travel

This morning’s hike…

We visitied Slap Savica (Savica Waterfal). It’s supposed to be a 20 minute hike up to the big falls, but it took us a lot longer. It was very much worth the trip, especially since we had some sunshine this morning. I think we’re going to go get some lunch at one of the few restaurants open here, and then I might be back to do some ranting. But for now, I hope you will enjoy some of these photos…

I really felt accomplished after doing this hike… it wasn’t very long, but it was a lot of steps up a very tall, wet, and leafy mountain. But we were rewarded at the top. No one is here, so not only were the trail and platform not crowded, but the experience of being there was also very peaceful and beautiful. November is a great time to visit Lake Bohinj, even if a lot of places are closed. I think if I were an artist, I might be going crazy by how beautiful the scenery is… and how many colors there are.

Not bad for a fatass housewife.

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travel

Now in Slovenia…

We have moved on from Croatia and into Slovenia, where it’s very rainy and grey. We are staying in a large house affiliated with a small hotel near Lake Bohinj. It’s totally deserted here…. We seem to have the whole lake to ourselves.

Even though it’s grey and wet, I think we’ll see some beautiful sights. Or, at least, some different ones. Today’s featured photo is of Lake Bled as we passed it. We were last here in May 2016, but that time, we stayed in Bled. Bohinj is definitely different… and less touristy.

Hopefully, we’ll have some dry time. But if we don’t, I’ll probably start writing blog posts… and rants again.

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News, politicians, politics, travel

Do letters to the editor ever sway your vote?

Well, we’re now in Croatia. Our hosts had a nice fire ready for us, but the house is still a bit chilly. I think we’re going to like it here, though… it’s in the middle of the country, with lots of beautiful views and plenty of peace and quiet. It took us about seven hours total to get here from Wels, because we were stuck at the Croatian border for a short while. We had to stamp out of Slovenia and into Croatia. They didn’t seem too concerned about our vaccines, but they did want to see passports.

We had lunch at a truck stop. The food was very good… in fact, I was delighted by how tasty it was. I am full enough now that I think we’ll just stay in and watch Netflix by the roaring fireplace.

On our way over the mountain to the house where we’re staying, I decided to read the letters to the editor in my hometown’s newspaper. As Election Day is approaching, the letters were all about the people running for local office. Since Gloucester, Virginia is a conservative town, most of the letters were bitching about how awful Joe Biden is and how Virginia needs to vote for Glenn Youngkin for governor and for all of the conservative candidates. I think I saw one letter for the lefties…

As I was reading, I wondered how many people rely on letters to the editor to help them choose the person they wish to cast a vote for on Election Day. I will admit, there are often local candidates I don’t know anything about, especially since I now vote in Texas absentee. But when it comes to the governor, or the president, or other higher ranking folks, I usually have a good idea of who my choice will be before I hit the polls (or by the time I get my ballot). I figure anyone who is going to take the time to read letters to the editor are probably not the ones who are undecided. It’s the ones who don’t read who may need assistance. But really, even those people should be allowed to choose without too much harassment.

The people of Gloucester are, by and large, pretty good people. They’re salt of the Earth types… especially the ones who have lived there for many years. Unfortunately, a lot of them vote for parties over people. From what I’ve heard about Glenn Youngkin, he has very conservative values, but is trying to suppress them. If he is elected governor, he’s going to do everything he can to overturn everything Ralph Northam has done. I think Northam has done some really amazing things. But I am no longer a Virginia resident, so all I can do is watch from the sidelines.

Anyway… I just wonder why people bother writing letters to the editor in newspapers. How many people even bother to read newspapers anymore? I get a kick out of the Gazette Journal, because that was my HOMETOWN paper, when I was growing up. It only comes out once a week, but it has all the local news. And since I still know a lot of people in Gloucester, it’s fun to read. But I do have to sigh when I read some of the conservative and extremely religious views… even as I also find them interesting and kind of entertaining.

I didn’t like Gloucester when I was a kid, but I can see now why people stay there. It does have a lot going for it. And once you’re accepted, as I finally was after a year or two, the people can be very good. Unfortunately, I don’t think I can go “home” again. I do have a lot of memories, there, though. Many of them are good… and some are not so good.

