Sunday, August 29, 2010

Are we crazy and too young to do this?

I read a blog recently by Freely Living Life on the topic How young is too young? It was an interesting take on why some people found it difficult to accept “younger” people engaging in what some think are things reserved for “older” “well to do” people. The belief is that in order to qualify for full timing as a lifestyle one had to be older, retired, and fairly well off financially… Their blog set about blasting this ideology and was followed with many comments that supported their thesis… I thought I would add my two cents in the form of a story instead of comments…

When we first decided that we were going to fulltime we did so sort of spontaneously but, we didn’t just stop everything and just do it! I had long planned the day we would “retire” and had picked the ripe “old” age of 55 to do so. I invested wisely and lived frugally so I could be come FIRE’d (financially independent - retired early) as was suggested on a forum I frequent ( Here was a site that brought together similar people with the desire to get out of the rat race as early as possible. No one asked anyone how old they were or how well off they were but many offered their ages and finances anyhow. Thus, over time I learned to know who some of these people were through their avatars and came to discover that they were of all ages and of all economic classes. So to say one had to be old to retire was definitely not true and to say one had to be wealthy was also not true. Now I admit both of these topics are highly subjective.

FIRST WEDDING ANNIVERSARY When we celebrated our first wedding anniversary many years ago were we really any different then than we are now? Now even though we have made the decision to “retire” many years later we never made the decision that this meant we would never work again. Thus, retirement is may not be what we have actually chosen… it may merely be a form of living life fully…

Many years after our first wedding anniversary we have made the decision to fully live life… Are we smarter now than when we very young? Maybe, but inside we are still the same two people we were back then just with a little wisdom thrown in.. But even as we shared 2008 summerour plans with our friends and acquaintances we discovered similarities with what many other bloggers said they experienced. Were we crazy!!! Most focused on age… how could we do this at the age of fifty five which is really an indirect way of saying how can you afford to do so? This was pointed out in the blog How young is too young? when they said “…do not judge a person based on their age for you do not know what path they have already walked in life. This goes both ways.” and I might add the old adage…Don’t judge a book by it cover…

Many have commented that life is too short and that to let it pass you by without living it fully was the mistake many make… to wait for the big pension or the appropriate nest egg would likely cause one to just end up not “retiring” at all... Yes we do only have one shot at this and as The Gypsy G-Mas said in their comment... “There are so many people who don't follow their dreams because they believe they have to reach some magical age. By the time that age arrives they are no longer able to achieve those dreams or they have lost track of what those dreams are.”  I couldn’t agree with this statement more…

live life fully There are many out there that think we have lost our minds, that we will run out of money, that we have gone stark raving crazy and are madly insane… well all I really have to say to them is that I am going to give this a go and to not do so would leave me with lots of regrets…

live life fully…

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The morning news…

Breaking News So for the last 40+ years I have always read a local morning paper. I have done this for so long that my early mornings have become quite ritualized. I wake up fairly early in the am… so early that I am sure that in a previous life I did something wrong and was cursed to a lifetime of rising before the sun…

So… as a result, I subscribed to the local newspaper and would look forward to rustling through the pages each and every morning. So each and every morning has always included this one act – reading the morning’s newspaper.

My ritual has evolved over the years to include reading blogs and newsgroups on the computer but it has always meant that at some point in the morning I take the stroll out front to pick up the morning paper. Today’s ritual is fairly simple…

headline story copyI wake anytime from 4:30 am to 6:00 am but rarely outside of these times. I then usually make sure the coffee is set up and start the coffee (if it hasn’t auto-started)… hearing the wonderful perking sound is how I know my day has officially begun. Next, it is off to the computer to catch up on the financial news, some RV boards, and several blogs that I follow on stock picking and RV’ing. Once the perking sound stops the alarm sounds signifying the coffee is done and I get my first cup of coffee and stroll outside to look for the newspaper. Inhaling the morning air and soaking in the predawn darkness or light is all part of the ritual.

Once I have secured my paper I then return to the confines of my bed where I separate the glossy pieces (advertisements) from the rest. Scanning very briefly through the ads unless they interest me I discard them to the stack and start with the front page. I have an order to how I read the paper – I don’t know why but I have always read it in the same order for years with sports being the last section I read. Then before tossing the paper I do the Sudoku puzzle. After this mental challenge I am ready to get on with the rest of my day. 

