Below are travel articles that range from "Best of..." columns to Tour Diaries to specific articles. Since some are specifically about regions and locations... forgive me... but the alphabetical order used at times means that I've separated sections by both states and cities. (You're smart... you'll figure that out.)

(Looking for Bob and Dad on the Ballpark Tour? Use the link...)




April 22, 2015

On Friday we drove along route 29 into Napa Valley. Along the way, we passed a Marie Callender’s restaurant with a huge sign out in front. Not only are these famous pies… and hey, this isn’t the frozen grocery store version, it’s direct from the source… but they have a sign saying “apple pies” are there for us to buy.

Richard loves apple pies. I mean it… no joke… he would marry one. Want to “April fool” Richard? Call him and say you wish he was there, because you have an apple pie that no one will eat and it looks like you’re going to throw it away. He will cry.

From the Backpack ~ Originally posted April 8, 2008


April 22, 2015

As we go around the table ordering, Richard asks what the difference is between the senior pancakes and the regular pancakes. He’s told two dollars.

Just like that… straight and simple… in fact, she didn’t just not miss a beat, she kind of cut Richard off…

Richard: “Can you tell me the difference between the senior pancakes and the regular pan”

Waitress: “Two dollars”

Richard: “cakes?”

From the Backpack ~ Originally posted April 8, 2008


April 20, 2015

I’m the youngster of this group. But we’re on vacation… and while I’m not advocating a daily nap or late morning starts, let’s at least understand that the vineyards of California and the Pacific Coast Highway aren’t exactly screaming for people to wake up before the sun. At least not the way an amusement park might. They suggest peace… serenity… a carefree, easygoing, nothing to rush for day.

Right? Heck… even the van on day three arrived after 9am. Right? And didn’t we drive some 200 miles back home last night? Sure we did. So what the hell am I doing answering a 6am wake-up call!

From the Backpack ~ Originally posted April 2, 2008


April 17, 2015

Most of us picked pancakes. I know I did. Blueberry. I get up to the grill to place my order and fall in line behind Richard and Terry. It’s obvious to me they’re both agitated for some reason, but Terry won’t say exactly why. “Just watch… just watch…” is her whispered comment for the moment.

From the Backpack ~ Originally posted April 2, 2008


April 15, 2015

We wander along from vendor to vendor, and then Mike spots something. Near the corner a man sits with… a typewriter. The man is offering “poems about anything” and Mike can’t resist. From this day forward, and we have evidence, let it be known that Mike is a patron of the arts. He commissioned a poem…

From the Backpack ~ Originally posted March 5, 2008


April 15, 2015

We were offered some wine-soaked oak chips. (Which we were told are great for barbecues, and if there had been any way to get them home we would have grabbed as many as they would have given us.) Outside to where they were filling up some barrels, with Mike and Terry getting their glasses filled straight from the hose… and Richard chiming in that what was going in to the barrel was better than most of what we buy at home in the stores. (He was absolutely correct about that.)

From the Backpack ~ Originally posted January 5, 2008


April 14, 2015

We head inside and start along the walking trail. And… oh… my… god… it is gorgeous. Very hard to describe. We are about a third of the way along the trail that heads out, at a place with the Pinchot Tree, when I try to set up a group picture. I turn around to look for Mike and Terry, only to find them trying to get some pictures of black tail deer nearby.

From the Backpack ~ Originally posted January 5, 2008


April 14, 2015

When you travel out to the northern California region, you are visiting some of the most diverse land you could ever experience. It’s a grape-growing area that can compete with the finest vineyards and wine producers in the world. It’s a farming area that includes crops and festivals of world-wide-fame for garlic… strawberries… artichokes… and we could go on forever listing the fruits and vegetables that are grown. It’s a coastal community… it’s a collection of rivers… and forests… and deserts… and mountains…

From the Backpack ~ Originally posted November 8, 2007


April 11, 2015

The area near our gate began to fill up… we had been the first to arrive. A couple sat down about three rows and several seats away from us. A man showed up that at first appeared to be talking to the couple. He pointed at the empty seat next to them, sat down, and continued talking. Soon it became evident that he was talking to himself. Judging by the looks on everyone’s face, that same idea apparently occurred to all of us at the same time, which was roughly three seconds before he began yelling at himself.

From the Backpack ~ Originally posted April 25, 2006


April 11, 2015

And that is exactly how I felt about Disneyland…

…only in reverse.

I always knew it was small. But I didn’t expect it to be… small! Snow White’s castle… the walk from one area of a park to another… small. Much smaller than you would ever think.

