Kathy & Dave

Kathy & Dave consider western New York to be our home. We love to hike and travel, exploring the world around us. Dave retired from the National Park Service after 30 years and had the opportunity to live in National Parks like Redwood, Shendandoah,Death Valley, Biscayne, American Memorial Park (in Saipan/Guam), and others. His last park before retiring was the Blue Ridge Parkway where he was actively involved with establishing the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. Kathy has extensive experience in the medical field, from pushing papers to working with patients.

After working for the same hospital (Dave as the Emergency Preparedness Coordinator and Kathy in the Revenue Cycle Division as the Director of PFS), they sold their home and began a 10-month trip around the world, visiting 20 countries.  Then, COVID hit. 😒  After 78 days and only 3 countries, they had to return to the US.  But where in the US, since they had sold their home??

First, it was back to the wide open spaces of the Adirondack Mountains.  There is no place better to ride out a global pandemic than Saranac Lake! Then, they finally bought a log cabin on 2.3 acres in western NY.  It is good to be back near family again!  Kathy went back to work working part time for her old hospital in North Carolina (remotely) and Dave is doing a smattering of per diem jobs, from being an EMT for the County Health Department to teaching CPR at the community college.  Dave also started a new career as a Travel Agent!  Check out Daves Travel Agency if you are interested in booking a trip.

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico has history, great beaches, natural beauty and El Yunque – America’s only tropical rain forest in the US National Forest System (…and home to bouncing frogs!)  Vieques Island has nature reserves and bioluminescent waters.  Oh, yeah, and Puerto Rico has Kathy’s Mom, sister and nephews who moved there to live la vida loca.  We will be heading there this fall.  Can’t wait!

Puerto Rico Info

Spanish Inquisition? September 10, 2023

As part of our traveling, both of us have our strengths and our weaknesses, but combined, we make a good team. Dave’s primary job description is Planning Section Chief and, eventually, Operations Section Chief in charge of implementing the Travel Management Plan (TMP).  He also dips a bit into the Logistics Section, including one of the most important parts of the job, the duties of Emergency Preparedness Coordinator. After all, this is how he made a living at Adirondack Medical Center: writing, planning, and preparing for every likely emergency.  We have worked on our Hazard Vulnerability Analysis before each trip.  Historically, we have had some successes and some failures.

After each trip, we do an After Action Review to see: 1) What did we expect, 2) What actually happened, 3) What went well, and 4) Where can we improve. This has helped Dave be prepared for things like Kathy’s bout with dysentery (all hail, the Z-pack!), her allergic reaction to shellfish (thank goodness for Benadryl and the Epi-pen which was poised to be deployed), and his own bout with food poisoning (gotta love Zofran!)  These are some of his excellent successes as the Medical Unit Leader.  As part of our planning, we also build in an extra day or two upon arrival before any tours, cruises, or events begin in order to mitigate any delays in flights (part of Kathy’s job as the Air Operations Branch Manager!)  This has the added bonus of giving us some extra time to explore the area at a leisurely pace and get accustomed to the new time zone.  We also store our most critical items in our carry-on packs, including a spare change of clothes.

But, of course, we have had some failures, including the most epic one: not planning for a global pandemic.  As Monty Python so accurately said “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!” How could we have expected a global pandemic??  Okay, it was one of the potential risks identified in our Hazard Vulnerability Assessment, but way down the list of “what might happen”, so far down, like way down on the list.  Learning from past mistakes and successes, Dave decided to take his preparedness to a higher level.  As part of the checklist and planning for our upcoming trip to southern Africa, we updated our vaccinations (RSV, typhoid, and COVID/FLU), renewed our prescriptions for anti-malarials, and refilled our meds to treat things like dysentery, nausea, anaphylaxis, asthma, and traveler’s diarrhea, just in case.

All boxes have been checked. We are a walking pharmacy!  Next, we updated our packing lists to prepare for our 23-hour trip (each way), including one flight that is 16 hours alone! We have checked and double-checked the plans, verified our trip details, contacted the travel agency to verify details, registered with STEP (the US State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program), alerted our credit card companies that we will be out of the country, downloaded the airline’s app, completed a spreadsheet that has all the details of the trip along w/any confirmation numbers needed for our travels, and made copies of our passports, health insurance cards, and travel insurance.

