Family/baseball trip 2013

June 29, 2013
Gwen in Heaven

Gwen in Heaven

This June we traveled back to the Midwest to visit family and see a few baseball games.  We had a great time visiting with my family.  We also were lucky enough to watch baseball in 3 of the great parks in the Country.  This blog is a day by day record of the vacation.

(Click here for more photos)

Saturday June 01: Up at 5. Drove to St. Louis – partially through a driving rain storm which flooded Springfield Missouri. Checked in at downtown Hilton. Watched the Cardinals beat the hell out of the Giants. First time in new Busch Stadium. Great views of the game but disappointed in the concessions. Costs an arm and a leg to eat and drink there

The Gateway Arch

The Gateway Arch

 Sunday June 02: In St, Louis. Breakfast at St. Louis Bread Company (Panera). Visited Grant’s Farm. Rode the tram and saw the Clydesdales. Lunch at St. Louis Bread Company. The Mississippi bridge at Alton was closed because of flooding so we drove to Monmouth via US 61, Hannibal, Quincy, and Macomb. Freeway all the way to Macomb. Staying at Americas inn. Built where Mellings used to be. Visited Sally and George.

Monday June 03: We traveled to West Branch Iowa and visited the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum.  After arriving at West Branch we lunched downtown at Reid’s Beans. It is a small quaint joint with no published menu. The menu changes every day and contains a  limited number of items. 6 the day we dined there.  If your ever close to West Branch and hungry I recommend them.  After lunch we paid our $3 and toured the Museum.  I learned a great heal about Herb.  He was truly one of the giants of the 20th Century. And the $3 was a great deal you can only find in Iowa.

Monday evening we had dinner with Sally and George’s family and Jerry at the Longhorn Steakhouse in Peoria.  A good time was had by all.

Tuesday June 04:  Another day visiting family in Monmouth. We all drove to Davenport North Park today and shopped. After we arrived back in Monmouth we visited the Monmouth Wine Bar – Market Alley Wine. It was a pleasant surprise and pretty busy for 4PM!  Since it was our last night in town Gwen and I dined at Cerar’s.  The meal was great as usual.  Whenever I visit Monmouth I wonder how a restaurant this good survives in a town as small as Monmouth.

Downtown Chicago

Downtown Chicago

Wednesday June 05:  We exercised and then drove to Schaumburg for 3 day stay in Chicago. Spent the afternoon chilling in the Springhill Suites. Dinner at the Rosebud. It is a Chicago Italian restaurant.  Very good but expensive.

Thursday June 06:  Raining this morning so we spent a quiet morning in the hotel washing clothes, nerding out on the computer, and exercising.

We ate lunch at Portillio’s Hot Dogs – a Chicago institution.  Hot Doug’s is supposed to be better but I’ve never been there so don’t know.  I do know Hot Doug’s is 4 blocks from where I lived from 1966 to 1968. I need to go back there and see the old neighborhood.  Hot Doug’s moved in after I left.  Was this a coincidence?

After lunch we drove downtown to the Art Institute of Chicago.  Traffic and Parking cost were terrible. If we ever do this again I will figure

Chicago Art Institute

Chicago Art Institute

out a way to take public transportation.  The Art Institute was great. Saw America Gothic. Also paintings by Sargent, Whistler, and Mary Cassatt.  Dinner at the Ram Brewery. There seem to be good micro-breweries everywhere but Texas?

Friday June 07: Spent another morning exercising and hanging around the hotel even though the Sun was shining.  At 11AM we hopped the bus to Wrigley Field for a Cub/Pirate game.  We froze to death, figuratively. The Cubs lost but we had a great time basking in the glory at one of the shrines of America’s pastime and all.  The Schaumburg bus is definitely the way to. No fighting traffic, no paying $40 for a parking spot. After arriving back in Schaumburg we went to a pre-wedding party at one of Karen’s siblings homes in Schaumburg. I can’t remember their name because I had too much to dream that night. Then we took Sara and Paxson back to their hotel and called it a night.

