Sunday, March 21, 2010


Pure Pleasure in Puerto Rico

Our next trip was the most wonderful vacation. Right after Christmas, our whole family (four generations from 8 months to 81 years old) went to Puerto Rico for a week of warm weather, sunshine and relaxation. Eight of us (Grandma, Ross, Richard, Kara, Paul, Naomi, Bob and I) stayed at a hotel near the airport, boarded a crowded and very cold shuttle for a five hour flight to San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Why Puerto Rico? I was asked that many times and really didn’t have a good answer. Last year Bob and I took a Caribbean Cruise and really enjoyed spending a week in the warm sunshine during December. We talked about a cruise, but didn’t find anything that fit our schedules. We also talked about getting a condo or something in the Keys, but didn’t find anything reasonable. So we looked at NWA World Vacations and found this air, hotel, and rental car deal that was really good—so we booked it!

Naomi did really well on the flight—she fussed a little when we were getting ready to take off—she was hungry and Kara wanted to wait to feed her until we were actually taking off—so she lets us know she didn’t like that. But then she slept and played the rest of the time.

We got to San Juan and walked out of the plane into a balmy 80 degree heat. We had two rental cars at two different places—so it was interesting to try and met up again at a restaurant.
Ross and Richard’s conversation when something like “We’re on the south side of the freeway—right by the big sign that says ‘Cockfights’”. We had asked at the car rental place for someplace to get real Puerto Rican food. So we dined on rice and black beans and baked plantains.

We were in a really nice Hilton hotel in Ponce about one and a half hour from San Juan. All our rooms had balconies that faced the beach. Mom and I loved to get up early and sit on the balcony and watch the sun come up. We even left our sliding glass door open several nights so we could feel the breeze and hear the ocean crashing against the shore. That is so relaxing!

As part of our package, we had breakfast at the hotel every morning. It was a huge buffet (we saw that it would have cost $19.99) and they had chefs making special orders, plus lots of fruit, eggs, meat, rolls, salmon and lox, and lots of other really good stuff. We ate very well every morning.

Ross and Richard’s Christmas gift to the family was a snorkeling trip out to Isla Caja de Muertos, a nature reserve that’s near Ponce with a diving company called Caribbean Images Tours. This was such a wonderful day—the people who have the company were very interesting. Dave is an underway photographer very knowledgeable in marine life and his wife, Lynn is a producer (one she mentioned was the Dr. Phil show).

It was a beautiful day with crystal clear turquoise waters. Naomi fell asleep on the way out, so Mom and Lynn were able to look after her and the rest of us were able to snorkel. Dave and his deck hand, Juan, led us on a guided tour so they could point out the wide variety of marine life on the coral reef. The reef was 3 – 10 feet deep and full of beautiful tropical fish and coral. We saw blue tang, four eye butterfly, damsel fish, and sergeant major fish—plus a lot of coral. We also saw a conch with a crab in it and then Juan gave us several empty conch shells.

Mom enjoyed spending the day on the boat. Naomi woke up just shortly before we got back—so the timing was perfect. When we got back, Kara put Naomi in the water with Paul—she wasn’t sure quite what to think about it. I wonder if Kara had gotten in the water with her, she wouldn’t have been a lot happier. Her lifejacket had a handle on the top, so when Kara took her out of the water, she just lifted her by the handle.

That evening we went to a restaurant that Dave and Lynn recommended in downtown Ponce. We got there around 4:30 pm and it was totally empty. We had a really good meal—we had a lot of seafood and sweet plantains. Later in the week, we drove past that same restaurant at 8 pm and it was packed.

Kara and Paul’s gift to everyone was massages. Ohh, how relaxing! It was interesting because there were two massage therapists so they did two people at a time. That evening we went to a Sushi bar and ate raw fish—yummy!

One evening, we drove around the downtown area. They really do a great job of decorating for Christmas. Every light standard had a decoration on it and then there were some hanging over the road. The town square was full of colorful angels made from Christmas lights. It was a visual explosion of color and lights. We also drove up to the castle which was all lit up. From up there, you could see the entire town. We also saw a lot of stray dogs—there are tons of them wandering around the town—mangy, skinny, and hollow-eyed.

On Dec 31, Ross and Richard went to San Juan to visit the sites there. Naomi, Kara, Paul, Bob and I drove over to the El Yunque National Park—which is a Rain Forest. It was really pretty, but rained hard the farther we went into it—it is a rain forest after all and rains a total of 240 inches every year. They estimate over 100 billion gallons of rainwater fall on the forest every year. The forest has a lot of rare wildlife including the Puerto Rican Parrot—we didn’t see any. We did see a lot of bamboo trees, waterfalls, and tropical flowers.

