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Time to get away from winter.
What better than a group bike ride from Miami to Key West to avoid the snow and cold? Last January, we went to Florida after the New Year to get away, and it was cold! This year, farther south, we found the weather not just sunny, but also warm. Our ride was expertly organized by Charleston Bicycle Tours. It was fun for both of us, and it was like summer all day and night on the Keys.
Bonnie, a fellow traveler, put a video together of the ride. It summarized well our travels, with the exception of our not seeing the park at Dry Tortugas on the last day. Enjoy: https://youtu.be/iNhEnM1tvBw
Our first ride was about 24 miles and went from Coral Gables to the Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park at the end of Key Biscayne. We were happy to walk up the 112 steps to the top of the light house at the park. The ranger was good to only allow a few people to go up and down at a time as it was narrow on the circular steps.
Our first key was Key Biscayne. In order to bike the Keys, our tour centered three rides from Marathon Key. So, after our lunch in Miami we were driven with the bikes to Marathon Key for our first of three rides from the middle of the Keys. We did enjoy the Florida tradition of viewing the sunset each night as we stayed in the area.
Our stay on Marathon Key was well done. We were driven out and rode 40 miles back to our hotel.
We started near the big stone crab and enjoyed the views along the way. Despite me and another rider having two flat tires on the ride, we still had a great time. It helped that instead of changing the tire, I was given a different bike. I rode three that day.
The pictures do not do justice to color of the water.
It was great to ride the bike path and not just along the side of the road. We were pleased that several miles were on the path along the road between the Keys. It was enjoyable when we had some shade on the bike path. As you know, trees create shade along path but also sometimes break up the path making it harder to ride. We also rode along the road.
My favorite bridges were the ones with a separate bridge for the bikers. I believe they are locally called fishing bridges, and we saw plenty of people fishing from the bridges, including a lot of pelicans perched on the bridges hoping to get to the catch before the fishing line did.
We enjoyed riding on both sides of the road as the path changed sides periodically.
As the journey got close to Key West (the end of the road for our travels) we occasionally were riding against traffic. For me, this was the first time since I was a young child that I was riding opposite the traffic and it was really a different experience for me. I guess I am used to riding along the same side as traffic. The best part of our direction, regardless of the side of the road we were riding on, was that the wind, which was strong for most of the ride, was generally at our back. The few times we rode into the wind it was a different experience.
A ride on Big Pine Key and to No Name Key was fun. We liked the dollar bills all over the No Name Pub. We learned that the pub is on Big Pine Key and not on the key called No Name. We also had the opportunity to visit the Florida Keys Wildlife Society. We saw one Key deer on our ride and learned a whole lot more about them and other wildlife at the visitors’ center. One of the things we noticed is that the Key deer are smaller than other deer. As a group, we came up with the saying, “In Texas everything is bigger and on the Keys it is smaller.” I just watched the deer and did not get a picture of the deer.
A few lessons learned.
- The sun will find anyplace you did not properly apply sunscreen prior to the ride.
- Stop and re-apply sunscreen during the ride.
- Snacks and water make for great combinations on a long ride. The ocean breeze is great at your back.
The Key West Museum of Art & History at the Custom House. We really thought this was a good museum to visit and was a good representation of Key West. The museum was a recommendation from our guide. The building alone was fun and interesting. The many exhibits were well done and we thought Guy Harvey Sketches of Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea” that went up the main staircase and was great to read and see come to life. The museum has a Civil War exhibit about the Keys, the railway and the impact of the railway on the Keys. Outside of the museum they had several life-like works of art that we at first took for people.
The Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory was a great end to the day of biking around Key West. The trees in the conservatory were alive with all the butterflies. It was amazing to see so many in one place at one time. When we walked in, we could only say wow at the beauty. Well worth the admissions price to visit. We were surprised by the two pink flamingos walking around oblivious to us and the butterflies. They were a good addition to the butterflies.
The Key West Hemingway house and Museum was good to see, although we just passed by to look and did not stop in. Hemingway apparently put Key West back on the map and was the number one tourist attraction for many years.
