Monday, September 29, 2008

Montana Travels July 2008

Travels To Montana with Bonnie and Mike

Day 0: (Friday, 25 July 2008) Albuquerque: Bonnie works all day and into the night de-winterizing and preparing the RV: getting it washed, filling the water tanks, stocking food and drink, packing clothes and the necessities of life to take with us: laptop, GPS, cell phone, Golden Age Passport, medications, swimsuits, ice, DVDs, books on CDs, Sudoku and RV books, maps and the jodeling marmot (don't ask).

[photo centered below] Young Marmot in Shady Acres

Day 1: (Saturday, 26 July 2008) Albuquerque to Green River, Utah
On the road by 10 am, about nine hrs total; 446 miles; route is scenic from ABQ N on Tramway to I-25, take turnoff to Cuba, then to Bloomfield, NM, toward Monticello and Moab and Price, UT. We stayed at Shady Acres Campground in Green River and Bonnie prepared chicken alfredo and salad for dinner, then we went for a walk.

[photo below] Reflections on Jackson Lake Lodge
photo below: This is the life! Bonnie, breakfast, beauty.
Day 2: (Sunday, 27 July 2008) Green River, Utah to Grand Teton Nat'l Park, WY
On the road about eight hours, 430 miles. From just south of Salt Lake City, we head NE to Jackson, WY, a town which is quaint like Pagosa Springs but chock full of RVs and pedestrians. Seeing no reason to stop, we continue north into Grand Teton park, flash our Golden Age Passport and are waved into the park and some gorgeous scenery. We see a scraggly and grizzled bison who trudges along the same road we drove. Bonnie calls ahead and we stay at Grand Teton Park RV Resort, 6 mi east of Moran (WY) Junction on US Hiway 26. Again dinner in the RV and an evening walk in the gorgeous shadow of the Grand Tetons; a talkative lady who lives there long-term tells us how her husband, a geo-thermal engineer, is always the first to arrive at any job site and the last to leave – could it be because she talks so much?

Day 3: (Monday, 28 July 2008) Grand Teton Nat'l Park to West Yellowstone, WY
We sleep in and about 10 am head East back into the Grand Teton Park. A deer leaps out in front of the RV, but fortunately was well ahead of us. We almost saw a moose (according to some ladies who were whispering and looked aghast at us for talking in ‘regular’ voices to some other tourists, from NJ) but we were too noisy. We stopped at Jackson Lake Lodge, went into the lobby and out onto the deck to enjoy the views of herds of elk in the distance. We take pictures, and continue further to have our breakfast/lunch by the side of beautiful Jackson Lake with a few swimmers and many available picnic tables. Mike discovers the fun of RVing and having it all with you. We drive directly into Yellowstone from the Grand Tetons and again flash our Golden Age Passport for entry – we didn’t realize the two parks were contiguous! We drive around the lower loop toward Old Faithful and call Paul Elder on the cell phone from the Lodge parking area to tell him we’ll take another day in Yellowstone.

We hang up and head for the geyser area – it is 4:10 pm and we ask two waiting ladies when it is scheduled to go off. “Our guide said 4:15.” Wow! With a 90 minute interval, timing is everything! We stand in the shade with them and watch the geyser erupt, slowly, then more and more, well over 100 feet into the air, about 100 yards away from us. As Paul says, a Life Experience! Then we walk around the boardwalk of the geyser area, see some other activity and end up at Old Faithful Lodge where Bonnie purchases the trilogy of Yellowstone, which includes the Fires of August 1988 and Yellowstone in Winter – great videos!

Heading on around the loop we stop at the Lower Geyser Basin to marvel at the amazing colors of the geothermal springs. We learn the color is actually that of micro-organisms that thrive within the 200 degree water - Darwin was a genius! We stay the night at Yellowstone Grizzly RV Park, a truly impressive large-scale operation: 191 slot park with drive-in check-in lanes like returning a rental car. We walk into town and have dinner at the Oregon Short Line Restaurant, which has authentic railroad tracks stopping at the restaurant wall where inside we walk through actual 1905 era railroad cars showing the decor and dining of the age.

below: Mike, Lynne, Paul Elder at Bozeman lake.
Day 4 (Tuesday, 29 July 2008) West Yellowstone, WY to Bozeman, MT
We drive back into the park and head around the East side of the North loop. Bonnie finds a great place to stop for our brunch along the side of a stream where she dips her feet and notes two furry brown varmints (perhaps marmots? No yodels heard) frolicking on the far side. We take our time then head around the loop and out the north entrance of the Park toward Bozeman, MT and friends Paul & Lynne Elder, arriving about 4 pm. P&L met and married at the Air Force Academy ~ 1970 when Mike and Paul taught in the Math Dept. Paul was born and raised in Bozeman where his Dad headed up Facilities for Montana State Univ. They built their dream house on a lot they owned throughout their 25+ years in Albuquerque and we stayed upstairs in their 2nd master bedroom that Helen had always “insisted” they build for us! Each day Paul and Lynne walk 3.8 miles around their neighborhood and this evening we join them for the short track (0.8 miles) after a wonderful dinner by Lynne.

