• Tag Archives cruise
  • 20,000 Miles Over the Sea (and some in the air)

    Samain                        Moon of the Winter Solstice

    According to the cruise log provided by the ship, we traveled 12, 800 statute miles by sea.  Counting the six thousand plus from Rio to Atlanta and another thousand to New York to get started, we covered over 19,000, close to 20,000 miles in 40 days.  That’s a long way.

    It had to be over twelve thousand because we went from 45 degrees N to 45 degrees S (and then some) which equals 90 degrees, then 45 degrees S (and then some, I think we hit 55 degrees S in Usuhaia, if I remember correctly) to 45 degrees N again for 180 degrees which is pole to pole, so one half way around the world or roughly 12,500 miles.  Put that in your story problem folder.

    Still digesting the trip, the experiences, its length.  If, as Marita, our guide in Buenos Aires, said, travel makes us bigger, I’m bigger in some ways.  Waiting for the outline of that greater bigness to emerge.

  • Packing

    Fall                                                    Waning Autumn Moon

    The packing has begun.  Items have been sorted for relevance, need and weight.  A long trip that extends through several time climactic zones, from equatorial to sub-Antarctic, combined with a small space, the stateroom, makes challenges inevitable.

    Should I take the table-saw just in case?  Hmmm.  No.  How about four pairs of shoes?  Hmmm.  No.  Wait.  A dress pair for the formal nights.  A hiking pair for the shore excursions.  Sneakers for my workouts.  Sandals for the heat.  Well.  Maybe so.

    Taking a full computer keyboard along is an oddity of my packing.  I have a compact netbook computer, one that I bought because it had a near full sized keyboard, but I don’t like typing on it for extended periods of time.  So, I take a keyboard with me.  It travels just fine amongst the clothes.

    Of course the meds.  And how much underwear?  How many shirts?  What will we buy?  Gosh.

    At some point this morning we’ll be done, then we’ll have to weigh everything.

    The dogs go over to Armstrong’s this morning, too.  Busy.  Gotta go.


  • Details

    Fall                                                       Full Autumn Moon

    Off to the city of Andover to get stakes marked with orange fluorescent paint.  Why?  We exurbers put these to mark the edges of our lawn so the city snowplows plow the street and not our frontyards.  This is what comes of not having sidewalks.

    Usually I don’t put these in before Halloween since they make such good Halloween prank possibilities, but I’m going to this time.  Just in case though I got twice what I needed.  I can redo it if I need to when we get back.

    New filter in the furnace.  Salt in the water softener.  Then turned it off.  Saturday I’ll turn down the temperature on the water heater, clear out the refrigerator and turn it down, too.  Lights on timers.  You know the drill.

    One last garden chore.  Putting down mulch, then spreading composted manure on top of it.  Tomorrow or Saturday.

    Saturday we take the dogs over to Armstrong Kennels, their new home until Thanksgiving.  We’ll pack and weigh Saturday.  We have no intention of paying heavy bag fees.

    Learned yesterday that our lanai cabin has two deck chairs for our exclusive use.  That’s a bonus.

    Sheepshead tonight.  It’s in the cards.

  • Distracted By The Future

    Fall                                                         Full Autumn Moon

    Just realized I’m going to have change my headings once we’re south of the equator. Seasonal reversal in the Southern Hemisphere. I knew about it, of course, but hadn’t factored it into the blog.

    These days I have my eye on the National Hurricane Center. Right now it says what I want it to say at least through a week from Sunday: no tropical cyclones. This is the hurricane season, so that could change.

    As our embarkation approaches, I find myself withdrawing from now in anticipation of then. A violation of the be here now idea, I know, but it seems the pull of vacation exceeds the adhesion of home. Based on previous experience, this process will reverse itself about a week before the trip ends.

    Why did we choose a vacation lasting right at 6 weeks? Because we could, of course. But, why a cruise?

    I just read a remark by Simon Winchester, author of Krakatoa and most recently, Atlantic, in which he dismissed large ship cruising because it takes away the direct experience of the ocean. He has a purist point, I suppose; but, some of us were born to sail the ocean blue in small craft, appreciating each swell and squall, but another large chunk of us can neither afford that nor desire it.

