Friday, September 22, 2017

Pardon The Interruption

Just got back from a trip to Universal Orlando for Halloween Horror Nights.  Really fun and creepy!

I'll finish up the Grand Canyon posts after I recover.  See you then.

Soon

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Grand Canyon 2017 - Day 4

A road trip within our road trip today.  We breakfasted at the hotel at 7:00am then at 8:30 left for Sedona.  It's about a 2 hour drive from Tusayan and instead of going all the way down to I40 then over to Flagstaff, we split off at the Flintstones place and took 180 to Flagstaff.  I'm glad we did, as that drive was much more interesting.

180 took us through peaks, ski areas and forest (not right here obviously)
Red Mountain.  That's its name.  There were a lot of hiking and exploring options along this corridor, including a mile long lava tube.  We'll have to spend more time when we come back.
Approaching Sedona.  The drive down 89A from Flagstaff offers some great views once you get closer.  I was reminded several times of Custer State Park in South Dakota.

Grand Canyon 2017 - Day 3, Part 2: The Plane

After our hike we got back to the hotel at 2:45pm and had just enough time to catch our breath before meeting up with everyone at 3:00pm.  We then drove 1/2 mile over to the Grand Canyon Airport for a flight over and around the Grand Canyon in a Cessna Caravan single engine plane.  This was another idea of Mom's, and it was a great one - definitely a highlight of the trip!  She made the arrangements that morning before we split off for our hike.

We arrived at the airport, checked in for our flight with Grand Canyon Airlines, paid, and had a short wait before our pilot came to walk us out onto the tarmac.  We put on our headphones, had a quick safety lecture, then we were off.  Music and narration was piped in over the headphones, and the pilot periodically cut in with his own observations.

Shirley and Walt in the airport terminal
All aboard

Friday, September 15, 2017

Grand Canyon 2017 - Day 3, Part 1: The Hike

I'm breaking this one up into 2 posts, a.m. and p.m., because I'm terrible at self-editing and have included a lot of photos.

Like this panorama I took later in the day

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Grand Canyon 2017 - Day 2

Taken on the road at 75mph (I love my iPhone 7+)
Day 2 started with breakfast at our hotel at 7am, then we hit the road at 8:30.  On the way we gained another hour and reached Flagstaff at 12:30 local time.  We turned North off of I40 at Williams and drove 50 miles to our hotel (Holiday Inn Express again) in Tusuyan, AZ.


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Grand Canyon 2017 - Day 1

Hello again!

Todd and I just returned from a road trip to the Grand Canyon with my mom, aunt Shirley, and my aunt's beau Walt.  We had such a great time - seeing the Grand Canyon in photos or on tv doesn't compare with seeing it in person.

The first day we were on the road at 7:30am and drove from Dallas to Albuquerque, NM  We took 2 cars and stopped in Bowie, TX to meet up with the other vehicle.  Mom transferred from Shirley's car to ours and we were on our way.  We stopped around 1:00 for lunch in Amarillo at Red Robin and were back on the road at 2pm.

Windmills near Electra, TX
Maybe don't let your kids play in the playsnakeground at this rest stop near Quanah, TX

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Alaskan Cruise 2017 - Day 10: Home

7/15/17

Well, all good things must come to an end and whatnot.  We checked out early, caught our ride to the airport and flew home to Dallas.

Goodbye Mt. Rainier
Goodbye cloud and green hills and valley with winding river
Goodbye mountaintop lakes
Hello DFW Airport
Hello heat :(
AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys
Actually there's quite a lot of attractions in this area


And that wraps up our Alaskan cruise.  I'll sum up with these thoughts:  We had a great time with John and Norma and are so glad we got to go with them.  The experience of cruising up the inland passage to Alaska was great - relaxing, amazing sights, great weather, terrific excursions.  The experience the cruise line offered while on the ship was fine; it was about what I expected except for the constant pushing of merchandise.  They really went the full QVC while we were trapped on board.

Seattle was already on my list of places to go, but now that we've had a taste it's been bumped up to a higher priority.  We've agreed that we want to explore the city more, spend time outside the city enjoying nature, and road-tripping from there to Vancouver.  We'll have to make that happen soon.

I would definitely like to spend more time in Alaska as well, mainly hiking and exploring.  There's so much natural beauty there that it's hard to imagine how we would choose where to go and what to do.  When we go back we most likely will fly in instead of cruising again, giving us more time to explore on our own.  The same goes for Victoria, British Columbia.  That looked like a fun town to spend some time exploring, and we've got to spend more time at the amazing Butchart Gardens.

