Fun in Germany and Austria

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.

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We expected the countryside in Germany and Austria to look like farmland and the towns and cities only to have old historic buildings.

Neuschwanstein 1 Drive in countryside

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 from the bridgesFrankfurt 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

Munich 2 Glen

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.

 

Neuschwanstein

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.

Neuschwanstein 9 best view

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.

Neuschwanstein 7 view from 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.

 

Salzburg, Austria

Saltzburg 21Our 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.

 

Vienna, Austria

We left Salzburg all too quickly and headed by rail to Vienna.

Vienna 11

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.

Vienna 12 Stadt Park

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 enjoyed walking around the imperial palaces of the Hofburg and Schönbrunn as well as the public parks and gardens.

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.

Other highlights:

  • I received my MBA from Webster University, way back when…seeing a Webster University building in Vienna was fun and not expected. Vienna 18 Webster University

 

 

 

  • 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.

 

Lessons learned

  • 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.”Vienna 15 coffee house
  • Beer in Germany and Austria is less expensive than soda or water … lesson: drink beer with meals!Saltzburg 19
  • 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.Saltzburg 20 snitzel
  • 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.

    Vienna 20 chocolate

    Vienna chocolate

Vienna 14 Frankfurter

 

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:

  1. Move and exercise. Each day we hiked in the cities.
  2. Find peaceful, beautiful surroundings. We stopped and smelled the roses, admired artwork, enjoyed singing and watching the river flow by.
  3. 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.

 

Activity statistics:

  • 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.

 

Vienna 3 bike

Germany River Cruise and Bike Ride

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.32KoblenzBadWimpfenWT-01

Highlights:

Castle Watching—don’t blink and miss one along the river…

Bike Tour 2018 first castle on Rhine-2

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.

Bike tour 2018 Necker River--June 9 more castles G7K on the road

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. Bike tour 2018 Necker River--June 7 odenwald castle dilsberg-8Being 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.

Bike tour 2018 at vinyard with Glen and bike rose bush

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.

Bike tour 2018 at nierstein Vinyard tour 4

Nierstein vineyard tour

Quaint Towns and Villages

Bike tour 2018 bike parth along the Rhine--coblestone streets

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. Bike tour 2018 the Partia passing on day one a castle

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.

Lessons learned:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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).
  4. 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.

 

Other highlights:

We ran across a new WWII monument noting the American army crossing the Rhine River—just put up in 2017.Bike tour 2018 at nierstein WWII rhine crossing location-1

Activity statistics:

  • 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.

A Birthday Celebration

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.

St louis in bloom

Spring day in St. Louis

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!

birthday mugMy  father-in-law’s mantra: Every day is a good day.

He means it too!

birthday chalk in st louis

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other highlights:

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.

st louis bike for bmx course challange

Spring—Road Trip with a Graduation

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.

biltmore-touring.jpeg

Fun with Biltmore Hats

biltmore-library.jpeg

Other highlights:

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.

Lessons learned:

  • 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

Activity statistics:

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.

Ft Jax Bike Enter restricted area

Picture from one of my favorite Columbia bike rides–around the live ammunition firing range!

 

Retirement Model?

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.

 

Other highlights:

  • 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! SFO--looking at airport through rose collered glasses
  • 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. SFO view of hotel lobby

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Activity statistics:

  • 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!

SFO ending shot bike

 

Waiting for Spring

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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A Fun Visit to NW Arkansas

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?”

AR What to do with shells

One option for shells from the beach and assorted items

  • 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.

AR Frank Lloyd wright house

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 ArkansasFayetteville 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.

Other highlights:

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:

  1. 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. AR Symphony program day 1
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Keep having fun!

AR happy birthday Mom

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.

AR Monday day from deck

View from the porch

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.

AR lake bella visita bikes

Too cool for a bike ride. We like the sculpture!

A Cool Walk on the Beach

Our trip to Florida proved that there is nothing quite like a Florida sunset even when it is cold outside. Watching the sun set is something we rarely do at home. With the weather near a not “Florida like” 30+ degrees (0 C) we were joined in viewing the sunset by several other tourists, most of whom did not get out of their hotel or condo during the day. Of course for us, no matter how many times you witness the sun going down over the water, it’s always a magical experience. We managed to get out every night while we were in Florida to see the sun set over the water. Sometimes it was with a glass of wine and friends. Other times it was just a few of us brave souls watching the sun set in the west.

