Thursday, December 31, 2009

A New Years Eve to Remember

About 9 or 10 years ago, we hosted an on line video chat room.  Our room became very popular because we took strict control and kept it fun.  It was a safe place for people to come and relax and talk to other people.  The video aspect made it a lot of fun and resulted in some hysterical laughter at times.  We met people from all over the world.  We even had a band from Italy playing live music in our room at times.  A woman from Australia met a man from New Jersey in our room and eventually got married.

One of our best New Years celebrations ever was in this room.  Because we had people from all time zones in the United States and many others from around the world, we were able to celebrate New Years for someone each hour of the night.  Yes, it was a long night.  But one I will never forget.  I miss that room.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The End of the Year

It's been almost a week since our first big snowfall on Christmas Eve.  It's been snowing off and on since then and is snowing pretty good right now.  Hopefully my snowblower will be fixed this afternoon and I can tackle the driveway.

2009 started out with a scare and ended with Norine out of commission.  In between, we did manage several nice trips.  Early spring was New Mexico, late spring Colorado, and fall the Grand Tetons.  Despite a rough beginning and end, 2009 was a pretty good year.  Hopefully 2010 will be even better!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas 2009

A winter storm hit Kansas City Christmas Eve.  It started in the early afternoon with ice and then changed to snow around 5 PM.  The wind kicked up and we had a very snowy, windy night.  Christmas morning we woke up to about 6 inches of snow.  Of course my ole trusty snowblower decided not to start, forcing me to shovel by hand.  How archaic!

Lisa and Bob came over for Christmas dinner.  We fixed salad, honeybaked ham, cheesy potatoes, and Watergate Salad.  Lisa and Bob brought the rolls (there's a story there, but I'm not telling!) and some crackers and dip.

Although I took this picture of Bob, I wasn't really paying attention to what he was doing.  The package he's picking up was for Norine's mom.  Bob proceeded to open it finding a gift of some nice women's perfume.

Lisa and Norine annoyed us with the hamster and chihuahua app on their iPhones.  Actually it was pretty funny listening to those animals repeat everything we said in their tiny voices.

I'm not sure if Bob was yawning or yelling at the new Kansas City Chiefs coach.

Can you believe it?  I actually got Lisa to look halfway normal for the camera.  Usually she does this:

We ended the day with a trip to the nursing home to visit Norine's mom.  We were afraid we might not get up there because of poor driving conditions, but Bob drove like a champ.  Lisa only screamed at him a half dozen times or so.

It turned out to be a very nice Christmas!

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Eagles

Today we braved the cold weather and headed north to the Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge.  Every year around the first week of December, the eagles (birds, not singing group) flock to the refuge.  This year was no exception.  It is so fascinating to see these majestic birds in the wild.  We drove the 10 mile loop through the refuge and saw a lot of eagles.  We also had a flock of pheasants fly across the road in front of our car.  The noise of over 100,000 snow geese was amazing as we slowly drove through the refuge.  Tomorrow is eagle days at the refuge.  They were setting up food areas, bus shuttles, and all the other things that go with large crowds.  So glad we beat them to the rush!

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Eagles have Landed

Well, maybe not yet, but soon.  About an hour north of us is the Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge.  Around the first week of December each year, about 300 bald eagles are in the refuge.  I have been to the refuge several times, but never when the eagles were present.  I am determined to make it this year.  I'm watching the counts and as of last week, there were only 18 eagles.  They will be flocking in any day now so I will keep a close watch.  Stay tuned and hopefully there will be some eagle pics here soon!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving in the Park

Today is Norine's first official day of not being homebound.  Although it was quite chilly, we took advantage of an otherwise pretty day to take a walk in Loose Park.

There were a few people walking dogs, some children playing, and ducks on the water.  A very peaceful setting.

The fall colors are gone, replaced by colorful balloons.

The silhouette of a tree without leaves lets us know winter is on it's way.

It was our first Thanksgiving in a long time without family around.  It made the day a little sad, but also made us realize that our families have grown up and that things are different.  It's so quiet....time for a nap...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

...and now a word from our sponsors...

We never watch a television show live.  We record the ones we like on Tivo and then watch them on a delayed basis, sometimes as soon as 30 minutes after they start.  We do this so we can skip through the commercials.  Tonight we were watching the most recent episode of "V".  My finger seemed to be getting tired from an inordinate amount of commercials.  When the program ended, I decided to do a little analysis.  We went back to the beginning of the program and recorded the amount of program time vs commercials.  There were 5 commercials totaling 20 minutes during the 60 minute show.

In the 1960s, an average 60 minute show would run for 51 minutes.  Thats 11 minutes longer than tonights episode of "V".  That means commercial time has increased from 9 minutes to 20 minutes for an hour long show.  That's a 222 percent increase in commercial time!  If you watch any of the old shows that are being broadcast, you may see that they've cut up to 9 minutes of showtime for the increased commercials.

Not only are they increasing the amount of commercials, they are increasing the volume because they know that people head to the kitchen or bathroom during commercials.  They want to make sure that you hear them in other parts of the house.

What can we do about this?  It's not going to go away.  They know that people will see the commercial and buy the advertised product.  We can purchase the show through services such as iTunes or Amazon, but then we have to store the show and pay $2.99 or $3.99 for each episode.  Hardly worth it for something you can get for free.  We can wait and buy the DVDs for the season.  Again, it's expensive and you need to store the DVDs that you'll probably never watch again.

The ideal solution would be to turn off the TV and do something productive.  But hey, I like to watch some of the shows.  Is something wrong with that?  It's entertainment.  I will just sit back and realize that by pressing the fast forward button until my finger gets sore is saving me about $3.99 for every 40 minutes of TV I watch.  Let's see, I press the fast forward for 20 minutes of recording time.  since it's fast forwarding at 3x normal speed, I'm only holding the button for about 7 minutes.  If my calculations are correct, I'm earning $34.22 an hour for sitting in my recliner, pushing a button.

Hey, I can live with this!!!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Allergic to Bullets

This is old but I still love reading it.  Although I don't think the story is true, the message is valid.   I tend to let some insignificant things aggravate me and I need to have this where I can read it when I get that way.  I will post it here.  That way I can always find it.

