Hello from Alamosa, CO

Hello from Alamosa, CO

Wednesday Evening  – November 20, 2019   (Fifth post of this travelogue)

We are at a Holiday Inn Express in Alamosa (link to Google Maps)

Wow, so much catching up to do.  After we left Las Vegas we made a fairly short trip to St George, Ut.  We chose the Holiday Inn Express there, since it was close to the Zion park entrance and also because we could watch the season final NHRA drag races (none of the four professional class champions had clinched the title – so it was exciting for us).

Monday we drove into Zion National park.  We had previously tried to reserve our favorite cabin (529) but it was not available.  We considered staying in the lodge, but we could not justify the expenses.  The drive into the lodge was breathtaking as usual.  I have posted a picture, but it simply don’t convey the grandeur of the canyon.  The trip out of the park heading east is equally amazing.  There is a huge tunnel carved in the side of the mountain.  The tunnel has several openings with quick views of the rock formations across the canyon.

Typical Zion View

Typical Zion View

We then traveled to Kanab, UT which is where Stampin’ Up! manufactures most of their products.  We had toured the factory on our last trip through that area so we did not stop this time.  From there we drove to Page, AZ for the night.  I wanted to stop there so that Pat could experience the area that I had explored a bit when I had an NTT assignment there in 2015.  The primary attraction in Page is the Glen Canyon Dam (which creates Lake Powell).  We were able to observe the dam, Lake Powell, and the beautiful Glen Canyon below the dam.  Unfortunately, we were too late to take the tour of the dam.  I did that last time and it was a fantastic tour.

Monument Valley

Monument Valley

Arial View of Glen Canyon Dam

Arial View of Glen Canyon Dam

Glen Canyon Dam was started in 1956 and is 710 feet tall.  It has a total of 8 huge generators each of which has a capacity of 165,000 kW.  Sadly the frequent drought in the areas that feed the lake have resulted in a water level that is 88 feet below the capacity level.  This is about 53% capacity of the lake.  That said, it still controls the release of water so that down stream users have sufficient water for most demands.  Interestingly, the lower water level affect the ability to generate power. 

Yesterday we drove east towards Kayenta, AZ and then turned north into Monument Valley.  As was the case with Zion, I have included a photo that inadequately shows the beauty of the area.  We then continued on to Cortez, CO where we spent the night.

While the weather has been fantastic the whole trip, that has now changed.  There are winter storm warnings out for large parts of southern Colorado.  The prediction was that we would have quite a bit of snow as we traveled over Wolf Creek Pass.  Turns out the conditions were not too bad.  We positioned ourselves here in Alamosa so that we would have choices for our route home.   One choice is US 285 that runs by our house.  The other is to travel east to I 25 and then head north.  As I write this, the 285 option (much shorter) does not look good.

That is all for this post.

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Hello from Page AZ

Hello from Page AZ

Monday Evening  – November 18, 2019   (Fourth  post of this travelogue)

We are at a Holiday Inn Express in Page, AZ (link to Google Maps)

As we have said many times in this blog, our hotels of choice are the Holiday Inn properties.  Over the years I/we have spent a lot of nights and have achieved the Platinum Elite status several times in the past.  Last year I/we spent over 60 nights in HI hotels and this year will be over 40 nights.  That includes my NTT travel as well as our personal travel.  Out status gets us the best rooms and the points pay for several nights a year.  Last night we stayed in St George, UT and our room had a Jacuzzi bath tub and a fireplace!

I have also mentioned that the primary driver for this travelogue documentation is for our reference and entertainment.  .  On this trip I have searched our blog many times for background information.  The platform I use for the blog is WordPress (hosted on our GoDaddy site) and it has amazing search power.  It is a ton of fun to go back and read about some of our past travels.

I had mentioned that I would document our Death Valley experience.  Last Tuesday (11/12/19), we did a round trip tour of the southern part of Death Valley.  We drove from Pahrump to Shoshone and then took the southern Death Valley entrance that took us to Badwater which is 282 feet below sea level.  One of the information signs explained that the very low humidity (and very little rain – 2 inches per year) yields the barren salt flats.  If there were more moisture the area would be a lake.

