Star of Teatro Dei Pupi SicilianiIn Syracuse, Sicily (Italy) I attended a performance at a small puppet theatre; about 30 seats. The performance lasted an hour and was interesting because of the work that went into making the puppets, the skills that the puppeteer need to manipulate the puppets, and the historic nature of the theatre.
It was a simple theatre; wooden seats; small stage; and, the puppeteer came out after the performance. It was in Italian, so my deafness was not a problem. It was one of those out-of-the-way things that makes trips interesting/
This was on a Rick Steves Tour of Sicily and was one of many events that I would not ordinarily come across.
The tour took all the seats. Each puppet was controlled by sticks and each had a person operating it. The puppets were about three feet tall.
If you have grandchildren and room in your bags, there is a shop:
There are only a few of these theaters left. If you get a chance, visit one.
For more on these theatres and other locations in Sicily see: Teatro Dei Pupi Siciliani.
I had never heard of “Orphan Trains” until a few years ago when I came across a notice in the Tucson Weekly, a weekly free alternative newspaper. (Wherever you go, pick up a copy of the free alternative papers for the most comprehensive, and unique, happenings in the town you are visiting.)
Orphan Trains operated between 1854 and 1929 and transported over 200,000 homeless children in New York, NY to every state in the continental United States. The children were often street children, but many were turned over by parents and orphanages. Remember that this was initially a few years after the Irish potato famine and many children hit New York without parents.
The children were loaded onto trains, frequently in the last car, with a woman who supervised them and arranged for their disbursement along the way. Their ages ranged from infancy to about 14; no girls over 12 for fear of sexual exploitation. They had no documentation, not birth certificates and virtually no chance of adoption.
When the trains stopped, locals appeared, either by pre-arrangement or by chance, and selected the child they wanted. They often broke up families.They were necessary to the development of the West and the railroads carried them for free or at a reduced fare.
Alison Moore has documented this in her book Riders On the Orphan Train. She and her husband appeared on February 16, 2014 at the Southern Arizona Transportation Museum in a multi-media show. Something none of us knew about.
Moore puts on shows all across the country. To find out when and where go to: http://www.ridersontheorphantrain.org/
It is worth it, free and will open your eyes to something you had no idea existed. You can also visit the Orphan Train Depot in Concordia, Kansas.
Keep looking for things that might interest you and that are out of your comfort zone.
An article on “Orphan Trains” that might interest you is found in the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
When we travel, we try to seek out non-chain places to eat; and, our recent trip to see our son in Waynesville, NC, led us to MOE’s Barbecue in Asheville, NC, for the third time. It is in an old building, near the Biltmore Mansion, with a large gravel parking lot and is always crowded. There are only about 20 tables inside, you order from the counter, and they call out your name when the food is ready. It has always been good, simple and tasty. You bus your own tables.
This time we shared a brisket sandwich with two sides and a drink. Our son had the rib plate with two sides and a drink. We had to wait for a table and borrowed two chairs for our table. It was out of our comfort zone, but we were with our son who knew of the place and he had taken me there before when I visited.
As usual, I took a few pictures, enjoyed the food and the crowd and thought it would be a good subject for a brief blog post. After lunch, I googled Moe’s Barbecue and much to my surprise discovered that even though Asheville is apparently the original Moe’s, it has expanded. The three boys from the University of Alabama, have expanded this Moe’s to 60 Moe’s around the country, including one in Albuquerque that I was not aware of. So, next week, I will start off the new year by eating at Moe’s in Albuquerque, aware that it is a big business that came out of North Carolina.
You can become a franchisee; the franchise office is in Vail, Colorado; or, you can just order a t-shirt and a hat from the retail site.
I will continue seeking out places out of my comfort zone, but will also check them out.
Trust but verify!
Just because it is a chain, does not mean that it is not good. And, of course, I satisfied myself at the meals there, thinking I was out of my comfort zone, not realizing that there was a Moe’s just a few blocks from me in Albuquerque.
I was headed for North Carolina to visit my son for Christmas. At the Albuquerque Sunport, I went through the TSA Pre line since I had qualified for Global Entry. No problem with my carry-on, but I triggered the security devices several times with my belt, keys, hearing aid batteries, etc. resulting in placing the items in a small plastic bowl. I had not returned my driver’s license to my wallet and laid it on top of the other items in the bowl.
When I got to the hotel in Charlotte, NC, they wanted an ID. I discovered that I did not have my driver’s license; however, the hotel desk clerk, looked at me and waived that requirement, and allowed me to check in. But, I did not have a driver’s license and I had to pick up a rental car the next morning. The evening was spent awake and sorting though every item I travelled with.
