Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy Birthday, Dominic (& Happy New Year, too!)

We're off to the Jennings to celebrate Dominic's birthday and to ring in the new year. I pray you all have a safe and fun evening, and a glorious 2009!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas in Texas

We arrived in Denton on Monday instead of the planned Tuesday because we were having some problems with the water heater and pump, so instead of boondocking for the night we started early in the morning from Pecos, TX and pushed on, arriving about 4:30.  We have been assigned the best spot in the RV park where we stay, so it should be a comfortable visit.

Tuesday Dianna made cookies with the grandkids and Dom spent the night with us.  He really misses his Papa and Nana when we are gone.  Wednesday Dianna did some last minute shopping and baked some pies.

Christmas is sure different when Santa does not come.  We got up at 8 and arrived at Jennings about 9.  Chris was the only one up!  It never worked like that when I was a teen.  We opened presents and everyone had nice things.   The Jennings family gave me a Sony Blu-Ray player and also a new Sony receiver which they said was for my birthday.  Although the gift tag had my name on it, it is a gift we will both enjoy very much.  The 1080P images on our 42 inch Sony Bravia TV and the surround sound in our small apartment sized home are hard to beat.

We had a wonderful Honey Baked Ham Christmas dinner, and everyone ate more cookies and candy than wise.  We stayed at Jennings until early evening then went home to relax, and we have been relaxing ever since.  The past month has been quite stressful, with over 4,500 miles of travel and the emotions of the events.

We play to stay in Texas for at least a month, except for a trip to Tennessee to visit Darin's family.  That will probably happen around the second weekend in January.  We have not seen the girls in a long time.  Perhaps the fact that we are taking our boat to Darin will help make up for it.  They should all enjoy it on the lakes and rivers they have there.

Dianna has completed the Christmas letter, but it is not in the mail yet.  I hope no one will be disappointed by the fact that it is late, but for those who follow our blog it will not be anything new anyway.

Friday, December 19, 2008

On the road again

We attended Aunt Reah's services Monday and saw family leave Tuesday and Wednesday. There was a graveside service and a celebration of life Monday at Mike's church followed by a meal. Both services were poignant as we remembered her with much love and tears.

Greg left Sacramento at noon Wednesday & was to have a four hour layover in Las Vegas before the final leg into Buffalo. The plane circled Las Vegas but due to a heavy snow storm was unable to land so returned to CA and landed at San Jose. He was told he would leave at 6:30 the next morning and they would put him up in a hotel overnight. They ended up putting him on a plane for Birmingham, AL and he finally made it home at 3:30 Thursday morning!

We left Denair yesterday morning to return to Texas. It turned out to be a mildly eventful day. We woke up to news that there was snow in Malibu and the grapevine (the road over the Tehachapi Mtns that leads to LA) was closed! We were warned to take an alternate route but Richard kept driving south figuring they'd have to open the pass eventually as it was a beautiful, sunny day. When we got to Bakersfield we had to make a decision and were grateful to hear the grapevine had, indeed, just been opened. We were warned there were icy conditions to contend with but we had to get my folk's car back to them. Richard took Hwy 58 to Lancaster where we camp and I drove I-5 south to Mom & Dad's. I got there a little after 4:30, ate dinner with my folks and had a friend take me to the Metrolink station where I took the train to Lancaster. Richard & I were finally reunited about 8:30 that night.

We left Lancaster this morning and got as far as Quartzite, AZ. We will take five days to return to TX instead of the hurried three on our way west. We hope to be in Deming, NM tomorrow night - our longest day. It's been a stressful and sad three and a half weeks and we are anxious to spend the holidays with our kids.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Aunt Reah

My aunt went home to be with Jesus yesterday afternoon. Mike and his family were with her at the time but Judy and Carrie, sadly, weren't. Judy was taking her dad to a doctor's appointment and Carrie & I were at the cemetery finalizing things. The family is very sad but so glad their mom is out of pain and home with her Lord.

My sister, Julie, will drive up with my mom Saturday and Greg flies in Sunday evening to Sacramento. Visitation is Sunday afternoon and services will be Monday.

We appreciate your prayers at this difficult time.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Denair for the duration

We drove from Tucumcarri, NM to Ash Fork, AZ where we spent the night behind a Chevron service station.  It was a very long day and we drove through a lot of rain, but wanted to get past Flagstaff where snow was forecast overnight.  We were on the road Thanksgiving day by about 7 AM California time and arrived at the Antelope Valley Fairgrounds in Lancaster about 2 PM.  We set up the trailer, cleaned up, and then drove down to Wideners for Thanksgiving dinner.  Julie worked all afternoon preparing the turkey and fixin's so we had a very nice dinner.  I drove back to Lancaster after dinner to spend the night and Dianna stayed at her parent's house.

Friday morning I left Lancaster with the trailer and Dianna left Granada Hills about the same time with her mother in their car.  We met in Fresno for lunch and then I drove to Mike and Randi's ranch in Denair while Dianna and her Mom stopped at the hospital in Turlock to see Reah.  They also spent most of Saturday with her.

Reah does recognize people most of the time, but has great difficulty communicating.  Her condition remains grave and the prognosis is grim.  The family has made the decision to honor her wishes and will be taking her home on Monday.  Hospice will be helping with her care and she will be removed from all medications and artificial means of sustenance.  The doctors say that she will probably only live for a couple more weeks at most.

The family is accepting of the situation, although understandably sad.  Mother is glad she has had an opportunity to see Reah one last time, and Carrie's sister Judy will be arriving from Montana on Monday for the duration as well.  The current plan calls for me to take Mother back to Granada Hills on Tuesday.

We are all set up in our home and are very comfortable.  Mike put in a 50 amp outlet so we can plug in and run all our heat and appliances, and I have the satellite internet and TV all set up as well.  We will be fine for as long as it takes.

It's a sad time, but as the writer of Ecclesiastes said, "To everything there is a season."

Monday, November 24, 2008

Unexpected Travel

Last week we learned that Dianna's Aunti Reah had suffered what the doctors are calling a massive stroke.  As we traveled toward Denton, Dianna spent much of her time on the phone with her cousin Carrie, who is like a second sister to her.  By the weekend her Unkle Linc had been placed in a facility and everyone became aware that Aunti Reah's prognosis was grave.  After some more phone calls last evening,  we decided we needed to be in California to be with the family.

We went to Jennings and tearfully let them know we would not be here for Thanksgiving, and that we will try very hard to return so we can still have Christmas together.  They understand, but we are all sad about it.

This morning we will leave Denton and make the trip to Denair, CA.  It is about 1600 miles so it will take at least 3 days to get there.  We will have very little if any internet connectivity during that time, so if anyone needs us, they should call.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Pancho Villa

Today we rode the scooter 30 miles south of Deming to Columbus, NM where we visited the Pancho Villa State Park Museum.  Pancho Villa invaded the US back in 1916.  They say it was the last time anyone invaded mainland America, so I guess they don't count the Japanese invasion of the Aleutian Islands in 1942.  Several civilians and soldiers were killed in the battle and President Wilson mounted a major response.  He sent General Pershing here with 10,000 troups to invade Mexico and track down Pancho Villa.  The invasion and search lasted almost a year, and while many of Villa's men were captured or killed, he was not.

The military action was interesting because of several firsts.  It was the first time airplanes were used by the US in combat.  It was the first time gasoline powered vehicles were used, and the first time a vehicle that was a forerunner of what became knows as a tank was used.

The year long expedition was good training and probably saved thousands of lives in the long run, since four months after being recalled from Mexico, Pershing was tasked with leading US troops into WW I as America joined the war.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Heading to Texas for the Holidays

We left Mesa and our boondocking campsite along the Salt River on Tuesday instead of Monday as originally planned.  Sunday night I noticed the battery bank was not holding like it should and figured a battery had failed.  We have eight of them in the trailer and all but one was purchased about three years ago.  When I checked Monday morning I discovered that the replacement battery we had purchased in March had lasted only five months.  Wal-Mart replaced it for free.

