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

October 18, 2017


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

Additional photos are posted at: Northwest 2017 Photos


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



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



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.


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?


  • 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

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

Dr. Seuss early art work

The Great Northwest Journey

August 20, 2016


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

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


The flight with the kids

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


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

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

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


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


Victoria Harbour

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

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

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

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

Besides Taste other memorable dining experiences were at:

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

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

Birch Bay

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

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

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

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

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


Birch Bay at Low Tide

Restaurants in the area we liked:

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


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


Leavenworth Wa.


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

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

Hike the Leavenworth River Trail.

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

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

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


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

Click here for more photos


Victoria Harbour

Disneyworld or I’ve seen clouds from both sides now

June 14, 2016

With apologies to Judy Collins and Joni Mitchell.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photos at: Disneyworld Photos

Death Valley and beyond

May 8, 2015
The Strip

The Strip

We took a short vacation to Las Vegas April 3-7 this year. Our predominant objectives were to visit Death Valley, dine at some great restaurants, and maybe attend a show. Unlike most Vegas vacationers we did not gamble.

The flights were a pleasant surprise. We were upgraded to first class both directions and the flights were on time. Imagine that – usually only happens in your dreams.


Our first meal was lunch on the patio at the Yard House. It’s in the shopping mall between the airport and the strip. They had hundreds of draft craft beers and great fish and chips. The beer and fish & chips were good. I’d stop there again.

That night we ate at Triple George’s Steakhouse downtown right off the Fremont Experience. It more like an old San Francisco steakhouse than the glitzy restaurants on the strip. We really like it and dine there almost every Vegas Trip.

Saturday evening we visited Jean Georges Steakhouse in the Aria before the Zakara show. First time there but won’t be our last. Really loved the food and the atmosphere. That’s the trouble with Vegas – so many great restaurants and so little time!

Easter Sunday lunch was at The Inn at Furnace Creek which is a hotel on Death Valley’sedge. It was an Easter brunch and I can say for sure the best cuisine in 100 miles (the only cuisine for that matter except for the Death Valley golf course that is). Yes, Death Valley has a golf course, but that is another story for another time.

After returning from the Valley we scrubbed the grime off and dined at Rao’s in Caesar’s Palace. It’s Italian and the daughter of Rao’s in Brooklyn. The best meal of the trip! Oh, I wish there were a great Italian Restaurant in Dallas.

Our last night in Vegas we broke bread at Wynn’s Lakeside Grill. Its seafood. The food was excellent but the water show on the lake was better.

On our way to the airport Tuesday morning we breakfasted at The Egg and I. I believe it’s a local chain but very good and it’s not on the Strip so you get to tour the regular Las Vegas on the drive to the restaurant.

We did eat at some other establishments but if I don’t recommend them I don’t list them.


We bunked at the Wyndham Grand Desert, our timeshare in Vegas. I’d describe it as mediocre compared to rooms on the strip. However, the Wyndham quarters are apartments with a full kitchen and a washer/dryer. For us the convenience of an apartment makes the Wyndham the best option for us.


Death Valley

Zabriskie Point

Zabriskie Point

After being there I imagine exploring Death Valley is similar to traversing the far side of the Moon without a space suit and Sunshine. The terrain is literally out of this World.

Death Valley is the largest National Park in the lower 48 States so its pretty nigh impossible to explore the entire park in one day but we tried our best. The Valley is about a two-hour drive Northwest of Las Vegas and is actually in California.

Our first stop was Zabriskie Point for both a scenic view of he valley and of the striking Kaleidoscope of colors in the surrounding hills.

Upon arriving at the park we visited the Furnace Creek Visitor’s Center and then searched for a place to have lunch. Well, lunch was an extra bonus: the Easter Brunch at The Inn at Furnace Creek. This is a full service hotel at the edge of Death Valley. I’d like to return for a night someday.

Then we drove towards Badwater Basin stopping first at the Salt Flat on the West Side Road. The name says it all – its flat with a top layer of salt. Next we stopped at the Devil’s Golf Course. The brochure relates only Lucifer himself could try for a par there, hence the name.

Badwater Basin

Badwater Basin

Badwater is the lowest place in the Western Hemisphere (292 feet below sea level). Once there you can gaze across the valley and see Telescope Peak which is 11,039 feet above sea level. The distance between the two is about 16 miles as the crow flies but approximately 24 miles if by foot. If your really crazy try the Badwater Ultramarathon from Badwater to Mt. Whitney (135 miles) staged in mid-July.

After Badwater on our way out we detoured through Artist’s Drive winding though rock formations with many interesting pastel colors.

Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon is less than a half hour West of the City and is so named because of the striking red hills. You can just drive through the park but we stopped often and took short hikes through the desert and into the arroyos dotting the canyon.

Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon

April is late in the Nevada Spring to view the desert in bloom. However, we were lucky the local fauna was in full bloom!

Red Rock Fauna

Red Rock Fauna


Really enjoyed the experience. It’s a Cirque Du Soleil production. You either love their shows or you don’t. I happen to love them. Don’t try to make any sense or logic of the show just sit back and enjoy the experience.

Fremont Street Experience

Take my advice and don’t bother. Years ago the Fremont Street light show was totally awesome! It happened every hour after dark. Crowds would actually stop gambling and rush from the casinos to watch and 6 minutes later after the light show ended they would file back into the casinos. This year resembled a preview of a dystopian future. Everything from old fat men in g-strings and combat boots playing electric violins to naked young girls with tattoos from head to toe roamed the streets. We were the odd men out so to speak because we were midwestern normal.

More photos: Death Valley/Red Rock Canyon


My 2014

December 30, 2014

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

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

My rules writing this post were:

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

European Vacation Olson Style (not Griswald)

September 4, 2014
Matthias church, Budapest

Matthias church, Budapest

Just back from 15 exciting and fun-filled days in Europe.  Our first destination was Frankfurt/Wiesbaden Germany where we met my brother-in-law Kevin and his wife Trish for a few days. Next we flew to Budapest and after a weekend there we boarded a Viking river boat for a seven night/eight day cruise up the Danube River to Nuremberg.

My top 3 memories in no particular order were:

  • Budapest
  • The Wachau Valley
  • Wiesbaden/Frankfurt area

I have a 10 page version of the entire trip for anyone with a death wish.  It was so boring even I couldn’t read it all so I’m publishing the condensed version.


Budapest straddles the Danube. “Buda”, the older part is on one bank and “Pest” is on the other.  Our hotel was on the “Buda” side in the castle district which rests on Castle Hill (those Hungarians are really creative with names) which is the oldest and most picturesque district of the city.  We spent the weekend exploring the district, taking a moonlight dinner cruise on the Danube, and touring the city with our very own tour guide.

Its one of the largest ( 1.7 million) and oldest cities in the EU.  It was settled before Christ by the Celts and was later a Roman settlement. Because of Hungary’s strategic position in the middle of the continent it has been overrun numerous times including by the Ottomans giving birth to a very diverse and interesting culture.

Budapest Castle District at night

Budapest Castle District at night

Wachau Valley

The Danube flows through the Wachau Valley between Vienna and Melk Austria. It is by far the most scenic stretch of the river between Vienna and Nuremberg.  The weather was in the mid-70s and the morning we traversed the Valley was perfect day to recline on the sun deck and experience the picturesque villages, ancient castles and cathedrals, and vineyards on steep hills for mile upon mile.

The Valley is 40 kilometers in length and was added to the  UNESCO List of World Heritage Sites in 2000. At one end of the valley lies the village of Melk which is home to a Benedictine Abbey founded in 1089AD.  The village of Krems is on the downstream end of the valley which is surrounded by terraced vineyards.

Also in the Valley is the village of Durnstein with the ruins of Kuenringer Castle on an overlook of the Danube. King Richard the Lionhearted was imprisoned here in 1192-1193 on his return from the Crusades by the local Duke and held for ransom because according to legend he had sold the island of Crete, which at the time was owned by the Duke, to some Greeks.

Wachau Valley vilage

Wachau Valley vilage


We stayed at Weinhaus Sinz in Frauenstein which is a borough of Wiesbaden.  Trish has known the proprietors and been holidaying there most of their life.  Its a great place out of the main tourist realm with a top-flight restaurant.  We thoroughly enjoyed our stay there and would go back in a New York minute given the opportunity.

Besides touring the surrounding area and taking sampling the fare at several restaurants, the best of which was Weinhaus Sinz, we traveled to Heideberg to visit the castle there.  The castle was very interesting but no where near the excitement of driving the wrong way up a one way street up the hill to the castle only to be met by a huge bus and have to back the car back down the street all the while fearing I would go too far to the left and tumble down the hill’s sheer cliff.

The next day was market day at Wiesbaden so we hopped the bus and toured the market. After the market we dined at an outdoor cafe in downtown Wiesbaden which is pedestrian traffic only.  This pedestrian only concept would work pretty good for cities in the U.S. as far as I am concerned.  I’m thinking of Fort Worth which would be pretty cool if they cordoned off a few streets around Sundance Square.

