Saturday, December 31, 2016

A Homer's Travels Look Back At 2016

2016 ... What a crappy year.  After a long battle with heart disease, the Father-in-Law passed away.  very close friend was diagnosed with cancer and passed away a couple months later.  Too many famous people died.  I had minor medical issues most of the summer and the Wife hurt her shoulder.  Oh yeah, the election sucked too.  I have never wanted a year to end so soon.

Not that everything was bad, mind you.  I got my Scuba certification (yes ... I consider this a positive even though I didn't like the experience so much) and our Cuba and South America trips were incredible.   Oh, and the Cubs won the World Series - the Father-in-Law would have loved that. 



Let's look back at 2016, shall we:
Last year I really didn't have many expectations for 2016.  I expected it to be dominated by AT training which was not nearly the case.  The whole political mess was not on my radar and I never saw the sadness and heartache that were to come.

I'm not sure what 2017 will bring for me.  It will surely be dominated by my Appalachian Trail adventure that will occupy five to six months of the year.  That I am looking forward to.  It's the stuff happening off the trail that has me a tad concerned.  The nation may be aboil this coming year.  Being out on the trail with limited contact with the outside world may be a blessing but I will always be worried about the Wife holding the fort back home.

I've always ended my Look Back posts with the same sign off.  I will do it again despite not being so hopeful this time around. 

Here's to a Happy and Prosperous New Year for all.
May all your dreams come true in 2017.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Photograph: "Train Cars And Lodges"

My last photograph post of the year.  Coal carrier train cars juxtaposed with beaver lodges on a frozen lake.  This was taken two weeks ago at Big Lake Park, Council Bluffs, Iowa.

"Train cars and lodges"
by Bruce H.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Photograph: "Wasting Away"

Another picture from my walk yesterday.  The remains of a drowned tree, with it's arms raised in the air, wasting away.  It won't be long before it falls over.  There may be a metaphor there somewhere.

"Wasting away"
by Bruce H.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Photograph: "Sinking Into The Ice"

I went for another training walk today making my way to Shadow Lake shopping center, over to the Walnut Creek Recreational Area, and back home.  The walk was 15 miles (24.1 km).

Along the way I saw geese, a swastika rendered in shaving cream along with a self-portrait of the artist also in shaving cream (i.e. a Dick Pic), and a patchy blue sky that lifted my spirits a bit.

Here is one of my more interesting pictures that I took on the walk.  A leaf is sinking into the ice.  It looks like concrete but it is actually ice on the surface of Walnut Creek Lake.

"Sinking into the ice"
by Bruce H.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Photograph: "20th & S"

The corner of a bakery ... now closed ... in South Omaha.

"20th & S"
by Bruce H.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Was Christmas Good To You?

We had a very nice Christmas weekend.  On Saturday we had a ham and pork loin lunch with the In-Laws followed by our usual gift exchange.  On Sunday we had a turkey lunch at my Mom's followed by more gifts.  By the end of the day on Sunday I was packed full of food and felt a bit disgusted with myself.

Christmas Laser Light Rays.
I decided to work some of Christmas off by going for a walk.  I dropped off my car at the shop to get serviced and headed out for a long walk.  My legs were a bit more sore this morning than usual.  I ended up only walking 13.8 miles (22.2 km) which was about three miles shorter than I'd planned.  I will save the longer walks for later this week.

Most of my gifts were in the form of food or funds.  Twizzlers, caramels, and chocolate bars should keep me supplied for at least a few days.  The funds will be going towards equipment needed for my Appalachian Trail (AT) hike and for hotel rooms during my AT breaks.

Thank you for everyone for the gifts and the Christmas wishes.  It gave this lackluster year a bright spot.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas!!!!

Wishing all my family and friends a very Merry Christmas.


Je souhaite à tous ma famille et mes amis un Joyeux Noël.

Volendo tutta la mia famiglia e gli amici un Buon Natale.