From the Backpack ~ Originally posted April 3, 2006


April 11, 2015

I still have no real clue how I did it… this could be read as yet another amazing accomplishment for Tour Guide Bob, or yet another stroke of uncanny luck working out for the best… but we arrived at the Cabrillo National Monument and Point Loma Lighthouse. The bad part was the timing, since we arrived just as the area was shutting down for the day. Still more breathtaking views… San Diego is one of the most beautiful and friendly cities I have ever been to, and I will get back there to see more of it someday… and a nice ending to our day of sightseeing.

From the Backpack ~ Originally posted February 12, 2006


April 5, 2015

Things had just opened for the day here, so I’ll forgive them the fact that the line direction was confusing, with about fifteen of us walking right past the door to enter the building (the door was barely open and the ropes set up outside the building kept going, so we did too). The walls and design inside were quite well done. Disney and Universal almost always do an outstanding job at creating the full atmosphere for every ride. But the ride itself wasn’t much of a ride. Not much thrill. Around a bend, scary face, fog all over, back to the start. Done. “What a piece of garbage.” Yes indeed.

From the Backpack ~ Originally posted January 3, 2006


April 5, 2015

Very interesting surprise here. The rock formations had become incredible by this point in the park, with one after another topping all previous offerings. We drove in to the parking area and got out of our car. After taking a few steps, an absolutely jaw-droppingly stunning view opened up between this spot and Ryan Mountain. Breathtaking. Amazing. Brilliant. Smashing. I have no words that fully capture it.

From the Backpack ~ Originally posted January 2, 2006


April 5, 2015

I may have been unimpressed by the sky ride… I was very impressed with the bus tour. The property has lots of climbs… stairs and hills. It just so happens that as a fluke, by heading to the west section on the Skyfari and turning the way we did, it felt like we were heading downhill while moving to the eastern sections. We didn’t plan it that way. Riding on the bus we learn exactly how steep some locations are. The bus tour takes about a half-hour, and they say it covers about 75% of the grounds... which it definitely does. The drivers know passengers are looking for information about some of the animals, good views, and a few pictures… and our driver didn’t disappoint us. We had some wonderful views of the elephants and a rhinoceros, and get a guided, chauffeured, great trip around the zoo.

From the Backpack ~ Originally posted September 5, 2005


April 4, 2015

In addition to some very interesting architecture, The Getty Center also features some amazing and beautiful landscaping. It is set on a hill that has some incredible views of the surrounding areas, has fountains and streams and other elements incorporated all around the property… and has an absolutely stunning collection of gardens.

From the Backpack ~ Originally posted July 25, 2005


April 4, 2015

Los Angeles doesn’t want you to visit. They don’t. They want you and me and our families and our friends to stay away. And I can prove it.

From the Backpack ~ Originally posted July 23, 2005



May 22, 2011
We got a bit cute on this one and cheated a bit… we visited the place on a day off for the Cubs to try and stay away from the potential nightmare crowds caused by Red Sox fans taking in the sights. It worked like a charm for us… because we had a great meal, a great time, and not one problem with a crowd.
From the Backpack ~ Originally posted June 29, 2005


May 22, 2011

A woman sits down in the row in front of us. She’s wearing a fantastic shirt that says “real women don’t date Yankees fans.” Here’s her story…  In the bottom of the second inning, she starts laughing as a “Yankees suck” chant breaks out two aisles away from us. In the bottom of the third, she takes out her cell phone and calls someone that apparently is sitting some place in aisle 211 to tell her that she heard a “Yankees suck” chant and was surprised it didn’t happen before the second inning. Her friend hadn’t heard a “Yankees suck” chant yet. Oh, and by the way, Cubs fans agree that the “Yankees suck.” Hey… I don’t make up the news… I just bring it to you with as much accuracy and unbiased talent as I have.

From the Backpack ~ Originally posted September 7, 2005



January 15, 2018

Over the years, through change after change, that Lake Buena Vista section of Downtown Disney remained a bit of a landmark for me. A few of the stores have changed their theme. Some have been redesigned. (Who remembers the Empress Lilly?) But the general layout always feels familiar to me. It feels welcoming. One of my most treasured memories involves a special artist’s exhibit being held in the center of Lake Buena Vista during our 1979 trip, and my mother being overjoyed at purchasing a small figure that she had signed in front of her. A first glance at stores bearing the names Columbia Sportswear, Lacoste, and Tommy Bahama… sure, I suppose nice enough… not quite as magical.


