While watching the Notre Dame vs Alabama football game, I was sipping on Breckenridge bourbon. It is a new find for me and I’m enjoying it. It is a lighter bourbon, but has a good flavor and smooth delivery. It’s made in Colorado, so if you’re a “Kentucky-Only” bourbon purist, you might overlook it. Definitely worth it if you can find it.
2020 was a challenging year for many. I have to admit that I feel a little guilty that 2020 was an awesome year for me. Should I even say that out loud? So many other people suffered through this year.
I will admit that the year began with some anxiety and uncertainty. But then my faith in God kicked-in and I realized what an opportunity the year would be. In February, my family flew to Australia and New Zealand for a six-week trip. We had a wonderful time exploring New Zealand for 27 days before the US State Department told us to get home or plan to shelter in place for the duration. Our trip home was surreal, but we arrived home safely.
Despite the prevalence of the Wuhan Virus, that plague has passed over our house. We have all stayed healthy this year.
In July, after more than a little cabin fever, we took a trip to the western states to explore our National Parks. Once again, the trip didn’t not go as planned, but it was still a wonderful trip. We spent 25 days driving across America the Beautiful. We managed to visit Badlands National Park, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Mount Rushmore, Devil’s Tower, Glacier National Park, Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks for a second time, Crater Lake National Park, Golden Spike, Grand Canyon National Park, Hot Springs National Park, and Graceland.
So as 2020 draws to a close, I don’t feel deprived, I feel blessed. It has been a wonderful year where I have been able to spend quality time with the one’s I love.
My prayer for 2021 is that it is better than 2020. I hope that we will put the Wuhan Virus behind us and get back to normal.
“If you can’t control your own emotions, you’re forced to control other people’s behaviour, That’s why the touchiest, most oversensitive and easily upset must not set the standard for the rest of us.” John Cleese
Although I am not academically gifted, I was born very curious. One of my earliest memories was taking apart a black wind-up locomotive to see how it worked. Unfortunately, once taken apart, I didn’t possess the understanding to put it back together again. Of course, my parents were furious that I destroyed one of my toys. I saw it as a learning experience.
I would have to characterize my parents, God rest their souls, as “color within the lines” people. Too bad for them, after having three girls they had a boy. I believe boys naturally see things differently from girls and I was on the extreme end of that spectrum. Not only did I NOT “color within the lines,” I didn’t see why the lines were necessary.
At age 11, I joined Boy Scouts, and this gave me the opportunity to learn in an unstructured manner. Eventually, I learned how structure helps focus my learning. After struggling through 12 years of primary education, I learned how to think with discipline in college.
At my age I consider thoughts to be like butterflies, some are pretty, and I watch them as they fly away, and others spark a deeper interest and I follow them. I have learned that the best way to develop my thoughts is to write about them. This is where “Essays” are relevant. These posts will be longer and hopefully more thoughtfully developed than some of my other more impulsive posts. Many of them will be on controversial subjects which cannot be discussed openly in our polite, WOKE, society. I hope you find them interesting and may they inspire thoughts of your own on the subject.
I voted today, so for me the 2020 Election is over. It would be a relief, but I will still have to wade through the campaign effluent until the votes are tallied in November.
The crowds were light where I voted at the Fulton-Atlanta Library.
I’m curious as to why the powers that be felt they needed to add the phase, “I Secured my vote” to the voter stickers. Probably to make me feel that voting is safe and secure. I just see it as more government Kabuki theater.
October is Down Syndrome Awareness month. I know I’ve said it before, but having a child with Down Syndrome is, in my opinion, the closest you can get to God’s love. I know, from personal experience, that raising a child with special needs can be challenging. However, raising any child is challenging. Parenting is always like cutting and polishing a diamond. You focus on getting your child to develop as much as they are able.
My son is 24 years old and he is a daily joy, as he has been since birth. Each stage of his life has been fun. Of course there have been challenges, but everyday there has been love and laughter.
If you learn of a friend or family member whose unborn child is diagnosed with Down Syndrome, comfort them and encourage them not to despair. Down Syndrome children are a daily blessing of God’s love. Brighter than diamonds. More precious than Gold.