Unfortunately, by the time I got the battery replaced it would have been too late to get far, so we hung around an extra day.  Tuesday we drove to Safford, AZ and spend the night at Roper Lake State Park.  It is a very nice park built around a small lake.  We wouldn't mind spending some time there in the future.

Today we drove to Deming, NM and are staying at the Dreamcatcher RV Park, an Escapees park, where we plan to be for a couple days.  Dianna did laundry when we got here since we have full hookups for the first time since we left San Onofre.  Tomorrow we will do some exploring around the area.

Tonight we are expecting the coldest night we have experienced so far this year.   The weather forcast says it should get down to 31, and it is 38 now as we prepare to go to bed at 11 PM.  Brrrr.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Does Your Vote for President Count?

Unless you live in a "battleground, state, no.

For every political office in the country, the victor is determined by popular vote.  The only exception is for the most important office in the land, that of president.  We all know it was set up this way originally because of the distances involved and lack of technology during the 18th century.  But this is the 21st century.  The system no longer serves us and should be abolished.

Once again the country that touts itself as the greatest democracy in the world has endured another presidential election using the dumbest and most unfair election system ever devised.  We are urged over and over during the weeks leading up to the election to get out and vote, and that every vote counts (meaning matters).  But presidential candidates and all political advisers know how the system really works.  The voting outcome in all but about 8 major states is well known and will not change regardless of the amount of campaigning conducted in those states.  Therefore, the candidates spend almost no money or time in those non battleground states during the campaign.  I guess you could say those who don't live in battleground states are the lucky ones.  The battleground states are those whose population is large enough to make a difference, and whose outcome is close enough to be contested, and they receive almost all the attention.  I can't imagine what it feels like to watch TV in Ohio, PA, or FL.  There must be more political commercials than TV programs!

The states that are written off include three of the most populous states in the country; CA, TX and NY.  Combined they account for 26 percent of the population.  That is considerably more the the combined population of the 8 battleground states.

In those states that are written off, it does not matter what the margin of the anticipated win is.  They know they will win or lose the state, so they don't really care if they receive every vote or only win by one vote -- the outcome is the same.

There have been multiple cases where the candidate with the most popular votes has lost the election in the electoral college, but that is not the worst result in my mind.  It is that this system has resulted in presidential election campaigns being conducted only in a few select states.  If you don't live in one of those states you may as well not vote.  None of the candidates care one way or the other, because they have either written you off already, or taken your vote for granted.  Either way, your vote does not matter to them.  In other words, your vote does not count.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Panama Canal Cruise

We're back!  I kept a journal while we were gone so I am just going to copy the entire thing into one post instead of doing individual posts.  All the pictures are now in the gallery with descriptions.

Dianna is fine, but she gave me a scare on Day 8 as you will read below.


10/17/08          Panama Canal Cruise Day 1

We awoke early since we were excited and ready to get going.  Dianna packed while I did some last minute prep outside and also made a trip to Wal-Mart to get some nail hardener Dianna decided she had to have.  I found some Rollo’s I needed while I was there.

We borrowed our replacement camp hosts car for a quick ride to District office on del Presidente in San Clemente.  Super Shuttle would not come to the park to pick us up because we do not have an address.   We got there just about noon which was the scheduled pick up time, and they arrived about 17 after.  We were the only passengers until we got off at Seventh Street in Long Beach where another passenger was picked up.  We took city streets through Long Beach, across the harbor and the Vincent Thomas Bridge (which is no longer a toll) and to the cruise terminal in San Pedro at about 2 PM.  It was fun driving through our old haunts in Long Beach.

Check in was quick and painless, except for having to go through the metal detectors line just like at the airport.  I hate those things.  We bypassed the boarding photo and quickly found our room on deck 8 at the forward port side of the ship.  The cabin was much smaller than our bedroom and bathroom in our trailer, so getting back to the trailer will seem like a huge expansion in space.  Sounds funny to say that, but this ship is almost 17 years old and the rooms are now considered very small.  The view out our window is into the side of a lifeboat, but we can see down to the water, just not the horizon unless we look toward the rear between two lifeboats.

We explored the ship a little and found we were located in a pretty good spot.  It is three decks up to 11 where the pool and café are located.  Three decks down is the main deck, and our dining room is on four.  Deck 7, just one deck down, is the promenade deck where everyone who wants to walks laps.  The ship is not terribly large so getting around is not difficult.  At four PM we participated in the required lifeboat drill, and then had a couple hours before dinner.  We went to deck 12 to watch the ship pull out of the dock and down the channel, through the breakwater and into the ocean.  This was the last time the Monarch of the Seas was leaving Los Angeles after being here for the past five years on the 3 and 4 day Ensenada, San Diego, Catalina fun ship runs.  We had a fireboat escort and they played some good-by music since it was somewhat of an event.

The sun set, it got cool outside, and we went in to watch a short show where the cruise director introduced some of the acts we will see on the cruise, then we went to dinner at the dining room.  Our table was set for 12, but only 3 couples showed up.  We are seated at a table next to the captains table.  Dinner was OK.  The food was not great, but it was good.  The waiter and assistant waiter were good as usual.

Since our dinner seating is at 8 PM, we didn’t have a lot of time to kill after dinner before bed.  We just wandered around a little and visited the shops on deck 5 before turning in.

 10/18/08         Panama Canal Cruise Day 2 -- At Sea

We were at sea all day today.  We woke about 7:30 and went upstairs for breakfast.  There were lots of choices and it was the usual buffet style food.  Good but not great.

After breakfast Dianna did some sunbathing and I hid in the shade.  Dianna then went to the exercise room while I took a nap.  Lunch time was again in the café on deck 11, followed by a one mile walk around the promenade deck.

We hung around during the afternoon and did more nothing.  There is plenty of time for that on a ship when at sea.  I did start reading Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six, and that filled some time.

We dressed for our first formal night dinner.  Dianna looked very nice in her blue and silver sequined dress.  She discovered that she had forgotten to hem her new black formal dress, so needs to find a needle and thread somewhere. 

Tonight there were five couples at our table for dinner.  One couple is from Ireland, one from Wales, there was another American couple and the last are two ladies who sat at the opposite end of the table from us and were too far away for us to talk to.  They are both from near Vancouver, BC.  One is from there originally and the other is originally from England.  Dinner was again good but not great.

After dinner we went to a 10:30 show.  It was the ships song and dance group.  They were quite good and did a medley of songs from the 60’s and 70’s.  Afterward we went up to the hot tub and stayed there until it closed at midnight.

10/19/08          Panama Canal Cruise Day 3 -- At Sea

We woke about 7:30 and had breakfast in the café again.  Afterwards Dianna went sun bathing again, and I found shade in which to read and catch the journal up to date.

A little after noon the Captain came on the loudspeaker to announce that we had experienced some kind of engine problem overnight and would not make it into Puerto Vallarta on time.  She said we would be about three hours late.

We had a late lunch, followed by another mile walk around the ship on the promenade deck.  Afterwards we sat in some lounges on the same deck and dozed off.

We got ready for the evening and went up to the circular bar for a cocktail.  I had a beer and Dianna had the foo foo drink of the day which came with the glass of the day.  Afterwards we went to the 7 PM show in the theater.  Tonight was a comedian who also did impressions.  He was pretty good.

Dinner was at 8 and another disappointment.  The crowded table had 11 of us which made it unpleasant.  We were joined by a single man who had been sitting by himself.  He is from Tulsa, OK.  The main course was surf and turf which was lobster and steak.  It would have been good if the lobster had not been the smallest I have ever seen.  It was about 3 bites.  Several people at the table ordered some Indian dish and all of them sent it back.

