Saturday, October 14, 2017

Home again and it's not quite so hot!

Arrived home yesterday just after lunch.  We started the trip thinking we would go "see the Upper Peninsula of Michigan" and we managed that but it was somewhat different than we had expected.  We thought we would go one way and ended up doing something quite different.  It just adds a bit to the stress making changes on-the-fly but I guess we can manage it.  The original plan was to go from Las Vegas up to Colorado Springs then take I-70 east until we passed Chicago.  We would then go north up to the Upper Peninsula area of Michigan coming back south through Wisconsin until we reached Little Rock, AR.  In Little Rock we would pick up I-40 and come on back to Vegas.  In the end we went up through Wisconsin then down through Michigan.  It doesn't sound like much of a change but it felt like it!  In the end we drove 6,182.2 miles; of those miles 4,938.2 were towing the trailer.  And we did it in 30 days.  That means not a lot of sitting around! 

We started out from Las Vegas on September 10.  Stopped in Utah for a night then went on to Colorado Springs where we visited friends.  Colorado Springs was lovely except for some little showers that seemed to know when we wanted to be out on the deck.  Two days, two afternoons on the deck and two showers; it was uncanny. 

After our stay in Colorado we headed off for Kansas; specifically Abilene.  It was quite a drive but we managed it.  We wanted to stay in Abilene because it is the home of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Museum and Library.  They have the house where Ike grew up and a museum that had a lot of information about the 20 years that were Ike's heyday:  1940-1960.  When you think about it he was pretty influential in those years from commanding the invasion of Europe and ending with eight years as President.  We really enjoyed seeing it.

Leaving Abilene we headed for Columbia, MO.  It wasn't a lovely day:  rain, rain and more rain.  Happily we showed up on a weekday.  Columbia is a college town and it's football season!  Anyway, we'd heard that the Budweiser Clydesdales are born and bred at Warm Springs Ranch and  we wanted to see them.  They have an hour tour showing you basically the barn and a few of the horses in residence.  They are very careful about the coloring of the horses they breed wanting the colts to all look the same.  They have about 30 colts born every year.  They are certainly beautiful  animals and BIG! 

Next stop was West Branch, Iowa at the Herbert Hoover Museum.  Again we liked the museum and learned some things we hadn't known.  Unfortunately I didn't take a single photo!  Hoover became a mining engineer and worked all around the world earning himself quite a nice fortune.  After the devastation of WWI he became interested in trying to help feed the starving people in Europe.  He demanded that it be done voluntarily by people; not by the government.  This got him a great reputation and he was urged to run for President.  He won but almost immediately the Great Depression came along and he got all the blame so he turned out to be a one term President.  WWII comes along and again he is urging relief missions for the starving in Europe.  He ended up being quite the statesman. 

It took us two days to get from the middle of Iowa to upper Wisconsin but we did finally make it.  We wanted to see the Apostle Islands but the weather, which had been much warmer than average, became rain and you couldn't see a thing.  We drove around the Pictured Rocks area in Michigan as well but the weather was just awful.  The visitor centers are fine but don't make up  for the real thing!  They do make some nice beer in this part of the world but it's not the reason for our visit.

Following the Upper Peninsula we were headed for Mackinac Island.  More precisely we stayed in St. Ignace on the north side of the bridge.  This time we got the weather right!  We took one of the ferries out to the island that took a little side trip under the bridge so you could get a sense of it's size.  Pretty cool even if they are working on it!

Then we spent the remainder of the day on the island.  There are no cars allowed (except emergency vehicles) so you get to walk, bicycle or deal with horses.  There are lots of bikes to rent if you would like.  Horses are used to pull the taxis as well as the delivery wagons.  It was fun.  We walked about a fourth of the way around the island.  It is all very pretty and there are some great views.  There were mansions built on the island it the early days and these have been converted to B&Bs; some with huge extensions.  It was a beautiful and and a lot of fun.

I'll get us back home next time.  Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017


We got too hot and just had to leave town.  We've found a heat wave all over the country except where it is raining.  Grrr!  Setting up an rv when when it is hot stinks; as do I after I'm done!  Setting up an rv when it is raining stinks too but I don't have the same excuse.  Grrr! 

I'll come up with some stories about our travels when we return but don't expect much in the way of photographs.  Remember that rain thing?  Oh well.  If that were all I have to complain about life would be just fine.  Unfortunately we still have that raving idiot of a President twitting with that raving idiot in North Korea.  Now THAT is worrysome.  At least I'm glad some of the fools who elected him are seeing what they have wrought.

Gotta go.  Have a good one!

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Second step!

A couple weeks ago we decided to try some of the recreationial marijuana that is newly legal (kind of) here in Nevada.  Well, we bought it a couple weeks ago.  After that we had a few things going on that kept us from actually trying the stuff.  Finally we got to a day when we thought we could try the little mint things. 

The mints contain 5mg of THC oil.  They come in a package intended to be difficult to open to deter small children and it would take a determined kid to get into it.  Sure they would eventually make it but at least the company is making an effort.  You are directed to place the mint under your tongue and let it dissolve.  That is kind of a pain but after about 15 minutes it is gone.  They say you might not feel the effect for up to two hours.  Neither of us really felt anything at all.  No high, no low, no nuthin.  Next time we are thinking of trying two of the mints.

