Along the Natchez Trace

Friday, November 28, 2014

Catch Up Day... Sort of....

Bill and I are both trying to adjust to the time change.....  but it's nice being back to the mainland...  menus and signs in English....  phone and internet that work...  that kind of thing.

Tomorrow around noon we head to the port here in Los Angeles....  we'll board the Crown Princess and head down Mexico way.  We've been to these ports before, both on ships or in our RV, so there probably won't be any surprises.

It was kinda funny....  we went out for a walk to find an ATM and run some other errands this afternoon and when we returned to the hotel we saw Brenda, a fellow passenger on the ship we just got off from.  She's from Indiana and is also a genealogy researcher and also uses both genealogy programs, as does Bill.

Bill always just amazes me.  No matter where we travel, he always figures out how to get around.  I have memories of being in Paris and taking the subway to various places...  Bill quietly tells me that we'll be taking the red line or something like that.  Today, we walked less than a block down to the Metro station...  
Used the fee kiosk to buy tickets.... waited for the right train to come along...   boarded...  rode 3 stops down the line and got off.....
We were headed for the REI store.....  great place to buy outdoor or travel gear.  But we felt like we hit the jackpot...  in the same shopping center there was a Barnes and Noble AND a Trader Joe's!  I mean, how lucky can a person get!!!!
First thing... REI  I bought a new strap for my Leica...
the old one is so worn that it leaves flakes of plastic on my neck all the time.  We bought a few other things but I'll wait and talk about those later.

From there it was to the Barnes and Noble...  okay... I prefer the little "Indy" bookstores, but they are becoming harder and harder to find, so I'll take what I get.  And, we do have our B&N card that gives us a discount, so it's okay.  We didn't buy much here....  not because there weren't interesting things to get but we still have to watch our baggage weight for our flights back to Texas.

And...  oh so nice!....  a stop in Trader Joe's.  We salivated over the fresh veggies and the glorious fruits.  I walked right past the ginger cookies.  We bought a bottle of cherry juice and a small tin of ginger-mint Altoids.  We saw "Two Buck Chuck" (Charles Shaw wine) for $2.49 a bottle and wished we had known we'd be here as early this morning we bought a couple bottle of wine at Ralph's (same as Krogers or Smiths) to take on the ship.  Oh well....  We saw the very same bottle of wine (Double Decker - pinot grigio) for $6.48 that we'd paid $32 a bottle on the cruise ship.  A person just can't dwell on this sort of thing when on vacation....)

Anyway.....  Bill went down to the hotel lobby a few minutes ago...  the Heritage Books, Inc. folks (sponsors of this genealogy workshop) have set up their welcoming table....  Bill picked up our info...  we'll be on the noon shuttle tomorrow and heading out.

One more week of cruising....  and, again, most likely no internet or phone....  But it sure is good to catch our breath and catch up with family and a few blogs during this brief interval.

And with that, I'll close and will catch up again later.

That's All For Today!

Happy Turkey Day... or Ham or even Beans...............

We left for the airport around 10 am.... flew out of Honolulu around 12:30.  We were served a tiny bag if pretzels and a soft drink on the plane.  Maybe because it was Thanksgiving the stewardess gave us each a tiny package of cookies for desert.

No matter...  we got into Los Angeles...  had quite a time getting a ride to our hotel.  Long story, but short version is that shuttles aren't always as they are said to be.

Finally got to our hotel about 9:30 pm (LA time) and got checked in.  The restaurant had closed so we picked up our Thanksgiving meal in the lobby convenience store....
We grabbed their last ham sandwich, 2 bean burritos, a couple of beers and a small bottle of wine.
Took it to our room and had our feast.

You know what?  It doesn't matter at all what our meal consisted of.  We are thankful for our family, our friends and most of all that have each other.   

It's a great Thanksgiving!

That's All for Today!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Hawaii.... the last shall be first.....

Bill & I arrived in Honolulu early Monday morning.  Check-in time for our hotel was 3:00 pm so we stashed our luggage in the hotel "closet" and headed out into the city.  Actually, we weren't in Honolulu, but rather in Waikiki.  I don't think I'd know one from the other, but only know that the whole island is only about 30 miles wide by 35 miles long.

We're just getting into the rainy season and a shower had just passed over before our arrival.  But, no rainbow this time.

