Homer's Travels: 2006

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Mission San Antonio de Padua

We had a full Saturday. We decided to go to the Mission of San Antonia De Padua. The drive promised to be a long nine hours. We picked up the "J", who couldn't pass up this great opportunity to be stuck in a car with us for over 9 hours, and we were off. We stopped in Paso Robles (full name: El Paso de los Robles) for an early lunch since we didn't expect to find any place to eat further on (this turned out to be an incorrect assumption since we passed several eating establishments after that). We ate at the wonderful Wilson's Restaurant, established in 1948 and decorated in 1970's Porn Chic.

After our satisfying and filling meal, we headed toward the Mission. The mission is located inside the Fort Hunter Liggett Military Reservation. The mission is the furthest from the beaten path being about 16 miles east of highway 101. San Antonio de Padua is a nice mission. Set in a beautiful area of the central coast, there were many opportunities for pictures.

After our customary visit to the mission store, we walked around the active mission and explored the surrounding grounds. The mission brought water from the hills using an aqueduct. the aqueduct fed water under a mill where a water-wheel turned a grinding stone. The wife was walking by the mill house when another visitor started turning the water wheel. The wife, praying with a new rosary she had bought in the mission store, was surprised by the noise of the turning grind wheel. She came around the corner with a wide-eyed expression. I pointed out the water-wheel to her which ended her religious experience. HA!

In front of the mission were displayed two ship's mast heads that were donated to the missions by sailors. No one knows how old they are or what their history is. They do look old and I am sure they are well traveled. Who knows what wonderful things these heads have witnessed.
We have to appologize to the "J". The night before she had suggested we pack a picnic lunch which we poo-poo-ed thinking that there wouldn't be anywhere to stop and eat. It turns out that the Mission had picnic tables shaded by oaks nearby and a picnic would have been great - Sorry "J"!

After leaving the mission we stopped by the Hacienda - a hotel that originally was William Randolph Hearst's hunting lodge. The restaurant/bar was closed which was disappointing since we were looking forward to something to drink. As we drove away the eagle-eyed wife saw some vending machine in the distance and we quenched out thirsts. The vending machines were outside the fort's barber shop/store/post office. The strange thing was that several of the signs were in English and Arabic. Odd.

We had so much fun on this trip that I am going to split the post in two. Part two will describe the drive on the Nacimiento-Ferguson road, the drive down the PCH, and a visit to Harmony, CA.

To Be Continued ...

Saturday, December 30, 2006

"I Know What We Should Call It ..."

We heard about this in a commercial. What were they thinking? I'm not sure if this is a appropriate name for a product but it did catch our attention enough to buy a box as a gag gift for a friend.

Friday, December 29, 2006

I Gotta Get Out Of This House

O.K. It's been four days since my last post and it's time to bring people up to date. Christmas is finally over. I have felt cooped up in the house despite a trip to the Outlet Mall on Tuesday. We opted for another Mission mission and set our sights on San Miguel Archangel. We rung up the "J" to see if she wanted to go with us (she said Sure!) and we made plans to drive up on Thursday.

We picked "J" up at 9:00 and headed north to the Paso Robles area. It's a three hour drive which went fairly fast despite the traffic near San Luis Obispo. The day was perfect for Mission gazing. A Clear blue sky, crisp December air, and warm sunshine to keep the chill away. The San Miguel Mission was damaged by the San Simeon earthquake of December 2003 and you can not enter the church. The damage to the church was quite obvious with one of the church walls propped in place with wooden braces. The gift shop and a small museum are open though. The wife purchased a beautiful statue of Mary, its form reminiscent of the Peruvian Mary. The priest, as rundown as the church, blessed the statue before it was boxed up. We then walked around the grounds and took some pictures.

We then headed back to Highway 46 and drove west to the Ocean. We stopped at a scenic overlook that was breathtaking this morning. Usually the haze restricts the view but the winds we have been having the pass few days blew away all the haze letting us see all the way to Morro Bay. The panorama below doesn't do it justice since the sun is washing out a lot of the picture but it gives you some idea.

We made our way to Cambria, had lunch and shopped around. We came across a sign for Nitt Witt Ridge. That sounded like our kind of place. We drove up but discovered that tours required reservations. Next time perhaps.

We then headed north to see the Elephant Seals. They were out in all their splendor. We have been here before but there were a lot more pups this time then before. I saw one of these suckers move - I never expected something this large haul-ass like a freight train down the beach. Very impressive ... and disgusting ... at the same time.

We returned to Cambria to visit a few more stores and headed home. Mission numero ocho is off the list. We are thinking about doing another about an hour north of San Miguel tomorrow. It's a longer drive but I don't want to just hang around the house. If we go, this will be the last we can do in a single day-trip. All the rest will probably be done with overnight stays.

Monday, December 25, 2006

It Just Gets Better ... Enough Already!

On Christmas Eve, we were going to have a visitor (one of the wife's friends) and we were all going to have dinner at another of our friends. First, the wife's friend who was in Corona for a Family wedding decided to stay for another party and didn't show up. And then, I get sick. My nose is running, I have a sinus headache, I feel feverish (though I don't have a fever), and I feel all wrung out. So, the wife has dinner with our friends alone while I lay on the couch fighting a bug watching strange Christmas cartoons. The weirdest cartoon, by the way, was the Grim Adventures of Bill & Mandy in which Santa Claus is turned into a vampire by Mrs. Claus who happens to be the head , head vampire (The head vampire turns out to be a prissy neat freak). It seems Mrs. Claus was tired of doing all the housework while Santa kept checking his lists. I topped this off with Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, and a Christmas South Park episode. Merry Christmas. This is the weirdest Christmas I have ever had. I think I am ready for a traditional Christmas with family.

No more Weirdness!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Happy Holidays Everyone!