Wow, the destination list just keeps growing.  We'll have to balance new discoveries with revisiting favorites.

Thanks for sticking around.  Next up will be our first trip to the Grand Canyon, so I'll see you then!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Alaskan Cruise 2017 - Day 8: Victoria, British Columbia

7/13/17

A lot of pictures for this post, so I'll cut down on the minutia.

On this morning we docked in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.  John would stay onboard while Norma, Todd and I had an excursion to Butchart Gardens and Craigdarroch Castle.  We met Norma at her room at 8:45 then headed down our designated excursion post in the Palace Theater on deck 5.  They grouped by excursion type, then when the time came we left the ship in groups to board the buses.

Our guide and driver took us through Victoria first, then on to our first stop.  We arrived at Butchart Gardens at 10am, and it was incredible.  We had 1 1/2 hours to tour the gardens, but in hindsight we should have spent all day there, it was that amazingly beautiful.

After the gardens the bus took us back to Victoria at 12:30 where we toured Craigdarroch Castle which is not really a castle, but a storied old house/mansion.  It was interesting, but paled compared to the previous stop.  We spent an hour at Craigdarroch then drove back through Victoria to the port.

Sunrise view

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Alaskan Cruise 2017 - Day 7

7/12/17 - A day at sea.

There was no scheduled port of call for this day as we sailed toward Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

5:09am
20 minutes later
Another shot

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Alaskan Cruise 2017 - Day 6: Endicott Arm Fjord & Dawes Glacier

7/11/17

A new sight outside our window this morning as we head up (down?) the Endicott Arm Fjord on the way to Dawes Glacier:

Is that...?
...it is.  Ice.
(Lots of ice pics coming up - nyuk, nyuk, nyuk)

Monday, August 14, 2017

Alaskan Cruise 2017 - Day 5: Skagway

7/10/17

On this morning we made our 2nd port of call:  Skagway, Alaska.

The view from our balcony at 5am this morning
I believe that small town on the water's edge is Haines, Alaska

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Alaskan Cruise 2017 - Day 4: Juneau, Part 2

Continued from the previous post.

That's the Mount Roberts Tramway.  You can just make out the tram near the top in the photo.  Riders board a gondola at at the docks and ride to the top where there are scenic views, hiking opportunities, a nature center, shop, restaurant and more.

Alaskan Cruise 2017 - Day 4: Juneau, Part 1

July 9th - Port of call:  Juneau, Alaska

On this morning we were still under power with a noon arrival in Juneau.  We crossed time zones and gained an hour so I was up earlier than usual.  It was about 55 degrees and the sky was overcast with a light rain - perfect weather for traveling north in my opinion.

I put on my shorts, t-shirt and hoodie to go walking and left Todd sleeping.  Since it was raining too much to walk on the track on deck 11 I went down to deck 4 - the outside area there (where the lifeboats are) encircles the entire ship and is almost completely covered.  I don't think I've already posted it, so I've included a cutaway of the ship's layout below.

This morning's view from our stateroom.  Love it.
Deck 4 with the lifeboats hanging above
I've drawn this handy diagram to show...
Just kidding.  Picture from royalcaribbean.co.uk

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Alaskan Cruise 2017 - Day 2

July 7, 2017

Morning broke in Seattle and put on my walking shoes for a 4 mile walk around the area.  I didn't have an agenda in mind when I left the room, but by the time I hit the street I had decided to head to the Space Needle (about a mile and a half from the hotel).

The early morning empty lobby of the W
Made it.  I took a couple of photos then continued on my way.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Alaskan Cruise 2017 - Day 1: North To Alaska!

Earlier this month we returned from an Alaskan cruise with my in-laws John and Norma.  Neither Todd nor his parents had ever been on a cruise before.  I had been on a cruise to the Bahamas in high school, but that was so long ago that this was like a first cruise for all of us.  Alaska turned out to be the perfect destination since it was much needed break from the Texas heat.

We sailed with Royal Caribbean on the Explorer of the Seas.  The cruise departed from and returned to Seattle, Washington, so to ease travel fatigue and stress we bookended the trip with an overnight stay there at each end of the trip.  We'll definitely be going back for a dedicated Seattle vacation in the future - what a fun place!

We flew out on July 6th, so John and Norma drove up to spend the night with us on the 5th.  We got up the morning of the 6th and they went to breakfast while Todd and I took the cats to be boarded - so hard to leave them!  All of us met back at the house then made our way to the airport.

