Thursday, July 21, 2016

In Search of One Night’s Sleep

So we are on the road again. Hub and I find ourselves amidst commuters and vacationers ahead of us on heavily traveled roads, in front of us at Starbucks, the restroom, tollbooths and traffic lights. In our cocoon of a home and town we maintain a degree of isolation from the summer madness, rarely driving to crowded malls or supermarkets or tourist attractions. Our chosen mode of transportation is bicycle or our feet.

We left home mid-afternoon, planning to stop along the way at a motel and finish our trek to northern Vermont the following day.

We exited the New York Thruway at Kingston in search of dinner and a comfortable bed. I was impressed by a downtown lined with appealing eating establishments, retail stores, including an independent bookstore, an LGBTQ community center, and a variety of businesses from yoga and fitness studios to law offices.

Opening the door to a tavern a couple exiting at the same time told us, ”You don’t want to go in. The kitchen is closed tonight.”

Hub asked, “Any suggestions where we can go? Never been here before.”

The man thought a moment and responded, “Around the corner are a couple of places with great food…one has cauliflower wings, excellent…”

I didn’t need to hear more.

We found the restaurant, a bit pricier than we would have liked but we enjoyed delicious food on an outdoor deck furnished with a lively bar and huge screen showing movies (To Catch a Thief). Hub researched motels  while waiting for our food and eventually said, “We must be in a resort area. Cheapest place I can find is $165. Maybe we should continue driving after dinner.”

Which is exactly what we did.

Once again we headed north on the Thruway. A few minutes later I realized my long-sleeve shirt remained on the back of my chair on the restaurant’s deck. I called the restaurant – we weren’t going to turn around – and the shirt will be waiting for me when, hopefully, I remember to stop by and retrieve it on the way home this weekend.

Hub drove and I searched for a motel room, my go-to ap Yelp.

One town within reasonable driving distance seemed promising, listing several places. I touched the screen on the most highly rated to read the reviews. The first one began, “This was the first nudity place I ever visited…” The website describes the place as a “clothing optional nudist resort”. Reading further I discover it is a campground. No tent or RV? You can buy a single day pass, or a season day pass.

Uh oh. I don’t think so. I don’t want strangers gazing at my nude body, and I certainly do not want to look at other nude bodies hanging around the pool, riding bikes, playing volleyball and walking along the nature trails (viewed in pictures of peoples’ backs on the website). I cannot afford all the bug spray and suntan lotion needed to lather my nude body.  Where do people put their cash in case he or she wants to buy a drink or more bug spray?

Luckily a moderately priced chain motel was right off the next exit. By the time we arrived at the motel it was dark, we were tired, but most important the bed, adorned with several pillows, felt comfy.

We collapsed into sleep heaven.

One issue unresolved: Why is traveling, sitting and not moving the body, so exhausting? 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Best of Boomers Look Back and Move On

Real spring never arrived in my town this year. Cold, wet, ugly conditions existed during most of what is traditionally known as spring. But the weather gods finally got their act together and, perhaps as an apology for the appalling spring, delivered a beautiful summer (so far) of warm sunny days. 

Currently the humidity oppresses, but occasional humid days are part of the summer experience. Not a cloud in the sky, leaves on trees move subtly in the breeze, the beach teems with sun worshippers and kids cavorting, and a steady stream of folks converge on our beach cottage. We relax with friends during lazy evening dinners highlighted by steamed clams and fresh-picked Jersey corn.

We bid visitors farewell and collapse, relax, recover, reenergize and prepare for our next guests. The pattern prevails throughout summer and fall, then ceases during the winter months. As boomer friends relocate permanently or seasonally to far corners of the country, we treasure our time together.

Many boomers wandered far from home starting with college. Today boomers migrate to Sunbelt or other desirable locales while others return to childhood communities.

Speaking of moving, Tom Sightings reports that he is in the middle of that great American retirement dream...downsizing. For the latest see Today We Move, and for some humorous background check out We're Drowning in Boxes!

