The Best & Worst of 2015

by Bob Sparrow

Where's waldoTwenty-fifteen was a RED BANNER year in terms of playing ‘Where’s Waldo’ and showing up in a lot of fun and interesting places. I’ve enjoyed having you readers come along vicariously, which has prompted many of you to ask, “Where are ‘we’ going next year?” As of this writing it seems I’ll be lucky to get to the end of my driveway to pick up the paper, so forgive me if I do a little reminiscing of the mostly Good, but sometimes the Bad and the Ugly of my 2015 travels.

1st Quarter

Good: Visit with Suzanne and Alan in Scottsdale where I had my Best Cigar of the Year, A Cuban, from Bob Gett, while overlooking Scottsdale sitting in his and Liz’s beautiful backyard after a delicious dinner.

Bad Idea: Using my National Geographic Expeditions to travel the world ‘through beer’; good at the time, bad the next day.

The Best Place to Live: Completing the ‘Southern California Trifecta’ – breakfast at a golf course in Palm Desert, lunch at a ski lodge in the San Bernardino Mountains and dinner at Duke’s in Huntington Beach.

2nd Quarter

Ladder

Ladder Canyon

HAVASUPAI

Havasupai

Great: My time with the ‘odd couple’, Patrick Michael and Marc Webb, on our hike through the unique terrain of ‘Ladder Canyon’ adjacent to Joshua Tree National Park.

Best time with my in-laws (No that’s not an oxymoron): Rochester, Minnesota celebrating Warren & Phyllis Barnes 70th Wedding Anniversary.

Biggest surprise: Hiking in the draught-stricken Grand Canyon in the Havasupai Indian Reservation with Rick & Chris Fisher and finding gushing waterfalls generated from flowing underground springs.

Bad and Sad: the overweight and unfriendly Indians at Havasupai.

Bad prediction: Saying LA would never have an NFL team; it looks like they could have up to three by next season. Good: Rams; Bad: Chargers; Ugly: Raiders

Nepal

Kathmandu, Nepal

Bad news: The earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal that destroyed thousands of homes, including Dom’s, our Himalayan guide; fortunately the family survived with no injuries.

3rd Quarter

Best time with the family: No question about it, our family gathering at Rocky Ridge at Lake Tahoe – great place, greater people!

Baltic Cruise . . .

Best photo: the photo I took of the ‘No Photos’ sign as I was trying to sneak into Russia at Passport Control in St. Petersburg

no photos

NO PHOTOS!!!

Best reunion: After 28 years, seeting Mira, our au pair for Dana, in Helsinki

Best & Worse: St. Petersburg – spectacular sights, depressing people

Great traveling companions: Jack & JJ Budd, John & Judy VanBoxmeer and John & Mary Billham and of course Linda

Ugly: The living conditions in Sachenhausen, the concentration camp outside of Berlin

4th Quarter

The Inca Trail

WW

Winaywayna, Peru

Good: Winaywayna – the mini Machu Picchu, without the crowds

Bad: Mosquito bites I’m still scratching

Ugly: Disneyland-like crowds at Machu Picchu.

As 100 year old, Frank Sinatra would have said, “It was a very good year.”

So while I’m working on some adventures for this year, I’m sure you’ll find lots of laughs from our politicians in this election year.

 

 

Emails from Nepal

by Bob Sparrow

buildings crumbling

Kathmandu

Yes, I had heard from the travel agent that both Dom and Kiran were OK after the initial earthquake, but my three emails to Dom continued to go unanswered. All kinds of scenarios were running through my head as I wondered if the travel agency in New York really knew what was going on in Nepal and specifically with Dom and Kiran? I certainly wanted to believe they were OK, but wanted confirmation from Dom. I realized that responding to my emails had to be fairly low on Dom’s priority list at a time like this, but none-the-less I had hoped to hear from him to first, confirm that he and his family and Kiran were truly OK and secondly to try to get a ‘boots-on-the-ground’ perspective of how the nation of Nepal, and Dom specifically, was coping with this disaster.