We also spent a fun day walking around Frankfurt and riding the local rapid transit to a great restaurant on the outskirts of the city (Schuch’s).



See Danube River Vacation for more photos

Nashville Cats 2014

July 17, 2014

Nashville Trip (June 27 through July 2)

Heber Springs

We (all 5 of us) cruised to Heber Springs in a tricked out Chevy Suburban.  We lodged at the Red Apple Inn on Greers Ferry Lake.  Its a quaint little place and probably the best lodging in town, although it’s a couple of miles outside of town which was fine with us.

Dinner was at the Red Apple Inn Restaurant. The food was okay and we had to wait at least an hour for it so bring a book to read.

This part of the world is beautiful. Kind of place you could come back to and jus veg our.  The biggest downside for me is there is no walking trails or nature trails.  I guess they expect everyone to drive a car.  We had a hard time finding access to the lake but once we did the views were spectacular. 

Greers Ferry Lake

Greers Ferry Lake


The next morning we headed on out to Searcy where we partook of breakfast at the local Waffle House.  Most of the group had never eaten at a Waffle House.  All were surprised at how good the breakfast tasted and the clean restrooms.  After breakfast we walked the hallowed grounds of Harding where Kara attended college for two years.  The Harding campus is quite impressive and much larger than I’d imagined.  


We left Searcy bound for Memphis on U.S. 64 through the flatlands of Arkansas.  It’s a different and strange world in that part of the state.  Much of the land is covered with rice.  All of the land is flat.  All of the land appears to be water logged unlike Texas which is crying out for rain.

Our first stop in Memphis was the Rendezvous Barbecue ( , a basement joint reached via an alleyway behind the Peabody Hotel.  Of course since we were in Memphis the ribs were dry rub and delicious.  Definitely a must stop for anyone in Memphis.  I’ve eaten at Corky’s several times. Corky’s is darn good also but both the atmosphere and ribs are better at the Rendezvous.

Rendezvous Ribs

Rendezvous Ribs

After a great lunch we and about 10,000 other faithful toured Graceland.  The lines were long but I learned a lot about Elvis and life.  His grandmother outlived him and his parents.  And money can’t buy you everything.  Elvis dies at 42 of “heart problems” according to the tour.  I’d always heard it was drug problems that killed the King.



Before leaving Memphis for Nashville we watched the ducks waltz from the lobby fountain at the Peabody into the elevator for their ride to their rooftop home.  Someday I want to come back to Memphis, book a room at the Peabody, and watch the ducks from a table in the lobby while sipping on a martini.  After the duck watching we headed out for Nashville only stopping at a Subway for dinner and a wine shop to ensure a celebration toast once we reached our Nashville destination.  

During our drive to Nashville we encountered the usual 45 minute delay because of road construction.  Hint: Never drive I40 in Arkansas or Tennessee if you can avoid it.


In Nashville we divided out time between enjoying good restaurants, taking in local attractions, and vegging out in the condo.

As you can see from the restaurant list below we placed an emphasis on breakfast.  

Most of the local attractions were country and western oriented which is not a surprise since Nashville is the C&W capitol of the World.


Loveless Cafe

Loveless Cafe

  • Pfunky Griddle – you cook your own breakfast place.  Food was good.  And we did cook it ourselves at a griddle in the middle of our table.
  • The Row – a causal dinner joint. I ate barbecue again
  • Pancake Pantry – World famous pancake house.  I was disappointed because I did not have to wait in line for an hour.  Otherwise lots of kinds of pancakes including my favorite , buckwheat.
  • Jack’s Barbecue – On Broadway in the midst of all the honky tonks.  Definitely good  barbecue Nashville style.  Try out their white barbecue sauce.  Apparently white barbecue sauce is a Nashville delicacy.  It’s composed of mayo, horseradish, and some other secret ingredients.
  • Loveless Cafe ( – Its about 40 miles outside of Nashville at the terminus of the Natchez Trace.  Well worth the drive at least for breakfast.  The place alone is a good reason the drive the Natchez Trace
  • The Pharmacy – Billed as the “wurst hamburger beer garden in Nashville.” I ate curried wurst. Go there when the weather is nice because your most likely to eat outside and even if you don’t the inside does not appear to be air conditioned.
  • Five Points Pizza ( – In a dumpy neighborhood NorthEast of downtown.  However, the pizza is fantastic and the craft beers are all great.  Don’t worry about getting mugged.  Apparently this is the new neighborhood in Nashville for the locals in the know.