After dinner we took a stroll on deck 12 and 13.  It was very pleasant and still quite warm.

10/20/08          Day 4 Panama Canal Cruise -- Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

There was a time change overnight so we did not wake until 9 AM ships time.  We had breakfast in the Windjammer as usual and then went for our morning mile walk.  It was quite warm and humid, but we were finally in sight of land.  Afterwards we went up to the pool deck to watch us pull into port.  Dianna was overcome with the heat and finally retreated to our room to lie down.  I had to bring lunch down to her but she did not feel like going ashore at all.

I decided to at least check things out ashore, although I figured it would not be anything new.  I was right.  There were the same cheap shops selling the usual Mexican tourist junk.  I took a pretty good walk around town but found nothing of interest.  It is just a dirty town, interspersed with some nice resort hotels and condos.

I did find an internet café where I could check our email.  It was only $1 for one hour and fairly quick response time.  We had no mail of any importance.

I made my way back to the ship and re-boarded.  Dianna had taken a nap so I joined her. When we woke up about 4 she was feeling better but still not right.

We had an uneventful evening in the dining room.  The show for the evening was a violinist who was pretty good.  Of course, none of the entertainers are as good as they think they are, and as they tell you they are, but not bad.

10/21/08          Panama Canal Cruise Day 5 -- At Sea

This was a very uneventful day at sea.  We did the usual things but certainly nothing exciting.  The evening entertainer was a singer of the Tony Bennett/Frank Sinatra style.  He again was good, but not original.

10/22/08          Panama Canal Cruise Day 6 -- Acapulco, Mexico

We docked in Acapulco at about 8 AM.  We had breakfast as we enjoyed the view of Acapulco Harbor which is beautiful.  It is a large bay with a fairly small opening, similar to San Francisco, but ringed with beautiful beaches almost all the way around.  Of course, there are hotels and condos on every inch of beach.

We took a taxi to the cliff divers location and paid to watch the show.  Our tickets came with a couple drinks each and we each had a margarita.  For the second drink I had a beer and Dianna had another margarita.  We also ordered chips and salsa.  The show was very good.  They dive from incredible heights.

After the show we walked back to the ship.  It was quite warm and humid but did not feel all that bad at first.  The walk was about half a mile and mostly down hill, but near the end Dianna was again overcome by the heat.  She barely made it back to the ship, but felt better after a cold shower and a rest.

We watched the early show before dinner.  The entertainer was supposedly an impressionist, but unless he had told us who he was doing, we could not have guessed.  The show was still entertaining but not because of his impressions.

After dinner we took a short walk before bed.

10/23/08          Panama Canal Cruise Day 7 -- At Sea

Dianna was up during the night with an upset tummy.  She took some Imodium which seemed to help, but did not feel completely well in the morning.  I went to breakfast and brought her some tea and an English muffin but she stayed in bed until noon.  We had eaten the same things in town so have no idea why she was sick.

I spent the morning reading and catching the journal up to date as well as loading all our pictures from the camera onto the computer.

The rest of the day was spent in the usual at sea fashion; naps, reading and a little wandering around as we waited for dinner.  Dianna got to feeling better and was fine by dinner time.  The show for the evening was a pianist.  He was very good.

10/24/08          Panama Canal Cruise Day 8 -- Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala

We arrived in Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala today.  The port is a couple miles from the nearest town and is primarily a commercial ship loading facility.  The dock is quite small and it took the captain quite a while to get us in and docked.  They don’t get many cruise ships here.  There is a small tourist village at the dock, but not much else.  The ship only offered a few tours from here and people who had been on them before said never again.  Apparently the poverty in Guatemala is overwhelming for most tourists. 

We did spot some beautiful volcanoes in the distance, but clouds kept them hidden most of the time.

After all the tours had left we got off the ship and did some shopping.  The shopping area was nice, but most of the goods were brightly colored stuff that you would never use except to say you got it in Guatemala, but they did have some very nice jade jewelry.  Dianna bought some things for Julie and Diane as well as three Christmas ornaments.

It was very hot and humid but Dianna had a wet shirt and washcloth, and we went into an air conditioned building a couple times to cool off.  When we returned to the ship we had lunch, then Dianna laid out by the pool while I went ashore to use the wireless internet connection at the little bar.  The Corona was $5 but that included unlimited use of the internet so I downloaded all our mail and updated the blog.

When I returned to the ship I took a nap and Dianna went to the spa to work out.  She returned and took a shower, and that’s when the fun began.  She came out of the shower and said she was confused and could not remember anything she had done today.  She could not remember any of the ports we had stopped in, or how we got to the ship from our trailer, or the names of our camp host partners.  Basically, she had lost her short term memory.  I gave her some answers but she could not remember what I had told her five minutes later.  We were both quite concerned so we went down to the ships infirmary. 

The Dr. immediately was concerned as well, thinking as I was that she may be having a TIA, or mini-stroke.  The other possibilities were dehydration, heat stroke or reaction to medication.  None seemed likely but they immediately gave her an injection that would prevent further damage if it was a TIA, and drew blood to do a full workup on her.  The also gave her several other injections and began a saline IV.  Some of the medications made her sleepy and dizzy, but her memory began to improve and she could remember some of the things we had done.  All the blood work came back normal and they could find no real explanation for the problem.  The best guess is dehydration, although the her electrolytes were fine, or just some unexplained reaction to heat and humidity.

We returned to the room, her in a wheelchair, and as soon as she got over the dizziness from the medications she felt much better.  I went to the pizza bar and got us some food, since that was the only thing open by then.  She ate well and was feeling much better as we went to sleep. 

10/25/08          Panama Canal Cruise Day 9 -- At Sea

Dianna slept through the night and was fine by morning.  We had breakfast and then tried to get the IV needle taken out of her arm, but there was a long line in the infirmary so we waited.  We went to the tours desk and cancelled her tour in Costa Rica since all the tours there included being out in the heat for some periods of time.  No sense in taking any more chances.  We also booked a tour in Cartagena that was almost completely on the bus with only short stops.  She should be able to tolerate that OK.

 We took a walk, then a nap, and then we ate lunch.  We did not realize that the infirmary was not open during the afternoon, so when we went down again about 2 they were closed.  We called them on the phone on the wall and they came out to help us anyway.  The nurse took the IV needle out of Dianna’s arm and we asked him to tell the Dr. that she felt time.  No sense in paying for another office visit if we could avoid it.

We then took another walk, this time five laps instead of four.  I am certainly getting stronger and able to walk further.  Five laps was one and a half miles which we did in less than thirty minutes.  We then watched sea birds catching flying fish, as well as watching an oil tanker headed in the opposite direction while we stood at the rail and cooled down.

The rest of the evening was normal for a sea day.  We had dinner and watched the talent show.  Some of the passengers were OK, but they all exhibited a lot of nervousness.

10/26/08          Panama Canal Cruise Day 10 -- Puntarenas, Costa Rica

I awoke at a little after six so I could get breakfast and be ready for the tour departure time of 7:30.  The ship docked about 7:00 and all the tours left on time.  We were loaded on a small bus that held 24 passengers and headed toward Manual Antonio National Park, about 3 hours away.  Most of Costa Rica’s roads are in very good condition, with only construction areas a bit rough.  The countryside was very green and lush, and the people here are obviously the most educated and most wealthy of the Central American countries.  There was almost no trash anywhere, people were clean, well dressed, polite and obviously up scale from those we have seen in the other countries.

We travelled along the beach for much of the trip, but some was inland a short distance.  We passed houses and condos that sold for one million dollars and more.  This is not a poor country.

Along the way we crossed over a river where several crocodiles were sunning themselves.  One was particularly huge.  The crops were mainly rice and African palms which are harvested for oil.