January 8, 2018

Have you ever seen those movies where people, for reasons supernatural and eerie or humorous and silly, begin moving in circles? Magical time travel loop circles or directionally impaired circles. Whatever. Suddenly arrives wisps of realization, where those involved begin noticing landmarks are repeating, everything looks way too familiar, and according to need the story hopefully becomes quite scary or really funny for the audience.


April 3, 2015
Ok… it technically isn’t new, but it is the most recently opened of the four Disney theme parks in Orlando. It’s also the biggest… and the smallest. By that I mean as far as sheer territory, I believe the Animal Kingdom is the biggest of all the Disney theme parks. (I’m not going to look that up… but the safari area for the animals is the primary reason. Not only am I sure I’ve read that in several places over the years, I’m also sure without looking for confirmation that it’s true.) And yet, in several visits I have found myself able to see everything I wanted to see in just a few hours.
From the Backpack ~ Originally posted April 2, 2007


April 2, 2015
The third park built at Disney World… and yet it has to be approaching its twentieth birthday. (I looked it up… all information points to a 1989 opening. So 16-plus at this point.) This place is home to some of the most diverse attractions you will find at Disney. Thrill rides (Tower of Terror, Rock N Roller Coaster)… innovative shows (MuppetVision 3-D)… stuff for kids (Little Mermaid)… stuff for adults… and one of the best shows any theme park in the world puts on (Fantasmic). Now, to a degree, in some fashion all of the parks here have that diversity. Heck… it’s Disney! But Disney-MGM is something unique. Something that is hard to put into words, but easy to see in person…
From the Backpack ~ Originally posted April 2, 2007


April 1, 2015
An absolute stunner of a park. And yes, that matters. Because if you ask anyone to list their favorite Disney World parks and give points for ranking them first to fourth… I guarantee you that Epcot will finish fourth. It may not be unanimous if you do it as a group vote, but it will be close to unanimous.
From the Backpack ~ Originally posted April 2, 2007


April 1, 2015

The original is still the best. This park remains the top park in Disney World… and… it’s not even close really. Over the years it has been developed so much that some of what I consider to be the original charm is now a memory. In 1979, when I first visited, my parents did half of the park with us on day one… Tomorrowland and Fantasyland. Then, our second day in the park included Frontierland and Adventureland. I simply can’t do justice to that experience. Seeing all of Tomorrowland and Fantasyland and then being told that we had only seen half of it! Plus, in 1979, the Magic Kingdom was the only theme park in Disney World.

From the Backpack ~ Originally posted April 2, 2007


March 14, 2014

The interesting part was watching the prices drop. I think we went through three people, five pricing changes, and offers in three different states for four different resorts. I don’t know, I didn’t keep the notes Bob does. Still… it was like that joke you see played out on TV: “See what I’m doing? Watch this. Are you ready? See that price there? Well forget it. You don’t want that. You’re intelligent consumers, and I can see that. So what if I add points and an extra bonus week and we do this? Will two weeks at this price get you interested right now? What do I have to do to get you into a vacation paradise today?”


March 12, 2014

Animal Kingdom is today… as it has been pretty much since the gates opened… the largest and the smallest Disney World theme park. That is going to change… in an incredibly significant way. The announced plans for an Avatar-themed section is causing the big news right now for the Animal Kingdom, and Disney World. The additions from this project appear headed in a direction that will transform this park… in perception and reality. And that’s good… because honestly, even at a slow pace you can hit all of the major attractions very quickly in this park. They can tell you it’s the biggest park at Disney all they want… it’s a false claim based on sheer size and not content. This park is great and fun… and it also needs more.


March 12, 2014

Run… Do not walk… Do not hesitate… Do not pause to get situated and check the map. Run to get your FASTPASS for Toy Story Midway Mania! This attraction not only routinely has a wait of at least 45-60 minutes, it also features a FASTPASS that quickly after the main gates open has the return visit time reaching late into the afternoon and up against park closing.


March 10, 2014

At times, you will see this park the most in need of an overhaul. Not changes… just some newer things for changing times. It has celebrated 30 years now, and a few corners show that age… since the technology that was amazing in 1982 has now effectively been placed in the history books of 2013. Still, it is an impressive place. When opened, it was intended to be a unique theme park experience… and unique even by comparison to the “Disney theme park” that are Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom. I’ve heard it described by so many as a Disney World Fair, which to an extent works, and works quite nicely. But even that doesn’t convey what is available from Test Track, Soarin’, or Figment.


