Saturday, November 02, 2019

A little trip...

So I really do like being home.  However, my wife and I just got back from another little jaunt so I can't whine about it being dull quite yet.  This time it was 'business'. 

For several years I've been a member of a board that is supposed to tell the Dept. of Energy, Environmental Management people what local people think about the Nevada National Security Site - aka the Test Site.  You may remember it as the site used for testing atomic weapons back in the day.  Well, it's still there and parts are still radioactive and all is off limits except when you are taken on a tour.  It is 31 miles 'as the crow flies' from home so that is the excuse for me being on the board.  Actually, I'm just interested because of it's place in history.  Once a year the group gets a tour to visit things we'll talk about in the coming year and I always invite my wife.  We spend the day wandering around the site (on a bus with guides!) seeing places that are scheduled to be 'cleaned up' in the next year.  Security is pretty tight:  cameras and phones are banned and the guards do carry guns

I am not afraid of radioactivity so long as it is far enough away so visiting these places is always interesting.  Some of the pollutants need to be cleaned up; some simply cannot.  One place I remember was a concrete bunker that was polluted with some cleaning agent.  We recommended that it be locked and signposted as 'Do Not Enter'.  Recently the DOE transported hundreds of truck loads of dirt from one place to another because the first area is on an Air Force base and was needed for training.  It seems silly to move dirt but those tests ended in the 1990's and it was still polluted today.  The site has special areas reserved for Low Level Polluted Waste and that's where the dirt ended up. 

ANYWAY, every year there is a meeting of people from our board and other similiar boards from around the country.  This time I got to represent our board and the meeting was in Sun Valley, Idaho.  We've been near Sun Valley but never in the actual town.  It turns out to be a pretty little place and the resort we stayed in was quite nice.  The meeting was a day and a half (and pretty dull) but we also got to tour part of the Idaho National Laboratory.  We got to visit the EBR-1 nuclear reactor built back in 1953 and some other reactors still being used for various tests.  It wasn't as historically dramatic as I find the Test Site but it was very interesting all the same. 

We could have flown but decided to drive just because we haven't seen all that northern Nevada has to offer.  It is a 600 mile (970 km) trip one way but we were in no hurry so we made it two days up and two back down.  We got to visit a few new Nevada towns and see a bunch of pretty scenery.  No photos unfortunately because it was cold and windy.  When we were touring the Lab. areas photos were not allowed anyway; and yes, their guards carry guns as well.

So that's what we do for fun.  Drive, drive and drive some more.  Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Coming on home...

So last time I left you we were having an 'at sea' day to get to Greenland.  I was looking forward to Greenland just because the place seems pretty difficult to reach.  On Viking ships, and I believe most, you get a little 4 or 5 page news release every night.  On this night we received one extra piece of paper:  a Projected Weather Forecast. 

"Due to strong winds of up to 40 knots at the entrance of Prince Christian Sound, we will not be able to enter the Sound at our scheduled arrival time of 06:00 AM.  The wind is forecasted to drop during the morning of September 21 and the planned entrance is now amended to 1:00 PM.  This will allow us an enjoyable scenic sailing through the sound utilizing day light.  With this change in schedule, we will be unable to make our call to Nanortalik, Greenland."

Grrr!  But in the end it was actually rather fun.  Cruising the sound in the afternoon meant lots of photo op!  Here we've been sailing in open water for a week and suddenly it gets pretty narrow.
One of the things that, well, I just don't understand is how people live places like this.  I've spent my adult life in cities and suburbs.  Even now, living in rural Nevada; this isn't what you'd call empty.  There are police and fire fighters and stores.  It isn't like that some places and this had some of them.
The folks who live in this little community seem probably to be on their own.  I'm sure there is a tiny store there where you can get things or at least get them shipped in if you request them but it's not like the FedEx guy will be bringing your Amazon order in 2 days.  I want to give you another view of the town that shows a little more of the area.
That is one tall mountain! 

This is a glacier that comes right down to the ocean.  Sorry about the rain flecks on the window but we weren't being encouraged to go outside.
I was walking through the pool area and looked over to notice how close we were to land.
They have a pool grill where you can eat but on this cruise it was pretty unpopular.  It was just too cold.