We arrived at the park and walked about ½ mile to a beach area.  Along the way our guide explained the flora and fauna.  We saw monkeys, 2 toed and 3 toed sloths, deer, iguanas, lizards, a raccoon or cotamundi, and many birds.  Most of the tour decided to stay at the beach but a young English gal and I decided to take a hike to the top of the hill where a lookout deck provided a very nice view of the coastline.  It was very hot and humid, and I was tired by the time we finished the 2 kilometer hike, up and down the hill.

After leaving the park via a loop trail and a row boat ride across a river, we stopped for lunch.  I ordered the beef fajitas and they were very good.  It started to rain as we left the restaurant and continued for the rest of the afternoon, heavy at times.  On the return trip we made a stop at a gift shop where we got some free coffee in exchange for a short walk in a tropical downpour.  We arrived back at the ship at 5:30, exactly 10 hours after we had left.  It was a very nice tour and I enjoyed it very much.

While I was gone Dianna stayed on the ship and did her usual routine of workout, nap, read, etc.  We watched a very good comedy show and then had dinner.  Afterwards we only took a one lap walk around the ship and went to bed.  I was exhausted.

10/27/08          Panama Canal Cruise Day 11 -- At Sea

We were at sea all day today.  We could see some islands to the east and have started to see more shipping traffic as we near the canal.  There were also many rain squalls in the area.  It rained very hard for a while, and then cleared off for the evening.

We watched the show which was a female singer.  She was quite good.  She has the room next to us so we heard her practicing during the day.  We then ate dinner, took a short walk and then went to bed.

10/28/08          Panama Canal Cruise Day 12 -- Canal Transit

Today was the actual Panama Canal Day.  We arrived during the night off shore Panama City and dropped anchor to wait for our turn.  At about 7:30 we hoisted the anchor and made our way under the Bridge of the Americas into Balboa Basin and into the Miraflores Locks.  There were two lifts and then we crossed the small Miraflores Lake and entered the Pedro Miguel Lock which had only one lift.  At that point we entered the Culebra Cut and on to Gatun Lake.

It took quite a while to cross the lake which is formed by the dam on the Chagres River at the other end.  It was rather narrow at first, but grew wider as we went.  The trip across the lake is about 30 miles of the entire 50 mile trip.  There were many islands in the lake and it gave an interesting impression to be sailing so close to land.

We reached the Gatun Locks at about four and it took until about 6 to pass through the three chambers.  It is the largest and most impressive of the three locks on the canal.   The sun set while we were in the lock system and the short tropical twilight was very evident.  I took a picture at 6:08 and it was still very light outside.  The next picture was taken at 6:21 and it was completely dark.

We watched the evening show and had dinner, then went ashore at Cristobal Pier, Panama where the ship stopped for a few hours.  It is a shopping area that was fortunately covered and right next to the ship, since it was raining heavily.  We had managed to make the complete canal transit without rain.  We bought some gifts for family and friends since the prices were better than any we had seen on the trip.  The ship pulled out a little after 11, just as we went to bed.

10/29/08          Panama Canal Cruise Day 13 -- At Sea

We awoke to rain, thunder, lightning, the ship’s fog horn and rough seas.  For the first time we ate breakfast in the dining room.  It was very good, but a little too formal for my taste.

The rest of the day was a very quiet and relaxed day at sea.  We read, played cards and napped.  We had dinner in the dining room and went to bed since we had to get up early.

10/30/08          Panama Canal Cruise Day 14 -- Cartagena, Columbia

We woke up at 6 to get ready for our tour of Cartagena, Columbia.  The ship docked at 7 and we got off for our tour about 7:45.  There were 400 on our tour, which required about 20 busses.  We made stops mostly in the old town where we saw forts, walls, cathedrals, museums, cloisters and some shops in what used to be dungeons.  We also saw the slave sale square as well as the mayor and governors buildings.

It was very hot, but we manage to keep Dianna cool enough by wetting her top and finding shade and breeze where possible.  After a drive through some of the residential areas we toured the new part of the city, with a shopping stop, followed by a drive back to the ship.  There were about 1,000 people in line and it took us about 45 minutes of standing in the hot sun to work our way to the front of the line.

We then showered and had lunch, followed by a game of Euchre as we left Columbia and headed for Miami.  We have a tight schedule to arrive on time so the ship quickly accelerated to full speed.  It was windy and rainy and we soon ran into rough seas.  Because we could not be late for airline connections, the captain was not able to slow down and it became a pretty rough ride.  We watched the ships song and dance team put on a show, and then had dinner.  All the while the ship was rocking pretty good.  For some reason I have not been bothered at all with motion sickness on this trip.  That is a first for me.

We went to bed around midnight and the ship was really bouncing.  It kept me awake for much of the night, but the bouncing going in the cabin next door from 2:30 to 4:30 did nothing to put met to sleep.  It sounded like someone had a very good time.

10/31/08          Panama Canal Cruise Day 15 -- At Sea

The seas finally settled down somewhat by morning, although the wind was still blowing quite hard.  We had a late breakfast, followed by a very lazy day.  Dianna worked out, we played Gin Rummy, ate a couple more meals, watched a magician/comedian who was pretty good, and went to bed.

11/1/08            Panama Canal Cruise Day 16 -- At Sea

We woke to rain and overcast skies, ate breakfast and prepared our tags and envelopes for departure.  The end is near which may be good since they seem to be running out of a lot of food items in the dining areas.  Otherwise, it was a lazy morning and afternoon.

The entertainment for the evening was the original Drifters.  It was a very good show which everyone on the ship enjoyed.  After their performance the ship’s dancers and singers did a farewell thing, and then we had more of the same at dinner by the wait staff.  They have to introduce everyone and expect applause.  I finally quit even my unenthusiastic applause because it just got so tiring.  Every entertainer we saw was such an applause junkie.  It does get old after while.

We had to pack everything except for what we planed to wear tomorrow and leave our bags outside our room.  It was still overcast and rainy, but we went to bed hoping for better weather in Miami tomorrow.

11/2/08            Panama Canal Cruise End of Cruise -- Miami, Florida

We awoke as the ship docked in Miami about 7.  It was still raining cats and dogs, which dampened our spirits for the day we had planned.  We were going to rent a car and see some sights since our flight was not scheduled to leave until almost 7 PM.  We decided that would not be any fun in the rain so we just took a cab to the airport and tried to find an earlier flight.  All flights were completely booked so we had no choice but to wait it out.  We paid the $10 for a day of internet connectivity so we could catch up on email.

The flight left on time and Julie picked us up at LAX, then drove us home and spent the night with us.  Everything was just as we left it.  It was a very long day and we were glad to be home.  The only problem is that there is no one picking up towels on the floor, making our bed, washing our dishes and making more food than we can consume any more.  Back to reality.

We will get things packed and ready to go, go see Dianna’s parents one more time, then head east.  Those of you in Arizona had better be on the lookout for us in a few days.  We’ll let you know.

Friday, October 24, 2008


We are on day 8 of our Panama Canal Cruise and have stopped in Guatemala.  We have not taken a tour here, but just visited the shops near the ship.  We found an internet access point in one of the cafes here so thought we would post a short update.  Pictures will have to be later.

We left LA last Friday and have stopped in Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco Mexico before stopping here.  We watched the cliff divers in Acapulco and they really do dive from a tremendous height.

Otherwise, the trip is pretty much as most cruises are.  There is too much food and lots of time to eat it.  We are having a good time and are pretty relaxed.  The next stop is in Costa Rica, then the canal transit, and finally a stop in Cartagena, Columbia before returning to Miami.

We will update you with more as we have access.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Our first grandchild's wedding!

Christine Chapman and Nathan Milam were married Saturday, September 20th. Unfortunately we were unable to attend.

They have been dating for several years and we wish them a lifetime of love and happiness.