Jerry -

Jerry is the kind of guy you love to hate. He is always in a good mood and always has something positive to say. When someone would ask him how he was doing, he would reply, "If I were any better, I would be twins!" He was a unique manager because he had several waiters who had followed him around from restaurant to restaurant. The reason the waiters followed Jerry was because of his attitude. He was a natural motivator. If an employee was having a bad day, Jerry was there telling the employee how to look on the positive side of the situation.

Seeing this style really made me curious, so one day I went up to Jerry and asked him, I don't get it! You can't be a positive person all of the time. How do you do it?" Jerry replied, "Each morning I wake up and say to myself, Jerry, you have two choices today. You can choose to be in a good mood or you can choose to be in a bad mood. I choose to be in a good mood. Each time something bad happens, I can choose to be a victim or I can choose to learn from it. I choose to learn from it. Every time someone comes to me complaining, I can choose to accept their complaining or I can point out the positive side of life. I choose the positive side of life. "Yeah, right, it's not that easy," I protested. "Yes it is," Jerry said. "Life is all about choices. When you cut away all the junk, every situation is a choice. You choose how you react to situations. You choose how people will affect your mood. You choose to be in a good mood or bad mood. The bottom line: It's your choice how you live life."

I reflected on what Jerry said. Soon thereafter, I left the restaurant industry to start my own business. We lost touch, but I often thought about him when I made a choice about life instead of reacting to it.

Several years later, I heard that Jerry did something you are never supposed to do in a restaurant business: he left the back door open one morning and was held up at gunpoint by three armed robbers. While trying to open the safe, his hand, shaking from nervousness, slipped off the combination. The robbers panicked and shot him. Luckily, Jerry was found relatively quickly and rushed to the local trauma center.

After 18 hours of surgery and weeks of intensive care, Jerry was released from the hospital with fragments of the bullets still in his body. I saw Jerry about six months after the accident. When I asked him how he was, he replied, "If I were any better, I'd be twins. Wanna see my scars?" I declined to see his wounds, but did ask him what had gone through his mind as the robbery took place. "the first thing that went through my mind was that I should have locked the back door," Jerry replied. "Then, as I lay on the floor, I remembered that I had two choices: I could choose to live or I could choose to die. I chose to live."

"Weren't you scared? Did you lose consciousness?" I asked.

Jerry continued, "...The paramedics were great. They kept telling me I was going to be fine. But when they wheeled me into the ER and I saw the expressions on the faces of the doctors and nurses, I got really scared. In their eyes, I read 'he's a deadman'. I knew I needed to take action." "What did you do?" I asked. "Well, there was a big burly nurse shouting questions at me," said Jerry. "She asked if I was allergic to anything. 'Yes' I replied. The doctors and nurses stopped working as they waited for my reply. I took a deep breath and yelled, 'Bullets!' Over their laughter, I told them, 'I am choosing to live. Operate on me as if I am alive, not dead'." Jerry lived thanks to the skill of his doctors, but also because of his amazing attitude. I learned from him that every day we have the choice to live fully. Attitude, after all, is everything.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Chiefs and Chopper

We do most of our shopping at Price Chopper, mainly because it is one of the closest stores to us, but also because of the quality of their produce, house brands, and fresh food.  We occasionally get fried chicken from their deli because it is usually fresh and very tasty.  Much better than the colonel, in my opinion.  Last Friday we were in the Liberty area and stopped at the new Price Chopper store.  It was a very upscale looking store.  They even had a wide selection of Muir Glen tomatoes.  Since it was dinner time, we decided to get some chicken.

When we got home, we discovered the chicken was dry, mostly cold, and very old tasting.  Not spoiled, but more like chicken that had been sitting under a warming light way too long.  I went to the Price Chopper web page and submitted a complaint.

This morning I got a call from the deli manager, Cindy, who was very apologetic and wanted details so she could find out what went wrong.  She sounded very sincere and promised to take action to ensure that the food is always fresh and hot.  She offered a gift certificate which I said wasn't necessary, but she insisted.  When I got off the phone, I felt like I just talked to someone who really cared about her customers and wanted to make things right.  She didn't try to defend her department and made me feel like a valued customer.

I give Price Chopper an A+ on customer service.

Oh, and Kansas City area people will understand the title of this post.  ;)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

eBay, Yard Sales, Craigslist, Donations

As we continue to go through a lot of stuff that we haven't used in years, we ponder the various ways to get rid of things.  I have used eBay quite a bit for items that are easily mailed and have a decent value, but I have often wondered about Craigslist for the larger items.  The yard sale route is not for us.  The last time we tried a yard sale, we opened our garage and within 10 minutes some guy came by and offered us a nickel for something.  A nickel!  I think we had it marked for a whopping quarter!  We sent him on his way and closed our garage door, never again to attempt a yard sale.

For the most part, donations have been our preferred method of disposing good quality goods.  We feel we're helping someone out as well as getting a tax deduction for the merchandise.  But what about the big item stuff?  Craigslist sounds perfect!  Now that we have a travel trailer to sell, I thought it was a good time to give it a whirl so I put my first ad on Craigslist.  Within an hour I got a response.  Some guy asked if I would give him a rent to own option.  Did he really think I would accept that?  Is this the yard sale guy that had a nickel in his hand?

I suppose I will just stick with eBay and donations.  As far as the trailer, I'll wait for spring and try some other advertising venues.

What is my point with all of this?  Nothing.  I just wanted to kill some time while Norine was getting ready so we could go out to look for framing supplies.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Three Weeks

It's been almost three weeks since we got back from the Tetons.  A lot has been going on and the time has been flying.  Shortly after returning from the trip, we booked a place for next year.  We'll be going with friends and we reserved a nice house in West Yellowstone.  Well, at least it looks nice in the photos.  The owner was a pleasure to talk to so we're expecting a good experience.  Since we'll be in West Yellowstone, the focus of the trip will be Yellowstone NP instead of the Grand Tetons.  I only hope that we enjoy the trip as much.

