The Birthdays. 12/8-9/2017

Wow, the first time George and I celebrated our birthdays together I was 29 and here it is 40 years later. We are not so spry now but we always manage to have a good time. This year’s Birthdays celebration takes us to Little River, CA. We are staying at the Little River Inn and will also dine there.

On the way up we stop at Healdsburg for lunch at the Healdsburg Bar and Grill. It has food that everyone should like. They are especially known for their burgers. Karen and George opt for a cheese burger while John and I try the veggie burger. I am still trying to stay on my vegan before six diet. The veggie burger comes with a load of feta cheese so I dutifully scrape it off.

Veggie burger at Healdsburg Bar and Grill

The drive out to Little River is beautiful and we pass through redwood forests with their deep shade and ferns abounding. Along the way we stop at Goldeneye Winery for a little tasting. For $15 we get a seated tasting with some nibbles and seven different wines. This is so much better than Napa where you have to pay $50 just to walk through the door!

John, Karen, and George at Goldeneye Winery

We reach our hotel and our rooms are pretty far apart. George needs a disability room and our room is on the second floor of a building on the other side of the complex. The room itself is pretty spartan for the price but has a nice porch and view. We are greeted by a seagull sitting on the railing who does not seem to be afraid of people.

View from our room with seagull

Sunset over the Pacific

We meet for dinner to celebrate my birthday. The food is pretty mediocre but we have a great time nonetheless.

John and I at the restaurant

After breakfast at the hotel the next morning we are off to celebrate George’s birthday. We decide to go to a few wineries for tastings and find lunch somewhere.

A beautiful clear day in the 60’s awaits us

One of the wineries we stop at is Greenwood Ridge Vineyards

They have some veryf friendly ducks!

While John and George peruse the menu of wines WE CAN TASTE FOR FREE I spin the wheel and hit the jackpot – 45% off a case of wine! We decide to split a case. My birthday celebration is going along great!


After visiting three places we find a place for lunch. Stone and Embers is a great choice with a wood fired pizza oven. The oven is so hot that it cooks the pizza really fast and the crust comes out wonderfully cooked with a little char. We sit at the counter and George has fun schmoozing with the owner/chef.

Our pizza puffing up in the oven

Yum! Supposedly the sausage is from a turducken

Since the food in the restaurant is only meh we decide to have dinner in the bar. We have a lot of fun. George has found someone who is also celebrating his birthday and we get a rousing chorus of happy birthday with our dessert course.

Me with John and George

The next day we ride down the coast towards home stopping in Point Arena for breakfast. I love our Birthday celebrations and this has been a great one.

Quick trip to St. George – November 5-17, 2017

Since the weather looks pretty fabulous in St. George and we will not be able to sneak in a trip in December, John and I decide on the spur of the moment to make our way to St. George.

I think the biggest difference in this trip is that I am trying Mark Bittman’s Vegan Before Six, a new way of thinking about how you eat and the impact you can have on the environment. So most of this post will be about new dishes I am trying out. In addition to shopping and eating John and I manage to get in some tennis every other day until my back just says, Enough!

First, finding decent vegan food on the road is not an easy task. Using YELP! We stop at Hummus Express in Bakersfield. The food is pretty oily but tasty.

Looking out at the golden hills and aqueduct along I-5. We are eager for rain.

Stopping at Hummus Express in Bakersfield, I order hummus with pita and tabbouleh

Mostly my days in St. George are vegan for breakfast and lunch and whatever for dinner but occasionally I manage to construct an entire vegan day. Some dishes I made –

Lunch – Spaghetti with vegetgables

Lunch – Root vegetable soup with tofu cubes dusted with flaxseed

Dinner – chickpea stew with ditalini and greens

Time for an white egret break!

Cauliflower soup for lunch

The unattractive parsley soup that I tried to make more palatable with the addition of carrots

The days pass by quickly and we need to get home for Thanksgiving so face the challenge of finding better food on the road. Eureka! We find an excellent Mediterrean restaurant, Mr. Kabob, in Barstow. It is kind of a hole in the wall but has some excellent dishes.

At Mr. Kabob’s in Barstow I have excellent eggplant with peppers and onions, roasted tomato, and green rice.

October in Utah and Jon’s visit – October 7-20, 2017

In October we embark upon a lengthy stay in St. George. We were in Utah in September, now this month, and we hope to go again in November. As the holidays approach it becomes more difficult to get away for more than a few days so December is definitely out. We are enjoying our time in Utah and as the weather improves it will be even better. Highlighting this stay is a visit from Jon for a long weekend. His work obligations have given him less time than usual to come and relax and play tennis and golf.

Before he arrives we have a little quiet time with just John and me. It is hard not to spend some time every day looking out the window.

Looking out over the pond at sunset

A great white heron on the rock outside the window

We meet Jon at the St. George Airport on October 12th. Before you know it he is ensconced in one of his favorite spots.

Jonathan reading a book on the couch

But he needs to cram a lot into 4 days so the next morning we are all out on the tennis court. We manage to squeeze in three sessions while he is here.

Jon on the tennis court

He tries to do all his favorite things –  go shopping, eat at our favorite restaurants, play golf and still have time for reading and arranging music. He manages to do them all!

Jon and John at Mongolian BBQ

But all too quickly his time here is over and after many hugs we drop him off at the airport.

Mom and Jon before going out to dinner

We spend another four days in St. George and after an overnight in Bakersfield we arrive back in Pleasanton on October 20.

