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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Road Accidents

After traveling so many miles over the past three weeks we talked about the accidents we observed. We were in a horrible traffic jam just as we entered Vegas. In their wisdom, the highway department took five lanes of traffic and took it down to four and then down to three and then down to two and, yes, then down to one. It was no longer a traffic jam but a parking lot. We saw the aftermath of three car accidents as we slowly drifted through the mess. John finally managed to get to an exit and he worked his way around the mess.

In Texas we saw a semi in front of us go off the road and he struggled to keep from losing control. He tottered and teetered and we were afraid we would be the first people at the scene of the accident but he managed to get control. After that he slowed down. We suspect he either fell asleep or just lost control. Either way we got in front of him, prayed he was okay, and flew down the road.

On our last day of driving home we passed (on the right) a car from California that insisted on staying in the left hand lane. John rolled down his window and yelled at the driver and pointed to the right...but at 70 mph I doubt she heard him. It was an older couple (yeah, older than us) and I guess she picks a lane and stays in it.

So we were very lucky that we were not in an accident and that we didn't really see any bad accidents. After that many hours on the road, we were very fortunate. John is a great driver, the car is awesome, and I am a great back seat driver....if I could have gotten into the back seat since it was piled full of stuff.----Penny

Our Anniversay October 2nd

One year has past since John and I said "I do" or "I shall" or "I will"....we are unsure what we said but we know we meant it. As our anniversary approached we talked about how lucky we were to have found each other. We are truly blessed to have each found two people to love in our lives. Some people never find the right person and we found the right person twice. We teased each other about renewing our contract or what new things we want to add to the list of promises for the next year. But it came down to just one thing---we promise to love each other as long as we live. For us both it is a lifetime commitment. We are truly blessed and wish everyone the joy and happiness of finding that one (or second) right person.

On our wedding day we joked with the priest before we said our vows that this marriage is like a jail are hoping for twenty years to life. Since we are both in our 60's, twenty years seems very possible and even more would be wonderful. So every day, at one meal or at all the meals, we toast each other with the mantra...."Twenty years to life.....amen."

John, I love you and am so happy you made me your wife.----Penny


We are home from our trip out West.....and what a trip it was!!! Be careful if you see us on the street because we will talk your ears off. We have some numbers to report.

21 ... days on the road

5,342.....miles on the car (and our butts in the seats of the car).

2 .... bags of mail from the Post Office

58...... advertisements, requests for donations, regular junk mail (including two addressed to Lauren and two addressed to Linda).

19 .... offers from thanks....

34 .... bills, investments mail, action needed stuff....ugh

17 .... magazines (not including 4 genealogy related magazines and 4 People magazines)

1 ..... Anniversary Card

2 .... the number of windows we accidentally left open the whole time....

27 ... the number of times we said we were glad to be home.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

One in Four Wins at McDonalds!!!

We had a couple of meals at McDonalds over the past couple of days. No big deal. They are fast and we can get back in the car and travel further. Last night was awful. We couldn't find room in several towns in Texas and finally decided we had to stop and eat at the next town no matter what. Yeah. It was McDonalds again. And the really funny thing was it was inside of a Wal-Mart. We grabbed a quick sandwich and sat down to eat and watch the people shopping. What a hoot. Then we realized that there was a big sign that said "One in Four Wins" in the Monopoly game. We counted up at least ten items over two days and we never won anything!!! It's a scam I tell you!!!

So this morning we left our really bad motel experience to head toward home. John asked the hotel clerk where would be a good place to go for breakfast. I refused to go to McDonalds again...especially in light of the SCAM!! The clerk suggested not eating in that town at Dennies (could be an interesting story but we didn't ask) but said in 28 miles there was a great pancake place. Cool. So we hit the road.

Now, if you know something good is in 28 miles, wouldn't you just kinda glance at your mileage so you would know when you are getting close? Not dear sweet wonderful John. We hit the road. After awhile (less than 28 miles I will note) he pulled off the highway to find the pancake place. I noticed a big building to the right with the word RESTAURANT across the front. So he pulled into their driveway but said, no, let's go to the one across the street with all the cars. When there are that many cars, it has to be good. So, we drove back across the street.

And what did we find?? A grocery store. So John goes to a counter and asks a guy "is this a restaurant?" By then I had gone past where John was and found a counter where you can order....breakfast things just like McDonalds. The poor guy says, yeah, this is a restaurant. LOL. So we ordered and ate there. It was a poor imitation of McDonalds and AGAIN we did not win anything.

Interesting thing I noted. There were two guys sitting at a table close to us. One was obviously Hispanic and only spoke Spanish. The other was Caucasian and only spoke English....and yet they talked to each other. Huh? Never figured that out.

