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Kex's Corner.

    



TRAVEL TALES 2013: Kex And Joy North of the Border, eh?

Day One: Kiri seemed to have it figured out Friday night. The luggage had been brought home from storage for awhile and it was getting packed. When the neighbor lady came to get the key Friday evening, the horrible truth seemed to be driven home: Her people were going away for awhile. She stayed pretty close to me when she could Saturday, although we had a few errands to run, along with visiting the Arvada Sand Castle festival. It wasn't that big of a deal considering how little coastline we have in Colorado, so people don't get a lot of practice.

Sunday morning probably began earlier than it needed to. For one thing, Kiri let out a protest by walking up and down the hall at 3 AM howling. It didn't last long, just long enough to make a point. I had set the alarm for 5, recalling that our flight was somewhat after 10 AM, but I didn't double check to note it was actually at 10:55 so we probably could have slept for another hour. But we got up with the alarm and got ready. Miss Kiri laid in the basement and pouted.

We got to the Park and Ride where we catch the Arvada A-Ride Shuttle to the airport. I dropped Joyce off at the corner and put the luggage on the sidewalk, allowing for no opportunity for falls or mishaps. We safely boarded the shuttle and were on our way to DIA, which if you have ever been to Denver, you are aware that it is about half way to Kansas.

By the time we reached the Air Canada check in area, it was nearly 7 AM, but no one was there yet. Some attendant who didn't know what he was talking about told us we could check in at the United counter, so we went over there. The line was ridiculously long, but it moved quickly. Upon reaching the front of the line, we found out what I already suspected: We couldn't check in there. So, back to Air Canada most of 45 minutes later. Still no one there. The Air Canada people finally showed up around 8:30 and we got checked in.

From there, we proceeded through the TSA check in which is always something of an adventure given the load of electronic equipment we seem to need to take regardless of where we go. Amazingly enough, they were all remarkably friendly. Then the most stunning moment of the day came when we discovered that our departure gate was the first one on the concourse. Typically, our gate is so far down that we have to board another plane just to get there. Then, two more shocking events. First, after Air Canada boarded their first class passengers, they boarded the plane FROM THE BACK!!! Someone out there is actually listening! Thank you Air Canada! That was the quickest I have ever seen a plane get loaded. Not only that, but very few of the passengers were attempting to load a U Haul into the overhead compartments. It was amazing.

Of course, the second astonishing point was that we actually made it onto the plane with no necessity of either of us needing medical assistance. That has been something of an issue the past couple of years. Before we knew it, we were airborne and east bound.

I must say I felt incredibly safe on this flight after seeing one of our flight attendants. I don't want to imply that she was a formidable looking woman, so I'll just come out and say it. She was a formidable looking woman. This lady could hunt grizzly bears with an emory board. If there had been any hijackers on the plane, they'd have stayed in their seats. I think I recognized this lady from the Canadian Women's Hockey Team. Evidently they don't have any tournaments coming up because she hadn't started growing her playoff beard.

We proceeded on through all the customs protocol, got our car and headed on the the motel. The journey was surprisingly simple, although I have a question for the Canadian people. What is it with you people and turn signals? Or more accurately, 1. Do you know you actually have them on your car and why don't you use them...ever?

After arriving at the hotel, we got dinner and spent the evening resting. We are happy to be here in Canada.

Day 2: Today was a day for tours and learning things. First of all, Canadians have eliminated dumb, annoying things from their lives like pennies. That makes a lot of sense because there is absolutely nothing you can do with a penny anyway, aside from accumulating them in your pocket. It also costs more to make them than they are worth, so why bother with them? It appears that they have more or less eliminated paper dollar bills here too. If you get change for a dollar, you get a gold coin called a Loonie. They call it that because it has a loon on one side and a great big bird on the other. If you have two dollars in change, you get a different coin called a Toonie. It has a nasty looking creature on one side and a polar bear on the back.

We started the day with a hop on hop off tour of Toronto, although we didn't do any hopping the first time. We took the tour all the way around, learning a little bit about where things are and what we might like to go back and see during our stay here. I think the main thing that I learned is that Toronto as a collective entity should have about the same reaction to fire as Frankenstein's monster. This place evidently goes up in flames like it was soaked in kerosene. I guess that is probably a good thing, as it has allowed them to correct some of their past mistakes and just rebuild things. Too bad it never occured to anyone to widen some of the roads while they were doing it.

The other thing I learned is that evidently, people in Toronto must like each other a lot. They also want a lot more people here that they can like. They build condos here like the Chinese make cheap plastic crap. As close as I can tell, the ultimate goal in this city is to build enough condos so that 80 million people can live in an area of about 3 square miles. I have nothing against condos. In fact, we live in one. I guess it all sort of makes sense. If you can pack everything and everyone closer together, everyone can walk or ride their bike everywhere and considering gas prices here, I can see why they are interested in that. Also, if you eliminate cars, the danger of getting run over when you walk across the street whenever you want sort of vanishes. People here do that, and why they don't kill a thousand people a day here is sort of a mystery.

After our first loop around the city, we went back to the harbor district and took a boat tour around the islands that are just south of the city. If I were an actual Canadian rather than a tourist, I would have stuck and entirely unnecessary letter "u" there in the middle of the word "harbor." Canadians may have eliminated pennies and paper dollars, but they still waste letter "u"s whenever they get the opportunity.

I noticed something kind of weird when we were taking the tours today. A lot of the tour guides seemed to be from various places in the British Isles...Ireland, Scotland etc. I suppose if you are young and single, spending the summer in Toronto instead of someplace in England would be kind of fun. But how come there aren't more locals doing the job? Maybe they sail off the the British Isles to do tours of London? I guess it doesn't matter much. They could tell me anything they want about what I am seeing on the tour and I'll probably believe it.

Hmmm, what else did I learn today? Well, there are about 82 languages spoken in Toronto, of which, French only ranks about 12th. Canadians don't say "eh" quite as often as I expected. There really are people crazy enough to do that ledge walk on the CN Tower even though it costs a couple of hundred bucks. I guess we'll get to see them close up tomorrow, since we will be going up there.

Also on tap for tomorrow, probably a tour of the Rogers Centre and the game between the Blue Jays and the Rockies. We are settled in for the evening as I write, watching tonight's game on the television. The weather was beautiful today, inspite of a forecast of rain that never came. All kidding aside, this is also a beautiful city and we are both very impressed with what we have seen so far. We are very much looking forward to seeing more tomorrow.

Day 3: I will admit it upfront, in the first paragraph without embarrassment or reservation. When it comes to high places, I am the biggest wuss on the planet. Under certain circumstances, I don't have huge problems with high places. I have been to the top of Pike's Peak...that didn't bother me much. I am still on solid ground up there and I know the mountain isn't going anywhere. I don't like flying much, but I do it a lot and of the dozen or so things I don't like about it, the high places aspect is at the bottom of the list. But CN Tower was a challenge for me.

Now, being up there was okay in itself. Going up in the elevator wasn't my favorite part of the experience but I could handle it. When I was inside looking out in the observation area, I could deal with that. Going outside, not so much. I could do it for a brief time but then I wanted to be back inside. But when it came to that glass floor thing...no. That just isn't for me. I walked over there thinking I could handle it, took one look down, the world started spinning around at a jillion miles an hour and I backed away. Yes, I know they say that glass can handle the weight of 16 hippos. Great. Get 16 hippos on the elevator, stack them on that glass while I am watching and maybe I'll take a turn. BUT...probably not. I wanted to take a picture of our Dinger doll laying on the glass. Joyce put him on there and I took the picture, but that was REALLY stretching my capabilities. One of the tour ladies walked onto it and jumped up and down to make a point to me. I wasn't impressed. I just can't deal with that. Sorry world. When it comes to standing on a piece of glass and looking down when I am 101 stories above the ground...NOT...GOING...TO...HAPPEN!!!!

Yes, I know that 4 year-old kids walk on that glass floor, lay on it, jump up and down on it...good for them. But my acrophobia in that situation goes beyond mere phobia to something about 8 levels higher. I make no apologies for that. It is simply part of what I am. So, call me a wuss if necessary. But I'm not standing, walking jumping or even looking down from a glass floor 101 freaking stories above ground level in a building. NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.

Now, if you want to call THAT irrational, I want you people to look at this: http://www.edgewalkcntower.ca/ (the link will appear at the bottom if you don't want to type it in) Yes, this piece of insanity is called the CN Tower Edge Walk and people actually do this. In fact, people pay a crap load of money for the opportunity to do this; something on the plus side of a couple of hundred bucks each. I am not sure that this is a precise psychological term, but I think professionals would call the desire to do this, a death wish. For the people that actually shell out the bucks and actually do it, and we saw several today, I think this IS the precise psychological term: BAT SHIT CRAZY.

There are certain requirements aside from shelling out a couple hundred dollars worth of your hard earned money and being BSC. You can't be under the influence of any alcohol or drugs and you probably have to promise not to unhook yourself and plunge 101 stories to a gooey death. The only way you COULD have any chance to convince me to do that would be to get me incredibly loaded, pay me a lot more than the couple of hundred bucks and then you'd probably still have a fight on your hands.

Anyway, today we did do the CN Tower thing. I came, I saw and I survived because I didn't really do the glass floor. Then we did the stadium tour at Rogers Centre. It is a very nice facility...showing its age a little, but we've seen newer facilities not nearly as pleasant. From there, we checked out the gift store at the hockey hall of fame, visited what is reputed to be the best food market in the world and who are we to argue? And we went to the old distillery district. Once there we had a great lunch that was probably a little overpriced, but what the heck? We are on vacation.

After all that, it was time to head for the Rockies game. As it turned out, I am sure glad that Toronto has been a fun place to visit because I would have hated to have traveled 2000 miles to see the performance the Rockies turned in tonight. They lost 8-3 in an effort that was a new height in lackluster. The Rockies looked like they wanted to be doing ANYTHING other than playing baseball tonight. Maybe they wanted to be doing the CN Tower Edge Walk. It certainly would have been more entertaining to watch.

Day 4: The original plan for day 4 was a visit to the Royal Ontario Museum, but after packing a lot more into day 3 than we originally planned, we were both ready to slow things down a little for a day. We didn't get up particularly early and put off making any decisions about the activities for the day until after breakfast.

Once breakfast was completed, we came back up to our room, layed down on the bed, watched a little TV, took an nap then readdressed the question of the day's activities. It suddenly occurred to us that we were staying smack dab in the middle of one of the biggest tourist attractions in Toronto and we really hadn't seen any of it yet, so we decided to spend most of the day looking around Toronto's Chinatown.

The motel we are staying in actually rests on the top 2 floors of a 5 story building with 4 stories above ground and 1 below ground level. The lower 3 stories are a mall filled with various stores catering the the predominant Chinese and Korean population and the tourists that come to see it. How we had managed to avoid spending any time in the mall up to that point can be attributed to an otherwise busy schedule. By the time we entered the mall it was after 10 AM and we fully expected to see pretty much everything open, but we got an interesting surprise. Very few of the stores were open for business at that point. As close as I can determine, the operating standards of the mall are pretty informal. The business owners pretty much show up and open when the notion strikes them, typically around noon and they close at 9:30 PM or whenever they decide to lock the doors and go home.

Since there wasn't much point in hanging around the mall, we ventured out into the streets which were considerably more active. Lacking your own store front in this area is of no particular consequence to some of the local entrepreneurs. If you don't have a store in which to place your wares, you are apparently free to simply put a table on the sidewalk and sell your stuff from there.

Chinatown in Toronto is quite charming in that it is still a fully functioning Chinese community, as opposed to San Francisco which has largely undergone the rather unfortunate transformation to a tourist attraction. Both are fun places to visit, but the Chinatown here is much more like what the one in San Francisco was 20 years ago or so. We are told that this is actually the largest and most visited of 5 Chinatowns in Toronto.

After visiting a few of the shops, making a satisfyingly small contribution to the local economy and having lunch in one of the local restaurants, we had pretty much exhausted the afternoon and spent our energy. But the day was not yet complete.

We met up with an old internet friend, Lobo De La Meza to get our first taste of that one distinctly Canadian culinary invention, poutine. For those not familiar with the dish, it actually comes in a variety of offerings, all of which rank up there with Reeses Peanut Butter Cups in terms of their ability to assault your bad cholesterol levels. Without going into significant detail, the prime ingredients of poutine are: French Fries, some sort of gravy, cheese curds and maybe some sort of barbequed meat if you choose. It shares one other characteristic with Reeses...it is really enjoyable to eat.

After sampling the poutine, we headed off to a local watering hole where we spent an all too short evening solving the world's numerous problems, expressing our deep affections for many of our other internet friends (you should all be adequately heart-warmed at this moment) and generally enjoying the pleasant company. It was a delightful evening. Too bad we couldn't do a webcast. On the other hand, the powers that be might have had to shut down the internet. :D

While we were enjoying a great evening, the Rockies were busy dropping their third game in the three game series to the Blue Jays. This is the first time that the Rox have ever been swept in a series in which we attended one of the road games. While we were waiting for Lobo to arrive outside our hotel, a Blue Jays fan walked by and made some snide remark, since we were wearing Rockies jackets. I thought for a minute Joyce was going to go after the guy and beat him down. He probably would have had it coming too. Fortunately, civility won the day.

Aside from that one jerk, we have been treated with wonderful hospitality by the people in Toronto. It's amazing that we even heard anything negative from that guy. The way the Rockies have played here, I'd think that Blue Jays fans would be more than happy to see us come back anytime. Aside from the Rockies dismal performance here, we have certainly made a healthy contribution to the local economy on our own.

The next stop, a long overdue visit to Niagra Falls.

Day 5: It was time to leave Toronto and make the trip west, then south and then east to Niagara Falls, which if you will all kindly note, I have finally learned how to spell. Since the folks in Canada haven't decided to either shell out for a big ass bridge or a really long tunnel, in order to get from Toronto to Niagara, one has to drive to the west end of Lake Ontario, then head back east to get to the city and the falls.

The very first thing I learned is that no picture, no movie, can capture the awesome grandeur of the falls. The first view of the two falls is absolutely breathtaking. One really never envisions how large they are. One never really envisions the awesome power behind all that water falling every second. I imagine that I had pretty much the same reaction everyone has when they see them for the first time. First you feel that overwhelming sensation of that first glimpse. Then, you quickly locate the nearest restroom (washroom if you are here on the Canadian side) and go take a pee. Then it is back out to look at the falls some more.

Let me make a quick correction to a statement I made above: Actually, there are three falls in the Niagara Falls system. There are the American Falls, the Bridal Veil falls and the Canadian Horseshoe Falls. So now, none of you have to email me to correct me on the point. Second, I want to take a few moments here to offer some advice to anyone who wants to visit Niagara and Toronto.

In the first place, be advised that renting a car is probably sort of unnecessary. Stay in the downtown area in Toronto and the mass transit system will get you anywhere you want to go. In fact, if you sign up for the Greyline Hop on Hop Off tour, the tour is good for 3 days and you can get to most of the major attractions in the city easily. Most of those buses run until around 6 in the evening and after that, you can probably get anywhere you need to go on the trolleys, city buses or subway. Parking in the city is a bit of an annoyance anyway and traffic is something a bit beyond a bit of an annoyance, so driving is not recommended.

The only problem would be to get from Toronto to Niagara, but there are transportation options available. Once you are in Niagara, there is a tourist oriented bus system called We Go, that will get you anywhere you want to go in the vicinity of the falls and back to your motel. It costs about 7 bucks a day per person, which is cheaper than most of the parking you will find in the vicinity.

Niagara is sort of the world's shining example of opportunities to get into the pocket of your average tourist. There are half a dozen Ripley's Museums, a Frankenstein's Castle, a Dracula's Castle, a midway, any restaurant you can think of, several wax museums..."The Everyone Kex Has Ever Met Wax Museum" was probably the example of overkill. But it is all sort of fun and charming. Of course there are also plenty of souvenir shops...naturally, we made a healthy contribution to local economic recovery.

The other suggestion I would make to anyone visiting Niagara is to do anything oriented to the activities involving the falls themselves as early as possible in the morning. That helps you get ahead of the crowds. Then you can go back and do your souvenir shopping and food consumption in the afternoon, then return to the falls in the evening to watch the show as the falls are lit up at night. The colors make the falls very beautiful after sundown.