Badwater (Medium)

On next DV stop was Artist’s Palette.  This is a 5 mile drive through beautiful canyons.  About midway through the drive, a beautiful rock formation exhibits many colors which result from different types of minerals – hence the name Artist’s Palette.  The day we observed the formation, the lighting was not perfect, but the different colors were quite visible.

Artist Palette (Medium)

From there we drove to the Furnace Creek Campground area.  This area has many buildings adjacent to the campground and several displays of borax mining equipment.  Since we had been there a couple of times, we did not spend a lot of time there.  We did drive around the campground.  It is basically dry camping.  There were not many campers in the park (not unexpected given the November time frame).  Speaking of “campers”, we have noted a much larger percentage of truck campers on this trip as compared to past observations.  I don’t know if this is unique to the area or if folks are going back to that kind of camping unit.

Our last major stop was a drive (long and twisting) to Dante’s View.  This is an overlook that is at 5476 feet.  From this point you can see a significant portion of the southern part of the park.  It is interesting that Dante’s View is almost exactly above Badwater. 

Dantes View 5476 feet (Medium)

Our tour took most of the day and we drove over 200 miles.  We have said that Death Valley would not appear on our bucket list (if we had one), but once you experience it, you really want to return and enjoy it again.   We have been fortunate to have done the park tours in the early spring and late fall.  Summer could be a very marginal experience since the temperatures often reaches 120 degrees!

After we left the park we took a different route back to Pahrump (via Death Valley Junction).

Lots more to talk about, but it will have to wait for the next post.

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Hello from Las Vegas, NV

Hello from Las Vegas, NV

Drafted:  Saturday afternoon  – November 16, 2019   (Third post of this travelogue)

Posted:  Sunday evening 11/17/19

We are at the Bally’s in Las Vegas  (link to Google Map)

Bally’s is headquarters for Pat’s Stampin’ Up! event.  Obviously this is the “justification” for the trip.  We have a great room and the facility is very nice even though it is a fairly old facility. 

It used to be that Las Vegas was a fairly economical place to visit (a LONG time ago).  Now, it is quite expensive.  The rooms rates are well over $150 on the weekends, the parking costs $15 per day and there is no provision for morning coffee except at restaurants and coffee shops ($8 this morning).  There is a food court here where things like hamburgers are available – but at inflated prices.  Most of the restaurants are very expensive.

Our stay in Pahrump brought back lots of memories.  On Monday we toured Shoshone (does not take long {grin}).  It has not changed much since our last visit.  The campground is still there and still a bit primitive, but appears to be well kept.  Still no cell phone signal anywhere in the area.

Shoshone Camp Ground

Shoshone Campground

We then drove to China Ranch.  This “ranch” is right in the middle of a Mojave Desert and yet it is an amazing oasis (link to website).  At one time it was a ranch with chickens (and one source said a few pigs and cows) that supplied the Borax miners in the Death Valley area.  Since 1920 it has been a date farm with perhaps 100 date palms of many different varieties.  Indeed, they sell palms for landscaping to contractors.  Of course we had to have the traditional date shakes.

 

 

Arial View of China Ranch

Arial View of China Ranch

Date Delivery Truck

Date Delivery Truck

 

The weather continues to be fantastic.  Some days we could see and smell the smoke from the California fires.  Here in Las Vegas it is clear and low 80s during the day.  I took a quick peak at the weather for our trip home and it looks like we could see a little bit of snow.

For this trip we rented a Mazda CX5 AWD car.  It has been fun to drive and gets good mileage (around 30 MPG).  It has a little four cylinder engine, but the turbo makes it perform very well.

Tuesday we spent touring Death Valley.  That will be the subject of the next post.

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Hello from Pahrump, NV

Hello from Pahrump, NV

Monday evening – November 11, 2019   (Second post of this travelogue)

We are at the Holiday Inn Express in Pahrump (link to Google map)

Friday we travelled from Torrey, UT to Cedar City,UT.  Our route took us over the famous “Southern Utah Scenic Byway 12” (link to information and pictures).  We traveled this route in 2013 but the opposite direction.  Going from east to west seemed quite different from the other direction.  Either way is an amazing drive.  At one point you are on the spine of the rock formation and there are steep cliffs on both sides of the road (see picture).

Highway 12 (Medium)

Towards the west end of highway 12 we drove into Bryce Canyon National Park.  While we have seen this park several times, it never fails to amaze us with the incredible views.  I am posting a couple of  pictures of Bryce Canyon, but they don’t begin to do justice to the splendor of the canyon.