So, we are exhausted and headed home tomorrow. It will be great to see everyone!! But it has been a blast.---Penny

Two Coffees in Vegas

While trying to leave Las Vegas early in the morning (whatever day it was....) we found a McDonalds off the highway. We decided to just go through the drive-thru and hit the road to cover some miles before we actually stopped for breakfast. So, here is what happened:

John: I'd like to order two coffees, one black and one with cream and sugar

The Voice: Do you want that inside or outside?

John: Huh?

The Voice: Do you want that inside or outside?

John: Well, I'm in the drive-thru so I want it outside.

The Voice: Sir, I mean the cream and you want it inside or outside the coffee container.

John: was John's passenger, Penny---------Penny

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

No rooms at the Inn

From San Francisco,we went down 99 to Fresno to see my Uncle Bill and Aunt Pat. Bill was recently diagnosed with cancer, but he is a fighter. Our visit was both joyous and emotional. We visited with them and also Karen and Steve, their daughter and son-in-law. We are very thankful that Karen and Steve live so close to them. We saw some of Steve's homes that he built. The guy is an artist. So is Jeremy, their grandson, who owns his own business, Air Tech. He restores cars. His work has been featured in several national hot-rod magazines. We stayed for two days, then off to Vegas baby.---John

Elk City, Oklahoma

The car is headed East and we expect to be home on Friday. HOORAY!! Last night we stayed in New Mexico. (Side note: the owner graduated from Steven Decatur High School in Decatur, IL!!!) Tonight we are in Oklahoma. So, why are we spending the night at Elk City, Oklahoma? After searching for a room in several towns in Texas, we crossed over to Oklahoma. There were no rooms at any inn in Texas. We kept hearing the oil workers were taking all of them. Finally found a room with a bed (we were starting to discuss tossing a coin to see who would sleep in the back seat) at a newly remodeled Super 8. It turns out that it isn't just the oil workers. There was a huge riot at the State Pen and over one hundred extra guards were called in to subdue it. Of course. And now this motel has two more rooms and then it will be full. And we checked in about 8:30. Wow. Interesting.

Some notes: We spent last night at a casino just west of Albuquerque. When we checked in John asked the clerk how many miles to Albuquerque. She said, 25 miles unless you drive faster and then it is closer. Huh? Had a nice stay there. John played poker twice but didn't cash. It was a nice place. Weird though. They close at night so this morning it was quiet and empty.

Three more states with 75 mph:   New Mexico, Texas and Arizona. Oklahoma is 70 mph. Dear, dear Illinois....we vote that you increase the speed limit....

A sign we saw in Fresno: Alien meat jerky. Um. Illegal aliens? Aliens from outer space? We didn't buy any.

We stopped at a Stuckeys close to Amarillo today. All of you waiting for gifts from us from our trip....well, we still haven't gotten you anything...but we could have gotten gater heads!!! Yes, gater heads. Um. No.....

It has been interesting to see the long trains. Some of the terrain out here is so flat and you can see so far that we can see the beginning and the end of the trains. I think most of them have been at least 100 cars if not more. Also have seen semis pulling two or three trailers!

Another interesting note: In Illinois we have deer crossing signs. On our travels we have seen "Elk crossing" and one that said "Various Animals crossing." But nothing prepared us for the crossing sign we just saw at a Wal-mart close to our motel. Drum roll please........"cart crossing".... Yes, the shopping carts have their own crossing.

Tomorrow we will reach Missouri and then on to home. It has been an adventure!!---Penny

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Another two nights without internet!!! What is the world coming to?

We stayed downtown at the newly remodeled and newly opened Plaza. The room was wonderful and on the 12th floor overlooking the mountains. They have a few glitches they need to work on but it was a good stop.

John played poker three times and in one of them he came in third. He cashed on that one which pleased him. I, of course, had bad luck with the slots so one night I just walked a lot and stopped and watched street performers and some very strange people. Vegas was fun!!!----Penny


Two nights in Fresno were wonderful. (Except no internet.) We stayed with John's Aunt Pat and Uncle Bill and they are awesome people. One afternoon we went for a drive around Fresno which included a stop at a Mexican supermarket. Everything in there was in Spanish first and English second. They had salsa music playing and all the announcements were in Spanish ending with the phrase "por favor"which I thought was please and Aunt Pat said was thank you. The market was colorful with pinatas hanging from the ceiling and items stacked higher than I have ever seen. It was amazing in the meat area to see so many different kinds of meat. We saw pigs feet, fried pig skin, and so many items that I didn't even know you could eat. It was amazing.

