Wander project Racine WI

My father’s father passed away in 1972. We were living in Thailand. Before Grandpa died, dad went back to the US to say goodbye. The rest of us, school and other things, stayed in Thailand. That was, at that time, home.  Dad got to say goodbye, but he was back in Thailand with us when Grandpa died. I remember as mom and dad told us, the song Alone Again, Naturally, was playing on the radio. Our apartment in Thailand had three bedrooms. One at the front of the apartment and two at the back. We were in the back bedroom where I slept (the furthest back bedroom was where my parents were) when they told us. I know I was sad. I know I cried.


What I didn’t realize then was how much my Grandfather had been around. In looking at the pictures and slides my father left me, I realized his father was often around when I was little. My father’s father was older than my grandmother by quite a bit. He, my father’s father, had served in the 101st Cavalry in WWI. Although he never left the US. He joined the army right before the war ended. I still have his cavalry saddlebags. The pictures today are from Racine, Wisconsin. They are pictures that were taken the last year he was alive. My grandparents, my father’s parents, had moved from Wisconsin Dells to Racine Wisconsin. It is about 150 miles, maybe a little less between the two.

We, on the other at that point, were down in Bloomington, Indiana. So we visited them in the Dells, and the next time we went up, they were in Racine. The number of pictures my Grandfather took went way down when they moved to Racine. In Wisconsin Dells Wisconsin, he had the Wisconsin River as his muse. In Racine, it was far less to see for him, I suspect.  I know that I have more memories of the Dells and my Grandfather than of my Grandfather in Racine, although I do remember sitting with my Uncle and watching the Chicago Bulls play a basketball game. In the living room of my grandparent’s house in Racine. It was an old Black and White TV. I remember Racine more after we got back from Thailand.


wander project Thailand

Moving to Thailand was a huge change for my whole family. We were starting with the fact that all of us left our friends (and family) back in the state. The other side was we left cold, wandered to cold (Ireland and then France) to arrive in Hot (Bangkok). It wasn’t hot that we were used to either. It was hot the entire time we were in Thailand. There was no fall, no spring, just hot season, and then more humid season. In between the warm season and the warmer season was the wet season. I was not prepared for what a monsoon was. I had read the works of Somerset Maughan before arriving in Thailand (his focus was more on the Islands of the South Pacific in his works). I had read many works talking about monsoons.


I can write today about monsoon. I can tell you that it is a different experience. I used to travel to Seattle, Washington. It rains many days in Seattle, but the rainfall isn’t much. A monsoon is a lot of rain in a short period. It happens almost every day of the rainy season. The clouds rolled in, the sky opened up, and the rain fell. So much that several times the Soi (street) we lived on (Soi 12) was flooded. There were 2, 3 inches of water covering the road, parking lot, and the world. The rain stopped, and within an hour, the water was gone. It was amazing. I cannot describe in words that make sense the sheer amount of water that fell during those monsoon rainy days.

The other transition for me was going to a British School. I had been to US schools for several years by the time we got to Bangkok. At the time, the International School had a reputation for having a huge drug problem, Drugs, in that part of the world are more and less available than in the US. My parents were nervous, so they enrolled in my middle sister and me in an English school. The reality of an English school is that the school is very different than what I was used to, and I had to transition fast. The one thing I remember was homework was different. We went to school (starting at 6 am, and going until 12:30 pm) to avoid the hottest part of the day. It was a big transition!


wander project Thailand

Ellie shared a virtual tour of Thailand a few days ago. So, some of my favorite images of Pattaya beach. It, Pattaya Beach is south and west of Bangkok. When we went there in the 1970s, it was a 2-hour drive. And, that two-hour drive was on small two-lane roads the entire way. We went several weekends while we lived in Thailand. It is, without a doubt, one of my happiest memories from that time. I have had the opportunity to be back in Thailand twice since returning to the US. It is not the same to arrive as a tourist and then leave again. But it is a different thing in the end. When you have lived somewhere, you are a different type of tourist; you aren’t always going to prominent tourist places.


