Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Fun in the Midwest

Today we are at Spencer Lake, the cabin/home of cruise friends, David & Diane Wilson.  It is in the woods not far from Frederic, Wisconsin.  It has been great seeing them again, and it is peaceful here. 
There is a little down time this afternoon so I will catch you up on our travels.
     After leaving Denver, we drove to Rapid City, SD.  There is a nice Cabela's store there, and we stayed overnight in their RV area.  This is the statue that was in front of the store:
There are lots of buffalo in the Black Hills area, especially near Custer, and we saw some herds of them on our drive to Rapid City. 
     The highlight of visiting the Rapid City area was having good social times with RV friends, Jan & Chuck Moore, and Betty Anderson and Duane Peyton.  They have memberships in an RV resort called Hart Ranch.  Betty & Duane arranged for us to stay there, and it was a real treat because it is such a nice place.  Jan & Chuck had us all over for dinner the first night we were there; the main course was delicious salmon which they had caught in Alaska.  And Chuck served some delicious sourdough bread he made himself in a cast iron skillet.  The next evening we all drove to Center Lake, in Custer State Park, and had a picnic:
Right nearby was the Black Hills Playhouse:
After the picnic we went to this theater to see "Spamalot".  They had a great cast and the play was hilarious.
     Another day we went to downtown Rapid City because they were having a music event in the streets.  Walking around that area is fun because they call it the city of presidents, and they have statues of all the presidents on the street corners:
This one is Harry Truman, holding up the newspaper which prematurely announced that Dewey had won the election.
     They also have some statues honoring the native Americans, since there are many of them in this area:
There is also a downtown square, where there is a stage, for performances, as well as water fountains that shoot up so kids were running in them to get cool:
The evening we went in for the music event, we stopped first at Memorial Park and had another picnic:
In this picture, we have been joined by Betty's friends Margy and Don.
     All too soon, our 4 days there was up and we had to leave.  Since we were heading east on I90, of course we had to stop at Wall Drug.  You see all their signs for at least 100 miles on each side of town. 
It used to be just one store, but now they have expanded and have several snack bars and restaurants, lots of stores selling western goods, clothes, tourist kitsch, displays of old pictures from their colorful past, animated dinosaurs, stuffed animals, etc.  Here I am on a jackalope statue in their "backyard":

They have also acquired many parking lots, and we spent a very quiet and restful night parked on the edge of one of them on a back street.  Then we continued on to Mitchell, SD where there was another very nice Cabela's store.  This town is famous, of course, for the Corn Palace:
In 1892, Mitchell built the first one as a way to attract attention and people to their town.  The current building is the 3rd one, and is really a large venue for the community.  There is a basketball court used by the local high school and college, and also a big stage where performances are given.  On the outside there are quite a few big murals made in various shades of corn, with a frame of rye and dock around them. 
On the inside, there is a whole series of murals in corn depicting the relationship between the settlers and the native Americans.  They also have lots of stalls selling tourist goods in order to make money to keep the corn palace functioning.

We saw a video about the history of the Corn Palace, and had a short guided tour of the interior.  Entry is free, and we were happy that we took the time to drive there to see it.
     Back at Cabela's, we went into the store and it had the usual displays of animals, which are awesome.
 We then drove to Wisconsin, to see David & Diane.  David was home alone with the dogs, while Diane was at a family shower in Ohio.  They have added on to their cabin since the last time we were here in 2009.  It looks awesome!   Here is the outside:
The lake is behind this view of the cabin.  The main reason Diane wanted to renovate the cabin was to get a new kitchen, and here it is:
We had a very nice visit with David when we first arrived, and then fixed dinner.
Today David took us to his tree farm.  He bought land nearby and it was grazing land, so he planted over 15,000 trees on it to restore it to forest land.  Here is the sign the government gave him for being the best natural tree farm last year:
This is a picture from the front of the tree farm - most of the trees are small and are in the background:
We picked raspberries here today too:
Then we went over to the neighbor's place and got some fresh rhubarb to make a crisp for dessert tomorrow:
Today Diane returned from the shower and brought their granddaughter, Sarah, with her.  We all had a delicious dinner together:
After this visit is over, in a day or two, we will be heading south in order to have some visits with Elaine;s family.  The 100 year anniversary of the Cannell family farm is on August 9, but we plan to be there early.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Visiting Family & Friends On The Way East