Last, but not least, Dave planned a table top exercise for our next upcoming trip to Africa. The table-top exercise is designed to test our response to every possible eventuality that could happen while traveling in the National Parks of Africa.   The table-top exercise planned was not exactly what Kathy expected…. she is pretty sure that this won’t happen while we are on our trip (but she didn’t think a global pandemic was upcoming either!)  But just in case, we are now prepared for the eventuality of utter chaos!!  (See the  photo of our table-top scenario.)



Today’s nugget will deal with flight arrangements.  When you book flights through third-party sites such as Expedia, JetAbroad, Priceline, Travelocity, or AirTreks, they become the party that the airlines will deal with.  If you have an issue with a flight, the airline will not work with you, only the company that booked the flight for you.  And that company will usually have a logjam of customer problems, especially if many flights were cancelled due to a large weather disturbance (or a global pandemic!)

We had booked flights from Buffalo, NY to Cairo, Egypt in 2021 through a company called JetAbroad.  A week before the flight, Royal Air Maroc canceled the leg of the flight from  Marakesh, Morocco to Cairo.  They rebooked the flight, but we would have had to stay at the Marakesh Airport for 25 hours!  That would have caused us to miss the first day of our tour in Egypt.  They said we could accept the change or request a refund.  We booked our own flight on Delta and canceled the Royal Air Maroc flights, since we would have missed our tour.  It took about 19 months, a dozen emails, quoting the FAA’s rules on flight cancellations, and an email to a consumer assistance program before we received our refund!  We contacted JetAbroad, but they just said that we were in the Royal Air Maroc queue.  We contacted Royal Air Maroc, but they said they would only deal with the company that booked the flights.  It was very frustrating!  We are sure that without our constant pressure, we would not have ever received our refund.

Now, the airlines can sometimes fix minor issues.  I had a client who booked his flights through Expedia.  The night before his flight, he noticed that the boarding passes and their passports did not exactly match names.  Some had middle initials, some had middle names.  Calling the airline did not help, nor did calling Expedia.  Both pointed fingers at the other.  I suggested he go to the airline counter at the airport to see if they could resolve the issue.  They drove there that night and the ticket agents said they could fix the problem, but only when they checked in the next day.  When they checked in, the ticketing agent resolved the problem, but only for the outbound flight.  They had the same problem on their way home, but it was resolved at the ticket counter when they arrived at the airport the day they flew home.

The moral of the story is to always book your flights directly with the airlines, or you are setting yourself up for frustration if there is an issue.  You can always book the land-only portion of a group tour if you go that route.

May 14, 2023 Happy Anniversary!!

Seem astonishing that 18 years ago we were married at OLBS in Depew, NY.   And the laughter has not ended. Kathy is not sure if Dave is laughing at her or with her, but laughter it is. Our last day in Spain was fairly low key.  We started with breakfast, which was included with our hotel stay, but which we had to walk outside and down 2 streets to get to.  We started off with the largest piece of toast Dave has ever seen (which created a lively discussion on the size of the toaster). The “peach” jam was really strawberry jam and Dave is convinced he can become a menu translator for the city of Madrid. Last night’s dinner of a “steak” salad was really grilled chicken with fresh tomatoes.  Kathy’s dinner of a tomato salad was exactly as expected or mostly as it was shaped into a tower and was perched delicately on top of the plate. (We wish we could have gotten pictures, but it was kind of a hoity-toity restaurant and they already looked askance at our orders. We are pretty sure they were happy to see the last of us!)

After breakfast we headed off to wander the streets of Madrid and find a place where we could attend mass. Stopping at the Cathedral, Dave lamented the fact that we had missed the 11 am mass by just a few minutes.  Looking confused, Kathy advised him that it only 10:17. Dave’s watch, a new one, updated the time by an hour later.  It also recognized we were in Spain and started showing the day of the week in Spanish. Instead of saying Sunday, it said Domingo.  Rectifying the pesky “smart” watch, we strolled around the outside of the cathedral and went into the adjoining “Crypt”, which is where the 11 am mass was held.  We wandered around looking at the displays before finding our seat and waiting for the service to begin. Like always, it was a beautiful reminder of how we are really similar across the world when we go into to practice our faith. In any language we can follow the traditional rituals of the mass and feel that connection to our faith, community, and the people with whom we worship no matter where in the world we are.