I hope you all have a Merry Christmas. Here is a picture of our tree - and our presents in the plain brown wrappers. We opened our presents last Wednesday in anticipation of being away for Christmas. Then this happened - this is a picture of Denver Airport. The weird thing is that it feels like Christmas has already happened and we both keep asking when will Christmas end?!?

Tonight we are going to some friend's house in Montecito to have dinner so at least we won't be alone on Christmas Eve.

Boron ... And Not A Mule To Be Found

On Saturday we decided to go to Boron to visit the 20 Mule Team Museum. We have passed the sign on our way to Las Vegas but had never stopped. Curiosity finally got the best of us and we headed out. We stopped for breakfast in Ventura before heading for the Mojave Desert. The road takes you through the town of Mojave - home of Spaceship One. I have never investigated to see if there is a museum or something there - oh well, another roadtrip possibility. Nearby is Edwards Air Force Base. The wife had heard that the Shuttle might land there Saturday and we were considering stopping by but they ended up landing in Florida and I don't think we would have made it in time to see it land if it did. By the way, the airport in Mojave is not part of Edwards - some airlines store/maintain some of their planes here in the dry desert air.

We made in to Boron. There are two museums covering the Borax mines near Boron. The first is run by Pacific Coast Borax Company. The other is in the town of Boron. Both museums were interesting. Nothing spectacular, you see, but interesting never the less. The museum has a great view of the open pit mine - the largest in California (Thank god for that). You get a free sample of the Borax and learn about all its uses. The symbol of the company is a Twenty Mule Team like the ones originally used to haul the Borax out of Death Valley. It reminded my of my younger days when my dad was watching Death Valley Days which was sponsored by the Borax mining company. I still remember the commercial with the mules and wagons. It's weird what you remember.

The second museum is in Boron. The museum covers both the mining and the history of the town. It was a typical small town place with pictures of the homecoming queens and listing of all the championships won by the Boron Bobcats. There was also a small, but well stocked, aerospace museum next door highlighting some of the planes tested and flown out of nearby Edwards.

The wife was disappointed that, in neither museum, a mule was not to be found. Sigh.

We finished our trip off with some tasty ice cream across from the Museum and returned home. One more place checked off our list.

Friday, December 22, 2006

A view of Nebraska ... and most of the Midwest

I came across this yesterday. My family back in Omaha should enjoy. The family in Iowa and Minnesota shouldn't be smug since most people lump you in with Nebraska. Enjoy!

Bizarro by Dan Piraro, 21 December 2006

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Best-Laid Schemes o' Mice an 'Men ... (Robert Burns, "To A Mouse", 1785)

Well, traveling plans are always subject to change. We were going back to the mid-west to visit the families for Christmas and our flights scheduled for Friday morning were through Denver. Denver is now snowed in and all flights have been canceled. We went to our local small airport and talked to the United rep. He tried to get us on other flights but gave up when he reached the 28th without finding any flights available. They were very nice and refunded all our money and my frequent flier miles - we didn't lose a penny. I do regret that we won't see everyone. I was going to see cousins I haven't seen in over 9 years. We were going to see the spud's new sisters. Oh well, it will have to wait for another time. This is the first vacation I've ever planned that was canceled due to weather. I hope it's the last.

We are going to try to fill the time with day trips and maybe a Mission or four. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, December 18, 2006

What ?!? No Pretty Paper?!?

I got home today and collected all the supplies I needed to wrap the wife's Christmas presents and discover to my dismay that we were out of Purdy Paper. We decided that we would have to be happy with brown butcher paper. How depressing. Blah boring brown butcher paper. My worst wrapping job ever. Sigh.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Television, Movies, and other Christmas Stuff

OK then. We had a full weekend of chores and vegging, something we both needed. I started Saturday with some long overdue chores followed by 6 hours of SciFi network goodies. I had eight hours of Dr. Who, Battlestar Galactica and the "Lost Room" miniseries. Fast forwarding through the commercials saved me about two hours. I had recorded the Lost Room figuring I would read reviews and decide to watch it or not later. The reviews I read were generally positive so I gave it a shot. It was an interesting show though it borrowed from other shows such as Lost and Friday the 13th: the series. The story line is a little quirky and disbelief had to be suspended a time or two. Nevertheless, I was entertained. I am sure there is a series in the near future since the miniseries ended wide open.

Saturday night was Christmas Card night. Write - stuff - address - stamp - seal - repeat. We dread doing it but it takes so little time. Another thing I dread is wrapping presents. Again, it's an easy task but I always dread it. I haven't wrapped the wife's presents yet and I don't expect to get it done until Monday night. Then, three nights later , before we fly home, all those packages, so carefully wrapped in pretty paper, will be torn asunder. Oh well, traditions must be upheld and upheld they shall be.

Today, Sunday, we went to see Apocalypto. I have to say that I was disappointed. I tried to suspend disbelief one more time but I just couldn't do it. Enough was enough. The movie is violent and bloody - sometime to the point of absurdity. Coincidences and dumb luck abound and I just couldn't enjoy the last half hour to its fullest. I mean really, can a wounded man who has lost a lot of blood, has an arrow hole in his gut, and has been running for his life for who knows how long, really out run an angry maternal Jaguar?

After the movie we went to the mall on a luggage quest for the wife. We struck out and, being driven mad by the crowds, ran screaming out of the mall and headed home. OK, not really but we did walk fast. On the way out from the mall, we passed a guy in a Santa suit holding some sale sign. The wife stuck her head out the car window and yelled: "I want a Pony, Santa!" I'm sure the dude in the suit wanted to tell her where she could put that pony but he controlled himself and ignored the wife's yelling.

Tonight we will watch the Survivor finale and go to bed with thoughts of what we have to get done before we head home for the holidays.

