Had My Father Lived He Would Have Been 100 Years Old Today

Had he lived, my father, Vasco L. Walters, would have been 100 years old today. Sadly he left us in January of 1976 at age 60 due to emphysema. I wondered what would happened if he came back to life to celebrate his 100th birthday. He would encounter a world with the following realities:
1) An African-American president.
2) Women fighting in combat in the military.
3) Gay marriage and gay rights.
4) A technological revolution with the internet and all of the mobile technical devices.
5) Companies that he had never dreamed of like Facebook or Google are corporate giants and ruling the information revolution.
6) The possibility of our first woman president in 2016.
7) Electric cars.
8) Private rocket companies like Space-X, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactica about to send humans into space.

Would day be in shock at all of this and sure that our world was in decline? I think not. I believe that he would have been very curious about all of the changes. I would be inundated with questions. He would pass days reading newspapers, magazines and books. He would insist that I teach him how to use the computer.

He would love Elena and spend hours talking with her and getting to understand her. He would spend a lot of time with Luah talking to her about the advertising business.

Most important is that I like to believe that he would have been very proud of me.

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It’s Official! I Made It To The End Of The World!!!

If you are a purist you would say that somebody only truly reaches the bottom of the world when they go to the precise center of the South Pole. Only a few privileged scientist, military personnel (mostly helicopter and aircraft pilots) and members of well-funded public and private expeditions make it to this precise bottom of the world. Even if you sail to Antarctica on one of the cruise ships going from Ushuaia, you will only go to a peninsula and nowhere near the precise geographic center of the South Pole.

The Argentina Federal government and the province of Tierra del Fuego have made it a little easier. All you need to do is go into Tierra Del Fuego National Park and drive to the end of Argentina Route 3. This is where the Pan American Highway that starts in Alaska officially ends after some 17,000 kilometers.

This morning I started the day on a tour. I thought that I was just going to ride what is known as “The train to the end of the world.” This is a train that is now inside Tierra del Fuego National Park. Long ago when Ushuaia was a penal colony, prisoners who volunteered to work in the woods and in a saw mill were transported on this train to work and to come back to their prison cells. I rode the train as did a huge number of other people. It was an incredible experience and went through some beautiful scenery. When I got off the train and climbed back on board my bus, I assumed that the tour was over and we were going back to Ushuaia.

Much to my pleasant surprise we took a long and sometime arduous tour of the park itself. Our last stop was the end of Argentina Route 3. It is also the end of the Pan American Highway that starts in Alaska. I had reached a milestone that I had dreamed of. It was one of my big goals on this trip.

Right now I am exhausted even after resting. I called Elena and she was delighted to hear that I had made it. Elena I feel so sad that we have to suffer through this very hard time apart while I accomplish things that are so important to me in my life. Elena your patience, understanding and hard work, made this incredible moment possible. Thank you so much for your personal and financial sacrifices.

It’s Snowing This Morning In Ushuaia!

It is almost six in the morning here in Ushuaia and it’s snowing. We are almost in summer. I am staying in this very upper middle class area with housing prices just as expensive as where we live in Pacifica, California. The house I am staying in is just a bit bigger than our home and it costs $800,000 US here. Why do people pay so much money to live in such a harsh place?

A Wild And A Cold Day Sailing On The Beagle Channel And Hiking Bridges Island

It’s almost summer here is Ushuaïa​. I spent many years if my life in Houston. It feels like a Houston winter with temperatures in the 30’s a fierce wind blowing, and rain. It’s a tough life for the 80,000 people who call this place home.

This morning I went on a boating adventure. We took a boat that started in Ushuaia Bay. This is very calm. When we went out into the Beagle Channel, things got wild. The seas got extremely rough. I am a U.S. Navy veteran and feel like “an old salt.” The boat was rocking and bouncing so badly that I feared seasickness coming on. We looked at some penguins and sea lions. We then went to a copy of “the lighthouse at the end of the world.” (The real one is still in operation and located on the Argentina Navy base and not accessible to the public.) Our final stop was Bridges Island where got out and hiked for 40 minutes. It was frigid and the wind was howling. I had on a heavy weight parka and the wind cut right through it. My insulated boots did not protect my feet from the cold. I felt sorry for some of the ladies who did not have heavy clothes. In one case the guide gave his coat to one lady really freezing. We found out that the local Indians who inhabited the area before Europeans arrived (the Yamkas) ran around almost nude in this bad weather.

