Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Post-Alaska...October '08-June '09

Wow...hard to believe that almost nine months have passed since that early (very) morning in October when I finally returned home after two and a half months of travel.
Much has gone on since my return...some good, some bad...mostly good.
Some of the bad...I returned home to find my house trashed and looted.I won't go into the details, but my house was filthy and many things were moved or, worse, missing. Food, personal care products, silverware, prescription medications...gone...missing. And the alcohol...all of the premium tequila, rum, vodka, the premium bottling of Grand Marnier...several thousand dollars worth in all...gone.
The good house is clean once again..."alien" items removed from closets and drawers...replaced by my own things. Thanks to my friends and "duty free", most of the alcohol has been replaced as well. So, on that front, things are pretty much back to normal.
Other bad news...there was that small matter of the $23,000.00 bill for my emergency appendectomy in Minot, North Dakota. I had the good judgment to take out a temporary health insurance policy before I left on my trip, but I should have foreseen the fact that the carrier would "balk" at a bill that large. And, sure enough, after months of "foot dragging", Standard Security Insurance found a way to retroactively deny coverage. But, thanks in part to my dire financial situation (more on that below), the kind folks at Trinity Hospital in Minot agreed to wive my entire bill. So...I owe nothing for that.
One last bit of "bad" news before we get to the "good"...I returned home in October to find that my carefully invested assets, to get me from age 57 to age 59 1/2, were...well...gone. I found myself poised over the edge of a financial abyss. So, you might wonder, how have I been able to survive since last October? Well, I have the good winemakers of Bordeaux and Burgundy to thank for my survival. Back in the mid-'80's I bought a lot of very good wine...Bordeaux and Burgundy, mostly, from the best producers in the best years. And, over the years, the value of that wine had increased substantially. So, in early November of last year, I loaded up thirty-six cases of my best wines and set off for Chicago to deliver them to the Chicago Wine Company for auction. About sixty percent of that consignment has already been sold, and the rest will go in the coming months. As a result, I have enough (just enough) to make it to age 59 1/2...albeit, on a substantially reduced budget.
How bad was it? Well, I'll let you in on a little financial "secret" adjusted gross income" for the year 2008 was a whopping...drum roll...$2500.00. And, as a result, I was able to qualify for the "low income" home heating credit and property tax rebate. Overnight...from upstanding taxpayer to "welfare king" a world we live in!
OK...all of the rest of the news is good. I spent Thanksgiving at the home of my friends, Gretchen and Roger. This was the first time that I had not cooked Thanksgiving dinner in over fifteen years, but Roger and Gretchen put together a fantastic "spread". two turkeys, lots of great side dishes, some delicious desserts, and...most of all...the warm company of very good friends.
In early October, I made my annual trip to Florida (via Charleston, SC). I spent the months of December and January (and half of February) visiting family and friends...Mom in Stuart, Mark and Faith in the Keys (Marathon), and Ed and Molly in Tampa. I as even able to "squeeze in" a five-day cruise on Royal Caribbean ( a real "steal" at only $200.00) with my good friend, Terri.
My friend, Mark Freedman, and I have had a standing bet for many years on the outcome of the Michigan/Ohio State game...the "loser" buys the "winner" a Stone Crab dinner. I like this bet because, if you win, you get Stone Crabs and, if you lose, you get Stone Crabs. I had a great run during the 2-10-1 years of John Cooper at OSU but, lately, Mark has had the upper hand. This year, I thought that this bet deserved some kind of "trophy. So...I presented the "Stone Crab Trophy" this year to Mark (see photo).
When I returned home from Florida, I began a modest fitness program. I've still got a year left on a membership to Bally's Health Club, so I started doing some walking around the track and spending time on the treadmill. I was really out of shape so, early on, this was quite a struggle. But, as time went on, I was able to go farther, push harder. When the weather warmed up a bit, I started hiking in a great park about a mile from home. It's got a long flat path about two miles long that links up with a trail network of over fourteen miles and a nice one and a half mile trail through woods, lakes and wetlands. I've gotten up to about five miles a day...carrying a loaded "pack" get in shape for my next big trip...50 days of camping in Glacier, Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks in July and August.
Ten, in late April, I found an ad on Craig's List and worked out the perfect bottle of 1986 Pichon LaLande Bordeaux in exchange for a virtually new Dahon "Speed Tr" folding bicycle...2 speeds, aluminum/titanium frame (30 pounds) folds up and stows away perfectly in my's going away with me on my July tip. So, in addition to walking five miles or so a day, I'm also biking another five miles a day.
In mid-April, celebrated m 58th birthday in the company of many good friends...enjoying great Italian food and receiving many cool gifts...thanks to you all!
In early May, I traveled back to Howe, Indiana for my 40th High School Reunion at Howe Military School (see photos). I had a great time renewing old friendships and making a few new ones.
Later in May, spent a fun weekend in the Hocking Hills area of Ohio helping my friend, Parul, celebrate her 50th with lots of her (and my) friends. She rented a luxury "lodge", and we spent the weekend eating, drinking, hiking and just enjoying all of the great company...lots of fun.
I spent Memorial Day weekend camping with my friends, Roger and Gretchen, in their new 25 foot motor home. It is a fantastic vehicle...25 feet, kitchen, shower, satellite TV (well, sometimes) and, generally, all of the comfort of home...on wheels. We spent that weekend practicing for our two and a half week trip to North Dakota in mid-June...more on that later.
So...that's about it. I'll be blogging the trip to North Dakota a little later, then blogging preparations for the 37th Annual Summer Picnic in July...then...blogging the whole 50-day trip out West in July/August/September. Yea, I know that 50 days in Montana won't be quite a s exciting as that time that I wrestled those three Grizzlies in the Yukon last year, but it will still be a fun blog...and I'll have some rally great photos.
More later...

P.S. Forgive the typos...this is a quick post from North Dakota...I'll edit later.