Here are some pictures of the happy day. They are not the professional pictures but are pretty good snapshots.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Mt. Palomar

It was a nice day for another scooter trip.  Today we rode south on Interstate 5 the 17 miles to Oceanside where we took Highway 76 inland toward Mt. Palomar.  The road soon narrowed and became winding as we rode through lots of avacado and citrus groves and past many plant nurseries.   Eventually we turned off Highway 76 and began our climb up the mountain proper.  The road became very twisted and steep.  That is just the kind of road I love on the scooter, but Dianna would have been more pleased with fewer hairpin turns.

We eventually arrived at Mt. Palomar Observatory in a bowl near the top of the mountain.  The elevation was about 5600 feet and we were in the pines.  After a lunch at the picnic grounds we toured the 200 inch Hale Telescope.  From about 1948 until 1993 it was the most powerful telescope in the world.   Many, many astronomical discoveries were made using it.  It is still a very powerful telescope and has been upgraded with adaptive optics that make it even more powerful than it was when first built.  It is booked by astronomers for years in advance.

The dome is huge and the telescope itself is also very impressive.  The primary mirror is a solid chunk of pyrex glass that weighs about 80,000 pounds.  I remember seeing one of the failed casting attempts when we visited Corning Glass works when I was a boy.

On the way back we stopped at Mt. Palomar State park to check it out, then at Pala Casino.  It is another of the Indian casinos that exist on every Indian reservation now.  It was very nice and was a good place to stretch our legs.  After another stop in Oceanside for groceries, gas and then dinner at a Mexican restaurant, we arrived home about 6 PM.  It was a fun day.

The trip totaled 159 miles.  We got 63 MPG.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Chopper Pilot

Yep.  That's me.

The Jennings family gave me a very nice Fathers Day present.  They gave me a gift certificate to Xperience Days where you can select your own experience from a number of things around the country.  One of the choices was the opportunity to take a helicopter flying lesson, something I have always wanted to do.

We arrived at Long Beach Airport about 11 and spent the first half hour in ground school.  Dianna was able to sit in on that part.  The pilot explained each of the controls and some safety procedures.  Then we walked out to the flight line, pre-flighted the Robinson R-22 and climbed in.

The cockpit is similar to an airplane, but there are some differences.  The  big differences are in the controls.  It takes both feet on the pedals, the right hand on the cyclic and the left hand on the collective which also has the throttle.  Too bad if you need to scratch your nose!

The pilot took off and we climbed up to 500 feet and headed west toward the L.A. River.  He shortly  told me to take over the pedals.  They work differently on a helicopter than on an airplane.  All they control is where the helicopter is pointing, not the direction of flight.  He banked left over the river and turned the collective over to me and told me to climb up to 700 feet.  Once I leveled off there, he also turned over the cyclic to me and I flew down the river, then made a long slow U turn over Long Beach Harbor and back towards the airport.

As you can see in the picture, there are no doors and my right arm was sticking out in the wind.  It is a very small craft.  All this results in tremendous views.  You can look straight down by just putting your head out the door a little.  It was neat seeing the Queen Mary and downtown Long Beach, Signal Hill where I once worked and all the other sights of a place where we used to live.

He took the controls again as we descended and he put us in a hover over a pad in a special part of the airport.  There he demonstrated hovering and gave me several opportunities to control it.  The first couple times he handled the cyclic, but he was impressed enough in my ability to let me do a couple hovers where I was in complete control.  It is not easy!  I was able to maintain pretty good position for about a minute and a half, but then it kind of got away from me and he took control again.  I think I could have gotten it with a few more tries, but the wind was blowing pretty good and that was not helping.

Our half hour was up so we hover taxied back to the flight line and landed.  He filled out my pilot's log book with half an hour of dual helicopter instruction.  Whoo hoo!

Thanks again Dayna, Chris, Deidra and Dom.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Grandkid Visit

Deidra and Dom flew in from Texas last Tuesday and have been getting their Poppa/Nana fix.  Well, something like that.  Last weekend we all went to Wideners so they could see their great grandparents.  While we were there Dianna and Deidra went to Marie's shower that was held at Julie's house.  While they were at the shower, Dom and I  spent the afternoon at Julie's pool so we all had a good time.

This week the kids have been surfing.  For real, as Deidra would say.  We made arrangements with the surf camp next door to give them some lessons, which they were very nice to do.  Two of the instructors are girls from Australia and we let them use our wireless internet to keep tabs on their families, so they were glad to be able to do something for us in exchange.

Both kids were able to get up and ride in to shore several times but they are probably not ready for the North Shore of Hawaii just yet.

Next week they fly back to Texas and start school.  This was only a two week visit, but we have all had a good time.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

USS Midway

Yes, another Navy ship tour.  We took the day off from our camp host duties and mounted up for a ride.  We headed south on I-5 for about 17 miles to Oceanside where we left the freeway and followed the coast road south.  We went through the seaside towns of Carlsbad, Luecadia, Del Mar and La Jolla among others.  There were lots of stop signs and stop lights but also some wide open stretches along pristine beaches.  There was also still a deep marine layer so we were glad we had dressed in warm layers.

We finally arrived in San Diego about 11:30 and made our way downtown to the Navy Pier where we parked and purchased our tickets to tour the USS Midway.   Dianna had a voice mail message from her Mom telling us about the earthquake in Chino Hills.  We were on the scooter at the time and felt nothing, but the ticket agent at the Midway said they felt it there.   After eating lunch at the snack bar on the fantail we toured the ship.  They provided audio tour headsets that gave good explanations of where to go and what we were looking at.

The Midway was built during the later part of WW II but was commissioned one week after the war ended.  She was the largest ship in the world at the time.  She subsequently served in the Korean War, the Vietnam War and was the Navy Flagship during Desert Storm.  During those years she was heavily modified twice, including the addition of the first angled deck in the US Navy.  After serving 47 years, the longest of any Navy ship in history, she was decommissioned in San Diego in 1992.  She opened as the USS Midway Museum in 2004.

We have toured other aircraft carriers and other Navy ships, but the Midway is the most recently active duty ship we have been on.  Partly because she was in service so recently, everything is in very good condition and they have done an excellent job of turning her into a museum.  Most of the ship looks like it could still go to sea with just a small amount of work.

We could see several other ships in the area from the deck of the Midway.  One was the Monarch of the Seas which was tied up to the next pier.  That is the cruise ship we will be taking from Los Angeles through the Panama Canal to Miami later this year.  We could also see the USS Nimitz and USS George Washington across the harbor.  They are two of the Navy's newest carriers and both are nuclear powered.  Instead of burning 100,000 gallons of fuel a day, as the Midway did for 47 years, the nuclear ships need refuling once every 24 years.

After all the walking and stair climbing we were really pooped by the time we left San Diego at about 4:30.  Of course, we immediately encountered rush hour traffic as we made our way north.  We stopped in Oceanside for dinner at a Mexican restaurant, then zipped on home.  The entire trip was 133 miles.  We're tired, but had a good time.  This was our first real tourist type outing since  we have been here.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Oh, my aching back

Our niece, Marie, took and passed her state boards last Wednesday and is now a licensed RN. She moved out of Mom & Dad's on Saturday to her apartment in Brea and started her new job at Anaheim General Hospital on Monday in the ICU department.

Mom wanted her carpets cleaned before moving furniture around so Mayela, their caregiver, and I moved furniture & "stuff" all day Monday before the cleaners came on Tuesday. The contract said they'd move light furniture but they didn't even move the dining room table to a different position to clean under it so I am glad we moved everything on Monday. The cleaners came Tuesday morning and then Mayela and I had to move everything back Tuesday afternoon. We had to move some furniture two or three times before Mom was satisfied! She still isn't but that was all our backs could take. Richard and I will finish up in a couple weeks when we go back.

We completely rearranged her furniture to open up their living areas. Daddy's eyesight is getting pretty bad from his macular degeneration. He takes such tentative steps when he walks so I wanted to make it easier for him to get around. He likes it much better.

