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It was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime.  A trip to remember.  And remember it we will.

We fly to Peru.  We hike the Salkantay Trail through the Andes Mountains, and arrive at Macchu Picchu.  What could possibly go wrong?

Never ask a question you don’t want to know the answer to.

We flew out of Baltimore to Miami via American Airlines.  From Miami we flew to Lima, Peru.  From Lima we flew to Cuzco, Peru, from which our (mis)adventure would begin.

Unfortunately, the airline did not tell us that we had to retrieve our luggage in Lima to go through customs before heading on to Cuzco.  The Cuzco airport is a domestic airport, and does not have customs.  While my girlfriend has had some experience in world travelling, this was my first time out of the land of E. Pluribus Unum (unless you count a driving day trip to Canada via Maine back in the early nineties when you didn’t need a passport to cross the border.)  I have never flown outside of the United States before so how would I be expected to know this.  Dammit, Jim!  I’m just a doctor!

As we waited in Cuzco for our luggage which never came, the error of our ways became apparent.  A few phone calls confirmed that our luggage–along with most of our hiking equipment, was enjoying the scenery in Lima, not Cuzco.

Here is the view as we left the airport in Cuzco:

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Now, I don’t know about you, but this is not what I would consider a “vacation view.”  This is a vacation:

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Fortunately,  our tour company flies masochists hikers in a couple of days ahead of the trek to allow them to acclimate to the altitude.  So we had from Sunday afternoon to Tuesday morning to somehow retrieve our luggage.  Paperwork was reluctantly completed.  In Spanish.   People frowned. In Spanish.  We tried to keep smiling.  The travel agency put in a good word for us.  Apparently, we are not the first pioneers to show up without luggage.

It’s not as though we couldn’t rent equipment. We could.  But we had already invested money in new sleeping bags, backpacks and air mattresses prior to leaving on this trip.  It made no sense that they sit in Lima having a better time than we were.  This was a matter of principle.

So we tried to enjoy some tours of Cuzco and learn about the ancient Incas, while the airline industry took their good old time saving our trip of a lifetime.  Most of my clothes were on the checked luggage because I hate toting heavy carry-ons through an airport.  I paid dearly for my laziness.

I had to wear one of my girlfriend’s coats, as my outer gear was in the lost luggage.  It wasn’t pink, but a brighter purple than I would have ordinarily opted for. And her hiking pants were a little tighter than socially acceptable I suppose.  People kept asking her who her muchacha (Spanish for young lady or maybe cross dresser I’m not really sure) was.  I was apparently abused but not amused.

The hotel we lodged at was quaint and had a European flair.  Don’t ask me how I know since I’ve never been to Europe, but dammit I do watch movies.  It’s probably the Spanish influence.  But I was somewhat confused by the fact that you couldn’t throw toilet paper in the toilet.

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Each bathroom had a little trashcan sitting on the floor to dispose of toilet tissue, etc.  Seriously?  Help us protect the environment?  Did you just see what I flushed out of my system?  And you’re worried about some paper?

Time ticked by and at nine o’clock Monday night we finally get our luggage and hiking gear.  We were scheduled to leave at 3 am the next morning because they apparently close the only road that leads to the base of the trail at 7 am for road construction and we have to get past checkpoint Charlie before the window of opportunity closes.

Only ONE road in . . .

 

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To quote Mark Twain, “the reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”  However, at one point, I wasn’t quite sure I was going to make it.

It all started with a vacation in Peru.  Having survived a 50 mile hike through the Andes ending with a tour of Macchu Picchu and losing my luggage on the way to Cuzco (more stories for another day,) I found myself almost home in New York at JFK airport.  All I had to do was to survive a short trip to Baltimore and a three hour drive home to Pennsylvania.

I was sooooo close!

We boarded the plane in New York.  It wasn’t made by the Wright Brothers, but they were probably still alive when it was built.  It was a small plane–two seats on one side and a single seat on the other.  Only one luggage bin on one side.

When I got to my seat and sat down I was welcomed by this:

tray1

I’m having a bad feeling about this.  If the best they can do to fix a tray table is duct tape and a warning label, I’m not sure about the level of maintenance of the more important parts of the plane, like the cockpit and engines.

Turns out, they must have used duct tape and a label on the rudder.  Halfway into our flight, the stewardess announced that when we start to land it might be noisy.  There was a problem with the rudder, but it wasn’t important.

Wait!  What?

Isn’t the rudder used to steer the plane?

Of course, it explains why the pilot kept coming on and asking everyone to lean to the left or lean to the right.

Not long after the rudder announcement, the stewardess is back on the speaker with more good news.  She told us not to be alarmed, but there will be some emergency vehicles parked along the runway.  Just.  In.  Case.

And as an exclamation point to this tidbit of news, the duct tape fails and my tray table falls in my lap.

tray2

The stewardess is now coming down the aisle collecting trash.  I point to the broken tray table and tell her, “I think I need some more duct tape.”

With a perfectly straight face, and no amusement whatsoever, she replies, “I don’t carry duct tape.”  She slams the tray back up and reattaches it with the old duct tape.

I wistfully look out the window and wonder if the rudder has fallen off yet or if the duct tape is still holding.

Sure enough, as we land, there were 7 or 8 firetrucks with lights flashing along the tarmac.  One of the other passengers noted that there were no other planes taxiing near our runway.  Someone was prepared for the worst.

But we landed in one piece, although I can’t say for certain we didn’t leave a trail of parts between New York and Baltimore.

You might be a redneck in Pennsylvania if . . . .

