Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A tribute to the best dog ever

Tribute to Simon, sadly he crossed the Rainbow Bridge on July 19, 2015.  RIP we miss you so so much.

Simon, no challenge too difficult

Simon is a wonderful Boykin Spaniel who became a member of the Jaros family via a local kill facility in 2004. They had stopped to inquire about a pair of Cocker Spaniels that had been given up by their owner. The shelter staff informed Stan and Lee Jaros that they already had over a hundred calls wanting to adopt these two dogs. Admitting it would be futile to attempt the adoption, they meandered through the facility happening upon this one cage that had a huge dog and this little golden eyed dog. When they asked about him, the staff explained that someone had driven up to the facility, tied the dog to the fence and then drove off. Gone was everything and everyone this poor little dog ever knew - he was all alone.

His days were up and he could have been euthanized at any moment. The Jaros’s took him for a walk to give him a break from his cage, as well as from his over-sized kennel-mate. Before the walk was even finished the Jaros’s knew he was coming home with them. 
With the shelter's policy that any animal being adopted must be spayed/neutered before the adoption can be completed, they called around and found a veterinarian willing to do the procedure the very next day so they could become a family right away. The vet was very surprised that someone would just leave him tied to a fence. He also informed them that he was in fact a pure breed Boykin Spaniel and was approximately one year (give or take a few months) in age.
Like naming a child, the task began. They settled on Simon, it just seemed to fit. He immediately stole their hearts, he was such a good boy. Simon had few issues, but nothing Stan and Lee couldn’t handle. Soon after his adoption it became clear that Simon’s previous parents did work with him since he was semi-house trained and pretty well mannered. Little did they know that part of his prior training would pose such a challenge.
First evening of feeding Stan put down a bowl of food. Simon sat at the bowl, looked at Stan and waited. Obviously he had been well trained and evidently had a release command – if only Simon could talk and explain what it was. They tried everything. Made chicken and rice for him, nothing. Even bought a duck call and quacked on it hoping they’d find the right command. Still nothing. After day two they called the vet and informed him that Simon wouldn’t eat. The vet said to give Simon about four days, when he becomes hungry he’ll eat. Finally on day four Simon ate and he hasn’t stopped! Soon after this initial triumph however, they realized he was allergic to just about everything, with beef and wheat being his biggest enemies, so selective food choices became critical. Challenge 1 & 2 completed!

Simon's Happy TailFast forward to 2014, Simon is now 11. Around March, Simon was taken in for a grooming. When the Jaros’s went to pick him up, the groomer handed them a yellow note from the vet. While grooming Simon she noticed a swelling near his anus. She had the vet look at it, it was determined that it was an anal sac tumor and the vet recommended it be removed. Naturally they followed the vet’s advice. All was well until the summer when they found another lump which was diagnosed as a mast cell tumor - so surgery number two. Within a month, four more mast cell tumors were found and removed, surgery numbers three and four. October then found Simon undergoing chemotherapy treatments. Challenges 3, 4, 5, 6 & 7 completed!

With the cancer treatment behind them things were going quite good until one day Simon’s back-end collapsed. He couldn’t stand on his back legs. After an emergency call into their vet and a referral to a neurologist, it was revealed through a CT scan that Simon had a ruptured disc that was putting pressure on and pinching his spinal cord. Immediate surgery was performed. Poor guy, recovering from mast cell tumor surgeries, undergoing chemo and now this! His post op spinal surgery recovery required confinement. Using baby gates, his family rigged up a space for Simon to live in for the next eight weeks. No steps, no jumping, no running and basically the only walking was to and from the backyard to do his business. Through all of this Simon was such a trooper. He healed and recovered – Challenge 8 completed!
Stan and Lee’s biggest concern post-recovery was Simon slipping on the hardwood floors and re-injuring his back, so their quest to find a solution began. They tried a few things, but nothing seemed to work. They scattered throw rugs at potential slip areas which helped, but wasn’t a complete solution.
Then they found Grippers, non-slip dog socks. Simon's Happy TailThey only use them on Simon’s hind paws as these are his steering wheels. They anticipated some issues in him keeping them on, however, he accepted them without issue. The results? Simon is back flying around corners without sliding or falling, which is a very good thing given that he shares his home with four cats and sometimes things can get a little wild and crazy.
“Thank you to Dog Quality for offering such a wonderful product.”
The Jaros’s are true believers that when you take in a pet, they are cared for until the end. Simon may have lost his first family, but he will never be alone again thanks to the patience, perseverance and endless love that Stan and Lee have shown. Simon continues to get back up each time life knocks him down because he has a family and a life worth fighting for. His strength and determination is nothing short of inspiring.
“Simon truly is one of a kind. A most loving guy that only wants to please us. We really do think animals know when they’ve been given second chances and they spend their days trying to repay you.”

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Another year is history

It's a new year, seems as one gets older time quickly slips by.

Hope everyone had a good holiday season, we send our wishes for a bright New Year.

The latter part of 2014 was rather calm for us.  After our early cruises we figured we'd stay grounded until Fall.  Not!!!!

Lee's nephew is marrying this year in February.  In August (2014) we attended a couples shower in Ft Worth, Texas.  You may be asking what the heck is a couples shower.  I asked the same thing.  From what I understand, seems those invited to a bridal shower felt sorry for their significant others not being able to attend due to it being an all girls affair.  So someone thought up the "couples" shower so the guys wouldn't feel left out.  Sure wish someone would have asked me, I would have assured them that guys don't like these sorta things, so the bridal shower venue was just peachy with us.

