Thursday, March 25, 2010

4,525 Miles on the Highway

We arrived home yesterday afternoon after a long road trip through Illinois, Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, and back through Illinois. Over 4500 miles of driving to get somewhere and see things. Over 4500 miles of gas, food, and potty stops and hotel overnights – all narrated by that annoying, know-it-all GPS voice.

Ron and I also had hours and days to talk, listen to music, and log new experiences that add to the rich texture of our life together. We laughed and sang and read billboards out loud. I gasped at the discovery of a home we want in Prescott, at my first eyeful of the Grand Canyon, and at an unexpected close up sighting of mule deer in the snow. I sighed at the sight of so many beautiful colors and vistas in New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado, and (I admit) in dismay a few times when I had to get back in the car for more road time.

The most relaxing times were when we stopped for more than one night in one place. We had two nights in Albuquerque, four nights in Prescott, and three nights in Santa Fe. Those stays gave us a chance to see and do more; exploring restaurants new to us, shopping at local places, sneaking in nine holes of golf, and enjoying the hospitality of our lodging hosts. Fellow guests at the Pleasant Street Inn B & B in Prescott provided unexpected pleasure with their stories and friendly openness. The Hilton in Santa Fe upgraded us into a very comfortable casita, where we enjoyed the warmth of fireplaces (yes, two!) and a jetted tub.

The funniest thing is that we planned this trip to escape the last gasps of winter in Chicago, yet encountered snow in both Albuquerque and Santa Fe. So we bundled up in layers and kept going! Our return was delayed one day by reports of road closures due to an icy mountain pass from New Mexico into Colorado on Interstate 25. Nonetheless, we soaked up enough sun and warmth to help us survive until it warms up in Chicago.

All in all, a great trip spanning many miles. I’m so glad to have the freedom to spend time this way.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Lovin' The American West

What a time we’re having out West! We spent the last week driving through and staying in New Mexico (Albuquerque) and Arizona (Prescott, Jerome, Sedona, & Grand Canyon National Park). The time passed so quickly… In Albuquerque, we shopped and dined, and revisited a planned community we looked at last year. We also looked at homes in Prescott, played golf, and decided that this could very possibly be our next home in a few years. The piece de resistance was seeing, for the first time, the grandeur of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. It can’t be effectively captured by a camera, which isn’t a surprise because it almost can’t be absorbed visually in person. I’m so glad we went, and wish we had planned to stay longer. If you haven’t experienced a stay in a lodge at one of our National Parks – it is a uniquely special experience. Reject the local Best Western or other franchise, and stay at one of the lodges on park property. Rub elbows with visitors from around the world and be proud that they are enjoying our beautiful country.

We head back East this morning, with much to remember and consider. There’s a house in Prescott that could be our next home – but we need to quell a heady emotional response and carefully weigh the pros and cons. When you are in your 50’s, it’s hard to visualize and plan for the days when some design features (such as stairs) will become a logistical issue. Will what seems attractive now still be appealing in 20 years? We really have to think about it.

The best way to sign off this week is with a few of our images from Arizona. So beautiful and so easily accessible. Be sure to make an opportunity to visit this lovely desert locale. And us? We’re on to Santa Fe this morning for a little more of the American West.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

"Friends Everywhere"

Back in 1982, I was offered a new job and a transfer by Hilton. It required me to move from Chicago to Dallas. Although excited by the opportunity, I was hesitant to leave Chicago and all my friends. But I got great advice from my boss, Bob Wishon. The first nugget was to have a good reason if I turned it down, because I would eventually stop getting offers. The other was something like, “The great thing about moving around for the hotel business is that you end up with friends everywhere”. I took the leap and began a new adventure in Dallas.

Earlier this week, Ron and I started a long distance road trip. We headed south through Illinois, and made our first stop in our former home city of Memphis. There we met a group of good friends for Happy Hour, and enjoyed lots of hugs and laughter. That night, we were overnight guests at our good friend Dave’s home. I wish we could have stayed longer. But we were on the road again the next morning.

The next evening, we arrived in Dallas to visit our dear friends, the Gradidges. We’ve known them for twenty years. Although it’s been almost 16 years since we left Dallas, we have remained close friends who visit with each other several times each year. That night we had a lovely dinner together, and stayed as guests in their home.

Bob Wishon’s advice was right… I moved three times during my career with Hilton (Chicago to Dallas, Dallas to Las Vegas, Las Vegas to Memphis), and each time we met wonderful people who have continued to be good friends. We treasure every one of them.