Chicago Pizza

Chicago Pizza

Saturday June 08: We exercised, and checked out of Springhill Suites. Had lunch with Mike, Sara, and Paxson at Giordano’s. Great pizza. Supposed to be the best in Chicago (Giordano says its true).  Spent the afternoon at the hotel doing too much of nothing (its a song title by Peter, Paul, and Mary – I’ve been trying to fit it into a blog for years and this was my chance) while waiting for the wedding to finish.  Then we had drinks with the Nuestadt family in the hotel lobby.  Later we dined at Stonewood Ale House with Dave and Gretchen.  The Stonewood appeard to be a great place to watch a sporting event.  We ate early but people were already flocking in to grab seats for the Blackhawk Stanely Cup game. All around the bar they had two rows of satellite (?) bars and a bank of large screen TVs above the bar. We watched the beginning of the hockey match with Dave and Gretchen. At 8PM we left for Indianapolis and left them to babysit Paxson in the hotel.  We arrived at the hotel there at 1:30AM.

Sunday June 09: Woke up at 10:30AM and had to check check out at 11AM. I don’t believe I had slept this late since I was a teen ager.  Wait, I never slept that late as a teenager. I had to get up at the crack of dawn to milk cows and slop the hogs.  Of course all of this was up hill in a driving snow storm.  Maybe driving late at night in an unfamiliar area when you are 66 wears the body down. Drove to Cincinnati and visited with Jim, Nancy, and Jack. That evening we went to Reds game with Jim and Jack.  They were playing St. Louis. The Reds ballpark is great.  The game went 10 innings but Cardinals finally won 11-4 by scoring 7 runs including a grand slam in the 10th.  Jack is a real baseball fan and a real tropper.  He was excited the entire game eventhough the game lasted well into the night.

Jim & Jack at Reds game

Jim & Jack at Reds game

Monday June 10: First thing in the morning we drove to Kroger’s and bought ingredients for smoothies.  If we don’t have our smoothies we turn into Chewbaccas I have been told. Then we lounged around the Jim and Nancy’s the rest of the morning. We ate lunch at Bob Evan’s. It was very good and healthy. I had bean soup and a pot roast sandwich,  Then we drove to Covington to visit Brian, Michelle, Brian Junior, and Erin. We ate dinner with them at a Beppo Uno in Piqua, Ohio. I had the pizza. It was very good.

Downtown Cincinnati

Downtown Cincinnati

Tuesday June 11:  Our last day in Cincinnati and we toured the town with Jim as our guide. First we visited Spring Grove Cemetery. It is the largest private cemetery in the U.S. It was started in 1845.  The cemetery is huge and many of the monuments are huge as well.  Many generations of a single family are buried in the same large plot with a huge monument marking the plot.  I wonder how many cemeteries have their own web site?  Seems to me social media for the dead is a market waiting to explode.  Enough of that.  Seems Gwen and I have started a pattern of visiting Cemeterys. On our last trip to New Orleans I drug her to the Napoleon Cemetery #1 which I know we both enjoyed.

After Spring Grove, we drove downtown, ate breakfast at a really great place. I wish I could remember the name.  If your ever in dowtown Cincinnati and  hungry for breakfast call Jim.  Then we took photos from the 49th floor of a skyscraper, and across the river in Covington. On the way back to Jim’s we stopped at a really cool wine bar (Marty’s Hops & Vines) and relaxed with a couple of really good craft beers. Gwen had wine of course.

Cincinnati from Ky.

Cincinnati from Ky.

For dinner Jim and Nancy took us to Nicola’s in Cincinnati. Best meal of the trip!!

Wednesday June 12:  Drove from Cincinnati to Memphis. Very enjoyable drive.  We stopped for Lunch at Buckhead’s in Bowling Green Ky. Great lunch. The trip took about 7.5 hours.

If your in Memphis you have to eat barbeque, riight!  The problem is there are so many joints serving great barbeque.  We chose to eat dinner at Corky’s . It has been voted as best Memphis ribs for 28 years in a row. The ribs were delicious. Plus, there was a Corky’s close to the hotel.  After stuffing our selves at Corky’s we drove down to Beale Street and listened to the blues. The entire street was full of parked bikes. Apparently Wednesdays in the Summer are bike nights. They really made the night special with all the noise and 100s of characters walking up and down the street drinking beer.  We listened to several blues groups from the street and and finally settled on a group in the park at the end of the street. I did not get any group names but they were all awesome.

