Sunday, June 21, 2020

A Piece Of Our World

This weekend across the country various Juneteenth celebrations are taking place.  I have to admit that, while I've known about Juneteenth for awhile, I have not known its true significance until this year.  Omaha has always had Juneteenth parades celebrating the liberation of the slaves.  This year, with the ongoing protests against injustice and bigotry, the day has taken on a new importance.

A memorial to James Scurlock killed during the protests.

Omaha has not been immune to the protests.  Early on a young Black man (James Scurlock) was killed by a white bar owner (allegedly prone to racism) during a protest in downtown Omaha.  It was first declared self-defense but it was soon handed over to a grand jury to determine if charges should be filed.  On one of my walks I took some pictures showing the signs of support from the community. 




More pictures of the protest signs can be found in my 2017-2020 Protest & Resistance Google Photos Album.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

I Hope The Summer Is Better Than The Spring

Spring has been ... interesting this year.  I can't say I'm a fan.  But as of now, it is the Summer Solstice in the northern hemisphere and maybe ... just maybe ... the Summer will be better.

... but probably not.


Happy Summer Solstice Everyone!!!


P.S.  Also Happy Hike Naked Day for those ambling about in the buff.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Not Present ... But Accounted For

I haven't been posting much lately.  It's not like I haven't had enough to write about with the pandemic and the continuing protests of injustice and inequality.  Some may assume that the social distancing may be at the root of this blog inactivity but that would be far from the truth.  When the stay at home orders came down in mid-March my life, frankly, didn't change a whit.  I've been socially distancing, self-isolating, and staying at home since long before the world even heard of COVID-19.  The only change I had in my life, really, was the Wife being with me all day - a plus in my book.

The fact is, since I returned from the Appalachian Trail I haven't been ... present.  I feel a bit adrift ... tuned out ... and I am content with this - at least for the moment.  This feeling is probably a result of having completed all my plans that I've had since 2012.  Ending my Appalachian Trail hike was the last thing on my list and I'm still digesting my experience.

Now, while part of me feels disconnected, my Twitter followers (@HomersTravels) know I am following what 2020 is throwing at us very closely.  I've kept Homer's Travels fairly politics-free.  Twitter is where my politics comes out full force.  So, If you are bored by the blog silence, feel free to check out my twitter feed.

At this point in similar posts I would pledge to either make plans, do things, or post more ... yada yada yada.  I'm not doing that this time.  My head isn't in the right place to make plans right now and, frankly, 2020 is not making it easy to make plans - a good thing since I've had my fill of plans for a while.  This may change ... or it may not.  You'll know it as soon as I figure it all out.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Ghost Droplets

I was taking Iago out to do his business in our backyard when I noticed something.  It had rained that morning (Saturday) and there were droplets of water on the long leaves of a potted plant on our patio.  That's what I thought until I took a closer look ...

Ghost droplets.
... and I realized that the leaves were in fact dry.  Somehow the image of the raindrops was printed on the leaves like a photographic exposure.  I've never seen this before and I have to say ... It's pretty cool!

Friday, May 15, 2020

My Ninth Caminoversary

While I walked the Appalachian Trail (AT) I often ran into people who had either already hiked the Camino or were planning to do so in the near future.  I had a Camino shell attached to my AT backpack.  One hiker even recognized it and asked me about my Camino.

As I was hiking the first half of the AT I decided that I would like to do a third Camino along the Camino Del Norte route.  I was even a little excited about the idea.

The path of the Camino.
Then the second half of the AT happened.  As I went through New England the desire to do the Camino, or any long hike for that matter, faded ... it faded very quickly.

At this time, the ninth anniversary of the start of my first Camino, I doubt I will ever do the Camino again. But, as the world had reminded us lately, you never know what the future holds.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Sometimes I'm Too Honest ... And An Update.

I was suppose to go in to get my teeth cleaned today.  My original appointment had been postponed due to Coronavirus.  I get to the office, they take my temperature (normal range), and give me a questionnaire.  One of the questions was "Do you have a runny nose?"  It's allergy season.  We have had moderate-high to high pollen counts for a few weeks here in Nebraska.  My eyes are itchy and, yes, my nose runs. I marked Yes.

