Penny’s Baptism

This afternoon we attended the baptism of my Grand-niece at St Mary’s Catholic Church in Yonge’s Island, SC. It was a very nice ceremony. The church staff made it special, despite the Wuhan Virus restrictions.

Welcome to your faith family, Penny.

Family

We are in Charleston, SC this weekend visiting my sister, niece, and new baby. When we first arrived, we were a bit stand-offish because of the Wuhan Virus. Then my niece Daisy saw Albert and it was hugs and kisses. So much for social distancing.

Seal Beach, CA

This morning we met my Aunt Jane for mass at St Irenaeus Catholic Church in Cypres. After mass we went to brunch at the Crema Cafe in Seal Beach. We had a short wait for a table so we walked down Main Street to the water. There is a very pictureque pier at the end of Main Street.  It was really nice.  We had Aunt Jane take a picture of us in front of the Christmas tree there.  We lingered for a few minutes enjoying the Pacific Ocean, and then we walked back to the restaurant.  We had to wait about 5 more minutes before they texted us to say our table was ready.

Christmas tree on Seal Beach, CA

After brunch we drove Aunt Jane back to the hotel and said our goodbyes. Next we drove to John Wayne Airport.  We returned the rental car, then dropped our check luggage at the Delta desk.  There was no one in line for the security check.  By the time we arrived at our gate, the flight was starting to board.

On our flight home, one of the flight attendants remembered Albert from Alpharetta High School. Small world.

Nashville Parthenon

In Nashville for Memorial Day Weekend visiting my sister and her family. Today we visited the Nashville Parthenon. I suggested we visit here because it is in Albert’s movie Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief. It was interesting to see it and read about how and why it was built. We stayed there a little over an hour.

After leaving the Parthenon, we started looking for somewhere to eat lunch. Our first idea was Hattie B’s hot chicken, but the line was out the door. Then we drove around a little, before driving over to Boombozz Pizza. Pizza was high on Albert’s list of places to eat. The pizza was good, Shari and Martha created a pizza with fresh spinach, katakana olives, grilled chicken, and feta cheese. Everyone enjoyed it.

After eating we walked across the street to the Soda Parlor where Albert, Martha, and Shari split a waffle sunday.

Memorial Day

While traveling to my sister’s house outside of Nashville, we stopped for dinner at Chick-fil-a. In the dining area they had this simple tribute table. Touching. Chick-fil-a has some great people working for them.

Memorial table inside Chick-fil-a outside Chattanooga, TN

Last day in Jackson Hole

We went to Persephone’s Bakery for breakfast. After eating we walked down the street and did a little shopping. Albert had to have his picture taken in front of this bear and this bison.

We drove out to Slide Lake. It was a remote area where a landslide in 1925 dammed the Green River. Interesting, but not much to see.

We decided to drive south of Jackson to see what was there. I took a scenic route past the Mormon barns again. Susan wanted to see the barns down a road that had a road closed baracade. She moved the barricade and I drove down the road so she could take a picture of the barn.

We drove 13 miles south of Jackson. Not much to see. When I came to a roundabout, I turned around and drove back to Jackson.

We had a bit of trouble finding a place for lunch. Many restaurants are closed for the off season. We wound up at Moe’s bar b que.

After lunch we walked back to the hotel. Shari wasn’t feeling well so she stayed in th room while the rest of drove up to the town square. Susan and Mike exchanged a T-shirt while Albert and I went to Hagen daz for an ice cream. Initially I was not going to get anything, but Albert wanted be to have some fun. So at his insistence, I got some, too. Sometime you have to make a sacrifice.

We drove back to the hotel and lounged around for a while. For our last night in Jackson Hole, we went back to the Silver Dollar Bar and Grill for dinner.

Today was my wife and my 24th Wedding Anniversary. Hard to believe.

Easter Sunday

One of the nice things about being Roman Catholic is that you go to church every Sunday, regardless of where you are. I’ve attended mass all around the world in some beautiful churches. This morning, Easter Sunday, we attended church at Our Lady of the Mountains Catholic Church here in Jackson Hole. The church was decorated beautifully for Easter.

The Altar at Our Lady of the Mountains Catholic Church

We also noticed that a girl with Down Syndrome was an altar server.