Thursday June 13:  The last day of our vacation and I could not wait to see home.  The 7.5 hour drive from Memphis lasted 9 hours because of road construction. Hint: Don’t ever drive I40 from Memphis to Little Rock.  Somewhere on that stretch there will be road construction and long lines of 18 wheelers.  Other interesting points:

  • Discovered the worst McDonalds near the Memphis Galleria. Day old tea, order came out  very slowly in shifts. Staff was slow and rude
  • Discovered the worst Wendy’s on IH 30 leaving Little Rock at exit 123: dirty, understaffed, slow, everyone’s order in front of us was wrong, out of baked potatoes, rest rooms filthy with no toilet paper
  • On I40 in Arkansas there was a major delay with the road down to one lame. We stopped completely for 10-15 minutes. Then we would move for a bit. Then repeat.
  • I30 at Texarkana road work was almost as bad. We simply stopped for a half hour and then drove 5 mph for 10 minutes before reaching a small group of workers patching the road.

Thursday night – home at last!!

Cardinals Ballpark

Cardinals Ballpark

Reds Ball Park

Reds Ball Park

Note: I never mention restaurants I don’t like. This time I made an exception of the two on the last day.  They are national chains and I expect to have the same quality of service and same quality of food at ever McDonalds and Wendy’s.

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Road Trip Vacation: Dallas to Phoenix and Back Again

February 4, 2012

Saguaro cactus

Monday January 2: We started our vacation by driving to Las Cruces NM. The trip took 12 hours and was 711 miles. The Sun was shining all day. The temperature rose to 60 degrees by the late afternoon. So it was a good trip. We ate dinner a local New Mexican style 70 year old restaurant in a 200 year old building called “La Posta.”  Tonight we are chilling out in the hotel.

Las Cruces Restaurant - our 1st night meal

Tuesday January 3: The next morning we drove from Las Cruces to Phoenix.  Today was a short day on the road – only 7 hours and 388 miles.  We stopped for lunch at the Village Bake House in Tucson. We both ordered sandwiches which turned out to be really tasty. Upon arrival we checked into the hotel we are camping in during our staty – the Hyatt House North Phoenix.  For dinner we tried out Beckett’s Table. The style is American Comfort food. Gwen had roast chicken and I had green chile pork stew.  Voted one of the 5 best restaurants in Phoenix and I believe. From my limited experience if I could only eat one meal in Phoenix it would be at Beckett’s.

the sign of the Turquoise Arches - only in Sedona

Wednesday January 4: We qdrove to Sedona  Wednesday. Ate lunch at Gwen’s favorite restaurant there – Oxaca – Mexican if you can’t guess, and started to hike the Soilder’s Pass trail. However, my knee started aching and since I am not supposed to be exercising anyway until the 18th we turned around.  I wanted to get a photo of the McDonalds there with the turquoise arches so we stopped there for a photo shoot. Next we drove to the top of airport Mesa for the best panoramic view Sedona. Finally, we drove by the local Wyndham. It was pretty impressive. We will have to stay there sometime.

Sedona from Airport Mesa

Can't raise corn in Sedona

Back in Phoenix we decided to go to a movie – War Horse. We grabbed a quick dinner at Claim Jumpers before the movie – okay. War Horse was a very good movie.  Glad I saw it.

Heard Museum

Thursday January 5: We started out the day at the Heard Museum.  It’s focus is the Southwest Indians.  The museum was interesting if you like history and especially Indian history.  I do so I enjoyed the museum.  Others may find it really boring. After examining the menu and noticing people we coming in just to eat at the museum cafe, we decided to eat lunch there.  The cafe stayed with the Southwest motif.  I had the posole which was delicious.  I would eat there again. We spent the afternoon at the Desert Botanical Garden. I never dreamed there were that many varieties of cactus. I enjoyed it and would recommend it except in the Summer.  The best time of year is probably mid-February through March which is when most plants are blooming.