You go to the bathroom and see . . .

Gunshow

Gun Show Advertisement

Fishing

Beer Advertisement

Your beer advertisement also has a handy fishing season schedule, since those two things (drinkin’ and fishin’) go together like peanut butter and jelly.  And last (but certainly NOT LEAST!) your:

Dispenser

Condom Dispenser

You got your guns, beer and sex.  It’s like a farmersonly commercial.  What more could you need?

Runs of Steel

Today I competed in my second Pittsburgh Half Marathon.

PM2016Logo

By “competed,” I mean I tried to 1) finish, 2) without injury or embarrassment, and 3) with a better time than last year.  I managed the trifecta!

With an official time of 1:49:05 (pace=8:19) I came in 1305th place overall, and 51st in my age group (50-54.)  51 years old and I came in 51st.  Kinda cool.  This outpaced last years race with an overall time of 1:50:46 (pace = 8:26) and an overall place of 1802 which put me 72nd in my age group.

I’m not sure how many half marathon runners there were, but let’s just say there were a lot.  I lost count, oh, about 10 yards into the race.  (According to the website, there were 14,127 in the half marathon and 3,681 places in the marathon.)

The weather started out iffy, and it drizzled/rained for the first couple of miles.

RunningRain

IF IT RAINS, YOU RUN.  IF IT THUNDERS, YOU RUN FASTER.

It was actually a little refreshing, but it became a little humid after the rain stopped.   At the last minute,  I switched from a T-shirt to a long sleeved shirt.  Mistake.  Should have trusted my weather.com temperature predictions!  Instead, I looked out the window of my hotel and saw a lot of people wearing long sleeved shirts and light windbreakers.  Psyched myself out.  It’s kind of like reviewing your answers on a test and changing a correct one at the last moment because of second guessing.  Oh well.

I seemed to be the most popular runner.  I kept hearing, over and over again, “GO TODD!”  Now, I did have an ear bud playing music in one ear, and there was a lot of background race noise, so it is slightly possible that these folks were yelling “GOOD JOB!”, but I think they were cheering me on.

One sign read:  “IF TRUMP CAN RUN, SO CAN YOU!”  Thought that was pretty funny right there.

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Not from this race . . . . too much SUN!

Another one said “SHORTCUT” with an arrow pointing away from the main course.  I thought about it, but it seemed a little questionable, especially since the arrow looked like it pointed to a parking lot.  Maybe they offered a shuttle service to the finish line?  Had it pointed to a bar offering free beer, I’d have gone for it.

And, as I passed a group of young women sporting Nittany Lion logos on the back of their tank tops, I said “GO PENN STATE!” as I passed them.  A guy running next to me then yelled, “Penn State!  Let’s hear it.”  So someone else started yelling “WE ARE!”  and a chorus of “PENN STATE!” ensued.  After three cheers, the cheerleader yelled “THANK YOU!” and we all politely responded, “YOU’RE WELCOME!”

Never had that happen in a race before.

One of the joys of running is that you get to see a lot of interesting things.

Take the neighborhood I run through each day.

There is a home owner who has taken it upon him or herself to establish parking codes for the development.

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I’m not sure this is legal, or even enforceable.  I’m sure there must be some story behind this (the guy I run with says it involves a neighbor who was having some work done on his home and construction vehicles being parked in front of this particular house.)  Regardless, the sign screams to me:  THANK GOD YOU DON’T LIVE HERE!  Seriously, who would want to deal with this every day?!

But I never saw anyone park there.

Until today.

truck

I don’t even know where to begin.

The white tarp that looks like a bedsheet?

My truck isn’t parking . . .  it’s just sleeping!

Maybe they won’t see it if I cover it up.

You’re going to need a bigger tarp, Chief Brody!

Pay no attention to that truck behind the curtain!

I’m not a bad truck . . . just a very poor wizard.

Waving hand . . . This is NOT the truck you’re looking for.

But it gave me a smile on my run today.

I Smell a Wrat

Recently, I was eating at a Japanese Restaurant, when I came across this on the menu . . .

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Japanengrish?  It would appear that somehow in the translation, the T’s and P’s got reversed, so a Lettuce Wrap became a Leppuce Wrat. Or so we hope.  And pray.

There’s some peas in my leppuce that someone put there.  They know I don’t like peas but they do not care. I actually do like peas, but not in my lettuce, thank you very much.

Worse yet, I worry that there might be a dead wrat laying on my leppuce.

And as you know, I do not eat wrat.  It is not on my lunch bucket list.

I will not eat it here or there, I will not eat it anywhere.  Not on a boat.  Not with a goat.  (Who probably loves leppuce.)  Not in a car.  Not in a bar.  (There is not enough beer in Japan to convinve me to dine on wrats.)

And that’s a wrat, folks!

BSR2015

This race combines three of my loves:  1) running, 2) the Paterno family, and 3) Beaver Stadium.  The fact that it benefits Special Olympians is just icing on the cake.

But I need your help.

I’m okay with the running part.  Three miles is a warm up for me.  I don’t even need you to bring me water.  Or bananas.  (Beer and donuts would be great, but I don’t NEED that!)  I don’t need you to stand on the sideline and cheer me on, but you are welcome if you so desire.

No–what I need is your financial support.  I have set a goal to raise $1200.00 for Special Olympics. As of writing this blog, I have raised $745.00.

If you can afford it, and think the Special Olympics is a great cause, then donate in my name at my home page.

I thank you for your support!

Here is a photo of me crossing the finish line last year just to prove I can do it!

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