The next morning, after searching my belongings in detail, I googled Albuquerque Sunport lost and found. One of the four choices was a phone number for TSA. I called; the license had been turned in late the prior night, The TSA rep. was great. She said that they could FedEx it to me; took my information, credit card number, and the address of the Waynesville Bed and Breakfast where we would be staying.
I wrote down the tracking number she gave me and we headed to the rental car counter. They accepted my wife’s driver’s license and we rented a car.
The next day about 3:00, after tracking my credit card through Memphis, Ashville and Waynesville, it arrived at our Bed and Breakfast. I carefully put it in my wallet; and checked my wallet every few hours.
The FedEx envelope with my driver’s license.
Things I learned from my experience and a bit of research:
- Watch your identification documents.
- Carry your Global Entry Card with you; it can be used for identification at the airport.
- Get a police report for lost driver’s licenses.
- In NM you can get a temporary license for a lost license on-line if you are under 75 and don’t have any other problems; with me the problem was the age. I missed the 75 cut-off at 77.
- Google: “name of airport” + “lost and found.”
- Have someone with you who has a valid driver’s license.
- Driving without a driver’s license in your possession is a crime, may lead to your arrest and may cause increase in insurance rates.
- Have as much documentation as possible to show that you have a license, ie police report, photocopy, insurance card, etc. Have info on your cell phone and you may be able to talk your way out of it.
The big problem will be the car rental company; so, be a member of their frequent renter group, have another driver with you, and talk to a manager.
Since you are old anyway, it is a good time to rethink alternative forms of transportation.
Public, Uber, friend, spouse, etc.
Several times a year we drive the 450 miles from Albuquerque, NM to Tucson, AZ to see our grandchildren. The trip takes about 7 1/2 hours, but since we are retired and have extra time, we explore along the way. In old age, you come to realize that the trip may be as important as the goal.
Between Albuquerque and Tucson, you can find a number of interesting things all in New Mexico and all just off I-25: the Very Large Array Telescopes near Socorro, NM, the Hatch Chile Festival and Sparky’s, SpacePort America, Elephant Butte Lake, and, usually an overnight stop at the Sierra Grande Lodge and Spa, owned by Ted Turner which in addition to providing an interesting Lodge, also provides tours of Ted Turner’s nearby ranches.
Since I originally wrote this, Spaceport America has restarted tours.
The lobby at Sierra Grande Lodge and Spa in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.
In our 70’s the Sierra Grande Lodge gets us out of our comfort zone, which is good, if at times unnerving. I haven’t had bison in 63 years, when I had it at Philmont Scout Ranch, at the end of a 37 day trek at age 14. The restaurant serves bison burgers, bison rib-eye, and if you just want to test the water, 4 ounces of bison steak in a great pasta dish. You can eat indoors or out; the patio is great:
The Lodge, like many other places in T or C has it’s own hot springs. There are indoor spas and an outdoor one. The naturally hot water has made T or C a destination for a thousand years. It used to be called Hot Springs, NM until it won a 1950 radio show contest hosted by Ralph Edwards, and changed its name.
We like the outdoor spa; private but open to the stars. In our 70’s we are out of our comfort zone for nude bathing; and it may even be pornographic, but a half-hour soak removes a lot of age-related soreness and is included in the price of your room.
Outdoor hot springs spa as Sierra Grande Lodge.
Next time you travel to see your grandkids, look around you, take your time, and try to get out of your “old” comfort zone. You may learn something new.
The point is; especially at your age, you should be interested in the journey, not the END of the journey.
I went to Panama on a Road Scholar trip. The trip includes tours of Panama City, a boat trip through the Panama Canal, and a train ride back, a chance to see how the new locks work and the chance to experience Panama. There are 10 things that made my trip easier. Fifty-five years ago, when hitchhiking through Europe, I had no money, few needs, and a lot of self-assurance. Today, at 77 I am a bit more careful, not looking for surprises, and aware of my age. So…
- No tips. Road Scholar is all-inclusive except for a few meals. I hate to worry about tipping.
- Health care. Get insurance. The real problem will be if you have to be shipped home; dead or alive. The cost for transferring your sick body back to the US can be debilitating, and may bankrupt you. If you do decide to permanently leave while abroad, consider cremation. Consider the insurance offered by the program and also look to your credit card.
- Get the American Embassy contact information. Know if there are any problems and know where to go for help.
- Take a Kindle or better an i-pad with kindle books downloaded on it. You can also adjust the size of the type. Books are heavy and a thousand plus books, including guide books, can be uploaded on a Kindle and new books ordered from your library or from Amazon while abroad. You are too old to be lifting books.