Day 5 (Wednesday, 30 July 2008) Bozeman, MT with Paul & Lynne Elder.
We head out to a lake about nine miles from Elders' home, then take the scenic tour of Bozeman, seeing where Paul was raised and went to schools. We went to CostCo (apparently Montana is not that remote) and bought Huckleberry Jam – we had learned at the Oregon Short Line that one cannot have a menu in Montana without some huckleberry entrée. We end the day at the Naked Noodle, a great pasta place where we choose the type and topping to create a fun meal. Then over to the Pickle Barrel right across the street from the campus for the big $2 ice cream bowl [4 scoops]. In keeping with the locale, Bonnie selects Moose Tracks, I choose Chocolate Runs Through It (chocolate ice cream with pure rivers of dark chocolate). We sleep the sleep of satiated sinners.

[photo below] At The Docks: Gary Simonsic, Bonnie, Susan, Mike
Day 6: (Thursday, 31 July 2008): Bozeman, MT to Kalispell, MT (about 6 hours);
We leave about 10 am after a leisurely breakfast with the Elders. We head west on I-90 out of Bozeman to Missoula; take MT-93 north of Missoula along west side of Flathead Lake. We are impressed with the size and beauty of this lake, so different from anything in New Mexico. We continue into Kalispell and go west on US-2 through town to home of Gary & Susan Simonsic, known as the Aspen Loop Inn. We check into the Black & White Room, fortunately still available.

Gary met Susan when he was attending Youngstown State and worked for Susan's Dad at the grocery store. After an early career as a chemist with oil companies, which he hated, Gary heard about Los Alamos, applied and was accepted, and they headed to New Mexico. George and Bonnie moved in two doors down about three years later, and the couples raised their children and became chose friends. Gary retired early from Los Alamos. About 2 1/2 years later they moved to Kalispell, following their kids: Christin in Great Falls and Michael in several Forest Service/ski areas in East Montana.

Even though the temperatures are cold in the winter, Kalispell receives less snow than Los Alamos. The weather comes from Seattle (only colder) so they only claim 71 days of sunshine per year. They found a developer in a great new area and got a house with a full basement for Gary's train layout. Today they are as happy as can be with activities for Gary to include Tuesday Rock Climbing, Wednesday planning for Thursday, and Thursday hiking Club.

Bonnie, Mike, Glacier = National Park.

Day 7: (Friday, 1 Aug 2008) Susan packs a lunch and we head off for Glacier National Park. There we stop first at the Logan Pass Visitor Center and secondly at Glacier Park Lodge. We passed waterfalls, the “weeping wall,” lots of beautiful scenery – no it was not that cold! Gary hikes within the Park almost every Thursday during the summer and maintains a map with pins indicating which peaks he has climbed. A lot of pins, a lot of peaks - but there are over 100 available. As we drive the Going-To-The-Sun Highway, Gary points out his favorites and we are enchanted with the waterfalls, wildflowers, lakes, streams, and mountains. We stop along the side of the road where a natural salt lick occurs and we spot some mountain goats taking advantage. That night we play Bonnie's Yellowstone Fires of 1988 DVD for Gary and appreciate again that dramatic sequence of events.

Day 8: (Saturday, 2 Aug 2008) Before breakfast we go to Farmer’s Market and get Flathead Lake’s famous cherries. Bonnie gets a bag of fresh huckleberries. Then to a bakery for fresh scones. We return home and Susan makes us a fancy breakfast. We head out for Flathead Lake. That afternoon we stop at the Lakeside (Marina) Restaurant: “The Docks” beside the Lake and waitress Dolly tells us that she commutes from across the lake, and that the new owners moved here from New Mexico. We celebrate a great "snack" of tacos for Bonnie, tortilla soup for Mike, chips with three kinds of salsa for Gary. That night Bonnie brings out Big Boggle for competition between the genders. The boys were doing well until Susan caught on how to play the game, and then it was Katie Bar The Door.

Day 9: (Sunday 3 Aug 2008) Kalispell, MT to Idaho Falls, ID
We head East on I-90 toward Butte. It is very windy, making RV driving difficult because of the high profile. When we get to Idaho, Mike can't get Bonnie to stop to visit the Potato Museum … what did we miss? We stay at Snake River RV Park in Idaho Falls and enjoy our lasagna and salad in the RV.

Day 10: (Monday 4 Aug 2008) ID to Moab, UT
Our Idaho Falls RV Park slot doesn't have sewer hook-up and Mike learns to use the dump station before departing. We head out toward Utah and when we get across the state line, we stop and have our breakfast at an enchanting roadside rest stop with little bridges and many trees, clean rest rooms and many picnic tables in the shade.

When we drove North last week, we were fascinated as we came through Moab, UT and so for this return, we decide to stay the night there. We drive through/by Arches National Park and are amazed at the rock formations and how hot it is, an almost cruel contrast to the cool weather we enjoyed in Montana. We stop at the Spanish Trail RV Park just south of the Nat'l Park. We walk across the highway and have a great dinner at the Branding Iron Restaurant. We decline to walk on to the Moab Museum (probably closed by this time) and head back to our RV park. Our neighbor has a square canvas 'room' topside of his 5th wheel which houses sleeping quarters for his kids. That night a vicious wind storm arises and we go out to roll up the window awning which is flapping loudly. Amazingly, our neighbor's canvas square is unaffected by the heavy winds.