A week after returning, Norine had her first knee replacement surgery.  She's doing great and I'm actually enjoying doing things around the house.  I'm getting a lot of little projects done, some of which have been haunting me for years.  I've even made some progress on the basement.  Not a lot, but some.  I really want to get the basement in order since basically half our house is down there.

What I'm enjoying most is cooking.  I'm trying to get more adventurous and have actually produced a few decent meals.  I am not letting Norine's incapacity lead to more carry out.  In fact, we've had very little (maybe none) from carryout since she got out of the hospital.  I'm progressing from the easy dishes to the more complex.  Today I started pork posole.  It's two day recipe, but it was smelling so good today, that it was very difficult to resist.  Stage one is refrigerating overnight and I will finish it tomorrow.  While at the grocery store getting the ingredients, I had to fight two women over the remaining pork roasts.  They were on sale for $.99 a pound and going fast.  Fortunately I was able to wrestle away the required 6 lbs of roast.

I look forward to the day when Norine is back on her feet.  This is a very difficult time for her, but I know she will be glad she did it.  I expect 2010 to be a lot more active for both of us.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Home Again

The 1 - 2 inches of snow that was predicted for North Platte turned into about 13 inches by the time we got up.  After clearing off the car, we got out on the snow covered interstate.  The first two hours were quite treacherous.  There were a number of cars off the road and one 18 wheeler overturned in a ditch.  The only problem we had was a windshield wiper that broke from the ice.  Fortunately it was on the passenger side and not the drivers.  After a couple hours, the roads improved and the rest of the drive was trouble free.  We even had a brief period of sunshine.

We're home, had dinner, and we're unpacked.  Now it's time for a drink and some rest!  Oh, and tomorrow I need to look into reservations for next year!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Snowy Drive

We dropped off our condo keys at 8 am this morning.  We were planning on taking the route through Dubois since our Nuvi told us it was faster.  We headed north toward Moran Junction and the snow started falling heavier and heavier.  The roads were covered long before we got to the junction and visibility was very low.  I knew it would be really bad going over the pass to Dubois, so we turned around and took the southern route.  An hour and half later we were back where we started.

It was a good choice since the roads were clear all the way to I-80 at Rock Springs.  Things were going well until about 12 miles west of Cheyenne.  Then the snow started.  The roads were a bit treacherous in stretches and our windshield and wipers were freezing.  We had to stop at a rest area to clean them off, but it was a short term fix.

We monitored the storm and decided we had to try to get to North Platte, Nebraska so we would get past the worst of the storm that was coming during the night.  We made it here, but it is snowing hard.  Hopefully it will be better in the morning and we can continue home.

Such a stressful day compared to the great times of the past week!!!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Goodbye to the Tetons

Tomorrow morning we must leave this beautiful place.  We are already talking about making reservations for next year.  This morning we set out down our favorite road and stopped to see our moose and her baby.

We then took a walk on the Taggart Lake trail and through the yellow wood we took the road less traveled.

And we saw the reflection of the mountain we have grown to love.

We will pass through the beautiful place called Jackson Hole one more time in the morning.  We will be sad, but we will leave knowing we will be back.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Grand Tetons - Day Seven, Wildlife

This morning we headed off to the Oxbow Bend, Willow Flats, and Two Ocean Lake areas of Grand Teton National Park. Just a few miles into our journey, we came across the sure sign that wildlife are in the area - a lot of cars along the road and people all looking off in one direction. This time it was one of the mother bears and her two cubs. They were very close to the road and put on quite a show going after berries. We watched the show for about 45 minutes. I put a condensed 5 minute video on YouTube.

We headed on and tried to eat some packaged chicken breast we brought along for lunch. It was not very good so we decided to try the lodge at Signal Mountain. Like the lodge in Yellowstone, great atmosphere but mediocre food (you were right Kevin).

We spent the rest of the day driving around the areas mentioned above. Supposedly the areas we visited were prime habitat for moose and grizzlies. All we saw were two mule deer.

We headed home as the sun was going down. Back on the road between Moose and Teton Village, we once again came across the parked cars. This time it was for the moose pictured above. All this time we spent in the Grand Tetons, most of our wildlife sightings were on that 9 mile stretch of road between our condo and Moose Junction.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Grand Tetons - Day Six, Yellowstone

Today we took the road to Yellowstone. Yellowstone is so big that we are going to plan a separate trip there. We were only able to see such a small portion of it today, yet it seemed like we saw so much. We started at Old Faithful and had lunch at the lodge. From there we went towards Madison and visited the lower, midway, and upper geyser basins.

The only wildlife we saw in Yellowstone was buffalo, and there were plenty of them. One walked right down the main road and right past our car.

We'll spend our last two days in the Grand Teton area. There is still a lot we want to see here.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Grand Tetons - Day Five, Part II

We went out this evening during prime wildlife sighting hours. The road between our condo and Moose Junction is a great area for seeing wildlife. On the way into the park, we came across the sure sign of a wildlife sighting - cars stopped along the road. This time it was a black bear and at least one cub. Although the view of the momma bear was obstructed by trees, you could definitely see her size when she stood up.

We continued our wildlife search when we were greeted by a masterpiece. The fog starting to lift from the mountain with some sunshine down low. It let us know that we are in for a great day tomorrow!

Heading back down the road towards our room, once again we saw the cars parked along side the road. This time was a little different. No one was outside their car. The reason was one very large bear and one big bear just off the road. There were also three bear cubs. When they moved a little further in the woods, people got brave and started getting out of their cars. We all stood there for a long time watching the cubs climb a tree. I'm sure momma bear was keeping a watchful eye on us!

Grand Tetons - Day Five

As expected, we woke up to a blanket of snow. There was about 6 inches of snow on our car when we were ready to go. It continued to snow the entire time we were out and it looked like a good 8 - 10 inches by the time we got back to our room.

We stopped in Jackson and walked around the town square. It was pretty with all the snow. Then we headed out to Gros Ventre Slide area. The road to the slide was covered in snow and beautiful beyond words. The Grand Tetons were no where to be seen today, but the views were still breathtaking. We stopped for coffee at Dornan's and enjoyed the mountain-less view of the snow covered landscape. From there we drove into the Lupine Meadows area.

