One of kids got into a new kind of event, the Spartan race. We had never heard of the event and wanted to support our son. We thought the best way to experience a race would be to volunteer for the race. Of course we did not want to actually run the race! So, we took the officials training and became volunteer course marshals for two different Spartan races.
Our first trip to Perfect North in Indiana was in July, even though it is not too far from our house in Kentucky. Perfect North is a ski slope and one we have avoided until July. At least we went as officials.
The good news for the racers is we had an hour long training class on how to be an effective course marshal. We had a great time monitoring our obstacle during the race and could see our son competing as our obstacle was near the end of the race.
This Spartan race has several types of obstacles that required crawling, climbing, pulling, and lifting. All they are missing is a bike ride. Of course the stadium event had a stationary bike obstacle.
Some of the obstacles at our races were:
- Barb wire – crawl under barb wire.
- Rope climb – climb a rope.
- Hoist – lift a weight with pulley system.
- Multi Rig—This is the event we monitored. This is similar to the monkey bars we had as kids.
Our son and his friends did well. He was so excited to see us that he ran the race twice, and we got a chance to see the second run with his friends from the gym. It really is a community event.
Since my in-laws live in St. Louis, we joined our son for his Stadium race as course marshals in Busch Stadium. We saw more of our son on this race as we could see him run by and then hit some other activities.
It was really fun to be inside working an event at Busch Stadium. It is different from watching a baseball game. All of us said walking (or running) onto the field was a highlight. It must have been hard to run up and down all of the levels of the stadium. I clocked over 7 miles walking just as a volunteer.
The stadium race had many of the same obstacles as the Sprint. It did not have water based obstacles. We again monitored the multi-rig and one other obstacle later in the morning. The multi-rig is a challenging event; the Spartans make it look easy.
The views throughout the stadium were great. We enjoyed being able to walk around before and after our volunteer shift.
We again participated in training and were treated to the behind the scenes view of the stadium. Of course things are dark at 5:30 AM when we have to show up on race day. We did get to view the press area and walk around the entire stadium prior to the race beginning at 7 AM.
Spartan race organizers want to encourage people to become active. They are looking to make that activity a way of life. Having now met several competitors and officials, we see that there is a community devoted to that mission. The race is a way to have the athlete held accountable to themselves and put pressure on their training. I have found that if you do not have a goal, you do not get serious about the training, in business or in other pursuits.
We are certainly proud of our Spartan!
We went to Colorado Springs to visit with our kids who recently moved into the area. The views from their house are amazing. I can see why they enjoy living out in this area. We spent more time with the kids and some of the boxes than we did sightseeing.
One of our highlights was hiking at The Garden of the Gods Park in Colorado Springs. The free park is awe inspiring. I was in the park about 8 years ago and it is a must visit when you are in the area.
We enjoyed hiking along the Ute trail in the mountain biking area. The magnificent red rocks are jutting out of the ground are quite the contrast with the rest of the mountains in the area and the green vegetation along the trails.
The beauty in this area is so different than our home state. It was wonderful to see. After our hike on the Ute trail we hiked around the main area. We followed the good tenants for getting acclimated to altitude, not over doing it on the first day or two, limiting alcohol and drinking plenty of water.
Our other big hiking adventure was in North Cheyenne Cañon Park. If you go in the summer, it is probably best to avoid Saturday or Sunday visits as it was crowded when we went. We had to park away from the main parking area, which was fine for us as we enjoyed hiking up to catch the visitor’s center and the starting point for the trail up to Helen Hunt Falls.
The hike up was beautiful.
The visitor’s center was fun with a map where hikers noted where they were from.
This is another park owned by the city of Colorado Springs.
From Helen Hunt Falls we continued our day by hiking up the Seven Bridges Trail (although we only made it over 3 of the bridges). We found ourselves in the middle of an ultra-marathon (they were running 50 miles). Our kids had read a comment online about this trail that you should dance over each one of the bridges and do a different dance for each. That was fun and I am not posting the videos! We also managed some non-technical boulder climbing after bridge #3.