September 20, 2017 – Exploring Gold Butte National Monument

Jonathan has sent us an email asking if we have heard of Little Finland which is located somewhere near Mesquite, NV. No, we have not but we are going to find out about it. As it turns out Little Finland, a formation full of rock fins, is in Gold Butte National Monument, just southeast of Bunkerville, NV and about an hour away.

Gold Butte National Monument was set aside by President Obama in 2016. It is, of course, now under attack from the Trump administration who wants to negate all the good things that President Obama did. Interior Secretary Zinke has put it on the list of National Monuments that he thinks should be shrunk in size. It probably is not good for Gold Butte being right next door to the Bundy family farm.

Anyway John and I stop at the BLM office in St. George and try to get as much information as we can about the Monument. There is not much. Loading up the car with sweatshirts, water, and food plus telling Jonathan to call out the rescue squad if we don’t return by nightfall, we head out.

Beware all ye who enter here

There are a lot of things to see in Gold Butte but there are very few signs telling you where they are. Our first stop is at Whitney Pocket which is relatively well-marked.

Rock formation with a window at Whitney Pocket

Vista from Whitney Pocket

Rock climber John

Intrepid trail girl

Rock fins but not Little Finland

Now we are on our own with no information in Gold Butte as to where the things we want to see are. Our plan is to see fabulous petroglyphs, an unusual big hole called the Devil’s Throat, and Little Finland. How hard can this be? Very hard as it turns out.

I say I have seen pictures of the petroglyphs and they are on red rocks. Our map indicates that the petroglyphs are just south of Whitney Pocket. There are several masses of red rock. Is it this one? Is it that one? How do we get there? What roads there are are very rough. We choose a red blob and try to get there. Part way there we decide if we go any further we will get stuck and abandon the car to walk the rest of the way on foot. We look and look at this red rock outcropping but cannot find petroglyphs while all the time we are both concerned as to whether we will be able to get the car out of the wash we stopped in.

Do you think its that one?

Or this one?

We have learned the mantra of not getting stuck in the desert, “Do not try to turn around. Back up!” John removes some big rocks from our path and manages to get the car out of the wash. Phew! Abandoning the petroglyphs for the meantime we head toward the Devil’s Throat which is sort of on the way, we think, to Little Finland. Amazingly we find it.

This is a large hole in the ground that nobody knows why it is there. It has a ramshackle fence around it.

Devil’s Throat

Big hole

Yay to WUF, our old faithful SUV

Now we will try to find Little Finland. It turns out the road is not really a road. It is a wide wash. It is up to the driver to find a route through it. On the way to where we think Little Finland is we make several wrong choices and have to back out and start again. The scenery is amazing. But we are a little concerned that we won’t recognize where the turnoff to the main dirt road is. We probably should have left a marker.

Finally we get to where we think it should be. We get out of the car and start to hike along a sort of path. I fall down and decide I have had enough. John continues on to see what he can find. He finds nothing. As it turns out when we got out of the car we hiked to the right and we should have gone left. We give up on Little Finland and go back to try to find the petroglyphs again.

The wrong trail to Little Finland

After two more attempts at trying to find the petroglyphs we give up. We have decided that we need GPS coordinates if we are going to find this stuff. We console ourselves with a chocolate shake at McDonald’s and decide to try again another day armed with more information.


September doings in St. George

John and I take a vacation for a couple of weeks in St. George. We are greeted by our guard lizard.

Guard lizard

It seems like the guard lizard has done a good job because the house is in good shape and the flowers out front are blooming.

Front yard flowers

More flowers

While we are in St. George we want to make our new non-bathroom look more like a wet bar so we add some bar-type decorations and wine racks.

Non-bathroom decor

We have also discovered an awesome way to keep the stovetop clean. It is by not using it! Our induction burner has taken over any splatter-y task.

Using the induction burner on the countertop means…

A clean and shiny stove!!!

During our time in St. George we cook, clean, shop, and play tennis. The best thing of all is sitting looking out the window at the beautiful view. As the weather starts to turn more Fall-like the sky looks like a water painting.

View of the pond

On Rosh Hashanah John and I have a small celebration. We will have another with Sarah when we get back to Pleasanton.

Small Rosh Hashanah celebration

Before leaving for home we do have a big adventure but that deserves its own separate post.

August 20, 2017 – Traffic and bad food

Headed part way home today. The traffic was pretty bad. I guess because of the eclipse tomorrow. It takes over an hour to cross the border and after that we average about 40 mikes an hour. It will probably be much worse tomorrow we will just be patient. We have a lot of podcasts to listen to.

Welcome home!

Picture of a faint Mt. Rainier

Finally reaching Chehalis, WA we check-in around 3PM and take a rest and look through our mail and catch up on news. We find a place, Jeremy’s Farm to Table Restaurant, with fairly good ratings so we decide to give it a try. It is terrible. It starts out with a basket of bread you have to buy for $6! I figure it will be pretty special but it arrives and appears to be several slices of commercially cut bread. They serve a slicing knife with it. I have no idea what for.

$6 bread

We both order the Arctic char which comes with seasonal vegetables and the Chef’s “surprise” starch. The vegetables are cold, not even room temperature. The surprise starch is a surprise indeed. It is mashed potatoes with brown gravy. The potatoes and some kind of packet mystery gravy are not reasonable accompaniments to fish. The skin on my fish is flabby and I swallow a bone. What a terrible dinner!

