Friday, January 18, 2019

Iceland: Day Six And Epilogue

This was our last day and our flight wasn't until 5:00pm so we had a semi-free day.  We ate our last breakfast at the hotel, checked out of our hotel putting our bags into storage, and headed next door to the Viking Settlement exhibit.

The remains of a Viking homestead.
(Picture taken by the Wife.)
The Viking settlement excavation is literally under the Centrum hotel.   You go to a door next to the hotel, down some stairs to an open space where the remains of a Viking settlement lays excavated.  There is a skylight that opens up to the sidewalk in front of the hotel.  The exhibit is small but informative.  We didn't spend too much time there.  I didn't take any pictures but the Wife did.

We went back to the hotel, collected our bags, and went off to Bus Stop 1 for the last time.  We caught the bus to the airport.  The airport was crowded and I think the rise of tourism haas overloaded the medium-sized airport.  I was starting to feel sick as the day went by.  Sinus pressure, a drippy nose, and I lost my voice.  *Hurrah*

We both enjoyed our Iceland adventure.  Everything didn't go exactly as planned but we saw and did things we'd never seen or done before.  We had a good enough time that we both agree that some day we will return.  Not sure when this will be but, since it is very easy to stop off in Iceland on the way to Europe, it's a no brainer that we will return.  I think we are both interested in driving the Ring Road at least partially around the island.  We still have the Aurora Borealis to see and lava caves to explore.  Yep ... there will be a next time.

One lesson I learned on this trip is that daylight matters.  One thing that will be different when we return is that we will definitely have to go at a different time of year.  The lack of Sun really threw me through a loop.  I'm thinking that September/October is the best time - no crowds, fewer clouds, and more daylight.  I need my daylight.

Another lesson I learned - not Iceland specific - is to spend all your cash before you come home.  I got Icelandic króna from my bank before we left.  In Iceland we used our credit cards most of the time so I got back with over $350 left.  When I tried to deposit it back into bank account, our bank would not accept the four 10,000 króna bills ($330 total).  I ended up having to go to another foreign currency exchanger to get the bills converted which, naturally, cost us an additional fee.  Next time we spend all the cash.

The last thing I learned, this time about myself, is I have become a travel snob.  After seeing so many natural and man-made wonders on our travels, the marvels of Iceland seemed diminished.  This is not Iceland's fault - it's all on me.  I don't like this about myself so I will have to change how I think about these things.  You should always go into a new place with the mindset and eyes of a child and see everything as fresh, new, and full of wonder.

Pictures can be found in my 2018-2019 Iceland Google Photos album.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Iceland: Day Five

The first day of the new year and our last tour in Iceland was dedicated to the South coast, waterfalls, and glaciers.  This was going to be a long day with eleven hours scheduled.

We ate breakfast at the hotel and met our tour shuttle at Bus Stop 1.  The tour bus headed along the southern coast of the island on the ring road.  The first stop of the day was Skógafoss, a large waterfall.

View from the top of Skógafoss.
I climbed up a staircase with over five hundred steps up to the top of the falls.  You could follow a trail along the glacier fed river but not having time I headed back down the stairs and got closer to the falls to get a picture.  It was early enough in the day that the spray from the falls landed on the surrounding cliffs as snow and ice.  The smooth river rock covered in a thin layer of ice made walking difficult.

Next stop was an open convenience store where we bought snacks and, for some of us, lunch.  Not much was open today as it was New Year's Day.   The second stop was Sólheimajökulll.  The Wife and I got off here.  Others had gotten off at the falls to go snowmobiling/ATVing.  The Wife and I would do a glacier hike.  The rest of the bus would visit a black sand beach and eat lunch.  We signed in, sat outside, and ate our lunches waiting for out trek to begin.

The pool of water at the base of er glacier with floating chunks of ice.
The Wife was a bit concerned about how difficult this hike would be when they handed us crampons, harnesses, and an ice axe.  We had been told this was an easy hike.  She was told the harness was just in case and the ice axe was mostly just for show.  Our guide was nice and said that everything would be at our own pace.

