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

October 18, 2017

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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

2017-08-18:

  • 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.

2017-08-19:

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  • 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

2017-08-20:

  • 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

2017-08-21:

  • 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.

2017-08-22:

  • 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.

2017-08-23:

  • 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

2017-08-24:

  • 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.

2017-08-25:

  • 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.

2017-08-26:

  • 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.

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  • 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.

2107-08-27:

  • 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

2017-08-28:

  • 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.

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Boston in July

August 14, 2017

What do you do in July and August if you live in Texas Why you go North to escape the heat (if you can). That’s exactly what we did. Traveled to Boston July 16-21 and were greeted by one of their three, according to a local, heat waves of the year. Of course for them the high 80s count as a heat wave. The high 80s is nothing for a true Texan except for much of Boston is not air conditioned and suddenly we discover how much we depend on that brilliant invention by Willis Carrier.

As I usually do I snapped a gazillion photos, most of which are not worth sharing. However, a few of the better photos are at: Boston Photos Earlier this Summer on our West Coast Baseball Trip I utilized my iPhone 6 instead of carting around my DSLR and bevy of additional lenses. On this trip I used only a Panasonic LUMIX point and shoot camera. Much lighter and smaller than the DSLR and the photo quality unless you are planning on blowing up enlargements is pretty darn good.

Boston is a very expensive tourist destination. Parking is non-existent (don’t take a car). However, getting around Boston by mass transit and walking very easy.

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View from our hotel room

As with the last trip blog this one is mostly a day by day diary of what went down:

  • Sunday – flew to Boston. On time, what else could a person ask for
  • Dinner at Giacomo’s. Waited 1.5 hours to eat at a 10 table restaurant. Very good. Was the wait worth it?

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  • Monday – Drove To Springfield to the Dr. Seuss Museum. Stopped at a diner in Worcester for breakfast. Real dump but good breakfast.
  • The museum was great. There were several other museums there also. My favorite was the Indian Motorcycle museum.
  • Lunch at The Student Prince, a German restaurant in downtown Springfield. Been there since 1935 and very good although we were the only patrons. It was after 2 so maybe understandable.
  • Drove back to hotel only getting lost once in Boston which was better than in the drive out
  • That night: Harbor Cruise
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Downtown Boston from the Harbor

  • Tuesday: late breakfast at The Thinking Cup then back to hotel and after an animated discussion we decided to buy Hop On Hop Off tickets to tour Boston in combination with walking the Freedom Trail. My first Hop On Hop Off and I enjoyed it. However the driver-tour guide makes a World of difference. Throughout the day we had two that were brilliant and two that were mediocre. The Boston Commons and The Boston Gardens were disappointing. I was expecting a botanical garden but instead trees and grass for the most part. We stopped in Back Bay for lunch at Dillon’s. It was quite good and would go back. Next stop was South Side and The Boston Tea Party exhibit. We just stopped at the gift shop. Not sure why we did not go in?
  • Then to the Wharf Disctrict, Quincy Market, Walk around the District until Dinner,
  • Dinner at Boston Sail Loft. Mediocre
  • Walked back to hotel in pouring rain
  • Watched a couple of movies
  • Wednesday: Breakfast at Boston Commons Coffee Company. Then off to the JFK Presendential Library. This is our 3rd Presendential Library – Hoover, the 2nd Bush were the other two. I find it very interesting how different each of the Libraries were. Of course the Presidents were from widely different era’s. Hoover’s barely had any material on his Presidency. Most of the library focused on his earlier life which was amazing. He was a World Class Engineer. That he came from a small town in Iowa, West Branch, is even more amazing. Proves that in America is the Land of Opporttunity. Bush’s was multi-media, fairly small, and focused on Decision Making. You could come back every year and some of the exhibits would change. Kennedy was the first President in the Age of TV and the exhibits were in great part TV footage. JFK’s tour starts out with a short video of his life story up to his Presendential nomination at the 1960 Los Angeles Democratic Convention. Then the majority of the tour chronicles his time in office. There is one wall at the end playing footage of the assassination. After that you walk into a massive hall with glass walls reaching at least four stories showcasing a magnificient view of downtown Boston and the larger harbor.
  • We dropped Gwen off a the Aquarium and the rest of us went on to the hotel. Me to rest and Kevin/Trish to meet up with Trish’s boss.
  • Thursday: Breakfast at the neighborhood joint – Soffee’s. It was awful. Then drove to Woods Hole and caught the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard. Spent the day there (afternoon that is. The drive to Woods Hole was 1 hour 40 minutes. Then a 25 minute bus ride from the parking area to the ferry. Then a hour ferry ride to the Island. Gwen and I ate lunch first and after that explored the town. About mid-afternoon I took a nap on a shady park bench. Right before leaving we walked out into the ocean so we could say we swam in the Atlantic at Martha’s Vineyard.
  • Friday. Breakfast and the flew home
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Dr. Seuss early art work


June Baseball Park Adventure

August 2, 2017

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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. 

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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.

2017-06-29:

  • 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.

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Boston vs. D.C.

July 27, 2017

or “Sittin’ on the dock of the bay watchin’ the tide roll away.”

This past year we found occasion to vacation in both Boston and DC. Both are on the East Coast but I find the differences and similarities striking:

  • First, Boston is on water while DC is a swamp, at least as far as I’m concerned. This alone gives Boston a huge advantage.
  • If you are into history and museums then you won’t be disappointed with either.
  • Both are expensive destinations. I suspect Boston is more so. However Mrs. Olson is the accountant in our family and therefore I don’t know for sure.
  • Bostonians are much friendlier. Does anyone ever laugh in DC? Full disclosure: I worked in DC from time to time and thus my opinion is highly influenced by those experiences.
  • Parking is non-existent in both cities. Don’t bring an automobile! Mass transit and the bus are definitely the better choice. Like, how could you build the Smithonian on the Mall without parking? Did the horses just graze on the lawn while waiting on their people?
  • The Boston Big Dig and the airport including the rental car facility architect was Franz Kafka. If your my age surely you remember “Charlie and the MTA”. Well, this is the 21st Century’s equivalent. DC is much easier to navigate by auto. You just can’t Park when you arrive at your destination.
  • Both have great restaurants.

In the end I preferred Boston. Why? When I tired of museums, history, great restaurants I could “sit on the dock on the Bay and watch the tide roll away”.


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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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


New Zealand South Island Part II

April 13, 2016
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Remarkable Mountains from Queenstown Bob’s Peak

I wrote an initial New Zealand blog shortly after arriving home from that beautiful land: New Zealand Part I.

Since then I’ve had time to process my photos: Click here.

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Gwen and our guide

On this trip we toured the South Island only. Our first stop was Nelson at the very top of the Island.

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The forest from The Lord Of The Rings outside Queenstown

Our next major stop was Christchurch which was a 6 hour drive through brilliant scenery.

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Franz Joseph: Leaving the rainforest headed for the Glacier

Our next stop was Franz Joseph Glacier which is on the other side of the Island. Our journey there included a ride on Kiwi Rail through the Southern Alps to Greymouth. Then we drove South along the coast to reach our destination – another day long journey.

  • Hotel: Glenfern Villas
  • Best restaurants: The Landing which was quite tasty for a town of 300 people
  • Favorite Activity: Why the hike up to the glacier through a rain forest of course
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Milford Sound

Our final destination was Queenstown. This was our longest drive, probably around 10 hours with me stopping constantly to snap photos.

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Lake Wakatipu