As it turned out the shower was an okay event.  Of course there were a few things that made it acceptable.  Food and booze all free!!!!!  No foo-foo opening of gifts etc.  It was a party setting where families and friends of the to-be bride and groom could meet and mingle.

A highlight for this trip was a visit to the Ikea store;)

Only home for a few weeks before we boarded a flight to Lubbock, Texas to visit Lee's nephew.  He is employed with the Texas Tech University's sports program and provided tickets to the TTU vs Arkansas football game.

Spent about four days, had a good visit and a great time.

We were on slate to attend a zoo conference in Milwaukee, WI, however due to some pet medical issues we cancelled.  More on the medical issues in bit.

I went on to Branson, MO to attend a Marine Corps unit reunion.  Lee stayed home and babysat our pets.  The reunion was nice, hard to believe it had been fifty years since we were in in that unit.  This year in August we, Lee and I, will attend the reunion in San Antonio, TX.

The pet issue.  Simon our Boykin Spaniel was diagnosed with mast cell.  He underwent four surgeries to remove five cells.  Once the surgery sites were semi-healed he began chemo treatments.  Simon is pretty special to us.  He is about 11 years old and has quite a few years ahead of him.  Our pet policy has always been no heroics for any of them.  As I said Simon is special.

After about the third chemo treatment Simon lost control of his hind legs.  Just collapsed while doing his business outside.  A frantic call to our Vet rendered an answer that chemo should not have this type of side effect.  He called Vet a friend of his and concluded it may be something neurological.

After a CT scan it was found Simon had a bulging disc.  Obviously so bad the Vet was surprised Simon had any mobility at all.  Straight from CT to the OR.  About five days later we picked him up from the animal hospital.  Now the fun began.  Simon had to be confined for a period of eight weeks.  So much of our holiday season was spent caring for Simon.

He is such an amazing dog, one would never realize the boy has been through all that he has been.

Our house was built in 1943 and other than adding on and remodeling the main bathroom, nothing much has been done to it. The kitchen was in dire need.

After our experience with the bathroom we learned remodeling is never easy or inexpensive.  True to form.  A slow leak was found in the sinks drain pipe, who knows how long it had been leaking, there was no exterior evidence.  So long story short, the kitchen was brought down to the studs and rebuilt.  I'll post a link to photos.

Looking forward to an easy new year.

Link to photos of Simon:

Link to kitchen photos:

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Just playing catch up!

Been a while since I last posted so I will summarize our travels since that last post.  I'll include links to photos at the end of each section.

The last half of 2013 found us sailing with friends, Jim and Betsy, aboard the Celebrity Millennium from Vancouver, B.C. to Alaska in August.

The cruise was amazing, I think this should be on everyones bucket list.  The ship was typical, Alaska seems to draw a different demographic.  Quite a few young families with young children.  The itinerary brought us to Ketchikan, Skagway, Juneau, Hoonah, and ended in Seward.  We spent a day cruising the ice flows of the Tracy Arm glaciers and Inside Passage.

The sights were spectacular.  Lots of marine life, whale, Orca, otter, etc.  For me, the morning we awoke to the sounds of ice hitting the ship, was the highlight.  Well that and the whale that surfaced right outside our cabin when we were anchored in Hoonah.

The only excursion we did was a whale watching tour in Juneau.  There is absolutely nothing more magnificent than watching a whale breech and slap it's tail as it settles back into the sea.

Juneau also found us at the infamous Red Dog Saloon.  A pretty fun place founded during the mining days of Alaska and has operated for decades.  Sawdust floors, reindeer sausage, and of course cold beer.  The entertainment  is quite fun.  Several entertainers are on tap, some that just play guitars and sing songs of old and new; and others that offer a series of mining day ballads, some not suitable for younger ears!

Ketchikan, native for creek, was interesting.  The big tourist draw is the boardwalk promenade which runs parallel to the creek.  Dolly's House, the first brothel of Ketchikan, is located on the boardwalk.  Quite an interesting little place.  In season the creek is filled with salmon headed to spawn.

The cities of Juneau, the capitol of Alaska, and Ketchikan are only accessible by sea or air.

Skagway, a neat little mining town, with many shops and several saloons.

Hoonah is located in Icy Strait Point.  One of the largest islands of Alaska, it is said to be the 105th largest island in the world and the 5th largest in the US.  Years ago a cannery operated here, has been closed quite some time.  The little town has restored a lot of the cannery as a point of interest.  Probably ate the best Dungeness crab here, fresh out of the water.

Last stop on this cruse was Seward.  This particular itinerary is one way.  The ship sails from Vancouver and stops in Seward, all passengers disembark and they load up again and go south to Vancouver.

Landing in Seward, we were greeted by Lee's brother Pat and sister-in-law Suzanne.  They drove down from their home in Anchorage.  They left one vehicle for us and headed back to Anchorage where we would meet them later that day.

This being our friends first visit to Alaska, we wanted to show them some of the sights.  Our first stop was the Alaska Sealife Center located in Seward.  From there we headed towards Girdwood, stopping at the conservation center to view the moose, caribou, bear, bison, and a plethora of other critters.

Our original plan was to head up to the Alyeska Resort to take the tram up the mountain, however, weather did not cooperate.  We took our time getting to Anchorage, stopping to view creeks and Turn Again Arm, and to take a short hike up one of the many trails along the way.

We spent the next several days enjoying the comfort of Pat and Suzanne's home.  Took Betsy to Bird Creek to salmon fish one day, she was lucky enough to catch a few nice salmon.  We also did a few short "to see the sights" trips so Jim and Betsy could experience a bit of Alaska.

It was a good trip and everyone enjoyed it.

