We Did Some Pre-Trip Shopping Today

I should have picked up some of these things earlier, but as much as I try to get things done early, sometimes it doesn’t work out so well.  Last year we had a nearly twelve-hour delay getting to Rome and I lost quite a bit of money on train tickets to Naples that I had booked gambling that we wouldn’t be delayed by more than five hours.  This made me a little wary of spending too much money too early in the planning stages.  Then, just as I was about to start spending the money for things, an old health problem of my father’s popped up again.  About four years ago, my dad hit himself in the eye with a bungee cord a couple of years ago (Public service announcement:  Please be careful with bungee cords.  My dad’s ophthalmologist says that she sees a lot of bungee cord injuries.  If you cannot consistently keep your head out of the range of the cord, then please wear eye protection) and that eye was pretty red last week, so I thought that if it got much worse I might have to cancel the trip entirely so that I could be there for him.

Anyway, as of 7:45 this morning, we were 48 hours from departure, so I figured that we had better pick up those last few things that I’d been putting off.

My son and I started out the day walking in a new-to-us park that was pretty convenient considering the locations of the stores we wanted to visit.  We got there sometime around 11:30 this morning, and it was 90 degrees in the shade and there was no shade.  That may have been the fastest walk we’ve ever taken — the S Health app actually thinks we ran for part of it.

I also needed a lighter suitcase and carry-on bag.  I dragged my old suitcase and carry-on about half a mile through Naples last year and nearly considered just leaving the bag behind. My new suitcase is one of those ultralight ones and my carry-on is a fabric backpack.  Together they weigh maybe seven pounds.  So that will be so nice compared to dealing with my old 11-or-so-pound suitcase and three-or-so pound carry-on.

The pair of sandals that I’ve been using as my main walking shoe, a sort of Crocs knock-off made by Skechers, for the last three or four years are starting to wear out and they don’t make that shoe anymore, so I needed to look for an alternative.  I’ve only had the shoes I ended up with for about six hours now, so I don’t know how they’re going to work out, yet.  I will be bringing the old sandals just in case.

I lost my favorite jacket at Roma Fiumicino airport last year, so I also hit a couple of Ross Dress for Less shops to see if they had any lightweight jackets that would do for this trip, but wasn’t able to find anything.  Last summer, I bought something from L.L. Bean that was similar to the jacket that I lost, but I wasn’t perfectly happy with the jacket, so I haven’t used it much.  I’ll take it anyhow and see what I think of it after living with it for a week.

Then I ended my errands with a new haircut.  I keep my hair short largely because it’s easy to care for.   I just wash it and towel-dry it and then run a brush through it and it looks pretty good.  Additionally, I need some height in my hair and the only time my hair has the proper lift when it’s long is when I am living in a place with high humidity.  South Texas is not that place.  So I keep it short.  Unlike this post.

Now I am working on my second load of laundry for the night.  I will be pretty much done with my laundry for today after this load, though I may throw another one in just to get a head start for tomorrow.  My suitcase is about half-packed, as is my carry-on.  I have five books on my phone (including two in Spanish) and am bringing the May 2014 and June 2015 National Geographic magazines in hopes that I can get a head start on those articles.

My Earliest Travel Memories

I have long said that I want to go “everywhere.”  I know how I made this decision.  Part of it was because of my parents’ National Geographic subscription. Every month for as long as I can remember we would get a new issue with beautiful full-color photographs of the world and, once I got old enough to read, fascinating descriptions of the places and the people who lived there. 

The other part was my parents’ landlords.  When they were first married, and prior to having had me, my parents rented an upstairs apartment in a couple’s house.  We would visit them every New Year’s Day and every year they would have photographs of the places that they had traveled.  Far from being bored, though, I loved it.  The wife was a musician and she would buy a small hand-held instrument at most of their destinations.  They were on windowsills and bookcases and on top of the television.  And every year I would think, “I’m going to go there someday.”

Unfortunately it took me until I was 11 to actually start checking places off of that list.  This is because for most of my childhood, travel meant driving from Chicago to Florida to visit my mom’s family.  We would stop at some destinations on the way, but most of the time was spent at my cousins’ house doing basically the same things I did at home, only with cousins.  We’d go to the supermarket and cook dinner at home, and visit my mom’s old high school friends, and sit around and watch television.

One thing that was differentiated home from the cousins’, though, was that my cousins’ house was just a block away from the Intracoastal Waterway.  My cousin’s son is only a year younger than I am and we would go down and watch the fiddler crabs and the boats.  This was in the 1970s, which was when the manatees were really in decline; my mom would tell me about seeing them when she was in high school and lived in that area, though.  The area of the Intracoastal Waterway that my cousins lived near had lots of mangrove plants when I was little.  I didn’t even realize that people lived on the other side of the mangroves until I was much older. 

My last visit to the Waterway was after my mom’s funeral.  My dad and son and I walked down there.  The mangroves were long gone and much of the land where my cousin and I used to watch the crabs had been paved over.  It was so different from how it had looked in my childhood and yet it still felt a bit like “home.”  Suddenly, my son, who was a kindergartener, said, “What’s that?” and pointed out into the water.   It took my dad and me a while to see what he was seeing.  It was a small pod of dolphins.  Probably there were two or three of them, it was hard to see at that distance.  And, of course, this was before everyone had a camera on their person at all times, so no one got a chance to photograph them.  Even if we had tried, it is likely that they would have been just a little blip on the surface of the water, since they were about 600 feet (just shy of 200 meters) away by my calculations.  I’ll never forget it, though.

(originally posted April 25, 2015)