North to Seattle, er Portland, er Crater Lake, er Redding

October 18, 2017


What do you do in August if you live in Texas? You leave if you can. This August was relatively cool here but we left anyway. On August 18th flew to Seattle to visit youngest daughter’s family and son-in-law’s parents for a few days. Then we drove to Portland to bike the Columbia River Gorge and see the Great American Eclipse. Next we stopped for a couple of days at Crater Lake National Park. Finally we stopped in Redding Ca. to visit Gwen’s niece Rachel.

Additional photos are posted at: Northwest 2017 Photos


  • The flight was just a few minutes late. I watched Ghost in the Shell on the plane. It reminded me of Blade Runner. Mostly the setting and photography. Although the movie covers the same dilemma – humans versus androids.
  • After arriving in Seattle and settling in we visited Woodinville at, I think, the Market Winery for snacks and then back to Don & Karen’s for the remainder of the day.



  • When in Seattle you have to visit Pike’s Market and we were no exception. The miniature donuts were a big hit with everyone but Gwen. We parked at the Waterfront level and then took an elevator up to the Market. If you ever visit the Market that’s the best place to park because you also have access to the Waterfront attractions. After the Market we walked along the Waterfront. The boys, Gwen, and Sara boarded the giant Ferris Wheel for an exciting ride.
  • The rest of day was at the Don and Karen’s Lake House. Played with boys. Took a boat ride. Kids flew home. Spent the evening watching Cowboys and Rangers with Don & Karen


  • Sunday morning: We had a lazy morning with Don and Karen at the Lake House
  • Sunday afternoon, we drove to Portland and it was a drive from HELL. Must have been all the people, like us, driving into Oregon to see the Total Eclipse? Our 3 hour drive took 4.5 hours.IMG_4409
  • In Portland we stayed at the Marriott Downtown Waterfront. It s a great location and good hotel but pricey. If we ever stay there again park at the Parking Garage next door and walk across on the sky bridge unless we have too much luggage.
  • Dinner at The Imperial which was in walking distance. Very eclectic


  • Breakfast at the hotel. Very good
  • Walked to Pedal Tours for our Columbia River Gorge Bike Ride. When I think of the gorge I envision a deep narrow chasm. Well, this is not the case. It’s deep but miles wide. Apparently the Spring floods in the old days were unbelievable catastrophic. But the ride was awesome as was our guide, Crystal. Highly recommend if you are ever in Portland and have a day to site see.
  • We stopped at the Vista House on the way out and viewed the eclipse with our special glasses the park rangers gave us – what luck!!!. Then it was on to the ride and hike and see magnificent waterfalls.
  • Back in town after the ride we had lunch at Kell’s Irish Pub across the street from the bike shop.Northjwest2017-100
  • Dinner was at the Yard House, a chain but we did not feel like dressing up, and it’s casual with decent food.


  • Breakfast at The Good Earth. A place downtown to grab a quick byte. Nothing special. Mostly a take away by the looks of it.
  • Drove to Eugene and toured the Owen Rose Garden before lunch at the Bier Stein.
  • The on to Klamath Falls via 58 and 97, state two lane roads but well maintained through the National Forest. Everything went fine until 58 merged with 97 where there was a 40 minute backup to a hole in the wall ramshackle group of gas stations and diners. Then it cleared up and we could drive about 60 the remainder of the trip but it was still bumper to bumper.
  • Klamath Falls first impression – Nothing to write home about – 2nd and 3rd impressions were the same.
  • Dinner at Italianna’s Restoranti & Gelateria. Dinner was excellent. In fact we are saving the remainder for leftovers tomorrow evening. However, I can’t give it an A+ rating because the service was sooooo slow.


  • Woke to slightly better smoke conditions. I could see the building next door from the hotel window.
  • Breakfast at Nibbley’s. Most excellent! First time I’ve had oakcakes, like a pancake but made of oats.CraterLake_edited
  • Then we drove through the smoke, although is better today, to Crater Lake. Hooray, the sky was clear enough to just make out the far side rim. Yesterday they could not see Wizard Island,wonder if Harry Potter is hiding out there?


  • We started out by walking around the rim at the Visitor Center and snapping photos. Then we explored the lodge. Many of the older National Parks have great old lodges. This was no exception. Much smaller than the Grand Canyon but just as rustic and charming. We ate lunch at the lodge restaurant. Very good. I had trout. They served it with the head to prove it was a trout.
  • After lunch we hiked a couple of miles to Discovery Point. There are many scenic overlooks along the way. They list the hike as moderate. Almost any healthy person should be able to complete the hike even though the elevation is 7000 feet.
  • The lake itself is the bluest blue I’ve ever seen. It’s the deepest lake in the U.S. With a depth of 1943 feet. The rim elevation fluctuates between 7,000 and 8,000 feet. The lake receives over 500 inches of snow per year. Needless to say although I want to visit again when there is no smoke it won’t be in the Winter


  • Breakfast at Nibbley’s again because it was so good yesterday.
  • Drove to Redding – Smoke was bad. Even some in Redding.
  • Lunch at a micro-brewery. Very good – can’t remember the name however.
  • Visited Jason and Rachel and Brenda and Judah, and Gideon, and the baby.
  • Dinner at a strange takeaway, Wilda’s – Yardbirds type food in a Chinese takeaway carton. I liked it and it was dirt cheap.