That honesty killed my appointment.  I'd not mentioned my seasonal allergies to my dentist before so there is no note of them in my record.  So, in the day of covid-19, that was enough to stop my cleaning in its tracks.   *sigh*

My allergies are now part of my record so when I return next week, my teeth will finally be sparkling white.

Also, an update for my last post.  On Mother's Day I talked about the little bunny babies in a hole in our yard.  I'd placed a paver over the hole to keep Iago out.  Well after that post I looked off our deck and noticed the paver had moved nearly a foot off the hole.  Looking closer I saw the hole was empty.  Not sure what happened.  Either Momma bunny moved the paver and removed her babies or Iago move the paver and had a snack.  I think it was most likely the latter.  His farts reeked that night.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Happy Mother's Day ... To All Types Of Mothers

I want to wish My Mom a Happy Mother's Day in a socially distant way.  It's a nice day to remember mothers of all type.

For example, our yard - our neighborhood actually - is being overrun by mother bunnies.  Looks like an Easter Bunny convention out there.  They are starting to dig holes into the middle of out backyard.  Iago found one such hole and pulled out a tiny two inch long furless snack.  I covered the hole with a paver so that he wouldn't get to the other baby bunnies.

A bunny sitting in our front yard probably contemplating
where she will dig a hole to fill up with babies.
I'm kind of torn.  I don't like killing little baby critters but at the same time we have too many rabbits around.  Kind of wish the hawk I saw in out backyard a while back would return and pick off a few.

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

The Changing Landscape Of Street Garbage

Over the years I have noticed that one of the most common pieces of garbage I see along the streets of Omaha are mini-bottles of vodka and whiskey (notably Fireball).  I have found empty mini-bottles of alcohol in poor neighborhoods and wealthy neighborhoods.  They seem not to discriminate socio-economically.

The all too common fireball bottle trash along the streets of Omaha.
Now, in the age of Coronavirus I am seeing a new addition to the ubiquitous whiskey bottles.  The surgical glove and the slightly less common surgical mask.  They are appearing in parking lots and along the side of the street.

Pink is pretty unless it's a medical glove on the grass.
Just another sign of how some people are slobs and how our world is changing in the time of pandemic.

Monday, May 04, 2020

May The Fourth ... And All That

I couldn't find a Star Wars related picture to post to celebrate May the Fourth day so I decided to post a totally unrelated picture of a cardinal sitting on a light pole.  May the Fourth be with you.

A non Star Wars related picture of a cardinal.

P.S.  Happy first anniversary to B & E !!!

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Social Distance Art

On my walks around the city, I sometimes come across driveway art.  Many are the art of children but some are really nice ... like this parrot.

Chalk art Parrot.
It seems social distancing brings out the artist is some of us.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Comfy Chair For Chillin'

We got eight and a half inches of snow yesterday ... in the middle of April.  It was crazy.

A Comfy Chair for Chillin'
Today, twenty-four hours later, all the snow is gone except for a few traces in the shadows.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Photograph: "Praying For April Showers?"

Taken today during an ... April Shower.

"Praying for April Showers"
by Bruce H.
Can this please be our last winter snow?

Sunday, April 12, 2020

For Easter ... A Goldfinch

Happy Easter to all today.  To celebrate, here is a picture of a Goldfinch.  Goldfinches aren't that common in our backyard but they are occasionally attracted to our thistle feeder.

A Goldfinch checking out the backyard.

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

I Expected This ... But I Don't Have To Like It

Having been outside for nearly one hundred seventy seven days while hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT), when I got home last October I had no desire to go outside.  I hunkered down playing computer games and watched TV and movies.  I practically became one with my recliner.  With the inactivity came bad eating habits.  I gained twelve pounds.  I sit so much that I hobble around like an old man when I get up.  I knew I should be doing things differently but I was just not motivated.

I tried to force myself to go walking but, again, the motivation wasn't there.  Since 2009 I'd walked a lot to prepare for my first Camino, my second Camino, RAGBRAI, and my two AT attempts.  With the AT and all the other goals behind me I no longer have any goal to push me outside the house.