Bryce Canyon 2 (Medium)

 

Bryce Canyon 1 (Medium)

 

Natural Bridge in Bryce (Medium)

After touring the park, we drove to Cedar City for the night.  It turns out that we had to adjust our itinerary a bit because several Holiday Inns were booked up.

From Cedar City we made a fairly short drive to Mesquite, NV and stayed in a beautiful Holiday Inn with a room that had a balcony which overlooked the pool as well as the whole valley.  Pat was able to spend a couple of afternoons playing the slots, while I did some computer projects. 

Today we drove from Mesquite to Pahrump.  We are using this location to make some day trips into an area we fell in love with several years ago.   Our first trip to the area was during our inaugural trip in the Bus (2006).  A few years ago I uploaded what was then an email blog to our blog/travelogue.  Two of the posts from that travelogue will give you background as to how we discovered the area and why we loved it so much:  (2006 Inaugural Bus Trip post 5) and (2006 Inaugural Bus Trip post 6).

To summarize those two posts we found the tiny town of Shoshone, CA from a book that we carried which listed all of the hot springs in the south west.  That led us to a small campground that was pretty bare bones, but just right for us to “hide out” and relax.  From there we ventured into Death Valley.  We would never have chosen to tour that area, but once we did, we were blasted away by the amazing diversity of scenic wonders that the park has to offer.  We subsequently went back to the area a couple of more times over the year.

We had hoped to stay in Shoshone but the one motel is very basic, yet charges a fortune for the rooms.  If we had the bus with us we would have stayed in the campground.  The other issue  is that there is no cell service in the area.  In the past we would drive to Pahrump to make our calls (about 30 miles).

We will describe our re-visit to the area in the next post or two.

That is all for this post.

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Hello from Torrey, UT 2019

Hello from Torrey, UT 2019

Thursday afternoon – November 7, 2019   (First post of this travelogue)

This will be a multipart travelogue spanning the next three weeks.  Pat and I are visiting some of our favorite locations.  These spots bring back fun memories and are rather special to us.  About half way through this period, we will be in Las Vegas for a Stampin’ Up! event.

About the time we started planning the SU travel, Pat was in her terrible accident.  As her recovery progressed it became likely that she would be able to enjoy a bit of an extended driving trip linked to the SU event.  We then began to think about the places that were on the top of our “must visit again” list.    

You might note that our title format is slightly different from our norm.  This is because we used the same title (without the year) in 2013 (link to our 2013 blog).

We are staying at the Capitol  Reef Resort in Torrey (link to Google Maps)

Let’s catch up a bit before we discuss today’s event.  We left Evergreen Tuesday morning and drove to Grand Junction.  As will be the case on most of our travel days, we are going to try to keep the mileage down so that we can enjoy our travel a bit more that our normal hustle and bustle travel {grin}.  Wednesday we travelled to Richfield Utah which is close to the junction of I-70 and I-15.  Both nights we stayed in Holiday Inn Express (our hotel of choice).

The weather, so far, has been almost perfect.  Clear skies and cool shirt sleeve temperatures.

Today we toured Capitol Reef National Park.  We have been to most all of the National Parks in Utah and this one is a real jewel that not many folks know about.  One of the highlights of the park is a 20 mile round trip drive to Capitol Gorge.  I have included a few photos.

That is all for this post.

Capitol Reef 1 (Medium)

 

Capitol Reef 2 (Medium)

 

Capitol Reef 3 (Medium)

 

Capitol Reef 4 (Medium)

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Hello from Roseville, CA

Hello from Roseville, CA

Draft started:  Friday morning – November 1, 2019   (First post of this travelogue)

Posted:  11/6/19

I made this trip to present an NTT Mechanical Drives class for the city of Roseville, CA.  My hotel was the Holiday Inn Express in Lincoln, CA (link to Google Maps). 

This Holiday Inn was the closest location to the Roseville water treatment plant where I taught the class.  That said, it was a 20 minute drive.  I had to be at the plant between 6 and 6:30 AM, so the traffic was not bad.  It was a good class, as many of the students were race fans or car builder folks.  We had a lot in common.  That always makes for good exchange during the class.