I really enjoyed the movie The Lives of Others (2006). It is about a German Stasi agent before the Berlin Wall fell. He sets up a surveillance to get some dirt on a playwright and his girlfriend. It gives a glimpse of how bad thing can really be in a police state. The story has some interesting twists. I really enjoyed the story, but you have to read the 2h 15m movie because the dialog is in German with English subtitles.
My wife and I watched the HBO series Chernobyl. It was gripping portrayal of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in the former Soviet Union. It consist of 5 one hour episodes. We watched it over 3 consecutive nights. Really good story and acting. I highly recommend it.
“Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.
Nothing represents Southern Hospitality like homemade Deviled Eggs. I believe this is because they are labor intensive. When someone shows up at a get together with Deviled Eggs, you can bet they spent some time preparing them.
If they are a meticulous cook, then they started the night before by flipping the eggs, so the yolk is in the center of the egg. The next day they boiled and peeled the eggs. The peeling is the work part. Then separated the yolks from the whites without breaking the white. Mixing the yolks with mayonnaise and other spices to make the delicious filling. Then spooning or piping the yolk mixture back into the whites and toping with a garnish or simply smoked paprika. If all this is done with love, then there is nothing like a delicious Deviled Egg.
“It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth.”
After 26 nights away from home, I thoroughly enjoyed sleeping in my own bed last night. I slept in until 8:00 this morning. When I walked downstairs, there was a pot of hot coffee ready. Ain’t Life Grand!!
We travelled 8,842 miles across the country. It really was a wonderful trip.
There was a Waffle House across from our hotel in Lonoke, AR. We skipped the bag breakfast at the hotel for a plate of scattered and smothered at Waffle House. It was delicious.
We struck out East for Graceland. We have an 11:30 appointment with Elvis. This was my first time visiting Graceland. I was not a big fan of Elvis’ music, but I believe Graceland is something everyone should experience. We picked the right time to visit, because Graceland was mostly deserted. Perhaps 100 people were there during our visit. We spent about 2 hours at Graceland.
As we drove south toward Birmingham, AL we decided we were ready to be home. We drove the rest of the day and arrive home a little after 11:00PM. It is always a fun adventure to travel, but it is nice to be home.
We woke up this morning and hit the ground running. We showered, dressed and packed up. Grabbed coffee and a bag breakfast in the hotel lobby and got on the road.
Our first stop was Fort Smith, AR. I wanted to stop here because I had seen it depicted in a John Wayne movie and I wanted to learn more about it. At one time, it was the westernmost outpost. The edge of civilization before the wilds of the west.
Because of the Wuhan Virus most of the park is closed. A lone Park Ranger was standing under a tree helping the a few visitors. We wandered on our own, first taking in the gallows and then walking the parade grounds. We walked across the train tracks toward the river and the site of the original fort.
It was all very interesting but we did not stay long. We left the park a little after noon. As we left Fort Smith we located a local Chick-fil-a where we went through the drive-thu. We now had the problem of where to eat. Luckily, Carol Ann Cross Park was nearby. We drove there and found a shady picnic table where we ate lunch. About half way through eating our lunch, the ducks arrived looking for handouts. A sign at the entrance to the park said it was $1,000 fine for feeding the ducks, so we didn’t.
Next, we headed to Hot Springs. It was a long winding drive, through the piney woods, on mostly two-lane roads. It took us almost 3 hours with one rest stop break. Once in Hot Springs we went straight to the National Park. We found a spot to park right on the street across from bath house row. All the bath houses are closed, so we just strolled the promenade. It was a lovely shady stroll. Personally, I don’t understand the appeal of the bathhouse. However, I did enjoy the ornate architecture of the National Park.
Having walked through most of the park, we decided to move on. We have an appointment to see Elvis tomorrow, so we drove for a little while East. We stopped for the night in Lonoke, AR.
By 8:00 this morning we were loaded, checked-out, and on the road. We hope to get as far as Oklahoma City.
As we crossed over into Kansas, we stopped at the Kansas Welcome Center. We used the restroom and talked to the attendant about places to stop in Kansas. One thing I liked about traveling in Kansas was that they listed the mile markers for all the upcoming rest areas, so you could plan your stops.
