January 1, 2011
Lima’s Denny and Kathy Gallagher may very well believe that home is where the heart is, but it’s also not a place they were meant to stay every moment.
The couple has spent large stretches of time, mostly in January and February, traveling to the four corners of the globe, 35 countries in all, during their 40-plus years of marriage. While some they’re yet to visit may surprise you, notably Canada, there is little doubt their extensive travel resume speaks to one fact: They are, quite possibly, the most well-traveled couple in Lima.
Their impeccably well-maintained Sherwood Avenue home for the past 35 years has both walls and shelves that speak to anyone who visits and listens. Artifacts are displayed throughout the home.
From Kenya, there is the hand-carved wooden lioness and cub; from Madrid, Spain, a vase; from South Africa, a hand-painted ostrich egg; and, from all over, wine glasses, each adorned with a plate indicating its origin and date of purchase.
With each artifact, there’s a story to be told. One souvenir, a cheap little wine glass, is no exception. Denny and Kathy were one of the few who flew on New Year’s Eve during the night that many believed Y2K was going to cause absolute chaos with computer systems, including those vital to keeping planes airborne.
It was the night before the dawn of the millennium, and the couple departed with just 18 others on a 250-seat 767 from Port Columbus, bound for Madrid.
“They kind of put us all together,” Denny said. “Well, we were over Gander, Newfoundland, when they brought out some champagne and some cheap little glasses. This stewardess hounded me to return the glass as I sipped my bubbly slowly, long after others had downed theirs.
“Well, I eventually bought it from her as I did the rest of the glasses. When I look at that glass, I think of Kathy and I and those 18 others on that big old plane, having that toast at midnight in 2000, and I also think of our landing in an almost-empty Madrid airport later that morning.”
In Madrid, Kathy recalls the special treatment Denny and she received because they were fearless, or foolish enough, according to many of their friends, to fly on a night when Y2K was supposed to unleash its fury.
“We always travel through a package, and a part of the itinerary was a full bus tour of Madrid,” she said. “Well, there were four people on that bus — the driver, the tour guide, Denny and me.”
Other artifacts in their home have special significance to the Catholic couple. One is from the catacombs of Rome, where, so very long ago, many persecuted Christians buried their dead secretly. In a clear plastic film case, there is some dirt from those catacombs. To the Gallaghers, their trips to Rome, Israel and Egypt resonate, largely for religious reasons.
There are also framed samples of currency from several different countries hanging on the walls, interspersed with dozens of framed photos.
Those photos, virtually all taken by the trip photographer of the two, Denny, show the places they’ve been, from the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland to Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, to Portugal to Montevideo, Uruguay, to New Zealand to LaPaz, Bolivia.
In the garage is album after album of more photos, labeled with the trips they represent, photos merely awaiting a turn to, perhaps, one day, be framed and brought inside to hang when others are taken down.
In one of the bedrooms, once occupied by one of their three sons but now a computer room, there is the largest and most visually arresting evidence of the couple’s commitment to travel.
It’s a global map the Gallaghers got from National Geographic magazine, a map that covers an entire wall, side to side and ceiling to floor, a map which has stickpins in all of the places they’ve been.
Neither Denny or Kathy traveled much growing up. For Denny, who grew up on Union Avenue, right behind St. John Catholic Church, there simply were too many logistical problems.
“I grew up with nine brothers and two sisters. Counting me and Mom (Juanita) and Dad (Bob), that made 14 of us. Ever try to pack up 14 people? I do remember Dad would rent a cottage and a boat on Indian Lake once a summer, but that was about it,” he said.
For the other half of the traveling Gallaghers, Kathy, who was born in Portsmouth but grew up in the small town of Vanceburg, Ky., a town of around 1,900 overlooking the Ohio River, travel was also rare.
“We used to sit on the front porch and just watch the barges and riverboats go up and down the river,” she said. “With that wonderful view of others going places, maybe Mom and Dad felt my brother and I didn’t need to be seeing anything else.”
