Homer's Travels: December 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.