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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Techie...I'm Not

Dear Family and Friends,

If you read this blog from Facebook, or if you have the posts come to your email, then what I am about to share does not apply.

BUT if you have a bookmark for this blog or if you follow it in Xpadorian Blogs, then if you want to know what happened between San Diego and Arizona you will have to go to this link:  Between San Diego and Arizona.  I know it is confusing but what I am confessing is that I accidentally back dated my last post.

If you don't get what I am trying to say...forget it...just come on to Arizona with us.

Chuck and I flew to Phoenix, Arizona, rented a car, and drove to Mesa.

The next day we were fortunate to get to hang out with our good friends, Charlie and Bruce.

Here we are so happy to see each other.

For all who know Charlie and Bruce, we want to report how good they looked. They have just bought a new home and are getting settled in Mesa.  It was so good to see them.  (In case you can't tell who is who, Charlie and I are the dark guys on the left of the photo and Chuck and Bruce are the white guys on the right).

The next morning we drove from Mesa to Tucson.  Audrey and Jim moved to Tucson last year and we wanted to visit them and see their new digs.

Audrey cooked us a wonderful dinner.  Lamb chops, collard greens and sweet potatoes.  What a glorious dinner.  Audrey taught me that you don't have to cook collard greens for 2 hours.  Back home, in the South, my grandmother started cooking greens by 10am to prepare for dinner at noon.

The following day, Audrey, Jim, Chuck and I drove to Green Valley about 40 miles south of Tucson.  We went to visit a couple more good friends.  Clarke and Brenda.  They too were our friends in Ecuador and they moved back to the U.S. about two years ago.

They are living the good life.  Summer months in Bend, Oregon and winter months in Green Valley, Arizona.

This first picture was so cute, I just had to add it to the post.  Chuck named it the Three Amigos.  I named the picture "Three Old Farts."  Anyway, they all look handsome and happy in their sombreros and tropical shirts.

Here is another picture that Audrey took.  You can see Brenda is looking great too.  

There were two other couples, that have moved to the U.S. from Ecuador, that were close by, but we did not get to see them on this trip.

Bea and Bob Wetmore moved to Ashland, Oregon and we are going to visit them on one of our future trips, but this trip we were packing too much stuff into too little time.  We did think about you two a lots though B&B.

The other couple we were close to but did not see were Linda Atkisson and Tom Peddecord.  We actually waved to them as we whizzed by White Salmon, WA on the train.

The next day, we turned our car in at the Tucson airport.  Then we flew to Atlanta, Georgia.  We went to Columbus to get all the stuff we left at my sister's house and rested a couple of days.

On Wednesday, we flew from Atlanta to Quito.  We arrived around 11pm, like most flights do coming into Quito from the U.S.  We tried out the new Wyndham hotel located on the airport property and we give it a high rating.  They picked us up at the airport and we were in our hotel room getting ready for bed 10 minutes after leaving the airport.

The next morning, Thursday, they delivered us to the airport.  We flew to Cuenca and arrived home around 3pm.  I did not even start to unpack.  I went straight to bed and slept for two hours.

When I woke up, I found Chuck at the computer planning our next trip.

It is so good to be back home.


Monday, May 30, 2016

San Diego...Old Town and Zoo

Dear Family and Friends,

We timed our travel so that we left Los Angeles and arrived in San Diego without being in rush hour traffic.  Even so, we were in heavy traffic...but at least it was moving. Chuck is a patient driver and that is what it takes to deal with the traffic.

We had two days to spend in San Diego.  On the first day we went to Old Town. It is dubbed the birthplace of California.  It is where the first Europeans settled in the mid 1700's.

Video Tour of Old Town

Below are Matt and Chuck cooling their heels under a big old shade tree.

Walking around Old Town is like going back in time.  Many of the employees of the park wear period costumes.

Here is Matt making friends with an antique cigar store Indian.

and posing in front of an old Wells Fargo stage coach.

This photographer was taking this ladies photo.  The camera was an antique and in order to have her photo taken she had to hold very still for several seconds.

On day two we headed off to the San Diego Zoo.

