Thursday, December 30, 2021

Leaving On a Jet Plane, Part 2

It’s just about an hour until our dinner time on the Emerald Princess. We made it to the ship, but it was certainly not an easy trip.

Our flight to Fort Lauderdale was cancelled at 1030 pm the night before our trip. We didn't know, so we got up around 2am for the 5am flight. At least we knew before heading to the airport, so we chilled in the hotel for a couple extra hours.

Turns out our seats were downgraded to main cabin, and our 2nd flight out of Atlanta we were stand-by passengers. I wasn’t feeling particularly optimistic.

We originally were scheduled to arrive in Fort Lauderdale around 4pm. We finally landed after 10pm.

We had a rough time with Uber, when the first one showed up it was a small car (who picks up at the airport and can't handle two people two bags and two carry-ons?)

The second one didn't show (waited around 5 or ten minutes, he never moved on the app, I called, and they didn't pick up).

The third didn't move for a long time, I finally called, he said he was on the way. I let him know we were at the ride share pick up platform waiting at station 6, he pulls up to station 2 and makes us walk to him.

We get to the hotel and are both starving. When we got up, we had leftovers from dinner the night before for breakfast. We have had nothing to eat since, but two small packs of almonds and two packs of cookies.

The bar at the hotel had closed, they didn’t have room service, so we tried our luck with Uber Eats. “Food” finally showed up about 1:30 am. It was Denny’s, not my favorite, but it was all we had.

After a couple hours sleep, we were off to the cruise port.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Merry Christmas, You’re Not Going Anywhere.

Me on my first cruise, leaving Venice

We’ve been planning a New Year’s cruise. We are supposed to leave next week from Fort Lauderdale on Princess Cruise line for a 10-day partial Panama Canal cruise.

A little over a week ago, our son-in-law came down with Covid. He had a bad headache, chills, and a fever for a couple of days.

We haven’t been around him for several days prior to his getting sick, and it’s been over 10 days since he got sick. I figured we were in the clear.

But on Christmas day, before the family got together, we took home Covid tests. I went first and came up clear.

My wife went second, and we waited the required ten minutes.

When she pulled the test strip, she said, oh no. I thought she was joking, but sure enough, it was a positive test.

She retested about an hour and a half later, but still came up positive.

She’s not showing any symptoms, but I guess we’re grounded for a couple of weeks.

Oh yeah, this is the second time we canceled a Panama Canal cruise. We were scheduled to take a 15-day full passage from Fort Lauderdale to Los Angeles when the pandemic hit.

Hope I can get all my money back (but I did buy insurance, so should be good).

UPDATE - My wife went for a "real" test today, we're good to go! Looks like the home kit gave a false positive. 

I should have waited before cancelling hotel and flights.

Rebooked with Marriott, now I get to wait for two hours to get someone on the phone to stop Delta from cancelling our flight. 

UPDATE2 - After about 3 hours got a call back from Delta, got the flights rescheduled. It's now just after 4am on the day of our flight. We got up at 2:30 to get ready for a 5am flight, only to find out it was cancelled overnight. 

They rescheduled us for about 1pm today arriving after 10pm, however, they don't have seats for us on the connecting flight. So, waiting again for hours to speak to someone at Delta. 

Thursday, December 23, 2021


In the 1980’s, we were stationed at Barbers Point Naval Air Station, west of Honolulu.

At the time, it was a small base, surrounded by sugar cane fields on two sides and the ocean on one and an industrial park on the other.

We had a small PX, an even smaller commissary, and a couple of places to get something to eat, most walk-up windows as I recall.

There was sit-down dining in the clubs, but I only remember eating there a few times (mostly on Mongolian Barbeque nights. And the enlisted club tended to be a bit rowdy.

Which is why we spent so much time in Waikiki.

Before I met my wife, several of us would get together, rent a hotel room, and spend the weekends on the beach during the day, and in the clubs at night.

Once I started dating my wife, we would head into Waikiki for a late lunch of dinner, maybe watch the sunset on the beach, then head back home. She wasn’t much of a “beach” person, and neither of us was that into the clubs.

We have good memories of Hawaii, our house on Barbers Point, and our condo in Makaha (where we lived before getting married and qualifying for base housing), and dinners and a movie in Waikiki.

Now after 38 years, we find ourselves back in Waikiki.

We checked into the Hotel and went in search of lunch (the food service on the plane was almost nonexistent). We grabbed a bite at the quick service stand at the hotel and pretty much called it a night.

The next morning, we spent a little time walking around the beach at Waikiki, then headed off on a road trip to see what still existed of our old base.