  • Breakfast at Deja Vu downtown, an eclectic joint.
  • Spent most of the morning in the hotel working on Master Gardener tasks – mostly finding photos for the 20th anniversary article in the Seed Exchange and queuing up Instagram photos.
  • After lunch at Rachel’s we took the boys to the Turtle Bay Nature Center where among other thing we saw a real live beaver up close. They brought it out and let it wander around the seated on the floor children while they gave us a lecture on beaver trivia.
  • After dinner at Rachel’s we drove to Wiskeytown Lake to watch the Sunset.


  • Saturday morning in Redding California. Never thought I would spend a couple of days here, but that’s the way life goes sometimes. Visiting Gwen’s niece for the last couple of days and leaving tomorrow. Right now my mind is on Hurricane Harvey which slammed into the Texas Coast just North of Corpus Christi as a Category 4 storm last night. I have empathy for the millions residing in the area for their life and property.
  • Today we journeyed to Lake Shasta with Rachel’s for a picnic in the 107 degree weather and toured the dam, The dam is a brilliant work of engineering. The guide sucked however. I hope if you ever tour the dam you get a better guide.


  • Dinner was at their house and we also watched the “Boys” win another pre-season game.
  • Back to the hotel early to pack up. Tomorrow is drive to the Bay day.


  • Drove from Redding to St. Helena in Napa for lunch at Archetype. Then we stopped by Titus for a private wine tasting and of course Gwen ordered a case of wine. Then on to Clos Pegase where there was no wine sampling but buying more wine.
  • After Napa we drove to the Hilton Garden Inn in San Mateo for the night before our flight home on Monday.
  • Dinner Sunday night was at The Fish Market, my favorite restaurant in Silicon Valley


  • Flew home first class, the only way to travel. Mike and the boys picked us up. On the way home we stopped by Gloria’s for dinner with Mike and the boys.
  • Good to be home.



June Baseball Park Adventure

August 2, 2017


This year we decided to visit some MLB parks.  Our plan was to start in the Bay Area, drive leisurely down the Coast  to the City Of the Angels, then to San Diego and wrap up the trip in Phoenix.

I usually lug my DSLR and a few lens along with me when we travel. However on this trip left them at home and snapped all the photos with my iPhone.  For more photos click on: June Baseball Album

Best ballparks

  • Giants Stadium (AT&T Park) in San Francisco
  • Padres Stadium (Petco Park) in San Diego
  • DIamondback Park (Chase Field) in Phoenix

My favorite was Petco Park. They let dogs attend the games as long as they don’t wander from the outfield grass. Gwen’s was Chase Field because it is covered and she is dreaming of the day the Rangers open their covered park.

Best Restuarants

  • Fish Market with many locations in the Bay Area
  • Fog Harbor Fish House at Pier 39, San Francisco
  • Cass Winery outside of Los Robles
  • Cafe Roma in San Luis Obispo
  • Reunion in Anaheim
  • PrepKitchen Little Italy in San DIego

Hottest Day – 112 in Phoenix

Coolest Day – 68 in San Francisco

Trip Highlight

Meeting my cousin Leslie Olson and his family in Phoenix.  Their daughter, Sarah, actually made the visit happen.  Thanks Sarah.

Trip day by day timeline

2017-06-21: We ate at breakfast at Friday’s before the flight. Flew first class to San Francisco on 9AM flight.  Then lunch at San Mateo Fish Market.  It was as good as I remember. 

In San Francisco we are staying at Marriott Courtyard Union Square.  Weird hotel has no exercise room.  So we walked around the Union Square area.  Pretty much like I remember it.  A few blocks West of the Square by the hotel is pretty much run down.  Lots of shops around the square.  We are actually a couple of blocks from the Wyndham. 

For dinner we dined at the Daily Grill. Gwen had chicken pot pie and I had the meat loaf.  Doesn’t seem like food you would find in San Francisco.   Very delicious however. 

Topped off the night by watching Logan. Very different and dark.  There was oceans of blood unlike the previous X-men movies.  Don’t recommend it for children.

2017-06-22: Breakast at Sear’s Fine Food.  Very good. 

Oakland A’s game: Decided to take Bart. Good decision. For the cost of the toll over the Bay Bridge I’m a car Bart dropped us off at the Colliseum gate.

The game was not close. The Astros led 10-0 at the end of the 2nd inning to sweep the series.  We took Bart back to the City.  It has to be the noisiest train I’ve ever been on.

For dinner we broke down and decided to use the car. Drove down to Fisherman’s Wharf and ate at Fog Harbor Fish House. I had the grilled cod in a white beantomatogreens broth.  We tend to eat here every time we visit The City and it never disappoints.

2017-06-23:  Bereakfast at Lori’s. Mediocre!  Then we drove to Golden Gate Park to visit the Academy of Science. It houses an Aquarium and a Planetarium along with other exhibits.  Well worth the $35/person fee and the highlight of my trip. 

