Hello from Orlando, FL

Hello from Orlando, FL

Saturday evening – November 10, 2018   (First post of this travelogue)

We are in Orlando for a Stampin’ Up! convention (the thirtieth!).  The convention is in the Orange County Convention center and we are staying at the Holiday Inn Express about three miles away (Google Map Link)

We flew in this past Tuesday.  When we chose our flights, we decided to try to save some cost by taking an early flight.  We later had some second thoughts {grin} – our flight left at 5:45 AM and we had to get up at 1:30 to get to the airport in time!  Other than that the flight went well.  We got to the hotel a bit after noon and we both took naps (can you imagine that?).

Wednesday was Pat’s registration.  Stampin’ Up! had arranged for an afternoon/evening at Epcot for the higher level demonstrators.  They provided several buses to transport us from the Convention Center to Epcot.  We had a great time.  Of course, we had to head to the German area of the World Show Place for lunch.   They have good German entertainment and a great German buffet.  From there we wandered around.  We had decided not to try any rides, since I am still having vertigo symptoms.  However, we thought it was OK to ride the “Space Ship Earth” in the large dome.  We knew it was a “mild” ride.  We did not think about the fact that you really need to move your head around to see all the great displays on the tour.  When we got the end of the ride and had to step onto the rotating platform, I must have looked like I was drunk.   However, the symptoms got better fairly quickly.

Orange County Convention Center  (from tripadvisorcom)

Orange County Convention Center (from tripadvisorcom)


At 8:00PM, Stampin’ Up! hosted a huge dessert party at a private function in the World Show Place Pavilion.  They then provided buses back to the convention center.  We could have stayed for the fireworks, but we were tired and went back just as they started the program.

Epcot on a beautiful day

Epcot on a beautiful day

The convention (OnStage Live) is three days not including the Epcot event.  Reportedly there are 7,000 demonstrators here from several countries.  After the Thursday session we had dinner with 8 of her downline.  It was great fun.

Pat and Elizabeth at OnStage  (no fun there!!)

Pat and Elizabeth at OnStage (no fun there!!)

While Pat is in the sessions, I have been working on some projects on the computer and taking short walks.   It has been relaxing.

The weather down here has been great.  The temperatures in the daytime are in the high 80’s and the 60’s in the evening.  Unfortunately, we are headed back to cold and snow.

If you follow our blog, you will recall that last week I was in Everett, WA and this week in Orlando – almost at the extreme ends of the country. 

As we have said many times, we prefer Holiday Inn properties.  I use them whenever possible for my NTT travel and we select them for our personal travel.  I just looked at my account and after this stay, I will have stayed over 60 nights in Holiday Inn properties this year.  Fortunately, Pat has been able to share many of those nights with me.

I mentioned my vertigo in the last two blogs.  It has been a challenge, but I think the symptoms are getting better.  I have learned that when I am laying in bed and quickly turn my head to the right, the room starts spinning.  At first it was terrible.   Then I figured out that it was kind of fun and would do it on purpose {strange grin}.

That is all for this trip.

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Hello from Everett, WA

Hello from Everett, WA

Wednesday evening – October 31, 2018   (First post of this travelogue)

Well, I am once again back in Everett, teaching at Boeing.  This week I teach two classes:  shaft alignment (2 days) and mechanical drives (3 days).  I like teaching at the Everett facility, as it seems to be more laid back than the Auburn plant.  The only issue is that the classes start at 6:00 AM.

I am done with the shaft alignment class and that went well.  I think the mechanical drive class will go well also, since it has the same students.

The frustrating situation this week is that I am dealing with a fairly significant case of vertigo.  A bit over a week ago, I was just barely able to function, but the symptoms have gotten better – except in the classroom.  I really did not appreciate how much I turn my head from the screen to the students and that often sets off a reaction.  There are times that I feel (and probably look) like I am knee walking drunk.  Today I changed my approach on where I stand, minimized moving around the room and changed how I address both the screen and the students and that helped a bit.

I flew in on Sunday and will fly home on Saturday.  I could probably have planned a Friday return, but the traffic from Everett to the airport is horrendous at times and I just did not to fight the rather aggressive drivers and traffic jams after teaching all day.

The weather here is pretty cool (50s) and very damp.  The rain not continuous, but there are periods of significant showers.

That is all for this trip.

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Hello from Price, UT

Hello from Price, UT

Sunday evening – October 7, 2018   (Sixth post of this travelogue)

Well, the trip is winding down.   We are in Price, UT staying at the Ramada Inn (Google Map link).

