A PUZZLE FOR SENIORS ON VACATION!!

Let’s face it. Anytime you take a trip, your schedule changes; and,  old people love schedules.

With family, you need something everyone can concentrate on and do together; without controversy.

Thus, I suggest a puzzle. In addition to the puzzle, you need a grandchild who will be an expert at identifying pieces and patterns.

The practicalities. Get your puzzle at a thrift store. It is better to pay a dollar, than $30. Check the bookcase. People frequently leave puzzles.

You need a place to put the puzzle together. Most vacation rentals don’t have puzzle space; and, if you use the dining table you run into meal problems – which will stress some out.

The solution is simple. Go to Home Depot or Lowes and look for a sheet of plywood or styrofoam a bit larger than the puzzle. Look on the cover of the puzzle box for final dimensions.

Then you can put the puzzle together on the sheet on a coffee table, dining table, or two chairs, etc. You can move it for meals or other events.

Remember to tell your grandchild that he/she can not stay up all night working on the puzzle.

Leave the puzzle and the board for the next renter.

THINK OLD!


SHEEP HERDING IN IRELAND AND NEW MEXICO

 

 

On a Rick Steves’ tour to Ireland a few years ago, we visited a working sheep ranch and watched the dogs herd flocks of sheep following whistled commands from the sheep herder.

The Kissane Sheep Farm  is located in Moll’s Gap, Kenmare, County Ireland, Ireland. It is 7 Euros for an adult to watch the dogs and the shearers in action. You can also adopt a sheep, but if you want to take it home, you have to buy it and put up with an enormous amount of red tape. Better to adopt one in the name of a grandchild.

In addition we were able to watch expert shearers shear one of the sheep:

I like Rick Steves’ tours because they always include something new; something beyond museums and restaurants; and, something that I know nothing about.  I wanted to replicate the experience when I returned to New Mexico.

Searching in my own backyard, I discovered the New Mexico Herding Dog Association and on Saturday, May 13, 2017 we went to one of its events on the New Mexico State Fair Grounds.

This was the herding instinct test in which herding dogs, as classified by the American Kennel Club, and which have no experience with sheep, are tested to see if they like sheep, with three sheep. Mixed results. A fascinating new sub-culture to me, and one close to home.

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A variety of breeds tried to maneuver three sheep while their owners urged them on. At first the dogs didn’t do much, but after watching the owners race about herding the sheep, the dogs got the idea,  and tried it themselves.

About 40 sheep were kept in pens and were maneuvered about by a trained sheep dog which efficiently moved them from pen to pen and then into the arena where the test took place. The trained dog then sat quietly and watched from an adjoining arena.

The next step is to visit the FTB Ranch in Mountainair, NM and watch more events.

If interested you can search for events in your state on Google.

Search terms: State+herding dogs

ie Utah+herding dogs

THINK OLD!

 

 


DINNER WITH 96 YEAR OLD QUAKER IS HIGHLIGHT OF COSTA RICA TRIP!

 

Marvin Rockwell and his wife at their home in the Monteverde Quaker Community described in Wikipedia.

In December, 2018, while on a Road Scholar trip to Costa Rica, we  visited the home of Marvin Rockwell, age 96, for a typical Costa Rican dinner and a Power Point talk on how he came to lead a group of Quakers to Costa Rica in the late 1950’s. The talk included pictures of his adventures.Click for a podcast of pictures that Marvin showed us.

The family style dinner consisted of tamales, vegetables, tortillas, tomatoes,carrots, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, chocolate cake  and the ever-present Pinto Gallo.(Black beans and rice served with every meal in every setting in Costa Rica.) There was no booze since this was a Quaker home.

We ate at a long table on the open porch of Marvin’s  home in the highlands of Costa Rica, where Rockwell has lived since the early 50’s.

Marvin’s story, illustrated by his Powerpoint presentation, consisted of photos of his move to Costa Rica in the 50’s and his adventures since.

Marvin is a Quaker, originally from Fairhope, Alabama. In WW II, he served as a surgical teck in the US Army. In 1948, the US passed a draft law and Marvin, as a Quaker, refused to register. Even though he had already served in WW II, he was convicted of failing to register and sent to prison for a year and a day.

Since I originally wrote this, Fairhope, Alabama has been featured in the Travel Section of the New York Times. It seem Fairhope has a history consistent with what Marvin did in moving to Costa Rica. In 1894 “populist reformers” moved there from the North to establish an “…experimental, utopian community…”  Traveling while old continues to be fascinating. I may have to visit Fairhope.

When he was released, he and his friends, searched for a new place to live and settled on Costa Rica which had just outlawed the military. They purchased a tract of land in the central part, away from the mosquitos of the coast, and 41 of them proceeded to move there. The move, in an old jeep and pick-up truck took 3 months, as  Costa rica had little in the way of roads, and due to border technicalities .