March 9, 2014

FASTPASS tickets for Under the Sea were printed at a station next to Mickey’s PhilharMagic. And when I say “next to” I do not mean in the general vicinity of… I mean the line to get into PhilharMagic is a step or two away from the machines. It’s not simply near the attraction… it shares the same façade, and pretty much literally the same ropes and stanchions. Sweet and easy -- to get to one… either one… you have to step around the other.


March 8, 2014

I’m just going to say it… order the Holiday Sandwich. For one thing, it’s brilliantly tasty… a great combination of turkey, stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce. The bigger thing though is that they’ve perfected it. Per-fect-ed it. Using a creative stacking ordering of the items, and just the right amount of each item, this hot sandwich that includes mayo, cranberry and gravy does not get soggy. It’s fantastic and delicious and wonderful from the first bite to the last.


October 11, 2013

Under the Sea is a ride where guests board a clam shell vehicle, and then are taken through the story of Ariel and Prince Eric. The bonus here is the amazing soundtrack of the film along with the incredible colors available from the movie and its characters. It feels fresh and instantly familiar… a treat enjoyed by Disney in many designs for attractions… but gets to incorporate so much beyond what you’ve seen before. This isn’t a high-tech, jaw-dropping, cutting-edge thrill ride. It is brilliant.


September 3, 2013

Here’s a good example… Mr. Ray. For the stage show, the actor is riding a bicycle. Well… actually… it’s a huge super-tricycle with a giant ray on top of it. So it’s a giant ray. That’s awesome. That’s awesome! But wait, wait… that’s a guy under the ray, peddling along on a really tricked out ride. With a giant ray on top. Look at that giant ray! Oh hey, the guy is turning that thing around. It’s a ray… no it’s a guy… no it’s… and the eyes keep going back and forth.


June 19, 2013

When we reach the entrance again, I still don’t see the kids, and I continue driving into another loop. Terry and Ellen decide they’ve wrapped up the first act and move on to warning me about traffic, pedestrians, and other assorted potential obstacles as they play off they idea that I am unaware of my surroundings. They warn me about palm trees. They warn me about the car constantly turning to the left. Heck, during this show Terry notices what sunglasses I’m wearing, and she warns me not to leave the ones she likes at home on the next trip. The doors we have asked Justin to look for are once again coming into view and the comedic geniuses are now cracking jokes about my slowing down since it will cost me on my lap time when I take off again.


April 17, 2013

Orange Lake is awesome. We’ve been very fortunate Ellen and Richard are great about sharing that with us. I will stay there anytime (and I can already tell you I will be thrilled with everything during that next visit). Still… it is nice to experience a bit of the Disney magic around the clock. There is nothing at any other resort that can perfectly match what a Disney property offers -- the movie nights… the themes at a pool or for a building or even inside the rooms… and so on. Heck, even the shuttle bus service to the airport was great.


April 17, 2013

The Haunted Mansion was awesome… and we stopped by on two occasions. The first was before the Halloween events had begun. The second trip though… the makeup had been amped up… cobwebs seemed to be significantly increased and utilized… and quite often, while not jump-out-at-you scary, it seemed like cast members would just-so-happen to be around corners, off to the side in doorways, and more or less suddenly appearing in places where you didn’t expect them. In short… oh yeah… the group working in the Haunted Mansion see the Not-So-Scary events as their party. (And embrace it they do.)


April 16, 2013

I said it before, during the Christmas event… and I find tonight that the thought is still true… if you are just looking to get on rides, these special events are awesome opportunities. We came for a special event, got in early, and the hit on the wallet was less than a full-day pass costs. After 7pm, it will be exclusively party guests inside… but we’ve already been on eight attractions in three hours. If we really wanted to push it and see the entire park, there is a very good chance that as the lines thinned out during the special event, we could have covered just about all of it.


April 7, 2013

Still… folks… this is Disney. And Disney takes a back seat to no one when it comes to giving 100% to anything they do. This might very well be set up and designed as a “value” resort. That doesn’t stop it from having incredible character statues and displays throughout the property. (The section for Cars was unreal and stunning… and this was after seeing the dazzling courtyard for The Little Mermaid (that also included a pool), amazing courtyard for The Lion King, and unreal design of the Finding Nemo section. I also found myself saying “mine… mine… mine…” during our walk from our room to the main building, and you would have too.)


February 13, 2013

“There’s Ellen
and Rich
and Sammy Sticks.
It’s the Ellen and Richard Show!”


January 23, 2012

On the Wednesday of our trip… December 7, 2011… Terry, Ellen and I went to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. That night, we wandered over to the awesome holiday display, the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. And, right in the middle of the chaos was a retail outlet, Youse Guys Moychundice... Enter Jamie.