Just a road trip footnote: We faced threatening weather driving from Dallas through Wichita Falls. Concerned, we tuned into the Weather Band on the car radio. The National Weather Service did not alleviate our concerns as they were forecasting rain, dangerous wind gusts, large damaging hail, tornadic winds, lightning, increased fire potential, and flying lawn furniture and trash cans. And we’re pretty sure we heard something about flying monkeys and “Auntie Em”. Fortunately we managed to skirt the storm and head safely for Albuquerque.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

52 Weeks of Blogging

Today I am celebrating a year of blogging about my new life as a Runaway Boomer. 52 weeks – 52 blogs. I’m pretty proud of myself. I’m also grateful to the friends who are following this journey of mine and sending encouragement. Thank you.

This week, I’ve categorized what I have written to provide an index, with hyperlinks directly to the articles – giving you an easy way to go back and read anything of interest that you may have missed. I’d be interested in knowing which ones touched you in some way, and love it when you submit comments and suggest ideas for topics. Here's to another year (I hope)!

Planting the Seeds: How and when we started planning for retirement. First steps.
Just a Year Ago: The flurry of activity that started our new life.
Planning for Your Dreams: The need to track, analyze, and adjust your spending habits.
Where Does Your Hard Earned Money Go?: Categorizing and analyzing expenses.
Aligning Spending with Priorities: Do your spending habits require adjustment?
Savings Spree!: Opportunities to save for retirement.
Financial Pulse Check: Notes from an Aug. ‘09 meeting with our financial advisor.
Visualize Your Retired Life: Think and dream about the life you want.
Lifestyle Changes During Retirement: Plan for different phases over the years.
Health Care Shock: My rude introduction to shopping for individual health insurance.
Determining Your Number: Figuring out how much money you need for retirement.
Expect the Unexpected: Contingency planning for the curves life will throw at you.
Now Do It: Trust your plan and make the transition out of your working life.
Day of (Budget) Reckoning: Reconciling actual expenses against our ’09 budget.
Winter Escape with a Purpose: Planning a scouting trip to the southwest.

Decorating Whiplash: Urban living inspires a change in decorating style.
I’m Not Always in My Pajamas…: My schedule on a normal day.
Mastering the Carbohydrate Challenge: Type II Diabetes and carbohydrates.
Eating & Thriving, the Low Carb Way: The basics of low carb eating.
Summer in Chicago: What the city offers us during summer.
From Suburban to Urban Living: The differences in lifestyle.
Uh Oh…Caught the Golf Bug: I never thought it would happen to me.
A Virtual Leap: Getting connected online.
A Little Self-Imposed Discipline: Discovering the need for some structure.
Living the Dream: Some days it just hits us.
The Downside of City Living: It’s not all a wonderland…
There’s No Place Like Home: Happy to be home after a long trip.
Our Neighborhood, On Foot: A walking tour of our frequent haunts.

Road Trip!!: About our 2009 driving trip to Vegas and National Parks in Utah.
Buona Sera, Roma!: An amazing 4 days in Rome, Italy.
These Feet!: We walked and walked on our European trip. These feet performed!
Athens At Last: My first day on Greek soil. A big day for a 2nd generation Greek girl.

Marriage to Retirement – Another Fork in the Road: An interesting parallel discovered.
I’m Mostly Not Working: But as opportunities surface, I find I still have interest.
Ready for 2010: Thoughts on plans for the New Year.
When I Grow Up: I’m not sure what happens now.
Poetic License: Kamikaze poem out of nowhere.
Searching for Musical Relevance: You know you’re getting old when your music is too.
Rationalizing Dual Identities: Personal vs. professional personas online.

Early Retirement vs. A Boot in the Ass: Glad I left Hilton before they laid me off.
The Other Side of the Coin: Remorseful alternative view of the Hilton situation.
When One Door Closes: Another one opens. Sometimes more.
Embracing Simple Pleasures: Some of my favorite things to do bring great joy.
10 Things I Learned from Bollywood Dance Class: Yes, really.
Echoes of the Past: Visiting an old family vacation spot and seeing ghosts.
My Favorite Products: A list of my current favorite things.
Giving Thanks: A message on Thanksgiving 2009.
Chasing the Magic of the Season: Don’t we all try to recreate happy childhood memories?
God Bless Us Everyone!: A message on Christmas Eve 2009.

Blogging with a Purpose: The first posting - an introduction.
New Name – Same Blog: Why I changed from “Retired Early – The Reality” to “Runaway Boomer”.