I have encountered people who returned to my beach community full time, or as snowbirds, after thirty or forty years working around the globe.

And speaking of working…Laura Lee Carter has been fantasizing lately about other lives she might have had if her mind had been more open and she had known herself better in her early 20's, when she chose her first career.

We Boomers couldn't wait to leave home. But our children and grandchildren's generations? Not so much.  What do you do when your grown child won't leave the nest? A couple of psychologists weigh in over at Heart-Mind-Soul. Carol Cassara shares their thoughts here.  

On a more sober note, on The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist, writes about the need to revise the Funeral Rule so consumers can get cost information on the Internet. Two consumers groups have petitioned the Federal Trade Commission to take action now rather than waiting until 2019. Consumers are likely to spend at least $50 billion on funeral services between 2016 and 2019. A nationwide survey by the Funeral Consumers Alliance and Consumer Federation of America found that few funeral homes fully disclosed prices online.

The weather outside beckons, shouts of kids playing override the hum of the air conditioner and neighbors pass by, intent on completing errands or stealing time at the beach. It is a peaceful microcosm in a world gone wild.

Enjoy the season and hope your week is safe and peaceful.

Imagine all the people living life in peace.
You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.
I hope someday you'll join us,
and the world will be as one.
- John Lennon 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

10 Excuses for Missing Exercise Class


Numerous articles appear in newspapers and magazines, on websites and blogs about the importance of exercising, different types of exercise, the latest exercise fads…the list goes on and on.

No articles–at least none that I have seen–about the art of missing classes. We all do it. Or most of us do. Olympic athletes and super jocks aside, there are times most of us, or some of us, simply do not want to sweat and exert ourselves. We make excuses for NOT exercising.

What if an individual is not creative enough to formulate his or her own excuses?

There was no help. Until now.

I have lots of experience missing exercise class, and amassed a plethora of reasons why. The vast majority are weak excuses, I humbly admit, but justifications nevertheless.

A feeling of guilt emerges when attempting to wear an outfit that does not fit as well as in the past. Because of inconsistent workouts, unwanted bulges suddenly appear. Once acquired they become difficult, if not impossible, to lose, forever glued to waist, hip, or another part of my body now ampler and squishier than before. Yet I remain an erratic exerciser. I try for consistency but am weak, with not enough willpower, motivation, endurance, energy, whatever, to maintain a rigid schedule.

Over the years I concocted an assortment of excuses for foregoing exercise at the gym or anywhere else. In case you seek reasons to avoid the hard work, feel free to use one or more of mine.

In no special order, here are 10 Excuses for Missing Exercise Class. Need more? Let me know and I will be happy to provide additional suggestions.
  1.      I need the extra time to clean the house. Company is coming. 
  2.      I cannot abandon my company. 
  3.      My alarm did not go off and I missed my early morning class. The rest of the day is tightly programmed, so no exercise this particular day. 
  4.      It is too cold and dark to venture out so early in the morning (obviously a seasonal excuse). Or hot (although the gym is air conditioned, it gets warmer and more uncomfortable inside as the temperature and humidity outside rises). Or severe rainstorms. Or any weather event offering a pretext to stay home. 
  5.      I forgot to do laundry and have no clean exercise clothes. 
  6.      I am too tired and sore from over-exercising yesterday/the day before yesterday/three days ago. 
  7.      I am traveling, so cannot attend class. Much as I should work out while away, there is not enough space in my hotel/motel/airbnb/family quarters. 
  8.      I have an early appointment/meeting and, if exercising, would not have time to shower and change. 
  9.      It is a holiday, the gym is closed, and I might as well take the day off too. 
  10.      I stayed up late the night before watching a great movie/attending a meeting/going out with friends and need the extra sleep before tackling the day.

 And so it goes, one step forward then two steps back, another step forward followed by a period of no measurable success (weight loss? inches lost? improved stamina? stronger yoga pose?)…My workout life!