January 23, 2012

In one way, we were very lucky. People normally can be seen staking out parade-route viewing spots well in advance of a start time. (And I mean at least an hour ahead of the parade, and often more.) We got off of Peter Pan and decided our timing and place in the park warranted going to Mickey’s PhilharMagic instead of rushing to the parade route. As we came around the castle, we ended up near the bridge that leads out of the center hub and into Liberty Square… and basically had a front row seat. That was nice.


January 23, 2012

We only ate one meal inside the park, and that was at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater. Loved it. Just over 12 years ago, Terry, Ellen, Richard and I went to the 50’s Prime Time Cafe and had a great time. So, Terry and I have been kicking around trying the Sci-Fi ever since. It didn’t work out in 2005… long story… but this time we got there as it opened and were able to get a table pretty much right away despite a full log of reservations.


April 25, 2011

As much as we enjoyed everything about the Magic Kingdom and the rides, two things should be mentioned: (1) Recapturing another time… a past visit… connections with family and friends over stories and movies and any number of emotional triggers… is an amazingly powerful element of the Disney experience. Call it memories… call it nostalgia… call it whatever you want… I think of my mother and 1979 each and every time I visit “it’s a small world” and I smile when the Jungle Cruise passes the elephants. I’m not alone. Time can be marked by so very many people in ways such as whether or not the kids were kept by your side or old enough to wander off for a time on their own.


April 25, 2011

One of the unusual aspects of this trip involved the entire reason for it… moving Ellen and Richard to a new home. That meant two funny things: (1) Almost every day had a set of unplanned plans. In other words, we had nothing set up to actually do on most days… and yet deliveries, cable/internet, shopping for items and other assorted tidbits were taking place, and some on a schedule. (2) A learning curve based off of necessity and general conversation was taking place… maybe this store had a chair for that desk… that looks like a department store, but the name is one none of us are familiar with, let’s stop and see what they sell… there’s a book I wanted to pick up… we could use a bottle of wine for dinner tonight… and any of a number of other boring and everyday passing thoughts and ideas and stops. Essentially, we were looking in plazas and at billboards and along the side of the road. We were spotting small local sandwich shops, national chain restaurants, and fresh fruit for sale.


March 4, 2011

Epcot is not a destination to toss to the side. Soarin’ may simply be one of the best attractions in any Florida theme park. I’m not saying it’s the most exciting… most innovative… most creative… or even the most entertaining. But when you combine the show content of the ride with its overall design, toss in the ability for pretty much the entire family to take part, and then add in the way you feel after the experience… yeah… amazing stuff. Plus, I guarantee you that when you unite Soarin’ with a visit to Journey into Imagination and its play area, you will be stunned to see the reaction you get from children.


March 4, 2011

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is small, but it just may be, by design and visual appearance, the most impressive area of a theme park I’ve ever set foot in. The buildings are wonderful, and do a simply brilliant job of bringing a fantasy world most of us know from books and movies to reality. The Butter Beer is amazing. You honestly wish the section was larger… and undoubtedly, there will be more of it as the years pass and additions are made. In a word… phenomenal… breathtaking… outstanding… pick the word, and it’s likely not good enough in describing how impressive this area is.


March 4, 2011

This trip to Orlando wasn’t like any other I have ever planned or experienced. It wasn’t based around Disney World… though we made it one of the Disney Parks, and over to one at Universal Studios. It wasn’t based upon eating out… though we shared some great meals at amazing restaurants. And… As I look at my notes… recall the events… create articles… and decide what stories to share… I keep remembering the peanut butter dilemma.


October 26, 2010

The problems were discovered over time. If we had walked in and immediately seen the showerhead, and the extension cord, and knew about the air conditioning, then sure… maybe we would have argued more at the front desk or tried to get our money back while changing hotels. But instead we hadn’t jumped in the shower yet or experienced the air conditioning… and we had returned the rental car by the time several things became evident.


October 25, 2010

Simply put, your day with the dolphin… whether meeting one up close for a few minutes, playing with one in a group swim, or experiencing any of the other exciting and fun options… is a great day with a real dolphin. As in… an amazing experience that doesn’t happen for most of us every day with a real dolphin. That means other people will be calling or will be there, and they will be looking to set up their plans. So don’t hesitate.


