Begining to End

If you happen to be very bored and/or just want to read this in it’s entirity, then you gotta scroll down to June 29th.

Carry on my wayward sons and daughters. Go on, read!  Read like the wind!!


It’s Over

Of course, I had expected this to be an account of my travels to ten countries and my experiences along the way.  Unfortunately it has just been an account of a dream trip gone horribly wrong.  I feel like such a fool to have been sucked into this situation and for allowing myself to have such high hopes and expectations for a trip over which I had very little control.  I arrived back home last night and I would be unpacking right now except that my luggage is either still on the ship, or is on it’s way to me.  I don’t know which, because no one has seen fit to tell me.

I will finish this with an account of what happened after we got kicked off the ship.  A tiny little ray of light managed to peek out between watching the ship sail away without me and getting back home safe and sound, and for that I am grateful.

After we left the ship we went back to the Holiday Inn Express and got our room back. It was Saturday so we weren’t able to get a hold of anybody at Sixth Star (the lecture company that Bel contracted with) or Celebrity to find out what would, or could happen next. So, of course we had to stay there that night and Sunday night as well. Bel stayed always in the room, always on the computer or sleeping. She had become very withdrawn, quiet and uncommunicative. All she would say was something about maybe going to Italy where she has family. Unable to get anything out of her as to a plan of action, I decided to make my way back to Heathrow and see if I could get my ticket changed. The next morning I left the Holiday Inn and took a bus to the airport, stopping off in Winchester for a few hours to shoot the cathedral.

When I got to the airport, Miranda, Bel’s boss at Sixth Star Inc, called and said that Celebrity was going to put us in a hotel for the night and then fly us to meet the ship in Iceland. But she needed to get in touch with Bel to make the arrangements, and did I know where she was?  I said maybe Italy and she said that if I heard from her I should tell her the new plan, but in the mean time they would put me in a Holiday Inn at the airport, which they did. Once there, I had reliable internet and started trying to get in touch with Bel and the only way was by email or on facebook.  And that raises another point.  What kind of experienced world traveler DOES NOT CARRY A PHONE??!!

Anyway, the next day Miranda called again and asked if I had talked to her and I said no, but I had emailed her saying all was ok, we could still cruise and that she needed to get a hold of Miranda. Miranda had said that she had emailed Bel and also sent her a message on fb while BEL WAS ON FB and that Bel was seemingly ignoring her. By that point Bel was ignoring me as well, though she was busily posting pictures of Italy on fb. So, not only did she lose us the initial trip, she refused (by ignoring everybody) to have anything to do with us rejoining the ship when it was offered. Unbelievable!!

Of course, the deadline for which we could re-join the ship came and went and still no word from Bel.  So, I went ahead and got the next available flight back to Minneapolis to the tune of ANOTHER $250, and for me the die was cast. This trip, and any hope of salvaging it was over.

Two people who WERE very helpful and professional were Miranda with Sixth Star Inc. and Kevin with Celebrity. It was Kevin who kept me from sleeping in the airport for the three nights while I waited for the next available flight home. He arranged for me to stay at the Heathrow Hilton until Wed. when my new flight was.  I think there must have been some realization on someone’s part that Celebrity had screwed up by throwing us off the ship.

The best way to describe this whole experience is a roller coaster ride from hell.  Waay up when I stepped onto the ship, waaay down when I stepped off of the ship, up again at being told we could catch up with the ship, down again when it didn’t happen, a smaller up at arriving home safe and sound, and the last “down” at coming home with no luggage.

What have I learned from all this?  If you travel with someone, KNOW that you can trust them, that they are reliable and responsible and honest.  If you’re only travel companion option is someone who does not possess these qualities, then travel alone, because they can let you down and leave your best laid plans and preparations in ruins, and turn a dream into a nightmare.

P.S. Not once so far have I heard anything along the lines of, “Rick, I am sorry for what happened.”  Nothing, not one word.  Instead I was blamed for not reminding her to bring her insulin.