A few days later we decided to split one of the cookies.  They contain 20 mg of THC oil.  Well, that was very different.  We both felt the effects this time but they weren't particularly wonderful.  My wife said she felt a little woozy but that she could continue with whatever she was doing.  I felt slightly dizzy so retired to go watch tv for the rest of the afternoon.  It was fine but a couple glasses of wine would have probably brought about the same desire to veg out in front of the tv.  Long story short:  it will be a long time before we have to go refill our supply if we ever do bother.  The liquor store is in no danger of losing our custom to the marijuana pharmacy.

Other than that experiment we've been staying indoors a lot.  Daytime highs are in the 105-110F range (40-43C) so the a/c doesn't get a rest.  Nighttime temps are cooler but (78F or 25C) but that is in the hour before sunrise so we don't really open the house.  We do take our morning walk and have been trying to get out between 05:30 and 06:00.  The sun gets over the mountain shortly after 06:00.  This morning was kind of a bummer.  We found a rabbit that had been hit by a car just in front of our neighbor's house.  Then we found a burrowing owl that had apparently been hit as well.  Finally, when we went out to breakfast we saw a cat that had been run over.  It was just a deadly night for the critters. 

To make my morning special I decided to deal with Vanguard Group.  We have an account that contains a couple mutual funds and they apparently want us to change to a brokerage account.  Turns out that since the account is in the name of our trust it is just a giant pain.  Fifteen minutes on the phone with a representative and it turns out that they will have to send us paperwork to sign and enclose copies of the trust paperwork.  What a stupid way of doing business.  I want the account to be secure too but we already sent them copies of the trust paperwork when we set up the account.  What idiots!  I'm tempted to tell them to close the account altogether and move the money into a company that actually wants our business.  Grrr!

I'm going to end with a photo I took while in Las Vegas a few months ago.  We were sitting at just the right table in a restaurant looking across the parking lot with a light pole in just the right place.  What should I see but the ASS Christian Church!
It is, of course, the OASIS Christian Church but I sure had to look twice!  I'm sure it is a wonderful organization and that they help many people but I got a kick out of the mistake I had made.  Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, July 28, 2017

First step

Today we took a first step towards checking out the recreational marijuana situation here in Nevada.  As of July 1 it has been legal to buy recreational marijuana.  You buy it at the same dispensaries set up for medical marijuana and we (my wife and I) found the whole thing really odd.  Of course we remember when you would buy from a friend or acquaintance.  You'd get a partially full baggie of dried leaves for $10 or so.  It's different now.   Boy is it different!

We have a dispensary here in our town so we stopped by after lunch.  You are admitted to a waiting room where you have to turn your driver's license over to a young woman who is safely behind what I expect is bullet proof glass.  I don't believe you have to be a resident of Nevada but you do need to be 21.  They had a couple informational handouts that talked about two different strains of cannabis and what effect you might expect from them.  Sativa is said to produce positive emotional effects; increased energy and enhanced creativity.  Indica is said to produce a relaxing effect; relieving pain and giving a feeling of well-being.  There is also a hybrid that does both in some degree or another. 

After a short wait a young man came out and called our names, introduced himself as our 'butdtender' and took us into the showroom.  The room had display cases along one side and the end.  They had all kinds of product you could buy.  My wife is a former smoker and wanted nothing to do with smoking so we bypassed the actual marijuana.  The first product the young man showed us was a liquid that came with a dropper, like an eyedropper.  Our budtender told us that you would simply put a drop under your tongue and you are on your way.  Then we came to the edible products.

This is more what I'd been thinking of trying.  Back in the day adding marijuana to brownie mix was a fun thing to do.  The problem was measuring the correct amount.  Now you can buy candy bars, gummy bears, cookies, even drinks.  Each product has a measured amount of the compounds that cause the effect you are desiring.  We ended up buying some chocolate mint bites and some orange zest mints. 

The chocolate bites are round and about an inch in diameter.  According to the package they are a cookie covered with chocolate and mint.  The cannabis oil, approx. 20 mg, is contained in the cookie.  The package of 5 cookies was $30. 

The mints are called 'Awakening Mints' so I guess are supposed to make one feel more alert.  You are instructed to place one mint under your tongue and enjoy it.  They contain 5 mg of THC oil each.  The package of 16 mints cost $25. 

We paid our 'budtender' his $55 and off we went.  One thing is that this is a cash only purchase.  The federal laws against marijuana keep them from accepting credit cards.  How's that for dumb? 

That was enough excitement for one day.  We'll try our new treats another day but today we had places to go and things to do.  Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Getting up to walk

I've been whining about getting before sunrise to walk.  There are some compensations!
A little later:
And later still:

Have a good one.  Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, July 24, 2017

I'm HOT!

And not in a good way!  This waking up at 05:00 so we can walk in some comfort is silly.  It's worse when you wake up at 05:00 and it's 87F (30.5C) outside.  The forecast is calling for a high of 97F (36C) so that's not too bad but this not cooling off just stinks.  I was outside doing dinner on the bbq the other night.  My instant read thermometer thought it was warm without the grill and, no, that's not in the sun and it is about 6 p.m.
Yes, that's reading 106F (41C) just waiting around to check on the temperature of dinner.  But using the bbq does keep a lot of heat out of the kitchen!

I bought a new weather station recently and finally got it installed.  My wife had this uncomfortable thought that she should be able to change the batteries in the thing on her own without my help.  (What the heck does she think is going to happen to me???)  So we decided to place the station on a hinged pole.  Well, turns out that when you put a hinge on a 2x4 it doesn't like to remain in line.  In fact it wobbled quite badly.  So we ended up putting a turnbuckle on it to keep it stable.  What with her painting the pole, my questionable ability with tools in general, about 4 trips to the hardware store and the heat, it took about two weeks to get the darned thing erected!  However, now I can look over at the display and tell that we have an 8 mph breeze from the North.  Gotta admit though that I'm NOT looking forward to changing that battery!  The only other complaint I have is that the display is REALLY bright.  No need for a nightlight or even a flashlight with that thing around.