I checked my email day and night, several times. Six anxious days passed and finally an email arrives from Dom. It reads as follows (I’ve edited it for easier reading – I think we’d all probably have difficulty writing in Nepalese if the situation were reversed):

Bob,

Namaste, (nom-ess-tay – a traditional Hindu salutation meaning “I bow to the divine in you”)

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Kiran – the mighty porter

     Thank you for your email … yes there was big earthquake. Sorry for late reply, my phone was destroyed so I’m using a friends – the Internet and electricity have been out for many days. Kiran is fine and I am fine with my family as well although we lost everything. Our home was flatted along with everything in it. We now live in a tent in an open field away from buildings, along with most of the people from our village. Because I know the Himalayas well, I have been in the mountains trying to help some of the more remote villages where help cannot reach. Thanks for your thoughts and all the blogs about our trekking.  I am so happy to keep in touch with you.

Dom 

 His email brought to life for me the nightmare that he and many of his countrymen must be going through . . . his home is now a tent in an open field! It was so like Dom, insuring that his family was safe, then setting out into the mountains that he knows so well to help others.

I wrote him back, thanking him for his email and telling him that Patrick and I would like to send him some money and asked how to do that. He replied . . .

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Dom in the Himalayas

Thank you very much for your email. It will be big support for me. I have a bank account but for a long time not using so better send by Western Union money transfer.

Name: Dom Bahadur Tamang             Address: Okhaldhunga – Shreechaur -7, Nepal

 I am very grateful for you and Patrick. It’s not easy even to write email. I am using friend’s mobile. Sorry for late reply. Thanks and best regards. Dom from Kathmandu 

With all the scam charities out there, Patrick and I gave money with the satisfaction of knowing that our donation was not only going directly to someone who actually needed it, but someone who we actually knew and admired.

I asked Dom to let me know when he received the money, as I didn’t want it to end up in the pocket of some Western Union clerk.  I had confirmed that it was picked up last Thursday, but had not heard from Dom, so I wasn’t sure he was the one that picked it up.  Finally, this past Sunday I received an email from Dom saying he was sorry for the delay, but he was helping in the village and yes, he had picked up the money and returned to his village to help with the reconstruction process. He was very thankful.

tentcity2

Nepal ‘tent city’

The second earthquake, which fortunately was centered in a more remote region of Nepal, still killed over 90 people at last count and injured over 1,200, bringing the death toll for both earthquakes to well over 8,000, injuries to over 20,000 and physical damage to over half a million homes.

‘Tent cities’ have sprung up throughout the area and are filled with people who have lost their homes as well as those afraid to go back to their homes for fear of another earthquake.

The losses from these two quakes will be felt for many years to come. As a trekking guide, Dom will have less opportunity to earn a living, as tourism to the Himalayas will certainly drop off dramatically in the near term.

To Dom, Kiran and all Nepalese – “Namaste, our thoughts and prayers are with you.”

 

 

2015 Reviews, Previews & Predictions

by Bob Sparrow

Eagles

The Eagles backstage – me, NOT!

–  For me 2014 started here with the discovery, or rather the re-discovery, of The Tape’ – a mysterious offering from dearly departed, best friend, Don of Saudi Arabia, which has turned into an allegorical journey in search of . . . ? More discoveries are coming in 2015.

  •     –  Last year’s backstage cocktail party with the Eagles turned out to be more of a nose-bleed seat and a hot dog in the balcony, but their music was still magical.

–  I watched a car salesman, beaten and bloody, slink into his manager’s office with his tail between his legs as Linda drove away in her new 2015 Chevy Yukon

–  In 2014 I learned that Samoans, by any other name (even one as misleading as Caramel deLites) are still my favorite Girl Scout cookie, although I understand I’ll be paying more for them in 2015 – what a surprise!

carly scott

Missing woman turns into a homicide

–  The case of missing Carley Scott, to which I was introduced by a hitch-hiker I picked up on the ‘Road to Hana’, turned into a homicide when Carley’s jawbone and burned clothes were found by police. Ex-boyfriend, Steven Capobianco has gone from a ‘person of interest’ to being charged with murder.  Trial is set for sometime in 2015.