The crypt, ths lowest point in the cathedral.

The Rest of the Story

Well, sorry for sounding so dramatic in the previous post below, but I can honestly say that the experience was dramatic as well as traumatic for me.  After all the preparation, expectation, and anticipation, after all the money spent on airfare, clothes, luggage, memory cards, etc, after all the on-line research and souvenir promises, hopes and dreams, it is hard to get so close, only to have it snatched away at the very last moment.  Of course, I realize that from start to finish, there are so many things that can go wrong.  And in this case something did go wrong.  Several things actually.  It was the usual case of several individual things contributing to us ultimately being escorted off the ship at the last literal minute.

One of my professors does enrichment lectures aboard cruise ships during the summer.  Along with a free cruise for herself, she is allowed to bring a guest, and she offered her guest status to me for two back to back cruises.  I flew from MSP to Heathrow and she flew from Barcelona to Heathrow and we landed within an hour of each other.  I met her coming off of her flight and we took a motor coach to Southampton and then a cab to the Holiday Inn Express where I had reserved a room for two.  When we checked in she asked the front desk person to put her insulin in their fridge since there wasn’t one in the room.  The next morning we called a cab and went to the cruise ship terminal.

The Eclipse is huge and you can see her from a long ways away.  I just got more and more excited the closer we got to the terminal.  We unloaded all our luggage from the cab and went inside the terminal.  We were actually pretty early, which was fine with me because I wanted to walk around outside and see and shoot as much of the Eclipse as I could before we had to get in line to board.  Bel said she needed to go find a store and buy a watch battery and a couple other things before we left, so after I got some pics from outside, I came in and stayed with the baggage while she went shopping.

Five hours passed and long lines of people boarded the ship as I sat with the bags.  When it got to be two hours before sailing time (1630) I started getting nervous.  What if something had happened to Bel, what if she lost track of time? Plus, the terminal agent kept trying to find me on the passenger lists, to no avail.  Bel was on the list, but I was not. I figured it was just a glitch, but Bel had the documentation that said that I was her guest and she was conspicuous by her absence. The agent kept saying Where is she, where is she?  I didn’t really believe I would wind up sitting there watching the ship sail away. I figured she was sitting in some cyber cafe somewhere getting caught up on email and posting pictures to her blog.  When she finally appeared, she said that was exactly what she had been doing because internet on the ship is so expensive.

Anyway, after some tense moments and lots of discussion with several officials, it was determined that even though my name didn’t appear on any documentation, I could go ahead and board the ship as her guest.  I checked all the luggage, they took our passports, gave us “ship cards”, we went through security screening, and finally, we were heading up the gangway and into the ship. So many times I have watched so many people boarding cruise ships while thinking, some day, boy, some day that will be me.  Some day Iwill be getting on a cruise ship instead of just watching other excited people walking up the gangway.  And now it was happening!  I was actually getting ON this ship and I was going to be on it for the next 28 days!  Can you imagine?  I could hardly believe it was finally happening. All my life I have wanted to go to Iceland, and now I was going.  Two days at sea before we would get there!  Two days in the north Atlantic!  Unbelievably awesome!  I had brought the right clothes, I had the right cameras and lenses, I had done the research, I was ready.  And after three days at Iceland, then Norwegian fjords over the last nine days of the cruise before coming back to Southampton.  And then… another cruise!  Another 14 days of St. Petersburg, Russia, Berlin, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Bergen, etc. and then back to Southampton.  Who could believe a trip like that!

Well, obviously it was too good to be true, too good to be believed.  When we got to our double occupancy outside stateroom, Bel took one look at the little fridge and said, Oh my God, I have forgotten my insulin at the hotel.  She immediately told the concierge and calls were made to the hotel to see if they could put it in a taxi and send it to the ship.  But we had boarded so late that there was no time for a situation like this.  There was no time for ANY situation.  Anybody who knows me, knows that I always arrive early for everything, and this is why. Especially when leaving on a month-long cruise!