Friday, December 15, 2006

First Quiet Weekend in a Long Time

We were planning to hit another Mission near Paso Robles with a side trip to Cambria and Harmony but the weather said otherwise. Saturday is going to be rainy and cold all along the California coast so we are rescheduling the roadtrip and spending some time at home - something we haven't done in quite a while. I was looking forward to going but some downtime at home seems appealing as well. It seems we've been on the go since we got back from Peru and I started blogging ("I need something to write about - let's go do something!").

We are just a week away from our Christmas trip back home to visit the folks. The 'J' will be keeping Homer company and housesitting for us. We always feel more relaxed knowing there is someone taking care of our stuff.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Installment #7: Glacier 2000

Using frequent flyer miles, I got two free tickets on Amtrak and a free car rental for a week. We used these for our 2000 summer vacation. Back in 1995 I went to Glacier - one of the most beautiful places in the lower 48. In 2000, I wanted to head back so I could share it with the wife. We boarded the train in Oxnard on Friday morning and road the train north to Portland and then east to Whitefish, MT. The trip was relaxing and quite delightful. I got some reading done and watched the scenery go by. We went to sleep near San Francisco and woke up with the sunrise in the forests of Oregon. The coach seats were a little small for me and my sleep was a little spotty but it wasn't too bad. We arrived at our destination early Sunday morning. While our train ride was free, it turns out the car rental coupon was not valid in Whitefish, MT (Dag Nab It).

We started with some mediocre breakfast in Whitefish and drove on to Glacier National Park. The drive was 30 - 45 minutes. We had reservations at the Village Inn at Apgar,a lodge on Lake McDonald located three miles inside the park. Since it was still too early to check in we drove the Going-to-the-Sun road and ended up at Logan Pass Visitor's Center. We checked out the displays and the introductory movie and then decided to start our exploration with a short walk on the Hidden Lake Nature Trail. The trail lead to an overlook with a beautiful view of ... Hidden Lake.

Over the next few days we did a hike to Avalanche Lake, took a boat ride on one of the many lakes in the park, and enjoyed the heart stopping vistas. The only place I have been that is more spectacular is Jasper, Alberta, Canada where we honeymooned. We looked into taking a helicopter ride over the park but, because of fires in the area, all helicopters were unavailable and we had to change our plans.

On the last day we went to the east side of the park to hike up to Scenic Point. I had hiked this six mile hike (round trip) back in 1995. Back then it was overcast and the trail took me through the mist and up above the clouds. I took a picture of myself sitting on the edge with the flat layer of clouds behind me extending out to the horizon. This picture turned out to be the first picture I gave to the wife while we were dating. This time the skies were clear and the views went on forever. We were exhausted after the hike since we were not in shape for the over 2000 foot climb of the trail. We were saved by ice cream before we started back to the lodge.

One of the highlights of our trip - the small things that stick with you long after the trip - happened just outside the park. We were driving to town when we passed a a sign that we both thought said Buffalo Jerry. What the heck is Buffalo Jerry? It turns out that it read Buffalo Jerky. DUH. We still laugh at that one every now and then. We can be such dorks sometimes. Now every time one of us misreads a sign, we think of Buffalo Jerry.

For more proof of my quirkiness, I will tell you the story of the Glacier Stones. When I was there in '95 I picked up two stones from a riverbed. One red and one green. Remembering all the Hawaiian curse stories, not to mention the Brady Bunch Tiki story, I asked for permission from the Lady of the Glacier and I promised that the stones would be returned someday. The stones rode on the dash of my Honda for several years. I figured that the stones brought me luck since I met the wife less then a week after getting back home. I kept my promise with the Lady of the Glacier and returned the stones to the same river bed that I borrowed them from. I thanked her before I returned to the car.

It was time to head home. We drove to Whitefish, checked into a hotel for half a day (they gave us half the daily rate) so we could use the hot tube and do some laundry. We got on the train and headed for Portland. We had a brief stop over there so I scouted the area and bagged us some Subway sandwiches before we got back on the train and finished our return home.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Decorations - Bath - Rain - Aimee Mann - The Outback

Time to provide an update of the weekend that was:

The halls have finally been decked. The artificial tree looks marvelous as it always does. No presents under it yet. That should change as soon as I wrap the wife's presents.

Saturday morning Homer had his bath and he is now fluffy and smells delightful. He received a Happy Holidays kerchief and a new toy (Sally the squeaking salamander) as parting gifts.

On Saturday night we headed down to Hollywood to see Aimee Mann. The drive was crazy. Traffic was LA terrible and, to top it off, it was raining. We need the rain though so I won't complain about it too much but I hate driving in the rain. A one hour drive turned into a two hour drive. Fortunately we left early and made it to the Avalon Hollywood with time to spare. The Avalon is a small, intimate venue. All the tickets were general admission and we nailed a pair of seats in row six. The seats were hard plastic seats and we had numb butts by the end o f the evening. The show started fashionably late and started with a new song by Aimee Mann called "Calling on Mary." This was followed by a so-called comedian Paul F. Tompkins. I say so-called because his was not very funny. A lot of his jokes were religion related and seemed a little inappropriate for a Christmas show. The crowds enthusiasm waned each time he came on stage. Fortunately Aimee Mann's singing, and that of her other special guests Grant Lee Phillips and John C. Reilly, made up for the lame humor. I had never heard of Grant Lee Phillips before and I was impressed - he really rocked. John C. Reilly, an actor with a good singing voice and a mop full of crazy hair (he looked like he just got out of bed), sang a couple of songs with Aimee Mann including "Your a Mean One, Mr. Grinch." The Christmas songs of the night included:
  • Christmastime (from the Peanuts special)
  • I'll be Home for Christmas
  • You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch
  • God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
  • Calling on Mary (an Aimee Mann original Christmas song)
Other, non-Christmas songs were scattered in with the Christmas fare. I have to say that Aimee sounded more at home with her own music then with the classics. The concert was a full 2 1/2 hours of eclectic fun and enjoyed by all. It was definitely not your parent's Christmas Special. It was a fun time, in spite of the crummy comedian.