After the Academy we lunched at a salad joint in an adjoining neighborhood Pluto’s. Supposedly a chain but I’ve never heard of it. It was actually quite yummy.

Then to the hotel to rest before walking two miles to AT&T Stadium to watch a Giants game.  The stadium was beautiful. The setting was on the bay and the stadium itself was a blend of the old and new.  Of the stadiums I’ve visited I would place it number 2 to Cincinnati’s.

2017-06-24: Breakfast at the Daily Grill.  We wanted to try the Taylor Stree Coffee Shop but there was an hour wait there at 8:30AM. The Daily Grill was close by and we enjoyed Dinner there a couple of days ago. The breakfast was very good. 

After breakfast we packed up and drove to San Luis Obispo.  The first part of the drive was stop and go until right before Salinas. Turns out everyone in the Bay must drive to Monterrey or Carmel for the weekend because most traffic exited at the Monterrey exit.  We had lunch at the Cass Winery 10 miles outside of Los Robles. The detour was worth it.  Lunch was outstanding.  Along with lunch we sampled their wines and purchased a couple of bottles.

We finally arrived at the Hampton Inn in San Luis Obispo and spent the last part of the afternoon resting up, at least I did while Gwen did laundry.

We enjoyed dinner at Cafe Roma, a long time Italian restaurant in the Railroad District.  Then back to the hotel and watched a movie which seems to be our modus operandi the last few days. 

2017-06-25: Breakfast at Nautial Bean Coffee. The joint was full of Millennials so we fit right it.  Main fare was bagel sandwiches  which were delicious.

After breakfast we drove through Prefumo Canyon, over the hills, and through See Canyon to Avila Beach on recommendation of a couple we met last night at dinner. Very scenic and interesting drive and worth the extra time to get to the beach. 

June2017BaseballTrip-114We relaxed at the beach for quite awhile and then decided to drive up the Coast to see the Elephant Seals.  Took an hour but well worth the visit. I could watch those magnificent creatures for hours relax on the beach and flipping sand on their bodies from time to time.

On the way back we detoured into Cambria to walk the boardwalk and hopefully grab a bite to eat.  Unfortunately it seems the only restaurant in town closes at 3PM on Sunday.  So on to Morro Bay where we had fish and chips at Tognazinni’s Dockside Restaurant.  The fish was halibut which I’ve never eaten as part of the fish in fish and chips. 

Topped the afternoon off by strolling through downtown SLO.  There were the usual shops and restaurants but also an inordinate number of bars.  Then I remembered this is a college town – Cal Poly.  I didn’t think those future Phd’s had any time to drink.

2017-06-26: Breakfast at Big Sky in downtown SLO. Delicious with a Southwestern flare.

Drove to Santa Barbara. Pleasant drive. Lunch at a restaurant in Goleta called Jane where I ate a Greek Salad with lamb.  After lunch we drove around Santa Barbara. Check out Chaucher’s Books, drove through downtown. We then decided to head for the beach. Gwen directed us to a cemetery!  So I got us to the beach where we walked around for an hour or so. 


After the beach we checked in at the OTF where we will exercise in the morning.

We ate dinner at the Boathouse. Food was good but the view of the beach, the crowd on the beach, and the ocean was priceless.

Got back to a hot room so they moved us. The new room was cool but on the 1st floor. Unfortunately for us a group of 50 or so kids were at the pool and whoever was abo be us had lead feet.  Stopping for the night so will let you know in the morning how it turned out. (Turned out the kids did quiet down)

2017-06-27: Exercised for the first time in a week at the Goleta OTF.  Then packed our bags and headed out to Anaheim.  Everything rolled along fine until we hit LA traffic.  It was terrible as usual.  Staying at a Fairfield Inn in Anaheim and headed for the Dodger game tonight. 

Ate a late lunch at a local spot called Reunion. I know the word is overused but it was awesome.

Dodger/Angel game. Dodgers won 4-0.  We sat in Center Field.  The seats offered a different perspective on the game.  Dodger Stadium is now one of the older parks in MLB but still pretty nice. Parking was maybe 1/2 mile from our seats. I read once this is one of the cheapest places to watch a game.  Things have changed.  All the concessions are very expensive.

2017-06-28: OTF this morning was invigorating.  Just like all the OTFs we have visited it has more room than our Allen OTF.  Since then we ate breakfast and Gwen is at the local laundromat washing clothes while I’m in Starbucks.  Fair trade?

We had a late lunch at Reunion.  We had lunch there yesterday but it wa so good we came back today.  We then drove over to Anaheim Stadium early and walked about 1/2 mile to Rubios for a snack before the game.  Fast food Mexican Seafood but very tasty and surprisingly uncrowned.  That may have a lot to do with the nature of the stadium. Built in the 60s and surrounded by a huge parking lot instead of a neighborhood like some of the other stadiums we have visited.

Fairfield Inn Anaheim Hills: I would not stay here again.  It is a very large hotel with all the rooms opening to the outside just like a mid-60s Motel 6.  There was almost no toilet paper in the room and the bathroom sink was stopped up.