You are going to where you remember. For me, that was the place I remembered as a child. A few of those places were prominent tourist locations; some of the places we visited when we lived in Thailand were no more. There was the only Pizza joint on our side of Sukhumvit. The Playboy Pizza club was the single Pizza Joint near where our apartment was. So we went, although I think it deeply offended my mother. The other restaurant we went to was called Barney’s hole in the wall. It was more than a hole in the wall, but not by a lot. Barney was a French-Vietnamese national who had fled the country of Vietnam in the late 1960s to settle in Bangkok.

Barney was a French-trained chef, so anything he made was unusual. He had food from every country in that part of the world on the menu. I tried Bouillabaisse for the first time. I had so many foods that, over the time we were in Bangkok, I went from a sheltered American eater (burger, fries, and a milkshake) to someone willing to try the food of the world. That came in handy later on when I traveled for work. But then it was the beginning of an evolution. Right on both my parents for not seeking only America or Western food places and helping us adjust to Thai food quickly. Our live-in housekeeper (she was so much more than that) also was a fantastic cook.


wander project Norway

Ellie shared an excellent virtual tour of Norway a couple of days ago. I thought I would share images from a Fjord in Norway. The pictures are on the way to Gelsinger, Norway. The trip down a Fjord on a cruise ship was enjoyable. In a couple of locations, the optical illusion is that the boat won’t fit. The other trepidation, of course, is, is the Fjord deep enough. In researching the Fjord trip after the fact, the water is between 300 and 500 feet deep most of the trip.  The water is a deep, bright blue, and in walking to the shore when we were on land, the water is freezing. Anyway thought I would back up Ellie’s excellent piece on Norway with some pictures of Norway.


The vacation we took that year was extraordinary. It was my wife’s 25th anniversary present (a couple of days after the actual day)! When we got married, my wife told me she wanted to go to Amsterdam. The last three days of our trip were spent in Amsterdam. We also took the Viking Cruise, not Viking Cruise line but a cruise of where the Vikings wandered nearly 1000 years ago. Norway was the first stop, and I have shared those memories many times. The other thing I wanted to share was a plug when things are again safe for the Cruise Ship industry. Over the years, we have been on several cruises. They are enjoyable trips. You get to your room, and you can explore from there your stuff is safe.

I understand in the era of COVID-19 that people call Cruise Ships floating Petri dishes. To a degree, they are. But the reality of where we are now is that airplanes spread the disease, not Cruise ships. Yes, being on a cruise ship was very bad for many people, but in the end, the reality of the situation was, had we shut off air travel to china faster, we could have stopped this crisis a lot faster. Many of the cruise companies are going to struggle for the next few years. I thought I would give my plug for them when things settle down. I also highly recommend the Costa Cruise Line Viking Cruise. You get to see Denmark, Germany, and Norway. When the ship docks, you can even storm ashore like the Vikings themselves did!


wander project memories and water

I can’t wander to water right now physically. The lake nearest me is closed for human use. The other lake is still open, but it is a little harder to get to, and we haven’t gone to date. I suspect we will walk around the smaller lake soon. I miss being around the water. The problem is that all parks and playgrounds have been closed near us. So I suspect that at least ½ the lake is closed. Who knows, in the days of stay at home, what and how we interact with the world is very different.  Instead, I am going to spend the rest of this post having fun with the pictures that I am sharing today. Fifteen years ago, we had a chance to go to Mexico. In particular to the city of Nueva Porto on the Pacific Ocean.


We’ve been to both sides of the US, and both sides of Mexico (Atlantic and Pacific). The reason I was excited about this trip was that it was by the city of Puerto Vallarta. Ok, so now everyone thinks Doc has been stuck in his office far too long. I had a guilty pleasure I was a teenager. I watched the show “Love Boat” with my sisters. We also watched the show “BJ and the Bear.” Love Boat was a show about the Cruise Ship (ok, not a floating petri dish). It was about the stories of the people. They, on the Love Boat, docked in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. So, getting to go IRL (in-real-life) was fascinating for me. I know it wasn’t a lot of anything, but it was exciting for me!