Coming back on the road between Moose Junction and Teton Village, we took note of the tracks in the snow. We will go out soon and do an evening animal watch.

Tomorrow is supposed to be sunny. If the snow is still on the ground and the mountains visible, we should have some awesome sights. We are getting up early and heading to Yellowstone in the morning.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Grand Tetons - Day Four

Hmmm, that looks like Jenny Lake again. Well it is. This time from the south shore. I love that lake! The weather forecast was right. We woke up to cold temperatures and snowy weather. Actually, the snow didn't start until a little later, but it was quite cold.

We left a little later this morning because of the weather, but we weren't going to let it keep us inside. We thought about looking for indoor attractions, but neither of us are museum type people. We'd rather be in the outdoors. We bundled up and off we went. Not long after we started, the snow began to fall. Our first stop was an old church and settlement near a ferry that used to cross the Snake River. It was fun walking around and looking at the old ferry and buildings.

From there we headed north and went up to the summit of Signal Mountain. Fantastic views of Jackson Hole as well as some obstructed views of Jackson Lake and the Tetons. It was definitely chilly at the top!

We continued north to Colter Bay. On our way back, we stopped at the south shore of Jenny Lake. We intended to hike to hidden falls. About a third of the way, the snow started falling hard so we turned around and headed back.

When we returned, our condo smelled wonderful from the roast we had in the crock pot. Dinner was great and we're settled in for the night. Although we had quite a bit of snow, it wasn't enough to cover the ground. We may get that tonight.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Grand Tetons - Day Three

The south entrance to Grand Teton National Park is about a mile from our condo. Shortly after entering the park this morning, we approached a lot of cars pulled off to the side of the road. We knew that meant one thing - wildlife. Sure enough, there was a bull moose grazing on the side of the road. After taking some photos of the moose, we headed further into the park. We made a stop to get photos of these horses.

We came across a dirt road that looked interesting. There was a sign that said "Four Wheel Drive Recommended" so we couldn't resist. The road wasn't that bad, but it definitely required some vehicle clearance. The views were fantastic.

After 4 bumpy miles, we came to a pathway that lead to the Snake River. It was the end of the road. I was walking along the river and looked down and saw some bear tracks. We decided it was time to move on!

We left the park, had some lunch, and stopped at the grocery store. We rested for awhile at the condo and then headed back into the park and ended up at Jenny Lake. The eyes of Jenny Lake were staring at us. It was a great day and we look forward to tomorrow, even though we may be in for a couple of bad weather days.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Grand Tetons - Day Two

Today we drove from Rawlins to Jackson and Grand Teton National Park. The drive up here was beautiful! We took our time and made a lot of stops. We had lunch in Jackson and then headed up to the visitor center at the entrance to Grand Teton National Park (after Kevin let us know we were at the wrong visitor center initially). The views were gorgeous! There were a lot of photographers setting up their spots where they wait for the sweet light. One even had a view camera. We needed to get to our condo and check in so we couldn't set up tonight. We have plenty of time to do that this coming week.

Our condo is really nice. Actually, it's much nicer than I was expecting. Very cozy and well equipped. We're in Teton Village which is a ski resort area. We're at the base of the ski slopes. There was a very narrow and windy road from the visitors center down to here. Several miles of the road were dirt. It was a much more pleasant drive than going back through the crowds of Jackson.

The weather today was gorgeous. We're in for two or three days of questionable weather and then it should be nice again. This is a great time of year to be here! I am surprised at how many people are here though.

We found out at the visitor center that there are a lot of closed roads in Yellowstone. That could change if we get some rain/snow that puts out the fire. We may just go up there one day and use this time to fully explore Grand Teton Ntl Park and the area around here. There is so much to see! We can always come back and spend more time in Yellowstone.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Day One - Part III

We made it to our hotel in Rawlins around 9:30 pm, almost exactly 13 hours after we left home. We stopped in Cheyenne for dinner. We ate at Casa De Trujillo. It was in a Hispanic part of town and appeared to be owned and run by Hispanics. There was a decent crowd. Should be good, right? The chips tasted like the frito looking things that you get with soup at a Chinese restaurant. The salsa wasn't bad.

The food arrived and I could see one enchilada on the plate swimming in red sauce. The other two were laying on the bottom of the plate totally covered with sauce. The beans and rice were on dry land. I tried the beans first. No flavor. Then I tried the rice. No flavor. Certainly the ocean of sauce would have flavor. Nope. Neither did the enchiladas. I had to drown them in salsa to get any flavor at all. Do NOT go to Casa De Trujillo if you are ever in Cheyenne!

Heading on to Rawlins we passed through some snow covered hills. It was 32 degrees when we checked in and windy, although not as windy as earlier in the day. We drove into a gorgeous sunset with some fantastic cloud formations. Time for bed. I'm anxious for tomorrow's beautiful drive!

Day One - continued

We've been on the road since 9:30 this morning. It's now 6:45 (5:45 local) and we're nearing the Wyoming border. I just used Priceline to get a room for tonight in Rawlins which is about 3 hours away, driving time. The day started out drizzly and turned into a torrential downpour when we got to Iowa. It's been a variety of weather today. The sun is bright right now. The only constant is the wind. It's been extremely windy ever since we got on I-80. Every time I have been on I-80 through Nebraska/Wyoming it's been very windy. It's costing us 5 - 7 mpg in our gas mileage.

It will be a relatively short drive tomorrow to the Grand Tetons. Looking forward to getting off this interstate!

Right now the sun is getting low in the sky. The light on the golden plains is beautiful. The sun is producing a lot of sunbeams through the clouds. Signing off now so I can enjoy the scenery. More tomorrow.

Grand Tetons - Day One

It's 12:05 am so it is officially the first day of our trip. I do need to go to bed soon since we wanted to get an early start. I just can't seem to get to bed before midnight anymore. Do I care? No! My internal clock almost always wakes me up 8 hours after falling asleep.

As I sit here, I'm listening to a downpour outside. How fitting that we will probably be leaving in the rain. If you've followed this blog, then you know that just about every trip we've made has started in the rain.