Deidra and Dominic arrive on the fifth of August for two weeks. Julie is having a bridal shower for Marie on the ninth so we'll go up that weekend. She has a pool in her condo complex so the guys can go swimming there while Deidra and I enjoy the shower. Hopefully us gals will be able to take a dip before we leave.

Dayna just got back from a week in Boston attending a conference on forensic accounting. She talked to people at NCIS, the FBI and the IRS. They would have to relocate if she got a job at NCIS but could stay put for either of the other two. She got back to find her supervisor had quit, her position has been changed so she is doing clerk work instead of accountant work and moved to a different department where she doesn't get along with the people. So, she is now very actively pursuing these other avenues.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


For all of you who are sweltering through another summer with the AC running, consider my plight.  Today it never hit 70 degrees and I had to wear my sweatshirt all day!  From the looks of the weather reports in the areas where most family and friends live, it appears most of you were in the mid to upper 90's today.  Looks like even those of you living in Phoenix are experiencing a cold wave with temps below 100.  Do all of you have your sweatshirts ready?

Other than staying warm, there is not much to say about our summer.  We are not bored, but there is not a whole lot going on either.  Dianna is visiting her parents again this weekend so I am "home alone".  We occasionally take a little ride somewhere, but mostly just enjoy the sceenery and weather here on the bluffs overlooking the ocean.  Retirement is a tough job, but I'm sure glad I get to do it.  :-)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Ortega Pass and Elsinore

Notice how I managed to ignore the blog police for over a week?  I am proud of myself.  I refrained from posting when I had nothing new to say.  Not that I really have much to say this time, but I figured I better post something or people would begin to wonder if we had gotten lost.

Actually, I have been enjoying Derek's and Daryl's blog postings of their adventures.  It is always fun to read first hand accounts of travels to new places.

Our summer has settled into a routine here in San Onofre.  There is not really much to tell that we have not already shared.  We do camp checks, work the kiosk a little when paid employees call in sick, pick up trash on the trails, and help campers whenever we can.  The weather here is about as good as it gets for summer time.  We had a couple days last week when it got up to the mid 80's, but most of the time the highs are in the mid to upper 70's with some fog that burns off by mid morning.

Tuesday we rode the scooter up to the other San Onofre State Beach campground.  It is about 5 miles north of us, on the south edge of San Clemente and inland about a mile.  There is a trail from the campground that goes to the beach, and we took it for the first time.  The round trip was about four miles and very pleasant.  Much of the trail is along San Mateo Creek which is a protected area with quite a bit of wildlife.

Today we rode the scooter to Elsinore to do some pre-cruise shopping at the outlet mall there.  We got some really good deals on shirts, pants,  and shorts for me and a fancy dress, tops, and shoes for Dianna.  Sometimes we don't find any good deals at outlet malls.  Often the prices are about the same as what you would spend at Wal-Mart.  Not this time.

Elsinore is about 50 miles from us.  We rode north to San Juan Capistrano and took Highway 74  over Ortega Pass and across the coastal mountains.  The road is twisty and it's a pretty good climb both ways.  The scooter took it in stride, of course.  I filled up when we got back to San Clemente and we got 61.3 MPG on the last tank.  My average fuel economy since purchasing the scooter is 57.3  We tend to get much lower mileage during cold weather but it is always between 59 and 62 during the summer.  We are now just a couple hundred miles short of 20,000 miles.  That is a lot of miles on a scooter!

Dianna is going to visit her parents again this weekend, and Don and Betty plan to stop by here Sunday on their way back from their visit with Mark, Heather and the boys who are staying just a few miles south of us.  Daryl stopped by one day a couple weeks ago when he was out for his visit with Devon.  It's always nice to have company.  If Donna would come visit then I would have something else to blog about.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Incredible Scooter Trip

No, not us. Here is a link to a blog you gotta follow. This guy is riding a scooter (scooters) from Vietnam through China, Mongolia, across Russia and all over Europe. He is only a few days into his trip and has had quite a journey so far. Since he could not use his own scooter for the first part of the trip due to import issues, he rented and purchased a small bike to use in Vietnam and China, but has been forced to use the train for some of his trip.

Waiting for him in Korea is his Suzuki Burgman that he will use on the majority of the trip. A Burgman! Just like mine except his is the 650 instead of the 400.

If you like adventure, follow along. I think it will be more interesting than following Tioga George in Israel.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

GPS Suggestions

Until it broke a few months ago, I used my Ipaq with CoPilot software running on it as a GPS system for my scooter. It looks like it would cost more to fix the Ipaq than it is worth so I am thinking about buying a new GPS. This would be only for use on the scooter so it needs to be small and pretty hardy. I have been looking at the Garmin Nuvi line, especially the 200 since I don't really need anything fancy and that is the lowest cost of that line.

After reading all the reviews I can find, I am more confused than ever. I really like the CoPilot software because it is exactly the same as what I run on my laptop and I am very comfortable with it. Some of the reviews make the Nuvi line sound like it is not nearly as good as what I am used to, but I can't see spending $500+ for another unit.

Do any of my trusty, educated, extremely well versed and technologically gifted readers have any experience with a GPS they would recommend?

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

I am sitting here eating a very healthy salad for lunch so I can eat a very unhealthy, but very yummy, chocolate chip cookie for dessert. Richard watches Alton Brown's "Good Eats" show and recently he did a program on chocolate chip cookies. No matter what kind you prefer he has a recipe for it. We like them soft and chewy and this is the recipe for it. There's even a gluten-free recipe! He always uses kosher salt and unsweetened butter but I just used salted butter. It doesn't mention it in the recipe but the brown sugar should be the dark kind and it should be packed.

We've also made his meat loaf. It has a lot of ingredients in it and the glaze is different but it was really good, too. If you make it make sure you don't over bake it (like we did)! There's nothing worse than dried out meat loaf.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Panama Canal

This seems to be the year for cruises. We will be celebrating our 40th anniversary this year and are planning a Panama Canal cruise to celebrate. It's a 16 day cruise with stops in Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco, Puntarenas, Costa Rica, the Canal, Cristobal, Panama and Cartagena, Columbia. We leave from Los Angeles and arrive in Miami.

We had said we would work through the end of September but with Christine getting married Sept. 20 in TN we will probably only work through the middle of the month. Then, we need to be back in So. Cal. for our niece, Marie's wedding on Oct. 4. We will hang around until our cruise leaves on the 17th.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

New Driver

This is a warning for you all to stay away from the Denton County area of Texas for the next six months or so. Deidra will be on the roads trying to earn her driver's license!

I'm back home from an exhausting week of caregiving and handywoman chores. But it was a week given in love. They put a walking cast on Mom's foot last Wednesday and each day she gets steadier and stronger. She told me last night her ankle didn't hurt at all yesterday so that is good news. This is her first broken bone so she was like a teenager at church Sunday having everyone sign her cast!

Mayela, their caregiver, has changed her hours so she can be there to fix and serve the evening meal. She had planned to go to Costa Rica this week for her niece's Quincenera (I'm sure I'm spelling it wrong) but canceled her trip due to Mom. You couldn't ask for a more compassionate caregiver. Thank you all for your prayers.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Broken Bone

No. Not Dianna or I, or even one of our kids this time. That is unless you consider our parents our kids now.

After settling in at San Onofre this week, and working the kiosk on Friday, we decided to take the Metrolink from San Juan Capistrano to San Fernando to visit Dianna's parents this weekend. They have been in pretty good health lately so this promised to be a pleasant visit without all the Dr. and hospital stuff. Wrong!

On the train we got a call from Julie telling us that Mom had fallen during the night and sprained her ankle. She was also feeling dizzy, short of breath and nauseous. By the time we arrived in San Fernando an hour and several phone calls later we knew this would not be an uneventful visit.