Now, it should be noted that Bel did have five days worth of insulin with her, and it is only two days to Reykjavik where she would be able to get more.  In addition, the ship’s doctor was consulted and the ship even had plenty of insulin on board.  But with ten minutes to go before sailing, some pompous, huffy-puffy, power mad, sad excuse for a human being over ruled the concierge and the doctor and presumably every other reasonable minded ship officer and said the they just couldn’t take a chance and that we had to leave the ship.  Our bags hadn’t even been delivered to the room yet!  So, with five minutes to go, were rushed off of the ship like stowaways.  We were told our luggage would be on the gang way, which was a bald-faced lie.  So, that’s how I wound up with my nose pressed against the glass, watching the ship pull away from the dock, watching the people on their balconies and all the people lining the railings on the upper decks waving at loved ones and the poor stuttering stranger who looked up at them in shame and disappointment.  Rounded up and put off the ship, forced off at the very last minute, like some kind of criminal, and through no fault of my own what so ever.

Who was this person?  What kind of person has so little in the way of humanity or compassion?  Well, I will tell you who this person is.  Maria Kelly is the Activity Director on the Eclipse and it was she who over-ruled all the others who saw no problem.  She obviously could care less that someone might have spent a couple thousand dollars to get there, could care less that someone had planned and dreamed and looked forward for months to a trip of a lifetime.  Yeah! I had talked to her on the phone.  She called the cabin and said, “Don’t unpack your bags.”  Ha! what bags?  “Oh, no bags? Well, they will be waiting for you. You are getting off the ship.” I was talking to a monster on the phone. An inhuman, insensitive, emotionless, heartless, lying, ego-maniacal Maria-monster. She not only denied me my dream trip and Bel her cruise job, because of her, the ship was without a lecturer on the two sea-days and the rest of the cruise as well.  She denied the revenue paying passengers the excellent enrichment lectures that Bel is known for. She also denied the room stewards the $24 a day they would have gotten from Bel and I. That’s $336 that they won’t be able to send to their families. You are really quite a liability to the company, aren’t you, Maria Kelly.

So, now I’m in Southampton, England  with only the clothes on my back, an airline ticket good for a month from now, and a dream turned into a nightmare.  Dear reader, I don’t care how corny it sounds, no one will ever know how much I looked forward to those cruises, how happy and excited I was for this amazing unbelievable opportunity. It was a dream come true.  Thank you Maria Kelly for what you have put me through and taken away from me.  Bel told them to let me stay on board with the bags and she would retrieve her insulin and fly to Iceland.  But Maria wouldn’t hear of it.  If the lecturer wasn’t on board, how could the guest remain?  So, it was get off! Go, be gone! Just go, and make it fast!  Thank you Maria, thank you Celebrity, and thank you, Bel.   Next time, keep tabs on your prescriptions. I do. It’s the responsible thing to do.  Second, don’t arrive at the last-minute. If there had been more time, the insulin could have been brought by taxi. And finally, if you knew that you had more than enough insulin to get you to Reykjavik, why say anything to anyone, especially people who have the power to put you and your guest on the beach!!  All this could have so easily been avoided three separate times. Leave nothing in the motel rooms, arrive early, and don’t say anything that will get you kicked off of any form of transportation.

Yeah, if it sounds like I’m bitter, it’s because I am.  If it sounds like I’m feeling sorry for myself, I am.

I am not in the financial position of being able to spend over two thousand dollars for a weekend in a motel in the UK, and wind up having my luggage stolen in the bargain. So, yeah, I am bitter.  It will be interesting to see if Celebrity will get my bags back to me.

Well, there it is. I’m going to bed.

Live and Learn

Well, I guess I should update this, though it is the least of my worries right now.Image



It is amazing to me how life can give you sweet kisses one minute and then rip your heart out the next.

