It has been a whirlwind year of travel for me! Back in April, a girlfriend of mine from my bike club told me about a trip she was planning to complete her “50 in the 50’s challenge” – a physically active trip in all 50 states while she was in her 50’s. Idaho was the last state she needed, and even though she was now 61, she was allowing for the lost years of fires and COVID. It sounded like a great adventure and I signed on. We would be camping with mountain biking, hiking and white-water rafting, quite a challenging itinerary. My attitude at this point is, “if I am in good physical shape, I might as well do it while I can!”
We had this trip mostly planned for June of 2020 and my 60th birthday, but COVID struck, and we cancelled it along with everything else. Luckily, we hadn’t bought plane tickets or paid any money to the tour organizer. Then, one January afternoon in Maui as I meditated on the hillside overlooking the sea and islands, the thought floated into my mind, “I think it is our 40thanniversary this June…we should take that trip to Greece!” It was very easy to reconstruct the itinerary with the incredibly helpful travel agent, Takis, who plans trips for the Hellenic Studies Department at PU. Prices were more expensive than they were in 2020, but still very reasonable compared to the rest of Europe. Traveling in early June we were also very lucky with the weather, which was cool and cloudy before the blistering heat of the summer set in.
After an uneventful direct flight from Newark to Athens, we arrived in Greece on June 11, our anniversary day. We were met at the airport and taken to our lovely hotel, the Herodion, only a short walk to the Acropolis Museum and charming Plaka district. We walked around a bit and rested in the afternoon before a delicious cocktail at the hotel’s rooftop bar, followed by a magnificent dinner at the famous Dionysis Restaurant overlooking the south face of the Acropolis – a suitably grand way to celebrate this major milestone in our relationship!
I learned about this trip a few days before I was leaving for Maui for a month. It seemed crazy to make plans for another adventure, but the dates were perfect during Spring break, a lot of my bike friends from Morris Area Freewheelers would be going, and you couldn’t beat the very inexpensive price, so I put down a deposit. Emily would be accompanying Michael and the PU Orchestra on tour to Sofia, Belgrade and Budapest, and the pet sitter we had for Maui was available again to stay with Louie. After three years of not traveling at all, I guess it was time to start making up for it.
I am writing this a number of months later, so the experiences have settled and softened. I have practiced with meditation teachers Steve Armstrong and Kamala Masters for almost 20 years and have always wanted to visit their retreat center on Maui. With all of Michael’s health issues, it has been challenging to find a time when I could be away for a month, but December/January looked like it would work so I made the reservation last June and hoped for the best. As the holidays approached, everyone was healthy, including Steve, who was doing miraculously well five years after a glioblastoma diagnosis. Michael, Emily and I planned a family vacation for 4 days before my retreat. We arrived on Maui in a terrible rain-storm that diverted planes and cancelled flights. Luckily, we landed safely and stayed in a beautiful condo near the beach in Kihei. We only had one good swimming day after the storm, but we did a lot of driving around the Island and visited our old Princeton friend Maida Pollock. She had retired to her son’s farm in Kula, which was, amazingly, right down the dirt road from the retreat center! Michael and Emily went on to spend Christmas on the Big Island at Volcano National Park, and I started a monthlong retreat in Paradise.
I rented a cool and funky house in Berlin MD for a family beach get-a-way this summer. I was very happy to avoid a complicated trip to Europe, or anywhere that involved flying, especially after the travel hassles of Utah. I was even happier that Emily could join us. The house was attractive and comfortable with a fenced in area for Louie, AC, WiFi, and beautiful outside garden areas to cook, eat and even watch TV. The host lived in a trailer at the back of the property, with “Boyfriend” and three dogs. Louie made friends with Laurie’s dogs through the fence, and “Boyfriend,” a chef at a local restaurant, even shared some fresh off the boat tuna with us one night. Laurie was a warm and generous character with unending helpful advice about everything.
I took the plunge and reserved 9 days at a cottage I found on AirBnB a few blocks from the Delaware Bay beach in North Cape May. I wanted to go there alone and do a self-meditation retreat for a week. Michael would come down for a few days at the end. It sounded like it would work, but I spent most of December planning what food and cleaning supplies I would bring with me to make it feel safe in the midst of COVID. Finally, the day of departure arrived and I went to the market first thing and grabbed a weeks-worth of simple meals, loaded up the car, and drove the easy two and a quarter hour trip to Cape May. The host had told me that the house would be cleaned on Monday and then sit empty for three days before I arrived on Friday. That seemed pretty safe. Even so, I wiped down all door handles and light switches with Lysol and washed my hands before I unpacked and settled in. The cottage was adorable, with surf and sand decorations including crabs and octopi. The kitchen was perfectly functional and the sun coming in the windows filled my heart with warmth and joy. The neighborhood was very quiet and peaceful and the beach, really only two blocks away, was magnificent.
Just as I was pulling out of my driveway for the five-hour trip to Barre, MA and ten days at Forest Refuge, the oil change light blinked on my dashboard. Oh, no… I remembered there was some warning light flashing as I drove to FR in January of 2015 just when my mom found out that she had leukemia and her doctor suggested hospice. That was certainly a strange time to be on retreat. This time I knew I could easily take care of the oil change when I came home, but I had a sinking feeling that the warning light did not bode well.
I have been hearing about the American Lung Association Bike Trek fund raising ride on Cape Cod from a number of my biking friends. Now that I don’t have to sing High Holy Days at this time of year, I am finally free to do it. What a fantastic weekend! This was the 35th anniversary of the event. After miserable rain the past two years, the weather couldn’t have been better: bright sun, 70 degrees, not much wind or humidity. Just perfect riding conditions.
We ventured out west twice this summer, though we didn’t originally intend to. Our Lewis and Clark themed trip to Montana was already planned when we learned that Emily would be the production manager for the Aspen Opera Center. Of course we bought more plane tickets and arranged to visit her there.
I just got back from four fabulous days of biking in Lancaster County, PA with the Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia Ride for Homes. This is the seventh year they have put on this ride to raise funds and awareness for the wonderful work that Habitat Philly does for Philadelphia families in need. This is the third time I have been involved. Emily was involved from the very beginning. I gave SAG support in 2015 and then rode my bike with Emily in 2016. This year I rode my bike again and covered over 200 miles and 13,000 feet of climbing! The ride raised over $30,000.