–  An economic forecast: I predict that 2015 will find Reverse Mortgages moving Forward.

–  Independence Day (not the 4th of July!) revealed our founding fathers to be just as quirky as some of today’s politicians, which is no easy task!

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Trekking the Himalayas

–  If my adventure to South Africa in 2013 was the ‘Trip of a Lifetime’, then my adventure in Nepal and the Himalayas last year was the ‘Trek of a Lifetime’ – it was a spectacular journey! I’m glad many of you could join me vicariously through my daily posts. I am now frequently asked, “Hey, where are ‘we’ going next?” Stay tuned.

–  It wasn’t as foreign, but just as beautiful – that’s the trekking through Glacier Nat’l Park, Yellowstone, and Alberta, Canada and our visit to neighbors the Nelsons at their second home on Flathead Lake, Montana this past summer. You’re all probably wondering if after our encounter in Jackson Hole, WY, if Sandra Bullock will ever leave me alone . . . more on that later.

2014-07-24 20.08.47

Is she still stalking me?

–  Earlier this year, while making a fool of myself at some of our ‘local’ tourist spots like Venice Beach, the Western White House and the Queen Mary, I missed my induction into the University of Utah Athletic Hall of Fame – it’s just as well, it turned out that they had plenty of ‘red shirts’ to clear the dishes and sweep up after.

–  Twenty fourteen concluded with a tribute to, and a debate with, my favorite sister, my favorite writing companion and simply one of my favorite people on this planet.  If you’re a regular you know she writes so well from the heart, while I tend to write from somewhere around the elbow, but whatever your preference, I predict much more of the same coming from us in 2015.

–  A big thank you to our regular readers in 2014 for enjoying our writing enough to encourage us to keep on doing it. Truth is, we’d probably do it anyway, but you need to know that your comments, your ‘sharing’ and your subscriptions make it a labor of love for us. Thank you so much!

2015

Bob & Suzanne wishing you an adventurous 2015!

If you’re not already a subscriber, we encourage you to become a ‘bird watcher’ in 2015 and follow and ‘share’ our adventures and observations.  That’s at least a resolution you can keep!

Hope you make 2015 matter.

My Real ‘Next Adventure’

by Bob Sparrow

yogiSince returning from Nepal, I have been asked a number of times about my next adventure; it seems some of you folks take a perverse pleasure in watching me bust my ass in some far-off, third-world country. I am indeed embarking on my next adventure and no, it’s not to Yemen, Somalia, Syria or the Antarctica “just before they close it for the winter” – but thank you Sister Suzanne and several loyal subscribers for your amusing, albeit life-threatening, suggestions. I’m trading in that 26-hour, back-wrenching, butt-numbing flight, for a short hop within the U.S. borders this time. And while this trip may not be as exotic as traveling through Nepal, I’m hoping it will provide a unique look at the spectacular beauty of my favorite part of the country.

I’ll have more company on this adventure, as it will be with couples from ‘the ‘hood’, affectionately, or maybe that’s ‘infectionately’, referred to as the ‘Hoodwink Hikers’. The ‘Hoodwink Hikers’ include our ‘Trail Boss’, Patrick (my Nepal companion) and his wife, Pam; long-time close friends, Mark & Kathy; the comic relief couple, Bob & Jeanne and Linda and me. We are headed to the ‘Intermountain West’ for some hiking and hijinks, not necessarily in that order.