Ich wünsche allen meine Familie und Freunde eine sehr frohe Weihnachten.

Ik wens al mijn familie en vrienden zeer Vrolijke Kerstmis.

Ar mian leo go léir mo theaghlach agus lena chairde ar na Nollag an-Merry.

Deseando a toda mi familia y amigos una muy Feliz Navidad.

Desejo a todos os meus familiares e amigos um Feliz Natal.

すべての私の家族や友人にメリークリスマスを祈っています。

ขออวยพรให้ทุกคนในครอบครัวและเพื่อนมากสุขสันต์วันคริสต์มาสของฉัน

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Is Almost Here!

It's Christmas Eve.  Watch out for flying reindeer!

Rudolph Crossing!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Photograph: "Candle Wax"

I use a candle warmer in the den during the holiday season.  I like the long lasting smell of cinnamon, holly berry, or pine to fill the room while I'm writing or surfing the net.  I also like the strange patterns the wax makes as it hardens.

"Candle wax"
by Bruce H.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Second Annual Star Wars Viewing ... With Lunch

Today I went to see Rogue One - A Star Wars Story in 3D IMAX with the Wife's niece.  Last year we went to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Rogue One is a much better movie than The Force Awakens, in my opinion.  The characters are interesting, there are some funny bits, and the action is top notch.  Unlike The Force Awakens, the story felt fresh and original and not another retread.

It was interesting to see two Computer Generated 'human' actors done so well.  If I hadn't known that Peter Cushing had died years ago I would have never guessed it was not 'real'.  Well done.

After the movie we continued our new tradition of going to the 11-Worth cafe for lunch.  We talked about movies and television and other geeky stuff.  I gave her a Star Wars themed birthday card (it was her birthday yesterday) that included a band that lit up and made Wookie and battle noises.

It was a fun time and, since the next Star Wars movie is expected to come out next December, it will be a tradition that will surely continue on.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

And Winter Begins

Today is the first day of Winter so I celebrated with a nice walk in South Omaha and Bellevue.  Over the five and a half hours and 16.1 miles (25.9 km) of the walk I tried to find a picture that would illustrate the first day of winter but, since the temperatures went over 50℉ (10℃) there was nary a lick of snow to be found (except pathetic little patches in the shady spots).  So to illustrate the first day of winter, I will have to resort to using a picture I took a week ago.

Ice floes on the Missouri River taken from the Bob Kerrey pedestrian bridge.
This is an oddly warm Christmas week and the weather for Christmas day - 60℉ (15.5℃), 60 mph (96.5 km/hr) winds, and rain - is even farther from normal.  Damn 'Jyna' hoax!!!

I hope everyone had/is having a great Winter Solstice!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A Day To Remember

Today is Geneviève's memorial.  Friends and Family will gather to share stories.  I regret to say I will not be attending.  I will miss the funny stories, the smiles, the laughter, and the inevitable tears.  I will have to be satisfied with the memories I shared with Gen.

Gen's family welcomed all to share their stories either in person or via e-mail to be read during the memorial.  I've already shared many stories of our Caminos together in Homer's Travels.  They are all there for anyone to read.  (Our 2011 Camino was documented from August through October 2011 and our 2013 Camino was documented  from November 2013 through February 2014.  I refer to Gen as Gv.)

We all mourn ...
We all mourn in our own way.  I realize now that I began mourning the day Gen told the world of her diagnosis and her chance of survival.  I spent the next eight weeks grieving and sinking into depression.  I went through most of the stages of grief ... a few of them several times over.  It came to a crescendo on the day of her passing.  I woke up on the first of December and I felt the depression lifting.  Things that once reminded me of sadness now brought a smile to my face. Instead of wandering melancholy spaces I explore galleries of our happy times on the Camino.

