Farewell 2017, Hello 2018

Age of Folly

An Age of Folly Indeed! The cover photo of Lewis Lapham’s newest book on how America Abandoned Its Democracy

I was so discouraged with our country’s direction at the end of 2016, that I missed what had become an annual More to Come… year-end update.  Many commentators described 2017 as a “dumpster fire of a year.” Even Dave Barry had a hard time coming up with outrageous examples that exceeded our twisted reality.  The title of this year’s review by Barry says it all:  “2017: Did that really happen?”

My optimism for our country’s future hasn’t fully recovered in part because I find myself agreeing with Lewis Lapham when he writes:

“If the American system of government at present seems so patently at odds with its constitutional hopes and purposes, it is not because the practice of democracy no longer serves the interests of the presiding oligarchy (which it never did), but because the promise of democracy no longer inspires or exalts the citizenry lucky enough to have been born under its star. It isn’t so much that liberty stands at bay but, rather, that it has fallen into disuse, regarded as insufficient by both its enemies and its nominal friends. What is the use of free expression to people so frightened of the future that they prefer the comforts of the authoritative lie?”

Frightened by the future…that could be a theme of so much of 2017 in America.

It didn’t always seem this way.  In my 2013 year-end post, I outlined seven rules for the next third of my life, with an optimism that I could live a long and fruitful life. For four years I’ve looked at them on my computer wallpaper as I’ve logged on in the morning. Colleagues have seen them and made comments. The family has been supportive. But in thinking recently about my difficulties in keeping up with my life goals in 2017, I realized that I had lost some faith in the future.  My primary goal is to regain that faith in 2018.

25th birthday celebration

Celebrating 25 years of Claire and Andrew – one of the great achievements of 2017!

At work and in our family life, 2017 was a year of progress and celebration, of which I am proud and which gives me hope for the future.  But careful readers know that I can demonstrate some of the lighter symptoms of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), which a quick trip to sunnier climates (think the Pomona College Family Weekend in February) usually fixes.  2017 felt like a year when SAD-like symptoms (or perhaps TAD-like symptoms, and you can fill in the “T”) came and went throughout the year.

Reading a recent article by David DeSento helped me focus on what may have been missing from my 2017:  that sense of gratitude for what I have been given.  A psychologist, DeSento argues that social emotions — not willpower — helps us achieve our life goals.

“What these findings show is that pride (not arrogance, but pride in the skills one has), gratitude and compassion, whether we consciously realize it or not, reduce the human mind’s tendency to discount the value of the future. In so doing, they push us not only to cooperate with other people but also to help our own future selves. Feeling pride or compassion has been shown to increase perseverance on difficult tasks by over 30 percent. Likewise, gratitude and compassion have been tied to better academic performance, a greater willingness to exercise and eat healthily, and lower levels of consumerism, impulsivity and tobacco and alcohol use.

If using willpower causes stress, using these emotions actually heals: They slow heart rate, lower blood pressure and reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. By making us value the future more, they ease the way to patience and perseverance.”

I had recently been thinking about gratefulness and thankfulness.  Putting all this together, I realized that I needed to add an eighth life rule for 2018 and beyond.  So…here’s a quick look at that new rule plus some thoughts on how I did in 2017 with the original seven.

1. Be Grateful. Be Thankful. Be Compassionate.  Every Day.  Several years ago I made it a habit to say thank you to one person each day.  Even in 2017, I managed to maintain that habit.  Moving forward with this new rule, I want to expand that habit to being intentional about gratefulness, thankfulness, and compassion.

2.  Exercise six days a week for the rest of your life. I had a good pattern of daily exercise through 2016, resulting in weight stabilization.  Unfortunately, that didn’t continue in 2017, and my weight returned.  For 2018, I want to look with gratitude at the health I’ve had through six decades of life, and find ways to build on that outlook to maintain it.  I’m also going to keep the cartoon in mind where the doctor asks his middle-aged male patient, “Which is more inconvenient for you?  1 hour a day of exercise or 24 hours a day of dead?”