To those quiet souls out there who do not want to exercise and need reasons not to, I hear you. We are a new silent minority. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Showtime in the Big Apple


Hub dropped me off at the bus terminal at 7:40 a.m., in plenty of time to make the 8:00 Greyhound to New York City. A 2-½ hour ride, I would be discharged into the Big Apple’s streets by 10:30 in the morning.

A few anxious moments ensued as the terminal’s PA system announced a delay in departure time. Meeting friends for lunch at 11:45 before seeing the Broadway production Kinky Boots, I had all the tickets in hand (actually in my oversize bag) and could not be late.

We planned this reunion months ago. Finding a Wednesday matinee day everyone could make proved challenging, but four friends converged on Manhattan the last Wednesday in June.

The bus pulled into the Atlantic City bus terminal bay about 8:20, and by 8:30 drove out again. Three-quarters full of single men and women like myself, a few couples and family groups, some with suitcases but most without, we settled into comfortable seats for the ride north on the Garden State Parkway.

I pulled out a paperback and settled into reading mode. The bus remained quiet, a couple of muffled conversations occasionally heard. Most people settled into their seat, eyes closed, others checked emails and played games on electronic devices. Electric power outlets next to the seats allowed long-term use without worrying about dying batteries.

A traffic backup entering the Lincoln Tunnel into the city the only delay, the bus pulled into the basement of the Port Authority Bus Terminal at 11:00 a.m. Everyone quietly filed out of the bus and into the bustling terminal, maneuvering upstairs and outside onto busy, intensely sun-drenched city streets.

The restaurant a four-block walk, I meandered slowly along Eighth Avenue. Or tried. Too many people jostling each other, walking in all directions, entering and leaving stores and restaurants, humanity spilling over sidewalks and curbs onto the street. Some did not move at all, a hand stretched out begging for a dollar, street vendors imploring passersby to purchase their wares, tourists posing while companions snap pictures.

Entering the restaurant, on the other hand, a quiet, muted atmosphere greeted me. A half hour early, the place was just beginning to fill with diners eager to fill their stomachs before heading to the theater.

I settled into our table, the first of our group to arrive. The other three soon wandered in, hot and disheveled after bumping crowds in the increasingly hot sun.

Following a leisurely lunch we walked around the corner to the Al Hirschfeld Theater for the day’s main event–Kinky Boots.

The 2-½ hour production knocked our socks off, as the saying goes. From the moment the lights lowered until the very end, we laughed, clapped, and listened intently to the story of a failing English factory that found an offbeat way to extend its life.

Based on a true story, the Northampton, England factory confronted the fate of businesses across England and throughout the industrialized world–a drastic loss of business due to foreign competition. The show takes liberties with the details of the story, but the premise remains true.

The 100-year-old men’s shoe factory faced the prospect of closing. A chance request for women-styled shoes strong enough to withstand the stress of a man’s weight energized the factory owner. He accepted the challenge, designing footwear for transvestites.

The result is a hilarious 2 ½ hours of fun.

Unfortunately the postscript on the true story is not as cheerful as the show’s ending. The move into transvestite footwear bought the factory additional time but eventually closed, the victim once again of fierce overseas competition.

Kinky Boots is a story of the struggle for survival of a company and the people it shaped, a tale about seeking alternatives when life appears stacked against you. It is also a story of tolerance - accepting folks different from yourself, and acknowledging who you are. As the performers belt out in the show:

Just be.
Who you wanna be.
Never let ‘em tell you who you ought to be
Just be. With dignity.
Celebrate yourself triumphantly.

The bus home left the city on time, the first part of the trip slowed by rush hour traffic. As  the city receded, the energized urban atmosphere transformed into a quieter landscape of green, fewer people, buildings, vehicles and noise, and finally the scent of salt air. A summer day in the city is fun, but summer at the shore is heaven.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Oven 101

Who would think I required instructions for an oven? After all, I have been cooking forever, or so it seems.