I would like to share one thing.  During one of our chats in November I told her:
"I always felt you there along the edges of my life.  I don't want that feeling to go away but I know it will."
Geneviève responded:
"I will always be next to you ... I'll be among the stars shining over you."
I couldn't understand it then, I thought they were just words to comfort me, but I feel it now, I feel her next to me as I walk, I understand, and it does gives me comfort and that is how it should be.  Gen had given me a final gift - acceptance.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Photograph: "Winter Creek"

The cold temperatures turn a little creek into a white ribbon running through the trees.

"Winter Creek"
by Bruce H.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Book: Hugh Howey's "Dust"

My twelfth book of the year, and probably my last, was the third book of the Silo trilogy.  Hugh Howey's "Dust" completes the trilogy started in "Wool" and continued in "Shift".

The series is a rather new take on the post-apocalyptic genre which means it's a take I have never seen before.  That said, I'm no expert in post-apocalyptic fiction.  The trilogy explores the life in the Silos, large underground living spaces.  The second book explains how the Silos came to be and why they came to be.  The third book describes the beginning of the end of the Silos.

I found the third book, like the other two, to be interesting but a bit disjointed at times.  The story jumps a bit and some of the parallel stories didn't seem necessary.  Having said this, the fact I read all three books tells you that I did find the story to be, at the very least, intriguing.

I gave "Dust" the same Goodreads score as the others: four stars.  Looking back, if it allowed me, I would have given them all three and a half stars I think.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Photograph: "Sidewalk Philosophy"

An interesting piece of graffiti on the Keystone Trail bike path.  It stood out as it was not political but philosophical ... or maybe physics-al.

"Sidewalk Philosophy"
by Bruce H.
(Original artist unknown)
It's not that easy to read but it says:
"The PAST, PRESENT + Future are all simultaneous and INFINITE."

Friday, December 16, 2016

Photograph: "Reflections In Reflections"

Taken from the Bob Kerrey pedestrian bridge over the Missouri river facing west.  The bright spots in the building's reflection is the sun's reflection.  There are also ice flows on the river.

"Reflections in reflections"
by Bruce H.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Photograph: "We All Need Some Magic Juan"

I love stencil art.  It always seems to pop up in the oddest places.  This was on the South Omaha Trail.

"We all need some Magic Juan"
by Bruce H.
(Original artist unknown)

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Photograph: "Red Ball Transfer Co."

A picture I took along the South Omaha Trail.

"Red Ball Transfer Co."
by Bruce H.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Sock(s) It To Me

I've purchased one more piece of gear for my Appalachian Trail (AT) adventure.  It's another very important feature of foot maintenance though it's often overlooked as it isn't very exciting.  I'm talking about socks.

After shoes, socks are the most important thing to keep your feet happy.  On the AT I will be using a two sock strategy that I'm sure I've posted about many times over.  As a matter of fact I talked about them in this post from 2014.  I talked about it some more here and here.  No need to rehash I would guess.

I bought nine pairs of Omni·Wool merino wool blend socks yesterday.  I've worn these for years including both of my Caminos.  I will be packing three pairs initially and will switch out with fresh socks every two pairs of shoes.  The socks are durable and warm.  While warm, I have worn them during the heat of summer with little discomfort.  The merino wool also cuts down on the odor.

Most of the above posts talked about my experimentation and experience with toesocks.  I still have to purchase another five pairs of toesocks before my footwear system is complete but I will correct that issue sometimes over the next month or so.

Step by tiny step I am slowly getting my gear together.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Through The Worst Of It ... Time To Get Back To It

Whatever I had last week has seemed to have run its course.  While my nose is still dripping a smidge and I'm hocking up some nasty luggies, my energy level is near normal and I've restarted my stretching/exercising portion of my Appalachian Trail (AT) prep.