Arctic char with flabby skin and the odd bone, mashed potatoes with brown gravy, and cold vegetables


August 19, 2017 – Impressionism

First, a very happy birthday to my sister, Peggy, who is a year older today!

On our last sightseeing day of our vacation we visit the Vancouver Art Gallery and revisit Maenam, our favorite Thai restaurant. Pretty nice way to wrap things up! I am not a big fan of the Impressionists although I do confess to a schoolgirl’s crush on Seurat’s Pointellism when I saw his paintings at the National Gallery on my eighth grade trip. Now I prefer the somewhat cartoonish 14th and 15th century saints carrying their attributes. But here in Vancouver there is a Monet exhibition and I am interested in seeing it.

I find that I like his earlier works that they have here. Such as Snow Effect: Sunset, 1875 and Train in the Snow, 1875. Some of the later pieces are less appealing.

Snow Effect: Sunset, 1875

Train in the Snow, 1875

To me his later paintings exhibited here from around 1918 seem wild and unfinished but maybe it is because the colors are so garish next to the earlier gauzy paintings. Monet was always trying to catch the effect of fleeting light so maybe this is what it looked like to him in the height of summer when his eyesight was failing. Or maybe he was trying to push the envelope of art a little further.

Japanese Bridge, 1918

Some of the water lily paintings and earlier garden pictures are on display as well. We attend a short movie of an art critic discussing Monet’s works at different points in his life. It is very interesting.

Water lilies

A series of pictures of wisteria

Taking a Walk in Argenteuil, 1875

So I come away with a better appreciation of Monet’s development and obsession with light.

We return to the hotel to get organized for our start home tomorrow and to spruce up for our dinner at Maenam which is at 6 PM tonight.

Our dinner is great, better than Thursday’s. We get a free glass of champagne to have with our amuse bouche because John tells them we are celebrating our anniversary which is only a sort of half truth. The guys sitting next to us give us their unfinished bottle of wine for our “celebration” and what with the wine that comes with the meal we are well supplied!

Amuse Boucher tonight is tamarind/shrimp/peanuts on pineapple and salmon/roe/chilis on cucumber

We have the delicious mussels again tonight served with East Generation Dry Riesling

Also with the Dry Riesling is a much better rendition of the octopus salad

Delicious sable hot and sour soup, spicy!

The next two dishes are served with a Tantalus Juveniles Pinot Noir. First is a green beef curry

The other is a really yummy eggplant and pork belly stir fry

Chocolate ganache served with an Italian Moscato is for dessert

This is a wonderful ending to a really super summer road trip!

August 18, 2017 – Van Dusen Botanical Gardens, Vancouver, BC

We spend a lovely afternoon at the Van Dusen Botanical Gardens. We were last here in 2008. Although things do not change too much in the plant world, this place is always beautiful to see.

We are greeted by a pond, fountain, and water lilies

We head off to the rose garden. Even though it is late in the season, there are still quite a few roses. I even like the spent blooms, dropping their petals listlessly.

Best rose picture I took

My favorite – yellow roses

Did I mention that I love yellow roses?

Departing the rose garden, there are beautiful plant landscapes everywhere.

Some plants and flowers

I love how these bright yellow daisies are highlighted by both their own foliage and the large barberry behind them

There are all sorts of gardens here from all over the world. I am having trouble with my back and cannot see as much as I would have liked. Here are a few more special ones.

Artichoke thistle


John walks over to the vegetable gardens while I sit a while on a bench and commune with nature.  The tomatoes here are way behind Sarah’s. She reports that we are overrun with tomatoes at home. I guess the almost thousand mile difference in location makes a big difference in the lives of these plants.

Still green tomatoes in BC

The restaurant, Shaughnessy, here at the gardens is open for lunch until 3 PM so we decide to have a late lunch and let it count for both lunch and dinner. We split an appetizer and an entree.

Calamari with olives, onions, fried capers and yogurt/mint sauce

Steelhead trout with a shrimp and rice cake, grilled tomatoes, asparagus and carrot/ginger sauce.

We have had a lovely day and it makes us happy!

Happy us!

August 17, 2017 – Zoo news

Today we took the spectacular ride from Whistler to Vancouver. What scenery!! Here are a couple of pictures I took out the window of the car.

Canada 99, the Sea to Sky Highway, closely parallels the Strait of Georgia

The Strait of Georgia empties into the Strait of Juan de Fuca and then into the Pacific Ocean

It is too early to check in so we decide to head down to the zoo in Langley about a half and hour or so southeast of Vancouver. George has been saying that Jonathan has the best wildlife siting (a moose) on our respective vacations and we are ready to prove him wrong! After a quick lunch at Mc Donald’s we are off to the zoo.

This is not the world’s best zoo. There are a lot of attractions that are empty. Others have aninmals that are hiding somewhere. Unfortunately we never see a moose which was our main goal. However, John gets to participate in the raptor show by catching a hawk on his wrist and that makes the pretty steep fee all worth it.

John’s big moment and other moose related pictures –

John catching the hawk

John petting the hawk

Moose-ter and hen

Collared moose-ary

Nadal and family (capybaras)

Night-flying hooting moose

The flightless moose-trich

African striped moose

A rare Australian moose

We win!

We have a late dinner at Maenam which we have been looking forward to for a year. Once again we get the Chef’s Tasting Menu.