Photos of this trip:   Alaska Cruise Celebrity Millennium

We really went over board, not literally, the first few months of 2014.  To give a quick summation:  end of January found us cruising to the Caribbean; end of February, first week of March found us in Alaska; end of April, again in the Caribbean; and first week of May found in Alaska, yes again!

To explain:  the January cruise, the trip to Alaska in February, and the Alaska cruise in May were all planned.  The April cruise was a "fit in" so we could travel with old friends.  Between the April and May cruise we were home for 4 days.  Long enough to unpack from the Caribbean cruise, do laundry, and repack for the Alaska cruise.

Luckily we have a house sitter with a very flexible schedule.

Last week of January we drove to New Orleans to meet up with friends, John and Susan, we met several cruises ago and have since sailed with them several times.  We boarded the ship the NCL Jewel.  Ports of call were Cozumel, Mexico, Costa Maya, and Roataan, Honduras.

Our friends had never sailed NCL, so we were a bit on edge until we boarded.  They liked it, they liked it.  We had a good time in Cozumel, talked them into doing the Salsa and Salsa tour with us.  This is the one where you are taught how to prepare several salsa dips, then after taught how to do the salsa, the dance.  All while being plied with unlimited margaritas.  Lee and I have really enjoyed this tour, I think we've done it like 4-5 times.  It's just fun.

In Costa Maya we went to a private beach.  We were escorted to out private cabana, provided lunch and unlimited beverages, use of water toys etc.  This day was not the best weather wise.  It wasn't bad, but the winds and rough water did not allow much in the water activity.

Roataan, Honduras is not much at all.  Unless you have a tour scheduled you are pretty much limited to the pier area, where there are shops etc, but not much else.  John and Susan had never been there, so we got off and walked around a while.

All in all the cruise was good, we all enjoyed the ship, and we were happy that John and Susan liked NCL.  Of course we like NCL and have sailed them many times.

John and Susan wanted to spend a few extra days in New Orleans, so we stayed as well.  While waiting for our hotel rooms to be ready, we toured the WWII Museum, outstanding place to visit.

Staying ended up being not the right choice.  As you will see in the photos, we got iced in.  New Orleans is surrounded by water, only way in or out is to cross a bridge!

We were supposed to drive out headed for home and John and Susan were to fly back home on Tuesday.  No such luck.  The weather came in, all roads and bridges were closed as was the airport, nothing going out, nothing coming in.

I know you are saying, wow stuck in New Orleans, how bad can that be!  Well, pretty bad.  Most of the restaurants and bars were closed.  No one could get to downtown to open up anything.  Luckily a pizza place close to the hotel was open.  The staff had stayed there the night before so they could open.

John and Susan got out on Wednesday, they found a cab company that promised to get them to the airport via back roads.

On Thursday morning they announced I-10 east bound was open, although the Twin Bridge was still closed, at least there was hope.  Around 9am, I told Lee we're leaving, we needed to go west, but at least going east we were moving.   So we packed up and checked out.  As we were checking out the news stated that the west bound lane on the Twin Bridge had just opened.  The bridge is about 30 minutes from downtown, by the time we got there east bound was opened.  So we took I-10 east to I-12, where we turned west headed to I-55.  Not fun.  The Causeway Bridge was still closed, as was
I-55 South.  Luckily we were headed north towards Jackson, MS.

I-55 seemed to be okay.  We got probably 45 minutes south of Jackson when we hit a traffic jam.  Bumper to bumper, slowly moving.  An accident between a car and a semi transporting some kind of chemical happened.  They closed the highway.  The sheriff's department and state police guided us through "deliverance" country.  I mean dirt and gravel roads that eventually led us back to I-55.  What an adventure.

Just crazy, the people in New Orleans were saying that they hadn't seen weather like that in over 20 years.   Finally made it home safe and sound.

Photos of our January adventure:  NCL Jewel and New Orleans

So we got home maybe on the 6th of February.  We had about 3 weeks to relax and prepare for our next adventure.  Flying to Anchorage, Alaska to experience the start of the Iditarod.

Lee was born in the South for a reason, she hates the cold.  I tried to talk her out of this trip, but she was determined to go.  As things turned out it was warmer in Anchorage than it was in Little Rock.

We were again met by Lee's brother.  Arrival time in Anchorage was like midnight.  I don't think anything flies in or out except the "red eyes."  We got to Pat's and we immediately crashed, long day of travel to say the least.

A few days later Pat's son Alex arrived with his girlfriend Jennifer.

The Iditarod is probably Alaska's premier event, lots of things were going on downtown in preparation for the big start.

On Thursday evening we attended the Musher's Banquet, this is when the mushers draw for their starting positions.  I mean this banquet is a gala affair.  Dress up clothes consisted of flannel shirts, down jackets, mukluks, and any other combination of clothing one could imagine.  The meal was fantastic as were all the festivities.  Even Sarah Palin was there!  A great time was had by all.

As stated Anchorage was experiencing a thaw while Arkansas was freezing.  Due to the melt down and little snow, the snow trucks were out in the community gathering enough snow to make a path for the ceremonial start of the race.  As you'll see in the photos, a trail of snow was laid down on the main street in downtown.

Following the ceremonial start it was "Run with Reindeer" time.  What a hoot.  Lee, Suzanne, Alex, and Jennifer participated.  See if you can recognize them in the videos!

After the Saturday festivities we went to the Moose's Tooth for pizza and beer.

Sunday found us on the road early headed to Willow for the official start of the Iditarod.  The excitement of the people was very evident.  The real stars are the dogs.  Omigosh, once on the lead, they were barking, jumping, lurching forward, excited to go.  I thought to myself, "in a day or two, these dogs will be wondering, what the hell did we get ourselves into."