The universe made it even more difficult when they asked everyone to stay home because of the pandemic.  But the universe is sending me mixed signals right now.  I had my blood tested for my annual exam.  My lipids are high but more importantly my Glucose and A1C are way too high.  As a matter of fact my A1C says that I am officially diabetic.  I'm not stupid (most of the time) and I was expecting the bad news.

So now I am motivated.  Now my body is forcing me to watch what I eat and to get off my butt and do more exercise.  In three months I will be retested and we'll see if I can wrangle my numbers into a better place using only diet and exercise.  If not I will have to add another prescription to the one I already take for my high triglycerides.

Have to say I am not very happy with my genetics right now. *sigh*

P.S. Damn I want a sweat snack right now!

Friday, April 03, 2020

Appalachian Trail - One Final Post

A year ago today I started my Appalachian Trail (AT) attempt at Springer Mountain, Georgia.  I'm not sure I was full of optimism on that day but I was determined to give it my best try.  That I did.  One hundred and seventy-seven days, and one thousand eight hundred and ninety-four miles, later I decided to end my attempt.

When I quit I told myself I was done.  A few days later I changed my mind and thought I would return to finish the last three hundred miles to get to the end at Mt Katahdin. Over the past seven months I have vacillated between completing it and calling it done.  But this week the last vestige of my AT was removed when, with the help of the Wife, I trimmed the long, bushy beard I grew on the trail back to where is was when I started my adventure. Now when I look in the mirror, Little Hill is no longer looking back.

So I have made a decision and I have settled on not finishing the AT.  I'm not getting any younger and those last miles are not easy.  My attempt is officially over.

Not that I don't have my moments when I look up at the night sky and regret and the desire to finish what I started wells up in me and I get a strange feeling in my gut.  But, in the end, I remember how I felt and the reasons I had for ending my attempt and the moment fades.

Despite knowing I did the right thing, these moments will haunt me for years to come and when I look up at the stars I feel Little Hill, somewhere on the AT, looking up at them too.

Monday, March 30, 2020

And The Cupboard Was Bare ...

I do my shopping on Mondays.  In this time of Covid-19 it is the only time I get out of the house.  Today I went to whole foods to purchase a couple items I use for homemade trail mix.  I add the trail mix to cereal and fruit and eat it for lunch.  Two of the items I was looking to buy in bulk were slivered almonds and pumpkin seed.  Here are the bulk bins at Whole Foods:

Empty bulk goods bin at Whole Foods.
At Sam's Club I am still amazed that there is no toilet paper.  What are people doing with all of this paper?  Paper mache?  I suppose this tells you how many people do their duty at work/school instead of home.

Empty toilet paper isle at Sam's Club.
Walmart is trying to keep things stocked but it may become a losing battle against all the people panic buying.  Soon grocery shopping may become a scavenger hunt.  The times we live in ...

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Blackbirds ... Everywhere.

While some people mark the coming of Spring by the sighting of the first Robin, in our backyard it's the return of the flocks of Blackbirds and Red Wing Blackbirds.  They swoop in and empty our birdfeeders several times before moving on.

Blackbirds in and near the suet feeder.
While they are visiting, our backyard is full of the trill of birdsong.

A Red Wing Blackbird.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Book: Margaret Atwood's "Testaments"

My one and only read so far this year was Margaret Atwood's sequel to "The Handmaid's Tail".  "Testaments" takes place a few years after the events of both the original book and the Hulu streaming series.

"Testaments" is a collections of recollections and ... testaments ... from various girls and women in the theocratic authoritarian nation of Gilead.  Many of the testaments are from characters in the streaming series as well as a few from the original book.

When I started reading this book I had a difficult time trying to put the story together.  The chapters, while interesting, seemed disjointed.  This changed as you progressed and the various stories began to weave together to a satisfying cohesive ending.

While the original Handmaid's Tale was a bit dark and dreary, Testaments tried to end the reader with some hope.  I read this before the Pandemic exploded but I would say the ending is a good one for the times we live in teaching us that all bad things, through the work of many, will come to an end someday.

I gave this book four stars out of five on Goodreads because it was interesting and had an uplifting message at its conclusion.

Friday, March 20, 2020

A Bird ...And Not A Bird

Here is another visitor to our backyard feeders.  A Downy Woodpecker at our suet feeder.