The glacier, Sólheimajökulll.
We walked about a mile from the office to the base of the glacier.  Here we were shown how to attach the crampons to our shoes and we started climbing up the front of the glacier.  We, in fact, didn't need the ice axes but they were nice to help stabilize you as you climbed.  The black you are seeing in the ice is volcanic ash.  There is a lot of black sand and dust on the island.  Our guide told us stories of her ancestors who had to flee erupting volcanoes with their flocks of sheep.  One of the biggest dangers are the flash floods that result when the volcanoes erupt under the glaciers.

On the glacier - blue ice and black volcanic ash.
When we reached the turn around point the hike, for me, changed from a physical exercise to a psychological one.  I would look down and see smooth wet ice and my body would refuse to step on it.  I had to remind my body that I was wearing crampons and walking on ice was just like walking on dry ground.  My brain fought my body all the way down.

Interesting melt patterns on the side of a crevasse we hiked through.
We got back to the office.  The Wife and I, being the oldest in the group by fifteen or twenty years, were the last to arrive.  I was so proud of the Wife.  It was not easy for her but she pushed through it like a trooper.

Seljalandsfoss ... but no walking behind it this trip.
The bus picked us back up and we made our last stop, Seljalandsfoss.  These tall falls were once a pitstop for the Amazing Race (season 6).  Their claim to fame is a cavern behind the falls that you can enter.  Today the ice made it too dangerous so you couldn't go behind the falls.  It was also late and we were losing light.  Most people just took pictures from afar and bought coffee and snacks from the little store at the parking lot.  I have to admit I was a bit waterfalled out by this time.

The bus took us back to Reykjavik and our hotels. We ate dinner at the hotel bar though many of their menu items were not available due to the holiday.  Today was a good day overall.  The Wife was a bit sore from the glacier hike.  I was a bit tired too.  I'd been having sore throats for a few days now and I could feel that I was coming down with something.  Fortunately, whatever it was, it was waiting for our adventure to be over before it hit me full force.  Very considerate of it.

Pictures can be found in my 2018-2019 Iceland Google Photos album.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Iceland: Day Four

Day four, New Year's Eve day, was the day of the classic Golden Circle tour.  The tour would involve a national park, waterfalls, and geysers.

The eight hour tour started at Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park.  The mid-atlantic ridge where, in the north Atlantic, the North American and the Eurasian tectonic plates come together, runs right through Iceland.  This active fault line is the source of  Iceland's volcanic, earthquake, and geothermal activity  The ridge is spreading by 2 cm (0.78 inches) per year and will eventually split the island in two.

The far ridge is on the Eurasian plate.  A glacier fed river separates the two plates.
Our first stop was on the North American plate side where we viewed a plane between two ridges - one on the North American plate and the other on the Eurasian plate.  The tour guide said we were going to walk a one mile trail down to a lower parking lot.  It was cold, windy, and a bit icy and apparently the park was not advising people to hike the path.  This message did not get to us before, after checking out the gift shop, we headed down the trail.  The trail took you by rocky cliffs, small water falls, and the edge of a river.

The river between the plates from the trail.
When we got down to the lower parking lot we waited for the bus.  I was wondering where everyone was when the guide showed up.  Only eight people decided to walk the trail.  It was slick in spots but not that terrible in my opinion.

The multi-tiered Gullfoss.
Back on the bus we drove across the official fault line that separated the plates (nothing really spectacular there) and headed to our next destination: Gullfoss.  Gullfoss is a rather impressive waterfall (foss means waterfall in icelandic).  The path down from the visitor's center took you to several vantage points, each giving you a different view of the falls.  After seeing Niagara and Iguazu falls, Gullfoss is not that big but it is grand on its own merits (yes, I know, I've become a natural wonder snob).  Note: back home the Wife was watching Vikings on the History channel and we realized one scene was filmed at Gullfoss.

