for no known reason. It’s been frustrating for him to be without the use of his laptop since Sunday. Hopefully, when we have our appointment tomorrow morning at the Geek Squad at Best Buy we will get this resolved.

At the moment, I am on hold with Ethiopian Air’s lost baggage department. They are trying to locate our bags. Hopefully, we will get some good news. The important thing is to get the bags back to Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger Airport so we don’t have to pay for excess baggage fees when we return. We had to book and pay for another flight from Joburg to Nelspruit which is a domestic flight and has strict weight restrictions. If the bags are returned to Nelspruit we can pick them up there when we arrive on December 10.

Ah, I got disconnected. It’s all a series of errors that is almost laughable. I’ll be glad to get out today and away from all of this confusion and disharmony. It’s always a welcomed relief and pleasure to be with our loved ones and escape from all this paperwork and forms.

I just got off the phone with the Ethiopian Air baggage claim department. Our bags are in Addis Ababa. Hopefully, they will forward them to Joburg and then on to Nelspruit. We can only wait and see what transpires.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, November 30, 2021:

Such pretty animals. The waterbuck is a large antelope found widely in sub-Saharan Africa. It is placed in the genus Kobus of the family Bovidae. Irish naturalist William Ogilby first described it in 1833. Its 13 subspecies are grouped under two varieties: the common or ellipsiprymnus waterbuck and the defassa waterbuck. For more photos, please click here.

On the move again…We’re off to Las Vegas…

The pool at the Green Valley Ranch Resort and Spa where we’ll arrive later today.

The thought of the upcoming trip to Las Vegas is a bit intimidating. Neither of us is feeling as well as we’d like to be able to travel. Knowing that in one week from today, the two travel days to Marloth Park are even more intimidating, but hopefully, we’ll have recovered all the more by then.

Tom is still coughing, considerably more than me, but I have the fierce Covid headache that comes and goes along with a lesser cough and lots of congestion. We are not our usual “travel-ready” selves. We have no idea how the airplane’s cabin pressure will feel right now.

But, it was only two weeks ago that we flew the long distance from the UK to Minnesota when our symptoms were worse (we tested negative), and the journey was over 12 hours from airport to airport. I barely remember that trip except for the several movies we watched during the flight.

There are rarely entertainment screens on these shorter US domestic flights, so the 3½ hours will drag on. There’s no point in upgrading to business class for this short flight. We’ll check into upgrading when we fly back to South Africa a week from today. Gosh, that’s coming up quickly.

We would have flown back to South Africa from the UK two weeks ago in a perfect world. But, we’d already paid for all of our flights and hotels in advance and wouldn’t get refunds, only credits which we may or may not be able to use in the future with time restrictions on them. We assumed we’d feel better at some point and be able to continue with our plans to see family, but it just didn’t work out that way.

As it turned out, yesterday afternoon, we drove out to son Greg’s house and saw the three grandkids and Greg, who greeted us outside while we stayed in the car wearing masks. Miles had yet to get a negative Covid test, and we couldn’t take any chances. That’s not to say we won’t have risks flying on an airplane when the US doesn’t require Covid tests to fly on domestic flights. Ah, you can run, but you can’t hide from this pandemic. It’s everywhere.

It was wonderful to see the sweet smiling faces, all wearing braces, of the three teenagers and Greg. Camille wasn’t feeling well and was sick in bed, so we didn’t see her. It was only for a few minutes with no hugs and kisses, but we were glad we saw them.

  • It didn’t work out to see Tom’s family members. We can only look forward to the next time we visit the USA when that is up for grabs. We don’t have a clue when we will return. When we can start booking again, we’ll have a better idea.

We asked for and received a late check out from our hotel today. We’ll head out around 1:00 pm, drop off the rental car, and head to the gate to wait for the flight. Last night, Tom checked us in for the Delta flight and paid for our bags, US $140 for all of our checked bags. We had more bags this time due to the extra dressy clothes for the Cunard Queen Mary 2 cruise, on which we never sailed due to contracting Covid-19 on the last two days on the Celebrity Silhouette cruise.

Ah, this wasn’t the ideal travel experience we usually encounter. But, this could have happened to anyone, anywhere, at any time. No one is exempt from this virus regardless of how hard we’ve tried to stay safe over the past few years.

We’ll make the best of this last week in the US and then be on our way back to the safe haven we’ve found in the bush. The thought of being back in Marloth Park by May 24th is comforting.

