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The 2021 Variant - The Year We All Said Would Be Better

My year in review - another bad year for travellers

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I reread my 2020 year end blog before starting to write my new one for 2021. I ended last year in isolation, staying at home, and being anxious about Covid. The vaccines were not quite available yet. It was scary to even think about going out any place. I started the new year with hopes of getting a vaccine and getting my life back to normal. I soon realized I had no idea what normal was any more. We were not getting a new year. It was going to be 2020 the 21 variant.

I grew a Covid beard in 2020 and had planned to clean it up in the new year. But we never really got that new year and the beard remains. I have kept it trimmed and not long. But this is still a first for me and I have grown to appreciate it. I have a feeling it will still be here at the end of 2022 also

2019

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2020

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2021

I spent most of January and February still in lock down but not just because of Covid. Our dog Tallulah had been hit by a car in December 2020. She had surgery on December 23, 2020 and the emergency vet tried to save her front leg. We brought her home on Christmas Eve 2020. She was under complete sedation and was not supposed to move at all. We found out eight weeks later that the surgery was not successful and she would need her front leg amputated. So I remained at home with her for her recovery from the amputation which was just as well as I had not received a my Covid shot yet and should not have been out anyway.

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My daughters and Mark were all concerned that I should get my Covid Vax as soon as I was eligible. My age group was opened in March for the shot. Katie drove me down to the Raven's Football stadium where the state of Maryland was doing mass vaccinations.

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Memorial to Baltimore Colts Football Player Johnny Unitas with a mask

I was glad to get the vaccination hoping it would allow me to get back to some sort of normalcy. But as I mentioned above I was soon to find out I still had no idea what normal really was any more. Three days after getting the vaccine I woke up to find that I had no sense of taste of smell. I knew what that meant! I had Covid. I went to the nearest test location at my local CVS Pharmacy to do a drive through test. One day later I had my response. I tested positive for Covid. This was certainly not part of my plane. I was still home with a recuperating dog and now I was concerned about getting ill from Covid. I was very fortunate. My case was very mild, thanks to the vaccine I had taken right before being diagnosed. I had no other symptoms other than no taste or smell. No fever. No weakness. And within the week my taste and smell has returned. But we still had to stay quarantined for a full ten days. I spoke with my personal physician by way of a Zoom meeting. He said I could assume I caught it while in line for the shot at the mass distribution site and that in his opinion my vaccination worked because I had such a light case.

April the fourth was a big day for me this year. I felt some sense of things returning to some kind of normal.

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I was a fully vaccinated Covid surviving member of society and I returned to favorite bar, Racers, and had my first beer back inside the bar.

Now for the next big step. Mark was finally qualified to be vaccinated. So now we were wondering if we would be to do some traveling. Nothing big, nothing out of the country. We had really wanted to go to Hawaii again but that was just not possible. So instead I found a wonderful beach rental on the Outer Banks. Tallulah was doing well with only three legs but we could not see ourselves leaving her at a kennel just yet. Luckily the house I found to rent had handicap access ramps. It was perfect.

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Tallulah loved the beach house and spent a lot of time on the deck watching the neighbors. This had to be one of our best vacations in a long time. We were still somewhat isolated but it could not have been more relaxing.

We were able to do some more local traveling in September over the Labor Day weekend. Oh how we wanted it to be Hawaii again but that still just was not happening for us. Plane travel was still sketchy. People were fighting on planes over mask mandates. Flight schedules were not dependable. And honestly Hawaii was not being too open to tourists returning yet anyway and who can blame them. And due to the unvaccinated Covid just kept growing. After some initial Google searches we were able to find a log cabin to rent in New Hampshire in the same area we vacationed in 2020. So the 2021 varient year of 2020 continued for us.

We enjoyed New England as much this year as we did in 2020. And the blending of the years continued. Writing now it's difficult to remember did that happen in 2020 or was it 2021. It's almost liked we have blotted out 2020 and just jumped from 2019 right into 2021. It's still difficult even going through photos to tell the story of this year to differentiate what happened and when. And to make it even more bizarre I am currently researching plans for a return this spring to New England.

We found out that Tallulah does travel well. She managed the both trips in the car with no real issues. She was more relaxed than at home. At home she is on constant guard duty guarding our house and yard growling and barking at everything and anything that moves. But on the vacations she seemed to be on vacation also. She ignored most of the dogs at the rest stops. She did not bark at any of the neighboring vacationers at either location. She pretty much became a some what normal dog. And then we returned home and she went back to her self appointed guard dog duties.