A Downy Woodpecker on our Suet feeder.
A new visitor to our backyard was not a bird.  It was a squirrel but not just any squirrel - a black squirrel.  I've seen them in other parts of Omaha and Council Bluffs but this was the first in our backyard.  It's not the best picture but it's the best I could do before he scurried off.

A black squirrel looking for fallen bird seed at the bottom of a fence.
If I get a better picture I'll share it.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Happy First Day Of Spring?

As I sit in the basement watching movies during the Covid-19 social distancing, I would like to wish everyone a happy first day of spring.

I have to say that I was a bit disappointed in winter.  We had very little snow and unusually warm temperatures - not the type of winter I like.  I like the crisp air and the purity of a freshly fallen snow.  This winter was just drab and dreary.

Now winter is ending with a pandemic that is trying its best to mess up our lives.  The social distancing isn't really changing my life.  Since I returned from the Appalachian Trail I have been a hard core homebody social distancing before it was cool ... or necessary.  The Wife, though, is having a tougher time as all this staying at home is not normal for her.  For her sanity I hope this subsides sooner than later.

I can't wait for this already unending year to be over.  Maybe spring will bring an improvement.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Chilean Patagonia: Magnet Edition

Well, I have no excuse for the delay but finally, over two months after we returned from Chile, I finally photographed and posted the travel magnets from the trip.

You can find them all on the Travel Magnet tab at the top of the blog.  Here are a few favorites:

The local Selknam figure common in the Patagonia area.
A fury rhea.
Torres del Paine national Park hand painted embellished with sand and crystals.
From the protests in Santiago, the Cacerola.

Sunday, March 08, 2020

The Endless Jerking Around Of Time

If you haven't already, set your clocks ahead an hour for daylight savings time.  This has become less relevant in this world of cellphones and clocks that set themselves.

End the endless back and forth cycle - take back our time!
Frankly, I wish they would pick a time and just stick with it all year.  This switching back and forth twice a year seems silly.

While we are talking about time, how about eliminating two time zones in the US?  Merge the Pacific and Mountain time zones and merge the Central and Eastern Time zones.  This would simplify a lot frankly.  Heck, if China can have one time zone for the entire country surely we can reduce ours from four to two.

Now I just need to find that lost hour of sleep.

Friday, March 06, 2020

Photograph: "Sunbeam Flowers"

Silk flowers caught in a sunbeam.

"Sunbeam Flowers"
by Bruce H.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Happy Leap Day And A Photograph: "Concrete Steps"

I hope everyone enjoyed/is enjoying the extra day this year.  It's a beautiful one here in Omaha with sunny skies and unusual warmth for February so the Wife and I went out for lunch followed by antiquing.

"Concrete Steps"
by Bruce H.
The person who left these prints should have leaped a little farther.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Bird Nerdy

I have to admit that I am getting bird nerdy as I get older.  I feed the birds in our backyard and have accumulated quite a following of birds there.  Over the last year or so I have played around with the birdseed mixture as well as added new feeders with different foods.  I now have three feeders: a standard one with a mix of birdseed, a suet feeder, and a thistle seed feeder.

In the past year our usual sparrows and mourning doves have been joined by goldfinches (who like the thistle seed), downy woodpeckers(who like the suet), cardinals (who go for the Cardinal mix in my main feeder), and, more recently, robins and blue jays.  I'm excited about the Jays since I have seen them very rarely in our yard but I've seen one twice in the last three days so I'm hoping it/they stay.

A hawk squatting on a light pole behind our house.
Also attracted to our backyard, and the new street light poles the city has installed behind out house, is a hawk that, I expect, is hunting critters that feed off the seed that falls from the feeders.

I will have to try to get some pictures to post as I discover new birds checking out our yard.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Chilean Patagonia: Days Seven And Eight - The Way Home

Day Six:  On our last partial day in Patagonia we took a free shuttle into town for the last gasp of our sightseeing and shopping.  We visited the modest church and a few stores we'd stopped at a few days earlier to finish off our shopping list ... mostly.

After a lunch at our hotel we were taken to the airport for our mid afternoon flight to Santiago (the flight where I left my fleece).  We were picked up at the airport by the same guide who's helped us nearly a week earlier.

