Monthly Archives: June 2014

On the Road Again: Chicago!

This past weekend we flew to Chicago to visit my son and daughter in-law.  They recently moved to Chicago from Raleigh, NC.  Since moving there a couple of months ago, they have spent almost every weekend in Michigan because of weddings, birthdays, etc., so it gave them and us some time to explore the city.  The original “excuse” for the trip was to see Jimmy Buffett in concert.  Everyone who knows me knows I am a fan, or “Parrot Head” as we are called.  I have personally seen Jimmy in concert 15 times, and seen him in locations all around the US, including Hawaii.

My kids grew up on Buffett, and Claire and I took my daughter and son in-law to see Jimmy when she was very pregnant with my first grandchild.  This concert was especially fun, because it was the first time my son and I had a chance to go together.

In addition to seeing Jimmy and the band at the amphitheater in Tinley Park, we had fun exploring the greater Chicago area as well as the vibrant downtown and water front area.  Claire said the trip made her fall in love with Chicago all over again.  I agree, as Chicago has always been my favorite city.  We especially love the big city energy combined with the midwestern casualness.

My son works for Fidelity Investments, and we visited his office building on Wacker Drive, in the middle of the financial district.  We walked the waterfront; spent time on Navy Pier, and ended the afternoon with a deep-dish pizza at Giordano’s.

We are especially exited to be moving back the Midwest so that we can visit Chicago on a regular basis!  Special thanks to Jake & Hilary (and Joules) for their hospitality!

Hilary made homemade miso and sushi! Mmmmmmmmm….

Joules enjoying the ultimate dog park with one hundred of her closest dog friends.

Twice we tried to take the train into the city and both times the train system failed us …. Get it together Chicago Metra!

Big storm rolled through just before the concert, but the Parrot Heads were undaunted.

Having some adult beverages before the concert starts …

Jimmy and the Coral Reefers take the stage! Great seats Jake and Hil!

Fins Up!

Visiting Fidelity Investments on Wacker Drive.

We love Chicago!

The Chicago River. Jessie sailed away down that river on her way to the Bahamas.

A beautiful day on Lake Michigan!

Taking a break at the end of Navy Pier.

Old school…

Welcome to our city!

Authentic Chicago deep dish pizza …

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Harley Trip Around the Olympic Peninsula

The days are ticking down on our Seattle countdown clock!  With less than 40 days to go and over a dozen open items on our bucket list, we need to get it in gear!  On the list is a drive around the Olympic Peninsula as well as a visit to the Hoh Rain Forest.  Claire planned the trip for Monday and Tuesday this week, but on Saturday evening we realized that the weather was not going to cooperate on Tuesday.  The great thing about being retired is you’re almost totally in control of your own schedule.  So, we decided to head out Sunday morning…

The original plan also called for taking a Ferry across to the peninsula, but at the last minute we decided to do the trip counter clockwise and use the Tacoma Narrows Bridge to get back.  You may remember the original bridge collapsed in high winds in 1940 that was captured on video.

We headed south through Olympia and then out to the coast.  The drive up the coast was nice, but we got a bit spoiled driving down the Oregon/California coast.  We stopped at Ruby beach.  It was a beautiful spot.  My only disappointment is that like most scenic spots we have experienced in Washington State there were more people than you would expect in a relatively remote location.  The parking lot was full, and there were more than 50 people on the beach.  We spent a little time strolling the beach, climbing in the rocks, and searching through the driftwood, and then headed up the coast.

We did a side trip through the Hoh Rainforest.  The Hoh is one of the only remaining temperate rainforests in North America.  Not exactly sure what we were expecting, but it was kind of like the redwood forest covered in moss.  It was a great Harley experience since the twisting roads were fun and you really get the sense you are in the forest as feel the mist on your face, and smell the pungent air.

From the rainforest, we headed to our first night destination, Forks Washington.  Forks is semi-famous as the setting for the Twilight books and movies.  Hard to imagine what is was like for this sleepy little logging town when moony-eyed teenage girls and their mothers starting showing up in town to see vampires!  But in the “is America great, or what” spirit, they embraced the hype and now most of the town has added twilight to their offerings.  You can stay at the Twilight motel, buy twilight trinkets, eat twilight pancakes, etc.

We chose the Pacific Inn Motel, and treated ourselves by upgrading to the “suite.”  I suspect the suite was once the owner’s apartment.  It was clean, well appointed, and cheap!  Not much in the way of fine dining in Forks.  We walked down the highway to the Mill Creek Bar & Grill, which is now called something else.  Somebody put some money into the place.  The oak work around the bar was nice.  We ordered their “famous” burger.  It did the job.