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Our cabin was isolated and on a dirt road. We were surround by beautiful lakes, trails, mountains and wild turkeys! The only time Tallulah got really animated was when a large group of wild turkeys decided to visit out yard. She also got a little agitated one evening and the next morning I saw a paw print that might have been from a small bear in our back yard. But other than the wild life there was nothing there bother us and we had one of our most relaxed vacations in years. We hiked. We photographed lakes. We saw lighthouses and cliff climbers. We drove to Maine and my daughter from Massachusetts drove up to see us for a day also.

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Portland, Maine Lighthouse

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Cliff Climber at Cathedral Ledge New Hampshire

The year progressed to a slow end by December. I saw some friends get sick. I saw some friends die. I got angry at Covid. I got angry at the unvaxxed who continue to make this pandemic a political argument while I tried to avoid political arguments. And I spent a lot of time at my local bar. Day drinking at Racers was my one refuge. With Covid and the restrictions, depleted staff, and the general malaise of the year they survived. Many places closed permanently. Some closed temporarily. But my favorite bar survived. Monday mornings this was where you would find me. It was never crowded. There was no real concern of getting infected from people who were not there. It was just me and my bartenders this year. Roxy, Mariam, Bernard, John, Eric, and Brooks kept me entertained and hopefully I didn't bore them too much with my old man stories. And I thank the manager Emily for her kindness to an old man with free tickets to a local beer event this year and many free samples of the newest beers on draft. And Monday regulars Lou, Chris, Roger all properly vaxxed. All feeling safe. And all glad for the escape. They all helped me keep my sanity this year.

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Colorful beer for a black and white world - Racers Cafe Parkville, Maryland The 2021 Variant

Ending this year I am glad t to have had my family together all at the same time over the Christmas holidays this. I am grateful for the vaccinations and the boosters being available. I am thankful they are all vaccinated and have received their boosters. I am thankful to have survived a very minor Covid infection. I am thankful for a year with strong leadership from our President and no longer going to bed angry or fearful each night from the actions of his predecessor. And I am looking forward to a new year. Will it be 2020 variant 22 this year? Will we all adjust to the new normal? It's difficult to say. I do know I will miss those good friends and family who did not survive this year. I dread hitting the big 70 this year but grateful to have been able to make it this far.

And Tallulah is looking forward to another vacation from her guard duties and returning to her mountain retreat.

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Posted by littlesam1 18:15 Archived in USA Tagged beer dogs new_hampshire bars north_carolina outer_banks covid year_in_review racers_cafe Comments (10)

O Solo Roma - Day 3 - Oddities and Favorite Tourist Sites

Day Three in my solo tour of Rome. Exploring famous tourist sites.


View O Solo Roma July 2016 on littlesam1's travel map.

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Day three was an interesting day. It was the first day I actually ventured away from the immediate area where I was staying. My main goal for the day was to see The Spanish Steps, Throw a coin the Trevi Fountain and buy a Hard Rock Café Tee shirt. I more or less achieved all of these goals. Returning to my room the previous evening I spent some time with my guide book plotting out the locations I wanted to see my third day. I rarely use maps when I travel. I am not good with maps and hate to struggle with deciphering them. I usually let who ever I am traveling with deal with maps and I just follow them hoping they have figured out where we are going. I can use maps. I am not helpless. I just don't enjoy the process and try to avoid the task. But traveling alone I had no choice. It was either work with the maps or just walk around and get lost, which is not always the worst thing to happen.

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Piazza del Popolo

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Santa Maria del Popolo

I started out from what was to become my central point in Rome Piazza del Popolo. I took a photo of Santa Maria del Popolo Church which is used for the opening scene in Rome in the movie Angels and Demons. The church was beautiful inside. But because it was Sunday and I walked into the church during mass I was unable to take any photos. I had planned to return because there was an angle by Bernini that I wanted to see but for one reason or another I never had to the chance to venture back inside. And it was a big mistake on my part as I was in Piazza del Popolo almost every day of my vacation and exploring the works of Bernini was one of my big goals of the holiday.

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I walked down Via del Babuino towards the Spanish steps. This is a major shopping street for tourists. Before finind the steps I saw two things that I found interesting and a bit odd in my opinion. I saw some very unusual shoes in one of the store windows. Then just past the store with the shoes I saw a second thing I found odd. It was a clothing store named Roy Rogers. When I think of Roy Rogers that last thing I think of is fashion.