WC

‘The Harvard of the West’

Our plan is to fly into Salt Lake City (home to my son’s and my alma mater, Westminster College, or as we alums like to refer to it, the Harvard of the West), take the beautiful drive from Salt Lake to the Old West town of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, which sits in the shadow of the Grand Teton Mountains. We’ll spend a couple of days cavorting in the surrounding environs then head to Yellowstone Nat’l Park. Once we’ve seen ‘Old Faithful’ and Yogi Bear (or is that in Jellystone Nat’l Park?) we’ll continue north to join another couple from the ‘hood, Mike & Tanis, who have a second home on Flathead Lake in Polson, Montana. We figure to wear out our welcome there after a couple of days, so we’ll be heading further north to Lake McDonald, which is in scenic Glacier Nat’l Park, where we’ll do some hiking. Some will hike and some will take a tour bus on the picturesque road over the Continental Divide called, ‘Going To The Sun Road’ (sounds long . . . and hot!). We’ll then journey on to Many (pronounced Manny) Glacier for a night.

Jackson Hole

Exclusive Hotel in Jackson Hole

Our final stop will be so far north that it’s south . . . south Canada – a place called Prince of Wales in Alberta, where we’ll stay in a majestic old ‘railroad hotel’ in the Canadian Rockies. We will then drive back to Kalispell, Montana (assuming they will let us back into the country) and fly home.

That’s the plan, but anyone who’s been following our blog, knows that sometimes we deviate from the plan – and with this group of deviates, no plan is safe. Connectivity permitting, I’ll try to post what we actually do and maybe even include some videos, if my son shows me how to do that before we leave. Hope you tag along and enjoy the trip. As always you’re welcome to send me your comments while you’re sitting comfortably on your couch at home eating Bon Bons and I’m busting my ass on that Draconian-sounding road to the center of our solar system.

If you’re not already a subscriber, we’d really like you to ‘subscribe’ at the top, right hand side of this page; there’s no cost and you will get our blog each week sent directly to your email. If you are a subscriber, thank you and ask a friend to subscribe – they’ll thank you too . . . maybe.

 

Nepal Postscript

2014-06-02 17.47.19

Annapurna South

As you can probably tell, I love to travel, and part of what make travel so enjoyable is coming home. I am now home at last, with a head full of incredible memories of awe-inspiring mountains, the lakeside, tourist town of Pukhara, the humid, elephant-filled jungle lowlands of Chitwan National Park and the teeming city of Kathmandu.

Kunmig airport

The Modern Kunming Airport

I don’t know if I believe the slogan, “Getting there is half the fun”, but I can tell you this, getting home is a pain in the ass . . . literally! For us, it clearly won the battle of ‘the one bad day’ . . . or two. We were picked up at our hotel in Kathmandu at 1:30 on Friday afternoon (That’s around midnight on Thursday back on the left coast) for a 4:30 flight from Kathmandu to Kunming, China. We arrived there around 7:30 p.m. and had to pick up our checked baggage, as it could not be sent directly from Kathmandu to Los Angeles. Unfortunately our connecting flight to Shanghai, China wasn’t until 8:00 the next morning, so we had ‘a few’ hours to kill at the airport – like all night! We thought about going to a nearby hotel, but then decided we’d just tough it out and hang at the airport. After we wandered through all the shops, eateries and restrooms, we cozied up to an airport bench with our backpacks and luggage and tried, in vain, to get some sleep. The next morning we departed at 8:00 and arrived in a very smoggy Shanghai around 11:00 a.m. We then had about two hours to kill before departing for Los Angeles at 1:00 p.m. After an 11 hour flight, we arrived in LA at 10:00 a.m. Saturday morning. I don’t think Patrick is going to let me book anymore of his flights.

For those keeping score at home, that’s crossing through 11 time zone and the International Date Line for a total of 36 hours from start to finish! Now that I’m in the comforts of my own home, I like to say that it wasn’t that bad – but it actually was.

2014-06-04 01.53.33

Those Damn Stone Steps

I think the message was clear from the blogs posted over the last two weeks that our favorite part of the trip was our time spent in the Himalayas – the scenery, the people, our time with Dom and Kirin and that feeling of exhaustion at the end of the day that was only relieved by a hot shower and a cold beer.