3.  Listen more than you talk.  It is always a challenge when I find myself in a place of some authority (either at work or home) not to grab the bully pulpit.  While David Isay, the founder of Story Corps, says listening is hard, he also notes that listening is an act of love…and act that one never regrets.  Both thoughts are worth remembering.

4.  Spend less than you make.  2017 was another year when I didn’t buy any new guitars!  (Although I can say that I gave it some serious thought.)  I’m continuing to adjust some of my expectations in order to live with much less regular income in the not-too-distant future.  I’m also thinking more about what to give away and how to do that to support those who have less.

5.  Quit eating crap!  Eat less of everything else.  Candice, Andrew, and Claire all support me in this effort, but I know I turned to comfort food more than I should have in 2017.  Like the rule about spending, I want to think about how eating less is an act of gratitude that what I have is enough.

6.  Play music.  The world is a better place when I play music.  My music is better when I play with others.  That’s the goal for 2018.

7.  Connect and commit.  Over the years since I set these rules, we made real progress in gathering people together on a regular basis.  That slipped some in 2017.  In the list Candice and I are assembling of 50 things we want to do in 2018, we already have a number of connections identified.

8.  Don’t be a Grumpy Old Man.  Enjoy life! I tried very hard not to let my SAD or TAD symptoms show through to others…in part, because this is probably the life rule I remember every day.  But there is still progress to be made…and in addition to Ursula Le Guin’s recent book of essays on growing old, I enjoyed reading yesterday’s New York Times article entitled, Want to Be Happy? Think Like an Old PersonI laughed.  I smiled.  I saw some traits I recognized.  I saw some things to work on.

Okay 2018:  bring it on!

More to come…

DJB

The Ambulance Survivor’s Club

Nancy and DJB

Nancy and DJB – the charter members of the Ambulance Survivor’s Club – toasting our good health at Jackie’s Restaurant in Silver Spring

If you know me, you know that I fractured my shoulder on March 3, 2015 – the night before my 60th birthday – after being hit by an ambulance.  Tonight, the two charter members of the Ambulance Survivor’s Club joined family and friends at Jackie’s Restaurant in Silver Spring to celebrate our recovery.

To take you down memory lane, here’s how I described it at the time:

Some people will do anything to avoid going to work on their birthday. My excuse? I was hit by an ambulance while helping a friend who had fallen on the ice. Yep, you read that right.

We made the local news. (A colleagues’ husband had seen it on one of those small screens they now have in cabs, so she wrote, “You’re famous in cabs!”)  A friend (Nancy) who was staying with us went out to dinner with a client, and she slipped and fell on the road behind our house when she returned. An angel of a neighbor found her and called us. We went out to help Nancy, and as she couldn’t get up we called 911. I was kneeling behind her as she sat where she had fallen, to keep her upright and to keep her alert. The ambulance arrived and couldn’t stop on the ice as it headed towards us. We couldn’t get out-of-the-way. I was hit first – my left shoulder against the front of the ambulance – and was tossed into a snow bank. Then the ambulance struck Nancy and pushed her down our hill. I could quickly tell I was okay except for shoulder pain but Nancy was obviously in a worse condition. They took her to the trauma unit at a local hospital and I was taken to ER at nearby Holy Cross.

To cut to the chase, I now have a fractured Humerus in my left shoulder. Nancy has some broken bones.

That was the story from More to Come… on March 6th.  But thanks to our wonderful families and friends – along with the medical professionals who have taken care of us over the past six months – Nancy and I are well on the way to full healing.   Because they took us to two separate hospitals after the accident, our good mutual friends Steve Campbell and Sarabeth Watson stayed with Nancy in Suburban Hospital and focused on her medical needs in those first hours and days while Candice was at Holy Cross Hospital with me.  All three of them then took great care of the two of us as we moved through the medical process.  Our recovery is going so well that Candice and I joined Nancy, Steve, and Sarabeth tonight for a celebratory dinner.

Pork tenderloin

The pork tenderloin at Jackie’s Restaurant

We spent the evening catching up, with Nancy and I comparing notes about physical therapy and the time it takes for bones to heal. All five of us told about what we remembered from that night and the first few days afterwards. We did all of this at Jackie’s, which is quickly regaining its reputation as the best restaurant in Silver Spring.

