Sunrise on Rainier

One of the great things about being retired is that you can schedule your activities around the weather, if you choose to.  We have wanted to take a trip up to Sunrise on Mount Rainier.  A couple of years ago, when we were living in Olympia, we did a Harley ride up to Paradise, which is on the other side of the mountain.  We wanted to do this trip on the Harley too, so we needed some good riding weather to make it fun.  Tuesday of this week was predicted to be sunny and warm, so we set our sights on that day for the trip.

The weatherman was right because Tuesday morning was warm and the sun was shining.  We headed out with minimal leathers, and we should have put on some sunscreen.  Once we cleared through Enumclaw, the traffic melted away and the roads were open.  The views were scenic all the way up the mountain, and we stopped at a few great places along the way and shot pictures.

Once we reached the Sunrise Center, we changed into hiking shoes and did a little scouting around, and then had lunch at the snack bar.  Even though the views were spectacular at Sunrise, Rainier is most impressive from a distance when you really get a sense of how much taller it is than anything around it.  As I look at the photos now, none to justice to the breathtaking views.  This is definitely  a place you need to see for yourself.

Claire’s view from the back seat.

Panoramic view from Sunrise Point.

So many great places to stop and take in the scenery.

Made it to the stop (at least as far as the road goes.) You have to go on foot from here.

A little hiking…

Claire’s ready to get back on the road!

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The Seattle Underground Tour

Our days in Seattle continue to count down and we still have many items on our bucket list!  On Monday of this week, we rode the trusty 255 bus into the city and experienced the legendary Seattle Underground Tour.

After learning more about the very beginnings of this city, I understand more the culture here that sometimes drives us crazy.  From the tour, we learned that the Denny family settled in Seattle and chose to build the town on a mud flat at the edge of the Puget Sound.  I suspect the local Native Americans got a big chuckle out of that. It apparently did not occur to them that the tides would cause the town to flood on a regular basis, and in the true spirit of Seattle once they learned this, they refused to change the decision.  The comedy of egos, mismanagement, and corruption that marked the early history of the city seem very similar to what we have observed in local Seattle politics since we arrived here a few years ago.  The 520 bridge project, the tunnel under Seattle, and lack of traffic planning are just some of the current projects that make us shake our heads as hundred of millions of taxpayer dollars are wasted.

Anyhoo, we learned on the tour that the entire commercial district burned down in 1889 and rather than take the opportunity to move the commercial district off the mudflat, someone came up with the great idea to fill it in with dirt from the hill that led up to the residential area on the hill.  But the shop keepers didn’t want to wait for the fill, so the rebuilt their businesses on the original mud flat.  The city proceeded to bring in the fill and essentially created city streets that were 15-40 feet above all the buildings!  So, the front of the building and the sidewalks were well below the streets behind giant stone retaining walls.  To cross the street you had to climb a ladder, scurry across the street, and then climb down another ladder.  It is ironic that nobody died in the Great Seattle Fire of 1889, but nearly 20 people died years later falling off the ladders as they tried to cross the streets.

The next step in this weird evolution was the creation new sidewalks at the level of the roads, which essentially created a two-tier sidewalk system.  Unfortunately the lower sidewalk system became overrun with rats and was condemned when bubonic plague started to break out.  So, the tour takes you around a few blocks of Pioneer square, through the old sidewalks and lower levels of the buildings.  Claire and I were glad we did this before leaving town, and as I said it gave us new insights into the Seattle psyche.

After the tour, we walked up 1st Avenue and stopped at Von’s Gustobistro for drinks and some people watching on the sidewalk.  From there we made our way to the Pike Place Market where we had dinner reservations at the Steelhead Diner.  The Steelhead Diner was on our original list of restaurants to try.  Ironically the entire motif of the restaurant is trout and trout fishing, and they did not have a single trout on the menu!

Claire had the black cod.  I had the morels and pasta.  Both were good.  Neither was great.  Check one more restaurant off our list…

Right across the street from the Underground Tour is the oldest restaurant in Seattle.

The tour starts with a very entertaining talk/comedy routine before you go subterranean.

Heading below ground.

A lot of gross and entertaining stories about how the crappers didn’t work because the town was below sea level. When the tide came in, a geyser of sewage could blow you off the throne!

A lot of old junk below ground.

Parts from an old pumping station

A lot of old signs in the Underground.

A photo of Chief Seattle. I’ll bet he laughed his ass off at the stupid settlers …

Quick stop at Von’s

The Steelhead Diner.

Claire’s after dinner ice-cream as we walk back to the bus stop.

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4th of July in Kirkland

July is our last month in Seattle.   Last year on the 4th of July we were in Michigan and purchased our waterfront property in Traverse City. One year later we are on “final approach” to being in Michigan and beginning to build our home!

We decided to stay in our little town of Kirkland for the holiday. In the morning, I did food prep, baking a blueberry-cranberry pie and making potato salad. Around noon we walked the 2 ½ miles into town just in time to catch the 4th of July parades. The first parade was the “kids parade.” Unlike what Claire and I were familiar with when our kids were growing up, here in Kirkland all the parents walk with the kids. There were over a thousand parents and kids packed between the curbs as they walked the parade route. Claire’s comment was “This is not a parade. This is a crowd of people walking down the street,” which I must say I had to agree with.

Following the kid’s parade was the “real” parade, which was typical of small town parades. It was mostly veterans riding in classic cars, little league teams riding in truck beds, local politicians carrying self-promotional signs and “glad handing”, and groups marching to push some issue (eg. gun control.) We stood along the waterfront, and watched the festivities for over a half hour. The parade itself went on for well over and hour! About half way through, we headed over to Hector’s and had lunch while we watched the second half from a distance.

After lunch, we walked back up the hill to our house and spent the rest of the day relaxing. We grilled up lamb-veal burgers on the Big Green Egg, and had a traditional July 4th meal of burgers, corn-on-the-cob, potato salad, watermelon, and blueberry-cranberry pie. The plan was to walk back down to town to catch the 10pm fireworks. After our 4th of July feast and few drinks, the walk back to town seemed daunting, so we chose to watch the fireworks from our deck. Even that plan didn’t work out for me as I fell asleep before 10pm, so Claire was forced to wrap herself in a blanket and watch the fireworks alone. She tells me they were quite spectacular as she could see four different displays at the same time!

All in all it was a fine, relaxing day. We are really looking forward to celebrating in Michigan next year, and with any luck we will be doing it from our new lakefront home!

Our American flag which flies from our front porch every day!

Potato salad just like mom used to make …

My own blueberry-cranberry pie recipe.

Headed down to the Kirkland waterfront for the festivities.

Parade or crowd walking down the street … You decide.

Time for the parade!

Real American heroes.

Politicians doing what they do best … Ugh!

Submarine vets on Harleys!

More submarine veterans!

Good, clean, American fun …

Back home with veal-lamb burgers on the BGE!

I imagine this is what the fireworks looked like …

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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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