October 25, 2010

Out over the ocean side of the highway is a cloud. I point it out to Ellen and Richard and mention it looks like a funnel cloud. I tell them I think we’re looking at a waterspout, while thoughts of actually seeing a tornado race around my mind. The trouble was that the cloud was several miles offshore. And while it looked pretty well formed at the top, it was almost see-thru in quality near the water. It would get a bit more defined, look even bigger and stronger, and then kind of fade a bit. And in questioning ourselves about it, it never really occurred to us to pull over, wake Terry, and grab cameras. (I have zero clue why such a sensible idea never occurred to us.)


October 25, 2010

The Party of 5 is… go figure… the last to board the plane. The very last. A quick look around confirms (and both my memory and the margins of my notes agree) these five are the only ones standing as this event unfolds before us. She begins this morning’s show with Act One, Scene One ~ “There’s no place for us to sit”… always a strong opening number and destined to be a crowd favorite from this performance. Oh heck… here’s the Playbill for you…


September 1, 2009

Key West is one of those places where a sunset isn’t simply a part of every day. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that “Key West Sunset” is actually a religion. And quite worthy of such a possibility, the sunset we viewed on the boat certainly could be credited as evidence of a higher power.


September 1, 2009

Coopertown itself was pretty much an accidental find for us. We had been searching for options, wanting to combine an airboat ride with a visit to the Everglades. Established roughly 60 years ago, the property has an alligator exhibit out back and a restaurant up front. It has been used for several movies and television shoots, and… funny enough… if I asked you to draw a picture of what a low-key, small operation, Everglades airboat company looked like, Coopertown is exactly the kind of small, weathered, shack on the side of the road building you’d place in the scene.


August 2, 2009

Richard is talking about a pie we got from the Blonde Giraffe. We went down to Key West and I had some notes on a few places that all of us were interested by, which included a few that none of us thought we had tried before in any of our previous travels. The Blonde Giraffe was one of these places. Key lime pie dipped in chocolate and frozen… on a stick… oh yeah. And on our first trip to a store, I bought a slice of the meringue pie for later on. Once I tried it… dear lord… I had to have more. Well, Richard happens to be a pie fan… and he really enjoyed his slice of regular key lime pie from our visit… so I figured I’d be safe heading back and buying a full meringue pie. I was… we demolished that thing. Incredible. The regular pie is good… the meringue is a godsend.


Las Vegas

April 30, 2015

So, what happens on this guy’s second hand? Another 16 for him with the dealer showing another face card. I stand on a 19. Did he learn his lesson? Nope. Instead, when he saw my nine come out first he muttered to his date that he would have broken -- always nice to justify stupidity. Once again, he doesn’t hit. The dealer flips a five over, takes a five from the shoe to reach 20, and then takes both of our bets off the table.

From the Backpack ~ Originally posted January 2, 2005


April 28, 2015

He looks at the boxes, steps toward them, bends over so his eyes are perhaps a foot to a foot and a half away… and he squints at the pictures! I swear you would have thought he was looking at a picture of a couple of golden retrievers frolicking in a field of daisies instead of one blonde girl staring right at another blonde girl’s naked bum.

From the Backpack ~ Originally posted December 31, 2004


April 26, 2015

Tigg put an English muffin in the toaster and then went off to dry her hair (or something… I rarely pay attention to her morning make-up, hair drying routine… in any event, she’s in the bathroom). I’m looking for a glass so I can get some juice. I look down at the toaster… and… I see a flame! Ok… I’ll grant you… it’s not a big one. Not a stop-in-your-tracks, get-out-of-the-room, call-911 fire! It’s a burning muffin. But I ask you -- How many hotels have you stayed in over the course of traveling in your life? And the total number of fires you have encountered… big or burning-muffin-small… would be?

From the Backpack ~ Originally posted December 30, 2004


April 25, 2015

At 50 stories in height… about 460 feet… the Vegas tower is roughly half the size of the actual Eiffel Tower. Evidently there were plans to create a full-size version, but the location of McCarran Airport made that impossible. If you travel to Las Vegas, do whatever you can to get to Paris and go to the top of the Eiffel Tower. The view is spectacular… day or night. Paris is directly across the street from Bellagio, making the tower a wonderful place to watch the water fountains from. Tigg and I went up there around sunset, and over the course of about twenty to thirty minutes, watching Vegas go from day to night was breathtaking.