After working through a less-than-satisfactory chef or two, the kitchen has more than regained its footing since Adam Harvey’s arrival in May of 2013 and now regularly turns out meals that rate 4 stars in our book.  Tonight, Candice and I enjoyed the pork tenderloin, while Nancy raved about her Sweet Corn Risotto with grilled prawns, English peas and summer truffles. Steve was delighted with his Housemade Meatballs, and Sarabeth exclaimed over the pan roasted Arctic Char.

Putting the dinner aside, the important thing is that it was so good to see Nancy doing so well.  Six months ago, I’m not sure what I would have said had I been asked to speculate about our conditions in August.  But we have been blessed with loving support and care, and you can’t ask for much more in this life.

With (thankfully) more to come…

DJB

Comments on 60 Lessons From 60 Years

60th Birthday celebration

Celebrating my 60th birthday, along with my fractured shoulder and new sling

My blog is not one of those that has thousands of followers and elicits nasty comments…or many comments at all.  100 views is an excellent day. Most of my readers are family and friends, and the comments I do receive tend to come to me on email or on Candice’s Facebook page (since I went off Facebook more than two years ago).

So I was overwhelmed by the response to my last post, 60 Lessons From 60  Years. As of March 5th (a snowy day with offices and schools closed), I only had three “official” comments on the blog. But I have received well over 100 via those other channels and more than 500 views.  I wanted to ensure the comments did not get lost in cyberspace and – more importantly – I wanted to share some of them with you.

But first, to understand the context, it helps to know a bit of the back-story:

Some people will do anything to avoid going to work on their birthday. My excuse? I was hit by an ambulance while helping a friend who had fallen on the ice. Yep, you read that right.

We made the local news. (A colleagues’ husband had seen it on one of those small screens they now have in cabs, so she wrote, “You’re famous in cabs!”)  A friend (Nancy) who was staying with us went out to dinner with a client, and she slipped and fell on the road behind our house when she returned. An angel of a neighbor found her and called us. We went out to help Nancy, and as she couldn’t get up we called 911. I was kneeling behind her as she sat where she had fallen, to keep her upright and to keep her alert. The ambulance arrived and couldn’t stop on the ice as it headed towards us. We couldn’t get out-of-the-way. I was hit first – my left shoulder against the front of the ambulance – and was tossed into a snow bank. Then the ambulance struck Nancy and pushed her down our hill. I could quickly tell I was okay except for shoulder pain but Nancy was obviously in a worse condition. They took her to the trauma unit at a local hospital and I was taken to ER at nearby Holy Cross.

To cut to the chase, I now have a fractured Humerus in my left shoulder. Nancy has some broken bones. According to our doctors at the moment, neither of us will require surgery. I have to keep my left arm immobile in a sling, which you see at the top of the post. Candice and I are so relieved that Nancy’s prognosis is positive at this point. Mutual friends were so good to Nancy, allowing Candice to focus on my injuries, but Candice did get to visit Nancy in the hospital on Wednesday before Thursday’s snow storm hit.

As a result, many of the comments are from friends and colleagues who found out about our little adventure. And don’t worry about all the typing required for this long post. I am becoming a master of the cut and paste.

I wanted others to see the thoughtfulness, love, and wisdom that came through in responses from friends. I thought you, dear readers, would like to see which lessons resonated.  Feel free to add further comments in the “Leave a comment” section below.

We’ll begin with a colleague who consults for us:

Three new things I just added to the hopefully more than 50 I’ve amassed in my 50 years:
1.   You really are your dad, you lucky devil.
2.   I am not one of those few who understand baseball, but I’d best attend more and try harder for something that merits this much praise from you.
3.   I like and admire you even more than I thought. Which was a lot.

Thank you for sharing. Happy Birthday!

The picture of my grandparents – that was tied to Lesson #23 to “Make yourself useful, as well as ornamental” – was a big favorite. Here’s a sampling of those comments:

I came over to get another gander at the ears to see if they align with what was in the picture but all I can say is here’s to hoping I can one day read your reflections when you hit 90!  Happy birthday!

