Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Christmas done!

Happy Holidays to all who are still celebrating but for us it's over.  Haven't taken down the lights and tree yet but it won't be long. 

We were invited to Vegas to have Christmas dinner with our daughter and a friend so headed over there.  We were to bring a potato dish and the carving knife.  We set off in light traffic and had a pretty good drive until something unexpected happened.  We were going along on a four lane undivided road that enters Vegas.  There we found a car that was having trouble staying in his lane; sometimes over the line into the other travel direction and sometimes into the 'slow' lane in our direction.  At least he wasn't speeding, in fact he was doing about 10 mph under the limit so I waited until he was well over in the far side of his lane and passed him on the right. 

That went pretty easy and since he was going so slowly he was soon behind us by quite a distance; maybe a half mile or so.  Well, then we come up on a stop light that is turning red for us.  It's a new light and some people aren't used to it being there.  It is triggered when someone approaches from the side roads; we were on the main road.  So there should have been someone going through the intersection but there wasn't.  I've no idea whether someone got tired of waiting and ran the light or if it malfunctioned.  At any rate, we slow and come to a stop at the red light in the right lane.  I checked the mirror and the people behind us were slowing and the guy we'd passed was still coming but was still a ways back.  Then we stop at the light and about 5 seconds later this guy comes flying past us blowing through the light at his usual 55 mph!  Thank goodness that no one was turning onto our road and that he managed to stay in his lane for that maneuver!  It would have been a big crunch had he hit anyone.

Well, no harm done but you can be sure we'll remember that maneuver for a while.  Actually I don't know what else I could have done.  Aside from not passing him in the first place.  Anyway, the remainder of the trip was pretty quiet. 

Our daughter had borrowed an 'air fryer' to do a Christmas turkey.  I must say I'm not impressed.  The turkey looked ok but was not cooked through.  It took some time in the oven to get it to completely cooked.  It is only her second attempt at cooking turkey but I'm blaming the method not the cook.  The rest of the meal was excellent as was the company so what more can one ask.  It was dark by the time we arrived home but that's hardly unusual.  And we arrived safely for which I am very grateful.

Merry Christmas then and Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

You knew it couldn't last....

Us staying home that is.  No, back when we were on the Atlantic cruise in April (on the Viking Sea), we went to talk with the cruise salesperson that Viking wisely puts on every ship.  They told us that Viking was going to kill off a cruise we were hoping to go on someday.  The cruise in question, they use one whole ship for it, goes from Miami through the Panama Canal to Los Angeles - then it returns exactly the same way.  The main downfall is that it is 22 days.  But we are masochists so that didn't scare us.  The only downside was that the last two cruises were this fall.  It would leave Miami on November 22 (this year aka the US Thanksgiving Day) arriving in LA on December 13 then leaving LA on the evening of the 13th and sailing back to Miami by some time in January.  Hmmm... yep, we fell for it.

So we get home from Washington on October 4 and leave for Miami on November 21.  Well, we got our clothes washed but that was about it!  Sorry, I'm whining.  It was actually six weeks of semi-normal time and in an extremely good time of the year.  It's warm but not too warm and just generally nice.  The problem was that it really wasn't enough time to get all organized.  However, flying on the Thanksgiving holiday is always a stupid idea.  Flying anytime around the holiday is pretty lame but the weather gods were good to the US this year and there weren't tons of delayed flights, etc. 

So we hop on this ship, the Viking Star.  Viking built four ships from the same plan:  the Star, the Sea, the Sky and the Sun.  We were told that there are internal changes that make the later ships better than the first but from the passenger point of view they are identical.  It is so identical that we asked for, and received, the same table we'd had in the restaurant on the Sea!  The art work on the walls is different but that's about it!  What was different was where we were headed.

First we'd hit two ports in Cuba then one in Colombia.  After that we would do the canal then work our way up the Pacific coast:  Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Mexico.  Then, just for a change of pace, we'd stop in San Diego before finally landing in Los Angeles.  I must admit it was quite a trip.  It was different from what we'd expected but still good.  We've been home less than a week and I still don't have all the photos downloaded!  That should tell you something about my state of mind.

