The Gospel Truth

Bill and Judy’s Excellent Adventures

August 4, 2015
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With apologies to Keanu Reeves and Ted Logan:

When I was in high school my parents wanted to send me on a European pilgrimage with the school. I shuttered at the prospect of flying over the Atlantic Ocean and visiting places where I could not speak the language.   Regrettably, I did not go.

Several years later my wife won a drawing that rewarded both of us with a week in London. I made up every excuse in book–we did not have passports…it was too far and so on.  The free trip prevailed and we spent a marvelous week that was punctuated by a stewardess strike that forced us to catch a plane from Gatwick, rather than Heathrow Airport.

That began a 30-years travelogue of memories that have enriched our lives greatly. Bill and Judy’s Excellent Adventures have seen us travel to at least two corners of the world. We have visited Ireland and England four times and Rome three times. We once took a tour that started on a bus in Marseilles, France and ended on a yacht in Malta.

As I wrote in my 50th Anniversary biography for Holy Cross this past year, thanks to my eventual willingness to chance world travel we have browsed the shops of Dublin, prayed in St. Peter’s Basilica and walked the sands of Normandy and the streets of Valletta. With Pavarotti’s voice echoing in the air, I (we) have stood on a deck below Stromboli as it belched hot embers on a quiet summer’s night.

It was during my first Tauck tour–Judy had already taken one to Germany, Austria and Switzerland–that I happened upon the idea of collecting souvenir lapel pins as part hobby and part memory aid to remind me where I had been and what I had seen.

The pins have become very personal to me and I now have–counting some memorable sporting events and local attractions (like an annual play-off and world series game in St. Louis) in excess of 600. I have pins from Monte Carlo, the Hearst Castle in St. Simon, California and the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida.

I also have one from Monaco where we visited or actually stood on Grace Kelly’s grave inside their Cathedral.  I have others from the French cities of Chenonceau, Dinan and Normadie’, as well as Italy’s Assisi, Venice and Siena.   I have others from Yosemite, the Amish Country and Bubba Gump’s on Fisherman’s Wharf.  I love my Corsica pin as well as the one from Sherwood Forest.

My favorite pin is the most personal one I have and it really was not part of these adventures. I had always promised myself that if the late Brooklyn Dodgers captain, Pee Wee Reese, the closest man I had to a hero as a child, was ever elected to the Cooperstown Hall of Fame I would go.

He was in 1984 and so I took my eight-year son, Matthew with me. Because of my baseball writings and teachings–in St. Louis I was known as The Baseball Professor–I was able to secure a press pass that put me right next to Hall of Fame sportswriter, Bob Broeg, a personal friend.

They gave us all a souvenir pin included the names of all the inductees. One woman offered me 100 dollars for it on the street.

On our most recent trip up the St. Lawrence River in one of those Dam Ships, we idly walked around the Canadian town of Sydney. Nova Scotia. Signs for an Art Fair caught the eye of my sister-in-law and the four of us traipsed in and around the streets to find it in the hall of a local church.

An elderly man–a bit older than me–was offering his collection of pins for sale. Most of them had been collected like I had in his various travels. There was an inherent sadness I recognized immediately. In a profound way he was “letting go” of his memories and maybe his life.

The pins were not as interesting as mine but I felt compelled to give one of them a “good home”. I asked him which was his favorite and without hesitation he pointed to an oval-shaped pin of a chicken hatching from the cocoon of its shell. He had bought it in Chicken, Alaska–a real place I had never heard of and had no desire to visit.

We had taken a cruise to Alaska and wandered around such metropolises as Skagway and Ketchikan.  My brother-in-law and I met an ex-soldier, named Umberto in one of the bars we visited that scared me to death.  He was living with the bar maid who was twice his age. Couldn’t wait to be rescued by our wives.

He asked me to read the small print under the egg. It read, I got laid in Chicken, Alaska. I hadn’t the courage to ask him why it was his favorite!

I had originally wanted to construct a neologism–calling this essay—a Pingrimage because like all human beings life is a continual search for truth and answers to questions that plague us while we still have breath.

Traveling to far off places can be a broading and educational experience because while people may dress and talk differently under their cultural skin they are all human beings, just like us trying to find our way in this life.

Were I to attach all my pins to a world map, they would configure just what marvelous parts of God’s vast universe I had seen. This is not only a geography statement but also one of ontology for me because it shows just how little we can do and see in the short time allotted to us on earth.

It is a sobering thought, pregnant with a universal significance.  We must not waste a moment in anger, bitterness or despair.  Our time belongs to us but we belong to God.

About author

After graduating from Holy Cross, Bill Borst earned an MA in Asian History from St. John's University and a Ph.D in American History from St. Louis University. (1972) A former New Yorker, he taught for many years in the St. Louis area, while also hosting a weekly radio show on WGNU from 1984-2006. He currently is a regular substitute for conservative Phyllis Schlafly on KSIV radio. (1320) He is the author of two books on social history, "Liberalism: Fatal Consequences," and "The Scorpion and the Frog: A Natural Conspiracy." He just retired as the Features editor of the Mindszenty Foundation Monthly Report. In his 11 years from 2003-2013 he wrote nearly 130 essays on Catholic culture and world affairs. Many in St. Louis also know him as the "Baseball Professor," because of a course that he offered at Maryville College from 1973-74. It was arguably the first fully-accredited baseball history course in the Midwest.The author of several short books on the old St. Louis Browns, he started the St. Louis Browns Historical Society in 1984. In 2009 his first two plays were produced on the local stage. "The Last Memory of an Ol' Brownie Fan," ran six performances at the Sound Stage in Crestwood and "A Perfect Choice" ran for two performances at the Rigali Center Theater in Shrewsberry. His third play, "A Moment of Grace," ran six performances at DeSmet High School in January of 2011with First Run Theater in January of 2011. He is currently working on a 4th play, "A Family Way," which is a comedy about a happy dysfunctional family. He can reached at