We stopped in a little roadside café. I got a coconut drink—they just chopped the top off a coconut and stuck a straw in top. It was a watery liquid and OK, but not delicious. We also had some beans and rice and more plantains.

Since it was New Year’s Eve, we decided to get some party food and Puerto Rican Rum to have a family celebration. We chose not to pay the $70 per person for the buffet. Although Mom and Paul went gambling for a little while—they didn’t win anything. We wandered around and saw a lot of fancy clothing—even on little kids.

It was fun when New Years came around. There was a party going on in the Hotel lobby and we heard them start to count down, but our cell phones didn’t match their time. All around the city we could see fireworks going off. As midnight approached it got more and more until it was constant. Really awesome!

The next day (New Year’s Day) we had to head for home—which turned into quite an experience. Since we didn’t leave until 5 pm, we had a leisurely day driving from Ponce to San Juan—even had some time to wander around San Juan for a while—talk about narrow streets and winding roads. Ross and Richard had spent the day there, so knew their way around a little bit.

We got on to the airplane and were getting ready to leave when we heard—‘there’s a mechanical problem—someone is coming to fix it’. A while later, ‘we’ve been told someone is coming within 30 minutes to fix it’…and later ‘the maintenance people are on their way to fix it’……Three hours later, we finally take off. I was upgraded to first class, but let mom sit up there—so she could get first class service. Naomi slept or played most of the way, so she was very good.

Our flight had been changed so rather than flying directly to Mpls, we went to Detroit. Needless to say, when we were so late in leaving, we missed our connecting flight. They put us up in a hotel and gave us vouchers for $100 off our next trip and $15 for food. But it was really late when we got there and we had to leave very early in the morning. We did eat breakfast at the airport after we arrived.

This time both Bob and I were upgraded—and what an upgrade—because this was a 747—it was huge. Bob and Paul took the first class seats because they were going to run and get the cars, while we got the luggage. Those seats big bubbles around the heads with full reclining seats—pretty plush—too bad it was only a one hour flight.

We got back to Ross and Richard’s, sorted out some things and Kara and Paul headed for Owatonna because Naomi was baptized there on Sunday—the rest of us headed down there on Sunday. All most all of Paul’s family was there and they were able to celebrate Christmas—which they missed because of the snow storm and Paul’s birthday.

Sunday, February 07, 2010


Baby Panda excitement

Our next trip was to San Diego—by way of Los Angeles—it’s just so much cheaper flying into LAX. And we’ve found a great Hampton Inn that’s close to the airport and is fairly reasonable.

We stayed in Oceanside, which is a little south of LA, for several days. We ended up changing hotels since I had goofed when I made reservations and checked us out a day earlier than we wanted and the hotel we were staying in was full for that night and we had to move to another hotel that was just across the parking lot. We visited chapters that were on the south side of LA—one was Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa. It was about an hour drive and we visited with several chapter members and the advisor.

When it was time to leave, the advisor made the comment that she had to take a bus home because her car was in the shop and it would be a two hour trip. We offered to give her a ride—although it was about a 45 minute drive in the opposite direction from where we were staying. She was so grateful that she didn’t have to take the long bus ride, that she suggested we have dinner together at a great seafood restaurant. It was some of the best seafood we have ever eaten.

We moved to San Diego and stayed in a Hilton in the Gas Lamp District—which is a historic part of town with lots of neat shops and restaurants. Right across the train tracks is the convention center that has lots of steps going up one side of it and down the other. We climbed up and over them one day—Bob did it a couple days—if we would do that every day, we’d be in pretty good shape. There were lots of runners going up and down them as well.

It was ironic because Terry and Pam were in San Diego at a convention at the same time, so we got together and went to Old Town for lunch one day. How amazing when relatives from Atlanta and Minnesota would end up at conventions in San Diego at the same time.

We had Sunday afternoon free, so we went to the San Diego Zoo. I was all excited because I knew they had a baby panda and I wanted to see it. Little did I know, that they keep the baby out of the public’s eye for quite a while. They did have a ‘baby panda cam’ going, so you could see the baby sleeping, but you could view that on the web without going to the zoo Although we got to see other big Pandas and one was walking around and eating—a lot of time they just sleep.

