We wish all who read RalieTravels a wonderful holiday season whether you celebrate Christmas, are of another religion or no religion at all. We truly do wish for “peace on earth, good will toward men.”
In some ways, it was a challenging year. But we got through it with a gratitude attitude.
That attitude was made easier as we hung ornaments on the Christmas tree. Alie may have seen much of the Caribbean from a wheelchair, but she did visit these places, and we saw them together. Then, not only did we have the luxury of two cruises, we also had great road trips to see the eclipse in August and to a reunion in the fall. We were very fortunate this year.
Our Christmas ornament collection is now supplemented by ribbons on which we hang National Park pins; this year we added a new pin from Mammoth Cave and some pins for parks we visited before we started the collection.
[For those of you who just started reading RalieTravels this year, we buy Christmas ornaments on our travels. We are reminded of those trips each time we decorate our tree. You can see ornaments from past years here, here and here.]
In 1991 when arthritis made it too difficult to write Christmas notes, we started sending a printed annual letter and tried to add a little humor. Although we have not met, I regard many of you who follow this post as friends, so I am sharing our 2017 annual letter even though it is long. You might note it refers to trips that became RalieTravel posts.
Dear Friends and Family,
We hope this finds you happy and well. The same can be said for us even if the “well” part gets challenging now and then. Alie’s October 2016 surgery went well — she says she is thrilled to have X-ray proof her head is screwed on tight. Furthermore, recent X-rays have confirmed that, contrary to reports, she does not have a screw loose.
Unfortunately, the recovery process was long and may have aggravated her arthritis which complicated things into mid-summer this year. This was followed by shingles in October and November. Our GP is a delightful guy but always under control. You know you have a problem when he takes a look and says “Oh S—-!”.
Nonetheless, we did get in a couple short cruises and a road trip to Pennsylvania for Ray’s 55th high school reunion. Unable to drive in a straight line, we went to Hershey via West Virginia and returned via Kentucky. By the way, C.J. Maggies in Elkins West Virginia has a terrific pizza and a “to die for” chicken pot pie. Who would have guessed? Ray took Alie to a glass blower who created a vase for her as we watched.
On one cruise, the average age was so old the Captain held his farewell party the first night — just in case. We met a honeymoon couple from New Zealand who found each other on-line. He was nervous about using his real name, so he used the pseudonym Justin Case. It took his bride three months to catch on. She married him anyway.
As always, we kept watch for interesting signs:
- Americus, GA Hair Salon: Mane Street Salon
- Cowboy Church sign: Free Horseback Rides Sunday at 4:30; Church Service at 6:00 (It turns out that there are a lot of “Cowboy Churches” around the country. Who knew?)
- Bar name: Fried Pigeon – presumably a secondary definition of fried.
- Signs on I-75 advertise “low cost vasectomy” — is that really where you want to economize.
- T-shirt in Paint Bank, VA: “End of the world, 9 miles; Paint Bank 12 miles.”
- Sign on a septic tank truck: We’re #1 in the #2 Business.
- Zephyrhills, FL bank sign: Herbal tea tastes so much better when it’s coffee.
As with the signs, we’re always looking for sayings:
- Ray was taken with the wisdom (?) of Jimmy Buffet “…most are fine as oysters while some become pearls.” But he had his own addendum: “It takes a lot of irritation to make a pearl.”
- The wife of a friend who likes to wander calls him a “meanderthal.”
- But when someone asked what gift was appropriate for a 75th anniversary, Alie replied “marble — a tombstone.”
Friend Pat wasn’t expecting to see us when we ran into her after several years apart. Then she exclaimed to Alie: “I didn’t recognize you until you opened your mouth.”
We had to buy a water heater this year. It has a computer that studies our habits, uses less electricity in “off” times and heats the water up again when it thinks we are likely to need it — it is smarter than some people around here. But perhaps computers have become too big a part of our life; a tired Ray tried to enter a password into the microwave.
A great thing about computers is that when a strange question enters our minds as we drive down the road, all we have to do is pull out the phone and say “OK, Google.” One time this year, we wondered if any college had a team name the “Foxes.” None do, but when we researched the subject, we found Marist Red Foxes and these others: [We are not making them up!]
- C. Irvine Anteaters;
- Scottsdale Artichokes;
- C. Santa Clara Banana Slugs; [a friend replied it is Santa Cruz.]
- UNC School of The Arts Fighting Pickles;
- USC Sumter Fire Ants;
- Austin Community College Riverbats;
- Richmond Spiders;
- Mary Baldwin and Union Colleges are both Squirrels;
- Wisconsin-Sheboygan Wombats; and
- Akron Zips.
We wonder what a “Riverbat” is? We also want to go to a U.C. Santa Clara/Cruz game so Alie can yell, “Go Banana Slugs!”
We like to travel in order to meet new and interesting people and see new and interesting places. But time in the car together also gives us a chance just to talk without life’s daily pressures — and perhaps without pressure to be serious.
It was a busy Red Cross year for us both. We helped respond to two wildfires, a serious flood and, of course, Hurricane Irma. We spent Irma in what amounts to a huge garage listening to the walls bang. We slept with 30 other folks, all about our ages. This means frequent nighttime forays to the john, more snoring than you can imagine, the sound of c-pap machines and of course the frequent passing of the incontinent dog we had in the shelter. Alie was so tired, she actually fell asleep at the height of the storm. Fortunately, our condo was on the other side of the storm and came through with flying colors. We had a couple of ceiling leaks and power was restored in under 18 hours.
After some angst, Alie “retired” from the Red Cross this November. (She was amused to discover that Red Cross computers do not actually allow you to retire. You just go “inactive”. Well, “inactive” is what she has in mind.) We both began before 2004’s Hurricane Charlie. While the Red Cross was perhaps not the source for many funny stories, the people we met along the way made it a very enriching experience.
We sincerely hope that as you travel through life this next year, many things will be enriching and many will give you a laugh — or at least a chuckle.