I'm planning to get on my bike trainer tonight for a short ride while watching the first episode of the  Mythbusters pseudo-spinoff White Rabbit Project on Netflix.  I hope to do a bike trainer session at least three times this week if not more.  I will also fit in two long walks, hopefully during snow showers forecasted for the end of the week.  Nothing like walking in the falling snow.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Photograph: "Blue Shining Through The Gray"

What we all need at times.

"Blue Shining Through The Gray"
by Bruce H.
(Original artist unknown.)

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Photograph: "Flights To Freedom"

I'm feeling a bit better today so I will post an interesting juxtaposition.  A flight of fire escape stairs and an enabler of avian flight.

"Flights to freedom"
by Bruce H.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Chowing Down On The Walking Dead

Well, I hinted in yesterday's post that if I didn't feel well today I would skip the planned walk and catch up on episodes of the Walking Dead.  Last night I felt pretty awful.  I felt better this morning but by noon I could feel that my energy was flagging.  I'm glad I didn't go for a walk.

Kind of how I feel.
I have six episodes of the Walking dead on the DVR and I've worked my way through half of them but now I'm starting to feel like I should be an extra on the show. 

Before I go lie down I wanted to give props to the Wife who went to work feeling like this for most of the last week.  She's my hero!

Thursday, December 08, 2016

The South Omaha Trail - A Nice Newish Trail

I went for a walk on Tuesday.  I decided to follow the newly finished South Omaha Trail.  When I say newly finished I mean it's been finished sometime in the last year ... or two.

Canadian Geese followed me briefly on the Keystone Trail on their way to Papio Creek.
The South Omaha Trail connects the Keystone Trail that runs just east of our home to the Field Club Trail.  The trails runs roughly 3.75 miles (6 km).  It has been half finished for awhile while the city got the necessary federal permits to finish the trail (part of the trail runs along federal highway land).  I'd ridden and walked along the unfinished trail but on Tuesday I walked the whole thing.

The last portion of the trail is awesome.  It is very well done with simulated stone retaining walls and almost wavelike smooth concrete along the edges on some of the downhill sections.  I was impressed by the workmanship of the trail.  Omaha is slowly becoming more and more bikeable which is a step in the right direction.  With this connector finished I could bike the ten or so miles from my house to the city's downtown area.

This short trail was just a portion of the path I walked on Tuesday.  I added a lot of street distance including past a new set of roundabouts at 42nd and Q.  Roundabouts are fairly rare in Omaha but they are becoming more common ... another positive development in my opinion.  I ended up doing 16 miles (25.75 km) in all.  I was a bit sore when I got home.  This was to be expected since I haven't kept up on my walking as I should have.

I hope to go for another walk on Friday but that all depends on how this cold the Wife passed on to me progresses.  If I feel good I'll walk but if I feel like I'm dieing, then I'll be watching the Walking Dead on the DVR.  Kind of appropriate I would say.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

First Bloom

The Christmas cactus has its first bloom today.  By coincidence last year's first bloom was also on the seventh of December.  This is from a clipping of the original 'old lady'.  Sadly the 'ol' lady' did not survive being transplanted into a larger pot.  Not sure what happened since I was very careful with her.  Fortunately this clipping is doing great and a second clipping I have is also going to bloom soon.

2016 First Bloom - the holiday season has officially started.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

You Want How Many Pairs?

I made another purchase in preparation for my Appalachian Trail (AT) hike next spring:  Shoes.  I've been wearing Salomon Eskape Aero hiking shoes for a couple years now and I really like them.  They are comfortable, lightweight, and, while not waterproof, dry fast.  I guesstimated that I would need a new pair every five to six hundred miles or five pairs for the entire AT.

My current Salomon Eskape Aeros 
The shoe model is old and I noticed that they are no longer listed on the Solomon website.  Fortunately on Amazon I was able to find three different vendors that still carried them and were selling them at clearance prices.  I order a pair each from two vendors and four pair from a third.