Angel-Dodger game. Angels won this one 2-1 in the 10th.  It’s an okay stadium. I’d rank it above Dodger’s stadium but well below the Rangers.  However, the Angels/Dodgers rilvary is quite lively.  If you ever get a chance to attend a freeway series do it.


  • Breakfast: Corner Bakery
  • Drove to Oceanside
  • Lunch at Hello Betty
  • Walked the pier
  • Drove to Springhill Suites and checked in
  • Drove into San Diego. Parked near the park for $20
  • Snaclk/dinner at Barley Mash
  • Watched the game – great ballpark

2017-06-30: Free day in San Diego.  Started the day with a workout at OTF.   After cleaning up we drove to Coronado Island for an early lunch at Migel’s Cucina.  After lunch we walked around the beach.  We attempted bike riding but the first place did not have any bike’s Gwen’s size. The second place only had bikes with coaster brakes which Gwen did not feel comfortable riding so we gave up and drove back to the hotel for a break while I finished monthly reports for Master Gardeners.  Then back into town.  We parked in Little Italy and walked a mile down to a bar Mike recommended. It was so dark and loud we just walked back.  For our evening meal we dined at Prepkitchen Little Italy.  Very good and very eclectic. 

2017-07-01: First day of July and we are driving from the California Coast where the temperature never goes above 80 to Phoenix where the temperature never goes below 80 this time of year.  We were greeted by 112 degree temperature upon arrival.

We are staying at the Hampton Inn-Midtown.  Outstanding hotel. Close to everything including the Metro which is within walking distance even in 112 degree hear.

Dinner with cousin Leslie Olson and his family – Linda, Sarah, and Robert. The other son lives in San Diego I believe.  Had an early dinner at The Old Spaghetti Factory with them. Caught up on old times and discussed each other’s families.

Finally Diamondbacks/Rockies game at Chase Field.  We took the Metro to Chase field. Best alternative for ball games both their and the Suns basketball games which is next door.

2017-07-02: Flying home today. Sky Harbor Airport is crazy. Too crowded and not enough seats at any gate for the passengers before boarding.  Don’t come to this airport early.


Paxson’s Most Excellent Road Trip

May 28, 2017

Ever taken a 1000 mile Road Trip with a 4 year old? We did!  Just finished driving from DFW to Sedona to The Grand Canyon and back again with our 4 1/2 year old grandson.  Because he was so young (and we were so old) we took three days and two nights getting there and the same amount of time returning.

Cathedral Rock Sedona

Cathedral Rock

More photos available at: Click Here

Unlike past travel blogs I wrote this trip report in a Timeline  or Diary format.  So read on to take a long ride

2017-04-24 Started packing this morning. Now at Dr. Smith’s office – Dermatologist. Good News week – No skin cancers!

2017-04-25 Starting Paxton’s great adventure in Southlake. Today we travel to Amarillo

Stopped for a break at River Bend Nature Center Wichita Falls. They had a interesting butterfly exhibit as well as some live native creatures and a children’s playground.  Next we dined at an almost deserted Pizza Hut because it was close to the Nature Center.  Almost deserted – we were the only customers.


Zebra Longtail Butterfly

Damm! 5 miles out of Wichita Falls the right front tire blew out on the MDX.  Then I discovered many new vehicles do not have a spare.  After that I discovered we had let the road side assistance lapse last month.  After that I discovered my only option was to have the car towed into a tire dealer; No coming out to me. After that I discovered there are no Michelin tires for our SUV in Wichita Falls.

2 hours later. Leaving the tire store with a brand spanking new Goodyear tire on my right front.

Tire fixed and drove to Amarillo without incident.  Met Mike and Jackie for dinner and then we all took Paxson to the local amusement park.  He loved it!  We overnighted in a Staybridge Inn.  Seems to be fairly new and nice.  Would stay here again.

2017-04-26: Amarillo to Albuquerque. Lunch at Oak Creek Cafe, then the Zoo, then back to hotel for a quick swim.  Dinner at El Pinto which is a huge Mexican Restaurant on the far North side of town in a run down neighborhood. It was probably in the country when they opened in 62 if I remember right.

2017-04-27: Up early today and driving from Albuquerque to Sedona.

Now in Holbrook Az. having lunch at Tom & Suzies Diner.  Lunch was good.

Arrived in Sedona at 2:30PM MST.  That’s a 7.5 hour trip from Albuquerque.   Condo is great.  Now relaxing.

Mike and Sara arrived at 6PM.  Rested a bit and dined at Hidaway House, an older Italian restaurant with great views of the mountains.

2017-04-28: Up at 6:30AM. The boys are very rambunctious this morning. I guess they are happy to be together again but I feel sorry for the people below us.

Breakfast at Wildflower Bread Company. Just as good as I remember.

Then we took the Pink Jeep Tour with the boys  up into the hills where only a jeep driver could take us.  I was surprised the boys loved the bumpy wild ride.  We made two stops for photo ops. Austin fell asleep on the way back to town after the 2nd stop.  How can he sleep through this?


Fun in the back of a Pink Jeep

Lunch at Oaxaca .  Maybe the 4th or 5th time Gwen and I have been there.  I’m sure there are better Hispanic restaurants in the area but the place seems like home to us so we always go back.