On July 9 we departed from Park Sierra, heading to Ron & Carol's place in Sacramento.  The weather had turned very hot at Park Sierra, with temps over 100 degrees everyday.  Sacramento wasn't much cooler, but Ron & Carol have a 30 amp hookup for us, so we were able to use our A/C in the hot afternoons.  It was great to see them, and they are both looking good and doing well.  One of the evenings we were there, we went to Carmichael Park for a music and food event.  There were live performers singing with guitars, and a whole big ring of food trucks selling food.  There were lots of picnic tables and chairs spread around under some very nice shade trees. We brought a few picnic items. Here is a picture of Ron, Carol & Elaine at the park:

     After a few days, we left and drove up to Reno for a visit with my daughter, Laura, and her husband, Dennis.  We haven't seen her for quite a while so I had a happy reunion with her:
One of the first things we did was have a mother-daughter lunch together, so we could talk.  Laura treated me to a great meal at Campo, as an early birthday present.  Then we went to Laura's house for dinner, and Elaine had a good hug and visit with her too:

The next day, Laura's friend, Pam came over for breakfast, so she invited us too.  Laura fixed Eggs Benedict on some of our canned, smoked salmon and it was delicious.  Here are the happy eaters:
Later we drove over to the big old warehouse where Laura and Dennis have their new trailer stored. 
They have used it for some local camping trips and will take a vacation to Wyoming in it in August.  This is a picture of Elaine and Laura inside:
Elaine showed Laura how to make the table and bench seats into a bed, which will help on the Wyoming trip because both of her daughters will be with them.
     Dennis came home from working 12 hours, guarding an inmate at the local hospital, and they fixed dinner.  Here is a picture of them together:

     They are busy getting their home ready to sell, so they have lots to do.  We didn't want to take any more of their time, so we jumped on I-80 and headed for Denver.
     We arrived in Thornton, a suburb of Denver, and parked our RV in a large parking lot near Cabela's.  My twin sister, Marsha lives in Denver, with her partner, Debbie, and their son, Joe. We drove over there and had dinner with all of them the first evening.  Marsha made pad thai and it was delicious.
Marsha and I are fraternal twins, so we don't look a lot alike:
    The next day we went to the community garden where Marsha has a big plot, and she gave us a whole bunch of fresh produce:  beets, basil, rhubarb, Swiss chard, zucchini, onions, garlic, carrots.  Then we drove to Golden, where the Coors brewery is located.  We wanted to take a tour and have a tasting, but by the time we got there, the waiting time was an hour and 45 minutes, so we aborted that plan.  Red Rock Canyon wasn't far away, and we wanted to do a hike, so we drove there next.  It has a big, beautiful amphitheater built into it, but because a big name performer was doing a show there that night, we were not allowed to go in to see it.  We did a loop hike of a couple of miles, and it was fairly hot.  The rocks are huge and really red, many of them are stacked on top of other ones:
Here is a picture of Elaine and me on the hike:
High up on one of the rocks, we saw this local inhabitant, a mule deer:
After the hike, we went back to Marsha's house and Debbie joined us for a walk through the neighborhood to a local pizza restaurant.  We passed 2 of these boxes on the way:
What they are is called a Little Free Library.  You can take a book, or donate one.  This one was full of books and even had a washtub below which was full of books.  Pretty neat.
     We had a very delicious and enjoyable beer and pizza dinner in the outdoor garden of the restaurant.
This was our birthday celebration together, since we will be 70 on August 29, but we won't be together to celebrate then.
     The next day Elaine and I headed north on I-25.  We wanted to go to Rapid City to see our friends Jan & Chuck Moore, and Betty Anderson & Duane Peyton, who all have memberships at Hart Ranch.  We have arrived now, and are staying at Cabela's until tomorrow, when we will move over to the Hart Ranch for 4 days.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Fremont Visit, Alaska Cruise, and San Diego Visit

