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

Tansy

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 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

Waterfall

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 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.

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 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.

Footbridge

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!!

August 4, 2017 – the Museum of Clean and more!

We hit the road around 8 AM and our plan is to get to Idaho Falls around lunchtime, have lunch, visit one of our must-sees and check into the hotel. Of course it doesn’t work out quite like that. As we are nearing the Idaho border we spy a billboard advertising the Museum of Clean in Pocatello. What do you know? On the way to Idaho Falls we are passing right through Pocatello. The Clean Museum is too much to pass up!

Here is John being welcomed into Idaho

Luckily John thought to bring along our Roadside Geology of Idaho and as I am driving he regales me with information about Lake Bonneville and the strangely missing Mesozoic rock in the area. All this is super interesting except I got very little sleep last night and know  that I cannot keep driving. We switch drivers and, I never do this, I fall asleep until we reach Pocatello.

Roadside Geology of Idaho

As we pull off the highway I wake up and we make our way to the Museum of Clean, the brainchild of Don Aslett. Don Aslett made his fortune by starting a cleaning company when he was attending the nearby Idaho State University. It expanded across the United States.

Mary and the Museum of Clean

He has housed his museum in a refurbished 1915 architectural gem. Only the front facade is new.

Museum of Clean

We are greeted at the door by two robots made out of various cleaning paraphernalia and a lovely older lady who is really into the whole concept of the museum. She explains about various tours but we beg off. First, though she must show us the inside of an overly-stuffed garage. If we can name five things that we have in our garage we will pass the test and receive our choice of a book about cleaning. We win!

Dusty

Musty and John

We walk around the museum seeing early vacuum cleaners and carpet sweepers. There are old toilets and old toilet paper. Washing machines and early irons and manglers are all on display. We take a short break.

Mary resting for a sec in an old washing machine

John cools his heels in a bathtub

An hour is about enough and we head into Pocatello for some lunch. We find a place, Efresh, that sounds promising but is meh.

Did not like my tuna sandwich

John fared better with a cheesesteak

We have one more stop before getting into Idaho Falls. It is called Hell’s Half-Acre and is appended to a rest stop. It explains about a lava flow that seeped out of the earth about 2000 years ago. This was just an ooze not an explosive volcano. It spread out over the surrounding countryside often to a depth of hundreds of feet. The site we are looking out is 17 miles away from the main source. We take a short trail which is dotted with informational placards. It is very hot.

Area of solidified lava

The lava here is much like the oozing lava in Hawaii called pa-hoe-hoe

Finally we make the rest of the trip to Idaho Falls. After another short nap (Oh, I am so exhausted today) we make our scouting, shopping, and dinner plans. First we find tennis courts so we can play tomorrow morning. Next we find the Idaho Brewing Company where John would like to try their beers, third we buy a bottle of wine for our dinner at Chef Shane’s Perspective. Then we have a glass of wine at the Blackrock Fine Wines and Craft Beers in downtown Idaho Falls. We have misjudged our timing and need to kill about a half an hour until our reservation.

On tap at the Blackrock Fine Wines and Craft Beers is Alameda Brewing Company’s P-town Pilsner

Finally we arrive at Chef Shane’s where we have a scallop appetizer and some pork entrees. Mine is super salty and kind of dry. John likes his although I think the pork belly could have been seared and caramelized like we had in China.

Scallop appetizer

My too salty and dry flat iron pork (the vegetables and potatoes were super, though)

John’s porkbelly

 

Road trip, 2017 – Ptown to Tonopah

We leave around 8 AM for the start of our road trip and a leisurely journey half way to St. George, UT today. After a quick stop for breakfast in Manteca we run into a little traffic in Oakdale. Due to our long history of finding interesting things we notice this I.O.O.F. Art Deco building with its fabulous turret clock.