After that we took the boys swimming.  Everything went well until Pax tripped while running to catch Mommy and Austin and spreadeagled on the rocks.  Cuts, scrapes, and bruises all over.  Fell so sorry for him.

Put the boys down for a nap. They slept 2 hours and we woke them up so they would sleep tonight.

We dined at Elote with the boys.  Had to wait an hour for a table which was not unusual at that restaurant. They don’t take reservations and there is always a waiting list.  Easily the best restaurant in Sedona.

2017-04-29 Up at 6 this morning. Sunny and 35 degrees.

Everyone else is visiting Jerome today. I’m staying at the condo and catching up on email and Master Gardener Stuff.  Made a Workflow today which takes Markdown from the input and sends a monthly Technology Group report to Dr. Church.

Pizza place down the street for lunch.

Dinner at the Condo

2017-04-30: Today we are headed out to the Grand Canyon hiking. By we I mean Sara, Mike, & I.  Gwen and the boys are driving up later. We had a long, hard day hiking the Canyon on the Kaibab Trail.

Dinner at El Tovar.   


The Canyon

2017-05-01: Up at 6. I was up multiple times with leg cramps last night.   We are starting the trip home today. Tonight we stop at Albuquerque.

We had an uneventful drive to Albuquerque today. There are not many dining options  between Flagstaff and Albuquerque.  Today we had a late lunch at Applebee’s in Gallup.  At home I would not eat at an Applebee’s but on I40 in the middle of nowhere its a good option.

Dinner tonight in Albuquerque was at Trombino’s Bistro Italiano, exceptional. Definitely a place to dine next time we are in Albuquerque.

2017-05-02:  Paxson and Gwen visit the zoo and the aquarium before leaving Albuquerque.  This time Alex the Lion is out so the visit was a success.   Drive to Amarillo.  Dinner with Mike and Jackie at Embers located in the old David’s Steaks location.

2017-04-03: Breakfast at the Bagel Place before and uneventful drive to Southlake to deliver Paxson to the other grandparents.  All’s well that ends well


2016 the year that was

January 7, 2017

2016 was a good year for me. Turned 70. Traveled extensively, including New Zealand. Finally cruised Milford Sound, a dream for 30+ years! Hosted (the CCMGA) the Master Gardener State Conference. Learned how to use mixers, other A/V equipment, and produce videos operating the equipment for the Master Gardener Training Classes. Discovered iPhones don’t work well after a good cleaning by Maytag. Still waking up to “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” tune in my head; two year old Grandson is addicted to YouTube videos of the same.

Many people with the advent of a new year set goals, or generate New Year Resolutions or both. For myself a few weeks ago I read an interesting article this year advocating asking three questions insteads. Here goes my attempt.

Proud of this year

Exercised more than any year I can remember and did not suffer any exercise related injuries like I usually do. Most of the reason is I joined Orange Theory Fitness in June. Their program is an hour a day of intense interval training divided between threadmill, rowing machine, and weights with a diabolical trainer to guide you. Of course since I’m paying them for the privilege of sweating like a stuck pig I go almost everyday to get my money’s worth.

The CCMGA hosted the 2016 Texas Master Gardener State Conference. I helped develop the web site. Also pitched in an helped wherever I could at the Conference.

Lessons Learned

Don’t expect too much of other people, especially adults. Their Dance is unique shaped by everyone they’ve ever known usually very different than my Dance. In the end there is one Dance we’ll all have to do alone. Until then Dance on.

Rabbits eat pansies no matter what you treat them with. Just give up and live with a colorless landscape in the Winter.

What am I willing to let go of

I’m retired but still seem to have to much to do and not enough time to do it. Brings to mine an old quote “I’d give half my kingdom for a moment of time. Therefore, it makes sense I let go of something. But it’s hard, really hard. I’m not doing anything I can let go of – Family, Master Gardener, website development for volunteer groups, nerding out on my computer, etc. Okay, here goes a couple of things over the side of the boat:

  • Nerd like projects I’ve been spending time on including Learning Python, Migarating from Evernote, Developing a Mobile App and a couple of others I’ve been spending hour after hour banging away on my laptop
  • My garden plot

Reflections on a Two Year Old

December 25, 2016

Babysat my two year old grandson three days this week. He is an amazing creature and I suspect all two year olds are.

He learns at an astronomical rate. He bounces from joy to despair to joy again in a few seconds.

When his family – mom, dad, brother – are not around, he asks about them constantly.

He loves animals.

He asks why incessantly.

He runs everywhere. What age do we stop running?

I could go on and on and on and on but after three days with the little angel I’m really tired.

Summary, It’s a shame we grow up

I Remember Bill Secor

November 28, 2016

To set the stage: It was November of 1983. Thanksgiving was approaching. My parents were coming to visit from Illinois over Thanksgiving for the first time since Gwen and I were married. We (E-Systems) were installing a massive new computer system into our facility in Alice Springs, Australia code named Zircon. The installation was coming along very poorly to say the least. In fact the Customer was threatening to send the Installation Team home along with our set of shiny new computers.

The day before Thanksgiving, the same day my parents were scheduled to arrive, Mr. Secor called me into his office to tell me he wanted me to fly to Alice Springs that night. The Customer had given E-Systems an ultimate: Get Olson over her immediately or pack up your toys and go home!