It has been a long time since I have had time to download pictures, select some, and write a blog entry.  We have just been traveling too quickly, and when we were home, were getting ready for the next trip!  As I mentioned before, we drove to Fremont just before our Alaska cruises because Elaine's daughter, Tarra, lives there with her husband, Alonzo, and his 3 daughters, Ari, Alia, and Analy.  Analy is 11 and was graduating from 6th grade on June 12. My son, Thomas, who lives in San Francisco came over on BART that morning to join us. We were able to see her event, and celebrate by taking all the family out for lunch at a teppanyaki place.  Here is a picture of all of us together:
This is a picture of Tarra, Alonzo, and their 3 girls:
The next day, Ari was graduating from high school, so I got a picture of her in her gown in the kitchen:
We did not get to see the ceremony, nor enjoy the backyard party which Tarra and Alonzo held in her honor, because it was held the next day, when we were flying to Vancouver for our Alaska cruise.
We don't get to see Thomas very often, so we were happy that he came over.  Here is a picture of him with me:
He is really much taller than I am, but he was sitting down in this picture.
     Friday, the 13th, we caught an early flight to Vancouver, took the Skytrain from the airport to Canada Place, on the waterfront, and boarded the Radiance of the Seas.  Usually we never fly in the same day as our cruise, because it would be disastrous to miss the ship.  This time we had an early non-stop flight of only 2 hours, and the Skytrain is so cheap and easy that we risked it.  We arrived at the ship before noon!  We have done this same cruise twice before, but we enjoy this ship and also Elaine wanted to finish the healing process of her broken elbow in this way, so we did it.  Because of those 2 previous cruises and also the fact that we spent an entire summer up in Alaska in our RV, I didn't take very many pictures.  Also, the weather was cool and rainy a lot of the time, darn it.
     It is always pleasant to be on a ship, and we never know what cruising friends are going to be onboard with us.  One reason we have become frequent Royal Caribbean cruisers is because they have an excellent loyalty program.  They have a lounge on the ship for people who have achieved Diamond status, and another lounge for Diamond+ and suite guests.  Each evening from 5 to 8:30PM they serve free drinks and appetizers in these lounges, and this is why we have made so many good friends over the years.  So it is always a pleasure when we meet up with friends from former cruises, and this time it was Fred and Shirley Oldham.
They introduced us to a friend of theirs, Sheila Rodger, who happens to be the wife of the staff captain on the ship.  So we had excellent times with all of these people, plus a few others too.  This is a picture of us having a drink with Sheila on one of the only days sunny and warm enough to sit outside:
Her husband, Malcolm, is the second in command on the ship, and is just waiting to be named Captain on one of Royal Caribbean's ships.  Both Malcolm and Sheila are wonderful and we hope to sail on a ship soon where he is in command.
     Because we were cruising round trip, we hit the same ports both up and back.  In Ketchikan, it was raining so hard the first week we didn't even get off the ship, and the second week we walked around a bit, so I took a picture of the rain gauge.  You can see that they have already had over 150 inches of rain this year!  Wish we had some of that water down here in California.
Both stops in Juneau were also on very rainy days, so we didn't explore much.  We like to go to the Alaska Brewing Company tasting room, but didn't want to get soaked on the way!  One of the smaller stops is a place called Icy Strait Point where there is a large Tlingit community and there used to be a huge salmon cannery.  Royal Caribbean has converted the buildings to a museum and also shops and restaurants.  Here I am standing near one of the many totem poles:
This is a place where people have to be tendered to shore.  While we were doing the nature walk on the shore, we watched 2 or 3 whales jumping around and feeding right between our ship and the beach.  The first week we walked to the nearby village of Hoonah, and checked on the progress of the native carvers.  They are carving a Tlingit tribal house and totem poles which will be set up by the National Park Service in Glacier Bay National Park.  There is a 4 million dollar grant for this and the carvings they have been doing are just beautiful.
     One of the cruise highlights is the day that the ship enters Disenchantment Bay and the ship goes very close to Hubbard Glacier.  There are small icebergs floating around that have broken off the face of the glacier, and we usually see quite a bit of "calving", which is when big pieces of the face fall off into the water. 
In this picture the glacier doesn't look like much because we are far away and the mountains tower over it.  But it is about 7 miles across the face of the glacier and it is much taller than the ship.
Here you can see how irregular the face of the glacier looks.  This is one of the few glaciers which is not retreating.
     The end of the first cruise is at Seward, Alaska and we were blessed with a beautiful sunny day.  Our friends, Jack & Robin Ross, who live in Soldotna, drove over to pick us up again for another road trip.
They are former SKP's and RVers, and we always have a wonderful time with them.  This time they drove us to Hope, which is a former mining town, but now hardly anyone lives there.  The views on our drive were exceptional:
Hope was booming in the late 1800's, and this building was from around 1898:
This is the social hall from 1902:
On one of the information boards, there was a picture taken during that time showing a bear sled!  It is hard to believe they could train a bear to pull a sled, but apparently they did.