They arrived, bought the land, compensated the Costa Rican squatters, and established a Quaker Colony which exists to this day. Five of the original 41, including Martin, are still alive.

They rebuilt the houses of the squatters and established s cheese factory with Martin in charge. They used metal Quaker Oats cans as cheese forms. The factory, still operating, now produces 8000 pounds of cheese a day.

Marvin, a bachelor, adopted a child abandoned by the child’s single mother. He then married a Costa Rican woman, and they had 4 more children.

Martin took pilot lessons, bought a  piper airplane and started to build runway in Monteverdi.   They cleared the land except for stumps. Then, while flying over the proposed runway almost crashed because of wind currents. They abandoned the airport idea, even though the approved runway was listed on aviation maps until recently when it was changed to abandoned.

Marvin wanted his children to be bilingual, so  he moved to the US and became a chocolate salesman in Ohio ?? for 8 years so that his children, and his wife, became fluent in both English and Spanish. He then moved back to his home in Costa Rica, and except for  trips to Africa in his 80’s, to see the animals, has lived in Costa Rica ever since.

He established a small hotel, which he has now closed.

He offers Powerpoint talks and dinners to various groups. He left our dinner at 7:30 as he had to give another talk that night.

THINK OLD!


VISIT THE “OLD MAIN” NEW MEXICO PRISON – Scene of 1980 Prison Riot

In 1980 there was a prison riot in Santa Fe, New Mexico that resulted in the deaths of 33 inmates and the destruction of the New Mexico State Penitentiary. Since then a new prison has been built next to the remains of “Old Main.”
The New Mexico Department of Corrections conducts tours of Old Main at the New Mexico Prison in Santa Fe. I took the tour in 2012. The tour took about two hours.
“Old Main” was virtually destroyed and 33 inmates were murdered.
Tours are conducted for part of the year. The goal is to raise money for a museum; however, nothing seems to have happened in the last five years.
If you want tickets for the  Tour, click here; however, as of the date of posting this post, no tours are being offered. They may be offered again in 2019.
If you still want to visit a prison, try Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia; or read about it in the New York Times.
If you want to read about the 1980 prison riot in New Mexico, click here.
This is out of my comfort zone; but something we should be aware of.

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THINK OLD!

END OF THE WORLD – RESCUE AT SEA – why seniors on cruises need insurance!

 

Tender from the Viking Sun approaching the Chilean General Service Boat Talcahuano.

I was recently on a Viking Sun Cruise around Cape Horn, going from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Santiago, Chile. While walking the 1/4 mile walking track on Deck 2, I noticed a Chilean Navy Ship, the General Service Boat Talcahuano,  in the distance beginning to circle the ship. Part of the deck path was closed and a tender had been launched. I,  like about half of the 900 passengers, watched for the next hour, or so.

While we watched, the tender made several attempts to hook up with the Chilean Navy Ship, but couldn’t get close because of the waves. The Navy vessel continued to circle the ship and tried to reposition itself.

The tender returned to the cruise ship and waited while the Navy ship circled again. I was right above the tender on deck 2 next to the blocked deck area.

Through an open hatch in the top of the tender, I saw the Captain of the Viking Sun, whom I think had just taken command of the tender. He headed straight for the Navy Ship, and without apparent incident, went along side and transferred the passenger on a stretcher, her husband and the ship’s doctor to the Chilean Navy Ship which took off for a land-based hospital.

I was totally impressed with the way Viking handled the situation.

I did not hear of any report of the event on the Viking Sun; however,  the next day Newsweek reported that the passenger had fallen, had injured herself, and had been evacuated to Coronel Bay, Chile for emergency treatment. Look at the Google Map of Coronel Bay; not quite the “End of the World” around Cape Horn, but close.

This  raised a number of questions in my mind. Questions to ask about your travel insurance on a cruise; or any international trip, especially, if you are old; and, maybe even if you are not.

  1. No way was Medicare going to cover the evacuation, or anything else, outside the US. What are you prepared for?
  2. Does the fact that the rescue happened in international waters make any difference?
  3. Will the Chilean Navy want to be reimbursed?
  4. Does your travel insurance cover rescues at Sea?
  5. What about costs for husband, doctor and costs after transfer to the hospital in Coronel Bay?
  6. What if the passenger does not have insurance?
  7. Just what does your travel policy cover?
  8. Will your regular insurance cover any of this?
  9. Is there insurance coverage for the ship’s medical care or for the ship’s doctor  going with the injured person  to a foreign hospital?
  10. What unknown costs are there to a difficult rescue at sea?

