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


New Zealand Rumminations

February 18, 2016

New Zealand! Always wanted to go there. Shortly after moving to Australia in 1978 I heard about the legendary Milford Track and told myself: Self, someday you are going to walk the Milford Track. Well, this year Someday came at least partially. We just returned from New Zealand and visiting Milford Sound. I usually wait until I’ve processed and published all my photos to post our trips but this time I wanted to post a few miscellaneous thoughts on the trip.

We trekked the South Island of New Zealand for a little over two weeks with friends. I’d visited the North Island in 1980 (A story for another day) so decided to forego it this time around.

The Journey and the Outdoors are the attractions on the South Island.

  • The scenery is magnificent; Thus the Journey!
  • Outdoor activities predominate things to do in Kiwi Land; Thus the Outdoors!

Our Itinerary:

  • Nelson is the sea.
  • Christcurch is recovering.
  • Franz Joseph is simply amazing – a glacier in a rainforest.
  • Queenstown is Mecca for young people or seems to be and is the capital of X-sports New Zealand style.
  • Milford Sound scenery is other Worldly.

Everywhere we traveled we met young people working their way around the World. From Brazil, Norway, Canada, USA, etc. Really enjoyed getting to know them.

Oh yes, if you love seafood you’ll love New Zealand. From whitebait to blue mussels to crayfish (lobster) to cod there is quite a variety. If you tire of seafood there is always lamb or red deer venison.

Another highlight of the trip: we used a travel agent and did not kill ourselves planning. We told here generally what we wanted to do and she handled all the details. Thus the trip went off glitch free.

I enjoyed our trip so much I’m considering relocating to the South Island of New Zealand if either Trump, Sanders, or Cruz win the election.

Last but not least – No U.S. Presidential debates or news to speak off.

Note: will publish photos later


Victoria, Vancouver Island, & Butchart Gardens

July 29, 2015

ButchartGardenRose

For more photos visit my Flicker Album: Vancouver Island Album

Victoria is a wonderful July destination especially if you reside in Texas. We’ve visited Victoria before but never rented a car. This time we did rent a car and ventured out into the Island.

Upon arriving we checked in at Abigal’s Hotel.  Its a fantastic bed and breakfast just a short walk to the Government Street restaurants and shops as well as the harbor.

Victoria

Our first tour was along the coast in Victoria proper through Beacon Hill Park and the Oak Bay area along the coast. Scenic drive along the coast and some high rent neighborhoods. That evening we attended Taste, a wine and food festival. I guess there were 20 vineyards offering the furit of the vine and maybe 10 restaurants. Outstanding! Good thing we walked to the festival.

Sooke

The next day we drove to the seaside village of Sooke for some hiking and to dine at the West Coast Grill. By the time we arrived back in Victoria the International Busker’s Festival had commenced.  In case your as confused as I was a Busker is a street performer.  The Festival last 10 days on numerous stages on the downtown streets and around the harbor. Its all free and quite entertaining.

That evening we ate at our favorite establishment in Victoria Il Terrazzo On Saturday we drove into the Island to Chemainus for a bluegrass festival. We had lunch at Odika Cafe, very good, strolled the town to view the numerous wall murals, and listened to a lot of bluegrass music.

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That night we ate at Aria in Victoria and then drove out to Butchart Gardens. The gardens are world famous and deserve their reputation. Words can’t describe their beauty so I’ve included a few photos. In the Summer on Saturday nights they also have a concert and then a fireworks show. This is Canada and for the geographically challenged its way North of Texas. Therefore the Sun sets late – after 10PM. So you have to stay up pretty darn late to view the fireworks. They were more than worth the late night.

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The next morning we rode the Victoria Clipper ferry back to Seattle.

Victoria Clipper

Footnote: See Victoria/Seattle 2011 for my post on our last visit