Bottom line of this adventure, one of the most fun and exciting times we've ever had.  Everyone needs to add this event to their bucket list.

For this segment I have added separate albums for each adventure.

Musher's Banquet

Ceremonial Start

Reindeer Run

Official Start

Seven years ago on our 10th anniversary cruise we met John and Chris.  They being avid cruisers living in Beaverton, Oregon, have been after us to join them on another cruise.  Long about mid-January they called and very excitedly told us they found a cruise out of Houston, within driving distance for us, so we'd be able to go.  Oops, not!

With our end of January cruise, the Iditarod trip, and the May cruise, there was just no way we could fit in an end of April cruise.  We called them and discussed that we had made all these other plans.  We suggested they cancel the Houston cruise and join us on the Alaska cruise departing from Seattle, which is within driving distance for them.

We were hopeful, but Chris only cruises where the sun counts.  So on the Alaska cruse there'd be no catching of rays!  So graciously we had to decline the offer.

For those of you that really know Lee, this now has become a challenge, off to the internet.  After many hours and days, looking and comparing, and counting our pennies, she looked away from the monitor and said "we can do this, gonna be tight, but we can do it."  The booking process began.

With the Iditarod checked off the bucket list, we now prepare for a hectic 45 or so days.  We leave again the end of April for a cruise out of Houston aboard Princess Cruise Lines Caribbean Princess.

The drive to Houston was uneventful, well, except for missing our lunch stop.  Thought we knew where the place was at, not!

We actually drove to Humble, Texas, about 30 minutes north of Houston and about an hour from the port.  After roughly 7 hours behind the wheel we arrive Humble.  John and Chris flew in from Oregon and were awaiting our arrival.

Check-in, get to our room, and text to let them know we were there.  Minutes later a knock at the door and the reunion began.  Went to dinner, had a nice visit, returned back to the hotel, with plans to meet the next morning.  Being they flew in the plan was for them to ride with us to the port and we'd drop them off at the airport upon our return.

Quick hour drive to the port the next morning.  Dropped off bags and the girls, and went to park.

Check-in for the cruise was easy and painless.  Boarded around noon and headed to lunch.  Sail away was around 4, let the vacation begin.

Ports of call were Cozumel, Mexico, Belize, and Roataan, Honduras.

Guess what we did in Cozumel?  If you guessed Salsa and Salsa you would be correct!!!!!  This was John and Chris' first Salsa and Salsa experience, we believe they enjoyed it.

We did not get off in Belize, have been there before and there is really not much to do unless you take a tour.  John and Chris did get off as they wanted to tour Belize, one of those places that intrigues them as a possible retirement location.

On this trip we ported on the opposite side of Roataan, Honduras, a place called Mahogany Bay.  This is a resort like area that was built strictly for cruise ship business.  We viewed the area from one of the upper decks and figured we were close enough to say we were there!

The cruise as a whole was pretty good.  We have noticed that food offerings have changed a bit across the industry.  Surely it's all about cutting the budget.  Princess has always offered a better menu then other lines, seems now they are all about on par.  And they still serve lobster!!!!!

Entertainment etc was okay, pretty much the same as any other line.  The highlight of the trip was the rekindling of a friendship.

And while aboard we celebrated our 17th anniversary, is was very special having John and Chris there.  Also note, they celebrated their 31st anniversary while aboard.  So it was a very special cruise.

Back in Houston, we drove to the airport, said our goodbyes and we headed northeast.  Being that we got a late start, we decided not to make the long drive so we stopped for the night in Marshall, Texas. Had a wonderful dinner at Porky's Smokehouse and Grill.  Next morning we headed home.

Always nice to sleep in your own bed!

Caribbean Princess April 2014

Home from the Caribbean.  It is now May 4th.  I sometimes wonder what the cats and dog think about all this.  We walk out with suitcases and a few hours later Randi, our sitter, shows up with hers!!

So now we are in a semi panic mode.  Time only to unpack from a warm climate cruise, do laundry, repack for a much cooler climate cruise and in four days be gone again.  I'm not sure we even had time to go through all our mail from the last trip.  So early morning of the 9th we're out the door, en route to Seattle to meet up with John and Susan and John's sister Ann.

Everyone arrived at the hotels without too much of a hassle.  We have learned taking the Light Rail from and to the airport is a lot less of hassle, not to mention cheaper.  Taxi's from the airport to downtown run around the $60 mark, the Light Rail for two is like $5.50.

Because John and Susan had the extra person, along with all the extra luggage it was less of a hassle for them to take a shuttle.  I won't go into the details of that fiasco, the shuttle folks basically forgot them, so they ended up grabbing a cab.

We enjoyed a nice walk about downtown Seattle, a nice dinner, and then a leisurely walk back to our hotels.

Next morning we headed to the pier.  With us staying at a different hotel it was just easier to meet once aboard.  Check in with Holland America was pretty easy.  We've never sailed with them, so this was our first experience aboard the Westerdam.  All the ships in their fleet end with "dam."  The fleet is referred to as the Dam ships!!!  Everything went according to Hoyle.

One nice thing about both Princess and Holland America, as soon as you board you can go to your cabin.  Other lines you may have to wait an hour or so.  Our cabin was very nice.  Lee upgraded us to an aft veranda.  Our cabin was on the fantail, center of the ship, talk about a great view.  Lee always does so well picking good cabins.