I told Bill “NO” and explained why. He calmly replied something to the effect: “You don’t understand. Either you get on the plane tonight or both you and I will be searching for employment next week.”

So, Gwen cried, I boarded the airplane for Alice Springs and spent Thanksgiving on a Pan-Am jet over the Pacific. My parents, being children of the depression totally understood – to them employment was a privilege. I don’t think Gwen ever did.

The end of the story. I arrived in Alice. Everyone asked why I was there. In the end Zircon was saved and parts of it are still operational as far as I know.

Marv Olson

The Great Northwest Journey

August 20, 2016


Our big trip this year was Seattle, then Victoria with Sara and Mike, then Seattle, then Birch Bay, Vancouver, White Rock B.C., and Leavenworth with Kevin and Trish, and then back to Seattle before flying home.

The weather was perfect, the people were above average, and the experiences were most excellent.


The flight with the kids

We babysat Paxson and Austin (3 1/2 and 19 months) for a few days while their parents flew on to Seattle for a short respite without the kids. Then we flew to Seattle with the boys. They were little angels in DFW and during the flight. The downside to flying with the boys is the amount of gear we had to bring with us including car seats and strollers.


We spent a few days with Mike’s parents, Don and Karen, both before and after our trip to Victoria and then before our flight back to Dallas.

Staying with our gracious hosts in their beautiful home on Lake Sammamish. While there we did dine at a couple of good restaurants:

We had started exercising at Orange Theory this Summer and were pleasantly surprised to find a location in Redmond just a 12 minute scenic drive from our host’ss residence.


We spent two days in Victoria with Sara and Mike traveling via the Victoria Clipper Ferry service from Seattle.


Victoria Harbour

We had reserved a couple of rooms at Abigail’s, a small independent botique hotel 4 short blocks from the Harbour. Gwen found Abigail’s for our first trip to Victoria and the experience was so great we’ve never considered staying anywhere else in Voctoria. This trip was no expception.

Our first night there we had managed to procure 4 tickets to Taste, a wine and food event at one of the local hotels. Around 35 Vancouver Island Vineyards were present as well as 15 local restaurants. This is a one night a year event. We were fortunate enough to attend last year and loved it. This year was just as good except for no ice cream. If you go don’t drive because there is a lot of wine. We walked!

Our highlight was probably the hour long carriage ride with a British Columbia History Major as our driver. Also spotted some humpback whales while riding along the Coast next to Beacon Hill Park. The night was surprisingingly chilly.

We did not rent a car. Therefore we walked everywhere which is not a big problem if you plan to hang out at the Inner Harbour area. We most likely walked 10 miles each day around the Harbour, Government Street, and Beacon Hill Park.

Besides Taste other memorable dining experiences were at:

  • Il Terrazzo – a little Italian restaurant in a downtown alley. Our favorite restaurant in Victoria
  • The Local – best fish and chips I’ve had anywhere with a magnificent view of the Harbour
  • Breakfast at Abigail’s
  • The Commons – Serves only local cusine, much of it from their own farm or from local fishermen

As a parting note on the last morning I snuck out of the hotel early in the morning and enjoyed a Flat White at a local coffee shop. Best Flat White I’ve had outside of New Zealand. For some reason U.S. coffee shop’s, including Starbucks, just don’t serve Flat Whites that taste anywhere near as good.

Birch Bay

We picked Kevin and Trish up at the Seattle Airport and then drove to Birch Bay, Washngton where we had reserved our Condo for three days. Birch Bay is a small seacoast community on the Washington/Canadian border.

Our Condo was old but very comfortable with an excellent vew of the sea from the balcony. Although our base was in Washington we spent one day in Vancouver and the 2nd in White Rock, B.C.

Although Vancouver is but 40 miles distance the journey by auto took 1.5 hours. We spent most of the day strolling around Stanley Park and ended by day by dining at Joe Fortes. A very enjoyable day indeed. I highly recommend both.

The next day we drove just across the boarder to White Rock, B.C. White Rock is a picturesque little community on the coast. The main attractions are the pier, the promenade, and the restaurants. We had lunch at Uli’s. The exterior and the interior decor is not impressive. However the food is delicious. I had the fish and chips again. Where else in the World is Halibut considered a “common” fish?

The main attraction at both Birch Bay and White Rock is the sea. At both locations the tides go out to reveal over 100 yard wide mud flats. The locals and I suppose the tourist tramp out onto the mud flats, setup blankets, umbrellas, beach chairs, and stay for the day.


Birch Bay at Low Tide

Restaurants in the area we liked:

  • Vonna’s Purple Fin Restaurant in Birch Bay: We dined here our first night in Birch Bay and liked it so much we went back for breakfast every day
  • Joe Fortes in Vancouver
  • Uli’s in White Rock


The drive from Birch Bay to Leavenworth through the Cascades was both beautiful and sometimes breathtaking. Leavenworth is a charming little German community in the Cascades. Kevin and Trish were married there and for them this was a trip back in time.


Leavenworth Wa.