We ate dinner at our hotel's rooftop bar before walking to our favorite ice cream shop in Santiago.

Day Seven:  Our flight home didn't leave until the evening so we had a free day in the city.  The Wife had one task - buy Cuban cigars for her brother.  It now seems to be a custom since we've bought them in Cuba, Canada, and now Chile - all the 'C' countries.

The Wife had asked our guide about the easiest way to get to the Casa de Habano cigar store.  She suggested we take the subway.  She also suggested take the subway to a market connected to a church.  Her suggestions became our last day itinerary.

We walked a couple blocks to the subway and rode it to the end of the line.  A short, and hot, one block walk took us to the market.  We ate lunch in a restaurant connected to the market before we dropped some more money here buying some rather unique pieces for our collection.

There was a funeral going on in the church so we couldn't go in so we got back on the subway and headed to the Casa de Habano.  This was a longer walk from the station and I was sweating by the time we got there.  The Wife pulled out her brother's list and impressed everyone with her brother's taste in cigars.

After the cigar shop we stopped at an ice cream place.  It was good but not nearly as good as our favorite.  Our guide had suggested another ice cream place but we didn't see it until after we'd had our ice creams.

A subway ride took us back to the hotel's neighborhood.  On the walk back we browsed through the protest stickers and found some more treasures.  I'll have to share one or two in future posts.

Cat on a chill tin roof.
The rest was uneventful. They took us to the airport where we caught our red-eye flight back to the States.

A peacock displaying his finest at the church market.
It turned out to be a nice relaxing trip.  It is the southernmost the Wife and I have ever been.  The opposite of last year's trip to Iceland geography wise.  I think next Christmas we'll stay home.  I kinda miss being home during that time of the year.

Pictures can be found in my 2019-2020 Chilean Patagonia Google Photos album.

Sunday, February 09, 2020

Chilean Patagonia: Day Six - A Tour Of Torres Del Paine National Park

Sorry for the delay.  Not very motivated to write lately.

On New Year's day we booked a full day tour of the Torres del Paine national park.  We were joined by another couple from Slovenia and our guide, Chiche ... an Argentine Gaucho.

The rugged mountains of Torres del Paine national park.
The van took us into the park where we periodically stopped to take pictures of guanacos, rhea, condors, lakes, and sweeping mountainscapes.

Sweeping vistas along the way.
We stopped near a small lake and walked along the marshy shore.  We all watched the waterfowl, flamingos, and other birds wading among the grasses and reeds.  At the end of the short trail we arrived at a small camping/picnicking area where our driver had prepared a really good spread of food and drink.  We sat around a picnic table and talked about ourselves and what we'd seen so far on our tour.

Flamingos in the distance.
Back in the van we visited waterfalls, lakes, and even more sweeping vista.  It just went on and on.

Mountains, Waterfall, and summer flowers.
In the end it was a nice relaxing and satisfying last full day in Patagonia.

Our last view of the mountains and lakes of Torres del paine.
Pictures can be found in my 2019-2020 Chilean Patagonia Google Photos album.

Saturday, February 01, 2020

Countdown To Deletion.

This is it.  Sometime tomorrow my Facebook account will be officially deleted.

I hope that many of you will follow me on Twitter or subscribe to Homer's Travels' RSS feed or Email subscription service. Those who still want to follow me can find out how by reading this post.  I'm sure most of you will not continue to follow me which makes me a bit sad.

No matter how sad it is to lose contact with past classmates, Camino friends, and others, I am still convinced that this is the right thing to do.  A form of protest against what Facebook stands for and what it has done to our society.

Not sure you will see all of my posts once I leave so this is your last chance.  Visit Homer's Travels and subscribe or follow @HomerTravels on Twitter.

So long ... and thanks for all the fish dog videos.

Friday, January 31, 2020

Chilean Patagonia: Day Five - A Day Of Rest Was Exactly What We Needed

The long halfway to our room.
Since we'd canceled out two main events for the day (New Year's Eve day) we only had a relaxing drive into Puerto Natales for a cultural tour.  We were the only ones in our van so we got a quick talk about the history of the area and city with all it's European connections.