Hope you’re having a Happy Birthday, ambulances aside! This was fun to read through—thanks for sharing. Gosh, you’re grandparents wedding photograph is wonderful—they are such a gorgeous and handsome couple! 29 cracked me up, and 45 is the bomb, as some say. And many more, including still having your dad with you. I hope I get as lucky.

Love them all, but especially #29, 35, and the photo of your grandparents.

The pastor who led the church where I was raised wrote to say:

In many ways you are your Father’s son.

Many commentators called out their favorite lessons:

Absolutely, completely beautiful. I’m fond of, and moved by, many of them. This morning’s favorite is #45.

Happy Birthday, David.  Your lessons have (mostly) all resonated with me – especially on first read Nos. 13 and 37.

Thank you for sharing your blog with us, that was a gift, even if it had to reach me via your not so great news. I hope you are comfy and warm in your hospital and plan to take it very easy these next days. I shared your blog with my husband, we both greatly enjoyed it and live by many of your numbers -14 and 15 and more. We appreciate advice. A friend of my husband who is in the special forces in the UK, (my husband is a former British army officer at Sandhurst) told him once: you won’t succeed if you have to make all your own mistakes, you have to learn from other people’s mistakes. The same lesson can be applied about many things in life. Thank you for your wonderful blog, and I guess I need to give baseball another chance.  Take it easy and Happy Birthday.

Such a delightful read – and full of sage advice I needed to hear after a long day! Also so excited to see I made a cameo. 🙂  (Editor’s Note:  See Rule #18.)  So great seeing you this past weekend. Happy birthday, David! 

Thanks for including me on this – what a great read! I think it’s funny you mention “becoming your father” – I sometimes fear that though I look just like my dad, in personality I’m becoming my mother! 54 and 55 both resonated with me too. I seem to find that life often has something better in store for me than I could have thought up myself.  Hope you’re recuperating well. Everyone keeps stopping by and passing along their good thoughts!

Happy Birthday David! Hope the shoulder is better. I heard.  Can’t wait to read this and best of all listen to some of this music. My eye did catch your mention of…. The Bitter Southerner. (Editor’s Note: See #28) It is my #1 self treat after a nice long run. Makes me smile to have something in common with you even if you are 60 YEARS OLD.  To Your Day!

Happy belated birthday, David! I’m particularly fond of #’s 13, 15, 7, 28.

I’m so glad to hear you are ok and that your humor remains intact. I was glad to follow this link and read your 60 lessons. It was a great read. Re: #17 – I would say Amtrak is the very best place to think and write. Icing on the cake for me would be the train from NYC to Albany, Hudson River side. #40 made me cry. I especially like #59. In the time I’ve been here, you’ve always been the one to thank me for things or say good job. I’ve mentioned it to many people how important those gestures are, just how far they go….but never thanked you directly. Thank you for taking the time to do that. Hope you feel better soon. Happy birthday!

I also received some suggestions for new lessons to add to the list:

From the ripe old age of 61, I agree with most of your observations. I would also add, “Do something that challenges you every day. It won’t hurt.” I am working on a retirement plan that would allow me to be a “senior nomad,” although I’ll have to change it to something like “Still Crazy Nomad.” I think that’s what I want to be when I grow up, since being Janis Joplin seems out of the question.  Sorry to hear about your run-in with an ambulance. A classic “life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.” Have a happy birthday in spite of it.

Happy birthday.  Enjoyed your 60 vignettes, and now on your birthday, you’ve learned another: bad things happen to good people – and good may come of that.

Here’s one from a colleague who has a serious case of Guitar Acquisition Syndrome (G.A.S.) and has helped me research past acquisitions.

Happy B-Day David!

• Birthday prediction: I think there’s an Gibson Advanced Jumbo in tobacco sunburst in your future …

• Lesson #61: You can never have too many guitars …

• Don’t forget the 12-step program I’ve been advocating: Step 1: submit to a higher power (i.e., the Guitar Gods) …

P.S. Don’t even think about it … just reach for the credit card and everything will be just fine…

Gibson Jumbo

Carl’s next acquisition…a Gibson sunburst Jumbo

Then, of course, the ambulance accident generated a great deal of commentary.

