Category Archives: The TL Series

TL 27: Too late!

It’s after midnight; tonight was the Tin Cup Awards Party, where the match was announced (highest ever — 53 percent!) along with the total raised this year — $1.121 million!!!! YES!  and that’s an increase from last year! — and the Challenger Dinner, where we hosted 80 folks who gave at least a thousand dollars to the match fund of the Community Foundation of Teton Valley this year.

Big BIG success on all fronts.

But I’m whupped; I need to go to bed….

This is a paltry post, but the best I can do at the moment.  Will try again tomorrow!  Goodnight!!!!


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TL 26: Trenches, lethal technology, lookouts

We spent a cloudy day in Verdun France, in late December, where we saw these ghostly-but-still-evident trenches through the woods.

Going there literally brought death from nearly 100 years ago right close to our feet. The site is heavily signed (and in English) to warn visitors to “Stay on paths: mines in area.” Really? REALLY.

It didn’t seem possible that ammunition could possibly still be live after that much time had passed. But it’s true.

The landscape remains pitted from the literally thousands of bombs and mines that landed there.

Today it looks benign at first glance, but is somehow still very frightening; I suppose the barbed wire still scattered throughout the battlefield doesn’t help. 

Earlier this spring, a few months after we returned from France, I read To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918 by Adam Hochschild. If you’re interested in history, this one is a don’t miss.

I have always been interested in history, but going to that battlefield was a real eye-opener — I never studied WWI nearly well enough, and I certainly didn’t understand its scope. Something like 70 million (yes, 70 million) military personnel were involved in the war.

The numbers are nearly incomprehensible.  For example, at the Duoamont Ossuary, the ashes of some 300,000 German and French combatants are interred. Just think about it. That’s about half the population of the entire state of Wyoming, or three-quarters of the population of Ada County, Idaho; just imagine three of every four residents of the greater metropolitan area of Boise being buried in one warehouse-sized building.

One of the nearby memorials  built with the generosity of American citizens (the sign in French said), covered a trench where a group of French soldiers were buried with only their bayonets showing above the fallen dirt. Each casualty was marked with a cross.

The gun turrets the troops used looked oddly like UFOs. You could still see where they’d been hit.

World War One is notable for the “progress” made in man’s ability to kill. It was the first conflict where tanks and airplanes were used, where mustard gas and machine guns and modern artillery all played a huge part.

Hochschild filled in a lot of the gaps for me in his brilliantly researched  book; somehow he manages to balance the scales of the phenomenal losses and personal stories of both military men and peace advocates.

Those hours at Verdun reminded me, strangely enough, of the site of the Battle of the Little Big Horn in Montana.  At both places you can almost feel the sadness of the souls who died there, senselessly.

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TL 25: Roadblocks

Sometimes traveling, like life at home, doesn’t proceed quite as smoothly as one would like. In fact, things happen.

For example, one time we wanted to take a day trip from Capri  from Sorrento. We boarded the only boat at the dock, at the right time; just to be certo, I flashed a smile and said “A Capri, si?” The boatman waiting there took my ticket, nodded, and said, “Si, si,” and then continued his conversation with his buddies.

Maybe ten minutes into the ride, it was obvious that we were heading north, toward Naples, rather than west to the island. Ha! We could have rerouted once we docked, which would have meant that we would wait for the next Capri-bound vessel, and only have an hour or so there. Instead, we spent the day visiting parts of Naples that we hadn’t been able to see when we were there a few days previously.

 Our trawling the streets took us to this great pizza place (it was Bill Clinton’s favorite, according to a framed note on the wall); these men are cooking OUR pizza in the wood oven!

We wandered past Italy’s first shopping mall; impressive. 

And this little trio of smiling faces.

That extra day in Naples went pretty well, all in all.

But there have been times while traveling, like in life, when we were exhausted, scared, and ready to cash it all in. During a journey, that means you just want to go home. But dealing with troubles at home means that there’s nowhere else to go, issues can escalate where they seem almost insurmountable, bothersome stuff and irritating people pop up and one has nothing to do but to deal with them….