Next time we write, we’ll be doing so from the comfort of our lovely hotel room at the Green Valley Ranch Resort and Spa in Henderson, Nevada.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, May 15, 2021:

He ate pellets, left, walked around the house, and returned to the garden, thinking we might assume he’s someone new and offer more pellets. The warthogs and bushbucks are good at this maneuver. For more photos, please click here.

Fantastic interview at Garage Logic’s studio…

Please click on the above video for a shortened version of our Garage Logic interview. See below for the full interview.

5/6 We finally get to meet the traveling Lymans, Tom and Jessica, who were so spellbinding that they became today's episode

Please click on the above bold type to access the audio version of our interview with Joe Soucheray of Garage Logic.

After a difficult night for both of us, coughing and sneezing, we wondered how we got ready to head to St. Paul to the KSTP studio for our interview with Joe Soucheray and his co-hosts Chris Reuvers and Kenny Olson.

The idea of the 30-minute drive in traffic was daunting in itself, let alone being able to sit in the studio and tell our story as questions were posed to us. Once, we were greeted in the lobby by co-host Chris, who walked us down a long hallway to the Garage Logic studio.

Once we entered the studio, we forgot about our lingering coughs, and magic happened. Joe is an exceptional interviewer, and his two co-hosts frequently jumped in with thouhgt provoking comments and questions. Our interview was planned for 15 minutes, and it ended up taking up the entire show. We had so much fun it could easily have gone longer.

We’d both taken 12-hour doses of cough medicine a few hours before the event, hoping we’d make it through. Tom did well, although listening to the podcast later, it was easy to determine he was very stuffed up. I had to hold back a coughing jag on one instance. Also, the sound of my voice was unfamiliar when later listening to the podcast.

Our answers flowed with ease, along with Tom interspersing tidbits of humor, which he often does in general conversation. We all laughed with gusto on many occasions.

Over the past 9½ years of traveling the world, we’ve easily developed a way of sharing morsels of our experiences where we each take turns adding highlights of our experiences. Joe, Chris, and Kenny easily made this familiar banter flow with all the more fluidity than ever.

We couldn’t stop smiling throughout the entire interview. Telling our story only reminds us of how fortunate we are to live this unique lifestyle, be together as this well-matched couple during these experiences, and have developed a financial plan that allows us to continue traveling indefinitely.

Sometimes, it takes a scenario like this to remind us how grateful we are, especially after suffering from Covid-19 since April 20, when we first tested positive aboard the transatlantic cruise from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Southampton, England. Due to our positive diagnosis, we had to cancel our scheduled Queen Mary 2 cruise, sailing on April 24, arriving in New York on May 1, when we’d planned to fly to Minneapolis, Minnesota, to see family.

Not only were we too sick to go on the return cruise, but we continued to test positive until April 28, 29, and 30th, when we felt safe booking the flight from Gatwick Airport in London to Minneapolis for May 1, our original date of arrival after the Queen Mary 2 cruise.

Unfortunately, we purchased dressy clothes for the upscale cruise, which we won’t be able to wear when until we can use the full-fare credit for a future cruise on Cunard. We’ve had to haul those clothes with us this past month.

We couldn’t get a refund based on canceling last minute due to Covid. Hopefully, by the end of 2024, when the future cruise credit expires, we can book another cruise with this cruise line and use the credit. If not, it becomes another loss we’ve incurred due to the worldwide pandemic. Our losses over the past two years are in the $1000s.

Once we said our goodbyes to our hosts and thanked them for inviting us to the show, we headed back to our hotel. In the interim, we had a fantastic break from our current situation to revel in being guests of the Garage Logic show/podcast. We felt temporarily rejuvenated, but the reality remained that we had a way to go to recover from this dreadful virus.

With their over 2,000,000 listeners, we’ve received countless email messages, warm greetings, and hits on our website after the podcast aired yesterday afternoon. Thank you, everyone!  What a boost for us!

Thanks to Joe, Chris, and Kenny for inviting us to this special experience, one we’ll never forget.

Photo from one year ago today, May 7, 2021:

We later named this young male bushbuck, Spikey. For more photos, please click here.

Did we come to Minnesota only to be disappointed?…

MINNEAPOLIS – JUNE 14: The Spoonbridge and Cherry at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden on June 14, 2014, in Minneapolis, MN. It is one of the largest urban sculpture gardens in the country. Not our photo.