From the Backpack ~ Originally posted December 30, 2004


August 2, 2009

We arrive and go to the French Market Buffet. I have no idea where the name came from, but there is absolutely nothing to remind you of a French market. (Not that I’ve ever been to an actual, in France, French market. Just… you know… trust me. Unless some miraculous transformation takes place around dinner service… yeah… umm, no. Nothing French market-y.) It’s a sterile environment… lots of tables… and several buffet stations. And while everything looks fine in general, the reality is that the entire production could have used some modifications… some upgrades… some changes in… oh… say… 1983. Seriously… it reminded me of a cafeteria from junior high school that needed alot of work.


August 2, 2009

Ellen takes some sort of perverse delight from her tomato juice. It starts when she spots it on the menu… sees it on another table… or gets confirmation from a waitress that the restaurant does indeed offer such a delicacy. Her eyes immediately glaze over a bit, looking remarkably like a 6-year old that was just offered ice cream, knows she shouldn’t be getting ice cream, and believes that everyone else at her table is going to be jealous once that ice cream arrives. Yeah… that’s the look. The problem is… Terry and I figure she’s stoned. Because… let’s be honest… it’s not ice cream. It’s tomato juice!


March 19, 2009

We talk over some options and then head over to The Orleans… another place we never visited on our first trip. And this time, the first experience is going to be very different. The decision is quickly made to find a place to eat… we’re all starving. After some glances around, we finally pick Don Miguel’s Cantina… a small place featuring Mexican food, but more importantly with a sign promising 99-cent margaritas and half-priced appetizers. This may have been one of the greatest accidental finds we have ever experienced on a trip.


February 11, 2009
Including the Grand Canyon and Route 66 were highlights of this trip for me… and neither one was too expensive, more an investment of time. For the money-no-object idea, I’d go with either O or Love… you can’t go wrong with either show.


New Hampshire

April 6, 2013

The hotel staff at Eagle Mountain. Very friendly, incredibly helpful, and I don’t think I ever saw them without a smile or helpful offer. On Sunday night we walked into an area that was kind of like a den in a house… a couple of tables, some chairs, lots of pictures and knickknacks, and a few shelves filled with books. We hadn’t dealt the first hand of cards and Gregory had stepped in from the front desk to ask if we wanted the fireplace started or needed anything else.


April 6, 2013

I will tell you first that there is a disagreement over who forgot the bag. Now… in my defense… this was the bag Terry packed and had used for not only toothbrushes and such, but also to hide a few birthday presents she had for me. And, it was never placed with the bags containing our clothes, laptop, camera and such that I was charged with getting to the car. And, it was found on the ironing board next to Terry’s dresser when we got back home. So use your own decision-making process and consider the evidence as you will… but we decided that we forgot it.


New Jersey

July 27, 2010
Over the course of our trip we actually did explore a bit more than we expected, and visited several properties… Bally’s, Caesars, Bogota, Harrah’s, Showboat, and Taj Mahal. Even ate at the Rainforest Café on the last day, so toss in Trump Plaza if you wish. And out of all of those properties, only two were… well… I suppose clean is the word I’m looking for.


New York

January 24, 2017
Tree lined roads. The occasional cider mill and ice cream stand. Boat docks and tractors far more prevalent than any signs for recognizable chains of restaurants or stores. Not only is it a relaxing path to navigate, it almost seems to possess a supernatural power for removing any and all complex thoughts from your mind. It is almost meditative nirvana.


March 10, 2016
New York is an entirely different concept, and yet the idea itself applies. Oh… it sounds fine when you consider setting off from near Rockefeller Plaza for the Empire State Building on foot. Depending on exactly where you are standing as you begin, that’s about 15 blocks and roughly a mile straight along 5th Avenue. Actually, it… takes… for-E-VER.


March 5, 2016
Depending on your timing, tolerance for crowds, and desire to see some Christmas decorations in New York City, there are a few things that really need to be on your must list. Something like Central Park would probably be in your sights, with thoughts of a carriage ride. Different shopping options and restaurants might be debated. Perhaps a show at Radio City Music Hall will be the centerpiece of your visit. Almost certainly though, if it’s Christmas decorations you want, you are going to be kicking around Rockefeller Plaza while branching out to Times Square and 5th Avenue.


July 26, 2010
My lovely bride did not pour the rest of my hot chocolate over the tank’s head the way she wanted to. And she didn’t belt her the way she wanted to. That was probably fortunate considering the police officers standing a few feet away on the street. But the shove was noticeable enough that a ring about ten people deep around cheered when my wife pushed back and firmly said “watch it” to the little beast.



September 23, 2010

Now… we were in Progressive Field… and when we posed the “where would you go for lunch today” question, the answer was apparently pretty simple.The Winking Lizard. Diane didn’t hesitate at all.