We were going to see a movie on Sunday but opted for stuffing ourselves at the Outback instead. We'll save the movie for next weekend.

Friday, December 08, 2006

The Week That Was and The Weekend To Come

Well, my connection seems to be up again so I will try to catch you up on what has happen over the last four days or so. Now, I have avoided talking about my job and the work I do and I will continue to omit it as much as possible but I do think I need to give a brief glimpse into my work life. This week was filled with a working group meeting that started on Monday afternoon and finished late Thursday afternoon. The meeting covered such scintillating topics, among so many others, as: bladders, the sniff test, and stubby tools. Oh Joy. Why can't I have meetings like these every day?

The weekend will be filled by:
  • We haven't put up our Christmas decorations yet. This weekend we will have to get to it.
  • Homer gets a bath from Kelly (This excites him very much resulting in an almost manic 'Happy Tail')
  • The wife and I are going to Aimee Mann's first annual Christmas Concert down in Los Angeles (While this excites me very much, my tail is not at manic as Homer's - thank the stars for that!).
  • We are probably going to see Apocalypto on Sunday.
I'll let you know how it all goes.

Internet Woes

Our internet provider (Adelphia) was bought out by Time-Warner and they are transitioning everyone over to their RoadRunner service. I have not had a reliable Internets connection since Tuesday so I haven't been able to post. I hope this ends soon since I am having Internets withdrawal.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Peruvian Boats

One of my favorite pictures. These are fishing boats tied off the island of Taquile in Peru's Lake Titicaca. It reminds me of Mediterranean scene. Of course, I have never been to the Mediterranean so I really wouldn't know a Mediterranean scene if I saw one but it is what I would imagine it to be. I took the picture on the way to the home where we ate lunch. The walk was up hill and, at over 12,500 ft altitude, was exhausting but I was able to get this picture which made it worth my while.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Windy, Dry, and Smoke

Today was a windy, dry and smoky day. The humidity is hovering around 14%, the winds are blowing at 20-40 MPH gusting to 60 MPH, and the smoke from the Moorpark fire is blowing our way. I have spent my day itching my eyes. I feel so dry that I'm afraid I will crumble to dust and blow away. This is what the Santa Ana Winds do.

Missions La Purisima and Santa Inez and Solvang

Yesterday, Saturday, the wife, the 'J', and I drove up to Lompoc, CA to visit our seventh mission. La Purisima Concepcion de Maria Santisima Mission is not an active parish and is run as a California State Park. It is advertised as the most restored of all the missions. We weren't expecting much but were all pleasantly surprised. The Mission which occupies 2000 acres was restored by the CCC in the 1930s. The did a terrific job. We were very impressed. This was the first mission we've been to that was not in an urban setting so the open fields, gardens and livestock pens were a refreshing change. The mission pictures here are from La Purisima including a painting of Mary reminiscent of the Marys we say in Peru and the golden confessional.

After La Purisima we drove to Solvang, CA location of the Santa Inez Mission. We had already visited the Santa Inez mission years ago but the 'J' had never been there. Solvang, which means Sunny Field in Danish, is a very touristy town built on the Danish theme. The town was settled by Danish Protestants from Des Moines, IA. The area is Wine country and is near where the movie Sideways was filmed. While the town feels like a hardcore tourist trap, the shopping is pretty good and there are several unique stores including an antique store that I find fascinating. We didn't get to visit the store this time around but it is full of offbeat antiques including automatons and music machines.

After lunch and some shopping we visited the Santa Inez mission which is located at the end of the town. We toured the mission and then headed back into town for more shopping and a stop at a Chocolate shop for some ice cream. 

The height of our trip was after we left the ice cream shop. We were walking along when a little boy straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting, sitting in front of a store tweaking his ears, loudly proclaimed: "Neener Neener Neener!" After we got over the surprise we all laughed. I have no idea what set him off. We seem to attract weird people - even the young ones. HA!

The day was very full and we got home after dark. Homer was very hungry the the wife and I were tired. A good day indeed.

Friday, December 01, 2006

New Travel Magnet for the Week of 1 December 2006

This week's travel magnet is a little unique in that it is from a trip the wife took by herself. She bought it while attending a seminar/class at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Installment #6: Genealogy 1999

In the late 90's, after the passing of my last grandparent, I realized that I knew very little about my heritage so I cranked up the Internets and began researching my family tree. For those who have not delved into the hobby (some would say obsession) of genealogy, searching for clues about you family history can be fascinating, like putting a puzzle together or solving a murder mystery. Each piece of information leads you to the next. In the summer of 1999 we decided to combine my hobby with a family vacation.

The plan was to drive back to the Midwest stopping in Nebraska and Iowa towns along the way to meet with relatives and to take pictures of tombstones. Our route would take us through Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, and a short jaunt to Illinois. We started out on a Saturday morning. My plan was to end the day somewhere in central Utah like Richfield. Now, I have driven this route a couple of times going the opposite direction and I had always spent the night in St. George, Utah. This would have been the first time I drove through St. George without staying. It would have been if the car hadn't broke down about 20 miles north of St. George. We called AAA and we were towed back to the St. George Honda Dealership. Unfortunately it was near the end of the day and they would not be able to look at the car until Monday so we rushed to the nearest car rental place and rented a car before the place closed down. We didn't want to waste our time waiting for our car so we decided to take advantage of our unscheduled stop to explore. We started off with Zion on Sunday. I had been there before in 1995 but the wife had never been there. Zion is a beautiful park with awesome formations of red rock. Our visit was before they restricted car entry into the park so we drove in and took in the sights. We did a short hike along the Riverside Walk Trail including wading into the cool water of the North Fork Virgin River.