We didn’t stop for lunch until 4:00. Fortunately, that worked since the restaurant where we wanted to eat didn’t open until 4:00. We stopped in Hays, KS and at Gella’s Diner. Fortunately, the restaurant is in the LB Brewery. Beer and burgers were in order for lunch. I had the Liberty Stout with my lunch. Then I had a Oatmeal Stout for my dessert. They were both delicious.
It was after 10:00 when we finally stopped for the night in Tulsa, OK. It was a long drive, but we are in a good position to drive to Hot Springs, AR tomorrow.
After several days of hotel bag breakfast we decided to go out for breakfast. Shari searched on Trip Advisor and found a restaurant called Doug’s Diner for breakfast. Being tourists, we did find it a little hard to find, but we did find it. When we arrived we were seated right away. Once at the table we could take off our masks. We all ordered coffee as we looked over the breakfast menu. I ordered a Carne Asada Breakfast Burrito and I wish I had taken a picture of it. It was HUGH. I made a valiant effort to eat it all, but there was no way.
After breakfast we made the hour drive toward Estes Park. We have time to kill because we cannot go into Rocky Mountain National Park until 3:00 this afternoon. We decided to do the hike around Lily Lake. It was a beautiful lake and the hike was a short, mostly flat hike around the lake.
After the hike we drove back to Estes Park to do a little shopping and to kill some more time. This time we parked by the library and walked down to the commercial area. We went into a few t-shirt shops and after a few stops we each bought a t-shirt.
At 2:45 we were in line to get into the park. It only took a few minutes to get through the gate. I had to show my reservation email and our annual pass and we were in. Once inside the park we drove. It was raining a little as we drove. I’m not going to detail each stop, because they were all spectacular views. At one point along the drive, Shari asked me to stop and she got a perfect shot of an bull elk with a 10-point rack resting in a field of wildflowers.
As the sun was setting Shari go a great photo of the sunset over the mountains at Rocky Mountain National Park.
I would rank Rocky Mountain National Park as one of my TOP-5 favorite National Parks. It was all really beautiful. I hope to come back when I can spend more time.
We were unable to get entrance tickets to Rocky Mountain National Park for today, so we leisurely explored the area outside the park.
A friend recommended we go to Estes Park, so we started the day driving there. It’s funny, but I thought it was a park, but it a city named Estes Park. We found a place to park on MacGregor Avenue near the Police station. We walked down the hill and walked down Elkhorn Avenue mostly window shopping and looking for souvenirs.
In Estes Park we did the short hike in the Knoll-Willow Open Space in the heart of town. We hiked up to the Birch Ruins and then back down again. It was sprinkling a little as we walked back to the car.
Since tomorrow we have admission to Rocky Mountain National Park, we decided to drive to the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center just outside the park. A thunderstorm was rolling in as we waited in line to get into the Visitors Center. It made a lot of noise, but no rain. We made it inside, asked a few questions, did a little shopping, and then left. As we were headed to the car, we changed course and decided to use the restroom before we left. That is when the bottom dropped out. It started raining and then the temperature dropped ten degrees. Mixed in the rain was hail. I took a brief video of the storm.
Next we drove to St Catherine’s Chapel on the Rock. A small old church that is famous because St John Paul II said mass there in during his visit to Colorado for World Youth Day in 1993.
When we finished at the chapel it was late afternoon. We decided to drive back to the hotel. It’s a one hour drive on Highway 34 through Big Thompson Canyon. It is a beautiful drive. On our way back we saw a few Pronghorns walking down the road.
At the hotel we freshened up and looked for a place for dinner. I’m in the mood for italian tonight. Shari found Biaggi’s Ristorante Italiano which was near the hotel at the Promenade Shops at Centerra not far from our hotel. We chose a table on the patio. The temperature is nice and the weather is dry, so it was nice to sit outside. Albert and I both ordered pizza and Shari had a pasta dish. It was all delicious.
I woke up at 8:45. Shari was awake, too. Shari went down to the hotel breakfast area and got us coffee. I sat in bed reading the news on the internet. Later she went back down and brought back breakfast, so we can eat in the room before getting on the road.