The next day, day 9 of our cruise, we reached Qaqortoq, Greenland.  It was supposed to be our second stop in Greenland but it turned out to be the only one.  It is a cute little place with, of course, lots of fishing boats.  The houses must be in some order with roads, etc. around them but it sure doesn't look like it.
They do believe in color on their houses.  There is a fountain in the 'center' of town that was pretty cute.
A few years ago a group of sculptors decided to make the town their own and there are little pieces of artwork all over the place.
It was just a very cute little place.  And if you are there and need to meet people, there's a place for that.

 We, however, got back onto the ship and headed off for Canada.  Monday, our 10th day of the cruise, was another 'at sea' day.  On Tuesday we reached L'Anse aux Meadows, Canada.  It is thought to be the first Norse landing in the Americas.  There were two things we were visiting:  a reproduction of the village and the location of the actual village.  Apparently people have thought this was the place where Leif Eriksson landed for many years but there was no proof.  Then in 1960 the remains of the original buildings were found perhaps a mile from the reproduction village.  So first we visited the reproduction village.  The houses were all sod covered, this happens to be the church.
Some of the buildings were rather large.
Inside they had people doing what Viking settlers might have done:  weaving, iron working, etc. 

After checking out the village we went over to see the 'real thing'.  The Canadian park system has an office on a hilltop then you walk down towards the water.  What you find is this.
The archaeologists dug into the little bumps and discovered proof of the Viking origin then covered it up again simply to preserve it.  They had little plaques saying this place was a forge or that one a home.  Still, it was a nice place to visit.

Well, after all that excitement, we had another 'at sea' day getting us to Saguenay, Canada.  There was supposed to be a stage show for us to learn all about fur and timber trading back in the day.  It was rainy and the ship was docked quite a distance from the theater so we made an executive decision and stayed on the ship!  Saguenay is only about 240 km from Quebec City so it's pretty much a city.

Our 14th day on the cruise was a stop in Quebec City.  We took the included tour that was the worst tour we've ever been on for one simple reason:  there were at least five other ships docked in Quebec City and each one had a tour going over the same places!  There were tourists EVERYWHERE!  What little bit we saw of the city we liked but there has to be a time when the place isn't overrun by tourists.  The photos we got were just awful so I have none to share here.  I mean it was just stupid. 

The final stop on the cruise was Montreal and we visited there just last fall so our version of seeing Montreal was getting long-hauled by a cab driver to get to the airport!  Honestly, we got the same treatment last fall so I'm over Montreal.  But the airport was nice.  We had a short flight to Detroit then another home.  Las Vegas looked pretty good and it wasn't cold!

That's the end of the trip.  Hope you've enjoyed hearing about it and maybe you'll go check out some of these places.  We love traveling so there will be more.  Take care and thanks for stopping by.



Sunday, October 13, 2019

Onward!

So last time we were just getting on the ship for our North Atlantic cruise.  Ever since I was a kid and read about navy ships in the North Atlantic during World War II I've wondered what it would be like.  I mean, the water isn't going to look different or anything but the weather was supposed to be pretty fierce.  At the start of September I thought we might start getting some bad weather but hopefully not too bad!  As I said earlier, the first two days of the cruise, Saturday and Sunday were spent tied to the pier in Bergen.

The cruise started out with a letter from the Captain stating that because of bad weather, consisting of up to 60 knot winds(70 mph or 110 kph), we wouldn't be making our scheduled first stop in Lerwick, Shetland Islands.  Hmmm, well, we did sign up for fall cruising up north.  So, instead of getting to check out the Shetland Islands we spent Monday 'at sea'.  I must admit that it did rain pretty much the entire day and it was windy even where we were.  Of course the ship has stabilizers but we were still rocking more than I've ever experienced before.

Viking has a number of ships all built to the same design.  All staterooms have a veranda that is usually quite a nice place to get some fresh air; maybe take your glass of wine out and try to get photos of birds or the sunset or whatever.  On this trip we used the veranda for a total of probably 15 minutes and those minutes were either in port or entering a port.  It was about 40F(4C) and raining for most of the trip.  Likewise these ships have two decks that are designed to give you a place to walk.  My wife and I like to walk and normally take a few laps even if we aren't the fastest people on the ship.  Not this time!  Most of the time the doors leading to the outside deck was marked as wet and dangerous and you were told not to go outside. 

