Monday, August 11, 2014

Goodbye, Mork!

Robin Williams
July 21, 1951 - August 11, 2014

 I was shocked and saddened when I heard today that Robin Williams was dead. He is one of my all time favorite actors. A few of the shows and movies of his that I love are . . .
Mork & Mindy
Aladdin
Mrs. Doubtfire
Hook
Dead Poets Society
Jumanji
The Birdcage
Robots
He always made me laugh. It is sad that a man that brought such joy to tons of people succumbed to depression. I love what President Obama had to say about Mr. Williams . . .
"Robin Williams was an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny, a president, a professor, a bangarang Peter Pan, and everything in between. But he was one of a kind. He arrived in our lives as an alien -- but he ended up touching every element of the human spirit. He made us laugh. He made us cry. He gave his immeasurable talent freely and generously to those who needed it most -- from our troops stationed abroad to the marginalized on our own streets."
Robin, thanks for all the laughs! You will be missed.

Monday, March 10, 2014

From Arizona to Santa Fe

Well today we drive back to Santa Fe and Regina's birthday trip comes to an end. So far we have had a great time. We decided we weren't in a great hurry to get started so we took our time getting ready and then loaded the car before heading into Williams. I wanted to get a couple of stamps that they have at the Visitor Center. After getting the stamps we headed to the Grand Depot Café for a quick breakfast before heading out. We arrived sometime around 9:30am because as we were being seated the train left for the Grand Canyon. Once we were done with breakfast we went to the gift shop so that I could pick up a book and then we made our way to the car and started our journey home.

We took I40 east and drove until we got to Holbrook. We took this exit and made a stop at Jim Gray's Petrified Wood Company. We had a coupon for a free ½ pound piece of petrified wood. We also did a little shopping and the continued to the south entrance of Petrified Forest National Park. After paying the entrance fee we made a stop at the Visitor Center to get Passport Stamps and walk the Giant Logs Trail. Then we began our 28 mile drive through the park. During the drive we made stops at different points and took pictures and did some short walks. The places we stopped at were Agate House, Crystal Forest, Jasper Forest, Agate Bridge, The Teepees, Newspaper Rock and Puerco Pueblo. By this time we were getting pretty tired so we didn't stop again until we reached the Visitor Center at the north end of the park. I got some more Passport Stamps and then we headed out - both of us were ready to be in Santa Fe. We only made two stops along the way - one to put gas in the car and go to the restroom and then one in Albuquerque to get something to eat. We finally arrived in Santa Fe sometime around 8:00am and I was tired. We visited with Thomas for a little bit and then I took a shower. Now that I have gotten this done I can get some sleep. I take Regina to the airport tomorrow and I really hope she had a great birthday and trip. I know I had a great time and I am glad I got a chance to visit with my friend.

Here is a slideshow with a few more photos of the trip. I hope you enjoy it.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

More at the Canyon and then Train Ride Back to Williams

We spent last night at the Maswik Lodge at the Grand Canyon and today we had until 3:00pm to do things. Since we had a good part of the day we decided to not set an alarm and just wake up whenever. That ended up being around 8:00am. So we got our bags packed and put them in the little hallway leading to the door so that they could be picked up and brought to the train for our return trip to Williams. Now we were ready to see more of the canyon.


We caught the free shuttle in the front of the main building of the hotel and rode to the Grand Canyon Visitor Center. We went into the Visitor Center and I got my National Park Passport Stamps and then we went to the Café at Mather Point and had a little breakfast. Next we walked over to the Bookstore. Here I got more Passport Stamps and a few other things and then we headed out for our walk along the rim back to the train depot. We filled our water bottles at a water filling station and then we were off. Not far in our walk we stopped at Mather Point and took lots of pictures then we headed out on the trail to Yavapai Point. Here they have great observation areas and a geology museum and I also got more Passport Stamps. After a few more pictures we continued on our walk. This trail is known as the Rim Trail but they have given it another name - Trail of Time. The trail is marked along the way showing different geologic features at different periods of time - you can even find your age along the way and see how things have changed. Here are a few links about the Trail of Time . . .