The bottom line is that this lady was injured, transferred on the high seas, in a stretcher, from a cruise ship to a tender to a Chilean Navel Vessel, in international waters. She was then taken to a foreign hospital. She and her husband probably had no idea where they were going except that it was near “the end of the world.”  We had just come around Cape Horn.

The real question is: What next? Did she come back to the ship? How? Where? When? Did she go home? How? Who paid?

Interesting  questions, ask your insurance carrier.

I have in the past few years had two friends who have  gotten sick while traveling, both in China. One spent over a month in a Chinese hospital, was transferred  back to the US with medical support;  and, then died. No insurance – wiped out an inheritance. The other had a stroke, spent several weeks in a Chinese hospital and was flown back to the US with a medical professional accompanying her. She had great insurance which covered all the costs and she is doing fine.

Travel insurance is expensive if you are old; but, consider the alternatives.

You might even want one of your kids to review your travel policy, if you have one, and advise you. None of us ever reads the policy, we just pay and board the ship.

THINK OLD!

 

 


MUMMY AT FONCK MUSEUM in Valparaiso, Chile – the geezer’s memory, not the geezer!

One of the best things about traveling while old is that you come across something that reminds you of an experience early in your life, allowing you to relive that experience. It also gives you  a new story to tell.

 

Mummy from the Atacoma Desert on display in the Fonck Museum, Valparaiso, Chile.

This happened to us in February 2019, on a Viking Sun Cruise included tour at our last stop in Valparaiso, Chile. We stopped at the Fonck Museum in Valparaiso. The museum had archaeological exhibits from Chile and one of them was a mummy from the Atacama Desert  near Arica, Chile in the northern part of Chile on the Chilean/Peruvian border.

Thirty some years ago we had gone on an EarthWatch expedition in connection with the University of Tarapaca, Arica, Chile. For two weeks, working with a pathologist, professors, and students from the University of Tarapaca, we dug up mummies, measured them, documented the burial cloths and checked them for evidence of arsenic poisoning from the water in Northern Chile.

Some of the mummies were over 7000 years old and due to the Atacoma Desert’s lack of rain, were perfectly preserved.

Years later, the mummy pictured above brought back memories of an early adventure.

THINK OLD!

 

 

 

 


CRUISE SHIP PACKING FOR SENIORS – less is more!

 

 

I am on my third cruise. I boarded the Viking Sun in Buenos Aires, Argentina after flying overnight from Albuquerque. I was allowed 2 checked bags, one carry-on and one personal item by the airline. Most old people pack too much; and, I am no exception; however, I kept to one checked bag and one personal item and even that was too much.

No matter how you work it, you are going to have to lift bags, roll bags, and deal with bags beginning with getting them out your front door and into the car. Then, there is check in, retrieving bags at the destination, and customs.  Finally you have to negotiate the bags, and watch them, in getting to the ship.

Why?

Once aboard the ship, you discover that the staterooms are smaller than the rooms at assisted living, especially if you are sharing one with a spouse. The closets are small, the drawers are small and there is little, if any, extra storage space. Fortunately, at least on Viking, there is room under the bed for 4 suitcases, one carry-on and a few personal items.

Then, unless you are in a high-end stateroom, there is barely enough room to turn around, much less to sort your clothing on a daily basis and keep the clean stuff separate from the dirty.

The question is why!  Where are you going? What is the purpose of the trip? What do you really need?

The Viking Sun is great!   Jeans and shorts are only prohibited in Speciality dining rooms and The Restaurant at dinner. There are free washers and dryers on each deck. The bottom line is that you can deal, even if you are old.

My trip was from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Santiago, Chile around cape horn.  It lasted 18 days.

I am old. I take a shower every day. I might even wear the same clothes two days in a row.

Like most old men, I have a “uniform.”  I wear comfortable  jeans, and have never been denied access, even  to 4 star restaurants – with a turtle neck and a jacket, you can go anywhere. Old men have become more stylish, wearing jeans, since it is impossible to find checkered pants with zippers that don’t work. The last ones I saw were on my father, years ago.

So for a 3-week trip on a cruise ship, what do you really need:

Jeans, heavy travel shirt, light weight rain jacket, walking shoes, underwear all worn.

Enough clothing for 7 days – I don’t really want to do laundry every day.

7 socks, underpants, black t-shirts.

Tai Chi slippers – good for fitness center and walking around on ship.

7 assorted shirts that don’t need ironing

Swim suit – for sauna, etc.

Work out shorts

Light weight pants that you can sleep in or wear in an emergency.

REI light weight travel pants that will get you past the “no jeans” restriction in the fancy dining rooms.

1 turtle neck

A vest that with pockets to wear on trip and finesse on formal occassions – easy to run through security and safer than having everything in pants pocket. See blog where I left my driver’s license in security check in and couldn’t rent a car.