Anyway, we rather quickly learned the best way to tour the falls after an initial mistake. We parked in the vicinity and payed a premium on parking, then discovered how the bus system works. That permitted us to return and check into our motel, park the car and then utilize the bus for further exploration. That worked out great.

Thursday evening we met up with Natalie Bernard and Serena for a wonderful dinner at the Rain Forest Cafe. We also did some exploration along the tourist strip and she have us a lot of valuable insights into the best activities for further exploration of the falls the next day. After parting with her, Joyce and I spent some time watching the falls at night, then returned to our motel looking forward to spending Friday conducting a little more exploration.

Day 6: We didn't exactly get off to an early start on the day, but we did return to the falls in plenty of time to get in front of most of the other tourists. The day began with a voyage out on the Maid of the Mists, a journey to the very base of both the American and Canadian Horseshoe Falls that gets you soaking wet, even with the raincoats provided. If you wish, you get to keep the raincoats, which in reality are just a piece of plastic with the logo on the front. I kept one of ours in order to wrap the glass I got at the Rain Forest Cafe with night before.

After that tour, we went back and took a ride on the Sky Wheel, a very large ferris wheel that offers a magnificent aerial view of the falls, the City of Niagara and the Dinosaur mini golf course at its base. I got plenty of pictures of all three.

At this point, we decided that there really weren't any of the other attractions that were utterly necessary, so with a bit of a heavy heart, we left Niagara and began the drive back toward Toronto to our motel in the vicinity of the airport. There was one curious thing we noted along the way, apart from the fact that Canadians have a bit of a deathwish on the highways. That we had already figured out. But there are signs posted spelling out the consequences of excess speed on the highways.

Now, Canadians have long since made the altogether intelligent conversion to the metric system, while the United States continues to use an antiquated system of measure that makes no damned sense and is impossible to use. We continue to use it because of caged bear syndrome and and irrational terror of doing anything different, regardless of how much sense it makes. That is also one reason that Canada has a vastly superior health care system to ours, and that is true for the same reasons and because we have allowed people who are fattening their own wallets to persuade us to keep a ridiculously bad one. I'll discuss that more tomorrow.

So, on highways in Canada, you can drive 100 kph. How much would Americans LOVE to drive at 100 (kph), even if it is basically the same as driving at 75mph? I'm thinking they would really get into it. But here in Canada, if you get a led foot and push the speed up to 150 kph, the penalty is a $50,000 fine, the revocation of your driver's license, confiscation of your vehicle, your mother will be publically flogged and your head will be shaved, you'll be stripped naked and forced to ride a white horse down the middle of one of the busiest streets in Toronto during rush hour. I think the fine is a little excessive.

We managed to navigate our way from Niagara back to our motel in Toronto with only a couple of minor navigation glitches. Both were easily overcome. Our room here is actually a small suite. Too bad we are only staying one night. Early tomorrow morning, it will be time to pack up, head to the airport and return to the U.S.of A.

Day 7: Setting or even owning an alarm clock is kind of a waste of time and effort in my life. About 999 times out of a thousand, I will wake up anywhere from 15 minutes to an half an hour before it goes off, regardless of the time I set it. Any night prior to traveling typically involves nothing more than brief catnaps in any event. This morning was no exception.

After a rather restless night, I looked at the my alarm for the last time at 4:45, aware that it would go off in 15 minutes anyway. I didn't see much point in laying there any longer, so I woke Joyce up and we went about the business of getting ready to come home.

We stayed close enough to the airport that the journey was less than 20 minutes and turning in the car was more or less just a matter of putting the keys in the after hours box since we arrived before they opened. From there, we proceeded on to the Air Canada check in. Naturally they were open since it is the busiest airline in Toronto. The check in was quite easy since everything is automated. That is another area where Canada has leapt way ahead of the U.S.

Going through customs to return to the U.S. is a considerably more time consuming operation than getting into Canada from the U.S. But even that process went much more quickly than I expected. So by 7:30, we were in the terminal waiting for our 8:45 flight back to Denver.

At 9 AM EDT, flight 1079 roared off the runway pointing towards a spot about 30 miles east of the summit of 14,000 ft. Mt. Evans. The flight path took us on a more southern route than the one we followed to Toronto a week earlier, probably owing to what looked like some rather rough weather over Lake Michigan. Nonetheless, by 10:15 AM, the Rocky Mountains were greeting us home, even behind the veil of smoke issued from numerous fires still burning in Colorado and throughout the west. We touched down at 10:30 MDT right on schedule.

There is nothing quite so pleasurable as that first lung full of the rarified air a mile high in Denver. It is always the most compelling reminder that we have arrived back home. The signs directing us to the baggage claim for our flight were in error, causing me to have to go searching for the correct area. That, in turn, caused us to miss one of the shuttles that would have taken us back to Arvada. As a consequence, we had to spend an extra hour at the airport. No harm. We were happy to be home.

Upon finally arriving back home, Kiri came out to joyfully greet us. Well, actually she was asleep when we arrived and I think it took her a little bit to figure out that it was really us and not the neighbor lady stopping by. But she was pleased about our return. She doesn't have the wild joy she used to display anymore. She has gotten rather used to us going away periodically and now seems fully confident that we will return in a week or so.

In all, it was another splendid vacation, made special by a lot of people. We want to issue a very special thank you to Lobo De La Meza and Natalie Bernard, both for their invaluable advice in helping us plan our journey and their hospitality while we were visiting.

Thanks also to the wonderful people at the Wyndham motels in downtown Toronto, Niagara and north Toronto, the people at Grayline Tours, the folks at CN Tower, the Rogers Centre, Budget Rent-a-Car and the Toronto Blue Jays...although you could have let us win ONE!

have let us win ONE!



TRAVEL TALES 2012: Kex and Joy in the Great Rocky Mountain West


DAY ONE: There was no real urgency to get the expedition started this year. We wanted to arrive in Grand Junction to attend the Saturday night game of the National Junior College World Series, which began at 7:30. But we couldn't check into our motel room until 1:30. That left us with a pretty wide window for arrival. I got up pretty early Saturday morning to attend to a few last minute details. Joyce got up around 8:00 AM. By 9:00 we had the Prius loaded up and were pretty much ready to head out. There were no major concerns with the forecast either. There didn't appear to be any concerns for precipitation in the high country, although strong winds were forecast from the front range west to the Utah border.

We had breakfast before heading out, then proceeded west. By 1 PM we arrived in Grand Junction. Immediately it was evident that some changes in our plans were probably in order. The high winds that were forecast were even worse than predicted, and combined with lots of dust generated by several months (years actually) of drought in this part of the state and several fires buring in western Colorado and northern New Mexico, a very unpleasant haze was hanging in the air. We decided that instead of braving unpleasant conditions and going to the Saturday night JUCO game, game 4 of the series, we'd just rest during the afternoon and evening and watch the Rockies on TV.

As it turned out, that wasn't significantly worse than the conditions outside. The Rockies have been terrible this year and they lost again Saturday evening. But at least we were a bit more rested up for the numerous adventures that lie ahead.

DAY 2: Sunday morning brought mostly sunny skies and significantly decreased winds to the western slope. We shuffled our Sunday plans a bit, which wasn't that difficult because they were pretty tentative anyway. The forecast was for sunshine but somewhat cooler than normal weather, which wasn't bad news because it can be dreadfully hot over here this time of year. But we figured the best idea was to attend game 5 of the JUCO World Series this morning, which began at 10 AM, then come back for game evening game, game 7, which began at 7:30 PM.

The 10 AM game was an elimination game, featuring the teams that lost games 1 and 2 yesterday. That happened to be Western Iowa, a team making their 6th consecutive appearance. They have had some success here in the past and won the championship a few years ago. Their opponent was another JUCO regular, Spartanburg Methodist of South Carolina. Typically, they come to Grand Junction, get beat twice rather quickly and go home. This year was no exception. We watched as Iowa Western dispatched Spartanburg 4-1.

After the game, we headed over to get some lunch, then fulfill a rather vital chore. To explain that, I have to backtrack just a bit. First of all, it is necessary to mention that in 2 weeks, Grand Junction will be the new home to the Colorado Rockies Low Class A minor league affiliate. Second, it has to be mentioned that while we were watching TV on Saturday night, we saw a local commerical that featured a guy wearing one of the baseball caps for the new Grand Junction Rockies. Upon seeing that, one of the members of our expedition absolutely, positively HAD to have one of those hats.

The first effort at finding one took us to Mesa Mall, where I checked out the Sports Authority store. Interestingly enough, they didn't have one. Then I tried the Lidz store, a place that just carries baseball caps. Before you ask, I really don't know how they stay in business either. They didn't have one. So, I tried out the Fanz store. They also didn't have one.

Time out: Memo here to the people who come up with names for retail stores: The letters "s" and "z" (zed if you live in Canada) are NOT interchangeable. The letter "s" is properly used to make a word plural. The letter "z" is almost never used for ANYTHING and does NOT make a word plural, unless you are trying to look cute, but succeeding in looking illiterate and retarded. Don't do it anymore.

Anyway, after striking out in all of those stores, my desperation to fulfill the quest took me to City Market, which carries absolutely everything anyone ever really needs. They had one. Their clerk who rang me out wasn't aware they had them. But that isn't relevant. What is important here is that the member of our little expedition that absolutely, positively HAD to have a Grand Junction Rockies hat now has one. :)

Sunday evening, we watched Gordan College from Georgia demolish Shelton State from Alabama. Both of these teams had byes on Saturday, so they were the last 2 of the 10 teams to play. Gordon will get another bye on Monday and play in the feature game Tuesday evening. Shelton also gets a Monday bye, but will have to play in an elimination game Tuesday morning. Meanwhile, we will be heading westward again tomorrow, and will be arriving in Salt Lake City sometime about mid-afternoon Monday.

DAY 3: The most significant task today was transporting ourselves from Grand Junction to Salt Lake City. That is about a 4-5 hour drive, largely across some of the most desolate real estate in the United States. When the song, Home on the Range was written, and the lyric "Give me a home, where the Buffalo roam, and the deer and the antelope play." was penned, they weren't talking about eastern Utah. There are no buffalo, deer or antelope to roam or play. They all found better places to live. The scrub brush only lives there because it is rooted down and can't go anyplace better.

Occasionally you do drive through small towns that are there because, well hell, I have no clue. But I can tell you about pretty much every small town in Utah whether I have seen it or not. Because in one sense, they are all exactly the same. It doesn't matter whether they are affluent or dying. They all have one thing in common: They all have exactly 2 churches in town. One of them is a rather pathetic, crumbling building somewhere on the outskirts in town. It is shared by several different faiths. Then, right in the center of the town is the other church, which is invariably the nicest building in the settlement. Only one religion uses that one.

Since it was Memorial Day and every highway patrolman in the United States was on duty, I locked the cruise control on the Prius on the posted speed limit and cruised along at the correct speed just as any good citizen should. I was the only good citizen on the road in this hypocritically, morally righteous state. Everbody else flew past me like their ass was on fire. I saw a few of them up the road, pulled over by the authorities. I caught up with the rest of them south of Salt Lake City trapped in a HUGE traffic jam on 1-15. It was the result of a confluence of construction and everybody in Utah returning home from wherever the hell people in the Utah Valley area go to get away from casting righteous indignation on the rest of us for a few days. That is probably too harsh, really. There are a lot of really beautiful places in Utah and most of the people are pretty nice. I remain puzzled over their insistance on faithfully voting for people that are screwing them sideways, but that is their choice. There really isn't anything wrong with this state that couldn't be fixed just by collectively buying them all a good stiff drink. Unfortunately, we can't do that.

I did have a few plans today once we arrived, but I had sort of forgotten that it is Memorial Day, so they basically had to be postponed. That is okay, because our motel room is so cool we are about ready to move in. Tomorrow we'll explore Temple Square, probably visit Trolley Square and then on to the Colorado Springs Sky Sox-Salt Lake Bees game. I hope we get to do one of the tours somewhere in Temple Square. I already have a question ready I've been wanting to ask for a long time. I'll let you all know whether or not I get to ask it, and what the answer is tomorrow.

DAY 4: The day was spent exploring Salt Lake City. We started out with an extensive tour of Temple Square. It is always beautiful with all the gardens and immaculately kept grounds. The Mormons are definitely fussy about making sure they make a good impression. I'll hand it to them on another point as well. They have plenty of people around available to ask any questions you might have or just talk about anything. But they don't toss anything in your face or attempt to pressure you to their point of view. That is rather refreshing.

While at Temple Square, we also got to go to an organ recital in the Tabernacle which was quite beautiful. Another of the age of mysteries of my life was solved as well. In the south Visitor's Center, there is a scale model of the Temple with cutaways so you can see what the inside actually looks like. There is also an interactive computer that permits you to select the various rooms and see real pictures. Since you have to be a member of their religion to actually go inside the Temple, that frustrating mystery has always aggravated me. But now I can cross that off the list of things I want to know in life.

After leaving the Temple Square area, we spent a little time at Trolley Square shopping and killing time before heading over to Spring Mobile Park to watch the game between the Colorado Springs Sky Sox and the Salt Lake City Bees. If the play of the Sky Sox is any indication, the Rockies definitely aren't going to get much better anytime soon. What is really disturbing is that a lot of the players currently on the team have already been up with the Rox and been sent down. They aren't looking any better at the AAA level.

Oh..yes. I also got to ask my question to one of the ladies at Temple Square. When we went up to the 26th floor observation deck of the world headquarters of LDS, I asked it. What I wanted to know was, after the Mormons first entered the Salt Lake valley, what were the exact words of the first guy that tried to take a drink out of the lake. I still don't know the answer, but since we were leaving the next day, we weren't run out of the state then and there.

DAY 5: COOKE CITY, MONTANA: THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT! Uh...let me amend that. COOKE CITY, MONTANA: THE LAND THAT TIME NEVER KNEW ANYTHING ABOUT! The guide book warned me that there is only one paved street in this town. That isn't entirely accurate. True, there is only one paved street in this town because there is only one street IN this town. We have NO cellphone service here. That is okay I guess. If the aliens land anytime in the next few days, They'll have to wait until Sunday to meet me. I do have wifi access, but the bandwidth is such that I will have to find a time to get on when nobody else is using it.

It was a pleasant drive up here and the first drive through Yellowstone was wonderful. Several geyesers were active and we saw over 1000 buffalo, 1 elk, about 8 deer, 2 foxes and a coyote. No partridge in a pear tree. The weather is presently cool and overcast...in fact, there is snow outside our motel. But we are looking forward to more exploration of Yellowstone over the next couple of days. Posting of more pics will probably have to wait until we get home due to the very liminted bandwidth situation. However, I have LOTS of wonderful pics to share already.

DAY 6: There are two great things about staying in Cooke City, Montana. First, the northeast entrance of the park is the least used and the drive in is beautiful. It is also only 4 miles from the entrance. Second, there is a lot of motivation to spend a lot of time IN the park so you aren't spending much time in Cooke City. As I noted above, we only get about 6 stations on the motel room TV and we can't pick up any radio stations, on AM or FM. The only news channel on TV is Fox News, which the locals refer to as "that damned liberal media."

Political ads in Montana are kind of a hoot to watch. There is evidently a tight race for the Republican governor's nomination. Both candidates appear to be attempting to win the nomination by proving that he is the craziest radical right winger of the pair. I'm not sure that would be considered a virtue very many other places in the country, but I am sure glad I don't live here.

The first order of the day was driving to Old Faithful. I haven't seen it since my first visit here in the early 60's. In those days they called it Young Faithful. It's still pretty impressive. But getting there was a bit of a challenge due to the huge proliferation of buffalo. I am amazed by the number of buffalo living in the park now. And when a herd decides to collectively cross the road, it is an incredible spectacle. Two large males get in the road, one blocking each lane and remain there until all the females and calves have made their way across. Then the two blockers get out of the way of the line of traffic.

It actually appears to me that the herds are growing so large that Yellowstone officials are going to have to consider ways of thinning the herds. There are two great alternatives and one incredibly stupid one. Guess which one they will probably end up considering?