The New Trail of Time at Grand Canyon National Park - A Review
Grand Canyon's Trail of Time Receives National Recognition
Grand Canyon National Park to Dedicate the Trail of Time
Trail of Time is a Must-see at Grand Canyon National Park
The New Trail of Time at Grand Canyon National Park

Along the way we took pictures and enjoyed the views, we even found a great place to sit and look at the canyon and have a little snack. I am not sure how long it took us to walk the trail, but it was easy (paved and flat) the entire way. But before we knew it we had arrived at the El Tovar Lodge. It was sometime around 1:00pm and we decided it would be a good time to have a little lunch. And since we were at the El Tovar we decided to eat there - El Tovar Dining Room and Lounge. We had a nice relaxing and delicious lunch and visited for a while. When we were done we headed over to the Bright Angel Lodge to get some ice cream at the Bright Angel Fountain. After that we walked to the train depot, but we were early. So we found a picnic table outside and sat and relaxed until they were ready for us to board the train. We ended up visiting with a nice couple from Estes Park. They had ridden with us on the train yesterday in the same car.

It wasn't long before they called for boarding and we were back on the train headed back to Williams. One thing I forgot to mention was that by this time my allergies were full blown and I was feeling like crap. But no worries all I had to do was sit back and enjoy the ride. During the trip back they had snacks (sodas, cheese, crackers and fruit), we had another entertainer play guitar and sing and we had a champagne toast to celebrate the trip. Oh, and train robbers took over the train - yes, we were robbed - just as a stunt. In no time at all we were back in Williams and the first thing I did was buy some Claritin and then we went over to the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel to check in. Back in the room I took my allergy medicine and then we got settled and waited for our luggage to arrive. When we got our luggage we freshened up and then headed into Williams. On Friday night when we walked around Williams we saw a place with pie and stopped in - but we weren't hungry for it then so we didn't get any. But we had been thinking about it so we stopped in and each got a piece of pie to bring back to the room. From the pie place we went to the Grand Depot Café for dinner - but I don't think either one of us was very hungry and I wasn't feeling all that great, but we ate a little and then returned to the room. I decided I wanted to get my things packed and organized for our drive home tomorrow, so I got that done and then I took a shower. Now I need to get some rest so that I am feeling better and I can enjoy the trip home.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Riding the Train and Seeing the South Rim

Today was our train ride from Williams to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. We were up at 7:00am so that we could get ready and bring our luggage down to the lobby so that they could load it on the train. After dropping off the luggage we headed to the Grand Depot Cafe for some breakfast and then we made our way to the depot to wait to board the train. There was a wild west shootout show but we didn't go and watch it, instead we walked around and took a few pictures. Then we lined up to board our car - we rode in the Kokopelli Observation Dome Car. You sit a little higher and have great views. Once on board we got settled and in no time the train left the depot headed for the Grand Canyon. While on board they had snacks and drinks available for us and we had a singer come and entertain us. His name was Calvin Kristoffersen and I really enjoyed listening to him. I even ended up buying one of his CD's. The train ride was a little over two hours and when we arrived at the Grand Canyon we immediately boarded a bus for an hour and a half tour along Hermit Road. We didn't actually get very far down the road but we did make two stops - one at Hopi Point and one at Mohave Point. There are great views of the canyon at both of these areas. We had about 30 minutes at each stop. As we were heading out on the road we encountered a few elk - they are huge. The tour bus then dropped us off at Bright Angel Lodge. Here we did a little shopping and then went into the lounge and had a little light snack while we thought about what we wanted to do next. After eating we decided to walk along the Rim Trail for a short distance. We left Bright Angel Lodge and walked west. Our first stop was at Lookout Studio - here we walked out to the terrace for an absolutely great view of the canyon. We didn't stay out there long because it was a bit windy and cold, but we definitely loved the views. From here we went to Kolb Studio. At the Studio I got my National Park Passport Stamps first thing and then we looked around a bit before heading out again. Next we took a short walk down the Bright Angel Trail. We didn't go very far, just a little ways past the first tunnel and then turned around and went back to the Rim Trail. This time we walked east along the trail stopping at any view point we encountered. Then we went into El Tovar Lodge just to look around and see what it was all about. Next we crossed over to Verkamp's Visitor Center where I got more Passport Stamps and we looked around the gift shop.