Well, this is our first time staying in Croatia, so this should be an interesting trip. On Monday, we’ll move on to Slovenia, which is one place we’ve been to a couple of times. Unlike a lot of people, we didn’t come to Croatia for the coastal towns. We’re here to see Plitvice Lakes, which I’ve been wanting to visit for years. The fall colors are beautiful, so I expect I will have some gorgeous photos… as long as the weather holds.

Hopefully, the good people of Gloucester… and the Commonwealth of Virginia… will get the best leaders on Election Day. I hope they don’t get dragged back to 1950, though. I’m sure most of the people I still know in Virginia know who will be getting their votes by now.

The fireplace in this house rocks.

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travel

Off to Croatia today…

The featured photo is the view from our hotel room as the sun was setting… It about suits the mood of Wels.

Our second day in Wels was interesting. We tasted some Austrian wines, walked around the city, and ate some fabulous Greek food. Then last night, we ended up in an Irish pub, where the proprietor seemed to be trying to cater to our musical needs.

The pub was very small and, like all of the other buildings we’ve been in in Wels, had very thick walls and a cavernous kind of look. I love the ancient effect, but forget trying to use a cell phone. For about an hour, we were the only ones sitting in the very dark back of the bar. The guy turned on some of the lights, including the electric dart board and the TV, which he eventually tuned to South Park.

Then, after a few pretty horrifying songs on the sound system, to include a very profane number by Eminem, a classic Hall & Oates song came on called “You Make My Dreams”. Bill asked me what year the song came out. I said 1981… maybe 1980. Sure enough, the next song was “The Best That You Can Do (Arthur’s Theme)” from the movie Arthur (1981). We enjoyed the first half of that song before they changed it to “Locomotive Breath” by Jethro Tull. Then, we were back to rowdy Irish music by The Pogues.

I can’t say it was the most authentic Irish pub I’ve ever been to. Aside from the weird music, they also only offered candy bars for snacks. But it was fun to sit in a bar and watch a bunch of college aged Austrian guys shoot darts while we drank Guinness. It was actually kind of exciting to watch them. I feel like it wasn’t that long ago that I was that young. They looked like they could have been my sons. :'( But still, it’s fun to watch guys that age competing with each other. Their energy is infectious.

Sadly, my guts are still recovering from the nitrogen.

Oh… and I saw at least two young women urgently run for the toilet. I know how that goes. I’m not sure which end was about to explode, but I felt for them. I’ve been where they were. As we were leaving, the bartender asked us where we were from. I think he knew damned well that we are Americans. The real question was, what the hell were we doing in Wels? We told him we live in Germany. Wels isn’t a remarkable town, but it’s very pleasant and pretty. It’s not a bad place to stop in Austria. The last couple of days remind me of when I randomly got off a train in St. Polten, Austria, in 1997, and hung out there for three days while I made my way to meet friends in Zilina, Slovakia.

We probably should have made more of an attempt to visit museums and such yesterday, but honestly, it was just nice to be in a new town and walk around. Wels is definitely not a bad place to rest for a day or two. Don’t know if I’ll be back, but now I can cross it off the list of Austrian towns I’ve seen.

I am looking forward to getting to Croatia tonight.

One other thing… USAA called me last night and Tuesday night about my complaints regarding their tendency to block my credit and debit cards when I try to use them. I had to explain, once again, that they don’t allow international phone numbers for texts anymore. The person who called me didn’t seem to know. Something bad is happening to their customer service. It’s like they’re going through the motions. I might have to write a letter. Or maybe I’ll just blog and let their reputation management people stalk me so I can make a few pennies in ad revenue.

Well, so ends my brief recap of yesterday. Maybe, if the Internet is good, I’ll start travel blogging in Croatia, and there will be many pictures.

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book reviews

Repost: Review of Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters by Chesley Sullenberger…

And here is a repost of a review I wrote on September 22, 2016. It appears here as/is.

How many times have you gotten on an airplane, tuned out the flight attendants’ safety briefing, and just took it for granted that you would make it safely to your destination?  I’m sure I’ve done it more than once in my lifetime.  I’m sure that many of the people who boarded US Airways’ Flight 1549 from New York to Charlotte on January 15th, 2009 also took it for granted that they would be taking a run of the mill flight.  There were 155 passengers and crew on that airplane that day.  How many of them had been lulled into a state of complacency?  How many of them are still complacent seven years after their flight landed in the Hudson River, just minutes after take off?