Yellowstone NP

We left for Yellowstone NP right at 6:30. We stopped at Cowboy Coffee company on our way out of town and picked up breakfast and coffee..

The three hour drive was very scenic. First we climbed over Teton Pass and into Idaho. We drove through Victor and Driggs, ID. Both small farming communities.

The West entrance of Yellowstone National Park

When we arrived in West Yellowstone, MT. We stopped at the National Park information center in town. Next, we drove into the park. Today is the first day of National Park Week, so our admission pass was not needed. We drove throug the park toward the Old Faithful Guyser, stopping along the way to take pictures of the bison that roam own the park.

A “local” out for a stroll

We parked and walked overt tho Old Faithful and only waited a few minutes before it erupted. Afterwards, we walked over to the shops and restaurants nearby to use the restroom, shop, and eat. We went back to Old Faithful around 12:20 to see the next eruption that happened around 12:38. To me, it looked larger and longer than the first one.

Old Faithful geyser

Yellowstone is a massive park, but because it was only the second day the park has been open for the season, the crowds were light. We drove North to Mammoth Hot Springs stopping along the way to see various sites. During the high season I doubt we could have covered as much ground as we did. Mammoth Hot Springs was spectacular. What always get’s me is that I’m seeing the same things that early settlers and Native Americans saw hundreds of years ago. Mammoth Hot Springs has been slowly build over thousands of years.

Mammoth Hot Springs

After thoroughly exploring Yellowstone National Park we drove back to Jackson Hole. It was almost 11:00 when we arrived at the hotel. A day well spent.

Wildlife Expedition

Today we took a Wildlife Expedition with theTeton Science School. Our guide, Tyler, picked us up at our hotel right at 6:30am. He had coffee and mini blueberry muffins for us for breakfast. We started out on the backside of the National Elk Refuge looking for big horn sheep. After watching a pack of coyotes hunt ground squirrels, we drove behind a butte and saw the sheep on top. They were grazing on top of the butte and a few males were head butting, but not seriously. The serious head butting is done in the fall during mating season. We watched the sheep for half an hour and then moved on.

Our guide drove around to the main part of the National Elk Refuge where there is a fish hatchery. There our guide could look through a high-powered telescope and see a few bison grazing on the refuge pasture. We heard a splash in the pond where we were standing and saw a muskrat swimming below the water. On the far side of the pond were a couple of Golden Eye ducks.

Next we drove toward Kelly, WY and Slide Lake. Driving on the road towards the lake we stopped to watch two bald eagle fish. It was a majestic sight.

We left the eagles and drove toward Mormon Row. Along the way our guide spotted a moose in the sage brush. We stopped and got out of the van. Once you know what to look for, their hairy ears, you can spot the moose bedded down on the ground. We counted eleven moose at this one sighting.

We continued driving north until we reached Oxbow Bend where we stopped at the partially frozen lake. On the far side of the lake we could see, through the high-powered telescope, a dozen bald eagles perched on the ice and nearby trees. Closer to us, two big muskrats were sitting on the ice. At first, we thought they were beavers, but then we could clearly see that they had a long rat like tail, not a beaver tail.

We drove a little farther north to the completely frozen Lake Jackson. We hoped to see a bear. We did see bear tracks in the snow, but no bears.

Lake Jackson was the northern most part of our expedition. We stopped for a few minutes at the Lake Jackson dam. It was interesting to see the water flow under the ice and come out the other side of the dam. From here we turned south and heading home. Along the way we continued to look for Bison and Bears, but didn’t see any. We arrived back at the hotel around 2:30. It was a nice day and a great expedition.

On Vacation

The first day of my spring vacation, I went somewhere where it is still winter, Jackson Hole, WY. We didn’t really plan it this way, but we did plan to be here in the off-season.

Today is an orientation day. We don’t have any specific activities planned, just wander around Jackson Hole and see what is happening.

You cannot visit Jackson Hole without getting your picture taken under one of the four Elk Antler arches that decorate the town square. I learned something new today. Elk shed their antlers each spring and grow another larger set in about 140 days.

Bellingrath Gardens

Bellingrath Gardens.