What we did besides eat

Ryman - High Church of Country Music

Ryman – High Church of Country Music

The list of things we did that I’d recommend:

  • Ryman Auditorium – the high church of Country Music.  Interesting visit.  Apparently Gwen and I did not realize how lucky we were to watch a concert there several years ago.  I recommend the tour if you have not taken it.
  • Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum – My 2nd visit.  They trade out many of the exhibits or I am old enough to forget because much of it seemed different to me.  On a side note, I wonder where the Western Music Hall of Fame is located?
  • Grand Ole Opry – Of course if your in Nashville you’ve got to attend the Opry.  Saw lots of good acts both old and new.  My favorite was the Old Crow Medicine Show.  We liked them so much we bought tickets to their July 7th show at the House of Blues Dallas.  They have to be one of the best musical acts I’ve ever seen.
  • Broadway and 2nd area: Walked honky tonk heaven.  Went into a couple of joints and listened to the music
  • Parthenon – replica of the original in Greece.
  • Swimming in the condo pool with AG
  • Watched World Cup matches, especially the USA

Other Photos

California Dreaming on a Winter’s Day

April 21, 2014

California vacation Winter 2014


We recently traveled to Northern California for a short vacation (February 27 through March 5).  While their we visited Lake Tahoe, Napa and Sonoma Valleys, and San Francisco.  

Lake Tahoe on a Cold Winter's Day

Lake Tahoe on a Cold Winter’s Day

Lesson learned on this trip: It does not pay to worry.  Having worked in the Bay area for several years I remember the passes over the Sierra’s were often closed in the Winter or only open to vehicles with chains. In the days before our trip I worried the passes would not be open because of inclement weather.  In fact the passes were closed several days the week before the trip only heightening my angst. To top it off the passes were closed the morning of our departure due to a snow storm.  Thus we boarded the plane wondering if the passes would be open when we landed. 

Well, I was worried about the wrong problem.  Our 9:30 AM flight was not air born until 4:30PM CST!  We boarded the plane some 4 hours late because of a mechanical problem.  After we boarded they discovered another problem. by the time that problem was rectified the flight crew had reached their on-duty limit and disembarked the plane.  We had to wait for another flight crew.  We finally landed in San Francisco 6PM west coast time.

After picking up the rental car we drove into San Francisco, across the Bay Bridge, through Oakland and its suburbs,  and over the Sierras to Lake Tahoe.  Fortunately the Sierra pass on U.S. 50 was open that evening and we arrived at our destination shortly after midnight.

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe Condo Friday Morning

Lake Tahoe Condo Friday Morning

We awoke the next morning to heavy snow over which the locals were elated. Turns out they were in the midst of a two year drought and this was the first good snow fall for them this season. No snow is not healthy for a ski resort.

We don’t ski but we had a great time at Tahoe anyway:

  • Watched the snow fall from the comfort of our Condo or a great wine bar
  • Drove around the lake on a Sunny day with snow piled high everywhere
  • Strolled downtown South Lake Tahoe watching the people
  • Spent one afternoon sipping wine at the Apres Wine Company . Unfortunately their web site says they are going out of business on April 20th.
  • Ate several delicious breakfasts at Red Hut Cafe  and the Driftwood Cafe 

Santa Rosa

Napa Oyster Bar

Napa Oyster Bar

Santa Rosa was our next stop after Lake Tahoe. We used it as a hub to tour Napa and Sonoma.

At Merryvale, Clos Pegase,  and Titus  we enjoyed private tours thanks to Chris Morrow (our son-in-law).

  • There is really no comparison between sitting in a 20,000 gallon wine barrel at Merryvale tasting reserves with just your hostess as opposed to standing at a bar with a dozen or so other people slurping up the economy vintages.
  • Or touring the caves 200 feet under the surface of Clos Pegase where they age the wine.
  • Or sitting in the Titus farm house at a 100 year old dining room table next to a wood burring furnace.

We also stopped at two of Gwen’s favorites: Milot, Peju  just to order wine to be shipped home.

Unfortunately for me, the Titus lady told Gwen about an olive oil shop in the Village of Napa named Lucero. Of course we had to stop there and another shipment home ensued.  The bad news is she really loved their olive oil.  The good news is they ship free when the orders are $100 or more.

The Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch is adjacent to Merryvale tasting room is a great lunch spot.  Its also very crowded.  We arrived at 11:30 AM and they were booked solid for the entire day.  However we looked so disappointed the hostess hinted that setting at the bar was on a first come first serve. So we ambled over to the bar and were sitting down ordering lunch 10 minutes later.  I had some combination arugula, roasted brussels sprouts, goat cheese salad that was great. They grow their own veggies right on the premises.  While eating we watched a man harvesting greens in the garden between the restaurant and the highway.