Day 11: (Tuesday 5 Aug 2008) Moab, UT to Albuquerque, NM
In the morning, we easily dump our sewer line and head out for home. We take the scenic version back, reversing this part of our trip from the way we came north: We stop at Ute Mountain Casino (just inside Colorado border at Tawoac) for breakfast. We head for Farmington, then Bloomfield, then Cuba. We arrive home by 4:45 pm, just in time to swing by the 87123 Post Office and pick up our mail packets. Bonnie needs a bucket to hold all of her catalogs and magazines.

Summary: The RV was the ideal way to tour the national parks. We loved stopping and enjoying the roadside streams and picnic areas and visitor attractions. We did get a crack in the windshield from a passing open gravel truck in Utah (durn those Mormons!) but other than that, everything worked well. We weren't really exhausted with the trip but we did enjoy sleeping in each day. While visiting some treasured and dear friends, we experienced six states, four national parks, and some beautiful country, almost all of which was new to us. We would have seen a moose if we could just learn to keep quiet and whisper. Total trip: ~ 2,780 miles at 14 to 19 mpg. The cost of diesel ranged from $4.59 to $4.79 per gallon (by the time we returned home, it had dropped to $4.19 in the big city) and we both agreed the trip was well worth every penny spent - great life experiences, great life. A great RV trip!

The variety of Yellowstone beauty …
The grandeur of Glacier …
Is this a great country or what? …

Great Journey Through Europe June 2008

[add photos of Zermatt, Switzerland (from our hotel room) ]

Great Journey Through Europe with Bonnie and Mike

Saturday 14.06.08 (transfer from Albuquerque to Milano): Day started with the alarm at 3 am in Albuquerque and our Delta flight to Atlanta where we were met by Annabeth & Elaine and treated to a wonderful leisurely lunch at Houligan's in the Atlanta airport. We head off to our international flight with plenty of time to spare, and then end up waiting in the plane parked on the tarmac for hours of unsuccessful repair of sink in the First Class lavatory. This resulted in an additional 3 hour delay and change of planes, two hours more wait before we leave for our 9 ½ hour flight!) We were impressed that our Gohagan Travel Agent guy was still waiting at the airport after we off-loaded two hours later to change planes – he is not allowed to leave us until the plane is actually in the air.

In search of the elusive Matterhorn
Sunday 15.06.08 (Zermatt, Schweishof Hotel): We arrive in Milano quite late - it is Sunday afternoon - to meet Tom Brown, one of our hosts for the trip. We go by bus as far as Täsch (where son Doug stayed while skiing Zermatt with his buddies) and then go by train to Zermatt, which does not allow gasoline-powered vehicles in the town. We are by this time five hours late in the schedule but just in time for the Welcome Party hosted by our Gohagan Travel Co in the Schweishof Hotel. This was followed by dinner and since by this time we had not showered in 35 hours, Bonnie suggested we dine with the West Point group. After dinner, we have a nice walk around town as it is still light outside until 22:00. Bonnie is wiped out after our 35 hr "day." Surprisingly, Mike feels quite elated – perhaps because of deep (but short) sleep aboard the plane, whereas Bonnie has trouble sleeping on planes.

Monday 16.06.08 (Zermatt, Schweishof Hotel): Walked to railway station for Cog train up 10,000 foot Gornergrat (cloudy – no view of Matterhorn) lunch at restaurant up there –Bonnie lit candles in little church on top of mountains. We saw some real marmots and at the top, Bonnie bought a jodeling marmot. Paul and Barb McNaughton (USNA) walked with Bonnie and Mike down the Alps from Findelbach – we make it down OK, but then were at the far end of
Fountain for Marmots: Zermatttown of Zermatt – or was it Winkelmatt? Took us over an hour to wind our way through residential area, cemeteries, past Oom-Pah band with Alpine horn and broom playing. Dinner at hotel with group and then three luggage bags out by 11 pm for trip to Andermatt-Lucerne.

Tuesday 17.06.08 (Lucerne, Palace Hotel): We check into this 5-star hotel, our fanciest by far. Whole box of Swiss chocolates and fresh fruit platter in our room – not too shabby! After a nap, we walked down the promenade along the lake, observing the swans, ducks, and fellow mammals. We walked across the old wooden bridge (from 1200s) and found the church closed for remodeling through 18 June. Many vendor tents are set up for the big yodeling contest later this week.

Upon return, Bonnie enjoyed a cup of tea in the bar lounge ($8) and our talk with Katarina, our German (tall, Aryan) waitress who moved from Germany to Lucerne to work.

While we were gone, the turn-down service had visited our room and closed the automatic shutters overlooking Lake Lucerne. Thus we discovered we had built-in closeable shutters but opened them to enjoy the close of daylight – up to about 10 pm.

Wednesday 18.06.08 (Lucerne, Palace Hotel): Raise the electric shutters, hello Lake Lucerne! Separate tub and shower plus two sinks in this 5-star Palace Hotel. Breakfast included is extensive, from fresh fruit and yogurt and six cereal choices to scrambled eggs, bacon, and sausage and "cute" little French toast (like biscuits). Coffee, hot tea, fruit juice is included.