Our cabin was nice and roomy, only glitch was the previous residents locked the safe with their passcode.  Can you say dumb-ass!   Ugh, just not sure why people do that sort of thing.  Quick call to customer relations and the issue was resolved.  Off to lunch.

The ship was laid out very nicely, much different than previous ships we had been on.  Note of interest:  the corridors and waiting areas by the elevators were rather dark, but OMG, when the elevator doors opened it was like bright orange or red!  Talk about a waker upper.

Our itinerary brought us back to Ketchikan and Juneau, as well as Sitka and Glacier Bay, and last stop Victoria B.C.

Again the views were marvelous.  We watched many pods of dolphin or Orca passing the ship.  Glacier Bay was as awesome as our previous Alaska cruise.

I think Sitka was the highlight for us.  The Alaska Raptor Center is located here.  What a wonderful facility, here they care for injured raptors, rehab and release back to the wild if the bird is releasable.  For those birds that are not, they find them homes at a zoo in the lower forty-eight.  We spent a couple of hours here, very very educational.  We are thinking about maybe next year instead of cruising or doing a drive trip, we may just fly into Sitka and volunteer at the Raptor Center for a week or so.  We had a long chat with the member services manager, many folks fly in and volunteer for 3-4 days.  So it is a doable adventure for us.

Sitka was a nice little town, we thought there would be more Russian Mosque (onion dome) structures being it is one of the Russian culture hubs.  I think we saw one.  Still a nice little place to walk around.  Sitka is home to the Sitka National Cemetery.  I believe this is the only National Cemetery outside of the contiguous United States.  Found this be interesting.

Left Sitka en route to Victoria.  How weird, we did not port until after 6pm with an all onboard time of 11:30.  Just seemed odd to do this type of city at night.  We did get off the ship, walked down to one of the harbor areas and took a little harbor boat to downtown.  We had a very nice dinner at one of the local hotspots and headed back to ship.  Tonight was pack your bags night, tomorrow we say good-bye to the Westerdam.

Ported back in Seattle, it was a quick cab ride to our hotel.  Again kudos to Lee, we arrived like at 10am and they checked us right in, she's good I tell ya.  John, Susan, and Ann had to wait until maybe 1 to get their room.  Think that was due to them having a suite with a third bed.

We were spending the night in Seattle, so the girls planned a Savor Seattle tour.   It was quite good, we walked all over Seattle, but got to experience some neat eateries.  One of the stops was Serious Pies, a pizza place that was really cool and the pizza to die for.  That was our dinner spot.  We had to wait about 45 minutes to get in, but it was well worth it.

Next morning we took a walk to Pike's Place Market, again.  Our flight didn't leave until one so we had plenty of time to enjoy a breakfast and do our last minute shopping.

Back to the hotel, check out, and head to the Light Rail.  Flights were on time and all was good.  Arrived home about 11pm.  Tired and worn, we had to sit up with the babies for an hour or so, they missed us!!

Travel for now is done.  We have a few little weekend getaways planned; in the Fall we have a zoo conference in Milwaukee, and a US Marine Corps reunion in Branson.  After those trips, we are done for 2014, I think.

Holland America Westerdam Alaskan Cruise

Sunday, April 28, 2013

San Francisco 2013

April 2013 found us celebrating Lee's birthday in beautiful San Francisco.  Could not have picked a better week, the weather cooperated until our last day.

We arrived on Saturday evening.  After a long day of travel, we decided to have dinner and head back to our B&B to rest for the activities ahead.  We had an appetizer at the Grove, a neat little eclectic restaurant.  We then headed to the Tipsy Pig for dinner.  I had a wonderful Guinness Brined Pork Chop which was delicious.  Lee, not so lucky.  She ordered the Chicken Pot Pie, recommended by our server.  Two or three bites and she was done.  Obviously the Rosemary seasoning was overwhelming.  Poor baby.  Our server offered to bring her something else, but Lee declined.  They were nice enough not to charge us for her dinner.

We stayed at the Union Street B&B, very quaint and comfy.  A wonderful breakfast was served each morning between 8-10, and if desired, a call to the desk and breakfast would be brought to your room.   Not your run of the mill fare.  Each morning a different twist.  Omelets, French Toast, Pancakes, Poached Eggs; along with fresh squeezed orange juice, a fresh fruit bowl, toast, cinnamon rolls, and freshly baked homemade fruit beards.  Coffee and a variety of hot tea were offered as well.

An afternoon snack of cheese and crackers were placed in the sitting room, and in the evening complimentary red and white wine were offered.

Our room, The Wildrose, was spacious and clean.  A table with a fresh fruit plate, glassware, a pitcher of water, and chocolates greeted us.  Yes we will stay here again if we find ourselves in San Francisco.

Day 1, Sunday:  After breakfast we head out.  A walk down Fillmore and we were at the bay.  I believe the area is referred to as Crissy Field Center.  The Marina, Fort Mason, Crissy Field, and Fort Point make up the area.  A two mile walk from Fillmore to Fort Point will bring you under the Golden Gate Bridge.  A very popular area for joggers, walkers and beach goers.  A marathon was held that morning which added to the crowds.  We walked leisurely and enjoyed the scenery.

From here we headed to the Japantown for the Cherry Blossom Festival.  We took the bus up Fillmore, much too steep to walk.  Walked a bit into Japantown and then found a spot to watch the Grand Parade.  Quite interesting to say the least.

After the parade we headed towards the B&B stopping for lunch at Harry's Bar.  Could not believe we had to wait like thirty minutes for a table.  After we were seated we realized the reason for the wait.  Harry's serves a brunch from 11-3 each Sunday, along with bottomless Bellini's!  Lee had a salad and soup and a Bellini, and I indulged in spicy hot wings.  After our lunch we walked down Fillmore, you see why we didn't walk up, back to our B&B to rest a bit before dinner.