It was really fun to go to the zoo. It’s the first time I’ve been to one in a long long time. I was amazed at some of the brilliant coloration of the animals. We also saw hippos in the water behind a glass wall—so we were very close.
The zoo has a lot of natural settings, so it’s not just a bunch of cages with animals. It also had a sky tram that we took over the tree tops which was very neat. We were there on Nov. 22 and they were just decorating for Christmas—it looked like many of the lights were in the shapes of animals, so I’ll bet it would be fantastic to be there when it was all lit up.

We got back home just in time to wash up some clothes and head out to Bottineau and Minot for Thanksgiving. Why stay home when you can go someplace? We had a wonderful visit with family, helped process venison, and did some quilting.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Uneventful (Maybe even on the edge of boring) Trip

Bob had a meeting in Columbus, Ohio. We’ve been in that area before (actually twice this past summer) and there are lots of things to see and do in that area, but this time we didn’t have a car and our hotel was in the middle of nowhere. To make matters worse, the only restaurant that was in walking distance (some others were close enough, but there were no sidewalks along busy roads) was a Waffle House. We ate lunch there and then later the same day went there for dinner—it was pretty blah.

In my travels, I like to talk about the neat things we see and do and also the great restaurants and food we eat. This trip didn’t have any of those.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


LA - Oxnard - Fargo

Here I go with a lot of quick trip posts from last fall….

We did a fairly quick trip to Los Angeles area. I visited some chapters and also chartered a new chapter in Oxnard, which is between LA and Santa Barbara. It’s funny, I’ve never heard of some of these places, but after I learn that I’m going someplace, I hear about it on TV shows or that someone knows someone who lives there. Oxnard was no exception—on TV there was a reference to someone having to move to Oxnard—not the Oxnard by the ocean, but the Oxnard with all the onion fields. And we saw both.

We left LA area and decided that we would go to a seafood restaurant along the ocean. We stopped at one place and it was actually a burger joint (and kind of a dive). We asked about seafood (since there was a big sign out front) and he said “Oh you’ll have to go next door”, but there was no one there—it was like a fish market. So we left and found a neat restaurant in Oxnard called the Lobster Trap. It was really good. Then the next night the new advisor suggested we go out to eat and said “How about this really great restaurant—The Lobster Trap?” So we ate there twice, but it was well worth it.

One morning, we decided we needed to get our exercise. Should we go to the fitness center and work out, or should we go to the beach for a walk along the ocean?? Guess where we went! I love the ocean!

Another fun thing that happened on this trip was at a steakhouse. We tend to eat a good breakfast at the hotel, have an apple or granola bar during the day and then eat supper around 5 pm. We have learned that not many people in California eat that early—most of the restaurants are empty. So we went to this Steakhouse and as we walked in, there were about 5 people sitting at the bar talking quite loud and laughing a lot. There was no one in the dining area, but they assured us that they were open. We ordered our meal and while we were waiting, one of the guys from the bar walked by our table on his way to the rest room; he stopped and apologized for their group being so loud. He said they are all in the wine business and don’t get a chance to get together very often, so they have a really good time when they do. We assured him that they weren’t bothering us. He offered to buy us a drink, but we said that we don’t really drink. Later the waitress came and told us that the group had paid for our meals. WOW how nice was that!

We flew from LA to Fargo, so I could go to a leadership conference in Alex (home of Big Ole). Our flight was changed due to some bad weather, so we ended up getting into Fargo later than expected. But we got there just in time for an advisor reception, so I got to visit with a lot of my friends. When we left the following day, we were in the Fargo airport and were surprised to bump into my nephew’s in-laws in the airport. What a small world.

Saturday, January 23, 2010


Bean Town

This was written a long time ago, but I'm just getting around to posting it. My goal is to get caught up in the next week or so....

After a short, but really nice visit with Naomi—she’s growing so fast and really happy most of the time—lots of smiles and giggles.

We had to get up early Monday morning to catch a plane for Boston—everything was pretty uneventful. Planes were on time, rental car was ready and traffic wasn’t too bad to get to our hotel. We found a great seafood restaurant close to our hotel called Finz. That night we had to stay up late to watch Monday night football (MN vs. Green Bay). Since I’d just been to Green Bay and Brett Farve has moved to the Vikings—there was a lot of talk about the game. It was a good game—especially since the Vikings came out on top.

The next day, I had a meeting at a college that was close to our hotel—only about 10 miles, but we ended up in construction and very slow moving traffic and then the road we were suppose to turn on was blocked—so we got to the college right as my meeting was scheduled to start. Bob dropped me off right at the door and a security guard brought me to the room.