I'll write more after I have some photos to share.  Thanks for stopping by!  AND Happy Holidays if I'm that slow!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Quiet times

Things are pretty quiet around here these days.  It is getting cooler and the crazy neighbors are getting their Xmas lights out but, you know, nothing exceptional.  I'm sure they think we are crazy for NOT having lights all over the place.  We'll get there but it will be a while yet; like after Thanksgiving at least and that is only a week away.

As expected our deceased Republican candidate for the state legislature won so now the local Republicans get to argue over who to send in his stead.  Our local paper had a column suggesting that it might be better that the guy died because he was pretty divisive and might have been a poor representative for the area.  Personally I think the whole area is pretty weird so having a weird representative might actually have been in character.  Oh well, no one is asking my opinion.

Speaking of our local population, there is a new reality cop show called Live-PD.  They have camera crews following police around on calls in various places in the US.  Of course, Nye County (where we live) is one of the places in the spotlight.  You can see some of the clips on YouTube if you would like a taste of what they are doing.  One of my favorites was where some guy got his phone numbers mixed up and was calling a sheriff's deputy asking to buy some marijuana.  That was pretty weird.  Then there was the time some deputies went to arrest a guy in a local hotel and ended up letting him escape from the hotel.  They eventually chased him all the way into Las Vegas before they got his car stopped.  See, even the cops around here are kinda different. 

Just to end on a high note.  Here's a photo I took the other morning.   It was cold and windy.  So windy that there is a wave frozen in the birdbath.  (No there is no rock or anything else in the ice.)

Oh, if you have a better idea about what might have happened to that water I'd love to hear it!  Until then, thanks for stopping by.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Going along normally

We are having a quiet time and enjoying the hell out of not doing much!  The other day we took the pickup into Las Vegas to buy some fake lumber (this stuff) to replace the warped real lumber we've had in our back yard for at least 5 or 6 years.  Jeez!  It is really amazing to think we moved into this house on January 3, 2009 and in a couple months that will be 10 years!  We've never lived anywhere for that long since we were children (wifie in San Diego and me in Iowa).  OMG.  We attended the 50th Anniversary party a few weeks ago; those folks have been in that house for like 40 years.  Different strokes, etc. 

This time of year is 'open window' time for us.  It gets cool in the night but the days are about 70F - 80F (21-27C) so we kind of leave the windows open all the time.  I want to rebuild the seating area in the back yard (thus the fake lumber) and this is the time of year to do stuff like that.  We also need to check out the wiring in the attic to find a suspected fault in the tv-internet wiring but that's another story.  Again, this stuff is really life in the fast lane.

In Nevada we have early voting and we did vote the other day and have the sticker to prove it.
It is really difficult since we basically think all the candidates are, at best, idiots!  Don't ask me what they are 'at worst'.  We re-registered as Republicans because then we at least get a vote on which idiot will be on the ballot.  There are quite a few positions where there isn't even a Democrat on the ballot.  Life in rural Nevada!  At least we don't get total racists like that guy in Iowa.  God knows how that dirt bag has managed to hang around for so long.  I don't recall the state being that stupid when I was a kid. 

Of course we are the town who has the local whorehouse owner running for our state legislature.  Happily he turned 72 a few days ago and had such a great party that he died that night!  Yep, it must have been one hell of a party but he was found dead in his bed (by Ron Jeremy, remember him?) then next morning.  Hmmm, maybe I should appreciate the quiet life more.  In Nevada you can't take the guy off the ballot even though he is dead so every prediction is that he will win the seat then the Republican locals will get to name the person who actually gets the job.  Isn't it just great?

I did see a car in the supermarket parking lot with a bumpersticker that I liked.
And we are damned proud of it!  Have a good one and thanks for stopping by.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Back home for a while anyway

We got back from England on September 5 and had a whole two weeks to relax before our next trip.  Yep, another one!  This one was more personal.  FIFTY years ago I had the honor and pleasure of being in someone's wedding party and on September 22 they were celebrating their anniversary.  Well, you've got to go celebrate something like that!  So on September 21 we hopped a plane for Chicago.