We made it through security and down to the gate with plenty of time to spare so we grabbed a bite at Einstein Bros. Bagels.  I had a turkey sausage, egg and cheese bagel.  As we were finishing we received alerts that our gate had changed to another terminal.  Pressed for time now, we made our way to the Skyline train that connects the terminals and had just boarded when...it broke down.  Luckily, it was up and running again within 10 minutes and we made it to our new terminal and gate with just enough time to stop at the restroom before boarding.  Whew.

The flight was uneventful.  We received a meal on this flight so I had a veggie enchilada, corn salad, romaine lettuce, wheat roll and glass of red mystery wine.  Dessert was a really good lemon coconut cake and a cup of coffee.

Love taking photos of clouds from above

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Disneyland Trip 2017 - Day 5

Well, we had a really good time and this trip totally satisfied the "got to get away" urge.

We checked out and waited out in front of the hotel for about 40 minutes for our Disney bus to come to take us to LAX.  The ride back was uneventful and we still had time to kill so we hung out in the new international terminal for a bit.  Then it was back to home and hearth, rested and relaxed!

I'm ready to go...where's that damn bus?
We saw this ginormous British Airways double decker plane getting prepped for takeoff
This thing was just massive
Getting close to home.  From up here civilization just looks like a bioluminescent splotch on the Earth.

That's it for this report.  Thanks for sticking around and waiting for the finish!

Now, let me tell you about Alaska...

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Disneyland 2017 Trip - Day 4

Up early again for another power walk through California Adventure.  This time the lead instructor (I guess) joined us and we stopped near the end in the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail area where she led us through several stretching exercises.  Bonus!  I know I said it before, but it's worth repeating:  These walks were really the highlights of the trip for me.

Afterwards we went back to the room.  Todd went back to sleep and after resting for a while I got cleaned up and went to Disneyland.  It was the "Extra Magic Hour" day for resort guests so I was able to get in before the 9am official park opening time.  First stop: Splash Mountain.  Or maybe not.

Todd's corpse-like post-walk repose

I was going to ride Splash Mountain but there was a rope blocking access to that side of the park.  Then I remembered from last time that during early morning access only Tomorrowland and Fantasyland are open.  Bummer.  I switched gears and got in line for the Matterhorn Bobsleds instead.

Matterhorn waterfall
Boarding area

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Got To Catch Up

I've gotten behind - we just returned from a(n amazing) cruise to Alaska with the in-laws and I haven't finished posting about Disneyland.  I'll try to wrap that up quickly so I can move on to "Seward's folly".


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Disneyland 2017 Trip - Day 3

Todd joined me for the power walk this morning - kudos to him for getting up early.  We had another great walk and got to watch (as we passed and then later looped back through the same area) them rehearsing and shooting a commercial with Mickey on a cherry picker.  Neat!

After the walk we again got breakfast at the Hearthstone Lounge and took it back to the room to eat and relax/nap until the park was open.  We planned to spend this day and the next at Disneyland, so we were not in any hurry today.


A menacing shadow behind the curtains turns out to be just a big moth.  We managed to shoo him out onto the balcony where he glowered at us before flying away.
Good morning Disneyland

Monday, June 12, 2017

Disneyland 2017 Trip - Day 2

Up at 5:30 for the 6:00am power walk I mentioned in the previous post.  This is free activity for guests staying on-site; you just have to sign up at your hotel or by calling guest services.  Space for each walk is limited to between 10-20 people depending on the day, but I ended up doing this each morning of our trip and we didn't have more than 8 people each day.  The walk itself is 2 miles and takes place in the California Adventure theme park before it's open.  As you go, the cast members leading the walk give facts about the park and answer any questions you have.  It's like a fast, exclusive behind-the-scenes tour.  Taking photos is not allowed on the walk.

The meeting point for the start of the walk was at the Grand Californian entry gate to the California Adventure park.  I arrived at 10 'til and there 4 others waiting.  About 5 minutes later our Disney cast member fitness leaders arrived and after a quick roll call we signed our liability waivers and were given neon yellow safety vests to wear.  Two other guests arrived, and while they were filling out their liability forms the last 2 guests arrived.

The deserted entrance to the park from the hotel.  Waiting to get my walk on.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Disneyland 2017 Trip - Day 1

Hi, how's it going?

At the beginning of this month Todd and I took a trip to Disneyland for a relaxing, no-hassles vacation.  We had been looking for a quick getaway, and the various Disneyland crowd calendars showed that the beginning of May would be a good time to go, so we went.

Waiting for our plane at DFW Airport.  Not this one though.  Right airline, wrong plane.
Hello Los Angeles, you dirty, dirty diamond