But one morning it was different… Why, you may ask? I didn’t renew my newspaper subscription. Since I won’t be getting them delivered to the RV I figured I may as well get use to it now. Alas! What am I to do now? My ritual has been disrupted and now must evolve again. S0 what do all the full timers do for morning news?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Antarctica 2005 – Back in Ushuaia Argentina…

The Final Leg - February 8-9, 2005    morning in UshuaiaThe morning came early and it was time for us to depart the Le Diamant. The light peaked over the horizon and lit up the mountains  at the end of the world near Ushuaia. Today was my lucky day as I had planned to just go into town and figure out what to do.  However, my newly found British friends insisted I take a tour bus with them since they had a couple of extra already paid for seats.  How could I turn them down :)

The scenic drive to first stop was to be Terra del Fuego National Park (meaning Land of the Fire) which was founded in 1960 and is the scenery in Ushuaiasouthernmost example of the Andean  Patagonian forest. It is located not far from the city of Ushuaia and has two large lakes in the park - Fagnano and Roca lakes. The national park has dramatic scenery, with several waterfalls, lush dense forests, majestic mountains and glaciers.  

Lago Escondido ArgentinaMuch of the area shows the impact of beavers which were introduced to the area and have caused serious damage some places. We took the tour bus to Lake Fagnano,the largest water body in Tierra del Fuego. We then took a hike along the wooded path to Lookout Point which rewarded us with panoramic views out into Fagnano lake which were a quite a treat after seeing nothing but shades of white, black and grey for the past few weeks. After hiking we went down to La Confiteria, the place where the tour bus dropped us off. It is a small lakeside cafe selling snacks and has a small kitchen for food.

Chilean mountains Then we made our way over to Lake Roca which opens into the Lapataia Bay on the southern coast.  This area is a popular point for hiking and boating out to the islands. Once arriving at La Roca we Parque National Tierra del Fuego boarded zodiac boats and set out on the Beagle Channel to Isla Redonda which is a National Reserve that has only recently opened to tourism. Here we enjoyed scenic views of the surrounding wind swept landscape. We took a trail and hiked across the island Crested Caracarawhere we were able to observe the Magellan Cormorants that nest in the area. We then boarded the zodiacs again that took us off towards Bahia Lapatia, the southern end of the world and its pristine serenity.  Here is where the endpoint (or beginning point) of Route 3 is, which is the final leg of the Pan American highway that takes one all the way to Alaska, 13848 km. away. There is a nice boardwalk here that takes you out to the bay providing breath taking views of the Beagle Channel and the distant snow capped Andes mountains in Chile. A caracara was spotted on the shoreline getting a drink... and so ends a trip of a lifetime. Tomorrow I would board Aerolineas Argentinas for the 3.5 hour flight to Buenos Aires and then on back to Texas on a 12 hour flight to Dallas.wind swept trees at Isla Redondo COMMENT: It was fun reliving this trip during my week off from work.  I actually set this blog up many years ago just to document my trip to Antarctica but just wasn’t able to do so at the time. Now it is time to return to work… for the time being.

Some have wondered about my avatar that I chose to represent me. It was this trip that I saw that iceberg and it was a sight of a lifetime on a trip of a lifetime. It was this berg that encouraged me to find more adventures… and so I part with it…THE Berg art hole

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Antarctica 2005 – Day 9 and 10 - Drake passage and Cape Horn…

Day 9 – Sunday , February 6th, 2005 at sea – Drake passage sun setting on a low pressure wall cloud After the polar low settled in last night we left the continent of Capt AyeAntarctica behind and begin the return north. The picture above shows the wall of clouds that were low to the horizon (that was not land).  It was eerie at that time because there was clear sky above  and the wall of clouds completely circled us... We can thank Captain Aye for our safe passage through all the ice bergs.

black browed albatross The morning light peaks over the horizon only to find us at sea crossing the Drake Passage... but today the seas are relatively calm after a rough last night. We must again cross the Drake Passage, known as "the roaring forties,"  heading towards the Cape Horn and eventually back to Ushuaia. Today be will in the Drake for the whole day and will see the Cape Horn last night before Ushuaia sometime early tomorrow morning. This day was spent predominantly on the top deck seeking sea birds and studying the albatrosses at sea… and the day ended with one of the most magnificent sunsets I have ever witnessed.Drake sunset

Day 10 – Monday , February 7th, 2005 at sea – Drake passage Sun rise on the drake

  Again the morning sun rises and greets us all with our last day on the sea in the Le Diamant. Today we will get to sail by the Cape Horn and view it up close, then up the Beagle Channel and finally back to Ushuaia, Argentina. The first land sighted is the Cape Horn… so it appears we will make back across the Drake without acircling the Cape  mishap. A Chilean Pilot comes on board as the military craft lets him off. It turns out to be our lucky day… since the waters are so calm Cape Horn albatross sculpturethe pilot has agreed to let us circumnavigate the Cape Horn… Wow what a treat! As we go around the Cape there is a bit of fog on the lowlands and the water is calm..The megallanic penguins are playing along the water’s edge.  We have sailed so close that we have a clear view of the sculpture on top of Cape Horn. The sculpture is cool in that it has outlined, in its center, the wanderer of the sea… the albatross.