You are rocking the sling my friend! Take it easy…

Can’t want to see what you come up with for 65.

So sorry David. One helluva way to ring in your birthday. I’m so over this snow and ice. I bet you are too.

Heard you’re the subject of the news story I read last night about an ambulance striking the folks it was coming to help. Glad to hear you’ll be OK, but such an unfortunate (and painful!) thing to happen. I hope you feel better soon – and that you get to spend your recovery time watching spring training games from less-icy places!

I understand that you’ve injured your arm in the cause of helping a friend. I am sorry for your troubles and wish you a speedy, easy recovery. I will say, on the other hand, that your accident led me to read your blog post, “60 Lessons from 60 Years.” There’s a lot of love in your writing as well as good humor, wisdom, and links to fine music. Thanks for sharing the lessons you’ve learned.

Inconceivable! (one of the better lines from the Princess Bride) First of all, Happy Birthday!, but secondly stay inside, drink warm cocoa with a little schnapps for the pain and recover! Hope at least the drugs are good.

What a terrific milestone, David! I hope you have a wonderful, grateful, celebratory – and ambulance-free – birthday. (I hear cake can help …)

I am so sorry to hear about your accident and the injuries you and your guest sustained. Hope that you both heal soon and get back to 100%. I can’t imagine how shocked and helpless you must have felt as that ambulance was bearing down on you. Amazing that, so soon afterwards, you are able to reflect on it with such calm. Again, glad that you are on the road to recovery.  Thank you too, for sharing your insights on life, love, and family on your blog.

I truly enjoyed your blog entry and savored the lessons therein. Had it not been for Rob visiting here yesterday…I would have written you with birthday greetings and a question about Glacier. However, Rob shared the news of Tuesday evening and the accident.  Now this email has turned from Happy Birthday to Get Well Soon. One never knows what is around the corner. Some advice on the breaking of bones—Almost 4 years ago, I broke my leg. The things I learned—1) Listen to the doctor and stay ahead of the pain. Even if you don’t like medication, a healing bone is very painful; 2) Ice! 3)Let people do for you—at least at first; 4) Don’t write emails while taking the pain meds. You think you make sense between naps, but you don’t; 5) Take the time you need—easier said than done, but it will make a difference in the recovery and 6) Do the physical therapy and then some. It makes a tremendous difference! I hope that you and your houseguest will be on the mend shortly. Please know you will be in my thoughts and prayers. And may the year bring you much joy, preservation victories, baseball, music and family!

Finally, I received a long email from a friend, Ed. I met Ed and his wife Ruth on a National Trust tour of the Black Sea. They were representing Andover. We bonded over many things, but especially baseball.  His son works for the Red Sox, and I have had the pleasure of visiting Ed and Ruth in their house outside Boston. We keep planning a trip to Nationals Stadium. They are both so very thoughtful, and I thought I’d end this post with excerpts from Ed’s reflections. Enjoy.

Just spent a fascinating evening with your 60 for 60, and Happy Birthday!

Delighted many times over…All 60 had something for me. Can’t think of them all now, but: Staunton [wasn’t Wilson born there?]. Old buildings which several generations have struggled to keep standing. Small towns. Your western travels. Your twins, beloved. [We have identicals as 6-year-old granddaughters in Lexington MA]. The Bitter Southerner’s reassuring message. Your thinking on church, on Southern Baptists, on the Christian Right, who get in their own way. And too much more to remember at the moment.

We differ on a few points, but I appreciate your perspective which would say, Vive la difference!

1. Belichick is far from perfect, but I’ve met him, as a fellow Andover alum. He loved Andover. He was charming, and he has a good side. A mutual friend heard from a guy that Bill once stopped along a highway to help this poor anonymous soul change his tire in a pouring rain. At the end, the guy said, hey, aren’t you . . . ? And Bill said, Please don’t say any more–to me or anyone else. You wouldda done the same thing for me. And he drove off. Kinda like Dean Smith. Maybe great coaches`figure out, sooner than the rest of us, not to be proud of doing the right thing, but just doing it.