The two great alternatives are 1. Increase the population of wolves and possibly mountain lions and 2. Relocatiing some of them. Now, alternative 1 never going to fly because the ranchers will scream bloody murder. That shouldn't matter. Ranchers are walking dinosaurs in the 21st century and anything they offer should be righteously igorned. Their objection is that the predators might pick off a few of their herd. Unlikely. With a huge number of bison available in the park for predation, they are unlikely to ever leave. Even if they do, let's recall the immortal words of Dr. Evil, which are fully appropriate here: "Boo fricking hoo!"

Alternative 2 is good, but expensive. So the choice that will probably be ultimately considered is permitting hunting. That is stupid because it just isn't hard to find a herd of buffalo. Further, human hunters don't operate in the same fashion as natural predators. instead of taking out the old, sick or very young, human hunters go after the biggest and strongest specimens, which signficantly weakens the herd. As the result, horrors like wasting disease or some equivalent end up decimating the ENTIRE herd and the supposedly beneficial act of thinning the herd by hunting ends up doing considerably more harm than good. Example: The deer population in Colorado that has crashed as the result of pandemic spread of wasting disease as the direct result of hunting.

Bottomline: Ranchers and hunters: You have stupid ideas. You are the weakest links. Goodbye

We explored a few other geyser areas and enjoyed the spectacular view at Artists Point. Tomorrow, we'll do some more park exploration before beginning to work our way home Saturday. But it will be a leisurely drive home that will include some exploration of Grand Tetons National Park.

DAY 7: I can now add a new entry to my resume: Bison herder. While heading up Mt. Washburn today on the way to the south side of the park, we encountered 6 male buffalo on the way up the road not far from the summit. I'm reallly not sure what they were doing up that high. Maybe they were just on an adventure. In any event, the hillsides on both sides of the road were too steep for them to get off the road, so they were just wandering along on the road. We found ourselves behind some flatlander in an RV...he was from Florida. Pretty clearly, just seeing bison was a novelty for him. He had no clue whatsoever as to how to get around them.

I stayed behind him until I had a clear view then pulled around him. That just left getting through the bison, which wasn't that easy even in a smaller vehicle. Basically it is a matter of continuing to move forward fast enough to more or less force them to get out of the way, but not so fast as to startle them or piss them off. Either of those situations could lead to one of them kicking in the side of your car or putting a signficant dent in it if they decide to charge. At one point as I pushed forward, one of them did turn on me and start to put his head down. but I stopped and allowed him to see I wasn't going to threaten him. He then proceeded on and I was able to slip by all of them. It was harrowing, but better than spending a couple of hours behind a clueless Floridian in an RV.

On down the road near Yellowstone Lake, we saw our first bear of the expedition. It was laying up on the hillside in some trees, just visible. Even so, he attracted a large crowd which required 2 rangers to keep in check. We didn't get a real good view of it, but enough so to say we had at least seen a bear at that point.

I then proceeded on to the mud volcano geyeser group. I decided that Mud Caldron was a pretty poor name for the main geyeser in the group so I renamed it. It should now be referred to as M.M.F. Geyser (Million Men Farting). Believe me, it is a much better name.

After viewing Old Faithful for a second time and exploring more of the geyeser basins on the west side of the park, we began to make our way back to our motel for the evening. On the way back down Mt. Washburn, we ran into another huge crowd on the road. After getting out to see what was going on, I spotted another blackbear out in the open about 30 yards from the road. I got a couple of pictures, then got around the rest of the people who were just parked on the road with no intention of moving. Courtesy would have been to take a couple of pictures and move on, but people aren't too courteous in those situations. Since there is a ranger station just down the road, I stopped in to report that the bear was alongside the road and drawing a considerable crowd. I didn't want anyone to get hurt, although I was really more concerned about the bear. Anyway, they were already aware of the situation and a ranger had been dispatched. But they thanked me for stopping in to make the report.

I must note that the Prius has really enjoyed Yellowstone. It has consistantly run over 50 miles to the gallon and has pushed over 60 mpg for long stretches. We read that the rangers here have a fleet of 17 of them for their use. It is little wonder why. Tomorrow, we begin the long journey homeward.

DAY 8: The day began quite early. Knowing that we still were going to explore Grand Tetons National Park and make a very long drive home, we were awake and loading the Prius by 6 AM. That would have been considerably easier if our hotel, which was the tallest building in Cooke had an elevator. We were naturally on the third floor of a 3 floor building. A real parking lot at the motel would have been nice to, but overall it was a pleasant place to stay. We headed out after breakfast and once again encountered our buffalo friends up on Mt. Washburn. At least I didn't have any cars in front of me today, but I think they remembered the Prius. They began trotting ahead of me when I encountered them, and continued to try to keep up with me as I made my way through them. I think they believed the Prius was a white buffalo. Our little car has a nickname now.

By the time we had made our way through Yellowstone and into Grand Teton Park, what had started out as a reasonably sunny day had turned overcast and rainy. I was hoping it would get better, but it just seemed to get worse and worse. I was pretty discouraged by the time we reached the south end of the park because I was hoping to get lots of great pictures. At virtually the last turnout in the park, we noticed some patches of blue sky to the west, so we decided to sit it out for a few minutes and see if the skies would clear. Lo and behold, they did, and I was able to get some wonderful shots. So what was starting off as a discouraging day got a lot better.

We finally left the Teton area around 1 PM, and proceeded homeward. We arrived back home at about 10:15 PM. It was a very long day to be sure, but as always, we had a marvelous trip. Many thanks to the people associated with the National Junior College World Series in Grand Junction, who always put on a great show, the many people who showed us hospitality at Temple Square in Salt Lake City, the people at Spring Mobile Ballpark who made us feel very welcome and all the people at Yellowstone and in Cooke City, Montana who went out of their way to make our journey special. Eight days, 2240 miles of travel and 45 gallons of gas in the Prius, we returned home to a very excited gray kitty.

EPILOGUE: A few loose ends should be tied up. We saw 4 teams play at the JUCO World Series. Gordon College defeated Shelton College on Sunday night. But both teams did well in the tournament. Shelton bounced back through the loser's bracket and finished in 4th place. Gordon lasted until Friday night at finished in 3rd place. Spartanburgh was eliminated by Iowa Western in the Sunday morning game we attended. Iowa Western fought their way back through the loser's bracket and won the tournament. On Saturday night, they defeated San Jacinto of Houston, Texas to claim the national championship. It was San Jacinto who defeated Iowa Western in the very first game of the tournament one week earlier. So ironically, the two teams who kicked off the tournament ended up as the last two standing.





TRAVEL TALES SUMMER 2011: Kex and Joy in the City By The Bay:


DAY ONE: Travel is supposed to be an adventure. We arrived today in San Francisco, as planned. However, the plan called for us to arrive around 2 PM Pacific Daylight Time. The reason we actually arrived around 7 PM Pacific Daylite time is where the adventure part comes in. After the normal ritual of several days of preparation and planning, we got up about 7 AM MDT this morning and made our final preparations for departure. We were giving ourselves plenty of time, knowing full well that it would be one of a few very busy days of a holiday weekend at one of the world's busiest airports. So the caution of giving ourselves plenty of time seemed purdent.

As always, rather than fuss with the hassle and expense of parking several days at the airport, we took a shuttle that runs from the city we live in out to DIA. For those not familiar with Denver International Airport, it is located about halfway between the extreme eastern end of the Denver metro area and the border of the state of Kansas.

The day's adventure began shortly before we boarded the airport shuttle. As Joy was walking to the boarding area, the sidewalk reached up and grabbed her shoe, causing her to do a gorgeous, face first swan dive toward the pavement. The judges gave it a 9.4. She lost some style points for partially breaking her fall with a suitcase. Fortunately, she didn't break anything else, but I am getting ahead of myself.

The fall caused some pain in her shoulder, but she didn't think it was anything to worry about. So we proceeded on to the airport aboard the shuttle. After checking in, sending our luggage down the conveyer, and working our way through airport security, we headed on toward the designated boarding area.

Allow me to digress for just a moment. Getting through airport security was no small adventure in itself. We brought enough electronic equipment with us on this trip to make members of an Antarctic expedition jealous. It took an entire team of security personnel to get us checked through.

But about half way down the concourse, Joy's knee began tightening up severely. So we asked one of the security people if we could get some first aid help. They quickly dispatched a paramedic, who took a look at her knee. It looked pretty banged up. She suggested that we go to the emergency room and get it checked out. They then contacted the people from Frontier Airlines, who arranged to put a waiver on our tickets so we could catch a later flight.

The closest hospital to DIA is the University of Colorado Medical Center in Aurora. Fortunately, my mother was available to come pick us up at the airport, and take us to the emergency room. When we arrived there it wasn't very busy. That didn't stop them from taking several people ahead of us, the excuse being that it was a triage system, and they took what they perceived as the most serious cases first. Those of you who know me might well predict how well that went over, and suffice it to say that a short time later, a doctor was attending to Joy.

It was still a rather lengthy process and wait. The doctor determined that the shoulder problem wasn't a concern, but she wanted to do x-rays on the knee. After another fairly lengthy wait, the x-ray attendant came and did her duty. Then we waited another good 45 minutes for them to tell us that there were no broken bones or tendon damage. They just wanted Joy to keep it iced and elevated when possible, and limit our walking activities somewhat for a couple of days.

We then headed back to DIA, and the nice people at Frontier booked us onto the first available flight we were able to make, about 4 hours after our original planned flight. Our luggage was already patiently awaiting our arrival in SF. Considering how full the flight was, and the seats they gave us, I strongly suspect they had to have bumped somebody. The new flight ended up boarding about a half hour late due to a broken seat, and they had to go out looking for the tool to fix it. Nonetheless, by 5PM MDT, approximately 4 and a half hours later than originally planned, we were airborne and headed westward.

When we landed in SF, an attendant with a wheel chair was awaiting Joy the moment they got off the plane. Similarly, the Frontier folks in Denver made sure she didn't have to do any walking there either. Two trips through security in Denver was a bit annoying, but everyone was treating us like royalty. We picked up our luggage at the Frontier office, checked into our motel without incident and spent the remainder of the evening resting up for our first adventures in the city tomorrow. It will probably be confined to tours, but that is more or less what he had planned anyway. And Joy has already collected her first souvenir of this year's vacation. A knee decorated in Colorado Rockies colors. That thing is purple! A pic will be posted.

DAY TWO: To answer a number of concerned communications, Joy's knee felt better today. It still looks pretty yucky, but she was able to do more walking today than I really expected.

San Francisco is perhaps the only city in the U.S. where you feel like you should need a passport. That isn't a knock. In fact, it is one of the things about the city I love. It is proof positive that diversity CAN be a strength, not something to be feared or discouraged, but rather something that can be a great benefit. Too bad the Republican Party can't understand that. In any event, you can walk a hundred yards along Pier 39 and hear every language spoken on the planet. That is actually kind of fun.

Having spent a few very enjoyable years of my life in SF when I was considerably younger, I became quite adept at learning how to get around the city without a car. They are actually almost more trouble than they are worth here, by the time you pay for gas, fight traffic and find places to park. I was sufficently confident that we could get around the city without needing to rent a car that I decided we would test the theory, and if it failed we could always go ahead and get one if needed. Today was the day we put my theory to the test.

I am pleased to report that the idea passed with flying colors. We can utilize the free airport shuttle to the airport where we pick up the BART train into the city. From there, the MUNI system easily transported us to Pier 39, which is the base for most of the tours we plan on taking. It was so easy and hassle free that it almost seemed TOO easy, especially considering the high cost of gas these days. And compared to the daily cost of car rental, the transit option is especially compelling.

Our first activity today was a 2 hour city tour, which took us around most of the city's most interesting landmarks, and allowed me to recatch my bearings. We both enjoyed that very much. After a good lunch on Pier 39, we did one of the Bay Cruises. That was fun and interesting, but it was a bit overbooked, imho. At one point as we sailed past Alcatraz, so many people swarmed to the starboard side of the ship that I was afraid we were all going to end up swimming for it. But our small ship proved reliable. The only glitch on that activity was that they passed out personal communication devices with headsets that were supposed to allow passengers to hear the narrated tour more effectively. They didn't work very well. They reminded us to return them as we left, since they wouldn't work off the ship anyway. I can't imagine anyone not complying. They didn't even work worth a crap ON the ship. Nonetheless, the cruise permitted me to see two things I hadn't previously seen in SF; the east side of Alcatraz and we got to sail under the Golden Gate Bridge. That was pretty cool.

By the time we completed those activities, which was about all I planned today anyway, we decided it was time to return to the motel. On the way back we got something of an unauthorized narrative tour by some drunk in the back seat that didn't even pay to get on the light rail vehicle. I guess he figured he was earning his toll by wildly annoying everyone in the last few rows of the vehicle.

Another cool thing about SF...you always see things here you don't tend to see a lot of other places. There was the guy who took his lizard for a walk on a leash on Pier 39, and the folks that loaded all four of their dogs into a little red wagon and took them out for a walk (pull?) along the pier... We have a hop on hop off tour planned for tomorrow, so that will allow us to sort of improvise. But it has already become evident, as I already knew, that the 8 days we have for activities isn't going to scratch the surface of what we want to do.

DAY THREE: Rain, rain, go away. Just our luck. A few years ago, we went to Seattle and got San Francisco weather. This year, in San Francisco, we are getting Seattle weather. It rained pretty much all day today, and we may get more tomorrow. Hopefully it won't rain out the Oakland A's game tomorrow, which we are planning to attend.

The rain curtailed our activities a bit today, but didn't completely stop us. We did another tour today, somewhat briefer than the one yesterday. As it turned out, it was a private tour. No one else showed up for it. We didn't mind that at all. This one was actually a hop on hop off trolley tour, that is able to navigate some of the steeper (read white knuckle scary) streets in SF. The driver assured us that the brakes are inspected once a year, whether they need it or not. They were due for inspection tomorrow. I'm sure he tells that to all the tourists.

After the tour, we went out on Pier 39 to see the sealions, then did a little shopping on Pier 39. It was considerably easier to navigate the area today. Since yesterday was a holiday, it was wall to wall people. With the combination of drizzle and being a Tuesday, the load of humanity was considerably lighter. By the time we completed the shopping, Joy's knee was beginning to tighten up a bit, and we old folks were getting a bit tired anyway. So we had lunch on the pier, then headed to the motel room.

Now, before I close, it is time to have a brief meeting with the under 30 crowd out there. You aren't going to like what I have to say, but you need to read it anyway, AND PAY ATTENTION.

I know way too many of you have a sense of entitlement that rivals your complete lack of etiquette. Both probably need to be addressed by someone, so I guess it will fall on me. Let's begin with a specific point of etiquette that involves utilizing mass transit. If you are riding transit and a person with gray or graying hair gets on, the right thing to do is to offer to give them your seat; especially if the boarding passenger is a lady. Perhaps some of you have just gotten off work and think you are tired. We have worked our whole lives, and we are probably more tired, thank you very much. It won't hurt you to spend a few more minutes on your feet.

NO. You are NOT entitled to that seat. All you are entitled to is getting your punky little asses kicked by surprisingly capable older folk like me. If you don't believe it, it just might happen...this week. Beware.

I'd really like to address the drugged out waste of flesh I had to stand next to on the light rail today, but I am certain that he doesn't have a computer, and even if he did, he undoubtedly couldn't actually read. But just in case there are similar individuals out there, permit me to clue you in about a few things. First of all, the same point of etiquette about offering your seat DOES apply to you. But in this particular case, it wouldn't really be necessary. The problem is, you AND your backpack are NOT both entitled to take up a seat. All you have to do is put it on your useless little lap and scoot your butt over. I guess that concept was a bit difficult for your drug baked brain.

What was worse was the fact that you kept mindlessly swinging your umbrella all over the place, constantly smacking against me and also occasionlly hitting Joy in the back of the head. Allow me to make you aware than any similar situations in the future will provide you with an opportunity unique for human beings: You are going to discover first hand what it is like to spend the rest of your life with a tail. A rather stiff one, but the location will be only a few inches lower than where other animals wear theirs. Unfortunately, it's location may make another rather critical biological function rather problematic.

Weather permitting, we'll be watching the Oakland A's play the Yankees tomorrow.