…cows mit bells in the Alps
… on the cog train heading down Alps…

We travel up Pilatus (long story re: body of Pontius Pilate) Mountain in 4-person ski-lifts and then transfer to 40-person gondolas. On the way we hear multitude of cow bells and see the cows grazing and flopping their heads around – quite loud! Too cloudy to see Mount Pilatus but once in a while during lunch at restaurant on top a mountain goat appears out of the haze and clouds. Then we go into a water-dripping cave which Bonnie retreats from – "sewer tour” as she calls it. The return trip is on a very steep cog train, quite a different experience from the trip up. Did someone say the cog broke? Oh no, they said the fog broke. (Whew!)

When we return from Pilatus Kolm, the sun starts shining through and we board a boat for a cruise across Lake Lucerene – beautiful! We get off the boat at the railway station and walk across the first Reusse River bridge to buy one-half loaf bread, an apple turnover, one extra pastry.

Thursday 19.06.08 (coach from Lucerne to Basil): We board coach and go to see the "saddest sculpture I have ever seen" – Mark Train: Dying lion (spear broken off in his back) to commemorate the 800 Swiss mercenaries (officers and troops) guillotined/massacred by the French Revolutionaries, 1789. Then back on the coach for a visit to Interlaken (beautiful little village) and then on to Bern, the "brains" of Switzerland. We learn the store fronts are one, two, or three arches wide depending upon the wealth of the original burghers. Switzerland/Bern has two classes of people: the burghers and the common people. We borrow 4 Swiss Francs from Bev Treis (of Bob & Bev USNA) to visit the Einstein apt where Albert lived during his "miracles year" of 1905 when at age of 26 he published six papers (including both special and general relativity) while working in the Swiss Patent Office. In Basil we board the Amadeus Princess and begin the “cruise” part of our adventure up (down) the Rhine River.

Friday 20.06.08 (Strasburg, France): Our male guide on the coach gives the dates when Alsace-Lorraine was German, then French, then German, then French. The monotone and list of dates soon puts us to sleep. During the walking tour of Strasburg our guide is more animated, telling of the German soldiers coming back with "the French Disease." For the French, they called it "the Romantic Disease" and created Petite French section of Strasburg. Structures in Strasburg are built on a sandstone base, and the upper floors push out since taxes were based on the ground floor footprint.

The Cathedral is truly stupendous and again with the dates of when it was built – total is over 300 years. There were always plans to erect a second steeple but no money to do so. We see the clock in the inside front right corner which has action every 15 minutes with a soldier or old man figurine moving. The days of the week move continually using statuary based on Roman basis for the days (Jupiter for Thursday, e.g.). We were there on Friday – Venus (vendredi). That afternoon we walk through large park with old walls and bocce players.

[add photos of "Down to Hell" – Cornhaus restaurant, Strasborg. and
Some of the clock of Strasburg cathedral ]

Saturday 21.06.08 (Mannheim): Heidelberg: Ate breakfast with couple from Syracuse, plus Dudley & Georgia Chase (USNA) – this cruise started with alumni from USNA, USMA, Bucknell, Indiana, and Purdue, then added Notre Dame and Syracuse. We take the coach early (08:00) for 40 minute drive to Heidelberg. There we meet Susann who is an excellent tour guide, with clear voice/clear English, good enthusiasm and knowledge. We first tour the Heidelberg Castle (model for Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland). The views from castle are breathtaking! In town we hear sounds of rehearsal for the organ recital emanating from the Church. The Ritter Hotel is a treasure, built in 1592 by the cloth dealer Carolus Belier of brown sandstone, full of fluted columns and ornately carved window decorations. Susann says homes like this are example of the German phrase "stone rich" when people were wealthy to make the entire house of stone rather than only the ground floor. During our free time, we get the kissing chocolate (symbolic of Heidelberg and the “Student Prince”) There we use "the service" at Grundel's to order a mixed fruit tart and a strawberry chocolate tart, plus hot tea for Bonnie. Unsuccessful stop at Rosenthal's to obtain a creamer of the design we liked aboard ship – we find these are not sold through their retail stores, only to restaurant supplies. Dr. Alex Hahn (ND prof. of mathematics) presents his second talk: "Reflections of Germany" and we follow that with the USNA cocktail party which also invites the three West Point couples. This time we showered first. After dinner we walked the 400 yards to the wine town of Rüdesheim. Sommer Soltice parties in full swing – although some streets are deserted, several are jumping with accordion music, polka, even Achy Breaky Heart and Elvis numbers. We see members of the Amadeus staff out in town, all to enjoy Mid Summer's Eve, the longest day. The Amadeus Capt wants to enjoy Netherlands in quarterfinals of EURO2008 however Russia prevails 3 -1 (OT).

Sunday 22.06.08 (Rüdesheim): This morning we embark in mini-trains for a walking tour of Rüdesheim, covering some of last night's preamble however adding two of the three castles/gardens. We see many vineyards and small family wineries – even a hotel with rooms inside wine barrels – hello claustrophobia! The town here, like so many we saw is bursting with blossoms and flower-filled window boxes – the colors and varieties are spectacular! We choose to walk back to the ship, remembering a safe place to cross the railroad track. 150 trains come through Rüdesheim every day.