To me Roy Rogers is a famous American movie star who made western movies and TV shows when I was a child. And then years later he opened up a roast beef sandwich chain. I never connected the name with a clothing store. Funny though, as I was writing this blog I tried to research the store brand to find some information about it and I found the store I had seen is now closed permanently. I guess this store rode off into the sunset along with the old cowboy hero.

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I ventured on to find the Spanish Steps. I have recently learned that Rome has passed laws to prevent people from sitting on the steps. They have had issues with too many tourists and are trying to protect the steps. But for years tourists have looked forward to seeing the steps and taking photos sitting on them. So my first goal of the day was to locate the steps and ask a friendly stranger to take my photo. But to my surprise the steps were closed! The square was still full of people but all they got see was a set of empty white steps. No beautiful flowers. No tourists sitting on the steps. But the crowd was still large and many were sitting around Fontana della Barcaccia at the bottom of the steps.

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Crowds walking to Trevi Fountain

I then continued to walk down Via del Babuino. I cut across Via Barberini down to Via Del Corso. From there I approached Piazza Trevi. I could hear the crowds before I walked around the corner to find the Trevi Fountain.

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The crowds were insane. It was all but impossible to get close enough to the fountain to try to throw in a coin and take a photo. Being alone I had no one to take a photo and it was too crowded to take out my selfie stick without decapitating someone. So I decided to just step back and watch the crowds and take some photos from a distance.

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I walked across the Piazza to the church Santi Vincenzo e Anastasio a Trevi. There was a large group of people setting on the steps. I joined them. From there I was able to get a few selfie stick photos of myself with the fountain in the background. Fortunately no one was decapitated.

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I did finally find a friendly stranger to take my photo at the Trevi fountain also.

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I left Piazza Trevi and walked up Via Lavatorie to Via del Traforo. From there I walked up too Via del Tritone so I could walk to Piazza Barberini where I wanted to see a fountain by Bernini. I read about the fountain in my guide book the previous evening. This would be my first major Bernini sculpture to see.

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I really liked this fountain a lot. It was a Bernini design which was important to me. And there were no crowds. It was no where near the size of the Trevi fountain. But it was very near so I did not understand why no one was visiting the fountain.

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There was no one near to take my photo so I had to use the selfie stick.

Leaving the Tritone Fountain I headed towards the Hard Rock Cafe. Before arriving at the cafe though I did see another oddity. I saw a very interesting lady on the side walk smoking a cigar. I don't see a lot of ladies smoking cigars so I had to get a photo.

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I know it's touristy but when I travel I really enjoy visiting Hard Rock Cafe's. I have a huge colletction of Hard Rock Cafe tee shirts. The HRC in Rome is a smaller café than some others I have visited. But I did have a beer at the bar before purchasing my tee shirt. I had a Peroni Nastro Azzurro. It was a good choice and the first beer I had in Rome. It's difficult to pass up all of the good Italian wines for a beer.

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And I got to hear James Brown singing "I Feel Good" while at the cafe. And after the heat of the day I did feel good after having that cold beer. This left me time for one more selfie stick photo. I was really enjoying the selfie on this trip.

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Food? I had a lot of good food opportunities on my third day. It's Rome of course. And my food adventures were excellent.

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I had a delicious Pasta Bolognese at Piazza Mignanelli for lunch. And it's not a meal without a glass of wine when in Rome. I also really like the pasta plate a lot and would have loved to have found some to buy for home.

Later in the day I had dinner at Restaurante Rosati I beautiful restaurant with side walk dining in Piazza del Popolo. I read on the menu that the restaurant originally opened in 1922 which is the year my father was born. I know he was in Rome in World War II and I know he had no time for restaurants. But it was a nice feeling to make the connection to him while dining here.

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I had Penne Arrabbiata, white wine and a glass of limoncello after my dinner. Once again the pasta bowl was beautiful.

I then walked back down Via Cola di Rienzo to return to my hotel. I stopped by Portofina Café for a huge gelato dessert. It was called a Volcano. There was liquid nitrogen in the bottom of the glass making it smoke like a Volcano. It was a fun dessert and the perfect ending to my day.

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There were several more odd things I noticed during my day. When you are traveling alone there is a lot of time to notice things you might overlook if you are with someone else. You might be busy talking. Or making plans. Or looking at each others photos while eating. But being alone it's easier to pick up on things that might go unnoticed. Some of these were just odd. One was kind of funny. And one was down right creepy.

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One thing I saw would not go unnoticed alone or with someone else. Although it was a very nice restaurant the toilet at Restaurante Rosati was a bit disturbing. There was no toilet seat!