I took the family to Bellingrath Gardens this weekend.  Visiting the gardens was a bucket list item for me. I grew up in Pensacola and remember hearing about the gardens and the annual azalea bloom. When I lived in Mobile, I never took the time to visit.

It was not the ideal day to visit the gardens, but having made the trip, we still went.  Recent rains have beat down some of the azaleas.  It is overcast and a little windy today.  I was a little cold as we walked through the gardens, but I was not uncomfortable.  We warmed up by touring the conservatory and the home.  The azaleas were probably at their peak last weekend, but the gardens were still colorful.

The house was impressive. The architect, George B Rogers did a wonderful job incorporating the unique features of the site to build a comfortable house for its time.  The house was before air conditioning and located next to a river, where biting insect would need to be considered.

The house is furnished as a museum and not as the Bellingraths’ would have lived in it.  Bessie enjoyed collecting porcelain and  the house was decorate with some very beautiful pieces.  The dining room tables were all set as if expecting guest  The main dining room was impressive and decorated with mirrors, gold, and red curtains.

The gardens began in 1927 when, after a trip to Europe, Walter and Bessie Bellingrath hired architect George B Rogers to convert Walter’s fishing camp into a country estate.  In 1935 the couple built a 10,500 square foot home on the property.  It is all spectacular to see.

Bessie Bellingrath died in 1943, 12 year before her husband.  Walter created a trust for the house and gardens “as a fitting and permanent memorial to my wife.”

Walter was a very successful businessman.  In 1903, Walter purchased the Coca-Cola franchise for Mobile, AL for $1,500.  I’m certain that, at the time, that was a large investment. I was intrigued by Walter’s success and purchase a biographical book about him in the gift shop. It should be an interesting read.

I’m happy we made the trip and that I’ve finally been to Bellingrath Gardens.  It is a very nice botanical visit and the staff maintains it beautifully.  I came for the azaleas and was not disappointed, despite the less than perfect weather.  I suspect that all year round the staff keeps the grounds colorful with seasonal flowers. I won’t make a special trip to visit again, but If I’m in the areas and have the time, I will come to see what is in bloom.

Yosemite to Bakersfield, CA

I woke up this morning around 6:30. I laid in bed until almost 7:00. Coffee is available at 8:00 downstairs and breakfast is at 8:30. We are packing the car before breakfast so we can get on the road immediately afterwards. It is a 4-hour drive to Sequoia NP, our next stop.

Stopped in Fresno for lunch at In-N-Out burger.

It took a long time to get to Kings Canyon NP and the to drive on to Sequoia NP. We really didn’t have much on our list to see, but we did see the General Sherman the largest, by volume, of any tree in the world. The giant Sequoias are impressive to see.

After stopping to see the General Sherman, we drove out of the park on a curvy mountain road. It took much longer than we thought because you could only go slow it was so curvy. At one point, a construction crew had torn up two miles of road down to the dirt. It was one lane driving through it.

By the time we were at the bottom of the mountain, it was beginning to get dark. We drove through some citrus groves on our way to Visalia and then on to Bakersfield. We arrived in Bakersfield around 8:00. We stopped at a Panera Bread for dinner.

While driving to Bakersfield on CA-99 we saw the sunset. It is worth noting because the land is so flat in that area that the final view of the sun just looks like a ball on the edge of the world. I’m not describing it well, but it was an interesting site to see.

After checking in the hotel, we took our bags up to the room. Shari did one load of laundry in the guest laundry. It was around 10:30 before she finished, and we went to bed.

To Yosemite

I woke up at 4:00 and went back to sleep until 6:00. Shari and Albert were sleeping soundly, so I laid in bed until 6:30. Then I got up and made a cup of coffee. Shari woke up around 7:15 and Albert shortly thereafter. Around 8:15 we went down for breakfast. Belgian waffles were the specialty of the house, so we each had one. I had mine with Nutella and banana. I really enjoyed it. We check out of the hotel a little after 9:00 and headed south to Yosemite.

From Lake Tahoe we followed CA-89 over the mountains. The ride was fantastic and beautiful. Not much fall color with all the conifers, but every now and again there would be a patch of Aspens with deep yellow leaves. It was really spectacular. After descending from the mountains, we drove for a long time through Hope Valley to Markleeville where we started to climb another mountain. Before descending we stopped at an overlook where you could see Mono Lake below. Very Beautiful. After Lee Vinings, CA we left US-395 for CA 120 which took us to and entrance to Yosemite National Park. We drove 59 miles along CA-120 to get to the main part of the park. The drive was spectacular. I know I’ve used the word “spectacular’ a lot, but I really don’t know another word to describe what we saw.