This is a post I don’t even want to write, but I started this damn thing, so I feel some obligation to be true to it.  In short, the cruise, the dream, the whole adventure, was over before it even started.  An hour after we boarded, we were being given the bum’s rush off the ship and back down the gangway.  I was practically in a state of shock and disbelief at what was happening to me, even as it was actually happening.  Five minutes later I stood and watched as the ship pulled away from the dock… with all my luggage on board.  Yes, I was staying in Southampton but my luggage was going to Iceland.

Did manage to get a few pics during our short time aboard, even though it was pouring down rain outside.

Ten Countries in 28 Days

Who’d a thunk it.  Sometimes life saves the best for last, or at least, for later.

It’s been almost 40 years since I went to Europe while in the Army, and frankly, I didn’t really expect to ever get over there again.  But, you never know when lightning might strike, so when the opportunity presented itself for me to go on a 28 day cruise to Iceland and nine other European countries, I said, Yes! God willing, I am ready!

For me, this is a trip of a lifetime, and at this late stage in life, a somewhat daunting undertaking.  A non-stop flight from MSP to Heathrow, a train, or bus, or whatever, to Southampton, find a room somewhere or an all night cafe, board the ship the next day and settle in for the next 28 days.  It’s actually two, back to back 14 day cruises on the same ship, the Celebrity Eclipse out of Southampton, UK.  The countries are Iceland, Norway, Belgium, Germany, Finland, Russia, Estonia, Sweden, Denmark and England.

I will try to keep this updated as the ship stops here and there, and I expect there will be an occasional picture or two.  I am told that wi-fi on the ship is prohibitively expensive, so I will have to rely on cyber-cafes or coffee houses along the way.

Wish me luck and say a prayer. I’m gonna need it “over there”.  : )

It’s adventure time!

A Chautauqua. Ch. 1

I opened one eye. There was a deer licking frost from the passenger window. The “shotgun” window we used to call it. Slowly I opened the other eye. It was a doe. I’ve never been that close to a wild deer before.

If I had twitched she would have been gone, so I lay motionless in my sleeping bag and watched that delicate pink tongue and those big brown eyes. Every so often she would pause and survey her surroundings, her sensitive ears swiveling around like little radars scanning for any sound that didn’t belong, her black nose tasting the breeze. Suddenly, for whatever reason, her head came up, she gave a little snort then turned and pranced across the field into the evergreens. Still, I didn’t move. I wanted just to lie there and think about the doe and how she came out of the trees all by herself to lick the frost off of the window of my car. I wanted to savor it, and most of all, appreciate it. Maybe it was a sign. I felt blessed.

Finally I sat up and looked around. It was getting light out, but the sun hadn’t risen yet.
All I had been able to see last night when I pulled in had been revealed in the narrow beams of headlights surrounded by inky darkness. I had turned onto a little side road and followed it until I couldn’t see the lights from cars on the main road anymore and that’s when I stopped.
I was parked at the edge of a clearing half way up Spearfish Canyon in the Black Hills of South Dakota. I had just spent the first of many nights to come, sleeping in my car.
It was completely still and quiet in the soft pre-dawn light and all around me the tall grass was covered with dew. Clear drops that would sparkle and shimmer as soon as the sun cleared the trees, then evaporate away with the warmth of the day. Here in the Black Hills, I was half way between a place I had left so many times before and a place I had run to almost as often.

Born in Golden, Colorado, I had grown up in St. Cloud, Minnesota and I had been back and forth many times since. On this occasion I was once again headed to Boulder to live, work, and play at being a photographer. I wiggled out of my sleeping bag, got dressed and put my “house” in order. Grabbing a Clif bar and my water bottle, I got out of the car, had a good stretch and a long pee, turning some of the clear dew drops into sparkling yellow, Mountain-Dew drops. I leaned against the car and had breakfast as I thought about the future and watched the sun come up. All I was reasonably sure of, was that I would be in Boulder by afternoon, baring any unforeseen weirdness. After that, who knows…
I dug into my backpack for my toothbrush and some paste, had a quick brush, rinse and spit, and was ready to roll. I took a final look around and thought “I’ve never been here before and I’ll probably never be here again.”