Mile Marker Zero on US 1 and Southernmost Point were highlights of the journey. We had told others of our pending trip and the Southernmost Point was mentioned by them frequently. It was fun to have our picture taken here. Everyone in line for the point was polite, and several people waiting took pictures for others who were ahead of them. It was great to see people getting along. The Mile Marker Zero on US 1 was not as popular, judging by the lack of a crowd at the marker compared to the line we waited in at 8:30 in the morning at the Southernmost Point marker.
We also saw roosters everywhere in Key West. They are apparently a thing in Key West and protected as well by local law and custom. Some of our fellow travelers could hear the rooster call early in the morning; we were glad they were not outside of our room.
We took a side trip on our non-bike afternoon to kayak in the Atlantic and through several mangroves. The Blue Planet Kayak company rented us a couple of kayaks and gave us a map to explore. We are sorry we could not make the timing on their tours. We really enjoyed paddling through the mangrove and we even saw what we knew were crabs that looked like spiders climbing the trees. While we were out on the water we heard before we saw fighter planes from the near by Naval base.
Riding across the 7 mile bridge, twice, was fun. The first time was going across to Big Pine Key, and the next day we rode across again on our 50 mile ride to Key West. The side for bikes was wide and I was able to get up to a pretty good speed on the bridge with the wind at my back. I did miss my bike clips and the dropped handle bars when a big truck passed. Seeing trees grow out of the railroad bridge that is no longer in use and the color of the water was surprising. This is the longest bridge I have ridden on, although not the tallest.
Sunset cruise was the right introduction to Key West on our first night at the end of the longest day of riding (50miles).
We had our end of the week sunset dinner on Sunset Key at the Latitudes restaurant. It was a wonderful sunset and we all enjoyed the delicious dinner with our friends from the week of bike riding.
The paintings on the waterfront brewery were really interesting to look at. We thought we were at an aquarium and were surprised that a brewery would undertake such a great art project. Next time we are in town we will have to take a brewery tour.
Key Lime Pie contest –after dinner on our last night we had a key lime pie judging contest. I think all our friends at home would have enjoyed it. My choice for the number one pie came in second place. They were all good and we had fun.
A ride is better with friends. Thank you to all who rode with us; you were great company and help on the ride and during the week.
Key West was an interesting and tourist friendly town and we had a good time exploring. It was better as a group at night as a lot of people are on the streets. I am glad our guide knew the way to go.
We had some really good dining experiences along the way. I did not take pictures of the meals. We really liked the tapas, a bunch of small dishes that the group shared. That was delicious!
The view from the last night’s dinner overlooking the beach with the palm trees and the open air was not just a good meal but also a good experience.
We biked over 150 miles during the week. Our longest ride was 50 miles in one day. We did not break any speed records; our goal was to enjoy the surroundings, and we did.
On the road again! A trip on the Kentucky Bourbon trail showed us that sampling the product is enjoyable. We began our tour at Maker’s Mark Distillery and then went to Bardstown, Kentucky, where we stayed at the Bourbon Manor. The Bourbon Manor is a well decorated Bed and Breakfast and our hosts treated us very well. This was the first time I had traveled with a group of adults. It was a blast! Thank you Lisa and Eric! You did a great job planning and setting the group up for fun.
The food at the Bourbon manor was delicious, and their apple desert for breakfast was as good as advertised. Sitting around in the evening with friends was wonderful. Another favorite place to eat was the Rickhouse Restaurant in Bardstown. Although finding it was tricky in the dark, the steaks were worth the visit.
We all strolled around Bardstown and were entertained by the lively arts and small businesses along the main street. The snowmen outside of the art show led us to spend some time inside experiencing the local art. It was very interesting to see the spinning wheel display and see how good several of the area artists are at painting.
We even ran into Smith’s CPA firm, which was funny as one of our friends is a retired CPA named Smith. Of course we had to get a photo of Smith & Company CPA at the shop. It is great to be retired and see a thriving town of hard working people.
Oh, the weather outside is frightful! We were happy to be taking a distillery tour as the weather turned colder. It snowed while we were touring the Maker’s Mark Distillery. This was an agreeable, light and fluffy snow that only stuck to the grass and did not come down when we were driving.
At Maker’s Mark we had a delightful tour of the facility—the grounds are very pretty. We liked the bridge over Whisky Creek. In addition to the tour, our group signed up to learn how to make mixed drinks, of course with Maker’s Mark. We are not going to make a bourbon bottle chandelier but we liked the one at the restaurant at Maker’s Mark.