After mass, we hoofed it down to a beautiful garden that we had spied from the top patio area of the cathedral. Determined to find the entrance, we wandered down until we reached the beautiful gardens that were adorned with a variety of flowers, trees, and flowering bushes. Deciding we were feeling a tad bit parched we decided to find something to eat.  Lunch (or what ended up being lunch) was really a Black and Mango ice-cream cone for Dave and apple pie ala mode for Kathy. Dave’s Black & Mango ice-cream had the added benefit of turning his tongue black and the end tips of his mustache a tad bit darker than the upper part.  Truly feeling a bit Spanish at this point, they went back to the hotel where Dave took a siesta and Kathy just chilled listening to her book. No work today for either of them.

Nap time over, we again explored the area around Madrid. Puerto Del Sol, where the President’s Residence is located (similar to the square in front of the White House), is a bustling area where, like Washington, DC, protestors abound. Trying to figure out what they were protesting at any given moment was interesting. There abound multitudes of street performers who hope for change from the passing hordes who bustle in the square. Deciding on dinner we picked “Mel’s Diner” an American themed diner, hoping for something that was not fish, sausage, or ham and we both got lucky. Kathy had a Chicken Caesar Salad (which was perfect).  Dave had a chicken sandwich (which wasn’t as perfect, no bun – just slices of toasted bread) but, hey, the fries were good. Most importantly – the strawberry milkshake was perfect and a great compliment to end our last dinner in Madrid. A simple anniversary dinner, but since Dave bought Kathy a hotdog from a convenience store their first week of marriage as dinner, this was a step up!!  The highlight of the dinner for Dave was the “50’s music” they played to keep up the theme of a ‘50s diner.  None of the songs really reminded him of the ‘50s classics, but he really liked it when they played a song from the movie, “The Blues Brothers” with Dan Akroyd and Jim Belushi.  Kathy was sure we were the only two people in the area that had ever seen the movie.

Wandering around again, we gawked at the many passersby as the square was a perfect place to people watch. Seeing a guy in mint green bell bottom leather pants gave Dave the giggles as it reminded him of a classic episode from the TV show “Friends”. We saw many men and women wearing their traditional formal outfits wandering the square as people requested photos of them – they seemed always happy to oblige.  Deciding to end the night quietly they traipsed back to the hotel in a light rain to watch a movie on Netflix and get ready for the flight home tomorrow. Monday mornings here, like everywhere, come quickly.

The night though did not end so quietly, though.  Kathy stepped into the shower and discovered that the mechanics of the shower were too complicated. Periodically she would open the door and get instructions from Dave. Finally getting the shower to start up, it promptly sprayed water straight out into the entire bathroom, soaking everything in its path, including toilet paper. Just to provide some context there are no shower doors, no shower curtain, and one complicated shower that is not what it seems. Dave laughed so hard when Kathy opened the door and shrieked asking what she did wrong.  In between his hearty bouts of laughter, he provided some instructions to get the shower to spray down instead of out!

Kathy is excited to go home, take a bath, drink coffee that is not a consistency of mud, and eat food that she recognized and might not be tainted with shellfish.  We are checked in and ready to head home. Happy Mother’s Day to all our friends and family far away! Know that we are thinking of you and miss you all.

May 11-12, 2023 Prince Charming and his Quests!!

Yes, we are alive! Dave has mostly fully recovered! Kathy had a bad bout of indigestion, but minor in comparison to what he went through. We though didn’t let it stop us from our appointed “rounds”… okay we are not mail carriers, but we soldiered on. Thursday saw us leaving early from Granada to head towards Cordoba where we had a tour scheduled for 10:30 in the morning.  Cordoba was once the richest city in the world and the mosque (turned into a cathedral now), the synagogue and the alcazar (Moorish castle) pay tribute to that wealth.  The mixture of so many cultures has really been the highlight of this trip.

