It’s not the fault of your set

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It’s a test pattern. Many of you probably have never seen one. Every TV station had one. Last month it became relevant in our subject of living life on wheels. We turned off the cable TV! What a relief!

In our family room we have a nice cabinet with an ugly plastic machine on it that never gets used. Between November and May we turned it on four times and didn’t watch it on two of those. With a phone call and a trip to the cable office to return the converter, we became $99 per month richer. (Richer being a literary term only.) We are now free to get TV the way the pioneers did it, snag it out of the air. Here is where the test pattern comes back into our discussion.

I knew what all those lines, circles, and numbers were for and could use them if some time machine were to take me back to 1958. TV station engineers broadcast the test pattern and adjusted the picture to make everything true to form. The portrait of the Indian Chief was to test clarity and sharpness of faces, which to this day appear on most shows. By turning off the cable we took a small step toward the test pattern. All we have to do now is buy a small antenna and get local weather free.

And of course there is the high speed internet and the toys that let us be our own TV programmers. And DVD’s. And the OFF button. So how has this worked out? In the last week we have watched the first season of WKRP in Cincinnati.

If you turn off the cable and don’t get 400 channels, “it’s not the fault of your set.” Thanks so much for joining me on our trip back in time. I always love to read your comments and share them with our community.

Picture is a large TV test pattern. It matches the standard TV format shape. It has a grid pattern and a large circle with a smaller circle in the center with lines of different contrast in all directions. In the corners are small circles similar to the center circle. In the largest circle is a portrait of an Indian Chief. If it sounds confusing, you have it right. It is.

 

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Lunch at the German bakery

One summer when our son was small, we came to Disney. I remember standing in a long queue for The Peter Pan ride. Or was it Mr. Toad? He has always been one of my favorites. It was mid-summer, and I swore I’d never come to Florida in summer again. I did, several more times in fact, and finally moved here. Well, it’s still hot in summer.

We avoid places that are outside. MS compounds the discomfort. I like the outdoors. Yesterday I told sandy I had cabin fever. As always, she came to the rescue. “Let’s have lunch tomorrow at the Yahala Bakery!”


Those of you who have been with me awhile know that over Christmas we moved from our longtime home in metro Orlando to experience “Resort Style Living with Concierge Services.” We traded city for rural. Gray for green. Flat for hills. Yes, you read that right – hills. Trees, green fields, and rolling hills reminiscent of Southern Indiana.

This morning we pointed the CR-V north and set out through Montverde, Astatula, Howey-In-The-Hils, and finally Yalaha. See why I love this? You feel the hills and lean with the curves. In a 30 minute drive we encountered exactly one stoplight and maybe a few dozen cars. Not so much cars here as pick-up trucks, though.

The Yalaha Bakery is an authentic German bakery and deli. In a tribute to civilization, and fortunately for me on wheels, they have paved the parking lot. The rest is smooth pavers, umbrella tables, and picnic tables under huge, ancient trees. The main entrance leads you directly to the overwhelming pastry counter. To get to lunch you pass this. You pass it again going to the outside tables. I defy anyone to pass it up!

Lunch at the deli was well above average, especially the crusty rolls. Is there room for dessert? Nope. So what do we want to get? We split the key lime tart and the “piece” of carrot cake. I trust my beloved nurse practitioner is not reading this, and if you are I promise I don’t normally eat like this. Next time I’ll stick to salad.

What an awesome outing! Life is good with my best friend to whom I’m so blessed to be wed. Thank you sincerely for stopping by.

Rolling on

  Nineteen years ago our lives felt insecure, and we knew not what the future would hold. In a leap of faith, we rolled into the future with a new home in a new place. We have loved every minute of it. In fact, we have stayed here longer than our 3 previous homes combined. Today, our beautiful, universal design accessible home is for sale. 
We do know what the future holds this time, as we have a new home under construction. But why? Smaller! Free time! Retirement! The replacement is a mini version of what we have now, minus the living/dining rooms and 2 bedrooms. And about half an acre less lawn. We are even using the same builder. 

It has been a happy time with many lasting friends, but we aren’t going far. Just rolling on!

Wheeling in the rain

It’s been a long time. My first day as a wheelie out in the rain. I tried to stay dry. Plastic around my legs. Plastic bags over my shoes. A huge poncho with the hood pulled tight. I could barely move and can’t say I had a nice day.

Late in the day I saw another young man, obviously more experienced than me with a smaller, lighter chair. He wore a leather jacket, a hat, and was having fun.

He was wet; I was mostly dry. He was having fun.

My poncho era lasted one day. Today I carry a bright green LL Bean raincoat in the car. Bring it on! ☔️

The red raincoat is for cooler days, like this fall day in London.

Family blessings in the Netherlands 

Our trilogy concludes with some thoughts on the blessings of family. The purpose of the trip was to meet up with our son Cliff and daughter-in-law Natalie. She was invited to be a presenter at an international conference of librarians in Maastricht.


Amsterdam was fun, the trains were not, and Maastricht was pure happiness with ones we love. It was a week of exploration, sidewalk cafes and pubs serving local brews outside in the fresh air. Arguably the best bookstore in the world occupies a former cathedral. Stacks 3 stories high replace the pews with the rest largely unchanged, except for the Starbucks. Okay, it’s not actually Starbucks, but all it would need is the sign.

