Friday, February 27, 2009

Gemma Pictures By Rosi

The following pictures were taken by Rosi during the past few days
Really moving at the Gym

Be careful up there

At the Children's Museum

Playing in the Sand exhibit at Children's Museum

Walking the beam a the Gym

Looking down at a turtle in the park

Believe it or not Grandpa is trying to keep Gemma out of the water

Trying to get Gemma to relax on the bench

Inspecting the berries she found

At the fountain with the water flowing

Gemma Pictures

At the Gym

Rosi gets artistic at the Children's Museum

Scott and Gemma

Swimming in the blocks of foam pool at the Gym

Blitz and Gemma

Water funnel at the Children's Museum

Eating spaghetti

Checking out the fountain at the condo complex

Gemma and Rosi looking at trees in bloom at the park

Watching TV

Thursday, February 26, 2009

San Francisco tour with Carol and Ralph

Wed Feb 25

Today we joined up with Carol and Ralph and set out for a tour of some areas of San Francisco that they had not seen before.
First we drove from Fremont over the long San Mateo bridge (about 7 miles long) to Half Moon Bay which is on the ocean about directly west of Fremont but across the bridge and over the mountains.
We watched the waves and some surfers working them along the beach. The waves were very strong this am and the tide was apparently at high tide based on the water level. We nearly got splashed a couple times by a monster wave that came in and whacked against the rocks on the shore. If you stand around with the waves hitting like that you soon have a coating of salt residue on your glasses and the car windshield.
Then we drove north up the coast to Pacifica. There we went to a large pier that we have been at before and walked out on this pier. There are always people on the pier fishing for Dungenous Crab. We even saw one person catch one. Unfortunately for the fisherman, the crab's shell measured 5.75 inches and needed to measure 6 inches to keep him so back in the water he went.
The following picture was taken out at the end of the pier looking back at land. This guy stood still long enough for me to get his picture. Notice how green the hills in the background are. They have had a lot of rain in the area over the past few days and the grass is really growing green now. The area is about as green as we have ever seen it now. We have seen it in its brown state more often than green. Now and for about a month will probably be its greenest times.

Our next stop was at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge where we had a little trouble with the parking meter, but after having it eat a few quarters, we finally got enough to register so we took off to walk out on the Golden Gate Bridge. I waned to have at least 1.5 hours to walk out and back and the meter was only registering about 3/4 of the quarters we fed it.

We walked out to the first main support where we took the next picture.

This is proof that Carol and Ralph did make it out the the first main support of the bridge. We took a few other pictures as well but I like this spot best.

After the bridge hike, we headed to Fisherman's Warf where we had the traditional Sour Bread Bowl of Clam Chowder.

We drove back home to Fremont via the Bay Bridge which some of you may recall had a big problem in previous earth quake. It is a 2 layer bridge. The traffic going towards the city is on the top layer and the traffic going east is the bottom layer. We were in the lower level. No earth quakes today.