On Monday we discovered that the ol' Honda needed a part that wouldn't be available until Tuesday so we headed out to Bryce Canyon. Bryce Canyon is a very accessible, walkable canyon which is less daunting then the Grand Canyon but just as jaw-droppingly beautiful. We took a short hike and walked through the unique geology of the park. On the way back we stopped at a little shop and bought a rug which blesses our little guest bedroom floor. We continued back to St. George and we were on highway 14 heading west when we had to pull over to look at a view of a forested valley that took my breath away. We were high over forests of Pine and Cedar trees that looked like heaven to me.

On Tuesday we finally continued on our trip. A day and a half later we arrived to Belgrade, NE where we visited with relatives from my Mom's side of the family and visited the local cemetery to take pictures of some of the markers. We didn't know where they lived so we stopped at the general store to ask for directions. It turned out that the person we were looking for was in the store having some ice cream with her friends. We had a pleasant conversation and exchanged genealogy stories before we said our goodbyes. That night we ended up in Schuyler, NE.

Early next morning the wife was awoken by chest pains. They were severe enough that we found a nearby hospital and went to the emergency room. A doctor, who probably wrestled in high school, poked, prodded, and squeezed the wife before announcing that it probably was a pinched nerve and not a heart problem. The pains went away so we continued on to some cemeteries in north-east Nebraska. We took some pictures of some stones near Hooper and Scribner before heading to Mom's place in Omaha.

The next day we left with Mom to western Iowa looking for some more cemeteries. We were doing pretty good when the wife's chest pains came back with a vengeance. We rushed back to Omaha and back to the emergency room. This time they hooked her up to a EKG and monitored her closely. Once again they say it was an irritated nerve and that it may have been a result of stress. We found this strange that this would happen after school was out and the stress of the job was behind her but we were told that the effects of stress usually occur after the stress was gone. It was when you relax that the aches and pains show up.

The next day we headed east to visit with the in-laws at Lake Cornelia near Clarion, IA. On the way there we started to hear a weird sound so I pulled over. Sign ... flat tire. The tire literally was melting. We put on the spare and headed to a nearby Sam's Club and bought a new tire. We made it to the lake without further incident and enjoyed some time with the family.

We next headed further east to Hillsdale, IL for more genealogy research in the local library and more cemetery pictures.

At this point we were ready to head home. We sped across Iowa and Nebraska before stopping in Fort Morgan, CO. The next morning we filled up at a filling station across the street from out hotel and continued west towards home. That's when the engine trouble started. The car died a few times and it was hard to start. This lasted all the way back to California. My guess is that we got a batch of bad gasoline. When we got home the engine trouble went away and never returned.

So, to summarize, car breaks down, serendipitous visit to Zion and Bruce Canyon, cemetery, chest pains, cemetery, chest pains, flat tire, cemetery, bad gasoline. Now you know why we often call then the vacation from hell. I got some good pictures and added a lot to my genealogy research but, wow, at what cost?!? We almost needed a vacation from our vacation.

The wife still gets the pains every once in a while but they have never been as bad as on the genealogy trip of 1999.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Fans ask: Where is The Wife?

By popular acclaim, I now present with no further ado, in her natural environment ... The Wife!

Monday, November 27, 2006

A Picture Of Me ... Sort Of

I am keeping this blog anonymous for no real reason. I guess I don't want strangers knowing where I live, what I look like, what I'm doing, etc. Anyway, I decided to bend the rules a little and post a picture. I found a site that lets you create your own South Park character and this is a picture of me:

My head isn't that round and I'm a little taller but it's a pretty good likeness, never the less.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Installment #5 - Las Vegas 1999

After driving around the southwest and amongst the trees, we chose our next destination to be more urban - Las Vegas. We chose President's Day weekend. Now, the wife and I are not big gamblers and the only real lure of Vegas are the shows. We had heard of a new Cirque du Soleil show called 'O' at the Bellagio and we were lucky to be able to buy tickets since it was often sold out. We arrived Saturday morning. We drove - a five hour drive through the rather dull desert. We stayed in a Days Inn about a block off the strip. I had tried to get something on the strip but since it was a holiday weekend everything was either sold out or expensive.

We started off walking the strip. We gambled a little bit and watched an Imax movie at Caesar's Palace.

'O' started at 10:00 pm that night and it was crowded. 'O' was magnificent. It was our first Cirque du Soleil show and I am still in awe of what I saw. We enjoyed everything about it. The show, the music, everything. We even bought the CD on the way out. I often listen to it when I need to relax. We have since gone to one other Cirque du Soleil shows, Dralion, in Long Beach near the Queen Mary. We need to go back to Vegas sometime and see the other four shows there.

On our second night we went to Riverdance. I like Celtic music and Celtic dancing. It is hard not to be impressed. The show was good but 'O' was more entertaining.

After our two days in Vegas being entertained and giving our money to the casinos, we drove home. I am sure we will return to Las Vegas someday.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Book: Rory Stewart's The Places In Between

My latest read is Rory Stewart's "The Places In Between". This book chronicles the author's walk from Herat, Afghanistan to Kabul, Afghanistan in January 2002. The guy has to be a little crazy trying to walk across Afghanistan only a few months after the American invasion and crossing the mountain passes in the dead of winter. Mr. Stewart is following the travels of Emperor Babur who nearly died traveling the same route in 1507 AD. It takes the author 36 days to do the walk. He stops at villages along the way and depends on their Muslim hospitality for shelter and food. Along the way he picks up a war dog whom he names Babur.