We really didn’t have too much planned, we just played it by ear. One day we took a trip up to Nu‘Uanu Pali (Pali Lookout), the site of a major battle fought by King Kamehameha I, in his efforts to unite Oahu under his rule.

The View from Nu‘Uanu Pali 

According to the Hawaii Tourism Website:

“The Pali Lookout is a site of deep historical significance. Named “Pali” meaning "cliff" in Hawaiian, the Pali Lookout is the site of the Battle of Nuuanu, where in 1795 King Kamehameha I won the struggle that finally united Oahu under his rule. This fierce battle claimed hundreds of soldiers’ lives, many of which were forced off of the Pali’s sheer cliffs.”

We spent some time wandering around Waikiki, I have to say it was much different than it was 38 years ago.

Most of the really kitschy tourist shops that I remember have been replaced by new shopping malls featuring some of the big names in fashion. It looks more like Rodeo Drive than the Hawaii of my youth.

My granddaughter checking out one of the Koi Ponds in the Waikiki shopping district.

I even managed to get in touch with one of my former co-workers, who had retired and returned home to Hawaii. We had a nice breakfast and spent some time catching up on things.

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Third Time’s the Charm, We Finally Made It

As we waited for the day of our flight, Hawaii finally dropped the 14-day quarantine requirement. We just needed to get all three of us a Covid test before we got on the plane.

My wife and I had both had Covid tests done before, so we thought we knew what we were getting ourselves into. The hospital had drive-up testing, so my wife was in the rear seat with our granddaughter. We knew she wouldn’t handle the test well, so having someone in the back seat to literally hold her hand seemed like a good idea.

It’s been said that “no plan survives contact with the enemy,” and this plan was no different.

We hoped that they would test the adults first, so we could show the little one that it was no big deal.

 We arrived at the test site and gave the nurse our names. She went into a tent and came out with another nurse, each armed with a test kit.

The approached the car from both sides and asked my wife and granddaughter to put their heads back for the test. They were so fast; we didn’t have time to try to get them to do the adults first.

Now before this, my wife and I had each had several tests. They were no big deal. Just a quick swab on the rear of the throat, then a quick swab up the nose.

This time they did a different test, one that required them to stick a probe so far up your nose, I thought they were trying to get a sample of my brain tissue.

When they stuck the probe in my granddaughter nose, she screamed and started to cry hysterically. She grabbed the probe with both hands and managed to shove it further up her nose then necessary.

 The nurse somehow managed to get the sample and apologized to the poor kid who was left sobbing in the back seat.

Thankfully, everyone’s test came back negative. The next day we headed into LA to spend the night at a hotel next to LAX.

Early the next morning, we took the hotel shuttle to the airport.

Over the years, I’ve flown out of Los Angeles International Airport so many times I’ve lost count. The first time at the tender age of 18, leaving the comforts of home for a life in the US Army. In all those years, one word I would never use to describe LAX was “empty.” Until now.

While not completely empty, I've never seen so few passengers at LAX

Now, it wasn’t completely deserted, but I was amazed in how few people were there. Unfortunately, also missing were most of the shops. We did manage to find a store that we were able to buy some drink and snacks for the flight.

The flight wasn’t bad, they were still leaving empty seats to promote distancing, so not too crowded. No food service and worst of all – no beer. Other than that first flight to basic training, I don’t think I’ve ever flown without having at least one beer. This time I was in for a five-hour trek in a tiny tube and entertaining an eight-year-old, all of this without the benefit of a cold beer. It’s inhumane!

The flight wasn’t bad, in fact the granddaughter was better than some of the adults on the plane.

When we got to Hawaii, we were herded into a concourse to show proof of our covid test.

I’m never amazed at the lack of attention some people pay when traveling. Before we left home, I checked several times on the requirements for travel to Hawaii. We both signed up on the Safe Travels Hawaii website and had both filled out all the forms we needed to be allowed into Hawaii.

As we waited in what I felt was a way too packed causeway, we heard several people asking about the paperwork everyone else was holding. I guess some people thought you could ignore the State travel mandates and just show up. Those without proper paperwork were whisked away and we didn’t see them again. I’m sure they’re fine.

The view from our room

Thursday, December 2, 2021


 About 43 years ago, I was heading into the final stretch of my high school years. Since age 12, I had dreamed of attending the US Military Academy at West Point. Now as I approached college age, I knew that there was very little chance of getting the necessary congressional appointment letter.

But I learned that there was another way to get into one of the most prestigious college in the country. Every year a small number of US Army Soldiers are allowed to enter the US Military Academy Preparatory School. Which is how I found myself in the Army and stationed at Barbers Point Naval Air Station in Hawaii.