As you recall, our goal is to stay at Holiday Inn (IHG) properties whenever possible.  Unfortunately the Holiday Inn in Price is booked full and the Holiday Inn in Green River is no longer a part of the IHG group.  So we settled for the Ramada.  Strangely, we have stayed here a couple of times in years past – but it was a Holiday Inn at the time. I really don’t like Ramada Inns as a rule, but this one is fine and it looks like they may have a good breakfast.

Reno-Sparks is a bit over 1,000 miles from our house.  We decided to break the trip home into three legs.  Last night we stayed at a HI in Elko, NV.  It was a very nice property and we received a nice upgrade. 

Tomorrow we will travel home (about 400 miles).  That is a bit longer than we like to travel in a day.  When we were young we could drive straight through to Pat’s home town in Iowa (about 600 miles) but our tired old bodies no longer like to be submitted to that kind of “punishment”.  Besides that, my sciatica issues impact how long I can travel at a time.

The class in Reno got off to a bit of a rocky start.  There were 7 students – all employees of Barrick Gold Corporation  (a huge mining organization with many mines in the Americas including two huge mines in the Elko area).  The students had a lot of experience and seemed to have a bit of an “attitude”.  On the second day things smoothed out a bit when they figured out that I was not going to read out of a textbook.  I try to make the sometimes “boring” subjects interesting and they seemed to warm up to that approach.  By the fourth day we were having a ton of fun – well, as much as you can have in a somewhat structured class.  The last two days of class are shaft alignment labs with our training equipment.  Without question, they were very skilled and were much quicker to get the exercises done than most classes and they did a great job.  Most of the exercises involve the use of two different dial indicator processes and that can be a real challenge to most students.  Once they get the alignment completed with the dial indicators, we put our laser kit on so that they can get experience with laser alignment equipment, and also, to check the results of their dial indicator alignment.  In almost every case, the laser will show the students that they need to work on getting the dial indicator process perfected.  These folks almost always hit very close to the target.  The class turned out to be a good experience.

When we left Denver, there had been something like 8-10 straight days of 90 degree weather.  For most of this trip the weather has been anywhere from good to fantastic (a few rain showers mixed in).   The last couple of days have been quite chilly with a bit of rain, but still decent weather.  Now it looks like we will get home in a snowstorm.  I am going to continue to wear my shorts, but that may be a stretch when we get home {grin}.

That is all for this trip.

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Hello from Reno-Sparks, NV

Hello from Reno-Sparks, NV

Monday evening – October 1, 2018   (Fifth  post of this travelogue)

We arrived at the Holiday Inn in Sparks yesterday – a day early.  This is an older Holiday Inn property, but still a nice location.  They put us on the 9th (top) floor because it is supposed to be quieter.  I think many Holiday Inns reserve the top floor for their loyal customers.  Location is shown here:  (Google Maps Link)

Normally our training rooms are on the first floor, but they are remodeling that part of the hotel, so we are in a large meeting room on the 9th floor just down the hall from our room.

Our trip from Klamath to Willits, CA was beautiful.  We went to the Redwoods National Park Visitor Center and watched a great movie on the amazing redwood trees.  I have included a couple of photos from the park, but they simply do not do justice to the scenery.

Road through Redwoods (Medium)

Pat beside redwood (Medium)

Redwood trees are incredible.  They can grow to be over 20 feet in diameter and 350 feet tall.  The trees can reach ages of 2,000 years and regularly reach 600 years.  The following link is an excellent source of information about these trees:  https://www.nps.gov/redw/learn/nature/about-the-trees.htm.  The following are quotes from that site:

Fossil records have shown that relatives of today's coast redwoods thrived in the Jurassic Era 160 million years ago. And while the fantastic creatures of that age have long since disappeared, the redwoods continue to thrive, in the right environment.

California's North Coast provides the only such environment in the world. A combination of longitude, climate, and elevation limits the redwoods' range to a few hundred coastal miles. The cool, moist air created by the Pacific Ocean keeps the trees continually damp, even during summer droughts. These conditions have existed for some time, as the redwoods go back 20 million years in their present range.

Resistance to natural enemies such as insects and fire are built-in features of a coast redwood. Diseases are virtually unknown and insect damage insignificant thanks to the high tannin content of the wood. Thick bark and foliage that rests high above the ground provides protection from all but the hottest fires.

We stayed in Willits, CA Saturday night.  That was a 200 mile drive, but it was a tough drive (albeit beautiful).  There was no Holiday Inn, so we stayed at a fun little motel:  The Old West Inn.  The rooms formed what looked like an old west town (see photo).