When we were making our travel plans for the Asian trip I saw that we'd have to pass right by Hawaii to get from Tokyo back to Los Angeles.  (well, sort of, anyway).   As I've written many times, I'm an avid geocacher and in the nearly 10 years we've been looking for those hidden treasures, We've found them in 49 states so far.  So...  my main goal in stopping in Hawaii was to find a cache and complete a find in all 50 states.  We found a virtual cache just across the street from our hotel and a couple of physical caches a few blocks up the street.  YES!  Now I'm ready to see the other sights.

Our son-in-law was stationed here in Honolulu in the mid 1990's, and our daughter worked as a social worker while they lived here.  Our 2 granddaughters attended middle school.  I visited them twice during their 4 year tour of duty and they took me everywhere and showed me so much.  But Bill stayed home both times taking care of our farm, so other than an overnight stop when he was in the military in the early 1960's, he'd never been here.

The easiest way to see a lot of things in a short time is to take tours.  The "hop on/hop off" kind of tours are just perfect for us because we can stop at sites we're interested in and just take a quick look at the rest.

Of course the beaches are the biggest draw for most people.  And beautiful beaches they are.

We took a total of 3 tours in our time here....  one tour took us to Chinatown...
I love the markets...  all the varieties of fruits and vegetables.  And the different fish and cuts of meat are so interesting.  We wondered what those were in the lower right photo...  came to the conclusion that they are Ox Tails, as we see ox tail soup advertised in many of the restaurants.  The lower left photo is a "before and after" photo of our lunch.  Yeah, we were in Hawaii, having lunch in Chinatown, but chose a wonderful Thai restaurant for lunch...  um um!  Love those spicy dishes!

The tour went to the botanical gardens, the palace (the island used to have a king and queen before it became a US state in 1959), museums, the State capital and various other stops.  We had a great time even though it was for only a few hours.

Today we took the tour to Diamond Head State Park....  and walked up to the top of the crater.

It's a .8 mile hike but climbs 560' from the crater floor.  The brochure says to allow 1.5 to 2 hours for the round trip hike.  This is an ancient volcano and the crater would be obvious from the air...  the trail is winding and has a lot of switchbacks.  We wanted to catch the next bus back to town so managed to walk up...  take a lot of photos etc...  and hike back down in 1 hour....  1.6 miles round-trip that was fairly strenuous in places.  Heck, I was puffing like a chimney near the top!  The incline was steep, but it was the tunnel that nearly did me in.  I don't like tunnels or caves, but managed to get through okay.  The view from the top was fantastic!  A whole 360 degree panorama!

We made it back to town and headed to a barbershop where Bill got his beard trimmed.  We haven't been to such places for weeks and while I suppose he could have had it done on the ship they charge outrageous prices for such services.  So...  now he feels better and is ready to finish up this vacation.

We had a very late lunch of Hawaiian chicken and some other regional foods...  and each had a wonderfully cold Longboard draft beer!  That's a local beer and it's very good.

We have seen some new birds...
Red-vented Bulbul
Red crested Cardinal

And...  two very similar birds...

Upper...  Jungle Myna        Lower..... Common Myna

And one last photo....  when I visited my daughter, she took me to "high tea" at a very fancy hotel.  One of those events you dress up and act like a lady...  it was so elegant and so lovely. 
I think this is the hotel we went to....
A very old (1930's?) hotel that sits among some very modern buildings right on the beach.  Isn't it gorgeous?  No tea today, but I sure have some good memories of my visit those several years ago.
Thank you, Donna and Glenn for showing me such a lovely time.

Tomorrow we fly to Los Angeles....  I know... it's Thanksgiving.  Maybe they'll serve turkey on the plane....  doesn't make any difference....  I have so much to be thankful for...  my wonderful family and good friends, our good health, and more than I could ever list here.

I hope y'all have a great day and have many blessings as well.

That's All For today!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Fear of Flying and more....

Have I ever mentioned that I don't like to fly?  Just thinking of being in a huge metal capsule scares me and being in that thing 30,000' above solid ground makes me shiver.  Being in it for 6, 8 or 10 hours positively gives me the heebie-jeebies.

I used to want a window seat...  by gawd, I wanted to SEE that the engines were still attached and that the wings were still there.  The last few years I've preferred the aisle seat, or if Bill & I are flying together, I'll even take the middle seat if the plane is designed that way.