I keep reading about our President and his seeming inability to keep his foot out of his mouth.  It puzzles me that he can be so naive and be successful in business.  Perhaps it is simply that he hires people (and perhaps bribes people?) who do his bidding.  He certainly seems to have trouble keeping people around him as President.  I've lost track of all the people he's fired and he's only been in office for six months.  Of course he's managed to piss off almost every other head of state except for Putin.  We'll just have to see what happens. My wife and I have in the last few years visited several Presidential museums.  The last time we were in Texas we got to visit LBJ's in Austin and George Bush (Sr)'s in College Station.  It is kind of fun seeing what is emphasized and what is downplayed.  God knows what Trump's will look like!

When we come home from a trip we seem to start thinking about another one.  At least it seems that way sometimes.  We are now talking about a trailer trip into the mid-west.  We had hoped to go last year for my 50th high school reunion but I had neck surgery instead.  There won't be a high school reunion to visit with this year but we still have a few relatives and friends out that direction.  We hope to make it this time!

How's all that for another dull post?  Sorry but I'm just a dull guy.  Thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Good Heavens!

Is anyone else distressed at all the security BS we have these days?  I have different passwords for practically every site I visit.  It turns out I have over 300 separate passwords.  And that's just online security.  Air travel is worse!  When in Australia I lost my nail scissors to a security person.  The blades were well over 1 cm long but really?  (Not nearly an inch!)  In another place they alerted on my wife's folding umbrella!   Jeez! 

This morning I thought I'd blog something just because it's been so long.  Well, I screwed up my Blogger password and thought I'd never get in.  They sent me an email with a top secret code - when I input it I still wasn't allowed in.  Grrr!  Finally I went back to that list of passwords and figured out what I'd done wrong.  It's just silly.

One of the reasons I've been so quiet is that I've had a few medical and dental issues lately.  Every time I go to have blood drawn or visit the doctor they ask my birth date.  I constantly wonder what they do when they have someone with a memory disorder.  My mother certainly wasn't able to remember her birth date near the end of her life.  Now, she was in a nursing home so I'm sure the question didn't come up but there are plenty of older people not in homes.  Maybe they just don't get care.  Who knows.

The Republican congress seems to have taken a breather on repealing Obamacare and I am certainly happy about that.  Our daughter has an excellent job and is very well paid but it is with a smaller company and they have no health care.  Obamacare is all there is for her.  It is definitely flawed and I'd love to see it modified but not just removed.  Along the same lines, I have Medicare (over 65 years of age).  Medicare is reasonably good; so good that I wish our lawmakers had to use it.  I'll bet it would get better in a hurry!

One of the things missing from Medicare is dental care.  That one is biting me (sorry!) right now.  I went to have a tooth looked at and was told I needed a root canal.  Well, that was $1000 - discounted because I have no insurance.  Then I had another root canal that turned out to be too far gone to save - that one was only $600 since they couldn't fix the problem.  Of course, since it was dead I needed an extraction - $650.  Then I get back to the regular dentist!  All this work and my local dentist doesn't get any of it.  At least she can do fillings.  No, I'm not going to Mexico.  I see that as just another form of outsourcing.

As you may have been noticing, I really don't have much to say today.  I'm a firm believer that's a really good reason for not saying anything.  Sorry!  At least I can share a photo of our local hawk.  He always gets the bird bath all to himself/herself.  Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Happy Birthday U.S. of A.

It's an odd year.  I'm not sure about it being one of our oddest years but it's gotta be up there.  First of all there is the tweeter-in-chief.  I mean who would have thought we'd be there?  Mr. Obama was such a correct person and now?  Well, there is also our quiet VP:  he's hardly a superstar.  The congress seems to have the same problems it has had for years; except now it's the Republican party not managing things.  Doesn't it make you proud to be a citizen?

I have to say there are some things going on that I agree with.  We certainly need to invest in our infrastructure!  Anyone who has traveled the U.S. knows that the roads need work.  Then there would be things like our airspace, our train system, public buildings.  I know government people can manage to waste money by the ton but there is plenty that needs to be brought into the new century.

Of course it would be really most excellent to invest in our people.  Obamacare was a pretty good start but certainly it could improved upon.  Education is something that isn't even being discussed.  First, what happened to the great American institution of high school?  Here in Nevada the graduation percentage is disgusting.  Technical schools would be great but I get the impression they are dying all over.  College is a good option for some people but it's not for everyone.  Too many 'liberals' think college should be for everyone; that's just stupid.  Dumb down college so people who aren't interested in it can graduate and you end up with non-educated people.

Following along that line, the quality of the basic research we get from our colleges would certainly be improved if we were to add a bit more money to the mix.  NASA research had lots of unusual spinoffs as did the Vietnam war.  I am not calling for a new war but why exactly is Elon Musk the guy who is shooting rockets off into space?   Or why is Richard Branson the new 'inner space' cruise director?  Did the federal government lose sight of the future?   Well, yeah, I agree they have.  If they ever had it.

However, let's face it.  I think the U.S.A. is still a wonderful place to live.  I'm proud to be a citizen.  I'm proud to have served in the armed services.  I know people all over the world feel the same love for their country and isn't that appropriate.  It's a wonderful world, we should all love our little part of it.  Happy Independence Day, U.S.A.

