The Bro Code

I know what you are thinking…”how dare he.” Be fair, stay with me to the end. I may not completely swallow my foot.

I was going golfing with three friends the other day. My wife, with all due respect, asked me the inevitable question as to when I would be getting home. I gave the standard answer / no answer that I couldn’t really say. She of course asked if I meant I couldn’t or that I wouldn’t. Picture the pregnant pause.

As I considered my answer, I first planned on throwing my three friends under the bus by claiming if they were driving I would be at their mercy for when we would be coming home. After careful, no nervous consideration as to the possibility of cross fact checking between spouses, I came clean and said I couldn’t due to the “bro code”.

Now truthfully, I am not even sure if there was a bro code between us let alone what it would possibly be. But I had put my foot in my mouth and there were only two choices. Spit it out and come clean or swallow my foot further. I decided to swallow further.

I explained that the code required me to not name a time due to jeopardizing any member who had successfully negotiated a longer hall pass. This only led to more questions like if its eighteen holes of golf and we are supposedly gifted with the talent of knowing to the minute how long it takes to drive x miles, apparently I had been bragging on a recent trip, why would someone be negotiating a longer time period than the accurate one?

At this point I should have punted but men always believe that given the two minute warning and down by two touchdowns, we can huddle up and still win this game with a Hail Mary. I went with the emergency contingency. If an emergency were to come up, we may be forced to all become involved in the emergency as a support team and then who could tell how long we might be tied up.

At this point you need to picture my wife’s pose, especially what she is doing with her eyes. I didn’t even think they could roll up that far without permanent damage. Completely out of explanations, she surprisingly provided one. She explained that she suspected what I was really saying was that following golf, there might possibly be a period of beer drinking followed by or consecutive with some card playing and thus an accurate time frame would be questionable at best. She went on to explain that what she was really hoping for was a text somewhere along the way giving a reasonable ETA. She then asked if there really was in fact a bro code I was protecting? My response, “I’m too old to even know for sure what a bro is.” Busted.

But I wasn’t completely finished. “Well Hon, why didn’t you let me off the hook earlier?” Her response, “And spoil the fun of seeing you squirm? No way.”

Lesson learned guys, when confronted with the time question, think of anything besides the bro code. As the Myth Busters would say “Tested and Busted.” Women are way too smart for us, or at least me. Still wondering about the picture? It’s what happens to poorly considered arguments….they go up in flames, big flames.

Odds and Ends and Things in Between

Regardless of the fact that Wisconsin did not clean up its act while we were away, we returned home last week. We were greeted with hurricane winds and snow still in the air. The winter coats had to be brought back out and I fear our tans are already fading, and after all that work to start them. Normally, I would be complaining but as anyone who has traveled for any length of time knows, the trip comes to an end and you return home, happy to be back to the place you chose to spend your life. The travel is great but the return home is part of the journey.

If you followed our journey through my blog, it’s only fair to sum it up. Being the former math teacher, a few statistics seemed in order. We tallied 3203.1 miles and spent a total of 59 hours and 38 minutes of the trip behind the wheel. Considering we were traveling for 23 days (552 hours), that is still just 10.8% of the total time we were gone. We visited 10 states, crossed six state rivers, traveled through or around 17 major cities and viewed the campuses of 7 universities. Our stops allowed us to take in 26 attractions in 9 cities, not counting 6 hotels, a beach condo and three home stays with three very gracious sets of friends.

If the story ended here, it would be impressive but not impactful. With that in mind, I wanted to share at least some of the observations from our trip. The first of those observations was that no matter what state you are driving in, the locals all seem to be crazy drivers and you are observed as that out of state driver that has no clue. This phenomena I credit to the fact that the locals know, for the most part, where they are going and will always seem over confident. Mean while, we as the interlopers, may not know where we are going and at the very least do not know how far to the next exit nor what the traffic lane will look like when we get there. There is a lot to say for anticipation versus anxiety. Before you tell me “but what about a navigation system”, it is still just a computer doing its best to pronounce the road names and spending a lot of its time saying “recalculating.”

My next observation, love them or hate them, concerns hotels. The most important thing to understand about hotels is that everyone there is going somewhere. Some are moving from where they lived to where they will live next. Some are heading out on a vacation while some are returning home from one. Still others are visiting families and unfortunately for some,it may be due to a life that is coming to an end. The one thing they all have in common is that almost every person wants to have a conversation and has a story to tell. I for one can’t resist encouraging their story and yes, sharing my own. I wrote about it earlier, but this is a chance to test the six degrees of separation theory. I contend, that if your questions are open ended enough, it will not take too many to find that connection.