I was relieved to get back to the boat. Then the seas got really nasty and we were bouncing all over the place. I was tired and relieved to be back on shore when the tour ended. I went and had a hot lunch with some soup, etc.

I tried to imagine what it was like for Charles Darwin to be sailing in these rough and inhospitable waters in an old wooden British sailing ship.

Now I am back in the nice and warm house where I am staying and relieved to be here.

Ushuaia Is A City And Not A Town!

My dear friends I am heart broken about what happened in Paris and in Kenya. 276 precious lives were lost due to insane barbarism and a desire to impose an outmoded system of thought on the whole world. Even at my age cruelty and barbarism shocks me and hurts me.
It was my first day of exploring “at the bottom of the world.” Ushuaïa​ is not a small town. Rather it is a small city. It has a lot of traffic and plenty of cars. They drive fast and one has to be alert. I survived the morning and found a charming coffee shop that was warm and with excellent rest rooms. I later enjoyed a seafood luncheon. (I cannot survive without my beloved shrimp!!) I explored the boat tours. I took a 90-minute bus tour of the city.
This city started out as a penal colony. It was supposed to be a prison for Argentina’s most dangerous criminals. Sometimes it was and sometimes it was not. Some relatively minor offenders ended up in prison here and were released quickly. The prison did create an economic boom with a lot of people coming from Chile to work in the prison service. The prison was open from 1902 to 1947. The Argentina Navy took over the prison complex and built a large naval base here. The cell blocks became a museum. Ushuaia became a port and a center for maritime rescues in the tricky and dangerous waters around here. Tourists discovered this remote area for its natural beauty. Eventually a big tourism industry grew up including cruises to the South Pole, Cape Town, and the Malvinas islands. I went out to the old airport and got a stunning view of the city from across the bay. Tomorrow I begin some boat tours.

I’m Literally At The Bottom Of The World!!!

My dear friends and loved ones I had the most wonderful grandmother that any man could ever wish for. Her name was Sarah Elizabeth. She lived to be 102 years of age. Some 60 years ago she gave me a pearl of wisdom that I never forgot as follows: “Son don’t let the grass grow under your feet!” What she meant was go out and see the world. I took her advice to heart. I’m sure that there are members of the Walters family like me who have also taken her advice to heart. But I have done something that no one in the Walters family has ever done. I have literally made it to the bottom of the earth. I am in the furthest southern city on earth-Ushuaia, Argentina. It is a town of 70,000 literally at the bottom of the earth. If my dear grandmother was alive now, I’m sure that she would be proud of me.

Thanklful To Be Far Away From The Madness In Paris

My dear friend yesterday was a day of recovery after the wild adventure in Torres del Paine National Park. From the panoramic window of the dining room of this hotel, I can see the whole town of El Calafate and beautiful Lago Argentino. One large building has caught my eye for several days. It’s yellow and several stories tall. Javier, one of the owners of the South B and B Hotel, explained to me that it is one of the hotels owned by the current president of Argentina; Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. A couple of days ago I asked the cab driver to take me to the hotel. He got confused and took me way up into the hills to the ultra-luxury 5-star hotel that Presidenta Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner owns. it was just as well because I discovered the truly awesome hospital that they have here in the town. Yesterday I set off hiking with the determination to get to this hotel. It was much harder than I had thought. I walked 16,641 steps and ended up in some hills high above the town. I got some incredible views. I also finally figured out where this mystery hotel is. I will go and see it today before I have to leave tomorrow. I was in this beautiful place with peace, an extremely low crime rate, no homeless people visible, wild animals that do not attack humans, dogs that are allowed to run free as there is no animal control. The only place that I see guns is with law enforcement officers. I walked down the hill. I had a coffee at my favorite local coffee shop. I then had a great pizza lunch at Casablanca Restaurant. I came back to my hotel tired and happy. Then I got the shock news about the terrible attack in Paris. I was shocked and heart broken. I was also thankful to be far away from such senseless violence.