But apparently a lesson on our new kitchen range proved necessary.

Backtracking…we purchased a new range about a month ago. Nowadays I rarely use a traditional oven. My microwave includes a convection bake and roast feature, and I have become a fan of the convection cooking process. Also the microwave is smaller than the oven. We are a two person household and do not need a huge oven.

Ovens are useful when others join the party. A couple of weeks ago I cooked dinner for 10 people. Nothing fancy, roast chicken.

I had never used my new oven, but was unconcerned. I have owned and operated ovens throughout my adult life. They are not difficult, complex machines. Controls are well marked and understandable.

I checked the chicken while cooking, gradually growing anxious. The birds barely cooked, stubbornly remaining tough when pierced and refusing to turn golden brown…

Dinnertime rolled around and passed, everyone hungry, especially the kids. Bedtime neared…

We ate a meal course-by-course, salad, bread, then veggies. Increasing the oven temperature helped, but obviously my shiny new appliance was flawed.

Eventually enough chicken baked for dinner.

The following day hub called the store where we purchased the oven and set a date for the repairman to come and check out our defective appliance.

The repairman drove up about 3:00 p.m. I guess working folk figure retirees have nothing better to do all day than wait for repair people. But on the positive side he did show up. Trusty repairman and hub huddled around the range.

A few minutes later hub calls me in for a consultation.

The repair guy says something like, “This temperature problem has been an issue with these hi-tech ovens. You are not the first to complain. The oven temperature can vary about 30 degrees above or below the set temperature. I reset it for a deviation of 20 high to compensate. But now you can plan your cooking. All this information is detailed on page eight in the manual. If this is not enough, you can modify the setting to 30 degrees; it requires some experimentation.” 

What?

I never read page eight of the manual. I never read pages one through seven, or any page after eight either.

I thought I knew how to use an oven.

Silly me. The latest technology overtook my limited knowledge, making oven information stored in my brain inadequate, unworthy of my new appliance.

My chickens took forever to bake because the temperature remained 30 degrees lower than the temperature set and the temperature indicated on the control panel. I told my family this was a very forgettable meal, but they corrected me. It will be a very memorable meal, they informed me, just not in the way I might like.

I flunked my first cooking assignment with my new appliance. My next assignment will be a repeat performance, hopefully more successful.

The problem: I have no plans in the near future to cook for 10 people. What would I do with all the extra food?

I may have to settle for cooking for two, or maybe four or five, inviting friends or freezing leftovers.

I do not want to flunk Oven 101 a second time. 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Joy of Doing Almost Nothing

It might be decadent to admit, but I spent an entire day doing almost nothing. Following two weeks of family interaction, travel, sun fun, a bit of intellectual brain activity, my six decades plus body alerted me – ENOUGH!

Kids and a mud pit - an irresistible combination 
 Arriving home from a Road Scholar Intergenerational program with our grandson, the three of us – me, hub, and Hayden - fell onto comfy chairs and couches, barely moving. The twelve-year-old retained enough energy to adeptly maneuver fingers on his electronic device. Hub managed to turn the TV on and channel surf. I started the first of copious loads of laundry. Hayden’s filthy, mud-spattered, smelly clothes, the product of days trekking through the salt marsh, wetlands, and the beach, required a thorough cleaning. Hub and my clothes were almost as dirty.

Foul-smelling laundry bags...
Slowly shuffling to the laundry room, transferring clothes from foul-smelling laundry bags to the washer, then the dryer, out of the dryer, and repeat, the activity sucked whatever energy remained in my body. Following three loads I gave up and sank into bed.

The following day became my day of doing almost nothing. More laundry, catching up on the news and emails, preparing and eating simple meals – only two, a late breakfast of bagels, and dinner - grilled chicken and our first delicious seasonal asparagus.