Today we are driving to Loveland, Colorado. We will spend 3 nights there and in and around Rocky Mountain National Park.
It was an all day drive, but it was mostly interstate. We had some great scenery like the rocks below.
We stopped and bought lunch at a Jimmy John’s in Rock Springs, WY. At first we planned to find a park to eat at, but when we exited the restaurant we noticed they had tables setup behind the store. So we ate there. We were able to go in and get refills before we got back in the car.
When I was a kid in Pensacola, there was a Sinclair gas station on 12th Avenue. I remember my mother going there. It was right across the street from the A&P where she bought groceries and the T.G.&Y that had a candy isle that I could never decide on what I wanted. Sometime in the late 60’s or early 70’s the Sinclair station closed. I thought all the Sinclair stations went out of business until I travelled out west and saw that they are still prominent in some western states. Today we stopped at the Sinclair station near the Sinclair refinery in Sinclair, WY. Albert wanted his picture taken near the Sinclair dinosaur.
Shortly after leaving Cheyenne, WY I could see a very large thunderstorm cloud ahead. We continued to drive and I saw a white hill on the horizon. I didn’t think anything of it because we had just been in Utah where there was white sandy soil. As we drove closer to the hill the temperature outside dropped 20 degrees and I noticed hail piled up on the roadway. That is when I realized that the hill was white because it was covered with hail. It was an interesting sight. It has been years since I was caught in a hail storm. Fortunately, this was not the windshield busting size hail.
It was almost dark by the time we arrived at our hotel in Loveland. Instead of trying to go out to eat, we popped the cork on a bottle of wine and ate snacks in the room.
Yesterday, on the drive back to the hotel from Golden Spike National Historic Park, the oil change light came on in the car. Since we are a thousand miles from home, I decided I need to get it taken care of. I left the hotel this morning and drove to the closest Jiffy Lube to get the oil changed. It took more than an hour to get it done. The Jiffy Lube was really busy and I had to wait.
Today we are only going a short distance from Salt Lake City to Park City. My son in law suggested we spend a day in Park City. It is one of his favorite places to visit. He also suggested that we eat at the Saloon at High West Distillery. I followed his suggestion and made reservations for an early dinner.
On our way to Park City, we stopped at Jordanelle State Park were we had a picnic lunch. It was a beautiful day and the park was crowded with visitors. We stopped at one of the many covered picnic tables and ate. All the picnic tables were reservable. I felt like we were squatting on someone’s reserved picnic table. We just had snacks from the cooler for lunch, salami, cheese, nuts, and fruit. We ate relatively quickly.
After lunch we drove into Park City. Our first stop was a car wash. The car was covered with a thin layer of white dust. Next, we drove through the city, just looking around. At 3:00 we headed to our hotel where we checked-in and unloaded. We rested in the room for a while. We have early dinner reservation, so we drove to High West Distillery, parking in a nearby public lot.
At the Saloon we were seated quickly outside. Unfortunately, it must have been a shift change of servers, not once came to the table for a full 20 minutes. I eventually went to the hostess station and voiced my concern. A few minutes later Craig came to the table and brought us some water. I initially ordered a flight of their bourbons, so I could try them all before decided which one I wanted.
I liked the Double Rye bourbon so I ordered another round of it. I also ordered the Niman Ranch filet for dinner. Dinner was delicious. We all wanted something sweet to end the meal so we ordered a GRILLSWITH. It’s a Cinnamon Roasted Krispy Kreme Donuts, Vanilla Ice Cream, Rendezvous® Rye Caramel. It was delicious.
After dinner we went into the distillery gift shop and bought a bottle of the American Prairie bourbon and a bottle of Double Rye. Once back at the room we uncorked both bottles and had a little more bourbon as we played Uno.
Today we visited the Golden Spike National Historic Park. We stopped here on my request. After watching all those episodes of “Hell on Wheels” on Netflix, I couldn’t come this close and not visit. I really enjoyed it, but it was a very hot day in Northern Utah with temperature reaching 97 degrees while we were at the park.
