"Sailors plan for safety. For escape. For survival. Sailors rely on plans, on strategies that have worked before. Trust me, most mariners are conservative. We stick to the tried and true." Randall Peffer, "Listen to the Dead"

Sunday, September 12, 2021

On Death's' Door

      I don't mean to scare anybody with the title. It's  just that we spent a week in Door County, Wisconsin. The county is named after the treacherous passage around the northern tip of the peninsula called Porte de Morts. 

Overlooking Green Bay

     The name refers back to a deadly raid in the 1600s by a group of Native Americans against a rival tribe. But later the name proved providential for Europeans since the passage became the site of scores of deadly shipwrecks suffered by French explorers and others who dared make the turn around the northern tip of the peninsula into the safety of Green Bay.

Fish Creek has a fairly large marina

     We were there as part of our trip to see my daughter and granddaughter, who live in Madison, and who were able to join us for a week of vacation. We were also attracted to the area because it's been called the Cape Cod of the Midwest. We love Cape Cod. So we figured we would love Door County.

We asked:  this boat came up the Hudson River and across the Erie Canal

     There are some similarities. Cape Cod is a peninsula east of Boston. Door County is a peninsula east of Green Bay. Both have modest populations in the winter, but are flooded with vacationers in the summer. A lot of people own second homes. We know a few New Yorkers who have vacation homes on Cape Cod, along with people from Connecticut and the Boston area.

Street in Fish Creek

     Cape Cod also has its share of retirees, including some friends who live in Falmouth. B and I even considered retiring to Cape Cod. But we finally decided that the winters are to long . . . which is what we hear about Door County as well.

A child's eye view of Lake Michigan

     Similarly, people from Milwaukee and Madison and other places around Wisconsin have vacation homes in Door County. But we were told the big crowds -- and big money -- come from Chicago, about a four-hour drive away.

An aid to sailors in Bailey's Harbor

     We stayed at a lodge in Bailey's Harbor on Lake Michigan, considered the "quiet side" of the peninsula. The more touristy side borders Green Bay where the water is warmer. There are more beaches on the bay. There's more shopping and things to do with the kids. And apparently the fishing is better. I don't fish. So I can't confirm that piece of advice.

Johnson's Swedish Restaurant in Sister Bay ... that's real grass on the roof

     We found several nice restaurants in Sister Bay, Fish Creek and Egg Harbor, all with outdoor seating. We went to the beach, took a bike ride through Peninsula State Park, spent some time shopping for presents and souvenirs. But with a grandchild around (as many of you no doubt know) we spent most of our time on the playground running after a toddler.

Remember, we're in America's dairyland

     We drew the line at changing diapers. That's a parent's job, not a grandparent's responsibility. Don't you think?

A cove in Bailey's Harbor

     We're back home now. But we're planning a trip to the Massachusetts Cape Cod later in September -- to visit friends, eat lobsta and clam chowda, and maybe even go for a swim. The Cape can still be warm in September.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Journey Across the Water

     I never paid attention to the Great Lakes. I'm not even sure I could name all five of them. Can you?

     I spent most of my life in New York state, which borders Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, and I now live in Pennsylvania which also touches Lake Erie. But I have always lived downstate so the waters I see are not the Great Lakes, but Long Island Sound, the Atlantic Ocean, the Hudson and Delaware rivers.

     To be sure, I have spied Lake Michigan a few times, when I was in Chicago, and once I glimpsed Lake Erie from Buffalo. I've also seen Niagara Falls -- does that count? But the Great Lakes simply do not loom large in my mind.

     Until a couple of weeks ago. That's when we boarded a ferry to cross Lake Michigan. It turns out . . . those lakes are big!

Harbor in Muskegon, Mich.
   We left Muskegon, Mich. at 10:15 a.m., heading west, due to arrive in Milwaukee, Wis. at 11:45 a.m.. An hour-and-a-half voyage, I thought. But no, it's actually a 2-1/2-hour journey because of the time change, from Eastern time to Central time. And that's the high-speed ferry. The regular ferry takes four hours to make the crossing.

Ship docked in Muskegon

     It's about 90 miles across the lake, and you're out of sight of land for half the trip. It's a lot of water, which is why the Great Lakes are called an inland sea -- the largest group of freshwater lakes on earth, according to one source, containing 21% of the fresh water on the surface of the globe.