P.S.  Nothing on the legal marijuana front yet.  Don't hold your breath!

Friday, June 30, 2017

I'm Back

Well, I'm in a much better mood than in my last post.  I've discovered all I have to do is ignore everything going on in the human world and it's all better!

As proof of my new theory I offer this.  My wife turned on Fox News this a.m. - that would be Fox 5 Vegas.  I swear their 'news' was 60% feel-good crap and 40% someone shot someone else.  They are ignoring every piece of news except what happens here in the valley.  In their defense they do claim to deliver local news; not national or international.  I guess it's just the wrong channel for me.

One of the local news stories that I AM following is recreational marijuana.  It is set to be legalized on January 1 however somehow the government decided to try an 'early start' to sales and that begins July 1.  Medical marijuana dispensaries are going to sell the recreational stuff as well.  So the local dealers are all crazed about the prospect of a five or ten-fold increase in customers.  I sure would be!  We are certain to give it a try.  I smoked a little about 40 years ago but never made it a part of life.  My wife is an ex-cigarette smoker so you can bet we won't be smoking any but who could say no to a brownie?  I'm sure I'll report on it when we finally give it a shot.

We are getting up with the sun these days so we can take our walk.  It's about 2.5 miles and we don't hurry.  I joke that I'm doing it for our Neighborhood Watch but it's really just our daily exercise.  Mostly we look for wildlife which means bunnies, Jack rabbits, quail and today, coyotes.  Today while walking we met 2 pickup trucks and there was a scooter that crossed the street behind us.  That's representative of our 'traffic' out here.  Of course it was 06:00 so it is really just a couple of people going to work.  I took this photo of our shadows the other day. 

That's life in the fast lane for today.  Hope things are going well for you.  Thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Jeez, 3 weeks later.....

Honestly I've been not blogging because I care for my readers.  It is that dull around here!  Well, unless you count dental appointments.  I went to the dentist back in April and she said, 'Gee, you need a root canal'.  I'm not going to detail all that follows but I still haven't had my regular dentist do anything.  I'm scheduled to see her on Thursday so we'll see if she can earn a buck or two then.

We are into the 110F (43C) time of the year.  It's kind of a pain but what can you do?  I'm sure happy about air conditioning though.  We take our morning walk as soon as the sun comes up which is about 06:00 these days.  It is mid-70's then (24C) which is do-able but even then you can feel the sun on your shirt.  Earlier in the year we were able to open the windows at night and get some fresh air but that's 'out the window' for a while anyway.

Since we are home we immediately start discussing our next trip.  Unfortunately, we aren't coming up with any good plans and can't until the whole dental thing gets finished.  Right now a short trip up to southern Utah sounds like the best option.  We could visit Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park and the north rim of the Grand Canyon without much sweat.  It was 1983 the last time we visited Bryce and Zion so the memories aren't that bright. 

I keep hoping that President Trump will suddenly turn into a thinking grown-up but it doesn't seem to be happening.  I don't sincerely believe that he has terribly close ties with Russia but what with all the other crap that keeps coming up; it just smells bad.  Another problem that is pretty much being ignored is the President's private companies.  I can see the odd billion or two being spent with his companies without anyone even noticing.  Of course the Congress is so screwed up that they probably won't notice. 

Do you get the impression I'm a little down?  Yeah, I guess so.  I'll try to get back on track one of these days.  Thanks for stopping by.  Take care.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Happy Memorial Day!

We don't have a flag pole.  We have a simple bracket on the house for the few days a year that we display the flag.  Our street is a mile long and we are the only ones flying the flag today.  There are a fair number of people in this area who do fly the flag every day.  There are very few of those who light it as they should at night but I guess that is too much like work.  I used to read a column in our local paper written by a guy who must have been some sort of libertarian because he argued that the flag should only be flown in front of government buildings as a sort of identification.  I fly it as a sign of respect for men and women who are serving and who have served.  Of course I respect them every day (!) but save the flag for special days.

Following the news these days is quite strange.  Every day the popular media finds something weird about President Trump.  Some days it is as earth-shaking as whether or not he holds his wife's hand; some days it's a bit more.  His trip to the Middle East and Europe was actually kind of scary.  The guy doesn't seem to know what he is doing and being 'political' doesn't seem to be in his makeup either.   Of course we were living in Europe when Bill Clinton was doing his best to get close to Monica Lewinski so we are used to being embarrassed by the President.  Then there is the whole Russian secret communications channel thing with Kushner.  It is to the point that I looked up some conservative news sources (like Fox News) to see what they are saying.  Well, at least they aren't laying bets on when Mr. Trump will be impeached.  I found an article discussing British and Irish bookies taking bets that he will either be impeached or voluntarily leave office before the end of his term.  My crystal ball is cloudy (hell, it never has worked!) so I guess I'll just keep on keeping on.

We have transitioned into home-bodies quite nicely.  Up about 06:00 to walk, keeping up with the internet in the morning, lunch out at one of the local resturants, some sort of work around the house in the afternoon and a quiet evening.  The bbq gets quite a workout around here.  We both enjoy the grilled taste so I've bbq'd almost anything we drag home from the store.  We have a library of a couple hundred movies so if there isn't anything on television we still have lots to choose from.  If television and movies don't call, then there are the books.  TONS of books.  My wife likes science fiction and fantasy while I prefer mysteries.  I'm sure there would be no objection if I wanted to read one of her books or she read one of mine but in 35 years I don't think it has happened.  LOL

I'll try to keep you all updated with all this excitement but it's going to be tough.  Right now the biggest thing going is a root canal I'm having done next Thursday.  That's life in the fast lane folks.  Take care and thanks for stopping by.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Final Thoughts and Welcome Home

So I've bored everyone with our visit to Australia and New Zealand but I'm not quite done yet!  There are a few things that we learned that might be helpful to others.  These aren't pearls of wisdom and are in no particular order so expect a lot of jumping around!