Each time I posted over the last two weeks, a Jimmy Buffett lyric echoed in my head and helped me realize why I love to travel and write:

“If you ever wonder why you ride this carrousel,

You do it for the stories you can tell”

So thank you Jimmy and thank you to all who followed us on our adventure and particularly those who took the time to comment on the blog – it’s always good to hear from home. I did try to respond to them all, but our schedule and connectivity issues wouldn’t allow, but I did read, and sincerely appreciated every one.

Thanks to sister Suzanne, who I’m sure edited and cleaned up my posts and kept me abreast of what was going on back home.

Thank you to Patrick, for taking two weeks off work to join me – I couldn’t have had a better trekking and travel companion. We spent 24/7 x 2 together and we’re still friends . . . I think.

Jimmy

Inspired by Jimmy Buffett

My biggest THANK YOU goes to my wonderful wife, Linda, who surprised me with this amazing trip for my 70th birthday. I have to admit that Kathmandu was not on my rather extensive ‘Bucket List’, but it turned out to be the adventure of a lifetime. I love you Linda and you cannot know how much this trip meant to me.

 

 

Day 9 – Nepal Diary: All Days Are Not Created Equal

Chitwan1

Chitwan

Patrick and I talked about this when we were planning the trip – we figured that with a two-week adventure, we’re probably going to have at least one bad day. Today wasn’t really that bad, it just wasn’t that good. To start with, our driver picked us up in Pokhara at 7:30 and took us to the drop off point for the river rafting. We’re OK so far.  Fortunately he hung around to see us off, but soon we discovered that the rafting trip was poorly organized, over-crowded and an over an hour late of the estimated time of departure . We decided that this raft ‘float’ in 90-degree temperature, with humidity to match, was not going to be that fun, so we hopped in the car and continued on to Chitwan – which, on these narrow mountain roads, was a white-knuckle adventure in itself.

About 10 miles out of Chitwan the topography changes dramatically. The majestic mountains disappeared and we found ourselves in a flat, jungle environment. Chitwan is in south Nepal, very close to the India border, and we could see a difference in the look of the people as well as a more definite Indian/Hindu influence in the culture versus the China/Tibet, Buddha influence we found in northern Nepal.

DSC01321

What, me worry?

Our accommodations in Chitwan, the Parkland Hotel, were excellent; nice room, three good meals a day and beautiful grounds. The only problem was their wifi was not working and I had a deadline to meet to get this blog published. I told a hotel employee that I really needed to get on my computer and he said he would take me to a cyber-café in a neighboring village. I followed him out to the parking lot and watched as he fired up his motorcycle and motioned for me to get on the back. I checked to see if he was wearing a shirt that read on the back, “If You Can Read This, The Idiot Fell Off.” He was not, so I hopped on. It was a short ride to the cyber-café where I was able to post yesterday’s blog. I assume I’ll have to do the same for this one. What I won’t do for you guys!!!

DSC01331

How they keep elephants still at night

Before dinner a guide took us on a nature walk to view some elephants, which was fairly interesting. What I’ve noticed from trips to both Africa and here is that guides go to great lengths to tell you the difference between an African elephant and an Indian/Asian elephant, like we were going to be quizzed on it later. After hearing all the differences I broke it down to its simplest terms: if you’re in the India/Asia area you’re going to see an India/Asia elephant and if you’re in Africa you’re going to see an African elephant.   Class dismissed. If the guide hadn’t taken so long to explain the differences we might have not got caught in a torrential downpour at the end of our walk. Everyone came back to the hotel soaked. After changing into some dry cloths and having dinner, we were driven to a neighboring village to watch a cultural dance exhibit put on by local artists. It was actually fairly good, but it made me wonder what America would do for a cultural dance – probably some mix of Gangnam style and a Moon Walk.

I sort of feel like a sloth today, no 7 mile trek before lunch.

On a personal note I must admit that my full attention was not in Nepal today, but rather thousands of miles away at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angles, where daughter, Darlin’ Dana is going in for heart surgery at 4:30 Tuesday morning. It’s not as major as her surgery last year; it’s the insertion of a stint, but no heart surgery is minor. So my thoughts, prayers and focus are there until I hear she is in post-op and doing well.