After the tour and the snow, the highlight for many of us was dipping our own bottle of Maker’s Mark in the red wax. This is the symbol of Maker’s Mark; we were happy to try to get the most drips on our bottle of bourbon. I think Julie from our group managed the most drips on her bottle.
We learned a lot about distilling and storing the bourbon. For example, the US Congress recognized the popularity of bourbon when, in 1964, when they designated bourbon as a “distinctive product” of the United States. Both chambers passed the Senate’s version of the concurrent resolution, which ensured that bourbon was made exclusively in the United States. The act indicated that bourbon must be at least 51% corn, distilled no more than 160 proof, aged in new white oak barrels that have been charred inside and age for no less than two years, although more than four is better. Bourbon must be stored at no more than 125 proof and bottled no less than 80 proof. Most bourbon (95%) is made in Kentucky, although it does not have to be made in Kentucky, just the United States.
In addition to the Maker’s Mark tour, we visited Heaven Hill, Willett and Woodford Reserve distilleries on our trip. Each one was different and they all had a good story to tell. The bourbon trail in Kentucky is an excellent tour. We could have seen several more distilleries, but even retired travelers have limited time.
One of the fun facts we learned on the trail is that there are today in Kentucky two barrels of bourbon for every person living in Kentucky. That is a lot of bourbon!
My Old Kentucky Home, you know the state song of Kentucky? Well, we had a terrific tour of the historic home located in Bardstown. Yes, this is the historic house that Stephen Foster wrote the song about. The house was all decorated for Christmas and our lively guide even sang the state song for us all. Some of us (not me) joined in for some of the words. No photography was allowed inside, but it was a fun tour!
A few lessons learned.
The story of bourbon is one of reinvention. After prohibition, many entrepreneurs took a gamble on bourbon. With the slow aging process it does not produce revenue for several years. It does produce for the state of Kentucky and the federal government tax revenue every year.
Traveling in a group is entertaining. We will do another trip with friends in the future. We are so thankful for our friends. We had more fun than we could have imagined on the trip.
We all enjoyed the experience of mixing drinks. We are looking forward to our next get together to see if we remember what we learned in our mixing class at Maker’s Mark.
- Visit to an abbey—the fudge was great. They even had bourbon balls.
- Viewing the historic Kentucky distilleries was fascinating. We learned something new in each one and the bourbon tasted different as well. My favorite distilleries were the Maker’s Mark and Woodford Reserve.
- The press was at the Heaven Hill location as they announced the expansion of their visitor’s center to three times the current size. Of course the tour talked about their rick house fire although it was not prominent at the visitor’s center.
- We were very impressed with the current center and will look forward to the expansion when we visit the next time.
The bourbon trail was not a biking trip. I am sure we will get a biking trip in again in 2019. Even the bike at the Bourbon Manor had some snow. It was cold during our visit in November.
My travel to Arkansas was supposed to culminate in the semi-annual square 2 square bike ride with my sister. Over 1,900 riders were signed up and ready to go. The ride was scheduled for Saturday morning and although it rained all day Friday, Saturday looked clear.
I received a call from the ride organizers at 5:30 on Saturday morning that the ride was cancelled as several of the tunnels were rained out from the day before.
My sister rode anyway, riding around the tunnels, unlike about 1,899 other riders. I took the opportunity to drive back home.
I am happy to say my sister and I did a tune up ride at Pea Ridge National Military Park. We have been to the park before. It was a good ride, some hills and no traffic! The ride was not too long, a good almost-8-mile loop around the park. The focus of the park is the Civil War battle at Pea Ridge. The stops along the way reveal Civil War history and the two-day battle. If you have not been to the battle site, it is worth the stop. Over 26,000 soldiers struggled in Northwest Arkansas in the battle that would decide the fate of Missouri.
I enjoyed riding the Razorback Regional Greenway Trail in Northwest Arkansas. I only took one ride during the week along the trail and this trail is part of the square 2 square ride. I wanted to re-familiarize myself with the trail. I expected to be riding that weekend the same course with hundreds of others and I enjoyed a less populated trail ride.