The Park is definitely out of the way, but well worth the effort if you’re a train or history buff (I consider myself both). There are two working replica trains representing the two trains of the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific railroads. Both trains are true functioning replicas and the highlight of the visit was watching them move along the tracks. Part of the visit was a car tour where you drive along an original cut for the railroad. It is a very nice self-guided tour that takes about 45 minutes.
I was very reflective during the visit. It was 97 degree outside during our visit. There is no shade anywhere. The wind is blowing, but it is dry. The railroad was built by pure man power. It was done before hydraulic construction equipment was invented. Explosives were occasionally used, but mostly it was built by men with hand tools. The worked every day under the blistering sun. It was always hot. I have to admit they were more manly than I. If I had been there I would have devised a method for erecting a tent over the workers so they could work in the shade. The water boy would have been my best friend and I would have given him half my wages to make sure he took care of me. I’m proud of my Irish ancestors and the many Irish immigrants who worked on building the railroad. My direct ancestors were not among the one who built the railroads, mine were civil servants in Boston.
On of the peculiar highlights of our visit was watching this Gopher Snake climb the wall. This was a 12 foot high stone wall. Then he shimmied across a 2 inch fire sprinkler pipe to reach a Barn Swallow nest where he had lunch. The Barn Swallows saw him as a threat and were very excited, but I never saw one attack the snake. After lunch he had trouble negotiating the pipe on a full stomach and fell to a table under the pipe. A park ranger gathered him up and deposited him in the field.
After driving back to Salt Lake City, we went to dinner at Red Rock Brewing downtown. Dinner was great and the beer was excellent. Albert had this Elephino which was a tasty beer.
Today we spent 13.5 hours in the car. We drove from Medford, OR to Salt Lake City, UT. After leaving Lakeview, Oregon we drove for almost 4 hours of high desert ranch land. We rarely saw another car. At one point we came to a construction zone. The flagman was by himself out in the middle of no where in the hot sun. While we were stopped, Shari gave the flagman a Gatorade from our cooler. He really appreciated it. We had to wait about 30 minutes before we could continue.
My favorite stop was the Bonneville Salt Flats just as we crossed the Utah State Line. Just a really different landscape.
We left the hotel at 7:30 and made the 2 hour drive to Crate Lake National Park. It was a beautiful drive through the woods on Hwy 62 to get to the park.
At the gate to the park we showed our pass and the ranger gave me a map of the park. I asked about a park newspaper, but the ranger snapped back saying if the did a newspaper he would have given me one. Not exactly a polite response, I thought.
We drive to the Visitor Center and Post Office to find that the Visitor Center was closed and so were the restrooms. A lady at the Post Office informed us that the closest rest rooms where 3 miles up the road at the crater overlook. So we drove up the the crater overlook.
After all using the restroom, we walked over to the crater overlook. It was a beautiful view and we spent about an hour walking along the rim toward the lodge. At one point we walked down steps to reach a viewing platform.
We visited the gift shop which opened at 10:00, but besides stickers and a decorative tote bag didn’t see anything we wanted to buy. The gift shop had prepared sandwiches, so we bought lunch to eat later in the day.
We started driving East on the Rim Road stopping along the way to take in various sites. We drove the road to The Pinnacles. We did not hike the complete Pinnacle train, but did enough to get a good perspective. After leaving the main parking lot we drove along the road back to the main Rim Road. We stopped to use the restroom in the woods and we ate lunch in the car at the same stop.
We continued driving the Rim Road stopping when inspired until we almost reached the crater overlook. Then we turned around and drove the Rim Road in the westerly direction. At the end we felt like we had thoroughly seen the park and drove back to the hotel. On our way back to the hotel, we stopped at COSTCO and filled the car with gas.
Once back at the hotel we started searching for Mexican Restaurants. We found one not too far from the hotel and called to make sure they had table service. The restaurant was El Molcajete Mexican Grill. They have two locations and we drove to the Stewart Avenue location where they were doing Dine-In service. When we were seated they brought us chips and salsa along with queso and refried bean dip. We all ordered margaritas to drink. Our entrees were delivered quickly and everything was delicious.