 

 

Day 2-3 – Nepal Diary: In the Mountains

Tuesday, June 3 – A Change of Itinerary

When we awoke this morning, the clouds had cleared and we had an amazing view of Annapurna I. I’ll have pictures at some point, but they won’t do it justice. We left Ghandruk at 7:30 this morning feeling better than we should have. I liked Ghandruk a lot; it is a small village built on the side of a mountain. The trail we are on, which is a 5 foot wide stone path, would be considered ‘Main Street’ here. There are no cars, no motorbikes, no motor anything. There is a school somewhere in the village, but other than that, no central gathering place. Many of the homes that line the path offer food and drink for sale for hikers. While their life seems dull and meager to us, every villager I saw had a smile on their face. As we traveled out of the village we ran into young kids coming down the path we were going up, headed for school. They were neatly dressed in uniforms and I watch a group of boys about 9-10 years old stop along a creek and were laughing and having the greatest time throwing rocks a something in a tree. Not a bicycle or video game in sight. They walk 2-3 miles, one-way, to school everyday . . . with smiles on their faces.

We received our second dose of ‘ass-kicking’ today as we left around 7:30 and trekked for 7 hours with some significant ups and downs, the ups being more significant than the downs. I’ve come to understand the real definition of ‘trekking’ here in Nepal. What Patrick and I have done is ‘hiking’, we tend to meander, our trails up a mountain have switchbacks to lessen the degree of incline. In Nepal there is no lessening the degree of incline, when they build a path they use the ‘shortest distance between two points is a straight line’ theory and build a stone ‘stairway to hell’.

Exhausted (again), we ended our trek today in Chumrong, an even smaller village than Ghandruk and even closer to the Annapurna mountains. After we arrived we got a short thunderstorm and thus the clouds have covered our view, so we’re hoping that the morning is clear.

Due to the last two ‘ass-kickings’ we’ve received, we asked our Sherpa, Dom how these first couple of days compare to what is ahead. The news was not encouraging, the trail gets steeper and the air gets thinner. Dom tells us that we can actually get better views if we take a different route down the mountain rather than continuing up. That was his way of saying, “There’s no frickin’ way you guys are making it to Annapurna Base Camp and I don’t want to be carrying one of you out of here on my back (I felt him looking right at me!). We concluded that the views were the most important thing and who were we to argue with a Sherpa. Whew!!! So we changed our itinerary to something that we think will be more fun and less . . . life threatening.

We awoke this morning to beautiful views of the sun rising over the Annapurna Mountains, and with smiles on our faces we head DOWN the mountain.

AMAZING FAMILY!

suz linda

Suzanne & Linda

by Bob Sparrow

     Who has a better sister and wife than I do?  NoooooooooBody!!  At the risk of beating a dead horse, or at least an old horse, for our readers, I must revisit my 70th birthday celebration and thank a number of people who made it such an AMAZING event.  My first thank you goes to my lovely wife Linda, who orchestrated a weekend of surprise after surprise.  Granted when you have a husband who is totally clueless, it’s easy to pull off surprises, but nonetheless she did a masterful job – a week after the event, I still don’t suspect anything!

      With the ‘Big One’ approaching, Linda asked me how I wanted to celebrate the conclusion of my 70th trip around the sun.  I said I didn’t want a big party, just something with the FAMILY.  That was the end of my participation.  Several days later she told me that she’d booked four villas in Palm Desert at the Marriott Desert Springs, where we love spending a week every April at our timeshare.  Perfect, just the kids, grandkids and us.