I felt drained. My body craved idleness and sleep. It was as if all the energy this sixty-something body could muster was used up over the past couple of weeks.

It was time to recharge.

I know I am lucky to be able to do nothing for a day. No pressure to return to an office or anywhere else at a specific time. Whatever must be done could wait a day.

Giving in to the exhaustion proved a worthwhile endeavor. I woke up the following morning wide-awake and eager to start the day.

Hungry, I looked forward to cooking breakfast.

We met friends for lunch, riding bikes the two miles to the restaurant and a few more miles after lunch, tired when returning home but energized.

I spent an hour and a half in the garden, catching up following two weeks of benign neglect.

Now I am ready for a busy week beginning with a 7:00 a.m. zumba class tomorrow morning.

And I do not feel any guilt for taking a day off, doing almost nothing, enjoying every minute of it.

The joy of doing almost nothing. I will have to do it again some time… 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Two Weeks of Kid-Centered Summer Fun

It began with two granddaughters, swelled to what looked like a family reunion, 
And dwindled to hub, me, and our grandson.
We continue our kid-centered activity until the weekend, then collapse from exhaustion.

A quick look at family fun in the sun...
 
We visited the Zoo, always a kid favorite.
We rented bikes and rode to the library, along the boardwalk, and to our favorite bagel store.
 
Of course there was lots of beach time. Luckily the weather cooperated most days.
 
The newest member of our clan  visited along with her family, and cousins connected.
 
More family descended, and the entire family enjoyed dessert at our favorite ice cream place.
 
 
Three of us left the rest of the family Sunday morning and
Headed to The Assateague/Chincoteague area on the eastern shore of Virginia.
Hub, me, and Hayden are participating in a Road Scholar Intergenerational program.
Theme: Marine Science
There is beach time...
 
Boat time, testing water and trawling for marine life.
 
 
Marsh and wetlands walks, here checking for critters caught.
 
Even scientists need an ice cream fix.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Happy Father's Day, Dad


The following post first appeared June 19, 2011. 
I am re-posting in honor of Father's Day.
Dad’s birthday was June 14th, and Father’s Day is Sunday. He is not around anymore to celebrate with us, but his spirit is. He died a few years ago, in his 80s, and I believe he enjoyed his life – at least most of it. 
Dad’s father died when he was a toddler, and his Mom raised him and his sister. His Mom (my grandmother) never remarried. He formed a close-knit group of buddies in elementary school that remained friends throughout their lives. He grew up poor. Although so many suffered during the Depression, Dad knew he was worse off than his friends, but he never complained. He had a great disposition, looking at the positive side of things and shrugging off the problems. 
He started college but left to serve in World War II. He was a radioman in Europe and wounded. After the war he returned to New York City, went to work, married Mom, had two daughters, and completed college during the 1950s by attending City College night classes. Advertising his profession, he worked for several agencies, including for a short time his own.
Mom and Dad experienced money problems during the 1960s as inflation rampaged, but after my sister and I left the nest and graduated from college, they traveled, participated in Elderhostel programs, and took the grandchildren on trips. Between trips, volunteer activities and social events they fit us in and saw us once in a while.
Eventually diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, the last few years were difficult, especially for Mom. But it was COPD that got Dad in the end. His heart and lungs wore out, but it was a blessing compared to suffering the ravages of what Alzheimer’s does to its victims at the end.
Almost up to the very end Dad played blackjack; the few seconds it took to play was enough time for him to complete a hand, often successfully. But he frequently did not remember where he was. One time he went to the casino hotel desk and said he could not remember his room number. He was not staying at the hotel. 

Another time he wandered off and got lost in the parking garage (which a lot of us do occasionally, including me). He called us on the cell phone. We told him to hand the phone to anyone near him wearing a uniform. He found a security guard and we told the guard not to let Dad get away. 