We went bouldering. The kids have been enjoying a local past time, climbing rocks. It is fun to do so indoors in a controlled environment and even outside. Our daughter and daughter-in law enjoyed the outdoor rock climbing as well.
We will be back before too long and have more to share. We did hike over 10 miles and I rode a bike one day 5 miles in the neighborhood. We also recycled boxes and helped out around the new place in Colorado.
I managed one bike ride in the neighborhood. I had not ridden in an area with wild cactus plants growing before this ride.
I only managed 5 miles, but it was a fun 5 miles after I put the bike together and got it in working order.
We will be back soon!
Our visit to Germany and Austria took us from Frankfurt to Munich (and a side visit to Shloss (castle) Neuschwanstein) and then to Austria visiting Salzburg and Vienna. We had our travel expertly organized and managed to stay in the center of the old town in all of our city visits. Thank you Kayla! That was a real plus in seeing the cities on foot. We did take part in walking tours in every city except Salzburg, where we took a bus tour.
We expected the countryside in Germany and Austria to look like farmland and the towns and cities only to have old historic buildings.
We did not expect sand and surfing. We now think that parts of Germany and Austria want to live on a tropical island. In Frankfurt we visited the Palm tree (Palmen Garten) garden; in Vienna we noticed several biergartens along the Danube Canal had sand and beach chairs for their guests. In Munich we watched kids surf in the English Garden.
Frankfurt or as it calls itself, Frankfurt am Main
Frankfurt Germany was the first and last stop on our travels. We arrived early for our bike boat adventure and got acclimated to the time zone and the culture prior to the bike ride. We really enjoyed walking along the Main River and noticed that the people of Frankfurt do as well.
Our walking tour guide shared that apple cider was the drink of Frankfurt; the ones we tried were very good. I also had beer; it was Germany!
We were surprised to learn that many of the “old” buildings in Frankfurt were rebuilt in the 1980’s in the old style, replacing buildings destroyed in WWII. The buildings did not look new and we were happy they were rebuilt to look as we expected. Of course some of the buildings were modern; Frankfurt had many skyscrapers, in contrast to many of the cities we visited. Frankfurt is the financial capital of Germany so it was nice that as a part of the walking tour we stopped by the stock exchange, one of the largest in the world.
When we visited the Palmen Garten we were surprised to see an extensive palm garden inside the city known mostly for banking. We did not know that you could grow palm trees in Germany, let alone all of the uses for palm trees we learned about on our tour. We enjoyed the variety of trees and flowers in addition to the palm trees. It is worth a visit if you are in Frankfurt.
Munich or München
After our bike tour we took the train to Munich. For us, Munich had a “big city feel.” Of course we had just spent a week biking through small towns. We recalled our visit to Frankfurt, and the city of Munich appeared to us as a more urban setting. We loved the statues and the plazas. A lot of history in a small area.
We spent several hours walking around Munich and discovered the English Garden and did see people surfing. On our walk we visited the place where the Octoberfest takes place as well as taking in several great looking buildings and local scenery.
A big part of our being in Munich was the proximity (about 110 KM) to Schloss (castle) Neuschwanstein. Our bus included Neuschwanstein, a visit to the town of Oberammergau, and Linderhof Palace where King Ludwig II lived prior to moving into Neuschwanstein.
The view from a nearby footbridge on the way to the castle does not begin to tell of the beauty of castle Neuschwanstein. We enjoyed the hike up to the grounds, and even with scaffolding on the main entrance the castle was breathtaking.
Neuschwanstein was impressive on the inside as well. Of course the castle only housed the king, and he lived there for less than one year. The inside was impressive and well worth the visit. No photography was allowed inside the castle. I guess it takes a king to build a fairytale castle.