Every evening there was a pirate ship that slipped out of the harbor and fired off a cannon. Perhaps to announce that pirates don’t like tourists. Or maybe to announce the impending sunset. Or maybe just to keep the gun clean in case of later need to reinstitute the private life on the Pacific Ocean. We made sure to watch that ship every single day! Back then, we were sardine vacationing. To keep costs down, we all shared one room. We usually got a place with two king beds and a cot. I wonder if we maintained a safe distance back then! We enjoyed that vacation, other than the fear of the private uprising. That part made me nervous. Anyway, today a wonder, wander to water!


wander project water…

I thought today I would share some images of water. I realized looking at one of the pictures that I take a lot of pictures of sailboats. I have always been involved with boats, but I’ve only gone sailing a few times in my life. My love is of ships, and I love seeing sailboats on the water. There are a lot of sailboats on the various tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay.  But the thing that I love the most is the water itself. The Chesapeake Bay is recovered a bit. In the 1990s, there was a significant fear that the pollution in the Bay would significantly disrupt one of the things that Maryland is indeed known for. The harvesting and production of Blue Crabs from Maryland.


Much as there is the concept to New England Clam Chowder, there is the concept of Maryland Crab Cakes and Crab Balls. The declining health of the Bay was significantly impacting the crabs. Now there are signs reminding people that water poured to the Allegheny mountains ends up in the Chesapeake Bay. So, be careful what you dump into the groundwater system That ecological impact is impressive. If you look at a map (sometimes called a basin map) of a body of water, to see what feeds into that body of water, it is impressive. The bigger the body of water, the higher the overall size of the drainage basin for that body of water! Or, in a broader sense, there is a theoretical line in the US Rocky Mountains that splits the country in half.

Not really, it is a very western line. What it does is show the line where water that falls west of the continental divide flows into the Pacific Ocean. The rain falling on the Eastern side flows to the Atlantic Ocean. What I asked my father as we stood on that line, what happens to water that lands on the divide. My dad didn’t even pause, and smiling said: “water that falls on the line, becomes Coors Beer.” It doesn’t, but it still makes me laugh! Yet it does make you think for a moment, what of the water that lands directly on the theoretical line? It is something that I know I think about from time to time. What is the water splits if it falls on the line, half going one way and the other half going the other way!

Link to the drainage map for the Chesapeake Bay. https://www.cbf.org/about-the-bay/maps/geography/chesapeake-bay-watershed.html


Wander project a moment…

The last picture is one that I forgot we had in the archive. It is a picture of Fran, snuggling with the kids on the couch. The three kids are more prominent now; they wouldn’t fit that way on the couch. Fran has been gone for six years now. But it doesn’t matter what time changed the moment captured in this picture is forever. A digital image was taken and held indefinitely in my heart: the moment and the opportunity. We had an open house in Indiana. We have an open house in Maryland. When we first moved to Maryland, our house was not accessible. It was more of a closed residence with one room at the back of the house that was more open. It was the living/family room area in the home.


Open houses, in particular, a living room with big windows, is one of my wife’s goals for a home! Over the years, we lived in the house; we had two different couches in the space where you use the smaller lounge. We ended up getting a sectional (we had one in the basement). Kids and dogs are hard on furniture, and you sometimes have to replace things more often. But the last picture today is of that moment captured with my wife hugging Fran. The first two pictures are of the Skyline of Chicago, Illinois, from the waterside. We spent a lot of time in Chicago, well I did, the kids and my wife visited me from time to time. Chicago was a unique place for me.

I was born just outside of the old town, Chicago. I lived there in Skokie and then Vernon hills until I was five years old. We then moved to Bloomington, Indiana. It is a memory I will never forget. Not that it was wrong, mind you, it was a huge change. A lot of what is my life now, in terms of memories either happened in Bloomington, Bangkok, or Lake Ripley (Cambridge Wisconsin). I have many memories of Chicago, but that is more later memories hanging out with friends when I was working downtown. Downtown Chicago is something I remember but more the museums we used to go to when I was little. The Field Museum of Natural history, the Shedd Aquarium, and the Museum of Science and Industry are all places I have many memories of from my childhood!