Fun motel in Willits CA (Medium)

Unfortunately, about 10 miles north of Willits, the traffic was stopped due to a road closure.  It turns out that there was a fatal accident a bit ahead of us.  I have attached a photo that was taken by one of the first folks at the scene.  When we did get to drive past the wreckage it looked just like the photo, except the lumber was cleared off to allow one lane of traffic to pass and the truck fire was extinguished.  The truck was northbound and lost control.  The semi (southbound) tried to avoid them, but ended up hitting them directly in the driver door.  Sadly two women in the pickup perished.

Fatal Crash north of Willits CA

That is all for this post.

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Hello from Klamath, CA

Note:  Somehow this did not get published on the 29.  

Hello from Klamath, CA

Saturday Morning – September 29, 2018   (Fourth  post of this travelogue)

Yesterday we drove a bit over 300 miles, but it was a long day of driving.  We left Tillamook before 9:00 and got here at 6:00.  We made a stop for lunch and I took a quick nap.  US 101 is a very scenic highway that has a great deal of Pacific Ocean viewing.  Significant parts of the route have speed limits less than 40 MPH and the maximum limit is 55 MPH.  In terms of time it would have been quicker to travel east to I-5 and drive south, but the scenery would not have been anywhere near as spectacular as what we experienced.

Pacfic Coast in Oregon 2 (Medium)

Pacfic Coast in Oregon 1 (Medium)

We are staying at a Holiday Inn Express on points no less!  (Google Map Link).  It was the only Holiday Inn on our route yesterday.

This hotel has a beautiful entrance with vast amounts of beautiful redwood.  The entrance leads to the hotel on one side and a casino on the other.  We ate at the casino last night.  The front desk rated it great, but we thought it was just barely OK.  After dinner Pat went to the casino (surprise!!!).  She came back  to the room an hour or two later after having won over $300!!

Holiday Inn Klamath CA 1 (Medium)

Holiday Inn Klamath CA 2 (Medium)

Our motel in Tillamook was pretty old and very “plain”.  We did not sleep well, and we discovered the next morning that the bed had a plastic liner.  I guess the best that could be said was that it was a place to “hang our hat”.

We are just north of the Redwood National Park.  US 101 goes through part of the park and the Google Map lists it as the “Redwood Highway”.  Should be a beautiful drive today.

That is all for this post.

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Hello from Tillamook, OR

Hello from Tillamook, OR

Thursday  evening – September 27, 2018   (Third  post of this travelogue)

Well, I survived the early mornings at Boeing.  Both classes went well.  Today we left Everett and drove a bit less than 300 miles to Tillamook.  We left the hotel about 9:00 and figured we would not face huge traffic jams – yeah right.  Everett is north of Seattle so we had to go right though the center of town and that is always a challenge.  We often say that Seattle traffic is among the worst. 

We chose a local motel here in Tillamook:  Western Royal Inn (there is no Holiday Inn in Tillamook).  Google Maps Link

We chose to stop here for two reasons.  First, it seemed like a reasonable distance to drive today.  But most importantly we wanted to tour the Tillamook Creamery.  When Thomas and Klara were staying with us, they got us hooked on Tillamook ice cream bars and sandwiches – the best.  The tour was fun and, of course, we had to have some ice cream after the tour.

Tillamook Creamery (Medium)

Now to catch up a bit.  On our drive from Spokane to Everett on I90 we crossed the Columbia River Gorge.  The views from the overlook on the east side is amazing (see photos).  The Gorge is close to Ellensburg, WA.

Columbia River Gorge 2 (Medium)

Columbia River Gorge 1 (Medium)

One of our very special friends Ed Hackenbruch (and Stevi) saw in our blog that we were driving to Everett and suggested we drive down to Duvall, WA where Ed was born.  Further he suggested we have dinner at the Ixtapa Mexican restaurant and have “Chicken No Name”.  Tuesday after work we drove down there.  The drive was about 25 miles and very scenic with huge trees along the highway.  We did, indeed go to the recommended restaurant.  The Chicken No Name is listed as an appetizer, but the waiter convinced me it was a meal and indeed it was a great meal.  We split a churros dessert and it was to die for.  Thanks Ed.

Ixtapa Resturant in Duvall (Medium)

For the next few days we will travel along the pacific coast on US 101.  We have traveled on parts of the highway before, and it is beautiful.

That is all for this post.