If you just have a day stroll around the village, vist the shops, watch the people, and listen to the musicians on the square.

In the Summer they host musicals outdoors under the stars. We attended a performance of The Sound of Music at night in the middle of a forest on a mountainside in 49 degree weather in July. We were all amazed by the quality of the performance.

Hike the Leavenworth River Trail.

Drive a few miles down the highway to Cashmere and visit the 9/11 memorial.

Visit some of the many local vineyards. We planned and developed a list of vineyards to visit. However the first vineyard (Wedge Mountain Vineyard) was so interesting we ran out of time and did not get to any of the other vineyards on our list. If you go there be sure to sign up for the vineyard tour via a mid-60s Fordson tractor with the owner (Charlie McKee).

And last but not least, don’t lock yourself our of your hotel room on the outskirts of town at 11PM in you pajamas and realize they have no night clerk.


  • Sulla Vita – Ecletic menu. We liked it so much we dined there twice
  • Los Camperos – A Mexican restaurant in the heart of a German community in Washington state a few miles from the Canadian Border. How strange is that? The food was quite good after my companions realized Los Camperos did not serve TexMex. It’s more like New Mexico cusine but a little different.
  • Gustav’s – If your in a German community eating sausages and potatoes is a must. Gustav’s is the place to do it.
  • The Alley Cafe – This is where Kevin and Trish dined on their wedding night. However they always thought they dined at Los Camperos because they had a photo looking out a window at The Alley Cafe hung a sign for Low Camperos. Turns out Los Camperos is directly abobe The Alley Cafe.
  • J. J. Hill in the Icicle Lodge – more German food. This time I ordered the schnitzel. very tasty.

Click here for more photos


Victoria Harbour

Disneyworld or I’ve seen clouds from both sides now

June 14, 2016

With apologies to Judy Collins and Joni Mitchell.

Unbelievable: 60K people visit The Magic Kingdom every day to stand in endless lines when fishing or riding a bike is free with no wait time! – Grumpy Marv

Totally Awesome: Before I retired I designed and developed huge, complex software Systems. The Disneyworld System dwarfs any system I ever worked on. From Magic Bands working everywhere, to hoard of busses scurrying to and fro among dozens of destinations, to thousands of crewmembers working towards one goal (make Marv happy) the System functions magically to ensure every single visitor has the optimal experience at Disneyworld. How does all this work anyway? – Engineer Marv

Really fun: The Buzz Lightyear ride was really cool. It’s a Small World almost made me cry. The Lion King show was really exciting and the singers were world class. On the Peter Panride we soared over London, the Lost Island, and Captain Hook’s ship. I want to go back next week! – 2nd childhood Marv

They say “Value Experiences Over Stuff“, but I could have bought a BMW for the cost of this trip. – Material Marv

I’m going to scream! There are too many people here. How can they all stand to be so close together – Agoraphobia Marv

This was a once in a lifetime opportunity to spend a with a granddaughter. Would not have missed it for all the tea in China. – Grandfather Marv

Photos at: Disneyworld Photos

Divine Intervention on the Hardcourt

March 29, 2016

Divine Intervention on the Hardcourt



My son and I traveled to Oklahoma City for March Madness opening weekend. We watched 6 amazing games in Chesapeake Arena which included a last second game winning shot from mid-court and the largest last second comeback of all time in College Basketball.


For last Christmas gave all the children and grandchildren Trips. Our son’s was two tickets to the First and Second rounds of the NCAA Basketball Tournament aka March Madness


We drove up to Oklahoma City from McKinney early Friday morning, ate lunch in the Bricktown Brewery, and walked over to Chesapeake Arena for the first of two sessions.

The first game was Oregon State vs. VCU. Gary Payton Jr. played for Oregon State. He may have been the best player on the court but VCU was the best team. VCU advances. The next game, Oklahoma vs. Cal State Bakersfield, featured Buddy Hield and he did not let the crowd down. He was easily, in my humble opinion, the best player on the court this weekend. Although the game was surprisingly close most of the game Oklahoma pulled away the last few minutes of the game and won setting up a VCU vs. Oklahoma match on Sunday. This was clearly a home match for Oklahoma which was expected since they were the highest seed in this venue.

After the first session ended everyone had to leave the arena. Another set of tickets were required for the second Friday session. We like everyone else waited for the arena to open for the second session, and we waited, and we waited, and we waited… Finally, 20 minutes before the Texas A&M Aggie vs. Green Bay Phoenix tip-off the gates open. Trying to enter before the game commenced was pretty much chaos! To top it off the ticket person in my line was still in training slowing the entry line down even more. After finally making our way through the entry process we rushed to our seats and sat down just as the teams were tipping off to start the match. Most people, even those who had gained entry did not realize the game was starting. As a result maybe 500 people were sitting in the arena at tip-off. The game was close at first but not too far into the match the Aggies pulled away and won handily.

The Texas Longhorns and Northern Iowa (UNI) were the last game of the day. It was close all the way with the teams trading the lead. The Horns scored to take the lead with 2.5 seconds left in the game. But, a kid from UNI took the inbounds pass and threw up a prayer from mid-court. His prayers and UNI’s were answered! The round ball dropped through the basket without touching the rim as the buzzer rang ending the game. The Panthers were in heaven and the Horns were despondent but that’s the way the ball bounces sometimes.