DAY FOUR: The activity for today was a baseball game between Oakland and the Yankees. That looked somewhat doubtful as the day began. Rain moved in about 9 AM this morning, and the forecast wasn't promising: Rain and possible thunderstorms until early in the afternoon. We were just hoping that the game might get played with some early delays.

Getting to Oakland Coliseum by the BART system is quite easy. All one has to do is take the train to the stadium exit, then walk across a short bridge to the stadium itself. When one crosses the bay from SF to Oakland, it becomes immediately apparent why SF is a much more popular tourist destination. Further, as one makes the walk from the BART station to Oakland Coliseum, the general impression is more one of heading towards a prison than a sports venue. Considering that the Raiders also play there, and knowing the demeanor of many of their fans, that sort of makes sense.

The Coliseum is definitely showing it's age. That is kind of a euphemism. Fact is, Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, much like the city of Oakland, is just flat out butt-ugly. On the plus side, the food is good and reasonably priced...if you can find it. I have seen more concessions in small minor league parks.

The really amazing thing about the stadium is that most of the fans have a better view of the game than the players. In every other park in MLB, the dugouts run parallel to the foul lines. In Oakland, they face out towards center field. The managers have to stand at the extreme right or left sides to see what is going on in the infield. There are two scoreboards, both of which are antiquated and difficult to read. They both have diamond vision screens, which are also quite small.

Fortunately, the forecast for the day wasn't all that accurate. About the time they let us into the stadium, the cloud cover began to break and it turned out to be a rather pleasant day. The Yankees beat the A's 4-2, five of the games 6 runs coming on 2 home runs. The win enabled the Yankees to sweep the series, much to the delight of approximately half the crowd in Yankee gear. I guess that is common everywhere. That is kind of sad because Yankee fans are obnoxious. The one that sat behind me ran his mouth the entire game, about absolutely nothing. It was pretty annoying. The real joke is that Yankee fans actually think they have something to crow about. Yes, they have won the W.S. 27 times, more championships than any other team in North American pro sports by a lot. Big deal. A team with their resources, including their own cable network, where the cheap seats run about $50 a pop should have won it about 90 times. Sorry, Yankee fans, I'm just not as impressed with what you have accomplished as YOU think I should be.

On tap tomorrow, a tour of ATT Park, home of the SF Giants, and probably a longer bay cruise.


DAY FIVE Today started out with a scouting mission to A.T.&T Park. In other words we wanted to know where it was so we wouldn't get lost when we try to find it Sunday. The forecast today was for decent weather, but it didn't really start out that way. There was fog and drizzle early, but it did turn out to be pretty decent.

The ballpark was located without difficulty, and it looks splendid. Clearly, this is a gem among the newer MLB parks, and bay area residents should be very proud of it. Locating it next to the bay seems like kind of a repeat of old mistakes here in SF. Candlestick was also located next to the bay and it was always dreadfully cold and frequently miserable. I suspect a similar situation is true of A.T.T., but by this time, it is probably something of a tradition.

After scouting out ATT, it was on to Chinatown, which is a bit like hopping on a plane and flying across the Pacific. Here is a tip for buying things in Chinatown: If you see something you want, be absolutely certain that one of the shop workers is watching you look at it. Make sure you pick it up, act VERY interested, then put it down. I guarantee you, the price will immediately drop.

In one store, I was looking at a figurine of a small, soapstone tiger. It was only priced at $5, about half or less what I might find it for at an import store in Denver, if I could find it. As I started to set it back down, the following exchange occured with the clerk:

Clerk: You like tigaa?

Me: It is a lovely figurine. I love tigers.

Clerk: Oh! You really like tigaa! For you, tigaa two dolla!

He was ringing it up before I even had much of a chance to object. I probably would have bought it for $5, I was just going to look around a bit more.

I also wanted to buy some fresh cherries. I started to pick some up that were bagged in front of one of the stores. One of the store workers was standing next to the display doing something. As soon as I reached for the bag, he made some lengthy statement in Chinese that I didn't begin to understand. It didn't sound entirely friendly. But when I responded only to whatever he said with a puzzled expression, he pointed to the price above the bags, which was 69 cents per pound. I just smiled and nodded, then picked up a bag and went in to pay.

The smell of fish in the store was so strong it just about blew me back out the door, but I started breathing through my mouth and waited patiently behind about 4 little ladies paying for their goods. While waiting, I had the opportunity to look around and take in the site of numerous fresh fruits and vegetables I couldn't have identified with a gun put to my head.

I had forgotten how fun Chinatown really is. If you are in SF and you don't spend some time in Chinatown, and it is impossible not to spend a LOT of time when you go, you haven't really been to SF.


DAY SIX: Today was reserved for the formal tour of A.T.&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants. It is every bit as beautiful from the inside as it appeared from the outside, when the preliminary location scout out was done yesterday. Unfortunately, we took the later tour today and since the Rockies were arriving, we couldn't go to some of the places that would normally be included in the stadium tour. However, we saw enough to get a good feel for what a wonderful facility it is.

The Giants have already erected 4 statues outside the stadium to past greats that have played in SF: Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal and Orlando Cepeda. A fifth statue of Gaylord Perry will soon be added. Perry was a fine pitcher, no question about it. But he was also one of the games most notorious cheaters. I have to give him credit though. He never made any bones about it after he retired. He was so upfront about his tendencies to load up the baseball that it has almost become something of a joke now. He once made the following statement when complimenting the hitting talents of Rod Carew:

"Greaseball, greaseball, greaseball, that's all I throw him (Rod Carew), and he still hits them. He's the only player in baseball who consistently hits my grease. He sees the ball so well, I guess he can pick out the dry side."

He also admitted:

"I'd always have it (grease) in at least two places, in case the umpires would ask me to wipe one off. I never wanted to be caught out there with anything though, it wouldn't be professional."

Finally:

"I reckon I tried everything on the old apple, but salt and pepper and chocolate sauce topping."

One suspects that next in line will be Barry Bonds, an even more successful cheater than Perry, and completely unapologetic. There are two significant differences, however. First, Bonds has never confessed to his cheating. Second, in stark contrast the the very likeable and coridal Perry, Bonds is a first class jerk.

It will be interesting to see how the Giants handle the question of erecting a statue to Bonds. There is a strong possibility that Hall of Fame voters are going to pass on him, so the Giants just might be forced to follow suit. Or, Perhaps they will go ahead with a statue, which they might place next to Perry in some reasonably isolated corner of the stadium. Perhaps they could call it "Embarrassed throat clearing corner."

The forecast is calling for rain to move into the bay area the next couple days, but we are hoping it won't affect the games, at least on Sunday.


DAY SEVEN: The Rockies lost game 1 against the Giants Friday night. Given the way that their season seems to be spiraling downward, that doesn't seem entirely surprising. Today began with rain; heavy rain, putting the second game of the weekend series in some doubt. The wet, damp weather didn't help Joy's still somewhat aching knee either, so she decided to stick around the room and stay dry, and watch the Rox game if there was one. She dispatched me to head out and do some picture taking, probably so I wouldn't be pacing the room and robbing her of the opportunity to actually get some rest.

I headed out the the BART station, and shortly after arriving, a little Asian lady approached me asking instructions as to how to get to a particular destination on the BART line. Clearly, I was the best candidate out of probably a hundred people in the station to ask, since I was wearing a Colorado Rockies jacket. Fortunately, I have become reacquainted sufficently with the system this week to answer questions. Once I fielded hers to satisfaction, I turned around and faced a group of about 10 other people patiently waiting for me to answer their questions about system destinations as well. I didn't realize that I was evidently wearing a sign.

Once the train arrived, I proceeded into the city, and made my way to the Aquarium of the Bay at Pier 39. It is a small but interesting attraction that provides visitors an opportunity to see what kind of life lives below the surface of San Francisco Bay. Perhaps I should offer a clarification: One can see what kind of animal life lives below the surface of the bay, but above the trans-Bay BART tube that carries passengers to Oakland. If you want to know what kind of life forms exist in that unique enviroment, you have to ride BART.

The aquarium offered two of those touch pools, where kids can handle starfish and the like. But the second one permitted them to pet sting rays. That was interesting because those guys would swim around for awhile, then actually go to the sides where kids were standing and poke their heads above the water wanting to be petted. It was amazing and fun to watch.

After leaving the aquarium, I walked north along the wharf, stopping at In And Out Burger. I wanted to see if it was like I remembered it, having not eaten there for something on the order of 3 decades. The food was average and a bit overpriced, but they made up for it by being incredibly slow for a fast food place. Yep, it was exactly as I remembered it.

I then headed to the Fisherman's Wharf Wax Museum, where I looked at all the exhibits of wax movie stars, famous political leaders and what not. The statute of George W. Bush looked considerably more intelligent than it's living counterpart. I guess that isn't hard. At least it's head was filled with wax. There was also an exhibit of some of history's famous geniuses. My omission is probably deeply embarrassing to the proprietors. I am sure they'll be calling me for photos and measurements soon.

By the time I left the wax museum, it had actually stopped raining. Several miles to the south, the Giants and Rox were playing game 2 of the weekend series, which the Rox ultimately won. We'll be in attendance tomorrow, which we hope will help propel them to a victory in the 3 game series.

After returning to Market Street, I strolled along a couple of miles, just reminiscing about the San Francisco I knew 30 years ago, and the changes that have come about. In some ways, the rest of the world has caught up a bit, but at the same time, San Francisco hasn't leapt out in many new directions. There is a very definite reason for that, which also dates back to the days I remember. It was a mystery then, something just coming into the public consciousness...a horror that would eventually come to be known the the world as AIDS.

That terrible disease has affected many lives in terrible ways, but it has also had profound effects on entire cities, probably none more so than San Francisco. To put it bluntly, it absolutely smacked this city in the mouth. In some ways, those affects were probably needed. In others, it was just a painful wound: One that didn't need to cut as deeply as it did. But back in the early 80's of the past century, Rome burned while Ronald Reagan fiddled. THAT more than anything else should be his black legacy for all time. He was a senile idiot: And so many of those that surrounded him were something a whole lot worse.


DAY EIGHT: A rather short report today. For all the bad forecasts we have endured and sweated all week, our second planned game today was played in decent weather. It was overcast all day, but the wind didn't blow, so it was actually a pleasant day to watch a game at A.T.&T. Park. The downside is that even our presence couldn't spark a downspiraling Rockies offense. After today's loss, they stand at 10-23 since May 1 and they have scored 3 or fewer runs in 13 of their last 15 games. After scoring only 4 runs in 3 games here in SF, it is little wonder that they only came away with 1 win. In fact, it is nothing short of astonishing that they actually managed a win.

On the plus side, it was very nice to reconnect with a couple of old friends today that I haven't seen in, well, let's just say a really long time. If I actually provided a number there, a lot of the readers would probably be sending emails expressing surprise that people actually live that long, so I'll pass.

A couple of more touristy things are on tap for tomorrow, then it will be time to pack up and prepare for our return home on Tuesday. It has been another wonderful trip, but I think we are both starting to get anxious to head back to the other side of the Rockies.


DAY NINE: We got off to a bit of a late start today. Since it was our last day here and only a couple of activities were planned, we took an opportunity to sleep in. Originally I had planned to ride the cable cars up toward Chinatown, and then get off to do a bit of last minute souvenir shopping. But the line to ride the cable cars was about 3 blocks long. I guess that was in response to the fact that they had the system shut down over the past weekend.

So instead of riding the cable cars, we made the short walk into Chinatown and completed our shopping. From there it was back to Market Street for a quick lunch, then on back to Pier 39 for a bridge to bridge Bay cruise. At this point I should probably note that the weather, which was supposed to be clearing today, was grey and occasionally drizzly. San Francisco is experiencing March weather in June, Texas and Arizona are burning, the midwest has experienced the deadliest tornado season since 1950 and now very rare tornadoes are tearing up New England. I am sure glad that there is nothing wrong with the weather.

Anyway, the hour and a half Bay cruise was magnificent. We even got to see some dolphins swimming in SF Bay. That was really fun. It was also a terrific opportunity to see the city from some vantage points that were both unique and spectacular.

After the cruise, we had an excellent dinner on Fisherman's Wharf, then returned to the motel to do our final packing before heading home tomorrow. While we are definitely looking forward to our return home, I have only a slightly less heavy feeling of leaving home once again.


DAY TEN: Epilogue: The alarm on my cellphone rang dutifully at 5:30 AM, PDT this morning. It was time to pack up the last few items and take care of all the morning necessities prior to departing for home. The day was breaking under gray skies as all the others for the previous 9 had, but at least there is some hope that Bay Area residents will see some sunshine in the coming days. We wouldn't have to wait that long: In a few short hours, we would be back in Denver where by all indications, summer has arrived. The previous few days had brought temperatures in the upper 80's and low 90's under sunny skies.

Our preparations were completed in time to catch the airport shuttle at 6:30 AM as planned. Remarkably, we were checked in, through security and seated in the Frontier boarding area by 7:10. Our flight wasn't scheduled to leave until 9. The plan was to get a quick breakfast at the airport, but we are a little spoiled by the accomodations at Denver International Airport. The concourse in SFO only has two places to eat, naturally both were packed. I seem to remember just two days over a week ago, we had similar plans to grab something quick to eat before our flight. Those plans didn't work out either.

But today, I was able to grab some fruit juice and yogurt with fruit in it, to tide us over until we returned home. Just after 9 AM, our flight roared over San Francisco Bay and turned eastward, carrying us back to Denver. The flight from San Franciso to Denver typically requires 2 hours,roughly 20 minutes less than the flight there thanks to typically favorable tail winds. With the modern marvel of having small television sets available at every seat, the time passed quickly while I enjoyed 2 episodes of The Flintstones, then The Daily Show and the Colbert Report. By the time Stephen was bidding us goodbye for the day, our plane was just a few feet above the runway at Denver International Airport.

We managed to collect or luggage and catch the shuttle back to Arvada, this time without injury to either of us. We were greeted as we walked in the door by an excited little gray kitty, who hasn't drifted far from my feet since we got home.

A few minor malfunctions occured almost immediately. The little chain that permits the handle on the toilet to flush fell off...easy fix. Then the phone rang, and our alarm company notified us that the battery on our smoke alarm was dangerously low. As if they really needed to tell us that: It started that annoying, "My battery is low" beep just before they called. At least I know they are still actively monitoring our system, especially since we have a bad habit of not using it.

Our journey to San Francisco was wonderful, despite the early road bump and less than ideal weather. The whole thing might have been a frustrating disaster, had it not been for the magnificently accomodating people at Frontier Airlines, who are going to be getting a very nice email, and probably all of our future business. As usual, a lot of other people also helped make this yet another memorable journey: The people of Wyndham Motels, The people at Grey Line tours, the Red and White Fleet in San Francisco, the Go Card people and many others too numerous to mention. Also, a big salute to the people of the San Francisco Bay area for their hospitality. We will return one day.

And two dolla tiga is now proudly displayed with the memoribilia of other journeys.


Travel Tales Spring 2011: Kex and Joy in The Texas Panhandle:

DAY ONE: Here is an old joke: How do you get from Colorado to Texas? Go south until you smell it, and east until you step in it. But let's be a little more specific: How do you get from the Denver area to Shamrock, Texas? There are actually two reasonable routes. One of them isn't a very interesting drive, and the other is a wildly boring drive, so we opted for the former.

Now, here is a more relevent question: WHY would anyone go from the Denver area to Shamrock, Texas. The occasion was the 50th wedding anniversary of one of Joyce's aunt and uncles. Attending all of those can keep us pretty busy and well traveled, but we do it anyway. We are fond of all of them and they seem to enjoy seeing us now and then.

The route we chose begins with the journey down I-25 through Colorado Springs and Pueblo and continues along the foothills of the southern Colorado Rockies to Raton, New Mexico. That part of the drive isn't too bad. Then we have to turn east. The drive across northeast New Mexico gets somewhat more tedious. The most interesting feature along the route is the Capulin volcano, an extinct cindercone volcano that last erupted around 10,000 years ago. In human terms, that is quite a stretch of time, but it is a mere blink of an eye in geologic time. Of course, there are folks around that believe that date is about 4000 years before the Earth was even created, which underscores the desperate need to do a better job of teaching science these days.