The steamy hot water over the geyser pools.  The Sun decided to join us today.
We ate lunch at the visitor's center before heading for our next destination for the day: Geysir.  Geysir is one of the first geysers observed by Europeans.  The namesake Geysir is now off limits and has been dormant since the early twentieth century.  It was often induced to erupt but it appears they no longer do this due to environmental concerns.  Fortunately for us the Strokkur geyser does erupt periodically and we saw it erupt a couple times while we were there.  To make it even better the sun came out from behind some clouds to backlight the eruption.

The Strokkur geyser erupting.
After capturing the picture we went to the visitor's center for a snack and a little shopping before getting back on the bus to our next stop: Faxafoss.  Faxafoss is a small waterfalls with a salmon ladder.  It was normally not on the tour but the guide decided to throw it in as a bonus.  It was not the most impressive but I did get a nice picture in the area.

Faxafoss to the left and the Sun on the horizon.
Skálholt Cathedral.
Our official last stop of the day was the oldest church in Iceland: Skálholt Cathedral.  The church, founded in 1056, was an important religious center on Iceland.  The church was replaced nine times before being refurbished in 1956.  In the basement of the church were old relics from the older churches and a 'secret' tunnel that took you back outside.

On the way back to Reykjavik we tried to stop at a restaurant for a snack but it was closed (the tour guide was told it would be open New Year's Eve).  We then drove in front of a large geothermal plant that generates electricity for the city.  It was closed too, of course.

The bus dropped us of at Bus Stop 1 where today had started and we walked back to our hotel.  We went to the bar where we were thinking about beer and food.  Nothing looked good to me and I was tired so I left the Wife to her beer and headed back to our room.  I laid down and took a nap for a while until the Wife came in.  It turns out she had left the bar a while ago but, after swiping her key card, couldn't get the exterior door open.  She called me twice from the stoop but, somehow, my phone had been switched to vibrate and was not near the bed so I didn't hear either of her two attempts to call me.  She finally managed to get in when she realized you had to pull the door instead of push.  😄

We spent a couple hours watching BBC strangeness until it got closer to midnight.  Icelanders are famous for their ruckus fireworks at midnight on New Year's Eve.  We'd planned to walk to Hallgrimskirkja church which was supposed to be one of the epicenters of the fireworks but a friendly shopkeeper we'd chatted up had said it was often very crowded there.  I was tired and I think I was having trouble adjusting to the time change due to the lack of real Sun.  Instead we walked down to the lake next to the city hall to watch.

Fireworks over the lake.  The sky became smoky really quickly.
You can see and hear a short video of the fireworks here.
We were not disappointed.  There were fireworks everywhere.  While there were some coming from the direction of Hallgrimskirkja there were apparently more being shot off from the Catholic church.  It reminded me of the fireworks shot off in Guatemala.  There was a general thunder of explosions and smoke everywhere.  There were also quite a few drones flying around, each marked by a bright red light.  People are known to shoot off fireworks into the crowd.  One was set off not too far from us.  The Whooping Swans that call the lake home were not happy at all.

This had been a good day.  The Sun coming out and glimpses of blue sky helped a lot. We returned to our hotel room and fell asleep to the continued popping and booming of the New Year's celebration.

Pictures can be found in my 2018-2019 Iceland Google Photos album.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Iceland: Day Three

We got up at 7:30am this morning so we could eat breakfast and go to Mass.  We only had one tour today and it didn't start until 7:00pm so we had a free day mostly.

We attended 9:00am Mass in icelandic.  It was a long Mass and I think I may have fallen asleep once or twice.  The Wife said that the Mass felt very Polish.  There is a large Polish contingent in Iceland and most of the Catholic institutions here have eastern European influences.

Christ the King Cathedral all lit up at 9:00am.
After Mass we made our way back to the harbour area where, a couple days ago, a burger joint had been pointed out to the Wife ("Best burgers in Iceland" according to one of our Whale Watching crew).  On the way we stopped at a shop the Wife had read about.  It was run by ten women artists.   A bowl made of Radish Paper (i.e. razor thin slices of colored radishes) caught the Wife's eye.  A music box carved from local wood caught mine.  Both were rather expensive so we decided to think on it for a bit.