We enjoyed dinner at a local favorite, the Balboa Cafe.  Although it was Prime Rib night, Lee opted for the roasted chicken, while I enjoyed oysters on the half shell and halibut.  After dinner we strolled Chestnut Street and headed to our room where freshly baked creme puffs awaited.  Our first day completed.

Day 2, Monday:  Breakfast done, we were on our way.   Our plan was to head to the Wharf area.  Somehow we caught the wrong bus and found ourselves on the far side of town.  So we had to back track.  Mass transit is great if you know where you're going and what mode of transportation you need to travel.  Looking at the map we figure it out.  Got on the bus in the right direction this time, we choose to get off and ride the cable car to the wharf.  Our second mistake of the day.  The cable car stop is only three or four blocks from where the bus dropped us.  Easy peasy; look at the above photo again, yup, this time we were going up!!!!  Finally to the cable car stop and almost got on going the wrong way.  

About two and half hours from the time we left the B&B and we are at the Wharf.  Should have been twenty minutes max!!!  Tonight we have a tour to Alcatraz, so we walk the wharf to find our departure pier, then we head to lunch.  Of course Lee wants to go to Little Italy for Italian, a short walk up Stockton, all up hill, and we are there.  I have to admit, half way there, I had to stop and buy a bottle of water, these hills are killing me.

Lee decides on a little restaurant named L'Osteria del forno.  A little mom and pop place with maybe six tables inside and two or three on the sidewalk.  The beer was cold and at that point that's all I cared about!  Handmade Ricotta Ravioli was the lunch feature.  We ordered a slice of pizza to share and we both opted for the lunch feature.  Not sure how they make the ravioli pasta, so light and buttery, it was absolutely marvelous.

We double check the map before we leave the restaurant.  Ask where to catch the bus, cool, it's like right down the street at Washington Square.  Point of interest: the cathedral that overlooks the park is where Marilyn Monroe and Joe Dimaggio got married in 1954.

On the right bus, headed in the right direction, life is good!

We make it back to the wharf area.  Still have an hour and a half or so before our tour, so we stroll Fisherman's Wharf at Pier 39.  Stop in at one of the many restaurants for a quick snack just before we head to Pier 33 to catch our tour ferry.

On board the ferry headed to Alcatraz, "The Rock", one of the most talked about high-security prisons.  Alcatraz touts a long history.  From the "Evil Island" label in 1775; to a Military Garrison in 1846; is still home to the oldest lighthouse, erected in 1846; to a prison holding Civil War prisoners in the 1860's; to the Federal Prison Alcatraz, 1934-1963; to the Native Indian occupation from 1964 through 1971; to a national recreation area in 1972; and finally it's designation as a National Historic landmark in 1986.

Our tour included a ferry ride around the island, so we got to see it from all sides; an audio tour once inside; access to the hospital and morgue, not offered during the day tours; special program presentations; and the slamming of the cell doors, the last sound heard each night by the inmates.

A very interesting and somewhat eerie tour.  Just the thought of being a resident there is mind boggling.  Not all inmates had access to windows.  It was said, inmates weren't sure if not having windows was better then being able to see everything you knew you could never have.

As it grew dark and lights were lit, the solitary of the island could be felt.  As I think about it, not only were the inmates shut out from society, the officers and their families were as well.   Finally on board the ferry to freedom!  Once back to the pier, a bit of confusion finding our bus stop, on the bus on our way back to Union Street.  Day two is done.

Day 3, Tuesday, Lee's Birthday:  Looking forward to this day, we have tickets to see the SF Giants play the Arizona Diamondbacks this evening.

We start the day in the Wharf area.  Lee wanted to do a tour of the Ferry Building.  Today referred to as the Ferry Building Marketplace, this historic building played an important role in San Francisco's history.  Opening in 1898, the building was used by many, especially during the era of the Gold Rush.  One could only access SF via the water and the ferry building was where they entered the city.  If interested you can read it's history here:  Ferry Building Marketplace

The tour is one of many offered by City Guides (Link)  A volunteer staff conduct the tours free of charge.  Our tour began at the base of the stairs leading to the second floor.  We are joined by our guide Jan Emmelman-Zablah.  She began the tour by walking us across to the plaza in front of the building.

She began her history lesson.  I have to admit, her presentation was very interesting.  From the Gold Rush, to the fire and earthquake of 1906, to the controversy of it's need, to the preservation of the building today.  Lee and I thoroughly enjoyed this tour and recommend it.  I find when visiting any city or country, learning a bit about it's history gives me a new found appreciation for it.

Tour done, it's lunch time.  Here's a twist in this birthday trip.  Although it was Lee's birthday, her gift was to treat me to some good sea food!  Hey, I argued a little, but she insisted.

The Ferry Building today houses a an array of vendors and businesses.  Across from SF's financial district, it is the "go to" lunch place for many.  One of the restaurants is Hog Island Oyster Company.  Lee read many reviews about this place and decided this was where I needed to have lunch.

I felt bad, while I ate oysters on the half shell and steamed mussels, Lee enjoyed fresh squeezed lemonade and bread!  After my lunch, we walked the shops in the ferry building.  Lee reading all the menus as we walked.  We happened upon a cheese store, The Cowgirl Creamery.  Samples were offered and explained.  We settled on two cheeses, purchased a small slice of each, with the intent of it being our game snack.  Next door a bakery, can't have cheese without bread, so we purchased a couple of sour dough rolls.  More walking and more menus.