    Here’s what appeals to me about a cruise. Being on the ocean, cosseted or not, puts us on water, the element that covers 70% of the earth’s surface. That experience, perhaps not as dramatic as Winchester prefers, has a magic of its own. Sort of like traveling through space instead of our atmosphere. A primal difference.

    Kate finds the unpack and pack once part of cruising a primary benefit. In cruising the hotel goes with you from country to country, eliminating the schlepping of luggage from train or plane or car and back again.

    Relaxation comes as a corollary. The less schlepping, the more relaxing. Relaxation alone makes cruising a wonderful vacation. You have a cook, a maid, a ship to explore, few demands. That means time can be devoted to reading, drawing, exercise, enjoying your partner’s company, sleeping. Here, the ocean adds a good deal. Contrary to Winchester, the ocean’s presence cradles the ship and, when the weather is good, rocks us to sleep. There is, too, something about being on a ship, on the ocean, away from everything land bound that frees the mind.

    Cruising does limit the kind of in-depth exposure to a culture that many people enjoy. Shore excursions, except the priciest, tend to stay with driving limits of the port. Still, even when I have traveled hotel to hotel, unless we rent a car, our excursions are limited and even with a car, you can still see only so much.

    The bigger limit than nearness to the port is time. A cruise ship is rarely in a port more than two days. That short period of time makes serendipity almost impossible. This is a big downside for me, but compensated for by the relaxation.

    Cruising is a particular kind of vacation, not the kind I would prefer every time, but for a celebration together with an emphasis on relaxation, it’s the perfect post-retirement mode of travel.



  • At Sea

    Fall                                            Waxing Autumn Moon

    The zone.  Kate and I have reached the under 2 week zone for a cruise we booked in March.  We each have particular tasks to get done.   Things to do.  Tomorrow we’re going to go through our clothes and clean out closets and, oh by the way, set out what we want to pack.

    (the type of cabin we’ve booked)

    Today I checked my meds to be sure I had a supply that would reach all the way to Thanksgiving.  Scheduled my physical for December.  Made arrangements for an appointment to make my medicare decision.  A mix of cruise related and future related tasks.

    There’s a light-headedness I get before a trip, an almost out of body feeling, as if part of me wants to travel on ahead, get going.  I love to go.  Seeing new places, experiencing new foods, meeting new people.  All great.

    In this particular instance though I’m looking for real relaxation.  And will get it.  I’ve never done anything travel-wise more relaxing than a cruise.  Something about the limits the ship itself sets, the (mostly) gentle rocking of the ship, the throb of the engines, someone else cooking and cleaning.  No expectations.  No responsibility.


  • On The Move

    Fall                                           New Autumn Moon

    While we slept, the busy folks at English Gate Academy in Saudi Arabia were solving Mark’s visa snags.  Dr. Ahmed called a person he knew at the Saudi Embassy in DC.  Mark submitted two new forms, a letter certifying that he lived in the U.S. and a copy of his ESL certification, and tomorrow, if all goes as expected, he will have a visa granted by the Royal Government of Saudi Arabia.

    Of course, there will remain the return of the passport with the visa stamps and the purchase of an airline ticket, packing, flying.  At this point though, almost a month after the visa material went to Travisa and almost two months after we started collecting material for it, something happening this week is a cause for joy.

    At the end things change.  Frustrations melt away and the awaited blossoms into reality.  This will be true for Mark when he steps off the plane in Riyadh to 104 degree day and for Kate and me when we walk up the gangway and board the Veendam.  In true Ellis fashion we will set out for parts unknown within a couple of weeks each other.

    Holding a passport is not a common thing; an estimate that made sense to me reckoned the percentage between 20 and 22% of American citizens over the age of 18.  Neither is the next step beyond holding a passport, international travel.  It’s easy to forget these things if you have, as I do, many friends who travel often to foreign shores, but most Americans and many members of Congress don’t see travel, at least outside the homeland, as a important.