That afternoon finds us in Koblentz at the confluence of the Mosel and Rhein rivers, with our most dramatic and enjoyable guide to date: Beate Steinacker, with high heels, a lot of makeup, and a strong dramatic delivery. Beate was an accountant for 37 years who retired 7 years ago and wanted to talk with people again. Beate introduces us to Kaiser Wilhelm whose statue at the German Corner dates from 1871. It was tipped over by shelling from the Allied army in WWII, and the "original head" ended up in the museum and provided copper for the two church roosters (to show which church is Catholic at this time in town).

At dinner we talk of the Alumni Foundation: George Watt controversy (with Jerry Anderson, former Class of 1964 president) and Dick Johnson (Executive Director of USNA Foundation) who worked with Cindy McCain on a surprise for John using $ from McCain's book to underwrite the USNA Ethics Center. Bonnie chooses Surf & Turf; I choose salmon with spinach. Dessert is flaming (actually sparklers) baked Alaska and we stay up talking until 22:30.

Monday 23.06.08 (Cologne): We dock at granite stairs leading up to promenade where we meet our guide Detlev who tells us of his essay "Pain and Sacrifice" (49 cents, "Make me rich!" The Cologne Cathedral is visible almost at once – Cologne was 97% destroyed by Allied bombing but cathedral was purposely spared to use as a landmark for bombers. Bonnie was surprised they allow artists to paint on the sidewalk outside the cathedral. A chalk artist was receiving tips for his rendition of a bright eyed unicorn. Is this the largest cathedral in Europe? how does one measure – by height? size of façade? Bonnie buys a booklet inside – we walk through the railway station next to the cathedral which has large food mart with "McClean" Water Closet for Euro1.10. Bonnie decides to wait for the “McFree” facilities on ship and we walk back under the railroad bridge with many school children. Mike lies down in the cabin for awhile and Bonnie has to come rouse him for lunch. The American flag displays at lunch to set the stage for menu which includes hamburgers with fixings plus French fries (plus wedge fries). That night the dinner is the German Dinner and Bonnie tries sauerbraten. Yum yum!

Tuesday 24.06.08 (Amsterdam): End of the line for many of our cruise-mates, but we are signed on for two days in Amsterdam. We check into the Sofitel Hotel centrally located in downtown area and within easy walking distance of many of the city’s highlights. The first day we find ourselves absolutely delighted with this town with its concentric canal structure and leaning houses with hooks on the top gable for warehouse maneuvers. Great! We could spend many days in this town! The only drawback is the seven hundred and fifty thousand bicyclists, half of whom tried to kill us! That afternoon we bravely walk a lot and we visit the Rijksmuseum (home of many Rembrandts including The Night Watch which does not travel) and the Anne Frank haus – a very sobering experience.

Wednesday 25.06.08 (Amsterdam): Nice breakfast buffet in Hotel where we visit with Rob and Becky Broderick (USMA). They spend a lot of time in Ireland and will go there again after Amsterdam to see their new grandson. We enjoy tour of the beautifully quaint and immaculately clean fishing/canal town of Enkhausen and lunch in Hoorn. We return to Amsterdam, splash some water on our faces, and eat our pastries we purchased the previous night. At 17:15 we head out to Centraal Railway Station, noting that the tram takes about the same time as walking. Upon arrival we head for the Information Desk only to learn that for our international travel, we must go to Service Center. They ask us where we will be traveling and we say Germany, and get assigned #C789 for assistance. They are currently serving #C698. A long wait – but what choice do we have? 1 ½ hour wait – then Hey, it's our turn! We get a very nice Amsterdam lady who spends quite a bit of time with us, describing our options and the difference between first and second class. Her advice is to take second class, and we purchase tickets with reserved seats – Bonnie notices that but we're not sure what it means…we do note that everyone else in the Service Center are students with backpacks …

Thursday 26.06.08 (from Amsterdam to Kaiserslautern by train) What an experience! Bonnie says next time we have to fly, or go first class. Mike about kills the two of us trying to wrestle the two big suitcases onto the escalator up to the platform with Bonnie close behind. Wrong platform (and elevator only a few feet away, but we never noticed). But we learned a lot. Fortunately, we went to Train Station yesterday afternoon and have our tickets but we don't understand the reservations – as it turns out, we have two seats assigned in Car 22 but we have no idea where car 22 is or how the seats are numbered. We sit in some handicapped seats until we get thrown out by some handicapped people. Actually, they were very nice, and we share their space with them until the train breaks down somewhere near the border and we all have to get up and change trains. This loses our seats for us and we scramble around again. This also puts us dangerously late for transfer of ICE train to K-town, but one young man has helped us schlep our bags off the train and another gentleman runs ahead to tell the K-town train that we are coming. Young man refuses a tip and Bonnie tells him to tell his mother that she raised a fine young man. Nice people!