The NFL is my guilty pleasure, and I feel like taking a shower after getting its evils splashed on me. But I must confess that it seemed right that Richard Sherman needed to learn more about Kipling’s point that victory and defeat are Two Great Imposters – and he did so with a grace that he had not shown me before. Ditto Pete Carroll, who had left USC just before his misdeeds there came crashing down on the folks he left behind. I was pleasantly surprised that Coach Carroll bravely took the blame for that play call. And Marshawn Lynch said he wasn’t surprised not to get the ball, because “football is a team game.” Not bad for a guy who hasn’t shown a lot of respect in other moments. As your 90-year-old Dad, and your beautiful Grandmother and daughter would doubtless agree, humans are complex and should not be written off.

2. Blue-grass, Blue Highways hymns, and mandolins, have not been to my taste. But I admire them more now, after seeing your appreciation for them.

The three best YouTubes of music I saw this year I will share with you, hoping to add to your eclectic appreciation.

A. So many surprises in this first one: As college kids in 1963-4, we skipped right over this song, to get to “Fun Fun Fun” or “Little Deuce Coop.” Brian Wilson, for a while a hopeless self-absorbed mess, wrote this relatively obscure tune–but not the equally beautiful lyrics–when he was barely 21. His cousin and Hawthorne, CA, neighbor–Mike Love–widely known as a jerk in most circumstances, this time created the words, that make the discerning tear up. And who knew that Mike Love of all people would admit his mistake, in trying to change Willie Nelson’s delivery?

But greatest of all, savor Brian Wilson’s facial expressions at about 4:49. It’s as if this astounding songwriter and harmonist is the RCA dog, listening to his master’s voice on the phonograph. HE tears up–not as a demi-god, but as a human being. All these guys, Willie included, are just regular people, creating some pretty good art, and shaking hands over it. If there is a God, She would smile here. Life can be beautiful, in the South, in the West.

(Editor’s note:  Ed sent along a bonus Beach Boys video)

B. Tammy Wynette and some promoter named Billy Sherrill wrote this song in 15 minutes. We’ve all heard it, but few of us knew what real-life marital and bodily pain Wynette lived through–like Brian Wilson. Her voice haunts:

I’m gonna tell Ruth, and you can tell Candice, that even our selective hearing lets this song come through, loud and clear. [Wynette’s last recording session, before an early death, was singing Brian Wilson’s “In My Room,” which he wrote c. 1961 after yet another beating from his Dad. You can find a different YouTube showing Brian and Tammy together, recording, just weeks before she died. They moved each other, two screwed-up lives intersecting, like ships in the night.]

C. The U.S. Library of Congress selected this 1964 T.A.M.I. Show for preservation in the National Film Registry. The Rolling Stones later said that following James Brown at the end of this show was the biggest mistake they ever made in their careers–and yet they too performed memorably. [Didn’t get what they wanted, but maybe what they needed?] Check out this portion of James Brown’s 20-minute set:

Best to you, and now your remarkable family,
Ed Q.

Candice came out when the Beach Boys tune was playing, as she was a big fan during high school. I had seen the James Brown clip before, and remain amazed.  You gotta love friends who quote Kipling, Bill Belichick, Brian Wilson, Tammy Wynette, and the Godfather of Soul all in the same message.  To each and every one of you who reached out with your love, concerns, thoughts, stories, and humor, my deepest and sincere thanks.

With much love and affection, and with More to Come…

DJB

Observations From the Road (The “Thankfulness” Edition)

California or BustTuesday, August 19th (and day #19) – is the last one of the cross-country Not All Who Wander Are Lost tour. Later this morning I’ll be flying home.  I can’t wait to see Candice and Andrew (who leaves for his senior year in college on Friday morning).  But I also want to put a wrap on the wonderful two-and-a-half weeks Claire and I had on our exploration of this amazing country we live in. It has been an experience I’ll never forget.

I’ve had several parts of this series where I’ve thrown together random thoughts that I’ve entitled Observations from the Road.  For those who want to see them in order, you can find them here as:

So this grouping of random thoughts wraps up the Observations From the Road posts as well as the series on our cross-country tour.  I’ve entitled it The Thankfulness Edition, for we could not have driven 4,590 miles and passed through 13 states without the help of many friends, family members, work colleagues, college acquaintances of Claire’s, and strangers.  I’ll miss some who should be thanked, but I hope to capture the vast majority. And I have book-ended this post with the first (above) and final picture taken on our trip.