We were hoping to see family tonight. But when, yesterday morning, DIL Camille wrote that grandson Miles tested positive for Covid-19, we knew that wasn’t possible. Sure, we may not be contagious anymore. But, there is too much unknown data about contracting one variant after another.

Miles was infected here in Minnesota. We were infected on the cruise. Is there a chance we could become infected with a different variant? After doing considerable research, it’s unlikely but…it is possible. Also, are we contagious after testing negative three days in a row, over a week ago? Probably not.

My cough is considerably better, and I no longer need cough medicine. But, our big concern is the residual coughing from which both of us are suffering after most of the other Omicron symptoms have dissipated. Could it be contagious and only provide added risk for our family members? But not Tom. He is still sick.

We had a plan to meet up with Tom’s siblings on Friday, but now we won’t. Since Omicron variants are causing many infections in Minnesota.  We’d feel terrible if one of his siblings became ill after being around us. Is it best to stay away? We aren’t sure.

Yes, we’ve stayed in enough hotel rooms in the past few years. Besides, Tom isn’t up to going out right now and the long drive to Anoka, 40 minutes from our hotel. Instead, we stay hunkered down in ongoing isolation, reminiscent of bygone days in India in 2020.

Last night, we ordered enough dinner for two nights, so we won’t have to head out this evening during rush hour. We ordered online from Jimmy John’s, where they make the delicious “unwich,” the large subway-type sandwiches we love using large romaine lettuce leaves instead of bread. As previously mentioned in past posts, we often make these tasty sandwiches when we have access to quality gluten-free meats.

You may ask, why don’t we use a delivery service? We recently used England’s Deliveroo food delivery service when we didn’t have a car. But the hassle of waiting for the delivery outside the hotel in the cold was annoying, and each time the food and delivery were different.

When you’re sick and have an appetite as we have, the big highlight of the day is the next meal. Here, with a rental car, it’s easier to order our food online, inspect it when it’s ready, and then be on our way. Tonight will be a breeze.

This morning, we went to Walgreen’s pharmacy to get Tom more cough medicine and mentholated cough drops. We’d purchased several bags of sugar-free cough drops, but none were mentholated, which seems to be more helpful. Also, we bought daytime cough medicine, which is supposed to last for 12 hours. We’ll see how that goes.

It’s interesting to observe how pharmacists are less helpful in the US than in South Africa. In the US, liability is a huge concern for pharmacists (and other medical professionals), so they are less inclined to be aggressive with their suggestions. Mostly, their answers to questions are vague.

We’ve purchased many medications in other countries not requiring a doctor’s prescription. That’s not the case here. The pharmacists we use in Komatipoort are incredibly straightforward with their suggestions and don’t hesitate to “prescribe” what they think is safe and suitable for the patient.

Our current dilemma is: Will we be able to see family while we’re here? The answer is uncertain. Ultimately, our visit to the US may prove pointless if we cannot see those we love.

We apologize for the lack of photos. We’re hardly in a position to be taking photos right now.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, May 5, 2021:

Wildebeest Willie, whom we later renamed Broken Horn, became a regular visitor, stopping by a few times each day. For more photos, please click here.

On the mend?…Recovery is slow…

Aerial View of Minneapolis and the Mississippi River in summer

Yesterday was a restful day. The only tasks we tackled were two loads of laundry and heading out to the nearby Chipotle to get takeaway dinner. I’ve always been a big Chipotle fan since the bowls with lettuce, meat, cheese, sour cream, and guacamole work great for my way of eating.

On the other hand, Tom is less interested in Chipotle, but for convenience’s sake, he ordered four soft tacos and a bag of tortilla chips. He doesn’t care for guacamole. We will see what transpires tonight for dinner and if we’ll be getting together with family, which we hope to do.

Tom is recovering from Covid-19 slowly. At this point, his cough is much worse than mine, which is improving each day. Last night, he coughed off and on with only a few hours of relief from Nyquil. I was so tired I slept through most of his coughing, which as a light sleeper, is unusual for me. For the first time in two weeks, I awoke today feeling pretty good,

My Fitbit logged almost eight hours of sleep, and after not needing a nap yesterday, I am confident I am on the mend. But Tom, on the other hand, is coughing a lot, although otherwise is feeling better. The heavy feeling of exhaustion is finally leaving both of us.