This week, several people I know and care about had, cumulatively, shall we say, not that great of a week. When I saw this quote by Walt Whitman today, I thought about how situations of fatigue and exasperation, fear and frustration take their toll, even on those with strong personalities, broad skill-sets, and deep convictions.

Maybe you’re journeying and you happen to be on the right boat right now. But if you’re mightily struggling, at home or away, against troubles large and seemingly unmanageable,  interacting with others who seem to trigger pettiness or the lesser of your coping skills — I ask that you consider the poet’s advice.  I hope you find the courage you need to eliminate or at least detour around those roadblocks.

See, this post started as a lighthearted, oh “make the best of things” kind of missive, but it evolved into something more dense, and hopefully more valuable than just a recounting of one of our journeys. For like it or not, we *do* all travel in this life together.

Whatever support we can provide each other, let us offer it, wholeheartedly.

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TL 23: Wisdom shared

“If you don’t have time to do it right the first time, how will you have the time to do it over?”

That’s a good question. I ask it of myself whenever I’m feeling particularly stressed about the clock. It helps me slow down and think, look at what’s important (to do or to say), and stay focused.

I’ve been lucky to have some excellent mentors over the years, and to check and doublecheck was another important lesson passed to me. That advice has held me in good stead professionally: “when in doubt, check it out” and “if still in doubt, take it out” has long been my journalistic mantra when verifying facts.

Some of these mentors were bosses, some were peers I worked with;  all became friends. Not sure if I ever said “thank you” to them quite enough….

On the lighter side — and because I can’t seem to find the image of a timepiece I was thinking I had to illustrate the first quote — and wouldn’t use a photo of someone without asking their permission first — I’d like to share this.

I probably saw it first on Facebook. In spite of all its issues, someone on Facebook gives me a shot in the arm just about every day and I often find cause to pause and think about something in a new way. Plus it connects me to so many people from so many times in my life and who live in so many parts of the world.

Hope you appreciate an occasional funny, touching inspirational bit; I have certainly had to “take another shot” often enough…. all part of the journey, don’t you think?

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TL 22: Mighty music

Do you like libraries? We do! Especially the big ones, like the British Library in London, which we visited in spring 1999.

The British Library contains the last surviving original text of Beowulf, probably the  very VERY first piece of English literature.  Beowulf was first recited more than a thousand years ago and eventually written down in Old English, the language spoken in Anglo-Saxon Britain before the Norman Conquest and the Battle of Hastings (in 1066). It had special meaning for us, as Peter studied Old English in graduate school and had to translate (and memorize) this 3,000-line poem for one of his classes. (After a couple of martinis, he can sometimes even be persuaded to recite the first few lines — he still knows them!)

Beowulf is just one amazing piece of history treasured there: other highlights include not one but two original copies of the Magna Carta (signed in 1215); one of Leonardo daVinci’s personal journals; the Lindisfarne Gospels (illuminated and in Latin); and an authentic Gutenberg Bible, the first book printed rather than copied out by hand. 

And that’s just what I can remember from our visit, when we asked a passing scholar to snap this photo of us in front of the giant bronze statue of Newton in the courtyard.

Besides all the booky things, we also loved the then-new section on music, including an original manuscript of a traditional medieval round called “Sumer Is Icumen In” written in Middle English; translated, it means either “summer has arrived” or “summer is come” — don’t think they worried much about the tense back then.

It is supposedly the first tune ever written down in six-parts, you know, with harmony. We could stand there and put on a pair of headphones to listen to what it would have sounded like as originally sung and played on instruments (like the pipe and tabor, lute, and simple percussion) from Henry VIII’s time.

In the same display case, a couple other pieces of British entertainment culture rang more of a chord with me (hard not to make puns here) — relating to the Beatles. On permanent loan from writer and Beatle expert Hunter Davies, one of the pieces of memorabilia is the handwritten lyrics of A Hard Day’s Night, scrawled by John Lennon on the back of a birthday card to his son Julian.

We could listen to Beatles’ songs on a headset, too; I’m sure the technology has changed but it seemed absolutely mega-cool at the time.