The old headquarters building at Barbers Point

I had trained as a helicopter repairman and had moved my way up to flight engineer. One day, a young, attractive sergeant came out to fix one of the rotor blades on my aircraft. I asked her to lunch, and one thing led to another, now 38 years later, we are still together.

We left Hawaii in the early 1980’s and never looked back. I had been there for four years and didn’t have any desire to return (I know, most people think that’s crazy).

When covid hit, we had several trips lined up. We were headed to Vancouver for our anniversary, then going on a Panama Canal cruise, and finally traveling to London and Paris late the year.

So I moved the Europe trip, and decided that maybe it was time to go back to Hawaii. After a couple of months, I cancelled the reservations and rescheduled for later in the year. As the date got closer, it became obvious that Hawaii would still not be open without the two-week quarantine.

I figured that they couldn’t prevent us from driving, so we took a road trip to Zion National Park.

We enjoyed the trip, even though there was a lot of smoke from fires in California. We did some hiking, ate at some really good restaurants and even did a day trip to the North rim of the Grand Canyon.

View from the Upper Emerald Pools in Zion

But I Really wanted to take a trip to someplace we couldn’t drive. I made new reservations for Hawaii. After talking it over with the kids, we decided to take our granddaughter along.

We would spend the first part of the trip in Waikiki, then head up to the North Shore for the remainder of the trip.

Now all we had to do was wait.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Writing Again


0 words

That is what is displayed in the lower left corner of my computer screen.

16 words. A bit better but still too few words.

For some reason, writing has become very difficult for me.

It’s been over three months since I have posted to either of my blogs. It’s not like I haven’t been traveling. We had planned several trips before the current issues but had to cancel for obvious reasons.

We adjusted, rescheduled, and made new plans. We made changes, we adapted to follow the rules.

Finally, we just went where we could. When they wouldn’t let us fly, we drove to Zion National Park. We took a short trip to Palm Springs.

Zion National Park

As things started opening up, we went to Hawaii. We even went to Texas just for dinner and a show.

Waikiki at night

I flew to Wisconsin for work, then drove back to Southern California. We went to New England to visit family. And finally, we took the entire family to Walt Disney World for the 50th Anniversary celebration.

As I sit here tonight, I have three different versions of this post on two different computers. And I’m left to wonder why?

I guess it may be some form of mild depression, I want to write, but can’t find the motivation. If the media is to be believed, I’m putting myself and everything I love at risk every time I walk out the front door.

Now please don’t get me wrong, I do believe that Covid is real. I believe it is highly contagious. I’m just not sure that wrapping our heads in old napkins and locking ourselves in the basement was a good idea. We should have protected the most vulnerable, of that there is no doubt.

I haven’t locked myself in the house and hidden from the perceived dangers of the current situation. I made the decision to live. It’s my decision to make, and others are free to find their own way. I wish everyone the best.

As things stand, we have two new adventures in the next few months. I’m going to look over what we have done in the last year and attempt to share some of those memories, but I look forward to getting back to what I do best. Writing about the travel lifestyle.

Thanks for coming along.

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Amarillo by Morning

 Growing up I hated country music. I couldn’t stand it.

Then I joined the US Army. My first Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) was as a helicopter flight crewmember. My goal was to eventually go to flight school and become an Army pilot.

The Army had created a test to determine what personality traits were common among successful helicopter pilots. They called this test the Flight Aptitude Service Battery.

They interviewed a bunch of old crusty pilots and asked them a series of questions to determine certain personality traits. The most common answer became the “right” answer.

One of the seemingly random questions on the multiple-choice test was “what type of music do you prefer to listen to.”

The possible answers were classical, country or jazz. As a fan or rock, none of the choices made sense to me.

I learned later that the correct answer was country because most of the “successful” Army pilots listened to country music.

As I entered my dream career of being a flight crew member, I quickly learned that the control of the radio was in the cockpit and that I was at the mercy of the pilot’s choice of music. As I mentioned, most of them supposedly listened to country. In practice, this proved to be true.

Me doing my best Top Gun pose

So, as it turned out, I had a simple choice. Listen to country music or listen to the drone of the engines and transmissions for what sometimes would be hours at a time.

After years of being confined to a small area and almost forced to listen to the gentle twang of country singers, I actually began to enjoy it.

Soon I became a fan of Randy Travis, George Straight, Garth Brooks and others. I also began to listen to a little bit of western music (if you don’t know the difference, a quick google search should answer any questions).