Amuse bouche – tamarind shrimp on pineapple and coconut custard and shrimp (yum) served with Wild Goose Pinot Blanc

Hot and sour shrimp soup with oyster mushrooms (still drinking Pinot blanc)

Braised octopus salad served with Kitsch Pinot noir rose

Steamed mussels with chilis, lemon grass, Thai basil, and kafir lime leaves plus nam jim sauce (Yum) Pinot noir rose also goes with this dish

Penang braised beef curry served with Tantalus Juveniles Pinot noir

Stir fry hanger steak with baby corn, Szechuan green long pepper, green beans, and bell pepper (Tantalus Juveniles Pinot noir)

Coconut ice cream with frozen raspberries (Yum)

I have noted three things with a special “yum” as being particularly outstanding. However, this year the food is not quite as wonderful as last year’s. I think maybe it is because there is too much beef. Maybe people were complaining that it was too seafood centric. We are going again on Saturday and we will have the Chef’s Tasting Menu again as it changes day to day. They also have a vegetarian tasting menu that we might try.

August 16, 2917 – Gondola time

We have a lazy morning and head out to the gondolas around 11:30 in the morning. It is a pretty 20 minute walk to the gondolas.

Hanging flowers in a shopping area. The farmers’ market will be here later in the day

Covered bridge

Rushing creek

When we get to the gondola area it is packed full with mountain bikers of all ages and tents selling all sorts of bike paraphernalia. There are many signs which say, walk your bike!, but not many are paying attention. We run the gauntlet to the gondola.

There’s a bit of a wait for the gondola as some gondola cars are for bikers only. They and their bikes have to get up the mountain too!

Bikes in a gondola car

The views out the windows are incredible. I take a lot of pictures. It takes quite a while to get to the top of the mountain. Then we will take another gondola from Whistler Mountain to Blackcomb Mountain.

We pass by part of the mountain biking route as we go up

Getting toward the top!

We get out and walk around for a bit. It is quite barren up here.

John meet bear

A look at nearby peaks

Now we get into the intimidating peak to peak gondola.

View down to Whistler and the lake

John looking out the gondola car window

Gondolas going by

Our plan is to take a look around, take some pictures, and have some lunch at the restaurant here at the top of the mountain.

John on Blackcomb Mountain with Whistler far below

Mary of the mountains

The restaurant includes a cafeteria style restaurant and one with table service. We choose Christine’s at Blackcomb Mountain and we are glad we did. We decide to share one appetizer and one entree. Both are great!

We start with hamachi with pickled grapes, olives, almonds, and grill shishito peppers

This burger is definitely big enough for two. It’s a Vietnamese pork burger with pickled vegetables. The bowl of root vegetable chips is really yummy.

After lunch we spot some wildlife – a hairy marmot

Then it’s back across and then down the Whistler Mountain again. After are walk back to the hotel we need some rest time. We decide against dinner and just have some snacks and wine and call it a night.

Great day in a beautiful place

August 15, 2017 – Through the burn to Whistler

It is still smoky in Kamloops in the morning. We ask at the desk and they say that the roads are open to Whistler. As we hit the highway there is a disturbing sign saying that the entrance to 99 from 97 is closed. That is the way we are going. Then there are no more signs so we take our chances and continue on. As it turns out we are allowed to proceed but only with a pilot car through the recently burned area.

I do not take any pictures until we are clear of the smoke. Everything is really hazy. Finally we get beyond the smoke area and we head to have some lunch in one of few towns that are on our route, Lillooet. Since we had such an abysmal experience trying local food yesterday we decide to go with generic fast food at A & W. One thing I can say about Canadians they are nice, polite, and helpful. (Maybe three things!) We tell the woman behind the counter what we want and she figures out how we can get it. Having an old time-y root beer is the frosting on the cake.

John enjoying an A & W root beer

The scenery on our rather long drive today is spectacular. There’s mountains, more turquoise lakes and rivers, and fast running creeks. We stop every once in a while to take pictures.

Beautiful Lake Seton


Mountain peaks

Rushing Cayoosh Creek

Finally after almost six hours we are getting closer to Whistler. The mountains are taller now and some are still snow covered.

Mountains with snow

After stopping for some iced coffee with about 30 minutes to go we reach Whistler. It is really busy! It seems that some big downhill mountain bike racing event is going on. We check into the Four Seasons Resort and are pleased with our room. It has room for sitting, blogging, and sleeping!

Sitting area of room

After a while of relaxing we opt not to eat at the fancy fine dining restaurant and opt for the bar where they have a smaller (and cheaper) menu. We order a charcouterie and cheese board and it is really good. Most of the sausages are made with duck or elk. One is flavored with juniper berries. It’s enough for dinner.

Cheese and charcouterie board

Tomorrow we will take the gondola up the mountain and then the peak to peak gondola to go near the top of Blackcomb Mountan. I am hoping I will not be freaked out by the heights.

August 14, 2017 – Turquoise Lake Louise

We get up early this morning because we have heard that if you are not at Lake Louise before 9 AM, you probably will not get a parking space. The Lake is about 45 minutes away so we leave shortly after 7AM.

Downtown Banff early in the morning

Departing Banff there are a lot of low clouds

The drive is lovely

I have a plan. I figure we should go directly to Lake Louise and see it first.  Everyone has heard of Lake Louise but how many people have heard of Moraine Lake. Turns out that Lake Moraine is on the back of one of the Canadian coins, I think. Plus it is Canada’s150th birthday and all their national parks are free and crowded. But first, Lake Louise which is named after the 4th child of Queen Victoria. The fabulous turquoise color comes from “rock flour carried into the lake by melt-water from the glaciers that overlook the lake.” Wikipedia

Lake Louise

John by Lake Louise

Mary by Lake Louise

Flowers by Lake Louise!