The first person who made this all possible was Candice – When I mentioned several years ago I wanted to drive cross-country, Candice never made anything but supportive comments along the way. When I asked if she wanted to join us, she said, “I’ve driven cross-country before, and once was enough.” However, she could see the excitement building in Claire and me as we began to plan out our route and get closer to departure, and then she became our #1 cheerleader along the way.  Since I’ve left Facebook, Candice regularly allows me to posts items I put on More to Come…. With this trip, she took on the responsibility of seeing that the posts were up as soon as possible after I wrote them, and she talked up our trip with friends at church, family members, and others she saw over the past couple of weeks.

The other thing that made this trip possible is that our family financial planner (again, that would be Candice) never once questioned the cost of the trip…even as the Visa bills kept coming in and a certain rental car company (Enterprise) didn’t honor their quoted rate for a one-way rental and drove us to another company that treated us fairly…but at a cost than was higher than my initial estimate. Early on she said, “This is a trip of a lifetime for you and Claire, and I don’t want you to worry about money.” This means a great deal to me, as I count on Candice to keep our family budget in line. She simply said, “We can do it” and that was the end of the conversation.

Thanks to those who made suggestions – Sometime about 2-3 months ago, I sent around a sketchy itinerary to some family, friends, and colleagues and asked them for thoughts on things we should see.  And did they ever respond! So many of the great places we visited came about as a result of suggestions.  Then, once we got into the trip, others emailed additional suggestions, and we took them up on a few of those as well.  So – at the very real chance of leaving someone out – I want to thank these terrific itinerary planners:  Kathleen and Herb Crowther (for the Cleveland area); Susan Morse (for her Chicago recommendations); Genell Scheurell, Janet Hustrand, and Oakley Pearson (for several thoughts in the Midwest and Great Plans – with Oakley getting special points for the “Ball of Twine” recommendation); Liz Welsh McGonagle (for the Minneapolis thoughts and for making the Twins game happen); Barb Pahl (for numerous route suggestions and individual place recommendations in the Great Plains and Mountain regions – with special points for pushing us to go way north and visit Glacier); Jeff Grip (who made our magical day at Taliesin possible); Mark Huppert, Kevin Daniels, and Anthony Veerkamp (for a host of suggestions in Seattle, San Francisco, and all along the west coast); Constance Beaumont (for the Portland tour and especially for the Astoria suggestion); Sheri Freemuth (for Idaho and eastern Washington thoughts); Jenny Buddenborg (who suggested – among other things – the fantastic University of Mary in Bismarck and then helped make arrangements for a tour); and Jackie Tran (who passed along suggestions in San Francisco).  If I have forgotten others, please forgive me. Kyra Stone made great food suggestions in Madison (which led to an immediate weight gain of five pounds on my part). And – as I’ve mentioned numerous times – a big thank you to those who comment on Yelp!  We couldn’t have eaten so well without you!

With Kathleen Crowther in Shaker Heights

Claire with Aunt Susan and Zoe

Bruce and Shari Shull with Claire and DJB

Thanks to our Hosts – Just when we thought we couldn’t take another hotel room, one of our friends or family members offered up a place to stay. We got three of them in photos – Kathleen Crowther (husband Herb was taking the photo) in Cleveland; Claire’s Aunt Susan and Cousin Zoe in Chicago; Bruce and Shari Shull in Gig Harbor, Washington; and Constance Beaumont in Portland, Oregon.  Somehow, we were having so much fun with Constance that we forgot to get a picture!  Nonetheless, thanks to all of these wonderful people. Claire and I loved seeing you and getting to know you better.  It was a true highlight of our trip.