Odd Fellows building facade with turret clock

Our next stop is at Chinese Camp, CA to change drivers. We stop at California Historical Marker No. 423 which is about the founding of Chinese Camp, the still-standing post office built in 1854, and the Tong Wars. We wander around the town which is mostly comprised of derelict old buildings.

Historical marker about Chinese Camp

Then it’s on to Yosemite NP. The trouble with going through the park is all the slow drivers. We just want to cross through the park and others would prefer to gawk at every leaf and rock. Nonetheless we manage pretty good time. Here are some pictures from our transversing the park by way of Tioga Road.

A view of Lake Tenaya

Looking across the lake

There are still patches of snow on the mountains

A granite dome that looks like an ape to John and a Stormtrooper to me

We have lunch at the Whoa Nellie Deli where we have a bowl of indifferent vegetarian chili which is greatly helped by the addition of cornbread.

Vegetarian chili with cornbread

Now we have just over two hours left to Tonopah so it’s past Mono Lake, over roller coaster road, a left turn at Benton where there are children in the playground for the first time in 14 years of passing this tiny town, then a right at the burntout shell of a bordello in Coaldale, and we are in the nowhere town of Tonopah.

We are staying at the refurbished but still dingy historic Mizpah Hotel. Our room is very small and there is no place to put anything but we will survive. It is only one night.

some pictures from our evening in Tonopah –

The town has been trying to spruce up  itself with civic art but a lot of the storefronts are abandoned and it is all rather depressing looking.

Big Bill who saved many miners in a mining accident

Salute to the troops

Mural of the many planes tested at the nearby range

Tonopah takes pride in being the home of the stealth bombrt

The County Courthouse looks like there is a space ship bursting out of it.

Lastly we have dinner at the new-ish Tonopah Brewing Company. John has burnt ends and I have  BBQ chicken sandwich. It is merely okay. John likes the porter a lot.

Friendly interior of a Tonopah Brewing Co.

Actually even the nuclear test site was not very spicy

John and beer

John’s burnt ends – not enough bark and spongy in the center

My chicken sandwich. Pretty meh.

On to St. George tomorrow!

July 17, 2017 – Anniversary in Sonoma

Happy Anniversary to us!

Well, here it is our 45th anniversary. Wow. We are fortunate to have such a long and happy marriage but I think we are well suited to each other and have worked hard over the years to keep our marriage a happy one. Now as oldsters we get as much pleasure in each other’s company as we ever did, maybe more so. We are both so interested in the world around us and now that we have the internet at our fingertips, our conversation never lags.

For instance, today we pass a truck loaded with sacks full of rice hulls. What are those used for I ask. John always has an answer and tells me that they are used for cleaning industrial parts. I google it up and tell him the myriad uses that rice hulls have. Now we are ready the next time rice hulls come up in conversation! This is the kind of fun with have.

Today we are in Sonoma Valley for a little wine tasting, a dinner at a favorite place, and an overnight.  Our first stop is at Jacuzzi Winery. They are quite busy for a Monday. We taste and buy a few bottles. We also stop in at their olive oil outlet and taste some olive oils and have our bottles refilled.

Jacuzzi Winery

John at the bar at Jacuzzi

Then it is on to Ledson Winery where I am looking for an old-style peppery Zinfandel. We enter their Addams family building and are met by a concierge. She leads us to a tasting area. I wonder if they do that to separate the wheat from the chaff. Having made the grade we sample some wine and buy a case. Annoyingly they do not give us the member discount that they promised as a lifetime perk of joining the club.

Ledson Winery

There are not many places to have lunch around here. We used to go to The Kenwood but as we pass it we notice that it is no longer in business. We settle for Cafe Citti and are pleasantly surprised with a tasty sandwich and a delicious chickpea side. We should have only ordered one since the portions are enormous and neither of us finish.

Smoked turkey and mozzarella on focaccia with chickpea salad

Lastly we go to Imagery Winery but I am not so much into it. I am tired and a bit sleepy from the big late lunch and the wine tasting. But John soldiers on and we buy a few bottles from them.