We spent the entire day touring the zoo.  We started our tour by visiting the flamingos.  In the picture below, they were squawking and carrying on over who gets which nest.

This flamingo was sleeping through the whole affair.

Here is a close up of one of the majestic birds.

This peacock obliged the crowd by displaying his beautiful tail feathers.

Oh goodness...the giraffes.  I loved them.

The child below is staying real close to mama.

They have such cartoon like faces.

This adorable Koala Bear was busy napping away.  We have a trip planned for Australia this fall.  Hope to see a lot more of these adorable fellows then.

The cane wall and the stripes on this young zebra made an interesting picture. Did you know that when zebras are born they are brown and white striped and as they mature their stripes turn black?

These are Meerkats.  They are native to the southern planes of Africa.  They live in large groups.  The second one from the left is sitting on his hind legs. This is very typical.  There is usually at least one in the group that keeps an eye out to guard and warn the others if danger approaches.

I would say that this is a very tired camel.  He has one hump which makes him a Dromedary.  A camel with two humps is a Bactrian camel.  We learned that the hump on the camel's back is made of fatty tissue...not water tanks.

Not all animals are destined to be cute and cuddly.  But there is something about this wild African pig that is cute to me.  Maybe it is his tiny ears and big head.

Here is a Gazelle enjoying the sunshine.  The Gazelle is a type of antelope.  They can run at very high speeds.

This baby Gazelle is so adorable.

When we were in the Galapagos Islands, last December, we were told that there were a couple of giant tortoises at the San Diego zoo.  We found them.

I am not fond of snakes.  That is one of the reasons I have not been to Ecuador's Amazon Jungle.  But this snake is so darn cute.  It looks like it has a puppy dog face.  It is called a Green Tree Python.  Although they are not poisonous they will don't be petting them.  No danger of me doing that.

We had a wonderful day at the zoo.

Here we were in southern California and had to make our way back north.  We could fly but that is boring.  We decided to cruise north to get ourselves back home.  Chuck's sister, Audrey and her husband were already on the ship.  They had spent the last few weeks cruising the South Pacific.  We joined them for a three day cruise from San Diego to Vancouver, B.C.

Here is the scene as we cruised away from San Diego.

Audrey and Jim had champaign waiting for us in our cabin.

I will continue this tale on my next post.


Welcome to Yemen

Dear Family and Friends,

We had a nice three days cruising from San Diego, CA to Vancouver, BC.  What a nice civilized way to get from Point A to Point B.  Fine dining and good entertainment every night.  We were able to spend time with Audrey and Jim and hear about their South Pacific adventures. Matt even took advantage of the free Windows 10 classes offered on board.  Chuck and I enjoyed the lectures offered on Jazz. The ship traveled without any ports of call.

When our ship arrived in Vancouver, Chuck, Matt and I disembarked.  Our next mode of transportation, to get Matt back home, was to take the train to Portland, Oregon, spend the night and then take the train to Pasco, WA.

By the time we got off the ship it was too late to catch the morning train going south.  We spent the afternoon enjoying the fun city of Vancouver and spent the night in a hotel.

We had to get up early the next morning because our train left at 6:30am.  Our hotel made sure we had a taxi waiting for us in the pre-dawn hour.

When we arrived at the train station, we all did a double take.  Even though it was still dark outside, we could see all the signs were in Arabic.

As we entered the station we saw the film crew busy removing all the scene props for the day.  They had been shooting a television show inside the station. The name of the show was Prison Break, I think.  Although we had never heard of it, Matt was familiar with it, which made it much more exciting for him.

They were filming at night...during the day the train station was back to normal.

I made some photos before all the props were dismantled for the day.

Here is a link I found regarding the filming:  Revival of Prison Break episode photos

We boarded the Amtrak train called the Cascades, that goes from Vancouver, BC to Portland. It had to stop at the U.S. border for customs and arrives in Portland in time for connections to the Coast Starlight (south to L.A.) and the Empire Builder (west to Chicago).

Getting up at 4:30am can be rough on a body.

We arrived in Portland about 3:30pm.  Instead of jumping on to another train, we elected to cool our heels in Portland overnight.