Catch up for several days

Update 3/01/09
It is Sunday afternoon and kind of rainy. Rich is working on putting up shelves in the garage for Rosi and Scott, so I will try to catch up on our blog. We left Scottsdale February 19th to drive to Burbank. It was another case of bad planning as the sun was just setting and right in our eyes when we got to Burbank and resulted (even with Garmin telling us what to do) in a couple of wrong turns. It still only cost us about 20 minutes, so not bad. I don’t know how we ever would have done this trip without the GPS. We had a good visit with Wilma and Bruce. She had gotten us all tickets to the Jay Leno show, but they overbook, so we knew we had to be there early to make sure we got seats. It was not bad at all. There were ledges on flower beds to sit on while waiting and the NBC people came out to talk with us and give us instructions on what was going to happen. We had to go through security about the same as at the airport and then were directed into the studio and to our seats. They had tapes of previous musical guests singing to watch while we were waiting. Then Jay Leno came out to talk to us for about 15 minutes. After he went back to get ready, John Menendez came out to warm up the audience. We really enjoyed the show. The guests were good and it was very interesting to see what goes on behind the scenes. The only big surprise was how cool the studio was, temperature wise. We were all pretty chilly by the time the show had finished. It was quite an experience that we will always remember. On Saturday, we went to the Nethercutt Collection and Museum owned by Merle Norman Cosmetics. This place was amazing! It houses over 170 antique, vintage and classic automobiles in completely restored condition, plus a collection of antique hood ornaments (did you know that they even had crystal hood ornaments?), collectibles and the world’s finest assemblage of mechanical musical instruments which included everything from small music boxes to jukeboxes to a huge theater pipe organ. If you want to read more about this place, go to Then we headed to Simi Valley to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. It is such a beautiful place with gorgeous scenery. We especially enjoyed going through the Air Force One that he traveled on. It is a Boeing 707 that was used by Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, H.W.Bush, Clinton and W. Bush. There was quite a difference from the Air Force One plane we got to see at the Air Museum in Tucson that was used by Kennedy and Johnson. This was really a flying White House. We saw an exact replica of the oval office, the Marine One helicopter, cars used in the motorcades and where Reagan is buried. On Sunday, we went to brunch at a restaurant by a small airport. This looked sort of like an ivy covered French farmhouse. We sat by the window and could watch the small planes and Leer Jets take off and land. Food was great. Then we drove around N. Hollywood so Rich could get a picture of the Hollywood sign. We were just a few blocks away from where the Academy Awards were held, but could not get over there as they had blocked the streets off at midnight the night before. We went back to their place to watch the Awards. Coverage started at 3PM Pacific time. Monday, we headed up to Fremont to visit Scott, Rosi and Gemma. Gemma is almost 18 months old and quite the little miss. She is so funny and cute and of course, we are not at all biased! We are very much enjoying our time with them.

Following are pictures from the discussion above:

There will be no pictures from our Jay Leno show visit as they will not allow you to even take your cameras inside the studio.

This is the "showroom" for some of the automobiles from the Nethercutt Museum. They said this was how the showrooms looked back in the Thirties when these cars were for sale. Very elaborate marble floors and pillars.

This is the 5000 pipe Theatre Pipe Organ in the Museum. When it plays it raises up from the floor by about 2 feet. They had it play music for us. They had it controlled by a Microsoft Computer program instead of a live organist during the guided tour.

When the Organ plays, the curtains in the back of the room open up to show two sets of Pipes that look like this. This is just one side of the two sets for a total of 5000 pipes. We could not use flash and my camera is not fast enough to get good picture but it demonstrates the immensity of the pipes as the hight of what is in the picture is probably about 30 ft.

These Antique Vintage cars are in a museum across the street from the first section. This picture shows one row of about 10 within the Museum.

All cars must be in perfect working condition to get a spot in the Museum. They are all very polished. You dare no even touch one or you will have a security guard standing beside you very quickly as a couple young visitors found out.

Another row of older vintage cars
Anyone on the fence about going to this museum, you should know it is all FREE. You do have to make reservations for the guided tour part.

Air Force One from the Reagan Library

The Burial Place of Ronald Reagan outside the Library

Back to Hollywood and a picture of the "Sign"

A picture of our Hosts Wilma and Bruce outside their home in Burbank.
Thanks for a great time you guys!

As we drove northward in Calif on Highway 5 we say several large fields of flowering trees. We do not know what fruit these will grow. I am sure that whatever it is, they will harvest them from all the equipment in the area.

As we got to the Palm Springs areas as we drove from Phoenix to Burbank we came across a massive group of wind chargers. This is just a sample picture form several groups of a very large cluster of chargers. One would think they could power the whole state of Calif on a windy day. We always maze at the clusters that have developed around the south of Fond du Lac. They have a long ways to go to get fully populated based on what we saw here. I was really amazed and went crazy trying to get pictures of all the fields of chargers as Nancy drove through them. Some of them were up on hill tops, and some were down in the valley with mountains on all sides. Also note the beauty of the snow covered mountains in the background.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Saguaro Del Norte

Today we drove about 30 miles east of Scottsdale to visit Saguaro Del Norte Recreation site. There is a large lake made from a dam on the Salt River. We had lunch at the on site restaurant and then tried to walk off the calories by walking along the water edge. We walked about 1.5 miles down and then back to the car. A very pretty area and the sun was shining between broken clouds so we had shed our light jackets before we got back to the car.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Tour of the Botanical Gardens

They say a picture is worth a thousand words so here is our thousand words for the day

These are pictures from our visit to the Desert Botanical Garden nestled amid the buttes of Papago Park in Phoenix. The day we visited they were having a special exhibit by Dale Chihuly a well known artist of handblown glass.

