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The Nile is such an iconic river it would be difficult to live up to its vaunted reputation. For me, it has been the subject of decades of history lessons, bible lessons, favorite movies, and books. So, of course, it didn’t live up to its image.

The Nile is much narrower and calmer than I ever expected. It is a wonderful small river; clean enough for swimming and fishing. Unlike American and European rivers, the Nile is not very industrialized. In our four days on the river, I never saw a barge or a factory. There was a small amount of trash along the shore, but it was minimal compared to what I’m used to.

I expected it to be much wider. It’s narrow and clean.

I live in St Louis, Missouri, USA, right on the Mississippi, which is an industrialized and sick river. I would never swim or fish from it. Which, made the Nile such a surprise. There has been a civilization along the Nile for thousands of years and you would expect that to show in the river itself, but it doesn’t. It’s as if the river washed all those years away, leaving the land clean and natural again.

The land along the river is extensively farmed but by small family plots. We didn’t see any industrial farming as we see in the US. There was no large farm equipment at all; people still used donkey carts and manual labor to work their fields, just as their ancestors did.

The country is extremely poor and much of the population barely gets by. Many of the homes we could see along the shore were simple and crude. However, everyone smiled and waved. They genuinely wanted us there because tourism is really the only economy in Egypt.

When we scheduled our Nile cruise, we imagined a lone boat making its way along an isolated desert shore. But the ships work the same itinerary, so they cruise as a pack, parking side by side at the dock and allowing passengers to pass through to the shore. It was surprising, but I can see the logic.

The Nile is smooth and navigable, making the trip perfect for anyone that gets seasick. There was almost no movement of the deck.

We were on shore touring the sites in the morning and early afternoon. The boats leave the dock in the afternoon and usually cruise through the night. The observation deck was ideal to watch the procession and the night shores glide by. The air smells different in Egypt, clean and fresh compared to home, with a little hint of sand.

The Hollywood image of the Nile is far from its reality. It is a beautiful river flowing between lush green shores bordered by bare rocky hills behind. The valley of the Nile narrows in places to only a narrow shore before the desert pushes in. Most of the Nile valley is wide and green, extending for miles into the desert, proving that the Nile is still the lifeblood of Egypt and will lead you to adventure.

The first floor of our century house still had all of the charm and most of the fixtures that came new a hundred years ago. We have no intention of changing a thing on the first floor. However, the second floor has been remodeled several times over the years and the charm was missing, so we chose to update the space with new fixtures, carpet and even a second floor laundry.

We pulled the bland boring institutional carpet that was in the two main rooms and found asbestos tiles underneath. I was concerned at first, but after some research found that if I planned to cover them with carpet or other flooring, I didn’t have to do anything with them. It’s called ‘encapsulating’. Basically, as long you don’t plan to disturb them, you can leave them. I love that. Therefore, we left them in place as much as we could.

The problem came when we went to hire a carpet installer. The Lowes installer refused to do the work unless we removed the tile, which I said was never going to happen. I did not want anything to do with that paperwork. As far as I am concerned, that tile will be in the house for another hundred years. Lowes actually tried to play hardball and pressure us into pulling it up, but we found Flooring Galaxy in Brentwood, who said they did that kind of work all the time. Which made sense to me. St Louis is full of hundred year old buildings. There is no way people are pulling out all the asbestos tiles in those buildings. No way. And I was right. Terry and Michael at Flooring Galaxy hooked me up and did a fine job of installation.

BUT – before we could install the carpet I wanted to replace the radiator in the Master bedroom.

The original radiator was a large cast iron beast that took up a significant section of wall. In order to place our bed where we wanted, I would have to move the radiator and the plumbing. All, before the carpet could be laid – I was on a deadline.

Hot water heating technology has advanced far beyond what it was a hundred years ago. Finding a small wall-hung unit to replace the cast iron beast was easy. Replumbing it was a much tougher task. Hundred year old pipe fittings don’t like to come a part. They were also installed when the walls were open and accessible.