The next morning we continued heading northwest along the twisting winding roads to Neah Bay.  The roads were almost deserted as we headed up the coast.  When we hit the most Northwest point in the United States, we turned around like Forrest Gump and headed back from where we came.  Enjoy the pictures!

Claire believes that research and planning are the keys to a good trip. I just drive …

Entering the rainforest on one of the few sunny days of the year. They get 12-14 feet of rain per year!

Claire likes to collect literature at all the visitors centers.

I like to drive

The rainforest is mostly giant sitka spruce covered in moss.

Climbing through the driftwood as we enter Ruby Beach

Motorcycling gear is not ideal for hiking.

Another beautiful west cost beach.

Love the rock formations

It looks almost deserted … (thanks to PhotoShop)

How YOU doin’?

Last look at Ruby Beach.

A stop at the Forks visitor’s center where they have Bella’s truck from the Twilight movie.

I don’t know about the movie, but I would like to have the truck …

Claire loves her big trees that you can walk or drive through.

I like big trees that I can sit in.

Artistic shot through the hollow log.

Hi Claire!

Stopping to look for whales near Neah Bay.

A stop along Lake Crescent

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Retirement: Initial Thoughts

This begins week #3 of not working.  No doubt there is an adjustment period, but so far it is mostly like being on vacation, especially since we just spent the last 10 days on a road trip down the west coast and back.  When we tell people that we have retired, the most common response has been “you are too young to retire!”  I’ve been thinking a bit about that, and I think the disconnect revolves around your definition of retirement.

Most of us think of our parents or grandparents and their version of retirement.  When I think of that version it looks like this:  People retired at age 65.  When they retired they lived on their social security benefits and whatever pension their employer might have provided.  They spent their days gardening, puttering around the house, watching their “stories” on TV, and spending time with their grandkids.  Usually their health was tenuous.  I remember my grandparent’s tackle-box of prescription meds that they took each day.  After retirement, most people expected to live 10-15 years.  Retirement was largely a final winding down of life.

As we now move into the “retirement” phase, we think of it as getting to do what we want to do each day, spending our time and energy on things that mean the most to us.  Will we likely generate more income at some point?  Probably.  But, we plan to accomplish it doing something we enjoy and care about.  So, we are thinking of this next year as a “sabbatical” more than a “retirement.”  During our sabbatical we will focus on relocating back to Michigan, building our house in Traverse City, spending more time with our kids and grand kids, and transitioning to a slower pace.

My first personal goal is to stop hurrying.  During my career years I have been trying to get the most done during the limited number of hours of the day.  I multi-task constantly.  I always think about the most efficient way to get things done, even when it comes to small things like getting ready in the morning.  So, I am consciously trying to slow down.  There is plenty of time to accomplish what I need to accomplish, even if I don’t get it all done today.  Take a deep breadth.  Put the smart phone down.  Linger.  Enjoy the moment.  Live.

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Road Trip: Crater Lake

Day #10 of the west coast road trip found us in southern Oregon as we were working out way back to Seattle.  We spent the night at the Running Y Lodge near Klamath Falls.  The Running Y is a beautiful setting, but the hotel is run by Holiday Inn.  The place was nice, but we had our worst meal of the entire trip.  Reminded me of the Jimmy Buffett song line “warm beer and bread they said could raise the dead.  It reminds me of the menu at the Holiday Inn.”

After breakfast, we drove the 50 miles up to Crater Lake.  By the time we got up to the lake the temperature had dropped to 30 degrees and a light snow was falling.  I commented to Claire that temperatures on this trip had ranged from 30 at Crater Lake to 105 degrees near Los Angeles.  In places, the snow was still over 4 feet deep at the lake!

When we first approached the lake it was shrouded in mist, but by the time we began working our way around it, the sun started burning through the clouds.  The lake itself was formed when the volcanic mountain collapsed in on itself.  The lake is over 1900 feet deep, which makes it one of the deepest inland lakes in the world.

The views were spectacular, and it was the perfect final stop on our trip.  When all was said and done, the trip lasted 10 days and covered 2800 miles.  We are back home in Seattle now updating our bucket list and planning our next adventure!

The snow got deeper and the temperatures kept dropping as we approached the lake.


Gorgeous views of the lake as the sun burned through the mist.

The lake is an amazing deep blue.

Great final stop on this road trip.

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Road Trip: Yosemite

We drove up from Pasadena to a little town called Oakhurst California.  The town is near the south gate to Yosemite National Park.  We arrived late afternoon, and checked into a little motel, The Oakhurst Lodge.  It looks as though the front half of the motel burned down recently as all that is standing is a fenced off foundation.  The rooms were cheap and clean and summertime near Yosemite is a busy time so our options were limited.