Anyway, since this is now day one, I wanted to get this trip blog officially started. Now I really need to go to bed! More later.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Here Comes the Rain Again

Thursday morning we head out on our trip to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone. If you follow this blog, you know that just about every trip we take has posts about rain. It's become a tradition! I looked at the long range forecast for this trip and it looks like a rain/snow mix every day. Hopefully it won't be like the recent Arkansas trip where the rain was constant.

I've always been a person that enjoys spur of the moment travel. Some of the best trips of my life were taken on a whim. I do not enjoy trip planning. I prefer the flexibility and surprises of heading out with a general goal in mind, but nothing concrete. You can't do that when you make reservations months in advance Whenever I plan a trip that includes 2 days in one place and 4 in another, it ends up that I should have chose 4 days in the first place and 2 in the other. How do you know until you get there?

These SkyAuction certificates have been an outstanding value, but what happens when the place you chose has bad weather (like Arkansas) or just isn't as nice as expected? You're either stuck with 7 nights in that place or you leave early.

Norine will read this post and say "Oh no, there he goes. He's trying to justify a motor home again...." Well, maybe I am!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Viral Email

Everyone seems to hate all the email messages they get that say things like "Forward this to 10 people and something will pop up on your screen" or "Forward this to all your friends or something bad will happen to you". It's kind of like daylight savings time. Everyone hates it, but it is still around. Now we're being bombarded with viral political email. People continue to forward these emails without checking the facts. Some of them are so preposterous that I don't understand how anyone can think they're true. Almost all of them are either totally false or contain misleading information. This isn't limited to email. It's all over Facebook, and I'm sure all other social networking sites.

When I get these, I always check the facts and sometimes respond to the sender. Unfortunately, this is ineffective because the emails continue. Some of the people are good friends so I don't want to alienate them, but I wish they would get the hint and stop sending the trash.

I don't care what your political views are and I don't publicly flaunt mine. I just do not understand why so many people are so quick to believe outlandish stories without taking a few seconds to find out if they're really true. All they do is stir up hate, and there is way too much of that going around.

Ok, I'm done venting. I'm off to delete some email.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Tortilla Pizza

A couple of weeks ago, I was looking around for something to eat. I found a can of pizza sauce in the pantry and thought "what can I do with this?". I looked in the refrigerator and found some tortillas and a package of shredded mozzarella cheese. Hmmm...this has possibilities. In the freezer, I found some ground beef that I made for lasagna some time ago. Already cooked and seasoned, perfect!

After some experimenting, I perfected the little tortilla pizzas. Lisa and Bob stopped by while we were making them and it didn't take long to use up the tortillas. Here's the 'secret' recipe. I'm sure a zillion people have already done this, but I have not been able to find a recipe like this for a convection oven:

1 - 8 in flour tortilla

1 - tablespoon of pizza sauce (I like Cascone's Chicago Style)

Favorite toppings

Cover with shredded italian cheese mix

Put a sheet of parchment paper on your cooking sheet for a crispy crust. You can see how often we cook these pizzas by the color of the parchment paper. Parchment paper can be purchased in most grocery stores.

Bake in convection oven for 5 minutes at 425 degrees

How easy is that? The result is a tasty little treat. Be careful though, they're addicting!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Can I Use My Nuvi on My Spaceship?

Our usually reliable Nuvi stopped working on our Arkansas trip. Before we even left Kansas City, it was trying to drive us around in some ridiculous circles. We knew how to get out of town so we ignored it's constant "recalculating". In Arkansas, it went totally bonkers. It started looping with "Drive the highlighted route...recalculating" and it didn't have a clue where it was. Fortunately, our resort was the only one in the area so we were able to find it.

We had to navigate the rest of our trip with a map. How archaic is that? We did manage to find our way around, but we really missed the GPS. We tried the GPS on our phone but it just wasn't the same. It's been years since we've used a map. We've relied on the Nuvi for all of our trips. It's taken us faithfully to Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado by car and many other places in rental cars.

Today I got on the Garmin site to research a replacement. I found a neat tool on the site where you choose the options you want and it tells you which models have them all. So, I asked Norine what was important to her in a Nuvi. Her answer: "Comfortable seats". do I respond to that?

Norine tends to hear some things slightly different than the way they were spoken. As a result, a very humorous, and sometimes embarrassing, answer flows out of her mouth. I know she didn't hear "Nuvi" when I asked that question, but I don't know what she did hear, and I'm afraid to ask.

One morning after a very late night, we went to the restaurant in the hotel where we were staying. We were still a little sleepy and needed some coffee. A very nice elderly hispanic lady led us to our table. She handed us our menus and in her tiny voice, asked "Have you seen our specials?". Norine's eyes got wide and she looked at the woman and said "You have a spaceship?". I suppose "specials" could sound like "spaceship" but I don't think the lady quite caught the connection. She slowly backed away and we never saw her again.

I'll be nice and end this here and not talk about strange vehicles and non-pregnant waitress. I think you get the point. There is never a dull moment when you travel with Norine!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Final Day - Heading Home Early

The constant rain got to be too much. We checked the forecast and there was not much hope for a break in the weather before Friday afternoon. Off and on rain would have been OK, but the constant downpour drove us to pack up and head home. We drove up through Hardy and then stopped at Mammoth Springs. It ended up being just a potty stop since it was still raining pretty hard. The springs looked interesting and worth a return trip. We were just about a mile south of the Missouri border here. Looking north, the sky looked like we might be heading into better weather. Just across the Missouri border is Grand Gulf State Park. It was definitely worth a stop, even in the rain.

Grand Gulf State Park is also known as Missouri's Little Grand Canyon. The park is actually a collapsed cave system. Part of the remaining roof of the cave forms one of the largest natural bridges in the state. We were standing on the bridge for the above photos, but the rain kept us from walking to a point we could see the bridge.

At the lower end of the chasm, the water empties into the remaining underground cave system. It re-emerges at Mammoth Springs, Arkansas, nine miles later.

There was a steep set of stairs heading down to the waterfall. It was still raining, but not nearly as heavy as earlier. I took an umbrella and the G10 and headed down the steps.

It was well worth the effort to see the spectacular waterfall. The walkway takes you to the edge of the falls and with the heavy flow and crashing water, created a dizzying effect.