My next observation is that no matter where you travel, no matter who you encounter, we are all the same and we are all different. We are all citizens of the world and we share a desire for life to be simple yet interesting. We all deep down want peace and harmony and we just want the freedom to be who we are. This is what makes us all the same. And yet, we all have different hobbies and passions. We work at different jobs and eat culturally different foods. We play different games or maybe just variations of the same game. The beauty of these differences is that they are what makes travel so interesting while the similarities are what makes it so comfortable.

My last observation is really more of an answer to the question that everyone asks you when you travel. “What was your favorite thing?” My answer is that I can’t just name one thing. I can tell you that I thought the prettiest city was Savannah. My favorite beach was on Hilton Head Island. Favorite attraction, Louisville Slugger Factory and Museum, but the most impressive was the Chattanooga Aquarium while the most moving was Chickamauga Battlefield. My favorite activity was golfing with alligators while the best biking was in Palm Coast, though I need a shout out for riding bikes on the sand beaches of Hilton Head Island. I guess my answer to what did I like best, is all of it and that’s exactly why I was willing to put all those miles and hours driving from city to city, and state to state.

One final fact. We met so many interesting people but best of all we reconnected with three sets of friends who were brave enough to make the statement “if you are ever in the area…” and sincere enough to make us feel so welcome when we did.

Headed Home…Wait, What, A Blizzard?

I said we wouldn’t come home until Wisconsin cleaned up its act and now one day’s drive from home and you throw us a blizzard? I guess it’s too late to turn back now.

We left Hilton Head Island two days ago and have been swinging north through North Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky. Our first night got us to Asheville, North Carolina. Nestled in the Appalachians, it is a music city with great restaurants and one incredible gem, the Vanderbilt Mansion called The Biltmore. The tour took us most of the day as the house, all 250 rooms and 43 bathrooms sits on 8000 acres including a farm, village and winery. The house tour was set up as an audio tour with you being treated as a guest of the Vanderbilts being given a tour of the house before the festivities begin. The rooms are set up with mannequins in period dress adding a sense of realism to the tour. This was one of the best if not thee best tour I’ve ever been on.

Biltmore

Late that afternoon, after an extensive wine tasting that got us just loose enough to buy more wine than we have ever purchased at one of these things, we headed north again on our way to Lexington, Kentucky. Arriving late, we unloaded our luggage at the hotel and pretty much crashed for the evening. That is not before I answered several emails and did some road work for the first hour only to realize that the reason everything seemed so dark was that I was still wearing my sunglasses. I might add that I had driven the last half hour coming into town after dark and wearing those same sunglasses. This by itself might speak to being tired, but my darling wife never noticed. Kind of makes me wonder if I can trust her evaluation when I ask her if I look presentable and she replies in the positive.

This morning we headed to downtown Lexington where we stumbled on to a historic homes walk and the childhood home of Mary Todd Lincoln. The homes were for the most part restored and were serving as private residences. Many were incredibly well done. We also learned that Lexington was the home of The Transylvania University! I guess they have to prepare vampires somewhere. Seriously, it turns out it was a prestigious school of higher education established in 1789.

Historic Lexington

We finished our walk with a tour of the childhood home of Mary Todd Lincoln. the tour guide was very good and gave insights to her upbringing and life I had not realized. Their blended family spawned 17 children. As Kentucky was a slave state and the Todd’s had multiple slaves, the Civil War completely divided the family. Eight of the sons fought for the confederacy, while five sons joined the Union Army. Meanwhile the sisters split between North and South resulting in a truly “divided house.” The end result was a deep rift between family members as well as the tragic end for several of the sons. Mary’s life was filled with extensive tragedy and left her in later years fighting deep depression along with a period spent institutionalized for a diagnosis of insanity.

Our trip is drawing to a close but not without a wealth of memories and experiences, let alone a couple thousand pictures. Beware, if you ever cross us, we may just force you to sit through the entire slide show.

Six Degrees of Separation….

We have been on Hilton Head Island for several days now and have been enjoying the ocean, bike trails and golf, though one must share the course with the alligators. And let me not fail to mention some great food and drinks. It seems the bike trails go everywhere and everywhere they go there is another great food and drink establishment.