The book is a travelogue, a genre that I really have never read before. For that reason, I have mixed feelings about the book. I kept waiting for the climax or the punchline and it never came. The journey was interesting enough and you learn a lot about Afghan history and Muslim customs but, except for the general concept of walking across Afghanistan during wartime in the wintertime, there really isn't anything compelling about his story. It becomes a little repetitive when, at every village he ends up in, he has to negotiate for shelter and food.

All this said, I would recommend the book if you are familiar with travelogue style of writing and are interested in Afghanistan. The most touching part, in my opinion, is the last two paragraphs of the book when we find out the fate of Babur the dog. I guess in the end I did connect somewhat with the author and his companion. I just wish it had been a little earlier in the journey.

Game Over

The Saints put up a good fight but lost their playoff game by three points ... in overtime. They were the underdog by 17 points so a three point loss was a victory for the Saints.

Friday, November 24, 2006


I came across a site that is fascinating and heart wrenching at the same time. It is called PostSecret and the author posts secrets that people have sent anonymously.

Black Friday and our Unusual Shopping Habits

Today is Black Friday - the day when Christmas shopping starts in earnest. We, like millions of others, went out shopping but unlike most we went to a couple of slightly off-center places. The first was the Long Beach Convention Center where National Geographic was having a warehouse sale. About a year ago I subscribed to national Geographic using frequent flier miles (Free Subscriptions - Neat-O!). Soon afterward we started receiving catalogs for the National Geographic store. Now most of you are probably imagining a catalog full of books, maps, and DVDs. The fact is the catalogs are full of cool travel clothes, sweaters, jewelry, travel gadgets, as well as books, maps, and DVDs. We went down to Long Beach for a three day sale looking for clothes and travel stuff. The catalog tends to be pricey but the card we received in the mail promised 25-95% discounts. Sure enough, the discounts were impressive. We were slightly disappointed that there was less clothing and jewelry then we had hoped but the books and stuff we found was worth the trip. In all we bought almost $200 worth of stuff including a sweater for the wife, a couple shirts for me, and several travel books to help us plan our future travel. We even found a Christmas present for the spud. I was looking for a wall map but was surprised to find they had none on sale.

Our second stop was the General Wax and Candle wholesale outlet store. We left there with $55 worth of candles for gifts and our own personal use. I really like candles and always burn them in the chilly winter months.

The wife is going with the "J' to a Saint's playoff game tonight. It's down in Duarte (Near Pasadena). I think I will just hang out and relax this evening. We were going to decorate the tree but it will have to wait for the weekend (Yeah I know, I said we were going to decorate after Thanksgiving Dinner but it didn't happen and it won't happen tonight either - deal with it!).

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Pebbles and Bee-ach Patterns

After eating Thanksgiving Dinner, I went down to Hueneme Beach to walk off a few calories. Every time a walk on the beach I see something different. This time around a saw several small piles of tiny, shiny stones. I decided that they must be the regurgitated stones from a sea bird's gizzard.

I also noticed a strange trail in the sand made by a beached bee. You can see the bee on the right side of the picture. I have noticed bees and ladybugs on the beach before. I am not sure what the attraction is for them.

The Beginning of the Holiday Season

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

We are having a quiet day at home. We are going to have a delicious Ham Lunch (Dinner for the midwesterners). I've already put up the Christmas Tree in the living room. After lunch we will will decorate it. I like this time of year - you know, the holiday season that starts at Thanksgiving and continues through the end of New Years Day. The whole Peace on Earth and Goodwill thing always makes me feel warm and fuzzy even though it doesn't always translate into reality - It's the thought that counts. I'm not really into the Christmas Spirit yet. Still, I am looking forward to going home and visiting the family. We're going to see the in-laws first, followed by a Christmas Day visit with my Mom and my favorite Uncle, and then we will be visiting the Spud's parents who will now have a couple more hand fulls to take care of. At my Uncle's new house I will be seeing cousins that I haven't seen in over nine years.

Everyone have a safe start to the Holidays!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

San Fernando Mission

On Sunday after the fantabulous Doo Dah parade, we went to another of California's missions - this one in San Fernando. The mission was a typical mission, very well maintained/restored. We toured the mission which was preparing for a wedding. We were both surprised to find that Bob Hope is buried at the mission in the Bob Hope Memorial Garden.

We have now visited Six of the Twenty-One Missions. My goal is to visit them all by summer 2008.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Doo Dah Parade - Funtastic!

Sunday was another full day. After starting the day with hearty breakfast at Denny's, we took a quick drive to Pasadena and made our way to the strange world of the Doo Dah parade. This was a perfect day for a parade. Clear blue sky and temperatures in the upper 70s - low 80s. We scouted out the route and found a spot on the shady side of Colorado Boulevard. This was a wise idea since it was boiling in the sun - we would've turned into lobsters.The Doo Dah parade was started as a parody of the Rose parade. I have now been to both and I have to say that the Doo Dah parade was by the far the most enjoyable. Then again, I like a lot of weird things and the Doo Dah parade was full of weirdness. There were people (and dogs) in costumes. People dancing, marching, prancing, and doing other weird things down the middle of the street. There were people on stilts. People on bikes. There were cool cars. There were bagpipers, some in gorilla costumes, playing "Camptown Races" (you know - The Camptown ladies sing this song, Doo-dah, Doo-dah ... ) Paraders were throwing candy, beads, rubber balls, and hot dogs at the crowd. A sample of the parade participants:
  • The Balls of Barny's Beanery (People dressed as billiard balls)
  • The Bastard Sons of Ed Wood
  • The Bastard Sons of Lee Marvin
  • Universal Yoga (Guru Yogi Ramesh)
  • The Claude Rains Memorial 20-Man Invisible Marching Drill Team ( Two people followed by 20 invisible marchers ... well, I didn't count them myself)
  • The Men of Leisure Synchronized Nap Team
  • The Red Hat Ladies
  • The Disco Drill Team (Y - M - C - A)
  • Plastic Animals on Parade
  • Caesar's Circus
  • The Raelians ( The Clone People)
  • H.E.R.D. (a recumbent bicycle club)
  • Dick Cheney's Hunting Club
  • Barbecue & Hibachi Marching Grill Team (shooting hot dogs at the crowd)
  • the Train of Thought
I have never seen so many bizarre people in my life. The most important thing is that they were all having a great time marching and dancing down Colorado Boulevard. I have no doubt that we will be going to the 2007 Doo Dah Parade.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Friday and Saturday - School nights