The third vendor, the one I ordered four from, sent me an email asking if I was sure I wanted four pair.  Made me chuckle a bit though it wasn't a laughing matter for him since his shipping charges (Free to me but not for him) would probably wipe out his profit.  I explained that I was hiking the AT next year and I expected to destroy five pairs of these shoes over the 2,200 miles (3,540 km) of the trail.  His response was very nice:
"That's actually really awesome that you are doing that.   I wish you well with your adventure."
Since the shoes were mostly on clearance, the color choices were limited.  Apparently the red ones are the least popular so I ended up with four pair of red shoes.  I'll be styling on the AT. 😆

For those wondering why I ordered a sixth pair, my current shoes are worn out and I need that extra pair.

Monday, December 05, 2016

A Sign Of Our Deplorable Times

I saw this on my walk the other day.  It was painted on the sidewalk across the street from the Ralston Middle School.  Sad 😢

A sad sign of our times.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Christmas Snow Laser Light Show

A bonus post.  It is really cool when the snow falls through the laser light projectors.  You get a glittering green and red light show!

Laser Light Snow Show
I made a video of the snow falling through the laser projectors too but it is not as impressive as the real thing.

Photograph: "First Snow"

I interrupt my brief posting break to announce we received our first snow today.  😊

"First Snow"
by Bruce H.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

A Successful But Sad End To NaBloPoMo

I set out to post every day during the month of November and I am proud to say that, despite almost forgetting to post a couple of times, I met the challenge.  The last post of the month was a very sad one for me to write.

I'm planning to continue posting each day for awhile, I think.  As many of my posts last month, they will not all be deep thoughtful dives and I suspect many of them with just be photographs.

Something to remember.
But first I need to take a short break.  I'm going to take a few days off to collect my thoughts.  I will restart my posting on Monday unless something exciting comes up that just screams to be posted about.  Until then, Love Life.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Passing Of A Camino Angel

I met Geneviève five and a half years ago. I passed her going down the hill into Roncesvalles on my very first day but we didn't introduce ourselves until the end of the second day in Zubiri.  We started planning our walking days together somewhere around Torres del Rio.

My Camino Angel.
Over the next three to four weeks, except when separated due to health issues, we walked the Camino together.  By the time we reached Santiago de Compostela we'd grown quite close.  After I got home I friended her on Facebook and we talked about our Camino.  Soon afterward she told me she was doing it again in two years.  I asked if I could tag along.  We started planning our second Camino.  We were never apart the almost seven weeks of the second Camino.  Over the two Caminos, a combined total of sixty-six days walking together, Gen developed feelings for me.  I have to admit that I too had some feelings for her but mine were tempered by my love for the Wife and our marriage.  Gen knew how I felt, respected my feelings, and, I'm certain, was disappointed.  She wanted to meet someone to love and take care of.  She wanted children.  She got me instead and I couldn't give her what she wanted.

After we returned home I realized that continuing our communication would be hard on Gen.  Some of her Facebook posts were full of melancholy and depression.  I chose to distance myself.  I kept any communication between us brief.  We still 'liked' each other's posts and we left comments at times but you could feel the distance grow.  I found out recently that she too had consciously decided to distance herself from me at nearly the same time wanting her image of me to be unchanged from what she had on the Camino.

Over the last three years we often went months without exchanging more than a 'like'.  I lost myself in the infernal game and preparation for the Appalachian Trail (AT).  Gen made new friends centered around Big Brother fandom on Twitter.  We both distracted ourselves.  Even so, she was always on the periphery of my life and I imagine I was there on hers.

This summer we started talking a little bit more.  She would leave comments about the South American trip.  Early in September, as she prepared for a trip to Germany and Iceland, we talked about the AT.  We always had planned to meet up somewhere along the trail.  We settled on a preliminary plan for her meeting me in Maine.  She would hike the last ten days with me.  Four weeks later, only a few days after returning from Iceland, she went to the hospital.

