#54 Vacation with Grandkids

Back in July 2017, unbeknownst to me, I realized that I had achieved another retirement experience. I don’t remember putting it on my list of suggested experiences (#57), but sure enough there it was. I think my wife suggested it and I put it on the list knowing I would probably do it eventually anyway.

For a retirement experience it makes sense. Usually the parents are so busy with work that they can’t be taking vacations all the time.   We grandparents that are retired have the time to sneak in a few more vacations.

Mary Ann and I took the grandkids (Grace, George, and Annie) to the beach for just less than a week, staying at my sister’s place in Bethany Beach. Although there was no adjustment for Mary Ann to spend this much time with the grandkids, it was for me. I felt that we were temporarily filling the role of parents. This was strange for me. No daughter to be mom or son-in-law to be dad. We were the first line of defense. We had the kids all the time. You can’t return them to their real parents like you do when you watch them at home. I did feel like I was a dad again but instead of two ‘daughters’, I had an additional child, a ‘son’ to be dad for the 5 days.

We had fun over those days. We would go to the beach and the pool each day. We even went and played miniature golf. (It was hilarious watching them try to hit a golf ball. We couldn’t teach them the right way to hold the club. We just had to let it go and watch them try to figure it out. Sometimes Papa has to just let it go and let them do it their way.)

The last day at the beach was the most fun. I took each grandchild individually into the water past where the waves were breaking. (It is rare that I even get all the way into the ocean anymore.) Each child liked it so much I took each out twice. I would hold them the entire time we were out there. The most exciting part of it was when I took Annie (3 years old) out the last time. While the surf was rather calm, there was one wave that snuck up on me. When I turned around to see it, I quickly realized that it was going break on top of us. There was no way we could have bounced over it and not enough time to dive under it. It knocked me so well that I lost my footing. Oh, I had a firm grip on Annie the whole time. She was sticking to me. Problem was that it would take me a few seconds to get my footing and come up for air. You should have seen the expression on Annie’s face when we came up. She was very surprised to say the least. I went from Papa mode to salesman mode. I convinced her that she was brave and that she had the most exciting ride of all. She was so proud of herself and couldn’t stop talking about her adventure.

So I survived the vacation. More of these experiences in the future.


#53 Baseball – Afternoon Weekday Game

I have always liked baseball. I couldn’t play worth beans, but I liked the game. I have been a Detroit Tigers fan since I was a young kid. I loved it when they won the World Series back in 1968. I have been to a few games over the years. The Washington Senators back in the 60’s. The Baltimore Orioles in the 90s. Now the Washington Nationals.

As for going to a game, it has been inconvenient since I had a day job. It seemed like I would either have to squeeze in an evening game (rush to the game after work, stay out late and be tired the next day) or go to a weekend game when the crowds were there. You just don’t go to an afternoon weekday game. If you did, you would have to take vacation time.

When I retired I looked forward to the freedom of time where I could do those things anytime I wanted. This was one of those things. Not take off work. Go to a game on a weekday while everybody else had to work. Traveling leisurely to the ball park. Enjoying the game. Taking my time going home. Making a day of it.

Well, it finally happened. I had to find a weekday day game (there aren’t many). On August 16, Mary Ann and I took off for Nationals Park to see the Washington Nationals play the Los Angeles Angels, starting at 1:05 p.m. (Hey, why do the games never start on the hour? I guess it is for the National Anthem and allow the TV and radio broadcasters some pregame chatter to set the stage and introduce the players). No matter how early you leave to travel to the game, it seems the Metro subway will make you late. Yep, that was us. We got tickets 10 rows up from third base. Great seats.

Of course, it is not just the game you go to see. You have to take in the atmosphere. So, the first thing we did was get lunch. When in Washington, why not have some iconic food from Ben’s Chili Bowl. We find our seats with a load of food – bowl of chili, chili dog, fries and a coke. We missed much of the 1st half inning. But, no big deal. Who watches the whole game anyway?

Right after we sat down there was a high pop foul that landed 3 seats in front of us. That was close. I wasn’t prepared for it. I am sitting there holding my bowl of chili. I could just see the ball landing right in my Ben’s Chili Bowl. That would make a complete fool of me, but I would have my moment of fame – Sports Center would highlight my ineptitude. I would be a star. Heck, I was probably already on TV as they show all the fouls anyway.

Well, we picked a hot day. It was perhaps 90 outside and at least 100 down by the field. We were cooking. I don’t think the chili could have cooled off. (Great chili, by the way). The beers, water, and soda helped, but only temporarily. No shade until the 8th inning.