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Hello from Everett, WA

Hello from Everett, WA

Sunday evening – September 23, 2018   (Second  post of this travelogue)

We made it to Everett a day early (Saturday).  The drive consisted of two 400 mile days and two 300 mile days.  The trip was a bit quicker than we thought since the speed limit in both Wyoming and Montana is 80 MPH.  The weather was good until just before we got to Seattle and then it poured rain (really, rain in Seattle?). 

After we left Butte, we drove to Spokane and stayed at the old standby:  HI Express.  As I noted, we get a few benefits from my Priority Club status, but mostly we know that we can expect a decent room, and a good breakfast.  This trip there was an exception to that.  Our stay in Buffalo was not good.  The room was poorly prepared, the front desk person was not at all polite and the WIFI sucked.  Fortunately that is the exception.

We are staying at the Holiday Inn Express in Everett (Google Maps link).  I have stayed here before and it is a “middle of the road” HI Express.  Since we arrived a day early, they had to do some maneuvering so that we could stay in the same room for the rest of our stay.  That resulted in our being assigned a handicap room.  We have stayed in handicap rooms several times and it is always an adventure.  Everything is set up lower for wheelchair access.  The closet bar is about 3 ½ feet off the floor.  Doesn’t matter, it is a good place to hang out.

Over the next three days I teach two classes.  One is on lubrication fundamentals (two days) and one day on bearing fundamentals.  Both of these classes were developed by a consultant to Boeing and NTT has now taken over the classes.  They are quite different from the NTT lubrication and bearings chapters.  The lubrication is much more detailed and, frankly, the bearing class is a mess.  We have had to add some of the NTT material to make the class useful for the students.

I have had to put in several hours on this trip sorting out the details that the previous consultant presented in both classes.  I think it will go well, but it will be hard to make them “smooth” presentations/discussions.

To top things off, the class starts at 6:00 AM and I have not been a morning person since I retired {grin}.

I have been eating most of my meals in the room for the past year or so of classes.  I stop by a local Trader Joe’s and pick up things that I can microwave.  The food is good and easy to fix.  We made a trip there today and had Chicken Piccata tonight.  It was very tasty.  My expense reports reflect the cost savings and that makes NTT and Boeing happy.

That is all for this post.

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Hello from Butte, MT

Hello from Butte, MT

Thursday evening – September 20, 2018   (First post of this travelogue)

This is a very special trip that will include teaching two NTT classes.  The first class will be in Everett, WA (Boeing) and the second will be in Reno, NV (a public class).  I will discuss these classes more in subsequent posts.

The reason this trip is special is that Pat and I rented a car and we are driving to these assignments.  We have planned the trip so that the driving will a somewhat leisurely pace.  For example, we are taking 5 days to drive from Denver to Everett – bit over 1400 miles.

We left our house Wednesday (9/19)  at 6:00 AM and  arrived in Buffalo, WY about 2:30.  As will be the case for most of this trip we will be staying at Holiday Inn properties (some perks since I am a Platinum Elite member).  Today we drove to Butte, MT  (Google map link).

The trip started off pretty well.  When I went to check  on the car they had planned to rent us, I asked for a hatch back type car (easier to load the luggage) and they offered to upgrade us (no charge) to an almost new Volvo V60 AWD (see photo).  While Volvos are not quite as exotic as they once were, this one is VERY nice with lots of bells and whistles. 

Volvo Rental Car

More in future posts.

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Hello from Victoria, British Columbia

Hello from Victoria, British Columbia

Thursday afternoon – July 26, 2018   (Fourth post of this travelogue)

We are in our last port before we arrive in Seattle tomorrow for the end  of  our cruise.  It has been a great trip.

Tuesday the ship arrived in the Tracy Arm Fjord.  We sailed to the end of the Fjord and then the ship made several 360 degree rotations so that we  could see the many glaciers and waterfalls.  At times the bow and stern of the ship looked to be less than 100 yards from the rock walls. 

I have included some pictures, but this is truly the case where photos do not do the scenery justice.  One of the issues was sun glare blocking one of the major glaciers.

Glacier at Tracy Arm Fjord (Medium)

If you look carefully you will see the glacier in the background

High Glacier at Tracy Arm Fjord (Medium)

At the top of the picture you will see a glacier and in the foreground you will see the stream from the glacier

Large Ice Calf at Tracy Arm Fjord (Medium)

This is a rather large "calf" that makes you think about the Titanic

The weather has been amazing for our two excursions and the Fjord journey.   We were told that there are only around 100 clear days in Alaska and we hit three of them.   Yesterday at sea it was very foggy and you could not see all that far.  Today in Victoria, it is again clear.