- Check your debit and credit cards and notify the card companies before you leave. You don’t want them denying your charges.
- Take two money belts. One from Eagle Creek to hold your pants up and to hold your money; and one to hold your passports, information, money and credit cards.
- Think simple and minimal. Jeans are usually fine. Wear them and take a light weight pair of pants that you can wash and use if you have to dress up. See what Road Scholar suggests. Suitcase. Rick Steves’ Rolling Carry-on.
- Wear walking shoes. Take yoga shoes/slippers for the hotel, etc.
- Light weight underwear that can be washed, or dropped off at a cleaners for a few bucks.
- Know a few practical things about Panama. They use dollars, have ATMs, English spoken in addition to Spanish, no visa required, jeans are fine.
You can really reduce your needs by packing like the geezer does for the beach.
Every town has a library. When you travel, a library can be your best friend. You can find:
- Information about the town you are in.
- A bookstore that will sell books that the library no longer wants or which have been donated for as little as $1 for hardback and 25 cents for paperbacks, many of them recent best-sellers.
- Frequently they have cafes where you can get a coffee and food.
- They have computers that you can use.
- They have interesting programs and sometime trips for anyone who is interested.
- Local and national magazines; see what is going on in town and read the NY Times and the Wall Street Journal.
- And, finally there is a huge magazine rack with the latest magazines; most of which you don’t get, and which take you out of your comfort zone.
Old people are afraid of dying while on an international trip. Most are afraid of dying period; however, 99% of people die at some point, and once you reach 75 you are more aware of the probability that you will die; especially if you are going overseas.
Basically to make things easier, you need a 3 x 5 card:
- Embassy telephone number
- Insurance policy – Company and policy number.
- Airline and confirmation number.
- Emergency contact number.
- Home town physician and number.
- Hotel name and number.
- Family telephone numbers.
- Home town funeral home number.
- Tour operator number.
- Simple statement as to wishes. Cremate, ship home, bury abroad…etc.
- Travel insurance name, telephone and policy number.
- US Embassy number.
- The simple solution for your representative or next of kin:
- Travel insurance to pay for shipment of body, cremains.
- Contact the American Embassy where you are. They have a 24 hour number.
- Contact Funeral home in your home town.
- Carry on cremains in a sealed, TSA approved, container.
- Have foreign mortuary ship body to your home-town mortuary.
- Collect belongings
- Get copies of all paperwork – Embassy, police, doctors, hospitals, funeral homes, airlines, autopsy report, etc
- Notify: Embassy, family, police, funeral home,
Remember that what is a unique and terrible experience for you is a common event for the embassy, the funeral homes and the airlines.
Some useful web pages:
ACOMA PUEBLO – SKY CITY
On Saturday, May 14, 2016 I visited Acoma Pueblo Sky City located 370 feet above the desert on a mesa 65 miles West of Albuquerque, NM. It has fewer than 50 permanent residents living in homes on seven acres of New Mexico mesa top.
San Esteban del Rey Mission dominates Sky City. Established in the early 1600’s, it now has no priest. A service is held yearly on September 2 and is open to the public. The church was started in 1629 and completed in 1640.
There is a still-used cemetery in front of the church, with burials in dirt hauled up from the desert floor. The church’s is 150 feet by 40 feet and has a dirt floor. It is simple inside and is undergoing some reconstruction, but is still 95% original.
The streets in Sky City are dirt. At intersections cisterns collect rain water. There are no utilities. No water, sewage, gas or electricity. There are some generators and port-a-potties everywhere. They were installing a huge water tank on Saturday, so the water problem may be alleviated.
Commercial port-a-potties have replaced the outhouses suspended over the edge of the mesa that I remember from 40 years ago.
Until the 1920’s there was no road to Sky City, just a single-file path cut into the steep side, which made it easy to defend. A movie company agreed to put in a dirt road in exchange for the right to film. In the 1950’s a second movie company paved the road. Today it is used for busses and on the week-ends for residents cars and trucks as they work on their houses.
The Acomas are matrilineal and the homes in Sky City are owned by female tribe members. The youngest daughter inherits. They cannot be sold. Non-Acomas cannot stay overnight and of course there is no Airbnb.
The residences are from one to three stories, and usually reached by means of ladders.
Each family is responsible for their own repairs and the only restriction is maintaining the earth colors, so in repairing the homes, concrete block, insulation and modern roofing is used.
Traditional Food can be had in the cafe at the visitor center.
