I know I haven’t finished the Baja Mexico saga yet (and there are other posts I haven’t yet written about my travels in 2016), but I want to take a bit of space here and wish everyone a happy “holiday(s)-of-your-choice”. For myself, that includes Christmas (mainly because it’s also my birthday) and New Year’s Days, but really, who needs an excuse to celebrate at this time of the year?
With that said, here is my 2016 holiday letter. I’ve written one since … um, since people used actual typewriters, and have all of them since 1999 stashed on my computer – somewhere. I’ve never posted one before, though, so this is something new for me. It’s slightly edited for the blog (as opposed to, say, a physical letter that uses up dead trees and gets sent through snail mail), but *only* slightly.
So here goes:
Oh, my, what a crazy year this has been! Let’s get right to it, shall we? But before I begin the litany, I’d like to apologize for the tardiness of this post. I had the best intentions (don’t we all?), and have had this on my to-do list since Thanksgiving! But time has a way of passing *MUCH* too quickly these days…
I guess I’ll start with the big news, which will help explain everything else. Last March I met a wonderful woman named Wynne Brown, who has become such an indispensable part of my life that we are now engaged to be married! There’s no date yet because some other things have to happen first, but it *will* happen! I couldn’t be happier, and I am *SO* lucky to have found true love again! Here are two pictures of us. The one on the left was taken last spring when she completed a 10-mile (NOT 10K!) trail race at Catalina State Park, and the one on the right was taken in November after I completed the 55-mile distance in the El Tour de Tucson event.
In July I bought a new-to-me house for us. Part of it was built in 1945, and two other parts were built at two different times after that. The 1945 part is mud-adobe-brick walls covered with stucco (on the outside) and plaster (on the inside). It’s, um, *interesting* … to say the least. We haven’t moved in yet, as there is a lot of renovating and upgrading to get done first. When we both feel comfortable with its progress, we’ll move there and *then* begin planning our wedding!
You may be following the progress on the JeepMonster here. It finally came home in August, after more than a year at the builder’s shop. It’s now sitting in my garage, waiting for its turn on the “actually do something about it” list. This is what it looked like on its way into the garage.
And I guess I officially qualify as an “old guy” now—I’ve been retired for 3 1/2 years; I’ve been collecting Social Security for three; and I turned 65 on Christmas. That also means I’m now part of the Medicare cohort. Oh, joy.
But just because I’m old(er) doesn’t mean I’m sitting around doing nothing—at least, not since I met Wynne. We travel—a lot! In April, we attended the 65th-anniversary Penn State Air Force ROTC Drill Team / Honor Guard reunion at the Nittany Lion Hotel in University Park, where she got to meet, and be regaled with lies—um, *stories*—from, my college buddies. The Drill Team was founded in 1951, and alumni from 1969 through 1994 were there. Everyone had a great time! On the way back to Tucson we detoured to Chicagoland so Wynne could meet Eve and Rick. She passed that test (and all the others!) with flying colors. 🙂
In May I spent a long weekend without Wynne at the Overland Expo in Mormon Lake, AZ, which is about 30 miles southeast of Flagstaff. I volunteered there this year, which meant that, in return for 12 hours of my life (mostly spent directing traffic at the entrance to the camping areas), I could wander around the entire Expo all three days for free. I took full advantage of that!
In other travels, Wynne and I went to Flagstaff—not once, but TWICE! The first time was as guests of friends, while the second time was with a group of friends from Portal, AZ (go look it up!), with whom we combined a social/touristy few days and a trail half-marathon (13.1 miles) at an altitude of 8,000 feet! Wynne’s goals were not to be dead last, and not to be dead—and to be the first woman finisher on Medicare! In all three, she succeeded. 🙂 (She says I have to add, in the interests of full disclosure, that she was the *only* woman finisher on Medicare…but, hey, who’s counting?) My goals were to get her to the starting line on time and to welcome her in at the finish line. I succeeded. It was a good day.
We also drove to Austin, TX (in July!) to visit Wynne’s son, Richard, and his family. While it maybe wasn’t the *smartest* time to go to Austin, the family reunion made the environmental discomforts worthwhile. Wynne was able to catch up with Richard, his wife and their two sons, and her family (all of whom emigrated from Macedonia).
Our big trip this year, and the one when Wynne finally agreed to marry me, was an eleven-day trip to Baja California Sur—in other words, La Paz and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. On October 23 we flew from Tucson to Houston, then Mexico City, and finally to La Paz, where we embarked the next day on a five-day sea-kayak adventure on the Sea of Cortez. On the last day, when we were *finally* paddling in the same kayak, she said “Yes!” So it took almost six months, but I ultimately passed all the tests she gave me. (As I said earlier, we haven’t yet set a date because we want to move into the new-to-me house first.) We finished the official trip with a half-day of snorkeling alongside whale sharks in La Paz Bay. These fish can be (literally!) as big as a school bus, sometimes reaching 40 feet in length! After the whale sharks, we spent three days in Cabo, snorkeling, eating, relaxing, and just basically being gringo tourists. We flew back (from Cabo to Phoenix and then Tucson) on November 2. The sunset photo is typical of the evenings we spent on the island beaches at our campsites. The other photo, taken by Lorena Sanz of PuraBaja Tours—our guide for a morning of snorkeling, fish-watching, and relaxing in the boat, shows us near the southern tip of Baja, where the Pacific meets the Sea of Cortez. The opening behind us is slowly being worn away by wave action from both sides.
My work with the Donor Network of Arizona (DNA) continues. This year I attended the annual Speakers’ Workshop in January, where I learned how to present my donor story in public. I got to put that training to use when I was asked to talk to a group of new nurses at one of the local hospitals. It’s never easy talking about a double loss (both my son-in-law and my wife were able to donate organs upon their deaths), but it humanizes the experience for the audience and makes them somewhat more empathetic toward the grieving families who have to make these decisions. I was also asked to become the “Lead Ambassador” in Tucson and Southern Arizona. This essentially means that I’m the person volunteers call when something isn’t going right at an event (insufficient supplies, no table, etc.), as well as keeping tabs on what supplies we have and getting more when they’re needed. [DNA gives away a *lot* of ballpoint pens, green bracelets, lapel pins, bumper stickers, and other items to promote organ, eye, and tissue donation.] I was also privileged to attend Donate Life Day at the Arizona State Capitol this year. It meant I actually had to dress up (in a suit and tie!), but I got to meet two State Representatives and a State Senator, who himself is a tissue recipient, so he’s definitely sympathetic to our cause. And I’ll be walking in this year’s Fiesta Bowl Parade along with other donor and recipient families. (It’s Saturday, 12/31, from 10 AM to noon MST.)
I hope this year was good to you, and that next year will be even better! Happy Holidays!