See, that’s what I’m talking about. You don’t want to get too hung up on stuff like that, but sometimes you have to stop, just stop, and appreciate where you are, maybe just appreciate the fact that you ARE.  I started the car and drove back to the main road, took a left and headed up the canyon towards Wyoming.
I was on an adventure.

Chautauqua On the Road Ch. 2

Five years ago if anyone had told me that I would someday be living in my car, actually residing in my car on a regular, extended basis, I would have told them they were nuts. To me at that time, the idea was crazy.

I mean, I had a wife and two kids. We had built and lived in our home for fifteen years. I worked for a major international paper company as an environmental technician and had lots of “mill toys” like a new Honda Accord, a Ski-Do snowmobile, a Honda Gold Wing, etc. I had a big vegetable garden in the back yard, and over the years I had planted more than 40 trees on the half-acre lot that was the biggest one in the housing addition. Every Christmas I would hang about a million lights all over the house and the trees, and in the summer a whole lot of Weber grilling took place on the big deck. We had our own well and a septic tank because we lived outside the city limits and we liked it that way. We knew all our neighbors and our kids all played together.

So what happened? The usual things. Dorothy and I had slowly started to drift apart till eventually we separated then got divorced. Mowing all that grass once a week was starting to get old, Michele, the oldest, had moved out when she turned eighteen.  Josh was fourteen and it had just been him and I in the house since Dorothy left.

Just the two of us for seven years. In that time we went on some great trips together. We went to the Black Hills on the motorcycle, and drove the Accord to Florida where we spent a week in Sarasota. We flew to Orlando and took the Disney cruise ship to the Bahamas where we went para-sailing together and went snorkeling on the reefs.
After that we spent five days at Disney World. One winter we flew to Las Vegas to see what that was all about, and one year we flew to San Diego and spent ten days with my folks who winter there. We’ve done a lot together, Josh and I.

I turn the music off and roll down the window to have a smoke. The car is running good and the miles unwind like a ball of string. The road from Newcastle in northern Wyoming to Cheyenne in the southern part of the state is a pretty cool road. I’ve driven this road a number of times and it doesn’t get old.  You go through towns with names like Mule Creek Junction, Red Bird, Lusk, and Lingle.  Actually, this road parallels the old “Cheyenne to Deadwood” stagecoach road.  I think about stuff like that sometimes when I’m driving these less traveled country roads.

Back in the day, the stagecoach trip from Cheyenne to Deadwood must have been a hairy ride. I bet that stage road saw a lot of action. I always try to imagine what it must have been like for those people back then. No cars, no roadside rests with lights and bathrooms, no bottled water! Did they know they had it rough or was it just normal to them? Will some future people try to imagine what it must have been like driving a car on a road between Cheyenne and Spearfish with nothing but a cell phone, air conditioning, and CDs to listen to, and wonder, “How did they do it?”

Just south of Cheyenne and I’m in Colorado already. It’s only about six hours from Spearfish to Boulder.

Chautauqua. Some History Ch. 3

It’s always a little emotional for me returning to Boulder after being away for a while. Dropping down into the valley and seeing the town all spread out at the base of the Flatirons and the Foothills, with the Front Range of the Rockies looking impossibly high and white and closer than they really are, it’s… well, it just makes me glad to be back.  It feels like home even though I just left home in Minnesota a few days ago.

