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.

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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?

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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.   

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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

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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

Summary

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.

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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.

Seattle

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.

Victoria

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

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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.

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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

Leavenworth

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.

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Leavenworth Wa.

Experiences

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.

Restaurants

  • 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

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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

SweetSixteenBound

TL;DR

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.

Background

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

Friday

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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Saturday

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

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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