We are staying the night at the Best Western Sonoma Inn which is not great but has a wonderful location right off Sonoma Square. After a nap (for me) and showers we head over to Tasca Tasca for dinner. It is so nice that it is within walking distance. Here we have their tapas menu. It is great to be able to pick out a bunch of small plates and have a little dessert afterwards.

John’s five dishes are  bocerones, lupini beans, tripe, goat stew, and squid salad

My five are ceviche, gazpacho, foie gras terrine, squid salad, and blue cheese with apple

Dessert includes the super spicy piri piri chocolate ice cream, olive oil ice cream and some date cake and chocolate

We have had a lovely anniversary and I am looking forward to many more.

July 9, 2017 – Homeward bound

We take a boat ride and then a bus ride to Heathrow for our afternoon flight home. Since we are flying Virgin Atlantic we get to try their London lounge. It is very nice with even a menu and table service. It is a good thing that we decide to have lunch at the lounge in the airport because their food on the flight is inedible. We each have a vegetable korma.

Vegetable korma with rice and pappadam

Our flight is somewhat delayed taking off but makes most of the delay up during the flight. The seats are somewhat lacking in shoulder space.

John in his narrow cube

After an interminable 10+ hours we land at SFO. We get through Customs and Immigration in the fastest time ever, quickly receive our luggage, and Sarah is ready to pick us up. We arrive home before 7 PM, try to stay up for a while and crash around 9 PM.

We have had a good time on our trip but realize once again that touring with a bunch of people is not our favorite way of traveling.

 

July 8, 2017 – London

We pull into London early Saturday morning after a day at sea where our major activities were going to a lecture about the architecture of London and getting John’s cold better. It is a very noisy docking and if I had known how noisy our third deck suite was going to be I might have considered postponing the trip until a suite on a different deck was available. The anchor and lines mechanisms were right below us.

The itinerary for the day is different from what was scheduled due to a large Pride parade which is causing street closures. The new itinerary is the Viking will get us into London by boat and then the rest is up to us. We are fine with that and decide to visit the National Gallery which is right on Trafalgar Square and within walking distance of the Thames Clipper stop at Westminster Pier.

On our trip from the Viking Sea down the Thames we see many of the iconic buildings mentioned in yesterday’s lecture. Londoners have fanciful names for them.

The Armadillo and the Shard

The London Eye

Houses of Parliament and Big Ben

There are a lot of people in London this morning and the numbers only increase as the day wears on. We take a less populated route to Trafalgar Square and pass by other iconic London spots.

New Scotland Yard

Her Majesty’s Horse Guards

Lord Nelson watching over the festivities in Trafalgar Square

We make our way past the throngs who are looking forward to a concert later and into the calm of the National Gallery. Knowing our museum stamina we decide to concentrate on an exhibition by Giovanni da Rimini and their collection of 13th to16th century art.

Giovanni da Rimini has mostly been overlooked (no pictures allowed)

Bacchus and Ariadne by Titian

After looking at the Exhibition and a century or two of other art, we stop for lunch.The service is very slow but our table overlooks Trafalgar Square and we watch the goings-on below. The lunch is worth the wait and is quite tasty.

John has roasted quail

My first choice was vegetable terrine but it met with a mysterious kitchen accident so I had potato dumplings (gnocchi) with chanterelles and artichoke purée

After some more browsing we head back to the Clipper through the crowds which have now become quite bevved up and are leaving their glass bottles everywhere. We are jostled quite a bit in our attempt to get through the parade attendees and I am happy to return to our ride back to the ship.

On the way back we see buildings on the other bank of the Thames.

