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Letters home to mom

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      Posting these cat-cartoons-without-the-cartoon was a long journey that I don’t know if I’ll repeat soon again. A daily blog is tough … even when you have your material handed to you! But, I couldn’t have done it without the artwork … Continue reading →
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I awoke in my own bed

Posted by joeabbott on June 28, 2014

imageWhile this title may sound like the line from a pulp paperback schlock novel, it was foremost on my mind when I arose this morning without a stiff neck and with my two cats in place above our pillows. It was 5:30AM and I didn’t feel rushed, but was rested and got up just to start the day. Glorious to be home again.

As we gather our photos from two different cameras and our cell phones, as we sort through our souvenirs and memorabilia, and then re-read my journal to recall 11 days of non-stop vacationing, I thought I’d drop a quick post of my early thoughts on a few details from our road trip to MN and back. This is unordered and unstructured … thoughts that just come to mind as I type.

Vacationing … I’m not great at it

We were going to be on the road for 11 days, I had two weeks off, we had budgeted for the trip and had plenty of cash … everything pointed to unfettered enjoyment and relaxation, so what’s my problem here?

Perhaps it was the grueling pace we’d set up for ourselves … the hundreds of miles to travel and specific things to see; maybe it’s my inability to live within the moment; or it could be that I do better when surrounded by the familiar. Whatever it is, I can’t say that I was in my comfort zone these past two weeks. I may get better with more practice, but I found being on the road, eating out, and living from a suitcase (even a very large, very full suitcase) to be a challenge. When Suzy and I got home, one of the first things we did was just open the back door, walk out in our garden, and just convince ourselves we were home.

While it was fun to spend money at every turn, that’s not part of my financial DNA … I’m a saver, not a spender; being on vacation is very nearly synonymous with spending. At least how I was doing it. Also, there’s a bit of work in vacationing but there’s a lot of idleness and consumption without effort: I leave the room for someone to tidy up, I’m handed my dinner, and a world of entertainment is provided me for the simple exchange of an entrance fee. Lovely stuff, all of it but I miss contributing. I’m as lazy as the next guy, but need to do a bit of work each day to feel valuable. I’m happy to be home where I can fix that leaky toilet, pull up the drip-watering system and stow it for later use, and get back into the garage and knock out another project.

Vacationing is good stuff, but I’m not ready for a life of it just yet.

Opportunities … I’m pretty good at this

We’d planned our route, had the day’s mileage and activities noted, and knew where we had to be by the end of the day … and several times we “called an audible” on the day and were rewarded for it. All of these changes were simple things but were some of the best parts of the time away.

We stopped at a nature reserve on the long drive across Montana and, while it meant an hour and a half delay in getting to our hotel and that much longer at the wheel, we drove the 15-mile loop around the lake, stopped often to see the birds and hear their calls, and were rewarded with one of the more peaceful excursions of the trip. My brother recommended Falls Park in Sioux Falls, SD and, while it would be on a day we had two other (long) stops, we squeezed it in and were very happy for it. And, as we sat in the hotel and looked at the map of where we were and where we’d go the next day, we added seeing the Devil’s Tower Monument to our itinerary and have nothing but praise for that stop.

As a rule, I like schedules and plans, but our flexibility and nose for an opportunity have enriched our travels. Keep yourselves open to your options and seize them when they come along; I can’t imagine you will be anything but rewarded.

imageRenting a car … will do it again

One of the big expenses on the trip was renting a car. We both have serviceable vehicles and my SUV would have been big enough for hauling the stuff we needed to carry, but we rented a car for the road. While we worried about insurance issues, vehicle mileage, and had rented it with me as the only allowed driver, in the end, this was one of the better decisions we’d made.

The newness of the vehicle added a level of comfort we wouldn’t have had driving my car and it was sound enough to have zero mechanical issues, we handed it back with 4400+ miles on it and not a care to ourselves, and when that “change oil soon” dash light came on in Idaho on our way back, it was easy to ignore and consider “someone else’s problem”.

I don’t want to make it sound like we abused the vehicle … to the contrary, we treated it like it was our own … but it was nice knowing for the exchange of the rental fee, someone else got to deal with the maintenance and long-term care issues.

We had fretted a bit about mileage, as we’d rented an SUV, but it got better mileage than my car has in the past, so in that we felt good. It is interesting to see the fluctuation of MPG over the trip. I believe most of the changes are due to the terrain: we got better mileage as we left the mountains and worse mileage as we climbed them. But I am suspicious that our best mileage was the leg through Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park … I thought we had been climbing some mountains in that area. I’ll just have to add this to some mapping software that I have to check it out!

But, for the peace of mind and comfort this gave us, I’d definitely do it again on our next big trip.

Free-feed snacking … probably shouldn’t do this again


We have a scale that wirelessly connects to the Fitbit service and tracks our weight. You can add your name to the scale and, based on weight and body fat measurement (via bioelectrical impedance), it associates a given reading to your name. When it comes across a measurement that’s close to another person’s measurement, it gives you a chance to assign the measurement to one account or another.

I bring this up because I’ve found a new feature to the scale: when it comes across a measurement that’s wildly different from previous measurements for the scale users, it suggests “GUEST” as the owner. Yes, over the last eleven days, I ate so much and burned so few calories that my scale no longer recognizes me.

I knew I was gaining weight and the free-feed snacking associated with the long miles was the wrong way to go, but it’s a choice we made and now we have to deal with it. More time in the gym, harder workouts while there, and stopping the snacking while I’m hanging out.

I chose to eat as much as I did because it helps me to stay awake. Yup, I get tired at the wheel and one of my ways to address that is to pop a few Cheez-Itz in, to nibble a cookie, or to munch on anything at hand. While I got dozy a few times, I managed to stay awake and drive all the miles … but now I gotta address the pounds I put on. It’ll be a problem and I’m already mad about the upcoming austerity food program that’s in my future, but I have no one to blame but myself. It’s dieting time!


Those are the thoughts buzzing about my head just now. I’ll be posting additional information about the “opportunities” I cited above and really like the idea of mapping the MPG ratings so I can see where we got better and worse mileage. But, I still have a lot of sorting out to do from the long trip. Thanks for sharing part of it with me … and come back for more later!


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