morning in Ushuaia

Before long we have circled the Cape and head down the Beagle Channel till we see the city and port of Ushuaia thus signifying the end of the cruise and this adventure in Antarctica… the end of this journey and the beginning of another… the end


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Antarctica 2005 - Day 8 - Deception Island…

 Day 8 – Saturday, February 5,2005 - Travel to Deception Island

 glacier and arete

The early morning cruise brought us along the volcanic South Shetland islands where we were treated with an early morning rainbow. As we passed through the waterways of the Antarctic volcanic ash and glacierPeninsula we were treated to more stunning pristine views and then I got to see my first humpbacked whale. Later in the morning we reached our destination of Deception Island.

zodiac landing at Deception Isl Deception Island is an island in the South Shetlands off the Antarctic Peninsula. Deception Island was historically a refuge from the storms and icebergs of Antarctica. Deception Island's collapsed volcano Whalers Station ruinsprovides ships one of the safest harbors in Antarctica. The recently active volcano erupted in 1969 and caused serious damage to the  local scientific stations. The remnants of the eruption were obvious on the blackened ice and black streak snow.

whaling station boats The deception of this island was that the bay has a narrow entrance, about 250 meters wide, called Neptune's Bellows because of the fierce winds in the channel. Added to that hazard was Ravn Rock, a large submerged, hull piercing, rock which lies 2.5 m below the water in the middle of the channel. Just inside Neptune's Bellows lies the placid cove of Whalers Bay which is surrounded by a large black volcanic sand beach. Deception Island ruins

Whalers Station ruins with lichensAs we slowly entered Whalers Bay through Neptune's Bellows the damage of this active volcano becomes apparent as the only remaining signs of the whaling station are the rusting boilers and tanks.The  station would take the whale carcasses and boil them down to extract whale oil using large iron boilers and then storing the results in iron tanks. It was abandoned in 1931 and much of it was buried during the 1969 volcano eruption.  Antarctic SkuasOnce anchored in the bay we travelled ashore in the inflatable Zodiac boats. The landscape is moon or mars like and consists of barren volcanic slopes, ash-layered glaciers and beaches that steam as the fumaroles let the hot water from below escape. This large flooded caldera is now home to several colonies of Deception volcanic debris - Marschinstrap penguins and is known for being able to take the polar plunge and then escape the chill by making a warm bath by digging into the black sand of the beach. To this day it is still classified as a restless caldera with a significant volcanic risk.

 714 berg artI hiked along the black sand beach reflecting upon the lives that once were here in this land of solitude.  Over forty of them had been buried here, not once, but twice, after the volcano re-buried them. I passed by an abandoned, wooden whaleboat where a weddels seal was lounging under its shade. The dories were left here in the early1016 Deception RIP 1900's by the whalers along with what remained of the old whaling  station itself. Walking  past the rusting iron boilers and whale bones on the beach made me think what a great setting this site would be for a movie about what it would be like after a nuclear war. Then two crosses marked gravesites near the station suggested I wasn't far off base...

594 tabular bergAfter returning to the luxurious confines of Le Diamant one couldn't help but reflect how hard their lives must have been. As we are leaving, another ship is about to enter the safe harbor so we sail past the bellows and back out to sea. We began to pass huge tabular601 tabular icebergs several the size of football fields and reaching several stories high. Other icebergs were nothing short of finely carved 597 berg art B&Wpieces of art. Later that evening, a violent storm was brewing up and the pressure was dropping quickly. I went up to the bridge and713 tabular berg was told by the captain that we were about to make a hasty departure due to the approaching storm, a nasty polar low that may or may not hit us in transit. He said if we didn't leave now and were a bit unlucky that we would be experience all the drake passage has to offer in 60 foot plus seas.  The "motion sickness" bags once again appeared on the handrails through out the ship... 

NOTE: The volcano on Deception is one of 35 and erupts about once every 35 years with its last eruption a minor one in 1989.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Antarctica 2005 – Day 7 – Esperanza and Hope Bay

Day 7 – Friday, February 4,2005 - Travel to Esperanza and Hope Bay small panorama The Argentine Base Esperanza, meaning Hope in Spanish, is located Esperanza from afarin Hope Bay on the Trinity Peninsula in Antarctic. The base was built built in 1952 and the base houses more than fifty inhabitants in the winter. This base differs from all other outposts in Antarctica in that they have their families here with them so there are children here as well as school teachers.