Which is how I find myself sitting in the airport in Amarillo, Texas, hoping to catch a flight home.

Several months ago, I received an email from a Youtube creator that I follow, Cowboy Kent Rollins.

Kent spent most of his adult life as the cook on a chuck wagon in real life cowboy camps. I mean “round them up, brand em” cowboy camps.

The years of being in the camps has supplied Kent with a great many stories, most of them about life in the camps. He also has a skill for telling those stories. And some pretty awful dance moves.

That maybe why his wife Shannon convinced him several years ago to start a Youtube channel dedicated to real cowboy cooking either on the grill or in cast iron.

I enjoy watching Kent cook, as he shares his cooking tips with a healthy dose of cowboy charm. The food looks good, and at the end of every cook, his enthusiasm for what he has prepared usually causes him to break out his best dance moves.

So when I got the chance to have dinner at the chuckwagon, I jumped on it.

Wellington, Texas

Kent, along with Andy Nelson (cowboy poetry and humorist), and Brenn Hill (Western musician) were going to do a live show in Wellington, Texas, and Kent was bringing his chuckwagon to cook dinner for 75 people before the show.

I’d never been to Wellington, so I looked it up on Google maps.

I’m not saying the town is small, but it is about 18 streets wide and 18 streets long.

Kent had the wagon set up in the park next to the Ritz Theater. It was a hot, humid Texas day. Not only was it hot outside, but the cooks were also using Kent’s trusty stove, “Bertha.”

Kent's Rig

Now Bertha was putting off about 500 degrees of heat from the hardwoods they were burning. And they had to cook filet for 75.  I’m sure it was miserable, but the result was great.

Later we went into the theater for the show. It was quite good. Brenn would start a song, pause while Andy would inject a poem or story that fit with the song, then Brenn would finish. Next Kent would tell some type of tale from the cowboy camp days.

If you get the chance, I’d go.

We flew from California to Amarillo, TX and then drove the 90 miles to Wellington for dinner and a show. And yes, I would likely do it again.


Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Wait, My Office is Haunted?

This is a little long of a post, but something happened today, and I want to share the whole story.

So, I go to work today, just like most other days. Grab a quick bite and head out for the 75-mile drive to lovely Fort Irwin.

Not a bad drive today, traffic was pretty light, drove full speed all the way there (I did get passed by two CHP cars, but I wasn’t going fast enough to draw their interest).

The Soldier at the gate checked my id and greeted me using my retired rank (I like it when they still call me sergeant). And since my record is devoid of any past or pending felonies, he waved me thru the gate.

Got to the office, nothing unusual there. Checked email and got ready to do some painting on the OH-58 display.
Now, I have been working in the Heritage Center building for just over a year.

There have been some weird things happen, but for the most part I came up with logical explanations. Keep in mind, I’m alone in the building 99% of the time, and I have the only keys to the doors.

First there was the sound of a trapped puppy crying coming from the HVAC system. I figured it was a bad bearing on a fan, echoing thru the duct work. No issue – put in a work order.

Then there was the open maintenance panel in the men’s room. Maybe I just never noticed the only panel in the restroom was open for several months (there is an open space behind the panel large enough for a couple of people to fit. Lots of pipes and graffiti).

I would also hear people talking when I was in the bathroom (most of the building is kind of loud, the HVAC is almost always on and it’s loud, turns out the quietest place in the building is the bathroom). Chalked it up to the roll-up door on the other end of the building creaking in the wind.

Yesterday, I noticed that the conference room (which is between the main part of the center and my office) was considerably colder than the rest of the building, so much so I wondered if the AC was on in that room. Might need another work order.
The conference room, my office is just thru the open door.

Here is where it starts getting really weird.

When they remodeled the building, they installed two separate lighting systems. The first was a LED system. The system has three-foot LED strips on long rails. That system is divided into 4 zones, each controlled by a separate light switch. The system also has sensors that turn off and on the zone when it detects movement. When the sensors turn off the lights, they just go out. When you use the switch, the lights dim and then go out.

The second light system is rail mounted spotlights for the museum displays.

Because the LED lights would come on indiscriminately when I had the museum lights on, I disconnected the motion detectors. 

Since then, the lights come on and go off when you operate the switch. 

At least until yesterday. 

I only turn on the lights in the section that I’m working in (hey, I am at least a bit energy conscious).

Yesterday, I walked into the event room in the center of the building and one 3-foot section in the middle of the zone was lit. Not the other 24 or so sections. Not sure how power could by-pass most of the sections and only light the middle, I figured I needed to put in yet another work order. 
The red arrow points at the only led section that was lit.