I was able to take advantage of a new disc golf course near my mom’s house. My mom joined me on the first round and I did another “solo” walk around the course while I was down for the visit. I had played golf (with a ball) on this same location years before with my family. The old golf course was a 9-hole course. I can see that I hit the golf ball much further than I can throw a disc. It was fun to play the new disc golf course. The designers of the course had a good idea and layout. I enjoyed teeing off of a golf tee pad to hit, I mean throw my disc.
A quick stop in St. Louis and another bike ride on Grant’s trail was a warm up for the ride I was expecting to do in Arkansas. I enjoy the ride along Grant’s trail and found the balloons along the route to be a fun addition. I am looking forward to riding the expansion coming next year as well.
On a prior trip to St. Louis I was able to visit, along with my wife and in-laws White Haven, Grant’s home (also a National Park) in St. Louis. Grant’s trail, where we like to ride in St. Louis, goes along the home. It was great to walk around and learn more about this famous Civil War General and President.
When I got back from my travels south, a friend of mine from India was in town and we got to spend a nice day together in Cincinnati catching up on old times.
Before going to Arkansas I had a visit from a college buddy and we enjoyed Cincinnati and Cleveland play baseball
I also have been able to take in a local hike or two and get back to the local Arboretum to see how the plants are doing. It is good to get out and hike among the trees and flowers.
Since the organizers of the square 2 square ride cancelled their ride, all riders were allowed a “substitute” 30 mile bike ride in order to receive their medal.
I was happy to ride with my wife on the Loveland bike trail in Cincinnati to complete my Arkansas ride. I receive the medal in the mail and I will look for another time to ride the trails.
A few lessons learned:
Take a chance and ride when you can. I was all ready for the square 2 square ride and was disappointed not to be a part of that ride. I did go on several rides the week before. It was enjoyable to be outside riding the different trails even though I did not make it for the event.
Keep your mind busy. Here is a look at the jig saw puzzle table. My Mom works on puzzles daily. When she is all done, she donates the used ones to a local charity.
Enjoy the area where you are. The Pea Ridge bike ride was a last minute thing. It was enjoyable for the scenery and that the only other traffic on the road was a few others on bike. We had the entire park to ourselves. This was better than a simple bike path because of all of the history and stops along the route.
When a friend calls up to say hi, have them over or spend the day with them. Local plans can wait.
Trip by the numbers: Here is a picture of my substitute 30 mile bike ride. It could have been in Arkansas and I did the ride in Ohio. The result was the same—I had fun riding.
It must be time for another ride!
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.
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.
Part of the retirement joy is the ability to leave town during the week. We were able to leave for our murder mystery weekend on Thursday and enjoy the best weather day of the week on site. Leaving Friday after work, we would have missed a beautiful (cold) clear Friday as Saturday was cold and rainy.
Our visit to Cumberland Falls State Park in Kentucky was great. This picturesque falls is known as the Niagara of the south. Fall colors were happening and the weather on Friday was perfect for hiking. We were able to start just after breakfast, on the trail at 8 AM, hard at work!
The fun part about Cumberland Falls is that it is one of two spots in the world where you can experience a Moonbow. If you have never seen one, a trip to this terrific state park should be in your future. The last time we made it here we stayed in a cabin and hiked the trails by day and saw the Moonbow by night. It is hard to photograph the Moonbow. It is great to experience it. Experiences are what we are looking to accumulate in retirement and not “things.”
On our Friday hike we noticed the fallen leaves looked like snow cover on the ground. The trees were raining leafs, including giant ones from the big leaf magnolia tree. It was fun to watch the leaves fall across our path.
The colors were vibrant in the park.
On our hike we saw turtles sunning themselves.
But, the most interesting sound we heard on the trail was the “talking trees.” On our afternoon hike we stopped, as we generally do, to listen to what is happening around us. We heard a weird sound. Looking around we noticed that one tree had fallen into another and when the wind blew, as it was doing, the trees were trying to pull apart and made a sound. I do not recall hearing that sound before on a hike.
The reason we went this weekend to Cumberland Falls was that the lodge was hosting a murder mystery dinner. We really enjoyed the interaction and the participation with the cast in solving the mystery. We made a few new friends as well. We are now planning on going with some of our friends to a local showing of a similar production put on by the same company.