Five days later, Gen was diagnosed with aggressive liver cancer.  She was given a 10% chance of survival.  A few days later I flew to Montreal and visited with her at the hospital.  During the two days I was there most of the news went from bad to worse.  She was told, on average, she should expect to live another three to four months.  The cancer was aggressive.  A few days before Thanksgiving Gen was told that she had two ... maybe four weeks tops.  I'd planned to visit her again in early December - I had the plane tickets - but this bad news sped things up for me.  The day after Thanksgiving she moved out of her parents home into hospice.

On Tuesday morning, the day before I was planning to fly to Montreal, I received the dreaded email.  The hospice nurses did not expect Gen to survive the day.  Gen's father gave me his phone number and I was able, between tears, to say my goodbyes to her.  She was too weak to speak but they said you could see in her eyes that she heard me.  She passed away late Tuesday night.  😢

Gen and her parents - she was an only child - did not deserve this.  She was only forty years old.  She had so many years ahead of her.  There were so many places she had to visit, so many people to meet, and so many things to experience.  Not a day has gone by since all this started that I haven't thought about her.  Every little thing reminds me of her.  Anything remotely Camino related - walking, sunrises, sunsets - takes my thoughts to Geneviève.  Everytime I see something of beauty my only thoughts are: "Gen will never see this.  Gen will never experience this."  She deserved so much more.


Geneviève
January 9, 1976 - November 29, 2016
(Turn on sound)

 I once thought the Camino had changed me but I was only half right.  Geneviève was my Camino.  Meeting her made me better.  I miss her, I always will, and I will never forget her.  Goodnight Gen.  Pleasant dreams.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Book: Hugh Howey's "Shift"

Hugh Howey's "Shift" is the second book of his Silo series.  I read the first book, "Wool", earlier this year.

"Shift" is a prequel in a sense.  It tells the story of the creation of the Silos described in "Wool" and takes you through the few hundred year history of them.  The book ends once the history catches up with the end of the events described in "Wool".

I liked "Wool" better than "Shift".  By its very nature the story hops around through several parallel timelines and perspectives.  This made it a little hard to get into the story as much as I did in the first book.

Despite the issues I had, "Shift" is a worthy contribution to the story and I gave it four stars on Goodreads, the same score I gave "Wool".  I am interested in the third, and last book I believe, of the series and where Howey takes us next.

Monday, November 28, 2016

They're Everywhere!

This morning I had to pick up and rehang fifteen (*15*) large ornaments out of our front yard.  Three of these had made it across the street and down to the corner.  I guess I didn't do such a great job hanging them and the wind was a bit more skilled at detaching the ornaments than I expected.

I wonder how many I'll have to rehang tomorrow?

P.S.  Aren't you all proud I didn't say big balls?

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Photograph: "Refraction"

Saw this on my walk the other day.  It was tucked into an alleyway.  For once I actually took note of the name of the artist.

"Refraction"
by Bruce H.
(Original artist: Sedra D'Mente)

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Yep ... The Holiday Season Has Begun

I've said before that the holiday season begins with Thanksgiving.  We usually start our holiday decorating after Thanksgiving though, if you've been reading Homer's Travels you know we started a few days early this year.  This year, we need all the holiday cheer we can muster.

Some of the smaller of the big balls in our oak tree.
This morning I put the big balls in the oak tree out front.  This has been an annual tradition for several years now.  It's not as easy as it once was as the oak tree is growing taller every year.  Here is a link to the original "Charlie Brown Tree" post and here is it today:

The Charlie Brown Tree all grown up.
The afternoon was dedicated to putting up the Christmas Tree in our family room.  We may only put lights on it this year - no guests or festivities planned at our house this year.

The tree with lights.
I have to say, I like the simplicity of just the lights and the star topper.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Black Friday Wandering

I am not one to shop on Black Friday.  I don't like the crowds and the craziness.  So today I decided to walk off the delicious food I partook in yesterday at the Wife's niece's home.

