Friday, October 6, 2017

You know you are old when ...

We have two, nine-hour days in the car to get home. It is unlikely I will find something interesting to photograph unless I take photos when we reach the north.

We were talking about the various trips we have taken over the years. Cindy noted that we used to bring back beers we could not purchase locally. Coors was a big deal when we were younger. New Orleans It was Abita from New Orleans if my beer memory is still sharp. No beer this trip. We are returning with several cases of mineral water from Hot Springs. We have unflavored (which is lime) and blackberry/pomegranate. We were rewarded for our large purchase by an extra four-pack we could consume on the road.

You know you are old when you return home with several cases of water.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Travel and tires

Today was a teaching day so we had no other plans than to check into a motel for quality wifi. However, in unhooking the rPod at the Hot Springs National Park campground I noticed a problem with a tire on the camper. Since we were in a community with several tire shops and the tire was not of an unusual type, we were in good shape.

We have had frequent problems with tires on our road trips. During the last outing with the rPod, we ran over a screw with the car. The tire could not be fixed and because the car is all wheel drive, the tires have to be very close to the same size. Big SUVs have expensive tires and the bill for four was over a thousand dollars. The camper tire was inexpensive in comparison.

We went through three tires on our old camper on an Alaska trip, but that was back in the days of driving on gravel.

I do know how to change a tire and have done so many times. However, this process used to be far easier and I can say I did not regret being able to just drive to the tire store.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Hot Springs, AR

Hot Springs, Arkansas, is the tourist remains of a town built because of hot and smelly water. This water bubbled up through cracks in the ground at a temperature of 140+ and was regarded as having therapeutic properties because of the dissolved chemicals. The therapeutic properties brought visitors looking for cures for various ailments. At the heights of popularity, the main street consisted of opulent bathhouses and associated medical services. Eventually, the medicinal capabilities of mineral waters fell into dispute, the bathhouses fell into disrepair, and most services shut down.

The National Parks service pretty much saved the community as a historical site and things have been rebuilt and restored. You can still soak in the hot water, but most such experiences come with a massage, pedicure, etc. I passed, but in my younger days, we did try the natural hot waters of other locations. The hot water is not recommended for those with various medical conditions and I did not bring my suit.

Cindy noted that the male bathing area was more ornate. From the artifacts still on display, I must agree.

Evidently, the hot water soaks were so relaxing you were pretty much shot for the rest of the day. To accommodate this condition, the bathhouses typically had large from porches with rocking chairs allowing guests to cool and recover. 

Monday, October 2, 2017

Suffering Soccotash

The adventure of the day was visiting Silver Dollar City in Branson, MO. Branson is a tourist "destination" supporting the entertainment needs of citizens from the central United States. If Disney or Dollywood are beyond your means and you live in Iowa, Minnesota, etc., you head for Branson.

Silver Dollar City is one of the Branson attractions. It is pretty much a theme park. I guess until now I never seriously considered just what being a theme park means. Evidently, it means you have a theme. This makes some sense - Dollywood has Dolly, Disney has Minnie and Mickey, and Universal has various movies. The Silver Dollar City theme is a bit unclear to me, but the owners do profit greatly so maybe silver dollar somehow fits.

It was supposed to be Cowboy Days at the park. Now, when the theme of a theme park changes, it can be difficult to adapt all attractions to the new theme. I guess there were a few folks in cowboy hats and I heard  "Home on the Range" (which I happen to know is a real place in North Dakota), but must of the park was probably just the same as when it was time for the Moonshine Festival. From what I can see of Missouri, the Moonshine festival seems more local.

One of the unique characteristics of this park is the various craftsman (and women) creating and selling their crafts. This was one of the more interesting to watch. Some guy dressed in a cowboy costume was operating a lathe while some other bigger and younger guy was turning this giant wheel to power the lathe. I never did get the deal with lathes. The options for products seems kind of limited. You can make table legs, rolling pins, and baseball bats, but what then. If I were a wannabe craftsman, I would look for a craft with more options.

Theme parks cater to all ages and must provide something for everyone. A good part of most parks is taken up by rides of various types. These are not intended for old folks who do not have the stomach for such experiences and have difficulty enough standing up as it is and do not need their equilibrium compromised.