Jackalope

Cocktails at Jackalope in the desert

     Late Thursday afternoon, while grubbing around in the yard, the doorbells rings, Linda asks me to get it.  I come to the door in tattered jeans and dirty t-shirt; it’s my brother, Jack and wife Sharon, I greet them with the warm welcome of, “What the hell are you guys doing here?!”  They responded with a Happy Birthday and that they are going to Palm Desert with us.  I’m thrilled.  Later that evening (I did sneak in a shower and change of clothes) the doorbell rings again and, still clueless, I go to the door and there are four couples of our good friends, Mark & Kathy, Jack & JJ, Bob & Marge and John and Judy – they’re standing at our front door singing Christmas carols that turn into Happy Birthday.  When we’re all seated at the bar in our family room, Linda brings out a small box and asks me to open it.  It is a brochure for a 12-day trip for two to Kathmandu, Nepal, which includes a 5-day trek through the foothills of the Himalaya!  My jaw drops!!!  She says, there is no way she’s going, that the trip is for my brother and me.  All I can say is “AMAZING!”

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Jack, Suzanne & me

     By mid-day Friday we’re checking in at the Villas in Palm Desert.  When we got there, there is only one villa that has been cleaned and available, so we walked over to the hotel and had some lunch at poolside in perfect weather.  Upon our return I walked into the one villa we had and I see a man, with his back to us, sitting out on the deck, and assume I went into the wrong villa.  Then one of my favorite people and one of the funniest I know, turns around and wishes me a Happy Birthday – it’s Matt Sparrow, my nephew – Jack’s son.  Fast forward to mid-day Saturday and I get my annual birthday phone call from my sister, who always calls me and sings Happy Birthday the way Marilyn Monroe sang it to Jack Kennedy.  As I’m standing there listening to her, she walks in the door – she had just flown in from Scottsdale – AMAZING!  Later that afternoon close friends and ‘practically family members’, Mark, Kathy and daughter, Kristin (best friend of our daughter, Dana) arrived to celebrate the occasion.

joe dana

Joe & Dana

One last surprise remained.  I was told to stay in my villa as preparations for ‘the party’ Saturday evening were taking place in Joe & Dana’s villa.  When I was asked to ‘come to the party’ I was blown away.  Dana and Joe had decorated the villa with pictures at ‘food stations’ they’d created representing a number of the places we’ve visited, Italy (Meatballs marinara, Fried cheese, beef Carpaccio with lemon arugula), Africa (Moroccan lamb kabobs with Tzatziki sauce, veggie couscous, roasted plantains), Japan (Ahi and Yellowtail crudo, crying tiger beef skewers, garlic and chili edamame) and Hawaii (Kalua pork sliders on Hawaiian rolls, grilled pineapple, Ahi poke). All the food was AMAZING! There we also ‘drink stations’ from Ireland (beer and Irish whiskey), my Dad’s famous martinis at ‘Poppin’s Grotto’ and ‘Klappers’ (cheap rum and diet cola) named after my dearly departed best friend, Don Klapperich.  The birthday cake, in a ‘travel and music’ theme had a quote from me about traveling and seeing things a little differently than most.  Dana then gave me a box decorated in the ‘travel and music’ theme that she had put together, containing 70 individual birthday wishes from friends and family (you saw my sister’s in last week’s blog) – they were AMAZING!  A huge thank you to those who took the time to write something nice and send it back (for some I’m certain it took quite some time to find something nice to say).  Seriously, I am was touched and am blessed to have such wonderful friends.

3 kids

Stephanie, Jeff & Dana

Thank you to an AMAZING FAMILY, especially those who made this an unforgettable (even for a forgetful 70 year old) experience – Stephanie, Jason, Dylan & Emma; Dana & Joe, Jeff, Jack & Sharon, Suzanne, Matt, (Mark, Kathy & Kristin) and especially to Linda whose dedication to FAMILY is unsurpassed.  To quote Lou Gehrig, “I am the luckiest man on the face of the earth”.

    OK, enough with the birthday stuff, I’ve got some really interesting places to take you next year – hope you’ll enjoy them vicariously ‘from a bird’s eye view’.

HOPE YOU AND YOUR FAMILY HAVE A MERRY CHRISTMAS AND AN ADVENTUROUS NEW YEAR!