The Saints are moving on in the playoffs. Their next opponents, the Falcons, are supposed to be tough. Go Saints! I did not attend and it has been suggested that I should go and root for the opposing team. I'm not sure how I feel about this. Kind of bums me out a little.

Speaking of the wife's school, on Saturday we attended the school's charity auction. There was a pretty good turnout. I haven't heard what the haul was but I don't think the school was disappointed. The wife was disappointed that she didn't win anything, though. It was a worthwhile evening of charity giving and good food.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Busy Weekend

I have been a little lax in updating Homer's Travels this week. The creative juices just haven't been flowing. This weekend is looking to be a full weekend and I should have stuff to post about.

We have a busy weekend ... or at least the wife does. It starts tonight when the wife going to the High School Football playoff game between the Saints (Frontier League Champions!) and the Spirit. I am, of course, not invited. Tomorrow she has several football games on TV, Sears is coming by to install our microwave (our old one died a week ago - Dang I miss the microwave!), and then we go to a charity auction at the wife's school. Before the auction, I will be doing some chores and shopping. Sunday will be filled with the Doo Dah parade and the San Fernando Mission ('J' won't be joining us ... School work has gotten in the way).

We have been much more active and we are doing more things since we got back from Peru. Before Peru we were pretty much homebodies on the weekends. It feels like we have only had a weekend or two since August where we just stayed home during the weekend. I have lived in southern California for over 19 years and I am finally doing things I should have done years ago. I am really enjoying doing the things and seeing the places we have visited. I am actively looking for things to do and see. I only regret that I didn't do this 19 years ago.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Zip-A-Dee Doo Dah

The 2006 Doo Dah parade (the 30th one) is on the Sunday, 19 November. We are planning to go with 'J' to watch the parade. The Doo Dah parade is a parody of the Rose parade and promises to be a fun-filled time for all.

The hilarity of the parade may be followed by a more sobering visit to another of California's missions - Mission San Fernando.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Movies: Flags, The Queen, and Borat

During the past couple months we have gone to three movies. Here are mini reviews:

  1. Flags of our Fathers: This movie is the story of the Iwo Jima flag raisings. It's an O.K. movie. Nothing spectacular but entertaining enough. I was not familiar with the story of the flags so I left the theater with a little more knowledge then when I entered - a plus. The Iwo Jima invasion scenes were graphic taking a chapter from Saving Private Ryan - just not as well. A good movie - not a great movie.

  2. The Queen: The wife likes to follow the comings and goings of the British Royals. This movies tells the story of the Royal family when during the death of Diana. Pretty dull if you ask me. Nothing to see here - nothing new either. The wife agreed.

  3. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan: O.K. This movie got great reviews. My expectations were high. After the first 10 minutes I was thinking about walking out. The movie is disgusting, degrading, insulting, and despicable. After watching this movie I had a terrible taste in my mouth, heartburn, body aches (from cringing so much), and I felt like I needed a long hot bath. I felt dirty. The wife described it as Porn - That's about right. We did laugh but it was an embarrassed laugh, the uncomfortable laugh when you aren't quite sure if it is proper to laugh or cringe. You get the idea? Don't go see this movie. Don't rent the DVD. Cover you eyes when you drive by a theater showing this movie.
Our taste in movies hasn't been great lately. Hopefully that will change.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Overcast Mental Wanderings

Well, the jinx seems to be confirmed. I stayed home last night and the Saints beat the Wildcats. I have now been dis-invited by other teachers besides the wife. Now, if I were a High School football fan I would be insulted by this but I'm not. The fact is I have never been interested in sports. I was the the last to be picked, I was the guy in the outfield where no one ever hit the ball, and I was the one who really didn't care who won the game which really pissed off the rest of the team. This is all cool because I was the Geek. I got the 'A' in Math and Science. I read science fiction. I spent my free time in the library reading about things that even I won't admit too in public. I briefly joined the chess club (it was mandatory to be in a club and chess seemed benign - I really suck at chess). I joined the programming club and got all excited when I managed to print a sine wave on the old teletype using BASIC. When I took an aptitude test in High School, my recommended vocations were Astronomer and Computer Scientist. I looked at these two professions and decided that the only way to make money in Astronomy was to teach and I didn't have the patience to teach (God bless the wife). That left Computer Science and so I chose Computer Engineering (and later added a second Electrical Engineering degree) as my degree. I probably should have stayed on the programming side but instead I chose the hardware side and off I went. I graduated with a 3-point-something and got a job where I used about 0.01% of what I had learned. This was probably a mistake but it was the easy way at the time. Now 19 years have passed and I am in a job that has its ups and downs. Sometimes it is fulfilling and other times it is just mind-numbing crap.

Wow, I didn't know where this came from ... I'm kind of bumming myself out. Not all journeys can be pleasant ones I guess. There is only one way to fix this ... A Haiku:

Klutzy Sci-Fi Geek
Matured into Football Jinx
Away, Away Dark Thoughts

Friday, November 10, 2006

SpongeBob and the Hasselhoff?!? WOW!!