As far as I can tell, the options for the old folks consist of music of the type the park operators think appeal to this group (mostly fiddles and accordions and hillbilly family singing groups) and stuff to eat. Stuff to eat is a big one. There is always fudge and you cannot go wrong with salt water taffy. There were also some unique offerings here and I had the opportunity to eat succotash for the first time. With a little hot sauce, it was pretty good.

I knew succotash was a food and I knew that corn was a main ingredient, but that was about it. I knew that some cartoon character used to yell "suffering succotash", but aside from sounding funny this item of trivia offered little insight. Now I can add eating succotash to my list of life accomplishments.

On to a new destination.

Friday, September 29, 2017

I should not complain, but ...

I understand that not having access to the internet for a few days or hours may be good for me. I understand that I am not actually suffering and I have plenty of options to entertain myself. Still, the Missouri State Parks should not make a big deal out of providing internet as a new feature of their modernization efforts if their internet is not working.

We moved our camper to Branson, MO. Yes, I understand that this is a super tourist area with water parks, duck boats, country singers, salt water taffy, etc. and I know my kids will laugh at us for calling this a camping adventure, but after complaining about no internet I might as well go all of the way.

Back to the internet thing. There were signs in the office and I was given a brochure. It explained that the state recognized that many folks like to check their email and post pictures of their adventures on  Facebook. Who would not want to visit Missouri after viewing my photos? The brochure gave basic advice on how to connect to the hotspots that are available on the roofs of each shower building and warned visitors that you might want to consider not making credit card purchases and might want to install a virus protector. I hiked around the campground sitting outside several shower buildings without luck. I mentioned the problem to a couple of maintenance girls. They pointed at the devices on top of the building, but I suggested they try their phones if they did not believe me. They said they would tell someone. It is really just the principle of the thing. We have our own mobile hotspot and our phones would work to allow us to connect using our computers or iPads. It is just the principle of the thing. If they just did not have that brochure.

On another topic. it is national coffee day. Of the many special celebrations that are possible, I never miss national coffee day.

I paid my respects by purchasing a couple of no fat lattes and an unusual apple thing that I could have with ice cream or a slice of cheese. The barista said that folks up north sometimes eat their apple pie with a slice of cheese. I said that I did know that, but I prefer ice cream.

OK - moving on.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Holiday Inn Express

Spending the day in a Holiday Inn. No, I am not wimping out on camping. I need to prepare and then run my online class this evening. Bandwidth, bandwidth, bandwidth. I won't even wash clothes.

A picture to keep you busy until tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A hat to live by

Cindy loves to read or send me inspirational quotes she finds online - things that are intended to help me find motivation or direction for my life. I think I have found something far better - an inspirational hat. I have many hats. This is the case because I keep forgetting the one I am supposed to have with me. I have a thin covering of hair on the top of my head and I must seek coverage to limit sun or cold exposure. I found this hat in the gift shop at Ha Ha Tonka (laughing waters) state park.

Ha Ha Tonka state park did have some other interesting things. This is the remains (it burned in the 1940s) of the Castle at Ha Ha Tonka. Those in the castle had a tremendous view overlooking the Lake of the Ozarks.

4G - 2 bars

The Lake of the Ozarks looks to be a river sitting behind a dam. Our view does not show a great body of water, but the map shows it goes on forever. It would likely be a fun opportunity if you had a boat.

The campgrounds are very nice and nearly empty. We do like offseason for this reason, but the emptiness can also get a bit creepy.

Internet connections are always an issue. We have to use our phones or our mobile hotspot, but with 4G and 2 bars (at best) tasks such as uploading an image takes great patience. I may have to resort to McDonald to keep this blog going. Great coffee for a fast food establishment. I have to work on trips such as this so we will be finding a hotel Thursday so I can connect, prepare for, and hold my online class.

Cindy was able to stream the Twins last night. One more win and they are in the playoff game with the Yankees. I do hope they wrap it up today because we have a 25 gig bandwidth cap and things would get really expensive if we had to continue to stream for more games.