We also saw several houses that their son-in-law, Steve, has built. One house is just starting this next spring but he has been working on the property for eight years. First he had to design and put up a gate and security system. Then he built a gate house that is bigger than most houses we have seen. It houses one vehicle, an antique truck, and the people have parties in that space. The owners then hired a landscaper to put in all the trees and bushes. When the trees finally matured (eight years) then they decided to build the house. The lot is over 800 yards long and overlooks a river valley with bluffs from the back of where the house will be. Now that takes money. Another project was a 5,000 square foot garage that a guy houses his Porsche collection. He had Steve add a kitchen and paint all the cabinets Porsche red. Each gallon of paint costs $1,500!!!. But when you have money......

We also went to their grandson's car shop. He restores and rebuilds cars. One car that was in his shop is getting a new engine as it was blown racing at the Salt Flats. Cost for rebuilding and repainting? $30,000 to $40,000. This happens yearly. Another car in his shop cost $60,000 just to repaint it. Incredible amounts of money.

Fresno was a great stop and allowed us to catch our breath. Then on to


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Pacifica, California

Well, yesterday I forgot to mention an incident at a restaurant. Of course it was on Pier 39 and a seafood restaurant. Delightful food and great atmosphere. However, we both had to use the ... um... facilities. John went first and said I would have a big surprise when I went. Curious and trusting, I headed where he pointed...behind the red striped curtain. It looked like the entrance to a cabana. I stepped inside the curtain and three men were washing their hands. OH NO!!! I stepped back out, looked around the corner for a woman's curtain and nothing. So I stepped back inside again and this time there were two women and one man. So, I looked around and all the stalls were little rooms with individual doors and when locked they said "occupied" and when empty they said "vacant." So, I gathered my courage and my full bladder and entered one that denoted vacant. I locked the door, assured it now stated occupied, and did my business. Yes, ladies, the last person left the seat up!! But it was a hoot when I went back to the table and told John he should have warned me. He laughed.

This morning we went back to Dennies for breakfast. Even though the day started out sunny and gorgeous, a severe rain and thunderstorm is headed this way. We had the same waiter as yesterday and we thanked him for his instruction to get to the BART. He said GPS is good. Turns out that he isn't easily classified. I said he was oriental yesterday but today we think he is more hispanic. Perhaps he is a combination of both. His accent sounds more of the hispanic nature. Speaking of languages it is amazing to hear so many different accents and conversations in other languages. On our trolley ride yesterday there was a German couple and a couple from the Netherlands. There are a lot of people speaking oriental languages but no way for us to determine if they are Chinese or Japanese or Americans using their native tongue. Spanish is the other most common language and some of my high school instruction comes back to me with a word here and there. However, from what I remember, I know I do not remember enough. It makes me want to learn more. Last night we ate at an authentic Mexican restaurant where their language was rich with the Mexican influence. It was interesting to note that I tried to order ground beef on my burrito and they did not offer that kind of meat. I don't remember all of the choices but I do remember that one choice of meat was tongue. I stuck with chicken.

We went to a grocery store to pick up a few items and spent time browsing their fresh vegetables and fruit. Wow. They must ship the small veggies to the inland because I have never seen some of these items so big and glorious looking. It was like all the veggies and fruits were on steroids!! I wanted to tell everyone they are very lucky.

So, not sure what we will be doing today. Starting off slow because of the drastic weather change that is rolling in with the surf. ---Penny

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

San Francisco

We started the day with breakfast and John asking for directions to the closest BART station (Bay Area Rapid Transportation). Our waiter was trying very hard to explain and John was trying very hard to understand. The waiter finally said he would be back. He came back a little later with his cell phone and was trying again to explain to John using Google maps. Now, combine an oriental person with a person who claims he is NOT hard of hearing and it is hard to get the message across. So, I pulled out my cell phone and the waiter said, OH, you have GPS? He then came over to me and we spoke the universal language-----GEEK TALK----and we were able to get directions.

Once we found the BART station we were able to figure out how to pay for our parking, buy our tickets and get on the right train. Between the two of us we can do anything. After getting downtown we had to take a trolley car to Fisherman's Wharf. What a hoot that was!!!

We decided to take a boat trip tour around San Francisco Bay. It was a bit chilly but the sun came out for us so it wasn't too bad. It was about 90 minutes long and we sat outside on one of the upper decks. The boat went under the Golden Gate Bridge and around Alcatraz Island. We also saw sea lions. It was a fun trip even though the seas were pretty choppy.

After the boat trip we took an open air double decker sightseeing bus trip around the downtown area. The bus was fun but toward the end of the 90 minutes it was getting pretty chilly. We enjoyed all the sights we saw, including the gate that leads into China Town.