Michigan fishing boat

     The Great Lakes are subject to storms and rolling waves. But when we made the crossing the waters were calm. In case you're wondering, masks were required inside the rather spacious cabin, but not outside since the speed of the boat created a 30-40-mph wind in our face. 

Goodbye Muskegon

     But we knew we couldn't let complacency overtake us. After all, we were headed to Door County for a week's vacation. This region of Wisconsin is like a finger sticking out into Lake Michigan, with the lake to the east and Green Bay on the other side.

Open water

     The county is named from the French Porte des Morts, or Death's Door. The name refers back to a deadly raid in the 1600s by a group of Native Americans against a rival tribe. But later the name proved providential for Europeans since the passage became the site of scores of deadly shipwrecks suffered by French explorers and others who dared make the turn around the northern tip of the peninsula into the safety of Green Bay.

Land ho!

     According to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum, in all at least 6,000 ships and 30,000 lives have been lost on the Great Lakes. Some historians say the numbers are even higher, as many as 25,000 ships in the course of the past 300 years.

Milwaukee skyline

     But as I said, the day we were on the lake the waters were calm, the sailing smooth, the trip offering a safe and pleasant morning. And so we continued on . . . to tempt the fates of Door County.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

10 Ways to Make Friends in Retirement

     I'm still on vacation, but I thought this was a useful blog post, written by Kimberly L. Curtis for the Wealth Legacy Institute, so I got permission to reprint it here. (She did reference my blog, which is always a good thing.) Otherwise, I myself will be back after Labor Day. Cheers!

What’s the key to a happy retirement? Is it a big trust fund or a country club membership? While having enough money is certainly a factor, there’s a host of data indicating that when it comes to happiness in retirement, money isn’t everything. 

One researcher from American College of Financial Services identified three pillars to a happy retirement: money, health and social well-being. These three pillars give people the foundation to live a vibrant, fulfilling and stress-free retirement. 

We see lots of articles about money and health, but social well-being is often neglected. Developing relationships can take some time and effort, but whether you're approaching retirement, or already retired, it is an investment that often brings immediate results -- and certainly pays off in the long-run. Here are ten tips to help you build your social network and make new friends in retirement.  

1.  Take a Class for Adults

Following your passion is one of the quickest ways to find people who have something in common with you. Whether your hobby is cycling, painting or classic cars, take the next step and find an event, class or hobby group. For retirees in Denver, for example, classes for adults include everything from language learning to brewery immersion. Or you can also teach a class in your community like Tom explains in his Sightings Over Sixty post Opportunity Knocks.

2.  Small Group Travel 

Even if you didn’t enjoy group tours or all-inclusive travel when you were younger, they may have new appeal now. Most of your transport, reservations and meals are taken care of, plus pre-planned itineraries and a group of fellow travelers to share memories with. Of course, you’ll want to find a travel company geared towards seniors (or at least not aimed at partying college students)

3.  Facebook 

Love it, hate it, or never been on it, Facebook (or Instagram or other social site) can be a great place to keep in touch with people from all areas and all eras of your life. Facebook has a robust Groups section where you can connect with people based on similar interests. To find in-person activities, use Facebook’s Events Section. Clicking on the Events tab on the left side of your Home page will show a list of public events going on in your area.

4.  Meetup.com

Meetup.com is a free digital service you can use to find local events and casual meet-ups. With over 56 million users worldwide, Meetup.com is the place to connect with people who share your interests - and there’s a whole section just for seniors! You can easily browse groups in your area, but you need to register for an account to join a specific group or event. 

5.  Get a Pet

Owning a pet can be a great way to meet people and stay active at the same time. Dog walkers routinely meet neighbors or find themselves striking up a conversation with strangers. Going to the dog park is another way to make new connections - plus your furry one gets to make friends too! If you can’t or don’t want to permanently adopt, volunteering at an animal rescue or participating in temporary foster programs can be equally rewarding.

6.  Serve Your Community

Getting involved in your community is a great way to enrich life in retirement - and meet new people. Many retired and semi-retired folks find joy and purpose by volunteering their time and expertise to causes they care about. The experience puts you in direct contact with other volunteers, members of the organization, and in some cases, the individuals you are helping.  