The weather out here is rather nice.  The closest of the many huge fires in CA are about a hundred miles away and there is no noticeable smoke.  The temperatures are rather crisp in the morning (30s), but once the sun came out it was comfortable shirt sleeve weather.  Unfortunately, Pat has had to endure significant snow and temperatures as cold as -10 degrees!!

I stayed over Friday to visit a good friend who lives and has an amazing machine shop close to North San Juan, CA (about 20 miles north of Grass Valley, CA).  I first met Steve in the early 90s when he was a big blower belt distributor for Gates.  His business is based on racing products (a significant part of that business includes blower belt pulleys, cam gears, and starters for fuel drag racing cars).  Our relationship quickly changed from vendor/customer to good friends.  His company website:  link to RCD Engineering

We spent quite a bit of time in his “toy” shop where he has been building an amazing '59 El Camino that has a huge number of custom machined parts. 

Steve Leach 59 El Camino

We also toured his shop which as a large number of CNC machining centers.  All of this in a very remote part of the county.

I had scheduled a late flight and ended up getting home at 3:00 AM Saturday morning.

That is all for this trip.  

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Our unforgettable trip to Guffey, Co

Our unforgettable trip to Guffey, Co

I am writing this “travelogue” two months after we started our journey to Guffey, CO.  

The trip started out as a fun Labor Day trip to Pat’s Brother and Sister-in-laws new home in Guffey, CO. It was going to be a fun family weekend.  We left Evergreen on August 31, 2019.

This was the first trip in our Eagle Bus in almost three years.  The bus has had some issues and I finally got them resolved.  The approximately 100 mile drive was beautiful and uneventful.  Our granddaughter Molly went with us and rode shotgun.  She has always enjoyed the bus and had missed traveling with us.

Unfortunately about two hours after our arrival, Pat was badly injured in a UTV accident.  Pasted below is a note I sent to her customers: 

I am sad to announce that Pat was hurt in a UTV/ATV accident on Saturday (8/31/19).  We had traveled to her Brother and sister-in-laws new house near Guffey, CO.  We had planned a long weekend with several family members.  Our SIL took Pat and Molly (youngest granddaughter) for a tour of the property.  Somehow the vehicle accelerated and rolled into a large ditch.  Pat was thrown clear of the vehicle.

She sustained some pretty significant injuries and was taken to UCHealth Medical Center in Colorado Springs via Flight-for-life.  Her injuries include several large deep lacerations to the back of her head, severe wrist fracture (will require surgery), 4 broken ribs and a large open wound to her leg.  Today she had surgery to suture the head cuts, run a scope to her lungs and to clean/repair the leg wound. 

They were able to reduce the wound area from about 4 inches in diameter  to about 2 ½ inches.  They have installed a vacuum patch on the open wound in hopes that it will help the healing.  They think that there is the possibility that she will need a skin graft.

She has been in the ICU for the past two nights.  We are hoping that she will transfer to a regular room tomorrow.  We do not know when she will get to go home.

She will have a tough recovery that will last several weeks.

 

Over the past two months Pat has had four surgeries.  She was a trooper through it all and has now recovered from most of her injuries.

We are looking forward to going back to Guffey, in the bus, in the spring.  Their place is beautiful and we know we will have a ton of fun.

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Hello from Price, UT

Hello from Price, UT

Thursday evening – August 15, 2019   (Second post of this travelogue)

This morning’s post was made from the salt with a signal that was not all that great.  In addition to having issues with some of the photos, I knew that it might be difficult to upload the photo files.  Thus this second post.

I am staying at the Holiday Inn in Price.  I also stayed here on the way out last Sunday.

One of the fun aspects of Bonneville events is the amazing array of non-racing vehicles.  The photo below shows a neat car/trailer combination.  They camped next to me one night and then we parked together on the salt to watch the runs.  It is a really neat family with two daughters who traveled all the way from Michigan – via Yellowstone and other neat stops.  It really brought back memories of taking the girls to Illinois in the 56 Chevy in 1987.