Daughter-in-law Robin picks us up at train station and we head to Doug & Robin’s house. Spain & Italy are playing soccer semi-finals, so we head to a little restaurant/bar to watch game. We’re a little embarrassed as we’re way over-dressed being the only patrons with clothes on - Everyone else in bathrobes & slippers! We find out later there is a sauna in that facility which many locals use before they hit the pub.

Friday 27.06.08 (Thaleischweiler-Fröschen, Germany with Robin): Town name translates to something like a valley with oak trees and frogs. Robin goes in to work today and this allows us to sleep in – when we awake, we have to get wireless repaired and then figure out how to use the lock on the front door. Bonnie locks herself out and has to climb in through George's doggie door. Then we hike down to the CAP store for pig salami, milch, und butter.

Saturday 28.06.08 (Thaleischweiler-Fröschen, Germany): After leisurely morning, we head out with Robin driving toward the border with France. No problem crossing and we head for the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery, the largest American military cemetery in Europe, 26 miles northwest of Verdun. The Meuse-Argonne Offensive was the climax toward which the efforts of the American Expeditionary Forces were directed since arrival of U.S. troops in France in 1918, the last year of the war. It would be the largest battle ever fought by U.S. troops up to that time in U.S. history. The area between the Meuse River and the Argonne Forest was chosen because it was the portion of the German front which the enemy could least afford to lose. The US First Army attacked at 0530 on 26 September; by 4 November the enemy was in full retreat on both sides of the river. On 7 Nov, the heights overlooking the city of Sedan were taken, giving domination over the German railroad communications, compelling the enemy to seek an immediate armistice, effective 11.11.1918.

The grounds of the cemetery are beautiful; Robin said the way they trimmed the tops and sides of the trees reminds her of the way the promenades are trimmed in Paris. Bonnie and Mike found the Reception area has absolutely the most clean and well-maintained public restrooms in our experience, anywhere. France has provided the cemetery land in perpetuity to the Americans, and the American Cemetery organization maintains the 137 acres.

Burg Trifels c. 1193
Sunday 29.06.08 (Thaleischweiler-Fröschen): Robin drives us to Burg Trifels (burg is fortress; different from a castle: schluss). Robin helps us order lunch at restaurant at burg base area and again we are impressed with her command and confidence with speaking German. We climb to see where Richard Lion Heart was held prisoner by Henry VI, Holy Roman Emperor, who imprisoned him in Burg Trifels for about a year in 1193 as he returned from the Crusade until Mom Eleanor of Aquitaine (K. Hepburn) paid the outrageous ransom.

This evening is the big game: Germany vs Espana for the EURO2008 füßballspiel championship. We head for "public viewing" in Thaleischweiler-Fröschen with the locals (see photo next page). Before halftime, Bonnie buys us a brat sandwich and Coca-Cola Light to share. Robin joins us at halftime, her school paper ("Internet Ethics") complete. Locals are disappointed with the 0-1 finish, no goals for the home team.

Monday 30.06.08 (Thaleischweiler-Fröschen): Robin takes the day off, trims hedges in back yard, feeds goldfish. Bonnie takes an adventure stroll down to town to try out the Geldautomat (ATM) and the Bakery. Mike works the trip report. We had planned to take Robin out for dinner but every restaurant in TW-F is closed on Monday so Robin suggests pizza and beer and soda and NetFlix. We watch one of Mike's favorites: The Man Who Would Be King (1975) and learn that John Huston originally planned to make it starring Humphrey Bogart and Clark Gable but 25 years went by. We carry our luggage up to floor 1 tonight for the transfer tomorrow.
Greenland glacier seen from planeTuesday 01.07.08 (transfer Frankfurt-Atlanta-Albuquerque): All rise at 4:30 am for 05:35 departure for Frankfort airport. As our special farewell a cute little hedgehog appears in front of the house. Robin does great job driving and we arrive at Delta in good shape, go through the ticket line and multiple security checks that Doug had warned us about. The last one is at the actual gate: at 8 am they chase everyone out of the gate area, then we re-enter showing passport and boarding pass. We meet a young Atlanta lad who tells of this routine as he has been trying to fly back stand-by for a week. Good plane with video this time. We are fascinated with the view of Greenland with its plains of snow and mountains and glaciers - Bonnie takes this photo (at right) out of the plane window.

In Atlanta it takes us about an hour to off-load, go through customs, claim our previously-checked luggage, load it onto a cart and take it to Customs, then back out to security area for one more trip through TSA. Amazingly, we meet Sue & Don Belbutoski (Purdue) from our Tour who also stayed extra time in Europe. Annabeth and Elaine drive in to luggage area and this time we have cell phones so transfer to their vehicle for transfer to 2299 Shasta. We get to see their 'new' home (5 years now) and all they have done with their inside collections and outside gardening. Elaine prepares fresh broiled salmon with their local restaurant favorite vegetables and two kinds of bread and fancy imported butter - great! We are a little nervous on the ride back but Elaine gets us into the carpool lane and we get there in good time. By now Mike has our confirmation number memorized and we get our boarding passes easily. Hardest trip was these last two-three hours to Albuquerque - perhaps we are tiring?

Arriving in Albuquerque at 9 pm local, we call son David and he meets us with Toyota at baggage area. Traveling for 24 hours today, and back home: Hurray, we did it!