After getting back from the Observatory, the wife went to a football game between her current school and the school she used to work at. I was not invited. So I stayed home updating Homer's Travels listening to the last three hours of the SpongeBob SquarePants marathon which ended with the SpongeBob SquarePants movie - A movie featuring a cameo by David Hasselhoff - who could ask for anything more. A perfect end to a perfect day!

The Most Looked Through Telescope in the WORLD!

Today we set off to see Griffith Observatory. Traffic was a little heavier then I expected and we arrived only 10 minutes before our shuttle bus appointment (Since reopening last week, the only way to get to the Observatory is by shuttle bus and only by appointment). We arrived at the observatory and, passing by the monument to the Astronomers, headed for the ticket line. The line to the planetarium show ticket counter was already long. We overheard a guide asking another if they knew about the automated ticket machine on the second floor. I hustled down and ended up first in line to the automated ticket machine. Less then a minute later we had our tickets.

Since it was noon, we decided to have lunch first at Wolfgang Puck's Cafe at the End of the Universe. This is a play on Douglas Adams' book Restaurant at the End of the Universe. We ordered a couple roast beast sandwiches, chips, sodas, and some sweets for desert - $29.15. I little on the steep side but the sandwich was made on a gourmet roll and there was a substantial pile of roast beef - almost worth it.
After the lunch we moved on to the exhibits. Everything is well done. The exhibits covered the history of Astronomy, our current knowledge of the Solar System, and the current state of the Universe. Most of the exhibits are aimed at the younger set so we walked through it fairly quickly. The top floor was the original planetarium. The ceiling in the central rotunda features murals that have been restore and a Foucault pendulum proving the rotation of the Earth (I was starting to doubt this rotation nonsense but the pendulum set me straight).

In the new section, we saw a movie at the Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon Theater. The movie shows the history of the Observatory and the $93 Million renovation. The audience gasped when the movie said that the entire building was lifted up using hydraulic lifts so that the workers could add the second and third floors under the original observatory. Very impressive engineering.

The observatory has been used for several movies - both good and bad - over the years. One of the most famous, and marked by a memorial, is Rebel Without A Cause. Note the Hollywood sign in the background.

After exploring the new section we headed for the Samuel Oschin planetarium show. The show was a typical astronomy history show. Very well executed but nothing I hadn't seen before.The last thing we did was go up to the roof to see the telescope. Since it was daytime it wasn't active but it was still impressive. It is the most looked through telescope in the world. We plan to return some evening so we can look through it. I am sure the LA lights will be impressive as well.

After a stop at the Stellar Emporium for a magnet, we headed home. I had a good time. What will we do next? Stay tuned and find out.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Zoo

I went to the Santa Barbara Zoo today. The wife wasn't with me. I don't blame her. She has a friend who used to work at the Omaha zoo and kind of got all Zoo-ed out. Anyway, The Santa Barbara Zoo is located near the beach. The zoo is not the most impressive in the world. Their websites says plan for 2 1/2 hours. It took me about an hour to complete the whole thing. Some of the exhibits were closed. The place was showing some wear and tear. The zoo is 43 years old and it looks it. (I too am 43 years old by I look Magnificent.) Most of the animals were sleeping - what else is there to do in a small cage/pen?

I took some 87 pictures and the only ones worth posting were the giraffe and the penguins. The picture on the left shows what happens when you sleep on you neck wrong - ouch that looks painful. She seems OK though. They think the deformity was caused by a tumor on a neck bone.

The penguins were ... well, just penguins but who can't smile at penguins - they're so darn cute. Heres a picture of some swimming in their tank.

After looking around and feeling a little disappointed, I had lunch at the zoo - a tasty BBQ Chicken Sandwich which actually was pretty good - and perused the gift shop and found a magnet.

The sad thing is, this wiped me out. I was so tired when I got home that I crashed on the couch for an hour or two before walking the Homer. I may look Magnificent but the whole age thing is catching up with me.

Tomorrow The wife and I go to the Griffith Observatory. I'm looking forward to it - it sounds cool.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

I Feel Better Already

So I'm on my way to the tire repair place, the front driver side tire replaced with a little toy tire that Honda calls a spare, jamming to the tunes on NPR's Morning Becomes Eclectic, when on comes a song by the Flaming Lips called, and I kid you not, "The Big Ol' Bug Is The New Baby Now." I wonder what they were smoking when they wrote those lyrics. The song was a bizarre story about a man and his dogs, how the dogs chewed up every toy except their favorite, and how a big plastic grasshopper replaced their favorite stuffed toy. What a weird way to start the day.

The tire place was a breeze. They fixed it in the time it took me to read three pages in my book - in, read three pages, and out in about 15 minutes. Total cost to repair the leaking valve stem - $0.00 - Priceless.

The rest of my day was filled with chores, shopping, gardening, walking the Homer, and listening to This American Life. A busy and fulfilling day if I say so myself.

What does all this mean? The elections are over and I feel better already.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Some Journeys Fall Flat

I'm driving to work this morning ... not my favorite journey ... when I notice my steering wheel was shaking a little. I get to work and get out of the car and see a flat tire. I used my small compressor to pump the tire up to see how fast it was leaking and found that is was a slow leak. It was still up at the end of the day but flattened again on the way home. I am convinced now that the valve stem is leaking. Crud! Not a great start to a long weekend (I'm taking leave Wednesday, have an off day on Thursday, and have Veteran's Day off on Friday - a five day weekend - WOO HOO!). Tomorrow I will spend some of my precious time getting my tire fixed. BOO HOO for me. I'm sure you all feel sorry for me ... HA!

I'm considering going to the Santa Barbara Zoo on Thursday. The wife isn't interested in going so if I go it will be a solo sojourn. If I go it will be the fifth zoo that I've been to (Guatemala City, Omaha, Honolulu, San Diego).