The first thing we learned is that the distances are great so unless you have lots of time you are going to be flying from place to place.  The good news is that it is relatively inexpensive compared to air travel in the states.  The bad news is that a simple trip from say, Brisbane to Adelaide will pretty much take up a day.  Between time to get to the airport, time in security, delays, the three hour flight than all that other stuff all over again - it's a day.  Adding to the 'interest' is their use of time zones.  Some are east-to-west as in North America but they also have north-to-south zones.  Politics; don't you just love it?

You may as well resign yourself to not seeing everything unless you take a long time.  We are comfortable with traveling for a month and it wasn't nearly enough time.  We would have loved to spend another week or 10 days in New Zealand and perhaps 15 more days in Australia.  We could have seen at least a few more places but that is a 2 month journey easily.

People were friendly and I only had to ask a couple people to repeat themselves because of conflicting accents.  Both countries use English but sometimes one wonders!  If you are male, I hope you like being called 'mate'.  TV is as mindless as anywhere; once in a while you find something good though.  We were determined to view the Southern Cross Constellation.  Everyone said 'Oh yeah, I see it all the time' but that wasn't a lot of help.  Then one night we found a program talking about astronomy and they gave perfect instructions for finding the Southern Cross!  That very night we found it for the first time.

For those who enjoy alcohol, I'd keep to the beer and wine.  Distilled spirits tend to be expensive to my eye.  Here in the states we have Foster's beer and Yellow Tail wine in many supermarkets.  In Australia you seldom see Yellow Tail and I didn't find Foster's at all.  That's not to say there aren't many tasty beers and wines; it's just not the ones we find here.  Oddly we found Peroni beer from Italy on tap quite often.

In general things seemed expensive.  It wasn't uncommon for lunch for 2 to set us back $50 AUD.  Granted that is around $40 US but still; it's not like we search out expensive places!  A draft beer was usually $7 AUD ($5.50 US)but in one pizza place it was $12AUD  ($9 US). 

Since we like to travel light we need to do lots of clothes washing.  Sometimes you can do it in a sink and wring things out enough to dry overnight; we did that a couple of times with clothing items that we purchased with that specifically in mind.  However, we also stayed in two self-catering apartments and each had a washer and a dryer.  One of these was just set up for someone who wanted to stay at the beach for a week or so; the other was in a block of condos that were rented out when not being used by the owner.  They each worked out well.  The condo even had great views.  Also we stayed in an Ibis hotel that had a laundry room (free) on one of the floors.  It had only 3 washers and 3 dryers but we had no trouble getting our laundry done.

So hopefully that's all you'll hear about our Australia & New Zealand adventures.  After another 15 hour trans-Pacific flight and a hop from LA to Vegas we found our rental car and drove home.  Yes, we have discovered it is cheaper for us to rent a car and drive to Vegas then rent another in Vegas when we return than anything else!  Even the long term parking at the airport would run $300 for a month.  This way our car get to stay home in the garage and we save about $200.  What's not to like?

We came home to find a pretty good crop of weeds that grew thanks to some rain that occured while we were gone.  Happily there is a young man in the neighborhood who was happy to pull some weeds and make some money in the process.  Let me tell you, that's a deal we both liked!  Pulling weeds at 13-14 is much easier than when you are staring 70 in the face.  This photo of a hawk who decided to visit our bird bath has a nice background of some of the weeds.

We like to walk when we are home.  It is good for our health and it keeps us in shape for our travels!  We usually see rabbits, jack rabbits and assorted birds.  However once in a while we get coyotes; this guy and a friend of his were just across the road from our house.

Of course there is always time for a glass of wine in the back yard at sunset.

Yes, we do love to travel but being home is pretty good too.  Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Last stop in Australia - Syndey

We planned on spending our last few days in Australia in Sydney.  We flew from Adelaide on JetStar; it was a nice flight except that our luggage didn't get to ride on the plane with us.  Grrr!  We were told it would be in the next plane and it should be in by 3 pm.  Well, I won't bore you with the entire tale but it was 9 pm by the time our luggage got to the hotel.  The hotel people were great but the luggage handlers really dropped the ball.  In addition, while my suitcase seemed untouched my wife's suitcase, which had been locked, was missing it's lock.  Finally, her house keys turned out to be missing as well.  Really, why anyone would steal house keys from an airline passenger is beyond me but I'm convinced that is what happened.

We were staying in a hotel called the Larmont Sydney "by Lancemore" in a region called Kings Cross.  The hotel seemed very nice but the region has lots of bars and sometimes the drunks were pretty noisy even though we were on the 6th floor.  Our first day in a new city is usually when we set out walking and this was no exception.  The view from our room included the Opera House, the bridge and part of the waterfront.  Nice but someone is building in front of the hotel and that will limit the views.
However, walking down the hill was quite pleasant.  We came across St. Mary's Cathedral. 
It is a lovely building and just after I took this photo a newly married couple came out to pose for photos on the steps.  Very nice.  I've written more than a little about the use of art and of older buildings and Sydney is no exception.  We were walking along and found this guy.
There was a collection box for a local hospital and if you put in money and rubbed his nose you were supposed to have good luck.  His nose was certainly rubbed clean and another part as well.  I'm not sure what rubbing that was supposed to bring:  fertility?  Anyway...