Our friends live in a small town in northern Ohio near Toledo so flying to Chicago was the best choice by far.  Then it is a 4 hour drive to Ohio. Well, it is if you are smart enough to go around downtown.  If you aren't, it's more like a 7 hour drive.  However, we made it.  The party on Saturday was fantastic and we got to spend a bit more time with our friends on Sunday.  Monday a.m. we were off for the Chicago airport again. 

Now you need to understand that my wife does about 75% of our trip planning.  I get a word in every now and then but basically she does all the work.  So when we knew we were headed for the Eastern Time Zone we decided to add on a bit to the trip.  First a quick few days in Montreal; since we've never been there. 

We mostly wandered around in the old part of town.  It was nice and we got to see some of the good stuff:  the cathedral, the waterfront and the underground.  In one part of the underground was a large mall that had a fountain shooting way up in the air.  There were a couple small boys who really enjoyed that!
It was a very relaxing time and we enjoyed seeing some of the city.  I did see something I've never seen before.
Beware of Falling Ice!  Someone must have had a really bad experience on this corner.

Well, now we've been more than a week in the East but that wasn't quite enough so we added another five days in Washington DC.  We visited Washington in 2003 in our trailer.  As I understand it there is one 'good' RV park in the Washington area and we didn't stay in it.  The park was fine but we ended up with an awful commute into the city every day.  This time we weren't making that mistake!  We had a hotel about 3 blocks from the National Mall.  In 2003 we had done the Memorials:  Washington; Lincoln; Vietnam Vets; Korean War Vets.  All the big things with the glaring omission of Arlington National Cemetary.  So this visit we did make sure to visit Arlington.  As with every military cemetary I've visited there is a sense of peace and sacrifice.
Having visited the cemetary we spent the remainder of our time in museums:  The Art Museum (West and East); the Air and Space; he Smithsonian; and even the Hirshhorn.
That was different.  The above piece is displayed in front of the Hirshhorn.  The name is "Still Life with Spirit and Xitle".  The materials used to make it are listed as:  Car, volcanic stonee, and acrylic paint.  The car, of course, is a Dodge Spirit. 

One unexpected thing in Washington was our first Uber ride!  Uber hasn't made it to rural Nevada but it worked very nicely in D.C.  After a few days of such wildness it was time to go home.  Believe me, home is looking really good these days.  Take care and thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, October 16, 2018


Back before we set out on our spring trip we were already thinking of maybe a fall trip.  We didn't want anything too challenging but we thought a couple weeks in England would be fun.  We've been there before but never really got to spend time in the Lake District or Wales.  We tore through that area back in 1990 but you've got to admit that was a while ago.  Plus, when we visited Ireland we had intended to visit Northern Ireland but just ran out of time.  So, we talked ourselves into a Northern Ireland, Lake District and Wales trip even before we'd gone on our cruise.  We thought mid-September sounded like a good time; weather might be questionable but at least it wouldn't be crowded. 

Then our friends invited us to a birthday party in Germany on August 11.  Hmmm.  Well, we could move the England trip forward so we bought the tickets.  Non-refundable tickets, of course.  Then when we were in Spain our friend had an accident which sent him to the hospital and cancelled the birthday party.  Happily we hadn't purchased the tickets to Germany but only the tickets to London.  So, the English portion of our trip was going to be a little less hurried.  We can make this work.

We left for London on August 8 arriving on the 9th.  We got there really early so had decided to hop the train to Liverpool and spend a couple days there getting over the jet lag.  That all worked out well.  We got to see a bit of the city and get our feet on the ground.  We had decided we wanted to go see Northern Ireland first so we set out on the Stenna Line ferry to Belfast.  Let me tell you, there doesn't seem to be a way to go from Liverpool to Belfast in less than a day!  Flying involves travel to airports that are distant and the ferrys all seem slow.  I don't know, maybe we missed some genius method that is only 2 hours.  We hopped the ferry!  This is a photo of a similiar ferry in the middle of one of the largest windfarms in the world - in the middle of the Irish Sea.
We enjoyed walking around in Belfast.  It seemed like a nice walkable city.  Of course we had to rent a car and go check out the Giant's Causeway. 
We got to the causeway mid-afternoon and couldn't even get into the parking lot!  It was slammed!  We wandered down the road and found a nice little hotel to spend the night.  About 7 pm we decided to go check out the Causeway.  It is a national monument so you can visit any time.  You just miss the tourist office and we were pretty ok with that!  Clammering around on the rocks was fun but, well, how much fun can a guy take?  So we went back to the hotel and had dessert. 