So, what did we do?  Well, we did spend an unfortunate amount of time either eating or thinking about our next meal.  We usually had breakfast and lunch in a huge cafeteria on deck 7.  They have some fixed items and some that vary.  One of the favorite fixed items was the Gelato Bar; it was busy every lunchtime.  We had most of our evening meals in 'The Restaurant'.  Yeah, but it was really quite nice.  They would have 6 or 8 entrees and the same number of appetizers and deserts that changed every night and 3 or 4 that were always on the menu.  They have two 'specialty' restaurants on the ship and we ate one evening in each but the food is no better and the staff isn't as good.  During the day, the ship had various card games set up and a bean bag toss game that I guess is called a Cornhole Game.  (I don't know but that's what it's called on Amazon.)  Bridge lessons and knitting lessons were offered as well as the usual stage shows.  We found a game table that had a Mahjong game and we took that up on several mornings.  My wife found some historical tv series that she watched even knowing more about the history that the author's did.  There is an enclosed pool on board but it was downright cold in that area so I never saw anyone in it.

The 4th day, Tuesday, we made port in Torshavn, Faroe Islands.  The islands are owned by Denmark.  I don't know if you can read it but the gray building in the photo is "Bergen Fiskeindustri" which pretty much is how the islanders make their livings - fishing!

The ship offers an included (free) bus tour on most stops and has optional tours for the interested.  We stuck to the included tour since we had no idea what we would find.  The tour just wandered around the island a bit.  There was some rain and wind and some mild sunshine.  There were large groups of sheep wandering free everywhere (even at the Hyundai dealer). 
Our guide told us they were owned by the various families and shearing and butchering were done in kind of a community setting.  I still have trouble with who might own what sheep but I guess that since I don't live there I should stop worrying about it.  The islanders began having sod roofs and you still see some of those even in the city.
There are almost no trees on the island.
At any rate, we enjoyed our tour but we each have to wonder what keeps people living here. 

Our 5th day, Wednesday, was another 'at sea' day.  My wife and I were enjoying the cruise but I can see where some people might have been getting a little cabin fever.  On our 6th day, Thursday, we woke to find ourselves in Reykjavik, Iceland.  Another island, another bus tour!  This time we coughed up extra money to get to see more of the island and I can only vote it as 'ok'.  Iceland is an amazing place but we simply didn't have enough time to do it any justice.  Much like the Faroe Islands, fishing is important and, increasingly, tourism.  A couple we met onboard had taken advantage of a 'free stopover' offered by an airline and had spent a week there last year.  That seems like a great way to check it out.  Our tour guide was kind of funny.  We saw some wind turbines; there were three, she said there had been four but one was blown down.  We saw some radar domes; there had been more but one blew away.  We started worrying about ourselves blowing away!  There was a nice museum containing a boat, the Islendingur,  that was a replica of those sailed to Vinland (present-day Newfoundland) by the Vikings.  Let's just say those guys were crazy setting off in something so tiny and open.





There are supposed to be amazing waterfalls, fantastic lava fields and geysers.  It was cold and rainy and we almost all stayed on the bus! 

Our 7th day, Friday, was another 'at sea' day.  This time headed for Greenland.  I'll see if I can't get us on home next time.  Until then, thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, October 05, 2019

OK, I've been gone!

Yep, we just keep drifting off to new and different places.  This time it was another cruise with a little extra time padded on just for the fun of it.  It all started on September 8 when we flew off to Oslo, Norway.  You see there is this Viking cruise called 'In the Wake of the Vikings' which is a cute way to say the North Atlantic.  It is also a good way to move a ship from Europe to North America.  It leaves from Bergen, Norway so, as usual, we gave ourselves a few days to sightsee in the country from which the cruise would leave.

As it turns out, I twisted something and have been having quite a lot of pain ever since we landed in Oslo so our sightseeing was severely curtailed.  Oslo is a moderate sized city with lots of national institutions but we only got to see the outside of a few of them and took no tours.  We stayed in the Thon Terminus Hotel which is a new chain for us.  It was actually very nice.  Norway in general seemed expensive but the hotel did something I have never come across:  in addition to breakfast they served a light dinner to the guests.  It wasn't fantastic but considering that it was included in the price of the room AND that I didn't want to walk anywhere; it worked great for us.