The media is ranting about new variants coming out of South Africa. However, when researching statistics on Worldometer here, it is clear it’s not the case. Yesterday, in the US, there were 40,784 new cases of the virus, but in South Africa, yesterday, there were a total of 2,650 new cases.

Sure, the population in the US versus South Africa’s population is seven times greater. But doing the math doesn’t indicate that the virus is more prevalent in South Africa than in the US. The US continues to be in the top position in the number of cases over anywhere else in the world.

There is no doubt that accuracy in the number of cases is still questionable since the onset of the pandemic. Accurately recording cases can vary substantially based on poor systems in place to document testing results.

Nonetheless, we will proceed with caution while here in the US, as we do in any country we visit in our world travels. After having Covid-19, we don’t take for granted that we have added immunity that will protect us in the future. In reality, the protection we’ve gleaned from having the virus may be very short-lived based on our research thus far.

We were safe for the 14 months we spent in Marloth Park, and we hope to maintain that same level of safety when we return in 19 days. However, we are concerned about the several future cruises we have booked. We can only wait and see how things roll out.

Fortunately, all of our future cruises are on the small ships of the Azamara Cruise Line, which typically hold about 600 passengers. With most cruises running at about 60% occupancy since the onset of the pandemic, most likely, there will be less than 400 passengers onboard as opposed to the 1288 passengers there were on the Celebrity Silhouette, where we tested positive the last few days.

We are waiting to hear from family as to plans to get together. We understand if there is hesitancy in seeing us based on our recent infection. We will see how it all rolls out.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, May 3, 2021:

There were nine zebras in the garden, staying for over an hour. For more photos, please click here.

Photo facts we must face while in the midwest…Happy 4th of July to our family and friends in the USA!

Little, please be there when we return at the end of the month!

After signing up for a membership for $60 yesterday at Costco, I was a bit frustrated. Once again, Tom dropped me off to shop, with a plan to pick me up when I was done and called him. I was surprised to discover a new policy after being a Costco member for many years, except for the past nine years since we’ve been gone.

The customer’s credit card to sign up for the membership will automatically be set for future renewals. In concept, this doesn’t sound so bad. But, the only way I can cancel the automatic renewal is to call and talk to a manager after we are no longer using the Costco membership when we leave the US. Why can’t I go online and do this?

Having to call, be on hold, and explain our circumstances to a manager is a big waste of time. Sure, they want to make it difficult for customers to cancel to maintain their vast customer base. I get that, but such policies when it comes to us are archaic and out of date in today’s technological world.

Now, I’ve had to mark my calendar to remember to call Costco when we leave Minnesota on July 16th to head to Milwaukee. The main reason we signed up was to purchase a camera. Once in the store, I discovered Costco no longer sells cameras in their store or online. Maybe they found it wasn’t worthwhile during the pandemic. Who knows?

I have a mental block about learning new camera techniques. It’s just one of those things I am not fascinated to learn. I know how beneficial it would be for me to become more adept at taking photos. But when it comes to wildlife, there isn’t much time to change settings and lenses when the magic happens quickly in the garden or a national park. So, now I begin searching for the best camera for our use, which hopefully won’t require a lot of my time to learn to use.

In the interim, when photo ops present themselves, I will have no choice but to use my phone to take the photos. With Chromebook, getting the images from the phone to the computer is time-consuming and tricky. By the time we leave the US, three weeks from today, we’ll have a new camera and can begin retaking photos.

As for today, Independence Day, aka the 4th of July, we changed our plans from visiting an old friend and neighbor since fireworks on the lake were canceled this year due to Covid. Go figure. What does a virus have to do with fireworks? In any case, I sent Nelleke a message, thanking her for thinking of us, and explained we’d be celebrating the 4th with Greg’s family at their home.

I will be preparing most of the meal but wanted to keep it easy. Since we aren’t planning to arrive at their home until 2:00 pm, I will be busy once we first arrive at their home, getting the cake baked, cooled, and decorated, the ribs in the oven, and later on, the grill preparing the garlic bread and sweet corn. Camille will make potatoes.

We purchased several Costco rotisserie chickens, which we’ll reheat 30 minutes before dining. This makes for an easy meal, leaving more time together instead of being stuck in the kitchen. In my old life, I’d be cooking for hours on the 4th of July, but nowadays, my interest in cooking is marginal at best.