    For some, it’s a matter of economics, but ask any college student how cheaply you can travel abroad.  My own 2004 trip to Southeast Asia proved how inexpensive travel is there.  My room in the heart of Bangkok cost $16 a night and my room in Siem Reap, Cambodia, the town closest to the Angkor area, was $32 and included an all teak room, tiled bathroom with high end fixtures, a refrigerator, breakfast and a sign that told me I had to check my explosives at the front desk.  No kidding on that last.  I forgot mine in Bangkok.



  • Traveling

    Lughnasa                                                 Waxing Harvest Moon

    Another fine day with that clean blue sky we borrow from our Canadian cousins this time of year.  When my family used to go to Stratford, Ontario for the Shakespeare Festival, I came to associate these skies with those crown topped highway signs, the ones that always told me I was in a foreign country.

    Canada was my only foreign country visited until 1989 when I joined a group of folks who went to Bogota, Colombia in search of better ways to finance the work of the poor.  Not long after that trip I met Kate.  We honeymooned from the south of Europe to Inverness, Scotland and have been many places since then.

    Cruising has its critics, but the upcoming one will be our third and I’ve become a fan.  Yes, it’s true that there is only a brief and often very casual encounter with the countries on the itinerary, a shore excursion or a visit to a local market, perhaps a meal.  And, yes, the travel itself does not take you through a country’s particular geography (except in the instance of the Panama Canal and the river cruises in Europe and those lecture/trek based cruises like ones put on by the National Geographic or a University) though the coast line does offer some sense of the particularity of place.  Yes, you’re traveling in the company of a large number of people, though the actual size varies depending on the ship.  All these things are true.

    There are, however, compensations.  A cruise ship at sea moves through the waters of the world ocean, a primal experience not available in any other form of travel.

    I discovered on our first cruise that if I got up at 5:30 or 6:00 am, I could visit any part of the ship alone; especially, the Crow’s Nest, a bar/lounge on all Holland American ships set in the bow.  It provides panoramic views as the ship moves ahead, water curling away from the bow and often nothing in view, neither ahead nor behind, to starboard or port, just ocean.

    While at sea, too, I find the experience of being on board very calming, a certain zen time that allows for that other aspect of vacation, relaxation, that I so often miss on treks to museums and busy hikes, meals, historic places.  This long voyage will allow for a great deal of calm, a time to purge the system.

    Then, too, on this particular trip the ship traverses the wonderful Chilean southern coast line, filled with small islands, glaciers and historic passages like the Straits of Magellan, the Darwin Straits and below them all Cape Horn, places for which a ship is the best way to travel.  As Magellan knew.

    It is also time for Kate and me to focus on our life together, dining and relaxing, just enjoying each others company.

    This is a trip where the conveyance is a major part of the experience.

  • Please Let Me In

    Lughnasa                                                              Waxing Honey Extraction Moon

    Mark went to a hospitality industry job fair in St. Louis Park.  I took him, then went on out to Minnetonka Travel in Wayzata.  I picked these folks almost at random to help with the cruise, but I gotta say, they’re pretty damn good.

    Today we set up the processing for our Brazilian visas.  The visa process has taken almost the same effort as booking the entire cruise.  When I first learned that each visa would cost $160, I had sticker shock.  This was what we would have to pay to get off the ship in Rio and then take a taxi directly to the airport.  $320 for passage from one form of transportation to another.  Of course, this is not the intent of the Brazilians.  They just want reciprocity for the way the US treats their citizens coming here.

    Still, for us, whose 37 day cruise ends in Rio, it creates this very expensive transfer with no additional benefit.  So, we changed our minds and added two days in Rio after our cruise.  At least we’ll see a little bit of Brazil for our money.

    Our travel agent has been to Rio and says it’s a beautiful, vibrant city, but also very dangerous.  I’m a bit dubious about how others see foreign cities since I’ve been many places considered dangerous and never had a problem, even so it’s foolish to ignore advice from someone who’s been on the ground there.  She recommends staying in the Ipanema Beach area, a redolent name for this of who grew up in the 60’s.  We’ll go to Sugarloaf and a Mardi Gras themed evening.  Which, Lori, the travel agent, said, “All the men will enjoy.”