50 Chevy and 48 Spartan trailer (Medium)

1950 Chevy Woody with a 1948 Spartan trailer
(note the Charger on the left)

 

In the last post I mentioned that I was “camping” on this trip.  The two photos illustrate my “camp”

Dinner at the bend (Medium)

Dinner at the bend – my camp spot
Note the propane stove and freeze dried package

 

Breakfast on the salt (Medium)

Breakfast on the salt just before sunrise
(note the full moon setting in the upper left)

 

Here are a couple of additional photos

Enola Gay Hanger restoration 1 (Medium)

Historic Marker for the Enola Gay Hanger at Wendover

 

Race fan lunch stop (Medium)

No trip to a western racing event is complete without a “double double”
IN-N-OUT Burger has an almost cult following in the west.

 

So was the trip fun?  Let me count the ways:

1)  I got to drive a butt kicking Hemi Charger!

2)  The Charger has a USB connected to the stereo system so I got to listen to my music from my phone (over 1000 songs)

3)  I “survived” my camping experience rather well.

4)  The freeze dried meals were pretty good and I got to have a bit of scotch and a Cuban cigar each night (actually one half of one each night).  If you follow our blog you will recall that I bought some Cuban cigars in Croatia (yes it is legal).  I am not at all a cigar connoisseur but they seemed pretty much like my much less expensive on-line cigars.

5)  I got to see a lot of great cars and some good runs.  Even if the salt limited the big speeds, the sights and sounds of the fast cars is beyond description.

So the answer to the question is: HELL YES!

Next year I hope the bus and truck will be ready and then I can take Pat with me.

That is all for this trip

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Hello from Wendover, UT (Bonneville!!!!!!!!)

Hello from Wendover, UT (Bonneville!!!!!!!!)

Thursday morning – August 15, 2019   (First post of this travelogue)

I am at one of my favorite locations/race – Bonneville Speed Week. 

My great plans earlier this year were to have the bus and the IHC truck here.  Well neither  were even close to making it.  So plan B was to rent a car and “camp” at what they call the “bend in the road” Google Maps Link

When I say camp, that is a pretty basic description.  I am sleeping in the front seat of my rental car (a Hemi Charger!!!!).  I have a propane camp stove on which I prepare my freeze dried breakfasts and dinners (pretty good meals).  I also use the camp stove to make my coffee with my special coffee maker (uses my K cups).  That makes me pretty “self sufficient”.  Sleeping in the car is OK but it would be better if I had my own bed {grin}.

I had been following the salt conditions for a week before I left and it looked pretty good.  However, last Thursday they got a rain storm and it really messed up the courses and delayed the start of the racing three days.  The “long course” is normally five miles of timed segments.  They had to reduce that to four miles and all of the cars were run on that course.  Normally the long course is reserved for cars that go over 200MPH and the short course is for the rest of the cars.  When they run all the cars  (over 500 entries) on the one course, it is a mess.  One record was set at 48 MPH (a very small motorcycle) and it takes forever for them to travel the course.  It really limits the number of runs all of the cars can make. 

The salt conditions are not all that great, so the big dogs are not going very fast.  So far the fastest speed is about 370 MPH.  When the salt it good, a few cars will go well into the 400 MPH range.

However, it is still Bonneville and that is Mecca for racing (at least for me).  I have been on the salt at sunrise the last two days and fixed my breakfast and coffee while the cars passed by going to the starting line.

Yesterday afternoon I went into town to fill the gas tank.  I could not resist going out to Wendover  Air Force Base.  I have discussed this amazing place in previous blogs.  It was a very active Air Force Base in the 40s and was used to train the crew of the Enola Gay which was the B29 that dropped the atomic bombs on Japan (Link).  The hangers and barracks are still in reasonably good condition – indeed, a movie about WWII could be filmed there with very little reconstruction.

We were saddened in the past that the museum was very small and the folks mentioned that there was very little support for reconstruction of the Enola Gay hanger – primarily because younger folks had the impression that the bombing was an atrocity.  However, this visit made me feel much better.  There is a strong program to stabilize the Enola Gay hanger and do a significant amount of reconstruction.

I am having some issues with the photos I have taken, so I will upload some in the next post.

Today, I will spend about a half of a day on the salt and then start heading back.

That is all for this post.

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Hello from Evergreen, CO  (An epilogue to our Europe trip)

Hello from Evergreen, CO  (An epilogue to our Europe trip)

Sunday morning – August 4, 2019   (tenth post of this travelogue)

Well, as you can tell from the title, we made it home and it is sure nice to be here.  We arrived at a few minutes after midnight on Tuesday (7/30).  That was almost exactly a 24 hour journey from when we left our Fiumicino (Rome) apartment!