Then there was the time – pre-9-11 – he drove a rental car through a metal fence and onto the runway at West Palm Beach Airport. He kept driving until he found the way out.
Dad was in and out of the hospital with COPD and related ailments for years. He and Mom were  celebrating their 50th anniversary and taking the whole family to Hawaii - except Dad needed gall bladder surgery and the doctor said there was no way he could go. He insisted the rest of us (except Mom) go. The kids and grandkids had a great time, and anytime on the island cruise passengers were asked, “Who is celebrating an anniversary?” we all yelled: "We are! We are!"

One year Mom threw him Dad a birthday bash, but he was in the hospital and the hospital would not release him. I think it was his 83rd birthday. Hub and Mom went to the hospital, checked him out and brought him home. (We figured, what was the worst that could happen?) He loved the celebration with all his friends and family. 

Happy Father's Day, Dad. We love you.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Best of Boomers Plunge into Summer While the Dog Has His Day

Summer craziness began at our house this weekend. We now have two granddaughters for a week, and additional family descends during the week. We love the chaos, but it is exhausting. A byproduct of the activity is no time to read the paper, listen to the news, catch up with the latest newsflash and social media chatter. Driving home from the airport with our charges, the horrendous events in Orlando filtered in over the radio. We immediately changed stations, not wanting to upset the little girls over horrors they cannot understand. Let them enjoy summer bike rides to the ice cream store and other simple childhood pleasures as long as possible…

We hosted adult guests during the week. The highlight of our get-together was a visit to a wildlife refuge. A laid-back summer bird-watching expedition turned into something quite different. Read about our experience in Marooned at the Refuge.

It's rare, indeed, when a young person acknowledges a Boomer for their advice. Carol Cassara at Heart-Mind-Soul shows us a beautiful note she got from a 20-something nephew that did just that, and her response to it in Wisdom of Elders.

In a different but related piece, she asks how Boomer readers are harnessing the wisdom of age for those coming up behind us.

Bloggers at times spotlight a guest blogger on their site. This week Laura Lee says her pooch Rasta requested to provide a guest post on humans and their gadgets this week. We may love gadgets, but do our dogs?

I love the Remember Her/Him posts offered occasionally by Tom Sightings, although I admit to not recognizing many of the people until almost the end of the post. Tom Sightings offers one of his Remember Her? posts this week. She was an icon of the 1950s, who, had she lived, she would have turned 90 years old on June 1 -- the same age as Queen Elizabeth.So channel surf over to Sightings Over Sixty to see if you can guess who she was, to find out a few interesting things about her background ... and to check out some of Tom's other recent posts. 

On The Survive and ThriveBoomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist, writes about two financial tips that could help you. If you co-sign for a loan with someone, such as an adult child, not only could it damage your relationship, it also could affect your credit score. And, if you’re going to rent a car this summer, be sure to check and see what coverage your credit card issuer will provide and if your auto insurance company also provides coverage. If neither one offers adequate coverage, it might be wise to accept the liability insurance and collision damage waiver offered by the car rental company. 

As we plunge into summer activities, take a couple of minutes to pause, remember and offer prayers for those slaughtered this weekend. 

Friday, June 10, 2016

Marooned at the Refuge

The pristine wilderness of the wildlife refuge.
An afternoon in the Edwin B.Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge highlighted my week. Visiting friends are avid bird watchers and the park offers ideal sightings.

The sun sparkled as we left home, but the sky began clouding over as we entered the park. Weather.com noted the possibility of rain 60% in the late afternoon. It was around noon. 

The unpaved park road meanders about eight miles through the refuge. Short walking trails dot the park and we planned to hike a couple of trails observing flora and fauna close up. Our keen-eyed passengers spotted animal life and we stopped often for pictures. I felt we were unwanted intruders disturbing the solitude, lone visitors this weekday. Casino towers of Atlantic City loomed over ten miles away in one quadrant of our 360 vision, while along the horizon marsh and bay waters, stretching to the Atlantic Ocean, met gray sky, our view unmarred by cars or humans.
 
