Putting It Together

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Two trips are still in the planning stage: Colorado in June and Italy at an undefined time in summer. Basically, we’re pretty sure we will be in Amsterdam the first week of August because that’s when my friend there has an open schedule. Whether we do Italy before or after that is uncertain. I’m leaning toward before — Italy in August has ALL the heat and ALL the crowds. Both are still pretty bad in July, but I can’t help that… we’ve got to go in summer when my son is off from school. But we can go for the lesser of two evils.


We finally sat down and went over the options for specific tours. I’ve 90% settled on a travel company, so we used their tour list. In Rome, we’ll be touring the ancient Roman sites on one day, the Vatican museums on another, and the Jewish Quarter for half of a third. The other half, we’ll have to ourselves to rest or just hang out in Rome on our own.

Ruins of the Forum in Rome.

We have added a two-day stop on the Amalfi Coast. We’d already been planning to spend a day in first Herculaneum and then Naples, but we’d intended to do it as a day trip from Rome. My son J asked me to schedule in a rest day sometime in the middle of this otherwise very active trip. So I arranged to stay on the coast after the tour of Naples instead of going back to Rome, and taking the following day as a free day to hang out at the beach or just relax.

Then north to Florence, where we’re doing all the usual things. Tour of the city, the Ufizzi Gallery, and a day trip to Pisa. We’re also doing a day trip to the town of Arezzo, which apparently has some ancient Etruscan sites that are of interest to my archaeologist son (and me as well; I know almost nothing about the Etruscans).

Finally Venice. There will be a gondola tour of course. Also a mysterious tour of the Doge’s Palace, with dungeons and all. I’ve been told that I absolutely must see the islands, so we’re taking a full day to explore those by water taxi.

Touring Venice in a gondola.

That’s the plan at the moment. It’s subject to change — they’ve given us a city tour of Naples and I don’t think we want one, for example; we’re going after an archaeological museum there which we’ve been told is particularly good — but we’re starting to nail down specifics. I don’t have hotels yet. I need to ask which ones have air conditioning. I’m informed that it isn’t common in Italy, and I doubt very much that I’ll be able to be comfortable without it. But we’re getting there.


In planning the Colorado trip, there’s three big components. We have to obtain a truck (and get it registered and insured); we have to get used to driving it, and we have to plan an itinerary. If the truck we buy has repairs that need done, we’ll need to do that, too.

Since we can’t yet get used to driving something we don’t have, I’m concentrating on the others. I’ve got a rough outline of itinerary — down the California coast to Los Angeles, across to Albuquerque where I have friends we’ll be visiting, and then north, taking the infamous left turn at Albuquerque because Chance insisted that we had to. (Never argue with a crab. They pinch.)

A few days ago, we went out to try and buy a truck. And we might just have found one.

It was up in Mount Vernon, about 35 miles from Seattle. There was a little father-and-son used car dealer; nothing we’d normally stop at, let alone drive for three quarters of an hour to see. But they consistently seemed to have a few trucks that fit C’s parameters advertised, and so we went up to take a look.

To my mild surprise, they didn’t look bad. There were the inevitable minor issues, including torn-up upholstery in one and a back seat that stuck halfway in the folded position in the other, but both of them were plausible, low-mileage vehicles that ran properly. And both were younger than the 21-year-old who was buying, and cost under $12,000.

We were really tempted by the less expensive of the two, even though it was the one whose back seat stuck. But it was a two-wheel drive truck, and after some discussion with the other members of his collective, both of whom have already gotten their two-wheel drive vehicles stuck in the mud on their property, C reluctantly ruled it out. The other was a 4×4 Dodge Ram, however, and aside from the ripped up seating (and a slight dent in the back) it looked pretty good.

This is the truck we’re interested in.

Seating leather can be strapped down with duct tape. We decided to ignore it. C put down a $500 refundable deposit on the truck, to hold it until we could get it to a local mechanic for inspection. Then there were a lot of phone calls to coordinate scheduling.

We finally arranged to go back up to the shop this Thursday, pick up the truck ourselves, and drop it at the mechanic in a nearby town. They’ll email us a report either later that day or Friday morning. If it looks like there’s nothing we need to worry about (or at least nothing that would be expensive or time-consuming to get repaired), we will go back up on Friday and complete the purchase. And C will have the first vehicle he’s ever owned personally.

We’re both trying not to get our hopes too far up. If this truck has too many problems, there are other dealers we can try, but mostly in Portland, which would mean a two-day trip just to look. It would be great if this one works out, but I am cautioning both myself and C not to push it if it doesn’t. He’s going to be owning and driving his new truck for five years or more, assuming it runs that long… he needs it not to be a danger or a money sink.

But it would be lovely to be done searching for the right truck. I hope this is it. We’ll see in a couple of days.

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