Heading back to England was another day on the ferry but quite nice.  We found our rental car and headed our for the Lake District.  Our car was a Vauxhall Adam and let me assure you it was small.  Like the back seat wasn't usable for anyone with legs.  Still, it worked for us.  Our suitcases filled the trunk and our backpacks rode in the back seat.  We had decided to use the Keswick area as the center of our Lake District visit.  We had considered trying to stay on Lake Windemere and were very glad we'd switched to Keswick when we got caught in this awful traffic jam by Windemere.  For the second time moving our vacation earlier had brought us the crowds we were hoping to avoid.  Oh well. 

Our hotel was on Lake Thirlmere, one of the smaller lakes. 

It was very remote actually but worked for us. 
Keswick, the town, was still pretty crowded but our hotel was quiet.  Parts of the building are quite old but it has been updated many times over the years.  We found a walk or two to take and spent a day just driving around in other parts of the Lake District. 

Next we moved down to Barrow in Furness.  It was just a place that was closer to Wales and on the sea.  Living in the desert makes the seaside sound pretty good.  From Barrow we drove all the way down to Cardiff.  In terms of US travel it isn't far but in the UK it's quite a drive! 

Cardiff was fun.  It ought to be called Castle Town though.  First there is Cardiff Castle.

Then there is Caerphilly Castle.
And, finally, a late comer: Castle Coch.

Being a foolish American I always envision castles as having grand staircases and wonderful areas.  Here are the staircases tourists get to use!  This one has iron handholds, some only have a rope!

But, of course, it is great fun to visit these wonderful buildings and learn about the history and the stories surrounding them.  It does make using the elevator a much more treasured experience.

Next we headed for Aberystwyth on the western coast.  Aberystwyth is a college town with a lovely beach walk.  We enjoyed walking on the beach and in the town.
You can see the lovely summer weather we were enjoying.  No fear of finding a woman in a bikini on this beach!

Next we wandered up to the Northwest corner of Wales around Caernarfon.  Actually we were in a small town a few miles away called Y-Felinheli.  Our hotel was right on the Menai Straits.  We'd had a really small, odd room in Aberystwyth and the guy at this hotel took pity on us and gave us a special room.  This room has been used for a party room, servants quarters and who knows what else.  Here's a bit of the decoration.
But it was really a great place.  We could see the tides and the boats and, yes, Caernarfon Castle.
I like that view of the castle because it gives you a hint about how formidable it would appear to others.  And I liked the little warning signs they posted.
But it was the view from our hotel that was really the star of the place.

We found a restored railway to take for a day trip where we even got to see Snowdon!

That's the visitor center on the top of Snowdon.  At least that is what one of our fellow travelers said!

From Menai Strait to Liverpool was just a little drive and we got to spend another day or two in Liverpool.  By now we felt we knew the city and just relaxed and enjoyed our time.  There was an artist who set up some "Lost Castles" and we got to see one.  This was all created by volunteers using cardboard!
After Liverpool it was back on the train to London, Heathrow and flying home.  Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Zooming right along

After the excitement of our cruise and visit to Spain, we were happy enough to be at home.  We got back into our morning walk which is around our neighborhood for about 2.5 miles.  We keep track of the neighbors cars and horses and lawnwork.  (We have 2 cactus plants and a whole bunch of rock in our yard.)   This saguaro is a couple blocks away and once in a while it blooms.  It really is amazing.
In addition we have the annual ceremony on this day (May 9 if you are curious):
100F for the first time in 2018.  Exciting stuff!  (37.7C just doesn't have the same ring.)

So, ok, we are dull when we are home.  We do sometimes have visitors.
Someone has to eat all that seed that falls out of the birdfeeder.  And, of course, I have to take a photo on or close to the solstice.

So, any more questions about why there aren't a lot of posts?  I could complain about local politics or national politics but I'm pretty sure it wouldn't do any good. 