I am predisposed to follow the Yellow Arrow.
The Missouri River with the
South Omaha Bridge Shadow.
The path I took is a loop starting and ending at the Bob Kerrey pedestrian bridge.  Part of the loop is a marked bike trail used by some bike club or group.  The path is marked by yellow arrows reminiscent of the yellow arrows of the Camino.

I followed the arrows south then back west across the South Omaha bridge.  The day was perfect for a long walk with just a little breeze, lots of sun, and temperatures around 50℉ (10℃).  I took pictures of street art that will someday be posted about, I'm sure.  I deviated from the arrows to lengthen the loop that took me back to the car.  I ended up doing 14.6 miles (23.5 km).

I have had trouble getting out to walk lately.  When I walk I think.  While I often like this walking meditation, I'm finding myself thinking too much.  The last couple months, months of unwanted change in different parts of my life, my thoughts have wandered melancholy spaces.

Someday I will leave these spaces and return to good mental places.  It will take time, soul searching, and effort on my part.  When I manage this, walking will once again become a wonderful, life affirming thing in my life.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

In the United States, today is Thanksgiving.  It is a day to remember and celebrate what we are thankful for.  While I am thankful for the Wife, my family, and my friends who make me smile and laugh, I sometimes wonder if there is more to be thankful for this year.

I am thankful for the beauty in our world - sunsets and sunrises - flowers and ladybugs - colorful art and whimsical drawings - traveling and experiencing other cultures.  All these things help me forget the gray nature that was 2016, or at least they make it fade into the background for a brief period of time.  I think that is what I'm most thankful for ... the things that distract me from the world and cocoon me in warmth and happiness.

Wishing all my family and friends a happy, peaceful, and stomach expanding Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Preparing For Tomorrow's Feast

The house is clean and ready for the Mother in Law.  She will be spending the night with us and going with us to Thanksgiving dinner at her granddaughter's house.

The Wife's family always have wonderful holiday dinner spreads.  You never leave hungry and often have extra food to take home with you - a very nice thing when the Wife's nieces and nephew were still in college.

We are all adults now.  No kiddy table anymore.  Another sign that time marches on.  I'm sure we will have lots to talk about and I'm sure it will remain civil.  I don't remember ever having an argument during Thanksgiving.  It has always centered around family and food, and on Thanksgiving, does anything else matter?  I think not.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Photograph: "mmm Toast"

Continuing my graffiti theme this month, and the lack of creative writing on my part, I give you a toaster stencil:

"mmm Toast"
by Bruce H.
(Original artist unknown)

Monday, November 21, 2016

Photograph: "Street Art Angel"

I am a fan of some graffiti and street art.  I photographed this example over three years ago.

"Street Art Angel"
by Bruce H.
(Original artist unknown)

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Photograph: "Purple Elephant"

I was going to post about how our internet, cable, and telephone went down this afternoon and how the recording from our service provider said it would take nearly four hours to fix but, since it all came back up after only fifteen minutes, I'll just drop this here:

"Purple Elephant"
by Bruce H.
(Original artist unknown)

Saturday, November 19, 2016

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like ... You Know ... A Bit Early

This is a bit early for us but we've already decorated the exterior of the house for Christmas.  We changed it up a bit this year using the laser lights instead of the icicle lights as we've always done.  This was a heck of alot easier ... no climbing on the roof!

Our home ... Bedazzled for Christmas
I think after what's happened this year so far, an early Christmas light display is required.

Friday, November 18, 2016

It's About Time

It seems Winter decided to make an appearance here finally.  It showed up with a drop in temperatures and a stiff wind from the north-west.

The weatherman promised snowflakes and, while I walked Iago this afternoon, a few flakes did blow by.  Nothing to get excited about but some stuck to my coat and Iago's fur.  I would not call it the first snow yet - no accumulation - but it was a start.