Fifteen miles away, on I-40, is the Sky City Casino owned by the tribe and which provides income and tourists. The Casino has a hotel and an RV Center.
At the visitor center you buy your tickets, visit the museum and gift shop and eat at the restaurant.
You board a small bus and make about a 10 minute trip to the top with an articulate and knowledgeable guide. You can also walk up and down, but… remember your age.
- Tours: daily on the half-hour
- Location – 65 miles west of Albuquerque, NM, off of I-40.
- Hours: 9 – 5
- Cost – $20 for seniors
- Casino and Hotel –Sky City Casino Hotel
- Bus to top- Small bus
- Pottery- see museum and tables set up by residents.
- Toilets – Nice at Center on desert floor, port-a-potties on the mesa
- Museum – small but impressive – lots of excellent pottery
- The streets are dirt and rough. You can fall.
- Hot in the summer. Take a hat and water. Buy a bottle from tables
- Toilets are port-a-potties.
- Senior rate is $20.
- Senior Centers have tours at various times of the year – check bulletin boards and senior magazines at centers.
- There is an RV park next to the Casino.
- Never forget local Senior Centers. In Albuquerque, the Manzano Mesa Multigenerational Center, has a trip to Sky City Cultural Center $ Haaku Museum on May 25, 2016. Depart at 8:00 am – return at 5:00 pm. $9.50 for transportation and $20 admission.
- See the ABQ 50+ Activities Catalog.
- Sky City Cultural Center.
- New Mexico True
At 77, I am a “good” driver; maybe a few problems with eyesight, hearing and attention span. I usually know where I am going. The AARP driving course for seniors lowers my insurance rates; and, I avoid driving at night, on freeways and with my kids, who watch me. They know that I saw my father take his father’s car keys. He and I agreed that he could keep his car as long as he didn’t drive it; so, it was parked for several years.
My car has a few dings. I renew my license annually, not for 10 years anymore. MVD and I joke about the eye test.
So, I joined UBER. It was scary. I didn’t know what I was getting into; and, learning to call UBER on a smart phone?? I had to know where I was going; I couldn’t just drive around looking for the place I thought I wanted to go. I also had to know where I was.
I tried UBER in Tucson; clicked on the UBER App; typed in my address and the restaurant address. It took three tries and a bit of deleting, but I did it.
In 3 minutes a picture of the UBER driver, car make and license number appeared on the screen. Two minutes later he was there; just like his picture, and took us straight to our favorite restaurant. The trip cost of $6.32 appeared on the screen; I clicked ok, clicked that the driver was great and he clicked that I was a great passenger. We parted company. We had a nice dinner, re-apped UBER. Same deal, different driver. Cost $5.47; total cost $11.79, no tipping, no money; the amount on my credit card minutes later. The drivers were both great, interesting, and I didn’t worry about the extra glass of wine.
AAA reports the average cost to own a car in 2015 was $8698. For two of us, that comes to $17,396. I don’t think I spend that much, but….. I don’t really want to find out.
My wife and I have two cars, even though we usually travel together. Kelly Blue Book says a dealer would give us about $25,000 for them. Do we need two cars? No cars? One car and UBER?
How many trips do we need to take? One a day? How far do we go? Mostly close to our condo. Seven trips a week; 14 UBER trips; averaging $10 per trip, which may be high. $140 a week; or, $7280 a year.
Using UBER we have a chauffeur, do not cause accidents, are calmer, etc. We even age better. Have you ever had someone say: “Do you see that car?” 10 times a trip?
The bus costs 50 cents and goes most places, but takes longer. Kids work, grandkids are too young and neighbors would rather car-pool with UBER.
The bottom line is: UBER could save us up to $10,116 per year. Even a $1000 savings would be worth it. The real bottom line is that our driving years will soon come to an END; our cars will be taken from us; we will move in with UBER and use the $25,000 for four years of UBER.
Maybe UBER will have caregivers in ten years…..; hopefully, with a car.
UBER is experimenting with programs for seniors, that include, senior-trained drivers, special cars, etc. No details yet.
The New York Times recently reported on UBER’s new ride sharing program which should interest seniors and save them money.
Since I originally wrote this, The New York Times has reported on ride-sharing which fills niches that UBER does not cover, yet. The one that interested me the most was Lift Hero, which provides rides for old people. The web page is down for maintenance, but keep checking. UBER was running a test program for old people in Tucson a few months ago, but I have not seen anything on this recently.
Transportation is a real and growing problem for old people; especially where public transportation is not available.
When you travel, think UBER. I have had success in Panama and Montreal, Canada.
A change of senior-mind-set is required.