A statue outside the Geysir Bistro.
We ate lunch at the burger joint: Hamborgarabúlla Tómasar (Tommi's Burger Joint).  Two cheese burgers, two orders of fires, a small soda for me, and a shake for the Wife cost us around $40.  The burgers were good and the Wife loved her shake.  The cost of the lunch is just one example of Icelandic prices.  Everything is expensive here.  I knew this when we planned this trip but I was still surprised by some of the prices.

As the morning progressed the weather got worse.  A mix of drizzle, sleet, and snow came down all day.  When we left the burger place and headed to the shopping district we were plastered with rain and snow blown by Iceland's never ending wind until we put some buildings between us and the open ocean.

We walked up the main shopping street and purchased our magnets, gifts, and souvenirs.  On the way back to the hotel we went back to the store and bought the bowl and music box.  The music box I liked the most was no longer there so I got my second choice.  You snooze ... you lose.

The statue of the Unknown Bureaucrat.
Back at the hotel I called to confirm our tour and got the answer that I expected.  The tour was the Northern Lights Deluxe tour which would have taken us out in the countryside for nearly eight hours to watch the northern lights.  The weather we experienced all day was apparently Iceland-wide.  The tour was canceled.  The aurora we saw on our first night in Iceland was going to be the only aurora we would see in Iceland.

We ate our one and only sit down dinner outside of our hotel.  The food at the Geysir Bistro was good and we beat the rush by about an hour.

We walked around a bit.  Did some more shopping, taking pictures, and returned back to the hotel sometime after 8:00pm.  Even though we didn't have a tour today it felt like a full day.    Our tour tomorrow was relatively early for us so we went to bed at a reasonable hour so we could have a great tour and New Year's Eve tomorrow.

Pictures can be found in my 2018-2019 Iceland Google Photos album.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Iceland: Day Two

On day two of our Iceland adventure we would have been on a Lava and Ice tour but, to our relief, it was canceled so we slept in.  We woke up to the chirping of the birds.  It was around 10:00am and the sun wasn't up yet.

We missed breakfast service but we did have a good lunch at the bar/restaurant in the hotel.  We walked to Bus Stop 1 to catch the shuttle to our tour of the day.  We had rescheduled the Reykjavik city tour that we'd missed thanks to the cancelled flight.  It left the bus station at 1:00pm.

The tour was in a small tour van which we shared with an English couple.  The driver/guide gave us a history of Iceland and Reykjavik as we drove around the city.  The population of Iceland is only about 350K with 200K of the people living in or around the capital of Reykjavik.  Reykjavik is not only the smallest of all the world's capitals but it is also the northernmost.  By comparison, Omaha is over twice the size.

Hallgrimskirkja Lutheran Church and a Viking.
The driver stopped several times so we could get out and take pictures and to see some things up close.  The first stop was the port where we'd been the day before for whale watching.  Fishing used to be the number one source of income for Iceland.  This changed a few years ago when one of the island's volcanoes erupted disrupting air travel to and from Europe (2010 eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull).  The eruptions sparked interest in Iceland and tourism soon surpassed fishing as the largest source of revenue for Iceland.

Next stop was the largest church in the city: Hallgrimskirkja.  Before I talk about the church, you may have noticed that Icelandic names are a wee bit hard to pronounce.  Even the Icelanders joked about that.  Hallgrimskirkja is a Lutheran church,  is the largest church in the country, and is one of the tallest structures in Iceland.  You can go to the top of the tower for the views but the line was too long during our visit so it will have to be saved for a future visit.  The inside of the church is very plain except for the pipe organ.

The third stop was the Perlan , also known as the Pearl for its white, domed shape.  The building is a museum built over water tanks than provide hot water to most of Reykjavik.  Hot water is plentiful for geologically active Iceland.  Again, we didn't have enough time to actual go through the natural history museum but we did have time to take in the panoramic view of Reykjavik, buy some magnets in the gift shop, and use the snyrting.

A Panorama of Reykjavik from the Pearl.
The fourth stop was the president's residence.  It is surprisingly remote from the City but the Presidency is only a ceremonial position in Iceland.  The real power sits with the parliament.