That night was when the MN Twins were playing Detroit Tigers in a playoff game for the Central Division Championship (Yay, they won!). However, it was another late night. We watched more sports than we had for a long time.

The next morning, we got up very early to take the T into downtown Boston. When we checked in to the hotel, the clerk told us the best way to get downtown was to take the T—and there was a station right around the corner. He gave us the timetable for the train and we were figuring how to get to the college. I asked the desk clerk a whole lot of questions and directions. We even decided we didn’t need to leave quite as early as we originally planned.

We were fortunate, because as we were leaving the hotel it started sprinkling, as we were crossing the train tracks it was raining a little harder. When we got to the shelter, it started to pour. As I was riding the T, my mind kept repeating the Kingston Trio lyrics ‘did he ever return? No, he never returned and his fate is still unknown…’ But we didn’t have any issues and it was a very nice ride and walk through downtown Boston to go to Ben Franklin Institute of Technology. That afternoon, we visited another college.

We checked out of the hotel and headed for southern Mass and Rhode Island. The trees were absolutely beautiful. I’ve often heard of New England in the Fall, and I think it would be even prettier farther north, but there was still some spectacular scenery. I had one visit in Fall River—we had some time before the meeting, so sat in Battleship Park and ate lunch. We could see huge battleships right on the harbor.

We headed south and crossed over into Rhode Island, went though Newport and got into Warwick where the Leadership Conference was being held. The hotel was a Crowne Plaza, which was pretty fancy. The conference was held at CC of Rhode Island which was very close to the hotel. We could see this huge round building up on the hill and wondered if it was the college. When we got there we saw it was the college and a very distinct shape. I mentioned it was ‘interesting’ and several students laughed and said ‘you mean ugly, don’t you?’ They told me it was in the shape of a submarine—and really had that theme throughout the entire building. Some of the windows looked like portholes; the bathrooms looked like stainless steel metal cabinets and everything was stainless steel inside.

Bob met up with Joe, one of his high school classmates, and his wife. They picked me up and we went out to eat at a Legal’s Seafood. I had a cup of clam chowder, but Joe thought we needed to try several things, so he ordered raw clams on the half-shell and a bucket of steamers. We had to try them all. The raw clams were a lot like raw oysters. The steamers had to be peeled to get the sand off them. Then you swished them in broth to wash them off. They were very good.

The next night we moved back to the same hotel we were in the first couple nights, since it was pretty close to the airport. Sunday, we flew in to Hibbing and were able to spend a few days with Naomi.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Packer Country!

I had an unexpected trip come up—to Green Bay, Wisconsin to attend a Leadership Conference. Bob had planned to go to Moorhead for his conference (and I was going to visit chapters in the area while we were there) when I got asked if I could change my plans. I could, but Bob couldn’t. So I went alone—sigh, I don’t like that too much. It’s so much nicer traveling together.

I was suppose to leave at noon on Thursday, but there was a severe thunderstorm going through the Mpls area, so the plane came in the Int’l Falls, but was cancelled going out—my flight. I was rebooked on the 4 pm flight. I thought it would work to go to the cities, have a nice supper with Ross and Richard and get to Green Bay Friday morning.

So I went to Hardees, ate a hamburger and then worked on some things I had to do. I got back to the airport around 2:30; we went through security and waited… and waited…….and waited. Pretty soon the agent came out and said “There has been another delay, we won’t go until 5:15 pm”…then it was 6 pm….7:30 pm. Finally about 8:15 pm the agent came running out looking for the pilot—we had a 15 minute window to take off—get everyone through security right away!

The pilot was really nice, he ordered pizza for the entire group, although by this time, a lot of people had rebooked for the next day, or driven to the cities—so there was only 8-10 of us left. I got to the cities around 10:30 pm—generally when we’re passing through any time after 9:30 pm—it’s pretty quiet. The airport was packed, with lots of planes coming in and taking off yet. Ross and Richard picked me up, so we had a short time to visit and then ate breakfast together and Ross dropped me back off at the airport around 8:30 am.

I made it to my hotel and met Linda, the regional coordinator, so I ended up riding with her all the time. I hardly drove my car at all. I had just enough time to move into my room and change clothes and we headed over to the college. The college is really nice—they have a little coffee shop that has Kindles that they ‘loan’ out to the students, so they can use them while in the shop.