We were so close to the field that we had a great view of the pitching and hitting. I was able to take some great photographs. A few are attached. The panned photo was from Mary Ann’s IPhone.

In the end, the Angels beat the Nationals 3-2. The game was decided by home runs. Angels had 2 and the Nationals had one (Ryan Zimmerman).

A great experience that should be repeated (when it is not so darn hot).


‘100 Beer’ Update

Check out ‘Beers 100’ selection near the top on the blog for an update to the beers I have sampled over the past year and a half. I am up to 82 of my goal of 100. Making progress. I hope to finish it before the end of the year.

#52 Pueblos in the Southwest

While in New Mexico in July we had three opportunities to experience different kinds the pueblos.

West of Albuquerque we visited pueblos that we built on top of a mesa, the Acoma pueblos. The Acoma pueblos, believed to be inhabited since the 12th century, are the oldest continually inhabited community in the U.S. It was very interesting how they could live on top of a big rock (370 feet above the desert floor). Not all the Acoma people live in the ancestral homes year round. Many come up from the neighboring town for ceremonial occasions.

Near Santa Fe we visited the pueblos in Bandelier National Monument. Not only did the Pueblo people have structures in the canyon valley, they inhabited the caves in the canyon walls. These canyons were formed when ash settled from massive nearby volcano. Large bubbles formed within the settled volcanic ash. When the canyons were formed by the eroding canyon walls, these bubbles became caves and were accessible for the Pueblo people to build upon and inhabit.   The only things that exist are the ruins and it is not inhabited. It was interesting to see that they built up to three stories of housing structures up against the canyon wall.

Near Taos we experienced another pueblo, the Taos Pueblo inhabited by the Red Willow People. This pueblo was inhabited year round with many coming into the pueblo from nearby town.

#51 Hot Air Balloon Ride

While in Albuquerque in July we had the opportunity to take a hot air balloon ride. This was such a great experience.

Starting at sunup, when the winds were the calmest, we took off and spent over an hour up in the sky, floating over the northern suburbs of Albuquerque. We flew as high as 3,000 feet above the ground, making us about 8,000 feet above sea level. Floating would be my best description of the ride. It was smooth, whether you were moving forward at the same altitude or ascending or descending. Very peaceful. And the views are spectacular. Not only could you see far in the distance without obstructions, you had a very unique view of objects right below you. I find it interesting you can hear something, such as a dog barking, a couple thousand feet directly below you since there is nothing to muffle the sound. However, being so early in the morning it was pretty quiet.

Landing was easy as there is a lot of open space north of Albuquerque (i.e., desert). We landed on a dirt road outside of town. The chase car was there within a minute. Smooth landing, coming to a complete stop within a minute. Afterwards we had our celebration where we all drank a glass of champagne.

For those who have not flown in a hot air balloon, you should try it. Even if you are afraid of heights. (Mary Ann is afraid of heights, but this she loved and would do again.) The basket was chest-high so you don’t have to worry about falling out. The winds were calm so you didn’t have to worry about moving too fast. And they tracked the winds on the ground and followed the balloon so that the landing was smooth and controlled.

#50 Eating Walleye

On July 10, while in Minneapolis we went out to dinner and found walleye on the menu. Walleye? What a funny name. It didn’t sound that good. Kind of like Muskie or Crappie. But if it is on the menu then maybe it is good. I had to try it. It was real good. The taste and texture reminded me of eating Halibut, a very meaty white fish.

I later found out that Walleye is a very popular fish in Minnesota. In fact it is the Minnesota state fish. The funny name is derived from the fact that the fish’s eyes point outwards as if it is looking at the walls instead of forward.

#49 Police! Hands Up!

On our way to the Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque, we were misdirected by our iPhone navigator to the wrong place. The IPhone lady directed us into a nice housing development. Realizing she was wrong we started to work our way out of the development and back on our route. On our way out as we turned the corner, we stopped as our car faced a car full of kids that was pulled over to the side of the road. They were frozen with their hands out the open windows. The policeman pointed his gun at the juveniles a safe distance away from them until backup support arrived. He looked at us. We looked at him. He held up his hand at us and motioned for us to back up and get out of there.

Well, that was an unplanned experience. Never seen a policeman pull a gun and never had a gun aimed in my direction.

The enclosed photograph is from Mary Ann’s dash cam. (Ok. It is the same iPhone that gave us the bum directions.)

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