Another picture from the Pearl.  It seems like most Reykjavikers live  in apartments/condos instead of single family homes.
Fifth stop was Hofdi House where President Reagan met with Gorbachev to ... unsuccessfully ... talk nukes.  I remember seeing the leaders leaving this building with a disappointed look on their faces live on TV.  There is a piece of the Berlin Wall installed near the house with a moai painted on it.

Hofdi House where they tried to reduce nuclear arms.
The last stop of our tour was the Sun Voyager sculpture.  The sculpture is a stainless steel skeleton of a Viking ship.  It's kind of cool and very photogenic.  Sadly the artist died a year before the sculpture was unveiled.

The Sun Voyager, mountains in the distance.
I learned a lot about the city and country on this tour.  We talked politics with the driver (who answered our questions reluctantly and very politically neutral).  We talked about the lack of an army in Iceland (too few people for an army).  It is always the small details that you don't normally think about that makes a place interesting.  I enjoyed this tour.  Too bad this wasn't the first tour of our trip like it was supposed to be (damn you Icelandair!).

After dinner we walked around the central part of the city admiring the lights and checking out shops and bars.  At one place we saw the Christmas Cat.  The Christmas Cat, according to legend, would eat people who did not get new clothing for Christmas.  Note the yule lad projected on the building behind the Christmas Cat and the Reykjavik collar around the cat's neck.  This sculpture would become another landmark to help us navigate the central city.

The Christmas Cat prowling for people without new clothes for Christmas.
That evening the Clemson v Notre Dame playoff game was happening so the Wife found a bar not far from our Hotel that would put the game up on some of their eighteen screens.  The Wife pulled out her Notre Dame flag that she'd carried from home and we watched the game with five other Americans (all Notre Dame fans) while we taught a couple of locals about the game of American Football.  The Wife even gave her Notre Dame sweatshirt to one of the local guys.  We would run into the guy again a couple days later at Bus Stop 1 (he was a tour guide) and he gave the Wife a big hug.

One of the main downtown streets lined with stores, restaurants, and bars.  I loved all the holiday lights.
We went to bed late that night (the game had started at 9:00pm local time and went after midnight).  We would be getting up early tomorrow.  It was a good day and we both learned a lot about Reykjavik and Iceland during our tour.

Pictures can be found in my 2018-2019 Iceland Google Photos album.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Iceland: Day One

It's amazing, with all the travel we've done, that we would've had more issues.  Our luck ran out this trip I think.

City Hall Christmas tree.
First of all our flight, scheduled for the evening of the 26th of December was canceled and rescheduled twenty-four hours later.  This would be a rather major setback for a couple reasons.  First we would miss our first tour.  This was not a huge issue since it was a short tour and could easily be rescheduled.  The second issue is, instead of starting out slow and giving our bodies time to adjust and get rested, we were thrust into one of our more aggressive tours with very few hours of rest.  So this is how our first day went.

We arrived in Iceland at 6:30am.  Neither of us slept on the plane despite having tried really hard.  There were two ways to get from the airport to our hotel located in the central city area of Reykjavik.  You can take a taxi for a low $145 (!!!) or you can take the flybus which costs $35 per person.  Not a hard decision really.  We got on the comfortable bus, rode the forty-five minutes to the bus terminal, and transferred to a smaller bus to take us to Bus Stop 1 (BS1).

The lake behind the City Hall which would be a landmark for us helping us navigate.
This picture was taken at noon.
BS1 is located in front of city hall and is an easy one block walk to our hotel the Reykjavik Centrum.  We went in to check in.  We were too early to check-in (even though we were supposed to be there the day before) so we had our complimentary breakfast while our room was prepared.  The lady at reception said she would get us when the room was ready.  Back in the lobby we waited about a half hour before I got up and asked about our room.  The lady said follow me and took us to our room.  WTF why didn't she come to get us when we were sitting right in front of her?!?

Our awesomely located hotel picked by the Wife.