Thanks to the Readers of More to Come… – Every day I would hear through comments on the blog, emails I received, or from comments Candice and Claire were receiving on Facebook and Instagram, about how many people were reading – and apparently enjoying – these updates on our progress. Your kindness spurred me to try to capture the true wonder and fun of our adventure.  A special thanks to Janet Hulstrand – who is a wonderful writer. Janet would send along comments and suggestions for places to visit, she encouraged her twitter followers to read the series, and she would simply “like” virtually every post that came up during the trip. Janet’s praise is high praise in my book.  In addition to Janet (who has followed the blog for years), I had some 5 or more new bloggers begin following More to Come… after reading a post or two in this series. Finally, it was great today to have virtually everyone who came up to give Claire a hug on campus say something along the lines of “I’ve been following your road trip and it sounds amazing!” The fact that a couple of Claire’s friends even characterized the old man as “awesome” was just icing on the cake!

I’m thankful for this amazing country – I’ve written about the plains, mountains, valleys, coast lines, Great Lakes…you name it…so I won’t go into any of that again.  But to look at our landscape day after day, as it changes going east to west and then north to south, is an incredible experience.  I saw so many places and things I had never seen before.  Every mountain range we crossed was unique and breathtaking. Our rivers, lakes, and oceans are incredible. And – unfortunately – we have destroyed much of what is wonderful about our landscapes through horrible development decisions, greed, commercialized farming (have you ever seen a commercial livestock feed lot – you’ll never eat McDonalds again), extraction of oil and gas, and the list goes on and on. I’m thankful I had a chance to see it in this condition, and I’m thankful that the mellennials of Claire and Andrew’s generation appear to be bent on trying to undo our destruction. Let’s hope they have enough time and political will to succeed.

I’m thankful for how taking things off a bucket list leads to new thoughts on adventures – Claire and I talked about bucket lists on several occasions.  Claire decided that the 47 Things to Do While You are At Pomona would be a good start to a bucket list, and I agreed. Then, we started talking about all the states we had visited: 13 on this trip (11 of which were new to Claire).  That got us to thinking about how many states in general we had visited, and the number was 48 for me and 34 for Claire.  So guess what’s now on our respective bucket lists?  And we decided while unpacking today that our next road trip would begin in Alaska – which is one of the two states I’m missing.  (Nevada is the other.)  I love a sense of exploration so early in life.

Claire at the Fort George Brewery

Finally, I am eternally grateful to Claire – I would be hard-pressed to come up with a better traveling companion.  If you have to spend 18 days in a car with someone, it had better be someone who is intelligent, quick-witted, funny, thoughtful, inquisitive, curious, flexible, and loving…and I could throw in a dozen or more descriptors except that her face will already be turning red.  It also helps that she’s a good driver and likes to try any local IPA that the bartender suggests! (Those two things do not happen at the same time.) We had some serious talks along the way, as Claire was dealing with a couple of issues that she’ll be facing her senior year in college.  Not once did she speak ill of anyone or try to blame others for her situation. Instead, she always looks for the good, and then builds off that perspective. This doesn’t mean she is naive – far from it. But she has an inherently positive and expectant outlook on life. I wish I could capture a small piece of that perspective to use in my dealings with others, as I would be a far better person.

Claire is not one to judge. I know she wants to help me with my (over) eating and exercise, but her way of talking about it is only supportive and loving. When I think of how she made the decision in high school to only eat healthy food and to become physically fit, I marvel at her discipline. But she doesn’t push her way of living or point of view on her father, her family, or her friends.

Claire is open to what she can learn from others. We shared “playlist” time from our various iPhones during the majority of the trip, and not once – even after 10 bluegrass songs in a row – did she reach for her ear-buds.  Imagine that – a 21-year old going 18 days in a car with her father without once tuning him out with the old ear-buds trick. It is my experience that this is almost earth-shattering in its precedence!

So I’ll end by quoting myself – in the Central Time edition of Observations from the Road: 

Claire is a wonderful, sensitive, and thoughtful individual – which, of course, I knew in the Eastern time zone before I left on this trip.  But I just wanted to say it again today.  She is one in a million.

I know that every father thinks that about his daughter.  I’m just glad that I had the past two-and-a-half weeks to confirm it – once again – about my daughter.  I’ve loved every second with Claire and I’ll never forget these memories.

Lunch in Claremont with Claire

More to come…

DJB