We came across a park that had something I've never seen before.  There was this large area with what appears to be parts of old buildings.
It looks like someone saved these pieces of architectural art work and just decided to make a display of them.  I thought it was a pretty cool idea.  There was no notice board or anything to tell the casual observer what was going on so your guess would be as good as mine. 

We came across this building which I thought was pretty cool.  It is labeled as The British Medical Association, MCMXXX.  Of course it is sandwiched between two much newer buildings.
We did eventually make it to the harbor and all that entails.  The Opera House is probably in first place on everyone's list.  We discovered that they have a lovely cafe where they sell quite nice beer!  We were also able to sign up for a tour on the next day.
When you turn the other way you see the Sydney Harbor Bridge.  It's quite impressive as well.
 Here is a bit of a closeup.
If you look closely you can see people walking on top of the bridge.  My wife and I didn't really care for the idea so we skipped that particular tour.  We thought of walking on the regular bridge deck but didn't manage that either.  We did take a ferry around the harbor a bit and over to the Aquarium.  I was rather disappointed in the Aquarium.  It is quite compact with many levels and smallish exhibits.  It was also overrun with children!  It did specialize in fish from the water around Australia and I thought that was an excellent idea.

We decided to use the tram system and found it quite useful.  You buy a card and load it with a certain amount of money.  Then you swipe the card when you get on the tram and again when you get off.  It was very handy; as tourists however it was a little tricky to have 'enough' money on the card but not have a lot left over when it is time to leave the city.  Oh well.

We also took the ferry up to Manly.  Manly is a beach town that was just a beach town.  Our excuse for visiting was just to ride the ferry and see more of the harbor area.  For that, it worked great.

We had to tour the Opera House.  It is quite the building and much of the tour was about the design and the long building process.  In fact the Danish architect wasn't around during the latter part of the building process.  The interior is lovely with a lot of wood.
The unfortunate part was that the opera does not allow photography in the actual theatres if they are in use.  That's silly!  So what if you take a photo that includes someone practicing their lines?  So what if you get a photo of a set?  They cite copywrite laws but to me it seems like nothing except free publicity. 

One thing I found impressive is shown here.
This is where four sections of the floor come together.  It is screwed to the framework and each section can be removed for maintenance.  That was true of every floor and wall.  I imagine it is true for the ceiling but couldn't document that.  I've never seen anything like that before.

The building is covered by tiles of various shades.
I find the detail as amazing as the whole.  It does take work though.
These guys were inspecting the tiles for damage.  That's quite the job!

Throughout our visit we've seen the cruise ships in port.  It is usual to see a different ship tied up every day.
The Explorer of the Seas was in town and hordes of people were getting on and off her.  There was a huge line of taxis trying to drop people off.  The next day it was the Radiance of the Seas tied up in the same spot.

We got up by 05:30  on the day we were to leave.  Ok, we're a little crazy that way.  So we get to the airport about 08:00 for a 10:10 boarding call.  Hmmm, it wasn't happening.  By 11:10 everyone was standing around getting crazy when the Captain got off the plane and came and talked to us.  It turns out they have a truck that delivers food and drink to the plane.  The whole bed of the truck is raised up to the level of the plane and they just unload.  EXCEPT that this truck broke down while the bed was up in the air.  It won't go up and it won't come down.  It is above the height of the wing so the plane cannot be moved.  And there is an interlock so the truck can't move when it's bed is lifted in the air.  SO, everyone just gets to wait!  Of course they had a guy trying to fix the truck but whatever it was, it wasn't working.  At least everyone was relieved to know that it wasn't that Delta was just being obnoxious.  Why someone from the ground crew hadn't bothered to tell us this I'll never understand.  Anyway we did finally get food on the plane; passengers on the plane; the truck fixed and moved and off we went. 

That's our month south of the equator; a first for both of us.  Next time I'll try to do a few final thoughts and talk a bit about what we found when we got home.  Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Adelaide for a few days

We flew to Adelaide for a few days and really did enjoy the city.  Like most of the cities we've visited the old buildings are being used right next to the huge new ones.  Our hotel was right downtown so while we still managed to walk quite a bit it wasn't quite as demanding as some other places (translation:  no hills!).
The name on this building is 'The Austral Stores'.

From the ironwork it certainly reminds one of New Orleans.  If you look closely you see a blue and white sign on the end that says 'Polites'.  We wondered what it meant because they were all over the place.  It turns out a man named Con Polites started from almost nothing and became quite a real estate tycoon.  As he bought more real estate he wanted to put his name on the buildings he owned.  He was rightfully proud of what he had achieved and wanted people to be able to see it.  The company still exists though the man died some years ago.  Here is the story that another blogger unearthed.

On the very corner this building houses a shop selling locally manufactured chocolates.  That's the Haigh's Chocolates part of the story.  I love the sign on the top of the building 'Beehive Corner'.  There has to be a story there too!

Downtown there is a nice pedestrian mall with some interesting statues sprinkled about.
Yes, it is a pig either getting into the litter or putting something in.  You can choose to believe whichever you prefer.
All of the pigs have names:  this is Horatio.  There was more art work but I just liked the pigs.

We took a streetcar out to the beach one day.  It was only a short ride and just a lovely day.
Obviously the beach wasn't crowded!  It was a nice wide beach; the photo was taken from the fishing pier.  Adelaide is a bit inland but the huge bay is protected from the ocean so there was very little wave action.