St. Paul’s Cathedral

From left to right The Cheese Grater, the top of The Gherkin, and The Walkie-Talkie

The Tower of London

The Tower Bridge

Later we have dinner for the last time at the Chef’s Table. The menu (which we tried last night as well) is inspired by China’s Cantonese and Hualwang cuisines. It is really not very authentic but the chef has promised us a spicy dipping sauce tonight. (In addition to the pictures below there was also a coconut granita and a chilled mango cream.)

(Not very) hot and sour soup

Fried prawns with crispy garlic and chile – the chef makes a super spicy but delicious dipping sauce

Wok-fried beef with black pepper sauce and rice in a lotus leaf

The staff at the restaurant has been wonderful to us and the dishes have been mostly delicious. Everyone has been so welcoming that they would have been happy to see us every night. As is we had dinner there probably nine times. Vikesh, the manager, always had a table waiting for us next to a window.

Vikesh and John

 

 

July 6, 2017 – Edinburgh, Scotland

‘Tis a wee bit misty as the Viking Sea plies its way toward our berth in Rosyth near Edinburgh. We are treated to passage under three bridges spanning the river, Forth. The first called the Forth Bridge was built in 1882-1890. Interestingly the steel Forth Bridge is contemporaneous with the Eiffel Tower which was built of iron. The Forth Bridge is still in use carrying rail traffic across the river.

The Forth Bridge, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

The next bridge which is for car traffic was built in the 1950’s and opened in 1960. The final bridge is just finishing construction and its cables look like sails. It is due to open in September. It will be the new bridge for car traffic since it has baffles to cut down on the wind’s influence and the 1950’s bridge will be for trucks.

Two more bridges

Since this is Scotland, we are piped off the boat and onto the bus.

Piper

As we head into Edinburgh we get a little history about the place. Edinburgh is the capital and has around 500,000 people while Glasgow is the bigger city and has 600,000. The difference is due to the fact that Glasgow is on the Atlantic Ocean and Edinburgh is on the North Sea. Back in the day when they were deciding where the capital should be Edinburgh was more populated and prosperous because trading could be done all over the North Sea area while Glasgow fronted the unknown and more treacherous ocean.

On our drive we see a number of small, one-story houses called bungalows. It seems that people really liked the style of homes that they lived in India back when the sun was never setting on the British Empire. So they named the houses after the place where they lived. “Bangala” in Hindi merely means “of Bengal.”

 

Bungalows

We enter the section of Edinburgh called New Town because it was built outside the city walls. The houses are mostly stone of a yellow-ish hue. It has been found that cleaning the stone in the city makes it deteriorate even more quickly so much of Edinburgh is kind of dingy looking.

Typical houses in New Town

The Scottish Prime Minister lives in this block of houses

We pass by Holyrood Palace on our way up to an overlook. I cannot get a good picture though because Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip are visiting and security is blocking all the nearby streets.

At the overlook Edinburgh sprawls out in front of us and behind us are the remnants of an ancient volcano.

Overlook

We enter the Old Town which is somewhat more crowded together with a mishmash of architectural styles. They still have parks here that are for residents only and the key to the park can cost up to 15,000 Pounds!

Typical square in Edinburgh Old Town

The unattractive Parliament building where Scots are now allowed to legislate some of their laws

As we near our drop off point, Edinburgh Castle looms overhead

We now get dropped off for an hour and a half. We are not dropped anywhere historic but at the top of the Royal Mile which appears mostly to be a mile of schlock. I believe that once again the major function is to buy stuff. The place is overrun with tourists of every type.

Our major objective is to find a place to buy cold medicine for John, acquire more money from an ATM, and hopefully have a pint in a pub. I report success on all three objectives.

We find out that if  you want actual cold medicine going into the local chemist or Boots is not going to do it. We know from previous experiences that we want Day and Night Nurse. That is only available from a pharmacy. These shops tend to be smaller and have a green cross outside.

On the way to finding our cold medicine we pass the memorial to David Hume. John touches his toe and now we are promised . . .what? That our knowledge will only be founded  in experience and that our knowledge is either directly traceable to objects perceived in experience or resulting from abstract reasoning about relations between ideas which are already derived from experience? Well, duh, we already hold those views. Maybe we can pass the toe rubbing on to less empirical folk.