We took a taxi to our hotel.  I spent the rest of the afternoon reading a book with my feet propped up while Chuck and Matt went to the movie theater to see the premier of Captain America: Civil War.

Since our train west did not leave the station until 4:30pm, we spent the morning at the Portland Saturday Market.

In order to better enjoy the market, Chuck suggested that we go to the train station first thing and check in our luggage.  This worked out great for us.

Here is Chuck showing Matt how to buy tickets for the light rail. 

The Portland Market is fun and one of our favorite things to do when visiting Portland on a weekend.  Every time we visit, it seems to be bigger and better.

We got to the train station in plenty of time to retrieve our carry on items.  We boarded the train and began our great tip from Portland, Oregon to Pasco, WA.

The journey from Portland to Pasco is one of the prettiest routes of the Amtrak system.  The train goes along the Columbia river all the way to Pasco, WA.

Since this was early May the days were getting a little longer, which made for beautiful views along the route.

I will share some of the pictures I took out of the lounge car window as we made our way up the river.

Mt Hood, which is in Oregon, was beautiful from the Washington side of the River.  We were blessed with fantastic weather.

The land becomes more arid as you travel west.  By the way, the views we saw looking across the river, is the route taken by the wagon trains going to the Willamette Valley back in the 1840's.  If you want to know more about the wagon trains and the Columbia river you can check out this link:  Final leg of the Oregon Trail

The train pulled into the Pasco station about 8:45pm.  Our hotel sent a van to pick us up and Chuck took Matt back to his house.

Sunday, we spent time with our kids in Richland.  In the afternoon we drove over to Seattle to return Larry's car. Monday morning we stepped on yet another airplane, this time headed for Phoenix, Arizona.

I'll share about our Arizona adventure in our next post.


Sunday, May 29, 2016

Crazy Hollywood, CA

Dear Family and Friends,

We finally made our way to Hollywood.  We told Matt that we would be in Los Angeles for a couple of days and he could do anything he wished.  We were thinking Disneyland or Universal Studios.  We were surprised when he said he wanted to go to Hollywood and see all the stars in the sidewalk.

Chuck booked us into a hotel about three blocks from Hollywood Boulevard where the Walk of Fame is located.  It was perfect, we did everything by foot.

And we walked and walked.  We saw every star there was to see.  At the end of that day we had walked 5 miles according to my pedometer.  Matt was thrilled, he took so many pictures of his favorite stars that his battery went dead.  I photographed the ones he couldn't with my camera.

I am going to share some stars I found interesting.  

Like this one.... who'd have thought Dear Abby would have a star?

or Tinker Bell for that matter.

I was really surprised when I saw this star.  If you are as old as dirt like I am, you may remember Pinky Lee from live television in the 50's.  If you want a bit of nostalgia go to this link and watch him sing his opening song.  Pinky Lee Show

Oh my goodness, I didn't expect to find him here.

This star surprised us the most.  Chuck asked "Wonder what we did?"

It turns out that way back in early film making (late 20's and early 30's) there was a Watson family with many, many children.  They lived next door to the studio. Whenever a director needed an extra child in a scene, he would send out a request of how tall, or what age and the mom would send a kid over to the studio.
Here is a fun link to read:  WATSON FAMILY

Here is a link to some fun facts about the Hollywood Walk of Fame:  Fun Facts

There is a lot of craziness happening on Hollywood Blvd.  We joined in and had a grand ol' time. 

Here is Chuck standing beside a replica of the tallest man ever.

Matt got into it with Batman.  

and Shrek almost ran him over.

We did the Hop On Hop Off bus tour on day two.  Here are a few pictures of that adventure.

The iconic Capital Records building.

Right next door to Hollywood is this famous neighborhood.

Don't you just love the palm lined streets?

This sign let's you know that you are at the corner of Hollywood and Vine.

Here is the entrance to Paramount Studios.  There are two gates, the black one in front of this picture and if you look way back you can see the arch gate that has been used in several movies.

This is the Los Angeles Union train station.  This station has also been used in many movies.

We had an action packed, fun filled two days in Hollywood.  We would have loved to stay longer but we had to get down the road to San Diego.

I will share about that experience on my next post.