Go Twins!

P.S. I do get tired of hearing from Cindy how I should have shown more faith in Buxton.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Folgers for All

The fall trip for 2017 will take us to the Ozarks. Our original plan was to go West, but the fires in so many areas caused us to change our original plan. We have decided to visit the Ozarks.

As long as our health and mental capacity hold, we enjoy travel by car and camping. We no longer sleep on the ground, but have settled on a smaller camper - the rPod. It is perfect for our needs and interests. I am not a fan of air travel and I enjoy driving as a time to look and think. We have books. blogs, and music on the radio and have a great time making decisions about direction and side trips as we go.

Rest stops in different states have always been a source of interest. Many are constructed to reflect something interesting about the state.

Our entry into Iowa allowed us to visit an "information center and rest stop" built in the form of a barn and silo. The barn was a two-story affair. Within the barn, I noticed a second mini-barn on the second floor. A coffee bar in the shape of a barn.

Coffee is my thing so I headed up the stairs. I had hopes of a latte or an assortment of fine brews allowing choice and maybe even samples. Nope. One option. Now, I am pretty sure that the $1.50 cup I purchased was Folgers. It was warm and it was coffee. Maybe if it was early in the morning and I needed to hit the road it would be sufficient, but I had hoped for more in the middle of the afternoon, 

I know I may sound like a snob, but a fancy barn within a barn should serve something other than a generic brew. My kids would expect something other than Bud Light if the barn within a barn was offering beer. This just happens to be my personal bias.

On the road and searching for some Tanzanian Peaberry. 

Monday, February 27, 2017


Grandma is always complaining that while I take a lot of pictures very few contain people. You know those kids from Japan who run around with their selfie sticks and they or a friend is in every picture. Not me.

I thought I would give it a try. This is Preston. I asked if he would pose and he was a very willing subject. I thought the smile was a little weird.

There you are grandma. A picture of a person.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Gnome Nodding or Nodding Gnome

Preston and I, the two sickies, were sitting in the shade of a picnic shelter while the others boogie boarded and did the other things you do in the surf. The was the first day out of the condo for me.

We were playing and analyzing the best strategies for Hangman when I noted this strange formation on a nearby tree. BTW - we were using the magnetic pieces version and not the free form paper version. Obviously, we decided if you are allowed to add toes and fingers you should never get hung.

"Preston, do you see that funny thing on that tree", I asked.

"Yes, it looks like a person", Preston replied.

So, we decided to take a picture and get the right angle to emphasize the human form. We agreed this was acceptable and I did not want to spend more time experimenting in the sun so we retreated back to the shade.

I posted the result to Instagram with the title Gnome Nodding. Then I starting thinking was Gnome Nodding grammatically correct or should it be Nodding Gnome. I went with Gnome Nodding because this seemed to be the way artwork is titled. Maybe this is what they call artistic license.

Time is up, step away from condo

Time is up, step away from your condo. This was supposed to be the end of our time in Hawaii. Actually, the end was supposed to be Friday, but we rented the condo through Saturday and just did not read the fine details on the plane tickets.

The contractual expectations were explicit - meet certain cleaning requirements and leave the condo by 10. Time ran out, Cindy backed away from working on the kitchen, and we were gone.

As things go, we are still here and health is improving. I spent a little time in the sun (more accurately outside) and my try a short walk today.

Friday, February 24, 2017


You may have wondered what happened to the travel blog. There was no end to the Kauai trip. No home again post. We are actually still here with about half of the crew leaving at 3:30 this morning. We decided to extend for a couple of days. The explanation follows.

The short version of the study is I got shingles and have been pretty much condo bound for the last week. I did consider adding a selfie and the picture of my face would certainly have generated some attention but I decided not to scare the little kids (other than those who were here). I probably could have left this morning, but this would be the first day I would have wanted to take on the day-long process of getting back to Minnesota. The problem began last Friday. I have a bad dental issue I am to have addressed on Mar. 6 and so I assumed this is what it was. The problem continued to get more serious on Saturday and now it seemed more an ear problem. Probably an ear or maybe a sinus infection. I considered going to urgent care but thought I could make it to Monday.