While back at the hotel, we washed, dried, and folded clothes, especially after Tom’s lost bag was delivered from United Airlines, with everything intact. The only issue was my container of Himalayan salt spilled all over his clothes. We had to wash everything to get the salt out.

Last night, we stayed at the hotel after several shopping trips. We were both still exhausted after failing to catch up on sleep. We dined on one of those enormous Costco chickens in our hotel room, streamed a few shows, and fell asleep early, hoping for an 8 hour night. It just didn’t happen. We’re still on South Africa time, 7 hours later than Minnesota. I suppose we’ll adapt in the next few days.

Be well, everyone. Continue to follow safety protocols wherever you may be. We’ve had no ill effects from taking the Covid-19, J & J vaccine, other than Tom’s sore arm. Be safe.

Photo from one year ago today, July 4, 2020:

In Trinity Beach, Australia, vegetation growing in the lake at the Cattana Wetlands created this view. For more photos, please click here.

Finally, back to normal…Tom’s missing luggage…Off to Costco for a new camera and more…Our new living quarters…

We can always count on Mr. Hornbill making a noisy appearance.

Yesterday, we both were hanging by a thread, out of sorts and outrageously exhausted from lack of sleep. This morning, it’s a new day! We thought we had jet lag for the first time, but after sleeping last night after taking a melatonin product called Pure ZZZs, we are back to our “old’ selves feeling alert, energized, and ready to tackle a new day.

As it turned out, we had a great time yesterday, amid our exhaustion. Tom had breakfast in the small self-serve dining area in the morning, which offers “Jimmy Dean, egg McMuffin knock-offs,” Tom didn’t like cold cereals, sweet yogurts, fruit, snack bars, and hard-boiled eggs. The only item I could eat would have been the boiled eggs, but I wasn’t interested in them. Instead, I had a cup of decaf coffee which tasted pretty good.

Tom hates shopping, and he was so wiped out, it would have been impossible for him to dig through all the sizes and styles of jeans in the store. When we were back to our suite by 8:00 am, I offered to go to the only store open that early in the mall, Target, and purchase jeans, tee-shirts, button-shirts, socks, underwear, and a razor. I felt pretty good and got through the process without a hitch.

Everything turned out well and fit him perfectly. His 3-day old clothes were ready for a wash. Fortunately, there are laundry facilities at this hotel. With some free time this afternoon, we’ll be able to get the laundry done after shopping at Costco, a few blocks from here, where we’ll buy a new camera and food for tomorrow’s 4th of July barbecue at Greg and Camille’s house. I offered to do most cooking to give them a break since they are still unpacking from their recent move to their beautiful new home.

Yesterday morning, we went to see their new house, with me going to lunch with Greg, Camille, and my three grandchildren while Tom desperately needed a nap and returned to the hotel. Greg dropped me off back at the hotel by 2:30 pm, so Tom and I could head to Anoka for happy hour and dinner with his siblings and other family members. Again, we had a great time.

As for the hotel, at first, we were sorely disappointed and considered moving to a different location. It reminded us of an apartment building we may have lived in, in the ’70s or earlier. We seriously considered leaving when the WiFi didn’t work in our suite, and I had to call technical support. There was no way we could be in a hotel without working solid WiFi.

After talking to tech guy Chris on the phone, he figured out the problem, and in no time at all, we had a strong working signal. At that point, we decided to stay. The suite was clean, well-maintained, and had most amenities we required. Cleaning service was offered only once a week, but we requested twice a week, and they complied without additional cost.

The location is very convenient for us, somewhat centrally located for both families. We have a partial living room, good air-con, a full kitchen, and an adequate bathroom. Parking is right outside the main door. It will be fine for us for the remaining 13 days until we leave on the road trip for Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to see Tom’s sister Betty, the retired nun in a nursing home.

With the shortage of workers in most commercial situations, the Marriott hotel had stopped daily maid service. Of course, this is all due to Covid-19, the same scenario I experienced at Target. Not enough employees and lots and lots of empty shelves, something I’d never seen at a Target store. A few blocks from here, the remaining stores in the Eden Prairie Mall don’t open until 11:00 am due to a lack of staff and shoppers due to Covid-19.

Friend Linda texted this morning to say that South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa will do another speech on Sunday night, called a “family meeting.” Cases of Covid-19 are still rising after the newest lockdown, and we’re anticipating that more lockdown measures may be instituted. We’re hoping, closing of the borders won’t be included.