We enjoyed the surrounding property of the castle and had great views from the walk up as well as from inside the castle itself. The “old” castle that the king grew up at is also on the grounds.
We enjoyed the stop at Oberammergau. They have been putting on a Passion play for almost 400 years, with the next one coming in 2020. You can buy tickets now. The town began the plays in 1634. All of the actors and actresses are members of the town. The town puts on the play as a result of a vow made by the inhabitants of the village when they were spared from the effects of the plague. We had fun visiting this town and trying on some traditional head wear and, of course, eating some ice cream. We were pleased to walk around the theater. I am sure the Passion play will be a great production in 2020.
Linderhof Palace was our third stop on the tour. This was a smaller place than Neuschwanstein and almost as impressive. I am really glad we stopped here for a visit. I especially liked the magic table and the fountains outside. You will have to see it for yourselves. No photography was allowed inside; take my word for it, the inside was impressive.
Our international travel from Munich to Salzburg was just another train ride. There was no pre-check of passports prior to boarding or a checkpoint along the way. The Europen Union has no restrictions on travel between countries once you are in one of the countries. One of the tenets of the EU is people traveling freely throughout most of the continent.
We learned that Mozart was not Austrian; he was from Salzburg, which was an independent (non-EU member…) country when he was born. We enjoyed eating chocolate here; Mozart balls are a favorite. We also enjoyed staying in a 700-year-old hotel in old town Salzburg.
Yes, we did take the Sound of Music tour. We sang, we laughed and we loved it! Now that we are back home, we are watching the movie and excited to see the places we visited on our tour. We also noted that our tour guide in Austria was in one of the anniversary shots about the tour groups in Salzburg.
We left Salzburg all too quickly and headed by rail to Vienna.
As Vienna is so much bigger than Salzburg, with about 25% of the population of Austria in its borders, we rented bikes to explore more of the city. It did rain on us on the way back to the bike rental location, but we had a great time riding the streets anyway. There are over 1000 KM of bike trails in Vienna; as a result, it was easy to ride in the city. The highlight for me was riding along the Danube Canal and seeing the Danube River.
We enjoyed the music of Vienna, the churches, the palaces and the monuments. We enjoyed running across Mozart references as well as statutes of other composers.
Our hotel was centrally located in the heart of Vienna’s district 1 on the Stephansplatz. We could view the church and square during our breakfast. I miss that view.
We managed to walk to the Riesenrad (German for Giant Wheel), the 212 foot tall Ferris wheel at the entrance of the Prater amusement park in Leopoldstadt. We saw that it is one of Vienna’s most popular tourist attractions. It symbolises the second district in Vienna as well as the city for many people who live there. We did not take a ride on the Ferris wheel, although it looked like fun. When we walked by we noted several people riding in the wheel.
- I received my MBA from Webster University, way back when…seeing a Webster University building in Vienna was fun and not expected.
- We were impressed by the trains and the speeds. We noticed the one from Salzburg to Vienna went almost 200 KPH (124 MPH). Trains were a great way to get around.
- Learn to linger over dinner or any meal, especially when you are with someone. We enjoyed the Vienna coffee house and lingered as long as we could. This was the only spot we found you could get a “free water and refills.”
- Beer in Germany and Austria is less expensive than soda or water … lesson: drink beer with meals!
- When we went to Vienna we learned a lot about the ruling families. The one lesson that struck me was that the Habsburg dynasty won territory by winning hearts through intermarrying its family across Europe and not wars. A marriage to Napoleon was also accomplished by the dynasty. Unfortunately, they took more care with the Lipizzan stallion’s blood lines then their own. A visit to the stables housing the stallions was interesting as well.
- The city of Vienna earns money by renting rose bushes to inhabitants for five years in their beautiful Volksgarten (Peoples’ Garden). This sounded to me like a cool idea raising money for the city as well as keeping the gardens beautiful.
- Try the local favorites. I loved the Schnitzel.