I can keep myself reasonably amused for awhile doing as much inspection of the volcano's effects on the landscape as is possible while driving along at 70 mph. By the time one reaches the outer regions of the volcano's influence, you reach the last of the interesting topography a traveler will encounter on the route for quite awhile: Rabbit Ass Hill in far northeastern New Mexico. Actually, that isn't the real name, but it isn't much of a mountain and it looks nothing like rabbit ears, so I renamed it more appropriately.

Upon exiting New Mexico, one is required to make the 3 hour drive across Asshole of the Earth Texas prior to reaching Shamrock. The first town you encounter upon entering Texas is Texline. I'm pretty sure they will probably rename it Kexline now that I have driven through there. Quick: Name the most famous person ever to come out of Texline? Don't worry. I can't either.

There are only two other reasonably sized towns on the way to Shamrock. One of them is Dumas. I renamed it too...actually, I just changed the pronounciation a little. It seems appropriate. The other city is Amarillo. It's a pretty big city, but we didn't actually go through it. We sort of cut around it to save time.

After heading east from Amarillo, one has the opportunity to see the largest cross in the northern hemisphere, which stands along the highway just outside of Groom, Texas. I'm not sure if it really is the largest cross in the northern hemisphere or not, but they claim it is. I'm sort of thinking about building a bigger one and standing it up in our condo courtyard just to piss them off. Do you think it would be adding insult to injury to build it out of popscicle sticks?

Finally, after continuing to drive east, you arrive in Shamrock, Texas. Shamrock is the home of the tallest water tower in Texas. I'm not sure how they determined that, or why it is significant, but everyone in Shamrock seems kind of proud of the fact that they have the tallest water tower in the state. I don't know who has the tallest water tower in Colorado. Leave it to Texans to stage a "mine's bigger" contest over water towers.

We arrived in town tired to pleased to be off the road. After checking in with our relatives and setting up a motel room, we settled in for a good night's sleep.

Day Two: After getting up and around Saturday morning, we headed out to have breakfast with Joyce's parents who had also arrived in town for the festivities. Anytime there is an occasion in Joyce's family, the population of whatever town it is being held in rises dramatically for a couple days. At this point, I need to pause for a moment for a special communication to the state of Texas:

To Whom It May Concern in the State of Texas:

Please be aware that in civilized parts of the world, where we have long since discovered that cigarette smoking is seriously dangerous to your health, restaurants are now required, at the very least, to create smoking and non-smoking sections for the patrons. Some advanced places on the planet have taken the really radical, but sensible, step of banning smoking in restaurants altogether. Please give the matter some consideration. You might even find that it makes food taste better.

Regards,
Ken

Okay, back to the subject at hand. After breakfast, we had some time to kill before the get together that evening. So, we headed out exploring. Shamrock, Texas is actually located at the crossroads of old U.S. highway 83 and Route 66. At one point in its history, it was actually sort of a major crossroads in the country. Then along came the Interstate highway system which made Route 66 obsolete, and killed off a lot of small towns and interesting tourist traps along the way. But you can still follow the old Route 66 east or west out of Shamrock for a considerable distance. We chose to head west first.

Traveling about 20 miles east of Shamrock, you arrive in McClean, Texas. There used to be a reptile farm in Mclean, where you could see all sort of snakes. I can imagine that while driving cross country on old Route 66 in the DeSoto, loaded with a few screaming kids in the backseat, stopping off in McClean to see rattlesnakes would have been a pretty welcome distraction from the tedium of the trip. Incidentally, here is something you might not know. Texas is the only state in the U.S. that has at least one species of every kind of poisonous snake native to North America: Cottonmouths, Copperheads, Watermoccasins, Rattlesnakes and Coral Snakes.

The reptile farm is long gone, but you can still see a restored version of the very first Phillips 66 station in Texas along the old route. There is also a Route 66 museum, which also contains photos from the Dust Bowl era and a Barbed Wire museum. We killed about an hour there. I must say that my knowledge of the subject of barbed wire is now considerably more complete than it was on the morning of April 2, 2011. I was going to take a picture of the old Phillips station, but I quickly discovered that I had left my camera in the motel room back in Shamrock. What a bummer.

We then headed back to the motel to get the camera, and proceeded our exploration of Route 66 eastward. It was a darned good thing that I stopped to pick the camera up, too. We found ourselves in Eric, Oklahoma, which just happens to be the birthplace of Roger Williams (King of the Road) and Sheb Wooley (Purple People Eater). Having now seen the birthplace of those two American icons, I now feel I have truly seen the best the nation has to offer.

After that incredible discovery in Eric, we figured that further exploration of Route 66 would be pretty pointless. So we headed back to Shamrock to take a few local photos. Those included an iconic Conoco station, the water tower and the topiary bear in front of the local library. The library itself was closed that day. I guess someone checked out the book. Exhausted from our day's explorations, we went back to the motel for a brief nap before the evening's celebration.

Day Three: Originally, we had planned to remain in Shamrock until Monday morning. But several of the relatives in town were already planning to depart Sunday, some bad weather appeared to be heading for the Panhandle area, and having already been overwhelmed by discovering the hometown of Sheb Wooley and Roger Miller, we figured that not much else could top what we had already seen. So after enjoying breakfast with some of the relatives, we headed west.

We made a brief stop in Groom so I could take a picture of the big cross. I figure I can calculate the dimensions to build my own. We then continued our westward voyage. I now need to make another brief communication:

To Whom It May Concern in the State of Texas:

In most civilized parts of the world, roadside rest stops are not limited to a couple of covered picnic tables alongside the road. Typically, restrooms are provided for weary travelers. Please give it some consideration.

Regards,
Ken

It was a long drive back across the barren expanses of the Texas Panhandle, made more difficult by high winds. By the time we reached Colorado Springs, a heavy mix of rain and snow was falling, but we navigated it without problems. We arrived back home safely. The trip was enjoyable...how can any trip that includes a visit to the hometown of Sheb Wooley not be? But we were happy to be home, and a little gray kitty was happy to see us.



TRAVEL TALES SUMMER 2010: Kex and Joy in the Show Me State:



DAY ONE: Maybe the folks working at airport security read this page once in awhile. Things were much more pleasant at airport security today. A few friendly smiles, even a little comforting small talk. That made the entire experience much nicer. I could even tolerate getting stuck behind an old guy in a wheel chair. They did do a rather thorough search of his person since he didn't seem to be able to get through the metal detector. I think it probably had something to do with the enormous belt buckle he was wearing that he didn't catch the concept of removing. They also did a pretty extensive check of the chair itself. I realize these people have a job to do and there are specific proceedures that must be followed. BUT...I'm kind of willing to take the chance that an 80 year-old guy in a wheel chair probably is a low risk of blowing up the plane. Just a thought...

I wasn't aware that there were any gates at D.I.A. where you actually had to go outside and board the plane on one of those old style ramps; but there are. That is exactly what we had to do. We went down to the end of the B terminal, which is already most of the way to St. Louis. Then we had to go outside where the attendant told us our plane was waiting. I took one look at that little vomit comet and asked where our plane was. The dialogue went something like this:

Me: Where is our plane?
Attendant: That is it right there.
Me: No...I don't think you get the concept. Where is the plane I'M going to actually get on?

Four really big guys and a tazer later, we were uneventfully on our way to St. Louis. There was even an inflight drink service. The Captain popped open a can of Coke and passed it around.

As we decended into St. Louis airport, I spotted two fairly large islands in the high flowing Mississippi River. I couldn't find names for them on the map, so I gave them new names. Henceforth, they will be known as Kenne The Dwin Island and Lesser Kenne The Dwin Island. I might explain that later to everyone except the few people who are laughing their tail ends off right now.

I like St. Louis. I think it has something to do with the big sign in the airport that says, "Welcome to St. Louis. Please set your clock back 30 years." I should have taken a picture. We got our rental car, which only took a couple of minutes...maybe because it wasn't Dollar Rent-a-Car this time. Then we went to the motel. I noticed immediately that there was a problem with the door lock. It flashed green, then yellow a couple of times and unlocked...the first time. After that it wouldn't work again. I went down to the desk to relay the problem to an altogether disinterested counter lady. She tried to reactivate the key.

After trying it again, it still didn't work so I went down there again. This time she promised to send down the maintenance man. After waiting half an hour and nobody showing up, I went back a third time. This time, we were allowed to change rooms. That was okay because we liked the second room better and the key works, even though we had to have it reactivated today.

I don't mind that because it is a fairly common problem, BUT...whoever decided that these retarded electronic, credit card keys are really better than good old fashioned metal keys? Somebody really dumb, I'll bet.

After getting the whole room thing straightened out, we headed for the Mississippi River. We didn't really intend to visit the Arch until Monday, but since we found ourselves right there, we went ahead and explored. I was glad we did, because there weren't many people there. The weather was rainy, so a lot of people evidently did something else. That made the experience very enjoyable.

After that adventure, we went back to our room for the evening. Overall, day one was a good day even though the weather is a bit yucky.


DAY TWO: We didn't get off to a particularly early start. The weather forecast for the day wasn't particularly encouraging, but we decided we were going to do what we had planned regardless. We had breakfast and headed out to the St. Louis Zoo. For anyone who has never been there, the St. Louis Zoo is truly a national treasure. It is the third largest zoo in the country, admission is free and you'll see animals there you have probably never heard of. The habitats are beautiful and the entire zoo is extremely well maintained. This year it is celebrating its 100th birthday, and it has always been one of our nation's most innovative zoos.

It is actually pretty hard to take in the entire zoo in a single day, although we did our level best...for two ancient folks like us anyway. We definitely didn't cover the whole thing, but we saw plenty. Unfortunately my camera batteries died early in the adventure and I couldn't find a shop that sold them at the zoo until late in our visit. Memo to the people at the St. Louis Zoo: maybe a few small souvenir kiosks that sell AA batteries would be a nice addition. However, I still managed to take a lot of pictures. Unfortunately I did miss having my picture taken with their bronze gorilla statue, dampening my quest to have my picture taken with every ape statue in the United States. Oh well...so I mss one. I saw it and stood next to it... :-P~~~~ The weather actually wasn't too bad. There were a couple of brief showers, but it didn't deter us one bit.

We returned to our room tired and ready to spend some time studying the backside of our eyelids. Tomorrow we'll take the tour of Busch Stadium, do a little more exploring and attend tomorrow night's game between St. Louis and Washington assuming that there is no rain out. At this point, it looks like there may be showers tomorrow, but a rainout is unlikely.

There probably won't be a day 3 update posted tomorrow since we are likely to get home late, but if all goes well, day 3 and 4 updates will be posted sometime Tuesday night.


DAY 3: The day started once again under threatening skies, which was of major concern since we had tickets to the night's game between the Cardinals and the Washington Nationals. If a MLB game gets rained out, you can exchange the ticket for any other home game played that season, but obviously, we weren't going to be in St. Louis to see another Cardinals' game. No refunds are permitted. The Cardinals have surprisingly low ticket prices so I wasn't all that worried about losing out on the money, but to be perfectly honest, the primarly reason we went to St. Louis in the first place was to see a game at the new Busch Stadium. A rainout would have been a huge disappointment.

After getting ourselves up and around, we headed out to the stadium to take the tour. We've seen quite a few of the stadiums around the country now, but the new Busch Stadium is truly a gem. It is extremely fan friendly, the site lines from all the seats are terrific and the view toward the Arch and downtown area is beautiful. The tour reinforced our hopes to actually see a game there. The encouraging aspect was that despite the gray skies, no rain fell through the morning and the grounds crew at the stadium was working without having the infield covered with the tarp. Typically they have pretty good information from the NWS, so we were feeling better about things.

After the stadium tour, we checked out the old court house. It is rich in history, and was the location of the Dredd-Scott Case decision that probably set the nation on the inevitable march toward the Civil War. A lot of restoration is going on there right now, but it was worth seeing. Then we walked back down to the Mississippi River.

The primary reason for that adventure was to see if the predictions related to us by the guys who work at the riverboat landing place by the river were true or not. They told us on Saturday that the river was supposed to rise above the street that runs along the Mississippi, and probably reach the bottom stairs of the Great Staircase just east of the Arch. I kind of thought that they were greasing us.

As it turns out, they knew what they were taking about. The street was a good couple of feet underwater, and the first step or two at the bottom of the staircase were also underwater. Saturday and Monday pics will eventually be posted on the ON THE ROAD WITH KEX page once we get home. I was impressed with both the rise of the water and the accuracy of the predictions. Evidently, the water is supposed to rise about another 4 feet. That won't be close to the record, but it will definitely cause problems for folks that live in other locations along the river.

After resting a bit, we headed back to the stadium for the evenings game. The rain held off, at least long enough to get the game underway and the Cardinals exploded for 4 runs in the bottom of the 1st inning. The rain never really came, although this weird mist began gently falling around the 4th inning. It wasn't enough to affect play, although it was sufficient to get you pretty wet, pretty fast. Fortunately we had the foresight to bring an unbrella with us.

I have to give a lot of plaudits to Cardinal fans. On a night that it wasn't particularly warm, the weather was threatening and their team had been struggling, they drew a great crowd. Cardinal fans also are very attentive to what is going on down on the field. A lot of the bandwagon Rockies fans could learn a great deal from the way Cardinal fans behave at the games. We definitely didn't see a lot of people constantly coming and going from their seats to get beer or go to the bathroom or whatnot. They sat there, cheered for their team and watched the game. What a concept.

Washington eventually scored two runs to make it close. We ended up leaving in the 8th inning since we had an early morning and a long drive ahead. The Cardinals ultimately won 6-2. Meanwhile, the Rockies had their 3 game winning streak snapped in Chicago, so our presence could only partially benefit the Cardinals.


DAY 4: Jeff Foxworthy defines rednecks as people with a glorious lack of sophistication. All I can say is, greetings from Redneck Valhalla. Okay...permit me to back up a bit. Missouri was a Civil War border state, where slavery was legal. To this day it maintains the attitudes and leanings of other southern states that were part of, or sympathetic to the confederacy. That became wildly evident on the drive from St. Louis to Branson. Just by reading the roadside billboards, I can now tell you everywhere in Missouri where you can purchase guns, fireworks or porn. They also seem to have all the musical bases covered here with their FM radio stations. By scanning around, you can pick between Country, Western or Gospel. Oh yes...there is also Classical; Classical Country, Classical Western and Classical Gospel. This place should be renamed. I suggest "Even Wester Virginia."

Of course, the billboards peddling firearms, small explosives and smut weren't the only ones. Following conventions of other southern states, there are also lots of them professing very specific religious viewpoints. I have always found it very curious that in portions of the country where large numbers of people complain the most about government interferring in our lives, they seem to be the least shy about poking their noses into our lives. There is a word for that.

Along the drive, I also spotted a couple of other unique opportunities. For example, according to one billboard we could have stopped off and seen the world's largest rocker. I wasn't sure whether we would have seen a big piece of furniture or Meatloaf, so I drove on. There was also an opportunity to see a vacuum cleaner museum. I almost gave in to temptation on that one. I really didn't want to see vacuum cleaners, but I had sort of a crazy urge to go in just to see what kind of people were in there. A Boy Scout Museum was also on the route, but that one wasn't too appealing either. I sort of thought that looking at diaramas with dead, stuffed boy scouts might be a little gouche.

Besides, we wanted to get to Silver Dollar City, aka Hillbilly Disneyland, as early as possible. I have to admit that I was utterly stunned by how popular of an attraction it is. Well, then again, maybe considering that it is located in absolutely the best possible place in the entire country, maybe I'm not that surprised.

Okay....I had fun there. We watched a few shows, looked at the wares of the various artisans, did some people watching....the guy wearing Bermuda Shorts and cowboy boots is a marvelous example of the glorious absence of sophistication I cited above. Then again, I find enough entertainment in just about any situation I find myself in that I never get bored.

After leaving Hillbilly Dis...I mean Silver Dollar City, we went on into Branson and checked into our motel. Branson itself was love at first sight. There is a Titanic Museum actually shaped like the bow of the Titanic. The Hollywood Wax Museum has a statue of King Kong. There is a Dinosaur Valley Mini Golf. They either knew I was coming, or hoped I would someday.

Meanwhile, our motel room has an inroom jacuzzi/hottub. Since this is essentially the offseason here, I got it for about half of what it could cost after Memorial Day. How cool is that? Tomorrow, we will take the Showboat tour, do some souvenir shopping and probably take in a show tomorrow night. Stay tuned for the next update.