Our room was a spacious efficiency apartment in an older building next door to the actual hotel.  We had to be on a tour at noon so we had about an hour for a nap.  Half way through the nap the phone rings and we discovered that the tour scheduled for the next day was cancelled. *sigh*  The Wife and I were slightly relieved since we were already exhausted and we had seven hours of tours ahead of us.  Getting up early the next morning would have killed us I think.  When the tour company called us back a half hour later offering to get us on an identical tour with another company we respectfully declined the offer.  We would have accepted the offer if we'd had that more relaxed first day that was lost by the cancelled flight.

Our whale watching boat.
We returned to BS1 and were picked up my our first tour - Whale watching.  We checked in and boarded our boat.  It was an overcast, windy day in Iceland.

We did see the sun today ... sort of.
About the days.  This time of year the days are short.  How short?  Twilight starts around 9:30am and the sun actually comes up over the horizon at 11:00am.  The sun stays very low to the South until about 3:00pm at which time there starts another hour or so of twilight.  So the actual day is four hours long and the light - what there is of it - is only about six hours.  This messed with my head ... a lot.

A composition I took of a humpback whale.
Back to whale watching.  The seas were a bit rough this day.  It didn't take long before our ship became the USS Vomitorium.  I would say about half the guests were upchucking.  The Wife and I managed to keep things down.  We did see humpback whales.  That is when we weren't being hit in the face by windblown sleet (damn that sleet stung when it hit your face).  We decided that we were all whaled out and it would take a lot to get us out whale watching again.

An example of what we saw leaving and entering Reykjavik harbour.
We returned to Reykjavik and back to the hotel for a brief freshening up and some food before we caught another tour bus to take us to Fontana hot springs.  When I think of hot springs I think of some natural pool full of geothermally heated water.  Fontana is actually several swimming pools full of geothermally heated water.  Iceland's famous Blue Lagoon (we didn't go there) turns out to also be man-made.  We ate dinner at the spa and spent some time soaking in the pools.  Each pool was of a different temperature with the hottest being around 104℉ (40℃).  The water from the inlet was too hot to stay in for too long.  I'm not much of a soaker so we got out before most of the other tour people, got dressed, and ate a snack.

One of thirteen Yule Lads projected (in full motion) around the city.  This one is on the city hall.
Part of the Icelandic Christmas stories.
Back on the bus we went in search of the Northern Lights.  My hopes weren't very high since on the way to Fontana we'd driven through windblown snow showers.  Despite this we found some clear patches and we did see some Northern lights.  The bus moved around a few times looking for better conditions but, conditions not being ideal, all we saw were pale green smudges that could have been mistaken for wispy clouds.  I still managed to get a few pictures but the Wife and I are not removing "see the Northern Lights" from our bucket list quite yet.

The green smudge of the Aurora Borealis.

We returned to the hotel after 9:00pm and the Wife and I were exhausted.  We thanked the gods for the tour cancellation for the next day and fell into a deep sleep.

Pictures can be found in my 2018-2019 Iceland Google Photos album.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Looking Up

Well, today is day seven of this bug and I think I'm almost done.  The yuckiness peaked on Sunday and I've been starting to feel better most of the week.  Right now I'm just dealing with a cough as the phlegm moves out.

Unfortunately I think I tagged the Wife so she has a few more days of my bug to put up with.  Sorry!

Now that I'm feeling better I will start getting posts put together to document our Iceland adventure.  I've already gone through my pictures and they are ready to go.  I hope to have the first post this weekend.

P.S.  Happy Birthday Gv.

Friday, January 04, 2019

Not The Way To Start The New Year

It began as a mild sore throat early during our Iceland travels.  I chalked it up to the dry air in our hotel room.

On the last day in Iceland the sore throat was joined by coughing (including green phlegm), and sinus pressure (with the accompanying headache).

On Thursday, after we left Minneapolis to head back home, the other symptoms were joined by a general tiredness.

Today came the mild body aches, sore hair, and a mild fever.

I feel like crap.  Not a great way to start the new year.