- Pay attention to the train numbers and not the destination city. On one of our first train trips, we sat by the area that had the city of our final destination listed on the board. We discovered when the train left an “hour early,” that we needed to re-think what we focused on in order to board the correct train. All of the information we needed was on our tickets and the signboards, once we knew what information was important.
- Ask locals where to eat. Our walking tour guide in Vienna suggested we try Manner chocolate. We found it to be delicious. We also enjoyed eating the rich Demel chocolate.
We found the best place to have a sausage was at the “ Bitzinger Wurstelstand Albertina.” The sausage was awesome. We enjoyed the Käsekrainer sausage, which they assured us was the most popular and we agreed after we tasted it! We are thankful for our guide steering us to places we may have otherwise passed over.
Our travel followed these three simple rules:
- Move and exercise. Each day we hiked in the cities.
- Find peaceful, beautiful surroundings. We stopped and smelled the roses, admired artwork, enjoyed singing and watching the river flow by.
- Meet different, interesting people. We enjoyed all of the people we met and were amazed at how similar and different we all are. Singing with a group of strangers on the Sound of Music tour was a highlight.
- We rented bikes one afternoon. It was a great way to see more of Vienna. We rode about 11 miles.
- Hiking/walking totaled about 7-10 miles on most days around town. We managed over 25 in two days of walking in Vienna.
We biked along the Rhine and Neckar Rivers in June on a Bike and Boat Tour, and it was an unforgettable experience. The tour we decided to join was a beautiful cycling and cruise tour which explored the famous valleys of the German Rhine and Neckar Rivers. I have heard that on a cruise ship you gain about 10 pounds in a week. I get it; the food was great! If you are able to combine the cruising with bike riding in Germany, you may stay about the same weight, although it will be a close run thing.
We left the boat each morning on our seven-day cruise for a ride up the river bike paths. The boat then sailed upstream to meet us at the next planned stop. The boat was a floating hotel where we slept, had breakfast and dinner as well ask some fun. The boat did not travel on the river at night as we were at a dock. Being docked at night allowed us to explore the quaint towns and villages after dinner. The barge, or cruise ship, had 61 bike riders and was pretty full (seven open riding spots) as we went on our way. The boat was clean and comfortable; we enjoyed our time on board.
Castle Watching—don’t blink and miss one along the river…
We began our first riding day with a two-hour boat ride from Koblenz along the Rhine passing through the beginning of one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. We then rode on the trail and saw more than 40 castles and fortresses and many wine villages along the way. There were too many castles for me to even attempt to photograph.
You have to see it in person to understand just how impressive each view is as you stop or ride by. We did walk up to a few castles and explore the ruins. Being on top of the castles, we realized why they looked so imposing from the river as we had a great views from the top and could easily make out people, cars and boats along the river.
Vineyards on the Rhine River—we passed several vineyards and took an evening tour.
This was much different than our trip to Napa Valley and biking. The vines are on a hill from the top to the river. We learned that the wine that comes from the plantings at the bottom is the cheapest in quality and the wine at the top is the best. Makes sense! We enjoyed magnificent views. The wine was excellent, along with the grape juice that they began our tour with.
Quaint Towns and Villages
Each town reminded us of why we wanted to come to Germany. We took advantage of walking tours and our stay at all of the towns along the way.
One of our fun stops was spending the night at Heidelberg. In Heidelberg we managed to climb to the top of the Heidelberg Castle and walk along the Old Bridge. We also walked the end-to-end mile long pedestrian shopping street. The university dominates the old town and was fascinating to view and experience.
The variety of flowers, shops and museums was fun to experience. Like the castles, it is too much to show here, you need to go see it for yourselves.
Each town along the way had several characteristics that made them unique as well as part of what we expected to see along the river. We saw a variety of architectural styles of churches; most were massive and ornate, and we wondered how the local people could afford such a building or buildings as well as build them so long ago.