We left the old camera in Marloth Park with the intent of purchasing a new one. In a few days, I’ll add some new photos once we get the new camera. So that’s it for today, folks. Tomorrow is the big 4th of July celebration, and like most other Americans, we’ll be celebrating with good food, fun, and fireworks.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, July 3, 2020:

Photo from a mall in Singapore. The displays with menu options are meant to whet the appetite. For more photos, please click here.

Day #4…We’re “back in the USA!”…

Mongoose and kudus in the side garden,  munching on treats we tossed their way.

The lyrics to the song written by Chuck Berry, “Back in the USA,” (see the link here), are as follows and ring true today in many ways;  “Chuck Berry first issued the song on Chess Records in 1959 as a single which reached number 37 in the Billboard Hot 100. The song’s lyrics were supposedly written based upon Berry returning to the United States following a trip to Australia and witnessing the living standards of Australian Aborigines.”

Lyrics
“I woke up to a bitter storm (bitter year)
And Noah’s Ark came washed up on the shore
The riot gear has lined the dawn (bitter year)
Like dogs that shit on your neighbor’s lawn
Let freedom ring with all the crazies on parade
Let them eat poison, and it tastes like lemonade
Back in the USA for a small town serenade
With fireworks on display
Tonight, it’s a hero’s welcome home
And there’s no place to go
And I’m taking it to the grave
Back in the USA
The saddest story ever told (bitter year)
Is feeling safe in our suburban homes
Like soldiers of an endless war (bitter year)
And every church can have a liquor store
Let freedom ring with all the crazies on parade
Let them eat poison, and it tastes like lemonade
Back in the USA for a small town serenade
With fireworks on display
Tonight, it’s a hero’s welcome home
And there’s no place to go
And I’m taking it to the grave
Back in the USA”
Many of these words remind me of the trials and challenges most of us faced during the past 18 months of the pandemic. The music to this song is an “earworm” playing over and over again in my head, as we both deal with a severe lack of sleep since Tuesday night, In total, we each may have slept only  10 to 12 hours, and we’re both feeling the brunt of the long journey.
I knew that preparing a post today wasn’t going to be easy. So, on the last leg from Chicago to Minneapolis, I wrote the following on my phone when I had a sudden burst of energy. Doing so made the short 55-minute flight fly by quickly and read as follows:

“I wrote today’s post while on the flight yesterday afternoon from Chicago to Minneapolis. Packed like sardines on the United Airlines Airbus with nary an empty seat, we should be landing in MSP in less than 90 minutes.

Our long journey, albeit tiring, was moving along seamlessly until we arrived in Chicago. Several things went wrong, and honestly, aside from the loss of Tom’s suitcase, it’s not worth getting into each of the other issues.
Facing time constraints with our upcoming Covid-19 vaccines scheduled for 5:45 at the MSP airport, the inconvenience of filing a claim for the lost luggage put us in a severe time crunch.  Maneuvering back and forth to the vaccine center in the terminal and baggage claim area will keep us busy.
The 5:45 pm vaccine times for both of us is a priority over filing the claim. We’ll have to juggle picking up my one bag, making the lost luggage claim, and keeping the vaccine appointments. On an average day, this would be no big deal. After traveling for three days with only a few hours’ sleep, we’re both raggedy and out of sorts.
I haven’t eaten anything all day, and Tom ate high-carb, primarily junk food. We need a shower, good food, clean clothes, and sleep. (Oh yeah, Tom doesn’t have any clothes other than what he’s worn since Tuesday morning when we left Marloth Park).
We’ll see how all of that goes. Now, if we can get the vaccine without incident, I won’t complain too loudly. Tom, sitting across the aisle from me in the “sardine can,” reminded me, “Eight years, eight months, and we never lost a bag!”
I laughed! We have been pretty lucky, haven’t we?
Ah, after a good night’s sleep and food, our attitudes will change exponentially. We’ll report back as to how all of this evolved in tomorrow’s post. Please check back for the update.”
We’re at “tomorrow,” and we wanted to update our readers on our receiving the J & J vaccine, surprisingly in the airport upon arrival. Before heading to the luggage area, since we didn’t have enough time to do both, we made our way with our two carry-on bags to see if we could be vaccinated a few minutes earlier than the 5:45 appointment time.
The two very professional nurses were delighted to have some vaccine recipients. They mentioned, “the business has been slow with few passengers interested in getting the vaccine. In the early part of June, when they first started offering the jabs, they were busy. But, in the entire 45 minutes we were with them, including a 30 minutes waiting period after the jab, not another patient appeared.
As it turned out, we chatted with them during our waiting period, and the time flew by. It didn’t allow us to be concerned or worry about possible side effects. Neither of us experienced a thing. Even today, as tired as we are, we have not had a single twinge of any reaction or side effect.
When done, we headed to the baggage area, picked up my bag, and filed a claim for Tom’s. They have no idea when his bag will arrive. Today, he has to buy some clothes, after wearing the same things since Tuesday. I couldn’t get my clothes off fast enough to sit on the bed and eat my Chipotle bowl. Oh, what a treat that was! Tom did Wendy’s.
Dining around here will be easy. We’re in an area where there are tons of takeaway and eat-in restaurants. Plus, we’re across the road from Eden Prairie Shopping Mall, making it easy for any shopping we need to do, mainly the clothes Tom needs to buy today until his suitcase arrives, if it does at all.
That’s it for today. We’ll be back tomorrow with some unusual details about our hotel. Please check back.
Photo from one year ago today, June 2, 2020:
This flock of ostriches is often found in a particular area near the river we often visit when on daily drives. Note the chick on the far left. For more photos, please click here.