Monday turned out to be Presidents' Day, but we were able to find a clinic that was open. Amazingly, I was able to see a doc within an hour or so. The Doc went with the ear infection. Cleaned our the ear and gave me a prescription for antibiotic ear drops. He also wanted me to get a blood test to rule out some "vein following" infection that was a low probability, but would be a threat to the vision in my right eye. The temple and eye socket were sore and so he wanted to rule out this possibility. The lab was not open so I would have to come back the next day.

The ear did feel a little better, but everything else was getting much worse. There was a band of pain running up the side of my face, past my eye, and ending on top of my head. The band was puffy and very sore, but that was it. It was very difficult to sleep and I started to run a fever. I was able to diagnose my own problem. I knew it was shingles. Thank you Terry Bradshaw (actually Cindy had the shingles on another of our trips years ago so she might have also figured it out). The key was the docs mention of the disease threatening the eye and following a vein I was to be tested to rule out. It was a disease following a nerve.

The second visit to the doc did not go as easily as the first. I think it was four hours before I could get in to see a nurse practitioner. I told the nurse I had the shingles and said she thought so as well. A few of the bumps symptomatic of shingles were just starting to show. I was given two drugs - one to attack the disease and the second to deaden the nerves. Cindy also bought some homeopathic salve that was to make me feel better. They are big on healthy additions to medical care here and Cindy was trying to make me feel better. Two days of misery and finally relief.

Listen to Terry. If you are an old person, get the shot.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Kauai Nice

Kauai does not have a lot of roads, but those that exist are heavily used. It is common to experience traffic jams that may stretch for miles. The one-lane bridges contribute to the backups. Lots of cars, one-line bridges, and no signals of any kind. You are pretty much on your own.

Getting across one-road bridges under such conditions depends on a convention - let a few cars go and then it is your turn. The number is not clearly specified, but somehow it seems to work. The one thing you don't want to do is hesitate. A break in the action and it automatically becomes the other side's turn. Once in a while, someone will join the end of the line late even though there is a break and follow anyway. This is clearly a violation of protocol. There is very little honking when this happens. Throwing up a "shaka" is kind of an apology, but should not be overused.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017


Yesterday's outing was to the Chocolate Plantation to learn about cacao and tropical fruits. The tour guide, farm worker, repurposed California real estate salesperson holds a cacao pod in the second picture. The ice cream cone looking half shows the gelatinous covering containing the cacao beans.

The co-owner welcomed the guests and was the first I have heard describe such experiences as agritourism. I realized I have been on several agritourism outings. On this trip alone, I have visited the largest coffee plantation and a kind of hippy, mixed crop chocolate "plantation". 

As things go with me, I began to think about employment, technology and the economy. I can provide several examples now of the small and large scale efforts to generate "needed" goods. The farmers' market and the supermarket, the hand-picked Kona coffee and the largest coffee farm, shrimp fisherman and shrimp farmers, the hand pollinated cacao grower (tropical fruit grower, agritourism host, recording study operator, t-shirt seller) and large-scale chocolate. The small-scale operators have a story - the wild shrimp harvesters tout the health benefits of shrimp not raised in captivity and kept healthy with chemicals, the farmers' market produce growers use pretty much the same argument and the add the short shelf life of their produce limiting the practicality of shipping, and there is always the argument of keeping people employed and willing to tell the story of their products (for a price). Still, there is always that issue of money. Who can afford the merchandise from the small-scale farmers, fishermen, and hand-crafters? The touted benefits of many of the products are questioned by the scientists. Acai is no better for you than other fruits. Supposedly, the big chocolate makers take the cocoa butter out and replace it with another artificial product before selling chocolate because the cocoa butter is worth more than the chocolate. The spin - it is good farming has not become a political topic or Fox would be all over it.

I still like Snicker bars and I understand much of this is because of the sugar and perhaps some other ingredients. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Whale Tail

Yesterday was our whale watch. We saw plenty of whales and some breaches, but nothing up close. Taking photos of whales is pretty tough. It is a big ocean and locating an image when using a long lens takes a little longer. This is the best picture I had that was close. It does not take long for a whale to roll and dive, but you have about a second to get on the creature and get it in focus. The last thing you see is the tail and then it is gone for a while. I will add this to my collection of whale tails.