What I remember as being so relevant to the juxtaposition of these two elements of British music — several hundred years apart — is that both these tunes were very VERY popular with folks of their time, in large part because their melodies were plain and memorable. Either one, well, you just plain wanted to sing along to it.

Tomorrow I just might find myself humming the medieval song, although now it should be “Sumer is A-Goin’ Oot” or something, now that days are getting shorter and nights so much cooler.

PS. My scanning capacity isn’t great. Please ignore the tiny vertical lines across the statue!

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TL 21: Two locations

Hmm. Tonight I decided to add another page of photos of doors. When I uploaded the original bunch last November, I neglected to include those from our holiday 2010 tour of Greece and into Turkey, so that’s what you’ll find in “More Doors.”

When I look at them again, I’m struck by how many ways something so elementary can be interpreted….. and lead us into so many kinds of buildings. This smaller grouping is much quicker to see in its slide show format; I hope you enjoy it.

One of my favorites is the worn-to-a-deep-depression marble threshold we crossed in Istanbul.

Here’s another kind of door — the border crossing I wrote about earlier this month. It’s not the best photo; a reflection of the train window is clearly visible .The even-more-out-of-focus photo I took there identified the stop as Uzunkpro.

We’ve traveled often enough through today’s EuroZone to know that passport-stamping from country to country is largely a thing of the past. Those borders are now barely marked, with empty customs buildings and only a few signs and flags to indicate the change in nation.

Such was certainly not the case between Greece and Turkey, whose long histories reflect animosity of the most severe kind.

Hmm. More in two locations than meets the eye; likewise, more behind closed doors than one might realize.

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TL 20: Travel logistics

Although we’d been to the British Isles in the autumn of 1991, escorting a group of 45 senior citizens with my mom (just a few months after my dad died), it wasn’t until after we’d moved to Teton Valley that we started planning our first big European trip from the bottom up, beginning-to-end, and on our own.  We determined to go to Italy that November.

That fall (1995) wasn’t such an easy time to contemplate being gone; we were opening Dark Horse Books right after we returned, and boxes of books would be arriving at Peter’s parent’s house while we were gone. Plus I’d just become editor at the Teton Valley News that September –- I accepted the job on just one condition, that we could make the trip.

In the annals of our travel lore, it’s a gem.

We landed in Milano and took the train most everywhere. On one segment, we had a long visit, conducted in my pretty bad Italian (which I was trying to remember from my Up With People days) with a man from La Spezia who didn’t care much for the French. On another, we met a painting restorer on her way to work on a piece of art (she couldn’t even tell us the name of it). I was then and still am a news junkie — so I read the International Herald Tribune whenever possible. (For context, Senator George Mitchell had just successfully opened peace negotiations in Northern Ireland, and then-President Bill Clinton traveled to Belfast while we were in Italy.)

We visited Verona, waking up at 4 am to enjoy a pre-sunrise jet-lag-inspired walk to Juliet’s balcony. Then it was on to Venice, where we got lost walking the canals and bridges and stayed in a very nice (one-star) hotel several (more like six) turns behind San Marco.

In Sienna, our lodging was near St. Theresa’s church — I remember hundreds of birds flying in and out of the wall surrounding the convent; we took bus trips to spend a day each in Florence and Civita Bagnoreggio from there.

Cinque Terre, heavily recommended by travel writer Rick Steves, was a highlight, then we spent a couple days, including Thanksgiving, in Orvieto.

We departed for home from Rome, where we’d crossed an absolutely empty St. Peter’s Square one afternoon, and at noon the next day, could barely make it through for the crowd.

 This picture was taken the day before we left the Eternal City. Don’t we look young!? Quite a few miles between that day and now…

To pay for the trip, we sold our Jeep, started saving every penny we could, and researching like crazy.

That’s still pretty much our modus operandi for all of our travels…. to do whatever we need to do to make it happen. We book flights using frequent-flyer miles, we shop for memorable lodging opportunities, we eat a lot of picnics; we’d rather see a historic site than sit on a beach.

We don’t believe in “waiting until retirement” to travel; rather, we focus on lifelong learning and what’s made possible by smart trip planning. 

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