It’s all good…Releasing apprehension…

Two years ago today, this elephant seal on Steeple Jason Island didn’t care for our photo-taking antics. For more photos, please click here.
This trip to India will be my first foray into testing my “new normal” after having open heart surgery almost one year ago on February 12, 2019. Of course, there’s a little apprehension about the prospect of the long upcoming flights and the busy days in India where we’ll be on a guided tour for 55 days, doing something new and different every day.
The past year was spent with considerable downtime, allowing me to heal at my own pace, rarely feeling rushed or imposed upon with responsibilities and obligations I couldn’t easily handle.
Now that we’re facing a very long flight of almost 30 hours, this time in coach, not business class, which includes an 8-hour layover and two overnight flights on either end, no doubt, I am a little apprehensive.
Neither of us can sleep sitting up. Sure, once in a while, we nod off while watching a show, perhaps dozing for five or ten minutes at most. Also, the seats on a plane aren’t nearly as comfortable as a recliner or sofa in any of our past vacation/holiday homes.
Oddly, this flight includes two overnight flights. That transpires due to the fact of the various time changes and the 8-hour daytime layover in London. I’m not looking forward to it. Then again, neither of us ever looks forward to flying, mainly due to layovers, lots of waiting, and uncomfortable seating.
As for the priority lounge, we’ve decided to check them out once we arrive at Heathrow Airport. We’ve been reading varying reviews on these lounges and feel it’s essential to see what they’re like before spending the extra fees, some of which are close to $200 for the two of us. We shall see.
As for today, we’ll slow down the socializing, although this afternoon, after we’ve done the laundry and packed what we’re keeping into our respective suitcases, we’re meeting up with Eugene and Gene for one final round of buck euchre.
After playing cards, we’ll head back to our place to have dinner and do any last-minute packing. Although we don’t have to leave for the airport until late afternoon on Wednesday, we’d like to have almost everything handled by the end of today, leaving us free for a few last-minute tasks such as returning the furniture to its original positions tidying up the park model.
Tomorrow, we’ll post the final expenses for our 82 days in Minnesota, Nevada, and Arizona in the US, which began on November 8, 2019, and ended on January 29, 2020. I’ve already put together all of the numbers but didn’t include the cost for new clothing and digital equipment we’d purchased while here.
Regardless of a smidgen of apprehension, I’m mentally and physically prepared for the challenge ahead, as is Tom. Once we are settled into our hotel in Mumbai we’ll be greatly relieved to have this long journey behind us. From there, it should be pure pleasure, and we’ll share every moment.
Happy day and evening to all!
Photo from one year ago today, January 27, 2019:

This was an exciting sighting for us, the elusive Nyala which we’d never seen during this past year in South Africa.  From this site:  The handsome slate-brow marked with white vertical stripes and spots on the flanks. Rams appear more charcoal-gray in colo from this site. The rams have long inward curved horns 650 mm (26 inches) and a white chevron on their face. They have a ridge of long hairs along the underparts, from behind the chin to between the hind legs, they also have a mane of thick, black hair from the head along the spine to the rump. Rams weigh 115 kg (254 pounds) and measure 1.05 m (41 inches) at the shoulders. Ewes are much smaller and do not have horns, and weigh 59 kg (130 pounds) and stand 900 mm (35 inches) at the shoulders. Ewes are chestnut-coated with even more prominent white stripes on the flanks. For more photos, please click here.
 