The trip back was probably the roughest water I have been on. I don't get nausea, but I have not spent enough time on heave seas to know when I should be anxious..

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Dirt shirts

If possible, it seems better to return to the location of an earlier adventure because you do pick some new things each time. Last time I was in Hawaii, I bought a dirt shirt. I learned that the color came from the red dirt that is everywhere here. I did share this knowledge with others and explained that it was a clever way to add color to plain white Ts in an environmentally friendly way.

This time I learned a little more and purchased a couple more shirts. I heard the dirt shirt story using the app Shaka Guide. I wanted to check out the story, but found no Wikipedia entry. Who knew Wikipedia did not contain all knowledge. I did verify the story elsewhere

The story goes that there was a category 4 hurricane that struck the Hawaiian islands in the early 1990s - hurricane Iniki. I really do not remember this hurricane or the damage that it did. Evidently, a t-shirt shop was pretty much wiped out by water damage, but the owner salvaged the soiled shirts and sold them as dirt shirts. Like the chicken, the dirt shirt became a staple of Hawaiian culture.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

End of the road - Waimea Valley Overlook

The Waimea Valley is considered the Grand Canyon of the Pacific and I have to admit it is spectacular. I have many photos of the Grand Canyon, but it is just big and not green.

This is the view from the end of the road canyon overlook. I admit that there is not much to see. The cool stuff is hidden by cloud cover beyond these bushes. I do have images from overlooks on the way to the top.  Not as spectacular, but more visible. I will add some of these later, but I wanted to let anyone interested that we did make it to the end of the road.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Surf photo

This may be my favorite surf photo so far. Surf here can be dangerous and Cindy said the surf on the day I took this image was much lower than when she had visited the same spot the previous day.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Coffee day

Today we visited the Kauai Coffee Plantation. I am a fan of fine coffees and enjoy plantations visits. The Kauai Plantation is the largest in the U.S. with 3100 acres of coffee in cultivation.

The size of the plantation requires a very mechanized approach. Coffee is harvest using the machine shown below which was originally used to harvest blueberries.

I must say that the samples were great and I made some purchases to be consumed during the rest of our trip. I will have to decide about ordering.

My other experience with coffee harvesting and processing was on the Big Island. There Kona coffee was harvest by hand and we were able to view how the coffee was processed. Very different approaches - hand labor vs. mechanized - to accomplish pretty much the same thing.

The difference between scale and craft seems to be a major division in the way the world is moving.

Lion King Tree

I think I am taking the same pictures I took years ago. These trees are magnificent, but you need to find them isolated for the full effect. Lion King Tree (baobab).

I have started to accumulate some of my better photographs as a public Flickr album. If you are interested, have a look.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Big guys dancing

We attended a luau last evening. It was spendy but spectacular. The show (the Hawaiian story) was sufficient that I would recommend the experience to anyone.

There was lots of impressive singing and dancing. I assume you think it was the hula girls I would find most interesting. They were fine, but I was most impressed by the male dancers. Imagine defensive linemen dancing around but in a fairly graceful way. Let your mind just imagine what this would look like for a little while. Quite a show.

Friday, January 27, 2017

A preference for chickens

I take my photography fairly seriously. I own a couple of nice cameras with some nice lenses and I know the basics of their use and of composition.
I tend to get one complaint from relatives. They like the photos but criticize me for my lack of people pictures. This has happened several times. Just to self-check, I went to the photos I have uploaded to Flickr from this trip. I can see some truth in what they claim. There are a couple of pictures of Cindy (taking pictures). This is a tradition. Other than that, no pictures of people. It turns out I have far more pictures of chickens and avocados. I could speculate on my photographic preferences, but that would likely get me in trouble.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Mark - with blurred background

I have heard concerns (at least one actual person, not concerns expressed by mythical people as referenced by Pres. Trump) that I do not appear in any of my travel picks. I very seldom do selfies.