I figured out that I'll be flying ...  taking off and landing.... 15 times this year.  That's including our return flight from Costa Rica in March, my trip from Maine to Ohio (and back) in July, and this Asian trip.  I still have 3 of these flights to take, so, what the heck?  I'm only up to a dozen so far.

And, so far, everything has gone quite well.


Our flight from Singapore to Tokyo was an early flight....  boarding around 5:30 am.  The shuttle picked us up at the hotel at 3:00 AM.  No big deal...  between our phone alarm and our wake-up call we were down in the lobby at 2:45.

We went through customs and immigration and finally boarded and were on our way.

Almost immediately we all were served juice or coffee.  I chose orange juice...  nice way to start the day.  Not too long after this we could have either a breakfast or dinner menu.  I chose the chicken and rice.  I should mention here that we always fly the cheapest way... Bill and I "affectionately" call it "no class".  Bill is next to the window, I'm in the middle and a (probably very nice) lady is on the aisle.  

The meal I chose is inedible.... I take about 2 bites and know it's nothing I can eat.  I don't know how you mess up chicken and rice, but it's nothing I want.  We're less than an hour into the flight and already I have a half cup of orange juice and a full plate of food on my lap tray.  Now the stewardess (I don't think they're called that these days) brings around a bottle of water.  I start to find a place on my lap tray for the water and knock over my orange juice.

Damn, damn, damn!  About 6 ounces of orange juice feels like a gallon when dumped in your lap... and there's no place to go.  I can't put the tray back in place... I have nothing to sop up the mess...  I can't move, I'm belted in and am surrounded by others who are also belted in.

The juice runs into my lap, soaks my pants clear through to my underwear... front and back!  It runs over both sides of the lap tray... into the magazine holder that is also where I stashed the blanket that the airlines gave me for my comfy nap later.

It takes a while to get a stewardess for help...  she brings a wad of paper towels, and I soak up what I can, but my clothing got most of it...  except for what pooled at the back of my seat.  How in the world can a few ounces of liquid get so much so wet?  (As the flight progressed I also found that orange juice gets pretty sticky as it dries...  magazines and snuggy blanket are tacky and should be discarded.

Okay...  this crisis is over...  only 6 more hours into this flight.  I can handle this...

Almost immediately the lights flicker....  our TV or whatever you call that thing that shows movies etc. goes black.  I was really pissed... I was playing a video game and had a really high score.  I look around...  the guys in front of us also have a blank screen.

At this point I get a little nervous.  I was on a flight several years ago and the lights flickered...  and went out.  Our flight that was supposed to land in St Louis made an emergency landing in San Francisco... greeted by flashing red lights and emergency vehicles all over the runway.  The last couple of hours of that flight was in total darkness with no AC...  no emergency aisle lights... nada, nil, nothing....  total silence.  (hell, everyone on board was petrified...  not a peep).....  So I'd had some history with electrical problems and wasn't feeling real secure.

The lights came on... most everyone's TV started working again.  Ours didn't.  Neither did the guys in the seat in front of us.  After an hour or so of trying to fix fuses or whatever was in the electrical panel, the stewardess told the 2 guys in front that there were only 2 empty seats on the plane...  did they want to relocate?  I guess they didn't as they stayed there.  Another hour went by...  I finally found the stewardess and asked what was going on...  she said they were working on it....

Another hour...  nothing...  I think the stewardess is avoiding me.

Finally, after flagging her down again, she came to our seat and said they couldn't fix it.  She gave us the option of moving to those 2 empty seats, but by this time there was only 3 hours left to the flight so we stayed put.  She brought us little flashlights so that we could read...

Here's Bill...  reading a paperback by flashlight...

About now I have a total melt-down...  tears and all.
I'm so frustrated, so angry, so tired of it all, I just threw a tantrum.
Okay, so I didn't roll on the floor and kick my feet and pound my fists, but I think if I hadn't have been strapped in my seat with wet pants, sticky skin and had only maybe an inch between me and each of my fellow seat people I just might have done that.

I think the stewardess figured I was about to start screaming... or worse.
She came back and apologized for the problems (the juice incident wasn't her fault... that was totally my own....  but to sit in the dark with no entertainment, no lights, was the airlines problem)....  and offered us extra air-miles.  Oh Come On Lady...  do you think I care?  With problems like this do you think we'll want to fly with this airlines again?  Forget it!  She makes another trip back...  the airlines will reimburse us each $50 for our inconvenience.