DAY 5: First of all, I need to wrap up a few loose ends regarding things I was going to talk about before but just forgot about.

*While we were in St. Louis, we ate lunch at a White Castle. For some of you, that might not be a big deal, but we don't have them in Colorado and somehow or another, I've never eaten at one in any of my past travels. After finally having had that experience, I take it that it is an acquired taste. Thank goodness I probably won't be forced to acquire it.

*Evidently, Mermac Cave in Missouri is sort of the Show Me State answer to Wall Drug. That place gets more billboard play than any of the local gun stores. According to some of the billboards, it was one of Jesse James hideouts. I really doubt that. They could have found him in no time flat with all those billboards giving his location away.

*Hillbilly Disn...er, Silver Dollar City is the only place in the world that has traffic control officers for those ride on carts old people use. I think there are also wreckers to haul away the debris from the numerous accidents.

*I've come up with an even better idea for making a lot of money than my store in Las Vegas that sells slutty little black dresses. I'm going to open up a chain of Redneck Superstores all across the south. They will sell guns, fireworks and adult toys. That way people won't have to go to three different places to spend their money. I may also offer discount tickets to shows in Branson.

*Why is this area called The Ozark Mountains when there are no mountains? There are hills. There are definitely hillbillies...the Ozark Hillbillies. Maybe that musical group should be called the Ozark Hillbilly Daredevils.

Moving right along: Everyone in Branson is older than Joyce and I....put together. The very small number of people here that are younger than we are all all called the same thing--grandchildren; in some cases, great-grandchildren. When you go to shows here, you are never sure whether you are hearing loud applause from the audience, or just the sound of old people's bones clicking together.

Today, we went on the Showboat Cruise on the Branson Bell. I have never felt so safe in my life aboard a mass transportation vehicle that actually went somewhere. I was supremely confident that even if the boat sank, the only people aboard that could get to the lifeboats any faster than Joyce and I were the staff and actors aboard the ship. Nobody else could have possibly beat us to them unless they collectively beat us down with their walkers and canes. I'm pretty sure we could have been out of range before they even found them.

That wasn't a problem anyway. The food aboard the boat was great, the show was marvelous and the cruise was also very enjoyable. As shows go here in Branson, it is one of the more pricey ones, but I strongly recommend it to anyone who is planning a trip here in the future. I promise you will enjoy yourself immensely.

After the showboat, we did a little shopping and exploring, then we spent the evening at the Jim Stafford show. I know some of my younger readers are now asking, "Who is Jim Stafford?" I am answering, "Kiss mine you lousy little..." never mind. He is still a supremely talented guy. His kids are in his show now too, and they are actually younger than you might expect. But unlike many of my readers, the vast majority of people who attend shows here in Branson are quite familiar with Stafford. Of course, every entertainer here faces the distinct possibility that their shows could conclude with a coroner's report. Maybe several.

I did enjoy Branson and I suspect we may make short visits here again in the future. Anyplace with a gigantic statue of King Kong is definitely on my cool list. Tomorrow it is on to Carthage, where Joyce will have the opportunity to run up our credit card debt at The Precious Moments Chapel. Our day 6 adventures should be posted tomorrow night.


DAY 6: It would be remiss of me if I didn't start by mentioning something I forgot yesterday. Congratulations to the Branson High School Skeet Shooting team for winning the Missouri State Championship. Gee...a high school skeet shooting team. There is an idea. However, if your high school skeet shooting team is picked to finish last in their conference, it probably is a good idea to avoid attending a lot of their matches. Just a suggestion.

Today we made the short drive to Carthage, Missouri where we spent a good deal of the day that the Precious Moments Chapel and gift shop. The art work in the chapel really is beautiful, and there is also a lot of beautiful sculptures on the immaculately maintained grounds. Okay, I know some of you out there are getting impatient. I'm not going to quote the posted "over-under" for how much Joy would spend in the gift shop, but the "under" bettors may cash in their tickets. Barely...and I mean, JUST BARELY. Fortunately, the wonderful people at Precious Moments offer shipping services. Let's just say that we took advantage of that.

I feel sorry for armadillos. Either those poor things are utterly incapable of getting out of the way of oncoming autos, or people here get points bonuses on their driver's licenses for turning them into roadside mush. Evidently they aren't very good "eatin'" either, because nobody seems to bother to claim the prize after they run them down. Maybe we've just been going to the wrong restaurants too, because I haven't seen them offered up anywhere. Dead possums alongside the road aren't nearly as common, so I presume that either they have more inherent capability of avoiding tires or they are considerably tastier. I'm confident someone will educate me on this point, assuming I can decipher their writing.

After leaving Precious Moments, we briefly explored Carthage (a brief exploration is all that is required) and then we visited the site of the first Battle of Carthage, which was the site of the first "official" battle of the Civil War. I'm not a historian, and I don't necessarily want to pee on local history, but after examining the battlefield and reading a little about the context of the "battle," I came away with two conclusions:

1. The "battle" was probably more of an over-hyped skirmish.

2. A significant amount of homemade "spirits" and a handful of drunk hillbillies figured prominently into the scenario.

A second battle was fought several miles east of here later in the war which I know was considerably more significant, but that wasn't on the agenda for this trip.

The weather through our entire trip has been somewhat marginal. There were actually flood warnings out for most of southwest Missouri last night. As the matter of a fact, they are still in effect. We've seen rain at some point during the day every single day of our trip. Fortunately, it hasn't really affected anything we have done.

Tomorrow morning we head north to Kansas City where we will probably visit the Negro League Baseball Museum and the Hallmark Museum. Saturday afternoon we will attend the Rockies-Royals game before flying home Sunday morning. I doubt that I will have an internet connection either tomorrow or Friday, but if I do I will post updates. Otherwise, the updates for the next three days will be posted Sunday along with pictured on the ON THE ROAD WITH KEX page.


DAY 7: The day began with our departure from Carthage, heading north toward Kansas City. Apart from the Precious Moments Chapel, there really isn't much to see or do in Carthage. The northbound drive toward Kansas City isn't really very interesting, and there is comparitively little to provide diversion apart from counting dead armadillos. I also tried to figure out the difference between Opossums and possums. As close as I can figure, "possum" is what they are called in casual conversation, and "opossum" is what you say just before you run their ass over. We arrived in the Kansas City area without difficulty. It is a testament to the nature of the week's adventures when arriving in Kansas City approximates a feeling of returning to civilization.

We actually stayed in Lone Jack, which is about 20 miles east of Kansas City proper. There was a comparatively minor Civil War battle fought there as well, although the only reason anyone who isn't a total Civil War fanatic would have ever heard of it is that it happens to be the battle in which John Wayne's famed character, Rooster Cogburn, claims to have lost his eye. Evidently no one has ever found it.

After getting settled into our quarters in Lone Jack, we headed into Kansas City and explored the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. I'd like to be able to tell you that I have a lot of pictures to share from that attraction, but they don't permit photography inside the museum. Apparently someone decided that most of you would be considerably less likely to visit it if you look at my pictures. The reality is that if you ever visit Kansas City and you have any interest in baseball, you almost certainly will just because there isn't much else to do. The Jazz Museum is right next to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, and you get a major discount if you visit both. I guess for the considerably discounted price we paid to visit it the experience was probably worth it, but I can't say that I know much more about jazz now than I did before...call it a lack of special effort on my part.

That night, we went out and had some pretty good barbeque. I think it is a state law that if you visit Kansas City, you have to eat barbeque at least once. So we did, and enjoyed it very much.


DAY 8: Saturday was Rockies-Royals game day, and I wasn't feeling very confident about the Rockies' chances. They aren't playing all that well, and the Royals smacked them 9-2 the night before. So when we arrived at the stadium, I was resigned to enjoying the game regardless of the outcome, and appreciating the first sunny, completely rainfree day we had during the entire vacation.

Prior to the game, we walked around Kaufmann Stadium, which is a very beautiful facility. It is approaching 40 years old, but a lot of great recent reinnovations and excellent care over the years have held it high on the list of baseball's premier stadiums. During our walk around, we also ran into some of the Rockies' television and press people. It was fun to have the opportunity to speak with them, as well as getting their perspectives on the upgrades to the stadium.

Well, once again, our presence brought the Rockies some good fortune. An outstanding pitching performance by Jeff Francis and the bullpen, combined with timely hitting led to a 3-0 Rockies victory. Maybe they are starting to turn things around.


DAY 9: All U.S. airports are identified by a 3 letter ID code. Some of them make sense, like DIA for Denver International Airport, or SFO for San Francisco International Airport. Some don't, like ORD for O'Hare International Airport in Chicago or ACK for Nantucket Airport. I think the ID letters for Kansas City International Airport are WTF. Perhaps someday, somebody will explain to me why they tried to build a major city international airport on about 5 acres of land. It has to be the only airport in the world where you have more room on the plane than you do in the concourses.

The efforts to save space led to at least one good idea. At most airports when you rent a car, you go to the rental counter in the airport, rent your car, then you get on a shuttle bus provided by the rental company and they take you several miles away to their lot, where you pick up your car. At KC, you get on one shuttle bus regardless of which company you want to rent from, then they take you to a building where all of the rental companies are headquartered. Their lots are also right at the same place. That sort of makes sense to me. Too bad the rest of the airport doesn't.

The flight home was reasonably pleasant. Going places is nice, coming home is always better. Naturally, a little gray kitty was very pleased to see us.

In all of our travels, from St. Louis to Branson to Carthage to Kansas City, numerous people showed us magnificent hospitality. As always we are deeply indebted to all the people who answered our questions, made us feel at home and very much welcome a long way from home. Thanks again to all of you, and a very very special thank you to Joyce's Uncle Mike and Aunt Judy!

P.S. As we were unpacking a short time ago, I as actually marvelling at the fact that our load of souvenirs was somewhat down this year. However, I forgot that the convoy of semis from the Precious Moments Gift Shop hasn't arrived yet.



TRAVEL TALES Winter 2010: Kex and Joy in Sin City


DAY ONE:

We need to begin this discussion by having a brief word with people who work in airport security, particularly at Denver International Airport. I get it people: You have a crappy job and you don't get paid much to do it. I can't even imagine what constitutes a good day on that job. But here is the deal: Being subjected to you doing your job is no picnic for us either. Aspects of it are a bit humiliating, and a lot of people are naturally stressed by flying, or are dealing with other unpleasant aspects stemming from having to fly somewhere. It really wouldn't kill to you try to be at least a little bit pleasant. At worst, try to smile once in awhile...you just might find that it makes your job suck a little less.

Next, a word with the flying public. This overhead carry on thing was bad before, but now it is getting completely out of hand. Some of you were already dragging on items that were probably too large to begin with, and now you are overstuffing them to the point where there is no way they are going to fit in the overhead compartments without a shoe horn and a LOT of shoving. I understand that some of you think that you are saving time by skipping the baggage claim area. But the reality is that in most airports, by the time you navigate your way from the concourse to the terminal, your bags are arriving about the same time anyway...particularly when we are delayed getting off the plane by waiting on you to get your oversized, jammed baggage out of the overheads. Remember also that you are generally delaying the plane 10 to 15 minutes by having to try to get all your crap in the overheads to begin with. So the 5 minutes you are saving are more than lost by the extra 20-30 minutes you are creating in increasing boarding time and deplaning time.

The public isn't solely at fault here either. Allow me to recommend a simple solution here...I'm speaking to you, now, airline people: STOP charging for luggage. It's dumb. If you really need to increase your revenues, raise my ticket prices. The simple fact of the matter is, it doesn't make much difference to me whether I am paying $xxx or $xxx + $20 for the ticket. If it is the lowest price or gets me there when I want to be there, I'm going to pay the price. So let's stop playing this dumb game. You are only encouraging bad behavior.

We arrived in Vegas early Friday morning after a reasonably pleasant flight. I booked us one of those packages that includes both flight and hotel, and the people in Vegas who arrange those packages like to get you into town as early as possible and have you leave as late as possible, consequently we arrived a few hours before we could check into our motel room. So we checked our bags at the motel and went out exploring. The first order of business was eating breakfast. Since Jimmy Buffet's place was more or less across the street from our motel, we ate there. Like most restaurant food in Vegas it was a bit overpriced, but not bad...still, I wouldn't recommed that Jimmy quit his day job.

We then spent some time exploring the Forum Shops at Caesar's Palace. The place is loaded with stores displaying merchandise that I probably wouldn't buy even if I could afford it, but it was sort of fun to walk through. We then went to this little kiosk store and bought some ridiculously overpriced ice cream. Actually, they call it "gelato." It was good, but after looking up "gelato," I discovered that it is Italian for "ridiculously overpriced ice cream."

By the time we finished that adventure we were able to check into our room. We stayed at the Imperial Palace. The rooms there aren't as fancy as some of the shiny new hotels, but it met our needs quite well. The only downside was that the mattresses were a bit on the firm side. How firm? Think of Fred Flintstone's bed....right about in that class. However, we came home tired enough most of the nights that we could have slept on the floor.

After getting situated in the room, we headed out to Mme Toussaud's Wax Museum. That was a lot of fun. They let us pose with any of the statues we wanted to. We had fun there and did a little souvenir hunting in nearby shops. We had tickets for a show Friday night and we didn't want to carry our treasures in with us. So I walked back to the hotel while Joyce found a spot to sit and rest. When one is walking along the strip in Vegas, you are almost certain to encounter lines of illegal aliens handing out these little cards with names and pictures of ladies for hire on them. Evidently they are paid by the number of cards they give out. Consequently, they are very annoying in their efforts to get you to take one. I thought that I had successfully navigated my way through the lines, but when we got home that night, Joyce found about 8 of them that had been tossed into my bag. That is kind of a shame, because if I had got two more, I'd have had a complete set.

After going back and finding Joyce (I only got lost once) we headed over to the Mirage to catch the Terry Fator show. Terry Fator is the ventriloquist who won on America's Got Talent a few years ago. He is every bit as good as Jeff Dunham, who is a bit more popular these days. Dunham is probably better at straight comedy, but Fator does celebrity impressions both by voice and singing as well. Overall, I'd say Fator is the more talented fo the two, although they are both terrific. That show brought an end to our day one adventures.

DAY 2:
Having drained a lot of our energy on the first day, we had a much lighter day planned for day 2. After sleeping in pretty late, I got up and began searching for the free shuttle that would transport us from our hotel to the Rio, where we had tickets to see Penn and Teller. Those not familiar with the Las Vegas strip might be unaware that most of the hotels on the strip are not only massive in their own right, but many of them are connected together. For example, the Imperial Palace where we stayed is directly connected to Harrah's next door so you can go from one to the other without ever setting foot outdoors. There is a shuttle that permits guests at Imperial and Harrah's to go to the Rio which is a couple of miles west of the strip. The only problem is that it is a bear to find, and there are very few signs inside offering direction. After numerous false starts and trial and error, we eventually found the shuttle.

Actually our route wasn't all that direct. First we gambled away the five dollar credits the hotel gave us for staying there. That took a couple of seconds. At this point I should probably note that technology has changed the way games are played in Vegas and probably elsewhere considerably since I was last in a casino. Gone are the days when you pumped change into the machines, permitting you some idea of how much you are actually spending. These days you put bills into the machines, then you can play pennies, nickels, dimes quarters or whatever you want to wager. That seems a bit dangerous to me, but fortunately neither of us are gamblers and we didn't leave much behind...more on that later.

Upon arriving at the Rio, we explored the overpriced retail shops, ate, watched some sporting events in the sports book area and Joyce got introduced to the game of Keno. She won the very first game in the series, but never managed another win. We quickly learned that it isn't as easy as it looks. Like most games in Vegas, the odds are always in favor of the house...typically not by much, but just enough so that you'll keep playing with the hope of victory. That of course, is an illusion.

We then enjoyed the Penn and Teller show, which mostly involves spending ninety minutes with them messing with your mind. It is all in fun and very entertaining. I would also note that Penn Jillette along with James Randi have performed invaluable services to the Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) in exposing the methods of charlatans like Slyvia Brown and John Edwards who claim various psychic powers but are really just praying on vunerable people. Magicians are a lot harder to fool than scientists. After the show we returned to our hotel for a good night's sleep.