It was after 2:00 before we arrived at the main part of Yosemite NP. We drove down the main drag stopping near El Capitan to take pictures. We did a short hike to the bottom of Bridal Veil Falls. Everything is so beautiful it almost hard to process. We drove through the valley and then found a parking spot near the visitor center. We walked to the visitor’s center, but there wasn’t much to see there. We walked back to the car and stopped in a few shops along the way. Once back at the car, we drove out of the park and to our hotel.

The hotel was not very far outside the park. It was a little hard to find because it was tucked behind another hotel complex. We check in with Liz out hostess and unloaded the car. Since we skipped lunch, we decided to have an early dinner and walked over to the River restaurant that was near the hotel.

After dinner we went to the hotel in front of ours because they had a small shop with provisions. We bought a bottle of wine and a few souvenirs. We walked back to our hotel and when we arrived, Liz let us know she had cookies in the common area. We went upstairs to our room and dropped off a few things and then went downstairs and had cookies. Liz and Shari talked about what hikes we should do tomorrow.

We went back upstairs to our room and we all enjoyed the bottle of wine on the deck outside out room. The deck overlooks the Merced River. A full moon was rising over the mountain and it had a Halloween look to it. After we finished off the bottle of wine, Shari and I stayed outside for a little while discussing how fortunate we are that we can make this trip. We went inside and went to bed.

Lake Tahoe, California

Left the house this morning at 3:45am to make a 6:00 flight.

Slept on the flight to Denver. I enjoyed having to change planes in Denver. It was a nice break.

We arrived in Reno, Nevada a little before 10:00 in the morning local time. Our luggage was waiting for us when we arrived at baggage claim. We walked over to the National Rental Car kiosk in the parking garage and claimed our 2018 Nissan Murano with California license plates. I want to look like a local.

We took I-580 South from Reno and the exited onto NV-431 Mount Rose Hwy. We drove past the Rose Mountain Ski Resort and on to Incline Village where we took NV-28 along Lake Tahoe. We drove along stopping occasionally to enjoy the vistas. We turned on US-50 and took it into California. At the Nevada-California state line there are a few large casinos and then you cross into California. The only State Line marker I saw looked like a street sign.

We located our hotel for the evening, but check-in isn’t until 3:00, so we drove back to the main part of town and found a restaurant for lunch. We ate the Cold Water Brewery and Grill. Nice place, I had the fish tacos and a Mr. Toads Wild Rye beer. The plate had two tacos and corn on the cob. Just the right amount of food. Mr. Toads Wild Rye was an amber beer with a slightly hoppy flavor. I enjoyed both.

After lunch we wanted to take a hike near Lake Tahoe. Our first choice of a trail was Lower Eagle Falls near Emerald Bay. The drive there was spectacular, unfortunately when we arrived, there were no parking spots available. A CHIPS officer was writing ticket for all the cars illegally parked. We drove back to the Taylor Creek Visitor Center where we found a couple of hikes. At first ,we took the Rainbow trail which takes you through Taylor marsh and along Taylor Creek. Then we took the Lake of the Sky trail which took us down to the shore of Lake Tahoe. It was a beautiful view of the lake along the rocky shoreline.

After our hike we went to the hotel to check-in. Shari made us reservations at Fireside Lodge Bed and Breakfast. My first impression as we drove past, was not good. From the street it looked like an old motor lodge that had been refurbished. But this place was fantastic. Each of the ten rooms has a theme. We stayed in the “Field and Stream” Room. It was decorated with antique fishing gear and old Field and Stream magazine art. It was a cozy and comfortable room. The common areas are wonderful. There is a living room that doubles as the breakfast room in the morning, a game room with working vintage arcade games and an air hockey table, a dry sauna and relaxation area, an outdoor fire pit where we made s’mores. The breakfast was great with the main entre being Belgian Waffles with a large variety of toppings. I had one with Nutella and banana. Delicious.