By now we probably have only a couple more hours of the flight to go....  we'll be in Tokyo soon and catch our connecting flight to Hawaii.  I really need to get my anger and fears under control and move on.....  

And I did.

My pants dried.... even my underwear dried during the 6 hour wait until our connecting flight departed.  I got my sticky skin cleaned up....  I even finished the paperback I was reading while we waited for the next flight.

It arrived...  we departed Tokyo and arrived in Honolulu 8 hours later...  uneventful flight.  Of course our "no class" seats weren't real comfy for sleeping, but no thrills, no spills and all went well.

I'm betting a lot of you have your own stories about your own "flight from hell"....  but here's hoping this is the last one I'll be writing about for a long time.  I'll let you know if we get the $50 each...  I wonder if it will be a voucher for money off of a future flight?  

That's All For Today!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Singapore Today.... Hawaii Tomorrow

The four week cruise is over...  kind of a whirlwind way to see Southeast Asia...  experience a different culture... (or lots of different cultures)...  meet all kinds of people, eat great food, see wonderful sights and on an on.  Although we knew internet would be difficult, we really didn't think it would be as hard as it was.  Apparently it's not the lack of technology (afterall, we were in countries that produce high tech electronics for everything!) but rather the gov't restrictions or regulations or whatever they do to keep ordinary folks like us from having access.

I am happy to write that we went geocaching in Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, Viet Nam, Hong Kong and Singapore...  we just couldn't get internet in China so had no success there.  

Of course I took hundreds (probably thousands) of photos...  but it will be a few days before I post any as my thoughts are too tired to even think about organizing anything.

Tomorrow we fly out of Singapore, back to Tokyo...  then on to Honolulu.  I think we'll be there until Wednesday, then fly to Los Angeles.  We'll be there a couple of days then board another cruise ship and sail along the Mexican Riviera for 1 week.  That's another genealogy cruise - the software company that Bill has used for years sponsors the conference aboard this ship.

It's almost 6pm and we have to head to the airport at 3am, so this will be brief...  I've missed my family and friends...  and really have missed my blogging friends and catching up with their lives.  It will take me a while to catch up...  and it will be 2 more weeks before we head back to Texas and our motorhome....  but I'll catch up eventually.

Thought y'all might like this...
Yep!  That's me and Bill...  taking an elephant ride in Thailand.
What fun!

Hope this finds you all well and healthy...  I've missed you.

That's All For Today!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Saigon, Viet Nam

we,re now in Saigon.....  Or Ho Chi Mihn City....  Whichever you prefer.   No photos.... Haven,t figured out how to include them in a blog from this IPad yet.

It,s hot here....  But Sunday in the park means a leisurely time for the crowds of people.  We,ve seen several wedding parties today... And eve better, we found a geocache just across the street.  We had lunch at the Lemongrass restaurant....  Delicious.  Our bus picks us up in about an hour, but I thought i,d check in while I had the chance as Internet is rare.

We sail on to Thailand tomorrow...  Actually at sea for away or two then two days in Thailand.  We,ll be going to Bangkok and another city.

That,s all for now

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Two Weeks Done... Two Weeks To Go...

We've traveled a lot of miles and seen a lot of things....  eaten a lot of food...  met a lot of people and all in all having a great time.  Right now we are in Hong Kong, but in the past two weeks we've visited several cities in Japan, China, and Taiwan.  Internet is practically nil....  nada....  nothing.  So we sit in visitor center buildings and try to make contact when we can.  So...  this will be short.

 Me and Bill....  overlooking the harbor.  
These photos are all taken in Taiwan...
 The city at night...

We walked up to a temple...  even climbed the many many steps inside the top of that Buddha statue...
Check out the contrast in the lower left of the old and the new architecture.
I have been hesitant to eat street food...  just now doing okay from my stomach problems from Costa Rica.  Restaurants are fine...  and really...  the ship food is authentic and quite all right.

I don't want to press my luck....  feel lucky that I'm able to write at all...
 The End
I'm sure this is the largest "the end" I'll ever come across....

Oh yes... we are seeing a few birds...  none of which we've ever seen before... nor do we know what they are...  I'll have to ID them from photos when we get back.

Tomorrow we sail to Viet Nam, then Thailand, and finally Singapore.

Hope all is well with all you ...

That's All For Today!