We first flew from Rome to Philadelphia – a 10 hour flight.  The transfer in Philadelphia was a nightmare.  First, it took us almost an hour from the time we landed to the time we got to the gate.  They parked the plane in a remote area and used a huge transfer vehicle to get us to the gate.   Sounds simple  huh?  The first problem was that American somehow got their signals crossed and we had to wait 20-25 minutes for the transfer vehicle to get to the plane.  Then there was some sort of mix-up on getting the transfer vehicle to the proper arrival gate – another 20-25 minute wait on the tarmac.

Then the fun began.  There was a huge line to clear customs.  They had installed some electronic kiosks that scanned your passport and let you answer the customs questions on a screen.  I  would guess that they have not perfected the system, as it really held things up.  Then we still had to go to a Customs Agento  show him we cleared  the kiosk process.   Then we had to get our checked luggage and take them to the transfer location.  Lastly we had to clear TSA again.

Speaking of clearing customs, in Rome they had a scan system that seems pretty effective – if you are not flagged.   Unfortunately, I was flagged both entering and leaving and had to stand in long lines to go to a customs officer.

The flight from Philadelphia to Denver was OK.  I had upgraded our seats to an exit row (actually, I upgraded seats on all flights where available).   That gave us a ton of legroom, but the seats seemed very narrow and uncomfortable.  They had configured the row to be two seats on each side where there are normally three and apparently installed special seats.

When we got to Denver only one checked bag showed up.  Turns out one bag did not make the connecting flight.  It was delivered the next day.  Also, the suitcase that we shipped from Florence arrived on 8/1 in very good condition (they had done some “packaging” at the Mailbox Etc.store).

Now for some final thoughts.

I think in the back of our minds, we assumed this would be our last trip to  Europe.  I think that is almost certainly the case now.   We have been very fortunate to travel to Europe several times over the years and have seen some fantastic things and experienced incredible events.  But this trip really took a toll  on us.   Our bodies are really letting us know that we are not spring chickens anymore and our endurance has declined.  I am so thankful that I am quite active in the shop (often working on heavy parts) and that helped me deal with all the luggage on this trip.  There could always be an exception, but we will probably focus our future travel on the many  beautiful parts of our country. 

We probably extended the trip a bit more than we should have.  Even though a significant part of the trip was paid for by SU, the cost of each additional day added up.  However, we had a goal to visit new countries and I am not sure that we could have shortened the trip and still met that goal.

We experienced our stays a bit different than we have done in the past where we would try to cram every tourist stop into every day.  This time we went much slower and spent a lot more time “experiencing” the “atmosphere” of each stop.  I think this gave us a different perspective of the various locations.  We “enjoyed” the challenge of shopping at grocery store several times.  We enjoyed our meals in the apartment and soaking up the environment and lifestyle.  We enjoyed our evening strolls and eating at the wonderful sidewalk restaurants at each of our stops.

We were fortunate to have discussions with several local folks so that we could learn more from their perspective.  One memorable discussion was with a special needs teacher while waiting for the train in Bled.  We learned a great deal about life in Slovenia from him.

The school teacher mentioned that crime was very low in Slovenia (and we think the same was true in Croatia).  In our nightly strolls in those countries, we felt very safe.  The same could not be said of Italy.   As we have mentioned, pickpocketing in most major tourist areas in Italy is VERY prevalent.  Pat’s FB group continues to report significant losses including  phones, billfolds and even a passport. 

Some of you may remember the 1987 comedy movie:  “Planes, Trains, and  Automobiles.  It starred Steve Martin and John Candy.  Well, we could have created a sequel:  Planes, Trains, Automobiles and Ships.  If we did, they would be several comedy episodes in the movie {grin}.

We went the whole trip without watching TV – and survived.  We probably could have gotten some British news channels, but I hate their form of the news.  Instead, we kept up on National and Denver news via the internet. 

We did not suffer significantly from jet lag on this trip.  In the past, it has kicked our butts.

As I have noted in the past, we mostly write this blog/travelogue for our own benefit and too keep the family informed that we are still alive.  We find ourselves referring to blog posts from past trips to refresh our memories of certain facts or to just plain relive some great experiences.

That is all for this trip.

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