We ate at several ice cream shops, and spent time looking at the souvenirs (crafts) along with sampling some of the local food and beer. We even went by the Dr. Carl Benz Museum.
Rivers and Locks
With its many castles lined up on the hill tops, our tour along the river was full of Rhine romanticism. Our guide told us the story of the river bend and how it inspired the famous poem “Lorelei.” Kim tested the waters at the point mentioned in the poem.
We enjoyed the peaceful river and views from the banks of the rivers and the towns. These made for great spots for a break or to eat a picnic lunch. Next time we will bring a blanket or rug with us.
The Neckar River had several locks; we rode over some and saw ships, including our barge, go through the locks. It was a fun experience. The locks have apparently prevented some of the flooding that was prevalent in the area along the Neckar River.
- Stop and enjoy the scenery.
- We were not in a race, and with a seven-speed bike we were not breaking any speed records.
- The initial part of our journey from Koblenz on the Rhine was loaded with castles; almost every bend or turn on the river had one and sometimes two. I do not know about you, but I do not see castles daily on my normal bike rides.
- At each stop we would walk and explore the town where we were parked for the night. Dinner ended on board about 8 PM and it was light until about 10 PM. We needed the walk after so many good dinners.
- Anyone can ride along the Rhine. Of the 61 riders, we were on the young end age wise. The route was mostly flat, with some inclines that were easily overtaken with the e-bikes. The e-bikes were a popular option with the travelers on the barge. We did not ride e-bikes.
- Trail riding is a good way to get outside and see the countryside. Some of the views were hidden from the road and others were a short bike ride into town for an Eis (ice cream) or a Bier (no translation needed).
- Make friends. We sat each evening with the same group — a couple from Argentina and a couple from Australia. We enjoyed the conversation with our table companions as well as those from the group that we met on board and along the way.
We ran across a new WWII monument noting the American army crossing the Rhine River—just put up in 2017.
- We rode for six days, about 150 miles total. The planned mileage for the bike tour was less, as we explored and enjoyed the area.
- In the towns at night we walked between 5-7 miles and enjoyed exploring the towns.
I have been asked if we would do the bike tour again. Of course, yes! We would likely pick another tour to explore a new area. We really enjoyed the support and the tour. Thank you to Lyn and John who shared their bike adventure in Europe with us prior to our booking the trip in December.
As I get older, I have been less thrilled with each passing birthday. Milestones like 50 were fun and a little embarrassing in the office, as you want to think of yourself as younger.
Time marches on for all of us. I was happy to get a road trip into St. Louis to celebrate my father-in-law’s 80th birthday.
A birthday is always a good reason to travel. Visiting with family can be great fun and fulfilling. If I was working, we would have had to get approval for a day off or several to make a trip during the week. Of course, only a few at the dinner celebration for my father-in-law were gainfully employed. Being retired and “never having a day off” is no excuse for missing a celebration.
A few lessons learned:
This mug summed up the wisdom from the evening, all in good fun!
My father-in-law’s mantra: Every day is a good day.
He means it too!
We were able to borrow bikes and take a ride on grant’s trail. We have now ridden outside (also in January) on the in-law’s bikes more than on ours. I enjoyed getting close and personal with several of the Budweiser Clydesdales horses as we passed Grant’s Farm. The Anheuser-Busch Grant’s Farm is across the street from the National Park Service Grant’s Farm House. I did a little of the ride on the BMX bike trail at near the end of Grant’s trail.
Trip by the numbers:
Our bike ride was just over 16 miles and we walked for several miles around the area. It was rainy and we walked in-between the rain storms.
One of the things I enjoy about retirement travel is being able to see family and friends without having to ask for time off. Of course, I shared with my wife more than 30 years ago that you cannot just take trips to visit family. We do have other travel planned.