I tried to switch on and off the entire zone, but the switch had no effect. About three hours later, it shut off by itself (remember the sensors are disconnected). 

 Which brings us to today. 

 I started painting, things were going well. Then the lights shut off. Yep, they dimmed and then went out. Like someone used the switch to turn off the lights. 

I went over and turned them back on. 

 A few minutes later, I closed the paint can with a hammer, put the hammer on a metal table next to the helicopter. I moved the flight crew mannequin back next to the aircraft and bent down to adjust the flight suit over the boot. 

Suddenly there was a very loud band right next to me.

I jumped up and started looking around to see what might have fallen over. Everything was right where I left it. Everything. 

I walked around the entire building; I couldn’t find anything out of place. 

 I went back to the metal table. I looked at the items on the table, picked up my hammer and dropped it from about a foot off the table. That was the noise I heard. 
The red arrows point at the uniform I was adjusting and the location of the hammer, just out of view

I stood there for a few minutes, trying to come up with an explanation for the sound. I left the building.

I went for a long walk, stopped by and told a couple of friends what happened (BTW they now both refuse to come to my building). 

Finally, I made a visit to the chaplain’s office. 

Several of the items in the center have connection to people who are no longer with us. 

One lady served during WWII and helped open the Armed Forces Network in Berlin after the war. She died alone with no family. I have read several of her letters from just before the bombing of London, and several from a young man she tried to help migrate to the US after the war. 
Letter home from London

I also have the personal possessions of a Major General that served under Gen. Patton. I have read his briefings and some of the personal letters. Also in his footlocker is his harmonica and his West Point uniform brass. 

Another personal possession is General George S. Patton’s horse's bridle bit. He thought enough about it to save it from his missions in the early 1900’s. 
General Patton's horse bridle bit

The Chaplain came over this afternoon, he blessed the building and the contents. 

Hopefully, that will be the last of it.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Grafton Ghost Town

For our last day in Springdale, we decided to check out Grafton Ghost Town.

It’s a short drive from Springdale (about 6.5 miles from where we were staying), But the last part is a dirt road. Not a problem in a jeep, but I wouldn’t drive my sports car there.

According to the Grafton Heritage Partnership Project’s Website, the town was first settled in 1859, at a site just downriver from the current ghost town.

Nathan Tenney led a group of five families from the town of Virgin to a new site on the Virgin River. 

The families worked together to plant crops, build irrigation ditches as well and build homes.

Grafton farm land

The community flourished when cotton became scarce at the start of the US Civil War. They planted so much cotton, they didn’t have the land to plant enough corn and other crops to feed their families. In the following years they scaled back cotton production and planted more foodstuffs.

The Virgin River also caused the settlers some problems.

A January 1862 flood destroyed much of the settlement and washed away several homes. The residents of Grafton rebuilt on a second site, which is where the ghost town now sits.

The river also washed out the irrigation dams and clogged the irrigation ditches with sand. This required constant maintenance.

In 1866, Grafton became a ghost town for the first time when the Mormon Church instructed members to form into larger towns of at least 159 to ward off attacks from the Native American tribes in the area.

Things settled down over the next couple of years and Grafton was resettled in 1868.

The schoolhouse was built in 1886 using lumber hauled for Mount Trumbull, a mere 75 miles away. The adobe building still stands in the center of the town.

The Old Schoolhouse

In 1906 the men of Grafton helped build the Hurricane Canal, which brought water from the Virgin River to the flat wide Hurricane bench area. Many of the families packed up everything, some including their houses, and moved to the more hospitable new town of Hurricane.

In the 1940’s the remaining settlers either passed or moved on leaving the ghost town of Grafton behind.

One of the remaining homes in Grafton

The town has been the set of several movies starting in 1929. They include:

In Old Arizona, 1929 (First talkie filmed outdoors) and nominated for five Academy Awards including best Picture. Starring Warner Baxter (who won the Academy Award for this role as The Cisco Kid), Raoul Walsh, Edmund Lowe, and Dorothy Burgess.

The Arizona Kid, 1930. Warner Baxter and Carole Lombard.

Ramrod, 1947. Starring Joel McCrea, Veronica Lake, Preston Foster, Charles Ruggles, Donald Crisp and Lloyd Bridges.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, 1969. Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Katherine Ross (won four Academy Awards)

Child Bride of Short Creek, 1981. Diane Lane, Helen Hunt, Christopher Atkins, Conrad Bain.

The Red Fury, 1984. Wendy Lynne, Calvin Bartlett, Katherine Cannon, Juan Gonzales.