By this time we were ready to call it a day and decided to head to the hotel. We followed the Rim Trail back to the newly renovated Bright Angel Trailhead (here are pictures of the trailhead renovation and here is an article about the renovation) and then walked down Village Loop Drive to the Maswik Lodge. We got checked in and walked to find our room which was in a separate building from the registration desk. Thankfully it was still light outside because we had a little trouble finding the building and I am not sure we could have found it if it was dark. After getting settled in and relaxing for a few minutes we headed back to the main building to get something to eat. The eating area is like a food court. They have different sections with different types of food and they have a separate pizza pub. After eating we returned to the room to get some rest.

We had a great day on the train and walking the rim around the Grand Canyon Village. Now it is time to sleep as we have another full day tomorrow.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Driving to Williams, AZ

Yesterday my friend Regina (we went to Physical Therapy School together) flew to New Mexico to spend a long weekend with me and celebrate her birthday. The actual plan was for her to fly to New Mexico and then the two of us would drive together to Williams, AZ to take the train to the Grand Canyon. And that is what we are doing.
Today we left Santa Fe at 8:15am headed for Arizona. The drive was pretty uneventful - I25 south to Albuquerque then I40 west to Williams. We stopped along the way to fill the car with gas and at a couple of rest areas for the bathroom and to take a few pictures. We did lots of talking and planning on what we would do at the Grand Canyon. We arrived in Williams around 3:30pm and made our way to the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel to check in. We got things settled in our room and then decided to go walking in town. First we went to the Train Depot and picked up our tickets for weekend. We also looked around the gift shop and then headed up the street to the Williams Visitor Center to get some maps and brochures. Then we walked a little ways up and down Route 66 in downtown. Around 6:00pm we made our way to the Grand Depot Cafe for dinner. After dinner we settled in our room and relaxed. It was a good day and we have lots more things to do this weekend.

Friday, February 28, 2014

One Last Day in DC

It was our last day in DC and we didn't have much planned. Thomas had a couple of meetings this morning and since I am not feeling that great I decided to stay at the hotel and begin packing for our flight home in the morning. I got about 80% of the packing done (both mine and Thomas') and then I did some work on the computer. Thomas returned to the room about 10:30am and changed from his suit into some jeans and then we headed out at a little after 11:00am. We met Muffet in the lobby and headed out to find some lunch at The Corner Bakery. After a relaxing lunch we decided to head to the Capitol and take a tour. We had a scheduled tour at 3:00pm but decided we didn't want to wait - so we cancelled that one and just did a walk up tour at the Capitol Visitor Center.

The Capitol tour starts with a short film and then you form lines and meet your tour guide. Then you get a very quick tour of the Crypt, the Rotunda and the National Statuary Hall. I am not sure but I think the tour lasted less than 45 minutes. Again, like the White House, I was disappointed. I really don't fell like it was worth my time, really almost a waste. We also had passes from one of our Senators to tour the House and Senate Galleries. We could only view the House Gallery because the Senate area was closed. Again this was disappointing - you literally just enter the gallery and take a look at the chambers and then you leave. I feel it is really insulting to the American people who pay for these buildings with our tax dollars and we aren't able to really see them. Anyway, I can say I was there and saw them but won't waste my time doing that again. We left the Capitol and once outside we talked about what we wanted to do next. We decided to take the Metro to Dupont Circle and walk around for a while. It was a quick ride to Dupont and we spent about an hour walking around the area. We too a short walk down Embassy Row and then headed back to the hotel. We took the Metro back to Union Station (closest stop to our hotel) and then went back to the hotel and take a break.

Thomas and I were still not feeling well so we took a short nap. When we woke up we decided to go to dinner at The Dubliner just around the corner and have an early dinner and get to bed early so that hopefully we feel better for our flight at 6:00am tomorrow. We had a quick dinner and then returned to the hotel where I now complete this post. Now I am going to shower and get to bed for some rest. It has been a wonderful trip and I have scratched off quite a few things from my bucket list and I am happy about that. Now it is time to get back to our normal routine.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Walking the Mall and the Tidal Basin