P.S. I was going to start posting about our Iceland travels this weekend but, due to me feeling like sh!t, those posts will have to wait.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

A Not So Ordinary New Years

Usually the first post of the year is a story of a quiet and calm New Years eve.  I can't say how quiet and calm it was this year because we are in Iceland and this post is being drafted before we left.  This is what I do know.  On New Year's Eve day we did the "Golden Circle Classic Full Day Tour".  After the tour, if we were lucky, we celebrated the New Year with the Northern Lights (all depends on the weather gods).  Today, the Wife and I are doing our last tour in Iceland: "South Coast, Waterfalls, and Glacier Hike".  I will obviously post all the details about Iceland after we get home.

On the first of the year I also have the tradition of posting what I think is my best picture of the prior year.  Obviously I can't predict if my favorite picture of 2018 will be taken in Iceland so I will only consider pictures taken upto Christmas Day.  I will consider Iceland pictures when I select my best picture of 2019.

My best picture of 2018 was taken in Churchill, MB, Canada during our Canada-by-Rail trip.  It's a picture of a decrepit old cabin, in the late day sunshine, on the shore of the Churchill River which feeds into the Hudson Bay.

"July Light - Churchill"
by Bruce H.
(Taken on the 10th of July, 2018)
I hope you all had a calm and quiet New Years full of happy memories, family, and friends.

P.S.  If you haven't yet, visit the NASA New Horizons' site to see the flyby past kuiper belt object MU69 (aka Ultima Thule) the most distant object ever visited by a man-made probe.  The flyby took place early this morning.

Monday, December 31, 2018

A Homer's Travels Look Back At 2018

2017 was the year that I became lost.  2018 was a year of recovery and of finding my way back to my path.  Sometimes it has felt that I'm just floating along and my sense of time is totally shot - don't ask me what day it is, I won't know.  Recovery has been slow and there have been setbacks throughout the year but I feel the changes within me and they are in the right direction.
Let's look back at 2018, shall we:

  • January: The year started how it usually does.  The mild depression that had dogged me all of 2017 was still there but things were improving little by little.  Birds in the backyard always lift my spirit.  The loss of Dolores O'Riordan bummed me out a bit.  Our cord cutting experiment was not successful ... yet.
  • February: The beginning of this month was packed with the school trivia contest, escape rooms, and familyTrek up the Tower wasn't for me. I went to see the short Oscar nominated films, my on-again-off-again tradition.  I bought my seventh camera.  The Olympic games gave the end of the month a non-political backdrop to my life that I needed.
  • March: I welcomed an early preview of spring.  The Wife's Mom passed away not long after.  My annual blood test turned up crappy numbers.  A repairman's mishap ended up disconnecting us for forty-eight hours.  This may have started the ball rolling with our cord cutting plans.  The first to get cut was our landline and us entering the cell phone era.
  • April: The month started out slow.  I continued to walk and was looking forward to biking.  The mid-month snow, on the other hand, was not helpful.  Despite the late snow I really began to start feeling better.  The Wife's student reached third place nationally in Poetry Out Loud - the best performance yet.  The sun came out and I biked in the real world, something I thought would never happen again.
  • May: This month, while walking and riding, my depression began to lift and I caught myself smiling again.  My seventh Caminoversary came and went full of thoughts happy and sad.  I went to my first boxing match.  A new mix of bird seed in the feeder attracted more types of birds to cheer me up.
  • June: We lost Tony Bourdain to suicide.  Summer arrived with thunder and lightning bugs.  We started our train travels through Canada.
  • July: Our travels started in Vancouver with a visit with Just A Girl, The Boy, and E.  I posted part of our travels while I was riding the train.  Next came Jasper where we celebrated nature and relived our honeymoon.  Winnipeg was our next stop and was a surprise for me.  A nice city.  We temporarily left the train and flew to Churchill to see polar bears, beluga whales, and bugs.  We returned to Winnipeg where we spent a few more days due to the train schedule.  The next train leg was our longest at thirty-eight hours and felt like thirty-eight days.  This long leg dropped us in Toronto where we had a whirlwind thirty-six hours to see this modern city.
  • August: While I posted about my vacation mostly while I was on vacation, the last two stops were not posted about until August after we got home.   In Montréal I had my fifty-fifth birthday and, like many other past birthdays, I was in a terrible mood.  I managed to work myself out of my funk enough to enjoy the city.  I dreaded the last train leg to Halifax - I was tired of trains and all the sitting I'd done this vacation.  Halifax was our last stop.  It turned out to be a nice seaside city.  We managed to get out on the water twice - on a hopper and a tall ship.  As soon as we got back we started planning our next travels.  I end the month cycling in hail.
  • September: I'd started hiking with a pack back in August.  I continued these hikes into September including one hike where I got eaten alive.  I posted pictures of all the Canadian magnets we bought (I managed to get them all up on our magnet display).  September eleventh was remembered.  The Wife planted sunflowers.  I welcomed the Fall with a hike at Hitchcock.  The rain we had this month led to some minor flooding along the Missouri river.  This led to a rare hike in the rain.
  • October: I voted early and kept my fingers crossed.  We had our first snow in the middle of the month.  I managed to see the Fall colors this year.  I remembered the fifth anniversary of the end of my second Camino.  Fallen leaves and ladybugs livened up a hike at Indian Cave S.P.  Halloween came and went.
  • November: This month we finally cut the cord.  Actually it took place at the end of July but this is when it all sunk in for me.  The election happened and, mostly, things went in the right direction.  Took a long, cold hike in Indian Cave S.P. where my drinking water froze.  We attended a beautiful wedding in Sioux Falls, SD.
  • December: The Christmas season started with the blooming of the Old Lady.  I got my almost annual curling fix with the Omaha leg of the Curling World Cup.  I kept up my hiking even in the snow and mud.  We had a low key Christmas season.  Winter started with a frosty morning.  The last week of the year we spent in Iceland.  The posts about that adventure will have to wait until next year.
  • Walking: This year I started hiking more.  This is especially true after we returned from our Canadian By Rail travels.  I began hiking with a backpack to help strengthen my legs with mixed results - I am stronger but my range with a pack got stuck between eight and nine miles.  In the end I hiked a total of 458.12 miles (737.27 km) which makes this year the fifth out of twelve for miles hiked.  More than last year but I've done better.  It should be noted that my average walking speed is the second lowest in twelve years.  I guess the backpack ... and my aging body ... are slowing me down a bit.
  • Biking: After pledging never to ride a bike out in the real world ever again, I rode my bike out in the real world.  It took me two years and nine months to convince myself to get back on the bike trails.  The biking lasted about five months before I decided to concentrate on my hiking.  In all, I rode my trainer 345.2 (555.5 km) miles and my bike in the real world 719.89 miles (1158.55 km).  The real world miles in the second longest of the last eleven years.  Not bad.
  • Books: I'd set a goal of twenty-four books to read this year.  While I should have been able to meet this target I fell a couple short.  Part of that could have been the fact I didn't read on our Canada By Rail trip reserving that time for podcast listening and post writing.   Here are my Goodreads stats for 2018.  I didn't read any real clunkers this year nor did I find a gem.  Most of my books were in the four star range with only a handful of three star 'MEH' reads.  I don't think I really was into reading this year.  Just kinda felt like I was going through the motions.
  • Concerts & Shows:  We didn't go to many shows or concerts this year but we did start to go out to see more movies which has been fun.  The three concerts or shows this year were:  
  • I posted 113 times this year - the lowest since 2012.  I found it hard to get motivated to write this year despite this being a better year for me than 2017.  My posting felt like a chore and I often rushed writing the posts so my work was a bit drab, in my opinion.  Having so many television options didn't help either.
At the end of this year I am watching the news less - there is only so much politics I can take and remain sane - hiking more and just floating along.  So what's ahead for me?  I don't know but I am confident it will be filled with new places, new people, and new adventures.  A healing of mind and spirit may also be in the stars.  The only way to find out for sure is to go out there and live.

Here's to a Happy and Prosperous New Year for all.
May all your dreams come true in 2019.