One lesson stood out for us. The park was enjoyable for us because the park was purchased and given to the state for all to enjoy. It made us think about our legacy. We are not heirs to a fortune, yet we can all give back in our own way.
Other highlight: Late October is a great time to go to the southern part of Kentucky; all the trees were at or near peak. We also learned that the state park has fun with Halloween decorations and the staff got into the spirit with costumes.
We did not solve the murder mystery, although a few people in the audience had the correct answer. We managed to hike over 9 miles. We do not mountain bike, so, no biking this weekend for us.
Many assumptions are made about life after retirement. I know that I had a few assumptions on what people did or do in retirement. Many think of endless golf games and outside entertainment in Florida. In retirement I have played two golf games, admittedly, not very well. In comparison, I just played trumpet at my third wedding this year. I am excited to have played at more weddings than golf courses.
I love the thoughts from Roger Whitney, “Go, go years, slow go years and no go years.” In my retirement we are in the go, go years. Here is a recap of what we have been up in the last week—from a travel perspective.
Last week I was able to help out a friend who had received a retirement gift of baseball tickets and he and two others joined in at the Reds game. We even got to see a dramatic finish in the 10th inning (for the other team L). What a fun opportunity to stay out late and not worry about being late for the office the next day.
Kim and I went out to the local playhouse for a production of Shakespeare in Love. We really enjoyed the acting and the escape. We also did not worry about when we left or came back home.
Last weekend, we hopped on a plane for Rochester, Minnesota, to be a part of the wedding for Karen and Phil. I was pleased to play trumpet for their wedding. Our hosts for the weekend, Chris and Cindy, were also part of the music for the wedding. I really enjoyed our time with Karen and Phil as well as Chris and Cindy.
We did a tour of Rochester, including a visit to the Mayo properties in downtown Rochester as well as a quick visit to the Plummer house.
The area around Rochester (in the summer!) is really nice. Of course they have these things called “sky bridges” that connect the buildings downtown so the residents do not have to go outside in the winter.
We enjoyed the walking as well as the bike ride we did near Silver Lake. Minnesota is the “land of 10,000 lakes” and the county we were in is one of three counties that does not have a natural lake. Interesting trivia for the day.
Geese by the hundreds dwell on the Zumbro’s shoreline where it widens into Silver Lake. The geese are a scenic addition and responsible for the local restaurant’s name where we ate breakfast, the “Canadian Honker.” The food was good and the location was nice. The local story is that the power plant keeps the water in the Rochester part of the Zumbro River warm all year long and the geese never leave.
For fun, Kim and I rode a tandum bike. It was an interesting experience as we bike ride a lot at the same time, just not together on the same bike. I think we are, for now, keeping our individual road bikes.
A few lessons learned.
- Be helpful. The history of the Mayo Clinic is that it was founded by people that helped out.
- Be intentional about friends. Our friends Chris and Cindy “Friday with friends” event where they are intentional about getting together with friends each week.
- Always be yourself, unless you are Batman… We saw this sign at a men’s clothing store in downtown Rochester.
We also spent the prior Friday exploring the bike trails in Aurora, Indiana. We were pleased to find the trails. They are close to the house and provide a nice ride along the Ohio River. It is good to see the scenery from the other side of the river, looking into Kentucky.
There is a new person retiring all the time. Are you next? The gate agent on our flight to Rochester was retiring. As our incoming flight was delayed we had a few minutes to chat. She is off to Peru and then will be looking for some volunteer work.
We went to a local farm and enjoyed their fall festival, including a hayride and picking a pumpkin. The spiced cider was not yet ready for us, maybe next week! Happy fall to everyone.
Trip by the numbers:
States visited: Minnesota, Indiana and Ohio. Does a stopover at the airport count as a visit? We did two stopovers in Chicago, so did we visit Illinois? I say, yes we did…Please let me know your thoughts in the comments. We were several nights in Minnesota, had a bike ride in Indiana and a play and a baseball game in Ohio.
- Biking miles: 26, with the addition of Minnesota to our list of states for a bike ride.
- Hiking/Walking: 7 miles.
- Trumpet playing at Holy Cross Lutheran Church.
Our first path took us to the Boston Metro area for Gary and Jackie’s wedding in Worchester.