There was nowhere to eat lunch in Hope, so we drove back to the Seward Brewing Company restaurant:
Seward is a nice little town which is surrounded by tall mountains with cirques full of snow and glaciers - absolutely gorgeous on the sunny day we had:
We had not gotten off the ship in Skagway on the way up because of the windy, cold, rainy weather.  On the way back, we ventured out between squalls.  Skagway has a nice picturesque main street with lots of cute shops, restaurants, and places of interest.
The most interesting shop and museum was Corrington's, which has many carved horns and tusks, such as this one:
They also have several huge (and priceless) baskets, woven by the indigenous people:
We went to the National Park Service film (free), which does a good job of telling about the Klondike Gold Rush, and explaining all the difficulties people had just getting to the gold fields.  They have some excellent museum displays as well.
     Once we were back from the cruises, it was time to get ready to go down to San Diego because Elaine's son Darran, and his wife Marielle, had just had their first baby, Evelyn Maryann Clemo.  She was born on June 29 and weighed 7 lbs. 2 oz.  We knew Marielle's parents and grandmother were staying at their house to help, and we didn't want to be in the way, so we rented a room through airbnb and stayed in Pacific Beach.  This is a picture of the proud Dad, Grandmother, and new baby when she was 3 days old:
And here is the proud grandma:
Often newborns aren't very cute because of the birth trauma, but this little one was just darling.  But WOW, can she make a lot of noise!!!  Of course, there were lots of good times sharing meals with Marielle's family at the house, and on July 4th we all attended a party together at a condo rented by other family members.  Our airbnb room turned out to be just fine and we greatly enjoyed our 4 day visit down there.
     On July 4th, Marilyn and John Bintz joined us for breakfast at Kono's at the Crystal Pier.  They have been full time RVers for 20 years and have just given up their RV and moved into an apartment in Chula Vista.  We wanted to talk to them about settling in this area, although we certainly aren't ready to quit RVing yet.  We had a nice walk with them along the beach promenade after we ate:
Saturday we drove back to Park Sierra.  We decided to get ready to leave in our RV ASAP because the weather was so hot there - 105 degrees on Saturday.  So we loaded it up and yesterday we drove to Sacramento where we are now staying on the property of Ron & Carol Leonard.  They have RV hookups for us and we are happy to have A/C in the afternoons!  Friday we are heading for the Reno area to visit my daughter, Laura, and her husband, Dennis.  Then we will head towards Denver, and eventually Illinois and the 100 year anniversary party for the Cannell farm on Aug. 9.