Southern Australia is, of course, known for wine.  As enthusiastic wine drinkers we thought it only right that we do a winery tour.  We found a local tour operator and set up a tour.  Shriaz and Company is a very small operation but we really enjoyed it.  They do small tours only (max. 6 people) and, in fact, we were the only people on the tour!  The tour is customized to what ever you would like to do so we needed their help!  We've never been on a winery tour before.  So we went to the McLaren Vale area and ended up visiting four very different winerys.  The owner/driver was knowledgable and helpful and was obviously well known at the wineries!  We started the day at the beach again because the tasting rooms (called cellar doors here) don't usually start until 10:00.
We were told this was the first nude beach in Australia.  I can't say one way or the other since there were only a couple people on the beach and they were way far away!  But then we got down to the wine.
There were plenty of vines to be seen and in between them were olive trees.  This is a Mediterranean inspired region where there are all kinds of wineries.  The four we saw were very different.  One, Molly Dooker is quite large and is not difficult to find here in the US.

The other good sized one was Leconfield Wines.  It can be found here but it is mostly their higher priced wines that I've found.  It was about lunch time and the tour operator has made a deal with some of the cellars to provide lunch.  So we just had to buy a nice bottle of wine to go with our cheese and meat plate.  It was really tough!
In the distance you can see a huge tent being erected.  The next weekend the winery was going to host a concert by the American rockers Cyndi Lauper and Blondie!  Ah well, we will be long gone.

The two other winerys were quite small.  In one the men were working on barrels out in the yard.

At another they were planning an Art Festival for the weekend with local artists.  They had quite a collection on the grounds.
The bird was probably 4 or 5 feet long!  Neither of these places export at all. By this time it was about 4 pm and we were ready to head back to the hotel.  So we ended up with a bottle and a half of wine for our room.  Of course it didn't last long!  No worries about shipping wine home.  We were told however that it could easily cost over $200 to ship a case of 12 bottles back to the states.  No thanks!

So having seen Adelaide and the one tiny corner of the wine country it was time for us to move on.  The last stop in Australia is coming up:  Sydney!  Thanks for stopping by. 

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

More Brisbane

Our first two days in Brisbane were spent in a Next Hotel; the Riverview.  It was fine but quite a distance from downtown.  It did have a garage so we could keep the car.  We had decided that after returning the car we'd move to a downtown hotel so that's just what we did.  We moved to the Ibis Styles Hotel which was quite different.  First, we were on the 24th floor!  Great views of part of the downtown and across the river.  I counted 14 building cranes; you might say things are growing!  The room was fairly compact but very clean and comfortable.  We liked it a lot.

As usual we wandered around.  There is a lovely park near the downtown area so we spent some time checking it out.  It was pretty cool to be in the trees but surrounded by city.  As a country mouse, all those new skyscrapers really get my attention.

On the Sunday we got tickets for the Lone Pine Koala Preserve.  You can drive to it of course but it's more fun to take the boat.  On the way to get the boat we saw a sign warning about the birds in the area!

 The trip takes about an hour and they have a timed narration running so you learn quite a bit about the city.  Brisbane has had quite a history with good guys and bad and quite a few floods.  (Incidentally Cyclone Debbie had eased on down the coast and was watering the area just south of Brisbane.  More than a couple people lost their lives in the flood this year.) 

The Preserve is supposed to be the oldest in Australia and, actually, it's become more of a zoo showing off all the animals unique to Australia.  Of course they have koalas and take wonderful care of them I'm sure but they have plenty of other characters.  The koala we are told eats about 4 hours a day and sleeps the other 20.  I believe it!  We saw one that was really awake while the rest were curled up sleeping.  They have a special permit to allow people to have their photo taken holding a koala - for $18.  They switch out the poor koala about every half an hour so it can go back to sleep.  No, we didn't go for it.

I'll only drag this out with photos of a couple more animals:  a small kangaroo who was in a part of the park set up as a petting zoo and a Tasmanian Devil.  I'd never seen a Devil before and I thought he was kind of an ugly little guy but maybe he'd grow on me.  The sign says they can eat 40% of their body weight in 30 minutes!  Currently they are dying off due to some cancer-like disease.  Hopefully a cure will be found soon.

So that was the remainder of our time in Brisbane.  The next morning we got a taxi for the airport.  Ordinarily we'd take public transportation but we'd discovered the station was quite a long walk from our hotel and would cost $36 for the two of us.  $50 for a cab sounded lots better!  We were off to Adelaide.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Back to AU

Having spent our week in New Zealand, and a lovely week it was, we were ready to return to Australia and get on with seeing more of the continent.  We flew from Auckland to Brisbane and picked up our rental car.  It turned out to be a nice new Toyota Camry - all of 1400 km on the odometer.  Actually a very nice car but the first I remember renting in another country with an automatic transmission.  THAT caused me problems that I really never expected.  Driving on the left hand side of the road means that your left hand is used for shifting if you have a manual transmission.  If you hiave an automatic it leaves your left hand alone to get into trouble.  In my case I kept trying to turn on the turn signals with my left hand as I do in the states.  Except that the wand on that side of the steering column was the windshield wipers.  Grrr!  I must have hit the wipers 20 times when I wanted to signal a turn.  Double Grrrr!  What an idiot.  In fact I didn't realize what was causing my problem until my wife pointed it out after we got rid of the car.  Oh well.