Denny chimes in, “Really, before the airline industry deregulated, long-term travel was expensive and really more for the elite, so, whether it was a small family like Kathy’s or a very large family like mine, folks just stayed pretty close to home.”
However, after they married and had Scott and Denny, a trip out West forged a mutual interest in getting up and going. They wanted to visit two of Denny’s brothers and a sister, all of whom lived in California, and another brother who lived in Arizona.
“We were all over, from the San Fernando Valley to Santa Rosa, north of Frisco, to San Diego and out to Catalina Island and then on to Arizona and just loved it,” Denny recalled.
From that point on, it was “game on,” travel-wise. For Kathy, who prides herself on, first, being a stay-at-home mom and, now, wife, and Denny, vice president of Fritchie Asphalt and Paving, where he’s worked for the past 35 years, the time to travel is when Denny can get away.
And, in the paving business, that means January or February.
This winter, a 14-day trip has already been planned by, as usual for the Gallaghers, Northwestern Travel Service, a trip that will take them to Seoul, South Korea, Changi and on to a cruise to the Yellow Sea and the Sea of Japan, with ports of call in Hiroshima and onto the mainland of Russia.
As for the scariest moment while traveling, Kathy didn’t hesitate.
“We were on a small tour plane, viewing the Nazca Ley Lines from over the Nazca Plateau in Peru. The carvings are some of the most amazing geometric patterns imaginable and date back thousands of years. But, in order to see them clearly, the pilot had to dip down real low.
“The plane was so small, and we were dipping so much, he kept warning people not to rush across to the other side to get a better view because we could go down if the plane’s equilibrium were thrown off. I didn’t think I’d ever see my family again and actually started crying.”
A rocking sky tram ascending Mount Pilates in Lucerne, Switzerland, also makes the most-terrifying list for Kathy.
For the couple, there is agreement in what were the most memorable trips. They were the safaris they’ve taken to Kenya and Tanzania and South Africa through Kruger National Park.
“Flying in a small plane to meet our guide, we were so low, directly over migrations of wildebeests and zebras and elephants,” Denny recalled. “We spent the extra money to do a six-day safari where it was just us and our guide, Julian. Talk about trusting! There we were, miles from civilization, with just our guide, but what amazing beauty we saw.”
While Kathy loved the safari experience, she also was awestruck by the breathtaking beauty of Machu Picchu, the 15th century Inca site on a mountain ridge above the Urabamba Valley in Peru. Then there was that time on that coach going through the Alps in Austria, singing songs with the rest of the tour group from “The Sound of Music” while having her breath taken away by the views.
It has been said that traveling is reserved for the intrepid. For the Gallaghers, especially the pugnacious one, Denny, there is more than a dollop of veracity to those words.
“Some of our best moments were in places where others probably wouldn’t think of traveling,” Denny said. “South Vietnam and Thailand were wonderful. And, in Tel Aviv, just 30 miles from the Gaza Strip, where there’s constant fight between the Israelis and the Egyptians, the beaches and cafés and restaurants create such a vibrant downtown area, you’d swear you were in South Beach.”
While many have told American travelers not to display their American heritage openly in some parts of the world, Denny scoffs at the notion.
“I served my county in the military and have enjoyed its blessings all my life and am immensely proud of it,” Denny said. “So, if I want to wear my American flag pin on my sweater, I certainly will, no matter where I am.”
Denny’s fearlessness extends to his cuisine choices as well.
“I try to eat authentically to the country we are visiting,” he said. “Listen, you haven’t lived until you’ve had the haggis [consisting of a sheep’s heart, liver and lungs and cooked in the stomach of a sheep] in Scotland!”
As for the ribbons of roads that may unfold in the future, who knows? Both Denny and Kathy were in accord when asked if they could envision a time when they would say, “I’ve seen enough” and just stay home.
Their answer was in unison, and with succinct phrasing as intertwined as the moments they’ve shared over 40 years of marriage. The single-word response? “Never.”