So far my plan has worked for avoiding crowds. Now we are heading to Moraine Lake. Ever since George showed us pictures of Moraine Lake I have looked forward to seeing it. What I had not planned on was the horde of people who were already there. The parking lot and street parking is full all the way to the point where you are no longer allowed to park on the street. We wander around the parking lot but there are no spaces. The sad picture is a tiny sliver of Lake Moraine taken from the parking lot. Many people in cars, RVs, and buses come and park and then go for extended hikes which makes it impossible for people, who can no longer hike great distances, without a place to park.

As close as I was going to get to Lake Moraine

We drive to a pullout as we travel back along the road to and from Lake Moraine for some memories of the misty mountains.

Misty mountains

More misty mountains

We still have five hours left to drive not counting the innumerable delays for road construction and lunch. Speaking of lunch, I had the worst lunch ever in Revelstoke. It consisted of a burnt-to-a-crisp hamburger and overcooked but soggy fries. It must be a sign that I need to stop eating these things. I thought it would be a safe order. I took no pictures.

As we finally approach Kamloops, BC the smoke is really thick. It is hard to see much of anything.

Kamloops is full of smoke from the nearby fires

We are staying at the Fairfield Inn and Suites which we have found to be the most consistent of the chain hotels. After some relaxing we go to dinner at Romeo’s Kitchen and Spirits. This is supposed to be run by the celebrity chef of Kamloops. He has appeared on Iron Chef and Chopped Canada. Once again John orders better than I do. I should just order whatever he is having.

My Penang Tofu Curry ( I substituted tofu for chicken)

John’s Laksa

Tomorrow we are going to Whistler, BC and hopefully out of all the smoke which makes me cough.

August 13, 2017 – Into the Canadian Rockies

After spending an inordinate amount of time finding gas and somewhere for breakfast, we were finally on the road around 10:30 AM. This was supposed to be an early departure day since we wanted to go past Banff and see Lake Louise and Moraine Lake today. However, we’ve decided to push them off until tomorrow so that we can view them with fewer people early in the morning.

We have been on the prairie since Idaho and I am excited that today will feature terrain. It is a hazy morning so we do not see the Canadian Rocky Mountains until we get quite close and, wow, are they impressive – craggy limestone piercing the sky. I take some pictures from the car as we approach.

Canadian Rockies!

Getting closer to Banff

We are staying at the Moose Hotel. We check in early and they upgrade us to a suite, sweet! They have a moose statue out front.

John and moose 3

We walk to the local IGA and get some snacks that will take the place of lunch and some bagels and cream cheese for breakfast tomorrow and settle in to watch the Federer/Zverev match. Somewhere during the match Federer must have hurt his back or something because in the second set he is hardly trying. He loses. Boo.

It’s raining so we decide to stay in and relax. We are getting up early tomorrow so we need our energy. Later we go downstairs and eat at the hotel restaurant, Pacini, and have an okay meal. John has lasagna and I have penne primavera. They have this weird grill arrangement where you toast your own bread. Afterwards we come back to the room and I am now fighting with the internet to try to get my pictures uploaded but at this point it doesn’t look good.

Early Monday AM. – most people must still be asleep because I am able to upload the pictures.

John’s lasagna

My pasta primavera – more vegetables, less pasta, please!



August 12, 2017 – Drumheller, Alberta

We have based ourselves just northwest of Calgary which gives us flexibility in our sightseeing. Today we range about 130 kilometers to the northeast to learn about dinosaurs, mining, and the old Canadian West.

Yesterday I bought an app which gives us a tour of the area. We drive, we enjoy. We do not have to do anything. Our tour guide is synced with our GPS and just comes on with info when we need it. Seems to me my Trip-Tickle was supposed to work like this.

Here is what we are guided to –

Horseshoe Canyon. This is the type of banded rock we are going to see.

A typical rock full of inclusions

When we get to Drumheller we are directed to the Visitor’s Centre where we also see the world’s biggest dinosaur.

The world’s largest dinosaur evilly
stepping on someone’s pick-up truck


John and triceratops

From there we head out on the hoodoo trail. The places we go to either have s connection to mining or geology. Our first stop is at a suspension footbridge over the Red Deer River. This was used by miners who lived across the river from the mines.

Looking across the suspension bridge

View of the bridge from the side

Just like a Bryce Canyon NP there are hoodoos except that the colors tend to be the muted browns and cream of the surrounding countryside. We take a walk among the hoodoos.


Lone hoodoo

Hoodoo sentinels

Top of a hoodoo

OMG, an actual picture of me! (Unfortunately there is a big red blob over my face courtesy of the camera or the sun or something)

Then we drive along to the Atlas Coal Mine which is now a state historic site. It has a wooden tipple (coal sorter) and for $10 each we could go have a closer look but we decided we’ve seen enough coal mines during previous trips (which is why we know what a tipple is).

Banded hills as we ride along towards the Atlas Mine


Atlas Coal Mine

On the way back toward Drumheller we stop at the almost Ghost Town, Wayne. The only things in the town supposedly inhabited are the Rosedeer Hotel land the Last Chance Saloon. We walk through the saloon and the lobby of the hotel but find no ghosts so we continue on our way in search of lunch back in town.