We are not doing an excursion here.  We had thought about signing up for the high tea at the Empress hotel, but the tour was booked.  We had gone there for tea on our last excursion to Alaska (2004) and it was great, but we are not disappointed that we were not able to do it this year.  Indeed, we decided to stay on the ship and relax.

I believe I mentioned that Pat earned this cruise.  Stampin’ Up! is an amazing company and they treat their demonstrators very well.  While she has to work her tail off to earn the trip, once earned, EVERYTHING is paid for (air fare, cruise, gratuities for the crew members, etc) for both of us.  This is our 12th trip with SU.   Most have been cruises, but a few have been destination trips (Fiji, Thailand, and Hawaii). 

This cruise line has “formal” dinner dining, where you sit at the same table with the same folks each night.  As it turns out we started out having three other couples at the table – all from Germany and all SU demonstrators!  Fortunately, they all speak English very well and we have had great conversations this past week.  Unfortunately one couple moved to a different  table,  but we have really enjoyed the remaining two couples.

When I say “formal” dining, that is a bit of a stretch.  The do have two formal nights, but it is not enforced and many men ignore the suggestion of suit and tie.  In my case, I had to – the cleaners gave me the wrong shirt and it was about 3 sizes too small {grin}.  I did wear my sport coat and a nice shirt, but no tie. 

That is all for now.

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Hello from somewhere off the coast of  Canada


Hello from somewhere off the coast of  Canada

Tuesday evening – July 24, 2018   (Third post of this travelogue)

Wow, we have some catching up to do!!

Friday we boarded the Cruise Ship “Explorer of the Seas”.  This a Royal Caribbean cruise ship that can accommodates over to 4,000 passengers – huge.  It has 6 engines with a total capacity of over 102,000 HP.  There are 15 decks and it is over 1000 feet long. 

Stern of our ship (Medium)

Saturday was an “at sea” day.  Sunday (July 22) we arrived in Juneau, Alaska.  We had booked an excursion that included whale watching and a visit to the Mendenhall Glacier.  Our  tour started with a bus ride several miles to a dock where we boarded a fairly large boat.  During the roughly 3 hours on the boat we saw some beautiful scenery and got to see a few whales.  We were a bit disappointed as the whales did not stay on the surface for long.  Their dives were between 7 and 20 minutes, so our viewing was limited.  We did see a small pod of Orcas which included a baby and a couple of distant sightings of humpback whales. 

The bus then took us up to the Mendenhall Glacier which is located about  12 miles from Juneau.  It is said to be about 13 miles long.  Sadly the glacier has retreated quite a bit in the past few years.   The visitor center was built close to the glacier and the glacier is now about a half mile away.  I have included a photo.

Mendenhall Glacier (Medium)

Sunday we arrived in Skagway, AK and took our second of two excursions we booked.  This one included a bus ride over the summit of White Pass (on the Klondike Highway) and down the far side to the Yukon Territory border.  The Klondike Highway runs from Skagway to the town of White Horse in the Yukon Territory.  A few miles after we left Skagway we left Alaska and entered British Columbia, Canada. At the Yukon border we turned around and headed back up the pass.  We then stopped for lunch the Yukon Suspension Bridge.  The pedestrian bridge is 200 feet long and is 57 feet above the Tutshi River.

Yukon Border (Medium)


Yukon Suspension Bridge sign (Medium)


Yukon Suspension Bridge (Medium)

We then drove to Fraser, British Columbia, where we boarded the White Pass & Yukon Route train.  This is a narrow gauge railroad that was started in 1898 and completed in 1900.  It ran from Skagway to Whitehorse.  It was started during the gold rush but completed after the mining became a very small economic factor.   While the bus ride was very picturesque, the train ride was spectacular.  The route is very twisty with some sharp turns and lots of places where it was a shear drop off down into a very deep valley.  Along the way you see the remnants of the old steel cantilever bridge (see current and historic pictures).  Looking at the bridge, I am sure glad it has been retired.

White Pass & Yukon Route train (Medium)

Old Train Trestle (Medium)

White Pass Steel Cantilever Bridge (Medium)

Skagway, and to a lesser degree Juneau, epitomize the term tourist towns.  Skagway is home to gold-rush-era buildings, now preserved as part of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park.  The population in the harsh winters is about a 1,000 and that doubles in the summer.  We only travelled through the town via the bus, but it looks like a fun place.   It even had some “madams” hanging out of the second story windows.

That is all for this post.

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