A mural in Puerto Natales.
We stopped at a small museum that held artifacts from the native people as well as the European families that colonized the area.  It was nice but small.

We walked along the central town square and stopped at a place for coffee.  The Wife and I do not drink coffee but fortunately the place was connected to a large gift shop.  We turned the cultural tour into a shopping spree.  We visited three different places looking for handicrafts, and magnets. By the end of our two hour cultural tour, we'd bought nearly 80% of the things we were looking for.

The rest of the day we relaxed in our room or in the bar.  I wandered around and took pictures of some of the historical building and machinery.

Relaxing ripples.
We'd hope to have fireworks but there were none planned for the night.  Past fires in Torres del Paine national park (including one caused by a camper turning toilet paper) may have been one reason for not having fireworks. The hotel was having a special menu for dinner that night followed by a cocktail party and dance.  When I travel I do not pack formal wear.  Neither of us were interested in the party.  We did enjoy the special menu - the most interesting part of the meal being Guanaco carpaccio.  I can't say it was anything special.

Historic machinery in our historical hotel.
After dinner we retired to our room.  The Wife watched college football with Spanish announcers.  Since we were so far south, there was still some twilight until nearly 11:30pm.  At midnight the ships from the nearby port began blowing their horns in celebration.  Despite being in patagonia, the New Year's arrival seem very low key.  I imagine this was not what we needed and the quiet before the storm that I expect 2020 to be.

A ship lit up with the lights of Puerto Natales in the background.
Pictures can be found in my 2019-2020 Chilean Patagonia Google Photos album.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Chilean Patagonia: Day Four - Patagonia Ain't Easy

On day four of our Chilean Patagonia adventure the Wife and I went our separate ways.  The Wife would take a tour of the historic hotel and a half day bike ride to see caves with mylodon fossils.  I would do a full day hike on the Water Path Trek.

The mountains of Torres del Paine national park.
I met the group who were going for the trek in the concierge area. The people in the hotel were from all over the world including Lithuania and Slovenia.  We got on our bus and road the ninety minute drive to the trailhead in the Torres del Paine national park.

Guanaco.
The bus stopped several time along the way to see condors, guanacos (a cousin of the llama), rhea (an ostrich like flightless bird), grey fox (with a mouse in it's mouth), and vistas of the park's mountain ranges.

Rhea.
At the trailhead we followed the Water Path that passes lakes and streams.  It was a little chilly and the wind was strong but the sun warmed me up most of the time.  The hike was about 8 miles (12.9 km) long with around 1,435 ft (437.4 m) of elevation drop. Half way we stopped at a viewpoint that overlooked a lake with mountain vistas beyond.

As I ate my hotel provided bag lunch I sat on a log in the sun but exposed to the wind.  Looking down at the lake you could see the chop on the water.  I was also very tired.  Up to this point the trail was relatively flat and at an altitude lower than my backyard. I guess I've been too sedentary since i returned home from the Appalachian Trail ... or perhaps I was still recovering.  Most likely it was a bit of both.  At this point I decided that the kayak trip I'd planned for tomorrow was starting to look less desirable.  I decided to cancel the kayaking trip once it dawned on me that there were better places in this world to kayak ... like Belize, Bora Bora, or Bali.

The reward at the end of the hike.
The highlight of the hike was near the end.  We climbed up to a viewpoint with a spectacular view.  From there we hiked down what I would consider a strenuous - even dangerous - steep trail down over a thousand feet to our waiting bus.  I would normally consider an eight mile flat hike to be moderate as this hike was classified but the steep descent at the end should have upped the difficulty to hard.  We had a snack before we returned to the hotel.

If you turn your back on the vista in front of you, you often see another.
As I was waiting for the Wife to get back from her biking excursion I received texts from her.  She had fallen twice.  The bike ride (on mountain bikes) was way too hard for her and others in her group.  She texted that like hell she would be doing her hike the next day.  That sealed the deal for me.  I went to the excursion coordinators and canceled my kayak trip and the Wife's hike.  Sadly, age is catching up with both of us a bit faster than I expected.

Pictures can be found in my 2019-2020 Chilean Patagonia Google Photos album.