The end result was a complete replumb of the heating system for the master bedroom and bathroom. The master bathroom is currently without heat until I can get around to that remodel.

The heating pipes were installed between the floors in the sewer stack access tunnel and were inaccessible unless I wanted to open up the wall – I didn’t. Instead, I purchase two twenty foot sections for 3/4″ PEX and slipped it up through the wall beside the old steel pipe. It was not easy and took a good part of a day to get it in position and connected. I cut off steel pipe and left it in place. Maybe at some point in the future I will have access to remove it. But for now it is a relic for future repairers to find.

Connecting the new piping to the larger pipe system in the basement was also an adventure. Hundred year old pipe does not like to come a part! I hurt myself and used up my entire collection of pirate words to get it done. There was some cutting and cursing involved.

This was what I consider an advanced home project and it was definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone. However, it turned out great and is a huge improvement to the room.

My wife did all of the painting and hated every minute of it! That is worthy of a post in the future.

My wife and I have not owned a house for many years. First, we relocated and tried to sell a house during the housing crash of 2008. Then we finally had to give up the house after the last renter trashed it and we were still unable to sell it. We then relocated several more times for work. So, we have been renters for the last twelve years.

That ended today. We just closed on a 100 year old house on a half acre in St Louis. This is a long time coming and feels like one of the final pieces of being an adult. I’m fifty-some years old and just now getting around to owning a home. There were good reasons for the delay but it feels good to finally be past that hurdle.

The one good thing to come out of the pandemic for us was the rock bottom interest rates. If you had the money to spend, this was a great time to buy a house. And for once our timing was perfect. We looked at a hundred houses, I think and missed out on several truly amazing places. But I think fate was just holding out for this one to become available. We toured it on the first day it was available and fell in love at first sight. We put our bid on it right then and there.

Our next adventure is remodeling. I’ll be posting about that here also, along with updates on the new humongous yard we have. The wife has been talking about getting some baby goats. I can’t say it’s not intriguing.

I miss the stars of yesteryear
Before the emotions
Before the tears
Before the memories
When they were cold and crystal clear

I have found that too much familiarity can be a bad thing. Much of our enjoyment in life comes from our wonder at and awe of the unknown. Exploring and experiencing is life and as long as we can continue to seek new unknowns we can continue enjoying the awe and wonder.

But once we reach the point where everything in our life is familiar or a ‘been there, done that’ moment, we can only look back at our past and remember feeling those things. Like most things, it’s never quite as good as the first time.

I am fortunate to still be in the wonder and awe stage of my life. My wife and I are still exploring the world and chasing new experiences and new knowledge. We like to travel to more and more exotic places and try new foods and activities. I always strive to remain in wonder of the world and of the people around me. I am never bored, there are too many things to do and experience. I don’t watch much television because I have things I want to DO and experience and NONE of them are on television!

However, the excitement of discovery and experience can only survive a limited number of cycles before familiarity sets in. The wonders that once took your breath away can become mundane and ordinary. For example: How many of the people living in Denver still look out at the mountains with bated breathe? I love the mountains and am still in awe of them every time I see them. However, I also don’t see them Every Day!

There are people that actually LIVE IN ROME. What….??!!?! How could they not be in absolute awe of their surroundings every single day of their lives? I mean really?

Answer: They could see them every day of their lives. That’s how.

As I said: Too much familiarity can ruin the surprise or destroy the magic, destroy trust, taint emotion, and temper the awe and wonder of youth. As I get older I sense my wonder slackening. I am surprised by fewer movie twists or horrible news events because I’ve seen so many others. I don’t want to be that cynical old grump that frowns away my last years. I want to explore and wander and look up at the stars and breathlessly wonder at the mysteries of the universe.

PS: My wife and I are traveling to San Francisco on Friday. I’ve never been and am excited to explore. COVID is certain to put a damper on many of the activities we had planned (no Alcatraz, no Winchester House) but there will be plenty of hiking and scenery. And maybe some wine… We’ll see.

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