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We awoke Saturday to a cold and blusterly day. After reviewing the top things to do in Oklahoma City we decided to watch basketball all day. After searching the Internet for Sports Bars for some time we chose one close by, the The Garage Burgers and Beer. Turned out to be a wise choice – lots of TVs, great food, and great local brews. We tried a couple of other joints later in the weekend but none were as good as this one. Wish there were one in Fairview or McKinney.

Basically all we did on Saturday was watch basketball games. Great way to spend the day

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Sunday morning breakfast was at the local IHOP. Then we drove downtown and wandered around the streets of Bricktown. Its a nice area full of restaurants, close to the arena and the ballpark.

We ended up at the Bricktown Brewery again where we watched the early basketball games and visited with quite a few interesting people. Among them were the parents of one of the Aggie basketball players, and a couple of VCU alumni, one of which was the radio pre and post game radio announcer.

Around 3:30 we headed off to the arena. The first game was Oklahoma vs. VCU. Oklahoma City is definitely a home crowd for the Sooners. The noise in the arena was deafening! It was a good game and at the buzzer the Boomer Sooners prevailed.

The Agony and the Ecstasy

Finally and the last game of the weekend, The Aggies vs. UNI Panthers ! The game we have been waiting for. The winner advances to the Sweet Sixteen and the loser goes home. The games started poorly for Aggie fans. There was a lid on the good guys basket. At half time the the scoreboard read UNI 32 A&M 22. The Ags did not fare much better in the 2nd half. Our shooting percentage improved but so did UNI’s. The Aggies are down 10 with 31 seconds remaining in regulation time. Then they stage the greatest comeback in College basketball’s history (Or the worse collapse). We tie the game 71-71 and go to overtime. Click here to see the video.

The first overtime ends in a draw.

UNI does not have as many troops as A&M and by the start of the 2nd overtime its apparent they are out of steam and the Aggies go on to win in two overtimes. On to the Sweet Sixteen.

WHen asked later about the unbelieveable comeback the A&M Coach, Billy Kennedy stated the only explanation was Divine Intervention.

The Ride Home

The game was not over until 10:30ish. I am not real sure. After a game like that everything is a blur for awhile. We drove home to Dallas. It was Sunday night after all and we had to both work Monday. The good news is we were so pumped up after the game we did not get sleepy at all.

1:30AM – home in bed and the story ends.

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My 2014

December 30, 2014

The older I get the faster time goes by. 2014 blurred by at the speed of light! Is the the clock going faster or am I less able to cope with change? Or is my life busier? Regardless, 2014 did have it’s higlights. Here they are in no particular order.

  • Danube river cruise – We take a BIG vacation every other year. This year was a Danube River Cruise with extended stays in Frankfurt and Budapest. We enjoyed every second and definitely plan on taking another river cruise. Its a simply marvelous way to tour an area. For more detail: European Vacation
  • 50th high school reunion – Seems like 1964 was just yesterday. 39 of us graduated in May 1964. 27 are still with us and all but 4 were able to make it to the reunion. The venue was old Alexis High Gymn which brought back many memories. I had a wonderful time catching up on the last 50 years with a bucnh of really good people.
  • Austin born December 29 – Our 5th grandchild born December 29. A healthy boy weighing in at 8 pounds, 4 ounces. Mother and baby are doing well,  Dad is recovering. I’m sure he will grow up to be healthy, wealthy, and wise.
  • Big brothers visit – My older brother and his wife visited us this year. My youngest brother and his wife live in the area. I really enjoyed spending time with them. Made me realize how precious famiies are.
  • Remodeled house – It all started out when I mentioned I’d like to tear out the shower and replace it with a walk in shower. Before I realized what was happening we remodeled the bathroom, kitchen, pantry, patio, and replaced all the carpet with wood floors. I glad we did it but would not want to live through is again.
  • Old Crow concert – We saw the Old Crow Medicine Show at the Dallas House of Blues. I don’t go to many live music concerts but can’t imagine any being more amazing than this group.
  • Nashville trip with son’s family – We and our son’s family packed our bags and headed out on a road trip to Heber Springs Arkansas, Memphis, and Nashville this past Summer. Ate great barbecue, ate great breakfasts, attended The Grand Ole Opry, and generally had a wonderful week. For more detail: Nashville Vacation
  • Cub game on the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field – On our way to my 50th high school reunion we watched a Cub game in their 100th year at Wrigley Field.
  • WineThirty – My oldest daughter and her husband opened WineThirty, a wine bar in Murphy Texas, this year. We really enjoyed our weekly trips there to enjoy a glass of fine red wine and even finer conversation.
  • The road to Master Gardener – I became a certified Master Gardener this year. The journey encompassed most of the year. It involved taking classes, manning the help desk, pulling weeds, spreading mulch, planting, taking measurements at the research garden, and enjoying the company of a group of really fine people.

My rules writing this post were:

  1. Write down the 1st 10 things that pop into my mind.
  2. Don’t change any of the items after the thought popped into my head.
  3. Write only one of two sentences for each item.