Dinner was Italian at Aielo’s. The owner is from Brooklyn and could not stand NYC anymore so he migrated to Phoenix a few years back.  The food and atmosphere were good. I had the seafood linguine. It was homemade and delicious. I would eat there again but don’t order the calamari.  It was tough and chewy.

Great color on this barrel cactus

Many different types of cacti growing together

Outside of Phoenix

Friday January 6: We started home Friday. This was our short driving day – only 7 hours.  We drove from Phoenix to Las Cruces stopping in Tucson for lunch.  We ate lunch at an eclectic place called “Feast“.  It was really good food and I would definitely eat there again.  The food was quite varied.  For example, I ate the lamb meatball sandwich which came with a tossed green salad. We stayed at the Las Cruces Hilton Garden Inn again which I recommend if you are ever staying in Las Cruces.  Friday night we ate at a Southwestern place called “Peppers” whose sister restaurant is a steak house called “Double Eagle” which also received high ratings.  It is the best food I have had in Las Cruces. Of course I have only eaten at two restaurants, here and “La Posta” which was also good.

Saturday January 7:  We drove from Las Cruces to Dallas today.  The trip was 11.5 hours including a lunch stop at Midland.  Midland is really the only place to stop along the way unless you like McDonald’s and Whataburger.  Sara met us at the car rental at DFW with my car and between the 3 of us we promptly lost the car key.  We found it after a half hour of taking the car and luggage apart.

Wait, the fun is not over yet! To top off our road trip vacation we dined at “Vera Cruz” in Oak Cliff with Sara and Mike and went to the Mavericks game before finally arriving home at midnight.



That was the week that was – 2011.02.27

February 28, 2011

Exciting and long week this week.  Sunday night and winding down and getting re-charged for next week.

We are installing at 2 of our 3 operational locations this week and preparing to install at the 3rd.  We are also waiting on the Customer to turn us one to do some more development.  The combination makes work pretty high stress  right now.  Installations are at best uneventful and at worst fail and they send you home packing.  They are not sending us home but the installations have been a real roller coaster ride.  One day everything is sunshine and blue skies. The next day is gravel.  We had a lot of gravel days this week.  If I was younger I would be pretty bummed out but in 35+ years I have seen much worse and of course much better.  You have stay on the bright side of life in my business or you don’t last long

Wednesday night we had tickets to the Mavs/Jazz game. Deron Williams was traded Wednesday morning and we figured the Jazz would be out of sync for the game.  We were right. The Mavs won by 20 in a rare not close game.

Good News Week – We have been trying to sell our Camper since last August and have not received a bite.  We sold it this week to a young couple with children that wanted to move up to a bigger unit!!!!  Good things do happen.

We had the grandkids overnight Friday (C2). I picked them up from school at 5PM.  We ate at Carrabas – their favorite restaurant.  Campbell and Gwen made a German Chocolate cake for Sara’s birthday while Cale and I watched TV and vegged out.  They were up bright and early Saturday morning at 7AM so I crawled out of bed to make sure they did not get into too much trouble.  We had breakfast at the Club – another one of their favorites, ran some errands, and took them home.

Saturday night – Sara birthday dinner at Kenny’s Woodfire Grill with Sara and Mike.  Had drinks at Hoolihan’s before dinner and then off to Kenny’s.  This was our 1st itme their and we would definitely go back.  Gwen’s pork chop must have come off some monstrous breed of pig I do not know of.  It was the biggest pork chop I have ever seen.  Gwen says it was to die for.  I had a New York Strip which was also delectible.  Tip – don’t get a baked potato.  They taseted like they had been cooked in a microwave.  Everything else was top shelf!  And spending time with our youngest- Sara – and her husband – Mike – was very enjoyable.

Sunday was a re-charge day.  We slept in – 8AM. Had breakfast at Spoon’s in McKinney.  Gwen had the oatmeal and I had the yogurt, granola, and fruit.  Great place.  Then I worked in the garage, took Abby for a walk, and had lunch.  After lunch was the highlight of my day – 1st bike ride of the season.  I rode for 2 hours.  The ride was unusal to say the least because the wind was howling out of the South 30-35 mph.  When I was riding South going up the hills was easier than coming down because the hill blocked some of the wind.

Plan on spending the rest of the evening reading a good book or SyFy article.