I recently took two separate road trips to Columbia, South Carolina, one to get things some things moved and one to celebrate my daughter-in-law’s graduation with a Master of Arts in teaching from the University of South Carolina. My daughter accompanied me on the first trip and my wife on the second.
In Columbia, we all enjoyed walking along the Congaree River. The trails are part of the Three Rivers Greenway Trail. We have walked on these trails many times. The flooding in Columbia in October of 2015 did shut down the Cayce / West Columbia Riverwalk that we enjoy so much. On our most recent walk, a portion of the trail still remains closed. We saw several art carvings along the path that were fun to find, including a group of turtles carved from a tree stump with a live salamander resting on top of them.
A fun side trip for us in South Carolina was a visit to a Revolutionary War battle site at Musgrove Mill. The historic site was hosting a reenactment weekend. It was cool for us to see the costumes and interact with history. Several revolutionary sites are available off of highway 26. This one was easy and accessible.
My daughter, who traveled with me on trip one to Columbia, enjoyed a visit to the Biltmore Estate. The azaleas were in full bloom and the whole area was breathtaking. Visiting the house gave me the opportunity to share that buying too much house is an issue, as evidenced by the current owners needing to open the house to the public to keep it going.
We enjoyed live music inside the Biltmore house and the salute to the Titanic movie. In several rooms they had the clothing worn in the movie, from the same time period as this historic house on display in the rooms. It was like seeing the past come alive.
Tennessee is having fun with its rest areas. We noticed musical notes and a theme as we stopped in at a few stops on our journeys through the state. On the sidewalk, to emphasize their musical contributions, are musical notes.
- Graduation and moving are all times to pause and reflect. Graduation and retirement have a lot in common. The message for graduates is you accomplished a lot here, now go somewhere and make a difference. A similar message applies when we retire. We made a difference in our work, now we need to go make a difference in our communities and with our relationships.
- I read an interesting article about an NFL player retiring and living in a van. Joe Hawley’s story was a fascinating reminder about how you can create your own experience. His message is to live with less and experience more. You can follow his blog here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCH-fGbXb-BCZ2d7c1LIXjdg
We did not ride bikes during the two trips to South Carolina. We did hike along the Congaree River as well as walk in the state park and around the Biltmore estate.
Reinvent yourself. Try new things. Discover again what you wanted to do before you went to college. This is all the advice from retirement books that I have read. I recently took a chance to become a retirement model. A company I work with asked me to participate in a video shoot in San Francisco.
By way of background, part of the retirement benefits from my company was the opportunity to have a coach work through the decision to retire or to stay at the company. My company employed the services of BetterUp! As a result of a great coaching and learning on my part, I retired and am working to lead the life I want. I cannot say enough good things about this opportunity for coaching and how good my coach was for me. I shared that during the interview; I hope they are able to use the work that a few other clients and I shared with them as we discussed our experiences.
So, when I was asked to come out and share my coaching story, I jumped at it. I hope BetterUp! expands the number of people they can assist with coaching as a result of video shoot. I was interviewed about my experience and had several still shots taken of me, just like the other models that were at the video shoot that day.
- The photoshoot took one afternoon. In addition, I took my first Uber ride, good and easy, and visited with my youngest in San Jose, near San Francisco. It is always great to see family!
- Playing disc golf in San Jose and eating at the Diner of Los Gatos. The diner was a throwback to earlier diners. The décor was fun and the food was good. Since I had played the disc golf course before, it was great to see that some rain makes everything on the course bloom and grow.
- Taking a ride on the cable car. It was fun to take one ride, although the tickets for one way were $7.00. This is a great way to get around and still make other commitments. Their website does allow for some breaks if you know you will be taking more than one trip. Since on my last trip I did not ride the cable car, I thought I had better this time.