We planned on three days in Oslo then a travel day ending with three more nights in Bergen before the cruise left.  The travel day was on the train from Oslo to Bergen.  There were several stops but no changes.  It was actually very comfortable and, since we are both seniors, not terribly expensive.  The countryside varied quite a bit from farm land near Oslo to a large lake to rough and rocky.  It went from sea level to 1,222 meters or 4,009 feet where there was snow and back down to sea level. 
When we made it to Bergen we went for another Thon hotel; the Thon Hotel Rosenkrantz.  This was about 1 km from the train station and I was happy to find that I could walk that distance.  It was a huge improvement over when we first landed in Oslo.  Anyway, one of the things you are supposed to do in Bergen is take the Floibanen funicular railway up Mount Floyen and check out the scenery.  Somewhere I read where one should go early in the day as it gets busy later on so we hopped up and went over to it.  The railway car is divided into half a dozen little areas each with a door on each side.  Our car had one compartment with adults and the remainder of the car was filled with little school children on some sort of day trip.  Wow!  Were they ever noisy little rascals!  However, the trip is supposed to be 6 minutes long so it wasn't that awful. Here is a photo of the car from a couple days later.  You can see the tourists along the fence up above.


We got to the top of the mountain and started taking pictures of the city below us.  You can see the storm coming in from the water.

Then it started to rain.  People were planning on hikes of all kinds and they were ready to do it in the rain.  Not so much us.  We are warm weather and sunshine folks so we hopped onto the next train going down.  As it turned out, we were the only passengers on the train!  When we got to the bottom there was a huge crush of people waiting to go up!  So I have to say what I'd heard is true:  go early!  BTW, the white ship in the last photo is the Viking Sun, the ship that would be carrying us across the ocean.

The remainder of our time was spent wandering around the old part of the city.  There is a nice Farmer's Market which was fun to see and cheap since we weren't doing any cooking!  We visited the Fish Market and the Indoor Fish Market where we saw some fish I'd never seen before.  (Not saying much since I'm no fisherman.)  We spent some time wandering around in the Bryggen which is the old part of the city.  It was built of wood so much of it has burned down over the years.  Now what is left is pretty touristy.
And then it was time to board the ship.  The 'cruise' begins by spending two days tied to the pier in Bergen.  Weird, yes, but I guess they want you to see their home country.  We took one of the tours offered which was a bus ride around the town.  Not too exciting.  However being back on board one of the Viking cruisers was fun.  We've been on a couple other cruises on sisterships so it was like re-visiting a favorite place. 

I'm going to stop here.  There are more places to visit on the trip but I have to go cook!  Thanks for stopping by.


Thursday, July 25, 2019

Travel? Me?

Well, yes!  My wife and I just returned from a quick trip to San Diego.  She was born there and really does love the city but the big draw is that Number 1 Son and his SO live just outside the city.  So we like to go down every now and then to torture them.  We spent the weekend doing just that then added on a couple days so we could do some tourist stuff.

Driving down there was absolutely the worst trip we've ever made down there.  First we got stuck in a traffic jam out in the middle of nowhere thanks to a traffic accident.  Then we got slowed down for no apparent reason at all.  Granted there are plenty of cars on those roads but usually they just kind of carry on with it.  Anyway we left here at 09:30 and didn't get there until 17:00 which was at least 2 hours later than we should have been.  We had fun with the family finding a couple new places to eat and just generally catching up.  By Monday they had to go back to work so we got out fairly early.  My wife is the travel planner and she had found us a place called the Old Town Inn.  It is within walking distance of Old Town and was quite nice.

The first day on our own we spent shopping then wandering around Old Town.  We escaped buying a small scuplture by the skin of our teeth but we both know we'll be back in town again.  If it is still calling to us we might have figured out a place for it by then.  The second day we went to the zoo.  We love to visit the zoo and it really is quite the place.  This time it was a little warm, well a lot warm, but otherwise pretty great.

There were quite a few babies born this year so we got to see some of the young animals.  Giraffes are pretty tall even when young!


There are even wild animals living at the zoo.  Wild as in not official residents!  I'm pretty sure the bunny doesn't have a keeper.

Of course the flamingos are amazing even when sleeping!  There was another one walking up and down the fence line demanding attention from the visitors.  Nope, no one had anything to feed him.

We had fun checking out the baby monkeys.  These two were having a great time playing hide-and-seek.

As I said, it was warm and everyone (and everything) was liking the shade.