This was the first ever Leadership Conference in Wisconsin, so it was pretty exciting. There were quite a few chapters who attended that have never come to any other meetings. We had a fabulous Italian Table dinner and then had a tour through Lambeau Field (where the Packers play). It was really wonderful to see the place and hear about the history behind it. And the field is huge with seating for 71,000—and they don’t have tiers, so there is a pretty good view from every seat. The grass was interesting—they wove one strand of nylon grass in about every inch of the sod. This makes the roots of the sod grow around the nylon strand and makes it much stronger so it never has to be resodded during the season.
A few years ago they did a $500 million renovation—added an extra 20,000 seats and more suites, an atrium, convention center (where they hold a lot of weddings), pro shop, restaurant and bar. Those places are used year around, but the huge stadium is only used 10 days per year. That fact really stimulated a lot of discussion around the Paradox of Affluence.

The convention ended on Saturday afternoon, and I didn’t leave until Sunday morning, so I just hung out and relaxed since I would get to Int’l Falls at 4 pm and leave for Boston at 7 pm the next morning from Hibbing. I did some quick unpacking, repacking, and hurrying to Hibbing so I could have some fun time with Naomi and her parents.

Monday, October 05, 2009


Beautiful Northern California

After Labor Day, we spent a week and a half in northern California. We saw some beautiful country, but it was tiring, because we were there for nine days and were in six different hotels. That meant we were packing and moving practically every day. And we moved a lot--we put over 1500 miles on the car.

We got in to Sacramento fairly late and drove to Stockton, which is about an hour drive from Sacramento—so we were checking into the hotel at 1:30 am (which really was 3:30 am to us). We were treated very well—first had complimentary passes to the Sky Club at the airport—so were able to snack, sit in comfortable chairs, and be on the internet. Then I was upgraded to First Class—Bob wasn’t, but he was in seat 5A and I was in 4A, so he was right behind me. I could have passed him snacks, if I would have stayed awake when they were passing them out.

The next day, I had a meeting in the morning here in Stockton, and then chartered a chapter in Concord (it’s about an hour away). Then we drove to Redding—which is about 4 hours—so it was a long day and we were tired. The next day we went back and forth between Redding and Weed, but did get to stay in the same motel for two nights!

The road between Redding and Weed is beautiful, with mountains on both sides and lots of trees. Then all of a sudden Mount Shasta shows up towering above all of the others. It’s beautiful and so much bigger than everything else.

On the weekend, we decided to visit Crater Lake, since neither Bob nor I had ever been there. I had read and heard people say “it’s so blue”, but I was still amazed at the deep beautiful blue it was. And it’s huge—about six miles across with sheer cliffs all around it. Crater Lake lies inside a caldera, or volcanic basin, created when the 12,000 foot high Mount Mazama collapsed 7,700 years ago following a large eruption.

The lake is supplied with rain and winter snow (they said over 500 inches per year). There are no inlets or outlets to the lake. Crater Lake, at 1,943 feet deep, is the seventh deepest lake in the world and the deepest in the United States. This is why the lake is so blue—all the red and yellows are absorbed and the blues and purples are reflected. It’s also cold and pure—you get down to the water at one place, and can swim, but not for long because hypothermia will set in quickly.

We went from there to Bandon, which is on the coast. I’m just like a kid as we are approaching an ocean—I get all excited and can’t wait until I get my first glimpse of water. Then we drove down Hwy 101 which has spectacular views of the ocean. I lived in several of those towns, so remembered some of the places. We even found an old run-down school that I attended for first grade in Langlois. We stayed for two nights in Crescent City. We were able to walk along the ocean a couple times. I love walking barefoot in the sand with the waves lapping at my feet. We could even hear the seals barking out on the rocks.

We continued down Hwy 101 which is beautiful; first, the Oregon and northern California coast is really rugged with lots of rocks and cliffs and second, that’s redwood country—so there are the huge redwoods all around. We left Hwy 101 to go on Hwy 1, which winds through the coastal mountains and redwoods—it’s beautiful, but slow going. We stayed in Fort Bragg which sits on a cliff. One morning, we had some time, so sat out on the cliff and just watched the waves crashing into the rocks and swirling around. We also ate at a restaurant called the Cliff House—which is build on the cliff and has tiered seats, so everyone had a beautiful view. Although it got foggy every evening—we didn’t see a good sunset, but the mornings were clear.

We left the coast to head back to Sacramento, stopping at a couple places in central California. Boy, is it dry there—most of the fields have long brown grass unless they are being irrigated. I can see why there are so many fires happening out there. We had an uneventful trip home. But flew in to Hibbing, so got to see Naomi and her family, and then Ross and Richard came—so we had a great visit.

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