David Hume remarks to John, “Don’t waste my magic powers” (irony)

Next we see a memorial statue to Sir Walter Scott.

Sir Walter Scott

Sir Walter Scott was a Scottish playwright, poet, and historical novelist.

The edifice behind Sir Walter Scott is the Cathedral of St. Giles. St. Giles was a hermit and his only friend was a deer. St. Giles protected the deer from an arrow shot by some royal hunters. It wounded the deer but mostly St.Giles protected the deer by taking the brunt of the arrow in his hand. He has become the patron saint of disabled people. He is one of the  Fourteen Holy Helpers.

Exterior of St. Giles

Interior of St. Giles

After the detour to the cathedral we continue the hunt for cold medicine. While John is looking in Boots (fruitlessly), I find some interesting foods to look at in the self-service case.

Has this chicken sandwich been sitting here since 1952?

We finally find the pharmacy, get directions to the ATM, and now the only thing to do is to toast ourselves at a pub in the Scottish capital. We finally find one with twenty minutes left and guzzle down a quick half-pint before heading to the bus and back to the boat.

The Castle Arms pub

John having a Bell Haven’s Best

The remainder of the afternoon is just rest time and we decide on room service for dinner. Our electronic connection explodes and we are without a lot of power in the room. We have a lot of workmen in the room for the next hour but it is finally corrected. We finish watching Roger’s match at Wimbledon, order dinner, and go to sleep.

 

July 5, 2017 – Orkney Islands

The first thing we notice is that the topography of the Orkney Islands looks different from the Shetlands. It is green with rolling hills and there is a lot of farming going on and cows grazing in the fields. We are told that these cows only live outside for half the year due to the harsh winters. They are housed in the big barns we see.

Prosperous farm and pasture land of the Mainland Island in the Orkneys

We are really fortunate to have this great weather again today. It is only in the mid-50’s but the sun is shining brightly. Our first stop is at the Stand Stones of Stenness. There is a lot of interesting archeology going on in the Orkney Islands which is covered with stone rings and grass covered burial mounds from pre-historic times.

We hop off the bus to take a look at the Stones being careful to watch where we step since the field is also used for sheep grazing. The stones are from the Neolithic period dating to around 3000 B.C. The circle of stones and its encircling ditch or “henge” are incomplete partly due to the fact that the landowner in the 19th century started smashing and toppling them in order to keep sightseers away. The site is now under protection by the Scottish government and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Stones

Another stone

John next to a stone

Odd shaped stone

Mary by a Stone of Stenness

Next we drive by the Ring of Brodgar. This site is still being actively excavated. It has been dated as being from around 2600-2000 B.C. and originally had 60 stones of which 27 still exist. It was also encircled by a henge or ditch. The stones are smaller than the ones at Stenness averaging in height from 7 to 15 feet.

View of Ring of Brodgar

Another view

After seeing these sites we are dropped off in the picturesque town of Stromness. I think we are supposed to wander around buying things but it doesn’t seem like many on the bus are cooperating with the whole buying stuff scheme. We walk down several streets and take pictures. The architecture is similar to Lerwick with stone houses and businesses.

View of Stromness

Stone buildings of Stromness

Between two stone houses towards the sea – Stromness

Hotel and buildings fronting the harbor in Stromness

John is getting a cold so we spend the rest of the afternoon quietly in hopes that he will get better fast. Later we go to dinner at the Italian restaurant, Manfredi’s. Our meal is very good and we are tucked away in a corner where it is a little less noisy which is nice.

The basket of bread at Manfredi’s is assorted and plentiful (Note that John is busily taking notes, an endeavor that he is known for around the boat.)