We walked a half-mile down the road (literally) and found the South Gate Brewing Company.  I had a burger and Claire had calamari.  The place was kind of cool, though I am not a fan of restaurants where you have to go to bar and order and then they bring the food to you.  Claire says they had the best sweet potato fries of the week!

We went to bed early and rose at 5:00am.  The sun rose at 5:40am and we were out the door at 5:41.  I have always heard how crowded the national parks can be during the summer, so Claire planned this part of the trip so that we could get in early and beat the crowds.  That was the plan, and I have to say it worked out wonderfully!  We actually drove into the park a little after 6am and had the place almost to our selves for the first couple of hours.

Soon after entering the park we came upon a black bear and her cub.  Since we startled each other and were only 25 feet apart, we didn’t get particularly good pictures but it was a pretty amazing experience.

The scenery and views were more than I can adequately describe, so I will rely on some of the pictures we shot to tell the story.  Claire and I have been around the world and seen a lot, but we both agreed this was the most beautiful and wondrous place we have ever visited.

Momma black bear and her cub. I am not sure who was more startled, them or us …

Small buck on a clear mountain lake.

Beautiful woman on beautiful mountain lake.

Interesting angle on the famous El Capitan.

Maybe my favorite shot of the day…

Driving down the canyon to this small lake.

Bridal Veils water fall.

You can see the dome in the distance.

Taking a break in this quiet meadow on the valley floor.

Claire loves the waterfalls.

Shooting iPhone HDR pictures as the sun comes up over the peaks.

Good Morning!

Great shots everywhere you look …

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Road Trip: CalTech Graduation

The real purpose for this whole road trip was to be in Pasadena for Alex’s Caltech graduation.  A PhD from the California Institute of Technology is no small thing, and we really wanted to be there to celebrate with Alex and Alex.  Originally we were scheduled to be in Malaysia this weekend on a business trip, but our retirement took that off the table and we quickly put together this road trip.

The CalTech campus is beautiful and the southern California weather cooperated to make it a perfect day.  We enjoyed the ceremony with Alex’s parents, Steve and Linda.  The Alex’s friend, Nate, was also there with us.

No need to say more, except enjoy the pictures and CONGRATULATIONS ALEX!

Alex, with her friends Ying Lu and Vanessa.

Proud Mama and the pretty doctor.

Two smart and beautiful women.

The big moment.

The commencement speaker, Daniel Yergin

The faculty.

The procession down the aisle.

The proud and excited guests.

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Road Trip: Visiting NASA

Another leisurely morning on the road.  Claire took another walk around Ojai.  I caught up on some eMail and stuff.  We had breakfast at the Ojai Café  Emporium, and then headed off to LA.  Traffic was light since it was mid-morning.  We arrived at the Alex’s place in Pasadena by noon.

We settled in, and then headed over to the NASA JPL labs, where Alex works, for a tour!  The JPL (Jet Propulsion Labs) campus is pretty cool. Wild deer roam among the scientists as they move from building to building.  It was sunny, breezy, and in the mid 80’s so a lot of people where sitting outside working on their laptops or having small meetings.

After we signed in, Alex showed us around.  We saw the lab where she actually works on materials used in power sources used on various spacecraft.  We saw an area where they test the Mars Rovers in a Mars-like environment.  When we were there, they had a simulation going that tested the aluminum wheels as they rolled over sharp rocks.  They also used this space in the event the rover gets stuck on Mars so that they can figure out how to get it “un-stuck” in a test environment before sending the actual commands to Mars.

Its amazing the things that these folks are doing, and also amazing how little attention most Americans pay to it all.  The engineering that goes into sending a spacecraft to Mars, landing the rover on the surface, and then driving it around as it explores the planet is mind boggling.

Testing the wheels for the Mars Rover. The actual rover is hiding in the garage in the background.

The original Mars Rover

The ladies in front of Galileo

The disk that is on the Voyager spacecraft that tells aliens who and where we are …

One of the deer that inhabit the JPL campus

Leaving the Ojai Valley


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Road Trip: Wine Country

We had a leisurely start to the day in Pismo beach.  We slept in until almost 6:30!  Claire did a power walk.  I did a 3 mile run along the waterfront.  We continued down the coast and headed to our favorite winery, the Fess Parker Winery in Santa Barbara County.  Claire and I first discovered this place about 5 years ago when we were in Santa Barbara for Thanksgiving.  We were out touring the wine country when we fell in love with Fess Parker’s.  The reason we pulled in the first time is because I was a HUGE Fess Parker fan as a kid.  Because I was born in the sixties and not the fifties, I first got to know him as Daniel Boone, and then later learned that he was Davey Crockett before he was Daniel Boone!