Torres Del Paine National Park In Chile

I am exhausted this evening after spending some 14 hours going to, getting back from and exploring Torres Del Paine National Park in Chile. If I booked this trip from the US, it would have literally cost me thousands of dollars. Thanks to a very nice hotel owner, my tour cost $100 US plus $23.00 admission fees to the park. We rode in this military vehicle like the ones used in Afghanistan to protect soldiers from improvised explosive devices. It sits high off the ground. When I saw this rough military vehicle I knew that we were going to have a wild and a rough time. When I climbed on board the vehicle, an Irish woman looked at my Tilley’s hat and quipped “Indiana Jones.” We started on a paved road and went onto a rough unpaved road. We had to clear passport control in Argentina and immigration and customs on the Chilean side. The wind was ferocious and stayed ferocious for the rest of the day. The park was wild and primitive. There is no visitor’s center and the admission area is a shack. It is full of rough and unpaved road. You do not do this park without a guide and a special vehicle. Once in the park we saw fabulous lakes, waterfalls, glaciers, and other natural sights. I commented to the guide that this place would be a perfect place for a Jurassic Park movie. It was so ancient and untouched that I was sure that I would see dinosaurs any minute. I finished this adventure exhausted and catching a cold. I will rest today and recover. What an incredible adventure!!!!!!!

A Most Impressive Hospital In El Calafate, Argentina

Everyone today was another day of exploring El Calafate. After breakfast I caught a cab and rode way into the hills above the town. It was very windy and cold. I was dropped off at the hotel owned by the current president of Argentina, Cristina Fernandez. It was truly luxurious and impressive. I must say that the lady really has class and good taste! I started the walk back to town and came upon the private hospital for this town of 25,000. It literally “knocked my socks off.” It was this huge two-story yellow structure sitting on about three acres of land. It was impressive. One would expect to find such a hospital in a city of 500,000 people. I went inside and looked around. Perhaps it did not have the super technology of a great American hospital or perhaps it did. I told my wife that it was equal to any hospital run by her employer. I have never seen such an impressive hospital in Latin America in my life. I hiked back to town and eventually had lunch at this this restaurant called La Tablita. It reminded me of a charming French country inn. It was very special.

A Day Of Wild Adventure Sailing Around Lago Argentino Near El Calafate, Argentina

I had quite an adventure yesterday. I rode a bus out of town to a dock area on Lago Argentino that is the largest lake in Argentina. I boarded a very modern 3-level catamaran for a ride around this huge lake. We were sailing from 08:30 to 14:15. We rode up to the largest glacier in Argentina, Upsala. It is three times the size of the Perito Moreno glacier that I viewed on Sunday. It is also three times the size of the land area of the city of Buenos Aires. I like to describe glaciers as giant ice cubes in the water. When you close to one of them, you get freezing cold. That was the case yesterday. I’m sure that the temperature dropped below zero Fahrenheit. We spent a lot of times around the glaciers taking pictures and observing. There were also quite a number of icebergs in the water. You have to bear in mind that when you see an iceberg floating on the water 90% of it is below water. I thought back to the HMS Titanic some 103 years ago. It was roaring “full speed ahead” through the North Atlantic at night. Visibility was limited. The ship scrapped an iceberg and that made sad history. Fortunately we were sailing at extremely low speeds in daylight with very good visibility except when it rained. Our captain also had a wonderful piece of technology that the captain and crew of the Titanic did not have so long ago-a digital sonar system. If our boat had it an iceberg and started to sink, it would have been a disaster. That water in the lake is just as cold as the North Atlantic long ago. Anyone who hit that water would be dead in more or less five minutes. Fortunately we had a good captain and crew. We made it back safely.