When it is cold, it sounds good to book flights to Florida. We imagined ourselves spending a week at the beach the first week of January, using plenty of sunscreen while walking on the beach and taking some bike rides nearby. When we looked at the local forecast and saw the highs at home would be cold, we congratulated ourselves on our planning, until we looked at the lows for the panhandle of Florida, in the high 20’s (-2 C). Okay, a few days it did warm up to almost 50 degrees (about 13 C), and it was generally 30 degrees warmer where we were staying in Florida than it was back home.  We managed to walk for at least an hour every morning before lounging around and eating breakfast. Warm coffee was great after a cool walk on the beach. I even put my bare toes in the cool sand, although not for too long.

FL Beach walk river

We did enjoy the sunrise in the early mornings.  We did all the things on a trip to Seagrove Beach, Florida, we anticipated; we just had on more layers and never got to wear the shorts we packed. A good day on the beach was better than shoveling snow at home.

We saw several shells and some wild life while walking along the beach. The sand pipers were fun to watch scurrying along the beach. A sea cucumber and the crab were interesting to see—although it was too cold for them on the beach. We saw the sea turtle signs although we did not see any signs of the turtles. Please let me know your suggestions for the sea shell collection we took home with us. The beach was a beautiful white sandy beach that reminded us of snow. Of course, the cold weather may have influenced our thoughts.

We biked and hiked in the nearby Point Washington State Park. We were very impressed by the trails and the different plants that we encountered. We were pleased to be wearing long pants when we rode through all of the saw tooth palmetto bushes. I was amazed at the deer moss that was like a carpet. On our hikes we found a grove of cypress trees .

Kim and I are experienced road bike riders. We were able to borrow mountain bikes and ride in the state forest for several days. It was different for us to be on the mountain bikes, and riding in the sand is very hard. The state forest practices controlled burns; the sand is deep when trucks have been through in recent days. I am not sure who can ride on the deep sand-filled paths. I could not ride parts of this trail as the sand was over a foot deep for the width of the trail.

We did discover what we thought was a tree from Dr. Seus–the long leaf pine tree.

We enjoyed the aviation in the panhandle with a nearby air force base. We did stop at the fascinating Air Force Armament Museum and enjoyed our tour inside as well as outside. They have heat and air conditioning inside the building. It is a good place to go when you cannot go out on the beach.

Lessons learned:

  • Being cold on the beach is better than not being on the beach at all.
  • Bike riding in deep sand is just as hard as a tall hill; new respect for mountain biking.
  • Air travel in January is tricky with snow covering places all up and down the east coast.
  • Beach access is a consideration when renting or buying near the beach.
  • A month or two near the beach is a great way to spend a month or two.

FL Glen and kim at sunset last nightTrip by the numbers:

Mountain biking:  41 miles, longest 15 miles.

Hiking,walking on the beach: 14 miles, longest 3.75 miles in the forest.

FL Glen on bike bridge 2

On the Kentucky Bourbon Trail

One of our goals is to be a local tourist. When friends and family visit, we need to be able to show off where we live. We have also moved around the country and know that exploring the home town area is important to growing roots in the community.

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Lots of product stored for aging

Kentucky is home to several bourbon distilleries. One of our retirement travel goals is to begin to visit them along the trail that the Commonwealth of Kentucky has set. It will likely take us a while to get to all of them. We have friends who have biked on the bourbon trail, and Kentucky has an outline of some suggested bike routes. I am sure I have a friend or two who would ride some of the trail with me sometime next spring.

Bourbon distilleries are large and small in Kentucky, and the smaller makers are the craft distilleries. We started our tours with the craft trail, close to home. We have made one stop so far. Our first stop was the Boone County Distillery.  I cannot think of a better introduction into bourbon and the history than what we received from this group.

The tour was fun and informative. We did not make a reservation and were pleasantly surprised to be the only two on the tour. Larger groups proceeded and followed us on the tour. This is one of the benefits of being home when others are at school or working.

After our tour, we had the unique opportunity to see them uncork a barrel and strain the product. It was cool. Even better, we were treated to a taste from the barrel, which was slightly different from the finished product.

A few lessons learned. Being a local tourist is just as much an adventure as flying around the world. The people were very nice, informative and happy to make our visit meaningful. We are planning to visit more local attractions and will get to them soon.

 

Other items:

We were excited to see the redone Music Hall in Cincinnati. The symphony sounded great and the colors and updates were all very well done. We hope to go back soon to the symphony.

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We were able to watch a dog for a short time and appreciated the quiet moments to reflect when you just have to be outside walking a dog. It is a good reminder to reflect on all the good things in life and all that has gone so well for us. We are grateful for every day.

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No bike riding on this bourbon trail. I did teach a cycle class on the day of our tour. Always fun!

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Have to stay in shape when it is cold outside.

 

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