I want to talk about Josh some more. He is and has been since he was born, the best thing that has ever happened to me. I have Dorothy and God above to thank for that kid.
What a gift and a blessing to have the honor and privilege of raising a beautiful, precious child, my son.
The last time Dorothy got pregnant her doctor said whatever happens, no more, be done. And after three miscarriages I didn’t hold much hope for that pregnancy going to term. Especially when Dorothy was diagnosed with Crone’s disease and was admitted to the hospital because she couldn’t keep any food in her and was down to 99 pounds.
They had to put a feeding tube into her artery and pump in 4000 calories a day for several weeks. She was very sick and malnourished and in her first trimester. Of course, because of the pregnancy they were limited by what drugs they could give her and so they went with the smallest dose possible of an oral steroid called Prednisone. So, after the three previous miscarriages, the malnutrition during a time when women are typically on pre-natal vitamins, and the medication she was getting, I didn’t hold much hope for that baby.
After five weeks in the hospital they sent her home ordering total bed rest in some hope of keeping her pregnant. Eventually, Dorothy was in her seventh month and we started to have hope for the baby. But would the baby be all right? The doctors had said that because of the steroid she was on there might be birth defects. There was no way to know for sure. Late in her seventh month the ultrasounds showed that the baby was growing and following the curve, but he was at the bottom of the curve, actually, just barely on the curve at all. At eight months they decided they wanted to get him out of there so they had us come in to the hospital and they induced labor.

As I drive through the Boulder streets I look around but nothing has changed.
Going slow past Penny Lane where I have spent so many hours and days, I check out the patio and see the same faces that were there when I left. I don’t go there much any more, partly for that reason. I park on Pearl Street and walk down the mall. Again, it’s like I left here yesterday. Well, I guess most places are like that after all. Places don’t change; it’s us who change.

While Dorothy was in labor, at some point, I walked down to the chapel and got down on my knees. Haven’t we all been there at some time or another? I wept and pleaded and made promises, swore on my life, making deals with God and Jesus. I think I might have promised I’d become a missionary, go out and preach the word of The Lord. Anything! Just please let Dorothy and the baby be all right! Yeah, I guess it’s fair to say that I was pretty scared and feeling humble.
When Josh was born I was right there, standing beside Dorothy, and I saw he was a boy and I saw he was all right. He was only 4 pounds, 7 ounces, and I know babies are born much smaller than that, but he was the smallest baby I had ever seen.

For me, the sun rose and set on that baby. Something happened to me that I never expected to happen. And really, it’s such a natural, automatic thing you don’t even realize it. Your priorities change. This was the most beautiful, wonderful, magical thing that had ever happened to me and as much as I looked forward to Josh growing up, at the same time I never wanted him to.

As the sun dropped behind the Flatirons, I started thinking about where I was going to park that night. I wanted somewhere dark and quiet, safe and private. As I cruised around I wondered about parking lots, but they have lots of lights usually. Maybe a dark side street. It’s a college town and people are always walking in Boulder. I didn’t want a steady stream of people walking past my car. For the first time, I started getting this feeling that I would have many times after that. I wished I were invisible. I didn’t want to be seen. I just wanted to be left alone, not bothered or hassled. I didn’t want to get rousted by some cop tapping on the window with his flashlight in the middle of the night because some home owner didn’t like that suspicious car parked out there. I didn’t want to have to explain anything to anyone, partly because how can you explain something to someone when you don’t fully understand it yourself.

Occasionally, if it happened to come out that I was living in my car, I would tell people, “Oh, I’m writing a book about homeless people and how it feels to be homeless, so I thought I better do some research and pretend to be homeless for a while.” Or, “It seems like an interesting alternative kind of lifestyle and there are so many people doing it that I thought I would see what it’s like.”, that kind of thing.
I finally find a side street just a couple blocks away from downtown. The side street is a steep hill leading up to an alley that runs behind Mapleton Ave. I liked the hill aspect because even though my seat reclines almost flat, it’s not quite horizontal. So parking on a hill makes for flat lying, and when it comes to sleeping comfortably in a car, that is a biggie.
I had parked there two nights when on the third night a man came out of the house that I was parked next to and walked over to the car. I was sitting up reading, having just pulled in, so I rolled down the window as he approached.
He seemed pretty nice, about in his early sixties and he asked if I was going to be sleeping in my car for very long. I said that I was just between apartments for a few days. He smiled and said, “Well, you shouldn’t park here on the street.”
“Instead, pull up into the alley and park in the space next to my garage. I own that space and it’s private land so the police won’t bother you. It’s dark, quiet and safe and you’re welcome to park there at night for however long you need to. If anyone gives you any grief,” he added, “ just tell them I said it was ok.” Then he smiled kindly and walked back to his house and went inside. Yup, that’s Boulder for you.
I’ve been parking there for the past three years now and I’ve never had a chance to speak to him since. I only used his space a few nights then I moved over to the one next to his because it is under a kind of overhanging tree so it’s almost like a cave, at least in the summertime when the tree is all leafed out. He knows that I am still there though because when his daughter comes home from college, he parks his van in the space next to me so she can park in their driveway.