    The visa is the last difficult piece of business necessary to make this cruise happen.  The rest, checking out clothes, buying new luggage, deciding what books to take along (on the Kindle) do not require new skills.

  • Senescence

    Lughnasa                                                    Waxing Honey Extraction Moon

    Walked in the garden alone.  Yep, it’s an old time spiritual, much loved in the churches of my youth.  It also describes my morning turn among our vegetables and in our orchard.

    The garlic has come out already.  The potatoes have a while yet to go.  The beans have gone from green bean material to soup beans, waiting now for the pods to dry on the vine.  A few onions remain, as for the tomatoes, there are a lot of possibilities, but as the weather cools, will they ripen?  In the orchard we’ve had more productivity than any year so far, a few cherries, lots of currants, many dropped plums, but a few now maturing on the tree.  The apples, in their plastic sandwich bags, have begun to swell on the honeycrisp tree, but on the other, a green apple, they’re not a lot bigger than when the bags went on in July.  Our blueberries came and disappeared into the mouths of birds.

    The wild grape harvest looks like it will be a big one this year.  These vines are everywhere on our property, but the ones that produce the most fruit hang in dense layers over the northern fence that fronts our orchard.  Picking the wild grapes usually marks the end of the gardening year here at Artemis Hives and Gardens, at least the food gardening.

    The fall flowers of course begin to bloom then, the asters, the mums, the monkshod, the clematis.  It’s also the time to plant bulbs, tulips and daffodils, lilies and croci. It is, too, the time that the garlic bulbs harvested in July, yield up cloves from the largest bulbs for planting.  I like planting the garlic in late August, early September.  Garlic is a counter culture crop, sown in the fall and harvested mid-summer.

    Senescence has fascinated me for a long time.  Earlier in my life the process of degradation that rotted wood, turned leaves into humus and prepared more soil got my attention.  An early interest, I suppose, in the great chain of being (note the lower case here, less Scholastic, more Great Wheel).   Now I’ve noticed another key aspect of senescence; it is the time of harvest.  Yes, in the plant world, the dying of the plant’s above earth body follows or is in step with the giving of its fruit.  That is, aging produces

    This is also the time when gardening begins to wane in interest for me.  My energies now turn to novels, research for tours at the MIA, preparing for the fall issue selection process at the Sierra Club and the upcoming legislative session.

    Now, too, the cruise, which begins in October, looms closer and the loose ends for it need to be tidied.  The Brazilian visa.  New luggage.  Check the clothes.  Rent a tux. (yes.  I’m gonna do it.  3 formal nights a week on the cruise.  i’ll pretend it’s halloween every one of those nights.  i’ll be some seriously weird expatriate Muscovite on the run from Putin’s secret police.  something like that.)

  • Friday Journal

    Lughnasa                                                            Waxing Honey Extraction Moon

    Got excited during the Graphic Design class and ordered Adobe Creative Suite 5.0.  It’s cheaper since it’s behind the latest iteration 5.5.  I’ll be able to do my own eBooks, website, manipulate photos.  It’s more software than I need, but I like to have the best tools when I’m ready to use them.

    Mark has had a callback from Target Warehouse and a potential position in Saudi Arabia.  The Saudi Arabia position would be cosh, he says.  After living in Bangkok, Mark has a lot of English slang from British expats.  He’s excited.  This working at looking for a job seems to be working for him.

    Took the last bits of the truck back to its now lifeless body.  We kept the old tail gate, hitch and bumper removed when we added the Tommy lift.

    Kate and I spent lunch yesterday and the time after in a darkened Osaka, choosing shore excursions for our cruise.  I haven’t run the totals yet, but I imagine when we add in dog boarding and the two additional days in Rio we’ll have a heft sum in addition to the cost of the cruise.  All part of the deal.  We still need to get our extra passport photos and start the Brazil visa process.

    Finally got back to the aerobics yesterday.  Slept better.  The clay intensive and family reunion threw me off schedule.  Getting back up one step at a time.  First, aerobics.  Then, resistance.  Meanwhile practicing Tai Chi.