Last Chance Saloon and Rosedeer Hotel in Wayne, Alberta

We understand that Tim Horton’s is the iconic lunch place in Canada. We’ve seen them everywhere. Much like poutine we have managed to avoid it so far but, seriously, it cannot be as bad as poutine (sounds). We thought it would be sort of like Denny’s but it is not. It is more like McDonald’s without hamburgers and fries. You order at a counter and pick up your food. I have a BLT on a untoasted French roll. John had a cold cut sandwich. The sandwiches are accompanied by soggy potato wedges. We won’t be going back.


Iconic Tim Horton’s

After lunch it is our plan to go to the Royal Tyrell Museum of Palaeontology. It seems half of Canada has the same plan so we decide to do the second half of our audio tour and come back later. This is the Dinosaur Loop but there was nothing about dinosaurs in the tour. First we went to Horsethief Canyon where, guess what, horse thieves used to hide their stolen horses, rebrand them, and then try to sell them. It is an overlook. We take some pictures.\

A view of Horsethief Canyon – I am standing on the edge here and the canyon is quite deep

View from the other side

Then we take a ferry (which the narrator keeps calling a fairy, annoyingly) that holds thirteen cars across the Red Deer River. The ferry is pulled across by a cable. It is named the Bleriot Ferry. The guy who it is named after is the brother of the more famous Bleriot who was the first person to fly solo across the English Channel. John remarked that he was wondering if they were related. I was more, “Bleriot, who?”

Our car getting on the ferry

Our car on the ferry. It was a very slow ride.

Our last stop is at the Orkney Viewpoint which is quite scenic and overlooks the canyon with the prairie stretching out beyond it.

Scenic look at the Red Deer River

Looking across the coulee to the prairie (the thin edge of yellow at the top of the picture)

We take another shot at the Tyrell Museum but there are no parking spaces. We give up and head back to the hotel where we watch some tennis and eat some dinner. Tomorrow we head to Banff. I am looking forward to terrain!

Our appetizer is drunken shrimp which is delicious. It is the best thing we have had here at the hotel restaurant

John has his old standby, Buffalo chicken wings and a salad

I have Chicken Tikka Masala with rice and naan (the naan is actually pita)


August 11, 2017 – Stampeding in Calgary

No post yesterday because we did nothing post worthy. We drove to Calgary and then watched tennis for the rest of the day. We needed a little vacation from our vacation. But here we are in Calgary and it is time to get going!

Calgary manhole featuring the Calgary skyline

Two nights ago we were talking with our server in Lethbridge and she was originally from Calgary.  She loves Calgary so much that she has an outline of the skyline of Calgary tattooed on the inside of her arm. That’s is true love.

Jordan’s Forearm or Calgary

Today we go to Calgary’s Heritage Park HIstorical Village where we can experience yesterday today.

John and sign

One of the first things we see is another moose! Jonathan has a picture of an actual moose that he met on a trail. But now we have two faux moose and John pictures.

John and moose

There are a lot of turn of the 20th century buildings here. Also a train and a paddle steamer. We plan on looking at some of the buildings, taking a train ride, and a boat ride, and watching a woodworking demonstration. First up the boat ride.

Replica of a paddle steamer from a lake in Canada

Sailboats out on the lake

A little while later after viewing the many train engines and cars that they have in their museum we board the train for two circuits around the park.

Train with man who just wouldn’t get out of the way

After walking around for more than three hours in the heat we decide to call it a day. We cannot wait to get back and take showers. For dinner we decide to just go down to the restaurant here and watch the tennis matches while we have dinner.

Appetizer of a stuffed pretzel that we shared

John’s Asian street tacos

I have a salad with tuna

August 9, 2017 – Seein’ the sights in Lethbridge, Alberta

We have a lazy morning not getting up until 7:00AM. After a leisurely breakfast we watch the Federer. V. Polanski match at Montreal. Very contrasting styles. Federer won easily, Yay!

Then we left for Fort Whoop-up which started life as a trading post. (Actually this is just a reproduction of the real fort/trading post which was a ways away and got washed away in a flood.) After an informational movie we walk around the site seeing the various artifacts and reading the placards. The main trading went this way – you give me a bison pelt and I will give you some flour and sugar, you give me two bison pelts and I will give you a gun. And of course they also traded whiskey which was lethal to the Native Americans. Finally the Canadian government sent out the Northwest Mounted Police to stop the illegal trade and lawlessness. But a lot of damage had been done to the First Nation (the term they prefer to use in Canada.)

John whooping it up

John feeding a miniature donkey

John, a member of the original 12 tribes of Israel, beside a tribal abode

Interior of the trading room

Whoop-up kitchen

A Boston Baked Beans recipe from 1847

Whiskey smuggler!

Next we stop in at the Helen Schuyler Nature Centre (Canadian spelling) and look around briefly. This is mostly a place for children to come and learn about nature. They have a cool display that plays different bird songs.

Helen Schuler Nature Centre

It’s 2 PM so we had better grab a quick lunch. We stop at a nearby Wendy’s and have a pretty meh lunch. Then we proceed to the Galt Museum. The Galts were the bigwigs in these parts and made a fortune from discovering high grade coal and “persuading” the Canadian Railway to establish a nearby line so they could ship their coal out. It’s why the High Level Bridge was built. Interestingly the High Level Bridge is the highest and longest bridge of its type in the world.