Dave, getting into the groove of driving in Spain, managed to get us there with time to spare and very few “Please do a legal U-turn” requests from the GPS (and only one, “You’re going the wrong way down a one-way street!” shout, which was incorrect.)  We soon were on our way to visit an old Moorish building that up until the 20th century housed a prison and had the dubious history of being the home of the Spanish Inquisition. Next stop was the Jewish quarter which was small, but still had some remnants of the past pockets of Jewish population. Last stop on the tour was the large church which was formally a mosque and now a catholic cathedral. Like a lot of history in Spain, the Catholic church converted the building from a Muslim place of worship to a Catholic one. Kathy had a hard time seeing any remnants of the former Muslim tenants, but luckily our guide pointed them out to us. (We will have to take her word for it!)

Next stop was something to eat. Well past our noon lunch hour, and getting closer to 2 pm, we finally found a spot where we chatted with a foursome from the States. Dave had potatoes in a cream sauce and Kathy tried a local dish. Both were excellent and the potatoes were a benign meal for Dave’s still recovering tummy. We soon meandered through the labyrinth of streets to find our hotel. Checking in, we chatted with the desk clerk and decided to leave our car in the parking garage next to the mosque.  We then hoofed it to get our luggage so that we could begin our explorations.  This was where having backpacks for luggage paid off.  Not having to drag wheeled luggage over cobblestone and dirt streets was the advantage of putting them on our backs.  After chilling for a bit at the hotel we headed off on our first quest a visit to the Festival of the Patios, a local tradition where the residents decorate their indoor courtyards, or “patios”, with a festival of plants and decorations. It was a highlight of the day. The gardens were amazing and we were astounded with the amount of work each gardener put into creating a perfect paradise in their homes.  Dinner and bed were all that were left to accomplish that day and soon we were nestled in our bed. Well that sounds more positive than it actually was, but at least we had a bed (or what passed as a bed).

Gratefully, the next morning we climbed out of bed and headed towards the small village of Consuegra to “tilt” at a few windmills. One of the world’s most iconic books, and one of Dave’s favorites, is Miguel de Cervantes’ book from the early 1600’s, “Don Quixote – Man of La Mancha” in which the characters’ adventures take place in a setting very much like Consuegra. We found the time-period windmills, of which 5 are still working, and a large castle currently in restoration. We wandered around the area and thoroughly enjoyed reliving some of the best moments from the book. Dave managed to joust the windmill with a “sword” and then tilted at it – like Don Quixote, no obstacle was too big!  We could not linger as we needed to be off to locate our next hotel in Cuenca, Spain.

Cuenca is a beautiful area rock-walled area and the hotel is a converted convent. It sits high atop a hill with buildings perched on top of the cliff walls that surround a deep gorge. After having jousted with a windmill, Dave had worked up an appetite. Walking over a large pedestrian span of the bridge that links the convent/hotel with the town, we set out on our next quest – find dinner. Kathy was still feeling a tad bit under the weaver from acid reflux, so she opted for a gently grilled ham and cheese sandwich (without the ham, please) while Dave tried a local sandwich. Heading back, we were treated to seeing quite a few local eagles called Booted Eagles.  Entranced, we watched them for a bit while standing in the middle of the bridge. We then headed back to the hotel where Kathy promptly fell asleep at the unseemly hour of 8:30 pm, leaving Dave to fend for himself.  Well, tomorrow was another day.

Morning arrive, but not much was accomplished. We managed to leave the hotel early in order to return our rental car in Madrid, normally a simple process.  We arrived 40 minutes prior to our shuttle pickup.  Unfortunately, just dropping off the car keys took more than an hour to accomplish! This left our shuttle driver, who was waiting to take us into Madrid, cooling his heels longer than he wanted. Finally finding our hotel, we deposited our luggage and set out to discover Madrid. Just down form the hotel is the famous Puerta del Sol, a thriving open plaza that has street entertainers, lots of food, and of course shops on every corner. Deciding on a late lunch we had some chicken fingers and quesadilla, just small bites for Kathy. Still feeling the effects of the reflux we went back to the hotel where Kathy chilled and Dave went out looking for some tums.  Along the way, he found the Cathedral and the Royal Palace of Spain. The third and final quest, like all the others was successful!  The Spanish version of tums will hopefully do the trick!!