Also while having my dinner I noticed a young couple at the table next to me. The young girl was very attentive to the young man which was fine. But then for no reason I understood she took off her shoe and pushed her foot up underneath of his. And that is how they finished their meal. Maybe he liked it. Maybe not. But had I been with Mark I might have missed this.

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At the end of my evening while having my gelato I noticed a man dressed in clown make up holding balloons in his hand. He was greeting children who entered the restaurant and also talking to their parents. And he was staring at me! And I was alone! Headlines the next day...lonely tourist murdered by crazed clown with creepy smile on Via Cola di Rienzo in Rome.

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When I was back in my hotel as I relaxed I texted Mark on my laptop. We laughed about the weird clown. I sent him a copy of the photo. We also had a laugh about the girl with her foot underneath her boyfriend while having dinner. And then just like the two previous nights Mark asked me if I had gone to Trastevere. And once more I had not gotten there yet.

Posted by littlesam1 17:37 Archived in Italy Tagged beer italy rome spanish_steps clowns hard_rock_cafe trevi_fountain bernini Comments (6)

Bad Ass Beer at Tootsie's Orchid Lounge

Exploring the historic Tootsie's Orchid Lounge in Nashville with my daugher


View The Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes Tour - Nashville on littlesam1's travel map.

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My daughter Katie had to travel to Nashville in October 2017 for a work conference. As part of my 65th birthday celebration year she invited me to travel with her to Nashville for the week. I had never been to Nashville before so I was glad to be invited. She would be busy all day at her conference which allowed me lots of time to explore the Music City and see what kind of trouble I could get into.

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Most of what I knew about Nashville I learned watching Ralph Emery on Nashville Now which was on the CMT channel in the 1980's. I worked night work back in those days. When I would get home at midnight I would turn on Nashville Now and my daughters Katie and Danielle would crawl out of their beds and come out to join me watching the show. So it was very appropriate that Katie and I got to share this trip now that she is an adult. When we arrived I knew I wanted to go find Tootsie's Orchid Lounge on Broadway in Nashville. All of the stars on Nashville Now used to talk to Ralph Emery about sneaking out of the back door of The Ryman Auditorium and go into the back door of Tootsie's for a quick drink between shows of The Grand Ole Opry. So after my tour of The Ryman Auditorium I knew I would want to go out that back door and head over to the back door of Tootsie's. You can see the brick wall of the back of the Ryman on the left in the photo and the back door of Tootsie's on the left.

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Tootsie's is a tourist trap. No question about that. It opens at 10:00 in the morning and the crowds are waiting for the doors to open. There are bars with music on all three levels of the building including a roof top deck with music also. I arrived at 10:30 that morning. The bar was already crowded. When I went in the back door I followed the sound of the music and found the front bar on the first floor. There was a band playing and everyone in the bar was singing along with the band. The woman who was lead singer of the band was standing on top of the bar singing Patsy Cline songs. She was singing Walking After Midnight at 10:30 in the morning. It was all that I could have hoped for.

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It was early morning but after all I was in Nashville so I had to have a beer. I stood at the end of the bar and asked for a beer menu. It did not take me long to decide. I saw the name Badass Beer. What could be more perfect than to have a Badass Beer at Tootsie's my first day in Nashville. And it gives a good travel story to share. I can tell everyone I had a Badass beer in Nashville.

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I finished my beer, walked to the front door, left a tip in the bucket for the band, and then found my way back out to Broadway. As I left there was still a small line of people waiting to get inside Tootsie's. They should have watched Ralph Emery in the 1980's or at least read a guide book. Use the back door folks. There is no line!

Katie's conference ended two days later. I took her into downtown Nashville to show her all that I had discovered while she was working. So I course I had to show her Tootsie's Orchid Lounge. We walked down Broadway and when we arrived the lines were twice as long at Tootsie's as they were in the morning of my visit. She looked at the line and said "Dad we will never get in there tonight but it looks like a fun place." I told her follow me. I know a secret. I took her to the alley behind the Ryman Auditorium and showed her the back entrance to Tootsie's. There was no line. We were able to get inside, fight the crowds and get up to the rooftop deck. It was too crowded to bother trying to get a beer at the bar. But she was able to experience Tootsie's the way the stars did back in the day. Through the back door in the alley.

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Posted by littlesam1 22:05 Archived in USA Tagged beer tennessee bars nashville tootsie's_orchid_lounge tourist_traps bad_ass_beer nashville_now ralph_emery Comments (3)

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