Summary and Exceptions: We experienced much, learned more. And enjoyed ourselves tremendously on every single day. Looking back, highlights included the Palace Hotel (Lucerne), Switzerland (photo above), Amsterdam (except for Centraal Station), the two trips with Robin and the salmon with Annabeth and Elaine. We loved all the beautifully blooming flower pots on balconies in every town we visited. Most importantly, we learned we not only can survive the long plane rides but that (except perhaps for last little leg from ATL to ABQ) we did quite well entertaining ourselves.

Security was never a concern (except when Bonnie got her hidden passport wallet tied up in Annabeth's back seatbelt). Our only real struggle was schlepping our bags around during our 6-hour train ride to K-town - thus we really appreciated the tour conveniences with most of our restaurants and meals ready for us and plans made.

We needed light jackets for about half the trip. We recommend the Eagle Creek packets for packing luggage. Personally we travel very well together, laughed a lot with ourselves and others. A great trip and a great life experience!

Christmas in California 2007

Trip Report: Christmas 2007

Bonnie and Mike drove from Albuquerque to California, leaving on 18 Dec 2007 to reach San Diego in time for the Poinsettia Bowl football game between Navy and Utah on 20 Dec. We decided to take the southern route and spent our first evening in Gila Bend, AZ.
Note: Arizona has saguaro cacti, New Mexico does not.

The second night was spent in San Diego at the Heritage Park Inn award-winning Bed and Breakfast of classmate Charlie Helsper and wife Nancy.

Charlie Helsper’s Victorian-era B&B, along with the other buildings of Heritage Park (which features special plantings such as Australian coral trees acquired by Kate Sessions, the city’s 1890’s horticulturist), were moved to this park as part of the City’s Bicentennial celebration.

Originally San Diego had no trees. Kate Sessions traveled all over the world, examining locales with climates similar to San Diego’s and bringing back trees and plants that would flourish in the local environment. Kate is credited with popularizing the poinsettia in San Diego.

On the night before the Bowl game, a Navy Pep Rally was held for the Football Team on the flight deck of the USS Midway, CVA-41. Both the new (interim) coach Ken Niumatalolo and the Academy’s Commandant Capt Margaret Klein gave a rousing speech to inspire against a strong Utah team. It almost worked.

Representatives of USNA Class of 1963 at the Heritage Park Inn included (in photo to be included left to right) Mike Blackledge, Bob Forster, (Innkeeper) Charlie Helsper, Dick Anderson. Also staying at the B&B were two other classmates, Dave Moore (who had acquired our Bowl tickets and was from George Nolan's 14th Company) and wife Lana, and Ron Saqui (Mike’s best man in 1966) and wife Sharie.

Bonnie Nolan and Bob Forster (in photo to be added at left) discuss how Charlie and Nancy Helsper set an excellent table at the Heritage Park Inn, complete with USNA flags. That night was the bowl game at QualComm Stadium.

Christmas Eve-Eve: Penny and Fred welcomed Penny’s twin Patti and her husband Dick Blide from Kalama, WA, as well as Mike and Bonnie, to a fabulous dinner at the Long Beach Yacht Club. Penny and Fred’s son Nick who teaches English at nearby high school joined the dinner party.

[in photo to be added Below from left to right: Dick and Patti Blide, Penny, Nick, and Fred Woods, Bonnie Nolan]

Following Christmas Eve services at St. Hedwig’s and Christmas morning brunch at the Marriott, we drove to Harbor City for Christmas Dinner with Heidi and John Strom and sister Ruthie’s family at the home of Bonnie’s mother Sally Armes. That evening we took Sally and headed for the San Clemente beach condo kindly loaned to us by Bonnie’s sister Mollie. We arrived in time to appreciate a beautiful Christmas sunset.

The day after Christmas, Mike’s sisters and their families drove down to join us for a day on the beach and the San Clemente pier. Dinner that night was with Sally at The Cheesecake Factory in nearby Mission Viejo.

When we returned from San Clemente, Mike’s roommate from the Academy, Ron Saqui and his wife Sharie, treated us to way too much food at The Claim Jumper in Torrance. John Strom was right, one can eat on The Ore Cart for three days!

Just before departing from California, we needed to have at least one meal at Marie Callendar’s. For this farewell morning, we were joined by Bonnie’s mother Sally, and Bonnie’s good friend from Bishop Montgomery High School Days, Celina Henderson.

Heading home at last, we had to stop for breakfast at Mike's favorite: La Posada, the historic Mary Jane Colter-designed and beautifully restored old Fred Harvey House railroad hotel in Winslow, Arizona. [in photo to be added Above: Bonnie carefully chooses a tea to go with her gourmet breakfast meal.]

By the time we returned home, we were exhausted - however, we bravely went out to celebrate the New Year. What a trip!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Mike and Bonnie in PA

Travelogue September 2007
"A Young Couple's Journey From Lewisburg to Perkasie"

Background: Bonnie wanted to visit her eldest daughter Marcey and family in Lewisburg, PA sometime in September 2007. Mike noted Jerry and Barbara Faust were not that far away in Perkasie, and what a great time of year to travel.