In July we did have some excitement but not of the good sort.  A relative who lives in Washington state had a sudden turn for the worse.  We decided we'd better get up there and check things out for ourselves.  Happily our relative kind of clicked back and is doing reasonably well again.  So we got to visit the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge out on the Olympic Peninsula. 

It has a fantastic spit of land that reaches out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
You do get to see SOME wildlife.
But when you are out on the spit you get to see the Olympics.  It is amazing!
It's not quite enough to make me want to move there but almost!

That's it for today.  I'll work on August and September soon.  Promise.  Thanks for stopping by.  Have a good one.

Wow, really falling off the rails here!

Ok, I haven't blogged since late July and here it is early October.  Sorry!  What can I say?  I've been busy.  Let me talk a bit about Barcelona (which was in April!) and then give you an idea of my summer.

We dropped off our rental car in Barcelona with the thought we'd have 3 or 4 days to enjoy the city and that's exactly what we did.  We had a hotel that was right on the harbor front so from the rooftop deck we could check out all the fabulous yachts in the harbor.  That was kind of cool.
Unfortunately our room wasn't facing anything!  But I digress.

When I think of Barcelona about all I think of is Gaudi and the Sagrada Familia church.  What I found was a city that was alive with art of every sort.  We did walk the Las Ramblas, visit the market and all that good stuff but the overwhelming impression was that there was art everywhere.

Oddball art in the park.

Art on the rooftops.

 There is a marina used during Olympic games with plenty of interesting buildings around it.

There was a small city sponsored store where things were sold that were created in Barcelona.  Lots of interesting stuff!

The Spanish custom of eating at 22:00 (10 p.m.) doesn't sit very well with us so we did quite a bit of tapas hunting.  Some of the tapas are pretty creative but I must admit that we stuck with the simpler ones.  Sorry, and it got a bit dull, but it wasn't something we wanted to try.

Barcelona turned out to be a vibrant and exciting city to close out our Spanish travels.  There is, however, a sober side to the city.  Barcelona is a refuge city for people attempting to escape from Africa.  They are very aware that not every refugee makes it safely across the Med.  So they have these monuments on the shore in Spanish and English.
That was the number of people known lost trying to cross by early April, I'm sure that number is much higher by now. 

Thanks for stopping by.  There is lots more travel coming in 2018.  Just warning you!  Take care.

Friday, July 27, 2018

More of spring's trip in Spain

While we were in Bilbao we got some rather shocking news.  We have friends where the husband is a couple months older than me and the wife a couple months older than my wife.  My wife worked with him back when we lived in the Netherlands back in 1998.  The guy was visiting relatives in Germany and while mountain biking fell and a rock pierced his right eye.  In the US you would be given a prosthetic eye and sent on your way.  Apparently Germany is quite a ways ahead of the US when it comes to eye surgery because they were willing to try to save the eye.  (This happened in April.  Now, almost August, he is still undergoing surgery and healing.)

From Bilbao it was a short drive to Pamplona.  We were careful to inquire before heading there if there was any danger from bulls!  Of course there was none so off we went.  There was the autoroute sort of way and the curvy way; of course we went for the curves.  And we sure got them and the beautiful views that can go with them.  As usual our hotel was on the outskirts of town so when we decided to walk into town we expected a fair hike.  It turned out quite a bit more than that but it was interesting. 

One thing we didn't even know was that there is a huge fort in the middle of the city that has been turned into a park.  The word 'huge' isn't right; it's way more than that.
The photo is of only a tiny portion of the fort but it does give you an idea of the size of the walls.  We walked along one side of the fort headed for an exit from the city walls.  As we were walking we found a lot of people apparently just clustered around this church.
It was only after we'd passed it that we discovered that it is on the pathway of the running of the bulls.  Oh well, it was pretty touristy.  We found our way out of the town and headed back out to the hotel.  We had to cross this bridge, the Puente de la Magdalena.  It is one of the oldest in the city and is, of course, pedestrian only.
All around Pamplona we saw people with walking sticks and backpacks and such.  It turns out that Pamplona is on a walking tour that Catholics can take to gain favor.  Some of these tours are several hundred miles long. 