The Garden sits on 145 acres and has more than 50,000 plants on display. The garden has five thematic trails that illustrate topics such as conservation, desert living, plants and people of the Sonoran Desert, and desert wildflowers.

Tucson Sabino Canyon and Pima

In Tucson we visited the Pima Air & Space Museum. They have a very large collection of aircraft that has been used by the military as well as some experimental that never made it to production. They somehow had a collection of at least 8 Russan MIG's which I found interesting to view up close.

This is the McDonnell F4C Phantom. I am always looking for F4's at shows or exhibits such as this since I worked at McDonnell in St. Louis when this aircraft was in its hottest times and being built and used in the Vietnam war as well as other applications. It is a little sad to see them amongst the now obsolete aircraft.

The following pictures were taken while visiting the Sabino Canyon Recreation area just north east of Tuscon. You can walk up the canyon on roads or trails or take the tram up the canyon. We chose to walk, but did not make it all the way to the top. We probably made it about 1.5 miles of about 5 miles total to the top. On the trail you can see a very impressive collection of desert and desert mountain plants. I was impressed by the number of Saguaro cactus growning in the flat areas and on the mountain sides.

With the help of some fellow tourists, we saw and got a picture of a Road Runner. Can you see him purched in the tree? We saw him fly a few feet to the ground and then disappear via the ground.

It was a very nice day around 55 to 60 degrees on a Sunday and there were many other people hiking and/or running up and down the canyon trails.
After these two attractions we drove west through the Saguaro National Park (West) where we managed to get on about 10 miles of dirt roads that were very rough with washboard. From there we got back on I-10 and headed to Scottsdale to visit Al and Jean.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Sand, not snow

Rich says it is my turn to write about our travels today, so I want to take a minute to backtrack a bit and say how much we enjoyed our drive across Texas. The landscape was so different than we expected and continued to surprise us the whole way across the state. It was not at all as we had envisioned it. The rolling hills and small mountains with all the trees and brush were so beautiful. Who knew there were all those mountain ranges in Texas? When we got a couple of text messages on our cell phone about international travel, we knew we were close to the Mexican border. We kept looking to the south in hopes of seeing the Rio Grande. Going into New Mexico, it did look as we expected. I love the scenery and flat roofs and stucco houses of the southwest.
This morning we drove out to the White Sands National Monument. It was amazing. It looked like the aftermath of a huge blizzard, but it was all white sand. It even glistened like snow in the bright sun because of some selenite mixed in with it. It is in big drifts and people were using round saucer sleds to slide down them. Sand surfing they call it. We climbed up on the big dunes and they were pretty solid. We walked one of the trails and some of it was solid, but most of it was sort of like walking on a beach. It looks like the parks use a blade to clean the roads whenever the sands drifts over them. With the sand piled on the sides of the roads and the big drifts, it looked pretty much like Fond du Lac did a couple of weeks ago when we left it, but that was snow! There are actually a few types of plants that can grow there and survive being buried by sand. The skunkbush sumac is one. When it gets covered up, it just sends up more shoots and ends up as a big mound of sand with brush sticking out of it. The animals that can survive here like it to dig burrows in, hide in it, use it for shade, and eat it. One of the informational signs talked about the Kitt Foxes that live here. It said that they like fast food. Desert cottontales and jackrabbits. Fast food, get it? We thought it was pretty funny. We saw trees that were three forths covered up with sand. Just the tops of them were sticking up out of the dunes. This is one of those places that we will always remember visiting. Then it was time to head out for Tucson. We are at our first hotwire hotel tonight and are quite happy with it. We had aValentine's Day dinner at Sweet Tomatoes and are looking forwards to some sightseeing in Tucson tomorrow. We will be in Scottsdale at Al and Jeans tomorrow night. Garmin says that we have traveled 2613.59 miles so far.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Drive across Texas