DAY 3:

Major shopping day. We bought day passes on the strip's bus line, and began by heading south. That took us to a destination Joyce was very much looking forward to, the M&M's World Store. The posted over, under on how much Joyce would spend there was $150. Those of you who bet the "under" may cash in your winning tickets...but just barely. Right next door to M&M's World is the Coca-Cola store. Close as I have been able to determine, if you want to drink a Coke in Las Vegas, that is the only place to buy it. Every restaurant and casino in Vegas seems to have a contract with Pepsi. You Coke people ought to try to get your feet back in the door somewhere. Then we headed back north to the "downtown' area. That was kind of fun for me because the last time I was in Vegas, and it was quite awhile ago, the strip was just starting to build up and for all intents and purposes, the downtown area WAS Vegas. That area has undergone kind of an interesting transformation. Here in Colorado, we have limited stakes gambling in the old mining towns of Central City and Blackhawk. What were once touristy souvenir stores have been transformed into casinos. Curiously in Vegas, a lot of the old downtown casinos have been turned into souvenir stores. I found that ironic.

We then ventured into what the self-proclaimed "largest souvenir store in the world," Bonanzas. It is definitely large, but whether or not it is actually the largest is anyone's guess..

The headliner at the Imperial Palace was Frank Marino, who is a rather famous female impersonator. In his show he does impressions of all sorts of past and present L.V. Divas. Maybe that is why the show is called "Divas." We didn't go see his show, but imagine my shock when we happened to notice that he was featured on the cover of Gay Las Vegas Magazine.. We saw a copy of it in one of those street boxes that have all the tacky tabloids. You could have knocked me over with a feather.

By the way, I know how I'm going to make a kajillion dollars. I'm going to open a store in Vegas that only sells one thing; short, low cut, slutty little black dresses. I happened to notice that those are almost required uniforms on Saturday nights in Vegas...even for some of the guys.

Our long day of shopping brought a close to day 3 in Vegas...the treasures we accumulated, particularly Joyce's haul in the M&M store should be arriving by train anytime now.

DAY4:

We had to check out of the hotel by 11, but our flight wasn't leaving until after 8 PM, so we had a lot of time to kill. We checked out of the hotel and checked our luggage, then headed across the street to the Mirage to eat. After breakfast, we went to Seigfried and Roy's Secret Garden. It isn't very secret though, because we found it. In fact, there are signs up all over the place. Once there, you get to see dolphins and some of their exotic cats like white lions and tigers. It was a great place to kill a couple of hours. Then we headed back over to the Bellagio in hopes of watching the dancing fountains a couple of more times. Unfortunately it was only 1 PM and they don't start the fountain shows until 3. So across the street we went and explored Paris.

Here is something startling: After a couple of days, one casino looks pretty much like another and if you've seen one store with overpriced crap you wouldn't buy anyway, you've seen them all. It was kind of cold and windy outside, but we braved the weather and rode ot the top of the Eiffel Tower. It was pretty during the day...I imagine it is magnificent at night. It must be, because they charge you an extra 5 bucks at night.

We then went to a buffet and ate overpriced but very good French food. By that time we had an opportuity to watch the fountains a couple of times, then head back to the Imperial Palace to catch our shuttle back to the airport. Little were we aware that we were about to watch the best comedy show of the trip.

There were two flights heading to Denver that night out of the same gate. One was supposed to leave a little after 7PM. Our flight was scheduled to leave a little after 8. Both flights had similar flight numbers, the higher of the two was actually the 7 PM flight. However, the first flight was late getting into Vegas, and they didn't even start boarding the early flight until about the time our flight was supposed to board. Consequently, the scene at that gate was a comedy of passenger stupidity and airline incompetence... Yes Frontier Airlines, I'm talking to YOU. Not only were people from the late flight attempting to board the early one despite the fact that a few announcements were being made, the airline people at the gate weren't paying close enough attention to the tickets and letting them on. That led to the correct passengers boarding and finding people in their seats, and the airline people having to get the wrong passengers off. Meanwhile, our plane was sitting out on the tarmack waiting for that one to get boarded and leave so that we could get out of there. Even as bad of a fiasco as it was, everything eventually got straightened out and we left about a half hour late.

So the final score in terms of our gambling activity: We both lost $5 in free vouchers...that doesn't count. Joyce lost $5 on a machine while I was looking in a store and she dropped about $20 playing Keno, although she won $1 back. I won $3.55 on a poker machine (TAKE THAT VEGAS!!!), but I also have 2 sports bets riding: $20 on the Colorado Rockies to win the National League Pennant at 8-1 and $20 on the Rockies to win the World Series at 20-1. So we could still come out ahead and at worst, we didn't lose very much. Suffice it to say that those glitzy motels weren't built on the backs of folks like us.

We had a great time and as usual, we were shown a lot of hospitality by a lot of people...I'm sure we'll return soon, although a 3 or 4 day visit is about all I can handle. I invented a new game on the plane on the way home. Next time we are there and I see a line of guys handing out those girly cards, I'm going to shout "IMMIGRE!!!!" That should be fun. Vegas is a fun place, but it has its downsides for sure...Alan Parson's Project hinted at those in a song a couple of decades ago:







TRAVEL TALES: Kex and Joy Deep In Ole Dixie:


DAY 1: Once again this year, I need to have a discussion with some of you. Again, the topic is flying etiquette. Look, folks, we are all getting on the same plane. The airlines have established a boarding system that we are going to discuss in a moment. But the point is, let's say that your ticket is Zone 4. Everybody on the plane is going to board before your group does. That is a simple fact. Sucks to be you. But the plane isn't going to leave without you as long as you are there. So sit down and relax until your Zone group is called. There is no point whatsover in milling around near the boarding door getting in everyone else's way. All you are doing is being a jerk, and it pisses me off. Once again, sit your fanny down and relax. I personally promise that we will not leave you behind, badly as you probably deserve it.

Now, I want to talk to the airlines for a minute. I realize that first class passengers pay more than everyone else. I realize you think that entitles them to get on the plane first. Fine. I can accept that. But once you have them on board, why not board the plane from the back to the front? It makes sense for two reasons: First, the people boarding first are moving to the back of the plane, easing congestion. Second, all those idiots are standing around by the boarding door in everyone elses's way anyway, so let's get their butts out of the way! They seem to be convinced we are going to take off without them, so I have no problem with letting them get on so I don't have to wrestle my way around them.

So, we were hoping to arrive in Orlando the day before the shuttle launch, but the good people at National Aeronautics and Space Administration-Manned Spaceflight Division decided to move the launch date up one day. That didn't bother me much, because the thing usually gets delayed anyway. But as launch time approached, nothing was stopping the countdown. But the time we arrived in Charolette, N.C. things were looking kind of bad. The last hope I had was for bad weather. It was rainy in Charolette. and the cloud cover looked heavy a long way to the south, so my hopes remained kind of high. Once we began heading for Orlando, they were boosted somewhat by the fact that winds were extremely high above 30,000 ft. which could have also postponed the launch. It didn't happen though. The shuttle launched, and we landed an hour late because we had to take a different route to Orlando owing to the normal F.A.A. regulations providing a restricted zone in the area on shuttle launch days.

The F.A.A. doesn't provide a restriction zone due to hazards commerical and private aircraft prose to the shuttle. That is a minor consideration at best. The restriction zone is actually to protect other aircraft. To fully explain that, I have to tell you about the guy who has, in my humble opinion, the suckiest job in the history of the universe.

You see, the Space Shuttle is an enormously complicated machine. There is a finite possibility that a failure in its guidance or propulsion systems could send it off course and in the direction of a major population center, like, say, downtown Orlando. Since it has an explosive potential similar to the power of a small nuclear device should it auger in, an event of that nature could kill more than 100,000 people. Now, here is something NASA will never tell you on any tour. It isn't a secret, but it's something nobody talks about. There is a guy who sits behind a console who's job it is, should he be ordered by the flight director, to activate a device that will reduce the Shuttle and everything and everyone aboard it to a rain of debris mostly about the size of your thumb. That is a job nobody really wants, and has to be held by someone in whom absolute trust can be invested, obviously.

Further, should something catastrophic happen to the shuttle apart from being destroyed on command, particularly if it is at high altitude, the debris can remain aloft for quite some time, presenting a danger to other aircraft. Consequently, if you happen to be flying near Florida on a day of a launch, be prepared for the possibility of arriving at your destination late. I really didn't mind the shuttle launching a day early that much, but....GEE WHIZ!!!!!

Anyway, we arrived safely, and managed to achieve the nearly impossible feat of getting out of Orlando International Airport. Some of you probably know what I mean. We are staying in a nice motel near Lake Tohopekaliga. Naturally I can't pronounce that, so hence forth, it is Alligator Lips Lake. There is also an East Lake Tohopekaliga, but the world doesn't need that, so it is now East Alligator Lips Lake.

Alligator Sightings To Date: 0


Day 2: Orlando is an amusement park. Pretty much the whole city, I mean. There are 4 Disney Parks, Water World, Universal Studios, a couple of kajillion water parks, Olde Town, and a Christian themed amusement park... I realize that this is pretty much the buckle on the Bible Belt, but do we really need to turn Jesus into a thrill ride? Oh! I forgot one: The soon to be constructed, Kex's Amazing World Land. I just bought the land from a guy real cheap! I can't wait to see it.

Today, we did the grand tour of Kennedy Space Center. Someone has managed to turn it into an amusement park as well. There are even rides. I'm making light here a little, but I really strongly encourage anyone who has the opportunity to visit KSC sometime...not KFC...KSC. Here is something you may not know: The largest federal wildlife preserve in the U.S. is The Everglades. The second largest federal wildlife preserve in the U.S. is KSC. NASA doesn't use most of the land, so the entire area is left for wildlife to flourish. So there are two pretty good reasons to visit: One is to learn a lot about our space program, and the other is to see birds, alligators and maybe a manatee or two if you are lucky.

After departing KSC, we took a quick little trip down to Cocoa Beach. Way back in the very early days of Project Mercury, before the area was developed, John Glenn and Scott Carpenter used to run on Cocoa Beach. Another astronaut who only lived on a T.V. show lived in Cocoa Beach; Major Anthony Nelson. Then one day, he got fed up with putting his life on the line in the most dangerous job in the world for a dinky salary, so he had his Genie turn him into a wealthy Texas oilman. However, there is a street called "I Dream Of Jeannie Lane" in Cocoa Beach. I can understand that, but can someone explain "Leave It To Beaver" Lane in Orlando? I don't get that one.

BTW, I need some email from you Floridians. Do you people ever get your cars serviced? This state has more dead cars, most of them comparatively new, along side the road than any other state in the U.S...why?

Oh yeah...I saw the land for the new K.A.W. Land...ummm, I think we'll postpone construction....

Alligator Sightings: One alive in a NASA storm drain. Two roadkill.


Day 3:The only downside to the journey thus far: The motel we are staying in is supposed to have a wifi available in the room I reserved so that I can do these updates. It isn't working. The good news: The motel next door has one that I've been able to hack into. Yay for our team.

We spent today at Epcot. It's cool and I like it. We took in about half of it today, and we'll return Friday. But I made a lot of observations today that will help me with the design and construction of Kex's Amazing World Land, which will begin as soon as I get the swamp drained. Allow me to note that none of the observations I'm about to relate necessarily apply to Disney per se, because nobody in the world does a better job of running amusement parks.

I've already decided on the theme for Kex's Amazing World Land. It's going to be my advertising slogan. It will be, "Kex's Amazing World Land: The most realistic amusement park on Earth." You see, there are all sorts of theme parks out there that try to attract you with gimmicks. I'm not going to do that. I'm just going to make you come by promising you everything you know you are going to see anyway. So here is what we are going to have at K.A.W. Land:

WHINING SCREAMING LITTLE KID WORLD: Watch painfully annoying kids throw tantrums when their parents won't let them do what they want. See then throw hissy fits when their parents won't let them buy cheap, overpriced crap in my gift shops that will break ten minutes after they buy it. Thrill to the sight of frustrated parents pleading with, scolding and eventually beating their offspring. Unparalled entertainment is promised for all.

INSUFFERABLE TRAILER TRASH WORLD: See people wearing outfits entirely inappropriate for their age group and or body type. See them wandering around attempting to enter areas clearly marked for employees only, and wondering why they can't get in. See the amusing bickering between spouses who can't figure out where they are or where they are going. Watch in amusement as they collide with other guests, get in everyone's way and cut into lines without apology. The highlight in this area of the park is an IMAX presentation featuring short clips of all the trailer parks that have been destroyed by tornados, hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters in the past calendar year. This presentation lasts 6 hours and 47 minutes.

ANNOYING FOREIGNER WORLD: Amuse yourself to the site of people who don't speak English trying to make themselves understood. See them attempting to negotiate prices in the gift shops, as impatient employees show them the door. Watch as other guests treat them with complete disrespect and intolerance.

OBNOXIOUS MINIMUM WAGE EMPLOYEE WORLD: Thrill to the site of completely disinterested employees providing the worst service possible to guests. See them treat guests with complete indifference and disrespect. Watch with amusement as they ignore guests while talking on cell phones or texting friends. Employees who acquire the most complaints are given positive reviews and given raises; "employee of the month honors" are given to the employee who pisses off the most guests.

Of course, other attractions at K.A.W. Land will include a whole hosts of rides that either don't work at all or are down for service, overpriced food and a gift shops with a whole assortment of tee-shirts with monkeys on them and every piece of plastic crap you can imagine with K.A.W. and images of Kex plastered on it.

Alligator sightings today: 0 Meals so far where I've had the opportunity to eat grits, assuming that I had the slightest desire to do so: 4.


Day 4: It does rain sometimes in Florida. It is doing so right now. It rained briefly after we first arrived Monday afternoon. It started raining just after we returned to our motel room Tuesday night and rained all night. Then it started raining as we were getting ready to return to our room today. Thank goodness it does rain here sometimes. Otherwise it would be so darned hot that nobody could stand it. The down side, however, is that it is so humid here that it is hard for those of us from high altitude, low humidity locations to breathe. Even if a breeze comes up, it doesn't help to cool things down much because only hurricane force winds (which they have here now and then) are strong enough to move the air.

Today we went to Disney's Wild Kingdom. It is among the smaller Disney Parks, so I figured we could make sort of a short day of it and rest back up a bit. We started off by going on the Kilamanjaro Safari. That is a pretty neat experience, because the Disney people have done a good job creating the illusion that the animals are all roaming freely without fences.

When we got off the ride, we got to watch a woman have a total meltdown during the course of an argument with some friend or relative over the way she was treating her child. It kind of raised questions about who the wild animals really were in the park. We then toured Dinosaur World a bit, mostly because the company of the long extinct creatures seemed less menacing than that lady.

A short time later, the day became overpoweringly hot, which slowed our already relaxed pace considerably. We attended a live action/puppet musical version of Finding Nemo. Sometimes things that are mostly intended just to get you out of the heat can turn out pretty cool. We enjoyed the play enormously. By the time that was over, we watched a typical but enjoyable Disney parade, then headed for Downtown Disney. Owing to the nature of Wild Kingdom, the park closes significantly earlier than most Disney Parks. We did a little shopping in Downtown Disney, then came back to our room. Another day to complete our explorations at Epcot awaits tomorrow.

Alligator sightings today: One wild, two captive and several Nile Crocodiles captive.
Cardinal Sightings today: Two, which is two more than I saw during our entire vacation in Chicago last year.


Day 5: If I ever knew this at some point in the past I forgot it: EPCOT stands for Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow. If it is the community of tomorrow, we are all destined to move in with a lot of money and leave broke. It is sort of like when the Republicans are in charge of the country. The only difference between leaving Epcot broke and putting up with the Republicans is that at least you get to leave Epcot with a lot of cool stuff. The Republicans just steal everything you have and tell you it was good for you. Why some people still believe their crap escapes me.

Anyway, I only have one problem with visiting Epcot, or any Disney Park for that matter. I tend to get so caught up in thinking about how the ride itself and the various sights and sounds within the rides work that I probably miss a lot of things. Then again, I probably have a much fun as anyone else, so maybe it doesn't matter a whole lot.