Our original plan was to turn south here and head to California. We planned to drive the Pacific Coast Highway from Crescent City, California to Santa Monica. At Santa Monica we would start driving Route 66 East. Unfortunately, we had to abandon that plan. New Mexico is requiring out of state travelers to quarantine for 14 days. In California, most of the restaurants only allow outdoor dining. Taking this into consideration, we decided to return home via Rocky Mountain National Park.
I woke up this morning when the alarm went off at 6:30. I went down to the front lobby and got coffee for Shari and I. Then returned to get our Grab and Go breakfast in a bag. We spent most of the day driving across Oregon.
I was surprised by the landscape. For at least the first two hours it was a dry rocky landscape covered with sage brush. Not what I expected for Oregon. Bathrooms were hard to come by, but they did have at least one rest stop with a compost toilet.
We stopped at Lakeview, Oregon and went to the local Subway sandwich shop and bought lunch. Shari needed to use the restroom, so we stopped at a gas station and filled the car with gas and scrubbed the grasshoppers off the windshield. We drove to R A Booth State Park about 12 miles down the road and stopped and ate our sandwiches. There were picnic tables available, but not covered. Fortunately, the sun went behind a large cloud while we ate lunch.
We continued driving toward Medford, OR. After crossing some mountains we notice that we saw more trees and eventually we entered forests. This was more the landscape I expected in Oregon.
In Medford we are staying at the Springhill Suites hotel. When we checked in they gave us room 218, but when we arrived at the room there was someone in the room. We went back down to the front desk and they gave us room 318 and apologized for the mix up. They gave us 3 coupons to get something other than alcohol from there little store in the lobby. After a long day of driving we settle in our room for the night.
Since it is Sunday, I did not set an alarm for this morning. I made coffee in the room for Shari and I. Shari did some laundry this morning. Conveniently, the Guest Laundry is across the hall from our room.
Around 9:15 we went down to the hotel’s breakfast room, but had to wait in line to be served. Albert and I waited in the breakfast room for our order to be prepared while Shari went back and forth to the laundry. Once we had our breakfast, we ate it in the breakfast room.
After breakfast we packed up and finished the laundry. We left the hotel right around noon. We drove about 45 miles to Pocatello, Idaho and the COSTCO there. We filled up with gas and went into the store and bought a few supplies, mostly wine, for our trip.
Our next stop was Shoshone Falls . We had to wait in line to pay the $5 and get into the park. The park was crowded and parking was a problem. After one pass through the main parking lot, we took a side road and found a shady parking place near a park that overlooked the main parking lot. We walked down a steep grassy hill to get to the main part of the park. There was an overlook to view the falls and a viewing platform. Once space became available on the platform, we made our way down the steps. The view was spectacular, but the platform was crowded and we were all trying to take pictures. I found the crowded situation uncomfortable and was ready to leave once Shari finished snapping pictures. Unfortunately, that was it. We walked back to the car and left. Continuing our journey to Ontario, Oregon where we will spend the night.
We stopped again at the COSTCO in Boise, Idaho to fill the car with gas. Then we drove to Nampa, Idaho looking for a mexican restaurant where we could eat dinner. We found one, but when we arrived it was take-out only. We left there and look around a bit, there were several other restaurants in the area, before settling on the Olive Garden where we were able to get seated inside.
Our sever was notable because he was a bit coarse for a waiter. He let us know we were his last table of the day, which I interpreted as eat fast I want to get out of here. When he learned we were from Georgia he said he had been to the State once to attend a carpet installers training in Dalton. We wondered why someone would send him to that training all the way from Idaho. When Shari ordered the unlimited soup and salad he made a comment to let us know he was disappointed with her choice. He did the same when we ordered two desserts to share. He made a comment that I interpreted that he was disappointed that we didn’t each order dessert. He brought the bill as soon as we finished ordering dessert, so he could go roll some silverware and get out of here. It was amusing that he didn’t realize what he was doing.
We enjoyed our dinner, despite the service. We only had about a half hour drive to the Best Western in Ontario, Oregon where we stayed the night. We did not have reservations, and when I checked in the clerk gave me a discount on the room without my even asking for one. I found it amusing, too.