The train station is only five minutes from Widener's house. Their caretaker picked us up and when we got to their house we called 911. Mother had actually fallen at 4 AM, gone back to bed, gotten up and somehow out to the kitchen by 9 AM where she again got dizzy and fell over backward while sitting on the seat of her walker. She caught herself and managed to hang upside down for about half an hour until the caretaker arrived for the day. I think anyone would be dizzy, nauseous and short of breath after an episode like that. The swelling on her ankle was about the size of an orange.

Almost before Dianna hung up the phone the EMT's arrived and took her to the hospital. Dianna went over to be with her. They checked her out thoroughly and concluded that her dizziness, nausea and shortness of breath were caused by dehydration. Oh, and her ankle was broken.

They put it in a splint for a couple days to wait for the swelling to go down so they can cast it. So, for the next few weeks she will be even less mobile than usual. She cannot get to or from the bed, sofa or bathroom without assistance.  Dianna found she was not properly trained as an aide and had a back ache last night.

Dianna and I will drive their car down to San Onofre tomorrow while their caretaker is here so Dianna can pick up some clothes and return to stay with them for a while. At this point we don't know how long, but Dad cannot handle her and the caretaker only works days and six days a week.

I will stay in San Onofre and meet our volunteer commitments. As of now I am scheduled to work the kiosk three days a week. I would much rather be doing that than have to do what Dianna is going to have to do.


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Bloomin' blossoms

What a gorgeous drive we had yesterday from Yuma to San Onofre! I had never seen Ocotillo blossoming before. It is absolutely beautiful. We only saw one plant so decked out and I was lucky enough to have popped my head up from my book just in time to catch it. And then the iceplant and freeway daisies all along the highway from San Diego were so bright it almost hurt our eyes!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Blog Updates

No, not additional posts but rather updates to the way the blog itself works. I always hated reading posts in reverse sequence so I finally found a plugin that let me change the sequence and number of posts of selected items. I have set Categories and Archives to display in chronological order so you can follow the story line without reading from bottom to top. I find it enjoyable to read through our Alaska trip and other places we have been. I have also set both options to show up to 31 posts at a time so it requires much less clicking and more scrolling.

I also added a widgit that condenses the archives by year but still allows expanding to individual months. It is much better than showing all the individual months. It was getting to be a long list.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Yuma Proving Ground

Yesterday we visited the museum at the Yuma Proving Grounds. It is located on the base about three miles from us. We learned a lot about the history and current mission of YPG and both of us found it interesting.

YPG began in early 1942 when George Patton was tasked with setting up a desert training center. They needed a place to train soldiers to fight in North Africa and other desert locations. There were huge chunks of desert land appropriated for the purpose, most of which was already owned by the government, and several camps were set up. The camp nearest to here was Camp Laguna which is just a couple miles from the current main base.

There were lots of pictures of men during their training. It was one of the most harsh and primitive places used for training during the entire war. Some of the men who trained here have donated photos and letters they wrote while here. Most do not have pleasant memories of the place.

Even during the war the area started being used for testing military equipment. Strangely, one of the many things developed and tested here during the war was river fording equipment. We saw pictures of the temporary bridges built on rubber rafts that were used to cross rivers in Europe during the war. The ability to control the amount of water in the river by using Imperial Dam gave them a tool to test different flow rates and develop a system that worked. During the testing several tanks were dropped to the bottom of the Colorado.

Starting after the war in 1950 the current Yuma Proving Grounds developed. They have tested every piece of equipment used by the US Army here and in the other two test areas that are managed from here. This is the desert test facility but they also manage the polar test facility located in Alaska, and the tropical test centers located in Panama, Honduras and other locations.

They told us that there are currently about 1,000 different items being tested, including devices used in Iraq. They actually constructed an Iraqi city to look like Bagdad where they could find ways to locate and destroy IED's. That program is still under way and even included testing to see if bees could be used to find the devices since they are drawn to some of the chemicals found in explosives.

When driving by or visiting the housing section of the base where we were, the impression you have is that not much is going on here. In fact there are about 3,000 employees working here every day, of which only about 100 are military. The rest are civilian contractors. It is a very busy place.

One additional thing we learned is that this is the training facility for HALO (High Altitude Low Opening) teams. About 1,000 paratroopers go through the school here every year. They learn to parachute from very high altitudes and free fall to an area that may be miles from where they jump before they open their parachutes at low altitude. It it a technique used mostly by special forces. The Golden Knights, the Army parachute demonstration team, also trains here from the middle of January to the middle of March each year. We have seen them at air shows several times.

A few years ago I remember hearing about George Bush senior sky diving on his 72nd birthday. The first time he had parachuted was bailing out of his airplane when he was shot down during WW II. That birthday parachute jump was done here at YPG, the only time a president or past president has ever visited the facility. By the way, he has since made additional jumps, the most recent was just last year at the age of 83. He parachuted in to the reopening of his presidential library in College Station, Texas.

Earlier in the week I toured an outdoor exhibit where some of the vehicles tested here were displayed. One was the 175 MM Self Propelled Gun I worked on in VietNam. In fact, I fired one once while at Fire Base Bastogne into the Ah Shaw Valley where some serious fighting was going on near Hamburger Hill.

We enjoyed ourselves and found all this interesting. If you are interested in learning more you can visit their web site. Yuma Proving Grounds

We will only be here a few more days and then we are off to San Onofre.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Imperial Dam

We moved from Quartzsite to Imperial Dam today.  We are about 20 miles north of Yuma along the Colorado River.  There is another Long Term Visitor Area here where we have all the same services we had in Quartzsite, and our pass from there is good here also.

I remember when Mom and Dad spent some time here.  We visited them where they were parked along the river.  That is no longer possible unless you want to pay $15 per day.   The area we can stay in is located up on a mesa on the California side of the river.  It is very different from Quartzsite which is level  ground with a few dry creek beds running through the desert.  Here the land is mostly hilly since the river has cut down through here sometime in the distant past.  It is also 3 to 5 degrees hotter here than in Quartzsite because it is lower in elevation.   It got up to 89 today, which is hotter than we enjoy.

After arriving this afternoon we rode into Yuma to do some shopping.  The road runs along the river for a few miles and then through fields of produce.  It is actually quite pretty and the green fields are much cooler.

When we returned home I set up the satellite and TV dishes while cooking a turkey breast on the grill.  It came out very good.

While in Quartzsite we didn't do a whole lot.  We rode down to Yuma once and to Blythe once for shopping.  We also took a trip south of Quartzsite to Palm Canyon on the KOFA National Wildlife Refuge.  The only palm trees native to Arizona live there in a very narrow canyon.  Other than that we just did the normal stuff; hauling water once or twice a week, grocery runs to town and taking walks in the evening.

We plan to be here until we move to San Onofre where we will spend the summer.  That move should happen on April 1.  Until then we are just going to try to keep as cool as possible.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

London Bridge Has Not Fallen Down

We are sure about that because we saw it today. Well, maybe it was taken down, moved, and reassembled, but it is still doing its job in the Arizona desert. Most people are aware of the fact that the bridge was moved from London to Lake Havasu almost 40 years ago. We first visited the area sometime in the mid to late 1970's. At the time the McCullough Company was promoting a land development on the eastern shore of Lake Havasu and thought the bridge would draw people to the area. It did, and now the city of Lake Havasu is a city. I am guessing it is the largest city on the Colorado River except for Yuma.

The weather was forecast to be really nice today so we planned a scooter trip. We left about 11 AM and stopped first in Parker, AZ, about 35 miles from Quartzsite, for a short break. Then on to Lake Havasu City, about another 40 miles north along the river and lake. Lake Havasu is formed by Parker Dam which is located about 18 miles north of the city of Parker.

Our first stop was at a Red Robin for lunch, and then we wandered around the shops at the foot of the bridge. We both remember it being new and interesting when we were last here about 25 years ago, but things have fallen into a state of decline. Many of the shops are closed and they are apparently planning some redevelopment of the whole area. It needs it.