Cindy provides this image. She would like folks to know that it was taken with her iPhone in portrait mode. This translates as pictures with a blurred background. I admit that I am the subject of this photo and the background is in fact blurred. For those of you not in the possession of a new iphone, a blurry background results when a picture is taken with the focus on an individual and a shallow depth of field. If my camera technique facts are accurate this means a wide aperture and with the lighting of this image a quick shutter.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Wipe out

I had a chance to take some surfer photos today. They were at the limit of my telephoto, but I did get a couple of interesting shots. I call this one "wipe out". Lucky timing.

Sunday, January 22, 2017


Believe it or not, these two images were both captured within a few seconds. I wish I could have found a way to get both in the frame at the same time. Poor focus on the Northern Cardinal, but you have likely seen them before. The pair are red crested cardinals.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Heavy surf

Weather has turned rainy and very windy. Surf is putting on a show against the rocks.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Chickens and the big questions of life

Chickens and the road - the source of one of life's most eternal questions, yet to be resolved. 

I remember the chickens from our last visit. They are everywhere. I am taking this trip more seriously and asking more questions. Why did the chicken cross the road? No, not that question. Why do you see chickens running around in Hawaii. Are they something like cows in India? My science background kicked in and I decided the chicken must be an invasive species. Some hipsters decided they wanted to be farmers and purchased a few chickens. When they learned that chickens kept in a small coop start to smell, they tired of their venture and being unwilling to eat their pets released them into the wild. The story of the Asian carp repeated on a small island.

I decided to check on my guess using Google. I found an article in the NYTimes that speculated about these birds. I wasn't far off (except for that part about the hipster farmers). Evidently, the mongoose population on Kauai has been in decline allowing the "feral" (not to be confused with free range) chickens to reproduce without a check.

When this happened with the snow goose population in North Dakota, the Game and Fish added a spring hunting season. It turns out that the birds that made it south and then back were pretty smart. It also turns out the fields are muddy in the spring and setting up decoys was more trouble than most were willing to endure. I am guessing shooting chickens is also out of the question. Not very sporting.

It appears that the only natural enemy of the Hawaiin chicken is the automobile that and the bird's silly drive to get to the other side of the road.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

No bud lite here

I get a lot of harassment for my taste in beer. This abuse comes from my hipster kids' preference for IPAs. I am not a fan of hoppy (sour) beer. I do like pickles, but that is a different matter. This does not make me an old fuddy-duddy (I hope I spelled this correctly). I do enjoy a bud lite on a hot day. My present beer of preference is nordeast. Anyway, I don't think Budweiser products are sold in Hawaii.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Mystery flower

I am typically a tech blogger and only become a travel blogger when I travel (makes sense). I thought I would try to combine my interests. One issue you often have when travelling is being unable to identify unique things you see in a new location. I like to take pictures and I often end up with pretty pictures without useful labels. I thought perhaps tech might help me out.

I tried two photo identiication services.

The first is from Wolfram (you may know as Wolfram).

I don't think so - at least the two pictures don't really match. Wolfram looks like a learning system in which the service makes a guess and then I assume the system attempts to improve itself. 

Google also offers a photo identification service - Google search by image.

Google identified my image as "flower". Also not particularly helpful. Google does provide "similar" images. In this case, if the photographer know what he/she was photographing and attached a label, I would have better luck. 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Turtle Power

Artists find a canvas or a blank wall. We found this painter creating a giant sea mural this afternoon. He was working on the turtle when I was photographing his work.

I thought the image looked like a Wyland. Daughter Kim long has been interested in the art of Wyland. I blew up the image of the guy on the ladder as best as I could and am 90% confident that this is Wyland at work. Easy enough to test my decision yourself.

View from the not so cheap seats

We are going to spend some time in Hawaii. It was a great time of year to leave Minnesota.

Travelling gives me an opportunity to take some nice pictures. I have very few pictures over the years from planes, but I decided this was because I try to avoid sitting next to the window. This is more a comfort thing than a fear of flying. I do not like to fly anymore, but this is more the hassle of airports and the confined quarters of a plane seat for hours on end. No different this time, but the view from the window until we reached LA was great