I don’t know if any of the other neighbors know that there is someone sleeping in a car out there or not. There’s probably no reason why they should, though. I come after dark, usually no earlier than ten, and I am gone by seven the next morning. When I’m lying down you can’t see me in there anyway, unless you were to come right up and look in the window. All in all, I feel very fortunate to have found that place, and very grateful to that man who was so kind and understanding.
Speaking of that guy, he is a perfect example of how you never know who you are going to meet or what situations you might find yourself in once you change the parameters of your existence. I call it “the dynamic of existence”, and I can give several examples if you’re up for it. Ok? Fine, here goes.

For fifteen years I was married with children, a homeowner with a “career” at the paper mill and all that that entails. It was a good life, a great life, no complaints. I was happy and content, but in an anesthetized kind of way. My life was centered around three things, my family, my job, and my property, property being house and toys. Our friends were very few; our experiences were very limited. It was a routine of go to work, maintain the house and grounds, deal with kids in school, grocery shopping, watching TV, etc. That was the dynamic of my existence.
Since I left St. Cloud and moved to Boulder six years ago, all kinds of amazing, wonderful, interesting things happened to me. Things that would never have happened, indeed, could not have happened if I had been in St. Cloud. I had to change the dynamic of my existence to allow any of these opportunities to present themselves.
But I didn’t know that these things would happen, they just happened! Imagine my surprise at how much my life changed simply by changing where and how I lived.

The extent to which I changed the dynamic of my existence was pretty drastic I’ll admit, but I’ve never been exactly subtle in most ways. Impulsive is more like it.
What changed? Winding up no longer married was the beginning. There’s a big change right there. But I still had the “mill” job and the house and all of the “mill toys”, and the responsibilities of being a single father, and bills, schedules, obligations, payments, bank accounts, chores, et cetera ad nauseum.

The next thing to go was the job. I quit, got fired, took early retirement, went crazy, was laid off, gave up, ran away… whatever. When you decide you’ve had enough it almost doesn’t matter how you get out even if you have to chew off your own paw. It’s all the same thing with the same result. Freedom! Most of the guys at the mill would have been traumatized if they lost their jobs there. Shell-shocked, scared, panicky, desperate. All of these things, and maybe even suicidal.

“Life after the mill?” “Is there such a thing?” Yeah, that’s the way I used to think too. But after the divorce something inside me snapped and I couldn’t stay there any more. Sometimes you do have to burn a bridge just to keep yourself from going back. Couldn’t stay in St. Cloud either. Josh was 16 and Dorothy and her husband were glad to have him move in with them and he was happy with the arrangement too. He had his own room, his own car, a part time job and lots of friends.

I sold the house, sold, gave away or threw away most everything in it, sold the Accord, sold the snowmobile, the motorcycle, the guns, the coins, the stamps, the tools, everything. Took a few boxes of photo albums and other treasures over to the folk’s basement, and suddenly… I had nothing. I was free.
I wanted to get out, out in the world. Just wanted to wander, hike, climb, get lost, drift, explore… and now, I could go. So, like a salmon that returns to the spawning grounds, I went back to Colorado.