Everything the same color, so you only have to use one washer and dryer.

One big problem old people have is keeping track of things. With 3 bags of clothing on a trip, you have no idea where everyhting is which leads to frustration and confusion.

You didn’t get old and able to take this trip by being stupid.

THINK OLD!

 

 

 

 

 

 


VIKING SUN, a behind the scenes visit to the galley – 4140 meals daily!

On February 6, 2019 while on a Viking Sun cruise, we visited the ship’s galley. The galley tour, like the bridge tour, is not advertised due to space limitations, so if you want to take the tour on any ship ask. You should also ask about any other tours that are not advertised.

The Viking Sun carries 930 passengers and a crew of about 450. This works out to 4140 meals prepared and served each day, plus 24 hour free room service and other food outlets open from early morning to late at night. Preparation of this food requires 106 chefs and a large number of support staff.

The several kitchens are spotless and computer controlled as far as food that has been ordered, cooked and delivered to one of the dining areas. The ship’s nurse checks the cooking staff’s hands each day for long or dirty finger nails.

Everything is made from scratch except for gluten bread. Viking Chefs make the gelato, all pastries  and everything else from scratch. The pastry chefs start baking at 10:00 PM so that bread, bagels, muffins and other items are available in time for breakfast.

In addition at the World Cafe, line chefs cook eggs, pancakes and waffles to order in front of you.

In addition, they must have a massive wine room as house wine is free at lunch and dinner. In South America it was from countries that we were stopping at.

Escalators and dumb waiters speed the food from deck one to the restaurants on higher desks. Food goes up in a dumb waiter separate from the one that carries waste and dirty dishes down.

THINK OLD!

 

 


END OF THE WORLD TRAIN – a prison tale in Ushuaia, Argentina

On February 1, 2019, while on a Viking Cruise, we took a train ride on a prison train that was built by Argentine prisoners in the early 20th Century.

A prison for hard-core and political prisoners was established in Ushuaia, Argentina in 1896 and the prisoners built their own prison.

They needed a train to haul wood from the nearby forests, so they laid the tracks and built a railway to haul wood and prisoners. Today, the train only hauls tourists and has expanded to about a half-dozen small trains running on narrow-gage tracks.

The trains are duplicates of the original prison trains and there is a shop at the station to repair and build them.

Each car has about 6 compartments with six seats facing each other in each compartment. It is a tight fit and you are warned about sticking your hands, or other body parts, out the windows.

The engines are steam engines, modified to run on diesel fuel instead of firewood to reduce the danger of a fire. There are water towers to add water to the steam boilers.

You can find out about the train and buy tickets at:  Ferrocarril Austral Fueguino

The train station is about 20 minutes outside Ushuaia so you will need to be on a tour or take a taxi.

Following the train ride through beautiful country, with fields of horses, you take a bus to Terro del Fuego National Park, with its lake and hiking trails.

The trip is fascinating and the prison was closed in 1947 due to corruption and horrible prison conditions.

 

 

THINK OLD!

 


HOW TO STAY IN SHAPE ON A CRUISE!

There is no truth to the rumor that cruise lines weigh passengers when they board and when they leave, and that the one who gains the most weight gets a free trip. But, it seems that way. There is food everywhere and all the time. I keep looking for the resident gerontologist.

That said, cruise ships also have great fitness facilities and an assortment of food that allows you to eat only what is good for  you.

The fitness facilities on the Viking Sun are great and decidedly Scandinavian. The rule here is: “Showing up is half the battle.”  If you can move down a deck or two, you will  be one of  a handful of people who use the facilities. It is like the health club you belong to. (for free with Silver Sneakers). There are a few dozen out of hundreds of members who actually show up regularly.

On our Viking Sun Ocean Cruise the fitness facilities stood out even if only used by a few of us. We are the new 1 %, only it is health not money that moves us into this category of old people.

Viking Sun has:

  1.  A quarter-mile walking track with a half-dozen walkers. Great except for windy days.
  2. Fitness classes including yoga, Pilates, etc.
  3. Trainers for a fee.
  4. The best machines that I have ever used; and, I used them daily along with about a dozen others. (Out of 930 passengers, none of whom were children, there were few in the fitness rooms.)
  5. The usual spa treatments, massages, hair stylists, manicures, etc.
  6. A swimming pool
  7. A salt water whirl pool; a regular whirl pool; and a sauna.
  8. In addition and unusual on a cruise ship, a cold water bucket and the snow grotto. I tried the snow grotto – man-made snow in a glassed-in room kept at freezing temperature. I did not try the water bucket. These two reflect the Scandinavian love of hot and cold.

The snow grotto.

The cold water bucket.

THINK OLD!