After a bit Lee decided to eat at the Cowgirl's adjoining lunch counter, The Cowgirl Sidekick.  She ordered a salad and a bowl of tomato soup, I sat patiently.  After lunch it was sweet time.  Lee loves a bite of "sweet" after almost any meal.  We stopped in a chocolate shop and Lee made her choices.

We hang out for a while enjoying the sights and sounds of area.  The guy in the cheese shop recommended we get to the game early due to added security measures.  So we head towards AT&T Park around 4 with plans on having a light something before going into the park.  We catch the cable car and get dropped off right in front of the park.

We head across to MoMo's, a landmark restaurant in SF.  Named for the owners grandmother, MoMo.  ID's were checked at the door.  Asked if we had reservations, we said no.  The hostess told us she could seat us inside, but she would need the table by 5!  Our server told us many folks come there to watch the game and that reservations are made as soon as the Giants schedule is released.   The menu had many choices, we chose pizza and wings!

Dinner done, off to the the park.  Getting there early, we were fairly close to the front of the line.  Gates opened, security checked our bags, tickets scanned, and we found ourselves inside.  Go Giants!  Lee once again got us great seats on the first base line.

For some reason our karma wasn't working.  Usually when we attend a home game, the home team wins.  No such luck for the Giants.  A steady breeze pushed in a chill off the bay so we decided to leave at the top of the seventh.  The Diamondbacks went on to win 6-4.

Out of the stadium, now it was "find our bus stop."  Seems this is the hardest thing to figure out.  What corner of what intersection do you catch the bus?  Finally we figure it out, get on the bus, and make it home!  Another long fulfilling day, day three is done.

Day 4, Wednesday:  Today is our last full day here.  The weather has turned, misty and cool.  Gladly Lee planned an inside day, the California Academy of Sciences (CAS) in Golden Gate Park.  Breakfast done, out the door we go.

Slight detour today.  My iPad charger stopped working, bummer.  By a stroke of luck there is an Apple store a block from the bus stop:)  Yay me!  New charger in hand, it's off to catch our bus.

The bus ride takes us through Presidio, to the base of the Golden Gate Bridge, and then into the city.  Almost missed our stop to get off.

A short walk and we arrive at the CAS.  We get our tickets and go in.  Too much to write about, so here is a link if interested:  California Academy of Sciences

There is just so much to do and see in here.  We watched the film "Fragile Earth" which was amazing.  This is a great place for children to learn, a huge bio-facts area where children can see and feel; a rain forest; an aquarium; a coral reef; and so much more.  We stayed about four hours.

Had the weather been better, we would have walked through the Tea Garden and the Botanical Garden, but it was misty, wet, and cold.  We headed to our bus stop.  Back to our room for a short rest before dinner.

No big dinner this evening.  We started out towards Izzy's Steaks and Chops, but we didn't have a reservation and the wait would be thirty minutes or so.  We walked Chestnut Street, read all the menus, but nothing enticed us.  So we ended up at Amici's East Coast Pizzeria.  Not even close to as good as the pizza we had in Little Italy, but it was okay.  Dinner done, back to the room to pack.  Day four has come to an end.

Day 5, Thursday:  Long travel day ahead, not sure how the ATC furloughs will affect our flights.  Lee scheduled a shuttle to pick us up so no confusion today of where to catch what!

A very nice breakfast, check out, and en route to SF International.  Lee checked us in online and printed our boarding passes, so all we had to do is check our bag.  Through all the security stuff and to the gate.  Flight on time to Dallas.  An early landing in Dallas gave us a little breathing room to get to our connecting gate.  Board says flight departs on time.  About twenty minutes before scheduled boarding, it's announced our flight is delayed and the gate has changed.  No problem, it's all good.  Although we departed about thirty minutes late, we landed in Little Rock pretty much on time.  Flight only took forty-four minutes!

Our neighbor was waiting for us.  Claimed our bag and headed home.  Travel is fun, but there really is no place like home.  All in all we had a great trip and Lee had a good birthday.  On to the next adventure!

Photos of our trip are located here:  San Francisco 2013

Sunday, April 7, 2013

For The Love of Birds of Prey

In the past few years I have become infatuated with the world of raptors.  I have found several web cam sites that stream live video.

My first introduction to watching streaming video came as a link from a friend.  The link brought me to Norfolk Botanical Garden (NBG) located in Virginia. Oh the excitement of watching momma eagle hatch three eggs.  These eaglets gained worldwide fame as "The Rock Stars."  A sad day in April 2011 when  NBG announced that momma eagle had been killed by a commercial commuter plane.  I think the hearts of the world stopped that day.   At the age the eaglets were, the demand for food was high.  Poppa eagle could not feed and care for these three alone

Imagine having triplets and before each feeding you had to run to the grocery store leaving the three alone in a basket on your front lawn!  So you get the picture.  Trying to catch food and bring it home, while having to keep a watchful eye to protect the babies from other threats.  Together, the NBG, The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF), and The Wildlife Center of Virginia (WCV) made the decision to remove the eaglets from the nest and relocate them to the WCV, until such time they could be released.

It was during this time that the WCV realized the power of the Internet.  Cards, letters, cookies, meals, and donations flooded the center.  Because these eaglets were on a streaming cam at NBG, the demand from the public was overwhelming for WCV.  They set up a cam so the world could watch.  The Rock Stars, NX, NV, and NZ, known by their leg band designations, grew and thrived and in July of 2011 were released to the wild from a plantation in Virginia.  NX was fitted with a transmitter which checks in regularly.  I'll list a few links at the end of this blog that will lead you to several of these wonderful organizations and cams.