Of course the zoo is really pretty large and we only got to see about half of it.  If this was the only time we could visit we would have stayed but having seen about half of the acreage we decided to  head back to the motel.  We walked over to a restaurant in Old Town and had dinner then back to the room for an early night.  The next morning we were at breakfast at 06:00 when they open it up and were out of town soon after.  This time we only had one slowdown so made it home by noon.  Much better!

Thanks for stopping by.  Take care.


Friday, July 05, 2019

Wow, almost a month!

Somehow it's been almost a month since I last blogged.  It's been mostly kind of dull (which I don't mind at all!) and a little excitement.  It's getting something over 100F (38C) most days but that's pretty normal.  We like to get out before 06:00 for our walk and it takes at least 50 minutes.  We aren't power walking so talking about what the neighbors are doing in their yards, etc. takes time.  There is also the big discussion about what's for breakfast!

Last last month we flew to San Francisco for four days to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary.  That was fun.  We stayed in a place on Hyde Street where we could go up on the roof and see Alcatraz.

The hotel is part of Wyndham's Shell Vacations Club.  We don't belong but they let a few rooms to civilians I guess.  Anyway, it was a nice little 1 bedroom apartment.  It wasn't cheap but nothing in the city is.  The rooftop area is clearly quite small but there aren't a lot of apartments in the place.  As you can see we had great weather and even managed to get a little sunburn.  Grrr!  Here we leave the desert and get a sunburn in what is supposed to be a nice foggy city. 

This is looking the opposite direction.  It was taken over looking what had been the parade ground.  There were quite a few parts of the island that were off limits.  We were there at a time when the birds have had their young and the park service didn't want us disturbing the birds.  They were everywhere!

We like to just walk around so did a pretty good job of covering the tourist water front from Pier 33 where the Alcatraz boat docks over to the Presidio.  We had two days of over 10,000 steps per my wife's Fitbit.  When we wanted to go farther or come back in comfort we used Uber.  The rides were in the $10-13 dollar range which we thought was pretty reasonable.  The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) is reasonably nice to older tourists:  round trips from the airport to downtown and back were $9 each for seniors.

We like to take a ride around town sometimes and this time we took a Hop-On-Hop-Off bus tour.  It was 2.5 hours roundtrip but we got to see quite a bit of the city AND it took us across the Golden Gate Bridge where you could catch another bus to Sausalito if you wished:  we didn't.  I must admit going across the bridge was a chilly trip.

We got home and resumed that quiet life until just yesterday.  For the 4th of July nature threw us a party:  an earthquake!  The quake, 6.4 in magnitude, was centered in Searles Valley in California but we sure felt it here!  By the road it is 160 miles away but it is actually only 84 miles away.  (I use a great site called Freemaptools.com to give me the distances.)  It was quite a long quake and our house got quite a shake.  All that lead me to checkout earthquakes around here and I found www. earthquaketrack.com.  We get a lot more that I ever imagined.

Well, that's all the news that's fit to print.  Thanks for stopping by.  Have a good one.


Friday, June 14, 2019

Getting warm!

Well, the unusually temperate weather has pretty much left and now we have been looking at 105F (40C) or so daily.  That means having the air conditioning on 24/7.  The forecast is for that to go back down to 95F (35C) but we'll see!  We are getting out to walk as soon as we wake up since it's already 70F (21C) and the sun is warm.  Our usual walk takes in about 2.5 miles (4km).  It is flat as a pancake and paved but it's better than sitting inside and losing our ability to walk anywhere!  Usually we make a game of counting the rabbits; we have both regular bunnies and jack rabbits.  We will often see a small hawk but that isn't a sure thing.  There are a few neighbors who keep horses and we have to check on them.  The past week or so we've seen balloons.  Please forgive the quality of these photos; they are taken with my phone then enlarged a lot!

Usually we see 1 to 3 balloons.  We are only having very gentle breezes so it makes for a nice flight.  We do have a balloon festival in the early part of the year.  We have quite a few balloons flying then and, of course, there are all the other parts to a festival. 

We do check out the Farmer's Market on Saturday mornings.  Personally I feel it is mis-named because most of the people there are some sort of craft person.  You can buy art glass, leather work, wood work; all kinds of craft work and I was happily surprised at the high quality of the work.  Fruits and vegetables are in pretty short supply though. 

We are planning another trip or three but they are down the road a bit.  As usual I'll report on them when we are back.  Until then, thanks for stopping by.  Take care!