By Land or By Sea?

I’m planning on spending my golden years traveling around the world. I’ll probably sell my house and buy a mobile home. A motorhome or travel trailer are the most likely options for a mobile home, but another option that I didn’t consider until recently is a sailboat. I spent Christmas and New Year’s Day in Baja California and met some interesting sailors from all over the world at the Marina de La Paz. The adventurous tales of these sailors made me want to learn more about the sailing lifestyle, so I looked for a book on Amazon. I found Breaking Seas by Glenn Damato. The book’s byline is “An overweight, middle-aged computer nerd buys his first boat, quits his job, and sails off to adventure”. The perfect book! The author is not only a fellow computer nerd, but also sailed to Cabo San Lucas in Baja California for his maiden voyage. Breaking Seas is an entertaining read for computer nerds who dream of more adventurous lifestyles. His misadventures have me questioning whether the life of a sailor is for me though. Next I plan on reading Bumfuzzle for another perspective. Unless I receive an unexpected fortune, I have plenty of time to plan my retirement adventures.

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The Way

The Way of Saint James (El Camino de Santiago in Spanish) is a pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain, where the remains of the apostle Saint James are believed to be buried. Since the Middle Ages, European pilgrims have started at their homes and walked one of the many routes to Santiago de Compostela. Today, the most popular route is The French Way, a 500-mile journey beginning in southwestern France.

I’ve wanted to trek The French Way since watching the movie The Way a couple of years ago. Last year The Idaho Statesman interviewed Kurt Koontz, a Boise native that completed the journey and self published a book about his experience. Titled A Million Steps, the book is a travelogue about his trek and the connections he makes with other pilgrims. Kurt’s friendly nature makes the book enjoyable to read. I moved The Way further up on my bucket list after reading A Million Steps. I highly recommend this book--especially if you want to trek The Way someday.

San Diego

Before starting my Baja California adventure, I visited San Diego for 1.5 days. My favorite attractions were the Maritime Museum, USS Midway Aircraft Carrier, Old Town, and Pacific Beach. Sightseeing in San Diego was a fine way to spend my final days of 2013 in the USA.

Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard

Since 2007 I’ve been using the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 at both home and work. The 4000′s spacious palm rest, curved key bed, ergonomic arc, and reversed slope make it more comfortable than traditional keyboards. I spend a lot of time in front of a computer, so spending $35 for the 4000 six years ago was a wise investment. Yet while I’m mostly satisfied with the 4000, it’s not perfect. Its keys feel mushy, and its large size leaves little space for my mouse on the undersized keyboard tray at the office. Over the years I’ve looked at other keyboards, but I haven’t liked any of them as much as the 4000--until now.

Microsoft’s new Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard addresses my complaints with its predecessor. The Sculpt’s laptop-like scissor keys have a short travel distance and satisfying click. It’s an improved typing experience over the 4000. Additionally, the numeric keypad (which I never use) is now a separate unit. I left the numeric keypad in the original packaging, which leaves plenty of space for my mouse alongside the Sculpt keyboard. The Sculpt’s only drawback is that it ditches the 4000′s USB cable for a wireless USB dongle. While most people probably prefer a wireless keyboard, I’d rather not hassle with battery replacements. This is nitpicking though--the Sculpt is a worthy successor to the 4000. I highly recommend the Sculpt keyboard for people who spend a lot of time using desktop computers.

By the way, even though the Sculpt is a Windows-based keyboard, it works fine with my Mac without drivers. I just swapped the Command and Option keys under System Preferences, Keyboard, Modifier Keys. Also, I created a key binding file to change the behavior of the Home, End, PageUp, PageDown, Delete, and Insert keys.

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La Paz

The final destination of my three week adventure was La Paz, Bolivia. It’s an attractive city with abundant colonial architecture surrounded by modern buildings. I spent hours exploring the market-filled streets, including the unusual Witches’ Market. I departed Bolivia from the El Alto International Airport, the highest international airport in the world.

Copacabana

Copacabana is located on the Bolivian shore of Lake Titicaca, the largest lake in South America and the highest navigable lake in the world. It’s a small, quaint town with a Moorish-style cathedral near the central square. A nearby island, Isla de Sol, is the birthplace of Inca civilization. I spent a day on the historic island hiking and exploring the Chincana ruins.

Uros

My last day in Peru, I rode a boat on Lake Titicaca to the floating reed islands of Uros. The Uros people construct the islands from totora reeds and anchor the islands to the bottom of the lake with sticks and rope. The islanders fish, hunt birds, and sell handicrafts to visitors. Around fifteen of the forty-two islands are visited by tourists. Most of the homes have solar panels to power lighting and small appliances.

Sillustani

Sillustani Tower

On the way to Puno I visited the pre-Inca Sillustani ruins. The Sillustani Indians built funeral towers on a peninsula near Lake Umayo.

Cuzco

Cuzco was the capital of the Inca Empire and is South America’s oldest continuously inhabited city. Inca-built walls line the central streets and many of the Spanish colonial buildings are built on Inca foundations. Before hiking the Inca Trail, I spent a day in Cuzco acclimating to the altitude (11,200 feet) and wandering the city’s streets. After the hike I visited the city’s museums, my favorite being the Casa Concha Museum. This museum is dedicated to the history of Machu Picchu and houses artifacts taken from the site by Hiram Bingham during his excavation in 1912. (If you’re interested in learning about Machu Picchu, I highly recommend reading Turn Right at Machu Picchu.)

Machu Picchu

A mudslide prevented me from entering Machu Picchu via the Sun Gate. Instead, we descended from Wiñay Wayna on the porter’s trail and walked along the railroad track to Aguas Calientes. After days of hiking, we rode a bus to Machu Picchu with the visitors arriving to Aguas Calientes by train. My disappointment dissipated after taking in the grandeur of Machu Picchu. The ancient city is stunningly located, perched high in the Andes with the river Urambama running through the gorge far below. The city consists of more than 200 buildings, and it was fascinating to imagine how it would have looked during the height of the Inca Empire.