Esperanza Base has historical significance in that it is the birthplace Adelie chicks sitting on the dock of the bay of Emilio Marcos Palma, the first person known to be born in Antarctica. Now that is cool… “Where were you born?”… “Antarctica!” Most Argentine families today are stationed at this remote base for one year at a time.

The barren base is in the middle of an sizable gentoo flapping with chicksadelie penguin rookery that has over 100,000 pairs. A few gentoo and chinstrap penguins can be seen here as well. The base itself has the look of a barren somewhat lunar place and looksgentoo chick having a bad day as though living here would be quite a hardship. The gentoo chick on the right can attest to this hard life. There is even an historical sight here of the Nordenskjold Expedition hut, a crude stone hut built by some Swedish castaways where they wintered to stay alive before trying to reconnect with their expedition.

Adelies at Esperanza We were all enjoying the scenery of the bay and listening to and watching the adelies when then suddenly the weather was starting to look very ominous.  The winds were kicking up and clouds were rolling in low over the mountains. Then all of the sudden we heard cloudscapethe ship sound the 5 bells alarm which meant for us to return to the ship ASAP. The weather was changing for the worse and time was of the essence. We all made it back but the last zodiac in took on a lot more of the frigid Antarctic water than the rest of us in the formidable wind and waves. Once aboard the ship we were treated with mulled wine and hot chocolate.

more Cloud art Esperanza stormIt was very eerier and ominous when the storm passed through. Cold rain pelted the landscape and the whitecaps looked extremely angry. Once the storm had passed we were treated to a spectacular display of what I call “cloud art.” One appeared to be two UFO’s or alien spacecraft descending on us (lenticular clouds)… the other was nothing more than an amazing display of what mother nature can create when given the right backdrop…

Cloud art Esperanza stormNOTE: Lenticular clouds are stationary lens-shaped clouds that form at high altitudes. They have been mistaken for UFOs because they have a lens appearance and smooth saucer-like shape.

Antarctica 2005 – Day 6 - Neko Harbor

Day 6 - Thursday, February 3, 2005 Travel to Neko Harbor and the Lemaire Channelglacial ice  The morning brought more surreal sights as we were headed blue ice below clear cold water towards Neko Harbor. It is an inlet on the Antarctic Peninsula on Andvord Bay situated on the west coast of Graham Land. There are so many icebergs in the water now and many of them have such beautiful blue tints. Although we have been in Antarctic waters for some time zodiac and the french returnwe have never actually landed on  the Antarctic continent as we have  been stopping at many of the islands off shore. This will be our first real landing on the continent itself and many on board are excited since they have been to all the continents but this one. They have a life goal of visiting all seven continents. 

Neko Harbor is known as one  of the two easiest accessible spots to Neko gentoos and ship the mainland of Antarctica but it is not without its hazards. Glaciers calving off the tabular ice have been known to create eight-foot waves, washing everything off the beach including Zodiacs, penguins, and humans, oh my... The sea is dark and covered with brash ice as we make landfall… I stepped off and set foot in Antarctica…

 Neko glaciers and jzh Once again I helped set the trail for the tourists and then took off  on a hike up a steep snow covered  hill. Un-layering as I climbed to the rocky knoll high up on a ridge. Once to the top I sat on the rocky knoll above Neko Harbour all alone for about 30 minutes before the first group of British arrived.  One asked me to take her picture and while doing so there was a loud CRACK! Part of the ice below in Neko had broken off and I could hear John Kernan the Expedition Leader below yelling “Get that boat of the beach… now!” The photo below shows the ice debris trail in the sea after calving the small bergs off from Neko Harbor Crevasses its edge. The ice falling off the glacier and into the dark blackish sea caused a loud roar and made 3-4 foot waves that quickly made their way to shore where we had landed. The sound was also captured on video by one other fellow and quickly shared with all so we may all keep the beauty of this moment with us forever.  

After soaking in the moment and  the spectacular views from above I  descended the hill to watch the gentoo penguins and to watch everyone prepare to head back on the zodiacs. The gentoos were making quite a ruckus as they communicated with each other. They were also “tobogganing” through snow to travel faster. Tobogganing is when they slide on the bellies when they want to  travel faster down hill – funny to watch…  

Then the last two zodiacs were  coming back to take the rest of us back to the ship. Hilariously one of the musical entertainment groups, the Paraguayos, had come onshore for a cameo photo opportunity before we all had to return to Le Diamant.  Then it was up on the top deck to watch the sail away as we cruised through the Lemaire Channel before dinner. 

huge berg B&W

NOTE: The oldest blue ice retrieved as a core from Antarctica — and  the world — travels back about 850,000 years in time, revealing eight previous ice ages.