After tiring ourselves out in Pamplona we headed for Zaragoza.  We arrived on a Monday following a holy day so many things were still closed.  Our first tourist stop was the cathedral, La Basilica del Pilar.  It is absolutely enormous!  Wow.  There were plenty of tourists but it was nice to see people praying as well.  It is clearly a working church.  It is along one side of a paved square and I simply couldn't get far enough away to get the entire cathedral in one photo.
The Romans spent quite a lot of time here so in the middle of the city you find an ampitheatre.  Doesn't every city have one?
We also visited the local castle; the Aljaferia - the Moorish-Christian castle of the kings of Aragon.  This one is kind of interesting because it has been used by so many rulers.  It started out being built by the Moors and just kept being useful for whoever was ruling the area.  It sustained a lot of damage over the years but has been carefully restored. 
Finally we left Zaragoza and headed for Tarragona.  Tarragona is on the Mediterranean Sea and has a LOT of Roman ruins.  Of course there is an ampitheatre - and just near the beach as well.
From the top of the ampitheatre you can look out over the water and see the remains of a fort on the other side of the beach.  Amazing.
It is kind of crazy for me but right across the street were more Roman ruins:  the Circ roma combined with the Pretori roma.  The thing that continues to surprise me is that on the other side of the street is a little shop; it is the most natural thing in the world for these people to live next to a World Heritage Site.  Finally we walked around the old city walls.  In the distance we could see the aquaduct that had moved water.  It is in the center of the photo going almost straight up.  You can also see where some of the stone for all the Roman buildings was quarried.
My wife used her telephoto lens to get a closer view.

Finally we strolled around the old city which is actually just a neighborhood like any other.  All in all we were blown away by the Roman past on display in Tarragona. 

That's it for this time.  Next we'll visit Barcelona where our visit to Spain ends.  Until then, thanks for stopping by!

Friday, July 20, 2018

Not Dead Yet!

Though I haven't blogged since May I really am alive and well.  Sorry about the erratic nature of my writing.  I don't have any good excuse, it's just a lack of discipline.  At any rate, here goes!  Back to April and Spain.

We picked up a rental car in Madrid and headed for Sergovia.  Why?  The aquaduct of course.
It really was quite amazing.  You walk downtown, turn a corner and there it is.  It's just amazing.  We were staying at a small hotel close to the outskirts of town and were able to follow the aquaduct almost the whole way back to the hotel.  It was chilly but not actually raining. 

The next morning was different.
Yeah, snow.  Happily it was just a bit and quite wet so it went away quickly.  We were headed north towards the Basque regions.  My wife had heard of cave paintings near a small town called Ribadesella which is a bit west of Bilbao.  So off we went.  Ribadesella is a very small place on the Bay of Biscay but quite beautiful.  Our hotel was outside of town on top of a hill.  We had nice views.
The reason for chosing this town was Tito Bustillo - caves containing ancient cave paintings.  The cave was quite easily accessible and had regular tours.  The tour was in Spanish but the guide was nice enough to add in some English for us.  No photos unfortunately but it really was very nice.  The town is proud of it's history and had a series of humorous signs showing it's history.  This is the pre-history one.
Most people go to this area for a different reason:  the beach.
It is supposed to be a nude beach but it was pretty chilly so the only people we saw were well covered!

Now we headed east towards Bilbao.  My wife is making hotel reservations looking for parking so we have another hotel on the outskirts of town in this case on top of a hill.  The hotel started as a cafe where the owners made their own wine.  They still make it and even gave us a bottle!  Pretty good stuff too.  Here is the view from behind the hotel.
 Bilbao has a lovely finicular railway going down to the downtown so that was pretty neat. 
It is s short ride but has great views and leaves you near a bridge that takes you into downtown. 

The big deal in Bilbao is the Guggenheim Museum.  We had read that the museum is more spectacular than the contents and I'd have to agree.  But we had to see it.  We also got to wander around the old town quite a bit and that was fun. 
In the photo above I found it interesting that the upper floors have windows that extend beyond the front of the building.  I haven't seen that often but it was all over Bilbao in older buildings like these and in newer ones as well.

I'll have to continue this another time.  But we are getting towards the end of our trip.  Take care and thanks for stopping by.