The sky clouds over 
As the wind picked up clouds drifting overhead became increasingly ominous. The sun retreated, the atmosphere more like twilight than high noon.

My phone beeped, indicating an incoming message. I read aloud:

“Alert. Code RED Weather Warning: The National Weather Service has issued a Severe Thunderstorm warning for your location from 12:37 PM until 1:15 PM.”

It was 12:38 P.M.

My phone and hub’s phone rang simultaneously, the same recorded Code RED message playing.

Why were we the recipients of these warnings? After Superstorm Sandy, our town advised residents to subscribe to National Weather Service alerts for our area as well as to our city’s automated phone service communicating warnings of storms, power outages, and other unusual occurrences.

Before the message ended, the wind started whistling and swirling around us. The temperature plunged and rain, initially a drizzle, swiftly increased in intensity and fierceness, battering the car’s roof and windshield.

We closed the windows, tightened our seat belts, and hub picked up speed.

No one said much, everyone too intent on the activity encircling us. Tension inside the car soared as the storm raged outside. We all thought: let’s get out of here. Now, our leisurely-paced tour of the wildlife refuge transformed into a strong desire to get out of the open as soon as possible, quickly but safely.

The landscape totally flat, the road barely a couple of feet above water, questions rolled around our brains, everyone too petrified to voice their fears: What happens if the waters begin rising? What do we do if waves wash over the road? The winds rattle our car? We love our Mazda, but it is not the sturdiest vehicle to withstand a storm.

News headlines flashed through my head: Black Mazda found in national park bay. Search continues for survivors…

We stared straight ahead, silently beckoning the woods ahead closer. We held our breath as the car forged ahead on the narrow dirt road separating two wildly choppy bodies of water, windshield wipers furiously shifting back and forth, the only sounds shattering rain and howling winds.

After an interminable amount of time, but probably only 15 minutes, we reached the woods. The park exit half a mile away, our fears subsided and tensions eased, thrilled we avoided a calamitous end.

“Uh-oh, I can’t believe it,” hub’s voice broke the silence.

Staring straight ahead, our eyes widened at the sight of a tree across the road directly in front of us, a massive, unmovable trunk with no way around it.

Headlines: Tree falls in wildlife refuge and four tourists hear it. Unfortunately it was the last thing they heard…

I grabbed the park brochure on the seat next to me and dialed the park number.

“Hello, Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge,” a woman’s cheery voice announced.

“We are on the road through the park, about a half mile from the end, and there is a tree in the road. We can’t pass.”

“You are in the woods?”

“Yes.”

“OK, I will contact the park rangers and they will be there shortly.”
Hub and I attempting to move the tree off the road.
Suddenly giddy and laughing about our plight, marooned in the wilderness, we grabbed our cameras and phones and took pictures.

Twenty minutes passed. A white pickup truck with lights on drove towards us, barely visible through the limbs and leaves of the fallen tree.

A ranger got out and walked over to us.

“The weather is gnarly. Can’t remove the tree until the weather improves. Turn around and drive back along the road. You’ll make it.”

“Gnarly?” I repeated to my three companions.

“Really bad,” Jane explains.

Headline: Gnarly Weather Blamed as Four Tourists Perish in Sudden Storm.

On the return trip through the park we noticed this fellow
surviving the storm by sheltering in place.
With sighs of resignation and stomachs starting to growl, we turned around and retraced our drive.

The remainder of the trip proved blissfully uneventful. The rain slowed to a trickle and the sinister clouds dissipated. In the distance blue slivers pierced the sky and a couple of rays of sun shone through.

Reaching the end of the park road, we breathed a collective sigh of relief and imparted loud shouts of joy. All four of us experienced enough pristine, solitary wilderness for one day. Actually for the entire summer.

But we got some great pictures. And memories.
After the storm we enjoyed lunch at a bar on the bay. I was so cold I bought a sweatshirt.
Storm over but winds still strong.