  

I’ve described the trip in reverse. Our week in Maastricht was first. Then Cliff and Natalie caught a plane for Prague. Sandy and I took the train back to Amsterdam, where we had a week of quality time together. No matter how far apart we live, family is what matters. Maastricht is half way between Taiwan and Florida, so it was perfect all around. What matter, though, are love and quality time. I promised to tell you what like is like when lived on wheels. I hope this helps people understand that life is full and loving whether one is a biped or a wheelie.

Maastricht is best described in pictures. Enjoy. Thank you for stopping by. Please leave a comment. We now resume our regular blog, already in progress.

In Amsterdam we stayed in an ultra-modern hotel. Here we experienced the ambiance of a grand hotel, appropriately named.
A modern shopping area with the same shops one finds in the US or UK with the ancient welcome center at the end.
Perhaps the best Italian restaruant I have ever found. 

Here’s Sandy in a lightheated moment. We hope you have enjoyed our accounts and maybe will entertain the idea to go yourself.
Fun cars, fun scooters, and bikes galore.

Cobbles, rails, and brickbats

Last time we talked about the wonders of Amsterdam, a vibrant city to which I fully hope to return. The city, the entire country in fact, proved to be sorely un-wheelchair friendly. First came the cobbles. I’d negotiated the cobbles of Covent Garden in London, but this was beyond my worst fears. I had not realized much of the country was built before the 18th century.

 Cobbles abound. The streets, the sidewalks, the plazas. Cobbles cobbles everywhere with nary a smooth spot to roll. Now add curbs. We think I must have popped a thousand wheelies over the two weeks!

What would make cobbles more fun? Let’s try trolley tracks. There is a wonderful system of trolleys. Clean and safe. Trolleys run on tracks. So now we are getting up some speed on the cobbles and doing wheelies across the tracks. One track, two tracks, quick turn toward the left, one track, two tracks. Straight a few feet and one track… One street had eight tracks to cross.

 A commuter’s dream, just not great for a pedestrian on wheels!

Then there are the trains. I’ve long heard about Europe’s amazing train service. Long distance trains run every 30 minutes, locals more often. Just hop on one and go? Hardly. The cars are not accessible, but there are attendants with spiffy, portable ramps.  Simply call ahead at least 24 hours (not 23) and specify exactly which train you will be on.

You’ve bought your tickets at the station, called ahead, and have arrived at the station again. Two very courteous people help you onto the train. What’s wrong with this picture? It is marked with the appropriate symbol, you have been provided a ramp, but what do you see but stairs?!? Seven steps up or five steps down. I chose down. How a paraplegic does five steps on the train might be a topic for another time. It wasn’t pretty.

This was First Class. We were told Coach has flat cars. Bingo! Flat for less money! Have you ever wondered how your suitcase feels while you are riding in your seat? For the long trip from Maastricht in the south to Amsterdam, we were escorted into a small section separated from the rest of the passengers at the back of the car. This is where travelers put their bicycles. Four seats have been added. Air conditioning had not been added. It was a time of record hot weather. Complete misery, not to mention how my MS reacted.

After a long train ride to Amsterdam there was the matter of nature. “Do you have an accessible restroom?” I asked the friendly policeman. “Maybe. If there is one it would be upstairs straight above us, but to get to the lift you will need to go all the way to the other end of the station and come back.” I assumed the trip back down would be a reverse of said route. I waited until the hotel.

I’m writing about the trip and smiling. Friendly, safe cities make forgetting the hardships easy. So maybe I won’t toss the brickbat after all. If you get the chance, by all means go!

Here are some pictures to entice you. And the next entry will be about a wonderful college town.


    


  
  
  
   

Amsterdam – Kudos

 Bicycles and canal boats. Bridges and flowers. Beer and wine and cheese. Tapas and pastries. These are Amsterdam. What a wonderful place! The city simply radiates energy and smiles. Our week there was the hottest on record, but normally the temperatures are moderate. The sidewalks are wide with few hills, and the city invites you to explore on foot. (On wheels? Stay tuned for brickbats, coming here in a few days.)
We quickly found the Dutch to be welcoming and helpful. The airport is clean, and the separate, accessible restrooms were a welcome change from what I typically find in the US. Language barrier? Virtually everyone speaks fluent English, and airport signage includes English.

 I knew English is the unofficial language, but I was surprised when the accent is clearly American English rather than the pure form from nearby Great Britian.  What could be more familiar than Starbucks in a bank?

We were too late for tulips. The famed flower of spring blooms only a short time.

 That said, we were spoiled for beauty. From the spectacular floating flower market near Dam Square to window boxes adorning lovely buildings that date from the 16th century, Amsterdam is a riot of color.

 I love hydrangeas and was in awe of the beds that adorn lawns and gardens. Huge, perfectly shaped blooms like I’d not seen before.

There are millions of bicycles across The Netherlands. They are literally everywhere, ridden by college students, store clerks, hotel staffers, and office workers.

  
  

No blog about Amsterdam would be complete without the canals and parks for which the city is famous. They are not to be missed. I hope to visit them again.