Tomorrow is 90% chance of rain so not sure what we will be doing our last day in San Francisco. Whatever it is, it will be fun.---Penny

I do not do GEEK TALK, just draw me a map. We had a bad forecast, but the weather gods took pity on us. It turned out to be a pretty fair day. With Penny handing the GPS and I driving, we made the BART station in Daly City without a problem. The BART ticket purchases are much like the METRA in Chicago. We then took the F-line trolley to Pier 39. Here is were you can buy tickets to several tours. We selected a package that included a boat ride that went under the Golden Gate bridge and circles Alcatraz and a bus tour. The weather around San Fran is very complex due to the cold currents of the ocean past the bay. You get to the Golden Gate and the temps are 10-15 degrees lower than the harbor. It was awesome to go underneath the bridge and around the "Rock". We then went on a 90 minute open air bus tour of downtown. It is now getting cloudy and chilly, but the tour was great. One highlight was seeing the street where they filmed the famous car chase from the Steve McQueen movie Bullet. The ironic thing was that they were going the wrong way on a one-way street. -John 


We left Lake Tahoe and set our car toward the West. We got as high as 7900 feet (nothing after the past few days) and slowly descended down to sea level. Our motel is nothing fancy, no valet parking, no bell captain like in Vegas, no rich history like at Cal-Neva in Lake Tahoe, BUT we are a block from the ocean and have a bay window with an unobstructed view. WOW! We were able to watch surfers until it got dark. While we were eating at a restaurant that also looked over the ocean we were told that two of what we thought were surfers were actually either porpoises (porpoisii?) or sharks. We found out that the next beach south of us is the largest great white shark population in the world. So...we will not be venturing out into the ocean.

Today we plan a boat ride in San Francisco Bay, going under the Golden Gate Bridge, and ending up at Fisherman's Wharf. Hopefully those plans work out okay for us.

Nothing really exciting about our drive to here. No bugs in the car, just a long drive. We are stilling having fun, still enjoying each others company. We are past the halfway mark of our trip and on the down side now. We will see what things happen in San Francisco!!!---Penny

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Our Anniversary

Today was our one year anniversary and it was a glorious day. We took a drive around Lake Tahoe, yes, up and down the mountain range, but it was so beautiful. We stopped in a town to visit a couple of casinos. John did really well at three card poker and I watched. We went for a carriage ride with a young man who is studying to be an EMT. The horse's name was Duke and Duke would suddenly pull over and stop. Our driver explained that there were three restaurants on their route and at times Duke had been fed a carrot. Once he was fed a carrot, he pulled over every time.....just in case.

We went out to eat at an absolutely beautiful and wonderful restaurant. All in all, it was a great way to spend the day. Now tomorrow morning we drive to San Francisco. I already checked the map and there doesn't seem to be a way out of here without going back over the mountains. will probably hear me yelling....Penny

For those who have never been to Lake Tahoe, it is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Surrounded by the Sierra Nevada mountain range, it is one of the deepest and coldest lakes in the world. The only fish that live there are brown and rainbow trout, but they are so sparse and swim so deep, that few are caught. We wanted to go on a brunch cruise, but it ended on Oct 1. The only cruise available was one that left on 1PM and got back at 4PM. We decided that we didn't want to spend three hours on a very choppy lake. So instead we drove the entire perimeter of Lake Tahoe. What a beautiful drive!! We stopped at a vista point to take some shots of the north edge of the Lake. The winds were very brisk, but the parking lot was nearly full. The scene of the huge cove with a rugged island was breathtaking.

We continued onto South Lake Tahoe. South Lake Tahoe has the major casinos (Harrahs, Harveys, Horizon and Montblue). After playing at Harrahs and Harveys, I noticed a horse drawn carriage waiting for their next fare. We were joyous to do so and Penny and I had a ball. It was a great first year anniversary. Many more to come, I pray. Tomorrow, we are off to San Francisco.--John  

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Lake Tahoe

We arrived at our hotel after going up and over another mountain range. Did I mention I am scared of heights and trips over mountains?? The curves at 20 mph and the signs that the road will close in case of heavy snow and the trees everywhere were enough to get my inner scared self upset. But then, we came down the other side, and the most magnificent view of Lake Tahoe came into view. It is absolutely the best we have seen so far. This hotel was owned by Frank Sinatra years ago. The Rat Pack came here often. We will be celebrating our first anniversary tomorrow night in this very romantic spot. John made all the arrangements and he did a great job of finding a wonderful place. is he going to get me back over the mountains again as we drive to San Francisco day after tomorrow?? The drama continues.

This is the view from our hotel room window. Need I say more.....

This hotel is listed as a casino but there were only about fifteen machines in the whole place. It sits on the California Nevada border so obviously the machines are located on the Nevada side. While we were waiting and just killing time John hit a jackpot of $180 on a 40 cent bet. That doesn't happen often and probably won't again for a long time. I was having bad luck again so I sat and read brochures about excursions. We are now planning a boat trip tomorrow on Lake Tahoe. It just gets better all the time. John just found a deck that we can go on but since our room is on the eighth floor I was less than thrilled to go on it. I did step on it and the views were worth it. Next time I will take the camera out there with me.---Penny