The Galt Museum and Archives

Contemporary railroad art installation at the Galt Museum (High Level Bridge in background)

Time to hurry back to thre hotel and watch some more tennis. Nadal is playing and as usual we are hoping he loses. (He doesn’t)

For dinner we go to Moxie’s which bills itself as a classic restaurant and lounge. By classic I think they mean 1950’s but at least they have updated the menu if not the decor. We have a few small plates to share and a salad. It turns out it is half price wine Wednesday. So we buy a bottle.

Our server is a very chipper young person from Calgary who is studying math to become a teacher in Lethbridge. She gives us some pointers about Calgary and we talk some politics. The Canadians are not liking Trump at all.

She also insists that we must try poutine, the national dish of Canada. We have assiduously avoided ever eating this because it sounds horrific. It is French fries and cheese curds covered in brown gravy. Why bother making crispy French fries if you are just going to drown them in gravy. Perhaps it accounts for all the soggy fries we have come across and not eaten in Canada.

Cauliflower with spicy Korean sauce – so bad we sent it back, mush

Calamari and shrimp, much better than the cauliflower and the dipping spices were good

Sushi rolls. Not exactly sushi since the shrimp was tempura style but the best thing of the evening

Tomorrow we will be stampeding to Calgary.

August 8, 2017 – O, Canada

This morning we are off to Canada! It’s not quite like going to a foreign country but it is still exciting. The ride up to the Canadian border is pretty boring. It is mostly endless miles of recently shorn wheat on a terrain-less landscape. Finally we come to the border crossing,.

Border crossing

Crossing the border always makes you feel a little nervous. But the guard asks a couple of questions after looking at our passports and we are on our way. First, though we have to get a picture of the welcome to Alberta sign as we have never been in this province before.

We are anticipating all the wild roses

On the way to Lethbridge where we’ll be spending the next two nights there are no wild roses. In fact, Alberta looks exactly like Montana. Sigh. Once in Lethbridge we go in search of lunch and decide on a Mediterrean place called Pita Pit. We have to get some Canadian money to pay the parking meter but John reports that all the Canadians at the bank were very nice and friendly (as you expect them to be.)

After lunch we check into our hotel and then go out for some sightseeing. First up is the Nikki Yuko Japanese Garden.

Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden

This garden is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. It is a lovely place full of gentle breezes, shade, the sound of running streams, and just, serenity.

Pond at Nikka Yuko garden

Pagoda in the garden

Leaving this garden we head to the Rose Garden commemorating those killed in the 9/11 attacks.

Yellow rose, my favorite

A delicate pink rose

Then, after stopping at the information office, we take the scenic drive along and into the Oldlman river valley. We plan on doing some of the sites here tomorrow. We take a short walk and see the High Bridge and a hay ride.

High bridge over the Oldman River canyon

Hayride in the valley

Now it is time for a little rest and then dinner. Across from our hotel is a brew pub so we try it and decide that we’ll go somewhere else tomorrow night.

August 7, 2017 – Rooting for the home team

Busy day today that ended up with a trip to the local ballpark. Everything in Great Falls revolves around the Falls and the Lewis and Clark Expedition so today we went for a look at the greatest of the five Falls which were almost the stumbling block of the expedition. Unfortunately the dams on the Missouri have really changed their appearance. Good for many reasons but sad nonetheless.

The Falls prior to 1915

The Great Falls today

Some work is being done at the top of the Ryan dam at Great Falls and the entire flow is coming out of one pipe.

Getting to this point to see the Ryan dam is an adventure. It is about nine miles from Great Falls down a little road through fields of shorn wheat. We wind down the canyon of the river and park. We are the only people here. The best sight for the dam is across a foot bridge to an island.  I am game until part way across the bridge starts to sway. John assures me that all is well and we continue across- not my favorite thing to do.


Another view of footbridge

Next stop, the Giant Springs State Park where we will see the fish hatchery, the world’s shortest river and the giant springs.

The fish hatchery is breeding trout. We see an exhibition all about breeding and transporting the fish and some 6 week old rainbow trout.

Baby rainbow trout

Outside there is a viewing pond with adult trout. You can feed them for a nickel which the fish really like. They hang around wherever there are people looking for a free lunch.

Trout in the viewing pond. The gold ones are actually albinos.

John looks like he is blessing the children but he is actually feeding the fish

Finally we look at the smallest river. It is about 800 yards long and has all the attributes of a river, a source, a current, a mouth etc. The source of the river are the springs which begin in the Belt Mountains about 50 miles away  and travel underground until it finds some cracks in the limestone and burbles up next to the Missouri River at the rate of 150,000,000 gallons a day and then flows into the Missouri.

The Roe River with the Giant Springs

Finally we return to the Clark and Lewis Interpretive Center and work our way through the exhibits of their entire journey. Really interesting!

Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center

After a lunch which involved a lot of standing in line for a salad in an aluminum foil container at Cafe Rio, we spend the rest of the afternoon doing laundry before heading out to the baseball game between the Great Falls Voyagers and the Ogden Raptors.

Meh lunch at Cafe Rio

The baseball game is between two teams in the Rookie, short season category. The Voyagers are a White Sox farm team and the Raptors, the Dodgers. At first it seems sparsely attended.

Lonely section

The game has lots of errors, especially wild pitches. We leave after the 6th inning with the Voyagers ahead 15 to 7. Eventually they won 15 to 10. It was not a pitcher’s duel but quite fun and good beer!