This morning I left the hotel around 8:30am and headed out for the day. It was a nice beautiful day with no snow but it was still cold, around 32° when I headed out. I was hungry and I wanted some coffee so I stopped two block from the hotel at the West Wing Cafe for breakfast. While eating I looked at a map of the Mall and made plans for the day. I wasn't sure if I would get everything done or not but at least I had a plan. 
As I left the cafe I headed down D St. for one block and then turned onto First St. and headed for the Capitol. I didn't actually go to the Capitol but walked in front of it along First St. to the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial. I took some pictures of the area and then made my way to the United States Botanic Garden. They were having an orchid exhibit called Orchid Symphony. I took my time looking around and enjoyed the incredible variety of orchids. I took tons of pictures and also looked into other parts of the Conservatory - the Jungle, the World Deserts and the Medicinal Plants. I also took some time to find a letterbox here. You can read about that at Letterboxing in DC.  I finally left the gardens and started walking along the Mall headed west. I took my time walking, enjoying the area and made my next stop at the Washington Monument Book Store. I stopped here to get more National Passport Cancellation Stamps. I really wanted to see the monument but it is closed now. This is my second visit to DC and I wasn't able to see the monument the last time either. Last time they were doing renovations and this time they are completing repairs from an earthquake a couple of years ago. So after getting my stamps I continued on my journey. I made my way to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The last time I was here I opted not to go to this museum - I wasn't sure I could handle it. But this time I made plans to visit and told myself it was something I needed to do. So here I was - ready or not.  I entered and went to the information desk, where I was kind of put off. One man at the desk asked me "What do you need?" and I thought to myself that I should say something totally weird. What did he think I was there for. So I said, "Well, I would like to tour the museum." and all he did was point to my left and said, "Go there.". I kind of felt like I was bothering him. So I just asked a woman that was standing at the far end of the information desk what I needed to do. She gave me much more helpful information and I was on my way. As I approached the elevators to make my way to the 4th floor for the Permanent Exhibition another woman told me to pick up an Identification Card that details the experiences of one person who was persecuted by Nazi Germany and its collaborators. So I entered the elevator with my card (which was for Julian Noga) and took the short ride up to the beginning of the exhibits. I exited into a somber, gray, black and white area with very soft lighting. This sets the tone for the entire exhibit. I spent a little over two hours walking through the exhibits. There is so much to see and read that I was overwhelmed and couldn't read every caption on every photo or item. Some things that stood out to me were - the railcar, the shoe exhibit, the tower of photos and the room where you can listen to survivor stories. I am so happy I visited this museum and I will definitely make plans to go back the next time I am in DC. I am sure I will pick up more information with each visit. If you are planning to be in DC I urge you to make time for this museum - it is truly life changing. At the end of your tour you can type the person's name from the ID card you have and see what happened to this person - they ask you to share your person's story in order to keep the history alive - so please read about Julian Noga. I left the museum and walked into a beautiful sunshiny day thankful for my life.

I made my way over to the Tidal Basin and found a bench to sit and have a snack and some water before continuing on my walk. After about 15 minutes I started walking clockwise around the Tidal Basin. My first stop was at the Jefferson Memorial (my second favorite President) and took some pictures, got my cancellation stamps and then sat on a bench and read the inscriptions around the memorial. I continued my walk and I made a little detour to see the Cuban Friendship Urn and the George Mason Memorial. Next I continued onto Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.  While I was on my walk around the Tidal Basin I did some letterboxing and you can read about it at Letterboxing in DC. I also stopped at the bookstores for the different monuments to collect more cancellation stamps. From the MLK monument I made my way back to the Mall and stopped at the Korean War Memorial and then went to the Lincoln Memorial. When I arrived at the Lincoln Memorial it was a little crowded and there were lots of loud, rambuctious kids. So I walked around to the back of the memorial and sat on the ground and looked out across the Potomac. After about 20 minutes I went back up to the memorial and thankfully most of the people had left. I read all the inscriptions and then sat next to one of the columns and watched Lincoln sit and stare across the Mall. It was so peaceful. I really admire this man and he is the one person I would love to have dinner with and get to talk to. A half hour later I decided I needed to continue on with my walk. I went to the Vietnam Memorial and the Women's Vietnam Memorial and then the World War II Memorial. I gathered more cancellation stamps and did a little more letterboxing and you can read about that at Letterboxing in DC.

It was now 5:30pm and getting colder so I decided to make my way back to the hotel. I had a nice walk along the Mall and decided to stop back in at the West Wing Cafe and get a sandwich to take back to the hotel. Thomas was at a dinner meeting so I ate and watched a little TV. Then I took a shower before writing this blog. I am feeling a little worse than yesterday - I am more congested and a little chilled and I am starting to cough a little. Maybe I shouldn't have spent so much time out in the cold. Oh well, I will take some medicine and get some rest tonight. We have one more day in DC.