I'm not sure if the water hitting my umbrella was from rain or the waterfall at this point.

I want to come back and take the trail through the canyon. For some reason, this area made me feel like I was in Central America. This was my first visit to this park, but hopefully not my last.

This was not a typical Missouri State Park. There were no campgrounds or roads through the park. You can overlook the canyon close to the parking lot, but to explore the park, it must be by foot.

I headed back up to the car for the trip home. Sure enough, the weather kept clearing until we reached sunlight. It was really unfortunate that the weather was so bad this week. It looks like next week will be about perfect down there. Oh well, it was still a good trip and we saw enough to know we want to return.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Day Three - Cherokee Village

Today started out just like yesterday, rainy morning and clearing after lunch. So once again, we hopped in our vehicle and headed out. This time we went to Cherokee Village. Unlike yesterday, shortly after leaving, the rain started again. It kept raining the entire trip. It started as a drizzle and ended as a heavy downpour.

Cherokee Village is a 15,000 acre resort and retirement community. It has a couple of 18 hole golf courses (beautiful), swimming pools, seven lakes, recreation centers, and lots of other amenities. I have to say, we were very impressed with the community. It is a very wooded area and a beautiful place to drive around. The lakes were big and the houses nice. Pontoon heaven! It was a very relaxing and quiet area.

Unfortunately the heavy rain sent us home early. We may head back and take another look, weather permitting.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Day 2 - Blanchard Loop

This morning it was raining pretty heavy. We waited it out and after lunch we were able to head over to Calico Rock. Directly behind the town of Calico Rock is the ghost town of Peppersauce (shown above). There were a lot of interesting old buildings and equipment. Norine got the best photos so you'll have to visit her blog for more. After leaving Calico Rock, we headed down the the Blanchard Springs area. We stopped at Blanchard Caverns but it was just a restroom break, we didn't go in the cave. The springs were a short walk from the parking place.

We concluded our circle tour with a stop at scenic Mirror Lake.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Day One - At the Resort

Our first full day in Horseshoe Bend, as expected, was gloomy and overcast. That wasn't a problem since we were not planning any side trips today. We got up this morning and had coffee on the deck. It was a little cool, so we didn't stay out long. At noon, we turned on the Chiefs game and had some lunch. At 1:00, we went up to the clubhouse for an orientation session and ice cream social. We heard about a few interesting places to visit around here.

The condo smelled good all day with the pork roast that we have cooking in the crock pot. Norine is peeling some potatoes now to throw in with the roast. Dinner will be good!

Tomorrow we are planning on heading over to the Blanchard Springs/Mountain View area. Hopefully the weather will cooperate. Occasional thunderstorms are in the forecast for the next few days, but we will get out as much as possible between the downpours. A trip to Hardy, Mammoth Springs, and the Spring River are a definite for later in the week.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Horseshoe Bend

We left this morning around 11 am and headed to Horseshoe Bend, Arkansas. It was about a 360 mile trip. There is no doubt you are in the Ozarks down here! After we checked into the resort, we took a 13 mile ride to Ash Flats to stock up at Super Walmart. We did not realize that the 13 miles was on a mostly unmarked, very dark, country road. Deer were everywhere, so it was a very slow trip. If we have to go back, I think we'll do it in the daylight.

We're staying at Crown Point Resort. We have a beautiful 1 bedroom condo right on the lake. We'll find out more tomorrow about whats around here, but we do know that we have free use of the canoes on the lake. We were thinking of taking a lot of side trips while we were here, but this might be a good resort just to relax and enjoy the least for most of the trip. They even had a sign up sheet for a free Texas Hold-em tournament Tuesday evening. That will be hard to pass up!

Time to go fix a drink and relax! More tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

aux Arks

On Saturday, we are off on another weeklong trip. This time to the heart of the "aux Arks", more commonly known as the Ozarks. We will be using the 3rd of our 4 SkyAuction lodging vouchers and staying in Horseshoe Bend Arkansas. For those who have not been to the Ozarks, you are really missing a beautiful part of the country. The crystal clear streams, lakes, springs, bluffs, caves, and wooded hills are well worth a visit. There are lots of opportunities to fish, boat, hike, canoe, and if you're really adventurous, explore caves.

Horseshoe Bend is located in north central Arkansas. It's in close proximity to the White River, Norfolk Lake, the Strawberry River, and Bull Shoals Lake. Although I haven't been to Horseshoe Bend, I have been in Northern Arkansas many times. I've been canoeing on the Buffalo River which is America's first national river. I love the "aux Arks" in southern Missouri and northern Arkansas and am really looking forward to this trip. Let's get packing!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

3 Day Weekends

Before retiring, 3 day weekends were the greatest things in the world. It was great leaving work with the feeling that you had all the time in the world before you went back to work. Ok, 3 day weekends were the 2nd best were the best. After retiring, 3 day weekends are more of a nuisance. Everything is crowded, you lose a day of Netflix, you go to the mailbox several times before realizing it's a holiday, trash collection is messed up, campgrounds are packed, banks are closed, the new lens you ordered is delayed a day (or should I say the lens I WISH I had ordered?), and on and on.

Now 3 day weekends are times to relax and stay home. The only problem is how do you relax at home? When you're home, you see all the things you should be doing but aren't. You see the dusty furniture, walls that need painting, driveway that needs sealing, house that needs caulking, weeds that need pulling, laundry that needs folding, and on and on.

Hurry up Tuesday so I can get away from the house and relax!

Monday, August 31, 2009

The End of Summer

Well, it's not really the end of summer, but it feels like it. I've always felt like June, July and August were summer, September - November fall, December - February winter, and March - May spring. I know, that doesn't equate to the tilt of the earth or the rotation around the sun, but it seems more logical. Anyway, I spent my last morning of summer with Norine at the driving range. I think I'm getting hooked on golf again. Bob and I will be going out to the course on Smithville lake this evening. I found out today that they have an academy course out there. It's 4 holes long and they are real holes, not executive style. You play it twice for a very reasonable fee. The nice thing is that it's a practice course so I don't have to feel bad if I'm not hitting the ball very well. nice to be retired!!!