Baltimore-Inner Harbor: After looking at flights into Philly or Harrisburg, we took SWA direct into BWI. We hit it lucky on, with the 4-Star Marriott Waterfront Hotel right on Baltimore's Inner Harbor. After checking into our hotel, we took the water taxi around the harbor, smelling the sweet "Domino's" sugar refinery in continuous operation since 1922, stopping at Fells Point to shop and visit (including a Maggie Moo's), and finally having dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe. The next morning Mike swam in the large hotel pool and then we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast buffet with our omelet prepared by senior Chef Paul, recently relocated from Manhattan where he had operated several delis. We had a long visit with Paul about grandkids, after which he packed up a lunch for us to take with us. After checking out, we visited the National Aquarium. Mike felt that Albuquerque's little BioPark Aquarium does not compare badly at all - and even with a senior discount the National ran $20 per entry. Bonnie particularly enjoyed the aviary and the brightly colored poisonous frogs ("do not eat").

Carlisle: Following Gen. George Meade's route from Washington to Gettysburg, we found ourselves in the quaint historic town of Carlisle (on many of the maps in The Killer Angels). There we had a wonderful afternoon sharing tea and tarts with Nan & David Blackledge. Dave is one of Mike's co-authors for the genealogical Magnum Opus, Blackledges in America, and this was only the second time that Mike and Dave had met in person - the first being that historic 1996 meeting in Gaithersburg, MD, when Mike, Dave, and Mary Ann decided to publish. Time permitted only a short visit this afternoon to their beautiful home and town - and apparently none of us thought of taking pictures - we definitely want to return to Carlisle for another visit!

Lewisburg: Heading north, by dark we made it to the picturesque little town of Lewisburg and checked into our Bed and Breakfast: The Tawsty Flower - owned and operated by Marcey's friend Jane. At breakfast the next morning, we were delighted with a most eclectic bunch of travelers - including Margaret, a Prof. of Archaeology from Australia, visiting Bucknell both for a lecture and to catalog much ancient glass. Some were most likely from T. E. Lawrence (of Arabia)'s mess tent, as she found considerable 1920's beer bottle glass dominating some of the ancient specimens from Aqaba.

Bucknell: Marcey and Chris plus Maggie and Alan joined us after breakfast. We were treated to a tour of the Bucknell University campus with Chris as guide, and with Marcey running the projector in the Geology Dept lecture hall, as they pointed out many of their friends and colleagues at this exclusive private university of 3000 under- grads, recognized as one of the most beautiful campuses in the US.

Dragons: That afternoon Mike got his soccer fix watching Maggie, Allison, Julianne, and the rest of the Magic Green Dragons take on the dreaded Orange Marmalukes (or some such). The spirited play of all resulted in a 2-2 tie. Very exciting - Mike is convinced he helped considerably by coaching from the sidelines, however Maggie did great in goal, in defense, and on offense. She does it all. Later that evening we all went to dinner at the historic old Lewisburg Hotel on Market Street.

Gettysburg: The next morning the entire crew piled into two vehicles and headed south to the Gettysburg battlefield. Marcey had provided us with a CD of the audio tour of the battlefield, and had given us a reading assignment of The Killer Angels, the excellent historical novel of the four days of Gettysburg by Michael Shaara. We spent several hours touring the battlefield, getting out of the cars to walk the battlefield areas, watch Mike slip on Little Round Top, and take photos in the soft warm sunlight covering the 25 square miles. Wonderful, made the Killer Angels come alive again. Once we were all exhausted, Marcey's crew headed back to Lewisburg, and Mike and Bonnie continued on to Perkasie.

Perkasie: We ended up getting into Perkasie later than we had planned so we went directly to our 1749 fieldstone B&B as located by Barb: Arianna Miles. The next morning our host and Master Chef Kyle (age 43) made us his trademark 3-course breakfast to which we invited Jerry and Barbara: Kyle's homemade granola, a special pear with almonds, and an omelet featuring some of the mushrooms for which PA is famous. (All recipes from the French Culinary Institute in NY). After breakfast, we headed out to Lake Nockamixon State Park along with a blue heron and an aerodynamically sound turkey vulture plus numerous ducks. We enjoyed a good hike around the lake area, then off to Jerry and Barb's house, and their grand tour. J&B treated us to lunch both days at two different restaurants where Mike and Bonnie both tried some of the local fare. No wonder J&B love living here so much - their own park, pool and playground, river and bridges, toboggan area. We ended the evening with dinner and Monday Night Football. Unfortunately, Donovan McNabb did not have a great night - and Mike seemed to enjoy the game a little too much anyway, as Jerry will attest.

Back To Reality: We left Barbara and Jerry at their home and headed out Tuesday evening for Baltimore. Barb had warned us about the traffic from PA to BWI so by traveling in the evening, we had no stress as to arrival time. We checked into a 3-star hotel (using Bonnie's new Priceline skills) near the airport, spent a restful evening where Mike and Bonnie swam in the Sheraton indoor pool, and the next day made our return trip to ABQ and the real world. We both agreed it was a most excellent adventure. We reported to Bonnie's mom Sally that it was a great vacation. Now we realize we're not really on vacation from anything - we loved this trip which represents just one more facet of our new life! Hurray!