We pretty much picked up the car and left town thinking we'd take a few days driving up the coast then dropping the car in Cairns where we could visit the Great Barrier Reef.  Sounds like a plan, huh.  Well, you know what happens to plans....   We stopped the first night in a place called Mooloolaba.  It was a nice little town, well not so small, but nice.  Nice enough we stayed a couple nights rather than the one we'd planned on originally.
We were walking along this path next to the beach looking for a specific restaurant.  Tough life, huh.  It's pretty late in the Aussie summer so while there were people on the beach it wasn't really crowded.  Then you turn the other way, towards the land and it looks a little different.
There are a whole bunch of homes and hotels over there!  Not that it's a bad thing but it is sure different from the deserted beach idea.  We finally found the restaurant and had a lovely lunch.  Granted it was $100 AUD (about $75 US) but it was really great.  We were more than thirsty after our hike to find this place and the waiter brought us THREE bottles of water in addition to the usual food and wine.  You can be sure his tip was substantial. 

This was the first time we've ever stayed in a self- catering apartment hotel.  What it means is that we had a one bedroom apartment with no room service.  When we leave they come in and clean it but otherwise it's up to us.  It worked really well because we like the convience of being able to eat 'at home' if we want.  We had a regular fridge to keep wine and water and even food.  There was a washer and dryer so we could do laundry.  Pretty cool.  We found others like this place later in our travels in Australia.  It's unusual for us but it worked out really well.

In Mooloolaba I did see something I've never seen before.  It was in the marina near the boat ramp.
It's a great idea making sure that people know if their GPS is working or not but I've never seen anything like it.  Good on the Aussies!

Anyway the next day we drove another 60 or 70 miles up the coast to Bargara, Queensland.  My wife is a Trip Advisor junkie and she found us another self-catering place on the beach so what's not to like?  That's the place where I took the photos I posted while we were gone:  nice blue sky one day and clouds and rain the next.  Cyclone Debbie was coming ashore in Australia and she was one big mean gal. 

We lived in Florida quite a while and know better than to fool with hurricanes.  Just because the cyclone is turning in the opposite direction doesn't mean it's any 'nicer' so we took the hint and decided to return to Brisbane rather than continue up the coast.  It was now that we discovered something that really could have been nasty.  We arranged our car rental via National but they use a local company, Redspot, to actually supply the car.  It turns out that the paperwork we had from National showed us picking up the car in Brisbane and returning it in Cairns.  The paperwork from Redspot showed us returning the car to Brisbane!  Can you imagine the hassle if we'd continued on to Cairns?  What a screwup.  We are just glad we didn't end up in Cairns with a car that was supposed to be in Brisbane!

Well, then there was the 'other thing'.  You have to remember that I'm 68 years old and it's 20 years since I had a police traffic stop.  One of our 'traditions' is that whe we stop and park our trailer, which we consider our home away from home, we have a glass of wine. It's just a celebration of the safe landing.  We almost always have the makings of our dinner so we won't be driving.. SO, we had a glass of wine when we landed in Bargara.  And then figured out we had nothing to eat so we headed back up the road to the grocery store.  Except that there was a policeman in the middle of the road doing a random traffic stop!  Well, his first question is 'Have you been drinking"  Well,, what could I say?  Duh, I had a glass of wine about 10 minutes ago officer.  He had me blow into his machine and just told me to get out of there..  I am sure I was legal but I guess it was a learning experience.   

So we ended our six day car rental in Brisbane. Turns out it's a nice city and we had a nice time  but it sure could have been nasty!  We stayed in the Next hotel on the riverside and it turned out to be a great choice.  We could see this great spot from which to view the city and wanted to get up there.  It turned out to be farther than we thought and pretty steep but we made it! 
Did I stay steep? The stairs downhill where steep as well.
I'm not sure if we would have gone up all the stairs but we were happy enough to go back down them!  Other than the hills, Brisbane was lovely.  Which brings up a rather interesting subject. My wife has a Fitbit.  When we are home we are in the 5-6,000 step category; when we are traveling it's not unusual for us to to 10,000 steps and that was happening here.  It isn't something we plan, it just happens.  I guess it is a result of being in a new place.  Who knows? 

We did want a nice steak dinner so we went to a highly rated local place the Breakfast Creek Hotel which is actually a restaurant.  There are two choices:  pick out a steak and they cook it for you and deliver it to your table in the bar or go into the restaurant and have servers and stuff.  We preffered the latter.  So they seat us and have to move us immediately because the lighting isn't working.  Honestly, we hadn't been there long enough to notice but it was nice. Then we ordered:  my wife a bone in rib-eye; myself a filet.  Well, the rib-eye was horribly overcooked and when my wife sent she was told it was perfectly cooked.  My filet was supposed to be med-rare and I didn't bother to send it back.  It was about an inch thick on one side and an inch and a half on the other. How the hell are you supposed to cook something like that the same throughout?  Really?  Well, our recomendation is to skip the Breakfast Creek Hotel unless you don't give a damn about your dinner. 

There was one place we ate that was king of interesting in one of the malls.  When you go in you get a "credit card" so whenever you order something it gets charged to your card. My wife only had a salad; I had a pizza and got us a bottle of wine so when we left we presented our two cards and were given a bill for the total.  Pretty cool but definitly different!

One thing we were happy to find was this monument to the US Navy's operations in the Pacific back in the WWII days.  It's always nice to remember what we've helped make possible in the world.

The next morning we took a boat trip to the first ever Koala Scantuary.  Well at least it was ok.  We took a boat ride back up the river to get to the place.  They had a narration about things along the river that was really pretty cool.  Finally we get to this place:  lots of only in Australia critters but a couple of hours was more than enoughl  So then we go back down the river and hop off.  Back to current day Brisbane.  More next time, take care!