Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Westward Roll!

Here I am at the Gateway Arch of Westward Expansion in St. Louis, Missouri. The Arch is symbolic of the importance of crossing the Mississippi River on the way west to colonize the country. What travelers the early settlers were, they spent months traveling distances that we cover in hours by air, or mere days by car. St Louis is an interesting city. As a river port and Rail Road center the city has a rich history and it wears it well.

The St Louis Zoo has the most incredible penguin display. Humans pass through a series of airlocks and enter a room that is kept just above freezing. The glass separating the noble birds from the humans is only about 4 feet tall. The birds and people can see, hear and even smell one another. If you are patient, one of the birds will splash you. It is truly an amazing experience for man and bird.


Friday, March 24, 2006

Remember the Alamo!

Here I am in front of the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas. The defenders of the Alamo lost to the invading army, but they held until the last man died. The moral of Remember the Alamo is one of defending your beliefs to the death. San Antonio is a neat city. Hotels, restaurants and shops line the circular canal of the River Walk. South of the city along the river you can tour a trail of Spanish Missions dating back to early colonial days. The colonial governors’ house and Mexican market are within walking distance of the River Walk area. World class Mexican food and margaritas, what a wonderful city! Remember the Alamo!


Sunday, March 19, 2006

San Diego Dreaming

The “Travel Channel” had a feature about San Diego on this morning and I was thinking about my visit there. We trekked around the city for a few days visiting the downtown area, the gaslight district, the zoo, a couple of wonderful parks, a great airplane museum, we took the ferry to Coronado Island (were this picture was taken with downtown San Diego across the bay) and took the street car down and walked across the boarder into Mexico. I never really understood why people are willing to take such risks to sneak into the United States from Mexico, until I spent a few hours looking at Tijuana and the surrounding area. We stayed in a wonderful hotel on the Bay in San Diego overlooking the yacht club. We were on the 27th floor and could see clear out over Coronado Island to the Pacific Ocean. I can’t wait to go back.


Saturday, March 18, 2006


Last fall I had the opportunity to ride Amtrak from Washington, DC to Wilmington, Delaware and back. For an American who lives outside of the northeast part of the country, the opportunity to ride a real passenger train is a rare treat. We departed out of Union Station in the shadow of the US capital building in Washington. For those of us accustomed to being shoehorned into airline seats riding the train is quiet a treat. The seats are very large, wide, lots of legroom, plenty of overhead luggage space. It seems that Amtrak must have hired some former airline personnel to work the gate for boarding (disorganized, hurry up, wait, then rush before the train leaves without you.) The conductress came down the aisle and punched the tickets (just like in the movies.) Overall it was a very pleasant way to travel.

This trip was the great planes, trains and automobiles trip. We drove to the local airport, flew to Washington, DC, took the subway across town, took a train to Wilmington and the two days later did that all in reverse. It was the most efficient way of getting to Wilmington.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

In Search of Family History: Swansea Castle

A few summers ago one of my companions had the opportunity to go in search of family History. His great grandmother had come to live with his grandparents when he was about 8 years old. His grandmother was born in London and narrowly missed the sinking of the Titanic on her way to New York (but that is a long,) his great grandmother was born in Swansea on the south cost of Wales. She was a delightful person, nearly blind, a bit set in her ways. She loved to listen to talk shows on the radio and talk about her long and adventure filled life. My companion had the opportunity on my trip to Oxford to take a side trip to Wales. We arrived in Swansea with a copy of her birth certificate dated 1884. We made our way to the tourist information center to see if they could help us locate the old neighborhood. The delightful woman at the counter looked over the document and went "oh yes, someplace around here." She called over a colleague who examined the birth certificate and added “yes I am certain that is around here, but I don’t recognize the street name.” The two of them looked at one another and said almost in unison, “Mary! She was here before the war, she’ll know.” Mary emerged from the back room and examined the copy, peering up at us, “great grandmother was she?” She proceeded to tell us that the parts of the old neighborhood that were not bombed in the War were flattened by “urban renewal” in the 1950’s. She said the neighborhood is not far, just across the bridge and up the hill. The street no longer exists there is a senior citizens home where it was. The senior citizen's home is named after the street that it took the place of. She pulled out a local map and showed us the way; one of her coworkers copied the page of the map and highlighted the route. Away we went, down along the River. We crossed the river and something made sense, as if we had been there before. Great Grandmother told many a tale about her father running down the hill, past the pub and jumping onto the back of a train moving slowly out of the station to ride to work. The hill, the pub and the train tracks are still there. The foundation of the train station is marked with a signs describing the station that was there over 140 years ago. We worked are way around the side streets and there it was, the birth place of Mary Louise Broadhurst. At the top of the hill was the parish church that she was christened in 120 years ago. It was like we had been there before.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

EPCOT with an Old Friend

Little Bob and I went to EPCOT a couple of years ago during spring break. This picture was taken outside the bakery in the World Showcase “France” pavilion. Little Bob is a Francophile of the first order, and he was thrilled to go to “France,” he had not yet been to the real France (we visited the real France a couple of years later.) Little Bob was so pleased when the French Penguin Film won an Oscar. One of our traveling companions has Disney connections going back over 25 years. He visited EPCOT while it was under construction and attended the private pre-opening party at EPCOT (his brother has worked at Disney since the late 1970’s.) We had a great time, and dreamed of being in Paris for a few wonderful minutes.


Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Waiting For The San Francisco Treat

My earliest memories of the cable cars in San Francisco are television commercials for the “San Francisco Treat.” Every time I arrive in San Francisco riding the cable cars is on my list of things to do. The last time I was there I made a point of riding each of the lines from one end to the other. The cable cars are certainly a tourist favorite, but they are also a local mode of mass transit and the drivers recognize their regular local passengers. I can recall one driver waiting while an elderly man crossed the street with three bags of groceries to catch a ride up the hill on his way home from the supermarket. Riding the cable cars and watching the people and the scenery go by are a wonderful way to see the diversity and beauty of the city by the bay. I’m ready to go back, is anyone headed that way?


Saturday, March 04, 2006

Lunch in Breckenridge Colorado

We drove to Breckenridge from Denver, three of us in a Suzuki Swift. The Swift is not what the name might lead you to believe; it is a tiny car underpowered on level ground. To make matters more interesting this one was a beat up rental with nearly 30,000 miles of hard mountain driving on it (see what you end up with if you are unpleasant to the rental agent at the airport?) Now my traveling companions are not small people, there was well over 400 pounds of people and one little penguin in this tiny thing climbing west out of Denver into the mountains. Denver is about 5,000 feet above sea level; Breckenridge is nearly 13,000 feet above sea level. With a tail wind the little car managed about 40 miles an hour. At about 9000 feet above sea level we crawled past big horn sheep grazing on the side of the road, and just over 12,000 feet we grunted through a tunnel. By the time we arrived in Breckenridge, lunch sounded like a wonderful idea. To my delight one of the features was a delightful locally produced smoked trout; fish always hits the spot. A great time was had by all, and it was mostly downhill back into Denver.