- Biking across the Golden Gate Bridge. If you are a bike rider, this is a treat. Several bike rental companies are located in San Francisco. My recommendation is taking a bike from Pier 41—Fisherman’s Warf. I used the Blazing Saddles bike rental and was pleased with the bike and the price. I have used this same company for several years. I am in good biking shape, so no issues on the bike ride. The bridge has lanes for bike traffic on one side and pedestrian traffic on the other. The first time we went, the lanes were combined and it was not as much fun crossing the bridge on a bike. Last year when we walked over the bridge, it was a better experience without all the bikes on the pedestrian side so I thought I would ride and it was a better experience without walkers.
- While traveling to a famous location, you can always have desert for lunch, especially if you just biked across the Golden Gate Bridge!
- The free walking tours from Union Square (at 10 AM daily) was a treat for me. I have been to the city several times and have not participated in a group quite like this. I enjoyed the Tony Bennet heart that he painted on Union Square, and that was just the beginning of the information our tour guide imparted. We walked along the Barbary Coast trail into China Town. What a great tour.
- Visiting a new ball park is a treat for me. A no hitter from Oakland A’s at the Oakland Alameda Coliseum was a great introduction to the stadium. Of course I was rooting for the other team, but hey, a no hitter is fun to watch. I had a great time at the ballpark. The park looks a little faded; however, the experience was good. The train to the ballpark took about 20 minutes, much faster than driving to the stadium, not to mention it was only about $9 total for the one person round-trip ticket from my hotel in downtown San Francisco. The meeting with my BetterUp! coach in person at the ballpark was a benefit for me as well.
A few lessons learned.
- On the way out of town, I saw some great glass work at the San Francisco airport, near the yoga room. It was nice to see the town with a “rose” colored view. Even though I have been to this airport many times, I had never noticed the colored glass window attraction. It made me think about the entire trip and how my world has expanded and grown since I retired. I now see things in a new light. You should try it!
- I am trying on a few new perspectives since coming to town. Being a model is hard work! The models I spoke with had interesting lives; they willingly shared some of their stories and how they got into the career. Not all are doing it full time. A lot of people are involved in making one person look good for the camera. I was surprised that most of the people at the photo shoot were supporting the activity and not models or actors.
- My personal bike ride across the bridge was over 12 miles. I also took the boat back to San Francisco and enjoyed the ride.
- Although I walked several miles, I did not keep track of them and just enjoyed getting out, as it was still cold when I left home and when I returned. Sunny and mid-sixties was great for me!
As winter is now breaking up and spring, in late April, is finally here, I thought I would update you on my travel. We decided to visit our local Arboretum looking for signs of spring. We visited weekly starting at the end of March.
After our first visit, it snowed three days later.
After our second visit, it snowed three days later. Where we live, it snowed a few times on us in April, and we had freeze warning as recently as April 28.
Finally, on our third visit, the flowering trees we were looking for were out. We enjoyed visiting the Arboretum. Over the course of a month the trees did bloom in stages and several flowers started to appear. A visit to your local arboretum or city garden is well worth the effort; we will be back more this year for walks to see what is coming up next.
I did have some fun and see the Cincinnati Reds play baseball on one of the most perfect nights during the season—over 60 degrees and no humidity. It is great to get out with a friend during spring and enjoy a game. The ball park is a great night out and because the local team is not doing too well, tickets are available.
Being retired does not mean you cannot work some to stay active in the winter. I decided it would be fun to assist others with preparing taxes. I joined a national firm to train and work part-time in the tax field. This does not sound like traveling. However, being retired and training for an event like the tax season is like going to a different country. A recently retired friend who was a tax partner looked at me funny when I told him my plan. It was still a good experience. Now that spring is here, I am happy that tax season is over.
As a first year employee, I learned a lot of valuable information, including how to better prepare my own taxes.
- Everyone has to file taxes. Of course not everyone came into my office.
- A wide variety of people did come in, from all walks of life. I worked with homeless people (let me run out to my car and get that form…), people just out of jail, just about to give birth (one woman less than 2 days), just married, just divorced, in the process of getting married and of course, in the process of divorcing. I also serviced first time filers, and longtime filers.