Bike trail

Hilton Head 4

Hilton Head 2

Last night we were walking down the block headed for a quick bite when we were invited onto the local free shuttle driven by our gregarious driver, Greg. When the couple that jumped on with us heard us tell Greg our destination, they leaned in and recommended a different spot. Upon arriving at the restaurant, we introduced ourselves and asked Jim and Nancy if they would like to join us. Two hours later, after several drinks and shared appetizers, we had gleaned their life story, including the Jim’s cancer diagnosis. As we were saying our goodbyes, Nancy leaned in and said I can’t thank you enough. Not only was the idea of talking with two strangers something they had never done, Jim had not shared his diagnosis with anyone even though Nancy had hoped against hope that he could find a way. Our conversation had been a positive one and we had both enjoyed each other’s company. To know we had been there to listen, only made our meeting that much more meaningful.

But that was not to be our only encounter. Tonight we headed for yet another establishment only to find ourselves in a different one than the one we had been looking for. Four women were enjoying a lively evening at the bar across from us. Something encouraged me to ask them if this was a girl’s weekend or a night out after work. Within minutes we were in a friendly conversation resulting in a surprising 6 degree of separation experience. They were there from the Cincinnati area as part of a bachelorette party. One of the women was the mother of the bride while another was the mother of the groom. Five minutes into the conversation, upon learning that we were from Wisconsin, one of the women declared that her father-in-law was from Kimberly and her mother-in-law from Combined Locks. “Was there any chance we knew where that was?” Ironically Kimberly was my hometown! Though her father-in-law had likely attended high school with my sister, I had attended high school with his sister and of course recognized the family name. What ensued was another interesting evening meeting complete strangers and leaving as new friends.

There is a moral to these two stories. Even though there may only be 6 degrees of separation, it remains 180 degrees until you turn around and start the conversation. Hilton Head will always be a fond memory for its beautiful beaches, bike trails and golf shared with 8 foot alligators, but its lasting memory will be the benefit of being willing to talk to the stranger sitting next to you. You’ll never know just how much you have in common until you share your story.

Hilton Head 3

We’ve Reached Atlanta…Next Up

We reached our southern point two days ago. Just our luck to leave Atlanta as it got sunny and warm and arrive in Palm Coast, Florida in a typhoon. Of course we will take the blame for the weather. Things improved yesterday afternoon, the ocean settled down and today we rode bikes for the first time and basked in 75 degree weather.

Atlanta was a treat as we stayed with two very dear friends and lazed the days away in their wonderful southern hospitality. As I mentioned before, Stu and Polly were on our river cruise last summer and we had promised to find a way to get back together. This march to the sea, as we are now calling it, afforded us that opportunity. While in their area we were treated to a trip to downtown Atlanta where among other activities, we came close to seeing the new Falcon Stadium. I say close as apparently its one of those things that even a navigator will tell you, “you can’t get there from here.” It seemed we were thwarted at every turn by a closed street, a one way that wasn’t our way or just a conveniently, for someone but not us, construction closure.

There was one extra treat. Stu is the owner of a Porsche and offered to take me for a scenic, quiet slow ride through the local area……I’m kidding. It was scenic and the area was quiet but slow would not be a descriptor I would use. The old cliché, it corners like it’s on rails, was proven true by Stu. As Tom Cruise would say that he had a need for speed, well my need was met and potentially exceeded but I savored every mile and every minute of it. Now, if I could only convince Deb that the cargo room in a Porshe would be as much if not more than my Jeep, maybe, just maybe.
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We left for Florida late on Sunday after promises that this would not be the last time we get together and that we would find some way to hold them to the promise. After managing our way through the worst traffic I have ever had the honor of driving in and wondering how this many people could be traveling in and out of Atlanta on a Sunday, we crossed the Florida Georgia line and turned east toward Palm Coast. This city is laid out beautifully along A1A, the highway that hugs the Atlantic Ocean. The Intercoastal Waterway goes right through the city and canals crisscross its streets. We managed the surf and wind of the ocean at Ormand Beach where they used to race cars before moving down the coast to Daytona. We took in John D Rockefeller’s winter home where he eventually retired and passed away. And finally, I got back on my bike for the first time since the surgery and was ecstatic that I was able to ride relatively pain free. That was a major success.

Florida has been great. The striking thing about the area is that everyone is from somewhere else. No true southern drawl and a general attitude that you can’t tell the tourist from the residents and certainly not from the snowbirds. The general conversation is when are you headed north as though there needs to be a mass exodus to get out of here before the hardcore confused tourists come down just about the time Florida reaches a million degrees in the shade.
We head back north tomorrow but will still hopefully soak in some sun and warmth on Hilton Head Island.

Till my next blog, keep working on warming up Wisconsin for our return.