Simultaneously, I began watching several cams.  The Decorah Iowa eagles; The White Rock eagle nest; the George Miksch Sutton cams; and several others.  Yes I became an eagle addict, however, you'll be happy to read that I have now expanded my interests.  Along with the eagle cams, I now follow an Osprey nest in N.C., a Hummingbird nest in California, and others!

It is truly amazing what these birds go through.  The exhaustion of laying an egg, the dedication of sitting on the eggs, turning them at regular intervals, protecting them from invaders etc.  Then the hatch!  The realization of heartbreak, ours, not the eagles.  Unlike us, the birds have no real sense of pain or mourning when one of the eaglets perish.  Nature was designed this way.

The perils of laying an egg totally drains the energy of these great birds.  Here's a screen capture of the Decorah mom after laying her second egg, minutes before a snow storm.
She laid motionless until morning.
These creatures are truly amazing.  Although protective of their off-spring, sometimes nature intervenes.  At one nest there were three babies in the evening, when morning came there were two.  No one knows what happened.  In another nest momma accidentally stepped on a baby during feeding, one her talons pierced the eaglet, it did not survive.  In yet another, a newly hatched chick exposed to a severe drop in nighttime temperatures and a freezing rain, died from hypothermia.  Yes, heart breaking, but that is natures way and we have to accept it as that.

We are watching but a few wonders of nature captured by technology.  Imagine all those we don't see.

I find this window into the private world of Eagles, Osprey, Owls, and others just amazing.  The care and protection given by the parents mirrors our own.  The sense of responsibility is keen. the way a mother eagle forms an umbrella with her wings to protect her young from the elements; or the tenacity a hummingbird shows against an invading lizard, absolutely awesome.

This blog entry is to share with and introduce you to a few of these wonders.  For me to share in type all that I have witnessed through the wonderful world of web cam technology would take volumes.  Rather I will share with you links to some of the cams I frequent, as well, as a link to my online photo album.  There you'll find screen captures and videos I've taken.

Enjoy the backstage experience as Mother Nature opens her blinds and lets you in. And what a wonderful world it is.  Look close, you'll see a momma owl, she is sitting on eggs!

Note:  Many of these cams are solar powered and exposed to the elements.  So if you get a blank screen don't fret, it just doesn't have the sun power to operate.  And then sometimes when it might be raining or snowing, the video might be blurred or obscured due to the elements on the lens.  Also the refresh rate on some of these cams is not that great, so if there is fast movement, you'll get a distorted image for a bit.  This happens a lot at the Osprey nest.

Here are a few links:  Click on title and then click on the go to link field.  I've tested these and they appear to be working fine.

My Online Album - Updated periodically

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Very Quiet Summer

Not too much went on this summer, we stayed pretty close to home. Short of a few trips to the casinos to deposit our yearly donation!

We have become docents at our zoo. Docents are educators, yep that's what I said educators. We spent January - March attending Saturday classes to learn all the things expected of us. So exactly what do we do? Well, we basically are ambassadors for the Little Rock Zoo. Among all the wonderful exhibits there, the zoo has an education department, as all zoo's have. Within the department are what are termed "education animals." These animals include, Parrots, Macaws, Rabbits, a Tortoise, Ferrets, a Fan-Tailed Pigeons, a Hedgehog, a Woodchuck, Domesticated Rats, Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches, a Bearded Dragon (lizard), Prickly Sticks, a Sinaloan Milk Snake, a Albino Corn Snake, Ball Pythons, a Blue Tongued Skink, a Speckled King Snake, a Chilean Rosehair Tarantula, and others!

Our function is to take animals and introduce them them to different groups. These groups may include church groups, library programs, school programs, pre-school programs, Boy/Girl scout functions, birthday parties, local functions, etc.

So not only are we sharing the experience of wildlife with a very eclectic audience, we are educating ourselves as well.

Most people consider a zoo a zoo, a place where animals are locked up for people to bring their children to see. Our zoo is fortunate to have some wonderful exhibits which are designed to be as natural as animals habitat as can be. Our zoo touts a wonderful Penguin exhibit, and this year a baby penguin was hatched, not a common occurrence in captivity. A baby gorilla was born this year. The Crowned Cranes gave birth to four little ones. All exciting happenings at any zoo. Our new Cheetah exhibit is doing well, however, aside from the usual diet fed to mom and daughter, we have found that our cats are gaining weight due their success in controlling the squirrel population!

I guess I could go on and on, but I am sure you are already bored. Needless to say, I am sure you can feel our excitement in our new found love of volunteering at the zoo.

Monday, June 4, 2012

My Review of Custom Messenger Bag

Great Bag

By tawcat from Little Rock, Arkansas on 6/4/2012


5out of 5

Pros: Durable , Roomy , Good Strap Length, Comfortable , Attractive, High Quality, Lightweight 

Best Uses: Extended trips , Commuting, Day Trips, Computer, Airplane travel 

Describe Yourself: Practical

Was this a gift?: No

So this is the second Classic Messenger I've purchased. My first was an XS and the new one is a small. However, don't let the term "small" influence your visual picture.

The XS is just the right size, which for the first few uses was in fact perfect. Then I had to add stuff! After my last trip with it I decided to upgrade to the next level, small. When it arrived I immediately opened the package and began sizing it up. I did good by adding the grab strap.

This bag is going to be absolutely perfect. Enough room to carry my iPad, my small DSLR, my point and shoot, all the other little things I carry like medications, snacks, extra batteries, and whatever else my wife tells me to carry!

I would recommend Timbuk2 to anyone looking for a quality bag.