Finally, a new fitness watch and a bag…7 days and counting…

One year ago, we posted this photo we’d taken in 2013 while on a road trip. Bourke’s Luck Potholes was our favorite photo of the day on our three-day tour of the Panorama Route and Blyde River Canyon. See the original post here.

Yesterday, after completing the post, I headed out shopping. I don’t care to shop for anything other than groceries which I find quite enjoyable. Browsing through any department store makes me cringe. 

I wasn’t this way in my old life, but with my limited wardrobe over the past seven-plus years, knowing I have to toss something from my one suitcase of clothing to maintain the consistent flight approved weight if I purchase something new. This fact makes shopping less than fun.

Over the past three years, I have been using a blue cloth grocery bag as a means of carrying the necessary items with me when we’re going out for an extended period.

On shorter outings, I only bring lipstick to be stuffed into my or Tom’s pockets. (Many women’s pants don’t have pockets). Now that my flip-open RFID phone case has space for ID, cash, and credit cards, I no longer need a wallet.

Over the past three years, I’ve become tired of using the navy blue grocery bag. With the long and arduous upcoming flight to India, I reconsidered if I wanted to carry that blue bag one more time. I do not.

What I wanted to find was a cloth-type bag that can be squished enough to fit under the seat on an airplane and yet large enough to hold what I usually carry with me onto the plane: phone, camera, cosmetic bag, hairbrush, earpieces, and charging cords and a wide array of odds and ends.

(With this upcoming flight, we’ll need to bring along a few toiletries based on traveling for almost 30 hours, including an eight-hour layover. In checking information on British Airways, it appears they provide toothbrushes and toothpaste, our biggest concern).

As it turned out, I found the perfect item at TJ Maxx, a black Steve Madden padded, parachute material bag that zips with several pockets, all secure, leaving the contents relatively theft-proof. Sure, a thief could steal the entire bag off my arm, the reason I haven’t carried a prominent handbag all these years. This new bag is more of a carry-on type bag.

The next item I wanted was a fitness watch. I’d ordered one online in December, and it never arrived. I am now awaiting a refund. If I don’t see it come through in the next few days, I will contact the credit card company to remove the charge, especially since I have an email apologizing for their error in not sending out their product.

After the trip to TJ Maxx in Mesa (a 20-minute drive), I followed the road circled the mall to the Best Buy store. They had several models, but many included music and Amazon’s Alexa. 

Since Alexa doesn’t work in most countries, I saw no need to purchase the more expensive Fitbit Fitness watch. I selected the FitBit Charge 3 that suited my needs at a fixed price of $149. I’d shopped quite a bit online over the past week researching models and settled on this particular watch.

Yesterday, while wrapping up the completion of setting up Tom’s old laptop for my use, I also set up the watch itself and the app for the device on my phone and the computer. 

By dinner time, I had everything set up and was thrilled with the results. I love my new FitBit. Overnight, last night I downloaded all the photos from my old laptop onto our external hard drive, My Passport. 

Now, I can reformat the drive on my old laptop and offer it to Tom’s sisters if they’re interested. If not, we will recycle it at a proper facility, as mentioned.

Tom just left for the Mesa airport to pick up his sister Rita from South Dakota, staying with Margie for a week. It looks like some fun card playing is on the agenda! There will be nine of us, including Mary and Eugene’s son, Kevin, who’ll be leaving in three or four days.

Once Tom brings Rita to Margie’s home, we’ll pack up food for me and beverages for both of us. This morning Tom purchased a roasted chicken for me to bring today since they’ll all be having sandwiches and chips.

That’s all for today, folks. We’ll be back again tomorrow with more. 

Have a fantastic Wednesday!

Photo from one year ago today, January 22, 2019:

Basket, the Bully, was feeling sad after his right ear was nearly torn off in what must have been as a result of a fight he most likely provoked. We comforted him with pellets, apples, and carrots before he took his nap in the hay. For more photos, please click here.