The winery is rustic and elegant at the same time.  It actually has the feel we are hoping to capture in the house we are building in Michigan.  Claire was just here with her sister last November and joined the Fess Parker Wine Club.  However, it was a pain accepting deliveries because UPS would not leave it without us being home to sign for the package.  So Claire cancelled the membership.  But now that we are retired, we should be home most of the time to accept the shipment, and Claire re-joined while we were there.

We of course did a wine tasting, and bought a few bottles to take to the Alexes.  From there we drove to the small town of Los Olivos and had lunch at Sides Hardware and Shoes.  We had their famous fried brussel sprouts, pork belly tacos, and ceviche.  The sprouts were exceptional, the ceviche was extraordinary, and the tacos were just too weird.

We ended the day in Ojai where we check into the Su Nado Inn; a very cool little place that is walking distance from everything.  We had tapas at the Azu that were awesome!  Our final dish was a baked honey and Brie dish, covered in pecans that you spread over crusty bread.  Out of this world!  Good thing I got a bit of exercise today, because I am eating way too much on this trip!

Rustic elegance…

Daniel or Davey … love them both!

Re-living my childhood …

California wine country

Wine tasting on an empty stomach …

A beautiful spot

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Road Trip: Carmel to Pismo Beach

Someone’s cell phone in the next room woke me up multiple times during the night.  The walls at “grandma’s place” were so thin, it sounded like the phone was on my night stand.  So, we got a bit of a slow start in the morning.  Grandma’s place provided a free breakfast, so I had and english muffin and Claire had a bagel and cream cheese before we hit the road.  It was a bit of a “carb-fest.”

We got back on Highway 1 and continued down the coast.  As beautiful as the California coast is, Claire and I both agreed that we thought the southern Oregon coast was actually more picturesque.  Traffic was extremely light and was mostly tourists like us who stopped a lot along the way for photo ops.

One of the cool stops along the way was a sea lion rookery.  There were hundreds (maybe thousands) of the big boys stretched out on the beach.  They seemed to enjoy all the attention from the tourists like us who were madly snapping pictures.

We stopped for lunch in Cambria at a funky little place called the Indigo Moon Café.  Claire was disappointed that the sweet potato fries (her vice) were soggy and over cooked.  Other than that the lunch was wonderful, and we continued cruising until we reached Pismo Beach.  We decided to splurge and get a beach front room at The Cliffs Resort.  The room was so comfortable that we decided t stay in, order room service, and watch a movie.

Since we are ahead of schedule, our daily drives are getting shorter and shorter which means later morning starts, more stops, and earlier arrivals.  From here we are going short way to Santa Barbara to do some wine tasting and more hard core goofing off.

Big boys on the beach

Great spot to shoot a pirate movie

Driving a thousand miles of coast

Spending a lazy evening

Beautiful room with a view

These little guys are watching over the sea lions

All my funniest captions were inappropriate … Make up your own.

King of the winding roads …

Chief navigator, and Queen of the winding roads.

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Road Trip: Down the California Coast

We woke up early as always and started a fire in the little woodstove.  We had no internet or even cell service, so our morning ritual of sipping coffee and catching up on the goings on in the world was cut short.  I know we made fun of the Inn in our last post, but it was actually a very pleasant experience, and the people running the place (especially Teresa) were delightful.

Instead of “tippy tapping” on the internet, Claire made our own entry in the guest book.  She laughed one more time about some of “in depth” entries that previous guests had made.

We walked down to the beach in the early morning mist.  One of the seven cats who inhabit the Inn followed Claire like a dog.  Where she went, the cat followed.  The sand was much darker than in Oregon, which made it feel less pristine, but the rock outcroppings where spectacular.

We had breakfast with the other quests, and then were on the road again!  We stayed on the coast until we got north of San Francisco and then cut inland through Oakland to avoid the city traffic.  We then cut back to the coast and rolled into Carmel by the Sea around dinnertime.  Claire checked us into the Carmel Inn & Suites; nothing fancy but right in the middle of town and the rates were reasonable.  The room is large and decorated like your grandma’s parlor.

We had dinner last night at a well-reviewed Mediterranean place called Dametra Café.  The meal was excellent.  Claire had a steak, and I had a Greek combination plate that included lamb, a chicken kabob, hummus, and a Greek salad.

After dinner we strolled around town a bit.  This is clearly a place where the well heeled come to shop.  Just another day on the road for us …

Why yes, i will have some wine…

We met another retired couple …

Hanging with our new friends

The main house at the Inn

Breakfast at the Inn

A girl and her cat …

Walking on the beach

They said the cat’s name is “Scraper”

View of the Inn from the beach

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"Do not be afraid to do something you are unqualified to do" Okay. I'll sail to E N G L A N D then.