- I was able to find tax breaks people did not know about as well as remind some about their responsibilities. The company policies and software made it easy to find the best possible tax outcome.
- Having a variety of mentors and working in a team is invaluable to assisting others.
- Every day I learned a new thing to do or watch out for. The tax season has predictable rhythms, and those with experience were able to teach the lessons when needed. I received a lot of assistance from my team and mentors. Thank you!
- Training on the tax code was a large task and a small part of the job. The software did some of the work; we still had a lot of thinking and knowledge to draw on when we were completing a return. Learning how to properly handle situations, what and when to say things was something my team helped teach me.
- Listening is the most important skill in working with the public.
- Our training did emphasize the point of listening, and the Internal Revenue Code points out that we must know our clients. It is easy to enter data and not listen. The best part of the work was listening to clients tell their story about their tax year.
- When we are assisting with a tax return, we are the face of the company. Of course some who came in may think we are the tax collectors, we are not! We were trained well on questions to ask and how to ask them. My team and mentors assisted with this as well. I learned a lot of cool stories about how people get along in life and most are doing very well for themselves.
I was not idle during the long winter months as I was able to swim over 1.2 miles a week and play racquet ball and teach spinning classes.
North West Arkansas is home to Wal-Mart and my mom, who recently turned 89. It was a pleasure to visit her in Arkansas for that special occasion. My mom was thrilled that my daughter joined me on the trip.
In Bentonville, we visited the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. My daughter was fascinated with the two-story spider sculpture at the entrance. I appreciated the models we saw that had productive use of sea shells, answering one of my questions from Florida, “What do we do with the shells?”
- The museum has a fun collection of American art including some sculptures like the man waiting for his wife and the spider that my daughter liked so much.
- The Frank Lloyd Wright house was great to see as we have limited opportunities to be in one of his creations. The museum took this house apart in New Jersey and reassembled it in Arkansas.
Thank you to Wal-Mart for sponsoring general admission to Crystal Bridges—it was free!
North of Bentonville is the retirement community of Bella Vista. We took a walk to visit the VFW memorial where we have a brick for my grandfather and my dad’s military service. While walking around Lake Bella Vista, we saw a rare site: a black swan. I was reminded of the book about improbable events. Our improbable event was a 2 mile hike with my 89 year old mom.
We managed a trip to the Walton Art Center, south of Bentonville, near the home of the University of Arkansas. Fayetteville is a nice place to visit. We enjoyed the pedestrian street traffic on Friday night as several of the U of Arkansas students were wearing realistic Star Wars outfits, including light sabers. Too bad we were not quick enough to get a picture.
It was cold in North West Arkansas. Next year (for 90) we will plan to go to Disney as my brother lives near Orlando.
Here are my Mom’s tips looking back on 89 years:
- Have things to look forward to doing. We went to the symphony. Like many of us when we get older, she does not like driving in the dark. She had tickets for all of us on a bus that a group regularly takes to the symphony. It adds to the social, as well as the cultural, experience.
- Be a blessing to others. Several people told me about the wonderful things my mom had done in their life. It was great to hear and made me proud of my mom. She was not resting; she went out to take care of a friend who is much older and cannot do too much.
- Keep moving. We went to Crystal Bridges, and although we did not walk fast, we went through the museum and grounds. We walked her neighborhood several times, seeing an armadillo and several neighbors doing the same thing we were–getting out and being active.
- Keep having fun!
Peer pressure is alive and well after high school and follows even 89 year olds. When asked about living in the same house for the last 30 years and when she might move to a smaller place, her response was all about her friends—fellow widows living by themselves and doing well. I am happy to report she is doing well in her large house and she is hiring out for some of the things she can no longer do.
Trip by the numbers: We went on several walks/hikes with Mom, a total of more than 4 miles. No bike rides, even though we had a few nice days.