Friday, August 28, 2009

I've often thought it would be fun to get a sign I could attach to the right side of my car that said "See yourself at". Then when we pass a stupid driver, Norine can take a picture of them as they read the sign. Even more interesting would be to actually set up the site and post the pictures. The domain name is available by the way, if anyone is interested.

Nine times out of ten, the stupid driver is on a cell phone. Unfortunately, it's not illegal to talk on a cell phone when driving in Missouri. Hopefully that will change some day. Today I saw a guy that probably would win my stupid driver of the year award. I was stopped at a traffic light, and this guy was making a left turn. In his left hand, he was holding a lit cigarette out of the window. In his right hand, he was holding a cell phone up to his ear. I assume he was turning with his elbows? Maybe his knees? Ironically, this happened right in front of a police station, but the idiot was probably not doing anything illegal. I shudder to think what would have happened if someone had been walking in the crosswalk in front of him.

If you call me and I don't answer, it's probably because I'm driving. I refuse to answer or talk on my cell phone when I'm driving. I hope you do the same.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Trailer, The Lake, The Fair, The Concert

Early this morning we came home from short circle trip. We started Friday morning by pulling our trailer to Grain Valley to get the damage from the leaky bunk repaired. After dropping off the trailer, we headed to our friends house on the Lake of the Ozarks. We took a nice leisurely late afternoon boat ride, had dinner, and played some dominoes. Saturday morning we lounged on the dock and did a little swimming.

After lunch, we took off for Sedalia and the Missouri State Fair. We met my daughter and her husband at the fairgrounds. Fairs are not one of my favorite things, but it was still fun to walk around, people watch, and of course eat a corn dog! Our main reason for going to the fair was the Brooks and Dunn concert. Jamey Johnson opened the show, and I didn't care for his music. To me, every song sounded like the one before. Brooks and Dunn put on a great show. It was well worth the wait! After the concert we headed home. We got in around 1 am this morning. Although short, it was a fun trip!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Another Quick Trip

Tonight we brought our trailer home so we can take it into Trailside RV tomorrow to get the water damage repaired. As we were pulling into our neighborhood, we heard a strange sound coming from behind the truck. What is wrong now? We heard it again. Oh great! Then we heard the sickening sound of a police siren. Oh wonderful, we're getting a ticket in front of our neighbors! Now we knew what that 'strange' sound was. It was the policeman trying to pull us over without alerting the neighbors to our peril.

For the life of me, I could not figure out what I did wrong. Surely I wasn't speeding. I pulled out my wallet in anticipation of the "let me see your drivers license and registration" spiel. The policeman approached the window and greeted me with a friendly "Hello Neighbor!". Turns out he lives in our neighborhood. He informed me that we had a light out on the trailer and then he went along his way. What a relief! Even better, we found out it wasn't a bad light, but just that we didn't get the connector in snug enough and it worked it's way loose as we were driving home.

Tomorrow morning we will take the trailer to Trailside RV (with a securely inserted light connector). After we drop it off, we will head to the Lake of the Ozarks to stay with our good friends for the night. On Saturday, we will meet my daughter and her husband in Sedalia for the state fair and Brooks and Dunn concert. I think we have a great weekend in front of us!

Monday, August 17, 2009


We had two things we wanted to accomplish on this short trip. We wanted to take photos during the magic hour before and after sunset, and we wanted to take photos starting just before sunrise. We definitely accomplished the first objective, but did not do well on the second. We did get up early as planned and headed out to a predetermined spot. What we didn't think about is that cold water on a warm morning equals pretty much total fog. We ended up sitting around in the wee hours of the morning waiting for the fog to lift. Finally I was able to capture the above photo.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Evening at Bennett Springs

We sat below the rapids as the sun went down. The low light allowed us to slow down our shutter speed which gave the water a silky look. We sat there and continued to shoot photos past sunset, until a horse fly finally chased us away.

Bennett Springs State Park

We are at Bennett Springs State Park for the night. We came down today in a rainstorm. It was a "turn on the wipers as fast as they go and still can't see" type of rainstorm. We tried to visit Pomme de Terre lake on the way but were unable to get any photos due to the rain. We did find a shelter and ate the chicken we bought on the way. When we arrived at Bennett Springs, the rain stopped. We were able to drive around the park and check things out before registering for our room.

The rain started again as we were unpacking. We're sitting out the rain shower and will head out as soon as it lets up.

This park is beautiful. Similar to Montauk State Park (one of our favorites), it's a trout park. Watching the people catch trout with fly rods really makes me want to learn how to fly fish. When we went to the little store in the park, we noticed that they have a fly fishing school. I need to get that on my agenda!!!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Tale of the Shrinking Suit

Today we're going through our closets and getting rid of a lot of clothes that we don't wear. I have a number of suits that I haven't worn in many, many years. At this point in time, I know I will never wear them again. I might need one suit for special occasions, but that is probably one too many.

The suits were still in great condition so I figured I better try them on before I give them away. Ok, how do suits shrink so much when sitting on a hanger? I know these suits fit perfectly. I used to wear them all the time. The first jacket I tried on was feeling a little snug even before I got my arms all the way in. Hmmm, a little tight in the shoulders too. I really realized how much it had shrunk when I tried to button it. The button and the button hole did not come within 12 inches of each other! Then I tried on the pants. No further comments...

If anyone has any ideas how a suit can shrink so drastically while hanging in a closet, please let me know! It's driving me crazy!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Home Ownership

As everyone knows, home ownership has it's advantages and disadvantages. The biggest disadvantage for me has always been yard work. I am not the type of person who likes to toil in his yard all summer long. That makes it sound like I'd be a perfect candidate for a condo or townhouse, right? Wrong. I love our house. I love that it's a ranch and has a large basement. I love the nice quiet partially wooded area where it's located. I like that I can watch a movie with surround sound turned up loud and not worry about disturbing people around me. But I don't like being a slave to my yard! (did I already mention that?).

I also do not like the unexpected 'problems' that come with a house. This week has really brought that home. Our air conditioner went out on the hottest day of the year, our ice maker stopped making ice, and our small freezer stopped freezing. It was almost enough to make me consider the townhouse life again.