Interestingly, there is a candle shop there where we bought a Christmas candle about 30 years ago. The candle shop is still there and the same people own it. It is probably the biggest and most successful shop in the area.

Here is a picture of Dianna standing below the bridge.

We then rode around the island where the bridge goes. It is a large island and has many RV campgrounds, golf courses, marinas and condos, with more being built all the time. We then made a stop at the local WalMart before heading south again. We turned off at the spur road to Parker Dam and crossed over to the California side for the 19 mile ride down to Parker again. The road is much older and follows the river so it is a much more enjoyable ride on the scooter. Crossing the dam is only permitted for passenger cars an motorcycles. It is obvious 9/11 has had a huge impact. There are big barriers you have to weave through before arriving at the bridge itself, and there are guards standing around. They don't even allow people to walk across it anymore, even though there are sidewalks.

In Parker we stopped at McDonalds for hot fudge sundaes and then we rode home, arriving back at our trailer about 5:30. The total trip was about 160 miles and both of us are a little saddle sore, but it was a fun ride. The temperature was about 80 degrees this afternoon and there was no wind to speak of. Great scooter riding weather.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Quartzsite Again

We have been in Quartzsite for about a week now. It is a pretty boring, yet somehow satisfying place to spend some time. It is boring because there is not a lot to do, especially this time of year. Most of the shows and booths are held in January. By the middle of February many of the people are gone and it is just the hardy, long term people who are still here. Many of them stay the whole season, starting in October and staying until the middle of April.

It is somehow satisfying because we use only electricity from the sun, yet have all the power we need to be on the internet all day long and to run both TV's from about noon till 11:30 PM. The only time we have run the generator is when we do laundry. The water source and the dump station are only 1/4 mile from us so we make that run every three days or so. We did move the trailer a bit today. When I parked it originally I thought I was pointing east, but soon realized that I was looking at the wrong mountain pass and we were pointing about 30 degrees south of east. That kept the sun from hitting the solar panels, which are tilted up toward the south, until about 9:30 AM. That meant we did not get any solar charging until then so it has sometimes been the middle of the afternoon before we could start watching TV. It was not a real problem, but I hate to waste two hours of sunshine each morning.

Yesterday I did finish one project for which I had purchased the parts in December. Our water heater is the instant on type, which means there is no tank and water is heated only as it is required. Although it provides a never ending supply of hot water, it takes a few seconds initially for water to get hot. The bathroom sink is also quite a distance from the water heater, and with the few seconds required to heat the water initially, it takes more than a gallon before the very hot water arrives at the sink. I hate to waste that much water, especially when I have to haul it all in and out. So, I installed a bypass valve on the side of the bathroom vanity and added tees and tubing to allow the water from just below the faucet to circulate back to the water tank when the valve is opened. That allows the lines to fill with hot water without any water going down the drain. Now we just open the valve for 15 seconds or so before we are ready to wash, and then we have hot water almost instantly. Now we can wash our hands in hot water without wasting a drop. Some homes have recirculating systems that accomplish much the same thing but they would not work with the instant on water heater and would use a lot of power to run the pump all the time. This works quite well for us.

Other than taking some walks, we have made a few trips into town on the scooter for groceries and to look around. Not much has changed since last year.

We will probably stay here for a little longer and then, when the mood strikes, move down to the Yuma area.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Visiting Mesa andPhon D Sutton

We have been in Mesa for about two weeks now, and plan to leave tomorrow for Quartzsite. We have been staying at a recreation area named Phon D Sutton which is located along the Salt River about 6 miles north of the developed part of Mesa. During the summer it is a parking lot for day use visitors, most of whom are riding the Salt River on inner tubes. During the winter season dry camping is permitted in the parking lots. We are using our solar capability to good advantage, and have found a service station in Mesa where we can dump our holding tanks and get fresh water. With our satellite set up we are very comfortable, although cell phone service is touch and go.

We have visited Mom a couple times, had dinner with Mom, Daryl and Donna; hiked the nature trails here along the river and gone to Gardunos Mexican Restaurant to celebrate my birthday and Valentines Day.

Today we went for a hike with Daryl and his botanist friend Les. We drove a short distance up the Apache Trail and hiked into the Superstition Mountains a ways. We started out on a very busy trail, but soon left the trail and followed a mountain stream up hill for about half a mile. It was rough going in spots, and the water was really flowing since we have had a lot of rain in the past couple days.

Tomorrow we plan to continue our journey west. This has been a good place to spend a couple weeks. Maybe in future years we may spend more time here.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Big Blow

We had planned to leave Denton on January 29, but by the time we had everything ready to go the wind was howling. We decided to stay put for a day and we are glad we did. There was lots of damage in the Dallas area and it would have been no fun at all driving in it. That afternoon Dianna received a call from her Dr. asking her to come in to discus lab results. They made it sound like it might be important so we arranged to stop the next day on our way out.

The Dr.'s appointment was no big deal. I think they just wanted to charge for an office visit. There was nothing in her results that could not have been communicated by letter or a phone call.

After the appointment we headed west into a still very strong headwind. We stopped at a free campground in Abilene, TX for the night and the next day we continued to fight the wind as far as Pecos, TX. We decided to spend a couple nights there and the winds died down the next day. It was actually pleasant.

The next day, Feb. 2nd, we continued west as far as Deming, NM. Again, we fought headwinds.

On the third we drove into Tucson and found a place in the desert to spend the night. A big winter storm blew in and it was rainy and cold during the night. We awoke to snow on the Catalinas and Rincons and it continued to rain most of the day as I visited the Pima Air Museum. I grew up looking through the fence at planes in the DM boneyard. It was nice to see some of them up close. The museum is the third largest in the country (world) and I spent the entire day there. Dianna spent the day in the truck, reading and working on needle work.

That evening we drove south from Tucson toward Nogales and spent the night in the desert off the Duval Mine Road. Yesterday we went to the Titan Missile Museum and toured the last remaining Titan Missile silo. It was very interesting, especially since our tour guide was a retired Air Force officer who had served as a silo commander at one of the silos near Oracle. It was fascinating to hear about the place from someone who really knew what she was talking about.

After the museum, we drove up the back side of the Tucson Mountains to Avra Valley, and then back to I-10 in Marana. We decided not to come all the way to Mesa since we would arrive during rush hour traffic and late in the day, so we spent the night at an RV park in Picacho. It was the first day of the trip that we have not fought headwinds.

This morning we stopped at the Flying J truck stop for fuel, and then drove to our campsite for the next week or so. We are at the Phon D Sutton Recreation Area, which is located about 8 miles north of the 202 on Power Road. It is just a large parking lot that is used during the summer by people playing on the Salt River. The river is right next to us. There are no hookups, but we have everything we need, and the cost is only $6 per day.

We plan to visit Mom tomorrow. She should have some mail for us. We look forward to visiting with the rest of our relatives in the area during the next week or so, but have not really made any definite plans on when we are leaving.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Post Surgery

I arrived Thursday afternoon to be told Daddy's surgery had been moved up to 7:30 Friday morning. I was up at 4:30 to get him there on time. Then the surgeon was late because his staff forgot to tell him they had changed the time!

It was a three hour surgery and a four hour recovery time. We were gone 11 1/2 hours! He has five incisions ranging from 1" to 4" in length. He's black and blue from his nose to his left ear as two incisions are near his left eye.

It was not as serious as we had thought it might be which was a major blessing. The first night he ate soup but has been eating regular food ever since. He even went out to dinner with us Saturday evening!

Daddy's incisions all look good and he goes in Friday to have the sutures removed. He is healing quickly and only takes Tylenol occasionally for pain.

Thank you all for your prayers and good thoughts. For a 91 year old man he's a real trooper.