Today we drove across the western half of Texas from San Antonio to Las Cruces NM a distance of about 596 miles. We left about 7:30 am and got in at about 6:30 local. The speed limit is 80 mph over much of the trip, but I do not need to drive that fast (Kristin note). The view was somewhat more interesting than I had expected. There was a lot of small brush and trees along the road and as far as you can see for most of the trip. I think I had one critter sighting of what must have been a wild hog along the road side in the brush area. At the western edge we could see several mountains off in various directions. The mountains are not the type that have trees, but rather brush and small growth. The soil on almost the whole trip seemed to be rock over rock as observed in highway cutouts. The picture is an example of what we saw out the window for several hundred miles. We continuously gained in altitude to around 4500 ft above sea level. The mountains still looked very tall relative to our elevation so they must easily reach 7k ft. The weather varied between 66 and 74 all day with the coolest at the Las Cruces end in the lower 60's. Tomorrow we head out north to the White Sands park and then back south to end up in Tucson for the night. Garmin update: it now says we have traveled 2218.17 miles since we left home. In case you have a desire to see the pictures on this blog in a large, just click on the picture and it will bring up a large version.

My soapbox for the day -- we are almost looking forward to a continuing and deepening of the recession so that maybe the fast food establishments will be able to hire some competent help. We occasion about one a day and the experience has not been the best, hence the comment.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

San Antonio

This morning we headed out bright and early for some sightseeing in downtown San Antonio. We visited the Alamo first. We had not realized how many were in there for that final battle and that most of them were not from Texas. Some were from England and Scotland. They had the original Bowie knife on display and also a couple of the guns owned by Davie Crocket. I cannot imagine being in a battle like that and having to take the time to pour powder in your gun and put in some homemade rounds over and over again. Then we went over to the Riverwalk. We walked all around the lower level and took a boat tour of the river. We had quite an interesting tour guide. The river is not very wide and there are walkways on both sides plus bridges. He managed to get us through it all and kept us laughing besides giving us information on the buildings along the way. We had lunch at one of the places right on the river and then walked about 10 blocks to a Mexican Market that a friend had told me about. By the time we finished browsing through there, it was getting time to head back to our motel. Roger and Betty, our friends from Sioux Falls, have their RV parked about an hour north of San Antonio and we had plans to have dinner together. We went to the BBQ place next door to our motel and had a good dinner and a great time visiting.
Tomorrow we will be back on the road again. Next stop is Las Cruces, NM. According to the schedule, it will be 596 miles, so a long day.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Stop at Post Office

Today we drove from Baton Rouge to San Antonio which is around 468 miles. On the way we stopped off at a post office to mail some letters. See the picture of the post office. Interesting place. A very small town, but the post office was still a little difficult to find. Garmin did not know that they had a post office.
The trip was fairly routine, except that we arrived in San Antonio when the sun was directly in our eyes and had to negotiate going through the city to the west side with sun in our eyes and fairly heavy traffic. It is a good thing that Garmin was able to direct us through the interstate maze without being able to read signs much of the time. We made note that we need to change our schedule for arrival times if driving west about sunset time.
The Garmin now says we have traveled 1610.33 miles since we left home. As a public service I must warn anyone that owns a Garmin, do NOT plan to use it to navigate through Houston via I-10. The Garmin absolutely lost its mind and was wanting us to turn off the edge of the interstate and drive in square circles. We just ignored it and followed the road signs like we used to do before Garmin. Tomorrow we will be visiting the River Walk area of San Antonio and The Alamo which is in the same area.
Now that we are safely out of the state of Louisiana, I will make some observations on our travels in the state. We traveled several miles of off the main interstate system and I have never seen so many trailer homes (as they called them movable homes) in my life. These are not the new units supplied by FEMA after the hurricane. Most of them have been there for some time. As you drive down country roads you see about 4 or 5 trailer homes then maybe a fixed construction home (nothing large) and then a church all in some random order, but on a very repetitive basis. The only large southern mansions we saw was those that we specifically went out of our way to see. In the future when I see news reports telling about how those poor people have been displaced to trailer homes by Katrina, I will have to wonder what the truth really is. When we crossed the line over to Texas, the general appearance of living conditions seemed to improve considerably. Our path through Houston looked like all new very affluent living conditions. I was too busy trying to read signs to get a reading on San Antonio yet.