Like a lot of people, I very well remember reading and hearing about Flight 1549 and its pilot, Chesley B. Sullenberger, affectionately nicknamed Sully, who managed to ditch the aircraft in the river after its engines were overcome by a flock of Canadian geese.  This year, the film Sully is being released, with Tom Hanks playing the title role.  I suppose it was the buzz about Sully that made me decide to download 2009’s Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters.  Written by Chesley B. Sullenberger and ghost writer Jeffrey Zaslow, Highest Duty is basically Sully’s life story in book form.  But it’s also the story of what happened on that fateful day in January, when all of Sully’s years of flying and thousands of hours of training came down to one moment when he and his co-pilot, Jeff Skiles, had 155 lives in their hands.

Highest Duty begins at the very beginning, as Sullenberger describes growing up in Texas and being fascinated by flight.  He found early inspiration and training in a local crop duster, who taught him the basics of flight and rented him the use of his plane and air strip.  Later, he went on to attend the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he was trained to fly bigger airplanes, skills he used as an Air Force officer.  I got a kick out of reading about Sully’s training, especially since it turns out he and my dad were stationed in England during the same time.  Sully was at Lakenheath Air Force Base and my dad was at Mildenhall Air Force Base; the two are very close to each other.  Of course, Sully is a lot younger than my dad, so they were not running in the same circles.

After leaving the Air Force, Sully began his career as a commercial pilot.  He writes about how difficult it was, even back before commercial airlines had to contend with the challenges they face today.  There were more pilots than open positions and everything an airline does is based on seniority.  Sully just happened to be at the right place at the right time when he scored his first job.

This man is a hero.

Like many people, Captain Sullenberger fell in love and got married.  His wife, Lorrie, has been along for the ride, coping with Sully’s many trips away from home.  They have two adopted daughters, Kate and Kelly, and live near San Francisco, California, which is where Sully’s first job was based.  As airlines began disappearing, swallowed by bankruptcies or mergers, Sully’s “home base” changed.  In 2009, he was based out of Charlotte, North Carolina, but still commuted from California. 

As he made his way to that fateful flight out of New York, Sully worried about his finances.  I’m sure he never dreamed that he’d one day write books… or be the subject of a major motion picture with Tom Hanks playing him in the starring role.  No… on January 15th, 2009, Sully was thinking about his looming mandatory retirement and the property he owned that had been leased by a Jiffy Lube franchiser.  The franchiser had decided not to renew the lease and Sully wondered how he would pay the mortgage.  Sully’s pension had dwindled down to being worth a fraction of what it once was.  And he lived in a very expensive part of the country.  It’s a feeling many readers will be able to relate to, even before he gets to the story about his historic landing in the Hudson River.

Those who do decide to read this book may want to know that it’s not all about that flight.  In fact, readers are “teased” throughout the book as he mentions the event that put him in the public eye, but writes more about what led up to that moment.  Some readers may find that technique a little tedious and frustrating.  I know I picked up Sully’s book because I wanted to read about how he ditched the airplane in the river, but I now appreciate reading about how Sullenberger became the man and the pilot he is.  Aside from that, he has spent so many years in the airline business that he offers some interesting trivia about it.  In fact, he even laments how sad he thinks it is that so few children are interested in seeing the cockpit anymore.  Nowadays, kids are plugged into any number of devices.  It doesn’t occur to them to want to stop in and see where Sully works.  He mentions that a lot of people seem to think pilots are not much better than glorified bus drivers. 

Anyway… I pretty much hate flying in airplanes and try to avoid them when I can.  But I can definitely appreciate a book about how the airline industry works, especially when it’s written by a man who could be credited with keeping so many people safe when they could have been so easily killed.  Think about it.  It’s a miracle that 155 people were able to go home to their families after Sully ditched their airplane in an ice cold river.  Through his talented ghost writer, Sully even describes how it felt to receive his personal effects months later, after they were found by the company contracted to take care of that.  He muses that most people who receive personal personal effects after a plane crash are the people who have survived the crash victims.  But there he was, receiving a box of his stuff that happened to be on the plane.  Everything was there, save for an $8 tuna sandwich he purchased and never had the chance to eat.  And he was the one to take possession of that stuff, not his wife and children.  It’s amazing.

I think Highest Duty is well worth reading.  I give it a solid four stars.

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