I don't like that it's difficult to take off on the spur of the moment, even though we're retired, because we may need to take care of the lawn first. I don't like that we need to make arrangements for our lawn if we're going away for an extended period of time. Thankfully my son-in-law has been great about volunteering to help out. I don't want to take advantage of that situation though.

Today I had some things I wanted to do. Before I got started, I took something out to the mailbox. I saw the lawn was in desperate need of cutting. So off we went to cut and trim the yard in 90 degree heat. Now I'm tired and sweaty and no longer want to do the things I have planned. I thought again about how nice a townhouse would be where someone else took care of the yard.

Then I saw Ruben. Ruben is a former neighbor whom we have seen around our neighborhood cutting grass. It made me think that the biggest advantage I saw with a townhouse was that the exterior maintenance was included. Of course that always comes with a monthly cost. Why can't I do that in a house? Why can't I set a side a monthly maintenance fee and use it for yard work and the few unexpected things that arise during the year?

Guess what? I can! We now have an agreement with Ruben to take care of our lawn. It doesn't matter if we are home or away on a three week trip. We know we won't have to worry about our lawn. Now when there is something I want to do during the day or take off on a spur of the moment trip, I can do it.

Having said all that, I don't hate ALL yard work. Especially in the spring and fall, I enjoy getting out and doing some work on the yard, such as planting and mulching. What I hate is being forced to do something when I don't want to, or when it's too hot. That's what Ruben will handle for me. Now I can go out in the cool of the morning or evening and play in the landscaping, when I'm in the mood. Sounds like the best of both worlds. I hope it is!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Summer League

We just finished our bowling summer league. All that's left is awards day with some fun bowling. I started off the season with a bang and ended with a bang. Unfortunately everything in between was a bust! Fall league starts in a couple of weeks with a Senior Fun day thrown in sometime before that. We have really enjoyed bowling with the seniors. For the most part, they are just out their to have a good time. There are a few serious bowlers, but definitely not us. I actually think it's fun to get beat by a 95 year old woman!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Bike Ride

We took our bikes up to Smithville Lake for the first time today. I'm not counting when we took the bikes on our camping trip since I blew a tire and didn't get to ride. The experience was great! The trail is paved, fairly level, and follows the lakeshore. It was especially nice since it was Monday morning and there were very few people on the trail. We rode the section around the campgrounds. The only hazard on the trail is the frequent crossing of Canadian geese. They act like they own the trail (maybe they do?) but eventually waddle out of your way. It was our first bike ride in quite some time so we only did 5 miles. It was getting pretty hot by the time we got up there so we definitely need to go earlier in the morning. We didn't really notice the heat until we stopped and lost the nice breeze. On the way back home, we thought about getting the truck and putting the trailer up there for the week. Unfortunately, the week is supposed to be hot and stormy, so we'll try later.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Bad Habits

Leave a six month old baby with me for any length of time and who knows what bad habits I will teach her?

Little Ella now likes to stick her tongue out at people. On her airplane ride home today, she did it to the man sitting next to her for the entire trip. She did it to the ladies in the nursing home. She does it to anyone who looks at her!

Come on, you have to admit it's cute! How can you look at this picture and not smile?

(photo courtesy of Cassey Newcomb)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tiny Visitor

Granddaughter Ella is visiting us this week. She's a good baby and has only driven me downstairs a couple of time. ;) I'm teaching her bad habits, like how to stick out her tongue. Oh yeah, her mommy and daddy are here too. They don't know it yet, but we will be dominating them, as well as my daughter, in dominoes tomorrow night.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Results are In

I just got back from a 2 hour ordeal at the cardiologist. After the echo cardiogram, I nervously awaited the results. This is when I find out how much damage I suffered as a result of the heart attack last January. Fearing the worst, I sat in the examination room while the Dr read the results. Thankfully, Norine was with me which was a HUGE help. When the Dr came in, the expression on his face really scared me. He looked like he was about to give me some really bad news. The first words out of his mouth: "It doesn't even look like you had a heart attack". Wow! What great news!!!! My EF is over 55%! I feel like a huge weight has been lifted and I actually feel like a real person again!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Six Months Later

It's been a little over 6 months since my heart attack and tomorrow I have my 6 month checkup. I'm a little apprehensive but really hoping to find out that there's been some improvement. I haven't dieted and exercised as well as I should but I have been religious about taking my medicine and monitoring my BP. I'll be happy when tomorrow is over and even happier when I get the results. Hopefully it will give me the incentive I need to work harder at this!!!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Last Day

Today is our last day at the campground. We definitely picked the best weekend of the summer for camping. Our preference is to camp during the week when there are not as many people, but we have absolutely no complaints about this weekend, except maybe the way that vulture is looking at me!

Lisa and Bob came up Friday evening. Since it was getting a little late, we had to chose between going to Castaways or having hamburgers at the camp site and then sitting around the fire. We chose the latter. It was the right choice!

We also pondered the boat issue. We finally decided that although it would be nice to have at times, the maintenance, expense, etc, etc, is not what we need at this time. It would be just one more major thing to have to deal with. We were perfectly content and found plenty to do without having a boat with us. We just decided it wouldn't be worth the hassle. Also, it would guilt us into taking fewer road trips because we'd feel obligated to use the boat more often than we might want, just to justify the expense. It was actually a relief to get that off our minds. I'm sure we'll think of something else (do I hear motorhome?) to drain our hard earned retirement dollars. Oh well, what did we work so long for if we can't enjoy ourselves now?

Our experience at the Smithville campground was great. In spite of the crowded conditions, we had lots of wide open spaces around our campsite. With the exception of some kids riding scooters at 7 am on Saturday morning, the campground was very peaceful and quiet. We can't wait to stay during the week!

Yesterday, we took a truck ride to the northern reaches of the lake. We found a lot of public access points, but most of them required walking down overgrown trails. I suppose it's worth it for avid fishermen. We did find some views of the lake that are off the beaten path such as this:

We also came across an abandoned Baptist church and cemetery.

On the way back we stopped at the Paradise General store and picked up a pizza. It was ok, but we should have just brought the ingredients and made a campfire pizza. We did warm the leftovers over the campfire which improved it immensely!