It was nice to bundle up in layers, gloves, and stocking cap for the first time this season.  I know a lot of people are not fond of the cold and snow but I get a little energized by them.  It's always nice to hike without getting all sticky ands sweaty.  I would agree though that driving in the snow is not one of my favorite things.

Bring on the snow!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Photograph: "Not A Match"

When I traveled for work I used to keep all the matchbooks from the hotel rooms I stayed in.  Naturally this was before the existence of non-smoking rooms.  I still have a rubbermaid tub full of them in the basement but none of them looked like the one I saw during my walk today.

"Not a match"
by Bruce H.
I did have a collection of three or four humorous and slightly racy hillbilly matchbooks when I was a kid.  I really didn't know what racy meant as I was only eight years old at the time.  Not sure if they survived the multitude of moves I made since 1972.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

2018 Travel Plans ... Yes I Said 2018

I mentioned in this post that we had started planning our next trip with the Best Man (BM) and Matron of Honour (MoH).  The trip is going to be pretty epic.  Along with a couple of their friends, we will be going to Russia and Mongolia with a dash of China thrown in if our initial plans hold together.

The trip will be centered around the Trans-Siberian Railroad (TSR).  Our preliminary plans have us visiting St Petersburg and Moscow before getting on the train and heading east.  The train route eventually splits with one way going to Vladivostok, another going into Manchuria, and yet another going into Mongolia and on to Beijing.  We will probably take the branch into Mongolia and end the trip in Beijing.  The train trip is roughly six days but we plan to get off the train along the way if we can.  The trains run every two days so if we get off we have a couple days (or a multiple of two days) to view the sights.

The hard part about the planning is the train tickets.  We want to be comfortable and would prefer the two person cabins.  This would be no problem if we were getting on in Moscow and getting off in Beijing but, since we want to get off and on, the train ticket logistics become a bit more complicated.  I met with our AAA travel agent today and we went over a few details.  The train tickets would have to be point to point i.e. each segment would have to be purchased separately.  This will bump up the price a bit but we will not know the actual amount until we determine how many stops we want to make along the way.

We also talked about an option that we'd bounced around - taking the TSR all the way to Vladivostok, flying back to where the train routes split, then taking the train into Mongolia and Beijing.  This turns out to be a doable plan.  We would have to fly from Vladivostok to Irkutsk to catch the train again, so there would be some overlap of the train route, but the flights are only ten hours long (with layovers) and fly four or five times a week.  That way we could actually say we road the entire TSR.  The extra cost will probably determine if we do this or not.

We will have to have the final itinerary completed roughly ten months before we go.  I will still be on the Appalachian Trail but I trust the Wife, BM, and MoH to put an awesome itinerary together.  The train tickets will be bought three or four months before we go and our visa application has to be in ninety days before we go.  Our agent has experience with Russian visas and they are incredibly thorough - twelve pages long.  Hopefully my job working for the Navy doesn't cause problems.  But who knows, by then the President-elect will have improved the US-Russian relations bigly ... we'll have tremendous relations.  The biggest and best relations ever in the world.

I'll keep you updated as things develop over the next eighteen months.  Can't wait for this next adventure!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Photograph: "Not Yet Achieved"

When I go walking and take an interesting picture I add it to a folder to be used in future Homer's Travels' posts.  Many of the pictures don't fit most situations due to their darkness or negative vibes.  Sadly, after this election, many of them seem more appropriate.  Like this one:

"Not yet achieved"
by Bruce H.
(Original artist unknown.)
This picture, and its message, sadly fits too well:

We have not yet achieved a colorblind society. 
We have not yet achieved gender equality.
We have not yet achieved peaceful coexistence.
We have not yet achieved a fair income distribution.
We have not yet achieved the American Dream for everyone.

We have not yet achieved so much ...

Feel free to add more things that have we have not yet achieved in the comments here, on Facebook, or on Twitter.