September 23, 2010

We drove along Grandview Avenue and stopped a couple of times to take in the sight of the city across the Monongahela River. The street name says it all… grand view. Simply incredible. In a city that was filled from beginning to end with surprises… including the amazing unveiling of the city when using the Fort Pitt Tunnel… this was one of the best. I’m almost ready to declare it a must-do if you visit the city, because it really brings the entire picture together… the rivers… the city… the sporting venues… fantastic. Heck… let’s do it… The overlook is a must-do when visiting the city.



February 11, 2017

We could go on, but the general idea I want to establish is that even with an occasional mention of Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room to come across… you are going to find other places noted more prominently, and are actually far more likely to find restaurant information for The Lady & Sons. And dear lord, in my opinion, such misinformation and poor references as presenting the Paula Deen landmark over The Wilkes House should be punishable with jail time.


April 3, 2013

Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room.

The Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist.

Apart from those two musts, try a picnic in a square or park, or a visit to one of the historic homes.

Include Mrs. Wilkes’ and St. John’s, and Savannah will impress you.


April 3, 2013

It is during this run that we begin to see the moss in the trees. And… I can tell you… it is an amazing sight. At night it creates an almost haunting atmosphere in the light from the moon or streetlamps. (Actually… not almost. It does create a haunting atmosphere.) During the day it adds a fullness to the trees in a way no other place I’ve been can claim. And to say there is a lot of moss doesn’t even really capture the reality.


February 12, 2013

It’s like some magic spell that Savannah holds over people where only two responses are permissible. Reaction one -- someone that hasn’t been to Savannah expresses that they have it rated highly on their someday list. And reaction two -- someone that has been to Savannah confirms that it’s worthy of a place near the top on everyone’s someday list. Happens every time.




March 13, 2021

The Mikado Teppanyaki restaurant was our destination for dinner. Very good meal, and we enjoy Japanese steakhouses so it absolutely worked and we enjoyed it. But it did feel a bit strange. When you consider the run of meals we had in and around Seattle… from the brilliance of The Pink Door to the fabulous Paseo, from the views of Ray’s Boathouse to the community of Linda’s Wood Fired Kitchen, all topped off with the pie at Copper Creek Inn… it seemed rather ordinary.


February 6, 2021

On the Red Lion Hotel Port Angeles site, there is a segment that offers a list providing drop-down links with one of them dedicated to dining. Click on it, and it opens a segment that… seriously… has a caption about the best of Port Angeles restaurants overall. It actually begins by saying the hotel is “surrounded” with fantastic dining options. Then, and only after explaining that there are great options nearby, it mentions that if you don’t feel like hopping in the car, they do have a restaurant on property. It is there, and from what I found only there, that it is shown to be CrabHouse. One word, two caps. But think about that… you have a restaurant as part of your building. It is so delicious and incredible and amazing that to promote it you write that there are lots of other places to eat that are close and really good, but if you’re tired of driving and don’t want to leave they do have a place on property.


October 16, 2018

San Juan Island has some remarkable history. Roughly one-hundred and fifty years ago, the governments of Great Britain and America agreed to jointly occupy the island while some boundary disputes and issues were dealt with. As a result, on opposite sides of the island are locations that are still designated as “English Camp” and “American Camp” areas. Our morning drive here has brought us to the southern end of the island, and near the American Camp.


February 25, 2017

As Terry returned to the table, Sandy was arriving with another blackberry pie a la mode for her. I tried to explain that I had to eat her original slice, as it was so hot the ice cream was melting. I didn’t want her to have pie a la soup. And she almost bought it… until she took her first taste and realized why I could not turn away from temptation.


April 4, 2016

I remember years ago… perhaps twenty-four or twenty-five… a friend of mine and I were discussing something and the state of Washington came up. He told me at the time that if I moved there for any length of time I’d likely never come back. Having now been to the great northwest, I fully understand what he meant.


South Carolina


October 16, 2017

The streets aren’t flooded. They are overflowing in places with water surging along in riptide-like currents. Rain is dropping in sheets from the skies. It is breathtaking in scope and power, having really moved in seconds from strong storm to sweeping ferocity of danger. The heavy stuff is apparently coming down.


August 4, 2017

Myrtle Beach was a brilliant combination of everything. From what we saw, it worked. Big tourism driven elements to create attention and provide for the marketing. Local and regional offerings that added plenty of opportunities to enjoy the things you would never find at home. And plenty of places—at virtually every corner—where you could refocus on the basics, recharge yourself, and just kind of smile without having to think too hard or work at it.


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