Chautauqua: Adventures. Adventure #1

Before I left St. Cloud, I bought a tent, a sleeping bag, and a bunch of other stuff because I wanted to hike the Colorado Trail. I actually did hike it for a couple weeks but it rained almost daily, my feet were bleeding from blisters and I wasn’t having much fun, so I headed back down into town and got a room at the hostel in Boulder. The next day I got a tele-marketing job and a line on an apartment. Was I starting another rut? We’d see. Certainly the dynamic of my existence had changed and that was ok by me.

Adventure #1.

I’m sitting in Penny Lane, an alternative type coffee shop catering to young hippies, freaks, rasta-farians, gutter punks, goth kids, high school students, college students, street people, old hippies, beatniks, paranoid schizo-frenics, storytellers, artists and musicians. I liked it there because I enjoyed the diversity and I didn’t stick out.
For the price of a glass of ice tea I could sit there for hours smoking cigarettes and reading, doing the crossword, or just people watching.
Any way, I’m sitting there reading the Colorado Daily, the University of Colorado’s paper, and all of a sudden, in the classified section, I see a small ad that reads, “Looking for adventure sailors.” So, I wound up meeting this retired physicist who has a 40-foot sailboat that he keeps in Ft. Lauderdale. He loves to sail on it but can’t sail it alone so he looks for people to go out there and sail with him. All I had to do was pay my airfare and a couple hundred for food and booze, dockage fees, etc.
Oh, I did buy a brand new, very nice pair of Sperry Top Siders for the trip.
Now I was ready!

Old Bill, the physicist, was in his early 70s and scrawny as hell but sharp as a tack. He’s this bandy legged little guy, all brown and wrinkled by the sun, who speaks with a heavy Polish accent even after 50 years living in the States.
He was a transport pilot in WW ll. and knows everything there is to know about navigation, sailing, weather, currents, tides, etc. He has a house up Boulder Canyon, a wife and two German Shepherds, which he refers to as “the kids.”
And he’s a fascinating guy.

So, it was me and another guy from Boulder, a twenty-six year old kid who fancied himself a real “sail bum”, and a young couple in their late twenties from Golden. But they abandoned ship when we got to Key Biscayne because it had been rough going from Ft. Lauderdale to Miami and they were seasick. Hell, we were all sea sick, especially that primadonna, the “sail bum”.
He was hanging his head over the side puking his guts out while trying to get a scopolamine patch to stick behind his ear. But he was all sweaty so the patch wouldn’t stick. It kept falling off or sliding down his neck until it was under his collar somewhere.
I was sick as hell too but at least I didn’t puke. The young couple just sat there holding each other and looking green. I asked Old Bill (the owner) about it and he said that even he always feels a little queasy at first, especially with conditions the way they were that day, but that he usually gets over it pretty fast.

We were going to go to the Bahamas, which is due east from Lauderdale, but the wind was right from that direction so we decided to just go down along the Keys as far as we could, instead.  So, after the couple jumped ship, it was just Old Bill, the “sail bum kid” and I. Which was pretty nice because there was plenty of room on that 40 footer for three guys. After we left Ft. Lauderdale, we slept on the boat every night. It was always hot and humid, so we all slept above decks. All you needed was a sleeping pad and a sheet and a pillow. It was great. At the end of the day we’d anchor off some island or key, or in some bay, and usually go swimming to cool off and get the sweat off, or we’d paddle the rubber raft to the island to explore. Then we’d have supper and talk, listen to the weather forcast for the next day, and

Sailor Dick

maybe read a bit before laying down for the night. We’d be up with the sun, have breakfast and raise sail for another day. When we had gone as far as we could in five days, we turned around and sailed back, arriving in Ft. Lauderdale ten days from when we started.
It was a really great time and I’m glad I did it. Unfortunately, I left my barely broken in Top Siders in the motel room where we stayed the night before we flew back.
I guess I’m just not a Top Sider kind of guy.