Third pitcher for the Ogden Raptors

August 6, 2017 – Traveling to an important Lewis and Clark site

I put my foot down last night and said that I would not eat the horrible hotel breakfast on Sunday. Rather we should head up the road and stop somewhere to get breakfast. Mistake, big mistake. As you head out of Idaho Falls there is nothing, no food, no gas, no lodging, nothing. We travel on and on without even a convenience store. I was like Dorothy saying to Toto, ” We’re not in California anymore.”

Finally in Dubois, ID right before the Montana border we find a sign that indicates that there is a gas/convenience store. We and most of our fellow travelers get off the road. We choose pre-made English muffins with sausage, egg and cheese. As I eat around the cold edges of the sausage I wonder if I am going to pay for this later?

A cute aside –  we have been traveling along with some older Harley bikers since we were in Idaho Falls. They have stopped at Dubois as well. As soon as they get some food their party of five crowd around someone’s phone and do a video chat with one of their wives. “Yes, we are all fine. We had a good time last night but needed to get to bed early. We are heading up to Canada today. We’ll be careful. Do you have all the other spouses to forward our news to?” Tough guys!

We cross the Continental Divide at the border between Idaho and Montana. John is driving now. We put on a podcast of the History of the English Language. I will be asleep soon. Before nodding off though, I catch an interesting exit sign.

I sent this picture to Jon who asked “Is Conquer, MT next”

I snooze through the podcast. We stop for gas in Butte, MT and change drivers. Now that I am revived I drive the rest of the way to Great Falls. We get in around 1 PM and stop at Jimmy John’s for a sandwich. Then we head to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center.

Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center

We go in and watch a movie called the Confluence of Time and Courage about the plight of the expedition as it hit all the falls of the Missouri River and what they had to do to get around them. There was a model of the men taking the boats out of the water to portage them to the next navigable spot. Apparently this was a make it or break it moment along their trail to the Pacific Ocean.

Model of the portage

Uh oh, I am not feeling at all well. The spicy Thai food and the awful egg/sausage muffin have caught up to me. We must go check into the hotel! We make it to the hotel on time and I will need some lying down time. We will not be able to do all the things I had planned for the afternoon.

Luckily I am better for dinner (of course) and we go to a place called Artisan Fire Pizza and it is really good. Most of the reviews on Yelp have bemoaned the awful dining scene in Great Falls but have said that this place is an exception. We share a pizza and a salad and even a dessert. Guess I am okay.

Excellent Mediterranean salad

Pizza Margherita

Salted bittersweet chocolate chip cookie with vanilla ice cream

August 5, 2017 – Flags and Falls, Idaho Falls

If there are two things that Idaho Falls has it is giant U.S. flags and waterfalls. I think there must be a contest among the car, truck, and RV dealerships to find the biggest flag. The hotels are no slouches either. I cannot even estimate what the dimensions are.

One of many giant flags

Our day is supposed to begin with a spirited game of tennis but when we get up we find that the temperature is 47F. We are not prepared for playing tennis in temperatures that cold. By this afternoon it will be almost 90F and too hot to play. We go back to sleep instead.

After the not very good hotel breakfast we head down town to the park by the Snake River. It is a lovely green area right in the center of town and there are lots of people viewing the falls, cycling, walking, etc. We join in.

Part of the falls

John in the Japanese Friendship Garden by the riverwalk

Looking up the river at more falls

The people of Idaho Falls voted to create a diversion route for the Snake River in 1982. On it they built three turbines to generate electricity and funded the riverwalk. All along the river is a paved path with beautiful flowers, whimsical topiary and artistic benches.

Mary and the grizzly bear

John spies a topiary moose

We do a pretty good job walking along the river and check out the power plant and some new construction on the other side of the river. They have commissioned a massive wildlife sculpture at one of the roundabouts.

Wildlife sculpture of an eagle landing at a nest

It’s lunch time and we stop to have a burger at 5 Guys. Pretty good.

Then it is off to the Art Museum where we view a Western themed special exhibition. There are finely tooled saddles, silver bits, and furry chaps. Cowboying is a serious business.

Art Museum

Saddle and chaps

Really fancy saddle

There’s also an exhibition by a local artist, Shushana Rucker. Her oils of the gritty side of urban industrialism are really good but I have no idea where you would hang one.

At this point we decide to have a little respite before we finish our afternoon sightseeing. It gives me time to catch up on the blog writing and nod off. We are off again at three to tour the Museum of Idaho which has a special lunar landing exhibit and quite a few artifacts from the beginning of Idaho Falls, once known as Eagle Rock.

John proudly standing by a picture of the lunar landing module for which he wrote code when he was only 18 at MIT

Picture of Idaho Falls as it was in the late 19th century

One of the Main St. exhibits has all kinds of groceries and notions you might have needed at the turn of the century

There is also a short film and exhibit on the Idaho National Lab which was established in the early 1950’s to build prototypes of nuclear reactors. It was a great success and continues with scientific projects to this day. It had its risks though and incorrect disposal of nuclear waste has created a SuperFund site where contamination has seeped into the aquifer.

Around 5PM we stop at the Idaho Brewing Company to try out their beers. Of course we have to take the obligatory John and beer picture.

John with his sampler

Tonight we are having Thai food and have gotten a recommendation from the bar guy last night. Our dinner at Krung Thep is outstanding. We start out with fresh spring rolls and then move on to spicy eggplant, peppers, and onions with tofu. So good!

John getting ready for dinner with a Singha

Fresh spring rolls

Spicy eggplant, onions, and peppers with tofu and white rice

Off to Montana tomorrow!!