Like last time, we both start with the octopus carpaccio

My first course is capellini with prawns

John has a snail risotto

We order a main course of grilled swordfish with extra vegetables. Even though we are splitting it, there is still 1/3 left over.

July 4, 2017 – Fourth of July in the Shetland Isles

Happy Fourth of July! Strangely, here in the U.K. they are not celebrating. Maybe because they were the losers?! We don’t mention it deciding to take the higher road. And speaking of who takes the high road and who takes the low and who gets to Scotland before whom, it is we who have arrived in Scotland. The Shetland Isles are part of Scotland but they have not always been. In 1468 the Danish king wanted his daughter, Margaret, to marry King James III of Scotland. But she needed a dowry and the king did not have enough money. He gave the Shetland Isles and Orkney Isles as a dowry to James III. Lots of place names in the islands are still Norse and the people there identify more with Norway (which was a part of Denmark at the time) than with Scotland.

As we approach the main city of Lerwick a little pilot boat draws along side to drop off a pilot for our trip into the harbor.

Pilot boat to direct us into Lerwick harbor

We are lucky it is a beautiful day. So often Shetland is rainy. It is not a very populated place  with a total population of about 70,000 people and almost half of these live in Lerwick. Our first look of the Shetlands is of a treeless landscape. The climate is so harsh, windy, rainy, cold, and full of salt spray, that trees and most plants have a hard time growing.

Our first stop on our panoramic bus tour of the Mainland Island is overlooking Scalloway Bay and the ruins of Scalloway Castle.

Scalloway Bay and the ruins of Scalloway Castle

Next are Shetland ponies! This is what everyone has been waiting for. The Shetland ponies come in mini, medium, and large but none can be over 42 inches at the shoulder. They were bred mainly for working in the coal mines of Scotland and Wales. Their short stature and stocky build made them perfect for hauling coal out of the mine shafts. The owner tells us that now a days it is hard to sell them and they can go for as little as 10 or 20 pounds. Everyone enjoys seeing them.

The little pony is six weeks old

This is a mini size Shetland pony

The black and white ones are all medium sized

This large black one just made it in as a Shetland pony since he is 41.5 inches

After oohing and aching over the ponies we get back on the bus to learn more things about the Shetlands. We pass a rock pillar called the murder stone. It has been dated to around 2 BC. According to a Scottish tourism site, “it is said that at the time that it was made, the Murder Stone was used to issue justice to murderers. If the offender could run from Law Ting Holm to the Murder Stone unscathed despite the efforts of the victim’s family and friends to stop him, he was pardoned of his crimes.”

The Murder Stone

Other photos from our bus tour –

Old Parliament building

The Shetland Isles have way more sheep than people (around 200,000)

A loch

Our bus!

We have been up for a long time since we had to go through Customs and Immigration at 6:30 this morning and our tour left early as well. When we finish with the morning’s activities it only 10:30 and not even time for lunch. We have a little rest and then decide that we will take the shuttle into Lerwick to find a fish and chips shop and lift a pint somewhere.

Grubby fish and chips place

Fried halibut and chips

No beer but we each got a nice mug of tea

Now it is time to find that pint of beer. We come across a hotel, The Queens, that has a bar entrance and settle in at the bar for a pint of Tennant’s and McEwan’s beer. There is even a TV screen and we ask the barman to put on Wimbledon – pretty perfect.

Queens Hotel (and bar)

John in his traditional beer pose

We wander around Lerwick for a bit and look at the distinctive stone buildings.

Lerwick’s distinctive stone architecture

When we get back to the harbor, John tells me all about the oil drilling ocean platforms and their escape pods. These enormous structures are getting ready to be towed out to sea.

Oil drilling platform

We are eating dinner at the Chef’s Table again tonight. It is the same menu as last night but worth eating twice. Before we head down to dinner we watch the pilot boat come along side of us and pick up the pilot before we pick up speed and head for the Orkney Islands.

Pilot boat coming along side of our ship to pick up the pilot