- The wedding and reception were held at Tuckerman Hall in Worchester.
- Kim and I enjoyed lunch prior to the afternoon wedding on Grove Street at the Fix Burger Bar. They had a great selection on the menu, and I had the Bison burger—very tasty. The resturants in the area were converted manufacturing centers. It appeared to be a happening place.
- The Bride and Groom own a part interest in a horse and asked me to
- I performed on the trumpet the call to post prior to the bride entering. The assembled all laughed, which was a good thing! It was fun and of course it was listed in the program and no one knew what it meant.
- On Sunday I also played trumpet at our church home in Massachusetts with the praise band. It was fun, and the musicians are very talented.
After the wedding weekend, it was time to visit with some of the people we missed seeing at the wedding. We would like to have seen more of the good people we know in New England but time was against us visiting everyone. We plan to come back and hope to see you on our next trip if we missed you this time around!
Our second path involved food and friends:
- My goal was to eat seafood and this party had lobster, clams and mussels. Labor Day clam bake—great food!
- I enjoyed the eating at the party.
- We even took home a home-grown pumpkin from our friend’s pumpkin patch!
Enjoying a clam bake with friends on a beautiful sunny day, fresh lobster is really a good time!
Dinner near Boston Harbor—again great seafood and more friends. Having dinner on Boston Harbor in the summer is a good time.
- Dinner in Marlborough, MA, our former home town in the Boston area. Good friends and good food.
- Lunches with friends around the metro Boston area as well!
Our third path in the Boston area was some local adventures.
When we lived near Wachusett Mountain State Reservation, we hiked this mountain each Father’s Day. We went up on Labor Day and were surprised at the number of bike riders going up the mountain.
Having lived in Marlborough, MA, and played in a band for the Assabet River Rail Trail opening, we just had to hike along the Assabet River Rail Trail. The City provides bike rentals on the trail but we just hiked along.
- We visited the Lowell National Historic Park and enjoyed our visit. This is the only National Park that I am aware of that gives out ear plugs as you go in to visit the exhibit. Yes, the textile machinery was loud and fascinating. Key hint to the visit—parking in Lowell (and Boston…) is tricky, we were told, and I am passing on to you that you can park for free behind the visitor’s center (see map) and have your parking validated.
To obtain a real sense of American history, a trip to Boston is a must. Having lived in the Boston area for several years and abiding by the philosophy to always be a tourist in your home town, we have seen many of the attractions in Boston and surrounding areas. We have walked the Freedom Trail more than once, taken the duck tour and have been to Fenway Park and other local sporting venues. We recommend all of these.
We were planning a bike ride downtown, but unfortunately it was raining on the day we had planned to ride so we traveled home, stopping at Cooperstown on the way. The Baseball Hall of Fame (HOF) was our last path on the way back home.
- We were able to spend four hours (not enough time) to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame. My first idea was to see the Basketball, Baseball, Football and Rock & Roll Halls, but we settled on one for several hours. We had a great time and do not regret the choice.
- Mid-September is the start of the off-season for visits, so we had no issues parking.
- This was our first time at the Baseball HOF in almost 20 years. We were impressed with the use of video and interaction with the staff and the visitors.
- We relived several exciting moments of baseball history and will plan to come back sooner than 20 years.
A few lessons learned.
- People wanted to kidnap Kim to ensure we would move back to the area. We know that we need to visit more often—my last visit was a few years ago and Kim had not been back for over 9 years.
- One couple we ate dinner with shared that as they visit areas with friends and family, they spend the night in their friends’ and family’s houses. Sharing a meal is not enough time to get past general “Facebook” updates, but it is a great place to start.
- We need intentionality around visiting and catching up with friends and family. Local retired friends shared that going out is one way to keep active and to continue encouraging others.
The trees are already turning colors and the colors look good. We missed all of the trees!
We drove to Worchester (near Boston) around Lake Erie and through New York on Route 90, or as we say, the Mass Pike.
- All new this year is the absence of toll boths on the Pike; they use the New York EZ pass, or will bill your licence plate.
- You do receive a discount by signing up in advance in Massachuttes.
- New York still has the EZ pass lanes as well as cash lanes.
Trip by the numbers:
- Driving: 2,233 miles.
- Hiking/Walking 10.2 miles.