By Jeffrey Ditchek
One week ago I made my 49th. Not birthday. That I accomplished 13 years ago. My 49th U.S. state. My lovely wife and I arrived in Hawaii on our yearly winter getaway from the Catskill Mountain winters just a week ago today. I decided to go to Hawaii as I had never been there before and after all my years of traveling on business realized I had been to 48 states. With that in mind, I decided to visit all 50 states. Choosing Hawaii in February is a no-brainer. North Dakota will have to wait for a future summer vacation.
The daily average temperature here is about 80º and sunny. If you want to, you can live in your bathing suit. Even going out to dinner in a nice restaurant, wearing a swimsuit, at least for a man, is acceptable. We are on the Big Island, Hawaii by its proper name – locals prefer that it be called that – and I hear it is the most casual of the Hawaiian Islands.
On a walk just yesterday in flip-flops, I let a small local bus have the right-of-way when I did not have to. The bus driver, I guess about 50 or so with a pony tail, gave me the peace sign. You know, two fingers in a V that was such the thing to do for people my age in the late sixties and early seventies. Without hesitation and to my surprise I returned the peace sign. Felt a bit weird but also wonderful. Don’t think I have given a piece sign in over 30 years. Ah, if only I had as much hair as I had back then.
I started traveling for business in 1975 and have been almost everywhere, large and small, in the U.S. My wife tells me that in 2008 I hit my peak being away: 186 nights that year. Talladega, AL, Venice Beach, CA, St Louis, MO, Cuba, NM, Sandstone, MN, Gatlinburg, TN, Pittsburgh, PA, just to name a very few. I have stories I can tell about each. Good stories.
I have my favorite states. California and Arizona I think top my list but others are also so wonderful. I have my least favorite, but I will take my mother’s advice: “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say it.”
But Andes is my home of choice. I first discovered Andes on a business trip. An associate would let us use his property at the intersection of the Tremperskill and Bussey Hollow for strategic planning meetings. People in my industry would come from all over, Seattle, North Carolina, Florida, etc, to meet, do business and go to the Andes Hotel for dinner. Then in 1982 we bought our land in Andes and built a house.
We made the permanent move in August of 2009 and would not want to live anywhere else. While the beauty of Andes provides wonder, it is the people that make it a place you want to live in. People that choose to live here are different, as they know who they are. They are not searching to find that out. They have come to terms with themselves and that is such a refreshing attribute.
So here I am, my MacBook on my lap, on the deck overlooking 2,000 miles of Pacific Ocean. Waves hitting the hardened lava cliffs not more than 50 feet from me. The mist sometimes embracing my warm body, and yet I am thinking of my pond that I see from my deck in Andes, wondering what it looks like in the cold. Every morning in the winter when I awake I take my morning coffee and look at the pond through my patio doors and see the design the night cold has left for me to explore. It is very much like a snowflake, never two mornings is the design the exact same pattern.
By my rough calculations, in one week the waves have crashed into the lava cliffs 120,960 times. Imagine that! Yet I think of my frozen pond. ~