On our second day in the area we lunched at Redd Wood in Yountville. Recommend it also.

The Russian River Brewing Company is in downtown (not sure) Santa Rosa.  We decided to try it out on Sunday night thinking Sunday would be a slow night for a combination microbrewery/pizza joint.  How wrong we were.  The wait was 45 minutes to sit down.  However the beer tasted great and the pizza was delicious.

Sebastopol and Bodega Bay

We left Santa Rosa bound for San Francisco and traveled the scenic route through Sebastopol, Bodega Bay on the coast and down Highway 1 across the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco. 

Florence street in Sebastopol is a must see.  Strange yard art in every front lawn

Florence Street Yard Art

Florence Street Yard Art

We arrived at Bodega Bay just before lunch.  It’s a picturesque village on along the banks of the bay.  We ate lunch at  “The Tides Wharf Restaurant and Bar” to a stunning view of the bay. Of course its seafood and very good or I would not recommend it. 

After lunch we headed down California Highway 1 expecting a very scenic drive down the coast.  I was disappointed.  Gwen would have been but she slept most of the way.  We did not see the coast except for one bay until we reached Stinson Beach just north of Muir woods.  Next time I’ll take the straight route to the city.

Coast at Bodega Bay

Coast at Bodega Bay

San Francisco

Chocolate Yummy!

Chocolate Yummy!

We arrived in San Francisco mid-afternoon and proceeded to our hotel, the Argonaut Hotel at the end of Fisherman’s Wharf.  During past visits to the city we’ve stayed at budget hotels or our Wyndham time share. They were all good but the Argonaut was great! Its a luxury hotel with free wifi, a perk only other nerds would understand. It’s at the end of Fisherman’s Wharf district a block from the cable car terminus and Ghirardelli’s Marketplace.

We mostly just walked Fisherman’s Wharf and surrounding neighborhoods because we had one afternoon and evening in the city and then flew out the next day.  

Dinner was at Fog Harbor Fish House at Pier 39.  Are there any bad restaurants in San Francisco? If so, I’ve never found one.  Of course we tend to study the restaurant reviews before trying out a restaurant. Maybe I should try a restaurant that gets bad reviews. 

The next morning we bade a fond farewell to the land of milk and honey after a great breakfast at the Argonaut restaurant and headed home.  The good news was the plane was on time flying home!

The coast at Stinson Beach Overlook

The coast at Stinson Beach Overlook


More Photos

A day in Charleston

January 31, 2014

We recently took a quick January road trip from Texas to Charleston South Carolina.  On the way we stopped in Birmingham for the night. We found a great place to dine on the south side of the city – Tavern on the Summit.

Summerton Diner

Summerton Diner

The next morning we woke to hear the local schools were closed because of the 9 degree temperatures.  After coffee and bagels at a close by Panera’s we drove on to South Carolina.  We stayed in Santee, about an hour from Charleston, because our lodging was free there.  It’s mostly a Summer spot with lots of lakes in the area.  We did locate a great inexpensive dinner nearby in Summerton with the unique name Summerton Diner.  The menu is simple. There are two to four meals on the menu each containing vegetables and desert. My meal had four tasty vegetables.  Strangely enough I had never heard of any or them.

Ft. Sumter from the ferry

Ft. Sumter from the ferry

Ft. Sumter

Ft. Sumter

We arrived in Charleston early the next morning, visited Ft. Sumter, lunched at one of the seemingly 1000s of great restaurants in the city – Amen Street Fish and Rawbar, visited the old slave market, and shopped King Street.  My favorite shop was Bicycle Books.Alas, a used book store. Alas, the day ended too soon and we had to leave.

We were only in Charleston one day but I want to returnsoon. The Spring would be the right time when the flowers are blooming and before the temperatures are steamy. Charleston seemed to be a city I would enjoy exploring for a few weeks like San Francisco, Seattle, San Antonio, or New Orleans. Ft Sumter is a ferry ride away from downtown.  There are numerous other national historic sites in the neighborhood.  Beaches are nearby.  Old Charleston contains many fine restaurants based on reading the reviews.  The city overflows with ante-bellum architecture including numerous steeple crowned churches.  King street is a shopaholic’s heaven. Beaches are nearby. Furthermore Charleston lies within the South Carolina low country which is quite different than my Texas home base.

We stopped in Jackson Mississippi on the way home for the night.  Dinner was at Bravo! – not the chain – but Italian and good.  It’s tucked behind a small shopping area and hard to find but worth the effort to locate.

Good fishing!

Boat dock at our Condo in Santee