7.  Look Outside Your Age Group

Hanging out with people younger than you keeps you connected to new trends and technologies and exposes you to new ways of doing things. Retirees who interact with people of all ages, especially young children, say they have less stress, anxiety and depression. So why not offer to babysit the neighbor’s kids after school? Or bake something and take it to the young family down the street. 

8.  Dating Sites 

Online dating has become routine in the last 20 years. For retirees who are divorced or widowed, the idea of dating again may be exciting, scary or a mix of both. If you’re looking to maybe meet that special someone, there are a number of online dating sites for older singles, like SeniorFriendFinder and SilverSingles. And you never know, a date that isn’t “the one” could still end up becoming a friend.

9.  Utilize All of Your Relationship Circles 

Although you may not realize it, you’re supported by rings of people with whom you share varying degrees of connection. If you think back to the close friendships in your life, they often began as classmates, co-workers or acquaintances from church. By recognizing the importance these “outer circles” can play in your life, you evolve your relationships and open yourself up to more joy and appreciation. It’s possible your new friends are already in your life, just waiting to be discovered.

10.  Don’t Be Afraid to Make the First Move

For some of us, striking up a conversation with a stranger is intimidating. But new friends aren’t just going to come to you - sometimes you have to have the courage to put yourself out there. Many people are craving connection, but they’re scared to take the first step. So, compliment someone’s outfit or ask how their day is going. Invite someone to coffee. Be willing to try new things or even start your own group. 

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Summer Vacation

      I remember when we were kids, my mom and dad would pile us into the car and we'd ride up to a lake in New Hampshire or Vermont for a month's vacation. It was a long trip, before the Interstate went that far north, but it was a lot of fun.

     My dad didn't stay the whole time. He had to go back to work. But we drank in every moment -- swimming in the lake, jumping off the raft, running through the woods, and picking leeches off ourselves at the end of the day. Somehow those leeches, aka blood-suckers, didn't bother us at the time. Kids don't care.

     Later on it was summer jobs. I worked at an amusement park, a beach club, and one summer as a camp counselor.

     By the time I had kids, time and activities were more structured. We went to visit Nana and Grandpa every summer, usually for a week. But otherwise the kids were taking swimming and diving lessons, or tennis lessons, and entering local tournaments. They later went on to become a lifeguard, an assistant tennis pro, and then play in college.

     So what are your fond memories of summer vacation? I can guarantee, they were always good, weren't they?

     I am taking a summer vacation from blogging. No tennis. But probably some golf, maybe some swimming, and a little bit of traveling. I'll see you again after Labor Day. Have a good rest-of-the-summer!

Saturday, July 10, 2021

What Was Your First Car?

     Occasionally we look back and remember . . . our first car.

     My parents were General Motors people, and they thought Buicks were the best (except for Cadillacs which they couldn't afford). So we had Buicks when I was growing up.

     The first car I ever drove was a 1961 Volkswagen Beetle. Red convertible. Stick shift. No radio. That was the first "second car" my parents had. They bought it used for my older brother and sister, and eventually I got to drive it when they weren't around.

We had one of these
     At one point, I don't remember exactly when, we had a Nash Rambler. That was one terrible car. It had a push-button gear shift, and labored mightily to climb even the most mild of hills. 

     The first car I ever owned was a 1971 Volkswagen 411 stick shift. It had a weird heater that always smelled like gasoline. My wife and I bought it, used, for $1,965 in 1975 when we moved out of the city.

     My first new car was a 1977 Saab 99. It cost $5,200 (as I remember.) Stick shift, manual windows, am/fm radio, no air conditioning.

     Today my wife and I have a 2015 Subaru Forester and a 2018 Volvo S60.

But never one of these
     You might ask: Haven't you ever bought an American car? Yes! We had a Ford Taurus wagon to carry around the kids in the 1990s.

     I was going to boast that I've never owned a gas-guzzling SUV. I guess that's not quite true, since B has that Forester. But it does get close to 30 mpg on regular gas.

     Enough about my reminiscing. What was your first car? Or your family's first car? Or your favorite or most memorable car from back in the day?