A lot of people probably do forget that Epcot isn't just an amusement park. There is a lot of pretty good scientific reasearch in progress there, especially in innovative agricultural techniques. There is also an amazing amount of engineering advancement going on there which translates into the cool attractions we all enjoy, but at the same time the innovative ideas have a lot of practical applications that filter outside the park. So beyond being just a fun place to visit and spend a lot of money, you are also funding some good research by visiting there.

We also got to see a Jose Feliciano concert at Epcot today. I think we were the youngest people in the audience. Nonetheless, it was packed. He can still belt out a nice tune. It is great to know that there are still artists out there who can sing a song without spewing out strings of obscenities. In fact, there wasn't a single one in any of his songs. What a concept.

Our Disney/Orlando part of the vacation has come to a close. Now the baseball part of the vacation begins. Tomorrow we'll be heading out for Tampa/St. Petersburg to take in the game between Tampa Bay and Cleveland Saturday evening, then it will be on to Atlanta Sunday where we'll meet up with the Rockies on Monday. I'm not sure what our internet situation is going to be the next couple of days. An update for Day 6 posted on day 6 appears a bit unlikely, but it will get on here as soon as I can swing it.


Alligator sightings today: No wild ones, several in one of the Epcot research facilities.
Total days during the vacation I haven't seen an alligator: 1


Day 6: Evidently just eating grits has become too dull to the palate of those who have developed a taste for that particular dish. I am advised that it is an acquired taste. Today, I had the opportunity to chose between either plain grits or cheese grits. I chose option 3; something else. I have eaten grits once in my life, and I didn't puke or anything, but I really doubt at this point that I have enough years left on the planet to develop a taste for them. Therefore I have no intention of making the effort; cheese grits or plain.

Today, we made the drive from Orlando to the Tampa Bay area. Technically, we are staying in Clearwater, which is just north of St. Petersburg. The metroplex that is comprised of St.Pete and Tampa is collectively referred to by the locals as Tampa Bay. Evidently the people in this area have adopted a share of civic pride by associating themselves with a body of water.

Once upon a time, way back when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers football team first came into the NFL, they played in Green Bay. The Packers put their name on the scoreboard as "Tampa." Anxious to make a point that the team represents a geographic region and not just the city of Tampa, the Bucs got even when Green Bay paid a visit to Tampa Bay. They simply put the Packers name on the scoreboard as "Green."

On the trip over here, we saw about a dozen more cars dead along side the road. The mystery continues. Maybe the humidity kills cars down here. It sure is sapping my energy. Once we got checked into our motel room, we rested briefly, then headed out for Tropicana Field, home of the Tampa Bay Rays. They used to be the Devil Rays, but somebody decided to give them a duel identity that could be associated with both the Florida sunshine (which I'm beginning to think is a bit of embelishment; it poured rain shortly after the end of today's game) and the fish. The first year after they became The Rays instead of The Devil Rays they had their first winning season ever and went to the World Series. So far this year, they are following in the footsteps of the Rockies by showing signs of being a flop in the year after their first Series appearance. They did win today by a score of 4-2.

Tropicana Field is a domed stadium that reminds me of a 15 year-old multiplex theater. It is functional and reasonably comfortable, but utterly lacking in personality and showing its age. The only really unique feature of the stadium is the ray tank in right center field. If you want to stand in line for a long time, you can go out and see, feed and even touch the rays in the tank. We opted out.

There was a good crowd for the game today, probably because all of the fans were getting Evan Longoria figurines commemorating his winning American League Rookie of the Year honors last season. The Rays fans were friendly toward us, which wasn't terribly unusual since they were playing Cleveland and not Colorado. There were quite a few Cleveland fans in evidence as well. I suspect that Tampa Bay fans are in a similar situation to Rockies fans. A lot of people who live here came from other places and retained their previous loyalites. A lot of fans probably visit the area from elsewhere too. Further complicating matters down here is the fact that a lot of teams conduct their spring training around here, so some fans who are native to this area probably developed allegiances prior to the birth of the Rays. The Philadelphia Philles have a beautiful spring training complex less than a mile from where we are staying. So people here are probably exceptionally tolerant of people pulling for the oposition.

Just as a side note, the Atlanta Braves have their spring training facility on the grounds of Disney Resorts at Disney Wide World of Sports. I'm not sure about the wisdom of doing your spring training at Disney World, but the Braves have enjoyed a lot of success over the past decade and a half, so maybe it isn't so dumb after all.

Tomorrow, we'll bid goodbye to the state of Florida and make the long drive up to Atlanta, Georgia.


Day 7: I could have been in a coma all week and I wouldn't have had any problem figuring out that I was in the south just by driving from St. Pete to Atlanta today. Now I don't want to go off on a rant here (well, maybe I do), but I wouldn't have had to carefully study the vegetation or take note of the roadkill or even get an idea of the temperature and humidity. All I had to do was take note of a few of the billboards along the way. There were actually lots of them but all most all of them were one of five general topics.

The first type were the billboards with Biblical quotations urging me to save my soul, or something of that nature. If God can't convince people to do that on their own simply by moving their spirit, I really doubt that a billboard is going to be all that effective. The second type informed me of the evils of getting an abortion. Thanks a lot folks, but I really wasn't planning on it anytime soon, and if I did, you'd really have something interesting to pray about. Then again, it wouldn't be any of your business one way or another. The third type then informed me of the nearest places where I could purchase guns and ammunition, most likely for the purpose of murdering one of God's defenseless wild animals.The fourth type informed me where the nearest outlet was for purchasing porn and sex toys. For crying out loud, people, what do you think the internet is for? Finally, there were billboards telling me where to buy fireworks so I could blow things up if I felt so inclined. Those were mostly in Florida. Once you cross the Georgia border, those are replaced by businesses euphemistically called "spas," but since the ads feature attractive women and seemed geared toward truckers, I'm kind of thinking that there is something else going on there.

Consider the sum of the subjects covered: I'm not intending to imply that there is a certain degree of moral ambiguity here in the Bible belt, so I'll just come right out and say it: There is a certain degree of moral ambiguity down here in the Bible belt. You see, there are those of us who have a bit of a problem having morals preached to us by people who really should be Focusing On Their own Family. If you are one nosy reporter away from having your own glass house come crashing down, I really don't want your view of morality crammed down my throat, thank you very much.

By the way, I know this is a bit off topic, but I realize that you folks down here are really proud of your college football teams, and they are admittedly pretty good. BUT... the 3 major teams in Florida always play 8 or 9 of their 12 scheduled games inside the borders of the state of Florida. The worst weather they ever play in is a rainstorm. Then they go on and play a bowl game in a warm weather city; pretty often Florida. Just once I'd like to see one of them have to play a game in Lincoln, Nebraska or Boulder, Colorado in real football weather in November. That would be a real test.

I realize that this is coming a 140 years late, but it's time somebody fessed up: Abe Lincoln made a mistake. He should have let the southern states go. We can't do anything about the years that have passed, but we can do the right thing even if it is late in coming. So let me be the first to step up to the plate: You have my permission to go; all of you...No hard feelings and all due apologizes that it was so late in coming. Heck, I'll even throw in Notre Dame University, the state of Utah and Dick Cheney as parting gifts. For some reason, Cheney can't get used to the idea that just about everyone who lives north of the Mason-Dixon line rejected his antiquated, war-mongering ideas in the last election overwhelmingly, and he needs to shut up and go away. But since he won't, you folks can have him.


But, that's just my opinion...I could be wrong.

I will say one thing more positive though. Southern folk are very friendly. The drive like crap, but they are friendly. So on second thought, if you want to stick around with us, that is fine with me too.

The drive to Atlanta went without incident, beyond the observation that you folks down here either never clean up blown out tires, or you blow them out at an incredible rate. If the latter is the case, I want to invest in a tire shop in Georgia. I also think someone needs to invent some sort of device to keep armidillos off the highway. Those poor little things don't have a chance.

Alligator sightings today: 0.
Days we have seen rain at some point since we have been in Florida: 5
Number of planned activities that have been altered due to rain: 0


Day 8: To call this a remarkable day would be something of an understatement. Things started off a bit shaky, but everything managed to work out incredibly well. We really didn't have a game plan for a two day visit to Atlanta, which is a bit unusual for an organization/control freak like myself. I knew there is a lot to do here, I just hadn't planned out this part of the trip. So after making a few hasty decisions over breakfast this morning, we headed out to Stone Mountain. That is where they have the carvings of Jeff Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. It is kind of impressive. I doubt that there is a larger monument in the entire world to 3 guys who lost a war.

There is sort of a touristy village at the base of Stone Mountain, but it was closed today. So we obviously didn't spend much time there. We did take the tram to the top of the mountain. It was a nice view, but when you've been to the top of Pike's Peak, it rather humbles by comparison.

We then headed to the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library. We had two maps of Atlanta, and unfortunately I was looking at the bad one, so it took us rather longer than we planned to find it. As it turned out, it is presently closed for reinnovation. Since we couldn't see that, we went on to another option, the Cyclorama. It is a theater/museum which provides an indepth account of the Battle of Atlanta in the Civil War. Almost astonishingly, the only day of the week it is closed is Monday. Fortunately, the Atlanta Zoo was right next door. It wasn't anywhere in our plans, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The zoo here is the home of the most impressive gorilla habitat of any zoo in the country. It is magnificent, and I managed to get a lot of great pictures. Better still, this happens to be one of 4 zoos in the country with Giant Pandas. I had never actually seen one before, so that was an incredible experience.

Then it was time to head for Turner Field and see the Rockies play the Braves. We entered the stadium in our Rockies gear with our Dinger (Rockies mascot) doll with us. That caused something of a sensation as everyone wanted to see him. Prior to the start of the game, we were hanging around the area of the Rockies bullpen when one of the security guys saw us and asked us if we were from Denver. After answering that we were, he disappeared for a moment, returning with a Braves game ball which he gave to me. Then he asked us where we were sitting. I had purchased tickets in the upper deck area, but he told us he could get us much better seats. We ended up sitting on the third baseline, 3 rows up.

One of the Braves field managers also came by and talked baseball with us for awhile. The fans around us were also wonderful. We were truly treated like royalty at Turner Field, and we are deeply greatful to all of the wonderful employees and fans their for making our visit there something beyond wonderfully memorable. It almost pains me to note that the Rockies won, 5-1...almost.


Day 9: Today we took it pretty easy. After 8 days of relatively fast paced adventures, we were both pretty much spent. The day started off with a 9 A.M. tour of Turner Field. Since we were the only ones there, it amounted to a private tour. We've done enough stadium tours now that they are starting to look very similar. On the other hand, it is interesting to see some of the subtle differences and the ways that stadium designers deal with challenges unique to certain places.

After the tour, we went out for breakfast. I figured that since this was my last day on vacation in the south, a nice helping of grits would be in order. So I ate some...the plain type, not the cheese. I still can't say that I like them a great deal, but I've now managed to eat grits twice in my life without hurling.

We then headed back to the Cyclorama, which provides an informative overview of the Battle of Atlanta, along with getting to see one of the largest paintings in the world depecting the event. This attraction first opened back in the late 30's, shortly after the release of the film Gone With The Wind. The cast of the movie was invited to see it. Clark Gable remarked that it was pretty good, but it would be a whole lot better if he were included in it somehow. So one of the figures in the diarama was added to depict Gable, as a fallen soldier.

After taking in the Cyclorama, we decided that our sightseeing was concluded. We were both so tired that we came back to our motel room and took a nap. Then we had dinner and got everything packed up and prepared for our flight back to Denver tomorrow.

We went out to dinner late afternoon. On the way back to our motel, I saw a high school football team out practising. I know you people are serious about football down here, but geez, people, it's May!!! High school students should be wrapping up proms, playing in the baseball finals and getting ready for graduation. Nobody plays football in May.

I'd love to be able to say that we are departing the south with a heavy heart. But even as much as we have enjoyed our vacation, the best crossing of the Mason-Dixon line is always the north bound one. Perhaps it's the feeling of having the words "liberal yankee" ever tatooed on my forehead, but this place couldn't be further from home. I realize that some good ole boy out there will probably take offense and pen a song stating that a Southern Man don't need me around anyhow, either, and that is just fine by me. Sing it and rebel yell to it in good health. I really don't mind. Crank up the volume and play it in all the strip joints (that appear to outnumber book stores 10 to 1 down here) and I'll not be the least offended. Just remember as y'all are enjoying the show, don't spill any of that Jack Daniels on your Bible...it leaves a stain that won't come out.


Number of times I've heard someone say "Y'all" in the past 9 days: 816,247

Day 10: John Denver once lamented in song, "It's a long way from this place to Denver..." I think he probably wrote that in Atlanta. After hunting around for the place to turn in our rental car, we had a fairly lengthy wait at the airport, mostly because we game ourselves more than ample time in case any unforseen difficulties arose...such as having to hunt for half an hour to find out where to turn in our car. The flight home was nice. We had a plane with televisions at every seat, which I personally love. I don't actually watch the TV. I usually watch the real time flight data which shows you exactly where you are on the map, altitude, temperature, ground speed etc. That actually keeps me occupied through a 3 and a half hour flight.

It was a very wonderful vacation and as always, a lot of people showed us a great deal of hospitality. We are deeply indebted to all who went out of their way to make sure we had a special time. Our heartfelt thanks to all who made this trip special for us.



A KEX'S AMAZING WORLD PICTORAL ESSAY

DENVER 2008: A MOMENT IN HISTORY


It was 45 years ago, on August 28, 1963 the Reverend Martin Luther King stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. and spoke to his followers about a magnificent dream. On August 28, 2008 that his dream will take a giant leap toward coming true when Barack Obama will accept the Democratic Party's nomination as President of the United States here in Denver.

The following is a pictoral essay of some of the things that can be seen in Denver as the convention unfolds:



Harry Truman's Presidential Limo



Harry prepares to step out to great us



Some of the comforts of Harry's limo, although it was pretty spartan by modern standards



The cabin of Air Force One, the type used up through the Reagan years. A more comfortable 747 is now in service.


Air Force One Fusilage


The flight deck



Air Force One pilot controls up close



Air Force One communication center (reproduction)



A popular Air Force One souvenir



The President's Office aboard the plane. The gentleman was an onboard security officer through Bush I



The Presidental Seal aboard the plane



Another view of the President's onboard office



The President's onboard sleeping quarters. The 747's have a full sized bedroom



Onboard work area for other personnel, usually the President's secretary.



Kex and Joy enjoy the onboard comforts



One of several rockers used by President Kennedy



President Lincoln sat in a chair identical to this one on the night of April 15, 1865 at Ford's Theater.



Jackie Kennedy wore a suit identical to this one twice. Once on a trip to Europe with the President. The other was on a very bad day in Dallas, Texas in November of 1963.



Campaign memorabilia from bygone days



A Kennedy-Johnson campaign poster



A Bobby Kennedy campaign poster



One for the Kexkateers: To sleep, perchance to dream....



The Oval Office sitting area



Portrait of George Washington over the Oval Office fireplace



Some example of White House china. Each new First Lady selects a new pattern



Another for the Kexkateers: "First question, Helen Thomas?"



A dress worn by Mary Todd Lincoln



A shot of the CSPAN mobile studio



The front of the CSPAN mobile studio



The control area inside the CSPAN mobile studio



The interview area in the CSPAN mobile studio



The first known photographs of Mary Todd and Abraham Lincoln



The oldest known surviving writing from Abraham Lincoln, penned when he was in grade school



The 1860 Electoral map. The blue states were those carried by President Lincoln



Bad news sweeps a troubled nation.



Some images from Lincoln's assasination



Bedside death vigil for a President



Denver dressed to the nines. These red banners and similar blue ones adorn the 16th Street mall a few blocks from The Pepsi Center, where most of the convention activites will take place.



A contemporary campaign button for Obama



A button comemorating the two conventions that have been held in Denver. In 1908, the Democrats nominated populist William Jennings Bryant as their candidate here. In 2008, it will be Senator Barack Obama. (apologies for the photo quality)



This popular campaign button commemorates Obama's acceptance speech on the anniversary of King's speech.



Other assorted souvenirs



Ummm, yeah...a few more LOL



One of the numerous teeshirts available around town



Still more souvenirs



Another popular teeshirt



And a few more souvenirs....



CONGRATULATIONS TO SENATOR BARACK OBAMA, DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE AND NEXT PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES!



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